Japanese flower-arranging art / THU 1-12-17 / Old video game maker / Voice-activated assistant

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Constructor: Joe Krozel

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: Across the Grid Divide — in three rows of the puzzle, two sequential 3-letter Across answers are to be taken (per the clue of the following Across answer) as 6-letter words that have been divided.

Theme answers:
  • BUS TED APART (1st row)
  • BAN ANA SPLIT (8th row)
  • BRO KEN INTWO (15th row)
Word of the Day: MASERS (42D: Atomic clock components) —
A maser (/ˈmzər/, an acronym for "microwave amplification by stimulated emission of radiation") is a device that produces coherent electromagnetic waves through amplification by stimulated emission. The first maser was built by Charles H. Townes, James P. Gordon, and H. J. Zeiger at Columbia University in 1953. Townes, Nikolay Basov and Alexander Prokhorov were awarded the 1964 Nobel Prize in Physics for theoretical work leading to the maser. Masers are used as the timekeeping device in atomic clocks, and as extremely low-noise microwave amplifiers in radio telescopes and deep space spacecraft communication ground stations. (wikipedia)
• • •
SPECIAL MESSAGE for the week of January 8-January 15, 2017

Hello, solvers. A new year has begun, and that means it's time for my week-long, once-a-year pitch for financial contributions to the blog. The idea is very simple: if you read the blog regularly (or even semi-regularly), please consider what it's worth to you on an annual basis and give accordingly. In making this pitch, I'm pledging that the blog will continue to be here for you to read / enjoy / grimace at for at least another calendar year, with a new post up by 9:00am (usually by 12:01am) every day, as usual. Despite my regular grumbling about puzzle quality, constructor pay, and other things that should be better in the world of crosswords, I still love solving, I still love writing about puzzles, and I love love love the people I meet and interact with because of this blog. Well, most of them. Some I mute on Twitter, but mostly: there is love. The blog turned 10 in September, and despite the day-in, day-out nature of the job, I can't foresee stopping any time soon. The community of friends and fellow enthusiasts are all just too dear to me. You can expect me to be here every day, praising / yelling at the puzzle—independent and ad-free. Some people refuse to pay for what they can get for free. Others just don't have money to spare. All are welcome to read the blog—the site will always be open and free. But if you are able to express your appreciation monetarily, here are two options. First, a Paypal button (which you can also find in the blog sidebar):

Second, a mailing address:

Rex Parker c/o Michael Sharp
54 Matthews St
Binghamton, NY 13905

All Paypal contributions will be gratefully acknowledged by email. All snail mail contributions (I. Love. Snail mail!) will be gratefully acknowledged with hand-written postcards. This year's cards are "Cookery Postcards from Penguin"—beautifully designed covers of vintage cookbooks, with provocative titles like "Cookery For Men Only " (!) or "Good Meals from Tinned Foods" (!?). Please note: I don't keep a "mailing list" and don't share my contributor info with anyone. And if you give by snail mail and (for some reason) don't want a thank-you card, just say NO CARD.  As I say in every thank-you card (and email), I'm so grateful for your readership and support.

Now on to the puzzle!

Fantastically underwhelming for a Thursday. A very straightforward and somewhat tired theme. The only vaguely interesting thing about the puzzle is the grid, with its unusual top/bottom symmetry and *non*-all-over interlock, i.e. the two sides of the grid are themselves "divided." I tried to make some sense of the shape of the black squares that divide the two sides from one another, hoping there was some deeper meaning here, but all I could come up with was some kind of awkward, asymmetrical ≠ sign. And so what are we left with? There are only three theme answers here. A non-whopping 33 squares of theme activity. Fill seems fine, but also completely unremarkable / uncurrent / uninteresting. And the the first and third themers are particularly weak. You could swap their final elements and the answers would seem equally adequate. BUSTED IN TWO. BROKEN APART. Yep. Same. BANANA SPLIT is the only one that's spot-on. Also, BUS/TED and BRO/KEN are self-descriptive. BUS/TED is busted, BRO/KEN is broken.  Don't even need the following word. Then there's BANANA, which does. So you can see (I hope) how BANANA SPLIT is, in every way, the superior answer, putting the other ones to shame. That's a problem. I expect a ton more on a Thursday. Ambitious failures are better than this. There's barely a concept here, and not nearly enough thought and craftsmanship has been brought to bear to make this thing as intriguing as an NYT Thursday ought to be.

Sometimes I solicit opinion from 10 o'clock solvers (like me) on Twitter. The verdict tonight seems to be overwhelmingly "played like a Wednesday" and [shrug]. The only answer I had trouble with was MASERS (seen the word but had no idea what it meant til I looked it up just now), but the crosses were so easy that my progress wasn't slowed down much. I wrote in ECHO for 51D: Voice-activated assistant (SIRI), so that added a bit to my solving time as well. Would've been cool if the long Down (TRANSISTOR RADIO) could've had *something* to do with the theme (it does cross alllll the last words in the theme answers). But I don't think it's related to the theme. I think it's just an answer. I had TRANSISTOR RADIO in the '70s. Not sure what's so '50s about it. But sure, '50s, whatever. I did enjoy the clue on ARMHOLE (59A: What you might accidentally try to put your head through when getting into a sweater), but not much else. Here's hoping something livelier comes around the bend tomorrow.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Unknown 12:08 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Moly Shu 12:08 AM  

Liked MASERS and the clues for TAXICAB, AREARUG, and TACO. The rest is mostly meh with a little "@Jae liked it" mixed in. At least the grid looks cool.

Randy Picker 12:10 AM  

The transistor was invented at Bell Labs around Christmas 1947. Texas Instruments released the first transistor radio in the mid-1950s in an effort to bring transistors to consumers. On that radio, see http://www.pbs.org/transistor/background1/events/tradio.html .

jae 12:12 AM  

Easy Thurs. for me too.

MASER was a WOE so I also looked it up...to add to the definition that @Rex provided, it's same acronym as laser except microwave replaces light.

60 Minutes had a segment on the "new" ninth PLANET last Sunday. It was excellent. If you haven't seen it I would recommend going to your On Demand channel and giving it a look.

Interesting looking grid, cute "theme", liked it more than @Rex did, but I agree that Thurs. should be more intriguing.

Trombone Tom 12:14 AM  

Agree with @Rex. Definitely not as challenging as I would expect on a Thursday. I did think the theme was interesting and unusual.

A couple of slip-ups along the way; wASTED before PASTED and HUbBArD before HUSBAND.

I liked the clue for TAXICAB.

Lots of weather related problems in Northern California; flooding, landslides, washouts, etc. I'll take all that any day over what Mother Nature has been dishing out elsewhere. And it's helping to end the 5-year drought.

puzzle hoarder 1:00 AM  

Ironically the theme answers were probably the easiest parts of the puzzle. The fill had enough difficulty to make an interesting solve. Thinking 7A was AGAIN was the only theme glitch and it held up the NW for a little while.

chefwen 1:19 AM  

Again, my poor spelling tripped me up, had TRANSISTeR RADIO, didn't know MASERS and scratched my head over THENER-. Talk about your SAD CASEs. Well, at least I knew IKEBANA, and it all worked out in the end.

Carola 1:25 AM  

Not at all easy for me. I wouldn't say I was quite in the DOLT-SAD CASE-NITWITS range, but when I filled in LOST I did feel that the puzzle was looking at me. I just found it hard to get a grip...on answers, on the theme. When I couldn't get beyond WILSON in the west, I headed over to the eastern half, where APART helped me get BUS-TED, but SPLIT and IN TWO did nothing for me. Eventually I found my footing with AREA RUG x DONUT and finished. Maybe over the years I graded too many papers with non-parallel constuction, but it bothered me that the theme entries had 2 verb and 1 noun phrase. And I wished the payoff had been a little better for the work I put in.

Liked TRANSISTOR RADIO (I'm of the generation that carried one around listening to "Transistor Sister"), IKEBANA, TAXICAB, RAGTIME, ARMHOLE. Favorite fake-out: having AWE??? and rejecting the crossing IOTA as AWEI?? would be impossible.

chefwen 2:26 AM  

@Carola - You're posting rather late these days, are you, by chance on Maui? If so, enjoy! Too bad you are not here, we could watch THE PACK together on Sunday.

John Child 3:05 AM  

I had to go back and search out MASERS. Don't think I ever saw it during my solve. Filled in the western puzzle and thought to myself, "Self, there has to be a trick. Perhaps all the answers in the eastern puzzle are backwards or upside down." Nope. Just three less than scintillating BRO KEN theme answers. Yet Will liked it and Jeff Chen gave it his POW. De gustibus non est disputandum.

Larry Gilstrap 3:10 AM  

Ok, time to talk about themers. My theory: most solvers blow through them. Sometimes, a theme helps solve. Unfortunately, sometimes a theme is a random bunch of letter patterns that form phrases. Oh, there's a cleavage theme; my bad.

Full disclosure: I went out tonight and started solving after drinks and dinner. Hardest Puzzle in History! Not really. I don't like that Maginot Line rifting the grid. In my notes, I wrote "struggle in Idaho".

I once had a great friend who was a psychologist named NORM. I am certain that folks got their money's worth.

Anonymous 4:59 AM  

Nice sober write-up. All blogs should be maybe tempered with an appeal for money. Makes the world go 'round. My third year to cough up!

Unknown 5:12 AM  

A wasted opportunity with WILSON. I would have gone with: "a much berieved friend of Tom Hanks in film"

I am not a robot 6:23 AM  

What everyone said, though I had faint hope of coming here and finding out I was a Thursday genius.

@Theodore, I thought of Tom Hanks too and I think your clue would've been really great.

@Larry, a morning chuckle on Norm.

I am not a robot 6:26 AM  

Correction on previous post. I had A faint hope.

Tita 7:07 AM  

BAN ANA SPLIT is right up my alley. I just love this particular style of wordplay. And there's an alley in the grid!
BRO KEN and BUS TED are cool too, but fundamentally different.

So even this easygoing solver thinks this makes for a flawed Thursday.
Especially since there are only 3 themers.
And, what's with the odd theme clues...I thought I was going to have to do math..."Word following 1-/4-Across"

Toss in SADCASE, which is not a thing. Add to that the decidedly strange clue for HUSBAND.

Can this disappointing Thursday be saved by the clue for ARMHOLE???
ERM...no, but, that is one of my favorite clue/answer pair of all puzzletime.

Dorothy Biggs 7:24 AM  

Easy lemon squeezy. Once I got over the fear of the great divide (hey, maybe THAT's part of the theme too? That the entire puzzle is divided INTWO? APART? BUSTED?), I breezed through it with no problems at all.

One day in the future, before I die, I hope someone can invent something that prods you brain to bring back not only memories, but actual substantial lengths of time. TRANSISTORRADIO, just the word itself conjures up memories. We had one or two table top, portable tube radios in our house growing up. And I remember hearing about "transistor radios" in the 60s. (Hey, it was Nebraska...we were a bit behind the times). No tubes to replace, you could clunk it around a little and it wouldn't damage the tubes, and you could even carry it around and listen to it at the lake! I listened to a lot of great stuff on radio in those days...whether it was playing music in the kitchen while we were getting ready for dinner, or the play-by-play of a football game blaring from the garage on a Saturday afternoon. Those days are gone. Not that it's a bad thing...but it is a great memory.

I too was intrigued by the shape of the grid...not the most pleasing looking grid in the world, but I certainly couldn't ignore it.

It's also interesting to me that the earlier puzzles this week had far more challenging fill than this "later week," and supposedly more challenging puzzle, had. Nothing in it was a crazy proper noun or some other word no one uses anymore. IKEBANA was the most outside, but even so, I've seen it in puzzles before.

I didn't beat my best time, but came really close.

Phil 7:26 AM  

Record Thursday for me. Odd headscratchers got a cross each time.

Thought wiretap was the scandal but the bugging wasn't really a wiretap.
As to COVERUP...Only politicians can point a finger at a peer and say shame on you, with a straight face no less.

kitshef 8:18 AM  

Agree the theme is thin, but the fill is very good, and the TAXICAB clue is brilliant.

Two minutes in, I had 34 squares filled in. 17 of them were wrong. It got better, but still more medium than easy for me. One of the things I like about using r.alphbunker's runtpuz.org to solve is you can go back and look at what you did and when.

gpS before BUS, kenNedy before STANTON, coN before BAN, discard before AREA RUG were those early errors.

Theme actually helped the solve, getting me BAN.

Anonymous 8:23 AM  

Am I the only one who had SADsAck before SADCASE?

Anonymous 8:25 AM  

This is all fake news.

Glimmerglass 8:28 AM  

There were TRANSISTOR RADIOs in the '70s (and now), but in the 1950s, before boomboxes and walkpersons, they were the only way to carry tunes with you outside of a car. BTW, I donated to @Rex. If you are a regular (even if you just lurk), you should too.

Tim Pierce 8:28 AM  

This puzzle didn't include AMERCES, so there isn't really much to complain about.

chefbea 8:30 AM  

Loved the puzzle!!! especially taxicab and taco. Never heard of masers but I do have and Ikebana bowl that I use all the time...when we have nice flowers from the garden.

Mohair Sam 8:44 AM  

@Rex - Freddy Cannon's delightful "Transistor Sister" was a hit in the '50s - ergo the TRANSISTORRADIO can only be correctly clued in the '50s. Sheesh.

Loved the TAXICAB clue. Otherwise - what Rex said.

Nancy 8:45 AM  

This seems completely fresh and original to me -- so there's that. But, hey, guys, it's Thursday and I do so miss the challenge of a rebus. I was a little slow on the uptake for 8D, having PO-E and having to run the alphabet to get POKE (!) And I am chagrined to say I initially misspelled TRANSISTeR, keeping me a bit baffled about THE NeR- at 40A. But these were dumb lapses on my part and really don't speak to the difficulty of the puzzle. And, I'm disappointed to say, the difficulty just wasn't there.

msue 8:48 AM  

Overall, the puzzle was far too easy for a Thursday. I enjoyed the clues for 55A NEIGHED and 38A AREARUG. Had to pause to recall how to spell IKEBANA, and relied on the crosses to be correct. Wish the clue for 21D HUSBAND wasn't so lame - the word is fine, but I'm not sure old wives (I'm a card-carrying member, FYI) bother to talk about husbands all that often.

Z 8:55 AM  

Faster than all my recent Thursdays by quite a lot (a hefty 10%) but still slower than all my recent Wednesdays. I'd tell you more but i don't typically solve the NYTX on the iPad, but circumstances have provided me a month worth of times.

@JohnChild - POW? Maybe Sunday is part of last week? If that's the case, Monday's is just as good, but not so striking to look at. Still, Rex is mostly spot on. I do think the fill is better than most days, but then there are only two 3-letter answers outside the theme so no room for Ono or her pet Ern.

thfenn 8:59 AM  

Another impossible Thursday that everyone else found easy. Nothing clicked for me. Got the theme early, boring and unhelpful, other than thinking BAN ANA SPLIT was sort of fun. BREAKIN before COVERUP, DISCARD before AREARUG, couldn't get a foothold anywhere - peeked here for a few answers and tried to fill in what I could. Having to come up with AWEIGH for "out of bed, in a way?" just leaves me wondering how people do these.

With NCA on TRANSISTOR RADIOS. Thought TAXICAB was clever (in that it made you think for a second and come up with a connection you wouldn't ordinarily make). ARMHOLE was fun in the sense of laughing at yourself about all the times you've done it, but in the same class as "how you might get a little blood on your face in the morning" (SHAVING) or "what you wish you'd done, usually once a week, before driving off in the morning" (PUTOUTTHETRASH).

I don't know. Nothing clicked. It wasn't fun. And I failed miserably - definitely putting me in the NITWITS, DOLT, SADSACK class. Jeesh, even there I spent a bunch of time trying to think through how SArCASm would work.

three of clubs 9:01 AM  

Liked it a fair amount. Had the same grace of a giraffe; each part of the solve felt weird, but then comforting once I got it. Got stuck at the REBA and IKEBANA intersection, trying to guess the B. Bet I could have found it if I had been systematic in my search.

oldbizmark 9:03 AM  

sadly, my first DF of the week. still, not even a remotely satisfying experience.

Nancy 9:03 AM  

@chefwen (1:19 a.m.) -- I almost always post before I read the blog, but I see now that we both had a very similar solving experience re TRANSISTeR/ THE NeR-. It's always interesting to me when that happens. Are we both NITWITS or should I only speak for myself?

@Glimmerglass (8:28) -- I just love "walkpersons"!

And, btw, my favorite clue/answer here is 21D. I certainly didn't see it coming. Did any of you?

Anonymous 9:05 AM  

ERM........How does one UNTAME?
What is the distance of a TAXICAB?
Is it usually TED Talk or TED Conference?
Only three things broken in all this puzzle?

Hungry Mother 9:10 AM  

Really slow on this one. I got through it with a lot of patience. I'm not sure why I found it so hard. Just getting old, I guess.

Unknown 9:15 AM  

The good thing about doing puzzles in pen is that you realize how many pens you have lying around that don't actually work. That way, you can throw out the pens that don't work and keep the pens that do. (2 pens thrown out this morning.) #OrganizationSkillsAtWork

I am really looking forward to the f$%^ing NY Times fixing my app subscription.

Anonymous 9:18 AM  

I add my vote to the tiny minority who thought this puzzle was impossible. Other than the tiny SW corner I had nothing but blank squares staring at me. It was so discouraging that I quickly gave up. Even more discouraging was to find that REx and most commenters founded it easy.

Z 9:23 AM  

@Anon9:05 - How does one UNTAME? A couple of shots with a chaser does it for me. The distance a TAXICAB travels is measured by the meter on the dash. TED talks happen at TED Conferences.

Anyone wondering about a late post yesterday - The Notorious RBG had pancreatic cancer surgery in 2009. She'll probably outlive a goodly number of the commentariat.

Anonymous 9:34 AM  

If you would like to pay for my pointless drivel in the comments section, please send me money. I only ask one week a year.

I am not a robot 9:40 AM  

@Randy, That's quite some story. Thanks! Who knew!

If you missed it: http://www.pbs.org/transistor/background1/events/tradio.html .

The first tech boom years - the '50s.

Leapfinger 9:42 AM  

Liked the BUS and TAXICAB sharing a lane, erm, corner, and snickered at BUS-TED, UNAWARE it would prove to be the theme. And then I polished off Row 1 with BUS-TED AGAIN! Thought 52D was going to polish of ALPHA with MALE

Just a couple of issues with the grid:
*WILSON should be crossing HOoPS
*Dang, didn't we just have OCTANTS? Skipped right past NOVANTS, only to discover today we've LOST DECANTS. Like, when we're already 12 days into JanANTS. In a couple of months, I expect to hear MARANTS.
*Really like the clue/entry Called from a stall NEIGHED...right IN ORDure, yup.
*Can't ever decide if the first sound in the word mnemonic should be THE N OR M

There's all kinds of truth in that 'head through the ARMHOLE' scenario. In female-type clothing, that's always been potentiated by things like funnel-necks and batwing sleeves. Even worse now that you find cutouts over either one or both shoulders. I've seen items of clothing that could have been a halter, a skirt, or a belt. Other please specify. Don't even start on the clothing with the cut-out sides, which I hate any woman able to wear those without keeping her breath constantly sucked in. Nora Ephron would've made mincemeat of them.

BRO KEN reminded me of The Kid's thankfully brief childhood passion for Barbie dolls. Someone (I've forgotten who, but blast their eyes) gave her a special one with a pull-out cord in her back: when you pulled it, Barbie spoke a series of select Barbie-type phrases, each with more emesis value than the previous. When I got to the one where she said "Maybe KEN will help me with my Math homework", I pulled the cord to its full extent and cut it off at the roots. A verry satisfying moment.

A fun solve and my kind of wordplay, but also agree that, as it stands, it's a partial. For a Thursday.


MotsCroisés 9:44 AM  

What's up with the odd comments about "untame"? The clue was "savage" not "make savage."

Did not like the fact that the grid did not mirror itself. Felt like two puzzles.

Otherwise, I thought it was adequate, which is a lot more than we've been getting lately. I liked the clue for "neighed."

Perhaps Rex needs to take a "rest." His "acid" remarks lately have been off-putting and embarrassing, especially when he is asking for donations. Try a little harder "in order" not to be so "unaware."

Stanley Hudson 9:47 AM  

What ev1 else said about too easy for a Thursday. But like several others, TRANSISTOR RADIO brought back pleasant memories.

@Trombone Tom, where in North Cali? I'm in the Chico area.

GILL I. 9:48 AM  

No fun here for me today. I could NOT get on Joe's TRANSISTOR RADIO wave length...at all! I got the theme all the way at the bottom with BRO KEN IN TWO and thought OH OK.
The cluing was so vague for me. I mean 40A - How things typically are....Well, lets see. Nope - nothing coming to me. 29A Some piano music could be a jillion things and Old wives tale is a HUSBAND? Gaaaaah. WILSON was just so blah and AWEIGH was just too cute and why is STANTON even in this crossword. He and MASERS feel so out of place. Even ACID for biting should be NEIGHED AWEIGH. What happened to TED talk? He has a conference now?
NITWITS UNTAME PASTED POKE DOLT SAD CASE is how I felt when I finally finished.
By the way, ROLAIDS are overrated...

Leapfinger 9:49 AM  

@John Child, today 'De gustibus' could be 'De gustitaxicab'

Fountains of Golden Fluids 9:51 AM  

Does anyone remember laughter?

Jim Finder 9:52 AM  

You're right, NCA Prez, the TRANSISTOR RADIO is identified with the 50s because it was such a massive lifestyle change when it appeared. Rex, after the 50s, over the course of time transistors totally replaced tubes across all industries, so that device would be more generally called simply a RADIO. There are thousands or millions of transistors in my computer, but it's not a "transistor computer."

evil doug 10:10 AM  

Stanton "was criticized by many Union generals for perceived over-cautiousness and micromanagement."
--a problem military leaders have suffered with civilian politicians ever since....

Where I learned about the value of work: As an 8-year-old in Falls Church, VA, I shoveled walks for a half-buck until I had earned the $19.98 I required to buy a 6-transistor radio (including the faux-leather case, and the single ear-piece that let me secretly listen to Del Shannon after bedtime). The labor was worth the reward. Capitalism 101....

RooMonster 10:21 AM  

Hey All !
Strange grid. My understanding is it's part of the theme, making the words separate (BUS TED, BRO KEN, BAN ANA). BUt seems odd that you wouldn't at least connect the halves somehow. So technically, along with the three Across themers, you get the Down Black Squares seperation-swath as part of theme.

Am I the only one who had origami for IKEBANA first? Isn't origami paper folding or something? Had resistance in each AREA of puz, (not SE, though, super easy in that small corner), so took some sussing to sort things out. Odd clue for AWEIGH. Does it mean out of a river bed, or some such?

Solved this from the bottom up. Where I had my first toe hold. Had OrlAndO for ONTARIO mucking things up in mid W. lASERS first, natch. crab for TACO. Liked clue for HUSBAND. Read UNTAME as not being tame, so OHOK on that.


LOST it...

John Child 10:32 AM  

LOL @Leapy

@MotsCroisés, the grid is symmetrical, but horizontally - you can flip it top to bottom. That's unusual but kosher.

Leapfinger 10:42 AM  

One entry that made me somewhat ERAScible was 27D. While it's common to find coffee offered in a DONUT shop, it's less usual to find DONUT offerings in a coffee shop. Perhaps it's the coffee shops I frequent.

@Monsieur Gillaumestrap, funny your noticing the cleavage in a BRAless grid.
Could you 'splain that 'struggle in Idaho' notation? With or without reference to the Maginot Line? It's gnawing at me...

@Evil, that's pretty impressive for an 8-year old, but you really got me with Del Shannon. I'm hearing Runaway all over again even as I type. If my timeline estimation is right, I have about 9 years on you, so I suggest a little respect henceforth is IN ORDER.

r.alphbunker 10:45 AM  

My father had a Zenith transistor radio that I saw in the Smithsonian. I still have it. One time in Takoma Park the power went out and that radio was the only source of information for a while. The voices were all scratchy like they were coming out of the past.

@ED I too got rich shoveling snow when I was a kid. I once worked all day and made $13 which was a fortune to me. I spent some of it to go bowling.

The puzzle was a nice break from work. Details are here.

Katzzz 10:46 AM  

It was a fun puzzle. Yeah, it was all about the unusual grid. And not all that easy: masers? Stanton? ikebana?

MotsCroisés 10:47 AM  

@John Child, I suppose it is symmetrical but I don't see the mirror aspect. "Transistor Radio" runs down the right side but there is no complementary long answer coming down the left side. So the puzzle felt off-kilter to me and a bit half-finished because of it. I'm not a stickler for form but I do want to enjoy twice the pleasure when possible.

Pete 10:52 AM  

@Evil Doug: "a problem military leaders have suffered with civilian politicians ever since"
Perhaps, but the responsibilities of civilian leadership extend well beyond those of battlefield commanders. Any idiot can firebomb an entire country, it takes wisdom & restraint to not firebomb an entire country, but to restrict oneself to what is absolutely necessary so that the aftermath of the campaign is manageable.

Joseph Michael 10:54 AM  

Fun puzzle. Liked the change of pace in having the puzzle APART, SPLIT, and IN TWO with up-down symmetry in each half. So, for me, this was anything but old and tired.

Thought the fill and cluing were fresh as well. Got stumped by 39D, even after I had filled it in, until I finally remembered "anchors AWEIGH" and realized it was a sea bed that was gotten out of.

Agree that BAN ANA SPLIT was the best themer and that the puzzle could have used a little more theme density.

Theme also made me aware of the grid's horizontal messages such as those about:

the player piano that UNLOADS RAGTIME,
the day poor STANTON ELAPSED,
the AREA RUG that became THE NORM,
the horses that NEIGHED IN ORDER,
and the ARMHOLE ROLAIDS (so that's where they went to)

Thanks, Joe, for an entertaining morning.

Greater Fall River Committee for Peace & Justice 11:03 AM  

I built my TRANSISTOR RADIO in the '60's from a Heathkit. It was a Christmas present from my dad and came with free soldering lessons. I don't think my girlfriends were impressed, they were getting Barbie and KEN dolls that Christmas. Anyhow it was a nice puzzle, took me a while but I eventually said AHA on each of the apparently misdirected clues.

Malsdemare 11:07 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lewis 11:12 AM  

As your resident alphadoppeltotter, I must report that this puzzle has but one -- one! -- double letter (the lowest in many years) and it could have been obviated by changing the R in BRO to an I or O, and Joe would be in NYT Crossword Hall of Fame as having only the second double-letter-free puzzle in the Shortz ERA (I don't remember who had the first, but R.alph once found it). And yet, I admire Joe for putting that R in BRO, because it is the absolute best/cleanest option. Foregoing glory for the sake of integrity -- very well played, Joe!

Malsdemare 11:14 AM  

I was flummoxed for a long time -- well relatively long, like five minutes -- when I couldn't get anything up top. I started worked my way down the west coast and then suddenly it all clicked. NW was the last part I filled, mainly because I want the route follower to be GPS (Hi, @kitshef) and once I had the theme I knew that couldn't be right. I honestly had a chuckle at the shopoholic's DEBT (I've been on a shopping binge myself of late, mainly because I finally decided to treat my freelancing as a real job and get a computer dedicated to editing). I like HUSBAND, tho I can't think of any old wives' tales about them; maybe it's a reference to old wives having them? This old wife sure does. Nice guy, too; he's off stocking up on food and wine for the ice storm we're due to have for the next four days. I got the theme at BANANA SPLIT, and had a giggle, but the rest, while interesting, didn't grab me. I was done in 16 minutes faster than my usual Thursday, which, given my dead brain at the beginning, suggests this was pretty easy. Very pleased this Illinois resident got STANTON without any crosses; I would have died of shame if I hadn't been able to dredge that one up.

@NCA Pres -- TRANSISTORRADIO made me think of how much things have changed since I was born (not in the 1800s, thanks very much). We had a huge console radio when I was small, then an older sister got a clock radio! I got a TRANSISTOR RADIO for Christmas in the late 50s; there's was only one place in our house -- on top of the radiator in the upstairs bathroom -- where I cou,d get a signal. Over time I've had a portable record player, bought my HUSBAND one of the first cassette players (skipped the 8-track thing; as a broadcast major, I knew something better was in the works), got a Walkperson (!!) when I started running, invested in iPod after iPod, and now I have a sixth generation Nano that's 1.5" square and holds all my music, and all my German, Italian, Spanish and French Pimsleur lessons (yup, a language junkie). No Apple Watch, though. What's next? A tiny disk you implant in your ear and operate by thought control?

Thanks @Z for the link to Agard's hysterical puzzle yesterday. I had to google a ton to complete it but was determined I'd get 're done and was not disappointed. Golden showers, indeed.

@Leapy, you're on a roll today. I remember that #%€£ Barbie; glad to hear someone yanked her chain but good.

@fountains, yes; read @Leapy.

old timer 11:20 AM  

"I'm walkin' in the rain
Through the balls I feel a pain"

Well, that's the way I remember hearing it on my TRANSISTORRADIO.

I thought the puzzle was Easy and enjoyable. Ir wasn't until I reached BRO KEN that I realized the two sides were completely SPLIT APART. On the E side, I was grateful for AVEC to get me started, followed by COVERUP. We old Watergate hands well remember "It's not the break-in, it's the COVERUP."

jberg 11:21 AM  

That asphalt-paved highway down the middle seems to be memory lane, judging from the comments. TRANSISTOR RADIOs were indeed a thing of the 50s, but the one I remember is from 1970. As I've mentioned, I had the opportunity (as a result of an anti-Vietnam War demonstration) of spending some time in the Middlesex County House of Correction. Twice a week we got to go to the store, and a month or two in it became possible to buy a little radio, designed so that you could listen to it only via an earphone. That sure made the time go by more smoothly.

As for shoveling snow for money, my main memory is from when I was around 10. A lady with a narrow lot asked me how much, and I said 25 cents. She then kept me there over an hour, shoveling a path beneath each of her backyard clotheslines. At that age, I didn't know how to say no, or to say that that would cost extra.

breakin before COVERUP, dImWITS before NITWITS, and, with no justification, I wrote in the 'sum" of Sumner before realizing that a) he was too short, and b) he was a Senator, so could not have been a Cabinet member.

UNTAME is a litotes, packed into a single word, which leads me to ask: Where is @Loren Muse Smith? She hasn't posted for several days, as far as I can tell.

Unknown 11:26 AM  

Easy but fun. For a more Thursday-like challenge, try the MINI.

RAD2626 11:39 AM  

Do not really care what day of the week it is; interesting grid and fun puzzle. Get Rex' and others' point about SPLIT being preferable theme entry but I think cool that IN TWO and A PART also could be split words, albeit not in crossword construction rules. Liked grid being cut in two.

Remember listening in grammar school to Don Larson's perfect game on a maroon colored radio but I think It must have been a small plug in since 1) it was made by Motorola and 2) my family was not known to be early adopters and 1956 seems pretty early for us to have a TRANSISTOR RADIO.

@Nancy. One thing I have learned is that any mistake or lapse you make is repeated by countless others every day. Reassuring in one way; a little depressing in another. I likewise struggled with the E/O issue today.

Anonymous 11:51 AM  

No more normalization of LL Bean in the puzzle. Apparently the founder's granddaughter, a major shareholder, donated to Trump. We need to ramp up the politicization of the puzzle people.

Warren Howie Hughes 11:53 AM  

ROLAIDS spells r-e-l-i-e-f, however, Tums the word!

Hartley70 11:57 AM  

@jberg, R-e-s-p-e-c-t. '69-70

Anonymous 12:13 PM  

Could someone please explain "TPING" as answer for " Pulling a prank outside the house " thank you

RooMonster 12:20 PM  

@Mals 11:14, [11:14, an awesome movie, btw, look it up]
I once bought a car out of STANTON at Country Classic Cars! Sure you know where that is? It was a yellow '68 Buick Electra.
Small word, and all that. :-)


Anonymous 12:23 PM  

@Anon 12:13 Throwing Toilet Paper (TP) all over someone's yard/trees/house at Halloween is called TPing

Andrew Heinegg 12:53 PM  

You need to remind yourself, at least I do, that puzzles are probably not submitted to the NYT with a request that they be published a certain day of the week except implicitly when a Sunday puzzle is sent in. So, while this was a relatively easy puzzle for me (I spent the most time spent trying to remember ikebana, which is odd in itself because I used to be fascinated by it but never got around to reading a book or taking a class to get a handle on how to do it or at least develop an eye for it. Perhaps the forgetting of the name is either age related), I reminded myself to judge it based on the fun or lack thereof in the solving experience.

Unfortunately, I did not have much fun in the solve. Like yesterday, this puzzle is authored by an experienced and capable author. I am therefore in favor of giving him a pass in view of his many quality efforts in the past and presumably in the future. I do get that we live in a 'what are you doing for me today' kind of society.

The military may have been unhappy with the restraints placed on it by Secretary Stanton but, as Pete noted, especially when you understand that all damage you have to do will be cleaned up, rebuilt and paid for by you as you are talking about your own country, the restraint of the military by civil authorities is a practical necessity or, as Doug might say, a necessary evil. Although, come to think of it, Doug wouldn't say that.

Numinous 1:01 PM  

True to my notion that there is an inverse relationship between the difficulties of the mini and the regular puzzle in the iPad app. The mini was hard today, I found it really hard. OTOH I did the regular puzz in 42% of my usual Thursday time.

STANTON was the only answer to give me any real trouble but I got it from the crosses. APART and IN TWO were a bit disappointing at first but on reflection, they seemed appropriate. The BAN ANA was indeed APART and IN TWO as well as being on the other side from the SPLIT.

Trying to rationalize this puzzle to myself, I decided that it must be that Thursday is "novelty day". This puzzle is certainly a novelty. That I found it easier than yestrday's? A little disappointing. The three BRO KEN answers notwithstanding, it would have been nice if there were other independently clued across words that made sense as phrases while being separated by the central column.

Someone pointed out that the central column was a lot like Memory Lane. I got my first TRANSISTOR RADIO in 1958. In 1960 or so, an uncle who was an electrical engineer gave me a kit to assemble TRANSISTOR walkie talkies for Christmas. I got to learn how to solder building those. Back in the late '50s, I recall all of the kids having those little RADIOs pressed to their ears. Then in 1963, on November 22, I was at home instead of in school. My mother had the radio going and I heard something that sounded like, "President Kennedy was shocked near an underpass in Dallas." I didn't think much of it the first time I heard it but the second time I heard the word "SHOT". I jumped in the car and went to the class I should have been in at school at that time of day, burst into the room and made the announcement. Nobody believed me so I told them to turn on their radios, Every girl in that class dipped into her purse and before long the story was confirmed. Not a whole lot was accomplished at Berkeley High for the rest of that day.

I haven't read yesterday's blog but did anyone notice the thematic similarities between the DOUBLE HELIX and the DOUBLE puzzle today?

Larry Gilstrap 1:12 PM  

@Leapfinger Idaho, in the sense of the geography of the puzzle, around 4, 5, and 6D.

Teedmn 1:18 PM  

I'm with @Rex as far as thinking I must have missed a meta today, but I certainly enjoyed the experience. I went much slower than the difficulty of the puzzle required, thinking that any moment a trick was going to catch me UNAWAREs. But no SNAGS were encountered.

OK, a couple of writeovers - Decaf before DONUT, and break-in before COVER UP - can't COVER UP the black ink in those squares but otherwise pretty clean.

I laughed out loud at "Called from a stall, say" being NEIGHED (I was wondering if a word had been coined for people who talk on the phone while in the loo) and I found endearing "Subject of an old wives' tale" being HUSBAND. It doesn't specify if the tale is told fondly or angrily!

Tnaks, Joe Krozel, no ROLAIDS were needed in solving this puzzle.

Masked and Anonymous 1:30 PM  

@RP: har. Sometimes U BREAK m&e up!

I'm sorta divided, on this here puz. The grid layout alone is thUmbsUp material. The theme is fine for a ThursPuz: weird and slightly feisty. Agree with many of y'all, that U need at least one more severedthemer, to put a little more meat on its bones. I dunno … OFF/ICE + CUTUP? Well, it's got the right letter-layouts, at least…

Fill-ins are super-b. IKEBANA. TAXICAB. SANGRIA. ARMHOLE. TRANSISTORRADIO. Woulda been epic to get rid of them 2 black squares in the TACO-ATARI-OHOK column, and plotz one grid-spanner into the western hemisphere. Mr. Krozel normally luvs grid-spanners. Plus, U got yer 44 black squares, so U could probably spare a couple. Maybe put a couple U's in that extra spanner, et voila …
[day-um ... after all, we ain't askin for much here, Joe. har. Bet the constructioneer is about ready to suggest where M&A can cram a whole red apple -- and it ain't gonna be "rexmouth". Or ARMHOLE. Altho, ARMHOLE would be closer … ]

fave weejects: all the lil darlins that got to participate in today's theme. Them runty, un-respected words luv to get in on the action.

Only 70 words. Fewer, after Joe works that extra spanner in there, for tomorrow's puz.

Hey, Joe. Nice job, any old hoo. Thanx.

Masked & Anonymo5Us

BOT/TOM + CRACK? Didn't think so.


Idran 1:34 PM  

I'm a little surprised that no one else seems to have gotten the grid shape yet? It's a B split into two pieces, because all the left-side theme answers were B's split into two pieces.

Carola 1:59 PM  

@chefwen - We're in L.A. for the month, visiting our daughter (who will be at my side in her Packer jersey on Sunday). Maui in March!

doorslam 2:09 PM  

Glad I wasn't the only one to go HUbBArD there. Slowed me down quite a bit because I liked it so much. Otherwise an average Thursday for me.

Anonymous 2:32 PM  

note to @M&A: U'll love today's WSJpuz

puzzle hoarder 2:58 PM  

@Nancy, I'm glad you brought up HUSBAND. I checked xwordinfo.com to see if it's ever been clued with the old-wives angle before. It turns out this is a debut entry for the Shortz era. I don't count the variety puzzles. It's amazing how little used some of the most common words are. If you're going to use one you may as well give it an out there clue.
@jberg, thanks for asking about @lms I've been wondering too. I've said this before but she's the Mz Frizzle of our Little Magic Schoolbus.

mas ked and ano nym ous ona break 3:11 PM  

Yo, @anonymous one of 2:32pm fame: thanx u, for brightenin up my day.
Anonymous people are all right; some just don't like a mask, cuz it makes their ears itch.

Almost forgot a nod to today's nytpuz admirable desperation: MASERS/RNS. Bravo. Always a masked crowd pleaser, to get a little of that there stuff. Put that extra western hemisphere grid spanner in, and these lil jewels would really blossom!


Happy Pencil 3:11 PM  

And here's why I like to read Rex, despite the occasional crankiness: his explanation of why BANANA SPLIT is head and tails above the other two theme answers is lucid and logical, and it's something I had given zero thought to. So that's a valuable service performed.

Having said that, I did like the puzzle more than he did, although I agree that the theme is thin and the puzzle was too easy for a Thursday. But I guess I'm a sucker for a gimmick. And the grid design was interesting, even though talk of symmetry makes my head spin.

@Idran, 1:34 p.m., I don't really see the broken B that you're seeing, but your observation that all the theme answers begin with the same letter is noteworthy. Thanks!

Idran 3:19 PM  

@Happy Pencil: The jagged left edge makes it harder to see, but think of it like a serifed B and ignore the middle bump. The two horizontal lines and the curves along the right edge define the loops of the B.

It probably would've worked better if the middle-left section didn't extend to the border - maybe cut off the 21 and 22 Down cells would've made it more obvious - but I'm 95% sure the grid itself was intended to be a themer by indicating a B split down vertically, given the left-side theme answers.

Trombone Tom 5:01 PM  

I guess I wasn't the only one soldering away on Heathkits back in the day.

@Stanley Hudson. In Vacaville between SF and Sac'to.

David in CA 6:04 PM  

My goodness, how can people not see that "transistorradio" refers to the transistor diagrammed in the grid, making that a great theme answer. Specifically it is an N-channel dual-gate IGFET, with the far left bars representing the gate terminals and the...err...the...

Well, hopefully @LMS will return really soon to fill us in on the other details. I suspect she is just too deep into her latest welding project to have time for the blog.

Great puzzle. Was a little easy for a Thursday, for me, but so what? What pleasure is it people get from the incredibly nitpicky "critique" of these fine diversions?

Malsdemare 6:30 PM  

@David 6:04. Please post more often . . .

Jared 7:13 PM  

Really easy for a Thursday. Expecting the Friday to be balls to the wall hard now

Missed U 7:30 PM  


What's a 'wall hard'?

Sherm Reinhardt 9:14 PM  


I tried

BAGS and MALT before HOPS
OKAY before OHOK
CRAB before TACO
BLANTON before STANTON (that was a guess)
Was hoping for ADIDAS over WILSON, but TAXICAB got me out of that mess.
Almost LATTE before DONUT, but I got the ANA cross, so that saved me.

Not easy .

Anonymous 9:38 PM  

@sherm, who are you? Your blog is interesting. About you?

Anonymous 10:16 PM  

@Jim Finder your CPU has billions of transistors if it is less than ten years old. Then there are the transistors in all the other integrated circuits.

@jberg That would have been before Secretary Kerry of Vietnam Veterans Against the War fame ran for congressman from Middlesex by a few years.

Civilian head of our military kept us from firebombing Dresden, Germany, and atomic bombing of two cities in Japan? Ever see a picture of Tokyo after our bombers were done? The Imperial Palace was about the only building left standing. So much for civilian heads ensuring our military is restricted to accurate bombing to avoid civilian casualties.

Z 10:50 PM  

@MotsCroisés - Turn your puzzle 90°. Do you see the symmetry now?

@Evil Doug - Sounds like more of a socialist construct than a capitalist construct. The good folk of Falls Church could have shoveled their own walks for less cost and probably more efficiently (that's what capitalism demands) but decided to take on a little extra cost (a tax) in order to help out a neighbor willing to work but without other prospects. And look, everyone benefits. The good folk got their walks cleared and a fellow citizen learned that working for something is better than being given something. Yep, definitely socialism.*

@jberg -I thought @Muse snuck in one day. I think this might be the week before the visit of the state overseers which often means a lot of non-education related stuff has to be done by teachers preventing them from having a life. I'd love to see a study on the short term effects of site visits on student learning.

@Idran - If I squint real hard and turn my head just so I can sort of see what you see. But if it takes that much effort it's probably not intentional.

@Jared - So you listen/watch LeBatard and Stugotz, too?

*In case you're wondering 1. Utilitarian more than socialist, sometimes capitalism works best, sometimes socialism. 2. If you think we live in a capitalist economy you are a good 85 years behind the times

Warren Howie Hughes 12:00 AM  

If my memory serves, I believe it was STANTON who was present at the bedside of the "Great Emancipator" who uttered the deathless following words, "Now he belongs to the ages"

Anonymous 12:14 AM  

"Coffee shop offering" for DONUT annoyed me. I'm sure there are coffee shops that sell donuts, but I've never been to one. Sandwiches and baked goods, sure, but how many of them have a deep fryer?

Anonymous 2:51 PM  

The transistor radio was revolutionary. Using transistors instead of tubes meant you could make this incredibly small, portable, battery powered device that could fit in a jacket pocket and be listened to with an ear plug. The first personal device connected to the outside world. That's what started the path up through Walkman and that thing you are probably reading this on now.

Burma Shave 10:39 AM  


BUT the DOLT UNLOADS it from a BRO KEN jug.
That NITWIT’S UNAWRE he should BAN the idea


spacecraft 11:36 AM  

I learned a new word today: FOOZLE. ERR went in on crosses. That and UNTAME (sans the D?) gave momentary pause; the rest dropped in a la Tuesday. Can you really say UNTAME? Yes, by golly, you can. I looked it up--after finishing, of course. Why anyone would ever choose that awkwardness over "wild," I can't imagine. The UNTAME UNTAME West...nah. Doesn't work. Where the UNTAME things are. How about a trip to that waterpark, Wet & UNTAME? UNTAME thing, I think you move me.

Enough of that. First thing I thought when I saw the grid was a Greek cross. I was expecting the theme to be along those lines--but instead it was merely along the one vertical line. Really two puzzles, in that they don't intersect, but stapled together via the theme. It's different, with its E/W asymmetry, I'll give it that. but the fill is largely unobjectionable, and does contain some cool entries (RAGTIME, SANGRIA, SADCASE et al); this is a most welcome change from the fill so far this week. As such, the par looks more like a birdie. Plus lovely REBA as DOD...aw heck. The ball dropped; score the bird.

rondo 12:32 PM  

Doesn’t this grid ‘break’ most all the ‘rules’? Even considering each side separately, the only symmetry is folding it in half with the crease in the middle of the BANANASPLIT row. Lotsa black squares and minimal theme fill. Definitely not THENORM for a NYT puz, BUT that’s what’ll happen if they insist on gimmicks and games for Thursdays. Nary a w/o, BUT, INORDER, started on the right side, top to bottom, then the left side, bottom to top.

I’ve had several sets of WILSON golf clubs over the last forty or so years. The current set being custom-fit WILSON Deep Reds that I paid $2000 for almost 15 years ago. I did replace the WILSON driver with a Nike a coupla years back. Never play with WILSON balls. No good.

Got my first TRANSISTORRADIO c. 1965, an 8 TRANSISTOR AM model from the Coast to Coast store that was not that much bigger (only thicker) than my current Android phone. Cut alotta grass INORDER to earn that beauty. Went through many 9 volt batteries listening to pop music on WDGY, Twins ballgames on ‘CCO, or strange and wonderful music at night from far-off WLS in Chicago. I think it’s still in my mom’s basement somewhere. My older brother had to outdo me with the 10 TRANSISTOR model.

IKEBANA must be Eric Bana’s brother?

Ever since her performance in that red dress, REBA has been a yeah baby to me. Talk about BUS TED.

Not my favorite puz since it was BRO KEN INTWO. SANGRIA anyone?

Anonymous 12:58 PM  

A GREAT puzzle. Totally fair, not a pisser in sight. Presented a very rewarding struggle to solve.

Blew right over and past the "theme", most of which are not worth the bother.

Diana,LIW 1:17 PM  

Of course whenever I finish a Thursday puzzle w/o any assistance it will be labeled "too easy." Phggghhhh!

@Randy must only go to the "high-end" coffee shops, not the donut-providing type preferred by many police officers. What are ya dunkin' your Dunkin' Donut into - their coffee, that's what. No ROLAIDS needed.

WILSON reminded me of the Tom Hanks movie - too bad WILSON got swept away.

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords

Teedmn 1:24 PM  

Har, @spacecraft - I just read your riff to a co-worker; we both went UNTAME over it. Thanks for the laugh.

leftcoastTAM 1:54 PM  

See it somewhat as Rex does, but not nearly as dull. NE was last to go with IKEBANA out of reach without crosses. The Watergate COVERUP reference was spot on ("It's not the crime, it's the....).

Thought TAXICAB and CRAW were cleverly clued, and of course MASER was the outlier of the day.

Theme was fine, if a little thin for Thursday, and the blacked out middle column looked pretty daunting at first.

I'd give this one an A-.

rondo 9:28 PM  

How about the MN hockey team? The MN UNTAME.

Bradford Caslon 7:09 PM  

I remember those days. I put one on layaway at the drugstore for four months to come up with the $12.95 in 1961.

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