Ill in Lille / THU 2-16-17 / Religion with public shrines / Five-time grammy-winning duo from the 2010s / Civil war locale beginning in 2011

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Constructor: Keith Redwine

Relative difficulty: Easy (probably more like Medium, but I've seen this exact gimmick before ...)

THEME: ASYMMETRY (35A: Feature of this puzzle that's "fixed" by a literal reading of four squares) — four squares contain word black and, if made literally black, give the grid the customary rotational symmetry it apparently lacks

Theme answers:
Word of the Day: THE [BLACK] KEYS (37D: Five-time Grammy-winning duo from the 2010s) —
The Black Keys are an American rock band formed in Akron, Ohio, in 2001. The group consists of Dan Auerbach (guitar, vocals) and Patrick Carney (drums). The duo began as an independent act, recording music in basements and self-producing their records, before they eventually emerged as one of the most popular garage rock artists during a second wave of the genre's revival in the 2010s. The band's raw blues rock sound draws heavily from Auerbach's blues influences, including Junior Kimbrough, Howlin' Wolf, and Robert Johnson. (wikipedia)
• • •

I can't say anything bad about this puzzle—it seems pretty well made. But solving it made me a little sad because I'd seen it before. The identical gimmick. And that puzzle is one of the few puzzles that has stuck in my mind forever: an example of one of the truly killer themes. It was a New York Sun crossword (ed. Peter Gordon) from (I canNOT believe it's this old) January 11, 2008, entitled "Squares Away" and constructed by Francis Heaney and Patrick Blindauer (read about it here).

Solving that puzzle was a revelation. "Oh, crosswords can do This? Wow." And it was hard—really hard. It never gave you a revealer (like ASYMMETRY here) to *explain* to you that what looks like simply a hard "black"-square rebus puzzle actually uses the "black" squares to bring symmetry back to the grid. And it had *five* "black" squares (one more than today's). Heaney and Blindauer are top-notch constructors and solving their puzzle was formative for me, so this puzzle had no chance. It just seemed like an easier, paler imitation of the one I did nine years ago. I imagine if you've never seen such a thing, it probably looks pretty cool. It did to me once. When the New York Sun had a daily puzzle, it was very often better than the NYT (don't believe me? Ask around). I miss having a daily puzzle so consistently well edited and daring. Peter Gordon is now the editor of Fireball Crosswords (a tough weekly that's well worth your time). I can't believe Will didn't know the Blindauer/Heaney puzzle existed. I guess he didn't care. It's been nine years after all. And the ASYMMETRY revealer is new.

Started in the NW. I knew the Maine mascot was a BEAR and I immediately thought of a sidewalk BOARD for 1A: Menu holder at many a cafe (though clearly a non-sidewalk [BLACK]BOARD was what the clue intended). Since I was sure of BEAR, but the answer was five letters, I thought that one of the squares was to be left blank or skipped for some reason, and started working crosses with that in mine. Turned out the blank/skipped square was square one, and bam, there's the "black" rebus gimmick. About a minute later I hit the ASYMMETRY clue and experienced that sinking deja-vu feeling. Clue on ASYMMETRY made things easy, since it essentially told you where the "black" squares were—find the ASYMMETRY, fix it. Nothing else about this puzzle was terribly memorable to me, although I will say that the grid is admirably clean and sturdy.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Loren Muse Smith 4:04 AM  

I don’t know why it took me so long to see the deal here. I was focused on actually trying to see the grid with all five letters of BLACK occupying individual squares. Dumb. When I finally stopped overthinking it, I saw it. Satisfying aha moment. I hadn’t even noticed the asymmetry at first. Rex – you said, “I imagine if you've never seen such a thing, it probably looks pretty cool.” Hand up. This was pretty cool. The only non-NYT puzzles I do on a regular basis are BEQ’s Mondays and the Saturday Stumper. So the fact that this theme was done almost 10 years ago in the New York Sun isn’t an issue for me.

Let’s face it – PRIVATES all alone up there - Hah. And it crosses ASS. So I sat there wondering what all parts are included in your privates. The word for me seems to involve just the front-side stuff. I guess with all the pants down around the thighs, with those cheeky, half-thong bikini bottoms… the backside is becoming less and less private, right?

Just one SCRUPLE felt weird. Reminds me of an exchange Mom heard once at the Regency Hotel in Atlanta. It went something like this:

Woman: What are grits?
Waiter: Ground corn.
Woman: Ok. Well, I’ll have an egg over easy, toast, and I think I’ll try a grit.

Change one clue and one letter, and 1A could have been BLACKBEARD. Hah.

I had no idea that The TERMINATOR got such a bad rating on Rotten Tomatoes. That movie scared the bejeezus out of me – with its AUS star. Loved it. But I’m missing the chip that allows me to appreciate only the highbrow stuff. FWIW, I’m also missing the chip that keeps me from being deeply impressed by anyone I see on a screen. Even spotting my weatherman out in the wild is thrilling, going to an ice-cream shop in WV moments after Ben and Jennifer leave is thrilling. Solving a puzzle that a movie star had a hand in is thrilling. For some reason, it’s fun for me to see these famous people do other things. My favorite part of NPR’s Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me is the “Not My Job” part where they have some celebrity playing along. And, yep – I watch Dancing with the Stars.

Nice, different Thursday trick. Liked it. Morning, @jae.

Charles Flaster 4:11 AM  

Extremely easy with Tuesday level of difficulty. ARA was only piece of CROSSWORDease.
Clever cluing for ASYMMETRY ( although it made puzzle a whole bunch easier)and AESTHETICS.
Would have been more difficult if we did not know how many BLACK squares existed.
BAMBOO was my first word in this past Sunday's Spelling Bee by Frank Longo.
Thanks KR

jae 4:13 AM  

Way too easy for Thurs. Got the rebus with BLACK SEA and never paused. I've done a bunch of NYSun puzzles in puzzle books but I don't remember seeing the Healy Blindauer offering. So, my easy take one this one had nothing to do with deja vu. Very clever visual theme, reasonably smooth grid, but not quite enough crunch. Liked it, nice debut.

Back at you @lms! And, FYI 100% on Rotten Tomatoes is a good thing. Subsequent Terminator movies did not fare so well.

Loren Muse Smith 4:38 AM  

@jae. Oh. Well that makes me feel better. I would think that if you get 100% Rotten Tomatoes, that's a really bad thing.

BarbieBarbie 5:29 AM  

Total aha for me, total fun. And, who knew the rule was rotational symmetry. I've always thought it was inversion. Trying to think of an example of a pattern where they're not the same think. Can't.
I'm new to the weekdays. Is Thursday always a bit easy, but with a twist? Love it.
@LMS: nah. Whole rotten tomatoes are the good ones. When they splat they go to zero. No idea where the title came from, just cute. RT is a meta-analysis of criticism, the way 538 is of polls. So its numbers mean "what the critics think," I think. Sites like imdb give that score and a more populist one. It's a rare movie that does well on both.

Anonymous 5:55 AM  

Love to catch the Rexster with a typo. "and started working crosses with that in mine." Speaking of "mine" it's been yonks since we've seen "adit" in a NYT puzzle. No fair.

Today's puzzle? Liked the puzzle enough, and didn't even notice the gimmick. Black square? Symmetry? Too cool for school.


evil doug 6:12 AM  

Didn't notice that it wasn't, and thought it was pretty excellent when it suddenly was. Probably the same as Michael felt way back when.

We still have a Department of Energy? Haha.

evil doug 6:16 AM  

Oh, best thing about campus unrest in the 70's: Our AFROTC detachment said we could let our hair grow long and we didn't have to march in those hot wool uniforms because we might become targets of anti-war violence. In Des Moines, Iowa? Okay, throw me in that briar patch....

evil doug 6:28 AM  

Michael: Nothing to offer after Will ate your lunch yesterday?

No. 1 Token 6:40 AM  

@Evil D

Your school had an AFRO-TC? Very avant garde.

Bob C 6:44 AM  

Liked the THE subtheme.

Amy Sedaris 6:54 AM  

@Loren, just a quick follow-up from yesterday. There's no problem with AHepburn and THanks, but Brother David is a dead end in the evolutionary tree.

Glimmerglass 7:06 AM  

As a vestige of our Anglo-Saxon history of slavery and exploitation (cf. "the white man's burden"), the English language uses the word BLACK in a number of pejoritive senses (black magic, blackball, black hearted -- there are many more). With two exceptions (BLACKMAILED, BLACK HAT), the constructor avoided that little bit on unconscious racism. The rest are either neutral (bear, cat, sea, board) or positive (IN THE BLACK, THE BLACK KEYS). This may not have been conscious choices, as the negative connotations operate on a level below awareness. As the giimck involved black squares in a crossword grid, I was pleased with the words chosen.

Lewis 7:16 AM  

@evil -- In our weekly ROTC class short hair was required, but then again, they only required it one day a week.

I enjoyed this greatly, with lovely clues for BALLOT, MPH, and PRIVATES, and answers SCRUPLE and SATIATE. I liked the cross of SYRIA and ARAB. The clue for VEER doesn't need "Really". This puzzle has 73 words; very unusual to have an odd number of words in a puzzle, and the black square count is high (43). I don't see how it could have been done, but it would have been sweet if ASYMMETRY was shifted one square to the left or right, so it could have demonstrated what it was.

INSIDER, clued "Leak source", crossed by BLACKMAILED, very current. These days are feeling like a Sea of BLACK.

Anonymous 7:20 AM  

I didn't know that Arnold was from Australia (AUS). I thought he was from Austria (AUT).

Anonymous 7:22 AM  

I am nowhere with respect to knowing artists. Kept wondering how the heck to squeeze in THE BLACK EYED PEAS

amyloowoo 7:30 AM  

Got the gimmick right away cause I knew about the black bears from Orono. Hey - do any of you remember a NYT puzzle from at least 20 yrs ago (Will Weng I think) that had "fat skater thin ice" as one of the answers? I'm trying to get a hold of it. Thx.

Numinous 7:35 AM  

Easy, easy, easy, too easy for a Thursday. I was done in 20 minutes, Whaaaaa! "Please, sir, may I have some more?" I was hoping for another half hour of entertainment, amusement, guessing and figuring out. I didn't bother with the SYMMETRY, I'll have to go back and look. The "[BLACK]" squares were easy enough to find. The only answer that threw me was the one where I wanted THE [BLACK] crows instead of the KEYS. Oh well. I don't particularly like the Crows anyway but after @Rex's write-up I'll have to go to Amazon and check out the KEYS as I'm partial to the blues. And here's something our of nowhere (almost) that might amuse a certain acronymic commenter here. Because I have some music in one of the TV shows I worked on, I'm a BMI publisher registered as the Acme Blues Company. (Eleven seconds of music, over the years, netted me about $3,000.) So now y'all know why people want to be film composers and film companies keep their music publishing very close and closed.

This was a debut after a series of debuts and, I believe this is the third Thursday debut in a row. Our debutante is an astrophysicist, or at least will be one when he gets his PhD. He says he's been solving the NYTX for years and decided to try his hand at construction. How many of us will grumble when we learn that this was his very first submission. So maybe crossword construction is like rocket science after all.

kitshef 7:40 AM  

Well, I never saw it before, and I was duly impressed. Love me a clever theme, and this one plays nicely off one of the crossword conventions I often question.

Pretty easy, though, with only two corrections: goAT before BLACKHAT and Asia before ARAB. I even spelled OLEO correctly first try, for a change - history says I'll mess up OLEO/OLiO about 60% of the time.

@Bob C - add in the Spanish versions, EL and LA, and the French LE, you get a bunch more.

Mister Mzyxptlk 7:41 AM  

Unlike Rex, I was not familiar with the earlier puzzle, so this was fresh and delightful for me. I managed my Thursday best time, but it didn't occur to me to think it "too easy" because I enjoyed the theme and the fill.

B.S., M.S. 7:46 AM  

I don't think a PhD is mandatory to qualify as an astrophysicist, though I suppose it's a mark that one has survived the third degree.

Lewis 7:53 AM  

@loren -- Love the avatar!

Muscato 7:58 AM  

Vey clever and an amusing solve, but as noted, remarkably easy once the conceit is grasped (almost 70% off my usual Thursday time, which is unreasonably gratifying). Nice mix of general knowledge world affairs, entertainment, etc., and I do like any chance to be reminded of the glory that was RKO...

mathgent 8:06 AM  

I enjoyed the gimmick, hadn't seen it before. But the delight in figuring it out wasn't quite enough to compensate for the lack in crunch. Also 22 three-letter entries.

Anonymous 8:11 AM  

I didnt know that this theme had been done before, so for me it was new and delightful. And on the easy side.

And @B.S., M.S.: Astrophysicists must have a three-degree background, or they wouldn't be in equilibrium with the universe...

Anonymous 8:14 AM  

@jae - Terminator 2 was also well loved by the critics and did a lot better than the first one.

After that there was a decline.

chefbea 8:16 AM  

tough puzzle. No time to read all the comments...what is an ied???

kitshef 8:19 AM  

@Barbiebarbie - yes, Thursdays normally involve a twist or trick of some kind and are generally harder than Monday-Wednesday.

Passing Shot 8:20 AM  

Skipped around for a bit and after 9 minute only had a handful of random guesses. Getting TERMINATOR led to some success in the north central area of the puzzle. Went back to the SE corner and finally saw T____EYS; figured it had to be KEYS and remembered it was Thursday, hence "trick," hence, probably a rebus. Then I remembered BLACK KEYS (thanks for the video but after listening, not a fan) and the puzzle seemed to solve itself. Enjoyed it more than I do most rebus puzzles.

Sir Leslie Briggs-Stratton 8:24 AM  

I found this easier than Rex, as I too had seen this theme before when I served at the colonial adjutant's office in the Sudan some years back. The local villagers produced a traditional "kyah-ti ma" puzzle, from which the modern crossword puzzle evolved in the 19th century. It was a blazing hot morning when the stretcher parties returned carrying our wounded and such but also that week's puzzle. It took some work at the time but I never forgot that puzzle and its theme, nor the counter-attack that followed. I looked at today's puzzle and immediately saw the assymmetry; I solved the entire puzzle in my head in mere seconds, and the actual filling in of the squares was but a mere formality.

Passing Shot 8:27 AM  

@Anonymous, 7:20 -- good catch.

Hungry Mother 8:28 AM  

IED = improvised explosive device. I always love a rebus puzzle. This is the kind of problem solving that I'm good at.

QuasiMojo 8:31 AM  

This was a cinch and perhaps too easy for a Thursday. I found the "asymmetry" angle a bit of a "so what" but I give the puzzle some slack for having very little junk in it. I liked seeing "Shinto" and "Mammoth" and the timely "carnage." Especially if you live in Chicago. I did not understand, however, the clue for "blackboard" as I don't think of something written with chalk as "holding" a menu. Unless you're Agatha Christie (or Hercule Poirot) arguing that the "blackboard held the clue" or some such rot. But even then it would be "what was written on the blackboard held..." etc. But lest I be singled out as an "A$$hole" by some troll here (as we all were yesterday) I will end my critique here. For the truth is my friends I am not a "___guard."

Anonymous 8:36 AM  

I hope that was parody, @Glimmergas! Don't you figure that those associations with darkness predate the colonial period?

Z 9:00 AM  

I didn't do the NYSun puzzle, so hand up for reacting with, "nice. very nice."

@Lewis - If I didn't know better I'd say @LMS was being critical with that avatar.

@Evil Doug - I was about to respond to Shortz, but did a "why bother." Partly because I don't think Shortz has the final say in constructor pay and partly because that sort of myopia is not fixed by pointing it out to the myopic. For the Fireball newsweekly puzzle Gordon (an example where the $ amount is easily findable because it's listed on the Kickstarter page) raised >$10K for 20 puzzles. That's the real competition, not 1993 pay rates. Shortz needs to quit patting himself on the back and start screaming (metaphorically, of course) that this cash cow won't remain a cash cow if the NYT isn't proactive about keeping it's content providers happy. To be fair, it does seem to me that Shortz has pushed for better constructor pay, so he seems to be the face of the issue, not the actual problem.

Anonymous 9:07 AM  

Quite nice. An 8 year old gimmick in a now-defunct newspaper doesn't count. Quite easy, actually.

Anonymous 9:08 AM  

I think that Rex is being utterly unfair in criticizing the puzzle for supposedly repeating a theme that has been done before almost ten years ago in a publication that most solvers do not care to follow. This puzzle is different in that it adds the symmetry element that the original did not have.

In any case I didn't know the theme had been executed before. And if I knew I'd say, "So what?"

There was so much to enjoy about this puzzle with several aha moments at different junctions. First vaguely sensing that the grid was "unbalanced" without realizing it was "asymmetric". Then plodding along until I discovered the theme at BLACK SEA and BLACK HAT. And then sequentially identifying the "missing" black squares to make the grid symmetrical. Priceless entertainment value.

In term of difficulty: My brain is not normally wired for rebus and trick puzzles. So I regularly struggle with Thursdays and I get discouraged often. But I nailed this one in under 30 minutes.

Thank you Mr. Redwine.

Nancy 9:29 AM  

I found it quite enjoyable, but much, much too easy for a Thursday. And I, too, have seen this particular rebus square before. When BOARD came in immediately from the crosses, I picked up the trick at the first square and there were no further surprises. New Solvers: The ability to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that "Shoots in the jungle" = BAMBOO comes from having spent many too many hours of your life doing crossword puzzles. The one thing I learned from today's? If Rotten Tomatoes gave The TERMINATOR an 100% rating, how can I trust this site in the future on anything?

puzzle hoarder 9:52 AM  

Since I started commenting here I've become much more conscious of the actual construction of puzzles. Terms like word count and cheater squares were completely new to me. As it is now I spotted the ASYMMETRY while printing the puzzle out. Like a lot of people I found this to be on the easy end for a Thursday. It has 22 three letter entries so there isn't much you can do with that. What stood out was the quality of the longer entries. That combined with a clever theme made this a pleasure to solve. It was a nice switch after three days of cornball and looney tunes.
@chefbea and IED is an improvised explosive device.
@lms watching "Dancing With the Stars" can cause Doritos stains on your eyeballs. It's true I read it in a New York Sun article from January 11, 2008 right next to the crossword puzzle.

GILL I. 10:05 AM  

I always read the comments before I post because I feel silly if I repeat what @Bob C said....the THE in the middle section had me thinking there might be another THEme. Boy did that stick out. What also stuck out was the obvious error on where the governator was born. Austria is AUT folks - NOT AUS. (Thank you anony)... Don't know why that bothered me so much.
Easy Thursday. I,too, have seen the BLACK before and it didn't do much for me way back then and it didn't do much again today. There are some cool words today but that's about all for moi. There were a few too many three letter words and for some reason, the puzzle came across as being a bit too dark...CARNAGE MAL ROIL SASSED UPROOT TERMINATOR ICY ENEMIES VENOM....EGAD! If thinking about old YELLER made me sad...

RooMonster 10:06 AM  

Hey All !
I saw the extra black squares immediately as I first looked at puz. As a (never published) constructor, the extra blocks jumped out at me. I thought, "Huh?, how could this be?" But then figured out the theme and thought it was neat.

Before getting theme, the Revealer clue was a bit baffling, as was thinking the actual extra squares had a hidden word in them. But then having _SEA & _HAT in NE, saw it had to be a rebus, then noticed the ASYMMETRical black square in SW, and had an actual Aha moment. So took a bit to figure out, but then became easy the rest of the way.

So, very nice puz. Others have said this is a debut, and the first puz Keith sent in. Nice. That's how it's supposed to be, no? It's how I thought it would be. :-)

Writeovers, omen-BLACKCAT before figureing out theme, buT-YET.


AZPETE 10:14 AM  


floatingboy 10:16 AM  

Did anyone else have a problem with the online grid not solving with the word BLACK in the rebus squares? I thought I was going nuts so I finally compared to the answers here and saw that I was right. Changed them all to "B" and it solved. Lame because it bumped my time way up!

Joseph Michael 10:44 AM  

Picked up the theme right away so this was quite easy though still enjoyable in many ways. Lots of good fill and cluing.

Understand Rex's dismay in finding a duplication of theme. Had a similar feeling recently with the reparsing of OFF ON A TAN GENT which duplicated the same word play years earlier in a NYT puz.

Seems to be a war/military subtheme with ENEMIES, CARNAGE, ROTC, PRIVATES, RET, SYRIA, UPROOT, and IED.

Liked the look of "Ill in Lille."

Congrats on the debut. Nice job!

Churlish Nabob 10:56 AM  

Boy did Shortz kick Michael's butt yesterday!

Trombone Tom 11:05 AM  

Missed the asymmetry until I hit the revealer. Unfortunately that made the puzzle way too easy for a Thursday. Otherwise it was enjoyable.

It does seem odd to have a NYTX blog devoted almost entirely to a decade-old puzzle from the Sun, but it is an interesting observation.

My ignorance of 3-letter country codes notwithstanding, AUS popped in easily.

Speaking of the TERMINATOR, I hope Aaahnold's experience as Governator does not presage an inability to get things done on a national basis for the next four years. At least in California, success as a celeb/actor does not guarantee political ability.

For a first effort this was a very good puzzle. Come again, Mr. Redwine.

Bill O'Reilly 11:07 AM  

@Churlish Nabob - Yeah Shortz really kicked Michael's butt yesterday - it was awesome! It was almost as good as when I kicked Michelle Obama's butt by pointing out that the slaves that built the White House were well fed slaves. Man, that one was a beauty!

Francis 11:29 AM  

Actually, Anonymous, my and Patrick's puzzle has the very same asymmetry-becoming-symmetry element, it just doesn't have a revealer about it in the grid.

Dick Swart 11:29 AM  

A little too easy for a Thursday. But pleasant!

And I am very, very far down the list from being an average solver!

Cassieopia 11:31 AM  

I dare you to listen to "Gold on the Ceiling" by the Black Keys and not be dancing around your office/house/wherever:

Great puzzle with a fun concept and great cluing: "Grunts", "It's a matter of taste", "Leak source", "Give plenty".

Wish it had been a bit harder, as this was super fast for Thursday. Really fun though.

kitshef 11:32 AM  

I remember the first time I saw The Terminator. They were having a hallowe'en costume party at the theater, and my friend and I went as zombies. We had dome kind of pale green face gunk link you see on ladies in '60s TV shows wearing to bed, fake blood and such.

But what put my friend Marty over the top was that on the way in to the theater, he found some discarded cooked onion in a dumpster and put them on his head, thus adding both visual and olfactory highlights to the outfit.

He won a free unlimited pass for two to any AMC theater, a pass which we used the heck out of.

And we loved the movie, and I still love it to this day.

Unknown 11:35 AM  

I didn't think the fill was particularly clean - 3-letter words were the primary culprits:
ARA, TET, IED, SES, RET, MTS, AUS were not great

Malsdemare 11:36 AM  

I, of course, totally missed the whole ASSYMETRY thing; I just noted that the BLACKs weren't symmetrically placed. I also failed to catch the AUt error and that really bothers me. BLACKBOARDs are now called chalkBOARDs because of the pejorative use of black. People may find that an over-the-top bow to political correctness, but I usually figure if a term makes a group of people wince, it's easy enough to use a different one.

Hey, I'm there at 44A and my girl is there at 41D! Yay, us!

This went way too fast today. Now I'm going to have to actually do something productive.

Anonymous 11:40 AM  

Too easy for a Thursday--got the gimmick immediately in the NW.

Churlish Nabob 11:40 AM  

@Bill O'Reilley, that was almost as good as when Jon Stewart mopped the floor with your bibulous, flabby hind end!!!

r.alphbunker 11:46 AM  

Whenever I hear about a great puzzle I want to solve it, not look at its solution. I tracked down the Heaney/Blindauer NYS puzzle and solved it. Even though I knew the trick it was still a satisfying solve. The unsolved version is available here.

I got the rebus in today's NYT puzzle early on with 1A {Menu holder at many a cafe} [BLACK]BOARD/1D {University of Maine mascot} [BLACK]BEAR. I didn't track down the asymmetries to find the other rebuses, I just had in mind that each answer might have BLACK in it. Details are here.

Joe Bleaux 11:55 AM  

Black ops! How often did a ONETIME INSIDER USE his influence with our ENEMIES to ELICIT favors for his boss? Were OTHERS with ALT-right ties, who were also considered for a BALLOT position (a top AIDE, for example) involved? Have we been told ALL the story, or is more YET to AIR?

old timer 11:56 AM  

I thought it was a wonderful clever puzzle and looked forward to OFL raving about how good it was. And he allowed as how it was clean and had nothing to be criticized for. He just remembers the same theme done better a long time ago in a paper that probably no longer exists.

I think the experience is very different for you constructors than for the hoi polloi. I did not even notice tat the ASYMMETRY becomes super-symmetrical if you fill in the BLACK squares. I did think AESTHETICS was brilliant -- how many words these days begin with AE? The Maumee clue was brilliant as well. At first I was thinkinf Florida before I remembered that river was in Indiana or Ohio.

My only wish was that there had been a clue that went "I see a red door and I want it painted ___" I must have listened to that RS song 1000 times.

Masked and Anonymous 12:07 PM  

@RP: Don't channel the Trumpmeister, and be SAD … A primo theme idea is always worth a second showin. Especially when the first appearance was in a place folks like m&e have never laid eyepits on. Wasn't there a NYTPuz long ago, whose gimmick was somethin about "four missing black squares"? Maybe? … M&A memory circuits are like mouse-infested Swiss cheese, anymore.

thUmbsUp debUt thUrspUz. Altho, that last sentencette just used up more U's than the whole ThursPuz did.

staff weeject pick: SES + TET. Somehow, they oughta be clued as a team of six …

Cool 7.5-stacks, in the NE and SW. Don't get to say *that*, every day-um day.

Smoooth fill-ins led to a smoooth M&A solvequest. Kinda like one of them PB1 puzs.

Better ALT clue, for ROILin up the dump a little more: {Right or facts preceder??}.

Thanx and congratz, Mr. Redwine.

Masked & AnonymoUUs


Carola 12:32 PM  

Cute idea (new to me), easy, peppered with gems.

MikeM 12:41 PM  

What's a MAM MOTH?

John V 1:02 PM  

Well, I'd not seen this gimmick before and so enjoyed it quite a lot. Nice change of pace for a Thursday, I thought.

AliasZ 1:04 PM  

Things that occurred to me while solving:

-- My PRIVATES are no "grunts", unless kicked in the BALLOTs.
-- I am almost sure there must be more than one SCRUPLE.
-- How do you get to CARNAGE Hall?
-- The TERMINATOR/ex-Governator overheard at a BBQ:
"Throw another shrimp on the barbie, mate!"

Favorite clue: "Ill in Lille".
Favorite word: ASYMMETRY.

It is a fact that humans are genetically programmed to find the AESTHETICS of symmetry pleasing, and to reject ASYMMETRY. It was the first thing I noticed about the empty grid today. It looked ugly and unwieldy to me.

There is nothing ugly or unwieldy about this lovely J.S. Bach cantata: AUS der Tiefen rufe ich, Herr, zu dir (From the depths I call to you, Lord), BWV 131. I hope you'll enjoy it. It's not quite HANS Zimmer, but it'll hafta do.

Have a joyous Thursday!

Cassieopia 1:09 PM  

@MikeM, "A warning to a woman with severe

Teedmn 1:19 PM  

I started out with my menus on a white BOARD, which is, I think, more common around here. Perhaps I was just thinking back to Tuesday's Syndiland puzzle by David Poole. When I splatzed in "white", I looked down to the opposing corner to see if a rebus was likely there and saw the asymmetrical black square and knew something else was afoot.

So this did play quite easy; a just-under-10-minute Thursday is very unusual for me. And this even with having to fix my square one, UPROOT my incorrect UnseaT at 8D, take "Aral" out of 10A's BLACK SEA and back off my MAstadon beginnings at 27D.

I love THE BLACK KEYS and have two or three of their albums plus a solo album by Dan Auerbach, one of the artists in the duo. Good stuff if you like to rock out (what @Cassieopia said).

BLACK HAT made me think of this Car Talk Puzzler, which was just recently on a re-aired episode. I have heard it several times and can never remember the solution

Thanks, Keith Redwine, and congrats on the debut. (Seems like there are a lot of those lately).

Clark 1:56 PM  

The UN does not get to decide definitively for crossworld what the legitimate abbreviations of Austria are. No doubt, AUT as an abbreviation of Austria is a thing. But so is AUS.

RooMonster 2:43 PM  

Jeez, @Teedmn, that was a poser. Even after reading the answer it still hurt the ole brain.

Riddle me this, though, if that prisoner was that clever, how'd he get caught in the first place? :-)


ani 2:46 PM  


Phil 3:02 PM  

I didn't know as other posters imply, you can put in incorrect answers and it's ok if the solvers are as ignorant as the constructor.

Australia AU AUS
Austria AT AUT

The clue/ans is incorrect. I didn't have a problem because I'm as ignorant as the constructor untill I checked it after. But I had to wonder how they differentiate between the two.

GILL I. 3:25 PM  

@Clark....AUT was given by the International Standarization Organization as an abbreviation for Austria. The Alpha codes devised by the ISO determined that because the French word for Austria is AUTriche, their 3 letter code would be such....Ask the Olympics committee. AUS is plain is OZ if you want to be picky. Maybe it bothers me no end because I had to memorize the three letter codes from practically every country that god created....!

OISK 3:37 PM  

The wrong abbreviation did not bother me; perhaps it AUT to have... Enjoyed this puzzle; the only WTF? for me was the "Black Keys." Never heard of them, so that clue fell flat...

Ray Yuen 3:57 PM  

Grumpy Rex emerges again. Who's to say that a gimmick can't repeat? I've only been solving for a few years and this is novel for me. Even if I've seen it before, who cares? So long as it's a good puzzle, it's enjoyable to reveal.

This was fun but way too easy. Jumped from the NW because of the gimmick but 7-A was a gimme and I ploughed right down the center of the grid with that.

Unknown 4:02 PM  

How do you put the black square in on the iPhone app?

Happy Pencil 5:23 PM  

@Jen Stapelfeld, what worked for me was to type in the word BLACK as a rebus. It seems some people were also able to simply use the letter B, so you could try that option as well.

Barbara D 7:00 PM  

I'm new at crosswords-- I solved the puzzle (it wasn't easy for me) and got the "black" rebus bit but I still don't understand about the black squares. Are crossword puzzles supposed to be symmetrical? How is the asymmetry "fixed" by "a literal reading of four squares?" How does one "literally read " a square? Which "four squares?" I cant Very confused! Thanks!

Unknown 7:48 PM  

Reminded me of this: but I see now that they are plenty different.

I have no issue with recycling a (very good) idea from a puzzle and paper that is nearly 9 years out of existence.

Hated RET and SES, but you'll have a few of those. Otherwise, clean, fun, though very easy.

jberg 8:17 PM  

@Barbara D, yes, puzzles are generally symmetric -- and if you think of the squares with "BLACK" in them as literally black, it becomes symmetrical.

I think people are being unfair to @Rex; he didn't say the puzzle was bad, he was describing his personal experience. Read him again: the earlier puzzle was a formative experience for him, the first time he realized a puzzle could do something like this -- so the second time around, FOR HIM, it just wasn't a thrill.

The problem is that the revealer gives away too much -- you know both where the rebus squares are, and what goes in them. After that, it's way too easy.

Sherm Reinhardt 8:54 PM  

I scratched my head a lot all the way through and didn't get the theme even when I had _MAILED and _HAT. The Georgia clue finally made me realize it was BLACK SEA and not ARAL (not even close-- the Caspian Sea is on the other side of the Black with Georgia in between).

Z 9:12 PM  

@Barbara D - To add to what @jberg said, crosswords usually have rotational symmetry. If you take a blank grid and spin it 180° it will look the same (well, except for the numbers being upside down and in the wrong order). Occasionally a puzzle will have bilateral symmetry, meaning if you fold the puzzle in half the black squares will match up. Even more rarely the rotational symmetry will be at 90°, meaning no matter which edge is at the top, the grid pattern will be the same. For my solve in the paper I colored the "BLACK" squares in, making the grid symmetrical.

@Gill I - While AUT might be better for international purposes, AUS is right enough for those of us who write our abbreviations in English. If I need to abbreviate Austria I'm going with AUS because most readers would wonder what the hell an AUT is (just like my iPad dictionary does - giving me the British Association of University Teachers or Auckland University of Technology as options for what it might mean. So, even though I empathize with knowing something more correct, the answer isn't "wrong."

HairyNosedWombat 9:19 PM  

I found this very enjoyable and rewarding, if easy for a Thursday. This is my first complete, non-cheat rebus puzzle. I did temporarily trip up on AUt/AUS but didn't mind it as much as some others here, even though I'm from AUS myself.

D 9:52 PM  

Any alum from one of the few D1 hockey schools in the country should have figured 1D right away. My second quickest Thurs ever.

Christophe 10:10 PM  

I take issue with "Ill" being "translated into "mal".
No native French speaker would do that.
"Mal" normally means "wring" or "bad".
Besides there are expressions such as:
The French word mal literally means "badly" or "wrong" and is also used in many idiomatic expressions. Learn how to say headache, seasickness, work hard, and more with this list of expressions with mal.

Aux grands maux, les grands remĂšdes.
Big problems require big solutions.

avoir du mal Ă  faire quelque chose
to have a hard time doing something

avoir mal Ă  la tĂȘte, aux dents
to have a headache, toothache

avoir un mal de tĂȘte, de dents
to have a headache, toothache

avoir le mal de mer
to be seasick

avoir le mal du pays
to be homesick

le bien et le mal
good and evil

bon gré mal gré
(whether you) like it or not

c'est mal vu
people don't like that

de mal en pis
from bad to worse

ĂȘtre bien mal
to be close to death

JC66 10:30 PM  

@ Z et al

It seems to me that the question isn't what code to use for Austria, but why the clue didn't use Australia to clue

Z 10:43 PM  

@JC66 - I think @Gill I forgot to send Shortz a Christmas card. He's very vindictive I hear.*

@Christophe - That list is illin.

*Seriously? You can't tell I'm joking? As if I know Will Shortz or who he's angry with over missed Christmas cards **cough rex cough**

JC66 11:02 PM  

@ Z

There was a whole chain of comments questioning/defending the AUS clue.

I was just adding my $.02.

BTW, I remember when, a long time ago, RP checked out the puzzles for WS pre-publication. I've always been curious what caused the rift.

Rabi Abonour 12:20 AM  

This was actually my fastest Thursday ever (just under 7 minutes). I enjoyed it, but haven't seen the previous version of the same theme.

Selwyn-Lloyd McPherson 1:56 AM  

I thought the misdirection with ASYMMETRY was clever. For whatever reason, I had some ridiculous idea (partly based on misreading 50a. SOLVENT as INTHERED) that there was some sort of asymmetric red/black dichotomy going on, so I invented REDBEAR (is a red panda not the greatest mascot?) and REDSEA seemed reasonable. I'm from Akron, Ohio, so I know the THExxxxxKEYS. I figured REDMAILED was a form of weird Soviet blackmail.

Worked out anyway, as it turned out! Black hole rebus don't give a sh!t

spacecraft 11:40 AM  

Okay, Fearless One, let's get one thing straight. 2008 is NOT "old." It is less than one-ninth of my life ago; nearly one-fifth of your own. 2008 is only old if you're talking about computers/IPhones. But then, last month is old. Anyway, today's puzzle gimmick was new to me.

Not that I had that much trouble: I even stayed in the NW!!! Until the 1 square became obvious. That was just a mote of brainwork; from then on it was (burnt?) toast. Easy like Monday morning. Is this a debut? If so, is Keith the "new kid on the black?"

Couldn't resist. So, another very promising beginning. There are perhaps one or two more abbrs. that my AESTHETICS would like, but with so many threes it's hard to get around them. Most of this flows rather more smoothly than usual. One thing that struck me was the placement of SASSED, often a line-ending crutch, NOT on the edge.

I have but one request for our newcomer: in the future, please include at least one candidate for Damsel of the Day; this grid does not. No matter, credit where due. Birdie.

P.S. I have no idea what happened to my entry of yesterday. I did post.

P.S. 2. Sorry, forgot what I said. It was So Long Ago, like 2008.

Burma Shave 12:35 PM  


She BLACKMAILED me ONETIME that no OTHERS YET survived it,
ETHER get INSIDER at bedtime, or there’s CARNAGE to PRIVATES.


leftcoastTAM 1:31 PM  

Odd-looking grid, so the ASYMMETRY showed up early and made the puzzle much easier than it first seemed.

Helped, too, that Arnold's AUStrian birthplace was paired with his TERMINATOR blockbuster and his friend, HANS.

Hadn't seen the gimmick before, and liked it, but its relative simplicity did take some of the AIR out of the puzzle.

Anonymous 1:32 PM  

"Grunts" has absolutely nothing to do with rank. Grunts refers to a term for combat infantrymen.

rondo 2:54 PM  

Thanks to college hockey I knew what the Maine mascot was and also had an idea about the menu, so got the rebus deal right off. Wasn’t really paying attention to the ASYMMETRY AESTHETICS even after the revealer. Nice gimmick. Lotsa abbr.s in those threes.

I’ve got “El Camino” by THEBLACKKEYS. And I like it. But they really rip off 1960s-70s bands from T. Rex to Led Zeppelin and others. If Little Black Submarines isn’t stolen directly from Stairway to Heaven, I don’t know what is. Great listening, but hardly “original”. And it seems that Dan Auerbach wants to be Jack White, or vice versa. Either one of them will produce other acts to sound more like them until it all sounds the same. Not my idea of creativity. Where’s the SCRUPLEs?

Any hint of a yeah baby has been OMITTED, so call it a day and hand me a BEER.

leftcoastTAM 8:02 PM  


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I'm sure we'll all enjoy the experience more.

leftcoastTAM 8:05 PM  

P.S. It's a win-win deal.

Blogger 7:45 PM  

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