Believer in Ethiopian Zion / THU 4-27 / First commercial film with stereophonic sound 1940 / Afghanistan's third largest city / Longtime New Yorker writer Pauline / Long-running tv drama started in 2003

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Constructor: Todd Gross

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: SUDOKU PUZZLE (8A: With 67-Across, what the circled part of this crossword represents) — the CENTRAL / SQUARES (1A: With 68-Across, the circled part of this crossword) form a sudoku-type puzzle, with the letters R, A, T, and E instead of numbers.

Word of the Day: Cinnabar (27D: Cinnabar, e.g. => RED) —
noun: cinnabar
  1. a bright red mineral consisting of mercury sulfide. It is the only important ore of mercury and is sometimes used as a pigment. [emph. mine]
    • the bright red color of this; vermilion.

      "the blood coagulated in cinnabar threads"
• • •
"I HATE YOU, PUZZLE!" Actually, I have no such strong feelings today, but I do like that little embedded scream there in the SW corner. I have no interest in SUDOKU. Don't get it. Also, don't like the perpetuation of the idea that anyone who's into crosswords must be into SUDOKU. Like we're just pleased to be filling in boxes. SUDOKU is pure logic. The same kind of logic. Over and over and over, with no connection to culture, humanity, etc. No thanks. You guys have fun, but no. Anyway, this puzzle is what it is. Conceptually, I guess it works, but there's one thing I sincerely don't understand: what is CENTRAL / SQUARES doing in this puzzle? Like, at all. That is a whole lot of theme real estate given over to words that are completely redundant and (thus) unnecessary. I can see that the squares are central, in that ... they are circled. There. In the center. The SUDOKU / PUZZLE part tells me to look at those manifestly "central" squares, and tells me what they are. I really thought CENTRAL would tell me about the puzzle somehow. I see that the four letters are all inside the word "CENTRAL," but ... nope, I don't see a pun or trick or anything (unless... that *is* the trick?). The letters in the Sudoku grid are R A T and E. I don't know why (except those are handy letters to use if you're going to run a bunch of answers together). I do know that CENTRAL / SQUARES is not needed here, at all.

This grid was a kind of crosswordese showcase. I mean, any time you can see EIRE *and* ERSE in the same grid, that's a museum-piece puzzle you've got on your hands. Here were some lowlights:

"BACK AT YA" would make great fill. "AT YA" on its own, nope. "NUM" ugh—that bit of garbage actually ended up affecting my solve, as I went for CAP Lock (crossing PTL!?) instead of NUM / MTM, and that made the whole NE kinda hard to get into. PSSST is ridiculous, of course, unless you would also accept PSSSST, PSSSSSST, and NOOOOOOOOOOOO! Speaking of no, ONO. Hawaiian fish? Nice try. All you did was make me have to work (albeit slightly) to get the same old musician / performance artist we always see in the grid. Fun fact: the fish in question is known generally as "wahoo" (WHEE!). "Many Hispanic areas of the Caribbean and Central America refer to this fish as peto." So ... look for PETO in your grid next, I guess.

  • 27D: Cinnabar, e.g. (RED) — total road block, this one. Had no idea what "Cinnabar" was. Could think only of Cinnabun and Edna Ferber's "Cimmaron." Even with RE- in place, I had to get that last letter from the cross. 
  • 11D: Numerical prefix (OCTO-) — oy, not only is this bad fill, the clue doesn't even bother trying. It just sits there sullenly going "I don't know ... just guess ... not my problem ..."
  • 52A: "Inner-city" for "black," to some people (CODE) — hey now! What's this? Hello. Looks like the puzzle woke up and found some attitude. More of this insightful sass, please. (I think "urban" is the more common CODE now, but I'll accept "Inner-city" on Marvin's behalf)

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


evil doug 6:52 AM  

This puzzle, though invited to be published, should be canceled because we can't adequately provide security from anarchists for Mr. Gross....

Passing Shot 7:07 AM  

Felt like the NW corner took about as long as the rest of the puzzle; ASSET finally gave me a foothold, after running through what on earth a business could fix -- rents? costs?. "Upfronts" before THE EMMYS (still think mine is a better answer). Overall, meh.

BarbieBarbie 7:08 AM  

Maybe it will cancel itself, @ED. So weird to be old and seeing these events from the other side.
Anyway, to the puzzle: very clever device. Medium solve for me. Including CENTRAL SQUARES in opposition to SUDOKU PUZZLE may be a cute way of pointing out that SUDOKU PUZZLE is redundant (if it is- my assumption). Logic puzzles are my thing, although obviously KenKen before Sudoku. Filling in squares with the same thing over and over not bearing any relationship to humanity... Sigh. Patterns, Rex. Find/use the patterns in nature-- that's engineering. Find the patterns of patterns... That's science. Science and engineering... Bring crossword-solvers batteries, devices, ink, paper, print forms, presses, and the delivery system that gets them their daily NYT puzzle- and the illumination and leisure time to solve it- so that they can publish daily formulaic complaints instead of genuine, thoughtful, tenure-worthy criticism. How's that for having a bearing on at least a small slice of humanity, Rex?

Anonymous 7:15 AM  

There are way too many inner city youth who grow up without a father figure and fall into lives of crime. They really need mentors. I plan to go to a rally and hold up a sign. That helps.

kitshef 7:23 AM  

What must have been a difficult task, handling the double Z in the SW, was handled so brilliantly.

How do you do so well there, then allow PSSST to happen? Allow a puzzle about SUDOKU to not be a square?

Actually, the fill is pretty good overall. But it’s a weak theme and I found the cluing unimaginative and overly literal.

I am told that the first dance at my wedding to mrsshef, Sweet Child o' Mine by Guns N' Roses, is in D FLAT.

Tim Pierce 7:25 AM  

Since OFL has listed lots of stuff to dislike about this puzzle, I'll do my usual and list some of the things I loved (I really should start calling myself Pollyanna). Specifically, the SW and NE corners.

After I got SUDOKU in the NE, I filled in PUZZLE in the SW and my heart sank. Three words side-by-side ending in U, Z and Z respectively? No way this isn't going to turn into a train wreck, right? But look at that fill. Look at how clean it is. I don't care who you are, that's a lovely bit of work. Ditto for SUDOKU in the top right. Okay, you're probably tired of seeing ULNA for the umpteenth time, but still -- those corners are both very well executed for their constraints.

Also great: the fresh cluing on some of the more familiar short fill:

* 41D: Lead-in to -tainment (EDU)
* 55A: Hawaiian fish with a palindromic name (ONO)
* 26A: Where lakes are loughs (EIRE)

Once I had SUDOKU / PUZZLE and the SQUARES in the lower right, I really wanted 1A to be TEAROFF. That's a thing, isn't it? Tear-off squares? It completes the theme in a more satisfying way than CENTRAL does -- because of the sudoku style, each smaller square has TEAR in it, so you can TEAR it off, see? So in my head I kept trying to find church inits. beginning with F, and a NYC club starting with T, and... oh well. I still really liked it.

Anonymous 7:26 AM  

There are way too many inner city youth who grow up without a father figure and fall into lives of crime. They really need mentors. I plan to post political nonsense on a crossword puzzle blog comment board. That helps.

Johnny 7:31 AM  


That drove me nuts. Has anyone ever heard the term ORANGE ORCHARD? No, you haven't because it's never been used by anyone ever. Here in Southern California there is all sorts of stuff named ORANGE GROVE because wherever you look as far as the eye can see the beautiful sunlight shines down on acres and acres of fertile land that is covered with subdivisions and shopping centers built on former ORANGE GROVES and sometimes former airplane factories, nurtured with the sweet fresh water of the Owens Valley, a mere three hundred miles away.


Lobster11 7:39 AM  

Did not like. Thought the theme was weak and uninteresting for a Thursday.

Given that the "Sudoku" boxes contain the letters R-A-T-E, it seems to me that having the answer RATES run through them at 42A is a major fail.

Johnny 7:42 AM  

And before anyone says anything they might regret yes I did look it up and I don't care and I don't beleive Wikipedia anyway the proper term is ORANGE GROVE and this is simply a fact. Why, the Tournament of Roses Parade travels down ORANGE GROVE BLVD in Pasadena. Notice that it doesn't travel down ORANGE ORCHARD BLVD, because there is no such thing. And don't get me started on roses.

Andrew Goodridge 7:45 AM  

"Here were some lowlights." Ok. Fine. You don't like things, just as a general rule. We get it. But, tomorrow, try forcing yourself to say "here are some of the highlights" and focus on what you enjoyed. See if it doesn't make you feel happier inside.

Forsythia 7:53 AM  

I needed every bit of crosswordese to get toeholds which made me love it. PUZZLE was my last area, Ethel before MERTZ didn't help. My laptop doesn't have NUM Lock beside page up key.

Didn't believe ATYA since as a Southerner it is always "back atcha" and brings bittersweet joy as I remember that as my mom's response so often when we told her we loved her in her later years.

Not remembering Daniel INOUYE's name made all that area tough also. But I felt every bit was fair (well, I see the point about ORCHARD/grove). I had AME before LDS for church.

Terrific puzzle for me! Thursday's are usually squirrely until I get the gimmick and then are easy, but this one was crunchy all over.

QuasiMojo 7:55 AM  

This very square puzzle took some doing but I got it finished without any cheating, and with only a couple of write-overs. I had "Orléans" for "Orange place" thinking it was some misdirect about a locale in France. Perhaps I was expecting a higher level of intrigue even if I were dead wrong. Orchard about sums up the lack of charm here.

So many teeny words and dull clueing. The extra S in PSSST is horrible. As are REQ, WHEE, IMAY, NCIS, EDU (tainment??), OSU, SYS, and RETAP?? Snafu seemed misclued.

The only good things were BAYS and FANTASIA. Oh, and maybe Steak Diane. Something Lola might have ordered at the Copa back in the day.

Gretchen 7:59 AM  

Here in Florida oranges grow in groves. Peaches grow in orchards "up north" in Georgia. Also I couldn't imagine what tquares were because I wanted a CPR offerer to be an EMT. At first glsce today i thought I know nothing! I won't be able to finish this one, but I did! "Whee"! Happy Thursday! I tolerate Monday through Wednesday just to get to the end of the week.

chefbea 8:13 AM  

Wanted Rubicks cube to be the answer. Have never done sudoko...I like word games not numbers!!! Did not like the puzzle and did not finish!!!

Bill Feeney 8:13 AM  

I had only the "R" of Rasta, so 1 across was "Anagram".

r.alphbunker 8:13 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
r.alphbunker 8:15 AM  

The theme was a nice demonstration that the symbols used by SUDOKU do not need to be numbers and that the number of symbols can be any perfect square.

EMT seemed so right to me that TQUARES became [TS]QUARES in my imagination. Does anybody know what EMS stands for?

Details are here

Mohair Sam 8:25 AM  

@Quasimojo - 14 Across. I award you the "Overthinking It Prize" for the week. Wow.

John Child 8:25 AM  

Oh, oh, oh! More Marvin Gaye please.

>> "I don't know ... just guess ... not my problem ..."
ROFLOL. A great turn of phrase in an excellent review.

Isolated corners annoy me, but this was a lot of fun. Grid and the Sudoku-*#~%ing totally forgiven. Thanks Messrs Gross and Sharp.

Anonymous 8:31 AM  

A word sudoku, even 4x4 is an extraordinary accomplishment buried in a crossword puzzle. This is from one that likes both crosswords and sudoku equally. They stretch different parts of the brain.

Glenn Patton 8:35 AM  

EMS = Emergency Medical Service(s). You usually see those initials on the vehicles in which EMTs ride.

Anonymous 8:38 AM  

@Anon 7:15, :26 - You and your tired morality. After the first installment, I was going to snark-add, "don't forget to bring your sassy insight!" (when you go to your rally), but then I saw you were way ahead of me. Prefix for mom would've been a sassy clue.

Anonymous 8:42 AM  

In no way do the central squares resemble a Sudoku puzzle which has nine squares and is filled with numbers.
PSSST is ridiculous. An easy puzzle but the cluing is a bit off somehow.

Anonymous 8:43 AM  

@chef - har! Yes, please embed a Rubik's cube in a puzzle soon!

Anonymous 8:48 AM  

I resemble that remark.

BarbieBarbie 8:49 AM  

Anon @ 8:42, I regularly do a Sudoku that is 16 x 16 and includes letters (well, duh, it would have to).The format,not the size or content, is what makes it Sudoku. There are probably forbidden sizes, but I'm not an expert.

Cleared2Land 8:50 AM  

@Johnny 7:31 and 7:42 - Thank you. I had exactly the same reaction. Here on the west coast of Florida I'm surrounded by orange GROVES, nobody calls them orange ORCHARDS. I was preparing my ammunition for a nice morning rant, but you said it all for me. Nicely done.

Mr. Benson 8:52 AM  

Now I'm worried that the constructor of last Tuesday's puzzle is going to find that central area aesthetically pleasing and make the whole damn puzzle out of those four letters.

puzzlehoarder 8:58 AM  

The most surprising aspect of this puzzle was knowing KAEL and that's with no letters. I have no idea who she is but as soon a I read the clue KAEL popped up. We did get the actual paper for years and I always read the arts section so it must be subliminal. I don't know squat about SODOKU so parts of this puzzle offered resistance. I looked at the clue lists at xwordinfo and there's amazingly little original material. The construction gymnastics is why this got published. INOUYE is always easy to infer. Nixon provided us with an excellent mnemonic. During Water Gate he referred to him as "ain't no way". Not publicly of course. I haven't commented for awhile because I was on vacation in San Francisco. My wife and I had no clue as to the significance of the term "420" for pot smokers. Guess what day we picked to visit Haight-Ashbury? This was for a late lunch no less. As soon as we knew what the crowds were for we split.&

Anonymous 8:59 AM  

I'm on a Mac, so no NUM lock key. Took me ages to give up on CAP (although it's CAPS LOCK on my keyboard). I wanted HUMMINGBIRD for the fast tongue. Got EATER and then went blank on the ANT part. And I'm a bio major! For shame! Pretty nifty puzzle (although, having lived in Florida, I agree with a previous commenter: it's an orange GROVE, not an orchard).

Z 9:03 AM  

Iron & Wine and Marvin Gaye! Rex is on his video game today.

@Johnny and @Gretchen - I know of a few Grenache drinkers who feel your pain. Still, look at @Quasimojo for the reason this is a good crossword clue. Remember, "clues" often include some form of misdirection. Think of it like a good murder mystery or Scooby Doo, the final scene is way more fun if the villain is a surprise. "Apple place" would be more correct, but less fun (although that's a pretty good misdirection, too).

@Evil Doug - Let me suggest you look at local reporting. It is a lot more complete and without the speculative hysteria. As for denying Coulter her free speech, has anyone been able to get her to shut up?

The steel guitar player in that Iron & Wine video also plays with Calexico. Personally, this is a perfect cover of a perfect song.

Anonymous 9:04 AM  

Re: BarbieBarbie, 8:49

Suggest you look up the definition of SUDOKU. Both format and content matter - derived from the Japanese for NUMBER.

evil doug 9:09 AM  

Oh, sure, Z. We can count on the Berkeley local media to be fully objective on this....

RooMonster 9:10 AM  

Hey All !
Kind of a mungled puz. I thought something spectacular was going to happen with sixteen shaded squares in the middle. Nope. Granted, I'm sure it was tough to construct around that CENTRAL SQUARES, but having just 8 iterations of RATE, that's all? Wanted sixTeen for 1A after having SQUARES in SE. CENTRAL? Bah, sixTeen much better. Then to compare it to a SUDOKU PUZZLE was odd too. OH MY.

Had TelEthon for THE EMMYS till almost the end. Usually don't mind misdirects too much, but that one pissed me off.

DNFed with 4 empty squares. Had __ETARY, but the DI part just would not enter the ole brain. And EDU as a start to -tainment?? What the Hell is that? Don't know many Congressfolk either. Bad section.



Anonymous 9:13 AM  

Suggest you look up the definition of "resemble."

Nate 9:28 AM  

I've never understood the purpose of the NUM LOCK button. Just like the INSERT button, the only time I notice it is when I accidentally hit it.

I thought this puzzle was perfectly fine other than the Mid-West block. That WHEE - OH MY - I MAY cross... blech. I haa-aa-aate the "quote" clues when there's no fill-in-the-blank. Hate em. To me, they're worse than the directional clues, or the foreign language ones. I'll even take an old fuddy duddy-type answer because at least with those I learn something. But the pure "think of a phrase that's in my head that may or may not match the clue" type clues? NOPE.

Tim Aurthur 9:28 AM  

I'm also wondering if there's any significance to having RATE spelled symmetrically in the CENTRAL SQUARES, with RATES running through them. If this were an AV weekly, I'd go back to the email and look for a meta.

Was also struck by the 16x14 shape, which I can't remember seeing before. Also, the relatively low number of pop culture names. Anything that reminds me of the great Pauline KAEL is a plus.

Interesting, unusual puzzle.

Nate 9:29 AM  

Oh, let me add some positive comments: ERASURE, FANTASIA, and NAUTICAL are excellent crossword answers. I especially love NAUTICAL. Great word, and really good looking in a puzzle.

Anonymous 9:43 AM  

Seriously is Z really Rex using an alias? why is this choad forever carrying OFL's water? Of course it's orange grove. Misdirection has nothing to do with misuse.

Robert A. Simon 9:52 AM  

If this belongs in the New York Times, so does a word search puzzle. No, wait--I'd prefer a word search because at least it wouldn't sit there trying oh so hard to be clever.

Anonymous 9:55 AM  

It's sad what has happened to UC Berkeley, Middlebury, Yale, Claremont, etc. I'm old enough to remember when the right wingers were the ones who would suppress free speech. Now it's entitled snowflakes and their enabling professors like Michael Sharp.

Anonymous 9:56 AM  

I've never seen a sudoku theme in a crossword. Original, fresh, nicely done. Yes, there are a few weaknesses (PSSST). Easier for me than typical Thu, but overall a fun solve. Btw, I read this blog's comments but sadly have stopped reading OFL's negativity.

Anonymous 10:01 AM  

I don't understand the 33A *abs* as *core parts*. Are these abdominal muscles, or something related to automotive parts? For that area, I had at-a for 44A, and got the y by running the alphabet. But *right back at ya" is an expression I've never heard. I at last guessed *rays* for 34D, not having heard of American Pharoah, and figuring this was some type of manta-ray or a brand name of sunglasses. This worked, since I thought 33A was probably *ars*, for the 3 r's, parts of the core curriculum!

gzodik 10:01 AM  

Hey, people, what is an orange grove? A place where fruit grows on trees? What is it that we call those?

semioticus (shelbyl) 10:10 AM  

Sometimes you like parts of something you did so much that you don't try to fix the other parts that are meh. Like, let's say you're writing an essay, and you fall in love with one sentence but for that to make sense you need to change the flow of the paragraph and you say "nah, it should be fine, this sentence saves the whole thing."

I guess that's why we have orange orchard and pssst today.

Anonymous 10:12 AM  

An orchard is an intentional planting of trees or shrubs that is maintained for food production. ...Except oranges. Never ever use the word "orchard" for a place where orange trees are planted. The assonance hurts my ears.

Nancy 10:16 AM  

Did those of you who solved on a gadget get a grid comprised of squooshed, narrow squares? Solving on the NYT paper version, that's what I got. It looked like a funhouse mirror, and I immediately said to myself: You'd better have a damned good reason for this, TG and WS, because otherwise I HATE YOU! Well, never mind a damned good reason -- I can't see any reason, other than the puzzle was wider than usual, and the Times needed room for the movie ads to the right. And then when I did this ridiculously-easy-for-a-Thursday puzzle, I asked: Is that all there is?

The theme was a great big yawn and only made the puzzle easier. The cluing was D FLAT. The extra S in PSSST, as so many of you have pointed out (though I've only glanced at the comments so far) was unacceptable. A really bad Thursday. Now back to read y'all, hoping for great comments to enhance this so far dreary morning.

Anonymous 10:16 AM  

@Anonymous 9:52
Hold on brother, you're gonna get excoriated. If you've been here a while, I'm sorry for the unnecessary warning. You know all to well how this board tilts. If you're new here, watch the tortured, illogical, mendacious and downright bizarre apologies you'll read here for what's ben happening on those campuses for the past couple of years. It's beyond ludicrous. Less troubling for the country, but perhaps harder to take at any given moment, is the personal attacks you'll be subjected to. You see, you're an "anonymouse". Except for being a Republican, it's the worst thing in the world. ( No one has quite explained, why a screen name like say, Z, or Roo monster is any less anonymous, but....)

in any event, fight the good fight. I'll be ducking the same sticks and stones.

QuasiMojo 10:17 AM  

Thank you @Mohair Sam. I'm honored. :)

GILL I. 10:20 AM  

I set out wanting to go UGH. Please don't tell me to go looking for circle parts on my 1A. No. I don't want to. Then you tell me to do the same at 8A. OK, I'll bite because it's Thursday and you better have something fun for me. And you did! first entry. I love the Coptic Church because they believe that marijuana was given to them by God. Then you give me the wonderful COPA. There's a COPAcabana in Havana. Hey, ONO is clued as a fish. PETO? Change the T to a D and you'll get me to go along.
You can add as many SSSSSSSSSSS to PSSST as you like.
Just yesterday I got my first New Yorker magazine. They have this promo whereby you pay $5.00 for a years subscription. Anyway, I cheated and looked at the list of ED's to see if I could find Pauline KAEL's name. She's not featured in the April edition but Lizzie Widdicombe is and I'm going to read her "Annals of Gastronomy."
I actually had a fail. I could not see ABS at 33A not did I know the beautiful American Pharoah was a BAY. I knew his name was misspelled so that clue threw me.
ME FIRST - always said by older brother. I HATE YOU always said by youngest sister.

Anonymous 10:20 AM  

Wait this is crossword blog ?

Anonymous 10:22 AM  

Forgettable clunker. That is all.

Sir Hillary 10:23 AM  

Not bad, not great. Hoping for a little more zing on a Thursday.

-- I enjoy both crosswords and Sudoku, but yes, the experiences are different. I never chuckle or scoff at a Sudoku (What?!? Putting the 5 there is lame!) -- it's more about meeting a challenge.
-- Enjoyed the clues for MARSH, RASTA and CODE.
-- Daniel INOUYE wasn't always my political cup of tea, but the man was a true hero. Nice that he's down there with OAHU.
-- Having grown up in Orange County when the Irvine Ranch was mostly orange groves, I echo those who say there is no such thing as an orange ORCHARD.
-- PSSST is total BS. Almost feels like cheating.
@Mr. Benson (8:52) - Funniest thing I've read here in a while.
-- @Z - Thanks for the Calexico link. I love everything I've ever heard them do (admittedly not an aficionado), with "Maybe on Monday" being my favorite so far. Not buying your ORCHARD defense though.

Anonymous 10:33 AM  

btw, I like OFL's red-lining technique.

Charles Flaster 10:35 AM  

Total agreement with Rex especially about his take on SUDOKU. Tried it a few times but did not enjoy.
This construction had to be difficult so the cluing is very straightforward.
Only writeover was MERTZ for Ethel.
Wednesday puzzle was much more
Thanks TG

cwf 10:39 AM  

"the clue doesn't even bother trying. It just sits there sullenly going "I don't know ... just guess ... not my problem ..."

This level of droll wittiness is why I read this blog immediately after doing the puzzle every single day.

Granny Smith 10:41 AM  

Re the orchard vs. grove discussion...

It seems to me that you're comparing apples to oranges here. No Can Do!

John Child 10:48 AM  


Anonymous 10:56 AM  

I for one am thankful ONO had nothing to do with that Japanese hack.

Anonymous 10:57 AM  


Try using your condescending indoor voice. There's really no need to scream with the capital letters.

Hungry Mother 11:03 AM  

Somehow I found this PUZZLE very easy, not my usual Thursday feeling. My friends constantly ask me why I don't do SODOKUs, since I have a Ph.D. In Mathematics and was a professor of Mathematics and Computer Science for 30 years. I've never done one and don't ever intend to. My joy in crossword solving comes from learning new words and phrases, figuring out rebuses and other trickery, and finding out about bits of knowledge that are buried in my memory.

GHarris 11:12 AM  

Had to check the spelling of Ionuye and be reminded that Cameron Diaz appeared in a remake of Charlie's Angels. Otherwise had fun getting it all right.. I'm with the Grovites on the orange controversy.

Kath320 11:38 AM  

We thought it was going to be something about Legos, given the central box with circles. Marvin Gaye - still can't get over him being gone.

Anonymous 11:54 AM  

I thought American Pharoah was a book about Richard Daley, so I couldn't figure out why "bios" didn't fit.

DigitalDan 11:55 AM  

@Rex re Sudoku: not only that, but when you're done with one there's nothing about it to contemplate. It's just a matrix full of digits. Also, they are relatively trivial for computers to solve, seldom taking more than a few hundred milliseconds. For some reason, I like to do them anyway. What's that about?

Moly Shu 12:02 PM  

Random musings: Are there any LDS RASTAs? Why did I spell it NAUTICle, and foul up the whole NE? My other problem was ore before RED for cinnabar, cuz well, I knew it was some sorta rock or mineral or substance in the ground.
@GrannySmith, har

Joe Bleaux 12:03 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Joe Bleaux 12:10 PM  

Ever make it down to Miami's Coconut Orchard back in the day? That was one grovy scene, man.

Trombone Tom 12:13 PM  

OMG, I'm in total agreement with OFL today.

My dad grew up on an orange GROVE in West Covina, when they still existed there.

Aaack to PSSST.

AZPETE 12:18 PM  

Got 'er done. No erasures. Yeah!

mathgent 12:21 PM  

I rage, rage against the dying of the rebus.

@Gill: Pauline Kael died a few years ago. Her movie reviews appeared in The New Yorker for about ten years.

I enjoy doing the 8x8 KenKen every morning. You have to be able to do mental arithmetic, particularly dividing by 7. The challenge is finding squares which can only hold two or three of the eight possible numbers. And then narrowing it down to a single number.

Sudokus have a perfect square of numbers or symbols. The common one has nine (three squared). There are those with 16. I had never seen one with four before. That was fun.

I enjoyed the gimmick, but the puzzle itself was pretty dull. Only four red plusses in the margins, very few for a Thursday.

old timer 12:26 PM  

Orange ORCHARD is just fine in my book. An ORCHARD is a commercial establishment devoted to raising fruit or nuts. A grove suggests a noncommercial venture. Yes, it is Orange Grove in Pasadena, but they never raised oranges in Pasadena on a commercial scale.

PSSST is just awful. Other than that, there is much to admire about this PUZZLE, I can put up with the random OCTO prefix for the sake of the well-clued UTE, the seldom-seen KAEL (R.I.P.), and the clever ULNA.

Carola 12:27 PM  

I had a patchy network of entries surrounding the CENTRAL SQUARES, without the crucial 8A and 67A, and was eagerly anticipating a delightful Thursday pay-off -- that the SUDOKU PUZZLE with its rotating A-E-R-T didn't quite live up to. I did enjoy working on it - just tough enough and with some interesting entries. Department of intercultural confusion: I resisted HERAT until the end because I thought I was confusing it with the Danes' mead-hall Heorot. Memory lane, happy refuge for the aging: I liked recalling reading Pauline KAEL, watching Vivian Vance as Ethel MERTZ, and rooting for Daniel INOUYE during the Watergate hearing.

ghostoflectricity 12:39 PM  

The puzzle? Meh. But the accompanying vid of Marvin Gaye's "Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)," the final track on his landmark 1971 album "What's Going On," is greatly appreciated. One of the most haunting and evocative songs in all of 20th century popular music- female member of the crack Motown house band the Funk Brothers (I guess that makes her a Funk Sister) Bobbye Jean Hall playing that unforgettable, ominous beat on the bongos and the sinuous piano of Earl Van Dyke make the song a classic for the ages- not to mention Gaye's vocals and the rest of the ensemble.

Larry Gilstrap 12:43 PM  

It isn't that I have anything against SUDOKU, it's that I am incapable of doing one. When they first began to be popular, I heard Will Shortz dismiss them in an interview, something about "computer generated" etc. I'm assuming that when he realized that a large market for them existed, he changed his tune. I was an English major. Maybe that has something to do with it.

Speaking of institutions of higher learning, congratulations to our neighbor, the University of California, Irvine, for having their mascot, the ANTEATERS, featured in today's PUZZLE. "Zot!", indeed.

Joe Bleaux 12:48 PM  

The egregious ORCHARD takes the weak-clue/answer award today, thumbs down, but my vote for runner-up goes to 13D, ULNA. Body part name that's both English and Latin? As opposed to, say, "radius"? Oh, well. Since I, too, eschew the sudoku on puzzle pages, I'm unable to appreciate whatever Mr. Gross pulled off here, besides making me wonder if it's really Thursday. I'll show this puz to my daughter, a lawyer who loves the numbers game but doesn't share my passion for crosswords (I don't know where I went wrong). @Forsytthia, youre right -- it may not be a Southern thang, but yes, in these parts, it's "atcha" -- I've never heard "at" and "ya" pronounced separately and distinctly.

Joe Bleaux 12:50 PM  

@Forsythia -- Sorry for the extra "t."

Masked and Anonymous 1:07 PM  

@RP: Near as I can tell, the AERT CENTRAL SQUARES were chosen becuz they were easy to make longer words around. Eventually found self playin SUDOKU a couple times, during the solvequest, to take advantage of the theme and reveal some of the fill. Still, things got a wee dash desperate in the middle, with HERAT and RETAR. Toss in the nearby PSSST, too.

Also @RP: I HATE YOU PUZZLE! har. Nice start-up -- primo way to Gross the constructioneer out with his own words. M&A does SUDOKU only on rare occasions, but can dig that some Vulcan-descendant folks might really like pure-logic puzs. M&A recommends that each SUDOKU should be done usin only *pictures*, instead of numbers or letters, tho. Maybe usin 9 pictures with real subtle differences?; call yer new puz version "GOKUKU".

Overall, a surprisingly moo-cow-easy ThursPuz theme. Some of the fill and clues stepped in, to try and rev up a bit of challenge. The corner long stacks were good for a few extra precious nanoseconds, e.g. Havin NUM in the puz, while another entry got clued up with {Numerical prefix} was kinda … soothinly weird.

Did not know ONO was a fish. I gotta wonder now, if OHMY could be a resistance fighter, or somesuch.
… or if OCTO could be a Halloween sympathizer?
… or if OSU could be a midget possum?
… or if OAHU coulda been what M&A said when changin his ONO puzentry hopefully to UNO?
… and don't even get m&e started on ORC HARD ...

staff weeject pick: CEL … for its nice, sneaky clue. ORC HARD and HAIRCUTS also luvinly clued to confuse.

Thanx for the fun, Mr. Gross. "CENTRAL SQUARES" was sorta intended to be a gray area, huh?

Masked & Anonymo10Us

p.s. [Don't forget to play "Spot the URI!]


Teedmn 1:41 PM  

I was so spooked by the CENTRAL SQUARES that I took longer than my average Thursday time. Finally, RETAP led me to venture therein and I found this was a pussycat of a PUZZLE, just PURRing away.

I did have to wonder why there were two words, ORCHARD and "grove" to refer to fruit bearing trees growing in groups, and who decided which fruit was in which so-designated group? The oranges were at the COPA and the apples and peaches preferred CBGB's?

@Gill I, I hope you enjoy your New Yorker subscription. I've been a subscriber for over three decades. The problem is keeping up with all those issues! I'm about six behind right now and I'm due for a marathon catch-up session real soon.

Andrew Heinegg 2:03 PM  

Oh, I see. When free speech was being suppressed in the past, it was by right wingers. Now that the other side is suppressing free speech, it is 'entitled snowflakes' that are doing it. How about if suppression of free speech by anyone is reprehensible without resorting to childish name-calling.

Anonymous 2:17 PM  

Just think how much shorter this blog would have been if it was just clued Apple Place.

Masked and Anonymous 2:25 PM  

Oh, yeah... @Teedmn's msg rejogged M&A's less than stellar recall. RETAP, not RETAR.

Also, was missin a quotation dealy, in first msg, for "Spot the URI!". {Hint: In the WedPuz and ThursPuz URI-metas, U need to make some serious Boggle(™)-style moves.]

SUDOKU Emily Poster's étiquette question: Is it OK to have two SUDOKU sectors that look exactly alike, as in today's


Penna Resident 2:37 PM  

apple doesn't provide the thursday-level adjective / noun misdirection that they were going for.
how about "Peachy Place" to make our friends in Fla and Ga happy.

there, one more tree in the orchard discussion.

and thank you @Barbie for defending us. I am a logic puzzle person, not a xword person. xwords can be impossible to solve if you don't know some obscure line of poetry crossing an actor you never heard of. logic puzzles can always be solved with logical thought, regardless of knowledge of trivia. having said that i find regular sudoku boring. killersudoku involves real math to solve.

zephyr 2:43 PM  

Iterate is to name or list. To do over, one must re-iterate. How can the answer be made when it's wrong English usage? As well as orchard for oranges? Um. No. While cinnabar, Kael and bays, Erse , were easy for me caret was misled and aren't loughs more Scots?

WXY 3:04 PM  

@Lisa Bradshaw, at the risk of coming across like the letter I left off...

The definition of iterate actually is: "to say or do again or again and again' (Merriam Webster); "perform or utter repeatedly (Oxford English Dictionary); "to repeat a process, especially as part of a computer program" (Cambridge English Dictionary).

I agree, it is strange that we have fashioned the term "reiterate," from which one could logically infer that "iterate" refers to a single instance. But, there it is. Whoda thunk it?

Paloma Vita 3:17 PM  

The center squares reminded me of the magic square formula of "ROTA TORA ORAT TORA ATOR" from the ancient Tarot tradition, which I think would have been a more interesting reference than Sudoku (and I am with you on the Sudoku thing; I have no time for it either!)

Anonymous 3:36 PM  

Obama takes $400K from Wall Street. Trump forfeits presidential salary. You won't see this on MSNBC.

RooMonster 3:52 PM  

Irregardless, let me reiterate...


jae 5:28 PM  

Except for the rant about the NYT paper version, pretty much what @Nancy said....especially "Is that all there is?"...

Anonymous 5:51 PM  

I agree 100% that suppression of anyone's free speech is reprehensible, but why do I get the feeling you don't call Rex's Neo-Nazi comments childish name-calling? You're a hypocrite pal.

Mohair Sam 6:11 PM  

@Gill I - I have a hunch you're kidding us about Paula KAEL. She was the film critic for the New Yorker for over 20 years, and her reviews were a delight - reason alone to buy the mag. She's supposed to have said upon Richard Nixon's sweeping victory in 1972: "I don't know how Nixon won. I don't know anyone who voted for him." - although that quote has been disputed in recent years.

Anonymous 6:42 PM  

@anon 5:51,
Please include a trigger warning if you're going to employ micro aggressions. I'll try to make it to safe space, maybe Professor Sharp's house. If he'll have me. He had hard day to day according to his twitter feed. Now, excuse me whilet I go back to my coloring book and my therapy marmot. It's finals time you know.

Eloise 6:56 PM  


When I read your complaints about all the things you don't like because you've never heard of them, I am often driven to wonder how and why you became a professor. You need to read more widely....

GILL I. 8:36 PM  

@mathgent...Thanks for the Pauline KAEL info. @Mohair. No, I wasn't being my usual glib self. Did not know KAEL and never believed anything said about Nixon, but I'm loving my New Yorker.
Had lunch with @Ellen S and @Deb from Sac. today. We talked about everyone.

BarbieBarbie 10:28 PM  

@GilI, I have been defeated by my New Yorker Today app so I can't post a link here for you (can't see the URL because the app keeps launching), but I can tell you the issue: April 14, go look at the Anthony Lane review piece on the new Emily Dickinson movie paired with one on the new F&F movie. You'll get a taste of the kind of thing Pauline Kael turned out week after week. Some great writing in that mag, and there is always a pretty good subscription deal to be found somewhere.
@Penna, killer Sudoku, huh? Thanks! I'll look it up.
No two snowflakes alike, and all of them beautiful. I'm liking the analogy.

Anonymous 11:40 PM  

Oranges are grown in groves, not orchards.

Andrew Heinegg 12:36 AM  

Once again, I get it. When I comment and suggest that you not engage in name calling, to be fair, I should call Rex out for comments he has made at some point on some day (I don't know when) that you consider Neo-Nazi. Ok, I will try to tie myself up in knots attempting to do that to avoid your hypocrite label.

Unknown 1:10 AM  

Note to chefbea: By coincidence, Rubic's cube is the correct response to today's Jeopardy poser. Yeah I know, has to be in the form af a question.

jthurst 3:50 AM  

The Last Word:

I can be unbeaten in football (soccer) but not have a perfect record with all of my draws.

"Oh My" isn't that something. Here I am in the land of Eire speaking the erse "At Ya". Possibly "I May" just "Purr" over this puzzle, NOT. "Pssssssssssssssssssst" this was SNAFU. Absolutely horrible. I was really hoping for some more parenthetical clues, like "Well, aren't you perfect?". Oh, Ric Flair would never say "Wheee". His trademark was "Whoooooo, Whoooo!!!!

Gotta have that New York City clue - steak Diane. In the backwoods we call it chicken fried or country fried steak smothered with red eye or milk gravy, mashed spuds, over cooked lima beans (have you noticed how it is harder to find Fordhook frozen Lima Beans in the market anymore), white bread with butter and iced, sweetened tea.

I hope Friday's is better.

Leapfinger 10:24 AM  

Well, it's a pretty good menu that offers the sides of KAEL OR CHARD, isn't it?

Like @Forsythia (and @Others), I wanted ETHEL (to match 'Lucy') but soon saw it had to be MERTZ. My best wrong 'un was going straight from filling in CENTRAL to make 68A be CASTING. Oh well.

I enjoyed the xwp mashup of SUDOKU, as I also like the spatial logic that's needed for SUDOKU. Maybe there's something to cross-training.

So, Todd Gross: I HATE YOU, no. I HEART YOU, yes!!

Back atcha.

Unknown 1:48 PM  

The Thursday puzzle by Todd Gross is just that, gross. He should not be allowed to make puzzles. One of the least satisfying puzzles I've ever done. And isn't that the goal, that regardless of how easy or hard is a puzzle, at the end you enjoyed the effort? Not with this guy. All you say is, "What a waste of time." As for the Friday puzzle, I pray to God that SOMEONE informs David Steinberg that only a very few puzzlers are pimply-faced teenagers like him. He can do among the best puzzles when he puts in some effort, but all-too-often he chooses the easy way and fills them with "cultural trivia" that generally applies to Zeroes, and won't even be remembered after a few years.

Anonymous 11:44 AM  

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rondo 9:57 AM  

I do some SUDOKU PUZZLEs, but only the toughest rated (Wed and Sat in the St. Paul paper and Fri and Sat in the Mpls Trib). The easy ones are no challenge whatsoever. If you can finish a gold or 5/6 star rated SUDOKU it shows that you have excellent logic skills, on which many commenters on this blog could use a brush-up. I suggest a “triathlon” of PUZZLEs found in the papers. Maybe a Friday NYT xword, a 5 star SUDOKU and pick another like the Jumble or something. I wouldn’t beat the fastest xworders or SUDOKU solvers or Jumblers, but I think I’d be near the top of finishing a combo platter. Why don’t we all try to be a little more well-rounded?

That said, I didn’t care for that “SUDOKU” cluster in the CENTRAL SQUARES. Big deal. Gives real SUDOKU a bad name.

In no way did I know how to spell INOUYE.

OHMY, it’s Cameron DIAZ and IMAY put HERAT the yeah baby table today.

Nothing much to HATE here (CODE for a meh PUZZLE).

Burma Shave 10:37 AM  


STAREINTO and ATYA. What’s worse?
to DIANE Lane’s PURRs for a bit,
if it’s COPA ASSET ick to let HERAT MEFIRST.

. . . brought to you by the UTE LDS EMS SYS at OSU.EDU
(and the weaknesses of this PUZZLE)

spacecraft 10:49 AM  

I must confess I jumped to conclusions and as a result DNBTF. When I saw that "legendary NYC club" clue--so soon again--I thought it was that same silly consonant string of the other day, the "legend" that I never heard of. Can't even remember the letters...I believe there were B's and/or C's and/or G's involved. The rest of the NW was inscrutable, so I started in the NE and worked down. When I came to the three-S PSSST I threw in the towel.

Maybe I should just stop bothering to blog here. Syndies, it seems, are getting tired of my negativity--but darn it, there's SO MUCH to be negative about! Come on, PSSST?? Really? OK, I'll do this. When I come across a clunker like this I won't post. So if you don't see my name down here you'll know what I thought. It will be a cleaner, happier place. Unfortunately shorter an increasing amount of the time, but brighter.

Tim Woltmann 11:56 AM  


Diana,LIW 1:17 PM  

I filled in 1D, and tried CENTRAL at 1A, leading me to the rest of the NW downs. Except, of course, for CBGB (hi @pacey - it really is a really, really famous club). (I'll wait for all to stop laughing. Yes, the COPA is famouser, and uses the "the.")

And @Spacy - you "own" your opinions w/o the over-the-top "worst puzzle ever" rants, so your remarks rankle not at all.

Things kept falling into place. Like @Teedmn, the center intimidated me at first, until I realized it was easy peasy.

Must admit that SQUARES was a bit of a "Drink your Ovaltine" on my secret de-coder ring. (At first I had EMTs offering assistance, which gave me none. TQ?)

Must admit, as well, I found parts of OFL's rant to be amusing - the clue for OCTO sneering at you - ha!

Pauline Kael was kind of the Rex Parker of the movies. Her pithy reviews were fun to read, but at times I wondered shy she tortured herself by going to the movies. She rareky said "WHEE! And never said PSSST!)

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords

Diana,LIW 1:31 PM  

Errr, RARELY. Sheesh. Or sheeeesh.


leftcoastTAM 2:38 PM  

Nasty misdirect right off with CENTRAL instead of anagram, which each of the middle answers is. SUDOKU then becomes a real puzzler if you're thinking numbers.

PUZZLE answer was the KEY to opening it all up, and there is some good stuff here.

Filled it all out correctly without understanding the intricate conceit of the middle SQUARES, which I've since learned follow the pattern rules of SUDOKU with letters in place of the letters.

Not being a SUDOKU fan, can't say I'm all that impressed or amused by this one, though it is very clever.


leftcoastTAM 2:49 PM  

" place of the NUMBERS."

Anonymous 3:36 PM  

Finished it without hints but made a few minor mistakes. ATTA instead of ATYA,DIANE instead of DIAME,ANA Instead of ONO and the big one ISAUYE instead of INOUYE. 5 letters off with no hints.


Anonymous 3:41 PM  

The letters of R,A,T,E are arranged in the way a Soduko is. All of them are in each vertical and horizontal line only once but in a different sequence without repeating.


Anonymous 4:33 PM  

Very fair and pisser-free. A challenging, enjoyable puzzle. Well done.

rain forest 2:42 AM  

Kind of an intricate puzzle within a puzzle. Of course, a SUDOKU doesn't need numbers - nine different symbols would suffice. So here we had 4 letters in a 4 x 4 SUDOKU. Cute.

Yes, I do both SUDOKUs and crossword puzzles (well, only the NYT), and enjoy them both. SUDOKUs have the advantage of not having a vile-filled blog to describe them, though.

So, as you might guess I was babysitting all day today, and I'm wiped, but before I retire let me say.

SPACEY! KEEP IT UP! You are the leader of the syndies. You have your own style, and you are funny, to boot. Speaking personally (which is all I can do), I love your red/yellow flags, your snap hook out of bounds, your high dudgeon over your pet peeves (RRNs, RCDs, ampersandwiches, etc.) You don't tick me off like others might. You have....personality, dammit.

Yang Kuo 9:10 AM  

How do you do so well there, then allow PSSST to happen? Allow a puzzle about SUDOKU to not be a square?
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