Loosely woven fabric with rough texture / SUN 8-27-17 / Gangnam style hitmaker / Candy that fizzes in mouth / Facial feature of Bond villain Ernst Blofeld / Old Russian ruler known as moneybag / Antiparticle first observed in 1929 / Backflow preventer in drain

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Constructor: Jeff Chen

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: "Location, Location, Location" — four clues read [some other clue, literally?], and that other clue doesn't exist—rather, the numeration is embedded inside some other answer. Thus:

Theme answers:
  • 29A: 23-Across, literally? = LAST PLACE (because if you go to 23-Across (which is actually *inside* 22A: Astonishing March Madness success, e.g. (CINDERELLA STORY)), you will find the word LAST sitting there. So 23-Across is a PLACE you find LAST, or LAST PLACE)
  • 43D: 56-Down, literally? = DEAD SPOT (because DEAD has a SPOT inside 42D: Contributed to the world (MADE A DIFFERENCE))
  • 55D: 60-Down, literally? = TEST SITE (because the SITE of "TEST" is inside 14D: New Hampshire (THE GRANITE STATE))
  • 106A: 118-Across, literally? = CANAL ZONE (because the ZONE occupied by CANAL is inside 116A: Detective in a lab (FORENSIC ANALYST))
Word of the Day: RATINÉ (9D: Loosely woven fabric with a rough texture) —
A loosely woven fabric with a rough nubby texture. (freedictionary.com)
• • •

Architecturally interesting, but a straight-up drag to solve. Fussy and unenjoyable. Any theme whose entire premise is cross-referencing is already on shaky ground, and then add in the essentially unclued theme answers (blah blah, literally?), and the fact that you have to get those longer answers even to begin to see what the theme answers are referring to ... yeah, no. You made your little piece of art, but from a solving standpoint, there's no fun here. Well, FUN FACT is kinda fun (95D: That the sum of the numbers on a roulette wheel is 666, e.g.). But not much else. In addition to the "?" clues on all the themers, there seemed to be a ton of "?," which really added to the difficulty level. I'm only counting seven of them, but more than half of them were impossible for me to get without many crosses. Not unfair, though it would've been nice if more of them had really hit the mark. 79A: Disaster film? (OIL SLICK) is the only one I really like. The others are just OK.

By a long long long shot, the hardest part of the grid for me was the entire MADE A DIFFERENCE section (and thus the nearby DEAD SPOT section). Everything was made worse by my having FIELDING instead of WIELDING at 64D: Handling well. I don't associate "well" with the mere fact of WIELDING; hence my initial answer. I just had to pepper that area with short stuff until it started to cohere, which seemed to take forever. I also booted LILI (wrote in GIGI) (70D: 1953 Leslie Caron film). Not much else was really beyond my ken today, except RATINÉ, which ... wtf?  I kept wanting GOES LONG for 34D: Runs for a long pass, say (GOES DEEP), even though "long" is clearly already in the damn clue. Oh, and even though I was actually *in* Fort Collins this summer, I saw the clue 118D: Sch. in Fort Collins (CSU) and wrote in ... TCU. Maybe I was thinking Fort Worth (which is weirdly where TCU actually is ... though I could not have told you that before doing this write-up). Anyway, that's all. That's it. Not a bad puzzle, but one that I found grating, just because of its architecture and basic premise.

[97A: ___ Lenoir, inventor of the internal-combustion engine]

New episode (004) of "On the Grid" (my crossword podcast with Lena Webb) is out now (on Soundcloud and iTunes) so if you've got 37 minutes to spare in the coming days, check it out. Thanks.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Melrose 12:06 AM  

Theme felt very forced, not an enjoyable solve for me.

jae 12:12 AM  

Medium-tough for me too. I'm not a fan of cross referencing either and I had some of the same problems @Rex did, e.g gIgI before LILI. I also didn't really grok the theme until after I'd finished and stared at it for a bit. That helped me fix an error in one of,the theme entries.

Still, the grid is pretty smooth and the theme is kinda quirky...like it more than @Rex did.

Joe Dipinto 12:25 AM  

I found the "revealer" clue-answer-thingies confusing at first. For example, when I got LAST PLACE as the "literal" answer for 23-across, I assumed we were supposed to take the fake-numbered clue all the way to the end of the original answer, so I thought I was supposed to see LAST as being located in L.A. STORY, which was a Steve Martin movie. Similarly, TEST at 55 down looked to be part of TESTATE at 60 down. So, ok, these are parts of other answers contained in the answers? But then DEAD IFFERENCE and CANALYST made no sense. So I was thinking, why weren't they all just clued as being "located" in the entire original answer, using the same clue number?

Anyway, I eventually realized what the deal was, but jeez.

Brian B 12:29 AM  

"Maybe I was thinking Fort Worth (which is not actually where TCU is, but it's closer)."

Am I missing something? Fort Worth is absolutely where TCU is. I used to live a couple of miles from campus, which is almost dead center of the city.

Prof. Johnson 12:39 AM  

Was this Idi Amin the dictator or Idi Amin the comedian? I get them mixed up

Brian 12:58 AM  

Idi Amin the Human Resources Administrator

OISK 1:01 AM  

After my DNF ( Mulan???) Saturday, on an "easy" puzzle, happy that I plowed through this "medium challenging" Sunday with little trouble. Only hitch was that I didn't remember "Samsa". I assume that "AFBS" is an abbreviation for "Air Force Base"? It makes no sense to me. But I wrote it anyway. Also nice to see a product name for a product I actually use, "UTZ." ( as opposed to AMYS on Thursday.) Potato chips, yes, vegetables no. Also like seeing a few chemistry clues, scandium and positron. Clever, well constructed puzzle.

Jim 1:52 AM  

I somehow managed to solve this without ever understanding the theme so thanks, Rex

Dawn 1:55 AM  

This was a drag, more boring than the typical Sunday which is saying a lot. I usually like Jeff Chen's puzzles, but the theme here seemed like something designed for the constructor's pleasure, not the solver's. Cross-referenced clues with numbers falling in odd spots were hard to locate on my iPhone screen. And the theme, when I finally got it, was meh.

Mike in Mountain View 1:59 AM  

My solving experience was like @Joe Dipinto's--i wanted testate to reference a will--and @Rex and @JAE--gihi before LILI.

Liked it, though the themers weren't thrilling.

Anonymous 2:27 AM  

Then why was Tube 1A highlighted for every theme answer if it wasn't involved? So confusing.

tkincher 2:40 AM  

This may be the first time since I've started following the blog a couple of years ago that I actually thought a grid skewed easier than Rex's assessment (although I'm sure his time was still leagues faster). Got hung up on the SPIEL / PRELIM / OILSLICK stack at the end for a while. A flurry of names that are unknown to me, as well, but they were nicely crossable, at least.

jae 2:40 AM  

When I said I really didn't grok the theme until after I'd finished, I meant what @Joe Dipinto said. ..."but jeez" nicely sums it up.

tkincher 2:42 AM  

@OISK It's a plural of the usual "AFB" (which is, yes, Air Force Base).

puzzlehoarder 2:43 AM  

The upper and lower halves of this were like two separate puzzles. Solving the upper one was much easier. RATINE and HORST were the only entries I really had to work around. I easily filled the upper half and then had to start from scratch. The west side of the lower half wasn't bad but east of 42D there seemed to be nothing but problems' which is of course a good thing. I fell for the ANAGRAM and SANTA clues (cliché alert) like a ton of bricks. That was nothing compared to the late week ZONE from hell around OILSLICK. I couldn't make up my mind, are they going with pond scum or cinema? That LICK at the end had me seeing FLICK so bad that I actually questioned ELS which was where I started there in the first place. How about REPRIEVE right next to WIELDING. The clues are straight up word association but I found them both difficult, PRELIM too. I was so convinced of WIELD's neutrality that after solving I had to check the Webster's definition to see for myself. Sure enough the clue is DEAD on. Discovering the" handle" synonym list made it clearest of all. I got a clean grid in the end with no cheating (research comes after solving) and as always got to learn something. I hate to prattle on but there was areal dichotomy in the theme entries of the two halves as well. Not only did the upper ones create the separate sub entries of LASTORY and TESTATE but each of those had the "places" LA and STATE embedded in them. In the lower half there was none of that. It was just a random coincidence but I wasted some time trying to make sense of it. I'm Mr. TMI tonight but that's what good puzzles do to me.

Unknown 3:05 AM  

Would have finished normal time, but DNF because of ARNEZ instead of ARNAZ. Arg! Never really got the theme....I guess the fact that I didn't even really care about the theme speaks to its blandness.

chefwen 3:07 AM  

For the first time in my puzzle solving life I finally spelled ARNAZ 107D down correctly. Went to top off my wine glass and to congratulate myself, and puzzle partner grabbed the puzzle and changed it to ARNeZ. AARGH, I'm beginning to hate that name.

Got through the puzzle O.K. but I felt it quite confusing and was, of course, put off by the cross referencing.

Ellen S 3:48 AM  

I freely use the "clear errors" button to speed my solve (so where @Rex solves in say, 7 minutes, I can do it in 7 hours instead of a week), so I consider it a big deal where I only do that once which was the case with this puzzle, that is, I only cheated once, and that was near the end. That makes it easy as the ever-present ABC.

Poor @Rex sounds like he's even blaming the puzzle because he messed up on GO long vs GO DEEP. I mean, it was a sports clue, about which I know even less than popular songs, but even I knew that "long" wouldn't be in the answer so it must be GO DEEP.

And I enjoyed the solve. Thank you, JC.

razerx 4:54 AM  

Got all the theme answers from the crosses but still couldn't figure them out.

Anonymous 4:58 AM  

I made sense of the theme early on and leveraged both the duplication of the first half of the ? clue (within the cross reference) and the fact that the second half was a location word for a quick solve. I enjoyed it a lot. All four cross-referenced clues are very strong. Very, very clean grid, no?

Interestingly, i may have shared @chef's experience in spelling ARNAZ correctly off the bat for once, tho there was no CARAFE to top off. Share @Brian's bafflement re TCU.

GHarris 5:38 AM  

Any time I successfully solve without a cheat, especially a puzzle Rex ranks using the word challenging, is a fun exercise. I leave all the technical quibbles to the construction minded, naysayers and nitpickers.

Lewis 5:40 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lewis 5:42 AM  

The theme was brilliantly executed -- it takes incredible skill to pull something like this off period, and yet the grid is clean and smooth. Jeff is good at this type of mechanical theme, with his mind that loves computers and science. While impressive, the theme itself didn't deliver a lot of spark to me, and yet the puzzle turned out, for me, to be exploding with spark. The reason: Tricky and clever cluing.

Every time a clue -- when I figured it out -- made me smile, I marked it down. This happened eleven times! Each time it occurred, the spark built. I'm talking about the clues for PART, LIDS, CLEFS, NEEDLE, TIPS, KEYS, EDSELS, GRAPH, ANAGRAM, SANTA, and OIL SLICK. So not only did Jeff slave over perfecting the theme (read his notes on Xword Info or Wordplay), he stuck with it on the cluing. This all on the large Sunday grid!

As a result my solve was one AHA (that's 86.25D) after another, and I'm so grateful for the experience, Jeff. Bravo!

Anonymous 5:52 AM  

Right now our country needs more people like Lewis and fewer people like Michael.

mathgent 6:25 AM  

I usually don't do the Sunday, but I saw that it was by Jeff Chen and knew that it would be high quality. I'm happy to have done it.

The theme was not thrilling, but I thought that the cluing was very fresh and smart.

QuasiMojo 6:52 AM  

I still don't understand the theme nor do I care to. Stilted and glum puzzle. A half hour wasted. I could have had a V8!!

Anonymous 6:58 AM  

I'm with @lewis. Seriously, what's not to like about this puzzle?

Anonymous 7:22 AM  

Anyone else have filled grid that matches Rex's and yet not recognized as "solved" by the online app?

chefbea 7:48 AM  

got most of the bottom half of the puzzle...saw CANAL...but couldn't figure out the rest. What a drag!!!

BarbieBarbie 7:51 AM  

@Lewis, I'm glad you liked it. For me the dragginess of the puzzle inhibited the fun on the clues. Funny, it wasn't the difficulty level that made it drag. It just did. I'm with Rex for once. When I figured out the theme, it was more of an "oh, yeah, I see" than an Aha.

Though I did like seeing POSITRON and SCANDIUM.

Darn, no Acrostic this week to lift me back up. Last week's was great, by the way. As was the totality experience itself.

Anonymous 8:03 AM  

Can someone explain asked for a desk and anagram?

Z 8:13 AM  

asked can be rearranged into A DESK.

BarbieBarbie 8:17 AM  

Wait, I just realized that at least some of the dragginess for me was down to solving on a Mini and having to peer at it to find the themer references. So, not Jeff's fault and I can't really judge this one. @Lewis wins.

RAD2626 8:37 AM  

I think it is interesting that Jeff Chen practices what he preaches. His puzzles invariably meet the standards that he recommends daily: clean fill, sparkly long non-themes, clever clung, very little glue and attention to detail and solver experience. This met all of those criteria imo. Agree with@Lewis re cluing. Think EDSEL was my favorite although GRAPH was great and was the hardest section of the puzzle for me. I bet 70% started with Gigi.

Glimmerglass 8:39 AM  

Like some who have already posted, I never grokked the theme, though I correctly filled the grid. My problem was with the "literally" in the clues. I tried to make LAST ORY somehow be a LAST PLACE, which it literally is *not*!. TESTATE, which is actually a thing, is literally *not* any kind of SITE! Same problem with CANAL IST. If the point was to find some kind of place associated with *part* of the hidden letters, there's got to be a better was to say it than "literally." However, other than that, the puzzle was challenging and fun. Lots of snappy stuff and some nearly Saturday-level cluing. I must have wasted a lot of time trying to figure out the (it turns out) simple theme, but time means nothing to me in judging a puzzle.

Teedmn 8:50 AM  

No HAHA today. Words embedded in phrases that taken out can make another phrase designating a location. That's just SOSO.... A couple of good clues provide a bit of a REPRIEVE but I have to pass on this one. (Is CANAL ZONE a thing? I guess the Panama Canal has a ZONE).

SANTA competing with UPS, FedEx and DHL is cute, and an OILSLICK as a disaster film are pretty good. Sorry Jeff Chen, that just wasn't enough to do it for me.

Two Ponies 8:59 AM  

I agree with @ Lewis.
This was a smooth easy solve yet it managed to mention Hamlet, Kafka, Turing, Lenoir, and Sargent. When I need a fun fact (liked that answer) I'd much rather squeeze it from the part of my brain that stores that sort of stuff.
Someone yesterday made an analogy of pushing cookies off a tray to make room for more cookies. I loved that. If my cookie tray is full of Shakespeare there is no room for Psy and Zelda. That's the way I like it.

There's an asterisk in the grid, don't see that spelled out often.
I'm still smiling about @ed's fasterisks from yesterday.

Poopypants 9:05 AM  

Agree with Rex. Overall, not bad, but deserved poop emoji for the theme.

Nancy 9:07 AM  

Sometimes you're just not In The Mood. This isn't a terrible puzzle, I suppose, but it seems really, really long, and it's not providing any discernible pleasure. Maybe if I hadn't been awakened at 6 a.m. this morning by some unidentified loud clank from the street and unable to get back to sleep...Anyway, I've done half the puzzle, I'm bored, I'm tired, and I'm stopping. Perhaps I'll pick it up tomorrow, but probably not. Had no idea before I came here that it was by Jeff Chen. It's certainly not one of his crowning achievements, I'd say.

kitshef 9:09 AM  

I have posted something like this in the past, but it’s been a while so here it is again. The medical test known as a PET scan stands for Positron Emission Topography. It uses the fact that matter and antimatter, when they collide, mutually annihilate and emit photons which can be detected. Many people think of antimatter as the stuff of science fiction or ivory tower eggheads, but it is being used to save lives today.

While solving, I kept going back to the themers trying to figure out what was going on. I never did get it until after I was done and looking back over the grid. Now that I see it … man, is that lame.

@GILL I, the DOOKs are all yours.

Anonymous 9:11 AM  

Not easy at all.
Almost old Guardian-esque.
Satisfying to get the online riff when I finished.

ArtO 9:12 AM  

A real workout here and didn't fully grok the theme until coming here. But, despite the carping over the slowing nature of cross-referencing believe it was a clever and well constructed effort by Jeff Chen. I, too, thought the OILSLICK clue was the best.

Generic Solver 9:27 AM  

I was very interested in seeing the commentary and critique of today's puzzle at xwordinfo.com, which is hosted by today's constructor. Turns out OFL's favorite clue, "Disaster film" for OIL SLICK, is actually a substitute clue by the puzzle editors, Will and Joel.

Aketi 9:53 AM  

Got the theme with LAST PLACE.

The IN AND OUT crossing DUE DATE just reminded me of how impatient some MDS are about babies who hang out longer than that often miscalculated date. Woe to the baby who is born in August when all the more experienced MDS are on vacay and those that remain are overwhelmed. Babies are far more likely to be nudged into the world before they think they are ready during August. (FYI, totally appreciated yesterday's infant feeding clue).

@Barbiebarbie, I liked that FER was in there along with SCANDIUM and POSITRON. @Kitshef thanks for the PET explanation.

I learned something today - that the part of the piping that burst in our kitchen about a year ago that spewed an inch thick black coating of back wash from things that are TMI all over the kitchen floor was a PTRAP. The cats were none too pleased with me when I had to wash the black goo off their paws after they chose to romp through the kitchen that day. It was more challenging than cleaning the floor. I much preferred the TSTRAP below.

PG Bartlett 10:16 AM  

I'm with @Lewis, in that I found it enjoyable. But contrary to most including Rex, I found it too easy (finished in 13:52, which is a little more than half my average for a Sunday).

Anonymous 10:32 AM  

Tripped up by #85 across. Isn't N.B.A. Hall-of-Famer Thomas 'Isaiah' not ISIAH?

Birchbark 10:37 AM  

Like @Anonymous 2:27, I don't follow what shading TUBE has to do with, say, 106A/118A CANAL.

Triple misdirect at 112A (Result of some plotting): Tract --> Traps --> Grass --> GRAPH. Finally!

Anonymous 10:41 AM  

Oops. Wrong basketball player 'Thomas.'

Steve M 10:50 AM  

Finished ok but never got the theme

Cyclist227 11:01 AM  

Not much delight in this one. For whatever reason, I found this one easy, which made it workaday and little fun.

More Whit 11:04 AM  

Great to read this...Star Trek had many superb qualities but many people still think antimatter is sci-fi fodder. PET scans have developed into one of the best diagnostic tools in the health field, and one of my students was saved by it. Thanks for the post.

More Whit 11:09 AM  

Scandium?! And I thought I knew the periodic table front to back. Scandalous. This was a fun puzzle abounding with clever clues. The theme was a bit ho-hum to me, but overall this was a good challenge.

Mr. Grumpypants 11:17 AM  

I thought this was just a tedious variant on the "one word hidden in another" theme. Placing the hidden where the interim number fell showed the constructor's skill, but added nothing to the [minimal] pleasure of the solve or the degree of difficulty.

Phil Schifley 11:21 AM  

I was getting the theme answers more from brute force rather than actual clue solving. I basically wrestled them in, and when your first hidden clue contains not only "last" but also LA Story," a movie I enjoy and thought maybe was somehow part of the theme, I was left more confused than enlightened. Not a bad puzzle, but a bad theme.

semioticus (shelbyl) 11:39 AM  

Appreciated the effort, not the puzzle itself.

Anonymous 11:43 AM  

Once again, the puzzle is more about the constructor's journey than the solver's.

old timer 11:54 AM  

I not only solved this baby, I did so missing half a dozen clues. Whoever put my Magazine together chopped nearly an inch off the the bottom of the entire magazine.

Hands up for putting in 'Goes long' before GOES DEEP. And I knew that had to be wrong, for it is the quarterback who is said to go long.

Arna D 11:58 AM  

My journey through this puzzle was made even more maddening by the fact that the word "TUBE" in 1A was highlighted each time I came to one of the theme answers. I kept trying to figure out what a tube had to do with any of the referenced clues or the theme answer. I hate shit like this!

Linda 11:59 AM  

There's a typo in @Kitchef's PET definition. Should be positron emission tomography (not topography).

Anonymous 11:59 AM  

Rex never likes anything these days. The puzzle was pretty hard with very little junk which makes it enjoyable to me.

Joseph Michael 12:03 PM  

Some very clever clues and some good fill, but I did not find this to be much FUN. It felt more like doing homework than enjoying a puzzle.

As I solved, I kept thinking there was more to be discovered in the theme and was left in the end with the Peggy Lee question "Is that all there is?"

In addition, the theme didn't quite hold water since since the embedded Across reference in the "literally" clues applied to more than just the letters of the themer, as in 23 across which is not just LAST but LASTORY.

I agree with Rex that the cross-referencing added to the drudgery of the solve and was surprised that he wasn't more critical of the puzzle overall.

The highlight for me was learning what the numbers on a roulette wheel add up to.

Anonymous 12:12 PM  

Me too!

Anonymous 12:13 PM  

Me too

Jamie C 12:25 PM  

I thought we were heading toward an "embedded movie" theme with LA STORY. Alas, 'twas not to be. Overall, I'd rate my experience a solid "meh."

Wm. C. 12:32 PM  

Hated it. And worse, my Sunday NYT was not delivered, so I paid $6 for it at the local convenience store, mainly for the puz. Hated it, hated it , hated it! Shortz, you jerk!!!

GILL I. 12:35 PM  

@kitshef...Thanks...UNI AHI HAHA..Can't find one suitable DOOK.
Hey @Aketi...#1 son was born Aug 28th. He had the best MD ever. After 13 hours of labor in one of those fancy bedroom style delivery rooms, nurses crawling all over the bed trying to get Jordan turned around, doctor looking pathetically sad, he gently said to me "you know, epidurals are quite nice, you'll thank me later." They wheeled me into the OR faster than an SST. I was singing Sinatra during delivery. Second child...epidural from the moment I felt a little twinge.....
The puzzle...I started off not really liking it that much but it grew on me.
Count me as one that hates figuring out where the bouncing ball will take me. Got the theme at CINDERELLA STORY LAST PLACE and thought "hey, this is different and clever." Enjoyment ensued.
ELS is my favorite golfer, CIAO is my favorite tata and I always welcome EROTICA DEPP.
Yesterday was 106 here in Sacramento with god-awful hot light winds. Today we're expecting it to be even hotter. My niece is arriving from London and she can't be happier with this heat. I think I'll make some hot spicy stew for dinner.

Sallie (FullTime-Life) 12:38 PM  

I got hung up trying to figure out the ref to LA Story, the movie, and never did figure out the theme at all, even tho I solved the puzzle correctly. I've only recently joined the 21st Century and started to solve on my IPad. I wonder if staring at a printed, inked-in version would have made it clear.... easier to just stop and go somewhere else on the electronic.

I don't tweet, but it was fun to see the actress from Orange does the Puzzle ...thanks to this blog post.

Ken Wurman 12:40 PM  

Same here...

Masked and Anonymous 12:45 PM  

A real well-crafted crossword puz. Sorta more like a crossrefword puz, I suppose. Title should have four LOCATION words … that woulda been cool-ish.

Maybe solvers' boats ain't floatin as high as normal on this puppy, because it takes two tanglin themers to perform each hide-a-word mcguffin. Example: CINDERELLASTORY is just the straightman host entry for the punchline entry of LASTPLACE. And LASTPLACE is a clever description of the situation, but may not tickle everybody quite enough. Needs something else, to elevate it from "ah" moment to "ahar" moment, maybe -- since U just used up 24 squares of puzgrid real estate to get to "find LAST over there".

Maybe if DEAD LAST CANAL TEST was more of an ahar finale phrase, or somesuch?
Or maybe if there was another leap in solver-think required, for grokkin each pair of themers; somethin more than just "go find LAST in that there other companion themer"? Example:

1. Host themer: MY SOURCES SAY NO.
2. Crossref themer: TESTSITE, pointin to the E in SOURCES.
Maybe that rodeo would make yer mind explode, a little bit more?
Heck, M&A dunno. Was still a mighty fine SunPuz, and ...

This does look like a whole fruitcup of hassle to construct. Yer DEAD LAST CANAL TEST themer hubs all need to start in a box with a number on it. That just don't work out by accident, or nuthin. The Chenmeister probably suffered a bit, to get the puz to nudge on thru the gate this far!

Thanx, Jeff Chen.

Masked & Anonym007Us


RooMonster 12:50 PM  

Hey All !
Pretty nifty puz. Took me till near the end for the ole brain to finally see what in tarhooties was going on. Like a few others, thought you had to use the whole ending of themers, so with MADE A DIFFERENCE, kept parsing it as DEA DIFFERENCE, which held me up for quite a bit. Also the LA STORY thing wasn't helping. Finally figured out TEST SITE, and said, "Hey, maybe it's only the one word". Looked at F____S_CAtALYST (which as you see, thought it was somethingCAtALYST, until I saw it had to be CANAL ZONE and ARNAZ), and the Aha grokking of the theme after the realization of ANALYST. So agree with @Joe Dipinto's jeez. :-)

Here's something funny. For 37A, initially had TuRn for TART, then finally got TEXAN, which left me with CuNT for 32D. I was like, " Wha..., that can't be right!" Saw my nEXT error, changed it to TEXT, which got my TuRn changed to TART, and then CANT. Whew!, said I. :-)

Thought the fill was good. Lots of nice misdirect clues. Good SunPuz!


Anonymous 1:00 PM  

When was Karachi a world capital?

Blue Stater 1:04 PM  

Sundays, in particular, just keep getting worse. How long, O Lord, how long?

Frayed Knot 1:09 PM  

Not a great theme for me but, eh, I'll live.

At least now I know the difference between a PTRAP and a TSTRAP.
Prior to this puzzle I may have tried to interchange those and the results wouldn't have been pretty.

Now I just have to figure out what GROK means as it was used a half-dozen times in this blog.

Carola 1:13 PM  

Admirable construction, I thought, but a bit more like homework to solve than FUN. However, since I spent most of my life in school, one way or the other, I'm fine with homework. I got the idea with LAST PLACE, and that helped me with the other theme answers, confirming that MADE A DIFFERENCE was right (I had the neighboring DEAD), and making the complementary CANAL ZONE and FORENSIC ANALYIST easy to see. The toughest SPOT for me was also that OIL SLICK area: amazing how gIgI with just those two incorrect letters obscured the crossing answers for so long. I liked the cultural variety: POP ROCKS, SARGENT, LAERTES, SAMSA, GOES DEEP, POSITRON, SCANDIUM along with ILL-FATED, REPRIEVE.

RooMonster 1:20 PM  

Would like to see @LMS's take on this. See might've said something along the lines of . . .

* - Wow! What a difficult puzzle to make! First you had to find four long theme answers that had the target word split in them, Then you had to situate them in the grid using black squares to correspond with where the starts of the imbedded words had to be! Then find four different words meaning, "where something sits", SITE ZONE PLACE SPOT, put them in the grid, and then still fill the rest cleanly! - *

Or a similar post. I don't mean to speak for @Loren, I just like her take on very tough to construct puzzles that a lot of people don't realize how tough it is.

RooMonster (arrogance?) Desk. :-)

Tarheeled 1:21 PM  

Tedious and contrived, but I can imagine difficult to create. I got through it in good time except dnf due to being absolutely sure that 79 across was something-flick. No -ess so missed Els and thus blew that whole little patch. P-trap? What happened to U-trap? Also, I thought Claidius murdered Hamlet. Poisoned him, I believe. An enjoyable morning!

Lewis 1:26 PM  

@frayed -- GROK means to fully understand.

The Émigré 1:26 PM  


Tarheeled 1:41 PM  

Sorry. I take back Claudius!

Joe Dipinto 1:48 PM  

@Barbie 7:51 -- I always feel slightly bummed on non-Acrostic weekends too, but the Two by Three puzzle is kind of fun today.

Stanley Hudson 1:53 PM  

This was a lot of fun. Thanks Jeff C.

Joe Dipinto 2:09 PM  

@Anon 1:00 - Karachi was the capital of Pakistan from the late 1940's to late 1950s.

Aketi 2:30 PM  

@RooMonster, way to channel your inner @LMS.

Sunnyvale Solver 2:39 PM  

Easiest Sunday puzzle in a long time. I was shocked to see Rex's rating. Although one side of the theme was unclued, there was a repeated string of letters shared between the two parts, so crosses in one part could be entered in the other. The theme was, however, boring and insubstantial.

Rest was fine. Only complaint is dealing with both PTRAP and TSTRAP.

I thought Rex would have inserted "Light My Fire", inspired by 90 down.

Mr. Grumpypants 2:43 PM  

@RooMonster: But did any of that constructor masturbation make the puzzle fun for a solver?

Susie Q 2:44 PM  

Amazed at how many of you regular geniuses here didn't get the theme.
Forest for the trees I guess.

Aketi 3:00 PM  

@GILL I, (TMI for everyone else) once you're in labor and a baby is stuck in a bad position I can definitely see the advantage of the faster than an SST IN and OUT approach. Glad to hear that you had a good MD in August. My only child turned his head sideways so his ear would have come out first had there been room for his sideways head to squeeze through. I had about 20 hours of unmedicated (sometimes in the jacuzzi) back labor before I remembered my birthing class instructions that epidurals can help you relax and rest and regain energy before the final push. Unfortunately my son was jammed up so tight with his sideways head that 7 hours later my MD sliced me open and got him out faster than an SST as well. My black belt test was "not as bad as labor".

What I see is many babies who are being born well before 38 weeks because some of the MDs get impatient that and want to schedule inductions before the weekend or before their August vacation. They never warn moms that their early babies are not going be able to feed well for weeks to come so the moms end up thinking they are to blame. People always think lactation consultants are against bottles, but most of us are very well aware of how helpful bottles and pumping can be to assist those early sleepy babies until they get closer to their DUE DATE.

The House Whisperer 3:04 PM  

I solved the entire puzzle without understanding the theme. Then I had to figure out what it was about. That's a first for me - usually the theme is the easy part.

sixtyni yogini 3:17 PM  

Certain Rex was going to say this one was easy, I thought it was clever and it went fast (for me.) 😜

Two Ponies 4:33 PM  

@ tarheeled,

Claudius provided the poison but Laertes delivered it on his sword.

Cassieopia 4:33 PM  

@M&A captured my thoughts perfectly - despite impressive construction, this puzzle needed a bit more to move it from "ah" to "ahar" for me. I too was hoping for a movie theme as hinted by LASTORY. Alas, that was not to be and I too found the theme uninteresting. EDSEL was a fave, though, nice cluing there.

abalani500 4:37 PM  

Solved this without ever getting the theme, which begs the question: WTF?

Anonymous 5:00 PM  

@2 Ponies - thanks. Yeah, that didn't feel right.

kitshef 5:14 PM  

@Linda - thanks for the correction. I would blame autocorrect, but I'm pretty sure it was just me.

kitshef 5:20 PM  

Cozy up to your date on the couch while trying not to be obvious about it: SIT SIDLE. Oughtta be something that can be done with OILS LICK, too.

AW 5:35 PM  

Who the heck is ISIAH Thomas? All I can find in Google for a hall-of-famer is ISAIAH. Is the puzzle answer just plain wrong? Unforgivable! Thank goodness for Rex's blog because I never got the theme at all. RATINE? Really? Ugh.

JC66 5:44 PM  

Late to the party and have to stay I enjoyed reading the (almost 100) comments more than solving the puzzle.

I do, however, have one small request. It would be great if posters could indicate location (i.e. 1A) when commenting on clever clues/answers. Hunting them downs is hard enough during the week, but especially challenging on Sundays.

Thanks in advance for your cooperation.

Linda 6:07 PM  

@kitshef - Either way, you get credit for understanding what a PET scan is. I just know it's a medical imaging test. And sorry about my misspelling -
"kitchef." I had a feeling I was spelling it wrong but forgot to check before I sit Send.

MetroGnome 6:17 PM  

I STILL don't get that "Dead has a spot inside" thing. I can certainly see the word "DEAD" in "MaDE A Difference" -- but all I can see is that "DEAD" has two spaces inside it. Where's the "spot"?

JC66 6:42 PM  


All the themes are locations

last PLACE

test SITE

canal ZONE


dead SPOT

Anonymous 6:47 PM  

Isiah Thomas played for the Detroit Pistons in the 80s/90s. He's a hall of famer. Isaiah Thomas plays for the Cavs (formerly with the Suns, Celtics, a few others, IIRC). No relation I'm aware of.

Like others, I was totally thrown by the technical glitch that highlighted 1 across every time a cross-reference clue was given. Even worse was "Test Site" (60 down) seemed to work (i.e., a "tube" is the site of a test," I suppose). Messed me up very effectively.

Otherwise, much as I dislike the solving experience of multiple cross-reference clues, I liked the puzzle a whole lot more than OFL.

Anonymous 7:10 PM  

Richard Losey.

G. Weissman 7:30 PM  

In no universe is FORENSIC ANALYST "literally" a CANAL ZONE, regardless of whatever logical is applied to justify this misguided thinking. The cluing for the "literally" clues should have been rethought. This is really ill-conceived.

GILL I. 7:40 PM  

Damn you, @kitshef...DOOKed again.

Joe Bleaux 7:54 PM  

Recurring thoughts as I did this puzzle: Yes, it IS a Sunday. No, it's NOT the LAT. Yes, it IS by Jeff Chen. No, you CAN'T put an exclamation point after "meh."

Mark 9:18 PM  

This is one of the few times where I disagree with Rex and am less favorable than him. I really disliked this one. I think it's because I look for fun in puzzles, along with reasonable craftsmanship. With the exception of the definitions for oil slick and maybe one or two others, there was no fun; just a bunch of literal cluing and a theme that almost functioned as a theme less. And I found the puzzle pretty easy too. I just didn't get whatever it was I was supposed to grt out of it.

Unknown 9:26 PM  

It doesn't say that "forensic analyst" is a Canal Zone. It says that 118 Across is. Which is where the word "canal" begins.

Unknown 9:32 PM  

I'm another one who can't complete with most of you, typically. But got this theme quickly and flew thru the puzzle easily. I'm happy whenever it's a theme I haven't seen before, which was certainly the case here. My only disappointment was that there were only four theme answers...but damn, I'm sure it was hard enough building four of those things. Very impressive!

Joe Dipinto 1:23 AM  

@G. Weissman -- as @Dan Steele 9:26 explains, the canal "zone" is merely the five squares starting at 118 going across that contain the letters CANAL. (If you read the other comments you'll see that a number of us initially thought that there was more to the theme than that.)

G. Weissman 9:03 AM  

I got that when o solved the puzzle. It's still not "literally" the case for any of those clues. The clues are nonsensical.

Anonymous 9:37 AM  

What totally threw me was that on my computer each of the four theme clues when selected, also selected 1A (tube) so I never noticed the number reference and kept thinking that the answers had something to do with plays on the word tube.

Anonymous 3:05 PM  

Can someone explain the cluing for Lens caps? =LIDS. The question mark in this clue is throwing me off...what am I missing?

  11:41 PM  

Whenever I see the 'Ora pro nobis' clue I'm reminded of the Mayday Mystery. An apt puzzle for curious types. http://maydaymystery.org/mayday/texts/88-nov30.html

Anonymous 12:30 AM  

Did anyone else enjoy the fact that the dead spot in the puzzle turned out to be DEADSPOT? I do the puzzle on paper and i really enjoyed this one. I solved it with the exception of 59D and 65A. I also got SCANDIUM wrong but i thought JEFF Chen did a great job. ��LD

Burma Shave 9:08 AM  




spacecraft 11:58 AM  

Debbie Downer is back. Weirdly, I read the clue for 42-down and immediately filled in MADEADIFFERENCE. What was the problem there? The mirror entry, THEGRANITESTATE, was a twin gimme, and those two eased my solving burden greatly. I put it at easy=medium. Maybe OFL is a bit rusty from the layoff?

Wanted DEAD ZONE somewhere, but it turned out to be DEADSPOT and CANALZONE. I got the trick in the NE/E, and after that there were only a few pockets of trouble--all soon resolved VIA crosses. Not a fan of single-letter stuff; TSTRAP is OK, but PTRAP? I can't even visualize that. The P was forced in for POPROCKS, but...I guess I'd make a poor plumber. Not a DIY guy; I call somebody.

Then there's "Asked for a desk, say:" ANAGRAM. I hate that. That was the toughest point of the whole thing. Besides paying tribute to my favorite FORENSICANALYST Abby, the grid contains DOD Tina FEY. Hot AND funny; a rare combo. Birdie.

mtb 1:29 PM  

shout out for Philly: sub=hoagie. Early 60's in s.w.philadelphia, we called them "Hoggies" from whence the Italian workers from south phila. brought their lunch to "Hog Island" to assist in the war effort.

rain forest 2:39 PM  

Oh joy. The grim reaper returneth. The first sentence of his post was a dead give-away. A shroud settling over the blog.

Me? I found the puzzle to be mediumish with some tricky cluing and a theme that I thought was well done, once I shelved the idea that LA STORY wasn't actually part of it.

I think my admiration of the construction was matched by my enjoyment of the solve. I didn't notice that Jeff Chen was the constructor until I had finished, but his work is always top-notch.

Oh, I finally solved yesterday's puzzle this AM, and found that one to be a bear, but I eventually finished. Not as enjoyable as today's, but I give a grudging thumbs up. I won't give any details because spoiler alert.

Diana,LIW 2:53 PM  

FUNFACT - many people only play the Sunday puzzles - this one makes one wonder why?

FUNFACT - my only smiles came from the same ? clues that @Lewis mentioned, especially SANTA and ANAGRAM. We all have our prefs.

FUNFACT - several of my errors led me to fill in "HUNFART" at 95-down, giving me a bonus smile whilst knowing it certainly was wrong, wrong, wrong. By then I CARED NOT.

FUNFACT - Missed the misdirect at "heat" for PRELIM, and couldn't resist PRELIt. Thus began the error of my ways. As mentioned, I no longer CARED.

FUNFACT - IHOP took the place of GUAM for a while - I'd rather start my day at IHOP.

Usually I enjoy any puzzle, but these themers just didn't do it for me. Maybe it's because Mr. W has surgery this week and I'm a worried mess. And we've had smoky air in the 90s for weeks now. Keep reminding myself that I'm not in Houston or Nepal or...you get it.

OK - one other fun thing was the HOAGIE, reminding me of my hometown and Philly cheesesteaks. Home of great comfort food.

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Thursday or Friday

AnonymousPVX 5:36 PM  

I thought this rather tough, and the construction made it that much more difficult. You kind of have to admire the construction - maybe - but it sure made the solve a lot tougher.

Mr. Chen specializes in the misleading clue, and that's fair, but on top of everything else it might be too much.

When I filled in the last blank I felt...relief, but no joy.

leftcoastTAM 7:51 PM  

INANDOUT on this one for much of the day. After finally unpacking the theme, had a hard time with quite a bit of the fill.

Not worth recounting the problems, but ended up with scattered errors and a complete breakdown in the middle North.

Wanted pEED off instead of TEED off, because that's how I felt at the end. The best I can say about this puzzle, with Rex, is that it was "not unfair".

P.S. The brander of UTZ had to be a pUTZ.

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