Chess-playing movie villain / WED 11-22-17 / Eurus in Greek mythology / Affluent Connecticut town / Novelist Charles with appropriate surname / Minnesota NHL team from 1967 to 1993 / 1986 rock autobiography / Pea with thick rounded pod

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Constructor: Timothy Polin

Relative difficulty: Medium (despite all the—eventual—giveaways)

THEME: world map — answers along north side of grid start with NORTH (which you must mentally supply), along west side start with WEST, etc. grid also has the tropics (CAN / CER, CAPRI / CORN) and EQUATOR (38A: Dividing line) in their more or less correct positions

Theme answers:
Word of the Day: ALOIS Alzheimer (61A: Eponymous Dr. Alzheimer) —
Aloysius Alzheimer (/ˈɑːltshmər, ˈælts-, ˈɔːlts-/; German: [ˈaːloˌis ˈalts.haɪmɐ]; 14 June 1864 – 19 December 1915), known as Alois Alzheimer, was a German psychiatrist and neuropathologist and a colleague of Emil Kraepelin. Alzheimer is credited with identifying the first published case of "presenile dementia", which Kraepelin would later identify as Alzheimer's disease. (wikipedia)
• • •

Kinda straightforward, kinda workmanlike. I've seen versions of this theme before, but not with the tropics and EQUATOR, I don't think. Of course those elements further stress the grid, making an already dense theme even denser and resulting in fill that is, let's say, less than ideal. In parts, brutal. There's a semi-interesting gimmick here, but once you get it, there's not much delight in getting the theme answers, and there is plenty of non-delight in the rest of the answers. We still doing "I, TINA"? And ENOW? And ANOS without the REQ'D tilde on the "N"? Alrighty. Roughest part for me was ALOIS (?!!?) over N-TILE (i.e. sommmmme letter-TILE) (64A: Scrabble 1-pointer (but a Words With Friends 2-pointer)). I love how the clue thinks parenthetically adding the Words With Friends bit to the clue is going to help me, or anyone. Talk about your useless qualifying information. With a very non-specific clue on (West) BANK (53D: Area of longtime contention), it took quite a bit of effort to get things to work out down there. Had similar, if slightly lesser, trouble in the NE, where that damned novelist nobody read(e)s was up there with a defunct hockey team. This puzzle is maplike. It has the proper specifications, everything checks out, but as a puzzle, it scores pretty low on the Delight meter.

Having (West)PORT at the 1-Down was pretty damn provincial. That's easily the least well-known theme answers, well beneath even the Minnesota (North) STARS. I have only ever heard SUGAR SNAP with the word "pea" actually following it. Didn't know the phrase could stand on its own. Only just learning now that Eurus is the (East) Wind. I'm just glad Eurus didn't decide to blow into the grid itself. I had A BAG of rocks before I had A BOX, not sure why. Maybe because of that time Charlie Brown went trick-or-treating ...

See you tomorrow. Safe travels if you're traveling! Hope you survive your family!

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Hungry Mother 7:39 AM  

Very quick and easy.

Loren Muse Smith 7:45 AM  

Cool beans. Good puzzle, good write-up. I agree with Rex about the BANK area.

Took me a while to fully grasp that each perimeter answer had an understood northsoutheastwest with it. Wicked, wicked hard to have perimeter themers. I’ve crashed and burned many times trying to fill such a grid. Just think of how limited Will was when he had to have four pairs each share a corner letter. So say he wanted South BEACH instead of South KOREA. Wouldn’t work ‘cause of that final B for 53 down; there’s no West _ _ _ B. I’ll wait while you all write this down.

BITER. My son had a friend - and I know I’ve said this here before but I’m running out of stories so sue me - who was a BITER. A tow head. A really, really light blond tow head. Every time I turned my back, here he’d come in like Dracula for my son. We called him White Fang.

My husband’s vocabulary is much, much bigger than mine. I mean, c’mon - he reads Toynbee and Gibbon at night when I’m trolling Facebook for NPR celebrities who’ll accept my friend request. (Cokie – still waiting, K? I promise I won’t be all weird and stuff.) So once when he said renumeration I told him it was in fact REMUNERATION. He was pretty dismissive and snarky about how wrong I was. I just shrugged and figured he’d find out sooner or later on his own, and then I’d look even cooler.

(Spoiler alert for readers who haven’t done Monday’s puzzle – don’t read this paragraph.) This actually happened this weekend with mnemonic. I had told him about Peter Gordon’s theme, and he made a suggestion like mnemonic phrase, which didn’t work anyway, but he thought they both began with a P. I told him mnemonic began with an M, and he, again, was dismissive. Said I was absolutely wrong. I looked at him a long time, thinking Do you really want to go there with me? I was already in a bad mood because I had bought low-fat cream cheese instead of the real stuff. Ick. So this made it worse. 1 – his suggestion didn’t work because the first letter was just a silent letter and hadn’t I just explained that is was more than just a silent letter? Was he not listening? 2 – mnemonic phrase isn’t really in the language. I’ve explained this to him before too. I just shrugged and said, Oh. I always thought it began with an M. and left it at that. Choked down my joyless bagel with nasty cream cheese. He’ll figure it out, and when he does, he’ll recognize my superiority on at least that word.

UGLY Christmas sweater. Well, yeah. I don’t care how understated it is, if it has a snowman or a reindeer, it’s ugly. And women – when you’re getting dressed for that Christmas party and think how festive it’ll be to wear that pretty red sweater… please know that every single other woman going to that party is having the exact same thought. You will be one of dozens of women in a red sweater. All of you winding your way over to the cash bar, you’ll look like a festive little bloodstream.

One last thing. I still have no idea what SUET is. I just know that along with laundry starch, clay, and chalk dust, I wasn’t supposed to eat that when I was pregnant.

Enjoyed the puzzle with all its geography.

Lewis 7:45 AM  

@hungry mother -- ... which makes it queasy, and goes right along with 48D.

When I first saw CANCER in the shaded squares, I thought "Really? We're going to have a disease based puzzle?" (I'm happy we didn't.) I liked the cross of TACTILE and NTILE, the answers MEDULLA and EQUATOR, and the whole compass rose feel. Knowing NISEI, ITINA, and CERES from crosswords, I'm sure, hastened my solve.

Timothy's puzzle with its set of directions is highly appropriate on this heavy travel day. My own GPS took a while to figure out the theme, but when it came -- that is, when I finally saw the puzzle through rose colored glasses -- it was with a smile-producing aha.

Anonymous 7:52 AM  

Quite nice. Enjoyed the theme and the tropics

LaurieG in Connecticut 8:00 AM  

Not to be all weird and stuff, but your comments fill me with delight!

puzzlehoarder 8:04 AM  

I used the theme to go across the top of the puzzle but NORTHPORT is as good as WESTPORT to me so at first I didn't fully understand it. This led me to go down the east side without using the theme. SIDE by itself looked strange but the other entries on the east side worked without the theme.

When I hit the southern edge the lightbulb went off and the rest flew in.

Two Ponies 8:07 AM  

I liked it a lot but I also love maps. The perimeter words were cool but including the Equator and the Tropics by name was very good.

@ Loren, Just the other day I was suggesting a mnemonic to someone here and nearly spelled it with a p. I considered myself lucky to have dodged that bullet before the blog police spotted it.

I'm so glad I don't have to travel this weekend. I will spend this rainy day baking pies, after my nap.

kitshef 8:11 AM  

Wild mood swings during the solve, ranging from ennui to ire to, ultimately, love. I hate letters in circles. Never heard of ‘dumb as A BOX of rocks’. BITER bites. BANDE is another addition to the BANDB, ATANDT litany of the terrible. REQD and SCI are UGLY. NTILE-ANOS-ANON and ITINA and ENOW.

But then the theme hit. Suddenly, the circles were a feature, not a flaw. The FACE, which was awful, became The (North) FACE, which is excellent. Ditto for PAWS and (South) PAWS. TITANIA and APPIAN and MEDULLA and TACTILE and suddenly I can’t say enough good things about this puzzle. One of my top ten for the year, to be sure.

Random fact: Brazil is the only country that both the equator and a tropic run through.

Outside The Box 8:14 AM  

Biter? Stern for Harsh? (obviously works but still doesn’t sit well with me), Civ? (ditto).

Gimmick is nothing new. Fill eh at best.

BarbieBarbie 8:17 AM  

What A Great Puzzle.

The NSEW theme was easy to figure out, but still so much fun to see it implemented. And throwing in the Tropics was a great Aha bonus. I found myself wondering, is this an astrology puzzle? and then EQUATOR fell and all became clear.

I disagree about BANK. If you have grokked the theme by that point, the clue is perfect. Think, people.

Loved the Owl/Pussycat clue. This one gets my vote. Thank you, Mr. Polin.

mmorgan 8:23 AM  

Count me in with the happy delighted solvers. (Autocorrect changed that to deluged spiders. Whew, that was close.)

pmdm 8:25 AM  

I would call Christmas sweaters more garish than ugly. But a good antidote to dreary winter weather. At least in those places where the leaves drop off the trees in winter.

Is it my imagination, or does Mr. Sharp give Mr. Poulin more slack than other constructors. Much of the fill today would normally provoke a tirade of complaints. Interesting.

I myself tend to dislike Mr. Poulin's puzzles, which seem to me to often include a lot of contemporary trivia that doesn't much interest me and that is probably doomed to fall into obscurity with the passage of time. That said, I though today's theme was ingenious and well implemented.

mathgent 8:29 AM  

@LMS (7:45): "... festive little bloodstream." Terrific!

I echo Rex's evaluation. Well-constructed but not much fun.

Ted 8:35 AM  

I'm literally from WESTPORT and still struggled to accept that answer, starting as I did in the NW. Because... it's the North West part of the grid.

The Hermit Philosopher 8:41 AM  

I got the gimmick immediately, so this was a breeze. A fun breeze! My fastest Wednesday ever, I suspect, but I don't time myself. That it coulda been a Monday would be my only editorial comment. (Could've swapped this week's Monday and today's puzz.)

But of course the bottom line is that Rex/Michael gotta find something to gripe about. This time it was because he wasn't "delighted." So what? Get over yourself Rex/Michael! It was fun.

RavTom 8:55 AM  

As for westPORT being "provincial": after all, this is the NEW YORK Times.

Andy S. 9:07 AM  

I liked this puzzle a lot. However it was a little bit of a let down after doing the WSJ puzzle today (Remains of the Day). That one is worth downloading. I allowed to say that in here?

Z 9:08 AM  

Mayhap a pneumonia mnemonic would help Mr. Muse?

Liked this more than Rex. I think it is the subtlety of the timeliness of the theme that makes me like it. That and the absence of IIII.

Mohair Sam 9:14 AM  

Lots of fun for us. Probably should have toughened the cluing a bit and run it on a Thursday, but can't blame Timothy Polin for that.

The tilde complaint is tiresome Rex. SUET near NAUSEA was appropriate. West BANK a gimme here, East WIND not so much. NTILE belongs in the green paint hall of fame. Like @Lewis I know the term NISEI only from crosswords - sounds like a pejorative to me, but obviously not.

After all this time we finally get an angry rant out of @LMS and it involves Christmas. What is this world coming to?

Nancy 9:14 AM  

As I became aware that the entire periphery of the puzzle was involved in the half-phrase directional theme answers, I became more and more admiring of the premise and the construction. My first theme answer in was POLE at 1A, wherein I said "Aha!" and jumped to confidently writing in BEND at 69A. But I still hadn't a clue at that point what 1D was going to be. All the "affluent CT towns" I could think of had more than 4 letters. Most had a lot more. I couldn't think of any 4-letter "Lefties" (68A) either. I was thinking RADS, but only the A was working. Also, this puzzle had the added delight of having answers that I originally thought of as half-assed and weak -- ASIAN, WIND and COAST -- turn out to be perfect answers after all. And that's because "half-assed" was exactly what they were. The hidden CANCER and CAPRICORN to go along with the out-in-the-open EQUATOR were an added bonus. Fun puzzle.

BTW, when I read the clue for 44A, the only adjective that came to mind was UGLY. I never expected that to actually be the answer.

Tita 9:26 AM  

Great puzzle...loved the theme and the execution. Didn’t get the middle tropics until after I filled in EQUATOR, which was pretty much at the end. I kept looking at them as standalone words.

And to me, this was just the theme that kept on giving...
I got it at WestPORT, because I’ve lived and worked nearby forever..
So I thought it was the corners.

I tell you...every single one of the perimeter clues was a new aha. Even after I realized it was the mid-edges too...I somehow managed to forget the theme by the time I got to the next one.
I guess I can start hiding my own Easter eggs now.

Thanks Mr. Polin!

QuasiMojo 9:29 AM  

I truly enjoyed this clever, intriguing puzzle. For some reason I love it when words are missing from a grid. Patrick Berry did an ingenious puzzle for the journal one not so long ago that required going outside of the BOX. (Speaking of which, I had BED of ROCKS for the longest time. Perhaps I was thinking of Pebbles and Bam Bam.)

The WEST BANK was a gimme since I grew up hearing about it endlessly in the NYT. It seemed that aliens could have landed on the LEFT BANK of Paris (my first answer for that section and later my first answer for the Notre Dame clue) and the Times would have put some skirmish in the West Bank as the main headline.

Never saw the circled themers. Very clever. But it would have been even cleverer if Polin had thrown in a Henry Miller clue somewhere for us literary fiends. (Did Gibbon write The Naked Ape? @Loren Muse Smith? Just kidding... Suet is some kind of beef fat, isn't it?)

CIV seemed weak. Was thinking Snatch and Grab before BANDE, but I'll take B and E anyday over A and E.

Not all AMENDments are positive changes as we learned from our Constitution. Some had to be repealed.

Now a few, I hope, bons mots:

If General Electric bought Scrabble the answer could be GE N TILE.

CAPRI CORN sounds like one of those overpriced snack foods in the "Gourmet" supermarket aisle.

What did Pluto say to Proserpine's mother when she asked why he kidnapped her daughter? "Because I CAN, CERES."

Glimmerglass 9:32 AM  

@LMS. (I find myself writing to you a couple of times a week — don’t tell my wife.) SUET is beef fat. When we were first married and lived in the middle of the Parker Ranch (second largest cattle ranch in the USA), we decided it would is be charmingly Dickensian to make plum pudding. One of the ingredients, according to The Joy of Cooking, is SUET. So Nancy went to the ranch meat market and asked for a pound of SUET. (New England butchers used to give it away — for bird feeders.) The Hawaiian employees looked at each other in dismay. One said, “We don’t have that now, but come back tomorrow.” Clearly they knew it was a thing, but no one had ever asked for it. The next day Nancy went back and was given a neatly wrapped package, “No charge!” When she got it home, she found they’d tied up about four pounds of suet like a rolled roast of beef.

Slick Willie 9:35 AM  

Bill Clinton is out jogging around in some of the seedier areas of Washington D.C. He notices a good looking prostitute. She sees him and calls out, “Fifty dollars!”
He's tempted, but the price is a little high so he calls back, “Five!”
She's disgusted and turns away while Bill continues his jog. A few days later, he finds himself jogging in the same area and as luck would have it, the prostitute is still there. But she won't come down on her price. “Fifty!” she shouts.
Bill answers her, “Five!” No sale.
About a week later, Hillary has decided that she wants to get into shape so she demands to go jogging with Bill. They get to the seedy part of town and the same prostitute is still there. She eyes Bill and Hillary together and yells, “See what you get for five dollars!”

Anonymous 9:37 AM  

@LMS - the word mnemonic usually reminds me of a book I once bought a friend of mine who shared my then snarky sense of humor. It was a collection of mnemonics. I was delighted by the very notion of such a resource, but disappointment quickly set in when I opened it. The entries were largely divided between the utterly banal (of the “Every good boy does fine” variety) and the absurdly useless—e.g., a pages-long rambler that amounted to an acrostic of states' names. The author(s) had shot his or her or their wad with the book's enticing title, the only true gem of the collection, Wasp-leg. (Hint: W is for wrath, A for avarice, S for sloth.) A truly surprising exception to the banal/absurd split was the inclusion of Ewer's little ditty, so helpful on those occasions when one “forgets who the Chosen People in the Bible are” (really, that's a near paraphrase!), to wit, “how odd of God to choose the Jews.” Personally I like to think there’s more of wit than of anti-semitism in that last, but I may be interpreting it too charitably and make no claim to understanding its historical context.

Nancy 9:41 AM  

Shucks. I guess I won't be wearing my great-looking new red sweater to any of the Christmas parties I'm going to. @Loren can be such a spoilsport. Fun post today, Loren.

@kitshef -- my mood solving the puzzle was exactly the same as yours: initial ENNUI followed by great pleasure once I got the theme. And thanks for yesterday's comment. You, too, @Carola.

Sometimes -- not often, but sometimes -- the English language actually gets improved upon. DUMB AS A POST is the phrase I've heard my entire life. It's not nearly as evocative or ALLITERATIVE as DUMB AS A BOX OF ROCKS. A terrific phrase that I think I'm going to steal.

Stanley Hudson 9:53 AM  

Hillary Derangement Syndrome strikes on the day before Thanksgiving. Smh.

Oh, the puzzle was fun.

Teedmn 10:08 AM  

Hah, 9A gave up the trick right away. The North Stars moved to Texas but they're not forgotten here in Minnesota. That helped me move back and fill in the 1A and 5A slots. But it wasn't until I got EQUATOR that I saw the full intent. Nice theme, Timothy Polin!

Lots of answers ending in ON or AN: A TON, ANON, RIP ON, APPIAN, ASIAN, and even an IN (ODIN) and a backward ON in NINO. In fact, based on 64A, I would guess that Mr. Polin's favorite letter is N. I count 20. Perhaps someone (@Lewis?) can tell me if that's A TON.

I have a sweater I refer to as a "winter" sweater, in muted gray, forest green and deep red. Sure, it has panels of holly and poinsettias on it but nary a reindeer or hohoho Santa anywhere. I do get a bit self-conscious when I forget and wear it in July (our office is kept refrigerator cold.) @LMS, festive little bloodstream? Talk about NOIR!

This was fun, but it makes me speculate as to whether we'll be getting a Thanksgiving tribute tomorrow, since the "trick" puzzle happened on a Wednesday. Happy Thanksgiving Eve, everybody!

RooMonster 10:18 AM  

Hey All !
Had the shaded squares online today, no circles. Once I found EQUATOR, saw the CANCER part, looked down to find CORN, and figured out CAPRICORN. Huh, said I, is that it? What a lousy theme, just three small things. Harumph. Rex is gonna go mental at this.
But continued my solve, and going back to 5A, (which I had gone by before, thinking the only thing it could be is NorthFACE) noticed the FACE would fit if you left out North, then the Aha/lightbulb moment, and said, Wonder if the edges are all NSEW? And to my delight, they were! So that elevated puz from Ugh to Awesome!

So a cool puz, regardless of the pieces of dreck floating about. All puzs have dreck, perils of puzzledom. Just a J from a pangram. Could've worked it in in SE corner. Example: (not to sound like a snoot :-) )
There ya go! Pangram. :-)


Anonymous 10:22 AM  

@Mohair Sam re: Nisei. It just means "second birth" = "the next generation," that is, children of immigrants. It is only pejorative for people who think everything foreign is evil, i.e., Republicans.

dramawritcomp 10:23 AM  

A multi-dimensional Wednesday. Timothy Polin does not disappoint.

Caught onto the gimmick early on, with 1A actually, flipped to 69A to confirm my suspicion, and then went around the world to fill in the remaining themers.

I've been invited to an UGLY Sweater Party over the holidays and since almost all of my sweaters are gifts, I'm trying to figure out who to insult.

Wm. C. 10:24 AM  

@Rex --

How can WESTport be provincial when Paul Newman and JoAnne Woodward lived there on Park Lane? And Robert Redford visited them there often.

Not to mention our friend @Ted8:35 ...

ghkozen 10:24 AM  

I getfrustrated when Rex complains about very well known hockey teams, aince he regularly extols answers which involve obscure players of baseball, the stupidest sport known to man. If I have to know who some 1973 Golden Glove winner is, you can learn the Minnesota North Stars.

Anonymous 10:27 AM  

I dunno about calling Westport, CT. provincial. It's pretty well known and famously home to Paul Newman, Marth Stewart ( who I believe used to film some TV stuff there() and is the setting for the current sitcom American housewife ( or whatever the one with Katy Mixon is called).

Adding to what's sure to be unpopular post, I think using the points of the compass to denote areas of the puzzle is a bankrupt idea.
Better to use upper left or lower right, etc. After all, the puzzle can only be read in one orientation thus using those directions is always correct. Northwest? Bah! It's nonsensical. And lower left can be abbreviated as economically as South West ( LL or SW). Lets ditch it and `do the same with north-south running on the football field--as if every field were laid out with end zone in the same direction. Like a Mosque or something. Ridiculous. Use perpendicular instead.

Despite the stupidity of the convention,( which is not your fault) I liked your puzzle Mr. Polin. Thank you.

Anonymous 10:28 AM  

Wm C!!!! That's two days in a row you and I had the same though. And two days, where I didn't read all the posts before shooting my mouth off. I'm sorry (again). And totally give up!

Anonymous 10:42 AM  

Rex seems to be using provincial pejoratively. So it’s provincial to see se tri-State area clues. What about the east coast is that bad too ? What about the U.S.A. ? What about earth ?

Anonymous 10:43 AM  

Is there any significance to this almost being a pangram? It seems that the only unused letter is J.

semioticus (shelbyl) 10:49 AM  

Huh. I've had my problems with Mr. Polin's puzzles before and I was very biased against this one, but it struck a chord with me. Maybe I'm trying to compensate for my prejudice subconsciously (judging by the lukewarm reaction from Rex, Xwordfiend and Jeff Chen), maybe I'm simply in a good mood. But I was very much impressed with it.

Fill: There were a few answers that I didn't particularly enjoy. REQD, ITINA (for which I had STING first), ALOIS etc. but I wouldn't punish these harshly. Given how dense the puzzle was, there could have been a lot more crosswordese. 20/25

Theme/long answers: Wow. Simply wow. This is basically a map. Even if the idea is reportedly stale, this is the best use of implied answers & shaded squares I've seen in a while. 24/25

Clues: Now this is where my biggest problem with Mr. Polin happens, but his clues were not weirdly esoteric or yelling "look how smart we are!" out loud. There was still some unnecessary ambiguity/clumsiness in some, but overall it was way above average. 21/25.

Pleasurability: The corners were rough, but once you thought you got the theme, there popped another theme! With so many surprises, it just flows. I would have liked the southern parts to be better constructed, which cost me some time and ENNUI but overall, good one. 20/25

TOTAL: 85/100, A-, 4.5/5 stars.

Bax'N'Nex 10:58 AM  

Loved this puzzle. I was (kinda) smiling as I finished. It was a cool theme, well executed and the equator/tropics thing was cool too. Had no trouble spots, but that just made it flow nicely.

As I was doing it I was wondering, "OK, how could Mikey bag on this?"
It seemed well thought out and was really fun. But, true to "get off my lawn" form, he ripped it. Obviously the uneducated rabble on this site are far too simple minded to be able to discern what a terrible puzzle this is.

Oh well, I may not know what's good, but I know what I like...

QuasiMojo 11:00 AM  

@Rex, re Westport, wasn’t that the town in The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit? Hardly provincial. And @Nancy, I may be wrong but I think the phrase “dumb as a post” originally referred to its being silent rather than unintelligent.

Bax'N'Nex 11:01 AM Left BANK easily from the clue. Mike called it "obscure", so now he wants the clues to just give him the answer? That's why they call it a "puzzle", Mike.

Oh yeah. Because it's very important, probably my fastest Wednesday ever. Got it out of the way and back to real life in no time...

CDilly52 11:16 AM  

I heartily endorse each and every one of your comments because they mirror my experience as I wended my way through the map.

CDilly52 11:19 AM  

But her “mini-rant” was hilarious ... and she’s right!

Noam D. Elkies 11:28 AM  

We've known for a while the Rex's Delight meter has a thumb on the frownie side of the scale. I enjoyed this one; yes, quite a bit of 44A:UGLY glue is required to support such a theme, but as long as one can fill it in quickly and move on, such entries don't weigh down the overall solving experience.

Quite a global feel to some of the clues, too: lots of Americana but also NISEI, APPIAN, BANTU, NIÑO, AÑOS, KOREA, ASIA, Eurus, and possibly some des autres PAYS.

Yes, I too started with my brix in a bag instead of 15A:A_BOX. 29A:MEDULLA was easy with a few crosses, and 61A:ALOIS, um, came to mind too once I saw some letters. The tilde-less 65A:ANOS would normally be unremarkable but here there's a 62A:NINO just north [sic] of it. A bit surprised to see 7D:COSEC again (it was 53D a week ago). I guess the clue's "trig[onometry]" was the abbr. hint (the full word is "cosecant").

I took the 64A:N-TILE clue to be a sop to those who kvetch that the puzzles are insufficiently au courant. (How many points for a 43D:TAC-TILE?) A bit surprised that 49D:ACROSS didn't get a crosswordy clue.

@Anon 9:37: See Wikipedia's page on Wm.N.Ewer for several nice ripostes to that epigram, including: "But not so odd / As those who choose / A Jewish God / Yet spurn the Jews", and (my favorite) "Not odd, you sod: The Jews chose God."


Anonymous 11:30 AM  

Excellent puzzle, typical culture-of-complaint write-up. Give thanks!

Anonymous 11:35 AM  


Viz: The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit

The book is definitely set in Westport. And while the movie is certainly supposed to be Westport, I can't remember if they name it or not. It's driving me crazy; I can see Peck boarding the train, I can see him on the platform, I can see the town, and yet... I feel as though the filmmakers exclude the name. Now, if the answer had been Norwalk, Ct, well all bets would be off :)

At any rate, both book and film are terrific. The older I get, the more I like them,

Joe Bleaux 11:38 AM  

I've seen Thursday puzzles that were harder but no more fun than Polin's tricky little themer today. @semioticus said, practically verbatim, what I had spent upward of 45 minutes writing out in long hand. It was another reminder to always read the comments first! So just re-read his post, this time while thinking of me, and have a safe and joyous holiday weekend!

Masked and Anonymous 11:43 AM  

"…it scores pretty low on the Delight meter". Ouch. Well … oh, sugarsnap.

An ambitious theme, brung off pretty darn well. As @muse points out, stickin the themers into corners like that gets mighty tetch and go for the constructioneer. Puz has a very nice ahar moment and also bonus gray areas* in the middle.
[*or the circles, if doing it online]

fave themer re-mix: ICAN+CORN. staff weeject pick: CIV. Random Roman engineer type 104.
hard stuff: ALOIS. NISEI. READE [admirable aside in its clue, tho]. TITANIA. SUGARSNAP+P south.
near-desperate stuff: NTILE. ABOX. (Friday has) ANI. [But "har" has got a REND, btw].

I personally prefer UGLY *sweatshirts*. Easier to wash up; or turn inside out, etc. Have some real doozies, that were business giveaways. For Christmas parties, I have one with a Santa skullface. Primo … and unlikely to blend in with several other folks' s sweatshirts, at the nog bar.

Thanx, Mr. Polin. Now puh-lease do one somehow with NW, NE, SE, SW. [The Medulla & Alois Challenge]

Masked & Anonymo6Us
"Weird as a Box of NTiles"


Carola 11:44 AM  

So nicely done, and such a pleasure to figure out. I got the idea early - or so I thought - with [WEST]PORT followed by [NORTH] FACE, but I was still prepared to accept POLE and STARS as stand-alones - and later on even ASIAN, despite my "Isn't India in Asia"? A treat of a moment when it all fell into place and I could fully enjoy the remaining edge answers. Another dim-bulb moment was thinking that CANCER was appearing as a sign of the zodiac; only CAPRI triggered the burst of full wattage revealing the two tropics. So, a double dose of crossword surprise - hard to beat.

Malsdemare 12:03 PM  

I refuse to read OFL past his first paragraphs. I think this puzzle is a masterpiece. The theme is terrific and I was 3/4 through it before I caught it. There were plenty of places that made me work, enough easy stuff to make getting things like CERES and MEDULLA (which I know but just couldn't drag out of cold storage) possible. I totally misunderstood 64A and put in uTILE (while scratching me head) but when I didn't get the happy dance, went back, saw west BAuK and triumphantly changes the U to N, and read the clue. Aha, said I.

Thank you, Mr. Polin. That was fun. And just right for a Wednesday.

Hungry Mother 12:14 PM  

@Lewis: nice portmanteau. I was simply in a hurry because I had a chance to have the first comment. When I think about my caring about that at all, I wonder why my wife married me 51 years ago.

I thought we were going for signs of the Zodiac until I got to EQUATOR.

GILL I. 12:20 PM  

I think MEDULLA Oblongata was one of those words that became popular to say sometime around the 60's because I remember hearing it used all the time. Perhaps it was ALOIS flexing his brain knowledge. I'm glad someone put a name to that horrible disease. Bill and Melinda Gates are donating millions to try and help find a cure for alzheimer. I wish Tom Steyer would do the same.
The tropics were lost on me. Neither a circle nor a shaded area graced my puzzle. I kept looking for a revealer - to no avail - so the puzzle was a national blah. Add to that that I couldn't come up with the FACE nor figure out how disconcerting FAZING is. I only know as dumb as a door nail. Why would A BOX of rocks be dumb? What if you're moving them up to your cabin in WEST PORT to build a fireplace. Come to think of it, why is a door nail dumb?
OK, so I come here and read @Rex and see what TP has done, so I sit back and then really admire this thing he created. I was going to say how clever EQUATOR is right dab in the middle until I realized it is part of his Tropics design.....Clever.
I wish this hadn't been so lost on me.
So Notre Dame is in South BEND and not in Paris?

Hartley70 12:35 PM  

I liked this puzzle, not the least because it led off with WESTPORT, my near neighbor and home of an awesome crossword puzzle tournament in February that Will Shortz moderates. Hmmm...Could this be the source of the snark? I don't think it's "provincial" in the solving world. The big guns were there last year.

A BOX of rocks is new to me and I like the sound of it. It's much better than "dumb as a stick".

Before I got the theme, Mr Polin impressed me with The FACE. I was ready to sound all cool when I used it around my kids. I'm glad I finished the puzzle and got the theme. I would have sounded like A BOX of rocks to them.

I appreciate Rex's kind wishes at the end of his post and send them back in his direction.

old timer 12:38 PM  

I had Iraq and Qatar before I finally got the trick and put in (West) BANK, and then figured out (East) SIDE and of course (South) BEND. Polin was super-tricky since POLE all by itself seemed right.

One of my daughters went to Middlebury, and her first month the campus newspaper had a very serious-looking article that asserted that North Face had bought the entire campus. A hilarious conceit, that, but not so far off. Middlebury kids wear a lot of North Face clothes, or did back then.

Until I got the trick I was really wondering why Chinese and Japanese folks were ASIAN but not Indians and Iranis.

"How odd
of God
to choose
the Jews'

was written by a very funny writer, who was, as was all too common in the 1920's, fashionably antisemitic. That sort of humor died out at the end of WWII, and it's good that it did.

@LMS you really should get paid for your writing here.

xyz 12:52 PM  

Rather ugly down there in Nevada and Arizona

Lurker Librarian 1:09 PM  

I think the BOX vs Bag confusion comes from competing metaphors:

As dumb as A BOX of rocks

As dumb as a bag of hammers

I've definitely heard both. As for @Gill's door nail, it is, in fact dead rather than dumb. Charles Dickens says it best:

“Old Marley was as dead as a doornail.

Mind! I don't mean to say that, of my own knowledge, what there is particularly dead about a doornail. I might have been inclined, myself, to regard a coffin-nail as the deadest piece of ironmongery in the trade. But the wisdom of our ancestors is in the simile; and my unhallowed hands shall not disturb it, or the Country's done for. You will therefore permit me to repeat, emphatically, that Marley was as dead as a doornail.”

Chip Hilton 1:20 PM  

I disagree with Rex (There's a shocker!). I thought it was a lovely construction with very few weak entries. The Scrabble/ WwF clue was actually helpful to someone who plays both games, thank you very much. Love the CANCER, EQUATOR, and CAPRICORN placements, too.

Well done, Tim Polin!

Mohair Sam 1:38 PM  

@Anonymous (10:22) - Yes I knew the definition of NISEI from seeing it previously in the puzzle. And thanks for the chuckle - your post reminded me that on this blog the word "republican" is always a pejorative.

Bouvier Camelot Oswald 1:39 PM  

Does anyone remember Jack Kennedy?

Mario Baez Sather 1:42 PM  

The People’s “Republic” of Berkeley

Trombone Tom 1:45 PM  

Awe and admiration here for Tim Polin. I've seen directional peripheries before, but working in the Equator and Tropics took real skill and dedication. Thanks for a great puzzle!

And tomorrow we are headed to oldest daughter's house. She is DOWN to 29 people this year! Naturally we're bringing some wine and Champagne.

Bax'N'Nex 2:05 PM  

I'm a little surprised by how many people have not heard dumber than a box of rocks. The Howard Stern fans out there surely know his game "I'm dumber than a box of rocks" when asks common knowledge questions to strippers. Wait, possibly the wrong audience here for that...

My Dad always said "dumber than a doorKNOB", never referring to ME, of course.

Bax'N'Nex 2:06 PM  

Oh, and Baba Booey to Y'all

Anonymous 2:08 PM  

I liked the puzzle, but I feel I must pick a nit. Living in California, I do not envision Interstate 5 as being on the West COAST. It's (far) inland for most of its length through California, Oregon, and Washington. I always dreaded having to drive I-5 through the Central Valley in summer on the way to L.A., especially in the days before air conditioning (yes, I'm that old). And going north, to Oregon, you pass Mount Shasta, always a majestic sight. But on the COAST? No.

jberg 2:13 PM  

First Wednesday on a Monday, now Thursday on a Wednesday -- keeping us on our toes. I loved this map of the flat earth -- the only thing that would have made it better would have been the giant turtle's head and tail sticking out on the top and bottom..

@Loren, others have beat me to it, but that festive little bloodstream made me laugh out loud.

@Rex's comment about the 2-point N TILE in Words with Friends made me think of @ACME; she doesn't seem to have been here recently.

I ask for an ugly Christmas sweater every year, but no one takes me seriously. At least I finally got the oyster-shucking knife I wanted for my birthday; that's why my fingers are all bandaged up (true story).

I'm pretty sure BANDE and burglary are not the same offense; the latter requires you to actually steal something.

There's a (WEST)PORT in Massachusetts, too. Seems sort of paradoxical to have western ports on the East Coast, but in the Massachusetts case it's as far West as you can go along the coast without being in Rhode Island, so I guess that's why. I'm not at all sure what the Connecticut rationale is.

foxaroni 2:18 PM  

Hope you all have a relaxed, pleasant and enjoyable Thanksgiving. This blog is pretty high on my list of things for which I am thankful--esp. @LMS and @M&E. Today's entries had me laughing out loud in several places. Thank you, and God bless us, every one.

tea73 2:49 PM  

I liked this puzzle a lot despite not actually figuring out the theme until the last letter. I was feeling weird about many edge answers - who calls Northface the FACE? Sure the UN is on a SIDE, but really it's midtown or on the river. I was feeling really grouchy about BAlK (short of Balkans), but of course got no happy pencil. And then as I ran through the alphabet and thought West BANK! The penny finally dropped.

I had bags of rocks for a long time too.

CVD man 2:51 PM  

Lighten up! You sound like a grumpy acrimonious old man, once in a while. Are you like that with your students?

TomAz 3:02 PM  

I liked this puzzle. I know the NSEW thing has been done a few times before (ok, maybe more than a few), but I don't care. This one worked well. The EQUATOR and the tropics were cool.

Now what would have been really cool is if he'd been able to squeeze in the arctic and antarctic circles. And if the boxes in the grid made the shape of a globe. Oh, and if the answers in the southern hemisphere all ran backwards (like water running counterclockwise down an Australian drain). That wouldn't be asking too much would it?

BANK came easily to me.. area of contention West ____? it was the first thing that popped into my head. The acrosses in that section were a tad ugly but the downs were so easy it wan't much of a hiccup.

Rest of the fill was fine. A few old musty answers but not an intolerable number.

Anonymous 4:08 PM  

Argh. This is a Thursday puzzle. I got so fed up with Alois and Bank that I just stopped.

Joe Dipinto 4:27 PM  

@Anon 2:08 - Interstate 5 may not precisely hug the coastline but it does run the length of the three states that border the Pacific, so in that sense it is a west coast highway.

I enjoyed this puzzle. Nothing much to add to the other comments. I'm surprised Rex didn't gripe that WESTPORT and SOUTHPAW are single words while the other periphery answers are all two separate words. Inconsistency! Two days in a row! It must be stopped!

Wrecked Barker 5:00 PM  

Honestly, i am offended by the things I am offended by and luxuriate in the things in which I luxuriate. Because, let's face it, this is about my personal tastes and things that please or annoy me. Helpful critique of a puzzle is not important to me. It used to be. But whining, resentment and cheap personal attacks come more easily to me now. Now, I am interested only in finding an audience and affirmation for my whining.

Anonymous 5:25 PM  

Water eddies in a direction usually determined by things other than hemisphere. The Coriolis effect is only perceptible on a large scale. Not a toilet.

Anonymous 7:02 PM  


Anonymous 7:19 PM  

@jberg re Westport CT - when it was renamed Westport in the 19th c., it was so called because it was the westernmost riverport town on the southern shore. Interestingly, for the first thirty years it was known as "Bankside" (both halves of which are in today's puzzle as theme answers). In between it spent a century as Green's Farms.

Kimberly 8:23 PM  

Bag of hair, box of rocks.. choose your own dumb adventure but no mixing metaphors.

I liked this puzzle quite a bit. Even the answers that were obscure... recognizing that they were obscure to me.

Perhaps speed solvers just have different expectations and prequisites to crossword joy. I hope I never become one.

Lewis 9:34 PM  

@teedm -- I can tell you that except for A (20), there are more Ns in this puzzle than any other letter, even more than E's (19). I'm guessing that 20 is high for N's, but I don't know for sure, as I don't follow individual letters...

Anonymous 10:24 PM  

Hey Schinnerer, you suck.

Anonymous 10:26 PM  

@tromboner, no one cares about your vapid observations

Dave Hogg 1:02 AM  

Another puzzle where being a middle-aged sportswriter helped - I covered the last game in Minnesota North Stars history.

Anonymous 9:55 AM  

Guess what. Anon 10:24 is the same troll as Anon 10:26. He's also, I suspect, Z's troll and George's troll and Evil's troll, etc, etc, etc. He's an equal opportunity hater. His only joy in life is anonymously putting people down. Get rid of this one hideously sick person and we might have a clean, completely civil blog. He's the poison here.

Burma Shave 10:28 AM  


Your TIME’SUP and you are LASTINLINE,
you have ACROSS to bear, a CERES of things to AMEND,
like a LIQUIDDIET, ABOX of PORT wine,
so SUGAR,SNAP to and take a PAWS, or FACE the UGLY END.


thefogman 10:57 AM  

DNF for me only because I didn't figure out the gimmick until after I solved the puzzle. I guessed BAlK for 53D. In baseball, a balk is often a controversial call by the umpire and an L tile in scrabble is worth one point so I thought that's probably it. Wrong! Then I realized there was an underlying theme which made FACE, KOREA, PAWS and all my other answers make sense. Doh! Like they say, I was a day late and a dollar short. But surprisingly, aside from that one gaffe I did complete even with no knowledge of the N-E-W-S gimmick until it was too late. Bravo to Tim Polin for a well-executed theme.

Diana, LIW 1:11 PM  

I had everything but BANK. I would have loved this puzzle if I had gotten the theme - nope, not 'till I got here. Boo me. The shaded (circled) squares threw me off, too, as I thought they had some hidden meaning. "Drink your Ovaltine" probably. (And BTW @Rex, the clue for BANK was perfect - long been a contention spot!!)

Did note that some of the answers seemed like partial answers. That's what I get for solving over a long period of time instead of racing thru like an Indy driver.


Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords

spacecraft 1:34 PM  

Two aha! moments: one for the shades, one for the perimeter. Amazing feat to pull off--of course not without fill cost. Aside from being the dreaded ampersandwich, BANDE is NOT necessarily burglary. You have to take something. I have never heard of a SUGARSNAP; I'm sure it'd taste good. No love for NTILE either, but under the circumstances I'm inclined to forgive.

The subject of ITINA will be today's DOD: you go girl! Birdie.

rainforest 2:15 PM  

Cool puzzle where I got the theme when I hit 5A which made me go back and enter POLE. I then went to the South and got those. It seemed like a bonus to have the WEST and EAST themers in there as well. EQUATOR and the tropics were icing on the cake.

My ex-wife always called them SUGAR SNAPs. I've also heard SUGAR peas, and SNAP peas. Of course I've also heard of 'garbanzos', but that's another story, another puzzle.

The puzzle kept me entertained throughout, but I hesitated briefly at 37A because I noted that Friday is the only day of the week to also be spelled with AN f.

Liked it a lot.

rondo 2:20 PM  

Got the theme in large part due to the MN North STARS. We’ve had the Wild here since the turn of the century, but some of us old-timers might still slip up and call them the North STARS. BTW, the Wild play the Dallas STARS tonight. Went around the perimeter, filled in the Tropics and the EQUATOR and then the rest of the fill. If you arrange the directional letters just so, you’ll find S-W-E-N (pronounced Sven), but now where’s OLE?

I think I remember RIPON once being clued as the small college (and town) in WI, alma mater of Harrison Ford and Spencer Tracy. Halfway between Madison and Green Bay.

Gotta agree with ITINA Turner as yeah baby.

17 below at my house this morning, could just as well be the North POLE. Nice puz.

rondo 2:26 PM  

BTW - if you need "help" doing a Swedish crossword puz check this out -

Yes, I have done some.

leftcoastTAM 3:34 PM  

Delighted "AHA" on seeing the gimmick. Thanks, Mr. Polin and Mr. Shotz.

Had Sting before ITINA; didn't know READE or NTILE, but crosses to the rescue.

I'm probably LASTINLINE here, but what the hey.

Unknown 11:52 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown 11:53 AM  

I’d never figured out a theme at 1-Across before. POLE, FACE, and STARS dropped right in, then I said, “I’ll bet the south is part of this too!” Yep. Then, “Ooh, maybe east and west too.” And boom, twelve gimmes to start the puzzle, and I had a nice box of letters all around the outside of the grid. Cool.

I don’t always like blowing my theme wad so early, but I still had to figure out what was going on with the shaded squares, so all was good. Super fun solve, and well worth a little iffy fill to get there.

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