World capital founded by conquistador / WED 2-14-18 / 2003 #1 hit for OutKast / Expressionist Schiele / Dark dirty shade

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Constructor: Mary Lou Guizzo

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: Valentine's Day — grid is heart-shaped, and then there are three theme answers:

Theme answers:
  • HEARTSTRINGS (1D: Deepest feelings)
  • CUPID'S ARROWS (8D: They lead to love at first sight)
  • SAINT VALENTINE (19D: February honoree)
Word of the Day: POPOV (38A: Vodka with a Russian name) —
Popov is a brand of vodka produced by British drinks giant Diageo plc's Diageo North America subsidiary. It commands a significant marketshare among vodkas in the United States and competes in the low range pricing niche,[3] and because of this it is also affectionately (and ironically) known as "Russia's Finest" among college students. (wikipedia)
• • •

Not sure what I'd think of this puzzle under normal conditions, but following as it does yesterday's inedible off-brand puzzle-trocity, this one looks pretty good. In fact, the second I looked at the grid, I thought, "Yep, already better." This one's not trying to do anything but be pretty and stay clean. it's already got the grid shape going for it, so it can go light on the theme material, thereby easing up on the grid, thereby not torturing the solver with nonsense (except TIRO, LOL). It's best not to look at the grid too hard, because otherwise you will notice that it is irritatingly non-symmetrical. Give it a quick look, seems fine. Stare at it, and the black squares just don't match up. Heart failure! It's like a picture on the wall that is just *slightly* crooked—it's gonna drive me a lot more crazy than the picture that is just obviously crooked. This one is somewhere in the uncanny valley of symmetricality. Off-puttingly shy of the real deal. But, yeah, most people aren't going to notice this at all, or, if they do notice, care.

["Cupid by the hour sends valentines / To my sweet lover and me"]

The thing about the Swiss canton is I always forget if it's ULM or URI and then I think, "no, URI is the mentalist spoon-bender guy, so it must be ULM." And then it isn't (ULM is the city in Germany where Einstein was born). And yet I somehow remembered it was EEO today (I'm never quite sure where the Es an Os go (59A: Fair-hiring initials). I struggled in only a few places. I had -ASTER and still no idea what 25A: Furniture mover? was after (CASTER). Those are little wheels on furniture that lets you push it around easily. Seems like they are literally furniture movers, so the "?" is weird, but I guess the temptation to echo the VAN clue was just irresistible? (32D: Furniture mover, maybe). Took me a while to get ROTISSERIE (35D: Game's turning point?). Only after I was done did I look back and go "Oh, *game*'s turning point." Wrote in SAO PAULO for SANTIAGO, whoops (45D: World capital founded by a conquistador). Couldn't remember the letter of the STREET at 29A: Part of Washington, D.C., known for lobbying firms (K STREET). Wanted to wiggle my EARS (54D: Parts of the body that may be wiggled => TOES). Didn't know DINGE was a "shade"—I thought it just meant, like, "griminess" (58A: Dark, dirty shade). Don't really know POPOV. Lots of vodkas in crosswords, most notably STOLI and SKYY. This appears to be just the second NYT appearance for POPOV. Anyway, happy V-day. Hope you got boxed roses galore!

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Anonymous 12:12 AM  

A better than average Wednesday puzzle.

Is anyone else having trouble with the on-line version? It didn't recognize that I'd finished the puzzle.

Anonymous 12:13 AM  

I liked it too! Not posted yet and appreciate all the great commentary! Thanks Rex & crew.

TomAz 12:16 AM  

I saw the heart shape and I was like, no, god, no.

But it turned out pretty good! I would need to reach hard to find something to complain about in here. Even the actor's names were gettable/inferrable from the crosses.

I really liked the clue for GERUND in this setting. and ROTISSERIE was well clued also. And PINATA. MCJOBS is a good entry.

Needed most of the crosses to get PLENUM and POPOV and the second half of BOATYARD.

So, yeah. I started skeptically and finished convinced. Nice job!

Hartley70 12:19 AM  

Happy Valentine's Day back at you, Mary Lou! I saw the grid and had a big smile. There's not much that can top a visual puzzle full of stacks for me. WS did not disappoint in his choice to give us a taste of the holiday yesterday, but save this Wednesday appropriate beauty for the big day.

I didn't get stymied anywhere, but I thought ROTISSERIE was pretty cute. MCJOBS was a gas, new to me and a perfect coinage. I need to use it soon. Okay, TIRO without the Y felt like a bit of a cheat, but it was saved by CUPIDSARROW. Solving today definitely wasn't a MCJOB. Too soon?

Anonymous 12:31 AM  

Happy Valentine's Day, Rex.

You're a sweetheart.

jae 12:58 AM  

Medium, cute and, @Rex me too for the ULM, URI problem and ears before TOES.

Harryp 1:26 AM  

This Week's Mon, Tues, Wed, puzzles were a little bit tougher that the usual early week fare. I wanted GUV for Bloke, but was forced to settle for GUY. I also enjoyed MCJOB, which I only learned about lately. Didn't realize Barack Obama was a State Senator before being elected a United States Senator.

chefwen 2:00 AM  

Said Awww, cute as it emerged from my printer.

Biggest hang up was BOAT rAmp at 13A. GUY and DRUM set me straight. Didn’t know HOBSON @28A, thank you crosses and MARION ROSS emerged from the depths, still can’t believe I finally brought that forth.

We both had a fun time with this. Happy V Day!

Lee Coller 2:59 AM  

Never heard of Heyya nor Hobson, made 28A/28D a Natick.

Anonymous 3:23 AM  

all that stacking can't be an easy feat - enjoyed the novelty

Charles Flaster 4:14 AM  

Liked it.
Best cluing was for GERUND.
SO AND SOS made me ponder a bit.
Thanks MLG

Hungry Mother 4:17 AM  

On Sappire Princess in Malaysia, enjoying the cruise and this puzzle.

Conrad 4:42 AM  

@Anon 12:12 AM: Yes, with the online version if the puzzle isn't filled correctly it just sits there instead of popping up the "at least one error" message. I opened the puzzle in my phone, erased a letter and replaced it with the same one and I got the message. Then I went back to the online puzzle, fixed the mistake (TWN for TWP) and got the happy tune.

Anonymous 5:58 AM  

São Paulo is not a capital city.

Lewis 6:04 AM  

This felt like a themeless, with plenty of grit in the cluing. PLENUM sounds like a wiggle-able body part. I noticed a carnivore sub theme, with PREY, JAWS, MEATY, APPETITES, and RARE. The 87 black squares is more than double the usual. Great ROTISSERIE clue.

And wow, I heart the grid design!

smalltowndoc 6:16 AM  

Seems to me the long answers in themed puzzles, particulary when centered ( left to right, top to bottom) are part of the theme. But today we have STATE SENATORS in that role? I’m trying to think of some witty comment to tie that to Valentines Day, but I got nothing.

Anonymous 6:28 AM  

I print the puzzle and do it at the kitchen table. The corners really used up my toner!!

Could they do little slashes or something? I had the same snags as Rex - makes me feel smart!

John V 6:30 AM  

This was puzzle #3 at the Westport tournament a week ago Saturday. Most of the room DNF and thought this to be pretty challenging. Many broken hearts.

Bob Kerfuffle 6:53 AM  

Reminder: Loren Muse Smith is co-constructor of today's L A Times crossword. Perfectly symmetrical.

And @John V just beat me in comment re: Westport. Agree, this one kept a lot of people from getting Perfect Completion certificates!

BarbieBarbie 7:20 AM  

I’m one of those who was weirded-out by the symmetry. I kept trying to make the black boxes look like an arrow. Couldn’t. Does anyone else have an idea that explains those random black squares?

Also wasted time refusing to enter TENNIS, of all things, because I had it in my head that the puzzle already had referenced tennis explicitly in a clue- it hadn’t. That was the Mini. Arghhh. So, average solve-time for me, easy-medium puzzle.

A box of randomly-oriented roses for M. Guizzo.

BarbieBarbie 7:23 AM  

My comment disappeared even though I am totally not a robot. Easy-Medium puzzle for me. Cute grid.

mathgent 7:32 AM  

As Rex has been saying recently, bouncy.

I enjoyed being reminded of HOBSON's choice. A friend of mine would get his kids up in the morning and announce "CCON" which meant "Cold cereal or nothing."

"His mind was in the gutter." I think that Sister Hermogene used to say that back when I went to Saint Monica's school.

URI used to be in the puzzle often. I think that UMA used to hang out there.

What's the rodeo cry starting with YEE?

Small Town Blogger 7:35 AM  

When I print from the NYT site it gives me the option to lessen the darkness of the fill - I print it pretty light, saves a lot of printer ink!

Birchbark 7:39 AM  

"What immortal hand or eye could frame thy fearful symmetry?"

You had me at HAGS.

I too wondered at completing the puzzle with no "Almost there!/Congratulations!" feedback. Then went poking around, saw I'd made the wrong choice at HOBSaN/MARIaNROSS, and then everything turned red.

Glimmerglass 7:40 AM  

I Didn’t notice the assymetry, and now that you point it out, I don’t care. But happy Valentine’s Day anyway.

Good ol' Joe 7:41 AM  



It’s “Yeedle-Deedle Doo!!” I’ve been to a lot of rodeos.

Mohair Sam 7:50 AM  

Thought it was the perfect Valentine's Day puzzle until Rex pointed out the grid asymmetry (again) - now I'm going nuts trying to fix the "problem" in my mind. I hold that the penalty for SERIAL grid art complaining should be life in prison (and only because I'm against the death penalty).

Played easy here, and we enjoyed. GERUND clued as "Loving, maybe" on Valentine's Day? - great clue, and proof that Mary Lou Guizzo is not a hopeless romantic. Needed almost all the letters before we remembered PLENUM. Tried POPOV once, didn't like it - of course the theory is that vodka is tasteless, so what do I know.

Fun Valentine's present Ms. Guizzo, thanks.

Two Ponies 7:50 AM  

I saw the heart as soon as the printer spit it out and noticed the strange asymmetrical interior black squares. If they are supposed to add something visual I don't see it.

I thought the theme was very thin.

I can never remember the correct male/female spelling of Marian/Marion. Isn't John Wayne's real first name Marian?

I've not tried Popov vodka. Booze in a plastic bottle is a red flag.

Only a lucky guess at the Heyya-Hobson crossing saved me from a DNF.

Why no stories about Westport?

Happy St. Hallmark's Day

Jamie C 7:53 AM  

There were a few places where I was convinced there was a rebus or other trick: ensues for PURSUES, scram for DRUM, Netherland (wtf--too much Olympics?) for NEVERLAND. Also, GOONASPREE sets a new record for longest DOOK ever.

Anonymous 7:59 AM  

@anon 5:58: Scranton is not a capital city. And?

Anonymous 8:06 AM  

Or you could select the newspaper version; prints out a heart shaped puzzle and no dark corners!

Joe Welling 8:13 AM  

Barbiebarbie said "Does anyone else have an idea that explains those random black squares?"

With some imagination: heart valves.

The Hermit Philosopher 8:32 AM  

Gripers gonna gripe! Who—besides the griper in chief—gives a fig whether the little black boxes are perfectly symmetrical? I didn’t notice it until it was pointed out, and I still don’t care. Fun puzzle!

wgh 8:38 AM  

Me like

QuasiMojo 8:41 AM  

You gotta have HEART! I put in SAINT PATRICK, haha. Wrong month, not to mention saint. And he didn't fit. So I fixed him. I am not sure HEART STRINGS are necessarily DEEP feelings. Don't people get theirs tugged while watching those endless cat videos on Instagram? How DEEP is your LOVE?

Sweet theme with some tricky spots. I evolved from GRANNIES to GRANDMAS to GRANDPAS, at last. Loved clue for CASTER.

Never heard of MC JOBS so I had NBL for the team (is NBL even a thing?) As a long-time METS fan from the beginning, I still think of it as SHEA Stadium. That's where the Beatles and Pope Paul came to say ALL YOU NEED IS LOVE. Happy Valentine's Day everyone.

Z 9:00 AM  

HAGS. SO AND SO. Drinking POPOV. IT WASN’T TO BE. It seems to me there’s a little morning after regret running through this puzzle. Also interesting that T (and) A’S is right there in the middle. CUPID’S ARROW indeed.

The paper doesn’t waste ink with black squares around the edges. Much lovelier than the image Rex posted. Clean fill with some lively longish and long answers. Nicely done.

Suzie Q 9:01 AM  

Does symmetry matter? For me it sorta does.
Without it couldn't we just submit our Scrabble games with clues?
@ Mohair Sam 7:50, There was, and maybe still is, a bar at Mandalay Bay in Vegas called Red Square. Spending a slot machine win there on caviar and vodka I discovered that real Russian vodka has lots of flavor. That place was so cool, literally, because the bar was a Huge block of ice.
I'm still waiting for my box of roses but the day is young.

Mr. Met 9:01 AM  

Shea Stadium was demolished in 2009. Citi Field is adjacent to the old site.

Oldfatflappy 9:04 AM  

WRT symmetry, who gives a damn? I’m sure I do not.

Mickey Murse Club 9:10 AM  

If one regards crossword construction as a craft, then perfect symmetry lends an air of ARTISTRY.

Nancy 9:23 AM  

"Grumbling" is a GERUND too. And I was grumbling the whole time, thinking:

I need a more expensive and less skittish ballpoint pen.
I need a much, much stronger pair of reading glasses.
I need tinier, more dexterous fingers.

For the first time ever, I wanted to solve on some sort of gadget. Because on some sort of gadget, I would have been able to enlarge the grid the way I can enlarge my email messages or the photos you sent me of your cat.

The teensy tiny squares annoyed me no end. I found myself being relieved that SAINT VALENTINE'S day only comes once a year. So that I almost forgot to notice that this is a really, really good puzzle! Dense, delightful theme. No junk. Smooth as silk. It was just filling it in that was such a bother. But a great job of construction.

Anne 9:24 AM  

My completed puzzle turned pink!

That put a smile on my face.

Which I needed, because none of my co-workers have acknowledged the cards and candies I put in their mailboxes. I remember this happened one other time. When will I learn?

College institutional researchers are weird. But my heart is pink. :-)

FrankStein 9:25 AM  

Don't feel bad, Rex, I put in SARAJEVO before SANTIAGO. lol

Sir Hillary 9:29 AM  

A nice gimmick puzzle on a nice gimmick day. Excellent open "stacks" on the bottom and both sides.

Favorite entry: SOANDSOS. Favorite clue: "Game's turning point" for ROTISSERIE.

I noticed the asymmetry right away, but didn't care. Still don't. Normally I would.

What I didn't notice was TIRO. I solved the downs and never even saw it. Good thing, because it would have annoyed me.

Would it be out of line to have a heart drawn in ash on my forehead?

Masked and Anonymous 9:31 AM  

Lack of symmetry didn't break my heart. BLACKOUT was a kinda apt answer, what with 87 black squares.

@RP. yep. TIRO. har

Thanx and Happy Valentine's, Ms. Guizzo.
And the same to all U Comment Gallery folks. And U moderators. And U, too, @RP.

Masked & Anonymo5Us


GILL I. 9:35 AM  

I'm not so sure my HEART LEAPED at seeing HAGS...It being my first entry. I kinda did an UH OH thing. Then, because I can be anal about symmetry, I did notice the extra BLACK square. Why couldn't Mary Lou pluralize GUY[S] and make Ms. Petty a LORIs instead? But she gives us the sweet SAINT VALENTINE right down the middle of the broken heart so all is forgiven.
I've had lots of "Love at first sight" moments. None of them involved CUPID or his ARROW. My son, my daughter and my pups come to mind. I could stand my husband at first sight. I thought he was a British snob of the first class. We met on a flight to London. He was sitting right next to me and he immediately started ordering something to drink from the flight attendant - even before we took off. She was all smiles and flirty as hell and ignored me completely. Hell, all I wanted at that point was some cheap POPOV. It was a very long flight and we warmed up to each other. Exchanged phone numbers and WE MET UP AND FELL IN LOVE on VALENTINES DAY. True story. We've been together 31 happy years. Feel free to awwwww away!
The clue for Bastard was probably the hardest for me but SO AND SOS made me laugh. I can think of a lot worse.
We've had MC JOBS appear before and one time it caused a big blow out because the PC police were visiting and said that "unfulfilling" is demeaning because a lot of people start their careers that way and McDonald's offers management jobs blah, blah, blah. Is anything off limits?
Only little hang up was having SCAT instead of DRUM for 10D and TASTY instead of MEATY at 23A. All easily fixed.
Happy VD to all of you. There's a little box for me waiting to be opened. Hmmmm!

QuasiMojo 10:05 AM  

Thanks @Gill I thought M C Jobs might mean middle class jobs. Now I get it.

Nancy 10:10 AM  

Wonderful VALENTINE'S Day story, @GILL (9:35). Thanks!! Oh, and, yes, Awwwww.

Years ago I read an article, possibly in the NYT, about how all vodkas were the same and how you were wasting money by buying an expensive one. So my order to my liquor store usually ended with the phrase: "...and a bottle of your cheapest vodka". Their cheapest vodka was POPOV. Since I mostly mixed it into a Bloody Mary or a Vodka and Tonic, it really didn't matter. Then, during the rather liquid publishing lunches of the 1970s, I discovered the Vodka Martini. (What a drink!) Did I continue to keep POPOV in my house anyway? Yes. Could I tell the difference back then? Not really. Can I tell the difference now? Not really. While I'm picky as hell about my Scotch and my red wine (I want the absolute best, as long as it requires very little money to buy), I still think that what the experts say about vodka is right: it's all about the marketing.

Steve M 10:15 AM  

He likes it!

Methuselah 10:16 AM  

I enjoyed the turning to red / pink upon the completion. It doesn't take much to amuse me, I guess.

Stanley Hudson 10:24 AM  

Cool story Gill I.

OldMotherRiley 10:27 AM  

What is the “symmetry” that several have mentioned?

GILL I. 10:35 AM  

@Nancy....I'm not much of a vodka drinker but when I do, I can tell the difference between really cheap (POPOV) and some really good stuff.
Like you, I would buy POPOV for Bloody Mary's because I care more about the hot sauce and tomato juice than the vodka.
Once, a Polish friend of mine and I were sitting at a bar (story of my life!) and he ordered a Belvedere neat. I asked him for a sip and he told me to hold it in my mouth for a second then swallow slowly. Then he asked me to do the same with the house brand I ordered. What a friggin difference! Really! Like sipping a Clan McGregor then switching to a Glenfiddich.
You friend the boozehound.....
Another thing we may have to try if we ever meet up!

GHarris 10:38 AM  

Once I realized grandpa was sitting in for grandma and that this variant of beginner took an i I thought I was home free until I learned Marion spells her name with an o as does Hobson. Oh well. Have a romantic day (and night).

chefbea 10:40 AM  

too tough for me

Happy valentine's day all!!!

Z 10:40 AM  

@Nancy - We had this “debate” here awhile back. I’m with you. Any flavor in a vodka is from impurities, so at best a lesser quality vodka might have a flavor. But in actuality, it is all marketing. The wrong side argued here that they could distinguish between good vodka and cheap vodka. Pshaw with a capital Puh and a capital Shaw. I do prefer my Stoli “frozen,” but I find any discussion about vodka akin to discussions about the relative merits of Bud, PBR, and Coors.

Mohair Sam 10:44 AM  

@Gill I - Awwwwwwwww

Unknown 10:49 AM  

I thought this one was great. FANTASTIC grid and good cluing. Sweets for the sweet.

Noam D. Elkies 10:50 AM  

Yes, a nice SAINT VALENTINE's Wednesday puzzle. Also a few bonus clues chosen to fit with the theme, such as "Loving, maybe" for 9A:GERUND, and a deep stack at the bottom.

Yes, it's asymmetrical, but so what. Even if grid symmetry mattered, here the theme gives two good reasons to break it. One is technical: the symmetry would have to be left/right, but that would require either an unchecked square (which would violate a much more important rule) or a 3-stack centered around the long central theme answer (which would surely hurt the fill if it were possible at all in a Wednesday puzzle). The other reason is thematic: actual hearts are not symmetrical!


RooMonster 11:09 AM  

Hey All !
The NYT online version I did didn't have the unnecessary black squares around the edges. It was just heart shaped. Cool. And I also didn't get the "Almost there" message when I finished with a mistake. So I clicked on "Check Puzzle", fixed my error (had ComeDyARROWS, Har!) and then got the "Congratulations" tune and screen. And it turned red when I went back to puz!

Puz is 17x17, and who really cares about the inner asymmetrical blocks? I'm impressed at the fill, long answers crossing long answers, and the only nit really picked is TIRO. Very tough to do. Kudos to Mary Lou! Also some pretty neat clues on a bunch of answers.

Good WIT today. Puz WAS TO BE! Too bad EGON wasn't clued with "Ghostbusters". :-)

Oh, and nice to see me in puz at 41A. YAY ME!


Anonymous 11:11 AM  

I've been a professional commercial artist for fifty years and I've never heard of "dinge" the color.

oldbizmark 11:30 AM  

can someone explain the SO AND SOS answer to the clue "Bastards?"

Joseph Michael 11:31 AM  

I ended up liking this puzzle a lot more than I expected after I first saw that heart shape and all of those black squares.

Grid turned out to be nice and MEATY with some great fill, such as SOANDSOS, McJOBS, and CUPID'S ARROWS, and some great clues, such as those for GERUND, ROTISSERIE, and ALAS. And not an oreo, acne, or murse in sight.

In the spirit of SAINT VALENTINE, POPOV brings to mind not a Russian vodka, but a Russian widow named Madame Popova who falls in love with a fellow named Smirnov whom she is about to shoot in a duel in Chekhov's comedy "The Bear," which Trotsky once described as the funniest play ever written.

Anonymous 11:32 AM  

@anon 5:58 São Paulo is the capital city of the Estado de São Paulo, which means it is a capital city. It is the largest city in Brazil, largest in the Western Hemisphere and largest in the Southern Hemisphere. That makes it a world capital city. What you might have meant is that is is not a national capital.

Dave C. Jones 11:33 AM  

Me too. Came here to make sure I’d gotten it right. I did.

Anonymous 11:37 AM  

I always thought it was a Hobbesian choice rather than a Hobson's choice. Really screwed me up, particularly with the down being Marion Ross, who I've never heard of (seemed like it could be Marie N Ross) and so-and-sos (not sure how that relates to bastards).

mathgent 11:39 AM  

@Gill I (9:35): Thanks for telling how you and your husband met. I love hearing these stories.

I also met my wife where alcohol was present, at a bowling alley. We were with different teams in the teachers's bowling league. I sometimes kid her by quoting the great line in Arthur. Arthur's butler played by John Gielgud tells the Liza Minelli character, "One seldom meets one of your caliber outside of bowling alleys."

If having assymmetric grids would result in more exciting entries, I'm all for it. Cryptics often have such grids.

RJ 11:40 AM  

Cute puzzle today!

but, it took me 50% longer than my normal Wednesday because I just couldn't "see" two of the phrases: "GOONASPREE" AND "SOANDSOS". The fill got me as well because "TIRO" and "URI". TIRO is a new word for me and URI is a. where my nephew went to college and b. the name of his cat and c. Uri Geller.

See you tomorrow!

Fatflappy 11:51 AM  

Of course vodkas are distinguishable by taste. I should know, I drink vodka every day.

Wm. C. 12:02 PM  

@oldbiz --

Re: meaning of "so and sos."

It's just an expression used as a more polite substitute for a nasty name for someone. They chose "bastards" here because it doubles as an innocent name and an insulting one. The expression is kinda like "son of a gun," with "gun" substituting for something more earthy.

Mark N 12:04 PM  

Real organic hearts are asymmetrical anyway...
Fun one. Loved the clue for ROTISSERIE.

Carola 12:12 PM  

A sweet puzzle! I liked how CUPID'S ARROWS were furnished with the necessary STRINGS to send them target-ward.
Felt bad for those who learned IT WASN'T TO BE.
One do-over: Lima Peru.

@Gill I - I loved your story!

Joe Bleaux 12:44 PM  

Anyone else expect @Rex to flag "Beat it!" (10D) for DRUM? He's usually a scold on that type of clue. As a themer for this special day, Mary Lou Guizzo's puzzle is indeed lovelier, asymmetry notwithstanding, than yesterday's, and just right for a Wednesday.
Thanks, @Lewis, for the chuckle o' the day from the commentariat: PLENUM as the body part that may be wiggled. Har! @Two Ponies (from yesterday), I'm flattered, and truly surprised you didn't beat me to it!

Aketi 12:50 PM  
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Dandi 12:59 PM  

This is a huge milestone for me: after solving Mon-Weds puzzles for almost a year now, it's the first time I got all three in one week without any hints or internet sleuthing of any kind. I feel I have now earned the right to post instead of just lurking.

@Anon - Me too on Hobbes vs Hobson and me too on Marion Ross, who I know from the show but not by name.

I wish the app version turned pink when solved!

SOANDSO always makes my brain put on its best old timey gangster voice and say "Why you little so-and-so, I oughta...."

Having already filled DINGy and (badly) crammed "ITWASNoTTOBE" in there left me frowning over SANoIAGO and then, most distressingly, CATTLy. (Outdoor cats could be said to roam over a range, but..."cattly??") But when I got it, I was too elated by the Mon-Weds sweep to begrudge DINGE, which I've never heard of in noun form and is therefore inherently shoddy.

I might even try tomorrow's Thursday. Maybe.

Aketi 1:04 PM  
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Anonymous 1:05 PM  

LOL @ Fatflappy.

JR 1:07 PM  

I seem to be in the minority regarding this puzzle. Far from being "sweet" or "fun" I felt it was sending decidedly mixed messages. We begin with hags and end with a plea for equal opportunity. Perhaps "it was not to be" haunts the constructor. Too much vodka, unsatisfied appetites, overall dinginess and antsy too boot.

All we needed was a broken heart to complete the picture.

Chip Hilton 1:09 PM  

I’m guessing MARIaN was the prime reason for heartache at Westport. She got me!

Game/PREY and Game’s turning point?/ROTISSERIE in the same puzzle? Rather MEATY, no?

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone.

Teedmn 1:13 PM  

Nice puzzle, Mary Lou. Though for only 63 words, it took me an absurd amount of time. I had to make the Ulm/URI switch, but only after HEART waRming fell to KSTREET. And I was cruisin' for a DNF at the 39A-40D cross - being pretty sure the NYMets played at Citi Field didn't help me with emcee JOBS. McJobs, right. (So yes, @Hartley70, too soon!)

Yesterday I said I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for a 2nd VALENTINE's themed puzzle - I'm glad I didn't so I was still alive to solve this one.

And I also printed out the LATimes puzzle by our @LMS and Bruce Haight, which was hinted at by Bruce in Xwordinfo last week or so ago. I'm saving that for my chocolate dessert later today.

Bob Mills 1:17 PM  

I found it easy and pleasurable to solve, primarily because there were few clues pertaining to hip-hop culture and TV sitcoms. Good puzzle for an old guy like me.

Teedmn 1:19 PM  

HEART STRINGS brings to mind a rude harpist "tugging" rather than plucking the strings. As Buckaroo Banzai said while preforming brain surgery, "No, no, no, don't tug on that. You never know what it might be attached to. "

catpez 1:21 PM  

I was overthinking 46 ACROSS - thought it needed to be heart related ( how the answer to this clue goes in this grid), so I wanted AORTAL or AORTAS, which caused me to stumble on MARIONROSS et. al.

Otherwise, loved the grid and fill!

Aketi 1:24 PM  

@ Gill I, awww.

@Mark N, that’s exactly what I thought.

I liked the semi overlapping two day grid art tribute to VALENTINE’s day. The lines on the heart reminded me of some of the vent holes my mother poked or cut into the top crust of her fruit pies to decorate them. She strove for assymetry in her designs. Since I haven’t had lunch yet, the thought of a HEART-shaped cherry pie is making me salivate.

@M@A I found instructions to make HEART-shaped cinommon rolls. You can make them with raspberry jam too.

Gotta adjust to the time lag from the moderating and not double post. I already have to delete enough posts contaminated with autocorrections and my own typos as it is.

semioticus (shelbyl) 1:53 PM  

My biggest problem with it was the NE corner (?). That TIRO-NADIA-HOBSON stack, crossing MARIONROSS is, um, not good. For me, that took away from all the fun this puzzle could be. A quadruple-ish Natick! That's a feat for Saturdays, not Wednesdays.

But yeah, I appreciate the grid, a gimmick that is not too gimmick-y. I loved the touch of "love" across the clues, and some were great: "Game of "love"", "Loving, maybe" etc. Great choices. I also liked the quotation clues. Oh, and "Game's turning point?". Brilliant.

Overall, I would have liked a cleaner fill on the right-hand side, and the weird grid shape took away from the solving experience a little bit. But a solid job nonetheless.

GRADE: B+, 3.65 stars.

semioticus (shelbyl) 1:57 PM  

Oh, and I forgot to mention: When I had SNTTO for 55D my first instinct was to scratch the whole thing. A brilliant misdirection, albeit perhaps unintentionally.

tea73 2:02 PM  

@GILL I Awww...

I had nothing until Nadia, but then got a few more and chugged my way though. I considered SAN paulO for a bit, but the acrosses looked bad so I didn't actually write it in. South and Central American geography is a real weak point of mine - and I'm no better in Canada. Spent much of my childhood in Africa and Asia and much of my twenties in Europe. But I'll never remember URI either.

The asymmetry didn't bother me, but I appreciate its lack being noticed. That's why I read Rex. I've often wondered about how that tradition started. When we lived in Germany the puzzles there were never symmetrical.

@OldMotherRiley most American puzzles are rotationally symmetric, but some are symmetric around an axis. This puzzle looks at first glance like it is symmetrical around the vertical axis, but it isn't.

I loved that the NYT puzzle app made the puzzle turn pink when you solved it correctly. I'm easy to please.

jberg 2:14 PM  

As some of you know, I love me a GERUND (not so much a matter of my loving as of their being superb, actually). And this is the day of the week when I take care of my granddaughter after school, so I was happy to see this aspect of grandfatherhood acknowledged. I was slightly troubled by IT WASN'T TO BE rather than the colloquial 'was not", and by the asymmetry (but it would be really hard to fix that, as @Noam Elkies explains in more detail); and I was a little sad to see the puzzle reverting from leapt to LEAPED.

@Sir Hillary, good point! I hadn't even noticed the Valentine's/Ash Wednesday convergence, but my brother called me up while I was reading these comments and said he's just had ashes smeared on his head.

@smalltowndoc, I don't think long answers have to be themers when they are part of a stack, such as the whole bottom of the puzzle. That would just be too hard.

In the version of the puzzle in the actual paper, not only is there just a heart with no surrounding black squares, but the squares are the usual size -- I gather from @Nancy that they are shrunken online. On the other hand, I waited and waited but my puzzle did not turn pink when I had completed it.

Wonderful story, @Gill!

Foamfollower 2:23 PM  


QuasiMojo 2:32 PM  

@Loren Muse Smith, for some reason my earlier compliments about your puzzle in the LAT today did not get through the mods. Just wanted to say how much I enjoyed it. Clever and fun. Better than this one. haha.

OldMotherRiley 2:34 PM  

@ Noam Elkies and @ jberg, thank you for helpful explanations on symmetry and asymmetry.

I'm a relative newbie to crosswording (is that a gerund?), so have much to learn.

Stanley Hudson 2:43 PM  

@LMS, great puzzle in the LA Times today.

Joe Dipinto 2:44 PM  

This worked better than yesterday's "preview" Valentine's Day puzzle, though I wish it had been a little snappier. It played like a Sunday diagramless, but with fewer theme answers -- and, of course, the diagram was provided. The unsymmetrical black boxes were kinda weird, but not a deal-breaker.

Joe Dipinto 3:06 PM  

Now I see from X-Word Info that the constructor did in fact originally submit this as a diagramless but WS thought it would be too difficult that way.

Anonymous 3:18 PM  

I had never heard of HOBSON or his choice until I came across the excellent Charles Laughton movie, HOBSON's Choice. Recommended.

chefwen 3:19 PM  

@GILL I. Awwwwwww! Loved your story, congratulations.

Loren and Bruce’s puzzle was also a lot of fun.

puzzlehoarder 3:35 PM  

Very good puzzle. From the shape I was dreading something easy and trite. A very pleasant surprise to find myself solving what felt like an easy Friday. So far it's been a good week.

@Nancy, thanks for the shout out the other day. Censorship may have been the wrong word. I don't come here for the blog itself so the more separate it is from the comments the better. That said a lack of trolling is a nice break.

jackj 3:52 PM  

Solved three nice Valentine's Day puzzles from various constructors today but far and away, the best of show was the offering from Loren and Bruce in the LA Times.

A five-star treat!

Nancy 3:54 PM  

@jberg (2:14 p.m.) -- So, for a moment there, you had me thinking I'd lost my everlovin' mind -- a not entirely impossible turn of events -- but it seems I'm not crazy after all. I was referring to the squares being shrunken in the actual newspaper which is where I solve, and definitely not online. Whereas you said the squares in the paper were normal size. Could I have imagined it??? Fortunately I had a copy of an earlier puzzle this week and I held the two grids next to each other and voila -- today's squares are smaller. Try it, @jberg, and you'll see. It's a rather subtle difference, but my ballpoint pen was balky and the comparative lack of writing space bothered me quite a bit.

Thanks, @Gill, for letting me know that if I ever decide to splurge on an expensive vodka, I should make it Belvedere. I've never heard of it, but knowing that you have a truly discerning palate for everything alcoholic, I'll take your word for it.

sanfranman59 4:30 PM  

This week's relative difficulty ratings. See my 1/2/2018 post for an explanation of my method. In a nutshell, the higher the ratio & percentage, the higher my solve time was relative to my norm for that day of the week.

(Day, Solve time, 26-wk Median, Ratio, %, Rating)

Mon 4:27 4:09 1.07 72.0% Medium-Challenging
Tue 6:40 5:47 1.15 76.9% Medium-Challenging
Wed 8:12 6:00 1.37 90.9% Challenging

I'm a little surprised that this one didn't yield a faster solve time since it felt like I was proceeding through it smoothly. I guess the low word count and preponderance of 5+ letter answers explains it (plus, I was a little distracted by a yummy chicken mozzarella wrap for lunch). My only real hang-up was HOBSON, not seeing SO AND SOS (not the first time I've been slowed by that answer) and misspelling MARION ROSS's name. GERUND, PLENUM, DINGE and HEY YA were also a bit crunchy. But the rest seemed straight-forward. Happy VD everyone.

sanfranman59 4:41 PM  

I meant to extend a hearty congrats to our own @LMS for her collaboration with Bruce Haight on today's LAT puzz (my solve time was just barely into my Medium-Challenging LAT Wednesday range). Good work, Loren!

Joy2u 4:45 PM  

Well, 'Hello, Mary Lou, Goodbye Heart! What a fun little Valentine.
I suppose it is 'easy' since I was able to finish it with only a couple of 'lookups'. It doesn't bother me when I have to check something by looking it up though - life has enough regular challenges without spending undue hours fretting over a blank square or three.
@Rex - I did notice the unsymetricalness at the center of the heart and even though I haven't yet learned ALL your 'triggers' I knew you would just have to mention it. At least you were kind. I, too, wanted to wiggle my ears.

Dennis Doubleday 4:47 PM  

Rex, the dark squares depict Cupid shooting an arrow. That's why it's asymmetric--the arrow is longer than his elbow.

Z 5:21 PM  

@Nancy - @RooMonster has the explanation. This is actually a 17x17 puzzle instead of the usual 15x15, but the NYT crams it into the same sized space in the paper.

jannielouise 5:41 PM  

Cute grid, though I agree with JR that the content was a bit dark (ALAS ITWASNTTOBE; The PURSUES PREY crossing) for the occasion. Apropos of yesterday, actual BOXED ROSES just arrived on my front step!

Anonymous 6:19 PM  

My online version was wonky too. Refresh, refresh, went through with TAB to make sure nothing left out. Then changed ALEC to ALEX to finally get error message and then fixed and it took.

Blind William Tell 7:18 PM  

@Dennis Doubleday, by god you're right!!

Two Ponies 7:21 PM  

@ sanfranman, I know you meant it kindly but wishing someone happy VD sounds like something that needs penicillin.

JC66 7:28 PM  

@Two Ponies

Seriously, you really didn't understand what @SFman meant?

JC66 7:29 PM  

Or were you just trying to be funny?

Harryp 7:30 PM  

Looking again at the puzzle, it puzzles me that 25Across, Funiture mover should have a question mark to it. Can anyone explain why caster isn't obvious?

Joy2u 7:38 PM  

@Two Ponies 7:21 PM - I knew what was 'meant' too, but still had that same thought. Brought back some <happy 60s memories.
Of course Arlo has said that if we remember the 60s we weren't really there.

sanfranman59 8:22 PM  

@Two Ponies & Joy2u ... it was purely intentional tongue-in-cheekiness on my part ... such is my sense of humor ;)

Z 8:30 PM  


JTHurst 8:34 PM  

This puzzle twanged my philosophical heartstrings. Hobson's Choice, which is what W. Shortz offers us sometimes, "Take it or leave it." While OFL is concerned with the Buddhist Spoon concept as the Buddha child said to Neo pointing to the spoon, "There is no spoon, as the spoon bends." Occam's Knife or Razor could be applied to Ms Guizzo puzzle herein as ,"KISS!" The whole puzzle was so meaty, thus the need for philosophical cutlery.

But, as I look at this puzzle, seeking the symmetrical middle, that maybe Buridan's Ass concept applies and it would portray me as ambivalent.

Robert 9:02 PM  

It's a challenging puzzle , for some stuff to do, It's enhance mental analysis, how to find some words. Thanks for this.

Mohair Sam 9:27 PM  

@Mathgent - Loved your story, especially the standing "bowling alley" jibe.

@Teedmn - A "Buckaroo Banzai" reference! Most impressive. Love that flick.

Ry 9:49 PM  

Seeing HEY YA in the grid was the highlight of 2018 so far for me. It inspired me to throw B.O.B. on during my drive to work...nothing quite like vintage Outkast.

Two Ponies 9:51 PM  

@ sanfranman and JC66, I got the joke and couldn't resist.

Ian 10:51 PM  

I think you meant to write “pretty well”, not “pretty good”. Football and basketball coaches say after the game that it went “good”.

Ian 10:53 PM  

You can set the printer to print it ligher, thereby saving on ink. Check it out on your Across Lite settings.

Unknown 8:51 PM  

It turned out to be a good puzzle.

OlyL 12:53 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nancy Gold 12:00 AM  

My Dad, who died 2 years ago at 91, used so and so a lot. He was not a swearer. So I loved that clue.

Nancy Gold 12:02 AM  

Yes! I really didn’t like DRUM for what I assumed was an expression you’d yell at someone (like those kids on your lawn). Can anyone explain that answer?

Nancy Gold 1:16 AM  

It would be symmetrical around the vertical axis except for the 2 squares diagonal to the T in PORTRAY. And those 2 squares are rotationally symmetrical—like 2 little lovebirds out of whack with the rest of the world and not caring!

Nancy Gold 1:24 AM  

I want to see that but I’m not. What am I missing??

kitshef 9:21 PM  

Thought LORI, URI and EGON all crossing GOON A SPREE was pretty challenging for a Wednesday.

I am not normally a stickler for conventions like symmetry. But today, the lack bothered me because I kept trying to figure out what was in the heart.

spacecraft 10:45 AM  

Awww, isn't that kyuuute! So, we're 17x17, and lookit those interior black squares! Strangely, the asymmetry didn't bother me during the solve, ergo, no big deal. (BTW, in my paper, they didn't BLACKOUT any of the exterior areas. The result is much more pleasing to the eye than the grid pictured here.)

A couple of outliers, LORI, TIRO and EGON--normally late-week stuff--appear today, but no deal-breaker, as the rest of it was so good. I expected 52-ACROSS would be themed, but ITWASNTTOBE. Would have put constraints on the fill--and we know what happens then.

DOD is the fetching little Romanian NADIA. Birdie.

Burma Shave 12:34 PM  




centralscrewtinizer 1:06 PM  

What, nobody mentioned the shout out to Nancy about tennis, the game of 'love'?
As to vodka...A Norwegian chef said the Poles make the best. A Polish friend said Poles only make vodka because they can't make whisky. The latter likes bourbon.
I make grape spirits, put the best cut in the freezer, and serve it as vodka. No one says a thing.

rondo 2:00 PM  

No BLACKOUT around the edges in my paper either. Quite the design; real ARTISTRY. Started in the NE and went around clockwise with nary a write-over. So not too tough. Didn’t have to rescue it from the JAWS of a DNF.

I remember LORI Petty more from A League of Their Own, not sure I’ve seen even a snippet of Tank Girl. So I’d have gone with yeah baby LORI Singer from Footloose.

What more? Nuthin’. This was pretty much a SNAP.

leftcoastTAM 3:01 PM  

Sweet, cute, even with a frilly look.

Writeovers in NW: shipYARD before BOATYARD; itchy before ANTSY. In NE: GRANDmAS before GRANDPAS.

Needed crosses for EGON POPOV, the great Russion comedian.

Stumped by "Unfulfilling work assignments" as MCJOBS. Wanted...what? Thought NYY? NYC? MC JOBS as unfulfilling?

Didn't get it.

leftcoastTAM 3:11 PM  

Break...thought about those JOBS..."aha", must be MC as in MacDonalds jobs! But too late.

Anonymous 11:58 PM  

Actually, there IS a symmetry to this, as @Nancy Gold 1:16 AM pointed out. Take away those two black squares at the ends of 14D and 15D and you've got a symmetrical grid. And those two black squares themselves are symmetrically positioned. So...

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