You can't bring in crazed antelope Mr Glass / WED 12-5-18 / Organization honored on October 24 / Suffering caused by reader prejudice / Beekeeper of filmdom

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Constructor: Alan Arbesfeld

Relative difficulty: I don't know, I just sort of gave up ... probably on the Challenging side because of the gibberish

THEME: UNITED NATIONS (35A: Organization honored on October 24 ... and the theme of this puzzle) — "nations" all shoved together ("united"), and then reimagined as a wacky phrase:

Theme answers:
  • "IRA, NO MANIC ELAND!" (17A: "You can't bring in a crazed antelope, Mr. Glass!")
  • CUB ALE BAN ON (23A: Wrigley Field's beer boycott goes into effect?)
  • MA LIES TO NIA (50A: Mother isn't straight with actress Vardalos?)
  • PERUSER BIAS PAIN (57A: Suffering caused by reader prejudice?)
Word of the Day: ALAN KING (37D: Comic who said "If you want to read about love and marriage, you've got to buy two separate books") —
Alan King (born Irwin Alan Kniberg; December 26, 1927 – May 9, 2004) was an American actor and comedian known for his biting wit and often angry humorous rants. King became well known as a Jewish comedian and satirist. He was also a serious actor who appeared in a number of movies and television shows. King wrote several books, produced films, and appeared in plays. In later years, he helped many philanthropic causes. (wikipedia)
• • •

Don't think I'll write much about this one. There are so many obvious problems that it just seems cruel. But a few words before I go. First, when you're dealing with a holiday, or a commemorative day of any kind, it's best to run the puzzle on that day. Barring that, then *near* that day. This is especially true of a day no one knows or cares about. I'm now realizing the whole irksome thing of running an October 24 puzzle on December 5 could've been avoided simply by choosing One Of Probably Infinite Other UNITED NATIONS Clues Available To You. Or, you know, by running this puzzle on the actual date of October 24 ... which was ... Also A Wednesday (!) OMF#@$#$@. Wow. OK. Then there's the theme itself, which is so gibberishy and involved so much repronunciation that it felt more like torture than pleasure. I finished with a typo at ISM (I had IST ... you can guess how thrilled I was to make a typo on that delightful bit of fill) (5D: Suffix with ideal), because my brain was parsing it as "IRA, NOT A NICE ELAND!", which admittedly seems ridiculous, but really ... I mean look at this puzzle. Who is it to tell me what's "ridiculous"? Anyway, figuring out those themers was a chore—one made infinitely more tedious by the dodgy fill that runs through the veins of this entire thing. All I have to do is direct you to column 6 (the ISM column). Just read down. ISM ULEE ESME. There should be some alarm that goes off on your puzzle any time you get a crosswordese bingo in your grid like that. Red lights. Sirens. Sirens that scream "ISM-ULEE-ESME! ISM-ULEE-ESME!" The works.

Someone I know got so annoyed at this grid that they made a whole new one:

This is the extremes to which some solvers will go to find amusement when the crossword lets them down so badly. I like the new grid. Its main problem is that it still contains all the dumb theme stuff. Thank god for crossword Twitter and the #NYTXW hashtag—they are a solace on days like this. Pain is easier to bear when it's shared:

(note: @AVCXWord is the American Values Crossword and @bewildering_ly is the Twitter handle of Will Nediger, whose (free) indie puzzle site is here. OK, back to the tweets...)

OK, then, bye.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld (Twitter @rexparker / #NYTXW)

PS what the hell is up with the clue on STARVE??? (45D: Eschew rather than chew?) Presumably if you're "starving" you just don't have *&^#ing food; you're not "eschewing" anything. This is a clue from someone who has plenty of food and never thinks about, I don't know, the 85K children (to date) who have starved to death in Yemen. "Eschewed"!? And all for a stupid pun?! Amazing. You could've saved this clue for FAST, where it would've been, you know, appropriate.

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Loren Muse Smith 5:32 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Loren Muse Smith 5:34 AM  

I COULD NO DISAGREE MORE WITH YOU, REX. Crosswordese? I don’t care. Weird clues and themer answers? I don’t care. I. Don’t. Care. When I finally got the deal (with the ale ban), I was stunned. So much fun to suss out the others. My reaction was more toward the whooping and jumping up and down kind.

Ira, no manic eland hidden in IRAN OMAN ICELAND
Ma lies to Nia in MALI ESTONIA
Cub ale ban on in CUBA LEBANON
Peruser bias pain in PERU SERBIA SPAIN

Oh my God, this is some serious reparsing. I loved it.

It’s so funny that an email in all caps has this very real synesthetic effect. Lots of languages don’t have a choice between upper and lower case, so how do, say, Arabic or Chinese speakers send angry emails? I guess in Japan they can switch to katakana? So this

仕方がない is gentle and regular

but this

シ カ タガ ナ イ is loud and angry? Maybe? I dunno.

My favorite word used to be DWEEB. It just feels fun on its way out of your mouth. But last week I gave the weekly list of 10 vocab words for 10th graders (nifty little year-long pack of lists with terrific exercises and stuff). Usually if there’s a word I’ve never laid eyes on, I’ll check with my husband (huge vocabulary guy) and the other English teachers to confirm that, yeah, let’s just choose our battles here. Doleful, sure. Dolorous, not so much. Cruciform? NAH. I mean, I have students who don’t know the word resent or haughty, so again, I’m trying to avoid the “out there” words. But BUT… the word oppugn was on last week’s list. I thought it was a typo or mistake. Never seen this word that I can remember. But look at it. Isn’t it delightful? Like a stocky little upstart of a word with attitude borne of years of being teased by the other words. It looks like a fighter. I pointed this out to the students and explained my impression could be from its root and my knowledge of pugnacious. I was just gonna have’em learn pugnacious but decided I was too taken with oppugn to pass it up. We practiced it all week, and they had to learn it. These 10th graders are remarkably agreeable and pleasant, and they all learned the word even with the knowledge that they might not encounter it out in the wild. I said if anyone ever does encounter it in the wild, bring in evidence, and they’ll get some kind of prize.
So anyway, my new favorite word is oppugn. Sorry, DWEEB.

“Pool members of old” – females splashing around in those ghastly swim caps complete with chin strap and rubber flowers all over the top. Yeah. Fetching.

Back to my gushing... Think about what was involved here. Alan had to find not just four phrases, but two pairs of phrases, each with the same letter count. I challenge anyone to come up with even one. Here’s mine. Ya ready? TOG OF INLAND. Hah.

Alan’s accomplishment is a tour-de-force.

PS – I don’t give a shit that it didn’t run on October 24.

BarbieBarbie 6:01 AM  

This was very clever. UNITing the NATIONS like this from scratch is unimaginable to me, yet solving it was really a fun treasure hunt once I saw ELAND and figured the start of the phrase had to be IRAN. (no, not, whatever). So this was definitely not one of those puzzles that are only rewarding to the constructor.
I agree that ESCHEW doesn’t match its clue. I stared at it for awhile, trying to make some sort of spit-out word, maybe un-CHEW? Anyway, Gesundheit. Editors, please be more careful.
I also agree with @LMS about the date. What does that have to do with the quality of the puzzle? Nothing. Is the clue inaccurate? Nope. Leave it, Fido.
More puzzles like this please!

Lewis 6:21 AM  

The wordplay was a ton of fun for me, and I got a kick out of trying to get the remaining theme answers after getting the first, with few crosses. So it was a grand old solve, helped by ALI over MALI (and that wannabe ULEE nearby) and the DON crossing HO in the NE. Alan, I can guess what kind of work went into devising this puzzle, and it sure paid off in the entertainment I got from it -- thank you greatly!

ncmathsadist 6:23 AM  

Clunker of the day:

answer: ORBED


Matthew G. 6:28 AM  

This was the least pleasurable Monday-to-Wednesday puzzle in recent memory. I was so exhausted by the end of it that I only got the SW corner by running through my mental inventory of four-letter countries to think of PERU.

'merican in Paris 6:37 AM  

I'm with @LMS on this one, except that I would have preferred that the puzzle run on 24 October. Weirdly, even though I worked for an inter-governmental organization that isn't part of the UN, I slotted UNITED NATIONS in as a guess, without any crosses, and it proved to be correct.

This is the kind of HEROIC construction feat that can be appreciated while solving. One doesn't have to wait until coming here to figure it out. Grocked the theme as soon as I saw IRAN OMAN, but it took me some effort to figure out most of the rest of the countries (except for SPAIN, which was a gimme). Coincidentally, we leave on holiday for Salalah, OMAN the day after tomorrow, a belated celebration of my 65th birthday and my retirement. Salalah is the only part of the Arabian Peninsular that gets monsoon rains, so in the summer it is quite lush, with rivers, waterfalls, and bright-green grassy swards.

But I digress. One thing that would have been even more a challenge, and bumped the puzzle to Thursday level, would have been to have used the countries' own names, as they spell them. I never understood why if India has succeeded in getting the world to use Mumbai instead of Bombay, that Italia hasn't asked the rest of the world to call its capital city Roma, and the home of the Uffizi Gallery, Firenze.

Here's my contribution, sticking to English spellings: GERM ANY GUY ANA ("You have my permission to pass your flu onto these DWEEBS, Ms. Ivanović") OK, needs some work.

By the way, I don't understand the complaint about ISM. Yes, I, too, thought of ISt first, but ISM is equally valid.

Hungry Mother 6:40 AM  

Great puzzle! I loved the theme and had fun trying to use it to fill in the downs. The SW corner caused me a lot of consternation, but when I saw PERU I was home. Fun stuff.

newgirl 7:06 AM  


DeeJay 7:15 AM  

LMS, I liked the puzzle as well. Hard, yes, crosswordese, yes. But fun, yes.

Enjoy this take on Silent Letters, from word magician Dmetri Martin:

Rainbow 7:16 AM  

I agree with you. This was just a journey into silliness that I loved.

Aketi 7:29 AM  

I did get the UNITED NATIONS right away, but knowing the theme didn’t bring me joy. While the construction may have been HEROIC, but this puzzle makes me wonder why I chose today to return to solving x-words. Binge watching bad crime shows on Netflix would have been preferable.

kitshef 7:30 AM  

Started off slowly … then things got worse. Harder than most Saturdays for me.

Lots of four-letter WoEs: ISIS, LANI, ULEE, CLEO.

Loved it. Just think it should have run three days later.

amyyanni 7:30 AM  

Erm, I had the same final stumbling block as Rex (ist, not ism), then I got it. And then liked it. (I guess I'm a kind of Mikey .)

The guy in Nampa 7:42 AM  

yyyyyyyeahhhh... nah...
I don't mind difficult... actually prefer it.
This was just... yeah, no...

Adam Jaffe 7:44 AM  

I found it jarring to have a nation (Uganda) that wasn't part of the theme. One of many problems with this grid!

Kdy 7:45 AM  

I don't know, I really enjoyed the theme answers thought they were fun.

Anonymous 7:53 AM  

I was a bit put off by the fact that this ran on a day other than October 24th, but everything else I liked. I do these puzzles for FUN, and I found this one to be fun. Maybe some day I will understand why Rex spends so much time dealing with puzzles he so seldom likes.

RavTom 7:54 AM  

LMS, I always like your takes, but this time I’m in love. This was such a fun puzzle. Oh, and my daughter is teaching in Japan. I’ll ask her about your katakana theory.

Norm 7:55 AM  

This was hilarious. Running on UN Day would have been better, but the vehemence of Tex's other complaints about this puzzle are hard for me to understand.

chefbea 7:59 AM  

Too tough for me!!!

Debra 8:06 AM  

Easy but horrible

Anonymous 8:12 AM  

I enjoyed this puzzle and I enjoy this blog, but Rex again with his Yemen comment becomes a liberal parody. The point of his comment is not to raise awareness of the children starving. No, the point is to raise awareness of what an aware and conscientious person Rex is. Like most humanity professors, he doesn't actually do anything, so he has to take every opportunity to remind you that he is a better person than someone else (in this case, Mr. Shortz).

Suzie Q 8:12 AM  

Thanks for this goofy Wed. Alan A.
I can usually predict what is going to light Rex's fuse but not today.
If you want to see voluntary starving Rex just open any fashion mag.
The date in the theme clue doesn't bother me one bit.

TSG 8:19 AM  

No fun, pointless jibber jabber.

Sgt. Hulka 8:24 AM  

Lighten up, Francis.

Curmudgeon 8:26 AM  

Well our idiot secretary of state is running around Europe announcing that treaties and agreements result in too much bureaucracy and the United Nations is outdated so maybe that's why it was run.

QuasiMojo 8:30 AM  

If you have never heard of Mr Glass or the actress Vardalos, this was a bear. It’s bad enough that Harry Potter is now considered mandatory knowledge for cruciverbalists but if you solve the NYT puzzle and don’t watch TV or listen to talk radio you really are treed! Or enisled. Or BANished from completing it. Except when your knowledge of geography finally rescues you. I managed to fill in all the squares. Maybe because I am a DWEEB. A lot of effort for very little reward.

Call me a Philistine but I’ve never heard of United Nations Day so I could give a FIJI that it didn’t run on Oct 24th. We’ve already ascertained that there are too many holidays in this country and now we have endless puzzles celebrating them or paying tribute to random events? Let’s just stick with making engaging, challenging, delightful diversions rather than painfully contrived thematic pun-riddled groaners. And I agree with Rex that the “eschew” joke was in poor taste (ahem) especially when one thinks of all those who have risked their lives during hunger strikes.

Unknown 8:39 AM  

Cha·cun à son goût. I thought it was adorable. But Thursday hard.


mmorgan 8:53 AM  

I got UNITED NATIONS very early but it still took me a long time to get the themers. I got CUB ALE BAN ON without seeing that it was CUBA LEBANON, but when that light bulb came on, wow! The themers were tortured, indeed, but each one brought a smile. Only problem was having ABS for PEC at 57D, and not knowing either ELIZA or RIO, the SW corner was a DNF. I might have gotten there eventually, but I was impatient to find out what came before - - - - SER BIAS PAIN. Overall, a very clever exercise in alternative parsing, but not the world's most pleasant solve.

Dorothy Biggs 8:54 AM  

I would be more impressed if the "united nations" were phrases that were actual phrases someone might say. I get that it would take a lot of time to sit down with a list of countries, know how many letters they need to be when strung together, and then find countries that, when placed side by side, spell something. ANYTHING.

But, I don't think that's clever. That's just time consuming. We humans are really good at discovering patterns. Just stringing countries together to come up with words...that, when you hold your head just right, kinda make sense.

IRA, NO MANIC ELAND. <--- seriously, wtf is that? It is meaningless. I don't care how long it took to figure that out. It isn't clever, it's just words put together. No one says this, nor will they ever say this, or any version of it. There's no verb, there's no such thing as a flipping "manic eland."

CUB ALE BAN ON <--- Just look at that "phrase." It's terrible. I don't care how punny or groany you find it. It's meaningless, and because it's meaningless it is simply self public, no less.


This puzzle should be put in the "Just because you can doesn't mean should" pile. You people who are delighted by this are delightfully amusing to me. You like this for all the wrong reasons. How would I know this, you ask? Because there is no substance at all in the themers...NONE. They're just as Rex described: jibberish. And while I appreciate your appreciation for the fact the constructor must have taken weeks to figure out the themers once he had the conceit, he might have maybe taken another few months to do it right.

I hate puns. But what's worse than puns is people delighting in something only because they're puns. I don't mean to yuck your yum, but yuck.

KBF 8:58 AM  

Brilliant and funny! I laughed out loud when I was done. Such clever inventiveness. I wish there were more like this. It reminded me of Peter Gordon's wonderful April Fool's Day puzzles, but even more brilliant. Thank you, Alan A.!

Anonymous 9:05 AM  

average for me had idealist last thing I changed to get happy music. got the theme on the last long one went back and checked the others. struggled with EMSE? EMME? ESME !!

Nancy 9:13 AM  

You think it's easy to repurpose all these countries? It's not, and if you try, the result is going to be some really wacky clues. So, as a solver, you have two choices: you can embrace the wack or you can rail against the wack. I chose to embrace the wack and have fun. No matter how absurd the clue or how twisted the syntax of the "answer", I was bound and determined to have fun. It's wordplay, after all, and I love wordplay -- even when it's completely silly. This puzzle will split the blog right down the middle, I think: some will love the puzzle and some will despise it. Going back now to see who is which and which is who.

Sir Hillary 9:35 AM  

Aside from agreeing with @Rex's comment on the clue for UNITEDNATIONS, I had no issue with this one. It reminded me of the mashing and reparsing of Greek letters we had a while back. Plus, I'm a geography buff, so all good.

I've wasted the last hour trying to come up with my own themer that didn't reuse any of the countries Mr. Arbesfeld used. Holy crap, was it hard.
Here's the best I could do: Would a Russian villa's paint rub off on its male occupants? CANADACHADYEMEN?

Been a while since we had a really stupid, OTT write-up from @Rex, so that itch is scratched for a while. As usual, the Twitterati commentary amps up the stupidity -- hmm, let me find some admirers who share my opinion, put their posts on my blog, and pretend that means there's a consensus among people in the know. Hilarious. My favorite is the alternate grid. Yeah, thank God for that, because -- even after cheating with two extra black squares! -- OXTEAMS, ANDALE, TVADS and POM EMO ENT AMA ISEE ULNA ETALIA are so much fresher than what we got in the published version. My kingdom for an eyeroll emoji.

ghthree 9:37 AM  

For those of you (including Rex) who have questioned the use of Eschew in 45Down:
I can think of two reasons for a person choosing not to chew with food in front of him/her:
1: Google "Hunger strike" and you'll find lots of examples, including many that are in the news right now.
2: Google "VSED" (Voluntary Stopping of Eating and Drinking) and you'll find something more complicated, but closer to my personal experience. It's a form of assisted suicide.

A few months ago, My wife and I had dinner with neighbors. The husband (whom I'll call D) ate normally. The wife (whom I'll call G) talked normally, but neither ate nor drank anything.
A few weeks later, she was dead. It was only later that I realized that they had co-operated in a successful VSED (hospice) program.

Mr. Benson 9:41 AM  

@Anon 8:12 if you think discussion of starvation is a "liberal" point, that says something about you.

At best the clue was tone-deaf. The crossword tries to avoid unpleasantness. Hitler and heroin would fit nicely into a lot of grids but you don't see them.

Anonymous 9:42 AM  

I would like to survey others: when you work out, do you target your right or your left PEC? Sheesh, what a stupid puzzle.

Z 9:50 AM  

First, as Rex pointed out, the UNITED NATIONS clue is an unforced error. How about, “1945 League replacement.” Or “New York organization led by António Manuel de Oliveira Guterres.” There’s just no good reason to go with the U.N. Day clue on a day other than U.N. Day. Unforced error.

Second, the PPP. OMFG STOP. 34 OUT OF 74 (THAT IS 46% BUT WHO IS COUNTING?) AND THAT DOESNT EVEN INCLUDE COUNTING THREE OF FOUR THEME ANSWERS TWICE FOR IRA, NIA, AND THE CUBS. AND WHAT PPP, ULEE AND HIS GOLD, ESMÉ, 91 YEAR OLD CLEO LAINE AND DEAD ALAN KING, AND ALL THE CARS IN THE SOUTH, KIA RIO, ISUZU, OPEL. (*deep breath*) Just, no. I count 13 dead people in this puzzle. Too much, too dated, distracting, and some people will DNF because of it.

I liked the theme well enough. It’s a nifty piece of word play. I’d have preferred a grid less weighed down by PPP and with PPP that was at least a little more relevant to the second decade of the 21st century. And, seriously, maybe update the revealer clue.

Mordechai 9:55 AM  

Puzzle was meh but I have a problem with 40 down, it’s just wrong. SAM was not an employee, he was a partner in Rick’s Cafe Americain.

Run that by me again 9:58 AM  

There's someone on the blog whose name is Distancia Horticrux????

Anonymous 10:01 AM  

To make MTW puzzles more challenging, I solve them without looking at clues for the longer (theme) entries. Stringing country names together seemed pedestrian. Then I finished and read the clues, and I thought, "Wow, kind of brilliant!"

Chaspark 10:13 AM  

Rex...I’ve sent you a check for 3 or 4 years in a row. I really like the blog when you have guests bloggers. Your incessant negativity has finally pushed me over the edge. No mas.

GILL I. 10:17 AM  

Oooooh, I knew a head would explode. Dang, am I good at predicting or what.
I love me some fun word play. I do wish this had run on October 24th because I would've enjoyed it even more. No matter.
I can sympathize with those complaining that the phrases are just string along words. But I found them quirky fun.
I also found this to be one of the most difficult Wed. is a long time. I got the theme quickly but it was the surrounding words that really got me. I can't remember the last time I had to Google on a Wed. but to even get started I did. SHUL ISIS DYADS. Yikes. 1, 5, and 9 across just to get a foot in the door. I looked at the other puzzle @Rex submitted and I like that one a tad better. It feels more Wednesdayish.
@Sir Hillary: Loved your CAN A DACHA DYE MEN. I mean why not? It sure is playful. I don't have time or I'd try some myself.
@Aketi....Yay, you're back!

Anonymous 10:20 AM  

I didn't like this but for a different reason. I don't like the U.N.
Since individually they are meaningless they think they can gang up on us and tell us what to do? What a bunch of clowns.

pmdm 10:23 AM  

I am so pleased that o lot of the regulars liked this puzzle, as I wondered if my reaction (favorable) was a guilty pleasure. I feel sorry for those who think of Yemen or have similar roadblocks to enjoying puzzles. Solving a puzzle should be (often) an escape from the depressing. For those who can't let go, there is no release.

Nancy 10:25 AM  

Wow, Sir Hillary (9:35), that's good! And it's also a 15-letter grid-spanner which is even more impressive. I'm going to grab my World Atlas and see if I can come up with something that doesn't repeat any of the already "used" countries. I'm pretty sure I can't, but will give it a brief whirl just for fun. Don't hold your collective breaths, though.

Anonymous 10:28 AM  

There's no error. There's no mistake. Reasonable people can disagree about whether it's better to publish a puzzle with a theme pertaining to a particular day on the actual day it invokes, but surely that's not the same as an error.

By the way, your use of unforced is absurd. Why use a fairly idiotic tennis term about a puzzle with geography at its heart?

Mr. Arbesfeld, thanks for the marvelous puzzle.

JC66 10:34 AM  

Late yesterday @SanFranman showed up; this morning @Aketi appears. Good times!

As to the puzzle, put me in the enjoyed and impressed camp.

Nancy 10:53 AM  

Clue: Soda fountain fave hyped by actress Judi and us:

Scroll down for answer


Northwest Runner 10:54 AM  

Love the way the alt grip incorporates God no and ent (which as a LOTR eschewer I can never differentiate from orc).

Outside The Box 10:57 AM  

Agree, particularly with the PS

Masked and Anonymous 11:14 AM  

Wowzola. Talk about a range of opinions on a puz. It got the Puzzle of the Week award, over at xwordinfo.chen. On the @RP and @CrosswordFiend blog write-ups, not so much. Also, Comment Gallery ratings here seem to be a little of everything from terrific to terrible. De busta gut.

Hey -- I personally liked the theme fine. Fill mighta got a bit too desperate, maybe becuz they went for a 74-worder. Alternate grid in @RP's blog has somewhat better fill, but has no long-ball fill to speak of. Sooo … again, depends on what tickles U the most.

Bottom M&A line: Raised-by-the-wolves and likin it. fave fillins: OCCULT. SCABBARD. ENSIGN. ISUZU. STARVE [agree with @RP, wobbly clue]. SCAPULA. STMARK. fave Ow de Speration: ORBED.
staff weeject pick: TNG [Better clue: {Thing with no greeting??} ].

Thanx for the time U took to find these country mash-ups, Mr. Arbesfeld. Every one's a decent groaner, as U might best expect.

Masked & Anonymo6Us


Sir Hillary 11:15 AM  

Final two motto choices for Flagstaff college cross-country team?


Adam S 11:26 AM  

I enjoyed this, despite falling into perhaps the worst crossword trap entirely of my own making in the SE, which needed an extra 5 minutes and deletion of the entire corner to unwind.

Stupidly wrote in audi at 57D, which eventually gave me Su__N for the findal country. Wrote in SudaN having convinced myself that "u daN" could be phonetically like "you down", despite the fact there were no phonetic likenesses in the other themers. Added iriS at 68A and then had to entangle the whole mess, and convinced myself that 56A could be (San Diego) PadrE at a stretch (despite the fact that it would have logically needed to be padres even with that stretch). Ay Ay Ay.

p.s. The revised grid is a bit better, but with ET ALIA, LEI, AMA, POM, ULNA, EMO, GIS, IPO, ALOE, ANDALE and retaining ISUZU and CLEO I'm not convinced it is a vast improvement.

Bree140 11:26 AM  

A quibble about the clue for 23A: a boycott is not the same as
a ban. In the case of a boycott, the sale of the product in
question is not actually banned, but some consumers choose
not to purchase the product as a form of protest. A better word
than "boycott" might have been "prohibition".

Anonymous 11:35 AM  

I wasn't thinking about Yemen, nor was I depressed in anyway before doing this puzzle. However, I still *hated* it. It felt joyless and forced to me, for all of the same reasons listed by everyone else. Too many proper nouns of people I've never heard of, too much gibberish, etc etc.
However, I am glad that the puzzle wasn't a complete bomb, and had a few people who liked it, and are defending it. We cannot call it a good puzzle... But, I'm glad it amused a few.

You said that you think more of the "regulars" enjoyed it. Have you considered that it was So Bad that I sought out reviews?

Katzzz 11:38 AM  

Oh, c'mon. This was fun. The themers were absurd, but highly amusing. Which was the point of the whole thing. Whaz the matter, Rex? Don't dig geography?

pabloinnh 11:44 AM  

Shocked and dismayed that this didn't run on UN day, which is the day when all we locals dress up as representatives of our favorite countries and parade around the town common. Inexcusable, really. Blasphemous, nearly. The Mali fans were devastated.

This kind of wordplay is fine with me and difficult enough to be impressive. Nice job.

Hey, remember Joe Isuzu? He somehow landed in the White House.

Malsdemare 11:48 AM  

This was fun. Once I caught the gag, I pieced together the countries from what the crosses gave me and THEN read the clues. Yup, there was a lot Ididn't know initially—I'd forgotten ALAN KING—but it all emerged eventually. @Nancy, I'll take the wack as well and nice job on MALTASWEDENCHAD. And kudos to Sir Hillary as well.

I'm not crazy about the STARVE clue, partly because of the epidemic of starvation all over. But also, really, eschew implies choice and with the exception of VSED (which I'd never heard of but, yeah, maybe a smart choice), I don't think folks choose to starve.

Yay! @Aketi is back!

We had seven wild turkeys in our front yard yesterday. Impeccable timing: Thanksgiving gone, Christmas weeks away.

Anonymous 12:06 PM  

Total agreement!

I cannot understand what's up with the complainers, RP in chief. This was a clever puzzle. I also caught on with 23A. Then I was able to get the theme answers eventually, with help from the crosses. Lower left corner was the hardest. 57A was needed to figure out the corner.

I am stunned to find the negativity on this and some recent puzzles, all of which seemed like recent high points. All followed convention, all were the right mix of hard and doable over a cup of coffee. This one in particular was a nearly perfect Wednesday.

For the other two that got so much childish whining, there seemed to be problems with formatting in non-stand electronic tools. Not so here.

The NYT puzzles seem to be responding to the competition from other crossword sources. It should be praised for upping its game.

More please.

ghostoflectricity 12:18 PM  

Managed to solve it without help- just. On October 24, I typically celebrate the birthday of Bill Wyman (né William Perks, born Oct 24, 1936 in Lewisham, London, UK), bassist for The Rolling Stones from late 1962 until his retirement from the band in 1993. I'm not much of a disco lover, but when The Stones briefly went disco on their '78 "comeback" album (following Keith Richards's '77 Toronto heroin bust, which nearly ended his career, and the band's), "Some Girls," it was Wyman's funky bass playing on "Miss You" that made the song. His "dive-bomb" bass runs on outro of The Stones' '66 hit "19th Nervous Breakdown" are also noteworthy. Oh, sorry, we were talking about the United Nations, weren't we?

albatross shell 12:26 PM  

Loved the theme answers. Got CUBALEBANON first, so UNITEDNATIONS was a gimme. Really enjoyed the way it solved after this, because sometimes knowing theme answers were countries helped with the fill and sometimes the reverse. Nice interplay. And still fun arranging spaces to make sense of the answers. Who cares if it's October 24th? Who would care or expect such answers to be common phrases ot phrasing? Open your minds a little. A puzzle with LES Paul and ALANKING and a nice clue for STENOS and you complain. Rex is right that ISM ULEE ESME does make a wonderful crosswordese mantra, even if ISM isn`t bad and I like the Fondas and JD.

Chip Hilton 12:37 PM  

What @LMS said.

Anonymous 12:52 PM  

Well, I actually liked this puzzle. But then I remembered Rex and his wife both have PhD's, so it must be a terrible puzzle.

Preferred Customer 1:03 PM  

Today I agree with everyone. It was stupid and annoying gibberish, great aha moments using the theme, hilarious PHRASES, impossible amount of obscure PPP.

It was the best of times, the worst of times, you'll laugh, you'll cry, it's a blockbuster, it should go straight to video.

michiganman 1:08 PM  

I'm not surprised that several did not like this puzzle. (I had great fun with it.) What I don't get is the intensity of the dislike, exemplified by @Distancia Horticrux 8:54 AM. It's like the naysayers are offended that this puzzle exists. I could visualize some people becoming REDDENED (see yesterday puzz) at the very idea of the puzzle not being on 10/24. Such outrage! Even if this wasn't your cup of tea, why the animus.

jb129 1:13 PM  

Kept with it for 2 hours (!!) - Got United Nations, got the countries, but never got the theme. Perhaps if it was run on October 24. But it did keep me going for a long while.

Teedmn 1:15 PM  

I'm glad to see I wasn't the only one who found this hard - I was quite surprised when I saw this had taken 15:02, on a Wednesday. Wow. But you can count me in the fan group. I liked it.

I did save myself a DNF when I filled in the first themer, saw IRAN and ICELAND and wondered where on earth OtAN was. Ah, idealISM, not -ISt.

@Loren's former favorite word was briefly DyEEB due to yAHOO. My Texas area was the worst - I had to draw a picture of a cube to realize it didn't have 12 sides. So goodbye ALAN KIdd, and thank goodness goodbye ORBai (yes, I ranted before VENTing). All part of the fun.

I did not know the definition of ENSIGN was "flag". I only knew the navy rank. And reading 32A's clue for 35A had me hesitating on entering UNITED NATIONS with __ITED__TIONS in place. "One may be red", huh? Are they talking about China? (Even though I had already put in ALERT for that clue.)

Bob Dylan wrote a song titled ISIS? Did not know that. I'm not a Dylan fan and after reading the lyrics to the song, I can't say my opinion has changed.

Mr. Arbesfeld, thank you for the fun Wednesday theme.

jb129 1:15 PM  

Looking back at Rex's page, it was a great theme - I just didn't get it.

Richard 1:19 PM  

It is so easy to criticize something as being offensive and OFL does this often, including at the bottom of the review. So, let me do this with him. He uses the term "torture" in talking about the soling experience with a crossword puzzle. One could criticize this as trivializing the concept of torture.

jberg 1:27 PM  

Well, I have a PhD too -- but I'm such a DWEEB that when solving I don't think about anything else -- so when I read the UNITED NATIONS clue, I just assumed that it was October 24 today. And we had a memorable Thanksgiving, too, so I had no excuse.

Anyway, I loved the concept. The best I can come up with is 'message to a friend after another friend makes a gender transition,'


Oops. that didn't work -- I give up. kudos to those who have come up with one.

And @Loren, you've outdone yourself with that all-caps Japanese.

@Mr Benson, I was going to do something about my own diet, but following your suggestion we could go with a Bobby Sands clue.

Richard 1:40 PM  

Oops. I should have proofread my prior comment more carefully. I obviously meant to say "solving" experience. As long as I am correcting this, let me further explain my perspective. I am OK with calling attention to something that could be considered offensive when it is unintended. However, I think this could be done in a kinder manner than that often employed by OFL.

Freddy Murcks 1:46 PM  

I actually kind of enjoyed it once figured out that the clunky theme answers were all country names run together. I even thought that 'Mali lies to Nia' was sort of clever. I don't know and I don't care when United Nations Day is, so I wasn't thrown by that.

old timer 1:52 PM  

I liked the puzzle Weds hard I thought because the revealer was a gimme.

Nothing wrong with the SAM clue. He was an employee of Rick's like all the others, and if you remember when Rick sold it he gave Sam no share of the proceeds, but insisted that Sam be kept on -- no prob, because Rick's would not be Rick's without Sam.


Just to show hard it is!

Limb prejudice at mountain mine: GAM BIAS IN GAP ORE

Classic movie shot of big house garners rave: PAN A MANOR, WAY TO GO

Da Vinci gal ice cream treat, hand to Muhammed: MONA CONE PALM ALI

Blue Stater 2:16 PM  

I'd say this one was the worst I've ever seen, but I've been saying (or at least thinking) that a lot of late. OFL nailed it, as usual. The puzzles seem to have taken another downward lurch recently. I'd say we deserve better, but I've been saying that a lot recently, too.

Greg 2:21 PM  

Ugh. Yet another joyless slog. Took me forever to "get" the theme, because I didn't know most of the many! proper-name crosses. I finally muddled through but didn't feel much satisfaction. Just a big eye roll. Took about 3 times my Wednesday average.

Logan 2:42 PM  

This is a tough puzzle to judge. The construction of the grid was amazing, to LMS point. But I agree with OP also in that the cluing was a massive let down. Way too much grammatical dissonance, and even flat out wrong answers (no one that lifts “tones” pecs... you tone abs). I see a lot of “amazing” or “horrible” but not much in between. Truth is this was mediocre, but could’ve been amazing with the right cluing. Editor shares some of that blame.

Anonymous 2:43 PM  

Quite easy, but fun. An enjoyable few minutes on a Wednesday morning. Thanks very much Mr. Arbesfeld!

jae 3:00 PM  

Easy-medium except where I ran into trouble in the SW. Misread the 90 degree clue and put in UEY which took a while to fix. I’m with @lms & @Nancy, this was stellar wackiness, liked it a lot!

Mike E 3:41 PM  

Well, obviously, from all the comments, is it any wonder why everyone doesn't get along? Took me about 15 minutes. Thought to myself, "That was pretty clever," and moved on. Didn't spend time gnashing my teeth or patting myself on the back or anything. It's a puzzle, not an arms treaty. Too much of else to do going on. Not UN Day today? Oh, the horror.....

Anonymous 3:49 PM  

I feel like anyone that didn't like this puzzle is someone who couldn't finish it. I thought it was quite clever.

lizz 4:26 PM  

It was fun!

Anonymous 4:52 PM  

Hard for me. Typical Fri time. Lots of crosswordese and ugly fill. But unlike OFL I liked the theme, found it clever, and was satisfied when I finished.

Anonymous 4:55 PM  

I just started doing crosswords a month or so ago and this one rocked me. I did yesterdays in about 9 minutes and felt pretty good about myself. Then I gave up on today's. I felt like several of the answers didn't make sense to me even after completing them. Oh well, guess I don't speak crossword yet.

ZenMonkey 5:15 PM  

@Anonymous 3:49:

I finished it. I understood it. I hated it.

Don't be condescending around here; a lot of these commenters are smarter than you and me combined.

Famished in Fairfield 5:27 PM  

Well, I guess we can’t say we’re starving anymore when we’re extremely hungry. It’s not going to help those children in Yemen but at least Rex gets to feel virtuous. So there’s that.

AW 5:29 PM  

Couldn't agree with you more! Thank you for articulating what is so dreadfully wrong with this puzzle.

Oh Please 5:52 PM  

Wow, we have a real love/hate split on this one.

I loved it. Once I saw that "Ira, no manic eland" was also Iran, Oman, Iceland, the wacky theme helped me figure out the rest. Which is exactly what wacky themes should do.

Stanley Hudson 5:57 PM  

While our nation burns, I continue to fiddle on Rex’s blog.

Anonymous 6:03 PM  

Oh, please. Cling to your preferences, by all means. Denigrating everyone who doesn’t share them: yuck. Personally, I laughed while I solved this puzzle and enjoyed every minute.

GHarris 6:38 PM  

Count me among those who found this puzzle hard but rewarding. Only real difficulty was in the SW where I had to get by abs and then bods before arriving at pecs. Had to work for Eliza and rio but lots of joy when I got the congratulatory fanfare.

Dick Swart 6:53 PM  

Got it, but coffee had grown very cold and pan chocolate had turned soggy.

Not a great start to a dark, cold, bordering-on-snow day in the Pacific Nprthwest!

AdamW 7:43 PM  

I'll never get over the fact that someone who hates things so much, spends all this time devoted to it.... Criminy. Some puzzles are harder than others. Some are more clever than others. Whatever. If you consistently hate it so much, don't do it. It's mind boggling.... I never blame the puzzle or the editor or the constructor when I have a tougher time that day than another.... All I ever think about is enjoying solving it, no matter what. If it takes longer, it just gives me more to do. If the only way you can enjoy something is for it to take you 3 minutes, then....well...redacted.

OISK 8:56 PM  

Liked it, and found it to be Wednesday appropriate. I spilled ink on the paper, ( I use a fountain pen) and could not read 43, 46, or 50 across. It all worked anyway, except for 43, where I had _es across, with no clue, and _etsat down, for Sics on. Sets at, or lets at? Guessed right, so 43 across is LES. Wonder what the clue was!

Anonymous 9:14 PM  

@Sir Hillary, fucking brilliant. You too, @LMS. As was this puzzle. Thanks, Mr. Arbesfeld! @ghthree, thanks to you also.

Adam 9:23 PM  

I’m with @Rex on this one. Got it when I saw IRAN in 17A, but really, the wordplay was so tortured. Also, you generally tone ABS, not PECs, so that threw me. Blech.

crabsofsteel 9:38 PM  

Got stuck on the ICELAND answer because I knew of Philip and not Ira Glass. But I finished anyway and thought it was a clever puzzle.

Jelly 9:41 PM  

Rex Parker, we are the same person. This puzzle sucked.

Nancy 10:12 PM  

@OISK -- The 43A clue is "Guitarist Paul".

OISK 10:32 PM  

Ah, Les Paul and Mary Ford....A gimme! Thanks, Nancy!

Rita 11:44 PM  

I liked the puzzle, though I needed to google to solve it.

Rex’s negative comments usually drive me batty, but I had very much the same reaction to STARVE and I was glad to see his comment. Though I would say that clue made me more sad than angry.

Vernon'sdad 12:01 AM  

Yeah! Good fun!

Barbara Bolsen 12:30 AM  

I'm late. This was horrible. A mess.

Anonymous 11:36 AM  

Agreed! Great puzzle, welcome new challenge! Rex is born to complain, you LMS - to delight!

Andrew in Texas 5:21 PM  

My worst Wednesday time ever but I loved every minute of it.

thefogman 10:47 AM  

Rex is like a video game speed runner - but with crosswords. He finds no joy in the solve and is annoyed when a gimmick eats away at precious nano seconds of his solve time. So it's no surprise he hated this one. I like to do puzzles the old-timey way. With pen on newspaper. I counted no less than 12 countries in the puzzle - that's a HEROIC construct. So many aha! and even a few WAHOO! moments. A lot of the puns made me laugh out loud. But you have to take your eye off the clock for that to happen. Alas, there are two kinds of solvers in this world. Theme lovers and theme haters. Can't we all just get along, or can the UNITEDNATIONS save us? Stay tuned. In the meantime, well done Alan Arbesfeld.

spacecraft 12:02 PM  

Half an atlas here, what with all the theme countries plus UGANDA, IONIA and ONT. Okay, so that last one's only a province--but is bigger than a lot of countries! I didn't have a whole lot of trouble with this; maybe only a little at first. Parsing the themers was the challenge--and the fun. If I have a criticism, it's that the clues for them reach uber-wackiness. That first one: wow!

An obvious choice for DOD would be GLENN Close, but how about the winsome Audrey Hepburn as ELIZA Dolittle? Wouldn't it be loverly? Honorable mention: NIA Vardalos. Y'know, I liked it. Birdie.

Burma Shave 12:10 PM  


The MEGA DOSAGE of TONIC was Viagra INCAPS, TERI said.


Anonymous 1:32 PM  

Sorry, Rex. This was both enjoyable and challenging.

Anonymous 2:00 PM  

Jokes and crosswords that have to be explained have failed.

rondo 2:22 PM  

Neither loved nor hated it. It just was. That country names run together to form other parsements is somewhat amusing.
Breast support nothing, silly friend: BRAZILCHINANEPAL – BRA ZILCH, INANE PAL
No write-overs, didn’t fall into the ISt trap.

Interesting that OFL featured yeah baby Lisa Stansfield above. Before a concert a coupla months ago she gave me a great big hug, and I’ve got photos to prove it.

I had a short conversation with singer/songwriter and yeah baby ELIZA Gilkyson after one of her concerts. STILL have the autographed CD. If you’ve never heard her check this out:

Nice geography/wordplay exercise if you’re not concerned losing nanoseconds on your solve time.

leftcoastTAM 2:52 PM  

WAHOO! A real hoot of a puzzle, with some CLOUT and pleasurable AHAs.

UNITED NATIONS, indeed. And the parsed phrases within them, though a bit strained, are fun, too.

Two noteworthy COUPLES in the fill: PAIR/DYADS and SOS/ALERT.

LETS AT for "Sics on" is a bit weak, but no biggie.

Will remember this one for some while, I think. Thanks, Mr. Arbesfeld, Shortz and company.

Diana, LIW 2:55 PM  

I love puns - love them. However, these didn't grab me. At all. They were, IMHO, ponderous. 'Snow fun. Oh well - can't love 'em all.

Lady Di

leftcoastTAM 4:38 PM  

@rondo -- BRAZILCHINANEPAL is pretty damn good! Nice one.

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