Aperitif with black currant liqueur / WED 1-9-19 / Toyota hybrids jocularly / Otto who worked in Manhattan project

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Constructor: Trenton Charlson

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium (3:56)

THEME: TMI — as in "Too Many 'I's!" ("I" is the only vowel in the grid)

Theme answers:
  • all of them?
Word of the Day: Otto FRISCH (41D: Otto who worked on the Manhattan Project) —
Otto Robert Frisch FRS (1 October 1904 – 22 September 1979) was an Austrianphysicist who worked on nuclear physics. With Lise Meitner he advanced the first theoretical explanation of nuclear fission (coining the term) and first experimentally detected the fission by-products. Later, with his collaborator Rudolf Peierls he designed the first theoretical mechanism for the detonation of an atomic bomb in 1940. (wikipedia)
• • •

Hello! It's the first full week after New Year's Day and that means it's time for my annual pitch for financial contributions to the blog, during which I ask regular readers to consider what the blog is worth to them on an annual basis and give accordingly. As you know, I write this blog every. Single. Day. OK, two days a month I pay young people to write it, but every other day, all me. OK sometimes I take vacations and generous friends of mine sit in, but otherwise, I'm a non-stop blogging machine. Seriously, it's a lot of work. It's at least as much work as my day job, and unlike my day job, the hours *kinda* suck—I typically solve and write between 10pm and midnight, or in the early hours of the morning, so that the blog can be up and ready for you to read with your breakfast or on the train or in a forest or wherever it is you enjoy the internet. I have no major expenses, just my time. As I've said before, I have no interest in "monetizing" the blog in any way beyond simply asking for money once a year. I hate ads in real life, so why would I subject you all to them. I actually considered redesigning the site earlier this year, making it slicker or fancier somehow. I even got the process partly underway, but then when I let slip that I was considering it, feedback was brisk and clear: don't change. Turns out people don't really want whistles and bells. Just the plain, internet-retro style of a blogger blog. So that's what you're getting. No amount of technical tinkering is gonna change the blog, which is essentially just my voice. My ridiculous opinionated voice yelling at you, cheerfully and angrily, about how much I love / hate crosswords. I hope that this site has made you laugh or taught you things or given you a feeling of shared joy, or anger, or failure, or even given you someone to yell at. I'm fine with that. I also hope I've introduced some of you to the Wider World of Crosswords, beyond the NYT. I am passionate about puzzles and I (mostly) adore the people who solve them—so many of my friends, and the thousands of you I've never met. I can't stop, and I won't stop, and I hope you find that effort worth supporting.

Some people refuse to pay for what they can get for free. Others just don't have money to spare. All are welcome to read the blog—the site will always be open and free. But if you are able to express your appreciation monetarily, here are two options. First, a Paypal button (which you can also find in the blog sidebar):

Second, a mailing address:

Rex Parker c/o Michael Sharp
54 Matthews St
Binghamton, NY 13905

All Paypal contributions will be gratefully acknowledged by email. All snail mail contributions (I. Love. Snail mail!) will be gratefully acknowledged with hand-written postcards. This year's cards are illustrations from "Alice in Wonderland"—all kinds of illustrations from throughout the book's publication history. Who will get the coveted, crosswordesey "EATME!" card!? Someone, I'm sure. You, I hope. Please note: I don't keep a "mailing list" and don't share my contributor info with anyone. And if you give by snail mail and (for some reason) don't want a thank-you card, just say NO CARD.  As ever, I'm so grateful for your readership and support.

Now on to the puzzle!
• • •

Man, 2019 is trying my patience (emphasis on "man"—2019 constructor count to date: 8 men, 1 woman). We had a nice puzzle on Sunday, and then theme-overload, theme-overload, and now this bizarre stunt puzzle that no one could possibly have been asking for. I'm fairly sure this has been done before, with most if not all the vowels. But here we are doing it with "I" — For Some Reason. I finished the puzzle and thought it was choppy and odd and kind of bland, but had no idea what the theme was. Then I saw a looooooooong string of "I"s running on a diagonal through the middle of the grid, and thought the diagonal "I" thing was the thing, but it's not even *that* interesting. It's just ... "I"s. Look at the diagonals in the middle of that grid. 11 "I"s (!) alongside 7 "N"s and 6 "G"s (OK one of those "G"s is a "K," but same diff). I wasn't CRINGING while solving this, but I'm CRINGING now. There's no reason for this puzzle to exist. There are no interesting answers. There is no interesting effect. There's no title or revealer or nothin'. The most "original" thing in this grid is a name I have never seen in my life, the most difficult thing in the puzzle by far. Everything else was easy. And fairly dull. And, just ... so many -INGs.

Really wish there were more to say, but there is decidedly not. Well, maybe five things.

Five things:
  • 11A: Bit of bunny slope gear (MINISKI) — what is this? Is it "mini" 'cause it's for babies? Dictionary says "a short ski used by beginners or skibobbers." And no, I am not going to look up "skibobbers." I'm just going to imagine they are bobby-soxers on skis. Yes. That works.
  • 49D: Toyota hybrids, jocularly (PRII) — No. This is no longer jocular. Though "jocularly" *is* making me laugh
  • 37A: With 38-Across, cocktail with lemon or lime (GIN / SLING) — at this point, I though there was some weird black square = ampersand theme and the answer here was GIN [and] TONIC
  • 35D: Russian pancake (BLIN) — wow, this looks remarkably dumb in the singular
  • 16A: Finalize, as comic art (INK IN) — er ... I mean ... not really. INK is the right answer. The inker finalizes the art. It goes penciller, inker, colorist ... candlestickmaker ... Speaker of the House ... gamma delta ... the Professor and Mary Ann.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld (Twitter @rexparker / #NYTXW)

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


puzzlehoarder 12:13 AM  

When I was a kid I had a book called "A Hole Is To Dig". Today's offering suggested another title to me, "A PUZZLE IS TO SOLVE." Like any construction so oblivious to that essential quality, this was a bore to fill in.

jae 12:19 AM  

Easy. OK, this must be “stare at the grid to grok the theme week”. At first I thought “that’s a boatload of ING words” and then it hit me.

I’ve seen this before and it was kind of annoying then too.

Patrick O'Connor 12:59 AM  

I feel bad that I have enjoyed the puzzles this week while they have not been enjoyable. In fact, about halfway through many of the puzzles, I've started shaking my head and saying, "Oh, Rex isn't going to like this," and yet I still enjoy the puzzle. In this case, I figured out right away that i would be the only vowel, and that was a small added pleasure, even as it constrained the possible answers and, yes, produced too many -ings. But that just reminded me of a Roches song I've always liked: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3QMApfa5AUo

mmorgan 1:03 AM  

I first thought there were way too many answers with IN, then I figured that was part of the conceit, but it actually never registered with me that the only vowel was I. I don’t really disagree with Rex’s critique, but I still found this to be a pretty fun (and very quick) solve. And TMI does add a nice touch to the whole thing. I agree about INK vs INKIN, but part of me looks at that long diagonal of I’s and just says, Wow.

Carl LaFong 1:24 AM  

M is a Roman numeral and so is I. MIX = numerals, plural. Meh cluing. Too picky?

Carola 1:38 AM  

I got so caught up in wrong ideas about the theme: consonant + word (T-SHIRT, G-STRING) or words rhyming with WILD THING, that I didn't notice that "I" was the only vowel until I looked back over the grid to see how it might qualify as TIGHTKNIT. As to @Rex's "There's no interesting effect," I think for me what was interesting was the question, how far do you get in the puzzle before you notice?

chefwen 2:10 AM  

We’re going to have caviar to celebrate, but we only have one BLIN so we’ll have to cut in little pieces and share. C’mon! I never have heard or read BLINI in the singular.

Thought that there was a boatload of i’s but didn’t go back and figure out that was the only vowel. Lazy on my part. I’m impressed, that couldn’t have been easy to construct.

Larry Gilstrap 2:38 AM  

I stroll into a dimly lit room to retrieve the puzzle from the printer and gaze at the upside down grid and exclaim: That seems like a lot of black squares. Whatever that means!

This clever egocentric gambit was totally lost on me. Words have meaning and are not just a collection of letters, not consonants and vowel. I would have slunk off and never have noticed without reading OFL.

Gawd! That SW was a mess; looking at you 41D. Had I been hip to the trick, would have been no problem.

Yesterday, I posted a hilarious image of a Zamboni machine resurfacing the ice bar top in a Las Vegas hotel and I get nothing. Actually, I read most of the comments, yet rarely @commenters, so you're forgiven. Today, it's in a clue for RINK. Feeling prescient.

Two sweet words: SPRIG and WINING. Feel free to vamp on either.

JOHN X 2:39 AM  

I never noticed the "all I" theme until I read it here, but I've definitely noticed that (most) of the 2019 puzzles have been very macho. They're puzzles that were constructed by men and for men. These are puzzles for a man who get's business done at the office and at home as well. When I finished this puzzle I scratched my balls and said "YES! This crossword puzzle speaks to ME!"

'merican in Paris 4:13 AM  

My solving experience was sImIlar to that of @mmorgan (as Is often the case). I thought that the theme had more to do with ING, and dIdn't notice that I was the only vowel untIl coming here. That dIagonal Is ImpressIve -- pIty that It couldn't be extended across all the whole 15 squares.

My vIew Is that thIs puzzle was a mIssed opportunIty by the edItor. Instead of runnIng it on January 9th, it could have been run on January fIrst, and the clue for 43A could have then been wrItten as "What many people do to the New Year, wIth "In". CHIMING, FLIP, BRINK and BRING IT could have also been tIed to the New Year's theme. Even the MagI's GIFTS did not get delIvered until January.

Apart from that, what's not to lIke about a puzzle that includes the Troggs' classic, WILD THING? That was, by far, my favorIte song of 1966. It also spawned a hIlarIous cover version sung by somebody pretendIng to be Bobby Kennedy.

@Carl LaFong -- I don't understand your NIT. The clue is "Verb that's also a Roman numeral". MIX = 1,009. To me, that counts as a Roman numeral, unless one wants to be a stIckler and say it should be called a Roman number.

@John X -- I must admIt, your last comment had me in stItches!

Loren Muse Smith 4:45 AM  

Boy, Rex. You sure gave this one the stink eye. But to proclaim, “There's no reason for this puzzle to exist. There are no interesting answers. There is no interesting effect” is easily refutable. To wit – I got a real kick out of it; its interesting effect was the aha moment when I caught on.

So @Carola gets the prize for point of the day – how far did you get in before you saw it?

I ‘ll never forget that Sunday puzzle called “Eland” that had only E’s. In a similar vein, I’m reminded of Patrick Berry’s tour de force of Saturday, May 19, 2012. SPOILER ALERT: This link takes you to the Rex write up and hence the solution. It’s worth solving if you want to take the date and dig up the puzzle yourself. Really worth it.

@Patrick O'Connor, join the club. I love the puzzles Rex hates and still question myself.

I had a student come up to me a few weeks ago and ask why it was in the blink of an eye when a blink uses two eyes. He suggested it should be in the wink of an eye or in a blink of the eyes. I was childishly jealous that this freshman noticed the problem before I did, but I was gracious and acted all happy for him and stuff, and he’s now on my wall of fame. To achieve this accolade, all you have to do is surprise me, so it’s very hard to get up there. I find a picture of the kid and write out an explanation of why they made it. What I really like about it is that it’s not just filled with students like the student I was, ya know? More than half the pictures on the wall are of the goofy, disruptive, ‘troubled” kids. You could argue that Anything these kinds of kids do that doesn't involve drinking Windex on a dare would surprise me, but honestly, that's not the case. They're up there for some really cool observations.

“Mic” before MIX. And I stared off again picturing mic in the past tense. Miced. Micked ala picnicked, panicked. I know, I know, mic’d or miked works, but I just like to stir the problematic past tense pot.

I didn’t know they were called MINISKIs, either. But I’ve suffered the humiliation of standing around on the slopes at Sugar Mountain in NC with the rest of my European Rotary Scholar group (Austrian boyfriend Friedl whose family owned a ski resort, so his skis were like 15 yards long, and he could do cartwheels I swear I saw him) me the only one wobbling on short, fat little Vienna sausages of skis. Skidom’s equivalent of the thick pencils kindergartners use.

In a similar vein, those 18-inch long lacquered chopsticks also require dexterity and finesse to use. I lived with a family in Japan one summer, and after I launched a piece of pumpkin across the table, I lost Shiny Pointy Chopsticks Privilege, and my hosts put waribashi at my place every night. These are fat short wooden ones you break apart. Chopstickdom’s equivalent of the MINISKI.

Hey, Trenton, you sure have a roving eye, buddy. Loved this!

Z 5:11 AM  

Change that K to a G making BRINg/WINg and fix that G-STRING, already.

I never did notice. I had to come here to see it. Again, I’m just not amused by letter play. So What? You should really do that Berry puzzle if you haven’t, but what makes it a tour de force is what it isn’t. Specifically, it is not a pangram. That was the last puzzle centered around letter play that I rate as “great.” None sense even qualify as “good.” Give me word play, puns, grid art, rebopodes, missing words, reversed words, angled words, split words, Any Sort Of Playing With WORDS . The worst puzzle that plays with words is better than any puzzle that plays with letters.

btgrover 6:25 AM  

Finished the entire puzzle (in good time!) as Rex did without noticing the theme. Whatever. It’s fine. FRISCH/TINCT was borderline natick territory for me, but guessed correctly. Still, tinct? Moving on...

Avi Miller 6:40 AM  

‘Fat little Vienna sausages of skis” made me laugh. Thank you. And reminded me of an early skiing fiasco, getting my snorkel coat (I’m dating myself here) caught on the T bar and instead of skiing off the lift being pulled back up in the air like a sky angel, wildly flapping my arms as if flying.

Lewis 6:45 AM  

I'm glad there was no revealer, because finally seeing the theme (post-solve) made for a solving moment that easily justified the puzzle being made, to me. I looked for an ING theme, a hidden revealer, and other connections that could make a theme, but then there was this magical mini-moment where the whole world went still and the theme became clear -- nothing I asked for, simply my brain saying, "Shut up, stop thinking, here you go" and then, the revelation. A calm seeing.

I noticed that despite all the I's in the puzzle, Trenton never used it to mean "myself" in the answers. It seemed like he was downplaying the ego, and that echoed how my figuring out the theme felt, my ego taking a bow to let the answer in. I'm thinking this is all a good portent for the year to come!

RavTom 7:18 AM  

What a fun puzzle! And I’m glad that @LMS liked it, in part to show that, contra @JOHN X, it wasn’t just because I have a Y chromosome.

LaurieG in Connecticut 7:26 AM  

I appear to be in the minority today (not unusual) but I got a kick out of this puzzle. I didn't notice the theme was just somehow entertained by the plethora of Ks, -ights, and -ings.

kitshef 7:29 AM  

Tried to rebus GOLDRING in at 43A, as I’m sure everyone did.

@Carola - I finally noticed what was going on with only about ten squares in the NE remaining to be filled it.

To that point, I had made unhappy noises at BRING IT and ILKS, but on any given day there will be a couple of bits of frightful fill, so the gimmick did not adversely affect the solve at all. Rex apparently had the same experience and only got irritated post solve. I say, well done Trenton.

I particularly liked WILD THING and G STRING and nice to see our own GILL (I) in the grid. On the down side, M&A is likely to lodge an official protest.

QuasiMojo 7:30 AM  

Boy, I remember Wild Thing too. It was playing the night they raided Miniskis! Those snow bunnies all came out into the cool air wearing nothing but G strings. Except Ini, who was from Minsk. She just wore a pair of Blinis. Silly theme but I dig it.

Small Town Blogger 7:44 AM  

MIX is the (singular) 1,009

amyyanni 7:46 AM  

I'm impressed.....ok, I am overlooking FRISCH. Also, realize need to put @ before mentioning prior commentor? As in '@Z, I do get your point and prefer word play puzzles.' Still appreciate the effort here.

ArtO 8:09 AM  

Geez, what a nasty writeup. Guy takes the trouble to create a puzzle with only the "i" vowel and gets castigated. Give me a break. The idea of creating a puzzle is to try to do something different and slightly challenging (if it's mid-week or later). IMHO this is what Mr. Charlson achieved.

As for only one woman out of nine to start the year, isn't it a bit early to draw a gender discriminatory conclusion. How about waiting at least a month. There's not a pollster who would draw a conclusion based on a sample of nine. Also, why not ask Will what's the ratio of male to female submissions before drawing such an accusatory conclusion.

This I Vow 8:12 AM  

I miss the other vowels. Especially A.

pabloinnh 8:18 AM  

I remembered the time we had all e's, so I caught on just after finishing the NW corner. Being a male, like JOHN X, I hope this is faster than everyone else so I can feel good about myself. But seriously folks, I think this kind of construction is impressive. Sure doesn't look easy to me.

I thought we had the short ski situation all settled, as they were invented by @Nancy, but apparently there's more to the story.

Best thing about today's offering is it gives us a chance to use the phrase "stunt puzzle", which is one of my favorites.

Hungry Mother 8:35 AM  

Ripped right though this one, at Tuesday speed. Didn’t notice a theme.

Dorothy Biggs 8:47 AM  

Put this is the pile of "Because you can doesn't mean you should" puzzles over there. You might need to make another pile.

Why, at the very least, could TMI not have been clued as a revealer?

Sort of similar, I listened to the Busoni Piano Concerto the other day because some friends of mine were talking about how "audacious" it was. If you have nothing to do with about 30 minutes of your time, you might listen to it and understand, in all of its glory, what the phrase "because you can doesn't mean you should" means. That phrase doesn't mean what was done wasn't good...or that it didn't climb some mountain of challenges to get it done...it just means that for all the work it took to do it, it wasn't worth the payoff. In the case of Busoni, it's a monumental work with all kinds of beauty, thick chords, romantic piano technique, lush harmonies, etc., but there is just no coherence.

The Busoni vis a vis this puzzle is not entirely apt because this is just a simple little Wednesday puzzle trying to make its way in the world. But the comparison stands: Using just the letter I as the only vowel in a puzzle might have brought with it certain challenges that are, I suppose, masterfully solved. But, there is no payoff here of any substance. In same way you might casually admire Busoni for the work he put in on the concerto, you'd also be hard pressed to compare it to coherent similar works (Brahms, Rachmaninoff) and see that true masters of the art were able to rein in the forces of the art and communicate something. Busoni and this puzzle do not. It is just a self congratulatory work that points to itself for no other reason than to say, "Hey! Look what I can do!" To which many of us might answer, "Cool. Now can you actually do something with that?"

Maybe, a slight nod at TMI would have brought it together. But I doubt it.

Cassieopia 8:51 AM  

Got the theme at the same time the little "halfway!" bubble floated up from the NYT puzzle app. There seemed to be an awful lot of "ING"s, I thought, then noticed hey, only Is. That helped me change color to INKIN, orzo to ZITI, and to wrestle MINISKI to the ground. This made for a lightning fast Wednesday by my standards. I did miss the "TMI" as "too many i" though, nice catch Rex. Looking forward to @M&As post on the lack of Us.

I probably noticed the theme early because i is my least favorite vowel; there may even be an active antipathy involved here. When i shows up in my Scrabble or Words With Friends tray, I get irritated; if there are 3 or more I will swap and strategy be damned.

@JoeBleaux from yesterday: ever since last fall posting has become weird for me. I can no longer post from my iPhone - I will comment, publish, and it never ever ever shows up on this site. Plus the site (from my iPhone) no longer recognizes me as Cassieopia. So I have had to punt and actually post from a PC. How Neanderthal. I believe @Z suggested it may be an iOS upgrade that did me in; around that time a lot of other people started complaining about the captchas and the posting and disappearing comments.

anitafio 9:04 AM  

@avi. X. I too took flight with the t-bar caught in my coat. I must have been six or seven back in the early fifties at Grey Rocks in St. Jovite north of Montreal. Was too young for puzzles then but we played marathon games of Monopoly in the lodge every evening.

Sir Hillary 9:12 AM  

*'m l*k*ng T*GHTKN*T. W*LDTH*NG *s b*tch*n'. BL*N? TR**?? *'m s*ck.

W*ll, s*r, th*s gr*d *sn't w*nn*ng.

Anonymous 9:15 AM  

Yay another puzzle more about showing off the constructor’s ego than anything else. Another puzzle with only one vowel. We’ve seen this before. Ain’t nothing new. Meh

Anonymous 9:16 AM  

Please, Please stop with "This puzzle would be so hard to construct" nonsense.

1) Create a view on your word database where the word doesn't contain A,E,O,U, or Y. One line of code.
2) Pick an easy to fill out grid.
3) Stick in a few themers - WILDTHING, GSTRING, TIGHTKNIT, etc.
4) Press Auto Complete.
5) Grid good? GOTO 7
6) Move the themers around to see if things work out better when you GOTO 4.
7) Submit

GILL I. 9:17 AM  

@Distancia H 8:47....Interesting post. "just because you can, doesn't mean you should." I say WHY NOT?
Maybe I've never stopped ( I don't think ever) to think that my first time endeavors might not be met with aplomb or praise. I've always thought of "me" first and the pleasure I get for having done so. If others agree, so be it. If not, then it's on them. I don't care nor dwell.
I was pretty sure @Rex would dislike this puzzle. I don't think the puzzle suffered at all because of its stunt. Aren't puzzlers running out of fresh ideas? Yes, it's a stunt but it's well thought out and executed. You've got my applause, Trenton Charlson and besides, with a name like yours, I don't think you can go wrong. ;-)
MILLI Vanilli...Did he lip sync because he had a LISP? Talk about CRINGING and STIFLING.
The last thing I thought about was MINI SKI for the bunny slope gear. The bunny slopes at Tahoe are filled with cute little chicks dressed to the nines, standing around and looking gorgeous holding a GIN SLING. None know how to ski but boy, they sure look like eye candy.
@kitshef: "I particularly liked WILD THING and G STRING and nice to see our own GILL(I) in the grid." I have to defend my honor. I was not born (alas) with a Brazilian nor a Cuban butt. A G STRING in my repertoire might have caused me dishonor. I saw one of those Dr. TV shows where they showed a butt enhancement surgery gone wrong. You think fat botoxed lips look scary, just see what bad fanny implants do to your derrière.... I am the breakfast of champions!

Greg Charles 9:27 AM  

Before thiis puzzle came out, I was killing time with a puzzle from the archives, Sunday, Sept. 20, 2015, and it also had Otto FRISCH in it! Right at 1D! This happens to me bizarrely often when I do an old puzzle.

Junief 9:37 AM  

@LMS Any idea as to how I might get my hands on that Patrick Berry puzzle aside from contacting my local hoarder? Many thanks.

Fordham Flash 9:38 AM  

This was a nice easy Wednesday . I knew there was something going on but had to go to Xword Info to get the theme. It’s quite an accomplishment. Don’t care what gender the constructor is as long as the puzzle is good. 👍🏻

QuasiMojo 9:38 AM  

@Cassieopia, so that may explain why I’ve had troubles with recent posts seeming to vanish. I thought it was just Rex being persnickety. Lately I’ve had three comments not make it to the blog. (I’m sure some of you might be glad of that.)

@Distancia, I just listened to 30 minutes of Busoni’s Piano Concerto and found it fascinating and thrilling. Garrick Ohlsson. I can’t wait to hear the rest. In my book a better example of “Can Do but Don’t” would be John Cage and his infamous non-performance piece 4’33.

@Gill I, agree! I’ve never understood the point of all these people getting nose jobs, Fanny tucks, butt implants, breast enlargements, lipos et alii. In China I read that some women have shin implants to make themselves taller. Why bother? You’re still left with your personality. Work on that and the rest won’t matter. Something I glean from your comments that you have managed to do beautifully.

Anonymous 9:40 AM  

They missed a nice opportunity for a clever clue, something like "The I's have it!"

Anonymous 9:46 AM  

How could everyone NOT notice there were only I's in the puzzle??????!!!??????????!!!

Open your I's!!!

Anonymous 9:48 AM  

Anon @916
Fantastic if you know how to do all that. Some of us aren't well versed in computer technology.

Anonymous 10:04 AM  

Anybody else notice that although we are nine days into 2019 there has not been even one puzzle created by a Black, transgender, senior citizen? I've complained to the NYT but doubt if they'll care.

Hartley70 10:08 AM  

(Aye yi yi song playing in the background) While solving first in the middle, I assumed the theme concerned the ING sound. I knew that was wrong when I saw TIGHTKNIT. I solved like a themeless because I didn’t notice the Is watching me until the end. It’s a clever little constructor trick and light enough for a Wednesday I think, but it didn’t make “my heart sing”.
I did the New Yorker puzzle for the first time right before this and enjoyed it more.

Amelia 10:09 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
RooMonster 10:10 AM  

Hey All !
When I first looked at the grid, I said, "Holy cow, there's a lot of black squares!" 46 of them (with 38 the usual max.) Then as I ws solving, noticed that only I's were being used. "Huh, no wonder there's so many blocks, there's only I's in the grid!" Which got me to change TINge to TIN__. (TINCT) I'm quite surprised a bunch of y'all didn't notice no other vowels were in here.

The trouble with only I's, is you end up with too many INGs. There's 13 (if I counted correctly) in here, with a two-fer at CRINGING. Plus there's almost a (@M&A) weeject word ladder, INI, INS, IFS, IST, INT, IRT, INIT. Mind you, I know it's tough to construct a puz with just I words, I did one once with just O as the only vowel. The grid was way wonky, with lots of black squares also. And that was pre-Crossword Compiler! *Pats myself on the back* :-)

Overall, I did like this puz, at least we didn't get III as a RRN, although I did get a KICK out of MIX as both a verb and a RRN! Good stuff.

Darrin V

JC66 10:25 AM  


If you have access to the NY Times web sight go here and click on "Archives" to find any past puzzle.

KBF 10:33 AM  

I'm in the middle of a biography of the French writer Georges Perec (by David Bellos), one of the early members of the group known as Oulipo (worth a Google), which advocated a literature of constraints. (Perec wrote an entire novel without the letter E...) This puzzle is the opposite, a "monovocalic," using only one vowel. Doesn't exactly further the cause of literature (as the Oulipians sought to do), but I thought it was clever and (with caveats) fun.

pmdm 10:43 AM  

I did not notice this puzzle had only I vowels. Made no difference to me. Not an AHA moment but a SO WHAT moment. I didn't find the puzzle bad. I guess I damn it with faint praise.

I accessed LMS's link. In the write-up, Mr. Sharp had this to say.

"Rule #1 of puzzle construction: emulate Patrick Berry in all things. You will never be his equal, but the only honorable thing to do is die trying."

In 2002 Patrick composed a puzzle with only one vowel in it. (You can find the link of XWordInfo. Seems to me you could say that's what happened today. What gives?

Nancy 10:44 AM  

I haven't read any of y'all yet, but I just know this puzzle is going to be almost universally hated. I just know it. Its repetitiveness is so incredibly tedious, such a complete drag, that it's a real chore to fill it in. Then add to that all the POCs (a term I learned here) and all the ugly three-letter words or, more accurately, non-words... Ugh, say I. And double Ugh.

I knew there was going to be a theme-explanation for this misery. I didn't know what it would be and didn't care in the least. I came here and now I know. Does it justify this horror? Not even close.

What? 10:51 AM  

This puzzle has a theme? Why is Shortz not editing nonsense like this?

Anonymous 10:59 AM  

I'm sure it would have been a brilliant puzzle had the constructor been a woman, eh, Rex?

Nancy 11:00 AM  

While I'm still CRINGING from the STIFLING monotony of all those -INKS and -INGS, a fair number of you are CHIMING in to say you liked this puzzle. I guess it takes all ILKS to make a TIGHTKNIT community of solvers.

Loren Muse Smith 11:06 AM  

@Junief - If you can't find it through @JC66's link, email me at nerol2 at msn.

@Distancia Horticrux -Wow. Just wow. What a great catch/comment on TMI. Brilliant.

Rita 11:12 AM  

Can someone explain to me what makes this puzzle macho? I carry around a sizeable feminist chip on my shoulder and I don’t see it.

ghthree 11:13 AM  

Started in the Northwest, as usual. Had COOL for 11 Down and WOES for 17 Across. Seen a lot of "WOES" in Rex's blog. Even when the word wasn't in the clue.
After touring the grid (reading each clue at least once), got back to the Northwest. About half the squares filled in.
Had an AHA moment. Changed WOES to ILLS and COOL to MILD. Epiphany!
After grokking the theme, the rest of the puzzle flew.
Never heard of Troggs, but remembered "WILD THING" from the Bobby Kennedy version.
Managed to complete this post without once using first person singular pronoun in nominative case. Reminded me of President Bush senior.

BTW, this would have been a great theme for Epiphany, with the three gifts in 1 Across.
But this year, Epiphany (January 6) was on Sunday. Wrong sized grid!

Malsdemare 11:20 AM  

Good laughs this morning; any puzzle that gets JOHN X is rare form and LMS telling stories is great in my book. I imagine everyone who’s ever skiid has a tale to tell. Ours was at a WV ski resort many Christmases ago. Two daughters and a boyfriend got their skis tangled getting ON the lift, and one by one, like dominoes, they tumbled to the ground. They had to stop the lft for ten minutes while everyone got their skis sorted and managed to get back in the chair, all the while everyone — and I mean everyone, attendents, those in line, folks dangling above the ground waiting for the lift to begin again — laughed so hard the tears streamning donw their cheeks froze to their faces. Epic moment. I will also mention that skiing first thing on Christmas morning is celestial — everyone else in the world is inside a church; we were in the real church. Breathtaking!

Of course I didn’t see the trick, ANd I didn’t know Otto or the other guy, but that’s okay. I did give the stink eye to BLIN, but otherwise, it was a one-cup-of-coffee puzzle and I’m fine with that. Now to try the PB; thanks for the hint, Loren.

Karl Grouch 11:27 AM  

Nitpicking skit: Bit tiring, ill fit.
I, dim wit, split it in six. TMI: big s*it!

Masked and Anonymous 11:30 AM  

This is ik with m&i, is ling is thiy dint di this igiin.

Many Thanx to the nice Comment Gallery folks who extended M&A their sympathies, on account of the U-less WedPuz. I can forgive Mr. Charlson for that, as he had a pretty good excuse … obviously he'd been drinkin real heavily, while dreamin up the puz.

I caught on to the theme mcguffin reasonably early, after fillin in most of the NW corner. This made the rest of the solvequest a breeze. Especially since the desperado-meter seldom pegged. PRII comes close, tho. Also, as @RP pointed out, 12 -ING words might be a new record.

Thoroughly enjoyed the extended shaded jaws of themelessness, in the N-central and S-central grid areas. I say themeless, only in the sense that otherwise there are 78 themers, I reckon. Whatever, tho.

fave fillins: WILDTHING. GSTRING. BLING. They sorta try to be in -ING denial, slightly.
stiff wiijict pick: WII.

Thanx, Mr. Charlson. FYI: M&A once did a 15x15 puz that was all E's; no consonants, either -- just E's. The challenge was more in the cluin.

Masked & Anonymo s

[no runt today, on account of gov. shutdown]

F. 11:30 AM  

BLIN read as normal to me due to speaking Russian. But I did like it because it’s a mild invective, the kind of thing you say when you don’t want to swear. (Why do Russians say “pancake” instead of “darn”? The same reason we say “fudge” or “sugar”—passing resemblance to a much, MUCH filthier word.)

old timer 11:40 AM  

I enjoyed the puzzle though I only now noticed the gimmick.

One thing I appreciated was the correct use of IRISH to refer to the form of Gaelic taught in Ireland, and used by a minority, mostly in the West and far Northwest of the Republic. When the use of Irish was forbidden or at least discouraged in Northern Ireland, there was quite a little cottage industry of Irish language schools across the border in Donegal.

And the proper word is IRISH. Not Erse, which is spoken in the Highlands and islands of Scotland. And certainly not my first guess, "Scots" which is the form of English spoken in most of that country, the language of Robbie Burns.

Doug Garr 11:51 AM  

I've had three Toyota Priuses. I now have a plug-in Prius. I've never in all this years heard the term PRII. MINISKI is just ridiculous. I thought the theme was ING-ing.

Nancy 11:58 AM  

@Cassieopia (8:51) -- One of the reasons I still haven't replaced my 2008 *at death's door*, slower-than-slow-and-you-have-to-press-everything-five-times-to-make-it-respond laptop is that I live in fear that the Rexblog site won't know who I am if I post from a different computer. That I will suddenly become a non-person. (I don't have to worry about what would happen on a smartphone because I don't have -- and don't want -- a smartphone.)

@Quasi (9:38) -- Well I certainly would miss you if all your posts mysteriously disappeared. When a few of my longish ones disappeared into the ether last year, and I absolutely didn't have the time or inclination to try to reproduce them and was lamenting the time I wasted writing them in the first place, I discovered the cut-and-paste method. I automatically use it now on every post, so that I can reproduce my comment with a single click of a key if or when it ever happens again. I highly recommend your doing that too. It doesn't take long for it to become a habit. I'm about to use it now.

Dictionary Dan 12:00 PM  

Not too picky, but too incorrect. A numeral is "a figure, symbol, or group of these denoting a number." So you're right that M, I, and X are numerals, but the group of them (MIX) representing 1009 is also a numeral. 1, 0, and 9 are numerals, and so is 1009.

Turalura 12:05 PM  

Why the picture of beings from "Where the Wild Things Are"? Did you think that was the Cheshire Cat?

Turalura 12:07 PM  

Ignore my last comment. I just realized where the WILDTHINGs are.

TJS 12:20 PM  

@old timer, Then what is Gaelic ?

Joe Bleaux 12:26 PM  

Thank you! “It ain’t just me” is always a good feeling in crossworld. (And since you are reading this, my problem may finally have somehow been resolved.)

Suzie Q 12:32 PM  

I liked it and caught on roughly halfway through. Then it was fun wondering how many words fit the theme. My favorite clue/answer was water cooler for brig.
I don't care who writes my puzzle as long as I enjoy it.

Anonymous 12:37 PM  

Easy (for me) for the most part. A little sticky in the lower right corner, though. A fun challenge through and through. Thanks very much, Mr. Charlson.

QuasiMojo 12:38 PM  

@Nancy 11:58, if I may pat myself on the back a bit it was “I” who first suggested the “cut and paste” method to save your posts. Lol. I didn’t repost those that were recently lost because I assumed Rex had removed them and it seemed pointless as he could then remove it again. I see now I was just being paranoid, and acting like I was the center of his universe. As if he would give two hoots anyway.

Anoa Bob 12:55 PM  

Based on my limited experience, I ideate that using only one vowel would make for an insanely difficult construction. There are some ways to counterbalance that challenge and make it a little easier to fill the grid.

One way is to use more black squares. I believe it was Descartes, or maybe Pascal, who proved that as the number of black squares go up, the grid-fill difficulty factor goes down. And this grid, as noted by @Larry Gilstrap and @Roo Monster, has a ton of them, 46. If that's not a record high number, it must be close. If we could use, say, a hundred black squares or more, we'd all be top constructors.

Another way is to use what might be called letter-count inflation(LCI), where a base word gets extra letters appended to boost its grid-fill capacity.

One example of this maneuver is to take a verb and make it a gerund/participle by adding _ING. Going from WINE to WINING (7D), e.g., will net a 50% letter-count increase. Several of those in the grid.

The most common of all letter-count inflation techniques is to simply tack on the ultra useful letter S, to make a plural of convenience (POC, hi @Nancy). And I think this grid may hold the record for the most use of this device. The grid opens with GIFTS, GILLS, INDS, ILLS, and IDS, and that's just in the NW corner. POCs continue unabated throughout the grid, ending with SIRS, SIGHS, FINNS, and SNIPS in the SE. I lost count.

NITS you say? It comes down to whether you like the theme enough to overlook these grid-fill infelicities, or not. Judging from comments above, the results are mixed. Put me in that second group.

pbc 12:56 PM  

i've had homes in ski areas, and my kids grew up on bunny slopes, starting as early as age two. i've never heard the term 'miniski.' it may technically exist, but it's still bogus.

Teedmn 1:11 PM  

Count me aMIDST those who didn't get the theme until @Rex's TMI comment (I even went back to the clue for TMI to see if it referenced the theme - good one, Rex.) Possibly I missed the theme of "For Your I's Only" because I had briefly entered FINe for 31D and Guts for 28D, thus negating the I effect in my head. But probably I wouldn't have noticed no matter what.

I did see the G-STRING going up the ladder (with that mysterious K in the middle. "What is the meaning of the K?" I asked myself.) I also saw a Boggled S-WIG near the GIN SLING. Hmm, look for more angled words...or maybe not.

I did not solve this SWIFTly. I wasn't comfortable with BLIN or TINCT; they didn't look right. I did think some of the cluing was clever. With B__G in at 46D, I thought a water cooler might be a BerG and actually wrote that in (another non-I vowel distraction). BRIG made much more sense after the TIGHT-KNIT sweater broke up BerG. I liked "Face cards, informally" for IDS. And something about I's seems to bring out F's - I did notice that quantity on @Roo's behalf. But no U's for M&A, by definition. :-(

Nice job, Trenton, I like it.

What? 1:13 PM  

I’m beginning to think that Shortz likes a puzzle that’s difficult to construct, over and above anything else, like solving ease and a meh theme. He has a soft spot for constructers because he knows how difficult it is to, well, construct.

Richard 1:34 PM  

Someone didn't even notice. I.

Puzzler 1:40 PM  

You’re sure a bundle of joy to read this year.

RooMonster 1:59 PM  

@Teedmn 1:11 (Appropriate time, BTW)
Har. There's 6 F's today, thanks for noticing! There's also 6 K's. I guess I's bring out F's, K's, and -NG's.

I believe you shared some of those EEEE clues from your all E puz once before. Good stuff. I might actually be able to fill that grid in in under 3 minutes! You should make that one a Special Runtz Holiday Spectacular Whiz Bang Puz, or somesuch. You can mail me my consultation check. :-)


okanaganer 2:13 PM  

This grid's trick is filling it with I's. Is it limiting, stifling, inhibiting? In this critic's mind, it is.

Is it thrilling, gripping, stirring? I think Will thinks it is.

Anonymous 2:16 PM  

Never one to get all worked up over how I feel about the puzzle - I liked it fine, and when I realized the only vowel is I conceit about halfway through, it help me fix TINge-TINCT and BerG-BRIG (hi @Teedmn).

If I ever did get the time to construct and then have my published puzzle eviscerated by OFL, it wouldn't bother me much, since I always feel his rants are most often driven by being so time-focused, and anything that's completely unknown or otherwise detracts from the speed-solving can't help but color his review. While obviously fine for some, I think many folks just want a diversion to help get them through the day.


Masked and Anonymous 3:14 PM  

@Roo: The epic-ly bad M&A "Big Easy" 15x15 puz to which U refer is not for the faint-of-heart xword fan. It unfortunately ain't for the puz-publishin softwares, such as Across-Lite, either. I think the softwares suspect there is an error, when they see the grid's letter content. Kinda fun in a way, havin a puz that'll break Across-Lite, et al.

Sooo … Best I can humbly do is offer up a picture of the beast, which maybe U could print off and then fill, in yer record-breakin dream solvetime...


M&A Help Desk

I think maybe I offered up this same puppy, here, a couple of years ago?

JC66 3:24 PM  


ThankU. Just as funny the second time around.

Nancy 3:25 PM  

@pabloinnh (8:18)-- I didn't see your post earlier, so I belatedly thank you for your wonderful and much appreciated shoutout. I finally feel I have received, all these many decades later, the recognition I so richly deserve. Not the royalties, however, alas.

@Quasi (12:38) -- Of course, I didn't remember that! As Nora Ephron said: I REMEMBER NOTHING. You're right to laugh, though. I suspect it won't be the last time that great mirth will be engendered by the many things that have vanished -- poof! -- from my [at best] fuzzy memory.

Unknown 3:55 PM  

Haven’t read the comments so I don’t know if someone else has said this already:

I didn’t notice all the “i”s but rather an excess of gerund-ING everythING. There was a majorly missed opportunity here. With GSTRING in 15D I thought they actually designed a string of Gs on the diagonal (32D - 7D) thus evoking the angle of how one holds a guitar, etc. Seemed brilliant and so I filled in all the Gs...and then could’t figure out why the puzzle didn’t work until I realized I was missing that bloody K in the cross of 23D and 35A!! Whyyyyyy?!?!??!?!?!
Such a STIFLING choice had me CRINGING.


Anonymous 4:01 PM  

Wow. Just....wow. So many poorly clued (and wrongly clued) items in this puzzle. I worked at a ski resort for 6 years and have never heard of miniski. I have a few embarrassing friends who drive a Prius, but I've never, ever, heard them called Prii. Singapore Sling is a thing but Gin Sling? No. Not a thing. Even if it's somewhere on Google, it's not a thing.
Looking at the theme of this puzzle (which didn't even come clear to me until reading today's post) made me wonder if perhaps trump had concocted it? There are many reasons to believe this might be so. Not only are there so many wrong answers, and short answers, but the theme is trump all the way: i, i, i, i, i, i, i.......

GILL I. 4:35 PM  

@Quasi...You're a gentleman and a scholar...and there are few of us left! :-)

Miss Manners 4:57 PM  

There is no theme. TMI is not a revealer except in your imagination. It's a fun themeless with the novelty of having all the vowels be "I". Much hand wringing and teeth gnashing over nothing today.

A pet peeve seen frequently, "It's not a thing". Well "it" is if it's in the puzzle. It can be made up like MINISKI. So what! You got it didn't you? It makes sense, doesn't it?

Can someone do something about @JohnX's vulgarities? The guy is obsessed with his parts. Is the acceptance bar really that low? BTW, there are others who love to discuss their nether regions.

Mr. Benson 5:33 PM  

I don't know who thought it would be acceptable to have the center of the puzzle feature BLING, BRINK, SLING and RING crossing BLIN, CLING and WINK. "I" is such a common letter, there have to have been more interesting and less monotonous ways to fill this grid.

kitshef 6:17 PM  

Took a look at the 2012 Berry puzzle. Gotta say, I hated it. Just utterly crammed with PPP.

Joe Dipinto 8:12 PM  

For anyone in the New England area looking for work, Wegmans Food Markets is having several hiring events in January at its store in Natick, Massachusetts. The inability to finish a New York Times Crossword Puzzle is preferred, but not required, for most available positions.

Tom 10:10 PM  

Listened to Busoni Concerto with my sweetie Lynne (o the right) and we’re in total agreement. She plays piano BTW. Nice if esoteric comparison. Never fails to surprise me the erudition of the supreme quality of the responses on this blog.

Nancy 10:42 PM  

Ah yes, an inside crossword puzzle joke. You are too funny, @Joe Dipinto!

Capn Charlie 12:01 AM  

That was so much fun.

Brilliant puzzle.

Daycare Dave 1:17 AM  

@Priss Manners. The lower the nether the better the tether. Get a grip woman.

Anonymous 10:12 AM  

Can someone please explain the ans. 'Brig' to me? It's driving me f-ing nuts!

Z 8:45 PM  

@anon10:12a.m, - Sorry for the late reply. I hope you figured it out or see this. “Cooler” is a slang term for a jail cell. On the “water” - on a boat, that is- a jail cell is called a BRIG, so a cooler on the water is a BRIG.

thefogman 9:54 AM  

I was really hoping for that big diagonal line of I's from the SW corner to the NE corner to be complete. It was WITHIN reach and on the BRINK but alas the constructor could not FIT them all in. I liked it anyways. I see Rex is WINING and picking NITS again. I've had it to the GILLS with him. IKID! IKID!

Can't wait to see what Burma does with GSTRING...

To Anon @10:12 A BRIG is the jail (cooler)on a ship when you are at sea (water). Thus, water cooler.

Burma Shave 10:23 AM  


She’ll BRINGIT like a SMILING flirt –
Taylor SWIFT is a real WILDTHING:


Diana, LIW 12:36 PM  

Has OFL forgotten the Syndielanders? Seems like every other day, at least, the Syndie button does not get pushed. Yo! @Rex!

Thought this was an ING theme - didn't notices that all I's were upon us.

Anyone get my puzzle (Will's puzzle!) from yesterday?

Lady Di

spacecraft 12:50 PM  

If there ever was a puzzle to fit the category "Just because you can doesn't mean you should," this is it. 13 INGs, PRII (??) and very possibly the least known of all the Manhattanites: FRISCH. What did this guy even DO? Screw on the warhead?? 'Scuse me, I just have to look this up.

I'm back, and excuse me for real. He was Lise Meitner's nephew, and actually determined the critical mass via a nearly fatal experiment. He also coined the term "fission." My apologies, Otto.

Okay. There was a WILD coincidence: just yesterday, in an episode of "Who Wants to be a Millionaire?," the $250,000 question involved MILLI Vanilli. Had I been there, I'd have won the quarter-mil! After the 50-50, the only other choice was the founders of Woodstock--and I knew those weren't the names! But the guy picked them anyway and lost half of the $100,000 he already had. Crap! WHY ARE THEY THERE AND I'M HERE???

Oh well. As a trick, this puzzle passes muster, but it's a trick with little purpose. As Doyle Lonegan said, "We've got to discourage this kind of thing--ya folla?" Bogey.

rondo 1:26 PM  

Within the last year one of the Harper’s puzzles had answers using only the vowel E in the grid, while none of the words in any of the clues had an E in them. So today’s theme is not particularly unique and gets only half-way there, with the I. I saw it happening about a third of the way in.

The plural of BLIN is BLINI, so that coulda FIT in if necessary.

Bill Clinton might have said it depends on what the definition of ISIS.

Which kind of GSTRING is yeah baby Taylor SWIFT’s favorite? Maybe not the SIX STRING guitar’s.

The Is had it today, I’m done CHIMING in.

rainforest 2:03 PM  

The "I"s have it, and boy, do they. I noticed the exclusion of other vowels about a third of the way through, which made the rest of the solve easier.

So if your trick is to use only "I"s, of course there'll be a lot of -INGs, and maybe -INKs. Comes with the territory. However, now that it's been done maybe we don't need to see it again.

I admired the effort and I understand the need for something different for a constructor to do. If it can be done, why not? Just once, though.

thefogman 2:33 PM  

I only noticed the plethora of ING endings after coming here. There's a stretch of them which line up and is only one G short of forming a six-letter GSTRING. Too bad. Another opportunity lost...

leftcoastTAM 2:37 PM  

Thought I was on an ING quest, which seemed simple and straightforward enough, so finished and let it go at that.

Later learned about the "I" -only theme, which required a sharper eye than I gave it.

Only pauses were in the .... fill? No, there was no "fill". The whole thing was a themed! First time seeing that done.

Oh, those pauses: proper names, INI, PRII, FRISCH.

leftcoastTAM 3:18 PM  

@Diana -- I got your (and Will's) puzzle yesterday, but didn't GET it. Will usually gives his listeners a week to figure it out. After some thinking about it, decided not to pick up on the challenge. Sorry.

I'd nonetheless like to know your and Will's answer.

strayling 6:19 PM  

@Diana -- I tried to solve your puzzle and abandoned it after a while.

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