Letters near an X-ray machine / SUN 7-7-2019 / Veto on movie night / Dating-app distance metric / No longer needed for questioning /

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Constructor: Jack Reuter

Relative difficulty: Medium (perhaps harder if you're not familiar with chess or chess notation)


THEME: CHESS — The middle of the grid represents a chessboard with "pieces" set up such that "white" can achieve checkmate on its next move.

INSTRUCTIONS: The center of this puzzle represents a 70-Down/55-Down, in which you can achieve a 122-Across by moving the 25-Across.

Theme answers:
  • KNIGHT TO B EIGHT (25A: See instructions)
  • BLACK (31A: Side represented by triangles)
  • CHESSBOARD (55D, 70D: See instructions)
  • WHITE (116A: Side represented by circles)
  • CHECKMATE IN ONE (122A: See instructions)

Word of the Day: COWBIRD (98A: Brown-headed nest appropriator) —

Molothrus ater1.jpg
Cowbirds are birds belonging to the genus Molothrus in the family Icteridae. They are of New World origin. They are brood parasites, laying their eggs in the nests of other species.
• • •
Greetings, Crossworld, and Happy Independence Day Weekend! This is Don McBrien, who is very happy to return as your guest blogger, this time for an extra-large (22 x 22) Sunday puzzle. The unusual size of the grid is to accommodate the 8 x 8 "chessboard" section in the middle, which certainly jumps out at you upon first looking at the puzzle. I have to admit that upon seeing that jumble in the middle of the grid, I was not optimistic about enjoying this puzzle. It just seemed a little too un-crosswordy. Upon reading the instruction, I had a pretty good idea what would be going on, but I was still not looking forward to getting to all those circles and triangles.

I was tearing through the upper third of the grid, until I came to KNIGHT TO B...where I got hung up for a while. I was looking for KNIGHT TO BISHOP [number], but that would not fit. Once I got SEEN IT (great clue!), the rest of the top fell. I am a bit surprised at this theme answer. I suspect that many NYT Crossword solvers know how to play chess, or are at least familiar with the basics, but are casual players familiar with chess notation? For example, you have to know that N stands for Knight (since K is reserved for King). That strikes me as something that only more serious players might understand well enough to appreciate in a puzzle. And this answer is critical to the theme as it sets up the revealer CHECKMATE IN ONE. That is another awkward entry - I had guessed that "achieve a 122-Across" would mean CHECKMATE, so I was a bit flummoxed when I had five spaces left over.

I found the middle of the grid difficult just because with the shaded squares, black squares, circles, triangles, and bold lines, that whole section is too busy, making it harder to tell (on my computer screen at least) how long the entries were. Luckily I knew what was going on and was able to force my way through it, but forcing my way through a puzzle is not the most enjoyable way to experience it. And once that section is complete, all of the non-chess-piece letters and solid black squares clog things up so that it takes a bit of mental effort to follow the "game" and actually see the checkmate.  The theme is ambitious, and I guess it "works," but as a solver and casual chess player (at best), the solving experience was not awesome.



I enjoyed some of the longer fill answers. FREE TO GOTIKI BAR and AUNTIE EM particularly. But there is a good amount of glue here too. ECO, EXO, CTO, AKU, MEH and its cousin BAH. ENOTE and EZINE (perhaps 88A could be clued as "Rest areas on the information superhighway" and 88D as "Cry for IT assistance"). And ANASS...Spent a good minute trying to recall a Biblical character named Anass.

Finally, and I feel like I'm piling on a bit here, the puzzle had a number of unpleasant clues and answers. Specifically, SEPPUKU (grim), ABSCESS (gross) and WINOS (insensitive), however, it was 130A AMPUTEE that really turned me off. It's tricky to work this answer tastefully into a puzzle at all, but to clue it with respect to two specific individuals, using their positions as Senators as misdirection, was just off-putting to me. As though they are defined by their loss of limbs - an answer in a crossword puzzle does not define someone, but it does seem to say "this is what is notable about these two people."

So not my favorite NYT Sunday puzzle ever, but perhaps your experience was different. Please share in the comments section. Thanks again to Rex for letting me drive while he is on vacation. Enjoy the rest of your Independence Day weekend!

Signed, Don McBrien, Assistant to the Regional Manager of CrossWorld

[Check out my website forum devoted to "meta"-style crosswords at metaXword.com]

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]

136 comments:

Joaquin 12:03 AM  

I suppose if I knew the first thing about chess, I’d be impressed with this grid and all the circles, triangles, shading, and esoteric clues. But since I don’t, the puzzle was simply a harder than usual Sunday slog for me.

Z 12:29 AM  

MEH would be too positive. That CHESS BOARD is just a mess to try to decipher. And then the need to set up the CHECKMATE IN ONE strained the fill beyond awful. AKU is obscure whether its half a book title or an evil Master of Darkness. Personally, give me Samurai Jack, I’d find that less DISHONOURable. Yeah Yeah, I know this is an impressive feat of construction. If only it had been fun to solve.

@pmdm late yesterday - I probably should have put that particular PPP on both lists. One of my many responsibilities as a building administrator was compliance with that particular agency’s regulations and a quick google search of news items turns up all kinds of articles from the past week alone, so it is still very much a 21st century agency even though it was born last century (sorta like many of us).

RAD2626 12:59 AM  

Pretty neat that the set up for the CHECKMATE has each piece properly identified by notation. Had to be a bear to create. But totally agree with Mr. McBrien's write up criticisms and in particular the bad taste of AMPUTEE. I am sure it is a hard word to clue in any context, but today's clue failed miserably. Not only failed the breakfast test, but failed almost any taste test. Really disappointing note to clever puzzle.

jp flanigan 1:04 AM  

I knew it said CHESS BOARD as soon as I read the instructions. That helped with the other themers pretty quickly.

As a personal issue...my bad eyesight made solving the middle section extremely unpleasant. It was like a bad 3D movie mixed with a rorschach test. That's not to say it shouldn't have been built, just wondering if i was the only one that struggled with this?

Overall, with the complications and the size i completed under my average, so this was probably on the east side for me. And besides the eye-jumble, mostly enjoyable.

jae 1:14 AM  

Medium. To quote Don “the solving experience was not awesome.”

Joe Dipinto 1:28 AM  

This puzzle was a trip! I loved every second of solving it.

It didn't take long to get that the central block was supposed to be a chess board. As it happened, my solving sequence got the whole board filled in plus all the themers -- *except* the one at 25a, for which I had exactly no letters in place.

So I had to figure out the last themer from staring at the pieces on the chess board. It was like...playing chess!

I ain't no grandmaster but I assumed it must be the white knight that made the move (the N in MORN/HORN had to be a knight since K would be the king). So I scoped it out, and with the knight moving to the H of DISHONOUR/CHERUBS the king would be toast. Thus, 25a: KNIGHT TO B8 (or, here, EIGHT) and game over, man.

The only drawback was that once I'd filled in all the letters on the chess board it was hard to see the circles and triangles. I also had to demarcate the edges of the board in pen to make them stand out. And like our guest blogger Don I first thought that the B in box 26 stood for "bishop" rather than B as in A-B-C-D-E..., which confused things briefly.

I do agree that the AMPUTEE clue was in questionable taste. Working backward from EE I thought "it's not really gonna be that, is it?" And the song is "Home On The Range, not "Home Is The Range", so fix that clue, thank you.

But overall a very satisfying workout. My cap is off to Jack Reuter for a spectacular debut!

When the men on the chessboard
Get up and tell you where to go...
And the White Knight is talking backwards...

Anonymous 1:37 AM  

I thought this was so cool. That a chessboard could be set up with pieces in position to achieve “checkmate in one” and have all the letters be where they needed to be. So great.

Of course, Mike would have found numerous faults with this...because he’s an ass.

Quick question that I’ve been wondering about...how many of you ACTUALLY send money to Mike for this bastion of hate? Just curious. Interested to know. Thanks

RavTom 2:10 AM  

Excellent review. I’m glad that the constructor liked this puzzle, because I fear that he won’t have much company.

Mike 2:39 AM  

don't need to know chess notation...solved most of puzzle and all of chessboard in Across Lite..only now that I see print solution do I realize and appreciate how the chessboard is coded with different pieces, but did not need to see that to solve

Joe Dipinto 3:07 AM  

Hmm, I've changed my mind about the AMPUTEE clue. Not being familiar with the two senators, I googled them, and both of their amputations resulted from injuries sustained in military combat, in the service of their country.

Would they (the senators) find it in "bad taste" to see it referred to in a mundane crossword puzzle? Somehow I don't think so. It *is* part of who they are, so I don't think I have any business gasping at the mention of it.

chefwen 3:54 AM  

I managed to solve this with no knowledge of chess other than the names of the pieces. Did I enjoy it, not really and the center chessboard just made my eyes wonky.

I knew that I wouldn’t like it just from reading the instructions, sounded like a treasure hunt, which could have been fun, but there was no treasure at the end.

@mericans in Paris 4:27 AM  

As a chess player, I liked today's unusual fare, but I can imagine that, as noted by Don McBrien, people unfamiliar with "N" standing for knight, and the CHESS BOARD's co-ordinate system might struggle. On the other hand, those of us who aren't all that familiar with card games seem expected to know their arcane quirks also. So I CONCUR: I consider a Sunday puzzle with a CHESS theme to be fair. BRAVOS to Mr. Reuter.

I do wonder about the sub-theme, however, which seems to be unenthusiastic: MEH, BAH!, HUMPH!

Mrs. 'mericans and I have been solving the puzzles together since Thursday, as we're on Lake Como (northern Italy), visiting old friends who rented half of a house overlooking the lake. They had intended for their daughter and boyfriend to join them, but those two weren't able to, so we're here instead.

The lake is shaped like an upside-down "Y", and is surrounded by high, steep and VERDANT mountains that are typically covered in WHITE during WINTERS. At 414 meters, it is the deepest lake in Italy.

Question of the day: If the EPA were more ASH-ANTI, would there be fewer ASHES in the air?

I assume that I am now FREE TO GO. Ta ta!

Lewis 5:47 AM  

My first thought at seeing the grid was "Oh, this is ambitious!", and immediately, just based on the look of the grid, I greatly wanted the puzzle to succeed. That desire colored my entire solve; I glided over any nits I might otherwise have noticed. I also had opposing thoughts about that cacophony in the middle. On one hand, it looked so intriguing I wanted to save it for the end; on the other, it looked a bit intimidating, another reason to save it for the end.

So I worked the periphery, the non-chess-board donut. Some areas felt Monday easy. Other areas required revisits with fresh eyes, and eventually all that was left was the middle. That filled in without me having to work out the chess ending. So my post-solve involved figuring said ending out. I vaguely remembered from my youth where B-1 was and had to figure out N stood for "knight", and while ignoring the non pieces and wading through the triangles and circles was cumbersome, I did finally see the endgame.

The whole sussing of the chess game ending turned out to be anti-climactic, but I didn't care. That the puzzle itself was so out-of-the-ordinary had me from the start, and still does. That is, I loved solving this from start to finish. I loved the moxie and skill of constructor Jack. I loved that the blocks -- the actual black squares in the center square -- fell where black squares would fall on a chess board (as Jim Horne points out in XwordInfo).

I will smile through whatever complaints solvers have about this puzzle, and float through my day knowing that crosswords are still rife with boundless possibility.

no one 5:56 AM  

I have no idea how to play chess. This was the first Sunday puzzle, in years, that I made little effort to solve.

Shortz must indeed be desperate for Sunday puzzles. Having to pay, to access this cr*p is sure disappointing

American Liberal Elite 6:16 AM  

A joyless slog for me.

JJ 6:34 AM  

Once again, I solved on an IPAD. There were no shaded squares, no triangles, and no circles. As I solved, I understood that the theme was chess related, but had no idea what they were referring to. NYT needs to make sure that the puzzle is presented to everyone in identical fashion.
My experience was that of solving multiple smaller puzzles, as there was little connection between them.
Loved the SEEN IT cluing. Wish I had some "Instructions" and shading etc

SJ Austin 6:35 AM  

I can only imagine that if Rex had to review this puzzle, the blog would be shut down, LOL. Thanks for the nice review, Don.

I'm with you: the chessboard was way too busy, and it made it really annoying to key in the answers in the middle. (Do you really count the squares as you're solving? Wow—that would never occur to me.) And the theme was a combination of too much and not enough. It was obviously going to be CHEESS BOARD and CHECKMATE-something, but the hint felt like a seven-stage wild goose chase.

An impressive feat of construction, to be sure. But for what purpose, I'm not so sure.

Rob Rushing 6:44 AM  

A cool idea that didn’t work as well as one might have hoped; I agree completely that the clueing for AMPUTEE was somewhat grating (although I wonder how to clue it better?). I had exactly the same reaction — they’re not really going to do *that*, are they? And they did.

Bishop Eight 6:51 AM  

This was bad.

It's not so much the chess theme, which was a self-serving gimmick intended only to make the constructor think himself clever. (I don't play chess but only basic chess terminology is required to solve this puzzle. Unclear how it would be for people who lacked even that.)

The bigger problem is the rest of the puzzle that is utterly devoid of any cleverness or wordplay that makes solving a puzzle fun. This made for a boring, depressing solving experience.

Do better New York Times!

Anonymous 6:53 AM  

A genial and judicious write-up by Don MnBrien, but if ever a puzzle called for a RexRant, it’s this one.

Anonymous 6:57 AM  

I can tell that you're a really loving, nice guy.

Anonymous 7:01 AM  

I know how to play chess, but haven't done it in decades. When I learned, the most common notation would have been knight to knight 8, not KNIGHTTOB8. And I found the chess board itself too cluttered to follow.

I carefully only put in the M and OR of CMAJOR until I realized, oh, Bizet's Symphony in C, a very famous Balanchine dance piece.

I had emerald instead of ICEBLUE, which was a big obstacle. Yoho National Park in British Columbia actually has an Emerald Lake, which is filled with glacier runoff.

OffTheGrid 7:01 AM  

What a disappointing weekend of NYT Xwords!

BarbieBarbie 7:05 AM  

I don’t play chess, and I really enjoyed this puzzle. Today’s reviewer seems to have felt compelled to (a) pay attention to the “instructions”/hint, and to (b) verify the board setup in solving the themers. Why? Just figure they are something chess-y, move on, and admire later.

Medium solve for me, with some great clues. My objection to AMPUTEE isn’t a breakfast-test one (nice one, people; do other differences disgust you too?) but a sort of green-paint reaction. It’s kind of like clueing WHITEMALES with “Washington and Lincoln.” True, but pretty wide of any standard of identification. Edit Fail. But a good puzzle with little dreck despite the constraints. I’d love to see more from this guy.

Suzie Q 7:29 AM  

Considering how many sports clues we are usually force-fed I found a puzzle based on an intelligent pastime refreshing.

I was just talking about cowbirds yesterday. The phrase "brood parasite" was new to me and I'm glad to learn it.

I am not looking forward to the virtue signaling that amputee and wino is going to generate.

Considering what the constructor does for a living I was relieved that there was not too much tech stuff in his grid.
Nice debut Mr. Reuter!

mambridge 7:30 AM  

Didn't really need to know much about chess for the answers to fill in. But SEPPUKU crossing NOSFERATU???? Never heard of either of those.

David 7:33 AM  

I loved loved loved this puzzle. Loved it. And I haven't played chess in years.
So. Different solve than most of those who've posted already. Different strokes and all that.

Same with amputee. Far from being icky, with this clue there's a stark Independence Day reminder of the difference between those who serve their country and the chicken-hawk bone spur cowards who savage them on the campaign trail.

Many great words in the fill as well and, as a reminder, if you're being questioned in America you're always free to go.
For now at least.

I don't know how to "read the instructions" in the NYT app but no matter, back in paper days I didn't read them either.

Not much to say. Loved it.

Erin 7:35 AM  

I know chess very well but like JJ above, I solve on the official NYT app and there were no shapes or shades in the middle section so the whole point was irrelevant.

pabloinnh 7:39 AM  

I liked Don's review more than I liked the puzzle. Since I solve on paper, I did have fun fitting letters into the little triangles, nice change from circles. Didn't interest me enough to try to suss out the winning chess move since, as others have pointed out, the "chess board" itself looked like a cleanup on Aisle 4 to me. Fun filling in the rest of it, though.

On to the acrostic.

QuasiMojo 7:42 AM  

I CONCUR. MEH. TIS. BAD.

Anonymous 7:42 AM  

A great construction and a decent solving experience for me, although I haven't been exposed to chess for 50 years. The only answer that resulted in a shudder from me was TSA. Too many negative experiences, and I'm not in any category that arouse suspicion.

Wm. C. 7:49 AM  


This puzzle was the WORST Sunday NYT Puzzle I've ever encountered, and I've been doing them for several decades. Also, the first one that I didn't bother to finish. No knowledge of Chess, several pieces of impossible fill requiring ALL the crosses, a bunch of segmented mini-puzzles ...

Yes, I appreciate that some puzzlers enjoy this, but what about the rest (majority) of us?

Sorry for the rant, but if ever a puzzle deserves one, this is it.

Shame on you, Shortz.

Humph 7:52 AM  

No amount of ice cream added to a bucket of poop will make it good. In contrast, add a single drop of poop to a bucket of ice cream and the entire lot is ruined.

Squinting and being generous, this puzzle was closer to a bucket of ice cream than not. Unfortunately, the NOSFERATU/SEPPUKU Natick is a drop of poop.

fkdiver 7:58 AM  

I solved this pretty much as a themeless. As such it wasn't bad, took almost a whole cup of coffee. Solved in Across Lite so didn't see any of the graphic gimmicks. I never ever read the notepad, and haven't played chess since high school (over 50 years ago) so the theme pretty much fell flat. Not an unpleasant Sunday morning puzzle.

Phil 8:01 AM  

black plays chess like I do. Looks like he moved his rook to c7 to attack the knight. I suppose he could have just captured the knight with the king. Love to watch and listen to the explanations of the masters play on youtube. If you know a little chess it’s a fun watch.

Lljones 8:15 AM  

What @chefwen said.

Anonymoose 8:44 AM  

Is "Q" short for "IQ"?

Clrd2Land 8:46 AM  

Great review today. Seemed to touch on every reaction I had to this puzzle.

I knew that the "ritual death" ended in "ku" so, of course, my brain kept going
to sudoku. I'm not a numbers guy so that answer seemed pretty o.k. to me. Didn't fit.

Easy puzzle, but not a lot of fun for me. Hope you all enjoyed it better.

QuasiMojo 8:51 AM  

PS @Malsdemare, thanks for the ID joke yesterday.

noreen 8:52 AM  

It was a fun puzzle! I don't know much about chess with the exception of the names of the pieces, and yet I figured it all out. Nothing seemed distasteful; they're only words that fit. Some of the clues are misleading and that, I assume, is why it's called a puzzle. The grid in the center was amazing with the chess pieces named! Great Sunday puzzle.

Michiganman 8:52 AM  

Your observation is apt for a chess theme puzzle. The pawns (cannon fodder) get killed and maimed in service to the war makers (kings). Not sure if the wars actually serve the country. For the most part the families of the war mongers are not involved in the ugly business of combat.

pmdm 8:56 AM  

Some of the comments express strong reactions concerning this puzzle, but enough of the comments seem surprisingly tame to me. I am thankful for a very intelligent write-up that never descended into rage.

There are a lot a valid criticisms aimed at this puzzle and yet I do believe it more than deserved to be published. Perhaps if there were more Sunday puzzle in the queue, Mr. Shortz would have insisted upon additional revisions to clean up some of the fill.

Z: Sadly, in 2017 over 14 workers per day (including holidays and weekends) died on the job. Not all of these fatalities involve jobs regulated by OSHA, but there certainly enough fatalities to keep OSHA in the headlines. I suspect, thought, that the current state of the agency was shped by policy decisions made during the 20th century, especially by Thorne Auchter, who resembled a fox guarding the hen house.

Many people deal with the unpleasant by sticking their heads in the sand. Idi Amin was not a pleasant person (though not everyone in the current administration necessarily agrees). To ignore his life accomplishments (negative as they area) would condemn us repeating the mistakes of the past. To try to erase knowledge of the heroic effects of those living today is hardly a positive goal. If some of our representatives in Congress have experienced unfortunate fates and have surmounted them, I say bravo to the NYT puzzle for honoring them by forcing us to consider their heroic efforts to overcome their handicaps. Emphasize the positive aspects of life and of crossword puzzles. That's an attitude that can be stressful but that best honors those who, for whatever reason, must live their lives fighting through what most of us define as disadvantages. They prevail.

mmorgan 8:57 AM  

I did this on Across Lite and occasionally glanced at a PDF of the print version to see what was going on in the chess board. I know how to play chess (more or less), but I don't know chess notation, so I just solved it. As the Assistant to the Regional Manager of CrossWorld put it, "the solving experience was not awesome."

Guest bloggers have done yeoman's duty all week, though I do wish I could have seen what Rex would have done with this. But I can imagine.

I did have an initial wince at AMPUTEE but I agree with @Joe Dipinto (when he changed his mind) and @David. I remember in one of the volumes of his autobiography, Noel Coward wrote about being seated at a dinner next to a WWII war amputee. Everyone was nervous and trying to ignore it, until Coward loudly asked, "So, how did you lose your leg?", at which point the soldier happily regaled the guests with tales of battle for the rest of the evening.

kitshef 9:01 AM  

An overly easy puzzle (though Naticked at PTS/SEPPUKU), followed by a so-not-worth it exercise to figure out what they wanted me to do with the chessboard. Very disappointing weekend of crosswords. Fingers crossed for a good Monday.

I think if you’re going to do this theme, you leave the mate solve out of the puzzle and make us figure it out as a meta.

Chuck Mate 9:09 AM  

Another example of "Just because you can, doesn't mean you should."

Nancy 9:11 AM  

I saw the triangles -- or what looked like triangles -- and thought: "Oh, please, no!!!" It looked as though I would have to perform some long-ago-forgotten mathematical procedure involving triangles. Nervously I wrote in my first answers in the Dreaded Center: HORN, INK, SUPER crossing PERK UP. And everything crossed perfectly!!! Everything worked!!! Nothing had to be changed!!! I realized that I could ignore completely whatever was going on -- and I really had no idea what was going on. Whew!!! This was going to be solvable. No math required.

Later I found out that it wasn't math; it was Chess. Unlike math, I haven't forgotten any Chess because I never knew any in the first place. But I didn't need to know any Chess to solve the puzzle. Whew, again.

One complaint: Those triangles squoosh the squares even more than tiny little circles. My Ps and Rs and Ks were squooshed almost beyond recognition when I crammed them into the reduced space. I've told you before, Will Shortz: DON'T SQUOOSH THE SQUARES!!! But other than that: the theme didn't cause me any trouble. And I imagine it gave great pleasure to the chess-playing solvers who understood it all and could follow it. So I'm thinking -- would Bobby Fischer have agreed??? -- that it's a nice puzzle.

Nancy 9:40 AM  

@Joe Dipinto (1:28 a.m.)-- I'm not familiar with your Song Lyric of the Day, but you fooled me because I was so sure I knew what it was going to be when I did the puzzle:

A trip to the moon on GOSSAMER wings --
Just one of those things.


(I'd use your cute little musical note symbols if I could, but I don't have them on my keyboard.)

@mericans (4:27)-- It sounds like an absolutely wonderful vacation spot! I'm envious. Best of all, you didn't have to take some ghastly transAtlantic flight to get there.

chuck w 9:40 AM  

I really liked it! When done, I drew an 8 x 8 chess board on a piece of paper and filled in the pieces. Then I could see that if white’s knight moved to B8, the black king would indeed be checkmated. Very clever!

Z 9:54 AM  

Lots of thoughtful posts on AMPUTEE. I don’t know where I fall on the this clue in a crossword. It treads close to defining these individuals by a physical characteristic rather than by what they do. On the other hand it reminds us what they did for us and so speaks to who they are. On the third hand, I’m not sure holding up somebody’s body for our moral edification is appropriate either. Do we really need people losing limbs to remind us that chicken-hawks are a plague, our own brood parasites? On the fourth hand to ignore the obvious is to discount something that is a vital part of who these people are. Yep, I still don’t know how I feel about this clue in a crossword.

Anonymous 9:54 AM  

I solve on an iPad so no chess board or triangles. NYT needs to upgrade the app. Saw the word police were at it again. We need to ensure no word that anyone could feel a little bad about never appears in the world. Let's expunge them and Betsy Ross while we're at it. Keeps the liberal fringe happy.

Aketi 9:55 AM  

@Nancy, when I saw the grid my first thought was “It’s a CHESS BOARD”. When I saw not only circles and triangles I thought, “Nancy’s going to hate this puzzle.” Glad you liked it despite the gray squares, circles, and triangles.

I solved this on my iPad and the circles, triangles and gray squared did not hinder the visibility of the fill.

After the visual image imposed on my brain from yesterday’s puzzle, the grid art that emerged from this one was delightful. I don’t play CHESS well but I do remember when my BFF and I used to pretend to be sick and stay home from school and tie up the phone chatting and playing CHESS. Our mothers would be so pissed off with us when they’d call home from work to check on us and they’d get a busy signal all day long. I started the puzzle last night and when I noticed the CHESS BOARD I called her chat with her about the good old days. We laughed about the fact that our sons never got in trouble the way we did because parents can leave voice and text messages now along with angry emojis if they discover their kid faked an illness to get out of going to school..

Rube 9:58 AM  

The best write up of a puzzle ever. Every comment spot on. As for AMPUTEE, I always say that any answer is OK because it's just something in a silly crossword puzzle. But when you bring individuals into the mix.... Well that's just not necessary. Why not just go with "like The Fugitive murderer" or some other one armed man reference to that great tv show and movie.

Anonymous 10:00 AM  

NOSFERATU gets 8 million citations in Google (not all to the original movie, of course). Not surprising, given all the vampire references there are in our culture.

I am surprised that SEPPUKU gets 2 million. I see it is a synonym for harakiri, which I wanted to put in, except it doesn't fit.

Z 10:02 AM  

FWIW - I solved in the magazine, but just checked the NYTX app and PuzzAzz on my iPad and both faithfully replicated the printed puzzle. I’m not sure about Across Lite, but if you’re experiencing issues on an iPad maybe you need to update your apps.

Carola 10:06 AM  

As someone who's never played chess, I found that my Word of the Day choice went on beyond MEH into the VEX, HUMPH, and TESTY area, tempered with admiration for the labeling of the CHESS pieces. I can imagine that knowing the notation and significance of the pieces' positions makes a big difference in where the needle on the Delite Meter ends up.

But - it was a delight to write in NOSFERATU, GOSSAMER, VERDANT, AUNTIE EM, and ORESTES.
DNF at RoM x oNSELS.

Hungry Mother 10:12 AM  

No problem with the chess, but two Naticks did me in. Too much trivia instead of solid word play.

Molasses 10:28 AM  

Loved the puzzle. The grid in the middle was intriguing from the moment I opened it. The extra shapes in the squares definitely made it visually busy and hard to see the words, but if it had really bothered me I could have printed it and enlarged it.

I haven't played chess in decades--I got way more than my fill playing it with my chess-fanatic first husband (who took 5th place in the Phoenix Open chess championship in around 1980, a year or so before he died)--but it all came back to me with this very clever puzzle.

Plenty of words here that I didn't know, like SEPPUKU, but nothing I had to go to Google for, so I count that as a personal win. Also plenty where I was flat-out guessing (TIKI BAR and FANTASIA) and turned out to be correct, for once. So - fun for me!

Anonymous 10:29 AM  

Isn't spellchecking virtue-signalling just tedious virtue-virtue-signalling? Its not clever, its oneupmanship.

Anonymous 10:44 AM  

If you happened to download the puzzle as a .puz, as I often do, you had an entirely different crossword to solve, one with no chess position indicated, no circles, no triangles. The result was an incredibly weak chess themed puzzle or a poor themeless.

gerry

Birchbark 10:51 AM  

Interesting CHIPS AHOY! symmetry with NOSFERATU, as though they were the chess players.

I solved the center early on, then set up my chess board to match the answers. I had the first part of 25A at that point, so saved some nanoseconds in figuring out the checkmate. Then back to the crossword to fill it all in.

'TIS the season for COWBIRDs. I start to notice them in late June, and now they're everywhere.

David 10:53 AM  

My heart sank when I looked at that mess in the middle of the board this morning. Uh-oh, I thought, this is going to be tough, whatever it is … I did not read the introductory note, since in the past notes have given away too much.

My heart sank further as I got off to a disastrous start, the worst ever for me on a Sunday. The first answer I got was AN ASS and then SAN and then TERESA, and then, for a while … literally nothing. I wondered if I was going senile.

Months ago in this comments section, I wrote how much I wanted to see the Sunday puzzle adapt into its grid a chessboard, with a chess theme. After all, a chessboard is just a grid, too. It’s a natural pairing. But I’ve never seen it anywhere.

Then, despairing of solving, I took a good, hard look at that mess in the middle … I started counting rows and columns … wait, says I … those aren’t just rows and columns, are they? They … why, yes, they are! They are ranks and files!

Whereas once my heart sank, now my spirits soared!

The next four answers clicked right into place: CHESS, BOARD, BLACK, WHITE.

Then I read the intro note. Of course! 25-across is going to be a certain piece moved to a certain alphanumeric square, and 122-across is definitely going to be CHECKMATE in a designated number of moves. Standard chess notation.

What became impossible to solve became almost too easy to solve. What a great puzzle! Thanks, Jack Reuter, for giving me exactly what I have wanted for so long! I like to think you visit this site, read the comments, and were inspired by my comment, months ago, longing for a chess them. ;-)

Newboy 10:58 AM  

I too “guessed that "achieve a 122-Across" would mean CHECKMATE, so I was a bit flummoxed when I had five spaces left over.” And I’m in agreement with Don’s meh to this Sunday effort though Sunday is seldom more than a slog in our house. Kudos, however, for an ambitious first acceptance; I hope we see more from Jack’s obviously multilayered mind.

Mike E 11:06 AM  

I must be an outlier here.
I finished the puzzle and took satisfaction in that. I never really have an issue with the ECO, EXO, MEH answers as long as they are in moderation.
When the AMPUTEES answer filled in, I didn't think, "How insensitive," just "That's interesting."
When two clues cross that seem to complement, negate, or jar with each other, I don't find it noteworthy to any great degree.
The only complaint today was the equating of "Home" with THE RANGE which misinterprets the title.
But ulltimately, when I finish, I'm pleased and move on.
It is, after all, a diversion, not a piece of legislation.


krazykat 11:07 AM  

Hey, Gang! I now regret yesterday's whining about INACLAIRE because today's was the funnest puzzle in the entire history of puzzledom. I loved every single second. My only error was spotting "rook to queen's eight" as the winning move, which didn't fit, of course.

jberg 11:08 AM  

I haven't played chess in so many years that when I did, the US wasn't using algebraic notation (as it's called). I'd heard about it, though, and it's really only needed for one answer, so OK.

Once I figured out what was going on, the chess problem helped the solving, since there had to be a N at the end of 66A, either a B or a Q for the third letter of 76A, and R or Q as the last letter of 50A. Beyond that, all the white and black pieces had to be something -- not S, not T, etc -- and it was easy to guess which ones were P.

There are chess games, and chess problems. This is a problem. In a problem, the pieces have to be in places they could possibly arrive at during a game (no pawns in the first rank), but it's not about how they got there -- it's whether the solver can figure out how to CHECKMATE IN ONE (or two, or force a stalemate, or "play and win.") So IN ONE was appropriate; not so appropriate having the ONE cross the same word in ONE ON, but I guess the editor gave him a lot of license in order to make the theme concept work. (Lots of repetitions of UP as well, very helpful to get in all those pawns).

Max Cleland and Tammy Duckworth are proud veterans who lost limbs in combat. That's part of their political identity, and part of their achievement is that they managed to win Senate elections with that identity -- which helped in some ways, but certainly caused problems in others. I think it's a fine way to clue AMPUTEE, which is a fine word. (I actually put in 'veteran' first, which is true but less specific.) I'm trying to think of other Senators who lost limbs in combat -- I can only come up with Daniel Inouye, but there must be some more, especially in the late 19th Century.

Aside from the duplicate answer words, I didn't like the rows of black squares framing the CHESSBOARD with one extra row at every edge. I think you need to either actually frame it or not make the attempt. I kept getting confused about where the board ended. Well, maybe that was the intent.

A nice workout, but yes, I have played a lot of chess, so I understand other reactions from those who have not.

Anonymous 11:15 AM  

@David, on the NYT app, you get the “Instructions” by clicking the little i at the top right. I use the app, and I got the instructions and I also saw the chessboard, triangles, and circles (note my Oxford comma).

I liked it OK - and though I’m ambivalent on the AMPUTEE thing, I sure knew the answer. What I didn’t know was ANSEL. Never heard of Elgort. But to me, that’s one of the joys of crosswords - there are always going to be things that “everybody” knows that some of us don’t. I did get @joe dipinto’s White Rabbit lyrics AND @Nancy’s gossamer wings.

Barbara

Blue Stater 11:17 AM  

In answer to Anonymous@1:37a.m.'s question, *I* send money every year to "Mike" [I think he prefers "Michael," though am not sure) for this refreshing antidote to the sycophancy that is so prevalent in NYTXW world -- though, to be fair, not nearly as much so here as on an earlier blog (whose title I have mercifully repressed) where WS and his coterie predominated. I'm glad that someone with far more crossword expertise than mine is analyzing and chronicling the precipitous downhill slide of the puzzles so that, when WS *finally* retires, there can be a basis on which this once-great cultural institution can be restored to its former eminence. Michael would be my nominee for WS's replacement, though that is doubtless too much to hope for.

Today's hot mess is typical of this sad state of affairs: over-clever, over-tricky, too often factually and linguistically marginal. We deserve better.

Unknown 11:20 AM  

I don’t play chess but thought this was a great puzzle. I may not have got all the nuances of the chess moves but solved it with all the crosses etc. And I am totally familiar with the cowbird due to them always raiding the robin nests in Vermont. Congrats to Mr. Reuter.

retired guy 11:21 AM  

If White moves the knight to b8, that is checkmate... not "checkmate in one." Achieving "checkmate in one" sounds like making a move that puts White in position to checkmate in one, i.e., a position such that whatever Black does, White can checkmate on the next move. In other words, given the way the pieces are positioned, White has already achieved "checkmate in one."

Anonymous 11:40 AM  

To Anon at 9:54:

I wasn't aware that dislike of anything even mildly unpleasant was a particularly liberal sentiment. In my experience, people of that bent are all over the political landscape. In my mother's house, no one would ever have dared to say the phrase AN ASS, and yet she was as firmly middle-of-the-road politically as one could be.

Mo-T 11:51 AM  


As some others have mentioned, I don't play chess either but had lotsa fun with this one. Filled in the first three acrosses bing, bang, boom, which allowed me to get black 31A off the 1, 2, 3, Downs and then filled in white for 116A. I do read the instructions, and I always solve on paper Wednesday - Sunday, so I don't have the issues of missing "things" on iPad or in other platforms.

I have brown-headed cowbirds in my backyard.

@BarbieBarbie 7:04: Thanks for reminding me of "The Green Paint Mystery." Were you happy to see your little sister StacieStacie in the puzzle?

Just wondering: Are some disgruntled (or just plain angry) posters taking up where Rex left off? You don't have to log-on, you know.

Dear Mr. 25-year-old Reuter: Thank you for such fun on a Sunday morn (66A not Adam!), and congrats on your first NYT puzzle.

Michael 11:53 AM  

I've played a lot of chess and appreciate the cleverness of the construction. But even I lacked the patience to try to figure out the chess problem. Of course you don't need to solve the problem to solve the puzzle. But as I did the puzzle, I thought that the many people who know little about chess would be completely turned off the possible., Judging form the comments, some were, but not as many as I would have thought. I was, however, really glad that Rex wasn't reviewing this puzzle...I suspect that his rant would have been (even on a Rex scale) off the charts.

pmdm 11:56 AM  

Z: I think being ambivalent about AMPUTEE is an appropriate response. One of my mother's close was was a women born with only one arm. My New York Philharmonic subscription seats locate me a few seats from another subscriber who is blind and travels by bus from the Albany region to the [Friday matinee] concerts. I sometimes can feel uneasy when I zero in on their handicaps, but in the long my my admiration regarding their attitude and solutions trump my emotions.

Anonymous 11:57 AM  

Yes, I solve using the NYT app on an iPad and everything shows up. I agree with @Z that you either need to update your app or (I hope not) upgrade your iPad.

J. Brodie 12:00 PM  

For those who like that sort of thing, that is the sort of thing they like

Caro 12:32 PM  

I found this puzzle extremely difficult, especially not knowing a thing about chess. The crosses were NOT sufficient to get the answers. And ball peen? Que es??

Crimson Devil 12:48 PM  

Best Sun puz in a while...’cept for HUMPH, and Godawful NOSFERATU x SEPPUKU.
Fighting first evoked Illini. finally IRISH.

Crimson Devil 12:56 PM  

U. S. A. !!!

Anonymous 12:58 PM  

Do you really think that you represent the majority? How many tens of thousands do the puzzle. I see like seventy responses.

mab 1:00 PM  

I found the item cluing the two senators to be insensitive at best. Also, the center section with all the dark boxes with triangles, hard to read.

Aketi 1:08 PM  

@retired guy, the white knight is on C6. It has to make one move to get to B8 where it is then in checkmate. So B8 is the end of the one move.

Joseph M 1:18 PM  

Great writeup, Don. It reflects my experience with this puzzle as well. The puzzle is not without merit. There many good clues and entries, but for me the theme gimmick was not among its virtues.

I used to play chess during high school years but didn’t remember that N stands for KNIGHT or know what a B EIGHT is, so the “extra layer” of this puzzle was lost on me. Only made the center of the grid feel congested and hard to see as I squeezed in my answers.

The repetition of IN ONE, ONE ON, and LANDED ON left a lot to be desired. And if I had lost a limb for any reason, however noble, I would not want to be referred to as an AMPUTEE (which unfortunately resides atop ABSCESS).

I did like the reference to the wonderfully creepy NOSFERATU and the discovery that Barbie has a younger sister. Also happy to learn the new word SEPPUKU which is what I wanted to commit after trying to figure out the CHESS angle on the finished grid.

@JC66 from yesterday, thank you for restoring my faith in smartphone users

albatross shell 1:31 PM  

I'm with Lewis. TIPTOP idea having a chessboard in the center, the board set up with BLACK and WHITE pieces, and a MATEINONE ready to go. Too much crosswordese? Too little clever cluing? A grid that made it feel like you were solving 5 different small puzzles? Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn.

I had fun anyway. Still haven't looked at the chess position set up. AMPUTEE did not make me VEXed or TESTY. Thought it was a good clue. Max took a lot of heat for being unpatriotic by asshole opponents who eventually beat him. Tammy a bit less so, but she was a woman, so they had another line of attack. I believe she was attacked for not standing for the pledge or the anthem once. AMPUTEE is not a disparagement.

I did the opposite of Lewis in solving. I went right for the chessboard, getting 90% of it before moving into the corners.

Teedmn 1:31 PM  

Back in the early seventies, my neighbor, a couple of years younger than I, taught me the moves for the chess pieces and how to set up the board. I recall we tried to play a few times, but with no idea of strategy, it just became a more complicated form of checkers for a couple of pre-teens (and yes, I know checkers can have strategy but I never understood that either so...) and thus, I never became a chess player. My entire knowledge of chess notation comes from movies or books and now they've changed it? Ack.

This did not affect my enjoyment of the puzzle. I fired up my computer to solve online only to see the note warning against it so I had to wait until my bedroom was unoccupied before I could print the puzzle to get the full experience. I thought it was fine.

I decided to solve the messy center first.I fell into the "Adam" trap at 66A but not for long. When I got the bookended CHESS BOARD answers, the rest came easily enough, if not fast. I had a HuNgER at 106D but FANTASIA filled it. And putting the ubiquitous EcO in at 36D VEXed my 40A entry briefly but 91D's ECO helped 36D RE-GEL.

What sent me on a fruitless Google search was 75A. "Pith holders." With the R in place, I decided that the spongy stuff inside of a ReeD was called PITH. AT ONCE, I realized the answer was, rather, RINDS. But what is that spongy stuff in the center of a reed? I Googled and rephrased and found out how to make a reed pen and how to cut down reeds and all sorts of other fascinating information but I remain ignorant as to whether reeds have pith in their centers. Anybody familiar with reed anatomy?

Thanks, Jack Reuter, and congratulations on the debut.

Joe Dipinto 1:32 PM  

@Nancy -- It did occur to me to use Cole Porter, and also Chess Records artist Etta James (♪ At last / My Sunday puzzle has come along... ♪). But Jefferson Airplane's "White Rabbit" won out with its chess board and white knight references. And looking at the middle of the grid sure made me feel like I was on drugs.

@retired guy -- I assumed that CHECKMATE IN ONE meant that with the single move of 25a the king would be checkmated, which it is. But I can see your point too. I'm not up on the nuances of the lingo.

puzzlehoarder 1:33 PM  

NOSFERATU showed me that SEPPUKU ends with a U. AKU has somehow slipped through the cracks but SPOKANE made it obvious. I wasn't that familiar with the belicose overtones of JINGO. I think of JINGOism more in terms of xenophobia. Today's solve taught me a few new things. My only real challenge was staying awake while solving it last night. The puzzle wasn't boring I was just tired. A very routine solve to a clean grid. I did not realize it was a 22x22 until it was pointed out. I don't know how chessboard squares are labeled so I didn't understand the move described by 25A until I glanced at today's review. I'd rate the solve as medium to easy.

old timer 1:36 PM  

My first thought on reading Don's writeup: Where does @Rex find all these snowflakes? My second thought: OFL might have delivered a classic rant. But goddammit, he would have included an illustration of the CHESS BOARD with all the pieces set up for the mate. I did not have the patience to do that with my own board.

I actually learned CHESS at a summer camp for boys. One of the other kids showed me how the board is set up and how the pieces move. Probably he desperately needed another kid to play with. But I was glad to learn. I played often in high school, not so often afterwards. But for years I would read the CHESS column in the old SF Chronicle, and the LA Times before that, and solve the 'mate in two" or "mate in three" puzzles ("Mate in one" is a phrase you only found in books for beginners).

I'll join the chorus of those who were not disturbed at all by AMPUTEE, and think that while the politicians mentioned would rather not have lost a limb, their status is people injured in service was probably a plus for them on Election Day. Right now my favorite veteran is Mayor Pete, and I am glad for him that he came out physically whole. Gladder still he is running for President as a married man. Some things in our lives really have changed for the better.

sixtyni yogini 1:42 PM  

Visually (in hard copy at least) the chessboard was a mess, so it was too much of a bother to do/see the moves to “checkmateinone”, which would have been fun. Liked it a lot otherwise.😎 👍🏽 ♟ 🧩 ♟👍🏽 😎

sixtyni yogini 1:48 PM  

Dont get the problem with seppuku. Hara Kiri (cut the gut) is used often in crosswords, and seppuku is a far more polite word for the deed. And Nosferatu - is just another word for vampire 🧛‍♂️

KevCo 1:55 PM  

I love chess. I play it all the time. I know the notation cold. I even read books on strategy.

And this puzzle totally sucked. The chessboard in the middle was worthless. I didn't use the "pieces" at all. Just filled in the puzzle as though it were a themeless.

Never have I missed Rex's trenchant commentary more.

Aphid Larue 2:03 PM  

Chess was my father’s game. He played remotely with others, sending next moves on penny postcards. I regret being too lazy to check the actual board after filling in the squares. Really quite a feat, to make it all work out.

I send Rex a dime a day.

Anonymous 2:03 PM  

@anon/9:54
Keeps the liberal fringe happy.

Puuulllleeeaassee!!!! It was 78,900 right wingnuts in three otherwise sane states that gave us Putin's Puppet President. The USofA is only right wing in old, white, rural, uneducated counties. The rest of the USofA is moderate to progressive. In a fair election, none of the recent right wing buffoons would have made it to the White House.

Mike Herlihy 2:07 PM  

Liked the puzzle a lot, although there were many clues I only sussed out via the crosses.

I didn't understand why people using the app don't see the triangles, circles, shaded squares. They show up on my cheap-o smartphone's app just fine. What I just looked at was the app's settings. Under "Puzzle Preferences" there's an option "Show overlays." If you have that turned off you won't see the chess features of this puzzle. I have an Android phone, so it might be different for iPhone/iPad people who didn't get the effects.

NOSFERATU (the original) is a classic that everyone should know, and if you haven't seen it, you should.

Masked and Anonymous 2:11 PM  

This SunPuz definitely gets some points for bein different.

M&A has played some chess, in his checkered past, but had a real hard time usin the crosschesswordboard to visualize much, becuz…
* Used to seein chess pieces, rather than triangles and circles.
* Didn't remember where B-8 was. Pretty rare, that I've ever beheld that species of chess notation, I guess.
* Wasn't sure which side (white or black) was supposed to be movin next. Did I miss that info, somewhere in the instructions/clues? All I saw was "you", as far as a side-to-move indicator.

Lotsa good regular fill and good desperate fill, as others have already covered. M&A good fave: NOSFERATU. M&A good desperate fave: MATIC.
staff weeject pick: CTO. Chief of Tank Ostentation?

Thanx, and congratz on yer debut, Mr. Reuter.

Masked & Anonymo12Us

Fred Romagnolo 2:14 PM  

I learned the older chess notation, never did the new one, but it still worked out. Nobody's asked, but I will, what is the TIDEPOD answer all about? I consider NOSFERATU to be almost as well-known as "Dracula." People who object to "insensitive" words have an awfully limited vocabulary. The greatest section of FANTASIA is "The Dance of the Hours."

Fred Romagnolo 2:35 PM  

@Carola: I believe you're a fellow-Westerner; check out Ansel Adams, perhaps the greatest photographer of our part of the world.

Anonymous 2:36 PM  

Tide pods are laundry detergent "pods" - self-contained objects that you toss in the washing machine.

People were challenging other people to eat them, which evidently is not a healthy thing to do.

Terry B 3:08 PM  

What a dreadful waste of time. This was simply a "clever" overlay on a bad, dull puzzle. So many trite answers; ETO, OATER, ESTOPS, LPS, TRA, IRISH, for example. And some made up answers; REGEL is NOT a word. NOBODY "regels" hair. It is long past time for Shortz to turn the NYT puzzle over to someone with fresh ideas.

Lynx 3:09 PM  

@Anonymous 1:37: "Mike" did not write today's review. If you're going to spew hate, at least pay attention to detail.

johnnymao 3:13 PM  

Surprised no Beatles fans had a problem with MONO clue. They recorded on a four-track tape recorder, then mixed down to mono for their earliest records.

Mo-T 3:14 PM  


@M&A 2:11

M&A has played some chess, in his checkered past, but had a real hard time usin the crosschesswordboard to visualize much....

ROFL. Thanks for that.

Aketi 3:18 PM  

@oldtimer, @M&A & @60niyogini, if you want to see what the embedded CHESS BOARD looks like with the pieces and the move, zoom in on my avatar. Or just email me and I’ll send you a bigger version. Doing the grid-game board art this morning enabled me to leisurely drink an extra coffee in bed. Always nice to have an excuse to be lazy on a Sunday morning.

paperkin 3:19 PM  

I didn’t think SEPPUKU and NOSFERATU were too obscure. I knew seppuku off the top of my head for some reason, though I can also imagine not knowing that word. Nosferatu is common enough that I’ve seen beers named after it and jokes on shows like friends making the reference.
I thought the chess board was lousy.
AMPUTEES I had to infer from crosses. It seemed a little out of the ordinary. I could think of other amputees. The painter Manet I had a leg amputated that had become gangrenous from syphillis I think, and I suppose van Gogh can be considered an amputee.

Adam 3:22 PM  

Loved NOSFERATU. I couldn't care less about AMPUTEE - frankly, it's the only thing I know about Tammy Duckworth other than that she's in Congress, and I didn't know the other guy at all, but once I had a few letters it was clear. FERTILE before VERDANT, but BRAVOS brought me back.

The chess notation was interesting - it certainly made CHESS/BOARD obvious, and the instructions were clear that it was going to be a piece moving for 27A. CHECKMATE IN ONE fell with a few of the downs, all of which were fair, but without really being able to read the "chessboard" I didn't ever bother to look to see how the knight's move would result in checkmate. Frankly, I didn't care. I'm sure this was difficult to construct, but as many have mentioned, the chess puzzle didn't help the solving experience for me at all - if anything, all the notation made it that much more difficult to read.

MEH indeed.

Susan 3:24 PM  

Enjoyed your comments about the puzzle and agree with your critique completely. Thank you for posting One Night in Bangkok from one of my favorite musicals, Chess. I had never actually see the video!

Anonymous 3:38 PM  

Always amazes me when people seem annoyed or think it somehow wrong if the puzzle exposes their cultural or historical ignorance.

Anonymous 3:41 PM  

Oh by all means, let's instead have puzzles with references to the Simpsons and pop culture....

Masked and Anonymous 3:59 PM  

p.s.'s:

@Mo-T: yo. Thanx for the ROFLin'.

@Aketi: Thanx for the great chessboard pic -- makes things perfectly clear to the pitifully confused M&A. White's knight moved, to achieve the checkmate. Not black's knight. QED.

@All the subs this long Independence weekend: primo jobs! Y'all oughta be CrossWorld-knighted. And mated, if you're game.

M&Also


**gruntz**

Dan Miller 4:27 PM  

Not only is it part of their story, it's prominent. The main thing that political junkies remember about Cleland was the indignity of his losing a race where the GOP ran against him as weak on the Iraq War (2002 was a weird and gross time). If not for that, he'd barely be remembered, one more Southern Dem who couldn't hang on as polarization deepened.

Unknown 4:59 PM  

Such a cool and ambitious concept. I think the author pulled it off! I continue to be impressed with what can be imagined for the crossword grid. If the fill was a little more awkward than usual (which I’m not even sure it was), the trade off was worth it to me.

I am rolling my eyes just a bit at the pearl-clutching around “amputee.” I think if anything the answer (which may have been surprising to some) highlights how awesome Cleland and Duckworth are. Maybe there are amputees out there who feel otherwise; if so, I defer. But I suspect it’s mostly four-limbers critiquing this :-)

Birchbark 5:01 PM  

@Teedmn (1:31) -- You're right about reeds having PITH in the stem. Best I can do to confirm this (besides say so) is use rushes as a proxy. My useful "Ultimate Visual Picture Dictionary 2000" shows a rush stem, the center of which is "Pith with stellate parenchyma (star shaped packing tissue)."

Oddly, the otherwise interesting "Swamp and Bog" wasn't useful, even though it goes into great detail on reeds, rushes and everything else you see in the wetlands. But I did learn that the average cattail spike has 220,000 seeds, and that Thoreau liked to demonstrate it this way: "Pull out a small tuft and watch it immediately expand to fill your hand with a downy mass." I plan to try it next time I see a cattail.

Runs with Scissors 5:21 PM  

Commenting late; got up early to go ride my mountain bike up lots of hills. That went way better than the puzzle.

The whole chess thingie was off-putting. I enjoyed the solve process - I always do - but today was more of a slog than most. I can appreciate the difficulty and artfulness of assembling such a grid, but it ain't for me.

I parsed it as "CHECK MATE I NONE" so there's that. Got it done, so there's that too.

Some good entries, but not enough. Maybe Monday will be better.

CHOP UP AUNTIE EM
Mark, in Mickey's North 40

Anoa Bob 6:09 PM  

Knew SEPPUKU from having read a riveting account of the practice many moons ago in some short story anthology. Couldn't remember the story's title or author, so went to Uncle Google for some help. It's "Patriotism" by Yukio Mishima, published in 1960.

And the reason it was in the anthology, I gather, is that it is considered a bit of a classic by critics. Goodreads.com calls it "One of the most powerful short stories ever written". So if you need to flesh out (heh-heh) your knowledge base about ritualistic self-disembowelment, I recommend it. The fact that I still remember it so vividly all these years later tells you something.

Google also tells me that 10 years after its publication, the author carried out the deed himself.

Honeysmom 6:14 PM  

I know some solvers love a difficult puzzle, but come on! This was just plan off-putting and show-offy. First look at the grid, said to myself: "Skip this one!" But tried it and didn't last long. Usually enjoy Sundays and do pretty well once I get the gimmick.

Unknown 7:46 PM  

There is a house wren desperately trying to sate a cowbird fledgling on my deck rail right now. Poor schmuck!

xyz 8:43 PM  

Next

Z 8:58 PM  

@Aketi and @Joe Dipinto - In chess problems there is an initial set-up and the goal is to find the single move that results in the other side inevitably ending in CHECKMATE IN x number of moves. So, CHECKMATE IN ONE would normally mean “find the move that, after you make it, will enable you to get CHECKMATE in the next move no matter how the other side moves.” I’m sort of surprised that only one person mentioned this. I had the same response about the answer being slightly off, but forgot to mention it.

I can’t find who said it now, but whoever said people would either love or hate this puzzle was correct. There doesn’t seem to be any middle ground.

JC66 9:29 PM  

@Z

FYI, It was @pmdm at 5:48 yesterday.

Andy 9:54 PM  

Agree

Joe Dipinto 10:57 PM  

@Z -- Well, I'm looking at some online Q & A's about what it means. This is from a site called Quora:

•••
"Mate in one” means two closely related things. If you are referring to a chess position, it means the player to move can deliver checkmate on this turn. This is the most common meaning. (emphasis mine)

If you are playing a game, your opponent might say “mate in one” after making a move. That means no matter what move you make, they will be able to checkmate you on their following move.
•••

If the above explanation is correct then the puzzle is correct because the checkmate is being delivered on *this* turn, i.e. the move described at 25a.

But it would seem that your opponent can *announce* a mate-in-one when the checkmate is still one move away. So again, if that is correct, I can see why there could be confusion.

EdFromHackensack 10:59 PM  

I know very little about chess. Loved this puzzle. Finished with no errors and it was a challenge. But hats off to the construction! People are overly critical on this blog. Maybe it stems from the man on the top. But cmon, this was brilliant!

albatross shell 11:01 PM  

I do not believe the chess problem in the puzzle is incorrect. WHITE to move and mate in n moves means precisely what it says. WHITE will force a checkmate in at most n moves no matter what BLACK does. And of course if BLACK makes his best moves it will take n moves. Mate in one means there is an immediate mate and BLACK will not have a chance to move. Generally WHITE moves first in all constructed problems of this type. If the problem is from an actual game, then the actual colors from the game may be used.

Roth 3:16 AM  

Ugh! Hard to read, too dependent on a gimmick, and full of dreck like AKU.

Home in the classic song is not The Range, home is ON the range. To me, this was inaccurate in a way that a crossword clue should not be.

Looking forward to better later in the week.

Anonymous 9:22 AM  

Can someone please explain the clue for 31A, "Side represented by r" (BLACK)? What is "r"?

burtonkd 10:46 AM  

One more to weigh in on mate in one.
For those who solve chess problems, the phrase "mate in one" has already been achieved and is the current state of the board.
If you are just thinking in general language, as clued, you can "achieve a checkmate" by making one move.

Anyone else play enough chess to wonder what the heck would have had to happen to arrive at this board position? Seems highly unlikely to have occurred in an actual well played game.

morrighan 5:19 PM  

I solve on an iPad2 and have no issue with what you are experiencing

Dice 12:27 PM  

Haha. I will use that line often.

Anonymous 2:55 PM  

Despite too much crossword glue [could have been improved by collaboration or editors];
Despite DNF due to NO__FER__TA;
Awesome debut puzzle!
Great creativity to superimpose a chess problem over xword. Knowing a bit of chess from years ago helped me fill in some letters in the center. If you've read any articles in past 20 years about chess champs, you'd have seen the "new" notation b8. If not, you feel like I do about "one-named singers" -- there seem to be a lot of them!
Chess puzzles do not assume a "well-played game". But I feel that I used to often be in Black's position at end of game: down 1 bishop, 1 pawn, and in a hopeless position.

Unknown 1:11 PM  

You missed a THEME ANSWER -- 102 Down: RETIRES which is chess-speak for quits (when Mate is obvious).

Anonymous 2:15 PM  

terrific puzzle. snowflake blogger.

rainforest 3:16 PM  

So, I was solving a crossword puzzle when a CHESS game broke out. Fine by me because I love both endeavours. What I didn't enjoy was trying to find the frickin' puzzle. Something needs to be done for we syndicated puzzlers, especially on Sunday.

Once I found it, I did enjoy it, a lot. The killing CHESS move CHECKed out, and the puzzle itself was well-executed, especially given the constraints of the theme. I also thought the theme allowed the rest of the puzzle to *breathe*, as someone likes to say.
Regarding AMPUTEE, as a Canadian, I didn't know the two individuals, but learning that they are AMPUTEEs wasn't something that bothered me, and I don't see a PC indiscretion in having it in the puzzle. Actually, most of the time when someone points out that a word might not be PC just annoys me. Similarly, SEPPUKU doesn't fail any "test", breakfast or otherwise. I think all words available to us are fair game.

Burma Shave 3:58 PM  

NO, DR.NO!

ICONCUR 'TIS not BLACK or WHITE
to give MEDICINE for SOREKNEES,
so you're FREETOGO CHOPUP what might
ATONCE MAKE them all AMPUTEES.

--- MONTE SPRAT

Diana,LIW 5:42 PM  

I no very little about chess, tho I have figured out that this is really about that game. Wonder if I'll care enough to finish?

Diana, looking for a damn CROSSWORD!!!!

spacecraft 8:31 PM  

I for one think it is nothing short of amazing that anyone could pull this off. To have all the P's, R's, K's, etc. fall into those precise SPOTs on the BOARD to arrive at a mating position is enough of a wonder, never mind the move, the result--and even BLACK & WHITE thrown in!

In addition, I enjoyed finding toothy words like SEPPUKU and NOSFERATU (and again stop with the SILLY offense-taking, please!) A fun solve all the way.

Did I say the other day that I had made Mother TERESA DOD? Not sure I did, but will gladly do that now. This puzzle was comparable to Shane Lowry's performance in the Open: blew the competition away. Eagle!

Diana,LIW 9:51 PM  

Still plodding away.

And I know the dif bet know and no. No means know. ya no?

Those circles and triangles are a pain - my eyesight is so wonky that they get in the way.

Lady Diana, LIW

Dude 7:26 AM  

Switch to Android and solve yer own offense.

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