SATURDAY, September 26, 2009—Barry Silk

THEME: No theme today—Just a themeless Saturday puzzle

Yet another easy-peasy Saturday puzzle, the second-easiest L.A. Times crossword I've done this week. It's all topsy-turvy—the Friday and Saturday puzzles were easier than the Monday through Thursday puzzles. Ours not to reason why, ours but to do and sigh.

Barry's previous puzzles have paid homage to his beloved Philadelphia in various ways. This time, it's the 18A: Phillies pitcher who received the 2008 World Series MVP Award, some guy I never heard of named COLE HAMELS. A more notable Cole:

The only other answer that felt completely unfamiliar to me was 22A: Easier version, in music scores (OSSIA). Do the musically inclined among you know this term, or is it pretty far down the list of Musical Vocabulary I Ought to Know?

Favorite answers:
  • 21A: Instants of revelation, as for puzzle solvers (AHA MOMENTS). Oprah has 'em, too. In fact, she thinks she owns the phrase, but she most certainly does not.
  • 25A: Sports intermission (HALF-TIME). My kid has finally taken an interest in football thanks to the Madden NFL '08 Wii game, but he is not yet drawn to televised games, much less to half-time hooey [see also 16A: NFL commentator Long (HOWIE)].
  • 39A: Photographer known for his black-and-white American West scenes (ANSEL ADAMS). Always good to have a first name/last name combo of a famous person (famouser than COLE HAMELS, even!), but good gravy, does the clue hit you over the head with a lot of identifying information or what?
  • 8D: Wind-speed measurer (ANEMOMETER). Almost as fun to say aloud as "sphygmomanometer." In case you were wondering, the word shares a root with crossworddom's favorite seven-letter flower, the anemone (which means "daughter of the wind").
  • You can get these crosswords FOR A SONG (26D: Dirt-cheap).
  • Shhhh, IT'S A SECRET so 29D: "Don't tell anyone." It's probably suboptimal to have this answer crossing SECRETES (42A: Emits, as pheromones), given the shared roots of the S-words. Plus, the word SECRETES is kinda gross. Like seeping.
  • 43D: Mork's partner (MINDY). I had one of those aspirational crushes on Mindy—I wanted to be her. This does not explain why I wore the Mork rainbow suspenders in 7th grade.

Crosswordese 101: A T-TOP is a 20A: Car roof with removable panels. Do y'all use this term when you're talking about cars? because I know it only from crosswords. Here's the definition from a Wikipedia article: "An automotive T-top is an automobile roof with removable panels on either side of a rigid bar running from the center of one structural bar between pillars to the center of the next structural bar." The sorts of phrases you'll see in TTOP clues include 'Vette option, sporty car roof, and sporty sunroof. If it's got four letters and has to do with sportscar roofs, plug in TTOP.

Everything Else — 1A: Dr.'s calendar item (APPT.); 5A: Arizona's southwesternmost county, or its seat (YUMA); 9A: Narrow one's brows (at) (SCOWL); 14A: Tigger's pal (POOH); 15A: "Stop pouring now!" ("WHEN!"); 17A: Prefix with marketing (TELE-); 24A: Iditarod destination (NOME); 28A: Elvis's swivelers (HIPS); 32A: Co-proprietor (JOINT OWNER); 34A: French 101 verb (&Ecir;TRE); 35A: Existing independent of experience, in logic (A PRIORI); 36A: Libya neighbor (TUNISIA); 38A: Pimples (ZITS); 41A: Citrus peel (ZEST); 43A: Part of MSG (MONO); 44A: Snow coasters (SLEDS); 47A: Angler's item (FISHING ROD); 53A: Bra size (B CUP); 54A: Carefully entering (EASING INTO); 55A: Cube maker Rubik (ERNO); 56A: Goaded, with "on" (EGGED); 57A: Fiddling tyrant (NERO); 58A: Flat fee? (RENT); 59A: Hotsy-__ (TOTSY); 60A: Dutch export (EDAM); 61A: Souped-up Pontiacs (GTOS); 1D: Is __: probably will (APT TO); 2D: Meter experts? (POETS); 3D: Golfers' tops (POLO SHIRTS); 4D: 2002 film about a musician who survived the Holocaust (THE PIANIST); 5D: Girls' rec. center (YWCA); 6D: "Here comes trouble" ("UH-OH"); 7D: Skin pigment (MELANIN); 9D: Humiliate (SHAME); 10D: Arrive (COME); 11D: Wilson of "Marley & Me" (OWEN); 12D: Droop like aging flowers (WILT); 13D: Not so much (LESS); 19D: Self-government (HOME RULE); 23D: Range below soprano (ALTO); 27D: Like some remote-control planes (TWIN ENGINE); 28D: German university city (HEIDELBERG); 30D: Schoolmarmish (PRIM); 31D: Sailors' milieus (SEAS); 32D: Cool cat's music (JAZZ); 33D: Mayberry tyke (OPIE); 37D: Washington team (NATS); 40D: Treated with disdain (SCORNED); 45D: Slangy "Beats me!" ("DUNNO!"); 46D: Windex targets (SPOTS); 47D: Word after bare or square (FEET); 48D: "Othello" traitor (IAGO); 49D: USMC rank (SSGT); 50D: Goes quickly (HIES); 51D: Other, in Oaxaca (OTRA); 52D: Dire destiny (DOOM).



I always like Barry Silk's puzzles and this is another goodie. Not hard, but that's okay, it has zest!
Speaking of zest, I thought the Z cross of JAZZ, ZITS, and ZEST was quite nice... a good one to remember for Scrabble.

Orange, unlike you and your MINDY emulations, I wanted to be WITH her. She was a definite charmer!
Thanks, Orange, for that M & M clip. Also, thanks for the NatKing Cole clip... he's the best!

Some fun clues and entries:
- AHAMOMENTS, which I'm always saying as I solve even these easy puzzles. Also, I have AAH moments, right after I pour my first cup of coffee. Often the AHAs and AAHs run together in the morning. Yes, I do believe Oprah has a patent on that phrase.
- Meter experts = POETS
- Word after bare or square = FEET

Fave word today: HOTSYTOTSY
I'm going to try and use that word on someone today, so watch out!

Most troubling word: TWINENGINE
Why is the clue remote-control planes?

John's New-Word-Of-The-Day: OSSIA
I should know that from my oldest son... he's second trumpet at the best brass section in the world... The Chicago Symphony Orchestra [buttons pop here].

Have a wonderful weekend !!!!
(and stop your whining about things being too easy).

This comment has been removed by the author.
Orange said...

Who needs jazz hands when you can have JAZZ ZITS?


TTOP has another meaning:
When a young girl takes scissors to her brother's T-shirt and makes a tank top out of it, that's called a TTOP. Don't ask me why I know that.

Unknown said...

I remember in the late '70's t-tops were big on the new 'Vette Stingrays. In the '80's they were were big on Porshes. I haven't seen them much lately.

Sfingi said...

Easy, despite not knowing ossia, ttop, Howie Long and Cole Hamels. Definite testosterone deficiency with the last 3. Maybe I should try wii. Educators say one learns things if they are meaningful. Since I spelled anemometer wrong, didn't actually get the "Cole" part.

@John agree all. Mindy is beautiful. She's apparently married to Mark Harmon for 20+ years, has 2 kids and hasn't been in show biz for a decade.

Rex Parker said...

Dear Rich,

Please do something about the late-week puzzles. This retooling of all puzzles to Monday-level easiness is sucking the life out of the puzzles. If you need to be easier than the NYT, fine, but right now you're at about 25%, difficulty-wise. Today's NYT: 16 minutes. Today's LAT: 3:23. I honestly don't have much interest in solving the later-week LAT puzzles now that I know they're all going to be softballs. Barry's grid is lovely, in its way, but you can't keep all LAT puzzles at the kiddie level. I'm not even sure this blog can continue if they stay this way. There's not enough to write about, and no one solving the puzzles is ever going to get any better at medium and tough puzzles. In short, the LAT is at risk of boring people to death. I'm not going to shut up about this until things start changing. I want to send several grids I have to the LAT, but fear that they will be neutered in the clues just so some sudoku-lover doesn't have to spend more time on it than it takes for him to finish his morning tea. I know that Rich is not to blame here, but whoever's giving him his marching orders is an idiot. This is the second-most important xword venue in the country. It needs to start acting like it. Ease people into increased difficulty. So far, we've just slid in the other direction, and now, w/ my three-minute solving times the last two weeks, it appears we've bottomed out. Time to make some changes. What kind of puzzle are you going to be? We don't blog Newsday or USA Today or other dailies for a reason. I hate to see the LAT taking those puzzles as its model. Turn it around. Find your swagger. Get back in the game. Keep puzzles easier than the NYT, fine, but make them tough enough to be interesting.

The Corgi of Mystery said...

Amen to Rex. This one was so easy it was hardly worth doing. Is there any way we can get a petition going?

Parsan said...

Misread hotsy as hoity so I had toity instead of TOTSY which slowed me down for a second. I seem to have "a hoity-toity hotsy-totsy" phrase stuck in my mind and it won't go away.

Thanks Orange for Nat King Cole. He was a fine piano player also. "A Night in TUNISIA" is a terrific JAZZ standard. Knew OSSIA.

I don't know what you mean by "half-time hooey" but to me it is all that talk -talk -talk, telling me what I had just seen. I wish on college game broadcasts they would show the bands, which they used to do before they hired all those guys who have to tell you what you probably already know. Hey, it's going to be a nice day here so I need to get this SCOWL off my face!

HOWIE Long was a terrific player before he became an announcer.

Good write-up!

Parsan said...

@Rex--Just read your post and am adding my voice to those who are shouting HELP!!!

toothdoc said...

Rex, Orange and PG
I have learned a ton from this blog but completely agee that the LAT is waaaaaay to easy. I feel bad for you three having to figure out what to write about and when I finish the Saturday in under 12 minutes there really isn't anything for me to learn from this blog.
I wonder how much publicity the LAT has gotten from your blog - I know I wouldn't be doing it without your talking about it on the NYT blog. I say vote with your e-voice and change the subject of this blog to a different xword puzzle available on Cruciverb (crossynergy, the onion, etc).
Sorry for the long post but if he LAT wants to cater to non-crossword enthusiasts you shouldn't have to suffer too.

Orange said...

@Corgi, I fear that we are not remotely a constituency that Tribune Media Services (which syndicates this puzzle) cares about. If any of you do this puzzle in your local paper, PLEASE write to the paper's editor and demand a return to the graduated difficulty the L.A. Times crossword used to have.

And yes, amen to everything Rex said.

shrub5 said...

I started in the NW corner as usual and couldn't get anything right off the bat. So I thought to myself: oh boy, this is going to be harder than usual. Then I moved to another spot and quickly filled most everything in with no problems. Worked my way around and back to the NW where I was able to finish it off. Disappointingly, this turned out to be just a slow start rather than a more difficult puzzle.

One thing that irked me a bit was 1A Dr.'s calendar item (APPT). I took this to mean something on the doctor's calendar so I entered GOLF. I have the doctor appt. on MY calendar. Then I thought 1D to be oddly punctuated with that colon -- I didn't get it. It sure took a while for my brain to get in gear this morning!

I loved the Elvis's swivelers clue!! Never heard the term OSSIA, but I am not musically inclined. Meter experts? for POETS was cute. I thought that with all the 10 letter words, the remaining fill was very good, free of goofy abbreviations and Roman numerals (a couple of my pet peeves.)

Just saw Rex's comment as I previewed mine. Amen. It seems to me that the folks who want the easier puzzles a) don't think they will ever improve their solving skills?? and b) think that the only alternative to easy ones are killer puzzles which require a Google, atlas, dictionary, etc. for every clue and even then you can't figure it all out. There's got to be a middle ground here where most people can be happy most of the time.

Anonymous said...

The short time it takes to work one of Barry Silk's puzzle is great. I need to get on with my
busy day, but I enjoy a quick, easy puzzle. I wish that I had more than 5 minutes for myself,
but I don't.

Rex Parker said...

I say we give you your quick easy puzzles M-W and give others gradually tougher stuff the other days. No reason puzzle should cater solely to people who can't be bothered to think or struggle even a little. Big tent!

GLowe said...

What a contrast. @joon, if you're out there, congrats on the other puzzle - it might as well have been written in another language for all of me, but it was cool to see it completed. *sigh* I just keep rolling that rock uphill to Thursday, watch it crash to the bottom, and start again on Monday.

This one, on the other hand, was so Monday that I'm afraid to look at next Monday's. I might just start trying that 'down clues only' thing that some people are talking about.

Orange said...

Once again, I say "Amen, brother Rex!"

ddbmc said...

@Rex's vex has reached its apex!
Everything @JohnNH said, except for Mindy. Mork was my crush.
As easy as this was for Rex, I still needed about 19 minutes to complete. Didn't know "ossia, Cole Hamels. Love Nat King Cole, tho'.
Going to the Giants games, there are always too many TV Time Outs, so Half Time took a half second more to conjure up. @Shrubb5 must have had a "glazed" moment on the sports triv! Remember the Howie Long/Teri Hatcher Radio Shack commercials?
Jazz Zits? @Orange, that got a belly laugh! I'd hate to think what those secrete! If I had those kind of hands, it would be a secret.
Dad had a T-Bird sans T-top; Meter experts perplexed me for a bit, but came with an Aha moment.
Must say I find all of you in the blog more enlightening than the puzzles, but as the constructors seem to read us, the more we let them know we want a tad more tussle in our puzzles, I think they will rise to the occasion. Here's a URL to a super easy "baby" puzzle:
My paper has both the LAT and the Thomas Joseph puz., above. The "TJ" is the one I started doing before "graduating" to LAT. NYT puzzles still pummel me, but the bruises are lessening....

choirwriter said...

Only thing I had to Google today was the MVP pitcher, since I had no clue how to spell ANEMOMETER for the cross.

I come across OSSIA now and then in my music scores, which is where they write out a simpler part for a soloist who is given a really difficult passage to play, in case they can't handle the high difficulty of the original, usually in a concerto of some sort.

Brother and I have been solving the puzzles together over breakfast during his visit here this weekend, and we've enjoyed not having to think too much. But I do agree, I'd like them to ramp up the difficulty more on the weekends -- my brain is starting to atrophy!

Anonymous said...

Rex I couldn't agree with you more. I am sure you have noticed that even the blogging has descended to a very low level, people getting stuck on the easiest of clues. I miss the challenge. Now it seems very vapid. (I'm sure some people will have to look that word up)

edith b said...

When I saw this puzzles byline I thought things were going to get better. But alas, not to be.

How can this blog survive if all the puzzles are at supermarket tabloid level. I don't begrudge beginning solvers their easy puzzles but every puzzle??!!

God knows I'm not a speed solver like Rex and Orange but I'm thinking of foregoing the LA Times puzzle if this situation persists.

gespenst said...

It can't be a Saturday puzzle if I don't even *think* of googling anything, and can complete it easily myself w/o help from my FIL.

I used to enjoy working Saturday w/ my FIL at breakfast, but now, no challenge at all.

It's really just been in the past couple of months that this happened ... what's the story on that?

Anonymous said...

Not much to say today except that I liked the puzzle- within-a-puzzle reference to Rubik's cube. The only section that gave me pause came at 9A. I tried FROWN, for SCOWL at first and even considered WORRY or PLUCK for a moment. There's more than one way to narrow a brow.

As for the degree of difficulty--How about a compromise? Since the hints are key, why not provide two sets of clues? Offering an easy or hard clue choice might please everyone.

One question--Shouldn't 9D be in another tense since it's clued as "Treated with disdain" in the preterit, but solved by SHAME in the present?

Greene said...

Just last night I was commenting to another crossword enthusiast about the depressing state of the LAT puzzle. I even said something like "I don't know how much longer Rex, Orange, and PG can continue the blog with this kind of material."

@Orange: My local newspaper carries the puzzle in syndication and I'm going to write a letter to the editor today. That seems like as good a place as any to start. Any other suggestions about how the puzzle community can work together to remedy this awful state of affairs?

Orange said...

@Greene, good plan. See if you can get your local friends to send letters, too! If the paper gets a bunch of cranky letters demanding a tougher puzzle, the way the LAT crossword used to be, they just might pass that demand along to TMS.


@Rex Great great diatribe... I'm with you 100%.
Maybe it's time for me to talk to Sam Zell (owner of TMS) about the LAT crossword fiasco. He hates all this dumbing-down stuff. You can be sure you'll hear some of his classic zingers and heads will roll at the LAT.
Here's one of his quotes about the state of his business---
“Three guys in a garage create YouTube, and we’ve got 800 people in Chicago who don’t know their ass from a hole in the ground! … You chronicle what we’ve done in 60 days, and I promise you the next 60 days will be even more tumultuous.”

Jerome said...

I think it's fair to say that the writers of this blog and those who participate in it are not a reflection of the average solver. I'm betting that of the hundreds of thousands of people doing todays puzzle most cannot complete it. If that's true, it could be said todays puzzle is too difficult! Well, then be a better solver, you say. Why should anyone have to be? Perhaps there are millions of folks who are quite content with the ability they have. And there's absolutely nothing wrong with that.

Rich is simply trying to make the puzzles doable for the broadest amount of people on any given day. It's his job to see that the puzzles have mass appeal. If that excludes 'master' solvers, well, that's just the way it goes.

john farmer said...

I'll add my voice to the chorus. A good, solid 68-word grid with no 3-letter words should have a little bite to it. It should be a challenge. Somewhere it should stop you in your tracks and say, "Not so fast, wise guy." You want to feel that you've accomplished something when you're done. You don't want it to give itself away too easily. It's called a puzzle because it's supposed to puzzle you, not just let you write letters in squares without much thought. So I too would like to see some non-Monday cluing, especially with the themelesses and later in the week.

Rich is one of the most wicked cluers in the business. I imagine that if it were entirely up to him, the late-week puzzles would be harder. There had been a trend in recent years toward tougher puzzles in the late-week LAT, but since the other Tribune puzzle folded and the LAT expanded its readership, there's been a definite move in the other direction. I realize some solvers like easy puzzles. Nothing wrong with that. But why do all puzzles have to be that way? A graduated difficulty level during the week offers something for everyone. The LAT still can be easier than the NYT, if it likes, but every-day-is-Monday is just catering to one segment of the solving public to the exclusion of others.

I do hope the recent trend is not a permanent thing.

mathcapt said...

The Richmond Times Dispatch runs two puzzles every day but Sunday. One easy and the LAT. Today they were almost the same difficulty. Very disappointing. My mom-in-law used to email me for help with the LAT in the Providence Journal. Haven't heard from her in a couple of weeks unless I call. Sad. The puzzle and her daughter are the only things we share an interest in.

CrazyCat said...

Also agree with Rex. I have found that lately the most challenging puzzle of the week in the LAT is the Sunday calendar puzzle by either Merle Reagle or Sylvia B. That's the one that actually is in the paper and no one blogs about it. I'm not sure why that is. This week I was able to do the NYT puzzle competently Monday through Wednesday, somewhat of a struggle on Thursday, but I enjoyed it. I'm going to try Friday's today. But I need to wait until later when the chores are done. So I think I am making progress towards being a better solver.

Rex Parker said...

With respect, Jerome, most regular solvers did not fail to solve today's puzzle. No way, no how. And again, as many have said today, no one is saying all puzzles should be blisteringly difficult. Should not be a horrible thing to have late-week puzzles harder than early-week. As John said, puzzles can still run easy compared to NYT. I know lots and lots of novice solvers (and, importantly, *former* novice solvers) who are happy, thrilled, to have challenging puzzles. They don't get angry and write letters when they fail to finish correctly. They persevere. They move forward. They get better. God bless novice solvers. The last thing I or anyone here wants is a puzzle that leaves them in the dust.


mac said...

I agree with Rex and all of you. To tell you the truth, I only do the LAT puzzle because I want to support the blog, I like those three!

Wouldn't it be interesting to have 2 sets of clues? I think it was "The Economist" that had both straight crossword and then cryptic clues on the Saturday (wasn't it a weekly, newspaper-shaped publication years ago?). Huge difference in difficulty, but you could even combine when you got stuck.

I love Barry Silk puzzles, but this is a pretty Monday.

Unknown said...

90 seconds to completion equates to beaucoup simplicity for a fin de semana crossword.

Let's hear the grassroots Jeremiahs to the Puzzle Masters.

JB said...

@crazycatlady: The Sunday calendar puzzle HAS been blogged here at LA Crossword Confidential by PuzzleGirl the past few weeks. It may be posted an hour or so later than the first puzzle, in my experience. Don't know if this is done regularly or just when her time permits.

Bohica said...

I agree with Rex, if you coudn't solve todays puzzle you should give up crosswords (or buy a TV Guide).

Leave Monday-Wednesday alone but Thursday-Saturday should be much harder than Monday level. I am bored to tears.

I'm writting to my local papers editor today!

split infinitive said...

Rex, I hope Rich sees/reads your apt message. I'm sure he dislikes the watered-down puzzles as well, but is responding to marching orders from the Trib.
So, I think the above suggestion about writing to our local papers to complain is probably our best way to apply some pressure to bring back the graduated level of difficulty. Perhaps, as has been proposed elsewhere, the Trib papers could signal the level of difficulty each day (c.f. Sudoku ratings) or at least alert readers to how the puzzles get harder thru the week? I commute daily in Chicago and fellow solvers seem to have no clue how the week's puzzles progress.

No one becomes a better solver when each day is the same as the last. I like a challenge, and I suspect that most solvers appreciate a puzzle that takes longer than a few minutes to yawn through or grapple with.

Orange said...

@Jerome, here's the thing: The L.A. Times puzzle was not broken. The people solving it in newspapers all across the country liked it just fine. It's the solvers who want the old TMS puzzle back who have been pitching fits and demanding an easier puzzle. Why are the long-satisfied L.A. Times crossword fans not given their due? We loved the puzzle we had but sadly, that is no longer the puzzle that's being provided.

Jerome said...

Orange- We all know that newspapers are struggling to survive and if I'm a corporate suit I'm not going to make decisions willy-nilly or on a hunch. I think they've made their studies, took their polls, listened to public feedback, and made the call that the LAT puzzle is too difficult for the people they've HEARD from. What else explains it? I'm not arguing against the large, majority opinion expressed on this site today. But I am arguing for my opinion that the average solver is more content with the level of difficulty now than before. I'll say it again. The solvers here are light years from average and not the best judge of difficulty because of that.

In the coming weeks and months we'll certainly find out which way the wind blew, and I'm betting the change in the LAT pretty much stays intact

Sfingi said...

@Anonymous 10:12. Nice personality. Keep that anonymous on your ugly, punch-me face.

Meanwhile, Love and agreement to everyone else!

Rex Parker said...

@Jerome, Corporate suits make willy-nilly, knee-jerk decisions based on limited, shrill feedback All The Time. Clearly you don't know many suits. Plus, your "HEARD from" comment makes my point — dumbing down has been a response to a bunch of complaints, but there's no reason to believe complainers are in any way a majority. Papers are betting that making puzzle uniformly easy/dull will not result in angry letters / canceled subscriptions, and about that they may be right. But word is that even the novices who squawked at the switchover 'cause they (god knows how) loved their old TMS puzzle (I'm talking about people who frequent the Crossword Corner blog, for instance) are getting bored of the dumbed-down LAT. And there's really nowhere for LAT to go now but Toward increased difficulty. My guess is that Rich will slowly ramp it back up to the nicely graded, but easier-than-NYT, level it once was. But it may take a while.

Lastly, you are simply wrong about avg reader of this blog. Orange and I are lightning fast compared to most, but the avg reader is here bec. he / she cheated and googled a clue at some point. That's how I built 90+% of my audience. Xword blog readers are, on avg, very mortal solvers.

Charles Bogle said...

thank you john farmer for explaining what's happening w LAT...trying to accommodate an expanding readership...interesting how the puzzle is a microcosm of the trouble w print media generally

I had same fits and starts shrub5 had

liked juxtaposition APPT/APTTO, OSSIA, APRIORI, ANEMOMETER, ANSELADAMS...clearly Barry Silk is capable of and is used to doing more challenging puzzles. As a baseball fan generally, am embarrassed did not know the MVP was (and won't recall him in the am)

Crockett1947 said...

Rex, How do you know what the people at the Crossword Corner puzzle blog feel about the old TMS puzzle? Did you take a poll? Did you ask a representative sample? Did you e-mail every one who posts there (quite a few more than who post here, by the way)? Your comment is shallow and self-serving. We have a nice community there, and you and anyone else is more than welcome to come join in. The snob attitude on this blog is insufferable, IMHO!


Your statement: "Orange and I are lightning fast compared to most, but the avg reader is here bec. he / she cheated and googled a clue at some point."
This statement really angers me!
I consider myself average (I am not lightening fast), BUT I AM NOT CHEATING because occassionaly I resort to Google. Do you not know that making mistakes and researching stymies are part of the learning process? And that some people (unlike you) still need to learn. I consider working a crossword to be a mental exercise and to be an enjoyable mental recreation, and NOT a competitive sport. I never keep track of my completion times... to me it's not a marathon, it's a walk in the park.
I believe a crossword should always be entertaining... I love being challenged, but it's sure not tantamount to filling out an IRS 1040 form. IMHO
And, BTW, that is not why I'm here in this blog! I am here because reading the writeups and the comments are amusing and generally educational, not because I'm stumped.

housemouse said...

I agree with Jerome and others who feel that it is better that the puzzles have been less cryptic lately. IMO, a crossword puzzle should be mostly a test of vocabulary, not of the ability to locate obscure trivia in Google, or to read the author's mind when he/she creates extremely obscure clues for relatively simple words. One eiother is in tune with the author's style of humor or one is not.

I have no problem with most of the words used, unless they are pretty obscure, but the muddled way the clues are often constructed seems bewildering to me at times. As for the difficulty of the puzzles, I may have some difficulty trying to make sense of some authors' strange sense of hunmor, but not when the puzzle centers on vocabulary.

The editors should keep the puzzles pretty much as is M-F; I'm willing to concede Sat-Sun to those who love obscurity, but during the week, I just don't have time to stay joined at the hip to Google! I was ready to ask our local paper to get its crosswords from a different source until they moved to a clearer version at least M-Th. It would be nice to have all morning to dawdle over a puzzle, but Alas! I have to work, so it is nice to have a puzzle that is clearly written. Keep it up, I say. Please.

Parsan said...

@housemouse--With all due respect, we all have busy lives, but puzzles that are simply fill-in-the-blanks are vapid intellectually. Maybe that sounds pompous. I just mean they aren't fun and you don't learn anything from them. A clue that has a meaning other than what you are thinking can produce a delightful "aha" moment, and more thoughtful, cleverly constructed puzzles can lead us to words we don't know. So what, if we don't finish a puzzle on first try! Isn't the journey the point rather than just the destination?

I agree with @Johns---- that it is not cheating to Google (read dictionary and encyclopedia in my case). I don't know who said "Everyone is ignorant about something" but certainly it's true. However, the clues in the puzzles this last week have been so easy that I didn't look up anything or "puzzle" over the answers, and for an average solver (as I am) it was unsatisifying.

Our paper runs two puzzles, a baby one and the LAT, and their difficulty level is now about the same. Since puzzlers were happy with the graduated level of difficulty of the LAT, and allegedly, complaints have come in from solvers who no longer have the easier puzzle to do, it would be great if the LAT went back to two puzzles a day and make everyone happy. How much does adding another puzzle cost in the long run? More than they want to spend, apparently. Just wishful thinking!

How nice to see passionate discourse about words. As a society, we are not dead yet!

Rex Parker said...

"Really angers"?? Easy there, John. I have said many times that I love "cheaters" and that people should solve however they like and there's no shame etc. I meant the term affectionately. Note that I said it applied to most of my audience. I tend to avoid yelling insults at the entirety of my audience.

This whole town-hall-mtg-style "anger" thing that's going around ... really unpleasant and unnecessary.

Rex Parker said...

And what Parsan said. We ALL have to work, housemouse. You should be happy to get puzzles you like early in the week, and tolerate a tougher puzzle later in the week for those who enjoy it. With practice, you might enjoy it too. It's the incredibly selfish insistence of people that the puzzle should Always be easy that is so annoying. "Everything should be my way all the time or I'm going to write pitch a fit." Ugh.

Rex Parker said...

IMHO! HA ha.

Orange said...

@JOHN: We can call it "cheating" without meaning any disparagement of those who Google clues! You're absolutely right that it's learning. I would much rather see every solver take the time to look things up than leave things blank. Heck, checking the full answers the next day and studying what you missed is a great learning tool, and Google is worlds better than a crossword dictionary for learning. Let's say you find yourself at a Wikipedia page, reading up on a topic you hadn't known anything about. You can indulge your intellectual curiosity and learn new things, making you better equipped to tackle tougher crosswords.

The folks who cry foul at "having to Google"—what, they are opposed to learning? Demanding a puzzle that never requires more knowledge than one already possesses is sad. I love crosswords that push me to pick up new knowledge.

Rex Parker said...

Yeah, I "have to Google" all the time. It's just that I have to do so After I've finished, when there's a name / concept I don't know. Learneding!


Orange said...

Me, too, Rex. I couldn't blog about that rhetorical term in the Sat. NYT puzzle without reading about it on Wikipedia first. Blogging about crosswords forces me to fill in the gaps in my knowledge rather than cementing over the gaps with ignorance.

You'll appreciate this, Rex: One of the best known IBO (or Igbo) people from Nigeria is novelist Chinua Achebe. His book Things Fall Apart takes its title from the Yeats' poem "The Second Coming." YEATS and IBO show up in crosswords from time to time and a little curious clicking around on Wikipedia gave me a link between them. Who knew?

Joon said...

i don't think i can really claim to know what the average solver wants, so i won't try. but i'm dissatisfied with the recent dumbing-down of the LAT as a (non-average) solver, and even more distressed as a constructor who specializes in tricky late-week puzzles. with the sun gone and the LAT now offering 0 challenging puzzles per week, the only place to submit difficult puzzles is the NYT.

orange: i dig. the rhetorical term in saturday's NYT and the achebe/yeats connection happen to be in my wheelhouse, but i love learning new little facts from crossword puzzles, whether or not they stump me while solving. the beautiful thing about crosswords is that you don't need to know everything to solve them, because there are two ways of getting any given letter in the grid.

Pushing 70 said...

Feeling a bit dense. I don't understand how the answer to "wheel of fortune" can be "luce."

Orange said...

Jack Cheese: I'll answer here where your comment is (though you're asking about the Sylvia Bursztyn puzzle): "wheel" is short for "big wheel," and Henry Luce was the big wheel/boss publisher of Fortune magazine.