Popular six-second clips since 2013 / SUN 8-17-14 / Title film locale in Springwood, Oh / Singer with 2009 hit Tik Tok / Accoutrement popularized by a Seinfeld episode / Mortal queen of Thebes who was transfigured into goddess / R&B sing with 2004 #1 hit Goodies

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Constructor: Caleb Madison

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging (for reasons I don't understand, as the theme was easy enough to pick up …)

THEME: "Sittin' Solve"— theme answers are "___ AND ___" phrases that have been converted to "___IN' ___" phrases by way of Texan homophony. Yes, Virginia, there is wackiness.

Theme answers:
  • WRITIN' WRONG (20A: Spellin' things incorrectly?)
  • JACKIN' COKE (29A: Stealin' a hard drug?)
  • ROCKIN' ROLL (32A: Pushin' some bread back and forth?)
  • BARRIN' GRILL (66A: Not allowin' anyone to cook burgers and franks?)
  • TIMIN' AGAIN (104A: Recheckin' with a stopwatch?)
  • SHOWIN' TELL (106A: Demonstratin' how to shoot an apple off someone's head?)
  • CUTTIN' PASTE (116A: Usin' less stickum?)
  • HITTIN' MISS (2D: Givin' a female casino patron another card?)
  • BUYIN' LARGE (12D: Makin' some big purchases?)
  • WILLIN' GRACE (38D: Hopin' favor is bestowed?)
  • NIPPIN' TUCK (73D: Btitin' a friend of Robin Hood?)
  • HAULIN' OATS (75D: Carryin' a load of grain?)

Word of the Day: Clark GREGG (79D: Clark ___, "The Avengers" actor) —
Robert Clark Gregg (born April 2, 1962) is an American actor, screenwriter and director, best known for his role as Phil Coulson in the films Iron Man (2008), Iron Man 2 (2010), Thor (2011), and Marvel's The Avengers (2012), and in the television series Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., which airs on the ABC network. He also voices the character on the animated television series Ultimate Spider-Man. Gregg has also co-starred as Christine Campbell's ex-husband Richard in the CBS sitcom The New Adventures of Old Christine, which debuted in March 2006 and concluded in May 2010. He also played FBI Special Agent Mike Casper on the NBC series The West Wing and Cam, the on-and-off boyfriend of Jack (and client of Grace) on the NBC series Will & Grace. [BOOM, stealth "Will & Grace" / WILLIN' GRACE tie-in! All the points to Slytherin'!]
• • •

Former Shortz assistant and former co-constructor of mine Caleb Methuselah Madison has a new offering for us. He wrote me ahead of its publication, not (as I expected) to plead for a kind review, but to ask ("insist" is closer to it) that I tell everyone about his insane summer vacation experiences, about which he has created a most bizarre and mesmerizing tumblr: "If you didn't see on my various social media hubs, I spent [the summer] living in an RV in Forks, Washington with the owner and only tour guide of the last surviving "Twilight" tour company, taking pix and interview people in the town. It was surreal and crazy and what am I doing with my life." So there you go. Now I am going to segue to the puzzle via the observation that, like many of today's young people, Mr. Madison is highly attuned to the tech / pop culture / social media world (witness the tumblr account you have just witnessed) (segue!). This puzzle grid roils with such modern contrivances as The ZUNE The SNAPCHAT and The EMOJI and The VINES (actually *The* VINES are a musical group, which Caleb also probably knows—his name-dropping of CIARA and KESHA and 50 Cent lets you know he's fluent in most popular music forms right up to 2009). Throw in SASHA Fierce and whoever Clark GREGG is, and you can see that Mr. Madison is a young man of this century.

Like Friday's puzzle, this puzzle's theme was somewhat unremarkable (from a solving standpoint) and easy to uncover. Unlike Friday's puzzle, this grid abounds in good fill. It looks like a highly segmented nightmare, scattershot through with black squares, like an English muffin or a honeycomb or some kind of horrid life-size human maze that you'd get lost in as a child. The design made me think the puzzle would be easy to cut through, and that the interesting answers would be few and far between, but I was wrong on both counts. Clues were both smart and tough, so that I *repeatedly* got stuck and had to break my preferred method of constant interlock solving (Always Work Crosses, Never Jump Around … unless ordered to by these guys) and leap into the void anew. It looks like you'd have a million different ways to get into each section of the puzzle, but in practice, if you wanna come down the left and drop into the SW, it's go through INO or go home. You can try to get around via GRAVEN, but that's a narrow aperture as well. Even coming up via V-NECKS really just takes you back to GRAVEN again. What I'm saying is that it was a funhouse of a puzzle, and I got all confused and twisted around. The experience was not entirely unpleasant.

Some of the theme answers did, in fact, amuse me (HAULIN' OATS, for instance), and it's at least somewhat impressive that the Down theme answers run through one and sometimes two other theme answers. Yes, the preponderance of short answers in a big puzzle meant that there was some yuck along the way. I did not stand and applaud for: INO CIARA AGGRESS ELMST ELIE ELS KAN IDE EEO and some other things. But stuff like VERTICALS and MAN PURSE and SNAPCHAT and MORAY EEL kept me very much entertained. ROBOTRY! So proper. That's what Jeeves, my butler, calls it. I'm a rube who says "robotics."

My post-vacation cold means I'm even more behind on puzzle-solving than ever, so it'll be another week, at least, before I discuss the Great Puzzles out there in the rest of puzzle world. I'm all hopped up on the start of the Premier League season today, so I'm gonna go watch highlights and drink some tea and see you tomorrow.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Mark 12:19 AM  

Great combination of easy overall idea with crunchy particulars.

jae 12:20 AM  

Easy- breezy fun Sun. for me.  Unlike @Rex  I never really got hung up during the solve.  Very clever theme, ZESTY fill...VINES, EMOJI (could be a problem if you didn't know the crossword friendly AJA) , ZUNES (no idea), IT'S A SIN, NORSK, SNAP CHAT,  RAP VIDEO..., liked it.  

ArGyle before ANGORA was the only big erasure.

There are certain advantages to having grand kids.  Today VINES and SNAP CHAT were GK assisted.

Posted from my iPad still in Banff.  @Leapy - yes, not prairie here, but in a prairie province and Peter Broda hails from Saskatchewan. 

Steve J 1:24 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Steve J 1:27 AM  

Agreed with Rex and @Mark that this was a very nice mix of a simple concept with some good crunchiness and challenge throughout. For as easy as the theme was - although I slowed myself down by entering livin' LARGE very early on at 12D, slowing down my ability to pick up the punny nature of the theme - it really took me a while to piece things together. But moments of frustration gave way to satisfaction as an aha moment would cause a big chunk of the grid to fill.

I'm typically not a fan of puns, but I thought these were quite good. I'm especially not a fan of puns that are forced and have only a tenuous connection to actual pronunciations, so I was particularly happy to see that all of them matched up phonetically and created very real phrases.

HAULIN' OATS reminds me of one of my favorite things ever: Callin' Oates. (The number - 719.266.2837 - still works. Now with more songs.)

John Child 1:48 AM  

Did. Not. Like. I thought he puns were awful, not in the sense of being groaners but just dumb. The clueing was too clever by half, with 21 "?" clues. The cultural skew was very young and not to my taste.

Success in only slightly longer than normal for Sunday, but I considered several times just chucking it in and looking for another Sunday puzzle from the archives. I try not to look at the setter's name before solving, but today I should have.

wreck 2:06 AM  

I'm in Steve J's camp (as I am more often than not). This was a pretty solid Sunday that kept my interest start to finish.
On a side note, I'm intrigued more and more by Hall & Oates. As big as they were during my youth, I have only become aware recently of the talent discrepancy between the two. Check out the cable TV series "Live From Dary's House," sometime - amazing!

paulsfo 2:26 AM  

Very good cluing overall, though I didn't like the clues for 40D (isn't SIN a religious rather a moral concept?) and 106D (this could only be someone who had instructed THE William Tell).

Liked the clues for WOOER (which crosses NOSE, by the way), NARC, PERE, MRS (which I didn't get till after), and EMOJI.

I thought that "Where she blows?" was world class. I thought about that clue for a few minutes before a massive "Aha!".

chefwen 2:32 AM  

I let out an audible moan and acted like a petulant child after seeing Caleb's name up top. He and I are seldom on the same page. Started the puzzle and can't remember when I enjoyed a puzzle more. Jon and I LOVED it. I grinned at every long answer, chuckled at a few and even snortled (is that a word?) If not, I just made it one. BARR IN GRILL was the snortle inducer. HAUL IN OATES brought one on also.

Caleb, I will groan no more! Keep 'em coming.

Bob Kerfuffle 6:37 AM  

Fun puzzle.

But I must brush up on my Norwegian. For 5D, put in NORGE (yeah, that's the name of the country, not the language) before NORSK.

Also, 50A, LAZE before LOLL.

Wasn't really sure about 33D crossing 43 A (KESHA/SASHA) but when everything elsed filled in there didn't seem any other possibility.

mac 7:59 AM  

Fun Sunday! A little longer than usual, but not because of the theme.

Hand up for laze before loll and EOE before EEO. Largo looked good but didn't go.

chefbea 8:00 AM  

Tough for me. Got some of the theme right away but then I had to google

gotta go whisk my zesty BBQ sauce and put it on my roti de boeuf!!

Susan McConnell 8:23 AM  

Enjoyed very much. Got the theme at HAULIN OATS, which was my favorite of the bunch. Even as an older (50+) solver! I liked all of the contemporary references.

Riley Cooper 8:28 AM  

The references to Hall & Oates in two successive NYT puzzles is noteworthy. If the duo is planning a reunion tour soon, these might be paid placements!

Anonymous 8:30 AM  

Enjoyed much of it, some theme answers were groaners, but it was lively overall. Too much obscure (to me) pop culture in the NE -- NOBU, KESHA, CIARA, SASHA... never heard of any of 'em and they were tough (for me) to get from crosses.

Arlene 8:32 AM  

I like all the contemporary references - even though I had to look stuff up. And sometimes I had to look stuff up just to check that my answers were correct (e.g. EMOJI)! And I'm a sucker for puns.
For those with the NYT magazine, there's a PUNS & ANAGRAMS puzzle in there today as well. And there are more puns than usual in this one - a fun solve.

RAD2626 8:45 AM  

Also did Laze/LOLL thing but worse had Lase for a while. Went with WIshIN rather than WILLIN for too long. Slowed down that section considerably. Agree "Where she blows?" was great clue as was "Dealbreaker?"

Fun week of puzzles.

Glimmerglass 8:52 AM  

Waaaay outside of my wheelhouse. Contemporary music is hard for me, because I don't actually listen to it, and for xwords, I have to rely on having heard the names or read about them. I guessed or inferred most of them, but I missed the EMOJI/AJA crossing. On the other hand, I'm mad at myself for missing the ELM ST/ MRS crossing. Head slap! Duh! My advanced age is no excuse for that error. The theme was just okay and pretty easy. I like good puns (HAULIN' OATS), but most of these were only fair tyo middlin' -- Jack Daniels and Coca Cola? Who drinks that?

Anonymous 8:54 AM  

I got stuck on "CORDIAL" relations for a bit. One of those I was CERTAIN was right, but finally was forced to change. Seems I'm SPATIALly challenged. Thought this puzzle was average in every way--some good, some bad, some clever, some easy, some hard. Overall, an enjoyable Sunday, but unlike Rex, I'm easy. I enjoy most of them.

Anonymous 8:56 AM  

Took me 3 minutes and 17 seconds, about average for a Sunday. I loved it. Great fill, but me, me, me, I, I, I, etc.

Anonymous 8:57 AM  

And REALLY, Glimmerglass? Who drinks Jack and Coke?! You are obviously the kind of ill-informed snob that leads people to snicker at the NY-Times-reading crowd. It's one of the most popular mixed drinks on the planet.

Mohair Sam 9:00 AM  

A special thanks to the doctor who made me wait an hour a few months ago. While sitting alone and lonely in his exam room I read a long article in Fortune mag about big tech companies buying little ones for zillions of dollars. Therein I learned ZUNE, VINE, and SNAPCHAT - all of which would have been Greek without that story.

Still we naticked on AtA. I know, AJA is accredited crosswordese. But I've never cared for Steely Dan and refuse to memorize the title.

Hand up for Laze before LOLL (for far too long). And yes, we enjoyed this Sunday for all the reasons @rex and those above did. However not happy with the crossing of two foreign language clues (ROTI/ESTO) and two pop culture references (KESHA/SASHA). But they were worth the price of admission.

Twangster 9:16 AM  

Last thing to fall for me was JACKINCOKE, mostly because I don't think of cocaine as a hard drug. I guess it depends on your definition, but hard drugs makes me think of heroin, PCP, meth.

Maruchka 9:17 AM  

Agree with @ Glimmerglass completely. And thanks for the JACKINCOKE revelation. Even after it went in, I had no idea what it meant. I tried whiskey and cola once - t'was enough.

Fav of the day: GRAVEN. Reminiscent of the EMBOSS clue from last week.

Fun to start, a drag to finish. It seemed to hop around in a fitful, restless way. Crammed with goodies, but many empty calories for me.

BTW: Do hikers still eat GORP?

AnnieD 9:27 AM  

May I be so inelegant as to ask about Mel Taub's P&A puzzle. I got the answer but I don't get it.

21A: Initials for 259 shipmates



Carola 9:33 AM  

Most enjoyable. I thought the theme was inspired and am impressed at how many phrases Caleb came up with in which an adjective (right - WRiTE), preposition (by - BUY) or noun (Hall - HAUL, BAR, TIME) also work, sound-wise, as verbs. NIPPIN' TUCK was the one that really made me laugh.

@Maruchka - That earlier "emboss" also got me immediately thinking in a GRAVEN way.

AliasZ 9:36 AM  

I didn't enjoy this much. The strong tech/pop culture/social media bias turned my initial interest in the punny theme into total puzzlement for, to what tiny segment of the NYT's readership this puzzle was trying to cater. Certainly not to this reader. EMOJI? SNAPCHAT? CIARA? ZUNE? But I AGRESS.

I tried to clue a few additional themers, such as spittin' polish, meetin' potatoes, hoofin' mouth, whinin' dine, foreign aft, simonin' garfunkle and a few others, but I lost interest.

Not my cuppa.

The Maven from New Haven 9:54 AM  

When is Will Shortz going back to Games magazine?

Casco Kid 10:28 AM  

Yes, slow. 2:29 vague cluing made for many rabbit holes. I count on my tarsi, don't you? That cost 15 minutes by itself. fareWEll then hereWEGO for AWAYWEGO also ate up the clock.

4 errors. ESTa/LaLL. ESTO is rare in Spanish. ESTa/ESTe are common. QuΓ© es esra cosa? Que es esta?Que es ESTO? All interchangeable, I believe. LaLL and LOLL are synonyms. So, I submit we have a mini Schrodinger on our hands.

Other errors ELoST/oRS. [Union formation?] is a strange clue. It doesn't really point to either oRS or MRS, but it is closer to oRS. [Intersection formation?] would be ANDS, right @LMS, @r.alph? ;) ELMST is just not in my universe.

JACKINCOKE was my first theme clue, solved entirely from solid crosses. It meant that I didn't get the theme until I'd solved 5 more. I kept trying to rationalize JACKINCOKE and finally decided JACK AND COKE was a nonsensical outlier to be ignored. That's Bayesian META thinking -- marginalizing over the priors, focusing on the median -- although yesterday we learned META describes ELMST rather than logic. FEELINOLD.

Horace S. Patoot 10:34 AM  

I always seem to react the opposite from most of you guys. I really didn't like this one. My relationship with the puzzle got off on the wrong foot when it opened with three cheater squares in the NW corner, and didn't improve with all the corniness. Who the hell says ROBOTRY? What's next - Chemology?

Nancy 10:41 AM  

I've paused in solving this puzzle in order to get my venting up here early, when more people will see it:
Once again: a plethora of obscure pop songs and singers I never heard of and don't care about: 28A; 43A; 61A; 112A. Two of them cross each other, even. THIS IS HAPPENING IN EVERY SINGLE PUZZLE! I'm enjoying the rest of today's fairly cute puzzle, but this one aspect of it is setting my teeth on edge. It's day after day after day. Is there anyone over 40 who knows or cares about such trivial, arcane answers? Please, please join me to tell Will if you agree!

AnnieD 10:46 AM  

NM, I got it.

jberg 10:57 AM  

EMOJI, huh? I guess i've seen it, but I didn't know AJA so I decided that we were now truncating EMOtIcon. So finished with error -- but I still enjoyed the puzzle. Like @casco, it took me a long time to parse JACKIN COKE -- I think it was BUYIN LARGE that made me catch on, and then I saw it. The only answers I got because of knowing the theme were HAULIN OATS and NIPPIN TUCK, but the others were fun once I had them.

What I learned: the state song of Kansas. "Home on the Range" is also a place in North Dakota, which threw me off - but luckily all the abbreviations for the latter are either 2 letters or 4, so I was saved from that error.

Not only WIshin before WILLIN, but BAnnIN before BARRIN.

Nice to see the young Mr. Madison back here again, keep 'em comin'!

Anonymous 10:57 AM  

I really liked this one. I had to work hard but finished in about 40 minutes, pretty average.

Haulin Oats? Come on. I bet he thought this one up first and constructed the whole puzzle around it.

Note to Nancy: I am way older then 40 and I enjoyed the CIARAs and SHASAs, not to mention EMOJI. You have to stay in the game, kid! Imagine a crossword archaeologist centuries from now. They would think that Jack Paar and Mort Sahl were founders of religions instead of guys on TV. Thank God we have some new words coming along.


Anonymous 11:08 AM  

It must be an NYT style manual thing, but I really, really hate "accouterment".

Unknown 11:10 AM  

Enjoyed the theme. Did not like the pop/etc. culture answers. NOBU? Really? KESHA crossing SASHA? Really? Not fun.

Steve J 11:11 AM  

@Nancy: I'm in my 40s, and nearly all of the "obscure" references were known by me. Even with all the singers performing styles of music I'm not into.

@AliasZ: "Tiny segment of the NYT's readership?" I suspect that segment's wider than you think.

Maruchka 11:21 AM  

@ Casco - I'm thinkin', OLDPROS.

And speaking of old prose - isn't there a classic poem or story where the character METa her/himself in a very scary way? Trolling the archives...but no ILLUMINATINSATAN yet.

jdv 11:22 AM  

Med-Challenging. The grid design was unusual and threw me off a bit. Like Rex, I noticed all the social media terms during the solve. Fortunately, they were all fairly crossed, except VINES/SER. Had SPOUSAL before SPATIAL and LAZE before LOLL. I didn't know SWATHE was also a verb. I don't agree with the decision to clue MRS like that, but maybe I'm not understanding it correctly. Liked ISTHATALL and EASYMONEY.

quilter1 11:36 AM  

When I saw Caleb's name I thought I'll never get anywhere with this. But I did and I finished and then came here to learn EMOtI was wrong. I had tube socks for awhile and felt proud I got VINE even though I don't use all that stuff. And I like puns, so this turned out to be very fun. Now, like chefbea, I want to make ROTI. But I have a pork roast instead.

Leapfinger 11:41 AM  

Started with WHEN for WHAT, because NOSTRA instead of TONICS, but held fire with -SK, till more info on DANSK vs NORSK.

Pinned down the theme in the NW, sprightly and easy, but agree with @GlimmerG, @Maruchka that JACKIN' COKE is a SIN. Re @Anon's 'most popular drink on the planet', please consider the graffito: Fifty million flies can't be wrong -- Eat ****. Favourite themer: TIMIN' AGAIN.

Things I liked:
[Deeply impressed] twice by AWED and GRAVEN (had GRAVEd first)
Also, two kinds of [Sweater material], ANGORA and VNECK; wanted COTTON both times, because ANGORA sheds.
Also, TEE and HEE.
HOMIE moving from yesterday's cluelist into today's grid, and THAR's whar she blows (bis)
BING czeris, though you want SOUR ones for soup
@LEA (me) and @ZEE on the far sides of the grid
LOLL at [Union formation?] for MRS
Assorted wheelhousery (LDOPA, PREOP, IMF; anything that rhymes with SASHA and other good fill like SWATHE, CONGEAL, AWAY WE GO, MANPURSE.

Not so much:
Doesn't STYLI count as a POC ?
Thought the clue for LEDGE rather over the top, apt to cause PAIN for some.
Just plain Too Much of the stuff that @Rex praised, but not to the TASTE of the OLDPROS. Reasonable if sparing and scattered, but cumulative effect was to put me in a swivet in the NE, Naticked @ 18. All that edginess finally just gave me a mental papercut.

That's SAHL, folks

joho 11:53 AM  

I thought this was one of the best Sunday's we've had in a while. As someone said, it kept my interest from beginning to happy end. Kudos to Caleb for creating real phrases with his puns. Wacky but believable!

Thanks @Rex, for posting the pics from Forks, Washington ... absolutely fascinating. And Caleb your self portrait is great ... as was your puzzle today. Thanks!

Moly Shu 11:54 AM  

I'm with @Nancy, I want a plethora of obscure operas and 17th century composers I've never heard of and don't care about. I love that kind of trivia and arcane knowledge. Surprised at the number of people that haven't heard of NOBU. Thought he was famouser (hi @chefwen) than that. Jack and Coke is good, but BlackJack is better. That's Jack Daniels n Blackberry Schnapps. HAULINOATES, awesome of course, and I resisted the Laze/LOLL problem, until crosses revealed it. Why? Because I always put the wrong one in first. Liked it, themes were easy and the rest was medium.

joho 11:58 AM  

Did anybody mention theme density? This puzzle is packed with theme answers but Caleb still managed to keep the fill relatively smooth for such a feat. Again, well done!

RooMonster 12:06 PM  

Hey All!
Thought this was a neat puz! Cute puns, minimal dreck, and 12 themers!

I'm wonderin' if Caleb Madison is the alias for M&A? Because the grid had everythin' in it that suits him! Clues and answers without "g"! Even a runt clue! (101A) And all this time he's been sayin' that he can't construct a large grid!

I see @wreck finally became famous!

Posting on my phone, so it's brief. Already lost tje first one... one small mistouch, and everything gets erased!


crossvine 12:12 PM  

I always like a Sunday with good puns, so this one felt just right. I know some people are complaining about the pop culture/tech references. I'm 50+ and got those pretty easily. People and Us magazines are my guilty pleasures when I'm on a plane trip. My teenaged sons keep me up on Snapchat and Vine, etc.

I did have a problem with LDOPA. Don't know how I was supposed to know the name of a drug--they're always spelled in such a funky way. I also was sure it was "ine" for glycer- suffix, so that prevented me from getting LEGAL PADS.

But BUYINLARGE, it was a lot of fun.

Lewis 12:20 PM  

@aliasz -- "But I AGRESS" is a terrific line!

Maruchka 12:48 PM  

@ Leap - Cotton over angora sweater, always. And NEVER get sweaty in one - itch hell. GRAVED could work, both as sculpted and in the boneyard (which is what I originally thought you meant - DEEPLY impressed).

Leapfinger 12:48 PM  

@CascoK, No bones about it, counting on tarsi and carpals is a Good Thing: takes you from max 20 to max 32 in one swell foop.
@jberg, me too for truncated EMOticon, but I knew AJA!
@Anon11:08, it must bea Pogo thing, but I really, really love Accoutermints.
@Unknown, ditto NOBU. Had my brain not sustained all those papercuts, I might could've figured out the SNAPshot-selfie angle.

Hi @Lewis, @AliasZ!
In lieu of AGGRESSin', is it better to proGRESS withinGRESS, or to reGRESS with ConGRESS transGRESSions?

Indeed, it seems the GRESSisalways grinner on the other sighed...

Considering yesterday's SYMMETRY, we could take it to:
Burning bright

O GRESS, O Mores!

Gill I. P. 1:56 PM  

This was fresh like a mint julep which is the only bourbon drink I know. Well, maybe an old fashioned. That JACKIN COKE was my only screw-up. Screw driver maybe? Does that have bourbon?
I spell PRICY with an E... Them THAR SASHA and KESHA were my BONERs.
Oh, favorite was NIPPIN TUCK.
EMOJI AJA, you SLY Caleb.
So glad to see MORAY escortin his EEL.
Really enjoyed this puzzle. It felt new, and smellin good - just like a new pair of leather shoes.
You ROCKIN ROLL Caleb. I'll pay for the next round of drinks!

Anonymous 2:15 PM  

SHOW some INTELLigence, wouldja, huh?
The MOR AYE ELude, the MOR AYE ELate.

Bunch of LIMP Biskits!

Anonymous 2:30 PM  

@ Nancy - I will be 50 in a few months time and had no problems with the pop culture references. Sorry you did not. All of us have areas of weaknesses - opera would be one of mine - but complaining about it is silly. If you follow your own logic, the puzzle would only contain answers you know very well and would be dull, no? I for one enjoy the challenge.

mathguy 2:34 PM  

The NE was a bear. Hadn't heard of SNAPCHAT or NOBU. Had a dim recollection of CIARA, SASHA, and KESHA from previous puzzles. Felt that the clue for ROCKINROLL was poor. It took me a long time to dump SNAPSHOT where SNAPCHAT should be. So the NE changed what I thought would be a pleasant Sunday romp into work.

But, feeling better after unleashing that little whine, there was a lot to like in the puzzle. The theme answers were almost all terrific.

Anonymous 2:46 PM  

It' been a long time since I left off reading Anne Rice. I'm fine with MANPURSE, but more Vampires? Fork it!

Doc John 3:53 PM  

I actually liked ELM ST because of the difficulty and misdirection of the MRS cross. I kept wanting a vowel in the M position but nothing looked right until the M popped into mind.

RnRGhost57 4:20 PM  

Just a-grinnin' like a possum.

Thank you Caleb, old bean.

Charley 4:45 PM  

Stats for basketball players? Points, rebounds, assists, blocked shots. Verticals? Not really.

mac 5:06 PM  

Accouterment is bad, very bad.

Anonymous 5:19 PM  

On the age range question:

"brush my teeth with a bottle of Jack" is a phrase from TikTok by Kesha... I hated that my kids liked that song!

But as a result, I learned that modern youth say "Jack" instead of "Jack Daniels" and therefore figured "Jack and Coke" must be something the millennials drink.

Being 61, I do agree with Glimmerglass, that drink sounds disgusting!

On the other hand... Snapchat, Zune, Emoji, Sasha Fierce are all terms you might know about just from reading Time magazine...not that outre. Certainly more common these days than Mort Sahl references.

Also I agree with the "accoutrements" quibble.
"Accouterment" doesn't exist outside of the NYTimes

OISK 5:47 PM  

I am with Nancy. I am resigned to a few obscure (to me) pop culture references, but this mess was loaded with them. I didn't "get" Haulin' Oats at all; apparently, based on comments above, it refers to some group (duet??) called Hall and Oates. OK. Got it right anyway. In fact despite Zune, Ciara, Sasha (from a previous puzzle) Snapchat, and many more, I finished, or so I thought. But then, I came here to discover that there exists something called an emoji, and that someone called Steely Dan (I know the name, but not the genre) produced something called aja. The "J" was a completely unresolvable Natick, unless one knew two pieces of pop trivia. DNF for me, and not much fun either. (Never heard of Jackin' Coke either) (Rum and coke, yes) Disliked this puzzle, but I do like Nancy.

Brian B 6:08 PM  

There's an inconsistency between the cluing in the print version and the .puz version, on 76 down: The print version spells out "Ohio," so the hint that the answer contains an abbreviation is omitted. FWIW.

sanfranman59 6:16 PM  

This week's relative difficulty ratings. See my 8/1/2009 post for an explanation and my 10/15/2012 post for an explanation of a tweak I've made to my method. In a nutshell, the higher the ratio, the higher this week's median solve time is relative to the average for the corresponding day of the week.

All solvers (this week's median solve time, average for day of week, ratio, percentile, rating)

Mon 6:02, 6:02, 1.00, 50%, Medium
Tue 7:39, 7:54, 0.97, 40%, Easy-Medium
Wed 10:01, 9:31, 1.05, 67%, Medium-Challenging
Thu 21:09, 17:28, 1.21, 83%, Challenging
Fri 17:15, 20:16, 0.85, 23%, Easy-Medium
Sat 27:31, 25:07, 1.10, 78%, Medium-Challenging
Sun 36:56, 28:03, 1.32, 95%, Challenging (9th highest ratio of 147 Sundays)

Top 100 solvers

Mon 4:08, 3:57, 1.05, 71%, Medium-Challenging
Tue 5:24, 5:21, 1.01, 53%, Medium
Wed 6:16, 6:08, 1.02, 58%, Medium
Thu 14:05, 10:49, 1.30, 83%, Challenging
Fri 10:50, 13:00, 0.83, 23%, Easy-Medium
Sat 18:48, 16:56, 1.11, 74%, Medium-Challenging
Sun 25:20, 21:12, 1.19, 79%, Medium-Challenging

As is usually the case, I was nowhere near Caleb Madison's wavelength and finished with one of my highest ever Sunday solve times. Either I need to start hanging out more with twenty-somethings or I fear I'm going to be left in the dust by these puzzle-constructing wunderkinds.

Lewis 6:19 PM  

EMOJI, by the way, gets more than nine million results on Google.

geordiegirl 6:47 PM  

Anyone else have DATA for 5A? That ld me into Dansk for 5D....

David Cole 7:08 PM  

@Nancy (and others), is your complaint about pop references in general, or that folks older than 40 will/should not be on the same wavelengths as the references, or both?

One of the specific examples @Nancy cites is AJA, an album that came out 36 years ago. Hell, by many standards around here that would be considered a very dated answer. Another complaint (by another) was for HALL AND OATES, a group whose heyday began over 35 years ago.

I will be 50 next year, and SASHA/KESHA were gimmes, thanks to the influence of my teenage sons. I have watched hundreds of hysterical and idiotic VINES on their iPhones. I will say I had no clue on ZUNE or EMOJI, but thank goodness for that AJA gimme to provide an easy crossing.

Leapfinger 7:49 PM  

@Lewis, among that 9,000,000 are Ladies' cotton-spandex EMOJI thongs for $15.95, other EMOJI pants for up to $90.

AliasZ 8:37 PM  

@Steve J,

I assume you have scientific studies supporting your suspicion.

Tita 9:38 PM  

Any puzzle with a MINI Cooper in it is fine by me, eh @joho? We've had oodles of awesome top-down weather in these parts.

Z 10:05 PM  

I usually like puns, but this one didn't do it for me. PHILO Vance? NOBU Matsuhisa? AGGRESS? ROBOTRY? SWATHE? INO? Maybe if I thought the puns were good, but today they struck me as meh.

EMOJI are little pictures/drawings that replace emoticons. If you have an iPad you have EMOJI available to you. I have 89 variations on a smiley face available to me. Isn't the 21st century magical? I'll put a few at the end, but I know that only some people will be able to see them, I've no idea why. Others will just see squares.

JACK IN COKE - If you like your liquor to be sickeningly sweet it's great.


Nancy 10:19 PM  

I like you too, OISK!

wreck 11:41 PM  

Can't we all just get along? ;)
Gosh, I'm 55 (probably median age here). I am not handy with the old classic composer/artist clues and not quite hip enough for the rapper clues, but this is what keeps me in tune with the times. I guess many here don't want the younger solvers of today to be interested in crossword solving in the future!

Steve J 12:13 AM  

@Alias Z: I assume they're the same studies you have to support your original claim.

Fred Romagnolo 1:44 AM  

Second day in a row for a puzzle written by a very young person. I certainly didn't finish, and, at the end, wondered why I bothered. Will aint no spring chicken, but maybe he's terrified one of the younger Och's will take over and he'll be considered for the trash pile. When things like KESHA & SASHA are naticks, it's too much. And EMOJI & AJA! For Pete's sake!

Fred Romagnolo 1:47 AM  

Give us a fighting chance: don't Natick pop culture items; I would agree that that Verdi and Puccini shouldn't be naticked. Let all generations have a chance on cross-references; seems only fair.

jae 2:24 AM  

It's Sun. night and I've been on a train all day with no WiFi.  So, let me say a few amens to taper off today's comments.  Amen to @joho, Gill I. P., gpo, wreck, chefwen, Moly Shu, a couple of anonymi,  and Doc John because he had exactly the same experience with ELM ST as did.  Sorry if I missed anyone.  

Posted from my IPad in Kamloops on my way to Vancouver by train.

Won't get to the Mon. puz until late tomorrow. 

Z 9:41 AM  

AJA was released in 1977, otherwise known as 37 years ago. It is listed on Rolling Stones top 500 albums of all time. It is noted for its blending of jazz and rock. It is noted for its production. At least one song is influenced heavily by Greek myth. It sold more copies than anything Brian ENO ever has (I think). It is a three letter word with a J. It has appeared before and will appear again. You might want to file it away with your various Crossbirds and Crossrivers.

Christine Miller 10:06 AM  

This is the first time I have posted on Rex's blog. I thought this puzzle was fun, fun fun! The answers to the theme clues were clever and made me chuckle several times. I am a very slow puzzle solver, so when Shortz publishes one that is this much fun, it makes my Sundays delightful.

Maruchka 10:29 AM  

@ Brian B - Thank you! I wondered where the Abbr. indicator went. Never watched ELMST, so likely wd-a googled in any case. Dreading the day NYT goes totally digital..

Anonymous 10:51 AM  

Despite the massive amount of very recent pop culture demanded by this puzzle, I resisted Googling (or giving up on it) because I had an intuition the pop culture answers would get filled in without knowing them, and I was right. 100% solve, but it took a very long time because of the dozen or so pop culture questions that I suppose Caleb thought were gimmees. I very much liked 5A, 76A, 55D, 98D. I'm very surprised Rex had trouble with this -- with his mastery of current pop culture, he should have blown right through it.

Lester 12:41 PM  

Nice shout out to gay marriage at 89A with the pluralization of MR. ;-)

spacecraft 1:19 PM  

It's a wonder I even came close to finishing this, what with all the modern claptrap, but I did it thanks to two inspired natick guesses. At EL_ST/_RS, I ran the alphabet and hit upon the M, which all of a sudden made sense. At VIN_S/S_R the choices were far more limited: a vowel, to be sure, but which one? I have never even heard of si-second clips, so their "popular"ity is in question. I finally shook up my Scrabble bag and took the first vowel I saw. The odds favored E, and in it went. Done!

A ton of guesses were needed here. I'd list all my never-heard-ofs, but it'd take up too much time and space. At the start, after WRITINWROG and HITTINMISS, I thought we were dealing with opposites, but then JACKINCOKE came along, and I realized it was just subbin' "IN'" for AND. This helped an awful lot.

Besides all the tech/rap stuff, I have a couple more nits. GELS and CONGEALS are really forms of the same word, and are identically clued. Isn't there something wrong with that? Also, I have never seen PRICY without the "E." This has to be a variant, but there's no "(var.)" in the clue. If flag there be today, that'd be the one.

As Stephen King said, "The world has moved on."


3908, on the fifth try for legibility. *sigh*

Dirigonzo 4:36 PM  

When I saw the constructor's name I knew the puzzle would be a challenge for an old fart like me but I was determined not to be defeated. My first run-through provided just enough crosswords in the right places to let me piece together enough answers to figure out the theme, which I found hugely helpful and fun. Eventually all the pop stars and techie terms took their rightful places and I was feeling pretty proud when I popped in the last letter, the M in MRS/ELMST. My pride lasted until I came here to discover my EMOtICON error (which is too bad, because I know AJA but forgot to check the cross).

Jack and Coke is a waste of good whiskey.

205 - really?

Anonymous 8:57 PM  

Made a depressing Sunday more so.
Thanks for nuttin

Anonymous 12:23 AM  

I DNFed at El_st and _rs. As someone already pointed out, the clue gave no indication that it was an abbreviation -- at least not in my syndicated print version in the Tampa Bay Times. Other than that, enjoyable.

evan shlaes 2:34 AM  

Did the week late version in the Sunday Oregonian. Don't understand why some clue numbers were shown in bold eg. A1, 5; D 2, 10

Joseph McGrath 5:14 PM  

This was a tough one for me. Theme was simple but the cultural and technical clues had me scrambling. Missed 3: Mrs. - had IRS, and Legal pads - had Legal Mans. Took a lot more time for me than normal.

Anonymous 10:39 PM  

Sorry for a newbie question but why are some clue numbers in bold?

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