Ahab's father / SUN 2-8-15 / Princess of Power from 1980s cartoons / Cold-climate cryptid / Cable airer of vintage films / Givens on Wheel of Fortune / Alternatives to cheddars

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Constructor: Jeremy Newton

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: "Multifaceted" — theme answers feature two sets of circled squares, which, when combined, spell out a precious stone. Between the two sets of circled squares, running DOWN in each case, is the letter string "SET"; thus the revealer: 52D: With 59-Down, permanent … or, literally, a feature of the answers to the seven starred clues (SET IN / STONE).

Theme answers:
  • GARNER ATTENTION (22A: Get noticed) / 8D: *Biter in Niger (TSETSET)
  • CRUISES BY (40A: Easily defeats, in sports) / 13D: *One making the rounds at a party, perhaps (CHEESE TRAY)
  • PONY EXPRESS (47A: Enterprise for which a 14-year-old Buffalo Bill worked) / 6D: *Like puberty at age 16 (LATE ONSET)
  • GAME THE SYSTEM (67A: Exploit a loophole, say) / 50D: *First spacecraft to orbit a comet (2014) (ROSETTA)
  • POP A WHEELIE (85A: Lean back and enjoy the ride?) / 81D: *Chooses in the end (SETTLES ON)
  • WATERGATE (96A: Washington landmark that lent its name to a Senate committee) / 73D: *Car dealership option (LEASE-TO-OWN)
  • QUARTER-SIZE(d) HAIL (115A: Big fall from the sky?) / 99D: *Goals for underdogs (UPSETS)

Word of the Day: OMRI (61D: Ahab's father) —
Omri (HebrewעמריModern OmriTiberian ʻOmrî; short for HebrewעָמְרִיָּהModern OmriyyaTiberian ʻOmriyyā ; "The Lord is my life") (fl. 9th century BC) was the sixth king of Israel after Jeroboam, a successful military campaigner, and the founder of the House of Omri, an Israelite royal house which included other monarchs such as AhabAhaziahJoram, and Athaliah. Along with his predecessor king Zimri who ruled for only seven days, Omri is the first king mentioned in the Bible without stating of his tribal origin. Though some scholars speculate that Omri was from the tribe of Issachar, this is not confirmed by any biblical account.
Mentioned in the Hebrew Bible as well as extra-biblical sources such as the Mesha steleand the Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser III, Omri is also credited with the construction of Samaria and establishing it as his capital. (wikipedia)
• • •

This will be slightly short because a. I want brownies and they are downstairs and they aren't getting any warmer, and b. daughter is watching "Dance Moms" (long story), and it's hard to concentrate when the loud lady keeps yelling at Jojo and the door to my home office is only so thick. So in my head I have this 1-5 scale of success, where 3 is a pass, and in that scenario this puzzle is just short of 3. I just don't think the theme works (despite its good-naturedness and its ambition). SET isn't really IN the STONE. Or, rather, it is *is* defensibly IN the STONE in the case of PONY EXPRESS, but not in any other case. GARNE is so far away from the crossing "SET" that it barely seems like they have a relationship to each other at all. Circled squares are like fire (stay with me)—they can provide warmth and light, but if you're not careful … actually, they're much more boring than fire. My point is just that you have to use them carefully. Here, they are used just a bit too loosely. I do like some of the theme answers in their own right (esp. POP A WHEELIE and GAME THE SYSTEM), but in the end, the theme felt a little off, a little forced to me.

Also, the fill was uneven—lovely in some places (CHEESE TRAY, NERF GUN, YUMMIER) but (literally) groan-inducing in too many other places (seriously, ask my wife about the sounds I was making as I solved this at the kitchen table; they weren't healthy sounds). First set of groans came for the CBER and his XII SWISSES. Then there were the ALTI and their HAI notes. The ONE-D D-CUP and the ETAILING SPAZ. The SILENT L in NELL. The idea that MLK is a "symbol" of anything (60D: Symbol of equality, briefly). SHIER REPOs of the EEN. The epic clash between AEIOU and RSTLNE for Letter Jumble Of The Universe. I had a hard time taking much of this. NO GOOD 'UNS in my EEL POT. You know what I'm saying. Or you don't. Whichever. Good day.
    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

    P.S. If you're looking for a challenging puzzle with a little bite (and who isn't?) then consider subscribing to Matt Gaffney's Weekly Crossword Contest (weekly crossword meta-puzzles of the Highest Order). Puzzles cycle from easy to brutal and back again. Frequently the most puzzle fun I have all week. HERE IS THE SITE. Makes a great gift for that guy who does his puzzles in pen and thinks he's such hot *&$%^. Seriously, he'll love it. So will you.


    JFC 12:18 AM  

    Do not disagree with Rex on this one. The relationship between the SETs and the circled stones is weak at best. I would add that having SET in RoSETta [Stone] makes that one stand out as inconsistent with the others.


    Steve J 12:40 AM  

    NOT A FAN (of) this at all.

    It's never a good sign when the discovery of how the theme is supposed to work is greeted with an audible, quizzically exasperated "really?!?!?". Which is what I uttered when realizing that wildly scattered circles had the word SET somewhere in between. In some cases it was close. In more cases, SET was somewhere around Kansas City, and the nearest circles were in Nevada and North Carolina.

    The less said about ETAILING, the better. Just awful. SWISSES is a close second.

    While the theme is a bust, and there's lots of bad fill, there's also a lot of good stuff. IN A FUNK, GAME THE SYSTEM, POP A WHEELIE, NYMPHOS were all fresh and nice to see. Good clues for WATERGATE and PASSING GO (especially since Boardwalk fits perfectly in that space). But for me, that wasn't enough to make up for a theme that didn't work and some truly groan-worthy fill.

    chefwen 1:20 AM  

    I'm just happy that @Ellen S finally has a POT to put her EELS into 68D.

    Thought it was O.K. And liked discovering the different stones. Got it at Garnet, but that took me a while as I was kinda bouncing all over the place. Pretty much like every huge Sunday puzzle.

    Thumbs up. Did like the reveal. POP A WHEELIE made me chuckle too.

    bwalker 1:26 AM  

    It wasn't until after I solved that I saw the circles for the theme answers. I still thought the puzzle was fun Liked SWISSES next to CHEESETRAY. Also enjoyed RECKONSO, LIPBALMS, QUARTERSIZEHAIL, and NYMPHOS ULULATION. Loved the clues for BAROQUE and SILENTL. AEIOU and RSTLNE made me smile. Had to Google OMRI; proMO before SLOMO. Right at 3:10, a little slow for Sunday.

    bwalker 1:32 AM  

    @chefwen -- My favorite EEL SPOT is on a caterpillar roll.

    bwalker 1:48 AM  

    And really disliked MLK crossing KILL. Ugly! @WS -- this should never be acceptable.

    Guess that's my three and out. Y'all have a nice week.

    jae 1:57 AM  

    Easy-medium for me.   Rex pretty much covered it.

    chefwen 2:00 AM  

    @bwalker - Caterpiller roll, YUMMIER than with POT, although others may disagree.

    Casco Kid 2:01 AM  

    Finished this one with one misspelling and one typo. I won't count the typo, but I gotta cop to the misspelling as a DNF: For some reason, I want to spell TROOP with a U. I don't want to spell it with a trailing 'e' -- no, that's another word. Just "TROuP." That's a verbal cortex SPAZZING OUT, I guess.

    It was medium-challenging as I felt steady resistance throughout. 2 hrs of fits and starts. At the end, I committed to OMoo as AHAB's dad. It wasn't until I took it out and added FREE for [unjammed] that NOTAFAN and EELPOT became visible. Until that breakthrough I had woe (off OMoo) for AIL, or I was working on NOTAwiN. Earlier, it had been NOTokAy.

    I liked ULULATION, and I'M&Assured that at least one other regular solver will WAX grandiloquent on that bodacious pair dangling FREE of the nearby DCUP. Did someone say NYMPHOS. With LIPBALM?!?!

    WAXEN, LADLE and FREE were all right answers that I wanted/couldn't have because wrong answers weren't letting me. This time, patience won.

    Nice to see Rex's nod to James GARNER. IAMAFAN, too.

    Kenneth Wurman 2:29 AM  

    Me thinks the Hebrew is backwards on the El Al clue..
    also, I think that when you "pop a wheelie" you are not exactly sitting back and enjoying the ride. ..
    am I wrong? ?

    Kenneth Wurman 2:29 AM  
    This comment has been removed by the author.
    John Child 2:49 AM  

    I thought then bonus vertical theme answers raised this above most Sunday puzzles. I got badly stuck at the top, so I moved to the bottom and solved my way up.

    Four stars from someone not a big fan of Sunday puzzles.

    The clue for 111A had blanks instead of the Hebrew in my edition of the International NYT.

    'mericans in Paris 2:54 AM  

    Technically DNF, because of the #%!@ Natick (I forget, is that word capitalized?) at the 9A-10D crossing. We are not rap fans, and weren't familiar with CGI as Industrial Light & Magic's specialty. Otherwise, we were able to figure out the given names of DuVernay, Newswoman Curry, Hank's wife and Ahab's father (?!) through the crosses.

    Like @Chefwen, we liked looking for the gems. But we agree with @Rex that the second part of the theme, the SET IN crossings, didn't add much. So the puzzle had to be saved by the fill, which we found to be on average pretty good, albeit with a 1970s feel to it (CBER, POP A WHEELIE, WATERGATE, YETI, SSR, T S GARP). My wife and I met at U PENN, by the way ... in 1979.

    Some very clever cluing in several cases, such as for PASSING GO (my first entry), WATERGATE and OBESE. Never a DULL moment.

    Wonder what was the state of Jeremy Newton's mind while he was constructing this. SEXIER TEEN NYMPHOS wearing DCUPs?! (Hope they've seen their Ob-GYN lately.) OBESE ASS (and for British solvers, ARSe) that needs to be TONED UP?! He must have had a perpetual BONA!

    P.S., Nice to see @Rex write up his comments using real conjunctions and punctuation for a change.

    GILL I. 6:09 AM  

    Wait just one cotton pickin moment......No NYMPHOS I know are Randy types...the Randy's belong in the libidinous male territory.
    Well, dang in a way, because I caught on early to the multifaceted trick and I like my Sunday to linger on a bit and so I just went around plunking in gems. (OK... where is my favorite sapphire and emerald?) But, I really liked it because I believe our constructor Jeremy spent a lot of time and effort on his clues and answers.
    As @Steve J mentioned - there are some fun fillings here although there is something about seeing SHOT FOR D CUP LIP BALMS that bothers me....

    chefbea 7:22 AM  

    Got the theme right away with Garnet and Amythist (my birthstone.)...But I do have a nit...not all of these stones are faceted...right @Mac?? Don't think I have ever seen a faceted opal..or onyx,agate or quartz.

    Yummmy cheeese tray.

    Anonymous 7:26 AM  

    @GILL I. Um, you know some NYMPHOS? Care to share their telephone numbers?

    Yontifsadie 7:27 AM  

    @KennethWurman Yes, the Hebrew was oddly backwards. That the Hebrew alefbet was even used in a clue was bizarre but to add to that, the Hebrew read from left to right instead of right to left, making it awkward for both Hebrew readers and non-readers alike!
    Other than that, I liked it he puzzle.

    Yontifsadie 7:30 AM  

    The thought of ROSETTA Stone also made me smile.

    Anonymous 8:17 AM  

    Having ululation makes me want to sing Lalalalalalalalalalalalalalalalalala!

    Leapfinger 8:26 AM  

    Food for thought:

    *...a great gift for that guy who does his puzzles in ink and thinks...and cetera (MS)
    *... NYMPHOS were all fresh and nice to see (SJ)

    AGATE and QUARTZ not really qualifying as 'precious stones' sent me looking up the defining difference between 'precious' and 'semi-precious', which quickly turned into a question of defining rocks, stones and minerals. I'll just say it became complicated (and more interesting than you might suspect), even without considering the social construct of 'precious'.

    So, are the Rolling Stones a rock band? Or the Rolling Rocks a stone band?

    Thought some of the theme rocks were too deeply split, but liked a lot of the fill, esp as presented by @'merican iP. Like @bwalker, had PROMO before SLOMO, which led me to PUTIN STONE, which I thought a novel way to work in Vladimir. Figured there'd be more outcry over Ahab's dad, but it's still early. There shouldn't be too much outcry over the ELAL lameds; it was only yesterday we were LAMEd, wasn't it?

    @Rex, I know someone who had a mastectomy; she now sports a ONE-D D-CUP. We should all remember some folks don't have an EELPOT to hiss in -- Lord knows where they keep their SWISSES.

    Y'all enjoy your Sundays.
    And hi @Gilly-girl!

    Danp 8:29 AM  

    I don't understand the El Al issue. Is it that lamed should be demal or that the company doesn't have two of these letters?

    Herbert Dicker 8:43 AM  

    So first we have last Thursday's pointless puzzle and today's is barely better. Needless to say I avidly look forward to Thursday through Sunday challenges and this week's have disappointed. Please, NYT, keep up your standards!

    Amy 8:50 AM  

    i have to disagree with almost everyone and say I loved it. Some really great theme answers and groany fill did not get in my way. Admirable construction. Ok those letter strings were lame but for me so many other fresh answers balanced it for me. Thanks Mr. Newton!

    oldbizmark 8:53 AM  

    someone needs to explain hebrew to will shortz. i had no idea what "la le" was.

    otherwise, a terribly annoying puzzle. so many crappy clues with three-letter answers so a silly reveal.

    absolutely hated it.

    Anonymous 8:57 AM  

    What the hell is RSTLNE?

    PmcH 9:17 AM  

    Why is the word "spaz" permissible in any crossword or context, for that matter? It is an offensive, inappropriate term.

    NCA President 9:19 AM  

    Usually when Rex goes with anything higher than "easy" it means I've had to Google at least once. On my own scale, if I don't Google or use a dictionary (no matter how long it takes to finish), I consider it easy. Today was easy.

    And it was easy mostly because of the theme. This is one of those times (for me, anyway) when the theme actually helped me to solve a lot of places where I might have been stuck otherwise. Once I figured out the theme and then had one or two letters in the circles, I'd figure out the stone in question and just fill it in. The only mess up was OPAL for ONYX...which was quickly figured out when I actually saw where the OPAL went. Also, filling in SET all over the place was an added benefit.

    I liked the puzzle because of the number of ways in which the theme worked and so the number of ways it could help to solving the puzzle.

    Dshawmaine@msn.com 9:25 AM  

    I liked the theme but agree on the fill - for some reason ERE and EEN in the same puzzle stood out (think I'm picking up Xwording do's and don't see on this blog?). I could not find Rex's nod to James Garner mentioned above - maybe a link doesn't show on my iPad app.
    @Anonymous 8:57 - RSTLE are the letters "given" to contestants in the final round of Wheel of Fortune.

    Anonymous 9:28 AM  

    I couldn't get past NERD GUN.
    oh, well

    Nancy 9:40 AM  

    Just 3 wrong answers I was initially sure of just about did me in. In the Midwest: wants TO, instead of MEANS TO, leading to KEEP at, instead of KEEP ON. And Klan instead of ELKS at 123A made 91D impossible to get. What a great, misleading clue for BAROQUE, btw. If it hadn't been for QUARTZ, I never would have gotten QUARTER SIZE HAIL (I already had the last two words). And the Q enabled me to change Klan to ELKS. So much harder for me than it should have been, as the rest was not all that challenging. Other than MLK (he was a person, not a "symbol". so the clue is unfair), I liked this puzzle pretty much.

    Snowbird 9:48 AM  

    QUARTER-SIZE HAIL just sounds too Two-D for me. I'm used to hearing about golfball-SIZE HAIL and such. Quarters seem to lack that extra dimension.

    Ludyjynn 9:56 AM  

    Solved it as a themeless until I finished and looked it over... NOTAFAN. Kind of a slog. I was distracted throughout by the mangled Hebrew clue for ELAL, which apparently irked others here, as well.

    RSTLNE, @Anon.8:57am, are the letters 'given' by Sajak to the finalist to solve the big prize puzzle on "Wheel".

    My question is: why is AEIOU "facetious"?

    Best clue and answer was WATERGATE, IMO. Also liked JUNTA and NOMSG.
    But like Rex,I am BEARISH on much of the other fill, esp. OWS and GOO.

    Looking forward to PRAWNS for dinner. YUMMIER than SOUP.

    As I type this, "CBS Sunday Morning" is running a great story on Henry Diltz, a photographer of so many rock and roll greats. I am no longer INAFUNK.

    Raymond Numeral 9:59 AM  

    Can someone explain what an Xii is please

    Anonymous 10:03 AM  

    A bit of a yawner for a Sunday. I'm sure it was hard to construct, but the delightful answers were sparse.

    Anonymous 10:04 AM  

    12 o'clock

    Ranting twat 10:04 AM  

    Totally agree with PmcH SPAZ is offensive to us cripple mong types and should not be allowed - SHAME ON YOU WILL SCHWARTZ - I will never buy the NYT again

    Chubalubbubalub 10:07 AM  

    PRAWN and ETONIAN crossed - no thanks!

    Ranting twat 10:10 AM  

    Shame on you Sex Parker I'm never buying the NYT again

    F.O.G. 10:11 AM  
    This comment has been removed by the author.
    Brian Damaged 10:17 AM  

    Keneth Wuman at 2.29am - I think you have missed the point here, a WHEELIE is a mix of Ketamine, hash, cocaine and LSD and was my drug of choice in college

    Anonymous 10:35 AM  

    are cusswords allowed in this forum?

    mitchs 10:43 AM  

    The word contains the vowel run

    Ranting twat 10:43 AM  

    I agree with anon at 10.35 am - cusswords have no place in this forum SHAME on tou NYT I am never buying you again!

    Anonymous 10:45 AM  


    It's your birthstone, it's in the puzzle today, and still you spell it "Amythist"?

    Whirred Whacks 10:48 AM  

    Some of the clues made me think of Brian Williams (who has taken a real pounding on Twitter this past week):

    -- 18D "Bad recollection"
    -- 62A "Ninny"
    -- 82A "Baloney"
    -- 83A (former NBC) "Newswoman Curry"
    -- 118D "Spotlight hog"

    Perhaps Williams' "multi-faceted" personality is the meta-theme!


    Liked this clue: "BayWatch Stars run in it" for SLO-MO

    Was surprised (but not offended in this context) to see SPAZ. Haven't heard it used in decades.

    Teedmn 10:56 AM  

    I had a longer comment but then Google wanted me to sign in, couldn't remember my password, had to get a new one, blah blah, blah. So I'll just say thanks, Mr. Newton, for a semi-precious, not facetious puzzle.

    Carola 11:11 AM  

    I had the same reaction as @Rex and @Steve J to some of the SETs being rather unanchored from their STONEs, but I thought the theme answers were nicely multifaceted and the SETs nicely concealed. I noticed the STONES and in-SETs early and enjoyed going on the hunt for the rest.

    One snag: getting the reveal. Having IN A sUlK (instead of FUNK) gave me ?TOlE instead of STONE, and having no idea about Baywatch gave me no help with SLOMO (@bwalker, I also considered prOMO). Even wondered if "permanent" had to do with a SaloN.

    Ended with a DNF, as my crayons were WAXEd. I guess I was still thinking about the salon.

    I liked SWISSES next to CHEESETRAY, ULULATION over ELKS' SONG and NO-GOOD 'UNS. Agree with @Gill I. about a gender clash between "randy" and NYMPHOS.

    Anonymous 11:11 AM  

    Leaning back is HOW one pops a wheelie on a kids' bike. No ridiculous drug references needed.

    Anonymous 11:14 AM  

    The COMBINE clue was very well-crafted. People! All a tractor does is pull stuff around!

    Clint Ray 11:28 AM  

    On "Wheel of Fortune" in the bonus round they "give" the letters RSTLNE and let the contestant choose two more consonants and a vowel.

    mathguy 11:31 AM  

    I'm surprised that Will allowed SPAZ.

    For a big puzzle, I thought that the fill was pretty clean.

    The theme wasn't the best, but I liked the puzzle quite a bit. Fresh fill, clever cluing.

    OISK 11:32 AM  

    No problem finishing, but thought the theme was pretty weak. Also, Hebrew is read right to left, so if you are going to clue using Hebrew letters, they should be right to left as well. The way it appeared was "La Le." Some nice cluing though, made it fun.

    No errors this week, despite high difficulty ratings.

    Z 11:41 AM  

    "Facetious string" is AEIOU because the vowels appear in order in "facetious."

    I like LJOTU. They are like RRNs on steroids. Speaking of RRNs, first Chinese dynasties, then "non-canonical" psalms, now clock faces (XII=12 on a clock face). It almost make me miss LEO XIX. Almost.

    FredD Smith 11:46 AM  

    'Mericans --

    Natick is a town in Massachusetts on the route of the Boston Marathon, and was once clued as such, to the dismay of many puzzlers who'd (understandably) never heard of it. So one " Naticks" when one draws a blank on a clue. Similarly, when one nearly blanks on a clue, they've "Framingham'ed," since that's a near-Natick town.

    More than you wanted to know?

    jberg 11:59 AM  

    I think there was a hidden theme, "prepositions used with verbs." MEANS TO, SHOT FOR, SET IN, KEEP ON, REV UP.That, plus circles and stars.

    So, all that was a little too complicated (even without the prepositions), but otherwise it was OK. Is EEL POT another term for smoked eels? Or is it what they smoke?

    I'm trying to figure out whether ROSETTA really orbited that comet, as opposed to their both orbiting the sun. Wikipedia uses the word, but the European Space Agency says it made a "rendezvous" and then proceeded to "escort it as it orbits the sun." Of course, everything. Can any of you scientists enlighten me?

    OK, time to shovel some more snow.

    Ludyjynn 12:00 PM  

    @Z, thank you; EUREKA!

    Anonymous 12:05 PM  

    Can someone explain the clue for BAROQUE?

    Lewis 12:08 PM  

    It felt like a combination of two Tuesday themes, except they didn't really mesh well. I did like much of the cluing: SEWN, SOUP, SLOMO, AEIOU, SONG, EEN, XII, NBA, SILENTL, plus a number answers with spark as people have mentioned. I looked up RANDY and there is no sexual preference in the dictionaries.

    I had one streak where I filled in two thirds of the puzzle in no time; the rest took hard yet rewarding work. This one was good for me!

    Sir Hillary 12:13 PM  

    I tend to do Sundays more out of obligation and a strange worry that I don't want to miss out on a really cool one. Usually, my reaction is "meh".

    Not today -- I thought this was a lot of fun. I couldn't care less how big the gaps are between the stones' beginning and ending components. The fact that the theme entries run both across and down elevates this one for me. Lots of nice long fill as well.

    Complaining about some short cruddy fill in a 21x21 grid is like complaining about saturated fat in your french fries -- you dive in knowing you're going to get some. I can forgive a three-letter RRN way more on a Sunday than I can during the week. That said, SILENTL is a stretch, and NOTAFAN even more so.

    Like others, I was quite surprised to see SPAZ. In fact, I would say that a couple extra cheaters would have been preferable -- PASTA/PAZ (with ASSETS, PINTA, NCIS, OXEN, BOXY, SPY) down low, and RUN/INTER (with INKER) up top. For sure, that creates some issues of its own (haven't checked for dupes, for example) but the purging of SPAZ would be worth it.

    But all in all, one of my favorite Sundays of the past year.

    BillyC 12:16 PM  

    @Anon12:05 --

    Admittedly, it seems a bit of a reach; but "Baroque," in its first meaning, is a very ornate, detailed architectural style, and thus could mean "overly involved," in a general sense.

    Roo Monster 12:34 PM  

    Hey All !
    What a hard puzzle to construct! To get all the SETs with the E exactly "in" the gems is amazing! Hard to pull off. Plus, the SET IN STONE revealer! That helped me in overlooking some of the fill. A ton of constraint with 7 across & 7 down themers. And not even a plethora of black squares.

    Did you glean from that statement I liked the puz? :-)

    That said, I don't like SWISSES. ;-P Had some of the same hangups as others. NERdGUN - NERFGUN, TROuP - TROOP. Also wanted BoARISH, jupiTer for ROSETTA, but the ASS helped on that one!

    Cool puz, mediumish solve, some easy, some harder, JUSTAS I like 'em for a SunPuz!


    Masked and Anonymo12Us 12:44 PM  

    @63: Brownies and "Dance Moms". har. Talk about yer carrot and stick motivations.

    Kinda liked the multifaceted theme. Loosey goosey, I'll grant, but always cool to see a different theme idea get trotted out.

    @Casco Kid: Honored to be a hidden feature in your always-entertainin comments. Would return the favor, but it looks like a heckuva challenge. Must ponder. Also, thanx for tryin to get that there extra U, for the troups.

    fave subtle waft of desperation: SHOTFOR.

    Man, this dude really likes to make SunPuzs... !


    Anonymous 12:50 PM  

    Thanks @BillyC

    It is a stretch.

    Nancy 12:55 PM  

    @Anon 12:05 --
    BAROQUE is a really busy, ornate style of design. So I guess you can call it "really involved." A deliberately misleading clue that, when I had BARO--K (I had Klan instead of ELKS at 123A), I didn't see at all until I had the Q.
    To everyone: Don't understand the flap about EL AL. My puzzle filled in with the letters in exactly that order. (From SETTLES ON, ETAILING, SPAZ, BLEW.) What's the problem?

    Numinous 12:55 PM  

    12 for MasqUed & Anonymo Us e!!!!!!!!!!!!

    @FredD Smith, I was Under the impression that, other than drawing a blank, Natick referred to virtUally Ungettable proper noUns unless yoU had actUally been to Toowoomba or fished along the Cooloongalook River.

    I did this one mosttly as a themeless withoUt noting the gemstones in the circles. I finally got the "SET IN STONE" and saw the rocks at the very end of the solve when, after some examination, I got the BY in _RU___BY. I thoUght some of the fill was a bit clUnky after the fact bUt failed to notice dUring the solve. No googles today for me and I finished it nearly half a minUte faster than UsUal (y'all'd laUgh if yoU knew what that time actUally was–OK, I'll admit it–jUst Under an hoUr and a half). I was disappointed when I finally finished it. I was jUst enjoying a qUiet morning at the kitchen table and several cUps of coffee before the rest of the world awoke.

    @bwalker: I have to thank yoU for teaching me a new word based on yoUr avatar. Always drove throUgh a town called Manteca on the way to the moUntains. Today, I discovered that, in English, I had been driving throUgh Lard, California.

    sam enderby 12:59 PM  

    @KenWurman and @Yontifsadie are correct. The Times still reads Hebrew left to right which has always been their problem. Good work Ken, good work Sadie. A fun puzzle, tho'.

    Hartley70 1:05 PM  

    Like @ Ludyjynn, I solved most of this as a themeless. I boarded the train at the first stop and just kept going. I finally noticed the "set" when I saw "permanent" in the clue and thought of an old fashioned permanent wave that my mother used to get. I ignored the circled gems until I got here because I seem to forget about that little "i" in the top bar that reveals the theme on my phone. It was just fine as a nearly themeless and my last hang up was the s in SILENTL.

    My favorite answer of the day was BAROQUE and it's also my classical of choice.

    AliasZ 1:08 PM  

    There is a big problem with over-complicating themes.

    First, in three of the asterisked answers not only the word SET but also the anagram of STONE is hidden: LATE ONSET, SETTLES ON and LEASE TO OWN. When I got LATE ONSET, I thought for sure STONE must also part of the "set in" the starred answers. Second, the clue for "SET IN" says "...literally, a feature of the answers..." which is not the case at all. Unless Will meant "literally" in its figurative meaning. Literally would mean that SET is found IN all the STONE-y answers. Such was not the case. This is the problem with multi-layered themes: airtight neatness is supplanted by unnecessary complication. I am NOT A FAN.

    But ARS Nova saved the day.

    The term "ARS nova" is generally used in conjunction with another term, "ARS Antiqua", which refers to the music of the immediately preceding age, usually extending back to take in the period of Notre Dame polyphony (from about 1170 to 1320). Almost all composers of the ARS Antiqua are anonymous. Léonin (fl. late 12th century), and Pérotin (fl. c.1180 – c.1220) were the two composers known by name from the Notre Dame school.

    In ancient and medieval Latin the term "ARS nova" means "new technique", and was first used in two contemporaneous manuscripts, but the term was only first used to describe an historical era in the 20th century. The most famous practitioner of the ARS Nova style was Guillaume de Machaut (1300-1377), who also had a distinguished career as a canon at Reims Cathedral and as a poet. The ARS Nova style is evident in his considerable body of motets, lais, virelais, rondeaux, and ballades. (Wikipedia)

    Happy Sunday.

    Kenneth Wurman 1:13 PM  

    The letters are backward..Hebrew is read right to left.. look at El Al's website

    'mericans in Paris 1:14 PM  

    @FreD Smith

    Thanks for the history of Natick, but I knew that. What I'm still not sure about is when used as crosswordese whether it should be capitalized or not.

    Kenneth Wurman 1:15 PM  

    The letters are backward..Hebrew is read right to left.. look at El Al's website

    FredDSmith 1:27 PM  

    @'Mericans --

    Rex capitalizes the N in Natick when he uses it descriptively.


    Benko 1:28 PM  

    A "baroque explanation" is an "overly involved" explanation.

    M and Also 1:29 PM  

    I just feel in my bones that @Acme darlin would want the "pangram" word to be uttered somewhere in the Comment Gallery today. @63: Well, there's yer brownie!

    fave themer: The one where the constructioneer squeezed RO(SET)TA crossin AMETH(hic)YST into the puz. Day-um. Makes yah wanna get stoned on special-mix brownies.

    Yo, @Numi! Hope everyone is well on the mend, over there.

    Missin the extra half dozen themers that @muse woulda dreamt up, for this puz. Challenge for her: find one that uses ZIRCON. How can U resist, lil darlin? har. But I digress...


    Lewis 1:36 PM  

    Factoid: Most commercially produced sausages in the United States contain pork and beef TRIPE as filler.

    Quotoid: "All music is folk music. I ain't never heard a horse sing a SONG." -- Louis Armstrong

    Sir Hillary 1:42 PM  

    @M&A - I'm no Muse, but I did enjoy hearing "Take Me To Church" at the HOZIERCONCERT I recently attended.

    dick swart 1:43 PM  

    Theme is unnecessary to solving and not rewarding at the finish.

    Any place where I was stuck, I was not helped by the theme with those circles that add to clutter and distraction, particularly when doing the puzzle in ink on paper from the printer

    It was annoying to me rather than any help or reward during or after.

    As a matter of fact, i only understood the theme from reading Rex's explanation.

    davidD 1:49 PM  

    Ludyjinn: Facetious is on e of the two English words with AEIOU in order. Facetiously (has the Y!). Think abstemiously!

    From the comments, looks like someone at the Times caught the Hebrew screw-up of El Al & changed the clue in later editions to "airline with two lameds" or something like that. The original had the Hebrew words with letters placed left-to-right instead of right-to-left. "mebarrassing".

    Numinous 1:54 PM  

    I am not now, nor have I ever been, particularly politically correct. SPAZ didn't bother me in the least. I have probably used that to describe myself on several occasions. In the part of California I call home, there is a huge community of handicapped people. While they may have problems with the fact they don't, in general, have problems with being categorized as "crips".

    I have to wonder. It seems to me that there is a burgeoning lewdity in the Times these days. There was a time when certain things were never mentioned in polite society. I believe it used to be a rule that if it couldn't be mentioned at the family breakfast table it couldn't be in a crossword. Today's effort appears to have a risque sub-theme with Randy TONED-UP NYMPHOS on Babe Watch with their WAXEN bikini areas running in SLO-MO the better to watch ASS and D-CUPs bounce as they frolicked in the Southern California surf and sun. My inner fifteen-year-old was delighted with the CHEESE(cake)TRAY imagery.

    Last Silver BONA 1:54 PM  

    @Sir Hillary: Wow. That was fast. Crossworders are the cleverest peoples.

    @muse: Okay, so then how'bout a top weird clues list for XII? Gotta get that funny gal back in the game, somehow...

    "Brownies Downstairs have never appealed to me"

    dick swart 1:58 PM  

    Further to my comment above re: doing with a pen in ink …

    A further self-inflicted difficulty.

    I was using a favorite one with a Goulet JoWo 1.5mm stub.

    I throw this in for those who follow pen and ink:

    Z 2:02 PM  

    @'miP - At it's origin it was all caps, NATICK Principle, following the convention of all caps for words in the puzzle. I think an appropriate rule would be capitalized when talking about the 'burb and not capitalized when talking about a poorly constructed crossing. If you read the comments from that 2008 post you will see a nice little dust-up about grammar police (i.e. people who think correcting other's grammar "errors" in a blog is comment-worthy). Much like Rex that day, I'm in the "if it doesn't overwhelm your meaning don't sweat it" camp.

    Numinous 2:03 PM  

    I omitted a comma.
    "While they may have problems with the fact, they don't, in general, have have problems with being categorized as "crips".
    This may have changed in the 25 or 30 years I've been away, but I doubt it.

    Thanks M&A.

    III and out.

    Steve J 2:10 PM  

    @Anon 9:28 a.m. and @Roo: I love NERd GUN. That so needs to be a thing.

    @Nancy and @Dan P: I was also confused about the complaints about EL AL, but now that I'm getting around to my dead-tree NYT, I see the issue. In the NYT app, in Xwordinfo, etc. (and I'm assuming on the NYT website, although I'm having trouble accessing the puzzle there at the moment), the clue is "Company with two lameds in its name". However, in the print magazine, the clue is "Company also known as (Hebrew characters)". The Hebrew characters have the lamed/L as the second character in each word, which is incorrect in Hebrew, which reads right to left.

    mac 2:13 PM  

    I agree with Rex. Did not finish the puzzle, just ran out of interest at the bottom third. Then again, I did a lot of puzzling yesterday in Westport.

    @chefbea: Most gems can be faceted, but I don't think I have ever seen a faceted opal. I once saw some freshwater pearls that were made to look as if they were, very odd.

    ss 2:27 PM  

    Why was "tour" starred? It doesn't contain "set"

    demit 2:30 PM  

    An oddly humorless puzzle today. I'm used to getting at least one answer that makes me smile because of how it fulfills the clueing.

    I guess the theme (talk about baroque!) was fun & satisfying to construct, but it didn't really have anything to do with solving the puzzle, or provide a surprise or delight at the end. It's just a thing where you say "Oh, how about that" when you're done.

    mathguy 2:31 PM  

    My understanding of a Natick is as Rex explains it. Two unfamiliar proper nouns intersect in the puzzle and the letter at the intersection is not readily inferable. It must be guessed.

    Anonymous 3:13 PM  

    My mom helped me understand the SILENTL clue. The letter "L" is "silent" in the word "HALVES." I thought the author meant that when there are two Ls in a word (like NELL) the 2nd L is silent. Duh me.

    Anonymous 3:22 PM  

    XII, Plural of xi... Cheese

    'mericans in Paris 3:44 PM  

    INYT readers get screwed again!

    All we got for a clue at 111-A was "Company also known as". I got ELAL from the down words, but had no clue as to why ELAL was the answer. Even most of the discussion here left me scratching my head. Now I see why: the INYT truncated the clue!

    Alan_S. 3:52 PM  

    Loved 'mericans in Paris' post. This weeks puzzle was decidedly more (a)rousing than usual... Did anyone else have spume for slomo for too long?

    Hartley70 4:12 PM  

    @mac How was the Westport tournament? I just checked the library site and watched a video from a few years ago. My first thought was...that's a lot of gray hair!

    Fred Romagnolo 4:14 PM  

    @!mathguy: I would add that Rex has posited that it would be unfair if less than 40% of the general populace had heard of the nouns. With all the aspersions about the sexuality implied in this one, I didn't see any one add that it would be inappropriate in a puzzle involving Brownie Troops! Talk about giggling inner 13 year-olds, heh heh. I think the SPAZ thing is borderline, and yes, there has been a decline in the propriety of the NYT. I wasn't familiar with POP A WHEELIE, and only vaguely familiar with whatever a NERF GUN is. I had no trouble with EL AL, not being cognizant with Hebrew, because it was so easily inferable. I was totally flummoxed by RSTLNE, I thought Wheel of Fortune was essentially "Hangman," what are givens?

    Leapfinger 4:15 PM  

    Decades ago, one of Thurber's books (all were published by 1950) contained the riddle:
    'What English language word has all five vowels in alphabetical order?
    I'll give you a hint: the answer's probably facetious.'

    Not saying that Thurber was the one who first came up with that, but he did put it in print years ago.

    Quite right about NYMPHOS and Randy: most prefer the more formal Randolph.

    @M&A, same concert as @Sir Hillary; there were Vizirate concubines in attendance.

    Junief 4:18 PM  

    Thanks, Clint--I was wondering too, never having watched the show. Sounds like a lot of "givens."

    Anonymous 4:31 PM  

    Well XII had be totally flummoxed but otherwise I did better than usual

    RSTLNE are the most common English letters. Wheel of Fortune "gives" them to finalists in harder than usual puzzles with fewer common letters.

    Prior to that rule change those were ALWAYS the letters people guessed in the final and it was boring to watch. And yes i am that old.

    Hugh 4:41 PM  

    Went to extremes this week between "hate" and "got a kick out of"

    Hated (like Rex): Swisses, AEIOU, RSTLNS (Really??) CBER and Etailing (big groan). Unlike Rex, did not mind XII.

    Got a kick out of Passing Go, Watergate, Lipbalms.

    Got the theme fairly quickly but struggled on 115A (big fall from the sky) and 85A (Lean back and enjoy the ride)

    While I got the theme early on - it did not result in a Happy "AHA", more of a painful, "really???"

    Kind of a Meh Sunday for me.

    Z 4:42 PM  

    Since Rex came up with the term "NATICK" (see link in my previous post) he gets to define it. From the Rex FAQ page: NATICK PRINCIPLE — If you include a proper noun in your grid that you cannot reasonably expect more than 1/4 of the solving public to have heard of, you must cross that noun with reasonably common words and phrases or very common names. @Fred R - Rex is actually more demanding, 25% as opposed to 40%. As for pronunciation, I learned from @Casco Kid that I say "NATICK" incorrectly.

    Kenneth Wurman 4:50 PM  

    Really???? Too much information! !

    jae 4:54 PM  

    @Leapy -- Rolling Rock(s) is a beer brand.

    @Z - How about Charli XCX?

    @Carola - just realized I too DNF with WAXEd crayons. Needless to say Wheel is not on my must watch list.

    Ludyjynn 5:13 PM  

    @DavidD, thanks for adding to the AEIOU explanation w/ your 'abstemiously' tidbit. I will tuck that away for future reference.

    My CPA just left after doing tax prep. He is Israeli-born. I showed him the backwards ELAL clue. He shook his head in disbelief, then burst out laughing. In retrospect, this NYT screw-up may have been the highlight of the puzzle!

    Darling Husband 5:26 PM  

    Enjoyed it.

    Tita 5:50 PM  

    Nit of the day...
    It was the hotel that lent its name - not the landmark...the hotel was named for the last lock on the Chesapeake & Ohio canal.
    And I wouldn't call a hotel a 'landmark" anyway.

    Agree with @jfc about ROSETTA[stone] had me looking for more theme.
    Agree with @Rex & @AliasZ about the theme execution. Meh-ish

    @chefwen & @Ellen - lol!

    Theme-related tangent:
    Was making scones for our overnight guests - had their 4-year-old helping.
    When they went into the oven, had him go wake his folks - tell him breakfast is served and we're having scones that he helped make.

    Mom comes downstairs, puzzled - "Colin told me we're having rocks for breakfast!"

    Tita 6:02 PM  

    @Hartley - tournament was great! While there was plenty of gray hair, there were lots of young'uns too...
    In fact, stay tuned this week for a whiz kid constructor debut - a mere tyke, but a most worthy constructor!

    Patrick Merrill was the MC, and in spite of sitting at the table with the winners, there smarts did not rub off on me.
    In fact, I felt like I was doing the puzzles in SLOMO.

    Congrats to the winners, Andy,Jan, and Glen!
    (Actually, you can see Jan and Glen, @mac, @ulrich, and @me in photo 6 here:

    I finished in the very respectable position of not 1, 2, or 3.

    chefbea 6:12 PM  

    Looked at all the pictures and did not see @Mac or @Ulrich

    Charlene 6:12 PM  

    All this and nobody noticed the return of our fave Hall of Famer?

    Brian 6:13 PM  

    If you enter Hebrew into MS Word, for example, and it is correctly right to left, and then you save as a PDF, Adobe says, oh, Hebrew eh? Lemme turn it right to left. Same sheet with Arabic and Farsi. Very confusing and sorry in this day and age.

    Hartley70 7:06 PM  

    @Tita, what fun! Is that you in the hot pink? That's the outfit of an optimistic winner! I couldn't figure out who @mac could be unless she's that quite younger woman on the far left, but I figure that's Jan. Oh wait, am I just assuming @mac is a lady? I would love to get the nerve to try it someday. I'd really like a peanut gallery to watch you all struggle before I took the plunge myself, but it would be fun to sit at your table.

    maki-girl 7:14 PM  

    It's how they assess hail damage to your car (# of quarter, nickel and dimed size dents)

    Tita 7:52 PM  

    Pic 6 - the caption names Jan in the hot pink, and Glen on the right.

    @chefbea - not all of us are facing the camera in that shot... :(

    @Hartley - I'm in the back, holding my pencil!
    You should try it - there is ZERO pressure. There are a handful of people who have a real shot at being in the top three. The rest of us go so that we can surround ourselves with other folks who share our sickness- obsession- interest...

    I am not at all a speed solver. My only hope for recognition would be in the neatest handwriting category - which I have not achieved either!

    Hartley70 8:08 PM  

    Great to see you @Tita! I just might join you next year as long as the turtle class isn't full.

    Dona Flor 1:24 AM  

    I appreciated @AliasZ's links that much more, after learning of the Star Wars' House of Organa the oter day, but surprised myself by voting for Perot in the contest of ARS, antiqua vs nova. At least, based on the sample offered.

    Topped off with some Bach par Tita.

    628125429201 8:35 AM  

    C'mon Rex...don't be such a hard marker...this puzzle was alot more difficult than a simple "medium".

    bwalker 12:53 PM  

    @ Numinous -- Specifically, pork fat. An essential ingredient in Mexican food as well as Cajun. Delicious, but there is a reason San Antonio and New Orleans are among the fattest cities in the US.

    Also, the original Brylcreem. A little dab'l do.

    Amanda Powers 5:33 PM  

    Biggest groan for me was "Givens on Wheel of Fortune" (answer: RSTLNE). I'm okay with AEIOU, but this says "I give up" in the clue department to me.

    paulsfo 2:47 AM  

    @AliasZ I was also confused by having the first three asterisked clues which I solved each contain the letters S T O N and E.

    I enjoyed the puzzle.

    For the people, including Rex this time, who are looking for perfect consistency in the theme (as opposed to say, enjoyment?), I will again suggest that you take up sudoku, or perhaps Esperanto crosswords. The English language, and perfect consistency, have never, and will never, go together.

    Anonymous 9:14 AM  

    Folks, to clear up the EL AL questions:

    In the NYT print and PDF editions, the clue contains the Hebrew words for "El Al" with a misprint. Instead of "Company also known as אל על", it was printed as "Company also known as לע לא", which would be pronounced "Lalo".

    Anonymous 9:20 AM  

    Just noticed that The Times issued a correction to the crossword:


    The crossword puzzle on Page 48 of the Magazine this weekend, seeking the name of a company as the answer for 111-Across, transposes the Hebrew letters in the clue. It should be: אל על, not לע לא.


    Pouty 12:54 PM  

    Challenging for me, but finished it after several hours. I thought the theme was clever and it would have been nice had the SET bisected the stones, but I don't think that was possible. By the way, I love crosswordese in crosswords. It's the only way I can get a foothold sometimes.

    spacecraft 12:13 PM  

    In my paper the clue for ELAL was simply "Company also known as ?? ??" Needless to say, like a lot of other entries today, that baby went in on crosses. Also the clue for XII was just "Topmost part of." There was no second line. And if there WAS no second line, that's brutal cluing.

    I know you have to put up with some substandard fill in a big grid, but yikes! AEIOU RSTLNE XII ONEDCUP SILENTL (aaaugh!) CBER...I could go on. BAH!

    Theme was clever and not immediately sussable. The highlight of the whole piece is PONYEXPRESS. Great clue, containing a trivium that few knew, and the X is beautifully unstrained--unlike that XII debacle. Many of the clues, though, gave me the fantods, as Twain would say. "Lean back and enjoy the ride?" evokes a lot more relaxation than one can afford when POPping A WHEELIE. "Really involved--" without even a "?"--is supposed to lead us to BAROQUE?

    I managed a correct solution in about 100 minutes, but I have to say that though this fellow SHOTFOR a great puzzle, his effort was NOGOOD. Props to a dense theme and several nice outliers--ULULATION is YUMMIER than all of 'em--but I can't give more than a C.

    Burma Shave 1:48 PM  

    and mister ICET,
    nor AEIOU,
    nor RSTLNE,
    for @Spacey and me.

    Hell yeah!! RECKONSO!!
    and Pamela INTOW,
    on a beach down in RIO
    they’re all PASSINGGO.

    Not OBESE ‘cause she’s TONEDUP,
    When Pam CRUISESBY,
    She’ll certainly REVUP
    all who ESPY.
    And iffen’ she STOPS,
    all I’ll say is HAI.

    rondo 2:10 PM  

    Got this, but less than liked it as a whole. Kinda mostly agree with Rex.

    NOTAFAN of those letter runs, and only slightly less bad are the DCUP and its ILK.

    Someone above must've noticed the (unlikable) SWISSES attached to the CHEESETRAY??

    ROSETTA and STONE not far apart.

    Area of Spice Girl interest with POSH/ASS crossing.

    As I recall, I once had a case of LATEONSET adultery.

    Guess I'm BEARISH on this puz, if it wasn't so damn cold here I'd have SHOTFOR something else to do.

    rondo 2:11 PM  

    Forgot - Al Bundy's favortie magazine was Big'UNS.

    Bananafish 2:46 PM  

    I do not think you all are showing enough appreciation for the theme and its execution here. Mr. Newton had to come up with seven phrases that are common in the English language in which the name of a well-known gemstone is hidden in its letters in exactly two tranches of letters, and in each case there had to be an 'e' in the letters in between those two tranches (so that the word "set" could be crossed with the phrase). If you had described that to me ahead of time I would have told you it was impossible. None of the seven answers are forced and GAMETHESYSTEM, POPAWHEELIE and PONYEXPRESS are practically miracles fitting the theme. (And I am consequently not surprised that Mr. Newton managed to squeeze the word MIRACLE into the grid.). I say Bravo.

    Bananafish 2:55 PM  

    Oh, and he also had to maintain symmetry ... And the two 15 letter answers, two 11 letter answers, two 9 letter answers are arranged symmetrically with the lone 13 letter answer spanning the center of the grid.

    As an exercise, see if you can come up with answers that will work for diamond, turquoise or sapphire. You cannot even come close, can you?

    Again, Bravo.

    Crabby 6:11 PM  

    Let's see, EEN and ERE and ERR and EMT,
    and TSA, MLK, TKO, TCM, and LTD,
    and ARS and ASS, SSR, IST und UNS,
    and XII, NBA, VOL, GYN, and OWS
    and NCOS, CBER, SPA and SPAZ.
    That's alot of junk and I've hardly touched 4 letters or more.

    And except for RUBY and OPAL the "gemstones" are all varieties of QUARTZ, if that makes them "gems". Just sayin'.

    Crabby 6:26 PM  

    So bravo for that

    Les Party 11:30 PM  

    Sounds like fun, if served with ice cold champagne!

    rain forest 12:01 AM  

    No one will see this, so I can say what I want to.
    It is so easy to take potshots at just about anything one wants to: the number of 3-letter words, for instance; the plethora of what some call "crosswordese"; the nature of @Rex's critique of the puzzle; the number of proper names or rapper names or rivers in Africa or towns not named Natick or any names, period; the frequency of straightforward clues; the frequency of misdirecting clues; the lack of "wacky" or the profusion of "wacky"; or just about anything at which one wants to take potshots. Great. Go for it.

    I know I've missed some categories here, but, as for this puzzle, I liked it and the tightness of the theme, even if SET didn't land where some thought it should--at least it landed in the general area. Nothing is SET in stone(s). That's why these crosswords are an enjoyable diversion for so many. The creativity and effort are evident daily, and if some undefined "standard" isn't reached, who cares, really? And if one does care, one can always go to some other crossword website or paperback or, heaven forfend, construct one on your own and display it for all to ooh and aah (oops, used some crosswordese there).

    Keep it up, Will. Most of us get our daily fix on what for us is something we enjoy and look forward to.

    Z 5:09 AM  

    @rain forest - 21x21 always has lots of short short fill. The question is can the puzzle hold one's interest enough that one doesn't notice?

    Seems like a long time since we've heard from @Dirigonzo. I'm hoping all is well.

    Pappy P 9:32 AM  

    Trying to figure out what the comments meant was tougher than this puzzle. I have to get up to speed on the crossword lingo. Liked the puzzle; crushed the puzzle.

    Gregory Schmidt 3:51 PM  

    There are no ALTI in opera, unless perhaps you are talking about the chorus, but then why mention opera? In opera SOLO female voices, the highest are Sopranos, the next highest are Mezzo-Sopranos, then Contraltos. There are some tenors who can sing in the alto (mezzo) range, but they are referred to as countertenors. In my opinion, "Alto" is specifically a choral term, irrespective of whether that chorus is on an operatic or symphonic stage.

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