Mollycoddle Dwayne Johnson / WED 2-18-15 / Onetime Microsoft encyclopedia / Letters on Soyuz rockets / Baseball's oldest-ever rookie age 42 / tea party crasher of fiction / Weapon with bell guard

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Constructor: Ed Sessa

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: SCRIPT THE FLIP — ___ THE ___ phrases where post-THE and pre-THE words switch places, resulting in HIGH-larity

[NOTE: Been done. Better. Less than 4 years ago. In the NYT. I'm sure there's a great reason for this …]

Theme answers:
  • BABY THE ROCK (17A: Mollycoddle Dwayne Johnson?)
  • BOOKS THE COOK (22A: Enters charges against a restaurant employee?)
  • QUESTION THE DUCK (36A: Try to find out what's what at a pond?)
  • BLAME THE BEAR (46A: Shift responsibility for some missing campsite food?)
  • DECK THE SWAB (56A: Kayo Popeye?)
Word of the Day: STANDEE (23D: One who can't find a seat, say) —
standee is a large self-standing display promoting a movie, product or event. They are typically made of cardboard, and may range from large self-standing posters to three-dimensional devices with moving parts and lights. (wikipedia) 
[also … noun
  1. a person who stands, especially in a passenger vehicle when all the seats are occupied or at a performance or sporting event.] (google)
• • •

Pass. As in "I'll pass," not as in "I give this a passing grade," because I don't. This one has problems aplenty. First, you could do this theme forever, which means you could do this theme with far, far better theme answers than this. Second, while BOOKS THE COOK is actually the solidest reversed phrase of the bunch, that third-person "-S" really plays havoc with consistency. One thing that made this thing "Medium" instead of easy was That inconsistency—I had BOOK and immediately wrote in THE because … well, that's how all the other theme answers go. So, ding. Not ding as in "hey, good one," but ding as in "mark against you." OK, so third, and this is the biggie: these phrases are not at all good in their original form. "Rock the cradle" is a stand-alone, solid phrase. "Rock the baby" … is not. It's a verb phrase, sure, but it is not tight. "Cook the books"—tight. "Swab the deck"—solid. The others … yeah, not so much. QUESTION THE POPS, yup, that works. Duck? Here's what google thinks of that:

Now, maybe if "Duck Dynasty" hadn't put out a stupid Christmas-themed book of some sort, the results would be different, but still, no "the question." It's a real phrase, it's just … not bam pow stick-the-landing real. And BLAME THE BEAR? Better to BLAME THE SHOULDER. Here's what Google thinks of "Bear the blame":

    Put the blame on Mame, or shoulder, or somewhere besides the bear. Google hates "rock the baby" most of all:

    OK, I'm surprised "cradle" and "vote" didn't come up there ("vote" actually did just come up right now, so maybe my Google is haunted), but still, BABY THE ROCK is just off. CRADLE THE ROCK is soooo good. Should've tried harder to make that (and all the others) work. Themers should be better, solider, funnier, etc. The only difficulty in this puzzle came from the theme answers being all wonky. Had QUESTION THE… and BLAME THE… and still couldn't close the deal, so the entire SE portion had to be opened up from within. Not hard. Just slower than solving might otherwise have been. Point isn't the time, though. Point is the miserable theme answers.

    Fill is boring and not good, but that's not news.

      Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


      Anonymous 12:03 AM  

      I remember hearing "duck the question" a lot in the early 90s, mostly as a description of what then-candidate Bill Clinton did during debates.

      Anonymous 12:06 AM  

      Baby the Rock would have been OK if clued as "take special care of your one remaining testicle".

      Mike in DC 12:08 AM  

      "Duck the question" seems solid to me. Thought the fill was way above average, too (although I think ELHI and SSS are not so hot). Got to love ET VOILA, and I enjoyed the clue on TEFLON.

      Steve J 12:11 AM  

      Meh. The theme phrases didn't amuse me (maybe a little bit for the complete absurdity of QUESTION THE DUCK), and there wasn't anything else in the puzzle that grabbed me. It wasn't TRIPE, but it was far from USDA Prime.

      wreck 12:13 AM  

      In 1978, Michael Jackson seemed to have it all - what the hell happened!?!
      I didn't have near the problem with this puzzle that Rex did. I sort of liked it! Catching the theme, greatly sped up the whole puzzle.

      Whirred Whacks 12:39 AM  

      Agree with @wreck: caught the theme early and the puzzle practically filled itself in. (I wish this would happen to me on a Saturday.)

      Favorite clue: "it's all around you" for SKIN.

      Richard 1:02 AM  

      Really got a chuckle out of "VOID THE FILL." Thanks for the laugh, particularly because the puzzle itself was rather blah.

      chefwen 1:46 AM  

      I thought it was cute, in fact this week has been very cutsy and I'm not complaining. I'm rather enjoying it. Loved BOOKS THE COOK and DECKS THE SWAB.

      A little more challenge tomorrow would be welcomed.

      I thought this was a crossword blog 2:21 AM  

      There goes Wirred Whacks again trying to be anonymous with the lead off comment. Still a douche bag.

      jae 3:41 AM  

      I'm with @chefwen on this one. Cute, liked it and hoping for more crunch tomorrow.

      Moly Shu 4:02 AM  

      Agree with @Rex, pass. CCCP, BPS, CNBC, and SSS put me in a foul mood from which I didn't recover. Probably because there wasn't enough time. Did this in a "mondayish" time and tried to find humor in the themes. Couldn't. Pass.

      RAD2626 6:09 AM  

      While not as much fun as last few puzzles still thought it was a cute theme and not such horrid fill. While I liked the 8's going down, my only gripe is I have never heard anyone say "et" before "voila". Tried to squeeze in "eureka" at first.

      Would rate puzzle Easy.

      Bredo Johnsen 7:10 AM  

      Wow! Hung over? "Enters ..." doesn't tell you that the opening verb ends in S?

      GILL I. 7:11 AM  

      Well I thought this was Button as a Cute....Went a tad too fast (could have been a Monday?) but nothing made me go IRK.
      New to me was LIFER as clued. I always thought that meant someone doing time in the pokey. I don't know ANYONE who has only had one job. How dull!
      Yay Miss P. I was braying for you....!

      Horace S. Patoot 7:26 AM  

      @GILL I. A LIFER may be a person who plans a career in the military or a civil or private employee who rides it out for a pension, say, a cop or a firefighter. There are lots of 'em..

      Mohair Sam 7:27 AM  

      Disagree to some degree with Rex, it was an OK puzzle - but certainly not a sizzler. And the "S" in BOOKSTHECOOK is just fine. And where is it written that the common phrase in your Wednesday puzzle must appear in the first five lines of a Google search?

      Played very easy for a Wednesday. We worked from SE up today, first gimme was TONI and the puzzle filled like a Monday. Musta hit our sweet spot.

      Z 7:35 AM  

      When 1A sets the tone it becomes way too easy to notice the junk. I like the theme, it's fun to mess with expectations this way. That there are so many "verb the noun" formations that can work when flipped is a feature, not a bug. However, besides CCCP, we get such classics as ELHI and op. CIT. and ÉPÉE and .... Too much wincing to really like. Maybe if I hadn't cringed at the clue for 1A the other fill wouldn't have leapt out at me.

      evil doug 7:39 AM  

      I was certain the answer for 16a was NIP. At least I really wanted it to be.


      Lewis 7:41 AM  

      @rex -- "void the fill", good one! Otherwise, though, I didn't buy your arguments; i.e., I didn't think the theme had to be so narrow as to not allow the S on BOOKS, and "bear the blame" and "rock the baby" are solidly in the language.

      I think this should have run on a Tuesday, as it was Tuesday easy and the theme answers would have been just right. This is not Ed's fault; it's Will's. The clues were Tuesday-ish, not with the spark we should start seeing on Wednesday. A perfect Tuesday.

      A mini theme: SNIT/IRK/SORE, and I like TRIPE crossing TRITE.

      This fill seems pretty clean, actually. The theme is cute, causing a little smile here and there, not a big laugh. Overall, solid and a decent brain waker-upper. Thank you Sir Ed!

      NCA President 7:43 AM  

      I had a severe issue at the TONI/LANI crossing. I didn't know either name, and IWON could easily be IWiN making that almost unsolvable as it stands. I finally got it by checking my answers...because TiNI seemed plausible enough to let it stand...I didn't even consider IWON. So yeah, there's that.

      The rest of the puzzle fell pretty easily. The only nit I have with the theme is that once you get it, the THEs are just fill it in which are 12 squares that you automatically get. Making for really easy footholds and an almost effortless solve in places.

      That said, and to Rex's point about BOOKSTHECOOK, if you didn't read the clue carefully, (which I didn't at first), your THE will be one square off. But TRIPE pretty much fixed it immediately for me.

      Anonymous 7:43 AM  

      Somebody here has a weird obsession with a president who left office 15 years ago. Monica, are you posting on this board again?

      Lewis 7:44 AM  

      Oh, and POOCH is a nice coda to yesterday's puzzle.

      Beloved 7:58 AM  

      Nice shout-out today to Toni Morrison, who celebrates her birthday today (as Garrison Keillor informed me this morning). She is one of America's most celibrated living authors, and has won both the Nobel and the Pullitzer, not to mention the presidential medal of freedom. It's a name you certainly should know,
      @ NCA President.

      evil doug 7:59 AM  

      Look! The unimaginative jagoff is back! If you were just a little bit clever, I'd let you sit in for me. But I can't have you embarrassing me as much as you're humiliating yourself.

      Lewis 8:17 AM  

      Factoid: SPIDER silk has held the claim as the strongest known natural material, but recently researchers have found that limpet teeth may be stronger. (Reuters, )

      Quotoid: "Oh, I just want what we all want: a comfortable couch, a nice beverage, a weekend of no distractions and a book that will stop time, lift me out of my quotidian existence and ALTER my thinking forever." -- Elizabeth Gilbert

      Andrew Morrison 8:24 AM  

      Monday time for a Wednesday. Meh. Not saying I could do better - those who can, build crosswords, those who can't, complain about them!

      Tita 8:25 AM  

      Don't feed the trolls. Unless the troll is you - in which case, basta!!

      In the dept. of overanalysis...
      @NCA Pres... "Victor's *cry*" could be IWiN. But when said victor heads to the bar and starts *boasting* about it, it's "IWON"!

      44D reminded me of playing TETHERball as a kid - I loved that game! Volleyball attached by a line to the top of a pole - if you could swat the ball past your opponent on the other side of said pole enough to completely wrap the line around, you could boast IWON.

      (Loved hearing about y'alls magnetic Scotties - I had a magnetic ballet troupe, complete with different backdrops. Because I was going to be, you know, a ballerina when I grew up.)

      Puzzle was meh - too easy for Wed., though I learned something about the ULNA.

      joho 8:34 AM  

      How I hate when @Rex sets such a negative tone ... and in this case, IMO, unnecessarily so.

      I thought the themers were fun and the phrases that they're based on solidly in the language.

      Plus I like puzzles that make me think up new theme answers. Off the top of my head I had DEALTHESEAL and SPOTLIGHTTHESTEAL but I'm sure there are more and better coming from @Alias Z.

      I've said this many times before, but if the theme ends up creating wacky phrases @Rex will not think that they are!

      Thanks, Ed Sessa, I really enjoyed this one. Loved BLAMETHEBEAR!

      John V 8:39 AM  

      Easy Monday here. Theme was fine, obvious. Tough to get that West block to work with that Q in there. Worked, barely.

      AliasZ 8:53 AM  

      Today's puzzle was definitely one the easy side of Wednesday.

      I remember seeing and making fun of STANDEE for decades as a commuter from NJ to NYC. Every bus has a sign by its door: "SEATS: 49; STANDEES: 12."

      Over-analyzing the theme has always baffled me. I find it to be not the point of funny or twisted or reversed phrases that appear so often as puzzle themes. The play with words is the thing. We all know what BEAR THE BLAME and ROCK THE BABY means without Google. Yes, perhaps CRADLE THE ROCK and BURDEN THE BEAR would have been a hair better, but so what. It was a funny theme, and we all got it. Many of us even enjoyed it.

      I did.

      It reminded me of my past life during which I was given the job to clock the wind as a meteorologist. I also worked in a frugal Human Resources department, where if a salary was increased, I had to flag the raise. As a hobo I had to hound the rail yard relentlessly and dog the train. As kitchen help, I had to cut a thin piece of veal and bread the slice, but was fired because I goosed the cook. My goose was cooked.

      Speaking of dogs, I was rooting for that gorgeous beagle. Best In Show!

      What is better than a single ECHO? That's easy. A double ECHO, this one courtesy of signore Giovanni Gabrieli (c.1554/57-1612). Enjoy!

      Ludyjynn 8:57 AM  

      I would ECHO @Lewis' reaction, in full, to this puzz. Cannot work myself into a SNIT over it like Rex. (Wonder if his favorite POOCH did not take Best In Show last night, making him ABIT SORE)?

      Speaking of Westminster, it would have been apt to use ASSISI in yesterday's dog themed grid, as St. Francis was the patron saint of animals. Likewise, TETHER would have worked well.

      A mob of crows just descended upon my yard; SPOOKy!

      Thanks, ES and WS.

      Anonymous 8:58 AM  

      Never, under any circumstances, should one troll the feed. Seems to be ED's specialty.

      Don McBrien 9:03 AM  

      Easy Wednesday. I had two write-overs. The first because my THE was off a square thanks to BOOKS THE COOK, as Rex pointed out. Also, as I was inking in STANDER, it was feeling "off," and I considered leaving the last square blank in case it wa an E, but I decided a STANDEE was one of those cardboard things, so plowed ahead.

      jberg 9:18 AM  

      If the clue for 1A had been "Apparent letters on Soyuz rockets" I'd have liked it, but not without the hint that it's a visual appearance. The actual letters are SSSR, just written in Cyrillic characters.

      Aside from that -- I figured out BOOKS THE COOK first, so I was looking for rhymes -- very disappointed I couldn't fit in BLAME THE flame. So it was OK when I got it, but frustrating during much of the solve.

      As for the fill, I thought it was great until I got down to that ESQS/SSS crossing, then it went downhill. And I had somehow forgotten that Satchel PAIGE had finished his career in the majors.

      Avoid running at all times.

      evil doug 9:22 AM  

      I was in bed with your mom last night, but I really pooched the screw.


      RnRGhost57 9:25 AM  

      Apparently Ed Sessa didn't kiss Rex's ring with quite enough ardor.

      chefbea 9:26 AM  

      fun easy puzzle

      No one better Book me while I have a bowlful of batter!!

      evil doug 9:28 AM  

      C'mon, sporty, that the best you can do? Honor the trademark, douche....

      Sir Hillary 9:37 AM  

      I agree this was a ho-hummer, but are we now using Google top-five lists to determine whether or not a phrase is "a thing"? Please, that's so-called crowdsourcing at its absolute lamest. Criticizing these themers for lack of sizzle is one thing, but claiming they're somehow "not real enough"? Gimme a break.

      @fakeevil - "pooched the screw"? Yeah, good one -- see how it sounds in reverse, goofball.

      Anonymous 9:44 AM  

      That would be a murder of crows;

      AnnieD 9:45 AM  

      I liked the theme and I liked the puzzle, though it went down like a Tuesday for me.

      There's lots more fun to have with the reverse phrases, like....

      Does set the stage mean the same thing as stage the set?

      If you can get the mail, can you mail the get? (and we all know the difference between a get and a bris)

      Can you both plant the tree and tree the plant?

      Don't you have to wad the shot before you shot the wad?

      If you don't dust the house, you'll house the dust.

      You can run the clock and clock the run. Spike the punch and punch the spike, though that would hurt. You can keep the change or change the keep, esp if you are into historic decor. You can slip the stitch or stitch the slip. Make the mistake or mistake the make.....

      Roo Monster 9:50 AM  

      Hey All !
      Ok puz. Sure, you could've used a bunch of phrases, but these weren't so bad. A little bit of dreck, nothing to write home about. (Or on a blog,..) I know @Lewis follows double letters, what abour triples? A couple of 'em.

      Played easy for me, guess my brain decided to work today! Not sure what a Mansard (45D clue) is though.


      Tom S. 9:55 AM  

      Pretty sure this is the easiest Wednesday I've ever done. My time was more like a Monday time. It all seemed obvious to me.. too obvious, really.

      A Jewish Person 9:55 AM  

      There goes (the real) Evil Doug again, taking (made up) offense something. Take you own advice, show some gumption, wear the label with pride - win that way.

      What, you think that's presumptive of me to say? Who am I to say when you should or should not take offense? I'm me, that's why!

      AnnieD 9:56 AM  

      And I wonder if fashion police could stomach the coat?

      Gracie H 9:56 AM  

      Agree with Rex and found the theme a bit forced. I'm getting tired of 3-letter fill of SSS, ZEE and the like. The other 3-letter entries were very worn, 'cept the clue for RIP was cute.
      A general comment about this and many other puzzles... I'd love to see the same care paid to 3-letter entries, in both their cluing and their answers, as is paid to longer entries.

      Steve J 9:58 AM  

      @Sir Hillary: Agreed that using Google's suggestions is a poor way of determining popularity of a phrase. I't based on what people are searching in a narrow snapshot of time, and it's also highly personalized to each individual user.

      A much better way is to search for the exact phrase (by putting it in quotes - e.g., "rock the baby") and seeing the count.

      ROCK THE BABY gets 334k results. Rock the cradle gets 355k results. Pretty similar in their commonality.

      BEAR THE BLAME gets 355k results, while bear the burden gets 25 million. Big difference there. Even so, that doesn't mean BEAR THE BLAME isn't in the language.

      Where the popularity of a given usage is legit is when a puzzle tweaks a well-known phrase in order to get it to fit. That's not what was done here. Everything's recognizable as in the language.

      Anonymous 10:03 AM  

      Puleeze stop using this blog for personal attacks on Rex and the other bloggers. If Rex or a blogger does not care for a puzzle, it is not a basis for moral condemnation. If you disagree as I often do, give your own logically and rationally stated basis for your outlook. The personal attacks are immature at best and disgraceful at worst. We are trying to have some thought provoking discussion. If you want to trade insults, please go elsewhere.

      Anonymous 10:11 AM  

      Anon @ 1003, that was certainly a thought provoking comment about the crossword puzzle. Thank you.

      Roo Monster 10:17 AM  

      Playing cards the other day, I had to DEAL THE SEAL. He told me to LIMIT THE SKYS, as he KNOT THE TIE I gave him. Not really sure what he meant, I continued with the game. But then I had to TABLE THE TURN, as he then tried to ANTE THE UP, TOP THE OVER, and THUMB THE UNDER. I tried to CASTLE THE STORM that was brewing, but he got mad, came after me, kicking and punching. After is was all over, I had to MUSTARD THE CUT, DUST THE BITE, and ICE THE BREAK.
      Recovering in the hospital, I heard he robbed a bank. He proceeded to CAKE THE TAKE, trying to hide the cash. I remembered he wanted to LINE THE TOES of all of us up. I had asked him why. VOTE THE ROCK was all he said. Strange fellow.

      Not even close to @'mericans story on Sunday, but hey, one has to try!


      dk 10:21 AM  

      🌕🌕🌕 (3 mOOOns)

      This Wednesday outing is just plain cute. I plan on working QUESTION THE DUCK into my analysis of various and sundry things.

      Mon dieu: Time in french 1 and vacationing in Bandol (best red wine bar none) saved me at 51a.

      As to the various posts:To quote A.R. Longworth

      "If you can not say anything nice about anyone, sit right here beside me"

      -11 here in Saint Croix Falls Wi. A lovely spring day. Also it seems we will be selling off our Universities in case anyone needs a summer home.

      Caryl Baron 10:24 AM  

      Fastest easiest Wednesday ever for me.
      Rex, when the clue says "Enters" you know it will be BOOKS. Duh!
      I've been into polytetrafluoroethylene since 1980, when researching an article on running clothing. It's also known as PTFE. Once visited a knitting factory that was making kidney dialysis material from it.It has numerous medical uses.
      Also known, in waterproofing fabric, as Goretex (TM), though the patent has expired.

      pfb 10:39 AM  

      I thought this was okay. Not great, but far from awful.

      L 10:57 AM  

      Super easy Wednesday. I caught the theme too quickly and it all just fell into place - more like a Tuesday or even a Monday puzzle. Expect more zip by midweek...

      Honeysmom 11:06 AM  

      Yes, an easier Wednesday than usual, but fun for me. Loved "Question the duck" and the rest. Got some chuckles. But then, guess I'm more easily amused than some of you bored, jaded solvers.

      chefbea 11:20 AM  

      @ Annie D...good ones!!

      Joseph Michael 11:26 AM  

      Hard to love a puzzle that starts off with CCCP crossing CNBC. Theme concept is OK but the theme answers except for BOOKS THE COOK are pretty lame.

      I thought my SKIN was part of me so I don't see how it can be "all around me." Liked the clue for 6D and the shout out to BRUNO Mars. The dude ROCKs.

      Masked and Anonymo4Us 11:32 AM  

      Primo themers, if only because of their "controversy". For instance...

      Usin @63's dandy lil phrase findin technique, I Googled FILL THE. Got these...

      * FILL THE BILL. As in, Old Ed Sessa got to Bill the Fill for a tidy $300 bucks. thUmbsUp to that, dude.
      * FILL THE SKIES. Seems like someone came up with a religious slogan that Google thought M&A would like.
      * FILL THE MEMBRANOUS LABYRINTH - (?!?) Day-um, @63: yer phrase lost out to this?! har.

      Also, just had to check out DUCK THE (my fave). Got...


      ... Well, there's yer popular duck-phrase rodeo!

      fave weejecta: BPS. SSS.

      Like the idea of a whole week of reversed phrase themers like these, since there are so many. Even sneak one or two into the themeless grids, for FriPuz and SatPuz. Just get 'er done. Sacrifice fill quality, if need be... @63 won't really mind ...


      Joseph Michael 11:34 AM  

      Lost themer:
      Clue: Expose one's rear in a bamboo field.
      Answer: MOON THE SHOOTS

      bwalker 11:48 AM  

      Faster than normal. I thought it was easy, especially since I got the theme right away.

      Depending on which side you're on, one can either love the feel or feel the love of an EPEE in the TRIPE.

      ET VOILA,


      Numinous 11:59 AM  

      Yes @Roo, that was "trying" {smirk}.

      I found this one to be very easy even though I mistook the theme at first. I put in rock THE ROCK and was then looking for double words. That didn't last long. PAkABLES just didn't seem to work. I might have liked the double word theme better with cook THE COOK conjuring images of an 18th century explorer and cannibalistic Pacific islanders. Oh well. This theme was good enough for M-W even if it was a bit MEH-diocre.

      I've never had a cradle to ROCK while both my daughters, as BABYs required ROCKing from time to time to preserve parental sanity. In the late 70s, I worked on Hanna-Barbera's The New Popeye Hour so I've applied music to the DECKing of THE SWAB many times. I hace no recollection of ever interviewing an DUCK though my wife, as a girl, had one she'd raised from a hatchling who would try to follow her everywhere. The BLAME for violations of the garbage, which occasionally occur, falls squarely on THE BEAR who liives up the hill from us.

      Speaking of COOKing capt. COOK, I'm reminded of a tale from a feature of the Magazine of Science Fiction and Fantasy, Through Time and Space with Ferdinand Feghoot. As it is too long to post, you can read it here. Happy groaning.

      Arlene 12:04 PM  

      This was an easy Wednesday for me, too. I got the theme quickly, ET VOILA, it was fun to solve.
      No complaints here!
      Interesting - the CAPTCHA is asking me affirm that I'm not a robot. I'm not - but I am a cyborg. Should I tell them?

      mac 12:05 PM  

      Well, it amused me. Just went by too fast.

      @ludyjinn: just yesterday I read a whole list of "venery". And it is a murder of crows. Love those colorful terms.

      old timer 12:20 PM  

      I thought it was a wonderful and very funny puzzle. I laughed out loud when I got BLAMETHEEAR and QUESTIONTHEDUCK.

      Why those two in particular? Arthur Koestler wrote about this: A major element of humor is surprise, and the things people most find funny are preceded by a long buildup followed by an unexpected twist. For instance, the episode where a hood points a gun at Jack Benny, and says, "Your money or your life!" Long pause, and then Jack says, "I'm thinking, I'm thinking."

      In my case, I could not see immediately who was to be blamed, or what was to be questioned. So when it came to me, I laughed.

      Rex's bitterness and disdain really surprised me, though I should not be surprised. The man has no sense of humor, an overblown sense of self-importance, and a nitpicky disposition. Still, I love his blog and accept him, tics and all.

      As for those who groaned at CCCP, it's obvious they were never addicted to SCTV.

      M and Also 12:26 PM  

      Full disclosure: My "top three" Google DUCKTHE's and VOIDTHE's were achieved on my iPad. That must be a different shootin match, tho, cuz...

      When I Googled them on the central computer complex, I got the same DUCKTHE's list as did @63! And, to cake the ice, FILL THE VOID came up first, on the other list. Yo!

      Comin up with real neat reversed phrases is fun, but also challengin. This would be right up the center stripe of @muse's alley. Here's all I got, so far…

      * GRADE THE MAID. Not as proud of this, as I should be.
      * STORE THE MIND. M&A experiences long stretches of this, while thinkin up themers.
      * PRESS THE MEAT. Still can't quite get the hang of this...
      * WRAP THE BEET. Ahar - that's better.


      slippy nip 12:30 PM  

      Ha evil doug:
      NIP would have been an outstanding answer for 16a.

      Leapfinger 12:45 PM  

      DECK THE SWAN with Bosun Jolly!

      Ha ha! Rock the Casbah almost beats the Baby and the Cradle combined. Nonetheless, # of google-hits is not a valid criterion.

      I had a good time with this, though I didn't grade the make of the theme meme right away. Not being able to drift the catch is one way to goat the get... er, at the get-go. (Sheer briss after that, hi @AnnieD!)

      Allow me to mark the hit, as I see it: Surprise! it's @AliasZ, for inventiveness and @AnnieD, for overwhelming appropriate volume. VOID THE FILL is good, but negatives don't fillme with positive reactions. Me, I just enjoyed working out the themes, and found enough SPIDEy sense in the fill to keep me happy. Esp liked to CIT opp Ms EVA Gabor.

      @Tita, I started out thinking 'OK, femur, tibia, fibula, humerus..',then said "Wotthehell, 4 letters, it's ULNA"

      @Lewis, I know! and they've frankensteined the silk gene into goats (!), so their goat milk is full of mass quantities of SPIDER silk. Similarly interesting is slug slime, which is almost completely frictionless in one plane, almost unbreakable in the perpendicular plane. (Ever try to pick up a slug straight up off the ground? Bet you can't, unless you slide it first.) What I didn't know is that limpets have something called 'teeth', so thanks!

      btw, @Z, this is not the first time you've described bad fill asleaping at you. Not sure how I feel about that. Perhaps we need to talk...

      Hope everyone's done with their Clintonesque commentary till 2016, so we can bottle the spin for a while.

      Every time they stop play on account of some stupid streaker on the field, I BLAME THE BARE.

      Time to cook the goose.

      Last Silver Bullet 1:00 PM  

      BEEF THE WARES? Nah…

      I SCREAM THE LICKS? Not quite…

      @muse! Help!!


      ** gruntz **

      Leapfinger 1:02 PM  

      Okay, deck the SWAB, not the SWAN.

      Also. Yesterday was the puppy puzzle, coming out on Day 1 of the Westminster, ET VOIci, that's followed by a grid with UNO, the first BEAGLE to win Westminster (in 2008), while Miss P, UNO's grandniece, WON Best in Show last night.

      I may start believing in intelligent design.

      chefbea 1:30 PM  

      @M&A of course I love Beet the wrap!!! I assume you did that for me???

      jbone 1:46 PM  


      I, too, blenched at the Cyrillic letter-cluing

      ESP 1:47 PM  

      Calling sour grapes on Rex's BOOKSTHECOOK gripe.

      The theme is not "write in THE where you think it should be because 'that's how all the other theme answers go'".

      Outlaw M and A 1:52 PM  

      @chefbea: But, of course!


      mathguy 2:06 PM  

      Rex said "X the Y" statements where the "Y the X" statement also makes sense are easy to concoct. I disagree. My evidence is the scarcity of good ones above.

      Z 2:11 PM  

      @mathguy2:06 - ouch.

      Between the spell casters, anonytrolls, and fake evils I think today sets the record for unread deleted emails generated by Rex's comment section. Take a bow for a job well done.

      foxaroni 2:14 PM  

      @Numinous--thanks for the shout-out to Ferdinand Feghoot. I loved those awful puns. Do you remember "Great auks from lid allay cairn's groan"? Or "tree stand under-sold"? Or "The pie rates of Penn's aunts"? (Isn't it amazing what trivia our brains retain?)

      Loved today's puzzle. Thanks, Ed Sessa.

      Leapfinger 2:15 PM  

      Beet of course...

      Dang, QUESTION THE DUCK is so Gary Larsonesque!

      @Roomie, it's all good! Just remember it's fine to ICE THE sprain, but better to cast THE BREAK, even if it's only the ULNA one.

      I tried out a few:
      *Sweep up the orts from dinner
      *Alternative to streaking on the movie sets
      (var. on @JosephMichaels)
      *Saving up vacation time, like Elvis

      After that I meta panda that EATS, SHOOTS and LEAVES.

      Lewis 2:19 PM  

      @roo -- This puzzle was actually right at the top of the 5-12 double letters that almost every puzzle seems to have. As for triple letters, my delicate constitution would not withstand such a stimulus. I will pass the responsibility for the triple letters over to you, if you will take it!

      And to those who have been on this blog for a while, this morning I flashed on Jesser. Remember Jesser? How I loved his posts! Wishing him well...

      Nips/Stuck 2:32 PM  

      I'm going to PUT THE BLAME ONUS, But it's always funnier if you can work in a BEAR,a DUCK, or if you barely have time, a quick GOOSE. Seems animals have a high humour quotient; you otter try it!

      Fred Romagnolo 2:47 PM  

      @Anon 2:21 & 7:43: you're probably the same anon (aka gutless coward) who has attacked @Whirred Whacks before; and mentioning a Clinton is not hearkening back to 16 yrs ago, it's vey much today. It's certainly a riposte to "Not another Bush!." @DK: as I recall, Alice had that embroidered on a pillow. @Joseph Michael: your bamboo field remark reminds me of W.C.Fields purported advice about not playing squat-tag. Too indelicate for this blog, but you can check it out. I don't think Soyuz rockets would have Roman letters on them, so CCCP is correct as clued. The above comments about the Clintons are even more apropos with the inclusion of LANI Guinier in the puzzle. Mansards are an architectural style of French roofs: ergo EAVE. I agree it was to easy for a Wednesday.

      Fred Romagnolo 3:14 PM  

      @evil: did you see where Lewis said he flashed on Jesser? Do you suppose he had on an overcoat?

      Fred Romagnolo 3:15 PM  

      heh, heh.

      Ludyjynn 4:00 PM  

      Thanks, @anon9:44am and @mac for your attention to proper terminology. Let me rephrase: a 'murder' of crows mobbed my yard this morning! Not only was it SPOOKy, but I later discovered that they decimated the feeders' contents. BTW, @mac, I appreciate your use of quotes around "venery", considering its kinky alternate definition!

      @SteveJ, I agree w/ your comments about Google's popularity listings and your suggestions on the subject. Well said, thanks.

      Jackie 4:01 PM  

      That is some TRITE TRIPE right there,

      Leapfinger 4:28 PM  

      @mathguy, double ouch. Do you mean to say there's an unMitty-gated paucity paucity of good examples???
      How sharper than a child's tooth.

      @FredRom, aww c'mon! The country has had a brace of Bushes ET VOILA!! what the deuce is wrong with betting on a pair of Clintons instead of going trey Bush? (heh heh)
      Small WONder @Lewis has taken up flashing, after all the bare bears, streakers and assordid moon shots.

      One last one for the musicians in the room: A syncopated rhythm that ODDS THE BEAT.

      Stan Bowker 4:40 PM  


      Roo Monster 4:42 PM  

      Hows about - Put your brain in a storage bin?


      AnonyMercyMe 4:45 PM  

      A couple of Lewisish factoids:

      :When TEFLON first came out, a bevy of glatt-kosher biochemists were tasked to decide whether it passed the criteria of kashruth. It did.

      :The EVELYN Waugh is really a twosome, a married couple with both named EVELYN. Among friends, they were known as Evelyn-she and Evelyn-He.

      Casco Kid 5:20 PM  

      Mott the Hoople.
      Hoople the Mott.

      See. Easy.

      Don McBrien 5:57 PM  

      Hustled the paratrooper's excursion (or what this thread has done)?

      Anonymous 6:00 PM  

      My complaint is that CCCP is really Russian characters for SSSR but the characters have to be read as English to make the crosses work. It's rather like puzzles that use the capital I to represent the numeral 1.

      Carola 6:18 PM  

      Firmly in the "liked it" camp. I thought all the themers were cute, especially loved QUESTION THE DUCK..

      @GILL I - A teaching LIFER here - never wanted to do anything else. (Except retire :) )

      Hera clitus 6:27 PM  

      Rigid adherence to preconceived ideas is not an asset in solving crossword P's. If you're the sort that enjoys chasing neighborhood children off your lawn, go ahead and keep it up by all means.

      Close but only half a cigar 6:30 PM  

      @AnonyMercyMe - It was Hevelyn & Shevelyn, not Evelyn-he and Evelyn-she

      Melodious Funk 6:33 PM  

      Interrogate the tin cupper?

      Post late enpugh so few will see.

      Evil Doug, email me.

      john towle 6:38 PM  

      The great Satchel Paige said: "The social ramble ain't restful." And: "Jangle gently as you walk." At least as iconic as Yogi Berra for the things he said or is alleged to have said. "You can learn a lot just by watching."



      Teedmn 6:39 PM  

      No one commented on the kayo in the clue for 56A. Wasn't that an answer which not so long ago garnered much disdain here? I know, at the time, it was something I had never seen before, but I can't say that anymore, I guess!

      I'm with @jberg, in that I got BOOKS THE COOK and went back to where I had THE ROCK and tried to reverse-engineer it to make a rhyming phrase. Eventually crosses would disabuse me of my folly.

      Nice puzzle, Mr. Sessa, and thanks to all of you who added to the fun. Void the Fill and Moon the Shoots are my personal faves. Rap the Beats, y'all!

      AnonyMercyMe 7:03 PM  

      @Close but (-gar).

      yO, I hinkt I newk hatt ta neo imet, utb I orgotf.


      GILL I. 8:37 PM  

      @Horace S. and @Carola...
      It's just that "One who never changes jobs" sounds so blah! I guess you could say my Mother was a lifer because she always taught. We lived in many places and she always found a teaching position. My sister has only been a teacher but she taught in Brooklyn, the Canary Islands and now in Spain. Each job was different!
      I guess I'm too literal minded and frankly, I would have preferred "One who never changes avocation".......:-)

      Hopthumb 9:40 PM  

      I like your new avatar, @Gill. Had an old buddy whose Brooklyn momma would periodically remind him to think with his big head, not his little head.

      Fred Romagnolo 3:41 AM  

      @Leapfinger: I don't know who I enjoy more - AliasZ, Evil, or you. don't stop!

      Fred Romagnolo 3:43 AM  

      heh, heh

      Leapfinger 8:01 AM  

      (hmm) Talk about Eclectic Tastes...

      Anonymous 6:53 AM  

      Hey, asshole. A blog, NY its very nature, invites "open season" responses. Tbc.

      Anonymous 6:59 AM  

      Agree. The blog itself serves a purpose, even as it is irrelevant to crossword solving. I'm guessing that 99.999% of solvers enjoy the NYT puzzles, and have never heard of this blog.

      mellisa lopez 2:59 PM  

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      rondo 9:07 AM  

      Monday called and wants its puzzle back. This one was soooo easy. Zipped through it in no time - as quickly as I could write, so probably some sort of record time. Only write-over was STANDEr.

      Maybe instead of (or in addition to) OFL's suggestion we might have had TANKTHEFILL. The omnipresent EPEE, SSS, ELHI, ESQS, AMT, etc., all TRITE and DULL.

      BTW, those Russian letters only appear to be English as they are pronounced and used as SSSR.

      Pardon me but I must QUESTIONTHEDUCK.

      spacecraft 11:18 AM  

      What OFL said--love his parting shot VOID THE FILL! Said fill could use a Sajak-White assist: CCCP CNBC BPS SSS um, can I buy a vowel, Pat?

      That whole west central box screams out to be scrapped and redone: ESQS VOUS ERES SSS, just so you can get QUESTION out of the chute? Way not worth it.

      Plus, more TRITE TRIPE (at least it's amusing that those two cross): IDO EPEE ERR ELHI and the awkward partial INIT.

      Likes: the bleedover POOCH in the middle, and the fact that the twin entries ICE and CUBE were NOT clued via rap. And maybe ETVOILA! though it IS foreign and might be argued as another partial; it's a fine STANDEE (?) without the ET.

      SPEAKing of which, How words like STANDEE and escapee got started "escapes" me. To me, if I'm standing, the FLOOR is the standee and I'm the stander.

      With apologies to Mr. Schulz, "I can't stand it." Fittingly, we shall impart a D- to today's effort, in honor of another of his wonderful characters.

      Burma Shave 11:45 AM  

      PAYABLES (formerly TRITE TRIPE except @spacecraft beat me to the post)

      I’ll fall INTO ASNIT,
      It does IRK me ABIT,
      IDO get a DAB SORE
      when I’m INIT for more
      and the stock market does ERR,
      they just BLAMETHEBEAR!


      rain forest 2:10 PM  

      Good one, @ Burma Shave.

      Well, I have to say that I got a kick out of this one, easy though it was. Actually, I never complain if a puzzle is easy--feeds the ego.

      I liked all the theme entries, enough to ignore some of the fill, which in general was pretty good. I think QUESTION THE DUCK would be very useful where one is trying to get to the bottom of something.

      I don't like @Evil Doug's impersonator. There must be some unwritten rule about pretending to be someone else.

      DMG 3:33 PM  

      First pause was at 1A-knew it wasn't USSR. but couldn't remember what came after the first C (must be getting old!) Second pause was caused by having IRe where IRK was needed. So stared at BABYTHEROCe, and figured another puzzle with strange rapper names! Fortunately my brain eventually kicked in, and I was able to go back and straighten things out. So, a good Wednesday or me-and, apparently also for Natasha!!

      leftcoastTAM 3:39 PM  

      A good Monday or Tuesday, but a DULL Wednesday, I think.


      Anonymous 8:22 PM  

      Hey, you old "Half Empty" Negatators, this was a darn cute offering for a Wed. and I enjoyed it. Mr. Sessaa izza O.K. by me. It really irks me when a certain blogmaster picks apart every little thing. Yes, it may have been done 4 years ago But isn't it also true that every theme or plot from a book or a movie HAS BEEN DONE BEFORE? I believe so.

      And OH, the oh so precious "fill."
      Just try making up your own puzzle without a few lousy words.

      The Old Sage of La Mesa has rated this Easy and Excellent.

      Ron Diego

      Anonymous 10:45 PM  

      For some reason, the theme reminds me of the old George Carlin line - "You can prick your finger ... Just don't finger your prick."

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