Transylvanian count informally / MON 4-27-15 / Desert green spots / Precious stringed instrument informally

Monday, April 27, 2015

Constructor: Johanna Fenimore

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium (time: 2:52)

THEME: [Left speechless] — same clue for five answers:

Theme answers:
Word of the Day: HOOKAH (9D: Hashish pipe) —
  1. an oriental tobacco pipe with a long, flexible tube that draws the smoke through water contained in a bowl. (google)
• • •

Vanilla in extremis. I'm not sure I used "in extremis" correctly there. I meant to convey both "extremely" and "deathly"—though "deathly" is an exaggeration, and Death by Vanilla, honestly, I can imagine worse things. It's just that the grid is constructed in such a way that there is virtually no non-theme fill longer than 6 letters, and what there is is mostly 3 4 5s, which is (predictably) very, very familiar stuff. So there's almost no interest outside the theme (HOOKAH is wondering what it's doing in this puzzle—it's got no one exotic or adventurous to hang out with here; no, wait, I see it's met HECK YES and they appear to be getting on pretty well). But if it's workmanlike, it's at least solid. CIEL (22D: Sky: Fr.) has absolutely no business in an easy Monday puzzle like this, but nothing else strikes me as yuck or out of place.

But the theme … there's a wonkiness. An off-ness. It has something to do with KICKED IN THE HEAD (which, in its familiarity / commonness, is a massive outlier), but much, much more to do with verb tense / part of speech. With the exception of BLEW / AWAY, all the others are past participles or adjectival. So is "Left" a transitive verb (I left her speechless) or a past participle (I was left speechless)?  Seems like meaning shifts from answer to answer. BLEW / AWAY and KICKED IN THE HEAD seem to necessitate a transitive verb interpretation, where as all the others seem synonymous with "blown away" (i.e. they can all be preceded by "I was …"). Maybe it doesn't matter that you have to continually shift context to make [Left speechless] make sense. I found the inconsistency maddening, but I can be OCD like that. And I am still having a tough time accepting KICKED IN THE HEAD at all. If you google "in the head" there's "soft in the head" and "not right in the head" and "hole in the head" right there on the first page of results. Ooh, there's one hit titled "People Are Getting Kicked in the Head Out There," but that's about police violence, so … more literal. Anyway, here is the only kick(ed) in the head I can unhesitatingly accept:

    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

    [Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


    Z 12:03 AM  

    @Joho - 23 "O's ?" It's as if you're taunting the mighty masked one.

    GD ROM 12:06 AM  

    Thanks to @Lewis, @LMS, and @aging soprano for the welcomes yesterday! Perhaps I WILL stick around and chime in occasionally after all. :)

    A nice shoutout to my location here in today's puzzle, so that's always exciting, especially after my hometown shoutout just in Friday's puzzle! I can feel the love all over the xworld.

    jae 12:06 AM  

    Delightful Mon. and medium for me.  Zippy theme, some fine long downs, HECK YES...excellent solo debut Joho!

    ...and  Dean Martin works for me for KICKED IN THE HEAD.

    Nancy 12:11 AM  

    See comments I left for you very late on yesterday's (Sunday's) blog. Don't have Monday's paper yet; it's midnight and I'm going to bed.

    RAD2626 12:17 AM  

    DUMBSTRUCK is the only outlier if you treat all the other theme answers as transitive. The others all work.

    My issue was the use of "familiarly" in the cluing to disguise words that don't work. Will accept STRAD, and maybe FROS in a pinch but DRAC? Never, ever.

    Steve J 12:43 AM  

    I love the word GOBSMACKED.

    Thus begins and ends my impression of this one. Nothing stood out for me, good or bad. It was just kind of there.

    Anonymous 12:55 AM  

    What is ORU?

    John Child 1:21 AM  

    I am in tears after reading your well wishes not just for me but for the victims and people without homes here. You are wonderful.

    The aftershocks seem to be fading, and when we can stop camping in the yard, go inside, and, not incidentally, sleep, I'll be back to puzzling and commenting.

    Bless you all.

    John Child 1:23 AM  

    IN answer to the query: I think the Red Cross and Medicines sans Frontiers are two organisations that you can rely on to spend donations well.

    John Child 1:23 AM  
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    Anonymous 1:49 AM  

    Very frustrated at ORU. It had me doubting SORTA much more than I should have

    jae 2:17 AM  

    @Anon - ORU is Oral Roberts University located in Tulsa. Fairly common crosswordese.

    chefwen 2:53 AM  

    How could you not love a puzzle that has GOBSMACKED in it. It's not possible.

    Wanted HEll YES for 21A, but it wasn'nt meant to be.

    I feel a new Queen of Monday puzzles is arising.

    Way to go @Joho.

    Thomaso808 3:44 AM  

    I liked it. Clean grid with no strained fill (well maybe DRAC was a stretch), consistent theme, and nice and easy just like a Monday should be.

    @joho congratulations!

    Loren Muse Smith 4:29 AM  

    I agree with @chefwen and @Steve – GOBSMACKED is such a great word.

    @GD ROM – Glad to see you back here.

    @John Child – please keep us posted. Good to hear from you.

    Joho – I loved all the casual ORAL stuff: no SIREE, Bob, ONE SEC, NOPE, SORTA, and especially TAKE THAT. Take that, you CAD, you HOOKAH-smoking LOUT.

    I liked FROS and DROOP in the same grid. At Quinn's Mill where I had my first job, Britt S. spilled an entire glass of ice tea over the head of the only woman at the table who was sporting an afro. So one half of her hair DROOPed flat. He said, "Ma'am, I don't deserve to be here," and he just left and went home.

    I also liked PETA hovering over DEER. It's sorta dumb to live in WV and feel sad when I see all the pictures of the gleeful hunters posing with their kills.

    Speaking of speechless, has anyone ever noticed the difference between unspeakable, which is icky, and ineffable, which is good? Must be some kind of Latin/Germanic deal. We eat boeuf but it's the Kühe that we drive off to be dispatched into packages.

    Other pairs – MALE and SHE, and the musical DO RE MI and TRA.

    Joho – you snuck in two bonuses: AWES for a secondary themer and OHIO for a shout-out to your state.

    I know Dad, the inveterate Monday solver, is going to like this one. Congratulations on your debut solo!

    GILL I. 5:20 AM  

    Wow...@Rex, you lost me at the past participle adjectival transitive verb corner. I so wanted to hail a cab just then and go find a bar.
    @joho....WAY TO GO!!!!! This was FUN. Doesn't HECKY ES look wonderful?
    Love that you started with BLEW and ended with AWAY. Now, what did you have in mind when you clued GO TAT?
    I first heard chef Gordon Ramsey use the word GOBS MACKED...I think that was short for some sort of fish he was cooking.
    I can't wait to send this to our daughter. She is going to love this fine, fun, perfect Monday puzzle....

    Anonymous 5:28 AM  

    Never heard of BVDS

    Went GOdSMACKED -> GOtSMACKED -> GOBSMACKED and finally got the finish. Took far too long to figure out.

    Lewis 6:08 AM  
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    Lewis 6:09 AM  
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    Lewis 6:11 AM  
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    Lewis 6:13 AM  

    What makes a Monday puzzle to me is zippiness. Certainly not cluing, which will be direct. If it doesn't have that pop, it will be a throwaway quick forgettable exercise, even if a nice waker-upper for the brain.

    Rex, I respectfully disagree (and thank you for another off-your-high-horse review). This didn't feel vanilla to me. It didn't feel saturated with threes, and there was zip to it: TAKETHAT, OOZE, HECKYES, HOOKAH, ONESEC, KNACK, and BLEW AWAY. There's a double-o mini-theme: DROOP, LOOP, HOOKAH, OOZE (this all from two-o @Joho). And the grid is clean. The only thing that irked me was DRAC.

    As with Rex, KICKEDINTHEHEAD was not familiar to me, but I rode with it, given the fun I was having with this puzzle.

    Will, keep putting those CIELs and NORTEs in on Monday, crossed fairly, giving entry level solvers a little taste of bite, as opposed to how Mondays were previous to this year.

    @Joho -- Your posts always resonate strongly with me, sometimes echoing my thoughts verbatim, and so I'm not bowled over by the fact that the puzzle was a happy thumbs-up solve for me. Congratulations and thank you!

    joho 7:23 AM  

    LOL, @Rex, for a moment there I thought I was reading the Grammar Nazi! No matter what you said, your can't dampen my spirits today!

    @Lewis, thank you, and your comment about including CIEL is interesting. I had that as COEN as in the directing brothers, but Will didn't like ORAN so he changed it to CIEL/ORAL.

    A lot my cluing remained and in most instances where it was changed was to make the cluing easier ... back to @Lewis' point, Monday is not the day for overly clever cluing. I did want "Barely run" for STREAKS, though. :)

    Thanks to all who enjoyed this and had nice to words to say. Much appreciated!

    Glimmerglass 7:27 AM  

    Everyone knows that BVDs are underwear. All my (long) life I thought I knew what the letters stood for: "Boston Ventilated Drawers." Today, from, I learned it's really Bradley, Voorhees, and Day. For me, this is an inconvenient truth. I like my old misinformation much better. I'm going to try to forget this fact.

    Old Lady 7:28 AM  

    Liked DUMB'S TRUCK, although that's probably politically incorect. Could be clued as vehicle for the intellectually challenged. Like @GD ROM, I'll be less anonymous from here on, but Old Lady is as far out as I will come.

    Aketi 7:32 AM  

    @JohnChild, are there some smaller organizations there too? It's been a very long time since I visited so even if I could remember, the smaller organizations i knew might no longer be there.

    Medicines Sans Frontiers and the Red Cross are great first responders. NSomeone else mentioned Oxfam which primarily focuses on food (or at least it did). Often after the immediate disaster stage and news media frenzy, donations die off. That's the time when the smaller organizations can be good for assisting with rebuilding in ways that are sustainable.

    NCA President 7:42 AM  

    Started out slow, ended with one of my fastest times. Mondays are the only days I actually try to beat the clock. Still had the cat to contend with, but even with her butt in my face and standing on the comma key, I did okay.

    Nothing stood out except that the downs were easier than the acrosses. The themers were too long and vague to get right away, but with just a couple of crosses, they were gettable.

    I think I say "kick in the pants" but maybe that's for a different reason...I don't remember saying (or even hearing) KICKINTHEHEAD unless someone got kicked in the head...the phrase seems rather, um...violent.

    Anyway, my thoughts are still with those in Nepal. It's so easy for situations like these to blow up the news for a few days then disappear and then be forgotten. But for the people involved, there is no forgetting for a long time. Maybe that's just human nature and our modern short attention spans.

    Also and speaking of short attention spans, April 15th was the 103rd anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic...which we all know and marvel at the scope of that tragedy. But recently a couple of ships have sunk in the Med from people fleeing Africa, and just as many people have died in those "accidents." Selective's part of the human condition.

    Rug Crazy 7:48 AM  

    first had OSU and OUTOF,
    but neither knocked me for a loop
    Love the Hash/Hookah cross

    dk 8:18 AM  

    🌕🌕🌕 (3 mOOOns)

    Pure vanilla. My favorite. OREO, OOZE, TIA… just a few old friends and a HOOKAH. Made me run to the turntable to play a Sgt Pepper backwards.

    Moment of spell binding intelligence was realizing CAPRA and CANTO did not begin with a K. Although that seemed to be the letter of the day.

    Thanks JoJo although you will never depose my Monday queen (for reasons unrelated to your "crypotologic"): Nice job.

    Bears came back. Pee oo'd there was no bird seed so they tipped over my trash can. Looking for a motion sensor for my Go-Pro as my security cams (no expectation of privacy here) are not capturing the LOUTs. That said I expect them at my door any night now. Cue SNL land shark skit.

    Bob Kerfuffle 8:28 AM  

    Nice, fun, puzzle. Nothing asked of the solver but to DOIT and DOOK.

    AliasZ 8:28 AM  

    How can I not like a puzzle with HOOKAHs and HOES, a Hellenic deity, and that "veni, vidi, vici" guy in it?

    I'm gobsmacked that anyone would have a tough time accepting KICKED IN THE HEAD. More like dumbstruck, really, and knocked for a loop, flustered, floored and flabbergasted, appalled, astonished and astounded. Also befuddled.

    Loved the theme @Joho, don't listen to @Rex's pluperfect post-adjectivistic past-transitive participial intransitivity. He's just kiddin' ya.

    DRAC? Oof... But being the only weirdness, we can TAKE THAT. And CIEL too.

    This puzzle is so full of musical references, it is hard to choose one: from Handel's opera Giulio Cesare, to the aforementioned kick in the head, Paganini's MOTO Perpetuo played by Yehudi Menuhin on a STRAD, then DOREMI "Dans le CIEL", the closing scene of La damnation de Faust by Hector Berlioz, some bel CANTO and LOUT music from the renaissance, and last but not least, CREDO, or rather Credendum - Article of Faith by American composer William Schuman (1910-1992).

    Have a cheerful Monday!

    Nancy 8:50 AM  

    @mathguy -- (from yesterday) I'm writing the answers out to OPPOSABLE SUMS and this a.m. added 2 more successful pairs, so I'm now up to 22 out of 25. It's like pulling teeth. Still missing are the answers to FEATHERLESS, SCHOOLLIKE and PERFORATION (though I have all the dropped letters). But I'm stubborn and eventually -- maybe in 2027 -- I'll get them all. Meanwhile, I'll go and look at today's puzzle and see if it tempts me. (I scrolled down here with my eyes closed, so I wouldn't see any of today's answers.)

    Aketi 8:57 AM  

    The thought of Madagascar vanilla beans erased the horror of two days of OKRA. I had them once direct from the source and then discovered many years later that Fresh Direct delivers the most scrumptious Madagascar vanilla extract I have ever tasted.

    I might have had a decent solve time had I not tried to simultaneously watch the British mystery my husband was instant streaming while I was trying to solve the puzzle, when I really should have simply gone to sleep. I was zipping along with BLEW, AWAY, THAT THAT, HECK YES, HASH, and HOOKAH until I was KNOCKED FOR A LOOP by _ICKE_I__HE__. For some reason my tired brain latched onto the notion of "TICKET" which didn't make sense. So I closed my eyes for what I thought was a moment and when I woke up in the morning the iPad battery was dead and my solve time was climbing into the hours, not minutes.

    Immediately, I spotted my worst fear in Martial Arts, getting KICKED IN THE HEAD. It only happened once to the jaw but that was enough. At five feet tall, my head is low enough that kicking me in the head is the equivalent of kicking someone else in the ribs - an easy target. Conversely, when I try to kick someone in the ribs it is the equivalent of someone else trying to kick someone in the head.

    Sometimes, however, I can GOBSMACK my sparring partners by catching their kicks and taking them down.

    Rex Porker 9:01 AM  

    Today I said "I can be OCD like that." The irony of such sloppy construction from someone who is supposed to be familiar with the English language, especially when using the phrase as part of my argument against sloppy construction, is not lost on me. One can be "obsessive-compulsive" or one can HAVE "obsessive-compulsive disorder" but one cannot BE "obsessive-compulsive disorder." I suppose I am a hypocrite for ridiculously calling out puzzle constructors for having answers that interpret verbs in different ways, but I try to never let that stop me from unfair criticism.

    Elaina 9:09 AM  

    I immediately filled in VLAD for 65A. Many years ago my daughter came home from school talking about her World History teacher's lecture on Vlad the Impaler, the historic inspiration for Dracula; as his title implies he wasn't exactly into drinking blood. The students were enthralled.
    Hand up for loving GOBSMACK

    Ludyjynn 9:17 AM  

    First of all, thank you, @Nancy, for your very sensible late-night rant re the koi purse. By then, despite @Lewis' encouragement, I had come to my (dollars and) senses. I was able to scratch the ITCH by feeding the fish in my backyard pond and admiring the live versions of the handbag! Don't DO IT, SHE repeated to herself.

    Other than the dreaded OKRA making another appearance, I liked this Mon. puzz. But I am still in the ka-ching camp v. CHA-ching utterers. Don't mind seeing CAESAR again as it puts me in the mood for a nice salad today.

    Good to hear from you again, @John Child, and thanks, @Aketi for your insights into charitable orgs. for Nepal donations.

    Thanks, JF and WS.

    Nancy 9:18 AM  

    I thought this was an unusually good Monday puzzle and agree with @Lewis's description of it as zippy. I found the theme answers fun.

    mac 9:19 AM  

    Congratulations, @joho!

    Nice Monday puzzle. I liked the "blew away" spread out from beginning to end, very clever.
    Drac and the kick in the head were new to me, too. The hookahs make me think of Edgeware Road in London, which has turned completely Middle Eastern. Good food.

    mac 9:20 AM  

    P.S. the best way to eat okra is in an Indian restaurant. I think it's called Bindi.

    grammar nazi 9:21 AM  

    Contrary to popular belief, I was NOT the guest blogger today.
    But Rex, be still my heart! So lovely to see you finally giving grammar its proper due! My heart went pitter-patter when I perceived you parsing how "left" could be passed as both a transitive verb and a past participle.
    However, you lost me at using that as a criticism of the puzzle. To quote many previous contributors to this board, I saw the fluidity of the interpretation as "a feature and not a bug." How lovely that the same clue can lead to different interpretations as different parts of speech are lent to its meaning! It turned this Monday up to 11 in my estimation.
    Thank you, though, for making my day with your emphasis on the importance of grammar in all of our linguistic endeavors.

    Please add my voice to the chorus of those wishing well to John Child, all of his friends and family, and the country and people of Nepal. The events there certainly put crossword puzzling, grammar nazi-ing, and comment-board sniping into perspective.

    Nancy 9:25 AM  

    @Ludyjynn -- we were typing at the same time, so I didn't see your post until just now. And while I would never envy someone who owned an almost $5000 orange fish purse, I find myself green with envy over the fact that you have your very own pond (and waterfall, too, I think you mentioned in a post last week), with your very own (real-life) fish to feed! Now THAT'S something that I, as a passionate Nature lover, would adore to have. Wondering where you live?

    chefbea 9:26 AM  

    Was excited to see the construtor's name when I printed out the puzzle. Couldn't wait to get back fro Curves to dig in.
    @Joho..great fun puzzle!! and glad to have our southern friend OKRA appear again.

    chefbea 9:28 AM  

    PS the best way to eat okra is fried IMHO

    quilter1 9:36 AM  

    Like most I really enjoyed gobsmacked, which I actually use in conversation. Good debut puzzle by our own @joho. Congratulations.

    Lewis 9:37 AM  

    @joho -- "Barely running" -- good one!

    R. McGeddon 9:39 AM  

    Shouldn't this get a point off for having Hashish in a clue crossing a HASH answer?

    Z 9:43 AM  

    @Alias Z - "Pluperfect post-adjectivistic past-transitive participial intransitivity" is, perhaps, the best thing you have ever written. Spot on.

    Regarding Nepal and earthquakes (and volcanoes) in general, there are 17 earthquakes a year that are as strong as this one on average. A surprisingly large percentage of our 7 billion fellow humans live near the planet's most active tectonic regions.

    I think I saw an OKRA OREO at the supermarket the other day.

    @joho - A fine Monday. Congrats.

    Phoebe 9:47 AM  

    I didn’t get 22 down or 24 across, because I don’t speak three languages. That lack in my education left one neatly empty little square of newsprint, that bore no trace of ink from the printing press, or from any sign of guesswork or ballpoint stabs in the dark from me. That square was there for me to look at as I meditated on parental sibling relationships south of the border and blue skies over Paris. It’s the kind of thing that does separate the Monday solvers from the rest of the herd. Is it possible that empty square was intended to be there — as a gift to Monday solvers who would thus be “left speechless”, which is the theme of the puzzle, and who would get a small extra chuckle that Tuesday-through-Sunday solvers would miss out on? That would ne nice, but how could I know? I’m just a Monday solver. Thanks, Johanna Fenimore.

    chefbea 9:59 AM  

    @Z yummm. Maybe I should try to make some!!

    Nancy 10:13 AM  

    OMG. Everyone was offering congrats to @joho, so I combed today's comment section looking for her comment and there WASN'T any comment. I thought I was losing my mind. And now I see that @joho = Johanna Fenimore, today's puzzle creator. I would never have known that! So let me offer my sincere congrats too. I should think that constructing a crossword, whatever the level of difficulty for the solver, must be 100 times harder than solving one. I'm DUMBSTRUCK, GOBSMACKED and KNOCKED FOR A LOOP that anyone is able to do it. I've always enjoyed your comments, @joho, but now I'll pay even more attention to them.

    Steve J 10:19 AM  

    @John Child: I didn't read yesterday's blog, but your post today caused me to take a peek and see if you had posted. Glad that you and your family are safe, and glad you were able to provide an update. Living in the Bay Area, dealing with a large quake is never far from the front of my mind. So sad to see the images and hear the stories of lives lost and ruined.

    @joho: Didn't realize you were today's constructor when I saw the byline. For whatever reason, this one didn't grab me - which, from looking at the comments, puts me in a distinct minority - but congrats on the publication. Always fun to see regular commenters from here get their puzzles in the NYT.

    weingolb 10:24 AM  

    BLEW was last filled in for me — the undies and state symbols weren't helping me at all, and I did entirely expect parallelism in all the speechless theme answers. I'd say tense parallelism within themes is totally expected, no? I said "blown" to myself when I eventually wrote it in, and then the theme sang.
    Despite this, in many cases, I agree with the above "feature not a bug" comment. Maybe when ambiguity pokes at the theme's tidy coherence, it seems like a bug though?

    Roo Monster 10:43 AM  

    Hey All !
    @joho, never knew you were a consructor, but congrats on your solo debut! I'm a constructor that Will hasn't chosen any of my puzs for publication yet! :-)

    Wondering what was the clue for ORAN? Also wondering if you tried OMAN-GOTIT Acrosses, which would've given you TMI Down and possibly had Will leave COEN alone. Hindsight and all that.

    Wishing well the survivors in Nepal. Sad tragedy. It's said they are resilient people, let's hope so, and hope everyone pulls through this.

    Like the puz, nice brain message, didn't have to tweak the noggin today. Did have two writeovers, however, TicS-> TKTS, and OsU-> ORU. Appreciate the O's, as I made on puz that that was the only vowel. Didn't send that one to Will....

    Funny story about HOOKAH. Here in Las Vegas, HOOKAH is a big thing. Driving a tourist back to the airport, she said she was appalled that the ads on the cabs were advertising hookers. She asked if that was even legal? I had to explain, no, not hooker, HOOKAH, as the smoke thing.


    lauren lese 10:54 AM  

    I read this bog Sunday - Wednesday (the only days I do the puzzle) but have never commented before. But I have to today because I am GOBSMACKED that everyone seems to think this is an easy and appropriate Monday puzzle. I began doing the NYTCW 5 years ago after a family member (OK my mother), assured me I was equal to it.
    At first I only did Mondays, but over a period of months progressed to Tuesday, Wednesday and then Sunday. I now attempt Thursday which I generally DNF, but that is OK. I moved onto each successive day as I was able to complete the current day. It has been years since I DNF a Monday or Tuesday. Until today. If a puzzle like this had been published during my early days, I don't think I ever would have continued with it, which would have been a real shame.
    I have never heard the expression KICKED in the Head in this context. Nor KNOCKED for a loop. THREW for a loop yes, not KNOCKED. CIEL is not a Monday word. ORAL clued as spoken? Not on a Monday in my book. Both words can be used as varying parts of speech and this is too misleading for a Monday. GOTAT for reached? Not in my part of the world. Here, (NYC) GOTAT means you pissed someone off. I had GOTTO, a reasonable answer. Therefore I had OOO instead of TRA, also a reasonable answer. These missteps caused me to not see TAKETHAT. On a Monday there should not be so many variations that all can potentially work. This Monday puzzle really GOTAT me.

    TIA Maria 11:05 AM  

    Phoebe @9:47:
    Nobody is asking you to "speak three languages." I grant you, CIEL is mildly obscure for a Monday, but TIA??!! It is used all over the place, most commonly in Tia Maria, a disgusting and very polular coffee liqueur. TIA (or "tio") is also in at least one crossword puzzle weekly and needs to be part of your vocabulary if you plan to keep attempting crosswords. Yes, even Mondays.

    old timer 11:07 AM  

    HOOKAH tooka my soda cracker?

    I agree, any puzzle with GOBSMACKED in it is a great puzzle.

    Played a little slow for a Monday because I basically needed the crosses to get the themers -- except for KNOCKEDFORALOOP, which I got from the initial K.

    L 11:19 AM  

    @joho, congratulations! I definitely stumbled a bit today, with several writeovers. Unusual for a Monday. I'm no grammar nazi, so I have no idea what OFL is talking about. This was a good Monday puzzle - thanks for the positove start for my week.

    Blue Stater 11:30 AM  

    Very difficult for a Monday, I thought. Too many marginal truncations, of which the worst was the (unacceptable any time) DRAC.

    mathguy 11:31 AM  

    About the same difficulty as the average Monday (MGI of -75) but much more zip. Nice job!

    @Nancy: I still haven't gotten #20 (Perforation) in Opposable Sums. I'm going to make one more run at it later this morning.

    I'm surprised that there weren't more complaints about BVDs from those under fifty. I didn't wear them but the term was a synonym for underpants in my youth. Haven't heard it for decades.

    foxaroni 11:49 AM  

    Congrats, @Joho! Nice puzz.

    The best way to eat okra is to not.

    Phoebe 11:50 AM  

    Tia, a person can drink all the disgusting coffee liquor they want, but they can’t drink anybody’s aunt in Alcapulco, and that’s how it was clued. And when you say nobody’s asking me to “speak three languages”, tell that to the teachers I used to have, who did exactly that. And I know you were trying to be encouraging, but then you use the word “tio”, and I don’t know what that means either, so … I didn’t mean to be critical of the words themselves, and I feel bad if that’s how it came across, especially if Tia is your first name, but, excuse me, wouldn’t that fact disqualify you to be able to judge whether Tia is truly all that well known to general population?

    Wood 11:51 AM  

    I had a weird experience with the opposable thumbs puzzle: after getting pairs #1 and #3, I solved the entire meta-answer (the phrase spelled out by the "extra" letter from each pair). This was a huge help because then I automatically knew which letter to exclude when anagramming each clue to try to come up with opposites. Still, slow going... Not an easy puzzle even with that huge hint!

    r.alphbunker 11:55 AM  

    A classic Monday puzzle. The halfway result (see image) shows that the top went first before I really even looked at the bottom. I am going to ask my wife who is not a crossword person to do it to see how she does. Good job @joho

    aging soprano 12:00 PM  

    Very Monday for me. Didn't have to Google anything, except after the fact to find out what ORU was, etc. And GOBSMACKED, which is new word for me. At first I wrote GOeS, but couldn't convince myself that maybe Boy Scouts of America could be Eagle Scouts of America. Anyway, Goes Macked didn't make any sense either.
    I once tried to write a xword, at the end of hiking trip, which included names of participants, places we visited, the group leaders, and the like. It was a monster puzzle! That was long before I got into the N.Y. Times and this blog. Maybe I will try again after I retire. Could call it REX, and put all of you in it. The theme would, of course, be Anonymous.
    All my admiration, Joho, for your accomplishment.
    I don't know why my posts appear in doubles. I type in my comment box and then press "publish" just once, but it comes up twice, like a Tues. evening Jewish wedding: twice is better. Could someone tell me how to correct this, because twice isn't at all better. In fact it's identical. GAH!

    Lewis 12:00 PM  

    Factoid: PETA owns SeaWorld stock. It bought the stock in order to give it the right to attend and speak at annual meetings and submit shareholder resolutions asking for policy changes.

    Quotoid: "Even with all our technology and the inventions that make modern life so much easier than it once was, it takes just one big natural disaster to wipe all that AWAY and remind us that, here on Earth, we're still at the mercy of nature." -- Neil deGrasse Tyson

    aging soprano 12:01 PM  

    Very Monday for me. Didn't have to Google anything, except after the fact to find out what ORU was, etc. And GOBSMACKED, which is new word for me. At first I wrote GOeS, but couldn't convince myself that maybe Boy Scouts of America could be Eagle Scouts of America. Anyway, Goes Macked didn't make any sense either.
    I once tried to write a xword, at the end of hiking trip, which included names of participants, places we visited, the group leaders, and the like. It was a monster puzzle! That was long before I got into the N.Y. Times and this blog. Maybe I will try again after I retire. Could call it REX, and put all of you in it. The theme would, of course, be Anonymous.
    All my admiration, Joho, for your accomplishment.
    I don't know why my posts appear in doubles. I type in my comment box and then press "publish" just once, but it comes up twice, like a Tues. evening Jewish wedding: twice is better. Could someone tell me how to correct this, because twice isn't at all better. In fact it's identical. GAH!

    AZPETE 12:09 PM  

    Second all downs solve for me! Yeah!

    foxaroni 12:16 PM  

    For all who are critical of DRAC, please note that John Zacherle had a hit in 1958 entitled "Dinner with Drac." It was on the Cameo label. I would have thought all you New Yorkers ("of a certain age") would have remembered it. Google "dinner with drac" or try this:

    (Sorry, my Nook keyboard does not have left and right carets, so I can't i bed the link.) :-(

    foxaroni 12:19 PM  

    sorry...imbed--autocorrect keeps changing it to i bed.

    Z 12:21 PM  

    @lauren lese - Let me introduce to the concepts of "wheelhouse" and "outhouse." I'm sure you have had the experience of breezing through a puzzle and wondering why others seem to think it was harder than usual. Those are puzzles where the clues are in your "wheelhouse." On the other hand today's puzzle was in your "outhouse." For example, @Alias Z posted a link Dean Martin singing "Ain't that a Kick in the Head." Even though it was recorded two months before I was born it was popular enough for me to recall while solving. As for "knock" v "thrown", this reporter says "knock" is the original. As for GOT AT or GOT to, I have heard both phrases used both ways. For example, "the insulting anonymice GOT to me so I stopped reading anonymous posts," or "Rex really GOT AT the essence of the problem when he coined "natick."

    My personal standard on whether it's me or the puzzle is the general consensus here. I've come here more than once to lambaste a puzzle only to discover it was just a puzzle in my outhouse.

    @Phoebe - TIA (aunt) and TIO (uncle) are common in crosswords. You will see these again, so file them in the same section of your brain that keeps ENO/ONO/OPIE/ERN/ERNE/TERN/OISE/YSER/LEO/OLAF/OLAV/QUOD/ERAT/DEMONSTRADUM/et cetera. Note, too, that the "a" in TIA indicates the feminine and the "o" in TIO indicates masculine. Remember that for when AMIGO isn't working with a cross. If you are really adventuresome, google a Mexican restaurant in your town with TIO or TIA in its name and give it a try.

    dick swart 12:28 PM  

    Parsing of verbs aside, Rex, the inclusion of the Dean Martin clip
    made the column!

    Classic Dean from Oceans 11 and with the back-up of the Red Norvo combo with the great Red on vibraphone.

    The sound of an era past. Alas, my era.

    Roo Monster 12:28 PM  

    @aging soprano,
    Not sure how to get the double-post to stop, but once your two posts come up, there should be a highlighted "delete" at the bottom. Simply hit that on one of your posts, leaving only one.

    Always looking for the easy way out!


    Hartley70 12:46 PM  

    GOBSMACKED is my everyday go-to word for "very surprised" so it was easy fill. I have no idea where I picked it up. Most likely from the Brits since Willy Wonka makes Gobstoppers in his candy factory. Nothing like a Gobstoppers to break your tooth.

    @joho, awesome job! It's a thrill to "blognob" with a constructor.

    @Ludy, I share your admiration for Judith Lieber works of art. I too used to covet one occasionally, but I find now that my llbean wardrobe doesn't call for much bling. If, however, I find that after much plastic surgery, I look like Blake Lively and am attending a red carpet premiere of my own movie, I will cough up a few grand for an original Lieber and go in style. I'll see that you get an invite too.

    I'll add that a well-respected local relief organization AmeriCares has sent air relief to Nepal from the States and medical aid from their pharmaceutical stores In India. They are gratefully accepting donations at

    Zeke 1:44 PM  

    I'm of "Z age", i.e. Ain't That a Kick in the Head was released microscopically before I was born. Still, I recognize "ain't that a kick in the head" as a phrase, though not one that implies being struck dumb, just readjusting your outlook on life. That being said, there's no way to translate "ain't that a kick in the head" to KICKED IN THE HEAD. The only way KICKED IN THE HEAD equates even in the least to "struck dumb" is if you were literally kicked in the head, resulting in aphasia, which doesn't pass the breakfast test, even given the alleged non-existence of such.

    Gene Sady 2:02 PM  

    I'm surprised that no one made the comment that a hookah is made foe smoking flavored tobaco. Hashish would quickly ruin a hookah.

    Also "BVDS" is an abbreviation, actually, an acronym for a company. Isn't it bad form to not hint at an abbreviation in the clue?

    Phoebe 2:21 PM  

    @Gene Sady I think your innocence may be showing regarding the hookah. I wonder what makes you think that hashish wouldn't be good for such a device?

    TIA Maria 2:23 PM  

    You ARE joking, right? "Tia Maria," the liqueur, means "Aunt Mary." Believe it or not, it is not actually my name.
    I didn't mean to imply that nobody EVER told you to speak 3 languages, just that this puzzle in no way required such fluency. If you had teachers in the past who tried to get you to speak 3 languages, it seems that they failed miserably.
    But because you failed to complete a puzzle that had one of the most common 3-letter instances of "crosswordese" in it, clued almost as simply as it could have been clued (I suppose it could have been clued "Spanish word for aunt"), don't complain that the puzzle was too hard, even for a Monday.

    Anoa Bob 2:38 PM  

    OKRA was a staple at our family table when I was a kid. We grew enough in our garden to have it fresh several times a week in season and canned enough to last the rest of the year. Stewed OKRA and tomatoes was delish but my favorite was fried OKRA, slices covered with beaten egg, rolled in salt and pepper seasoned corn meal and fried in a cast iron skillet in about a quarter inch of pork fat (left over from that morning's breakfast bacon or saugage)---a real delicacy!

    I did some bartending while in grad school and to fortify myself for the Friday afternoon happy hour crowd, I would make myself a cup of coffee with cream, a shot of Old Bushmills Irish whiskey, and a shot of TIA Maria coffee liqueur. Then I was ready to sling some drinks!

    @aging soprano, being familiar with this "aging" thing, I sometimes double click a button or tab when I'm only trying to click it once. May not apply to you, but I attribute it to a slight tremor or unsteadiness in finger pressure and avoid double (or more)-clicking by being slow and deliberate when pressing down.

    Gene Sady 2:38 PM  

    Perhaps, but I have been told by some that have direct experience that the resin in burned hash gunks up the pipe. Do you know otherwise?

    Anonymous 2:42 PM  

    I suppose TIA could have been clued "mini-stroke (abbr.)" or "text-speak for "I appreciate that you will complete this task" (Thanks In Advance) but those seem much harder, even for the linguistically challenged among us.

    Carola 3:09 PM  

    @joho - Congratulations! Like @loren, I enjoyed the sprinkling of ORALity here and there through the expressions of speechlessness. In fact, I assumed it was a little joke of yours to include ORAL twice (once hidden in ORU), so it was interesting to read that the spelled-out ORAL came from Will Shortz.

    I'm with the minority (I think) who found this on the challenging side for a Monday puzzle, probably due mainly to first impressions (I couldn't get 1A without crosses - or, for that matter, 9A: for me, a non-Tweeter, # is the pound sign). KICKED IN THE HEAD was new to me, and I actually resisted it for a while as it seemed so violent. Then I realized that STRUCK, SMACKED, and KNOCKED were not exactly tender pats either. I wonder how other languages treat the phenomenon.... Speaking of which, I was SORTA surprised at the three foreign words on a Monday - I knew them, but for someone who hasn't studied French, CIEL seems hard to figure out.

    @Foxaroni - Thanks for "Dinner with Drac"! I was trying to remember if he showed up at the Monster Mash.

    Not the grammar na 3:18 PM  

    Here's my recommendation for the grammatically WORST sentence I've ever seen here on this blog:

    "I'm a constructor that Will hasn't chosen any of my puzzles for publication yet."

    I hate snark, but I can't let this pass. @Roo, this is just awful! Really, really awful!

    Anonymous 3:23 PM  

    Anonymous Phoebe said...
    Tia, a person can drink all the disgusting coffee liquor they want, but they can’t drink anybody’s aunt in Alcapulco

    If you think "Alcapulco" is a place name then you really are mono-lingual

    Benko 3:42 PM  

    @gene: I do know a thing or two about hashish and hookahs. Yes, hash resin does gunk up hookahs just like it does any other pipe. Eventually. And there are ways to clean it.

    Phoebe 3:47 PM  

    @ Gene Sady I don’t want to confess any personal experience that might not be appropriate, it probably wouldn’t be enough to gunk up anything anyway, but I can’t imagine being gunked up in such a way would be the end of the road for a hookah. @ Tia Maria @ 2:23 I did indeed have teachers asking me to speak three different languages, but only two were considered “foreign”, which are more difficult. I couldn’t get out of either high school or college without studying them, so I did. Did they fail miserably, as you put it? Yes. I have so often made that case, and I was pleased that you picked up on it right away. But I never complain about not finishing a puzzle, as long as there’s a good reason. I understand now that your name isn’t Tia — I shouldn’t have assumed. @ anonymous at 3:23 you’re right, I misspelled Acapulco, thanks. Very witty the way you poited it out. So many linguist seem to be so cunning these days.

    Anonymous 3:48 PM  

    Alka-pulco. You take it after you've eaten too many talkos.

    Phoebe 3:48 PM  

    er ... pointed

    GILL I. 3:50 PM  

    @Phoebe. Unless you are giving your HOOKAH a farewell party, you'd not use it EVER for weed or hashish. It gunks everything up. Stick to bongs....
    @Anoa Bob. I get a chuckle every time I read your defense of that god-awful OKRA...There are probably two things on this planet that I cannot stand...guesss which one..!I've had OKRA every way imaginable and I still hate the slim....Peas on the other hand...Fresh English garden peas boiled for 30 seconds. Add them to a pan where you have lightly sauteed shallots and thinly sliced garlic. Add a drizzle of good olive oil; salt and pepper to taste. My grandkids would not eat peas until I made them this way. They like to add a little mayonnaise as well (go figure)
    Hey @joho....A VERY good sign that your puzzle is a hit when people chime in with little stories....!

    GILL I. 4:32 PM  

    I guess all the pots heads were typing at the same time...

    joho 4:47 PM  

    It's funny, I clued it ______lounge (smoky college coffee bar) because my stepson hangs out at one. The whole Hashish/ HASH angle is much racier!

    Loren Muse Smith 4:52 PM  

    @Roo – I didn't even notice that sentence; I understood exactly what you meant, and that's the point, of this place, right? To comment on cruciverbalation and words in the grid. GOBSMACKED is what I am whenever I see snarky pot shots taken at people's grammar in posts that are more than likely written in a hurry because we all have other stuff to get to.

    All you guys reading our posts and pointing out our mistakes for tens of thousands of people to see – please email me if you really have some motive other than public embarrassment. Then you won't be anonymous anymore; I can get to know you, and you can get to know me.

    Captain Obvious 4:58 PM  

    It's been a banner few days for comments on this board. First it was "Hey, did anyone notice that BRIAN ENO fit in 1a instead of SKRILLEX?" Stated in one way or another 10 times or so. Then, yesterday, we had "Hey, did anyone notice that if you change the SH to a CH sound the long answers also make words?" Then today--"I don't speak Spanish, so how should I be expected to know the word TIA?" Brilliant, people. Just brilliant.

    Kenneth Rabin 5:02 PM  

    Oral Roberts university

    Ludyjynn 5:26 PM  

    The Freddie Gray funeral took place earlier today here in Baltimore. Religious leaders and his family called for peace. Ever since, there has been destructive rioting in downtown Baltimore near Mondawmin Mall. It is spreading to North Ave. Penn Station rail passengers are not being dropped off there due to the situation. So far, 2 police cruisers have been destroyed and 7 police officers injured, some seriously, by rioters. Tear gas has been used to disperse the crowds.. All local tv stations are trying to cover the story as it unfolds, only to be interrupted by young men screaming obscenities into their microphones on camera. Most activities downtown tonight have been cancelled except for the Os game (so far). Looting has begun at a check cashing store as I type this. Allegedly, several gangs are now "getting together in a partnership to take out the police" and there was social media activity today by teens to "purge" the police. Lots of speculation online; question of reliability.

    On a lighter note, @Hartley 70, I am eagerly anticipating that red carpet premiere invite you promised! @Nancy, I live in the burbs outside Balto. where all is quiet, thankfully.
    @AnoaBob, I'll be planting my veggie garden around Mother's Day after all frost danger has passed. Trust me, no OKRA will be planted or eaten as a result!

    Let's hope the lawlessness is gotten under control and that the investigation of the original tragic incident results in the prevention of a recurrence.

    Zeke 5:34 PM  

    As Spanish is the sole, or primary, language of millions of native born American citizens, resentment of Spanish in a crossword puzzle seems to me to be inappropriate at the least.

    Just yesterday I wished my Spanish was beyond that of a 2yo. Flipping through the channels I landed on Telemundo long enough to realize they were playing a Spanish dubbed version of Spanglish - they had Tea Leone dubbed in Spanish. I would have loved to see how they transcribed the joke when she could speak acceptable Spanish most of the time, then Spanglish when it was required for a joke.

    Anonymous 5:36 PM  

    That's the first sensible comment @Zeke has ever made. Maybe there's hope for him yet.

    Phoebe 6:05 PM  

    @Captain Obvious, I realize the brunt of your put-down was aimed at me, but you are very much mistaken. You said this with quotes: "I don't speak Spanish, so how should I be expected to know the word TIA?” That’s not an accurate quote of me, and it is not how I feel. I never suggested that I am “expected” to know the word “Tia”. I am very glad that the puzzles include words that are considered foreign, and I along with hopefully everyone, admire the language that includes and even absorbs them. I think that a literate person should know a lot of foreign words — whether or not he or she is fluent. I think I should have known Tia, but I don’t think it’s a big crime that I didn’t, and I’m glad that I learned it today, and I don’t think I will forget it. @Zeke chimes in in a similar vein — saying: “resentment of Spanish in a crossword puzzle seems to me to be inappropriate at the least” that is a sentiment I totally agree with — who wouldn’t. However, since it is aimed at me, I have to say: I am not at all resentful in that way. Quite the opposite. What I noticed was two foreign words crossed on one square, which was the only square I left blank. I thought that had a small bit of melancholy charm in the coincidence. It reminded me in all of it’s tiny emptiness that I don’t in fact speak any foreign languages. I have always wanted to, and I have tried. But I am what I am, and I don’t think I have an aptitude for them. Though I do for other things. And my lack of language skills I sometimes regret, but never with any resentment towards a crossword puzzle. I would like to relieve Captain Obvious and Zeke of their concerns that someone making a comment could be so miserable petty as they imagine. It’s the not uncommon “straw man” fallacy to create a monster, and then attack that phantom of your own making.

    Other Prof. 7:12 PM  

    American Jewish World Service is also excellent in these situations.

    Teedmn 7:38 PM  

    @Joho, let me join in with everybody else with congrats on your solo debut, very nice.

    Perhaps "Stunned" might have worked better than "Left speechless" for the theme clues?

    As per @foxaroni, I had no problem with DRAC because of the song. My mother had a habit of writing down lyrics to songs in a notebook before she got married, and that song is included in her notes. When we were setting the table, she would sometimes say "the scalpels go on the left with the pitchforks, Igor, Igor".

    Roo Monster 8:25 PM  

    The grammar is awful, or saying I'm an unpublished puz constructor is awful? Or both? :-)


    Nancy 9:01 PM  

    @Teedmn -- I never heard of the song DRAC and certainly don't know the lyrics, but your mother sounds like a truly funny, lively woman who would be a joy to be around -- even when she is setting the table.

    Z 10:04 PM  

    @Phoebe - I've been known to point out that the category "stuff I don't know" is much larger than the category "stuff I know" and the gap is growing. Hang around long enough and you will see people post incredulously about everyone's weak spots. Rex gets chided for not knowing every character in every work in the "official English/Crossword Canon" because he has a doctorate in English. So, welcome.

    @ludyjynn - Unfortunately, some rioters don't believe that the lawlessness will be gotten under control so why should they obey laws when the police don't have to obey the law. We've lost sight again of the notion that once you put on the uniform (or collar, or step into the classroom, or take office) you will be held to a higher standard. If we don't get our house in order there will be more of this kind of unrest and violence. Riots are the language of the unheard. Or if you prefer, To secure rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. Whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers to most likely effect their Safety and Happiness.*

    *Yes - I shortened those quotes from the originals.

    Anonymous 10:53 PM  

    "All you guys reading *OUR* posts and pointing out *OUR* mistakes for tens of thousands of people to see"

    Who do you include in "our"? What separates the "our" from the rest?

    Wowzer 11:07 PM  

    @anon10:53 - For you.

    lauren lese 12:21 AM  

    Z -
    Thank you for your comment which was both kind and constructive.
    However, I'm afraid you missed the point I was (trying) to make. I do know exactly what you mean by outhouse and wheelhouse and have been surprised more than once by others' perceptions as compared to mine and find it tends to be regional and generational. But the distinction between my experience of this particular puzzle (first Monday DNF in at least 2 years) and others calling it easy was out of the bell curve. Kind of KNOCKED ME For A LOOP.
    I guess I wrote my comment in the hopes that it would bring out others who felt the same way. It worked too!!

    Unknown 4:27 PM  

    have to say monday april 27 my least favorite puzzle ever

    Burma Shave 9:21 AM  


    Because with no BVDS he found he was APTTO DROOP.
    SHE had HERD he was a GREEKGOD according to SIZE,
    But then when he CAESAR in ONESEC it just SORTA dies.

    --- PETA FROS

    BS2 9:21 AM  


    That HASH SHE GOTAT the OASES is now in the HOOKAH
    HECKYES SIREE it BLEW me AWAY just like a bazooka.

    --- EDDY MOTO

    rondo 10:07 AM  

    It’s a Monday puz, so I just SORTA DOIT. Got the French by crosses. Liked the HASH crossing the HOOKAH, as always.

    I had a KNACK for some memorable STREAKS back in the day. One in particular for the benefit of some two dozen or so young ladies who were camping for the weekend – I was DUMBSTRUCK by the comments on the SIZE of my MALE parts as I stopped under the ELMS to chat. From “It’s so big” to “It’s so small” – depended on experience I suppose. Left me feeling like not so much a GREEKGOD as before. So I had to TAKETHAT for being a bit of a CAD and a LOUT.

    So this puz opened up memory lane and that’s good enough for Monday. Speed solvers probably just don’t smell those roses.

    505 just overshot

    spacecraft 10:14 AM  

    Could not find yesterday's blog to save my soul. For some reason the syndicated button has been frozen to 4/24 since Friday. Sundays are always a problem, but this time I just plain couldn't find it. And all I wanted to say was that I never even started it; Sundays are enough of a slog as is, but I am NOT going to wade through one hundred and seventy-five words.

    Now for today's--and could someone see if the syndilink was KICKEDINTHEHEAD?--I always like it when a memory is stirred; today it's DRAC. There was, back in the day, a novelty song called "Dinner With Drac." It featured this memorable limerick:

    A good swimmer was Dracula's daughter,
    But she used the pool more than she oughta.
    When guests dive in there
    They just disappear--
    'Cause she uses acid, not water!

    I don't get OFL's criticism about parts of speech. "Left speechless" is a perfect clue for all the theme entries, precisely because it CAN be taken either way. It's like "put" or "set." Is it present tense or past tense? That's for the solver to figure out. BTW, too bad AWES couldn't be AWEd for a bonus themer, but TKTS is bad enough without trying to come up with a way to justify TKTd.

    I like the contrast of HECKYES SIREE with NOPE, and the general freshness of the fill. ORU, NOTOF and APTTO are minuses. I wouldn't say this BLEW me AWAY, but I'll give it a B-.

    Z 10:37 AM  

    @spacecraft - OFL was at a crossword tourney this week (and was tweeting from the road this morning). I'm guessing (I don't know the actual mechanics) that he forgot to update the link. The easiest way to get to the next post is to click on "newer post" at the bottom of the blog.

    @Steve J - Your absence in real time has been noted.

    DMG 2:42 PM  

    A nice Monday romp. This blog is as close as I get to communicating by "machine" so was slowed down when # didn't equate to pound. Only other pause was lightly filling CEIL and waiting for conformation. I envy those who are fluent in other languages and wish I could emulate them, but I seem to have enough trouble with the one I attempt to use every day. Actually I think "machine" was the wrong word above. Should it be "device" "electronic something"? Is there a catch all term for all these computers, magic phones and what all that didn't exist in my salad days?


    Red Valerian 4:09 PM  

    Nice puzzle @joho! I *loved* HECKYES, and GREEKGOD. The way I filled in, I had _ _ _ _ EDINTHEHEAD for a time. I thought "surely not" (plus that would definitely be intransitive… I think).

    "hash" and "hashish" in the clues is a little odd. And, yes, of course you can clean a hookah. Where were you people in the 70s? :-)

    strayling 7:43 PM  

    BVDS are underwear? My crossword-driven education in Americana continues ...

    \ are they anything like Y-fronts?

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