Actress Suvari of "American Beauty" / SUN 7-25-15 / Mark's replacement / Scenic drapery fabric / Panama part

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Constructor: Ellen Leuschner and Jeff Chen

Relative difficulty: Measium

THEME: "No Escape" — There's a BLACK HOLE in the middle of the grid.

Word of the Day: LA TOSCA (41D. French play that inspired and Italian opera) —
La Tosca is a five-act drama by the 19th-century French playwright Victorien Sardou. It was first performed on 24 November 1887 at the Théâtre de la Porte Saint-Martinin Paris, with Sarah Bernhardt in the title role. Despite negative reviews from the Paris critics at the opening night, it became one of Sardou's most successful plays and was toured by Bernhardt throughout the world in the years following its premiere. The play itself is no longer performed, but its operatic adaptation, Giacomo Puccini'sTosca, has achieved enduring popularity. There have been several other adaptations of the play including two for the Japanese theatre and an English burlesqueTra-La-La Tosca (all of which premiered in the 1890s) as well as several film versions.
La Tosca is set in Rome on 17 June 1800 following the French victory in the Battle of Marengo. The action takes place over an eighteen-hour period, ending at dawn on 18 June 1800. Its melodramatic plot centers on Floria Tosca, a celebrated opera singer; her lover, Mario Cavaradossi, an artist and Bonapartist sympathiser; and Baron Scarpia, Rome's ruthless Regent of Police. By the end of the play, all three are dead. Scarpia arrests Cavaradossi and sentences him to death in the Castel Sant'Angelo. He then offers to spare her lover if Tosca will sleep with him. She appears to acquiesce, but as soon as Scarpia gives the order for the firing squad to use blanks, she stabs him to death. On discovering that Cavaradossi's execution had in fact been a real one, Tosca commits suicide by throwing herself from the castle's parapets. (Wikipedia)
• • •
This was a Janus-like puzzle for me. The upper/left half was really straightforward, and the other other half (this puzzle is literally divided into two pieces) was a bit trickier. Not much, but there was a noticeable hiccup in solving for me. Was it the gimmick that made the bottom/right harder? I don't think so. There are just some tricky choices, like ACACIA (93D. Mimosa, for one) and EASY FIX (90D. Simple solution) that bump up the difficulty. Not hard for a Sunday... just a rougher groove than I'd found on the west side.

So there are two parts to this theme. Number one: long phrases that describe a BLACK HOLE.

Theme answers:
  • HEART OF DARKNESS (21A. Novella that served as the basis for "Apocalypse Now")
  • DISAPPEARING ACT (14D. Avoidance maneuver)
  • FATAL ATTRACTION (42D. 1987 Michael Douglas/Glenn Close blockbuster)
  • CENTER OF GRAVITY (112A. Tightrope walker's concern)
And those are cute. All four of them. Zero complaints. A black hole theme that... wait for it... doesn't suck. But there's a second theme. The 3x3 block of black squares dead center represents a BLACK HOLE, and there are 12 short answers being sucked into it. For each of those entries, the word "hole" has to be added on at the end so that the clue/answer pair makes sense. Those answer are: LOOPHOLE, MOUSE HOLE, POTHOLE, PIE HOLE, HIDEY-HOLE (wasn't familiar with this guy), BOREHOLE, PORTHOLE, BLACK HOLE, RAT HOLE, PINHOLE, IN THE HOLE, NAIL HOLE. Due to the attractive nature, the entries beneath and to the right of the hole are sucked up and back into the hole. Instead of writing HIDEY-HOLE in, you just put in YEDIH. Some poor sap's gonna submit a puzzle to The Times in a few years, get rejected for putting YEDIH in the grid, and not know why, because he's just gonna insert this "answer" from a word list. Don't be this guy.

So this is cute, too. A nice visual effect. I was wondering if the whole second half of the grid would be reversed, with every entry being affected by the black hole, but nope. That's fine. Two black spots on this puzzle, though. First, why is PIE duplicated between MEAT PIE and PIE HOLE (theme answer!)?!? This is clearly a constructor error, but should've been caught and fixed ahead of time. Some might argue "short word, not a dupe, doesn't count, you can never have too much pie, &c." I am set in my ways, and I don't care if it's a short word. It is a very meaningful word, so it certainly counts. The other is certainly and editorial choice: DRAT (108D. "Darn!") and DARN IT. Why not use a different clue? Or link the two together? I don't understand the reasoning behind this at all.

I praise the constructors for using corner cheater squares in exchange for (what I assume is) cleaner fill. That's an unexpected decision.

  • COIN PURSES (13D. Change places) — Favorite clue of the puzzle. Sure, I saw right through it (wanted REGISTERS, though), but a verb/noun misdirect is a good time.
  • AARP (93A. 50 or more people?) — This would be a "favorite" contender, if I'd not seen some variant of it before. Speaking of "people," no PEEP HOLE in this grid?
  • EPISODE I (29A. "The Phantom Menace" in the "Star Wars" series) — I still haven't seen "Star Wars." But I knew enough to get this right away. Are there any other things that are commonly referred to as "episode one," or is this it? Google suggests that part of the video game Half-Life 2 is "episode one," but the closest I've come to that is playing Portal. Help me out here.
  • AFRESH (45A. From scratch) — "I shall bake this cake afresh!"
  • LEANN RIMES (70D. Singer with the 1997 3x platinum single "How Do I Live") — For about a year in the late '90s, Dad would play his one LeAnn Rimes album anytime we got in the car. It was most noticeable going to and coming home from church. And it would always start from track one, "Blue." And sometimes he'd put it on repeat. Taste the yodeling with me.

  • YES MEN (12D. Rubber stamps) — Hadn't heard the slang usage of the clue before, but it makes sense, metonymically. It's a fun entry, regardless.
  • HATE MAIL 74A. Some written rants) — I hear that one Mr. Parker gets great joy from receiving your missives (as well as ones likely intended for Mr. Shortz), so please, keep the coming. Address is on the sidebar. You know what to do.
Signed, Neville Fogarty, Prince of CrossWorld


jae 12:39 AM  

Easy fun Sun.  Nice one Ellen and Jeff.  Liked it a lot.

Nice write-up Neville.  The double PIE seemed like an error to me too and the DARN thing was just odd. Plus I also noticed the slight bump in difficulty in the southern hemisphere.  Although, not enough to move it off easy.

Moly Shu 2:09 AM  

PIE dupe also noticeable here, although I do like @NFogarty's "you can never have too much pie" reasoning. Had LEAaNRIMES and IAMBs which gave me DARasT. Major snag that was only fixed on the final check. IAMBI, need to remember that one. Liked the BLACKHOLE idea and it wasn't that difficult to figure out what was going on around it. Other than the HIDEY WOE, fairly sussable. Nice Sunday.

chefwen 2:16 AM  

Got the hole thingy right away, so that was fun working around that. My biggest problem was at 16D with OH My which I put in and out again so many times it wore a hole in my paper. Never watched Star Wars so yPISODEI could very well been some sort of a menace.

All of are various critters have their own little YEDIH holes. Fun to discover where they are.

Medium for me and I really liked it. Thanks Ellen and Jeff.

paulsfo 2:22 AM  

DNF because of SW and of the top middle, so different from our host's issues.

Really liked the clue for DONORS; took me a long time, though.

George Barany 3:43 AM  

The joke practically writes itself, but congratulations to @Ellen Leuschner and @Jeff Chen for a puzzle that "sucks" ... besides @Neville Fogarty's observations that we've all just read, @Hayley Gold has pitched in with this week's webcomic.

Just a week ago, we had Puccini's opera TOSCA, and today we get Sardou's play on which the opera is based. According to the data base, it is the fourth @Shortz era, and eighth overall, appearance of the play, compared to 57th/150th of the opera. Tosca is, of course, the paradigm example of what mathematicians and logicians call "The Prisoner's Dilemma" in it's most disastrous form, a true lose-lose-lose situation. Scarpia wants Floria's body, Floria wants her lover's freedom, Scarpia and Floria double-cross each other, there is a "fake" execution with live bullets, and at the end, all three protagonists are dead.

As already noted, both the opera and the play end with the female lead committing suicide by leaping off the parapet, but this has led to some of the most amusing anecdotes in the history of theater. Those of you who are not familiar with them may enjoy these tellings from a review of the opera; note that the great Sarah Bernhardt who created the title role in the play injured herself seriously enough to require amputation of her right leg.

Leapfinger 4:10 AM  

@GeorgeB, opera never was for sissies.

'mericans in Paris 5:06 AM  

Wasn't able to buy the International New York Times yesterday, so no puzzle for me. Came here to see whether the vocabulary would inspire me to write another Matt Esquare EPISODE, but naaw. (Do I hear chears and clapping behind some screens?) For those who do read the episodes, and might have missed the last one (due to the separate reviews by @Rex and Matt Gaffney), it can be found on @Rex's blog for last Sunday:

As for today's puzzle, it looks as if it was quite clever. Not sure I would have gotten HIDEY HOLE (was it clued as a pun?), as I always thought the expression was HIDEY HO!, or even HIDEY, HIDEY HO! Oh, wait, I just got it: "a place for hiding something or oneself in". Hmm.

Neville Fogarty's otherwise excellent write-up provides a salient example of how the slash (/) is contributing to a collective punctuation amnesia. "The upper/left half"? Does that mean the upper-left half? The upper & left halves? How about simply the NW?

Enjoy your Sundays. Final Day of the Tour de France here, which also marks (through 15 August) the quietest period of the year in Paris.

Noam D. Elkies 5:19 AM  

Neat puzzle and write-up. If you're a sucker for black hole humor, try Googling "goalie you're not a sieve" :-) Meanwhile, PEEP[HOLE] really shouldn't be in the puzzle, because it would confuse the theme (PEEP reads the same either way).


Howard Flax 6:49 AM  

What the heck is NIHIL? (After Googling)... Got it, as in "Ve vant ze money, Lebowski" nihilism, awesome!

Lewis 6:53 AM  
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Lewis 7:04 AM  

@'merican -- HIDEY is clued as "Secret spot".

Lots of PIE in the puzzle. Aside from MEATPIE and PIEHOLE, we have GROUPIE and EPPIE. I do like ORB crossing BOSOM. And there is that backward STRAD crossing AGED. And it's a good thing (as Deb points out in Wordplay) that ASS isn't to the left of the big black square.

I love the long answers supporting the hole in the middle; I think they justify some iffy fill. Never heard of HIDEY (hole); maybe "donut" or "water" could have been made to work, but I'm guessing it was tried and just didn't. The middle box did suck me in. I figured that part out quickly and enjoyed filling in around it. I was hoping that the words east and south of the hole went in the right direction, and they did.

I sipped this puzzle, and it went down well.

Loren Muse Smith 7:07 AM  

Very first entry was the faux-hold "Noor" for ALIA.

Neville – count me among the objectionable group of unabashed SLASHERS when I write. A slash sometimes has this je ne sais quoi feeling that an and/or just doesn't have. And as evidenced by my posts, I'm a dash/hyphen fan, too - perfectly happy to hobble along with great disregard for ye olde punctuation/grammar rules.

I noticed the PIE dupe, too, but Neville saved it with the second best comment so far today: no one can have too much PIE. I think @George gets the prize, though, with his "puzzle that sucks" comment.

I really got a kick out of the clue for 119A – "ending with walk or run." INS would have worked there, too. Punctuation police abound here you could have many run-ins because of run-ons.

I had a dnf:
1. My Canadian NHL team was from Ontario, so I never would have seen LA TOSCA, even though TOSCA is the only opera I've ever seen. Saw it in Verona (not at LA SCALA that crosses it – cool). For all of you who get nasty when posters brag about their world travels – I'll take one for the team here. Have at it.
2. I had a reasonable "as if" for AKIN, so my storied creatures were Krasens and efts. Shame on me for this latter one.
3. My 1970s TV feminist was "Rhoda" instead of MAUDE and thus "cherobim," "nbh"(???), and singular "yes man."

The clue for CENTER OF GRAVITY made me pause. You could read it as though there's just one concern some guy has on his mind while walking hundreds of feet above the ground, across a rope about as big around as a cigar. I guess he's not thinking, "Aw man, did I forget to turn off the stove?" But then I decided that, yeah, the pesky center of gravity is probably the only thing on his mind. Whenever I see tightrope walkers, I'm always struck by the thought that as a species, we sure have a lot of spare time on our hands now that we've figured out the whole keeping warm, safe, nourished deal. I bet you won't see cave pictures of Neanderthal Man tightrope walking or hooked up to a PARASAIL.

IAMBI. Eeny, meeny miny moe, pick a meter by its toe, if iambic let it go...

Look. I'm no baker, but I didn't get the clue "like dough after baking" for RISEN. RISEN describes the dough for my crusty French bread twice: once in the bowl and once in the baguette pan before you put it in the oven. It's RISEN way before it's baked.

Neville – thanks for the write-up. I did think about Rex when I filled in HATE MAIL. I can only imagine. I've become pretty adept at ignoring the plethora of nasty anonymice here, but it must be worse logging in to email to find more snark. At least the emailers are braver than our yellow-bellied trolls. I've stopped daring them to HATE eMAIL me because I've realized they're not willing to give up their anonymity.

All in all, a fine Sunday offering.

Yontifsadie 7:32 AM  

For fans of the HBO series True Blood, we know that the vampires refer to their secret daytime hiding place as their HIDEY hole.

chefbea 7:37 AM  

Knew right off that it was a black hole in the center but too tough for me. Had to come here and read what Neville had to say and read the posts. Now to see what Haley Gold has to say

Lewis 8:15 AM  

Factoid: Men's nails grow faster than women's nails, and the fastest growing NAIL is the one on your middle finger.

Quotoid: "Other states are trying to ABOLISH the death penalty... mine's putting in an express lane." -- Ron White (Texas)

Glimmerglass 8:29 AM  

De mortuis nil nisi bonum. Easy-peasy puzzle. When I got down to LOOPHOLE. MOUSEHOLE, and POTHOLE, I could fill in all the other holes around the center square without much thought, which was a lot of the puzzle. I had a little contretemps in the SW corner, but this was overall too easy to be much fun. I didn't even notice that four long answers were themers, but they were gimmes. FATAL ATTRACTION off the F. I think the design is fine, but the clues could have been tougher.

Kenneth Wurman 8:50 AM  

Didn't even need any letters for Fatal Attraction, so it was a fast start for me. Nice write-up Neville. I am a music fan but for some reason never heard Leanne Rimes on New York radio...

Kenneth Wurman 8:50 AM  
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CV 9:21 AM  

Easy time for me, save the NE & SW corners. FDA got in at 13A & wouldn't let go. And I knew 70D was LeAnn Rimes, but my mind wouldn't accept that her first name has only one E. Still don't get DONORS. Fun, anyway.

F.O.G. 9:21 AM  

Nice to see OTT not clued with "Immortal New York Giant" or the like. The cluing of "Idol worship" and "Idol worshiper?" was clever. With the British Open (or The Open for you golf purists) having recently been concluded, "In the [hole]" would have been timely.

Don't recall having seen a Sam RAIMI flick. Based upon his IMDb filmography, wouldn't be surprised if "Release the KRAKENS" is a future production.

Overall a solid effort by our constructor. I'd give it a B+

Hartley70 9:36 AM  

I thought this was a perfect Sunday level puzzle..some visual interest, a couple of themers, medium difficulty, a dash of cute. I have found some recent Sundays to be interminable with my brain on autopilot as I entered the fill. Not so today. There was some wood burning here. Nicely done, Ellen and Jeff!

Tita 9:42 AM  

I liked this a hole lot.
Got the hole thing at LOOP, but it was a while before I got the long themers.

@'mericans...when I lived there, I couldn't walk a block with a baguette under my arm without being bakeries in August were rare as hen's teeth. I did my fair share of accosting too...

@lms...your ample DNF confession Is cathartic,,,here's mine...
My birds CHirP, and the novella is DiARyOFDARKNESS. Unknown actress/unknown show...irNA, Odie (as in "O, die!")
(And speaking of baguettes, you're right, of course, about that whole RISEN thing...)

Excellent write up, Mr. Fogarty...thank you! Though I thought you might YEODLE to that album...
Thanks for an out-of-this-world Sunday puzzle, Ms. Leuchner and Jeff.

Aketi 9:47 AM  

At first I thought it was going to be a Congo theme, but it didn't take long to find the hole. I preferred Bend in the River by VS Naipaul to HEART OF DARKNESS.

While I loved this puzzle, I did want a safety zone outside an "event horizon" surrounding the BLACK HOLE. I think I might have watched the black hole movie in the American Museum of Natural History well over 1000 times during the winters when my son was little and it was a nice warm place to go to get out of the apartment and let him roam. The moment when the event horizon is crossed and the screen goes black is always more terrifying to me than the BIg Bang movie. Neither one ever scared my son. (His name ended up in today's puzzle).

TOSCA seems t be showing up a lot lately, Its also the only opera I've ever seen. I completely changed my mind about opera watching a live performance. I wish tickets weren't so expensive.

'mericans in Paris 10:00 AM  


Accosted as in, "Where on earth did you buy that baguette? I've been looking all over the neighborhood for an open bakery!"?

Fortunately I live in a neighborhood with an outlet of the organic bakery, Moisan. They open every day except Wednesday, even on holidays. Here's a slide show to make your mouth water!

joho 10:04 AM  

Ellen and Jeff, you have gone to the dark side ... and I loved it! The KCALB hole smack dab in the middle of the puzzle and the answers it generated around it were a lot of fun. And the long downs were lovely.

There was a double serving of PIE, though, but not enough to spoil the fun for me.

I had a real aha moment when l finally parsed EPISODEI correctly. Prior to that my menace was named EPISO DEI.

Mucho thanks to Ellen and Jeff for an entertaining morning and Neville, too, for a well written write-up!

RAD2626 10:16 AM  

Had the same mistakes basically as @lms and although I cleaned those up, never did get the backward draw of the hole so my middle was a mess. Still, a clever puzzle with two different but consistent themes. Just terrific.

Great to see our friend Buck ONEIL recognized on Hall of Fame weekend, and Mel OTT, for that matter, albeit clued to a different sport. Impressive induction class this year.

The Patrick Berry word puzzles in the NYT Mag each Sunday are usually easy to solve but must be incredibly hard to construct. Amazing how he does it.

JC66 10:16 AM  

From @ Neville Fogarty's write up:

Theme answers:
HEART OF DARKNESS (21A. Novella that served as the basis for "Apocalypse Now")
DISAPPEARING ACT (14D. Avoidance maneuver)
FATAL ATTRACTION (42D. 1987 Michael Douglas/Glenn Close blockbuster)
CENTER OF GRAVITY (112A. Tightrope walker's concern)
And those are cute. All four of them. Zero complaints. A black hole theme that... wait for it... doesn't suck.

Anonymous 10:19 AM  

With the S, M and O, (Marlo before Maude), of 12 down, "Rubber stamps" was seen as clever cluing for GISMOS and there it stayed until it was necessary to clean up that little group or record a "Fail" for this wonderful puzzle.

Thanks, Ellen and Jeff; a five star treasure!

Anonymous 10:21 AM  

Is 120A a theme bonus? Jeff Chen probably is too nice for that.

Ludyjynn 10:37 AM  

Timing, as they say, is everything. Last night I got sucked into watching "The Shawshank Redemption" for the umpteenth time as I channel surfed. SPOILER ALERT IF YOU HAVE NOT SEEN THIS FILM!!! So, this morning, when I opened the NYT Magazine to the puzzle page, the BLACKHOLE theme smack in the middle fairly screamed at me! Who can ever forget Tim Robbins' character rock-picking his way out of his prison cell over a 20 year period, first using the Lana Turner/ GILDA poster to disguise his HIDEYHOLE progress, and then, finally escaping through the wall and sewer line behind the Raquel Welch poster?! I cried, yet again, when he was reunited w/ the Morgan Freeman character on the beach.

@LMS, thanks for taking my travel troll's ASSinine HATEMAIL into account when mentioning La SCALA in your post. You can have him!

Had Marlo before MAUDE, thinking of Marlo Thomas in "That Girl", a pioneer feminist (sort of) sitcom. Wasn't it late '60s?

@Aketi, I think they still sell standing room TKTs at the Metropolitan Opera, which is a cheap way to get in, if you have the stamina to stand throughout, or get lucky enough to take over an empty seat after Act I.

OHME, I DNFed on yPISODEI. Sad but TRUE.

Thanks, EL, JC and WS. And Neville.

cwf 10:43 AM  

Wow, with both this and the current #AVCX puzzle (, Mr. Chen is knocking it out of the park this week. (Credit to Ms Leuschner as well!)

Aketi 10:51 AM  

Just noticed that the MOUSE hole is on top of the RAT hole, but there aren't any insect holes or gophur holes. My Dad tried unsuccessfully to change the gophurs away by sticking the garden hose down the holes in our lawn and turning on the faucet. It never worked.

L 10:53 AM  

I love Maude and wonder why no reruns on cable tv? Sigh. And one random factoid: this week's Torah reading was about the biblical spies.

AliasZ 11:03 AM  

Excellent idea for a puzzle by Ellen Leuschner, and great execution by Jeff Chen, except, as Hayley Gold so eloquently noted, ASS was nowhere near HOLE. And that double PIE travesty.

It would have been an even better trick if the long peripheral BLACK HOLE-related answers were severely distorted by the irresistible sucking power of the black hole in the center, and the whole grid had a vortex-shaped design. But then I don't think we'll see a puzzle constructed by Stephen Hawking any time soon.

Of course, I automatically entered SERAPHIM at 10D. Who didn't? We saw AOKAY on Thursday, AOK today, but no Isao Aoki anywhere in sight. That's a good thing, I think. It is rare to see two entries with two K's in one puzzle, but today we have KRAKEN and KARAOKE. Krakatoa, Kentucky, Kazakhstan, Kilkenny, Kosciusko, Kodiak and knucklehead soon to follow. Knackwurst anyone?

Great to see OTT clued as the Ottawa Senators. Another great clue for OTT could be "There: Hun." Talk about the toughest clue ever, except for the Hungarian Mafia. That's right, the Hungarian word "ott" means "there." So there.

I loved seeing a mention of CALEB Madison, another talented constructor.

So many great entries today (LA TOSCA crossing La SCALA, e.g.) and so much to say about so many of them, but so little time.

The only thing left to do is offer a lovely piece of music by Jacques IBET: six of his ten "Histoires for piano" transcribed for flute and piano. At 3:05 of the video you will discover another connection to this puzzle.

Enjoy your Sunday!

Joseph Michael 11:18 AM  

Liked the surprises. First that the center was a HOLE that completed some theme answers. Then that some of the answers were being sucked in backwards. And then that there were four phrases, such as FATAL ATTRACTION, that describe the center.

Agree that there is one PIE too many and DNF on EPISODE 1 due to having OH NO instead of OH ME. But I enjoyed the solve (and will refrain from commenting on the conspicuous inclusion of ASS)

jberg 11:25 AM  

Am I the only person who didn't realize immediately that the answers to the right and bottom of the BLACK hole would be reversed? Instead, I spent a lot of time trying to think of phrases that began with HOLE, only to conclude that PIE HOLE and HIDEY HOLE were unavoidable. At that point I was a) annoyed at the apparent weakness of the theme, and b) stuck on the East side since I couldn't make anything work. Finally saw ELOH TROP, it all fell into place, and my admiration for the puzzle soared.

At that, I a) never saw that the long answers were also themers until I came here, and b) potentially naticked, but made a lucky guess, at the RAIMI/RIMES crossing.

A couple quibbles, though. For me, the e.g. signals the singular IAMB, and anyway I've never heard them called anything but IAMBs. (I'm wrong, though, per And horses are shod, not SHOED.

But I think we had mimosas yesterday, and I loved the completely different sense of the word.

@George Barany, if I hadn't seen it about 10 times I'd complain about the spoiler of the Tosca ending.

The Artful Dodger 11:26 AM  

A "tax dodger" breaks the law by not paying taxes. Someone who finds a loophole is NOT a tax dodger. He or she just has a good accountant.

Anonymous 11:27 AM  

I thought the "hole" answers were far too straightforward, which made this a too-easy Sunday

Anonymous 11:33 AM  


Peter 11:39 AM  

My wife and I thought this theme was just dumb -- groanworthy. On the other hand, all the "---HOLE" answers made us giggle like a couple 4th-graders as we started sticking the suffix onto other answers:

Stick that in your BUNK-HOLE!
Ah, shut your CRY-HOLE!
Welcome, friends, to YE OLDE HOLE
Ow! He caught right in the EYE-HOLE.
I've no more room in my MEATPIE-HOLE
This hat don't fit 'cause the brimhole's too small!
plus, the weirdly appropriate-sounding AARP-HOLE (which I am slowly approaching), NOLO HOLE (akin to a YOLO HOLE?), and NIHIL HOLE.
But, of course, ASS just ruins all the fun.


Haiku Nerd 11:40 AM  


Nancy 11:49 AM  

4 spaces unfilled at the YE of YEDIH and the ER of EROB. Now I got the theme and I saw the upside down BLACK hole and RAT hole correctly. So why didn't I see the right-to-left HIDEY hole and BORE hole and PIE hole as well. I dunno; I just didn't. At 62A I had yaP and sort of forgot about the hole entirely. At 62D, I wanted EYE, since it was the only 3-letter word for ogle I could think of, but it seemed to just not fit. And also I had that Y from yaP. So a DNF, on what was a really terrific puzzle.

old timer 11:58 AM  

Lady Errol once said to Queen Victoria, "Just think, when we die, we will meet all our loved ones in the BOSOM of Abraham." The Queen haughtily replied, "I will NOT meet Abraham."

I remembered the previous puzzle, Fire in the Hole, by the same constructors, so I figured out the trick at NAIL and INTHE. Figured out the reverse trick with TAR and KCALB.The left side went pretty easily, though I did have "tamed" for SHOED for a while, and being such a baseball fan, I had "off" where I needed ONS. If the home team is ahead at the end of the top of the Ninth, they have a "walkoff win", and of course "Runoff" is also a Thing.

In the NE, I had "holy men" for CLERICS, which messed things up a bit. And it took a while to remember that DARTS boards have rings -- in fact, you always must start in the outer *double) ring, and finish with a double, too, though I believe you can also finish with a bullseye in the center, can't you?

I had a vague memory of KRAKENS. Certainly not "Krasens" which sounds like a cranberry treat for children.

Excellent puzzle. Looking forward to OFL's return.

GeezerJackYale48 12:00 PM  

I agree heartily, Hartley70. This one kept my interest all the way through without becoming tiresome; lots of clever cluing helped.

Leapfinger 12:10 PM  

Good holesome fun, eh?

Started of on a happy foot with OHMAGE, whispering OHMAGE-homage to myself several times. Does everyone pronounce them both o-MAZH? It isn't as much fun if homage is pronounced HOM-idge. Reinforcements came in with with eye-rhyme LIEN/LEANN, and the run-on ONEIL-LIEN.

Got to the black hole pretty quickly, with an extra grin when it was clear how the words were circling the drain. Noticed a number of them were palindromes -- LOOP/pool, POT/top, PIN/nip. RAT/tar, PORT/trop (if you allow French). Some might say the black hole was irresistible, but I think the four themers were the highlight, each one hit the mark ingest the right way.

Some problems, like thinking 29A would be something like Agnus DEI. Enjoyed the recurring clever misleads like 'Drug charge' for COPAY, even OTT had a novel clue, and nothing was really in ANE. Even UNARM was kind of disarming, though that RISEN dough kneaded rethinking,as per @Loren et ALIA. Hey, @Tita, really liked your YEODLE, made me laugh!

@YontifSadie, nice to have a BAAL abusteh on board today!

Ellen/Jeff, some puzzles are alsORAN, I predict this one STYX in mind.

CHER U BIMbo! No PIE for you!!

Noam D. Elkies 12:41 PM  

Neat puzzle; thanks for the write-up. PEEPHOLE would have confused the theme because PEEP is a palindrome so one couldn't tell in which half of the HOLE entries it belonged. Meanwhile, suckers for black hole jokes might enjoy Googling "goalie's not a sieve" if you've not run across this hockey chant already.

NDE (who thought I posted something like this some hours ago only to see that it has, um, vanished without a trace)

Teedmn 12:41 PM  

This wasn't easy for me at all. The center was not the problem, I got that right away including the need for the backward answers. But the 'beyond the event horizon' stuff, as @Aketi mentions, gave me fits. At 40A, the lyric mentioned made me think of the song, 'I Don't Know How to Love Him' so Dionne Warwick was singing to Jesus for a long time. 40D was trying to be a form of jettison and I could not bring the title of the movie to mind.

Anchoring the wrongness at the bottom was tamED rather than SHOED (I say it is 'shod' also). I finally decided ARAPAHO was the way to go, making the rest an EASY FIX, and then only had to wrestle with 1A which was a nice aha - COP was leading me the other way on 'drug charge,

Hand up for MArlo and noor. Had raNalong for CANTERED first. Had the LH of 51A and said, "OH ME, there's a problem" but reading the clue helped that, doh!

Nice one, Ms. Leuschner and Mr. Chen!

Aketi 12:50 PM  
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Aketi 12:54 PM  

Our pajama-shredding cat, Charles, just found a new HIDEY hole as I was working on the puzzle this morning. He has been pissed off with us since we bought a new bed with drawers underneath the frame because he can't chase our other cat underneath the bed any more. Despite blocking the drawers with 5 pound weights, he managed to pull one of the drawers open, pull out the comforter, crawl into the drawer and out the back end where the top of the drawer is lower than the bed frame, and the settle into the 6 x 80 inch soace between the drawers on each side. The only way to get him out is to shake his bag of treats, I'm sure our other cat would be more than pleased if we just shut the drawer and left him in there.

r.alphbunker 1:20 PM  
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r.alphbunker 1:22 PM  

The puzzle has 12 cheater squares but 4 of them at the corners of the black hole and are required for the theme to work and so are not really cheater squares. A detailed analysis is here

@Anoa Bob
I have included LCMs in the analysis. DARTS and COINPURSES fit the criteria of an LCM, but I don't think they should be penalized. DARTS is a legitimate name of a game and COINPURSES because of its great clue {Change places} (Change place fails the usage test)

Anoa Bob 2:07 PM  

I agree the S in DARTS adds informative value above and beyond its 25% increase in the letter-count, but I don't think that's the case for the S in COINPURSES. It adds little if anything of substance beyond its letter-count boost, clever clueing notwithstanding.

Anonymous 2:33 PM  

Angels back something. Donors give something. An angel is never a donor. Donors don't get something in return, dummies.

r.alphbunker 3:02 PM  

@Anoa Bob
But do you agree that if the clue for DARTS had been {Small pointed objects with feathers} then it would have been LCM?

Anonymous 3:23 PM  

When's the last time there was a puzzle without a POC?

Fred Romagnolo 3:45 PM  

No real trolls (those attacking people) today; how nice! Can never remember if it's Effie, Essie, or EPPIE, but crosses come to the rescue. I had bum RAP, but SLuSHERS didn't make sense. Having a different clue for OTT probably means that ED ASNER will overtake Mel in crosswordese fame. Who says OH ME, instead of OH My? Tosca is the opera that really defines the word operatic (super melodramatic), so of course she's an opera singer. There were a lot of clever answers in this one. Since seraphin didn't fit, it had to be CHERUBIM. BTW Raphael is generally regarded as one of the trio of the greatest of the High Renaissance Italian painters - you gotta guess who the other two are. Hint: one was also an inventor, and the other also a sculptor.

Indypuzzler 4:02 PM  

Even though I got the "hole" theme at the north and west, I did NOT get the "black hole" part of it so scratched my head on the south and east part of the black hole wondering how a secret spot could start with Y and end in H. And maybe the term HIDEY HOLE is one of those things that I had NEVER heard of but is common. I enjoyed this puzzle due to the clever fill and cluing but I had to admit defeat and a DNF before the BLACKHOLE sucked me in.

Tita 4:26 PM  

@'mericans...mouth is watering indeed! Do they sell épis, my most favoritest style? If so, please have one for me...

'mericans in Paris 4:27 PM  

@Tita ... don't know. But I'll ask and let you know!

JFC 4:32 PM  

@Artful Dodger: I agree that someone who finds loopholes is not a "tax evader." Bad clue.

Billie C 4:53 PM  

@JFC: The clue says "tax dodger" not "evader." Maybe a little wiggle room there? I agree though--I think of a "dodger" as someone who breaks the law while a "loophole" is used legally.

Indypuzzler 5:04 PM  

@artful dodger, JFC and billy c, yes the proper term for using loopholes is tax avoidance or a tax avoider. Totally agree with y'all and the clue should have had a question mark at the end at the very least with the term "dodger".

Nancy 5:35 PM  

Didn't have time this a.m. to read all the comments and just caught up now. What I realize belatedly, from JC66, Joseph Michael, jberg and Leapfinger is that, in addition to not finishing 4 squares, I also completely missed the long answer tie-ins to the theme: DISAPPEARING ACT, FATAL ATTRACTION, HEART OF DARKNESS and CENTER OF GRAVITY My apologies to the constructors. You create a puzzle with even more intricate and beautiful complexities than the black hole answers at the center and I miss the whole thing! You deserve better from your solvers!

Anonymous 5:48 PM  

Caught on to the theme easily enough, found the rest of the puzzle difficult enough to be satisfying, except the SW, which remained frustratingly out of reach. (Didn't help that I'm hopeless at the pop culture clues, and my dearest, my go-to for those questions, couldn't come up with an answer to, "Was there a singer in 1997 with maybe the first name Leah?")

But I have to stand up in righteous indignation at SHOED, even though I see it's accepted in Webster's as a variant of SHOD. What self-respecting horse would admit to being SHOED??

F.O.G. 5:50 PM  

@Anonymous 2:33 To quote you, "Donors give something. An angel is never a donor. Donors don't get something in return, dummies."

Check out "Karma" and reconsider.

@Fred Romagnolo 3:45 PM You remarked, "Can never remember if it's Effie, Essie, or EPPIE...."

For the longest time I was stuck on Pearl. Not sure why I connected "The Scarlet Letter" with "Silas Marner," but maybe I read both in the same grade.

Roo Monster 5:50 PM  

Hey All !
Late to the party. Cool puz. The backward "hole" answers lots of fun. Knew the 4 long answers were part of the theme, but the NE one did me in. Actually a big ole DNF on tnat whole NE. Guess my brain shut down up there!


Anonymous 5:54 PM  

Wasn't trying to hide behind anonymity in my complaint about SHOED. . . hit the wrong button when posting.

OISK 6:38 PM  

Liked this one. Had to make an informed guess at Rimes with Raimi. Don't know who Leann Rimes is, but perhaps I have heard of Sam Raimi. ( Or was mixing him up with baritone Sam Ramey) so I got it. Otherwise, no complaints from me. Nice puzzle.

Billy C 8:00 PM  

Offa my turf, faux Billy C!

Billy C 8:01 PM  

Offa my turf, faux Billy C!

MamaKarma 8:36 PM  

@Aketi and maybe others, a great way to see opera beautifully and cheaply is to go to performances of the Met live in HD at your local movie theater. Much less expensive, and some would argue, even better than on stage, because you get closeups, special shots, and a real "in house, up close and personal" view. Movie theaters all over the country show these during the Met season.

Billy C 9:14 PM  

Offa my turf, faux Billy C!

Caleb the Israelite Spy 9:19 PM  

Is there no Baalism in Gilead?

MDMA 9:28 PM  

Some anagrams:
forsaken hatreds
a practised aping
recovering fatty / crying after vote
total art fanatic / atonal tacit fart

Tita 9:42 PM  

@Aketi...what @MamaK said...while you don't have the splendor of live, you've spent $25 instead of $400.

Plus, you get to eat popcorn...what's not to love?!

J Dipinto 9:48 PM  

Found this puzzle easy and mostly enjoyable, but the theme doesn't quite work, imo.

The box at the center of the grid symbolizes a "hole" with respect to every one of its adjoining answers. It doesn't symbolize a "black hole", just a "hole." That includes with respect to 77D answer "black". But the 77D clue confuses things by making the box also symbolize a "black hole", which it needs to be as the puzzle piece that ties into the longer theme clues. In effect, the box is both HALF the answer to 77D, and the ENTIRE answer to 77D.

J Dipinto 10:10 PM  

Rethinking my previous comment: The clue for 77d does work, if you think of the square as a hole that's literally colored black in this puzzle, with respect to the adjoining answers. I.e., two different meanings of the term "black hole." Likely that was the intent. So, never mind... :-)

Z 11:39 PM  

Writing from somewhere above the great plains. Fun puzzle to solve while flying through some weather.

Been in Colorado playing some disc (can you guess which one is me?) and ran into old time commentarian @Seth G. He looks good.

Wrong end of the telescope 8:43 AM  

Sheesh, @Joe d'Pin. The box symbolizes a HOLE, and it is BLACK. Si?

Wherein lies the injunction against putting that together?? Seems you enjoy wandering around in "I see a fallacy" country.

Anony M. 8:58 AM  

@Caleb the I.S.

Hey, I remembered you from my kiddie-book with the nice line-drawn illustrations when that clue came up. You're Joshua's boy, aren't you?

Cool cryptic you assembled there: There is IS in Baalism in baalmy Gilead.... Depending on...uh, nemmind


Anonymous 2:06 PM  

Hidey-hole was a phrase I heard often growing up. Could be a geographical thing.

Merlin 8:58 AM  

I liked the whole thing, but then, I'm admittedly not at the high end of the xword solving crowd. But ... where's the video for Blackhole Sun by Soundgarden in the writeup? I even thought that once I got the trick in the middle while solving, "I bet Rex Parker puts up the black hole sun video" ... oh well

spacecraft 10:51 AM  

Well, it appears that since the censor has gone into effect, only @rondo and I are left to hold down the syndi-fort. Not sure I'm up to all that. It's depressing that only half a dozen or so people have EVER seen my posts; I think if I continue at all here it might be in real time. If I can find an online copy of the puzzle. Even without these concerns, I am tired of hunting around for the correct date because the DARN link-person refuses to keep it up to date. [Cleaned up considerably for benefit of the Censor]

On a lighter note, I greatly enjoyed today's offering. Chen is a very clever fellow, this we know--and this one's no exception. I call it easy-medium, because two long themers were outright gimmes: HEARTOFDARKNESS and FATALATTRACTION. Coming around to the bottom and right sides, it was a little trickier, till LAPDOGS forced PIE to go in backwards; then I saw the pattern.

Couple of writeovers: I pluralized IAMB in the usual way at first, and my Fed. health org. was the fDa before morphing into the CDC (which is near GSU). Fill was pretty clean, though I don't like UNARM--never have. It's a word, okay? I just plain don't like it. A-.

Son is coming for a week's visit; I may be off this board for the duration. Coming back...we'll see.

rondo 12:33 PM  

I was planning to solve later, but it’s still overcast, so what else to do? Help @ spacey hold down the fort I guess. For how long I don’t know. The BLACKHOLE concept was alright, I’ll take a few backwards words over multiples in a square. And the long answers surrounding, really cool.

In posts earlier this week I mentioned a nearly FATALATTRACTION I once had and also offered a hint yesterday on how to pick up an LPGA golfer. Strange that they both come back in a Sun-puz.

MENA Suvari, definite yeah baby. LEEANNRIMES, countrified yeah baby. Madeline KAHN? Maybe in a certain light. Darkness, perhaps. Renee Zellweger as ROXY (Chicago), yeah baby.

SACRE and NACRE in the same area, odd. And pay homage to OHMAGE. Newish clue for OTT. Any issue with MEATPIE and PIEHOLE in the same puz?

Since when have horses become SHOED instead of “shod”? This is a disturbing trend of late, IMHO.

Well, the sun’s coming out, so I’m going to play. DARNIT, I hope this post and those of others will get through today.

Tita 4:04 PM  

@spacey...parent of us read you and the others. In fact, I meaner to take umbrage when one of you dissed done of the realtimers a couple of days ago...I resembled that remark...
Though I want part of that particular discussion, rambling is one of the things I do best here...

Speaking for myself,I rarely comment again because all that time travel is betty,I no longer have any clue what the fill - or clue - references are anymore.

Enjoy the family visit!

(Anyone know what happened to @Dirigonzo?)

Cathy 6:04 PM  

Hey@Spacecraft and @Rondo!!
As a newbie poster in syndiland, I wish to help hold up the fort!
I have always looked forward to reading your comments along with Burma Shave, Ron Diego, and all :)
It's so funny how I use to wonder why Spacecraft always came up after the spellcasters! I actually signed up for the free week trial of NYT to point this out, but, alas, I got cold feet. Man, would I have looked dumb!
After realizing (syndiland, doi!) y'all helped me with comments/name posting. Thank you so much:)

As I had in the past, when the weirdos came out, meant you all were coming in. Which I had, and still do, look forward too. It looks like maybe editing will link us closer. Though I don't understand why @Spacecraft would be censored? I didn't understand that in your post a few days ago.

Anyhow, whom ever reads this, I appreciate all your comments. A very fun part of my day.

Sorry, too the puzzle.....

Hidey hole? HIDEY HOLE!! Whaaa! What a disappointment to an otherwise cool puzz.

@Aketi, is your sons name Copay?

She had posted her sons name was in the answers. I read everything:)

Rhoda for 31 across. Maude was cool too.

@Rondo- Mary or Edith? Ha ha

Later gators

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