Singer O'Shea who shaerd stage with Beatles on 2/9/64 Ed Sullivan Show / WED 7-8-15 / Pale Prairie plant of central US / Collagist's supply / Sicilian province / Falafel sauce

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Constructor: Ryan Milligan

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: HIDDEN IN PLAIN SIGHT — this is the message that appears in circled squares, and is the putative answer to the answer/question: WHERE IS THE THEME? (60A: Question answered by this puzzle's circled letters)

Theme answers:
Word of the Day: TESSIE O'Shea (48D: Singer O'Shea who shared the stage with the Beatles on the 2/9/64 "Ed Sullivan Show") —
Teresa Mary "Tessie" O'Shea (13 March 1913 – 21 April 1995) was a Welsh entertainer and actress. // Born in Cardiff to James Peter O'Shea, a soldier who was the son of Irish emigrants, and his wife Nellie Theresa Carr, Tessie O'Shea was reared in the British music hall tradition. She performed on stage as early as age six, billed "The Wonder of Wales". By her teens she was known for her popular BBC Radio broadcasts and appeared on stages in Britain and South Africa. She frequently finished her act by singing and playing a banjolele in the style of George Formby. While appearing in Blackpool in the 1930s, she capitalised on her size by adopting "Two Ton Tessie from Tennessee" as her theme song. In the 1940s, she was a frequent headliner at the London Palladium, and established herself as a hit recording artist in the 1950s. [...] In 1963, O'Shea was a guest on The Ed Sullivan Show, she was popular enough that she came back in 1964 and shared the billing with The Beatles. Their joint appearance drew what was then the largest audience in the history of American television, helping bring her to American audiences. She was a member of the repertory company on the short-lived CBS variety show The Entertainers (1964–65). In 1968, O'Shea was cast in the television movie The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, which earned her an Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Drama. (wikipedia)
• • •

Not into this one. Too many unappealing things. First, the dreaded Non-Consecutive Circled Squares. There's just no joy in this format. There's nothing clever. There's nothing interesting about finding 5 or 6 letters inside of 14 or 15 letters. You can't claim that the circled squares are "hidden" on any level. I mean, you could claim there are all kinds of messages in virtually any grid you solve if you really wanted to. Also, you can't claim that anything is hidden in a grid where the allegedly "hidden" elements have what amounts to flashing neon lights around them. The circles say "LOOK HERE," thus negating the whole concept of "hidden." INDIAN PLANTAIN ... is that a thing? I know what a plantain is, but the "Pale" or "prairie" hints in the clue mean nothing to me. I have never heard of this thing. And then there's the nonsensical weird question/answer revealer. This seems like something that might've been a promising idea, but the execution is odd and void of joy or pop or surprise.

Fill is atrocious. ENNA ING ANAS (!?) ORMAN IAM NNE ESME (I haven't even left the NE yet) ... no. No. No. ATE LUNCH is a hilarious example of a "green paint" answer—of course you might say it, but you might also say ATE BRUNCH or ATE CHICKEN or ATE LISTLESSLY. Doesn't quite cohere enough to be a crossword answer. Also, TESSIE is hilariously non-famous. I read her whole wikipedia entry and she seems to be known on this side of the Atlantic *solely* for appearing, one imagines coincidentally, on "Ed Sullivan" when the Beatles were there. TESSIE isn't there to introduce us to something new. She's there because of all those enabler-letters (Ts and Es and Ss make constructing easier). On the up side, or the down side, or some side, this thing was very easy. My only real trouble was spelling SHAWN (I went with my best friend's spelling—the "U" version).

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Facebook and Twitter]


NYer 12:08 AM  

Congratulations to Ryan on a fine puzzle debut! Mostly easy, with a little bit of crunch.

Why would Rex Parker deem "Orman" atrocious fill? Suze Orman is a well-known tv personality...

Not-quite-quotidian Dad 12:09 AM  

the clue on ELI MANNING was ridiculous.

okay 12:13 AM  

Rex deftly ignoring his mention by the constructor in the constructor's notes.

Rex, I'd bet that SHAWN is at least a 3 to 1 favorite over "Shaun" for African Americans.

Z 12:13 AM  

INDIAN PLANTAIN Is LIII times better than CVI. Apparently Shortz has been saving his RRNs for this week.

Let me recommend the constructor's comments at to you. SMH

wreck 12:14 AM  

If you can't get SNL in your grid, you might as well have it in your clue! I have to agree with Rex on this one - it was pretty joyless with an abundance of of dreck.

jae 12:18 AM  

Medium for me.  Cute theme with some fine long downs, liked it more than Rex did. Nice debut Ryan.

OisE before ORNE because I only have a superficial crossword knowledge of European rivers, except for a couple in Switzerland.   Turns out the Oise runs into the Seine not the English Channel.

WOE: INDIAN PLANTAIN which in no way resembles the plantains I've had as side dishes.

MOLDER is a pretty good word.  It evokes an image.

JFC 12:24 AM  

I am reminded of Calumet City, Illinois when I was in college some 50-something years ago. The main street was one long row of strip joints. I never went there, mind you, I am only repeating what I was told. And at one end of the street there was a sign that read: You've seen the rest. Now see the best."

You ask why I am reminded of this? Frankly, I don't know. Something Rex said, I think.


not 12:32 AM  

This was very easy, for someone who starts getting stuck from Wednesday on. But it's good to feel smart once in a while, so thanks for a nice puzzle, Ryan!

Charles in Austin 1:29 AM  

I found it very clever and tidy. Congratulations to the constructor for coming up with the fresh theme!

John Child 1:32 AM  

Congrats on the debut! This solved like a Wednesday-difficulty themeless for me, which is fine. By the time I got to the explanation of the circles I had only one, I think, empty. Then it was imagining what the "question" might be. (I think the constructor's suggested clue was very good ;-0 )

Innovative and fun. Thumbs up from me.

Poor son of a gun 1:44 AM  

Yesterday so good

Today back to creepy

Anonymous 1:52 AM  

After a great weekend, back to NYT dreck. Who are you, and what have you done with Will Shortz? Or his shorts?


Steve J 2:02 AM  

As exciting as 15A.

Anonymous 2:06 AM  

Another dreary "Bible Code" theme.

Lydia 2:06 AM  

Even though the first two answers I filled in were wrong (dAni California crossing some bank defaultS), I finished this in about half my usual Wednesday time. And even with some WOEful crossings: DELIA/LOU, ENNA/ANAS, etc. Thank goodness for the theme circles or INDIAN PLANTAIN would have stumped me.

Moly Shu 4:37 AM  

Well, I liked NUANCE and OREGANO. Other than that, I'm with @SteveJ as usual.

George 6:27 AM  

Wow Rex! This puzzle may have been listless, but you hit a home run with that Tula Clark video!! That is awesome in the worst possible way, and a true SIGN OF THE TIMES!

Thomaso808 6:41 AM  

A very enjoyable Wednesday with some crunch in CRAVAT, NIGER, TAHINI, SHAWN, and AMSTELBEER. Congrats on the debut of a new young constructor!

Rex Porker 6:49 AM  

It is my sworn duty to destroy the hopes, dreams, and puzzles of new constructors. It's all here: bad theme, bad fill, and bad execution, all conveyed as snidely and smugly as possible. Could I possibly summon the grace to congratulate the guy for his first NYT puzzle? No I could not. Grace is not my thing.
Thanks for playing newbie, better luck next time.

johnnymcguirk 6:57 AM  

How does Shaun put up with your pain ?

dk 7:15 AM  

🌕🌕 (2 mOOns)

Read 58a as VII resulting in a MAR. And, my limited knowledge of pop culture made 38a harder than it should have been.

Otherwise an easy one for a Wednesday.

Finally, I saw that Ed Sullivan Show and later that week WON a pen from WNDR (Syracuse radio station) by correctly answering the question: Name one of the Beatles?

Nice debut Ryan. Thank you

NCA President 7:45 AM  

I'm not sure what Rex's problem (Jeff Chen's, for that matter) is with HIDDEN IN PLAIN SIGHT. I understand what Rex is saying in that if you look hard enough, you might be able to find all kinds of messages in a grid (or a haiku, even...amiright?) But the difference is that the puzzle itself asks you to find one and even circles the letters for you..a la Jumble. So, it's all fair to me. Easy, but fair. For consistency sake, I might have put the IN on a separate line instead of the arbitrariness of having those two letters together while the other words are broken up.

As for INDIANPLANTAIN...this answer is weird to me. I'm aware that just because I've never heard of something doesn't make it a bad entry (lord knows that wouldn't be the first time), but maybe it's because plantains are so associated with Latin America and the Caribbean that having something with that name growing in the central US is more deceiving than your usual Wednesday clue. I don't know...I agree with Rex that it is some kind of outlier, but not just because I've never heard of it. I've never heard of TESSIE either, but she seems fine to me (contrary to Rex's opinion about also not having heard the name.)

Roman numerals should be banned.

Never heard of MOLDER, fwi. Smolder, yes; molder, no....unless you're talking about someone working with clay.

I moderately liked it.

Mohair Sam 7:47 AM  

I actually watched the Beatles that night and still would have sworn that I never had heard of TESSIE O'Shea. I guess @dk was the guy who beat me on the call to WNDR.

I'm with @rex on the PLANTAIN plaint.

Mohair Sam 7:50 AM  

Oh yeah - And doesn't John Brown's body lie a'moUlderin' in the grave? (thanks @NCA).

Haiku Nerd 7:57 AM  


Anonymous 8:00 AM  

@Molly @4:37: OREGANO has no NUANCE. It is as subtle as a Rex Parker review.

joho 8:07 AM  

Congratulations, Ryan Milligan! Revel in your accomplishment today and don't let anybody spoil it for you!

I loved the unexpected WHEREISTHETHEME? Plus it's always fun for me to go looking for something hidden in a puzzle, so that was an added bonus.

MOLDERS is both creepy and fresh at the same time. Do WRETCHES MOLDER?

Today I learned that the INDIANPLANTAIN is NATIVETO the central U.S.

I enjoyed it, thanks, Ryan!

r.alphbunker 8:19 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
r.alphbunker 8:20 AM  

306 of the 7895 Shortz era puzzles contain circles. Details are here

Are there other hidden messages in the puzzle? I found MICHAEL SHARP.

Here are the across answers laid end to end with the letters of MICHAEL SHARP italicized.

RAD2626 8:28 AM  

Congratulations on debut. No problem with theme. Liked lots of the long fill: AMSTEL BEER, OREGANO, ELI MANNING. Did not think the puzzle was as easy as many commenters so far. DELIA and TESSIE total unknowns. Had fENce for DENIM which caused problems and can never remember whether a show is on HBO or shO. Also thought cluing was late week in spots. "It's big in Japan" could be virtually anything (although it's big in Canada can only be the ubiquitous ESSO). Fun workout.

AliasZ 8:29 AM  

There is a downside to encouraging fledgling constructors and publishing their work. We see it today. Sincere congratulations to Ryan Milligan, who by sheer will and perseverance over the better part of a decade succeeded to have his name printed in the NYT. A memorable day for him, a less memorable experience for the solvers, for whom he ostensibly he did this.

It's a clever little theme perhaps for new solvers who were finally able to crack this Wednesday puzzle, but the execution and the fill was sub-par: RIMELLING ONALOUANAS, GLUETISLET, DJSCVIBAH. Too much GLUE, some may say. Either woman ORMAN is fine except in the same puzzle as ORNE, or SE.

ANNA and ANAS in the same puzzle: echo of recent duplicates NAY and NOS, OPEN and OPES. Are repetitions becoming the new cool? Seem to be, but I don't have to like it.

Guess what: I ATE LUNCH yesterday, and most likely will also do it today. I even had AMSTEL BEER, because the place where I ATE LUNCH didn't serve Sol Cerveza. Just then a bimbo, a hillbilly and a lisper walked in.

Stay thirsty, my friends.

Hartley70 8:56 AM  

What's playing on that luncheonette's jukebox, @AliasZ?

Congrats on "getting your name in the NYT" (Geez guys, c'mon!) and a good deal more, Ryan. This was a fine Wednesday submission and you managed to impress Will which some unnamed others have yet to accomplish. Revel in your success and brag to everyone you meet. You deserve it!

This took me a bit longer than my usual Wednesday time. And I remember TESSIE. Loved that answer!

Charles Flaster 8:57 AM  

Very EZ with no write overs--should have been a Monday puzzle. Without the circles, forcing us to find the theme, would make it Wednesdayish.
Always loved the discussion in "DINER" concerning the difference between NUANCE and "gesture". Worth a watch!
Liked-- NATIVE TO and OWL.
CrosswordEASE-- ESSO and LOU.
Thanks RM and congrats on your debut.

Moly Shu 9:04 AM  

@Anon8.00, fair point. But please, I beg you, it's Moly, with one L. Rhymes with holy. Oh, and does TAHINI have NUANCE ?

Sir Hillary 9:08 AM  

I like the self-referential theme, and it feels original, which is really hard these days. Congrats on your debut, Mr. Mulligan!

Quiz for this group: Take one of this puzzle's entries, and change one of its letters to the next one alphabetically. Then pair the new word with another of this puzzle's entries to make the "nom de Rex" of a fairly frequent commenter here. Any takers?

quilter1 9:11 AM  

Thanks @AliasZ for your positive comments. A NYT debut should be celebrated. I thought this puzzle was just fine even though ELIMANNING is foreign to me and I forgot about TESSIE until crosses reminded me. I liked a lot of the fill, such as MOLDER and ORMAN, because they are fresh. INDIANPLANTAIN is new. So what if it unfamiliar. I learned something. Happy Wednesday, folks.

Tita 9:14 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous 9:14 AM  

Too easy @Hillary: ANOA BOB.

Tita 9:17 AM  

Yeah me too, @NCA...HIDDENINPLAINSIGHT means just that - and that is why it is a thing. It's the PLAINSIGHT part - get it? And that is why it's a cool way to be HIDDEN - because it isn't HIDDEN in the conventional sense...oh, why do I bother...
Yes, there's a bit to gripe about, but I don't get how Rex and Jeff don't get the whole premise.

I liked the idea of a meta-theme - it's not very often that puzzles get self-referential.

I know I'm supposed to WRETCH at the sight of the sub-optimal fill, but I'm just one of those people who find something good in just about every puzzle.

@AliasZ - Your last paragraph - funny!

Congratulations Mr. Milligan! What @joho said.

Indypuzzler 9:21 AM  

I think this was a good debut. Thank you Ryan! As for "molder"...I'm not sure why, but I tend to think of that word in the British form of "moulder". Also, authentic non-sassing question: why is "Esme" atrocious fill? Is it because it is used too often as Salinger girl?

Mike D. 9:27 AM  

Ahh @Indypuzzler: The million dollar question. Bad fill, like beauty, like pornography, like "unacceptable language," is in the eye of the beholder. If the beholder is rex, there are many variables that have very little to do with the word per se.
We all might agree that Roman numerals and a few other gems are always bad. Other than that, it seems to be a matter of opinion.

The Ear Worm 9:27 AM  

Also found this Tuesday easy. Always happy to see a new name, but was somewhat underwhelmed. Saw the fill in the bubble answer about a third of the way in which definitely helped with the INDIAN PLANTAIN WOE, but otherwise found this a breeze.

Roo Monster 9:33 AM  

Hey All !
Put me in the like camp. Medium-ish solve. A couple of semi-difficult clues. The SW corner was a bit difficult. WHIT as clued is a WOE. GLUE, also.

Had BAiLOutS first for BADLOANS, spelled it ORMoN first.

Sir Hillary, was looking for Monster in the grid! :-)

And holy Moly, Moly Shu! I always pronounced it molly. So is the Shu said like tzu?


Ludyjynn 9:35 AM  

The best part of the puzzle for me was Rex's nostalgic Petula Clark video clip. The first 45 single record I bought as a kid was her mega-hit, "Downtown". About 15 years ago, while my family and I were in London for the Chelsea Flower Show (no INDIANPLANTAINS on display), we got to see her at the London Palladium, a venerable theatre in the West End. Her performance was awesome. I even bought the souvenir program, which I rarely do, to commemorate the experience. Packed house audience ranged in age from 8 to 80 (my Mom!) and everyone knew the impressive repertoire of songs. The lady is timeless.

Okay Wednesday. Thanks, RM and WS.

Steve M 9:49 AM  

Ok but did not deserve Thrashing From Rex

Anonymous 9:53 AM  

He's B-L-A-C-K!, Er, B-A-C-K!.... OBAMA Blech to any clues that have this "It's all about me" oval office holder as an answer.

Z 9:55 AM  

I'd have liked a Purloined Letter reference.

Circles used this way just are not very interesting to me. There is a certain randomness that I don't find interesting. How many different phrases could we find with this "theme" in it? To me that's barely even a theme. That's a matter of taste, others may find this trick engaging.

Not loving the theme, the fill stands out even more. Looking at it objectively, it's not that bad. Two rows of four threes stand out, but they are hardly the worst threes.

Congrats on the debut. Thankfully WS nixed your insidery Rex clue. That would have been too cute by half as well as totally opaque to most solvers.

@George - re Ms. Clark - What I want to know is what in God's creation is that dancer in the car doing? I also enjoyed the car backing up to create more space for the dancers.

@Indysolver - Why ESME? Why not Holden or Franny or Zooey? ESME appears roughly CVI times for every single appearance of the other, arguably more well known, Salinger character. Likewise, NALA, crossworthy due to their letters, not their actual cultural value. Ono, Eno, etc etc etc.

Moly Shu 9:59 AM  

@Roo aka DarrinV, nah, it's just Shu, pronounced like shoe. Not very hip or cool, I know, but what can I do?
I also looked for a 'monster' or a 'masked' or a 'evil'. Gave up after I couldn't find a chef.

Bob Kerfuffle 10:01 AM  

Just a reminder to anyone in the New York area or within traveling distance:

Lollapuzzoola 8 is one month, 31 days, from today, Saturday, August 8, in beautiful Manhattan.

Re today's puzz: Wouldn't fit, but I had a hard time getting away from the much more familiar Indian Paintbrush.

Bill Foy 10:03 AM  

Why does Rex deem anything atrocious? Why does he have a problem with Indian Plantain - he never heard of it -and that makes it a problem. After all, he sings himself as the "King of CrossWorld". The man's ego knows no bounds!

Leapfinger 10:08 AM  

FU and JI whiz! A PLANT clue for INDIAN PLANTAIN? I'm surprised that hasn't caused more WRETCHES. I s'pose it would have been worse if the clue specified a PLANT NATIVE TO the central U.S. Better, however, to CLIP PLANT from the clue and be ELIMANN8ING the DUPlication, sESME.

Thought the theme a tad too helpful: once IN showed up to follow the PLANTAINS, all remaining circles were TOAsT[EE]. Considering the spate of 3s, I would have made this a Tuesday; a reVISIT to clue them with more NUANCE could have pushed it into Wednesday.

"Do I dare to eat a PEACH?
I shall wear white flannel TROUsers
And walk upon the beach."
(Remember, the Prufrock of the pudding is in the eating. I'm positive neither of the @chefs would add TAHINI or OREGANO.)

In BAJA California, do they say "The hIG is up"? At Stanford, apparently they call it the Jiggs boson.
My daughter's family is travelling in Italy; she tells me DENIM Rome do as the Romans do.
Wondering how the SHAWN vars compare with the Daryls and the Duanes.
There's not much ORNEthology to do with only one OWL and one ROBIN BOBbing along.
Please. No kerfuffling NIGER and SEAMAN today.

Waiting to hear VISI T'arte in a little while.

Better STOP, before the MOLDERS of Public Opinion ATE my LUNCH.

Enjoy your debut, Ryan. Maria MOLDERS thanks you, too.

Joseph Michael 10:09 AM  

Thanks for that last paragraph. My first laugh of the day.

Tita 10:12 AM  

Just watched that Pet Clark video - 2 shiny red brand-new-at-the-time British ragtops...pitter-pat!!!!!!!!
They seem to all be right-hand drive - including the crossword-worthy XKE. This must have been filmed in the US.

What a SIGNOFTHETIMES indeed - oh those clothes, oh those dance moves!

@Z - I am surprised that the dancers didn't slip on the oil slick that the venerable Jag surely left on the dance floor when it backed up - it was, after all, parked there for about a minute!!

Tita 10:18 AM  

Make that *3*

Tita 10:20 AM  

Oh good grief - *left*-hand drive... I am handedness-dyslexic in English...
Proofread much? Nah...

Joseph Miichael 10:21 AM  

Congrats on your NYT debut, Ryan. Don't let the WRETCHES get you down.

John Hagen 10:28 AM  

I agree with you. Sometimes his ignorant comments make me wheezy ... as in, "this man is supposedly teaching our children?" Yikes.

Anonymous 10:32 AM  

The last few days have certainly done a nice job of bringing out the sexists and racists among us, haven't they?

AliasZ 10:32 AM  

I think Will should ban ANAS.

Here is INTRO and Allegro for Strings by Edward Elgar for your enjoyment.

Happy hump day.

jberg 10:43 AM  

Yes, congratulations to Ryan, the constructor. Whatever we may think of the fill-in-the-circles bit, any beef should be with the editor.

I didn't like the circles, but thinking about it that doesn't seem fair. Finding the theme after you've got to 60A is too easy, since you probably have filled in all the circles by then. But without circles, you could claim anything was the theme -- and you do get the fun of trying to guess what they spell out as you go along.

As for INDIAN PLANTAIN, I grew up in the central US and I never heard of it either -- but there are plenty of plants called PLANTAIN (not just the banana-shaped edible things), and plenty of plants named INDIAN something, so that was pretty gettable.

And, as everyone knows, I love my gerunds!

OISK 10:46 AM  

Very nice puzzle, Ryan. Never having heard of the Wayans brothers, nor seen "The Lion King, (although Nala has been in many puzzles) nor heard of Tessie O"Shea, slowed me down a little, but as others have said, this was easy for a Wednesday. Nothing wrong with that. Is Amstel still imported? You can't be sure without reading the label. Bass Ale, (a personal favorite) is now brewed in the U.S. Killian's Irish Red is an American beer. But Newcastle is still British

Anonymous 10:59 AM  

AMSTEL lite before AMSTEL BEER. (Yes, I know it's "amstel light" (not "lite")... Both are terrible, and like Budweiser, drinking them is like having sex in a canoe: both are fucking close to water.

old timer 10:59 AM  

I looked at the puzzle and thought Rex *could* give the fill a pass. It would depend on how tired he is of ESME (she of love and squalor). ANAS is bad as a lit'rary word, because it is already a plural. But is OK as clued, because "Santa ANAS" is part of everyday speech in Southern California. And aren't we all just a little tired of NALA?

I think all in all the virtues of the puzzle outweigh the vices, because INDIANPLANTAIN and TESSIE O'Shea, two things most of us have indeed never heard of. I like learning new things (unlike OFL, it seems).

It seems MOLDER is the proper spelling, but somehow mouldering became what happened to John Brown's body.

Thanks for the music, @AliasZ.

Nancy 11:03 AM  

Amen to Rex on the tiny circles thing. I hate tiny circles. They annoy me, and they neither provide a challenge nor assist in the solving. So why are they THERE?

A big difference for me between the North and South today in DEGREE of difficulty. North very, very easy; South not so much. I did it to myself with 2 glaring initial errors. I didn't like bEige as a pastel, especially, but it seemed to fit, so I wrote it down instead of PEACH. Which ended up giving me INDIAN bLANkets for INDIAN PLANTAINS at 28A. An odd designation for a plant, admittedly, but I couldn't think of anything else. Not with that "B" there.

So a harder Wednesday than it might have been but not terribly interesting or exciting. Haven't read any of the comments yet, as I have to run out now, but I'll read y'all later.

pmdm 11:13 AM  

A Monday puzzle has to be very easy. A Tuesday puzzle has to be fairly easy. (These are not my rules, they are what seem to be the rules based on my solving experience. And they are applied to an average solver, not an expert.) A Wednesday puzzle needs to have difficult entries that most average solvers can get from crossing entires that are fairly easy. [Not applicable here, puzzles on Thursday seem to be at a difficulty level such that the average puzzle solver would have difficulty finishing without the help of the day's themed entries.] Because this puzzle does have a fair share of entires that should be fairly difficult for the average solver, these entires have to be countered by simple entries that, alas, fall into the dread crosswordese category.

I never heard of an Indian Plantain, so I consider this a great puzzle because it taught me something. Like a good number of the entires, I never would have gotten it were it not for the easier crosses. It reminds me of my first experience with a plantain. A friend and myself many years ago visited my brother who was living at the time on the island of Saint Vincent. Neither of us every heard of a plantain. One day we retuned at night to my brother's place after he and my sister-in-law had retired. We were hungry and thought the "bananas" on the kitchen table looked fairly ripe. So we ate a couple of raw plantains, commenting to ourselves that the "bananas" they grew on Saint Vincent were quite inferior to bananas grown elsewhere. We changed our opinion when we ate some cooked plantains with dinner that night.

grammar nazi 11:14 AM  

It's been a while since I've seen a parenthesis flapping in the breeze (hi, @Nancy), but anon @10:59 has given us another glimpse.

Anoa Bob 11:41 AM  

I solve on line at the NYT site. The circles in the themers---17, 28 & 46 Across, which I already had filled in---did not appear until I clicked on the reveal at 60 Across, so that helped give the overall theme a bit more pizzazz.

Congrats to Ryan Milligan on your debut. You have a puzzle in today's New York Times, and none of the rest of us do.

@Sir Hillary, I stay on the lookout for the reappearance of my favorite buffalo in the NYT xword, but I don't think it will be ANON.

Hartley70 11:44 AM  

@pmdm Wish my fading memory of St. Vincent was as good as yours. Mine was a bareboat charter and we were boarded at night by a gang of knife wielding thugs who held us up for cigarettes and booze.

Lewis 11:52 AM  

@aliasz - Your last two paragraphs are priceless.
@anon 10:59 -- Maybe that's why BAH crosses AMSTELBEER.

Congratulations to Ryan on the debut. As @joho said, don't let anything puncture the thrill of this first published NYT puzzle. You obviously have incredible persistence, sending in puzzles for eight years. Any negative comments about the puzzle, therefore, take as new challenges to overcome.

I liked the answers MOLDER and NUANCE; I'm sure that crossing OBAMA with ABUT was not intentioned to make a statement; and I like the ANNA/BOB name-palindrome NE corner. The theme is a simple joke, a piece of irony, and made me smile. 22 threes is a lot; ugliness is bound to come out of that. It felt easy for a Wednesday -- I was hoping for a little more cleverness in the clues. But I enjoyed the solve and am grateful for it.

My favorite part of the Petula Clark video was when the hat fell off the dancer's head, and though there were opportunities for someone to snatch it off of the floor unnoticed, no one did, and there it was, taking attention away from Petula at the end. And they didn't do another take!

Carola 12:05 PM  

I liked how "WHERE IS THE THEME?" crossed "THERE."

JFC 12:10 PM  

C'mon, everybody, SHAWN Booth is one of the three final contestants for the heart of the current Bachelorette, which makes the puzzle the perfect segue from yesterday's BIMBO....


Indypuzzler 12:12 PM  

@Z, with regard to ESME, I thought the reason that is used is because it contains a more crossable set of letters. I know that it is somewhat common filler but I was looking for the "horrible fill" factor compared to say EON. Here is another....what about ESSO?

RnRGhost57 12:17 PM  

Congrats to Ryan Milligan for your NYT debut. A bit clunky here and there, but as @Lewis suggests, you should keep at it.

Lewis 12:38 PM  

Factoid: In 2004, a black BEAR was found unconscious in a campground in Seattle, Washington. It had broken into a cooler and used its claws and teeth to open dozens of beer cans. Although it sampled other types of beer, it chose to drink all the cans of only one type of beer. After its drinking binge, the bear passed out.

Quotoid: "The human brain starts working the moment you are born and never STOPS until you stand up to speak in public." -- George Jessel

aging soprano 1:10 PM  

No wonder you keep yourself Anonymous. You must be "W-H-I-T-E, I mean, er, "T-R-A-S-H." Blech indeed!

Guerin Wilkinson 1:10 PM  

A perfectly fine and enjoyable Wednesday puzzle for me, certainly comparable to the current standards of the NYTimes. I didn't find it as easy as most people who commented. I don't know my NALAs and ESMEs. And I loved Indian Plantain, but I'm a plant geek.

JFC 1:15 PM  

Hey, @AliasZ, that hillbilly was me. Too bad you didn't recognize me, cause you missed your opportunity for an INTRO to greatness....


aging soprano 1:20 PM  

Lewis, did the BEAR choose the AMSTEL BEER? I wrote Tulip bulbs at first. That didn't work!
I found this on the hard side and didn't love it. I solved it. That's it.
Can someone illuminate for me in which Salinger story/book Esme is the star?

aging soprano 1:21 PM  

No wonder you keep yourself Anonymous. You must be "W-H-I-T-E, I mean, er, "T-R-A-S-H." Blech indeed!

aging soprano 1:21 PM  

No wonder you keep yourself Anonymous. You must be "W-H-I-T-E, I mean, er, "T-R-A-S-H." Blech indeed!

aging soprano 1:24 PM  

And I am leaving this reply up, all 3 of them.

aging soprano 1:25 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Leapfinger 1:32 PM  

Dang, @Lewis, I'm super-curious about which brand of beer is the preferred libation in the ursine community. Wasn't there any information on the point after throwing out that teaser? Am guessing it wasn't AMSTEL lite. Yup,I went there also.

Thought-provoking idea there, Anony 1059, about making it in a canoe. My girl is now in Venice, and hasn't hinted at any gondolar goings-on. If anyone in the readership has had experiences in a kayak, I wouldn't mind hearing about it.

@Alias, I didn't say anything about your comedic NUANCE; if I burbled about it every day, It would rapidly become oldance.

Oh, and if anyone thinks NIGER is kerfuffle-proof, perhaps JFC can provide the link about the DC bureaucrat who used the word 'niggardly' in mixed company.

mathguy 1:36 PM  

@Mike D.: Agree with your comment about "atrocious fill," glue, and dreck. I doubt that Rex has a definition for what he means by "atrocious fill." He has many admirable qualities but consistency isn't one of them. That's been pointed out here many times, especially in the last few months.

I object to some fill but also don't have a real definition. I don't like entries that aren't words, like Roman numerals, sounds (argh, aargh, aaargh), short phrases (IAM, ATIE). And some others that don't come to mind immediately.

We know that young Mr. Milligan reads this blog. I wonder if he ever leaves comments? That would be nice.

@Anon 10:59. I like your joke about Amstel Light even though I like to drink it when I want a light beer. It reminds me of one of my favorite jokes. The punch line is: "I didn't say she was crazy. I said that she was fucking Goofy."

mathguy 1:45 PM  

@aging soprano: "For Esme With Love and Squalor" is a short story by J.D. Salinger. You can find it in his book "Nine Stories." All nine are excellent. After I sign off here, I'm going to check my bookshelf. I think that I have a copy.

Partly Legal 1:48 PM  

@mathguy, why don't you play a different toon and change that 'she' into 'he'? Go ahead, be brave!

JFC 1:52 PM  

@Leapy, here you go for the DC flap over niggardly:

I'm afraid you will have to copy and paste it. I wish someone would tell him how to create a hyperlink on this Blog.

I'm past my allotted quota for today, so THERE....


Unknown 2:01 PM  

My mother and father met on that strip when it was roaring.

AliasZ 2:09 PM  


I thought the lisper was you.

JFC 2:32 PM  

@AliasZ, just another challenge I've overcome. But since you didn't talk to me, you wouldn't know.

I refuse to go that wabbit hole....




-Not into this
-just no joy
-nothing clever
-nothing interesting
-negating the whole concept
-is that a thing?
-mean nothing to me
-have never heard of this
-void of joy
-Doesn't quite cohere
-hilariously non-famous
-down side

Anonymous 2:54 PM  

@COIXT I think you are a perfect complement to Porker.

Tongue-tangled 3:03 PM  

I'm sitting here trying to pronounce COIXT.

Anonymous 3:52 PM  

@Unknown@ 2:01: Your parents met at a strip club?! Nice.

Anonymous 3:53 PM  

I wish Rex would find something else to do for a living. He is so depressing to face every day. Please someone start a new blog and save us from this man!

Eli Manning 4:05 PM  

Trying to figure out why NQQD@12:09 thinks the ELI MANNING clue is ridiculous.

Anonymous 4:13 PM  

@Anon@3:53: I agree with the sentiment, but I'm pretty sure this isn't what Rex does "for a living."

NYer 4:35 PM  

@Anon@3:53: many commenters here also go to

You might find it less stomachacid-producing than @Rex.

pmdm 4:56 PM  

Hartley70, that is such a shame. My brother moved down there to open a scuba diving school and tour facility, but ran his boat at safer times. We hiked up the volcano (a few years before it blew its top, but it was already smoking). We also made it to a wonderful place where they made and sold batique items that were most beautiful (hope you made it there). I also wound up getting into knife wielding trouble (but much more benign). I tried taking a picture of the women who gut the fish in the fish market and they wound up waving their cleavers menacingly. I was told they were superstitious about having their picture taken, so I abandoned that activity very quickly. Hopefully you had more positive experiences that the robbery.

Jim Q 5:22 PM  

Congrats on your debut, Ryan! Thoroughly enjoyed it!

Nancy 5:32 PM  

Which beer did the Seattle bear imbibe to the exclusion of all other brands? Why won't @Lewis tell us? Like @aging soprano and @Leapy, the suspense is just killing me. Did the bear prefer a rich, dark brew like Sam Adams, which is so delicious with game meats such as hare and deer? (Maybe, i.e., assuming the bear was having its dinner at the time.) Or had the bear been doing a lot of running and tree climbing and was it thirsty? Perhaps a lovely thirst quencher like an ice-cold Kirin, one of my own personal favorites. Or was this bear a Smokey Sixback kind of bear, just one of the cubs. Lacking ursine pretentiousness and perfectly content with an ordinary Bud or, heaven forfend, a tasteless Coors Lite. YOU CANNOT KEEP ME IN THIS SORT OF SUSPENSE, @LEWIS! I'm going off now to Google and find out...

...I'm back. And I've been really successful! You see, I may not have mastered the tech side of computers, but I sure do know how to Google! And I now know the name of the only beer that Lewis's Seattle bear would condescend to drink! Are you ready, everyone?

RAINIER BEER, the pride of Washington State. Never heard of it? Me neither. But what else would a self-respecting Seattle bear prefer? And now, my curiosity satisfied, perhaps I'll pour myself a Sam Adams. If you want to read more about this strange bear story, here's the link:

ArtO 5:35 PM  

Terrific first NYT puzzle. More medium than easy. INDIANPLANTAIN should have been WOD. Any senior citizen has heard of Tessie O'shea.

Ryan Milligan 5:40 PM  

Hey everyone! Constructor here. Thanks for all of the comments and criticisms - not to worry, they are well received. This is puzzle #1, so they'll all be going up from here.

My dad and I are longtime NYTimes crossword solvers (and thus Rex Parker enthusiasts), and it was awesome to see a Rex review for my own puzzle (no matter how harsh). I've been writing puzzles on and off since my junior year of high school, writing them during free periods (and some lectures) and passing them out on Friday mornings for my high school. I currently live in Boston and work in marketing for Check us out for all of your furniture needs!

It's an honor to finally be published, and I look forward to improving in the years to come. Let me know if you have any questions!

aging soprano 5:42 PM  


aging soprano 5:47 PM  

Thank you. I will look for it at the library or on line.

aging soprano 5:49 PM  

Thank you. I will look for it at the library or on line.

Anonymous 5:50 PM  

@Nancy: "A rich, dark brew like Sam Adams" is a seriously embarrassing thing to say. Stick to Central Park, nails, and hair.

Nancy 5:54 PM  

@Anon 5:50 -- I'm not the least bit embarrassed. Wanna MANSPLAIN to me why I should be?

Leapfinger 6:42 PM  

@Nancy, are aging soprano and I really killing you? So sorry, and I'll be presumptuous (and maybe a little postsumptuous, too) in apologizing for both of us.Totally appreciate your Googling for the answer, and am particularly pleased to learn that even bears enjoy a good pun. Can't help you with what's embarrassing about Sam Adams: I've not had it. I'm still loyal to Molson's/ Moosehead and, no surprise, have a soft spot for Old Peculier.


Lewis 7:11 PM  

Good work, Ms. Nancy!

warren howie hughes 7:11 PM  

Nick CRAVAT, diminutive actor and long-time circus acrobatic partner of screen legend Burt Lancaster, occurred to me immediately upon espying the clue for 44A!

Teedmn 7:45 PM  

I don't usually spend much time worrying about @rex's Debbie Downerisms but today I thought it such a shame that he couldn't enjoy the irony of the theme. Here he perfectly captures the deliciousness and doesn't seem to catch on: "Also, you can't claim that anything is hidden in a grid where the allegedly "hidden" elements have what amounts to flashing neon lights around them. The circles say "LOOK HERE," thus negating the whole concept of "hidden"."

If the circles weren't there, the theme would be HIDDEN. Ah well....

Congrats on the debut, Ryan Milligan and kudos on your persistence. And thanks for stopping by to comment. It was easy 'for a Wednesday' for me though INDIAN PLANTAIN was new and I was briefly MIREd in the SW by having voila for 53D, giving me rEv for Do-over call (I know, it makes no sense). AMSTEL BEER set everything back on track.

I really would like to enjoy the very hoppy beers now in vogue but the bitterness just ruins my palate and seems to get worse with every sip. My beer of choice is Shiner Bock which is very similar to sex in a canoe but it tastes good to me. I'll take Harp or Smithwick's over Guiness and Stella over Newcastle. And wine over beer.

kitshef 7:46 PM  

@Eli Manning - I don't know about the original poster, but for me the ELIMANNING clue was ridiculous because the clue has not just one but two abbreviations, which normally indicates that the answer will, also.

AMSTELBEER strikes my as much more green painty than ATELUNCH. Amstel Lager, Amstel Light, these things I know. Never heard anyone say Amstel Beer.

Agree with 90% of @Rex's take today -- except for INDIANPLANTAIN, which was my 2nd thought (after the too-long INDIANPaiNTbrush). But if you are going to go for the circled letter thing, you ought at least to make them symmetrical and/or pattern-forming.

Teedmn 7:51 PM  

And @Leapfinger, such quotes as the one you provided might yet inspire me to open my copy of T.S. Eliot's complete works currently MOLDERIng on my shelf. Thank you for the impetus.

Masked and Anonymous 9:57 PM  

Hey, day-um. Internet was kaput all day, at our house. That's what we get for goin with the
econo "stand-by plan" DSL hookup.

Cute debut, with the circles. Always a pleasin theme element, for @009's delicate constitution.
Lots of juicy desperation to enjoy, here. Weeject woundup of faves: ONA. ELL. CVI. ING. NNE.

Could actually make use of the circles, to clue them weejects better! Examples:

* {With the first circled letter: unbearable experience} = (H)ELL.
* {With the second circled letter: Inner Hebrides island} = (I)ONA.
* {With the third circled letter: making a belly sound??} = (D)ING.

@Ryan Milligan: Congrats on landin that first big NYTPuz. Did U notice how nice and fresh certain entries felt, as U placed them in yer grid? -- THIRDDEGREEBURN. ATELUNCH. DUPING. NUANCE. GLUE. FUJI. There's a reason for that, and it's spelled "U". Nice foursome of the lil darlins, in this puz, btw. Keep up the good work, my son.



Anon@5:50 10:38 PM  

@Nancy: I am on my phone so can't elaborate as much as I'd like. Let's just say there's a time and a place for sex in a canoe, and it can fulfill a certain need, but it's less than ideal.

Aketi 11:48 PM  

@M&A, I also liked THIRD DEGREE BURNS, and noticed the U for U. We never let my brother the firefighter live down the time he burned himself when he insisted on being the only one to light the fireworks on Fourth of July. Not so funny was when he managed to survive a wildfire in California by crawling into what firefighters call a "shake and bake".

I googled INDIAN PLANTAiN since I've had plantains on two continents, but never In India only to find out it had as much relationship to plantains as koala bears to bears or guinea pigs to pigs. Who knew? In all the places I've eaten plantains, the only place that made it into a dish called lituma was in the northeast congo. Sort of like eating sweet banana flavored play dough.

@anon 5:50, I would not take on Nancy,, especially if she has a tennis racket in her hand. She has a wicked serve, so she can drink anything she pleases.

@Lewis, I too must know which beer.

Hartley70 1:06 AM  

@JFC, unless you're tied to a chair and being forced by the woman you love to watch The Bachelorette, I'm worried about you. And it's just too icky to know the name Shawn Somebody!! Do 3 Ken-Kens and one acrostic in penance and you may be forgiven

old timer 10:43 AM  

How nice to see the Constructor chime in with his gracious comments.

I can't say I care much about the Seattle bear beer mystery. But it's nice to see a reference to Old Peculier, which was enormously popular among the folk music crowd in the 70's. So much so, a great song was written about it and sung by (among others) my old friend Dick Holdstock. I didn't find his version, but here's one from some Yorkshire lads:

Burma Shave 8:45 AM  



So today should I wear a CRAVAT or just ATIE??

rondo 9:06 AM  

This ITEM just in: Mr. Monday called and wants his puzzle back. This is indeed an INTRO puz. But not sure that random circles constitutes a “THEME”. Woe ESME.

Suze seems to know a lot about INTRO to Finances, but is she really woman ORMAN?

ANNA Kendrick, I’d pitch her as a perfect yeah baby.

Why is cortical visual impairment (CVI) clued as a RRN?? Isn’t it obvious?

I’ve had PLANTAINs, Maybe they were of the INDIAN variety? NATIVETO the U.S.? No idea.

Grid spanners make this a Wed-puz? Not much GLUE holding this puz together.

spacecraft 11:36 AM  

Only once have I heard 43-down, from "Oklahoma!"

Pore Judd is daid, pore Judd Fry is daid,
He's lyin' THERE a-MOLD'Rin' in his grave [in his grave]
Oh he had a heart of gold
And he wasn't very old.
Oh why did such a feller have ter die?

I too have a big problem with INDIANPLANTAIN--never mind that I never heard of it. The real problem is that the word "plant" is in the clue! That has to be a no-no. We'll just generally flag the whole entry.

Had a great aha! moment while figuring out what went into the FU_I/D_S square. Looking at it, I was scratching my head; then I ran the alphabet. When I got to J I came to a screeching halt: of COURSE!!

The ANNA/ANAS/ENNA/ONA complex needs some CULLing. Namely, keep ANNA (especially THAT one!) and LXXXVI the rest.

I can still hear Willard Whyte exclaiming "BAJA? I haven't got anything in BAJA!" Oh well, Andy DeFrain does. These images and a glass of AMSTELBEER save the day. The theme is just...well, THERE, and the fill? Let's call it a work in progress, giving the benefit of the doubt to the debuting Mr. Milligan. I appreciate his VISIT here, and take to heart his promise to do better. I think he will. C.

Anonymous 2:43 PM  

Hey, this was a good beginning puzzle and thkx Ryan M. Forget the Amstel. I'll take my Stella Artois anyday and with all the germs, viruses, plagues surrounding us I like the way it's packaged.

I didn't much care about the theme but it did help in the end. And, with no look-ups today that's a bonus. I'm just as happy as a Clamato.

Gee, I hope "Indian Plantain" is politically correct. We wouldn't want a group of angry Apaches attacking this blog. I'd have to saddle up Silver and put my dusty old black mask back on. And Tonto calls me bimbo now.

Ron Diego, la Mesa, CA (Where curiosity and intelligence is not required to own land).

leftcoastTAM 8:10 PM  

I'm with @spacecraft on INDIANPLANTAIN. A is the one vowel I immediately eliminated from the Natick crossing with ENNA because "plant" was in the clue. Are there any consistent rules anymore?

Cathy 8:24 PM  

Fun puzzle! Any mention of LOU grant is smiles to me! What a great show.

THEME-Where is the theme.

ANSWER-Hidden in plain sight.

An answer entry, INDIAN PLANTIION.

As having a bit of INDIAN (heritage!) in my family, was looking for the hidden PLAIN. Woulda been cool.

Fondest memories, my brother was the cowboy, moi the Indian. I wanted the feather on my head. Sooo much fun!

So here in my wigwam (backyard) I shall shall smoke a peace pipe (cigarette) have a peyote (tums) and a a few snorts of fermitated tea (coors light. Yes, coors light).

Off to Thursday, hoping for a rebus, hoping someone reads this.......

Looking for a casino:)

leftcoastTAM 8:56 PM  

I'm way at the end of this thread,
So everything worth saying
Has been said.
I agree with @spacey
That the A in the province Sicily
Negates the cross A that is Naticky.

leftcoastTAM 9:16 PM  

I've tried my best to put up post
But I'm way out on the West Coast
So I can't seem to be able to boast
That I'm way more witty than most.

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