Google Wallet alternative / SUN 8-16-15 / Highest provincial capital in Italy / Strong sideless wagon / Two New Sciences author / Actress Diana nicknamed Blonde Bombshell / Luxury Hyundai / Relative of Contour plus / Household brand with lowercase first letter / Dad-blasted / MacMillan 1950s-'60s British PM / Hall shortest Harlem Globetrotter / Plants above timberline / Letter-shaped girder / Two Towers denizen

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Constructor: Don Gagliardo and Zhouqin Burnikel

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium


THEME: "As It Were" —words that can also be past tense forms of verbs, or IN THE PAST (124A: Back then ... or a hint to the ends of the answers to the starred clues)

Theme answers:
  • MINK STOLE (22A*Pricey wrap)
  • SEATTLE SLEW (23A: *Triple Crown winner who himself sired a Kentucky Derby winner)
  • POWER SAW (51A: *Carpenter's tool with a cord) ["with a cord"—how odd/awkward/random]
  • MARK FELT (94A: *Deep Throat's identity)
  • BREAK GROUND (122A: *Start a construction project)
  • NEW YORK MET (36D: *Tom Seaver, e.g.)
  • TOKYO ROSE (83D: *W.W. II propagandist)
  • KIDDIE LIT (45D: *Dr. Seuss' genre)
  • LITTLE BIT (13D: *Smidgen)
  • DOGLEG LEFT (48D: *Challenge for a right-handed golfer)

Word of the Day: MARK FELT (94A: *Deep Throat's identity) —
William Mark Felt, Sr. (August 17, 1913 – December 18, 2008) was a Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) special agent who retired as the Bureau's Deputy Director in 1973. After keeping secret for 30 years his involvement with reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, Felt admitted to being the Watergate scandal's whistleblower, "Deep Throat," on May 31, 2005. // Felt worked in several FBI field offices prior to his promotion to the Bureau's headquarters in Washington, D.C. During the early investigation of the Watergate scandal (1972–1974), and shortly after the death of longtime FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover on May 2, 1972, Felt was the Bureau's Associate Director, the second-ranking post in the FBI. While serving as Associate Director, Felt provided the Washington Post with critical information that eventually led to the resignation of President Richard M. Nixon in 1974. In 1980, Felt was convicted of violating the civil rights of people thought to be associated with members of the Weather Underground Organization, by ordering FBI agents to search their homes as part of an attempt to prevent bombings. He was ordered to pay a fine, but was pardoned by President Ronald Reagan during his appeal. In 2006, he published an update of his 1979 autobiography, The FBI Pyramid. His last book, written with John O'Connor, is titled A G-Man's Life. On June 14, 2012, the FBI released Felt's personnel file at the agency, covering the period from 1941 to 1978. It also released files pertaining to an extortion threat made against Felt in 1956. (wikipedia)
• • •


Quaint. That's probably the best word I have to describe this. It's the kind of theme that you don't notice at all until the revealer. Or maybe you paid more attention as you were solving, I don't know. I got to the end and was like "Oh ... yes. I see." It's the kind of theme that could've run decades ago, and with the exception of APPLEPAY (66D: Google Wallet alternative), virtually every other thing about the puzzle would've been at home then too. The fill simply isn't polished to modern standards. It's competently arranged according to archaic standards, so you end up with more of the stuff that you used to expect to see all the time (your odd phrase parts and grid-friendly poem titles and foreign names and places and whatever you want to call that ASES/STRS thing down in the SE corner). People sometimes wonder why I criticize grids like this, when That's The Way It Always Been (and certainly was, largely, the way things were in the good old Maleskan / Weng days) (actually, to be fair, things were much worse then, crosswordese and arcana-wise). I mean, HAROLD is a British P.M. from 50 years ago? Jacques BREL and Mario LANZA are hanging around together? Tom Seaver is a NEW YORK MET? And so much of the fill is wince-y and throwback-y and just the kind of off-putting stuff that gives crosswords their stuffy rep. I just tweeted this: "Side-eye list for Sunday: 1A, 60A, 65A, 39D, 60A (x2, ugh), 49D (?), 113D, 115D, 120D, 121D, 99D (??), 105A, 84D, 110D, 77D, 15D. Minimally." It's possible to do so much better these days, not just in terms of fill, but in terms of cluing—thoughtful, funny, relevant: these types of clues are all possible. They are only occasionally on display here. Mostly the clues are grimly straightforward. Short and grimly straightforward.

[I've had this song in my head since writing in MARK FELT ... it makes little sense, I'll admit]

Here's what I like: I always admire dense themes and (especially) intersecting theme answers, and this puzzle has both. I also respect (though I don't always love) ambitious attempts to Make Things Work, and the whole DOG LEG LEFT / MARK FELT business radiates a kind of loopy creative confidence that I find charming. I kind of know what a DOG LEG LEFT is, and had no idea who this FELT guy was. But it was all gettable and even though under normal circumstances neither of those feels like the solidest of answers, they work here, and that is enough. Otherwise, though, this was a slog, though much easier than the word "slog" implies.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. honestly why is SERENADER / STRS not SERENADED / STDS??! Both answers are improved with the change to "D." This may seem tiny, and it is tiny, but it is indicative of bigger things.  (Shout-out to the constructing maestro who pointed out this little issue)

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]

78 comments:

L 12:09 AM  

60A "dad-blasted" - what the heck is that?!? I naticked it to finish the puzzle and then Googled it, but I still dont get it. Oh well.

Music man 12:17 AM  

Yeah I was slightly hoping you would tear this one apart. I like how SLOG was an answer, because that's exactly how this one was feeling. When I picked up on the theme, I thought WHO CARES, really who the @!$& cares? Then there were the answers I don't think I would've known if I were 10 years older (without crosses). I had to recruit my grandmother-in-law to finish the last 20 or so squares.

And I believe the R was chosen instead of a D so that both constructors could fit their fist names (or a version of it in the case of Zhouqin) into the clues. There are countless SERENADERS from opera to choose from, but hey, [my] names Don! And Zhouqin already squeezed Joaquin in there, so why not?

At least STRS was obviously clued, I had AS IS until I got enough for SERENADERS. I've played Greig, love it, but sadly am unfamiliar with ases death, at least the title, haven't looked it up yet.

Billy C 12:23 AM  

Another easy meh Sunday

cwf 12:41 AM  

All the witty comments I had about this I threw away one after another while reading @Rex' write-up. Though I knew MARKFELT (duh). I did the revealer dead last, and, having noticed that obviously all the "ends of the answers" were past tense verbs, I was hoping for a witty joke to wrap that up. Nope.

mathgent 1:26 AM  

What a waste of time. No zip, no crunch, lame theme.

Steve J 1:32 AM  

Incredibly weak theme. This is one step away from a "theme" where the only hook is that everything is a noun, or everything has a K. Maybe this could have worked with some clever and/or goofy cluing for the themers, but playing it straight just emphasizes the overwhelming blandness.

Theme density does not impress me, unless it's a really good theme and it doesn't hurt the rest of the puzzle. There's no amassing of blah to make it somehow become ok in aggregation. It's just a lot of blah.

Thankfully, this went by much quicker than a normal Sunday. Even with that, it was a complete 103D.

George Barany 1:41 AM  

I was excited to see this puzzle's bylines, because @Zhouqin Burnikel is a Minnesota neighbor and friend, and I have corresponded with her long-time collaborator/mentor @Don Gagliardi on several occasions. Having now solved the puzzle, read @Rex's critique as well as the analysis over at xwordinfo.com, and exchanged a couple of e-mails with @Don G, let me offer a couple of random observations. Since the theme density and interlocking theme entries have already been praised, I'll add my admiration but not belabor those well-made points.

* What a pleasure to see Hall-of-Fame pitching ace Tom Seaver invoked as a NEW_YORK_MET. He was certainly the sports hero of my youth, part of the Miracle team of '69, and it broke my heart when he was traded to the Reds in midseason '77. I was already in Minnesota during his second stint with the Mets, in '83. Still, a more up-to-date clue could have been used, as @Rex has stated.

* The perils of using the word "New" in the title of a scientific treatise are dramatically illustrated in the clue for GALILEO.

* Reading the clue for 129-Across, i.e., Giovanni, in "Don Giovanni", I confidently wrote LIBERTINE, and marveled at the sly wink to the constructor's nickname (Don G) as well as the sophisticated operatic allusion. Finding that the answer word was actually SERENADER was ever the letdown. I'll bet anything, though, that @AliasZ will post a link to Mozart's antihero serenading some lady. I wonder if he'll choose this one (3 minutes).

* MARK_FELT and "Deep Throat" were both well known, albeit separately, to all who came of age during the Watergate scandal, and it was fascinating to revisit all that about ten years ago when it was revealed that they were one and the same. See also this.

jae 1:59 AM  

Easy Sun. for me.  Had to fill in some crosses to get AFFIANCED but never really had to pause.    Although,  ASES looked strange.

OK Sunday, but a bit meh, or sort of what Rex said.

chefwen 2:13 AM  

Theme didn't come naturally and half way through I quit looking for one. Even with the revealer I wasn't thinking "Oh wow, cool".
Got through it cheat free, which tells me it was easy or I was just plain lucky. Jon helped me with LASORTA, DOG LEG LEFT (I had GLove as a possibility BZZZT! and SEATTLE SLEW, otherwise I would have been dead in that corner.

DRATTED??? Noooo, me no LIKEY.

George NYC 2:18 AM  

I think Will Shortz left the building.

Loren Muse Smith 3:10 AM  

Rex is right – this is a theme that I couldn't see until way post solve. I didn't get it for a while; it didn’t help that I kept looking directly under the E in STOLE at the letters P A S T and misremembering the reveal as "out of the past." Once I finally realized that these were all nouns that could be irregular past tenses, I was struck by its simplicity and really liked it.

And then I liked it even more when I saw that the noun in each themer had a meaning that was far-removed from its past-tense homophone. So things like SAFE BET, BASE HIT, MILE RUN, DIRECTOR'S CUT wouldn't be nearly as elegant. And Then… since I couldn't sleep and spent way too much time looking at these words, I saw that they were all past tenses and not past participles like my avatar. So scratch MILE RUN from the above list (unless you live out in the sticks like me where you hear things like We run Maw-Maw out t' the Walmart last night to get a new blade for one of her power saws. Ok. Maybe not – but many out here do use "run" and not "ran" as the past participle, and the grandmothers are quite the do-it-yourselfers).

There's FLESH WOUND, but you get into pronunciation trouble.

They could have also just disguised the past tense in things like ANTIGONE, HANGING CHAD, and MISS SCARLET, but actually that conceit is a real yawner now that I look at it. I like the group the constructors came up with a lot more.

"Tagged" for PEGGED kept me wanting "kiddiature" for KIDDIE LIT but each time I checked, it was too long. Could we refer to Dr. Seuss as a kiddie litter?

First thought on "show me type" was someone from Missouri.

First thought on the things hovering over icons – "mice" or "mouses." (FWIW, I think I'd still refer to the two things in my Staples bag as "mouses.")

All in all, I was taken by this subtle theme and enjoyed it a lot.

Anonymous 3:46 AM  

KNUT / MARKFELT is a bad cross. I have only ever seen the king's name spelled "Cnut" or "Canute" in English and "Marc" is obviously a common variant of "Mark". Probably both too well known to count as a true Natick, but felt that way to me.

Robert Konigsberg 3:50 AM  

Took me about, oh, 75 minutes to solve this one, except for two empty cells (F in FAIT and S in ENSOR.) ENSOR also seems like a bit of an anachronism that I don't much care about, and I just didn't know either FAIT or AFFIANCED. However, I expected you to classify this an easy puzzle, not easy-medium.

Danp 4:33 AM  

Never heard of Mark Felt? You may not be alone, and it may be the reason puzzles have so many Seavers, Lanzas and old Harold's.

Bob Kerfuffle 6:17 AM  

Did this one at the beach yesterday.


In a word, disappointing. Internally consistent, yes, but such a weak theme!

Mark 6:40 AM  

Theme helped me considerably to fill in straggling tail-enders, as they all lit up and shouted "fill me in with a past tense verb" when I touched INTHEPAST.

pmdm 6:47 AM  

Solved the entire puzzle without knowing what the theme was. Then still did not understand the theme (until reading the write-u here). And after understanding the theme, got no chuckles from it.

All of which is OK for me. Nothing much to complain about. Except perhaps the clue for NEW YORK MET. Amazingly for a 300+ game winner, he pitched for 4 different teams, and did not finish his career with the Mets, so he really is an ex-Met. Perhaps I'm nit-picking but it just doesn't feel right to me.

So I rate the puzzle good in a solid sort of way, but hardly great with a bit more positive vibes than the write-up communicated.

Nickyboy 7:01 AM  

Weak. That's the only word I can think of for this puzzle.

Lewis 7:12 AM  

Not a slog for me, but not a lot of joy either. There were only two clues that made me smile: "Holy Land line" for ELAL, and "Pit bull biter" for flea. And just a couple of answers: BEAPAL and SUBTLY. The theme was, well, the first word that comes to me is "insipid". And, as the theme is clued, couldn't DEEPSET be a theme answer? I have been spoiled by the NYT puzzles in that in most that I've done, there is something special, some element of fun, and today's for me is an exception to that. I admire the skill that went into its making, and am grateful for the brainwork it gave me in solving, but I missed the spark that I've grown accustomed to.

chefbea 7:33 AM  

Found the puzzle very easy..finished it last night. Never heard the word affianced..but it does make sense. Guess there are a lot of comments waiting..seems like I'm the first but I know I'm not

Anonymous 8:00 AM  

Why no comments?

I don't disagree with Rex but this kind of puzzle can also bring in new solvers who may otherwise think puzzles are "too hard" for them.

I'm not a speed solver and don't time myself but this may have been my fastest Sunday in 40 years. But it was certainly pleansant enough.

Maruchka 9:01 AM  

This puzzle has a lot of integrity. 'As It Were' relates the grammar and the cluing and the answers and the overall theme (Hi all you @OldSchoolXworders). SEATTLE SLEW paved my way. I give it a thumbs up.

Thanks, Mr. G and Ms. B.

Two do-overs. My favorite is the 27D and 89D combo for "firm figure: abbr.". Had ATLA- and gleefully filled in 'Chas ATLAs'. More old school!

Old Lady 9:04 AM  

I had OH PLEASE as one of my last entries, and that was my reaction. Found the puzzle easier than Rex (for me, that is) and thought the theme was lame at best. That from an ELDER. Just because the clues hark (lots of k's in the puzzle) back to earlier times doesn't make them more appealing to us oldies. Just makes them easier. So, Rex, no joy here either.

Nancy 9:23 AM  

Agree with the rest of you -- a really meh "theme" that barely deserves the honor of such a high-falutin' word. I didn't notice it while solving and didn't care, once I came here and discovered it. Perhaps you have to be a constructor like @lms (3:10a.m.) to enjoy it: Thinking up variations of your own on the theme might provide the brain stimulation that the puzzle itself doesn't. Anyway, yawn.

F.O.G. 9:45 AM  

My mistake was renaming Poe's poem LENORa which seemed to mesh with aLDER (in "alderman"). Otherwise a lot of good stuff here and I didn't find it a SLOG.

@George Barany 1:41AM: As a Reds fan, I was thrilled when Tom Seaver arrived in Cincinnati. After he pitched for the win and also hit a home run, he was interviewed post-game by Red radio announcer Joe Nuxhall as "The Star of the Game." Tom asked Nuxy tongue-in-cheek, "Am I the offensive or the defensive Star of the Game?" A class act, and now he has a CA vineyard that is producing high quality wine.

Ludyjynn 9:52 AM  

Most interesting tidbit I gleaned from this very easy (themeless) puzzle was the fact that the 1954 Rose Parade was filmed IN COLOR. Wow! How many people had color tv sets at that point to watch and enjoy this novel spectacle? Very few, I surmise. My Dad bought a 24" Sylvania console in 1963 and the whole neighborhood would come over, crowding into the living room, to watch the minority of shows that were being broadcast IN COLOR because it was still considered such a luxury! Remember how the NBC peacock would morph from black and white to color right before your eyes?!

This one went so quickly that it cannot be called a SLOG, IMO.

Some FINE clueing PLEASEd me.

@pmdm, Tom Seaver will always be a NEWYORKMET to those of us who watched him become the all-time winning pitcher for the team. I had the pleasure as a teenager of being seated next to him at a NY Knicks game once and can say he was not only a great (hunky) athlete in his prime, but a very nice man, as well. Down to earth, he patiently signed an autograph for my awestruck brother and all the other fans who surrounded him during the course of the game.

Thanks, DG, ZB and WS. FAIT accompli.

Teedmn 9:52 AM  

@George Barany, thanks for the laugh re: GALILEO's title. I looked at that one a couple of times and shook my head.

@LMS, your MAW-MAW story had me remembering the scene in "Oh Brother, Where Art Thou" where the farmer is spelling out that his wife has R-U-N-N-O-F-T.

Like @Lewis, my fave clue was "Pit Bull Biter", and I also liked the clues for ATHEISTIC and STRANGERS. I did find the theme somewhat one-dimensional but because the stars on the themers were so SUBTLY placed, I was TAKEN BY surprise by the density - impressive.

Had crock pot before GAS GRILL and Load before LADE so with fewer writeovers than usual, my grid does not look like an INK PAD for once.

Thanks, DG and ZB.

Virginia Lady 9:56 AM  

Of course Tom Terrific is known as a NY Met! He may have played for other teams, but he made his mark in baseball history as a Met.

I thought the term was Dag-blasted (something Elmer Fudd would say about Bugs Bunny).

Carola 9:58 AM  

Difficulty: challenging (Sunday M.O. = work only from answers already entered, no peeking ahead at clues; got stuck at various PTS.)

Theme: liked it! Possibly because I taught grammar for 30 years+, I thought a past-tense based theme was the cat's meow. Loved that the clues were nouns having nothing to do with the verb meanings (hi, @loren). My idea of witty. YET I didn't understand the reveal until I had most of the theme answers in; after the eventual aha, it helped me with MET and GROUND.

Also liked the two-word phrases besides the theme answers RAIN DANCE, YARD WASTE, HOME COURT, LITTLE BIT, GAS GRILL.

And the anagram cross of LEFT x FELT and antonym cross of ROSE x GROUND.

Roo Monster 10:04 AM  

Hey All !
Agree on the nice construction feat, there are 4 pairs (8 themers) that cross. Only 3 themers by themselves, so yeah, tough to do and fill overall cleanly. And the triple 9 stacks in the NW and SE not easy to fill. Kudos to Don & CC.

That said, I also have to agree with those who said "Meh". I did like the puz, but maybe I was looking for a bit more zip. Possible Natick at LANZA/LENORE. I guessed the L, turned out correct. Also at ENNA/DRATTED, I guessed an O, turned out wrong. Hence, my Patent Pending one letter DNF.

Besides DRATTED, only other WOE was AFFIANCED. What in tarnation is that? Well, maybe KNUT too, but that's a name. Gonna hafta looky up AFFIANCED. I'm a SKEPTIC on that one!

Pretty much clean filled, nicely constructed, less-zip SunPuz. Wondering if @'mericans is gonna write about HEARTLESS ATHEISTIC WIENIES. Or maybe people CHEERING on their HOMECOURT WNBA team on their SOFAS.

OH PLEASE, SUBTLY
RooMonster
DarrinV

Tita 10:05 AM  

Dag-blasted...mebbe I woulda gotten that...but never ever figured dad-blasted was trying to be that until @L's comment made me think about it.

No hatred for UNLED? That is the worst ever of all UN-RE-E- prefixed clues I can remember.

Don Giovanni SERANADEd our living room as far back as I can remember...it's one of my earliest memories...my mom explaining to me what is happening during the final scene.

Salted CODFISH is a staple of Portuguese cuisine...most people who don't like it have never tried it made by my family.

We watched the moon landing at our next-door neighbor's so we could see it INCOLOR.

Rex...be careful...you will be prematurely shouting at kids to get off your lawn if you keep this up...
Fast-forward to when folks will be scoffing at the terrible crosswordese of the Maleska/Weng/Shortz eras. It's like fashion...we laugh at the clothes that have just passed out of style, not realizing that what we have on right now will be laughed at next.

My nog has only one spice, btw...nothin' but nutmeg for me.

Not a scintillating theme, but fine for a Sunday when I will be out and about shooing kids off my lawn. I did like noticing the detachment in meaning of the verbs. Thanks Ms. B and Mr. G.

Anonymous 10:08 AM  

Seemed hard to me. I'm slow, but rarely end with a bank space. I was, as y'all say, "Naticked" by the Ensor/GSA cross.

Also had "Miracle Met" instead of NYMet for a while, proving I am old.

As for the theme....I think we should all admit we long for terrible puns on Sunday! I do pay attention to the titles, but this theme was no help at all.

Mohair Sam 10:18 AM  

Didn't suss the theme until we got here. Thought INTHEPAST might have referred to when this puzzle was constructed, like maybe 30 or 40 years ago when many of the clues may have almost been fresh. Folks, if you've got an Al Jolson clue in your puzzle it skews old - no APPLEPAY can balance that.

Zipped through this not unpleasant for we ELDERs Sunday that may have played more difficult for the young crowd. So many gimmes for the aged: BREL, SEATTLESLEW, HAROLD, LANZA, OBLADI, SWANEE, GARP, and on and on.

btw - If you are a BREL fan you might enjoy Scott Walker's English translation from about 30 years back. Brel usually translates badly.

Concerning 48d: A lifetime of trying to perfect a power fade has left this righty with an incurable hook. Hence I love a dog leg left - but I'm the exception and the clue is fine, and just another gimme today.

AliasZ 10:19 AM  


SERENADER describes a person who does nothing else but serenades. Let me tell you, Don Juan did a lot more than that, as we all know. But for this once, the serenadee did hang around to listen to her serenader. I only feel sorry for the neighbors who had to suffer through it. When cats serenade all night long we all suffer, but it's sweet music to the cats' ears.

MARK FELT it was time to come clean and admit he was "Deep Throat". [Who didn't see the movie, I mean "Deep Throat"?] At first I didn't remember the name, which could've been MARY FELT, but that would have resulted in YNUT as king of Danes. I thought, we have T-nuts all the time, why not a Y-nut? But then I thought better of it. The K was the last letter I entered. I had no idea the Danish had a king who was a K-nut.

SERENADER - "Parched Ralph"
ALPINES - "Gore yearns"
HEARTLESS - "Not love as much"
TOOTALL - "Honk everyone"
DRATTED - "Dagnabbit, Cruz!"
LANDHO - "Secure a contract with 'Tiny Bubbles' crooner"

Favorite word today: AFFIANCED.

@Loren, loved your Dr. Seuss as a kiddie litter. You are top rung in my book.

Fun puzz, CC and Don G. It was easy as APPLE PAY. Loved the two Poe clues next to each other, but was surprised to see DEEP both in a clue and as an entry at 9D. Isn't that a LITTLE BIT AWKWARD? OH, PLEASE!

To keep with the light and fluffy theme of this puzzle, here is a little light fluff: overture to the opéra comique "Zampa" by HAROLD* as performed by the NHK Symphony and Wolfgang (not Amadeus) Sawallisch in the hometown of TOKYO ROSE, far from the SWANEE River. Sorry to disappoint. By the way @GB, I would have selected Dieskau. But that's just moi.

Au reservoire.

*Louis Joseph Ferdinand HéROLD (1791-1833)

quilter1 10:22 AM  

So I'm old and doing the puzzle for decades and I just zipped through. But because of that it was kind of boring, predictable. Ho hum.

thomas greisen 10:25 AM  

I could have done without this one.

Norm 10:54 AM  

The themes are not just past tense: they're irregular part tense. That's about the most exciting thing I can say about this puzzle. It really was a "why bother" one. I had expected a more challenging and/or entertaining experience when I saw the bylines. So sad.

Lobster11 11:13 AM  

Zzzzzzzzzzzz....

Joseph Michael 11:16 AM  

Hmm. Pretty disappointing. Had no idea what the theme was while solving and had little pleasure in finally figuring it out. As Peggy Lee once sang: "Is that all there is?"

Leapfinger 11:36 AM  

It may be HEARTLESS, but I'm part of the not-so-silent majority here, agreeing with the SKEPTIC talk. Despite all the positives that @lms notes, agree with @Lewis' label of 'insipid'. Checked back on the asterisked clues after solving the reveal, and thought there would have been more zip had the theme made Past Present, ie, MINK_STEAL, TOKYO_RISE, MARK_FEEL, POWER_SEE. Of course, not all the spacing would be maintained -- DOGLEG_LEAVE, LITTLE_BITE, KIDDIE_LIGHT -- but at least I wouldn't have had to suffer with 'Kiddie Litter' (looking at you, @WVa). Must admit that, had I known the theme early on, I wouldn't have fallen into that SEATTLE_Slue vs SLEW kerfuffle.

The fine old patina on the fill hit me with Mario LANZA -- Big Sister was very TAKEN_BY him when I was nehi to a FLEA, so somehow I still remember the stANZAs to "Loveliest Night of the Year". There's an outside chance the fill is heavy on well-aged entries as part of the theme. Ya think?

Thought BETROTHED afore AFFIANCED, and things got AWKWARD at the EN_OR/G_A cross, where I also claim a Natick, and with ATLAs (hi @Maruchka!), which I couldn't tie in with ALTE, as long as I stuck with MARK_FELL. When that was sorted out, my beef was with WIENIES, as I think of "Dogs" as WIENerS, if ever I make that substitution.

otoh, I SORDA like the ATHEISTIC SKEPTIC, GALILEO, RAINDANCE and Ed "TOO_TALL" Jones, who's the TOO_TALL_in my lexicon. Estonishingly enough. Also ALPINE, OSTEO (of course), the IN COLOR TONERS, and (since @Music Man mentioned it) the Don Giovanni and Joaquin Phoenix signatures.

Now have to deal with a half-acre of DRATTED YARDWASTE want not. You got it: LAND_HO.

Everyone stay cool.

Dental Dam 11:39 AM  

@L, first you dad-gum it, then you dad-blast it.

JC66 11:43 AM  

Agree with @lewis that 9D (DEEPSET) should have been asterisked.

Lewis 11:43 AM  

@carola -- Good catch on LEFT/FELT!
@aliasz -- Great post, especially K-NUT!

U Nu 11:47 AM  

@Tita, United Nations, U.N.-LED.

Merle 11:50 AM  

Minority voice -- I liked this puzzle. Why? Because not all the cultural references were contemporary. My goodness, if you aren't 73 years old, as I am, and you don't remember seeing Harold Macmillan's name in the news, as I do, you might have come across his name in a history class! Knowledge isn't confined to contemporary popular culture, or to sports. Jacques Brel and Mario Lanza were gimmes for me. Tom Seaver, who is two years younger than me, had a career about the same time Macmillan did, but I never heard of him, because I don't follow sports. And Rex, really, "grid-friendly poem titles"? Why not poem titles? No comment about "obladi", 65 across? I loved that it wasn't a song title from the 21st century. Poe, Beatles, Jacques Brel, Mario Lanza -- all made for interesting clues and answers for me.

chefbea 11:54 AM  

Forgot to mention earlier..when living in Ct and owned a jewelry store..Tom Seaver and his wife came in all the time...such nice people!!!

GILL I. 11:54 AM  

Huh?
When I read @George, I always know I can count on a gentleman's take on an otherwise unadventurous puzzle.
Yes, it felt a bit like seeing granny wearing a MINK STOLE.
ATHEISTIC sounds so DRATTED . ATTY AT LAW sounds about right and I suppose I liked WIENERS crossing KIDDIE LIT.
Am in the middle of making tons of TAPAS for the British invasion. Five of my husband's family arriving this evening - thirsty and hungry and with plenty of stories to tell.
California needs a RAINDANC...

GeezerJackYale48 11:59 AM  

Old Lady: my comments exactly. Signed: old man

davidcoffee 12:18 PM  

This is not a theme, it's an english test. I failed the test but finished the puzzle in between nodding off on the Acela back to NYC. Woke up filled in a few of this snoozer, fell back asleep. The cure for insomnia has been found my friends.

Anonymous 12:19 PM  

Yeah, this wasn't much fun, but if you want to experience a true joyless Sunday slog, check out today's LA Times xword.

grammar nazi temp for the day 12:22 PM  

@Mohair -- for us ELDERS, not for we ELDERS. Object of the preposition "for" and all that.

Kwibbles 'n' Bits 12:25 PM  

The center column should have included APPLEPAID and CHEERANG.

old timer 12:42 PM  

I have grown to like cold coffee. Sundays, I use the good china, brew up a pot, have a first cup in the kitchen, refill it, and carry it to the living room. There, I sit in my chair and do the puzzle. If the coffee is not *entirely* cold when I finish it, that's a sign the Sunday puzz was fairly easy. And I liked it a lot. Reminded me of the old Maleska days, but that's fine, *on a Sunday* and as OFL points out, the puzzle reflects the somewhat higher standards of today, Really, not a cough (or clunker) in a carload of clues.

Where I want perfection and clever cluing is in the daily puzzles. Sundays? If I don't do the puzzle first thing, I'm going to take it to a park or the beach and do it outside, and what I want is that it be doable, not too easy and not too hard.

Personal factoid: My wife and I used to know MARK FELT's daughter. When the identity of Deep Throat was revealed, she had her 15 minutes of fame, which she probably did not want to have.

I *liked* DRATTED. Being an old-timer, how could I not? Thoroughly dislike BEAPAL, because it has been overused. Overall, the cluing was first-rate, as for HEARTLESS, WEINIES, GALILEO, SKEPTIC (I know I was looking for some Missouri sobriquet there, weren't you?


@AliasZ, thanks as always. As I wrote this, my head was nodding in time and I am wondering what the opera is about. An introduction, no doubt, to the themes, just like a good Rodgers intro to a Broadway musical. Your musical choices always astound me.

James Mac 1:04 PM  

Tom Seaver made his name as a Met, and went into the HOF as a Met.

The Rhino 1:09 PM  

Had LADE, ASES and STRS right, but didn't get my congratulations so I was sure the problem was in that corner. This kept me from fixing AcERA and I finally gave up and got my DNF.

This left me feeling angry and impotent... so maybe I should start a blog? (It's a joke. I love what you do, Rex. Please don't 'moderate' me.)

Wm. C. 1:41 PM  

@Chefbea --

OT, but speaking of nice celebs living in Connecticut --

My wife grew up in Westport, down the street from Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward. They were very nice people, very down-to-earth, sent their kids to public schools there, and we're big supporters of local charities and town events, including the local summer theater.

My mother-in-law had a job at an upscale woman's wear boutique downtown, and Joanne would stop by there from time to time, sometimes with Paul in tow. Ther townspeople were very respectful of their privacy, gawking at them but only from afar.

A highlight for my mother-in-law would be when Robert Redford visited, which was fairly often. Each day, Redford would take his morning constitutional by walking down the street and around the corner to pick up some newspapers. All the ladies would "coincidentally" all be out weeding their front-yard flower gardens as he went by; he'd always say hello and smile to each of them as he passed by.

old timer 2:16 PM  

Don't know if someone has already posted it, but today's Opinion section has an excellent article/memoir about how doing tough crosswords is an inspiration to novel writers:

http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/08/15/puzzling-through-my-fiction/?ref=opinion

Nancy 2:51 PM  

Everyone: Don't miss @Leapfinger's ( 11:36) inspired idea for turning this yawn of a puzzle into an absolute gem. Had her unique "twist" been employed, this could have been one of the most challenging, original and sparkling puzzles of the year. @Leapy -- have you ever thought about becoming a constructor?

Mohair Sam 3:00 PM  

Well thanks @Grammar Nazi, Jr. Nice to see somebody is reading my posts.

Anonymous 3:48 PM  

If AFFIANCED (I don't know what that is) is your 1-A, you're in trouble. Bad cross with FAIT. I quit the puzzle halfway through, and scrawled SO BORING over my puzzle. Just couldn't really care. I felt like I accidentally picked up a half-rotting NYT Mag from the '90s.

Hugh 4:39 PM  

Theme was somewhat blah without a lot of zip and even fewer "ahas".

Like someone else, I had "TAGGED" for "PEGGED" for 78A which gave me a DNF as I knew it must be "KIDDIELIT" but the darn "A" in tagged kept me stumped.

Also had "SOBERLY" instead of "SUBTLY" for 107A - really ruined that part of the east for me

I totally blanked on "HEARTLESS" for Very cold (132A) -not sure why, straightforward enough.... I had HE_R _ L _ _ _ and I just could not put it together.

Was VERY happy to see The Franchise, Tom Seaver mentioned as a New York Met, my childhood sports hero. Like someone said, very traumatic when he was traded to The Reds - really the result of bad baseball business more than anything else.

Like the cluing for "ATHEISTIC" (29A).

Do not like more than one abbreviation for a U.S. agency or Union or the like, this one had a couple.

Don't mind the dated them too much; the couple of things I did not know (Lansa, Harold) I was able to get with the crosses. A bit more punch to the theme would have been nice, but I liked this well enough for a Sunday though a bit lacking in excitement.

Have a great week all!

chefbea 4:45 PM  

@WmC My husbands son did some work for the Newmans. Said they were very down to earth. And speaking of celebrities When I was working at food emporium I had to show Diana Ross where the ice cream was

wreck 4:57 PM  

Hands up for not seeing the theme until afterwards. I guess put me in the "meh" category - I finished 39 seconds faster than my average Sunday time according to the ipad app. I prefer a little more crunch/trickery.

chefwen 5:24 PM  

@Mr. And Mrs. Sam - I always read and enjoy your posts.

jberg 6:50 PM  

Had most of my kids and their kids over for brunch, then went off to a memorial for my wife's late hairdresser, so I came to the puzzle both late and drowsy. I got through it OK, and at the last minute changed AZERo/LA SORDo to the correct A, so that's all right. I did like the theme, and the non-verbiness of all the verbs. But it was a bit of a SLOG, as Sundays usually are for me.

I took the Seaver MET answer as part of the theme, i.e. "in the past." And I saw HAROLD Macmillan's name in the paper a day or two ago (something to do with the desperate attempts of the Labour elite to keep our Jeremy Corbyn), so that was fine, too.

Hardest part was the obscure cue for Rhea's alter ego at 63A.

Now for some linguistic specualtion (@LMS, maybe you know more about this?) All these euphemisms, such as dag blasted, dad blasted, egads, gadzooks, zounds, are attempts to evade the prohibition on taking the name of the lord in vain. So maybe dad-blasted is a euphemism of a euphemism, for those who feel that G just cuts a little too close to the bone. Pure speculation, as I said -- does anyone know more?

Andy 7:01 PM  

Loved it! Anytime there's not a reference to a rap star or Harry Potter I'm in heaven! Throw in clues about opera and classical music and I am a happy camper. BTW Maleska and Weng are not curse words but were admirable editors in their day.

LongtimePuzzleFan 8:41 PM  

I LIKED this puzzle! So many fusspot comments!

Questinia 8:46 PM  

@Leapy and @LMS should collaborate on a puzzle.

YASS!

paulsfo 10:06 PM  

okay puzzle but really the most useless theme ever. There was no need to consult it in order to solve any of the theme answers, and there was nothing clever or humorous about the answers, and those are about the only possible redeeming qualities of a theme.

kitshef 11:19 PM  

Had most of the themers and the revealer and could not imagine what the theme was. Once it twigged, I was astounded at what a weak theme it was. This one cried out for 'witty' clues of the type that @Rex hates but I quite enjoy, where MARKFELT would be clued as "Textile of Mr. Twain" or some such nonsense.

Medium for me, with a "near-dnf(?)" due to ENSOR/GSA. Not sure what to call it when you finish correctly, but your finish includes a guess.

bwalker 11:56 PM  

I finished in record time for Sunday, continuing a record streak into three days of what I hope are gimmes. I did not find it all that easy, but agree with LMS on her several positive comments. Some answers were almost automatic. A Mad Magazine satire of Mario Labonza run through my memory while it drug up Mario LANZA.

Had a long list of chore that took priority over the puzzle, so a really late post today.

Fred Romagnolo 12:41 AM  

@Evil: thanks for yesterday; just got around to seeing it.

Anonymous 7:05 AM  

Any chance that the throwback nature of this puzzle was part of its theme? In that case, incredibly sophisticated and skilled.

Tyler James Young 2:54 PM  

I'm glad someone already commented on the bad crossing of MARc and cNUT. King Cnut was very influential in English etymology, and in all my studies therein I have never encountered his name UNLED with a cee. I agree wholeheartedly with Rex on the musty meh-ness overall.

Margaux O'Nolan 10:22 PM  

Rex,

You're spot-on with all your comments except taking exception with Tom Seaver/New York Met. Tom Seaver--alive and well and living on Long Island's North Fork--is THE greatest Mets player of all time. Seaver, who led the Mets to their first World Series win and who is easily one of the greatest pitchers to ever throw a baseball, is the franchise. Your quibble is the equivalent of "Babe Ruth . . . New York Yankee? Never hoid of 'im."

Anonymous 2:07 PM  

Am I the only one who found the spelling of WIENIES objectionable? That was the point at which I decided the puzzle wasn't worth finishing.

AnonymousPVX 4:10 PM  

It's 8/23/15 here if SC…

Am I the only one a bit alarmed that many have no idea of who Deep Throat / Mark Felt was and that he had a major part in causing a sitting President to resign? Really?

Complaining about a throwback puzzle and no knowledge of this?

Wow. Just wow.

Ray o sunshine 8:06 PM  

Started late in the day. Too many puzzles like this have cumbersome words that barely squeak by as English. "Unled?"......c'mon!

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