Palindromic Dutch city / THU 9-24-15 / Object seen in Seurat's Grande Jatte / Org with red white blue balls once

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Constructor: Peter A. Collins

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: nonsense phrases with lots of repeated two-letter segments in a row; actually, five, to be exact

Theme answers:
  • TONTO TO TOTO TOME (17A: One volume in the Encyclopedia of Movie Pets and Sidekicks?)
  • LEND A DAD A DADA (27A: Let someone's father borrow this Arp or that Duchamp?)
  • I AM A MAMA MAMBA (46A: Statement from the proud snake as its eggs were hatching?)
  • THIS IS ISIS, I SAID (58A: Recounting of the time you introduced the Egyptian goddess of fertility?) 
Word of the Day: EDE (25D: Palindromic Dutch city) —
Ede (Dutch pronunciation: [ˈeːdə]) is a municipality and a city in the center of the Netherlands, in the province of Gelderland. [Note: population 110K...] // The town itself is situated halfway between the larger cities of Arnhem and Utrecht with direct rail and road connections to both cities. There are no connections to any water nearby; however, there also is a direct road connection to the city of Wageningen which hosts a small industrial port on the river Rijn and a direct road and rail connection to the city of Arnhem, which features larger port at a greater distance. The environment is clean and green due to the fact Ede is partly built in a forest and partly on the central Dutch plains in the national park called Nationaal Park "De Hoge Veluwe". (wikipedia)
• • •
Not a big fan of nonsense phrases, or prattle, or whatever is going on here. Babbling. There's a pointlessness I don't get, and a sense of humor I don't share. There was some small enjoyment for me in the struggle to parse the damn phrases, but while I enjoy wacky word Play, I don't enjoy wacky make-a-lot-of-silly-sounds. Why five two-letter strings? No reason. Just 'cause. Why are all the strings of sounds contained *inside* the theme answers *except* one? Who knows? I know that the puzzles that the NYT needs most desperately right now are non-rebus Thursdays and Sundays, but I really hope that non-rebus Thursdays can aspire to something more satisfying than this. It's definitely a passable theme idea, and the grid is reasonably well filled, but the arbitrariness and cutesiness are galling and cloying, respectively. Also, I would reclue TONTOTOTOTOTOME so that it referred to a very unlikely double play. Like Tinker to Evers to Chance, only w/ very different players.

There are pluses and minuses to the grid as a whole. The theme lameness is offset somewhat by a plethora of long non-themers in the Downs. But then *that* is offset by some ... I'll be kind and call it "retro" fill. ONEL. AGRI. ADES. A MOI. SITU. OONA. EDE, jeez, EDE!? That is textbook crossword junk. That place is nowhere. Now that I've looked it up, I'm more convinced than ever that it's just not crossworthy. The MATEO / EINEN corner is pretty unfortunate too. But these are the prices you pay (at least today) for long answers like SANTA MONICA and SMOKE ALARMS and NEXT IN LINE slashing down through your themers. I think the trade-off is mostly worthy it today, but then I've got a vast reservoir of EDE-type answers at my disposal. It would be great if puzzles didn't have to rely on that specialized arcana so much. I get that it kind of defines this little in-club of pro solvers we've got going here, but it's boring even for us, and off-putting for younger folks who might otherwise be drawn to crosswords. There's a difference between "obvious" and "obvious to pro solvers." Constructors should be trying as hard as possible to rely as little as possible on the ELIELs and EEROs and DIKs etc. of the crossword fill world.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


jae 12:12 AM  

Easy-medium for me.  No erasures and no WOEs.  My only pauses were spelling related (e.g. HAIT???s).  Amusing theme, pretty smooth grid, liked it.

That said, Thursday's should be tougher than this.  The theme was easy to get which made the subsequent theme answers easy to fill in.  In his Xwordinfo comments, Peter says he originally wanted BALTO instead of TONTO for 17a, which might have bumped up the difficulty level. 

That said, @Rex has a point about a "reservoir" of "specialized arcana" which probably made this easier than it really was. 

That said, this week's AV Club puzzle by BEQ would have made a fine Thurs. challenge

Anonymous 12:21 AM  

A new low for the Times. Unbelievably stupid and obscure. Perhaps I'm just getting old but this was the most unpleasant solving experience since one of the horrible puzzles from last week. Simply a horrible puzzle and everyone associated with its creation and publishing should be ashamed.

Steve J 12:42 AM  

"A sense of humor I don't share" is a perfect way to describe my reaction to the theme. The fact that syntactically plausible (if not topically so) sentences can be constructed using so many repeating letters is mildly interesting, I guess, but it doesn't grab me in any way.

Agreed that the downs were the star of this one. I particularly liked SMOKE ALAMRS, NEXT IN LINE and HIATUSES. I was slowed down briefly by dropping in PHarmacies at 11D (they do offer flu shots, after all), but otherwise this went by quite quickly.

There's definitely more than a fair share of clunkier fill to glue everything together, but the long downs were enjoyable enough not to make it feel like that fill overwhelmed the puzzle.

chefwen 12:54 AM  

This may be a first, but I disliked this even more than Rex. Nonsense, prattle, babbling etc. sums it all up for me. I so look forward to Thursdays and to be rewarded with this? ACK!

Charles in Austin 1:55 AM  

Rex, your review here is all too typical. Thank heavens for Will!

Charles Flaster 3:33 AM  

Easy for a Thursday romp.
For 17 across the clue was Pets first so I started with TOTO . Inns led me to TONTO first.
1 across was a write over as I had Some before SLIM.
The theme presented a lot of restraints but puzzle overcame them nicely.
Liked creative cluing for ADAM, I DO, PHOTO ALBUM and TOTS.
Sirius= DOG STAR is a good idea to retain.
Thanks PAC.

rutterj2 3:36 AM  

what he said! what a silly, non-satisfying theme. If you make any sacrifices in your fill (ede, einin, oona, I'm looking at you) for this theme you should scrap the whole thing and start over. Why can't we just have a good crossword puzzle without a "clever" theme? I like crossword puzzles just fine. I don't need some inane trick or twist to make it interesting. Just make the damn puzzle interesting. But I digress...

Franciscus van Munster 4:33 AM  

I agree that EDE is terrible fill, but being from the Netherlands, what I usually struggle with the most is fill that relates to everyday American life (EGGO, EDYS). I can get most cultural references through movies and TV shows, but not all. So every now then, like with IJSSEL recently, when the tables are turned, I enjoy a moment of smugness.

Eejit 4:48 AM  

I thought it was a lot of fun, and funny too. Easy, but that's ok. Clever puzzle.

Hungry Mother 6:46 AM  

I liked it a lot. It was a good time trying to put together the theme phrases. I don't care about rushing through a puzzle to set a new PR, I just take my time as I drink my coffee and enjoy myself.

Anonymous 7:10 AM  

My understanding of crossword construction suggests that SARA ought to have been clued as Franklin's mom. I started with S_DR - for Sara ... Original middle name ... Delano Roosevelt

Loren Muse Smith 7:11 AM  

Boy, y’all are a tough crowd. I thought this was fun, and unlike @Steve J, I found this very interesting, and it grabbed the heck out of me.

Rex – I always try to read your comments as a description of Your reactions/thoughts. So I sat up when I read "…it's boring even to us, the us being this group of pro-solvers here. I don't think I'm part of the elite solvers; I'm slow and inconsistent, and this was not boring for me. As someone who's stared out the window picturing a phrase like SHALALA LALA LAND,, wondering how that could be clued, I was delighted to see these strings that work lexically, grammatically, however much of a stretch the phrases are. I feel like it's kinda, Ok, work with me here, folks. I'm going to show you something cool if you'll indulge me a bit. Seeing phrases with five two-letter pairs in a row was a real hoot.

I wasn’t solving back then, but somehow in some kind of search, I remember seeing this similar idea by Peter Gordon:


TOTO sharing the grid with DOG STAR -hah! And ALPHA/HE-MEN – elegant.

HIATUSES looks funny with this plural. Then I wondered if it could pluralize like cacti. So people could take a few Haiti hiati over the course of their lives. Develop some polypi on their esophagi.

I had the same thought about cluing the TOTO entry so that it ends in _ _ TO ME. This is primo food-grade flea killer, man, passed down from Tonto to Toto to me. Try a little spoonful. (Too much, though, and you might start to grow hair on your temples like Mom.)

PETER'S last puzzle had his last name in the grid. (Little-known fact: his middle name is ARES.) I imagine this was just coincidental. I, for one, would love more little winks like this, would love for the idea to gain popularity. To become a kind of me me me meme. (You gotta work with me here, folks.)

Peter – much obliged. Bravo. Here’s hoping that that snake isn’t a drama mama.

joho 7:44 AM  

HAHAHAHAHA! I love wacky themes and this one is not only a lot of fun to parse but also a lot of fun to look at with all those repeated letters. Peter, how clever of you to create these phrases! Ingenuity and originality are at play today!

Great clues for ADAM, PHOTOALBUM, EAU and EDU.

NEXTINLINE is nice. OCEAN slapping up against SEA, too.

Love your sense of humor, Mr. Collins!

Arlene 7:45 AM  

This took me quite a while to solve, but didn't require any Googling, so I can understand why people are commenting that it was easy. I enjoyed the solve - kept going until done. That always leaves me with a happy feeling. No gripes here.

Billy C 7:47 AM  

Rex is just phoning it in these days. There was a brief period after his vacation when he was insightful, entertaining, and balanced. There were useful tips about solving, constructing, and his approach to the day's puzzle. Now it's pretty much the same thing each day, which boils down to "The New York Times crossword sucks," "I didn't care for the theme," and "the fill is sub-par," stated over and over again in various ways.

On another note--is anyone else having an issue with the "streak" feature on the NYT site or app? I have a streak going and the puzzles all have yellow stars, but my "current streak" is listed as 0. I'm vain enough to care.

Anonymous 7:55 AM  

Rex's longing for high-art, deeply intellectual puzzles is doomed to end in loneliness and frustration. Us proles must be fed.

Anonymous 8:03 AM  

57D, why "TOTS" = "ADDS"?

Anonymous 8:03 AM  

I guess I am an outlier regarding this puzzle; I liked it. I think it is good to occasionally have a little silliness. Of course I also like puns.

The Rhino 8:06 AM  

I'm just not on the same page as Rex this week. I enjoyed Tuesday's 'Wizard of aahs' and today's 'dobedobedos'.

I do agree with this: "I get that it kind of defines this little in-club of pro solvers we've got going here, but it's boring even for us, and off-putting for younger folks who might otherwise be drawn to crosswords. There's a difference between "obvious" and "obvious to pro solvers.'"

Yes, I'm still pissed off about Monday's Liszt/Zeno cross.

chefbea 8:29 AM  

Found the puzzle a bit tough but loved it any way. Loved 27 across!! Don't really understand tots = adds...
is tots short for totals?

jberg 8:30 AM  

I guess I have one of those different senses of humor, as I thought the theme was a lot of fun. You could see fairly early on what the two-letter element would be, but parsing it was more of a challenge -- e.g., I figured 17A would have to end with TOTO, which made HEt_N at 12D a total mystery. Other than that, my only problems were wanting rupTUrES for 39D -- saved by the themers, but not before I'd written in the R--and mixing up my apostle-order and putting MArcO at 49D.

I liked the African/American Great Lakes combo, as well.

Too easy for a Thursday, though.

jberg 8:33 AM  

@quilter1 from yesterday, you're right about SHEAFS. See this hymn

Anonymous 8:35 AM  

I still don't get 57D (ADDS for "Tots"). Is it slang for "totals"? Explanation?

Nancy 8:52 AM  

It made me work a bit to solve it, so from that standpoint it was OK. But I'm feeling rebus-deprived. Would have liked it more on a different day.

Mohair Sam 8:53 AM  

Finally! After a run of agreeing with OFL, we disagree with every blasted word of today's review. Thought this was a lot of fun, guess we share Peter Collins' sense of humor (although we appear to be in the minority here).

Rex thought that the word EDE in particular might be off-putting to younger solvers (would they natick on the E or the D Rex?), ignoring that the silliness of the puzzle in general might be just what would attract a newbie to try another. Maybe the crossworld ain't so stodgy after all.

Anyhow, after much ado we caught the theme at the snake and troubled for a bit over where to place the "B" and the "I". Then had the same type of fun with the other themers. Loved the clue for SELLERS(41A), and liked all the long downs except SANTAMONICA, thought that was just terrible TV, terrible.

Fun Thursday Peter Collins, thanks.

Carola 8:55 AM  

Mildly amusing (I liked the MAMA MAMBA) but TOo, TOo easy. I agree with @jae - once TONTO-->TOTO was in, the others came very quickly.

With ADAM and his RIBS up top, I felt it was too bad that EDE couldn't have been EvE. I liked the little BAA-PURR conversation on the right.

Two do-overs: Mute and topSEED.

Tita 8:56 AM  

What I knew...Sirius is in Canis Major, the great dog, who dutifully follows his master Orion around the skies.
What I learned when I googled... The expression "dog days of summer" refers to the period from July 3 through Aug. 11 when Sirius rises in conjunction with the sun.

I thought this was fun...who doesn't like a little baby talk once in a while? Though I do feel a bit cheated out of my clever-tricksy Thursday, it was still entertaining.

When my niece was a tot, and her baby sister was baby-talking a lot (I mean, she was really vocal) I tried to impress upon the older sister the importance of that role. How it's up to here to teach her little sister lots of things, like, for instance, talking...
Maude corrected me... "Oh, Ali says lots of things. She says lalalalala, gabagabagaba...she talks all the time!"

That blew my her, that form of communication was crystal clear.

Thank you, Mr. Collins.

Lewis 9:02 AM  

Different strokes for different folks... I loved this theme's silliness/playfulness, and the skill it took to put together five identical letter pairs in each answer. When I was a kid, my sister and I used to make up silly words/definitions and strings of sounds like these theme answers (we still do). And there are playful clues here as well (IDO, ANT, ADAM, ADDS, OPED, PHOTOALBUM, SMOKEALARMS), plus some cool words like PARASOL and HIATUSES.

I do like the SEA/OCEAN cross, SAG going down, EAU over SEA, the floating RIBS, and the ONE mini-theme (ONESEED, ONEL, IONE). There is a dupe, by the way -- "Dog" in the ALPHA clue and in DOGSTAR. Just lots of fun all the way around.

Thank you Peter (with Will) for a grand old time!

Blue Stater 9:02 AM  

What Rex said. What Anonymous 12:21 a.m. said, too, in spades. We deserve better than this.

RavTom 9:06 AM  

What a fun puzzle!

Anonymous 9:16 AM  

There is another layer to the theme, which may have been intentional. The themed answers are all family members. DAD(A) and MAMA are obvious. There are also SIS and TOT.

Brian W. Ogilvie 9:17 AM  

ONE SEED?? Really?

Mr. Benson 9:25 AM  

The double play concept -- changing "TOME" to "TO ME" -- would not work because it would leave a word, "ME," in the answer without the requisite two-letter combo. Critics like, oh, say, Rex Parker would not let that slide when none of the other theme answers do that.

George Barany 9:41 AM  

@Peter Collins is a skilled, prolific constructor, but today's puzzle, easy as it was (especially to those fluent in crosswordese) did not do much for me. As already noted by @Rex, the southwest corner, which included two foreign words (MATEO and EINEN) crossing each other (as well as the amusing crossing of OCEAN and SEA) was potentially problematic.

At least, ISIS was clued with respect to the ancient Egyptian goddess, rather than the self-proclaimed caliphate in the current news--and for that, I am thankful. Plus, I appreciate the winks to science with the clues for SITU and METHODS, and (on a personal note) to my wife BARB.

Jamie C 9:45 AM  

For those unsatisfied with today's NYT offering (which seems to be almost everyone), there's a nice WSJ puzzle today:

"Deer Crossing," by Alice Long.

Anonymous 9:55 AM  

Do do that voodoo that you do so well. I liked the challenge of parsing the phrases.

mathgent 9:58 AM  

I liked it a lot. Clever wordplay in the four themers. Enough crunch so that I needed to understand the theme to boost me over some barriers. Twenty Terrible Threes is inside the acceptable range. "Start of the Nuevo Testamento" for MATEO was outstanding. Some other cute clues, as well.

Buffalo Bill 10:03 AM  

Rex said: "Not a big fan of nonsense phrases, or prattle, or whatever is going on here. Babbling." The point is they are NOT nonsense phrases or babbling, they are phrases made of funny letter combinations that make sense when parsed correctly. See "Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo." This is having fun with language, and it's sort of the reason word puzzles exist.
If one doesn't appreciate fun with language, perhaps one should take up Sudoku.

Roo Monster 10:03 AM  

Hey All !
The double-letter dohickey thingamabob was quite interesting. May seem arbitrary and odd/weak to some, but I think it at least looks cool in the grid! It is wordplay, after all... Just sayin.

Agree with the nice long downs. ONESEED is off, had topSEED there first. All the non-theme "?" clues were very clever (well, maybe not EDU). Small amount of dreck, but as others said, easily overlooked by the longer nice answers. "Tots"as an abbreviation is odd also.

Pretty difficult to come up with this type of theme. Try getting a fairly sensible phrase with the five pairs of two. Go ahead, I'll wait...

No too easy, eh? So kudos to PAC-Man. :-)


Steve M 10:03 AM  

Lighten up Rex

Numinous 10:12 AM  

Piece of 63 A. Once the letter pairs became obvious is was just a matter of coming up with a sentence that fit the clues. Cute? Maybe for some. Tedious? Maybe for some others. For me, It was just a juggle. This took me about half as long as my usual time for a Thursday. For once, I'm pretty much in agreement with OFL on this one; something that isn't always true since I'm frequently amused by things that he finds appaling.

@Jae, once I saw it, HIATUSES was a bit of an annoying smile. Two categories of people, at least, endure them. School teachers and people who work in the television industry. TV shows, on traditional network television usually run around 26 episodes that air over six months. It takes about nine months to make the shows so various members of the crew have HIATUSES of about three months every year. That makes taking fill-in jobs difficult if one wants to remain associated with the show one has been working on. Teachers have it a bit easier since in some districts they have the option to be paid over nine months or twelve. I always enjoyed HIATUS, a welcome respite from the scramble to keep up with the relentless schedule of TV.

quilter1 10:16 AM  

Not Thursday hard but reasonably crunchy. I agree with a medium rating but enjoyed more than @Rex.

Z 10:20 AM  

Absurdity works for me so I like this theme fine. Of course, I also follow @ISIS_Karaoke on Twitter (ISIS propaganda photos imagined as singing top Karaoke songs), so pure absurdity and even a little dark humor are okay by me.

MATEO crossing EINEN is just a tad unfair, n'est-ce pas? I'm looking forward to the Sanskrit/Chinese crossing in our future.

lrwlady 10:36 AM  

My first post here after a couple of years of lurking and learning from Rex and the other regulars. As one of the non-pro solvers, I did not even notice EDE today or need it to solve. And I liked the word and letter playfulness of the puzzle; it did tickle my funny bone and also allowed me to complete the puzzle more easily by filling the long phrases once I caught on.

cwf 10:44 AM  

I enjoyed this a lot more than @Rex did. I found the wackiness amusing.

I had the central PE for 64A ("Piece that can go left or right"), and could not unsee PEnis. Also happy to see what I believe is the debut Adventure Time reference crossing my favorite bit of crosswordese (FINN/FEN).

GILL I. 10:49 AM  

Oh no.....I thought this was fun.!
Peter Collins does this a lot (I don't know how to reference any of his past puzzles) but you can count on him being different and getting @Rex a tad pissed.
I actually circled the words that made sense or I would have gone nuts trying to figure them out. This gave me time to enjoy it and go AHA several times.
I, like so many of you, enjoy a rebus but I also love nonsense from time to time so yay today...
TOTO the DOG STAR. I wonder if he PURRs or maybe he goes BAA.
Liked RIBS just on top of ADAM and ALPHA sitting above MAHER.
Good, fun puzzle for moi.....!

Joseph Michael 10:55 AM  

Yes, it's silly but I had a good time solving it and parsing the themers, my favorite being LEND A DAD A DADA.

Thought a lot was accomplished without too much sacrifice in the fill and admired the long downs, particularly NEXT IN LINE. My only trouble was in the SE corner where DIET and ADDS hid themselves for quite a while behind their clues.

Good job, Peter, as usual.

Masked and Anonymous 11:05 AM  

@009: Dude. This coulda been much much worse: PEPELEPEWSPEWEDPEWONPEWITINPEWTERPEW.

I am moved to recall a choice bit of dejavuosity from Peter Gordon, in the 11 March 2002 NYTPuz. That plus 41-Across gives us some primo PETERPETERPETERPATTER.

Another fun one, sorta like yesterday's, where you get to suss out the weird ball themers, once you get the general idea.

fave weeject: EDE. Better clue: {Garde of ___ ??}.

fave weeject clue: {Ringing endorsement?} = IDO.

ZULUINALULUMUUMUUTUTU, your day surely must be at hand, real soon. M&A can dare to dream ...

Masked & Anonymo5Us

Anonymous 11:05 AM  

I understand this won't be published, but the "moderators" of these comments are screwing their readers. This has ceased to be a fun, interactive blog. Every day now there are pauses of at least 6 hours during the prime times that people are doing the puzzle and wanting to hear what others are saying about it. I, and many others, used to come here regularly throughout the day to get others' perspectives on the puzzle and to have some interaction with other solvers. The number of comments has plummeted and people are simply going to go somewhere else to find their community of solvers. You are destroying what was once a fun, interesting, and interactive community.

Anonymous 11:27 AM  

Agree with the NYT needing non-rebus Thursdays and Sundays. At this point I feel like I'm doing the crossword out of habit, and only truly enjoying Friday and Saturday puzzles.

Paul Johnson 11:33 AM  

No joy in Mudville. I'm with Rex on this one. Gibberish is just that. Gibberish.

Da Bears 11:50 AM  

This was apparently a family puzzle, with DAD, MAMA and SIS but no BRO, just the family dog TOTO.

Very fitting for the visit by the Holy Father....

Wednesday's Child 12:00 PM  

I know this stuff, I can fly through, yippee, I'm a "pro solver!"

old timer 12:02 PM  

I absolutely share Peter A, Collins's sense of humor. I love nonsense and was delighted when the theme appeared. LEND A DAD A DADA! I AM A MAMA MAMBA, which is a brainworm (a mental earworm) that I will be unable to put out of my head for a while.

I don't think EDE is such bad fill. It's been used, but not overused. And OONA is great fill when clued to refer to someone as contemporary as OONA Chaplin.

Nice misdirect at 53D. How many of you were about to put in "Huck"? I know I was, but for the final themer making that impossible. Equally clever for those who got ALPHA right away: the temptation to write in "hulks" or "hunks" instead of HEMEN. Though when I was growing up, Muscle Beach (which

Writeover: I had MARCO before MATEO, then remembered Matthew comes first in the NT.

When I was a kid, we were warned to stay away from those HEMEN at SANTA MONICA's Muscle beach. Because the reputation was, it was a hangout for the folks we now call "gay".

Leapfinger 12:09 PM  

Have we initiated a HIATUSES vs HIATI discussion yet?

I'm not too Sirius to enjoy challenging my glossopharyngeal nerve, and enjoyed the sparkly-enough downs, especially having SANTA MONICA sans MATEO NEXT IN LINE. Hope I don't need to SITU Down to explain that one.

@Rex, I doubt that TONTO_TO_TOTO_TO_ME caper would have worked; one of us would certainly have dropped the BAA.

Favourite clue was for 36A; I'm looking forward tothe next time I'm in the kitchen using my This-and-That Master.

Not a PURRfect Thursday, but I did like the LOOPy METHODS to the mADness.

ANON B 12:27 PM  

Criticize, criticize, criticize.
I am not as good a solver as most of you
but I do the puzzle not only for the pleasure
of getting the answers, when and if I do, but
for the appreciation of the skill of the
puzzle maker just for fitting in the words.

Trombone Tom 12:28 PM  

Definitely on the easy side for a Thursday. I'm not as critical as OFL about nonsense answers. I enjoyed the humor, even if I did have a difficult time parsing the answers. TopSEED before ONESEED. Had to go back to HS German to pick among EINEs, EINEm, or EINEN. Thanks Peter Collins for a pleasant romp.

OISK 12:29 PM  

I don't get "tots" for "add." Otherwise, I like this sort of thing. One other nit to pick. Surely there are other ways to clue "Santa Monica" without a reference to a silly TV series. But all in all, a nice Thursday puzzle.

dmw 12:38 PM  

For my tastes, I disagree with Rex and the previous comments--I had fun doing the puzzle and I think it was extremely clever of the constructor to make any sense at all of the themers. So thanks Peter Collins.

Uncle John C 1:03 PM  

I know that this is really nitpicking, but isn't there some rule about having the word "dog" in a clue (9A), and also have it appear in the grid (DOGSTAR)?

Xwordluvr 1:10 PM  

"Why five two-letter strings?" asks Rex? Why indeed! Like Rex, I'm troubled by crosswords the themes of which serve no clear purpose, advance no definable aim. In fact, come to think of it, why crosswords? Why a 15 x 15 grid with seventy-some crossing words divided by thirty-some blocks? Why, Rex, why? I hope not just 'cause.

tkincher 1:16 PM  

"...five [theme answers], to be exact"

Well, four, to be more exact.

Alec Myers 1:21 PM  

I did find the theme pretty funny, mostly because of the ridiculous cluing and thinking about people trying to read the answers without knowing what the clue is. Pretty easy, but fun.

Anonymous 1:32 PM  

Is EDE in Neverland? I read the book and didn't see Tinkerbell there. Ohh, Netherlands. Nevermind.

Anonymous 1:55 PM  

I'm new to this, so please forgive if this is a stupid, newbie comment, but given the EDE clue, could the theme also have been hidden palindromes?



Teedmn 1:59 PM  

I thought this was fun. I don't really have an "average" Thursday time - it can be all over the map - but I wouldn't call this one 'easy'. I liked the theme and much of the cluing. DIET as clued, MATEO was fun to figure out with no crosses, SANTAMONICA getting the second word only off the 'O' ('Three's Company' was one of those shows that came after my TV years were done, so never saw it), SMOKEALARM as clued, etc.

I made it harder for myself by putting spas for INNS so 1A was Soso for too long, and of course, topSEED so the NW was the last holdout. TOME of 17A was an anti-DOOK because I was filling that one in from right to left and was reading it as TO ME. As a non-pro solver, I found this to be just fine. Thanks, PAS.

chefwen 2:18 PM  

I totally agree with Anon @11:05. There is an easier way to deal with the trolls that won't interfere with the enjoyment of the majority of us who used to love the spontaneity of this blog, skip over them. It's as simple as that.

Barry Miller 2:42 PM  

This was a fun, clever puzzle. I solved it without being able to grasp the theme answers but now that I understand them, how clever they are. They make complete sense. For example, veryone must realize, at this point, that it's not meant to be read to me, but tome (book). I appreciate this puzzle very much. Too much unwarranted negativity in the blog for my taste. Maybe lighten up.

Chip Hilton 3:05 PM  

Wow, no in-between on this one. Hater and Lovers expressing their viewpoints, which is fine. I enjoyed it as I love long, silly word strings. To wit, my favorite limerick, for Rex's non-enjoyment:
A certain young chap named Bill Beebee
Was in love with a lady named Phoebe.
"But," he said, "I must see
What the clerical fee
Be before Phoebe be Phoebe Beebee."

Sallie (FullTime-Life) 3:18 PM  

People asked about the clue tots for adds. When I was a little girl (back at the beginning of the last century), the butcher or grocer would tot up my mother 's bill on a piece of butcher paper ... Using a stub pencil. Until today, I bet I haven't heard that use of the word for at least sixty years.

Wm. C. 3:24 PM  

I too agree with @anon11:05 and now @chefwen. This moderation is very frustrating, much more so that troll content which is easily ignored. Apparently trolls bother OFL a lot more than they do the rest of us. To be fair to @rex, though, he does not seem to mind posta that aren't fully complimentary to him.

Mohair Sam 3:46 PM  

@chefwen - the difficulty in skipping over trolls is that you don't know they are trolls until you've read them. I know we're operating in a dictatorship here, but I'm casting my vote to keep things as they are - we find ourselves reading all the posts now that we know there is far less anger, politics, and garbage.

Martel Moopsbane 3:46 PM  

Probably been answered by now, but TOT (often seen in the phrase "to tot up") is indeed a verb that means add. And yes, it is probably a shortened version of "total".

Merriam-Webster dates its first use to 1772, so it's nothing new.

RAD2626 3:49 PM  

I am with the group that liked the puzzle. Pretty clear differences of opinion today. Thought the word play was very clever and the cluing that many have mentioned also very well done. Agree with @LMS sentiments entirely. Also agree with the sentiments about the comment moderation. Has changed the flow considerably and not for the better. Real time was worth the occasional entry that offended or had to be skipped. And I miss learning the newest tips in getting my spouse back through voodoo.

Anonymous 3:50 PM  

@tkincher - reread the sentence you object to, and you'll see Rex is referring to 5 repeats in each theme of two letters. In his theme description "actually, five to be exact" modifies "lots of". Or, just look at his listing of the themes and you'll see the 5 repeats of the two letters in red.

chefbea 3:54 PM  

I too agree with @anon 11:05 and @chefwen. I commented about this once last week and it wasn't published.

Bronxdoc 4:11 PM  

Ugh. Did not love this puzzle at all. And, please name one time that anyone has called a tournament favorite 'one seed'.

Anonymous 4:35 PM  

Comments keep referring to"OFL". Explain please?

Z 4:48 PM  

Bring Back the Spell Casters! Bring Back the Spell Casters! Bring Back the Spell Casters! Bring Back the Spell Casters!

Okay. Maybe not.

As I recall, Rex went to moderation not because of any request from the commentariat, but because he was getting complaints from readers about the ugliness. I don't think he cares two Dada Tontos about the preferences and wishes of the commentariat.

@Bronxdoc - Uh, like, all the frigging time during any major tournament ever. All of February is filled with talk of which college basketball teams will be the "overall ONE SEED," or which will get a ONE SEED in each of the four regions. Being a ONE SEED is a big advantage because you get to play the weakest seed. In fact, if all games/matches play to seed the ONE SEED always has the lowest remaining seed. Occasionally, a tournament reseeds after every round so that the highest remaining seed plays the lowest remaining seed. I could go on ( and on and on and on), but ONE SEED is very much in the language.

Anonymous 4:57 PM  

Loved this. Lots and lots of fun! Terrific puzzle.

GILL I. 4:58 PM  

@Chip Hilton...HAH! Biggest and loudest laugh today.....
I wonder if you'll ever see this post....

Nancy 5:42 PM  

I'm very glad to see that the unfortunate new blog moderation system is finally being discussed and that Rex has permitted four critical comments about it to go through. I agree with all four comments: what the blog has lost in spontaneity, interactivity and the ability to actually make offline friends on this blog greatly, GREATLY outweighs the blocking of nasty, vicious comments, which, as everyone points out, can simply be skipped over. But since, as Eleanor Roosevelt once said, "It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness,", let me make a suggestion of how to thwart trolls, while freeing Rex from the absurd tedium of monitoring his blog on an hourly or even more frequent basis.

Any really accomplished techie could set up a "one strike and you're out" or "two strikes and you're out" automated system, that will monitor comments without the necessity of a human being intervening. An anonymouse makes one or perhaps two vile comments and out he goes. He will be blocked from the site forever. Now such a techie whiz probably doesn't come cheap, but might he set such a system up for, say $1,000? And if there are 100 of us regulars and we each put in $10, can Rex hire such a techie? (Personally, I'll go to $20. I'm a sport. And that gives Rex $2000 to play with, to find a really GIFTED techie.

Hope this comment goes through. If it goes through very late tonight, I'll give you all a "heads up" tomorrow. Like all of you, I'm hoping for better blog days ahead.

Teedmn 6:24 PM  

When ALPHA DOG STAR TOTO was asked "UGANDA PURR?" If it is written into the script, HE SAID "NAPE, I use METHODS acting techniques. I AM GANDA go on HIATUSES if they do that.

(Thanks(?) @Gill I and some others for the inspiration(?) ).

And I meant to thank PAC earlier, sorry.

Anonymous 6:38 PM  

I think you should change your criticism from " a sense of humor I don't share" to "a sense of humor I don't have" It was good! I doubt you could write a funny puzzle, Rex

Diana,LIW 7:35 PM  


Absolutely brilliant. Put me in for $40, the cost of a year's online subscription. Even tho I don't post a lot (yet, I'm still in subscription mode, but may switch soon) I miss the back and forth.

And, IMHO, I just find the mice ridiculous, and even amusing, in their own stupidity.

Just my 2 cents.

And I have to tell y'all, I just figured out a (5-week-old) rebus for the first time today. Usually, I think of them as constructors' cheating ways, but now I get the thrill of the rebae.

Diana, Lady in Waiting for Crosswords

Jim in Chicago 7:36 PM  

Um. You plant bulbs in the fall, not the Spring. Is Will on vacation too?

old timer 7:43 PM  

I too would be happy to go back to the old ways and put up with the spell casters. But a major reason for going to moderation was because the blog sometimes descended to hateful remarks about, not the anonymice, who deserve whatever trashing (or praise) they get, but also to many of the regulars who contribute *everything* to this blog. I'm not thinking of myself here. I'm thinking of Loren and chefwen and Z and AliasZ and Mr. Barany.

The other alternative was to make everyone sign up for a service that verified their real names. I really did not want to do that, myself. I love having *one* place on the Net where I can be a regular, and only a very good detective could figure out my real name. But I was prepared to go through the required hoops had @Rex chosen that route. Because, man (or woman) I really do love you!

P.S. I have thought it a matter of honor to be "old timer" in every single post I have ever made.

Andrea Ojeda 7:48 PM  

Some people around here should stop doing the NYTCrossword. It is clear that they are in a much higher sphere of erudition and solving abilities, hence finding every single puzzle banal, boring, trivial, unworthy, unfunny and many more etceteras. Perhaps these same people can create their own puzzle Ph.D. seminars where they can indulge in their constant, critiques on the work of 99% of puzzle constructors being published

Mohair Sam 7:48 PM  

@Anonymous 4:57 OFL = Our Fearless Leader (Rex Parker)

@nancy - Cursing and "vile" comments don't bother me a bit. It was the hateful political B.S. from both left and right that bugged me, and the insults and petty bickering between some folks.

But if @Rex is opening up comment he may be ready to go back to the free-for-all days. Can't hate him, he does have that day job.

Da Bears 8:22 PM  

@Chefwen, if it makes you feel any better, I am rooting for the Pack this year. I even picked Rodgers for my QB on one of me Fantasy Football teams. I suppose this comment might have been better placed in yesterdays's blog. I guess it fits under ONE SEED.

formerly, JFC

Z 9:35 PM  

@anon 4:35 - OFL is short for Our Fearless Leader, otherwise known as Rex Parker, Tyrant of RexWorld.

@Nancy - if you add an email to your blogger account people can contact you. I received a funny private rejoinder just this past week, have gotten emails from several regulars here, and many have been known to lunch together. None of this is dependent on a lack of moderation. Check off email follow up box and you don't even have to return here to see all the comments. I like your idea about troll-control, but I doubt that Blogger (the host of this blog) would make it easy to implement.

Elephant's Child 11:26 PM  

Hi @Jim in Chicago! If you search on 'bulbs for Spring planting', you'll see over 13 million results; surely there's enough to warrant that'some' in the clue? (Most spring-planted bulbs flower in the summer.) Since my gardening style for most any chore is to do it when I think of it and have the time, I'm just lucky that MAMA Nature meets me halfway a lot of the time.

@Wednesday's Child, maybe we could get together and change Wednesdays from Hump Day to Trunk Day? (Whereabouts in Canada? Moi, je demeurais a Montreal jusqu'a ce que les Separatistes Québécois.)

jae 11:46 PM  

@Z - Once again you've saved me from composing a lengthy reply. Thanks. Let me just add that an effective troll-control for Blogger would not only not be easy, it is likely impossible. Show me a $1000 techie who could build one and I'll get a $1500 techie who could hack it and will do it for free just for the yucks.

Steve J 12:32 AM  

@Nancy: Unfortunately, that's likely not an option. Rex runs his site on Blogger, which is owned by Google. With most Google services, you get what they give you, and you'll like it. While there's some degree of customization - basically some core services you can allow (like, say, post moderation), look and feel, etc. - something like that would require programming that Blogger is unlikely to accommodate.

Even if you could do it, that system is destined to fail, for a couple reasons. If it's automated, it will inevitably end up banning people who did nothing wrong. While machines are good at some things, they're still not very good at discerning nuance - and they're especially bad at understanding sarcasm. A couple sarcastic comments that humans know were said in jest and not actually directed at someone looks just like any other example of attacking language to a computer. On top of that, any banning system can and will be defeated. I've seen it done hundreds of times. I've done it myself. It would stop only the most lazy or the most incompetent trolls.

One option would be to allow comments openly and then delete offending ones later, but that's usually more work for someone, because inevitably back-and-forth starts up. Do you delete just the original, offending comment, or all the follow-up?

Stuff like this is a no-win situation for any site owner. Yeah, I miss some of the back-and-forth. It would be great if the moderation could occur more frequently, but Rex and anyone else he has helping him all of real jobs. Personally, I'll take the slowness over the tone of the last few months before moderation was put in place.

Either way, it would do us all well to remember the site is free. Whatever we like, whatever we don't like, we're all getting no less than what we're paying for.

spacecraft 11:09 AM  

"Vacations in Hispaniola?" could be HAITIHIATI. I saw this as a bunch of twongue-tisters. Seychelles seashells and all that. Not ROFL-inducing, but a kind of comic relief from reality. That first guy, though, would hardly be a "TOME;" how many could there be between those two? The next one reminds me of the Seinfeld classic "Yadda yadda yadda." A quirky little diversion, easyish for a Thursday and suffering somewhat from dense theme constrictions in the fill. B-.

P.S. WB Rainy!

rondo 12:19 PM  

SI, SI! Depends on what the definition of IS IS, ISAID to MAMA and DADA, and TOTO too. What a MIX of drivel. No wonder re: my attitude re: a Thurs-puz. No need to re:peat.

@spacey – music cruises with John HIATT to the HAITI HYATT?

And yes, welcome back @rain forest!

At least we get yeah baby OONA Chaplin, anyone who’s been a Bond girl gets two thumbs up from me! More Bond girls next week, in IMAX!

Although the long downs were pretty good, to this type of puz I say NONONONONO!

Burma Shave 12:35 PM  


I was NEXTINLINE at one of the Damascus INNS, SMOKEALARMS flashing red,
“They think they’re HEMEN, but their METHODS are sins. No ETHIC, THISISISIS”,ISAID.


eastsacgirl 1:26 PM  

Nice romp through inane-land. Easyish for a Thursday.

Anonymous 3:46 PM  

Yes, again, welcome back Rain Forest. Apparently my prose of yesterday was opposed and disposed.

Liked this puzzle very much. For people like me, with a "sense for the ridiculous" it was right down my alley. I'd call it an Easy Thursday.

AR Diego, CA (Where Minnie the Mouse wears Maxi dresses and Max Factor wears Minis)'

rain forest 3:51 PM  

Thanks for the welcomes, @Spacey and @Rondo.
A combination of absence from solving and a lethal cold had me struggling with this for far too long. The meaningless first themer had me bamboozled and it was only while parsing the second one that I had a sort of aha moment. The repeating 2-letter form of the answers became clear and so the last two themers were much easier to get. Yes, @Spacey, that volume of TONTO TO TOTO would be about as TOMElike as a collection of the wit and wisdom of GWB.

I came around to enjoying the solve, and maybe it was a little easy, there was enough bite to put up a fight, at least for me.

I have to say, that after three and a half months away from the blog, I'm kind of surprised that OFL continues to attack WS and the NYT xword, yet still leads off on the blog. Maybe it's because he realizes that so many of those who comment provide life to the blog, something of which he increasingly is incapable.

rain forest 4:25 PM  

Looks like my comment got "moderated" out, unless there is a lag between a comment being made and then getting a pass. In my opinion, it was a pretty tame one.

BS2 5:44 PM  


As UGANDA at the PHOTOALBUM, you SEA MENU think are hot,
Let’s SITU down, don’t play KOI or dumb, you like PETER in that UPSHOT.


SanDiegoElisabeth 6:59 PM  

Toto is buried (cremated?) and even has a statue at Hollywood Forever cemetery in Los Angeles, FYI.

leftcoastTAM 6:59 PM  

I guess I was late for the train yesterday, but I'll try again today:

Found this one on the challenging side, having a problem seeing HIATUSES/AHA thing. I know what a HIATUS is but it looked strange in this format, and AHA seemed too cryptic for the clue.

STARED at the MENU/MATEO crossing as well.

Found ONESEED questionable.

Still, I came out of it despite the rather high investment of time.

leftcoastTAM 7:07 PM  

I have to commend @Burma Shave again.
Both of his poems are gems.

Anonymous 9:44 PM  

@Rain Forest. About your comment, check out the new notice when you submit your comments. As Spacecraft says, OFL has set up a panel of Psychiatrists, Sociologists, Grammarians, and I believe an Old Nun to scrutinize and parse all writings from the Syndies.

God bless him for protecting all the children. :)

AR Diego, L.M., CA (Where peace, justice and the American way is practiced by the Pacifists, Justices and Americans in La M.)

Anonymous 1:25 PM  

I agree with those who thought this was easy for a Thursday, and also with those who thought it was fun. I enjoyed this more than any NYT puzzle in recent memory. The theme answers made me smile, and one made me laugh out loud!

I do call a foul on "one seed" however. It's "number one seed" or "top seed" in every sport I'm aware of. Still, the puzzle was fun!

Anonymous 10:42 AM  

Enjoyed it. Rex is becoming something of a curmudgeon, whines a lot. I don't mind that his areas of interest are different from mine (he knows sports, pop music, etc.), but I do mind when he trashes mine-- yes, I'm older, for instance. But a lot of the TV references he puts down are about shows running daily on various cable channels, for instance. The stuff I know is different from the stuff he knows, and if the constructors only catered to him, the audience for the puzzles would be a lot more limited. I was also a literature teacher, but I taught different works...let me have my days once in a while.

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