South American rodents / SUN 9-20-15 / Swillbelly / Journalist Flatow / Pioneering Arctic explorer John / Bo's cousin Dukes of Hazzard / Pursuer of Capt Hook / Museo contents / Hip hop name modifier / Modern-day hieroglyph

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Constructor: Jason Mueller and Jeff Chen

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: "Put A Lid On It!" —famous people and their hats, with the hat type sitting directly on top of the famous person's name, as a "topper"

Theme answers:
  • INDIANA JONES (23A: Fictional archaeologist) wearing a FEDORA
  • CALAMITY JANE (28A: Famed frontierswoman) wearing a STETSON
  • CHE GUEVARA (40A: Subject of "Guerillero Heroico") wearing a BERET
  • CHARLES DE GAULLE (58A: Leader of the Free French) wearing a KEPI
  • STAN LAUREL (83A: He helped move a piano in "The Music Box") wearing a BOWLER
  • BUSTER KEATON (95A: Star of "Sherlock Jr." and "Steamboat Bill Jr.") wearing a PORKPIE
  • CHEF BOY-AR-DEE (102A: Italian pitchman of note) wearing a TOQUE 
Word of the Day: VENINS (8D: Poison compounds produced by snakes) —
1. (Biochemistry) any of the poisonous constituents of animal venoms
[C20: from French ven(in) poison + -in] (
• • •

This will have to be somewhat brief, as I have a houseful of 15-year-old girls and it's very, let's say, distracting (lovely as they are). My daughter is having her 15th birthday party tonight—really more of a get-together with four of her friends that involves snacks and dinner and hanging out watching "Key & Peele" videos and prank-calling WalMart (we stepped in there) and, ultimately, watching the season premiere of "Doctor Who." Not a sleepover, though, so mercifully I will have my house back before midnight. For the time being, though, it's weirdly loud in this house, and things keep happening that require attention, so ... I'm gonna try to crank this out quickly.


The theme is cute but utterly transparent. I knew it was hat-related just from reading the title, and the way the theme is set up, you get a lot of squares for free if you know the particular famous person you are dealing with. I knew all the people and all the hats, so, piece of cake. Too much of a piece of cake. Like I say, you pretty much get the hats for free, and yet ... those hats (ironically) are oddly costly, in that they really really compromise the fill. If you highlight all the unlovely fill in the grid, you will see that it (unsurprisingly) tends to congregate around the stacked hat-on-person answer sets. TOQUE alone is responsible for a whole weird section of grid design, where a bunch of cheater squares (extra black squares before TOQUE and under QBS) are introduced in order to, uh, handle that "Q." If you don't have a "U" to stack that "Q" on, your options run low very, very quickly. Elsewhere, you get sketchiness in the west with IGOTO alongside COWAN (who?), and in the north with VENINS (?) crossing ANILS (crosswordese plural!). AUER ARTE EEKS haunts the BUSTER KEATON section. And all over the place you have much more subpar fill than you would (probably) have in a less exacting grid. Those "hats" really really lock you in, fill-wise. So, because the theme was ultra easy, and because the fill skewed downward, I wasn't thrilled with this, despite being a fan of many of the people in the grid (esp. BUSTER KEATON) and despite liking the basic thematic premise.

Here's a list of other stuff I would, for varying reasons, keep out of my grid if I could (keep in mind that the point isn't that any *one* of these answers is inherently unacceptable, but that in the aggregate, they become wearying):
  • ANNO
  • ALLA
  • AUER
  • TSR
  • EEKS
  • SBA
  • ESTS
  • RES
  • RAE
  • TUA
  • OSA
  • LETT
  • EMAJ
There wasn't enough on the other side of the ledger (Wonderful Stuff) to balance things out, but I did enjoy SEEN IT! (49A: Nixing phrase on movie night) and EMOJI (69A: Modern-day hieroglyph) and AFRIKANER (79D: Literature Nobelist J. M. Coetzee, by birth), for sure.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


George Barany 12:08 AM  

Nice review, @Rex, and I especially appreciate the @BUSTER_KEATON clip -- you can Google for details, but there no special effects there; he was his own stuntman, etc., etc. @Jeff Chen is, of course, a highly experienced and prolific constructor, but let's give kudos to @Jason Mueller for whom this puzzle marks his New York Times debut.

Steve J 12:11 AM  

Definitely incredibly easy, but I found this to be a pretty fun little diversion. I definitely noted a good amount of iffy fill, but it didn't bother me as much as it usually would. Maybe because things were going by too quickly to really let it sink in.

Loved 101A and its clue, because of a local connection. I live on the Oakland/Berkeley border, and about a mile from me, there's a sculpture along one of the major north/south streets that consists simply of the words "here" and "there" straddling the border between the two cities. "Here" is on the Berkeley side; "there" is on the Oakland side. So, yes, there is a "there" there in Oakland.

Sir Hillary 12:16 AM  

I always expect lots of dodgy fill in a Sunday-sized puzzle, so it never bothers me as much as it does in a 15x15. I enjoyed the theme.

jae 12:25 AM  

Medium for me.   Got hung up a bit in NW because I misread the 21a clue and was not familiar with swillbelly so tried pig and hOg before SOT.  Rex is right about the fill and Jeff Chen more or less agrees at Xwordinfo.  However, like Jeff, I think the good stuff outweighs the iffy glue.  Cute Sun., liked it.

chefwen 12:53 AM  

I was hoping for a clever Sunday rebus, but I guess this will do. I keep looking at it trying to find something fun and interesting to say, but I'm coming up blank. Will have to let others fill in my gap. @LMS take over please.

No outside help, no write-overs so I will have to agree with rex's rating of EASY.

AliasZ 4:33 AM  

Enough already with MAO and CHE GUEVARA.

Lewis 6:35 AM  

The theme definitely made this easier and was easy to suss. There was some bite in the cluing, and was 47D, TOPS, a reveal? Was the ugly fill compensated for by an enjoyable solve? For me, yes, with some bite in the cluing, some smiles (like the clue for TKO and the answer/clue for BEEPBEEP). Not exactly a hats off, but certainly gratitude to J&J.

Charles Rosenzweig 7:38 AM  

5. Across - "Ifs"?
38. Down - "Tater"?

chefbea 7:39 AM  

I know I'm not the first!!! though it says no comments.

Fun puzzle..Didn't realize that the hats were right on top of those wearing them until I read the write-up. Loved chef Boyardee and toque of course. and the clue for TKO was great!! Also the clue for bugs!!!

Mohair Sam 7:52 AM  

Oh, those bases on balls! Wrong clue for 1D - what has happened to standards at the New York Times? Otto indeed.

Yeah @Rex - we got to 23A, consulted our list of 12 letter fictional archaeologists with a 6 or 5 letter "lid," and the themers filled themselves in minutes (except for DEGAULLE's KEPI, which sounds like a yenta in training). Theme was a lot of fun, but waaaay too easy. And as Rex points out - we saw a lot of strained fill to make it work.

AFRIKANER pretty much a gimme off Coetzee's name; I was an SBA lender for a while so that was easy enough; EMOJI a nifty lid for DATASET; and when are we going to put an end to AE endings?

R.I.P. Frankie FRISCH

Bob Kerfuffle 7:54 AM  

Super-Easy but fun.


Ben Eggenberger 8:13 AM  

@Charles: If/Then operations are very common in computer programming - "code". "Tater" is slang for home run - "long ball".

Incredibly easy puzzle.

Thomaso808 8:50 AM  

KEPI and TOQUE (sorry, chefs!) were unknown to me but very sussable with the crosses.

NOOR crossing BONMOT took a complete guess - I'm not up on my French nor Jordanian queens.

Other than those hiccups, a very enjoyable solve. I like Sundays to be on the easy side just because of the sheer size of the grid.

Congratulations to Jason Mueller on the debut!

joho 8:53 AM  

I agree that was easy but I had fun finding all the different hats. I wish the puzzle title had been less obvious, though. I knew what was happening the second I read it destroying any theme intrigue. Also it reminded me of Loren and Jeff's "Snakes On A Plane" puzzle which also had a very clever concept expertly executed.

Congratulations, Jason! Jeff your talent is amazing.

@Rex, another excellent write up!

Michael Collins 8:56 AM  

Held up when Italian pitchman wasn't ENRICOCARUSO or FRANKSINATRA.

Z 8:59 AM  

Famous people who wore hats. Uh, not my cuppa. Rex is spot on about the compromises that ensue. We do get AGOUTIS and IRS AUDIT, two members of the U Clan (How long until the U Clan Tartan can be found at Amazon?).

@Charles Rosenzweig - I think the "code" in 5A is computer code, and lines of computer code might begin with "if." The S is a POC. TATER and "long ball" are both slang for a home run in baseball.

@Alias Z and others - You're starting to sound a little like the Obama-complainer(s). MAO, CHE, POL POT, IDI, STALIN, are all cross-worthy. None of them rise to level of Hitler in our culture, whatever objective similarities there may be. Their presence in xwords bothers me less than eels, erns, and RRN.

Lobster11 9:14 AM  

This is the first time I can remember in a very long time that I've done about half of a puzzle and then just quit out of boredom. I often think about quitting if it begins to feel like a slogfest -- like many Sundays in recent months -- but ordinarily I find just enough zip to keep me going. This one just seemed utterly dull and lifeless to me, and (in part because of the nature of the theme) populated with far too many names and other proper nouns. I'd rather go do something else.

r.alphbunker 9:30 AM  

Puzzle report

A tip of the hat to Jason and Jeff. I got the theme early on but realized later in the solve that the hats were on top of their wearers in the puzzle. There followed a moment of appreciation of the skill of the constructors.

This list helped me understand what an EMOJI is: Unicode EMOJIs

TELL brought to mind this recent New Yorker cartoon. That is one cool CAT but don't you just love the DOGs!

The "distance" of a solver from a puzzle is different from the "distance" of a critic. The solver is often too far away to notice the fill, he/she is enjoying the theme and nice clues which are more visible and overshadow the workmanlike fill. Douglas Adams and John Lloyd in their book "The Meaning of Liff" defined a Sheppey to be the closest distance at which a sheep ceases to be picturesque (equal to approximately 7/8 of a mile). I am sure that there is a psychological distance at which any crossword puzzle ceases to be charming. We could call it a "parker" but I am not sure how to measure it.

Carola 9:35 AM  

Cute theme, enjoyable puzzle, I thought. I'd have liked to see a more even gender mix, though -- thinking of Jackie Kennedy and her pillbox, Scarlett O'Hara in her sunbonnet, Venus Williams with a visor....

Teedmn 10:10 AM  

I'm in the'EEKS camp today. Only INDIANA JONES was a gimme, as clued, for me, and I kept stumbling into potholes that slowed the solving process to slogging speed. My Daniel was in a LION DEN, 'out of my way' was kEEPBack, making me want 'klept'(?) for BOOST for a while. Floes first for BERGS, 'rune' for IBIS. VENINS is a WOE. At least I've actually seen AGOUTIS in the wild on the island of Roatan, so that helped that section (COWAN, AKIRA, no idea).

So while I now recognize all the people and can picture them in their hats, I just can't summon the joy. Yet I recognize the effort that went into the construction, so I thank Jeff and Jason. Congrats on the debut, Mr. Mueller.

Leapfinger 10:29 AM  

phoo, I wanted AFRIKAaNER, not exactly sure why.

Thought "Hey, that's a cute juxta; worth a mention!" when I saw STETSON above CALAMITY_JANE. That's what happens when you don't read the title. Sometimes, I just have to BE DIM. Thought the FEDORA would top Greta Garbo and the BOWLER be on Charlie Chaplin, but then I'm no CON_Isere. Above all, it's a cute theme, and it's just a quirk of history that Gandhi and Jesus didn't have any trademark headgear. It's just as well that Pol Pot wasn't associated with a hat, and that neither FEZ/FAROUK nor USHANKA/STALIN made it into a Sunday grid. A shame, though, that we couldn't have a double-header with:

Had ICES before OFFS

@Charles Rosenzweig, let me be one more to say that many lines of code say "IF (A), then (B)". Regarding TATER, I just took it on faith.

Nice to see @jBERG'S family make it into this Sunday pangram. Me, I'll be donning my Deerstalker soon as I get back Holmes.

Steve M 10:36 AM  

Lovely theme

quilter1 10:41 AM  

Easy and fun. Wanted Annie Oakley before CALAMITY JANE but the crosses and length taught me better. I cleaned out my office supply drawer this week and found a bunch of colored paper. So I loaded it into the printer to use it up and am solving on blue, pink, green and yellow. Also, for a long time I wasn't having to prove I'm not a robot by picking out all the salads and popcorn. Now it is back. Wonder why.

Clay Mama 10:45 AM  

Easy for me but not a slog, thank goodness. Rex, thanks for the Key and Peele episode. Since my teenagers are grown up I am not up on Comedy Central. I'll be watching these episodes from now on!

Loren Muse Smith 10:49 AM  

Fun theme I thought. Agree with Rex that the trick was easy to get; FEDORA over INDIANA JONES were I think my second and third entries, but I enjoyed tracking down the themers and remembering the hats. I don't speak hat, so I didn't know the difference between PORK PIE and BOWLER.

Noticed HEF and BUNNY. Hah. TERI could've been cross-referenced with LOIS. Glad she wasn't. And @Lewis – that BEEP BEEP crosses Bugs BUNNY.

Hey, Mr. 104D - I'm sure thousands of us had "venoms" first.

"Abe Lincoln" has the same numbers of letters as CHE GUEVARA and STAN LAUREL.

So a swillbelly, boozehound, and tosspot walk into this bar on Pab St. in Oakland…

I loved the clue for EMOJI. Never thought of them that way.

TV DAD crossing WHAT A GUY. My favorite Phil Dunphy line:

Claire: "What do you mean I'm not even scary? I literally almost scared the life out of a man."
Phil: "You literally scared a little saliva and a little urine out of him. That happens to me every time I see a monkey wearing people clothes."

Some people can really pull off a hat, but some can't. Let's pause here and be grateful that PHARRELL WILLIAMS has so many letters. What the heck is that thing he stands under, anyway? I was going for "California" someone before CALAMITY JANE. Didn't know she wore a STETSON. She's the only woman featured in the grid, by the way. Matthew McConaughey and James Arness can really pull of a STETSON, but I've lost my taste for STETSONs associated with a female. Feels like some kind of mean-spirited Svengali. Ciao.

J and J – good job. Fun visual.

Nancy 10:50 AM  

I almost quit, too, for the same reason as @Lobster 11 (9:14), but kept going. A too-easy, very dull Sunday, though maybe I should be grateful for a respite after yesterday's very, VERY hard puzzle. Like @chefwen, I really can't find much of anything to say about this one.

Ellen S 10:58 AM  

Huh - my reaction was completely opposite that of @Lobster11 (9:14AM) -- about two-thirds of the way through, I found myself wishing it was a much longer puzzle, that I could spend the whole morning on. After not even getting a toehold on yesterday's puzzle (I filled in one answer, and then ... nothing), I really enjoyed meeting all these famous people, real and imaginary, and their hats. I had the same reaction as @Michael Collins,wanting an Italian opera singer or crooner for 102A. Is Chef Boy-Ar-Dee actually an Italian brand? Oh -- founder was certainly Italian -- Ettore Boiardi. All right then. And I guess the brand changed its name to "Boyardee" after I stopped eating the stuff.

Wm. C. 11:02 AM  

@Z --

Comparing those who complain about Obama with those complaining about the likes of Hitler, Stalin, and Mao strikes me as a bit incongruous. Obama complaints are political belly-aching, whereas the other three are mass murderers of the worst sort. BTW, I think it will be very interesting to see how history treats Mr. Obama, though that's beside the point.

In qualifying how these murderers are viewed, with "in our culture," I presume you're referring to the fact that it was very visible because of the fact that Americans over-ran the murder sites. In fact, though, historians generally believe Stalin's regime killed far more people, when counting outright executions, forced starvation, gulag deaths, and wartime collateral deaths. And Mao's killings in the Long March and thereafter is believed to eclipse all of these. Idi Amin and Pol Pot, in comparison, were pikers, killing "only" hundreds of thousands of their countrymen. BTW, let's not forget how many Native Americans were killed here, directly and indirectly as a result of whites' actions and policies.

Norm 11:16 AM  

Found this one harmless and enjoyable, if way too easy for the reasons Rex noted. CHEF BOYARDEE was the only one that gave me pause, since I came at it from the end and wanted it to [whatever his first name is] PARDEE.

GILL I. 11:20 AM  

I did this out on the porch and shared it with one billion mosquitos...such a distraction!
Lots of trivia here that I normally don't like but this had lots of good stuff. Glad to see one in the female department...CALAMITY JANE to boot!
My grandmother used to call me CALAMITY and I never knew why. I asked who she was and she told me to look her up. I did. She's pretty unattractive and about the only thing we had in common is that I loved to ride horses and I carried a little plastic rifle around that my dad gave to me. I much preferred pretending to be Roy Rogers.
Loved all the hat names. Somehow, seeing the beautiful TOQUE on top of CHEF BOY ARDEE looks like a BON MOT. I'd prefer he wear a PORK PIE.
Fun Sunday except for the mosquitos who originally were mass murderers in their first lives....I bet CHE is the leader.

Roo Monster 11:44 AM  

Hey All !
Great theme concept, with all the "lids" literally on top of the people. Cool. I did like this puz for that reason, although I agree about the dreck that ensued. Really hard to get decent fill with that much constraint, as evidenced by the many cheater squares. But hey, this puz made it to the show!

Unhappy with BEDIM and REATA, amongst others that Rex pointed out. Isn't it RIATA? Fun clue on BUNNY, SEEN IT, EGGOS. (And a few more I'm missing.)

Overall, fair. Had 9 wrong letters, so an Ugh DNF. TOQUE is new to me, guess I never knew it by anything except a Chef Hat! Had TOpeE. sKy for TKO! :-)

Tip of my PORKPIE

OISK 11:49 AM  

Easy but fun. Got held up for the longest time at _OWEN (wes of PBS ???) and Quick shot PI___.

Tried every letter, and eventually settled correctly on "C". Then MUCH later - OH! THAT kind of shot! DOH!

Joseph Michael 12:01 PM  

Felt a huge letdown when I realized early on that the theme was going to be hats, but then. as I got into it, I actually found it kind of interesting to think about how certain people are so defined by what they wear on their heads.

Could have done with a little less crosswordese but realize that the need to place hats literally on top of their subjects created a lot of constraints in the grid. So, thanks, guys, for an overall good time.

And thanks, @Rex, for the Buster Keaton clip.

cwf 12:11 PM  

Favorite clue: "Bugs, e.g." I needed an embarrassing number of crosses to get that. Generally found the puzzle to be a pleasant romp, which means two non-slog Sunday-sized puzzles in one day (combined with Evan's delightful #63), an increasing rarity, it seems.

Music man 12:12 PM  

This theme fell deeply into my "who cares?" category.

mathgent 12:18 PM  

@Lobster11. I did the same thing. I put it down out of boredom. But then The Closer woke up and found it on the table and finished it.

When I was a kid around 1950, I was in charge of making the meatless Friday night dinner for my brother and me. The tall Chef Boyardee box had spaghetti and a little tin of sauce and some grated cheese. We loved it. My Spanish mother didn't know about spaghetti. At that time only the Italian families ate pasta regularly.

Hugh 1:02 PM  

Like most, got the theme immediately but just realized after coming here that the hats were right on top of those who wore them - point scored but really not enough to keep my interest this week.

Cute theme but not very exciting for me, got bored early. DNF as I got caught up completely from 64D through 66D and all their crosses in that west part of the grid - not sure why, seems everything was Xword worthy, just got stuck. But I stopped caring well before then.

No real criticism of the puzzle, just not my cup of tea today. Congrats to Mr. Mueller on the debut!!

P.S. Has anyone else read the new novel - Two Across? I just finished it, cute story but was expecting a bit more of a clever crossword theme. Would love to get other's thoughts on it.

Have a great week all!

old timer 1:03 PM  

Glad to see CALAMITY JANE. A rare sighting, I would think. Not glad to see VENINS, which I could have gotten if I remembered ANILS, but at that stage, I just left the incorrect VENOMS in. Like many Sunday puzzles, it was a slog, but I for one was amused by the hats topping the historical figures.

Has anyone actually consumed a CHEF BOYARDEE production in recent years? EGGOS, still very popular.

Anonymous 1:15 PM  

Breezy Sunday, so just...fine. But really, in this day and age, if the best you can come up with for a toque wearer is Chef Boyardee, Will Shortz & Company need to start eating out more...

Unknown 1:21 PM  

Hey Rex, Wes Cowan here, otherwise known as "68 down." Nobody was more surprised than me! Then again, "History Detectives" had an 11 year run on PBS and has about 150k Facebook fans in spite of the fact that it hasn't been on for almost two years. Great, loyal fans, and guess one of the puzzle constructors is one of them. Cheers!

GILL I. 1:57 PM  

@Anonymous 1:15...I too had a bit of a huh moment with BOY ARDEE.
I had a can of his ravioli once when I first came to the States. I actually loved it...Then I returned and tried it again because of the lovely memories. Good gravy, that stuff is awful.
I could only come up with these 8 letter CHEFs:
Ming Tsai
and the wonderful Morimoto....
All very deserving of the TOQUE!

r.alphbunker 2:07 PM  

Puzzle report

Alan_S. 2:18 PM  

Theme too easy and fill too ridiculous so easy/ridiculous for me. Fully agree with Rex's list of bleh!

Know and love that Key and Peele clip.
But let's be honest; it is by far the best thing they've ever done or are likely to ever do.
Sorta like Abbott and Costello's "Who's on First".

Tim 2:20 PM  

Finished in 38:47 but with four wrong squares (maybe more).

The clusters that drove me close to cruciverbicide were:

* FRISCH / AORTAE / HEF (this brought me two of my wrong squares, where I had OSF)
* VENINS / ANILS. No amount of money in the world will convince me that is a fair cross.
* PIC / AGOUTIS / COWAN. The less said, the better.

It seems to support Rex's thesis that the theme was responsible for the lousy fill. Granted that a Sunday is bound to have some junk fill, this one had just a little bit too much for my taste.

Masked and Anonymous 2:27 PM  

This kind of theme deal can't be easy to seal tight. Not just 7 people themers, but 7 more topping themers stacked overhead. day-um.

fave hat: KEPI. Usually this gets to be the comic desperation relief in a puz.

fave hat-wearer: CALAMITYJANE. The puz's guest hat-wearin gal. Didn't know what kind of hat she wore, so also learned somethin. I think HEDDAHOPPER wore hats, too. DANICAPATRICK has a helmet goin on. SCARLETOHARA went with bonnets a lot. But, I digress.

@009: Interestin desperation fill bullet list. Some bullets on yer bullets:
* Gotta admit, AGOUTIS, ANNEALS, VENINS, and UNKEYED are pretty looong glue. At least two of em are glUe glue, if yah get my drift.
* TUA ain't in the puz. But if this kind of faux list entry is permitted, couldya please add PEWIT to the list?
* I would give all the weejects a pardon. I say this, while still feelin yer pain, on TUA(O), OSA and SBA.
* I can't really jump hard on individual names, like FRISCH, COWAN, AUER, ANDERS, and RAE. I guess one does have to be extra careful not overloadin on em, when yer theme is already people names.
* Yer list of 25 has five Patrick Berry NYTPuz Usage Immunity entries: OSIER, EEKS, RES, RAE, LETT. Please be more careful, there.

12 U's. Easy solve. EMAJ and EMOJI, crossin unbelievably on the "M". AGOUTI's BUNNY DATASET. har. thUmbsUp.

Congrats on the half-debut!



Tim 2:30 PM  

Oh, yeah:

"Many lines of code" -> IFS?

As a software engineer, I find that to be one of the weakest clues in the puzzle.

Anonymous 2:37 PM  

How about that Bob Kerfuffle getting name-checked (104D)?

chefbea 2:46 PM  

Clue for 102 across could have been...What chef wen and chef Bee wear

cwf 3:50 PM  

@Tim 2:30:
Jeff Chen is himself a Python coder, I believe. A quick search of the ~3000 line javascript file I'm currently editing reveals 137 instances of `if(`, which seems not unrepresentative and certainly qualifies as "many".

Anonymous 3:51 PM  

Leapy, you wanted Afrikaaner because the language is Afrikaans. And I totally love all your brilliant wordplay!

aging soprano 4:56 PM  

Yes, it was easy for a Sunday, which is why I could do it! I noticed the sometimes annoying fill, BEDIM and UNKEYED (with TONAL just a square away) particularly bothered me. I never heard of EGGOS but figured they must be some kind of toaster waffles, and 52A got me singing this spiritual where He delivered Daniel from the fiery FURNACE. Mostly I had fun Googling snd reading about Leopold AUER, J. M. Coetzee, and BUSTER KEATON. I was thus prepared for Rex's Keaton clip. Great scene. Thanx for posting it.

MetroGnome 5:01 PM  

Only reason I knew "VENINS" was that I was a real herp geek as a kid (had pet garter snakes and all that), and I remembered that snakebite serum was called "antivenin."

Never heard of TOQUE, STAMOS, KEPI, or NOOR. And I also seem to remember that "REATA" is usually spelled "RIATA" in these things.

jberg 6:45 PM  

@Leapfinger, thanks for noticing my family at 81A. It saved me from KEEP Back at 51D, although it took me much longer to abandon the K so I could put in BOOST.

I got CALAMITY JANE off the M in VENOMS. I'm not sure that makes sense, but it happened, and then showed me that it had to be VENINS.

I loved ADDLED and (contra @Rex) ANNEALS, but was disappointed there was no Rabbit Celsius to go with Rabbit Angstrom.

Overall, fun but easy -- except that it wasn't for me, since I didn't know "The Music Box" and went with lABaT (misspelled) instead of PABST and bOWeN instead of COWEN, and (figuring lIb had an implied ad in front of it), ending up with the ridiculous aTeN LAUREL looking even more ridiculous because in his BOWLER.

My only defense is that I left the hous at 6:30 AM for "Hub on Wheels" a 30-mile bike ride around the city, and got home barely able to stand up, let alone solve puzzles. I guess biking to work and back four times was not sufficient training.

Anonymous 7:54 PM  

I haven't seen so much 3-letter junk in many a day. I deliberately did not finish because I could not bear to slog through it.

Charles Flaster 9:04 PM  

Liked this a whole lot.
Buster Keaton truly amazing skills.
Thanks JM and JC.

Teedmn 9:34 PM  

The Mpls. Star-Tribune Sunday comics included a crossword themed comic today - the only one I can remember ever seeing. Wumo Xword comic

I can't check the link but if it goes to a different day, go to the one for Sept 20th.

Foxhall 10:25 PM  

My wife got tired of waiting for the nytimes to publish a diagramless. So she had me cut away the grid from a regular Sunday puzzle, and solved that as a diagramless. I'm stunned and somewhat intimidated by this move. But it's also got me other people do this? Have their spouses started a support group?

Tita 12:01 AM  

SEENIT - back when I was traveling lots of long-haul flights to the orient, puz-spouse would often have a movie or 2 on hand from Blockbuster (yeah, we're that old).
He'd start playing it, and I would invariably say "SEENIT", because, well, those were some VERY long long-haul flights!

After a while, he would only bring home airplane disaster movies, because back then they would never dare show a movie where anything remotely bad happened with anything remotely to do with air travel. It was the only genre he knew I would not have SEEN.
Thanks to that, I know Con Air, all the Airport and Airplane! movies, etc., etc..
@lms - It was before Snakes on a Plane - a theme I liked even better than this one!!

JM and JC - I liked your puzzle, liked guessing the toppers. Some I knew, some I had to guess, which was pretty easy.

Anonymous 7:02 PM  

BUSTER CRABBE (brain fart), but still think I wouldn't a got SE. The rest was fun, especially CHEFBOYARDEE which gave me TUPEE. Can't win 'em all. Fun.

Best, Jon

Anonymous 11:11 AM  

I cry “Foul!” on the AGOUTIS/AKIRA cross. Not common words. At all.
I SEENIT before, to her ROOM TERI led him,
WHATAGUY wants is more, and as USUAL she’ll BEDIM.
Doesn’t this puzzle skew old, too? Or maybe it’s because nobody wears hats anymore?

rondo 11:22 AM  

Yeah, the hats were easy toppers, but as OFL mentioned, that put a lot of other junk into the puz.

TERI again, the real and spectacular yeah baby. She shows up so often.

For some reason I always thought it was kOSMO, for alliteration reasons I spose.

Not much more to say, much of the fill was FAIR at best. At least it wasn’t a rebus.

spacecraft 11:43 AM  

I'm so disappointed. I "knew," the moment I saw 51-down, I'd see a Roadrunner cartoon clip. Oh well, slapstick across the generations.

This was something of a slog. Chopped-up grid with numerous (way too, according to some) 3-letter entries--many of them crappola. Tax before IRS AUDIT, of course everybody's stumbling block VENomS before VENINS (huh?), and a lot of people's mistake, I'm sure, AFRIKAans before AFRIKANER. I liked the theme, but as OFL says, those lids cost a lot.

I like stuff like WHATAGUY and IMDOINGOK, but on balance I'm glad it's over. C-.

AnonymousPVX 3:17 PM  

From what I remember, Chef Boiardi was the spokesperson for the brand, and Boy-Ar-Dee is simply his name spelled phonetically.

I am of Italian extraction and I still have my cans of Chef Boyardee Spaghetti and Meatballs. Of course, I sprinkle on $16/lb Pecorino Romano on it, but still. Hard to kiss that taste of childhood goodbye I guess.

Oh yeah, the puzzle…I found it easy even for a Sunday but I appreciated it. Thought it was rather clever and fun. And who doesn't like an easy one every once in a while?

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