"Star Trek" warp drive fuel / MON 9-28-15 / Gershwin composition in United Airlines ads / City south of Utah's Arches National Park / Ascending in economic class

Monday, September 28, 2015

Constructor: Dan Bischof and Jeff Chen 

Relative difficulty: Monday if you're over 40, Tuesday otherwise

THEME: AEIOU AND Y — Theme answers use each of the vowels (including "Y") exactly once. A, E, I, O, and U are symmetrically placed* in circles along the top and bottom rows, with ANDY (68A: Toy Story boy ... or, with the circled letters, a hint to 20-, 39-, and 53-Across) in the final across slot to complete the sequence.

* Symmetrically, that is, except for the one missing in the bottom right. Small nit, but for this reason I would probably have circled the "Y" too. Just seems more elegant that way.

Theme answers:
  • RHAPSODY IN BLUE (20A: Gershwin composition in United Airlines ads)
  • SOCIAL BUTTERFLY (39A: Person about town)
  • UPWARDLY MOBILE (53A: Ascending in economic class)

Word of the Day: FLEA CIRCUS (3D: Sideshow act that features "the smallest performers in the world") —
A flea circus refers to a circus sideshow attraction in which fleas are attached (or appear to be attached) to miniature carts and other items, and encouraged to perform circus acts within a small housing. 
The first records of flea performances were from watchmakers who were demonstrating their metalworking skills. Mark Scaliot in 1578 produced a lock and chain which were attached to a flea. Flea performances were first advertised as early as 1833 in England, and were a major carnival attraction until 1930. Some flea circuses persisted in very small venues in the United States as late as the 1960s. The flea circus at Belle Vue Zoological Gardens, Manchester, England, was still operating in 1970. At least one genuine flea circus still performs (at the annual Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany) but most flea circuses are a sideline of magicians and clowns, and use electrical or mechanical effects instead of real fleas. (wikipedia)
• • •

Tony Zito here, making my debut spelling for Rex, and mon DIEU — I'm not the only debutant at the ball! This is a NYT debut for constructor Dan Bischof as well, who joins forces with the journeyman  (and collaborator-to-many) Jeff Chen. In my experience, an "and" in the byline is generally a good sign for a crossword; collaborations tend to have a higher bar for fill and theme quality.  (A "but" in the byline is another story altogether.) This puzzle is no exception to that rule — it's got nice, colloquial theme answers that are easy to get but no less pleasing for it, some good longer answers (e.g. ARM CANDY, VIBRANT,  MOLERAT and ANTIMATTER), and hardly any real stinkers. (I'm looking at you, MOAB.) I wish the cultural references could be a little more up-to-date, but that's a criticism of the NYT puzzles in general.

While I liked the theme, it was one of those that you only really see after the puzzle is done. (Which, being a Monday isn't a terribly long wait, but still...) It was only after I finished that I thought "oh right, there were some circles in there" and retroactively figured out how the theme answers fit in. This isn't really a knock, but to many a novice solver — which Mondays are meant to be suited for — it might seem hard to figure out what those themers have in common, and what the circled vowels have to do with it.

That said, those theme answers would be pretty welcome in any puzzle.  Limiting them to three (not counting the words with circled vowels) was probably a wise choice — always better to have a little less theme if it means a lot less garbage fill, IMHO. So we get some stuff like ONELB and APO, but it's mercifully rare.
  • 24A: City south of Utah's Arches National Park (MOAB) — With a population of about 5,000 can you really call this a "city?" I would've gone for the Mother of all Bombs angle ("Bunker buster, briefly") but that's pretty obscure too, so probably best to avoid this one.
  • 17A: Where ships go (ASEA — Normally one of those "fine, I guess" kind of answers, but crossed with AFAR? A no thank you.
  • 62A: Stratford-upon-___ : / 38D: Planet, to Shakespeare (AVON/ORB) Two unforced Shakespeare references. Someone sure likes to "enjoy literature."   (Any others I'm missing? Let us know in the comments.) 
  • 52D: Only U.S. president whose surname is more than 50% vowels (OBAMA) — Cute clue given the theme. 
  • 13D: With 12-Down, "Gimme that!" (IT'S I like this approach to making completely generic short fill like ITS a little more interesting, I'd just prefer it if it scanned better in the grid by putting IT'S before MINE.
  • 8D: "Star Trek" warp drive fuel (ANTIMATTER At first I was all like "wait wasn't the warp drive powered by dilithium crystals?!" But no, bad nerd! It turns out the dilithium crystal was all about *controlling* the matter/ANTIMATTER reaction. Silly me.
  • 48D: Howe'er (THO) — I don't hate this fill, necessarily, given its ubiquity on Twitter and the like. But that clue tho. Has "However" e'er been contracted that way? I think ne'er. Unless this is another Shakespeare reference.
  • 33D: Military initiative that seeks to influence the enemy's mind, informally (PSYOP) — I don't think I've ever seen this in the singular form, just as PSYOPS. But apparently that's just me.
  • 44A:Classic clown name (BOBO) — Seems like a misdirection for BOZO, which is unusual for a Monday. I'd have liked maybe a David Brooks reference, but that's probably because I'm a Bourgeois Bohemian myself. (That'd be tough for a Monday, anyhow.)
  • 34A: ____ of Sandwich (EARL) —  Did you know the current (and 11th) Earl of Sandwich started a fast food chain called (you guessed it) "Earl of Sandwich" that has dozens of locations around the U.S., including ones inside Disney World and Disneyland? While the money and land and everything would be nice,  I'd have guessed that it'd be kind of a pitiful burden to carry that title around, what with all the jokes, but this guy has really owned it. 
The Earl of Sandwich, embracing his legacy
  • 11D: Baseball's Felipe / 47D: Bobby who won three straight N.H.L. M.V.P. awards (ALOU / ORR)— Oh look, two sporty castaways from Xword Isle, where you'll find Moises and Felipe Alou tossing the ball around with Mel OttYma Súmac and Anaïs Nin trading war stories; and Uma Thurman and Ione Skye wishing it were 1992 again. Just head ASEA and go ESE, you can't miss it.
That's it. Fun, thoughtfully-constructed Monday that went down smoothly. I'll look forward to more from Dan Bischof. And many thanks to Rex for inviting me to the party.

Signed, Tony Zito, Flight Attendant on CrossWorld Airlines

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


jae 12:49 AM  

Medium for me.  Clever, easy on the dreck, excellent theme answers, liked it.

Very nice debut Dan!

Very nice debut Tony!

Music man 1:05 AM  

A big "who cares?" theme for me. And I tend to sing iN KEY

John Child 1:49 AM  

This was a cute, simple puzzle - just right for Monday. It’s a nice idea Mr Bischof, and with a pro like Mr Chen to collaborate with it’s executed very well indeed. Unusual long downs like FLEA CIRCUS and ARM CANDY add class, and the symmetrical circles are elegant.

Words that contain all six vowels aren’t uncommon, but ones containing each vowel only once are rarer. And as Mr Chen explains in the constructor comments (see xwordinfo.com) they chose phrases instead of single words, further narrowing the field.

There are others though. Here are a few I found:


Lots of duplication in the first 50 or so comments yesterday due to moderation. I appreciate the absence of uncivil comments but regret the dups and lessened give-and-take. I said so to @Rex in an email last week: His answer was “never going back.” Fair enough. It’s his ball and his game.

Congrats on the debut to Mr Bischof; more please. And it’s always a pleasure to see Mr Chen’s byline.

Steve J 3:00 AM  

Didn't parse the theme as I solved this. Had to read the explanation 2-3 times here and on other blogs to finally grok what was going on. No number of times of reading explanations would make me care. Yay, vowels. Snore.

Thankfully, the puzzle doesn't need its threadbare theme - or its completely useless and unhelpful revealer - to work. Puzzles like this make me think of the perpetual question of why Sunday-Thursday have to have a theme, and themeless puzzles can only appear on Mondays. This works quite well as a themeless. Frankly, it works much better as a themeless. The centerpiece answers are all great phrases. They allow and enable great crosses like FLEA CIRCUS and ANTIMATTER. It's a really well-filled puzzle. (Aside from BOBO. What clown is named BOBO? Is there anyone who didn't fill in BOzO?). Why not just let it be what it is without force-fitting a theme that doesn't add to the solving experience at all?

If I look at this as a themeless, it's a great early-week puzzle. If I look at the theme in isolation, it's incredibly lame. I solved it as a themeless, so this came out to be a quite-enjoyable Monday puzzle.

(And, yes, it works better for those of us over 40. This definitely felt like it skewed a bit old.)

chefwen 3:00 AM  

Color me stupid, I didn't grasp the theme even after I had finished. Kept thinking what does AEIOU have to do with ANDY? Oh, I get it, Y. O.K., so what?

PSYOP was new to me, good thing it filled itself in. Liked UNLIT over NEONS, and how about some tasty MOLERAT STEW? Yum! I'll pass.

Anonymous 4:23 AM  

God's washbasin.

Lewis 6:18 AM  

@Tony -- Very nice report. You've got a future in this!
@Loren -- You get a shout out in the puzzle!

The theme was clever and cute, certainly more themey than last Monday's SSs, and the grid was clean. I marked down that this puzzle could have been done 10 years ago, the most recent references being OBAMA and PSYOPS, but that didn't bother one of my vintage. i never heard of BOBO the clown and Googled it, and on the first page, anyway, no references to that. I wanted that D of PACED to move down and to the left to begin ONKEY. Solid Monday.

Danp 6:47 AM  

I wonder if this is the worst theme ever submitted to a newspaper. Nah, they must have rejected something along the way.

Loren Muse Smith 6:48 AM  

I tell ya – Jeff Chen has such a, uh, LOUSY REPUTATION that I almost didn't bother. Hate to be uncomplimentary, but, well… Hah! Dan Bischof – congrats on your debut. Jeff is unquestionably among The best crossworld partners out there

I. Loved. This. Puzzle.

Tony – thanks for filling in. Nice job. Your "one small nit," though, was my Pow-Wow Sis Boom Bah factor. That reveal was so sneaky, so elegant, so unexpected that it delivered a terrific, heart-felt whoop for me. To have the Y circled would have completely changed the experience for me. Whoever decided not to circle it delivered the master stroke, imo. I may have enjoyed it even more it the clue for ANDY had even left out the hint.

I loved the fact that the themers aren't just words that some of us all know – facetiously comes to mind. How the heck they found these two-word phrases is beyond my ken. Lots of hard work and searching, I imagine.

Not unexpectedly, lots of nice long downs. FLEA CIRCUS, ARM CANDY, SUNBATHE… terrific. I also liked VIBRANT MOLE RAT. Once in Innsbrook…

Whoever is on slate for tomorrow has a tough act to follow. Great job, guys!

Roo Monster 7:01 AM  

Hey All !
Fun, breezy Monday type puzzle thingy. Liked the theme seeds, normal words with all the vowels, AND Y! Very nice long Downs, too. Willing to overlook the small nits that Mr. Zito had. Fun info on the Earl of Sandwich, though, so thanks for that!

M&A might shed a tear with the U count in this here puz. And OBAMA for all the lovers of seeing his name! :-)


Hungry Mother 7:18 AM  

Put in a zero for an O and chased my tail around the grid twice before figuring out my problem.

Annette 7:27 AM  

Welcome, Flight Attendant Tony! Great write up. Fingers crossed that today's puzzle is the first in a great puzzle week (three DNFs last week which is a new low for me, and many wasted minutes).

I thought it was dilithium crystals, too, then marveled and worried a bit that I'd actually have an opinion on it, rejoiced to see I'm not the only one!


Gubdude 7:36 AM  

Hand up for the BOzO before BOBO. We could go with a Simpsons clue for this one. "Mr. Burns' beloved childhood bear"

Didn't get the theme until the end. Thought the fill was good. A solid 6 minutes of entertainment. Very nice.

joho 7:38 AM  

What a beautifully done Monday puzzle! Both meaty and easy .. a very clever concept with a perfect aha moment: "Oh, it's AND Y!" The theme answers are all fresh and interesting and the long downs are as well. The whole puzzle is VIBRANT!

Cute cross at LIEU/DIEU.

Only write over was RoLl to RULE.

Does your home have an ARFS AREA?

Loved this one, thank you Dan and Jeff! And congratulations, too, to the debuting Dan and Tony ... very nice write-up.

We're off to great start this week!

AliasZ 7:58 AM  

Very nice write-up, Tony. I wondered myself what line of reasoning convinced Will that the Y in ANDY should not be circled. I couldn't come up with any that were logical or insightful.

At Jeff Chen's site xwordinfo a few other phrases are mentioned both by Jeff and Mr. Bischof that contain all vowels AND Y only once, of which I liked COUNTERCYCLICAL and THING OF BEAUTY best, but the three in the puzzle are particularly fresh.

Not too much junk today to waste one's time complaining about it. I even find MOAB and EELS perfectly acceptable, because we got AW GEE, SUNBATHE and ARM CANDY Loren MUSE Smith in the bargain, in LIEU of Leu, not to mention a BOBSLEDDER flea in the FLEA CIRCUS.

What else fits here but RHAPSODY IN BLUE, the way George Gershwin played it with Paul Whitman's jazz band and the laughing clarinet, in 1924. A must hear.

Happy Monday!

RAD2626 7:58 AM  

Really nice Monday puzzle and terrific writeup. Good start to the week. MOLERAT a new word for me, altho easily gettable from crosses. Googled it to learn about it. That is one ugly critter. Ugh. Went with BOzO first as well and would also have circled final "Y". Interesting comments by Jeff Chen on his blog about how this theme evolved to today's puzzle. So much thought goes into every puzzle. Very impressive. Congrats DB on debut.

jberg 8:15 AM  

I actually thought it was better without a circle for the Y. My experience went like this: first I noticed that the E in AREA was circled; then I looked around, saw the other circles, the first one of which already had an A in it; said to myself, "Aha! It's the vowels!" but saw that the symmetry was broken down in the SE corner; sighed and accepted it; solved the puzzle, then got to the and and found AND Y--a revealer that transformed the whole experience, while also giving a nod to Y's semi-vowel essence.

Toughest part for me (except for BOzO) was getting to 39A with the BU in place and wanting SCHOOL BUS DRIVER. It fits! Thank God for the FLEA CIRCUS, which saved me from that colossal possible error.

Thanks for the writeup, Tony!

The Rhino 8:25 AM  

I am 40 and found it perfectly Monday-level. My wife is 39 and I think she would have found it very difficult. But then, she doesn't do crosswords. So perhaps we need a bigger sample size.

Mohair Sam 8:34 AM  

Fun and easy Monday (yes Tony, I'm over 40) - made even more enjoyable by Mr. Zito's write-up.

Learned today that BOzO wasn't the only clown out there (thanks MELBA), and there's more to MOAB than just desert.

Very nice debut Dan Bischof, keep 'em coming.

Ludyjynn 8:58 AM  

Thanks, Tony, for your thoughtful commentary. We used to have an "EARL of Sandwich" shop in downtown Baltimore. Best part was the gothic-ky lettering above the entrance.

I liked the puzzle's secondary flight theme. All three, 20, 39 and 53 Across, made reference: RHAPSODY to the airline ad, SOCIAL to the beautiful creatures currently flitting in my garden on their long flight Southward and UPWARDLY to the unkillable American dream of economic freedom.

There was a lot there for a Monday. Thanks, DB, JC and WS. Well done and deceptively simple.

quilter1 9:03 AM  

A pleasant Monday and I agree, perhaps skewed toward the older solver, which I am. I enjoyed the fresh long downs, such as ARMCANDY.

Lobster11 9:05 AM  

Like our guest blogger, evidently, I am not a fan of themes that you don't see until the puzzle is done: I want sussing out the theme to be part of, and contribute to, the solving experience. (Yesterday's puzzle was a good example.) That said, if there's going to be one of these afterthought themes, I'd just as soon have it on Monday where I don't need help in solving like a themeless anyway.

Is anyone else having problems with the NYT puzzle page using Google Chrome? A couple of days ago I suddenly started having a problem: I can see the basic outline of the page, but none of the details. Still works fine with other browsers, though. I'm not having any other problems with Chrome, so I'm stumped.

Teedmn 9:11 AM  

As usual, I missed the fact that the theme answers had all 6 vowels even with the circled squares practically hitting me over the head with it. I loved the revealer (I only read the first half of the clue, which helped me not see the theme) AND Y. I do appreciate Y getting its due here (hi @LMS).

Average time for Monday for me. I had no problem with MOAB. As a former mountain biker, I know of the city as a mountain biking Mecca though I never was there - although I loved the sport, the mountains of WI were challenge enough for me (I'm talking Chequamegon here, which is so cool to compare the spelling to the pronunciation 'shawamegon'). But I quit that five years ago and have stuck to road biking - less hazardous to the body.

Smooth puzzle, thanks DB and JC. And congratulations Dan on the debut.

Doug Garr 9:25 AM  

Very astute commentary, Tony. Rex would have hated it. I was slowed with 29D thinking it was DOWNHILLER rather than BOBSLEDDER. Stupid me, I assumed it was short for downhill racer who generally hit 90 mph and average about 60. I think TMI and ARMCANDY are pretty contemporary answers.

GILL I. 9:34 AM  

I thought this was quite clever. I'm more of an asAMI than a SOAMI but that was it for write-overs.
Do expectant fathers still PACE these days? More like in the delivery room cutting the cord.
I didn't think the Y in ANDY should have been circled. And it was nice to see the reveal at the end = keeps you on your toes.
Good job DanJeff.
Did any one watch the lunar eclipse last night.....Quite a beautiful show!

chefbea 9:34 AM  

Easy puzzle but I never got the theme until Tony explained it. Saw the circled vowels but didn't know why. Lot of things I never heard of..What is TMI

Good write up Tony

Norm 9:38 AM  

A very cute puzzle. Count me among those who did not see a rhyme or reason to the longs or the circles until I was done. Made me smile.

mac 9:52 AM  

Cute Monday, and very nice write-up, Tony!

Just one write-over: with just the final o is chose "info" instead of "ammo" at 5D. Easily fixed.

I've always thought the plural of eel was eel.

Joseph Michael 9:57 AM  

Fun theme. Liked everything about it,

Think about the vowel orgy that takes place when an UPWARDLY MOBILE SOCIAL BUTTERFLY listens to RHAPSODY IN BLUE.

Billy C 9:58 AM  

Hey it's 10am and I'm the first to comment! Seems to be happening a lot lately.
This was the best Monday in a long time. Great way to start the week!

Nancy 10:17 AM  

Tiny little circles, again. I ignored them as always. No challenge at all, but some of the long answers were nice: ANTIMATTER, ARM CANDY, FLEA CIRCUS. But once again: a theme that can be completely ignored by the solver isn't much of a theme.

Question to Tony Zito: Why on earth is this harder if you're under 40? RHAPSODY IN BLUE is not exactly an obscure piece of music; ALOU is a crossword perennial; could MERV be the reason? I see this puzzle as being completely un-age biased and can't see that I had the slightest advantage in solving it. (Not that anyone will need an advantage.)

Carola 10:39 AM  

So nicely done: a triple-level theme with three wonderful theme answers and a stellar array of long Downs. Fun to do, much to admire when finished.

Masked and Anonymous 11:38 AM  

Stupendous vowel movement.


Rex Parker 12:00 PM  

I'm on vacation. Thank (the vast majority of) you for your patience. For the few cranks yelling angrily into the computer because you had to wait for comments to appear, keep on keeping on. You are the wind beneath my wings.


Billy C. 12:04 PM  

@Chefbea -- TMI is "Too Much Information." (You're telling me stuff I really don't wanna hear!)

joho 12:08 PM  

@chefbea: Too Much Information!

The Rhino 12:13 PM  

@Rex, In case I came off as one of the cranks: I was trying to be funny. I didn't really have 'strong feelings about the uncircled Y that need to be posted." Nor did I really "need to passionately defend my half-formed opinions."

So - legitimate apology if my joke fell flat and I came across as an ass.

Mona 12:16 PM  

For Lobster11
The NY Times has some issue with Chrome and Firefox
Works on Safari

Roo Monster 12:17 PM  

Didja catch LMS's a-e-i-o-u-y words? Awesome stuff, @Loren!
In case not...
Uncomplimentary (which has them in order backwards!)
Unquestionably (Double U for M&A!)
And maybe one or two more I missed. You know, Loren is sneaky that way! :-)

Speaking of M&A, Vowel Movement. Har!

@chefbea, TMI=Too Much Information (I'm sure answered at least three other times!)


Anonymous 12:18 PM  

@Lobster11 - Are you running adblock software? I had the same issue on Chrome, but I disabled my AdBlock Plus and the issue went away. It may or may not simply be a coincidence.

chefbea 12:43 PM  

@Billy C and @Joho thanks!!

Masked and Anonymous 12:48 PM  


@009-Happy vacation! Are U doin a road trip, or is it a staycation? Either way, happy day-um vacation.

Never been to Utah. I believe it is the only state M&A has never set foot in. (My lovely PuzEatinSpouse questions my claim to having been to Alaska, as all I ever saw was the Anchorage airport -- but I did deplane, there). Anyhoo, I now have proper incentive to make a pilgrimage to Moab, Utah. Home of the "Moab Uranium Mill Tailings Pile", Wikipedia tells me. Ooooh, I want to go to there...

Sorry that @009 missed out on commenting on today's puz [Flight Attendant Zito did great, THO]. Hate for @009 to miss out on all these primo circles. And the controversy on whether the Y should rate a circle or not. [M&A's position on this major issue? -- He'da given the Y one of them there "gray" shaded boxes.]

There have been a lotta neat NYTPuzs lately that have played with themes built around vowel stuff. M&A once did a (runt)puz that had a theme sorta like one of them vwlss especialty crosswords. Except that the U's got left in, on my version. Now, there's yer vowel movement.

Which reminds me, Jeff Chen shoulda teamed up with a new debutee whose name had all the vowels except for the E. No offense to constructor Dan -- he did a bodacious job. Just change yer name to Udan, and everybody's happy.

Masked & Anonymo10us

fave weeject = CSU. @r.alph: Is this a new entry, on the Sch. Scoreboard? And does Moab have a university sch.? (MUU, perhaps?!!)


Tony Zito 12:58 PM  

Hey everyone, thanks for the comment love. Keep it coming, I'm NEEDY.

@RAD2626 - Yeah, I considered including a picture of that hideous little guy. Worth an image search if you haven't seen 'em.

@Steve J - RE: your point about this being better as a themeless, I totally agree. I tried to say that in the write-up, but I was probably too gentle on that point. And I agree, there's no reason we can't have an easy/Monday themeless once in a while. I seriously doubt most solvers even realize the "themeless only on Fri/Sat" thing.

@Doug Garr -- Ha, yes, I believe he did. Oh well, it was fun while it lasted. ;)

@Nancy -- With the exception of TMI and OBAMA, this grid could've appeared 20 years ago. TWA, MERV, BOBO, UNFORGIVEN, and yes, ALOU. I don't think being a crossword perennial is an excuse -- ultimately it's just laziness that perpetuates the use of these names that have zero relevance outside of the crosswordiverse. Now, 20 years isn't that long, and 40 isn't that old (I'm 42!), but the point stands.

Jamie C 1:13 PM  

The review today made me curious about the age of the people who comment here. I suspect it skews long in the tooth. Is anyone willing to share? I'm 62.

Gareth Bain 2:05 PM  

"In my experience, an "and" in the byline is generally a good sign for a crossword." This man speaks truth! Of course, "Jeff Chen" in the byline is also generally a good sign...

Mohair Sam 2:35 PM  

@lobster11 - accessing and printing puzzle via AcrossLite using Chrome browser on two different computers (an HP and a Dell) with no problem. Anon 12:18 probably has you on the right track.

Charley 3:32 PM  

Correct me if I'm wrong, but the plural of eel is...eel.

Vancouver Nana 4:01 PM  

I'm a huge sports fan but seems like a lot of "Orr" and "ump" lately ! Hope NYT gives them and us a bit of a break!�� Lots of clever clues for oft used fill!

Elizabeth Farnsworth 4:10 PM  

Wonderful write-up, TZ. And great "nom de review" and illustration.
Pilot over intercom: "For our flight today to Xword Isle... ."

Wm C 5:21 PM  

My wife and I solved this one OmnIsExUAllY.

Mike D. 5:33 PM  

Hey, I googled "TMI." It seems to stand for "Too Much Information" in text speak. According to the google.

Nancy 6:55 PM  

@Jamie C -- Lots of the people who comment here ARE a little bit "long in the tooth." Except for the ones who aren't.

chefbea 7:31 PM  

@JamieC I'm 76

bwalker 8:09 PM  

I thought the puzzle was easy as I am well over 40, and I liked the theme, especially UPWARDLY MOBILE. In first grade we learned vowels with this mnemonic:

A, E, I, O ,U,
Sometimes Y and W, too.

The W in the themer is used as a vowel, but where it crosses AW GEE, it is a consonant. Nice.

Willie D 8:26 PM  

For those unfamiliar with a PSYOP, I refer you to Colonel Kilgore.

Z 9:10 PM  

@charley - you're sort of wrong.
@jamie c - double nickels
@Rex Parker - Can't believe you didn't post a video.
@Gill I. - It was overcast/rainy here. I was bummed. News about Mars is pretty cool, though.

Vowels, meh. Phrases with all six vowels once. Okay for a Monday. @LMS planting vowel cookies. Cool.

Hartley70 11:01 PM  

Well Dan and Tony, congrats! You may both be first timers, but your puzzle and review were stellar. I loved this one! A perfect Monday like this is appropriately easy but meaty enough to give some fun to more experienced solvers....very nice job! As for the review, I think we all would like to see you get another invitation.

Leapfinger 2:10 AM  

What @Hartley said.

I'm another who thinks it was a perfect touch to not make the AND-Y explicit with a circle. That made it the cherry for the sundae, only finding it on the bottom instead of the top.

That Y made me think of the river yclept Yser, and then I couldn't think whether there's a difference between saying Yser and Isère. French can be so confusing, and I'm none the wiser.

Liked it all except for showcasing that wretched MOLERAT. I'd seen pictures and was not aMUSEd; just the memory was enough to bring the BILE UPWARD. The ARMCANDY wasn't enough to settle my stomach... isn't the term just a little bimboic?

Thought there was enough here to wax RHAPSODic in any number of VIBRANT colours. Hope to see Dan Bischof anon, with or without Jeff, and Tony, also. Next time, bring the rest of the Ziti!

Brian B 2:29 AM  

Late to the party but I can't let the comment about "howe'er" go unremarked.

Here's a poem called Eletelephony by Laura Elizabeth Richards:

Once there was an elephant,
Who tried to use the telephant—
No! No! I mean an elephone
Who tried to use the telephone—
(Dear me! I am not certain quite
That even now I've got it right.)
Howe'er it was, he got his trunk
Entangled in the telephunk;
The more he tried to get it free,
The louder buzzed the telephee—
(I fear I'd better drop the song
Of elephop and telephong!)

Burma Shave 10:58 AM  


LORD, as a RULE, I ENVY such VIBRANT livin’.
She’ll SUNBATHE nude as ARMCANDY for a noble,
I MEAN her ROUTE to the top should be UNFORGIVEN.


spacecraft 11:02 AM  

@Tony the guest blogger (welcome!): You forgot that your Xword Isle exiles are all playing golf with ISAO AOKI. Can SUH be far behind? Good writeup, sans OFL's grumpiness.

This was mildly entertaining, if a bit thin. I don't even have to READ M&A's comment; at 9, the U-count passes his muster with flyin colors. But what, please, is a MOLERAT? A rat the size of a mole (EGAD!)? And is he hairless? "Naked" as a MOLERAT? What happened to the jaybird? He must've gotten feathered.

Tarred AND feathered should be ONELB, another inane example of a written-out number followed by an abbrev. Only in crosswords, brother, only in crosswords. SOAMI not a fan of ULAN, which had to be surgically removed from the other half of its name.

Despite these shortcomings, I sort of liked it. The Chen touch is evident in several of the longer downs, VIBRANT with freshness. B.

rondo 12:17 PM  

I didn’t know the Toy Story kid was called ANDsometimesY. Oh wait, it’s AND Y due to the long themers. SOAMI a BOzO for not seeing it right off? And a half-doz long downers. I guess not bad for a Mon-puz.

Did not particularly like ONELB, reminds me of dealer-talk.

Together in the NE – UNLIT NEONS – what’s the point?


No yeah babies in sight, just ARMCANDY, which makes this puz OK.

rain forest 1:55 PM  

Good to see @Spacey here before I comment. Comforts the rain forest.
If I were a real-timer, I'd be one of the crankypants, I think. Moderation in everything, I say, including moderation. Howe'er, OFL apparently is determined to stay on this train. Well, it is his train.

A cute puzzle, ideal for Monday, with touches of elegance in several of the downs as well as the themers, and the AND Y ending was perfect.

Those solving it as a themeless--good for you! But, for me, figuring out the theme, even after the solve, can be fun, as it was here. Anyway, themed or themeless, just solve the damn thing, I say. I also say your age matters not. Just solve the damn thing. Oh, did I already say that?

Must go ere I get as curmudgeonly as the champeen of curmudgeonliness.

leftcoastTAM 3:19 PM  

I get it that the puzzle is aesthetically pleasing to many. Might there not also be a little bite? Lot of niceness here; the pendulum has swung far, maybe too far.

rondo 7:30 PM  

Hello, anyone home??

I didn’t know the Toy Story kid was called ANDsometimesY. Oh wait, it’s AND Y due to the long themers. SOAMI a BOzO for not seeing it right off? And a half-doz long downers. I guess not bad for a Mon-puz.

Did not particularly like ONELB, reminds me of dealer-talk.

Together in the NE – UNLIT NEONS – what’s the point?


No yeah babies in sight, just ARMCANDY, which makes this puz OK.

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