Heroine of ABC's Scandal / SAT 11-14-15 / Jordan to worshipers / Grammy alternatives voted on by public for short / Democratic talking point beginning in 2010 / 1990 #1 hit that starts Yo VIP let's kick it / Latin American seafood dish with citrusy kick / Uses pick-up lines in slang

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Constructor: Kameron Austin Collins

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: none 

Word of the Day: GIAN Lorenzo Bernini, designer of St. Peter's Square (20A) —
Gian Lorenzo Bernini (Italian pronunciation: [ˈdʒan loˈrɛntso berˈniːni]; also Gianlorenzo or Giovanni Lorenzo; 7 December 1598 – 28 November 1680) was an Italian sculptor and architect who worked principally in Rome. A major figure in the world of architecture, he was the leading sculptor of his age, credited with creating the Baroque style of sculpture. As one scholar has commented, 'What Shakespeare is to drama, Bernini may be to sculpture: the first pan-European sculptor whose name is instantaneously identifiable with a particular manner and vision, and whose influence was inordinately powerful...' In addition, he was a painter (mostly small canvases in oil) and a man of the theater: he wrote, directed and acted in plays (mostly Carnival satires), also designing stage sets and theatrical machinery, as well as a wide variety of decorative art objects including lamps, tables, mirrors, and even coaches. As architect and city planner, he designed both secular buildings and churches and chapels, as well as massive works combining both architecture and sculpture, especially elaborate public fountains and funerary monuments and a whole series of temporary structures (in stucco and wood) for funerals and festivals. (wikipedia)
• • •

This puzzle might be perfect. I'm not sure. It's pretty close. It's also explosively, powerfully, self-evidently different from almost all the puzzles the NYT publishes. It's alive and kicking and slangy and lowbrow *and* highbrow and CLEAN (dead center! show-off...) and professional as hell. It's got personality. It's young and gay and black and politically conscious and still accessible to a general audience. This is a statement puzzle, as well as just being a flat-out great puzzle. I happen to know the white editors changed the black constructor's clue for CORN ROWS (to his chagrin) (32D: Do for the African-American community?)—why you would do that, I do not know [original clue(s): "Something cutesy about Allen Iverson was one, and a 'Head lines' something was another"]. But props to the NYT for publishing a puzzle that probably *felt* risky but really isn't. It's just opening out onto a world Not composed entirely of white people over 60. And that is a good thing. The BuzzFeed crosswords have been much better than the NYT about opening up the puzzle to a younger and less white demographic, but they have also tended to err on the side of shallow poppiness and youthful smugness. THIS puzzle ... this is everything I want a puzzle to be, no matter the venue. Hits a kind of youthful sweet spot. Manages to make me feel included rather than excluded, despite my being a couple decades older than the constructor. I can see SPITS GAME, HIS AIRNESS, OLIVIA POPE, and maybe (maybe?) even "ICE, ICE, BABY" being beyond the ken of some constant solvers. But 3/4 of those answers are well and truly mainstream, and all of them seem gettable from crosses. This is the third good-to-great puzzle In A Row from the NYT. This feels like a streak worth celebrating.

Trouble spots
  • SUMOS (29A: See 25-Across)—I had THONG and everything. And then SU-O-. Still wasn't computing. Partly because I couldn't see the plural. Partly because I would call them "sumo wrestlers," probably.
  • BLO (30A: Slo-___ fuse)—I feel like I want to pretend this answer doesn't exist, as it's easily the junkiest thing here. But in the spirit of fairness, I'm pointing at it w/ a "J'accuse" look on my face.
  • GIBED (36A: Like players on opposing teams, often)—could not make sense of this. Had GIB-, didn't help. The passive voice is killing me. "HIS AIRNESS hath been GIBED! To arms!"
  • LANATE (38D: Woolly)—I had GUNMAN instead of GUNNER (42A: Artillery operator), so this woolly adjective (which I can never remember) stayed hidden for a bit.
  • "TIN-TIN" (11D: Animated Spielberg hero)—as a fan of the comic, I like to pretend that movie doesn't exist, so ... my pretending worked: I needed many crosses to get it.
  • PINT (23A: Little capacity)—if you put a PINT of Tabasco on your burrito ... not so "little." Also, beer-wise, PINT's a pretty good amount. 
  • GAYBORHOOD (1A: Place like Chicago's Boystown or San Francisco's Castro, in modern lingo)—well, I knew GAY was in there somewhere, so I just led with it, and that ended up working out. I've never heard GAYBORHOOD. I want to go to one and sing a slightly revised version of the "Mister Rogers" theme song.
I wish this puzzle had not had the ill fortune of coming out immediately after the worst terrorist attacks in the history of post-war France. It's hard to feel anything but tremendous sorrow right now. But I needed to say that This Puzzle Is Great. Thank you.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

PS if you enjoyed today's puzzle by Kameron Austin Collins, you should really sign up for his 2x/month themeless puzzle, [HIGH:low].  It's free, straight to your in-box. I did the first one and it was (predictably) fantastic.

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Andrew Morrison 8:44 AM  

I don't care about whether it is politically correct. I know RP is excited about that, but it is irrelevant to me. It's just a puzzle, for pete's sake! I just care that it is solid. No junk. Nothing wildly unfair (never heard of OLIVIA, but it didn't matter.). Really good, strong puzzle.

Anonymous 8:50 AM  

Pretty good puzzle, although i don't think there was nearly as much hipness as Rex would lead us to believe. Nearly 60 years old here, and the only answer that I was not familiar with was "spits game", but that just fell into place eventually. Didn't think "The Natural" was really about a pitcher...but I guess he was a pitcher before (spoiler) he was shot early in the book and movie. Never heard of "gibed" before. Also, stared at most of "gayborhood" and "war on women" for a while before the lightbulb finally went on.

George Barany 8:50 AM  

This 70-word themeless by @Kameron Collins must have been fast-tracked, because a mere two months ago, @Kameron tweeted "You've made it when W Shortz greenlights your gay slang." So, amen to that.

A real workout, bringing to mind GYM_NEIGHBORS in a legendary puzzle by @Peter Gordon. Googling "SPITS_GAME" garnered a mere 9,410 hits, but a somewhat more permissive search to include "spit game" and "spitting game" led me to this documentary. Maybe this 60-year old white male heterosexual can watch it with his BFF.

Amazingly, I knew OLIVIA_POPE, not from ever having seen the guilty pleasure TV show, but because the great @Liz Gorski put this fictional character into a puzzle (August 3, 2015) called "SPECIAL OPS" (click here for a review). Plus, HIS_AIRNESS was delightful, and worked in numerous crossword-friendly letters while not feeling forced. However, I had to Google to get the CNN host and the 1990 #1 hit.

A fabulous entry that @Rex did not address in his glowing review was THE_NATURAL. My wife and I were still dating when we saw the Robert Redford movie in the 1980s, shortly after it came out, and I was inspired to go back and read the Malamud book on which it was based. Yes, Roy Hobbs started out as a pitcher, but the bulk of the action takes place after he is converted to a slugging outfielder, a la Babe Ruth.

Teedmn 8:53 AM  

I thought I had done so well in guessing my last letter, the POPE/POE crossing, but got here and found I was oblivious to the big mess I had left in the NW. HINT at 1D and RANK at 3D plus no idea on the AMAS gave me HARBORHOOD and NONFICTION at 1A and 17A. I can try to justify these as making sense but really, why bother?

And then to find another one at 36D. I had BAGLAWS (sounded vaguely Mafia related) because GIBED didn't make sense to me in regards to teams (and, frankly, still doesn't). Not that bIBED did either (bIBbed, var.?)

Anyway, good one, Mr. Collins.

My heart goes out to the people of Paris. This is incomprehensible.

GILL I. 8:58 AM  

Everything @Rex said. Most impressive and HARD Saturday to date.
Since I've been up practically all night waiting to hear from friends in Paris, I worked this Real Gem in bits and pieces.
So many new words for me GAYBORHOOD (I love that one and knew it had to be GAY something. Castro was beautifully gentrified by the GAY community. Actually, wherever they moved to, they beautified the area) The other word I didn't know was SPITGAME. That sounds perfectly awful. What, you SPIT somewhere and the ladies come running to you? I have visions of a spitoon and some dude with black teeth trying to pick me up...
WAR ON WOMEN was not coming to me. I had WAR iN YeMEN. I always thought that was a Republican policy.
Doesn't GIBED look all wrong?
ICE ICE BABY was easy to suss even tho I didn't know it.
Yes, very very fresh and so welcomed puzzle.
Pray for beautiful Paris....

Anonymous 9:00 AM  

Can anyone explain GIBED ?

Anonymous 9:01 AM  

I solved this puzzle last night as a way to get some distance from the horrific news. Any puzzle would have worked in that way, but I could recognize this one's cleverness despite my sad fog. Initially tried SPITSGAME vs. SPOTSGAME, even though ONA was obviously in error. My solve time was slightly slower than usual but then my brain wasn't really focused. It really is a great puzzle. Kudos to Kameron Austin Collins.

Charles Flaster 9:01 AM  

Rex-praises it and then lists numerous trouble spots. Medium to me with much questionable cluing such as SHIES, PINT, SPITS GAME, FAN FICTION, and BFF( "look mom, no cavities"
and "look Rex, no abbr.").
What are GAG LAWS?
Very clever cluing for TAX SHELTER and CLEAN.

Write overs--GUNNER for taNkER and DOMINEER for DOMINate.
Thanks KAC.

'mericans in Paris 9:25 AM  

Am working on the Sunday puzzle (at first easy, but then more like a medium), but thought I ought to check in, given the events last night in Paris.

The city is stunned, of course. The attacks this time involved an order of magnitude greater casualties than the ones in January, and were members of the general public. Apart from the California rock band performing in the Bataclan theater ("Eagles of Death Metal"), it was mainly Parisians, not tourists who were the targets.

Paris is very quiet today, with a lot of public buildings and large stores closed. Longer term, I suspect that life will return to some semblance of normality. Parisians may not have the British stiff upper lip, but they will not give up their cherished habits, not stop visiting cafés nor walking their dogs. At least not yet.

Mrs. 'mericans is away on a business trip in Asia; I was planning to attend a small concert (in town 50 miles from Paris) of the Songhoy Blues, a Malian rock band that -- ironically -- was itself the victim of fundamentalist persecution in their home country. I don't know if the concert was called off because of security concerns, or simply out of solidarity. So it will be a quiet night for me, too. At least I may finish the puzzle before falling asleep.

Here, by the way, is a link to a video of the Songhoy Blues, performing at the Green Man Festival 2015:


Anonymous 9:29 AM  

I'm white and old and I liked it.....except for gived (see, Autocorrect doesn't think GIBED is a word either) and latish which is really lame.

John V 9:32 AM  

Well, different universe here. Beyond difficult. Got almost nothing. Have not had any luck with Mr. Collins puzzles.

Unknown 9:38 AM  

For the record, Philly's gayborhood is known as "The Gayborhood."

Peter 9:39 AM  

Wow! Did this last night in a bout of insomnia, and even in a woozy state, I knew it was something special. Just enough long answers that I was able to quickly, to give a real sense of accomplishment and progress (FAN FICTION; OLIVIA POPE) and the right amount of helpful crossfill to work my way into the harder ones: -HOOD leaving to the GAYBORHOOD; TITO reminding me of the TINTIN movies. (Is the Hergé comic so obscure that we couldn't have had "Snowy's comic pal" or "Captain Haddock's young ward"?)

Anyway, just fun all around. Only embarrassment: HIS AIRNESS. I lived in Chicago during the era of the three-peats, and I just don't recall this sobriquet. Was it common? Sounds like something from a SNL skit. No matter: I couldn't see that "Jordan" didn't refer to the country or river till the last cross.

Peter Sattler

Anonymous 9:51 AM  

Team - take a good look. This is the future of puzzles. No MrEd, SSTs, 49er's, none of that crapola we see in the usual NYT puzzles. It's everything Rex said. Plus.

The Times ran an article a few weeks ago asking "who owns the cornrows?" Worth a read.

I've done the first few HIGH:Low puzzles and Rex is right. They're fantastic.

But kudos to the NYT for publishing this. At least they aren't ignoring the obvious.


Nancy 9:55 AM  

I suffered. I sweated. I cursed. I guessed. And I thought I solved. But I didn't. I had ICE ICE gABY and gLO and OLIVe A POPE and SALiNE. And I am not a happy camper this morning. No, not at all. Usually I like to suffer in solving a puzzle, but it has to be the right kind of suffering. This was the wrong kind of suffering in every GAYBORHOOD of the puzzle, (I liked that one, though I never heard of it.) But even the names I did get by guessing: TITO, TINTIN, DON LEMAN, puhlease! I was stymied in every area of the puzzle by names I didn't know and wouldn't have known if I'd stared at them for days on end. And I was damned if I was going to Google. So I call this 2-letter-wrong result of mine a huge moral and actual victory -- made possible by a gargantuan effort by a person whose wheelhouse is in an entirely different nAYBORHOOD from the constructor's.

Lobster11 10:06 AM  

I'm reluctant to post today because my last two posts were never published; evidently they did not survive moderation, but I have no idea why. Rex, can you please tell me so I can stop doing whatever it is that is objectionable?

Steve M 10:07 AM  

Not exactly easy and way outta my wheelhouse but I guess it's what we can expect if Rex thinks this should be the new normal

kitshef 10:08 AM  

Very fast and clean solve for a Sarurday. Only sticky area was 1A, where I had the OO and wanted xxxxschOOl. Which would give me LxxLEMON, and I desperately resisted Liz there. BLO blows, and I had GIBED from the crosses but did not unerstand it until coming here.
NE long downs are four things I can't stand: Spielberg's TINTIN, that Vanilla Ice song, TAXSHELTERs, and that Kerouac (sp?) book.
Never heard od SPITSGAME, but crosses all good.

Ben Hassenger 10:28 AM  

What was the original clue for CORNROWS?

Bob Kerfuffle 10:31 AM  

Damn near impossible for this geezer . . . but only near, actually finished correctly, on paper, no cheats, in under an hour, which only makes it Medium-Challenging for me on a Saturday.

Only one interesting write-over, 10 D, LIZ LEMON (don't know where that came from, but since @kitshef mentions it, must be in the air somewhere) before DON LEMON, which came only from crosses.

Indicator of age and immersion in crosswordese: At 23 A, "Little capacity," seriously considered APER (but didn't put in).

Norm 10:35 AM  

Blech. I thought the cluing stunk. The inaptness of the clue for the THE NATURAL has already been noted. Doesn't Rex usually chew up and spit out stupid partials like I CAN [help]? Is DON LEMON really that well known? And "Like players on opposing teams, often" for GIBED? Ugh. Glad some of you liked it. I did not.

Paul Johnson 10:46 AM  

Knew Rex would be torn on CORNROWS but not a word about the made up WARONWOMEN, initiated by Stephanopoulos in sucker punch debate "question". Ya, right Republicans hate their wives and daughters. Get real.

And then there's yet another normalization of rap deviancy in ICEICEBABY. The lyrics have no N-words nor F-bombs a rarity but had to toss in gratuitous drugs and violence with:

"The chumps acting ill because they're so full of "Eight Ball [coke]"
Gunshots ranged out like a bell
I grabbed my nine [9mm], all I heard was shells
Falling on the concrete real fast"

See it's ok to promote gunplay. Then be aghast when it happens.

jae 10:56 AM  

Now this is what a Sat. should look like.  Ultimately doable but tough.

Did not know SPITS GAME, GAYBORHOOD, DON LEMON, OLIVA POPE (I actually sorta knew her but I've never seen the show), and GIAN.

I had PCAS (Peoples Choice Awards) before AMAS for way too long. 

GIBED still looks weird to me, but I think I get it...trash talked?

Fun and tough, my kind of Sat.  Liked it a bunch!

Sir Hillary 10:59 AM  

Wonderful puzzle, although I'm sorry @Rex needs to constantly apologize for being white.

I am in awe of how good this grid is. Brings to mind a famous Thelonious Monk album -- "Brilliant Corners".

These words that can be verbs or adjectives get me every time. I spent more time recovering from suItedTO at 37A then I did filling in the entire rest of the puzzle.

Here's hoping @LMS selects the great Air Jordan logo as her avatar for the day.

Paris...my god.

Mohair Sam 10:59 AM  

Medium/Challenging in this house, dnf'd because GAYBORHOOD is a new-to-us phrase and we insisted that 3d was rANK and didn't know the AMA's were publicly voted. How we saw San Francisco's Castro in the clue and didn't suss GAY when we had BORHOOD is beyond me.

Liked this one a lot. Four solid stacks with almost no "ese"; and lots of fresh stuff - all the new-to-us things were fairly crossed (SPITSGAME, CEVICHE, OLIVIAPOPE, FAN...). Lost a ton of time at 37a (Fit for) with TAILORed, the "ed" jammed us up in the middle of the puzzle forever.

Loved the THONG/SUMOS cluing, got THONG first so were thinking Gods and supermodels. After losing half my morning yesterday searching for nicknames for an athlete (Joe Montana) instead of a President (Lincoln) it was nice to be rewarded with a nickname gimme on an athlete (Michael) instead of a country (Jordon) today.

Great clue for 13d, I nearly bit on breakwaTER before TAXSHELTER. And no need to worry about we oldsters on the hideous ICEICEBABY @Rex - it is a quarter of a century old you know, we got it off a few letters.

Terrific Saturday challenge Kameron Austin Collins, keep 'em coming.

Karen Bruce 11:03 AM  

When I saw the clue for CORNROWS and the eight blocks for the answer, I hoped so hard it was Kameron making fun of that awful, inevitable clue for AFRO. When I worked out the answer, I realized it was not. :(

And I also would never associate TINTIN primarily with Spielberg, especially given a clue that implied Spielberg was his creator. I like my TINTIN written and drawn by Hergé (though some of the stories are really . . . unfortunate now).

chefbea 11:05 AM  

Too tough for me. Just wanted to chime in and say ...our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Paris

Z 11:09 AM  

Basically what Rex said. Just a great puzzle with a nice balance of young and old. HIS AIRNESS's peak was 20 years ago and ICE ICE BABY was huge before my oldest was born (he's 24 now) so not exactly millennial. But we do get a current tv hit and politics from this decade, balanced out by a little Renaissance Art History, 70's pop music, and the Beatle's MOP tops.

I'm wondering what the original CORNROWS clue was. I know the first time CORNROWS registered on my consciousness had nothing to do with race. The clue today again borders on essentializing. (@Andrew Morrison - if you're at a dinner party and you inadvertently broach a subject that's making someone uncomfortable do you want you S.O. to kick you under the table or should she just let you keep blathering on?)

@Lobster11 - other possibilities are mistakes at your end and just plain technical gaffes. I wouldn't take it personally.

mac 11:09 AM  

Fantastic puzzle. Ended up with one mistake: UMAs and Guyberhood!

At 25D I thought of still life, thank goodness it didn't fit!

What a fun solve.

Twangster 11:13 AM  

I went through the same thought process as Rex on PINT but then it occurred to me that the phrase "pint-sized" is used to referred to little things, so I figure it works.

Had to google to get ICEICEBABY to complete this one.

Carola 11:15 AM  

I see why @Rex praises this puzzle, although for me it was more work than fun to solve. Definitely a challenging Saturday, happy to finish. Lots of names or coinings I didn't know, some easy to figure out with a few crosses: GAYBORHOOD, TiN TIN, HIS AIRNESS, ICE ICE BABY; others more difficult: SPITS GAME, OLIVIA POPE, DON LEMON, AMAS. I was grateful for the occasional GIFT: GIAN, TITO, MIRA, FOIE, LANATE and crossword BFF "TSK."

It was those shorter words in the center that were hardest for me to MOP up - DUE TO, SUMOS, COMA. Having TAILORed at first didn't help. Or thinking that "picks up" could be FOrkS. Anyway - looking the grid over, I see lots and lots to like through the multiple blurs of erasures.

Benko 11:17 AM  

Republicans don't hate their wives and daughters, @Paul. They just don't want to guarantee them equal pay in the workplace.
"I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die." --Johnny Cash

Tita 11:21 AM  

@BobK...ha ha...I DO remember when Little was a common misdirect...

Xwordinfo doesn't reveal the original CORNROWS clue either...please tell me before I BLO a gasket...!

I was at the Brooklyn Museum and their awesome Egypt collection Wednesday, so in spite of thinking TSK would be a cool answer, kept wanting some other pharaoh'so nickname here.
The whole NE was the hardest by far. Guessed pMA for People's, and gram instead of PINT, oh, and oxen for A lot of pull?...

A very mild level of cheating was required...I googled pMA to see if it was a thing, and when it wasn't, I erased the a and that finally let me see clear to the rest.

Great debut, Mr. Collins. Thanks for a great Saturday.

Music Man 11:28 AM  

Wow great puzzle. I was definitely waiting to see how you would react to the CORN ROWS clue, now I'm curious what the original clue was. Could have easily been changed to Latin American community.

Howard Zen 11:30 AM  

@Paul Johnson. Uh, the song is 25 years old and it was written and performed by a white rapper.

Bassetwrangler 11:40 AM  

I first thought jibed and jaglaws (judge advocate general) which still makes more sense then gaglaws,

gharris 12:00 PM  

I believe it was misleading to characterize The Natural as a picture about a pitcher even if he began as one. The thrust of the film was about his hitting prowess.

Hartley70 12:02 PM  

I'm split down the middle on this. I thought the right half of the puzzle was swell and on the medium side. ICEICEBABY came from the crosses. I like the idea of SLO-BLO fuses. Who needs a fast one? I'm familiar with all the shenanigans OLIVIA's been up to and she needs to move out of the White House Lickety split!

The left half was a different matter, very challenging for me. I had never heard of GAYBORHOOD, and I'm surprised that it seems to be embraced here. It smacks of prejudice to my ear, and I would have been shocked had I heard it in conversation. I suppose it has moved into the mainstream before I could object. I was also lost at HISAIRNESS. I was thinking country, river, anything but sports. It's cute and I had to say it over and over to make sense of it since I exist in a sporty COMA. CORNROWS are very controversial at the moment. There was just a piece in the NYT, written by a black woman who resents seeing the style usurped by any another race. AFRO caused quite a stir here last week if I recall correctly. SPITSGAME just exists in a different universe. He's got GAME works for me.

Right half A+, left half DNF for me.

gharris 12:03 PM  

I believe it was misleading to characterize The Natural as a picture about a pitcher even if he began as one. The thrust of the film was about his hitting prowess.

DJG 12:04 PM  

Fantastic puzzle! The best NYT themeless in a while, in my opinion. Well done, Mr. Collins.

Baseball trivia tidbit: Roy Hobbes of "The Natural" was based roughly on occasional crossword puzzle answer Lefty ODOUL. O'Doul began his career as a hot pitcher and then became a slugging outfielder after experiencing some arm trouble. He only played enough to qualify for the batting crown in four seasons and twice he won it. To my knowledge, however, he was never shot and did not have a love affair with Glenn Close.

Lewis 12:09 PM  

I loved IMAFRAIDSO, HISAIRNESS, LATISH, and CEVICHE, and the clues for STATESEALS (bears twice in this puzzle!) and MAST. There's stuff in the puzzle for young, middle aged, and old. There was a lot that was not in my knowledge bank -- SPITSGAME, LANATE, TITO, FANFICTION, GIAN, BLO, OLIVIAPOPE, ICEICEBABY, and DONLEMON -- so I needed a couple of Googles. With them, it was the kind of solve I love -- work with reward. And what a CLEAN grid!

Blue Stater 12:10 PM  

I couldn't disagree more. Quite unusual, for me. I thought this was just miserably, miserably, miserably hard -- couldn't get a purchase anywhere. There were a good half-dozen words or phrases I had never heard of before. SPITSGAME? FANFICTION? GAYBORHOOD? HISAIRNESS? Etc. In fact I don't think there was a single word in that puzzle that I got without help. There's a place for this sort of thing. But it isn't in a general-circulation newspaper.

old timer 12:12 PM  

GIBED? Well, it *is* in the dictionary. But is it in the language>

Super-tough. I Googled for a few things in order to finish: DON LEMON (though I was pretty sure without peeking), MIRA Sorvino, OLIVIA POPE (though I pretty much guessed it, because POE is a Baltimore icon, though he spent more time in Richmond and New York, I think), and the BABY of Vanilla ICE.

Thanks for the news from Paris, 'mericans.

Alby 12:20 PM  

LOL GAYBORHOOD crossed with DON LEMON. Some kind of mini-theme going on with OLIVIAPOPE crossing POE and OPEL, and with POET hanging out elsewhere. Poor clue and answer, GIBE. Was hoping against hope for SPITSGAME, and the constructor came through. That alone brings the puzzle into the ... '90s.

Karen Munson 12:28 PM  

Shouldn't 24D clue as "there are no senses in them"?

nick 12:37 PM  

Loved this. Coming right after yesterday's Berry gift, kinda couldn't believe it was happening. Olivia Pope! The wit of the 'thong' imagery. Saturday morning delight.

Wish @rex had told us the original cornrows clueing, as the printed one was a bit if a wtf moment. Sounds like how my grandmother would describe them.

Master Melvin 1:08 PM  

I believe THE NATURAL was also based in part on the story of Eddie Waitkus, a pretty good 1st baseman for the 40's - 50's Phillies, who was shot by a female baseball groupie.

mathgent 1:27 PM  

We were in Paris three weeks ago and there was increased security then. At the popular tourist venues like Eiffel Tower and The Louvre, there were soldiers in prominent positions with automatic rifles in their hands.

I live in San Francisco and have never heard the word GAYBORHOOD. I'm checking with a gay man I know who hangs out in the Castro for affirmation, but I think that it is a pejorative used by straights.

For the record, it was very hard for me and I made some lucky guesses to finish without lookups

Court Jeffster 1:27 PM  

I never weigh in on here, because I was always embarrassed by things said by the Brooks Brothers, Vineyard Vines, Allen Edmunds, Summer Home in the Berkshires demographic. Kameron Austin Collins makes me proud to come out as a young, gay crossword enthusiast of color with cultural capital. So forgive me for piping up.

Who knew you could bring a #BlackLivesMatter sensibility to the crossword puzzle and make it as clean and as enjoyable as this one. We saw it in his NYT debut which slipped in SPECIESISM as a sly code for racism. Today’s Saturday themeless sediments his developing angle of queering the crossword puzzle across race, gender, sexuality, cultures. His In Living Color/Paris is Burning sensibility get my 3 Snaps in Z Formation.

When you consider all the times that constructors have gotten away cluing African Americans as “THUG(S),” you might be able to see how this puzzle is an act of fierceness against centuries abbreviating people of color. Look at the full-named debuts of OLIVIAPOPE or DONLEMON (ANITA HILL, JACOB ZUMA, and KOBE BRYANT in his prior puzzles). Then tell me that racial identity doesn’t shape his ability to find fresh contributions to language and culture by people across the board (gay, feminist, black, brown, and yellow, in addition to white) and genres like FANFICTION that belong to us all). Kerry Washington, the actress who plays OLIVIA POPE, is one of the few people of color to lead a successful primetime drama on network television, and like the meaning of CORNROWS (before being appropriated by Smiley Virus and company), she has been big news. Google or Tumblr it.

As Mr. Collins writes: “I try to surprise people with culture and language they didn't expect to see in the Times crossword. If you saw GAYBORHOOD, SPITS GAME, OLIVIA POPE or even WAR ON WOMEN coming, kudos, but I don't believe you.”

For these reasons, I would not want to undersell the feats of this crossword puzzle, whether one considers oneself a member of the hip-enlightened or the Leave-it-to-Beaver-Mary-Tyler-Moore generation or somewhere in between. Mr. Collins has set the new bar of excellence for puzzles post-millenium as far as I’m concerned.

jp flanigan 1:28 PM  

I got a lot of the long answers without help, oddly. My balcony looks out over the Castro, so i got GAYBORHOOD right off. IMAFRAIDSO gave me the whole top in record time. HISAIRNESS followed BULLDURHAM (which is actually a picture about a pitcher). Although i had no problem changing that to THENATURAL, i call foul on the clue. I don't care if Roy Hobbs pitched in high school...plenty of real-life sluggers pitched in high school, but like Hobbs they never threw a pitch in the big leagues. This was a movie about a home-run hitter--"the best that ever played the game."

I had a little hiccup misreading the clue and wrote in VANILLAICE, and also had STATEFLAGS in there for a while.

Z 1:36 PM  

Was THE NATURAL about Roy Hobbes? Was Roy Hobbes a pitcher? That we all remember the guy hitting one of the exploding light tower is what makes this a Saturday clue as opposed to a Monday or Tuesday clue. It's not a bad clue if it tricks you. Quite the opposite, actually. Crossword Puzzle and all that.

People don't know DON LEMON, really? He frequently starred on The Daily Show with foot firmly planted in mouth. Recognition by the Columbia Journalism Reviewring a bell? C'mon people. Next you're going to tell me you don't know Wolf Blitzer.

GAG LAWS have a long, unfortunate history in our "Free Speech" country. One of the current hot button topics in PETA circles are AG-GAG LAWS. As a confirmed "they're animals dammit" omnivore it does make me wonder exactly what the Ag Industry needs to hide.

@Paul Johnson - "War on x" should be retired unless we are talking about armed conflict between nation-states, IMHO. Poverty, Christmas, women, drugs, crime - these aren't "wars," these are political/cultural issues and debates. Still, "concentrated effort by elements of the Republican Party to limit the rights and earning power of females" doesn't roll off the tongue as easily.

foxaroni 1:37 PM  

Just when I think I'm getting better at NYT xwords, something like this comes along. Completely undoable for me. After about 45 minutes, I had just four correct answers: Odin, MOMA, Opel and pens. I'd count Mira (Sorvino), but I mis-spelled it Myra.

I've never heard of Olivia Pope or Don Lemon, nor "gayborhood" (a really bad portmanteau, like "bromance" or "webinar" and others). "Spits game" is unknown to me, sounds gross, and I fervently hope I never hear or see it again. Ever.

End result: very discouraging for this solver. It's going to take me a while before I can enjoy puzzling again.

woolf 1:47 PM  

Slowclap.gif, Kameron Austin Collins.

AliasZ 1:55 PM  

Kameron Austin Collins states at xwordinfo: "...any constructor who has to measure up against Patrick Berry at the end of the week deserves an 'I Survived...' T shirt, assuming they survived." I couldn't agree with him more. As to whether he survived or not is a matter of personal judgment. In my opinion, he is on life support. Why?

1 - SUMOS. Seriously?

2 - TAILOR TO and DUE TO crossing: poor choice. Duplicates have slipped into NYT puzzles lately, but in my mind allowing them in late-week themelesses is bad form, to say the least. For the longest time I had those two slots open, not believing that two crossing partials ending in TO can possible be correct. This is not the type of challenge I look for in a Saturday puzzle.

3 - Partials, plural acronyms, abbr.'s, obscure-ish foreign language words likewise are not prime themeless choices.

4 - Trying too hard to be edgy, slangy and hip can have the opposite effect of what was intended. For me this puzzle was a good example of that.

5 - Obscure names and trivia that cannot be inferred by a reasonably experienced solver tend to destroy one's interest in the puzzle. Jeff Chen put it perfectly: "...there's no challenge to filling in [an obscure proper name]. If you don't know it, you struggle for every last square, with very little payoff. DON LEMON was [that] way for me, filling in the final square with a shrug." And OLIVIA POPE for me as well.

There were a few excellent entries, but not nearly enough of them to overshadow the liabilities. I liked HIS AIRNESS, FAN FICTION, THE NATURAL, TAX SHELTER, CORN ROWS, DOMINEER and a few others, but overall it was a letdown after yesterday's sparkler. I remember another Sat. puzzle by Mr. Collins a few months ago (Aug. 1, to be precise) that was head and shoulders above this troublesome effort. Yes, I'M AFRAID SO.

- I wonder if it is spelled GAYBOURHOOD in England.
- GI BED: A cot in the barracks.

Mohair Sam 2:06 PM  

Kinda stunned how many people here don't know DON LEMON, he's been all over CNN for about a decade. So maybe he's on against "Scandal" every night and nobody's watching?

Are there any Fast-BLO fuses?

@PaulJohnson - One reason Rex may have ignored WARONWOMEN (as I did) is that the clue was rendered apolitical by using the term "talking point."

demit 2:12 PM  

CLEAN, for barbell lift to shoulder height, is entirely new to me. Even as a non-bodybuilding female I had heard of "curl." But not "clean and press," which I now know from googling. Huh.

The WARONWOMEN has to do not with equal pay issues but with reproductive rights.

Kameron 2:20 PM  

I disagree, @Blue Slater -- an internationally renowned and circulated hub of culture and information like the New York Times is the MOST logical place for this kind of puzzle, because the NYT is the fairest place to expect an audience to have (or at least have access to, or at the very least appreciate) broad cultural knowledge.

The Times isn't just a "general circulation newspaper," in my eyes. And the puzzle appears in the Arts section -- much of what's in this puzzle has appeared there and all of it is searchable in the NYT database. Entire features have been written on DON LEMON, "Scandal" and OLIVIA POPE, the sociology of GAYBORHOODS, etc.

I'm sorry, though, that you (and others) didn't like the puzzle. My strategy was to be as wide ranging as possible. I think the weekend pairing of myself with Patrick Berry, whose puzzles are more culturally neutral, is apt for this reason!

Erin Milligan-Milburn 2:30 PM  

The quotations in the CORNROWS commentary are from Kameron himself -- it was either about Allen Iverson or something including "Head lines."

Cosign the comment above about Philly. I went to school in the GAYBORHOOD, and that's what it is called there

Fred Romagnolo 2:38 PM  

@DJG: Lefty O'Doul's love affair was with the city of San Francisco. I've heard of GAG rules, LAWS is a new one on me. I agree with Rex, SUMOS shouldn't be, without adding wrestlers. I"m with the solvers whom felt the clue for THE NATURAL was a puzzle-maker's deliberate dirty trick; not necessary in an otherwise pretty good puzzle. If GAYBORHOOD is acceptable, then so is CORN-ROWS.

Z 2:39 PM  

@Kameron - One of the principles I tried to instill in teachers was that it takes 10 positive comments to a student to balance a single negative statement. The number is made up but the principle isn't. So I'm not surprised that with all the positive comments here you responded to a negative comment. Personally, I think you did a great job, more like this will be much appreciated. If I have one criticism it is you came here to comment and DIDN'T TELL US YOUR ORIGINAL CORNROWS CLUE. Curious minds need to know.

Z 2:44 PM  

@ Erin Milligan-Milburn - Ahhhh - Rex added that after I read the blog. Thanks for the heads up.

@Fred Romagnolo - No problem with CORN ROWS per se, just that the clue used was sub-optimal for reasons discussed ad nauseum before.

Raoul Duke 2:57 PM  

What an outstanding puzzle! Best Saturday in years.

Anytime you get the bitter olds who frequent Rex's blog sputtering with apoplexy and rage about "pop culture" and "trivia" (in other words, anything that happened after 1950), not to mention anything vaguely political, you know you're doing something right.


Kudos to Kameron!

old timer 3:04 PM  

Always nice to hear from the Constructor on this blog.

Just occurred to me that someone should do a cartoon in The New Yorker: Castro Theater in the background, two lookalike men in their early 30's have just been passed by a clearly straight couple, one of whom is pushing one of those strollers for twins. One young man says to the other, "There goes the gayborhood!"

(Which is not a term I've heard either, in the Castro,, but an earlier comment stated that "gayborhood" is a nickname for a gay neighborhood in Philadelphia).

Court Jeffster 3:11 PM  

@Kameron - It's a shame that most people aren't willing to concede their positions of privilege to qualify the limits of their opinions. Don't be deterred or discouraged by the patronizing comments you will undoubtedly receive from people who dissemble their alabaster behind an avatar so that they may pretend to some omniscient judgment of what everyone else should or should not know. You've performed a monumental feat. I anoint you the Break-Beat poet of Crosswords, bringing crossword puzzles to the browner commons and the browner commons to crossword puzzles.

Sallie (FullTime-Life) 3:18 PM  

Did it last night without googling ... One error as I fell asleep wondering what the heck a Jaglaw was, so sure of my across misspelling I was! I'm a (long way) over 60 and I loved this puzzle. Learning new stuff (and not just how to spell) .. while feeling smart about some other clues ... All in the same puzzle ... Good times!

Numinous 4:33 PM  

Didn't Bo Derek have CORNROWS in 10?

This one bitch slapped me. I had to ask my wife for OLIVIA POPE and TITO Jackson (she was a neighbor of thiers for a time in her youth). LEMON eventually filled itself in from crosses but I had to look up DON. Ditto for the G in GIAN. I've never heard of SPIT GAME though I got the GAME part. When SPIT finally became aparent, I had to look it up. There it was, right there in Urban Dictionary. Silly me, I've SPIT GAME entirely too many times in my life. TMI? OW,WTH.

I had to chuckle at GAYBORHOOD, having grown up on the shores of the "GAY Bay."

I liked the baseball clues. I was thinking still life at first and even had mURAL before the T became apparent. And then there was Evan Gattis. What, you ask? Being a Braves fan, a little while back, El OSO Blanco was a big deal. Apparently he still is though he's been moved along in the disasterous restaffing of the club.

Damn good puzzle, @Kameron! Keep 'em coming.

chefwen 4:35 PM  

@Mericans - Thanks for checking in, I was worried (I'm Jewish, that's what we do) my friend told me to chill, that you were fine.
Brother in law, the sister that I always wanted, used to live in the Castro District so I ran GAYBORHOOD by him, he loved it.
There may have been I tad bit of cheating going on mid-solve, looking at you GIAN, but I loved every minute completing this one. Had no problem with GIBED, it's what you do to the other guys.

Thanks Mr Collins, keep 'em coming.

But can you handle the truth? 4:50 PM  

@Kameron: Instead of telling us why we should love your puzzle, maybe you would benefit in the future from learning why some of us didn't love your puzzle. I found your 2:20 p.m. comment both very defensive and very confrontational. Don't tell us why you, with all your cultural references, pair so well with Patrick Berry yesterday who had pretty much no cultural references. Study PB, see why he's so beloved and admired, and then see what you can learn from him. You cannot tell people that they should like your puzzle -- they are going to like it or they are NOT going to like it.

Rob 4:57 PM  

I disagree pretty strongly about this puzzle. It had a lot of good stuff -- I liked GAYBORHOOD, FANFICTION, OLIVIAPOPE, and a few others -- but I thought there was much more junk than Rex is granting here. I'll say that I think FANFICTION is a perfectly good answer, though the clue stumped me briefly; age-wise, I'm in the middle, early 30s, and it's a phrase I'm well aware of and have been for years despite not consuming any myself.

So, the bad:

- SPITSGAME: I'm familiar with "spit" in this sense, and "game" in this sense, but together? No.

- ICAN and INA: Not generally a fan of fill-in-the-blank clues; they're either painfully obvious or painfully ambiguous. Both of these were the latter. No chance of getting these without some crosses.

- LATISH: Are you friggin' kidding me? This is not a word. Absolute garbage.

- GIBED: A huge stretch. Beyond dumb.

- Never heard of SLO-BLO fuses -- some Googling suggests that this may be some kind of proprietary name for a slow-blow fuse, which I've also never heard of, but perhaps this is more recognizable to people with more of a relevant background. Still, even a search specifically for "slo-blo" doesn't return very many results for that variant.

I found the bottom left area the hardest, from SHIES on down. THENATURAL is a fine answer, but with so many others that I found difficult -- something like "Fit for" has many more possible answers than something concrete like OLIVIAPOPE, whether you know the latter or not -- it was hard to pick out which baseball movie was being tapped here.

Chalk me up as not a fan of this one.

Tita 5:33 PM  

I live right near Gaylordsville, CT. I think they can lay claim to being the original GAYBORHOOD. (It was settled by the French Gaillard family.)

@Rob...I'm notoriously late for things. Those who know me often say I'm latish.

Mohair Sam 5:37 PM  

@Kameron - Get back here and tell us your original clue for CORNROWS dammit!

@all-of-you-claiming-THENATURAL-wasn't-a-pitcher - He struck out the Babe Ruthian character before Barbara Hershey shot him for Heaven's sake, now that's a pitcher.

Again, how can you guys not know DON LEMON? Doesn't anybody else channel surf around here? Or are you all glued to Meghan Kelly? Geez.

Three and out.

Hungry Mother 6:44 PM  

75 and white, but loved the puzzle. Bring me more like this, especially toward the end of the week.

phil phil 9:07 PM  

@mohair_sam fast blo fuses are typical. Slo blo for circuits with motor which have high power draws when starting up.

Think of lights dimming as you Aircon kicks in.

Leapfinger 9:48 PM  

@Court Jeffter,

Count me as one who's torn between assembling and disassembling [sic] her alabaster behind.

One tall frosty lemonade to go, please.

LindaPRmaven 9:59 PM  

Enjoyable - if long - did it in pieces on a busy day - Saturday workout. So many good things to say about this refreshing puzzle. FANFICTION and CEVICHE were highlights for me. And I liked the bears top and bottom - OSO and STATE SEALS. (With bears all over its state seal why is University of Missouri 's team called the Tigers?) Like George Barany I had to Google the CNN host (though not the 1990 #1 hit that I got from crosses), but otherwise teased out challenges like SUMOS and THONG.

The Ear Worm 10:22 PM  

Nice to see someone else was trying to fit Joe in the grid yesterday :)

The Ear Worm 10:55 PM  

Quite enjoyed this and found it easy-medium. I shot through the top half and slowed down a bit for the second part but never found myself completely stuck.

Didn't remember THE NATURAL very well except of course the closing shot with all the lights exploding, so kept resisting that until it became clear that there was now way bull Durham was going to work.

SPITS GAME was enough in my lexicon that I could get it from GAME, and plopped in GAYBORHOOD off of the OO, because it was clearly ending in HOOD, and that's the first cute portmanteau I saw. I figured it wouldn't really stand, but, low and behold.

DON LEMON was a WOE, as was OLIVIA POPE, but both were fairly crossed.

Struggled with STATE flAgS since I *knew* that the car company was OPEL, but couldn't get it to drop.

Once I got that cleared out I was off again.

Yesterday and today's puzzles combined took me about 3/4 of the time is spent pushing through Thursday (even though I got that rebus early on) so I can't call this anything but easy-medium.

Benko 10:59 PM  

I didn't find @kamerons post defensive at all. If anything it was pleasant and cheery. He constructed this puzzle and responded to criticism like a gentleman.

Alison 11:05 PM  

Loved this puzzle. So fun to learn hip slang instead of ancient trivia. Keep 'em coming @kameron! This middle aged white lady is a big fan!

OISK 11:15 PM  

Never heard of Don Lemon; I don't watch CNN, except when I am in Europe. Disliked this puzzle very much, agreeing with my friend Nancy, as usual. I did finish it correctly. But aside from Ice ice baby, Gayborhood, Olivia Pope and Tin tin - completely unfamiliar, there was some really awful cluing. Some deception is OK, but there were strained contrivances here that are bad attempts at cleverness. Picture about a pitcher? Who would so describe "The Natural," and there are so many more natural ways to clue it, Saturday or not. Never heard of Tito Jackson either. But the clue for Gibed "Like players on opposing teams often..." Really? Because they gibe at each other? Bah. Berry would never do that.

Paul Plotnick 10:30 AM  

82 year old here. Obviously could not do this puzzle without extensive Googling and even then had trouble finishing. Spitsgame? Gibed? These things may become the new SSTs & Mr. Eds as these newer constructors tend to copy each other. Ever notice?

Blue Stater 11:35 AM  

@Kameron, I'm late with this reply to yours of 2:20 p.m. 11/14. I'm afraid I just don't like puzzles with an agenda, which you freely admit to invoking.

It might surprise you to learn that I, a 77-year-old lefty retired university professor with a gay San Francisco-reaident daughter, probably would agree with most of that agenda. But the NYT crossword puzzle is not the place for agendas, IMO. We've had far too much of that here since the much-lamented (by me, anyway) departure of Eugene Maleska, and it's gotten in the way of the real intellectual challenge and high factual and linguistic standards that the NYT puzzles used to exemplify. Sorry to sound like an old STODGE, but I guess I am one.

Uncle Moishy 8:23 PM  

This 58-yo liberal white Jewish male in NYC found this to be a definite challenge. So much that I didn't know (at least partly because I watch very little television anyomore): ICEICEBABY, GIBED, OLIVIAPOPE, DONLEMON, GAYBORHOOD, FANFICTION. But as others have already pointed out here, the crossings were eminently fair and/or the unknowns were sussable. Isn't this what one looks for on a Saturday? I know I do.

The one exception to this, for me at least, came when I had _PITSGAME at 28D crossed by _HIES at 28A. That's where I came to a screeching halt. S was the only logical choice for the missing letter, yielding actual words both across and down (words I didn't understand, but hey...), so I declared victory and came here for the post-mortem analysis.

But having read everything that everyone had to say, no one asked or answered the question that still has me stumped: How does the clue "Starts" yield the answer SHIES? (28A) If I could've figured that out I wouldn't be here now asking desperate questions when you've all moved on to Sunday's puzzle (and soon Monday's).

So if anyone sees this and feels like answering... much appreciated.

BTW -- I think "Head lines?" would be a great clue for CORNROWS all by itself. Nothing more needed. At least in my opinion.

Elfinger 3:46 AM  

@Uncle Moishe, even in the heart of NYC, you have some horses, although most of them are pulling tourists around in carriages, have blinders on, and seem very very calm. (The carriages are still there, aren't they?) I guess if mounted policeman were trying to control a crowd, you might see that a horse starts and shies at a sudden loud noise.

Google 6:50 AM  

Or to be more straightforward,
Shy, verb
1.(especially of a horse) start suddenly aside in fright at an object, noise, or movement.

Start, verb
3. give a small jump or make a sudden jerking movement from surprise or alarm.

Thomas 3:37 PM  

I am surprised I have never heard "GAYBORHOOD" before. It was the toughest clue for me. GIBED seemed a tad obscure, but plenty of doable crosses for that one.

SPITSGAME is indeed modern slang, but so is BFF. That one would gripe about the former but not the latter boils down to personal usage and familiarity, which are not proper grounds for complaint.

Anonymous 12:42 PM  

'Gayborhood' is definitely a real world. Check out this book from Princeton University Press, entitled, There Goes the Gayborhood? http://press.princeton.edu/titles/10211.html

spacecraft 12:51 PM  

This is way out of my wheelhouse. yet I was able to solve it. That's gotta say something. Though it's obviously not Mr. Collins' debut (as I infer from the entire blog in general), it's the first time I've ever seen this name. My vote? Give the kid the T-shirt.

My entry point "gimme" was my only inked mistake: ABS. I see three letters about muscles and in it goes. Oh well. You can tell I don't spend a lot of time on the ol' rowing machine.

Many WOEs including CEVICHE, DONLEMON, that rap title with an extra ICE (what's that for, to make it fit the meter?), WARONWOMEN (wow, I don't recall ANYTHING about that; that's one war you are destined to lose!), OLIVIAPOPE and SPITSGAME. God, I'm old. But smooth phrases like ONTHEROAD and IMAFRAIDSO helped.

I liked the twin sets of repeated letter strings with TINTIN and ICEICE...something you surely don't see every day. Also the two completely different senses of "Starts" intersecting.

Why did the NYT change the clue on CORNROWS? That clue made me frown. It's a better puzzle with "Head lines?", which is a hard clue but every bit in the Saturday spirit. I might have sprung for an A+; Kameron, the Times owes you a +. A.

Burma Shave 1:01 PM  


The STATESEALS your fate DUETO a code

create STRAINS on THENATURAL ORIGINS of who takes care of ya.

ICAN tell you – don’t DOMINEER, or it’s a WARONWOMEN,
Unless OLIVIAPOPE SPITSGAME about a THONG and some swimmin’.


Torb 1:27 PM  

Perhaps it's because I'm hung over,after the Christmas party, but I got murdered by this puz. Worst finish ever.

rondo 1:28 PM  

I mostly agree with @Andrew Morrison, the first comment above. @Rex or @Z or @anyone else, don’t make this out to be a turning point in modern society. It’s a xword puz for crying out loud. I’m not older than nor younger than 60 (that should narrow it down) and the only thing I’ve never heard of in this puz was DONLEMON, only because I don’t have cable TV (but I don’t live in a cave either). Was surprised there wasn’t more thin-skinned wincing and cringing at CORNROWS.

The slow AREA for me was from the tail end of TAILORed to the NE with OuTabROAD. Took some time and major head scratching to suss it all out, especially not knowing the CNN guy (see above).

It is not a WARONWOMEN to have yeah baby character OLIVIAPOPE (yes, I know who Kerry Washington is) and real-life yeah baby MIRA Sorvino gRACING today’s grid.

This was the degree of difficulty one should expect in a Sat-puz regardless of constructor or content of clues/answers. Don’t know what it says about you if you are enlightened and/or excited.

leftcoastTAM 3:13 PM  

Messed up in the middle: SpOTS instead of SLOTS and COins instead of COMA (thought it was a play on "sense" in the clue).

This made SUMOS and CLEAN clean out of reach.


rain forest 5:29 PM  

I had to wrestle with this one, in three separate sessions, for a long time, but I eventually solved it. I think it was worth the effort, yet I find myself agreeing with both sides of the "like it" conversation. Learned GAYBORHOOD, (although I'd spell it GAYBOURHOOD), and I think that is a neat words to know. HIS AIRNESS was a gimme, as were a few others (CEVICHE, OLIVIA POPE), and I think without them, it would have been dnf.

Anyway, it was quite a tussle, and though I don't think the puzzle is fantastic, it was a good challenge.

Anonymous 6:25 AM  

I never heard or had a idea about seven of the answers, so I was glad that I could glean answers from the crosses. I can't articulate exactly why I'm not enamored of this puzzle, and didn't feel good when I finished, even though I got everything without looking up anything, i.e., cheating. It must be my age, 63, or that I'm not politically correct. I did have some satisfaction in getting gayborhood, after testing gaybararea, then gaybarroom, then gaybarhood. Getting origins was the key, allowing the epiphany for the cutish slang word for the two areas or businesses (I didn't know which) I could only infer were gay neighborhoods or bars.

Anonymous 4:03 PM  

I normally think that Rex is being overly critical (as in Steinberg's Forty-nine "R"s puzzle), so I was surprised that he called this one "pretty close to perfect". The cultural references were overly abundant and skewed towards the more recent (Except POE and GIAN). The net effect was that there were too many pop culture answers crossing each other. Though I completed it correctly, I had little confidence in my solution.

My biggest complaint, though, was the SUMOS/THONG link. I'm not a fan of cross-referenced clues in general, but this one was particularly bad. First of all, while I don't expect the average solver to know the term "rikishi" (I had to Google it myself), to refer a sumo wrestler as a "SUMO" is, at best, cultural laziness, and at worst, cultural ignorance (Would we refer to Michael Jordan as a "basketball", or Gretzky as a "hockey"?). And "THONG", seriously? That needed to be re-clued. Call it a loincloth if you must use an English word, but to use a sexualized term to refer to a mawashi shows just a bit of cultural insensitivity. Unless, of course, you're a person in an older demographic referring to footwear.

Mean Girl 3:56 AM  

Stop trying to make GAYBORHOOD happen!
gay district...ok
gay mecca...ok

really liked this puzzle, although CORNROWS was too obvious—starting the clue with "Do for" it must be a noun, a hairdo. It was the only long answer I filled without any crossings.

great puzzle

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