Hogwarts fifth-year exams for short / WED 11-25-15 / Style is option clean is not sloganeer / Disney subsidiary / Disappearing conveniences / Latin word shared by mottoes of Yale Tufts

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Constructor: Duncan Kimmel and Clara Williamson

Relative difficulty: Medium


THEME: Somewhat literal TV shows — I think the deal is that theme answers reimagine famous TV show titles as (mostly) straightforward descriptions of things:

Theme answers:
  • 16A: "Mad Men"? (PSYCHOPATHS) (that one's pretty literal)
  • 22A: "House of Cards"? (HALLMARK STORE) (also pretty literal)
  • 46A: "Game of Thrones"? (MUSICAL CHAIRS) (see, this is less literal ... a "throne" is a ridiculous way to refer to a simple "chair," so ... this clue probably needs two question marks)
  • 57A: "The Walking Dead"? (PALLBEARERS) (I'm not sure I even understand this one—PALLBEARERS "walk" while also *carrying* the "dead," so ... I ... yeah, I don't see how this one works. Maybe, uh, "those walking the dead" ... like ... taking them for a walk? I want this to work, but syntax and grammar matter in crossword cluing, and you'd have to torture the English language pretty hard to get it to agree that this clue/answer pairing makes any sense.
Word of the Day: SMALL SLAM (31D: "All but one" win, in bridge) —
(google)
• • •

There's a germ of a good idea here. But the theme answers gets less precise and more figurative and by the end, the theme appears to have fallen apart entirely. I can't get PALLBEARERS to work without hiring a very talented theme lobbyist and paying her a lot of money. If I carry a dead body, I am a pallbearer. So ... I am walking, but not dead. I am walking THE dead. But the title is "The Walking Dead," so ... how is PALLBEARERS a literal answer (in a way that is parallel to "Mad Men" / PSYCHOPATHS)??? I thought maybe we had entered the realm of the super-figurative, and "The Walking Dead" were zombies, who of course "bear" a "pall," in the sense that their complexion is the opposite of ruddy, but ... then I realized I was thinking of "pallid," not "pall," and besides, that kind of a wordplay stretch just isn't in keeping with the more straightforward literalizing that is going on with the other themers. I want this theme to work, but I just don't think it does. "The Golden Girls"? (EMMY AWARDS) ... I think that works. Am I doing it right? I honestly don't know. It just seems like there must've been many, many more TV shows that you could do this with, with better results. I will say that these shows are all very recent and non-network, so they have a kind of consistency. Which is nice ... if you can stick the landing.


One of my friends just remarked on Twitter that "I've never seen 37-Across (i.e. AMUCK) spelled that way." I replied, "No one has." That's god-awful. How you get yourself stuck with AMUCK, I don't know, but you need to rethink your choices. In fact, the grid seems really oddly built. Huge gaps between theme answers in the middle, with these intervening longer Acrosses that have nothing to do with the theme but that somehow result in our getting stuck with AMUCK. And also stuck with singular SCAD, which, jeez louise, no. No no. Stop it. Back to the drawing board. SES and MEI are also yucky in a super-undemanding grid. Ditto ETUI. The puzzle felt easy, but sussing out the themers actually took some work. I forgot that HALLMARK had STOREs, so getting the STORE part took an odd lot of work. And PALLBEARERS ... well, you can see why that took work. I also struggle with GANGSTERS, largely because that seemed a very anti-climactic answer for 33D: Capone and Corleone. Those aren't just GANGSTERS. Those are crime bosses, crime lords, kingpins. So after GANG- I was looking for something signifying Big Cheeses ... but all I got was -STERS. Not inaccurate, but kind of a letdown.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]

74 comments:

jae 12:06 AM  

Easy again.  Cute theme idea, pretty smooth grid, liked it. Nice debuts.  But, I agree with @Rex and Jeff Chen at Xwordinfo about the inconsistencies. 

AMUCK looked odd to me too and here' s why.

Amok is the 21st-century standard spelling of the word meaning (1) in a frenzy to do violence, or (2) in an uncontrolled state. Amuck is an old alternative spelling of the Malaysian loanword, and it had a few decades of prevalence before the middle 20th century, but it has now fallen out of favor. A few usage authorities still recommend the latter spelling, but amok is preferred in edited writing of this century.

Da Bears 12:08 AM  

Rex, I share your puzzlement. However, poetic license was in one of the answers on Wheel tonight and I was thinking maybe the authors had crossword license until you set me straight. You must admit, however, that there is something compelling about sandwiching greeting cards and a child's game between PSYCHOPATHS and PALLBEARERS.

Music Man 12:10 AM  

Overthinking Capone and Corleone much? To quote my kiddos, you're being "extra". P.S. Look out for EXTRA being clued like that in the somewhat near future. Otherwise, I agree with everything you said

Sorry for the dupe

Anonymous 12:12 AM  

every week there's a new "I cannot believe what I just saw in the New York Times puzzle" moment. Today's was amuck. I looked it up; amuck is legitimate but it is terrible. I envision a constructor going "Holy hell, can amuck be s word?" And sure enough it's accepted. Not the sole baddie in this puzzle, but by far the worst answer.

Anonymous 12:32 AM  

I thought it was little, as opposed to grand, slam. Perhaps it's both. Now if the game were MUSICAL thrones and the show were GAME OF Chairs...

chefwen 2:01 AM  

Never put two and two together to figure out the theme and after a few minutes gave up trying. Maybe because I had never seen any of these shows, one of them I hadn't even heard of, maybe because the other longs threw me off. Who knows? Gave up trying and chalked it up to a theme less Wednesday. Knew that was probably not the case, but it worked in my mind which must have been half asleep not to grasp this theme.

Raised an eyebrow over AMOCK and SCAD.

SMORES and ASSES appear to be the words of the month.

Samantha 4:29 AM  

Know what fits instead of GANGSTERS? MAFIADONS. Yuuuup.

George Barany 5:50 AM  

Maybe we should cut the co-constructors [@Duncan Kimmel and @Clara Williamson] some slack, since we learn from the @Jeff Chen/@Jim Horne site that this is a debut puzzle for both of them, and they are both under the age of 20. So congratulations on that!

@Rex's review enunciates several points that have surely occurred to most solvers. Even I, with my focus on chemistry, sports, and opera, have heard of "Mad Men," "House of Cards," and "Game of Thrones," though "The Walking Dead" is a WOE to me.

When was the last time any of you saw any PAY_PHONES? Early '80s, perhaps. I interviewed at the University of Minnesota in December 1979. It was colder than {supply your own metaphor} and as we were waiting for the light to change so we could cross the street from the parking lot to the restaurant, the phone at the corner rang. Being a New Yorker, I instinctively picked it up and asked "Who's there?"[not exactly the ideal way to make a good impression on one's future colleagues!] But even in those days, many PAY_PHONES had been vandalized or had some sort of malfunction, and were hardly as convenient as carrying a phone (dumb or smart) in one's own pocket or purse.

It's always nice to see a new clue for familiar words, i.e., MESA [Tenis de ___ (Ping-Pong, in Spain)] and OWLS [ Hogwarts' fifth-year exams, for short]. My first impulse for 10-Across ["Wanna ___?" which BTW crosses another slangy clue in "You got it!"] was not BET. For my other mis-step, "Style is an option. Clean is not" seemed to me as the kind of slogan the late @Steve JOBS might have come up with.

Anonymous 6:08 AM  

Charles (Chuck) Jones cartoon: Duck Amuck (1953): One of the funniest of all time. Yes, a pun, but still this way.

GILL I. 6:23 AM  

Is a SMALL SLAM in bridge like Shooting The Moon in hearts? I loved playing both those card games but nobody else wanted to play with me. I was never a discarder. No siree, I always was the one vying for the most little pile of suits....
ETC ESS SES SAP PSA APP ALE ALI notwithstanding, I had MEI fun.
Yes, the PALL BEARERS as a themer was a bit of a head scratcher but I didn't spend too much time wondering why. I just like the way this puzzle made me feel [good]! I particularly like that MOLAR UVULA SEXED little corner because I'm sure someone will come up with a story.
Too bad AMUCK is right smack dab in the middle. Is ASUCK a word?
I enjoyed the romp Duncan and Clara....Now all I can do is dream of the 8 more pies I have to make and deliver tomorrow. I wish pups and kitties likes apple pie or I'd visit the SPCA. Instead, lots of lonely seniors needing some good home-cooking and some laughter are awaiting the AMUCK TRUCK.....

Anonymous 6:49 AM  

Amuck reminded me of that scene with then-presidential candidate John Kerry at a NASCAR race. John (sort of) asked, "Who amuck us doest not love NASCAR?" What a sc-muck. OK. I made that up. Turns out Maureen Dowd made up the whole thing back in 2004.

I always check out Rex's comments for two reasons. First, I'm interested in crossword construction. Second, I love the various video clips and assorted artwork he uses to liven up the page. Today was no exception. The WOD screen shot of Small Slam, the movie poster, and the psychotically throbbing, psychopathic pounding Talking Heads' Psycho Killer. And, to do this day in and day out, at such a high level. Hats off!

Ce que j'ai fait, ce soir-là
Ce qu'elle a dit, ce soir-là
Réalisant mon espoir
Je me lance vers la gloire... OK

What I did, that evening
What she said, that evening
Fulfilling my hope
Headlong I go for glory... OK

Zippy

Hocus-Pocus 6:55 AM  

Amuck, amuck,amuck !

Lise 6:55 AM  

And further on the AMUCK theme: Check out Chuck Jones' excellent autobiography "Chuck Amuck". Apt title, considering the cartoon, but the only time AMUCK makes sense, really.

Hartley70 7:03 AM  

Having just reached dinosaur status, AMUCK felt just right to me. I had to relearn it as amok sometime in the 70's when it inexplicably morphed on me. I thought it nicely balanced OWLS, which I loved. A little something for everyone.

These are ubiquitous and current television shows so that gave the puzzle some extra youth. I'm a fan of all four, although I'm ready for those Zombies to bite the dust and is Jon really dead? I liked the theme, and while I hear Rex's lament about PALLBEARERS, I tried PALeBEARERS FIRST, it didn't get my knickers in a knot.

All in all, a most enjoyable Wednesday. On the easy side for me, but a wonderful debut for the constructors!

Lewis 7:34 AM  

@rex: "...hiring a very talented theme lobbyist and paying her a lot of money." -- Priceless!

The solve felt easy, with more direct cluing than I'd like on a Wednesday, and, like Rex, I tried and tried to make sense of PALLBEARERS (can the constructors or Will come on in and explain this?). I did like the clue for AXE, and the answers BINGO (as clued) and DISPARATE. There's the HALL/SMALL/PALL trio, and a high TIDE. I wonder if the constructors considered "FRONTYARD" for Homeland, but rejected it because the letter count didn't work.

Anyway, congratulations on the debut, Duncan and Clara. Consider Rex's review a SMALL SLAM and carry on!

James F 7:40 AM  

For a little bit I was thinking that "Game of Thrones" was about toilets and tried to fit in something involving American Standard or Kohler.

NCA President 8:10 AM  

@Samantha: Isn't a MAFIADON a kind of dinosaur?

As always, I do a puzzle, it makes me hold my a head a certain way and think, "wait, what?", then I come here and Rex tells me why. Theme inconsistency. BINGO.

I'm surprised no one has commented on the age-old criticism of the NYT "keeping it clean" but including Tindr and/or especially Grindr as a clue for APP. I'm definitely ok with that clue (it would be considered pretty standard stuff for other xword puzzles across the internets), but of the million ways to clue an APP, they chose two dating/hook up apps, makes me wonder. When I saw that I thought sure I'd see some push back here.

Otherwise, another easy one. No big hangups or snags. AMUCK seemed okay to me...I'm not sure where I've seen it...Shakespeare, maybe?

gcedwards10 8:33 AM  

Google ngram of the two shows amuck the clear favorite until the 1930s, at which point amok starts to ascend. The two are in rough parity until the 1960s when amok becomes ever more dominant

https://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?content=amok%2C+amuck&year_start=1800&year_end=2000&corpus=15&smoothing=3&share=&direct_url=t1%3B%2Camok%3B%2Cc0%3B.t1%3B%2Camuck%3B%2Cc0

AliasZ 8:33 AM  


40D: PAIR should've been a theme entry. Clue: "Twin Peaks."

The high muck-AMUCK at the NYT decided to no longer indicate var. spellings. Every dictionary shows AMUCK as a variant of amok. This is making AMUCK-ery of the English language. I'm amok, he's AMUCK.

The 1972 Italian slasher movie starring Farley Granger of all people, titled "Alla ricerca del piacere" (in pursuit of pleasure), was released in the US as "AMUCK!". To keep within the same general theme, Art Blakey's 1957 album called "Orgy in Rhythm Vol. 2" has a terrific drum solo track titled AMUCK. In this lovely scene from "Hocus Pocus" (1993) Sarah Jessicker Parka jumps up and down and yells AMUCK-AMUCK-AMUCK!. And of course, there is always "Duck AMUCK" starring Daffy Duck. Perhaps this classic would've been the best clue for AMUCK -- utterly inferrable and NOT a variant -- but may have been unknown to today's young debutantes.

STAR SIGNS -- zodiac signs. What's the diff? "Do you come here often? What's your star sign? I am a Sagittarius. Did you get hurt ...("Huh?")... when you fell from heaven?"

The theme? IMPEI-limpy. Who cares? I would have added LETTER BEE as a themer. Clue: "The Silence of the Lambs."

Enjoy your Thanksgiving eve day.

Tim 8:46 AM  

The moment I saw A---K for 37A I said to myself, "this constructor watched too much Looney Tunes in their youth." I think the clue would rankle less if it at least alluded to "Duck Amuck" in some way.

I didn't have a hard time with the theme, and once I got MUSICALCHAIRS most of the rest of the answers just fell into place. I think the key is really not overthinking it. I only got stuck in the NE corner: I just knew that HALLMARK----- had to be STORE, but I was hung up on thinking that "You got it!" was going to be ROGER, and kept me hung up for several minutes until IRE/ERROR helped ease me out.

@GeorgeBarany: you were not carrying a mobile phone in 1979 unless you were working for some three-letter government agency that you still can't tell us about. :-) Pay phones were an indispensable tool for me in high school in NYC in the mid-1980s, and while they were often vandalized, they did not start to fall into disfavor until the mid-1990s when cell phones became more common.

kitshef 8:55 AM  

No problem at all with AMUCK. It's not like it's been out of the lingo for 200 years or anything. While I'm not old enough to remember it being the first choice, I have seen it.

@GILL_I. Game lingo varies, but to me shooting the moon is not like a small slam, as you could (theoretically) take only four tricks but shoot the moon if those four tricks included all the hearts and the queen of spades.

Nancy 8:55 AM  

Like @chefwen, I, too raised an eyebrow over both AMUCK and SCAD. But other than that, I thought it was a cute theme, nicely executed. Easy for me, not medium. But after yesterday's proper name-laced trivia fest, this was a welcome change.

Ludyjynn 8:58 AM  

I thought the puzzle was RAD. True, AMUCK and SCAD were my nits to pick, but there was so much to like, including the contemporary tv ART theme. Rex, HALLMARK STOREs are a real thing. I even have a 'Gold Crown' rewards card in my wallet which is exclusively USEd there. And I cut PALL BEARERS slack, as I figured what they do, that is, walking the dead, is close enough to the walking dead. Get it? DUH!

Hand up for esp. liking the SW quad. Clueing in general all over the grid was fresh and clean, like TIDE.

Thanks, DK, CW and WS. I am looking forward to SMORE from you, individually or together.

Anonymous 9:01 AM  

A very nice debut for a pair of constructors who are young and whose puzzle appropriately skews that way. My only write-over was on ABC; I originally wanted AmC, which I thought would be a nice nod to "Mad Men" and "The Walking Dead."

I am happy to learn that the Mr. Kimmel is a Theta Chi at Tufts, as I was! *performs secret handshake*

JayWalker 9:12 AM  

There IS more than one definition for "Pall." How about Merriam Webster's: b : a feeling of gloom It's also correct to cite it as a "feeling." Therefore it isn't just sorta correct, it's absolutely correct. Unless, of course, you don't think zombies would cast a pall on your next party when they dropped in for a drink. Personally, I find "musical chairs" much more iffy - but I ain't gonna pitch a hissy fit about it. Relax Rex. Life's too short for all this nit-picking.

Tita 9:13 AM  

Gotta love a puzzle with some MEATS in it. While technically correct, this feels slightly off to me... Charcuterie is more of the process than the meat, but I suppose both here and in France the word is interchangeable.
And in the US, you certainly can't get away with charging $24 for a plate of meats, but call it charcuterie and voilà!

This was moderately cute...Rex is right about those inconsistencies...didn't bother me much, but I feel like other puzzles get rejected every day for less.

Thanks, DC/KW.

Charles Flaster 9:16 AM  

Enjoyed this easy one and had never seen any of the shows but able to suss answers from their titles.
Liked cluing for AXE, PAY PHONES ( think Superman) , and my favorite--PALL BEARERS.
Rex-- back in fifties Brooklyn, "I'll walk ya' " meant I will accompany you--usually to the candy store, schoolyard, or another friend's house. So I loved the clue!! Maybe it was theme inconsistent but who cares.
CrosswordEASE--ETUI and the obligatory I. M. Pei.
My trivia team finished second last night for the fourth consecutive week--feel like Minnesota Vikings in the Super Bowl.
Thanks DK and CW.

Mohair Sam 9:29 AM  

Amuck. Wouldn't (var.) have made it legit? Right smack in the middle no less, geez Will.

Otherwise we liked this one a lot. Think Rex is pickin' a nit too far on PALLBEARERS, filled it off the PA once we had the theme - no problem. Have borne more than a few caskets in my time and I can assure you that you feel like the walking dead just doing that job, so the clue is close enough for me on two counts.

Is it just our local, or do HALLMARKSTOREs lead the nation in price markups?

Anybody else gonna miss the intonations of that Jeopardy champ who lost last niiiiiiiiiiiiight??



chefbea 9:54 AM  

Couln't figure out the theme. Didn't know they were all TV shows which I have never seen, Never heard of a mdi noodle???

Happy Thanksgiving eve everyone!!

quilter1 9:59 AM  

@Mohair Sam: Her inflections were quite annoying, esp. when my spouse constantly mocked her. Otherwise she seemed like an OK person.

Same nits as others. PALL can also mean the cloth that covers the casket. I had no trouble with that one as I also "walked" my friends places throughout the 50's and early 60's. Common usage. Didn't we walk out kids to school on the first day?

OISK 10:00 AM  

After an embarrassing DNF ( OLETA???) yesterday, zoomed through this one in near record time, and happy to see it pronounced "medium" until....Oh Noooo! I had "amock" and "tot". One of those times where despite my profound pop-culture ignorance, had I just taken a moment...even I know that Martin sang about King Tut. Two DNF on a Tues and Wed! That is probably the first time in a decade I have accomplished that. Feeling very inadequate just now....(after two errorless weeks...) Just (a)mucked it up.

On the topic of Steve Martin - a couple of years ago I got the chance to see his blue grass group perform. Not a genre I normally listen to, but what a great show!

Roo Monster 10:01 AM  

Hey All !
Ok as far as WedsPuzs go. Nothing to memorable, although the TV shows/alternate meanings were pretty neat. I'm with the crowd of letting PALLBEARERS stand as is, sure it's a slight stretch of linguistics, but hey, tis just a crossword, after all.

@Lewus, STARSIGNS crossing KIRK. Never heard of MEI fun noodles, chow fun, yes. MEATS/MESA crossing to me seems like a Framingham. Don't go to "fancy" restaurants, as they are all way overpriced for the teeny amount of food you get, so haven't seen Charcuterie before.

Overall, pretty solid puz. On to Thursday!

AMUCK
RooMonster
DarrinV

jberg 10:05 AM  

"Runs AMUCK" is when a jogger hits a patch of quicksand. Anyway, it was my downfall. I don't know the song, and when AMOK proved too short, I just put a C in it. Honestly, once I came here and saw AMUCK, I recognized it as a real word -- but my brain was unable to come up with it while solving. Sigh.

i didn't mind PALL BEARERS. I agree with all the objections, but I just figured it was another case of "close enough for crosswords" -- I mean, we all got it, didn't we?

I did love the crossing IMPS of there in the NW corner. Nice way to start a puzzle.

Nancy 10:11 AM  

@Mohair -- I am SO glad you mentioned that awful, awful, awful woman on Jeopardy! What a horrible, horrible, horrible intonation! I always watch the program to find out how smart I am, and I almost never root for or against any contestant. But in her case, I was shouting at the TV: "Miss the answer!" "Be wrong!" "Be very, very wrong!" Boy am I relieved that she's gone and boy, am I glad in knowing she irked other people as much as she irked me.

ani 10:17 AM  

Your comment yesterday (awful movie) and today (I won't miss her at all) is why I read this blog. Thanks Mr and Mrs Mohair.

Bob Kerfuffle 10:21 AM  

What Rex said.

Joseph Michael 10:33 AM  

BINGO. Fun easy puzzle. Enjoyed the theme and thought the fill was good. Nice to see what a pair of young constructors come up with. I hope their NYT debut is just the beginnjng of more to come.

Favorite themer as clued: HALLMARK CARDS.

Anonymous 10:41 AM  

Why was "Deadwood" cluing IMPOTANCE not included?

GILL I. 10:46 AM  

@Mohari Sam. I don't think I've ever wanted a champion to lose as much as last night. I wanted to throw one of my pies at her. She's a lawyer so I can imagine what a jury might think of her closing argument. Ladies and gentlemeeeeeeeeen!

Babyface 10:48 AM  

Walkways for the deranged: PSYCHO PATHS

16th Prez: ABE L

Feeling horny: SEXED

Cry for help from gym class: P.E. SOS

Colby 10:56 AM  

Above average puzzle. Not perfect, but as a young crossworder, it was more enjoyable and had more freshness than most Wednesdays.

Greater Fall River Committee for Peace & Justice 11:03 AM  

Payphones: They still have the structures in London, somebody had probably overordered tourist tchochkes in their shape and insisted the telephone company not take them down., But on the outisde there is a sign 'Wifi inside'. So I guess they have converted them to hotspots. That could be useful.

The Rhino 11:07 AM  

I've had a good week of puzzle solving. First, I solved my first no-cheat Saturday puzzle, then I set personal records for both Tuesday and Wednesday.

Beyond that, I didn't find anything in this one to be particularly memorable.

Bond 11:07 AM  

@ Will- Who’s trolling whom? O.K. I’ll BITE.*
MUSICAL CHAIRS continues, with the Canada-born Cruz (check out vids of his wing-nut father) making a late-week surge among the PALLBEARERS of the GOP. While PSYCHOPATHS may be a diagnosis too far, it’s fair to say, each of the DISPARATE EGOS (I first wrote IMPS but that was a mite too whimsical for such a cynical group.) who would be king, making us all say Merry Christmas, or allowing only Christian refugees from war-torn Syria into a country populated by refugees, are indeed sociopaths. What is so incredibly entertaining is how each of them is sociopathic in their own special way: one a pathological liar (I did not get fired and disappear 30,000 jobs); another a pathological bully(“It happened.” “ It didn’t happen.” “Be quiet.” “Get him the hell out of here.”). Another a closet supply-sider while pretending to like poor people with his Medicaid expansion. Thirty-five years later, after G. Herbert Walker called supply side econ “Voodoo economics,” it still hasn’t worked, but 'conservatives'- ya know, the ones who in the aughts took a balanced budget and with tax cuts for the rich created a huge ("UGE") deficit, continue to cherish it so…DUH.

But all of whom, make no mistake about it, are owned lock, stock and barrel by the truly gifted NRA, a front for Big Guns, an entity that reads the Second amendment’s “…well-regulated militia” as somehow including UZIs, Glocks, Sig Sauers and gun show loop holes for all the crazies, putting all of us and all of our children at risk every time we step out the door. Hey, La Pierre, it wasn’t a “good guy with a gun” who jumped the shooter and kept the sweet, the adorable, GABRIELLE GIFFORDS alive. (Hi Astronaut Kelly – Mark’s twin- up there in space! Happy Thanksgiving!) It was a good guy without a gun, who jumped the deranged idiot while he was reloading. It should be as simple as ABC to discover the percentage of ownership of each aspirant by this one corporate front run AMUCK/AMOK.. (cliché but what can I say?)
I would pay Trump a billion PESOS that he can spend in ol Meh-he--co when he campaigns there to annex Mexico as the 51st state, to hear him ask Cruz, who is hoping for a Veep slot on a mythical Trump ticket (Pass the SMORES) and whose campaign - Ted's- is steeped in so much schmaltz he’s making the HALLMARK STORE in midtown weep with envy.
Still, Hillary is careful not to put her TIARA on too soon.

* was tempted to go with the COLTS and their PSI scandal, a k a Deflategate but will just leave it with "The Wells Report in Context." Determined to earn his annual $44 million, Roger Goodell is still in that fight.

roxanne 11:07 AM  

Amok, as i know it, is a southeast asian ( malay) word. In the philippines, they sometimes use it as a noun. A person who runs amok, is often referred to as the "amok".

old timer 11:44 AM  

I don't see what's wrong with AMUCK, because it used to be the normal spelling. But I agree, there is something wrong with the clue for PALLBEARERS. But wasn't there a time when coffins were cheap, and undertakers provided a fancy PALL to cover the coffin with during the funeral? A PALLBEARER would have a much easier time helping carry a fancy cloth than a fully-laden coffin, in that case.

I thought the puzzle was pretty good, and there was a minimum of dreck and crosswordese. Great clues for ALE and TAU. PSA was a little trite, but you would have to be a Californian of a certain age to think it ought to stand for Pacific Southwest Airlines, which, back in the day, dominated the market between SFO and LAX.

I think the first time I realized that cell phones were going to become ubiquitous was when I watched the beginning of the O.J. trial, and the judge asked the many lawyers to provide their cell phone numbers. That was in 1994, 21 years ago. Most lawyers I knew did not yet have cell phones back then. But there were pay phones everywhere. As they began to fall into disuse, the ones in many urban neighborhoods became a useful way for drug dealers to conduct business. Then, as now, conversations on mobile phones could be tracked and a suspicious pattern of calls could be used as evidence in a criminal trial. So it became common for drug suppliers to make calls to pay phones. Unless the recipient of the call was under surveillance, no one could prove who answered any particular call to a public phone.

mac 11:56 AM  

Easy and pretty cute Wednesday, with a sort of faint theme. With "amuck" I wondered if there was a different meaning, something like "afoul". But no, just a var.

@Nancy, @Mohair, @Gill: thank you, thank you! I was not the only one! That was worse than the vocal fry!

Masked and Anonymous 12:01 PM  

8 U's! 4 per (under votin age) constructioneer! Primo debut! Funky theme.

@009: Yes... Yes...
yep. If ever there was an opportunity for the coveted double-?? clue, it was in:
{"Game of Thrones"??}.
Unfortunately, this relegates the clue
{"The Walking Dead"___} ( ___ = ?-rating-in-question)
to the triple-??? clue level. But, even in the runt puzzles, this is considered the "nuclear option", and it is used very very very sparingly. Very.
I find it unthinkable, to arm beginner-grade, under-age constructioneers with the triple-??? clue. Better to use the coveted double-?? clue on the last themer, and back off to a "(1.5-?)" notation, on the third themer.

M&A Help Desk


**double gruntz**

Mohair Sam 12:04 PM  

@Charles Flaster - My wife read your post and informed me (she's from Syracuse, I'm a Long Island native) that I use the term "I'll walk ya'" all the time. I had no idea. She said we were married about a year before she was confident that I wasn't going to grab a leash when I joined her on a stroll to the Cellar Deli.

@George Barany - I still see PAYPHONES now and then, airports for one place. There's still a need, albeit a tiny one.

@Kimmel and Williamson - Nice debut, congrats.

Speechless in Seattle 12:22 PM  

All y'all sit up and take note:

An @NCA_President MAFIADON pun at 0810

foxaroni 12:36 PM  

There was a TV series in the mid-60's called "Camp Runamuck."

I'm wondering how much influence "Star Trek" had on the now-preferred spelling, what with Mr. Spock's Amok Time.

I've very much enjoyed the puzzles yesterday and today.

chefbea 12:38 PM  

My above comment should have been mei noodle. what is it
Hands up for the annoying contestant on jeopardy last night!!!!

Anonymous 12:42 PM  

@Anon 10:41
There's no such thing as IMPOTANCE. It's all in your head.

Leapfinger 1:00 PM  

Thought there was absoLUTEly nothing to make AMUCKery of. Well, maybe that lone, lonesome SCAD... Even that doesn't fall in the @M&A category of DISPARATE.

TIDE pairing with LUX -- how's that for some clean humour? -- had me looking for ERA, Dreft, Armand Hammer. MOLAR- UVULA cheek by jowl, also.

After the recent run on assorted sordid MEN clues, it was downright refreshening (as Mom used to say) to see that MANGO. Was more 'lowly' than 'highly' SEXED, anyway.

A fine IMPEISH debut by a promising pair. Promise y'all'll come back.

As for me, it's NIGH unto time I BIN GOing myself.

Carola 1:18 PM  

Agree with @Rex. One SCAD? TUT!
Grid homoPHONE: HARE x HAIR
Love the comments!
@James F, re: thrones. Yes, me, too, especially after I wanted Toto where TIDE went.

Teedmn 1:27 PM  

Typical Weds. time for me. I really liked this puzzle's theme. My fave was PALLBEARERS. Glad that 46A was not bathroom related. INTEgrAtEnbefore INTERLACE. MEI fun noodles was new to me, I thought but per Google, it looks like that's what is used in the Singapore noodles dish. Yum.

Thanks, DK and CW.

Indypuzzler 1:50 PM  

I agree with @Rex and others about AMUCK (just BAD!) and GANGSTERS. @Samantha I put in MAFIADONS but now I need to check whether Capone was actually considered Mafia.
I really refuse to accept AMUCK as an acceptable variant. If one did not know what "run amok" means, then "amuck" would surely bring to mind elephants (or other run amok animal) getting stuck in quicksand/mire.

Anonymous 1:52 PM  

I didn't even realize there was a theme here--I had never heard of any of these tv shows. Actually, the last tv show I watched was Gunsmoke back in the 70s, so any tv themed puzzle wasn't going to do much for me. I felt like the walking dead with this puzzle. Actually, I filled it in pretty fast, except for "amuck" which I thought had to be a theme answer because it wasn't spelled right. I tried to plug a rebus into it or something. Maybe I should just have been watching tv instead of trying this puzzle.

Eileen 2:06 PM  

My sister said, "She's a messsss."

Fred Romagnolo 2:19 PM  

I strongly disagree with the idea of not noting a "var" in the clue. It often meant that a constructor needed to wriggle out of a tight spot, but at least you were warned. Without a "var" you get no warning and constructors can get away with murder. There have got to be agreed upon rules for the thing to work. AMUCK is different, it's not exactly a variable, since it was once o. k., so maybe another hint in the clue: obs.? (old-fashioned?) It's like "erst,"but erstwhile is still used.

Mike D 2:21 PM  

@anon@10:41: likely because Mr. Shortz prefers correctly spelled answers (AMUCK notwithstanding). Otherwise, cute joke.

Slow Motion 2:38 PM  

Amo, amas, amat, amamus, amatis, amuck.

Chronic dnfer 6:44 PM  

First time commenting. Love the blog. Amock/tot got me today. Otherwise agree with Rex.

Chronic dnfer 6:50 PM  

Ps. Did the crossword late today because I was out golfing. Not many days left here in the northeast for golf sadly.

chefwen 6:58 PM  

@Mohair etal. Husband and I were relieved that she suddenly disappeared, only to remember that she was just on break for the tournament and would be baaaack and then she WAS. Two more days of suffering and it's over. I think I may miss aping her, but I'll get over it.

Charles Flaster 7:09 PM  

@mohair Sam : my wife was extremely taken aback by last night's Jeopardy contestant.
She was rooting for her to lose too.

spacecraft 10:18 AM  

What OFL said about SCAD, AMUCK and PALLBEARERS, plus a few other sticky points, put this one in the challenging--for a Wednesday--camp. PAYPHONES are disappear-ING??? I can't remember the last DECADE that I saw one. Those babies are long gone, guys, not "disappearing." Oh wait: yes I can: it was the '90s. I used to work in a convenience store that still had a couple outside. The spiders in there got fat because they were close to the outside light.

Is a Wednesday solver supposed to have ANY IDEA what "charcuterie" are? This whole thing felt a lot more like a Friday puzzle. I also had trouble with STARSIGNS, not really a common term for signs of the zodiac. I mean, I get it, but I had S___SIGNS filled in and was still scratching my head. It's a good thing KIRK and SMALLSLAM were there to get me kickstarted, or I might've DNFed it.

Yeah, fellas, keep at it, but don't try calling PALLBEARERS "The Walking Dead." That just. Doesn't. Work. C+.

Burma Shave 10:41 AM  

HARE WARE MEATS ALE

I’ll BET you’re no TEASE, SINUS up for SEXED,
then INTERLACE with me please, help this TIDE MANGO to bed.

--- KIRK CANTO


BINGO BET, ETC.

Hire PSYCHOPATHS and GANGSTERS to play MUSICALCHAIRS,
The DISPARATE 6 who are left OVER are ABEL PALLBEARERS.

--- LEO ART NIGH

rondo 11:11 AM  

Yeah. What @spacey said about what OFL said. Had the same thoughts before I got to the blog. Those themers sure faded out towards the bottom.

There used to be a whole bank of PAYPHONES in the building I work in. Being a Cold War era structure, the shallow stalls for the PAYPHONES were designed into the building and made of the same marble as the rest of the wall. I remember using one about 10-12 years ago when you could still be more or less an anonymous caller from one. What remains in each marble stall is a narrow stainless steel shelf and an outlet to plug in a laptop or phone charger. The PAYPHONES have long since disappeared.

I don’t want to bruise the EGOS of two new constructors, but shine it up a bit next time around and, well . . . maybe BINGO!

BS2 11:27 AM  

PSA APP

ALE, AIL, ALI!
AIR ART, ABC.

--- MEI SES

BS2 11:33 AM  

That's supposed to be SES MEI (sez me).

Longbeachlee 12:57 PM  

Oisk, me too on tot and amock, and shoulda seen tut. About Oisk, is that an anagram of Oski, the Cal Bear? If so, a hearty Go Bears at you.

rain forest 1:30 PM  

Don't the walking dead wear a sort of cowl or veil (pall) over their heads? The ones I've encountered do.

There might be a SCAD of nits to pick here, but I defer.

I actually liked this puzzle with some nice longer non-themer answers, and a theme which worked for me, although apparently some can write paragraphs about a single entry which raised their ire. Stop.

leftcoastTAM 6:52 PM  


Puzzle might be titled DUH, ETC.

I counted 22 three-letter fills and at least 4 others saved by plurals.

Easy Wednesday, too easy.

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