2014 Jennifer Lawrence Bradley Cooper film / TUE 12-15-15 / Monomaniacal mariner / Nickname on 1960s-80s Red Sox / 1980 one-woman comedy produced by Lorne Michaels

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Constructor: David Levinson Wilk

Relative difficulty: Medium (maybe slightly tougher than normal)

THEME: BOBS UP AND DOWN (15D: Moves like a buoy in the ocean ... or a hint to this circled parts of this puzzle?) — the last names of famous BOBS run UP AND (then) DOWN (and then UP AND (then) DOWN again) in circled squares inside the theme answers:

Theme answers:
  • PRINCESS OF WALES (3D: Elton John's dedicatee for "Candle in the Wind 1997")
  • CANDYLAND (4D: Classic board game with a Peppermint Forest)
  • "GILDA LIVE" (35D: 1980 one-woman comedy produced by Lorne Michaels)
  • SMOOTH OPERATORS (10D: Don Juan types)
Word of the Day: "SERENA" (23D: 2014 Jennifer Lawrence / Bradley Cooper film) —
Serena is a 2014 American–French drama film based on the 2008 novel of the same name by American author Ron Rash. Directed by Susanne Bier, the film stars Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper as newlyweds running a timber business in 1930s North Carolina. [...] The film earned £95,000 ($153,310) on its opening weekend in the United Kingdom, debuting at No. 19 at the UK box office. In its second week, the film dropped to finish 34th, grossing £11,645 from 37 screens. The movie ended its run with a total gross of $320,907 (£200,557) // The film made $1 million on video on demand in the United States before its theatrical release. The movie opened in 59 screens across the United States on March 20, 2015, and earned $100,090 for a 30th-place finish. As of November 9, 2014, the film had a theatrical domestic gross of $100,090 and an international theatrical gross of $3,723,317 for a worldwide total of $3,823,407. // In The Irish Times, Donald Clark praised the cinematography as " exquisite," but suggested that Lawrence's performance was "genuinely poor." He concluded, "Nobody is likely to see the [film]." (wikipedia)
• • •
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For people who send me actual, honest-to-god (i.e. "snail") mail (I love snail mail!), this year my thank-you cards are "Sibley Backyard Birding Postcards"—each card a different watercolor illustration by ornithologist David Sibley. You could get a Black PHOEBE. A California TOWHEE. Or maybe even a picture of some fabled SCARLET TANAGERS (15). Or give via PayPal and get a thank-you email. That's cool too. Please note: I don't keep a "mailing list" and don't share my contributor info with anyone. And if you give by snail mail and (for some reason) don't want a thank-you card, just say NO CARD.  As I say in every thank-you card (and email), I'm so grateful for your readership and support. So thanks, not A TAD, but A TON (partial fill! coming in useful!). Now on to the puzzle …

• • •

I'm sure things are happening in this grid that are interesting, but there is only one thing I want to talk about, and that is the cluing of SERENA (23D: 2014 Jennifer Lawrence / Bradley Cooper film). I'm sorry, correction: "SERENA." This is possibly the stupidest, most ridiculous, most inexplicable and ill-advised clue in the history of cluing. So ... let me get this straight. On a Tuesday (a Tuesday!) you have SERENA in your grid and instead of using The Greatest Female Tennis Player of All Time, The Only Truly Puzzle-Worthy SERENA There Is*, you decide you are, instead, perhaps in a bid to be bold and outrageous, perhaps in a deeply misguided fit of hipness-aspiration, perhaps perhaps perhaps, going to clue "SERENA" by way of a movie that not literally but almost literally no one saw. Because? Because it starred Bradley Cooper (ooh) and Jennifer Lawrence (aah)?! No. No no no. Again, this is a Tuesday puzzle we're talking about. Actually, I don't think that matters—this clue would be crap on any day of the week. In what universe does this ridiculous non-movie movie clue bring pleasure or recognition or Anything to Anybody except righteous anger that we are being force-fed the most bottom-of-the-barrel junk by pretty movie stars while the truly deserving champion sits there overlooked? "The film had a theatrical domestic gross of $100,090." Just chew on that sentence for a second. Now chew on SERENA Williams' 21 Grand Slam singles titles. And this on a day when actual, presumably sentient, human beings (plural) are "upset" that Sports Illustrated's Sportsperson of the Year Award went to SERENA Williams and not ... a horse. A *&%^ing horse who doesn't know how to spell its own *&%^ing name. This disrespect ... This is not new.  Read "Citizen" by Claudia Rankine. As for the rest of this puzzle ... I don't even remember or care right now.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

*I might also accept Samantha's cousin SERENA from "Bewitched" ... but not on a Tuesday.

P.S. the male-dominated audience of sports talk radio has spoken on this matter (Thank god!). Serena's not just behind the horse—she's not even on the leaderboard.

[screenshot from this morning's "Mike & Mike" show on ESPN2]

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


kozmikvoid 12:28 AM  

Holy hyperboleTuesday, Batman! Am I the only one envisioning our blogger throwing chairs around his room, smashing mirrors and cursing at the wind because of a crossword clue? Upon completion of this dry Tuesday, I thought "SERENA?? That was a dumb way to clue that, but whatever..." Didn't expect it to consume the day's write up. On a brighter note, Jeopardy announced today that it will be observing National Crossword Puzzle Day by featuring a category full of clues from this week's NYT puzzles. I wish for @Rex's sanity, a certain Cooper/Lawrence film will not be featured. Hopefully more details can be found here during the week.

jae 12:31 AM  

Tough for a Tues.  The theme answers are a tad obscure...CANDYLAND and GILDA Radnor would be WOES for a lot of post Gen Xers, and PRINCESS OF WALES is not the first thing that leaps to mind from "Candle In The Wind". 
Why do I have a Sade ear worm?

American Hustle yes!  SERENA????

Clever theme, cute reveal, liked it.

madchickenlittle 1:13 AM  

How could a horse be Sportsperson of the Year? I ask this as a current horse owner, Pony Club mom, and general all-around horse lover who has been involved in various equestrian sports since I was 8. Horse does not equal person. And if this is because of the Triple Crown, yikes. 3 races aren't anywhere close to Ms. Williams' longevity and dominance in her sport. Yeesh.

Hays 1:35 AM  

Agree 100% with this post. Utterly nonsensical the decision and editorial should have fixed it given the SI thing (assuming anyone was paying attention). It's not like there aren't many ways to clue Serena Williams, either, for various difficulty levels.

Shame, because otherwise I enjoyed this.

chefwen 2:12 AM  

I've never even heard of the movie SERENA, that filled in with crosses. Thought it was probably about the tennis player until I read Rex's write up. Now, after reading about it, I'll take a pass.

Had a wee bit of a problem with 46D where I had IN A rut, that made the lower left corner in need of some fixin'. MASTED set me straight.
With the G, L and D in place at 35D I really wanted GOLDIE something but ran out of little squares. Oh well.

I seem to have wandered a little too far into the political arena yesterday and my comment got zapped. Lesson learned!

Da Bears 2:14 AM  

Rex, those are not Serena's legs. What I would like to know is whose legs they are.

Charles Flaster 4:02 AM  

Very EZ with a straightforward reveal.
Any puzzle with Alan Turing and Tuesdays with MORRIE is ok in my book.
No CrosswordEASE.
Write over CANADA for susAnA (sp.)
Thanks DLW

Z 4:05 AM  

What Rex said with about one tenth the vehemence.

As for the rest of the puzzle, cute theme, with Bobs VILA, HOPE, FOSSE, and DYLAN out in the channel floating around. I saw an article yesterday about the great Gary shortage, with the vast majority of Gary's being 50+ and the supply of replacement Gary's being small. It seems to me that Robert and BOB are the same. Does anyone, other than the occasional junior, name their son Robert anymore? It last made the top five boys' names in 1971. Roberts are just bobbing in the wind, I suppose,

Otherwise, this played as a themeless. Only hang up was Diana was too short, so I had to get a cross before OF WALES occurred to me. Otherwise this hit an average Tuesday time of 8:30 for me. 6:00 has never been broken by me but most Monday's are around 6:30 and a fast Tuesday would be 7:30, so medium.

Karl Bradley 4:38 AM  

I thought it was a fun puzzle. I must admit I never saw the clue for SERENA

Anonymous 5:16 AM  

I guess the question is "Which is greater - the number of people who read The Irish Times or the number of people who paid to see the movie?" My money's on the paper.

Not sure if I liked the Lady Di thing. The song was dedicated to Princess Diana, or Diana, Princess of Wales.

Hey WWII, Masted, and No TV - nice to see you again. Didn't you used to be on CD? When did you arisen?

thfenn 5:34 AM  

Well, yeah, SERENA sure could've been clued better (a NOGO I suppose, or a bad DECOY). Especially with GILDA, PRINCESSOFWALES, and ONO in here, among other women ADORED. Also, I saw 'Cooper' and went with SNIPER, a problem compounded by starting with CINEMA for 'one at a movieplex' - threw me off in the NE (again) for quite awhile. Also IWIN for 'victory is mine' kept me from seeing NOTV for too long. Some LSD, WEED, TIT, and SEX kept things interesting I suppose. And anything involving YAZ and RBI is great. No idea who Bob VILA is, maybe I'll look that up. But all in all, a happy kickoff for a Tuesday.

Glimmerglass 7:05 AM  

@kosmikvoid: amen. What a ridiculous thing to get upset about. This is finding quarrel in a straw.

Anonymous 7:09 AM  

Ha. I'm a terrible person, but I don't give a damn about professional sports, and I was thinking Jennifer Lopez and that one-named Latina singer who died very young (plane crash?) and was subsequently honored with a biopic. Poor SERENA! I thought the puzzle was quite good.

@jae - I would've supposed that CANDYLAND was timeless.

Lewis 7:36 AM  

I guess @rex's brief stint in bucolia has worn off...

This was a creative theme; I don't remember ever seeing anything like it before -- props to David for that. Answers that I found interesting: CLAMOR, PEKOETEA, CANDYLAND, and SMOOTHOPERATORS. That last answer crosses with SEX, TIT, ADORED, and TADA, and someone can base a mini-story on that, I'm thinking. I'm glad the FIX is in, and speaking of "in", I like the two "IN" rows with INPUT, HASIN, and INALL. SOG? Has anyone here said this in real life? And there was a cute clue for OOF.

I found the puzzle a little knotty for Tuesday, and that's a good thing. 'Twas a fun solve. Thank you David!

AliasZ 7:53 AM  

There is always a problem with using proper names in a puzzle. See @Rex's post. QED. When the theme itself is about proper names like it was yesterday and today, it's an order of magnitude worse. I wonder if the NYT will ever run a puzzle in which the revealer is DICKS AROUND? Because there are lots of famous Dicks around the country, not to mention the world.

Who is Bob Vila? Who is Bob Fosse? Who is Bob Hope? Who is Bob Dylan? Depends on whom you ask. Who among them is still relevant today? I know, Yogi Berra. BOB Dylan and BOB Hope USED TO BE.

The first thing that popped into my mind when I saw BOB was his best friend Neal.

Here are two timeless BOBS: BOB Casadesus playing the Fantasie in C major by BOB Schumann.


chefbea 8:09 AM  

What a great puzzle...so much easier than yesterday's. Of course never heard of that Serena but got it from the crosses.

Only thing I didn't understand was 32 across. What are WRs and TEs??

Z 8:10 AM  

@kozmikvoid - Citizen is referenced for a reason. I suspect the clue timing was incidental, so the slight unintentional. Still, what Rex said.

Jill Sullivan 8:16 AM  

I agree with Rex. Not only did the movie disappear on contact, but the well-reviewed Ron Rash book upon which it was based is also...not good. Really - not good. Citizen on the other hand is a masterpiece and Claudia Rankine is as under-appreciated as Serena - only more quietly. Thanks for the rant, Rex.

Anonymous 8:16 AM  

Serena Williams is the greatest female tennis player of her time. Steffi Graf was the best of her time. Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert the best of their time.
Time changes everything.

NCA President 8:23 AM  

I don't follow SI's (or Time's, for that matter) people of the year. I appreciate the effort of recognizing a singular amazing contributor to the world, whether in sport (SI) or in a larger context (Time), but it's a silly idea to try to narrow a field like that. I did hear that there was some uproar about SERENA's choice, but I don't know how seriously in contention American Pharoah was. I don't frankly care. So yeah, Rex has a point...but really, there are so many other things these days to get pissed about. I can think of a 1000 other things and the Serena/AP debate isn't one of them...because it isn't even on the list.

If anything, I could go on and on about how disappointing it is that Rex didn't link the Sade video for SMOOTHOPERATOR. Sheesh, Rex...what were you thinking?

I liked the puzzle well enough. Nothing stood out. SAYSME is something a bully from 1954 would say...not today's bully...or a bully from 1960 on for that matter. HASIN seems partial to me. I still wonder if constructors titter like 12 year old school boys when they sneak TIT in there.

NOTV, OCD, ONCD, RBI, LSD, ADA, WWII, TES...some alphabet soup for a cold winter's day?

Susanne Bier 8:43 AM  

I directed SERENA, and Mr. Levinson Wilk and I had an affair around the time of its release. In return for my keeping mum, he promised to use the film in his next crossword puzzle (it's the only accolade the film will ever receive). Now I am coming clean because I feel so awful about ruining this mess of a New York Times Tuesday. Forgive me, loyal solvers.

Roo Monster 8:56 AM  

Hey All !
Liked the puz, although a boatload of threes. If Rex didn't blow a fuse on SERENA, he might've railed on that. 31 threes. Wow. A bit excessive, as even 18-20 is considered high. But did enjoy the BOBS. For the second time lately, we get BOB VILA, and folks here not knowing who he is. Doesn't anyone remember This Old House? It was a TV home improvement show, very popular at the time, with host BOB VILA. Reality TV before reality TV was popular. Now, ya know.:-)

Had cinEma for SCREEN, IWiN, INArut, era for RBI, spelled MOuRIE wrong at first. Will must like David, because a puz with this many threes and partials would be summarily tossed out otherwise. ONCD, NOTV, HASIN, NOGO, WWII, ORA, INALL, INAJAM, et alii. Just sayin.

Even with my nits, an OK solve, typical TuesPuz time, held up in the CHEZ(??) area for a tad. Dare I say I was UP AND DOWN about this puz?

Tip of my FEDORA

thfenn 9:01 AM  

@chefbea - Wide Receivers and Tight Ends

L 9:03 AM  

Oh boy, TIT is back! Any chance we'll see ASSES tomorrow? Never thought that TIT would become crosswordese.
Enjoyed the puzzle, but SERENA and the OFWALES bits,really threw me off. I was looking for Diana and Silver Linings Playboy but those obviously weren't going to work. Weird.

cwf 9:10 AM  

Of course, if there really is a best clue for any answer then all possible crosswords have already been solved.

Hartley70 9:15 AM  

@chefbea, I know zip about football, but I'm gonna guess wide receiver and tight end.

Nancy 9:18 AM  

Everything @Lewis said. Cute theme, cute reveal. Harder than most Tuesdays which is good. I was looking for PRINCESS Diana, but she didn't fit and sort of agree that PRINCESS OF WALES wasn't quite right. If a less precise word than "dedicatee" had been used, it wouldn't have mattered. I never heard of the movie, either, but who cares? A nice Tuesday.

Horace S. Patoot 9:22 AM  

Best write-up in a while. Rex didn't get to the theme, but... Four guys named Bob? That's it?

jberg 9:24 AM  

I too was thinking of the singer with the biopic --she was murdered, actually-- but it turns out she was SElENA. Lucky I hadn't remembered that right.

@chefbea, those letters stand for Wide Receiver and Tight End--badly clued, since they do not line up near each other.

I think Bob VILA is a tv home-repair guru, but I'm not real sure of that.

As I recall Bob of Normandy conquered Sicily--maybe if they made a movie about him the name would come back.

Hartley70 9:32 AM  

@Glimmerglass, "finding quarrel in a straw" is perfection. This feels like misplaced aggression. What's Rex really cheesed off about today? Oh yea, he's NOT in Vermont any longer? It does that to me too. All that rant did for me was make me need to see "Serena". If it's going to be the lowest grossing, worst movie in it's era, it's sure to be a final Jeopardy answer at some time!

I'm giving a thumbs up for Wilk's puzzle today. I thought the theme was amusing, especially necessary on the usually dreaded Tuesday. It was a fast solve but a cute one with nothing to get my knickers in a knot.

SandySolver 9:32 AM  

If Rex is OTT here, so too has been our cultural (particularly Tennis culture's) dismissive attitude toward Venus and Serena's skill. Claudia Rankine gets it right: recommended!

Doug Garr 9:35 AM  

I totally agree with Rex's rant on the SERENA clue. I had no clue this was a movie, and I'm a pretty heavy film buff. WTF was Will thinking?

quilter1 9:52 AM  

Hand up for never heard of the movie and overlooking the clue. Got it from crosses. I enjoyed this puzzle because I got the revealer, then went looking for Bobs.

Bronxdoc 9:53 AM  

Wide Receivers. Tight Ends. Football.

Nancy 9:56 AM  

@Z (from late yesterday) and anyone else who wants to chime in. Re: putting an avatar next to my blog name -- Who can tell me how????? Please keep in mind that I do not own:
*A webcam
*A phone cam
*Any cam
*A smart phone
*An Ipad
*A printer
I don't frankly care what my avatar is. I'm happy to use a photo from the Internet. Is doing that possible when I have no gadgets? If it is, please send very careful, step-by-step instructions -- the kind written for dummies. Thank you all in advance.

Happy Pencil 10:06 AM  

@NCA President: The reaction to the Sports Illustrated decision is precisely the kind of thing we should all get "pissed about." Real people are actually outraged that a horse (note: not a person) that won three races was passed over for sportsperson of the year in favour of a woman (note: a person) who has dominated her sport for more than a decade. And not just any woman in any sport, but a black woman in a predominantly white sport. That people are comparing her unfavourably to a horse would almost be funny if it wasn't so gobsmackingly offensive. You don't have to be interested in tennis, or in sports generally, to think this is an issue worthy of debate. It's about racism, pure and simple.

Mohair Sam 10:07 AM  

We enjoyed the puzzle, clever theme with its bobbing Bobs. Didn't notice SERENA - given the two big stars figured it was another huge movie we'd overlooked. It certainly filled easily enough from the crosses.

Had no idea there was a controversy over Sportsperson of the Year, SERENA was the logical choice. If the horse was human there might be a case, but the equine thing seems a lot to overcome, don't you think?

@NCA President - Good call on the Sade video, I had anticipated it too - Rex was clearly thrown off his game, not the first time he's stood up for SERENA, btw (if memory serves).

Never have forgiven Elton John for swiping "Candle in the Wind" from Marilyn Monroe. Adding "1997" didn't cut it for me. I guess Lady Di will lose the song when the next Smokin' Blonde dies tragically.

Anonymous 10:08 AM  

And the theme is a mystery for those of us solving with an app that doesn't show the circles.

Tita 10:17 AM  

@AliasZ - your read my mind - let's collaborate!! You may remember my monologue about working at WANG Labs, and the hardened sense of humor we all developed, way before PC came to be.
We even had May as "Be a Dick Month", where anyone, not just Richards, could be a Dick.

I roll my eyes whenever I encounter sports-related insanity. Where would the world be if one tenth of the energy, money, and passion that ordinary folks use for sports-as-business were directed at things that actually mattered.
Ask your town for $50 more taxes per family for better paid teachers - but pay more than that for their teams vanity license plate? They gladly fork it over.
Did anyone catch that John Oliver rant about stadiums?
Sure, there are many individuals who are inspirational, and sports are fun, but let's keep "spectator" sports in proportion. Sheeesh.

I am far more incensed that Rex threw chairs around the room instead of critiquing the puzzle, which I found to be a total delight!

And even more so when I got here - because I finished the puzzle thinking...
"I've heard of DYLAN and HOPE, but I guess ESSOF and ALIV are among the many pop notables that I've never heard of.
Which was awesome, because it lead to an even bigger smile when I realized my idiocy, and recognized how even more elegant the theme is.

Yesterday we OGLEd TATAs, today we have a palindromic TIT. Reminds me of those halcyon WANG days, with our puerile humor.

Thanks DLW - I loved it!

GILL I. 10:19 AM  

Wow, @Rex....!
Funny, I didn't even notice SERENA. My biggest concern was trying to remember Buddy's last name without the "salts."
We've had a lot of lousy Tuesday puzzles but I thought this was a fun romp. After I finished it, I looked it over and thought it must have been difficult to construct. Not only that, but it ended up being playful and kinda cute....
Funny how just one clue or word can get people in a rage. I'm still fuming over ACR as an answer. I guess it's like just one bad apple spoiling the otherwise great pie.
I didn't feel the rage today...nosiree. Je ne me sers plus CHEZ eux...

Wm. C. 10:19 AM  

@chefbea -

I guess you're not a football fan.

WR is a Wide Receiver, and TE is a Tight End.

This bothered me, though, because a TE is positioned right beside the tackle in the line ("tight"), whereas the WR is positioned away from the rest of the line ("wide").

I originally thought of "LB" (linebacker, the defensive player who would follow a TE on his pattern. (I played LB in HS, btw, maybe encouraging my choice.)

Anyway, the clue is inappropriate, because both are offensive positions on the end of the line (and pass-eligible). So you have either one or the other, but you can't have both.

Paul Johnson 10:40 AM  

Love Serena Williams but not the way Rex does. Is that even possible? You'd think Richard Williams wrote that rant.

But it was "Singer Yoko" that brought me here. Really another freaking ONO??? And btw have you ever heard her "sing". She can't. Not a lick. Not a note. Without Lennon no one, but no one outside of Japan would have ever heard her. A blessing really were to have happened.


Greater Fall River Committee for Peace & Justice 10:52 AM  

I could swear I knew that Candle in the Wind was written for Marilyn Monroe, and was just repurposed for Princess Di.

Bob Kerfuffle 11:03 AM  

How could I not like it?

And yet, on a day when all discussion should center on BOBS, SERENA steals the spotlight!

I have become accustomed to being overlooked on the blog, but apparently the phenomenon is much more widespread. Thanks for making it official, @Z! :(

David Levinson Wilk does the crossword which appears every week in my local shopper, and although that may seem faint praise or even derogatory, they are in fact almost always extremely clever and of the highest quality.

Anoa Bob 11:05 AM  

Are you kidding me?! Two four-letter slots for a famous BOB and all we get are VILA & HOPE?! Hello! The mostest, crosswordiest worthy BOB of them all would be, yeah, of course, ANOA!!!

Well, there is a passing nod of sorts. One of the marquee banner themers for a grid-spanning, 15-letter slot is only 14 letters long. What to do? POC to the rescue.


old timer 11:31 AM  

I don't always agree with OFL, but I sure do today. Major failure by the editor to leave that SERENA clue in a Tuesday puz.

I didn't get the Bob joke until I came here. Certainly know who the four Bobs are, or were. Until that, I did not see the point of having the shaded squares.

Interesting observation about the lack of Bobs these days. I used to say, "Bob's your uncle" to my wife, and she retorted, "You have *two* Uncle Bobs". Which I did, and each had a boy named Robert. I suppose my children went to school with *some* Bobs, but none come to mind.

Tom Rowe 11:32 AM  

Fun. An epic rant by Rex makes the crazy clue all worth it! :-)

Ellen S 11:33 AM  

Thanks for your post, Rex. I agree it's appalling (but not surprising) that the readers of SI prefer a horse to a black woman. But @Z is probably right that the puzzle's timing is coincidental, not deliberate. Well, not deliberate on DLW's part, maybe Will ran it for maximum ill-effect. Maybe we should hope that clueing SERENA Williams would have made the puzzle Monday-easy, so using the movie upped the game a bit.

Like so many others here, I never heard of the movie (I did know who BOB Fosse and BOB Vila are, though). But I find it hard to believe that NOBODY saw the movie in the US after its first weekend? It closed on every single screen? Isn't that what the numbers mean? Opened to $100,090 in the US. And that was also its total US theatrical gross. Not even a dollar earned after opening weekend (or opening day, I'm not sure which they are measuring). In the UK, it earned the equivalent of $320,907. But internationally, its theatrical gross was $3,823,407. Almost four million. Of which only about $400,000 was earned in countries where people could understand the dialog. I wonder if there's a message there. (Well, okay, a lot of people in other countries know English, but still,)

@Chefbea, I don't know nothin' about football but I imagine WRs are Wide Receivers and TEs are Tight Ends. Whatever they are. I only ever heard the terms from watching an episode of some gay series.

Banya 11:41 AM  

Geez, I hated the clue, too. But it was one clue. I absolutely loved the theme and reveal. I thought it was very clever. Someone worked hard on this, Rex.

George Barany 11:41 AM  

With respect to the interesting discussion of SERENA, I'm reminded of Liz Gorski's "Crossword Nation" puzzle from July 20 of this year, specifically 61-Across (click here for a review). Other thoughts about today's New York Times puzzle will have to wait until I get my grading done.

Brett 11:52 AM  

It's an American football thing. Wide Receivers and Tight Ends often line up next to each other in an offensive formation.

NCA President 12:17 PM  

@Happy Pencil: Point taken...but still, I'm not clear just how close the decision was to choosing Serena over AP...and if it was really close, why would SI let that kind of info get out? Obviously, I don't read SI (who, btw, were the ones in the late 60s who published an article that black people ran faster because they "had an extra muscle" in their leg) and didn't read the issue on Serena so I don't know if they just came out and said that AP almost won or not.

Even in issues of racism or feminism, the argument that this is an epic struggle of those issues is a bit tortured...but I see your point.

The lines of racism and feminism run deep...so deep it's hard to see sometimes, but the current is definitely felt.

That said, why is this year of all years Serena's year? She's still playing, right?

chefbea 12:44 PM  

Thanks everyone for explaining football to me. All I know about football is having a superbpwl party!!!

Masked and Anonymous 12:47 PM  

Was disappointed, that no one complained about SERENA.

Just a Q short of a U-know-what-gram. Just two U's long of a U-no-there-gram.

@009: har. Them secluded Vermont getaways really agree with U. Recharged yer batteries. Other related questions abound. Was there a horse named SERENA? Do horses qualify as "sports Persons", even if they do have two great pairs of legs? Maybe the horse can Say its name -- if U speak horse? Did U specifically have chapter two of (the primo) "Citizen" in mind? And … What About Bob?

31 weejects to choose from. Tough call. YAZ is pretty neat: scrabbly and nostalgic. OCD seems appropriate. Got yer SEX and LSD. All mighty temptin, … but, gotta go with ITE. Has many more good, solid double-?? clue possibilities goin for it. Example: {When carried to end of term: little varmint running around the house??}.

Essential BOB that didn't make the cut? RELLEF goin down woulda been pretty sweet.
Best BOB? The answer, my friend, is blowin in the wind …

Masked & Anonymo2Us

**Christmas gruntz**

Andrew Heinegg 12:48 PM  

I am a little taken aback that this puzzle has so many people in a dither over it. I never heard of the Serena movie and, given how poorly it did,it was not surprising that I had not heard of it. It was an odd way to clue, especially for a Tuesday but, I don't consider it truly awful as our fearless leader and many others do.

Serena Williams is an interesting figure in the sports world. Some will argue that she is only the best of this era while others (the overwhelming majority in the sport and the press) say she is the best of all time. She is also, judging by the interviews with her, a pleasant, intelligent and kind person. But, like some athletes through history, she gets people rooting against her because of the sheer physical advantage she appears to have over every opponent. I would compare it to the kind of antipathy that Shaquille O'Neal used to bring out when he played basketball. Americans love to root for the underdog and someone like Shaq and Serena will never be an underdog.

I did not care for the Princess Di clue as it was a bit obtuse using the Wales refetence rather than her name. But, it was an accurate clue as the 1997 version was dedicated to Princess Di and the earlier version to Ms. Monroe.

The clue about tes and wrs was correct. They do line up next to one another in football although the wide receiver is typically set off from the tight end so as to be able to get started on his route without getting caught up in the contact occurring at the start of a play.

Lets hope tomorrow is a little calmer!

Chuck McGregor 1:06 PM  

Adding my "two cents" to the horsie controversy. First the obvious: "person" does not equal "horse."

American Pharaoh's total Triple Crown time was 6:28.13 which ranks him as the 5th fastest of the eleven 3-C winners. i.e middle of the pack. Secretariat's total time (and the fastest total time) was 6:17.8. In fact American Pharaoh has spent just under 18 minutes total for ALL his races to date.

Now compare that with (take even a rough guess) at the total time it took SERENA Williams to complete all her wins?

Just sayin'

I saw all three of Secretariat's 3-C races on TV, the Belmont being a sight I've never forgotten. The finish-line TV camera did not really have a wide enough field of view to show Secretariat winning and the second place horse at the same time. Unbelievable!

I tired to post a comment about Sunday's puzzle but it never made the cut. All I can conclude is that I disparaged LAPDOGs (though somewhat humorously and only mildly)and @Rex must have a thing about them. Thus making fun of them is not OK. Who knew? So SAYSME....

52a Dandelion e.g. = WEED? Around my neck of the woods we have LOTS of them, I mean LOTS of them. From spring onward their brilliant yellow flowers grace many a lawn (and elsewhere). Often there are enough blossoms in some yards to look like a carpet of yellow. So what do we do about this "WEED?" We enjoy their beautiful color and mow them down when the grass needs cutting. They come back and get mowed down again. This keeps going on until they more or less disappear. This year our weather has been such that only a week ago some were still in bloom. Not exactly the usual for December in Maine. There are also a lot of other fauna here just as confused.

Other places I've lived there was a full on "war" against dandelions and other so-called weeds to stop them from ever growing...anywhere.

In general around here, if it's green and you can cut it, we call it "lawn."


Teedmn 1:21 PM  

I liked this puzzle's theme and execution. One writeover, where NOpe had to become NO GO, but otherwise straightforward. I agree with the medium rating - it took me a minute or more over my Tuesday average but I'm not sure why. All the BOBS were known to me and I got the theme before seeing the revealer, by recognizing that FOSSE was going up in 3D.

I'll agree with @Rex that a horse shouldn't have even been "in the running", as it were, for SportsPERSON of the year and SERENA Williams is well worthy of that title. And that there shouldn't be any controversy over her being chosen. But since SERENA and Venus have had plenty of entries in NY Times puzzles, I can't see today's clue as a "dis" towards Serena, just a poor choice for a Tuesday due to the obscurity of the movie. When I got the answer for 23D, I was surprised that a movie starring Ms. Lawrence and and Mr. Cooper had slid under my radar completely. I'm sure it will be on cable someday and I'll have my chance to critique it.

So, thanks for the clever Tuesday, DLW.

Chuck McGregor 1:27 PM  

One more SERNA comment:

If SI had dubbed their award as sports "figure" rather than "person" of the year, given SERANA's picture on the cover, I think she's definitely got it all over American Pharaoh!! I mean he might have a beautiful horse figure and all, but.....


Bob Kerfuffle 1:27 PM  

I may be the only one here who was not previously aware of it, but I have just read both Amy Reynaldo and Deb Amlen refer to David Levinson Wilk's website, Crosswords for Congress. I am going to bookmark it!

I haven't done any of them, but I gather they are intentionally political, so they might appeal to those who would prefer puzzles which don't strive to be non-partisan. I know there are readers here on both sides of the political aisle, as well as those who, if I understand correctly, vehemently object to any source of readily available free puzzles, because they lower the value of the puzzles you pay for. So, potentially something to raise everyone's blood pressure!

John Hagen 1:46 PM  

Rex, in this write-up, is brilliant, poignant and quills with proper beverty. Enough written. Hallelujah and Happy Christmas and Hannakuh to all.

Anonymous 1:57 PM  

OFL's extraordinary rant today begs the question "why?".

Yes, the clue was obscure, especially for a Tuesday, but so what? It happens, get it by the crosses.

To read it as blatant disrespect for Ms. Williams is odd, though. If EVERT had been clued as "to overthrow," instead of "tennis star Chris," would it have drawn the same response? Or is OFL reading racism into Wilk's and Shorts's motives?

Anonymous 2:06 PM  

I liked it... I got stuck on `WHOLE' because I could not see `WEED' for Dandelion, I wanted it to be SEED, so I stuck with SHOLE and kept trying to fiddle it. Somehow I couldn't back up and re-valuate the first letter, just the subsequent ones. Learning!

BTW I was led into the real puzzle because I liked the Mini ones. The Mini-antipathy is over the top IMO. They are like a gateway drug. But now I don't blink at TIT, AHS, HASIN, SAYSME, TADA, WWII... all the sort of thing that a month ago stumped me. TES for Tight Ends stumped me here, but the crosses gave it to me.

Alicia Stetson 2:15 PM  

@ Andrew 12:48: Your explanation of why people root so strongly against people like Serena and Shaq is incredibly naive. It (purposely?) ignores the blatant racism implicit in saying it's their "sheer physical advantage" that leads people to root against them. Yes, America likes an underdog, especially if the champion is black. Professional tennis, especially, has an ugly history (just as anyone who heard the boos for Arthur Ashe at Wimbledon). The NBA is far from immune (just ask Donald Sterling or Bruce Levenson). Ignoring racism as a reason people root against these stars shows an impressive ability to be blind to the obvious.

Norm 2:32 PM  

Poor constructors. They get reamed by Rex for using stale stuff (how many years has Serena been around) and then for trying something new. OFL's reaction was WAY out of proportion -- but so much so that I could only laugh and shake my head.

Anonymous 2:43 PM  

Yes, Ellen S., the readers of SI are racists.

Hartley70 2:50 PM  

@Nancy, ask and it shall be given you.

Wm. C. 3:07 PM  

@AndrewH --

I don't think that when there are two tight ends on the same side of the ball that they line up next to one another. One needs to be set back from the line of scrimmage.

deerfencer 3:50 PM  

What Banya said--somebody worked hard on this. WAY too much hysteria about a clue most of us ignored and easily worked around. Rex must have doubled up on his PC booster meds this morning.

Happy Pencil 4:17 PM  

@NCA President, thanks for your open-minded reply. And to answer your question: this year is Serena's year primarily because she made a run at a true (calendar-year) Grand Slam, something that hasn't been achieved by anyone (male or female) since Steffi Graf did it in 1988. On top of that, she spent the entire year at no. 1, won 53 of 56 matches, and surpassed Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova on the list for most GS singles titles. So a pretty exceptional year by anyone's standards, and all the more so coming from someone who is not in the first bloom of youth anymore.

So I'm not wanting to turn this blog into a tennis blog, but I think it's pretty appalling the way her accomplishments are consistently marginalized. I'm with @Rex on this one.

And since this isn't a tennis blog, I'll also just say that I thought the puzzle was a little on the thin side, but the concept was cute.

JTHurst 5:39 PM  

I love it when Rex gets so mad. You could just see him digging into the box office totals to support his argument. He forgot all about the bobbing and spent his time on the "weaving".

@Andrew Are you filling in for Steve whilst he is on hiatus?

@Chefbea I had some wonderful responses to WRs and TEs but I thought I would be poaching on Evil's domain.

ESPN in 1999 ranked Secretariat as 35th in a list of the best North-American athletes of the 20th century and many felt he should have been ranked higher.

I was at my granddaughter's Winter Song Extravaganza and out of 75 children performing there were no New Testament names or Bobs or Joes or Lucys or Karens, etc. And when there was an approximation of the older, simplified names there was a consonant or 'y' were a vowel used to be.

Bye the by, I liked the puzzle except for 'smooth operator' which gave me 'misfits'.

kitshef 7:01 PM  

Working on the theory that a difficult Monday would be followed by an easy Tuesday, I attempted to solve using across-clues only. Last letter in was the A in SERENA, which I had hypothisized as SERENe. I figured the clue would us Ms. Williams, and once I had double-checked everything I went back to see. I was surprised to see what was used instead, especially on a Tuesday, but did not let it ruin my life.

The pity here is that such a fun puzzle gets the full venting of spleen treatment for one unusual choice in clues. That's unfair, SAYS ME. There were some other IFFY areas, like WWII over NOTV, and if you are going to rail about a completely off the wall (for a Tuesday) clue, why not 'Amal Clooney ____ Alamuddin', whom I have never heard of, unlike the movie. But worth those nits for both a good theme and, in addition to the great long themers, ERSATZ, FEDORA, OTELLO, JOLSON.

Leapfinger 9:19 PM  

Given "This Old House", I'm just surprised it isn't BOB VILLA. @Mr. Patoot, it isn't just 4 guys named Bob: two surnames are read up, two surnames are read down...BOBS UP AND DOWN. See?? Cute, isn't it? I thought so too.

Never suspected there'd be so much Sturm und Drang about SERENA. @Happy Pencil, American Pharoah accomplished something that hadn't been done for decades. I don't think you can call racism, since he's also something of a dark horse. Speciesism, maybe...? Look, it could have been worse than SERENA; we could have had LORENA. Now, there was a woman who could BOB it!

I know it's getting late, but there's still time in the dayday to wish Happy Birthday to Zoltán Petőfi.


Nancy 9:26 PM  

Testing, 1,2,3,4. I now have an avatar!!!!! A wonderful person just put it there. It's on my profile page, but will it show up on this new comment? Can't wait to see if it does. Thank you, thank you, @Hartley 70!

GILL I. 10:33 PM  

@Nancy: I SEE YOU.....!

Mohair Sam 10:40 PM  

@Nancy - Central Park no less. Congrats!

Z 10:54 PM  

@Nancy - Nice!

@Chuck McGregor - more likely OFL approved the wrong one while traveling. I was wondering how a spell caster got through yesterday. Although... Rex has posted pics of his "lapdog" on Twitter (I'm guessing 55 lbs) - so maybe that really was the problem.

jae 3:37 AM  

@Nancy- Nicely done! Congrats!

Casey 3:39 AM  

I've been getting the New York Times for just over a year and this is the first time I've ever completed a Tuesday on my own. So despite the terrible cluing for "Serena," a movie I've never heard of, I really enjoyed this puzzle! :-)

Z 7:10 AM  

Way to go @Casey. On To Wednesday!

Leapfinger 10:28 AM  

Brain droppings on review:

@M&A, too funny: "What About BOB?" was just on the not-NOTV yesterday. I even watched a bit of it.

Lots of mentions of OGLEd TATAs and TITS, and not one person connects that with Wide Receivers and Tight Ends? A failure of imagination there...[Erratum, I see @JTHurst gotit]

Point to consider: AmerPha has 4 legs to SERENA's 2. Imagine how he'd do with 2, or she with 4. In re sports mania overall, consider that 'Bread and circuses' still works as designed.

@Chuck McG, I also had a neighbour who encouraged anything green that grew. He moved away, I still play all his friendly invaders: wisteria, trumpet vine,Virginia creeper, honeysuckle, poison ivy...Aargh!

@BOB Kerfuffle, I agree that Wilks' website is well worth a wisit. The current one will leave you much wiser. Bookmarking's a good idea.

Maybe now I can catsup on today.

Thomas 5:24 PM  

Having gotten SERENA totally on the crosses (not even having read the clue, as it was unnecessary for completion), I expected to come read a good word or two about the fun (if hardly groundbreaking) theme, along with other analysis of the puzzle.

Yeah, guess not.

Diana,LIW 11:36 PM  

BS and BS2 - do you just want the last (laugh)? Or poem? Just wonderin'

Rondo - Cathy and I wonder what you're after...


spacecraft 11:06 AM  

I'll try one, @BS (I swear I did not see your post):


But when he tried to SEX the PRINCESSOFWALES, a COP sent him off to prison!


Well, ya hadda be there. To the puzz. I did wonder at first what was going on with those shaded squares. ESSOF certainly meant nothing to me, except it was FOSSE spelled backward...the OHO! revealer hadn't hit me yet. Next thing was the CANDYLAND gimme; I loved the highlighted DYLAN. Very clever. Seconds later the cat was out of the bag. Or sack. Why would anyone ever carry cats in either? Just remind me never to arm-wrestle any of that guy's wives! Anyway, a fun theme and great execution. While I agree about the SERENA snub, I think it's a shame that OFL allowed his rant to crowd out any other thoughts about the rest of the puzzle. The fill suffered from such a cool--and dense--theme: SOG TES WWII NOTV ITE: OOF! Was the payoff worth it? Yes, SAYSME. B.

Burma Shave 11:38 AM  

@D,LIW – sometimes @spacey throws out an occasional “challenge”. BS2 is my second verse, if it happens.


but then SEX with SMOOTHOPERATORS and HER image pales,
HER persona USEDTOBE a LOTT better on the WHOLE.


rondo 12:24 PM  

BOBSUPANDDOWN. Har. Well it’s a Tues-puz and they do get a bit IFFY. And even risqué, lotsa opportunity for innuendo. Did nobody mention which number the clue was for the last across answer? Hint for @DianaLIW? There was a recent answer re:___ tapes.

The PRINCESSOFWALES will URN yeah baby of the day. Insert innuendo here.

@spacey – PAiGE threw HER paper plane left-handed, good to know. And an apropos Elton John (and Kiki Dee) song, though Walter is a genius, but doesn’t know who he is? Seems like the writers were in a hurry.

Mini ERSATZ drug theme with a little LSD on top of WEED.

ADA better clued as Nabakov novel, see also last clue number and answer.

Most of my music is ONCD since that basement flood ruined most of my LPs, on which my music was released.

All INALL about an average Tuesday, SAYSME.

Diana,LIW 3:22 PM  

OHO! A '70's puzzle - sex, drugs, and rock 'n roll. I enjoyed this multi-themed puzzle so much I almost posted here before reading Rex et. alia. However, curiosity pulled this cat to read today's rant. While I agree with Rex re that clue, there was so much more going on. (And, in Syndiland, the Serena news is oldish.) First wanted Selena (different Jennifer, and the date was too new). Wondered if this movie was a remake? Never heard of it. The R was the last to go in, as I remembered "One Grecian URN" from The Music Man. With all the BOBs weaving, the long downs, and the mini-themes - I liked it a LOTT. Not ADORED it, but many smiles.

And...Morrie showing up in a Tuesday puzzle? Did anyone else notice his placement?

Har - didn't notice that last across clue/answer. Was that APPropriate? OOF, kinda IFFY.

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords

Shax 5:01 PM  

Anyone notice or care about the plethora of "ins" in this puzzle. Has in, in all, in a jam, input. I liked the puzzle, but I thought using a word twice could get a puzzle rejected!

leftcoastTAM 6:23 PM  

Clever Tuesday test. BOBSUPANDDOWN indeed.

Last to go was GILDA LIVE (NEE VILA?)

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