Group Theatre playwright of 1930s / THU 12-3-15 / Patriotic Clint Eastwood movie / Lyre player of mythology / Town whose exports are waxed / Medium for Biggie Smalls

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Constructor: Patrick Merrell

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: Fun with Roman numerals — circled squares contain Roman numerals, which, in the Across theme answers, stand in for the letters in their English equivalent (e.g. I = "ONE"). In the Downs, the letters in the Roman numerals cease to be Roman numerals and function simply as letters:

Theme answers:
  • RUNNING [ON E]MPTY (20A: Almost out of energy)
  • DA[TE N]IGHT (32A: Time to get a babysitter, maybe)
  • "FLAGS O[F OUR] FATHERS" (38A: Patriotic Clint Eastwood movie)
  • CA[TWO]MAN (45A: DC Comics character with a whip)
  • CB[S EVEN]ING NEWS (52A: Rather informative program, once?)
Word of the Day: "ZZZ" (13D: Last entry in the Random House Unabridged Dictionary) —
(used to represent the sound of a person snoring.) Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015. (
• • •

This strikes me as quite clever. The theme isn't tough to uncover, and once uncovered, it all goes very quickly. Also, at 78 words, this grid is highly segmented and thus doesn't have many interesting longer answers outside of the themers. But the theme is solid and the chosen theme answers are varied and creative enough to keep things interesting. I enjoyed figuring out what Roman numerals went where, and why. Biggest wow factor was on CB[S EVEN]ING NEWS. I somehow wasn't looking for VII, and that is a truly inventive way to hide it. On the fill front, I am not at all a fan of TOX (22D: Food safety subj.). Is that short of tox ... ins? icity? It's horrid. I honestly considered TAX. And I gave a little side-eye to the creaky ERATO / ET ALIA crossing (though ET ALIA got a very nice clue—30D: String substitute?). But I don't have very many other complaints. It was too easy; that's the only serious complaint I have. Even the Scrabble-f*%&ing in the NE didn't bother me. I mean, if you're gonna do it, I say go All In. Four "Z"s in a 3x3 section!? Sure. Go on. Go ahead. And if you somehow don't know who AZIZ Ansari is (16A: ___ Ansari of "Parks and Recreation"), please watch the series "Master of None" (10 episodes, on Netflix) right now. Best scripted show I've seen since "Transparent." Oh, also, there's a new episode of "Transparent" available (Season 2, Episode 1) right now on Amazon Prime. Not sure why I'm telling you all this ... just spreading the Gospel of Good TV, I guess. (Don't get me started on the Great British Baking Show, though, because I am a convert and like all converts I am annoyingly zealous)

  • 24A: Group Theatre playwright of the 1930s (ODETS) — I started with YEATS. Something about "playwright" and spelling of "theatre" and the fact that my dear friend Catherine is a Yeats scholar—not to mention the five-letter length of the answer—made me do it. YEATS died in 1939, so my answer is chronologically plausible, if no other kind of plausible.
  • 28A: Works of Carl Maria von Weber (OPERAS) — I get this dude confused with sociologist Max Weber. It's probably the whole last name thing.
  • 63A: Medium for Biggie Smalls (RADIO) — this is a very weird clue. Presumably RADIO is a Medium for virtually any singer in the history of singers. Does Biggie have a song about RADIO? Why Biggie? I mean, I'm happy to see his name, but the clue feels weirdly arbitrary. LL Cool J makes more sense. Or Elvis Costello. Or R.E.M. Or Talking Heads. Etc. [nevermind: apparently there's a big/medium/small joke going on here ... ANYway...]
  • 66A: "That's not for me" ("I PASS") — I went with "I'M OUT!"
And I'm out.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Bill Holland 12:26 AM  

And don't overlook the association with Dan Rather in the clue for CBS Evening News, "Rather informative program, once?"

jae 12:36 AM  

Medium-tough because unlike @Rex it took me a while to catch on to the theme, although in retrospect it doesn't seem that difficult. Also the cluing in NE was tricky for me.  I was positive about AZIZ ( @Rex is correct about his new show on Netflix streaming " Master of None") but I could not see UZI from the clue and I had axel before LUTZ and I misread the 13d clue.

@Rex TOX icology?

Clever Thurs., liked it.

Music Man 1:08 AM  

Because it was a failed misdirect by having medium, big(gie) and small together. That or just trying to be cute. I actually like the clue there. Fun puzzle tho for me. I found the theme to be pretty original and interesting.

chefwen 1:14 AM  

Loved the puzzle but it certainly wasn't easy for me, more in the difficult column. Got the theme early enough with 20A RUNNING 1 MPTY (seems to be what I'm always running on) that's where the easiness ended for me. Never heard of the Eastwood movie, got FLAGS and FATHERS, getting the IV was the tricky part and 52A was clever in hind sight, but I sure did struggle with that one too. Loved 32A DA X IGHT.

Great puzzle that I will remember.

Anonymous 1:38 AM  

Easily the best Thursday in a long time. Really clever. More like this please.

Kevin Mcgue 3:23 AM  

I think the Notorious B.I.G. clue was a misdirect to try to get people to make "RAP" something fit. It didn't.

Anonymous 4:25 AM  

Q: What did they call the psychic midget who escaped from prison?
A: A small medium at large!

George Barany 4:51 AM  

@Patrick Merrell is one of the classiest people in the crossword community, and one of ten constructors whose work is showcased in this book edited by @Will Shortz.

I first encountered the idea of hiding numbers within phrases in an amazing and memorable Sunday puzzle by my friend @Charles Deber entitled "Countdown" that ran Sunday, September 20, 1998 [contact me off-Rex if you have difficulty tracking it down]. As far as I know, @Patrick's added twist to use a spelled-out Roman numeral, rather than a rebus, is a new one.

I had to chuckle at @Rex's comment about Carl Maria von Weber. OPERAS (the plural) is technically correct, but he's really just known for Der Freischütz. Period. That, and the absolutely wonderful Invitation to the Dance, which is not an opera. Anyone taking odds as to whether @AliasZ independently comes up with the same link?

Anonymous 4:59 AM  

Thursday is my least favorite puzzle day. Too inside-jokey for me. "ZZZ" said it all.


Music Man 6:26 AM  

Wow totally missed that

Anonymous 6:31 AM  

I'm pretty sure "Biggie" "Medium" and "Smalls" are supposed to constitute a pun. A pointless one.

Aketi 6:46 AM  

@Rex, I was sure you would hate this. Was I wrong!

Fun quick puzzle (with a few googles).
My fave was CA(TWO)MAN
Kind of liked the irony of GRIM crossed with ORGY. Maybe the STRAP took the fun out of that party.
I wanted to COAX some hidden meaning from the I in PIXAR since it is really a hopping lamp, not just part of VII.

@Chefwen, I also glitches out at FLAGSO(IV)fATHERS. Somehow I misread IV as 14 which makes no sense.I blame it on trying to do this puzzle at the ungodly early hour of 5:30 am.

I could have used a longer puzzle this morning because the morning Brazilian Jiu Jitsu class that has been keeping me from doing puzzles was canceled. Time to catch up on many missed puzzles. Or maybe some ZZZs since I really am not a morning person, maybe even less of a morning person than Nancy,

Z 6:46 AM  

One guess which corner was my first and favorite. How very OMEGAish.

"Fun with Roman Numerals." I'd guffaw here except this was actually fun. Two thumbs and a big toe up for CBVIIINGNEWS. Worth the price of admission (a TOX tax, as it were) today.

@Music Man - Of course, Went right over my head. Rex's too, so I don't feel so bad.

I hate with a capital H-A-T-E all "reality" eliminate some schmuck ever week shows. I hate to bake (just not very good at it, to be honest). I LOVE The Great British Baking Show.

II radio clues, so Radio, Radio seems appropriate.

Lewis 7:03 AM  

Can we break the answer THEME into two words, to make an apt title for Trump?

I found the cluing tricky, and had a sparse first pass, but persistence paid off -- once even tearing myself away from Google at the last moment -- to a successful finish. I love when a puzzle goes from toil to ta-da!

Clever clues included REIN, UZI, PELICANS, and ETALIA. Figuring out the theme brought a big aha, and the theme was creative. There were a fair number of four-letter semordnilaps (words that make another word when spelled backward) -- EMIL, LIAM, STAR, LIEN, and EDAM.

A rave for this high quality solving experience -- thank you Patrick!

doorslam 7:10 AM  

Can someone explain how strong arm = UZI? I can see strong arm = gun, but I don't get to any specific kind of gun.

On the whole, didn't care for this at all.

John Child 8:09 AM  

Interesting to see the early reaction so mixed. I DNF while trying to force _B[eight]NGNEWS to be something. The shaded squares disappear when the word is in focus on the iPad app. Quite clever and certainly memorable, @Lewis. Apart from that fail, not easy at all here. Hard to see how hELP was wrong, and while ORGY is fairly clued, it didn't make sense to me. But a puzzle like this is the best kind of defeat.

Tita 8:57 AM  

I loved it!!!!,
Another of those "wish I had thought of that" tricks.
But, it played really hard for me. Bit of smoke was a puff, and didn't know the band, or the comic book character, or the movie.

I got the theme immediately with RUNNINGONEMPTY, and just settled in for a fun ride. The theme definitely helped, but only a little.
Was ready to cry foul at "fourfathers" for forefathers, before I sussed the full movie name.

Did a number run to guess that the comic book person was a T[WO]MAN, not a MERE MAN, so finally broke through to the CA.
The CBS one was by far the hardest. Having puff, and also LeanS instead of LISTS, kept me from seeing how [SEVEN] was the number.
And I totally missed the Rather part of it til I came here...thanks, @BillH.

Thanks Mr. Merrill...this is a perfect Thursday.

Tim 9:00 AM  

@doorslam: any weapon is an "arm". An UZI is a particularly powerful -- i.e. "strong" -- arm.

Really enjoyed this one. A little surprised that Rex wasn't more enthusiastic about the fill: it really seemed very clean to me, with very little to complain about. I suppose I can see his point about the NE corner, but I don't mind a little showing off when it results in such unusual and entertaining answers.

It definitely was not "easy" though. Brrr. Even once I had the theme, the rest of the puzzle did not snap right into place, but rather trickled.

NCA President 9:24 AM  

@doorslam: An UZI is an overused military crossword weapon used, evidently, by the Israeli army. (see: Sten gun for similar overused military crossword weapon).

I was happy with this puzzle until I hit the San Luis Obispo region...upon further review I should have seen FITIN sooner and that would have fixed my problem...which it eventually did...but ETALIA's clue was an outlier for me. Rex loved it...and I'm sure it's a legit clue (String substitute?), but it was confounding. When I finally got it, I cursed out loud.

There is a margin of my tolerance of clues like's pretty broad, actually...but there are some clues that fall outside my tolerance zone and this was one of them. Oh...a string of names. Gotcha and etc. <--- a string of "aha" statements.

Otherwise, it's funny that the NYT had that week a few months ago toting puzzles that had never been done before or were unique or et. al., and here is one that would have fit right in during that week. "String substitute" notwithstanding, I thought the theme was better than usual and certainly more interesting that the typical fare.

So the theme salvages my appreciation for the puzzle, etc. and et. al.

jberg 9:49 AM  

@doorslam and others -- sure, an UZI is a particularly powerful gun, of which there are way too many on the loose. I'm not sure what they used yesterday in San Bernardino, but it was unnerving to see it in the puzzle. But anyway -- my feeling is that in crosswords it's OK for the clue to be more general than the answer, e.g., 'feathered swimmer' can = MALLARD.

I found the theme tough but rewarding. I started with RUNNING on low, and was gradually forced by the crosses to RUNNING IMPTY, so I decided the shaded squares might be some kind of Schroedinger thing - in this case, I down and E across. I think it was DATE NIGHT -- which I wanted all along, but couldn't see how to fit in -- that finally gave me the Roman numeral thing.

But that was only stage one! I spent a lot of time trying to treat each shaded square as a different number -- which gave me, for a time, FLAGST(ONE) (FIVE) FATHERS as a possible movie title. Finally I saw that CATWOMAN worked with II = TWO, abd U was done. It probably would have been faster if I'd remembered INXS.

Like others, I saw 'IV-letter skating thing' and put in AXEL. Fortunately, 13D pretty much had to start with a Z, and that somehow brought LUTZ bubbling up.

All in all, this was tougher for me than many are reporting -- but I enjoyed it!

The Rhino 9:57 AM  

Hard. Hard hard hard hard hard hard. Hard. Like a chili whose heat overwhelms its flavor, I can't comment on whether I thought this was a good puzzle or not. I only know it was hard.

I did like medium biggie smalls.

And, yes, it is my birthday.

Hartley70 10:11 AM  

This was more like a Saturday for me than a Thursday. I caught on to the Roman numerals with RUNNINGIMPTY fairly early which got me right to CBVIINGNEWS without getting the Rather hint. I kept trying to fit Iwo Jima into Eastwood's movie. The other two themes came later. My real problem was with everything but the themes. I fell for all the traps and started out wrong at every turn. I had to put the puzzle down, take a nap, and return to finish it off.

Nancy 10:29 AM  

Very, very hard for me, made harder by the pop culture clues. Didn't know CATWOMAN or AZIZ or ARIEL or INXS or LIAM. (Neeson, I would have known.) In spite of that, I thought it was a terrific puzzle -- though I would have liked it even more with fewer proper names. And I did finish -- at least I think I did if AZIZ is correct. Forgot to look. Will check now.

Nancy 10:32 AM  

So AZIZ is right. And that means that ZZZ is in the dictionary. Really???????!!!!!!!

Bob Kerfuffle 10:38 AM  

Great puzzle; lots of fun.

Dare I say Patrick Merrell is a constructor one can *count* on?

Chuck McGregor 10:38 AM  

As opposed to yesterday's @Rex: Medium to my: Easy, today was far more the norm. @Rex: Easy and me? Difficult. Got several chunks here and there but it took more than a couple of checks and reveals to start to tie them together. Figured out the theme only after I finish and it got a "Wow, cool!" from me. Until I did figure it out the grid sure looked mighty strange! While solving, all I knew was that it was a Roman numeral thing. However, my "F" in "fist" for clincher (oh so smugly entered) kept me wondering if that was so. I had JAW which sort of worked as part of "clinching" a fight/match, as in what it hits to do so. (Sigh)

Liking juxtapositions in grids, we have:

REMIX IVS (hopefully for the better)
PELICANS MOB (you might want to stand clear)
COAX ODETS (to write another play)
ARIEL EMIL DITZ (don't you wish that were your name?)
DAFT LISTS (like of people who use the word "the" in their speech)
UZI EGRESS (its barrel)
TIT THIRST (won't touch this with a 10 foot Pole...or even a 20 foot Czech)
STRAP ORGY (the subway during rush hour)

@Anonymous 6:31 AM
'I'm pretty sure "Biggie" "Medium" and "Smalls" are supposed to constitute a pun. A pointless one.'

I would say definitely they do. However, since when do puns need a point, other than to be (usually) humorous, noting that some of us are more easily amused than others?

Is there any real "point" to this one other than humor? --

"You can tune a guitar, but you can't tuna fish. Unless of course, you play bass."

In fact, that is bad enough to rate a first rate groan, the mark of truly stellar, humorous puns!

Reminds me of a favorite of mine from a 6th grade classmate. When asked to give a example of a interjection, he quickly responded, "Holy mackerel! It's a tuna!" I still grin at it to this day. We lived in what was still, at that mid-50's time, mostly a small, blue-collar, fishing / boating community, so those were additional layers in the humor. How does "blue-collar community" add to the humor you ask? Well, picture kids thinking their 3-piece-suit, country-club dads might say that... which, not so incidentally, is mostly what that same community is today and with far more people.

An audio pun (so you get it, know that a loudspeaker cone moves in the opposite direction when you reverse its polarity* i.e. swap the wires on the back.):
* [please, not the misused phase; different thing.]

If you reverse the polarity* of a speaker that blows it will suck.

Now If you were really astute you would know that audio guys sometimes must run a PA system for, shall we say, a less than scintillating speaker (talker). So that definition could TRUMP the literal meaning of "loudspeaker", although the latter equally applies to THE ME (hi @ Lewis)....And (for the physics-minded) it doesn't seem to matter what phase his polarity is in!

I leave you with a macabre pun for a restaurant's name:
"Sam & Ella's Chicken Palace" (Say all before "chicken" quickly...), Wiki.

I'm pun(e).


Mohair Sam 10:43 AM  

For reasons that may deal with age we had a wicked time getting our brains around the roman numeral/english alphabet change so this puzzle played really tough for us. But we absolutely loved it. A great change of pace, and agree totally with @NCA Pres that it would have fit well in the "never been done before" week.

Sat here for a full minute wondering what the hell the "CB Sevening News" was, and what new depths Dan Rather had sunken to. Lost a ton of time by insisting on Imout for IPASS. eVe for OVA cost us some time too, (Origin of the species?). INXS behind only Dire Straits in personal list of favorite band names. Given the clue, TOX is fine as an abbreviation imo.

Great Thursday challenge Patrick Merrell, and a lot of fun. Thank you.

Jay Apking 10:44 AM  

Any gun would be a fire "arm."
An uzi is a powerful gun and therefore a strong fire arm or strong "arm"

Chuck McGregor 10:49 AM  

PS I am glad to see I wasn't alone in the GRIM fight to solve this one but, nonetheless, found it an enjoyable solve.

old timer 11:26 AM  

Got RUNNING and EMPTY and figured the shaded square where the E was just meant, "add the word 'on' here." So I never got the theme at all. I knew it had to be CBS EVENING NEWS, but the Roman-numeral thing just did not occur to me.

Now I feel like a total DITZ. Though I did get the ZZZ, and thought that was clever.

Masked and Anonymous 11:42 AM  

Big thUmbsUp:

1. Clever, different theme. All the themers are sorta popmedia-centric, too boot.
2. Great clues. Twisty lil devils, all over the place. ("Rather" informative … Tie that binds … har)
3. Fill had TRUEGRIT.
4. Fun and ThursPuz-level challenging, in my book.
5. Primo moment of desperation: weeject TOX, especially as a themer.
6. 3.5 U's. Now, I know many of U wanted more, but Mr. Merrell had other things on his plate: like crammin ZZZZJW into them sweet lil weeject stacks, in the SW/NE corners. At least 3.5 is a real unusual count.

Thanx, Mr. Merrell. REMONEX. har.



Casco Kid 11:56 AM  

True DNF. I was wrong-footed all over the puzzle today. Not enough traction anywhere to approach the theme. STAR and PIXAR were the only gimmes. Other intended gimmes that were just too far from my knowledge base: ARIEL, EMIL, LIAM, INXS, ROSSI, ODETS, Catwoman reference ( I was thinking Wonder Woman)

Clues that I just couldn't parse for EDAM, NAPE.

I can name a half dozen Coen brother movies, but didn't recall TRUEGRIT. I can do the same for Eastwood, but didn't think of FLAGSOFOURFATHERS.

eVe for OVA
puff for WISP
Sure for SOSO
satyr for ERATO
sEND for WEND so the nonsensical JAs for JAW
I wanted spIn or jetE for PLIE.
Hot under the collar? tors(o)? corp(us)? body? thor(ax)? Neck?

When you need crosses for help with everthing, you are better off calling it a day. I did. 50 minutes. 10 right entries. 10 wrong entries. The rest were incomplete. Oh, brother!

Leapfinger 12:10 PM  

LUTZ of fun!

I'll call this a good up-TEMPO follow-up to the WENDsday puzzle, though some apparently seem to think the THEME, AZIZ, a MERE ORGY of RRNs INXS. My tickle came from having CAIIMAN and RUNNINGIMPTY be my first themers solved, only to discover that all the substitutions weren't for your I's only. I'm another who missed the 'Rather'; I went with PB[SEVEN]INGNEWS, since that's the default station on my car RADIO. Particularly elegant that all the RNs are word-spanners. In general, found the whole solve not so much hard, as thought-provoking. Just the right amount.

Filling in for Cherry Pie:
Noticed how much better to see ARIEL than AREEL
In clinical areas, it's perfectly common to hear people talk about running a 'TOX screen' for a variety of reasons, but usually to test for substances ranging from alcohol to THC.
Hadn't known of this AZIZ, but pleased to have been introduced. Altogether preferable to Tariq.
No JOSH, anyone else remember schooldays when boys went to the Principal's Office to get The STRAP?
I thought 50A an interesting eye-homonym in presenting one way a ballerina PLIEs her trade. Or apPLIEs her art. Or otherwise wins applause for her plea, Yay!

Nice to know that @NCA President prefers his puzzles with no strings attached.

I believe that now I'LL have time to read some AnaisIXssays.
Merrelly we roll along.

Cassieopia 12:19 PM  

One of my slowest times. Took me a while to figure out the trick. Really loved this puzzle, especially CATWOMAN! Not knowin the DC canon by heart, I had a few dead ends there: CAsixMAN being the most plausible (to me). Fab puzzle!

Leapfinger 12:20 PM  

@MohairS, I had DNA for 'origin of species'; various lines of thought possible, eh?
The popular LeanS/LISTS and axel/LUTZ also, as well as 'adapt'--> FIT_IN
Agree the 'Strong arm' clue is kLUTZy.

@Chuck McGregor, I absolutely enjoyed that you had a PS.

Roo Monster 12:20 PM  

Hey All !
Very neat RRN theme! Finally a puz with RRNs that no one is complaining about them being in the puz. (Round-about sentence, anyone?) Did figure out the theme quickly, but the theme answers took a bit to parse through. For me this was easy/leaning hard, as in, took a stint of time to figure out some of the answers, but only had one writeover, (hELP), and a few guesses lightly written in, (wantED/wisHED->ITCHED, Neck->NAPE, puff->WISP, easy->MERE).

Very nice fill also, with maybe only TOX and ZZZ as possible dreck. Although I like both of those! LADY DI was nice to see in the puz. Just a K and Q from a pangram. Learned Inveigle means COAX. Try to use that as your Word of the Day!

So, very cool puz, PM. The RRN THEME FIT IN
a MERE WISP of TRUE GRIT ... or something! :-)


rorosen 12:40 PM  

I am very glad that Rex likes the Great British Baking Show!! We do too!!

AliasZ 1:04 PM  

This was a lovely puzzle with an ingenious theme.

I enjoyed it despite the naticky NE corner -- a totally unexpected and unnecessary cluster of Z's. The SW corner was much easier to get, but still, I strongly dislike segregated sections connected to the rest of the grid by only one entry.

III, VI, VIII and IX would have been very difficult to incorporate into a phrase split in the middle: 'wealtTH REEstablishment' (Goal after a crash?), 'TbiliSI Xray technician' (Georgian healthcare professional?), 'slEIGH Traffic' (Winter road sign?) and 'zucchiNI NEmesis' (Person allergic to courgette?) wouldn't have worked too well...

Excellent puzzle Patrick, despite the NE/SW mini puzzles. Thank you.

Salamone ROSSI (c.1570-1630) was a Jewish-Italian violinist and composer of the late Renaissance-early Baroque period. His "Al naharot Bavel" (by the rivers of Babylon) is an especially beautiful setting of Psalm 137.


Pete s 1:25 PM  

I spent a long time looking for canine man, Maybe an enemy of cat woman left me with XTC__ed for 46 down (hankered)

Teedmn 1:25 PM  

I struggled mightily with this one. I got the across part of the theme early on but didn't see the RRN part until the VISE-INCA-PIXAR crossing CBSEVENING NEWS finally hammered past my DAFTness. Hand up for axel before LUTZ (Googled that one, ouch), bay before RIA, JeSt before JOSH and the list goes on, ET ALIA. OMEGA.

But it was a great puzzle, thanks PM, and I will try to be less kLUTZy (thanks @Leapy) tomorrow.

Michael Hooning 1:28 PM  

I was sure it was "running on empty", but had "one" as a rebus to start. It doesn't help that the Windows app doesn't show circles or shaded squares, so I had to suss out where the numbers went. I resorted to Google three or four times to finish, but was very entertained by the theme when I figured it out. An excellent puzzle, but not easy for me!

thfenn 2:02 PM  

I can see why this was a great puzzle, but I couldn't do it without peeking here and googling. Too many false starts everywhere that could've helped. BLOOD was the tie that binds. FETE before ORGY. EVE before OVA. AXEL before LUTZ. ACT of God before SON. The SE was impossible for me, as I started with RYE for GIN, LEANS for LISTS, and then NECK for NAPE and PUFF for WISP. I had a hankering/itch/craving/thirst for this one but just couldn't pull it off. Even new I had to make RUNNINGONEMPTY, FLAGSOFOURFATHERS and CBSEVENINGNEWS fit, but just couldn't figure out how.

Lots of admiration for the solve, the cleverness, and for those that managed to do this one, be it hard or easy. But I'm sad to say it was way beyond me. And just when I was starting to feel less intimidated by Thur-Sat puzzles. So so far to go still...

Tom Rowe 2:03 PM  

I liked it. Got the theme from Flagsofourfathers and it was about medium for me for a Thursday.

But there is one (picky) error in the puzzle. 21 down: The plural of no is noes, not nos (which is typically short for numbers).

Hard of Hearing 2:04 PM  

The Salman Rushdie version doesn't sound anything like the Jimmy Cliff cover of "By the Rivers of Babylon".

Good thing I didn't take up Prof. Barany on that bet.

RMK 2:10 PM  

Re Weber: Apparently you do not know any clarinettists.

Carola 2:51 PM  

Really liked it, despite a struggle for comprehension. I remained at an ImPASSE at the shaded squares until I decided just to write the correct Down letters in and see what happened. FLAGSOIVFATHERS told me what I needed to know, but I still was flummoxed for a bit by what kind of MAN wielded a whip. Loved that one. To "Rather" I have a Pavlovian response of "CBS," so that one was easy for me.

Evidence of being a DITZ: just before getting to the puzzle I'd read about the new Netflix series featuring AZIZ Ansari, but by the time I got to 16A all memory of the name had slipped away, like a short thread is drawn through the eye of a needle (favorite image from Kafka).

@Nancy - Not a matter of burying the lead in my case, but short-term memory issues (see above): my thoughts of commiseration slipped through some mental EGRESS between comment and comment box. Grrrr.

Chip Hilton 3:11 PM  

I loved it! But I certainly didn't find it to be easy. I got a foothold in the south and the Rather clue is where I broke the code. ETALIA was my last fill as that whole area proved difficult for me. In all, another puzzle that had me shaking my head at the brilliance of constructors.

My wife and I love the British baking show. Neither of us took to the American holiday version that debuted this week even though it's almost a carbon copy of the original. Mary Berry, the English tent setting, menu graphics . . . but somehow not as pleasing. I never thought I'd miss the two women who host, but perhaps that's it.

OISK 3:56 PM  

I didn't get elatia ( et alia, of course you dunce) although I did correctly write it. Enjoyed this one very much. One of those where I searched for a place to begin, where my puzzle experience gave me INXS, ( I still have no idea what they are...), don't know who Biggie Smalls is either, (mediium, haha!) but I am sure he (it?) has appeared before. And then I struggled to find the theme. Got it while running on empty! Great fun.

On the topic of restaurant puns, there actually was a Thai restaurant in Brooklyn called "Wah tah nah Siam."

The food was pretty good, actually.

Numinous 4:17 PM  

I thought this was a Tony the Tiger puzzle: it's GREEAAAAAAAT! @NCA Pres beat me to the notiion that this should have been run during the week of "Never Before,"

I got everything but FLAGS O[F OUR] FATHERS which I had to google as I'd totally spaced out that Rowdy produced it. At least that gave the trick away. I had already sort of noticed that the grey squares might be RRNs but I hadn't figured out how they worked yet. RUNNING I MPTY was bothering me even though I knew it was right from finally sussing the downs. Then it hit me like the pavement jumped up and hit @Nancy's nose: RUNNING [ON E]MPTY. AHA! I once had a radio show for maybe six months, and once did a series of titles that amused me. Life in the Fast Lane/RUNNING [ON E]MPTY seemed like a good pair to me.

I got the Dan Rather reference immediately but couldn't remember which network he was on. Like someone above, I was seeing VIII and not [VII] I. The one I had the most trouble with was CA[T WO]MAN. I'm not quite sure when I lost interest in comic books but it was a long time ago. I haven't paid any attention to the comic book movies past the first Batman. As a kid, I even thought the Adam West Batman show was stupid though I watched it most afternoons (there wasn't much else on for my age group then).

@Rhino: Happy birthday. Mine was yesterday so, you me and OFL this week. Sagitarii rawk!

Alby 4:39 PM  

Earns its place among Thursday theme puzzles. Can't say I've seen its like before. Fill's unremarkable, but forgivably so. Though I will say, this may be the first time I've seen EGRESS outside of that P.T. Barnum anecdote.

mac 4:58 PM  

Clever, smart puzzle, but not easy for me! For some reason I had to stare hard to get SON of God...

Great job!

Malsdemare 5:51 PM  

@Casco, I'm with you. I fought this like crazy only to just fail everywhere. I DID catch the roman numeral thing at DAXIGHT, but for some reason the brain did not compute the other themers well enough to help me get the fill. Damn, I knew RUNNINGoneMPTY, but even after cheating on the evening news, I just didn't see the trick. Bad, bad, bad, though not the fault of the constructor. Brain fart after brain fart, sheesh!

dick swart 6:31 PM  

Missed it after five years of Latin! Well, I did it after my meeting with the dentist.

May I second the Rex recommendation of Aziz Ansari's series ... top writing skills Plus the casting of his actual parents in the segments involving the characters parents (and his co-writer's as well).

Catch Ansari's two specials, also on Netflix!

okanaganer 6:36 PM  

I had (correctly) RUNNINGIMPTY but (incorrectly) BARE for 15A, which left RAM[I]_ for 7 down. I confidently filled in RAMIS. That's RAM[ONE]S, for "D.J.'s play"... perfect!

I was so disappointed to realize it wasn't so.

Kevin Denelsbeck 8:14 PM  

Cute theme, but definitely not an easy puzzle for me. 27+ min when I often come in under 15 for a Thursday.

kitshef 8:42 PM  

Loved it loved it loved it.

First in were AZIZ crossing ZZZ, and I though oh god it's going to be one of those 'how many 'z's can I cram in' puzzles. Instead, it was a the brilliance we got.

RUNNINGONEMPTY went in easy, but could not get the cross until I figured out DATENIGHT/TOX, so --MoneX became --MIX.

axel before LUTZ, puRE before MERE, Imout before IPASS - that qualifies as a very clean grid for me. I do wonder how e-solvers deal with puzzles like this one, especially for clues like 52A where you have to fit seven letters into three squares.

Only things not to like were TOX, "Out! I said out!" (why the repeat?), and "That's not for me" That kind of clue/answer screams 'lazy construction'.

Chuck McGregor - you lost me completely on the interjection tale. Can you explain?

Paul s 9:48 PM  

The food safety subject is toxicology

Chuck McGregor 10:35 PM  

@kitshef 8:42 PM

Interjection ism this case a phrase used to exclaim hence, "Holy mackerel" was interjected as a exclamation of surprise at (one would presume) catching a tuna. The pun is using a common "fish phrase" to exclaim about another fish, mackerel not being literally meant. Midwestern version; "Holy cow! It's a bull!" Really don't know any "Holy" mackerels or cows or moleys or s**ts or....

Like I said, some of us (meaning me) are easily amused :>)

Anonymous 10:48 PM  


Anonymous 11:20 PM  

@kitshef "Holy Mackerel!" is an interjection just like "Wow!" to express surprise. "Its a tuna" is the surprise discovery that warranted the interjection. Tuna could have been any fish but mackerel to make the tale work.

Andrew Heinegg 11:48 PM  

Great one on The Donald, Lewis; I will always think of it when I see that caricature of a face he has. The Democrats idea of a dream candidate for the Republican nomination !;

Chuck McGregor 11:57 PM  

kitshef 8:42 PM

Just had the thought it could be the second part of that tale that was a ?? to you. Well, fishing was inbred in the culture of the community so talking fish stuff was common among and a bond between young and old. So the joke got bonus laughter for that; "hitting home" as it were.

Probably over-explained and further confused. I know I am!


crackblind 9:53 AM  

FLAGSOIVFATHERS is what gave me the theme on this one. Saw the clue and guessed the title but obviously it didn't fit. Worked a few of the downs but not enough to get it. OFFICE in fact screwed me up majorly because it confirmed the first letter of something that didn't want to fit. Ultimately, the circles in LIEN & IVS preceded by OVA that broke it open.

I really liked the theme. Interesting idea and great way to meld the downs with the acrosses.

Meredith 7:33 PM  

For some reason i couldn't think of CA(TWO)MAN and instead had CA(NINE)MAN in there, not that he exists. when I finally figured it out, I found this immensely funny.

also it took me a while to get the theme because I thought the IV in FLAGSO(FOUR)FATHERS was a play on words for forefathers, and that stumped me for a bit.

overall a fun clever theme!

rondo 10:27 AM  

Put me in the category of did not like it at all. Got the bit at DA(X)(TEN)IGHT since I worked it east to west. There’s no rhyme nor reason as to how many of the non RRN letters go into any one square, so I see that as a real shortcoming. Maybe Thursday puzzles are preposterous after all? Let’s see what @spacey has to say.

hELP for YELP and LeanS for LISTS seem to be my only write-overs, so not terribly tough, but frustrating in those shaded squares.

LADYDI is the apparent royal yeah baby of the day. And anyone in a CATWOMAN suit. ORGY comes to mind.

And what? CBSEVENINGNEW isn’t informative anymore? Did not like this puz and many of the clues. Maybe next time IPASS?

spacecraft 11:27 AM  

When I opened this page and saw "easy" my JAW dropped--even lower than when I looked at the completed (!!!!!) grid and thought "I've actually DONE this!" You cant--CAN'T call this easy, unless your name is Walter O'Brien.

I started with the ONLY two entries I knew: EMIL and LUTZ. I knew it had to be LUTZ because of the clue for 13-down. And that was it, for half an hour, me staring at eight filled squares. I literally knew nothing else. It was either "I don't know that" or "that could be ANYthing."

I finally thought, what if the "Cars" producer wasn't a person but a company: PIXAR--then the group could be INXS. Then I started with INCA and...LISTS? Nah, that can't be right; that'd give me three I's in a row on 52-across. IPASS. Which could work for 66-across, and maybe WISP...soon I had something ending in NEWS. Gee, if it weren't for that S in SEVEN I could have THEEVENINGNEWS. How do we get an S in there? AHA! CBS! OH *groan!* NOW I see: "Rather," as in Dan! Major headslap!

Even after that epiphany, though, the going wasn't easy. The clues were Saturday-tough pretty much throughout. My distress call was "HELP!" before YELP, and I misidentified the whip-wielder as BATWOMAN instead of CATWOMAN. Both easily fixed.

This puzzle belongs squarely in a Saturday slot, no earlier. It took TRUEGRIT to solve, which I did RUNNINGONEMPTY (great song!). I don't know when the Eastwood movie came out, but somehow I missed it entirely. Never heard of it till today. Maybe that's why it seemed so much harder to me. Anyway, a didn't-think-I-was-ever-going-to-solve-it-but-did puzzle has to get a high mark from me: A.

Burma Shave 11:39 AM  


with her TRUEGRIT and an ORGY to tempt me,
she’d COAX me to FITIN at late night.

--- JOSH LUTZ (did not use the word TIT)

rondo 1:58 PM  

Oh, har, Rather, got it now.
Yeah, it's a well made puz, but I rarely like a gimmick puz.

rondo 2:42 PM  

@teedMN - yes, that Ray LaMontagne album, for which he won a Grammy. And "Beg, Steal or Borrow" was nominated for best song.

LongBeachLee 3:20 PM  

Michael Hooning - I too didn't have the circles to guide me. Printed it from online syndicated, and the shaded squares didn't show as such.
I still got all but cat woman. Dnf for that, or A+ for sussing the theme without a clue?

leftcoastTAM 7:22 PM  

I saw what the theme answers had to be (in everyday spelling), but I couldn't see the f#@%ing Roman numerals.

leftcoastTAM 8:16 PM  

It annoys me when some "solvers" or "finishers" don't acknowledge cheating in any of its forms:

Human helpers
Any other human or non-human helpers of any sort outside what's there to work with in the published puzzle itself.

And that's why I especially admire @Casco Kid for his exemplary up-front candor.

Diana,LIW 9:18 PM  

Hey, leftcoast, I completely agree. After Wed. I have some solves (true solves) but many almosts - truly DNFs.
Thought this theme was splendid. However, the rest of this was a 15 x 15 Natick due to unknown names. Just not in my personal wheelhouse.
Diana, Lady in Waiting for Crosswords

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