Spider-Man's surrogate father / THU 12-31-15 / Onetime gig for Wiig / Sickly looking overlord / Terminus of Qingzang railway / Modern civil rights initialism / 1971 documentary about Ravi Shankar

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Constructor: Ben Tausig

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging


THEME: MONOPOLY (65A: Game patented December 31, 1935) — answers that require you to PASS GO (i.e. skip over the letter string "GO") when you read them, if you want the wacky clues to make sense (62A: Round a corner in MONOPOLY ... or what you must do to answer the clues for 20-, 34-, 43- and 56-Across) . With "GO," the phrases are simply common words / things; without "GO," they are wacky answers to wacky "?" clues:

Theme answers:
  • GOOGLE DOCS (20A: Enjoy the swimsuit edition of The New England Journal of Medicine?)
  • CARGO SHORTS (34A: Brief entries in an auto film festival?)
  • WAGON MASTER (43A: Sickly-looking overlord?)
  • EGOMANIACS (56A: People obsessed with being online?)

Word of the Day: SNIP (50D: Insignificant person) —
(google)
• • •

If you think this is weird ... it gets weirder. Let's start with what we have before us: a pretty good, very current / contemporary MONOPOLY-related puzzle with a play-on-words theme (involving the phrase PASS GO). The fact of the game's being patented on December 31, 1935 is the presumptive reason for running this puzzle today. God I love that the actual New Year's Eve-themed puzzle got bumped to non-New Year's Eve for *this*, which is about as obliquely, tenuously, flimsily related to New Year's Eve as a theme can be. You want generic end-of-year holiday crap, go back in time, man. Tonight, we MONOPOLY.


I think the theme holds up pretty well as a tricky Thursday. I don't really know what a WAGON MASTER is, but I assume he masters wagons, or at least drives them. It's strange: when I got GOOGLE DOCS, I just assumed GOOGLE was another word for "stare at" (like OGLE ... or maybe GOGGLE), and so I thought the answer was funny but had no idea the "GO" needed to be passed. So when I got to WAGON MASTER, I was baffled. "How are wagons ... sickly-looking?" Only after the revealer did it become clear (which, I guess, is where "revealer" gets its name—its role in "revealing" or "making clear" the tbeme). I loved all the current references—including the clues on GRETA (27A: Actress Gerwig of "Mistress America"), IFC (71A: Cable channel that airs "Portlandia"), PEELE (12D: Key's longtime partner in sketch comedy), and STEVEN (66A: Psychologist Pinker who wrote "How the Mind Works"). Lots and lots of "?" clues made this one playful and toughish. I did not know SNIP and really doubted it. But there it is, in the dictionary. I will never like RPS (... per second?) or USH, dictionaries be damned. My favorite clues were [Spanish nuts] for LOCO and [Swiftly built home?] for NEST. I also like that Ben got both his own name (UNCLE BEN) and (aurally) the editor's (CARGO SHORTS) into the grid. I am also in the grid, as I had a MIXED DRINK earlier in the evening (Manhattan w/ Knob Creek rye) and I'm currently wearing EYEGLASSES. So there.


So I started this write-up by saying "it gets weirder." To see just how weird, you're going to have to do three more puzzles today: Buzzfeed, American Values Crossword Club, and Brendan Emmett Quigley (AVXC is normally subscription, but *today's* puzzle is FREE). I am telling you this as if *I* know exactly what's going to happen, and I don't. I just know that the four puzzles are all ... related. In a certain way. For certain reasons. Each puzzle stands completely on its own merits, so there's no need to do the other puzzles. In fact, I'm pretty sure the NYT didn't even know it was going to be just one part of a linked set of puzzles that all come out today. That little bit of information—the whole guerrilla crosswording angle—makes me infinitely happy. Anyway ... yeah. Something to look forward to. Happy New Year's Eve, for real.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]

81 comments:

jae 12:08 AM  

Tough for me mostly because I was sure it was angus DEI (which apparently is a hymn) so I was looking for a rebus.

SmOg before SOOT.

Re: Yesterday's NYE puz. If this is a NYE puz other than the game date I'm not getting it, unless WS plays MONOPOLY every NYE.

Cute/clever and reasonably smooth with some crunch (at least for me), liked it.

Da Bears 12:47 AM  

Rex, for more rye mixed drinks, goto:
http://tinyurl.com/phv6mbk

For WAGON MASTER goto:
http://tinyurl.com/jt9mcwa

Nice write-up, but the puzzle is being published in Thursday’s NYT so it is on the 80 anniversary of MONOPOLY.

Quo Vadis 1:05 AM  

'Wagon Master is a 1950 Western film about a Mormon pioneer wagon train to the San Juan River in Utah. The film was conceived, produced, and directed by John Ford... The film stars Ben Johnson, Harry Carey Jr., Joanne Dru, and Ward Bond. Wagon Master inspired the US television series Wagon Train (1957–1965), which starred Ward Bond until his death in 1960. The film was a personal favorite of Ford himself, who told Peter Bogdanovich in 1967 that "Along with The Fugitive and The Sun Shines Bright, Wagon Master came closest to being what I wanted to achieve." While the critical and audience response to Wagon Master was lukewarm on its release, over the years several critics have come to view it as one of Ford's masterpieces.' (Wikipedia).

HNY from Sydney, fellow wagon masters.

David Krost 1:36 AM  

For God's sake Rex, read a little history. Surely, I mean surely you know that covered wagons used to cross the plains to settle the west, and that they did it in large groups for protection. The hired leader of the expedition was, duh, the wagon master. Presumably someone that knew the best way, especially as regarded avoiding hostilities and getting through the Rockies.

Wagon Master is also the name of an old Western movie.

John Hoffman 2:11 AM  

Way too difficult for me. I got nowhere on this one!

Anonymous 6:23 AM  

Hey the puzzle was hard and the theme left me flat. I had to come to Rex's site to suss it out. Grandpa Simpson took some time and the NE corner was the last to fall. Not sure why, but Wagon Train takes me to Blazing Saddles. Mel Brooks is a genius.

Monopoly reminded me of Ralph Anspach and his battle with Parker Bros and his own game, Anti-Monopoly. The WSJ did a piece on him a few years ago. He was an Econ professor at SFSU and a graduate of the University of Chicago. As they say, it's an easy school to get into, but very hard to graduate from.

Happy New Year.

Zippy

Lewis 7:00 AM  

Patrick Berry says what makes a puzzle is the cluing, and this puzzle is a great example. Tricky and clever to put the brain into high gear and elicit many satisfying ahas. Smile inducing clues: MOO, CLEF, BLT, LOCO, EYEGLASSES, AREARUG, and NEST. Some beautiful answers: PLATEAU, SHELLAC. There was a SEND out and a STIR up, plus cleverness to the theme answers which are things with or without the GO.

Never heard of SNIP, hate the look and sound of USH, and think GRILLED as more than its clue "Asked", but with my mind singing and zinging along, dancing on a live wire of alertness and joy, no matter. This one ended the year on a terrific note.

George Barany 7:03 AM  

I enjoyed @Ben Tausig's puzzle, and am curious what is yet to come ... tantalizing hints have been dropped for over a week by some of those on the "inside."

To all the cyberfriends I've made through the good offices of @Rex and this blog, have a healthy and happy New Year!

GILL I. 7:09 AM  

Wow....I actually took some time to worry that @Rex might not like this puzzle ATALL. I loved it because it was so "Go ahead and try to tell me that WAN is not sickly-looking" and CAR SHORTS don't even exist.
USH is kinda cute in a SNIP sort of way. My biggest gripe is the lame answer for a Cosmopolitan. Yeah, it's a MIXED DRINK, but so are so many others. Does anybody remember the Fern Bars in San Francisco back in the 80's where everybody had to have a Cosmopolitan or, if you were special, a Manhattan?
Oh, and RAIN OUT sounds all wrong but then I guess that's the kind of English that sports commentators use for those of us who don't speak it.
I'm actually looking forward to 2016....Hope all of you have a good one!

jberg 7:50 AM  

Zero comments, so I imagine @Rex posted at midnight and went to bed. I'm tantalized by the idea of the linked puzzles, but i'm scurrying to get packed and catch a plane to England, so probably won't have time to do them.

I guess the R in RPS is 'revolutions,' so it's more or less legit to have 'rotational' in the clue, but I'd have been happier with something like 'spin speed.'

It seemed to be that there were more than usual -- and that's good -- of clues that involved a less-common meaning of a word, e.g. 'flag,' 'lie.' That includes SNIP -- @Rex, think of "why that little SNIP! Who does she think she is?"

I read somewhere that the inventor of MONOPOLY intended it as a parody of capitalist greed. I don't think that worked.

Loren Muse Smith 8:16 AM  

This theme is kind of bass-akwards in that the wacky phrases have to be extracted from the real phrases. Nice change-up. And really hard to think of things that would work.

"young osas?" CHICAGO BEARS.
"Messi's bronze skin?" ARGENTINE TANGO.

I try mightily not to see the reveal until the very last, so when I saw how long 62A clue was, I knew it was the reveal, and off PAS_ _, I was thinking some kind of rebus with "paste and go."

My gimme was NUN because I'm quite fluent in Pali. Sigh.

STEVEN Pinker is my hero. Hey – any reader out there who knows him, tell his people to contact my people. We need to be friends. Maybe it's because I live now among wicked-smart people who misuse LIE/lay and are utterly oblivious to pronoun case, and they manage to communicate and live their lives just fine… but I'm becoming more and more weary of grammar snobs.
Perhaps most importantly, since prescriptive rules are so psychologically unnatural that only those with access to the right schooling can abide by them, they serve as shibboleths, differentiating the elite from the rabble. Bingo.

Ben – cool idea, cool execution. And elegant that there's not one stray "go" anywhere in the grid. Who knew MONOPOLY was so old? And that it would spawn bajillions of versions. I just got Bhikkhuniopoly for Christmas.

Andrew Morrison 8:52 AM  

A resounding 'Meh' for me. I am surprised by the RexLove.

chefbea 8:54 AM  

Tough puzzle. Couldn't understand the theme until Rex explained. I agree...very hard clues. Gotta go stir the hoppin john
Have fun watching the ball fall tonight.

Mohair Sam 8:56 AM  

Wow! Absolutely loved this puzzle in spite of the fact that so many of the proper nouns were completely outside our KEN. Very clever theme, and we had to use the revealer to complete the NW where UNCLE BEN, GRETA, and Wiig were unknown to us. Nearly went LOCO trying to figure out LOCO, great clue (same with MOO). NEST (Swiftly built home?) just a gem, btw.

Cannot believe that OFL never heard of a WAGON MASTER (remember Ward Bond?). Of course he probably can't believe that some of us have never heard of Spider Man's UNCLE BEN. The good news is that we all know ELI Manning.

Two nits: Mrs. Mohair wonders why the clue for ADEXEC (Commercial leader?) wasn't abbreviated, or "in short", or something. Me too. And thinking ASKED is mild for "grilled" at 49a.

Looking forward to Rex's puzzle links. Get 'em in here early Rex, I've got two college football games to watch (we never go out New Years Eve, it's amateur night).

Anonymous 9:19 AM  

Loved the freshness of this puzzle with clues that actually relate to things from this century. Compare this to today's utterly stale January 1 bonus puzzle. Maybe I'm missing something. Are the bonus puzzles actually recycled puzzles from past decades?

Hungry Mother 9:26 AM  

I got the theme very early on and was able to leverage it to the solve. The finished grid looked much easier than the effort to get there.

Nancy 9:38 AM  

Once again, I agree with everything @Lewis says. I enjoyed solving the puzzle and found it lively. I liked the clues he liked. I liked the answers he liked. I also breathed a sigh of relief when I realized what the theme was -- relief that spending time online did not make me an EGOMANIAC, but only an EMANIAC, a much less damning term. (I sometimes do worry about the former, if the truth be told, now that I'm spending much more time online than I ever have before.)

Roo Monster 9:38 AM  

Hey All !
The clues seemed to me to be practically Saturday level. Proscription, Insignificant person, Banks, Flag, Understanding, Born bayou, Speck, etc. Just sayin.

Managed to eke out my one letter DNF, RAGe. WeN MASTER sounded OK to me. Even though WeGON MASTER made no sense. Oh well. That little section was the toughest.GRETA Gerwig who?? And not up on my documentaries from 1971...

one-MOO (thinking Dollars=notes), Tokyo-TIBET (off just the T), AhH-AAH (aw!), SmOg-SOOT, siN-NUN (off the SmOg G), iOTa-MOTE (MOTE?).

So a MIXED feeling on this puz. Tough Thursday, odd MONOPOLY tie in theme with GO as an added in /take out thing. Next year I want a complete MONOPOLY theme. It'll be Saturday next NYE. So, maybe another tough 'un.

Happy New Year everybody! Hope 2016 doesn't blow as much as 2015! :-) Stay safe tonight if venturing out.

LOCO NONO
RooMonster
DarrinV

Anonymous 10:05 AM  

Loved this puzzle. Worked my way up from the bottom, so had the help of the revealer all along. Is that a new GRETA vehicle I don't know about? Goody.

@Rex - if you enjoy grapefruit, try the "blinker." 2:1, rye:GJ with a dash of, traditionally, grenadine, but, even better, raspberry syrup. Shake it.

Anonymous 10:06 AM  

I had to Google each of the clues that ofl liked the best. I guess my age is showing. I fear that as time goes on I'll know fewer of the current references. I do think I've heard the expression -a snip of a boy.

kozmikvoid 10:13 AM  

I really enjoyed this one. And I was surprised by Rex's difficulty rating. It took a while to suss out the themers, but once they fell everything else went too. I also put SmOg before SOOT which held me up for a while. But this was far below my Thursday average. I think it's pretty funny that commenters are relating knowledge of a WAGONMASTER to historical acumen. If wagon masters were historically important, they would've been in Oregon Trail. Happy 2016 everyone. I'm gonna go play me some Monopoly.

Wm. C. 10:18 AM  

@Jae --

Re: your ""Angus Dei:"

That's a Beef of God. Tou meant a Lamb (Agnus), I presume. ;-)

Pete 10:23 AM  

Screw Ben Tausing and his egomaniacal attempt to monopolize the entirety of the crossword puzzle universe this day.

Chuck McGregor 10:30 AM  

Only a MOTE of weird stuff in this grid; a SHORT list. Hardly worth disturbing the electrons:

GNAW PEPSI (eat a frozen soda)

COHOST SMOTE (one wonders who they offed?)

Other things of note (to me):

Liked NEE over GEE. Weren’t the NEE GEES a musical group?

Starting off and being Thursday, I wanted to somehow “rebus in” cojones for 3 down. Well….

I got SHELLACed in NW as it only took 14(!) letters worth of write-overs to get it, several of them several times. I’ll spare you the ugly details, except to say you can sort of make out the final, legit letters amongst the inky, Rorschach-like mess.

I don’t know about RPS for “rotational speed meas.” At first the answer meant Revolutions Per Somethings to me, as opposed to Per Second. Of course, RPM is far more usual. The Per Second metric doesn’t even show up in the first ten hits in Google.

However I DO know about CLEF. AAH yes!, (NO NO, not NAY). I don’t HIDE the fact I’m a bass-player. My Maine vanity license plate says: F-CLEF. Other choices I considered for this included “bass,” but I quickly decided against that! Around here most everyone would read and pronounce it as a fish. I don’t fish. I’m not a bass slayer, I’m a bass player (cf. the MOO clue and @ Loren Muse Smith 8:16 AM's "bass-akwards")

HAPPY NEW YEAR Cheers




Charles Flaster 10:42 AM  

Challenging yet an enjoyable solve and terrific cluing.
USH must go.
Liked cluing for EYEGLASSES and AREA RUG.
A WAGON MASTER appeared on an ancient TV show called Wagon Train starring Ward Bond.
One DNF - spelled PEELE as PEaLE .
Thanks BT.

Joseph Michael 10:46 AM  

Great puzzle. And, aside from the fact that today is the 80th anniversary of MONOPOLY, it's slso ghe day we "round a corner" and end up in a new year. So kudos to all involved.

Geometricus 10:55 AM  

If you guys thought this was hard, go try Ben Tausig's free AV club Xword -- it seems easy until you get to the middle, then POW. (Not a spoiler, I hope Rex agrees.)

mac 11:01 AM  

Nice puzzle, with a fairly easy to grasp theme.

Only real holdup was Vatican instead of Opus Dei. Fit with TV hosts.... The - Simpson clue seemed a
little too generic, I had to wait that out a little.

@Loren: don't know Steven Pinker, but heard him speak a few years ago. Let's say he is very self assured.

Z 11:11 AM  

I've done 75% of Ben's Monopoly monopoly puzzles. I finished the AVCX and don't know why (how often have you gotten the "you're done" music and not understood how a whole passel of answers were correct?).

My board game loving son agrees with the gamer consensus that Monopoly is the worst game, at least of those that are widely played. Settlers of Catan or Ticket to Ride are the kind of games that get the thumbs up.

Liked the theme, enjoyed the solve, a fine a Thursday.

Tita 11:12 AM  

What @Lewis said, with an extra smile for LOCO clue.
I got all the themers fairly easily but the WAGONMASTER.
Like @lms said, liked the invertedness of the themers.

Overall, I fine puzzle, though if it were up to me to decide which of the two tributes ran off by a day, I woulda swapped 'em for sure.
Didn't Will run the Tiny Tim puzzle a coupla days early too?

And thanks to everyone here, Rex and all the Rexvillians, and the constructor's, and to Will and staff, for helping make me he 383rd best solver in the world, and for great friendships, not only in cyberspace but occasionally in realspace.

Happy New Year to you all!



Alby 11:15 AM  

ADEXEC threw me for several minutes. Had the C at first, so thought the answer would be HARDC or some such.

Leapfinger 11:16 AM  

Yes, well, there was nothing AULD about this one, was there? A PLATEAU can be a Butte, and I thought this one was, a Beaut fer real. For some unknown reason, I thought this was going to turn into a NYE theme, but it didn't GO there, so reveal was a big surPRIZE, AAH!!

Like @Rex, loved the clues for LOCO and NEST, but it was the Fly-holder PANTS got the chortle. First had YOU as 'Half of us' (influenced by M&A, most likely) and DYE for 'Put down roots'. Now you know all my secrets.

@jae, I had to work my way to OPUS_DEI also, but didn't have quite the same steak in Angus DEI that you did. I saw Amanda Plummer in Agnes DEI AEONS ago, so that's another shoal I have to avoid.

Big doings tonight, lots to prep, but want to thank the entire cast for showing up here this year. It's been something between a kaleidoscope and a smorgasbord, so I can't tell whether to turn it or eat it, but it sure has turned out tasty. Special thanks to the special people, and can I get an O MEN?



cwf 11:42 AM  

Yeah, I agree this was a pleasure to solve. The entire thematically-related quartet of @datageneral puzzles went well with a glass of iced coffee.

Paul Johnson 11:53 AM  

I'm not missing Tausig. I had a year subscription to his puzzles laced with juvenile sexual innuendos and a bunch of things way too hip. Could explain LGBT as "Modern civil rights initialism". Very PC. And Ben did work in OGLE AAH EYE TEASE and DOIT. So maybe he met his titillation quota. I'll PASS (GO) on puzzles by this guy.

Barbara Weinstein 12:01 PM  

The older among us (never "the old"--age is always relative) remember the TV series "Wagon Train" (1957-65) and its wagon masters, Ward Bond and then John McIntire. I recall loving it as a kid, but its "white man triumphing over the red man" politics would now make it unwatchable.

Like Rex, I couldn't figure out why "wagon" meant sickly until the reveal.

My only objection to this puzzle: adexec

Merle 12:04 PM  

Jae, Agnus Dei means Lamb of God, which means Jesus, and Opus Dei means Work of God.

Rex, re Wagon Master, pass go and you have wan master, a pale, sickly overlord. It is part of the theme.

old timer 12:11 PM  

Pretty much agree with @Mohair Sam, above. I thought it was a great puzzle. And I thought OFL was just a bit petulant, to renew his claim that yesterday's puzzle should have been today's. Yesterday was almost too easy for a Wednesday. This one was easy in some ways once you got the revealer. When I got it I was able to GO back and put in GO OGLE DOCS. But I found the NE almost undoable until I GOOGLEd for Key's partner PEELE. Finished by writing SOOT where I'd had "smog" and therefore SOD, giving me USH.

Which goes back at least to the 1960s, probably before. My friend the Art History grad student thought he was pretty clever to describe his weekly job at the Symphony as "USHing". But it did get him free admission, and a seat somewhere on the main floor of the Opera House, where the Symphony played back in my college days.

Teedmn 12:15 PM  

I agree that the connection between this puzzle theme and New Year's Eve is very tenuous, but I liked the freshness of the theme and its execution of nicely whacky phrases..

I got the theme at WAGONMASTER (isn't that the term for the person leading the WAGON train?) though for a brief while I was trying for MApsTER because I had AGApe at 31D. And my Low note? was a "one" dollar bill and I went blank on KEY's partner in comedy and had "stEel" momentarily. But a successful finish to the 2015 puzzle year, so thank you Ben Tausig.

I have to admit that I have never completed a game of MONOPOLY. My friend and I would play until it was time to start buying property and we'd count our money and declare a winner, ho hum, makes me tired just thinking about it. I've never been talked into playing a game since then; one look at my glazed eyes and they give up.

Have a safe and happy New Year, everyone.

Music Man 12:22 PM  

I'm not sure how you got those puzzles, as buzzfeed for me is not showing it as posted (though your link works somehow) and I didn't get the American values puzzle in my inbox yet. I'm confused.

Gabby Hayes 12:44 PM  

Joanne Dru was quite the dish

jae 12:45 PM  

@Wm C. et. al. I'm going to blame angus on a typo, dyslexia and failure to proof my post (that should cover it). I do know agnus means lamb, must have had burgers on my subconscious mind.

I highly recommend that anyone interested in doing the 4 Tausig puzzles today read the interview with Ben at the BEQ site. Click on Rex's link to get there

MetroGnome 12:56 PM  

Rare Thursday for me -- I actually enjoyed it! The "gimmick," so to speak, had to do with actual wordplay, not self-indulgent puzzle-geek construction tricks/"gotcha!" games.

Finished everything except the northeast corner with all those television references. Nonetheless, enjoyable, and a certain "SMUG" sense of satisfaction in almost entirely completing a puzzle that Rex categorized as "medium/challenging"!

Carola 1:01 PM  

Just tough enough, plenty of wit, fun to solve. The idea of a swimsuit issue of the NEJM cracked me up. We get the journal at our house, and the only things to ogle are various sorts of pathology. Not sure how the articles' authors would look in Speedos and bikinis. I was also tickled by CARGO SHORTS, a nice surprise after I'd been considering the lackluster CAR SceneS.

Add me to those who immediately envisioned Ward Bond as the WAGON MASTER and to the fans of SHELLAC and PLATEAU.

Chaos344 1:14 PM  

Loved this puzzle. Couldn't figure out where it was going at first. I was expecting the clue answer to start as an across entry and maybe finish as a down entry? That's been done before. I finally got the Monopoly angle, and that allowed me to pretty much rip through the remaining half of the puzzle. I couldn't remember who Spider-Man's uncle was either, but when it filled in I had to chuckle. It brought to mind an old riddle:

Question: What's small, white,and crawls up your leg?
Answer: Uncle Ben's Perverted Rice!

@Da Bears: Happy New Year John! Go Spartans!

@LMS: Great comment Loren, especially the highlighted section. Very perspicacious of you to recognize the prevailing mindset of the self-anointed elite. You'll seldom be cited by the grammar or PC police at Rexs',since the "rabble" here aren't that pretentious. Unless a faux pas is particular egregious, most commenters just let it pass. Also, no Emus! We don't need no stinking Emus! But of course you know all this.

You and Leapy have forced me to place a protective cover over my keyboard when I peruse the blogs. It's easier than trying to forgo my morning coffee while I read them.

Happy New Year to all !!!!!!

Bob Kerfuffle 1:28 PM  

D'oh! Finished, on paper, with 31 D as AGAST instead of AGASP, and never noticed! I am AGHAST!

Happy New Year to all!

Ludyjynn 1:35 PM  

I had two hiccups, easily remedied: 'purse' before GRASP and 'smog' before SOOT. For a Thursday, this was a walk in the park, much easier than a typical rebus is for me. Don't mean to sound SMUG, but MONOPOLY was my favorite childhood board game, so I sussed the theme very early (no LIE).

Speaking of hiccups, I got to the puzzle later than usual due to a mandatory pit stop at the liquor store this morning. Many MANIACS vying for parking spots and filling their shopping carts with more AGED booze, MIXED DRINK potables and RED ALE than I use in a year or three! No one was buying PEPSI. I was literally AGASP looking around the snaking checkout lines.

Well clued puzzle with many nice words already duly noted by the commentariat. Thanks, BT and WS. Whatever your plans this evening, everyone, have a happy!



nick 1:40 PM  

Loved the cluing one. Got caught a few times (smog/soot) and hate 'ush' as much as 'elhi', but this was so firmly in the 21st century, the drek was promptly forgiven.

Numinous 1:48 PM  

Chiming in here to ring in the New Year. Wishing all of you a terrific 2016.

I've never been a fan of MONOPOLY. I've always thought it was tedious. I do appreciate that MI9 used it to send escape kits to POWs in WWII.

This played out about average for me with only two googles. Getting PASS GO and MONOPOLY turned the tide for me though I did have to google for PEELE and NUN. I had enough crosses to figure out MASTER and adding GO gave me the whole answer. Small smile there remembering Ward Bond. Used to watch that show without fail. My mother thought he was hot.

May the New Year live up to all y'alls' hopes and dreams.

Norm 2:31 PM  

I tend to be a fan of puns, but I thought this puzzle was very weak. EMANIACS was clever, but WAN MASTER and CAR SHORTS rated a definite meh, and OGLE DOCS was just plain creepy. I'll give Tausig credit for a nice revealer, and there wasn't any horrible fill, but I don't have much love for this puzzle -- or for his tour de force (if it amounts to that) at having four related puzzles on the same day. The one at BEQ was over too quickly, and the AV Club was an astoundingly clever piece of construction, but not a lot of fun. Your mileage may have varied. All in all, I'm underwhelmed.

beatrice 2:51 PM  

Today's musical word was NUN; a number of Catholic nuns composed music as well as sang in their convents. The works of the Benedictine Chiara Cozzolani have been re-discovered in recent years; she was apparently much celebrated in her time. Her OPUS 'Laudate pueri' seems to me appropriate for this day.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yMpzPMkrALM

Brief but interesting Wiki article - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chiara_Margarita_Cozzolani

And, just because I was reminded of it and it's one of my favorite pieces by one of my favorite composers and it's brief and joyous, the 'Cantate Domino' of Claudio Monteverdi. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AlAmO-YMhws

Good New Year Wishes to One and All.

ani 3:14 PM  

It's lamb, not steak: angus dei :)

Jamie C 4:10 PM  

I cannot second Rex's recommendations enough, especially the American Values Club puzzle. Spectacular. Why can't the NY Times get puzzles this good?

I Must Be Strunk 4:22 PM  

@Loren, that was a Steven Pinker Ton of verbiage you linked us to. I couldn't managed but about a 100 lbs' worth. Whom should I complain to?

Leapfinger 5:03 PM  

@Norm, you thought OGLE_DOCS was creepy? I could tell you stories would challenge your gag reflex.

I had __LEBEN and came up with GENTLE_BEN. UNC=GENT?? NONO! (just kidding)

Speaking of UNCLE_BEN, @Chaos, that riddle of yours has put me off rice for the foreseeable future.

Don't think I ever actually finished a game of Monopoly; most often, it was "Go to Jail, Go Directly to Jail; Do Not Pass Go, Do Not Collect $200"

Happy New Year from the Community Chest.

Slow Motion 5:04 PM  

Was really hoping "Spanish nuts" would be JUEVOS, but LOCO was still fun.

OISK 5:47 PM  

A miserable, slow slog for me, although I got the theme early on. Don't know who "Wilg" is. Don't know anything about Spider Man. Who are Key and Peele??? Steven Pinker? Raga??? Grampa??? Greta Gerwig?? Aoki again?

Yet I did finish it correctly. Surprised others liked it so much. Yes, the cluing for the non pop-culture clues was very clever. But it was ruined for me by just too many "Wha???' s.

Anonymous 6:31 PM  

@Slow Motion: you were lucky it was not, for it is spelled HUEVOS (eggs).

Aketi 7:37 PM  

Happy New Year everyone. As near as I can tell I'm the only one who actually finished a MONOPOLY game. We often played it endlesslyy over the Christmas holidays to the bitter end. Our playing was accompanied by many bowls of popcorn and cups of hot chocolate. I think my parents suffered through it with MIXED DRINKS. I have vague memories of Bloody Mary's in their hands while we were all playing in our PJS.

@chaos344, thx for the reminder of the protective cover for the keyboard if I ever get vertical enough to read the blog on the computer. A plastic bib might work better for my semireclined coffee sipping blog reading in the am.

Z 7:47 PM  

@LMS - Great article.

old timer 9:51 PM  

Huevos, and boy was my face red when I asked the Latino proprietor of a local little store in San Francisco, "tiene usted huevos"? When he stopped laughing at me, he reminded me that the proper, non-anatomical question would have been, "hay huevos hoy"? (Are there eggs today?")
.
.

Diana,WIL 11:21 PM  

It's New Year's Eve. In Syndie Land, our puzzles are Thanksgiving style. I'm watching a slew of ASTA movies on TCM (Nick and Nora sleuths) and am realizing how adorable that pup was. Woopf! Long live ASTA



Also, realizing - that's not true, just wanting to say - that pop culture has changed in subtle and not-so-subtle ways. We discuss almost daily whether a puzzle is "old" or "fresh" when it comes to cultural references. "Stale" some say, or "fresh" others state.



I am here to proclaim the ultimate argument on "old vs. new" in puzzie notes.



Sure - it's nice, fresh, and good to have some "current" references in the NYTP. After all, it's the NYTP! However, cultural references have changed in one very specific way in the last coupla decades. Are you ready? Here's my argument:



Years ago, in the not-so distant past, we had 3 TV channels, land-line telephones, and letters.



Now, we have 700-plus TV channels, Smart/Stupid/Land/I?and phone of the day phones. "Social Media" has us in touch with a few thousand people we'll never meet. All of these outlets give us news of music/shows/news/celebrities/reality people, and various variations.



In other words, we used to have a common culture. We now have a jillion possibilities.l It's just too much to expect the average (or even uncommon "puzzer person") to keep track of.



THIS IS WHY PUZZLES THAT SKEW "OLDER" ARE FAIRER!!!!!!!!!! We all know Lucy and Ricky, Abe was Lincoln, Asta was that cute pooch, and Shirley Temple was Shirley
Temple. I know what a Victrola is, how to do the Charleston, and why quill pens were used to sign the Declaration of Independence. Even old media is still the "norm" via re-runs.



Yes, it's fair to glean the wheat from the chaff by discovering who knows the "angry goddess of toe fungus," or the "Urdu phrase for nose hairs." We all (we crossworders) need to have a bit of knowledge of extreme trivia. However, a puz filled with only "current" trivia (names/titles/etc.) is merely frustrating. And, ultimately...stupid. There. I said it. STUPID. WHO CARES?



I mean, I can answer questions that were "popular" in my mother's time, and in my grandmother's time...but the rapper who had a small audience last week, or the reality show about to be cancelled, is not going to be in that group - EVER!!!



That's my opin, and I wonder watcha think?



Love reading y'all...



Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords (now in puzzle third grade :-) )



LaneB 9:56 AM  

6a.m. New Year's Day, and though it took me forever, I did finish, helped by recognition of the theme and related trick, and also by seeing some connection between 54d (PANTS) and 20a (DOCS) and 34a (CARGOSHORTS). To ugh but clever and gratifying.

Jim Finder 11:01 AM  

Diana, your argument works for me. I'll add a corollary. Celebrities are welcome once they've become known to enough of the NYTP audience. Say 5 years? Cf. the Natick Principle. Long enough so they're no longer just flashy nobodies? Or qualify as future classics? OTOH, important current events--presidents, queens, treaties, iPhones etc.--are legit even if new.

Jim Finder 11:04 AM  

Very wise, Diana. Entries must be at least "future classics."

Mary VK 10:37 PM  

Fifty years ago my future mother-in-law told someone I was a little "snip." I will never forget that word!

Tita 10:55 AM  

Greetings @Diana...in IMO, it's simpler than that.
Far more stuff has occurred from the Big Bang up through 10 years ago than has happened in the past 10 years.
There is simply more material available...even with today's big data of tweets, instagrams, and channels.

So without going through the worth of any particular reference, just take the emotion out of dissing something just because it's from a tv show from the days of 3 channels, or because it dates from the days of 5000. Why would any creator limit the pool of stuff from which to create?

I've always wondered where that line lives between current and musty.

Diana,LIW 10:05 PM  

He writes the ODES
to puzzles all
Let's celebrate
The B S ball
Burma Shave!

Which day? 9th? 10th? Both? Just had a new year's duplication.

When shall we party???????????

(re-creates the Eve Eve question)

D,LIW

Tita 1:03 AM  

@Diana...can I get a ride in that deLorean one day?

Burma Shave 9:43 AM  

LOCO RENO NONO

When GRAMPA and UNCLEBEN have a MIXEDDRINK or two,
they get SMUG and they LIE and have ISSUES with what’s TRUE.
Those AGED EGOMANIACS TEASE girls, GEE they put on a show,
but you SEE, unlike MONOPOLY, they’ll never PASSGO.

--- WAGONMASTER KEN

Torb 11:58 AM  

Tough one but finally finished. Smog instead of soot. Tune instead of true. Hated ush. Goony theme. Loved Rainout and Arearug.

spacecraft 12:03 PM  

Well, here in Syndiland it's more "Happy Chinese New Year!" than anything else. Skipping to gimme AOKI (what a marvelous fellow for crosswordese--for BOTH names!), it looked like MONOPOLY and, by extension, PASSGO was the WAYTOGO. Still, the cluing in this one--not even Saturday; say, 11:30 Saturday night!--was a constant source of doubts and hesitations. Hand up for smog.

But I persevered, and managed to finish correctly sans help. Took me a good while, because like many, I didn't know GRETA, STEVEN or PEELE. I did know WAGONMASTER: good old Ward Bond going "Set 'em up, move 'em out! Wagons: HOo!" You guys are too young. At least I didn't have any rappers to deal with. While not AGASP (ugh!), I give it an A-.

Longbeachlee 12:32 PM  

PassGo and Monopoly were almost my first entry. What other game has an expression for turning a corner? Doesn't anyone say "Do not pass go, do not collect 200 dollars" any more? Here it is in song at 2:52
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Yik8zm8SVA

BS2 12:56 PM  

@Diana, LIW - The first verse-after-puzzle was for the Jan 25, 2015 puzzle that appeared on Feb 9, 2015 in syndie-land. It was one that would actually have fit on those old Burma Shave signs and was particular to an answer of the day. OFL had started his commentary with a "Roses are red ... ", so I just followed suit with my own verse. Then evolution.

So next Monday will be the 365th consecutive day with at least one verse, Tuesday will be the anniversary date. I am available for parties, you TEASE.

rondo 1:24 PM  

I had little idea of what was happening until I got the revealers down south then started filling vast open areas on the way back up north. Tough to GRASP at first.

I remember playing MONOPOLY on an old board from the 1930s that was my mother’s. It might have been one of the very originals, but the playing pieces must have disappeared as all we had were those different colored pieces that somewhat resemble a chess pawn.

GRETA Gerwig takes the yeah baby award today, by default if not by outright deserving it.

It’s been so hectic today that I’m ready to EYEGLASSES of MIXEDDRINKs. Whaddya think @D,LIW, wanna DOIT?

Nary a write-over, but I know it took some time to get to the end. I’ll take this instead of a more typical rebus puz. TRUE. No LIE.

rain forest 1:57 PM  

Way to go @Lady Di and @Burma Shave. Is it the one-year anniversary?

In addition to the creativity of the theme, the constructor took care to enable one to get the proper names via crosses, even if one didn't know them, four of which I didn't. Really, who ARE Key and PEELE?

I initially thought I had a massive DNF on my hands after getting only RELIES, OPUS DEI, TEASE, SEE, AND ATM up top. Much more successful going to the bottom, all of which went down pretty quickly, and, more importantly, gave me the revealer (which was *actually* a revealer). I was able to go back and figure out the themers after that. Loved so many of the clues/answers in this one.

I wasn't quite AGASP at this one, but quite impressed.

Diana,LIW 2:48 PM  

What I most remember about playing MONOPOLY as a kid was learning about the concept of "cheating" from my friend, Carol. The rules changed each time we played. Also learned in school that some kids would LIE call others names, and had ISSUES with both, as they were beyond my KEN.

dnf? dnf??? how about dnb?? Here's my process, in brf:

Fill in ELI, MONOPOLY, PEPSI. Stare at clues. Watch brain slither back to bed. Stare some more. Take a tip from Carol - cheat like crazy! Get toe hold. Brilliant! Awful! Got it! Huh? GEE! NAY! I'm the MASTER! UNCLE! Surprised at what I did get. Surprised at what I didn't. I fall on my epee. Rinse. Repeat.

Having graNpa in the grid didn't help me any.

Got the theme, but FLAGed the rest way too early.

On a recent PUZ note, NPR told me this morning that it's CAMRON's birthday - he's 40. Coulda used that a few days back. I get almost all my pop culture from NPR, the paper, occasional accidental channel surfing during the day. At a certain age one's circadian clock resets, and I find myself up early, but tucked in with my book (that I'll fall asleep reading) before 9, or 8, so if late-nite entertainment isn't repeated during the day or mentioned in the news, I don't have it. Today I certainly wasn't breathing the same air as Ben.

Have you ever noticed what a nice guy @Lewis is? Nary a discouraging word. When all is said, I agree with his assessment today, with the obvious exception of utterly failing today's quiz.

Now, where did I park the deLorean...

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords

BS2 3:34 PM  

Typo above - first verse was for Jan 5 puzzle that ran Feb 9, 2015 for syndies. Must proofread.

BS3 4:31 PM  

COHOSTS NEST

SMUG as bugs in an AREARUG, in her CARGOSHORTS were ants.
They GNAW and claw and GRASP and tug, and made the NUN PEELE off her PANTS.

--- GRETA OPUSDEI (NEE ASCII)

leftcoastTAM 5:11 PM  

Probably last, today, but so what.

MONOPOLY, PASSGO revealers opened it up at EGOMANIACS. Then ISSUES of finding the other GO words. GOOGLEDOCS was the last of them to GO.

GRAMPA and GRETA were a bit slow to be IDED. (What would Marge think?)

Fun, medium-challenging solve.

Scotsman 11:23 AM  

For a smart guy who's great at crossword puzzles, Rex often seems a bit slow on the uptake when sussing out themes. I immediately parsed GOOGLEDOCS as GO OGLE DOCS, and then at CAR(GO) SHORTS, I said, ah, the "GO" is superfluous! And the other themes fell into place easily.
I also wonder about people who complain (brag?) that they've never heard of The Simpsons or SNL or Spider-Man or other huge, well-known cultural phenomena as if it were the puzzle's fault. Nobody knows everything, but these are not exactly arcane, obscure references. I for one know almost nothing about opera, classical music, Latin Hymns, or European rivers, but I accept that these things show up in crossword puzzles from time to time and I deal with it. I even learn things now and then. How boring it would be if I knew all the answers every day.
Anyway, I guess I'm in a complain-y mood today. As for the puzzle itself, I liked it a lot. Nice and crunchy. Tough enough to offer some resistance and that I was proud to finish it without Googling (DOCS?), but not so tough that it stopped being fun. Plenty of clever clues and a-ha moments and a minimum of drecky fill. A fun Thursday!

5wkslater 4:20 PM  

A tip of the hat to Will Shortz for furthering my education. Whenever he introduces a fresh answer more than once in a short period of time - in this case, Steven Pinker - I figure I'd be better off by learning a little bit about that person or concept. And generally it's true.

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