## Thursday, February 4, 2016

Constructor: Jeff Chen

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: Square ROOT — familiar phrases ending in successive square numbers (1, 4, 9, 16)  instead end in the square roots of those numbers. Your clue to change the final number to its square root is in the circled squares of the SW corner, which spell out RO/OT in a little square pattern [Note accompanying the puzzle reads: "The four long Across answers are affected by a literal interpretation of the circled boxes"]

• HOLE IN ONE (one is the square root of ONE) (17A: Ace)
• FANTASTIC TWO (two is the square root of FOUR) (28A: Marvel Comics group)
• ON CLOUD THREE (three is the square root of NINE) (45A: Elated)
• SWEET FOUR (four is the square root of SIXTEEN) (60A: Milestone birthday)
Word of the Day: Cabaret Voltaire (38D: Cabaret Voltaire iconoclasts => DADAISTS) —
Cabaret Voltaire was the name of a nightclub in Zurich, Switzerland. It was founded by Hugo Ball, with his companion Emmy Hennings on February 5, 1916 as a cabaret for artistic and political purposes. Other founding members were Marcel Janco, Richard Huelsenbeck, Tristan Tzara, and Sophie Taeuber-Arp and Jean Arp. Events at the cabaret proved pivotal in the founding of the anarchic art movement known as Dada. (wikipedia)
• • •

This opened up quickly. For reasons I don't understand, in a move I can't even plausibly recreate, the first clues that I looked at in this puzzle were in the NE. This never happens. Why would I look there first? First clue I remember seeing was 10D: Provider of contacts, informally (EYE DOC), and I thought "OPTISH?" Oh, no, now I remember that the first clue I looked at was 16A: Patient of a 10-Down, and I decided to see what the cross-ref was. Still weird that I was looking in the NE first. When I couldn't get either eye clue, I got HMM (9D: "That's odd..."), and then, because I knew eyes were involved (because of "contacts"), I got MYOPE. All of these unusual, uncharacteristic opening moves led to the accidental *quick* uncovering of the theme, when I dropped MODEST FEE down and then got FEN WEAR ONME ... and thus had TWO in place when I looked at the first themer I saw: 28A: Marvel Comics group. No ... that's not right. I traveled all the way down to SWEET FOUR. *That's* when I got what was going on (inferred the gimmick w/o actually having to fill in the circled squares. After that, the themers were practically transparent, and since very little in the grid was unusual or clued in a particularly tough way, I burned through this in just over five. That puts this on the border between Easy and Easy-Medium, but I felt like knowing OBAN (42A: Scottish seaport known for its single-malt Scotch) and BARACUS (24A: B.A. of the A-TEAM) gave me a weird advantage, so I adjusted my difficulty rating accordingly. (PS you all—well, most of you—have seen BARACUS before; he was in this puzzle buy joon pahk back in August)

This was a clean and enjoyable puzzle for the most part. Had trouble with DINK (7D: Surprise volleyball shot) and ADS (which is the answer I wanted, but a "pitcher" ... I'm not sure who that is here. A person? If so, s/he has ad ideas, right? Not ads per se? Something about the phrasing made me distrust ADS even though I kinda knew it was right) (6A: What a pitcher is full of?). [Baby BUMP] is a nice, modern clue. Same with TOM Ford. I'm never sure how the TSE is going to be spelled in LAO TSE (46D: Father of Taoism). I feel like TZE and TZU and TSU are all accepted variants—can that be right? Looks like TSU never, TZU rarely, TZE once (22 years ago), and TSE almost always. I'll remember that next time I need to plow forward. TSE! TSE! TSE!

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

jae

Once I figured out where the shaded/circled (depending on your platform) boxes were this was pretty easy. OBAN was a WOE and I tried orBITS before AMBITS and ADe before ADS, but that was it for hiccups. FWIW, this week's AV Club puzzle by Francis Heaney, which was supposed to be a gentle 3.5 (out of 5), was a lot tougher than this one.

Smooth and clever, liked it.

kozmikvoid

I don't know...I didn't particularly care for this one. The theme was simple, and it seems the clues are trying too hard to be hip in certain spots. THERAFLU as cold war weapon? You fight a cold. You battle a cold. But are you at war with one? And of all the commonly used *things* that you get BLACKLISTed from, Hollywood is not high on the list. Casinos, former employers, social clubs, Raymond Reddington's Christmas card list (could anyone be more perfect for that role than James Spader?), etc. Both answers are fine, but they seem desperate. Likewise with ADS. I get it - marketing pitchmen (pitchers) deliver advertisements - but it's flat. HMM and AHEM in the North seems a bit lazy. I'd say this was more on the easy side.

Or, it was a fine Thursday and I'm just still cranky about yesterday's debacle. I'm thinking it's the former, but I could be wrong.

Molson

Best NYT puzzle of the year so far, IMO. Clever theme, some nice clever clues and clean fill. Oban is the worst thing in the puzzle.

David W

I'll give ADS some slack because it fooled me enough to leave ADE there for a while. Fun puzzle.

Did anyone notice that the NYT web page solver changed today? I liked the previous version a lot, this incarnation less so.

Trombone Tom

I had a harder time with this than did OFL, but I have to pretty much agree with his write-up. I finally tipped to the theme when I got SWEET FOUR. I didn't see the note, just the circled ROOT square.

Tried chaos for KARMA and that held me up. Being a MYOPE I had no problem with that or EYE DOC. Good misdirection on KILO. Those years of watching "A-Team" paid off. Had the same quibble as @Rex with what a pitcher is full of.

Good workout Mr. Chen but on the easy side for a Thursday.

Loren Muse Smith

Somehow I never can remember the exact path of my solve. I do know today that I started in the southeast, and once I had uncovered enough of 45a AND 60a, I saw the trick. Oh, wow. Cool. So the ONE came after the fact and didn't throw me; even I know that 1x1 is ONE.

Rex – I disagree about there being no tough clues. I found the clues for THERAFLU, ADHERE ("accrete" is a word?), OIL RIGS, and AIR pretty hard.

I kept going back and forth between "detox" and REHAB until I finally accepted AHEM as a synonym of "um." AHEM (Um), you might wanna check your zipper.

B. A. BARACUS had vanished from my memory, but now that you remind me, Rex, I remember back then not getting it. So I had "Barabus" before BARACUS. I might've kept it had I not noticed that I had a "bat door." Can you imagine? How would you train the little guys to use it?

Anyone else spot 5D's Anna in that G SUIT?

@M&A – TOM wormed his way back into today's grid, too. Sneaky guy.

Jeff – I saw your news last night on FB – another baby BUMP on the way for Jill! You think 8D was a distant memory before, buddy… just wait!

Congrats on both fronts. This was a great Thursday offering.

Anonymous

Puzzle would have been much better without the info hint. A the hint was unnecessary and ruined the AHA moment so,very would otherwise have had.

Lewis

Greatly liked this one. It made me work; much of the cluing tricky but not unfair. This was the kind of work I love, where I just know that if I stick with it, it will come.

I never saw the note and therefore don't think it was necessary. I think my solve was more satisfying without it. DINK popped into my head from seemingly nowhere; I love when that happens. Terrific clues for BLACKLIST, CITADEL, EYEDOC, HEMEN, CATDOOR, and ALOHA (the return of the uke man). There is a SET down and a WEAR out. Never a doubt in my mind that a Jeff Chen puzzle will be clean clean clean.

OBAN is a nice place to stay, with some excellent restaurants, and it is a springboard for taking ferries to isles with astonishing scenery. The distillery is worth the visit.

Happy to be back here after a little trip!

GILL I.

Well, I was just going about my business west of the PECOS and doing swimmingly, thank you very much, until I got to the East and felt I was coming down with NECK ON ME SORES. I'm wearing my dumb hat, I kept thinking. Finally saw the "ROOT" in the little basement corner and thought TIS SWEET.
I enjoyed the cluing. Jeff Chan always does a good job and I don't think he's particularly sneaky - just whimsical.
Didn't "The Martian" and the A TEAM come out about the same time?
MYOPE looks like it should be myopia although I'm more of an amblyopia type person.
Baby BUMP....Aaaaack - that and baby daddy...

Anonymous

@kozmik - I'm sure 34D refers to HOLLYWOOD professionals being themselves BLACK-LISTed during the McCarthy "era." IMO the clue for 40D is rather successful joke/misdirect combo.

AliasZ

This was a cool, enjoyable puzzle, solved while "The Ninth Man" was playing on TCM in the background (sometimes in the foreground). The shaded ROOT-square revealer was a nice touch, although the way I read it, it was a ROTO-square. Oh yeah, now it all makes sense: a "ROTO-root"-er.

I liked the fill also, but I found it too commercial what with IPODS here, TOM Ford there, an AD HERE and ADS there, here a KARO, THERAFLU, etc. My pitcher is half-full with ADS already. Plus chop SUI.

Jeff Chen is nothing if not full of himself, there is no MODESTFEE in him at all. Me, me, me, everything is ON ME: EYE DOC, MY OPE, ME DIC (don't call ME DIC, INOT like that). But still, I think he is AGENT, no one gets ARISE out of him because he always SLEEPS IN pajamas. Here is A TOAST to you, Jeff. And also to my friend OWIE.

Speaking of A TOAST, I have to eat breakfast and get to work. These are MUSTS.

But not before Symphony No. 625, also called "the little G-minor" by Mozart.

Happy Thursday!

PS. Isn't there A TEAM called the San Francisco Seveners?

Nancy

I enjoyed this a lot, even though it wasn't a rebus, and I thought the gimmick was cute and original. I had to guess to avoid a natick at the OBAN/BUMP/PIONS crossing -- and happily I guessed right. Somewhere in the vague fog of my foggy memory, I thought I recalled that PIONS was a word. (I had -IONS). Baby---- could have been anything, and the only geographical O-ANs I know are OMAN and ORAN. (Surprising, because I like Scotch.)

I found humor in the theme answers, especially SWEET FOUR. I also think it's good that the puzzle doesn't tell you where the "affected long answers" are. They just as well could have been at BLACKLIST and THE MAFIA. That made it important to go to the shaded answers early on, and it made the puzzle more challenging. A nice job.

jberg

Yeah, BLACKLIST was pretty timely, given that there's a movie about Dalto Trumbo in theaters. It still took me a little while to figure out -- I'm not up on my Buddhism, and wasn't sure whether it was KARMA or Darma (except that the latter more often has a silent H in it).

I also never noticed the significance of ROOT's being in a square, to identify what kind of root we're dealing with here. Nice touch.

I've seen the A-TEAM once or twice, but never knew the back story, so that one was tough OBAN, on the other hand, was a gimme. Put me down on the plus side for this one.

Teedmn

I found this puzzle pretty hard. I was solving online rather on paper so that always adds time for me but still, half an hour on Thursday is not usual.

I thought the theme was very clever. I missed the "bonus" comment until after I got it so no spoilers for me. After seeing the comment, I had to go look at the circled letters to see what I had missed there. Ah, ROOT, just as I suspected. It was annoying that I had started filling ON CLOUD ---- early on at 45A and took it out when it didn't fit. But like @Rex, when I finally got WEAR and ONME in the East, FANTASTIC TWO gave me the trick. I then saw ON CLOUD THREE and put FOUR at the end of 60A so the theme helped with the solve.

(I have a wild turkey on my deck railing, always weird to see those huge birds right outside my window. Be vewy, vewy quiet!).

@LMS, I think the problem would be to keep the bats OUT. We have several bat houses near our garage and every year they are occupied. You can hear them scrabbling around in there, and at night, if you are watching at the right time, you can watch them emerge for some night hunting. I haven't noticed that the mosquito population has been adversely affected though.

Tons of writeovers today - the software tells me I changed 51 squares. And a DNF at the OBAN/AGENT/GIST area. I had SLEEPS oN, which meant GIST was "moST" and it was Chemical what? I hit the Check button and fixed it, sigh.

Thanks, Jeff Chen and WS.

Roo Monster

Hey All !
Neat concept. The Online NYT Puz had the note. Yea for me! Caught it at FANTASTIC TWO, as wanting Four, but WEAR and ON ME were sure. After that, got HOLE IN ONE, and for a second, the ole brain said, "Wait, how can that be the actual phrase if Fantastic Four is TWO?" Then the light shown, and the Ahhhhh moment. 1x1=1. Felt like a dummy. (Side note: Why is it Dumb and Dummy, not Dumby?)

AMBITS a WOE, had orBITS, even with knowing oSTO was wrong, but took the DNF, as never would've sussed that one. And other wrong'un, lUMP for BUMP! Baby lUMP sounds reasonable, eh?

Some neat clues in here, the ATEAM one, SALAD, TIS, ALOHA, THEMAFIA, SLEEPSIN, THERAFLU. Low block count, light dreck, clever concept. Nice easier side for a ThursPuz.

Re: Yesterdays Puz, speaking of easy, agree with most that it was way easy for a WedsPuz. Thought I was getting smarter, but alas. It really did seem like it should've been at the most a TuesPuz.

Dollar bill with Washington missing? HOLE IN ONE
Batman and Robin? FANTASTIC TWO
Only slighty happy? ON CLOUD THREE
1/3 of a dozen donuts? SWEET FOUR

Don't BLACKLIST me over those! :-)

HONEST OWIE
RooMonster
DarrinV

Hartley70

It's Thursday. We did not need that hint. I'm sorry I tapped on the little flashing "i" because the puzzle was over and done way too fast.

I had Baby RUTH right til the end when KARMA kicked it out. I never cared for them much as a kid. The chocolate on the outside was poor quality and even in the fifties I was anxiously hoping for good chocolate to arrive from overseas. Additionally they were ruined further by their inclusion in a particularly adolescent movie scene. I'd be surprised if they're still sold today. Anyway KARMA gave me BUMP and that digression was put to rest.

I've never heard of a PION or a DINK. The P could have been any letter at all, so it was H for a while and I assumed the H was for hydrogen. I wonder what the P represents now. DINK just sounds, well, rinky-DINK to my ear...with a touch of Jimmy Durante thrown in for fun.

Chuck McGregor

For me, a big change from yesterday. Not easy at all. Only when reviewing it did I look at the constructor’s name and that explained it. One hour and a SWEET (4^2) minutes. (normlly a slow solver so actually not that bad for me on a hard one.)

Finally had to do a check puzzle and my Baby mUMs was wrong. OmAN (I know, in Scotland?) and s-IONS seemed fine.

Had a couple of great (I thought) fills with no crosses:

FAIR PRICE (Reasonable charge)
SNOW BALL (Cold ware weapon)

And I was off!! (Not!)

Also with no crosses:
CHI (home for those ballplayers. HMM shouldn’t that clue have indicated an abbr.? Whatever….)
ANITA…then….MARIA (still no help)….then (with crosses) ANITA

Plus
IPaDS (off the I in RIGS and I have a POD; don’t have a PaD)
duO (off the ON ME, not yet seeing FANTASTIC and even after I got that)
AvoIdS (as in circuits around something? Sorta, kinda…)

And my infamous -
A blog for DENTISTS (in honor of Voltaire, off the D and T. Made no sense to me either, but that’s not unusual for some answers. Could have been one of François-Marie Arouet’s “who knew?” talents.)

Not reading the note until I was done, I had figured out (Duh!) the ONE to FOUR sequence was a theme. So I read the note, really looked at the shaded squares, and OK. The note then looked superfluous.

How much energy can a KILO of P-IONS generate?

That particular OIL RIG did not have good KARMA. No ATEAM was running that thing.

Off to do some MUSTS. I’ll be ON CLOUD (3^2) after they’re done. I should have started about (5^2) minutes ago.

Cheers

Roo Monster

Oh, also meant to say (in case you care...) ALOHA and TOM two days in a row, with ALOHA clued neatly both times!

And any man growing up in the 80's (raises hand) knows The ATEAM and BA Baracus. Know what the BA stands for? -------------- Bad Attitude. Along with Hannibal Smith, Face-Templeton Peck, and HM Murdock, purportedly standing for Howling Mad. And no one ever died on the TV show! Good stuff.

RooMonster

Tita

Great Thursday fun! I always hide the constructor and therefore, any note, before solving, and am very glad that I didn't see this note...was much more fun to get that aha moment on my own.
My pitcher was pitching woo, and I always wavered, but led with dEtox, even though that leading x looked so improbable.

I would have cried foul at OBAN, but we were lucky enough to stay there when my daughter married her Scot 2 years ago. @Lewis...that's just what we did...explored OBAN for a day, then took the car on a ferry to Mull, then drove like banshees on the one lane road across the island to the next ferry. A mere 35 miles, but it's a one lane road. Not one lane each way. Just one lane. And a narrow one at that.
Stunning countryside.
Then fery to Iona, because both of us have ties to Iona College in New Rochelle.

If you love ferry-rich road trips, go to Scotland!

@Jeff...thanks for this really fun and creative puzzle!

chefbea

Couldn't do the puzzle. Googled a lot and finally came here. Tough, tough, tough.
Off to our monthly NARFE meeting where I will have leaves for lunch!!

JC66

Why do the call EYEDOCtors optometrists?

Proctologists insist on it.

Bob Kerfuffle

Nice, different, puzzle. Rather slow starting, but zipped by once I got the gimmick. Finished in the NW, thinking that had I done that first, it would have been no help at all in getting the theme!

One w/o, while still flailing around, working off the M from 48 A, KARMA: 43 D, MAMA >> BUMP.

Z

For the third time this week I feel like the puzzle is providing too much help*. Four shaded squares in the SW-most corner and you think I'm so stupid I still need a note? I consider myself a middle of the pack solver, I can break 6:00 on a Monday now, but a Saturday can sometimes take 60:00+, so it's not as if I'm some super solver. Please, it's a puzzle, let us puzzle things out.

BABY BUMP is a nice modern term, yet I cringed just a wee bit. If Grandmoms, moms, or future moms want to discuss BABY BUMPS, fine. But if you're not in one of those three groups it's not a topic for you, especially if you are an XY (with maybe a nine month exception if you're the dad and mom brings it up). Otherwise, "You look great," "congratulations," "Are you hoping for a girl or a boy?" is a pretty comprehensive list of BABY BUMP related topics. Leave that list and you risk firmly inserting foot into mouth.

I still have no idea how OTTER results from "Lead-in to hound, in the canine world." Will I being a D'Oh slap when someone explains?

*One of those puzzles was a BuzzFeed

archaeoprof

Agree with @BobKerfuffle: "nice, different, puzzle." The crossing of OBAN/BUMP/PIONS had me stumped, because my first reaction to the clue "Baby ____" was MAMA. Not okay.

Kimberly

I liked this one even though it was relatively simple for a Thursday. There were a few giggle moments, which is always my litmus test for enjoying a puzzle. I saw one poster argue that Hollywood is not high on their list of places where folks are blacklisted, but I found the answer to be timely with Bryan Cranston nominated for his role in a film about the infamous McCarthy Hollywood blacklist. Actually Hollywood is pretty much the FIRST thing I think of when I hear "blacklist," but perhaps it's because I find political history interesting. I agree with Rex that "ads" was a pretty iffy answer for that clue. Sometimes the creators get a little too glib in their attempts to be punny and this was definitely one of those times. Over all, though, I was happy with this puzzle after what has felt like a dearth of cleverness for a while now.

Nancy

@Hartley: You've never heard of a DINK shot in volleyball? Oh, you poor, poor sports-deprived person!

@Teedmn: I was experiencing deep envy that you have a wild turkey on your railing...until I read about the bat houses near your garage.

@Tita & @Lewis: You both make me eager to visit Scotland, especially OBAN. I think, perhaps, I may have some Scottish blood in me, somewhere. I absolutely adore their music and I'm very frugal.

Anonymous

NYT changed their online interface---now how can I print my puzzle ("current progress")? If anyone knows, please post.

old timer

I didn't think it was at all easy. I read the note, got the ROOT squares, and basically stared blankly at all the white space, At last I got enough crosses to write in Fantastic -- wha?? Isn't that supposed to be Four? Only then did the genius of the puzzle reveal itself. After that is was pretty fast going. Knew DADAISTS, guessed SLEEPSIN, and only had to change the silly "tracklist" to the historical Hollywood BLACKLIST. Before OFL's time. Youngsters like him are lucky if they remember the Beatles.

But I was hoping Sir Paul's "When I'm 64" would be in the blog. My wife and I used to joke about having grandchildren named Vera, Chook and Dave. As it turns out none of our three have those names.

We once drove from Stirling to Loch Lomond and around to the Isle of Bute, taking the ferry from Rothesay back to the mainland. From there along the coast and over the hills to Newton Stewart. We had reserved a room at a B&B near Creetown, and liked it so much we stayed a second night, The River Cree is quite beautiful. We spent part of our day retracing the steps of Lord Peter Wimsey and Bunter, in "Five Red Herrings."

puzzle hoarder

I don't know if yesterday's comment made it in but once again l just lost an entire entry by accidentally touching the homescreen icon. I got back to the blog and just to rub it in I can it for a split second before it disappears. That kind of technical incompetence is why I've never heard of BABYBUMP. Apps didn't exist when I was becoming a parent. I know it's a breast pump but the stuff is for babies so it makes some sense. Now I also know that Opan is an East European village. There used to be a punk club in town called O'Banions' and it's a common enough name but that's a stretch. If I saw a clue like. "Oban's home" I'd guess Japan long before Scotland. More things to add to the hoard. Other than that single letter Natick everything else was easy.
Thanks to @RP for citing the puzzle for 24A. I remember working for it but for some reason I didn't make a note of it. If I remember correctly that was Mr T.

AuntMillie

MODESTFEE did not sit right with me. Otherwise nice puzzle

Aketi

Got the GIST of this one fairly fast thanks to the FANTASTIC TWO (squared). My niece writes for Marvel so I would be remiss if I hadnt spotted that one. Solidified with ONClOUDTHREE (squared). And since Cloud Nine was a luxury liner in Battlestar Galactica my mind was already drifting into sci fi as I headed to the GSUIT in the southeast.

I found the Y below the first E in HEMEN in the northeast a little suss.

mac

Medium for me, since it took me a little while to find a toe hold. Figured out the theme shortly after, and then it fell fast.

Wanting "snog" at 13D, which with the plural disciples, slowed down the last area to fall.

Nice one, a real Thursday.

Liked it all, from the roots, up. The Chenmeister continues to be one of M&A's fave constructioneers.

SUI. har. For cluin this (primo weeject) puppy up, the runts prefer:

* Hogcall favored by duck brothers HUI, DUI, and LUI??
* True middle of a G-Suit??
* Square root of SUITIMESSUI??

OK. Now, on to the real important stuff …

5 U's. Adorably above-average. OK. Now, on to the semi-important stuff ...

Cute, different theme, with nice, compacted revealer. Rodeo. Only thing …

* HOLEINONE is kinda an out-liar, on account of it's a legit, normal, Patrick-Berry-Immunity phrase, as is. M&A sympathizes, however. Try comin up with a something-somethin-25 in-the-culture phrase, to hang a "FIVE" on the end of. I mean, there's UCOUNTOFFIVE, but that would be a heckuva stretch goal.

Whoa, horsies. OBAN? Population 9,500? Do I smell the sweet sweat of desperation, if only for this one moment? That settles it. thUmbsUp.

Very fond of the symmetric pairin of THE MAFIA and THE RAFLU, even tho the latter confused the M&A, for several precious nanoseconds.

Sorry, we cannot accept TOM today, Jeff. (yo, @muse)

**gruntz**

Mr. Benson

Might have been the easiest Thursday ever for me. I went right to the shaded area, saw the ROOT in a square, figured out the theme answers, built out around those and never really slowed down anywhere. I did enjoy the change of sequence -- usually I just start up in the top left and go methodically, but this time I was all "I bet this is how the pros do it!"

Leapfinger

BARo, BARAs, BARAt, BARAmUS, BARAtiS, BARAnt. I probably won't remember "Bad Attitude" BARACUS next time either. Pity I'm fooled.

Here's how:
ReamS/RAFTS
Ball shot DuNK/DINK
Snags NabS/NETS
peTDOOR/bATDOOR/CATDOOR
March/ MEDIC
mishaps/OILRIGS
Baby Ruth/Baby BUMP (Unlike @Hartley, I find one of these tasty, the other tasteless. There was one 36-hour rotation where, every night about 3 a.m., we'd all go hitthe vending machines in the (empty) cafeteria, and I always got a Baby Ruth. Gained 6 pounds on that rotation, I did. I mightn't find them tasty now, but the other -- still tasteless.)

Some call her stingy, but I find Anna SUI generis

ROOTing around the grid also unearthed the pleasing symmetry of THE_MAFIA and THE_RAFLU, an offer no cold can refuse.

It isn't of FEN we get something as enjoyable as this, and I would have suffered a massive disgruntlement had I seen a pre-emptive Note. DUPLE congrats to @Chen!

Chip Hilton

What @LEWIS said in his lead paragraph.

Like Rex, an off-beat starting point got me going. I found a foothold in the SW and having ROOT, FANTASTICTWO came to me immediately. Go figure. I worked out the other three long answers - struggling most with HOLEINONE just because I didn't think Mr. Chen would 'settle' for an answer that's the same with either square or root.

I thought the clues today were top notch. Needed the eraser more than is usual.

Thanks, Jeff. Good one!

Diana,LIW

@Tita - warming up the deLarean

Diana, LIW

Crossworder

@Diana, LIW. Belated thanks so much for telling me about Rex's dad. I think @Rex is a very thoughtful and loving person as shown by all his comments about his friends and family.
I read the blog as much for the fine literary quality and humor as I do for the crossword analysis. It's always a lesson in creative writing as well as crossword thinking, and it's always time very well spent. Thank you, again, and belated happy birthday to you, Rex, Sr.

Tita

@puzzle hoader...try typing your commments in Word or Notepad or whatever app you have that let's you write. Then
copy/paste it here. Don't ask me why I know that.

Also meant to say that I am going to use ONCLOUDTHREE from now on when something is nice, but not nice enough to put me all the way ONCLOUD3^2.

Re: OBAN - it does not rhyme with xword-friendly "Oman". Nor does it rhyme with "Oh man!". It's more like "open", with the 2nd syllable almost barely there.

And while I'm in Scotland, let me say that it was really hard to change bog to FEN. They're peat bogs, not peat FENs! Just ask any Obanner.

old timer

Surely the baby bump is the slight swelling of the abdomen in mid-pregnancy that those in the know can kid the mother-to-be about, while of course no one who is not a good friend would dare mention it. My stylish daughter referred to it, I remember, using that term.

I actually drove through OBAN on that day in Scotland I referred to. Never thought about the whiskey made there, since the folks at the Creetown pub all preferred another brand. Tasted OBAN whisky since. It is IMO one of the best single malts you can find, at least at a (usual) price under \$20 a shot.

TonySaratoga

Anonymous

Shouldn't "Powerful offers" be "Powerful offerers" or "Makers of powerful offers"? For me, the grammar is off if the answer to "powerful offers" is the Mafia.

kitshef

Fun puzzle, continues the recent easy trend. A rare case where the revealer really helped as before that I was getting bits and pieces but no large blocks of answers, and as soon as I hit the revealer everything came easily.

For no obvious reason, I consider babyBUMP somewhere between irritating and odious. Started typing this, then paused to wonder why. Quick internet search reveals I'm far from alone in this, although for the interweb as a whole, 'preggers' is the one that really gets the fur flying.

I suspect my dislike is related to seeing the term most commonly on vapid, 'is she or isn't she' celebrity click bait.

Kate

I'm feeling extremely clueless why 33D OCEAN is MAIN. Why won't my brain make this connection? Someone clue me in?

Max

Earlier today before doing the puzzle I realized that the date 2/4/16 is successive square roots, pretty sure that's the reason for this theme.

Silas

Did you mean "perfect squares"? Those would be 1, 4, 9, and 16. All integers are "square roots" of integers.

Silas

Sorry, Max! Now I see what you meant. Square the month to get the day, then square the day to get the year!

Like 3/9/81.

Leapfinger

@Max, you just shined a whole new highlight on the puzzle.

@Kate: 'Sailing, sailing, over the bounding ____'. All I got.

@kitshef, ty!!

Anony 9:15pm, I can see you getting off your grammar podium. Just as soon as you verbify 'off'. Which I see in the offing.

Elephant's Child

TWELVE_NATIONAL_PRODUCT.

I love ECONomic indicators.

Z

@Kate and @TonySaratoga - Oxford Dictionary labels the ocean definition of MAIN as archaic, so don't feel too badly about not making the connection. File for future reference because it will appear again in a xword near you.

@kitshef and @old timer - Fine from friends who fit in one of the three categories (Grandmoms, mom, future mom), otherwise I'm with @kitshef. Same with preggers, although now it may be a term one can only use about one's self and never about anyone else.

Burma Shave

AHEM; ARISE, ATEAM, ATOAST, ALOHA

THEMAFIA, for a MODESTFEE, will BUMP off your AGENT or your cheating missus.
They’ll BLACKLIST them you see. HONEST, they’ll ADHERE to all your wishes.
They’ll put a HOLEINONE,
for them TIS EPIC fun,
those HEMEN are ONCLOUDTHREE when someone SLEEPSIN with the fishes.

--- ELIHU ROSSI

Longbeachlee

Missed the theme entirely, the clue was there, but the shaded squares didn't print, and I didn't notice the clue. I assumed sweet four denoted the nice little kid year, as opposed to terrible two. I was surprised at "neck". I didn't think this generation necked. I thought they make out.

spacecraft

My paper does not choose to print accompanying notes, to my extreme annoyance, but it didn't matter today: I finished it ANYWAY! So you can imagine that the AHA! moment was amplified for me. Attracted by those four shaded (not circled) squares, I started in the SW.

Not sure what puzzle OFL was doing when he said "...very little in the grid was...clued in a tough way." I found these clues to be at LEAST Thursday-tough. "What a mule may carry" and "Word before China or India" aren't exactly giveaways.

Anyway, I ran into trouble when "Elated" started out ONCLOUD...plus five squares. HMM. I didn't get it yet. In the SE off OWIE, I was convinced the milestone age was tWEnTyOne. That boo-boo set me way back. Of all the TOMs in the world, ya hadda pick a fashion one? My MYOPE's eyes glaze over at all things "fashion." Fashion to me is (A) does it fit? and (B) is it weather-appropriate? I have NEVER understood why otherwise-sensible people will shell out HUGE bucks just because somebody's name is sewn on to a piece of clothing. A thousand dollars for a pair of shoes or a handbag that couldn't POSSIBLY have cost more than \$25 to make?? You'll never catch ME filling TOM's or SUI's pockets.

Finally got it with FANTASTICTWO. That made filling the rest a little easier, but even so there were problems. Is a CATDOOR a thing? And here's another late-week clue: "Cold war weapon?" for the difficult-to-parse THERAFLU. Don't tell ME these clues aren't tough. Hollywood bar, I'm trying to think of some famous watering hole. Sport = WEAR. Yeah, I know, "He's sporting a new jacket." More fashion. Ugh. Point is, we sure aren't in Monday anymore.

My syndi-companions expect me to mention GSUIT, so I did, but it's (comparatively) fine. It's a real thing. Even right next to IPODS, which by now I've gotten used to. But the near-DNF came at the double natick "Baby____," for which I had neither the first nor last letter. I had _UM_. And a Scottish port O_AN, and particles called _IONS. I figured the baby word had to end in either _UMB, _UME, or _UMP. BIONS, EIONS, or PIONS? Threw the E out. Seemed to recall something about PIONS in one of those science channel shows about the large hadron collider. So Baby _UMP. Ran the alphabet--missing the B the first time around! ORAN/RUMP?? I almost wrote in the R, but suddenly thought of the baby BUMP. WHEW!

Easy-medium? No way. At least medium-challenging--and if you omit the "note," full-bore challenging. KARO is an OLDIE; I remember it as a kid in the '40s. ASTO the yeah-baby of the day, I nominate WSS's ANITA, Rita Moreno. As she was then, of course. All four statues: way to go, girl! Give this one A-, for the triumph factor.

rondo

So I did the shaded squares first to get the GIST, and the themers fell in no time. The fill wasn’t so tough except everybody’s favorite write-over – orBITS.

@spacey will not love IPODS and GSUITS together, and I don’t blame him.

Just mentioned the other day that I had a HOLEINONE in golf league play. That one shot was rather expensive. It was more than a MODESTFEE to buy the clubhouse a round.

Couldn’t give Anna SUI the yeah baby, so for giggles I googled ANITA ROSSI. Seems there is/was a wedding band singer in the Toronto area with that name; ATOAST to today’s winner, ANITA ROSSI.

@ladies – drinks and/or you ONME ‘TIL ‘TIS SET ASTO ATEAM.

The puz was not exactly exciting or great fun, but better than any rebus I can recall. Again today,ALOHA.

rain forest

Excellent puzzle. I immediately went to the shaded squares and got ROOT, but, since this is Thursday, I also immediately thought that those letters would be in one square in the themers, rebus-style. Made the puzzle a little tougher for me. When it dawned on me what was happening, I thought it very clever, and amusing, especially ON CLOUD THREE.

Though I used to watch the ATEAM series, I didn't know what was happening in that area, until ADHERE came to me. I guess THERAFLU is some sort of flu treatment I've never heard of.

A neighbour of mine owned an OTTERHOUND, which was a big, sort of goofy, and untrainable dog and if I remember correctly, had webbed feet, you know, like an otter. Very friendly though.

Enjoyed this one.

Diana,LIW

If I had taken just a bit more patience this would not have been the dnf I ended up with. RBARACUS, ATEAM, OBAN, PIONS were woes, but I should have gotten them with the crosses. DNF, my own fault.

A great example of Chen's delightful clueing. Really enjoyed getting THERAFLU, SLEEPSIN, BLACKLIST - Hollywood is the ONLY thing/place I associate with a blacklist. It's history, just like prohibition, so your age doesn't matter, IMHO.

Diana, LIW

leftcoastTAM

The nicely executed theme made this one easier but far from easy for me. The note helped a lot, too.

Clever cluing and a lot of unfamiliar fill made it slow going, especially on the West Side. I wanted "times" in the shaded cells but of course it didn't fit. Only ROOT would work and it elicited a combined DOH! and AHA! from me.

I thought the "Powerful offers" clue should have been "offerers," and the "boo-boo" clue could better have been "boo-hoo."

BARACUS, OBAN, PIONS, and OTTER were outliers.

Fun, but took some work to get there.

Cathy

Well this was fun! Went straight for the ROOT and thought maybe a flower was going to grow. Kinda like the balloon with a string thingy. I guess it's cuz I've been planting a bazillion flowers with this FANTASTIC weather in Vegas.

Why is there not a crossword tournament here! I would LOVE to go to one.

As my hubby and I are DINKs (double income no kids) the baby BUMP was not a gimme. How odd I've never heard or used that term before. HMM, I call my kitties babies, they do BUMP into each other strolling through the CATDOOR...

@spacecraft- Count me in on one who just doesn't get the fashion hype. Funny, once a co-worker loved my new coat. Where did you get it!!
Sams Club. Yep I said it. She quietly instructed me to respond (IF anyone else asks) Macy's. Totally serious. Boss walked up, you gotta tell me where you got that!! Sams Club. Horrified looks..ha ha!!

ALOHA!

wcutler

Wow, once again, I got nowhere on this Thursday puzzle, only about 10 answers, didn't get the gimmick, didn't get any of the gimmick clues. But I completed the Friday one. I'm amazed that people thought it was easy.

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