Bagful on a pitcher's mound / MON 3-7-16 / Omar who portrayed Dr. Zhivago / Boots brand big in grunge fashion / Onetime big name in Japanese electronics

Monday, March 7, 2016

I'm still mad about the way that February 29th JUST BARELY stole my thunder last week. I would've blogged that day if it was any other year. Stupid Leaping!

Anyway, happy Annabel Monday again! WOOHOO!

Constructor: Damon Gulczynski

Relative difficulty: Medium [ed. w/ apologies to Annabel, this is Challenging—RP]

THEME: 90s fads — Theme answers are fads from the 90s.

Theme answers:
  • TAMAGOTCHIS (3D: Hand-held pets with digital "faces")
  • THE RACHEL (18A: Hairstyle popularized by Jennifer Aniston's character on "Friends")
  • THE MACARENA (27D: Dance associated with a #1 Los del Rio hit)
  • DR MARTENS (60A: Boots brand big in grunge fashion)
  • 90S FADS (39A: What the answers to the four starred clues are)
Word of the Day: FUGUE () —
In music, a fugue (/fjuːɡ/ fewg) is a contrapuntal compositional technique in two or more voices, built on a subject (theme) that is introduced at the beginning in imitation (repetition at different pitches) and recurs frequently in the course of the composition.  ...
A fugue usually has three sections: an exposition, a development, and a final entry that contains the return of the subject in the fugue's tonic key. Some fugues have a recapitulation.[4] In the Middle Ages, the term was widely used to denote any works incanonic style; by the Renaissance, it had come to denote specifically imitative works.[5] Since the 17th century,[6] the term fuguehas described what is commonly regarded as the most fully developed procedure of imitative counterpoint.[7]
• • •

Guys. GUYS. GUYS. I REALLY liked this puzzle. Not only is this my first crossword puzzle with numbers in it (I thought for sure there was some alternate answer for 9PM, but no), but ALSO the 90S is easily one of the best ERAs in human history. Pokémon! Boy bands! Riot grrrl bands! The rise of flannels!!!!!! I wish I had gotten to spend more than three years in this beautiful decade. I've heard the argument that the 90s didn't end until 2003, and honestly, I kind of agree - everyone I knew had a Tamagotchi and/or a Furby. (God, Furbys were terrifying, weren't they?)

Oh, right, the rest of the puzzle. Nice fill, didn't learn any words but didn't really see any overused puzzle words either. I chuckled at the clue for STY - the constructor could have gone with "Where pigs live" or something similarly bland, but instead he decided to describe the natural state of my room in high school. Also, BREAK/LANCE sounds like what the actors at the Renn Faire do when they go out to the club - that was some excellent placement. Basically I'm excited to see more from Damon Gulczynski, even if I might be a little biased because of the whole 90s thing.

(My favorite Pokémon is Torkoal, by the way.)

  • UNHIP (43A: So not cool) — I can't be the only one who noticed that this word itself is unhip. (Who's used any variation of "hip" seriously since the 70s?) Now isn't that ironic, don't you think? ...a little too ironic, don't you think? IT'S LIKE RA-I-AAAAAAIN
but seriously that poor guy. he was just doin his job
  • THE RACHEL (18A: Hairstyle popularized by Jennifer Aniston's character on "Friends") — Hey, do you all want to hear a story about how my mom is a total troublemaker? This was taken at the Warner Brother's Studio tour in LA 3 years ago. They took us to see the set of Friends. We sat on the couch and handed the tour guide our camera to take our picture. Him: "Actually, you're not allowed to sit there, you're supposed to stay behind the line." Her: "Oops. Oh well! Take the picture and we'll get off!"

  • SMURFS (57A: Little blue cartoon characters whose adversary is Gargamel) — I'm getting war flashbacks to the time I had to sit through the CGI/live-action The Smurfs 2 with my sister. Maya, I hope you know that I reeeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaally love you.
  • NANA (46A: Mom's mom) — With all this emphasis on the 90s, let's not forget the second-best decade for music ever: the 2000s! And now, my favorite song in the world from about third grade. Nananananananananana... 
Signed, Annabel Thompson, tired college student.

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


kozmikvoid 12:12 AM  

Played way harder than normal for me, mostly because I refused to put a number in a crossword puzzle. Above Tuesday average time, and don't remember particularly enjoying the solve. But that could just be a result of the awful-puzzle hangover I'm still getting over from yesterday's debacle.

Anonymous 12:17 AM  

Tamagotchis may have been a 90s fad in Japan, but not the USA. They
made their US debut in 2004.

Charles Flaster 1:10 AM  

Thanks Annabel for a lovely review.
Agree the nineties were wonderful but puzzle was a slog and a DNF.
Naticks at WHAMO and some out of my culture thing.
Using 90s would be more appropriate in a Wed. puzzle.
Any puzzle with Willie Mays ( greatest of all time-- bar none) has to have some worth to it.
Appreciate the puzzle's symmetry and thanks DG

phil phil 1:27 AM  

First ever DNF
ABaSE crossing aGH
ugh agh arg yeck ptui

FIVEo as in oh no
ixPM as haven't got a clue of fads in 90's and plain missed the theme.
Hated friends thought they were all self absorbed bad actors, tho the script didn't help them as later works showed.

because WTF is that

phil phil 1:29 AM  

tRMARTENS crossing tAP never heard of either answer.

seanm 1:36 AM  

overall I liked the puzzle, but even as a teenager in the 90s, I don't think I've ever seen the word tamagotchi before. and I think the WHAMO cross with tamagotchi is pretty brutal for a Monday. don't think I've ever seen that word before either, so only got the jingle by guess there

Kimberly 1:48 AM  

Best Monday in a long time. I expected my usual race-through fill (and really, Monday puzzles are little more than just something you do to keep up the regular habit), so I was pleasantly surprised when I had to say to myself "hey, wait a minute here... ." I had initially entered the letter "O" for FIVE-0, so it took me a few minutes to figure out why I wasn't getting my little "congratulations" pop-up, but even having to work that out gave me an unexpected smile.

Nice little Monday surprise here. Yay!

jae 1:51 AM  

Pretty tough for a Mon. No idea how to spell TAMAGOTCHIS and the crosses were not that easy.

THE MACARENA I did know. As I was writing checks for my daughter's 1996 wedding one of my two requests was please don't do THE MACARENA at the reception. The other was to play the organ intro to Whiter Shade of Pale prior to the ceremony. I went 0 for 2.

Got to agree @Annabel, Furbys were kinda creepy.

Crunchy Mon. with a somewhat off the wall theme and a number twist, liked it a lot!

Anne 3:28 AM  

I love the theme but not the puzzle. The numbers threw me on a Monday and it was an "o" in Hawaii Five-0, not a zero. And seisms alone should have ruled this out as a good puzzle. Especially on a Monday. You're good at this, Annabelle, but have mercy on those of us who still can't finish Friday and Saturday puzzles, and need to start again every Monday.

Eejit 5:19 AM  

I was taken aback by the positive tone of the blog. I thought "either this ain't Rex, or he's on something". Haven't been here in a while.

The 90 threw me for a bit, but it was a fun decade. Not for any of the reasons mentioned other than grunge though. Made lots of money in the dotcom boom, left my wife and saw the world. Happy days.

Lewis 6:19 AM  

Well yes, a memorable Monday for having Annabel, numerals, and even some lovely unMondayish words like FUGUE, GENIALLY, SAYHEY, EMPRESS, and QUELL, but what I'm going to remember most is -- and goodness me, I hope the Gray Lady doesn't turn red here -- the following:

Yesterday, we had FBOMB (and even GOROGUE) in the puzzle. Today, we have an actual Boggle-style f-bomb in the puzzle itself! To which I say either Damon, or Will, or God, or any combination thereof, has an excellent sense of humor.

Loren Muse Smith 6:35 AM  

Hi, Annabel – your exuberance is contagious. I bet your enthusiasm would soften even the curmudgeonest of the curmudgeons. Hope school is going well.

I feel really silly. I filled in the word NINE rebus-style and was flummoxed. Kept trying to change that O off FIVE-O to "ties" or something. When I realized the deal, I looked around to make sure no one had seen me trying to make the actual word work. (@Carola – you really would say, "…no one had seen my trying to make…"? That sounds so off to me that I must not really understand the rule.)

Anyway, this huge stumble even with the “sharper than 90°” clue right there under my nose.

"Tsarina" and EMPRESS both are seven-letter words whose fourth letter is an R.

I had no idea they were DR MARTENS. I always hear "Doc Martens."

I'd like to have seen beanie babies get a nod. My neighbor's daughter had a bajillion. And once a baby squirrel slipped into her house and into Emma's room. Lynn and I were in the room for over an hour trying to catch the little guy, and at one point I found myself in a scene straight out of ET – the top shelf of one closet was lined with beanie babies. We scanned the shelf, and as it registered that one form was the squirrel and not a beanie baby, it launched past us, and we jumped around the room seismating and gesticulating like weenie babies.

A nice Monday amble down memory lane. Since I solve in pencil, I just have a big circle under FIVE. I guess online solvers have to commit to the number or the letter.

OldCarFudd 6:41 AM  

Not only am I a hopelessly UNHIP old fuddy-duddy now, but I was one back in the '90s, too. The only one of these fads I've ever even heard of was the MACARENA. This was definitely out of my wheelhouse - I wasn't even anywhere on the same boat. I finished, but it might as well have been in Finnish.

smalltowndoc 7:17 AM  

Loved the puzzle. Very well constructed. Very little drek.
@Anonymous: TAMAGOTCHIS were released in the U.S. in 1997. My kids each had one. Never understood their fascination with them, but it was short lived, thank goodness.

@Anne: The remake of Hawaii FIVE-0 is spelled with a zero.

I find it incredible that some people had trouble with WHAM-O! Not only is it a frequent flier in crossword puzzles, but the company's products span decades of fun: from hula hoops to frisbees to superballs and silly string. Totally legit Monday entry.

DJG 7:40 AM  

Pretty cool to have my '90s puzzle reviewed by somebody who was born in the decade! If you are interested in extended constructor notes, including a "riveting" Five-O/Five-0 breakdown, a link to a hilariously racy MC Hammer video, and a list of fads that didn't make the cut, please visit my blog here.

And remember: I'll be there for you, 'cuz you're there for me too.

Judy S 7:49 AM  

it is always Nice to read your reviews. I was immediately suspect that this could't be a Rex review. Your enthusiasm is refreshing to me, a newbie, to NYT Crossword Puzzles.

beaglelover 7:51 AM  

Dr. Martens are Doc Martens! that clue is for Tuesday. Having a number in the puzzle is also not for Monday.
I learned the word SEISMS today so that is a good thing. This wasn't a Monday puzzle.

GILL I. 7:55 AM  

@Nancy...late Sunday: "Tis a very excellent piece of work, madame lady. Would 'twere done."
Hey folks, we have a BARDess - right here in River City and as Shakespeare would indubitably say..."I'm Gobsmacked!!!"
Oh, today's puzzle. I rather enjoyed this. It made me think of the decades I've spent on this lovely planet and which ones I enjoyed the most. What stuck out about the 90's was the completion of the Chunnel and the O.J. Simpson trial. The rest was a blur...I might go check up on that decade.
Wasn't it called THE RACHEL DO? QUELL UN HIP.
I really don't understand ROSIN being a bagful on a pitcher's mound but I'll look it up. I wanted something like a wad of tobacco
Fun and different. TAMAGOTCHIS...ACUTE little toy that my daughter loved. THE MACARENA not so much.

chefbea 8:04 AM  

What a hard puzzle for a monday...DNF I knew the mocarena. But never heard of the Rachel, Tamagotchis,grunge fashion much less Dr. Martens....Guess I'm just too old. My children all had Furbies and I love it all the time in salads and especially in @Mac's onion soup!!!!

RAD2626 8:10 AM  

Hand up for being confused about Doc vs. DR but that corner was actually the easiest of the puzzle. The crosses there were all very gettable so mistake revealed itself. DAP has been in the news lately as part of the current President's handshake portfolio. Also hand up for very hard Monday for all the words that have been mentioned.

Kim Scudera 8:29 AM  

Tamagotchis were banned in my daughter's elementary school (what a disruption! Babies bleating and misbehaving all over! A bit of a prelude to an era of every kid with a cell phone...) in 1996 or 1997, so they were very much a fad in the US right out of the starting gate.

Thanks, A!

Tita 8:30 AM  

Skewed way fusty... The 90's were a far-off future to lots of today's fill.

Baseball mini-theme with ASH, ROSIN, and SAYHEY

"Mantle is better than Mays!" "Mays is better than Mantle!"
During baseball season in our neighborhood it only took one kid chanting one of those lines to get all the other kids out on the street. But we would all soon go back to playing with our various WHAM-O products and all would be fine.
Willie Mays lived in our neighborhood, though not a one of us ever saw him. i think he was just around the corner from Rob Petrie.


kitshef 8:35 AM  

Funny that this seems to have played hard for so many, as for me this was the easiest puzzle ever in NYT ("ever", in this case meaning in the last nine months), with almost every answer filled in immediately ... and I am decidedly NOT a child of the 90s (though I LOVED the Gwen Stefani clip).

There is some junk here, ASU, SEEME, UHUH, but not a lot of it and it's not plumbing-the-depths bad (speaking of which, live the EEL/RAYS pair). And there's some very good stuff, including a couple of the themers plus BUCKEYE, EMPRESS, HYENAS, FENNEL, METADATA.

So, despite the lack of bite, unusually pleasant for a Monday puzzle. Shortz has been on a roll recently.

ArtO 8:43 AM  

I'm with@oldcarfudd on this one. Finished but needed every cross to get TAMAGOTCHIS. A total WTF to me!

Mohair Sam 8:45 AM  

If you were between the ages of 12 and 35 through the '90s this probably played as an easy/medium Monday. For the rest of us it appeared a day or two early. No complaints about content, just felt more like a Tuesday or easy Wednesday to us - where's Al Jolson when you need him?

Never heard of TAMAGOTCHIS but they filled easily enough. Didn't know Miss Aniston's hair had a name, but knew the character - she has a neat new airlines ad, btw. With @lms on the DocMARTENS thing - and having never heard the term DAP the "D" was the last thing filled (and grudgingly at that).

Hand up with the "Fine with the 9" in the puzzle group. Why not? We do "1" and "0" all the time.

Nice job again Annabel, just can't agree with you on the '90s thing - you obviously missed the '80s.

Karin Carlson 8:52 AM  

They were definitely in the US before 2004 because I had one in 1999. Two actually. :-)

Wm. C. 8:53 AM  

Hey, Annabel --

Great write up, and good to see you here again. But geez, are you always tired? Get some sleep.

BTW, I bet you know where Natick is, but do you know who it's hometown-hero football player is?

Is everyone there rooting for you-know-who for President?

Karin Carlson 8:54 AM  

Tamagotchis were in the US before 2004 because I had one in 1999. I wasn't alone either. It was definitely a thing when I had one.

Sir Hillary 8:55 AM  

Definitely some non-Monday words in this one (SEISMS, DAP, METADATA, AIWA) plus an obscure theme if you're the wrong age or weren't paying attention 20 years ago. In the 90s, I was getting a post-grad degree, working absurd hours in my first job after B-school and starting a family, so I feel like I missed a lot of it as it was happening. I appreciate much of 90s culture more now (especially the music) than I did then.

A decent puzzle. As usual, Annabel's commentary is the best part of the whole experience.

jberg 9:10 AM  

The first Monday came late this month -- i think I was a sentence in before I said "Ah, Annabel!" Nice writeup!

@smalltowndoc, WHAM-O was a gimme for me, too -- but I can understand those who didn't know it. Their products were so generic -- just variously shaped hunks of plastic -- that it was hard to think of them as being from a particular company.

@Loren, I have to admit I'm with you on 'see my trying.' My feeble rationalization is that you are more concerned that people not see you, rather than not see what you are doing, in which case 'trying' is a participle rather than a gerund. (As I said, feeble. Or, as Fowler says somewhere, the English language is a continual war between idiom and analogy.)

Solving on paper, I didn't have to worry about the whole 0/o thing. Another advantage.

Wow! I just noticed that this font puts a slash through the zero! Cool.

jberg 9:21 AM  

The first Monday came late this month -- i think I was a sentence in before I said "Ah, Annabel!" Nice writeup!

@smalltowndoc, WHAM-O was a gimme for me, too -- but I can understand those who didn't know it. Their products were so generic -- just variously shaped hunks of plastic -- that it was hard to think of them as being from a particular company.

@Loren, I have to admit I'm with you on 'see my trying.' My feeble rationalization is that you are more concerned that people not see you, rather than not see what you are doing, in which case 'trying' is a participle rather than a gerund. (As I said, feeble. Or, as Fowler says somewhere, the English language is a continual war between idiom and analogy.)

Solving on paper, I didn't have to worry about the whole 0/o thing. Another advantage.

Wow! I just noticed that this font puts a slash through the zero! Cool.

Aketi 9:28 AM  

Glad to see you back Annabel. You've given me a glimmer of hope by your comment about "the state of my room in high school" that your room is no longer in that state and perhaps one day probably in the distant future, my son may no longer turn his room into a STY.

I personally happened to love the TAMAGOTCHIS my son was given as birthday presents in the early 2000s. He let me care for one of them and I confess to being rather addicted to it. I am sure there are still a few abandoned TAMAGOTCHIS in the recesses of his drawers. He never went for Beanie Babies, Furbies or Smurfs, but he did collect the puffles from Club Penguin. I kind of miss those warm and fuzzy days of early childhood. Our cat Charlie has taken over the tattered remnants of my son's stuffed animals (some of which actually were bought from the MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY). Whenever Charlie is rejected by our other cat he likes to drag a stuffed dog that is bigger than he is around the apartment and find a quiet corner to sulk.

Unknown 9:31 AM  

I had one in 1997. Coolest kid in 6th grade!

Chaos344 9:31 AM  

Had the same problem as many others here. Wasted around two full minutes checking and rechecking my fill. I knew the 9 had to be right, but I was too obtuse to change the OH to a zero. DOH! It finally dawned on me. MHP gave me the imaginary middle digit F-bomb, and I deserved it.

Ah WHAM-O! Not my first slingshot, but undoubtedly my best! Molded plastic body with finger grips and dual rubber bands as thick as sneaker soles. Deadly accurate in the hands of a skilled practitioner, and especially lethal when using ball bearings for ammo. Dennis The Menace had nothing on me!

@Z Regarding yesterday's comment: Thanks for the great tips on my potential visit to Comerica Park this summer. Always good to have advice from someone who is a seasoned hand! Go Tigers!

Steve M 9:35 AM  

Write up was better than the puzzle😊

Aketi 9:37 AM  

@GILL I, I knew ROSIN because we used iir in powdered form in high school gymnastics to rub on our hands to reduce friction when we did routines on the parallel bars to prevent callouses from forming, so I guessed it applied to what pitchers in baseball rub on their hands as well. I hardly know anything about baseball.

Chuck McGregor 9:43 AM  

Agree that this was not the usual Monday “easy.” LickS vs. LUMPS had me stuck in the NW (the did-not-know-it 3d being no help). EMPRESS cleared that up.

DAP for “Fist bump?” Figured out the “D” but…HUH? just not in my urban vocabulary, UH-UH.

I was ALSO hung up with the numerical fill. As ex-Navy, I certainly knew what 2100* was. After getting the “PM” part, I finally had to cheat for the other square, expecting to maybe see a rebus of “nine.”

* As a Navy radioman our clocks were set to “Zulu” i.e. GMT (Greenwich Mean Time), no matter where we were on the planet. This standardized the time for messages. Using local times would have made things quite confusing. As well, if any messages were somehow intercepted by an “enemy,” the time would give no clue as to a ship’s whereabouts. There were other reasons, one having to do with the electronic encryption used to send and receive messages.

A couple of NITs –

Acronyms usually are said to have a phonetic rendering, i.e. they are pronounced as words. The Navy (for one) had lots of them. A favorite example (because I liked the sound of it) was “comcrudeslant,” spoken as you see it. It stands for “COMmander, CRUisers and DEStroyers, atLANTic fleet.” FAQ spoken as “fak” or, say, IRS is spoken as “ears” or “iris?” Nope. FAQ and IRS are usually termed as “initialisms” or “alphabetisms” rather than as acronyms, although this is not a hard and fast rule. (Verified by Wiki, writing this before looking it up)

SMERF is an acronym – see below.

CEMENT is a sidewalk “material” being only a component of the concrete with which sidewalks can be made. This is like cluing “Cake material” – EGGS. Would “batter” be better?

As such, I think both clues (or answers, if you will) are somewhat off the mark.

While FACT is not fiction, I ALSO like to think that “Truth is stranger than FACT.”

I’m rarely “happy as a LARK,” preferring to be “happy as a clam.” Further, I ALSO like to think, “I am clam” rather than, “I am calm.”

I have wonderful reproduction of RCA’s “His Master’s Voice” with the dog quizzically looking into the “horn” of one of their Victrolas, wondering, one would assume, how his master got inside the thing.

UFOS VIE SAY HEY (fly balls versus Mr. Mays, though not all that “mysterious” to him)

Willie Mays is noted for one of the greatest catches of one of those in baseball, so- dubbed “The Catch.” What is often forgotten is that this was immediately followed by one of the greater throws in baseball. Apparently, Willie thought this throw that kept a runner from scoring was a bigger deal than “The Catch.” Indeed, it was this throw that ended up allowing the Giants to win this World Series game.

GENIALLY ETCH (doing so as happy as a LARK – or clam)

LOUD SMERFS (raucous Social, Military, Educational, Religious, Fraternal organizations)

UNHIP LIE (at least be cool if you’re going to tell one)

TAMAGOTCHIS MUG (egg watch* swag) [*translation of TAMAGOTCHI]

FIVE-0 SMUT (first-rate porno) [5-0 = “outstanding” on Navy/Marine EVALS – acronym for performance Evaluation Reports]

ACUTE NIT (having a really serious problem with a crossword clue)

UGH! THE MACARENA (my reaction every time I saw it, though that GANGNAM STYLE dance rated at least a double UGH)

CEMENT FACT (forms of it were used as a binder for mortar/concrete mixtures by the ancients, such as the Macedonians, Egyptians, and Romans)

ASS AMBLE (what MEN often ogle)


Martin Clunes 9:45 AM  

For the record, Doc Martin is another in an epic sequence of un-comical British comedies, running 24x7 on the lesser PBS stations. If you're talking shoes, maybe you lazy 'Mericans call them Doc Martens, but as the company thinks they're Dr. Martens, you have a lesser sense of fact than you do of style.

mac 9:48 AM  

Natick on a Monday! Tamagotchis and Wham-O. Wasn't there also a pet rock? Nice and quiet. Just recently I saw a couple of girls with one of those baby dolls they have to take care of. That will teach them alright!

Thanks for the Alanis link, Annabel!

fiddleneck 9:53 AM  

@JBerg Good explanation of the me my question.

Bronxdoc 10:01 AM  

Dr martens.. But no one ever called them that. Doc martens.

Bob Kerfuffle 10:06 AM  

Nice puzzle; definitely crunchier than the usual Monday.

Always nice to see Annabel.

Clean solve thanks to crosses: Left to himself, this old man would have been tempted to put in "Whammo" and "Doc Martens."

seanm 10:24 AM  

@smalltowndoc "I find it incredible that some people had trouble with WHAM-O! Not only is it a frequent flier in crossword puzzles"
this is just false. it's been in just 3! shortz puzzles (sun, wed, mon) total. not a frequent flier by a long shot. I will grant the possibility of being Monday worthy, but not a gimme cross for a word like tamagotchi

Nancy 10:27 AM  

I've never heard of TAMAGOTCHIS either, but I got it from the crosses. I guessed at WHAMO, though I always thought the company was spelled WHAMMO. No, where I missed was tAP and tRMARTENS, though I had been toying with rAP and rRMARTENS. I never heard a fist bump referred to as a DAP (????), but maybe that's familiar territory to everyone else. How ignominious to DNF on a Monday -- I think my first time ever -- but I really wasn't into 90's FADS. Not then. Not now.

To GILL and Carola (from yesterday) -- Glad you enjoyed it. It was fun to write. Carola -- Your iambic ear is also terrific!

Nancy 10:29 AM  

Oh, and @Charles Flaster: Willie Mays WAS the greatest player of all time, bar none! I heartily agree.

Hartley70 10:30 AM  

This must be Monday because I hear Annabel talking, but the puzzle is telling me I overslept and now it's at least Thursday. A DNF on a Monday is a sad start to the week and to lose to a pair of numbers is infuriating. I went with the rebus.

My daughter was 5 to 15 in the 90's and I could have sworn we purchased every single hot item for girls from the Far East. Somehow I have amnesia or we missed the TAMAGOTCHI, thank you Lord.

Agh, the 90's! Was I the only one who threw the Furby out an upstairs window one day because it wouldn't shut up? And don't get me started on The Backstreet Boys, Annabel. The most horrendous evening of that decade was spent escorting a carload of girls to Radio City Music Hall. The acoustics are excellent there. A deafening roar of sound from thousands of screaming girls is an experience to be missed. It will certainly "rock your body" in a whole new way. The ladies room is your only escape.

Loren's baby squirrel story was great. The image of it hiding among the beanie babies was adorable. Much cuter than our flying squirrel in the bedroom in the dark.

Carola 10:55 AM  

A tough-ish Monday and fun to solve. THE RACHEL? UH-UH, no idea. But I'd at least heard of THE MACARENA and TAMA-let-me-see-what-were-they-again? - not that I could have placed them in the 90s. I own a pair of DR MARTENS so am obviously not UNHIP. Mm-hmm.

@Annabel - I loved your enthusiastic review. I'm not sure what I was doing in the 90s - something that seems to have obliteratied all memories of the decade, it seems.

@jae - Love your wedding requests. Totally with you on "Whiter Shade of Pale."

@Loren, @jberg - "I'm glad nobody saw me trying to fit 'ties' into the grid" v. "I imagined people laughing at my trying to fit 'ties' into the grid." With the emphasis in the second on the effort (?)

@Nancy - Cross-dressing Casca responded late yesterday.

old timer 11:00 AM  

Oh, Annabel, you poor deluded thing. The 90's are not to be remembered as a great era in music, unless you were into modern country and "roots" music. If only you could have lived in the 50's, '60's and '70's, you would find little to admire about the 90's (OK, THE MACARENA was kind of cute, and it *was* the golden age of Boy Bands, and we used to have the NSync posters to prove it).

I am mad at WS for allowing this as a Monday puzzle. I think there is an unwritten contract that on Mondays, you can solve across or down just as you please, but should not have to cross-check any obvious answer. So I, too, confidently wrote in "abase" and therefore "agh" and did not do what I would have done on a Wednesday, double check to see if ABUSE and UGH might fit the clues better.

Side note: "A Boy Named SUE" is from 1970, when music was MUSIC. Written by the great Shel Silverstein. who's greatest *body* of work is found in Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show's recordings and performances. In many ways, Dr. Hook embodies the spirit of that musical age known as the '70's,

Side note #2: I had no trouble with DR MARTENS for the simple reason I have been wearing their shoes and (sometimes) boots since the early '90's if not before. Their greatest defect is that they last so long, you seldom have new shoes to wear. The best of their many stores across Europe and the USA is in Portland, Oregon, right across the street from the famous Powell's Books.

Z 11:04 AM  

PPP Analysis

19/78, 24%.

Despite having a very time specific Pop Culture theme, this puzzle is relatively low on the PPP scale. It played more like a Tuesday here, too, but is too well done to take the Tuesday slot, I guess.

I put "doc martens" in my search engine and all the top hits are DR. MARTENS. Who knew? Certainly not me.

PPP explanation
PPP are clue/answer pairs involving Pop Culture, Product Names, or other Proper nouns. The math is the number of these types of answers divided by the answer count of the puzzle. Anything in the 25% range is not going to generate much hate. At 33%+ there is a high likelihood that some subset of solvers are going to dislike the puzzle. Which subset will depend on lots of other factors. Early week (easier) puzzles seem less likely to generate hard feelings.

Berselius 11:10 AM  

Loved this puzzle, and was glad to have something balance out Saturday's 40s-60s heavy puzzle.

Roo Monster 11:12 AM  

Hey All !
Well, this was a gnarly MonPuz! Started it expecting a fly through (which for me is like sub 7 mins on Monday!) but not getting many Acrosses on my first round! (I solve in clue order, from 1 Across to the last Down, then go back and randomly roam around getting answers by the crosses.) (In case you were curious!)

Couldn't think of WHAMO at first go-through, but once I had OWLET, saw the W and remembered. Damn Tremors clue, first quakeS, then shakeS, then SEISMS. My Natick was the C in ANC/TAMAGOTCHIS, actually had to hit Reveal Square, on a Monday! Oh, and the "zero" instead of O is just plain unfair! Didn't get the online Congrats jingle, so hit Check Puzzle (again, Monday!) and it crossed out my O. Shenanigans!

We got both EEL and ASS today! Awesome! Really wanted a RRN and a RGL(Random Greek Letter) to finish it off.

Six F's, seems to be more. And big U count for the M&A. Fill not terrible, agree that this should've been a TuesPuz. Maybe Will is alternating easy weeks with tough weeks.

FUGUE sounds like a dirty word!


puzzle hoarder 11:14 AM  

Hi Annabel and welcome back. I was a little confused when a different woman filled in the other day. The name didn't seem familiar and she sure didn't sound like you. This should have been a perfect puzzle for you. It took more solving than a typical Monday since 90s fads were largely a mystery to me.
3D kept me wondering where the mistakes were. I thought if I just corrected something else it would become recognizable . The other hesitations were the number 9 and DAP vs TAP. News flash there's no such word as dap. It's the brand name of a sealant. My Webster's doesn't even list it. However at the top of the page I have it written in along with the clue "fist bump" and the date 9/10/10. What was wrong with the word TAP? Anyway it's good to be back to a clean grid even if it is just a Monday.

Z 11:19 AM  

Potential Sunday Spoiler

@puzzle hoarder - Mr. Dalton is not the answer to either the Bond clue or the New Testament clue, but is a subtle reference to both. Hence my somewhat sardonic "apostle." I'm just glad I grokked this avatar. One can spend hours puzzling over Muse's subtle avatar wit if one is not careful.

Anonymous 11:23 AM  

Did not like the clue for 28 Down. Cement is a component of concrete, which is what sidewalks are made of.

Also thought it was "Doc" not "Dr" Martens.

WA 11:27 AM  

First ever Monday DNF. I did not know some of the answers when I looked at them.

Drew 11:30 AM  

Does anyone solve puzzles on an Android phone by any chance? I use Shortyz app as it seems to be the best from my limited research, but as far as I can tell, there's no way to actually input a number into a puzzle (and for rebuses you simply have to input the first letter). Any suggestions would be appreciated!

Hartley70 11:31 AM  

I favor "in the wings at a ballet performance" for ROSIN.

Lobster11 11:34 AM  

Man this one was right in my.... um, what's the exact opposite of "wheelhouse"?

I'm not sure I've ever been Naticked on a Monday, but DAP/DRMARTENS did it today. Ran the alphabet looking for that D twice and came up with about 15 possibilities that all looked equally (im)plausible.

I've watched plenty of episodes of Friends, and somehow knew that Rachel's "do" was some kind of thing, but had no idea it was called simply THERACHEL. I remember there being a dance craze called THEMACARENA, and I'm familiar with the band Los Lobos, but had no idea they had anything to do with each other. I'm quite sure I've never heard of either TAMEGOTCHIS or DRMARTENS. I had no trouble with WHAM-O, but that goes back another couple of decades.

Glad to hear that so many others enjoyed this, though. It was painful for me, but I'll admit that it was my bad. I pretty much skipped the 90s and have no regrets about it.

Joe Bleaux 11:59 AM  

Rex has been ailing, so I too attributed the peppy review to good meds. MEDIUM difficulty? C'mon! As a medium-minus solver, I knocked this fluff out in 10 minutes. Even for a Monday, it was easy.

Leapfinger 12:23 PM  

Wondering whether DAP is a back-formation of DAPper as sap is to sapper. Would not have known DAP without the good Doctor, though I've only known those uggly shoes as Doc MARTEN

I also spent the 90s divvied up between grad school (where I learned META-analysis), and working in two new-to-me fields of reproductive rights (read 'contraception') and anaesthesiology, so I'm surprised that anything in the outside world got through to me. Pretty much stayed pleasantly free of the Japanese invasion, though I do recall a > 9-hr drive from up North with a 2-year old and a yellow furball that kept emitting a falsetto "Pika! Peekaah-chu!". If I hadn't been TAMAGOTCHa'ed till now, would it help to start a course of antibiotics at this point? Wasted precious nanohours trying to get around the NINE PM and Hawaii FIVE-O conundrum, but after I reverted back to basics, my annoyance factor cooled appreciably. Sometimes it still pays to play the numbers.

The ante was definitely upped for Monday entries, but SEISMIC, METADATA and FUGUE were DamonG the best, so no quibble there. Liked THE RACHEL RAYS Showing up, the MUG shot of the SHARIF, and BREAK-LANCE one day after Shake-Speare.

QUELL beau FENNEL you have there, DG! You can dip your ORES in these waters any day.

ps: Here We Gerund the Mulberry Bush! Just write it As You Like It. We'll understand.

pps: In case @Nancy and @Carola didn't read the lates last night, iamb another of your humble admirers. AbFab, ladies!

Peter K 12:30 PM  

Definitely not a Monday puzzle--I was a techie for awhile and still
couldn't recall AIWA,so I'd say it's too esoteric for a Monday-would make a better Tuesday.

Roo Monster 12:50 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dick Swart 1:03 PM  

Great revue, Anabel! Spirit, fun, camaraderie ... alas. not too often with Rex.

First DNF Monday ever! And I'm talking about doing the puzzle on the LIRR in the 60's. Well, the train was so slow, you did have plenty of time.

Entirely lost on the tamagothchas. Tomago is the egg omelet at a sushi bar, isn't it? And 9PM was AWOL for me. I also tried MOSfad and DOSfad ... never heard of 9OS.

Tomorrow is another day!

Teedmn 1:18 PM  

It was SLY of Mr. Gulczynski to slip a numeral into a Monday grid. While I had a smidgeon of anxiety at placing the 9 onto my hand filled grid, I shrugged it off since the clue could hardly be anything else than 9 PM. Hoping 39A's mysterious 9OSF_ _ _ would resolve itself at some point, I kept wandering around the grid. I enjoy seeing the little pyramid of U's in the NE. I had to rescue the NW from ReSIN and ToMAGOTCHIS (since WHo Me didn't bring to mind any toy companies) but I still had room down in the SW for a DNF since I've heard of Doc MARTENS but T R MARTENS giving me tAP induced no SEISMic activity in my neurons.

I was about as UNHIP as it gets in the 90's - I was at a wedding in '96 where I watched enviously as dozens of people got up to dance THE MACARENA. Last fall, I tried to join in with the lines of wedding guests trying to reprise the experience but my MACARENA skills had not been honed in the many years since. I was the one out of synch but hopefully everyone had imbibed enough so as to not notice.

Thanks DG, for a Monday twist, and glad to see you back again, Annabel.

Anoa Bob 1:30 PM  

Apparently I'm UNHIP to 90's fads 'cause I've never even heard of three of the themers, and wish I'd never heard of the fourth, THEMACARENA.

So gotta do something to get my money's worth and a candidate jumped right out at me---a bunch of esses. Hooked up my trusty POCometer but it started making frightening noises, overloaded and blew a fuse. Here's the printout before it shut down:

LUMPS, UFOS, SETS, SEISMS, ACTS, SMURFS, PAGES, OWLS, ORES, AIRS, EDENS, RAYS, DEEDS, HYENAS, and even one of the themers, TAMAGOTCHIS. So I'm calling this grid POC-assisted.

If you think that noticing this sort of thing makes me a NIT-picking ASS, then SUE me. I prefer to think of it as bringing to light edifying META DATA.

Hartley70 1:43 PM  

@Nancy, and @Carola, the poetry slam yesterday was bodacious! Wink to N.

Masked and Anonymous 1:47 PM  

WOOHOO, indeed! thUmbsUp!
Stuff we don't get near enough but got today:
* Fun Blu'Bel darlin, who always tires herself out for us.
* Double-digit respect for the vowel U. Lil darlins.
* Primo bullets in the primo write-up.
* Weeject stacks, in the NE and SW.
* Nostalgic themers. One of which I'd actually heard of (the dance one). (M&A had developed fad immunity, by the 1990's.)

fave weeject: 9AM. Cool to get numeric squares, in a MonPuz.

fave row: WHAMO.ASU.FUGUE. Wham-o, indeed!


themer of total mystery: TAMAGOTCHIS. Evidently, from wiki-research, these were computer-usin egg-shaped super-needy creatures with limited interactiveness and chains that were somehow able to mate and have families. Comes close to describin them folks that live in the trailer down by our creek.

Thanks, Mr. Gulczynski.

Masked & Anonymo11Us


Alby 1:48 PM  

Took longer than usual because the Web site wouldn't accept O for 0 (in HAWAIIFIVE0/90SFADS) and I had to search around for my mistake. I think O and 0 should be interchangeable on the online version, as they would be on the paper version.

Anonymous 2:24 PM  

Nope, not a Monday puzzle.

Andrew M 2:43 PM  

Finished just under my usual time (2:50), but also had the good fortune of spelling "tamagotchis" correctly on the first try, and committing to numerals quickly. After filling in two themers I was immediately thinking "90s" so it wasn't much of a leap for me. Overall I though the puzzle was nice and peppy, reminding me a little of the Buzzfeed crosswords (in a good way). Really liked METADATA.

Reading other comments, I think having been born in 1987 was pretty helpful.

Tim 2:47 PM  

Fascinating that so many people found this such a tough Monday. I suppose that a rebus, even a very light one, is a little out of band for a Monday puzzle, but still.

My only quibble was DRMARTENS, but I really thought until this very day that the official name of that boot was Doc Martens. Serves me right.

tea73 3:00 PM  

My kids were born in 89 and 92 so this played easy to me. They didn't have Tamagatchi pets though! I was stymied briefly by Doc Martens and ut took me a while to get the right spelling of Wham-o and to suss out that the five-o had to be a zero. Other wise pretty much a breeze.

OISK 3:48 PM  

Glad I am not the only one. Never heard of "DAP." Never heard of DRMARTINS either. I put "TAP." First DNF on a Monday in at least a decade. That aside, for me, this was an awful puzzle. The theme involves product names, which I hate as clues, and a decade during which I was 50 years old and able to thoroughly ignore pop culture. Tamagotchis? On Monday?? That's abuse. "What the fugue" ? I thought...

Not a Monday puzzle. But I wouldn't have liked it any better on Wednesday.

Proud Mamma 3:51 PM  

Still a monday, just had to go back to fill in blanks which made it medium-challenging. 51 and knew all the fads. My daughter calls them Dr. Martens...thats what it says on the box.
Metadata. Had data data (thought it was a joke).
Liked the theme, the rest was kinda boring.

Mohair Sam 4:13 PM  

@chefs - I eat a lot of fennel (better for you than liqourice). When I go to a super market and a check out clerk looks at me blankly and says, "What's this?" I answer "FENNEL." If their computer printout doesn't have FENNEL I tell them to try "anise." It always works, always. Sweet anise? What's that?

Z 4:13 PM  

@lobster 11 - the opposite of wheelhouse is outhouse, at least in RexWorld.

@Hartley70 - That's definitely a Saturday clue for ROSIN.

THE Usual Suspect 4:16 PM  

@Judy S, the review was immediately suspect. You were immediately suspicious.

Yer welcome.

Charles Flaster 4:26 PM  

Thanks. You have excellent taste!

Z 5:18 PM  

The crossword plagiarism story has crossed the pond.

Chronic dnfer 5:28 PM  

Dnf'd. Has trmartens and tap. How is dap a fist bump? Pretty awful puzzle. Put the 9 in. Not my cup of tea.

Joe 5:39 PM  

I thought this was fun. Although it did take me 5 minutes of double-checking to correct FIVEO to FIVE-ZERO. So, oddly, if I had just been dping the puzzle in pencil, I would have been fine. Stiil, fun, though I had to get the TAMA-thing from crosses alone. Sort of remember it, could never spell it.

Garett 5:54 PM  

This one was driving me crazy, because I knew I had all the clues answered correctly--but I was doing it online and for some reason put an O in place of the zero. Wasted way too much time reviewing every single clue before I realized my "error" (which wouldn't have been an issue in print).

Z 9:25 PM  

A whole raft of 0 v O complaints just hit my in box. I pulled out my NYT Arts Section and looked at my solve again. It is clearly a 0 in my grid, not an O. Even as a teen in the 70's I knew the Five-0 was a play on Hawaii's status as the 50th state of the Union, so obviously a 0 would be required in the grid to go with 9pm. Honest. I wouldn't lie about this.

Andrew Heinegg 10:12 PM  

Yes, the Say Hey kid is/was the best of all time. Unfortunately, there is no requirement that you be a nice guy and Willie isn't.

Angela 10:17 PM  

I DID THAT TOO. Eventually fixed it.

Anonymous 11:02 PM  

I was born in the 40s, have no children and hence no grandchildren into fads of any era. No one in their right mind ever described me as mod or faddish. Never saw a single episode of Friends because I do not watch TV and rarely go to movies. I read the newspaper everyday, therefore
I blew through this with no trouble because the crosses took care of anything I did not know.

Anonymous 12:50 AM  

It was a decent puzzle but obviously not a Monday puzzle. More like a Wednesday one. It took about 50% longer than my normal Monday time (which is very consistently in the 5-6 minutes area; fast, but not superhuman fast). The tenor of the comments suggests my experience was not unique.

"Seisms" is just a horrible answer, particularly on the "gimme" day that is Monday.

Martín Abresch 4:28 AM  

A day late here, but I just wanted to say that I loved this puzzle.

The only fad that I participated in was THE MACARENA. That was during my two years at the University of New Orleans. I was riding in a car with friends, and at some point they stopped in a parking lot, blared the music on the car stereo, and taught me how to do the dance. Fun times!

I liked the other theme answers, especially TAMAGOTCHIS.

But what made this puzzle exceptional was the fill. I thought that the fill was outstanding. METADATA, SMURFS, BUCKEYE, GENIALLY, FENNEL, FUGUE, WHAM-O, LEAFLET, SHARIF, SAY HEY, QUELL. Fun words everywhere you look!

The grid was interesting. It's not often you see crossed 7's in the middle.

Anonymous 8:39 AM  

What's M&A?

Teedmn 9:35 AM  

@Diana, LIW, click on my avatar to get my email address so you can contact me directly.

I also signed up for email updates from the MN tourney organizers so as to find out when tickets go on sale, as it just says "soon" for now, always helpful.

Burma Shave 10:21 AM  




spacecraft 11:54 AM  

Something is dreadfully wrong. Is the Times running this week's puzzles in reverse order? Because there's NO WAY this is a Monday. Stick a number in a square? Fine. On, say, a Thursday. Do it today and the flag comes out.

But far beyond that, this was the antithesis of my wheelhouse. My...outhouse, I think someone called it? I mean, EVERY SQUARE of the theme answers had to come on crosses. Well, OK, after a dance called THEMACA____got that far, I managed to finish it out, but the rest were total WOEs. I had TAMAGOT____in the NW and those seven letters meant absolutely nothing to me. I have never in my life heard of those things until today. In fact, I never even filled out the rest: that's right, folks, a Monday DNF. Other reasons this can't be Monday:

-->AIWA? I WHA??
-->On Monday, tremors are SHAKES. They don't become SEISMS until at least Thursday.
-->METADATA? New one on me.

I never watch sitcoms, so THERACHEL was crossed in. Last letter was the R. So RAYS are actually fish, go figure. As for DRMARTENS, I never made it to the SW (by that time the natick at 3-down/38-across had made it a no-go anyway)--but even if I had, that would have been still another WOE dependent on crosses.

And even if I could have solved it, I still wouldn't have liked it at all. The whole thing was just a complete bummer.

rain forest 1:22 PM  

I found this pretty easy even though I don't consider myself a 90's sort of guy. However I was a middle school principal then, and I was "exposed" to those fads in one way or another.

I didn't flinch at entering the 9, because it had to be correct, and so the revealer was easy.

Pretty sure that Rex wouldn't have had any love for this one, so it was good that Annabelle had the write-up responsibility today.

A funky and fun puzzle.

BS2 1:30 PM  


I knew ACUTE EMPRESS who’d SAY,”HEY MEN, what do EWE need?”,
“NATURAL ACTS are the best, in FACT, SEEME for those DEEDS.”


rondo 2:27 PM  

I might have been half asleep in the 90’s, or otherwise occupied. Didn’t realize the haircut was called THERACHEL, though it sure was popular, and TAMAGOTCHIS came in all by crosses, vaguely remember such silly items. Heard of DR(Doc)MARTENS, but didn’t know they were a big “thing”. Don’t think anyone could escape THEMACARENA, as popular as the Chicken Dance (is that a Midwestern thing?) at wedding receptions.

Cool that the 9 and the 0 were numbers both ways. But let’s not get all Sudoku from here on out. That’s a different puz.

Didn’t read the comments above yet, but this seems to have been a EWE fest, or U fest, especially in the top third.

With no actual yeah baby apparent we’ll have to go with THERACHEL as portrayed by you-know-who.

A harmless Mon-puz that ran a bit tougher than usual. I’m glad to have been into something else when all those 90SFADS were happening. WHAMO and AIWA are more up my alley.

rondo 2:36 PM  

Almost forgot a NIT – CEMENT is a component in concrete. Sidewalks are made of concrete. So was the Clampett’s CEMENT pond.

rondo 4:17 PM  

@D,LIW - A June day in MN might be the most glorious, perfect day you could imagine. Or you might wonder if summer will really ever come. And they could be back-to-back like that, depending on El Nino, jet streams, and all of the meteorologists' other explanations. Probably not the steady, perfect weather I recall in Spokane every time we went there, cruising up and down West Crown on a Schwinn Stingray banana seat bike. And chatting up the neighbor girl, Tacy. Broke my 13 year old heart to wave good-bye. WHAM-O!

Diana,LIW 4:27 PM  

I pity the new solver who came here looking for a Monday puzzle. Even more if it was their first solve - poor puss would never come back.

I, however, filled it in without any help. Note I said "filled," not solved. Naticked with the DAP DRMARTENS area. Dap? Huh. K then.

Don't dress grunge, so TR Martens sounded alright to me. I am so UNHIP.

I have seen numbers in puzzles before - most like likely in a book of old puzzles.

Never saw Friends or The West Wing, but Mr. W and I saw their sets (see Annabel's photo) on a studio tour in LaLa Land. Didn't see much TV from mid-nineties on - too busy with job(s) and school. Which was all fine with me.

Diana, Lday-in-Waiting for Hipness

Diana,LIW 8:21 PM  

Yes, @Rondo, I grew up in/around Philadelphia, and know well the fickle finger of weather fate. That's one of the reasons that the St. P Hotel is so appealing. It's close!

I'm now 95% sure I'm going to the MPT. What a different thing to do - I'm trying to get other Synderfolk and Futurelanders to consider it. BS's party was easier to get RSVP's for.

Teedmn looks like she is also coming - got an email back from her.

Have you been to a tournament? Did you pass out from the tension produced by the competition? Wazzit like?


Matt 6:01 PM  

I love your blog!

I'm reading from SF. We get the NYT crossword in the SF Examiner, albeit a little bit later (I just finished YOUR March 7th version on April 12th).

There seems to be such a lively conversation though! Would love to keep following you from out here. Assuming that the puzzles follow chronologically, is there any way I can just skip to the next day's blog? Thanks!


Rex Parker 8:41 PM  


At the bottom of every post, you can just click "Newer Post" and go forward one day.

Also, at the top of the home page is a "Syndicated Puzzle" link. Sometimes I forget to update it, but most days it's up-to-date by 9am.


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