Hockey scoring play / WED 4-19-16 / Material that is foreign to body / Loose garb in ancient Rome / Words finger-drawn on dirty car

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Constructor: Tom McCoy

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: FOURTEEN POINTS (39A: Proposal of Woodrow Wilson ... or what the scoring values of 18-, 27-, 55- and 66-Across total) — yep, add 'em up, and you  get FOURTEEN:

Theme answers:
  • GRAND SLAM (18A: Baseball scoring play) — homerun with bases loaded, 4 runs score
  • HAT TRICK (27A: Hockey scoring play) — 3 goals scored over the course of the game
  • FOUL SHOT (55A: Basketball scoring play) — 1 point for a free throw...
  • TOUCHDOWN (66A: Football scoring play) — 6 points for the TD (maybe you thought 7, but you need the extra point for that)
Word of the Day: SCORIA (12D: Dark volcanic rock) —
Scoria is a highly vesicular, dark colored volcanic rock that may or may not contain crystals (phenocrysts). It is typically dark in color (generally dark brown, black or purplish red), and basaltic or andesitic in composition. Scoria is relatively low in density as a result of its numerous macroscopic ellipsoidal vesicles, but in contrast to pumice, all scoria has a specific gravity greater than 1, and sinks in water. The holes or vesicles form when gases that were dissolved in the magma come out of solution as it erupts, creating bubbles in the molten rock, some of which are frozen in place as the rock cools and solidifies. Scoria may form as part of a lava flow, typically near its surface, or as fragmental ejecta (lapilli, blocks and bombs), for instance in Strombolian eruptions that form steep-sided scoria cones. Most scoria is composed of glassy fragments, and may contain phenocrysts. The word scoria comes from the Greek σκωρία, skōria, rust. An old name for scoria is cinder. (wikipedia)
• • •
Fell asleep over election results last night (yes, they were *that* exciting) so just a brief write-up this morning, as I have things to be and places to do [note: turns out it's a normal-sized write-up, after all]. Here's what I remember from last night's solving ... first, a confession. If I have ever heard of Woodrow Wilson's FOURTEEN POINTS, I *completely* forgot about them. Total U.S. History fail on my part. I finished (quickly, 'cause this one was easy), and then shouted clear across the house to ask my wife if she'd gotten the revealer yet. "Did you know the revealer?!" "Oh, yeah, that was a gimme." Sigh. She teaches social studies, and has a Ph.D. in American History, but still, "gimme" hurt. She started giving a from-across-the-house lecture on the Treaty of Versailles, but I was like "OK, got it, don't rub it in." So, now that we've established that I only got a 3 on my US History AP test, let's look at the puzzle. Nice repurposing of POINTS to scoring in the various sports: in order, baseball, hockey, basketball, football. There's only one (big) problem with the theme: a HAT TRICK is absolutely positively not a "Hockey scoring play." In fact, "play" is much more closely associated with football—a single, set strategy executed as one continuous act following the snap of the ball. You can run a play in basketball too. It might have lots of components, but it's fundamentally *one continuous thing*. Meanwhile ... in hockey, a HAT TRICK is the scoring of three goals ... over the course ... of the whole game. It is not a "play." Not by a long, long, long shot. It is three completely separate events. Unrelated events that might take places seconds, minutes, or even several periods apart. It's the simple fact of having scored three goals in a game. That is not a "play." That is fundamentally not a "play."

Despite never having heard of the revealer, I moved through most of the grid, from the NW to SE, with hardly any trouble at all; in fact, FOURTEEN POINTS itself was about the only resistance. It was those damned isolated corners in the NE and SW that scratched and clawed a little. But only a little. I didn't know what an OIL CUP does (turns out it simply holds and regulates the flow of oil in your car) and I really really didn't know what SCORIA is. So that pretty much explains the NE. In the SW, my brain could not process the kind of conversation that would allow me to make sense of the clue 64A: Question in response to "I am" ("ARE YOU?"). That is a messed up question in response to "I am." She just said she was. WTF? Also, I was not aware anyone ROARed IN to anywhere. Even ___ SHOT from [Basketball scoring play] was not obvious to me. So some slowness there. But I still ended up under normal time, and since this is an extra-wide (16x) grid, difficulty probably slots between Easy and Easy-Medium.

More AFROs and a token DRE ... in a puzzle built entirely around a super-racist president. I'll stop pointing this stuff out when it stops being the norm. This is a fine puzzle on a technical level, and if the puzzle treated black people as something more than an assemblage of hairdos and rap musicians with convenient names, if it were even slightly more inclusive on a regular basis, a puzzle like this wouldn't even make me blink. But this AFRO thing is a now a thing. The puzzle equivalent of "Can I touch your hair?" Again, it wouldn't be, if the puzzle were regularly more inclusive. Then, an AFRO would simply be one hairstyle among many in the world, one with very useful letters that one tends to see in grids. At this point, however, AFRO always feels kind of objectifying, and only highlights the puzzle's general and strong tendency toward an exclusively white POV.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Loren Muse Smith 7:38 AM  

Ok. I didn't know that a wraith was a GHOST; "waif" kept interfering. So that and fixating on "oddity" and "oil pan" almost kept me from finishing. Oh, and I struggled with what an "onager" is. That northeast was brutal for me, but finally seeing TUNICS cleared the way to a victory (even though I hesitated with ODD ONE because ONE PART was already in place).
I liked the way TUNICS goes down to meet the ASS. That's the point, right?

Late for the forum and cramming in the last of his second entrée, Hugh Janus struggled into his spiffy new tunic and waddled in to take his place.

SCORIA (??) seems fitting for the theme. And if anyone had played good 46D, the math might not have added up. Hah!

I fell face-first into the golf "trap" trap. And I also panicked on whether it was "Wyle" or WILE.

Favorites were WOLF, OOF, and GOOD TO GO. Also nice to have EAR SHOT right there.

I liked this marrying of US history with sports. Neat idea.

Lewis 7:46 AM  

I got fooled, wanting "traps" for TREES, and fooled by the clue for TWOS, thinking "bills" had to do with birds' bills. I also thought the points must be Scrabble points, but was darned if I was going to go through the process of confirming that. In past puzzles by Tom, I've felt like he and I were on different wavelengths, but today, despite being fooled here and there, we seemed more in sync than ever.

I liked the clues for MISERS and SON, and there were some answers I liked: OOMPH, HATTRICK, TEAHOUSE, ONAUTO, TIEIN, and GOODTOGO. The grid looks clean, and this was an enjoyable solve, with plenty of puzzles within the puzzle to give this solver great satisfaction.

Just noticed the AERO/AFRO word ladder sequence, and you can precede it with another answer (AREA) backward. Clearly, I have too much time on my hands...

George Barany 7:51 AM  

With nineteen New York Times puzzles to his credit in less than TWO and a half years, @Tom McCoy is clearly one of the constructing stars of his generation, but this puzzle was an ODD_ONE, leaving me to wonder, what was the point? [Can't fool me, I learned the FOURTEEN_POINTS back in my junior high school history class--kudos to @Rex's wife for teaching this sort of stuff!].

Now, I know nearly as much about sports as I do about opera and chemistry. I'm with @Rex in calling FOUL (shot) on a HAT_TRICK in hockey: it is not a point-scoring play. Personally, I would have preferred a trey from beyond the ARC. And who ARE_YOU kidding with the cross of NON_SELF (immunology) with NTH (remedial calculus)? In fact, the entire northeast corner strikes me as kind of FORCED. Is SCORIA in any way related to scoring points?

Yesterday, some of the commentariat were concerned about opera references in the puzzle's fill and clues. Today, of course, we have ORATORIO, a non-staged antecedent to the greatest art form humanity has ever invented. @David Kahn, yesterday, missed yet another cluing opportunity for HIPPO; click here if you're curious as to what I'm thinking of. After that, try to get this EARworm out of your mind!

Andrew Goodridge 7:59 AM  

Can't say I loved this one too much. OILCUP, ROARIN, SEENAT, NONSELF, and ONEPART are, I guess, better than the usual junky crosswordese... but not by much.

Completely 100% agree about HATTRICK being an outlier. Also, i don't think any baseball fan would say a Grand Slam is worth 4 "points." Runs, yes. Points ... Never.

Anonymous 8:00 AM  

There are no "points" in baseball, and apparently no crying over sub-par puzzles.

Hartley70 8:09 AM  

No surprise that I ignored the points earned by the various plays because I had no clue what they were. I had the FOURTEEN for a total, but no idea how I was supposed to get there. It felt like a lot of my junior high math homework. Right answer, no proof.

This was a little tough in spots. I didn't know ONAGER was an ass and TIEIN was a great, but a bit obscure, answer for a Happy Meal toy. SCORIA was an unknown, and I tried to make Louvre work instead of the less thrilling AFRAME.

On the plus side, I really liked FORCED, SNOWS and NORAD. NORA was my favorite of all. The HBO documentary about Nora Ephron filmed by her son is currently airing on HBO. If, like @Nancy and me, you'd love to go to lunch with her, this is unfortunately as close as you can get.

NCA President 8:11 AM  

I wish Rex would be clearer in some of his critiques...I'm still not quite sure if he thinks a HATTRICK is a play or not...

And thank you Rex for calling out AFRO. I completely agree and I thought very similarly as I filled it in (yet again). Just because a hairstyle has a recognizable name (and is xword friendly) doesn't mean you should be able to use it. I don't think AFRO should never be used, but as Rex points out, it should be shelved until the NYT can be a bit more balanced in its treatment of race-specific jargon. I'd be interested in the ratio of the use of mullet to afro. I'd be interested in WS's opinion of the use of the "toothbrush" mustache. And don't get me started on the racially infused colloquialisms and the liberal use of rapper's names. Face it, rapper's names are used only because they're spelled funny, not as a nod to the legitimacy of their art.

I'm not asking WS to completely remove any references in the puzzles to racially specific names/hairstyles/music/etc., I would just ask that they treat those words a bit more thoughtfully. When in doubt, don' other words.


I had OILpan to start. Never heard of OILCUP. I had jumpSHOT before FOULSHOT (which sounds weird to me), and I also wanted slap shot for a hockey play. NONSELF seems off to me, too. Can I just add non- to a word and get another word? My shoes are "nonfoot." My food is "nonself." The crap my kids leave in the car is "nonauto." Yeah, nonsense, more like...

As a Wednesday, it was on the more challenging side. I liked it more than not, NONSELF, AFRO, and OILCUP notwithstanding.

TomAz 8:12 AM  

I have the same issues with HAT TRICK. It had occurred to me very early in the solve that HAT TRICK fit that space, but I dismissed it because a HAT TRICK is not a 'play', as Rex notes. Later, I had the H and the A, but I still dismissed it because it did not fit the clue. (At that point I tried to think.. is a HAY MAKER a kind of hockey shot? I mean I know it's a boxing term but might it also be used in hockey? I pictured a big, sweeping shot, with the hockey stick being a sort of scythe "reaping" a goal..)

Anyway. There are deceptive clues and then there are erroneous ones. "Hockey scoring play" is clearly the latter.

Bearasgar 8:38 AM  

In addition to a hat trick not being a play, while a grand slam, hat trick and touchdown all generate points by definition, a foul shot is an opportunity to score. Not all foul shots taken result in points.

Seth 8:42 AM  

Rex, if I may: pick and choose your race battles, man. Complaining about this stuff too often will just make people, like me right now, roll their eyes at you instead of listen to you.

The clue on AFRO has absolutely, positively nothing to do with a black person. Like, not even remotely close to anything even slightly resembling a black person. It's the implement used to maintain the hair. Everyone had AFROs back in the day. My *super white* uncle had an AFRO back in the day. He probably used a pick to maintain it.

And DRE is...a rapper. With a crossword-convenient name. Get over it.

Also, how about the inclusion of A-ROD? That's some non-white inclusivity right there.

In any case, yes, the NYT crossword probably has some work to do moving away from old-white-guy, but it's not always doing something bad. You want people to hear your arguments, not say, "Not this again."

Daniel Peirce 8:49 AM  

Replace the word "play" with "achievement" and the theme clues work much better.

Aketi 8:52 AM  

Who knew that I playing silly mindless games on my iPad would lead to learning something useful for crossword puzzle solving? Before I downloaded the NYTImes crossword puzzle app, I spent my morning coffee drinking time playing Dragonvale, I had bred pairs of all the 200+ dragons, including the SCORIA dragon. I reached the apex of elite players before I finally decided to kick the habit, delete the app, and replace it with another more time consuming one. I feel like I scored a TOUCHDOWN when SCORIA was a total gimme thanks to my prior, ON AUTO pilot, morning app habit,

I totally guessed on the FOURTEEN. When I was in high school no one cared about AP classes and history was taught in such a boring way that it was s CRAM and forget experience, My high school son is doing a much better job of teaching me history from his riffs on what he learns in his AP classes. He clearly is getting a much better education than I did,

kitshef 8:53 AM  

Monday-easy, except for that bizarre NE with its SCORIA and onager and OILCUP and rara avis.

NONSELF is mighty obsucre, but all crosses fair. Not a fan of AERO being presented as though it is a stand-alone word.

Hmmm... I wonder if I can find our old recording of the Goon Show 'China Story' featuring The TEAHOUSE of the August Goon? Haven't heard it in forty years; I suspect I will find it to be shockingly racist by today's standards - way more so than the inclusion of AFRO in a crossword puzzle.

Tim 8:54 AM  

This isn't a "big problem with the theme." It's a modest flaw in the phrasing of one answer. Rex, I love you, man, but you really should consider that there are many decaffeinated brands on the market that are just as tasty as the regular stuff.

DNF in the NE corner: the combination of SCORIA / TUNICS / OILCUP / ASS did me in. Not really having any idea what an "onager" is, I could guess at ASS but it didn't help with the others. I've heard of TUNICS, of course, but the clue just didn't bring them to mind; if it had, I might not have entered OILtaP and been able to complete it. OILCUP is just so much green paint to me and so wouldn't have leaped out in any event.

Other than that, enjoyed the puzzle, especially OOMPH, WEREWOLF, TEAHOUSE, ON AUTO. Is NONSELF a thing? I guess it must be.

And I am grateful, as always, for your pointing out the puzzle's ongoing race problem. I have looked up to Will literally all my life (since my dad had a subscription to GAMES Magazine and had me doing the one-star puzzles when I was ten) but I am continually disappointed with the puzzle's inability to move past these issues under his direction.

pmdm 8:56 AM  

It took me the longest time to get HAT TRICK. Quite true that it is not at all a "play." Boo hiss on the clue.

Allegedly, the real meaning of a "hat trick" in hockey is the scoring of three consecutive goals by a single player. If that is correct, I can't remember if ever I witnessed a hat trick.

Roo Monster 8:58 AM  

Hey All !
Not sure why, but this seems a thin theme to me. I submitted one sorta-similar to this puz (which, of course, was rejected) that had themers THRTY ONE, PLUS THIRTEEN, MINUS FORTY, TIMES THREE, DIVEDED BY TWO, EQUALS SIX. I guess math wasn't up Will's alley at the time... Not sure why mine (to me) seemed not-thin. The ole brain is crazy...

Interesting had to go 16 wide to thw 14 FOURTEEN POONTS in the middle. NE held me up quite a bit. SCORIA (a WOE) crossing an odd OIL CUP, and oddly clued ODDONE and ASS. In NW, funny how had AERO and AFRO consecutively. Actually wrote in AFRO in incorrect spot, in 15A, but already had WEREWOLF in, so said, Huh?, and rechecked clue to find it was AERO! Thank goodness, cause all the other Downs worked! In SE, had a bit of a hard time seeing ONAUTO. Didn't help I had doH for NTH. (Thinking do re mi fa sol la ti do(doh)! DOH!)

Some other writeovers, tbd-ETA, angerS-ROUGES, SnaCKS-SPECKS (snacks would be Little Bit(e)s, right?)

So, easy-ish overall, NONSELF weird, SALLOWER also strange, missing the H. No problem with Rex's odd black v white rant. AFRO as clued here is fine, actually no troubles with it in other puzs, happens to fit in alot of spots. We've had other hairstyles in puzs before, right? UPDOs, BEEHIVEs, COMBOVERs (maybe not that one. Debut word!) The point is, let it go Rex. IMO, a non-issue. Just sayin.


Ludyjynn 8:59 AM  

The entire NE quad was guesswork; luckily, I was GOODTOGO.

Loved the clue for WASHME; hated the clue for NONSELF. Huh?!

'Traps' before TREES and I'm sure I have company there. OOF.

Timing is everything. Agree w/ Rex that a W. Wilson themed puzzle in the wake of the Princeton naming controversy/racism disclosures was a POOR editorial choice. I said to myself, AREYOU kidding?

When I taught evening courses at Hopkins that started at 6:15 pm, some of my students would ROARIN, still damp from the showers and barely dressed from lacrosse practice. They knew I did not abide latecomers, sports or no sports. They were so CUTE as they CHOMPED their to-go salads and took notes.
Some were true scholar-athletes; others, not so much. After word got out and I was TAGGed as a hard ass, only the first category would enroll.

Happy Hump Day, All.

Anonymous 9:02 AM  

Thank you for emphasizing the rookie hockey error, Rex.

You could even make a case that a grand slam is not a play. You might say "nice play" after a diving catch, e.g., but not a slam.

I could get even pickier by pointing out that a foul shot is not a scoring play unless it is made.

A DNF for me because of too many NE words that were new to me.

jberg 9:10 AM  

I read ARE YOU as the question to which I AM is a response, but I just read it again, and @Rex is right. It could be clued "sarcastic response," I guess.

I had a very similar experience -- no idea about OIL CUP until I had almost all the letters, the rest was pretty easy. I was kind of annoyed by the indefiniteness of "French pronoun" as a clue, in contrast with the ultra-preciseness of "Cicero's 601." but that's a nit. (And then there's the false specificty of "'Layla' musician Clapton," to distinguish him from all the other musicians named Clapton...

Less nitty: SALLOW means 'yellow,' not 'pallid.'

Plus everything @Rex said about HAT TRICK. Kind of spoiled the fun, although I wouldn't say D-worthy.

Stupefyin Jones 9:16 AM  

Just curious - how can a rated anywhere near easy if the answers to the clues are unknown to the solver? If words are inadvertently completed because the crosses filled in make way for a bunch of guesses that sounds like hard to me. Especially not knowing the revealer seems kind of like crossing the finish line of a 5K after riding the whole way on someone's back and saying the race was easy.

Nancy 9:20 AM  

I raced through the NW, thinking this was going to be another too-easy, boring puzzle, and then came face-to-face with the NE. Where I never heard of SCORIA, didn't know OIL CUP, and, while I had heard of HAT TRICK, didn't know what it was, exactly, or that it had anything to do with hockey. I had HAT-----, and kept asking myself: Could this be HAT TRICK, by any chance? Believe it or not, it was actually a proper name that unlocked that section for me, since I have heard of ERIC Clapton, even though I didn't know he wrote "Layla".

Important note to novice solvers: It doesn't matter what the clue is. Every four-letter Texas city in a crossword puzzle is WACO. Every single one. I knew it immediately, and I know absolutely nothing about Dr. Pepper.

Is NON SELF a real term? Do people really write WASH ME on dirty cars? I've never seen it in NYC, but then we are not a car culture. I doubt we care -- or even notice -- whether other people's cars are dirty or not. Or maybe other people's cars simply aren't dirty in NYC.

I thought this puzzle had some OOMPH and was a decent Wednesday of appropriate difficulty.

Anonymous 9:30 AM  

Why is older on a blog. Does it mean previous posts?What is meant by tie in in a happy meal? Thought this puzzle uneven in difficulty. Never heard of scoria.

chefbea 9:45 AM  

Too tough for me...I don't follow sports and I didn't know woodrow wilsons proposal
Will some one please explain multi episode story line=ARC and also Happy meal toy=tie in?????

Did not like the puzzle!!!

Aketi 9:48 AM  

@rex, I agree there are many more HAIRDOs than AFROs and that AFRO is OD DONE.

Nevertheless, living in New York City I have a hard time imagining that anyone my son's age could grow up so isolated that "Can I touch your hair?" would still be something they might ask, at least in major metropolitan areas of the US. Maybe I'm living in a hopeful bubble where such things are incomprehensible.

When I was in Peace Corps, I had the opposite experience, I was the only the second white woman ever to have lived in the town, other than the nuns whose hair was covered. My next door neighbor's youngest daughter would literally freak out, scream her lungs out, and run awayif I didn't wear my hair in braids or wrapped in string so it stood up like antennae or was folded down into geometric shapes. Now I'd probably be accused of cultural appropriation, instead of trying to fit in and alleviate a little girll's terror,

Anonymous 9:48 AM  

Northeast got me. . .OILCUP? SCORIA? Never heard of FOURTEENPOINTS either.

When I think AFRO, I think Angela Davis and Noel Redding. But that's just me. . .I agree it will be a LONG time until we see BROKEASAJOKE in a NYT Xword.

Z 9:48 AM  

Crossword clues are not about the best, most common word usages. In fact, clues often stretch or intentionally play on word meanings to trick the solver. But I can't come up with any way that HAT TRICK relates to a "play." Slap shot, tip in, give and go, dump and chase, hip check, box and one, the number of hockey plays goes on and on. But a HAT TRICK ain't one. This is a total clue failure.

I had to laugh when I saw DRE clued by his headphones and ERIC Clapton appear. I guess I'll ask again since it is certain to be apropos, if Rex's observations about the "whiteness" of the NYTX bother you please explain why. His observations are objectively true, so why does that truth bother you.

I'd seen the Wilson article before. I can't say that I agree with the proposal. WW was never an active traitor against his country, unlike Confederate "heroes." If we are going to expunge all the racists from public memorials we might as well close DC. The question for most of US History is not, "Is the president racist?" It is "How racist is the president?"

The Pop Culture, Product Name, Proper Noun entries are low today. Just 14 of 77 for 18%, including the Facebook and Happy Meal clues. Not much to complain about there. I don't much like the SCORIA/ASS clued by "Onager" crossing, proving yet again that not all trivial trivia is PPP related.

chefbea 9:51 AM  

Hand up for having an afro in the 60's and I used a pick!!!!

David Krost 9:58 AM  

You don't know the Fourteen Points, but you think everyone knows that Wilson was a racist. Sure, because the latter is in all the history books.

"At this point, however, AFRO always feels kind of objectifying, and only highlights the puzzle's general and strong tendency toward an exclusively white POV." You really are something. But even aside from my visceral reaction that I just think that is plainly stupid, let's look at it from another "POV". I have tried to work crossword puzzles in England and a couple of other countries. It is really hard, because they come from a POV of their culture and history. That only makes sense, right? Well, this country is still over 60% white, and I am positive that the audience for the NYT in general and the puzzle in particular skews much more heavily white. So sure, let's put in a ton of clues that the audience will never be familiar with and thus will unsubscribe in frustration, just to satisfy "Rex Parker"'s sense of PC for a CROSSWORD PUZZLE (!!??!!)

Get over yourself.

cwf 9:59 AM  

@Anonymous 9:30: scroll to the bottom of the blog you are reading and look to the lower right, above the footer.

GeezerJackYale48 10:07 AM  

I agree with you, Seth. Rex works very hard to let everyone know how super PC he is. Let it go, Rex. Try to be color blind. It works better for us all.

Andrew Heinegg 10:30 AM  

Unfortunately, while this was an easy puzzle, save for the n.e., the theme clues were incorrect as others have pointed out. When 3 of the 4 theme answers are incorrect responses to the theme clue, why did the NYT bother to publish? And, I must agree with
GeezerJackYale48 and Seth. We need more understanding, tolerance and acceptance in our society but, I do not believe that political correctness is particularly helpful in achieving those goals. It seems to me to be more of an indication of self righteousness than anything else.

Bob Kerfuffle 10:36 AM  

Felt on the challenging side for me, as any sports themed puzzle would. The non-sports clues were no problem!

Hand up for TRAPS >> TREES.

I am I the only one who had a bit of a jolt seeing WACO so early in the grid, given yesterday's date?

Z 10:38 AM  

@TomAz - one of the great conundrums of the universe is how Canadians, noted to the point of ridicule for being polite, can so love the hockey fight. Being a Red Wings fan, I have oft heard the term "haymaker" on the broadcast, so I think it is more of a hockey "play" than a HAT TRICK.

@Seth - Is there any evidence that talking less about an ill makes people more aware of it and apt to change it? (Let me give you a hint, "NO")

@jberg - I hear it as doubtful, not sarcastic. "Hey Steph, are you GOOD TO GO?" "I am." "ARE YOU? Are you really?"

@Stupefyin Jones - If a puzzle only included stuff we knew it wouldn't be much of a puzzle. Part of the entertainment is piecing together answers we don't know. How many crosses does it take to figure out that the number is FOURTEEN? Personally, I had a "Am I going to have to remember this" moment before I saw FOU and the answer immediately clicked in. On a somewhat related note, please see @Nancy's Important note to novice solvers.

@Anon9:30 - If you read Rex on a computer or tablet scroll to the bottom of the home page. I don't know about smart phones.

Nancy 10:42 AM  

@Aketi (9:48) -- I thought your Peace Corps anecdote was very amusing and insightful. It shows that ethnocentrism is to be found in all cultures, and it also shows that you to have been a highly sensitive and aware Peace Corps volunteer. And, along with @Seth's 8:42 comment, it provides a much-needed counterbalance to the ridiculous AFRO objections that are yet again taking place on this blog. Thank you, too, Seth, for that breath of sanity and perspective.

I heartily second @Hartley's recommendation of the NORA Ephron documentary. She and I did unfortunately miss our chance to have lunch with NORA. Bummer.

Carola 10:50 AM  

In retropspect, TWOS could have served as a warning of an approaching arithmetic-related (=brain-numbing) theme. I'm glad I knew FOURTEEN POINTS so that I didn't have to worry about the values of the various sports plays (or NON-plays).
Help from previous crossswords: Onager clue, ERIC, plus ON-AUTO write-ins of WACO, AERO, AFRO, RATA.

No BS 10:54 AM  

An oil cup is not found on a modern automobile. It is a way to continuously lubricate a bearing (what holds up the end of a shaft that turns within). You put in an ounce or so of oil and the cup feeds oil to the bearing at a very slow rate, so the cup only has to be refilled at conveniently long intervals.

you can find a nice image of an oil cup here. (Can't seem to put the image here directly.

jae 10:56 AM  

Mostly easy-medium except for NE. SCORIA was a WOE as was OIL CUP, but it had to be a C.

Add me to TRapS before TREES.

Liked the theme, but agree with the HAT TRICK critique. Smooth grid, pretty good Wed.

kitshef 10:57 AM  

@chefbea - Happy meals at McDonalds have a toy inside that often relates to a current movie. Right now, they probably have something related to the current Jungle Book remake. This is referred to as a TIE IN.

Also, a multi episode story line is one of the definitions of the word ARC.

@jberg - laughed at your Clapton comment.

@Nancy - laughed at your WACO comment - was not aware of it but will be in future.

Some might argue that it is the scoring of the third goal that completes the HATTRICK, and that is a play. I don't have the puzzle with me to check the exact wording of that clue and the revealer clue, but that may provide an out.

Joseph Michael 11:03 AM  

While this puzzle has a clever theme, it is not at all on my wavelength. So, for me, the solving experience was D-WORTHY. Or should I say I felt SALLOWER by the time I had finished it.

Wm. C. 11:05 AM  

I call foul on "swallowed!" Objectifying the while race!

Best comment above: Try some decaf, Rex.


John Child 11:08 AM  

@GeezerJackYale48 The only institution in the US that has a plausible claim to be colorblind is the Army. "Colorblind" is too often a willful refusal to see how pervasive racism remains. Political Correctness is a term used by the right to bash liberalism. You may agree with that goal, but being anti-PC and colorblind are not congruent positions.

GILL I. 11:12 AM  

Yikes...or should I say YAWN...AFROS and racism again? Yes, Woodrow Wilson was a racist. Can you name me one president right up until maybe Gerald Ford who wasn't? That pretty much narrows down the pickings don't you think?
Speaking of pickings...At one point in my bizarre life, I couldn't live without my pick. I always had very long, straight boring hair. My very handsome, very gay, Japanese hairdresser told me I had to be an adult and do something with my hair. He gave me the perm de la perm. I had curls everywhere - and they were long. I looked like a bobble head doll gone horribly wrong. At least I had my prick.
I normally don't like athletically type puzzles but I enjoyed this one. Lots of good stuff as pointed out by @Lewis. The only thing that bothered me a tad was the AT TO GO IN's. Wouldn't know a HAT TRICK if it hit me in the ASS. I thought it inivolved the spectators tossing their hats into the rink?
OK I also don't know what a TIE IN is for a Happy Meal...

old timer 11:12 AM  

Wasn't SCORIA that Supreme Court justice who recently died? Had to get that one on crosses, and had to take OILCUP and OLDER on faith. Thanks to anonymous @9:30 for pointing out that the bottom of a blog often is OLDER posts. In fact this blog has "OLDER posts" at the bottom, right side.

I too think Rex should just get help for his racism addiction. Back when afros were more common, plenty of white boys wore afros if they had naturally curly hair -- for some reason, those with blond or light brown hair were more likely to do so. Made sense, because it was the most practical way for a young man who wanted to appear hip to grow his hair out. Me? I used to have hair, straight hair, and back in the day let it grow long and tied it in the back with a strip of leather.

I think OFL is overdoing his carpage about HAT TRICK a little. True, the three points are acquired at different times on three different plays. But the final play that creates a HAT TRICK is only a single play that ends in a single scoring shot. The two earlier goals weren't HAT TRICKs at all.

The two answers that struck me as a little off were FORCED to describe "humor" and ONAUTO. I've never heard "ON AUTO" instead of the full "ON AUTOpilot".

Sir Hillary 11:16 AM  

Nice try by Tom McCoy, and the grid is pretty good. However, the theme just doesn't work, for reasons that many have pointed out:
-- A HATTRICK is in no sense a "play".
-- Nobody refers to a baseball score in terms of points.
-- Same for a hockey score -- it's goals, not points.

If you took the sports purist's view and limited the theme entries to those that are truly "points", you'd need to relax the constraint of cluing everything as "[sport] scoring play". You'd also need to repeat certain sports. The best I can do is the following themers, which would necessitate mirror symmetry rather than rotational symmetry:
-- FIELDGOAL (football version)
-- PAT (short for point after touchdown, better known as an extra point)
-- SOCCERVICTORY or SOCCERWIN (a win in soccer leagues is worth three points; pretty green-paintish)

A stretch, I admit.

Mohair Sam 11:45 AM  

DNFed today because we had SnaCKS for 14d (Little bits) and believed in it with all our hearts. Figured OILCan, didn't know SCORIA at all, and thought the "Rara avis answer had to be in Latin. So it all worked for us. Not.

Took forever to put in HATTRICK because it is absolutely wrong. So is FOULSHOT (ask Shaq or Wilt), but at least it's in the ball park. And a grand salami is a play now? This was a sports themed puzzle done by folks who seem to be not too heavily into sports.

@Rex - Stop it with the AFRO! You sound like those conservatives a few years back who complained that Bush appeared less than Obama in the Times puzzle. I could have correctly argue at the time that the Times puzzle simply treated the White House as an assemblage of Presidents with convenient names - wonder who I'd be paraphrasing? Yeah, Will shortz can be tone deaf (see below), but AFRO is innocuous - and a cool do to boot.

On the other hand, I'll agree with OFL that a Woodrow Wilson themed puzzle leaves a bad taste given what has finally been admitted about him recently. I'm waiting for the rug to pulled from under Teddy Roosevelt, btw.

RiverdaleResident 12:10 PM  

NE corner was a real stumbler: Had oddity instead of odd one and oil pan for oil cup ( is that really a thing?) and no idea about onager.
But, did know the 14 points, because Wilson actually drafted them in what is now our living room. Used to be pleased by that connection, now substantially less so, given the recent information about Wison's destructive, racist policiy of denying federal government employment to African Americans (see Gordon Davis excellent op ed in the NY Times )..

AZPETE 12:12 PM  

See most recent HiLo puz for this.

puzzle hoarder 12:38 PM  

@Rex,I've learned a lot about puzzles from your blog and the xwordinfo website. I wanted to talk about today's puzzle but your latest PC rant has spoiled it for me. I sometimes wonder if you know what racism is. You may recall I live in Chicago. We recently had a little girl on the cover of our local paper who has a bullet lodged in the back of her head. All she was guilty of was trying to ride home from daycare in her gang infested neighborhood. That's racism. I used to work in Englewood and have many vivid memories of those kind of tragedies and you can chalk them all up to racism. You need to remind yourself that you're blogging to adults and we can make our own judgements on what constitutes racism. For myself the appearance of the word AFRO in the NYTP doesn't even come close.

Masked and Anonymous 12:45 PM  

Play, schmay … the McCoymeister just scored 300 big ones.

WEREWOLF? GHOSTS? ODDONE? I feel like I have a constructioneer twin, here.

I have definitely heard of Wilson's "Fourteen Points", about 50 years ago in jr. high history class. They taught me just enough that I could still manage to grudgingly dredge up a 39-A puz answer, without knowin detail one about it. That'll do, Mr. Armstrong. That'll do.

@Indie009: There is also the "in the course of play" version of "play" to consider, in interpretin them clues. A FOULSHOT ain't exactly an individual "scoring play" either, cuz the clock is stopped. But it does occur during the "play" of the game. Sorta. har … I am convinced … AREYOU?

Dumb question: ROUGES is a verb? English lingo-wise? nahhh. M&A would accept ROUGES UP, however. Or "do a rouge play".

Thanx to Tom McCoy, especially for the ODDONEPART. Oh, and extraspecially for 007-U's.

Masked & Anonym007Us


Teedmn 1:17 PM  

I threw caution to the winds today and paid the,price, time-wise. For some reason I decided not to use my tried-and-true method of crossword solving by waiting for a confirming cross before entering an answer. Instead, I went with a stream-of-consciousness approach where I just threw in the first thing that came to mind. So "updo" before AFRO (accompanied by the "expecting @Rex lecture" cringe), Vietnam before IWO JIMA and "snacked" before CHOMPED. I am hopeful that I will be able to override this urge in the future as it caused some black ink pile-ups.

Ironically, since nothing really came easily in the NE except ERIC, that section is pretty clean.

As for the FOURTEEN POINTS revealer, I didn't know the term as I had, like @Aketi, the "history by ROTE, ace the test and forget" education. When I hear kids today talk about history, able to discuss the bigger picture in how events in one era or AREA contributed to the development of later cultures and political movements, I'm envious.

I wanted a pyramid at 47D and a TEA ROOM at 40D but otherwise, I said to my NON-SELF that this was a pretty NON-bad puzzle.

ArtO 1:23 PM  

So many valid criticisms...HATTRICK clue deserves an apology from WS; runs, not points, in baseball, goals, not points, in hockey. NE an issue with OILCUP (?!?), SCORIA; as with others, TRAPS for TREES.

Vancouver Nana 1:33 PM  

Sorry, but other than the theme clues (Even Hat Trick), I did not like the clues or the answers much. In fact, I did not like it, I did not like it all!(Dr. Seuss). :-)

Gene 1:43 PM  

Rarely agree with Rex's nitpicks, but had exactly the same thought and objection to HATTRICK..

Lewis 1:48 PM  

Many years ago, when I had more hair on my head, I worked at a restaurant, and the bartender there had a natural afro (he was Jewish) that I greatly admired. One day, after weeks an months of mulling this over, I got an afro myself. That night, when I went to work, I saw the bartender -- and on that day he got his hair straightened! He told me he admired how my straight hair looked and finally got the courage to change his hair. You can imagine our faces when we saw each other that night...

Ludyjynn 1:48 PM  

@Nancy, not only do I routinely see muddy or pollen covered vehicles here inscribed w/ WASH ME notes, but my mother would write DUST ME on the living room furniture which I had missed when I grudgingly did household chores to justify my so-called allowance. Subtlety was not her intent!

Fred Romagnolo 1:54 PM  

The Fourteen Points were an idealistic attempt to justify the carnage of WWI. They are the basis for FDR's call for the U. N. FDR was a great admirer of Wilson. He was also a racist if the word means anybody who isn't politically correct, like Ken Burns and OFL. Wilson was largely responsible for the break-up of the Austro-Hungarian empire, and the existence of nations like Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Croatia, Slovenia, and ultimately Macedonia, Bosnia, and Kosovo. As has been pointed out, he surely was a racist, but what president before Ford wasn't? Washington only freed his slaves at the death of Martha. Lincoln didn't think the two races could live together on an equal basis. We have enough to do to achieve a just and fair society without going back and raking the coals of history for the foibles of people in the past; especially because of words in a crossword puzzle.

Brian Joseph Bushaw 1:55 PM  

Hat Trick was an obvious though inaccurate answer. I got caught a bit on TREES vs. TRAPS (filled too early), but I think the larger issue with this puzzle was the inclusion of OOMPF and OOF for similarly clued definitions.


Sonia S 2:16 PM  

I first thought an onager was a bird, so put TIT instead of ASS. Ahem.

Agree with you that the NYT, of all papers, needs to get smarter about race and the puzzle. If we can put Harriet Tubman on the $20, we can get a little smarter and less racially festishy in the NYTC. Shortz is a smart guy, he can do better.

It's not a comfortable conversation and won't be for a long time, but I'm glad you keep bringing it up.

Sheryl 2:18 PM  

Interesting political perspective, Rex. I agree! And speaking of politics, why couldn't they have had a political theme today? The New York primary was yesterday, and it was the first time in decades it mattered.

Also, I dread sports-themed puzzles because I have zero interest and zero knowledge. I still somehow finished it, though. The theme phrases were vaguely familiar to me and I got them from crosses, likewise the point total answer (like I would have any idea what any of the theme answers were, let alone their point value).

One more thing on sports, race, and class... Clues related to golf (a game I've never played and never intend to play) are very common in the NY Times crossword. Are we all supposed to be country club types?

Wm. C. 2:18 PM  

The comments above have reminded me of an incident from long ago -- funny, as it turned out, but could have been very bad.

One of the guys in our singles group was at a party with us. He had a long curly "fro," sticking out in all directions. We were at a theme party where for some reason the lights were out, and there were wall sconces with lighted candles in them.

Sure enough, Bill got too close and his hair went up in flames. Gave literal meaning to "hair on fire." He patted it out, though with some burn damage to his hands, while we comrades helped by simultaneously pouring beer on his head.

GILL I. 2:30 PM  

Oh good gravy....
Sorry for the typo. Damn autocorrect?
@Hartley70 sent me an email with the heads-up....errrr, tip-off.

Tita A 2:30 PM  

Busy week here. All I have to say is...
Rex, are you baiting us with that AFRO rant? I do agree it has been clued in questionable ways, but how mush more matter-of-fact can that clue get? I mean, it IS a thing, and that is one of the popular ways to maintain t.
Don't we have th all-encompassing DOS a lot, referencing beehives or shags or buzzcuts or crewcuts or mohawks or flips or...

This was a DNF because ODDITY.

LIked the theme.
Thanks, Mr. McCoy.

Anonymous 3:21 PM  

I was disappointed there was not a "4/20" theme...

Chronic dnfer 3:40 PM  

Horrible puzzle. Agree with Rex on hat trick. Free throw not foul shot. Oil pan not oil cup. Which leaves us with snacks and sparia. Dnf here. Couldn't care less. Much like who ever edited this puzzle. Going golfing now.

AliasZ 3:41 PM  

@Rex, let me take a wild guess: you're saying that HAT TRICK is not a play. Did I get that right?

The NE cul-de-sac was tough, ODD ONE and ONE PART should have been avoided, ROAR IN was weird and SEEN AT an awkward partial, but I liked The TEAHOUSE of the August Moon, GOOD TO GO, WEREWOLF, ORATORIO and a few others.

I liked the theme too, except that a HAT TRICK is really not a play.

In anticipation of Orthodox Easter (May 1), let's listen to the first three movements of the Easter ORATORIO by J.S. Bach.

Laurence Hunt 4:14 PM  

The clue 64A: Question in response to "I am" ("ARE YOU?"). That is a messed up question in response to "I am." She just said she was. WTF?
Rex: Have you never played "Who am I?" Our family used to play this game at ever restaurant meal. "I am... a scientist." "Are you Einstein?" Etc. In fact, my first response to that one was "animal," as in "animal, vegetable or mineral." That's "What am I?" by the way. "Are you a volcanic rock?" "Yes." "Are you scoria?" Oh, so what is the score? This puzzle was well above average for integrated cleverness and academic literacy... even scientific literacy.

the redanman 4:34 PM  

Ugly NE, very messy. HATTRICK - 3 plays, never one. UGH slugged have been in here somewhere.

Martín Abresch 4:48 PM  

Love-hate reaction to this puzzle.

The northwest corner is a beaut, with TAGGING, WEREWOLF, and ORATORIO crossing GRAND SLAM, IWO JIMA, and FOURTEEN POINTS. I liked the absurd combination of Wilson's FOURTEEN POINTS and sports scores.

What I didn't like has been covered by others. The problems with the theme answers, especially HAT TRICK. The northeast corner (which nearly did me in). NONSELF. I also found the duplication of ONEs (ODD ONE and ONE PART) to be distracting.

ANON B 5:05 PM  

Fortunately I didn't analyze "play". As soon as
I saw "hockey" I put in "Hat Trick".
And until I got the theme I couldn't figure
what a picture of Bob Cousy signified.

Anonymous 5:17 PM  

Sonia S: Tanager is the bird, onager is the donkey/ass.

Z 5:41 PM  

"I'll stop pointing this stuff out when it stops being the norm...if the puzzle treated black people as something more than an assemblage of hairdos and rap musicians with convenient names, if it were even slightly more inclusive on a regular basis."

This is PC? This is a "rant?" Wowser. Methinks thou dost protest too much.

Music Man 5:41 PM  

I'm so glad you mention the hat trick as an outlier. I am disappointed that you believe hockey does not contain "plays", that's just not true, but I was planning on bitching that he called a hat trick a 3 goal scoring play. It's 3 1-goal scoring plays.

Smiles 6:28 PM  

Hat trick is when one person scores three goals in the same hockey game - almost never happens. When it's a home game, fans throw their hats onto the ice - really!

tea73 9:02 PM  

I knew an onager was a catapult, but luckily that didn't fit.

Was amused to discover that the red version of scoria is used for landscaping at Taco Bell.

Z 11:33 PM  

I just did this week's AVCX puzzle. Great theme, well executed. One opera clue, two rappers (neither with Lil random letter names) two soul singers, several women, a director clued by the movie Ali, even a Canadian. It is possible to treat black people (and women) as something more than hairdos and rap artists with convenient letters. All at a mid-week level of difficulty. Wake Me Up (The link is an AVCX spoiler).

jjpennyless 12:35 AM  

A grand slam is certainly a play. The official scorer scores each play, and he scores the grand slam. The hat trick is most definitely not a play, it is three separate plays. And a foul shot, while arguably a play, is not necessarily a scoring play. Many foul shots are missed, resulting in zero points, invalidating the revealer.

Joel Blashka 1:32 AM  

I don't find the word "Afro" racist. It is a a descriptive word for a hairstyle that was highly popular in the '60s and '70s. Less so today except for Mayor de Blasio's son. It was most certainly popularized by militant young black students. The style was adopted by hip whites shortly thereafter. Anybody remember the term "Jewfro"? That was what the blacks at CCNY called the hairdo when sported by white students at the college circa 1965.

Proud Mamma 7:14 AM  

For your consideration: prefix clues

Recent additions to the category

Leapfinger 6:34 PM  

High score goes to @Fred Romagnolo. Apparently glasses do improve a person's vision.

Kosovo szep for the ORATORIO, LD. Noting that TEAHOUSE of the August Moon is a play that had quite a few runs. Some of it depends on whether it's the August Moon or the August that's being featured.

Dang, @Gilly, I have to hone my proofreading skills! Just to keep things in perspective, trans seems to be riding a wave, so maybe something to think about, eh?

@old timer, me too for SCORIA as one of the Supremes. Tickled me.

Amn't 100% certain, just wondering which ism is best combated by purifying xwps. Shall keep watching this space.

Z 9:24 PM  

@Leapfinger - The first step in fixing any problem is acknowledging there is a problem that needs fixing.

Leapfinger 11:09 PM  

@Z, true but unrelated. If you want to knock down a wall, not much point in reaching for a ping pong paddle. You might chip some plaster but more likely just bust a lot of paddles,

Burma Shave 10:24 AM  


to EATUP such an ENTRÉE he CHOMPED at ONEPART of her gown.
With a GLINT in her eye, NORA asked, “AREYOU fooling around?”


rain forest 1:19 PM  

Nice one, @ Burma Shave!

SCORIA reminded me of that ex-justice. Pretty close to racist there.

Puzzle was a bit of an ODD ONE, but its quirks were OK by me. A HAT TRICK is a feat, not particularly a play. So? It went right in.

In France, the ENTREE is what it says it is: the first course.

I have to go and build a fence. Ta ta.

Longbeachlee 1:50 PM  

Nancy, I too was stoked by the Nora Ephron documentary, so much so I read Heartburn. If you thought you loved her, wait until you read her book.

Scotsman 3:27 PM  

Lots of problems with this one. Not because it was difficult (it wasn't, except maybe a little in the NE; the A at SCORIA/ASS was a pure lucky guess) but because of poor cluing, weak theming, and a few plain old dumb entries. ODD ONE? ROAR IN? ARE YOU? ON AUTO? NONSELF? No, no, no, no, and no.

Isn't a prism a solid piece of glass, while an A-FRAME is just a, well, frame? Did adding "When Harry Met Sally" and "Layla" to the clues really help anyone who didn't know a writer named Ephron or a musician named Clapton?

And, as others have pointed out: HAT TRICK - not a play. Goals in hockey, runs in baseball - not POINTS. And while FOUL SHOT might technically be a thing, everybody - everybody - says Free Throw.

Not a terrible idea for a theme, but not terribly well executed.

Diana,LIW 4:03 PM  

ONEshoT vs. ONEPART caused my inability to complete the middle south. Frustrating, as the rest was pretty smooth and easy. Came here, finished, and stared at ON AU TO for a while. Oh. AUTO(matic). Foul - need to indicate a abr. IMHO

Also, Riva avis crossing the volcanic rock was a Natick for me. Guessed an I vs. O. O well.

Diana, Lady in Waiting

leftcoastTAM 4:55 PM  

Was having an easy stroll through the park when I was confronted by a wild ASS. This ODDONE blocked me from finishing my walk through the NW AREA. (Yeah, I know, "onager" is a standard crosswordese clue.)

So I missed the A in the crossing SCORIA (have seen a lot of volcanic rock but never heard it called that) and the S in the crossing TUNICS (not seeing the plural).

So it goes.

rondo 5:07 PM  

Yes, I fell into the golf course TRapS. And nearby I had EliaN as in Gonzales, close enough time frame, no? And Pro bono before checking crosses for RATA to show up. So a big inkfest in the SW. Agree with the discussion re: the HATTRICK clue. Do not go along with OFL’s take on AFRO as clued; I’m as white as can be (until the summer sun comes out), and I had an AFRO in the ‘70s, it did take a special comb, or pick. AFRO by itself, and as clued, is just fine. And the FOURTEENPOINTS was a proposal by that particular president, not someone else; it just happens to set up a theme for a xword puz, not designed for world peace and harmony. Oh wait, maybe it was. Rail about something else if you must.

ONEPART gin and ONEPART whiskey make for a FOULSHOT.

Do I dare give NORA EPHRON a yeah baby? You make the call.

Of all those scoring “plays”, I have only made FOULSHOTS. Only hit one home run, can’t skate, no touchdowns but I did block a punt for a safety while on DEFENSE.

NONSELF is an ODDONE and there’s a few others that could’ve used some help, but to make too much out of a puz one must be an onager.

leftcoastTAM 5:25 PM  

Did I say NW? I meant NE. I guess today I don't know my ASS from....

leftcoastTAM 7:24 PM  

...a compASS.

Diana,LIW 9:18 PM  

Got that, leftcoast, directions can be confusing.


Diana,LIW 10:02 PM  

Rondo - I'm with you - had an AFRO too, in the 70/80's . Not a planned one (long story) but still...


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