Agave drink / THU 6-9-16 / Shrubby wasteland / 1920s screen star Naldi / Large but not often vocal voting bloc / Publications for by aficionados / Modern Japanese martial art

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Constructor: Damon Gulczynski

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: SILENT — circles spell "SILENT," with each letter in SILENT being itself a silent letter (in the Across answer). SILENT can precede two other words in puzzle: MAJORITY (49A: With the circled letters, large but not often vocal voting bloc) and PARTNERS (21A: With the circled letters, investors not involved in the management of their businesses)

Word of the Day: TORTONI (43A: Trattoria dessert) —
noun: tortoni; plural noun: tortonis
  1. an Italian ice cream made with eggs and cream, typically served in a small cup and topped with chopped almonds or crumbled macaroons. (google)
• • •

Two things eroded my enjoyment of this puzzle. The first was the fact that I did this week's American Values Club Crossword earlier in the day (a Jeff Chen production: "No Seconds for Me, Thanks") and it was so good that I was left stunned that the NYT couldn't / wouldn't / hasn't produced a Thursday-type puzzle that good in so so so long. Weird that Jeff practically works for the NYT (writes a very-much-authorized blog about their puzzles) but didn't give his best work to them. But Jeff's puzzle aside, the AVXC just destroys the NYT on a regular basis. Week in. Week out. That shouldn't be. The "best puzzle in the world" shouldn't be getting consistently schooled by an indie outlet. But here we are. None of this, of course, is the fault of this puzzle, which is actually solid and clever. But the AVXC this week really is something else. The *other* thing that made me not love this puzzle so much is the very concept of the SILENT MAJORITY, which I associate with scary white bigotry (check out the signs at the Trump rallies, for instance). It's creepy. At first, I thought that was the only SILENT thing in the puzzle, so my enthusiasm just crashed. Then I saw there were also PARTNERS, *and* that the letters in "SILENT" were themselves silent (in the Acrosses), and I liked the puzzle much better.

Despise the cutesy syntax in the clue for AISLES (17A: Pair of big jets?). Big jets have a pair of these ... is what the clue means. Torturous. But most other clues and answers were acceptable, if far too easy. Only trouble spots (besides AISLES) were the Italian dessert crossing (GELATI is kind of a yuck plural, but I knew it—TORTONI, I didn't know, and have never seen ever); LIE IDLE, which I had as the much more common SIT IDLE (28A: Go unused); and ... I think that's it. I needed a cross or two to get the NON- in NONBASIC. "Alkaline" I know. NONBASIC isn't as familiar to me. But all else in the puzzle was a cinch, and the theme made the puzzle even cinchier. I walked into MAJORITY and then just filled in all the remaining SILENT circles from there. With SILENT in place, PARTNERS = cake.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. if you want to see a variation of today's theme done really brilliantly (by Erik Agard and Amy Reynaldo), check out this Fireball crossword from last year. (h/t B.E.Q.)

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Diana,LIW 12:16 AM  

post from the past in the deLorean, here

OK Synders and other interested parties. I just had a thought. Yes indeedie, I did.

Uh ok? Where are my smelling salts? There, breath that in. Not feeling so faint now?

OK, so here's my thought(s). Yes multiple.

I've been mulling (or musing) on the many comments I've read here, by OFL and other solvers, that the NYTP is not as glorious today as it once was. Drabber. Duller. Not as lively. Not quite as dead as the proverbial doornail, but certainly feeling its "age" in its joints. (Not that I would know anything about that!) (No, not that kind of joint!)

These comments of disillusionment are usually prefaced by something like, "I've been solving the NYTP for 25 years," "I've been solving the NYTP since before God told Noah to build an ARK." "My mother started me solving the NYTP while I was in my crib." "This is my third century solving the NYTP."

So, as a Crossword 4th grader, solving consistently for 2+ years, I have thought - "I wonder what all these folks are on to?" I mean, they must be brilliant, long-term solvers.

Then I realized, due to a post I made the other day, that I may have a, not unique, but somewhat different point of view. Another perspective You see, I have purchased many, many anthologies of the NYTP - some from 2 or 5 or 10 or 20 years ago - to practice my solving skills. I solve (or attempt to) several puzzles a day. I'm running as fast as I can to catch up with y'all. And I haven't seen a big (or even little) difference in quality for the past two decades that I've been solving for the past two years.

So here's a possibility. Maybe the Times isn't getting worse. Maybe you're getting better. Much, much better. So much better that you've lost perspective as to what constitutes an easy, or good, or tough, or "elegant," or NYT-worthy puzzle. This could be especially true for solvers who care about time because they participate in tournaments on the competitive level. It's like y'all have gone from HS athletes to the Olympics to the NFL to the Super Bowl.

In the meantime, I'm just enjoying the puzzles. I actually feel kinda bad whey y'all don't. They are puzzles. Little pieces of fun. Sit back. Breathe. Enjoy!

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords

Hmm, I might just get into the deLorean and fly this by Futureland...

David Krost 12:17 AM  

Rex, now I think you say these things in your review just to get a rise out of me, although I am equally confident that gives me far too much credit and importance. In any case, if you let the presence of SILENT MAJORITY ruin your fun, combined with every other trivial trigger and affront you seem to feel you must never have fun at all. Please get over yourself. You really cannot imagine, I must conclude, how pathetic it really sounds. Especially since your characterization of the phrase is absolutely incorrect based on its history. Just another sensational take on things to suit your politics.

Kimberly 12:32 AM  

I didn't even notice that the letters in "silent" were also silent until I read the blog.

This was a weirdly easy Thursday. It's like Tuesday and Thursday got swapped this week. Even the theme wasn't the usual tricky bit of fun, although now that I've learned every letter in "silent" was silent in its across, I'm more impressed. Once again, though, it's a matter of a clever construction rather than a clever solve, and that is an important distinction.

Charles Flaster 12:48 AM  

Lots to like in this easy one.
A plethora of creative clues--BARRELS, OP ED, RECANT, FAIR GAME, and KNOB.
Write over LIE IDLE for Lay IDLE( since the first "L" was in place.)
CrosswordEASE--ANI, NITA, and ACAI.
Liked the ITALIAN crossing of GELATI/TORTONI. I suppose there is such a street corner somewhere in ITALY. If not -> there should be.
Thanks DG.

lg 12:48 AM  

Meh. Simple, simple, too simple. I was shocked at how fast I tore through this. My only missteps were IMPedE for IMPOSE, vOlcAnIC for NONBASIC (only for a few seconds) and manelOOK for HYMNBOOK (only until I had more answers filled out. Everything else came together for me quite quickly. Shocking for a Thursday, which is usually my second worst puzzle of the week behind Saturday.

Diana,LIW 12:54 AM  

OK Synders and other interested parties. I just had a thought. Yes indeedie, I did.

Uh ok? Where are my smelling salts? There, breath that in. Not feeling so faint now?

OK, so here's my thought(s). Yes multiple.

I've been mulling (or musing) on the many comments I've read here, by OFL and other solvers, that the NYTP is not as glorious today as it once was. Drabber. Duller. Not as lively. Not quite as dead as the proverbial doornail, but certainly feeling its "age" in its joints. (Not that I would know anything about that!) (No, not that kind of joint!)

These comments of disillusionment are usually prefaced by something like, "I've been solving the NYTP for 25 years," "I've been solving the NYTP since before God told Noah to build an ARK." "My mother started me solving the NYTP while I was in my crib." "This is my third century solving the NYTP."

So, as a Crossword 4th grader, solving consistently for 2+ years, I have thought - "I wonder what all these folks are on to?" I mean, they must be brilliant, long-term solvers.

Then I realized, due to a post I made the other day, that I may have a, not unique, but somewhat different point of view. Another perspective You see, I have purchased many, many anthologies of the NYTP - some from 2 or 5 or 10 or 20 years ago - to practice my solving skills. I solve (or attempt) several puzzles a day. I'm running as fast as I can to catch up with y'all. And I haven't seen a big (or even little) difference in quality for the past two decades that I've been solving for the past two years.

So here's a possibility. Maybe the Times isn't getting worse. Maybe you're getting better. Much, much better. So much better that you've lost perspective as to what constitutes an easy, or good, or tough, or "elegant," or NYT-worthy puzzle. This could be especially true for solvers who care about time because they participate in tournaments on the competitive level. It's like y'all have gone from HS athletes to the Olympics to the NFL to the Super Bowl.

In the meantime, I'm just enjoying the puzzles. I actually feel kinda bad when y'all don't. They are puzzles. Little pieces of fun. Sit back. Breathe. Enjoy!

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords

Hmm, I might just get into the deLorean and fly this by Futureland...

jae 1:35 AM  

Medium for me mostly because I had roC before ORC and held on to it for a bit too long. Plus I had the same problem areas as Rex...NON did not come easily and the GELATI/TORTONI/AISLES area was tough.

Liked it, but I'm now really looking forward to the AVCX puzzle which I'll be doing tomorrow while on vacation at extremely scenic Cannon Beach, OR.

phil phil 2:33 AM  

anNA the Lady's maid or whatever, got me. Watched the whole series but forgot about EDNA. If I hadn't watch it I would have stuck the RDA cross and guessed the right name.

I enjoyed it nevertheless

Jim Finder 4:37 AM  

12D "In the strike zone" = OVER? Explain?

Loren Muse Smith 5:13 AM  

Hah! My favorite clue/entry was AISLES. And I thought you might not like MAJOR and MAJORITY sharing a drid. Go figure. I went with "sit idle" first, too.

FAIRE was the hardest part for me (with that silent E at the end!). I went to a Renaissance faire once, and boy did I feel out of place. I felt so weird and conspicuous around all those tunics and laced-up dresses with those flappy sleeves. Chalices, mutton, venison pie. (Talk about your faire game.) I had this nervous smile frozen in place whole time that screamed, "Get. Me. Out. Of. Here."

I agree that this one is clever. I really like that the silent E is in MATTE, so that E is truly silent; it doesn't affect the pronunciation the way it does in DRAPE, JOKE, LAKE, CONSOLE, RAVE, NAPE, IMPOSE, ADE. . .

My one little nit would be calling an I silent in any kind of vowel digraph. Sure, the end of CARRIAGE is pronounced just like the end of, say, "carnage," but I would have been happier with something like "business" for the silent I. It feels somehow even silenter there.

I liked the clue for RECANT. But you can recant 'til the cows come home and not really unsay it. I'd be hard-pressed to choose the one thing I could unsay if I could. Hi, almost everyone I've ever met.

Beautifully-placed symmetrical circles for the SILENT. This was fun.

Aketi 6:17 AM  

Today the women were the MAJORITY in the puzzle SPACEK, EDNA, OLIVIA, SIS versus AKINS, EMILIO, and an unnamed LATINO).

HAIRDYES yesterday, COLORING today. I found out from one of my husband's relatives that you can dip DYE your HAIR with Kool Aid, no need for the colorist.

Lewis 6:49 AM  

I solved the puzzle thinking, "Is that all there is?" (cue Peggy Lee), that the theme was just the SILENT circles and two answers, thinking that MAJORITY more than described the non-theme part of the puzzle. But learning that the letters in SILENT themselves were silent in their own words (at least their across words) made the puzzle eminently cooler.

There were some clever clues (MATTE, KNOB, OPED), but I expect more on a Thursday. There were some nice answers too: JOSTLE, RECANT, FAIRGAME. I like the EMILIO/LATINO cross. And one nit -- It seems to me that CLAW_AT is not "Try to scratch" because one clawing at *is* scratching.

The "silent letters" aspect of the theme won me over -- transitioned the puzzle for me from solid to solid and special. Good one!

George Barany 6:57 AM  

Today's puzzle by @Damon (not "... and Pythias") Gulczynski is admirable on numerous levels, several of which were missed by me in solving but brought to the fore in @Rex's thoughtful review. Among my errors, eventually fixed, were hanging on too long to CAR_SEATS before eventually getting to CARRIAGE, and unable to believe that E_MAJOR and MAJORITY would be allowed in the same puzzle. Is the latter (along with the gratuitous silent K of KNOB) FAIR_GAME? Also, NONBASIC didn't stump me wearing my crossword solving hat, but seemed off to my chemistry professor hat. However, I was rather pleased to work out the I at the intersection of 43-Across ("Trattoria dessert" the singular) and 26-Down ("Trattoria desserts" the plural).

To those @Rex-ites unwilling to wait until tonight to tackle a themeless puzzle, I call attention to @He's So Shy by @Mark Diehl.

GeezerJackYale48 6:59 AM  

Well-said, Diana.

GeezerJackYale48 7:01 AM  

David Krost: spot on! I could not have expressed it so well.

Andrea Ojeda 7:12 AM  

it is MEZCAL, not meScal. Why do American change the original spelling all the time? It's just like writing Havana, instead of the real HABANA. Annoying and unnecessary.

Oscar 7:18 AM  

Not enough white men in the grid, otherwise fine.

Len Van Vliet 7:33 AM  

Baseball: as in "the ball was over the plate at the knees for strike one"

Mary Perry 7:36 AM  

I could not get NW bc of Aisles. Meh.

Conrad 7:51 AM  

@Diana,LIW: I agree. I've been working crosswords from the archives in the smartphone apps and you're right -- there has been no decline in quality, at least since 1993. Part of the perception may be OFL's thesis that the NYT doesn't pay constructors enough and therefore all the good constructors are going to indie sites. That (both ends of it) may be true, and the indies may indeed offer better puzzles. But the fact remains that the NYT is as good as it ever was. Thank you for your thought(s); you can put the smelling salts away now.

Anonymous 7:56 AM  

Nice puzzle that was somewhat challenging because of the humorous clues.
All this comparing with other, better, puzzles reminds me of mean girls who say, You call this a party? I went to a much better one last week.

chefbea 8:13 AM  

Fun puzzle but hand up for not realizing that the letters were silent. Loved that tortoni and gelati shared a letter...and what are the two posts at 12:16 and 12:54 all about and why do they appear twice????

Scott 8:15 AM  

EDNA? Seriously? That's awfully rough- a minor character who shares two letters with ANNA, another maid who was actually on the show for more than a handful of episodes, and the two different letters make plausible crosses (RNA sounds like a nutritional standard and just about anything could be a slang term). I feel used!

Wm. C. 8:16 AM  

Hand up on ROC before ORC.

Hand up on not noticing that the letters in SILENT were silent in the across fill.

Hand up with Mr. Krost's observation about OFL's politics showing through in a (supposedly) apolitical arena.

@JimFinder -- A [Ball] in the strike zone is OVER the plate.

L 8:23 AM  

No one says "coloring" as a "salon job". Coloring is what you do in preschool. Just sayin...

kitshef 8:29 AM  

In CARRIAGE, isn't it the A that is silent? Don't we say kar-ij?

Also, how do you arbitrarily pick the first L in LLAMA as silent? Why not the second L? And given the etymology, can you really call either one silent?

And of course, we missed a lovely opportunity to use forte instead of MATTE...

Beyond that, not particularly easy for me. Average Thursday. COLORIst before COLORING and adit before WING made the west a bear.

Hated it overall. And I don't say that just because I got my third DNF in six days (GELATo/TORTONo). In particular, lots of the bad kind of PPP - things that folks know today that no one will know in five years (I'm looking at you, OLIVIA), or that folks used to know that no one knows now (Mr. AKINS), and some bad short fill (ANI, EXE, ASA), and some bad long fill (CLAWAT, NONBASIC).

David L. 8:35 AM  

kroner, kronur, kronor = groaner (pick your favorite Scandinavian country)

also, no rant on EMAJOR and MAJORITY practically next to each other?

Roo Monster 8:44 AM  

Hey All !
Didn't catch the "silent" letters in SILENT, so though Rex was gonna lambaste this, as I was going to, saying it was Way Too Easy and Not Tricky for a ThursPuz. Still think it'd be better as a WedsPuz, but at least there was an extra layer of themery.

That said, clues skewed Thursday, but still easy-med. Interesting observations by Diana, LIW. Not sure if I'm the one who's better at these puzs, or they actually are getting easier and Will is burning out!

Had roC fpr ORC, and IMPedE for IMPOSE, causing a bit of Huhs? for 4&5D. Only writeovers. Never heard of TORTONI, but Tiramisu is quite awesome. Can take or leave GELATo. BOZ a WOE. LEONINE back, and got SPACEK easy, how many movie stars are mamed Sissy? Not are Sissies... :-)

Enjoyable, the ole brain thanks its easiness.


kitshef 8:48 AM  

@Diana, LIW

If you subscribe to the Times puzzle online, you get access to a treasure trove of puzzles going back to 1993. I've gone and solved a few from each year, and I think it is reasonable to say that the overall quality has not changed observably, although there does seem to have been a decrease in average difficulty.

I think the perception that the Times is falling off the cliff can in part be attributed to an overall increase in the number of quality constructors, so that as the Times has remained the same, the rest of the world has upped its game.

I currently get the Washington Post as well and its puzzle (a syndicated one) is, on average, not so good as the times. The exception is on Sunday, where 85% of the time the Post is better. Sunday Times tends to play like an oversized Monday-Tuesday puzzle. Evan Birnholz's Sunday puzzles for the Post are usually much more creative, though there are times when he over-reaches.

I don't track my time but solve for fun. I did try to go fast for a week or so, and found it decreased my enjoyment considerably. You get all het up over little nits that solving recreationally you'd barely notice, because they slow you down.

Anonymous 8:55 AM  

"In the strike zone"-- OVER.

OVER the plate, where the pitch must be to be called a "strike".

Sir Hillary 8:57 AM  

I was all set to come here and complain about the thinness of the theme, but then OFL's review opened my eyes to the silence of the letters in the across entries. That changes everything and makes me appreciate the puzzle much more. I just wish that element had been more obvious during the solve. Maybe it was for others, but I missed it entirely.

@LMS - You and I may have attended the same FAIRE on the same day inhabiting the same consciousness, because my experience was exactly as you describe. Never again.

Patricia Markert 9:03 AM  

Here here for Diana the lady in waiting. Often the puzzles people don't like are the ones I enjoy most, but I do come to read Rex's cranky asides because I usually learn something I hadn't noticed before. As a non-Olympic crossword puzzle solver, I enjoyed this one.

Z 9:06 AM  

This is a really good Tuesday or Wednesday puzzle. That it ran today is not the fault of the constructor, but it is hard not to compare. I heard a quote (on Mike and Mike of all places) yesterday: Comparison is the death of joy.* Yep. This is a perfectly fine puzzle with a neat little SILENT letter trick. I could complain about NITA Naldi, but we also get OLIVIA Wilde. EMILIO Estevez seems a wee bit dated these days, but ANI DiFranco is on tour right now.

I do have a DNF and I'm not happy about it. GELATo crossing the WOE TORTONo seems more than a little unfair. Yeah Yeah, I should have see the plural cluing for 26D. Still, "Foul!"

@David Krost - If you're going to cite history maybe you should know the phrase's history. SILENT MAJORITY is rooted firmly in Nixon's Southern Strategy. Specifically, LBJ had alienated the racists in the Democratic Party by strong-arming into law civil rights legislation. It's easy to forget now, but until 1964 the south was a one-party bloc and that bloc was (largely racist) Democrats. LBJ (from Texas, no less) and the Democrats deserted them. The Republicans, rather than leaving this sizable voting bloc unMOORed, actively worked to bring them into the Republican Party. From Reagen/Bush to Dubya to Trump, the Republican Party has moved farther and farther away from the Party of Lincoln. You can easily find old guard Republicans (getting very old these days) using the term "neo-confederates" to describe the likes of Cruz, Lee, and Trump. Simply, SILENT MAJORITY is a polite way to describe bigoted white men. So yeah, it may not pass the breakfast test for some.

*The interwebs say Twain, but you know how that goes.

No BS 9:06 AM  

Non basic includes both acid (less than 7 p-h) and neutral (exactly 7). Pretty precise and clever, I thought.

Anonymous 9:08 AM  

@jim finder

Doubt I will be the first response on your question, but here goes.

A baseball pitch that is called a strike is 'over' the plate.

Real tough sledding for me because I had spumONI instead of TORTONI for the longest time. Only when I realized that the Japanese martial art could not possibly end in a 'P' did I consider alternatives.

Also had moONED in place of TBONED for broadsided, as I thought that could work, although not the answer I expected to pass the breakfast test.


orangeblossomspecial 9:13 AM  

There aren't many songs relating to silent majority or silent partners, but here are two that carry the theme:

Patti Page recorded 'Changing PARTNERS'

Harry James recorded 'My SILENT love'

Anonymous 9:14 AM  

I call bullshit - It's the second L in LLAMA that's silent, not the first.

ArtOk 9:16 AM  

@Diana, thank you for expressing exactly what I have been feeling for a long time...the need to recognize there kare different skill levels of crossword fans and we all (whether speed solvers or sloggers) get a certain level of enjoyment from the challenge (or not) in working at the solve.

Perhaps the answer is to thank OFL for his insights (e.g.noting that each letter in SILENT is silent in the word crossing it in today's puzzle) and for providing we, who are less than expert, with the solution when the challenge is beyond our capabilities and to simply ignore the criticism that is irrelevant to our experience.

Nancy 9:19 AM  

What Kimberley said. I also didn't know those letters were silent until I came here, and that brilliant bit of construction had no bearing on whether I found this a fun solve or not. I didn't -- not at all. Missed our rebus a lot. This is the 2nd Thursday in a row without one, but I remember liking last week's puzzle a lot more than this one. A lot of constructing work that's wasted on the solver.

Anonymous 9:20 AM  

@ Jim Finder

in the strike zone = over the plate

QuasiMojo 9:22 AM  

Tortoni and Nita (Naldi) were my first two entries. Love both. I am rather ho-hum about the theme, perhaps because of the repeated use of "major" in the grid. Yes, the silent letters bit was clever but it has little to do with the theme since most letters are not silent. Silent Minority might have been more amusing. And count me among it (them?) :)

Seth 9:27 AM  

I actually didn't really like the AVCX puzzle this week. I won't give anything away, because it's a contest puzzle, but it was just utterly tedious for me. I saw no *reason* for the puzzle to do what it did. Unless I'm missing some other layer of the theme. Guess I'll have to wait until the Crossword Fiend write-up to see.

Anonymous 9:27 AM  

I have an honest question:

Do you think Rex meant tortuous instead of torturous?

( I know lots of the usual inmates will refrain owing to my anonymity, but I'm hoping some other favorites will indulge me.)


DJG 9:28 AM  

"solid and clever"

I will take it!

As always, extended constructor notes are available at my blog:

r.alphbunker 9:29 AM  

Imagine a chain of organic restaurants along expressways mingling with the McDonalds and Pizza Huts. These restaurants would provide nourishing food for travelers at reasonable prices 7 days a week. The price to pay for this scale would be a somewhat standardized menu.

Now imagine someone who is an excellent cook opening a single restaurant that provided a wide range of new and exciting organic gourmet meals but was only open one day a week.

I will let you take this thought experiment from here.

John V 9:37 AM  

I'm slow. Don't understand AISLE. Help?

Carola 9:38 AM  

Nifty construction (I managed to notice the SILENT letters before finishing when I took a second look at AISLES), but with the drawback that the SILENT MAJORITY and PARTNERS were too easy too see and the SILENT letters too easy to overlook. I made the puzzle more difficult by resisting the idea that the shaded squares would only contain a single letter and jumping around the grid seeking a rebus. Toughest area for me was the NE: even knowing KRONER it took quite a while for me to understand KNOB and OPED.

Tita A 9:44 AM your take on The Silents...

Weird journey through the multiple layers...
First, in got enough of the circled letters to realize it was spelling SILENT. Then noticed that CARRIAGE had a (sorta) silent letter, so thought that was the trick. Cool!
Then got the other two fill-ins. Nce.
So I liked it, but feel a little bit cheated out of my clever/tricky Thursday.

Re: Italian Plurals of Convenience...a few years back I read something in the NYT by Will, musing on puzzles in different languages...
Since many Italian words form plurals with "I"' it makes it very difficult to use them wildly-hilly, unless you're willing to cross them with plenty of RRNs. Can't find that article anywhere...

Didn't notice the MAJOR/MAJORITY duo... Did notice the FAIRE/faiR set...that is, for the majority of the solve time where I had that instead of the awkward OVER.

Thanks, Mr. G.

Andrew Heinegg 10:12 AM  

As Rex explained, it refers to the fact that big jets have two aisles ala the 747. I thought it was kind of a crummy clue-answer even tho I got it.

Andrew Heinegg 10:19 AM  

I have an idle curiosity question. The coloring answer to salon job made me wonder: when did being blonde and/or having blonde streaks in one's hair take this country by storm? There are certainly more females that do it but, since about 20? years ago, males do it quite a bit as well. Like I said, idle curiosity; the social reasons behind it might be an interesting subject for a psychology journal.

GILL I. 10:34 AM  

Harrumph. I really wish I had cottoned on to the SILENT letters trick. I know I would have enjoyed it even more. But I didn't, and I thought it was fairly easy for a Thursday, and I think the puzzles this week are in the wrong order, and I hate Italian plurals, and thanks for the OVER and KNOB explanations....
@kitshef: I pronounce it kar-Aj but you have a valid point. Now I'm going all around the room and loudly saying CARRIAGE and it can sound Idj or adj depending on where I am.
I liked the clue for HYMN BOOK. @Andrea Ojeda. I think I feel your pain. I had the correct MEzCAL so the tricky AISLES took forever. Oh, the HAV/BANA debate stopped a long time ago. Even the Miami Cubans I know spell it Havana. (sigh)
I'm going on over to BEQ and try his puzzle today. I learn all kinds of tricksy words from him...
One last oh...@Diana LIW....I'm a lot better at puzzling since reading @Rex about 5 years ago. Even so, I'm agreeing with OFL about the stale, oldish, same-o-same-o NYT puzzles these last few years. Once I started doing some of the other funny and creative puzzles looming out there, I've become more cranky about the quality of my first love - the NYT puzzles. Crosswordese be gone!

Sheryl 10:38 AM  

Good puzzle except for the clue for AISLES. The syntax in "Pair of big jets" is tortured to the point of word salad. Even after finishing the puzzle, I couldn't parse it to mean AISLES.

The other place I stalled was ADE, but the clue for that made sense once I finally got it.

Sheryl 10:41 AM  

What does OFL stand for?

Anonymous 10:44 AM  

A jet plane has a pair of aisles.i also had the answer but didn't get why. Also I missed the meta level of this puzzle and wished that somehow I would have been given a heads up to look for another layer.

Gene 10:58 AM  

Agree COMPLETELY about this week's AVXC puzzle; thought it was great. As to Rex's unfamiliarity with TORTONI, that's clearly a result of living "upstate" instead of the NYC Metro area. Can't imagine an Italian restaurant without it in this area.

Tita A 11:02 AM  

@DLiW...nice to see you in realtime. And well said.
Plus, @kitshef's and @Z's additions.

But Rex's critiques are a big part of how I learn - so tiring as they might get, I for pne continue to harvest them for the kernels of wisdom and wit.

puzzle hoarder 11:07 AM  

I didn't notice that the SILENT letters were actually SILENT but then again I don't really care. This puzzle wasn't that easy for me mostly because I solved it in bed last night and kept falling asleep. Drowsiness made the tricky parts much more confusing. At one point I actually tried to make 33A into AKIDO because I conflated it with 24D (which I had already written in.) Maybe AKIDO is something you'd teach an AKITA to make it an attack dog. Until I did this puzzle I'd never noticed that ROC and ORC are anagrams. The one thing I was least sure of was the I of GELATI. I'm just not sure of pluralizing in Italian. TORTONI looked right so I avoided the dnf.
I'm not familiar with BOZ and I take offense at cluing a MOOR as a wasteland. Would the Grand Canyon or Yosemite be considered wastelands?
I never thought of the silent majority as referring to southern racists. To me it meant people like my parents who would never have protested anything but would have been appalled to see their sons go to Vietnam.

AliasZ 11:18 AM  

Loved this one, if a bit easy for a Thursday. My one nit to pick is CARRIAGE, in which the way I hear it the A is silent, not the I: carrIdge, not carrAdge. If it rhymed with "garage" then yes, but it rhymes with cartridge. Other than that, fun SILENT theme.

Being creeped out by the concept of SILENT MAJORITY is more a reflection on the beholder than on the subject. To me it is an aptly descriptive counterpoint to the "vocal minority". In my youth the silent majority was about 98.7% of the population in that totalitarian society, silenced by the vocal minority. They were called crazy (many of them forcibly placed in mental institutions), the masses, riff-raff, rabble, mob, counterrevolutionary bigots, zealots, enemies of the state, rats, and worse. In that society only the ruling elite had a voice. If members of the silent majority became vocal, they were beaten, put in jail, tortured or worse. As I said, it's all a matter of perspective.

HYMNBOOK is so sexist. It should be HERBOOK.
RECANT: Is unable again.

C sharp minor is also a key with four ♯s but it didn't fit. In the C♯ harmonic minor scale the B is raised to B-SHARP.

Enjoy this delicious trumpet concerto in D MAJOR by TORTONI*.

*Giuseppe Tartini (1692-1770)

Hartley70 11:33 AM  

Whoa! The Commentaria has awakened. It's most unusual to have over 50 comments this early in the day.

@Diana, hello! How ya doin'? Are you tired of living in the past yet? I agree with everything you said and it was nifty that you said it twice for emphasis.

@r.alphbunker, am I to assume you are about to become a SILENTPARTNER in such a venture? Or am I "imagining" it?Warning: the restaurant business is tough, and oh those highway restrooms! Yuck and GOO! Considering the mundane superhighway locale, I advise a similarly mundane menu. Too much choice will confuse and delay the weary traveler whose goal is to get to his destination asap. Organic is a terrific idea, just keep it simple. Good luck, Ralph! I'll be looking for you on Interstate 95 behind the counter 7 days a week.

@DJG, Congrats on your "solid and clever" rave by Rex. You are a member of an elite crew. It was a fun solve and if it moved fast, it was because most of us weren't clever enough to stop and appreciate those silent letters.

@Andrew Heinegg, blame it on Marilyn and the gorgeous Swedes. Brunettes of the world unite! We are the SILENTMAJORITY!

Speaking of hair....@Aketi! Finally a use for Kool-Aide, now that most of us old enough to remember Jim Jones have sworn off! That blue flavor would look stunning on one of Andrew's blondes.

John V 11:34 AM  

Thanks for AISLES. Are they painted green? :)

Gregory Schmidt 11:35 AM  

EMILIO/NITA was a proper name Natick for me. The "i" could have just as easily been an "e". Also not fond of the GELATI/TORTONI cross and cluing. The little-known dessert name, tortoni, derives from a surname. So it looks plural, but isn't. Just clunky, as Rex said.

Hartley70 11:39 AM  

@Anonymous, I think Rex meant the latter, but I prefer the former.

evil doug 11:41 AM  

Oscar Foxtrot Lima

kitshef 11:46 AM  

@Sheryl - having asked that same question recently, I know know the answer is Our Fearless Leader.

Joseph Michael 11:49 AM  

I thought this was quite good. Got the theme right away and the SILENT PARTNERS in each theme answer. Clever and nicely laid out in the grid.

Thought SILENT MAJORITY didn't belong since it doesn't describe the circled letters. Not to mention that MAJOR is already in the grid.

Loved the clue for AISLES.

As for the declining quality of the NYT, I just got back from a trip where on the plane I did several puzzles from the NYT 2000 archive. I was struck by how much BETTER the puzzles generally are today.

So I must diagree with your ongoing rants about the deterioration of the puzzle. The decline is perhaps in your judgment as you write daily critiques based on how you think the world should be.

I often find these rants entertaining and sometimes even informative, but I hated the way you approached today's puzzle. Why does iyour review always have to start with a negative?

old timer 11:51 AM  

DNF as it turned out. Kind of wanted RDA, but went with "Anna" for the maid and did not know the DEF slang. I got the first letters in the colored boxes and confidently filled in the others because it had to spell "silent".

I too remember the Nixon-era phrase "silent majority". Had nothing to do with the Southern Strategy or civil rights. Indeed Nixon made no effort to roll back the Civil Rights Act. Nixon's people figured that a majority of Americans were opposed to the hyper-liberal soft on crime Justice Department under Ramsey Clark, and opposed to the longhaired hippies, and opposed to the anti-war protests, but had not been willing to speak out. His 1968 campaign was crafted to appeal to those folks. It did not hurt that Hubert Humphrey was the epitome of the Democratic liberal. I hated Humphrey, myself, though I loved Ramsey Clark. I voted for Eldridge Cleaver that year.

The one-l lama is a priest, the two-l llama, he's a beast, but the double l's are silent only in English. In northern Spain, a llama is a lyahma. In southern Spain, a yahma. And in much of South Amarica, the useful beast of burden is a zhahma. Any way you look at it, the double l's change the pronunciation away from lama.

I got ORC immediately, and BOZ -- one of Dickens's books is "Sketches by Boz", reprints of pieces that appeared in periodicals. And MOOR, because a MOOR is generally treeless and incapable of supporting many cows or sheep.

Lewis 12:21 PM  

@evil -- Good one!
@ralph -- Good to hear from you, and your analogy is apt.

Masked and AnonymoUs 12:46 PM  

Cut them. talcUm: all the other U's were silent.
About right for difficulty and fun, ThursPuz-wise.
@indieWHA: Day-um. Must be hard, bein the constructioneer, and readin a rave about someone else 's puz, in yer puz's review.

Thanx, Damon G.


Jason 12:58 PM  

@David Krost Thank you! I rolled my eyes when I read the silent majority comment.

the redanman 12:59 PM  

Absolutely painful in its few areas of awkwardness, stupid easy for a Thursday, save these little bits ROC ORC, AISLES clued as clumsily as possible.

Monday easy except these few faux pas

jazzmanchgo 1:04 PM  

"[Great] Silent Majority" was definitely Nixon/Agnew-ese for conservative "traditional-values" Americans (also called "middle-Americans") who were patriotic and "mainstream" by Nixon/Agnew standards: they supported the war in Vietnam; they opposed aggressive governmental policies to assist the poor (including, but by no means only, African-Americans); they considered feminists to be misguided at best and castrating, man-hating b!tches at worst; they were resolutely opposed to the "hippie" counterculture and everything it stood for . . . they were basically Archie Bunker, minus his stereotypical "New Yawk" affect.

Their ideological/spiritual descendants, I'd suggest, are today's Tea Partiers and others dedicated to "making America great again"

I certainly opposed virtually everything they stood for (still do!) -- nonetheless, that being said, I can't object to using the phrase as a clue.

And I do have a query: What's this "breakfast test" business? I see that phrase around here quite often . . . does it refer something so offensive/repugnant/intolerable that it would make someone so sick to their stomach they couldn't eat breakfast? Really?! If you're that hypersensitive about mere WORDS (of any kind, shape, or form) -- then you really shouldn't be doing crossword puzzles at breakfast (or any other time)in the first place!

Chaos344 1:39 PM  

I really liked the puzzle and appreciate the challenge its construction must have required. Having said that, I think both today and yesterday were one day off on the difficulty factor. I'm hoping the next two puzzles will put up the fight that most of us look forward to on the weekend.

@Diana,LIW: Excellent post! I'm sure there are many here who hope that your hypothesis is correct, but the issue is not that easily explained. It's interesting to note that in his reply to your comment,@Conrad said, "there has been no decline in quality, at least since 1993." 1993 just happens to be the year that the late, great, Eugene T. Maleska handed over the editing reins to Will Shortz. Go find and complete a Sunday puzzle from circa 1980 and get back to me. Then we'll talk about quality as it pertains to difficulty and PPP.

@David Krost: Couldn't agree with you more, and your Wednesday comment on the subject was equally excellent. Regardless of it's origin, and contrary to what some political agendas want you to believe, the term SILENT MAJORITY is not synonymous with "bigoted white men." That analogy is an elitist dog whistle similar to "flyover country." This is Rex's blog, so he can interject politics and Political Correctness into the puzzle critique if he chooses to. That doesn't mean you or I can't call him on it.

@LMS: What have you got against ale-filled chalices, mutton, and venison pie? Don't forget where you live Loren. People swap road-kill recipes there! I've gotten several good ones from some friends in Upper Tract. Well, no need to carrion about the subject.


Teedmn 1:43 PM  

Just as I pushed the button to read Jeff Chen's comments at Xwordinfo, I got the silent letters bit. I had stared at my filled-in grid and said, "That's it? On Thursday?" So it was a relief to see that that wasn't "it".

KRONOR let me see that "act I" at 10A was not "the opening part". And having NERS in at the end of 21A, I put in __owNERS but TORA ( X 3) had to be right. Was that really from 1970? Google agrees with the puzzle clue but in my mind, it is in black and white so I had mentally placed it in an earlier era. Could we have still had a B&W TV in 1970? Hard to believe with my early-adaptor Dad; we had cable by 1976. Hmm.

@Diana, LIW, I agree with your take on the puzzle. Although I began timing myself some time back, I try not to let it affect my enjoyment of the puzzle; it's mostly a way to make the Monday-Wednesday puzzles more interesting.

Thanks, Damon, nice puzzle.

Larry 2:04 PM  

I started with the grayed squares and got SILENT and had another debate with myself about whether the gimmick was worth finishing. Since I was waiting for a friend, I went ahead. AISLES? GELATI? Did not like EMAJOR/MAJORITY. Tsk tsk.

If you are looking for an anthology of classic puzzles from an earlier era, try "Sunday Times Crossword Omnibus" edited by Margaret Farrar, including puzzles from 1959 to 1974. They're tough.

Aketi 2:25 PM  

@hartley70 and Anrew Heinegg, here you go, the hottest updated version of the DYE trend that Marilyn Monroe started - blonde blue ombré. Of course the trend among young women to dye their hair gray or white is still popular too. This spring deep maroon on black hair seems to have replaced the bright green on black trend.

@r.alphbunker, loved your analogy and @hartley70, your suggestions for his SILENT PARTNERSHiP.


ani 2:30 PM  

I'm a geezer who has been doing the puzzle since high school--and I completely agree with you. The only post I now read is from Mohair Sam; he's funny and on my wavelength.

OISK 2:32 PM  

Is there an Italian restaurant in Brooklyn that doesn't serve tortoni? For years I thought that the ONLY possible desserts were tortoni and spumoni. I was surprised that so many found the term unfamiliar!

Got the theme immediately, but there were too many proper names for my taste. Had a lot of trouble with EDNA crossing ANI. No idea who either of them are. I also considered EMMA and AMI. Seems just as probable. That would make 15 across "RMA" recommended minimum amount. Makes sense... But RDA was more familiar, so I finished. I also don't like the clue for "Faire."

Did not care for this puzzle at all - perhaps I am part of a silent majority?

As to the complaint about Anglicized spellings, i.e. Mescal and Havana...sorry, but we write "Munich", not "Munchen" . Some places and words get changed, while some (San Jose, never Saint Joe) do not. Spanish newspapers refer to Nueva York. Same as English calling "Habana" Havana. Common practice all over the world.

Chaos344 4:00 PM  

A few thoughts on later comments:

@kitshef: Agree with a lot of what you said. The difficulty factor has definitely diminished over the last several decades. It seems that Will has tried to compensate for the lack of quality fill, by allowing more and more PPP. Many of the Evan Birnholz puzzles are indeed superior to the NYT Sunday offerings. He does have occasional clunkers, but considering who's shoes he's trying to fill, he's doing O.K.

@Andrew Heinegg: Not sure if the practice of employing blonde streaks or highlights among both sexes really constitutes some sort of a cultural or societal trend worthy of a psychology journal, but I can tell you this. As a blue-eyed, blond-haired man of Danish ancestry, there is absolutely no truth to the old saw that blonds of either sex "have more fun." We simply get dirty faster!

@puzzle hoarder said: "I take offense at cluing a MOOR as a wasteland."

Indeed, and well you should! Beauty is truly in the eye of the beholder. Catherine and Heathcliffe would strenuously disagree as well.

@AliasZ: Re: the SILENT MAJORITY. Thank you for addressing the term much more eloquently than I ever could have. I think it is safe to say that few among the posters on this blog have ever really lived in a country or society where they experienced the type of oppression that you did. I'm glad you escaped "the fire." I just hope that you didn't jump into what may become the proverbial "frying pan!"

@evil doug: Re: Oscar Foxtrot Lima. Lima Mike Foxtrot Alpha Oscar!
Maybe everyone doesn't consider Rex as their "Fearless Leader", but most respect him as "cruciverbistocracy." He has earned that appellation. His critiques are mostly on point, but with plenty of room for opposing views. He should really make a more conscientious effort to refrain from injecting Political Correctness, thinly veiled ideology, and Social Justice advocacy into his critiques. IMHO, it detracts from the weight and credibility of his opinions regarding crosswords. Why try and compete with RealClearPolitics.Com? Look at what you've already done today Rex? Look at the comments you've instigated. Is that what you want this blog to become?

Anonymous 6:36 PM  

I like your perspective. I've been doing the NYTP since last Thanksgiving when my wife and I were on a beach and we had a blast solving from Mon (20 mins) thru Sun (three hours). So she got me the app for Xmas. I do them daily and then I go to the archives and do several more for the same day of week and other than some topical issues I don't find that the quality has changed in the last five years.

My times have gotten faster (down to 8 mins on Mon and around 2 hours on Sun) but I still enjoy doing them. All that said, today's was easy - finished in my Tuesday time with Tortoni being my only stumble (I had Tartoni and thought Aikida looked right)

But as easy as it was - I still enjoyed it

Mohair Sam 7:49 PM  

@Alias Z - I'm not at all a Trump supporter, in fact I can't stand the guy. Yet I found the attacks on the "Silent Majority" here today unsettling and didn't really know why. Your post explained that feeling clearly. Thank you for sharing.

Leapfinger 8:06 PM  

@ED, Oscar Foxtrot Lima bean chortling over that ever since.

@Z, based on a handful of replies, it seems that SILENT MAJORITY can be interpreted differently according to sources, memory and past experience. Probably just as well not to get Moor bogged down in Tweedy Prescriptivism than necessary. I'd hazard the guess that these days, the SILENT MAJORITY consists of persons who may have strong opinions (or not), but are too caught up in the maintenance of daily living to devote themselves to the large social and political issues with a whole lot of continuity. It ends up that the ones with not only the will, but the time and resources, are the ones who keep the focus and take the podium. I spose that one question is: Who supports/ funds this Vocal Minority? Seems they set the agenda.

@Chaos, Good point about the frying pan and the fire. I'd wonder if @AliasZ hasn't thought of that himself. In ways, though, it strikes me as being less dramatic, and summat like that frog in the pot of water. As it heats up, hard for the frog to tell when the temperature has become life-threatening. Incremental change makes it hard to know when you're too far down the wrong road.

If we want to keep this on topic, we could try to see whether these analogies apply to Cruciverbia in some way. Good luck with it; a couple of cinnamon buns might help.

btw, @r.alphbunker, inexplicably nice to see you back.

Thanks for the Thursday, Daemon. The walcum bit of TALCUM and the LAMA gave it a nice Ogden Gnash vibe.

Z 8:50 PM  

Torturous seems fine to me.

NITA Naldi was a silent movie star.

Z 9:04 AM  

@Leapfinger - Let us review. Rex writes, "The *other* thing that made me not love this puzzle so much is the very concept of the SILENT MAJORITY, which I associate with scary white bigotry (check out the signs at the Trump rallies, for instance)."
@David Krost then personally attacks Rex with "get over yourself," "pathetic" and "absolutely incorrect based on its history."
I then pointed out that it is @David Krost who is incorrect about the phrase's history. I ignored the peckishness, but wrong on history is wrong on history.

If SILENT MAJORITY does not strike someone as inherently racist, fine. A case can be made that when Nixon used that term he was not appealing to the basest fears of white voters. Most people who look coldly at that period, though, make a persuasive and conclusive argument that this was exactly Nixon's intent. That you see similar signs at openly racist Trump rallies certainly supports this conclusion. That Nixon was able to hide his intent in coded language is what the term "dog-whistle rhetoric" means.

I suspect what is discomfiting for people (and how I interpret your post) is that we all like to think of ourselves as the "silent majority." Most Americans have neither the time nor interest to be politically involved, but we like to think of ourselves as "the rational middle." When it's pointed out that this term, which we think means us, might actually mean "bigoted white males" it feels like a personal insult. It's not.

Anonymous 12:55 AM  

LL is its own letter in some Celtic languages (see: Lloyd (name)), so, neither is silent, etymologicly.

I assume that that is the derivation of llama, if not, then good question.

Burma Shave 7:59 AM  


It’s FAIRGAME for FANZINES to JOKE and RAVE OVER what they said,
when OLIVIA and her PARTNERS LIEIDLE, BARELY, talking in BEDS.


rondo 9:34 AM  

EMAJOR MAJORITY, FAIRE FAIRGAME? Didn’t we just have a redundant puz lately? Seems to e a lot of that going on lately. Nothing in this puz was a stumper or even a w/o, +/- 15 minutes, I think. Good enough for me.

Nice acknowledgement of the Swedish KRONOR, which is the plural form of the singular Krona. Somewhere I have some old KRONOR that my grandfather brought OVER on the Lusitania. And I have a cousin whose name is ThORA, pronounced TORA, as is the Swedish custom. So your comic book and action movie character should be pronounced TOR (no h sound), as in TORTINI.

A plethora of yeah babies from 90 years ago through today. NITA Naldi kinda crosswordease from the SILENT era and can be seen BARELY if you google, yeah baby. SISsy SPACEK was a Prime Cut in the ‘70s. OLIVIA Wilde could paint my House. ANI DiFranco is underappreciated, methinks. All very FAIRE.

Off to LAKE Geneva on Sat, followed by Chicago, so posting may be sporadic for a while, in the case I might seem SILENT.

spacecraft 12:16 PM  

All right, LAKE campers, here comes the penalty stroke for improving one's LIE: No One Ever, Ever calls it a "HYMNBOOK." It's a hymnal, for God's (literally) sake. OUT! There is no HYMNBOOK. Period.

Stroke applied, I must admit I never noticed that the shaded letters were all SILENT. This does add considerable depth and elegance to the theme. Had some trouble jumping the gun with spumONI, but the TBONE I had before dessert took care of that. Once again I finish in the NW, thanks to that really off-the-wall clue for AISLES.

I don't really have an outstanding DOD today; don't know most of the ones @rondo mentioned. Sissy's kinda cute, so she'll do. This could have been a birdie, maybe, but...par. BTW, enjoy the action at Royal Troon this week!

WilsonCPU 12:20 PM  

EDNA/ANNA - Boooooooooooooooo!
ANNA and Bates were major characters on Downton Abbey. I watched the whole series and don't even remember EDNA - certainly "Dame?" or "Seymour's amour?" (Simpsons) would be far preferable to the intentionally-unfair clue provided. And as others have said, DAF and RNA are certainly reasonable-looking. I put in EDNA just because DEF and RDA made more sense as crosses, but figured there must be some sort of clever wordplay I was missing to justify having multiple letters (A and E, N and D) in those two boxes (a typical Thursday trick). Sigh.

Diana,LIW 4:11 PM  

Had a Natick at Nita/Nonbasic. Of course, since I had REdacT instead of RECANT, more errors ensued.

Got the rest with a bit more work than apparently most. Some day I'll get around to watching an episode or two of Downton Abbey - everyone seems to love it.

Funny to see the responses to my post of 5 weeks ago. Didn't intentionally post it twice - didn't get the "your comments have been saved" the first time. Should have waited...

Had gag before GOO, act I before KNOB. Once again, saved by the eraser.

@Rondo - have fun at Lake G. Spent 3 summers at Lake G's Williams Bay campus - 2-week grad school sessions surrounded by 10-year-olds at an old YMCA camp. Rustic. Have a "butter burger" for me.

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords

leftcoastTAM 6:09 PM  

Early solve, had to run, late post. Not that it matters.

This was DEFinitely on the easy side, especially the theme and revealers, but clever in cluing. "Pair of jets?" for AISLES took a bit of looking at it, but with the right meaning of "of" it was good to go.

I stumbled on the GELATI/TORTINI cross, tripping over the Italian "I" and going for an "e".

Close but non sigari.

D_Johnson 6:18 PM  

I don't understand the hostility regarding MAJOR/MAJORITY and FAIR/FAIRE. In fact, I think it would be interesting to take a four or five letter word, and construct an entire puzzle using that word in every entry. I'm sure that would be a challenge to the constructor.

leftcoastTAM 8:18 PM  


I agree with others: good real-time thoughts.

wcutler 1:40 AM  

I seem to have had the opposite experience of everyone else - I noticed that the circled letters were silent, but didn't notice that they spelled "silent" reading diagonally. I thought I was just supposed to understand that the shaded letters were silent, then take that word for the clues to 21A and 49A.

I remember from years ago, think it was when I was a kid, a boxed ice cream flavor called something that sounded like biscuit tortoni. I haven't heard of it in all the years I've been eating gelato.

Debra G 5:23 PM  

Rex can write whatever he wants. Its his blog. Id say anyone reading it and expecting him to change his opinions needs to get over himself. Im a casual solver and i never time myself. Most of you are way out of my league but i still enjoy reading it. For the most part the exchanges are civil and entertaining. Thanks Rex!

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