Discombobulate / TUE 7-26-15 / Yodeling locale / Defensive tennis shots

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Constructor: Bruce Haight

Relative difficulty: About right for Tuesday

THEME: "ESTEE" PHRASES — Phrases with the initials S.T.

Word of the Day: SOUL TRAIN (58A: *Bygone R&B showcase) —
Soul Train is an American musical variety television program which aired in syndication from 1971 until 2006. In its 35-year history, the show primarily featured performances by R&B, soul and hip hop artists, although funk, jazz, disco and gospel artists also appeared. The series was created by Don Cornelius, who also served as its first host and executive producer.  --Wikipedia

• • •
Let me start by saying that when I filled in for Rex in summer of 2014 the puzzles received grades of A-, C+, A, B, A-, B+, and when I was here last summer they got a C-, B-, C, B, A-, A, and A.  Just want to give you some context for what comes next.

Let me also say that I know this constructor knows what he's doing, since I've seen him do good work before and he's been nominated previously for my Crossword of the Month.

But this is, to be blunt, the least impressive crossword I've seen in a major publication this year. Let's start with the big problem, an automatic DQ, which is that the revealer of ESTEE (68A: Girl's name that phonetically provides the initials to the answers to the asterisked clues) is no good. The only ESTEE that anyone's heard of is Estee Lauder, and that's pronounced "ess-tay," not "ess-tee." This is quite obviously a fatal flaw, and alone should've kept the puzzle from publication. I've never heard the name outside of Ms. Lauder, and there's certainly no one else legit famous with it.

So DQ right off the bat, but let's move on: revealer aside, the theme idea is unexciting but not bad on its own. But for some reason the constructor made the poor decision to pack 12 theme entries into the grid, instead of choosing 5 or 6 of the best ones. So the choices of S.T. were then constrained by what fit in the grid instead of what might be a lively entry. Some are good -- SOUL TRAIN, STAR TREK, SWEET TOOTH, SIT TIGHT -- but then we get awkward plurals SORE THUMBS and SURE THINGS, arbitrary SEASON TWO, dull SIDE TABLE and SONG TITLE, dated SNEAK THIEF, and not-a-thing SEA TRIP. Sea cruise, boat trip, yes -- sea trip, no. So this is like a restaurant whose food isn't the best but they give you so much of it!

And then the fill suffered due to the extreme packing of theme: Tuesday's too early for ENOW, COSI, EMLY, REWED, ESTES and APOLO. And it also relegated the revealer to a random spot in the bottom left of the grid.

And don't get me started on the clues! Musty vibe all over; there's literally nothing in the clues or grid keeping this puzzle from being written 10 years ago. I don't hate the past, but if you're going to clue FAB to the Beatles and BORIS to Rocky & Bullwinkle, you probably don't need to clue SPOT as (Dick and Jane's dog).

Again, let's find the three most interesting/clever/amusing clues: (Ones whose business is picking up?) is CABS, (Irritating subject for an ophthalmologist?) is STYE, and maybe ("Fancy meeting you here!") for OH, HI. There's really no effort put into the clues at all to be interesting. Even evocative phrases get straightforward, dull definitions: SWEET TOOTH is (Craving for desserts), SORE THUMBS are (Things that stick out conspicuously), etc.

Well, I'm looking for something nice to say about this puzzle. How about: there is a lot of theme. I'll give it that.

So we have a dullish theme that also happens to be fatally flawed; fill (and theme entries) compromised due to a grid that emphasized quantity of theme entries over quality; musty, uninspired clues; and a misplaced revealer to the flawed theme.

Before I go, compare this puzzle to the NYT from June 14th of this year. The constructor there used E.Z. words, which are far more restricted than S.T., and had the snappy revealer EASY DOES IT (instead of just the phonetic ESTEE, which even if correct wouldn't be a great reveal). The constructor in that puzzle also limited herself to four theme entries, which allowed the amusing reveal to be placed logically. This is a much better execution of this theme idea.

This puzzle was not ready for publication. Letter grade of F. I take no pleasure in it. Tomorrow is another day. 

Signed, Matt Gaffney, Regent of CrossWorld for 5 more days

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Whirred Whacks 12:34 AM  

"So there!" said Matt Gaffney to Bruce Haight.

I usually like Haight's puzzles (I remember one from two years ago that only used 8 letters; I thought it was clever -- but not everyone agreed with me).

I'd grade this one with a 57-across: "MEH." (Although I thought the cross of GROG and NOGS was amusing.)

Saturday's puzzle had the clue "Game giveaway" for TELL, and one of you was asking what a "tell" was. I'd like to share this quote from a man in the news last week, billionaire investor Peter Thiel (who was supposedly the model for the Peter Gregory VC character in season one of he HBO series "Silicon Valley."
Peter Thiel: "When people use the word 'science', it's often a tell, like in poker, that you're bluffing."


Question for Matt Gaffney: as a successful constructor who has a lot of experience with both the NYT and the WSJ, how would you characterize the differences in working with Mike Shenk's shop and Will Shortz's shop?

Anonymous 12:36 AM  

bravo, non-Rex: my take on the puzzle was that it was just stupid – Estee by itself was a ridiculous reveal, but I didn't bother to analyze why further...STa is not STee as you rightly note. As irksome as many recent Sunday puzzles have been – but mercilessly shorter. What has happened to the Times crossword?!?

Anonymous 12:48 AM  

if i never have to solve a bruce haight puzzle again, i'd be fine with that. a boring, simple theme (that he's done before, ugh), and as matt pointed out, he didn't even do it well. to say nothing of the reveal just being awful.

agreed with the previous anon commenter--what has happened to the NYT? seems to me like will's been asleep at the wheel a lot recently, too. this puzzle being published like this owes just as much blame to will as it does to bruce.

Pete 12:57 AM  

I choose to think the editors just screwed up, the reveal is clearly ESTES not ESTEE. The fact they cross alone merits the F

Martín Abresch 1:13 AM  

Considering the sheer amount of theme material, I thought that the fill was decent. But then I kinda like ENOW, "COSI Fan Tutte," and ESTES Park.

It didn't occur to me that ESTEE (Girl's name that phonetically provides the initials to the answers to the asterisked clues) is pronounced ESS-TAY, but ... yeah, you're completely right there. I would guess that this is why the clue refers to a "girl's name" rather than "famous name in cosmetics": it could be argued that some random women not named Lauder pronounce it ES-TEE. Which is weak sauce.

Otherwise, I liked the theme answers that you liked, Matt, and disliked the ones that you disliked. As you pointed out, the cluing was boring.

I would give this a D. The revealer problem means a non-passing grade. I do admire the ambition of having 12 theme answers, misguided as the attempt might be. I have a soft spot for interesting failures.

jae 1:32 AM  

This was on the easy side for a Tues. My gut feeling on finishing was more negative than positive. Thanks Matt for explaining why.

@Pete - I had the same problem with ESTES.

AskGina 1:45 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
AskGina 2:03 AM  

This was an odd experience. I deleted my first comment because I thought more about it and it seemed even more odd. Sea trip and sad tale and song title. It's almost like the theme answers are things, but things that nobody ever really says. Tis and grog and vixen. Words, but not often used words. Yet it was like the comfort food of puzzles. Nothing to excite and nothing to offend. Side tables and roast hams (has anyone ever uttered the phrase roast ham? Aren't hams baked? Is that the debate we're meant to have, to be reduced to debating hams? Someone will come back and say "In southern Iowa we roast hams.") Is it a message? A devious trick? A puzzle purposely so bland that it's actually genius? The thick plottens at Rexword.

Anonymous 2:29 AM  

@AskGina - I believe, as the clues are written, they refer to a HAM ROAST, which is a thing.


Anoa Bob 2:32 AM  

First impressions can make or break a puzzle for me. Coming out of the gate with a triPOCta---CABS, IDEAS & LOBS---surrounded by COSI, OMAN, ADA & DOIT, and all that just to set up SIDE TABLE (painted green maybe?), made me want to quit right there.

But I'm paying $ for these, so I saw it out, only to find my initial impression repeatedly reinforced. Along with SIDE TABLE, SONG TITLE & SEASON TWO had an ad hoc feel to them. Two themers needed to be POCed out to fill their slots. And SEA TRIP? No. Likewise for land trip & air trip. (SEAT RIP is kinda funny, though.)

I'm flummoxed as to how this one got through. Maybe I'm missing something that some of our commenters who look for the positives in puzzles can point out. But no GUSTO for me.

Loren Muse Smith 5:23 AM  

Ok. Right off the bat I have to defend ESTEE. Mom wore only ESTEE Lauder scents –"Youth Dew," "White Linen," and her best-favorite – "Private Collection," that she kept in the fridge. Vile stuff, imo. Maybe it's a southern drawl thing, but we all pronounce it "ess-tee." Accent aigu be damned. So at least for me, the name works phonetically. In fact, until this morning I had never given any thought that ESTEE would actually be "ess-tay." Fair enough. Now I'm wondering if we were the only goobers pronouncing it that way.

@Pete and @jae, I'm childishly jealous that I didn't notice ESTES crossing ESTEE. Sneaky little double reveal, that. Great catch.

I had an uneasy little feeling when SEA TRIP fell that, ouch, that's not a thing. But I like Bruce's puzzles and at that point thought there'd be some reason for that and not, say, SEX TAPE. And again with SEASON TWO and not, say, SPARE TIRE. I figured there'd be a reason…

And there was. Man. 13 theme entries. And not only do they cross (4D SNEAK THIEF and 32D SURE THINGS each cross 3, 3!, themers) but they're each and every one stacked. Cool beans. On puzzles like these, I'm poised to pounce on the themers, figuring out what S-T phrase it'll be. This is fun for me, and the fact that some don't land as well as others doesn't interfere with the enjoyment.

I use SORE THUMB as a plural when I talk about the time my son and I picked up some take-out wings at a little biker bar full of guys from central casting. He in his youth basketball uniform and me in full-on PTA mom regalia: Talbot's Halloween sweater vest, khakis, Merrell clogs… Talk about your SORE THUMBS. After the initial pregnant silence, though, everyone was lovely.

I also liked OH HI. We've all been there, right? Shopping for groceries, dodging someone because you're just not in the mood or because you haven't put concealer on that &^% blotch on your chin, ducking around aisles, crouching to pretend-examine the RDA info on a box of Grape Nuts, hiding your face… "Loren! Hey! Long time, no see!!!!" OH. HI.

Bruce – I got a kick out of the GROG/NOG cross and also the clue for 55D FASTS "eschews food." Hah!

Lewis 6:47 AM  

@loren -- I've heard many pronounce it ES-tee. And good catch on "eschews".
@roo -- You've been given center stage!

I do appreciate the rational and backed-up pan by Matt, but oh, just this once, I would love to have seen Rex's rant on this one!

While nothing lit me up about this puzzle, it didn't cause me to grouse. It is relatively clean for all the theme. The solving woke my brain up. I did like NOG by GROG, and the Alps at their high altitude. As a double letter observer, I liked seeing those three (in succession!) in SWEETTOOTH, even though in real life, of course, with the words separated, there is no such pleasure. I liked the answer SIT_TIGHT and the clue for CAB.

I used to love the word GUSTO until, many years ago, those Schlitz commercials ruined it for me.

Cassieopia 7:01 AM  

The cluing significantly damped my solving enjoyment. Prancer's partner on Santa's team = VIXEN. Why not just "Prancer's partner"? Animal in a Wall Street sculpture = BULL. Why not something like, "Bear's opposite?" I felt like I was just writing down definitions, not solving a puzzle.

To those of you kind enough to answer my question from a few days ago about what exactly constitutes "non-sparkly fill", I have now experienced the perfect example. This puzzle was like a flat, warm Coke. The one bright spot was my new PR in Tuesday solving time.

Anonymous 7:35 AM  

You roast pigs and BAKE hams.

r.alphbunker 7:53 AM  

Matt Gaffney is no S-T lauder. Is theme density the new quad stack? Four letter words made of state abbreviations was another recent example.

Old Lady 7:54 AM  

Never have called it or heard it called a HAM ROAST. Also have never given it any thought that other meats are roasted and ham is baked. I'll give the puzzle credit that it made me think about that, but no more credit than that. If you're grading on a curve, this anchors the bottom.

kitshef 8:09 AM  

Full marks for theme density and avoiding (for the most part) weak fill. Sure, we get an OHHI here and a TBAR there, but overall this holds up really well. Unfortunately, the theme and the long answers are on the dull side.

Liked seeing ROO, BORIS, and from the themers, SOUL TRAIN and STAR TREK.

Overall, far from FAB, but better than MEH.

My nit with today’s review is the description of things like ENOW and COSI as ‘not Tuesday’.

I don’t often time my solving, but of the Tuesdays when I’ve done so, this was my fastest ever. The June 14 puzzle linked to was, by a large margin, my slowest Tuesday ever. At the time I described it as “at least a Thursday, close to a Friday”, thanks to entries like EDZWICK, Nanki-POO, FTLEE and EMILIANOZAPATA.

Z 8:11 AM  

TIS made me think of this so there's that.

Again, hard to argue with the Regent. My eyebrow arched at SEA TRIP and I think I broke it at ESTÉE. I did a quick "estee -lauder" search and got an Estée Lalonde video, Estes shipment tracking, Estes Rockets (the worlds leading manufacturer of hobby rockets I read), ESEE knives, and meet.estee.com (a Microsoft Lync?). Ouch. How does this get through the editing process? If, IF, all the T words began with a Tay sound maybe this reveal could have been defended.

kitshef 8:24 AM  

The ESTEE in ESTEE Lauder is a nickname, from the Hungarian Eszti, and is pronounced 'ess-tee'. She added the accent and changed the pronunciation when she went into the perfume business, in order to sound French. So, ESTEE as a girl's name is fine. ESTEE as the perfumer would not have been.

Worst thing in the puzzle for me was the clue for I HOPE. Never heard that, and don't care to hear it again.

blinker474 8:33 AM  

Liked this puzzle a lot. It has a bunch of interesting entries.

Have always said Lauder's name with the long ee, so that was not an issue for me. Do think that our host has over-analyzed this to a fare-thee-well, when a little tolerance would be in order. But he's a pro, and I'm not.

Scott 8:37 AM  

Hungarian etymologies notwithstanding, their own ads definitively have the Es-tay pronunciation, not the Es-tee. For example, here:


Anonymous 8:38 AM  

"Estée Lauder" was born (or née as we say in the New York Times Crossword Puzzle) Josephine Esther Mentzer.

AliasZ 8:49 AM  

ESTEE, originally Eszti (nickname for Eszter -- Esther), is pronounced ES-tee. Ms. Lauder's first name is actually Josephine, but everyone in her family called her Eszti after her favorite aunt. She changed the spelling to ESTÉE to make it look more cosmopolitan (French), which also changed its pronunciation to es-TAY. Every Hungarian girl called Eszter is ES-tee.

With that out of the way, S-T being two of the most common consonants in English, common S- T- phrases are seemingly endless without having to roll your own, like SAD TALE (sad story), SEA TRIP (boat trip), SIDE TABLE or SNEAK THIEF. Small talk, sore throat, shade tree, septic tank, Shrove Tuesday, small town, spare tire, etc. etc. Heck, I could start a list from the animal kingdom alone: snapping turtle, Skye terrier, Shih Tzu, saber toothed, scarlet tanager, etc. Oh, and the rainbow TROUT is also called a steelhead trout or salmon trout.

So much theme material doesn't leave much room for non-theme sparklers, the one-L APOLO and BORIS doesn't quite cut it, unless it's BORIS Godunov. The GROG/NOGS crossing was cute (hi @Whirred), the balance, sorta bland. On the other hand, the theme and variations from the TROUT Quintet by Franz Schubert is anything but. Amazing musicians (Itzhak, Pinchas, Jacqueline, Zubin and Daniel) -- amazing performance.

Have a Super Tuesday!

Charles Flaster 8:51 AM  

Liked it a lot more than Matt. Easy to spot the theme but so what.
My favorite was SEASON TWO. The reveal sat well with me but cluing for CABS and OH HI was weak.
Only write over was FASTS for dieTS.
THROW clued with discombobulate was also a nice take on both words.
Thanks BH

Roo Monster 9:00 AM  

Hey All !
Yes @Lewis, I'm in! Center even! (bows) :-) Thanks Bruce.

Sorry, Matt, but I must disagree with you today. Theme density is fine as long as you don't end up with too much dreck. I usually say every puz will have some dreck, and considering the 12 themers, the fill actually isn't that bad. Don't ban me, Matt! (Is that the new, "Don't tase me bro!"?) :-)

Agree that ESTES should've been revealer. More close to S-Ts.

NW corner last to go, as COSI a WOE, BADE clued oddly, and really wanted emir or amir for OMAN. Thought about StEAK THIEF for 4D for a bit!

DOIT a DOOK. Liked the SO FAR I HOPE stack for some weird reason.


Z 9:03 AM  

Speaking of vowel shifts, I found this book excerpt interesting.

Thanks for the info on Ms. Lauder. Unfortunately, it's not an excuse for the bad revealer.

L 9:04 AM  

Agree that this puzzle sucked. I know a whole lot of ESTEES, maybe it's a jewish thing, and we do pronounce it es-T as a diminutive for Esther, nothing to do with ES-TAY, the cosmetics queen. And BTW, it's spelled ESTI. So yes, this puzzle really blew.

Gregory Nuttle 9:08 AM  

It's a good thing that @Rex wasn't here this week. This might have been the one that finally did him in. May well have been the worst NYT crossword I've ever seen.

Nancy 9:15 AM  

A little green paintish, perhaps, but I'm GOBSMACKED by the harshness of the criticism and the grading. I liked the fact that there was theme density; I liked the fact that there was almost no PPP; and I've always pronounced the lady's name ES-TEE Lauder. I had no idea that she'd Frenchified it. I don't think she was any more French than I am. @Alias Z (8:49) -- I like your list of other S-T suggestions; you should create a puzzle sometime. Perfectly fine for a Tuesday, I thought.

Bruce Haight 9:21 AM  

To me, this is a type of stunt puzzle, and the point is that it's difficult to interlock twelve theme entries in a daily grid. You wouldn't criticize a marathon runner for only running five minute miles, so you need to allow for some less than scintillating theme entries.
Who said anything about Estee Lauder? My close personal friend Estee Youvee pronounces it Ess Tee, and she says any time you give Will Shortz and his team an F you are stretching your credibility as a reviewer.............Bruce Haight

Matt Gaffney 9:34 AM  

@Bruce Haight

Your friend's not famous. It's nice you made an NYT stunt puzzle for her but there's just one famous ESTEE and she's ess-tay. Uncommon name, so that's the one people know. So it doesn't work as a revealer.

I'm sorry to hear that she thinks that no NYT crossword can get an F. She's wrong.

Wm. C. 9:39 AM  

Results may differ, of course, but I believe most people think it's Es-Tay.

As pointed out above this whole hoo-hah on the blog could have been fixed by Moving the revealer to 51D (Estes), and clueing it as something like "Hints to the Asterisked Fill."

That aside, grokking th the theme made the fill fairly guessable, even with few or no crosses. But what the hey, this is a Tuesday, right?

Overall, I thought it was fine.

Will Shortz 9:58 AM  

While in France the name ESTEE is pronounced "ess-TAY," in the U.S. it is usually pronounced "ESS-tee." I personally know one Estee who pronounces her name this way and quickly found several others online:

• Estee Ackerman (14-year-old table tennis phenom -- the Estee I know)
• Estee Nack (rapper)
• Estee of "Rahboy x Estee" (rapper)
• Estee Zakar (dancer)
• Estee Stanley (celebrity stylist and designer)

The pronunciation for these names can all be verified by YouTube videos. In my quick search I did not find any American who pronounces her name "ess-TAY."

So ... sorry to anyone who didn't like today's puzzle. But it didn't "fail."

--Will Shortz

Mohair Sam 9:59 AM  

Oy Vey. So we all go nuts on the pronunciation of Miss Lauder's name only to discover that ESTEE is a little known diminutive of Esther.

That said, a nod to @LMS in that in this house we too say ESS-TEE for the perfumer (don't use the stuff) - although we are goobers not, Lauren, natives of New York State.

Join the mob in our unhappiness with this one, but unlike our Brevet Fearless Leader I have a soft spot for any puzzle with a "Rocky the Flying Squirrel" clue, hence I'd upgrade this one to a D. Before Netflix I once sat in a theater for five hours for a "Rocky and Bullwinkle" Fest, loved every minute.

Agree with @Gregory Nuttle that this puzzle might well have done Rex Parker in. What more to say?

Roo Monster 10:02 AM  

@Bruce Haight, I'm thrilled for you for the fact you keep getting your puzs published. As a constructor myself, albeit not having Will accept one on my puzs yet, (going on a personal rejection goal :-) ), I would be a tad upset also if my puz got panned. But I thought this a good puz (see previous comment) and admire the 12 themers you shoved in.

I also think I'm inched closer to the being banned... Oh, and thanks for the Center! (Even though you have no idea who I am, and ROO just happened to fit!)


Jake Zavracky 10:05 AM  

I haven't read all the comments so maybe someone has pointed this out but Estee is a nickname for Esther. It is pronounced as in the puzzle.

cwf 10:16 AM  

Wow, both the constructor and the editor chiming in with comments on Rex's blog; I can't remember that ever happening before. Mr Haight's byline says to me, "prepare for a corny stunt puzzle", so I was steeled for a somewhat ponderous solving experience. That said, I've done puzzles in the NYT that were much worse, so I'd up that grade a notch.

kozmikvoid 10:24 AM  

Matt: Ever consider starting your own blog? This is what people (or at least I) want to read. Honesty, reason, suggestions, etc.

Rex would've had a meltdown (again) and called for Will's resignation (again). You offered sound critique and suggestions where the puzzle may have improved.

I've stopped reading/commenting daily here for obvious reasons. I occasionally check in for the Saturday/Sunday puzzles just to read the comments because there really isn't much else out there. I think the crossword community is looking for someone like you for an enjoyable discussion about crossword puzzles instead of a daily tirade about personal vendettas and social injustice. Any thoughts?

Anonymous 10:29 AM  
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Hartley70 10:33 AM  

Tuesday's can be dull, so I started solving this from the bottom for a change. I have to pay tribute to the shock and awe I experienced when early on my finger touched 68a and the grid lit up in neon yellow lines like scaffolding gone mad. It was pretty exciting and finally I found an example where solving on a phone has an edge over print, if only for a brief moment.

Unfortunately, true to Tuesday form, the thrill was short-lived, but sometimes quantity over quality can be ENOW, like when you are really really hungry I imagine. In a crossword puzzle, not so much. ST is a simple theme and the cluing isn't going to knock the socks off an experienced solver, but it's Tuesday appropriate and I bet it's not the worST puzzle we see this year. It occupied a few minutes and as far as I can tell, it didn't offend a single protected class!

I like the fact that @Matt puts some sugar on top of the meat in his pan. It makes for a sweeter start to the day for those of us who like to save conflict for the evening news. Now, I'm off to hunt for cheater squares!

allan 10:40 AM  
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da kine 10:49 AM  

I liked it.

old timer 10:51 AM  

I just hated this puzzle. Hated it with almost every clue. When I finally got to the revealer I was disgusted. So I had already given it an F. Or maybe a D minus. because it really was Tuesday level when it came to completion time, unlike one from a week or two ago.

The revealer could have been "two adjacent letters that look like a brand name -- or a clue to this puzzle's long answers?" Something like that. @Will Shortz forgets that the only ESTEE most of us have heard of *does* have an accent aigu, indicating an ess-tay pronunciation.

Mr. Gaffney is 100% correct. The "gimmick" would have worked far better with only five or six really sparkly themers. Which would have spared us the most atrocious fill, such as EMLY and AGS and the badly clued ACRE and BADE, and the more boring of the themers like SIDETABLE and SEATRIP.

ACRE and BADE are particularly BAD because of sloppy cluing. An ACRE is seldom part of a "plot" because a "plot" as a piece of land is defined as a *small* piece of land, such as a cemetery plot or a garden plot. And while 150 years ago, one might have BADE a waiter to bring you a cup of coffee, in modern usage "bid" and BADE are restricted to purely archaic uses. "I BADE them a fond adieu" is in the language, as is "I bid you good night". But we no longer would say, "I BADE the doorkeeper to let me in, or "I BADE the clerk at Barnes and Noble to find me a good mystery to read on my SEA TRIP. (In any case, good luck with that at B&N -- you're better off at your local indie bookstore).

I'm glad Will S is reading this blog. Maybe he will hire someone to, you know, actually edit out the worst clues.

Matt Gaffney 10:58 AM  

@Will Shortz

But none of these people is famous. Estee Nack is in fact a man, so not relevant; "Rahboy x Estee" get 3,000 Google hits; Estee Zakar is a pole dancer. Estee Lauder, meanwhile, gets 16,000,000 Google hits. She's the one people know. She's the one referenced in crosswords. And she's ESS-tay. So there are a million people around the country today scratching their heads over that. It just doesn't work as a reveal.

@Roo Monster

You're nowhere close to being banned, but you mention it so often I'm starting to wonder.

The one guy who actually has been banned for the week keeps trying to sock puppet as Anonymous. He should know that sock puppetry is a permaban at most blogs, not a week ban. He should also know that if he keeps wasting my time it reduces the chances of Rex permitting unmoderated posting when he returns, so he's potentially ruining it for everyone.


Thanks for saying. I do have my own blog (www.gaffneyoncrosswords.com), but it's just where I list the top 5 crosswords published anywhere in a given month and then choose 1 winner from those nominees. But I am starting a new crossword writing project soon and hopefully Rex will mention it here when I do.

Matt Gaffney 11:00 AM  


Be civil, Shortz doesn't have to comment here at all so make your points without being churlish. You can repost if you want but be polite.

Z 11:01 AM  

Let's try that link again.

@Will Shortz - Gobsmacked. Would you use any of your examples to clue ESTEE? Ever? Not that web searches are proof of much, but a simple "estee" returned a page of Lauder ads. Exclude "Lauder" from the search and the first hit is Estée Lalonde, YouTube video star using the accent aigu. After that the search engine assumed I meant "estes." Maybe DuckDuckGo has a YouTube bias? "I think the construction feat was worth it" I understand. Pardon me, but I disagree.

@BruceHaight - Hmmmm, I don't do puzzles to see what a constructor can accomplish. A computer could probably cram in 16 themers. I most appreciate it when constructors bring a level of artistic elegance or imaginative wordplay. Others certainly appreciate what you accomplished. Not me.

Having said all that. Thanks for sharing. I like hearing the thinking even if I disagree.

Joseph Michael 11:02 AM  

While the review was a tad harsh, I have to agree that this was a very disappointing puzzle. A big build up followed by a whimper of a payoff. The triumph of quantity over quality.

It's not diffidult to come up with S-T phrases. Why pick such losers as SEA TRIP, SIDE TABLE, and SNEAK THIEF? I would have liked SORE THUMBS and SURE THINGS if they weren't plurals. And including MEH in the grid seems only like a masochistic gift to the puzzle's detractors.

I can't imagine what Rex's review would have been. A heart attack in the making. Thought Matt's comments were thoughtful and intelligent. Like @kozmikvoid, I would enjoy reading Matt's reviews on a regular basis.

GILL I. 11:14 AM  

Ooooh, I'm just lovin this blog now. Good fun back and forth and nary a snark has been uttered.
I actually said ESTEE out loud to see how I pronounce it. It goes both ways.
Hey, this is the dreaded Tuesday. I thought it was just fine. We are getting mighty picky eh? I say leave the LOBS for Thur.Fri.Sat. where I expect nothing but excellence. In the meantime we have dull and musty Tuesday but hardly and F. I'd give it a B for a bit of bambosh.
@Roo. I'm rooting for you and hope you get published soon......!
You will let us know, won't you?

Pete 11:17 AM  

@Will - I know someone named Leviticus, there have got to be others. Why not clue Leviticus as him (them), not the book of the bible?

Also, I note you completely omitted any attempt to rationalize the ESTES/ESTEE cross, and the fact that ESTES would serve, without any ambiguity, as the reveal?

Anonymous 11:21 AM  
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Nancy 11:26 AM  

@Matt Gaffney -- For a couple of days, you've used the term "sock puppet" -- first as a noun and today as a verb -- to describe troll-like anonymous posters that you've been forced to delete. Can you explain what the term means? I've only ever heard it to describe an actual sock puppet like Shari Lewis's "Lambchop". I have no idea how it would apply to an unpleasant blog poster.

Oh, and btw, Matt, if you ever do start your own NY Times crossword blog, with an opportunity for comments by us solvers (and a decent scrolling system, which Wordplay, for example, doesn't have), I would join it in a New York minute. I think you've been a breath of fresh air here, even though I don't always agree with your assessments.

Whirred Whacks 11:28 AM  

Lots o'stuff going on at the RP ranch the past few days, what with editors, constructors, and critics joining the commenters in the fun.

The movie that best represents the state of affairs at this blog right now is AWAKENINGS (1990 with Robin Williams and Robert DeNiro).

It's about a doctor (Oliver Sacks) who treats a long suffering group of sleeping sickness patients with a new drug, L-Dopa, and they all come "back to life" for a short while.

In this case, removal of comment moderation is the new L-DOPA! I hope it isn't as short-lived as in the film!

Don McBrien 11:31 AM  

@Nancy - a "sock puppet" account is a fake account someone registers on an Internet message board usually for the purposes of agitating / rabble rousing / trolling.

As for today's puzzle, some of the theme entries didn't sparkle as much as others, but hardly "the worst NYT puzzle ever..." Come on!

The one Estee I know (Israeli born, naturalized American) is "Es-Tee."

Matt Gaffney 11:39 AM  


Sock puppeting is when one poster posts under two or more different names on a thread in order to make it look like their viewpoint has more support than it actually does. They're really easy to identify.

Matt Gaffney 11:41 AM  

@Don McBrien

No Don, that's a troll you're describing. A sock puppet is one person using multiple identities on a thread.

Nancy 11:49 AM  

@Matt Gaffney -- Thanks for your explanation.

@Whirred Whacks -- Love your analogy!

Martin 12:18 PM  


Had the reveal been ESTES, as has been suggested, would the puzzle still rate an "F"? If not (and your biggest complaint is the pronunciation of ESTEE, so it seems it wouldn't), should the rare "F" be predicated on a single clue?

PS. Estee Lauder grew up "ess-tee" but added the accent and changed the pronunciation to sound French when she went in cosmetics. That's just a factoid; I recognize that we all know her as "ess-tay."

Sheryl 12:29 PM  

I went on YouTube to see how Estee is pronounced by Estee Lauder in their ads (since that's the only famous Estee). It's the French way, "EsTay".


Still, this doesn't seem like such a huge terrible thing that the crossword is a fail. It wasn't the most amusing crossword I've ever done, but it wasn't horrible. Perhaps it's possible to find fault with the revealer, but why ignore the good parts because of that? I've never constructed a crossword, but I'd think it's not so easy to pack that many theme answers in a puzzle. It was okay.

It's easy to be a critic - a lot easier than doing the work.

Stacy 12:40 PM  

Just out of curiosity, do some people pronounce ESTES with a long second e? In Colorado, the -TES is more of a schwa, so ESTES would have been more puzzling than ESTEE as the revealer.

Evan Cesanek 1:04 PM  

All this harping on ESTEE as a DQ is unwarranted because the clue says "phonetically". Regardless of your preferred pronunciation of the girl's name, the phonetic English pronunciation of those letters is Ess-tee, making it a perfectly good theme revealer.

Still not a good puzzle though... the mustiness and not-a-phrasers being the worst parts.

Teedmn 1:15 PM  

My favorite theme answer was SEASON TWO, not sure why. And trying to go fast, I nearly entered SORE THroat at 34A, one of @Alias Z's alt theme suggestions. Septic Tank would have been fun for me, as the ex-urb I live in does not have city water/city sewer.

Diana LIW, five weeks from now will be looking for her LOX to be Nova :-). And thanks, @r.alphbunker, for the S-T Lauder gag.

I usually like Bruce Haight's puzzle more than most and today is no exception. Thanks, BH for the STs if not any SSTs, and I liked the POLO/APOLO pair.

jberg 1:19 PM  

I slept late and had an early morning appointment, so I didn't get here until just now. What a fun day! Not the puzzle so much, but the comments!

ESTEE bothered me, as did SIDE TABLE (as clued, that's an end table in my book. A SIDE TABLE is something at a banquet, or a bridge match).

(I don't think that was a legal parenthesis, but it's too late in the day to fix it.)

I did admire the stunt construction, with all the details @Loren points out, just thought it needed more polish.

Now for the comments: the reason for lack of snark is that Matt is sitting there with his finger on the delete button. @Rex may not be willing or able to devote that much time and attention to it. Thanks to @Matt for doing so!

And probably the reason Will Shortz responded is that Matt Gaffney's criticisms have more credibility in the wider world, so he can't just say 'there he goes again.'

JC66 1:20 PM  

What @Whirred Whacks said.

The last few days have seen a marked difference in the blog; and I think it's great (the puzzle: MEH).

Masked and Anonymous 1:29 PM  

Makin crosswords that jump through hoops to do the near impossible, theme-wise, is indeed a double-edged sword. Here U have a TuesPuz with 14 themers:
* Twelve S-blahblah T-blahblah answers.
* All the themers crossin each other, like a stampede of whales. [awe day-um]
* ESTEE revealer. [Unfortunately, thanx to no moderation, someone already ate my "lauder" joke.]
* For those that don't pronounce ESTEE that-a-way, an ESTES alternate revealer. Even it crosses the other revealer choice! [awe day-um2]
* Still room for four U's. [lil darlins]

A truly one-drous constructioneerin feat, Mr. Haight. Looks like a monumentally one-man-pyramid-builder tough task to take on. U musta suffered. All those hours where U couldn't watch the 24-7 TV news cycles. Lost sleep, leapin back to yer feet at 4 am, to see if a fresh idea to improve a corner's sad fill would help. Even tho that $300 bucks is nice, U probably netted out to about 10 cents an hour…

But then -- even tho ten seconds later U tried divin into that mailbox to retrieve your submission, due to post-dropoff constructioneer's remorse -- U get the word, just a few nail-bitin months afterward: "Crosswords - Yes!" from the assistant Shortzmeister. Holy Affirmation, Batman.

Yer magical puz NYT-appearance date approaches … U can almost anticipate the roar of the greasepaint; the smell of the crowd. Excitin stuff. Then the day arrives … Published! U leap outta bed at 4 am, to read the reviews…

"But this is, to be blunt, the least impressive crossword I've seen in a major publication this year."

"This puzzle was not ready for publication. Letter grade of F. I take no pleasure in it. Tomorrow is another day."

Big fat "F" picture, circled in red. Sorta like a cherry, on top.

@Bruce: OK. So, I know at times like this, it's pretty hard to curb yer excitement. This kind of [blog rating] perfection is rarely achieved in this industry. But, for what it's worth, I kinda liked it.
And, hey -- look on the bright side: Old snarkopotamus rex was outta town

Masked & Anonymo4Us

Dick Swart 1:45 PM  

I absolutely agree with the 'F'.

I am three hours behind Eastern time, and just finished the puzzle. I was going to write that this puzzle was an insult to the subscribers.

AskGina 1:54 PM  

Gee, I was really hoping we could argue about ham. But pleased to have stumbled into a crowd that can get worked up over ee v. ay. Somebody should try to recruit some retired attorneys. Then we can get the answer, "It depends." Whenever I've corrected My Son the Neurobiologist on a word pronunciation he's always answered, "I've heard it both ways." You can't argue with that.

Masked and Anonymous 2:02 PM  

I recently submitted a fairly opus-like comment for this puz, lamentin Mr. Haight's F-ate. That comment evidently got an "F-" yank, or "eaten" in some other mysterious way.

So … Kinda know how Bruce Haight feels. :(

Upshot of my longer no-longer-with-us comment: Quite a puz constructinoneerin feat, and I kinda liked it. Musta taken a lotta hours, to build it. Hard to put in the extra hours, when you're not sure it will be accepted.

Masked & Anonymo4Us

Matt Gaffney 2:26 PM  

@Masked and Anonymous

Wasn't me.

Anonymous 2:51 PM  

@Gina - Since you asked, roast[ed] ham.

Kae 2:59 PM  

Whenever I see a puzzle like this, I'm reminded of Ian Malcolm's famous quip: your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn't stop to think if they should. This crossword is definitely an impressive feat. It jams in so many themers in such a small space, and intersects and interlocks them at multiple points, which is cool. I can admire it on the level of construction. But only some of the themers have any sort of sparkle, and a lot of them are decidedly green-paintish.

Also, yeah, I thought it couldn't be ESTEE until I got all the crosses, because it didn't work phonetically for ESS TEE. It's a very rare name, and it's possessed by a very famous person/perfume, so only one Estee is ever going to come to mind for most solvers.

Apolo Cosi MoMA 3:02 PM  

I have many many thoughts about this puzzle, and about Bruce who is a sometimes collaborator and a master builder and envelope-stretcher... but I will stick with saying that I loved seeing STYE, not only bec Bruce is an eye doctor, but it has a bonus ST in it!
(As did guSTo and faSTs...and for the dyslexics TSar!)

And I like the irony that the (to some) unnecessary S of SORETHUMBS stood out as one!

I do think ESTES could have been the reveal, but perhaps like ESTEE can be pronounced more than one way.
Ah, ESTEE Lauder, nice Jewish girl makes good and was a feminist icon for businesswomen!
(The least those who say the puzzle stinks could do is send Dr. Haight a bottle of perfume!)

There's also a reason there is no phrase "Gentleman's F"!

Wm. C. 3:22 PM  

Oops, using 51D (ESTEs Park) for the ST initialisms wouldn't work either. It's pronounced ESS-tis.

As a former Coloradan, I should've known this. My bad ...

Masked and Anonymous 3:25 PM  

@Mr. Gaffney - Thanx, again. I probably am just havin some sort of undeclared war with The Blorg. [I plan to start savin a copy of my comments, just in case.] Maybe I should stop sayin "day-um" in my comments, all the time, or somesuch?
As I said before, I think U are doin a great job, here. Your puz analysises are razor-sharp. And hopefully Mr. Haight's throat wounds will heal, given enough time.

M&A's take on this construction, from a "small" constructor's perspective:
1. Impressive twelve S-blahblah T-blahblah collection of themers, crossin each other all over the place, like a frantic stampede of whales.
2. Impressive mutiple-choice revealers of ESTES crossin ESTEE. If U don't like one of em, bam there's the other one.
3, Fill was a bit desperate, as to be expected. Woulda been several cases where double-?? clues coulda made things more interestin.
4. Always cool to see a STARTREK touchDown.
4.5. Still had room for 4 U's. [lil darlins]
4.75 Had @ROO, right there plumb in the center. So … fave weeject.

Hoping this puppy makes it past The Blorg, and into yer hearts …

As sometimes,

Aketi 3:25 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Aketi 3:35 PM  

@Masked and Anonymous, sorry your comments keep getting eaten. I would have liked to have read what you had to say about Haight's F-ate.

@Whirred Whacks, I liked your L-DOPA analogy even it wasn't the hoped for cure for my grandmother's Parkinson's Disease either.

@Matt Gaffney, I admit that I am quite an amateur here and will never make it to the hard care level that most solvers here have attained. Yet, it seems to me that an F should be reserved for someone who fails in all categories possible for a particular activity. Usually most people can manage to master some component of an activity so that they don't utterly fail. For instance, when I first started learning Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, I failed at absolute everything, except wiggling out of arm bars. I clung to that one little thing that I could do in order to have the courage to continue to improve. If someone had given me a straight up F, I would have been crushed.

So, even if I found it a little MEH, I actually liked that I didn't have to google at all to solve this puzzle and that there weren't any EELS or ETUIs or that golfer with both a first and last name with the same three vowels. The puzzles that really deserve an F are the puzzles in the Monday morning free papers handed out at the subway stations in NYC that merely recycle the same set of 50 words with the same exact clues every week. Those are the true Fs.

@Z, what's the PPP count on this one? My sense is that it was on the low side. The reaction today might blow the predictive capacity of your scoring system or maybe it's just an outlier.

Aketi 3:39 PM  

@M&A, :) glad you got past the blorg.

RAD2626 3:43 PM  

In all the time I have read this blog, today's commentary is the most shocking to me. I did the puzzle last night, thought it was okay, did not like SIDE TABLE, thought the constructor impressively jammed in a lot of theme content, and off I went to listen to Bernie and read Mr. Haight's comments on Jeff Chen's blog. He had much less to say about his puzzle than most of today's commenters, preferring to focus on table tennis. This exchange today is the kind usually reserved for a weird trick or gruesome themeless. To get Messrs Shortz, Haight and Gaffney all checking in is remarkable for a Tuesday puzzle. Great fun.

@AliasZ. The Schubert Trout (another estee) is a beautiful piece of music and your lineup was wonderful, thank you, but the Schubert Cello Quintet is truly one of the great pieces of music ever written.

Z 3:55 PM  

@Evan Cesanek - I cannot recall this style of puzzle ever being clued as you suggest. The revealer has always been pronounced as one would say the letters. For ESTEE to work we would all need to recognize it as pronounced like @LMS has said it, ES - TEE, not ES - TAY. Are you aware of any example where we would read the clue phonetically, not as commonly pronounced?

ESTEE is currently the 9,618th most popular name in the US. Esther, on the other hand, is 203rd. So maybe this puzzle is just ahead of its time and as all these baby Esthers hit middle school we'll all know an ESTEE or three.

@M&A - you and @GB both seem to be having issues. At least your later posts are sticking.

NCA President 4:06 PM  

It's late in the day and I'm sure no one is reading these comments anymore, but I'll just chime in and register my agreement with MG. And to any of you who thought the Lauder "Estee" was pronounced with the long E, I'm going to call shenanigans. I know Estee Lauder mostly through my sitting through TV commercials in the 70s when EL seemed to be in its heyday.

And to MG's point: if you see the word Estee out in the wild anywhere, surely Lauder is the first thing you think of. I'm sure there are other Estee's out there, but THE Estee is the one of perfume fame.

Maybe the bottom line here is that, while WS might be correct saying that there are indeed Es-tees out there, the bigger point is, as a theme revealer, it is not a slam-dunk revealer because of the perfume. Es-tay Lauder is too big of a fly in the oinment to ignore. I think a theme revealer should be pretty unambiguously accurate. This one is not.

PLUS, crossing ESTES with ESTEE is just not good. And then there is the problem of a crossed reference clue (ROAST with HAM) crossing a crossed reference clue...the actual revealer.

Setting ROAST HAM and SEATRIP and SONGTITLE aside, the puzzle is just a bit rickety. I wouldn't have necessarily given it a fail grade, but I would have given it a "low passing grade," aka, D-plus. Sorry guys, but it is substandard...below average, even.

Masked and Anonymous 4:15 PM  

@Z - yep. I've stopped puttin web-links in my comments, hopin that might help. This morning's first comment didn't have any of those, tho. Did have several day-um's, I'd grant …

@Aketi darlin - well, U are sure a sweetie.

@Mr. Haight: Thanx for the TuesPuz. I'd give it an F for Fun, a C for COSI, and a B becuz. har

"Three (and a half) and out"

aging soprano 4:52 PM  

ESTEE is a nickname for Esther. Very common in Israel. I know lots of them. Also Eti, another version of Esther. I didn't even think of Estee
Lauder. That said, I thought it a very odd choice of name on which to base a crossword, and wasn't overly impressed by the puzzle. At least I learned that Lauder is pronounced "ESTAY", minus the diphthong, of course. Enjoyed today's blog more than the solve.

aging soprano 4:53 PM  

ESTEE is a nickname for Esther. Very common in Israel. I know lots of them. Also Eti, another version of Esther. I didn't even think of Estee
Lauder. That said, I thought it a very odd choice of name on which to base a crossword, and wasn't overly impressed by the puzzle. At least I learned that Lauder is pronounced "ESTAY", minus the diphthong, of course. Enjoyed today's blog more than the solve.

Leapfinger 5:33 PM  

@Whirred Whacks, thanks for bringing up Oliver Sachs, who was also a fabulously interesting writer. However, I believe the patients he treated with l-dopa were catatonic subsequent to contracting a kind of encephalitis known as "sleepy sickness", which is distinct from the "sleeping sickness" associated with tsetse flies.

I'm delighted that you offered a pickable nit other than Ms Lauder (no relation to Harry), and even more delighted at your return to these boards.

The Simple Truth about this puzzle is that my favourite part was the extension of the Rocky & Bullwinkle clue into BORIS BADE ENOW..

And that's SomeThing I'm likely to say Natasha rule.

Y'all play nice, now

Sir Hillary 6:03 PM  

No one will read this, but...

Wow, what a day on the blog. I just showed up, and it's the most entertainment I've had in months.

-- @Matt Gaffney: As an inveterate MGWCC participant (where I frequently get F's of my own, as I did last week!) and reader of joon's weekly Fiend write-up, I have become accustomed to your bluntness and no-back-down spirit -- and it's awesome.

-- @Will Shortz: It took stones for you to come here. Impressive, even if I agree with Matt's assessment and not yours.

-- @Bruce Haight: Personally, I did not enjoy this particular puzzle, but that is an exception among your work.

-- @ everyone else: We won't see banter like this here for a looooooooong time, if ever.

Mohair Sam 6:07 PM  

BORIS BADE ENOW! Great catch @Leapy.

kitshef 6:41 PM  

@Leepfinger - Now THAT's good stuff.

the redanman 6:46 PM  

Extraordinarily meh. Very easy Tuesday FWIW

the redanman 6:47 PM  

Extraordinarily meh. Very easy Tuesday FWIW

Norm 7:10 PM  

Will's explanation/defense was exceedingly weak. You'd have to take a poll to see many people's initial reaction was "oh, cool" versus "WTF? That's Estay"

chefwen 8:36 PM  

@Andrea aka Apolo, How the heck are ya? We miss you!!!!

Teedmn 8:50 PM  

Hey all, in case you are BORIS with the S-T discussion, I was turned on to a tribute puzzle yesterday that @George Barany and his group created. Check it out: Lucky Guy

Da Bears 9:02 PM  

Agree with others who are entertained today by the blog and like Matt’s write-ups. Rex should be more careful who he picks to sub.

My reaction to the puzzle was MEH. After reading BH’s comment, I’m now even a trifle irritated. Seems he did this for the challenge of cramming as much theme into the puzzle as possible. I guess he didn’t care about the solver’s experience.

I also wonder as others why 51D wasn’t used as the revealer, especially with all the controversy surrounding the revealer.

“F” does seem a bit harsh. Maybe a solid D for me. Theme dull and too easy (agree with @AliasZ). Agree about uninspired cluing and ordinary fill. MEH.

PS. It always puzzles me (PI) why WS comments here and on other blogs but ignores his own blog.

GILL I. 9:11 PM  

@chefwen...Good catch. Nabbed our super star if only for a short turn.
Yes, we miss you Apolo Cosi Moma.....!

Evan Cesanek 11:54 PM  

Well it's very late so I'm not going to bother making up an example, especially since reasonable ones are hard to think of. But the idea is this: haven't you ever seen a foreign word written out and known the correct foreign pronunciation but also imagined how you would say it in a phonetically anglicized way? That's exactly the case with ESTÉE -- most people know it is pronounced ess-tay, as in the cosmetics magnate, but "phoneticizing" it clearly leads you to ess-tee.

Rex Parker 7:16 AM  

Reading this for the first time on August 30 and laughing.

MG was kind.

Also, nothing about how terrible this puzzle is surprises me.

Further, jumping in the comments to "defend" your puzzle? Dude, when you (repeatedly) feel like you have to do this, something is wrong, and the something is Your Puzzle.


Burma Shave 10:22 AM  


IHOPE to SPOT no VIXEN who fail
to DOIT with the XTRA GUSTO they bring,
SOFAR I’ll pass up SADTALE


spacecraft 10:55 AM  

No big deal to me whether it's -tee or -tay, but I'm in TUNE with the rest of MG's criticism. I think an F is harsh; to begin with, I shall award no failing grade to any grid containing STARTREK. This, BTW, was my way in--not that there weren't others, but my eye was drawn to those titles. And finding myself in the revealer-containing SW, this one played pretty easy. The theme is...well, 57-across says it best.

Lots of MEH doesn't improve the MEH-ness. I agree about 27-across; can you imagine Frankie Ford singing "Won't you let me take you on a SEATRIP?" Ugh. The "More, in ads" entry XTRA was bad enough the first time; don't tell me it's going to become a fixture. The other X, in the center, seems gratuitous. LOX/EXTS (ugh, again) could have been LOA/EATS or even LON/ENTS.

Oh, and SIDETABLE? As clued, this piece is called an end table. Another shaky themer. We do have a good DOD in the amazing TONI Braxton, that VIXEN. This would be like a par on a par-five hole where most of the field is making birdie. A...faux-bogey? MEH.

rondo 12:49 PM  

I actually thought I hit the revealer with ESTES until the perfumer showed up. But is that actually pronounced EST-ease’ or EST’-ezz? Either way I didn’t think the puz was great, but didn’t hate it like some constructors do.

I had an aunt who fancied herself somewhat fancy and always used ESTEE Lauder stuff. Never thought much of it since I was about 5 years old. Old lady smell to me.

Couldn’t fit Natasha or Fearless Leader into the BORIS slot, not even OFL could DOIT.

Her appearance in Hef’s mag seemed to revive yeah baby TONI Braxton’s career. Latoya Jackson did not have such good fortune. Anyone remember the band VIXEN? Rockin’ yeah babies from right here in MN.

Flirted with picking up tABS and lABS before backing into CABS.

Not a stellar effort but lotsa XTRA theme. SORETHUMBS up?

Sailor 1:47 PM  

Wow. Matt Gaffney channels Rex Parker, then Rex piles on. Was that really necessary?

C'mon, it's Tuesday, and I thought Mr. Haight's puzzle was light-hearted fun and Tuesday-appropriate.

I will agree that ESTES would have been a better revealer, but that's the only nit I have to pick.

leftcoastTAM 1:55 PM  

I'm with Matt Gaffney on this one: It's fatally flawed by the ES-Tea vs. ES-Tay phonics. That scrambles the whole thing with all the theme answers packed into it.

Would grade it a D+ instead of an F, though.

Diana,LIW 5:03 PM  

I've read the comments, and cannot hold this in any longer.

People, people. You've missed the obvious. The delightful friend of Pooh crossing our pal the Nova. Right in the center.

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for DQ, or Dairy Queen

Wooody2004 6:14 PM  

Seems Themer "ESTEE" didn't pass the Smell Test.

If you read an ad and buy XTRA maybe you need SACS Therapy.

Senile Trump has REWED many times.

A Symbolic Takeoff of the Space Time Super Theory could be Schrodinger's Tat.

leftcoastTAM 7:34 PM  

Late, but have to say anyhow:

Most interesting exchanges by realtimers that I've ever read. A star-studded line up of editors, blog masters, constructors, and supporting cast of very good poster-reviewers.

Have to regret being at the tail end of tail-enders out here in syndiland.

Diana,LIW 8:57 PM  

Where is Rain Forest????


Diana,LIW 9:01 PM  

I agree, @Lefty.

But where is the Rainy Forest????

Diana, You-Know-Who are you? Who? Who? Who?

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