Cars introduced with much fanfare on E Day / WED 8-17-16 / Starting progress metaphorically / Off-color paradoxically / Pioneering computer operating system

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Constructor: Mark McClain

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium (actually Medium .... and then very easy)


THEME: DARK ARTS (38D: What sorcerers practice ... or a hint to interpreting five clues in this puzzle) — "ARTS" has been blacked out (made "dark") in the five theme clues:

Theme answers:
  • EXCHANGES (20A: M####)
  • PASTRIES (10D: T####)
  • MOVIE ROLES (11D: P####)
  • PUB PASTIME (28D: D####)
  • BLEMISHES (51A: W####)


Word of the Day: EZRA Taft Benson (62A: ___ Taft Benson (1980s-'90s Mormon leader)) —
Ezra Taft Benson (August 4, 1899 – May 30, 1994) was an American farmer, government official, and religious leader who served as United States Secretary of Agriculture during both presidential terms of Dwight D. Eisenhower and as thirteenth president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) from 1985 until his death in 1994. He was the last president of the LDS Church born in the 19th century. (wikipedia)
• • •

Saw the "note" in my puzzle and had the typical feeling of despair, but it was merely indicating that the "#" marks in five clues were supposed to appear as a black bar. I usually don't read "notes"; not sure why I broke that rule today. Only cost me a few seconds on the timer, I imagine. The theme concept is at least interesting, though I'm usually not a big fan of puzzles where all the interest lies in the clues, nor of puzzles where the clues are really the answers and the answers the clues. But I enjoyed remembering the Harry Potter books (which surely must've been featured in the original clue for DARK ARTS) and there is a theme cluing consistency (single letter + blackout in every case) that I appreciate. Plus, the grid is pretty clean and reasonably interesting. This puzzle appears to be a debut for the constructor. All debuts should be this competent. All puzzles, for that matter.



Puzzle was tough to cut through because of the mysterious theme clues ... until they were no longer mysterious, and then ZOOM, back to Monday-level easiness. I was lucky enough to stumble into the PUB PASTIME (inferred from just PUBP-) and then, immediately thereafter, DARK ARTS confirmed what PUB PASTIME made me suspect—that you just replace the blacked-out part with "arts" and bam, there's your clue. Do that, and the puzzle is an open book. Minor trouble with getting to TAILS from the non-coin-specifying 22A: It has a 50% chance, and slightly less minor trouble in and around EZRA Taft Benson (who?), where I also briefly had a MISTAKE-for-MISSTEP mistake (or misstep), as well as a DAZE-for-HAZE daze (or haze). I'm either very proud or very embarrassed to have gotten GLAD RAGS so easily. How do I even know that term? My clothes tend to be "sad rags," at least during the summer when my level of sartorial caring plummets. LEVAR Burton is in "Looking for Mr. Goodbar." That is your LEVAR Burton trivia for the day. Good day.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]

104 comments:

jae 12:09 AM  

Easy-medium for me too because I needed to stare at it for a few nanoseconds (TM M&A) after I finished to grok the theme.

Me too for MIStake before MISSTEP.

Started to put Moline in for 15a but already had MIL...wrong company.

LEVAR was also in the TV series Perception.

Smooth grid, cute theme, what @Rex said, liked it.

allan 12:36 AM  

Good week so far. This was nice and clean as @rex said. I had no idea what was going on, even after getting the revealer. Finally figure ded it out and like many others, I'm sure, it was off to the races.

Excellent debut for Mr. McLain.

Larry Gilstrap 12:57 AM  

I have never read any Harry Potter stuff or seen one movie. but I sat on stage 10 ft. away from naked Harry Potter, did I mention, on Broadway? I'm sure you have heard of it. Nice Wednesday for those involved. I make a conscious effort to support the #### in my community. Write a check folks, it's tax deductible. I have fond memories of DOILIES. All that pomade and grease...

David Krost 1:35 AM  

Generally agree with your write-up for a change, although this is a very rare instance where I apparently found the puzzle to be easier than you did. Zipped through it with almost no mistakes or hesitations, except for the theme clues until I got to the revealer. I got that immediately and then had zero trouble filling in the theme answers, except "blemishes" took me a few crosses before I got it.

I only disagree with your grade of B. Should have been an A- or A, as long as you are going to keep doing grades for no reason I can fathom. You are constantly complaining about puzzles where you can easily solve the themers before getting to the revealer, and I agree it is a lot more fun when the revealer is an "aha" moment, as this one was. Given that and almost no crappy fill, it was a very good Wednesday puzzle.

chefwen 2:05 AM  

Didn't see the note, I never do. Went back to read it after the fact and I don't think it would have made a difference. Off to a rather slow start when puzzle partner, who read the first Harry Potter got DARK ARTS. AHA! TARTS came to mind with PASTRIES (just made a fresh peach tart day before yesterday) Damn good, by the way. After that, there was no stopping us.

PEORIA was a gimme, dear old dad worked for Caterpiller for many years and was alway off to PEORIA a for some meeting.

Biggest obstacle was in the NE where I had tube in for 1A, that took a little work to tidy up.

Great puzzle, and don't criticize Rex for grading, he's a teacher, it's what they do.

Da Bears 2:09 AM  

@Rex, maybe the nicest write-up of a debut I've seen you write. Warms the cockles of my heart. I don't disagree except making the clues the key element doesn't bother me.

Fabio K. Juliano 2:21 AM  

Since I got most of "DARKARTS" from the crosses, I filled it in without even reading the clue and went on to solve the puzzle without understanding the theme. However, it would have been faster and more enjoyable if I had.

Dolgo 3:17 AM  

Not even particularly clever and certainly not much fun. Can't they do better than this? You can fill in all the cursor stuff without even trying to figure it out.

Dolgo 3:20 AM  

"cutsie," not "cursor"!!! Damn this auto-correcting stuff!!!

cwf 3:45 AM  

Got DARKARTS off the DA and cruised through the themers after that. Nice debut; thanks, Mark McClain!

George Barany 5:25 AM  

As @Rex points out correctly, it took a bit of time to get a TOEHOLD in today's puzzle, but once it became clear what was going on, further solving went smoothly.

While this may be a New York Times debut for @Mark McClain, a few minutes on the internet turned up this profile in his local newspaper, from which it is clear that he has been honing his craft for several years now, and has had considerable success in other outlets (see also this blog page).

As to the puzzle itself (which I solved after a NAP), I appreciated the SCI VIBE which also included UNIX and OHM, though LABS were clued for dogs rather than my workplace. The puzzle had religion with JEWS, TORAH, and AMENS, baseball Hall-of-Fame (all-time RBI leader Hank Aaron, and STAN "the Man" Musial), and ONE more shoutout to the Olympics. The clue for BLUE had me in stitches.

ONE entry (34-Across today) I recognized immediately, because it had been repurposed for a puzzle called Clown Car (27-Across therein). It may make you laugh ... or weep.

phil phil 5:32 AM  

I've been looking at the grid as Rex does and this is A++
3 ltr ans are fantastic, no?
Even in the scrunched up SW
Nothing dated, new or old.
The French phrase with doable crosses
Well done

Leapfinger 5:48 AM  

@Larry Gilstrap, those be a subset of DOILIES called antimacassars. You can look up "Macassar oil" and find out why they got that name ylang ylang ago.

I thought SEMIARID was an opera by Rossini.

Not sure I'm ready for TROMPE DOILIES, at least not this doily in the morning.

Nice proDUCT, Mr. McClain, with a fine exAMPLE of Punjabi humour. TOUCAN play at that game.

Time to put my GLADRAGS on; join me, Hon?

Martín Abresch 6:04 AM  

A solid debut. I have no problem with themes that reverse clues and answers. My brain enjoys puzzling things out either way.

The fill struck me as clean and workmanlike.

I loved the revealer, though I did wonder about its placement. I unexpectedly hit it there in the SW, a bit earlier in the solve than I would have liked. Once I had the revealer, the rest of the puzzle was cake. I wonder if there wasn't a chance for clever placement, with DARK and ARTS split into two words and, say, stacked on top of each other in the SE corner. The letters complement each other reasonably well: DA/AR/RT/KS. Ack, that's probably too complicated and would make a hash of the surrounding fill.

LEVAR Burton guest-starred in two excellent episodes of Community, and he won the Star Trek edition of The Weakest Link.

Hartley70 6:32 AM  

I got all excited when I saw the little black squares in the clues, thinking we had a precursor to Thursday on our hands. Sadly for me, this puzzle got stuck on the hump and then began to slide back toward Monday and Tuesday. The clues were a little too easy for a Wednesday. Did we really need (illusion) after l'oeil. For some reason that clue really irked this non-French speaker.

If I ignore the fact that it's Wednesday, this puzzle is pretty darn good for a M-T offering. The theme is easy to grok from the reveal and there's enough easy fill for a decent TOEHOLD of an opening, like ANNO, OWE, VOW, AWOL in the upper corners. It's perfect for newcomers. The black squares are just tempting enough to lure the curious flies into Will's crossword spiderweb. Bam! Another one joins our club.

Lewis 6:47 AM  

@rex -- Terrific writeup, witty and right on the button.

Great aha on sussing the theme, and very clean and solid debut. This has been a zippy week, solve wise. I generally don't like abbreviations in a puzzle, so I would have changed that J to an N or P, but no biggie. As your resident alphadoppeltotter, I must report happily that this had an unusually low number of double letters (3). Anything lower than five is very rare.

Couldn't help but notice that LOUD is closer to TROMPE (spelling is close enough) than MORAL.

Unknown 6:49 AM  

Did not like this one at all. Didn't get the theme even after finishing. Never heard of GLADRARGS

Lewis 6:53 AM  

And, by the way, Joel's mini today is masterful, a minute's worth of worth doing.

Bill Haley 7:04 AM  

@Unknown,

Put your GLAD RAGS on and join me hon'
We'll have some fun when the clock strikes one
We're gonna rock around the clock tonight
We're gonna rock, rock, rock, 'till broad daylight
We're gonna rock, gonna rock around the clock tonight

GILL I. 7:15 AM  

Ooooh, I loved this puzzle. Twasn't THAT easy because I had a MISTAKE in the MISSTEP file and for some reason the ubiquitous TESLAS took up the EDSELS space.
SHRIMP... I see them and I want to yell "Raymond 'Shrimp Boy' Chow."
I didn't have a note and I'm glad. I was just enjoying the puzzle despite not knowing what the f###### thingies were. I had to get to BLEMISHES before the ART of the crossword came to light. OK, T is for tarts, P is for parts and if Sue Grafton can do it, so can I.
ROSE...I remember in my GLAD RAGS days, everyone drank cheap Chianti wine that was wicker wrapped. We all kept our own BYOB's because once we got home, everyone (at least in San Francisco) would put a little candle in the bottle. Mateus Rose was the wine to drink if you wanted to be a bit Portuguese snobby, but it gave you a HAZE in the morning. Strangely enough, although I never liked ROSE as a young un, I enjoy it now. I buy "La Vieille Ferme" from Safeway for under $10 and it tastes like a MIL.
Good puzzle Mark McClain. Hope to see some more....

Leapfinger 7:34 AM  

@GILL, Mateus ROSE it was, because of the cool flattened "ovoid" bottle, and some kind of Duck (Cold Duck?). And of course, BLUE Nun Liebfraumilch, because we were soooo Cosmopolitan!

NCA President 7:42 AM  

Easy puzzle with only a few hiccups. Like many here, once I got the theme it was downhill skiing from there.

I knew GLADRAGS because there used to be a clothing store with that name in the town where I grew up. I didn't know GLADRAGS was anything but the name of a store. So it was kinda cool to see why they named the store that. FWIW, in the same town we also had a clothing store called Mode O' Day. Yes, the town was old timey and full of clothing stores.

Decent puzzle, if not just a bit easy for a Wednesday.

AliasZ 8:08 AM  


The puzzle covered most of the DARK #ARTS possible, but C____, and especially F____ were conspicuously absent. And thank goodness for that. "Stinks up the place" wouldn't have fit the 15x15 grid anyway.

Gotcha 8:21 AM  

B####: STARRANDSIMPSON

Gridspanner!

pmdm 8:26 AM  

Many comments communicate the preference for "contemporary" fill in the grid. I wonder how many would enjoy if the answer to 25A had been Ades instead of Arne. I wonder if that answer would make the obscurity cut.

RAD2626 8:29 AM  

Three for three this week. Very well done and fun solve v

Interesting that GLAD RAGS has drawn the most attention from the grid so far. The Four Seasons "Rag Doll" made it a gimme:

I'd change her sad rags into GLAD RAGS
If I could (if I could )
My folks won't let me cause
They say that she's no good.

Parents. Bah!

kitshef 8:29 AM  

Rocky start with tube before DUCT, the marlin before tarpon before SHRIMP, but things settled down quickly.

STAN Musial must be the most unappreciated truly great baseball player. Top ten all time but you rarely hear about him.

Glad I had access to newspaper version as the visual rendering of the theme online was not very good.

Loved the puzzle.

Nancy 8:37 AM  

After two days of solving the puzzle on mindless autopilot, I actually had to think in solving this one. What a pleasure. Of course, I made it harder for myself by forgetting to look at the revealer -- something I do a lot. Do you think that that's because, on an unconscious basis, I want to challenge myself even more? Anyway, I picked up the theme at MOVIE ROLES=PARTS. After that, very easy, but the main thing is I had to think for a while, at least. I enjoyed this one.

Thought of the day: Has anyone seen any DOILIES lately? Because I'm not 22 any more, I saw a lot of them in my youth. But for anyone under 50, I imagine they're something out of a great, unknown Historical Past.

Alysia 8:37 AM  

I got tripped up on MISSTEP as well, but only because I had the SS and P and could not get "mess up" out of my head in order to see anything else.

I learned something today, which is that AWOL can be used as a noun. I've only heard and used it in verb form. I love when my puzzle teaches me things (not completely trivial)...by 5:32 AM.

I thought this was slightly more difficult than it seems everyone else did, though I ended up coming in at :46 under average Wednesday time, so I guess perhaps that was just in my head.

Overall, very nice puzzle. I must concur with...umm...somebody up there. It's been a good week.

QuasiMojo 8:44 AM  

Too much arbitrary blahness. "Pub Pastime"? "Pastries"? Movie Roles"? "Semi-Arid"? Even "Green Paint" would have been more colorful. Why can't we just have challenging puzzles instead of these painfully contrived attempts at wordplay? Bring back Will Weng. Please.

the redanman 8:46 AM  

I did not notice the notepad until nearly done. Would have made the puzzle a crip once I had known that.

Cute -

Nancy 8:49 AM  

Another reason I don't time myself: Don't know what I've been allergic to the last two mornings, but both days, I've had an attack right in the middle of doing the puzzle. Since I write right-handed and also blow my nose right-handed, this brought my puzzle-solving practically to a standstill both days. Now imagine how I would have felt if I'd had a "Saturday time" (whatever that is for me; I have no idea) on a successive Tues and Wed. Fortunately, I didn't have to think about it for a minute.

kitshef 9:16 AM  

@pmdm - neither ARNE nor ades makes the obscurity cut for a Wednesday, so both would require solid crosses.

smalltowndoc 9:17 AM  

Was curious what the theme was. But the crosses were easy enough to get to DARK ARTS fairly quickly, making the rest of the puzzle pretty simple. Clever idea, I think, and I enjoyed it a lot.

Had never heard of GLAD RAGS so I Googled the term. The top hit is a company that makes eco-friendly reusable menstrual pads. Now I'm not so sure people would want to opt for that phrase when mentioning that they're wearing their "party clothes". Infantile responses are sure to follow!

Mike Rees 9:18 AM  

I often wonder if autocorrect really thinks I spend that much time talking about ducks.

Mike Rees 9:23 AM  

I had great fun with this one with a genuine "aha" moment at the revealer. Ended just a few seconds off my best Wednesday time. Quick and easy and no dreck. Loved it. Great debut!

I almost entered tUbe to start, but it seemed too easy so I checked the crosses; even after entering UNIX it didn't feel right, so I waited on that part. Probably the number one reason for the fast time.

Hartley70 9:26 AM  

What a walk down memory lane today in the comments. High school is "Rag Doll" on a summer night on the car radio. College is a glass of Mateus on the weekend in Boston by candlelight. Last weekend's empty bottle became the candlestick. I don't remember seeing any other brand of wine until I graduated.

DOILIES were antimacassars in my Grandmother's parlor. I think the fifies were the Brylcream era so she still needed reassurance that her furniture was safe.

I don't have to go very far to encounter a doily today, @Nancy. There are several on side tables in my living room. Oh and a package of paper ones in the kitchen, in the unlikely event I feel moved to make a party dessert today.

jberg 9:41 AM  

OK, somebody has to say it. All the theme answer pronounce the ARTS as "arts," EXCEPT for 51A. I'd consider that a BLEMISH (though only ONE, not plural).

I use DOILIES all the time, to protect table tops from vases of flowers when I think they might have condensation on the outside. @Nancy, if you're hankering for them, try the Vermont Country Store.

Me too for wanting tUbe before DUCT, but I didn't write it in because that first T seemed improbable. But was UNIX really pioneering? I guess I'll go look it up.

No note in the newspaper version; we didn't need it, because the black bars printed as black bars.

Nancy 9:44 AM  

@George B. (5:25 a.m.) -- So I clicked on your "Clown Car" puzzle, looked at 27A, and tried to type in the answer. But, as always happens to me in online puzzles, the grid wouldn't accept my typing. The white spaces just lay there, virginal, inert, and completely unresponsive. But I assume the answer I couldn't type in was TRUMP L'OEIL, right?

@Hartley (9:26 a.m.)-- I'd love to see your DOILIES sometime. Not as much as I want to see your beagle and your swimming pool, mind you, but they will take me on a trip down memory lane.

@Everyone -- What, pray tell, is the "note" that you're all referring to? I see a revealer at 38D, but I don't see any note. (I have the newspaper edition of the puzzle.)

Z 9:47 AM  

When I'm away from home, as I have been for two weeks, I use PuzzAzz. Why? Because the black bars were actually black bars. No note needed because the puzzle was rendered on screen as it was intended. I presume PuzzAzz is working from the same .puz file as other programs, so why can it render the file correctly and not other programs? Tomorrow I'm back to pen and paper. WooHoo!

I have rarely ever timed a Wednesday, so I have no idea where my 12:23 ranks. I thought I'd break the 10:00 mark, but hyPED and mUG caused me issues, so I wasted ma y nanoseconds there. MIStake to MISScue (ugh, even as I typed it in I knew it was miscue) to MISSTEP also caused me issues. So medium, I guess.

@kitshef - because STAN and my personal favorite #6, Al Kaline, didn't play in New York. If either had we'd probably have a national holiday in their honor.

mac 9:47 AM  

Very good debut! I didn't get a note and didn't look at the revealer, so I had some fun figuring out what the trick was. Halfway down movi...... and past...... I got it. It did get very easy after that. Most difficult little quarter was the NW for me.

Goed start of the day. Thanks for the tip, @Lewis, I'm on my way to the mini!

Z 9:54 AM  

@jberg - and yet somehow apt that 51A was the puzzle's wart.

@Nancy - as you can probably infer from @jberg's and my comments surrounding yours, the "note" is for online solvers whose program doesn't render the black bar as a black bar. I think Rex mentioned that his program had **** instead.

Finally, there is a missing N and a missing A in my first comment. I'll leave it to you to determine if it matters.

Roo Monster 9:57 AM  

Hey All !
Got the Revealer first before anything else, and first themer was W____= BLEMISHES, so started thinking all the themes would be "dark" ARTS, as in the worst meaning of each rhing. But, turned out to be normal stuff.

Had a hd up in center, eRNE first, non-French knowing, so with that E I wrote eMmED for AMPED not really knowing what the hay it was! Throw in EMIL in that mix, and even DOILUES and ARNOLD were tough ti suss. Got em all, but still failed in W center. GLADRAGS a new one on me, had GooDRAGS in. Also, couldn't get the ole brain of (something)TIME, so PASTIME was difficult to see. Had to "Reveal" for GLADRAGS, so DNF.

Did like it, good for Mark on his debut. Didn't fall for the MISSTEP MIStake mistake. Liked clues on VIBE, TAUT, and TOEHOLD. Also symmetry on TOEHOLD and MISSTEP kinda neat. And SPEND next to HEDGE.

AMPLE
RooMonster
DarrinV



Nancy 9:59 AM  

@jberg -- We were typing at the same time, so I didn't see your comment about why the paper edition didn't require a note until after I'd written my comment. Now I understand. Thanks.

Linda 10:00 AM  

Enjoyed the puzzle. Great NYT debut.

Thanks @Bill Haley for the Rock Around the Clock lyrics. Made we want to get up and dance!

Anonymous 10:06 AM  

Bill Haley,

You beat me to it!
I think Rex is about the right age to have watched Happy Days and that lyric was right at the top of the show. ( I know they also used an original song called Happy Days as well)

Rod Stewart 10:11 AM  

So what becomes of you my love
When they have finally stripped you of
The handbags and the GLADRAGS
That your Grandad had to sweat so you could buy
Baby

Ellen S 10:12 AM  

No note in the Puzzazz version, either. The black bars printed same as in the print version.

@smalltowndoc, yuck, thanks for telling us all about the Glad Rags menstrual product. I knew GLAD RAGS meaning "party clothes" as just part of my vocabulary but I may have first heard it in 1956 when a friend of mine dragged me downtown to see The Ten Commandments. (No, Moses never mentions "glad rags".) I wasn't too enthusiastic, and jokingly asked couldn't we just read the book. She said, "The book hasn't come out yet."

I didn't know what to say to that. It occurs to me now, 60 years later, that she might have been perfectly aware that it was a biblical story, and she meant, and thought I meant, the "novelization" of the screenplay. Anyway, I didn't know how to answer her, so I went along. Fairly stupid movie, but there was also a stage show afterward, which turned out to be Bill Haley and the Comets, so I would have heard GLAD RAGS then, if I didn't already know the phrase. Or maybe I knew it from newspapers: I was also aware that EZRA Taft Benson was Secretary of Agriculture. Was there some scandal like with Sherman Adams? Certainly there were constant arguments around farm subsidies. I was only 13 in 1956, but some things I couldn't avoid knowing.

Lastly, @Leapfinger, you get the prize for most funniest comment. SEMIARID it is!

At home the radio was trained to only play the classical station, so ARNE was no problem either.

There are advantages to being old, if you don't mind the increasing decrepitude, arthritis, bunion in one foot, pain in the foot where the bunion was repaired, etc etc etc. It's all worth it to be able to fill in EZRA with no hesitation.

I enjoyed the puzzle thoroughly. I read Jeff Chen's writeup at Xwordinfo before coming here, and it was the most negative review by him that I've seen. I was worried that OFL would really tear the puzzle to shreds and was surprised that he seemed to like it better than Jeff. I liked it better than both of them. Got the theme all by myself before reaching the revealer, makes me extra pleased, here in my dotage.

Charles Flaster 10:19 AM  

Agree with Rex review.
Also, easy pour moi after ARTS was ascertained.
Liked cluing for TOEHOLD, VIBE , and. NAP.
ANA is today's contribution to CROSSWORDEASE.
Musial and Aaron were instrumental in bringing respectability to NL.
Saw both of them play at Ebbets Field.
Thanks MM

Z 10:34 AM  

After seeing @Ellen S comment on a "negative" review at xwordinfo.com, I checked it out. I must admit that the whole "definitional" section makes absolutely no sense to me. Parts defines MOVIE ROLES. MOVIE ROLES defines Parts. So what? "Chocolate" dog defines a kind of LAB. LAB could be used to define "chocolate dog." Even when a clue uses a secondary or tertiary meaning of a word it is still going to be definitional and definitions are always at least partly reciprocal. Am I missing something or is Mr. Chen?

Also, no one had mentioned it yet, so I checked out the NYTX app. It uses black squares, not as good as a black bar but better than asterisks.

chefbea 10:38 AM  

Tough puzzle. could not figure out the theme...til I came here. Hooray for Stan the Man

Joseph Michael 10:48 AM  

Great debut. Congratulations, Mark.

kitshef 10:53 AM  

I don't read Jeff Chen's commentary generally, but after seeing the comments I checked it out. Seemed pretty positive to me "I like when a puzzle baffles me — as long as I eventually figure out what's going on. Today, we get a fun debut offering..." "So overall, a nice debut puzzle. Not a lot of crossword glue used to hold six theme answers together (SCI, MAJ, IRES = mostly minor dings)..."

As I say, I don't normally read his comments so maybe this was damning with substantial praise?

Also, my version instead of the black bar got one hashtag, one octothorp, one pound sign, and one number symbol.

Nancy 10:53 AM  

@Bill Haley -- I remember ROCK AROUND THE CLOCK well, but I didn't remember the GLAD RAGS phrase in the lyric. Maybe because it was slurred and elided -- even way back then -- which added to the problem of never having the term GLAD RAGS at such a tender age. But thank you @Rod Stuart for introducing me to a nifty song. (Why do I think you're the same poster as @Bill Haley?) The trenchant, unusual, wonderfully cynical lyric you cited in your 10:11 comment sent me to YouTube. I couldn't stand the Rod Stuart version (which I couldn't make out the lyrics of, either), but I found the Stereophonics version, which I liked much better. When I likewise couldn't make out the lyrics in their version, I found a lyrics-printed version on YouTube. Again, the (by now) famous @Nancy rant: Why do rock lyrics have to be slurred so badly? And why do singers have to hold the damned mike smack dab in front of their lips? Nonetheless, thanks for introducing me to an interesting song I'd never heard before.

Tom 11:01 AM  

Like @chefbea, didn't figure out the revealer until I read it here, but didn't put any time in really trying to figure it out. Didn't really care, as the cluing made it easy to finish without knowing the trick.

Ahhh Mateus. Used to enjoy a glass or two and smoke a Tres Lanceros. My girlfriend even smoked them. Happy Days!

Anonymous 11:39 AM  

Black Arts Matter!

Master Melvin 12:03 PM  

@Z: STAN Musial may have been unappreciated elsewhere but not in NY. He got the nickname STAN THE MAN in Brooklyn where Dodger fans would groan "Here comes that man again". In their first year the Mets didn't have any players worthy of the honor so they held a STAN MUSIAL DAY at the Polo Grounds when the Cards were visiting.

Anonymous 12:04 PM  


There's also the song Handbags and Gladrags, which you may know from Rod Stewart or the original Office.

"But once you think you're in you're out
'Cause you don't mean a single thing without
The handbags and the gladrags
That your Granddad had to sweat so you could buy"

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Handbags_and_Gladrags

--Twangster

old timer 12:09 PM  

I am a youngster compared to some of you. But old enough to immediately write in EZRA. More than old enough to immediately think of the Four Seasons when I wrote in GLAD RAGS. And yes, I remember when people quaffed MATEUS in order to have a good candle holder. Why else would anyone ever drink it? We bought California cabs when we could afford them, and good old "Mountain Red" when we couldn't.

I checked out Mark McClain's blog. It links to an article in the Roanoke Times that reveals that he has another puzzle in the WS pipeline. He has had at least one puzzle a month published somewhere. Pretty good for a man who only started constructing after he retired. I'm looking forward to it.

I'm like OFL in that I actually needed the revealer for the puzzle to make sense. Before that, I thought EX CHANGES could mean a change to the Roman number X since M is X to the third power.

Joe Bleaux 12:16 PM  

Curses! Not for the puzzle (which was almost Wednesday-tough, well-clued, and finely executed), but by an optical ailment surely conjured by some practitioner of dark arts. It's called a "floater," caused by the liquefication of the eyeball's gelatinous matter. It appears -- constantly! -- as a small spider about 8 inches in front of me, at eye level. The doc says there's nothing I can do but wait the damned spot out -- no surgical fix, no drops, no meds -- maybe for months. Obviously, it's nearly maddening when I'm trying to enjoy a puzzle. Anyone here ever been similarly cursed? Any advice?

Numinous 12:19 PM  

I don't know why but GLAD RAGS was a gimmie. When I got to the W(arts) clue, BLEMISHES became clear, the iPad app had four black squares and Warts just suggested itself to me. I still hadn't seen the revealer. I had MOV_E__RT_ filled in when P(arts) occurred to me then T(arts). Around that time BLACKARTS just filled itself in.

I still think this is "Newbie Week". I thought this one was pretty easy even if I had to ponder a bit to discover the "Theme". I'm betting 80% of newbies will succeed with this one.

Good job, Mr. McClain, do you identify as a clansman from the Isle of Mull?

chefbea 12:21 PM  

@Joe Bleaux..I have this floating things too. They are usually up to the right or left and do not get in the way of the puzzle. I was told by my eye doc that there is nothing to do...they will go away.

Numinous 12:30 PM  

@Joe Bleaux, I've had and occasionally still have floaters. Sadly, your doctor's advice is the very best there is, Happily, though, and you can hope, floaters can move around in the gelatinous matter of your eye so it just might settle out of the center of your vision. The other notion is to close that eye whilst doing the xword. For me, that might require a trip to Walmart to buy a pair of off the rack cheaters so I can see close up. I've had lens replacements in both eyes due to cataracts and the lenses have different focal lengths. One is for distance viewing and one is for close up. Oddly enough, I can see more clearly through both eyes than I can with just one open.

Andrew Heinegg 12:31 PM  

As usual, I didn't get the revealer until after finishing the puzzle. It has to be a kind of a intellectual laziness to the effect of:I am using what brainpower I have mustered up at the moment to do the solve. Don't ask me to do more!'.

I thought this was a well constructed, interesting and Wednesday appropriate puzzle and, considering it was a first time publication for the constructor, at least in the N.Y. Times, it is a remarkable achievement. There is none of the awkwardness and clichéd crossword answers you would expect. It is a very polished effort which I would also have given at least an A- to. OFL conceded the format is not one he cares for so, perhaps that prevented a higher grade from the prof. Is there a way for the constructor to argue his grade should have been higher?!

Andrew Heinegg 12:39 PM  

I get annoyed by them as well. I looked them up on the internet and got the advice to see the doc if they seemed particularly bad as they could lead to/be signs of a coming detached retina. An ounce of prevention being worth a pound of cure, I went to the opthmalogist and he said not to worry as your doctor did. I try not to think about it even as I have a floater in front of me right now!

Nancy 12:53 PM  

@Joe Bleaux -- I had one in my right eye for a while-- but it was mostly out of my main field of vision and I was only bothered by it outdoors. Of course, since I am outdoors almost all the time (though not much in the past, stifling, two weeks), it bothered me quite a bit. But it did go away -- just as mysteriously as it arrived. The fact that I don't remember exactly when I had it or how long it lasted is a good sign. Yours will go away too, and then you'll never think about it again. Unless, of course, it comes back. So far mine hasn't -- but I don't want to jinx myself by saying so. Good luck with yours. My eye doc told me it's a very common problem.

Penna Resident 12:59 PM  

nice puzzle, and very easy, but waited to get 3 crosses before writing ROSE because rose is not a variety. there are many varieties of grape that can be used to make rose. variety and type may be interchangeable in general but if talking about wine in particular the word variety has a specific meaning.

i recently visited the croft warehouse in porto and they served a new rose port, which was surprisingly good - and makes a great sangria.

Passing Shot 1:24 PM  

Had no idea what the theme was (did it on the NYT ipad app with black squares) so got the answers solely with crosses. After seeing DARK ARTS, thought the theme was somehow magic-related and wanted MOVIE-magic, though that made no sense. Also had oyster before SHRIMP and MIStake before MISSTEP. Still came in under my usual Wed time. Nice, clean puzzle with a little bit of crunch.

Teedmn 1:26 PM  

A bit zipper than the usual Wednesday. I shared my MISSTEPS with @Gill I and @chefwen in the tUbe/DUCT, teslas/EDSels, MIStake/MISSTEP areas. And even with the revealer, I had to stare at the themers for a second after finishing to see how they all tied in together. Finally saw the "warts" and all feature.

Considered "GLAmwear at 43A but checking 44D led straight to GLAD RAGS, not clued as "what you get when you fill the garbage bag too full".

Thanks, @Rex, for the factoid that LEVAR Burton was in "Looking For Mr. Goodbar". That book sat on my mother's bookshelf for some time before I finally read it, about the time it came out as a movie in 1977. Tragic ending, for sure.

Congrats on your debut, Mark McClain!

Nancy 1:33 PM  

Since I've never had any question on any subject -- no matter how unrelated to puzzles -- go unanswered on this blog, I thought I'd throw this one at you. I'm kind of watching the Olympics men's volleyball game right now, and I notice that all the US players are wearing all-navy shirts and shorts, except for one player, #22, who is wearing a different outfit: all red in front and all navy in the back. There are no goalies in volleyball, right? So why is one player in a different uniform? Anyone know?

Anonymous 1:48 PM  

the one in red is the setter - all fielded balls will be directed if possible to the setter for the 2nd touch, as he controls who gets to hammer the spike on the 3rd hit.

RT

A Luddite 2:00 PM  

@Andrew - For the love of God, please learn that should address replies using @guy I'm really to! The majority of us don't use smartphones here and your replies have no context.

Nancy 2:34 PM  

Ah, yes. The setter. That would explain why the guy in red seemed shorter than everyone else. When you're the setter, you're automatically eliminated from being the spiker. And when you're short, you are not exactly the player people look to to spike the ball. I know whereof I speak. I'm short. And when I played volleyball at Camp Pinecliffe, I was never the spiker. Although people were happy to spike the ball at me. Sigh.

Once again, every question I have ever asked on this blog has been answered. Every single one. Thank you @RT (1:58 p.m.)

Martín Abresch 2:43 PM  

@kitshef - Stan the Man gets plenty of love. My vote for most underappreciated truly great baseball player would go to Tris Speaker.

BTW, Ken Griffey, Jr. just entered the Hall of Fame. He was born on November 21 in Donora, Pennsylvania, a small town of about 5,000 people south of Pittsburgh. Griffey is, of course, the second greatest left-handed hitting outfielder to be born on November 21 in Donora, Pennsylvania. The greatest is Stan Musial.

aging soprano 2:59 PM  

I actually considered both.

aging soprano 3:04 PM  

I actually considered them both. Different strokes for different folks, I guess.

aging soprano 3:19 PM  

Try closing your floater eye and reading the puzzle with the other one. A long wink, so to speak.

John V 3:19 PM  

Nice debut. What @Rex said about not being obvious until it is obvious. Congrat on the debut!

aging soprano 3:26 PM  

WOW! Loved this one.

aging soprano 3:26 PM  

Try closing your floater eye and reading the puzzle with the other one. A long wink, so to speak.

aging soprano 3:29 PM  

Wow! And I was patting myself on the back because I knew who Al Kaline was. Now this is some trivia!

Dick Swart 4:02 PM  

An interesting experience ...

My printer is down so couldn't print out puzzle. I gave the on-screen game a try.

Very clever and easy once you see how the commands can move you quickly from across to down and fill in only the missing letters.

However, I don't go for time. I like looking at the printed puzzle and believe that though the on-line system is fat, I can think faster for fill-in and for making connections at the same time.

I know that this is a matter of real-time practice on-screen.

While I may do a few as necessary until the printer is back up, I don't like the on-screen experience.

I prefer paper, a fountain pen with a flex nib. a cuppa TJ's Irish Breakfast tea, and a chocolate croissant with the chocolate melting just a bit so napkin necessary.

Today's puzzle was as described ... slow then fast. My breakthrough was Pub darts..

Roy Leban 4:24 PM  

@Nancy - the volleyball player with a contrasting uniform is the Libero, not a setter. Liberos are relatively new in volleyball (about 20 years) and are a specific position with both capabilities and limitations. "Setter" is not a position — any player can set with some restrictions. FWIW, Libero has not yet appeared in an NYT crossword.

@Z - In response to "Puzzazz is working from the same .puz file as other programs, so why can it render the file correctly and not other programs?" — the short answer is because we love puzzles and want to make sure the puzzle is delivered as intended every day. We download the same .puz file as every other app but we fix it when necessary to restore the print version. Most frequently, that means fixing quotation marks and apostrophes, special characters, italics, etc., but it also applies to shading, lines, and pictures in the grid, plus pictures and, today, bars in the clues. It's not just the NYT. If you subscribe to the AVCX crossword, you might have noticed that their puzzles have shading in Puzzazz when their print version has shading. We also fix some of these things in any .puz file that you download (like quotation marks) but most online puzzles have no print version, so that's generally it.

BTW, I don't like letter grades on puzzles, but I think this puzzle was better than a B. My only complaint is that I prefer themes in the grid over themes in the clues, but it was a clever theme and the "Aha!" in figuring out the theme was similar to what I get when the theme's in the grid. So maybe A-.

Cassieopia 5:01 PM  

Solved to puzzle in blistering speed (for me), but couldn't grok the theme. I kept trying to take ARTS out of the solutions, never thought of adding them to the DARK parts of the clues. Came here and even then it took me a few seconds to get it then I had one of those terrifically self-embarrassing DOH! moments.

Haven't seen this particular crossword trick before, and with this being a debut as well, I say, "Please, sir, I want some more."

Nancy 5:20 PM  

@Roy Leban (4:24)-- I just looked up "libero," (a position that did not exist at Camp Pinecliffe when I played volleyball). But seeing that the libero is not allowed to block or hit any shots higher than the top of the net, I understand why it didn't matter that the U.S. libero in red today was so short. He couldn't have reached the top of the net. And by the way, was he wearing a different color so that his much taller teammates could spot him in the crowd?

Mark McClain 5:27 PM  

Thanks, Rex, for the nice commentary on my puzzle. It was interesting to see how different the solving experience was for different folks. I expected that many (such as yourself) would sniff out the theme early and turn it into an easy puzzle. And so true, that PUB PASTIME nailed it for a lot of people. Keep up the good work!

RAD2626 7:08 PM  

@Martin Abresch. I think a strong argument can be made that Frank Robinson may be the most under-appreciated superstar. MVP in both leagues. Astonishing career numbers. No one ever talks about him.

Bill Haley 7:50 PM  

@Tom, don't know the Tres Lanceros. We'd light up a Gauloises if we wanted to ream out the old windpipe, or pull out a Sobranie if we were feeling effete enough for gold-tipped pastels.

Sorry, @Nancy, I think you were right about the same author having done that set of peculiar anagrammed names a while back, but I'm neither Rod Stuart nor Stewart. The only lyrics of his I know by heart are "maggie May" and "Mandolin Wind" (my favourite). You do know me when I'm not traveling incognito, and can probably find a pretty good hint in my regular comment.

Leapfinger 8:02 PM  

Hi, @Roy Leban! Just wanted to let you know that your book drove a few of us crazy. I don't think it could have been devised without using a healthy measure of DARK ARTS.

Roy Leban 8:23 PM  

@Nancy - everything I know about volleyball (well, almost everything) is because the Kansas Jayhawks' Women's Volleyball team made it to the Final Four this year. The Libero is required to wear a contrasting uniform so the opposing team and referee knows which player is the Libero at all times (if there is one on the court, since they can sub out). The Libero is usually the team's "top defensive player." I'm not enough of an expert to understand the nuances beyond that. And, oh yeah, the referee's signals are all confusing.

@Leapy - at least plug the title for me :) Since you're commenting here, I guess it was only temporary insanity. For those who don't know, I published a non-Puzzazz non-crossword puzzle book a year ago, The Librarian's Almanaq. You have to tear apart the book to solve it.

Andrew Heinegg 10:28 PM  

That would be great except the floater comes in front of the eye with much better vision. If I close that eye, I can see nada!!

Leapfinger 10:31 PM  

@Roy, My bad! If anyone's intrigued, I'll just say it's best if you have a rainy day (or weekend) with very little that needs doing, and a good amount of bare floor space or at least a harvest table. It doesn't hurt to have a handful of friends who can't let go of a challenge, have insatiable curiosity and a boatload of tenacity, and don't mind crawling around on said floor-space if necessary. Cats, however, are a definite liability.

I'll maintain that the conception is more mind-boggling than the unraveling.

Elle54 12:13 AM  

Very weird that I can't get this puzzle. Whenever I try to open, the app crashes. Now that I see that it has to do with dark arts, I'm out.

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Tita A 8:55 AM  

How about those Lancers bottles....opaque clay...perfect for candles!
@old timer...why else indeed would anyone drink it or Mateus?
Both wines were invented near the end of WWll expressly for the American market.

In the context of being a wine snob (an avocation I aspire too, but will never achieve), I bought 2 bottles of a Lalande de Pomerol for $14. For both.
The shop owner was clumsily trying to explain its merits. His lack of knowledge around French wine surprised me. As he was finally packing up the bottles, he actually said... "The French consider this wine just "slurps"...they would never drink it. But Americans will."
Now that may in fact be right, but would you really say that to a customer?

For the record, my French friend who was visiting, and who is a non-snobby, true connoisseur, pronounced it "very nice...a good everyday wine that I would buy myself."
And he is never "just being polite" when voicing his opinion on wine.

Devin W 3:01 PM  

What on EARTH are GLAD RAGS?? You're killin me here!

Burma Shave 10:11 AM  

RELIVE AMPED IRES

EMIL SNEERS at the VOW – a MORAL MISSTEP with a dame –
it’s INUSE ASOF now, until his EXCHANGES her name.

--- MAJ. ARNE ARNOLD, AWOL

spacecraft 11:05 AM  

I know why 43-across seemed such a gimme for so many:

"I'd change her sad rags into GLADRAGS if I could;
"My folks won't let me 'cause they say that she's no good:
"She's a Rag Doll, just a Rag Doll..." etc.

And how amusing that OFL mentions LEVAR Burton being in "Looking for Mr. Goodbar," as if casting about for some way to lift him out of obscurity?? Has the man never seen Star Trek (the Next Generation)?

Mr. McLain appears to have obtained a solid TOEHOLD on a new career. Despite a plethora of threes, he has kept his grid relatively clean, while fashioning a good, not-gettable-for-a-while theme. I'm not familiar with the term DARKARTS per se, but apparently it's a Harry Potter thing--something I have tried but failed to get deeply into. Once the aha! occurs, as OFL said, it goes from whatever-else to easy peasy. No DOD; can't think of a good ROSE offhand, but a birdie on the first hole. That's how you want to start your round.

rondo 12:49 PM  

My solve went very much like OFL’s except my MISSTEP was kORAn instead of TORAH for a short time. So a coupla inky BLEMISHES.

I drove across Montana a couple years ago and it seemed more than SEMIARID. If you get the chance, SPEND some time at Ingomar, MT, just off of US 12. Not much there but you will remember it. Have a beer at the Jersey Lilly for sure and stay in the bunkhouse if you dare. No running water – see SEMIARID comment above.

Just for fun I’ll EXCHANGE the wine for Ms. ROSE McGowan from the series “Charmed”, where I believe they practiced DARKARTS, and where she was the 2006 winner of the “Family Television Awards” category of “Favorite Sister” and also the prestigious “Blender” award in the category of “Sexiest Women Of TV And Film”. Yeah baby. Also the 2009 “Fright Meter Award” for “Best Supporting Actress” for her MOVIEROLE in “Grindhouse”. She also dated Marilyn Manson. So pretty much a household name.
OK, I had to google that stuff, I promise never again.

Not a bad puz which moved ALONG quickly.

rain forest 1:51 PM  

Fun puzzle, and the theme was opaque for quite awhile. I solved this puppy clockwise from the NW, and so hit the revealer just after I had _UBPA___, and that gave me PUB PASTIME. Sort of a semi "aha".

I like a puzzle which contains both across and down themers, as this one did. There were a lot of three-letter answers, but they were all good ones.

Cute idea, and well-executed. Nice debut. I'm sure we'll see more of Mr. McClain in the future.

For the record, and according to my tastes, the best roses are made in Provence. So many delicious ones.

leftcoastTAM 2:58 PM  

Easy, medium, and a bit challenging, all-in-one.

Mostly easy to complete; some medium bite like the TOUCAN/LICE cross, musicians EMIL and ARNE, and actor LEVAR; and nice challenge in putting the theme-clues-gimmick together in the end.

Was mislead at first in seeing the letters A-S-T-R in PASTRIES, but then not finding them in other themers.

Learned that SIKH means "disciple" in Punjabi. Will file that away.

Good puzzle, fun to do and figure out.

Diana, LIW 6:39 PM  

I was having an easy solve, and then the theme made it easier. Cool anti-rebus in my book.

Learned what SIKH means. And learned about a rose wine to try.

Used to read the PEORIA paper for a boss who really believed "will it play in PEORIA?" was a good way to find business prospects. Hey - if they wanted to pay me for reading a paper, fine with me.

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords

Dan Christian Roehm 6:59 PM  

Glad rags from the Rod Stewart song

leftcoastTAM 9:43 PM  

@rain forest--Regarding yesterday's late posts on grammatical usages, I want to apologize for sounding like a grammar Nazi, which I've said I'm not. Your use of prepositional phrases is no business of mine.

I regularly read your comments, and I like the North of the Border perspective you often bring.

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