Albanian coin / WED 9-21-16 / Flying furry friend from Frostbite Falls formally / Uhura portrayer zoe / Unit for lorry / French quencher / Pony Express's Missouri terminus informally / Jewelry worn by Barbara Stanwyck in Double Indemnity

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Constructor: Matthew Sewell

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: SCRAMBLE THE JETS (57A: Spring into action ... or an apt directive for 17-, 23-, 36- and 49-Across) — letters "JETS" are "SCRAMBLEd" across two words in different two-word phrases:

Theme answers:
  • ROCKET J. SQUIRREL (17A: Flying furry friend from Frostbite Falls, formally)
  • METS JERSEY (23A: New York sports fan's purchase)
  • COURT JESTER (36A: Rigoletto, for one)
  • "JULES ET JIM" (49A: 1962 François Truffaut film classique)
Word of the Day: PERORATE (10D: Give a long, grandiloquent speech) —
verb: perorate; 3rd person present: perorates; past tense: perorated; past participle: perorated; gerund or present participle: perorating
  1. speak at length.

    "he reportedly would perorate against his colleague"
    • archaic
      sum up and conclude a speech.

      "the following innocent conclusion with which she perorates"
• • •

This theme type is old. I've never ever heard of the revealer. The fill is frequently godawful. Not sure if this is just another (in a series?) of puzzles that just live on a different planet from me, or if it's empirically bad. Scratch that. It's *definitely* not from my planet. And it's *definitely*, at the fill level, bad. "Subpar" is the most generous way you could describe any puzzle that would have either ASIM (!?!) *or* LEK (my most hated crosswordese currency). Having both is *&%^ing ridiculous. Careless. There is absolutely no reason for LEK. You can de-LEK the grid in 10 seconds if you're a halfway decent constructor. Garbage. Honestly, though, even if I had heard of the revealer, the theme is stale, and the theme answers at best OK. METS JERSEY is total b.s. Green paint, for sure. It opens the floodgate of [Any Team's] JERSEY. I actually really like "JULES ET JIM" and its adorable Frenchness. And sure, ROCKET J. SQUIRREL is a nice answer. They are nice answers on their own. But the other answers are less impressive and again, conceptually, this thing is kind of tired.

PERORATE I barely know and LARKSPUR (11D: Buttercup family member with irregularly shaped blossoms) I don't know At All. This had something to do with my slowish time today. Having TDS instead of YDS also hurt, considering that gave me the wrong final letter in the already-stupid-and-messed-up METS JERSEY. METS JACKET!? Seems about as "good." ROOMIE is slang and clue should reflect it, but doesn't (2D: One sharing a Wi-Fi password, maybe). There's an IRENE Curie now? (32D: Nobel Prize-winning daughter of the Curies). Wow. A TONNE (TUNS?) of things in this puzzle that were just A DRAG. But the LEK decision is the one that's beyond belief. I mean ... you have to really believe in "OK, SO," which ... is bad judgment. "OK, SO" is not worth LEK. Nothing is worth LEK. LEK, be a lady ... somewhere else. I guess we can be grateful it wasn't LEU, which is Also Somehow A Currency Unit— "the basic monetary unit of Romania, equal to 100 bani." If I ever see BANI in a puzzle, I quit.

I will give a standing ovation to the ANKLET clue, though. "That's a honey of an ANKLET you're wearing, Mrs. Dietrichson..."

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Anonymous 1:00 AM  

Lek it or not? Definitely not. (Sorry, couldn't help it. I'm also not sure if that's how you pronounce it.)

Larry Gilstrap 1:12 AM  

Definitely some inertia throughout this solve. SCRAMBLE THE JETS is a real thing coming so close to the anniversary of 9/11/01. On a pleasanter note, didn't the JETS inhabit SHEA Stadium? TIM O'Brien's memoir contains powerful stuff, not only for my generation, but to anyone who has been nineteen. Allow me to PERORATE: ever see pictures of vintage sporting events with rabid fans going crazy? What were they wearing? Street clothes, for crying out loud. Not licensed jerseys, or caps, or waving foam fingers, etc. Do I have to dress up to go to a sporting event? That cap which costs $2.50 to manufacture costs $27 because of licensing fees. Wake up America! You are being used. Ever wonder why virtually no major sports franchises are for sale? Breathe! But, getting back to me, I miraculous still have a nice head of hair and am proud to use GEL to secure my locks. No DYE JOB for me. There may be snow on the roof...

Cassieopia 1:23 AM  

Super frustrating - had to break down and start googling and still came in significantly slower than past Wednesdays. Lek? Jules ET Jim ( instead of Jules AND Jim? ) Hexapod? This puzzle did a great job of making me feel knuckle-draggingly stupid. I never got that satisfying breakthrough of groking the constructor's wavelength. I'll never ding a puzzle, because the constructors are so much smarter than me, but this puzzle proved that point in a humiliating manner.

Anonymous 1:38 AM  

DNF due to LEK. Ran through the alphabet and didn't catch OK SO. Felt like an idiot, so appreciate the Rex rant on that one. Salvaged my ego a bit.

Michelle Turner 1:40 AM  

I thoroughly enjoyed it - for one thing I was able to finish without cheating. And what's not to like about a puzzle that gives a shout out to Rocket J Squirrel?

MosheJ 1:45 AM  

What is a strat (33D)? How is "shred" a wail (24D)?

da kine 1:57 AM  

A "strat" is a Fender Stratocaster, and to "shred" is to really go wild on a guitar.

I liked this puzzle. I came in a little slow, but I didn't wake up on the grumpy side of the bed like certain reviewers. I'm not sure how one doesn't know the phrase "scramble the jets".

Michelle Turner 1:58 AM  

Strat is short for Stratocaster (a guitar model made by Fender). Shredding is a style of guitar playing.

Da Bears 2:00 AM  

I have no clue what this puzzle is about. Have no clue about those circles. Why are they there? I was in the USAF so I know what SCRAMBLE THE JETS means but I don't see any jets. Usually it's just scramble but who cares? Will someone please explain those circles to me? Thank you in advance.

TrentonTron 2:06 AM  

The circles indicate that the letters J, E, T and S have been rearranged and fit within the theme answers (thus "scrambling" the "jets".)

I didn't mind it so much. It was tough, and I didn't finish, but seeing the permutations of JETS was cool, considering the hard to use J, and the theme answers were fun (liked learning ROCKET J. SQUIRREL and JULES ET JIM).

jae 2:39 AM  

Medium for me. Theme trumps fill....ROCKET J SQUIRREL....gotta like it.

(Matt Gaffney had a scramble the jets clue a couple of metas ago...something to do with EGG)

Inane trivia: Bartholomew J. Simpson's middle name (Jojo) was a shout out to the Js in Rocky's and Bullwinkle's names which were a shout out to Jay Ward.

Martín Abresch 3:08 AM  

Sorry ahead of time. This is going to be a long comment, even by my standards.

The constructor, Matthew Sewell, has now had two crosswords published in the NYTimes. In the first, he used CALVINBALL. In the second, he used ROCKET J. SQUIRREL. I haven't had any crosswords published, but I've been working on some, and those two entries were near the top of my wordlist. I can't really be mad at him, since he used both words to best effect, but I am petty enough to have decided tonight that Matthew Sewell is my evil crosswording doppelgänger.

Check that, I'm probably his evil doppelgänger. Dammit.


This puzzle had numerous delightful moments and pairings that it more than made up for the sometimes awkward fill. I have definitely heard SCRAMBLE THE JETS in movies. While this theme type may be old, it doesn't usually involve a word like JETS. That's not an easy word to scramble. Each of the four theme entries that Matthew found scrambles the letters in a different order (ETJS, ETSJ, TJES, SETJ). In each of the four entries, the scrambled letters are centered and traverse all the words in the entry—especially notable for the three-part entries rockET J. Squirrel and juleS ET Jim.

Plus two of those four entries are fabulous: ROCKET J. SQUIRREL and JULES ET JIM. It's been a while since I saw the latter, but I loved it. (Though my favorite French New Wave film is Jean-Luc Godard's Pierrot Le Fou, a poster of which is hanging on the wall behind me.) COURT JESTER is solid. METS JERSEY is the least exciting of the four, but it's a step up from green paint.

There will be no flood of entries in the pattern of [Any Team's] JERSEY. The Mets are as short a team name as you get, yet METS JERSEY is still ten letters long. The J and, to a lesser extent, the Y are not crossword friendly. Heck, the six-letter JERSEY has only made a Will Shortz crossword five times. NEW JERSEY has made it only twice. There is zero chance of [Any Team's] JERSEY becoming a flood.

I loved the pairing of CALLER ID (Phone screening service) and ON DEMAND (Movie screening service), especially since they use different senses of screening. They cross three theme entries. That is A+ fill right there. Oh? It gives us PERORATE and LARKSPUR on the other side? Worth it. I didn't know either, but was able to get both on the crosses. LARKSPUR is a wonderful name that gives us an image ("so called from resemblance of the calyx and petals to the bird's long, straight hind claw"). PERORATE is a 50-cent word, and I'm happy to learn it. I rather like the juxtaposition of those two: the formal, Latinate PERORATE next to the humble LARKSPUR.

The symmetrical STRAT/SHRED pairing was also wonderful. I mean, wow, the number of felicities in this puzzle amazes me.

I also loved the Jane AUSTEN quotation: "Vanity working on a weak head, produces every sort of mischief." Subtle (or not-so-subtle?) political statement there. Loved ANKLET because I love "Double Indemnity" and I love Barbara Stanwyck. (I was just thinking about her the other night in "The Lady Eve." What a stare she has.) I'm a Star Trek fan, but don't like the new movies with Zoë SALDANA; my partner is a "Law & Order" fan, but she doesn't care for SVU. Oh well, you can't win them all. Oh! But I was reminded of another fantastic movie, John Cusack in GROSSE Pointe Blank: "No, no. Psychopaths kill for no reason. I kill for money. It's a job. That didn't come out right." And, of course, who doesn't like ESPRESSO?

So what if I tripped up at LEK/OK SO. (I tried an H instead of a K). I don't care. This was a wonderful, crunchy, delightful, surprising puzzle.

Ellen S 3:14 AM  

I enjoyed it. Super easy right up to the end where I DNF on accounta I *knew* LEK and allowed myself to put in Oh,SO for 65A.

Loren Muse Smith 4:24 AM  

Man oh man, this was tough. I didn't know ROCKET J SQUIRREL or JULES ET JIM. I have heard of SCRAMBLE THE JETS, but I didn't know it meant that you're supposed to get moving.

Like Rex, I had "tds" before YDS. I also had "spar" first for 61A "go round and round." I was thinking that if it were SPIN, the clue's "round" would've had an apostrophe before the R.

Never heard of PERORATE, but I gotta disagree with @Martin A – seems like a mess of a word, like something Scooby Doo would come out with. Ruh roh…

Loved the clue for 10A PLUG.

The clue for VISORS 31A was brutal. I had no idea. Not the first thing I think of when I picture one of those guys. Spaceman helmet, yes. Pillsbury Dough Boy coverall, yes. Gloves the size of Utah, yes. But VISOR?

I had a dnf, too, because of "oh so." Hi, @Ellen S and @Martin. I have to admit when I saw OK SO, I immediately dooked it to a version of "Ach so." Oops.

HEXAPOD was a woe. It actually looks like some kind of six-sided dwelling. Positioned to supplant those teeny tiny homes that are all the rage. Jules et Jim? No, they sold their 200 sq ft home and are living in a hexapod community somewhere out west now. I heard they're growing larkspurs.

I'm so two-faced - run around all the time whining about pedants, but when I hear someone say "expresso" instead of ESPRESSO, I secretly feel all superior and cultured.

I knew LARKSPUR no prob. Nancy Drew managed to figure out the password to Larkspur Lane and save the day.

Robert B. Weinstock 6:24 AM  

Can you bring back your letter grades for puzzles?

Anonymous 6:24 AM  

@Martin you should start a blog. Your write ups are interesting, insightful and funny, and they address the puzzle fairly and objectively.You could lead a lively, intelligent discussion.

Abby Friedman 6:35 AM  

Generally I'm not a huuuuge fan of the personal names, because it can be so hit or miss whether you've heard of the person, but I do think it's fair game to choose a nobel-prize winner... yes, her parents may be better known to the public, but come on. She wont the nobel prize. That's not like picking the third Manning brother who never played pro football or something.

Anonymous 6:36 AM  

METS JERSEY went right in for me. After all my years in NYC, it somehow seems like a thing. No way is at as green paint as green paint. @Martin is right about floodgates, I'm sure.

Didn't know the revealer. Review felt UNHINGEd.

webwinger 6:41 AM  

Thanks @MartinAbresch--your peroration added to my appreciation for this puzzle, which I had already much enjoyed up to the LEK/OKSO moment. Have to accept OFL's judgement on that crossing--too bad WS didn't call it out. At least I recognized that LE- was going to be some obscure crosswordese, then had the good sense to turn to Google.

IMO googling is a far lesser sin than using my app's Check and Reveal features (and not just because it doesn't affect stats). In order of decreasing veniality (is that a word?), I will search a possible answer to see if it's a thing, search a clue but only review the list of matches to jog my memory, read an entry from say Wikipedia to fill a gap in my knowledge base, or (with a real sense of guilt, avoiding if at all possible) look at one of the crossword specific hits. I figure constructors must rely on the big G to find much of the trivia that ends up in clues; why not fight fire with fire? And though it's ego-satisfying to dredge up a long dormant recollection, the real fun of the puzzles for me is the wordplay involving common terms and expressions, which generally doesn't lend itself to searching anyway. I'll gladly take what mundane help I can get from outside, especially with a late-week puzzle, if it gets me to the point where I can pounce on a clever twist of language.

Actually found this puzzle overall on the easy side. RJS and JetJ were gimmes and quickly revealed the theme gimmick. Revealer StJs was a familiar phrase, and most of the fill known or readily inferable.

De 6:43 AM  

Thank you for a relevant write up.

Lewis 6:47 AM  

@rex -- Agree about LEK but have no problem with ASIM as clued, which is part of a common expression to me. Regarding your "If I ever see BANI in a puzzle, I quit.", I wonder if any constructor just made a mental note to throw that into their next puzzle?

Wow. There were 11 answers that I just plain didn't know, and yet I got them, so the crosses were fair. Nonetheless, I had to work hard to complete this, and yet it wasn't ADRAG. Quite the opposite. While not overtly clever, the cluing was tough but gettable, which requires a cleverness of its own. The puzzle has a PLUG up and an answer that ROSETO the bottom, and I'm thinking that a vegan would identify with the cross of GROSSE and TBONE.

Successfully crossing the the gauntlet of the tough cluing and unknown answers made me feel triumphant at the end, and how many things in life make us feel triumphant? Good one, Matthew!

Tim Pierce 6:51 AM  

SCRAMBLE THE JETS was not a problem: my only hesitation when I got there was whether it would be SCRAMBLE YOUR JETS or SCRAMBLE ONE'S JETS or some similar variant, but the clue length helped rule those out.

I also fell into the LEh/OhSO trap. I don't usually find much to criticize in the NYT puzzle construction, but that combo is dreadful. I'd give LEK a pass, and maybe even OKSO, but together? Ugh.

CFXK 6:53 AM  

@ Martin Abresch: Yes. Thank you.

zevonfan 7:28 AM  


As Homer Simpson once said, "Your ideas are intriguing to me and I wish to subscribe to your newsletter."

I'm in agreement with a previous poster. You really should consider blogging.

TonySaratoga 7:51 AM  

BRU crossing UHSO works. Pairing that with LEK (so obscure it could be LEH) is very bad form.

John Child 7:55 AM  

I did it on paper without a timer, but harder than normal I think. Im with @Martin; a good time was had by all.

Shameless plug: one of the theme answers resonated with me because of this puzzle I coconstructed a few months ago.

ZenMonkey 8:05 AM  

Is there any way to justify using an article before a word without any special reason (part of a title etc.)? ADRAG was a total drag; it even detracted from the fancy theme play. Which I did enjoy. METS JERSEY doesn't bother me at all.

mathgent 8:10 AM  

After dinging Rex yesterday, I'm praising him today for putting in the ANKLET quote from Double Indemnity. I looked up the dialogue in the scene where Fred McMurray meets Barbara Stanwyck. Terrific stuff. Raymond Chandler and Billy Wilder did the screenplay from the James Cain novel.

I liked all the Js, but there's a lot to dislike in the puzzle, much of which Rex mentions. I thought METSJERSEY was fine because it was cued in the clue. But ADRAG, ROSETO (it should be connected to "occasion"), and, ISTOO turned me off a little.

Enjoyed learning that IRENE Curie was the daughter of the famous Curies and that she and her husband won Nobel prizes for their work involving radiation.

While the puzzle itself was barely at the C level, the total experience was a B for me.

r.alphbunker 8:10 AM  

"You can de-LEK the grid in 10 seconds ..." I guess we are going to have to wait for M&A to do it.

Attempted to solve this by visiting clues randomly but eventually had to give up. The problem with solving randomly is that if you don't know the answers to a lot of clues when they are visited you have to cycle through the clues to take advantage of the crossing letters provided by answers that you do get.

Plus these incorrect but plausible answers didn't help
27D. {QB rating factor: Abbr.} YDS from _DS

13D. {It secures locks} GEL from _ _L

50D. {Cherokees, for example} JEEPS from _ _ _P_

65A. {"And I should care because ...?"} OKSO from O_SO

51D. {Playground comeback} ISTOO from _ _TOO

63A. {Students may pass them} NOTES from _OT_S

Details are here.

Nice write up. How long did it take you to write it? I am not a natural writer so that is why I have spent so much time trying to automatically generate details about my solution. However, a program will never be able to produce the summary that a good writer can and there are plenty of those on this blog.

Hungry Mother 8:11 AM  

Very slow for me today. I slogged it out, but painfully.

Anonymous 8:21 AM  

What has the lowly LEK done to deserve the abuse from OFL and others here? Is it a word that few know outside of crosswords? Certainly. (I actually remembered it so maybe that's why I'm not as upset as others.) But there are lots of currency answers - baht and rial come immediately to mind - that appear only in crosswords. Are they off limits too? Fill is fill. Some is good and some less so. LEK may be in the less so category but it really doesn't deserve to be singled out.

On a different note, I have a comment about crosswordese, which LEK certainly is. Crosswordese brings back memories of my introduction to crosswords, sitting with my father "helping" him complete the puzzle. (I have done the same with my daughter although she has yet to catch the bug for herself.) I learned that era's crosswordese - things like anoa (hi @Anoa Bob), adit and ers - and felt like I was learning the initiation rites to a new group. I know @Rex and others decry the elitism of crossword solvers, but really being part of this self-selected group is part of the fun.

Jim C. in Maine

Unknown 8:33 AM  

Took me a little longer, but I was caught up in my home town (Grosse Pointe) getting a work in.

Northeast corner slowed me down a little bit, but once I got the key it came into focus.

Had a nice mix of new CALLERID, ONDEMAND with the old AUSTEN, IRENE,ANKLET (which reminds me, I just got an e-mail from the classic Redford Theatre which is having a noir night in the near future; I should take my girlfriend) that this turned into an enjoyable puzzle for me.

Except for LEK.

TomAz 8:34 AM  

I don't like this puzzle either, but for reasons quite different from Rex's. I don't mind SCRAMBLETHEJETS (not a phrase I use, but certainly one I've heard before). I don't mind LARKSPUR or PERORATE and I have a higher tolerance for glue like LEK if it serves a purpose.

But I don't like puzzles which rely too heavily on proper names. I mean Jane AUSTEN is fine. IRENE Curie I guess is one of those Know IT Because It's Good For You people. But then we get a spate of b-list actors and obscure TV characters: SALDANA? RUDD? JESSE?

Not sure if I should fault the constructor, of is this just another symptom of the People (as in magazine)-ization of the NY Times generally.

Chuck McGregor 8:43 AM  

I like @Martin Abresch's take on this much better than @Rex's.

I would note that JETS could also be a double with those letters in that those who SCRAMBLE THE JETS could be called the JET SET. The JET SET was in a hurry to SCRAMBLE THE JETS to get to Paris in time to see a 'screening' of JULES ET JIM after PERORATing about ESPRESSOs.

@LMS You may now openly feel free to "feel all superior and cultured" as I, for one, had ExPRESSO for a while.

Jacket for JERSEY with tDS didn't help at all.
I do USE GEL sometimes, so nice to see these paired in the grid.
AD RAG: What I do when I see boring commercials, actually for most commercials.
Technically, GHz is measure of a CPU's clock speed, not its speed per se. OK, SO it's a minor nit pick of the clue.

There are two other 5-letter "familiar" Fender models: J-bass and P-bass (sold one of the latter just yesterday via Craigslist). While tempted as a bassist, I correctly figured the fill would likely be STRAT.

As for LEK and OKSO, those could have been LEM (Moon lander)and AM SO (a second instance of "Playground comeback," crossing them to boot!) with BRA for 59d (Topless omission). @Rex is more than correct. Even though I'm not a constructor, let alone a half decent one, this took less than 10 seconds to figure out and I'm sure there might be better ones. SO OK.


PS Hi @Jim C. from a South Bristolite.

George Barany 8:54 AM  

Sorry to be late to the party, but last night my wife and I saw an amazing Ron Howard-directed documentary about the Beatles called Eight Days a Week, which included as a coda a 30-minute edited/remastered video of their August 15, 1965 Shea Stadium concert. Absolutely wonderful. I then started on @Matt Sewell's second published New York Times puzzle [he's had several others recently at other venues, including the incredible Crawl Space in collaboration with @Brad Wilber], but can't claim to completing this one.

Woke up to a mostly negative review by @Rex, but buoyed by the first wave from the commentariat, particularly @Larry Gilstrap, @jae, @Martin Abresch, @Michelle Turner, @Abby Friedman, @Loren Muse Smith, and @Lewis.

@Rex, did you know that today's constructor also teaches English at the college level (he in Minnesota, you in New York)?

So yeah, what's not to love about ROCKET_J_SQUIRREL [inferable from the theme, and Frostbite Falls is in Minnesota--find out more by solving Nothing Up My Sleeve co-constructed with @John Child].

So yeah, what's not to love about METS_JERSEY [Mets = baseball, but could just as well have been Jets = football--note that for a long time, the Mets and Jets both played at Shea, just like the Beatles (segue to my opening paragraph--and for that matter, Nets = basketball].

So yeah, what's not to love about seeing the three-dimensional Verdi opera protagonist Rigoletto (based on a play by Victor Hugo) in the COURT_JESTER clue?

So yeah, SCRAMBLE_THE_JETS was in the news again, recently, on the fifteenth anniversary of 9/11, and I had recently googled it to find out the exact nuances of the expression (it's a sobering exercise, try it yourself).

@IRENE Joliet-Curie shared a Nobel Prize in Chemistry with her husband @Frédéric in 1935, 32 years after her parents @Marie and Pierre Curie shared a Nobel Prize in Physics, and then for good measure, her mother won a solo Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1911. If you missed the ceremonies in Stockholm, there's this Hollywood version, based on the book by IRENE's sister @Eve.

Stanley Hudson 8:54 AM  

Rather liked it.

@Martin Abresch and blogging: let a hundred LARKSPURS bloom.

Anonymous 8:56 AM  

Paying attention Will, and constructors? Someone please put bani in your puzzle pronto!

evil doug 8:56 AM  

'Regarding your "If I ever see BANI in a puzzle, I quit.", I wonder if any constructor just made a mental note to throw that into their next puzzle?'

Good one, Lewis. Kind of reminds me of how fun it'll be to see all those whiny celebrities bailing to Canada or New Zealand or Cuba if Trump wins....

Chuck McGregor 9:04 AM  

In case you didn't get it, the what's his face troll's name from days past was an anagram of @George Barany. Isn't that fun to know?? (not)

Edgar E. Whingen 9:06 AM  

@Martin Abresch:

I might as well jump on the bandwagon. We seem to do that a lot here. My only fear is that you might displace one of the other revered posters in our pantheon. Or are we monotheists? Perhaps you could reign supreme!

I also enjoyed the puzzle.

QuasiMojo 9:08 AM  

Now I've got "Bennie and the Jets" worming in my ear. Did not cotton to this puzzle, although I too enjoyed seeing Barbara Stanwyck's anklet make an appearance in the NYT. (If only she hadn't been wearing that god-awful blonde wig as well I might like the movie more.) As usual I agree with Rex. This puzzle was lackluster (even with larkspur and court jester) and I felt obligated to finish it rather than thrilled.

Tita A 9:16 AM  

How could I have emerged from childhood without knowing Rocky's full name?????
Learning that from Rex totally amped this puzzle for me. Coming here, I was going to say how I was delighted to have learned, post-Google, that LARKSPURs are delphiniums and that delphiniums are named because the nectary is shaped like a dolphin.

I must agree that it is a bit of a LEh theme for a Wednesday. (LEh/OhSO being my DNF natick).

Went to Chinatwon in Flushing Friday, and came back with plenty of baby BOK chop.
In fact, was a great day...Chinatown for brunch, Coney Island for lunch, then dinner in Little Russia. My cousin visiting from Lisbon was quite impressed with his round the workd tour.

Had PEROnATE for a while...just shrugged my shoulders and figured Eva Peron's style of oratory became a verb.

Thanks, Mr. Sewell.

Daniel Peirce 9:21 AM  

Right there with @Ellen S on LEK -- should have nailed it. Put Auger for ADRAG at first. Much better clue for the latter would have been Buckinghams hit "Kind of ___"

Mohair Sam 9:21 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Billy C. 9:26 AM  

I sometimes pick my nose and eat the boogers when I think no one is looking.

Tita A 9:28 AM  

Aargh...BOK *choy*, obviously.

Free Labor 9:31 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous 9:42 AM  

I think the guitar clue is supposed to be "whale on the guitar" -- not as in making the guitar "wail" but as in really beating on the thing. The internet seems to agree that "whale" is the standard word in this phrase, not "wail"

Sir Hillary 9:52 AM  

Add me to today's @Martin Abresch Appreciation Society. As he already wrote pretty much everything I would have, I will confine myself to the following:

-- Six 8-letter entries outside the themers? Impressive.

-- Missed opportunity to cross-reference 6A with 23A.

-- Only point I'm with @Rex on is LEK/OKSO. Just make it LEs/OsSO and move on.

-- In light of the wonderful ROCKETJSQUIRREL and the six (!!) Js, I am dubbing this puzzle The J Ward.

chefbea 10:00 AM  

too tough for me. Never heard of the phrase scramble the jets. Dumb puzzle. Did not like it

johnny stocker 10:05 AM  

I agree with you on a lot of the fill, but I'm frankly pretty shocked that you've never heard the phrase 'SCRAMBLE THE JETS'. That's definitely a thing.

Numinous 10:09 AM  

I thought this was fairly easy. Took me a little bit to recall that ROCKy's name is ROCKET J. JULES ET JIM came easily even though I thought it was a pretty boring film. Looking at the circles, it became evident that JETS was SCRAMBLEd. I don't know why I know PERORATE, but I do. In short almost everything was easy to figure out if only because of crosses. LEK really bothered me but not for the reasons generally mentioned here. In junior high school I had to do a report on Albania. The Albania of the '50s was radically different from the Albania of now. I'm still scratching my head asking why I didn't know about LEKs. Anyway, I fell into the Oh So trap too.

@Martin, excellent comment, really!

mac 10:12 AM  

Harder than usual Wednesday for me, but I got her done. The hardest part was the J in rocket squirrel, don't know the characters, but I soon found all the scrambled jets and left it in.

Odd to have tonne and tuns in one puzzle.

@Tita: the Queens Chinatown is my favorite! The best Szechuan restaurants.

NCA President 10:12 AM  

Definitely on the challenging side today. I did the puzzle on-line at three different sittings and ended up way above my average...but I don't think I can blame the multiple sittings. The theme was obscured because I just didn't pay attention to the circled squares. Once I actually took notice of them and saw what was going on thanks to ROCKETJSQUIRREL, the whole thing went much faster. LEK/OKSO was a complete guess and the K was the last thing I filled in.

In the FWIW department, has anyone asked a native German speaker to say the word "squirrel?" Evidently, that word is one of the hardest words to pronounce for non-native English speakers. And somehow Germans in particular have difficulty with it. So great party trick...have a few glasses of wine then have your German guest try to say squirrel. Hours of entertainment, ASIM sure you can imagine.

Also, Barbara Stanwyk has some serious guns on her. rrar. Also, film's too bad that genre is all but dead. Between the amazing lighting effects in those old B&W movies and the machine gun delivery of the lines, it's just too bad our cinematic arts have devolved into nothing more than Marvel action films with overdone CGI and music without a shred of nuance.

Excuse me while I yell at some kids to get off my lawn...

SailorSteveHolt 10:19 AM  

So many @s which is a problem because a) iPhone and b) trying to access the comment field is its own on a smartphone kind of hell.

@Larry "getting back to me" made me laugh, I also instantly thought of Welcome to Me starring Kristin (Kristen?) Wiig. IIRC the reviews were mixed but it was funny without sacrificing abject despair, something rare for too many "black comedies." 10/10 would recommend.

@Cassieopia IIRC entomologists don't study HEXAPODs; they study INSECTA. Super pedantic but what are crossword puzzle blog comments if not a chance for pedants to show off their pedantry? Similarly, @Loren, -pod/-pod definitely sounds like "space pod" or "pea pod" but comes from the Greek (I think) "foot." Hex "six" + pod "foot"= "six foot"=definition of insects which is much, much more common in the nomenclature but technically means "segmented" I think so it's all kind of a clusterf*. (Proceed to hate me for "crosswordpuzzle"-splaining something you already know/figured out.)

@Martin, I second or third or fourth the praise. Your post is the yang to Rex's yin. Or yin to yang. Whichever applies.

@zevonfan is that dactylic HEXameter?

I got the theme early even though I've never heard SCRAMBLE THE JETS. That helped. ROCKET J SQUIRREL was delightful; I used to watch early '90s reruns of Rocky and Bullwinkle and loved it even though most of the adult references were over my head. (I mean, could six-year-olds know jugs labeled "XXX"=moonshine? That Peter and the Wolf, Flight of the Bumblebee, Ride of the Valkyrieswdre=classical compositions?)

LEK I figured out. I only knew it as a bizarre form of mating.

PERORATE, LARKSPUR, IRENE Curie? No. Fender made me think of car crashes but I can see how a lot of people wouldn't have a problem with it. Sports? lol. The only reason I knew SHEA and YDS is because ithey're common filler. METSJERSEY was EAS -E/-y (hyphen? n-dash?) peasy once I figured out JERSEY.

@TomAz bite YOUR tongue when you call Zöe SALDANA or my boyfriend (who doesn't know it) Paul RUDD b-listers. Uncle JESSE was a fixture of the childhood of anyone born in the '80s.

Good God, I think I might be rivaling @Martin for length except my comment is vapid and the prose less eqoluent.

tl;dr I kinda liked this but didn't know enough fill to finish without a little cheating.

I "disavow" any AutoCorrections I didn't catch.

Mike Rees 10:20 AM  

STRAT is short form for stratocaster (sp?) and you wail on a guitar. Although I always spelled it "whale" in my mind. Although I don't think anyone in music really uses either phrase.

cwf 10:20 AM  

I'm with @Martin Abresch; I liked it! Though I'm more of an Alphaville kind of guy.

Anonymous 10:32 AM  

A little surprised only SailorStevHolt has mentioned lek as a form of mating. It's not a terribly obscure phenomenon in the field of
(evolutionary) biology. Its related use--as the grounds for the activity--shows up from time in The Times. Every article on prairie chickens and sage grouse for example, throws lek around with what I assume is great relish.

@ Matthew Sewell. Thank you. It was a terrific puzzle.

George Barany 10:36 AM  

Very late to the party, but so nice to see @Matt Sewell's second New York Times byline (he has had quite a few recent puzzles in other venues, including the amazing Crawl Space). With so many interesting and informative comments already posted, there is relatively little new for me to contribute, but let me give it a cursory try.

@Rex, are you aware that @Matt also teaches English at the college level (you in New York, him in Minnesota)? Can I second @John Child in recommending Nothing Up My Sleeve, for its Minnesota connection?

There are three professional sports teams in the New York metropolitan area that are all ?ETS. @IRENE Joliot-Curie comes from an extraordinary scientific family -- including her parents and husband, I count five Nobel prizes.

tb 10:41 AM  

Ahhhh. Minnesota. What an important state!

Abby Mcgrew-Manning 10:43 AM  

As a casual football viewer living in the NYC broadcast area, every fall/winter I'm in amazement that Jets fans are so damned proud that they can actually spell the name of their team. They spend half their time at the stadium proudly chanting J-E-T-S Jets! as if it were something any four year old couldn't do. I took this puzzle as a vignette of remedial education for Jets fans - ETJS? - NO! Didn't they teach you anything at Queens County Community College? Anything at all? Let's try again, OK? - T-J-E-S.

How the hell did these people manage to scrape up enough money to buy season tickets?

GILL I. 10:47 AM  

Oooof. Tres hard. I too had never heard SCRAMBLE THE JETS. I got the JETS part and that helped me figure out some of the answers. I remember another puzzle where the theme was "Know One's Onion"...a phrase I had never heard of. Turns out the puzzle was a hoot. This one, not so much, because it really made me draw up my inferiority complex. PERORATE be damn. Long live LEK.
I saw JULES ET JIM for the first time with my dad when we were in Buenos Aires. I was thrilled to be going to the movies with just him and not the entire family. We went to a steak house after the movie and he told me he thought Jeanne Moreau was the perfect woman. I don't know why I remember these things, but I do. My dad was married to a French woman whom he adored and she looked nothing like Moreau!
Doesn't CALLERID look funny?

Z 10:54 AM  

Anon9:42 - Wail is correct.

ROCKET J SQUIRREL, right there with Calvinball.

AD RAG, Sunday paper where the inserts take up three times the space as the actual paper.

@M. Abresch fans - I don't think you realize how much work goes into blogging daily.

Tigers jersey (12) Cubs Jersey (10) Reds Jersey (10) Angels Jersey (12) Red Sox Jersey (12) Phillies Jersey (14) Yankees Jersey (13) Brewers Jersey (13) ... Need I go on? And this is just baseball, there's also basketball, football, hockey, MLS, college. Random Sports Jersey here we come.

LES/OSSO - .5 seconds. Better? At least OSSO Buco is tasty.

wendy 11:03 AM  

Thanks for including Mr. Eno, always appropriate anytime jets are around, warm or otherwise.

Anonymous 11:04 AM  

@Z: Nothing you posted above makes any sense. Just so you know.

Z 11:13 AM  

@Anon11:04 - Really? Pay attention.

puzzle hoarder 11:16 AM  

Count the hoarder in the OHSO club today. LEK has been used 15x in the Shortz era so it's something I really should
know. I don't share the disdain for it. Three letter entries are three letter entries what do you expect.
@jae, that was great trivia.

Robert Rothschild 11:19 AM  

Really enjoyed this puzzle. A Wednesday with Friday overtones.

Masked and Anonymous 11:27 AM  

Random hidden jets, in circles. Exquisite pepperin of desperation, thru-out. Knew @Sunshine was gonna rain all over this rodeo's parade.

I made all the mistakes everyone else did, plus a couple more. For those keepin score/placin wagers: yep. LEH.

LARKSPUR/PERORATE/HEXAPOD. har. Now, that's what us poker players call a "set". [M&A: "Raise U one BANI." … @RP: "I fold!"]

Moderator: "Okay, College Bowl contestants: anagram JETS to another real word!"
Answers received: "ETJS? ETSJ? TJES? SETJ?"
Moderator: "Day-um, team 36-A. Think outside the circles a little, why dontyah?!"

fave weeject: LEK. [ASU, BOK, OJO, YDS were nippin at its heels, tho]

So U wanna lose LEK and score a ninth U dept. (yo, @r.alph)
62. Apt thing to be stuffed into a locker by H.S. upperclassmen
65. Figure
50. Motor pool regulars
51. Necks in H.S. geography class
59. JESTs with, abbreviatedly
60. Bud's buddy in Hollywood

Thanx for a fiesty/funky/fun one, Mr. Sewell.

Masked & Anonymo8Us

Aketi 11:27 AM  

@Quasi Mojo, haha, now I have that ear worm too!

Got the theme from the get go, including knowing that SCRAMBLEd JETS had to feature in the theme because of the recent bomb going off a mere four blocks from my Tuesday clinic and the 15th anniversary of 9/11. Brought back the memory of the hush that descended in New York when the subways were closed and there was no traffic on the streets that was only penetrated by the JETS flying overhead.

LARKSPUR was a gimme since it is a town in Marin county where I grew up.

Liked finding the ANKLET.

Anonymous 11:36 AM  

Now Barany is just poking the bear. Dumb bear.

Mohair Sam 11:43 AM  

It's a better world when so many of you don't know the term "SCRAMBLETHEJETS". And it's just like OFL to get mad at a puzzle because the revealer is out of his ken.

We loved it in this house. I mean loved it. And @Martin Abresch told y'all why - great job Martin.

"Double Indemnity" is used in many film 101 classes, and why not? Wilder/Chandler - among the best at their respective crafts. The best.

Treat of a Wednesday puzzle Matthew Sewell, thank you.

CFXK 12:04 PM  

@Z. One can be a Martin Abresch fan AND know how much work goes into blogging daily. These are not mutually exclusive! :)

old timer 12:04 PM  

@Rex, you always get mad when there is something significant in a puzzle that you have never heard of.

Fortunately, I've heard SCRAMBLE THE JETS. So I was much amused by the revealer. I suppose most of us who do the puzzle on newsprint saw the circled letters and made use of them to complete the solve. I got it at METS JERSEY, though I fell into the "jacket" trap too.

A technical DNF for me, because I had "Oh, so?" and therefore the nonexistent "leh" as a coin. Which is silly because I know LEK. I thought it was fairly clued, too -- you really ought to know coins (and some French) to solve a lot of NYT puzzles. Often very obsolete coins like the sou. In olden times a sou was like a shilling. 20 of them made a livre (a pound). When France adopted decimal coinage, 100 centimes made a franc, and the old sou was 5 centimes. What with inflation and all, a sou became the smallest coin, hence the saying "not worth a sou".

Roo Monster 12:05 PM  

Hey All !
Gotta disagree with OFL today. Thought it was a cool WedsPuz. And how have you never heard SCRAMBLE THE JETS?? I thought that everyone knows that expression (espression? @LMS). :-)

There were some odder words, but it is a Wednesday. I do agree with Rex on LEK. All you have to do is change the K to an S. LES/OSSO, problem solved.

Agree it's tough to SCRAMBLE JETS and get decent themers. And how can you not like ROCKET J SQUIRREL, I mean, come on. Actually thought METS might be JETS, but decided that would've been uncomfortable wonky. Could've used NETS also...

So a good solid puz. No respect to the F, though. For consonants the F is like @M&A's U, often missing in puzs. Also, no Z today. Give puz a B.

ROO - M(I)E!

Masked and Anonymous 12:08 PM  

Phrases that prove Albanians have more fun…

* "His old car turned on a lek"
* "If Baldwin had a lek for every time he'd heard that…"
* "This ice cream ain't worth a lek"
* "10,000 leks for your thoughts, Minnehaha"
* "Pay em off. Lek, father. Lek, son."



Masked and Anonymous 12:19 PM  


* "Your wallet is most beautiful -- mind if I take a lek?"

M&Also again.

Anonymous 12:30 PM  

Rex, You have put, what, close to 10 years in this blog. It's a lot of work and you've brought together a great bunch of people and made a name for yourself. But you may want to consider a break. Acerbic was funny. Carping is just carping. And changing up your style on the George harassment isn't fooling anyone.

Andrew Heinegg 12:32 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Andrew Heinegg 12:34 PM  

I have never heard of scramble the jets and, without the crosses, I would have never gotten it in part because it doesn't make etymological sense to moi. But, that is a significant part of the fun of crosswords. If you don't know a word or phrase but can parse it out with the crosses, you have gotten the mental exercises you like to get from solving and you get to give yourself the ego boost of getting it right without knowing previously of the existence of the word or phrase. In this regard, I have a bit of difficulty in accepting OFL's seeming criticism of usage of words he never heard of with today being larkspur.

I enjoyed the solve a lot even though, having seen Double Indemnity numerous times, I had no recollection of the anklet. Barbara Stanwyck was an enigma to me as an actress. She played quite a few romantic roles but, I thought she was long on looks and short on sex appeal.

Finally, as a hopelessly snobby wine person, I am beet red at never having heard of tuns before. I will put my dunce cap on and quietly sit in the corner facing the wall.

Anoa Bob 12:51 PM  

I learned about LEK BCP (Before Crossword Puzzles), in a course on ethology in grad school. As @SailorSteve & @Anon (10:32) have mentioned, it is a form of mating ritual, seen in many species, where males will compete in a central area while females wait in the wings to see who wins. The lucky guy or guys then get to pass on their genetic material (woo-hoo!), in what Darwin called sexual selection, a process he saw as a complement to natural selection. It's all about having the right stuff.

As Jim C @8:21 points out, learning LEK and its ilk is part of the apprenticeship of becoming a seasoned xworder. What once would have been impenetrable crosswordese becomes an instant toehold into an otherwise thorny grid.

Does the IBEX LEK? Do humans like to LEK?

Joe Bleaux 12:54 PM  

While @Hungry Mother got up early, read my mind, and succinctly posted what I would have if I were an early riser (and solver), I've gotta add that I love it when I finish, with no help or cheating, what is for me a tough puzzle. Like @Roo Monster, I'm nonplussed that so many folks seem put off today by "Scramble the jets," which I find no more uncommon than, say, "Drop the.big one." But back to things I love: This blog! People smarter than me, commenting on my favorite diversion! Can't beat that. Oh, one more thing: Martin instead of Rex? No! Martin AND Rex, every day, for me.

Andrew Heinegg 12:55 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Teedmn 1:16 PM  

RE: @Rex thinking he'd seen LEK 5 too many times; it was crosswordese I didn't have memorized so I was OK with OhSO crossing LEH, even if I didn't like it - I just couldn't SCRAMBLE THE brains enough to see what it should be, so DNF here today.

Count me in as seeing AD RAG. It certainly sounded like one of those "boring" specialty mags that come unsolicited in the mail, in this case slanted towards the advertising industry. They're usually very poorly written, not edited at all, and running stock psycho-self-help advice on how to get ahead in the field. Sorry for the PERORATion there but they are a waste of trees and probably written by robots, so not even providing a DYE JOB.

As clued, I had no idea what 11D could be but as soon as I saw LARK, the SPUR planted itself into the grid (better than into the poor horse, I say).

I have an ANKLET with little bells on it but besides wearing it to a science fiction/fantasy convention, I have no idea where to USE it.

I agree with @Rex's "medium challenging" rating but I liked Mr. Sewell's sophomore effort quite a bit, not GROSSE at all!

Z 1:36 PM  

@CFXK - Undoubtedly. Yet I'm more of the never encourage someone to do something you're not willing to do yourself school.

SCRAMBLE THE JETS is still current (my search engine turned up all sorts of recent usages in news stories) but to my ear it is a Cold War movie meme (not that we called them "memes" then). Certainly more familiar to me than, say, narrow focus dating sites. It is a wonder to me that so many seem unfamiliar with the term.

@George Barany - One for the good guys last night. ; ) @Chaos - Boyd was looking a little more Frank Tanana like last night.

Anonymous 1:51 PM  

PERORATE crossing TUNS got me. There goes the streak.

Leapfinger 1:51 PM  

You heard it here, people!! @Rex said this puzzle was de-LEK-table!!!

Alex 2:27 PM  

Never heard of "SCRAMBLE THE JETS???" Seriously? I didn't have any trouble with the puzzle, but I will be on the alert in the future to become Irate if "lek" is in a puzzle. It was OK with me here because I could fill it in with crosses.

Chaos344 2:31 PM  

@Z: Yeah, Frank Tanana with a dash of Doyle Alexander thrown in. Doyle got us the division but the price was way too high. Of course who could have known Smoltz would become a hall of famer?

Rumor has it that the fat lady is still hanging around Target Field? We shall see.

OISK 2:35 PM  

I know LEK. I have seen it before. But I didn't see "OKSO" as "Okay, so?" , okay, so like many others I went for "Oh, so? with LEH. Bleh. It isn't an unfair cross, LEK having occurred as frequently as it has, but as others pointed out, a very unnecessary and annoying one.

I also never heard of Saldana, or "Strat," ( or what Fender model means) so the "a" in "strat
" was just a good guess. Bad cross. The theme reveal "Scramble the jets" means nothing to me. Got a kick out of knowing the name of Bullwinkle's partner, while I love , Had I gotten LEK right, I would be even MORE annoyed that I left in "Jets Jersey," which produced "TIJ Obrian." And I am a HUGE Mets fan! I think the problem was that I always associated "jersey" with football, and used "shirt" with baseball.

Not a pleasant Wednesday.

Sheryl 2:43 PM  

@Martin Abresch - adding my voice here to say I wish you'd start a blog of your own. Your observations are interesting to read and insightful. And also (which should go without saying) you're never cruel.

I've stopped participating in this blog because I find Rex to be mean-spirited and cruel in most of his write-ups, and my participation would constitute endorsement. But I very much want to be part of a NY Times Crossword community, and I wish there was an alternative. I know I'm not alone in this. I've seen many others complain about Rex's negativity. One man said he was no longer posting here because he "didn't like Rex".

I'm not looking for sunny, positive reviews of every puzzle. But Rex has a negative bias, and an insulting communication style, on top of that. Decent people phrase criticism constructively - respectfully - and mention the good as well as the bad. Jeff Chen's notes on the Xword site are a good example. He notes both the good and the bad. He may make some of the same criticisms Rex makes, but he does it constructively rather than with cruel condescension.

It's ironic that Rex is so concerned with social justice while being so unkind to his fellow humans in such a public way on a daily basis. He's like the Donald Trump of the crossword world. I won't endorse that by participating here.

So please, Martin, offer an alternative. The people who enjoy Rex's insulting style will stay here, and the people who find it unbearable will have someplace else to go.

Pete 3:00 PM  


1) That indecent cad Rex has links to two other daily crossword blogs which focus on the NYTimes crossword (Diary of a Crossword Fiend, Wordplay) on his home page. Feel free to follow the links.

2) If you're going to lecture about what "decent people" do, that's fine; just don't insult someone in their own house. By doing so you kind of take yourself out of the "decent people" category.

jberg 3:02 PM  

Drat! I'm not up on my Albanian currency, so I went with Oh. SO? crossing LEh. Now, if LEK had been clued as "woodcock mating ground" I'd have got it right away.

I overslept today, and am playing catchup, so that's it for me--

Except, aren't 6-legged critters HEXAPODs to anyone, not just entomoligists?

jberg 3:03 PM  

Oops. I meant entomologists.

Carola 3:13 PM  

Super theme answers + a Wednesday work out -- I liked this one a lot. I felt it helped to be on the old side -- I think of SCRAMBLE THE JETS as hailing from the days when we were talking about the DEW-line and ROCKie and Bullwinkle were on TV after school. I loved the movie references to "Double Indemnity" and JULES ET JIM, and having Verdi's COURT JESTER get the center spot warmed this opera lover's heart. LARKSPUR I got off the K from Nancy Drew and The Password to LARKSPUR Lane.

In the "inexplicable attachment to certain words" category: PERORATE, so the puzzle won me over right there. Add me to the AD RAG bunch, at least until the letters suddenly re-divided themselves into A DRAG. And to those who learned LEK from earlier puzzles.

@jae - Thank you for the J Ward reference; very fun to read about!

Chronic dnfer 3:16 PM  

Hard. Learned a new word today. Tuns. Who knew? Also dnf'd at oh so/leh.

anonymous 3:37 PM  

I like a clean sheet as much as anyone, and usually manage to achieve this goal, but I don't count an inane distinction such as "ohso/leh" and "okso/lek" against myself. The nightmare middle crossings of "strat", "shred", "Saldana", "Irene" and "visors" though was worthy of a very tough Thursday or Friday or normal Saturday and turned a relatively easy task into a DNF. Fortunately with 5 answers I didn't know I didn't agonize but closed the puzzle down without too much further annoyance.

Martín Abresch 3:41 PM  

Wow. Thank you for the many kind words, @Anonymous (6:24am), @webwinger, @CFXK, @zevonfan, @John Child, @r.alphbunker, @Chuck McGregor, @Stanley Hudson, @Edgar E. Whingen, @Sir Hillary, @Numinous, @SailorSteveHolt, @cwf, @Mohair Sam, @Joe Bleaux, and @Sheryl.

As to starting a blog, I'm flattered, but I am far too inconsistent to keep up a daily blog. Heck, I'm not consistent enough to comment here every day. (Speaking of which, I enjoyed yesterday's tasty offering.) I'll stick to being one of the many voices here in the comments section.

I also want to defend @Rex. I've mentioned it in other comments, but I'll repeat it again. I used to do crosswords on occasion, but I didn't take them seriously. This blog is what made me look at crosswords as aesthetic objects to be judged and criticized, and that made them interesting to me. I continue to find Rex's opinions interesting, even on days like today when I disagree with him.

P.S. @cwf, I really need to rewatch "Alphaville." It's been years, and my main memory of it is the main characters speaking to a large fan that represented the evil computer.

Anonymous 4:32 PM  

SCRAMBLE THE JETS Got it somewhat early. From several films. "War Games" jumps to mind immediately.

But PERORATE crossing TUNS coinciding with LEK crossing OK SO. Ugh! Also SALDANA crossing IRENE (2 proper nouns despite Irene's commonality), didn't know either but filled in and made sense.

I also liked that CALLER ID - ON DEMAND pairing. And ANKLET. Knowing JULES ET JIM obviously helped, and STRAT/SHRED came easily. I struggled elsewhere.

@Daniel Peirce re the Buckinghams clue for A DRAG: Very nice, hats off.

Chaos344 5:05 PM  


Adding to what @pete said, I would recommend that you try Diary of a Crossword Fiend. I have no experience with that site, but I had years of experience at Wordplay before I came here.

You said, "I'm not looking for sunny, positive reviews of every puzzle."

If that is true, Wordplay ain't the place for you! Remember the song Home, Home, On The Range? Remember the lyric,"Where seldom is heard, a discouraging word"? That's Wordplay. Deb Amlen who critiques the puzzle is Rexs' polar opposite.

Most of the posters at Wordplay are so genteel, that they carry linen napkins when they take their dogs out "for a walk." Very nice people generally speaking. I prefer the company of those who are (dare I say?) a tad earthier.

Hope this comment helped?

Mohair Sam 5:19 PM  

@jberg - Only entomologists caught your typo, trust me.

@Martin A - Well said. Maintaining a blog with the daily constraints of this one is a chore - OFL pisses many off, but deserves a ton of respect for his efforts.

Tita A 5:30 PM  

@Sheryl... what @Pete said.

You are free to not come here. A freedom you've already exercised.
You are free to not read Rex and come straight to our gritty glibness.

ani 5:37 PM  


Chuck McGregor 5:48 PM  


"The people who enjoy Rex's insulting style will stay here, and the people who find it unbearable will have someplace else to go."

For me it's the people here, apart from @Rex, that make this site so worthwhile. Rex can insult all he wants as it's his blog to do so. I don't think commenting here "endorses" that. I liken it to being at a party where you may not like the host but the guests are first rate. For that reason I'd much rather stay in their company and just avoid the unbearable host. I don't have to agree, disagree, or even read @Rex's writings to reap the benefits of reading the comments from so many amazing people. Their critiques of the puzzles are normally anything but unbearable or insulting! I think commenting here endorses them far more than it endorses Rex.

So, ignore Rex if you will and revel in and with the commentariat.

Just my $0.02


Tom 6:18 PM  

After reading Rex's comments, I'm sure Mr. Sewell went to work immediately on a puzzle that has the word BANI as its centerpiece!

Casimir 7:13 PM  

I liked the puzzle, of course had heard the not obscure revealed before, and I knew lek from NY Times crosswords. So, much to disagree with ofl about.

Otoh, I'd like to stick up for ofl a bit. He DOES pour a lot of work into this blog EVERY DAY and I like reading it. I have learned much from it. I view his negativity as a result of a desire for elegance and beauty in crosswords, values I esteem in general, though nowhere near as highly as Rex in crosswords. (I've got my own obsessions!).

I also do not find the blog to be cruel and insulting, at least not often. I do wish that Rex would see that just because I prefer opera to rap and Chekhov to comic books, I am not per se a racist or a fuddy duddy, though I probably am the latter. Then again, I don't know him and he doesn't know me, and as Pope Francis said, who am I to judge? I'm still working on the beam in my own eye.

Evan Jordan 7:14 PM  

Steve Holt!!

Marie 8:08 PM  

There has been an Irene Curie since she was born to Marie and Pierre in 1897. She married Frédéric Joliot, became Irene Joliot-Curie, and she and her husband won a joint Nobel prize in Chemistry.

Michael 8:38 PM  

I finished the puzzle and thought that it was a good one with a nice theme and clever clues. Perhaps a bit challenging for a Wednesday (which I liked). "Scramble the jets" for me is a familiar phrase. Then I read Rex's review. Well, it would be silly to be amazed by a negative review by Rex, but this one was relentlessly harsh about what seemed to me to be an excellent puzzle. I find it reassuring that most of the commentators on the blog liked the puzzle.

Nancy 9:03 PM  

Was running very late this morning and couldn't finish the puzzle -- which was giving me a hard time anyway. I finished it in the park -- don't ask me how -- because so many things were not in my wheelhouse. Fortunately, all my PPP guesses turned out to be correct. Which ones? I forget, as I have forgotten almost everything about this puzzle. (That's what happens when you leave it in your locker at the tennis courts.) With 108 comments up already -- none of which I've read -- I'm sure no one here will have the energy to read this very late one. So I won't go into detail; I'll just say I found it harder than almost any Wed I've ever done and that I didn't especially enjoy it.

Jared 9:46 PM  

Pretty funny that LEK was the last of my fills and that it had me stumped for a while. Thanks for making me feel better Rex.

Adam Frank 10:29 PM  

Tough but fair. Unlike last Thursday's puzzle, for example. I put in ROCKET J. SQUIRREL with only the Q - I was and am a huge Bullwinkle fan. That also tipped me off to JETS being the word to scramble, and the revealer went in soon after SSR. It was definitely tougher than usual, but I liked it more than Rex.

captwitting 11:01 PM  

Does anyone remember the Nancy Drew mystery The Mystery of Larkspur Lane? I can still picture the jacket with all those beautiful purple blue larkspurs.

Anonymous 11:01 PM  

I have seen LEK in crosswords that it went in without hesitation. Earlier someone mentioned learning to do crosswords from a parent. My mom would tease me about the words I should know when she picked up the puzzle after my feeble attempts. Back then you had fill like AA (lava) and AI (two toed sloth). Now we complain about too many three letter answers. Times have changed and so have I. I did not know many of the answers from the clues but things worked out rather easily from the crosses. I now know at least six things I did not know before solving the puzzle. That is why I do them, new knowledge.

Z 11:25 PM  

I sometimes wonder if it is me, if I am just a wee bit callous. But then I look at what Rex writes and decide that, no, he isn't "mean" or "cruel." Let's take a look:

"This theme type is old." I like this kind of theme. I've seen similar themes lots of times. This is a simple statement of fact. This is about as hard to argue with as "football is a violent game."

"I've never ever heard of the revealer." Okay. Again, a simple statement of fact.

"The fill is frequently godawful. Not sure if this is just another (in a series?) of puzzles that just live on a different planet from me, or if it's empirically bad. Scratch that. It's *definitely* not from my planet. And it's *definitely*, at the fill level, bad." "Godawful" is a strong word, true. I have seen people accept lesser fill in service of a high quality theme. Even Rex. But Rex has consistently said that well worn theme types should be held to a higher standard of fill. Feel free to disagree with his underlying contention. However, there is nothing "mean" about his position. One could argue that the fill is good, but I don't see many taking that position. BTW - I think doing this type of theme with a J word makes me more forgiving of the fill - except LEK.

"'Subpar' is the most generous way you could describe any puzzle that would have either ASIM (!?!) *or* LEK (my most hated crosswordese currency). Having both is *&%^ing ridiculous. Careless." I suppose if I were Mr. Sewell I might not like the words "subpar" and "Careless." But Mr. Sewell and multiple editors looked at LEK and said "Okay" to it. No one cared to make it better/less arcane. Maybe you think arcane is good. Then say that. Again, though, I read this sentence after wondering why they didn't choose LES/OSSO. Looked "careless" to me, too.

I could go on, but the two most problematic words I've already discussed. I do get why seeing words like "godawful" and "careless" strike some as personal and mean. They're not, though. They are observations about the work supported by examples from the work. One last thing to note, Rex is generally good about keeping his commentary on the puzzle, occasionally referencing a constructors over-all body of work. It's hard to do, but we should all remember the difference between the work and the creator of the work. Even if one disagrees with Rex about LEK, Rex is talking about the fill, not Mr. Sewell.

Aketi 11:54 PM  

At z, I gotta catch some Zss, but your post makes sense to me. Often people think if you are attacking an idea they hold dear the assume you are attacking them.

Unknown 11:56 PM  

Technically isn't Wi-Fi an abbreviation for Wireless... something?

Julia Thibaud 12:07 AM  

Technically isn't Wi-Fi an abbreviation for Wireless... something?

cwf 2:21 AM  

@Unknown and @Julia Thibaud:

WiFi is not an acronym. It's a punny market-firm-derived coinage riffing off HiFi. But the W does indeed derive from WLAN, wherein is stands for wireless.

CFXK 7:13 AM  

@CHAOS344: as long as they pick up the dog crap after them, I don't care what kind of napkins they bring.

Anonymous 7:33 AM  

Longtime reader, first time, commenter. Chiming in to say that I think ofl and other commenters missed an important point. Abby McGrew Manning touched on it. Jets fans are famous for chanting J-E-T-S Jets Jets Jets. The chant began at Shea Stadium where the Jets used to play. SHEA is at the top of the puzzle, and as some have complained about, METS JERSEY is in there too, and the Mets shared Shea with the Jets. 2 weeks into the NFL season, I think this was the constructor's little nod to his teams.
Thank you Rex for all of your hard work on this blog. But count me among those who find your tone to be too grumpy. I enjoyed this puzzle, and last week's anagram puzzle is exactly the kind of challenge and treasure that I hope for every single morning.

Sheryl 2:16 PM  

Kudos to Rex for not deleting my critical comment.

@Chuck McGregor - I agree that the high quality discussion is the most valuable part of this site. I come here to read the discussion. Still feels wrong coming to a party where I don't like the host, so to speak. So I chose not to participate.

Anonymous 3:08 PM  

Sorry, shredding is not wailing. You can wail on a guitar, but that's not shredding. The solo for "while my guitar gently weeps" is wailing. The heavy metal solo in Back to the Future: that's shredding.
Whaling on a guitar -- that's shredding.

This needed an edit.

Anonymous 3:30 PM  

unless it's Prince playing the solo to While My Guitar Gently Weeps. Cuz that guitar is being Shredded. And Prince is Whaling on it.

Anonymous 6:22 AM  

@Z - Thank you for that grownup analysis.

Whitey 6:33 AM  

Your comment made me smile. My girlfriend is Korean and has trouble with "squirrel" as well. She likes to overenunciate it for fun.

the redanman 12:04 PM  

3:30 Anonymouse - that's WAILING like at the wall

This puzzle was no fun at all. Did it almost aweek late, added not joy to having skipped it to complete it.

WHALING is going after AMBERGRIS.

kitshef 6:24 PM  

Top half was a blur, barely pausing. ROCKET J SQUIRREL and LARKSPUR went in off one letter each, and I figured the theme out on the former.

Bottom half was tough. Really tough, Really, terribly, Saturday tough. Couldn't see it from ??LESETJIM. The Ditto ??RAG. OKSO is so not OK. Would not have associated ESPRESSO with a trattoria.

LEK is perfectly fine, as are all world currencies.

Overall, I thought the fill was just fine. It's the theme that disappointed me.

spacecraft 12:27 PM  

Technical DNF because of the Albanian money. Never thought of "OKSO." It's one of a few awkward entries--including the revealer. That's a military term; calls to mind a "Fail-Safe" scenario. I have NEVER heard it applied to "spring to action." This made it a very difficult Wednesday to get through. My best guess for the natick was LEh/OhSO. I'm trying to visualize how "OK, SO..." would sound when trying to express indifference, and I'm coming up blank. Double whammy: a very bad clue for a very bad entry--and crossed by a very obscure obscurity. Guess that makes it a triple.

As to the theme, It's OK but I don't think NY sports teams--all ending with "-ETS"--should have a place in a JETS-oriented theme. Points off for that. The best and most natural one is COURTJESTER, but there's really not much more you can do anagramming those four letters. Perhaps the constructor set his bar too high. The fill--other than mentioned above--is fine; TBONE is one of the few letter-added entries I approve; boy, do I approve a good TBONE!

I also approve DOD Zoe SALDANA: last in the alphabet, first in my heart. No gain, second and ten.

Burma Shave 12:55 PM  


to make them ARIAL ONDEMAND,
and USE the JEEPS during nuclear TESTS
to SHRED commies with EASE as his adVISORS had planned.

this stream of COLD War unconsciousness brought to you by TASS in any SSR.

BS2 12:57 PM  


Longbeachlee 2:09 PM  

If you guess right, you finished, otherwise you didn't. I prefer to gove myself the benefit of the doubt and blame the constructor in cases like this

rondo 2:30 PM  

Never heard of SCRAMBLETHEJETS, Rex? Cmon, that’s yesterday’s piece of cake. And it was a real thing, later turned idiomatic, much like “circle the wagons”. Certainly an Engprof knows of idioms. Or LARKSPUR, ever go outdoors?
Nothing particularly challenging here except purchasing a METSJackEt first, which worked for QBs tDS. This puz was not particularly ADRAG.

You’d better know your difference between YOUR TONNEs and YOUR tons (not TUNS) unless you want to be off by 10%. It’s not just the spelling.

Knew right off @spacey would give recognition to yeah baby Zoe SALDANA. Just wish they’d stop giving her a DYEJOB of green or blue, depending on the flick.

@Teed – I’d like to see you wearing YOUR ANKLET. That is all.

Diana,LIW 2:31 PM  

PEROtATE and tDS gave me "Mets Jet Set." Sure. Why not?

It's just been that kind of week.

Always enjoyed ROCKETJSQUIRREL and his pal, Bullwinkle J. Moose. And fractured fairy tales. The WABAC machine was the forerunner of my deLorean.

Looked some of this up on a R&B site that has an ad for "the foods responsible for the smelliest farts." Must go read same...

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords Sniff

leftcoastTAM 3:47 PM  

Took way too long to get the revealer and theme, then all fell fairly quickly into place, with the A in the STRAT/SALDANA cross the last letter to go in.

That furry creature whom I barely know, ROCKETJSQUIRREL, was pretty late in coming too.

Was congratulating myself on the finish, before seeing I had OrSO/LEr instead of OKSO/LEK in the bottom middle. Never heard of LEK, but OKSO should have leapt out at me. It didn't. Then I came here.

A rare Wednesday DNF.

leftcoastTAM 3:51 PM  

@spacecraft: What do you mean but a "technical DNF"? I didn't know or get LEK, either, and I had a simple DNF, I thought.

leftcoastTAM 4:05 PM  

" a 'technical DNF?'", that is.

spacecraft 6:41 PM  

Just meant a DNF on account of a single square; most of mine are much more widespread. I concede to the purist view: you either F'ed or you D. OK, SO DNF, no adjective.

leftcoastTAM 8:43 PM  

@spacecraft: OK, so it's like a TKO. I like that. Thanks for the reply.

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