Political columnist Matt / SUN 10-23-16 / Competitor of Sapporo Kirin / Early British actress Nell / Target customer of Yelp / Title fictional character who sprang from his Platonic conception of himself

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Constructor: Jeff Chen and Ellen Leuschner

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging


THEME: "Over / Under" — themer clues all begin "Over the" or "Under the," followed by cross-reference to an Across clue that sits directly over or under the themer, respectively. So, figurative phrases using "Over" or "Under" are represented quasi-literally in the grid:

Theme answers:
  • NO SPRING CHICKEN (22A: Over the 27-Across [HILL])
  • FACING A DEADLINE (34A: Under the 29-Across [GUN])
  • BEYOND BELIEF (57A: Over the 62-Across [TOP])
  • ON THE DOWN LOW (76A: Under the 67-Across [TABLE])
  • IN SEVENTH HEAVEN (94A: Over the 104-Across [MOON])
  • AT THE LAST MINUTE (112A: Under the 105-Across [WIRE])
Word of the Day: BHT (69D: Food preservative abbr.) —
Butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT), also known as dibutylhydroxytoluene, is a lipophilic organic compound, chemically a derivative of phenol, that is useful for its antioxidant properties.[4] European and U.S. regulations allow small amounts to be used as a food additive. In addition to this use, BHT is widely used to prevent oxidation in fluids (e.g. fuel, oil) and other materials where free radicals must be controlled. (wikipedia)
• • •

Theme feels very, very familiar. Which is fine. Bound to happen when you've been solving for decades, as I have. The puzzle is cute and competent and reasonable. Pleasant. Just not that much Fun to solve. It all feels pretty DAD-BLASTED, in that it feels like it came from an era when people might use that term unironically. Or from an era when people wore OPERA COATS, if that's more evocative for you. Plus the fill ... again, totally NYT-normal, but that's not saying much any more. HAH HEEHEE TNUTS OSSA etc. It's all a bit by-the-book and backward-looking. There's a few truly bad things like BOR. ONEI ARAIL DANL EDEL etc., but mostly it's just a deluge of dull and defensible. I spent most of my day alternating between previewing a forthcoming crossword project from Erik Agard and solving the alcohol-themed puzzles in Brendan Emmett Quigley and Francis Heaney's new collection "Drunk Crosswords." It is hard to come back to the NYT after that. Erik and Brendan and Francis are exacting constructors whose work is always current and funny and who put a premium on solver entertainment. Despite the fact that the collections in question are actually quite different from one another (Erik's very hard and conceptually mind-bending, Brendan and Francis's somewhat easier and more conventional), they are both a joy to dip into because of the care, craft, and ambition they evince—things the NYT has too often been lacking. There is nothing really Bad about today's puzzle. But it is backward-looking. It is designed to pass time. To satisfy long-established tastes. There is obviously a reasonably-sized market for such Comfort Puzzles. But the NYT wants to be "the best" (in fact, claims it is "the best"), and you can't be the best by just resting on your laurels and playing the oldies.


My main memory of this puzzle is falling, repeatedly, into pretty deadly traps. I had GO-- at 41D: Silly billy and thought "Silly goat, billy goat ... GOAT!" But no. It's GOOF. Worse (in terms of face-falling) was 95D: Small swigs. I had -IPS so, of course, SIPS. SIPS. Gotta be SIPS. But no. NIPS. Lena says there are no small swigs. Swigs are big. Small swigs are oxymorons. Here is some evidence for her rightness.


Lastly, mistake-wise, I had WA- at 105D: Female W.W. II enlistee and wrote in WAAC, which is literally true for that clue (as much as SIPS was right for [Small swigs]). But no, it's WASP, which is something related to the Air Force, I think. Hang on ... Yep. Women Airforce Service Pilots. So that's a bunch of wrong answers that were very hard to extricate because of being so homologous to the right answers. I just checked with Lena and she said "homologous" is in fact the right word here, so send your complaint letters to her, thanks.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. less than two days left to back Patrick Blindauer's "Piece of Cake Crosswords" project, which I wrote about a couple weeks back. Here's the premise:

"Piece of Cake Crosswords is a proposed yearlong series of easy-but-fun crossword puzzles, one puzzle per week. These will be daily-sized (15×15) crosswords that have fun themes with no sneaky tricks. The grids will be filled with FAMILIAR words, phrases, and names, and they'll be delivered directly to your inbox every Monday morning. Finally: something to look forward to on Monday morning! "

Good easy puzzles are hard to come by. Good for pros and novices. Get on board.

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]

83 comments:

jae 12:29 AM  

Easy-medium for me. I did it while watching the 5 o'clock news and never really got hung up, but then I did not fall into the traps that @Rex did. A perfectly fine Sun. Liked it a bit more than @Rex did.

chefwen 12:49 AM  

Loved it. Time consuming, but very clever and amusing.

A few write overs, amber before RESIN at 50A and rat trap before FLEA DIP AT 64D, Oh yeah, has TO before VOW. TO at 26A.

ADELE is going to make crossword Hall Of Fame pretty damn soon.

pmdm 12:52 AM  

I concur with the difficulty rating. It felt a bit harder than a typical Sunday, but enjoyable anyway. Mr. Chen relates that the puzzle had about 40 revisions. Was the final puzzle worth the effort? I vote yes.

Mr. Chen also relates that Mr. Shortz told him that he prefers puzzle themes that are straightforward, because that's the feedback Mr. Shortz receives from a lot of the solvers. Perhaps that's the reason some of the puzzle themes may seem ordinary. If that's what the majority of solvers want, I guess he's right to push for that type of theme. So it would seem that he chooses puzzles not to elevate the Times puzzles to be the best puzzles but to simply be puzzles that the majority of solvers prefer. And I don't think most who comment on this blog are typical Times solvers. No wonder so many here frequently feel frustrated with the quality of the puzzles. Too bad the paper can't publish two puzzles each day, with one geared to the more seasoned solver. As it is, it seems the priority at the Times is not to be "the best" but to have the broadest appeal to solvers. As a paper whose revenue has been dropping, I guess I can accept that.

I think I count about 10 cheater squares, a fairly high number. For what it's worth.

Larry Gilstrap 1:11 AM  

Sunday puzzles sometimes are often tedious; have you noticed? Over the HILL and under the GUN set the theme for me, and really all of the themers are in the language I use and hear. I once took a seminar on James and Wharton, so I actually had heard of Leon EDEL. but I pity you poor science majors. Tough fill, that one!

Once again, a beer clue rears its head. I rarely eat sushi, despite the fact I think it is delicious and nutritious, because Japanese beers are disappointing, and saki is actually one of the few alcoholic beverages I don't understand.

I grew up in LA so I appreciate why Chicago fans must be IN SEVENTH HEAVEN and over the MOON about their clinching CAPITAL W. Feel free to pick at the festering wound of 110A clued using U of W. Is that acceptable?

Finally, a viable economy, culture, civilization, planet, etc. SUSTAINS the resources it is alloted, or it is doomed. I'm waiting for the term "anthropogenic" to become a fixture, not only in the puzzle, but in the political dialogue. Japanese beer, Chinese hoax, not really a theme on my part, so pardon my profiling of inscrutable institutions.

Mike 1:46 AM  

YTD is actually used on the income statement, not the balance sheet (which is a representation on the date of the statement).

Michael 2:43 AM  


Did you really write "There's a few truly bad things"?

George Barany 5:13 AM  

Clever puzzle theme by @Ellen Leuschner and @Jeff Chen, and I don't have all that much to add to what @Rex wrote, along with some of the early commentariat. What's not to love about PETRI dish (last across entry)?

I'm over the MOON about current goings-on in the sports world.

ICYMI, an answer word from yesterday's puzzle reminds us of the fact that the NBA season is about to tip-off; @Christopher Adams celebrates the most interesting news from the off-season with Moving Forward (7x19 puzzle).

The marquee event on the baseball calendar will open on Tuesday and include a certain team for the first time in my lifetime, as was anticipated in Now Playing ...

Have fun with these!

Anonymous 6:20 AM  

@Larry G-strap, not sure I follow your thinking (though I love to try). However, I believe SAKI is rice wine rather than rice beer, although I also see it as a high form of ginned-up water.

Do you honestly believe political dialogue can survive incorporating words of 5 syllables?

Lewis 6:57 AM  

Nice to have a feel-good story (some joy to the diehard Cubs fans) during these last virulent feel-rotten days of the presidential campaign.

This puzzle is what Rex once called a placeholder puzzle, a competent-if-not-terribly-exciting entry to hold us over until something Truly Special comes along, to paraphrase what I think he means by the term. Where I diverge from Rex is that I appreciate the placeholders, which keep my solving chops honed, jog places in my memory that have been in the dark, and provide a well-fought battle. To be satisfying, these placeholder puzzles have to be of a certain high quality, and I believe what I get from the NYT generally is, certainly including this puzzle.

Because the placeholder puzzles constitute the bread and butter of the NYT palette, when something edgy or particularly witty or entertaining or unique comes along, it truly stands out. I like that. It goes without saying that if these special puzzles came every day, they wouldn't be special anymore. Similarly, I like vacations every once in a while -- which makes them special -- but I wouldn't want to be on vacation every day.

Today's puzzle gave my brain the workout it loves, provided some great aha's, and I am grateful not only for the work the constructors put into it, but for the experience it gave me. Thank you greatly, Jeff and Ellen!

Loren Muse Smith 7:08 AM  

@pmdm, I think I'm one of the typical NYT solvers, I guess, because this theme floats my boat.

I agree that this played pretty hard. The first themer I thought I had was AT THE LAST MINUTE, but I was, well, jumping the GUN and going for under the GUN in the wrong spot. So I was thinking 105A would be some kind of four-letter word for gun like "colt."

My only other serious goof was "racing a deadline" before FACING A DEADLINE. That gave me "aroil" for 28D "in conflict," but the JAZZ fan cleared that up.

Oh, and I had "soeur" before FRERE. And I felt so smart to still be able to spell it.

A litotes may not be the most elegant figure of speech, but NO SPRING CHICKEN sure didn't stink as an entry.

EGGY – around these parts, there's only one thing that's ever described as EGGY. And it ain't quiche.

HMM crosses LET ME SEE. Nice.

SOB crosses BABE. As of yesterday, we're at 11 now, right? Beyond belief.

As a linguist, I've concentrated more on the structure and form of spoken language – written language not so much. So at one point I was considering "Batman" for GATSBY and I'm not making that up. (I'll never forget when I attributed Dr. Seuss with saying, "Listen to them - the children of the night." The answer was DRACULA. Sorry 'bout that, Bram.)

I really liked the dueling prepositions for the expression meaning "secretly": UNDER/on for UNDER THE TABLE/on the down-low. And I thought it elegant that the over/unders switch back and forth all the way down.

I've talked about this before – if I say OH HI to someone, it's after ducking around aisles, leaning in to freezer section doors, squatting to scrutinize cereal box labels. I hate running into people at the store.

The clue for BROKEN UP ("in low spirits") made me pause. Just in low spirits, you're up and dressed and going about your business. If you're BROKEN UP, you're still in your sweats-turned-pajamas, lying on the couch flipping between Undercover Boss and 60 Days In , eating Ben and Jerry's Boom Chocolatta Cookie Core straight out of the carton.

And, yay! David SEDARIS makes his NYT debut. He's my soulmate. It's that simple.

Ellen, Jeff – enjoyed it.

chefbea 8:01 AM  

Fun puzzle. Got the theme in seventh heaven. Knew all the themers except on the down low...never heard of it.

Cold here this morning 40 degrees Brrrr

RAD2626 8:37 AM  

Liked the puzzle for a Sunday but can almost always say that about Jeff Chen efforts or collaborations. Thoughtful and considerate constructor. Had trouble with the under the TABLE pairing and NE was full of proper names. Fortunately a sneeze came to the rescue. Liked over the MOON staying with a celestial theme.

Lobster11 8:48 AM  

Seemed like a very typical Sunday for me, meaning (1) an acceptable if unexciting theme, (2) a good number of long answers that were fun to figure out, but also (3) a seemingly endless number of short, crosswordy entries that turned it into something of a slog in the end.

Gregory Nuttle 8:51 AM  

Ended up with a stupid error at the ELaNA - MALEVOLaNT cross that I couldn't track down. That was super annoying, but other than that a really fun medium-challenging solve for me.

NCA President 9:09 AM  

Had the exact same errors as Rex. WAac, GOat, sIP, etc.

I liked the theme, just easy and concise enough to make it clear, but sometimes clever enough to keep you guessing (DADBLASTED, FACINGADEADLINE). I liked it...for a Sunday, it was enjoyable.

Maybe an apt analog to Rex's comparison of the NYT to the independent constructors is what is happening with Hollywood vis a vis episodic television. I seem to recall, a few years ago, there was a lot of talk of Hollywood script writers being fed up with the cookie cutter limitations of modern film making and they were all making an exodus to cable television. It seemed, at the time, that the possibilites were wide open for creative, out of the box writing...and writers were even able to break out of the 90-120 minute time box.

What we have now is the new golden age of television with really great binge-watching worthy TV shows that are incredibly written, high quality, and every bit as good as anything Hollywood can come up with...and in many ways, far better. The episodic TV we see now is more diverse, edgier, and they take more creative chances.

The independent constructors are those cable guys...they used to write for the likes of the NYT, but they see the writing on the wall, so to speak. They are indeed, as Rex points out, edgier and able to take more chances with more "adult" themes and topics that the NYT would never take on.

Maybe the writing is on the wall for the NYT xword puzzle. It might now be an entree into the xword world rather than an endgame.

Just some random Sunday morning thoughts...

Jim Finder 9:11 AM  

Can anyone say a few words on why STORE OWNER is the "Target customer of Yelp"? Seems to me that Yelp is supposed to benefit everyone, owners and shoppers alike.

kitshef 9:17 AM  

Normally I'm not a fan of Sunday puzzles, but I enjoyed this one. The over/under theme tickled me.

Second @Mike's complaint on YTD.

Played super-easy, right until you get to the the laughingly difficult SW with its ASAHI, TNUTS, OSSA, BHT, HEEHEE, RTES, and ITTO.

Stick IT TO may be the worst partial ever, and the clue for HEE HEE is really tortured. But happy to swallow those for the overall pleasing experience.

Congratulations to Chicaqo sports fans. Hosting Skate America this weekend must have you over the 104A.

Mr. Fitch 9:20 AM  

It played more clunky for me than it did for Rex. There was some decent material built around an uninspiring theme, but overall I didn't find it rewarding to solve. The SAKI EDEL and DANL downs in NE were fairly brutal. I keep seeing BAI everywhere these days. ENOKI, DSM, DDE, BHT, OSSA, ONEI, OHHI are all yucky filler. A sprinkling of that is understandable, but this was a solid mouthful.

Teedmn 9:30 AM  

Rats, DNF. Whereas I guessed ASAHI correctly back in an August puzzle, I biffed it here since my sneaky reaction is tEE HEE when I'm ON THE DOWN LOW. But this is a nice theme, with an even number of OVERS and UNDERS and they are alternating, as a bonus plus.

Once again, I used @r.alphbunker's program to randomize my entries and I found this to be a leisurely romp through the grid rather than tedious. I really recommend everyone give this a shot if they are finding Sundays boring.

Fun to get OLIVE with OYL, and have ANNUAL clued as "crabgrass" rather than something more attractive, like a zinnia or marigold. I'm sure we've all been exposed to MALEVOLENT STORE OWNERs who give the impression they would rather have no customers than answer your question. And those DAD-BLASTED OPERA COATS are over the TOP, fashion-wise.

For as many times as I have heard O CANADA, I have never learned any more of the words than that, so it was fun to learn another line of the song.

I got the yIPS wondering if 95D was going to be NIPS or sIPS. I liked the clue for I DO as "ringing words". And I was sure Leon URIS was making his 3rd appearance in a row but now I know another 4-letter author named Leon. And EDEL with ADELE, fun.

Ellen Leuschner and Jeff Chen, nice job on a Sunday collab!

Anonymous 9:33 AM  

No one else seems to have had trouble with this, but why is Elena the successor to John Paul? I don't get it.

Hartley70 9:45 AM  

What @Lobster11 said. No need to say it again. I found all the short fill challenging because I had to resist banging my head against the wall.

Right now I'm imagining a MAS Sunday puzzle with stacks upon lovely stacks.

George Barany 9:50 AM  

@Anonymous at 9:33 AM -- that was a good clue with misdirection to Popes. When Justice John Paul Stevens retired, he was replaced on the Supreme Court by ELENA Kagan.

seanm 9:51 AM  

agree with the medium-challenging rating. a thought the theme was pretty good, but there were some sections that really held me up, with collections of clues that were a bit harder than a typical sunday.

in the top right, the series of SAKI, EDEL and DANL all woes, but of course gettable from crosses. DADBLASTED seems to google mostly with crossword related links, and next to OPERACOAT that was also a bit tricky for me. middle left had OSSA, TNUTS and BHT all together which was another IMO too close pairing of tough clues (not to mention ASAHI which is no gimme for many). WASP, ITTO (it's an awkard partial i think) and RTES provided another awkard section.
none of these were big problems, but all provided enough resistence to add 15 minutes to my normal sunday time.

also fell into the GOAT/GOOF trap, and i also had a lot of trouble with the ELENA/AMALIE cross. the ELENA clue is saturday tricky i think, though AMALIE as a capital should be known so i guess i can't really fault that, but definitely a cross i imagine some others found tricky too.

Charles Flaster 9:51 AM  

Very easy except clues for HEE HEE and BABE( clue should have been "Sweets".)
Agree with Rex and easy to catch theme.
Thought first one, NO SPRING CHICKEN was the most creative.
Not sure why RESIN is correct.
PETRI is a good piece of CROSSWORDease.
Go to George Barany's above comments and try the two sports related offerings as they should be enjoyable for both sports enthusiasts and all others.
Thanks EL and JC

Stanley Hudson 10:09 AM  

Sunday puzzles are almost always a slog, but this one was a tad more enjoyable due to EL & JC's craftsmanship.

QuasiMojo 10:16 AM  

This was definitely a puzzle that did not feel like a spring chicken. Agree with Rex. Felt very dated. Old hat. Like walking some "gray old lady" across the street. I don't think I've heard "dad-blasted" since watching cartoons as a child. And I'm a huge opera fan but I don't think of opera coats as floor-length. Perhaps they were back in the day, Nellie Melba's day, that is (i.e.) Today you are more likely to see people in yoga pants and flipflops at the Met.

I found this Sunday's offering to be harder than usual, which is good, but I stumbled a bit on what should have been easy fill. Thought of Nell Glyn rather than Gwyn.

And agree with above comment about Yelp. I was thinking the clue was referring to the Target Store customer. So I got flummoxed there. I really don't think Yelp commenters give a hoot about the actual "store owner." They just want to vent at some perceived slight. Like being served a "caffe italiano" instead of a "caffe macchiato." Half the time it's just a "goof." A way to vent. Sort of like this blog! :)

Nancy 10:17 AM  

Jeff Chen is enough of a pro that he should know that a plethora of cross-referencing is not fun for the solver. For a solver like me, cursed as I am by SLOTH, it was actually quite painful. What's more, I was 4/5 of the way through, before I noticed the clever placements in the grid. That, for instance, FACING A DEADLINE had actually been placed under the GUN answer. Etc. I suppose that's because my SLOTH is only exceeded by my lack of visual awareness. But at least I noticed before I arrived here.

I had the same mistakes Rex did: GOAT before GOOF and SIPS before NIPS. I was also thinking OPERA GOWNS and OPERA DRESS before OPERA COATS -- though they didn't work and I never wrote them in.

Since working on a delightful puzzle of maybe two years ago, GOBSMACKED has become one of my favorite words. I'm glad that it now has a playmate in DADBLASTED.

Clever construction, but a real drag to work on. I didn't enjoy the process.

pauer 10:21 AM  

Thanks for sending some solvers my way, Rex! Here's the latest update, which includes a bonus xword (with a pre-puzzle challenge): https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1328301891/piece-of-cake-crosswords-puzzles-youll-have-fun-fi/posts/1716476

Z 10:41 AM  

@pmdm and @NCA Prez - So what you are saying is that the NYTX has become the Budweiser of puzzles. I agree.

DNF/DNC in the SE. Slogged through to that corner. Had piG instead of HOG, I've never hear of CAT BOATS, could not see STORE OWNERS for the life of me (@Jim Finder - When I do a Yelp search the first listings are usually paid ads, I think that is what the clue was getting at) because I use it to find restaurants. I did a bit of cost/benefit analysis and said, "screw it, it's just not that interesting." Which is exactly my reaction to Budweiser and network TV. And that's the problem with producing for the "masses," as the masses' taste is exposed to something better the once "great" becomes "good" and eventually becomes "trite and tired." The essential truism is that if you aren't getting better you're falling behind.

As to the Cubbies, nice for Cubs fans but a real poser for a baseball fan. Two teams with the slightly rancid smell of the 2004 Red Sox attached to them. One team still selling items with the most offensive logo left in sports, the other who traded for a closer with the stigma of domestic violence hanging over him. I don't expect sports to be examples of our best, it's sports, but it would be nice if I didn't have to hold my nose to root for one or the other. I was thinking I'd go with the "who has the less offensive fan base" rubric, but it's a toss-up there, too.

Daniel Hoying 10:44 AM  

Really enjoy your reviews, Rex. I've been disappointed in the Sunday puzzle for the last couple of months, but this one was better. Started with all the same mistakes as Rex, plus one. I was thinking "over the hump" instead of "hill." Did not know many of the downs in the NW corner until Dan'l sounded like a better name for a frog than Danp.

Donkos 11:00 AM  

@Z a cat boat is any single masted boat where the mast is stepped forward. They are quit common in the northeast and are not to be confused with catamaran which is a mult-hulled boat (yes, a Catamaran can also be a cat boat). A common cat boat is the Marshall sandpiper.

Passing Shot 11:00 AM  

Lots of write-overs: GOat for GOOF, LEmME for LETME, SimpEr for SNIVEL, msg for BHT. That last one threw me off the entire "midwest," as I was not familiar with FLEA DIP, so this area was the last to fall. Once I got AT THE LAST MINUTE (and yes, the clue for HEEHEE is just awful), went back and had fun interpolating the answers from the crosses and made necessary corrections. Never heard the phrase HOT LEAD and still have no idea what an OPERA COAT is... Enjoyed this.

Anonymous 11:37 AM  

You are all too young! It is not opera coats but opera capes that were worn in the good old days.

May that's why I didn't get the John Paul - Elena clue/

Dolgo 11:38 AM  

"Sake," no?

Nancy 11:39 AM  

Although the Cubs have nothing to do with this puzzle, several people have commented on their win last night, so they've opened the floodgates -- or Cubgates, as it were -- for me to comment too. Last night's game was the first baseball game I've watched since ca 1969. And, remarkably, the team I chose as my return from a long self-imposed absence was not the beloved N.Y. Giants of my childhood, stolen from me and my family by the loathsome Horace Stoneham and exiled to San Francisco for the next almost-60 years. Nor is it the once-hapless Mets, who had a "miracle" season in 1969 that I became caught up in. But while my mother was able to transfer her emotions to the Mets, I never really did, and I abandoned them as soon as they became hapless again. Perhaps they have become less hapless at various times over the years, but I don't know because I haven't been paying attention. So the irony is that the long-cursed Cubs -- a team I know absolutely nothing about -- became the catalyst that persuaded me to watch baseball again after, lo, these many, many decades. Because I knew if they won last night, it would be historic and it would be exciting and I wanted to see it first-hand. They did win and it was historic and exciting. Congrats to all you Chicago denizens. (Are there any on this blog? I forget.) Wouldn't it be ironic if this team from a part of the country where I've never lived and to which I have no allegiance is the one that propels me back into the habit of watching baseball. I plan to watch them, and root for them, in the Series. After that, who knows...

Dolgo 11:40 AM  

Seems they are really after the merchant to give them advertising money.

Dolgo 11:42 AM  

A puzzle this hard should really have been more fun.

Alan_S. 12:12 PM  

An apt comparison indeed. The stuff being aired by HBO, SHO, FX, AMC, Netflix and Amazon are not just rivals of Hollywood, they are better than 99% of anything in the multiplexes. And you can watch in the comfort of your own home, pause if you need to, replay a scene that bears repeating, eat what you like, smoke what you like, and hang out in your most comfortable raggedy sweats.

Through the '90's I would go to an average of 20 movies a year. Since 2000 that number is down to 1 or 2, if any. No need to. All the best comedies and dramas are on TV. Ah, The Golden Age indeed!

Hungry Mother 12:12 PM  

DNF on ASAHI

r.alphbunker 12:16 PM  

@Teedmn I bounced around a lot during the solve even though I wasn't doing it randomly. Details are here.

I find Sunday puzzles too be a bit long. I would rather solve three 15x15s and the NYT would save $100.

I am acquiring a taste for shorter puzzles like M&A's and Matt Gaffney's. George also seems to be experimenting with shorter puzzles. See What happened in Vegas?

Mohair Sam 12:22 PM  

@anonymous 11:37 - You got it. We wasted a ton of time with OPERACapeS. Lady Mohair owns one, bought it on a whim in London 15 years ago. And she looks absolutely classy and super awesome in it.

Tough, tough puzzle - so far out of our wheelhouse it was off our boat. We still enjoyed the battle though, and were victorious. Clever theme, and ELENA misdirect was worth the price of admission.

We hit all the speed bumps that slowed @Rex and a few more of our own (AReed for ARAIL, StylES for SHAPES, etc.). Not only was ASAHI new to us, but so were the names in the clue. The PPP throughout was out of our ken - SEDARIS, BAI, SAKI, EDEL, and on and on. I read Twain's celebrated frog story not that long after the Cubs last World Series appearance, but somehow forgot DANL. Go figure.

@NCA Pres - Interesting analogy. Certainly make sense. But the NYT, like Hollywood, can't be satisfied with niche audiences - nor can Will Shortz risk turning a large portion of his audience off by being what we like to call "edgy." Will's challenge is to produce a "Sully" seven days a week. No mean feat.

Carola 12:24 PM  

I liked this one a lot: clever theme, artful construction, plenty of other pleasures, from...HMM, LET ME SEE...GABFEST to HOTLEAD to FLEADIP. I enjoyed switching between over and under to get the paired theme entries, THAT IS, I had NO SPRING, so it was easy to write in CHICKEN and then HILL beneath it. Same with IN SEVENTH--> HEAVEN and MOON. The hard one for me was WIRE: I didn't know WASP and went wrong with "Stick at it" - the crossing STEEPER and POSE AS evenutally straightened that out.

@Nancy, I'm not a denizen of Chi Town, but it's our closest Big City; and when the Braves abandoned Milwaukee in 1965, my dad and brother switched their allegience to the Cubs, with my son later following their lead. So, much family celebrating today. As for me, Chicago means the Lyric Opera...where I have yet to spot any OPERA COATS.

Alan_S. 12:28 PM  

When the Sunday puzzle earns a "medium-challenging" rating largely because of horrendously obscure, outdated or just plain awful short fill ( to numerous to list here) you must come up with a new ratings grade. How about "medium-challenging Drek"?

Steve Reed 12:40 PM  

Asahi (the Japanese beer) is the beer Larry was referring to I believe.

jberg 12:44 PM  

I enjoyed the theme; it was fun trying to figure out one from the other, and I didn't always get the short one first -- NO SR\PRI_____C gave me HILL, for example. So that was enjoyable.

Since there seems to be some confusion: you drink SAKe, but read SAKI.

But WASP was too obscure to me. I started with WAac, then got STEEPER, and figures there must a Women's Army Service Corps. COME AS worked for 121A (as to a costume party), and I figured RTEM must be some technical PO thing. Route for Mail? SOB.

AliasZ 12:45 PM  


I wonder what the over-under line was on today's puzzle.

When I got the theme while under the influence, I kept looking over the shoulder everywhere under the sun: over the counter, under the hood, over the rainbow and under the bridge, for more over-undies.

-- You could GO AT this puzzle if you couldn't quite make a GO OF it. HEE HEE...
-- I wonder of divas lose their OPERA COATS during molting season.
-- As I was solving last night, I caught a glimpse of a gremlin running off with the second A from UTAHAN out of the corner of my eye.

UNDAY, UNDAY, you can't trust that day,
UNDAY, UNDAY, sometimes it just turns out that way.

It's almost UNDAY already? DAD BLASTED!

What would be better than closing the week out with the Quartetto ITALIANO? Nothing.

Anonymous 12:57 PM  

Clearly PELOSI is NOSPRINGCHICKEN and Obama's signature legislation OBAMACARE aka ACA, which he merely signed, and did nothing more is BEYONDBELIEF and clearly was drafted ONTHEDOWNLOW. Not a single Republican voted for it or was consulted.

Z 1:13 PM  

@Mohair Sam - "nor can Will Shortz risk turning a large portion of his audience off by being what we like to call 'edgy.'" I understand the same argument was made (and still is sometimes) when Shortz replaced Maleska.

Hartley70 1:24 PM  

@Carola, while your C avatar is very, very tasteful, I have to admit I'm hoping for a day of you in your etsy tee when it arrives in the mail!

Hartley70 1:29 PM  

@Nancy 11:39, I have a much more succinct reason for rooting for the Cubs. Kris Bryant is the relative of a friend. Go Cubs!

GILL I. 1:34 PM  

@Rex is spot on. Although I enjoyed the puzzle, I didn't do the playful leap when I finished. Maybe I was still loving the Saturday WSJ puzzle by Jacob Stulberg and this was a bit of a let down.
I left my GOaT in and wondered about ON THE DOWN LOW. Do you do it under the table? Did someone mention OLIVE OYL? SNITS NIPS and NAB - our local caffe house.
I gotta get me a TWOFER.

Larry Gilstrap 1:43 PM  

OOPS!, about the sake/SAKI mix up. Mr. Munro led me down that path leaving me with quail egg on my face.

AskGina 1:46 PM  

This puzzle and I weren't on the same wavelength, although I got the theme and thought it was fun. Dadblastit killed me in the NW and that's where I dnf. Kept thinking it HAD to start w 'I'll be (somethinged). Knew that ACA was correct but mulled too long on what 'AI' could be for 'take on.' Seeing the answer now, I agree it's correct usage but not one I would use or ever hear in conversation. Same with 'tee hee' for 'got away with something' (which I finally got afterhanging on to 'heh heh') To me, tee hee is a cute little giggle behind the hand. And I know very well the job that the women's service pilots did (WW II buff) but somehow it never sank in as WASPs. In any case, that's a Saturday clue in a Sunday puzzle. It was @Nancy who introduced the phrase 'read at' a book yesterday. Today I 'solved at' this puzzle. Did it but it didn't communicate back.

Carola 1:51 PM  

@Hartley70, I'll do it! It's now winging its way from Washougal, WA.

Anony0620 2:10 PM  

@Dolgo & Steve Reed, of course it's the old Saki/Sake vs ASAHI issue, and if you don't believe I knew it, go back and check that I saw it 'AS A HIgh form of ginned-up water'.

HeeHee

Anonymous 2:18 PM  

Naticked again by "teehee" instead of "heehee". I need a crash course on German beers! Elena was puzzling as an answer until it was explained here. The NYT xword will continue to be the puzzle solved by the vast majority of solvers---it is mostly the very experienced or else jaded solvers who will seek xwords elsewhere.
Good to see "O Canada" make an appearance again. I am glad we are living north of the border and can avoid most of the mess of the current election.

Anonymous 2:39 PM  

Also got stuck with the John Paul successor, and couldn't redirect my brain away from popes - liked this overall, a nice challenge!

Roo Monster 2:46 PM  

Hey All !
Cool puz. NE corner destroyed me with the unending stream of names. EEK. Also having OCT as the 4th qtr. didn't help. I kept thinking the fiscal year, so I had jul. Add tje GWYN obscurity into that mishmash also. The OSSA/ASAHI section put up a fight also. Ended up Googling for Answers in those two spots.

Never heard of OPERA COATS or CAT BOATS. HMM. Don't like ORANG as a short form.

Besides those nits, puz was decent. A touch high on blocks, 79. Double stack 10's Down nice.

Ah, Baloney! (ABALONE) :-P
RooMonster
DarrinV

Fred Romagnolo 3:10 PM  

Twain's frog is Dan'l Webster; DANL is just Twain's frog's first name That's for all you precisionists out there. No real problem with John Paul as a clue because the Popes are either JPI or JPII. Heh heh is better than HEE HEE.

Karen Coyle 3:27 PM  

One person's "backward-looking" is another person's life-time. It's only fair that us old-timers get the occasional puzzle with social clues from our experience. I found this enjoyable - just hard enough that it wasn't a slog (which Sundays sometimes are). Enjoyed being reminded of Twain's frog. BTW, if you get to Berkeley, the bottom entrance of the main library has a bench with MarK T himself (ok, in bronze) sitting on it, and you can sit beside him and have a friend take a photo.* It's almost as good as sitting on the lap of Einstein at the Acad. of Sciences: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Albert_Einstein_Memorial.

*https://www.pinterest.com/pin/8233211790968534/

Anonymous 3:58 PM  

What is on the down low

puzzle hoarder 4:02 PM  

As always I'm not a fan of Sunday puzzles. All that crosswordese in support of a self referential theme is a cheap way to generate difficulty. What little I get from solving is the occasional nugget like BHT or POTUS that I have managed to overlook.
@Nancy I'm a fireman here in Chicago and a Cub fans so welcome aboard. @Carola I've never noticed from you comments that you're in the area but your taste in teams is excellent. @Z if you hold your nose at the Cubs you'll turn Cubbie blue.

Robso 4:45 PM  

UTAHN: sorry, but this is just more evidence that they are all kind of freaky.

chefwen 6:08 PM  

@Anon 3:58 and a few others. "On the down low" refers to straight black men who sleep with men.

GILL I. 6:30 PM  

@chefwen...ahem: bisexual black men....the best?

Anonymous 6:34 PM  

Hubby and I both thought it "easy". One problem though, I even attended University of Washington and thought it couldn't be "Capital W" with the clue of "U of W logo"....seems improper. Could have been clued "Logo of University in Seattle".

Craig 6:49 PM  

I see two comments on this already.
One would NEVER, NEVER, NEVER find the abbreviation YTD on a balance sheet. This very sloppy editing.

chefwen 7:09 PM  

@Gil I, I know, kinky huh? Google it.

Mohair Sam 8:18 PM  

@Z - Won't argue with you at all, but that doesn't change Will's problem a whit. He needs to please his audience. And his broad audience is folks reading the New York Times. You can bet he's studied his market.

Nancy 8:18 PM  

Thanks for the shoutout, @puzzlehoarder. Firefighters have always been heroes to me. Stay safe, and I hope Chicago finally gets the Series win it's been waiting for through so many decades.

OISK 11:45 PM  

Not reading the comments because I didn't solve yet, but did anyone try the diagramless today? David Steinberg had a hand in it, and it is just delightful!

Anonymous 12:22 AM  

Abased not a good answer for humbled. It implies shame and degradation , while humility does not

George Barany 7:47 AM  

Will second the comment by @OISK (11:45 PM) -- the diagramless puzzle is by @Mary Lou Guizzo and @David Steinberg -- great fun! Left-right symmetry with a seasonally appropriate theme and a great visual payoff. You have all week to work on it.

And as long as we are recommending puzzles, @Charles Deber had a musical pun-filled masterpiece called "Humoresque" over at "Newsday" (edited by @Stanley Newman), also on Sunday, October 23.

To anyone who has difficulty accessing any of these puzzles, please contact me privately via e-mail, and I'll be happy to send along pdf's.

Izzie 7:03 AM  

Thanks!

Wick 10:16 PM  

Not a good one for the 30-somethings. DAD-BLASTED?? OPERA COATS?? BAI next to SAKI next to EDEL next to DANL???? Thought my crosswordese was on point but that is aweful.

DNF

PS Love for The Roots

PeterThomas 3:49 PM  

No one will answer because this phrase doesn't exist outside of this puzzle

Burma Shave 11:59 AM  

INNER LOBES

ELENA was a MALEVOLENT BABE, and NOSPRINGCHICKEN,
but she SUREDID have DADBLASTED NIPS BEYONDBELIEF.
ONTHEDOWNLOW she LETMESEE, so EYE gave ELENA a lickin’,
she was INSEVENTHHEAVEN and ATTHELASTMINUTE got relief.

--- SGT. DAN’L GATSBY

rondo 12:30 PM  

Usually I complain about the 3 letter answers, and in this puz they ABOUND (two lines of 5 each for starters), but without them I’d have been sunk. As it is, my w/os also ABOUND – piG, inC/Ltd/LLC, sIPS, msg for BHT, VOuch for VOWTO, Atwar for AFOUL, ikE for DDE, StylES for SHAPES, etc. What a mess.

@spacey will have something to say about TNUTS, CAPITALW, and maybe even ONEI, and the RD to Spokane, home of @D,LIW. @teedmn, I also noticed the OLIVE OYL thing.

As long as she was in a clue, Charlize is the ultimate yeah BABE.

Did I miss UNDAY this OCT? Without the periods it looks like backwards day or something.

LETMESEE, looks like I’m FACINGADEADLINE for brunch. I was CLOSE to a DNF, but in the end I SUREDID get it all INPLACE.

AnonymousPVX 1:57 PM  

I hate / abhor / dread these gimmick puzzles that have you referring back and forth - or over and under - all over the place.

WASP? Really? I tried WAAC, WAVE which were obviously wrong, but WASP was a new one.

Finished, but not an enjoyable puzzle.

rain forest 2:45 PM  

It's always interesting to read comments where someone has a beef about 1 clue or answer, out of about 200. I say "interesting" but I really mean dispiriting.

I found this puzzle to much more than dispiriting. I really liked it, for the theme idea and its execution, as well as many misdirecting clues. Yeah, there are a lot of three-letter words, but also some nice longer downs in there.

I like beer with sushi, more than sake, and I find ASAHI beer to be a good one--certainly better than Budweiser.

Why do puzzles need to be more "edgy", whatever that means? Let's just enjoy a competently put-together puzzle, and not wish it was something else.

I always thought "on the down low" is synonymous with "on the QT" or surreptitious. which seems to work here.

spacecraft 3:05 PM  

This slug-a-bed got around very late today, thus bringing up the rear here. Yeah, that CAPITALW did give me fits in the SE, since I had MALEficENT down there. Here I am with STOREO_NER; what could that be but W? Yet there's no word ending in either -CW or -LW. Well, we got it all ironed out eventually, but I emitted a terrible-sounding "GRRR!" at 110-across, startling the Mrs. Don't DO that!!

Another ? was ITTO. Stick ITTO is the phrase, I guess, but it needs an object, thus the clue NEEDS a ... after the dash. That one was bad. Either of those would bring out the yellow linen.

Theme and execution OK; fill about what you can expect on a big grid that looks very chopped up. What the heck is an OPERACOAT? Call this one a GEEKY slog. DOD? LETMESEE, I can go along with Theron just from the clue mention, but if we stick to the grid cute/funny Amy SEDARIS will do just fine. First down--called back on the flag.

Chris Ortega 3:48 PM  

Not true. I've heard it hundreds of times.

Diana,LIW 6:31 PM  

We had perfect weather this morning (rain, rain, more rain) for a cup of coffee and a leisurely solve of the NY and LA Times puzzles. Pencil in hand (with eraser), rain on the roof, cat purring in ear. The picture of contentment. And the puzzle complied.

I make Sundays fun by answering randomly thru the grid - kinda like @Teedmn's process on some kind of computerized device. 'Cept I use the aforementioned pencil.

And, like @Rondo, I found the threes to be quite helpful until I caught onto the theme. (Of course I noticed the shout-out to Spokaloo.) Then it just zipped along.

Then I watched a movie. And now the sun is shining.

Diana, Waiting, 8 more days...

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