Old bandleader with Egyptian inspired name / SUN 1-8-17 / Entourage of 1990s white rapper / Headwear NBA banned in 2005 / Literary device used to address plot inconsistencies

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Constructor: Peter Broda and Erik Agard

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium


THEME: "The Downsizing of Nathaniel Ames" — familiar multi-word phrases where first word is reimagined as if it were first initial + last name of a famous person (this is also the key to understanding the title):

Theme answers:
  • CLOVE (i.e. C. Love) CIGARETTES (20A: Things smoked by singer Courtney?)
  • PROSE POETRY (31A: "Charlie Hustle is my name / I am banned from Hall of Fame," e.g.?)
  • SCURRY AWAY (56A: Hoopster Steph not playing at home?)
  • MALI EMPIRE (73A: The sport of boxing in the 1960s and '70s, essentially?)
  • CHART TOPPER (100A: Hat for pop singer Corey?)
  • THANKS IN ADVANCE (112A: Two-time Best Actor winner arriving early?)
  • CROCK POT (3D: Something smoked by comic Chris?)
  • SHARPER IMAGE (8D: Photo of Canada's former prime minister Stephen?)
  • CHANDLER BING (61D: Cherry for talk show host Chelsea?)
  • VICE UNIT (86D: Entourage of a 1990s white rapper?) (Vanilla Ice)
Word of the Day: SUN RA (18A: Old bandleader with an Egyptian-inspired name) —
Sun Ra (born Herman Poole Blount, legal name Le Sony'r Ra; May 22, 1914 – May 30, 1993) was an American jazz composer, bandleader, piano and synthesizer player, poet and philosopher known for his experimental music, "cosmic" philosophy, prolific output, and theatrical performances. He was inducted into the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame in 1979. For much of his career, Ra led "The Arkestra", an ensemble with an ever-changing name and flexible line-up. [...] Though his mainstream success was limited, Sun Ra was a prolific recording artist and frequent live performer, and remained both influential and controversial throughout his life for his music and persona. He is now widely considered an innovator; among his distinctions are his pioneering work in free improvisation and modal jazz and his early use of electronic keyboards. Over the course of his career, he recorded dozens of singles and over one hundred full-length albums, comprising well over 1000 songs, and making him one of the most prolific recording artists of the 20th century. Following Sun Ra's death in 1993, the Arkestra continues to perform. (wikipedia)
• • •
SPECIAL MESSAGE for Solvers in Syndication (for the week of January 15-January 22, 2017)

Hello, solvers. A new year has begun, and that means it's time for my week-long, once-a-year pitch for financial contributions to the blog. The idea is very simple: if you read the blog regularly (or even semi-regularly), please consider what it's worth to you on an annual basis and give accordingly. In making this pitch, I'm pledging that the blog will continue to be here for you to read / enjoy / grimace at for at least another calendar year, with a new post up by 9:00am (usually by 12:01am) every day, as usual. Despite my regular grumbling about puzzle quality, constructor pay, and other things that should be better in the world of crosswords, I still love solving, I still love writing about puzzles, and I love love love the people I meet and interact with because of this blog. Well, most of them. Some I mute on Twitter, but mostly: there is love. The blog turned 10 in September, and despite the day-in, day-out nature of the job, I can't foresee stopping any time soon. The community of friends and fellow enthusiasts are all just too dear to me. You can expect me to be here every day, praising / yelling at the puzzle—independent and ad-free. Some people refuse to pay for what they can get for free. Others just don't have money to spare. All are welcome to read the blog—the site will always be open and free. But if you are able to express your appreciation monetarily, here are two options. First, a Paypal button (which you can also find in the blog sidebar):

Second, a mailing address:

Rex Parker c/o Michael Sharp
54 Matthews St
Binghamton, NY 13905

All Paypal contributions will be gratefully acknowledged by email. All snail mail contributions (I. Love. Snail mail!) will be gratefully acknowledged with hand-written postcards. This year's cards are "Cookery Postcards from Penguin"—beautifully designed covers of vintage cookbooks, with provocative titles like "Cookery For Men Only " (!) or "Good Meals from Tinned Foods" (!?). Please note: I don't keep a "mailing list" and don't share my contributor info with anyone. And if you give by snail mail and (for some reason) don't want a thank-you card, just say NO CARD.  As I say in every thank-you card (and email), I'm so grateful for your readership and support.

Now on to the puzzle!

---------------------------

Wow. A rollercoaster of emotions. First, I saw the byline and got Very excited, as Erik Agard is one of my favorite constructors. Peter Broda is also very good, but it seems like a long time since I've seen his byline. Anyway, I know them both and they are smart, funny, careful constructors, so I was psyched. Then ... the NYT had technical glitches with the puzzle. Again. "The World's Best Puzzle" everyone! So when I opened my .puz file I got ... this:

Just ... nothing. There's the title, but the grid, the clues ... not there. So I thought fine, I'll solve it in the browser. But not much more luck there. I did manage to see the clues, but grid: still gone. So I opted for the "Print newspaper version" option and solved on paper like some kind of animal. My handwriting is so bad that even I can't stand it. I mean look:

[AWK]

But the good news was that I *did* manage to get the puzzle and it was delightful. Simple, quirky, funny, weird, incredibly dense with themers, clean, modern, interesting. Just nice. I will say that SNES (68A: Sega Genesis competitor, in brief) is a terrible answer to look at, and ERM (104A: "Uhh..."), while real, is almost too improvised for my tastes (though I've been reading a lot of "Krazy Kat" lately, so I'm getting acclimated to improvised spellings). But any infelicities in the grid are pretty minor, *especially* when you consider the insane layout of the themers. They interlock like mad. I can't remember seeing anything like it. Six Acrosses, four Downs, and every themer intersects at least one other. Bonkers. S.HARPER IMAGE intersects Three Other Themers (ditto C.HANDLER BING, obviously). And then there are these weird red decoys in the NE / SW, long Downs that look like they're going to be themers for sure ... but then aren't. The whole enterprise is unusual, original, and very well crafted.


I did not fully grasp the theme at first. I got C.LOVE CIGARETTES fast, but I didn't get that "C." was an initial (for "Courtney"). I saw LOVE in there, but wondered what C. CIGARETTES were and what kind of wordplay was going on. Further, I thought the theme was going to be smoking, because the first two themers I saw were clued that way ([Things smoked by ...] and then on C.ROCK POT, [Something smoked by ...]). Plus the initial letter of both those themers was "C." So I started with 2 x smoke and 2 x "C" and just shrugged and plowed on. Wasn't til S.HARPER IMAGE that I got the whole first-initial idea. I don't know what the M.ALI EMPIRE is—that answer seemed like a big familiarity-outlier. But everything else was solid and funny, esp. the P.ROSE POETRY clue.

Bullets:
  • 98D: Dude, in British lingo (BRUV) — I think this is like "bro" or its variant "bruh"; its appearance in the grid makes me happy. Fun with language! I also enjoyed NUJAZZ (though I wanted NUJACK, for reasons known only to early '90s me) and MIX CDS (a lovely phenomenon and lost art). I am just trusting that URL HIJACKING is a real thing because the puzzle tells me it is; I'm not mad because it was highly guessable.
  • 46A: Televangelist Joel (OSTEEN) — I could see this guy's horrid mug but his name was blocked because of *&$^&$*% Haley Joel OSMENT. 
  • 17A: Fish whose name is a celebrity's name minus an R (OPAH) — I love this clue so much I want to adopt it. If you gotta use some crosswordesey fish, give us a clue so good-naturedly absurd that I don't even mind.
  • 26A: Game involving sharp projectiles and alcohol (BEER DARTS) — Is this like BEER POOL and BEER YAHTZEE and BEER GAMES I PLAY WHILE DRUNK? Seriously, how is this different from just drinking beer while playing darts? As with URL HIJACKING, I'm just gonna trust that it's a real thing.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. Annabel has been blogging the first puzzle of every month for over two years now, but only today (Saturday) did I finally get to meet her in person. She and her mom just happened to be driving through. We had a lovely long lunch.

 [Bell and me]

 [lady in the middle is Bell's mom, Liz; they brought me Bergers cookies, which are apparently some kind of a Baltimore thing—lots of chocolate icing. Pretty delicious.]

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]

150 comments:

Arna D 6:05 AM  

If someone ever created a crossword puzzle around "Berger Cookies" I'd be in heaven.

Oh, yeah, and the puzzle today was ok. I hammered my way through without ever being awake enough to really understand the what was going on with the theme ... it was just that the answers "fit".

Anonymous 6:15 AM  

I got the N.AME theme from C.ROCKPOT and C.LOVECIGARETTES but still struggled at M.ALIEMPIRE and V.ICEUNIT. The latter a little unfair. In the end I decided I liked it.

But ERM............, Really??? Can't we do away with spelling sounds?

Anonymous 6:22 AM  

Ares and Aries. Isn't that a foul, at the very least a yellow card?

tc

Lewis 6:48 AM  

Quite a feat to come up with so many answers to this brilliant theme, which I imagine one of the constructors came up with when realizing, say, with Tom Hanks, that the first initial and last name make a word. And beautifully executed, having the themers symmetrically placed with many intersections, and, in the cluing, having no question marked clues on non-themers -- tres elegant! What would have made this even better would be having some wordplay-clever clues, but the puzzle was so solid I was still won over and enchanted. Bravo, guys!

Loren Muse Smith 6:48 AM  

Boy howdy I bet if Kellan Lutz is a NYT solver he was holding his breath on this one. Whew.

I felt, as often, lacking when I didn’t recognize the, uh, name in the title Nathaniel Ames. Turns out it didn’t matter. What a title!

I can’t even. This theme is so cool, so abundant, so … wow. I loved it. THANKS IN ADVANCE was the first themer to fall, and it was a jumping-on-the-couch moment. I whooped.

First thought for 73D ____ drop WAS “pro.” A pro-drop language is one where you can eliminate the subject pronoun if you feel like it. We do that here a lot. So instead of saying

I thought this was fabulous.

We will write

Thought this was fabulous.

But I don’t think English is really considered a pro-drop language. (You writing this stuff down? I’ll wait to give you some time.)

Liked the clue/answer for 70D. WHIZ. Gimme the choice of a Hollywood hottie or a "braniac" for a dinner companion, and I’ll take a whiz over some beefcake hunk every time.

Also liked the clue for ARES. “Pugnacious.” Now there’s a word for you. I think I’ll dust that beaut off and try to use it this week.

Yeah – that “list” from yesterday. I just shot it off, naming only a few of the many friends off blog I have made here. @Roo – sorry! Of course I read your posts – in fact, I look forward to your two-word sign-offs that make me smile! How can anyone be miffed when I didn’t even mention one of my best friends here, Dr. Barany? I bet he and I email more than anyone else.

Hey, erik and Peter – did you consider some of the low-down and dirt that actress Sharon had about the cast of The Valley of the Dolls – that she never told a soul?

Kudos to both of you for a spectacular Sunday puzzle. I’ll never forget this one.

Anonymous 6:54 AM  

I'd donate to the misanthrope's site, but am kind of strapped due to "The Affordable Care Act".

Glimmerglass 7:14 AM  

You don't get M. ALI EMPIRE? C'mon, man!

chefbea 7:27 AM  

Had no idea what this puzzle was about.!!! When I printed the puzzle and saw the title I immediately googled Nathaniel Ames. Learned that he was the inventor of the atlas. I figured the puzzle would have something to do with maps or countries. Couldn't make heads or tails of any of the theme answers...so went to bed. Couldn't wait to have @Rex explain it to me this morning....I have never heard of most of the names. What a boring puzzle!!!

Sir Hillary 7:56 AM  

If all NYT Sundays were like this one, Sunday would be the best day of the crossweek. What a tour de force of creativity and design -- and, most importantly, a blast to solve. CROCKPOT, THANKSINADVANCE, SHARPERIMAGE -- wonderful. CHANDLERBING -- off-the-charts amazing.

Best NYT Sunday in ages.

bilbo 7:59 AM  

Your handwriting looks like a study in how-to-write-quickly-for-speed-solving. The E's are a giveaway.

smalltowndoc 8:01 AM  

I did not grog the theme (mainly because I had no idea what the title reffered to; my fault, not the constructor's).
Only after reading Rex's blog and the post by Anonymous (8:15), did I realize how brilliant this puzzle was! And how clueless (pun intended) I can be sometimes. I now think this puzzle is just brilliant! Best Sunday in a while.

Speaking of clueless, I had a comment deleted last week and don't know why. I was responding to a Puzzle Girl review regarding LAYLA and I made a comment along how,popular that song was when I was in college. I'm not sure why that got deleted. Sure would like an explanation so I don't make the same mistake twice.

pmdm 8:09 AM  

Sometimes it pays to check out the competition. The XWordInfo home page has a link to download the .puz file of today's puzzle to assist those who had the problem described in the write-up. I solve on paper, so the problem didn't affect me. My reaction was similar to that of Chefbea, but I just searched for the names I didn't know and finished the puzzle.

I am only familiar with a couple of the theme names (Hanks, Ali, Rose), enough to help me get the idea of the theme but not enough for me to enjoy the theme at all. You can apply the theme to two non-proper words that make a common phrase. For examples, "black out" becomes bout, "feeling low" becomes "flow", or "driving rain" becomes "drain." If a constructor can figure out good clues for such a theme, it would be easy enough to construct a weekday puzzle with two individual themes. There's a thought.

Passing Shot 8:10 AM  

Enjoyed the puzzle but the best think about it was the title. Didn't get the theme until I had the letters "_H_N_LE_B_NG", saw that the clue was about a cherry so filled in BING and had my AHA moment. Then went back and tried sussing out the other theme answers. Have no idea what an SNES is, despite the clue. Loved the clues for HOUDINI and PROSEPOETRY. Agree with@Anonymous 6:22 that ARES AND ARIES is a problem (I kept thinking the astrological be ARIES because of ARES and lost time, so phooey on that.

Fun solve.

r.alphbunker 8:16 AM  

The poor NYT. They publish an indie-quality puzzle and it doesn't render properly giving Rex a chance to complain about "The World's Best Puzzle."

Learned about pro-drop from @LMS. Is there a term for something like P. ROSE EMPIRE which implies a possessive. I think most people would say P. ROSE'S EMPIRE. Maybe the term is pidgin. T. HANKS IN ADVANCE does not to fit this pattern which evidently escaped Rex's attention.

Details are here.

Anonymous 8:31 AM  

DNF here. Spouse and I never sussed the theme. Bollixed by our lack of pop star knowledge, ended up obsessing on that, and missed the forest for the trees. Meanwhile, we are also missing George Barany and his elegant, friendly commentary.

Paul Rippey 8:48 AM  

No one says "MALI EMPIRE". The once great Sahelian civilization is always "The Malian Empire". (Cf "The Britain Empire".) That, along with ERM, seemed lazy.

Z 9:15 AM  

PPP Analysis
Pop Culture, Product Names, and othe Proper Nouns as a percentage of the puzzle. Anything over 33% and someones will have problems.

When you start of with 10 PPP themers it is no surprise to me (nor should it be to you if you seen previous posts about PPP) that the puzzle hit 38% and there are already people for whom this is an Outhouse Puzzle. I just want to remind everyone, some days it's in your wheelhouse, some days it's in your outhouse. All this means is we come from different points of reference and interests. That's a good thing.

My Haley Joel Osment moment was Ice T. I could picture Vanilla Ice and that hairdo (making a comeback, that hairdo is). I could go on and on about the plagiarism scandal. I could tell you that he has some home remodeling show these days. Could. Not. Come. Up. With. Vanilla. Ice. Stared at -ICEUNIT for precious nanoseconds with nothing but Ice T on my brain before the V finally made sense. Only clue where I got the first name from regular phrase.

Loved the concept, but I do have one nit; Why do many but not all the clues have first names in the clue? Either they all should be there or none at all. I think none at all is preferable.

@LMS - Re Pro Drop - I wonder if Twitter's character limit as well as people typing on tiny keyboards is making English more of a Pronoun Drop language?

Anonymous 9:18 AM  

ERM...that is all I remember from this puzzle. I got the theme and thought, 'Meh.' Then continued to solve and finished with ERM. And then I wondered why I do the Sunday puzzle anymore.

Moly Shu 9:22 AM  

I do the puzzles on my phone, so at around 6:30 last evening my app just kept freezing up. I immediately went to @Rex's twitter feed and saw him and other grousing. "Great" I said to myself, when it's fixed, @Rex will tweet about it and I can solve. Well.... then @Rex tweets he printed and solved, and it was "pretty damn fun". "Great" I said to myself again, although this time with a different meaning, now what am I to do. I know, I'll just go to the NYT twitter feed, they'll have the answers. Big mistake. Their solution was a tweet about IOS users need to take two steps. Nothing about what the two steps were, should I go two steps forward or backward, should I dance the two step, nothing. Finally just reinstalled the app and got the puzzle. This may have been one of the unspecified steps, dunno, never bothered to find out.
Liked the puzzle, got the trick at P.ROSE and it fell rather quickly, but I'm also wondering what the MALIEMPIRE is/was. Loved the HOUDINI clue, and always like to see SLOG in a puzzle, especially in ones that aren't. Agree with OFL, this was fun.

Teedmn 9:25 AM  

This puzzle was not meant for me. I don't know who Corey Hart is or Chandler Bing or Steph Curry so three of 10 themers were "wha?". I really wanted to like it because I got to meet Peter Broda at this past year's Lollapuzzoola (he sat at my table) but it just wasn't ME[H], even solving with @r.alphbunker's randomization function on.

There were plenty of nice answers (SPOOKS, JEEVES, MINOTAUR, HARRY HOUDINI (both clue and answer), NO U-TURN, SPIDERY, MOZART) which I enjoyed as they appeared.

I'm off to Google RET CON. Have a great Sunday, y'all.

Anonymous 9:28 AM  

Anonymous said: But ERM............, Really??? Can't we do away with spelling sounds?

How else would you write a sound without spelling it? Grrr, beep, ring, wail, ding dong ...

Hartley70 9:29 AM  

Very late last night, I saw that someone had complained online that they didn't understand this puzzle, so sleep be damned, I had to take a look. Bingo, I was hooked at LOVECIGARETTE and it just took a bit longer to suds the "initial" C. What a fun puzzle! I didn't get confused by the title's Nathaniel Ames because I was too busy solving to tap the "i" icon until I was done. The Sunday puzzle is moribund no longer if WS can dole out beauties like this. I, however, need a bit more sleep.

'mericans in Paris 9:35 AM  

Our experience was like that of @Chefbea and @pmdm. (Pro-drop henceforth.) Knew only half the themer names (Ali, Hanks, Love, Harper, Ice), and Naticked at the ENYA-NYRO crossing. (We never heard of either of them.) Also Googled Nathaniel Ames. There were at least three. Junior was the developer of America's first almanac (not atlas). Didn't know that; always had assumed the first was B. Franklin's.

Did not notice that the trick had nothing to do with almanacs, but the words one gets when combining the first initial with the family name. OK, clever. But didn't make my socks go up and down.

The fill was OK, in our opinion, but it contained too many proper nouns, and not just in the theme answers. Yes, SIRREE. Faves were ISIS, SUNRA, CANOLA, SPIDERY, MINOTAUR, and HARRY HOUDINI. We stayed in a hotel in Aswan, Egypt, once that was next door to the ISIS hotel. Named after the feminine archetype for creation, the goddess of fertility and motherhood, not the terrorist group.

Disagree with the cluing of 56A, DOJ: "F.B.I.'s div." Isn't the FBI a division of the DOJ, not the other way around (as implied by the clue)? Have also never consumed SAKE hot, only warm.

Also wish that Will Shortz would not promote slashing. When somebody is a singer AND a songwriter, they are a singer-songwriter, not a singer/songwriter. AWK!

Have to SCURRY AWAY to run some errands.

Kitty Florey 9:41 AM  

"ERM" is British English. I found it puzzling on first encountering it in novels, but realized it's just how an English accent pronounces "um." Dropping the "r" sound.

Tita A 9:45 AM  

Not as wowed as many. I guess it was the hard go PPP count. (Thanks, @Z)
Of course, since the theme is a P theme, all the other P in the grid just pushed it into ho-hum land for me.

I also was bugged by the fact that some first names were in the clues. Why?
And what about that monster outlier, CHANDLERBING? That one really made my head hurt. All other names turned into phrases. This one turned into a name... cute, but those two inconsistencies made it sound off.

My solving relied on knowing the phrase more than it did knowing the person. Even then, DNF at IDB_T/_N_/N_RO.

Coincidentally, I was having a conversation about 58D yesterday. Though we were calling it Domain Poaching or Domain Squatting. This has happpened to a client of mine, and the hijacker, when confronted, has vowed to do nothing.

I do admire the construction feat. And MOZART crossing NUJAZZ and CHARTTOPPER. And learning that LULU is a nickname for Louise.


Paul 9:45 AM  

I liked especially the HARRYHOUDINI clue. Is it bending some kind of rule that there would be an AUK and an AWK in the same puzzle, both having to do with birds? I didn't finally figure out the title riddle/fun until now. I, too, thought at first that we were dealing with some kind of subliminal pro-tobacco/drugs advertising when I got CROCKPOT and CLOVECIGARETTES pretty early in the process. Fun.

Cassieopia 9:49 AM  

The shoe dropped for me at chandlerbing and I immediately lost interest. As @Z pointed out, this was basically a names puzzle, with many (most?) being from pop culture, so while I can appreciate the construction, and I got mild satisfaction from sussing out the theme, the reliance on names meant that this one wasn't to my taste. Diff'rent Strokes and all that.

Loved the smiley photos of OFL and Annabel!

NCA President 9:50 AM  

I do xwords because, despite my being critical of them, I have fun. They're puzzles...I like solving puzzles. I come to Rex's blog to hear what he has to say about the puzzle and how it lines up with my experience.

BUT

I come to the comments section to see the endless diversity of human experience in this little microlab of humanity. For today alone, not 20 comments in, and we have some who are raving about it, some who found it boring, some who didn't finish, some who found it easy, and some who found the puzzle (a Sunday puzzle) to be the paradigm of what other puzzles ought to be.

So when I add my .02, it isn't because I know what the heck I'm talking about, it's to add to the crowd sourced understanding and appreciation of the puzzle in question and ALL puzzles. Just read through the comments sometime and stop and really soak in the diversity of the opinions about these things...and what's more, if you read it on a different day, the SAME people will differ in different ways altogether. It's really a life lesson to transfer into the non-puzzle world. Some people like anchovies. Some people have never heard of demon rum. Some people like p*ns. I guess the point is that the sooner we accept that we are different, the sooner we can get along...and I'm not talking about this comments section necessarily.

Anyhoo...

1A was brutal for me. -CCS...and then you had -BCRADIO. Here in 'Murica! we have nBC and aBC...I suppose they have a "radio" version somewhere. But the BEEB...I completely forgot about. So, I'm going to have to admit to a DNF for that one letter. "Loops" was, IMO, gratuitously clued...just a step too far in the "make a simple answer challenging" spectrum. Obviously...because I didn't get it.

But DNF aside, I will say that once I settled into the puzzle, even though I still don't understand the title's connection to the theme (if someone could spell it out for me, I'd appreciate it), as Sundays go, I liked it. I wouldn't rave about it like Rex and LMS did...(I'm not sure I've ever "whooped" over a xword puzzle before, LOL)...but I found the solve amusing and challenging in a nice balance.

And I just gotta point out that word play, GREAT word play, can be achieved without the use of p*ns. Constructors take note. P*ns are certainly a staple, but they don't have to be a necessity. Just sayin.

Mohair Sam 9:54 AM  

Well, the rare case for us that we sussed the theme so quickly that it kinda spoiled the fun. A couple of quick gimmes going down (IOC, IAGO, PUT, ANT somethin') and the likelihood of _BCRADIO. Popped in CLOVECIGARETTES, checked the title, AHA'd the theme, hence CROCKPOT, checked my question marked sports clues, got them. Threw in CHANDLERBING, SHARPERIMAGE, MALI, and THANKS. Add HARRYHOUDINI off the "Y" in POETRY and the delightful gimme clue. There wasn't a lot of white space left, nor much room for AHAS.

BEERDARTS? Sounds like fun. How about marijuana archery? Wasn't JEEVES everybody's valet? ERM? c'mon. Speaking of which, uhh, keep my friggin' SSN off your invoice. THANKS.

The theme was very clever. But once you got it the puzzle was essentially done. Is that a negative? I dunno.

Nice penmanship @Rex - you should have done the puzzle before eating those cookies, those sugar highs will get ya every time. OFL should threaten to post his hand-written version of the puzzle every single day if we don't pony up. It is that time folks. And we all value this blog.

Tita A 9:54 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nancy 9:59 AM  

"I am not going to cheat," said I. "I am not going to look up who the bleep NATHANIEL AMES is." Because, obviously, if I knew who the bleep NATHANIEL AMES was, I would understand this extremely baffling puzzle. Only after [almost, but not quite] finishing this fiendishly puzzling puzzle did I finally realize: "Oh, it's N.AMES!"

My intense bafflement was made worse by the fact that I didn't know so many of these pop names in the first place. Of the ones I did know, I noticed that the last names started in the 2nd square, and that the first square was occupied by a series of apparently random and unrelated letters. At what point did I finally realize it was the first initial of the first name? Probably with SCURRY, Steph Curry being someone I know thanks to @mathgent. Easy???? Medium???? No -- for me, almost impossible. SUNRA crossing ANTBEARS didn't help. Neither did VICE UNIT crossing ERM. ERM???????????? But now I'm going to surprise you all. Hard as it was, as full of pop names and as out of my wheelhouse as it was, as much as it defeated me in the two aforementioned places, I actually loved it. It offered such a challenge, the theme was so dense, and it held my attention so thoroughly -- I had a terrific, if genuinely perplexed time. I sort of think OISK won't agree with me and that he won't like this much at all. But I could be completely wrong, too. Now, back to read the rest of you.

Tita A 10:01 AM  

Comment was too succinct. Here's some more.

NOUTURN should be remembered by all constructors who want a UEY, UEI, UEE in their puzzle.

Portuguese is a Pro drop language. Hard for English to be, since there is precious little help from the verb. We eally never say the pronoun at all. But because the verb form is specific to the subject, there is never any ambiguity at all.

Thanks, @lms, for learning me the name for that. (Always thought it was a pretty cool shortcut.)

I am not a robot 10:17 AM  

There are three things that I think I should like, yet I don't enjoy them - banana bread, cantaloupe, and My Fair Lady. I like bananas, melon, and musicals. But those three I just...something doesn't work for me.

This puzzle joins that group.

I got the theme right away, knew a lot of the names and sussed through others. It seemed clever. Yet it was a slog.

Dnf because I confused continuous with continual and ground to a halt right there. I could've stared at it all day. Wouldn't have mattered.

Inexplicable.

George Barany 10:19 AM  

Well, this puzzle by @Erik Agard and @Peter Broda sure was different from your usual Sunday New York Times fare! I've met as well as corresponded with both constructors, who are young, bright, and accessible ... but that hardly makes me unique.

So much to admire about today's effort, with its overall premise and its dense interlocking theme, that one can almost look the other way at some of the inelegancies already noted (Anonymous at 6:22 AM and 9:28 AM, Paul at 9:45 AM). The long non-theme down HARRYHOUDINI was redeemed by a mend-bending clue. Symmetrically situated URL_HIJACKING was interesting to learn (thankfully, the online website had been fixed by then, so I was able to use the handy "reveal" function), crossing the "huh?" NUJAZZ (and thank you very much, I knew MOZART).

Missed cluing opportunities from sports, Claude OSTEEN and Danny HEEP, and from opera (LULU).

I'm a big fan of this blog and the community built around it, and did not need @Rex's reminder--having already donated at the end of calendar year 2016. Several kind remarks above, @Loren Muse Smith and @Anonymous at 8:31 AM, gratefully noted. Even when my schedule gets in the way of posting, I make a habit of noting @Rex's take and the general sense of the commentariat. Also, so nice to see photographic documentation of @Rex finally meeting up with @Annabel and her Mom.

Off-topic, my wife and I saw "Hidden Figures" last night at the theater ... very inspiring, moving, and even funny, despite the formulaic presentation. It has my highest recommendation, and should appeal to all regardless of age and politics.

Z 10:21 AM  

@MiP - I wasted precious nanoseconds on the FBI clue as well for exactly the same reason. Finally decided it was OK. What division is the FBI in? can be shortened to What is the FBI's division?

@TeedMN - I googled RETCON last night. Already forgot what it means.

@NCA Prez - Nancy explained it at 9:59.

Anonymous 10:25 AM  

Never heard of Chandler Bing so I looked it up-wish I hadn't.

evil doug 10:36 AM  

My Pike brothers and I invented Beer Darts one Saturday morning before a Drake football game. After a few breakfast beers, we decided darts would be more challenging if opponents could play defense. A perfect effort meant catching the dart before it pierced the board--an interception, if you will. Knocking down the missile was also effective, but often involved a dart embedding itself in the defender's hand. Good tetanus fun!

Anonymous 10:52 AM  

Obama claims race relations have improved over the last eight years. So 54% of Americans polled by CNN are lying? Good riddance to the Divider in Chief and all his elite out of touch ilk.

Mohair Sam 10:53 AM  

Great Attitude Award for the month of January goes to @Nancy (9:59).

'mericans in Paris 11:00 AM  

@Z: THANKS, but I disagree. According to the DOJ's website (https://www.justice.gov/agencies), the FBI is an agency of the DOJ. Even setting that aside, and allowing the FBI to be a division of the DOJ, the answer to "What division is the FBI in?" is, ERM, the FBI. A division is a smaller unit of something larger -- e.g., a department, directorate, agency, or ministry. DOJ would, however, be the answer to "FBI's dept." Could it not be possible that the constructors simply made a small mistake?

On another note, does anybody know why ANT BEAR is another name for aardvark (which means "earth pig" in Dutch or Afrikaans)?

Anonymous 11:04 AM  

Can someone explain the answer to 1A? Googled it, binged it...nothing! Is it something like PS (postscript)?

jberg 11:11 AM  

Kay Kyser is an old band leader; Duke Ellington is an old band leader. Glenn Miller is an old bandleader. SUN RA? "Bandleader of my generation!" I mean, I got it, because Egyptian, but boy did that smart!

It took me a while to figure this one out. For all I knew, CLOVE CIGARETTES were something Courtney Love was associated with. I even put in SHARPER HARPER before it finally dawned on me.

I had lots of writeovers: Deva before ISIS, beat before PACE (nicely matched with TROT, by the way), raver before RACER (rather like that one), pin before MIC drop, and first 'echidnae' and then 'anteater' before ANT BEARS. And, to my embarrassment, 'mud hens' before TARHEEL (you know, sports).


I think CHANDLERING is the process of restocking a ship with basic supplies; but what is CHANDLERBING?

Oh yeah -- SNES was a pure guess. I had to look it up, but only after committing myself to the answer, so I think that's OK.

OK, there's more snow to shovel...

old timer 11:12 AM  

DNF and DNC (did not care). Yeah, this was in my outhouse. In fact, I did not even notice VICE UNIT, which I got on crosses. I slogged most of the way through, and failed in the NW . I did like HARRY HOUDINI though.

I don't believe BEER DARTS are a thing. Beer Pong is. Darts are (or at least used to be) a game played in pubs. But I don't ever see people playing these days, at least were I live. Of course most darts players have a little beer (preferably an English ale) while they play, But darts are not slung at cups of beer. You could as sensibly refer to 8-ball as "beer pool" since many pool players in bars have a brewski or two.

jberg 11:12 AM  

@evil doug -- thanks for explaining SLATS yesterday; only just saw it now.

skua76 11:13 AM  

Great puzzle, as I thought it might be as soon as I saw Erik's name. Took awhile to get the theme so it was a DNF...like OFL I started thinking it was all about smoking so I put in CRaCKPOT for 3D and never saw it was really about Mr. Rock. I think I caught the theme with 100A, perhaps because I have a friend (no relation) named Corey HART. Then I was able to interpret N.AMES although I still had to Google him after I'd finished. And I learned something else from Rex today...I always download and print the .puz so I can do the puzzle before the paper shows up...never knew that there was a "print newspaper version" option. Thanks!

NCA President 11:16 AM  

@anonymous 11:04am: BCCS are blind copies of emails...and so, you are kinda "looping" around the main addressee. See my post above about how tortured that clue is. "Loops" is pretty gratuitous, IMO...just a little beyond where it ought to be.

Anonymous 11:20 AM  

All references to "Friends" should be banned. They normalize bad sitcoms.

Malsdemare 11:27 AM  

This was a ton of fun! Also very hard with so many names I didn't know but I managed to get 'er done in reasonable Sunday time. The only flaw was that I perennially forget that there's a BBC and a massive brain fart made me insert ACCS at 1a. Yes. Makes. No. Sense. But I did it anyway and when I didn't get a happy sound, I tried N. Sometimes I'm too stupid to live. I loved the themers, but it took forever to even see what the theme was. And really, shoot me now, because I had PRaSEPOETRY almost the entire solve, thinking it was some sort of hip hop literary form. What's truly embarrassing is that I grew up in Cincinnati and my sister lived down the street from Mr. Hustle and it didn't see P ROSE until the very end.

I haven't read the comments but I'm hoping someone will explain CHANDLERBING. And now, before I read what ya'll have to say, I'm gonna drop my check in the snail mail to REX because I, too, love to get mail.

Eric 11:27 AM  

@anonymous please use another blog for political commmentary. Diversity of opinion in rating the puzzle and puzzle experiences is what I come here for.
Loved the caliber of this puzzle.

BarbieBarbie 11:28 AM  

This was a true "easy-medium." Took me forever to get started, because (for me anyway) the non-themers were not that easy to get, and I didn't understand the theme. So I approached it like an Acrostic- a little here, a little there- and all of a sudden the penny dropped and from that point on it was super-easy. So clever, I loved it. Such fun clues. Nothing wrong with calling the DOJ a division, because it is-of the Executive Branch, with small-d. Nothing wrong with Mali Empire vs. Malian, because both those phrases are in English, so neither one is "right." A flawless, great puzzle I was proud to finish even in my animal-like print-version-solving way.

As for Anonymous at 10:52, you may be wearing a sheet, but we can still see your shoes.

Token Millennial 11:32 AM  

DNF on Shark's home. Had SAN_O_E, went with DOD instead of DOJ, and then couldn't get those sharks that lurk right off sandbars waiting for sea turtles out of my head. Last themer to fall was VICEUNIT because I forgot Vanilla Ice existed and wanted Eminem. Great, now I'm gonna have Ice Ice Baby stuck in my head the rest of the day.

I had a similar experience as @I am not a robot. I got the theme quickly and knew most of the people in the themers (even Corey Hart, thanks to my dad's insistence on belting out "I wear my sunglasses at night" every time he sees someone wearing sunglasses indoors or in dim lighting), but the puzzle didn't do it for me. Too much crosswordese used as glue (ENYA, TROI, ETES, ARIES, DOS, HICS, NSA, OTRA were my launchpad), noticeable inelegance with ARIES/ARES and AWK/AUKS, and a fair amount of educated guesswork with the PPP content. Also, quirky themers using people's names just aren't my cup of tea. So while I can appreciate this puzzle from a distance, it's not for me.

Anonymous 11:39 AM  

"Nothing wrong with calling the DOJ [Department of Justice] a division"?! So, by that logic, there is nothing wrong with calling a league a "team"?

Malsdemare 11:55 AM  

Oh Lord love a duck, so THAT'S who CHANDLER BING is (I googled). I've probably seen "Friends" three times in my life, but had a one-eyed, drop-dead gorgeous Malamute from a Poker Flat litter named for the friends in "Friends" who was called Chandler. I renamed him Gabriel and never bothered learning what his first, full name was.

Of course, I had to come here to catch the cuteness in the title; I had looked up Mr. Ames to see if knowing who he was would help with the solve (it didn't) but then failed to go back and catch the adorbs N.AMES. Pooh!

I probably had a second, moral DNf, since while I got VICEUNIT, in my head I saw VIC somebody (Damone?) and never really considered what the E was doing in there. In my defense, I had VIC first, then KITS and ETES, so saw UNIT easily and wandered off to work on something else. Yeah, I know who Vanilla Ice is, but barely.

So many really thoughtful, informative, gracious comments today. Hope everyone has a lovely Sunday (pro-drop!)

Anonymous 12:08 PM  

So that's not you in the upper right hand corner of your web page?

I first came across BRUV (Dude, in British lingo) after the Underground stabbing in London when a bystander shouted, "You ain't no Muslim, bruv!" and it went viral.

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2015/dec/13/you-aint-no-muslim-bruv-man-leytonstone-denounces-extremism

(Annoyed I had to solve this on the across lite app. iOS Times app still not working. First world problem."

flip 12:10 PM  

Things I had to explain to my mom:

Chandler Bing was a character on Friends played by Matthew Perry.

A retcon is a hamhanded device to retroactively fix a continuity error in a plot by basically claiming "it's always been this way". (Retcon = "retroactive continuity"). TVtropes.com has a good example: "The Hobbit was written well before J. R. R. Tolkien came up with the plot for The Lord of the Rings. In the original story, Gollum's wager for the Riddle Game was a "present", which turned out to be the ring. Once The Lord of the Rings existed, having Gollum ever do anything which might lead to him losing the Ring on purpose suddenly made no sense at all, and so that chapter had to be Ret Conned. Tolkien dealt with it by writing a revised edition and during The Lord of the Rings later making Bilbo an Unreliable Narrator and having Gandalf shake the "true" story out of him."

URL hijacking involves making it look like you are visiting site A but actually directing you to site B.

Crane Poole 12:15 PM  

Much satisfaction this morning. Very enjoyable solve.
A recent T.HANKS interwebs meme cued the themers early for me (for a change). CHANDLERBING somehow fell - didn't know it, I never watched Friends. DAMP for DANK had me squampered at the finish as I did not know RETCON either.

I see that all previous clues for ERM are of the "Fine Fur abbr." variety.
What about "'Good night and good luck' monogram"?

Suzy 12:23 PM  

What a terrific puzzle! Figured out the theme with Steph Curry. Had to google a couple of names I'd nevernheard of, but so what?!
Learned a little, lots of fun! Thought mic drop to be particularly timely! Cluing crunchy, but not overly taxing-- thanks, Mssrs Broad and Agard!
ps--
@Rex-- I alway solve on paper, just as I read real books. You remind me of Scotty in Star Trek IV-- "A keyboard, how quaint."

Roo Monster 12:24 PM  

Hey All !
Commenting before reading anyone, repeats may occur! :-)

Pretty cool puz. Fav themer, THANKSINADVANCE. Neat theme idea, very well executed. Agree with Rex on easy-medium rating, and on the amount of themers and the crisscrossing of rhemers. Hard to pull off and only get light dreck. Looking at You GENL! Bravo PB(3?) and EA.

Only had 5 wrong letters after all was said and done. Did online today, as actually have a day off work today! Cracked up on Rex's "having to solve on paper like some kind of animal." Har! I finished puz, got the "Almost" message, so hit Check Puz to see y errors. Not too shabby for me, only 5! Cee-CTA, DAmp-DANK, STAMaNS-STAMENS. And my time was 39:13, insanely fast for meon a SunPuz!

Figured out theme at M.ALI and C.HANDLER cross, as had last names in with only one square before, and the ole brain clicked and said First Initial! AHAs! Made me feek like a HOTSHOT.

A Q and a F (@M&A, no F's! :-P ) away from another Pangram.

Gotta go, gonna watch the Steelers hopefully win!

WHIZ
RooMonster
DarrinV

Stanley Hudson 12:30 PM  

@Mohair Sam, how about LSD skeet shooting? :)

This was the first Sunday puzzle in quite a while that wasn't drudgery. A tip of the cap to Messrs. Broda and Asgard.

Anonymous 12:35 PM  

Who has stolen Rex? I don't think anyone had better send any money until we find out what's happened to Rex! Where's our clean fill crusader! Where's the man who, day after day, has raked every bit of nonsense, every stale device for making English words cross one another, into a reeking pile for our delight?

I mean, look at this puzzle, BRUV. BCCS HTS BORA OPAH ENRON? And that's just the first three lines across. The stuff's all OER the place. AWK and AUKS? ERM! I see surprised drunken Frenchmen, alternating AHAS and HICS all through their ETES, trying to remember their American EXS SSNS, while listening to ENYA on MIXCDS powered by AAS. And what about IOC ERIS, REV GNL ISIS STETHO EDT DOJ TROI? What would the real Rex do with all these?

What in the name of God has happened to Rex?

Anonymous 12:35 PM  

Hey Dems, let's ignore the Tim Ryans of our party and keep getting behind Pelosi, Schumer, Wasserman Schultz, et al. Why fix what aint broken?

Anonymous 12:39 PM  

He overlooks all these entries he'd normally rip apart and blame Will Shortz and gets all warm and fuzzy while begging for money. Coincidence?

I am not a robot 12:41 PM  

@Flip, things you had to explain to your mom! Please make that a regular contribution. My son isn't interested in crosswords.

Greater Fall River Committee for Peace & Justice 12:42 PM  

Church organist here, I seldom get to solve Sunday puzzles in the morning, I usually go at them in the evening after a full exhausting day, when they seem very hard. But there was a lot of pretty snow yesterday and today's service got canceled, as did the Sunday afternoon rehearsal. So last night I sipped wine till midnight as went out and hopefully shoveled my front walk. And when I straggled out of bed this morning I found my newspaper deliverer, who lives across the street, coming up my walk, saying 'you might be the only person getting this on time today!'

Anyhow, I found they are a lot easier to solve with a fresh morning brain, though I made a pretty big mess in the middle of the west edge. I had some quibbles, but I think other people have noted them already (and I do so enjoy getting my quibbles validated here...).

But there was one grammatical point from earlier in the newspaper I would like to bring up: in an article on Michelle Obama in the Review, they list one of her issues as "anti-childhood obesity". I myself would have put a space between the dash and the c of childhood. What think you guys?

QuasiMojo 12:47 PM  

Count me among the few who found this puzzle incomprehensible and utterly forgettable. I managed to fill it in without cheating and finished it, but for what? None of these final answers make any sense to me. And giving the first name away in some of the clues but not others made it feel as if it were not carefully thought out enough. And doesn't it undermine the whole point by giving the first name away? Ultimately the completed answers were not worthy of the effort to figure them out. Basically gobbledygook, with the exception of the very fine clue about Harry Houdini. I've never heard of most of the people mentioned (although I did have a crush on Corey Hart once.) But that doesn't mean I wasn't able to do the puzzle. It just means it felt like a meaningless task. For these "clever" types of puzzles to succeed the end results have to be neatly tied up together rather than some disparate array of unrelated items. Vanilla Ice was a lousy rap singer but he deserves better than "Vice Unit" as an answer. Who calls an entourage a "unit"? Some overpaid publicist?

I think I'm going to take a break from the NYT puzzle for a while. I no longer enjoy doing it. I might even cancel my subscription. The LA Times puzzle, which I used to find wanting, is now much better than the NYT on a daily basis. And the WSJ one is excellent. If I am going to invest a half-hour or an hour on a puzzle I want to come away from it feeling that I accomplished something. I do not want to feel cheated or bamboozled or insulted. Maybe the world I used to know is indeed gone forever and such lackluster tripe as this puzzle today can be called "brilliant."

Anonymous 12:48 PM  

Anon@pain in the ass. You've been at it all morning. Sex might help. Or wood carving, basket weaving, ceramics, flower arranging, laying out dominoes in patterns and watching them fall, bread baking, horseshoes, ice skating, knitting, weaving lanyards, flower pressing, house plants started from seed, reading, Civil War reenactments, softball?

Do you just sit there all day and fume? Get a life already. And I voted for Trump but we don't appreciate your help.

Carola 12:54 PM  

I admired the idea and the constuction, but this one registered low on the delight meter for me. While I'd heard of most of the people, meaning: seen most of their names in print somewhere, I could only picture two of them (T. HANKS and C.ROCK). Put the rest in a line-up and I'd have to rely on gender and guesswork to sort them out. CHANDLER BING was doubly obscure. I actually googled it to see what kind of cherry I'd never heard of - how would it compare to Rainier or my beloved Montmorency?

But there was fun elsewhere: the parallel creatures ANTBEAR and MINOTAUR, the "why won't SPInndly fit?" revelation of SPIDERY, and the magical HARRY HOUDINI. And, fun to meet Annabel.

G.Harris 12:57 PM  

Hard to understand the big shtuss about the FBI's division. The Giant's division is the NFC East; that in no way suggests that the NFC is incorporated within the Giant's organization. Had fun with the puzzle but dnf because of erm,never having heard of Vanilla Ice.

Masked and Anonymous 1:09 PM  

@RP: Krazy Kat. George Herriman. Primo choice. fave katquote: "I'ma feelin Bee-ell-oo-oo-oo!" (After lil darlin Ignatz was placed in Jail for brick-throwin).

thUmbs way way Up for the theme idea. Different. Luv different. Clever and crafty -- also a big plus. Same as for other Comment Gallery folks here, some of the individual themers put up a heckuva fight, due to M&A not knowin the individual's name. It's sorta like a funny joke, but the punchline is partly written in French, or somesuch. Examples:

* C.LOVE - yep. (knew the name)
* P.ROSE - yep.
* S.CURRY - nope.
* M.ALI - yep.
* C.HART - nyep. (vaguely familiar-soundin)
* T.HANKS - hell yep. Was in M&A's fave weird movie: "Joe Versus the Volcano".
* C.ROCK - yep.
* S. HARPER - nope.
* C.HANDLER - nope.
* HARRYHOUDINI - [yep. Great clue, so I included him here.]
* V.ICE - yep.
Soo … about a 65% "get it" experience, for m&e. A little less, if Nathaniel Ames also counts.

Enjoyed learnin about: RETCON (wanted REBOOT, at first). BRUV.
staff weeject pick: ERM. Can't beat havin a random snort, during the solvequest.
AWK and AUKS. har. awkwords.
staff desperation pick: SNES. Better clue: {Hidden thing in Loch Ness??}

Thanx, PBRODA & EAGARD.

Masked & Anonymo11Us


**gruntz**

Maruchka 1:20 PM  

As the beloved SUN RA often exclaimed, "Dangah! Dangah!"

What a SLOG, she thought, accompanied by easy fill and WTF?s. I was RANTing. And then - a miracle occurred waaay later on. Got it, got it, got it. Very clever and tricksy, kudos to Messrs. Broda and Agard.

Major hang-ups were -HA(c)Km (CIA/NSA doh) for -HANKS (steGeoscope? I thiNk not..); Arcs/BCCS (ABC RADIO? Kindergarten station runs sci-fi satire - not..).

Question: What are BCCS beside blind copies?

Oddly, never heard of RETCON before. What an oxymoron for our times. "Retroactive continuity" seems to be the new world order. Used to be called 'LYING' when factual-not-fictional, I vaguely recall.

Steve M 1:44 PM  

Not up my alley at all

Anonymous 1:47 PM  

Hey, fake Rex! The real Rex isn't at all hard to impersonate. In any puzzle that has a lot of theme, you'll find a lot of dubious fill. Make a list of it. Combine it into snappy remarks. Say the theme is stupid. Sneer at Will Shortz. You're done! It's that simple. How can you have got it so wrong here?

jae 1:48 PM  

Easy-medium for me. Delightful, liked it a bunch!

Anonymous 1:52 PM  

Just when I thought I could reliably predict Rex's verdict on the daily puzzle comes a stunner that completely upends my still fragile track record.
I solved by myself almost the entire puzzle. It was a slog and I could not make any sense of the theme. Even after reading Rex's explanation I still had difficulty understanding the theme or otherwise be impressed by the puzzle construction.
A construction feat? Perhaps. But I thought puzzles are written to provide enjoyment as well as challenge to the solver and financial rewards to the constructor.
This puzzle lost me midway. Random names that mean little to me.

Mohair Sam 1:57 PM  

I do believe we have trolls feeding the trolls today. Sigh.

@Flip - Cool post. Do more of that for us, ERM, golden agers. I knew retcon but had no idea it was short for "retroactive continuity". Neat to learn.

@Malsdemare - I thought I was the last person on earth using "Lord love a duck". Guess not.

Anyone arguing that soccer is boring compared to football hasn't been watching the NFL Wild Card games this weekend. Yawn.

mathgent 2:11 PM  

I enjoyed it mostly because my wife and I tag-teamed it. It's a lot of fun going back and forth on an entry.

Quite a few lively things here. Happy to learn RETCON. As a Warrior fan, liked SCURRY a lot.

I got a kick out of @Mohair Sam's proposing marijuana archery.

A few negative things, but more plusses. A minus.

GILL I. 2:12 PM  

Well, my hand-written thank you postcard is a drawing of two White-Throated Sparrows....Yay me.
I really really enjoyed this Sunday puzzle even though I didn't know what the hell I was doing.
"Anything! Anything at all!"..NAME IT. Okay, so I got the C ROCK POT and the C LOVE CIGARETTES. Now what? Who is Nathaniel Ames and what is he trying to prove? What am I doing here JEEVES? I didn't care because I was too busy enjoying the EASE ON CREEPIN SPIDERY HARRY HOUDINI's to even care.
I sorta had an inkling but it took coming here to really grasp the N Ames thing. I just kept thinking how incredibly different and neat this puzzle is.
Hey, I knew CHANDLER BING. My Dad is a CHANDLER and so is my youngest brother and his son. CHANDLER'S ROCK...BING, not so much.
I've played BEER DARTS. A bunch of us were camping in Bear River and most everyone was getting drunk on cheap beer - (probably Schlitz) and tossing darts at the cans trying to poke holes in the cans. I'm glad I stuck to wine...
Every time I see AL ROKER's name I think of his incredibly stupid admission on Dateline that he pooped his pants in the White House. Wouldn't you keep something like that inside your pants?
@flip...Thanks for the RETCON INFO.

Martín Abresch 2:13 PM  

The Downsizing of Nathaniel Ames is the first and only entry on my list of great crossword titles. I am, however, still a rather new solver. Do veterans recall any other fabulous titles.

BCCS at 1-Across was not a good sign (though I did like how BCC crossed BBC). It took me a while to suss out the initials in the theme answers. But once things got rolling, ooo-ey! I loved it!

Solid, inventive theme. Favorite answer: T. HANKS IN ADVANCE! Ha! Wonderful clue for P. ROSE POETRY ["Charlie Hustle is my name / I am banned from Hall of Fame," e.g.?]. I liked the wackiness of C. HANDLER BING [Cherry for talk show host Chelsea?].

And, by JEEVES, the fill had verve! After a week of (in my opinion) boring puzzles, it was a relief to get one so lively and fun. A MINOTAUR in a LEOTARD! MOZART on BBC RADIO and NU JAZZ MIX CDS! RETCON and URL HIJACKING! PERJURE and REVERB! SPIDERY ANT BEARS KIDNEYS! To constructors Peter Bronda and Erik Agard, all I can say is well done, BRUV(s), well done!

Wonderful clue for HARRY HOUDINI [He was buried in 1915 and died in 1926].

I recommend watching the BBC TV show SPOOKS, which goes by MI-5 here in the States. (Favorite character: Hermione Norris's Ros Myers.)

In the right mood, I love me some SUN RA Arkestra. I'm particularly fond of saxophonist John Gilmore's solo in Sketch. (I cued it up for y'all there.) Of all the tenor sax player to whom I've listened, Gilmore is the only one who can match Coltrane.

Thinking about the MALI EMPIRE, I'm reminded of Michael Palin's Sahara. His journey to Timbuktu—and into the desert beyond—is the high point of that mini-series. It's astounding to think of the Timbuktu Manuscripts and all the texts that have survived for centuries in that remote place.

To side track from that side track, it has occurred to me that, should human civilization suffer a terrible cataclysm, a city such as my home town of Seattle would not last long. The rain and damp will rot wood houses; the blackberry bushes will spread unchecked; an earthquake will bring down bridges, towers, and Space Needles. Archeologists working ten-thousand years in the future will not find much of Seattle. No, the city that seems best suited to preservation, the city which would be buried by the sands, hidden away in the desert for future archaelogists to uncover, the city through which future historians will interpret American civilization is ... Las Vegas. This seems appropriate to me. Somehow that neon monstrosity makes sense to me when interpreted as a monument to America—a time capsule constructed by the collective American unconscious.

@bilbo (7:59am) - You called Rex's handwriting "a study in how-to-write-quickly-for-speed-solving." My understanding is that speed-solvers write in lower case since it's faster than upper case.

@Paul Rippey (8:48am) - I'm no expert, but when I Google Malian Empire I get results for Mali Empire.

@Z (9:15am) - Agree on your one nit about having first names in the clues. It seemed to me like a hedge. Judging by some people's frustration with the proper names, perhaps it was justified.

Larry Gilstrap 2:30 PM  

Definitely torn on this Sunday effort. I admire the inclusion of all the clever, intricate, dense theme material. but I'm no constructor and the whole process seems baffling. Thinking up this stuff and then plugging it into squares, how do they do it? On the other hand, as pointed out by some, the cost of theme is the inclusion of some lackluster fill. Exhibit A: that grid spanner on the bottom line beginning at 119A.

I never heard of BCCS, so my comedy science fiction audio program began in Canada. They've been so nice to me every time I head up that way.

I never saw Friends, but my friends talked about it all the time. Also, never paid much attention to Chelsea Handler. The few times she's come across my desk, it seemed like she was trying too hard.

Are BEER DARTS anything like BEER Nuts? Let's turn drinking into a game, while we're at it. I just realized, after many years, why they sell ping-pong balls in the liquor aisles. Slow take.

Barbara 2:46 PM  

Sorry you all had such techno problems. I live in Hawaii and get the paper on my lawn in the am. Rex, if you love.snail.mail, why don't you buy the newspaper?? There are
other great things in it, too, after all, and who knows how much longer we'll have any of it

William Coddington 2:47 PM  

Right! Ali was the emperor of the boxing empire, hands (gloves) down. He was the sport of boxing in the 60's and 70's and was only the worldwide most-recognizable figure of the age, Rex.

chefwen 2:48 PM  

Loved it. Knew all the names except for Corey Hart and just had to work around that one. Got a little messed up when I had STAY OUT at 9D and SNEAK IN at 11D and took a stupid amount of time trying to figure out how OASE was some type of tempo. Felt like a complete idget when I finally got PUT and changed my sneak to CREEP. Lola to LULU caused me a little heartburn also. The rest was just fun, fun, fun.

Jonathan 2:57 PM  

Am I taking crazy pills? I thought SNES was common fill.

At any rate, it really shouldn't be any weirder than XBOX. It's a pretty common way to refer to one of the most successful and well-regarded consoles ever.

William Coddington 3:18 PM  

Well said.
I got DQ'd on 1 as I had ABCradio down and just now realized "loops in" is a contrived version of "keeps in the loop"...BCC, as in blind carbon copy.
Erm, d'oh!

Uncle John C 3:28 PM  


Although it was clued as that 70's TV show, I still feel that including ISIS mentally takes you away from the puzzle and leaves an aftertaste that we don't need.

Masked and Anonymous 3:41 PM  

p.s.
Coupla loose ends …

26A: {Game involving Sharp projectiles and alcohol}. Sounded kinda like the REXPARKER blog, at first blush. One thing that kept me from tryin it out was the "game" word.

Blog said: "I did manage to see the clues, but grid: still gone. So I opted for the "Print newspaper version" option and solved on paper like some kind of animal." -- Now, this remark could interpreted several different ways:
1. Solvin with pencil & paper entails de-evolution to some sorta primitive state. Can see that; it's the way M&A usually does it, so might have a QED on our hands, there.
2. Follow-up line, "My handwriting is so bad that even I can't stand it" could suggest that it is his handwritten that he considers to be animal-level.
3. The "animal" referred to could be a very noble beast pick. Lion. Cobra. Eagle. M&A has always highly-esteemed wiener dogs, personally.

yo, @Blu'Bel and mom. Looks like not as much snow, in yer neck of the woods. Also, Blu'Bel not lookin as tired, lately. Not havin to shovel as much snow can help, on that.

M&Also

Cassieopia 3:45 PM  

@M&A: "M&A has always highly-esteemed wiener dogs, personally."

Completely cracked me up.

OISK 3:45 PM  

I was surprised that ANYONE liked this puzzle, but seems I am part of a minority. I disliked this more than any Sunday of recent memory. Erm? SNES? Vice Unit? Nyro? (again...knew from crosswords only) MIXCDS? Those are actual gifts?? NuJazz? Really? Just put any two letters before jazz. I guess. Once I saw what the theme meant, I should have "scurried away," but I pressed on. BCCS? Clove cigarettes? Prose poetry? Ret con? Bruv? Osteen? Dap? (only from puzzles...)

Nevertheless, I finished with just one error, misspelling Al Roker as Rokor, and getting no help at all from the "any four letters" name of a game console. One interesting takeaway - didn't know that "tricep" was "informal." Full name is tricep Brachii.

Boos, hisses...

puzzle hoarder 3:45 PM  

The very NW corner was my only dnf. I've seen BCC before and annotated it along with what it stands for once in my Webster's. That wasn't enough for me to recall it today. ABCRADIO made little sense but I originally had PBS. For awhile I was puzzling over SLAVECIGARETTE and CRACKPOT. CLOVECIGARETTE was one of the numerous debut entries I got from the crosses. I don't like themes but at least this one was clever. A notable sticking point was misreading the 110D clue as "Drink something served hot." I finished the puzzle and I wondered why the word SAKE as in "heaven's sakes" was in there. I used to confuse the drink with the pen name too. In spite of all the new material this was an average solve as the majority of the fill was very familiar.
@lms yo gangsta!


Anonymous 4:09 PM  

Oh Jesus, God forbid we "normalize" ISIS!

Speaking of ISIS, we had the Egyptian Goddess of fertility along with ERIS, the Greek Goddess of discord.

Then we had Ares, the Greek God of war, and Aries the ram, first astrological sign in the zodiac.

Finally, we had AWK and AUK, clued in British crosswords as, "What A Vendor Does When Aggressively Trying To Sell His Wares"

But, let's get back to ISIS. If you're not into football and want a little late afternoon diversion, I propose a little trivia challenge. Its not really an exercise of memory. These days, its more a test of Google proficiency, so I have to try and make it hard. The first one to post the correct answer, gets bragging rights. That's all I can really offer. Have at it! Here are the clues:

A Dog whose Registered first name was ISIS.

The movie's star was a childhood actor killed in a vehicle crash early in life. He was best remembered for his role in a western.

The movie had a supporting actor who won 3 Academy Awards for Best Supporting Actor.

The movie had a supporting actor who later won an Academy Award for Best Actor.

The movie had a supporting actor who was also a well know band leader.

The movie was produced by a film icon who later won an Academy Award for Best Actor.

What was the movie?

Nancy 4:32 PM  

@Anon 4:09 -- "Goodbye My Lady", is, I believe, the answer. Now off to watch the Giants.

Carola 4:33 PM  

@Nancy, mais non! Off to watch the Pack!

Anonymous 4:38 PM  

Congrats Nancy! Google Skills or knowledge base? I was betting MAL would get it first.

Go Big Blue!

Anonymous 4:41 PM  

Trudeau, take heart!!! Some Americans actually knew who Stephen Harper was. Well, I suppose wonders never cease. I enjoyed the puzzle but rather concerned that we might be normalizing Chelsea Handler---surely we can find better role models. I learned another new Candadian pronunciation recently---the word "route" should be pronounced like "root". Some Canadians friends waited with bated breath during the reading of the magi who chose a different route. Fortunately, I guessed the correct pronunciation. After six years, I have learned to master words like lava, pasta, Obama, llama---the first 'a' is short, pronounced like the 'a' in 'cat'.

Numinous 4:44 PM  

H Cosell and M ALI: two of the most famous sparring partners ever!

Pro-drop alert: Took me a while to figure out N. Ames. I got CLOVE CIGARETTES before I figured it out. CROCK POT. Took me forever. I must have gotten all the way to T HANKS IN ADVANCE before it occurred to me and then I looked more closely at the title and went AHA! I had HTS off TROT and thought HOUDINI from the clue. Took me a moment to remember his name was HARRY. I saw the movie about him years ago and thought the ending was very sad. I was never a Friends watcher though I've seen a few syndicated episodes while waiting for something else to come on. I never knew CHANDLER's name was BING.

I'd say this was medium as it took me within seconds of my average for a Sunday. I enjoyed the workout and only had to google to verify the spelling of MINOTAUR once it was 95% filled in. I was going for The something for mister HANKS. I corrected a couple more letters that were obviously wrong and up came the iOs equivalent of MHP.

LindaPRmaven 5:15 PM  

An (unfortunately) rare delightful Sunday NYT but most welcome nonetheless. The theme was amusing, cleverly clued. How appropriate that Mohammed ALI is encased in MALIEMPIRE - new to me but we could all use a more pre-colonial African history. Non-theme on a high level too - happy to see Idomeneo clue for MOZART as it is one of my favorite operas period.

Thanks @Rex for a peek at Annabel!

Kenneth Wurman 5:24 PM  

I hope I never find my social security number on an invoice .. otherwise I give this puzzle an A+

Mohair Sam 5:26 PM  

@Cassieopia - Thank God it wasn't just me, that "wiener dog" crack from @M&A just tickled my funny bone too. I've been chuckling way too long.

Anonymous 5:30 PM  

how many C.Love cigarettes must you smoke to make Sun Ra sound good

chefwen 6:12 PM  

@Carola, I'm doing my part. Have my chefwen #12 Packer jersey on, drinking my Bloody Mary out of a Packer glass and my Packer purse is at my side. THE PACK just scored their 2nd touchdown WHOO YOO!!!

jazzmanchgo 6:19 PM  

I definitely think Sun Ra (to whom Rex admirably pays appropriate tribute) deserves more than the generic/borderline-snarky "old band leader" . . . no idea who (or what) a CHANDLER BING is . . .

Anonymous 6:21 PM  

In British novels, hesitating characters say "erm..." instead of "uhm...."

As I'm aging, I've started adding closed captions to British shows.
I was delighted to see that when the actors say what clearly sounds like "uhm.." to an American, the caption is "erm...."

Nancy 6:24 PM  

@Anon 4:09 -- I Googled. Certainly, I'd never heard of "Goodbye My Lady". Has anyone? Happily, my Google skills are everything that my tech skills are not. Googling requires no tech knowledge at all (for which I'm very grateful!) Just a logical mind and the ability to home in on what's central to the query and what isn't. But who is MAL and why did you think that he/she would be faster? :)

I'm alternately cheering and suffering over the Giants. Thought they were looking so good, up until about 8 minutes ago. Now, at halftime, I'm not so sure. @Carola, you surely do have a terrific quarterback -- one who I frankly think is greater than our quarterback. But I also don't think it's all Eli's fault. He's mostly looked quite sharp today; it's Beckham who has been especially butter-fingered. Oh well, on to the 2nd half. I won't say may the best team win, because that may not give me the result I want.

chefbea 6:51 PM  

Go Giants!!!!!

Aketi 7:11 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous 7:12 PM  

@Nancy:

I don't know what you employ as your primary search engine? Most people just use the "search box" on whatever browser they're running. The first few search engines I ran using Dog/Isis referred me to Downtown Abbey. I was overly confidant that the connection was obscure enough to be somewhat challenging. Obviously it wasn't.

One would have to be well over 65 to remember the movie Goodbye My Lady. I read the book first, and it left a lasting impression on me. In my early life, it was the epitome of the canine tear-jerker. Old Yeller came next, and then the H-Bomb of all, Where The Red Fern Grows. I could never bring myself to watch that movie again! Been through it too many times in real life!

Mal is Maldsdemare. She's the only person on this blog who might actually loves dogs more than I do? If dogs could talk, I might never interact with humans? Well, maybe for sex?

Back to the Giants. They're coaches are screwing up the play calling as usual. Very bad choices! Going for the bomb on second down deep in there own territory, then failing to convert on third down and forcing a punt. Greenbay gets excellent field position and turns it into an immediate touchdown! Then, the Giant's coaches go all "conservative", and don't go for a full-on blitz with 2 seconds left in the half? What the hell were they thinking? Could the results have been any worse if the blitz was picked up? Play-off caliber teams don't allow the opposition to complete a touchdown pass with 2 seconds left on the clock!

If the Giants lose this game, it's on the coaching staff!

Aketi 7:15 PM  

Well Rex may not have been his usual grumpy self today, but I made up for it T HANKS to
-The app fall last night
-The dh refusing do go out in the snow and hunt down a NY Times paper at 11:00 pm night
-The app fail after reinstalling it this morning when the dh was finally willing to forage for the paper
-The pencil marks that were too light to read on the slick NY Times magazine paper
-The pen that wouldn't write on the paper either
-Throwing out an assorted array of pens that didn't write on the paper
-Trying to read the teeny weeny clues while my dh was hogging the light and the bed as we were team solving
-ERM! Seriously? ERM?
-Forgetting the name of the weather guy from the Today show who watched his son take his black belt in the same group with me. I just knew it had to be the answer. A name similar to ROCK ..... Oh, yeah they called his son ROKE. Whew. I actually didn't recognize AL ROKER in person either because he had lost so much weight. It was only after the black belt test that someone explained to me that he was the guy who was standing right next to me taking pictures of his kid.

If I didn't hate the smell of it so much, I could have used a little of C ROCK's POT to chillax. Actually it did help me get the theme,

M&A's comment about weiner dogs did a better job of diminishing my grumpiness.

@anon 4:41pn, my dh is one of those Americans, I am not.

After spending much of my morning uninstalling and reinstalling the app for the iPad, if anyone has any brilliant suggestions for how to fix it, feel free to explain.

Aketi 7:21 PM  

I can C LOVEing BEER DARTS after a cold grumpy day.

evil doug 7:38 PM  

Eli has sucked ever since he refused to play for San Diego, the prima Donna punk.

Anonymous 7:45 PM  

@Evil Doug:

Agreed! If not for Colin Kaepernick, Eli would be the most over rated QB in the NFL.

Nancy 8:08 PM  

@Anon 4:09 & 7:12 -- Re my search: I just typed directly into the Search box, I wouldn't know what else to do. (I use Google Chrome; I used to use Internet Explorer; does it matter?) I typed "child actor killed in car crash" first, but I got everything from Princess Diana who wasn't an actor to Heath Ledger who died of a drug overdose. That was not working well. So then I typed in "movie dog Isis", and like you, I got "Downton Abbey" first. I was sure that was wrong. I scrolled down through many, many Downton refs and finally got to a dog named Isis in a movie called "Goodbye My Lady," starring Brandon de Wilde. Aha, I thought -- Brandon de Wilde was a child actor and he was in "Shane", a Western. To make absolutely sure, I typed in "Brandon de Wilde car crash" and the reference popped up. So I knew that was the answer.

Re: the Giants. Not having ever played football, I never have any idea whom to blame for a debacle. I have felt all year that the Giants have a much better record than they deserve; that they're not that good nor that consistent; that Eli is over-rated and not one of the greats of this or any other era; and that the Giants' running game is beyond pathetic. @Evil was perhaps trying to get my goat just now, but he didn't -- you're not telling me anything I don't already know, @Evil. Breathes there anyone as jaundiced and cynical as a too-oft-disappointed Giants fan? Congrats @Carola and @Chefwen -- you have an exciting, likeable team, and I wish you well in the post-season.

chefwen 8:20 PM  

Thanks @Nancy, I"m a pretty happy Cheesehead right now!

Anonymous 8:54 PM  

@Nancy:

Very good sleuthing! You did everything right. I was trying to throw most people off the scent with Brandon, but should have said young actor instead of childhood actor.
If I had done that, many would have thought of James Dean. Edna Ferber's novel "Giant" wasn't really a western, but the combination of "young actor" and "death in a vehicle crash" would have sent many down a rabbit hole.

For a totally obscure movie that virtually no one knows, it is a classic. Walter Brennan (Three Oscars), Sidney Poitier, (One Oscar), Ed Harris the band leader, and producer John Wayne, best actor for True Grit.

Well done!

Anonymous 8:56 PM  

Eli has had an ok career. He isn't overrated 'cause he's not that highly rated. He's been a middle of the road qb who had two magical runs. Tough to blame him for the San Diego situation he just I'd what Archie told him to.

Carola 9:09 PM  

@Nancy, thank you. I'm not sure how long you've been a Giants fan, but do you remember the old days of black & white NFL highlights on TV? My brother and I used to reenact them in our front yard, and our favorite combination was Tittle to Gifford, even ahead of Starr to Dowler (a good thing my dad didn't know that, in our Lombardi-revering home). I was 8 years older than my brother so got to be quarterback. Always.

Anonymous 9:29 PM  

ERM. What about the crossword?

Roo Monster 9:38 PM  

@evil and @Nancy,
Steelers fan here. No problems with the Giants. Always liked them. Eli will always hold a high esteem to me because of his Super Bowl wins over those lying, cheating, piece of shit Patriots. Absolutely hate the Asstriots (my name for the Patriots). Did you know the year they went 16-0, if they won that SB, they were going to lobby to Patent 19-0? The arrogance.

They cheat, you cannot tell me they don't. Remember SpyGate? They were fined for that as a team and Belicheat individually. You don't get fined if you didn't do anything. Remember the Tuck Rule? The game against the Raiders? That was a fumble if there was ever a fumble. And of course, DeflateGate. Cheating sons of bitches.

Did I mention I hate them? Go Eli!

RooMonster

Anonymous 9:44 PM  

O dear, my name has been invoked and it's not political; thank you, gods. And, yes, dogs are my generally preferred company (except in the instance anonymous already alluded to), but the movie clues were lost on me. The only Isis I know, other than the obvious one, is the yellow lab from "Downton Abbey." Otherwise, I don't go to movies or watch at home; I'm a reader, through and through, much to the disappointment of my family. I can occasionally be tempted to climb out of good book by something dazzling ("Grace and Frankie" is my latest delicious pleasure) but I'm the woman who saw "White Christmas" and "Miracle on 34th Street" for the first time this year (and they confirmed my belief in the superiority of books.) I keep meaning to rectify my total dearth of movie knowledge -- I'm perfectly capable of downloading a desirable movie from Netflix or Hulu -- but a fire and a book are so much more tempting.

I admire @Nancy for her tenaciousness in finding the movie reference. That's one of those places, where if it had been a puzzle, I would have let the crosses do the job --- or not.

In other news, Mr. Mal has told me five times thus far that the Pack won. Oops, six. And counting.

Malsdemare 9:51 PM  

@Aketi Is the iOS on your iPad up to date? If not, update it, and try again.

@ M&A. I grew up with wiener dogs; I'm still chuckling. Thanks!

Malsdemare 9:52 PM  

Huh! Somehow my comment came up as anonymous. Sorry folks. I take full credit for the following:

Anonymous Anonymous said...
O dear, my name has been invoked and it's not political; thank you, gods. And, yes, dogs are my generally preferred company (except in the instance anonymous already alluded to), but the movie clues were lost on me. The only Isis I know, other than the obvious one, is the yellow lab from "Downton Abbey." Otherwise, I don't go to movies or watch at home; I'm a reader, through and through, much to the disappointment of my family. I can occasionally be tempted to climb out of good book by something dazzling ("Grace and Frankie" is my latest delicious pleasure) but I'm the woman who saw "White Christmas" and "Miracle on 34th Street" for the first time this year (and they confirmed my belief in the superiority of books.) I keep meaning to rectify my total dearth of movie knowledge -- I'm perfectly capable of downloading a desirable movie from Netflix or Hulu -- but a fire and a book are so much more tempting.

I admire @Nancy for her tenaciousness in finding the movie reference. That's one of those places, where if it had been a puzzle, I would have let the crosses do the job --- or not.

In other news, Mr. Mal has told me five times thus far that the Pack won. Oops, six. And counting.

Chaos344 10:14 PM  

@Mals:

Very informative post regarding your view of movies and books. Reading and literature has always been my first love, ever since my 5th grade teacher gave me an A for my book report on Wuthering Heights. It was obviously way above my perceived comprehension? I've been looking for my Catherine ever since. Been through about 200 so far, but haven't given up hope yet?

I would definitely suggest that you read Goodbye My Lady. Its bearable. Don't know where you might locate or be able to watch the movie? Stay away from Where The Red Fern Grows, but you MUST watch Eight Below!
Your love of Malamutes and similar breeds demands that you do! I would never steer you wrong!

Anonymous 10:16 PM  

@Mals:

Very informative post regarding your view of movies and books. Reading and literature has always been my first love, ever since my 5th grade teacher gave me an A for my book report on Wuthering Heights. It was obviously way above my perceived comprehension? I've been looking for my Catherine ever since. Been through about 200 so far, but haven't given up hope yet?

I would definitely suggest that you read Goodbye My Lady. Its bearable. Don't know where you might locate or be able to watch the movie? Stay away from Where The Red Fern Grows, but you MUST watch Eight Below!
Your love of Malamutes and similar breeds demands that you do! I would never steer you wrong!

Malsdemare 10:39 PM  

@Chaos. I deeply appreciate your recommendation but there is NO WAY IN HELL I could watch "Eight Below." Call me a wimp, a bleeding heart, but -- I've avoided that movie with every fiber of my being since it came out. I know the dogs get out; that doesn't help me cope with the idea that they got left in the first place. Hell, I won't watch "Dances with Wolves" ever again. I happily watched "Diehard" this Christmas, love all sorts of fairly violent movies (well, those I've seen), but when art gets too close to life, I get cringy.

You need to find a Catherine who's looking for Heathcliff. She may be hard to find; not every woman would swoon over that dude (I never saw the attraction there although Mr. Rochester got me good).

Mitchell Donna 12:55 AM  

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Elle54 7:25 AM  

Oh Chandler Bing..what a great character. Love that you married Monica Gellar. Could you BE any cuter?

Wm. C. 9:00 AM  


@Roo --

Does this, by any chance, mean you won't be rooting for my Patriots against tha Astros? ;-)

Go TB12!

Anonymous 1:39 PM  

Two questions:

1) What kind of invoice has SSNS on it?

2) Isn't the plural of ex "exes," not EXS?

Rina 11:45 AM  

Rex's enthusiasm here is a mystery, except the puzzle was fun. Googled "MIC drop", afterwards, only to discover it's exactly what I imagined it might be. Though I sussed the theme immediately, I didn't suss the title 'til afterwards. AWK/AUKS, ARES/ARIES; happy little accidents. Unless the IRS1040-ES (quarterly estimated tax) form is also an invoice, SSNS would never be an "invoice fig".

Blogger 8:29 AM  

VaporFi is the highest quality electronic cigarettes supplier on the market.

David Storrs 9:34 AM  

Why is this post permitted? We don't need political rants on a crossword blog.

David Storrs 9:38 AM  

When you bcc someone on a memo, you are "looping them in" on the discussion.

David Storrs 9:47 AM  

Rex, these anonymous dingbats should be banned. How about no anonymous posts?

Uke Xensen 9:11 PM  

Easy but dull. Did not like the inane theme. I don't understand the praise for this one.

Anthony 11:34 AM  

One of Sun Ra's more famous (infamous?) quotes: "History is his story, but my story is a mystery." He was absurd and, at times, difficult to take seriously, but there was no question as to his musicianship.

spacecraft 11:34 AM  

Okay, I know I decry what I call "the Age of Taking Offense," but doggone it, I DO take offense. Though of course scientifically correct, I object to being called "some kind of animal." I solve on paper, and I hereby and for the public record demand an apology from Michael Sharp. Such utter snobbery is beyond the pale. Now we'll find out if he reads any of the syndicated blogs--because I really do expect a response.

As to the puzzle, I knew it was going to be a DNF right from square one--literally. What in the WORLD is "BCCS?" What does that have to do with loops? The _CCS part was tightly locked in, but no letter made sense. I might have gone with ARCS...but then I'd have ROLAWARS. And there were more WOEs.

I've never heard of "CLOVE" CIGARETTES. The very idea of "BEERDARTS" is stupidly dangerous; yes, folks do consume suds while playing 6-11-cork etc., but to call it that? As if drinking were an actual REQUIREMENT? I'll pass.

More confusing is PROSEPOETRY. How's that again? At that point, having already gotten the theme (the puzzle title makes that nearly a "duh"), I just put it down. I may be dense for not knowing 1-across--most likely a tech thing--but as the Elephant Man said:

"I am not an animal. I am a human being."

rondo 12:56 PM  

Well, there's 45 minutes I'll never get back. Did a narrow strip down the east side then some in the west before finding the theme at SCURRYAWAY. CHANDLERBING should be disqualified for many reasons, but mostly because all the rest are actually real, live people, while CHANDLERBING is not. Foul. Hanky. Red card. Black flag. KO. DQ. Missed a gate. Toss him. Only redeeming quality of that answer is yeah baby Chelsea HANDLER. But give due props for volume of theme fill.
ARES ARIES AUK AUKS to this puz otherwise. ERM? Kind of a SLOG.

Teedmn 1:12 PM  

@spacecraft, BCCS means Blind Carbon CopieS in email lingo. So you are looping someone into the email thread by including them in a BCC. (Carbon Copy so used being another one of those anachronisms like dialing someone on the phone.)

rain forest 2:11 PM  

Only after finishing the puzzle did I figure out the title. If anyone saw that before starting, then you are a better man than I, or else you have ESP.

I knew all the names except for Chelsea HANDLER, and never heard of CHANDLER BING - is that a person?

Some wincey stuff in here, but a pretty nifty effort, in my opinion, if not actually brilliant. I did enjoy the solve though I've never said "ERM", and never hope to.

Gotta go. Things to do.

Burma Shave 2:37 PM  

RETCON WHIZ

A HOTSHOT of SAKE and CLOVECIGARETTES,
SANJOSE hockey and ANTBEARS as pets,
a VICEUNIT CROCKPOT and NUJAZZ, you say?
Let's REVERB some MOZART then SCURRYAWAY
to DUEL at BEERDARTS with old CHANDLERBING
and a CHARTTOPPER TART - ENYA, the RARE USUAL thing.

--- IKE HEEP-HOUSE

Diana,LIW 2:59 PM  

There it was. Just about in the middle. SLOG I was so certain Rex would vomit out a review today but, like Mikey, he liked it! He liked it!

I got the trick pretty quickly, and did enjoy the themers for that. But ERM? Why not come up with a clue for BLEECHEEGHF?!I mean, I've "heard" it.

Now, full disclosure, my mood is not the best. I have no kitchen, the floors in the LR and DR are covered in plastic, everything that should be in a kitchen is in a bag...somewhere. The cats are going nuts, my laptop is on the dresser instead of the kitchen counter (where I can sit!), one cat refuses to even try to walk on the plastic, but cries if I'm trying to sit in the LR. Husband keeps moving my glasses (eye and drinking) on me. Rant over.

But upon reviewing it, the puzzle was better than I remembered. And I love me some JEEVES

Did anyone mention the plethora of double letters? I don't read all the comments, standing up in front of the dresser puts a crick in my neck. Hey, someone put "crick" in a puzzle, quick.

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for a new subfloor on Monday.

rondo 3:13 PM  

Almost forgot, besides the ARES ARIES AWK AUKS there is also OER OARS. Missing is Buenos AIRES, airy eagles' AERIES, Bobby ORR, or gold ORE.

The DAP Kings play on Sturgill Simpson's latest album. It will win a Grammy. Guaranteed. IDBET the HOUSE on it.

Anonymous 3:20 PM  

Loved the title. Had no idea what it meant, but the word "downsizing" clued me in that that who he was was not going to be important. I assumed some sort of N/A rebus and started in on the solve.

Had SAVE in place when I got to the Courtney clue and wondered what that V was doing in the 5th square instead of the 4th. Still working NW corner, I got C.ROCK right away and had the theme right then.

About halfway through my solve I remembered that title and glanced up at it again to see what was all about. Ah, N.AMES.

Favorite theme answer was V.ICE SQUAD. Which of course wasn't the actual answer and that's my biggest gripe with this puzzle: too many things that people just don't say, made up phrases, words that aren't words, and, ERM...that.

I just knew Rex was going to destroy this one.

Diana,LIW 4:45 PM  

@Rondo - don't forget Mel OTT.

D,LIW

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leftcoastTAM 3:03 AM  

Late, late, late. Other priorities. Many WOES through this SLOG. Got the theme but Nathaniel Ames is a complete stranger. So were several of the theme names. Quit when I got to the SE. ERM?

Phillip Blackerby 1:49 AM  

Me too.

Phillip Blackerby 1:51 AM  

Dele

Phillip Blackerby 1:55 AM  

Never watched it. Culturally deprived, but I don't have hundreds of half hours of my life wasted.

Anonymous 12:25 PM  

It's Prose Poetry not Empire. So I think the question may be moot.

Anonymous 12:31 PM  

Also, how does Thanks in Advance not fit? Tom Hanks=Thanks, Mohammed Ali=Mali, etc. It's a common phrase or term and it goes perfectly with the clue. Tom Hanks is a best actor winner and if he's early he's here in advance. C'mon.

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