Letter carrier at Hogwarts / WED 5-24-17 / Initialism whose third initial often isn't true / High airfare season for short / 20th century author famous for her journals

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Constructor: Michael Hawkins

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: "... as a plumber?" — ordinary phrases are clued as if they had something to do with a plumber's behavior:

Theme answers:
  • RUNS HOT AND COLD (20A: Vacillates, as a plumber?)
  • ALL TAPPED OUT (26A: Exhausted, as a plumber?)  (I've heard TAPPED OUT on its own, but add the "ALL" and then I've only heard ALL TIRED OUT or ALL TUCKERED OUT)
  • DOWN THE DRAIN (43A: Wasted, to a plumber?)
  • SINKING FEELING (52A: Anxiety, to a plumber?)
Word of the Day: Buddy EBSEN (62A: Actor Buddy of "The Beverly Hillbillies") —
Christian Ludolf "Buddy" Ebsen (Jr) (April 2, 1908 – July 6, 2003) was an American singer, dancer, author, film, television and character actor, whose career spanned seven decades. He had also appeared as a guest on several talk and variety shows. The SAG-AFTRA records also show him as Frank "Buddy" Ebsen. // Originally a dancer, Ebsen began his long career in films in 1935, beginning with Jack Benny in Broadway Melody of 1936 (1935), Maureen O'Hara in They Met in Argentina (1941) and June Havoc in Sing Your Worries Away (1942). He also danced with child star Shirley Temple in Captain January (1936), released the same year. Cast as the Tin Man in 1939's The Wizard of Oz, Ebsen fell ill due to the aluminum dust in his makeup and was forced to drop out of the film. In Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961), he portrayed Doc Golightly, the much older husband of Audrey Hepburn's character. He also had a successful television career, including playing Davy Crockett's sidekick, George Russell, in Walt Disney's Davy Crockett miniseries (1953–54). But he is best remembered for starring in the CBS television sitcom The Beverly Hillbillies (1962–1971) as Jed Clampett. He also played the title character in the television detective drama Barnaby Jones (1973–1980), also on CBS. Ebsen had a cameo role in the 1993 film version of The Beverly Hillbillies, not as Jed Clampett, but as Barnaby Jones.
• • •

This is a fine puzzle if the year is 1987 ... is it? ... [looks at calendar] ... nope. Corny, tame puns, with mostly dull, well-worn (if not terrible) fill. Not much to say about this one. Themers all involve plumbing-related wordplay. Kind of a narrow definition of what plumbers do. Two answers related to taps, two related to sinks, which means they're all related to sinks, I guess. Nothing about leaks or drips or snakes or ... look, I don't know. What am I, a plumber? I just know these are very safe, not at all outlandish or funny or even interesting answers. The most interesting part of the puzzle, which was also the hardest part of the puzzle, was the SW corner, specifically those two long Downs. They were very tough to pick up—well, tough for me, as I made the mistake of writing ESL in at 40A: Lang. course (ENG.) (it could never have been ESL, of course, since the "L" *stands* for "Lang."). Both GAG WRITER and I'M NOT SURE feel like party-crashers, like they were in a different ballroom, at a much cooler party, and accidentally stumbled into a seminar on tax preparation. Anyway, that anomalous pair of answers, I liked. The rest you can have back.

I've given myself so many lessons on the EPSOM / EPSON / EBSEN distinction, but apparently none of the them have taken. It's the vowel-in-the-fourth-position that's the (primary) problem. EBS-N!? Maybe if I just remember that the P versions take the O and the B takes the E. Maybe? Probably not. STOKERS? That one also took me a while to pick up (41D: Steamship workers). I wasn't AGASP (!), it's just that "steamship" conjures up a whole mess of old-timeyness, and STOKERS wasn't in my mental picture. I don't think I even knew "stoker" was a specific job title. Nothing else about this puzzle caused me too much trouble, and I finished in the same time as yesterday, which was the same time as the day before. Weird week.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


jae 12:12 AM  

Easier than yesterday's and cute. Liked the theme answers, like the long downs, liked it more than @Rex did. Hey, Mamma MIA is still running and there was a GOT clue.

Larry Gilstrap 12:58 AM  

Nice Wednesday effort. Plumbers don't come cheap, tell me about it! I own an old home and this last year allowed me to be on a first name basis with Kevin, his son Josh, and Manuel, the guy who does the dirty work. Hopefully, we can take a break from that relationship. I've done some plumbing and it is more an art than a science. Add the factor that the work is done standing on one's head upside down and backwards in tight quarters. The White House isn't the only place that had problems with leaks.

I've always thought of vacillates as more Blows HOT AND COLD. I like that phrase and use it. It's more meteorological. It's ALL TAPPED OUT in my world, sorry OFL. Fortunately, Carlee's wasn't and was pouring Sierra Nevada Pale ALE again tonight. I try not to SEE DOUBLE, which often leads to feeling single, or so I've heard.

Anybody remember in the late 70s when XMAS was driven out of popular usage? Something about disrespect of Christmas.

53A is a great clue, I M Humble O.

Unknown 1:26 AM  

The IMHO clue was really great

CDilly52 2:32 AM  

Easy beezy Wednesday. I do agree that the "ALL" with "TAPPED OUT" is odd and redundant:
"Alice, can you spot me for lunch today? I forgot my wallet."
"Sorry, Joan, payday is not 'til next week and I'm TAPPED OUT." The "al" isn't appropriate.

And so many other plumber opportunities with great plumber words: FLUSH, GAS, HOT WATER.....could have been a much richer theme. But overall an adequate Wednesday.

chefwen 2:43 AM  

Husband was a manufacturers rep. In the plumbing industry for forty years, this was like child's play for me. I think it would have been regardless. I was done in under 10 minutes (pen on paper) that is lightening fast for me.

One write over EBSoN before EBSEN.

My neighbor still likes to give me WETLY kisses, my sharp head turning at the last second still hasn't clued him in. YEECH!

Jeff Keller 3:25 AM  

The plumbing references were corny, but made me smile. Buddy Ebsen was a household name when I was growing up so a gimme for me. Easy fill elsewhere too.

Loren Muse Smith 3:43 AM  

Any puzzle with bathroom humor is ok by me. I couldn’t think of anything that would work with “leak” or “drip.” I guess the plumber (HERO) could have pipe dreams. Honestly, I was kinda expecting some kind of “crack” joke.

@Larry – I’ve always said you have to be a contortionist to be an effective plumber. And I got a kick out of your SEE DOUBLE/feel single joke.

My furntiture store display was “suite” before SOFAS.

How funny that OED is in the grid today. Yesterday for the first time, I used mine the way it was meant to be used. I’m taking a literature class for my certification, and I had to look up four words in the poem “Aftermath” – the textbook even suggested looking in an OED. Ok. So it was my planning period. I opened my door, lugged the behemoth over to a table, got out the magnifying glass, and really took my time because I was hoping someone would happen by and catch me mid-word-look-up. It was my plan to go for a casual, off-hand vibe...

What on earth are you doing?
Oh, I have to look up a couple of words to see what they used to mean.
Is that a magnifying glass?
Oh, this thing? Yeah – you can’t read the words without it.

If everything had gone according to plan, the unsuspecting teacher would have left my room deeply impressed with what an erudite and serious scholar I was and appreciative that I wasn’t all stuck-up about it. But no one stopped by. Oh well. Serves me right.

Back in the days when the high school wouldn’t even unlock the stadium bathrooms for our Saturday lacrosse games and I’m not making that up, I had to spend a lot of our team’s limited money to rent a porta-potty. So the company was yer basic, wait for it……

dear john letter.

Charles Flaster 3:49 AM  

Liked it but Tuesday easy.
GAG WRITER and ASPHALT were favorite answers.
11 down should read "Booths are set up ON them".
TREES near EAVES and the associated misdirect is cute.
Thanks MH

chefwen 3:55 AM  

@Loren - You would feel right at home here with the potty humor. Toilet salesman's favorite line "Your sh*t is my bread and butter". Do not read this before breakfast, OOPS, too late, sorry.

Charles in Austin 4:14 AM  

To @Loren at 3:43 AM:

Congratulations on the perfect TRIPLE PUN!

Very rare.

Hungry Mother 6:14 AM  

Very easy. I had "ink" instead of ILK for a while and was looking for a mountain range momentarily.

Lewis 6:20 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
BarbieBarbie 6:27 AM  

One writeover, but it was a doozy. I had ALLpooPPEDOUT. [red face]

Lewis 6:27 AM  

@loren -- Masterful, a simply masterful pun.

I didn't think SHARP would be PSYCHED about this one, and he wasn't, but then again, he was relatively kind. Nothing popped out at me as particularly good or bad -- as most car designs these days, by the way -- and it solved smoothly, like a Tuesday, I did like the NOD TO the theme in WETLY.

Michael, the constructor, in his notes, says that the cluing for the theme answers wasn't originally plumbing related. I hope he chimes in here and lets us know what they originally were!

I once found out something plumbers value, something that apparently is responsible for a good piece of their income. We had a clogged shower/tub and I told the plumber I would have snaked it myself but I couldn't remove that darned plus-shaped metal piece right in the drain hole. At which point the plumber's eyes took on a glow, and with great reverence, he pulled something out of his bag and said, "Ah, the golden tool."

BarbieBarbie 6:28 AM  

With one P in the middle

Mr. B 7:16 AM  

I finished faster than my Wed average... but IMNOTSURE what the connection was between corners and TREES.
Had to mull that one over for awhile. Trying to think of a sentence using TREES in that context: ...the hunting dogs chases and eventually trees the bear. DOH...still sounds weird IMHO.

...but a nice midweek puzzle.
Thanks Mr. Hawkins...
Happy Hump Day

kitshef 7:22 AM  

Played hard for me, mostly due to that SW. AaS before AHS made EIGHT really hard to see, fell for Esl before ENG, thinking art for sketch. Nothing dramatic, just little speed bumps along the way.

Had only two mental pluses - MIDST and NAIF. Only two mental minuses, but they were both double-minuses - IMNOTSURE and NODTO.

So ... a workmanlike effort, appropriate for a plumber theme I suppose. Alas, not much fun.

kitshef 7:24 AM  

Hand up for ALL TAPPED OUT over TAPPED OUT. The latter sounds odd unless you are describing a MMA fight.

Cathy 7:32 AM  

I loved imho - so witty

Glimmerglass 7:35 AM  

Let me get this straight, Rex. This would have been a good puzzle 30 years ago, but not today. Yet NYT puzzles today are not up to NYT puzzles of the past. Isn't there a contradiction there somewhere?

Two Ponies 7:50 AM  

As Rex pointed out, ESL was not the answer because the word Language was in the clue. If you do puzzles from other editors you see that helpful rules like that are not always followed. Despite the frequent critical comments about Will's editing skills, solving other puzzles makes me appreciate him.

Too bad Buddy Ebsen could not complete the Tin Man role. Jack Haley was the weakest actor in the cast IMHO.

M. David Hornbuckle 8:02 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
r.alphbunker 8:14 AM  

The fill in this puzzle fared very well in Jeff Chen's word list. All answers were rated 50 and above and ALLTAPPEDOUT, RUNSHOTANDCOLD and DOWNTHEDRAIN were new.

Unusually large number of cascos for a Wednesday puzzle:
11A. {Body-scanning grp.} AMA-->TSA
19A. {Give the O.K.} VET-->LET
16A. {Poetic contraction} EER-->OER
40A. {Lang. course} ESL-->ENG
33D. {One doing sketch work?} GELWRITER-->GAGWRITER
26A {Exhausted, as a plumber?} ALLPOOPEDOUT-->ALLTAPPEDOUT Hi @BarbieBarbie

Details are here.

TomAz 8:15 AM  

This was fine. Rex's write-up was fine, though I thought he was too negative. But i loved the bit about the tax preparation seminar.

I also thought this was super-easy. Count me on team ALLpooPED OUT as well.

Aketi 8:22 AM  

HAHA @LMS, I stupidly started to read your post after drinking too much coffee. Fortunately, I'm at home where the plumbing is conveniently located and not on a lacrosse field where, at least in my experience, it never is.

I was PSYCHED up to watch what turned out the be my son's last ever high school lacrosse game. Since they don't have a home field, It was played on an island that is inconveniently located for all means of transportation. You do have to have to use a TOLL ROAD if you drive. The only public transportation is a bus. The only people who use the bus are a few parents going to watch their kids games on the island and people going to the Manhattan PSYCHiatric Center that is located next to the playing fields. So of course there was the requisite rider who was SEEing DOUBLE and the rider ARGUEing with herself. For the most part, though, there were no MEANYs on the bus. In fact the riders were helpful to a NAÏF like me trying to figure out where to get off for Field 81.

I arrived at Field 81 as planned a full 30 minutes before the game thinking I had plenty of time to deal with the fact that I had ingested too much coffee. One team was warming up, but it was not the team my son was expected to play. I texted my son asking where they were and he texted back Field 81. I texted back a photo of the sign for Field 81 and the wrong team on that field. No response. So for the next 45 minutes I queried every ref and coach I found about where my son's team could possibly be playing while futilely texting my nonresponsive son. I spotted a kid wearing a tee shirt from my son's school who was wandering around with his aunt also searching for the field where his brother was playing. We went to every single field. My son's team had been moved to a field that was the farthest possible from Field 81. They were almost done with the first quarter and tied 4:4 and I had the SINKING FEELING about the location of the fascilities. Of course they were back near Field 81! Talk about AGONY.

@kitchef, yes I was ALL TAPPED OUT after getting to that Lacrosse game, which is different than when I TAPPED OUT to the mere attempt at a knee bar after the take down that took OUT my ACL.

@BarbieBarbie there is a DOUBLE P near the middle; a SEPTET of them in the whole puzzle; one shy of EIGHT.

SM28 8:22 AM  

Nothing like working your way through a hard corner (same as Rex for me, the SW, where I eventually figured the trick on "sketch worker" but wanted it to be "SNL writer" instead of GAGWRITER) just to look back and see you forgot again whether a group of 7 is a SEPTET or a sextet or a sestet or a heptet. Only now does my browser's spellcheck tell me the last two aren't even words. Fairly enjoyable puzzle for me, technically a DNF but no big complaints.

SM28 8:25 AM  

Also, am I the only one who had bits of "All" and "Out" in ALLTAPPEDOUT and immediately threw "All Pooped Out" in there? Just me? Oh well.

chefbea 8:27 AM  

What a fun puzzle...Have to show it to our friend who is a plumber...he never has a sinking feeling. Puzzle husband used to work for Avon...not ringing doorbells...in merchandise control!!

QuasiMojo 8:30 AM  

Call me a drip, but I kinda liked this one.

IMHO this was a coded NOD TO @Loren Muse Smith's funny anecdote about flushing mishaps.

I'm surprised that there are no Watergate jokes yet, considering the usual political tone on here.

Aketi 8:33 AM  

@SM28, my brain LOBES were scrubbed of that alternative possibility due to the TMI EW episode I experienced on the subway on the same day that it appeared in a recent puzzle.

puzzlehoarder 8:51 AM  

I was amazed to see the "POW" designation at xwordinfo. This was easier than yesterday's puzzle and what really stood out was it's blandness. IMNOTSURE was the only non-theme debut and you can't get much plainer than that. It wasn't that the puzzle was devoid of quality it was just so routine and the theme did nothing to redeem it.

Z 8:51 AM  

All the STOKERS I've ever met were named Bram.

@Lewis - My guess is that there was no reveal so the editor feared people wouldn't see the theme.

I think the the IMHO clue is insulting. The initialism is a signal that a writer recognizes the following is an opinion. The clue writer's response is "you arrogant snob." That's not witty, that is more like self-absorbed snobbery. And, yes, I've had that same thought, but rarely and usually for good reason.

neilmunroe 8:59 AM  

Not sure about the clue for 31D. You don't "ex" something out, you"x" it out. Therefore "exed" makes no sense to me. The answer to the clue given would be "x'ed".

Lewis 9:03 AM  

@z -- Ah, that makes a lot of sense!

Nancy 9:14 AM  

I was wondering who wakes up in the morning and says: Bingo! I think I'll create a puzzle based on plumber puns. Well, according to @Lewis, it wasn't the constructor. I wonder who it was? Anyway, I suppose the best answer to why plumber puns is why not? These were cute enough, though very easy.

My favorite clue was for IMHO (53D). But that's not the only answer that "often isn't true." LIKE NEW at 42D would qualify too.

Because I came down with a cold yesterday, I was hoping for a puzzle that would completely take my mind off my misery. This, alas, wasn't it. But tomorrow is Thursday, so maybe I'll get some real distraction then.

Barbara Hohenberg 9:14 AM  

Wetly gave me a big chuckle too, but I don't kiss and tell. Your YEECH is perfect!

Barbara Hohenberg 9:16 AM  


pmdm 9:17 AM  

Glimmerglass, if you read chefbea's comment ("What a fun puzzle." and Jeff Chen's comment at XWordInfo (puzzle of the week!), you might conclude the point of the writeup is not to be consistent but to be cranky and dour. To each their own. For me, a great puzzle that was easier than most Wednesday puzzles.

By the way, thanks to those of you who answered my comment yesterday, garbled as it was towards the end. No Nancy, I was not asking you specifically. And yes, kitshef, you reminded me that to be considered correct a clue need not be factually correct, a concept that pretty much upsets me. (I am obviously not a fan of Trump's world or the world of politics in general.) You saved me from wasting my time making a fruitless attempt to alert Mr. Shortz of the problem

Mohair Sam 9:19 AM  

Very nice Wednesday. We enjoyed. Plumber puns are always flush with possibilities.

@BarbieBarbie. Chuckled when I saw your ALLpooPEDOUT error. LOL'd when you came back to ensure us that you knew how to spell pooped.

Loved the clue for IMHO - I only use the the "H" when I absolutely, positively am not humble. @Charles Flaster makes a good point about 11D - I too prefer to find my TOLLBOOTHS "on" the road rather than "in" them. And hand up with @Rex about Buddy EBSEN, I'll never get that guy's spelling down.

ALLTAPPEDOUT. Oh yes Rex, the term existed in my world. The ALL was significant to those of us who frequented race tracks, and headed home in various stages of light-pocketedness a bit too often. "I don't want to stop at the diner on the way home because I'm TAPPED OUT" indicated that you'd lost too much and couldn't blow what little you had left on a burger and fries. "I'm ALL TAPPED OUT, somebody lend me change for the Triboro Bridge toll or we swim home" meant you were flat broke. The "ALL" was indeed significant.

Tita A 9:20 AM  

@SM28...you'll be the object of my slings and arrows, but I direct this at the multitudes who ask questions without looking to see if it's already been answered, or, if no time for reading, then just doing a simple search.

Helpful hint of the day...Ctrl-f or command -f will bring up a tiny window into which you can type "poop", and see all instances of that string on the page.
On a tablet or phone, use the browser menu and look for "Find", or "Find on page". Safari lets you type your search term right into the address bar...when you do, scroll down to the bottom of the list that gets presented to you, and choose the "On this page" option.

I must use this function a thousand times a day in just about any website I visit.

You're welcome.

On to the puzzle...cute idea, though would have been memorable with the addition of a crack, as per @lms... Maybe also a symmetrical TOI to balance LET.

While living in Germany, learned that the beautiful Lake Constance is merely a wide spot in its journey from the Alps to the North Sea. Visited it often...painfully quaint towns surround the lakeshore, and an island-turned-botanical-garden near the western shore is beautiful.

Tita A 9:23 AM  

In the RHINE's journey...

ArtO 9:29 AM  

I thought this was a damn good puzzle with the SW giving it enough crunch to run on Wednesday. As for plumbers, when I called our guy Jerry when we got back from Florida this April I told him it seems that we are his annuity and he doesn't need an IRA. He said that's basically the same with all his clients. There's always something at least once or twice a year.

Oldflappyfrommississappy 9:33 AM  

When in college I contracted the DRIP.

RnRGhost 9:35 AM  

Over the RHINE is a helluva band.

G. Weissman 9:51 AM  

Can someone please explain the answer to 14A Corners: TREES? Quibble: Are the SOFAS on the floor of a furniture store a display? I expected this answer to be the name of a kind of display, not the name of one kind of furniture you might see in a furniture store. Complaint: The reliance on three or four pretty obscure proper names is weak.

Unknown 9:53 AM  

Can someone please explain to me why the clue "corners" has the answer TREES??

Mohair Sam 9:55 AM  

@Aketi - Great anecdote.

@Z (8:51) - IMHO is normally used a bit in jest, as was the clue. Lighten up.

Anonymous 10:01 AM  

For all those critical of the puzzle, I say "pipe down"! Cute puzzle even though I wasn't ROFL. My friend who is a doctor and has developed a company that sold computer software for hospitals was tired of paying the plumber and his assistant $100/hour. So when an above-ground pipe broke, he went down to Home Depot and described the problems and asked them how to fix it. Then he went home and fixed it himself. Plumbers nowadays don't have just snakes. They have fancy video cameras to run through the lines just like a gastroenterologist. Maybe that is why they charge similar prices!! It is true that plumbers often make as much as doctors!

Wm. C. 10:19 AM  

@GWeissman & Unknown --

Re: Corners => Trees ...

A dog may "tree" a cat, by chasing it up a tree, or "corner" it by chasing it into a corner, blocking its retreat.

But yes, the clue/fill correspondence is a bit weak.

Nancy 10:26 AM  

@Aketi (8:22)-- You're a terrific GAG WRITER. Loved your anecdote, though I'm sure the experience was a lot more fun to blog about after the fact than to actually be in the MIDST of. Luckily, you'll never have to experience it again -- at least not at that particular and exceedingly UNcommodious place.

Joseph Michael 10:54 AM  

I plunged right in
and went with the flow
of the puzzle until I encountered
a clog in the NE
due to an "e'er" instead of an "o'er."
Had to wrench
my brain
to figure out what those "booths"
were set up "in."
Or were they actually "stalls?"
I did finally find the solution,
the clue still doesn't

Robert A. Simon 10:57 AM  

Growing up, all I knew was that the NYT puzzles got progressively harder from Monday to Sunday. But thanks to Rex's blog and all you commentators, I now know that Monday's solvers often use crayon, if it takes you longer than 5:00 to do a Tuesday, you are banned from making comments here for six months unless you've taken one of your kid's Adderalls, in which case which the ban jumps to five years. Wednesdays are usually just north of blah (like today's), Thursdays are the class clown in which, for example, you're supposed to be able to draw exact replicas of the original Monopoly tokens in the tiny little squares, as in "28A: Solve a problem," and the answer is "IRON OUT A DIFFICULTY," only "IRON" isn't letters, it's a picture of that stupid little iron nobody ever chose, and another one is the five-letter "WHEELBARROW RACES" clued by "Company outing embarrassments." Fridays are tough, but they're only a warm-up for Saturdays, which consist solely of three consecutive 15-letter downs crossing with five fifteen letter acrosses with the rest of the clues being a mix of Tibetan metaphors, badminton record holders, and the foods of rural Myanmar. And Sundays? Sundays just ain't what they used to be when Margaret Farrar was running things.

Z 11:09 AM  

@Mohair Sam - Interesting. I don't think so, though. The jest ones are things like IMAO (arrogant) and IMNSHO (not so humble). I'm sure there are instances of IMHO being used to mean the opposite, but as a general rule I see it used as a signifier that what follows is understood to be open to debate. And if the intended message is "I think this but I understand you might disagree" and the response is "you are arrogant for thinking/saying that" (which is what the clue is saying) the responder is the snob. I'll stick with "not witty, insulting."

GILL I. 11:19 AM  

What's the one thing you'll never see a plumber do? Bite his nails...
Another cute puzzle. But I agree with @Rex...it felt like it might have been constructed around the time that EBSEN became a hillbilly.
The only WETLY kiss I like is from my two pooches. ALL TAPPED OUT makes sense to me as told by @Mohair.
I had a best friend in the Palisades named Doreen Finckle. Her father owned a plumbing company and on the side of his trucks, he stenciled in Finckle Can Find It. She was embarrassed he was a plumber for some reason or another but they owned a mansion and her mom drove a jaguar. He also could tell endless plumbing jokes - none of which I remember or were even funny. He didn't care, he did a lot of laughing all the way to the bank.

jb129 11:22 AM  

Agree with Rex (again) & after a weird week (not including the last few weeks) this one was a pleasure. I enjoyed it.

mathgent 11:23 AM  

@Lewis. Thanks for recommending the Patrick Berry on Fireball. I got it yesterday and had great fun solving it. But not the meta -- I can't imagine anyone getting that. I am in awe of The Genius for creating it.

Michelle Turner 11:25 AM  

I always choose the iron!

Z 11:27 AM  

@Mohair Sam - To elaborate ad nauseum - The history of these initialisms is related to issues we see here on the blog related to plain text and the absence of body language. The reality of trying to communicate online, especially early on, was the ease with which one could easily be misunderstood because of the lack of additional signals provided by the medium. When I looked up IMHO to see if you were right and I'd been missing something/misusing the initialism I was immediately taken to USENET definitions. As I suspected, the initialism initially was intended to clarify and avoid being misunderstood, to avoid having what one wrote being viewed as an absolute position. Why not just IMO? Heck if I know but I suspect it was for emphasis, a "no, seriously, I get that there is a wide range of opinion and I'm just trying to have a discussion not a flame war that ends up with us calling each other nazis" reduced to four letters.

Okay. I'm done, just happy that I could use my three posts today on a matter of such great import.

jberg 11:38 AM  

@BarbieBarbie, me too, but I was saved by thinking the NYT wouldn't allow it. I really needed the crosses to get TAPPED.

@Loren, would you mind checking your OED for AGASP? It's unknown to Dictionary.com, at least. Agape, aghast, sure.

I had a lot of contact with plumbers over the last few days as what I thought was a leaky washing machine turned into a need to dig up our cellar floor and replace the sewer pipe under it. It took a lot longer than expected, and of course we couldn't use the plumbing while the sewer pipe was disconnected, so it was a memorable occasion.


IMHO, the clue for ARE is weird.

John Child 11:54 AM  

WETLY is such a moist answer that I'm surprised @Rex didn't shudder and flush at the same time. I really liked this puzzle, though it was Monday easy.

Tita A 11:54 AM  

@Robert A. Simon - hilarious parody. Thanks!

Malsdemare 12:08 PM  

This was cute. I had trouble with the SW as well, Rex. Had Idontknow before I'MNOTSURE, and saw WRITER but couldn't figure out what ILK of writer. I needed LOBE to spell EBSEN right.

For once I knew which river was being asked for. I usually have to drop the N in the fourth box, see if the initial is an S or an R, and then wait for the cross to reveal the I or the O. But my ancestors came from that area of Switzerland where the Rhine starts and they loved along the river as it meandered it's way NW. So RHINE fell without a blink.

LMS' story of the locked stadium bathrooms reminded me of the long line of portapotties we passed on the Women's March in DC. Someone had made a valiant, though ultimately failed, effort to hide the name on the comfort stations. What were they trying to hide the day after the inauguration? Don's Johns. I did not make that up.

Mr. B, I have to agree that TREES isn't quite the same thing as corners. While I don't want my dog to tree that raccoon that raked her face last month, I surely don't want her cornering it.

Fun puzzle. Gonna go see what the rest of y'all said.

Masked and Anonymous 12:19 PM  

{Looking too pooped to install that last upstairs fixture??} = COMMODE A-DRAGGIN.

Impressed by the super-clean fill. @RP: Agree, that super-clean can also tend to get a bit borin … all due to lack of tasty desperation. EXED crossin XMAS was about it, for today.

staff weeject pick: OED. Seems like a kindred spirit of EXED, somehow. Plus, @muse's OED story put it over the top, for sure.

Kinda agree with @RP, re: that IMNOTSURE+GAGWRITER were the pick of the non-runty litter. M&A also thought ASPHALT, PSYCHED, and LIKENEW were topnotch. Also partial to the word EIGHT. And WETLY is a cool extra plumber-ese word. Don't even get m&e started, on SHARP, tho ...

Primo weeject stacks, in the NE/SW.
Funny, seldom-seen, little black band-aid strips on the edges, near the weeject stacks. Gives the grid a nice subtle raised-by-the-wolves feel.

Fun & mostly non-feisty solve. Thanx, Mr. Hawkins. Plumb well-done.

Masked & Anonymo4Us

no muss. no fuss. no theme:

Malsdemare 12:19 PM  

I was going to correct the "loved" along the river to the intended "lived" but given the phenominal number of offspring, despite wars, famine and pestilence, I shall let it stand.

Bill Feeney 12:28 PM  

OK. If I'M this fast doing a Wednesday puzzle, some of you should be bragging about a time under 1 minute.

semioticus (shelbyl) 12:30 PM  

This was a cute puzzle. I solved this at a faster time than yesterday's, which is a rare occasion for a Tue-Wed pair.

I loved the IMHO clue.

I will take this over any trying-to-be-clever-and-ending-up-confusing-and-boring puzzle. I don't care if this feels like it's from 1987 (and imho, it doesn't)

chefbea 12:37 PM  

@Robert Simon...GREAT post!!!

Carola 12:38 PM  

An engagingly almost-challending Wednesday for me, as it took a while for some of those nice Downs to materialize for me - TOLL ROADS, I'M NOT SURE, GAG WRITER - as well as ALL TAPPED OUT. I liked how SINKING FEELING had sunk to the bottom. Favorite of the day: STOKERS.

A Listener 12:49 PM  

Had YMCA for 53 d

Tita A 12:56 PM  

@Mals...I was about to comment on how apt an autocorrect that was, given your presence in the world!

Also have been meaning to congratulate you on the newest addition to your canine family. I admire folks who take in the "unadoptable". It takes a strong commitment and a lot of love.

I don't know if you remember the "Animal Rescue - Shelter Pet" series of USPS stamps issued in 2010.
They were the most popular stamps ever issued. The photographer was from the next town over, and I personally knew Teddy, one of the featured dogs.
And I can attest to the fact that it took a special person to adopt him, with his bald spot and goiter and all.

Masked and Anonymous 1:04 PM  

{Plumber's fave cliffhanger serial about an epic clog??} = FLUSHED GORGON. Answer don't really work, without addin on "…CONQUERS THE SEWERVERSE" ? … yeah, thought so.

Just now occurred to a slow M&A dept:
IMHO could well stand for "In Michael Hawkins's Opinion". Clue for it still works, but they ought then throw in a xref to 6-A, as a counter-example.


Teedmn 1:20 PM  

My common Esl error made GAl WRITER look pretty sketchy - I'm sure that I'M NOT SURE helped me fix that one.

@r.alph, I put "mri" in at 11A, then re-read the clue thinking that it should actually be AMA when TSA cut to the front of the line in my frontal LOBE so at least I wasn't SEEing triple.

I was doing an Argentinian "tango" before Rio changed the music to a SAMBA. And I don't discreetly walk away before wiping my face off after being kissed WETLY; I get my sleeve in there right away, yuck.

Thanks, Michael Hawkins, for a fine Wednesday puzzle, which I think had enough challenge for the day.

bookmark 1:47 PM  

@malsdemare: You'll enjoy the May 20 article from the Washington Post, "Washington's Portable Toilet Industry Is Flush, Thanks to Trump." And Don's Johns is the correct name!

An interesting article about how nothing occurs in a vacuum... and about how complicated small things become.

Anonymous 2:40 PM  

I enjoyed this puzzle.

FYI, another great MGM musical in which B. Ebsen co-stars is "Born to Dance" with the great Eleanor Powell. And Jimmy Stewart too.

Malsdemare 2:54 PM  

@bookmark. Yup, totally inadequate potties at the March. The most frustrating element was standing in line for HOURS and then, when we finally get to the Mall, seeing all the portalettes that were left from the inauguration. But they really were attempting to cover the name of Don's Johns. Just not easy to do when there were hundreds and it was a damp day when taped on paper wouldn't hold.

@Tita. No applause needed; he's a sweet boy, will thrill my bored, lonely girl, and this is not my first rodeo. I rather looking forward to all he will teach me about adaptation, creativity, and patience.

Lewis 3:24 PM  

@mathgent -- Glad you liked it, was it -- even before the meta -- not brilliant, getting a perfect pangram OUTSIDE the grid??? And the meta was meta-brilliant, I thought.

hawkins 4:53 PM  

Looks like my comment didn't post--
In regards to the theme, I submitted the clues more or less how they are, excluding the "to a plumber." All of the themers, as Rex pointed out, are sink-related. I was relying on SINKINGFEELING as a quasi-revealer, similar to a previous puzzle of mine with PHONEITIN acting as a revealer for phone-related terms.

Mohair Sam 6:36 PM  

@Z - OK, OK. Wow! But I'll continue to use the "H" only when I really, really don't feel humble, just like I do when I speak the full phrase. And I still loved the clue.

@Robert A Simon (10:57) - Awesome. Maybe a touch of hyperbole.

@hawkins - Thanks for chiming in.

Anonymous 6:40 PM  

Let the "unmasking" of the "unmaskers" begin!!! Go Mueller and the FISA courts!!! Did Obama write his own commutation/amnesty for himself? Love this rabbit hole the Dem's have decided to go down. Don't worry M&A. They won't come after you. Or will they?

BarbieBarbie 6:59 PM  

@hawkins: thanks for posting and thanks for the puzzle. I like it much better your way. Was it not Wednesdayish enough that way? The changes in your clues were the only klunky part. IMUO. Though please note that I'm one of the ones who wanted to put poop in your grid. I apologize.
@ Listener: HAH!! You get the Golden Comment award. Maybe for 2017. Killed it.

BarbieBarbie 7:02 PM  

Oh wait, I was thinking of the SECOND letter. @Listener, still funny but no award.
Pls 4give 4

Ghostface Puzzlah 7:27 PM  

Really got stuck on the mid-west side. EXED makes no sense. I might X something out, but EX-ING connotes jilted lovers moreso than crossing things off lists.

Teedmn 9:19 PM  

@Lewis, I think there was one letter missing, which I took to be the meta. WAY off! It was a great puzzle.

Doesn't anyone ever use H in IMHO as "honest" opinion? The snark doesn't become a factor in that case, at least IMHO.

Michael Zackon 12:11 AM  

Rex, better dust off your Kafka: The Stoker, a short story and essentially the first chapter of Amerika. That was a gimme for me.

Josh Holloway 5:44 PM  

TREES completely stumped me. Never heard it used in that context before.

NaRong 5:35 AM  

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spacecraft 12:02 PM  

IMNOTSURE, but I suspect OFL took a quarter turn toward kindness today because of his name in the marquee position. I got a SINKINGFEELING right away when I saw that RAA (random "a-" adjective, where you just stick an "a" in front of a noun to turn it into an adjective, as in AGASP). The thing may be a legit word, but I'm aghast at its use.

The feeling continued as that X created a DOUBLE-wince. EXED is only marginally better than the horrid XED, and as for XMAS...no. What am I supposed to call myself, an Xian? Bah.

There is, as noted, some good longer stuff, and my favorite part of the solve was that great clue for IM(H)O. Now THAT'S funny. IMHO. But overall, this grid leaks WETLY (ugh!) and seems in need of our feature artisan. DOD GINA, "the poor man's Sophia Loren," is as old-school as a lot of this puzzle. I mean, come on, they had STOKERS on...the TITANIC, fercryinoutloud. That was only a century ago. Bogey.

Burma Shave 12:49 PM  


I’m PSYCHED out that GINA RUNSHOTANDCOLD with trouble,
and ALLTAPPEDOUT and AGASP O’ER her PHONY gestalt,
the action, IMNOTSURE, but IMHO it’s her ASPHALT.


leftcoastTAM 1:20 PM  

North is easy, South not as much. Only pause in the North was STARK (don't watch GOT) and its TREES cross.

In the South, Esl before ENG (for a change), STOKER, and RHINE. Not familiar with Sierra Nevada ALE.

If having wisdom teeth pulled is AGONY, you're going to the wrong dentist.

SINKINGFEELING is the best of the themers, IMHO.

rain forest 2:24 PM  

Hey, @Spacey - a tour de force of irascibility, man. Loved it.

The clue for IMHO is a gem, IMHO.

I liked the puzzle and the lack of dreck, AGASP notwithstanding. Kind of an inoffensively endearing effort.

Diana,LIW 2:39 PM  

Our neighbor has a little white dog named Rosie, who likes to escape her backyard. She immediately comes in our yard and TREES a squirrel, so that was in my wheelhouse fer sure.

This kind of puzzle - I like to figure out the themers with as little crossing as I can. This puzzle supplied same.

Not sure if the plumber addition makes the puzzle better or over explains the answer. We have a new puzzle in the local paper, and the author over explains (IMHO) by giving a second clue to most answers.

At the eye doc today, he referred me to a retinal specialist to make sure my retina wasn't being, his word, insulted. I asked, with some hurt in my voice, "Who would insult my retina?" He laughed, but responded "Your vitreous might insult your retina." Well, with a name like vitreous, I noted, who wouldn't be insulting? Floater humor. Seeing DOUBLE indeed.

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords

Teedmn 3:43 PM  

@Diana, vitreous humor, good one!!

rondo 3:43 PM  

I’m PSYCHED! Finally! The correct paving material: ASPHALT! Not “tar”. But yet another missed opportunity to clue HAHA as Packer Clinton-Dix. As far as plumbers go, just say no to crack.

A bad start with ruMBA, eventually fixed, as well as the eER and the Esl.

I completely rehabbed my bathroom a coupla years back and it still looks LIKENEW. IMNOTSURE I’d ever do it myself again, so here’s a NODTO plumbers, and carpenters, and tilers, and wallpaperers, and . . .

I thought ALLTAPPEDOUT referred to being out of money. Even back in M. SHARP’s 1987 ref.

Would The Wizard of Oz (AHS) been just as beloved with Buddy EBSEN as with Jack Haley? Woulda depended on his makeup. Har.

I think an episode of the Flintstones way back when “guest starred” GINA Rockabrigida, of course a take-off on yeah baby GINA Lollabrigida. And that was for kids?

I didn’t have EMAIL or INTEL back in 1987, so decent puz, IMHO.

Anonymous 4:05 PM  

Great characterization of a Saturday puzzle by Simon. Those are the ones where the phonies come out of the woodwork, marveling how "wonderful" the puzzle was, and claiming great ease in solving it, usually on a manual typewriter, and in under four minutes.

Diana,LIW 6:54 PM  

@Rondo - I was surprised when "tar" didn't fit in 5D. I mean, what else could the road substance be????

Diana, Guardian of Pothole Fill

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