Hit 2017 Jordan Peele thriller / MON 6-26-17 / Given benediction old fashioned way / Turkish pooh-bahs

Monday, June 26, 2017

Constructor: Brian Greer

Relative difficulty: Challenging (30+ seconds over my normal, which is Significant on Monday)

THEME: HARRY / POTTER and THE PHILOSOPHER'S / STONE — anniversary puzzle honoring the debut of the HP series by J.K. ROWLING, whose name is embedded in that center row, across three answers (oh, and DANIEL RADCLIFFE's in there too, for good measure)

Word of the Day: "GET OUT" (13A: Hit 2017 Jordan Peele thriller) —
Get Out is a 2017 American horror film written, co-produced and directed by Jordan Peele, in his directorial debut. The film stars Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, Bradley Whitford, Caleb Landry Jones, Stephen Root, LaKeith Stanfield and Catherine Keener, and follows a young interracial couple who visit the mysterious estate of the woman's parents. // Get Out premiered at Sundance Film Festival on January 24, 2017, and was theatrically released in the United States on February 24 by Universal Pictures. The film has grossed $251 million worldwide against its $4.5 million budget and received universal acclaim from critics and audiences alike. (wikipedia)
• • •

This appears to be a debut from this constructor. And I do love HARRY / POTTER (both because I enjoyed the series myself and because of how genuinely important that series was and is to my daughter, who graduates high school next year). So I'm inclined to have affection for this puzzle. And yet ... I can't ignore some of the messier technical details. The fill is rough from the jump and never improves. This is largely because (once again) vaunting ambition got the constructor into jams he just couldn't get out of, and so the grid ends up getting pinned and pasted and paper-clipped together every which way, with material no one would ever use for building anything except in the most desperate of circumstances. I also don't quite get why HARRY and POTTER were hidden like that (not clued in relation to the theme). I imagine the original concept had the theme clue on HARRY, and then someone somewhere got the idea to put it on the "first" (closest to the top) themer. Weirdly, HARRY (67A: Persistently torment) and POTTER (68A: Crafty person at a wheel?) were two of the harder answers to get in this grid. But that's not a problem. The problem is ... it's just weird having him lurking down there, uncredited. And can we talk about the ludicrous letter string (GHIJK)? I mean, it's clear why you felt you needed to do it—consecutive JK is hard to come by—but oof. Your fill is already buckling pretty pad under the weight of the theme. That answer is a laugher, and you don't want a laugher front and center.

There's some great stuff scattered in here. The clue on ALASKAN—mwah! Fantastic. Not Monday by any stretch, but perfect nonetheless (12A: Person in a detached state?). And hurray for the very current clue on "GET OUT," which, unlike most of my friends, I have yet to see. It's streaming now, so it shouldn't be long now. But those were the only two real highlights (besides the considerable highlight of being reminded J.K. ROWLING exists). I was skidding off the road immediately with 1D: Given benediction, the old-fashioned way (BLEST) (!?). Everything about that is Red Flag. Too much gunk up top, with that and ETH and A HOT. Absolutely no reason *that* part of the puzzle should be *that* rough. Down below, roughness makes more sense (more theme-dense by a good margin). AS NEAT = barf. Ditto -IER. ID NO. was ridiculous in that That Number is an SSN and I Know That the Puzzle Bloody Well Knows It (60D: Nine-digit fig. on a Social Security card). How many times in the past quarter century have I written SSN into a puzzle? How many, Lord!? Oh, and EFFS? Eff that. Biggest self-inflicted wound: staring at ST---S for 26A: Units in stables and writing in ... (drum roll) ... STEEDS. The coup de grĂ¢ce? Putting AVID in right underneath it (37A: Enthusiastic => KEEN). Sigh. Onward!

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Kendall 12:32 AM  

I'm not an expert solver by any stretch but this puzzle took me 25 minutes to solve, which is 12 minutes slower than my average according to the NYT puzzle app. So many places held me up, but probably none as much as the SE. I've never heard this verb form of HARRY. What does it mean to be AS NEAT as a pin? I've never heard of ANNA and the King of Siam.

Really enjoyed the puzzle because Harry Potter was so perfectly timed around my childhood. Other than GHIJK (which is one of the worst answers I've ever seen) nothing jumped out at me as bad or that wasn't made up for by a nice theme.

Brian 12:41 AM  

GHIJK is a terrible answer, but like Rex said, there's not a ton you can do with ---JK. My first thought was LOL JK, but I can't decide if that's better or much, much worse.

Anonymous 12:49 AM  

LOL JK seems like a legitimate, clever solution to me. Better'n GHIJK at any rate.

Larry Gilstrap 1:05 AM  

I have never read any book in the HARRY POTTER series, and have never seen one of the movies, but I have sat on a Broadway stage ten feet away from a naked DANIEL RADCLIFFE. Equus is a troubling play. Something about being ERECT. I do follow J. K. ROWLING on Twitter and she is concerned about our well being.

I agree with OFL, alphabet runs are gruesome fill. They remind of my P.O. Box combination code. I've had the address for many years and when they have to change the combination; Oh, brother! Time to invent a clever mnemonic device or get a tattoo, again.

I was an English major, but in the not too distant past became interested in reading science books for non-scientists. I read about Neanderthals, and the history of geology, and the cosmos, and the migration of life forms, and anthropogenic climate change. I was encouraged to read DARWIN's The Origin of Species and he is a great writer. He is constantly apologizing for his blasphemy, then just plugs away at his theory, which has pretty much stood the test of time. Segue, Bill NYE is also an excellent educator and fun to read. I try to live the scientific method: make observations, develop a theory, present it for peer review, and come to a consensus.

I have seen many productions of most Shakespeare's plays, but I don't recall seeing The Winter's TALE. The wisest investment of time studying literature would be learning the plays of William Shakespeare. That is my observation, my theory, and it's open for peer review, but actually my mind is made up.

Anonymous 1:17 AM  

Hmmm...I have to say that this puzzle was easier than most, just slightly under my fastest Monday time. The themers were all gimmes, but that's thanks to Facebook having already revealed its celebratory gimmick...so once I got to THE PHILOSOPHERS STONE, I knew what was happening.

I didn't mind HARRY and POTTER being buried in there like that...at the top would have been too much of a giveaway...but as soon as I got to the bottom I barely read the first clue and then filled them in without pause.

Really, my biggest issues were the two Olde Worlde clues (only because they felt redundant): BLEST and -ETH; and the two alphabet clues which were uncreative and, again, redundant. How did those slip by??

Caleb 2:16 AM  

This came in right below an average Monday for me, so I don't have sour grapes. I like the unacknowledged theme material, unlike Rex, although I think most of Monday's regular solvers fly through fast enough that we might have missed it. Still, moving toward puzzles more immersed in their themes is a good thing.

What bothered me on this puzzle wasn't so much the weird fill, but the bad cluing. In an effort to be Monday-worthy, it felt like much effort at wittiness was abandoned...with the exception of ALASKA and the other clues Rex identified. Too many clues were straight synonyms for my taste I want more clues like "Exemplify humanity" to bring a smile, regardless of the day of the week.

jae 2:28 AM  

Not a Monday, not good fill, not enjoying cross referencing, not fun.

chefwen 2:41 AM  

Never read the books, never saw the movies, but it was still Monday easy. Thank you People Magazine for DANIEL RADCLIFFE . Never would have known other wise.

GHTJK and EFFS, blecht! C,mon, really?

Anoa Bob 3:09 AM  

Wow, 44 black squares. Partial eclipse territory.

I know PHILOSOPHERS STONE from its alchemical connection, so at least that was fun. I'm HARRY POTTER illiterate, so when I saw that GHIJKROWLINGO swath across the midsection, I knew I was toast.

Don't know who DANIEL RADCLIFFE (with two EFFS) is, and judging from earlier comments, I'm going to keep it that way.

What, no dust-up yet about 10 Down COED?

Anonymous 3:53 AM  

Despite the circles, I didn't pick up on JK ROW LING until coming here. Nevertheless I was amused by GHIJK as an entry. I think its length redeems it.

Just now noticing the ridiculous juxtaposition of DARWIN and NYE.

Thomaso808 4:07 AM  

People, can we get a little love for the 20th anniversary of Harry Potter? Xwordinfo says the constructor, despite this being his NYT debut, is a "legend" in the U.K. crossword world and he has another Harry Potter tribute puzzle published in the London Times today to celebrate the anniversary. A remarkable accomplishment!

Yes, this puzzle has some problems. I see this is the first ever appearance of the answer GHIJK in the NYT, and may it never, ever appear again. IDNO, IER, EFFS(!), let them be likewise banished forever.

I like that HARRY and POTTER slunk in there under the radar. I also like the ADA, ABA, ANNA palindrome triplet in the SW, hoping for a Wierd Al BOB experience.

JK Rowling got my kids to read 400+ page books in their teens, so I am a fan. At the time I read every one as well so I could have some good conversations with them during that time. I even went to the Wednesday midnight premiere of the Half Blood Prince with them all dressed in Gryffindor and Death Eater costumes (I told them I was dressed as a Muggle), and slept through the whole movie (but the book was great)!

evil doug 4:36 AM  

Whoa! A pissed off jae? Liked *that*!

mathgent 4:58 AM  

I haven't read the books and just learned that THEPHILOSOPHERS/STONE was in the title of the first book. I'm grateful to Ms. Rowling for attracting my daughter and grandson to read something literate.

I tried the Mike Shenk puzzle "Alternation" in Saturday's WSJ but am stymied. I think that I don't understand the instructions. It seems that the "Mixed" answers spiral through the grid but where do the "Light" and "Dark" answers go? I understand the instructions to say that they are placed in alternate spaces, left to right in row one, right to left in row two, left to,right in row three, and so forth. Is that right?

Loren Muse Smith 5:18 AM  

The only notes I make in my margin are about things I like, so the more egregious stuff never takes center stage for me. The first thing I wrote down was GHIJK. Like Rex said - it’s a laugher. In a good way for me, though. The audacity took my breath away, and I was filled with admiration for this plucky constructor and his debut. Go big or go home, baby. And then there was the plural EFFS. What the heck - in for a penny, in for a pound. I’m sure there are other adages I could quote here. But I like that Brian isn’t trying to slip anything past us. He’s got hubris. He owns his alphabet entries. It feels defiant.

I mis-interpreted the “cause to be cherished” with the “cause” as a noun. Hmm. PETA, St. Jude’s, Boys and Girls Club, the Red Cross, The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Insects

I can’t be the only one who went “gala” > “ball” > BASH.

Liked SHUT so close to AJAR.

If I knew LANCET at some point, I’d forgotten it. So if you have a boil, does a lancet lance it?

13A. Ok. “Will Smith thriller” – Independence Day. Add the word “hit” to the clue, and that means that it’s not so big. IMHO. I would’ve wanted something like “amscray” for GET OUT.

I agree that the star of the day is the clue for ALASKAN. One of the best clues I’ve ever seen.

@Thomaso808 - I agree on HARRY POTTER kind of flying under the radar. I also liked being shown that HARRY POTTER can be a clause. That is very cool. Think of the possible headlines:

Vet to Mark Spitz with Black Stripe
Chef Will Keep Citrus but Chuck Berry for Tart Competition
Area Man Opts to Rob Ford but not Chevrolet
Middle Management Employee Will Don Henley in Protest of Button-Downs

Brian Greer – Count me among the Harry Potter fans who appreciate this puzzle. Congrats. Fortune favors the bold.

Anonymous 5:23 AM  

Van Morrison has both a song and an album called The Philosopher's Stone.
--Twangster th

Hungry Mother 5:52 AM  

Quick solve for me. I never read a word of the books, but I saw all of the movies in preparation for a visit to Harry Potter World outside of London a few years ago.

Lewis 5:57 AM  

@loren -- fete > gala > ball > BASH

The highlight of this puzzle to me is that there are at least four answers with non-direct, lovely and clever clues -- ALASKAN, POTTER, ERR, LIFER. Rarely do we see even one on Mondays. Yes! More of this, Will! Newbies can solve and learn from this, and learn to expect this. It is one of the great sources of fun in crosswords.

Anonymous 6:12 AM  

JK Rowling evidently cool with domestic abuse. Just ask Amber Heard.

Glimmerglass 6:24 AM  

Super easy for me. I don't keep track f time, but this went very quickly. I thought it was very cool hat the only hard clues were hinted at by their position at the bottom of the grid featuring HARRY POTTER. GHIJK was a ridiculous answer, but surely no one would have found rit hard to get! cf. 53 D. I found the puzzle fun, even if it was over too soon.

QuasiMojo 6:54 AM  

I know the Philosopher's Stone from literature and never knew it had anything to do with Harry Potter, which I never read and have no desire to. Perhaps not having children has something to do with that. But I also am easily bored by magic and sorcery. The Philosopher's Stone appeared in a story by Balzac if my memory does not fail me.

As far as I'm concerned, the fun of ALASKAN was completely undermined by GHIJK. That is a LAPSE that is inexcusable in a puzzle that is supposed to be the best in the world, even on a Monday. Or should I say, especially on a Monday.

three of clubs 7:00 AM  

I could look it up but when did Harry get his Cloak of Invisibility?

kitshef 7:13 AM  

Love Harry Potter. Love the books (especially 4-6), love the movies (especially 3 and 5), love the way JK ROWLING ramped up the maturity level over time, and her detailed research.

So this puzzle was going to make me happy no matter what. I sure wish there were no GHIJK or EFFS, though.

kitshef 7:16 AM  

@Brian - best I could come up with was DMYJK, so against that your LOLJK seems positively Rowlingean.

kitshef 7:25 AM  

@three of clubs - anonymous gift from Albus Dumbledore for Christmas in year 1.

On a complete aside, I misread the clue for 15A as "guest of the alchemist" and was flummoxed for a while.

Betseeee 7:25 AM  

I knew it was the book's anniversary, was fully expecting (hoping for, really) Harry Potter, and it still took me 38 seconds more than my average Monday time. I agree on the full, but am willing to let it go for JK ROWLING's sake.

three of clubs 7:27 AM  

Worth remembering that this is the British title; it was Sorcerer's Stone in America. Wonder why. Perhaps a declining knowledge of alchemy in STE(A)M subjects?

Brian 7:36 AM  

Almost completed with down clues only. Rest was easy. Average time.

chefbea 7:43 AM  

Never read a Harry Potter Book or saw a movie. But what a great puzzle. I told my daughter who is a Harry Potter fan and does not do xword puzzles to do this one. I know she will love it.

What a fun puzzle!!!

Jofried 7:45 AM  

I didn't know the title was The Philospher's Stone in Britain so that clue didn't connect me to Harry Potter at all. I've read every one of those books multiple times and I've seen all of the movies...and somehow I never registered the theme of this puzzle. I solve pretty quickly and the whole thing just blew right by me! Oh well.

Ted 7:55 AM  

I'm mostly here for the smug little users who just HAVE to comment that they've never read the books (understandable if you're over a certain age) and never saw the movies.

Good for you.

Here's your cookie.

PS: Harry Potter was hidden at the very bottom of the puzzle... kind of like he was in a closet under the stairs.

Passing Shot 8:10 AM  

Loved the Harry Potter books. EFF-ing hated this puzzle. Refused to acknowledge GHIJK as the correct answer because I thought "No, no puzzle would sink this low." This was bad, really bad.

puzzlehoarder 8:12 AM  

This doubled my usual Monday time. The inconvenience of solving on a tablet, doing the solving late when tired and a series of confusing writeovers combined to make a perfect storm of difficulty. The best two writeovers were SHIRKS/SKIRTS and REGRET/REPENT. These two compounded the already challenging crosses of ALASKAN and PHILOSOPHER. Our host as always has belabored the obvious flaws in this puzzle. That's no surprise but today in doing so he appears to be ignorant of the constructors identity a d the significance of the back story with the London Times publication. It seems to me if you consider yourself to be the grand pooh=bah of the cross world you ought to at least acknowledge these things. I wouldn't know them if I didn't read xwordinfo first. Maybe our host should too.

Passing Shot 8:19 AM  

@Brian 12:41 and @kitshef 7:16 -- does no one remember JK Simmons, best supporting oscar winner for Whiplash a few years ago?

Anonymous 8:19 AM  

I'm a bit surprised no-one has mentioned this, but it could be a cultural thing.

Before I moved to the US, I used to do British cryptic crosswords instead of the NYT. Brian Greer is something of a legend in that field. He was the crossword creator and editor for a number of publications. He's been Will Shortz, basically. So, I find it hard to think of it as his debut, and he definitely knows better than some of the dodgy fill. Have an interview with him: http://www.crosswordunclued.com/2013/03/interview-brian-greer.html

However, you can see the cryptic crossword influence in some of the clever cluing, e.g. ALASKAN, ERR, even the hidden HARRY POTTER. Which I enjoyed.

chefbea 8:24 AM  

This puzzle was also in the London times today. The first time any constructor has had a puzzle in both Times the same day....according to Xword info

ArtO 8:24 AM  

I always get a kick out of the commentators who claim to record their "fastest time ever" on one of the puzzles that gets a tough rating. Got to wonder if they are pulling our leg. Most Mondays are write as fast as you can but I couldn't say that about this one by a long shot. Agree totally with @Rex writeup.

Nancy 8:48 AM  

What @Quasi said about not having read HARRY POTTER and having no desire to. But I must say that the oblique ways HARRY and POTTER were clued was interesting. There are two terrifically offbeat clues today, for ALASKAN and POTTER, but then you have the insultingly easy "open's opposite" for SHUT and "goes achoo" for SNEEZES. And others like that. A mixed bag, or an OLIO, as we like to say in the xword biz.

Hartley70 8:56 AM  

The Harry Potter series is a rollicking good tale whether you're 7 or 70. I was as excited as any tween wearing a costume to read the next book in the series. I wish I had written it.

This puzzle certainly was challenging for a Monday, and if that's a new trend, I like it. Using the British title for the first HARRY POTTER clue helped to keep the theme from being obvious. Ditto for separating HARRY and POTTER at the end. I think that was a good decision. The circled letters JKROWLING must have been a challenge for the constructor. Luckily I never notice the circles until I've finished because they would have given the game away too soon.

ALASKAN was brilliantly clued. The fill didn't disappoint me one bit. I hadn't heard of GETOUT which reminds me that I'm GETting old. Brian Greer puzzles are just the type of ticket to entertain me in my dotage. More, please.

Anonymous 8:58 AM  

Easy, easy, easy! Not only easy, but I appreciated even the clunkier stuff in service to the puzzle's larger purpose. Had to check the constructor's name, cause I smiled from start to the finish, (alphabet thread was the one exception) and didn't think I recognized the style. Indeed, liked the "bonus" Harry Potter" at the bottom. Why not just sneak it in there?
Thought it aimed higher than most Mondays, and, for me, it delivered!
(And yes, I am a big Harry Potter fan. Have three kids who still reread the books, and I am thankful, indeed, that Ms. Rowling has provided a counter-reference to current politics.)

Anonymous 9:08 AM  

Can't understand why "Be in a sorry state?" Is clued with a ? Any ideas?

Liked this very much. The North was slow going for me until THE PHILOSOPHERS a became apparent. Totally blanked on BLASTS for some reason. But after that, no trouble.

Anonymous 9:09 AM  

Interesting how many commenters felt compelled to let us know they have never read the Harry Potter books nor seen the movies. Too busy relaxing with Chaucer, I guess.

Hartley70 9:09 AM  

@Passing Shot 8:19am. While his Oscar was well deserved for Whiplash, how can we forget JK when he is in our home every evening entertaining us with a tale of dogs doing waterballet in a living room or a tidal wave bringing an octopus through the sunroof of a car? There's a crossword clue in there somehow!

Anonymous 9:10 AM  

@Anonymous 8:19

Just so. Do you think Rex's ignorance is so profound that he doesn't know Greer? Or is his use of "bloody" (toward the end of his screed)a nod to the knowing?


Some Englishman

Anonymous 9:11 AM  

I watch CNN all day.

Kendall 9:13 AM  

@Brian LOLJK seems better in every single way, especially given the average age of first time HARRY POTTER readers. I think the only other option would have been to split up the circles to not be forced into a 5-letter answer ending in JK. Oh well.

Masked and Anonymous 9:19 AM  

Went pretty smoooth, at our house. I see from the xwordinfo constructioneer comments that he ain't a big [Pesistently torment crafty person at a wheel] fan. yep. M&A always tried to take in the films, but invariably fell asleep for a short spell or two in the middle of each.

Congratz on the debut and the Times/Times double play, Mr. Greer.

Best weeject: ROW. Likin that the little runt darlin got to participate in the theme and be circled and be part of two crossin themed parts dead-center in the grid and on and on. Now, that's respect.

Moment of clear and persperant desperation: GHIJK. A debut alphabet swath. Not a debut for any 5-long alphabet swath, tho. ABCDE has appeared numerous times, f'rinstance.

Thanx, Mr. Greer.

Masked & AnonymoUUs


Anonymous 10:22 AM  

@ 9:11 Anon so how long have you worked at the airport?

jberg 10:28 AM  

Drat-- Somehow I just erased the whole text of what I was writing. Second try: I did read the first HP book, thought the plot was great but the prose too pedestrian, and never went on. I'd like to, though -- people tell me her writing improved as she went through the series. I've never read War and Peace either, just to be clear -- so much to do, so little time. Anyway, one didn't need to know anything except the names of the author and the eponymous character; 15A was clued independently, even though the book was mentioned.

I liked the near crossing of A and THE at 12D/15A, and the alternate cluing for HARRY and POTTER.

I found myself speculating about the circles -- specifically, if they could me made symmetrical, i.e., moved one space to the left. You could have INGLE and OWL (very appropriate, I've read that much!), but then you'd be left with xxJKR. So I guess he had to do it the way he did.

@Larry Gilstrap, "The Winter's Tale" is notable for probably the most famous two stage directions in English literature: "Exit, pursued by a bear," and "On a seacoast of Bohemia." Otherwise, it's OK, but not WS's best.

Mohair Sam 10:34 AM  

That rare day when I agree with OFL's take on the puzzle.

@Anon (9:09) - Well I put aside my Chaucer briefly to read the first two Harry Potter books. I will say that I enjoyed the first immensely, but found the second to be a only a clever reconstruction of the first. The reading served its intended purpose however - it has been an invaluable aid in crossword solving, Potter clues abound.

@Passing Shot (8:19) - Yeah, JK Simmons wonderfully mean and nasty in "whiplash". I keep wondering if he'd actually pay my claim when I see him in those insurance ads.

GILL I. 10:41 AM  

When I SNEEZE, I don't quaintly go achoo...It's more of a HOT BLEST BLAST.
My good friend, who was as voracious a reader as I am, told me to read the HARRY POTTER series. She loved how JK ROWLING wrote, said she was fresh and clever and that you couldn't put her books down. I also heard that from others but I never got around to reading her. I did see all the movies and I did love them. I'm glad that I read The Alchemist!
Like @Loren, I loike the chutzpah GHIJK. Kinda like up your nose with a rubber hose. ALASKAN is so good, I bet its clue will be copied by others. I just wish someone would find an unobnoxious way to clue NYE and ELLA.
Enjoyable Monday for moi.

Joe Bleaux 10:42 AM  

And if you saw him as the vicious white-supremacist convict in the TV series "OZ" (on HBO, as I recall, a few years ago), you'd still wince every time you saw him. Absolutely brilliant actor.

Charles kluepfel 10:44 AM  

Had REFUND before REBATE and SNOT before SNOW.

AZPETE 10:47 AM  

It's like Ichiro winning Rookie of the Year.

Anonymous 10:47 AM  

Horse lovers would never call a steed a unit. THe stall is the horses own place where they sleep, eat and generally feel at home.

Tim Pierce 10:50 AM  

Anon@9:08: idiomatically, being in a "sorry state" means being in poor condition, disrepair, etc., e.g. "a sorry state of affairs." It's clued with a "?" here because REPENT literally means to be in a state of being sorry for something you have done.

@three of clubs: the American publishers are said to have been skeptical that American kids would be willing to read a book with "philosopher" in the title, so demanded a name change. Go figure.

Agree very much with Brian: I would have preferred LOLJK in every way to GHIJK, but it might have brought up the difficulty level just that much more for some solvers. Overall it might have been better to frame this puzzle as a Tuesday or Wednesday? Either way, enjoyed the theme and the sideways cluing a lot.

Warren Howie Hughes 11:00 AM  

Welcome, Brian Greer, to the Colonies, and to your all GETOUT debut on the Crossword page of the Grey Lady! ASNEAT and as KEEN an outing we've ever seen! AURA sincere congratulations!

Joe Bleaux 11:01 AM  

The alphabet string and letter-spelling are indeed cringe-worthy, but cluing for ALASKAN (complemented with that for REPENT), was a coup d'ETAT. This "smug little user" (hi, @Ted) came by his scant familiarity with all things Potter and Rowling by osmosis when his little girl was devouring the books, but that was no hindrance at all. I'm in awe of a constructor who debuts with simultaneous publication in New York and London. Now, *that's* wizardry! Congrats, Mr. Greer.

Joseph Michael 11:01 AM  

What I liked best was the discovery of HARRY POTTER hiding at the bottom of the puzzle and the cleverness of some of the cluing, such as that for ALASKAN, STALLS, and LIFER.

Would have liked JK ROWLING more without the circles so that she also might have been lurking like Harry.

Some good fill, especially for a Monday. Liked LANCET, APPLET, GET OUT, REPENT, LOYALTY, and EGOTIST.

Did not like the pile up of junk, such as EFFS, ETH, IER, and the catastrophic GHIJK. With a little more magic, some of these might have disappeared.

Nancy 11:07 AM  

@Brian and @Tim Pierce -- I looked at the suggestion of LOLJK as a substitute for GHIJK and thought what on earth is that? Then I thought: It can't be an acronym for "laughing out loud, just kidding", can it? I mean why would you write LOL if you're JK? How completely ridiculous. So I don't for a minute think that LOLJK would have been better than GHIJK. I think it would have been much, much worse, and I'm really glad it's not in this puzzle. It's something I hope never to see again -- in a puzzle or anywhere else!

RooMonster 11:13 AM  

Hey All !
Har. Just the other day we had the "O" follower clue, and I said I was hoping it wasn't PQRSTU, and today we get GHIJK. Good stuff.

Liked this tribute puz. Amazing only 15 threes with having 44 blocks, which is a way high Block Count for a 15x. But, trying to splatz (@M&A) in all those themers will do that. Didn't know HARRY as clued, luckily got POTTER and had theme figured, so got that.

At least we got a tribute puz on the correct day. :-)


Regina Flannery 11:32 AM  

I believe it was changed to The Sorcerer's Stone in the USA version because philosopher stone is a term from British mythology and Philosopher has an entirely different connotation here.

Giovanni P. 11:59 AM  

Preemptive "travel ban Supreme Court" comment. Preemptive "snowflakes, alt-left, bike lock, horsehead, stocks" comments as well.

Consider this a controlled burn.

Also: What is that mysterious ticking noise?

jb129 12:09 PM  

I think that Brian Greer should stick to making the puzzles fun (which this one was not) instead of trying to show us how smart he is....

Ghostface Puzzlah 12:19 PM  

When I saw "Person in a detached state?", I confidently wrote in AMPUTEE.

I was horrified at the constructor's crass joke. Now I just hate myself.

Dick Swart 12:22 PM  

A great change from the usual corner-to-corner Monday. And a great inclusion of theme materials!

Altogether, a terrific and thought-stimulating puzzle for a Monday morning. Congratulations Brian Greer,

And ignore the grumblings of the Carper of Confluence.

jjpennyless 12:51 PM  

How is 10D clued right? What is educational about playing volleyball?

tazio35 1:02 PM  

For those upset about 67A "HARRY", it was a brilliant clue. Remember the famous line from the fifth stanza of Noyes' poem "The Highwayman": "Yet, if they press me sharply, and harry me through the day,"

I actually remembered this line from the Phil Ochs song which put much of this poem to music. A small benefit of being an old 60's folk music fan!

old timer 1:06 PM  

Alphabet strings wee pretty common in the Maleska era. No doubt WS banned them but made an exception today.

My time was 13 minutes . Slow for a Monday but not awful. Of course I read most of those HP books because kids. In fact I was told to buy the British set when I was in England once so "Philosophers Stone" was a gimme.

Two Ponies 1:17 PM  

I wish I had an owl to bring my mail.

Teedmn 1:20 PM  

Seeing HARRY as clued put me in mind of the nursery rhyme "This is the House that Jack Built". But the dog didn't HARRY the cat, it "worried" it, so my memory got a little AJAR from rereading that oldie.

Hand up for having read all the HP books and seeing all the movies (because they all showed up on cable eventually) but I never became a rabid fan.

JK Simmons - I think "Whiplash" was every bit a *horror* movie as GETOUT is purported to be (haven't seen GET OUT but hope to, even though I dislike horror movies - the hype has convinced me it's worth it). And still thinking of JK Simmons in his "OZ" role as the nasty Schillinger makes his "Whiplash" role even more chilling. But then again, there's his part as the feckless criminal in "The Ladykillers" who suffers from IBS which kind of takes the edge off his other roles.

ASLAN as a mixed up ALASKAN? TSA new rules TBA? LEND LENO LEGOs?

Nice tribute puzzle, Brian Greer, and congrats on the NYT debut.

JC66 1:56 PM  

He was Ellen Page's dad in Juno, showing off his comedic talents as well.

jb129 2:40 PM  

This was a disappointing puzzle no matter what you guys say!

He should stick to making us laugh & think!

Anonymous 3:26 PM  

Graduates high school ? Seriously ?

iamjess 4:29 PM  

I finished this puzzle so quickly it made my head spin. I thought "@Rex is going to give this one a super-easy rating". Boy was I wrong! I admit the fill was awful.

That said, I *loved* this puzzle. I mean, HARRY POTTER! And ASLAN! Together! Plus, as an Alaskan, it was nice to have a shout-out that was not Attu (with a wonderful clue, btw). Combine that with the incredible movie GET OUT and the classic ANNA and the King of Siam, and this one is a winner for me.

After I got to the bottom, I checked the top row for some kind of themer symmetry and was disappointed to be brought back to BLASTS and ERECT. I would have appreciated some other HP trivia lurking there, like maybe a magical creature or something.

Anonymous 4:39 PM  

Of course JK Simmons is famous enough to be used as a clue. However, JK by itself isn't valid crossword entry. Tell me what way you could expand JK to more than two letters (MRJK? Seriously?) and maybe you've got something there. Otherwise it's just another person who goes by those two initials.

Cassieopia 5:39 PM  

So was I the only one who saw the clue "alchemists' quest in a book released on June 26, 1997" and thought "Oh, it's the Fullmetal Alchemist manga!" So there, Anonymous 9:09, it's not Chaucer we are reading but comic books.

Heave "ho" (aka SIGH), despite my Harry Potter ignorance, THE PHILOSOPHERS STONE worked for Fullmetal Alchemist as well and I went merrily towards an average Monday time. It helped that I hail from Alaska (although am not ALASKAN), read The Winter's TALE in college, reread the Narnia series ad nauseum, and know my alphabet.

JK Simmons is awesome. He voiced Tenzin in Avatar: The Legend of Korra (yup, another cartoon) and was brilliant.

What a fun and different puzzle. I really, really liked it and silly me, even thought that GHIJK was a clever way to get around a tricky spot.

The5th Harp 5:42 PM  

Also could have clued "Overly personal from actor Simmons," made 32D "porn" and 41D "Emmy-giving org."

The5th Harp 5:46 PM  


Elements of Style 2013 5:48 PM  

Thank you, King Rex, for your daily gift to NYT solvers. I print it out every day, doing it it at some exaggerated multiple of your worst times, and then go to you for your learned comments. I will soon make a monetary contribution which, even if large, will be disproportionately small compared with the pleasure your work provides.
And, learned sir, on the subject of your learned daughter (my son and daughter also learned the love of reading from the Potter books), she will not "graduate high school next year;" she will graduate FROM high school next year. Please, tonight or tomorrow morning, seek your readership's forgiveness.

BarbieBarbie 8:59 PM  

@Anon 9:09: nope, haven't read Chaucer since high school. I'm reading the latest from Louise Erdrich and the first chapter has me intentionally losing my glasses. But I will get there, when it's exactly the right time. Love her writing. Meanwhile, yes I've read the HP books, and admired them hugely, though it's true there's some formulaic stuff-- exactly what kids need. I thought at the time that it was dumb to call the Philosopher's Stone by a different name. Never liked the movies and never thought Daniel R was a particularly good actor, though the others were.
I liked this puzzle a lot, but was definitely brought up short by the alphabet ones. Ick, even for a Monday. It was great to see Marnia in the same puzzle and if only there had been an E. nesbitt clue (Psammead, anyone?) it would have been a BritKidLit trifecta. Oops, forgot the Practically Perfect Poppins. And Pooh. And Bilbo.
Fast time, so I guess it was easy.

Joe Bleaux 1:22 PM  

And there are those who will insist that, properly, she "will be graduated from" high school.

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Nickolas 5:01 PM  

Philosopher's Stone is a much more common phrase in the UK -- long before HP. It is less common, and a bit opaque, so the US publisher decided to give it a name that was similar, but more welcoming to American audiences.

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Diana,LIW 9:44 AM  

Hooray! The Syndieland Express is back! Haven't yet solved, and I'm not peeking, but had to see if the magic button had been pushed - we finally escaped Sat, June 17.

Lady Di

Burma Shave 9:58 AM  


If you ENDEAR yourself to ANNA, you’re BLEST,
Don’t be a SNOB; be a KEEN PRIZE to select,
you’ll have AGAS if you’re ENDOWed and ERECT.


spacecraft 10:59 AM  

Debut constructors generally fall into three basic categories: Don't Quit Your Day Job, A Diamond In The Rough, and This One's a Keeper. Today's author is the second one. The theme is incredibly dense--including the bottom ROW, which I filled in with a smile in an instant. Can't imagine that costing OFL more than one second of time. And yes, I like the non-theme clues; it's a wonderful touch.

The fill problems, while understandable in light of theme density and Ms. ROWLING's initials, comprise the "in the rough" part. Perhaps it would have been better to go with just the surname and ditch the JK. Center it in the 8th ROW and go from there.

But there are signs this fellow might become a good one. Look at that Z: PRIZE/SNEEZES, absolutely natural and unforced. DOD candidates roam throughout, but the winner is smack in the middle--and a themer to boot: AHOT Sharon STONE. I'd add something about 7-across, but I know @BS will cover that topic.

So Brian, don't serve notice just yet, but maybe drop HR a hint that you might not be there long. On balance, birdie.

Diana,LIW 12:29 PM  

If you remember, I'm a puzzle baby who is attempting to catch up by completing puzzle anthologies - best ofs, Mons, Tues, Weds, etc. Do a few every day.

Soooo, imagine my delight when I ran across a Michael Sharp puzzle in a WS edited puzzle. And imagine my ROFL response to find a 5-letter alphabet string as an answer to a clue. Yup, OFL made me ROFL. If only he'd fess up to using this device himself while criticizing another constructor. I must look that puzzle up - don't think that anthology is in the house I'm in at this time, but I'll remember, as this comment has happened before.

Starting near the bottom, as usual, I found this puzzle quite easy, except for a bit in the NW - partly due to my favorite trick of putting the wrong letters in the wrong squares. Re-reading put that problem to rest.

Read in one of the posts that the constructor is well known in England. As ever, I'm in awe.

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords

leftcoastTAM 1:28 PM  

AS NEAT a Monday as one might want, especially if you're into JKROWLING and her TALEs of HARRY POTTER. Not so good though, if it takers a chunk of the alphabet to get JK.

Nice little gathering of palindromes in the SW corner.

All OK by me.

rondo 2:26 PM  

Like OFL, this puz also took me at least 30 seconds longer than a usual Monday. Much longer. While solving I wondered, “What the EFF’S OFL gonna say about GHIJK?” Pretty necessary unless you work it in as JAY KAY somehow. And I’ll stay with the source material for a deserved yeah baby for JKROWLING.

I think I SAW all of the HARRY POTTER flicks. Seems like about 2/3 the way through or so my brain STALLS out due to all the “magic and wonder”.

Longer and more explanatory clue for COED today. No discussion? It’s OK now I guess.

Isn’t PERE ERR that fancy water?

Speakin’ of fancy, maybe that GHIJK is the real spelling of geek. I got no more so I’ll GETOUT.

rain forest 2:28 PM  

Cool Monday. In a perverse way, GHIJK is sort of cute, much better than NOPQR, for example. And the EFFS - so what? People say "effing" all the time.

Isn't the SSN your IDNO? I dunno. I'm a Canadian.

Haven't read an HP book. Not bragging; just not interested, and anyway I think I've learned enough just by doing the NYT puzzle.

Liked this for its construction, the theme execution, and the four or five excellent clue/answer combos.

Joshua K. 2:33 PM  

That's strange, I thought I had seen alphabet runs from time to time, and I didn't start doing the NYT puzzle regularly until well into the Shortz era. But usually those were 3 letter runs, not 5. Someone can probably check the alphabet runs in a database to find out.

thefogman 2:35 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
thefogman 2:36 PM  

In spite of OFL's misgivings, I feel this was an okay puzzle for a Monday. It just lacked a certain magic to enhance the theme and take it to another level. More Harry Potter related answers in the fill would have been nice. I never knew HARRY meant to persistently torment. Harrass yes, but HARRY - not so much

leftcoastTAM 6:05 PM  

Concerning that pesky alphabet chunk: Could've at least just left the DEF part out of the clue. Too hard for Monday?

thefogman 9:12 PM  

An alternative to the alphabet chunk clue: A common Y-chromosome haplogroup...


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