Grandpa Walton for short / WED 8-30-17 / Cyber Monday business

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Constructor: David J. Kahn

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging



THEME: BLADE — a word ladder that goes from BLUNT to SHARP through BLADE—which helps clue two answers on the W and E edges of the puzzle, respectively: RAZOR (24D: Item with a 39-Across) and KNIFE (36D: Item with a 39-Across)

Theme answers:
  • BLUNT
  • BLURT
  • BLART
  • BLARE
  • BLADE
  • SLADE
  • SHADE
  • SHARE
  • SHARP 
Word of the Day: CUTTLE (54A: Sea creature with eight arms) —
noun
noun: cuttle; plural noun: cuttles
  1. a cuttlefish. (google) (seriously, that is the full definition) (because "cuttlefish" is what people actually call them)
• • •

This is what puzzle used to be like, kids. This is what used to pass for a gimmick, this is what used to pass for fill. Very 20th century. I thought AN ERA (ugh) had been put on an ice floe circa Y2K. And that stupid money slang that *nobody* has used since Bugs Bunny, but that still finds its garbage way into garbage puzzles!? DOREMI, clued as [Cabbage or kale]? No. Pass. Hard to express how unpleasant, bordering on painful, it was to solve this thing. By the time I was done, I was stunned to see my time was only in the mid-4s. It felt grueling. I expected to see a time about half again as long. I got complete stuck at least once, and for a few ugly seconds I wasn't sure I was going to get the far east at all. I kept hitting groaner after groaner (both clues and answers). And for what? A word ladder—the stupidest and most hated of crossword gimmicks. Were you happy to see Paul BLART? No, who would be? But you gotta go through BLART (*apparently*) to get the precious word ladder to work. *Only* a veteran constructor could've gotten this thing published. At least I hope so. Kids. Please. Don't do this. (I actually don't think a kid is capable of conceiving a puzzle like this, so much does it belong to AN ERA of yore)


Stopped following the NFL because [so many reasons, too tired to get into] so I totally forgot DEREK Carr existed. This made the east very hard, as I never knew Mayella EWELL existed (and I've read the book), and I don't know what a CUTTLE is. I know very well what a CUTTLEfish is, as I have seen the documentaries and oohed and aahed at the shape-shifting and what not. CUTTLE? No. Further blanking on Latin (!?), and a cutesy clue on the terrible RELET (34D: Filled again, in a way), meant bad bad things for me over there. Still not sure how I extricated myself. I resent clues like 6D: Rep. or Dem., e.g. (ABBR.)—where the clue's like some obnoxious kid going "ha ha, gotcha," when all they've done is hit you with an EGG (i.e. Nothing Clever).


How many different answers did you try for 22A: No longer in bed? I tried at least three, I think: ARISEN, AWOKEN ... OK, two. So the anchor is "no longer" in the sea "bed"—AWEIGH! Great. That, and the insane / Saturdayish clue on STAPLES (27A: The "L" in this store's log hints at the store's name), made the NE hard as well. Oh, and I had EGO (11A: It may be coddled) instead of EGG, of course. The last thing you want a word ladder (again, ugh) to be is unnecessarily fussy and hard. Since there is Zero joy in the theme ITSELF, you gotta be very careful elsewhere. This wasn't. There is more not to love in this (ICERS, FIERI, BARRE, ELA, bleeping ZEB!?!?!) but I'm hungry and still groggy from being [No longer in bed?]. Good day.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]

124 comments:

The Bard 7:21 AM  

DOLL TEARSHEET: Away, you cut-purse rascal! you filthy bung, away!
by this wine, I'll thrust my knife in your mouldy
chaps, an you play the saucy cuttle with me. Away,
you bottle-ale rascal! you basket-hilt stale
juggler, you! Since when, I pray you, sir? God's
light, with two points on your shoulder? much!

King Henry IV, part II , Act II, scene IV


cuttle

Etymology 1 n. The cuttlefish. Etymology 2

n. (context obsolete English) A knife. Etymology 3

n. (context obsolete English) A foul-mouthed fellow.

QuasiMojo 7:28 AM  

Word ladders belong in Highlights magazine. I agree with Rex -- esp. abt ABBR. -- but thought the knife theme was at least well executed.

smalltowndoc 7:28 AM  

Horrible puzzle. Just horrible. That's all.

kitshef 7:28 AM  

As puzzles go, forgettable. I knew Rex’s review would be a rant at 1A.

I amused myself trying to find a word ladder that does not use cheaters like “BLART”. Got there, but it doesn’t go through BLADE.
BLUNT
BLURT
BLURS
SLURS
SOURS
SOARS
SCARS
SCARP
SHARP

Lewis 7:30 AM  

The SHARP I know of, and today is a case in point, is quite BLUNT.

Funny how differently people can react. I left this puzzle feeling quite mellow, no bad feelings. I like having BLADE right in the middle, something that can be either BLUNT or SHARP, and not only is it related to RAZOR and KNIFE, but also EPEES (and I'm sure EPEES would have been clued like the other two had it not been plural). I loved the clue for DOREMI (I was misdirected into thinking along the cruciferous line). Something unusual about this puzzle is that the longest answers are but seven letters.

Some people disparage word ladders, but, reasonably spaced, I think they're cool.

Hungry Mother 7:30 AM  

Very cool puzzle, easily done. Faster than my usual Wednesday. Loved the theme, however musty and went for the ladder right away.

Z 7:32 AM  

Thank you @The Bard. I plan on using CUTTLE in some obsolete English way some time today.

But Hey! Look! Nine Themers. I thought part of the point of word ladders was to find the shortest path?

I know there are people who like word ladder puzzles. I'm not one of them.

Exubesq 7:38 AM  

Perhaps this was meant as a tribute to OFL? Or else,Rex, Shortz is trolling you so hard.

Passing Shot 7:41 AM  

Glad to see it wasn't just me. This was joyless.

LisaG 7:45 AM  

I was not a fan of DOREMI...nor did I enjoy having to dig into the far recesses of my memory to come up with ZEB. That said, I finished it online without having to print it out and struggle with it for a while.
#victoryismine

Beaglelover 7:48 AM  

No one can read a "tea leaf"!

Trombone Tom 7:53 AM  

Well, I guess I'm in the minority. I don't arbitrarily dislike word ladders and thought this was cleverly done with the nice addition of RAZOR and KNIFE.

I wasn't familiar with throwing SHADE and don't mind learning a new expression. But I haven't heard of CUTTLE without the fish.

Thank you David J. Kahn for a relatively easy but enjoyable Wednesday.

Elle54 7:57 AM  

I like word ladders!

Ted 7:58 AM  

13 minutes, near DNF trying to fill in all the little missing bits like the far North (ABBR, ERRATA) or the West (ANNEAL, ZEB, LISLE) or that lovely UKULELE over DOREMI, or AWEIGH and STAPLES...

Cluing was Friday/Saturday hard on many of these.

Liliʻuokalani 8:00 AM  

Never understood why a LEI is often clued as a "keepsake." The flowers die within 24-48 hours, and you throw the damn thing away. Hardly a keepsake.

Two Ponies 8:05 AM  

When I saw David Kahn's name I was hoping for a challenge.
I really wanted to enjoy this but there is too much crap
and no reward.
Aweigh and cuttle are horrible answers.
Mayella was a crucial character in the story but there is no need to ever remember her last name...until today.
Music of the 70's was and is my favorite so I'll have to look up Slade. The name means nothing to me this morning.
So you can cut something with your cuttle?
@ Beaglelover has a point. That's some real talent if you can read a single leaf.
I'm hoping for some fun trick tomorrow. It's been awhile since we've had a rebus. Bring it on please!

chefbea 8:06 AM  

got the word ladder but still DNF...too many words I didn't know...I'll have to go coddle some eggs for breakfast!!!

Anonymous 8:12 AM  

Homage to Woody Guthrie:

Oh, if you ain't got the do re mi, folks, you ain't got the do re mi,
Why, you better go back to beautiful Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Georgia, Tennessee.
California is a garden of Eden, a paradise to live in or see;
But believe it or not, you won't find it so hot
If you ain't got the do re mi.

DOREMI may be dated, but it certainly is part of our collective past.

The puzzle was just meh for me. I'm not particularly a fan of word ladders (although I'm also not mindlessly negate like some), but the word ladder format actually helped my solve.

- Jim C. in Maine

Mr. Fitch 8:13 AM  

This was godawful. DOREMI for real? And word ladders are the very definition of tired and lazy. This would have felt outdated in 1996.

Glimmerglass 8:16 AM  

I liked this one. I associate DOREMI with Woody Guthrie ("California"). I have no problem with word ladders. Today, the ladder was a way to make some difficult answers easier. I didn't know Paul BLART, but the word ladder told me only the A was a different letter from BLURT. That also gave me the sneaky ABBR. So an easy word ladder plus some end-of-the-week cluing equals Wednesday. I'm a bit offended when @Rex and other posters call a puzzle old-fashioned. I'm old fashioned.

Anonymous 8:19 AM  

Ugh. I hate it when I don't proofread my comments.

I've always sung the Woody song "If you ain't got the do re mi BOYS . . ." I'm about as leftist as you can be, but I object to changing songs that come out of a particular culture to conform to our current sensibilities.

Also that "negate" in my final comment should be "negative."

- Jim C. in Maine

Nancy 8:30 AM  

The word ladder didn't add to my pleasure, such as it was, but it didn't subtract from it, either. And every once in a great while, it helped me in the solving. As in ZEB. I had no idea what Grandpa Walton's first name was, and I originally had jEB. At 61A, I misinterpreted "going to experience" as meaning choosing someone with experience as opposed to choosing someone without experience. (Guess who was in my mind as I contemplated that interpretation.) Anyway, when IN FOR came in, I was momentarily perplexed. It took a while for me to realize that the real meaning of 61A was "about to experience".

Thought for the day: A fortuneteller with only one TEA LEAF (5D) really has her work cut out for her.

Too many proper names for me to really like this, though I did appreciate the resistance it put up on a Wednesday. The early week puzzles have been a lot better than usual this week, I'd say.

OTD 8:32 AM  

Enjoyed the word ladder along with the added KNIFE and RAZOR. DOREMI takes me way back to the 50s and some of the old film noirs. Being ex-navy, I should have gotten AWEIGH long before I did. Laughed when it suddenly popped into mind--of course. The puzzle as a whole seemed a bit dated, but I enjoyed it.

Tita A 8:33 AM  

@Beagle...I left the LEAF part blank for a while, because it makes no earthly sense. It's the relationship of the leaves to each other (and maybe to the container) that matters. Harrumph.
Any professional TEALEAF readers on the blog?

I hate word ladders...boooooor-ing. But learning about the twist of having BLADE in the middle made me appreciate it more.

My cousin, who is an absolutely amazing cook, came over from Portugal to stay with her US based relatives. One month at each of our homes. She promised as payment as many gourmet meals as we could bear. BUT...we had to provide SHARP knives!
We all gained 20 pounds with her visit.

Anonymous 8:34 AM  

Christine Cavalier. All-consumed with Trump hate.

clk 8:40 AM  

DOREMI is an okay, albeit dated, answer and cabbage is a fine clue for it, but when and where was kale ever slang for money?

The word ladder was the only way I figured out some of these answers.

Anonymous 8:43 AM  

This is a great puzzle thanks David. The reviewer is an ass. Princeton professor Robert George: "Merriam-Webster's first definition of the word 'bigot' is a person 'who is obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices.' The only people who need fear open-minded inquiry and robust debate are the actual bigots, including those on campuses or in the broader society who seek to protect the hegemony of their opinions by claiming that to question those opinions is itself bigotry."
I've read on the comment section of this blog that Rex doesn't read the comment section of his blog. Only he knows for sure whether that's true, but I tend to believe it because he is a bigot.

Anonymous 8:50 AM  

Kevin James as Paul Blart was a brilliant performance, in a brilliant and hilarious film. Shame it got snubbed by the snooty elite "Academy".

Anonymous 8:54 AM  

"I expected to see a time about half again as long." I see what you did there.

G. Weissman 9:00 AM  

Beyond its datednrss, a puzzle with this many proper names, and the need to go to the Portuguese language for its fill, is crap.

mathgent 9:04 AM  

An above average Wednesday, I'd say. I remember having fun with word ladders as a kid. I like thinking back to those days.

r.alphbunker 9:08 AM  

Like @Lewis I saw BLUNT SHARP to be comment about Rex Parker. Word puzzles are old friends. It is good to see them every now and then. If you want to see what Henry Hook does with a word ladder check out

https://www.xwordinfo.com/Crossword?date=10/22/2000

I stumbled upon that puzzle in a collection of NYT puzzles in an AirBnB in Presswick, Scotland this morning.

Details of my solution of todays puzzle is here

GPO 9:09 AM  

Can somebody help me?

I have been solving crossword puzzles for many years. And I have been reading this blog for several years.

And I still cannot tell a "good" crossword puzzle from a "bad" one.

Why is "aweigh" for "no longer in bed" bad?

Don't about half of all crossword puzzles in the history of crossword puzzles have a foreign-language word?

And why, why do people (not today, but often) complain about "bad puns"? What in the hell would be a "good" pun, and who would want one?

I did think "ABBR" was kind of weird, but the middle of this rant doesn't seem like the right time to bring it up.

Cassieopia 9:10 AM  

Call me fusty, but I've always been fond of word ladders and the alchemy involved therein. DOREMI was completely new to me and once that solution emerged, I tried - in vain - to research what a musical scale had to do with cole crops. Try googling that, folks, there isn't a hit that makes the link. From the comments above, I deduce that both are slang for money but I must live a sheltered and uneducated life, having never heard it.

The second I opened the puzzle and saw the word ladder, my heart simultaneously soared and sank - yay a word ladder! Oh dear, an impending Rex Rant! So it seemed sly to find SHARP as the last entry.

@Nancy, loved your thought of the day.

RooMonster 9:15 AM  

Hey All !
Once I read "Word Ladder", I chuckled to myself about Rex hating the puzzle! And, yep, he did.

At least this is a clever Ladder, starting and ending with what the state of a BLADE can be. And going through BLADE to go from BLUNT to SHARP. And throwing in two other themers, KNIFE and RAZOR, besides the Ladder. And not ending up with too much dreck, considering the small amount of non-theme squares left.

DNF with EGo/oOTHS. Was asking myself, "Who the heck are the OOTHS?" That corner was the toughest of the puz for me. ETAIL was sales-esale-emall-ETAIL. And AWEIGH as clued was (Rex) blargh.

So a tougher-than-normal WedsPuz. I like word ladders, so puz OK by me.

ALrIGHTy BRO
RooMonster
DarrinV

Name/URL 9:22 AM  

This wasn't a great puzzle for me, but there will be a lot of people who enjoy it. It was fun to type ukulele and igloo and cuttle (though agree with Rex here, it's a cuttlefish). Ochre is a fun word. Even a little word like dab has a bit of joy in it. Usually a dab of something is a good thing as opposed to, say, a dab of crap.

But the flaw in this blog is that it brings to mind a person who eats dinner at Denny's every night and complains about the quality of the food it terms of freshness and execution. It's Denny's. This is the NYT crossword puzzle. It's obviously not as good as it used to be and an opportunity for it to improve isn't on the horizon.

So review the thing for what it is, or start blogging on the WSJ puzzle. Not consistent perfection there, but each entree has something to love.

Stanley Hudson 9:25 AM  

Meh, which for a Wednesday, the quintessential meh day, is perhaps perfect.

Nancy 9:29 AM  

Tita (8:33) asks: "Any professional TEA LEAF readers on this blog?" Well, not me, but...

Maybe 15 years ago or more, there was a huge NYT feature about three really, really well-known (if not to me) fortune tellers in NYC. The most prominent of these had the same name as I do. Within days, if not hours, my phone started to ring off the hook: "Is this Nancy _____, the famous fortune teller?" (Evidently she wasn't listed in the White Pages, whereas I was.) I was beyond irritated. "No, I'm not! I would growl into the phone. "She's not listed. No, I don't know how you can track her down! Sorry." These calls went on and on for at least a year, and I got grumpier and grumpier about them. What a dummy I was! For this is what my answer should have been:

"Yes, my child. I am indeed a famous fortune teller." (Not necessarily the one you read about in the Times, since I don't want to be prosecuted for impersonation, but I'd leave that unsaid.) "And my child, because I am so famous and so sought-after, I fear that you may find me a bit more expensive than your average fortune teller. My price is $1000 an hour. But, my child, I promise you that I will read your fortune like no one else in the world ever has! (That much would certainly be true.) Alas, what a dummy I was! Opportunity comes knocking at my door, and I don't even realize it.

bennys 9:30 AM  

@Liliʻuokalani: I felt the same way and refused to enter "lei" for a long time as a lei is most definitely not something that can be "kept": It consists of highly perishable flowers.

Anonymous 9:31 AM  

Bad puzzle on many levels.
Word ladder is bad enough but to rely BLART and SLADE is almost criminal.
Then you have the annoying cross referencing gimmick.
Too many pop culture names: ROSIE, ZEB, FIERI DEREK, SLADE
For once I thought that Rex was too lenient on his review.
Had EGg instead of EGG for 11A.

Craig Percy 9:48 AM  

I've seen worse.

Ellen S 9:53 AM  

I usually hate, or anyway strongly dislike, word ladders, but found myself enjoying this puzzle despite my prejudice. I read Jeff Chen's Xwordinfo writeup before coming here and thought this was interesting: " I do think that EWELL is fair game, as "To Kill A Mockingbird" is in many English Lit curricula."

Do you think he was thinking about someone we know? I really love OFL -- it's so predictable that the English Lit clues are going to trip him up. It's so cute.

jberg 10:05 AM  

I didn't even notice how thoroughly the theme was worked out until I got here; I have to like it for that alone. Plus, unlike some, I love words like AWEIGH and ALIGHT (ETAIL not so much).

There were definitely too many unknown-to-me proper nouns, two of them in the ladder. But I can put up with that, since I learned from them.

The hardest part for me was reading the clue for 51A as "Popular jazz instrument." I finally reread the clue once I had - - - LELE.

Mohair Sam 10:23 AM  

@Craig Percy (9:48) "I've seen worse" - You've obviously seen "The Waltons".

kitshef 10:36 AM  

@GPO - the only answer is that a good puzzle is one you enjoy, and a bad puzzle is one you don't enjoy. This is a matter of taste, and you will see a share of likes and dislikes on this board pretty much every day.

That said, a few things that a great majority of people find contribute to a 'bad' puzzle:
- Crosses deemed as unfair - e.g. two obscure hockey players. It's bad enough to have crossing obscurities, but having them from the same area of knowledge is worse.
- Abbreviations (such as ABBR and FHA). It's OK to sprinkle in 1-3 of these, but more than that and complaints will start. Abbreviations also need to be crossed fairly, as they often cannot be inferred from the word pattern.
- Roman numerals, either alone or affixed to a name (XIV, PeterIII)
- 'Crosswordese' - words that appear often in crosswords but that you never hear in real life: ELHI, EMOTER, etc.

Beyond that, a lot of personal taste. On this board, hip-hop artists will get a lot of flak (but not from Rex). Ditto for neologisms.

Experienced solvers will dislike clues that are too straightforward (US President Abraham _____), though newer solvers will appreciate some easy entries to get them started.

a jazz listener's thoughts 10:38 AM  

Oh please, calm down and try to have fun. First, the ladder was not particularly clever and was simple to fill in right up front, which does make it far less challenging to do. But still it was a nice few minutes in my day as i sipped my coffee. Second, just because you don't know a clue or word, or don't like a fill, doesn't mean others don't either or that it is wrong, re cuttlefish or doremi, or even aweigh. What, you wnat it all to be transparent to you? that's not a challenge, that's a bore. In point of fact I found this was a very easy puzzle. If you cannot lighten up and enjoy the puzzle why are you doing it?

Anonymous 10:54 AM  

TOTALLY annoying. All that for what?

jae 11:09 AM  

Yep, pretty tough Wed. The cross referencing didn't help, plus it took me three tries to get LISLE (ORAs made no sense). EWELL and DEREK were both WOEs but it had to be an E (yes, I've read "To Kill a Mockingbird" but it was around about 50 years ago...these days I have trouble keeping track of the clones on Orphan Black and I watched an episode last night).

A word ladder combined with cross referencing...not my favorite....

If you'd like to try a wickedly tough themeless David Kahn puzzle I would recommend his Sat. Dec. 6, 1997 offering. I got most of it but the SE killed me.

Joseph Michael 11:10 AM  

When I read the clue for 1A and realized that this would be a word ladder, I almost decided to skip the puzzle. Nevertheless I plodded on and found it to be not as BAD as I had expected. Which isn't saying a lot. But, as @Craig Percy has already ARTICULATED, I've seen worse.

As soon as I filled in BLUNT, I knew that the end of the word ladder would be SHARP. Had the same BLUNT/SHARP thoughts along the way that @Lewis and others had in reference to our OFL.

I have seen the mall cop movie and read To Kill a Mockingbird, but couldn't remember BLART or EWELL. Liked IGLOO as an ice pad, DOREME as cabbage, and RADIO as something that comes in waves.

Enjoyed @Nancy's telephone tale, which reminded me of moving into a new apartment in San Francisco years ago and being thrilled to randomly receive a phone number with 4 zeros in it. As my phone began to ring off the hook, however, I soon realhzed that my number was only one digit different from that for SF General Hospital. I also learned that the incidence of wrong numbers is directly related to the weather, with rain storms producing the highest number. And may I point out that in SF in the winter, it usually rains a lot.

mathgent 11:25 AM  

If Will Shortz wasn't under orders to dumb down the puzzle, he would have left the nine steps of the word ladder unclued. Then this would have been a gam. (The nine entries are symmetrically placed.)

I forget a crossword a day or two after I solve it, so it's no surprise that I don't recall doing another word ladder puzzle recently. Are there more than a couple a year?

Anonymous 11:26 AM  

No problem with the ladder concept but sucky fill. Hated DOREME, ETAIL, DEREK, EWELL, CUTTLE.

Glimmerglass 11:36 AM  

@Nancy and @Joseph Michael. Re: randomly assigned phone numbers. I was delighted to receive a phone number which was one number followed by the three digits of the exchange. When it was installed, I assumed it was a test number the phone guy used to test his connections, but no, it was to be our number. I still like it 43 years later, but we do get a large number of wrong numbers. For a while, our number was one digit off flight service at the airport, and we'd get calls at five am asking what the ceiling was. I was tempted to say, "white sheet rock," but resisted the joke. I suspect flight service is no longer available or pilots have it on speed dial, as we don't get those calls any more.

GHarris 11:40 AM  

I know I've done a good job when I get doremi thinking it described a class of vegetables, never realizing the words cabbage and kale were being used as slang for cash until I came here. So I enjoyed this and still am awed by Rex's time even when he says he struggled.

thomas greisen 11:42 AM  

Quit half way thru. Just too boring.

Blue Stater 11:52 AM  

Agreed. Thank you, Rex, for articulating why I disliked this puzzle so much. The rot continues. But what else is new?

jb129 11:57 AM  

I enjoyed this puzzle - kept me going at it when I thought I would give up. Didn't like "DO RE MI" for cabbage & didn't know "Ewell" , but all in all, it was a good puzzle & I agree with Rex - this is the way puzzles used to be - thank you David Kahn.

RooMonster 12:01 PM  

@Phone Number Stories:
I was living in Connecticut with a phone number that started 877, when around the time that became the new toll free number starter. So if people living in the same area code started dialing 877, the phone only let's you dial (at that time) 7 numbers regardless of how many numbers you hit. So I started getting alot of calls for
the number that started with my last four digits. Unfortunately, I can't remember what the number was for.

But funny, makes you have want to mess with the people!

RooMonster

Masked and Anonymous 12:08 PM  

BLART is a great word. [Sounds like a good term for someone firin off simultaneously, at both ends.]

Five-letter word ladders are kinda unusual, right? Only ones I can remember went from SOUP to NUTS, and soforth. Word ladders have BEQ Bullshit Immunity: his "Ten Bullshit Crossword Themes" list does not include word ladders. Sooo … ok.

This here word ladder was mighty mighty useful in my solvequest, as I could infer answers to many of the starred clues, by referrin to the previous word rung. Only way I got BLART, for example. Had the A from ADLIB, and knew the previous rung was BLURT … presto! … BLART! [Great word.]

har. Count old M&A in the group whose first reaction to BLUNT SHARP was some sort of sneaky/snarky @RP easteregg twerk. Doubtful that the constructioneer did that intentional-like. On the other hand, I'll bet the theme mighta tickled the Shortzmeister a lil extra, if that angle occurred to him …

fave off-the-ladder things, a la bullets:

* Weeject stacks in all four corners! Tie m&e down, before I float away. As someone pointed out, longest entry in the puz was a 7-letterer. Runt-like. Like.

* staff weeject pick: ELA. Always admire nonsense words that are perfectly good words, spelled backwards. Honrable mention to LEI+LAY. Ain't too often, U can get lei-ed twice, in one day.

* INBAD and ANERA, side-by-side. Now, that's what I am desperately talkin about.

* 22-A clue of: {No longer in bed?} = AWEIGH. Primo. Even better answer to that clue: INBAD.

* RADIO. Another cuul clue. Wanted RADAR, at first.

* CUTTLE. Perfectly acceptable CUTTLEFISH alternative, accordin to the Official M&A Help Desk Dictionary. Learned somethin there, which is always a good thing.

* Them stars on the word ladder rung clues. Made things moo-ladder eazy-Er. And made for an interestin & **different** solve-feel. Like different.

Thanx for the fun, Mr. Kahn. U didn't mean anything, by that KNIFE hoverin over INFOR SHARP, right? [BL-har-T]
Get well and 20/20, + better by half, Mrs. @Lewis.

Masked & Anonymo5Us


More 7-letters or less stuff:
**gruntz**

jb129 12:08 PM  

And I agree with Jazz Listeners Thoughts - hey guys, this is for FUN! If it's so painful, don't do it!

Cassieopia 12:17 PM  

@M&A - always read - and enjoy - your writeups but today's was a masterpiece. The entire post was excellent but coup de grace is that I'll never hear a Paul Blart joke again without thinking of your offered alternate definition.

Anonymous 12:28 PM  

Woe is me. I have to wake up each day and find something to be offended by.

old timer 12:34 PM  

DNF because I was too lazy to run the alphabet for SLAT. I figured "slay" would do, and that BLART guy could reasonably be B.Lary. But all in all I found this to be a devilishly tricky puzzle, quite delightful when i figured out IGLOO and RADIO and STAPLES,

I'm in the camp of those who say an *occasional* word ladder is a good thing.

And really, @Rex, if there is Patrick Berry immunity, that should extend to Woody Guthrie. Dad of the oft-used ARLO, and that DOREMI song about 1930's emigration to California is something you could probably hear right there in your own little college town, assuming there are places to sometimes hear folk music. (And given housing prices and rents in my part of California, you still better go back home if you ain't got that DOREMI.

puzzlehoarder 12:49 PM  

I read the word ladder reference in the clue for 1A wrote in BLUNT and promptly forgot all about it. I got about halfway down the puzzle and seriously thought to myself that there must be some sort of words starting with BL theme going on. My basic approach to solving an early week themed puzzle is to ignore the theme as much as possible and pretend I'm solving a themeless late week. Things like wondering what four letter political abbreviation ends with an R and can be applied to either political party helped to keep me in that little bubble. I learned that "coddle" is a cooking term, CUTTLE can be used separately from the word fish and EWELL is spelled with a W not a U. All this took up only 15 minutes of my time and I'm a tiny bit better of a solver for it so no complaints here.

Anoa Bob 12:50 PM  

Let me be BLUNT about this. I'm a life-long sharpener. I sharpen KNIFE BLADEs, chisels, axes, saws, drill bits, you name it. So the fatal flaw in this puzzle for me is that if a BLADE isn't SHARP, then it is dull. That's DULL, not BLUNT. Other than in this puzzle, I've never heard or seen a blade, be it KNIFE or RAZOR or whatever, referred to as BLUNT.

I think the BLUNT to SHARP word ladder would have worked much better if it had been about EPEES. Since SHARP-pointed EPEES would be lethal weapons, in the Olympic arena they purposely have BLUNT ends.

Anonymous 12:55 PM  

Need some help here please. If I'm a "feminist", it's still OK to rip Melania Trump for the way she dresses because our hatred of all things Trump takes precedence? Just want to make sure I'm following along properly. Thanks.

Teedmn 1:17 PM  

Word ladder puzzles are barely a step up (har) from Quip puzzles, in my book. But today's offering held my interest - I liked the anchoring answers at both ends with the bonus tie-ins. I found this quite challenging; it took me 14 minutes, on a Wednesday! I was held up in @Rex's easterly complaint area. DEREK cossing EWELL was tough though gettable.

But SEWN as tailor-made? Aren't most clothes SEWN - just because it's off the rack doesn't mean it's held together with STAPLES!!

I looked at CUT___ a long time (54A). My brain was teasing me with CowriE shells and until I got RELET, I was flailing my eight arms around.

I do not associate UKULELE's with The Jazz Age so that was news to me. For some reason, the fact that KOALAs are marsupials has escaped me lo, these many years. I actually heard my Dad use the term "DO RE MI" as clued some time in the last 3 years. Ice pad = IGLOO, nice. I missed the "follower" part of 16A and had "Not me" at first rather than "me TOO". While I can nod at many of @Rex's critiques of this puzzle, my reaction is the opposite - my ASSESsment is that it was a fine Wednesday.

And @Nancy, what a fortune you could have amassed as a fortune teller - TOO BAD!

Joe Bleaux 1:19 PM  

Word ladders ... meh. Nothin to love or hate, even when served with so-so fill sprinkled with upward of a dozen PPPs. But I'm not complaining on a Wednesday -- especially when the rain here is being measured in fractions of an inch, not in feet. @Anoa Bob. I felt nitpicky about it, but I thought about the dull/BLUNT thing, too. Glad you mentioned it.

Anonymous 1:32 PM  

@Masked and Anonymous. Primo!

Teedmn 1:34 PM  

Also, did anyone else consider TEALEes for 5D?


noun
1.
Usually, lees. the insoluble matter that settles from a liquid, especially from wine; sediment; dregs.

Dawn 1:39 PM  

I finished in 2/3rds of my average Wednesday time. Don't enjoy word ladders, but liked the clues for RADIO and LOB. Didn't get why DOREMI and AWEIGH were clued as they were until I came here. TEALEAF is clued as a fortune-telling "aid", so presumably more than one leaf may be involved.

tea73 2:13 PM  

I'm not normally a fan of word ladders, but I thought this one was clever. Those ABBR clues always catch me, and make me cross, mostly because you'd think I'd catch on sooner or later. They are fair used sparingly. The word ladder definitely helped with the solve. I could not see LISLE for the longest time since I had stupidly typed in UKUkele. Argh.

Thomaso808 2:19 PM  

@Liliʻuokalani and @bennys, LEI can also be made from shells or kukui nuts and be a keepsake forever. I still have a shell lei from 1999 that I keep as a souvenir.

BLART is the only NYT debut word today -- love it!

I like the occasional word ladder and this one was really good. But AENERA next to INBAD, and RELET next to EWELL? Yuk

Ellen S 2:19 PM  

@Dawn, just above - good rationale for a single TEA LEAF, as nothing hinders it from being one of several.

@Anoa Bob - I have what I hope is a similar excuse for BLUNT to SHARP -- most knives, excepting double-edged ones, have a SHARP side and the other side isn't dull, I think it's BLUNT. Isn't it? Don't fake kidnappers hold the blunt edge of the blade against their victim's neck, to avoid accidentally cutting their throat? (Badly grammatized sentence there, I think, as the nouns don't agree as to number, but hopefully in this age of "their" as a gender neutral singular pronoun, that sort of thing doesn't matter any more.)

Masked and Anonymous 2:27 PM  

p.s.
There was a 5-letter word ladder in the 10 Jan 2017 NYTPuz, tho. Sooo … not real rare, after all, I guess.
And check out the word ladder in the 3 Nov 1999 NYTPuppy … totally loopy version.

&@Teedmn: TEALEES. Nice.

M&Also

Mohair Sam 2:48 PM  

@M&A - You have outdone yourself today. Or as U would say - Primo

JC66 2:52 PM  

I've been SCUBA diving for 4 decades (over 300 dives) and it's definitely CUTTLEfish. There's no such thing as a CUTTLE.

@Nancy

After about a week, I would've gotten an unlisted number.

@M&A

How do you really feel about BLART?

Janet Hanks 3:02 PM  

This thing was awful. Really painful. Un-fun. I thought it was just me, since I was in a bad mood last night, so I'm really relieved to find some solidarity here. I hope never to see BLART again...

Marty 4:05 PM  

Completely agree with the write up here. There wasn't anything fun about today's puzzle. Word ladders are total yawners but are at least a step up - not by much though - from multi-part quote puzzles. The grid today also kept the fill in the realm of the mundane where it often slid into the old and tired. I just wanted to be through with it so I didn't have to look at it anymore.

Lewis 4:27 PM  

@m&a -- Thank you, sir. Mrs. Lewis is doin' right fine, all things considered.

Anonymous 5:05 PM  

Worst puzzle ever.

Anonymous 5:41 PM  

Matt Wuerker and Politico making fun of Harvey victims. Gee, I wonder why we keep losing elections.

Joe Dipinto 5:58 PM  

@kitshef 7:28 - you should send your word ladder to David J. Kahn, who at X-word Info wonders if a Blunt-to-Sharp ladder would even have been possible without the existence of the name Paul BLART.

GR 6:07 PM  

Did anyone else confidently put in DAVID for QB Carr and wonder what on earth was going on in that area? Just me? OK. Also gotta admit trying AWOKEN/ARISEN/etc before AWEIGH, and to not even noticing ETAIL (e-yuk). At least it wasn't a letter bank, I guess...

Doug 6:32 PM  

My thought, too.

Debbie 7:58 PM  

Even after reading 15 comments about it, i still don't understand what DOREMI has to do with money, much less cabbage or kale.

On the other hand, I love the addition of Paul BLART, who is a big hit on the internet, probably because of the absurdity of a movie about a mall cop.

Johnny 8:01 PM  


This puzzle was great.

Aketi 8:11 PM  

@M&A phenomenal today.
@Nancy ditto.
@Lewis, hope your wife's recovery goes well.
@Evil Doug, thx for you late post yesterday. The epidemiologist in me will never agree that sample sizes of one example are sufficient, but we can absolutely agree that the violence of some white nationalists and of antifa are wrong. I may disagree with you on some of your politics and find you provocative, but I do enjoy many of your posts and appreciate that you do think more deeply than sound bites from the news media.
@Z, I love you too.
@Evil Doug and @Z, if you are ever in New York you're in item to Fight Club breakfast. I'm sure Luis (not Lewis) would let me invite you. He might give you a lesson in BJJ first but only if you swear to zip your lips.

Joe Dipinto 9:15 PM  

Again to @kitshef 7:28 and @my reply at 5:58 -- Ruminating further, I'm not sure of the rules for a Word Ladder, but maybe each answer has to have completely distinct letters? So maybe SLURS, SOURS, SOARS, and SCARS would be unacceptable since there are two S's in each? Hmm...

mmorgan 10:58 PM  

Ah, word ladder. Knew Rex would hate hate hate it. Expected a far more scathing review.

G. Weissman 12:06 AM  

There's a diffrrence between foreign words that have currency in English and allowing any word from any language into a puzzle for English readers. That's like playing tennis without a net.

G. Weissman 12:09 AM  

Hi, Fusty

mskeels64 12:09 AM  

Don't know Mayella Ewell? Never read Mockingbird? For some reason, I thought that you were an English major...

Jeff Cohen 12:22 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jeff Cohen 12:26 AM  

Hi everyone - I'm new to your blog. My name is Jeff.

This being my first comment, I'll be short.

In recent years, there have been two famously bad restaurant reviews in The New York Times. Guy Fieri's joint in Times Square owns one. The other? That would be 'Per Se' in Columbus Circle. Go figure. Coincidence?

kitshef 7:33 AM  

@Joe DiPinto - I have no idea how to get in touch with Mr. Kahn, but feel free to send it on if you do.

Anonymous 10:55 AM  

I believe he, or someone does read them bcz mine are caustic, well-deserved attacks on the bigot-in-chief. They only hang out for a few minutes.

Warren Howie Hughes 6:13 PM  

"A little travel music Ray, and AWEIGH we go!"

Warren Howie Hughes 10:11 AM  

In the end, I was all Rung out by this Word Ladder puzzle. Heh Heh Heh

olyl2 3:11 PM  

This was a meh for me. I got "Ewell" from the E. Was it some long-held memory, or my bigotry, thinking that Ewell automatically means not too smart and bigoted (my apologies to all the Ewells)? Also, I am always impressed, but a little dismayed, at what feels like bragging over timed puzzles. My goal is to finish without an erasure, so some squares go uncompleted until I get enough sure crosses to be sure of the word. I usually fail, but that makes success that much more sweet, though time-consuming. If Rex et al both times and makes no erasures, I AM impressed.

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Burma Shave 9:59 AM  

HOES ADLIB

A SHARP, NIMBLE OLEMISS would BLURT after a LAY,
“Gimme ALIGHT and a kiss, SUR, ORR just go AWEIGH.”

--- DEREK EWELL

rondo 10:38 AM  

Fair warning in the first clue re: word ladder, so you knew what you were INFOR and if you didn’t toss it right AWEIGH, don’t whine. Let it SLIDE. Not that I’m a word ladder fan, and Mr. SHARP sure was BLUNT. One quickly repaired w/o square at UKeLELE, duh.

ABBR is ITSELF an ABBR. Hmm. Only a coupla other ABBRs in the puz, so that’s not TOO bad with the three count fairly high.

DEREK may have been clued better with The Dominos. ORR as Mr. Jeter.

Can’t stop thinking of Woody Guthrie with DOREMI used in this context: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=46mO7jx3JEw

An obvious choice in yeah baby ROSIE Perez, but I wouldn’t have fear of flying with ERICA Jong, either.

Time for me to go brew and then read a TEALEAF.

thefogman 10:54 AM  

Let me be BLUNT. I'm tired of OFL's constant self-righteous negativity. He's becoming the Don Rickles of the crossword world. This wasn't perfect but it was just right for a Wednesday.

thefogman 10:59 AM  

1A (Not pointed...and the start of an eight-step word ladder)

Isn't this a nine-step word ladder?

rondo 11:35 AM  

@foggy - I think you're onto something there.

spacecraft 11:37 AM  

@rondo: DEREK better clued with the Dominoes, or Jeter? How about the obvious: DOD Bo? ROSIE wore the sash just the other day, but remains in the wings should Bo decline the honor.

Not even a personal shout-out could deter OFL from his latest diatribe. As to word ladders, I don't think they should be announced. Let the solver "find" them. This would push them toward the weekend; so be it.

This guy was tough is spots: I almost DNF the whole NE corner. No longer "in bed?" I'm not a nautical buff, so this term is strange to me vis-à-vis a ship. That the CUTTLE is 8-limbed was also unknown, which blocked my efforts to work up from below. At long last STAPLES occurred to me, and that helped.

The far west was another snag. Who knew Grandpa's name was ZEB? This is a series from the '70s, and I only barely recall the actor's name: Will Geer. And this crossing two rather ugly RAP's (random awkward partials) in ANERA and INBAD--that last one is indeed B.A.D.

It all got straightened out in the end, but this felt like wading through molASSES. I guess OFL said that...oh no, we're starting to think alike: HELP!

I didn't know OBAMA came up with that hilarious barb; love it. It's still true today; probably always will be. That alone saves Mr. Kahn from bogeyville: par.

rondo 12:53 PM  

@spacey - You are correct. I must not have had my thinking cap on today. Stuck on first names. Clue coulda been "Ten Bo".

thefogman 12:56 PM  

I guess the word ladder is either eight or nine-stepped, depending on how you count it.
Here's another numeric fun fact, while most cuttlefish have eight arms, they also have two tentacles, which is why some people say they have ten arms - not eight. In the scientific literature, a cephalopod arm is often treated as distinct from a tentacle, though the terms are sometimes used interchangeably. - Wiki

Diana,LIW 1:43 PM  

I saw ZEB in a puzzle recently - probably not in Syndieland. It was one of my first answers.

I also thought the mid-east would be the end of my solve, but it managed to reveal itself.

I agree that BLURTing out "word ladder" wasn't necessary - we have the little asterisks to guide us after all.

And agree with @Rondo - since we were warned, if you don't like ladders or black cats, just don't do the puz.

A bit too much guy trivia for my taste, but got all with the crosses.

Stared at TEAL for a while - what kinda bluish esp device is this? Oh, TEA - got it.

But I never did let go of EGO. Thrown off by "ancient," I was thinking this was some pre-historic oOTH life form I never heard of.

You're in the puz @Teed!

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords

Diana,LIW 1:48 PM  

Also, I did not catch on to DOREMI - thought it was some new term for kale. Kale? Kale is money now? It's not just a snack cracker/salad item/vegetable/garnish?

Lady Di

rainforest 2:02 PM  

Word ladders, used sparingly, are OK by me, but they would be more challenging if it wasn't pointed out where each rung is located. I wouldn't mind that. Also, word ladders are not wounds from a SHARP or BLUNT knife. No solver was harmed by doing a word ladder. If you "hate" them, don't tell us; just don't bother solving.

"Throwing SHADE" is an oft-used expression on political panel discussions, and I've only recently become aware of it. That said, I don't like it much.

However, I enjoyed solving today. Not bad at all.




Anonymous 2:32 PM  

Fair, challenging puzzle. What's the big problem?

leftcoastTAM 3:28 PM  

Bit of a friendly tussle with this one, and it turned out to be a good Wednesday workout.

Word ladder was pretty easy and helpful, but a word string across the middle required a little work: ZEB FIERI DEREK, with the latter crossed by the unknown EWELL.

AWEIGH and CUTTLE emerged from ocean murk, and DOREMI was summoned from the deep by cabbage but not kale.

Nice to see ROSIE again after a couple of days AWay.

Enjoyed it. This has been a fun week.

leftcoastTAM 5:03 PM  

"...a fun week." This just struck me as a poor choice of words (though only referring to the puzzles) given the horror with which the week began.

leftcoastTAM 5:04 PM  

"... a fun week."--just struck me as a poor choice of words, though obviously referring only to the puzzles, given the horror with which it began.

JimmyBgood 6:44 PM  

Unlike Rex, I thought aweigh was very cleverly clued. Staples was an absolute gimme to me. My biggest problem with this puzzle was the false equivalency of articulated and oral. Yes, both have to do with saying something, but you cant exchange one for the other in a sentence. Oral exam = articulated exam. I don't think so.

strayling 7:24 PM  

Worth it for SLADE. They were huge when I was a sprog and the songs hold up quite well even today.

rondo 7:46 PM  

@strayling - agree about SLADE

Michael Leddy 8:40 PM  

I know word ladders as word golf, an element in Nabokov's Pale Fire (hate–late–lave–love). A game of word golf that depends on the proper name BLART is no game at all. Sheesh, Times!

Scott McLean 12:11 PM  

As word ladder puzzles go, this was one of the better ones, for what it's worth.

Lots of theme entries, and ones that actually help the solve, make for a just-right Wednesday puz.

Yeah, some crappy fill - ELA, ABBR, ANERA, ETAIL, EPEES (again!!!) - but also lotsa fun stuff.

AWEIGH is fine, and cleverly clued, as were IGLOO and RADIO. And sometimes LEIs are plastic.

No, not the greatest NYT puzzle ever, but a solid midweek solve.

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