Schiller work adapted by Beeethoven / WED 8-23-17 / Penny memory follower / First name in stunt cycling / Escape tool secreted in cakes in cartoons / Urban Dictionary fodder

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Constructor: Joe Kidd

Relative difficulty: Easy


THEME: You tell me ... looks like "EL" (or "ELS") is added to familiar phrases to get wacky phrases, clued wackily ... but can that be it? I feel like I must be missing something... 

Theme answers:
  • SECURITY CAMELS (19A: Dromedaries on patrol?)
  • CHICKEN BROTHELS (36A: Henhouses of ill repute?)
  • MARRIAGE VOWELS (49A: The "I" and "o" of "I do"?) 
Word of the Day: CALE Yarborough (41A: Nascar's Yarborough) —
William Caleb "Cale" Yarborough (born March 27, 1939), is an American farmer, businessman and former NASCAR Winston Cup Series driver and owner. He is one of only two drivers in NASCAR history to win three consecutive championships. He was the second NASCAR driver to appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated (the first was Curtis Turner on the February 26, 1968 issue. His 83 wins tie him with Jimmie Johnson for sixth on the all-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series winner's list (behind Bobby Allison and Darrell Waltrip, who are tied for fourth with 84). His 14.82% winning percentage is the ninth best all-time and third among those with 500 or more start. Yarborough won the Daytona 500 four times; his first win coming in 1968 for the Wood Brothers, the second in 1977 for Junior Johnson, and back-to-back wins in 1983 and 1984. In 1984, he became the first driver to qualify for the Daytona 500 with a top speed of more than 200 miles per hour (320 km/h). Yarborough is a three-time winner of the National Motorsports Press Association Driver of the Year Award (1977, 1978, 1979). (wikipedia)
• • •

What am I supposed to do with this? What is anyone supposed to do with this? Someone professing himself a "professor emeritus" wrote me some hate mail today, haranguing me for being so negative blah blah blah. I've been getting that criticism forever, so mostly I ignore it, but to get that letter earlier today and then to be confronted with *this* puzzle at 10pm ... I dunno. It's like the universe is trolling me. Even if I wanted to be some kind of Nice-Thing-Saying person, some kind of Fount of Positivity, I would be stymied by this puzzle. It's baffling. I've seen add-a-letter puzzles, and drop-a-letter puzzles (they're among the oldest theme types in existence), but I can't remember seeing multiple letters added this arbitrarily. Why is there no revealer? What is the point of this three-themer clunker? Elevated trains? I went looking for Ernie ELS thinking maybe he could explain it all to me, but found only Elena OCHOA. She just shrugged. "Don't ask me. I'm just happy to be here," she said. I have seen many bad puzzles, ill-conceived puzzles, poorly executed puzzles, but I'm hard pressed to remember anything this ... pointless.


Almost broke 3 minutes on this sucker (very Very fast for me, for a Wednesday), but I had some trouble backing my way into that final themer (the clue for which was the most inscrutable of the lot, by far). I don't want to dwell on how olden and stale the fill is (generally), but please survey or resurvey it. ADRIP is the obvious laffer, but even after that, there's so much junk in this grid. It's all ODEA and ARIA and EVEL and CALE and EMAJ etc etc AH ME. My wife rightly asked, "Why did the gardener only buy one SEED?" (40A: Gardener's spring purchase). She also asked, "Where's the revealer?" But we're all asking that. Some of the longer Downs are just fine—and that is the only praise I can give this. How is this the "best puzzle in the world?" How?

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]

127 comments:

Anonymous 12:09 AM  

'How is this the "best puzzle in the world?" How?' Trump's the 'Most powerful man in the world' and you're questioning how this? Obviously anything and everything has become indecent.

Michelle Turner 12:15 AM  

You buy grass seed not grass seeds.

jae 12:20 AM  

Easy for me too. No erasures and no WOEs. Unless @Rex the theme was meant as a tribute to one of the two top crossword golfers (Isao Aoki being the other one) it's meh at best. The long downs, on the other hand, were pretty zippy. Liked it more than @Rex did.

Mike in Mountain View 12:23 AM  

Very much enjoyed FATCHANCE, YOURMOVE, EASYTHERE, and KACHING, all of which cross the top two themers. Then there's OHCOMENOW, which crosses the bottom two themers. So, with all that quality, and three decent 14-letter themers, I was very entertained.

Is it VILE that an English professor doesn't seem to know that SEED can be either singular or collective? There's even a wikihow article on "How to Buy Seed." www.wikihow.com/Buy-Seed. Note also that HEMPSEED is available in bags that are not labeled HEMPSEEDs.

Thanks for the puzzle, Joe.

Anonymous 12:31 AM  

Seed is plural when in context of commercial usage. But yes this theme... also the clue on Holy left something to be desired, and this coming from a guy who plays Crusader Kings.

Hartley70 12:42 AM  

Ho Hum for the second day in a row. Is it possible to have a week of Mondays? It's not terrible at all, folks, it's just Monday.

In my quest to say something positive about a clue or answer I particularly enjoyed, I'm going to choose the answer MOIST, simply because so many people hate it.

Trombone Tom 1:46 AM  

There were several nice entries: NO MAYO, KACHING, FAT CHANCE, and EASY THERE. But my immediate reaction on finishing was, "That's it?" Gotta go along with the Rexmeister on this one. Not a lot of resistance here for a Wednesday. The themers were worth a giggle and I certainly would encourage Joe Kidd to keep 'em comin'.

Thomaso808 1:53 AM  

First of all, congrats to Joe Kidd on his NYT debut

I liked this puzzle way better than yesterday. The theme was a simple addition of ELS resulting in wacky phrases. I love wacky phrases. No revealer needed. How many times have I seen Rex and others posting about unnecessary revealers, and now here we have an obvious theme and the complaint is where is the revealer? CAM to CAMELS, BROTH to BROTHELS, VOW to VOWELS, that's good stuff!

27D ALBEE was a WOE, and crossed with AHME (not oHME) was almost a DNF.

Other than that, it was a quick, enjoyable solve, so thanks, Mr. Kidd!

Anonymous 1:53 AM  

Els must have to do with the L-shaped black squares, no?

chefwen 2:40 AM  

Beyond easy here, but I liked it. A little disappointed that it was over before I wanted it to be. @Mike in Mountain View and @Trombone Tom mentioned the highlights which are forgotten when you're a little down on a puzzle, so thank you.

Why do I want Mr. Yarborough's name to be Dale instead of CALE, I make that mistake every time.

At 6D I thought, please don't be ADRIP, and of course it was. Enough with the a add ons already!

andrea carla michaels 3:37 AM  

@chefwen I'm with you on dALE, I think bec most nascar drivers ARE named Dale!

When I got the first theme I thought SECURITY CAMERA was changed to CAMELS (and BROTHERS to BROTHELS) and asked myself, what are Chicken Brothers? And can one be a Marriage Avower?)

But it slowly dawned on me he added -ELS, he didn't change R to L.
I admit, I top kept waiting for the golfer to show up!

And I with the rest of the crowd (well, minyan, really, at this point) loved the downs KACHING, FATCHANCE and OHCOMENOW

But agree with whoever pointed out people complain when there are reveals and complain when there are not! Damned if you do, damned if you don't!
Have a reveal... Or ELS!

jae 4:10 AM  

@andrea - The Chicken Brothers aka Los Pollos Hermanos is a chain of fast food restaurants operating across the Southwestern US. They have souvenir tee shirts.

Trudy Morgan-Cole 4:12 AM  

I thought the theme was worth doing for the sake of CHICKEN BROTHELS, but was disappointed from the get-go that DAB was not clued as the dance move. Biggest problem was not knowing the name of the Nascar drive, guessing DALE (aren't they all named Dale?) and staring at the Down cross trying to guess in what usage OH DO ME NOW translates to "Let's be serious here." For certain meanings of "serious," yeah, maybe....

Mr. Fitch 4:18 AM  

This needed a revealer like "golfer Ernie...or what's on the ends of x y and z across". It's essential here because otherwise there's nothing within the puzzle to tie these things together, no internal reason for it to be "els" than any other three-letter combo. Are we now to accept that ANY random three letters added to common phrases to make wacky phrases is an acceptable theme?

People complain that Rex is cranky, and they're right when he does things like critiquing a puzzle because a similar thing appeared 11 years ago. This, though? This is the worst NYT puzzle in quite some time, unless there's some genius theme revealer that I'm missing.

Thomaso808 4:23 AM  

@chefwen & @ACME, CALE Yarborough vs, dALE Earnhardt. Both giants of NASCAR, perhaps Dale more so because he died in a race accident. Dale also has a Dale, Jr. to carry on the name. No connection to YALE that I know of, not to mention NAIL.

Loren Muse Smith 4:27 AM  

I’ve been wrestling with a new school year, new students, new principel, blah blah and haven’t had time to post much here. But I’m compelled to chime in with @Thomaso808 and say that “I love wacky phrases. No revealer needed.” I have no rating scale for wacky phrases. They just Are.

And, yeah, as @Thomas and @Andrea say – the big To Reveal or Not to Reveal… damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

A while ago I read somewhere that the add-a-letter or subtract-a-letter themes were not really accepted much anymore. I was disappointed because the sheer simplicity of adding or subtracting a letter from a word to get another very different word just floats my boat.

Joe – a debut! Good for you! I liked the theme and loved the bonus downs: OH COME NOW, YOUR MOVE, FAT CHANCE, EASY THERE, KACHING, and ODE TO JOY.

This provided me a short, fun diversion before my day starts full-on. And I’ll be on the look-out for other possibilities. Like a partial image of KFC’s logo – Semi Colonel. Hah.

Trombone Tom 4:41 AM  

@Loren Semi Colonel Har! No worries about your being sharp at the start of the day!

Lewis 5:34 AM  

Oh, the theme was cute and the solve easy -- the cluing too easy, IMO, for Wednesday, but -- what lovely answers populate the grid! NO MAYO, NICHE, KACHING, CRONY, OH COME NOW, INSURGENT, YOUR MOVE, NAIVE, EASY THERE. This lifted the puzzle into an ODE TO JOY place for me. Thanks for that buoyant start to the day, Joe!

Jeff Anderson 5:58 AM  

Don't let the nay-sayers get to you Rex. You keep being negative or snarky. It's why I read your blog. I love the work you do here.

BarbieBarbiet 6:19 AM  

Why make CALE the WOTD when he appeared as short fill so recently?

Anon @1:53. Those aren't L shapes. They're backwards for that. I'd say what the black squares look like to me (ick) but the whole blog would soon be covered in troll dung if I did, so I won't.

I guess many of the criticisms here are valid, but I enjoyed this extra-easy puzzle. Some really great answers here that made me smile. How can you scoff at a puzzle that has NOMAYO as an answer? You can forgive the occasional Celestial Hunter in a puzzle that includes KACHING, YOURMOVE, and OHCOMENOW.

Thanks for this one.

Kris in ABCA 6:26 AM  

I liked a lot of the answers: KACHING, OHCOMENOW, FATCHANCE, ODETOJOY. I was entertained by those and like @Trudy Morgan-Cole, I wanted DAB to be clued as the dance move - I wonder if that got modified during editing.

Anonymous 6:36 AM  

Its Lorena Ochoa not elena.

Ellen S 6:46 AM  

@JAE -- Los Pollos Hermanos is a fictional chain of restaurants, featured in "Breaking Bad", a cover for a meth distribution ring. The blogosphere says AMC opened up a few real ones as "pop-up" restaurants to hype the third season of the spinoff "Better Call Saul."

Kittens helping afaon so gotta go.

Z 6:49 AM  

My times are generally fairly consistent - starting around 6 on Monday, then adding 60 to 90 seconds on Tuesday and Wednesday. This week's 8:38, 6:41, 7:30 certainly suggests something was wildly askew with the puzzle placement this week.

I'm not going to bother to go back and check (because searching for this kind of statement in a daily blog wouldn't be easy), but methinks @ACME, @Thomas, and @Muse are misremembering Rex's plaint about revealers. What I recall is him advocating for puzzle titles as revealers rather than being forced to horn in a revealer and compromising the fill. Personally, I like revealers unless the theme is so easy that a revealer is unnecessary. Then it feels a little like an insult. Of course, I've also been in the situation where I've been totally stymied only to come here to find everyone else in the universe finding the theme easy. To reveal or not to reveal, that is the question.

Best parts of the puzzle are the longer downs. Hand up for wishing there had been some sort of conceit to tie the themers together.

BarbieBarbie 6:55 AM  

@Z, the only day I see a puzzle titled is Sunday. I solve on an iPad. Do the weekday puzzles also have titles?

Two Ponies 7:03 AM  

When was the last time you had dinner on a tray at a drive-in?
Probably about the same time your cash register actually went ka-ching.

Hungry Mother 7:10 AM  

Mondayish time today. Theme was fun and I don't mind finishing faster than usual. Nice seeing Edward ALBEE again.

Anonymous 7:25 AM  

Barbiebarbiet an hour ago (6:19) made me wonder. The note mentions that the dark-squared L's are backward. Is the extra-secret revealer that the L's/els are added "backward," in the sense of "at the back," of the normal expressions?
Anon. i.e. Poggius
ps: Rex, much appreciate your comments, even when I disagree.

Aketi 7:27 AM  

@Barbiebarbie, AH ME, your description was enough for me to see what you saw and now I can't unsee it.

At one of the universities I went to for public health, I was taught how to pick apart any study I read and leave it in tatters. That is the @Rex approach.

At another university I went to for international nutrition, they expected me to also figure out whether those flaws really changed the conclusions and to come up with suggestions for how to improve the study. That second part is the @LMS approach (and depending on the day and their tastes in puzzles, other bloggers as well).

@Rex and @LMS are fairly consistent. I count on that. I like the shred and rebuild combo. Plus, Rex allows people to complain about him with impunity on his blog. People need something to complain about so if they love they puzzle so much that they can't complain about that, then they can complain about Rex.

QuasiMojo 7:27 AM  

Considering the use of SLANG in the puzzle, the term "CHICKEN BROTHELS" seems in very poor taste in any grid, let alone the Old Gray Lady's.

To paraphrase Winston Churchill, if you're going through EL, keep on going!

It's "principal" @Loren Muse Smith

Rex, you may irk us with off-base comments about whether SEED is plural or singular, (to quote you, "Come on!"), but I do value your consistency. Keep on doing what you do because frankly no one else has the guts to constantly point out the idiocy of the NYT puzzle of late. I know, I know, haters, I should just stop doing them and shut up. But I value the NYT puzzle (or at least what it once was.) You see, I started doing them when I was six years old, back when Will Weng edited them, I think. Then there was the taut, sleek, perhaps overly dry Maleska period. Now we have Will Shortz sleeping on the job. It's frustrating and disappointing but I suppose it's just a reflection of the times and TIMES.

Passing Shot 7:34 AM  

Usually I agree with Rex, but not today -- I enjoyed this admittedly easy puzzle. AH ME needs to go, but otherwise, this was fine.

kitshef 7:35 AM  

Agree that ADRIP is awful, as are EMAJ and EASYTHERE and OHCOMENOW. But the worst thing in the grid is UEY.

So no, the problem is not when Rex pans a puzzle like today's, but when he also pans perfectly good puzzles like yesterday's, or brilliancies like Monday's. But as I've said before, it's his blog and he can say what he likes.

So far this week, I've gotten faster each day. At this rate, by Saturday I'll be finishing before I start.

Norm 7:40 AM  

Maybe Monday and Wednesday got reversed this week. Monday's definitely had more snap than this ... thing.

Elle54 7:44 AM  

I liked it! Thought the wacky phrases were funny, extremely easy for a Weds

George 7:44 AM  

I stand with Rex!

chefbea 7:49 AM  

Fun puzzle...with chicken broth right in the center.

Didn't we have CLUE yesterday???

Jim Webb 8:00 AM  

They look more like J's to me :)

Anonymous 8:15 AM  

Yep. Seed is a plural form. Used by crop growers and producers here in Idaho.
Enjoyed this puzzle, even though it was Monday easy for me.

Anonymous 8:37 AM  

didn't read all the comments, so maybe others did this: Didn't know cALE yarborough so I had Dale. which gave me "oh do me now" for 35D.

Please tell me I'm not the only one...

mmorgan 8:41 AM  

Total agree with @Thomaso808!

Bill Feeney 8:42 AM  

Cale Yarborough and Donnie Allison. Famous fight after the 1979 Daytona 500. Credited with giving NASCAR a big boost in popularity. Those of you much younger will not remember the days when finding anything NASCAR on TV was a true hunt and peck search. Nobody was going to mess with the Alabama Gang.

mathgent 8:44 AM  

When Rex says Fount of Positivity, I think that he must be referring to @Lewis. Lewis is a sophisticated solver as well as a talented constructor, but he says today at 5:34 that he derived joy from NOMAYO, NICHE, CRONY, NAIVE, and EASY THERE. I guess that I should envy him.

SouthsideJohnny 8:45 AM  


The constructor should be congratulated for creating a puzzle without the usual complement of esoteric and nonsensical clues. There were no dead army generals from 150 years ago, no foreign words, no village names from the south of France . . . even the few proper nouns were mostly current. I wish this would become the new standard.

What is a WOE (I'm guessing What On Earth)?

Tita A 8:48 AM  

I'm with those who liked it. ADRIP aside, it was ok.

@Barbie from yesterday....Auspuffgassen...lol...
When I checked Leo.dict, who usually includes slang, it did not show what I guessed it meant, showing only the automotive use of exhaust gas...
Do you know something they dont?

You're right, that is a funny word.

(In line with what I thought it meant... Long road trips on the Autobahn with kids were always punctuated with titters and squeals of glee with every single exit we passed... they never, ever got tired of saying "Ausfahrt...hee hee hee")

Robert A. Simon 8:53 AM  

For someone like me--who is usually timed with a sun dial--to finish a Wednesday in 4:15 only reinforces what @Hartley 70 said: so far, we are having a week of Mondays. Thursdays are my favorites. Here's hoping.

And to all you puzzle editor historians, leave Will be. What's happened to the puzzle during his tenure is not his fault. I am no conspiracy theorist--except I suspect all the product names in the puzzles are paid for--but I would bet the ranch--wait...I live in Chicago...okay, my bottle of ranch dressing--that somebody on or near the masthead told Will in no uncertain terms to dumb the puzzles down so they appeal to more people. The Times surrendered the high ground on purpose. Let the WSJ have it. Hell, let all the constructor's pay-for-play sites have it. Brain fluid, too, seeks its own level.

Because the truth of the the matter is, it isn't just a puzzle, it's a revenue stream. Forty bucks a year à la carte times, say, 10,000 subscribers (seems low) is 400K. If it's 100K subscribers, it's 4M. The easier the puzzle, the broader the appeal. The Times doesn't worry about us addicts. We'll be content to praising the downs or debating the worth of revealers or liking an entry or three just to get to the next fix, hoping it will be stronger. Or, as I said, we can go elsewhere. The Times simply does not care. They will always have us, no matter what they do. That's how strong their brand is.

And meanwhile, just as they wanted, more and more people are paying for the puzzles either by themselves or as an add-on to get people to sign up for full access. Why? Because the subscribers can solve them. Maybe not all the time. And maybe just 80% of a given puzzle. But they're in the game, having their fun, which is different than Rex's fun or your fun or my fun.

Like today, a Will-edited puzzle will occasionally scrape bottom. But the next one will be better.

It has to be. It's the Times.

Sir Hillary 8:55 AM  

Congrats to Joe Kidd on his NYT debut. As someone who is still trying for mine, I admire the accomplishment.

That said, I find it amazing that Will Shortz deems this the best puzzle he has to run on a Wednesday. This is a Monday puzzle, and an easy one at that. I have taken @Rex to task many times for his over-the-top reactions to puzzles and his obvious grudge against Shortz, but it's hard to argue with him today. Well, aside from his singular error regarding the supposed plurality of SEED...

I did like the long downs a lot, particularly KACHING.

-- Those reflective thingies people use to tan themselves? FRYINGPANELS
-- Mrs. Clinton's baggage? HILLARYDUFFELS
-- Hershey bar coverings? CHOCOLATELABELS

Ben 8:58 AM  

It's a fake restaurant from Breaking Bad.

Anonymous 9:05 AM  

I don't understand why Rex is taking offense at the theme. Maybe the professor emeritus got under his skin? To me the theme has so much charm. It takes three perfectly legitimate word combinations and converts them to wacky phrases with the addition of ELS at the end.
While I agree with some of the other issues in the puzzle's construction I find Rex's criticism of the puzzle totally undeserved.

Wm. C. 9:12 AM  



Ease up on @LMS! She knows how to "spel." She's joking at the theme. Though I missed it at first also.. :-(

Poor @Rexy, I guess he just got up out of the wrong side of his crib this morning. The theme was ok, though I agree with some of the above that putting in Ernie as a revealer would have improved it.

I initially put in YALE Yarbouough, but when I then saw the two Eli presidents up top I realized it was wrong and needed the OHYOUKNOW to fix it.

I enjoyed the puzzle. Congrats, @Joe!

Mike D 9:13 AM  

Rex's (and his wife's) "seed" comment is an embarrassment. Pure, unabashed ignorance combined with pure, unabashed arrogance. He could be president. How is this the "best puzzle blog inn the world?"

Wm. C. 9:17 AM  

Oh, and @TowPonies --

Great pickup on the drive-in "tray" and the cash register "kaching." The fact that I didn't notice it tells how old I am! ;-)

Anonymous 9:23 AM  

Enjoyed it, outside of "ah me" crossing "albee". Themers a smile on my face.

pmdm 9:42 AM  

So many topics worth commenting on. Hope I remember them all.

Nice point, ACME. Seems that people get more pleasure out of complaining than praising. While I know the majority of parishioners were enthusiastic about how I accompanied the hymns on the organ, after the initial round of kudos most of the comments I received were negative. People who like what's going on don't feel the need to repeatedly offer praise. Or perhaps they feel they are just being repetitive. No big deal as long as you understand what's going on.

A lot of you, Mr. Sharp included, don't understand the real criticism aimed at the write-ups. Granted, a person can be ultra picky and have a narrow range of likes. No problem. The problem is how you communicate that problem. If someone told me I play the organ like I had my hands cut off, I don't think I would pay much attention to the criticism. The real problem is mostly with the way the criticism is communicated: often with a high degree of vitriol and with an attitude that suggests anyone with an opposing attitude is a fool. And sometimes attempts to justify the criticism ramble on longer than they should. That is what turns people off, not necessarily the judgment itself. Hardly a puzzle goes by that Jeff Chen does not aim some criticism at. (Mathgent may disagree, based upon yesterday's comment.) But his manner, often self-derisive, disguises the negativity. Today, he had some criticism of the fill in the north and the lack of a reveler (!) as examples, even though he mostly gave a good review. But what a different approach in how to criticize.

Take the statement "My wife rightly asked 'Why did the gardener only buy one seed.'" Others have pointed out the error in that statement. If one has to be bombastically critical, one simply should not make such an error without expecting critical comments in return.

Where did the idea originate that the NY Times crossword puzzle is supposed to be the best in the world? I really don't think that's true. Certainly not today. In recent years, the paper has eliminated many features. The chess column, The Haggler column, the regional Sunday restaurant reviews (as well as the entire section). It has reduced features, like classical music reviews. The crossword puzzle has avoided the axe (obviously, because it is a money maker). I suspect the best way of increasing crossword subscriptions is to maintain variety (without greatly sacrificing quality). So I expect the paper sees the primary function of Mr. Shortz to increase subscribers, not to make the paper's puzzle the "best in the world." So please, please desist from references to the Times puzzles as ones that are supposed to be the best in the world. Maybe at one time. But with the economic pressures being applied to newspapers, goals have changed. Sorry to say, but that how it is.

So, to summarize. Everyone is entitled to their own opinions (but not their own facts). Mr. Sharp should be encouraged to communicate his opinions, but if he continues to convey his negative reactions with such sharpness, others will continue to complain about his statements. Mr. Sharp has the ability to continue writing as he has which will continue to prompt others to complain about him, or he can alter his style (without altering his judgment) to one more palatable to those who complain about him. The choice is his and he is free to go either way. It would be nice if this topic would just go away. It's distracting.

Anonymous 9:45 AM  

Maybe, Rex, if you've been getting "getting that criticism forever" it's time to take a look and see if there is some truth to it.

RAD2626 9:46 AM  

I think oddly enough that almost everyone is right today. The puzzle was a trifle, but had some already mentioned good down fill and three innocuous but consistent themers. Also agree that on difficulty scale we have had three very easy puzzles in a row. For those who went to Lollopuzzoola it must seem like a nice break. On to tomorrow.

@Robert A Simon makes an interesting point. I would be shocked if there were an actual editorial direction to dumb things down. I think there are two reasons why the puzzles may have changed: 1. The whole world is just more casual and less formal/structured. Put politics aside. Even five years ago I would have bet my house that the NYT would never have included some of the raw language it has recently without asterisks. That cultural change in my view has had an impact on puzzle content ( in part for the good - fewer etuis to deal with). 2. All the competition. Not just from newspapers but all the independents on line. Thus fewer Liz Gorski, BEQ, Matt Gaffney, Paolo puzzles for Will and Joel to select from. Thank goodness for the PB1s and PB2s and others who do submit and whose puzzles will still be fun twenty years from now. I think the NYT is still day after day great fun and well constructed and edited.

Joseph Michael 9:46 AM  

OH COME NOW, it wasn't that bad. The themers were amusing and there was some great fill, such as KACHING, NO MAYO, INSURGENT, FAT CHANCE, and more. It does feel more like a Monday than a Wednesday, but that's not the constructor's fault.

The board game CLUE makes its second appearance in recent days as does the name LORENA which continues to evoke unplesant memories of Ms. Bobbitt.

@Barbie, I'm looking at the black squares and have no idea what you see there, but I'm curious. Can you please give a hint?

Forums on the first pope - PETER PANELS

Congrats, Joe Kidd, on your debut







Anonymous 9:50 AM  

LOL seed. I guess you deserve each other.

GHarris 9:57 AM  

Easy doesn't mean it can't be fun,it was for me. Spotted the el theme quickly so I was able to fill in marriage vowels after just a couple of letters and take some satisfaction from learning that Rex had the most trouble with that one.

semioticus (shelbyl) 10:02 AM  

Nice theme answers, OK fill with some very good entries, and this is a debut puzzle so overall a good job I think. However, the lack of a revealer (when there are a few obvious ones) makes this feel incomplete.

jberg 10:11 AM  

OK, here's the thing about revealers: they can have either or both of two purposes. One purpose can be to help you figure out what the theme is; but the other is to make the theme more interesting. The latter is what was needed here. Put in "Golfer Ernie who might finish last," or English Language Services bringing up the rear, or something actually clever (coming up with which is beyond me), and the theme starts to sing, rather than just sitting there. So it's not a matter of being pro- or anti-revealer, but realizing when one is needed.

Personally, I loved ADRIP, it takes the A- thing about as far as it can go.

Minor quibble: Beethoven set Schiller's words to music, but did he "adapt" them? I didn't think so, but then I've never seen the original.

@BarbieBarbie, no, there are not weekday titles. @Z's point is that @Rex occasionally argues that there ought to be.

Wait, it's coming to me: "Things to dry off with, or what 19, 36, and 49A do."

Nancy 10:12 AM  

If ever a puzzle needed a revealer, it's this one. Not to make it easier; it couldn't be any easier. But something to explain why EL has been arbitrarily added to the theme phrases. This way, it just seems dumb. Because there were 56 comments when I came to the blog, I haven't read anyone else yet. But I do see that the guy above me at 10:02 has also complained about the lack of a revealer and claims that "there are a few obvious ones." What are they, @semioticus? In fact, let me issue a challenge to all the constructors on this blog: Come up with a great revealer. Maybe some of you have. I'd better go back and read y'all now. Meanwhile, I thought this was pretty silly and pointless.

QuasiMojo 10:22 AM  

@Wm C. Thanks for pointing out the wit behind @LMS's misspelling. I was going too fast to pick up on it. Sorry LOREN! As for @Robert Simon's remarks, agreed. But what is concerning me is the lack of quality in the themes more than the dumbing down. The WSJ puzzles are easy for the most part but they rarely have groaners in them. It's a question of taste more than a marketing plan. And that comes down to the editor.

Nancy 10:26 AM  

Aha. @Mr. Fitch at 4:18 a.m. and @jberg, typing at the same time I was, have come up with the same, quite decent, revealer. (I assume that @jberg didn't have time to read all the comments before he posted; there were so many.) Anyway, the blog never disappoints; people always come through. Their suggestion would have made this puzzle a lot better.

GILL I. 10:28 AM  

Hey @Rex...It's your house and nobody has to stay. Granted, I don't always like the music you play nor the food you serve and sometimes i'm inclined to tell you what I think but it doesn't matter does it?
I'm inclined to go gentle on a debut but if ever a puzzle should have had a reveler, this was one. It was a nice enough puzzle but it really needed a wow factor to make it really shine. Look at all the other entries as pointed out by @Lewis....add a final piece de resistance and VOILA...a great Wed.
@Quasi....@Loren knows the difference. She's pulling your gel.
Oh...I do agree on the decline of "goldship" NYT puzzles. I do them because I know I can come here and either laud them or complain. Thanks @Rex for that....

Anonymous 10:28 AM  

@Anonymous 9:50 and @Mike D,

I see you guys beat me to the punch regarding Mrs. Rex's embarrassingly stupid question. But remember she's on the local school board, and Twain was correct when he said that 'God made the idiot for practice, then he made the school board".

Mike and his Mrs. are complementary ass clowns who richly deserve each other. God help their students.

Unknown 10:32 AM  

I had Dale also which resulted in "oh do me now". Seemed like a good idea.

TAL 10:47 AM  

First time on here. But have to defend the blogger in chief here and his wife about seed and seeds. Of course seed is both singular and plural but, speaking as an actual gardener, seed in common usage is mostly for crops or lawns. You don't usually buy seed for the garden unless you are a nurseryman planting daisies as a crop or you are planting a bed of tomatoes. You buy seed when you are putting in a lawn, or when you are planting wheat or corn. Most gardeners buy seeds for different plants, daisies, petunias, whatever.

Greater Fall River Committee for Peace & Justice 10:51 AM  

I've been busy lately, I just did the Sunday Puz last night, and discovered my dog ORION was back in the grid for the first time in Mopnths. And 3 days later here he is again! 55A celestial hunter. He thiks Will is making up for the months of neglect.

Lots of things I don't like hjere, but you guys have priobably pointed them all out already. Didn't much like the Sunday puzzle either....

Nancy 10:57 AM  

For the first time ever, I'm going to weigh in on the "can the NYT call itself 'the best puzzle in the world'?" back-and-forthing that takes place, it seems, virtually every day on this blog:

Someone on this blog recently gifted me with a set of puzzles from a tournament I won't name.(It wasn't Lolla). I assume they were in ascending order of difficulty and I started with the first one in the pile. It was beyond dullsville. I went to the next. It was also beyond dullsville. I skipped to the BEQ at the bottom, knowing he's always challenging, if loaded with PPP. And it was. Challenging, tricky, clever, but loaded with PPP. What's now left are puzzles that don't look any too thrilling, either. And this was a tournament! What I'm getting at is there simply may not be all that many great puzzles in the world, and that every puzzle site is going to have some clunkers. Incidentally, I was not a fan of the Maleska Era. Those puzzles were dry as dust. So even when I'm sometimes gnashing my teeth at NYT puzzles, I am a genuine fan of Will
Shortz and the liveliness he generally strives for.

Anonymous 10:59 AM  

"Don't ask me. I'm just happy to be here," Ha! Great line, Rex. Keep up the rightfully scathing reviews!

Anonymous 11:00 AM  

"Seed" is its own plural, or at least it may be.

RooMonster 11:01 AM  

Hey All !
What a terrific Monday puz! Wait, you say it's Wednesday? Oh . . .

Still a nice puz, albeit on the wrong day. Would've liked to see 58D as the revealer. Could've threw ELS in there, clued something like, 'Golfer Ernie coming in last? And a hint to 19, 36, and 49 Across'.

@Aboa Bob's S of the day has to be ASSES. And we have a good DOOK line, NOMAYO OHME TBA.

EASY THERE sums up the puz.

HOLY KACHING
RooMonster
DarrinV

Glimmerglass 11:03 AM  

Easy puzzle, typical rexblog, interesting comments.

kitshef 11:05 AM  

@jberg - love your final revealer suggestion.
@Joseph Michael - for a hint to BarbieBarbie's image, think of today's common error, OHdOMENOW.

Anonymous 11:13 AM  

"I bought seeds for my garden" sounds stilted, to me.

susancheever 11:17 AM  

Easy, and welcome back Rex. PLEASE do not be discouraged by people saying you are too negative. Actually, you are truthful, and in this world of saccharine fake positivity you are seen by some of those mindless head-nodding, thank you spewing, have-a-nice-daying, smiley faced bobble-headed morons as being negative. You are accurate!

Masked and Anonymous 11:34 AM  

M&A sees no reason to drop trowels, here. Theme is righteous funny. Puz is not one of them cowardly lionels, that dishes you up some sort of no-brain revealer, after you've already figured out the mcguffin all on yer own. SECURITYCAMELS. har

Only 74 words, so lotsa long fill opportunities. FATCHANCE is the pick of the large non-runt litter, at our house.

staff weeject pick: UEY. Somethin this puz wasn't, particularly, whatwith only 3 of the lil darlins in it.

Didn't know "Mangia!" meaning or LPGA Lorena gal, but guessed the crossin "A" correct. ADRIP/ODEA was a superb, tasty spot of desperation. Always extra-pleasin to see ARLO make the grid, btw. Plural = ARLOS or ARLOES? Discuss. (Try not to use any of them real seedy discussion words, tho.)

Four L's in the grid art … hmmm … [I see another Comment Gallery contributor had spotted this, also.] Probably mostly coincidence … a couple of them L-cheater squares were splatzed in there to support buildin the two 14-letter themers, after all. Still … hmmm …

@muse: SEMI-COLONELS. har. Well punctuated.
ok. M&A's turn …
{Gut feeling spots for guessing Mangia/LPGA-Lorena-like nat-ticks?} = * answer below.

Thanx and congratz on yer debut, Mr. Kidd. Yer heart was in the right place, with UEY. Lookin forward to yer promotion to Captain, for a double-digit U effort. Also, try to throw in some of the circles, to please @RP.

Masked & Anonymo3Us


* answer: CROSSBOWELS.


**gruntz**

Aketi 11:41 AM  
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Stanley Hudson 11:53 AM  

Pleasant Mondayish puzzle. I agree that a revealer would have been nice.

To Joe Kidd, congrats on the debut.

old timer 12:24 PM  

I was quite happy with this one though Mon and Weds should have been switched. I don't see any need for a revealer myself.

Joseph Michael 12:36 PM  

Thank you for the clue, but the stupid pill I took this morning hasn't worn off yet. When I look at the grid, all I continue to see are black and white squares.

Ralph Phillips 1:00 PM  

Good luck with school. My daughter just started teaching so all is new to her. I liked this puzzle too. I thought it wad clever.

Teedmn 1:02 PM  

Don't know why but I got a big smile when the themers were revealed. I didn't even notice that they all had an ELS added to them - I just got a chuckle from the results, especially CHICKEN BROTHELS and MARRIAGE VOWELS.

Count me in as one of the OH dO ME NOW head-scratchers. Where's the Urban Dictionary when you need it? (And that would be an anti-DOOK, yes?)

I learned today that Beethoven adapted ODE TO JOY from someone ELS's (nice one, @ACME) work. It made me wonder, did Schiller say, "Hey Ludwig, can you do something with this?" Or did Beethoven just steal it, arrogantly thinking, "I can do this better than he can"? Many questions - I guess I'll have to Google it.

At 8D, with EASYT____, I considered EASY Tiger, but AH ME, it was not to be.

Congrats on the debut, Joe Kidd. Maybe something with a bit more crunch next time?

jae 1:06 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
jae 1:07 PM  

@Ellen & Ben - re: Los Pollos Hermanos - It was late at night and I was trying to be subtly amusing. The post was tongue in cheek.

Anoa Bob 1:34 PM  

Like some others, I started out thinking it was a CAMERA to CAMELS schtick until the CHICKENs came home to roost in the BROTHELS.

I was looking at examples of medical slang as used by hospital personnel. Some of it is pretty gross and wouldn't pass the breakfast, lunch or dinner test. For example (NSFW!), an obese female with a vaginal discharge is a Double Whopper with MAYO. And genital warts are called BROTHEL sprouts! Maybe a theme there for an indie constructor?

Anonymous 1:37 PM  

Is something wrong with the crossword app? I have all the right answers but am still getting the message that it's not correct.

Anonymous 2:04 PM  

Like others, horrified by ADRIP in an otherwise enjoyable puzzle. In all these cases, it's possible to make it a two-word answer which would make it so much better. "Sound of a plumbing problem", for example. (ok, not a ~good~ example, ...)

Anonymous 2:05 PM  

@susancheezer...
As one of those mindless head-nodding, thank you spewing, have-a-nice-daying, smiley faced bobble-headed morons, I would like to say that I agreed with you... until you started calling me names.

Actually, I don't quite agree. Some of us here say:
-This is Rex's blog, and he can say what he wants.
-A critic must be critical - nit-pickier than the rabble.
-He's not always right.

So, go ahead and mindlessly smile at Rex- you're just picking sides. And I will refrain from calling you names, even though these is a pretty good one in today's puzzle.
Instead, I'll just send you to EL.

RBTaylor 2:11 PM  

@TAL beat me to it, but I'll go him or her one better: If you have only one type of plant in your garden, it's not a garden but a field, however small. One buys seeds for their garden, seed for their field.

rosebud 2:12 PM  

Sometimes it's just fun to have a mid-week funny punny puzzle. The theme answers made me smile, with lots of clever little reminders; Cher, HRE, Hosea, Cale. I liked it!

Joe Bleaux 2:35 PM  

Congrats on your debut, JK (but maybe it would have gotten a better reception ion a Monday). @BarbieBarbie: I do only paper, and I've never seen a weekday theme title. @jae: Your Pollos post wasn't a thigh-slapper, but it made me grin. What's really funny is that your "mistake" was actually "corrected." @Rex: I wouldn't ask you to write nicey-nice, even if I thought there was any chance of your changing. (Re that SEED thing, it reminds me of the old barbershop joke: "You wanna just get one hair cut?")

Carola 3:39 PM  

@Joe Kidd, I liked this puzzle a LOT. I don't usually - well, basically never - laugh out loud when doing a crossword, but CHICKEN BROTHELS pushed me over the edge. And the SECURITY CAMELS on patrol aren't bad either. Wacky at its best. Thanks for the fun.

Devin W 3:47 PM  

Truth.

Penna Resident 4:39 PM  

im with lms. wacky phrase puzzles have always been my favorite, including this one. CHICKEN BROTHELS was great.

certainly better than "portable window supports" POCKET LINTELS
or a "pink painting resembling a game board" CHECKERED PASTEL
or "breakfast choice to be worn home" GARMENT BAGEL

as much as rex tries to deny it, the NYT puzzle exists for normal people, not him.

crabsofsteel 4:45 PM  

ADRIP is bad fill. I have never used this word and hope I never will.

Penna Resident 4:51 PM  

damn, PASTELS and BAGELS were supposed to be plural.

which gives me a chance for a real stretch (with local NYC reference to channel 11):
"computer renderings of the letter before X" W PIXELS

Doc John 5:49 PM  

For those Sirius XM listeners, Rex is the Madison of Crossworld.

Anonymous 7:02 PM  

@RB 2:11- You may be right you may be wrong, it doesn't matter, the seed comment was a nit-picky obnoxious comment and as someone earlier commented, arrogant and ignorant, give these crossword constructors a break for God's sake

clk 7:05 PM  

I love your interpretation of OH DO ME NOW!

Anonymous 7:11 PM  

The theme of the puzzle was "backward els." As Barbiebarbiet mentioned 6:19 a.m., repeated by others, me included, the letter L appears in the black boxes, top row and swinging around the grid three more times. The letter is backward. According to my Funk and Wagnalls, 1963 ed., the work *backward* is defined first as "toward the back; to the rear." Hence 19A, 36A, 49A. This as old-fashioned and perhaps original definition, and perhaps therefore first. The second definition is "with the back foremost"--hence the four backward Ls in the black boxes. This a definition in common usage today, as well as later definitions in F&W, about being old-fashioned etc.
The problem here is that the revealer cannot be understood until the puzzle is finished, or it is complicated to find, while the puzzle is easy. As was said in *Dr. Strangelove*, what is the point of having the doomsday device if no one knows about it?
Anon. i.e. Poggius

BarbieBarbie 7:22 PM  

@TitaA, no, Auspuffgasen doesn't have a secret meaning.. It's just exhaust fumes. Which are gasen that are puffed aus. I just think that's so very German, and hence hilarious.
Though along the lines of your kids and the Ausfahrt exit signs, two things: 1. My friend from Chicago whose kids kept going into the wrong bathrooms, figuring the Ladies would be Herr'n and the Gents would be Da Men. And, 2. Exit sogns in Chinese in Taiwan, which are two characters respectively meaning "out" and "hole." So, "Out-hole." Must be a German influence there, huh?

Adam Frank 8:41 PM  

Agree that it was easy. I was looking for the Chicago El or trying to see if there was a relationship with El NINO, but with no revealer I quite agree that it just kind of hangs there. I did enjoy FAT CHANCE, KACHING, and YOUR MOVE. And ODE TO JOY. But the theme? Meh.

Lewis 9:03 PM  

@poggius -- Thanks for that! Adds to my appreciation of the puzzle.

Two Ponies 10:43 PM  

I also noticed those little "feet" on the edges of the grid.
Thanks for summarizing @poggius.

Anonymous 11:07 PM  

Good thing @Rex's name isn't Robert Lee. He'd be in a Ngu-yen situation.

G. Weissman 12:09 AM  

This was a pretty crappy puzzle. CALE? OH COME NOW.

Devon 5:10 AM  

Agreed! I thought the puns were clever af. Chicken brothels!! Come on!!

Devon 5:12 AM  

Oh I've seen waaaaaaay worse in the last WEEK, never mind a long time. It's not perfect, but the NYT has had some serious garbage.

Devon 5:17 AM  

I noticed that too!

Edac2day 9:55 AM  

Funny how WEDDINGS and MARRIAGE have the same number of letters and the 'I' and 'G' are in the same spot.

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Burma Shave 9:11 AM  

OHCOMENOW

Don't be NAIVE nor CHICKEN,BROTHELS are where
LOTs of nightowls get BRED.
AH,ME, the NEATEST pickin' is awful EASYTHERE,
MARRIAGEVOWELS aren't said.

--- ARLO CALE ALBEE

thefogman 9:35 AM  

It's a puzzling puzzle for sure. I have to agree with OFL on this one. Not enough crunch or sparkle for a Wednesday. It's just one big meh!

thefogman 9:37 AM  
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rondo 10:25 AM  

I did it. It's done. HOLY cow. One w/o with oHME at first.

A LOT of BELLEs to choose from with CHER, ELLEN, and IVANA there, but one-time number one golfer (3 years running), Golf Hall of Famer, and yeah baby Lorena OCHOA wins it today. Who else retires at age 28?

What ELS? ONTO tomorrow.

spacecraft 10:47 AM  

I think this puzzle was constructed for the snappy downs, and the theme just dragged along behind. As to a reveal line, something cutesy might have been added, but it's fine without--and cutesy is pretty well covered with FATCHANCE, YOURMOVE, EASYTHERE, et al.

I had one writeover when working the downs up north: ADR_P had to be AD ReP, no? What else? It fit with SECURe. Oops. So we have a RAA (random "A-" adjective, where you just stick an a- in front of a noun). The RMK (random musical key) doesn't help. Still, these are only two regrettable low points in an otherwise fun wordset.

I was scratching my head as the first themer came to light: yeah, so. Dromedaries on patrol: SECURITYCAMELS. What's the point? But after the second one, I saw it, and a small aha! moment ensued. Of course: security cams! And kiss cams. Are we all just getting too damn lazy to say "camera?" Is technology turning the language into acronyms, abbrs. and shortened forms? Discuss. But apparently not "at length."

Anyway, if this is a debut, it contains promise. Grid is chock full of DOD candidates: ELLEN, OCHOA, BELLE, LEA, IVANA--even Lois LANE. But the time-defying CHER wins out. I liked it. Birdie.

Anonymous 1:28 PM  

Pleasant, easy little puzzle. Not worth getting all excited about, one way or the other.

leftcoastTAM 2:17 PM  

Is today Monday? Rex says it all (in his own way of course). Period.

rainforest 2:25 PM  

Sure this was an easy puzzle - third one in a row this week - but it was by and large a tight effort: funny theme, excellent down answers, little dreck with one exception.

To that, I would say, "If you don't fix the faucet that is ADRIP, it will soon be "aflow"."

Once again the puzzle brought a variety of thoughts and emotions. I can understand that not all puzzles will please everyone, but to actually *hate* a puzzle is just weird.

I'm rainforest, and I approve this puzzle.

Diana,LIW 2:45 PM  

I'm in the "didn't see the els" crowd - first themer I saw was the MARRIAGEVOWELS, and I liked it.

Then we get the explanation of the "backward" els in the black boxes. If so, that's a very hidden revealer.

Loved those down as often mentioned.

Only one truly drippy answer, IMO. Maybe I'm NAIVE.

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords

JimmyBgood 4:37 PM  

Easiest Wednesday I have ever done,and I've been doing crosswords for 50 years. Some clever some dreck,but unbelievably easy for a NYT Wednesday puzzle.Rex,I new the answer to 49a before I even read the clue.You're either slipping or were sleepy.

leftcoastTAM 5:43 PM  

@JimmyBgood--Nice to see a new name in the syndie section. (You may or may not be familiar with Rex's high standards for Xwords, particularly the NYT's.)

thefogman 6:43 PM  

I recently got my hands on some old NYT crossword puzzles from circa 2008. I am finding some of those old puzzles much more challenging and sometimes impossible to solve. Plenty of DNF's. Compared to the ones of today, to me they are much more difficult to solve. Just out of curiosity, has anyone else ascertained (or not)that the NYT puzzle has been "dumbed down" somewhat over the years, perhaps in an attempt to reach a wider audience?

I blame the internet :-)

Diana,LIW 8:17 PM  

@Foggy - I'm relatively new to solving, so I've been trying to catch up via anthologies of older puzzles. I see a mix of harder and easier. For many years. I do 5 or 6 older puzzles a day for every current syndie puz. That's just my experience. But blaming the internet, or social media - I'll second that!!!

Lady Di

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