Cuneiform discovery site / WED 10-4-17 / Edward longtime bishop of New York / Bird found on all continents including antarctica / Band featured in documentary 1991 Year Punk Broke

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Constructor: Evan Mahnken

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: Where blah blah is "in the dictionary" — common two-word phrases are clued as if those phrases were indicating where the second word can be found (very roughly) in the dictionary:

Theme answers:
  • AFTER HOURS (17A: Where "house party" is in the dictionary?)
  • NEAR MINT (23A: Where "new" is in the dictionary?)
  • BY ITSELF (50A: Where "isolated" is in the dictionary?)
  • AROUND NOON (56A: Where "midday" and "one" are in the dictionary?)
  • UNDER FIRE (10D: Where "flanked" is in the dictionary?)
  • BENEATH ME (31D: Where "menial" is in the dictionary?) 
Word of the Day: AMARNA (1D: Cuneiform discovery site) —
The Amarna letters (sometimes referred to as the Amarna correspondence or Amarna tablets, and cited with the abbreviation EA) are an archive, written on clay tablets, primarily consisting of diplomatic correspondence between the Egyptian administration and its representatives in Canaan and Amurru during the New Kingdom. The letters were found in Upper Egypt at Amarna, the modern name for the ancient Egyptian capital of Akhetaten (el-Amarna), founded by pharaoh Akhenaten (1350s – 1330s BC) during the Eighteenth dynasty of Egypt. The Amarna letters are unusual in Egyptological research, because they are mostly written in Akkadian cuneiform, the writing system of ancient Mesopotamia, rather than that of ancient Egypt. (wikipedia)
• • •

Appreciated this one more after I was done than while I was solving. While I was solving, the whole theme just seemed fussy. Who cares where these words are? Couldn't you make this puzzle infinitely, with any [preposition + noun] phrase as a theme answer? Also I would never use "beneath" or "under" or "around" to orient someone in a dictionary (in relation to another word). Add in the super-weird grid design (more on that later) and the pretty ugly fill that crops up an awful lot, and you have a somewhat less-than-enjoyable puzzle. After I finished, though, I noticed that the clues are very much relevant to their answers, i.e. it's not just some random "H" word that's AFTER HOURS, it's a "house party"—which would, of course, take place AFTER HOURS, just as someone who is "flanked" might be UNDER FIRE, just as "midday" and "one" are AROUND NOON (time-wise), etc. So I'm grateful that the cluing was so tight. And I am also grateful for SONIC YOUTH (30D: Band featured in the documentary "1991: The Year Punk Broke") and BROWNIE MIX (6D: Betty Crocker product), two great tastes that go great (I imagine) together. I GOT NEXT, also a fine phrase. I just wish the crosswordese didn't drag this one down so bad. "GAI MIL EDY DER NEE!" he said, in a sad language all his own.

So this grid is sooo weird. Those ridiculously giant NE and SW corners ... and yet it's a 78-worder (the max allowed)?? The center is so choppy, so full of tiny answers, that the NE and SW corners end up having to be these great wide-open things just to compensate, just to keep the word count below the standard max. Those corners, in addition to the "huh?" nature of the theme, made the puzzle feel harder than normal. My time, though, was pretty normal (low 4s). Oh, and the other thing that impeded swift progress through the grid was the isolation of the NW / SE corners. You can't move across the top or bottom. There's just no connective tissue. You gotta go six rows down (or up) to get around that wall + diagonal line of black squares. Structural strangeness. So it was very uneven, but there's a thoughtfulness in the theme execution that shows promise, for sure.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. MOO is in the grid and also in the GAI clue :( (46A: Moo goo ___ pan)

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


TomAz 12:09 AM  

I thought the theme was pretty cool. Not as cool as SONICYOUTH of course, but what is?

Lee Coller 12:11 AM  

I could swear I've seen this theme before.

RooMonster 12:19 AM  

Hey All
Thanks to everyone yesterday who were happy I was OK. Las Vegas is funny in the fact that everyone forgets about the city surrounding The Strip. Most locals here don't really hang around The Strip unless something special is going on, such as those outside concerts. Once you're off The Strip, Las Vegas is pretty much a town like any other. Once you get used to slot machines, that is. They are in 7-11's and such, also in grocery stores. But not retail stores, like WalMart But the city itself is fairly normal. We have nice areas, not so nice areas, schools, hospitals, malls, etc. Not the worst city to live in.

So I actually wasn't anywhere near that area. I actually live about 15 minutes from The Strip. But a lot of locals were there.

Where it happened has been an outside concert venue for at least 5 years now. It used to be a parking lot, but they converted it to an outdoor venue. It's right on The Strip across from Mandalay Bay and Luxor.

Just last weekend was the iHeart Radio festival at the same place. The Route 91 festival has been there as long as it's been a concert venue. Don't know what's going to happen to that space now.

You hear about these attacks on the news, but it always seems like it's somewhere else, and sad to say, it bothers you but doesn't affect you all that much/ personally. But when it's in your own city, regardless if you are close to the actual spot, it seems to rip your guts out.

I'm sorry I've been so viceral the last two days with my posts. I'm starting to try to get these ugly feelings out of me, at least on this blog. I promise to get back to my jovial-ness soon.

So thanks again All, and thanks also for reading this long post. You guys are all great.


Johnny 12:20 AM  

I solved this puzzle with a baseball game in the SE corner.

I was watching the AL wildcard game on an iPad app, and when I opened the puzzle app the TV picture shrunk down into the corner. I wasn't expecting that. So I solved it anyway, blindly entering answers that were behind the screen. I had to close the TV screen at the very end to finish the job, but still, it was all very futuristic and Jetsons-like.

I'd comment on the puzzle but I don't really remember it because of the ball game. I'd tell you about the game but I don't recall much of it because I was doing a puzzle, although the Twins scored a run while I was watching and I didn't notice, if that counts for anything.

puzzlehoarder 12:30 AM  

Solving on a tablet leaves a lot to be desired. I had to waste time hunting down a write over I'd missed while solving. I had UNDERFILE supported by LOLL. LOLL being a word I didn't check it's clue. The list search is such a pain in the ass I avoid whenever possible.

Today's inconvenience was nothing compared to Sunday's solve (I work every third day.) The squares in a Sunday puzzle are so small it's like picking out Scrabble tiles with a basket ball.

In the SW I had a WILE/BIDE write over. Nothing really challenging about the puzzle just a nuisance.

@Roo, I feel your sense of outrage. This has really hit home for you and I look forward to your return.

Cristi 1:03 AM  

Sad language indeed...Had me laughing out loud. SW corner played tough for me: "Egan" (should've been clued to recognize Adam Sandler's Barry Egan from "Punchdrunk Love"), "dare I say ("no, really"), and "beneath" (the sort of preposition that causes bloodshed amongst style guide editors trying to come to consensus on capitalization rules). Is it just me or are cuneiform sites a post-Tuesday thing? My husband would often say "I got next" at the pickup games in the park--an argument usually ensued over the possession of "next." Eventually, all was settled by two Achilles' tendon tears, and he was finally "manumitted" from his jones-itch-yen for athletic glory.

Mike in Mountain View 1:08 AM  

Terrific puzzle. The theme answers really sparkle, because:
--They're literally true about where these words are in the dictionary.
--They're also where you find these words in real life.
--They're also "in the language" phrases.
That's quite a trifecta. Wow.

Jeff Chen calls it the puzzle of the week, and though the week is only about half done he may be right. (He thought "BENEATH ME" was an awkward partial, but it sounds good to me.)

The AMARNA/ARI cross is a tough one. Otherwise, this was an easy medium Wednesday but an excellent one.

Thanks, Evan.

Anonymous 1:29 AM  

I finally did Saturday’s puzzle on Tuesday. Rembrandt and the Rijksmuseum reminded me of this fabulous flash mob celebrating the reopening of the Museum after renovation. Enjoy.

Larry Gilstrap 1:31 AM  

I'm no constructor, but as this puzzle crawled out of the printer I noticed a odd pattern of black squares. What does that even mean? What Rex said.

Like OFL, the themers seemed sloppy at first blush, which is after BEET RED in random dictionary navigation. Then I spotted that whole synonym thing going on and since I'm a big fan of relevance; I liked it, despite the tight corners. I'm trusting WS here that flanked is synonymous with UNDER FIRE. Need to brush up on my war terms. I've passed draft age, but it could come in handy. I hope not.

I have a couple of NITS: ORI and LEY were crossed fairly enough, but yikes! Orale Vato!

@Roo Monster, I admire your impassioned reflection. I had a dear friend who lived in Henderson who was struck down by cancer, another shameless villain. Anyway, he had some money and we used to hang out on the Strip when I came to town. We were regulars at Olives at the Bellagio and then at the Foundation Room on the 63rd floor of Mandalay Bay. He even had his wedding reception at Spago at Caesar's Palace. He was a local and staff treated me as such. Off the Strip, we went to local restaurants and coffee shops and mingled with Las Vegans. Yesterday was not an easy day for me. Somebody comes into town and jacks it up with an outrageous display of hatred and violence? What gives anybody the right to even think that way, even act on a mad impulse? Hang in there, Brother!

Theodore Stamos 1:47 AM  

This was a good puzzle. AMARNA/RUHR put up some resistance. Didn't even notice Rex's construction complaints. I've been doing these puzzles for years now and still have no sense of things like "word count" or "large NE / SW quadrants". I guess that's why I'm not a constructor....

Anonymous 2:03 AM  


Anonymous 2:19 AM  

@Roo - thank you for your post.

Thomaso808 3:20 AM  

I got the theme right away on AFTERHOURS, so the rest of the puzzle was a lot of fun.

Congrats to Evan Mahnken on getting his debut puzzle published before he turned 21 and welcome to a new young constructor! This was a great puzzle with six good theme clue/answers and some good long fill, including the debuts of SONICYOUTH and BROWNIEMIX. A well-deserved POW from Xwordinfo.

Thomaso808 3:35 AM  

@Yaffa Fuchs from yesterday, the time shown on comments is NY time, but there are posters here from all over, e.g. me and @Chefwen in Hawaii (puzzle arrives at 4 pm HST), @John Child in Nepal (8 am?), @'mericans in Paris in (Paris, haha? 3am?). Anybody else out there from far-flung time zones?

jae 3:52 AM  

Mostly easy for me. My only erasure was REFilL before FUEL. Clever with some fine long downs, liked it.

teevoz 3:58 AM  

Yanks won, as it should be.

Maybe it's the guns 4:05 AM  

Everybody thinks that way sometimes, gets caught up in a blinding rage, flips their lid, goes crazy. The ease and legality of obtaining an automatic assault weapon in the U.S., especially in places like Nevada, is what allows "crazy with rage" to become mass murder. Worldwide among countries, and among U.S. states, there is a direct correlation between gun laws, gun ownership, and gun deaths. A very large number of people in the U.S. believe that the risk of being gunned down in a public place is a reasonable price to pay for the freedom to obtain even military grade weapons.

Bill O'Reilly 4:14 AM  

"This is the price of freedom. Violent nuts are allowed to roam free until they do damage, no matter how threatening they are."

Loren Muse Smith 4:25 AM  

As is often the case….. what @Mike in Mountain View said.

Very, very nifty idea. Themers were so well-chosen and well-clued. Loved it. What I really appreciated was that the phrases going after the prepositions are, as Rex said, everyday phrases, and the resulting sentences are so natural (unlike, say, “Feast is OVERFED”). “Isolated is BY ITSELF” was my favorite.

I didn’t noticed anything wanky with the grid. Went back to check so I could think it looks funny, too. It doesn’t scream weird to me.

@Roo – Glad you weren’t near there and thank you for your post. I have no words.

Evan Mahnken – terrific debut. Where you been hiding, buddy?

Trudy Morgan-Cole 5:20 AM  

I GOT NEXT totally stumped me as it's a phrase I've never heard. As everyone else seems familiar with it I'm thinking maybe it's US slang that hasn't made it up here to Canada.

Muscato 5:49 AM  

Just barely an average Wednesday for me, time-wise, in part because I lost an embarrassingly long time (in retrospect) thinking "Gee, I didn't know Malcolm X had a GOITER...."

wgh 6:07 AM  

Back in my (sonic) youth it was something said on a basketball court to announce that you and your brethren intend to challenge the victors of the game in progress to a subsequent contest.

wgh 6:11 AM  

I should add that this would be announced by spectators of said game in progress as a means of reservation.

wgh 6:13 AM  

I should further add that I sucked at basketball

Dave 6:23 AM  

I almost stopped solving this one after seeing FLANKED as a clue and UNDER FIRE as the answer, two days after Vegas and God-knows how many pictures and videos of concert-goers and Vegas police who were indeed flanked and under fire.

While the timing of the clue/answer was surely unintentional, someone at NYT really needs to be reviewing these things for very-current events, before releasing the puzzles on the website.

Not your best moment, NYT...

Anonymous 6:42 AM  

Hey Roo

Thank you for your post. I've visited this blog nearly every day for over 4 years and always look forward to "Hey all!"

I too live in Las Vegas and happily call it home.

My husband works at Mandalay Bay and I at the Palms. It's been so eerie. Hard to describe.

But I gotta tell ya, I thought about you.

Glad your OK.

BarbieBarbie 6:51 AM  

This puzzle had It. Whatever It is. Snap, crackle, pop, crunch. It was just really fun to solve. Now that's a good puzzle. More please!

The grid resembles a doily, but that's kind of cool. It doesn't seem to result in dreck-fill, so OK.

I got hung up on ORI at the end because all I could think of was OIN, and the Betty Crocker answer was so obviously right that I knew Oin wasn't it. Also was resisting because there was already an ARI. But- powered through.

kitshef 7:13 AM  

The across themers all worked for me, but neither of the downs did. I guess if you store your dictionary closed and resting on its back, then ‘under’ and ‘beneath’ would work, but who does that?

Add to that the overall easiness and the whole thing would seem somewhere between forgettable and regrettable were it not for the amazing long downs SONIC YOUTH and BROWNIE MIX. To fit those in, plus the six themers, and not have it break your grid is impressive.

Hungry Mother 7:24 AM  

Struggled too long in the NW, but then all was OK.

QuasiMojo 7:44 AM  

Okay puzzle, I guess. Maybe I'm getting old but I don't get the significance of a "house party" being "after hours." Is it some rave thing? A house party back in my day just meant that you had guests for the weekend or the evening, I suppose, but it could also have been during the day.

I see nothing wrong with this grid. I liked the shape of it and the fact that it was symmetrical/mirroring itself. Some of the more recent NYT puzzles didn't follow that tradition.

My only beef is with NEW being NEAR MINT in the dictionary? Whose dictionary are we talking about? A child's ABC? There is a lot of space between Mint and New in any dictionary I use.

Trombone Tom 7:45 AM  

@Roo thank you for posting. Glad you are ok, but the heartache and sense of being violated are sure to linger.

I thought this was a peppy puzzle and enjoyed the placement clues and their relationship.

Only hiccup was REFilL->REFUEL.

What's not to like about BROWNIE MIX, I GOT NEXT, and SONIC YOUTH.

QuasiMojo 7:52 AM  

And not to be a NIT picker but "mint" does not really mean "new." A coin from 1957 can be in MINT condition even though it is 60 years old. It just means that it was not used. And if it was brand new it would not be "near mint" anyway.

chefbea 8:02 AM  

Fun puzzle...what with MooGoo Gai Pan and brownie mix...and mint and altoids!!!

Aketi 8:06 AM  


Cassieopia 8:10 AM  

This is a debut? Very promising and can’t wait to see more - a really great puzzle with a fun theme. I appreciated having the theme emerge during the solving process, once I got it there was still the point where I had to think of common phrases that made sense. Very clever, loved it.

@Roo - my beloved grandchildren live in Connecticut, so I drive past the Newton exit often, and usually find myself crying on the interstate. I can’t imagine it striking even closer to home. Thank you for sharing your post. We are glad you are here.

Theodore Stamos 8:21 AM  


Anonymous 8:23 AM  

@Dave - Hadn't gone there before reading your post.

ArtO 8:34 AM  

Thought this a wonderful puzzle. If you're so bent on speed, perhaps you don't always appreciate the cleverness. It was apparent to me that the responses were related to the clues.

BTW, what happened in LV is not the "price of freedom", it's the price of our politicians being ruled by the NRA! Many other countries are just as free as we are without the violence.

Sluggo 8:44 AM  

Köln, Germany

Senator John Thune 8:53 AM  

"Sen. John Thune blames shooting victims for failing to ‘take precautions’ and ‘get small’ to avoid gunfire"

Hartley70 8:55 AM  

@Roo, thank you for posting. If one has been here for a while, we all feel like we have a friend living in Vegas. @Tita and I live fairly close to Newtown and I'm sure she would agree that we feel your reaction.

The puzzle was an amazing debut by Evan, a student who only began constructing two years ago. The depth of the theme puts most Wednesdays to shame. This bodes very well for the future of crossword puzzles. Keep 'em coming!

BYITSELF is my favorite too.

I had no problem with the fill choice. It was interesting. I choked immediately on AMARNA and blythely entered REFilL, which I then had to REFilL with REFUEL. Nicely tricky. Who doesn't love BROWNIEMIX, both as an entry and as a yummy blob on the end of your index finger? SONICYOUTH was tough to suss out, but I know less about punk than I do about baseball players who aren't named ALOU. There was a lovely mix of young and old clues here.

Jamie C 8:55 AM  

I'd say they are MORE free because they don't have to fear being shot in public spaces.

Nancy 9:07 AM  

I had the same reaction @Quasi did to NEAR MINT, which is nowhere near "new" either in placement or meaning. It's a glaring weakness in a puzzle that I otherwise found exceptional. It was crunchy and it was clever and I had to do a lot of thinking. There was a bit of pop culture I could have skipped, but it was all crossed fairly.
I really, really liked it and I enjoyed being challenged much more than usual on a Wednesday.

oldbizmark 9:14 AM  

Love the reference to "The Year That Punk Broke." My friends and I got a VHS copy of it back in 1992 (presumably when it was still or about to go into theaters) and watched in religiously. Puzzle was enjoyable though I have to admit to having a DNF due to foolishly having "REF(ill)" instead of REFUEL which caused all sorts of problems for me in the NW.

Wm. C. 9:25 AM  

NW was hard for me, even though I got Ari and Men right away. Like others, Refill confused things. Most of all. I never heard of Amarna, even though I'm broadly read.


Both the OpEds in today's NYT laid fault at the NRA's feet for the tragedy n Las Vegas and, IMO, appropriately. I'm OK with ordinary Rifles (as in the NRA's name) but automatic weapons (including Rifles that can be modified thusly) and handguns are no-nos for me.

Yeah, I've heard the arguments that handguns are necessary for protection, and that there are tons of them already out there so that prohibiting new manufacturing and retailing would make no difference. Nonetheless, stop selling, increase buy-backs, require licensing, and strongly penalize unlicensed possession. OK, these would make little difference in the near-term, but they are steps in the right direction for future generations.

Sorry for the "politics," but in light of LV I find it necessary.

allan 9:26 AM  

Thought it was clever. Definitely enjoyed the solve.

GILL I. 9:41 AM  

Best Wed. this year. Had to work a little hard and I like that.
AMARNA was difficult as was the never heard of I GOT NEXT.
Loved the clue for DUI. I think some States are going to lower the legal alcohol limit. So, one glass of wine at the bar might get you some jail time.
Kudos, Evan...This idea was new to me and I thought it very clever.
Glad you're safe @Roo.

pmdm 9:44 AM  

To RooMonster and others:

The Times had an interesting editorial yesterday. No words for the most part, just a graphic of every day recently when there has been a mass shooting (during which at least 4 people are killed). It's chilling to realize how frequent such an event is. Since so many people were killed, it strikes a nerve. But as a mass shooting, it is commonplace (if one believes the editorial's graphic). And the pain is no less for those families and friends of those who were killed during a less spectacular event (in the sense of spectacularly horrible). We can fly to the moon, the planets and beyond, but we fail at preventing these incidents. Something seems wrong. WmC, no need to apologize. We need more thoughtful discussion to figure a way to cure this cancer.

The theme of the puzzle was also vaguely familiar to me. I think something familiar was done in the past but without reference to a dictionary. It's a fun theme that in my opinion deserves varied repetitions. And I'm glad that a debut construction is so inventive, worthy of Jeff Chen's POW award. Evan should be very proud of himself.

Joseph Michael 9:50 AM  

Where to find this "puzzle" in the dictionary -- NEAR PERFECT.

Congrats, Evan, on your debut. I look forward to more of your work.

Also enjoyed the bonus of a great clue for BOREDOM.

My condolences to @Roo and the people of Las Vegas. What a tragic time in American history. Our society seems to have gone insane.

Anonymous 9:52 AM  

A couple African American references, so Rex isn't TOO grumpy (although is BROWNIEMIX a subtle slur?) Betty Crocker and Esther the only women, and neither of them real (one a commercial creation, the other a Mideastern mythic figure). Call out the SDS (or Antifa, as it's called today)

Black Star 9:58 AM  

Just another weekend in Chicago.

Anonymous 10:02 AM  

I like the fact that BOREDOM is in the middle of this puzzle.

chefbea 10:09 AM  

@Roo Monster...glad you are ok

Two Ponies 10:10 AM  

I read Tolkien with great relish but have no recollection of Ori.
Rather obscure answer.

Manumit seems more like an end-of-the-week clue.

Who is Willy Ley?

All were crossed fairly so I'll try to remember them, try being the key word here.

This was not fun during the solve and only after stepping back could I appreciate the theme.
Always happy for anyone's debut but time will tell if we have a "one hit wonder" with Mr. Mahnken.

The Clerk 10:18 AM  

Huzzah for this puzzle !

mathgent 10:26 AM  

I liked the theme a lot. And it was carried out well. But this "puzzle" isn't "near perfect" as @Joseph Michael wittily observed. Thirty Terrible Threes. Jeff Chen says that the rule of thumb is a maximum of 12 for a themeless. So 30 must certainly be too many even for a themed puzzle. Chen didn't complain about the number of threes although did complain there being nine glue entries. All nine are three letters.

Even with most of the threes being gimmes, the puzzle had enough crunch. And it had consuderable sparkle, seventeen red plusses in the margin. So put me down for a thumbs up.

When my son was in his teens, he was a successful trader of baseball cards. He had a glass display case which he took to card shows at shopping malls. He and his colleagues would constantly use the word "mint" and often the term "near mint."

MANUMIT is a new word for me. I thought that it was the word for a sled dog.

All mathematics history books discuss the Babylonisn number system which used cunieform symbols. AMARNA is in Egypt. Was cunieform really discovered there?

thursdaysd 10:32 AM  

I don't solve for speed, and I had no trouble appreciating the theme while solving. Seems that Rex's reaction to the puzzle is a good example of the downside to speed solving. (Why you would want to get a supposedly enjoyable activity over faster has always puzzled me...)

Equally, I pay minimal attention to the look of the grid, especially as I don't see it as a whole given the app I use on my iPad. I thought this was a good Wednesday puzzle, thanks to the constructor.

Mohair Sam 10:33 AM  

Excellent debut - congrats.

Laughing at myself - several words and phrases new to me in this one and few of you remarked. But I grew up playing "three on three" half court wherever I could - the IGOTNEXT phrase which confounded so many of you was a gimme here.

Glad you're OK Roo - thanks for letting us into your world a little bit. Hang in buddy.

Z 10:43 AM  

Rex pretty much nailed my reaction to the puzzle, although I got the relationship between clues and theme answers sooner, so I liked it sooner than Rex did.

@Two Ponies - ORI is a pretty deep cut pick for Thorin’s company. Bombur, Fili and Kili, Balin,... any of the other 7 are in “extreme LOTR nerd” territory (as opposed to just “LOTR nerd” territory).

Ryan 10:43 AM  

Another mathletes get misdirected at 10A? AREA came to mind first.

mac 10:44 AM  

Harder than normal Wednesday for me, but I liked it! I learned Amarna, where I found the "near mint" tough, and manumit.

Good to hear, @Roo! And thank you, Anonymous, for the wonderful flash mob!

@Sluggo: it's not just about mass murders. It's also about the number of people killed or injured by guns every day in this country.

Tita A 10:54 AM  

Really clever idea...I like it. One nit is that MINT is NEAR new... not the other way around. Something can only be new once. But a 40 year old classic car, for example, can be in MINT condition, which means it as as close to being off the showroom floor as is possible for a used car. (or coin, of course)

@kit...beneath, above, under, all work fine in any orientation of your dictionary

@Roo...very eloquent. Thanks for your post. I'm next door to Newtown, and friends had children in the school that day. Anger and helplessness abounded.

Tom 11:00 AM  

Near-flung...Scotts Valley 95066!

Allyson Rudolph 11:04 AM  

👋 Longtime listener, first-time caller...can someone clue (heh) me in on what IRR is? That cross almost got me but doesn't seem to have bothered anyone else!

Cassieopia 11:10 AM  

@Allyson, IRR is short for "irregular". IRR is often seen in crosswords...I think it's also sometimes found on clothing tags where the pocket is sewn on backwards or a button is mis-aligned...that type of thing. Failed quality control so thus is "irregular".

GHarris 11:18 AM  

Clever and fun. Also fairly crossed since I was able to work out answers I didn’t know without too much difficulty such as Sonic Youth and Amarna. Anyone hear Sean Hannity’s rant after the L V tragedy. How dare the left discuss solutions while we all mourn. Problem is mass shootings occur virtually every day and we are in a constant state of mourning. Like saying we can’t talk about a cancer cure while people are dying.

jb129 11:21 AM  

I liked it - faster than I first thought.

Malsdemare 11:39 AM  

This was fun! Since I'm not a speed solver, I saw the trick about a quarter way into the solve and really liked it. That it was constructed by a young person makes it even more delightful. I understand the NIT about MINT, but since a coin in MINT condition is supposed to be like new, I'll take it. Hand up for REFilL, which made me doubt RUHR ( which I knew to be true). I've never heard IGOTNEXT, but sports terms are foreign to me. I happily accept that I will rarely know everything in a puzzle, and if I do, then the thing is too easy (usually).

The Captcha thingy went rogue on me last night, and the extremely erudite response I wrote, a response I have long forgotten about a puzzle that is in the wind, never made it to the blog. Trust me; it was brilliant.

Las Vegas breaks my heart. No friends there but I have kids and grand kids and I cannot begin to wrap my brain around what it would feel like to hear this news, fear or know the people you love more than life are there, and wait those long hours for answers. @Wm C. I agree with you; we need to take the long view. We're a nation of laws that tell people what they can't do, and when they get caught breaking them, there are consequences. We haven't decided to permit child abuse, robbery, running red lights, dog fighting just because bad guys still do it. We have law enforcement that does its best to catch the scoundrels. And fear of punishment keeps lots of us in line. If we don't want people shooting illegally modified automatic weapons into crowds, we should make those damn things illegal.

My mother's family originated in a tiny town in Alsace. My spouse and I visited there a few years ago and I've wanted to move there ever since. Each event like this pushes me closer to making the change. It won't happen; no way I'd leave my family thousands of miles away. But today I'm ready to abandon the grand experiment.

Pity party over.

@JC66 you can ignore my email. Using a different browser (chrome instead of Safari).

abalani500 11:40 AM  


Bob Mills 12:38 PM  

Cute puzzle. I only got "NEAR MINT" after finishing it.

Michelle Turner 12:57 PM  

Ori, Nori, Oin, Gloin, Fili, Kili, Dwalin, Balin, and Thorin Oakenshield were the ones I remembered. Dori, Bifur, Bofur, and Bombur were the other dwarves. I was the nerd who found a copy of the book laying in the playground during 4th grade recess, loved it, and then had to have the trilogy. One of my dad's graduate students read aloud from LOTR while he was babysitting and I was sold.

semioticus (shelbyl) 1:09 PM  

The theme was so neatly executed, I chose to overlook the crosswordese that came with the weird grid. It's been a while since an NYT puzzle got not one, but two "hehe"s out of me. (AFTERHOURS was the first one and I got the theme, BENEATHME was really pleasant)

Good job on your debut, Evan Mahnken. I'm looking forward to more puzzles from you.

Uke Xensen 1:20 PM  

Best theme in quite a while. So much better than more dumb celebrity puns.

Had some trouble with the NW because of AMARNA.Did not knoe ORI. Stupidly put GOITER for GOATEE at first. But again, loved the theme.

Teedmn 1:29 PM  

Loved the puzzle. A great debut by Evan Mahnken, congratulations! And a POW from Jeff Chen, double congrats.

I laughed out loud at BY ITSELF and BENEATH ME. I circled the clue "Glam rock?" for GEM.

I also had a bunch of black ink on this, mostly self-inflicted. I jumped on the S of 30D and threw in Sexpistols. Hey, they were definitely "broke" by 1991! With GO_TE_ at 60A (I can hardly type this, I'm laughing at myself so hard) I put in GOiTEr as Malcom X's facial feature and thought, "Hmm, I never noticed that." Ye gods. And I jumped to conclusions off the B at 31D and figured the preposition was BEfore. I fixed all of this and it was an enjoyable romp around the slightly odd grid. Nice.

@Roo, I'm so heartsick about the shootings in Vegas. Words fail. You have my condolences.

Carola 1:38 PM  

The puzzle was a nice challenge for me. Only at BY ITSELF did I fully understand how the theme answers worked: I'd wondered at AFTER HOURS, but since I don't really know what defines a "house party," I wasn't sure when they might take place. Anyway, once I had the IDEA, I went back and finished NEAR MINT. My brain had been giving me such interference with NEAR MIss that I hadn't been able to see it; the "new" definition saved me.

@Roo Monster, thank you for your post. I'm glad you're all right.

Dick Swart 1:41 PM  

It seems to me that solving the puzzle with your eye on the clock, takes away from enjoying the puzzle while you are doing it,

T-Rex and his annoyance and later realization of the true nature of the clues are an unfortunate and recurring theme in his analyses.

A doughnut shop on the boardwalk in Ocean City, NJ back in the long-gone day, had a sign with this slogan ...

As you wander through life, Brother,
Whatever be your goal,

Keep your eye upon the Doughnut,
And not upon the Hole

Buggy Bunny 1:44 PM  

Rex, Rex, Rex get with it:
"There's just no connective tissue."

I told you more than once, you want tough (e.g. no crosses), go do the London Times puzzles.

tea73 2:22 PM  

Never heard of "I GOT NEXT". Loved the clue for MIL. I've seen ARMANA in puzzles before, but have yet to remember much beyond, it begins with an A and it's not Assyria (which wouldn't fit anyway.)Thankfully I couldn't think of any four letter answers to what might be found by the radius that weren't abbreviations, and thankfully I do remember those Ninja Turtle names. Had a little chuckle at the misdirect. Apparently it took me less than 2/3 my average time so I think that counts as easy.

Hugs to Roo.

jberg 2:31 PM  

I liked the theme, despite its broad interpretations of what was near what. And come on, folks, this is a crossword. "It's like new!" "It's in near mint condition!" Good enough for me.

@Roo monster, thanks for your thoughts. Nothing else to say.

Warren Howie Hughes 2:40 PM  

IFONLY remember "There's No Place like GENOME"

Joe Bleaux 2:43 PM  

But you "post up" right eloquently here, bud.

Margaret L Skrobola 2:45 PM  

Everybody???? I don't think so...

Anonymous 2:52 PM  

this was probably the best wednesday theme I can remember. didn't like all the 3s, especially when they are names, but the dual definitions made it feel like a meta theme. i think having such equal-length phrases work with 2 different accurate interpretations of the clues is much more clever than rex says.

Ralph Phillips 2:53 PM  

I agree with you, I feel much safer when in Canada.

iamjess 4:14 PM  

I enjoyed this puzzle and had a faster-than-usual time. Cool theme!

As an Alaskan, I feel it is my duty to note that the cluing of INUIT is not entirely accurate. Although at one point the arctic peoples were all one group, at this point the INUIT are a specific group of peoples in Canada. The Alaskan counterpart are the Inupiaq. Same heritage, but nowadays with our jurisdictions and all, the INUIT are federally recognized as a people in Canada (much like First Nations, but not First Nations), and the Inupiaq have federally-recognized Tribes in the US. Over here, the distinction is real. (And don't get me started on "Eskimo"!!)

Done with my soapbox :)

Joe Dipinto 4:26 PM  

I GOT NEXT made me think of one of my favorite commercials -- the Steph Curry/Serena Williams ping-pong match where they're smashing up everything in the room and at the end Steph asks the guy waiting outside, "You got next?"

I must echo the complaints about NEW/NEAR MINT -- something that is in near-mint condition is used, even if only slightly. And NEW and MINT are *not* near each other in the dictionary, unless MINT is the only "M" entry in your dictionary and NEW is the only "N" one. This seemed all the more glaring because the other themers were all very strong.

Anonymous 4:40 PM  

I GOT NEXT was at the playground or gym for pick-up basketball, but also for the pinball machine when you plunked down your dimes or quarters on the glass top while somebody else was playing your favorite machine. (I grew up in the central plains in a small town.) The YOUTH in our town hung out at the SONIC!

I’m not particularly experienced but picked up on the theme quickly and thoroughly enjoyed it. Definitely no BOREDOM. I still can’t see why the grid is unusual—beyond my pay grade.

Washington Post took a different look at the gun statistics than NYT, for those with interest see Oct 3rd opinion piece by Leah Libresco (a statistician). Better to base policy on fact rather than emotion—particularly raw emotion that we all share after LV.

Margaret 5:13 PM  

For a Wednesday this seemed pretty easy. Found the theme amusing once I got "under fire" for where "flanked" goes in the dictionary, and realized that "where house party is" actually worked out to be "after hours." The rest of the theme answers were a snap after that.

RooMonster -- I hope your home town gets to feel like home again soon. This sort of insane event must have an unsettling effect that lasts long after shock, and grief. But people around the country, and possibly the world, are on your side.


Nancy 6:15 PM  

I didn't comment earlier on the Las Vegas horror because there's really nothing to say. Just as there wasn't anything to say after any of the other recent mass slaughters made possible by lax gun laws. Indeed, non-existent gun laws. Platitudes get mouthed by our spineless, bought-off representatives and nothing ever changes. I believe that every one of our Founding Fathers is spinning exceedingly loudly and exceedingly unhappily in his grave right now -- not only at the vile twisting of the 2nd Amendment's original meaning, but also at voter suppression, and at gerrymandering, and at the power of Big Money in politics, and at all the myriad ways in which the Republic seems to be on what Dylan called "The Eve of Destruction." If I were younger, with better foreign language skills and fewer roots here, I might flee the country arm-in-arm with @Maldesmare (11:39). I'm not optimistic about our country's future, even though I truly wish I were.

GILL I. 6:48 PM  

@Nancy...I think it's human nature to want to flee from chaos. There certainly is an abundance lately - or so it seems. But where would you go? France? Bali? Argentina?.... So many wanting to leave this country. How many vowed to go to Canada if Trump were elected. Barbra Streisand is still here collecting her millions.
I've lived under communism, socialism, dictatorships and a dead monarchy to name a few. I've been scared many times - so has my family. I've lived under extreme tyranny - even threats of death to my parents during the Castro regime. But not even Trump or the NRA would move me to want to leave.
I don't like what's going on right now but I still have a voice and I can use it without fear of someone taking my child or my home. I promise you, living abroad sounds exotic but you'd be in the same peril if not worse. Think radicals blowing up the cafe you're eating in or the concert you're attending or the metro you take to work.
In America there are many things that need fixing but at least everyone here has the opportunity to get involved without fear of reprieve.
My wonderful grandmother would say "count your blessings" at least once a day...!!!!!!

chefbea 8:05 PM  

@Roo Monster...glad you are ok....

guess this did not get sent earlier...was still here

Anonymous 10:27 PM  

Non-existent? Check your facts before you speak.

Joy2u 11:15 PM  

I had fun ... wanted it to be REFilL so bad that I just couldn't let it go (or even think of 'FUEL').

Anonymous 12:39 AM  

Barbara here.

@Roo Monster. My niece was running in the Boston Marathon the year of the bomber and she and her husband moved to Henderson two years ago. He's doing his residency there and has been treating some of the wounded. It breaks my heart that they, at such a young age have been so close to such horror. It changes you. Forever. Not that you don't carry on but something is lost that you once had and will never get back. My blessings to you.

Anonymous 3:45 AM  

@Anonymous at 4:40 - that WaPo opinion piece was very light on citations. Of course that's because results were cherry-picked. Studies vary so much in scope and methodology ( not to mention that the field is woefully under-funded in the US due to the NRA's suppression efforts) that pounding on the table insisting we know the one, true answer is out, but it is fair to say that, overall, gun controls/access restrictions lead to fewer gun deaths. I assume you would unemotionally agree that fewer gun deaths is a worthy goal.

I liked the puzzle a lot, but it took me coming here to finally get what NEAR MINT was.

Anonymous 11:58 AM  

The Twins had a great year. Fun season. We'll be back!

Blogger 11:15 AM  

Do you need free YouTube Views?
Did you know that you can get these AUTOMATICALLY & TOTALLY FOR FREE by using Like 4 Like?

Burma Shave 10:30 AM  


as an IDEA be SETFREE,
and not IFONLY he BEGS UNDERFIRE you’ll reward him,


thefogman 10:33 AM  

I enjoyed this puzzle. I found it to be medium for a Wednesday. It might not have been perfect in every way but it was fine enough. To no surprise OFL is being a bit harsh - he's not a big fan of themers it seems. I thought the theme was clever and pleasing to the solver. We shall agree to disagree once again.

spacecraft 10:50 AM  

Funny, the shape of the grid never impressed me one way or the other. I just solved a good puzzle, not helped by the fact that I may be the only one here who never heard of SONICYOUTH. And someone actually made a documentary about this??

When I saw the theme evolving I was impressed. And a debut YET? Promising, to say the least. No BOREDOM here. It plays just about right for a midweek entry: easy but not duh! easy. IFONLY we didn't have to deal with DOWD (too obscure for this early; better clued as "Harvey" protagonist Elwood) or the ARI/ORI near twins. OFL already mentioned the MOO repeat; there's also the MES/MESH cross. But these are NITS. The rest is primo. In my experience, it's always been "we GOTNEXT" at the basketball court instead of I "BYITSELF."

DOD is a movie star from the NEWSREEL era, ESTHER Williams. Well done, Evan. Birdie.

Diana, LIW 11:33 AM  

I enjoyed the theme - actually added to the solve. OFL solves too quickly to really enjoy themes, so doesn't "see" them until he's done. Too bad. Sip your coffee. Pet the cat. Enjoy the solve.

I remember being in grade school, watching an actual human being circle the earth in space. Awesome.

@Spacey - M DOWD is not obscure to me, but your clue would have been. to each... I'm more of an op/ed than sports page reader. And my Bible song came in handy again.

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords

rondo 11:40 AM  

I saw the clue/answer relationship right off with the AFTERHOURS house party, so, unlike many speed solvers, I enjoyed seeing that through to the end. Hey, six themers both across and down? No mean feat.

All these recent DARE/SAY combos are starting to annoy. Wonder why Will stacks things up like that from time to time.

I have heard of SONICYOUTH but couldn’t name even one of their songs, just not my thing. Also from Wikipedia:
Note: Sonic Youth have never charted on the Billboard Hot 100.

I find Maureen DOWD not DOWDy in the least and fits easily into a yeah baby slot.

Evan EARNED it with this puz, no BOREDOM here.

rainforest 1:44 PM  

I'm with all those who really liked this puzzle and didn't notice a "weird" grid arrangement.

There might have been a plethora of 3's, but I hardly noticed them. I did notice a unique theme that was air-tight and some nice downs. I first heard I GOT NEXT in a TV commercial with Serena Williams and Steph Curry. Neat phrase.

Neat puzzle.

  © Free Blogger Templates Columnus by 2008

Back to TOP