Grain disease / TUE 10-10-17 / 1967 Montreal event / Fur trader John Jacob / Superhero group including Beast Cyclops

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Constructor: Mark MacLachlan

Relative difficulty: Normal

THEME: ATNO (67A: What "This" refers to, in this puzzle's theme: Abbr.) — theme answers begin "This," where "This" refers to the number of the clue, and the answer is the ELEMENT (a NOBLE GAS in each case) that has that clue number's AT. NO. (i.e. atomic number):

Theme answers:
  • NEON (10A: This, on the periodic table)
  • ARGON (18A: This, on the periodic table)
  • KRYPTON (36A: This, on the periodic table)
  • XENON (54A: This, on the periodic table
  • HELIUM (2D: This, on the periodic table) 
Word of the Day: ERGOT (15A: Grain disease) —
Ergot (pron. /ˈɜːrɡət/ UR-gət) or ergot fungi refers to a group of fungi of the genus Claviceps. // The most prominent member of this group is Claviceps purpurea ("rye ergot fungus"). This fungus grows on rye and related plants, and produces alkaloids that can cause ergotism in humans and other mammals who consume grains contaminated with its fruiting structure (called ergot sclerotium). (wikipedia)
• • •

This one gets points for having a really weird theme-answer layout, as well as, like, three revealers (!). Not necessary, not entertaining, but different, and different is ... well, it's not always good, but it's better than tediously familiar. I don't really get why I should care that they are all NOBLE GASes. I guess that gives the theme a certain unity, but so what? You're doing it just to ... do it? No play on "noble" or anything? And the whole "This" way of cluing (at least in the dowloadable .puz version) is really awkward. Apparently the method of indicating "this" varies across platforms, w/ some getting "arrows" (?). I didn't get arrows. And about AT. NO. ... see, here's the thing about AT. NO. ... AT NO time is that a good answer. Making it your third (!?) revealer doesn't elevate it from its permanent status as cruddy crosswordese no one wants to see unless absolutely necessary" (see also LT. YR.).  There's the "This" trick and little else. It's just straightforward trivia for periodic table nerds. Fill is pretty weak up top (REVE ILES ERGOT REARM AGGRESS MTN), less horrible below.

[Warning: violence, profanity]

Weird to clue AUTO as [Modern prefix with complete or correct]. It is not a modern prefix. The terms "autocomplete" and "autocorrect" are modern, but that prefix ain't never gonna be modern, in any context, ever. It's an old prefix. Putting it in front of something new doesn't make it "modern." I have never seen ERGOT outside of crosswords. It is a word that destroyed me very early on in my crossword blogging career, and I have never forgiven it (see also ASOK, oy). And now I find out there's such a thing as "ergotism"!? I don't even want to click through to find out what it is. Sounds horrible. Although ... from a crossword perspective ... it is interestingly just one added letter away from "egotism." All hail the genius who can make an interesting theme out of that fact. Not much else to say about this one. Good night.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


John Child 12:10 AM  

The Day of St. Anthony’s Fire

John G. Fuller (Incident at Exeter. The Interrupted Journey) here records another kind of trip, taken involuntarily by some 300 inhabitants of a French town. The breaking off of the church Madonna's arm in 1951 was an ill omen for Pont-Saint-Esprit, on the dividing line between Provence and Languedoc. The omen was fulfilled when the clients of M. Briand, a prosperous and responsible baker, fell ill after eating the second baking on a hot July day. They suffered, according to the author, from all the symptoms of historical ergotism, not seen since 1816 and most commonly associated with the Middle Ages. Victims experienced the euphorie beate, characterized by unsuitable high spirits and sleeplessness, followed by l'eclosion brutale, the ""savage breaking out""--hallucinations and a mad desire to leap from the nearest window. Five died. Briand and others had complained of the greyish, oily flour allotted to them by the powerful Union Meuriere. It was traced to the mill of M. Maillet and a lengthy trial ensued. The association of victims ultimately received recompense in 1965. Mr. Fuller is convinced that they were unwitting consumers of massive doses of LSD, a derivative form of ergot of rye. . . . A bad trip indeed--but who's going to take it?

- Kirkus Reviews

George Barany 12:18 AM  

Quick timeout from polishing my chemistry lecture for tomorrow to express my appreciation and admiration for what @Mark MacLachlan has achieved with this puzzle. Bravo, and I'm not even referring to the two Minnesota references in the clues!

My friend @Alex Vratsanos played with atomic numbers in a different way, in a New York Times puzzle that was published March 26, 2014. Check that one out, too (@Rex's review is at:

Happy to correspond off-Rex with anyone about the intersection between chemistry and crossword puzzles, including how and why ERGOT was in my vocabulary long before I became interested in the cruciverbal arts.

Added in proof: Also delighted to see another friend, @John Child, chime in with fascinating information about ERGOT.

Anonymous 12:20 AM  


Abbreviation: at. no.

Anonymous 12:28 AM  

thought ROES and DOES for "opponents in custody cases" (which in retrospect makes absolutely no sense); was delighted to see them both pop up soon after

Anonymous 12:36 AM  

I thought this was pretty sleek. Having (almost) all noble gases clued in with their atomic number, while keeping grid symmetry, is no small feat. Throw in a couple of theme related answers and a fil that is not too weak and you get a pretty decent Tuesday puzzle.
Enjoyable, at least for a non-native speaker who hates obscure lingo.

Robin 12:44 AM  

AT_NO is reasonable crosswords for atomic number. Dunno about real life as I'm not in that area of research. But of course I entered ATom for 67A before realizing my error.

This wasn't the greatest CW, but I did like the multiple theme revealers as they were not son your face as it seems the NYT revealers are these days. Didn't catch on that all the elements were NOVEL_GASES until hitting that clue, after which XENON was almost a gimme.

Finished in average time.

Robin 12:48 AM  

Jeez, so many typos in my comment, you'd think I was using the iPhone keypad. Ugh.

Anonymous 12:51 AM  

Long time blog reader, first time poster. I'm a scientist, teach about AT NO at least one lecture a year, and have been solving the NYT daily for about two years (and less frequently for decades). I was very impressed that the constructor repeatedly had the appropriate noble gas on the appropriately numbered clue. Bravo and thank you to Mark Maclachlan.

Melrose 1:41 AM  

Clever theme, fun solve. ATNO is fine answer, have seen it several times before.

Cristi 1:56 AM  

Rex, ergot contaminated rye cakes may have caused the convulsions and other symptoms that led to the Salem Witch Trials, which gave us "The Crucible," which is always timely, especially when considering American political rhetoric, which always gravitates toward irrational accusations of disloyalty, disrespect, heresy and general evil-doing by pious-yet-hypocritical authoritarians.

Hartley70 1:59 AM  

I give props to the constructor on this one and I'm delighted to see Tuesday getting the respect it deserves. It can be better than a Monday also ran and a Wednesday wanna be, as Mark shows us today.

The clues matching the correct atomic number is outstanding and would mean a lot to the scientists here. It didn't help my solve but I appreciate the construction complexity. @George kindly explained the noble gases to me recently, so at least I wasn't completely lost.

I agree with Rex's choice for Word of the Day. Am I the only one who gets nervous when I see that rye bread has been in the house too long without refrigeration? It hits the trash even though I love a rye bread sandwich. ERGOTism has freaked me out since I learned of it about 55 years ago in junior high. I guess they spend the limited curriculum time on computer coding today, and ERGOT has fallen by the wayside. One less thing for the younger letter "gen"s to worry about. Lucky them. Once a neurosis, always a neurosis.

chefwen 2:01 AM  

Got off to a shaky start by plopping down TRIvia at 1D, hey the TRI worked, the via, not so much. TRIFLE to me is an English dessert and a pretty tasty one, at that. PsS before PPS and that was about it. Easier than yesterdays in my humble opinion.

puzzlehoarder 2:24 AM  

Ragnarok(I hope I spelled that right) meant nothing to me so this started out very similarly to Monday's puzzle. Even when I got the theme I still need crosses to recognize the gasses as the numbers were of no help

Doing this on my phone didn't speed things up either. I'm amazed I was able to get it on my phone at all. This minor accomplishment slightly makes up for my dnf. I had CRYPTON and even with the strange looking CHZ I couldn't figure it out. Running the alphabet is very unappealing so I just cut my losses and went to xwordinfo. Done on by poor spelling again.

puzzlehoarder 2:26 AM  

Let's try done in.

jae 2:52 AM  

On the tough side for a Tues., but @Chefwen easier than yesterday's for me too.

@Melrose "clever theme, fun solve" works for me, liked it.

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Dr. Gary Johnson 5:02 AM  

This online gambling spam is actually very poetic in it's twisted English. Me love it wrong time!

Anonymous 5:48 AM  

To puzzlehoarder and maybe a few others this:
Only asses spell gases with 2 Esses !!

Anonymous 6:41 AM  

Bravo to Dr. MacLachlan for an amazing theme, well done!

Hungry Mother 6:59 AM  

Loved the theme and solved very quickly. I was only a chemistry major for 3 semesters, so I didn’t get a chance to memorize the Periodic Table, but I caught on right away.

Glimmerglass 7:05 AM  

I’ve always thought Trump is a victim of egotism, but since he complains so much about a “witch hunt,” perhaps the,problem is ERGOTISM. Eating contaminated grains is as good a way as any to explain the Donald’s erratic behavior.

kitshef 7:14 AM  

Love me some chemistry in my puzzle. Wish radon could have been worked in, but it just can’t be done in a 15x15 and keep the theme.

The teaser trailer for THOR: Ragnarok is Hela good.

BarbieBarbie 7:33 AM  

We sometimes carp about puzzles that are mental gymnastics for the constructors but not for the solvers. This is one of those times when the construction feat is so admirable that it adds to the pleasure of solving the puzzle. Wow.. ALL of the stable noble gases, each clued at its own ATNO. Only two degrees of freedom for each themer, and a defined set of themers. So amazing, and so fun!

You don’t need radon because it will eventually be lead anyway and thus ineligible.

Beaglelover 7:38 AM  

It has been many years since I've seen a periodic table. I thought KRYPTON was a make believe element from Superman. Who knew? It exists!!
Sea salt is used fairly regularly by non gourmet cooks.

Victor 7:43 AM  

Impressed that we have all the non-radioactive noble gases at their AT NO position. What a feat! Ergot alkaloids have been used medically for generations for migraine, and are still available today. One preparation has ergotamine mixed with caffeine.

Anonymous 7:49 AM  

Krypton is an element in the periodic table. Superman's element was Kryptonite.

Birchbark 7:56 AM  

ERGOT's effects on mild-mannered crossword solvers are yet to be fully understood. The rye-bread is evident in the online gambling post above: "the risky guy can come and meet the atmosphere in the game." Agree with @Dr. Johnson that there's poetry in it, but at what price?

chefbea 7:57 AM  

Don't know a thing about chemistry...however did finish the puzzle. Doesn't everyone use sea salt...not just gourmet chefs?????

BarbieBarbie 8:18 AM  

@chefbea, yes, unless it comes from the Great Lakes or a brine deposit or Utah. But I think “sea salt” has come to mean sea salt that is un-recrystallized and un-iodized. So, the inorganic part of dried seawater.

Anonymous 8:22 AM  

Really smart puzzle. I'm impressed, even though it played easy for me.

Just have to ignore the hopelessly smug whining from Rex.

howard a. brenner 8:25 AM  

Delightful puzzle. At no place in Rex’s review is there a hint of nobility.

Kodak Jenkins 8:30 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Joe Welling 8:31 AM  

Did they change Lucky Charms since I was little? I remember "Yellow moons and new blue diamonds."

Kodak Jenkins 8:32 AM  

Great puzzle, clever with the gas/element and its corresponding atomic number/clue.

I made it hard on myself by using an ink pen -first time ever- and by thinking ROYALGAS instead of NOBLEGAS.

I think stacking two foreign words on each other should be taboo, as in REVE and ILES.

SEASALT was gourmet maybe 20 years ago, now it would have to be SMOKEDSEASALT.

I don't understand PUBLISH as an alternative to perish or ZED as the end of the British alphabet....

wgh 8:37 AM  

Not a fan of theme-in-the-clues puzzles.

VV 8:38 AM  

ERGOT alkaloids are used in medicine for treatment of migraines, which is the context where I’ve seen the word outside of xwords.

Like others here I was impressed by the theme execution, but with such a Science-y theme I wish we’d gotten some pop-culturey fill, which didn’t occur at all. Instead we had KHZ and LTYR, *two* different email abbrevs FWD and CCS, MTN, JET PLANES..... entire thing could’ve been used as an educational crossword in a science classroom.

George 8:38 AM  

I'm on my third element, and I think, 'That's funny, these are all NOBLEGASes.' I enjoyed this puzzle, and I respectfully disagree with Rex, ATNO is absolutely germane and appropriate for this puzzle. I also liked the other chemistry themed clues and answers, such as EMULSIONS. All this, and I really never liked chemistry in school.

RAD2626 8:39 AM  

Agree with all the positive comments. Surprisingly little glue for such a complicated structure. Only thing missing was a good "OWIE" clue.

Two Ponies 8:40 AM  

For me the most difficultly came from the fill.
Reve is a little high-end for a Tuesday. That I knew easily but
seeing aggress as a verb caught my eye as did Turkey Trot. I only know Turkey Shoot.
Loved a puzzle with a science theme. Lots of fun.

@ Victor 7:43 beat me to it about migraine medication.
I saw some field corn infected with ergot. Moldy misshapen ears, very ugly and bizarre.

Wm. C. 8:41 AM  

@Kodak --

"Publish or Perish" is a saying, typically admonishing non-tenured university faculty that if they don't publish a sufficient amount, that they will be denied tenure and ultimately be dismissed.

Zed is just a British-ism for the letter Z.

Doris 8:41 AM  

In college English departments, the cry is always “publish or perish!” Or you’ll lose your job or never get promoted or have tenure. What we call
“zee,” the British call “zed.” Also other non-U.S. Anglophone countries. So there.

kitshef 8:43 AM  

@Joe Welling - probably my biggest confusion was figuring out how diamonds could fit in that slot. Turns out moons replaced diamonds in the early '90s, so we are just a hair out of date.

Sir Hillary 8:53 AM  

This had to be really hard to construct, given all the constraints, so bravo to Mark MacLachlan for making it all work.

More importantly, this was fun from a solving perspective. The "messiness" of it all (asymmetrical themers, multiple revealers) added a measure of enjoyment.

Electronic communications mini-theme -- CCS, FWD, AUTO[correct].

AGGRESS looks weird, but it's obviously the root of more common words like aggressive and aggressor. And at least it's not OGRESS.

Linda Vale 8:54 AM  

I learned about ERGOT from watching an episode of “Quincy” when I was a kid.

Nancy 9:00 AM  

I'm glad this was an early week puzzle so I didn't have to know/remember the ATNO of the various ELEMENTS. Because I either don't remember or I never knew in the first place. But I very much admire the construction of this puzzle and also found it an enjoyable solve. That's two early week puzzles in a row that I've enjoyed. And I love the fact that there are almost no proper names in this one. See, it can be done.

To me, SEA SALT is more an affectation than a "gourmet" seasoning. First of all, salt is not exactly a reduced red wine sauce or a garlicky aioli. I'd argue that there's nothing especially gourmet about it. Second, all salt tastes like...salt.. I would wager money on the fact that I could sit Alice Waters, Danny Meyer, Daniel Boulud and Julia Child (if she were still alive) at a table and offer them two well prepared entrees -- one made with SEA SALT and one made with ordinary salt, and they wouldn't be able to tell the difference. For me, the main thing is to not oversalt, which far too many restaurants do today in my opinion.

semioticus (shelbyl) 9:42 AM  

Solid -by which I mean above average- run of puzzles for a few days now. Maybe things are looking up for NYT Crosswords once again?

Anonymous 9:51 AM  

After forty years tortured by migraines, I discovered that one cafergot (caffeine + ergotamine) taken every day at dinnertime prevents them without fail. For some bureaucratic reason, I can only get it from Canada.

Z 9:51 AM  

@AT NO defenders - Yes, perfectly germane to this theme, but AT NO is in and of itself tired crosswordese seen far more often in crosswords than the number of college science grads would merit. Toss in that we get revealers at 38D and 43D and it’s inclusion borders on (for me) or crosses into (for Rex) over kill.

This is an impressive feat of construction given the constraints, I’m on the fence whether it was an enjoyable solve. I’ve definitely seen worse stunts that were as much fun as rubbing SEA SALT into an open wound. This was more pleasant than those puzzles, and I always get a mild buzz of schadenfreude whenever a constructors imagination outstrips our technology’s ability to represent their intent (I got arrows on my iPad using PuzzAzz, much better than “this”). Yet, not much word play and the puzzle is inherently trivia driven, even if it is not trivial trivia. Close call here, but I think I’m a solid “meh” on this one.

No issue with ZED here. If you aren’t getting enough of my liberal politics you could always follow @Z_Zed_Zed on Twitter. Just know if you are a Christian Patriot who supports Trump you’ll get blocked in a picosecond. I’ve no time to suffer imbecility or Russian bot wannabes.

QuasiMojo 9:53 AM  

ELEMENTary, my dear Watson. Fun puzzle. Clever theme. Painless.

@Nancy, some of the SEA SALT I've eaten is crunchier than the usual Morton's type. I noticed it immediately in a gourmet salad I was served.

GILL I. 9:55 AM  

Like @Rex, I only knew ERGOT from crosswords. Now I know more than I want to. Thanks, @Hartley, for scaring the caca out of me and my Rye.
I guess this is clever if you're into ATNO and all that stuff. I'm not, so I found this boring. I finished and said "so what." I suppose it is clever that each ELEMENT belongs in its numbered spaces but I'm afraid this was lost on dumb moi.
@Nancy...I bet I would know. To me, the difference in the salts is texture and saltiness. I only use Kosher salt as it has no additives and is unrefined. SEA SALT has some additives and is a lot coarser. I only use table salt for baking. I'm thinking if you took a blind-folded taste test, you'd sense the subtle differences.
Well, at least I found something in the puzzle that I like. TRIFLE FED SEA SALT MAYO EMULSIONS...

Unknown 9:57 AM  

I agree! No mention from Rex about the atomic number. Wonder if he hadn't noticed? Also think that makes the "this" references rex was going on about OK.

Normal Norm 10:05 AM  

Here I am, cruising through a pleasant puzzle devoid of pop culture and requiring some education to solve and enjoy.
What do I see here? A video still shot of a black guy dripping in jewelry and tattoos with the warning of violence and profanity. I am choosing to skip this video on the probability that it will spoil my nice breakfast. Thanks for perpetuating negative stereotypes Rex.
Then I read that @Z will not allow any comments on his Twitter account that do not agree with his/her agenda.
What icons of love and tolerance these two are.

GILL I. 10:08 AM  

I think that should be blind-fold? or am I a blind fool?

mathgent 10:18 AM  

@BarbieBarbie (7:33): Well written argument that I should have enjoyed the puzzle. I should also enjoy movies movies by the Coen brothers.

Also, thanks for your comment yesterday about Match Boxes. If you missed the late posts yesterday, @Joe Di Pinto helped me see that I had mistaken a heavy line in the grid for a regular line.

Greater Fall River Committee for Peace & Justice 10:29 AM  

I loved this puzzle. These clues were the sort of things I was learning in my youth instead of pop music, sitcoms, cheesy movies, etc. This stuff and classical music. Which reminds me, I was in Salzburg lately, and wanted souvenirs though I already had enough Mozart memorabilia to last me forever. So I bought Salzburg Salz. Some straight from the mine, which basically looks and tastes like salt with dirt in it, and some Krautersalz (with an umlaut, which is dirty salt with weeds it in. Well, herbs. I haven't used that one yet. Maybe it will turn out to be gourmet, at least it will maybe be a conversation starter.

Oh, is AGGRESS really a word?

G. Weissman 10:41 AM  

I guess 14A means that any and every short word from the French language is fair game in NYT crosswords.

RooMonster 10:47 AM  

Hey All !
This puz was freaking awesome! Putting ELEMENTS into the puz in their proper ATNO spots, plus get in the 3 revealers, and not have blatant dreck is amazing. With a few long Downs that aren't made up words/phrases. Crazy tough to pull off.

Just a Q from a pangram, also. Could've gotten it in, though. Make 35A QUIT, 29A OFF, and you end up with 35D QCS (which is Abbr. for Quality Control Systems), 30D FIE, 31D FTD. Just saying. :-)

So in my book, this is way at the top of the best TuesPuzs I've done. And that's no ILES!

MOONS! (A dying art!)

Noam D. Elkies 10:51 AM  

That was fun, especially for Downs-only Tuesday solving: the thematic Down clues, together with the pattern 2 10 18 (going up by 8's) 36 54 (going up by 18's) gave me just enough free Across entries to fix a few errors and complete the puzzle, and then notice the for-once-welcome ATNO at the very end. Yes, no room on a normal weekday puzzle for 86:RADON, let alone 118:OGANESSON. [Those go up by 32's; then 50's, 72's, etc. -- see -- though even the 118th element is so short-lived that we'll probably never find out if it actually behaves like a noble gas in quantities of more than the tiniest 1D:TRIFLE.] EGOTISM is not the only one-letter deletion from ERGOTISM (and *that* usage of the prefix is much older than those used in the 61A clue -- yes, I too wondered about that usage of "modern").


Anonymous 10:55 AM  

Puzzle was great. It was a very original and well executed puzzle. Rex seems to be suffering from Shortz Derangement Syndrome.

Noam D. Elkies 10:56 AM  

Also, a circumflex mini-stack: French 14A:RÊVE and 17A:ÎLES. au revoir.

jberg 11:23 AM  

I was able to get HELIUM from the little arrow pointing to its ATNO; the rest I had to just guess from the crosses and the number of letters, but that wasn't hard. I didn't miss RADON, which is noble chemically but a bit dangerous physically. Apparently there is now also OGANESSON, which is in the same column of the periodical table but may not be a NOBLE GAS due to relativistic effects. I'm all on tenterhooks to find out for sure.

My son once had a girlfriend who was really enjoyed drugs, so she was fascinated to learn about ERGOT. She thought it had been given a bad rap -- she thought that about most drugs. Anyway, she helped me remember it here.

As others have said, it's a really remarkable feat to fit the first six noble gases in at the right clue numbers; the lack of symmetry can be excused given that constraint.

I use kosher salt myself, because the large crystals seem to add a different taste. I could be fooling myself, though.

jberg 11:27 AM  

@Joe DiPinto from yesterday -- thanks for cluing me in! I hadn't known that.

Trombone Tom 11:35 AM  

Mark, I thought your puzzle was a (NOBLE)GAS!

NeilD 11:40 AM  

A delight!

relicofthe60s 11:46 AM  

I thought this puzzle was very clever and a pleasure to solve. Rex seems determined to nitpick the NYT puzzles and not say anything nice unless he has to. Sometimes they deserve it, but not this one.

Masked and Anonymous 11:47 AM  

staff weeject pick: PPS.

AT NO time has M&A known much of anything about this puztheme's subject other than that H was 1 and He was 2. But … found this puz to be very enjoyable, anyhoo. It does somethin different. Different is always good, and sometimes primo. thUmbsUp.

yo, @John Child. Good to hear from U, and cool ergotism info.

As others have hinted at, this theme puts some oddball demands on yer grid layout. 2-D has to be 6 long. 10-A has to be 4 long, etc. A challengin constructioneerin problem, well-solved. Even snuck every letter in, except for Q [golf clap].

Didn't know Fr. REVE, but it is at least kinda like REVErie, so that helped m&e decode that. fave fillins: JET+PLANES. FIREALARM [FIREARM with AL in it?]. OUTOFCOURT. IDUNNO. ROOMMATE. EXODUS. PUBLISH. MOONS. Lotsa good stuff.

LTYR. har [Speakin of entertainin desperation, AGGRESS is not in the Official M&A Help Desk Dictionary, which surprised m&e, a little.]

AUTO clue didn't add even nanosecond one of hesitation, to my solvequest, btw. Just assumed it was shorthand for "modern prefix usage", or somesuch.

Thanx, Mr. MacLachlan. Fun and slightly feisty. Like a Baby Bear TuesPuz. Just right.

Masked & Anonymo5Us


Madeleine Sann 11:51 AM  

Ergot has a major upside:

“Ergot” does not contain lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) but instead contains lysergic acid as well as its precursor,[19] ergotamine. Lysergic acid is a precursor for the synthesis of LSD.

Doc John 12:06 PM  

Here's poor, poor Rex whining yet again about another word that he doesn't like yet doesn't really know.
As for AUTO being a "modern" prefix. Yes, of course it's not a modern prefix but its use in these cases are modern and that's what they were getting at. Geez, lighten up!
And finally, complaining that all of the theme entries were NOBLE GASES. Wow. I appreciated that they were all from the same identifiable group. And certainly better than making a puzzle out of the Lanthanides.

David Schinnerer 12:12 PM  

Wow...Nancy and Mike (please stop calling him Rex, i.e. "King")disagreeing? Trouble in paradise? Nancy, maybe a trial separation??

I didn't like chemistry in high school/college, so I felt this puzzle was extremely unfair. Just kidding...just channeling some past whiners who don't like pop music/superhero/whatever puzzles because they are not familiar subjects to them.

I thought this was great fun, but I suppose I'm a simpleton when it comes to these puzzles. Liked the overall tone of previous posts, though. Maybe a new era for this forum? Nah...the haters will be back tomorrow.

Thanks, as always, to the constructor for creating some entertainment for my morning.

p.s. and i actually loved chem, uh, not so much.

Anonymous 12:13 PM  

To Anonymous 9:51 AM: Drugs containing ergotamine, like Cafergot (brand name), are prescription-only in the US. See your doctor about getting it. If you are buying drugs from an on-line Canadian pharmacy, you are taking risks.

Joseph Michael 12:16 PM  

Impressive feat of construction, but for me not a whole lot of fun to solve. I guess I do not find NOBLE GASES and their AT NOs all that entertaining.

However, fill was solid and even in a couple of spots challenging. Was doing a 10-year old puzzle from the NYT archive while traveling yesterday and encountered REVE clued as a French dream. Odd to see it again here today.

Didn't know AGGRESS was a word. He lost his TEMPER and "aggressed" toward his opponent during the debate? Still doesn't sound right.

Noticed, as @Roo pointed out, that the grid is one Q short of a pangram.

I don't use SEA SALT because I think it tastes better but because it produces less acid in the digestive system, a tip pointed out to me by an allergist. However, it is important to use iodized sea salt or take an iodine supplement when doing so regularly.

Paloma Vita 12:25 PM  

You never heard "ergot" outside of crosswords? I heard about it as a teen when I was told it was the chemical equivalent to LSD!

Anonymous 12:32 PM  

I am impressed to find so many chemophiles in a sea of wordsmiths (and yes, it's great fun to invent words). For a onetime English major who never took chemistry I was somewhat daunted by the theme but managed to navigate my way through it fairly quickly with one small square error.

Charles kluepfel 12:53 PM  

What... no one objects to Greenland, New Guinea, Madagascar, etc. being called specks?

Easier than Monday's.

Anonymous 1:04 PM  

For everyone weighing @Z's invitation to his political blog.
It's wiorth noting the moron Z predicted a Clinton win last November and doubled down on his stupidity by offering to give advice to republicvans on hiow the could become relebvant in national politics.

Just in case you've been in a coma, let's recap the score.

Republicans control both houses in 33 states. ( dems control both houses in less than half that, 13 to be precise)

Republicans occupuy 33 governor's mansions.

I assume everyone knows they hold a majority in both houses in Washington, DC.

But by all means, @Z, please educate us with your perspicacity.

Charles kluepfel 1:06 PM  

I've been told in the past that kosher salt crystals are larger but I haven't found that to be the case at least in the boxes I've bought. Only sea salt has crystals large enough for hot pretzels.

Also don't understand why kosher salt is not called koshering salt, as its use is to kosher meat, rather than that it is kosher itself.

Unknown 1:09 PM  

Great Lakes are unsalted and shark free!

Anonymous 1:13 PM  

Careful @Two Ponies!!! Mentioning a turkey shoot might upset some of the denizens here. They think that turkeys come from grocery stores!

jae 1:18 PM  

@Nancy - Amen to over salting in restaurants and recipes. Ina Garten (the Barefoot Contessa) does this frequently. You need to take her recipes without "a grain of salt."

Teedmn 1:20 PM  

Post-POSTScript, not Post-script-script :-(. I was making frowny faces at an element KRYs___. So I join @chefwen with that writeover, easily fixed by remembering KRYPTON.

I always get a hitch in my reading when I run into I DUNNO on the page, trying to sound it out. Isn't it said in real life, "I'da no"? Or even totally eliding into "Owno"? I sometimes wonder how non-native speakers handle translating such phrases, which remind me of me trying to figure out French plurals.

I went out looking for more info on ERGOT and rye bread and found THIS discussion, which made me chuckle darkly at how desperate some people get, trying to find a drug experience. It's sad, really.

Thanks, Mr. MacLachlan, for NYT puzzle #3.

Kerry Doughty 1:32 PM  

@Anon 1:13 While your idiocy is obvious to most, many may not know one specific aspect of it, that is you don't know what a "turkey shoot" is - It's a shooting contest where the prize is a frozen turkey (you know, from the supermarket - preferably a ButterBall). It can be a pure marksmanship contest, or a semi random contest (shooting birdshot at a target, whoever has the bb closest to the center wins). It is not a turkey hunt.

BarbieBarbie 1:58 PM  

@unknown, my bad, i knew that Dow was situated in Midland because of a brine deposit, so in my fuzzy logic that meant any body of water nearby must be briny. Ouch. Love to learn new stuff here. And in fact I did know that, I now realize, because the story of how the Chicago River was reversed in the middle of winter so St Louis couldn’t prevent Chicago’s sewage from heading their way is one of my all-time favorite bits of engineering history.

@mathgent, thanks for the clarification. I can see how that might happen. As others have also said, paying attention to the complementary 1x3s makes the Match Boxes a much easier puzzle. I miss the previous one- it was tricksy, for me anyway. A 50%er if I’m nudging the ball with my foot.

@anons, is there a difference between hunting turkeys and a turkey shoot? Turkey shoot sounds like something unsportsmanlike, like maybe a bunch of turkeys are released all at once and everyone gets to go blam and is sure to hit something. Turkey hunting is much more difficult than that. I know a lot of people who hunt them but not too many who have brought one home. Wiley guys.

Suzie Q 2:07 PM  

OK we have the ins and outs of a turkey shoot covered.
What is this annual Turkey Trot event?

Ghostface Puzzlah 2:09 PM  

This was a creative and delightful puzzle. Very well constructed. Rex, maybe you need a vacation

Anonymous 2:15 PM  

@ Kerry Doughty
Research what the ORIGINAL meaning of "turkey shoot" is. Asshole.

Jeremy Smith

Joe Dipinto 2:16 PM  

I am a bit of a periodic table nerd (I once memorized all the elements from 1 thru 94), so I thought this was fun as well as impressive.

I don't recall ever seeing the word AGGRESS before. "Egress" yes, "aggress" no, though obviously it's the root of "aggressive."

Anonymous 2:37 PM  

Loved this puzzle!

Anonymous 2:44 PM  


I feel your pain. But consider the source. Kerry's post reads like it was written by a second grader whose third language is English, translated into Arabic, then back into English. Which is to say, not only is drivel, it's illiterate drivel.

Ellen S 2:44 PM  

Well, this was a fun bunch of comments. I knew ERGOT from several TV shows but don’t remember the Quincy one. And I’m eager to learn what a Turkey Trot annual event is, if it’s unrelated to hunting or shooting turkeys. A dance contest? Fashion parade for ugly clothing?

I had two little questions about this puzzle. One was 35A “Medical Research Goal” - I always though the holy grail was not a CURE but something you have to keep on taking forever. Cuz otherwise, it has to be something like Gardasil. First parents were told they had to vaccinate all their girl children — twice. Then when all the girls were used up, oh, look, vaccinate all the boys. It will be a while (I hope!) before we find out how much of a difference it made, before those kids engage in behaviors where they would be exposed to HPV. But meanwhile, lotsa bucks for Merck. I’m not anti-vaccine: my daughter was vaccinated for everything there was at the time; I get flu shots, and keep up on my tetanus shots and all the other whatnots, I just think a mass vaccination that didn’t undergo really rigorous testing, especially on the target population of kids, to prevent something that is implicated in one of the more curable cancers, kinda sketchy IMHO. But time will tell. I just think the true goal of medical research is money, and if we’re lucky it prevents, cures or ameliorates some disease or at least doesn’t make things worse.

Did I have something else to carp about? Oh yeah, my tinfoil hat got in the way of my thoughts. It was that my health plan talks about doing crossword puzzles to stave off cognitive decay, but notes that dopey ones where you just fill in definitions don’t count. I wonder if crossword puzzles really do anything in that regard (or cure cervical cancer maybe?). If they’re hard enough to qualify, I pretty much can’t do them. Same with Sudoku. I can do them all the way up until the puzzle has those “Fishes” or “X-wings”. I can never see those patterns. Just can’t.

So maybe I’ll stop trying to figure whether a crossword has oiled my brain cells and just worry about whether I enjoyed the solve even if it was easy. (Hey there’s a new kind of Captcha that I’m encountering: it’s a grid of thumbnail images and I’m supposed to select each box that has, usually, a picture of an automobile, and I keep failing those tests! Like I select images that have a fender showing, but it should be a complete car, or maybe fail to select partials, I can never get it right. Maybe I am a robot. Does that mean my brain cells need to be literally oiled?)

Alex 3:32 PM  

I thought it was fun. Realized that the clues were referring to an ATNO early on, but I didn’t have a periodic table handy, so the only one I was sure of was HELIUM. I thought the theme was fun, and then in the middle, because of the clue, realized that they were all NOBLE GASses. And I thought that was fun, and also admirable, because of NOBLE GASses. At the end, for the third revealer, I looked at the four blocks and thought “it can only be AT NO.” Which I also thought was fun. So. Fun. Mr Crankypants didn’t like it, but I definitely did.

Fred Romagnolo 3:43 PM  

I believe that historians have generally blamed ERGOT for the plague that devastated Athens during the Peloponnesian War (killed Pericles). Folks: be kind to Z: without that kind of thinking we wouldn't have our present situation.

Suzie Q 4:02 PM  

Evidently several cities around the country have a 5- or 10-K fun run around Thanksgiving and call it a Turkey Trot. New one to me. Kind of a stretch for a Tuesday puzzle, or any day actually.

Joe Dipinto 4:31 PM  

I thought the Turkey Trot was a ballroom dance. Oh wait, that's Fox Trot.

burtonkd 6:27 PM  

Blue moon threw me too. I remember the commercial from my childhood: pink hearts, yellow moons, orange stars, green clovers AND BLUE DIAMONDS, which had a pause before and extra sing-songy tone to emphasize that they were new, apparently as of 1975. - OK, perhaps something to be avoided, BUT IN A PUZZLE ABOUT THE PERIODIC TABLE???????

@Joe Dipinto - Turkey trot was a dance, replaced in public favor by the foxtrot. From Wikipedia:
The turkey trot was a dance made popular in the early 1900s. The Turkey Trot was done to fast ragtime music popular in the decade from 1900 to 1910 such as Scott Joplin's Maple Leaf Rag. Driven largely by youth counterculture of the time, the turkey trot fad quickly fell out of favor as the foxtrot, a much more conservative dance step based on the waltz, rose to popularity in 1914.
Dances fell in and out of favor until we got to the NAENAE, another good xword term.
Since a couple people mentioned it, I found the rest of the article on the Turkey Trot interesting:
The basic step consisted of four hopping steps sideways with the feet well apart, first on one leg, then the other with a characteristic rise on the ball of the foot, followed by a drop upon the heel. The dance was embellished with scissor-like flicks of the feet and fast trotting actions with abrupt stops.

It has been said that dancers John Jarrott and Louise Gruenning introduced this dance as well as the Grizzly Bear at Ray Jones Café in Chicago, IL. around 1909. Another theory states that it originated on the Barbary Coast, San Francisco, California. Joseph M. Daly wrote music for the dance in 1912. Irene and Vernon Castle raised its popularity by dancing the Turkey Trot in the Broadway show The Sunshine Girl.

It achieved popularity chiefly as a result of its being denounced by the Vatican. It was thought that the positions assumed by the dancers were offensively suggestive. Conservative members of society felt the dance promoted immorality and tried to get it banned at public functions, which only served to increase its popularity.

There were news reports of dancers being fined because "their Turkey Trots were interpreted by the courts as disorderly conduct." In another instance, fifteen working girls were fired from their jobs with the Philadelphia song publisher Curtis Publishing when they were caught doing the turkey trot, although it was during their lunch break.

One of the means to combat "offensive" dances was the 1913 song, Anti-Ragtime Girl: …She don’t do the Bunny Hug, nor dance the Grizzly Bear / She hasn't learned the Turkey Trot / …She can't tell a Tango from a Can Can or a Jig / …She's my little Anti-Ragtime Girl….

In popular culture Edit

The song "Let's Turkey Trot" by "Little Eva" Boyd and The Cookies (sometimes misattributed to Carole King) reached #20 on the Billboard Hot 100 in February 1963, fifty years after the dance step's heyday.

In the 8th season episode of NCIS False Witness, show character Abby Sciuto dances the trot as she examines a turkey as evidence.

In Season 5, Episode 14 of Mad About You guest star Mel Brooks, playing "Uncle Phil", leads a group of hospital attendants in a singing version of The Turkey Trot.

In Season 2, Episode 5 of the period drama The Duchess of Duke Street, Gemma Jones and Christopher Cazenove perform a version of the Turkey Trot.

Oldflappyfrommississappy 6:53 PM  

@Anonymous 2:24, you have a booger hanging out your nose.

Joe Dipinto 7:08 PM  

@burtonkd -- thanks. I sort of remembered it having been a dance but the Wikipedia link on my Google search result didn't show that at first glance, so I didn't open it to check further.

Mohair Sam 7:25 PM  

@burtonkd - Hah! Thanks for posting all the Turkey Trot madness. My father would tell wild tales about my old Aunt Dora (who was an incorrigible wise-ass) the flapper-girl. He'd always tease her, calling her a "Turkey Trotter" - now I know why the old gal would chuckle and roll her eyes.

Taking Dad's lead I've called my wife a Turkey Trotter from time to time having no idea the derivation. Hope she doesn't read your post.

Joe Dipinto 7:36 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Joe Dipinto 7:37 PM  

"Jeopardy" pre-empted by NJ gubernatorial debate. Not fair!! I needed my fix of the brilliant and hilarious Austin Rogers. :-(

Hal 8:28 PM  

I thought the clue for PUBLISH clever. But then, my wife works at a university.

Anonymous 9:16 PM  

@Fred Romagnolo,

Careful!!!! Z might wing a Frisbee at your head. He sometimes come here and posts in classical Greek. Just like a guy who knows what the Pelopennese is. LOL.

Mohair Sam 9:27 PM  

@Joe DiPinto - I feel your pain. You'd think those bastards would hold their debates the night of a basketball or baseball game so we'd have something to watch.

Anonymous 9:40 PM  

To Anonymous 12:13 PM:

Thanks, but cafergot is not available at any pharmacy in the US. My doctor writes me a scrip on paper just so I can fax it to Canada (the Canadian on-line pharmacy requires a prescription). The cafergot comes from Turkey. I've been taking it for years with good results. Getting a little more OT here, I use a Combivent inhaler for COPD. When I try to refill it in the US, they want $1024 (yes, that's one thousand twenty-four dollars) for one. I get it from Canada for $49. Same manufacturer, same packaging.

Joe Dipinto 9:41 PM  

@Mohsam -- they could at least have waited a half hour to start when Wheel Of Fortune came on. I hate that show.

Cassieopia 10:39 PM  

Late to the game but had to pop in to say LOVED IT!!! More cool chemistry puzzles please!!! Much more in my wheelhouse than Broadway shows or baseball players/stats/teams/terms (ugh). Near record time but who cares when it’s ***this much fun***! Major props to Mark MacLachlan!

Thomaso808 4:36 AM  

@Joe DiPinto, super late here cuz no post by Rex yet. Jeopardy episode today (no NJ debate here) featured Alex apologizing to Mr. Rogers for referring to him as Austin Rivers -- twice! (Austin Rivers is a well-known NBA player in LA.)

Dawn 6:06 PM  

Another late chime in to say I loved this puzzle! Impressive feat to line up at nos (yup, I use this abbreviation at least once a week in Chem lecture!) of noble gases so beautifully.

Blogger 2:39 PM  

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Burma Shave 9:35 AM  


any AGENT MISLED by data won’t settle OUTOFCOURT.


BS2 9:48 AM  


XENON and ARGON and KRYPTON and more


rondo 10:24 AM  

Hey, two MN references and at least one to be proud of, the MAYO clinic. Gotta admit I voted for JESSE Ventura; memorable if nothing else. The MN treasury was flush with cash and JESSE promised rebates to taxpayers. I’m still using the TV I bought with my “JESSE check”. The election night when JESSE “shocked the world” I also lost my city council seat to my next door neighbor, who campaigned on the issues I had already seen ENACTED. She didn’t EVEN finish her term. Go figure.

To the puz. NOBLEGASes everywhere gives this puz an ELEMENT of class a bit higher than many Tuesdays. And revealers galore. Hard to get MISLED.

Going old-school today for yeah baby Virginia MAYO.

REAL nice puz to PUBLISH on a Tuesday.

thefogman 10:26 AM  

I'd like to open with a joke about the periodic table, but all the good ones ARGON.
But seriously folks, this one was super-duper easy, even for a Tuesday. I guess that grade 13 chemistry finally paid off for me. I only had one write-over: TRIvia before TRIFLE. The theme was alright, but ATNO time did I find it thrilling. For a Tuesday puzz, it had all the ELEMENTS but lacked somewhat in the sparkle and crunch department.

thefogman 10:36 AM  

Okay, here's one...

When Prince Charles farts, does he pass NOBLEGAS?

spacecraft 11:21 AM  

@thefogman: you shoulda quit when you were ahead--as you were with ARGON; har! This one was kinda ruined for me because the Sun typeset (apparently) lacks arrows. Each theme clue included an X inside a box; this meant nothing. But when I got to the very last entry in the SE: ATNO, and saw the word "arrow," it blew me away. To have a list of NOBLEGASes scattered asymmetrically about the grid is no big deal==but placing them next to their 67-across adds an impressive layer of sophistication. "All hail the genius!"

This all done with some cool longer fill, albeit a few shorter uh-ohs. @M&A will wonder why it wasn't RuE/HuES, increasing the U-count by 25%. I liked AUTO crossing both MIATA and DESOTO. One w/o at LongS before LUSTS, but overall pretty easy. DOD is Fran Drescher as The NANNY. Y'know, I remember ESSO before it became Exxon. And I recall thinking: why? Since then I learned the answer: they searched for a letter combination that wasn't offensive to ANYONE in ANY language. *sigh* Despite LTYR, almost bumping CCS into FWD, and of course everybody's bugaboo ATNO, this one gets a birdie.

Diana, LIW 11:44 AM  

Didn't I suggest recently that we all memorize the periodic table? So did I? Go ahead, guess.

So not a normal Tuesday - no way.

I didn't have arrows, but they weren't really necessary. Even w/o periodic knowledge I got the reference.

Couldn't get ticket AGENT for the longest time - duh factor, 'twas my last answer.

After finishing I looked at REAR M and wondered what it was.

gotta run

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords

rainforest 2:29 PM  

As a former teacher of the subject, I had good chemistry with today's theme in a puzzle that is pretty darn good, especially on Tuesday, the poor stepchild of the NYT xword.

Whether chemical elements are "interesting" fodder for the crossword puzzle could be a matter of some debate, but the volume of theme material was notable. Anyway, I liked it, and the lack of dreck was appreciated.

So, SEA SALT, Himalayan pink salt, Kosher salt - do they actually make a difference to the taste of whatever they are seasoning? I think not.

I remember the Desoto autos as poster children of the excesses of 1950's car design. Ugly. Tastes change.

strayling 7:08 PM  

"What each arrow in a clue points to" has a nice double meaning. The arrow points AT the clue NO.

Bill Young 11:38 AM  

Those who like this puzzle will love "the elements" by John Lehrer which has all the elements (at the time written) in a song.
Also I always put the noble gases on the right. The arrow on my puzzle points left. Still loved the puzzle.

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