1982 Stevie Wonder title query / THU 11-2-17 / Istanbul commander / SHIELD's enemy in Marvel comics / Pizza maker John Schnatter's nickname / Trounces slangily / Interstellar sitcom star / Where Mumtaz Mahal is entombed

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Constructor: Peter Sagal and Mike Selinker

Relative difficulty: Medium


THEME: NEW YORK MARATHON (37A: Event held on the first Sunday in November, and whose path is recreated in this puzzle) — each BOROUGH is represented by a word that can follow that BOROUGH's name in a familiar phrase (45A: What each step in this puzzle lacks, in proper order). Clues for the BOROUGHs indicate the "Steps" (i.e. route) of the marathon:

Theme answers:
  • [BRONX] CHEER (9A: Step 5: A show of contempt)
  • [MANHATTAN] PROJECT (23A: Steps 4 and 6: A 1940s program)
  • [QUEEN['?]S] ENGLISH (28A: Step 3: Ann upper-class accent)
  • [BROOKLYN] DODGERS (51A: Step 2: An old baseball team)
  • [STATEN ISLAND] FERRY (67A: Step 1: A passenger ship since 1817) 
Word of the Day: Issa Rae (47A: Actress Issa and others = RAES) —
Jo-Issa "Issa" Rae Diop (born January 12, 1985) is an American actress, writer, director, producer and web series creator. She is best known as the creator of the YouTube web series Awkward Black Girl. Since the premiere of Awkward Black Girl, Rae has developed her own YouTube platform where she features various content created by people of color. Rae's shows have garnered over 20 million views and over 260,000 subscribers on YouTube. // As of October 2016, Rae is the creator, co-writer and star of the HBO series Insecure, which is partially based on Awkward Black Girl. (WIKIPEDIA)
• • •

Timely and interesting, though there are some issues in the execution. There's something awkward about calling the boroughs "steps" and also having them not in order and also having one of the boroughs (MANHATTAN) be two steps and then also having one of the boroughs (QUEENS) be a differently punctuated word in the clue (QUEEN'S). Further, I cannot figure out the syntax on the revealer, specifically how you can "lack" something "in proper order." I get that the steps all lack their boroughs, and that if you follow the steps, through the various (missing) boroughs, you trace the route of the marathon, but the wording on that revealer clue is still jacked. Write a fuller, clearer revealer. It wasn't hard to figure out, but it wasn't pleasant to read either. Oh, and there's another way QUEEN'S is an outlier, besides the punctuation—all the other boroughs have clues related specifically to their boroughs. DODGERS are from Brooklyn, FERRY goes to/from Staten Island, etc. But QUEEN(')S ... no. Still, withholding the boroughs like this is a pretty interesting variation on the "Word That Can Precede" type of puzzle, and the grid holds up very well considering the theme density. We even get a couple blocks of longer Acrosses in the NW / SE to liven things up. I DON'T MIND that at all.


Issa Rae is great, but RAES (plural) is a shambles. Plural names are never great, but plural uncommon names look ****ing ridiculous. I resent this puzzle for making me think about the president* (27A: Trump is often involved in these) and PAPA ****ing John (43A: Pizza maker John Schnatter's nickname). But putting Stevie in the grid very nearly makes up for it. "DO I DO" looks insane as an answer (I wonder how many people are wondering "What the hell is a DOIDO and why would anyone sing about it?"). But it's got a great beat and groove and ... yeah, let's just listen to Stevie now.


I had trouble only in the SE section, where ATKINS messed me up (48D: Country singer Trace => ADKINS), and ROCK ON (which no one actually says) took forever to come together (47D: Comment with the pinkie and forefinger extended upward). I did not know Café NOIR was a thing. Is that just a pretentious way of saying "black coffee"? Not sure why you'd throw away your NOIR clue like that, especially during Noirvember, but to each his own.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]

134 comments:

Anonymous 12:06 AM  

"...but the wording on that revealer clue is still jacked."

I'll 2nd that. Well done puzzle nonetheless.

Mike in Mountain View 12:21 AM  

Nice that the boroughs are placed in the grid the way they are placed on the map, with Manhattan in the west, the Bronx in the north, Staten Island in the south and Queens just north of Brooklyn.

Natick Runner 12:23 AM  

The race goes through Manhattan twice. Once before the Bronx, then again to finish in Central Park, so the 4th and 6th borough “steps”. And pretty sure it’s called the NEW YORK *City* MARATHON.

Hard for me. Couldn’t figure out the theme until aha. And I’m a marathoner. Have run NYC twice.

Anonymous 12:34 AM  

Kramer says "Rock on." I'm sure Doug will provide proof.

Johnny 12:43 AM  

I figured out the theme sorta quickly and filled it all in but I still had a DNF because of the SW corner. I just didn't know any of that and couldn't even guess and even if I had guessed I never would have gotten those answers. Interesting to note that I never knew that Papa John's dude's last name until I read it in a news article right before I did the puzzle, and I filled in DODGERS at the exact moment they lost game seven of the WS. That's some real eerie stuff there. Also Papa Johns pizza is pretty awful.

Tom 12:48 AM  

Would rather see PAPA Smurf or Hemingway or Doo Run Run. Anything but the crappy pizza maker. Better to buy Digiorno’s or your local purveyor (Tbirds in Los Gatos, for example). Interesting juxtaposition of Trump clue with SNIPED and PANICS. Forgot about Staten Island, but eventually figured it out. Okay Thursday, but nothing to celebrate.

Trombone Tom 12:51 AM  

Nice theme. Even for us left coasters.

DNF because of the ADKINS/RAES crossing and thinking STurdY instead of STOCKY.

As OFL queried, is cafe NOIR a thing?

mathgent 12:55 AM  

Wonderful puzzle! Totally satisfying.

Thanks to @Mike in Mountain View for pointing out that the boroughs are properly located.

Mike Selinker 1:16 AM  

A couple of constructor notes if people would like to hear them:
* The word "steps" was chosen very deliberately, since there are a lot of those in a marathon.
* RAES was originally the cult leader RAEL, which I understand why Will rejected. It was a late swap-out, and pretty much impossible to clue well. We half-heartedly tried to sway Will to the Welsh-Canadian disco group The Raes, but he wholeheartedly (and correctly) swatted that down. C'est la vie.
* I am sad that we weren't able to get the words "Honky Tonk Badonkadonk" into the ADKINS clue, but, y'know, family newspaper.
* Goddamn Papa John, making me look bad. Also, sorry, Dodgers.

Rock on, Rex.

Mike

alexa shortbush 1:17 AM  

It is NYC Marathon but what I think that since the 5 Boroughs were missing...and New York City is the 5 Boroughs...then City is missing by the transitive property?

Don’t know if that was the intent but that is what I figure. The wording of the revealer was gibberish, tho.

Tita A 1:31 AM  
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Anonymous 1:37 AM  

The Manhattan Project also had nothing to do with Manhattan. Los Alamos mainly. Zero work done in Manhattan.

Christopher Ford 1:38 AM  

Reading the clues in the voice of Peter Sagal from Wait Wait Don't Tell Me was half the fun. And I enjoyed the topical theme. The marathon used to always catch me by surprise during my Halloween hangover when it went by my apartment and it caught me by surprise here as well.

Also great schadenfreude cluing in the Bums after they just lost the World Series, as an SF Giants fan.

Tita A 1:48 AM  

Oh Rex, you wound me to the quick!!

QUEENS, the borough, is named for Catarina de Bragança, the Portuguese princess who became the English queen when she married Charles ll.
So the it does relate most directly.

As long as we're on the subject, King's County was named for him.

Portuguese mini theme... DOIDO means crazy guy in Portuguese.

Robin 1:53 AM  

Confused as to why Little Dipper's place is URSAMINOR. I thought the two were just named for the same constellation.

Theme was okay. Maybe a bit odd, but okay, i finally grokked it.

So my what was my favorite baseball tea for 30 years just win the world series, and I find myself ambivalent about it. Ever sine offing Bud Selig forced the Astros ro switch leagues, I haven't been sure they're the same team I cared about.

Robin 1:54 AM  

Oh gods, so many typos in the above. Mea culpa.

puzzlehoarder 2:10 AM  

We just had to get up for a run so why not check the blog before I go back to sleep. This is the middle of a 48 hour shift for me.

I caught the theme early tonoght. As soon as CHEERS went in I knew the word BOROUGH would show up somewhere. This didn't mean I knew how to spell it.

I 'finished' in a typical Thursday time and when I didn't get the congrats I spent another very annoying 8 minutes hunting down my mistake.

I never read the clue for NERO and my poor spelling made NERU invisible for that whole time until the lightbulb went off and I remembered about the H and finally read the obvious NERO clue.

My only other interesting delay was an IMAGO/IMGAY write over caused by misreading the word phrase as 'phase'. Time wise that was nothing compared to the BUROUGHS mistake. A clean grid in the end though.

tkincher 2:19 AM  

@Christopher Ford Glad I’m not the only one who had his voice in my head!

I dug this one, a good mix of modernity and some interesting trivia. Fun to solve, and a good aha! with the theme that helped me solve the rest of the puzzle. And also, finally a clueing for AONE that doesn’t involve the draft.

Johnny 2:46 AM  

@Anonymous 1:37

Manhattan had plenty to do with the Manhattan Project, starting with being its first headquarters, across the street from City Hall, which was the source of the project's code name. There were ten sites in Manhattan that contributed to the project, including Columbia University's Nevis Cyclotron, and warehouse storage of tons of uranium that arrived in the U.S. at Manhattan piers, among others. The method of concentrating the uranium isotope needed for the bomb was devised in office space leased in the Woolworth Building, and the construction of all other facilities in New Mexico and Tennessee and elsewhere was directed from the Broadway headquarters. Most of these sites are still standing today.

Cassieopia 3:38 AM  

Had fun sussing out the boroughs. Sloppy cluing for URSAMINOR though. The Little Dipper is another name for that constellation, it’s not its “place”. Sorta like saying The Big Apple’s “place” is NYC.

Once I found the theme, puzzle went super fast except for SW corner, where my toeholds were ARIEL and FERRY. I gave up, came here for answers, and was glad I did - OLAF and NOIR weren’t worth agonizing over.

Cute puzzle, I liked it.

teevoz 4:03 AM  
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teevoz 4:05 AM  

Mike in Mountain View 12:21

👏🏻👏🏻

Loren Muse Smith 4:18 AM  

@Mike in Mountain View gets the gold star for the day. Great catch.

@Robin – it you register and get a blue name, you can delete comments with typos and repost them.

This was really tough for me. I loved the cluing – challenging. So hard to get entries like TERM, WORE, IS UP, NOIR…

My biggest mistake was putting in what Trump is often involved in – “bans.” That A was the final letter for the “Face With Tears of Joy” clue, so I just thought it was some _ _ _ J A artist I had never heard of. SNIPED - crossing the Trump clue (hi, @Tom!) - straightened all that out.

I had the same thought as @Tita for Queen’s. It’s not so outlierish once you think about it.

I’ll horrify most of the solving community and tell you that several times in my life I’ve found myself in a little trivia game where we had to come up with all five boroughs. We always tried to include Long Island and always ignored Staten Island. Please forgive us – we were North Carolinians who just didn’t know The Deal. Once I moved to Bergen County, I realized how embarrassing this mistake was. #red-faced emoji.

Now that I’m out in the sticks of WV, I time my weekly trips into Parkersburg for groceries, printer ink, gas, blah blah so I can listen to Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me. It’s by far my favorite NPR weekend show. Peter Sagal is wickedly, irreverently funny.

@Mike Selinker – thanks for the comments. Always fun when the constructor checks in with us.

Hey, all you marathoners this weekend – good luck! May your KPH be high and your CHI be strong.

Troy 5:16 AM  

Could someone explain 29 down to me? "I'm ho?" Not getting it . . .

Two Ponies 5:40 AM  

Opiums bothered me more than Queens. Even spell check doesn't like it.

Best clue: Yes, I am a cow.

Is it in the contract that every celebrity puzzle must include a free ego massage?

Anonymous 6:07 AM  

A snowflake is one who is easily triggered by innocuous things. See above. They're really quite tiresome to be around.

Anonymous 6:17 AM  

Anonymice are easily triggered by innocuous crossword bloggers and are really quite tiresome when they have such a lack of vocabulary that they can't stop using the word snowflake.

Eric NC 6:19 AM  

@troy. In My Honest Opinion? In My Humble Opinion?

Chris 6:26 AM  

Great puzzle. Figured out the theme very quickly, and managed to come in well under average for a Thursday. Only hiccup was having HOOKEM in for ROCKON for a good while.

Aketi 6:30 AM  

@LMS, the FERRY ride to Staten Island and back can be a very pleasant ride with a great view of the city, it is even better at night. The station on the other side has been significantly upgraded with restaurants that actually have reasonable food,

Ursa 6:34 AM  

@Robin the dippers, big and little, are but a part of their respective bears. Look it up.

BarbieBarbie 6:36 AM  

The Little Dipper is only the dipper part, the part that’s easy to see. Ursa Minor is a bigger constellation. I think the LD is the back of the bear but Im not going to look it up. Big D/U Major is the same way.

There were several competing methods to enrich uranium, all going on at various sites around the country. Ames had the exchange columns, Oak Ridge had I think the centrifuge, etcetera. Maybe one of the methods was thought up in Manhattan, but that wouldn’t be part of the reason for the name. Unless it was.

I liked this puzzle quite a bit but think “steps” wasn’t quite the right word, even though runners employ them. “Stage?” Loved the map.

Ursa 6:36 AM  

@Cassieopia you are dead wrong in your dipper comment, which makes you a dip. I love it when cocksure commenters so thoroughly embarrass themselves.

Anonymous 6:39 AM  

@Troy Type the letters "IMHO" into Google you bonehead.

Lewis 6:53 AM  

DOIDO is a DOOK.

Well, this was a wow for me, with it's tricky cluing, its big aha at figuring out the theme, and, like at the finish of a marathon (of which I've run my share), a tremendous feeling of satisfaction at the end. The clue for MOO was worth the price of admission. In the early part of the solve, time and time again I'd finally get an answer, but the cluing was so tricky, the new word set down didn't help. Only after a certain point, did momentum set in and answers fall more easily. But it was never PIE, and that is a gift.

In the beginning I felt as I did at the beginning of my first marathon (Long Island Marathon), realizing after my first puzzle pass that it was going to be a tough one -- "I'm going to conquer this baby!"

Shortz deserves a lot of credit for consistently presenting high quality puzzles, and in the constructors' notes we get a glimpse into his dedication and expertise. ROCK ON!

Anonymous 7:08 AM  

Agreed. Please read Deb Amlen's blog that is not rooted solely in hatred.

kitshef 7:20 AM  

Runtpuz.org did not have the full note, so I assumed one of the constructors was a famous runner. Turns out he is a famous person (who is also a runner). I am not familiar with Mr. Sagal’s work, though I note a screenwriting credit for Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights. Score!

Puzzle was easy and had unnecessary circles. And had OPIUMS in it. And I did mind IDONTMIND.

But it also had URSA MINOR and WIKIPEDIA, so credit for that.

kitshef 7:34 AM  

@Trombone Tom - I might have had a DNF at RAES/ADKINS, except that there was a third clue for that cross at 13D. Once you know 47A is a homophone of RAYS, that potential Natick becomes more fair.

Kishkes 7:46 AM  

Note that Peter Sagal is host of Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me, that shows up in the clues, and Cafe Noir is a fictional location in Prairie Home Companion, also on Public Radio.

sf27shirley 7:51 AM  

Wasn't it though! Kershaw's no Mad Bum.

sf27shirley 7:56 AM  

So enjoyable to have a crossword without a single clue involving the Simpsons.

Hungry Mother 8:15 AM  

Very timely for me as I leave early tomorrow for my stay in NYC to run the marathon. The FERRY will be my second step in getting to the start, after a subway ride. When I was 12, I sat in Ebbits Field and watched Jackie Robinson take a lead halfway between third and home. My mother was born in Brooklyn. I’ve kayaked the circumference of Manhattan Island twice, once accompanying a marathon swimmer. I also kayaked under the Verrazzano Narrows Bridge, where I will start my race, accompanying the same marathon swimmer from Sandy Hook to The Battery. Nice puzzle, evoking a lot of memories.

Gma 8:26 AM  

Did you notice that Michael Jackson's "Thriller" sounds eerily like the beginning of "Do I Do"? Even the dancers are moving in a similar way. Weird.

QuasiMojo 8:35 AM  

Well, it is New York CITY Marathon so that kept me from fully admiring this massive effort. I liked the idea of missing boroughs, but there were some clunky moments as previously noted.

I've never heard of that radio show so I read the clue as being about a MEDIUM, a crystal ball type medium. lol. I kept trying to remember the name of that Jamaican lady on TV back in the 90s. She died recently. STOLID before STOCKY also held me up.

It's interesting to see Trace ADKINS next to ROCK ON (as clued) since he cut off his PINKY once in an accident and had it re-attached.

Anonymous 8:53 AM  

thumb and forefinger up referred to baloney or 'bull s****t' when i grew up in ny.

Anonymous 9:02 AM  

Better ingredients - better pizza.

Mike Selinker 9:22 AM  

@Chris: Wow, not even for a second did I consider that Peter's clue for ROCK ON could very easily clue the awesome HOOK EM, with the O and K in the same places. That's an amazing coincidence. Apologies to all the Longhorn solvers out there.

Nancy 9:33 AM  

Loved it -- although I had issues with some of the fill. For me, this is the best kind of theme puzzle -- one where you can't solve without knowing the theme. (Unlike yesterday, where I did solve without knowing the theme.) I wouldn't have finished the NE without Bronx CHEER -- and that's because I had missAL instead of HYMNAL at 10D. Best of all, I needed not one but two revealers to solve. I had NEW YORK MARATHON before I had BOROUGH and I especially needed BOROUGH. My nits are RAES, DO I DO, and ADKINS all crossing each other, along with ROCK ON, which isn't PPP, but it's something located on a different planet from my wheelhouse. I'm trying to figure out what that gesture (47D) actually looks like. I've never made it, and I'm pretty sure I've never seen anyone else make it.

Still, I'll give this puzzle the highest praise and say that I completely forgive it for not being a rebus.

Sir Hillary 9:41 AM  

Fun and timely puzzle, especially here in greater NYC. Right difficulty level as well.

WIKIPEDIA and HYMNAL are my favorite entries.

Good clue for SLING. I almost wrote in Stage, before remembering STAGENAME up above. If that was an intentional misdirect, it was very well done.

If I am not mistaken, ADKINS is Adele's last name. Lost opportunity there, IMHO.

Finally, what a treat to see Mike Selinker's name above the puzzle. He was a mainstay at GAMES Magazine and produced a wonderful series called Puzzlecraft, in which he (alone or with a collaborator) gave a tutorial on how to construct just about every type of puzzle you could think of -- crosswords, variety word, logic, the whole lot. It was like getting the keys to a castle with a hundred secret rooms. I have lost touch with his work since GAMES shut down -- Mike, if you're still reading, I would love to know where you're publishing these days.

Thanks for the puzzle, guys. And good luck on Sunday, Peter.

Anonymous 9:46 AM  

@Anon 7:08 This blog and comments are not rooted solely in hatred. Ignorance plays an equal role here!

Nancy 10:03 AM  

@Lewis and @Two Ponies: I also loved "Why, yes, I am, in fact, a cow."

@Quasi -- I also was torn between STolid and STOCKY (57A), but waited until I had the first cross, which I got with the Y from EGYPT.

Interesting to see how many people here are running/ have run the Marathon. Good luck to Peter and Hungry Mother and anyone else. Be fast. Stay safe.

I forgot to ask about SPIT at 5A. I assume it must be a TERM for a geographical "cape" and not something you'd wear. But I'm not familiar with it.

Mohair Sam 10:19 AM  

Terrific Thursday puzzle - lots of fun.

Was listening to "Mike and Mike" on ESPN radio this morning while we did the puzzle, John Schnatter quite the topic of sports talk as we filled in PAPA. He's apparently 'slicing' his ties (at least temporarily) to the NFL due to the ratings decline.

I wish they'd never built the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, Staten Island lost its charm. Staten Island belongs belongs in Jersey anyhow, check your maps. Larger ships have to wait for low tide to get under the Verrazano bridge to enter the Port of New York.

Anonymous 10:22 AM  

Why the gratuitous venom spewed at Papa John's Did I miss some SJW infraction?

GILL I. 10:31 AM  

LOVED IT...but only when I finished. ENGLISH threw me off. I couldn't connect the dots at all until I sat back, wrote all the circled answers in my margin, stared at it and then POW, of course, the BOROUGHs. All in its MARATHON order. Clever, clever, more of these please.
When I saw Peter Sagal's name, I figured we were in for a treat. Like @LMS, I work my way around shopping on Sat. so that I can listen to NPR. I was thrilled we got the program in our rented car somewhere in the Mojave....
RAES/EGYPT was my bugaboo. I so wanted LIES instead of BIDS. It took me forever to give the puppy up. IM GAY said Kevin Spacey and now the world according to Frank Underwood is dead.
The Staten Island FERRY brings huge smiles and fond memories of taking it at night (Hi @Aketi) and saying to myself that I would never leave NEW YORK. San Francisco has a neat evening ferry as well and I said the same thing. I'll have to try a boat ride down the Sacramento River and see if I have the sentiment.
@Hungy Mother...Good luck to you. I tried the San Francisco marathon a hundred years ago and almost died. Those damn hills and my second wind never came because I couldn't even breath. 10K's much better.
Thanks, gentlemen for a fun Thursday.

Suzy 10:33 AM  

THX, very fun and well-constructed puzzle!

Anonymous 10:42 AM  

I loved this one but over too fast. I think Peter Sagal was (is?) the host of Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me. It’s very funny and sad that Rex resents the puzzle for making him think of Trump.

Wm. C. 10:49 AM  


Re: "Comment with the pinkie and forefinger extended upwards"

Texans will be annoyed that the fill wasn't HOOK EM


Tom 10:50 AM  

Thanks lms. It’s nice to get an acknowledgement from one of the best contributors to this blog.

Jonathan 10:52 AM  

Would stages be more apt than steps?

Tom 10:52 AM  

Hey anonymous, sombuddy put a stick where your sun don’t shine? Who’s a bonehead?

Z 11:03 AM  

I’m standing over here on my own ISLA. Yes, this has some nice touches but in the end this is trivia in crossword form. I like trivia so I didn’t mind this solve, but it is not all that great of a crossword. I find the whole tussle over RAES/RAEl/Welsh Canadian Disco clue irrelevant. How much more well known is Issa Rae than the RAES or Raël the cult leader. All three options are effectively equivalent trivia so the notion that the choice is important is just a minor variant of rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. As a one off celebrity puzzle that reflects the constructor’s reason for celebrity this is fine, but I would not want my crosswords to be this every day.

I realize the distinction between city and state matters to Knickerbockers, but in the vernacular marathons are generally called by the city in which they take place. So the Detroit Free Press Marathon is never called that, it’s always the Detroit Marathon (and we ignore that part of it takes place in Canada even though that is part of draw). Never the Bank of America Chicago Marathon, always the Chicago Marathon. If it weren’t for crosswords I wouldn’t even know that the Boston Marathon goes through Natick. In short, the missing “city” is not a problem.

@Eric NC - Since we are all humble here I think it means “In My Humble Opinion.”

WIKIPEDIA has a nice article on URSA MINOR. The WIKIPEDIA clue bothered me just a little. As a general rule, any encyclopedia should not be used in footnotes, not just WIKIPEDIA. Encyclopedias are a good place to start one’s research, mainly for the citations they lead you to (73 in the URSA MINOR article).

mathgent 11:11 AM  

While I was watching the baseball game, The Closer took the puzzle away from me and came up with a brilliant wrong answer. I had that "It might be supporting a cast" started with S. She came up with STAGE.

Outside The Box 11:11 AM  

Awful puzzle. An attempt to be cute obliterated by terrible cluing

jberg 11:12 AM  

Really great construction, IMHO -- finding a way to clue all the boroughs symmetrically, and in the right places. And, contra @rex, they are in order -- the marathon starts at the top, goes up to the Bronx, then circles back to Queens.

But .. OPIUMS??? No.

Also, I always thought the Queen/King's English just meant proper grammar, not a particular accent.

a jazz listener's thoughts 11:14 AM  

But started in a basement below Columbia University in Manhattan

Bob Mills 11:16 AM  

Loved the puzzle, but the answer "ROCKON" for what is said with the forefinger and fourth finger raised doesn't match what I've heard throughout my life. Especially not in New York.

Hartley70 11:18 AM  

Wonderful, topical puzzle that had just the right amount of resistance for Thursday. I finished the puzzle before I went back and understood the theme entries. They were perfectly done. Any complaints are by grouchy nitpickers.

Issa and Trace were two names that meant absolutely nothing to me. That was a surprise because I usually flunk Sports 101, but get an A in Pop. Once I figured out the crosses, they were vaguely familiar.

@Gill I, when I first moved to NYC, a photographer friend took me to the Staten Island Ferry for a ride back and forth at dawn. It is one of my very best memories of my years there.

@Johnny 2:46am. Thank you for that fascinating history as to why "Manhattan" was the name of that PROJECT. I wonder if those warehouses still contribute to NYC's glow at night.

Good Luck to the Marathoners! What an experience that must be and regardless of where and whether you finish, congratulations!

ghostoflectricity 11:25 AM  

In Texas, when I was growing up in the '50s and '60s, raising your first with the forefinger and pinkie extended, and shaking it, was usually done while yelling "Hook 'em, 'Horns!," referring to the University of Texas Longhorns football team.

RooMonster 11:29 AM  

Hey All !
MOO! :-) A ONE clue and answer.
The BOROUGHs in order of the MARATHON, plus in the spots where they actually are (or damn near close enough for being in a crossword) on a map, was freaking awesome.
IM GAY, IM OUT, IM HO! :-P
Light dreck for such a STOCKY themed puz. I DONT MIND that.
Agree with SW corner being a toughie. Had LifTS first, messing me up, but put in OLAF on faith, then was able to change to LOOTS, and figure out the rest.
Eclectic music block with DO I DI, ROCK ON, ADKINS.
@Nancy, when you extend your pinky and first finger up, with all other fingers curled up, it's a gesture for Rock/Metal music. I'll try to find a pic.

TWIT ISUP
RooMonster
DarrinV

Stanley Hudson 11:29 AM  

As good a puzzle as we’ve had in quite a while; mucho gracias to the co-constructors. The overall quality made up for OPIUMS.

In light of what has happened there this week, ROCK ON NYC.

leah712 11:31 AM  

Fun puzzle, once I gave up on trying to make it about turning back the clock, which is also the first Sunday in November.

RooMonster 11:35 AM  

Found at WIKIPEFIA (if the link works...)
Also known as Devils Horns

RooMonster

Masked and Anonymous 11:41 AM  

Very different theme approach … Different is good. "Step" is indeed an ok marathon term, and the boroughs are indeed splatzed into the grid in correct map sequence … sooo … also good. Theme makes U figure out the missin borough names, a mcguffin which at first confused the tar nation out of M&A … also good for m&e, on a ThursPuz. Made me suffer a little. thUmbsUp.

I ran a 3K race one time. Well, sorta walked it, actually. It was a company sponsored gig, tryin to make us more healthy. I won a generator, as a door prize. Unfortunately, my group was so slooow during the race, they went ahead and opened the road up to traffic again, unbeknownst to us, before we'd finished. A pickup truck comin up from behind barely missed us. Didn't feel like a healthy situation, somehow. I more or less told em where they could stick their generator, and pretty much gave it away to a family that needed one, on the cheap. But, I digress.

staff weeject pick: MOO. Primo if-cows-could-talk clue. Good to get some celeb weirdball cluin into the mix, cow and then.

WIKIPEDIA, URSAMINOR, STAGENAME, IDONTMIND. HYMNAL. ROCKON. Wow. Some superb extra long-ball fillins. Also good. This was a great collab! Thanx, PS & MS.

Wait, wait … LOOTS seems like a better answer for the Trump clue, tho…

Masked & Anonymo4Us


**gruntz**

Mike Selinker 11:55 AM  

@Sir Hillary: Thanks! You can find a book of Thomas Snyder's and my Puzzlecraft series on shelves, though it's fallen out of print. I run a game company in Seattle called Lone Shark Games, and one of the things we've made is a puzzle book called The Maze of Games. Feel free to check it out if you like.

old timer 12:51 PM  

I am always glad when a constructor comments here.

I was wondering if someone would get the reference to Cafe NOIR in the old Prairie Home Companion RADIO show -- which is licensed to NPR stations by American Public Media -- not by NPR itself.

The lawyer in me notes that Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island are in the Counties of New York, Kings, Queens and Richmond, respectively. Is Bronx also a county? Possibly.

WTR 1:01 PM  

Right up front I'll admit to being a duffer on the xords - but found the pattern on this one easily, and moved through it efficiently (although nowhere near the times of our fearless commentator). Rare that I use the conceit of the puzzle to solve it. However, early on I noted the geographical placement of the boroughs, and understood exactly why Manhattan entered twice - not that I'm a marathoner! Also not such an early riser as Mike in Mt View, first poster on the geographic placement - in contrast to Rex apparently missing this completely! A further quibble with Rex, Cafe Noir is not so arcane as to be unusable (and a nice contrast to Film Noir - crossing with OFFS for trounces).

And for all those commenting upon Little Dipper and Ursa Minor - Little Dipper is an 'asterism,' Ursa Minor is a constellation. An asterism is a commonly recognized, but informal grouping of stars; a constellation is one of the 88 formal groupings of stars recognized universally by astronomers.

Altogether, an enjoyable solve that brightened my morning.

Anonymous 1:15 PM  

@Johnny 2:46AM is correct. The original name of the Manhattan Project was "Manhattan Engineer District" by the Army Corps of Engineers who oversaw the project. It was chosen because geographical names were common and wouldn't draw attention to the project's real aim. The project started in Manhattan and a lot of research work (and espionage) was done there.

Charles Flaster 1:17 PM  

Just very enjoyable.
Currently I am in a SLING ( no cast).
Thanks MS & PS.

Missy 1:21 PM  

The Bronx is in Bronx County as Queens is in Queens County.

Missy 1:22 PM  

The Bronx is in Bronx County as Queens is in Queens County.

ranman 1:26 PM  

Mike, too bad you couldn't get RAEL (imperial aerosol kid) through. We've seen much worse/more obscure/objectionable....
Maybe next time!

Teedmn 1:27 PM  

"Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me" is my absolute favorite RADIO show ever, a weekly listening hour ritual for our household, so I'm thrilled to see a puzzle that Peter Sagal helped construct. They just played a live show in Minneapolis two weeks ago (though I did not attend :-(. ) I'm wondering if Peter (who did the cluing on the first round per the constructor notes at xwordinfo) first clued 56D as "Guy NOIR" of classic "Prairie Home Companion" fame. I would have known that much sooner than "Cafe ____"

For some reason this played challenging for me. The NE and SE both slowed me down. I decided 53D was being cute and the cast was being supported by a Stage...NOT! I didn't know where Zagazig is, who Trace is, what the pinkie-forefinger sign meant or the Stevie Wonder song. That's a lot of real estate to have no clue about. I had backed into 63A and so had written in _____mEDIA. This made Zagazig an "EGame" in my mind. I can't tell you how I extricated myself from that (a ROCK ON aha, I think) but I did.

I love the puzzle. I have studied the route of the NYC marathon and have yearned to run it but you either have to qualify with a certain time or you have to raise money for a cause in order to enter and I'm not good at either of those.

I thought the clue for 1D was brilliantly hard to parse. I had ISLA in and could not figure out 1D until URSA MajOR (oops, had to fix that) made it almost as MOO-cow easy (hi @M&A) as PIE.

Thanks, Peter and Mike, and good luck running the MARATHON, Peter!

Cassieopia 1:28 PM  

@ursa 6:36 then please explain as I have googled and don’t see how my interpretation was incorrect.

Cassieopia 1:30 PM  

@ursa 6:36 aha, I see now. Yes, I was wrong.

mmorgan 1:30 PM  

Lots of different stuff going on all at once in this puzzle -- lots of fun, I really enjoyed it!

Sometimes I wish the Comments section here had a "Recommend" button -- or the reverse!

Uke Xensen 1:31 PM  

Easy to complete, but I never saw the theme, so i was scratching my head at answers like CHEER.

thefogman 1:31 PM  

test

QuasiMojo 1:34 PM  

@Loren Muse Smith, sounds like fun. I should point out however that both Queens and Brooklyn are ON or IN (as they used to say) Long Island. So you were not exactly in error.

abalani500 1:44 PM  

Great puzzle and the best part was picturing Rex going into an apoplectic fit at the Trump clue. Hat tip to Will Shortz at the misdirect and the likely SLY smile on his face.

Anonymous 1:46 PM  

@Anonymous 6:07

FYI @Two Ponies is definitely NOT a snowflake.

Jeremy Smith


Tita A 1:47 PM  

Now that I'm back to the land of the living, I'll talk about the puzzle.
I liked it alot. Figured theme out all by my lonesome, though it took me until ENGLISH to do so. CHEER didn't raise an eyebrow, and PROJECT I just thought was going to xref to another clue, so I was happy to wait.
But that really weird clueing for ENGLISH made me stop and think. AHA! I back-tracked to those first two, but the FERRY clue really gave me pause. I thought I would dnf in that corner.

Another fun fact about the eponymous QUEEN - it was she who introduced tea to the English.

@Teed - hand up for knowing Guy better than Café.
While CarTalk will never be displaced as my all-time favorite, Wait, Wait is in my top 2.

The clue for MOO may just be the most loved clue of all times.
More than makes up for the otherwise inforgivable OPIUMS.

Oh - and best of all was the shoutout to my grandaughter ISLA right there at 1A! Nice tribute puzzle on her 363rd day of existence.

Thanks on very many levels, Mssrs. Sagal & Selinker.

Lastly, good luck to all here who will be marathoning.

Carola 1:48 PM  

I was fast out of the gate, with CHEER and PROJECT orienting me to the tour of NEW YORK's BOROUGHS, However, I faltered at the finish: with the FERRY right in front of me I tripped over LifTS (Hi, RooMonster) and was unable to recover. Hoping all of the actual MARATHONers can avoid a DNF :)

Joe Dipinto 1:49 PM  

This puzzle was excellent. As soon as I picked up the theme, I realized that the boroughs correlated to their geographic locations. Very cool!

It's true that the QUEENS clue/answer doesn't quite match the others, but I'm hard-pressed to come with any common phrase or entity specifically named for the borough of Queens. So that didn't bother me.

As usual, of AVOW and AVER I filled in the wrong one first. Happens every time without fail.

Joe Bleaux 1:57 PM  

Yeah, but typos can be fun, or at least make you wonder about Freudian influences. (I'm assuming you meant "effing," not "offing" Bud Selig 😏.)

Joe Bleaux 2:06 PM  

The fun here is in the irony: A little error about a constellation by Casseiopia, commenting on a puzzle alluding to Queens.

Fred Romagnolo 2:16 PM  

jberg: I'm with you on the Queen's ENGLISH, it's grammar, not pronunciation. @Nancy: I correctly solved BOTH days without getting the theme. Nobody's answered the question: why all the hostility to the Pizza guy? I understand the Trump animosity (can't read the NYT without encountering it on practically every page), but why the pizza guy? I'm assuming he did or said something very non PC, but what? My Italian forefathers used the thumb-pinky combo to curse someone, or ward off the evil-eye. In relation to recent blog comments, Sacco & Vanzetti were absolutely the victims of anti-Italian-immigrant prejudice; the judge even referred to them as "Dagos."

FrankStein 2:34 PM  

@Joe DiPinto, 1:49pm. There's the Queensborough Bridge, the Queens Midtown Tunnel, the Queens Hospital Center in Jamaica (granted not as well known.) These are no different from the Staten Island Ferry clue where the borough name is just an adjective. One could also argue that the clue for Bronx Cheer is also off since the borough is technically called The Bronx, not Bronx. It's the county that is Bronx County. FWIW IMHO.

Joe Bleaux 2:39 PM  

Hey, old timer. As a likely older timer, I'm in need of a Prairie Home memory refresher: I simply don't recall any Cafe Noir. Did private detective Guy Noir hang out there or something?

Joe Bleaux 2:58 PM  

The pizza guy says football players have hurt his business. Because they started taking a knee during the anthem, real patriots (not the Brady bunch) dutifully boycotted the NFL. So, fewer of his pies are ordered because folks are doing something besides watching games. It's not that his pizza sucks, or that he's a vocal conservative, or anything like that.

Anonymous 3:04 PM  

@Fred 2:16PM
I noticed a Papa Johns backlash among football fans beginning about three years when his commercials began to play every five minutes during NFL games. It became a source of ridicule, not helped by the fact that Papa Johns pizza is terrible (Don't believe me? Give the man a fair shake and a sale and tell us what you think). Now he's severing his official ties to the NFL because "bad publicity" is hurting his sales, which of course adds a political slant to the story. No, sales were hurt because his pizza is awful by any standard (hell I like Dominoes and even I think Papa Johns is bad) and his advertising campaign probably alienated more customers than it won.

Anonymous 3:10 PM  

Hey, Papa Johns is not so bad! Oh, I'd never eat it but if there's a fire it's great for sealing door jambs to keep out dangerous smoke until help arrives.

OISK 3:13 PM  

Enjoyed it, mostly, and it is timely and clever. The Raes, Adkins, Rock on, Do I Do sector gave me a lot of trouble, and without the help of RAYS, I don't know if I could have finished correctly. I was sure it was "Hook em." Never associated any gesture with "Rock on," but I have never "rocked" at all. Never heard of Rae Issa, or Issa Rae, or Trace Adkins, or Do I do. I think it is far too much pop culture in one area. But I got it, and the puzzle was fun, so I don't mind.

evil doug 3:29 PM  

Ketchup on white bread. Or as someone wrote recently :

"The man has made untold millions of dollars, and his name is on more than 5,000 pizzerias in 45 countries, and yet the pizzas he sells taste like unusually salty upholstery. Eating a Papa John’s slice is like chomping down on a piece of oil-flavored chewing gum but somehow much worse for your breath. It’s pizza that tastes the way long-distance bus travel feels."

Joe Dipinto 3:32 PM  

@FrankStein -- yes, there are those, but the bridge has the word "boro" attached, not to mention that it's part of the marathon route. The tunnel sort of references two boroughs, and the Hospital Center is too obscure for general knowledge, imo. Plus they both have two words following the borough name, so there would still be inconsistency with the other themers.

Hungry Mother 3:37 PM  

I got into the marathon throuh an online lottery. I think there is about a 25% chance and it doesn’t cost anything if you don’t get in.

Crocodillo 3:48 PM  

@ Joe D 1:49,
I know what you mean about aver/avow.
Why is it that even with a 50/50 chance to get it right
I get it wrong 90% of the time?

Joe Dipinto 4:16 PM  

@Quasimojo 1:34 -- You probably know this, but just in case there are people here who don't: Brooklyn and Queens may be situated on the land mass called Long Island, but no self-respecting New Yorker considers them part of 'Long Island'. If you are "going out to 'Long Island' (or 'the Island') for the weekend", you are going to Nassau or Suffolk county, period.

I once had to explain this to a friend visiting from Indiana -- he was endlessly entertained by the notion.

Oldflappyfrommississappy 4:35 PM  

Papa Johns will make you go to the john, repeatedly, and without the calm, warm pleasure that accompanies your regular daily dump.

Tita A 4:35 PM  

@Joe diPinto, @FrankStein...
Sheesh - you're making it sound like Rex was right to complain about the ENGLISH themer... ;)

Please see my first post. It is a rather direct shoutout to the borough, because it is named for a Queen of England.

No, maybe not in exactly the same way, but close enough for me.
@Mike Selinker/Peter Sagal - please tell me that was your true intent...make me look smart...!!)

(Another Fun Fact about Catarina - an artist in upstate New York was commissioned to sculpt an enormous statue of her, which she did. It was to have stood overlooking the East River. However, protesters who noted her role in the slave trade got that shot down. And this was way before Confederate statues were being toppled.)

QuasiMojo 4:57 PM  

@Joe DiPinto, yep, I know. I’m bridge-and-tunnel from way back. But I also like the irony of it. As for that bridge, the “boro” is just an abbreviation on the signs. Isn’t it called the Ed Koch now anyways? Lol. Regarding Papa John, in other people’s comments, I’ve never heard of it. I do fondly recall John’s Pizza in the Village. .

Anonymous 5:03 PM  

Does anyone remember Pepto-Bismol?

Bill T 5:11 PM  

Wow, it is so easy to trigger Rex.

David Schinnerer 5:15 PM  

Too lazy to read the comments, so if this @ repeated idea, forgive me.

First, yes, Mike, Cafe noir does mean black coffee, but that’s a real thing...in France. With all the other, esp. French words/phrase you chose this one to criticize?

Also...opiums??? “Did you bring the opiums?” How did Mike let that one by without comment?

Fun puzzle...could finish southwest without help

David Schinnerer 5:15 PM  

Could NOT

Anonymous 5:23 PM  

“Also...opiums??? “Did you bring the opiums?” How did Mike let that one by without comment?”

Because as hard as Mike tries to appear to be hip and woke, he is as vanilla as a Methodist church social.

Stephen Lewis 5:24 PM  

Yeah, but Queens is east, not north,of Brooklyn.

Masked and Anonymous 5:45 PM  

p.s.
Somebody else mighta noticed this, but I can't find a mention. Makes me wonder if my puz printout was just plain haunted.

My puz's 56-D clue for NOIR was: {Café ___s}. Note the weirdo extra "s", after the fillin-the-blank. This is a real unusual lookin clue, in my book. Admire it for its wonkiness, but wonder what the heck the story is, there?

M&Also

Joe Dipinto 5:58 PM  

@Tita 4:35 -- I didn't approve of Rex's criticism, I said the slight variation in construction from the other clue/answers probably couldn't be helped and that it didn't bother me.

BarbieBarbie 6:29 PM  

@m&a, no “s” in my 56D clue.

Joe Dipinto 6:42 PM  

@David S. --

*"Did you bring the opiums?”*

This totally cracked me up.

(BTW, to the general audience, I've noticed that sometimes people post in italics. What series of keystrokes must one enter to do this?)

Joe Dipinto 6:46 PM  

Oops, sorry, Tita, didn't see the winkie ;-)

Clueless In Texas 7:45 PM  

I enjoyed this puzzle. I liked the theme. But having finally won the a World Series last night for the first time ever, the Astros deserve a shout out—especially after seeing the DODGERS in the puzzle today. Yes, I know the reference is to when the team was in Brooklyn and not in Los Angeles, but still. Congratulations, Astros! Houston Strong before, during, and after Harvey! (*The hurricane not the power wielding, woman degrading monster... although for some, the trauma may not be different.)

Tita A 7:47 PM  

@Joe D...phew...you had me worried there!

So...italics...(and bold)...
When I'm least, I just surrounds the *word* I want to emphasize with*s.

Otherwise, you surround the word with either an I or a b...with the following syntax...

Less than sign, i, greater than sign, your phrase, less than sign, right leaning slash, i, greater than sign.

It's kind of easy to remember...
i for italic, b for bold. Wrapped in those brackets. The slash means the end of the effect.

I'll attempt to write it here without having html interpret it but actually display it...
Just remove the dashed...
<-i-> some phrase <-/-i->

old timer 8:05 PM  

You know, I was wrong. PHC featured detective Guy Noir and also the Cafe Boeuf. But not the Cafe Noir.

Joe Dipinto 8:27 PM  

@Tita -- Cool! Thank you!

I think I've got it!

Greg McFadden 8:29 PM  

I found this puzzle delightful and timely. I’m surprised RP didn’t as well. I thought the clueing was excellent. Even for the drab fill. I hope Peter Sagal makes more puzzles

Joy2u 8:39 PM  

Ok .. I am not new to puzzle solving, but it has never been my main obsession, and although I do enjoy doing the NYT ones, I would never try to 'race' through them. I tend to start my day with them but if they're not done within that first hour, then I go on about my day and pick it up until I either finish it or give it up. I am NOT emotionally attached to the process and hope that I never will be.
I enjoy (somewhat) reading this blog and am impressed by the deep dedication demonstrated by some. I suspect this question is 'old news' or something completely acceptable to those who are in the 'know' but I am thoroughly flummoxed by:
32D Pinch : salt :: ___ : butter
I arrived at KNOB through the crosses but still am puzzled enough to ask if someone (anyone) would care to 'splain this to a 'newbie'.

Just one more small comment - I happen to have something in common with Issa; I am also a 'Rae' so right there you have two 'RAES'

Respectfully, Joy (Rae)

BarbieBarbie 9:40 PM  

@Joy, hoo-Rae!
A knob of butter is sometimes found in cooking instructions, the same way a pinch of salt is. Maybe mostly older ones? Or British.

Chance 9:45 PM  

A super clever puzzle, and I grasped the theme quite early. I got my best Thursday time ever (see my blog for time if anyone cares)! I had similar trouble with Trace *ATKINS and ROCK ON (which went through many iterations). Rex and I are similar.

Suzie Q 10:13 PM  

Knob is for places, esp. England, that sell butter in forms other than sticks.
I love it because it is so descriptive.
It has nothing to do with being a newbie.

Joy2u 11:08 PM  

@BarbieBarbie - oh, THANK you. and me with 'Brit' DNA too. But then I don't own a cookbook, even an American one. I'm sure to remember 'KNOB' for a while though. I'll store it right next to the 'DOLLOP'.
@Susie Q - It does 'make a picture' that 'KNOB', and thanks.

I often see mention that folks 'learn something' and that is certainly true for me. Even when the lesson begins with pure annoyance and disbelief.

Anonymous 11:33 PM  

Exactly, I knew someone who worked there.

a.corn 12:56 AM  

Fun puzzle. OPIUMS isn’t a word, so that was annoying. Loved MOO. thought using Schnatter was topical and smart (as he was just in the news for his completely gonzo statement re: the NFL protestors).

Anonymous 1:01 PM  

As someone who lives there, most Queens is definitely north of Brooklyn..

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