Blue-roofed eatery / SUN 11-5-17 / Erstwhile Fords / Destroys in game-speak / 1916 Frost verse / Star Wars nomad / WW II org whose insignia featured Athena / Gratiano's love in Merchant of Venice / 1946 femme fatale film / Bygone Apple app

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Constructor: Natan Last

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium


THEME: Lane Changes — theme answers are clued two ways, one that goes the normal way (straight Across) and one that "diverges" off at an angle (signified by circled squares):

Theme answers:
  • WAYNE'S WORLD / WAY OF LIFE (22A: 1992 movie based on an "A.H.L." sketch ... or, diverged: Modus vivendi)
  • DRAG AND DROP / DRAG SHOW (39A: Computer mouse action ... or, diverged: Event for RuPaul)
  •  THE ROAD NOT TAKEN / THE ROAD TO HELL (67A: 1916 Frost verse ... or, diverged: Start of a saying about meaning well)
  • DRIVE IN A RUN / DRIVER'S ED (97A: Bring someone home ... or, diverged: Common high school offering)
  • PATHFINDERS / PATHOS (117A: Nissan S.U.V.s ... or, diverged: Emotional appeal) 
Word of the Day: "I AM LEGEND" (120A: Hit 2007 Will Smith film) —
I Am Legend is a 2007 American post-apocalyptic science fiction horror film based on the novel I Am Legend, directed by Francis Lawrence and starring Will Smith, who plays US Army virologist Robert Neville. The story is set in New York City after a virus, which was originally created to cure cancer, has wiped out most of mankind, leaving Neville as the last human in New York, other than nocturnal mutants. Neville is immune to the virus and he works to develop a cure while defending himself against the hostile mutants. (wikipedia)
• • •

The concept is somewhat interesting, but half of this thing just missed me because those "diverged" parts are totally irrelevant. The first parts of the theme clues are sufficient to get the Across parts, and you can get those circled letters from all the other answers in the puzzle, so ... there were five "who cares so what didn't see 'em" roads, the diverging of which meant nil to me. I can look back now and go "Huh, OK, neat." But they were totally inessential. When the main concept of your puzzle is one that the solver can safely ignore—that seems like a problem. I guess the central answer, THE ROAD NOT TAKEN, was meant to be not just another themer, but a kind of second title. An apt title, it turns out, as half the roads were not taken, by me, during this solve. Anyway, this played like a giant themeless. It was fine, but not nearly as exciting as an actual themeless would be, so overall I'd say this was disappointing. The grid is well made, for sure, but themes should make their presence felt, and this one didn't.


DRIVE IN A RUN is like a notch above EAT A SANDWICH. It's definitely a phrase you hear in baseball, but it just doesn't feel strong enough to stand alone, especially not as a themer. LAWD took me so long. I just sat there staring at it even after I had LAW-. Not wild about crossing JAFAR and AFAR. Or about crossing NONOS with NO SPIN. Or UPSELL and UP AHEAD. Would you really use FRISKS to mean [Gambols]? Lambs ... frisk? ... in the leas? I wanted FROLICS, but of course there were space issues. I misspelled RAINN Wilson's name twice before I got it right (RAYNE, RAYNN). The whole NE was the hardest part for me. None of the longer Acrosses wanted to come into view, and TABARDS and KARA were both unknown to me. I'd also never heard of ELSA Morante (63A) and I didn't know [Freudian "will to live"] was EROS, so the center region was a little dicey. I thought I was pretty slick when I took one look at 36D: Monumental support with a "P" at the front of it and dropped in PLINTH. And in fact a plinth is a "heavy base supporting a statue or vase." It just wasn't the right answer *here* (PILLAR). Finished up in the SW, with a movie I've never seen and a singer I've never (to my knowledge) heard. Wait, did BRENDA LEE sing "Fever"? Whoops, nope, that's Peggy Lee. So no, BRENDA LEE I've never heard. But I have heard *of* her, and that was enough.


STUBHUB is a good answer. My favorite thing in the grid by far. GOD HELP US was pretty good too. And ATTACK ADS. See, it really is a decent themeless in parts. Just wish the theme had been, you know, *there*.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. you should watch "GILDA" if you haven't already. It is Great. Though you would never, ever call a movie a "femme fatale film" (!?) (34D: 1946 film fatale film)

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]

132 comments:

Mr. Benson 12:09 AM  

Happy birthday to 50D ELKE Sommer. Don't ask me how I know this stuff.

Sydney Joe from Kokomo 12:23 AM  

Nice puzzle. I enjoyed it.

The one thing that got me was trying to figure out who had the hits in the 60's after Elvis and The Beatles, I thought maybe Leslie Gore, which almost fit but hey it's BRENDALEE!

The radio's playing some forgotten song
Brenda Lee's 'Comin' On Strong'
The road has got me hypnotized
And I'm speedin' to a new sunrise


Joe Dipinto 1:10 AM  

I think EXIT RAMPS would have been a more appropriate puzzle title, since the diverging answers don't switch into a parallel "lane" going in the same direction as the main answer, they just veer off in a different direction. (I did like the visual of THE ROAD TO HELL heading downward).

I felt the same as Rex -- the secondary clue/answers were irrelevant as an aid to solving. It's kind of the same issue as yesterday, where the "stretched truth" in the long answers was utterly beside the point.

Anonymous 1:13 AM  

Tripped up over "Lawd/WAC". Oh, well. There's always next week.

Joe Dipinto 1:26 AM  

Also, I would really like a year-long (at least) moratorium on "Star Wars" clues/answers. No piece of pop culture deserves to be in the puzzle once every week on average, which it seems like this is.

Anonymous 1:34 AM  

Didn’t get the answer “abscissa” to the clue “summers, back in the day.” Can anyone enlighten me?

Anonymous 1:36 AM  

Autocorrect messed me up, above. The answer was “abaci”

Anonymous 1:37 AM  

Rex, you probably *have* heard Brenda Lee - you probably just thought you were listening to Wayne Newton.

https://youtu.be/VfJoq2gjeyU

https://youtu.be/zg3-4HSHT-M



Anonymous 1:47 AM  

Summers as in summing machines, abaci being the plural of abacus.

OISK 1:55 AM  

Ugh. That's 3 DNF out of the last 4 Sundays, but no errors in 4 weeks of daily puzzles. And it's just an awful cross, not just because I didn't know it. _AWA and _AFAR. Why is any consonant better than any other? A Star Wars nomad and the villain in Aladdin? Come on! Give me a shot! That problem aside, I didn't enjoy the solve, and the theme, once I figured it out, didn't add any enjoyment. I just noticed I missed another square, just as impossible for me, Rainn (Wilson of a show I never watched) crossing "PWNS." I am sure someone will tell me in "gamer speak" what PWNS means. I had Raina and PWAS, which made more sense to me, since Raina is a name I have seen before. So double ugh. Or in Brooklyn speak, Booo!

Anonymous 1:30 AM  

You’ve heard her. In fact, everyone has probably heard her. Hers is the iconic voice you know belting out “I’m sorry...so sorry.”

clap63 1:32 AM  

It's summers as in things that sum. So abaci is plural for abacus--a thing that sums. Yeah, I hated that clue and was surprised it didn't earn a mention in the main blog post.

chefwen 2:01 AM  

Gotta go with Rex on this one. Was so happy just to finish I didn’t bother to try and figure out the theme. Just said to “puzzle partner” glad that’s over with!

Looking forward to next week, even though Thomaso808 and I will be getting the puzzles an hour later.

Robin 2:15 AM  

Yeah, theme was useless. Didn't figure out what it was about until I was chasing down the last letter that prevented the web version of the puzzle from acknowledging I was done.

Slightly above average time for me. Have to agree that the JAFAR/AFAR crossing was pretty horrid.

Speaking as someone from Idaho, my first guess on 121A would have been RUSSETS, but no we get IDAHOES, with an E. Really? The internets seem to think that the plural of IDAHO is IDAHOS. Maybe this is a Dan Quayle puzzle?

Horace S. Patoot 2:16 AM  

“God” in clue to 78D and answer to 34A.

mmorgan 5:04 AM  

Lots of UP, GOD, OH, NO, etc... Agree that the theme was largely superfluous. I was more than half way through before I really noticed the circles. Got the acrosses from the first part of the clues and tended to ignore the deviations (thinking at times that the second parts were embedded in the latter portions of the answers). I liked a lot of the cluing but the whole thing felt more sloggy to me than usual.

Lewis 5:25 AM  

The theme actually did help my solve; I saw it about midway through. The puzzle didn't feel like a slog as some Sundays do -- I thought it had a good blend of spark and challenge. A strong thumbs up here. I like that the circled diagonals shoot off of different kinds of byways: WAY, ROAD, DRIVE, PATH, and DRAG (as in main drag). Terrific clues for DRIVE IN A RUN, ABACI, and PAROLED. And who knew that piece of trivia about Brenda Lee??? There was a word-ending-with-ER (8), word-ending-with-AR (7) mini theme. And I don't know why, but I love having EULER and THE BEEGEES as neighbors.

But mostly, this puzzle gave me a good frame of reference for where I seem to be standing since last November:
1. Standing on THE ROAD TO HELL dreaming about THE ROAD NOT TAKEN.
2. Standing at the intersection of NO YOU DIDN'T and GOD HELP US.

Trudy Morgan-Cole 5:41 AM  

I was stuck at the intersection of LAWD, WAC and ABACI forever. Coming from a place where people are likely to say "Lard" for Lord (as in "Lard tunderin dyin!" = "I am very surprised by what you just said"), I confidently wrote in LARD, assumed the RAF had Athena in their logo (why? It's not like she flies. But I was able to handwave that away) and then stared at ABAFI willing it to make sense.

Got it eventually, but LAWD would've come a lot quicker if I hadn't been a Newfoundlander.

Anonymous 7:07 AM  

Had a DNF because I never heard of either Rainn Wilson or PWN which I still don't understand.

chefbea 7:13 AM  

Did not get the theme at all!!! Tried to figure out the circles...and could not. What a boring Sunday puzzle!!!

BarbieBarbie 7:19 AM  

Statues and vases aren’t monuments, Rex. And yes, FRISK is used correctly. And, actually, I used the SW themer to get a couple of the circled letters. So, you know, shack on.

DNF for me because i MaDeABIAS which doesn’t actually fit the clue very neatly, but my sewing brain took over and blinded me.

@Robin, great Dan Quayle remark. I didn’t like that E either and I live way east of Idaho.

@Sydney Joe, Radar Love rocks!

I liked a lot of the clues/answers. Good puzzle.

Bryce 7:33 AM  

@Trudy: Another hand up for LARD/RAF/ABAFI. That was the second-to-last thing I had to fix before PAP/EPOS, which sounded sort of reasonable.

sf27shirley 7:41 AM  

Apparently the designer of the game Warcraft misspelled "owned" as "pwned" and so that established it in gamerspeak.

Glimmerglass 8:01 AM  

Somebody please parse PWN. It can’t be pawn, which is a minor player.

John McKnight 8:11 AM  

the ROADNOTTAKEN/ROADTOHELL centerpiece almost made this worth it. the SW corner seemed to me more ornery than the rest of it. but longish answers like NOYOUDIDNT and BELLAGIO and PATHFINDER and BEEGEES were all kind of let-downs. in my opinion. happy daylight saving time everyone!

Karen 8:18 AM  

Pwn is gamer speak for Own, which means to beat. It started off as a typo and then took on a life of its own.

kitshef 8:27 AM  

Interesting theme and MUCH harder than your usual Sunday, so a nice surprise. I certainly did use the theme to help the solve.

NE almost killed me, with GIA and KARA and ARN and SDS (all WoEs), and TABARDS (a word I vaguely recognize), and tough clues for BIGTALK and ALLABOARD.

I also expect anyone not knowing STUBHUB to run into problems in the middle, especially the cross with ELSA. Oh and OPELS PWNS RAINN is probably impossible if you either don’t know PWNS and are even a little unsure on either of the other two.

John Child 8:29 AM  

>> Standing at the intersection of NO YOU DIDN'T and GOD HELP US

LOL @ Lewis.

I was vaguely amused that THE ROAD TO HELL takes us to BELOW ZERO. An echo of another Frost poem? Fire and Ice

The triple-checked squares did save me from an error partway through, so I was happy for them. Perfectly fine Sunday for me, and done pretty quickly.

clk 8:30 AM  

My favorite Sunday in a while. The theme helped me out in a couple places but I didn’t truly appreciate it until Lewis pointed out that each diagonal came off a word for road. Very nice.
Interesting factoid about Brenda Lee and about Radar Love. I always figured the Brenda Lee of that song was the singer’s girlfriend and she was, uh, making advances as they were driving. Not that I’d ever given the lyrics much thought before.
As the mother of gamers, PWNS dropped right in but I figured it could be brutal for many. I agree that JAFAR/JAWA is a really tough cross but I remembered JAFAR so no problem again.
A deity mini-theme with LAWD, YAHWEH and GODHELPUS, which incidentally was amusing to see next to a Donald Trump clue.
The NYT blog says the constructor had an Ed KOCH clue for 70D and did not especially appreciate the change.
The one clue I really disliked was chem. neurotransmitter for ATP, since that is the least known of its functions. In fact, I had to google ‘is ATP a neurotransmitter’ to learn that it has that role—and I have a doctorate in neuroscience, though admittedly it’s been awhile since I’ve refreshed my knowledge of neurotransmitters and many new receptors have been discovered. In fact, I don’t think cannabinoid receptors were even known when I was learning such things.

Two Ponies 8:32 AM  

Deadly cobra. Aren't they all?

God, informally? Who is on informal terms with God? Jesus?

Too much work, too little fun.

Hartley70 8:42 AM  

@Rex is a lucky man to have missed BRENDA, think nasal. "I'm sorry..." will be an unwelcome ear worm today and it's actually how I feel about this puzzle. It was too much stuff to digest this early in the morning and I'm sorry but I quit before I reached the end. Oh and once again I can't deal with the little bitty circles on the phone. BLECH! And add me to the group who doesn't understand the "Summers" clue.

On the upside, it's my turn to hit Wingapalooza today in Danbury, @Tita! We're looking at a pile of 69. Whoa.

Robso 8:43 AM  

Plural of abacus.

Loren Muse Smith 8:44 AM  

I’m with @Lewis – the theme helped me solve this, too. I had “they say” for SOME SAY, and WAY OF LIFE sorted that mess out for me. There was another case like that, but I can’t remember.

“privacy” before NO ENTRY
“well I never” before NO YOU DIDN’T

@Robin – the JAFAR/AFAR cross made me grin.

I liked the trick here – always impressive to have letters in the grid that have to work three ways. I almost missed that the starts of the themers are all ways to say ROAD. Duh.

Things that stood out to me: VAINLY, I AM LEGEND, BIG TALK, LIAR, OAF, THE ROAD TO HELL, GOD HELP US.

PATHOS.

Nancy 8:46 AM  

OISK (1:55 a.m.) said it all for me, and I have little to add. I Naticked in the same two places he Naticked. I hated it for the same reasons he hated it. One difference: he saw the theme before coming here; I didn't. Everything I hate in a puzzle: arcane pop trivia up the wazoo that crosses unfairly; really ugly crosswordese; and tiny little circles that, here, were trying to do something interesting, but that I found confusing and annoying and not at all helpful. Nothing about this worked for me.

Lawrie 8:53 AM  

Rainn plus pwns equals Natick for me. But that's OK because it's the next town over.

Teedmn 9:01 AM  

A Sunday puzzle that kept me puzzled to nearly the very end. I was getting nowhere with sussing the themers and I was totally stymied in the SW with Aft for "back" at 116A and "hoR" for ACR at 102ACR. Not able to think of a beer ending in ATT at 78A and having no idea about the Star Wars nomad, the Aladdin villain or the WWII org. with an Athena insignia, or the Will Smith movie and wanting Scad at 109D (well, not wanting exactly, more like suspecting), I was getting no traction at all.

SLEW showed up in my brain and all of these problems RECEDED but it was close. Whenever I solve online, it is almost too tempting to hit a reveal button or at least mark my errors but I resisted and triumphed.

Crazy cluing (I fell for the "Bring someone home" and "Summers back in the day" misdirections, also in my SW problem area) helped make this challenging. I had "eats" for 1D "Does course work". I wanted "in itAlIcS" for 20A "Slant in columns". The "Monumental support" was Plinth before PILLAR.

A lot of "God" clues - YAHWEH and LAWD and GODHELPUS. The last one seems like a NONO with the dupe in the clue of 78D.

Overall, this was a fun Sunday, a challenge and an interesting use of circles. Nice one, Natan Last.

Nancy 9:12 AM  

Some great comments already. @Robin (2:15) -- Wonderful on IDAHOES. I had the same reaction, but I solved last night, and forgot to make myself a note to mention it.

@Loren (8:44); @Lewis (5:25); @John Child (8:29) -- I also noticed the dystopian political-ish constellation of clues that you did and was wondering if it was deliberate on the constructor's part. I'd add one that was left out: MEDIA BIAS.

@Hartley (8:42) -- You're looking at what?

I had to close down my computer between my first post and this one, because my computer was hijacked and frozen by Yahoo and that's the only way to get them off my screen, I've discovered. A garish yellow sign pops up to tell me that my "Yahoo Search Engine is out of date" and that I need to click on their icon to update it. Here's the problem: I don't have Yahoo Search, I have Google Search. They stop me smack dab in whatever I'm doing on my computer and make me shut it down to regain the use of it. This should be illegal! They should all go to jail! Is there any way to stop them???

Robert A. Simon 9:13 AM  

Anybody else confidently enter MELON to answer 96A, "Cassava," only to realize later you were a complete idiot?

Tita A 9:14 AM  

@Joe DP's first paragraph...much better title. Much better. And thx for pointing out the ROADTOHELL...

Why would you ever eat FroYo...fr health reasons? I doubt the industrial stuff sold is at all that. And then toss OREOs in? Just get sone decent ice cream and enjoy yourself. Sheesh!

This had 3 or 4 spots tha totally beat me up. gAWD, not knowing Star Wars *that* well, and not seeing past Summers as a bygone actor... never ever heard of LABATT.
@Oisk...I had RAINe.

@Fred R from yesterday...I'm blushing!! I would say that you're totally right, but that would just be BIGTALK. Thanks for your kind words.


I disagree with the idea that the diverging answers were in VAIN... in some cases they did help the solve, and they were truly fun to suss.
@Lewis...I missed the road synonyms...thanks!


@Hartley...happy birthday!!!! Pro tip...if folks can't decide on the flavors, you can get some orders plain, with the sauce on the side. Enjoy!

Tita A 9:16 AM  

@Nancy...that's not yahoo...that's a virus. Be very afraid, and don't click ANYWHERE...not even on the x to close the window.
If you see it again, use keystroke combo alt-F4 (since I know you're quite adept at those combos!).
Seriously...watch out, those can be very insidious.

Anonymous 9:25 AM  

I like how we have a certain orange monster theme, with BIG TALK over MEDIA BIAS, crossing an appropriate LIAR.

clk 9:25 AM  

Oh, yeah. Took me awhile to give that up.

Anonymous 9:30 AM  

Am I supposed to admire this puzzle after I finish it? I don't. The theme was lost on me when solving. Nothing of interest here.

Anonymous 9:51 AM  

Brenda Lee sang “Rocking Around the Christmas Tree.” If you’ve been sentient in any December of you’re lifetime you’ve heard her.

Anonymous 9:53 AM  

Rockin’

Nancy 9:57 AM  

@Tita (9:16)-- Thanks! I'll try your system next time. There will, of course, be a next time. There is always a next time.

I've never clicked on the X and have always opted to shut down my computer instead -- no matter how inconvenient or what I was in the middle of. I didn't know it was a virus, necessarily, but I did know enough to be Very Afraid. I should call myself ALBWEGI -- A Luddite, But With Extremely Good Instincts.

snowmaiden 10:04 AM  

"From l. to r." = ACR.
From left to right = across?
Is that what he means?

Perhaps the real theme to this semi-themed puzzle is
anti-Trump. In that case, it's brilliant.

snowmaiden 10:06 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
GeezerJackYale48 10:13 AM  

@OISK yep, no way possible to infer Jawa/Jafar or Rainn/Raina. At least obscure things like “The Simpsons Theme” composer could be worked out (even as I continued to wonder about that show’s attraction).

GeezerJackYale48 10:17 AM  

Wow. Unbelievable. Thanks for the explanation.

Wm. C. 10:45 AM  


My mother-in-law was a WAC pilot in WWII. She did basic training first, and her T-6 was called "the Washtub" because of her high wash-out rate. Later she did advanced training, including instruments, for experienced pilots.

After the war she was a stewardess for an airline that was the fore-runner of subsequent major (I forget which). Turns out that many of the flight crews in that rapidly-expanding postwar industry did not have instrument experience.

Her favorite stories were about the times when they were bouncing around in stormy low-visibility conditions to land. The pilot would open the cockpit door and wave her in from the aisle where she was serving stiff drinks to the white-knuckled passengers, and he'd re-emerge with the drinks tray and take over serving, while she maneuvered to land the aircraft. What I would have given to see and hear the passenger reactions when that happened!

Anonymous 10:54 AM  

@Joe Dipinto 1:26AM - I second the motion- and add any and all Harry Potter references to the ban.

Jonathan Weiss 11:06 AM  

Radar Love

Jonathan Weiss 11:09 AM  

Abaci are summers- think adding.

ArtO 11:11 AM  

Too many Naticks as already mentioned. Otherwise, a neat idea.

Stanley Hudson 11:14 AM  

Not bad for a Sunday. And the anti-Trump vibe, whether intended or not, didn’t hurt.

My place of employment is closed this Friday for Veterans Day, even though Armistice Day actually falls on Saturday. Nice 4-day work week to look forward to.

Anonymous 11:18 AM  

Just couldn't get a toehold on this one. And even after Rex explained it, it was "so what?"

Sallie 11:28 AM  

I could not agree more with Rex. As a matter of fact, by the time I finished, I had completely forgotten there were circles and a theme.

jberg 11:29 AM  

DNF big-league on this one. Didn't know about RAINN Wilson (or is it Wilson RAINN?) or gamer slang later than "All your base are belong to us," so I went with RAINa/PWaS. Also didn't know Danny ELFMAN, and I was looking at 38D and thinking "that should be SO they SAY, but that's too long -- so what other pronoun could it be?" I tried SO hE SAY, the correctly-spelled-but-wrong-ly-parsed SO ME SAY, and finally settled for SO wE SAY crossing ELFwAN. Gah! I also had CFOo crossing NERIoSA, but that was just a typo. Not my day.

@Robin, great Quayle reference! And @Lewis, good catch on those roads. I had sort of noticed that, but then failed to see how DRAG fit, so thanks for that! And all of the straight-across roads are clued in a non-road sense except for the central theme statement. Nice!

Is that EULER book where he shows that the number of all odd integers is just as large as the number of all integers, but way less than the number of all decimals? That really blew my mind when I first understood it.

@Two Ponies, I suppose all those born-again Christians who feel they have a personal relationship with God address him informally. Or the protagonist in "Are you there, God? It's me, Margaret"

semioticus (shelbyl) 11:32 AM  

Interesting theme, semi-interesting fill but God the clunky parts are REALLY clunky which takes the joy out of you. Like a good-looking, overload-your-taste-buds meal but after a few bites you feel like "wait now I have to finish this whole thing?"

Wayne Rhodes 11:36 AM  

The theme should be "Lame Changes"

David Retford 11:48 AM  

“Their” is NOT a gender-neutral possessive! The only gender-neutral possessive in English is “one’s”. “Their” is a plural possessive and should never be used in place of “his or hers”! Pet peeve showing?

The Ridger, FCD 12:01 PM  

Do you also refuse to use "you" for one person? They has been around since Chaucer.

The Ridger, FCD 12:01 PM  

Do you also refuse to use "you" for one person? They has been around since Chaucer.

Thomas 12:13 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
David Retford 12:23 PM  

Youse for plural. Duh.

OISK 12:31 PM  

@David Retford..."Their " is indeed gender-neutral, and it's a good thing, because in these politically correct times, it would be difficult to write a textbook without it. ( I am a science writer). "A student should always clean up his or her lab space, and he or she should be penalized if he or she does not." In the halcyon days of old, we would simply use the masculine form, and treat it as gender neutral. ( I think the genus of human beings is still "HOMO,") But now, we commonly solve the problem by using plurals wherever possible. "Students should always clean up their lab spaces, and should be penalized if they do not."

I don't like having to do this, but my editors insist!

Masked and Anonymous 12:33 PM  

OK theme. I dunno. I guess on a SunPuz, it's such a looong solvequest, U almost need some extra puzazz, to keep U goin. Humor in the themers always helps a ton, there. Sparkly cluin and unusual long-ball fillins can help a some. Moments of supreme desperation or lots U's can chip in, a dash. If there's a big ahar moment, that's also a nice plus. But, clever theme humor … that's a pretty strong base to build on, in yer SunPuz.

This (not-especially-funny) theme kinda did help m&e a little, in speedin up the solve (yo, @muse & @Lewis). Got the SHOW part of DRAGSHOW, before I started in on its Across/Down entries, f'ristance. Sooo ... add on some points, for the theme bein relevant to the solve, at least.

BRENDALEE was huge in the 50s and 60s. Cool clue, for her. Like an @anonymous has already suggested, "Rockin Around the Christmas Tree" is one of hers, and it's about as famous and widespread as a song can get.

Thanx, Mr. Last.

Masked & Anonymo11Us


**gruntz**

Fred Romagnolo 12:40 PM  

YAHWEH is NOT another form of Jehovah, it's the other way around; a Christian attempt to render the Tetragrammaton (Y or J, H, W or V, H) in English spelling. Look up Danny ELFMAN, and you'll be surprised at how much he has written. OUTIE (106A) was a cute answer.

Nancy 12:44 PM  

Et tu, @jberg (11:39)? It's your Euler comment. I didn't understand a single word of it, not one word. On Wednesday, it was @BarbieBarbie at 8:50 p,m. and @mathgent at 11:43 whose posts I didn't understand a single word of. I used to think I was good at math. I took 4 years in high school, when I only needed to take 3, and then took an elective year of Calculus in college for good measure. But all of you are conspiring to make me realize that I'm not good at math at all! In fact, I'm a complete nincompoop. All three of your comments might as well have been written in Greek, for all I understood them. Sigh. Double sigh. What a waste of all those high school/college hours.

old timer 12:52 PM  

I assume if the folks at NASA had their way, there would be a team called the Houston EULERs.

DNF because WAC and ABACI did not come to mind. And how do you pronounce ABACI anyway? Abbakee?**

Unknown 12:52 PM  

DNF at the WAC/ABACI cross. Frustrating because I'm trying to break out of being an early week solver and I got so far this time! I was expecting some old celebrity named Summers...

Unknown 12:57 PM  

I do have to say, though, I did use the secondary clues to help me in my solve, so I liked the theme. Helped me sniff out some wrong answers I ended up writing over.

Unknown 12:58 PM  

I had LARD/RAF too! Always nice to see someone else hit the same sand trap.

CDilly52 1:04 PM  

Ditto!

Dave Retford 1:08 PM  

I was a medical editor. Acquisition not manuscript. I left it many years ago. But I do remember that we insisted, despite the extra cost to print books (before digital - that's how long ago this was) that the correct plural vs singular was used. Your editors appear to have made a business decision to use the incorrect forms.

Dave Retford 1:11 PM  

I misread. I see you changed the sentence to plural which makes "their" correct. And it is a gender neutral possessive PLURAL so my initial rant was based on reading into the clue. Apologies to all for my first post.

CDilly52 1:13 PM  

I have but one thing to add after heartily seconding (thirdting?) @OISK amd @Nancy above. Near the end of this utterly frustrating slog (only finished because my daughter was a huge fan of the Disney “Aladdin” so I knew JAFAR), I truly wanted to put in NOS*It instead of NOSPIN. It almost fit. Glad to learn the etiology of PWN; threw it in and hoped. Onward to next week.

Cheri Ohairy 1:20 PM  

@Dave Retford, it takes a big man to apologize on this blog. I want to have your baby.

brainman53 1:20 PM  

@Tita A, thanks for the tip on dealing with pop-up viruses. Does the Alt F4 combo work on Macs?

Stacy 1:20 PM  

@Wm. C, what a great story.

Alysia 1:22 PM  

+1 for "hoR" instead of ACR.

Joe Dipinto 1:34 PM  

@Lewis 5:25 --

...the circled diagonals shoot off of different kinds of byways: WAY, ROAD, DRIVE, PATH, and DRAG (as in main drag).

-- I only just noticed that myself. That makes me like the theme concept better.

And I did use at least some of the secondary answers in the process of solving; I was only pointing out up above that it wasn't absolutely necessary to use them.

Who knew that about Brenda Lee, indeed. Not me. She might have been my 200th guess, if I thought of her at all.

The Émigré 1:42 PM  

Agreed. And, for me, just waaaaay too many proper-noun answers — it was less a crossword than a random trivia quiz.

The Émigré 1:47 PM  

Yes, this was not so much a crossword as a random trivia quiz. Just awful.

Fred Romagnolo 1:47 PM  

JAFAR was the name of the villain, played by Conrad Veidt, in the magnificent "Thief of Baghdad" from 1940, I suspect that was the source for Disney.

Masked and Anonymous 1:52 PM  

p.s.
staff weeject pick: FER. A nice desperate pothole in the OFLIFE high-WAY bypass project.
fave weeject road not taken: HUE/HUT.
Honrable mention to: ATTACKRN, but not someone I'd wanna run into, if she was a-givin out the flu shots.

@RP: If U have ever watched National Lampoon Christmas Vacation, I'm pretty sure U heard a sample of Brenda Lee's "Rockin Around the Christmas Tree", at least. She recorded that tune when she (and M&A) was about thirteen years old, btw. Admit it. Surely y'all have heard her sing, at least one time. Don't make m&e send a mixtape down there. And another thing, "Fever" was actually much better, by the original Little Willie John. snort

Longest nanosecond usage road detour, at our house: TABARDS. GIA. KARA. Plus our BiLLAGIO spellin. [Lawdy, Miss Louche.]

Wanted {Gender-neutral possessive} to be DEMON, but I was a little thick in the tabards, by the time I got to 79-D.

M&Also

Anonymous 2:12 PM  

Did any else put UnHOLSTER before UPHOLSTER ("Put a cover on")--as in saying "I got you covered" when you draw your six-shooter?

Shelby Glidden 2:57 PM  

lol...from the Wayne's World soundtrack

Shelby Glidden 3:29 PM  

The intellect can't parse the infinite, being finite. But that doesn't stop the ego from trying. However, Euler was brilliant and, as I understand it, fairly humble.
On going blind, Euler apparently said: "Now, I will have fewer distractions."

Shelby Glidden 3:33 PM  

you'll have to draw your own conclusion...

puzzlehoarder 3:59 PM  

Gamer speak? Just because such a thing exists doesn't mean it should be put on a puzzle. I think it's hypocritical of the editor to retire so many old forms of crosswordese and then allow in an entry like PWNS. It's bad enough that there's a whole army of young people obsessed with video games and their own typos. Do we really need to see it in the NYT?

The LARD/RAC dnf was my own fault. Other than these two incorrect squares I had a clean grid. It was work to get entries like FER, TABARD, KARA and FRISK but they're legitimate gaps in vocabulary. I draw the line at typo memes.

Two Ponies 4:14 PM  

@ puzzlehoarder, Completely agree about typo mems.

Anonymous 5:20 PM  

“The radio’s playin’ some forgotten song,
Brenda Lee’s ‘Comin’ On Strong’”
Radar Love, by Golden Earring

OISK 5:32 PM  

Thanks!

Fred Romagnolo 5:43 PM  

Bifel that, in that seson on a day,/In Southwerk, at the TABARD as I lay/ Redy to wenden on my pilgrimage/ To Caunterbury with ful devout corage From the Prologue to "The Canterbury Tales," by Chaucer. lines 19 to 22. The TABARD was the Inn where the pilgrims assembled.

Anonymous 5:48 PM  

This from wiki re: brenda lee aka little miss dynamite: " In 1962, while touring West Germany, she appeared at the famous Star-Club, Hamburg and the Beatles were her opening act."

thefogman 5:48 PM  

Easy-medium my eye! This one was tough. I completed it except for the JAFAR JAWAR ABACI area which was evil. Pure evil. You are a cruel man Natan Last!

kitshef 6:50 PM  

@jberg - Cantor (not EULER) did the original work on countably infinite sets. The popularization that exposed many on this blog to that work was George Gamow's One, Two, Three ... Infinity.

Joy2u 7:10 PM  

Got the themes first, for the most part, and the 'diversions' helped SO much with the crosses - I could never have done or enjoyed today's experience without them.
I found the whole thing quite . . . elegant.

Deborah Wess 8:35 PM  

Agree!

Deborah Wess 8:40 PM  

😁

Larry Gilstrap 8:42 PM  

Pretty much all been said by now. I agree that the puzzle contained some unfair crosses, First time in a long time that I rage quit because of two different squares.

I am often amazed at what OFL admits to having previously not known. I find it endearing.

Mohair Sam 8:55 PM  

Late to the party - enjoyable Sunpuzz. We battled through after our Eagles whipped the Broncos - but found out it PWNS us in the end.

@Rex - Agreed on "Gilda" being great. Also agree that you would never, ever call a movie a "femme fatale film" - but if you were going to use that label "Gilda"would be the first flick that would come to mind. How 'bout that Rita Hayworth?

Would never in a million years have guessed BRENDA LEE off that clue, but she filled. My money would have been on Ray Charles. Brenda's "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" is one of many rock and roll Christmas songs banned in this house during the Holidays.

Played tough for us, difficult PPP. Should have known RAINN (guessed "E"), I was a regular watcher of The Office, but dnf'd - feel no shame not knowing a meme based on a gamer's error.

furtanic 9:48 PM  

Generally enjoyed this puzzle, but didn't "solve" it because for idly/tingly, I had idle/tingle. A little frustrated that it feels like it fit just as well. Oh well.

Anonymous 10:03 PM  

@ David Retford and friends

There's not a man I meet but doth salute me
As if I were their well-acquainted friend.
-- Will Shakespeare

Tarheeled 10:30 PM  

Worked at it on and off all day. I had too much stuff on my plate thus did a lousy job. It was quite hard for me. Getting ready to host our annual Marine Corp birthday dinner on 11/10.
I'm seeing OHHI too often in the puzzles. In 70 years of doing puzzles, I never saw OHHI until now.

Seth 10:43 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Seth 10:44 PM  

Uh, Santa has nine reindeer.

Tita A 12:24 AM  

@brainman...not sure about mac...give it a try...alt-f4 is just the keyboard shortcut to close a window...
Btw, ctrl-f4 closes a tab within an app...like tabs in a browser, or open docs in Word.

For mac, I found this;
On Windows, you close a file window with Alt-F4 and the equivalent on a Mac is Command-W. But that only closes the open window, not the entire app. If you need to close the entire app, you hit Command-Q.

Though @Nancy's instinct is a good one...if you suspect once of these highly invasive viruses, just shut down the damn machine...you know, hold down that power button till it gives that little gasp of defeat and powers down.

MOST apps are robust enough to recover your work. Yes, it is still a bit risky, but better than having for machine hacked.

Another tip...

Don't Google "how do I recover from the blah blah blah virus", because those diabolical virus makers will have their own sites show up, disguised as sites to help you.
Instead, go to the home page of whoever you use for virus protection, and search within THEIR site.

Tita A 12:26 AM  

@Wm C... Cool story indeed.

Ben 8:12 AM  

Can someone please explain “scarcely” as clue for “ill” (55 across)?

Wm. C. 8:38 AM  


@Ben8:12 --

Re: scarcely => ill

I can ill afford to err on this. =>. I can scarcely afford to err on this.

joannalan 10:21 AM  

I learnt about ATP in undergraduate school in biochemistry in the early 60s. Got it pretty much right away. And certainly that was before I knew anything about cannabis.

Ben 11:23 AM  

Thanks Wm. C for illuminating me about "scarcely". I had tried a similar gambit, but paired it with a different verb that didn't make it look like a synonym for "ill": "The word is scarcely used as a synonym for 'ill', and when it is, it is ill used."

pat sanchez 11:52 AM  

The previous 2 Sunday puzzles were too easy. This one was a headache.
sos, oho, ohhi, sds?, ess, pwns?, hasp?, caws, rhos, slo, tsks
Stupid and annoying. Oh Lawdy!

Elizabeth Lancaster 2:29 PM  

Agree that "their" is not a gender neutral singular possessive but usage seems to be trumping grammar, especially among millennials or those who do not identify with binary or cis-gender pronouns, etc. Incredibly difficult for me as a translator.

Jeff510 8:49 AM  

Terrible 🤢

Jeff510 8:50 AM  

Me too. Terrible

Andrew Heinegg 4:41 AM  

If I didn't know from reading your posts many times on this blog that you are an honest person, I might think you made up this delightful nugget. Very cute. In fact, even if you had made it up, it would still be good.

Ms. Horan 1:41 PM  

That was the one clue I really liked! Brenda Lee sang "Rocking' around the Christmas Tree." Big song!

CNMLauren 10:13 PM  

Flabbergasted at "easy-medium' designation. Hardest Sunday I can recall. This is not a compliment. Unreasonably, stupidly hard with uninteresting trivia and other absurd clues like scarcely for ill.

rainforest 1:17 AM  

Commenting early for a change. Got an early morning ferry to catch.

I thought this was an excellent puzzle. The themers were good as were the divergements. Both worked.

Lots of tough clues to keep the mind in there, and sufficient new stuff (TABARDS, KARA, PWNS [although I seem to recall that "word" cropping up a few days ago], EROS, as clued).

Brenda Lee the third top-40 singer in the 60's? Who knew?

One of the better Sundays of recent vintage.

rondo 12:00 PM  

Quite an inkfest in the LAWD area: AFAR/over/afar and LAmb/LorD/LAWD with rAf/WAC. Also hoR before ACR. Need another pen after that. Almost went for higHlaNDER but remembered that was a Toyota.

Glad that others brought up BRENDALEE in the lyrics to Radar Love by Golden Earring so I don't have to. Had it on 8-track. Far superior to THEBEEGEES song as clued.

How do I recall yeah baby GIA Carangi who died 30 years ago?

OHHI won't go away and it crosses IDAHOES; is that E correct? Think I'll go LAYDOWN.

spacecraft 12:05 PM  

Well made? FOR SURE???? This is one of the most ragged, broken-up, Natick-filled grids I've ever seen! UPSELL/UPAHEAD: not the first UP/UP cross, but still a minus. A ton of total WOEs:

--> KARA. When you start naming obscure bodies of water, you're desperate. And my eyes glaze over.

--> FRISKS--as clued. Really? What did you do today? Oh, I FRISKED in the meadow. Yeah, right. Give. Me. A. Break.

--> RAINN/PWNS. So ridiculous a Natick that I actually Googled the cast of The Office to come up with that N. And still consider it a finish. Tell me again about this "well-made" grid?!?

--> ELSA/ATP. I guessed the A, so no harm there--but foul. Of all the ELSAs you could have picked, you pick an Italian author that you yourself had to Google, because YOU never heard of her, either!

And finally, of all the NONOS, here's the dreaded OHHI again. Collectively, you constructors have done it: you've taken a piece of total garbage and force-fed it to us until it's now mainstream. I hope you all can sleep at night.

It's not all crap: I once bought BRENDALEE a Coke, one of my finer moments. NOYOUDIDNT is great, something I might say upon seeing 110-down. A great old-school DOD in ELKE Sommer, but overall, not nearly enough UPHOLSTERy to cover the dreck. Bogey.

Burma Shave 12:56 PM  

NONOS: NOSPIN? NOYOUDIDN'T. NOENTRY. NYET!

ALLABOARD FER THEROADNOTTAKEN,
SOMESAY, "LAWD GODHELPUS UPAHEAD,
may THEROADTOHELL SOONER be forsaken,
if the PATHFINDERS haven't had DRIVERS'ED.

--- JAFAR JAWA MAGYARS-TABARDS

BS2 1:00 PM  

FERgot the quotation mark at the end
must proof

Diana, LIW 2:49 PM  

Got the theme early and it helped me with the solve, unlike OFL's experience.

So proud to get 95% of this; however, the mid-west did me in. The usual suspects.

And right - who knew that stat about BRENDALEE? I saw her appearing in the grid and said, "no, can't be." But twas. LAWD.

Diana, Lady-who-couldn't wait for the mid-west to appear

AnonymousPVX 5:31 PM  

I found this puzzle so annoying that I just put it down and walked away. Life is too short.

Eric Selje 7:30 PM  

Sorry a lot you got pwned by this puzzle, but this 48 yr old had no issue with that clue. Golden Earring and Cheap Trick helped, as well as having a girlfriend named Kara. Apparently I need to study up on my supermodels however, but if it's for the advancement of knowledge I guess I'll do it. Now for a belt of whiskey...

I'm not cool wit dat 9:42 PM  

After a long break I came back to tackle this. Hoping something would click. DNF.

LAWD??!!!

LAWD??!!

Let me call a ambulent (ambulance) cuz I dinn't no how to axs (ask) sumun (someone) to hell (help).

Yuck.

sharon ak 6:46 PM  

I'm one who enjoyed the theme. More fun than the rest of the puzzle.
Enjoyed it even more after Lewis pointed out the second answers diverged off of byways.

A bit disappointed in the comments section.
With word stacks like liar, media bias, big talk, all aboard in the upper left and some good stuff elsewhere, I was expecting that some of the commenters who are way clever with word play would have some great entries. Didn't see any I thought as good as many in the past.

Agree with commenter who said pwn, and any typo memes, not appropriate in a crossword puzzle.

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