The Land Shark's show, for short / SUN 11-19-17 / Staple of Southern cuisine / Rising concerns in modern times? / Certain high school clique / Ones stationed at home

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Constructor: Tom McCoy

Relative difficulty: Easy-ish

THEME: “Counterproductive" — Theme answers are defined by the number of letters they contain.

Theme answers:
  • MIDNIGHT HOUR (22A: This clue’s 110-Across, timewise) 
  • DIVER’S GOAL (28A: This clue’s 110-Across, at the Olympics)
  • VOTING AGE IN AMERICA (49A: This clue’s 110-Across, as is relevant each November) 
  • BAD LUCK SYMBOL (64A: This clue’s 110-Across, to the superstitious) 
  • ARGON’S ATOMIC NUMBER (81A: This clue’s 110-Across, in chemistry) 
  • REAL LOOKER (102A: This clue’s 110-Across, in terms of attractiveness) 
and then:
  • ANSWER LENGTH (110A: Something to count to understand 22-, 28-, 49-, 64-, 81-, and 102-Across)

Word of the Day: TOUCAN SAM (77D: One with a large bill at breakfast?)
Toucan Sam is the cartoon toucan mascot for Froot Loops breakfast cereal. The character has been featured in advertising since the 1960s. He exhibits the ability to smell Froot Loops from great distances and invariably locates a concealed bowl of the cereal while intoning, "Follow your nose! It always knows!", sometimes followed by "The flavor of fruit! Wherever it grows!" Another version of this phrase in a string of commercials in the late-2000s presents the character at the end of the commercials saying "Just follow your nose!", followed by a group of children retorting, "For the fruity taste that shows!"
• • •
Alex Eylar here -- I bumped into Rex on the subway; I said “Excuse me”; he said “Hey do you want to cover the puzzle today”; I said “Yeah why not”, and here I am.

This puzzle seems... expository, I guess is the word. Take ARGON’S ATOMIC NUMBER, for example: it contains 18 letters, and argon is atomic number 18, and, well, that’s it. It’s definitely accurate, but it’s not really an Aha! moment.

It doesn’t help as you’re solving it, either. I run across 22A first and I see it references a later clue, and I think to myself, “Welp, guess I’m not filling that in, tra la la la la” And then I think those same thoughts for the next five theme answers. So it’s not as if I’m working out the trick -- I’m just waiting until I get enough crosses that I can maybe figure out what the F these phrases are.

Except, they're not phrases (with the exception of MIDNIGHT HOUR and REAL LOOKER) -- they’re just descriptions of the connotations of a number. And the sentence “descriptions of the connotations of a number” doesn’t inspire a lot of excitement.


It reminds me of this puzzle from April: self-reflexive, but not really in an astounding way. It doesn’t elicit a “Wow!” or an “Oh, I get it!” -- it’s more of a “Huh, all-righty then.” That feeling, combined with the inescapably-fuzzy language of the clues (“Something to count to understand...”) makes the puzzle a bit flat, in my opinion. An interesting idea on paper, but there’s some oomph missing in practice.

I also don’t quite see the point in including the circled FOUR, which has four letters, and yeah. It’s a number describing itself (the only number to do so, fun fact!), but it feels like an afterthought. I appreciate the symmetry and the cascading arrangement of the letters, but what does it add to the puzzle?

That said, this puzzle was definitely on the easier side; finished just two minutes over my best time.

Words of note:
  • TO ARMS! (115A: Dramatic battle cry) — I had CHARGE! at first, which I yell every time I pull onto the 405.
  • HOP IN (6A: Words said through a car window) — For some reason, I pictured the window to be rolled-up, and was searching for a phrase you’d yell through a closed window, all of which are profane. (Perhaps you’re sensing a theme here)
  • EVITABLE (24A: Not definitely going to happen) — I mean... I guess it’s a word, but the opposite is far more friendly.
  • NEVERMORE (12D: Old-fashioned “That’s absolutely the last time”) — The lack of a Poe reference is a gross failure in my book; I love that poem.
  • HOME MOVIE (76D: Family Night entertainment) — I grew up in a boring family too.
Winners: TOUCAN SAM, TARTARE, MAN ALIVE, PHONE IT IN, NEVERMORE, COVER ME, ALI BABA, and I’M LOVIN’ IT (apostrophes for everyone!)

Losers: PEELE and PEELER, GOLAN (looks like five random letters to my uncultured eyes), ON MARS (helluva partial), NBAERS (‘ae’ is the ugliest thing ever, trust me, they’re my initials).

Signed, Alex Eylar, Serf of Crossworld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]

102 comments:

pmdm 12:37 AM  

Why the four circled letters? The write-up answers its own question. Simply to make solvers aware of a "fun fact." I was unaware of the fact, which isn't of great importance but might reward you someday if you are playing a trivia game. I am always amused that some want to find some earth-shattering reason for such thing. Nope, just a fun fact. OK by me.

George NYC 12:42 AM  

Fun write-up. Thanks.

Unknown 12:55 AM  

Labor Agncy as a clue and Laborer as an answer also surprised me.

George Barany 12:57 AM  

Thanks to @Alex Eylar for spelling @Rex in the review of @Tom McCoy's Sunday puzzle. Of course, the atomic number of ARGON would be easily recalled by anyone who correctly solved 18-Across in a puzzle that ran on October 10 of this year.

GOLAN Heights would be well known to anyone who closely followed Israeli national security concerns half a century ago. While NEVERMORE was clued in a non-Poe manner, there is a (somewhat circuitous) Poe tie-in with the EDGAR clue.

The clue for (Michael) EISNER was certainly creative (compare to dISNEy). Curiously, STROM Thurmond came up in a recent conversation, though not favorably.

If only it were reasonable for Times solvers to have at their fingertips three-letter abbreviations of amino acids, ILE (isoleucine) and its isomer, NLE (norleucine), could have been clued in a more EVITABLE manner [another isomer, LEU (leucine), otherwise tough to clue, was not in today's puzzle].

Anonymous 1:19 AM  

The FOUR addition seems off to me, redundant, unlike the other answers.

Anonymous 1:20 AM  

I should add I think the gimmick very clever

Joe Dipinto 1:28 AM  

I had a DNF because after a while I just didn't feel like finishing it. What a waste of time. I didn't even notice the circled letters. I do like Alex Eylar's write-up.

chefwen 1:44 AM  

Boy oh boy, I was way off base figuring out the theme. I was trying to add up the numbers of the themes to get some sort of trick answer. OK we’ve got 12 midnight, 10 best score in diving, 18 and so on. ANSWER LENGTH was my last to fill in, geez I felt like an idiot. Oh well, it wasn’t the first time. Other than that it was fun and kind of on the easy side.

Robin 2:11 AM  

Four circled letters? Oh, forgot about those? Did they have something to do with the theme?

Kind of a crummy Sunday despite some some cases of good clueing.

On the plus side were TOUCANSAM and ALIBABA. On the negative, never knew that DELUGE(D) was a verb.

And oy? ETALIAE? When the NYT is doing Latin gender conjugation, it is time to have a drink.

Robin 2:13 AM  

And yeah, NBAERS was pretty effing weak. Crossing that with NLE rather than the more likely to be spoken aloud NLE(AST) was gross.

Larry Gilstrap 2:29 AM  

The revealer appears near the end of the solve? I guess that's why they call it a puzzle. But then why have a theme? I usually don't make it a practice to count the number of letters in anything; well, I do grouse at grids with many three letter answers, but who doesn't?

Least tedious Sunday puzzle in ages.

'mericans in Paris 3:56 AM  

Nice commentary, @Alex.

Can't 1A, STATS, be considered an opening hint? HOP IN, folks, it's the MIDNIGHT HOUR for puzzle NERDS!

On a scale of [] to [][][][][][][][][][], I'd say today's puzzle RANKS a [][][][][].

All in all the PPP quotient was lower than normal, and there were a lot of good words that we don't see so often. ADD ME to the list of those who appreciated the cluing of ALI BABA. Even after filling it in, I thought, "Huh. Did I miss something in the news about the Chinese e-retail giant?" Then the light-bulb flashed.

No Hawai'ian answers in the puzzle today, so I'll have to settle for OKRA -- a standard joke in the former Sandwich Islands. ("You gave us OKRA, we gave you poi.") Mrs. 'mericans hates that vegetable. I like it OK, especially with tomato and onions.

OWL end here. Wishing a safe and happy Thanksgiving week to all of you Rexizens!

Lewis 6:29 AM  

Fun writeup, Alex, and refreshing to see unabashed recounting of things you liked accompanying things you didn't.

The theme was cute, and did help my solve for a couple of theme answers, as I got the reveal before all the theme answers. My favorite answers were TO NO AVAIL, DELUGED, ALI BABA, and PHONE IT IN. I liked the backward EROS EYE sharing the puzzle with REAL LOOKER. And speaking of the latter, are we men allowed to use that phrase these days? Serious question because the lines have gotten fuzzy.

The solve started slow for me, then picked up steam as it went. And it had a RETRO feel in that it sparked things I haven't thought about in quite a while: ORSON, RIPLEY, MORITA, MAN ALIVE!, STROM, HOME MOVIE, and NEVERMORE. It brought back memories, and I love when that happens.

Anonymous 6:47 AM  

Nice to see a puzzle write up where Alex does not note how low the NYT puzzle standards have declined !!!

ScrabbleLinda 7:22 AM  

When I saw that all the theme answers referred to 110 Across, I started with that one. That made the theme obvious to me. I enjoyed it!

RL 7:53 AM  

EISNER clue was the winner for me. Nicely done.

Two Ponies 8:02 AM  

@ Joe Dipinto 1:28, You pretty much summed it up for me.

Nice of Alex E. to sub today. I got a chuckle from the Bart Simpson image as Poe's raven. That was a memorable episode.

@ Lewis 6:29, If the current trend continues it looks like flirting is dead. Sex in the future will just involve chatting on a device with some AI pseudo-being and then finalizing the act with your robot.

Anonymous 8:12 AM  

So, the other day there was a meta-puzzle where the term TAUTOLOGY was used twice,
and today the theme is asking us to identify the number of letters an answer uses. For me,
these self-referential puzzles are clever - even fun - but, in the end not intellectually
challenging. Overall, I would say that these two puzzles identify the character, and I
might say, the limitations of a Shortz-era puzzle. Whereas in the past (i.e., the Maleska
era) the emphasis was on recognition of ideas (from any place or time period, regardless
of familiarity), today the focus is on gimmick and wit. Instead of learning more about the
world (and learning some obscure, but interesting, term about, say, ancient China) we
are constantly being challenged to learn how creative (and, in the end, insular) a puzzle
can be, Oh, for the days when you felt like an educated adult upon the completion, or
near-completion!, of a NYTpuzzle. Now, too often, I feel like that middle-school student
who has picked up on the "in" joke, Please, broaden my horizons, not limit them.

tc

TomAz 8:15 AM  

Not hugely fun, not awful. I had the same experience as Alex E at first.. get to the clue referencing 110A and it was like well that's not gonna happen.. until I decided to drop what I was doing up north and jump down to the SE to figure out what the hell 110A was. And then I was like -- ANSWERLENGTH ? can that be right? that's about as gangly and awkward as phrases come.

After that, though, it was just a matter of working my long way through the vast Sunday puzzle spaces.

I think my favorite NBAER of all time was probably Hakeem Olajuwon. Using that word in a sentence shows what a non-word it really is.

I think I resent being expected to know anything about Jackass.

CashPo' 8:39 AM  

What a tortured snorefest.

Peeler and Peele as noted was weak. As was the natickable NLE and NBAER for someone like me who eschews sports.

"Get Out" was one of the worst movies I've ever seen. I'd rather watch "Jackass" a thousand times with my eyes wired open. That's how bad it was.

Nice job Alex. Come back soon!

Trey 8:45 AM  

Not that it helps explain the FOUR any better, but each down that includes the circled letters is FOUR letters long

Not a bad puzzle. The theme save me on DIVER*****, as the ‘10’ gave me an idea of posible endings so I could get a toehold on the corner

Glimmerglass 8:49 AM  

@Robin You don’t conjugate nouns. You conjugate verbs, but you decline nouns (gender, case and number). You may be thinkIng of conjugal visits, which is a different kind of conjugating, and also includes gender.

mmorgan 8:58 AM  

Excellent write-up (no snark needed!), could not agree more -- interesting idea on paper but not a lot of oomph in practice. Thank you!

Teedmn 9:03 AM  

ETALIAE? NBAERS? Other than those, this was a pretty clean puzzle. I scratched my head at WHO'D (I'D'VE plopped in first and I imagined "yASHOE" county would work if 19D was "you'D" but Lindsey LOHAN was definitely correct so you'D couldn't be right.) 16D's ATLASE_ also gave me pause. AT LASE_ = "place holders?", huh? It's weird how re-orienting words to the down position makes them harder to suss out, for me anyway.

42D made me chuckle in a dark way. Although we've all probably heard COVER ME in dozens of movies, what are the odds that any of us will actually ever say that phrase, unless we're asking to be buried in sand on the beach or looking for more covers in bed or find ourselves low on cash when the bill comes? I, at least, hope to never utter them in the midst of a gun fight!

I've been reading a lot of science fiction lately, but for some reason I became very earth-centric at 46A and couldn't figure out ON_ARS when I expected the title to be "Last Man ON eARth", which didn't fit. My planetary bias coming out, I guess.

6A took me back to my childhood, when the words said through a car window were more likely to be "I'll have a large root beer".

Thanks, Tom McCoy for the Sunday puzzle you've managed to SLAP together. It did the trick for me.

kitshef 9:06 AM  

Much more entertaining than a typical Sunday, in part because I refused to go down and figure out 110-across until it came about organically, so I had lots of time to speculate on the theme. My one carp, and it’s a big ‘un, is adding NBAERS to the list of ridiculous, no-one-says-that list of sports groups. Crossing NBAERS with NLE is satanically dumb.

I predict we’ll soon enough see:
Blue Devils and Demon Deacons: ACCERS
Isotope?: PCLERS
Vettel and Raikkonen: FONEERS
Hurricanes?: THEUERS

DNF at LEAvED/vINN. Not knowing the Star Wars character I’m OK with. But I should have known it is LEAFED through, not LEAvED through.

Also DNF at ETALIAa/PEaLE. Not knowing the director I’m OK with. ET ALIAE … somehow I don’t think I’ve ever come across, which is odd.

C zar 9:13 AM  

A limit of one sports league abbreviation please! NBAER crossed with NLE kinda sucks. Agree the theme was pretty blah, just a matter of doing enough fill to get there. Nice write up Alex!

BarbieBarbie 9:15 AM  

Mills has the same number of letters as LOHAN. So that wasn’t a gimme.

Teedmn 9:24 AM  

@GeorgeBarany, is there an isomer SNL? Now that would be a new way to clue that one. :-)

And @Alex Eylar shows up with a debut puzzle on Thursday, and today takes over for @Rex. Will Shortz must be worried about now!

Montreal Xword Diva 9:27 AM  

When my husband asked me how the puzzle was going, I replied, "Great, except I have no idea what's going on." Glad to see I wasn't alone! But I appreciated the "McGill" gimme - as well as the lovely snow that is falling. From X word to XC skiing!

ghthree 9:34 AM  

Note to Rubin and Glimmerglass: I think the underlying concept is mensura (Latin for size or quantity). Plural is "mensurae." All the answers are measures, hence feminine things. So each answer is one of several aliae. This justifies "et aliae." It's correct, but a bit forced. My wife and I got this one, working together, which neither of us could have done separately. Often the case in post-Tuesday puzzles. I provide math and computerese; she provides words and music.

Steve Ribustello 9:44 AM  

Would've liked a Springsteen clue for COVER ME. I got ANSWER LENGTH early enough where it helped on the theme clues. On the easy side, but enjoyable.

Anonymous 9:46 AM  

What ScrabbleLinda said. How else to start? Better than most Sundays. I liked it.

The Bard 9:54 AM  

HORTENSIO: Why, no; for she hath broke the lute to me.
I did but tell her she mistook her frets,
And bow'd her hand to teach her fingering;
When, with a most impatient devilish spirit,
'Frets, call you these?' quoth she; 'I'll fume
with them:'
And, with that word, she struck me on the head,
And through the instrument my pate made way;
And there I stood amazed for a while,
As on a pillory, looking through the lute;
While she did call me rascal fiddler
And twangling Jack; with twenty such vile terms,
As had she studied to misuse me so.

PETRUCHIO: Now, by the world, it is a lusty wench;
I love her ten times more than e'er I did:
O, how I long to have some chat with her!

The Taming of the Shrew, Act II, scene I

Carola 10:03 AM  

@Alex Eylar, I really enjoyed your review. To your take on the puzzle, I say "SAME."
The grid phrase VIE NOIR jumped out on me, the opposite, I guess, of la VIE en rose.
Do-overs: ALaddin-->ALI BABA, if-you-thought-NBAERS-looks-bad-try-working with aBA?RS, undO-->VETO.
Learned: ROWAN.

Steve Reed 10:04 AM  

With hope in my heart, I put Mills in first for 27A, even though I was pretty sure I was going to have to update it.

Tim Aurthur 10:05 AM  

Conflicts in the workplace are EVITABLE when you have gruntled employees.

Rob 10:15 AM  

A couple of fun answers, an incredibly boring theme. Not a fan of this one. I understand EVITABLE but, um, no one says that.

Anonymous 10:16 AM  

When the kids were in school I was a PTAer. So this puzzle, I filled in a whole bunch of words. A scad of them. But I was a nonfinisher. Probably because I still haven't committed the periodic table to memory.

Jamie C 10:17 AM  

Very chalant of you to say, Tim!

ghthree 10:22 AM  

I was stuck in the NE until I got ANSWERLENGTH. Then I counted the letters in 28A, having only DI_E_S____. From that, I got DIVERSGOAL, and the NE fell quickly. Am I the only one who actually used the theme to help find the solution?

After solving, both my wife and I were dubious about 43D. ETALIAE didn't seem right. But I Googled "et alii vs et alia" and got a language blog from 2011, stating (inter alia):

"Specifically, et al. stands for either et alii, et aliae or et alia when referring to masculine, feminine or gender neutral groups respectively.'

From that point, it was a simple task to find a Latin feminine noun describing the length of something. "Mensura" seemed the most suitable answer.

Nancy 10:23 AM  

I was doing my usual starting in the NW and doing the puzzle in sequence and ignoring the cross-references when, like @ScrabbleLinda, I realized that the all the cross references were to the same clue. So I thought I'd better take care of 110A first and not make things harder for myself, and I jumped over to that section. Not so easy when I got there. 110A was protected by a lot of pop culture: TOUCAN SAM; CARS; EDGAR and I'M LOVIN IT. Plus I didn't know there were "Primetime EMMYS"; I thought there were just EMMYS. TO ARMS (115A) and AWRY (105D) were not so easy to suss out. But the detour was worth it: once I had ANSWER LENGTH, everything else became much easier.

My hangup was the NE, where DIVER ScOre before DIVER'S GOAL (28A) really loused me up. And then at 40A I had ERE before EER. Those two errors gave me -EEEEE at 17D (!) and something had to change. But what? At last I figured it out. Loved the theme, found the puzzle challenging, could have done with less trivia, but all in all: an excellent Sunday.

Dan Steele 10:37 AM  

I have to wonder why some of you continue to do the Sunday puzzle, if this one was torture for you. At least for someone like me…who took quite a while to suss out the theme…this was great fun. The structure of the clues made no sense to me, so I had to work hard to earn my fun. One of my favorite Sunday puzzles in a while. So, of course, I also disagree with the raves for the reviewer. I said to myself that even Rex can't snark on this one. No Rex, but still little credit.

Two Ponies 10:41 AM  

@ The Bard 9:54, Thanks for the W.S. That is a great passage. Sort of like "You had me at Hello" except this time it was smashing a lute on his head that did it!
Come around more often please.

@ Barbie 9:15, Mills was the only answer for me. I had no idea there had been a remake. First movie was not worth redoing IMO.

GILL I. 10:46 AM  

Well, at least constructors are getting creative with their clues for OREO. Froyo?
TROUPES was my last entry. How could I forget TOUCON SAM? My son loved that cereal. If the cereal box has something interesting on it, he'd want it. Reading material at breakfast.
OK puzzle. Nothing to PHONE home about. I like that MAN ALIVE sits below REAL LOOKER. No harm in flirting at all...just don't grope my boobs while I'm asleep...I might remove your NODE.
Haven't had steak TARTARE in ages. I think restaurants are afraid to serve it because of the raw egg deal. A shame since it tastes delicious.
Nice write-up.

David Schinnerer 10:50 AM  

I DNF due to ONE square! Had SCAM for SHAM and my brain just wouldn’t let me see the revealer needed an “h” at the end, so just kinda sat and stared, eventually drooling a little...

I solve on The NY Times X-word app, so revealed the correct answer and was, like, “Ok, don’t care”. But I thought the puzzle was fun overall and killed a half an hour for me on a Saturday. 75 degrees here in the backyard, so things could have been worse. For example, Rex could have reviewed the puzzle...

David Schinnerer 10:52 AM  

And, I know I’m old, but can someone legitimately explain the “@“ in front of people’s names? I’m serious, if someone could educate me. Seems ridiculous, but I’m willing to be enlightened. Thsnks

GHarris 10:55 AM  

Undone by spelling of et aliae crossing Peele. Otherwise a fun workout.

Nancy 11:08 AM  

@Lewis (6:29) -- You can refer to me in those delightful words any time you wish. I promise not to break a lute over your pate, either. But be warned: I just might hug you.

@GILL (10:46)-- I adore steak TARTARE and, like you, haven't had it in many, many years. I used to prepare my own for pennies on the dollar of ordering it at a fine steak house. I often prepared it for special dinner guests. A veritable feast -- and with no cooking required. Alas: three things made me give it up. 1) I have high cholesterol and need it like a hole in the head. 2) Salmonella came along and made me worry about raw eggs. 3) Mad cow disease came along and made me worry about raw beef. It's a big loss in my culinary life. Sigh.

Deborah Wess 11:18 AM  

Exactly!

Deborah Wess 11:20 AM  

Director is Jordan PEELE. Not that that makes ETALIAE any better....

Suzie Q 11:21 AM  

@ David Schinnerer, The @ is just like saying the word "at" and is an eye-catching way to alert people that they are being spoken to. Just like I did right now with you. That's how I understand it anyway.

Ted Cole 11:27 AM  

How come the numbers were so small. I had an awful time reading them. Had to use a magnifying glass most of the time.

Hungry Mother 11:35 AM  

Got the theme right away and it helped, but I still slogged my way through for a long time. Went for the circled “four” first, but it got me nowhere.

Anonymous 11:41 AM  

@ Nancy, thank you for your response to Lewis's query. Because I've been having similar questions popping up these days. Let us deny all the perversions of sexuality from the pure joys of masculinity, femininity, and the appreciation of beauty! and the celebration of mystery.

Did anyone else struggle with the NE. I was hung up by the accumulation of the obscurity of several clues. And when I had DIVER_ _ _ _ _, I thought it must be about the 10 meter platform. So I was trying things like DIVER SPORT; or trying to come up with something about the platform. Hmm.

Tim Aurthur 11:42 AM  

I was hoping for a 21 in the middle with something along the lines of LEGALDRINKINGAGEINNYC.

RooMonster 12:00 PM  

Hey All !
*Embarrassing Admission* Took me until the absolute end to see just what in tarnation was going on. Had ScAM at 108 D and the ole brain just would not get off it. Had in ANSWERL_NGTc, and kept saying, "LONG TC? LENG TC? LANG TC? What does that have to do with the numbers?! Gah!" Finally had to write in the margin 'L_NGT_', and then word recognition kicked in, and realized that that son-of-a-... ScAM could be SHAM. Holy EYESORE!

Then got a chuckle out of the theme. Naturally went back and counted the letters in each themer! So IM A FAN of this one. But, like some here, am baffled at the extra FOUR in here. Did Tom do that intentially or did it just work out that way? If intentional, that seems a big strain to put on yourself just to get that in. Surprised it didn't lead to big time dreck.

So I rate this "puzzle a ten". (See what I did there?) Had some writeovers, DIVERScOre-DIVERSGOAL, sCads-OCEAN, BADLUCKnuMBer (til I got ARGON-BADLUCK SYMBOL, and that SW corner messed with me but good. ARIANNAs name went through about 4 iterations before I got it right, plus aiNT-ISNT, OozY-OILY. MAN ALIVE! All that to say, YES, IM LOVIN IT! :-)

COVER ME, TROUPES. TO ARMS!
RooMonster
DarrinV



kitshef 12:13 PM  

@David Schinnerer 10:52. I think of it as being like Re: or Fw: in the subject of an email. It lets you know this is a response to something posted earlier. As with email subjects, you surely would figure that out with or without the '@', so really it's just a little courteous convention the comments section has developed.

Also, note that we get a lot of iPhone solvers, for whom replies get displayed with the comment to which it is a reply. Alas, that is not the case for any non-iPhone solvers. So 90% of us have no idea what, say, @Deborah Weiss's 11:18 post refers to. There are probably a dozen comments on any given day like that.

Kingdaddy 12:14 PM  

Can we have a moratorium on Star Wars questions?

Mohair Sam 12:29 PM  

Lonely hand up because we enjoyed this one. Probably because we were struggling until we finally filled ANSWERLENGTH. But do agree with Alex Eylar that the "FOUR" added absolutely nothing to the solving experience. Unlike our substitute Fearless Leader however, we enjoyed EVITABLE - poor forgotten word, nice to see it without the "in".

@glimmerglass (8:49) Funny post.

@Anonymous (tc) (8:12) - I've been thinking that for a long time and didn't know how to say it. Well put. Maybe the change is that puzzles reflect the interests in a game, clue, and structure sense of their constructors. Years back wordsmiths dominated, now the tech savvy hold sway. There's a positive and negative to this - and I think editors like Will Shortz have a heck of job trying to balance.

@Alex Eylar - Nice write-up (although I didn't completely agree), it was refreshing to read a somewhat negative review without vitriol. Big fan of your Thursday puzzle too - smooth debut.

@Tom McCoy - Fun Sunday!

Alan_S. 12:52 PM  

Are we sure this isn't Rex? Sure sounds like him, minus the rage, but his criticisms seems fair enough.

For me, the first Sunday dnf in I can't remember. Not that the puzzle was hard, in fact 90% of it was on the easy side, but the extreme northeast corner was impossible for me to figure. All of it!

Alan_S. 1:01 PM  

Oh, and also; 6A - words said through a car window? I can think of several more colorful answers, can't you?

Kathryn 1:02 PM  

We had fun with this one today. My boyfriend figured out TOUCANSAM before I did and started spontaneously breaking out in laughter ever thirty seconds or so until I figured it out. ALIBABA was another good one, although we started off with Aladdin. I guessed at ORSON and thankfully guessed correctly. I had -CSD before realizing that the answer was my alma mater (I was wracking my brain for schools in Washington and Oregon).

Unfortunately, the PEELE/ETALIAE cross was our undoing and we just started guessing random letters until we were correct.

Anonymous 1:05 PM  

ET ALIAE? Come on. Ditto for EVITABLE.

Fred Romagnolo 1:20 PM  

@Dan Steele: I totally agree. @Barbie: Me too, with Mills; the only thing I know about Lohan is that she gets in trouble a lot. @David Schinnerer: Me too, with scam, finally figured it out. I really liked this puzzle, and had a huge aha! when I got it. BUT I agree about that NBAERS & NLE was a ghastly combo.

Fred Romagnolo 1:23 PM  

cancel the "about" in my last sentence (oops).

Alan_S. 1:27 PM  

No laughing matter. That's definitely where it heading. I got shit for using some mild sexual innuendo in my comments last week, from a guy no less. No question, sexual harassment cannot be tolerated, but neither can crucifiction for innocent flirtation.

Joe Dipinto 1:38 PM  

@kitshef 12:13 - I have an Android phone, on which replies do display directly under their applicable posts. On my iPad, however, they don't.

Joe Dipinto 1:40 PM  

@Kingdaddy 12:14 -- No. We already asked.

Joe Bleaux 1:59 PM  

Another soon-enough prediction, same clue: NRAers. (60D, "Shooting stars.")

Anonymous 2:28 PM  

It’s crucifixion, not crucifiction.

J-Logger 2:29 PM  

I think it originated with Twitter. If you put an @username in Twitter, the person you “tag” gets a notification. It has wound up being used in other platforms as well. Now it’s just become shorthand for “in reply to” on the Internet.

Joe Bleaux 2:29 PM  

My only true nit, Mr. McCoy: In fairness, specifying "bro" and "sis" in the clue (59A) kinda demands SIB as the answer, doesn't it? I mean, REL is an extended family thing. If you'd given me, say, "Bro or unk" as the clue, I'd feel better about it. I was solving in ink, so you can imagine the mess. Other than that, and the goofy "four," it was a pretty fair Sunday puz, so thanks. Alan ... I mean @Alan. Is CRUCIFICTION original? I'd never seen it before, and I love it.

Fey Fop 2:31 PM  

Does anyone remember prancing?

Anonymous 2:33 PM  

If you solve in ink, then what the hell do you expect @Joe Bleauxmoi?

CDilly52 5:13 PM  

I felt exactly the same way, including hearty appreciation for Mr. Eylar’s writeup. Slogfest, and I just finished after about a half-dozen tries since late yesterday!

Shelby Glidden 5:27 PM  

Nothing like a wrong letter (in ink) to ruin one's run (scam for sham.) One has "voting age in America" (although not true when our Trumpeteer was a draft dodger) and still can't suss the theme. @ David Schinnerer 10:50 AM Alex certainly did a great review.
Rex gets no credit for recruiting? @Joe Dipinto 1:28 AM Exactly! And without the benefit of a suntan like David. The Bard 9:54 AM Thanks for the music education. I knew there was a reason I come here. ��

Mike Rees 6:32 PM  

I like when the theme title on Sunday gives me a hint at the theme. This was not the case. Didn’t figure out the gimmick until I got here.

semioticus (shelbyl) 6:50 PM  

The FOUR gimmick was unnecessary, the theme was meh but boy oh boy isn't a clean Sunday fill just a delight. Just for that reason this puzzle gets an B+ from me, that's its floor. Unfortunately it doesn't add anything on top, but a B+ for a Sunday is such a rare occasion nowadays...

Anonymous 7:08 PM  

You get an extra vaganza for that!

Shelby Glidden 7:18 PM  

A specialist in the study of meaning. Yes! This is why i come here. Though but the palest of reflections of learned lore, may i sit by thy feet to learneth more.😀

Tarheeled 7:45 PM  

I actually finished at noon. Just getting around to blogging now. Very quick solve for me, but not particularly enjoyable. Didn't catch on to counting the letters until I read Alex's, Alexes, Alex' (I never know how to apostrophate names Ike Alex) blog. The "four" sub-gimmick was especially weak. Any decent puzzle of this size will probably have a u and an r and an o and a f in it somewhere. Big deal!
And so to bed!

pat sanchez 7:46 PM  

I finished leisurely in 1hr 16 min
It was OK enough but I also thought the answers should add up to something. They did- 81 which is 18 backward, sort of counter productive. Don't get the F O U R reference. Did I miss a NYT piece on Argon recently? I mean, why Argon? HAPPY TURKEY DAY ALL

David Schinnerer 9:32 PM  

@Suzie Q and @kitshef...thank you a kind and helpful explanation.

Anon 9:36 PM  

I enjoyed this one. I solved the theme answer first in the southeast, so it really helped with all the others. ETALIAE crossing PEELE was the only real problem.

a.corn 2:24 AM  

The circled letters were super annoying...knowing it was four in a matter of seconds, it ended up Sowing me down. With two clues involving a cycle of four years (general election and the summer olympics), I figured the four would relate to all themers, meh.

Maruchka 10:24 AM  

Mr. @'mericans - thanks for the poi/OKRA giggle and nailing the nerdiness. P. S. If you and/or the Mrs. like a snappy martini, I can recommend Talk 'o Texas pickled O for garnish. No slime, lot of crunch, and Mmm Good. Bon appetite!

thefogman 11:37 AM  

The only really enjoyable part of this puzzle was finishing it. There were very few rewarding moments aside from maybe TOUCANSAM. Alex Eylar's comments were spot on. I'm sure Rex would have freaked out about this one.

Anonymous 2:38 PM  

No one else had trouble with the TARED - ORSON cross? I’v never heard the word TARE. And Mork’s boss? The only characters I know from “Mork and Mindy” are Mork and Mindy. In retrospect, R is fairly obvious but I put X, thinking maybe TAXED was right because cargo can be taxed by weight. And Oxson seemed possible. Didn’t like that cross. Also didn’t like that two of the theme answers referred to the number ten. Seems like they all should have been different numbers. Both even meant the same thing - perfect ten for diving and being hot.

Anonymous 6:05 AM  


@anon 2:38

You must've been changing the channel before the show was over! EVERY episode ended with a discussion between Mork and Orson about human nature.

muskox 1:07 PM  

A late comment: ELISE is/was not a Beethoven dedicatee. The Bagatelle in A minor is often titled “Für Elise”, but that title wasn’t Beethoven’s. It was added by a publisher, Long after his death. There is something indecipherable scribbled on the manuscript, but it’s definitely not “Elise”.

spacecraft 9:58 AM  

Unlike our guest blogger, when I came across the clue for the first themer I cut right to the chase and invaded the SE so I'd at least have a chance at what I'd be dealing with. That section lay down rather nicely, thankyew, with the Mickey-D slogan slicing familiarly through it. Good; so now all I had to do was count--which simple task I somehow flubbed in the NE. I was so sure it was DECATHLON, but that's only nine! Plural?!? No, and I had the devil's own time up there. I knew nothing, and the wrong letters already inked into 28-across compounded the problem. I have seen neither SNL (my bad), Jackass (my pride!), nor the Smaug thingie. This was almost a REGIONAL Natick! I somehow managed to work it all out to where it at least looked like it made sense, and it turned out right.

Rest of the puzzle: easy; the NE: challenging. Overall? Maybe medium. I was able to work out ETALIAE because of good Latin training. Never heard of ADDME. The NLE/NBAERS cross is really ugly.

Now somebody tell me how in the hell RELEASE came to be clued "Hollywood news." That clue is so outlandish it draws the yellow hankie. In a way, I guess I can see the idea, but come ON!

DOD ARIAN[N]A Grande (what's an extra N among friends?) quite properly crosses REALLOOKER: a DIVERSGOAL for sure. IMAFAN.

Theme was OK if not scintillating; execution adequate. Some nice longer fill along with some clunkers: a par if there ever was one.

rondo 11:42 AM  

Mostly the first sentence of what @CashPo said above. Three significant w/os that really slowed things with sib before REL, Mills before LOHAN, and goodLOOKER at first. I guess both Mills and LOHAN turned out to be REALLOOKERs that played RELs in the orig and remake.

Going off script and naming as yeah baby former LPGA star Jill MCGILL.

This ANSWERLENGTH puz ISNT for me.

Burma Shave 12:08 PM  

TROUPES TOARMS

In my MIDNIGHTHOUR ARDOR ELISE was a REALLOOKER,
ISN'T that a BADLUCKSYMBOL in such a DIVE?
WHO'Dve thunk it EVITABLE I'MAFAN of a hooker?
Yet I'MLLOVIN'IT like I'm the last MANALIVE.

--- "TOUCAN"SAM CARVER

Scott McLean 12:14 PM  

After getting the theme, I confidently plopped down “unlucky nuMBer” (13 letters!) smack-dab in the center of the grid. So yeah, that didn’t help the solve. Other than that, just a couple small hiccups (is it ARIANNA or ARriaNA?) on the way through a fun, brain-teasing Sunday exercise.

I kind of chuckled at the specificity of the clue for 53A. Wouldn’t “Mork’s boss” have been sufficient? Did anybody say, “Oh, THAT Mork!”?

I pretty much forgot that there even were circled letters until I came here. They were indeed completely superfluous. Didn’t hurt anything though.

As a baseball fan, NLE was a total gimme, so I had no beef with it crossing NBAER. I did, however, have a beef with NBAER for its own sake. Terrible, ugly entry (and,as previously mentioned, thinking for a while that it started with NU___ didn’t help).

Overall though, I enjoyed this one. Nice going, Tom!

Anonymous 12:17 PM  

I'm very whelmed by this post

rondo 12:31 PM  

@anon 12:17 - it's EVITABLE that you're gruntled.

Diana, LIW 1:03 PM  

The revealer was the last to solve, so it didn't help me. Knew some number thingy was going on, and did the "is there a pattern here - do they add up?" game.

Never have been introduced to TOUCONSAM, doubted NOM, SpAM vs. SHAM - quite messy, that SE corner. French connections was good.

The rest was fairly easy. For me. FOUR was a meh. TRImester is kinda punny. (3)

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords

Diana, LIW 1:05 PM  

oops - scam, not spam - just for the record

Lady Di

rondo 1:50 PM  

Maybe TOUCANSAM the SHAM & the Pharoahs.

rainforest 2:57 PM  

I had some fun with this puzzle, figuring out the theme at BAD LUCK SYMBOL, and going back to the previous two themers to confirm. That little exercise gave me the revealer.

I didn't find this a slog in the least, and even if the themers were somewhat prosaic, at least they provided a level of interest.

The enigmatic FOUR is the only number with a self-descriptive number of letters in its "name". Does that grab you? Kind of an eponymic outlier, I guess.

I was certainly traught while doing this puzzle.

AnonymousPVX 3:23 PM  

Ugh. EVITABLE, really?

Ugh.

leftcoastTAM 7:42 PM  

Don't want to take the time to figure out how this one was supposed to work. DNF.

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