First name in women's tennis / WED 12-20-2017 / Greta Garbo or Ingrid Bergman / Japanese "yes"

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Constructor: TALITHA RANDALL

Relative difficulty: EASY



THEME: CLOUD NINE — Horizontal theme answers are different ways to get nine by way of addition. So if basic arithmetic is your bag, this puzzle will have you on cloud nine.

Word of the Day: SONANT (59A: Voiced) —





adjective
1.
soundinghaving sound.
2.
Phonetics. voiced (opposed to surd ).
nounPhonetics.
3.
a speech sound that by itself makes a syllable or subordinates to itselfthe other sounds in the syllable; a syllabic sound (opposed toconsonant ).
4.
a voiced sound (opposed to surd ).
5.
(in Indo-European) a sonorant.
• • •
Hi, crossword friends. Andrea here. Longtime reader, first-time guest-blogger. I will confess more than a little anxiety about guest-blogging for Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld. I've been around this Internet of ours. I know what the comments section can be like (though this is true of any blog or website on any topic, including knitting and butter pecan ice cream ... aaaaand now you know exactly which corners of the Internet I frequent). Back when mousepads were a thing, I used to think my big, million-dollar idea was going to be marketing mousepads that said DON'T READ THE COMMENTS. On to the puzzle!

I thought this puzzle was a snooze. Right off the bat (does everyone start up there in the northwest corner? Or do some people start somewhere else? Like the way some people always read magazines from the back?), I was worried that the biggest surprise in this puzzle was going to be which spelling of TSAR/CZAR (1A: Russian ruler) we were looking at. From there, it was an unexciting jog through standard-issue answers. I paused for a moment on READER (16A: Bibliophile) and permitted myself a philosophical tangent. A bibliophile is someone who loves books, yes. But does that necessarily mean he or she is a reader? Aren't there bibliophiles who love books qua books but don't read them? And more interestingly (to me): people who read--even literature--but using an e-reader. Are those people readers but not bibliophiles? I kept filling the puzzle automatically as I pondered this, because it was more interesting than the fusty answers that make up this puzzle. Like GIN (24A: Game-ending cry at a card table) and RUDE (4D: Like cutting in line) and SASS (41A: Be flippant with) and TORNADO (35D: What transported Dorothy to Oz). These all just feel like they were pulled from a mothball-scented drawer in someone's aunt's house, not a fun aunt but like an aunt you have to stay with for two nights when your mom goes to have a baby and dad can't possibly be asked to "babysit" so you go stay at Aunt Faye's kind of weird-smelling apartment and she teaches you to play gin rummy and warns you not to sass her but she lets you watch The Wizard of Oz on TV before putting you to bed in a trundle bed without even spritzing detangler on your hair for you. Even the inclusion of LENA (28A: Dunham of "Girls") and MARC (25A: Designer Jacobs) felt like when a grown-up tries to dab or fidget-spin her way into the hearts of young people. This is a thing I am sensitive to as a middle-aged teacher of teenagers. All in all, this puzzle feels vintage in a squicky way.

Here is a picture of Lena Dunham wearing Marc Jacobs!



Theme answers, on which I refuse to spend a lot of words: 
  • ONE and EIGHT is NINE
  • FOUR and FIVE is NINE
  • SEVEN and TWO is NINE
NINE, of course, was only half of the "theme." It was CLOUD NINE. When it comes to that idiom, I think the CLOUD part is more interesting than the NINE part. I would have loved to see in this puzzle tastier words like cirrus, cumulus, stratus, nimbus. Even miasma. Nebula. There are all these cool cloud words! Maybe even nine of them! Why are we doing arithmetic? Then again, I live in Phoenix. It was like 70 and sunny today. Of course I want clouds.



But look. There were a couple of neat things in this puzzle, though. Little echoes. We had both OVEST (6D: Sunset's direction, in Sorrento) and ESTE (18A: Sunrise's direction, in Sonora)TORPEDOS (14A: Nixes, as a proposal) calling to mind the aforementioned TORNADOS from elsewhere in the puzzle. These are nice and I guess sort of related to the cloud theme, in a loose way, or at least to the cloud theme I wish had been in this puzzle.

As a logophile (a thing you can be no matter how or where you read), I liked seeing INDIGENE (8D: Person native to an area) and SONANT (59A: Voiced), adjectives that are basically never used in informal spoken language and too infrequently even in writing.

Bullets:
  • SARGE (27A: V.I.P. at boot camp) — can't read this word without thinking of Beetle Bailey, which is a thing the totally fictional Aunt Faye probably likes along with her cigarettes in the morning. 
  • LIAISE (58A: Network (with)) — according to the most cursory Internet research, this is a back-formation from "liaison."  I'm into that. I've been reading John McWhorter's Words on the Move and so I am feeling especially wiggly and descriptivist about language these days. Wheeee! 
  • WEIR (40D: Small dam) — This is a good word to know for Scrabble and crosswords, plus it reminds me of Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead, which reminds me of my brother Chris. But then I am also reminded how Bob Weir, like, welcomed John Mayer into the Grateful Dead family over Twitter this year and I am uncomfortable all over again. 
  • SONANT (59A: Voiced) — I picked this as my Word of the Day because it's lovely and sort of rare but totally up-front about what it means (SON- = sound) and also because it looks a bit like the word Sonata, which is--look at that!--the name of my book that came out in May and which Rex Parker nudged me to put in a little plug for. So if you are a logophile or a bibliophile or both, if you like music, maybe you'll consider checking it out here or, better yet, at your local, independent bookstore. 
Signed, Andrea Avery for Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]

161 comments:

Chaitanya 11:37 PM  


The theme did have another element to it in that the black squares between one and eight, four and five and two and seven were in the shape of a plus sign.

Andy Capp 11:46 PM  

Good ole Rex. Always Jack the Lad.

Outside The Box 11:46 PM  

Re clue “Problem before a big date, informally”
The answer is “forsaken”????
How is this informal? How is this a problem before a big date? That you got stood up?
Horrible clue, horrible answer.

Dumb puzzle.

Oldflappyfrommississappy 11:48 PM  

It’s Wednesday and still hard.

Andrea Avery 11:51 PM  

Re: clue “Problem before a big date, informally": The date clue was for ZIT. FORSAKEN was clued "left bereft."

Anonymous 11:58 PM  

Don't the plus signs in the grid deserve even a mention?

Anonymous 12:22 AM  

Plus signs with the ebony created tilted nines with the ivory. Clouds I guess you could call em? Meh fill, but clever design.

Great write up!

Warren 12:27 AM  

Loved your comments, Andrea! I hope Rex has you back for more. Also, points to Chaitanya for calling out the plus signs, which I hadn't noticed due to forest/tree syndrome.

Unknown 1:06 AM  

Yuck. I’d give the theme credit if it had gotten three and six here, but the weak theme and the iffy fill. No thanks!!

puzzlehoarder 1:06 AM  

Today I learned I've been mispronouncing the suffix -ant all my life. I've always pronounced it like the picnic pests. If Webster's is to be believed the A is actually pronounced like the O of the word some. No one has ever noticed so it probably doesn't make a lot of difference.

This came about from researching my SONENT dnf. Something didn't look right about that E but then NONA didn't seem right either. It's not to be found in my Webster's and outside of crosswords NONA probably has precious little existence.

I'm not complaining. We just had SONANT this year and I even made a note of it. Odd words like this along with OVEST, MENDEL, INDIGENE and the wrong looking LIAISE are what made the puzzle interesting.

Larry Gilstrap 1:25 AM  

I spotted the plus signs and put them to use. Cross referenced cluing is not my favorite feature when solving. Well, I see we have a medley of answers based on the theme of NINE, for some reason. Please tell me it's the ninth day of Christmas, or Hanukkah. I do enjoy following baseball.

I'm guessing an INDIGENE has something to do with indigenous. Spell check seems to like the latter more than the former. LIAISE is just weird. Sure, I've seen it before, well, only in the puzzle. And to top it all off, I rage quit on the NONA/SONANT cross. Trigger the linguists. Of course, I knew SONANT, or did I?

Yesterday, we got AIRHEADS, today REDHEADS, neither a band fronted by THOM Yorke. I have always listened to new music. Many of my contemporaries dropped out about the time Paul and Artie broke up. I like Radiohead and remember the stir created by "Creep", in what, 1993? Decades of innovative music, but then again, "I Might Be Wrong."

Andrea cracked me up with her post and then duck policy regarding the comments. I see enough Twitter to know how brutal trollbots can be. If Mother Teresa had have Tweeted her sweet sentiment. Imagine some of the comments: dishrag something something...



The Eraser 1:33 AM  

People get crushed like biscuit crumbs
And laid down in the bitumen
You have tried your best best to please everyone
But it just isn't happening
No, it just isn't happening

Cause this is f**ked up, f**ked up...

Unknown 1:33 AM  

Hated, hated, hated it. So much bouncing around. Nothing straightforward. Poo.

clk 1:55 AM  

I hated the SONANT/NONA corner. It seemed like could have as easily been an I or E in there as an A. And who says that a storm sets in? Not crazy about that corner.

However, as is often the case, I feel more charitable toward a puzzle after reading the constructor’s notes on the Wordplay blog. This is a debut puzzle by a charming aspiring law student. I liked it a lot better now that I feel I know her a bit. Funny how that works.

Robin 2:25 AM  

Meh. Good to read a first-time poster saying she wasn't impressed either. (Grue knows how much Rex would have unloaded oaths.)

SONANT was okay, but I stared at the crossing NONA going, hmmmm.

INIDIGENE was in my wheelhouse because I recalled seeing the movie INDIGENEs (aka Days of Glory) 10 years ago.

Weird week. The Tuesday was tougher than the Wednesday.

I would buy one of those mousepads.

Melrose 2:40 AM  

Good review, Andrea. Snooze is a good description.

Handy Andy 2:55 AM  

This puzzle had "Radiohead" in the clues and REDHEADS in the answers, which I believe is a violation of some crossword construction treaty or convention or something. I hope someone is looking into this.

Kitty Kat 3:08 AM  

Is that Lena Dunham wearing Marc Jacobs?

I'll bet he's denying it.

Ben Silver 3:18 AM  

The big hangup for me -- it was A TWISTER that transported Dorothy to Oz, not a TORNADO. I know they both refer to the same phenomenon, but it's _never_ called a tornado in the Wizard of Oz -- always a twister.

jae 3:19 AM  

Yes easy and I'm mostly with Andrea on this one, although the plus signs were a very nice touch.

@Robin - A nice follow up mouse pad in case you ignored Andrea's would be "DON'T
FEED THE TROLLS".

... and if you didn't click on the link to Andrea's book you should really should go back and do it.

Loren Muse Smith 3:59 AM  

Andrea – thanks for filling in. Brave of you because, yes, this place can be nasty.

I was surprised that you consider GIN, RUDE, TORNADO, and SASS as “fusty.” I read it again, and I’m guessing you meant how they’re clued? Man, I’m getting old. My middle age must be older than your middle age. But we both teach teenagers. Pause. Stare at floor. Shake our heads.

Those plus signs screamed out at me as soon as I printed the puzzle. When I got the ONE and EIGHT, I was pleased.

Cool to have MENDEL crossing REDHEADS. Recessive genes and all that…

I also noticed HEIFER crossing SIZING. Ouch. I have been known to buy something simply because its size was smaller than what I’m used to. It’s a free-for-all out there with women’s sizes. I have 14s in my closet and I have 2s in my closet. And I don’t fluctuate that much. This. Is. Ridiculous.

@Chaitanya – Andrea did mention arithmetic. Twice. True, though, that she didn’t refer to the grid art. I liked the plus signs and trick there.

@clk - NONA is a themer, so it has to stay NONA.

“Twister” has the same number of letters as TORNADO. Oops. I’ll come sit next to you, @Ben Silver.

Weirdest moment – I was listening to the news and distractedly just put in “indogene” thinking it was “Imogene” – I hadn’t read the clue. Same with 6D – didn’t read the clue and just put in “overt.” So I was left with this mystifying Mother Teresa quote:

We shall never know all the good that a simple r-mole can do.

I had this ridiculous moment where I tried to make sense of it. I’m listening to some cultural anthropology lectures and now know about R-selected and K-selected species. All this - the wrong answers, the return to the quote, the anthropology – happened in only a couple of seconds. But it was weir.

Andrea – I knew WEIR because I’m an armchair survivalist. I’ve built many a weir mentally. They were expertly built and caught lots of fish. And don’t get me started on building a decent boma.

John McWhorter is terrific. One of my heroes.

Talitha – wow. A debut where you had to design the grid yourself. The very thought scares the bejeezus out of me. I’ve said before, if Crossword Compiler doesn’t furnish a grid with my theme entries, I ditch the idea.

Enjoy your day!

mathgent 5:30 AM  

Pretty dull, just like Andrea said. But I liked the plus signs.

Some of you thought about the puzzle I posed yesterday about the Houston Rockets of the NBA. If James Harden and Chris Paul each play x minutes in a given game and if at least one of them is playing at all times, how much of the time are they playing together?

x would have to be at least 24 and they play together 2x - 48 minutes.

Charles Flaster 5:44 AM  

Nice debut for TR.
Theme was easy , plus signs were noted early, and was expecting some form of Sudoku in clues or answers.
Liked cluing for LIAISE, SODS, and ZIT.
CROSSWORDease— HAI and LENA.
Nice write up AA.
Thanks TR.

Lewis 5:56 AM  

@andrea -- Fun writeup, and I'm glad you plugged your book, because it sounds very interesting.

When I first looked at the grid design, it looked like a ninja star (or throwing star), and the anagram of "star" at 1A seemed to confirm it. But alas...

I liked that columns four and twelve are totally devoted to the theme; it's a shame that their difference equals one off from the theme. I learned OVEST, INDIGENE, and WEIR. Having 51 black squares is extraordinary in a puzzle -- Will usually makes 38 the max unless the theme calls for a higher number, and here I don't think it did. Speaking of "number", GAS. At first, suspicious me thought "Carrier of electricity" was somehow going to involve the air conditioning company.

Whenever I see the word TOUCAN, my brain follows it with "tango". Congratulations on your debuts, Talitha and Andrea!

Anonymous 6:03 AM  

First grade curriculum—combinations of nine and clouds.

Anonymous 6:04 AM  

Lena Dunham won't be bringing the potato salad to the Mensa meeting.

Anonymous 6:15 AM  

@Outside The Box, you win the idiot of the day award.

Anonymous 6:16 AM  

@Oldflappyfrommississappy: Too much Viagra over the weekend?

Jamie C 6:25 AM  

If you want to entertain yourself for a good half-hour or so, check out the random Lena Dunham apology generator on Twitter (@lenadunhamapols). Gets belly laughs every time.

Anonymous 6:34 AM  

But....how much is three plus six?

Lena Dunham 6:49 AM  

Seeing my name in print triggers my loathing of my own insipid vacuousness.

Jonathan Alexander 6:49 AM  

I finished the puzzle and grimaced at the absolute disaster the whole thing was. Just awful...

Glimmerglass 7:04 AM  

@anon 6:15. Good one.

kitshef 7:16 AM  

Very much easier than yesterday’s, though not any more fun. On a scale of ONE to NINE, I give it a NEIN.

I do approve of the grid art, though.

Anonymous 7:16 AM  

I wanted NINE clued with SIXTY somehow.

Hungry Mother 7:17 AM  

A mixture of too easy and obscure, just like my normal day. Overall, it felt hard, but it should in the middle of the week.

BarbieBarbie 7:20 AM  

Uh-oh, another phone app user who doesn’t get that many readers here don’t see the Replies under the answers. A bunch of short witty comebacks-to-nothing lined up in the posting always makes me think of those crazy people you used to see on the subway. Now, of course, you just assume they’re on the phone. No signal down there? Let me keep my illusions.

Speaking of illusions: can someone explain the Cloud part of the theme to me? I can see a Nine theme only.

@David, great post yesterday. Though it’s true: because I use a consistent anonymous name (I never even owned a Barbie), I’m more careful (I think) to word things in a way that won’t be misunderstood. So it’s kind of quasi-anonymous.

Guido Contini 7:38 AM  

@Andrea:
Thank you for your write-up. I don't agree with your assessment that it was a "snooze." You mention you are a teacher. Perhaps you should reassess your review in light of the plus signs. That made the puzzle kind of special.

Re: @Outside the box

It is INANE to call him names. Obviously, he saw 33d as 32d. I make that mistake at times, read things too quickly.

32. Problem before a big date, informally : ZIT
33. Left bereft : FORSAKEN

QuasiMojo 7:41 AM  

Again with the silly grid construction. Who cares? Are the constructors forgetting that these are "crossWORD" puzzles? Let's get back to focusing on the fill, not the design. This was a total yawn. And isn't the plural of torpedo, TORPEDOES? And same with tornado? TORNADOES? Or am I just seeing deer everywhere?

Thanks, Andrea for filling in -- congrats on the book -- and for the hilarious shot of that REDHEADed woman in that hideous dress. I have no idea who Lena Dunham is but that photo is further proof that "stars" no longer have stylists, or own vanity mirrors. Looks like she didn't get Aunt Faye to put detangler on her hair either.

Rhino 7:55 AM  

The only enjoyable thing about this solve was reading Andrea's review.

chefbea 8:00 AM  

there were other theme answers!!!! I guess that has been said. No time to read all the posts...busy time of year

Anonymous 8:00 AM  

"INDEGENE" AA; "INIDIGENE" Robin. Am I missing some obscure cleverness?

Andrea Avery 8:14 AM  

No, I just mistyped it.

Two Ponies 8:19 AM  

I was not entertained at all, debut or not.
Nice review though. I confess I was looking forward to reading Rex rip this to shreds.
I was going to say "write up" instead of review but then realized that using "write up" as a noun doesn't seem to bother me but "meet up" as a noun does.
It must be a daunting assignment to sub for Rex and then to find out you also teach teenagers? Well, Andrea you are brave indeed.

I'm so tired of Disney movies in my crosswords. Between them and Star Wars we seem to have nearly daily appearances.

The Mother Teresa quote makes me gag.

I only see three answers in this entire grid that are interesting or need any smarts to know - Mendel, Dakota, and indigene. The rest is crap.

Why is hrs. office data?

Who is Lena Dunham and when did he/she have the surgery?

Wow, I might be Andrea's Aunt Faye.

Z 8:25 AM  

Yeah, single digit addition doesn’t exactly get the grey cells firing in the morning. Nifty plus signs, but that’s a lot of black in the grid around the edges.

I suspect this was more interesting to construct than it was for me to solve. A nice debut and it is always good to see a little diversity added to the list of NYTX constructors, but I’m with A.A., a little on the somnolent side for this solver. Using the grid as a theme feature is promising of good puzzles to come.

@Outside the Box - We’ve all done the right clue for wrong entry thing. There’s also the “is that an rn or an m” thing because the NYT font doesn’t do a good job of distinguishing between the two.

@clk - I understand why a constructor (or any creator type) has a hard time distinguishing between self and work, but I think it is best to remember that they are not the same. Is it so hard to point out that this is a good first effort but not a great puzzle? Does that observation in any way suggest a lack of charitable opinion about the person? Or only that crossword construction, like most skills, develops over time with practice? My feelings about the puzzle aren’t effected much by the constructor.

mmorgan 8:33 AM  

Nice review, Andrea -- thanks!

Puzzle was meh but the plus signs are kinda cool (I hadn't seen them while solving).

Why all the anti-Lena Dunham comments? I think she's awesome.

Aketi 8:34 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nancy 8:39 AM  

Not enough squares. This puzzle was over almost before I began. I did notice how black the grid was, and then, before I even wrote in my first answer, I noticed the plus signs. I wouldn't notice them again until I saw the ONE/EIGHT and SEVEN/TWO. Aha, NINE, I said, jumping to 60A and filling it in.

I sort of felt that this puzzle was designed especially for me. "You know that woman on the Rexblog who didn't even see the CANDY CANES? She must be the most unobservant person who ever lived. Let's create grid design that even she can't miss. Very big and very black."

An extremely easy puzzle that I commend for completely avoiding junk, but one that provides no challenge at all, alas.

Amy 8:42 AM  

I would buy anything that said “don’t read the comments” on it. Tho I always do.

Aketi 8:42 AM  

@Andrea, nice write up. I actually did have a real Great Aunt GIn that pretty much fits the description of your fictional aunt. She did play gin rummy and drank gin and tonics, She was often funny and always annoying. Fortunately, I never had to stay overnight at her house. I could only tolerate her in small doses.

@Nancy, just caught up on comments (in violation of today's mouse pad directive). In response to your question yesterday, my crossword grid art is iPad, not computer generated. I take a photo of the puzzle and drop it into a primitive app program. The program allows me to make circles and squares and lines. I drop different colored squares over the crossword squares. Then I delete the crossword from underneath. If the puzzle is boring I can sometimes amuse myself with embelishing the grid. Today's grid art made me smile while I was filling in the somewhat mind numbing numbers that add up to NINE..

Aketi 8:44 AM  

@Nancy, I saw the unintended snowflake before the intentionally placed plus signs.

Birchbark 8:51 AM  

Books qua books and clouds --

I struggle with whether to read old first editions. Mostly err on the side of reading. Even gently handled and opened less than 90 degrees they go from very good to good, good to fair as a result. But as Locke said of ownership arising out of nature, I've mixed my labor with them. Much better than to let them sit on the shelf and be stared at. So, bibliophile and READER, the twain shall meet.

@Andrea, give TORNADOes a chance. They're basically cumulonimbus clouds gone off the convective deep end. I see them as raucous but welcome party-crashers to your cloud theme.

@Puzzlehoarder, I too DNF on NONe/SONeNT. Wanted none, as in a nine-singer nonet. But no-no nonet today, just NONA as in "Half-spelled Italian grandmother?"

M. David Hornbuckle 8:53 AM  

There were other theme answers: SEPT, TEAM, and LIVES -- all cross-referenced with NINE.

Not that it makes the puzzle any less stale and boring.

Anonymous 9:00 AM  

Nice write up, Andrea. But why no mention of the black squares that make up three plus signs: ONE + EIGHT FOUR + FIVE SEVEN + TWO ?

Amelia 9:06 AM  

This puzzle insulted my intelligence. (Ok, you figured out how to put a plus sign in between two numbers. Aren't you clever.) I can't believe I continued after the first few clues. I should not have. As I was finishing, it occurred to me that it was a perfect puzzle for third or fourth graders, and I wonder if that's how it got its start.

I'm sure today's Wall Street Journal puzzle is terrific.

pmdm 9:07 AM  

QuaisiModo, the constructor states that she submitted eight puzzles of which this was the only theme that Mr. Shortz accepted. So in this case, I guess you should blame the editor more than the constructor for a puzzle whose grid design seems more important than its fill.

The constructor says that the impetus for constructing the puzzles was the rehabilitation time subsequent to breaking one's tail bone. I could think of better reasons.

I found this puzzle easier than yesterdays (because of the theme density).Some of the entries (such as OVEST) are probably too unusual for a Tuesday puzzle. Too bad.

Rev. Gary Johnson 9:13 AM  

I found this puzzle to be so stale and boring that I refused to even do it. In fact I didn't even read the clues it was so bad.

Awful awful awful is my only word for this. Terrible as well.

Wm. C. 9:25 AM  

Unreasonable fill. Several words I've never heard of -- Indigene, Sonent, Ovest. Lena and Luc and Thom and Moana outside my experience. Edenic a stretch.

Thursday's are usually my favorite. But sorry, Taritha, this one looks like difficult crosses were solved with Google-fill.

:-(

John Child 9:31 AM  

I refused to play the cross reference game - just filled in the other answers until the theme was clear. Mostly elementary, but a few interesting words (Hi @puzzle hoarder). Typical Monday time to complete - easier than this week's Monday for me.

According to Google, 1836 and 1837 were the only years in the last 200 when TORPEDOS was more common in English literature than torpedoes. The E version was 58x more common in 2000. Damn the E - full speed ahead. Wiki

Congratulations to Ms Randall for the debut puzzle: Not easy, is it? I hope you make more.

Pet Monkey 9:31 AM  

@ pmdm 9:07 Thanks for telling me why this puzzle was created. The result of a broken butt! That explains it.

Nancy 9:35 AM  

My apologies, Andrea. I am so in the habit of skipping past Rex's comments (which, even if I thought they were pleasanter and better-written, always tell me more about the puzzle than I really want to know) that I skipped past your comment as well. A mistake. I went back when I saw how many had praised your write-up, and I'm glad I did. It was colorful, lively and fun to read. I'm going to look for your book in one of our neighborhood bookstores the next time I'm in there. I hope you'll be guest-blogging here many times in the future.

GILL I. 9:48 AM  

Grid Art.
Took me awhile to finish. Was just not getting on Talitha's wave length. Found the NINE at the end and went about my business of coming up with the numbers. Because I had nothing better to do, I got out my trusty yellow highlighter and shaded in the theme entries. It was only then that I appreciated the puzzle.
So, it's a gimmick. So what. There were some interesting words that you don't see often. There were 12 references to get to the number NINE. Concept was different and I appreciated it.
Having said that, Andrea's write up was far more interesting. Maybe Tabitha Randall could guest blog sometime as well.....
LENA Dunham (the "apologist") is one big loud mouth jerk. I rather enjoyed her in that very strange series "Girls" but it was my daughter who pointed out that she was pretty vacant.
INDIGENE is such a nice word. So adding a T at the end makes it sound so bumish.
Congratulations on the debut.

Casarussell 10:11 AM  

Yay, Andrea! Your post was the best part of this puzzle. Cheers!

Anonymous 10:13 AM  

@Two Ponies
What on earth is sickening about Saint Mother Teresa's quote.
I have never heard anyone object to the concept of smiling. I wish I were mystified by your objection, but I have a strong suspicion I know its provenance.

Alex Jones 10:20 AM  

Lena Dunham has the same last name as the maiden name of Barack Obama’s mother. Can you believe it? Tell me, by damn, that it’s just a coincidence!

Anonymous 10:24 AM  

Great puzzle but Lena Dunham does not pass the breakfast test.

Nancy 10:28 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Missy 10:33 AM  

More like Joan Rivers' mean intolerant mother

newspaperguy 10:41 AM  

@Anonymous Anonymous said...
Lena Dunham won't be bringing the potato salad to the Mensa meeting.

6:04 AM

Not something you need to concern yourself with.

Missy 10:48 AM  

More like Joan Rivers' mean intolerant mother

Anonymous 10:57 AM  

I've learned so much from this blog, mostly about how some very persistant assholes are drawn to it. However, I do love @newspaperguy, @jae, @evil (when he weighs in), and @Loren. From them I've learned that some people actually go to a blog to write intelligently about the subject at hand.

Anonymous 11:00 AM  

Lena Dunham aspires to be only vapid.

QuasiMojo 11:02 AM  

@pmdm, good point. I agree.

Rachel Dicker 11:03 AM  

I really loved this writeup. Very funny, very informative, not as crotchety as our beloved Rex. Good work!

Puzzle was rough in the SW for me because I put TWISTER before TORNADO. They call it a twister in the movie, so I think TWISTER is the better answer there and it should have been clued differently. Once I let go of that, it went pretty fast.

Anonymous 11:06 AM  

Hillary had Lena campaigning for her and still lost. What happened? I'm still mystified.

Jack Dammit 11:13 AM  

I would like for Lena Dunham to have my baby.

Roo Monster 11:14 AM  

Hey All !.
@Wm. C 9:25 - It's Wednesday.

@Hogn Child 9:31 - No, it's not easy to get a puz accepted by Will. Won't even tell you how many I've had rejected. It's disheartening

Saw the Plus Signs in the grid, which after getting Revealer NINE, made solving the themers easy, once I had a few letters in each. Agree with the insane high Block count. 51 of them. Wow. Had to be a way to redesign grid to get rid is some. Definitely the three in the NW/SE corners.

That said, it was an enjoyable puz. Theme was nice. Too bad, though, the Plus Signs couldn't have been used in the Downs somehow. NE corner gave me fits. INDIGENE was a WOE. Could not see AVENUE for some reason. The ole brain wouldn't let go of MOTtoS, so FUELING wasn't seen either. But, still had a fun time. Hey, a debut is a debut.

REDHEADS, SMILE.
RooMonster
DarrinV

Lise 11:23 AM  

I liked this puzzle from beginning to end. I caught on to the theme right away with 3D, and since I like grid art, the plus signs were fun. I like all types of crosswords, from rebuses to quips and everything in between.

I'm not good at pop culture names; should I be glad not to have encountered Lena Dunham anywhere but in crosswords? I don't see how she could be as bad as some of the comments make her out to be.

@Loren Muse Smith: I enjoy reading your comments. I have possibly listened to the same cultural anthropology lectures as you, and I am a big fan of John McWhorter as well. Linguistics makes my brain happy.

AA, I loved your review; TR, nice puzzle. I hope to see more from both of you.

Smile!

Franklin Graham 11:23 AM  

Let’s put the “Christ” back into “Christian.”

Aketi 11:26 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
jberg 11:27 AM  

Geez, this is a tough crowd. I agree some of the fill was lame, but the theme was so different I gave it points for creativity -- not just the plus signs, but all the other theme answers that @Lewis pointed out. I'll even forgive the pretense that LIAISE is a rel word.

Aketi 11:29 AM  

I kinda like today's SMILE replacing yesterday's potentially cavity ridden dentition.

Roo Monster 11:34 AM  

How the heck did autocorrupt change John to Hogn?? Is there a way to turn it off?

Roi

Masked and Anonymous 11:34 AM  

Double debuts! Congratz, Talitha and Andrea darlins.

Luved the 51-shady square look. Only room left over in the grid for 72 words. Luved INDI-GENE. Luved the blogsub write-up [primo bullets].
And especially Luved the grid's "+" signs, participatin in the arithmetic part of the theme.

Interestin collateral summage:
* ATE + LUC = LUC, suspectin nuthin, havin not read the 3-D clue, went on his first date with Wanda the Cannibal...
* STIR + WEIR = Huh? Well … it's almost STIR WEIR(d). [sooo… Incomplete entry from Wanda's recipe book?]
* ZIT + HAI = Renown Japanese show of respect for skin problems. [Germans, OTOH, would say "ZIT! NEIN!"]

9-D should be in on the theme somehow. Answer was FUELING, which therefore confuses the M&A.

Cool, very different WedPuz. WEIR(d) thUmbsUp. Thanx, Ms. Randall.

Masked & Anonymo4Us

p.s.
On the 8th Day of Christmas, my true luv gave to m&e…

NINE NINES a-FUELING. [This just fouls every day-um thing up! Don't make m&e come down there, Shortzmeister.]

Seven LOREes LAI-ing,
Six AYS a-SOAPING.

Five. Gold. U's.*
… Four POT SHOPS,
Three ENTREPRENEUR do-OEUVREs,
Two Tiny Feys,
And a SIRENE in a FERRITE tree.


**gruntz**

David Schinnerer 11:38 AM  

Now THAT'S how to say you don't like a puzzle without being a total @-hole, Michael! Nice critique, Andrea and thank you for stepping in.

And then you are brave enough (or masochistic enough) to read the comments!

And...my wife manages an independent bookstore that has been in Pasadena for over 100 years. Thank you for the gentle urging to frequent independents...not only are we not allowed to buy ANYTHING off of the small (often family) business killer (A**z*n), we're not allowed to utter the name. Like Voldemort, sorta. C'mon people, it's not so hard to get off the couch/computer and walk into a bookstore!

AND...you have the most important job on the entire planet.

Hope you have a wonderful holiday and enjoy your winter break.

Anonymous 11:38 AM  

Lena Dunham makes Joy Behar look smart.

David Schinnerer 11:46 AM  

So upon going back and reading the posts here, I hearken back to my post about the "anonymous" posters. Only a couple at the top had anything to say...all the others are just inane little comments that have no relevance or wit. So see "anonymous" skip over it and keep reading.

Time Magazine Editorial Staff 12:03 PM  

For ninety years we have been naming our annual Person of the Year. Over the course of that time many, many changes have taken place. Most obviously, we've changed from Man of the Year to Person of the Year. Maybe more importantly, we've moved away from recognizing only people whose actions were for the good to recognizing great influence for both good and evil. We've recognized groups, and even inanimate things (youtube was once our person of the year).

Up until this year once we've made our decision we've stuck by it. However this year, today actually, we've had to revoke our previous selection and make a new one. We trust that you all will agree with our decision, however shocking it may be. As important as this year's people are, the brave women who not only survived abuse but came forward, faced social approbation and ridicule so that others may not have to suffer the same in the future , they have been eclipsed. Been eclipsed by others who show greater braver, face greater repercussions than they.

We are sure that one and all will agree Anonymous posters making fun of Lena Dunham on a crossword blog deserve our notice and our adulation. Let us all take a moment to reflect on there merit as human beings, and to stand in awe of them.

Carola 12:05 PM  

I was amused by a tribute puzzle to a number, with it's combination of 3 ways to get there via plus signs and 6 examples - in parallel placement, no less: SEPT and TEAM, CLOUD and LIVES, NONA and 9's homophone NEIN (also amusingly negating itself as a cheat).
Also liked the TEAM of longer Ts - TOUCAN, TORPEDOS, TORNADO, CORD next to POWER. Back to homophones - we MEET UP but METE out.

jb129 12:06 PM  

Welcome Andrea!

Yes, never read the puzzle before you do it which I will never do again. First of all, I thought it was Rex.

Secondly, when I saw it was "Easy" I thought I would love it.

I didn't .... sorry Talitha.

Bob Mills 12:11 PM  

Too bad the constructor didn't think of another way to get to NINE (THREEXTHREE).

Nancy 12:11 PM  

@jberg (11:57) -- Somehow, I don't mind LIAISE nearly as much as I mind REUNE.

@newspaperguy (10:41) -- Terrific zinger. You newspaper guys do have a way with words.

Re the many, many, many Star Wars clues that keep finding their way into the NYT crossword: I see that a movie called "The Last Jedi" has just opened. Does that mean that after this movie, the series will finally be Over? One can always hope.

Malsdemare 12:14 PM  

Initially (i.e., before reading the review and blog), I was pretty indifferent to this puzzle. But even though I saw the CANDYCANEs yesterday — though didn't recognize they were made of candy — today I completely missed the plus signs (hi @Nancy, good on you!). I live in Illinois — TORNADO alley — and we don’t call them twisters; wonder if that’s another regionalism. Fun fact: Our garage doors are built to withstand 120 mph winds so I have this image of the house flattened and the doors standing as sentinals facing the destruction to the west.

SONANT was new and NEIN was frustrating; I learned German via Pimsleur audio programs so how the words are spelled is a mystery. But given how one says NEIN the numeral, that spelling was just wrong. I think having the CLOUD types in the grid would have been most excellent but what a challenge for any constructor, much less a new one laid up with broken bones.

@David Schinnerer, here in the home town of one of the world’s great universities, we have NO independent bookstores. We have used bookstores (two) and Barnes and Noble. So when I buy hardbound books, I order from a bookstore in Durango (Maria’s) or Marquette MI (Snowbound Books). But that’s expensive. I hope your spouse’s store is thriving.

Thank you Andrea and Tabitha for a pleasant Wednesday.

Tom Rowe 12:14 PM  

Good job, Andrea. Hard to have much to say of interest in a puzzle this bland other than the math stuff sucks. Least interesting theme I can recall.

Malsdemare 12:16 PM  

Oops! Talitha. Sorry.

Candy Darling 12:19 PM  

@David Schitterer, 11:46 AM, no one cares what you think.

Anonymous 12:22 PM  

And your comment about the puzzle is??????

Buggy Bunny 12:29 PM  

I've never watched the show, so her name is LEah. she'll get around to change it soon.

Joe Bleaux 12:39 PM  

I found this NYT debut by a student (albeit in law school) -- who designed her own grid, yet -- to be an arguably better-than-average WEDNESDAY puzzle. And I find puzzling the harshness of a lot of the criticism. Talitha Randall could be forgiven for responding to some of it with a big 🖕. Hey, ''tis the season! Let's put the Chrys back in Chrysler and lighten up, folks.

Aketi 12:39 PM  

@Nancy, sorry to burst your bubble. There is at least one more Star Wars movie to come. VIII just set the stage for NINE.

JC66 12:55 PM  

@Nancy

Based on your proclivity to boast about your ignorance of pop culture, I'm surprised you know who Lena Dunham is.

GHarris 1:06 PM  

Knew weir from the fine Irish play, The Weir by Conor McPherson put on in New York a number of years ago. Alas, was sunk by the a in sonant, a word so esoteric that I had to override the insistent changes made by autocorrect in order to enter it here.

brucery 1:23 PM  

Nice job on the review, Avery! 👍

Alysia 1:26 PM  

You know what I just realized?

Of course not, so I'll tell you.

If you add up all of the letters in the combination of spelled numbers that total "nine," it ALWAYS comes to 8.

Zero + Nine = 8
One + Eight = 8
Two + Seven = 8
Three + Six = 8
Four + Five = 8

And what's better? 8+1 = 9, and 81 is the square of 9.

There ya go.

Anonymous 1:37 PM  

Time mag editor,

Me thinks YOU need an editor. I only read your last graph, but surely your last "to" was superfluous. I'm no fan of anonymous comments, but if you're going for sarcasm, try to have the wit to back it up.

Henry Luce

Anonymous 2:08 PM  

I loved your comments, but had you constructed this puzzle, I’d never have completed it. We apparently frequent similar web sites.
barb

mathgent 2:22 PM  

For those who did some of the puzzles in Sunday's supplement.

I think that there is a mistake in the answers to Word Doodles. I checked the answers because I couldn't get 3D. I probably should have gotten it but quit too soon. Anyway, in checking the other answers, 4C seems wrong. I had "cold spell" but that isn't the official answer. And I can't make any sense out of the official answer.

Pete 2:28 PM  

@"Henry Luce" - if you're no fan of anonymous comments, why then did you just make one? If you're going to correct peoples' grammar then a) Don't, and b) be 100% correct rather than that in some cases you are correct, in others you're not, depending on the intent of the author, and c) go for the obvious first (there vs they're) to establish even the tiniest bit of credibility. Finally, if you're going to sit in judgement of wit and the quality of sarcasm it's generally considered good form to actually read the entire text, not just the last "graph". I know, using whole words is difficult. It's a job for grownups.

semioticus (shelbyl) 2:47 PM  

Meh, but a better meh than yesterday.

Fill: If 3-letter words comprise less than 15% of your puzzle, you're immediately in my good graces. There are ADIN, AIDA, ESTE and all, but not at an annoying rate. Unfortunately, there's also not one entry that makes you go "nice!"

Theme/long answers: Good effort. The ceiling is not very high for such a theme, but it tries to do everything it can graphically (plus signs) and conceptually (revealer related answers spread around).

Clues: I liked "had a date, say", and then the word "date" made an encore in the clue for ZIT which made me smile. The rest was OK.

Pleasurability: SW corner, with EDENIC and SONANT stacked together gave me more trouble than I would have liked, but the rest of the puzzle was really easy so I don't mind that late challenge. I mean, a puzzle that doesn't bother you at all is pleasant. Not every puzzle can be super fun.

GRADE: B-, 3 stars.

P.S.: I think I'm in a good mood this week. The majority of people really didn't like these last two puzzles.

Judah 3:05 PM  

So many black cheater squares! 51 black squares!

Joe Dipinto 3:07 PM  

A humdrum affair overall. I didn't even notice the plus sign squares. Since each clue read "number & number", I just read the answers as "one & eight", etc. It would have been more interesting if 22, 34, and 47 had been removed from the clues and those boxes had been unnumbered. Then you'd actually have to see and use the plus signs to make the answers work.

Joe Dipinto 3:17 PM  

@mathgent 2:22 -- I haven't checked the answers yet but I have "cold spell" too, which certainly seems correct. Still stumped by 2C and 5B.

kitshef 3:28 PM  

@mathgent 2:22 - yes, the printed answer on 4C is definitely incorrect.

Anonymous 3:38 PM  

Man, what a relief that people who actually understand economics, and not just divisive politics, are making legislation in our country. AT&T and FedEx just announced massive capex spending, employee bonuses and new hiring plans. Pretty sure most of the us vs. them types in this country, like Rex, don't even know what capex is.

puzzlehoarder 3:43 PM  

I need to correct myself. While NONA doesn't have its own entry in Webster's the way the prefix "non-" does it is buried in the definition of the word "nonagenarian. The Times puzzle has only used that word once decades ago. The word "nonagon" has received it's share of use under Shortz, I've just never noted it. Interestingly both these words and I'm assuming the prefix NONA itself start with a long O sound which is news to me.

Appropriate to the appearance of SONANT, the vowels of NONA are then pronounced identically in the crossing words DAKOTA and SONANT. That A is what gave me trouble. The sound it represents is a slippery one and it can be applied to any vowel or combination thereof. I pay little attention to pronunciation or spelling for that matter. This is an odd characteristic for an avowed word lover. Today it came back to bite me.

Anonymous 3:55 PM  

Nine was indeed the theme (no clues were centered around 'cloud' at all). I had a hard time with Sonant and Fueling Station. Nobody, and I mean nobody, calls it a fueling station; it's a Filling Station. A more appropriate clue is needed there. Other than that, once I grokked the theme, it was fairly easy. Would've liked to have seen a bit more done with it (for example, placing that clue at 9 Down, for example)

Anonymous 3:55 PM  

Rosie O'Donnell to Ben Shapiro: "Suck my dick Ben."

Another rocket scientist that one.

Larry 4:00 PM  

This puzzle was so lame that I actually felt compelled to comment. SONANT? INDIGENE? Seriously? This one and yesterday's stinker make me think that I ought to try constructing.

Nancy 4:01 PM  

@mathgent, @Joe Dipinto, @kitshef -- I also had "cold spell", which is obviously the right answer; discussed it off-blog with @mathgent and then, as promised, phoned Will Shortz. While Will has always had a NYT phone # reachable by the general public, he doesn't anymore. I got the response: "You have reached a nonworking number at the New York Times." Now Will used to be my best bud; I wouldn't be here, but for him. Some time in 2013 or 2014 I called him to praise a clever, clever trick puzzle. I left a message on his machine. Two days later he called me back and mentioned both this blog and Wordplay, saying that if I loved xwords so much I might enjoy participating in a crossword puzzle blog. How times change. I ended up calling someone supposedly in "Crossword Puzzles" and getting the voicemail of someone who answered "Communications". (There was, incidentally, "no Operator to take your call.") So who knows? I left "Communications" a message that 4C was wrong -- which it is.

David Schinnerer 4:23 PM  

@Candy Darling 12:19pm: Wow, now THAT was clever and original...NO ONE has ever done that to my name. Do you write for SNL? Hopefully a wit like yours is not wasted.

And that comment hurts because I post here solely with the purpose of pleasing you,"Candy".

But thank you for ultimately proving my point about the majority of "anonymous" posters (even the ones who suddenly make up an adorable name to post under..."Candy")

Awaiting your reply as I know trolls like you can't keep away from a place they can spew their lame-ass crap with no repercussions...in "anonimity". Just keep proving my point, you can't help yourself.

David Shitterer

Odd Sock 4:25 PM  

@ Anon 3:55 & 3:55
That nitwit probably said that because she has one!!
I had filling station for awhile too. Surprised nobody else
mentioned that.

Shelby Glidden 4:40 PM  

@Andy Capp 11:46 PM My favorite part of the puzzle was the answer "smile" for the Mother Teresa quote. Does it take someone thinking they're "a bit of a bad boy" to proffer lame contributions?

Shelby Glidden 4:46 PM  

@Andrea Avery 8:14 AM Thanks for your great write-up. 😀

Roo Monster 4:56 PM  

Just want to add that I never use pre-made grids, that is, ones with the blocks already in. It seems like you have to customize the grid for your theme entries, no? Even then leases I use my own patterns. Just sayin. :-)

Maybe one day you'll see a puz of mine... :-)

RooMonster

AW 4:57 PM  

Thank you, @QuasiMojo, for articulating the frustration I've been feeling too often now with the Times puzzles, namely that the quality of words and clues has been sacrificed to create stupid grid tricks. Six clues in this puzzle are wasted on simple numbers so we can have plus-signs in the grid. The fill veers from Monday-simple (ZIT, LLCS, TOUCAN, SASS, SWEDE) to obscure (SONANT, OVEST, LUC Jacquet, THOM Yorke). Where's the editing? I won't even bother mentioning the questionably clued stuff (TORNADO, HRS, READER) mentioned in Andrea's review and by some of the commenters here. I think it's great to give new constructors a chance to forge their craft, but not in the Times, for which people are paying. All these fancy grid tricks belong on some puzzle page, not the Times crosswords.

Roo Monster 5:01 PM  

Themelesses. Someone please tell me how to turn off autocorrect.

Roo

Shelby Glidden 5:13 PM  

@David Schinnerer 11:46 AM "We shall never know all the good that a simple ____ can do." Aha, you're a native SOUTHERN Californian. No doubt, this explains the truculence (concerning Rex.) 😬

Anonymous 5:18 PM  

Please young ladies all: Do not see Lena Dunham as a role model.

TomAz 5:27 PM  

If you think THOM Yorke is "obscure" then you and I live in different universes. LENA Dunham, I have no clue about though.

I don't think I know what the big chunks of black are supposed to represent (or, more likely, what the white shapes are as a result of the black chunks being carved out). The plus signs though, I got that right off.

I thought this puzzle was fine. I like variety and "stupid grid tricks" can be fun now and again. Certainly much better than a puzzle filled with B-list actors names constructed with rebuses (yes, I still haven't gotten over that one -- I think that puzzle actually offended me, which probably says a lot more about me than it does about the puzzle).

I had FilLING rather than FUELING at first. Do any people ever actually call them "FUELING stations"? (I know, people don't call them filling stations any more, but at least they did at one point in mid 20th century America).


Shelby Glidden 5:29 PM  

@Joe Dipinto 3:07 "Hey, Joe... where you goin' with that puzzle in your hand...?" Dare i say you and David brighten my day a little. I must say, somehow, i had failed to pick up that the Little Mermaid was a redhead. Took several crosses. Happy holidays! 😀

Joe Dipinto 5:31 PM  

@Nancy -- thanks, we'll see what happens. I just looked at the answer key and I also think 4a is technically wrong: the visual more accurately represents the *negative* statement of the phrase (which is what I had as the answer).

John Hamilton 5:44 PM  

Nice job, Andrea.

Joe Dipinto 6:27 PM  

@Shelby -- dare I say Happy Holidays to you as well! (Now if only I had a dollar for each time someone's said to me "Hey Joe, where you goin' with that _____ in your hand"...)

QuasiMojo 6:27 PM  

@AW, thank you. I agree wholeheartedly. @Roo, if you are using an iPhone, check tour settings in the General section under Keyboard options.

Anonymous 6:36 PM  

That Lena Dunham is D.U.M.B.

Nancy 6:59 PM  

Definitely agree on 4A, Joe D

BarbieBarbie 7:49 PM  

In my puzzle there is no 4A or 4 C, only a 4D. I’m so confused.

JC66 8:17 PM  

@BarbieBarbie

Check their previous posts.. i think they're talking about a puzzle that ran in the Sunday special Crossword section.

Rod Mann 9:06 PM  

Where’s Rexie? Still curled up in his safe space because Trump’s tax bill passed?

Anonymous 9:14 PM  

Hey Rod up your anus 9:06 PM, go fuck yourself Vulva Lips.

Warren Howie Hughes 10:24 PM  

Was leaning to Idyllic instead of EDENIC @57A!

AbbIzzMad 11:22 PM  

Nice critique, Andrea. I hope to see you and Aunt Faye back again.

Mlle Gateau 12:34 AM  

Andrea was a fabulous guest blogger!

Anonymous 10:00 AM  

It's too bad the syndicated button on your page doesn't work about 1/3 of the time. Harder for those of us who don't get the current NYT puzzle.

Unknown 6:17 PM  

My first ever comment here. I thought this puzzle was very hard for Wednesday. “Weir,” “Sonant,” “indigene,” and “liaise” are obscure. Love your write up.

pcardout 1:08 PM  

A problem before a big date is a "zit". 32 down. Your eye must have skipped to 33 down, which is "forsaken". "Anonymous" is the idiot of the day. Lets be good to each other... dammit!

Mark Rukavina 9:29 AM  

Let me play Rex for this puzzle. It was so bad it didn’t deserve a write up.

thefogman 10:29 AM  

Another misfile by Mr. Shortz. It's a bit too easy for a Wednesday. The theme was okay in a peanut butter sandwich kind of way, but not much more. This is the puzzle we should have gotten yesterday.

spacecraft 11:02 AM  

Wow, 51 out of 225 dark--or approximately 2/9! Lotta black. Plus signs scream at you; how they don't even get a mention in the lead blog is a mystery. The theme is impressively dense but unimpesssively simple, and the density forces some unpleasantness.

Can we end this seemingly endless tennis game already? I mean, DOD SERENA ought to be able to put it away after about fifty ADINs. Ugh. That term only exists in informal scoring anyway. In a tournament it's "Advantage [player's name]." I hate ADIN. We got off on the wrong foot with green-painty MEETUP and awkward comparative TERSER.

I was able to change FilLING to FUELING by just meshing a J with the I and a couple of cross strokes to the L, so it doesn't look like a writeover. Tough PPPs (THOM, MARC, LENA) interspersed with Mondayish clues give a very uneven feel to this. That it's a debut is not surprising, but there's some promise here. I shall encourage with a par.

Sloaka 11:06 AM  

I liked the physical look of the puzzle from the start, which is something I usually don't notice. Theme was cake; revealed all too easily by the nine LIVES clue among just about all of the rest. Maybe I'm the only one who didn't get TEAM right away? There are so many NINE things related to baseball and...isn't a team a lot more than nine players? I guess I overthought it. I give it an A for aesthetics, but a C for content including some bad fill (which is always the case it seems).

Grade: B-

Diana, LIW 11:48 AM  

I'm with them what thinks this was Tuesday, and yesterday was Wednesday. So confusing.

NINE isn't the biggest theme ever, nor is it horrid. The cross references were less annoying than usual.

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords

Anonymous 1:48 PM  

How you do you count a single letter that needs be fixed? I knew it was either ADIN or ADEN. And then FORSAKE and FORSAKES and FORSAKEN.


Thoughts?

Burma Shave 1:56 PM  

TWO METE

If TOUCAN LIAISE and MEETUP and ONE must say, "Please?"
you NEED to SMILE and say, "Yup." and not POSEAS ATEASE.

--- DAKOTA MENDEL

Burma Shave 2:06 PM  

TWO METE

If TOUCAN LIAISE and MEETUP and ONE must say, Please?"
you NEED to SMILE and say, "Yup." and not POSEAS ATEASE.

--- DAKOTA MANDEL

Tom M. 2:17 PM  

Nice, gentle review by Andrea Avery of a debut puzzle.

rainforest 2:32 PM  

I wish that the theme wasn't given away so easily at 1A. That and the appearance of the grid were the aspects of the puzzle that hit me early. So yes, very easy, but the virtual absence of dreck and the density of the theme were admirable.

I didn't see no stinkin' clouds.

Basically, a nice Wednesday diversion.

Anonymous 3:47 PM  

From Syndication Land

There is a reason why, for most grids, the NYT allows a maximum of 38 black squares. This one has almost 50, and it reduces the grid to short, uninteresting fill. I can't believe anyone thought this theme of NINE was worth publishing! Maybe if it ran on a Monday it would have been tolerable. I want my Wednesday puzzle back!

thefogman 5:39 PM  

Revolution 9...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HWmvbxGpra4

Burma Shave 6:46 PM  

TWO METE

If TOUCAN LIASE and MEETUP and ONE must say, “Please”
you NEED to SMILE and say, “Yup” and not POSEAS ATEASE.

--- SERENA MENDEL

Tom M. 9:08 PM  

@Burma Shave-- Brilliant.

Anonymous 10:18 AM  

Want some bonus math? Count the blocks of three or more black squares (60 across). Also, rotate the grid clockwise 45 degrees. Across what is now the center you'll see three single black squares on either side of an X (3 X 3 being another way to make 60 across)

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