Corporate raider Carl / MON 12-4-17 / Falafel holders / Three-time Frazier foe

Monday, December 4, 2017

Constructor: Alan Arbesfeld

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME:  Colloquial expressions with first words that all end in "-ay" and are followed by "it." (Yes, that's the best description I've got.)

  • "SAY IT AIN'T SO!" (17A: "Tell me the rumors are false!")
  • PAY IT FORWARD (28A: 2000 Kevin Spacey/Helen Hunt film)
  • "MAY IT BE" (38A: Oscar-nominated Enya song from 2001's "The Lord of the Rings")
  • LAY IT ON THICK (48A: Offer effusive praise)
  • PLAY IT BY EAR (62A: Improvise)
Word of the Day: "MAY IT BE" (Oscar-nominated Enya song from 2001's "The Lord of the Rings") —

"May it Be" is a song from Irish recording artist Enya. It was composed by Enya and Roma Ryan for Peter Jackson's 2001 film The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. The song entered the German Singles Chart at number one in 2002 and was performed by Enya at the 74th Academy Awards. "May It Be" was acclaimed from music critics and received nominations for Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song, Academy Award for Best Original Song and Grammy Award nomination for Best Song Written for Visual Media. (wikipedia)
• • •

Hi, everyone!

My name is Clare Carroll, and I’m filling in for Annabel, who has finals this week. (Good luck!) I’m a senior history major at the school that seems to be the most commonly chosen for crossword puzzles. Any guesses? Four letters… Ivy League… a student is an Eli...slogan is “lux et veritas.” Yale!

We also have maybe the cutest mascot in history, a bulldog named Handsome Dan.
Not to be a Debbie Downer or anything, but I thought overall this puzzle was very meh. Doing the puzzle, I thought the theme was something about common phrases with “it” in the middle. I didn’t even realize until I’d finished that all of the first words of the answers rhymed. That just didn’t strike me as very clever. Also, I have a bone to pick with the Times: Why is Kevin Spacey in this puzzle? First of all, I don’t know the movie. Second of all: NO! Spacey should not be allowed anywhere – including in puzzles – again.

There were a few good clues, but most were kinda flat. In general, I found a few parts of this puzzle hard because I’m still pretty new to puzzles and am getting used to some of the older references. For one, I had no idea that 36A: Leave rolling in the aisles was SLAY because I have never heard that expression before. I know that RCA is a fairly common crossword puzzle answer, but that doesn’t change the fact that I’ve never seen one. I also have no idea who Carl ICAHN is. I see he was big in the ‘80s – as in, a decade before I was born.

I didn’t get a couple of the pop culture answers that I’m usually pretty good at and felt like I should have known. I’m a huge country music fan, but I have no idea who Travis TRITT is. I kept trying to make Randy work there instead. And I feel like I should have known the 2000 movie with the person who shall not be named again, even if it isn’t a super-well-known film. I’m also an incredibly big Lord of the Rings fan, but I had no idea that MAY IT BE was a song in one of the movies. Plus, everyone who’s anyone knows that “Into the West” is the best LOTR song!

One of the clues I especially liked was 33D: Spears at the dinner table for ASPARAGUS. My first thought went to forks, but I pretty quickly realized what the answer was. Two others really fooled me. I LOLed for 7D: Neighbor of the radius being ULNA. My first thought again went elsewhere, because I assumed the answer had to do with the radius of a circle. Another one that got me was RANGE for 58A: Cowboys’ home. I could not get the idea out of my head that the clue had something to do with the (hated) Dallas Cowboys, AT&T stadium, Jerry Jones, etc...

My TV/movie knowledge helped me out in the puzzle. (See, Dad, I watch TV for a reason!) I recently watched an episode of “Friends” where Ross makes a reservation using Winona RYDER’s name. So, her name was fresh in my head. I also knew about Joe PESCI, of course, because “My Cousin Vinny” is my all-time favorite movie. And, I immediately knew ICE-T was the rapper turned actor, because I used to watch “Law and Order: SVU” all the time. Dun dun.

Anyhoo, thanks for letting me be a little part of CrossWorld! Having to really dissect what I thought about the puzzle and each clue individually was a fun experiment. Now, I’m off to write 10 pages for my senior thesis and another 10-page paper. This should be fun!

Signed, Clare Carroll, a happy Eli. 

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


    Pat 12:16 AM  

    A history major complaing about answers that happened "before I was born."


    thfenn 12:19 AM  

    I'm the first one here? Never. I breezed through a Monday in record time and it got a 'medium'? Never.
    Feel like I ought to have more to say an d all I can come up with is to argue that the glowing part of a fire is COALS not flame. Not much else even vaguely interesting.

    Clare, welcome and thanks for the write-up. Hope your thesis goes well and you're enjoying Yale.

    Jyqm 12:35 AM  

    Not to mention that Carl Icahn was in the news just this year. He was to join the Dump administration until a major exposé in the New Yorker made him too much of a liability (which for this crew is really saying something).

    tkincher 1:07 AM  

    The aforementioned ICAHN article (which is a pretty interesting read):

    A few seconds shy of my fastest Monday time on this one, personally. I did like the longer downs like ENUMERATE and ASPARAGUS which seem rare on Mondays. Winona Forever!

    Yale Law Alumnus (not a Clinton, Thomas, Alito, or Sotomayor) 1:18 AM  

    Thanks, Clare. But if you're going to tell us you're a senior at a four-letter word university in New Haven, you have to answer the most important question about that city, where do you go for apizza: Sally's, Pepe's (or Modern, or Bar)? BTW, my answer is Pepe's, Modern, Sally's, Bar.

    Thomaso808 4:08 AM  

    An easy, fun Monday romp with a cute theme and maybe just a taste of misdirection, but nothing to discourage a newbie. Perfect for a Monday.

    Clare, thanks for the interesting write-up, and your Joe PESCI comment shows you have good taste. However, “May It Be” gets my vote for best LOTR song ever. Not to take anything away from “Into the West”, which was the song playing over the credits in “Return of the King” and which won an Oscar. “May It Be” was the song playing over the credits in “The Fellowship of the Ring”, had the hauntingly beautiful Enya vocals, with lyrics that were spot on to that point of the story:

    May it be an evening star shines down upon you
    May it be when darkness falls your heart will be true
    You walk a lonely road
    Oh! How far you are from home

    Mornie utulie
    Believe and you will find your way
    Mornie alantie
    A promise lives within you now

    May it be the shadow's call will fly away
    May it be your journey on to light the day
    When the night is overcome
    You may rise to find the sun

    The lines “Mornie utilie” and “Mornie alantie” in the chorus above are from Tolkien’s fictional Elvish language and mean “darkness has come” and “darkness has fallen”. Pretty awesome lyrics in that song.

    “May It Be” also got nominated for an Oscar. Note to Enya: don’t go up against Randy Newman when an Oscar is at stake!

    Anonymous 4:18 AM  

    This played easy for me. I was twelve clues into the acrosses before I even had to stop to think, let alone look at the downs. Didn't even notice the theme until you mentioned it, but it seemed like a fine Monday. Very little garbage, and a few decently long downs. Nothing clever about the clueing, but it is a Monday, so I thought this was decent.

    Anonymous 5:33 AM  

    Dow futures up 200. As a famous Kevin Spacey type once said, "It's the economy stupid".

    Lewis 5:44 AM  

    By the way, 25D -- the anagram of PEA -- is a continuation of yesterday's puzzle.

    I think Clare's excellent and honest review (thank you, Clare!) gives good insight into the reaction of one "still pretty new to puzzles" to a Monday puzzle. I'm guessing many of us veterans flew through this without a hitch, whereas there were wordplay stumbles for Clare. Also, while a Monday theme needs to be simple, it also needs to be interesting and likeable, because even newcomers can find it "meh".

    Like Clare, I did flinch at seeing Spacey's name. From deep inside a voice shouted "Really? Now?"

    While the theme was very simple, I think Alan ran it dry. All the theme answers were nicely in the language, mostly colloquial, but I can't for the life of me think of any more. Maybe you can.

    As your resident alphadoppeltotter, in which I inexplicably track the double letter count, I must report to you that this puzzle has an unusually low number (four, where anything under five is highly unusual). Last time this happened was July.

    Anonymous 6:38 AM  

    For a History major you show an incredible disdain for the past. What's your area of specialty? "Things That Happened to ME"?

    Evidently the LUX in New Haven doesn't illuminate the VERITAS very far from your dorm room door. Grow up.

    Z 7:03 AM  

    Jesus. Not even 7:00 a.m. yet and already a couple of asses posting. Sigh. It’s pretty humorous that anyone thinks ICAHN will be anything more than an historical footnote, but you guys go ahead and do you.

    Pretty much with our Happy Eli here. What leapt out at me is a NW corner with PESCI/ICAHN/ALI. That’s a lot of PPP to start any puzzle, let alone a Monday. This puzzle manages to stay below the 33% threshold only because it is a 78 worder. 24 Pop Culture, Product Names and Proper Nouns is pushing it on a Monday and is going to hit some people’s outhouses.

    Also, anyone have anything better on the theme? I hadn’t even recognized the SAY/PAY/MAT/LAY/PLAY element. Maybe a creepy clown revealer woulda helped IT.

    Eric NC 7:03 AM  

    Anon 6:38
    You’re a jerk

    kitshef 7:06 AM  


    chefbea 7:34 AM  

    Fun, easy puzzle!! Love Neil Diamond and asparagus!! Thanks for the writ up Clare and good luck on your thesis

    Hungry Mother 7:35 AM  

    Nice and easy. I found the mini harder.

    Anonymous 7:44 AM  

    I blazed through the puzzle and it was over before the enjoyment even began. I suppose there isn't anyone quite ready to take over Rex's job especially when the substitute bloggers needs a substitute! This puzzle didn't really sizzle but it is a Monday. I suppose one could complain that the answers leaned toward more toward Gen-X (which I am) but I think the problem is more that Clare is on the young side.

    Kevin Spacey 7:47 AM  

    Poor babies triggered by mentioning Kevin Spacey's name.


    Two Ponies 7:49 AM  

    Pleasant Monday with enough thought required to keep my interest.

    Poor clue for flame. Embers glow.

    If substituting Let for Rent is supposed to be a clever misdirect let me cast a vote for ditching it. We see it too often in puzzles but I have never seen it in real life on this side of the pond.

    A huge country music fan who's never heard of Travis Tritt? OK, but I'm not a country fan and I knew it.

    I imagine the Kevin S. clue will generate some outrage as the comments progress. Let's see how far this goes.

    clk 7:51 AM  

    I don’t think of FLAMEs as glowing. Really wanted ember there.

    This was by far my slowest Monday ever. Pro tip: don’t doze off with your puzzle app open!

    Aketi 7:52 AM  

    I like the TEN and the UNO crossing ENUMERATE even though it's a count down. Also has crisscrossing ATEs.

    @Lewis, and 25D matches up with the more obvious 19A.

    MAY IT BE makes me want to ask "what"?
    You could finish it by adding SO and THICK with your fingers spread apart to indicate your wish for big thick TUNA SALAD sandwich (but my preference would tend towards a big juicy roast beef sandwich free of ECOLI).

    Victor 7:54 AM  

    Expanding on @Lewis' comment: I've never thought that Monday puzzles were aimed at those of us experienced in puzzle-solving. The way to entice newbies into crosswords is to have very high-quality easy puzzles, and the Times' Mondays is where I refer people who want to give them a try. Seeing this puzzle through Clare's eyes validated the concept, and gave insight into how it appears to her. Thanks, Clare. I thought the puzzle was very well-done for a Monday with just enough trickiness and nice long downs.

    Patrick Butler 8:04 AM  

    She wasn’t complaining about them, just noting that she didn’t know them. And why should a history major know RCA and SLAY? I don’t remember those from my history classes. Nice welcome for a new blogger, Pat and Jyqm.

    Anonymous 8:13 AM  

    If you’re going to ban Kevin Spacey the pederast you should also ban Elihu Yale the slave trader.

    Anonymous 8:18 AM  

    Futures are just speculation. Anybody can predict anything that's going to happen. I'm going to win the Powerball, get hooked on drugs, lose it all, be broke, and end up in the looney bin.
    See? That has a chance just like Dow futures.

    Anonymous 8:23 AM  

    Ooh Kevin Spacey!
    Let the games begin.

    Anonymous 8:49 AM  

    Hell, we had a rapist co-construct a puzzle this year, unless you're prepared to call Kathleen Willey and Juanita Broaddrick both liars.

    Sir Hillary 8:56 AM  

    Puzzle is not so good.
    Comments are worse.
    See you tomorrow.

    Anonymous 9:04 AM  

    Fun for a Monday. My pop culture IQ is so low anymore that I'm just happy to finish anything that puts up even a small fight.

    Agree with @Sir Hillary, the loons are out in force already. But when you have a blogger who brings a political bent to his comments, it's gonna flush them out like a Spaniel.

    OldCarFudd 9:15 AM  

    Without taking sides as to whether the people currently being outed for bad behavior should not appear in our entertainment, consider the lead time for NYT puzzles. Some of them are approved months before publication. Should the puzzles be thrown out, so the constructor's work goes for nothing? Should the constructors be made to revise their puzzles to eliminate the offending names? This gets a bit close to guilt by association.

    Nancy 9:17 AM  

    Welcome to the blog, Clare, and thanks for putting a ton of work into your IN DEPTH review of the puzzle, when obviously Yale is a place that keeps all its students very, very busy. And you're right -- "meh" is indeed the word for this puzzle. Unlike you, I did notice that all those words rhymed and what I said when I noticed was "So what." In fact, I'm amazed you found so much to say about the puzzle. I really have nothing to say about it at all.

    Anonymous 9:28 AM  

    Agreed, Kevin Spacey should be killed and erased from history.

    Anonymous 9:35 AM  

    My stocks are soaring! Adios Obama!

    Canon Chasuble 9:35 AM  

    Clare is a college senior, for God's sake, and some of you whiners should cut her some slack, and don't jump all over her because she hasn't yet experienced the totality of the cultural and historical universe yet. For me, though, this puzzle really was so-so, and I agree with some comments, such as those which dispute flame and coals and embers. As for "Spacey" I never knew it was in there until I read the blog because I must have filled in the letters going the other way. And, Clare, this Crimson alumnus (a history major, yet) says don't ever be discouraged by ignorant others from expressing your own opinions.

    Anonymous 9:40 AM  

    Yea, and once the tax update goes through, there goes all your profits! Thanks T.Rump

    GILL I. 9:49 AM  

    I vote that @Annabel and @Clare critique all Monday puzzles. What a fresh take and interesting. I remember struggling on Monday - back in the dark ages. My English wasn't all that hot and I hadn't lived in the States for long. Pencil in my mouth, brows furrowed, trying to remember how to spell OOMO.
    Seeing a picture of Handsome Dan made finishing this MEH puzzle and coming here worth all the tea in China. That and re-listening my (also) favorite "Into the West."
    To add a few cents, This really felt OLD. Like its been done many times over. Its saving grace was seeing TUNA SALAD. I love TUNA SALAD. Whenever I'm sick, for some strange reason, I crave it. Just don't put any of those sweet pickles in the mix.
    I wish Alan had found room for PLAY IT AGAIN SAM.
    Thanks, @Clare for the fun write-up. Good luck to both you and @Annabel on your exams. (I'm so glad those days are long past me)
    Please come back again.

    evil doug 9:52 AM  

    Look: The young folks that Michael recruits for an occasional blog are clearly bright and earnest. But given the nature of discussions here, there are two possible outcomes: Either they will be overwhelmed by the bitter tone some here employ - - especially if they naively jump into the political quagmire - - or they will become steeled as they endure this little step toward full adulthood.

    I just hope Michael gives them advanced notice. Presuming he does, then they're fair game and we should react to their commentary as we would to his. I believe they can handle it without a safe space or trigger warnings....

    GILL I. 10:04 AM  

    @evil doug. I don't think "fair game" should out-weigh outrageous bad manners.
    @Clare...if you read the blog consistently, you'll know we have a few @Smeagol's. Sometimes, I think it's the same person. Rude, unimaginative and probably smelly. Which reminds me...when I opened the "Into The West" video, I sat through the "Poo-Pouri" ad before listening to the music. Thanks for the visual.

    newspaperguy 10:07 AM  

    Good blog, but I think it's odd that a history major wants to erase a name from pop culture because he allegedly committed offences that have been neither prosecuted nor proven. Even if he is eventually jailed doesn't mean we should get all het up about seeing his name in print. How many other names that appear in crosswords would that silly approach eliminate.

    evil doug 10:14 AM  

    "I don't think "fair game" should out-weigh outrageous bad manners."

    Of course not, Gill. That's a truism no matter *who* the blog author is. But as we've seen, bad manners will endure--so they'd best learn to deal with them. Or politely decline Michael's offer....

    Unknown 10:18 AM  

    i agree with pat here! seems a little unnecessary to complain about that!

    JOHN X 10:28 AM  

    Wow, there's some angry people this morning! What happened, did you all fall out of bed? Did you lose money gambling on football? (no, probably not this crowd) Did you run out of booze before breakfast? Lighten up!

    Clare, I thought your review was wonderful. Keep up the good work. Welcome to the cut-throat world of competitive crossword blogging!

    Anonymous 10:31 AM  

    Joy Behar had to Google a few of the answers.

    Tom 10:31 AM  

    Thanks Sir Hillary. Terse. True.

    Churlish Nabob 10:43 AM  

    Muffy from Yale thinks this puzz is poo-poo.

    Whippenpoof 10:48 AM  

    Boolah boolah

    Roo Monster 10:49 AM  

    Hey All !
    Not a terrible puz. Not sure the exact theme. Is it just like @Clare said, -ay it? OK. ICAHN dig it. :-)

    Kinda high 3 count. 22 of the little buggers. @weejects for sure.

    Off topic, my crazy phone decided to freeze Saturday. I couldn't do anything. You don't realize how much your life actually needs a phone until you don't have one. It's NUTty. /Topic

    Gofers cousin? ROO FER :-)


    Anonymous 10:53 AM  

    “I really have nothing to say about it at all.”

    jberg 10:55 AM  

    Great write-up, @Clare, thanks for stepping into the breach! And ignore all the trolls, as always.

    Some of the cluing seemed a little off. I mean, is there a non-glowing part of a fire? And to PLAY IT BY EAR is to reproduce a piece you have heard without needing written music, not to improvise.

    What this puzzle really needed was snappy revealer (not that I can think of one) that would make the theme seem more substantial than it is. Maybe @Loren will come up with something when she gets here, but I'm stuck.

    Also, trying to think of other possibilities. SLAY IT WITH KINDNESS ISN'T quite right. SAY IT WITH FLOWERS isn't as good as 17A. That's all I've got.

    Tim Aurthur 11:00 AM  

    Thanks, Clare, for the thoughtful comments. Re RCA, there's an interesting story involving one of its founders, David Sarnoff, and a fellow named Philo T. Farnsworth, who invented television but hasn't gotten a whole lot of credit for it.

    Whirred Whacks 11:01 AM  

    Relax everybody! Clare’s writeup is simply a parody of what a stereotypical millennial might think of the puzzle. Nice job, Clare. You had some people fooled!

    Anyway, what are you going to do when see Garrison Keillor’s name mentioned, or hear “A Prairie Home Companion” snippet? Or listen to a James Levine recording? Or watch a Charlie Rose interview from the 90s?

    Charles Flaster 11:10 AM  

    Liked the puzzle and the thin theme .
    Loved the review.
    Clare—sounds like you need a one hour seminar in CROSSWORDEASE.
    I’m familiar with phrases that mimic the four themers and some of them are not rated G.
    Thanks again for the review and regards to
    Thanks AA—Brooklyn rules!

    jb129 11:11 AM  

    Very very easy.

    Handsome Dan is a cutie!

    jb129 11:13 AM  

    BTW - why is it that all the people who post as "Anonymous" rarely have nice things to say & don't have the balls to post with their name?????

    Oldflappyfrommississappy 11:23 AM  

    “BTW - why is it that all the people who post as "Anonymous" rarely have nice things to say & don't have the balls to post with their name?????“

    “jb129”??!! I have no words.

    Mr. Benson 11:28 AM  

    Yeah, that school does wind up in crosswords a fair amount, but it has nothing on Eton, or Elon for that matter.

    Mr. Benson 11:31 AM  

    I'd have liked the theme a lot more if the last entry had been "say it don't spray it," though it would have to go 16-wide for that. Probably would have to delete "say it ain't so," but the trade-off would be worth it.

    Nancy 11:33 AM  

    "...become steeled as they endure this little step towards full adulthood." I suppose that's true now, but it wasn't always. It certainly wasn't a step towards full adulthood that I ever had to endure. Since the Rexblog skews old, Clare, a majority of the commenters here grew up blissfully free of the sickness, poison and rabid hatred of Internet trolls. Because, of course, there wasn't any Internet. If one was going to be bullied -- and in my day it pretty much didn't happen at all -- the perp had to be at a desk next to you in school, in your bunk at sleepaway camp, or in the cubicle next to you at work. Perfect strangers didn't attack you. First of all, there was no way they possibly could. And anyway, why on earth would they want to?

    I am sure you love technology, Clare, for all the many things it can bring you. But I don't envy you the ugliness it also engenders. At my age, I can avoid just about all of it. I continue to post here because I've made many friends -- some in real life and not just online. But, as Rachel would say, Watch This Space. Even before getting one foot out the door -- and it's a beautiful day in NYC -- the trolls will start to attack me. But maybe they'll focus on me and leave you alone for the rest of the day. Hope so. And I hope you'll be back. You wrote a thoughtful and well-crafted review and you certainly didn't deserve to be pilloried for it. To whoever attacked this smart and accomplished young woman (and as @GILL points out, it may be the same single person) shame on you. How can you look yourself/selves in the mirror?

    I commend people here like @GILL and @jberg

    jessica cohn 11:34 AM  

    Always am happy to finish. Yea!! Clues about current pop culture people who most likely will be forgotten in a few years drive me crazy . Don’t know rappers or country music musicians .

    Lewis 11:47 AM  

    My five favorite clues of last week:

    1. Walks or runs, for short (4)
    2. Not let (8)
    3. Grp. with lots of pointers (3)
    4. Something read with a scroll (5)
    5. Opposite of set (4)


    Mr. Benson 11:48 AM  

    The above comments on what a history major should and should not know are ridiculous. If a history department is teaching about the 2000 movie Pay it Forward, they're doing it wrong.

    I'm also inclined to agree that Kevin Spacey shouldn't be in a crossword now. It's not erasing history. Charles Manson would fit easily in many a crossword grid, but there's a reason you don't see him often -- crosswords are supposed to be about things that are fun for a wide audience to talk about. You're also not seeing Bill Cosby in too many crosswords these days. Spacey should be in that category.

    Whirred Whacks 11:56 AM  

    Kevin Spacey shouldn’t be in a crossword puzzle but CHE “the murdering racist” Guevera is just fine? Okay. Must be the new rules!

    Doc John 12:00 PM  

    Whatever your view of Kevin Spacey, "PAY IT FORWARD" is a great movie (except the stolen ending) with a wonderful message. You should watch it. Forget Kevin, the one to watch here is Jim Caviezel in a small, but powerful, role.

    galegdavis 12:01 PM  

    Farnsworth was a HS Science teacher in Westwood ca in the 1960’s. My wife was in his class. He bragged about inventing television , but no one believed him. He didn’t get his proper due until after he died

    Panda 12:07 PM  

    All pretty easy except tai chi is not martial, coals are what glow, and baby is a sweetie pie not babe. Have to say I wondered how my daughter could get ‘remember the- ‘ which I knew from all those tv cowboy movies. Lots of clues are age related or according to your experience. Does lipo go for fat not cellulose? Whoever called a Washingtonian a nat? Maybe that was a football clue I never get and find boring. Seems flaccid when the clues are elastically stretched to fit. I like learning new usages or views from these though.

    GILL I. 12:11 PM're right, of course, and I probably don't have to defend our guest blogger against the trolls. I liken them to the types that kick puppies.
    @Nancy...Thank you...and well said.
    Bullies never bothered me growing up. I was the tallest girl in my class - always. Even taller than the boys. I couldn't stand the gutless meanies who would pick on the weakest. I was quite good at clobbering them (and hard) if they tried it while I was around. I got to know all of my school principals quite well since I spent a lot of time sitting in their chair facing a corner. I didn't got me out of math class.
    Not much you can do with the faceless Smeagol's of this world today. I just want to keep letting them know how odious and sad they are. I also imagine them sitting in a dark little room with no windows, facing an antiquated PC and thinking up nasty things to post while cackling out of their anony mouth. What a life!

    Masked and Anonymous 12:12 PM  

    staff weeject pick and almost themer: YAY.

    Welcome to the swampblog, @Clare Eli. U have a great mascot and a cool writin style.
    All the best with those finals, @Blu'Bel darlin; break a pencil, or whatever the apt good luck phrase may be.

    Pretty clean fill, in this MonPuz. Theme weren't exactly rocket science, but, HAY -- it's a MonPuz.

    fave moo-cow eazy-E MonPuz clue of note: {Do, re or mi} = NOTE.

    Thanx for the great sub, @RP, dude.
    Thanx for the fun, Mr. Arbesfeld. MAYtheforcebewithU.

    Masked & Anonymo4Us


    Two Ponies 12:15 PM  

    I object to using celebrities' private lives as a moral compass for good or bad. It is just a job.
    "Stand here, put on these clothes, say these words, and make this expression on your face."
    Big deal.
    I am just as interested in the personal life of my clerk at 7-11 as I am in some face on the screen.

    semioticus (shelbyl) 12:30 PM  

    NYT's "above average puzzle" streak continues. YIPPIE!

    Fill: This puzzle had its fair share of crossword glue, but they really didn't bother me that much especially for a Monday. Except for RCAS, I guess. We hadn't apparently seen ULNA in two whole months! Wow. I can see the PESCI/ICAHN/CHE/ALI corner being too proper noun dense for some. But overall a very fine grid with some nice bonuses as well. 19/25

    Theme/long answers: This type of banal-ish theme works if i) the answers feel fresh and ii) it shows consistency throughout. This one achieved both. SAYITAINTSO is a good answer and that fresh start resonates throughout. The answers are not mind blowing, but they aren't expected to be so anyways. They do their jobs. 18/25

    Clues: "Piano technician" and "bad ones are hard to break" found a nice balance of being Monday appropriate and fun. No head scratchers. 17/25

    Pleasurability: Easy breezy. It's very hard for a Monday puzzle to be memorable anyways, and as long as it doesn't throw a crappy theme and crossword glue at you, it will be pleasurable enough. 19/25

    GRADE: B+, 4/5 stars.

    P.S.: The degree of assholery that some commenters resort to is plain amazing. We don't have enough therapists in this country I guess.

    P.P.S.: I have just realized the "too soon" quality of the Kevin Spacey clue. Yeah, better lay that off for a long while.

    semioticus (shelbyl) 12:52 PM  

    Oh, and before I forget, here's last week's report.

    Worst puzzle: Monday by Kevin Christian.
    Best puzzle: Friday by Lily Silverstein.
    Most debatable: Sunday by David Steinberg.
    Most exceptional feat: Thursday puzzle's fill, by Trenton Charlson.
    Overall grade: B.

    Larry Lemming 1:03 PM  

    It seems to me that the tone of the reviewer really sets the stage for the comments. If it is snarky and political then everybody gets the green light to follow suit. When the review sticks to the puzzle everyone else does too.

    Mondays seem the easiest days to go off on tangents.

    Teedmn 1:11 PM  

    MAY IT BE floated totally under my radar. I look back and remember when movie theme songs made it onto the mainstream radio and became huge hits and wonder when that changed ("You Light Up My Life", "Goodbye Girl", "Live and Let Die", etc.). And I realize that they're still out there, I'm just not listening to mainstream anything. There have been a few alt/college rock songs as movie themes but mostly they were already "hits" before they made it into the movie.

    I've always loved how context can make a song more attractive. When I saw the Oscars where they played the theme song to "Hustle and Flow" ("It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp"), I thought, "Yuck, rap, and pimp rap besides." Then I saw the movie where recording the song was a big part of it and I now sometimes get the chorus to that "song" in my head and kind of like it. I still don't like rap.

    Puzzle? A simple theme, mostly clean fill, easy for even a Monday, thanks AA.

    And thanks, Clare, for the write-up.

    TonySaratoga 1:27 PM  

    Relax. Try to be generous and nice.

    Ghost of Xmas Yet to Come 1:39 PM  

    If this guest host is an indication of her generation then the swirling eddy of innocent egocentrism is pretty deep. The word "I" appears 38 times.

    Janet Mitchell 1:59 PM  

    Whizzed thru this one and hardly registered the theme. Not triggered but agree that they should have nixed the Spacey reference. Ick. Nice job Clare! Ignore those grumpy haters.

    Joe Bleaux 2:17 PM  

    Hand up on the TRITT note. Gotta tip my cowboy hat to any Ivy League gal who even *thinks* she's a country music fan, but those hick-hop Hallmark ditties she hears on the radio ain't country music.

    CLB 2:20 PM  

    I loved reading the fresh views of a younger solver and relative crossword newb, and I hope Clare and Annabel continue to do Monday write-ups.

    If you'd never done a crossword before, never in a million years would "some HDTVs" be RCAS. Not one of you would get that clue. It's like a secret handshake that we all know that no one outside the club knows. That's not a good thing, and the more we are reminded about that, the better our puzzles will be.

    QuasiMojo 3:54 PM  

    Clare, you might take a look at the WSJ puzzle today. Yalies are mentioned twice. And there's an odd education subtheme that is amusing. Thanks for filling in today for our dear Annabel and congrats, from a fellow Eli, on the recent, much delayed Old Blue win at the Bowl!

    and @Nancy, how eloquently you responded today. Much appreciated! Although there was something called "hate mail" back in the day.

    Joe Dipinto 4:42 PM  

    @jberg -- to PLAY BY EAR means to be able to reproduce music without the necessity of a printed copy. The idiom PLAY IT BY EAR means to proceed without a set plan; to see what happens first and then act on that basis -- in other words, to improvise as you go.

    At least that's my impression.

    Anonymous 5:20 PM  

    Can anyone recommend a good app or program to create a grid??

    Hal 5:56 PM  

    The NATS are a baseball team, not football. Many sources disagree with you about TAICHI not being a martial art, especially the Chen school. (Full disclosure: During the brief time I was doing Tai Chi, my teacher was in many competitions, all Chen school. I would have been *really* hesitant to fight them. Like, leave the country as an alternative hesitant.)

    Hal 6:08 PM  

    That said, there was an MMA guy who took on a Tai Chi fighter back in May. The MMA guy won in 10 seconds, but not without causing a stir:

    M.M.A. Fighter’s Pummeling of Tai Chi Master Rattles China

    Joe Dipinto 6:24 PM  

    @Anon 5:20 -- you might want to email Jeff Chen at X-Word Info, or see if there's a link to grid-building programs on that site.

    BTW -- did anyone do the cryptic yesterday? I'm don't quite get the clue for 15d. I figured out the probable answer from the crosses and confirmed it at X-Word Info, but I can't reconcile all of it with the clue wording.

    (Poor Kevin Spacey -- his career must really be over if people don't even want him hired as a crossword clue.)

    Anonymous 8:43 PM  

    @J DiP - 15D Accessories = trappings; move the bottom to the top.

    Go Democrats 9:11 PM  

    I thought "ember"

    Nancy 9:42 PM  

    @Joe Dipinto (6:24)-- SEMI SPOILER ALERT, although it's already been spoiled: I thought I had the right answer at 15D, too, but I couldn't make sense of it, and so didn't write in the 6th, 7th and 8th letter. Now that Anon 8:43 has confirmed the answer and provided an explanation of it, I found myself with one [inadvertent] cheat already. But I was having other problems. So, what the heck -- I then looked up a list of Mediterranean islands, followed shortly thereafter by looking up synonyms for purposeless, and voila, I've "solved" the cryptic. The SE corner just wasn't coming and it's been two whole days. This was a toughie. Normally, I can do these without any cheats -- at least the ones in the NYT. The English newspapers are an entirely different story.

    Anon 8:43 -- You were doing Joe DiP a favor and you certainly tried to be subtle about your answer, and Joe doesn't list an email, but, still, next time can you provide a spoiler alert? Thanks.

    Joe 10:43 PM  

    Ignore the haters, Clare. I enjoyed your review.

    Joe Dipinto 10:44 PM  

    @Nancy and @Anon 8:43 -- thanks, I should have posted a spoiler alert, *and* I should have gotten that answer -- makes perfect sense. I was seeing PARTS from the top half of the answer as the "accessories" going from bottom to top, and then couldn't figure out how the PING in the bottom half fit in.

    Joe Dipinto 10:49 PM  

    BTW @Nancy, I cannot do the British cryptics to save my life. Too many unfamiliar references/phrases.

    Anonymous 11:15 PM  

    This is the first time in my life I understand why everyone gets so pissed off at millenials (technically being one myself, I’ve always struggled to really justify the ire). Clare- welcome to the blog, and thank you for your post...but as someone contributing, it’s important for you to do it justice. SLAY, isn’t dated (if anything it’s more popular than ever thanks to the Beyhive), Icahn is someone you should know, and (especially for a history major) I’d expect a senior at Yale to know how important it is not to erase names for bad behavior. Should we burn all of Jackson Pollock’s paintings because he was an abusive drunk? Should we rid the world of John Lennon’s music for the same reason? Of course not...and while it’s hard to disassociate people’s work/stage lives from their shit behavior, it’s not necessarily impossible. This is probably the best piece I’ve read on the matter, which I suggest everyone read:

    Unknown 11:31 PM  

    Jerk. Crawl back to your safe space. If you exemplify future historians we as a civilization are doomed.

    Unknown 11:36 PM  

    Adding to the above comment, what you admit you don’t know is pathetic. An Eli? I don’t believe it.

    Shelby Glidden 12:34 AM  

    @Clare Caroll 12:00 I found asparagus the most appealing clue answer (and the anonymous and cowardly spears annoying - no doubt their intent.) It would be interesting to see how they might handle actually discussing a puzzle. Lewis, Nancy, and Semioticus are much more representive of those who actually enjoy the etymology of words and phrases. Thanks for your share. Please do come back again.

    Barbara 10:12 AM  

    The Kevin Spacey clue did not bother me one bit; the man has not been
    convicted of anything; let he who has not sinned, etc.......
    (and I'm not a religious person)
    Let's give him a chance to heal if he has an addiction.
    Doesn't anyone know of others who are in therapy?
    They need time - this is a wonderful actor who has contributed a lot
    to our entertainment.
    The puzzle was easy except for say it ain't so - I had "isn't" and I was stumped!

    Anonymous 1:24 PM  

    I'm honestly shocked at some of the negativity coming from the supposed wiser generation. This is how you treat a young first-timer on the blog? Instead of encouraging, nurturing, maybe even teaching young folks, you're just bashing them on the internet? Don't you have anything better to do? And would you speak to your own daughter that way? You should be ashamed of yourselves.

    Clare - fantastic job with the post!! Please ignore the salty curmudgeons :)

    LL 12:28 AM  

    @Barbara I don't actually care about Spacey in the crossword, but had to respond to your post. Firstly, he all but admitted to his accusations by apologizing for them. Second, he is accused of assaulting a 14 year old boy, and many others came forward as his victims as well. Now, if you heard that about some no one instead of a celebrity, how would you react? And just imagine if your own 14-year-old son was sexually assaulted... would you suggest that the accused have "a chance to heal" instead of being punished just because he "contributed a lot to our entertainment"??

    Diana, LIW 1:39 PM  

    @Spacey - do you still need help with accessing yesteday's Ayndie posts? (Your comment re accessing page 2?) I took the deLorean to post this - haven't yet looked at today's (Monday's) puzzle).

    Lady Di

    thefogman 10:42 AM  

    Nothing remarkable about this puzzle. Just a flat theme surrounded by flat fill. Okay for a Monday I guess. It's a good thing Rex is off or else the constructor would have been taken to the wood shed. I'll LAYIT on the line: I found it to be very easy to solve but not all that enjoyable.

    Burma Shave 11:22 AM  



    --- NEIL RYDER

    rondo 12:30 PM  

    Yeah, we’ve all heard about the Kevin Spacey allegations, but I imagine this puz was in the queue before there was time to make changes. Not everything in this world is as instant as the willingness to get out the torches and pitchforks. Likely there will not be such references in the future. Though we still get Idi Amin and others from time to time . . .

    To the puz. MAY I SAY it was easy to SLAY? Agree with all the “Meh” comments. I did have STAYAwake before STAYALERT. Didn’t realize TAICHI was a martial art; looks more like folks are doing some kind of yoga from what I’ve seen.

    To paraphrase: You can TUNASLAD but you can’t TUNER RANGE.

    It was looking like a yeah baby-less puz until the very last entry of Winona RYDER. Named after the city of Winona, MN, BTW.

    Not a bad puz, MAYITBE better as we move along.

    spacecraft 12:44 PM  

    @Lady Di: yep, still need help.

    As to Spacey, a handle, BTW, that ALL OF YOU have shortened my screen name to (which I don't mind), I certainly do not condone behavior of which he's been ACCUSED--not convicted--but for someone to come on here and actually say he should be KILLED? That's beyond the pale.

    The puzzle itself is filler, so they have something besides a blank column on their puzzle page. It's...there. Theme so-so, fill rather PPP-loaded and iffy, clues elementary. There's a SASH--but sadly, no one to hang it on. In the clues there's Spears...that's a stretch. Bogey.

    rainforest 1:08 PM  

    I will try to comment today even though yesterday I had a heck of time just finding the puzzle, and an impossible time trying to comment.

    Easy Monday with a few nice longer entries, and a coherent theme. Maybe not a ton of fun, but enjoyable to breeze through.

    No probs, no nits.

    Diana, LIW 2:50 PM  

    @Crafty, er @Spacey, - not sure what happened yesterday - I had no problem, but obviously @Rainy didn't get posted, so something was up. "Hal" I guess. ("I can't do that, Dave...") (And I do not confuse you with the "other" Spacey mentioned yesterday. Nuff said...)

    If you look back at yesterday - Sunday, Dec 31 - you'll see some Synders are posted. Moi, @Rondo, @BS. But a definite dearth.

    The two-page rule would not apply - that only kicks in when there are more than 200 posts, which I've only seen once. (The trick is at the bottom of the comment posting area...) So LSS, I've no idea what happened yesterday.

    Today, we have a fine Monday - especially when one keeps the Newbie Solver in mind. Which I do. Easy, explains what a theme is, doable, wordplay. So I enjoyed it for what it was/is. But then, I like both oatmeal and prime rib. Love life's little varieties.

    Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords and Defender of Monday Puzzles

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