Hybrid music genre of the 2010s / SUN 12-3-17 / Four-hit achievement in baseball lingo / Band with 1989 platinum debut album junta / Early Cuzco dweller / Novel narrated by soon-to-be mutineer / Typical Vanidades reader / Fantasy novel hero who rides dragon Saphira / Much-covered 1955 Bo Diddley hit / Hybrid music genre of 2010s

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Constructor: David Steinberg

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: "Shell Game" — the grid seems to want to imitate a shell game, where you (me, you, someone?) tried to guess which shell the PEA is under (there is a rebused PEA square in the top half). So there are various shells up top (in circled letters) and then those same shells in a different order below, but then instead of a "PEA" under a shell, we get an "F"—I have no idea why—and then also there are answers which are alternative clues for if the "F" *had* been the "PEA" ... so SWIFT becomes SWIPE AT if you go with the clue ATTACK WITH A PAW (86A: The clue for 127-Across, if this shell game weren't a scam) and FRY becomes PEARY if you go with the clue ARCTIC EXPLORER (65A: The clue for 128-Down, if this shell game weren't a scam)

Word of the Day: EMO RAP (104D: Hybrid music genre of the 2010s) —
Emo hip hop (also known as emo rap, emo trap, and sad rap) is a subgenre of hip hop fusing beats common in hip hop music, and more specifically trap music, with lyrical themes, vocals, and musicianship common in emo music, along with elements of other closely associated genres like indie rock and nu metal. Prominent artists of the genre include Lil Peep, XXXTentacion, and nothing,nowhere. (wikipedia)
• • •

This is simultaneously elaborate and ridiculous. There are two reasons why the design concept here is a failure. The first is the most important one—what "shell game" is played with Three Different Kinds Of Nut Shell!?!?!  I can't get my head around this. The second design flaw is the "F" ... why "F"? What the actual (actual!) "F"?!  I get that if I take the "F" out and put the "PEA" in (i.e. "if this shell game weren't a scam") I'd get SWIPE AT / PEARY, but, on a literal level, what is the "F" that is under the "walnut" shell? I get that the PEA has disappeared but what is this "F" that has appeared in its place? A fake? A failure? Fluorine? Between the clues-as-answers (always more difficult / more ugh-some) and trying to figure out how they related to the "F" thing, this one felt really slow. It's also 22 wide, which is weird / odd. I am baffled at how much (apparent) work went into the architecture of this thing when the basic concept just dies such a hard death. I am on Twitter with others trying to fully understand the PEA and the "F" and we can't seem to agree or fully understand, so ... that is not a good sign. I think "F" is supposed to be *nothing* but ... it's an "F" ... and it's in a circle ... so instead of nothing being under the "walnut" (scam!) there is a circled "F." It just makes no sense. Better to design a puzzle where there is Literally Nothing there (SWIT / KING, e.g., turning to SWIPE AT / PEAKING when you mentally supply the "pea").

The rest of the grid is whatever it is. It is nice in parts, ZAGREB CROATIA is a little ridiculous as long answers go. I don't say "egg" with a SHORT E sound. It's more like the "a" in "cake" than the "e" in "heck." This is to say that I got totally stymied by SHORT E (41D: Egghead?). Really wish "?" clues, and esp. ones with letter answers like this (hard by nature) would always be Precise. When you get into pronunciation, things get regionally dicey, fast. ACCUSALS is brutal (in America, we call them "accusations"). Also, COACT? I'm sure it's a word, but no (act). Jennifer EGAN is great and I'm saving her new book for winter break. Had BUS RIDE for BUS TRIP and LATINO for LATINA and just couldn't remember how to spell Loch LOMOND. The grid is mostly solid. CRACK TEAM over GAG REEL = solid work. It's just that the theme is a total bust.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. believe me, I *understand* that if the shells weren't different, then the whole idea of their being mixed up couldn't be visually conveyed very easily, if at all. But when your "fix" is to make them all different kinds of shells, i.e. a kind of "shell game" found nowhere in the history of the universe, then ... back to the drawing board.

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


thursdaysd 12:22 AM  

I solve on an iPad but not with the NYT app. I had no shaded squares and only one circle, which was for the rebus, so the theme made little sense. Grrr.

George Barany 12:32 AM  

Interesting point-of-view from @Rex about @David Steinberg's puzzle (HIS first published since turning 21 last week), which must be admired as a feat of construction -- so much going on!

In the version I solved on-line, there were just two circles (one for the PEA rebus, the other for the much-discussed F) while the six 6-letter shells were indicated by shading. Given @Rex's diagram, and the report from the first commentator, I wonder how the puzzle will appear in print.

Before sorting out GAG REEL, I considered SHORTz as the answer to the "Egghead?" clue. Other fixable misfires were OAK pArk ahead of OAKLAWN, and HIT ON ahead of HAZED. Never having heard of ECKO, a crossing of ATTACH... with ECHO seemed plausible.

It was amusing to see DAD crossing MADRE, to see parallel wording in clues about two supporting characters (MOE, APU) from "The Simpsons," and the double-duty for "Bug" to clue both GERM and GLITCH. Add "Give a ring while on the road?" to a slew of outstanding ELOPE clues in the database [my own favorites, "Take the window instead of the aisle" and "Take the honey and run."]

Dawn 1:03 AM  

Half way through this puzzle, don't see the theme yet, and thoroughly hate it.

Joe Dipinto 1:06 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Joe Dipinto 1:12 AM  

I loved working this puzzle out. There were the two initially mystifying circled boxes, one with a rebus and one without, and the answers to the "explanatory" clues at 65 and 86a were gettable without really knowing what was going on. The a-ha only hit me once I finished. I don't find the F in SWIFT/FRY an issue. It may not be a perfect puzzle but I think it was a very imaginative idea on Mr. Steinberg's part, and it gets my applause.

Joe Dipinto 1:15 AM  

BTW @Rex -- egg is pronounced "egg". Not "aig."

TomAz 1:56 AM  

I often find things to disagree with Rex about (still appreciate and admire the blog lots) but the egg 'a as in cake' pronunciation is just freaky weird to me. In my world, 'egg' rhymes perfectly with 'beg'. (Maybe Rex also says "baig"?)

I did wonder why the F was an F. Is it for 'fraud', which is alluded to in the clues? if so, too tenuous. If not, who knows. But this is not a "this puzzle sucks" issue. It's slightly bigger than a nit, though not by much. I certainly wouldn't have highlighted it as a flaw.

Have any of you ever seen a cashew shell? An almond shell? held one in your hand, had reason to experience it? Not me. Every single almond or cashew I have seen was already shelled. I don't doubt that they have shells, mind you, but their existence is an abstraction to me. Walnut shells, on the other hand, are real things that I have really seen and felt. This is, to me, a much bigger disconnect than 'what('s) the F'.

But enough whining. I thought the puzzle was good. Imperfect, perhaps, but still worthy. I enjoyed solving it. Two thumbs up.

jae 2:11 AM  

I don't care what anybody says, I liked this one. Finally a tricky Sun. with some crunch. It's about time!

Puzzled Pastor 2:13 AM  

I am totally in awe of David Steinberg and this puzzle! David has the ability to put more dense theme material in a puzzle than anyone. I loved the shells being identified by different nuts, with them being shuffled below. I loved the PEA being turned into an F by the scam.

I never realized Swee' Pea was a boy--I always assumed he was a girl! I filled it in anyway, and was enlightened by Google afterwards. I also had to lean on Uncle Google for PHISH, as I didn't see SHORT E. This definitely played hard, running about 5% over my average Sunday time even with cheating, but I felt it paid off big time in enjoyment.

Loved the clue "Material for small buildings?" for LINCOLN LOGS. Likewise the clue for ELOPE, and other cuteness such as "Grp. with lots of pointers." I do the crosswords for entertainment, and this one played for me like a CYCLE (four-hit achievement).

I haven't posted here for a long time, but after reading Rex's critical writeup, I just had to come here to give David Steinberg some love. Keep it up!

Robin 2:31 AM  

Pretty much in agreement with Rex on this one.

@Dipinto, I have no idea what you are saying about the pronunciation of "egg". Are you saying you pronounce it "eg" or "aig"?

In any event, I'd call this Medium. A bit over my average Sunday tine.

Mark 2:41 AM  

I really liked the puzzle. Just because Rex doesn't imagine a shill with three different kinds of shells, doesn't mean it couldn't happen. And it makes a much fun puzzle. As Jae says, it's nice to have a Sunday with some crunch.

Anonymous 3:04 AM  

That was deeply unpleasant. I've had more fun smashing my head against a wall.

Horace S. Patoot 3:17 AM  

TomAz, I’ve probably cracked a thousand almond shells over the years, maybe more. Every winter we’d have a bowl of unshelled walnuts, pecans, brazil nuts, almonds, and hazelnuts on the coffee table. They were sold in bulk at every grocery store. I guess the availability of unshelled almonds must depend on where (or when) you live. I just read that cashews are never sold with shells because the shells are toxic. I thought they had none.

Anonymous 5:25 AM  

Can't believe you all missed it: Cashews are seeds that grow out of the middle of a fruit. They are not nuts, they are nut-like, and they don't really have a shell - more like a peel. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cashew

Anonymous 5:47 AM  

T enjoyed this excellent puzzle!

Anonymous 5:54 AM  

Will Brian Ross be on Colbert tomorrow night?

Lewis 6:00 AM  

Regarding the "Why the F?", which Jeff Chen asked as well as Rex, I don't believe there needs to be a justification for whatever letter is in that bottom circle. It's a sham shell game, the pea is under none of the shells, and so everything is as normal, so you go with whatever the crossword fill turns out to be.

Regarding the different type of nut shells instead of all being the same shell, I thought it was a lovely way to show that the shells have been shifted around. This puzzle is a story, and we suspend disbelief all the time in stories.

Regarding the puzzle itself, well, there weren't as many great zingers, IMO, as usual for David, but there was much cleverness and misdirection, plenty enough to get my brain off the couch, and that always makes for an excellent solve, which this was.

Sandy Krell-Andre 6:00 AM  

Weird. I had the shaded squares on my iPad.

Anonymous 6:39 AM  

I lost a lot of time having TAUPES instead of SAUTES. I was happy with TEA WAR, and POUT--where you PUSH out your lip. I woke up this morning thinking about where I went wrong, and immediately thought of SAUTES . TADA--I did it! Tata

Foldyfish 6:45 AM  

Nope, not for me. I really disliked this puzzle.

Anonymous 6:51 AM  

I don’t care if the constructor is 12, 21, or 81, this possible tries much too hard to be clever and it’s just not good.

Anonymous 7:32 AM  

Joy Behar really struggled with this puzzle.

Anonymous 7:33 AM  

I don't know the technical word but it is true that cashews have a poisonous outer coating. I lived in an area of Africa where these were grown but most of the locals had never eaten them as they were shipped out with the peel still on them. The puzzle was ok, not overly clever but fine for a Sunday. Seeing the darker shaded boxes helped fill in the bottom quicker and my time was better than average for a Sunday.

Anonymous 7:34 AM  

I hated this puzzle. For me it was a long, tedious grind. And would it ever be possible to have a puzzle with no proper nouns. I mean either you know these things or not. It’s just trivia fill completely lacking in the detective work that makes a puzzle truly fun.

chefbea 7:41 AM  

Did not understand the puzzle at all!!! Got the nuts right away but couldn't figure out the rest...why F under one of the shells

Sir Hillary 7:46 AM  

I usually love Steinberg puzzles, but not this one. The construction is AMAZINGISNTIT, but the puzzle didn't SPITOUT much joy for me. Too clever by half.

WOOT, ACCUSALS, COACT, LPN, CRI and SHORTE all in the same grid is no good, even for an oversized Sunday.

The [PEA] vs. F thing makes no sense, and IMO it needs to.

Puzzle felt harder than usual, although I didn't help myself by having all three of my errors in the ARCTICEXPLORER area: AKa for AKC, MAman for MADRE, EPOch for EPODE.

Interesting to see ZAGREBCROATIA in a grid with TITO. Yugoslavia was going the opposite direction of YEMEN in 1990.

To me, egg rhymes with leg, although I've heard people rhyme it with vague. These may or may not be the same folks who rhyme milk with elk.

Anonymous 7:48 AM  

Aw nuts!

Z 7:51 AM  

With all the theme in place except the last two letters of ATTACK WITH A P— I was hoping for Pen. Satirist SWIFT ATTACKed WITH A PEN, PEARY was the SWIFT ARCTIC EXPLORER, et voilà the F has meaning. But no. And, see, it doesn’t take that much more to go from “nice idea” to “NICELY executed idea.”

As Sunday’s go this was a below average solve. I got one nut and part of the second and the nut element was obvious. The rebus was apparent pretty SWIFTly as well, so then it was just a sloggy solve for no real payoff. Worse, I had all of the theme sussed out and still had two not all that interesting mini-puzzles in the east to finish. I almost didn’t bother. The meaninglessness of F is a quiet commentary on the general futility of life, but beyond that doesn’t bother me that much. If the F had been imbued with some greater meaning the solving would have been more fun, but then I’d probably feel the need to go to church instead of wallowing in an EMO RAP playlist.

Bageleater 7:52 AM  

I liked this puzzle. As for the “F,” I assume that if you don’t find the pea in a shell game, you faill or, in other words, get an “F.”

Carol C M 7:56 AM  

I found the puzzle to be more interesting than most, although I did need to look up some items on the Internet. In the printed version, the names of the shells were al shaded, which made it easier than having all circles. In NJ, egg and head have the same vowel sound.

Mary Ambridge 7:58 AM  

Cashews don't have shells. They are not really a nut.

sf27shirley 8:01 AM  

A four-hit achievement is not the CYCLE. The cycle is when the player hits a single, double, triple and home run in one game.

Z 8:01 AM  

Regarding the great egg controversy of 2017
I rhyme egg with leg 80-90% of the time, but have heard it rhymed with vague and do, myself, say it that way on occasion. Which I think was OFL’s point. Get into the cute vowel clues and you should make sure that your example doesn’t have regional dialectical variations. May nap @Muse can weigh in with some fine examples.

@anon 5:25 am - Did you read as far as the third paragraph of your link? Specifically the paragraph that begins, “The cashew nut, often simply called a cashew, is widely consumed.” {emphasis added}

Mary Ambridge 8:02 AM  

And while you're all Wikipedia-ing, please consider giving a small amount so we can continue to Wikipedia.

Trey 8:06 AM  

According to M-W dictionary, either pronounciation of egg is correct, but the SHORT-E version is listed first. My guess is that there are regional variations

Liked the puzzle. The different shells is the only way I got the NE corner filled - could not get a foothold until I filled in the shell letters then it all came together. Like the answers SNAKE and SNOOP in a puzzle about deceit. Agree that the ‘F’ was unclear, but I look at it as WTF and not a puzzle-killer

Trey 8:09 AM  

Forgot PHISH as deceit (as in PHISHing scam). And yes, SNOOP is a stretch here, but it is what first popped in my head when I read ithe answer

Trey 8:12 AM  

Which is a four hit achievement. It requires a specific four hits so maybe the clue should have had ‘a certain’ in it or something. I am not sure that anyone would call 4 singles an achievement

Anonymous 8:44 AM  


This is the first I've ever heard anyone propose that vague and leg are not rhyming words. I'm from D.C. Maybe we pronounce things differently down here? Add me to the people who pronounce egg "aig".


Do you ever review the variety puzzles (acrostics, cryptically, etc)?

Two Ponies 8:50 AM  

So many margin notes today.

I saw cashews on the tree and drying on mats on the ground in Belize. Very weird fruit-ish looking and lots of work to get from tree to your grocery store. No wonder they're so pricey.

Almond shells are so small and thin they seem unlikely to hide anything.

Two POCs today that bothered me. Aloes and Cokes.

Is the Binghamton clue a shout-out to Rex?

Ewok gave us our daily dose of Star Wars.

40D is a DOOK.

Very surprised to learn the relationship between Cubism and Art Deco.

Eragon looks like a rip-off of LOTR.

I haven't read Omoo but given how often we see it in puzzles I thought I might but then the clue seems to be a spoiler.

Why bunny rabbits and not just rabbits?

Favorite clue/answer: pincher/klepto.

Mystery F made me say WTF!

Glimmerglass 8:51 AM  

Hey, posters, stop correcting @Rex’s pronounciation. Some folks (mostly in Appalachia) do pronounce “egg” as “aig” — as in “I’ll have me some o’ them aigs ‘n’ grits.” Just look at aig as a clue to @Rex’s ntellectual background. I agree with @Rex that the shell game theme doesn’t quite work out. I completely missed the hidden pea [under the F??].

Robso 8:57 AM  

Hello? Anyone?
Uh . . . so just me then?

mmorgan 8:58 AM  

I enjoyed the puzzle (mostly) but I had both ARCTIC EXPLORER and ATTACK WITH A PAW filled in and I had absolutely no idea why. I always find it somewhat strange when I "solve" what are obviously theme answers while remaining clueless as to the theme itself.

I realize there are regional variations, but... when I say "egg" it's like the "e" in "heck" and nothing whatsoever like the "a" in "bake." Just sayin'.

COACT and ACCUSALS also raised my eyebrows. But complaints aside about the "F" (!?!) and the "mixed nuts," this is an impressive construction and a reasonably enjoyable solve.

Sir Hillary 9:02 AM  

To @Mohair Sam, from yesterday — To me, a neutral, yesterday’s game was the most exciting and free-flowing of the EPL season, for the first 70 minutes anyway, until Lindgard’s second sucked the air out of the building. I’m no Man U supporter, so was happy to see Pogba’s idiocy rule him out of next Saturday’s derby. Man City are way more fun to watch as it is, and this will only help.

My real rooting interest lies with Newcastle. Don’t ask.

I DOOK 9:04 AM  

Given the height of an average greyhound dog, a BUTT RIP seems a lot more likely than a BUST RIP. BUTT RIP would have gone better with CRACK TEAM, too.

Mr. Benson 9:05 AM  

PHISH has a song called OCELOT. Presumably any cross reference would have been too obscure for the average solver.

Teedmn 9:07 AM  

GOAWOL, now there's a DOOK!! And it duped me up until I Googled it, post-solve, and Google asked, "Did you mean 'go awol'?" Hilarity ensued. Good one.

This was clever, and fresh and very Steinbergian. The nuts helped me a lot (thank you ALMOND, I was lost in the NE.)

Lots of stuff I had to be reminded of by crosses (SOWETO was one) and things I didn't know at all (Vanidades, for instance) and things I couldn't remember (the K in Kmart). I liked the clue for LUTES, was trying to decide, from the L, if Lemurs had long necks and round bodies. Dernier foI messed up the area around 70D. I was beginning to think GAGo__L was going to be some sort of programming "bug" word. CRACK TEAM and changing SNeak to SNAKE finally cleaned that up so I saw GAG REEL.

I used @r.alphbunker's randomization as I always do on Sundays and my solution is here.

Thanks, David, for a fun Sunday puzzle.

John McKnight 9:09 AM  

i really liked this. i liked the fill and level of difficulty. i liked the concept and theme. it was not a standard NW to SE solve for me, and i had to go all over the puzzle to find a way to get it filled. challenging, but totally fair imo. and MOE and APU in the same puzzle? nice. i wish all the sunday puzzles were of this quality.

pmdm 9:14 AM  

Lewis: Your comment hopefully will enlighten others who are bothered by the "F" square. Depending on whether the game is a scam or not, the contents of the square will change. While it would have been more elegant if one of the choices were no letter at all, all that matters is that what you would see changes. Perhaps less elegant than one might have it, but valid.

When I was an OSHA inspector, I inspected a company in New Jersey that processed cashew nut oil.(When precipitated, the oil becomes a very abrasive solid that is added to automobile brake linings.) I learned that the chemical found in coverings of the cashew nut is the active ingredient in poison ivy, explaining why the cashew nuts we buy and eat have had the linings removed. I learned a lot of useless trivia in that job.

kitshef 9:15 AM  

Yuk. I normally like David’s work, but this was no fun at all. The core concept is terminally flawed – hard to imagine what he was thinking. There is just no way ATTACK WITH A PAW should ever end up in a grid, especially not as a featured answer. Ditto for AMAZING ISNT IT. And the whole swapping an F for a PEA rebus is either moronic or desperate.

Then if you are going to do a shell game puzzle the PEA should be under one of the shells up top, and at the bottom should be an “EMPTY” rebus, or a blank square (my favorite), or a “FAIL” rebus.

It’s infuriating, as the theme properly executed, would have been a great one. Shame it got wasted.

BarbieBarbie 9:23 AM  

@Lewis came closest, but the question you’d ask isn’t “why the F?” But “what the F?” — now tell me that’s not what David had in mind. Though I do like Rex’s “blank” idea, almost better.

@Tom, I went to Almond Avenue School as a child, and not only were there almonds in shells everywhere but they also had hulls. I’ve heard cashew flowers are beautiful.

Regional accents are great. Talking about them can get you perceived as making fun of people, but they are so interesting that it’s hard not to. Around our house all the Roy Moore news has us dubbing things “really im-POR-dant;” I’ll miss his wife after the election. (Yes, he’ll win, but she won’t get as much airtime afterward) At least we’ll still have Sarah Sanders and her “Prez-a-dint” (inhale and accompany with menacing glare for maximum effectiveness).

Always, always love what DS does with a grid. Loved the Maleska nod with UKASE. Medium for me, with lots of do-overs, but very satisfying.

Nancy 9:33 AM  

When I begin a Sunday puzzle on Saturday and can't "save" any of it for Sunday -- "I'll just look at one more clue, just one more" -- I know I'm hooked and having a very good time. Which is quite remarkable since, once again, I missed the theme entirely. But the puzzle is challenging enough to stand on its own as a themeless and still be completely involving. And I was happily filling everything in until I came to my last square at 31A/12D. I wrote in SWEE p at 31A, knowing it should be SWEE PEA, but there was no rebus anywhere else, so I never thought of a rebus. That left me with FLOPRED at 12 D. Or FLOP RED. Or FLO PRED. I thought I was losing my mind, went to bed, and came here this morning.

I can't really follow Rex's explanation -- the part that indicates every theme answer, even the ones that seem absolutely correct (which is all of them except for FLOPRED) change or transform in some way during the Shell Game. I've never played the Shell Game. I see a lot of nuts here in the gray squares, arranged in the shape of an upside down cup.. I'm not sure what this has to do with the PEA rebus. The PEA's not under a cup. Anyway, back to read y'all. Maybe someone's explanation will be clearer than Rex's is. But the puzzle did keep me completely engrossed.

QuasiMojo 9:46 AM  

I also thought "egghead" might be SHORTZ, for no real reason, since he isn't one. In either meaning. He's a charming fellow, not some aloof guy in an ivory tower. More likely to be found in a White Tower, if they still exist.

Rex, the egg pronunciation might be a regional thing. I don't say "heck" egg either. (EEther?) I say it more like an "A" sound too. My folks say "WARSH" instead of WASH as well.


Kudos to young David for this ingenious puzzle but I have to admit even though I got the double PEA insertions, I still had a DNF because I had forgotten about the explorer clue and put the F back in. For a moment I thought it would spell out PAR FRY. My little finishing bell did not go off. Oh, I see now why. It's because I had SPACES instead of SPARES for the SLASH clue. I was thinking of poetry and the way lines are written if quoted, using slashes instead of sentence breaks. My bad! (TIPS TEC sounded good to this cyber idiot.)

Nancy 9:58 AM  

So here's the thing about doing a puzzle the day before, where there are some things you plain don't get at all and then going to sleep without having them sorted out. You wake up the next morning and forget that there were things you didn't get while solving. I'd forgotten all about ARCTIC EXPLORER and ATTACK WITH A PAW and how the answers didn't go with the clues. It bothered me very much at the time, but I slept like a baby anyway. And by this morning, I'd forgotten all about it. I thought that SWEE P/FLOPRED was my only problem. Not so. And I still don't understand the entire thing. As far as the F thing everyone's complaining about: it didn't/doesn't bother me at all, since I never saw that tiny little circle in the first place.

The 12/3/17 Rexblog Pessimism Award goes to @Z at 7:51 for his philosophically Very Deep (but somewhat baffling) statement: "The meaningless of F is a quiet commentary on the general futility of life."

Montreal Xword Diva 9:59 AM  

What a mess - never saw the shaded squares, which were perfectly obvious, didn’t grok the theme and thought “flopred “ looked perfectly fine. Yeesh. But even worse, had “backstab” for “accusals” (which makes zero sense), which led to “subwar” (because of course they had submarines in 1588) and then confidently placed an m after the ha for cut and dried, knowing that the people of Memen are sleeping better now that they are reunited. Epic fail really doesn’t begin to describe....

But I loved seeing Lincoln Logs, which were my favourite toy growing up. I hadn’t thought of them in years - seeing that brought a smile to my face and (almost) made up for my stellar un-performance. Happy Sunday!

Maruchka 10:01 AM  

So clever, @DS. Layer-and-hunt is a favorite exercise. Agree with @Lewis.

And a very Happy 21st!

Shell games - 3 Card Monte. There was a time not long past when it was everywhere in parts of NYC. Fun to watch. Now? Cartoon characters hondle in Times Square. 'Nuff said.

kitshef 10:27 AM  

@Quasimojo - We always say 'AH-MOND' - not pronouncing the L at all. Quick check of various dictionaries suggests this is British/regional and that AHL-MOND is most common in US.

Ellen S 10:40 AM  

@Sir Hillary — I’m a Chicagoan. We rhyme “Milk” with “Elk”, and the state is named after me: “Ellen Oy”. We don’t pronounce “egg” to rhyme with “vague” but I can hear someone, I think my old piano teacher, pronouncing it that way. Why would she have been talking about eggs to a 12-year-old? I think she was from Missouri, but my husband was from Missouri ... Missouruh ... and he pronounced “egg” with a SHORT E. On the other hand, he had lived in California from the age of four, so that might have altered his egg-pronouncing.

Oh - I was annoyed to fall for the scam, haha. Otherwise, loved the puzzle.

Anonymous 10:41 AM  

Jen and I were just preparing our cashew-shell creche (a holiday tradition in my family) so we got a kick out of today’s crossword. We actually have too many cashew shells to use this year so if anyone needs any extras just let us know.

Nancy 10:52 AM  

@kitshef (10:27) I say AH-mond, too. But I do a lot of eliding -- too much, probably: DONTchoo and WONTchoo; GONNA (or as I say it, GUNNA); and perhaps worst of all, COLUMMIST. It's not always the Queen's English and I doubt they'd let me through the front door, or even the back door, of Buckingham Palace.

Am even bigger DNF I didn't realize I had: ALCOhOl instead of ALCOPOP (what that?) at 2D, which gave me AHU and LHISH. Never corrected it. So dumb.

Mohair Sam 11:05 AM  

Just loved everything about this one. Challenged us in several different ways. Terrific cluing, learned some stuff, very little ""-ese", nifty gimmick, and I needed the theme to crack a difficult corner. What fun.

And you nits are picking over whether cashews are nuts or not (try buying them in the meat department), or how to pronounce egg (I've never seen "A" as in egg, anywhere). Jesus.

Sudan before YEMEN and that was after searching all through Eastern Europe. Loved the LINCONLOGS clue. Took a while to remember SOWETO, but it saved us from making the TInO error. Seer before SIKH, anyone else? Ernie Davis was the ELMIRA Express. And what's wrong with ZAGREBCROATIA as a long down, Rex? - Different is good, and the clue got my mental map working.

@Sir Hillary (from yesterday) - Don't meet many members of the Toon Army here in the States. I'm a Spurs supporter myself - my first English match was at White Hart lane half a century ago and I've been loyal ever since. Always had a warm spot for Newcastle, gotta love the Toonies - they define long-suffering. And yes, for 70 minutes that match was delightful football. And yes again, Guardiola managed teams always provide quality.

One of your best David Steinberg - thoroughly enjoyed. Thank you.

Yaffa Fuchs 11:08 AM  


David Evans 11:16 AM  

Ditto. This was an effort of being clever instead of interesting

GILL I. 11:20 AM  

Every single themed puzzled this week has been lost on me. I had the shaded nuts and two circles... the P and F. Like @Nancy, I assumed FLOPRED was something and that SWEEP spelled his name that way. What a total wasted theme on such a pretty terrific concept. Thank goodness I could come here and have some intelligence shoved into my pea head.
AMAZING ISNT IT is just amazing. David's got some really cool words floating in and around this grid. Just coming up with the concept is worthy. But boy, I would have loved to have seen the PEA under the nut.
I think pronouncing egg aig is a southern thing. When I'm in Charleston, everyone says aig. I'll have a toad in the hole aig please.

jberg 11:21 AM  

@Nancy -- the shell game begins with the pea out in the open (as in the top of the puzzle. Then the operator puts a shell over it, moves the shells around, occasionally makes the pea roll from one shell to another -- then stops and makes you guess which shell has the pea. You fail, since there's only an f there, and he takes your money. But if it was a sham, there would be a P there, and the long alternative clues would make sense.

However, ATTACK WITH A PAW ought to be clued with something about kittens and Christmas ornaments.

It took me a long time to figure this out, and maybe I never did, since all I could come up with was the PEA sound, rather than the letters. Sort of worked for PEARY (especially if you confuse him with Commodore Perry), but not at all for the silent E in SWIPE AT.

I almost quit in the middle out of frustrated boredom (and because I have a cold and keep coughing), but I'm glad I persisted -- I enjoyed figuring it out.

What I learned today: the K in K-Mart doesn't stand for Kroger.

Amie Devero 11:21 AM  

I hated this puzzle. The reveal was completely unrevealing. The rebus was easy, and I never got the swift thing at all. Filled in the whole grid without ever understanding the point or what the shell game was. And I totally agree about the short e nonsense... WTH?

Charley 11:30 AM  

AS man you have pointed out the app didn’t have all the circles. And I don’t get the theme really, even after reading the explanation. So this one was garbage.

Two Ponies 11:39 AM  

The more I think about this and seeing everyone's take on it I can now appreciate how clever and original this puzzle is. David S. makes me optimistic about the future of crosswords as we watch this young man and his supportive family hone his craft. Well done.

Hungry Mother 11:46 AM  

I loved this one even though it took me a long time to solve it. I finally got the SHORTE as my last entry, but forgot to read it correctly. I usually stumble over that kind of clue/anwer, even though I prefer if to trivia. Nice theme and no real problem with the F in the circle once the reveals made if all clear.

JOHN X 11:51 AM  

Well I solved this OK but it did take a little longer than usual. I got the the two themes on crosses, not quite knowing why they were there but there they were.

I got the shell thing pretty early, but like a lot of you I didn't get the "F" until I got here and read about it. It's very clever now that I know it, but it's kind of like having to explain to someone why a joke is funny. Something gets lost there.

What's up with nuts? Almonds have cyanide, cashews are poisonous and aren't even a nut, peanuts are a legume not a nut, etc etc. Is this why they say that something is "nuts" if it's all crazy-like? A kick in the nuts is different I guess. The house nut or make your nut is a great expression that I need to use more often, but I guess you don't really say "I made my nuts" that sounds strange. And "nuts" used to be slang for "F-You" which matches our theme today, but you never hear that used anymore ever, like it was retired after 1944.


Bruce Levy 12:00 PM  

Not that hard, but a bit of a head scratcher. Few moments of delight.

Masked and Anonymous 12:27 PM  

Different. M&A likes different.

Perfect **crossword** shell game -- now U see the PEA-rebus, now U don't. Things ain't what they apFr to be. etc. PEA-Nutty good stuff.

Thanx, Steinbergmeister. [COACT … har]

Masked & Anonymo8Us

Phil Schifley 12:31 PM  

This puzzle was too stupid by half.

Stanley Hudson 12:32 PM  

More Calvinist than Holy Roller; an amazing feat of construction but not so much ecstatic joy.

Anonymous 12:33 PM  

Kept changing Egan and egen, not realizing that the pea and f were the problem. What a joke.

Anonymous 12:34 PM  

If you're a Kiwi, you say eeeeegg.

cristiano valli 12:43 PM  

after one year doing american crosswords one thing I learned: don't mind the theme. spent 30 min solving the puzzle, 2 hours trying to figure out the theme, and still don't get it.

[it's kinda the same for half of the clues - no clues - but thanks god is a crossing game :)]

Kimberly 12:48 PM  

The F is nothing. It’s just the space where the pea is not there.

The NYTCrossword app is free. People are welcome to use whatever the heck they want, but if you’re not using the app don’t whine that the shades or circles or whatnot are not there. NYTcannot accommodate every rebel out there. Use the app or get what you get.

Anonymous 12:53 PM  

Agree on FRY and SWIFT...kind of the point of clues 65 and 86. A good challenge!

xwordnut 12:58 PM  

In much of upstate NY it's an aig not an egg and yes the puzzle played harder than it should have because the theme eas a mess. A rare day when I totally agree with Rex

Natick Runner 1:07 PM  

Never thought to check the shell shapes for shells. Actually made a note to self that they were probably just visual guides. Got SWEE’ PEA without much problem and grokked the theme, but was wondering what the F?! Finally got everything except the last square at EG_N / UK_SE crossing and guessed wrong (o). Threw in the A and got the music. A fair crossing?

Post-“solve”, figured out SWIPE AT, but I was reading ARCTICe EXPLORER and PEARY isn’t something I know.

Came here and learnt of shells. Might have made things easier.

Oh well, off to run.

JC66 1:11 PM  

Again, I finished without completely grokking the theme and went to Wordplay for clarificationIn. then, using AcrossLite, when I changed the circled F to PEA I got the message that "the puzzle is complete but incorrect. Annoying.

@ jberg

When a cat attacks a Christmas ornament, doesn't they (hi Loren) SWIPE AT it?

A baseball fan 1:12 PM  


Good point to question whether the clue for 2A is accurate. I think it is accurate though. Although it is true that most 4 hit games do not involve hitting for the cycle, hitting for the cycle always involves four hits and it certainly is a a rare achievement, so it seems correct to me to call it a four hit achievement. This wording does not indicate, at least to me, that every four hit game involves hitting for the cycle.

GeezerJackYale48 1:13 PM  

I also have assumed for lo these many years that Sweepea was a little girl!

GeezerJackYale48 1:14 PM  

Swee’ Pea

Anonymous 1:19 PM  

Egg aigg.
What I learned today was it is spelled Kresge.
I always heard but never it saw it in print
as Krezki.

Carola 1:31 PM  

I teetered between "I love a theme that makes me think" and "I hate being put in a dunce cap!" First of all, it was very hard for me to get a grip on the grid: the first answer I was really sure of was SWEE' PEA - but...how to fit that into the allotted spaces? Was the shaded square a rebus square? Were all the shaded squares rebus squares? So I headed for the unshaded middle area, which was difficult enough in itself.

Anyway. Finally got the upper WALNUT and the other shells. But those two non-fitting clues and the two circles? Dunce cap hovered. Aha! SWEE' PEA and PEARY...and... SWIPE! Yeah. Euphoria blinded me to the T in SWIFT and to the realization that not just a "P" sound but the whole PEA would work. Didn't realize the error until reading @Rex. Well, partial credit at least.

@jberg, thank you for explaining the position of the PEA in the upper tier.

@David Steinberg, thank you for the brain-racking fun. I thought I had the game all figured out, but you got me with that one hidden PEA.

Blue Stater 1:48 PM  

Sorry if this repeats; I'm still struggling with the puzzle, but wanted to point out -- yet again -- that for all the fancypants and trickery, this puzzle, like so many of late, contains a basic error: a "four-hit achievement, in baseball lingo," is *not* a CYCLE. The four hits have to be a single, a double, a triple, and a home run. Maybe we could back off the razzledazzle and put in a bit more editing time on getting the facts straight.

Anonymous 1:59 PM  

A CYCLE is a four-hit achievement.

Tom Rowe 1:59 PM  

I don't know about anyone else, but short e for egghead works a whole lot better than a as in cake. Is that East Coast or California accent?

chefbea 2:18 PM  

I am from Missourah!!!

Joe Dipinto 2:20 PM  

@Robin 2:31 -- I thought my sentence was quite clear. I personally have never heard anyone pronounce egg "aig", but from the comments here apparently a number of people do.

In any case, it doesn't matter for the purpose of the clue. If you pronounce egg "aig", you probably pronounce other words with short e's the same way; it's your version of the short e sound. The point is that it is not a *long* e sound; I don't think anyone says "eeg", as in Captain Queeg. So the clue is fine, and Rex's complaint is stupid.

Joe Dipinto 2:36 PM  

Regarding the "meaning" of the F in SWIFT/FRY, I expect it's merely that the constructor needed a letter that could be converted to "pea" and have both versions of each answer make sense. As a bonus, SWIFT was clued in terms of a shell game, so there's that. And shell games are often viewable on NYC sidewalks when it's hot enough to FRY an aig, so there's that, too. :-)

Orange 2:39 PM  

I'm pleased to learn how many other people say egg with a long A sound. Egg and leg have that A sound, but beg and Greg have a short E, so no, Joe Dipinto, we're not all pronouncing every word with a short E with a dialectical long A.

Anonymous 2:51 PM  

Swee Pea identified as a Native American Male Lesbian.

Nancy 3:10 PM  

@Joe Dipinto (2:36 p.m.) -- The light just went on. The belated AHA just came out of my mouth. Now I get it!!!!! Yours is the clearest and by far the tersest (maybe it's the clearest because it's the tersest) explanation of this puzzle's theme and construction that I have read today.

Charles Flaster 3:41 PM  

Totally brain picking.
SHORTy and not SHORT E.
Thanks DS— keep ‘em comin’.

Robert Berardi 4:00 PM  

I liked it, but I'm with Rex on two things:
1. Yeah, maybe a blank square under that shell (or all 5 losing shells? I'm rusty).
2. Egg is long a, not short e. "Aig," "laig, "baig". I can't even say egg, leg, or beg with a short e sound. Maybe the long a is a Mid-Atlantic/ NY/ New England thing?

Anonymous 4:18 PM  

20 minutes looking for a spelling error...
Fat fingers and an iPhone are a bad mix...
Fun puzzle, though.

David Steinberg 4:19 PM  

The original version of the puzzle I submitted did not have a circle around the F. There is no significance to this F, and in my opinion, the circle shouldn't be there. Sorry for any confusion this caused! For more about the puzzle, please see my Wordplay/XWord Info constructor notes.

Go Democrats 4:31 PM  

Idk when the British and Spanish had a tea war.

Two Ponies 4:36 PM  

Thank you for stopping by David.
Good Sunday workout.
Looking forward to more.

Go Democrats 4:36 PM  


Go Democrats 4:40 PM  

Me too

Joe Dipinto 4:53 PM  

@Sir David 4:19 -- Be assured this was a slambang puzzle. I hear you -- the circle at 128 was a steer to the solution, but it also raised unnecessary questions. The entries at 65a and 86a were enough to get the job done. Bravo!

Cassieopia 4:55 PM  

Very challenging for me but loved it. Creative, fun, learned lots, always love Mr Steinberg’s puzzles. Had to come here to understand F and the shell game but was worth it.

Anonymous 5:21 PM  

FLOPRED—>FLOPEARED like hounds and bunnies

Trombone Tom 6:11 PM  

Left Coaster here who uses long a sounds in egg, leg, Greg and, of course Craig. I dnf simply because I stubbornly couldn't parse that SHORTE.

Another very clever puzzle from David S. Glad he stopped by to clarify his intention re the F.

Shelby Glidden 6:33 PM  

@Joe Dipinto 2:20 PM Everyone knows Queeg is pronounced Ahab (as everyone wants to be Ishmael and the other idiot to be Ahab. Ahh!)
Now, I think we've covered all the vowel sounds.
Gutterals, next?

Shelby Glidden 6:34 PM  

@Anomymous 3:04 AM Amen!

Shelby Glidden 6:38 PM  

@Trey 8:12 AM Ask Pete Rose.

Shelby Glidden 6:45 PM  

@Joe Dipinto 2:36 Sounds like people are "phishing" for answers, Joe...😬

Stanley Hudson 6:52 PM  

David, thank you for coming by.

Oldflappyfrommississappy 6:55 PM  

“The light just went on.” Should be the title of your autobiography.

Anonymous 6:55 PM  


G. Weissman 6:59 PM  

I’m so glad I didn’t spend time on this puzzle. Sounds like a mess.

Anonymous 7:04 PM  

I didn't care for this puzzle, but the 20+ year PHISH fan in me squealed with glee that my favorite band was in the puzzle today. An actual, literal squeal.

Joy2u 7:51 PM  

Far too 'clever' and packed with 'misdirection' for me. Not to mention misinformation. If the Cashew has a 'shell' then it must all be a scam.
All that 'cleverness' made what might otherwise have been a lively and fun solve an impossibility. Makes me feel cheated.
I kept expecting the thing to jump off the paper and BITE ME. Or chew off my arm . . or some such. Shudder ! !

Tarheeled 8:01 PM  

Sloppy puzzle for me. Way too many write overs. A definite dnf. SE corner a total bust. I had Shortz for egg head at 41 down but couldn't fathom the crosser, GAGREzL. I never heard of gag reel. Not a fun puzzle for me. I'm backed up on the daily puzzles about three weeks. When I do an old puzzle, I still post a comment even tho no one will ever read it. Maybe some archeologist some day!

Anonymous 8:14 PM  

All that was needed was three WALNUT circled letters with the pea rebus under one of them. No cashews. No almonds. No circled F.
The shell game concept is a clever one and Mr. Steinberg deserves credit for a noble

Anonymous 8:58 PM  

Dam. You say aig? Whereabouts you from?

Questinia 9:12 PM  

I liked being the schmendrich to the shill of this shell game.

Anonymous 9:20 PM  

I thought this puzzle has a lot going for it, although the agri/cri cross was unfair.

BarbieBarbie 10:12 PM  

Oh, anon@8:14. The shell game requires shuffling the shells. How do you show that in a puzzle using three walnut shells? This was a clever, really fun puzzle and we now know that the only weirdness was not in the submitted puzzle. The cashew nut has an outer layer that we don’t eat, which is shell enough for me. A win! More please!

semioticus (shelbyl) 10:40 PM  

Wow, am I surprised to see that not many people liked this one.

Fill: Not the best fill, but good enough. There is some crossword glue here and there, and the AGRI/CRI crossing wasn't exactly appealing, but all the bonus fill makes up for it as much as it can. And it doesn't give us the obscure crap that some Monday puzzles love throwing at us. 20/25

Theme/long answers: On close examination, I understand the problems with F (I assumed it stood in for fake) and the different shells etc., but any theme that has multiple layers is an instant sell to me. I'm so tired of seeing some lame pun attempts that don't even make sense. Hence this felt like a really fresh approach, and the aforementioned problems didn't affect my solving experience at all. 20/25

Clues: "2.5, for the set {1, 2, 3, 4}" and "Oil crisis?" were cute. The general feel of it was also OK. Could have been more snazzy, but sometimes more is less and this one didn't fall into that trap. 18/25

Pleasurability: Took me longer than I would have liked to get into it, but once I was in sync with it, it was a smooth ride. That initial bump in places could have been discouraging for some though. Overall, one of the better Sunday solving experiences in recent memory. 18/25

GRADE: B+, 4/5 stars.

Anonymous 4:36 AM  

Rex, there's no more direct or honest way of putting this: you write like a fucking faggot.

Anonymous 4:48 AM  

I don’t get UKASE as an edict.

ginandjuice 5:24 AM  

Shouldn't the answer to 109 across be "median" rather than "mean"?

kitshef 8:44 AM  

@ginandjuice: In this example, 2.5 is both the median and the mean.

Mark 9:10 AM  

I remember a guest on Craig Ferguson asking him if he minded that some people mispronounced his name Krayg instead of the correct Kregg. Or maybe it was the other way around. Makes no difference to me; my ear does not care either way.

Mohair Sam 1:37 PM  

@tarheeled (8:01) I'm not an archeologist - but want you to know that I read your comment nearly a day later. I think you deserve some kind of award for cockeyed optimism if you're posting three weeks late!

Mick MacIntosh 2:49 PM  

Physician Explorer Fredrick COOK claimed to have arrived in The Arctic Prior to Peary. Not sure how it connects, but “Cook in oil” might be somehow linked.

Dennis Doubleday 8:12 PM  

It took me forever to get through this, but I am a novice, so that explains it. I was cursing the puzzle while going through it, but by the time I finished and had a chance to look it over, I was impressed by the clever structure.

Andy 8:35 PM  

Awful. Just awful. In other words standard Sunday fare. A shell game with 3 easily identifiable "shells" is not a shell game at all! And the "F" was ridiculous. Plus all the other dreck Rex pointed out. I want my money back!

thefogman 12:16 PM  

I took me several days, but I finally finished. I chose the P (pea) for the bottom and I reject the F alternative.

Anonymous 4:21 PM  

I'm all in favor of abject "failures" like this puzzle if they are as professionally constructed and edited and especially if they are as much fun as this innovative and thoroughly enjoyable puzzle by David Steinberg.

Anonymous 10:13 PM  

Thank God for Rex, without whom I'd have never figured out the whole PEA thing. And God knows I tried.

But Rex, I really expected a comment from you on a clue based on Binghamton (MY home town, well, Endwell at least...). Seriously, Steinburg had to have dropped that one in there just for you!

Miranda 2:48 PM  

Great synthesis of this puzzle. I have been doing nyt Sunday puzzles for about 50 years and this one struck me as ranking up there with the top 5 most frustrating and perhaps, epic fails ever. I had all the same issues as R.P. And the F remains a puzzle. I like the idea of Peary and swipe, but the 'pattern' was inconsistent. And really, coact? Arrrggghhh.

Miranda 3:19 PM  

Just read D.S. comment re last Sunday. If the F had not been circled (as he intended), the pattern would have worked and the puzzle been a success (albeit with a few stretch clues /words). Thanks so much, D.S., for clarifying.

John Piirto 4:37 PM  

As for almonds, I used to live in N. California, in almond-growing country. Up there it's pronounced aamond...rhymes with Hammond. No L is pronounced. Why? To harvest the crops, the almond trees are shaken by a powerful machine. This machine shakes the L out of them!

Burma Shave 12:24 PM  


to NEWSCREWs about a LOT of UNCOUTH passes,
and what your REP is DOING when he'll RESORT


rondo 12:47 PM  

Lost track of time, but used plenty of it even with only one w/o with a BUSride before the TRIP. Also considered SHORTz before SHORTE, which the E in egg is, *not* like an A at all. Even my Russian spouse pronounces it correctly, apparently unlike eastern seaboard eggheads.

It's no "PC"GAME, but I've CHOSEN to add Jennifer EGAN to the long, long, long list of yeah baby Jennifers.

I'd say NICELY done @DS. Gotta go, brunch and (yes, Ahmad) TEA ready SOONISH.

Anonymous 1:48 PM  

Just did it as the syndicated puzzle. Even after Rex explained it, I still don't get it. If the gimmick is that complicated it's not worth it.

Diana, LIW 2:06 PM  

Yesterday (Sat Nov 4) @Rainy commented on commenters who over-emote regarding crossword puzzles. We have some fine examples in today's commentariat. Sure, I can see how good wordplay, like the wordplay DS uses, might frustrate someone, but that's the point of puzzles. Else wise, they wouldn't be called puzzles. They'd be called "obviouses." Obviously.

I love wordplay, so this puzzle was fun - FOR ME.

I didn't understand the circled F, but that didn't kill my joy. I mean, if that ruins your day, I'd hate to see the rest of your life. Must be Sisyphusian.

Ran the almond joke past Mr. W - laughter ensued.

Regional dialects notwithstanding, "the incredible, edible egg" commercial is pronounced the same in all 50 states.

Hope @Spacey finds us today. I didn't give him my "find the Sunday puzzle" tip for Syndie Valley.

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords

spacecraft 2:44 PM  

Since I know the Sunday one (for some unfathomable reason) is only a week old compared to a month old for the dailies, and since we are in the same month, I had no problem.

With this puzzle, I had problems. To wit:

--> ALCOPOP: not a word. You may be good, David, but you're still young, and have not earned non-word immunity.

--> COACT: this is--incredibly--a real word. Perhaps someone even USED it, once, somewhere, I guess. Maybe.

--> SHORTE: grrr.....

--> C(H)AMOMILE: Never before have I seen this word with an H. You MUST include (var.) in this clue! This damn thing almost made me DNF!

--> SOONISH? Is that sooner than latish? Please.

I get the F substitution at the bottom, but not at the top. Does that mean the actual PEA is there? Whatever. Methinks Mr. S. stumbled over his own cleverness today. Doesn't hang together. Three different kinds of shell? Laughable. Bogey.

rainforest 3:12 PM  

WOOT! I don't know what that means, internetwise or otherwise, but it's how I felt upon finishing this baby. I spent a lot of time on this, but I saw it as a challenge which I was up for (up for which I was, hi @leftie).

Excellent shell game theme. The way I see it, if the PEA is used, then the puzzle is not a scam, and the answers to 65A and 86A make sense. Withe the F there, it *is* a scam. To circle the F or to not circle the F - that's the question. Because the rebus PEA appears above, maybe it needs to be, but in reality, it isn't necessary.

Aside from the theme, the puzzle stands up well. Some great cluing, and pretty darn good fill, and I had a lot of fun with this.

AnonymousPVX 5:22 PM  

Hmmm, I’ll just go with “ridiculous”. Let’s see...a clue simply incorrect 7A CYCLE....is not four hits, but 4 specific hits, single, double , triple, HR. I get it, they are all hits, but as stated earlier, JUST THOSE FOUR ONLY.

Then the mishmash with one circle having the PEA and then a bunch of other tinted spaces,,OMG why why why.

So now just not a theme, plus not a gimmick, but multiple gimmicks. No no no.

And I got the solve but no fun, mostly annoyed.

Anonymous 5:28 PM  

I don't get the F either. I can live with the explanation of SWIPE AT and PEARY and ARCTIC EXPLORER, but no one seems to have mentioned that explanation doesn't work for the clue for 128 down, which is "cook in oil', to which Peary doesn't fit, and there was no Arctic explorer Fry

AnonymousPVX 6:12 PM  

Wow. No hate there. Get some counseling. And stop calling people names, please.

Sharonak 10:44 PM  

I thought lewis, Puzzled Postger and Joe Dipinto and a number of others following had good comments on the puzzle. Meaning I agreed with them.
I thought the circle in the lower shell helped make clear that "pea" would be there if the game were not a scam, though it might have worked as well without it, as David Steinberg intended. Why would anyone get upset about the "F" ? My big hang up there was not parsing "swipeat" right in my head so having great trouble with the answer to 86A.
Agree completely with those posters who thought the three kinds of shells were important to show the shells had been shuffled. Why worry that only walnut shells are used in real games?

Some of the "confused" comments made no sense to me at all. Confused is right!

Re the four-hit achievement controversy. I believe some pointed out that although there may be more than just four hits involved in a "Cycle" a "cycle is, nevertheless, a four hit achievement. Therefore the clue was not wrong- just vaguer than they may have wished.
Since I'd never heard of a cycle it was all obscure to me.
Quite a fun puzzle overall.

Frank Burke 2:23 AM  

The F factor lacks the Aristotelian unities

Laurence Katz 10:11 AM  

Let me say I liked this puzzle a lot. But perfect construction would have had a Pea under a nut in both the top and bottom and there would have been An empty square under the four other shells.

LG 8:16 AM  

I know I'm late to the party, but I just did the puzzle so here's my take: PEA is a homophone for the letter P. There are no P's present above the shells, the P's in the center are in no discernible order and are scattered about as if being moved SWIFTly, much as a pea in a shell game. One expects the PEA to be in the circled square but it's hidden under a different shell: EPA (anagram for PEA) under the ALMOND in the SW corner! The circled F does refer to "Fail" as many guessed; when P is opposed to F it generally refers to Pass/Fail.

Hollie 9:15 AM  

There is no F!
127 across is swiPEAat.
128 down is PEAry.

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