One's Nintendo avatar / THU 12-21-17 / Last name in astronomy / Abbr at bottom of page of text / Prepare for entombment / Kemper who plays Kimmy / Candy Wonder Woman's best friend / First-tier supervisor in USMC

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Constructor: Alex Eaton-Salners 

Relative difficulty: EASY


THEME: THEMEWHAT IS THIS SHAPE IN THE MIDDLE OF THE PUZZLE? – Four theme answers spell out different things that might be represented by the Y-shaped black object in the
middle of the grid.

Word of the Day: WHATEVS (13A: “Oh, I don’t care”)
both the best answer in the puzzle and also my reaction to the puzzle when completed.
• • •

Well isn’t it your lucky day? A second guest blogger in a row! Morgan here; like Andrea yesterday, I’m a first-time guest blogger but long-time puzzle-solver and Rex-reader. I would say I solve the puzzle about 40% slower than Rex and I judge it about 30% less cantankerously. I thought I was covering last week’s Thursday, which I found to be a pretty decent example of the day. I had started writing up a lovely post for that day when Rex and I realized our wires had been crossed, so I volunteered to do today instead. Hoooooo boy, was that a mistake.


I really did not enjoy this puzzle, but neither did it put up any resistance. From plunking down CAMARO (7A: Mustang alternative) to the final answer, INURN (38A: Prepare for entombment, say) took me just over 7.5 joyless minutes, a good 2-3 minutes short of my Thursday average these days. I don’t recall any point at which I paused for more than a handful of seconds because of a tough clue. I’d guess some people probably struggled in moving from section to section because the openings are pretty tight (moving from the north to the southeast was the toughest part for me), but other than that this feels closer to a Wednesday.


My first hint that I would not like this puzzle came with the first theme answer I got, THE LETTTER Y (28D: One more thing they might represent). I had THELE and figured it had to be THE LETTER something, so I put that down and waited until FLYINTO fell (65A: Reach  by air). I stopped and, looking at the shape in the center of the puzzle, actually said aloud (I think—you’d have to ask my husband) “Oh no.” That shape can also represent:
  • 14D: SLINGSHOT 
  • 15D: GOALPOSTS 
  • 26D: TUNINGFORK
That’s it? Four measly, bland theme answers covering 38 squares? Am I missing something? If not, no thank you.

The rest of the puzzle doesn’t have much to commend it, I’m afraid. The big spanner GENERAL HOSPITAL (16A: Winner of 13 Outstanding Drama Series Emmys) is kind of fun, but I wished it were theme-relevant. I had no idea that FIFI was in fact “diminutive of Josephine” (33D) despite sharing the gay world’s unabashed loathing of Phi Phi O’Hara. And I RECKON I always enjoy some colloquialisms (60A: “S’pose so”). But that’s about all I’ve got on the plus side.


The fill here has some definite sore spots, and I’m not sure why given the theme isn’t all that dense.
  • ITE
  • SERA
  • ALPE
  • CONT
  • CRI
  • ERAT
And the absolutely horrendous INURN/GENII stack (to me, that’s where the puzzle probably should have been scrapped)

Finally, there’s two politically tricky entries. First, we get IVANKA (6d: The Trump who wrote “The Trump Card: Playing to Win in Work and Life”). I’d prefer something like “The Trump whose husband is totally going to fix the Middle East and not at all going to be indicted jklol.” And then we have AL FRANKEN (35D: “Senator in 2017 news”), a clue that was undoubtedly different when this puzzle was written (as an education policy professor, I’m assuming it was something like “Senator who grilled Betsy DeVos about the difference between proficiency and growth”).


So, not very enjoyable. But writing this entry was fun regardless, so I look forward to doing it again!

Bullets:
  • TSARINA (22D: Winter Palace resident) – a delightful break from the usual
    TSAR/CZAR.
  • PETE (27A: St. ____ (site of a spring vacay)) – sorta wish this was referring to St.
    Petersburg, Russia, but probably that’s a little on the bleak side.
  • SWANN (44A: Elizabeth _____ “Pirates of the Caribbean” protagonist) – as a USC
    Trojan I obviously would prefer this was clued for our current athletic director /
    former graceful wide receiver Lynn Swann.
  • PRAIRIE (62: Badlands National Park feature) – I actually didn’t know this; I
  • thought the Badlands were mostly rock formations. But apparently this park contains the largest undisturbed prairie in the U.S.
Signed, Morgan Polikoff for Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]

137 comments:

Leon 7:02 AM  

Teacher – "Who can tell me what the former ruler of Russia was called?"
Class (in unison) – "Tsar."
Teacher – "Correct; and what was his wife called?"
Class – "Tsarina."
Teacher - "What were the tsar's children called?"

There was a pause, and then a timid voice in the rear piped up: "Tsardines!"

Hungry Mother 7:07 AM  

Took me a while to see the theme, then all was easy.

Anonymous 7:11 AM  

Morgan, I loved " I would say I solve the puzzle about 40% slower than Rex and I judge it about 30% less cantankerously" and the rest of your writeup as well. Nicely done!!

Robso 7:14 AM  

What day is it? Oh right, December 21, the Winter Solstice. Now it all makes sense: goalpost, tuning fork, slingshot . . . The, uh, letter Y . . .

kitshef 7:18 AM  

Back-to-back days where the grid art is the puzzle’s main feature. This one, though, at least has a smattering of nice fill to go along with it. LUNAR YEAR, PALAU, GALILEI, KNOLL.

I have recently noted a shocking and seemingly inexorable decline in the quality of our definitions for PIE. I’m assuming this is a Will Shortz thing, as I can’t imagine multiple constructors all suddenly losing the ability to give a decent clue for something that should be a piece of cake to clue. I get that it must be hard to come up with new clues for common words, but this is trying too hard.

MII was a complete WoE, but better than “early second millennial year”, I suppose.

evil doug 7:20 AM  

WHATEVS? WHATEVS?! The best answer in the puzzle?! How old are you - - 15?

No wonder I'm having so much more fun since I canceled my NYT subscription and replaced it with the Wall Street Journal...

Anonymous 7:21 AM  

Ivanka in.
Franken out.
Tax reform passed.
Dow up 30%.
Michael's TSD raging full on.
Merry Christmas. Winning never gets old.

Lewis 7:27 AM  

Well, I liked it overall. It did give me some bite, and I always like that. I loved the clue for STAG, and didn't think it needed a question mark. I also like the clue for EUREKA, and the INTO/ONTO cross. I almost dropped in "dowsing rod" early on, seeing that it fit. And my brain got a nice little workout, given that I didn't know ELLIE, SWANN, ETTA, or MII.

I think something Rex would have jumped all over, and something that actually bothered easy-on-puzzles me, was that GOALPOSTS was plural, while the other three theme answers were singular. I hesitated to put GOALPOSTS in, actually, thinking it must be something else. I think the theme answers should have been consistent.

First thing I saw, by the way, when I looked at the grid, was a goofy smiley face.

Charles Flaster 7:30 AM  

Very Tuesday easy but appreciated the construction and it’s visualness.
Liked cluing for STAG and ECRU.
SEPIA is a handy piece of CROSSWORDease.
I thought the “slang” clues were neato.
Remembering when a friend tried ( in vain ) to “soup” up my ‘67 Falcon so I could PEEL OUT.
Thanks for review MP.
Thanks AES

Marcie Watts 7:31 AM  

@Leon. LOL

Anonymous 7:32 AM  

Another hateful person teaching at one of our universities. Snowflakes of a feather . . .

Irene 7:32 AM  

Whatevs?
I know Rex hates clues to skew old (like ERROL Flynn), but does anyone really say "Whatevs?"

Gopman 7:36 AM  

I found the Southwest corner to be brutal. The combination of "?" clues and arcane answers was so out of character with the relative ease of the rest of the puzzle. It was jarring.

Z 7:40 AM  

@kitshef - You know my feelings and I’m not at all sure that that this clue is an improvement.

Plus signs. Y-shaped quartet. I can only guess that we are working towards a Space Invaders Sunday. I definitely finished with a “that’s it?” feeling. We’ve seen some great grid art in the past. I hope we see some in the future.

@Evil Doug - WSJX does seem to be consistently good. Too bad it runs in that rag. Fortunately, I can get that puzzle without giving the Murdoch Cartel a penny.

Anonymous 7:46 AM  

Betsy DeVos still has a job. Al Franken just resigned in disgrace for being a creepy lech. Yep, he sure schooled her.

Glimmerglass 7:51 AM  

The shape gimmick was easy and gave me a lot of free letters, but I didn’t find the puzzle easy as a whole. I struggled with WHATEVS (is this making fun of teenspeak?), PALAU, SWANN, MII, and INURN (do you put an urn in a tomb?). I’d give this a “medium.”

evil doug 8:13 AM  

But, Z, you keep assuring me that the Times is right-leaning - - so why do you continue to give *them* a penny?

I didn't mind Charles Blow and Paul Krugman whining all over the editorial pages. But apparently they were handed the keys to the hard news division, because their fingerprints are all over the front page nowadays....

And Morgan: As you've already learned, trite and tiresome shots against the Trumps and other pols will quickly steer the discussion away from the puzzle and whatever credit the constructor deserves. Yes, you've had your 'heroic' Savanna Guthrie moment, so you will be applauded by all your liberal pals. Just don't expect any thanks from Alex for hijacking the blog and inciting a typical political crossfire where the crossword ought to be....

Joe 8:17 AM  

While it wasn't the most interesting puzzle theme, I always enjoy having younger constructors getting their work published. Always closer to my wavelength, with more recent stuff, slang, colloquialisms, etc. I grew up with my mom watching General Hospital every day, so that was fun to get that answer. Also, WHATEVS was a gimme, and I even more enjoyed all the older people on here questioning it. I'll take stuff like that over actors/actresses from pre-1970s, since that's just not fair. I don't get why people balk over current slang, pop culture, and things like that. I should be expected to know literature, movies, TV, and people from decades before I was born but you get upset if you have to know current information? How does that make sense?

puzzlehoarder 8:18 AM  

Between having to solve on my phone and the unknown and just lweird material in the middle west and southwest corner I managed to get some puzzlingly out of this one.

The best part was thinking SWANN was actually the name of an actor. After solving I looked the name up on the internet. The woman looked familiar in the photos but it wasn't until I started reading the Wikipedia text that I realized SWANN was a character not a real person.

I'm no longer as critical of terms like WHATEVS and ADORBS since I've realized that my darling 27 year old daughter uses them.

mmorgan 8:20 AM  

INURN was almost the last word I entered and I more than half expected it to be wrong. What a waste of GENERAL HOSPITAL. Great write-up, Morgan!

martyvanb 8:29 AM  

Yup, this is one pretty forgettable puzzle. Thursdays are meant to be creative and clever. When the puzzle is brought to you by The Letter Y like "Sesame Street" I don't really feel like I'm getting my money's worth.

QuasiMojo 8:35 AM  

I've never seen a tuning fork that looked like a slingshot. Stuff like "whatevs" is dreck. It was nice, however, to recall the Walter Reade theatre at Lincoln Center which I used to visit quite often for superb classic movies.

Andrea Avery 8:41 AM  

Great job, Morgan! I kept trying to make OYSTERFORK work.

Ando 8:47 AM  

Wouldn't does follow STAG(S)?

IrishCream 8:51 AM  

I'm 37 and I say "whatevs." More as a joke than anything, but it's certainly on my radar and didn't seem like "dreck."

@Joe, agreed on the bias against current pop culture. An awful lot of "get off my lawn, kids!"

Birchbark 8:53 AM  

Best answer and my reaction on completing the puzzle = EUREKAS, which is where I finished.

Stumbled for a long time with the black-square words. With @Lewis, I wanted some version of "smiley guy." Also thought Rorschach ought to be in there somewhere. They finally fell all at once.

@Irene/@Glimmerglass, when my daughter was much younger, her idea for a Disney-channel-type TV show was called "World of WHATEVS." So it's a thing and apparently skews pretty young at that.

Anonymous 8:58 AM  

30% less cantankerous and 100% less vitriolic. I've enjoyed the last two days. Just good fair-minded puzzle critiques. Whew.

Wm. C. 9:20 AM  

@Evil -- I too just cancelled NYT for WSJ. I've heard claims that their XW is better, and I just got a promo for WSJ at a $2/week for 3 months. So I'll give it a try. But do I understand that there are only 6 editions a week? Makes sense, I guess, with markets not open over the weekend. So no Sunday? If so, I guess I should subscribe to the Sunday-only NYT option?

Anonymous 9:22 AM  

50% of the bitter divisive cheap shots.

E.J. Copperman 9:23 AM  

I can't tell you how annoyed I am by the 4D clue. We here in the Garden State are New JerseyANS. There is no such thing as a Jersey-ite.

Anonymous 9:26 AM  

Re: @Joe 8:17
Because "current slang, pop culture and things like that" are ephemera and not worth the time of day.

pmdm 9:26 AM  

Ah, QuaisiModo, another grid picture to annoy you. Do you know the first such puzzle published by the Times was only the 18th one published? I suppose they have not improved with age.

According to the constructor, this puzzle was originally clued for a Wednesday or Tuesday publishing date, with Mr. Shortz reclueing up to a Thursday difficulty level. I wonder if that was a good idea.

I couldn't get myself to enter SLINGSHOT because I couldn't believe WHATEVS would be correct. Bah!

I usually don't comment on the themeless puzzles (except to complain if they include too many proper nouns), so Meery Christmas, Happy Holicays, Happy Chanukah or WHATEVS.

Anonymous 9:27 AM  

I'm so mad about the tax reform legislation, I plan to give my tax break to Planned Parenthood. jklol.

Nancy 9:28 AM  

It's grid art again, and I say zzzzzzzzz. Why not LIBERACE'S CANDELABRA or WALL SCONCE? It felt arbitrary and I didn't care about the theme answers.

13 Emmys?? Who knew that GENERAL HOSPITAL was that good?

Last month I learned ADORBS. Today I learned WHATEVS. Can't anyone pronounce an entire word anymore?

I did learn that FIFI is the diminutive of Josephine. Seems odd. I would think it would be much more likely to be GIGI.

The constraints of the grid design produced some awful crosswordese. You all what it is. Probably you've already said so. A really fifth-rate Thursday, I thought, and a real disappointment.

Two Ponies 9:29 AM  

This is supposed to be the Thursday puzzle I look forward to?

WSJ puzzles are more fun, too bad you have to subscribe to comment there.

Stag(s) follow does. Autumn is "the rut" when stags in search of a mate do a little hunting themselves.

Pole star? Damn, stripper wouldn't fit.

Whatevs, Ellie Whoever, Nintendo, who cares? Am I a better person for knowing these things? I think the opposite is true.

The damning photo of A.F. pretending to grope that sleeping woman actually is pretty funny in a high-school-humor sort of way. But, of course, no one has a sense of humor anymore. He's mugging for the camera for Pete's sake.
Why haven't the feminists burned him at the stake by now?

GILL I. 9:30 AM  

I kinda liked PIGS on the West Coast and AL FRANKEN on the East. WHATEVS is cute.
Last week we had some great puzzles and then just before Christmas we get the MEHS of the year.
I want some holiday cheer.
MII and GENII just made me groan out load. Figuring out the Y shapes was ok. The only one that made me smile was SLING SHOT. Who didn't have one growing up? Well, I guess if you're of the WHATEVS generation, you didn't. Finding the right piece of wood would become an all day adventure. Finding the right kind of rubber was another. I once used a pebble as my ammunition but I quickly turned my fun into spit wads. My dad told me using a rock could kill someone but spit never hurt a soul.
Lots of names in this one. That's another things that puts me in a bad mood. Starting off with the old ASSISI CAMARO GALILEI followed by GENERAL HOSPITAL...ughish for moi. I never watched GENERAL HOSPITAL but I did get hooked on "Days of Our Lives." I was on maternity leave and not much else was on. I think I waited a year for Bo to finally get married. What a let down. They never had the church wedding of the century....instead, riding off on a horse into the sunset. I was devastated, just devastated !
Fee Fie Foe FEU.

John Child 9:34 AM  
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Anonymous 9:34 AM  

Paul Krugman predicted the markets would crash if Trump got elected. Oops.

evil doug 9:35 AM  

Wm. C.,

I never wasted my time on the Sunday Times puzzle. Sucko, always. Besides, our little weekly neighborhood paper carries it after a short delay if I cared. And the cost of the Sunday Times is like a car payment....

You'll enjoy the Friday and Saturday WSJ puzzles much more than the Times Sunday pap.

John Child 9:38 AM  

How many GENII did SANTA INURN?

Is a STAG an ANIMATE for a doe?

WHATEVS.

QuasiMojo 9:38 AM  

I have no objection to any of you younger guys and gals who are prancing on my lawn to use the expression "whatevs" is real life, but I don't like it in the NYT puzzle. It's lazy and cheap slang. We recently had a spate of YAs thrown in instead of YOUs. Next we'll be getting "f--k yeah" and "a--hole," probably next ANO.

CashPo' 9:45 AM  

@evil doug et al, am I missing something or isn't the WSJ puzzle FREE online? Why pay for a subscription? Or are they going to impose a fee momentarily?

Sir Hillary 9:48 AM  

This puzzle has the same amount of verve and freshness as the political back-and-forth on this blog.

That would be none at all.

evil doug 9:54 AM  

CashPo,
I think you're right on the WSJ puzzles on-line. But I'm an ink-on-newsprint guy. Plus I wanted a newspaper that keeps its editorializing on the opinion pages....

Hungry Mother 9:55 AM  

At 77 I didn’t mind WHATEVS. But expect a Peter Lorre in your future.

mathgent 10:03 AM  

I used to look forward to the Thursday puzzle.

Maybe if we all complain, Will Shortz and his gang of assistants will do something about it. I can't believe that today's was the best that they had to offer. Do they love grid art that much?

Mohair Sam 10:04 AM  

Yup, what y'all said about the puzzle. And I've heard WHATEVS. If I've heard it folks, it's gotta be all over the place - and therefore crossworthy.

FIFI? Who knew? Neat stuff.

We put Galileo in first and wondered why Mr. Olympia would OOL UP. "Galileo's Daughter" by Dava Sobel is a memoir of the relationship between Galileo and his daughter, a cloistered nun, as gleaned through her letters to him. Amazing biography of them both.

@Morgan - Thanks for the Alison Krauss, a fav in this house - excellent write-up too.

AL FRANKEN - I am one of the few people on earth who read both Rush Limbaugh's first book and AL FRANKEN's book about Limbaugh. Conclusion: Both men are egomaniacs who wrote books about themselves under false pretenses, they have that in common.

Amelia 10:05 AM  

Tsar yesterday, tsarina today. Both terrible puzzles (Writeup reflects this and is good and cheerful. Refreshing.) I loved whatevs. If you spend ANY time on the internet no matter your age, you see things like "whatevs" and "adorbs" Is it a crime to see it in a puzzle? No, I say! As for the political back and forth, I notice that they prefer to remain anonymous, but I see they got their talking points mailed to them this morning ("snowflake," DOW, "winning.") I know they feel unloved, these white male racists. So I give them a pass. Anyway, agree with the commenter who thought we deserve gifts better than these puzzles. Cmon, Will.

Wow 10:08 AM  

@Anonymousc 7:21
Are you a billionaire? It just blows my mind how people with average money tout the Republicans when they pass stuff that helps out rich people, and screws the middle class. I only wish you could pay my taxes, seeing as how you have money to burn.
Shows the stupidity of Republicans. Get your head out of your ass.

Amelia 10:11 AM  

@Mohair Sam Dava Sobel is the niece of an aunt of mine by marriage, the wonderful writer Ruth Gruber, who died last year at 105. Just now going through her books, and finding the most amazing treasures.

K. Kabua 10:16 AM  

I found the clue for 29A, "Micronesian nation composed of hundreds of islands," to be both bordering on redundancy (Micronesia means "small islands") and empty. Of the five independent nations in MIcronesia, only one, Nauru, is NOT "composed of hundred of islands."

Moon Child 10:17 AM  

Happy Solstice everyone!
Each year on this day I watch the sun rise and set
to celebrate and anticipate the days becoming longer.
Light the Yule log and dream of spring.

Wow 10:18 AM  

Tax BREAK? Hahahaha, Holy cow, delusional much? Keep paying T.Rump and his ilk, dick. Don't cry to me when you're broke.

Anonymous 10:18 AM  

Amelia makes Lena Dunham look smart. She sure can toss around those labels.

wino 10:21 AM  

What a crappy write up Morgan. You had to turn it political? Whatevs......

Anoa Bob 10:26 AM  

It could also be a facsimile of the NBA San Antonio Spurs logo. Yeah, I know, it's missing the rowel, but hey, the slingshot is missing its rubber band (surgical tubing is best), so why not?

I'm trying to come up with an in-the-language example of EUREKAS, i.e., one that doesn't have sound like an ad hoc justification for a plural of convenience (POC).

I like sciencey type stuff, so GALILEI & LUNAR YEAR were treats. AW GEE & WHATEVS, not so much.

Amelia 10:27 AM  

I would love to respond but won't to anyone who is anonymous. Give me a name, big boy, and we'll talk.

Anonymous 10:35 AM  

80% of Americans will have their taxes lowered. The losers will be middle class people high tax states like New York. Sadly, that includes me and many others who read this blog no doubt.

Roo Monster 10:36 AM  

Hey All !
I might get lambasted for this, but, I believe todays and yesterdays puzzles should have been switched. *Ducks flying SLINGSHOT rocks*

Decent puz, that East Center was rather tough. ___ bar was sushi, then salad, ELLIE a WOE, EUROS was rUpee first. ETTA a WOE clue. And FORsale also mucking things up. But, rest of puz seemed to flow pretty smoothly. Liked the GOALPOSTS (which was the first image that popped into my ole brain.) At least there wasn't 51 blocks. :-)

MII? Ouch.
MRT! I pity the fool! :-)

AW GEE FIFI
RooMonster
DarrinV

evil doug 10:38 AM  

I got a name, Amelia. Anonymous is kinda right. "white male racists" seems random and prejudicial. Also sexist, and racist in its own right....

Anonymous 10:41 AM  

Will America ever heal from the divide created by the Obama administration? See what Ben Rhodes and Dan Pfeiffer tweeted out last night? What a great legacy.

Nancy 10:46 AM  

Forgot to ask: Did anyone else have RANK before RIPE at 50D? I'm thinking that "a little too long" = RIPE. "Way too long", as in the clue, = RANK.

@Amelia (10:05) -- I wouldn't say that I spend a lot of time on the Internet, but I certainly spend more than I once thought I would. And I've never once seen either ADORBS or WHATEVS. I'm thinking that you have to be on one of the social media websites -- esp. Facebook and all those photo-sharing sites with cat videos -- to ever see those "words" at all.

@mathgent (10:03)-- You won't find WS to complain to, and neither will anyone else. There's no email listed, and although his phone number at the NYT is provided both online and when you call the NYT, calling that extension leads to the message: "You have reached a nonworking number at the NYT." And I had come the other day to praise him, not to INURN him, although I was also planning to let him know about a misprint in the Special Puzzle Section. Which is wonderful, btw.

Non 10:47 AM  

Geez @evil, give it a rest.You got a bee up your bonnet today? Whatevs dude. Chill. I get the Sunday Times and complete digital for $40 and change a month. What kinda car you drivin? Not get back to being sexy and funny.

Anonymous 10:48 AM  

https://townhall.com/tipsheet/guybenson/2017/12/19/leftleaning-scorekeeper-so-the-gop-tax-bill-cuts-taxes-for80-percent-of-americans-n2424201

Ernest Ainsley 10:50 AM  

May I take two minutes of your time and tell you about my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ?

Anonymous 10:55 AM  

Labels are the tools a lazy mind.

IrishCream 10:56 AM  

But slang and pop culture from the 1950s - 1980s were? Eye roll.

Oldflappyfrommississappy 10:58 AM  

@evil doug, remind us for the thousandth time that you were a pilot in the USAF.

Anonymous 10:58 AM  

69

Tom 10:59 AM  

Ditto. Mendacious pu**y grabber in.

Two Ponies 11:07 AM  

Yes @ Amelia, using words like "white male racist" Is inflammatory and completely out of line. Then you call someone "big boy" at 10:27.
What sort of hypocritical piece of $hit is that?
Or does that mean we can tell you just to not worry your pretty little head about it? Fair's fair, right?

Stanley Hudson 11:10 AM  

My god, the vitriol here today. Thanks for the write up, Morgan; both the Alison Krause and Annie Lennox cuts are much appreciated.

Anonymous 11:10 AM  

Oh, speaking of creepy leches, how about the guy with the orange face who lives in the White House and brags about grabbing women, and has 12 women who have accused him. History will judge him, and it won't be pretty. Oh, and if you're rich, the president just gave you HUUUGE Christmas present. The middle class just got screwed.

KRMunson 11:12 AM  

Was I the only person who had “probs” with the SW corner? The rest of the puzzle was easy. Hand up for liking “whatevs”. It is used commonly these days so I got no problem with it.

Commodus Latrinus 11:19 AM  

In all honesty, I don’t remember a better morning dump than the one I took just a few minutes ago. What a wonderful way to start the solstice.

Hartley70 11:24 AM  
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Normal Norm 11:25 AM  

Rhodes, Pfeiffer, O'Donnell.
Real obits will be for their careers.

Masked and Anonymous 11:26 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Masked and Anonymous 11:29 AM  

"Y?" many solvers asked.
"Big U on a stick!", M&A initially exclaimed, when first layin eyes on the grid.
Also: "Primo! E/W symmetry meat!"

The plural GOALPOSTS threw m&e, at first. "Where's the other one?" a confused M&A asked. But IRECKON each Y-prong is a separate GOALPOST, sooo … ok.

staff weeject pick: FEU. Alternate clue that I did not know: {Perpetual lease at a fixed rent}. Kinda ties into 63-A's FORRENT. Well, kinda. Better: FEURENT.
fave fillins: IRECKON. WHATEVS. MRT [But … Outlier! Shouldn't allow other non-Y-letter-thingies to infiltrate!] OILUP [Is there also an OILDOWN word?]. KNOLL. EUREKAS har.

Geez, absolutely no desperate fillins at all, in here…
[…and nice list, btw, Prof. MorganSub.]

Thanx, Mr. E-S. "Y! Y? Oh, Y?!?"

Masked & Anonymo6Us

p.s.
On the 9th Day of Christmas, my true luv gave to m&e…

Eight Y-FORKs TUNING. [@Shortzmeister: Outta order. All yer fault.]

NINE NINES a-FUELING,
Seven LOREes LAI-ing,
Six AYS a-SOAPING.

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

**gruntz**

Mohair Sam 11:32 AM  

@Amelia - Read Dava Sobel's Galileo book because I'd read her "Longitude", she relates history as well as anyone out there.

Anonymous 11:34 AM  

Ben Rhodes is the failed novelist who was an architect of the so called Affordable Care Act. "If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor. Your premiums will be $250 per month."

The other was Jonathan Gruber. "We rely on lack of transparency, and the stupidity of the American voter to get this legislation through."

Good riddance.

Melrose 11:36 AM  

Whatevs? wtf?

Melrose 11:37 AM  

Whatevs? wtf?

Hartley70 11:39 AM  
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Hartley70 11:40 AM  

Like @Mohair, I love some Alison Krauss to start my day. Thanks Morgan!

Like@Gill I, I remember hunting in the 50s for the perfect branch with a fork to make a Dennis the Menace slingshot. No batteries required. Childhood sure was simple back then, but with just a soupçon of danger.

There were three lovely misdirects today for me, STAG, EUREKA, and SANTA. I too wanted stripper. I also was stuck with OoLUP until the very end. What's with the second i in GALILEI?

I always like grid art and this theme was no exception. I didn't pay attention to it as I began the solve so I didn't see what was going on with the themers until THELETTERY, which was nicely done.

Malsdemare 11:45 AM  

Um, the puzzle. It was okay though it took me forever to see THELETTERY; All I could see was THELoTTERY and I knew that was wrong. I'm no good with geography so popped mALAy in instead of PALAU, which kept me from PIGS, but ultimately it got done. The plural GOALPOSTS seemed off, but I really liked TUNINGFORK and SLINGSHOT.

I've got a pretty decent vocabulary, that I actually use on occasion, so slang doesn't bother me. Each generation wants to place its stamp on the culture, and new terminology for traditional language works for me. My favorite "new" expression, which is probably already passé, is amazeballs. Which this puzzle wasn't, but it was decent, the write-up fair, and the blog would appear to be in rare form.

I've been to both the Bisti badlands and the "regular" badlands and didn't see anything that resembled PRAIRIE, so that was a surprise. Thanks, Morgan and Alex, for a pleasant Thursday morning.

Bob Mills 11:46 AM  

WHATEVS? Has any living person ever said that? If so, in what language?

This was a clever construction, marred by horrible editing. GENII is the plural form of GENIUS, not of GENIE. A genius doesn't answer wishes, a genie does. A perfect clue for GENII would have been "MENSA GROUP?" Also, S'POSE SO is a contraction, but the answer, I RECKON, is two separate words. I RECKON is a Southern phrase, whereas S'POSE SO isn't specific to a region. A good clue for I RECKON would have been "IMAGINE SO, BUBBA"

Carola 11:52 AM  

Disgruntled, but won't rant.
STAG a bonus theme answer (head with antlers)?

jb129 12:03 PM  

Don't we have enough of Trump without glorifying his daughter further by putting her into the NYT Crossword puzzle??? Unless she's getting paid millions to have her name in there, of course.

Never heard "Whatevs" - didn't like that at all - as a matter of fact, I didn't like this puzzle but I usually expect that from this constructor (for me anyway).

Lewis 12:27 PM  

I commented early that I was bothered by the plural GOALPOSTS when the other theme answers were singular -- but someone called me out on it on another site, and it turns out I was completely wrong. My whole life I've thought that the entire "y-shaped" goal was called the "goalpost", when actually each vertical post is a goalpost (or "upright"), so a goal has two goalposts, as the grid art shows. I'm guessing everyone knew this except me, but it was good for me to learn!

Anonymous 12:27 PM  

@M&A: MII isn't desperate enough for you? I was SURE you were going to choose that one. I actually (stupidly) misspelled Galilei and didn't notice it because I had no earthly idea about that Nintendo thingy.

Joe Bleaux 12:31 PM  
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GILL I. 12:33 PM  

@Amelia...You new here? You just got the smarts from @evil Doug and Two Ponies. Both shoot from the hip and rarely miss.
@Malsdemare...Hah! "Amazeballs" is a new one for me. I just learned my new favorite BOYFIE not long ago. Isn't it ADORBS?

Joe Bleaux 12:44 PM  

I hear WHATEVS often. Lots of girls say it, and the really cool ones roll their eyes when they do. Finding it high in the SW, I knew the puzzle was going be really cool, too! That's why I thought 7D (Knight 'hood) was a reference to Suge and wrote in EAST LA for the answer. But since I'm not really all that cool myself, I didn't know what a Nintendo avatar might be, and that left me wondering what kind of car an EA_ARO is. One of those foreign jobs, I'll bet. But it won't be long now til they're *all* made in 'Marca and the whole dang country will be great again! Whatevs.

Chip Hilton 12:52 PM  

Okay, there are 93 responses and I'm not looking. I say the over/under on ALFRANKEN comments is 30, at this point. Let's check.

Chip Hilton 1:03 PM  

Wow, way under. Turns out, people here care more about the tax bill and WHATEVS. And, such meanness. Sigh . . .

Way too easy for a Thursday and rather boring.

Trombone Tom 1:39 PM  

Boiling acid here today. Yikes!

@mathgent, you summarized things well. (Although I did have more than the usual writeovers on my page.)

Have not heard WHATEVS from either kids or GKs. Probably should associate with more 20-year-olds.

Not the best Thursday.

Anonymous 1:48 PM  

I think someone is jealous of Princess Ivanka

Amelia 2:03 PM  

@whoev @whatevs

No, not new here. Haven't posted regularly in a while. In fact, I've met some of you. Friends IRL (for those not in the know, that's In Real Life) with others. And for the record, I stand by my words. ALL OF THEM. And yes, social media is where you see those words. ALL OF THEM. Some of them in Russian. Of course, you'll take offense at my leanings. Just like I take offense at yours. You don't like my words? There's no place for it here? You know what they say about free speech. You think your words are protected. Mine? You're not so sure about mine.

If you like this guy, then you like people who see no use for brown people (especially the guy before him in the WH) left-wing people, journalists, women, and students and workers from other lands. Oh and children who need healthcare. Oh and the people who are going to need to collect their Social Security and Medicare. Those people are young now. They're screwed.

Mind you, this all started not with me, but with the crossword blogger who was advancing an agenda. So don't blame me.

OISK 2:05 PM  
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OISK 2:26 PM  
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Aketi 2:32 PM  
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Anonymous 2:38 PM  

@Amelia 10:05
It's okay to be white.

OISK 2:40 PM  

No agenda, but just the facts. I am a retired school teacher. Most of my income is Social Security and a pension. The tax bill saves me 3,000 per year. A family at the median NYC income of 60,000 dollars saves about 800 dollars per year, not a lot, but significant compared to their total tax obligation of about 4000 dollars. Yes, there are many things in the bill to dislike, and the wealthy get most of the benefits. But most poor and middle class people DO get a tax cut for the next eight years.

Liked the puzzle, despite being unfamiliar with whatevs, Ellie Kemper, Etta Candy, not liking "inurn," and disliking the clue for "Heath." Wish the write-up had avoided the political comments. It's a crossword blog. Inclusion of the name of a public figure is not an endorsement of their personal morality. I don't mind seeing "Trump" in a puzzle, nor do I mind "Sharpton" or "Stalin" if they are clued in a neutral way. IIRC, no one complained about "NWA" when it appeared, despite what the "N" stands for. ( I complained, but only because I never heard of them, and I always object to unfamiliar acronyms.)

Recently read that "Whatever" was the most disliked word in the language. I don't see that shortening it to "Whatevs" improves it any...

mathgent 3:23 PM  

@OISK (2:40): I think that a lot of people are being misled by the media's criticism of the tax reform. My wife and I are not wealthy, we too get most of our income from retirement benefits based on our work in the school district. We will pay about $3000 less in taxes when the new law kicks in.

I just did the WSJ puzzle by Natalia Shore. Excellent. Head and shoulders above today's NYT.

Sunnyvale Solver 3:47 PM  

WHATEVS should never be allowed in the puzzle, lest it normalize that sulk-speak.

The top two theme answers are much superior to the bottom two, because they can be seen to incorporate the single black square above the Y-shaped figure:
- for SLINGSHOT, the black square is the pebble being slung
- for GOALPOSTS, the black square is the football that was kicked

jb129 3:48 PM  

No one is jealous of "Princess Ivanka" Anonymous - especially when her husband goes to jail with his father-in-law.

You are an ah - if you're so opinionated why don't you post your name & let us know who are are so we can revel in your opinions?

timjim 3:51 PM  

Anyone else notice the missing ER just above GENERAL HOSPITAL?

Teedmn 4:15 PM  

My dad, who grew up in the 30's when everybody was an expert with a slingshot, at least to hear him tell the tale, used to keep a SLINGSHOT on his nightstand along with a few marbles. If he saw a neighborhood dog spraying his juniper bushes, he would come running out of the bedroom in his boxers, swearing a blue streak at the offending canine. I don't know if he ever hit one, but we didn't have brown, discolored bushes in the front year, at least.

WHATEVS, I think I heard it on "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me" not long ago. Or else on the college radio station I listen too. I kind of like it. We need to add new slang to the old to keep things lively, right? It's so neato keen.

evil doug 4:56 PM  

I always envied Dennis the Menace. In the original comic, he always had a slingshot in his back pocket. What kind of parents would allow a kid that weapon? Not mine. I finally talked them into a peashooter, but it was pathetically harmless....

Aketi 4:59 PM  
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Aketi 5:06 PM  
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jberg 5:19 PM  

@Lewis I’d give GOALPOSTS a pass because they’re like trousers, they only come in pairs.

jberg 5:25 PM  

@E.J. Copperman — The clue didn’t say “New” Jersey.

Lewis 5:44 PM  

@jberg -- You missed my last comment, and you are absolutely correct!

Lewis 5:46 PM  

@jberg -- You missed my last comment, and you are absolutely correct!

Anonymous 6:25 PM  

Anybody else a little put off by saying GH has won 13 EMMYS?
The statuettes they've collected are from Daytime Emmmys. Trust me, that's a far cry from the real McCoy.

semioticus (shelbyl) 6:45 PM  

Meh puzzle week continues with full strength thanks to yet another grid art!

Fill: No big problems in a general sense. Having two irregular plurals (SERA, GENII) is fine on any day after Wednesday, so sure. CRI, ITE, MII, ALPE, CONT I don't like. Also, a 3-letter word rate of 20.5% isn't good, but I understand the constraint imposed by the grid art. But what sucks for the fill is that there's only one excitement inducing answer in WHATEVS. That's better than what we had for the past two days in terms of exciting answers, but this one had too much glue so WHATEVS doesn't cover that loss.

Theme/long answers: Yeah, sure. Cute, I guess. But I'm bored now. Three grid arts in a row? Seriously? Publish this next week, will you? I didn't know what a TUNINGFORK was, so I guess that particular theme answer was OK. The rest was meh. THELETTERY is kind of a cop out.

Clues: "Form of 'sum'" was interesting. "What does follow?" made me think a little in a good way. I didn't really care for the others.

Pleasurability: See yesterday's review. Also the review the day before. I mean, yeah.

GRADE: C+, 2.85 stars.

Jim 6:46 PM  

I disagreed with many of the clue choices, but the abbreviation IV in the clue for SERA made me angry, as did the lower-case b in _ bar as a clue for Heath. Anyway, nice write up and review!

Shelby Glidden 7:34 PM  

@Morgan Polikoff Thank you for a great write-up. I hope you'll come back. For me, it was a relatively ordinary Thursday excursion, from camero to finally struggling with Galileo's last name. A piece of trivia I once knew since I wrote a paper on him in 7th grade. The info I did retain was that he had to kneel before the pope and say he was wrong, the earth did not revolve around the sun. My experience was livened by your write-up. @Evil Doug 7:20 AM. Did you know that your name spelled backwards is
Live Guod?

Shelby Glidden 7:50 PM  

@Morgan Polikoff Thanks for a great write-up. I hope you'll come back. It was a fairly ordinary Thursday for me from camaro to galilei, livened by your input. I had forgotten Galileo's last name although I wrote a paper on him in 7th grade. What I have retained is that he had to kneel before the pope
to deny the earth revolved around the sun or Evil Doug was going to make him subscribe to the WSJ.

Anonymous 8:27 PM  

Sera (5 down) is not found in vi, it’s part of our blood (the liquid part). Inaccurate clue.

Masked and Anonymous 8:38 PM  

@mask-less anonymous at 12:27PM: yep. MII is indeed a good, desperate lil puppy, definitely suitable for honorable mention. Kinda cute that it's used with the WII gamin system and sorta rhymes with "me", tho, I'd grant. [One of them deals where I learned somethin new, and didn't feel all that better becuz of it.]

M&Also

Anonymous 9:17 PM  

@jb 129 3:48
If anyone goes to jail, it will probably be Hillary, Holder, et al.

Jeremy Smith

Linda Vale 9:20 PM  

“Brown people”. I submit evidence - Amelia is a charlatan.

warrenjay 11:31 PM  

I liked Morgan's assessment. I groaned often and loudly when I was solving. But most of all I liked the inclusion of the Zip-Zip sling shot ad of old. I'm old. In my time, a "rubber" was a condom, so "automatic rubber" together with "zip-zip" mad me laugh out loud. Undoubtedly the Ardbeg scotch I was drinking was a factor, too. Anyway, nice job in Rex's absence Morgan.

Anonymous 12:33 AM  

I say whatevs. I’m 48 😬

MaharajaMack 12:54 AM  

@MorganPolikoff Forgive me for Facebook stalking you, but with a name like that it only took a few seconds. You’re an adorable couple and I’d give my eye teeth to have been in a photo with Dr Biden. There’s still hope we’ll see them again in 2020!

Amelia 10:35 AM  

@Linda Vale

I believe you are confused about what charlatan means. I don't want your money.

I say brown people, (as many do) because it includes African Americans, Hispanics, People from Muslim countries etc. You don't like it? Come up with a better word.

Space Is Deep 7:37 AM  

Big DNF. The Bay Area of the puzzle killed me.

spacecraft 11:19 AM  

Space is, indeed, deep. Har. This guy put up a little resistance at first, but finished smoothly. Call it Thursday-medium. Unusually configured theme; the goalpost plural thing required looking at the figure in a different way. To me the post is the pole that is sunk into the ground; hence the "post" route in receiving lingo. But OK.

My primary impression is of The Village People doing the YMCA dance; I do NOT thank you for THAT image. Had Goddard in mind for 15-across, but soon rejected for the good old Pisa man. I share our guest blogger's ignorance of FIFI as a mini-Josephine. Now you say it, it makes sense, sorta. Agree that the INURN/GENII stack should have been ripped out and redone. There was no joy in writing out the title of a soap across the grid. Not my thing. Still, this was a learning experience (a big reason why I keep on doing these). In addition to darling FIFI, I now know how long the LUNARYEAR is.

Ms. SWANN will do nicely for DOD. Score from the grid: WHATEVS. On the course: par.

thefogman 11:46 AM  

I got caught up in the SE corner because I had ERolL before ERROL - an ERROr which cost me a bit of time. I enjoyed the gimmick which rewarded the solver with a several EUREKAS and quite a few Aha! moments. Cluing was clever and fun. Not too easy. Not too challenging. As Goldilocks would say: "This puzzle was just right." It more than makes up for all the puzzles this week that made us groan AHGEE and WHATEVS. Bravo to Alex Eaton-Salners!

thefogman 11:56 AM  

PS - I only got MII as a result of the crosses. I figured it had to do with the Wii game system and I should be OK IRECKON - and I was. I'm not too big on these tech lingo words and would agree this was one of the few flaws in an otherwise solid puzzle.

rainforest 1:32 PM  

Two puzzles in a row where grid features are the thing. So, what that thing today represents was fairly easy to suss for me, except oddly THE LETTER Y. I almost tried baTTERY, LoTTERY and maybe others before that face-slapping answer came to me.

What's a HEATH bar? I don't wanna Google.

Overall, I thought this was a solid puzzle, more or less medium, and superior to a rebus (sorry, "where's my rebus?" people. It's not YOUR rebus anyway.)

Thank you.

Diana, LIW 3:45 PM  

@Foggy - from Bill Butler's Crossword site:

"A customizable avatar in Nintendo games is known as “Mii”. Miis were introduced in the Wii gaming system. Clever, me and we, Mii and Wii …

Now you know...me too...whee...

@Rainy - my Mom's favorite candy bar was a Heath Bar. I hesitated to put it in 'cause I thought the B in Bar should be capitalized.

Per Wiki - "The Heath bar is a candy bar made of toffee and milk chocolate, marketed by L.S. Heath beginning in 1914, subsequently by Leaf, Inc.,[1] and since 1996 by Hershey.

Shaped as a thin hard slab with a milk chocolate coating, the toffee originally contained sugar, butter, and almonds, and was a small squarish bar weighing 1 ounce. It is similar to Hershey's Skor bar and Mondelēz's Daim bar. The Heath bar ranked 56th nationally in the US and 110th on the US East Coast in a 1987 popularity survey,[2] and has become a popular add-in ingredient to ice cream, cookies and other confections.[2]"

Thought the puzzle was quite reasonable for a Thursday, which I usually fear a little bit.

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting, but not for a rebus

Burma Shave 8:39 PM  

CASTLE PREP

He'd FLYINTO D.C., HIS STAG LOFT'S where he went,
IRECKON ALFRANKEN now has it FORRENT.

--- IVANKA "FIFI" SWANN

thefogman 11:43 AM  

Thank you Lady D!

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