1941 siege target / SUN 1-21-18 / Old Parlophone parent / Fan publications informally / Trickster of Navajo mythology / Chemical source of fruit flavor / Colorful toys with symbols on their bellies / Make out at Hogwarts / Pagtron of Archdiocese of New York briefly / Shoulderless sleeveless garment

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Constructor: Victor Barocas and Andy Kravis

Relative difficulty: Easy



THEME: "Substitutes" — theme answers up top are ordinary phrases following the pattern [___ FOR ___]; in the bottom half, theme clues ask you to "remember" one of the theme answers from the top half, and then you're supposed to make a substitution in the bottom-half theme clue by taking the "remembered" theme answers literally, i.e. swapping out the first word for the second. Thus:

Theme answers:
  • PLAY FOR TIME (23A: Stall) // ELIZABETHAN ERA (95A: Play Time of Shakespeare (remember 23-Across)) {when you "remember 23-Across," you "remember" to substitute the word PLAY for the word TIME in this clue}
  • NOT SAFE FOR WORK (33A: At risk of being offensive) // TELECOMMUTE (111A: Not safe Work at home (remember 33-Across))
  • CRY FOR HELP (43A: Subtle sign from the distressed) // TEMPORARY EMPLOYEE (73A: Seasonal cry help (remember 43-Across)) 
  • RECIPE FOR DISASTER (56A: Very bad plan) // EARTHQUAKE (87A: Recipe Disaster that entails a lot of shaking (remember 56-Across)) 
Word of the Day: ELIS (45D: Ancient land where the Olympics began) —
Elis /ˈɛlɪs/ or Eleia /ɛˈl.ə/ (Greek, Modern: Ήλιδα Ilida, Ancient: Ἦλις ĒlisDoricἎλιςAlisEleanϜαλις Walisethnonym: Ϝαλειοι) is an ancient district that corresponds to the modern Elis regional unit. Elis is in southern Greece on the Peloponnesos peninsula, bounded on the north by Achaea, east by Arcadia, south by Messenia, and west by the Ionian Sea. Over the course of the archaic and classical periods, the polis of Elis controlled much of the region of Elis, most probably through unequal treaties with other cities, which acquired perioikic status. Thus the city-state of Elis was formed.(wikipedia)
• • •

This grid is lovely, but this theme didn't work for me at all. Any theme that is tough to explain clearly and succinctly has a good likelihood of being problematic. It's not that this one was tough to figure out, it's just that it only really affected four theme answer (i.e. the first four are just straightforward answers to straightforward clues), so it was barely there—so much so that I never bothered to "remember" anything. And who "remembers" clues? That's a weird word choice. There are something like 140 answers in this grid. Asking me to "remember" some number clue is absurd. I just ended up getting those answers from crosses / by inference. I knew something was wrong, but I couldn't be bothered to figure out what. Only after I was done did I go back and try to find out what all this "remembering" was about. So it's a half-theme that doesn't even need figuring out. Even the title of the puzzle feels like it's not really trying. "Substitutes"? That's it? As I said, the grid itself is clean and lively, which is always nice. But the theme was super-off to me, and theme is kind of important on a Sunday.


GAYBORHOODS! I knew those were gay areas or districts or ... some word, but I did not see this particular neologism (!) coming. SHEDFUL made me laugh because come on, that is not a meaningful quantity (65D: Quantity of garden tools). Probably the hardest answer for me to get in this puzzle was 1A: Enjoy some rays? (SCUBA). Couldn't decide if the dog was going GRR or ARF (5D: Terrier's warning), so I needed most of the other crosses to see SCUBA (a "?" clue which, it turns out, we are getting only for the "joy" of encountering the repeat clue at 61A: Enjoys some rays (BASKS)). How is a CRY FOR HELP "subtle"? If it's a cry, it's ... by definition ... not subtle. Baffling. I had just a couple of initial mistakes today: TBONDS for TNOTES (man, that's a boring mistake) (93D: They take 2-10 yrs. to mature) and POOH BEARS / SHE-GOAT for CARE BEARS (21A: Colorful toys with symbols on their bellies) / PET (?) GOAT (14D: Nanny around the house?). I wish I had more to say about this puzzle, but I don't. Hope you enjoyed the theme more than I did.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]

118 comments:

David Stone 12:07 AM  

Very boring theme that made no sense until we finished the grid because we kept waiting to see if there was more to it. In the end, as you say, it was a clean puzzle (except SHEDFUL and maybe the silly HUR) that was extremely boring (and disappointing) thematically.

Moly Shu 12:08 AM  

I liked it, but I have shit for brains.

Brian B 12:17 AM  

Also thought the theme was thin, but the clue on CRY FOR HELP did seem apt: When people say "it's a cry for help" they're talking about subtext, interpretation, deduction about the purportedly distressed person's mental or emotional state. It's often not obvious.

Trombone Tom 12:23 AM  

What @Rex said.

Fairly good Sunday, but the theme was really disappointing. I, too, did the puzzle and then went back and played with the theme. Nothing there to get excited about.

That's a good clue for TESLAS.

I live near SF and have friends living in the Castro. GAYBORHOOD was new to me.

I like the word SNOG. First heard it years ago on BBC's "As Time Goes By."

Joe Dipinto 12:26 AM  

A "cry for help" is often perceived or detected in an action or statement that does not expressly make its meaning clear. So yes, it can be subtle.

Nice to see the Archduke Trio show up, two days late. I thought this theme was...well...how to put it?...I guess...I couldn't figure out how anyone would possibly come up with this idea for a theme. If it's even a theme. It just doesn't...I mean, I can't...HUH???

That's all I can say on the matter. (I thought Rex's review would be worse.)

JOHN X 12:44 AM  

I didn't even notice there was a theme until I read it here, and after reading it twice I still don't get it. Oh well who cares now I finished it.

I was proud I didn't fall for the SFPD and DREYERS traps, but I'll bet a lot of people did. I saw those a mile away; don't ask me how. Same with OARED. Speaking of GAYBORHOODS, how 'bout that TEBOW? Him and Kaepernick should do commercials together. I like how WALKONWATER was the next answer. And then there's SEANYOUNG. She was a hot mess and I do mean hot. They say never stick your d**k in the crazy but I did it anyway. I also had sex with all the GOGOS, together, at the same time. Belinda Carlisle still writes me thank you notes. Also, how can SNL win Prime Time Emmy awards if its not in prime time? That's something to think about.

I'm going to fire up a Saturday night spliff. I'll save some for you so come on over.

Carola 1:04 AM  

I liked it - I thought the theme was creative and showed some wit. The four top-half theme phrases are great as stand-alones but then also get nicely repurposed in Part Two; granted, once you had the idea of the substitutions, it was awfully easy to write in the lower-half theme answers, which themselves aren't as gratifying as their top-half counterparts. But still, I found it fun to solve. One do-over ELIZABETHAN age.

the redanman 1:23 AM  

GAYBORHOOD is I'm sure mildly offensive to someone, but I've deffo heard it in The City (proper name for 'Frisco) by the Bay said by some prideful gentlemen, actually.

The theme was not offensive, it was BORING as hell.
It was REEDY to be kind. An awkward stumble for a faceplant

I expect a real POP for a Sunday theme, not a fizzle.
"Color feature (character, actually)" me meh this early Sunday Morning.

On the positive:
Huzzzah, maybe my earliest post ever. OLE! or was it RAH in this puzzle, hell, I can't keep the XW-ese straight.

puzzlehoarder 1:38 AM  

This had some nice debuts in it. GAYBORHOODS really isn't one of them. It's what you might call a POC debut. I didn't recognize it until the crosses had virtually filled it in. Interestingly I misread the clue to refer to the actual theater and the hotel. This caused me to put in GAYLANDMARK which fit but didn't work.

Another write over was TANDY for LANGE. I guessed TANDY off of CAREBEARS and ENDTABLES. Luckily SNOG was a gimmie and LANGE went right in.

PETGOAT is something I never would have gotten without crosses. However being a puzzle the crosses are always there.

I had some idea of the theme while solving but the fill was easy enough that you could have ignored it completely and solved just the same. The theme entries were strong enough to recognize as stand alone phrases in and of themselves.

Melrose 1:46 AM  

Too easy, theme pretty uninteresting. This wasn't fun.

Mr. B 2:38 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mr. B 2:54 AM  

This was an easy one...the only thing that gave a bit of resistance was in trying to understand the theme.
Even after reading Rex's explanation...took me a moment to fully GROK what was happening. Otherwise, a breeze compared to the last 2 puzzles.

Ended by doing over PrAYFORTIME. I thought maybe CErLO was going to be my unknown crossword "word of the day".

Really wanted Kokopelli for the Navajo trickster but didn't fit.

I too grew up in SF and never heard The Castro district referred to as GAYBORHOOD.

Robin 2:55 AM  

Mediocre. So many 3- and 4-letter answers and a theme that provided no help in figuring out the longer fills. Sundays like this are why I more enjoy Saturdays.

brainman53 3:42 AM  

Que wow! I usually do not get to comment this early.

As above. I still could not grok the theme, even after Rex explained it. Didn’t matter, though, as the crosses gave the answers. If the theme is that opaque, it’s fundamentally flawed.

When are cel, tepee, grok and Ang ever going to be disallowed?

Kind of disappointing.

Saturdays rule!

FPBear 4:36 AM  

I have been doing Times puzzles for years. through Weng and Maleska. Paper solver. Is there a writeup of the various electronic options and how to use them?
Thank you!

Thomaso808 4:51 AM  

@Moly Shu, haha that occurred to me early in the puzzle, too. Demented minds think alike!

Yeah, the theme was way convoluted, but it was a fun solve with some good long fill. Thumbs up!

Charles Flaster 6:14 AM  

Totally agree with Rex!!
99% easy but DNF —never changed T nOteS into T BONDS or SHAkE into SHAVE.
SCUBA crossing CELLO were creatively clued.
Thanks VB and AK.

Anonymous 6:14 AM  

looks like snog and gopro are the flavors of the week. yes, gayborhood is a thing. 'Frisco is not. You say 'frisco around here and you're obviously a tourist or poseur or wannabe. hello nancy and loren. sfpd could have been chip - with gayborhood, a mini-theme.

and the dig on tebow and kap? what was that? some lib screed?

agree with rexcalibur! that the theme was lame/weak/inane. At least it wasn't a pun or a quote with the author hidden somewhere in the puzzle. We have not seen one of those in a long time. Hope I didn't jinx it.

Lewis 6:24 AM  

The theme didn't help my successful solve (which went fast for Sunday), and I only got it after reading another blogger's explanation, but I really really like it and am thinking I should have gotten it, should have stuck with trying to figure it out until I did, because that would have been a tremendous aha.

So, Victor and Andy, even after my successful solve, you still got me good with your cleverness, and I love being tricked if it's done fairly. Thank you greatly, guys!

Lewis 6:26 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lewis 6:28 AM  

From the constructors' notes, some other entries that were left on the cutting room floor:

CAUSEFORALARM / BEEP = Cause sound
DRESSFORSUCCESS / BLOCKBUSTER = Amazing dress
FEEFORSERVICES / MASSES = Church fee
FREEFORALL / LIONSSHARE = Almost free
GOFORBROKE / DIVORCED = Go up MADE FOR TV / IDIOTBOXES = Made sets
ONEFORTHEROAD / CORMACMCCARTHY = One author
PANFORGOLD / LEPRECHAUN = He keeps his pan in a pot
PLAYFORKEEPS / MAINTAIN = Play up
TABLEFORTWO / DEUCE = Poker table
WATERFORELEPHANTS / LARGEEARED = Like the water in Africa
WORKINGFORPEANUTS / SNOOPY = Working dog

KRMunson 6:30 AM  

Didn’t have the zing I’ve come to expect from a Sunday NYT puzzle. Also hands up for being clueless about the theme even after reading OFL’s write-up. Couldn’t wait to be finished.

Anonymous 7:30 AM  

Liked it. Caught on to the theme early enough to be able to slap in a couple of FOR's. Then noting their absence further along, I GROKked the substitution thing. Agree with OFL that the theme's presentation needs work. Maybe a silent CRY FOR HELP in that? And, yes, I think along with earlier posters that the idiom generally implies subtlety. Subconsciousness even. OFL's quibble is weird.

Loren Muse Smith 7:31 AM  

Like @Lewis, I finished, but didn’t fully grok the deal. Even after reading the explanation, it didn’t hit me until I wrote out each clue/answer. Only then did I see the play on the word for (as in the title’s “substitute”).

I had to write this all down to get it: PLAY FOR TIME. Now take the clue’s instructions for “play of Shakespeare” and substitute in the word TIME where “play” is to get “Time of Shakespeare” = ELIZABETHAN ERA.

Now that I see it, I love the concept. Just wish I hadn’t been so dense about it. I’m with @Lewis – I don’t mind being tricked if it’s fair. Nice puzzle, guys.

This multi-level Sunday theme idea somehow reminds me of a terrific Sunday we had a few years ago. It doesn’t work the same way, but it involved a lot of thought to remember the clue en route to sussing out the answer. It was by Daniel Finan and ran April 8, 2012. If you’re gonna access it from the archives and solve it, skip this…

spoiler alert
tHe lOnLiEst number - HOLE is in circles in the grid. Get it? Hole in one. I loved that puzzle.

Completely reasonable “shake” for SHAVE (lose a shadow).

I agree with @Brian B and @Joe Dipinto about CRY FOR HELP. I’ve just collected narratives my students had to write, and I have several that I may have to run by the counselor because I’m afraid they’re subtle cries for help. Happens every year.

My neighbors just got a PET GOAT. I asked about its bathroom situation. This goat wears a diaper. I swear.

I love the word GAYBORHOODS, a poster child for the elasticity and creativity of language.

layborhood: the red-light district of a city
playborhood: the theater district
greyborhood: retirement community
dismaybornood: DC
Norwayborhood: wished-for new descriptor for Little Haiti

I live in an area where we all own round balers and square balers. So I live in a hayborhood. Though there are a lot of horses, so we’re back to square one with neighborhood.

BarbieBarbie 7:31 AM  

Ogden Nash said: If you want to be boiled in oil or Crisco/ just call San Francisco “Frisco.” He was right. As a once-and-always Livermoron, I still cringe when I hear it. Or even read it. Go Cowboys!

Wanted the CAREBEARS to be Teletubbies, but it wouldn't’ fit.

Easy puzzle according to my time, solved as themeless even though I grokked the theme because it was not that much fun to have to go and parse the earlier, kind of boring long entry. Not my type of wit, I think- it felt flat, something about one rung down from dad-humor.
Some fun answers here in the fill.

chefbea 7:43 AM  

Did not get it at all. Was all excited when I saw RECIPE...thought it was going to be about food

Sallie (FullTime-Life) 7:51 AM  

Oversized and easy themeless for me . Didn’t understand the “remember” clues but filled them all rater easily from crossings. . Not even sure I understand the reasoning now, even after Rex’s explanation, probably because I don’t care enough to try. I never like to have to go back over a puzzle to figure out the theme. It spoils the joy of finishing it.

Amy 8:06 AM  

Since the secondary clues literally gave you the same word in the top answers, wouldn’t it have been better to not reference the specific clue involved in the substitution? The clues for bottom themers give you that hint (recipe, play, etc. same word as in the answers). Seemed weird to so literally explain the way the theme is supposed to work. Of course I never would have solved it that way but still —-

Z 8:15 AM  

Solving in the magazine with the big bold SUBSTITUTES sprawling across the top and the repetitious FOR in the the long answers, I was expecting answers to be replaced, so was pleased when it was a word in the clue that was substituted. Still, I resent the cross-referencing back to the theme hint. Omit the parenthetical “remember” and this would have been a proper challenge. As it was, though, way too easy. I really like the theme, I just wish the constructors/editor had trusted us more to suss it out.

“Dyeing your hair blue and green when you’re 20 is a fashion statement, when you’re 40 it is a CRY FOR HELP.” Yep, works for me. I’m willing to cut Rex some slack, though, as we’ve all had those moments where the intended meaning or idiom just doesn’t click at first. BTW - my recent switch from full beard to goatee is not a CRY FOR HELP, it is pure vanity. I just didn’t like the way the gray beard looked ending abruptly at the top of my ears. Any hair experts out there able to explain how hair knows the difference between facial hair and head hair?

@LMS - All that work to set up “neighborhood?” That’s why everyone reads your comments.

'mericans in Paris 8:29 AM  

Wow, so many neigh-sayers! (Hi, LMS.) We liked the multi-leveled nature of the puzzle. Doing it on an iPad, the bottom themers highlighted the answers to which they referenced, so 73A, 87A, 95A, and 111A all quickly fell into place after we got a few of the downs.

Hands up for entering gRr before ARF, and laPD before SFPD. Never heard of ALOP for off-kilter, and was surprised by the British past tense (LEANT), but otherwise the fill seemed pretty PRIMO to us. We lived on Avenue EMILE Zola for three years back in the '80s. A CUTE puzzle overall.

Loved the misdirect for CHEESE (It's said to cause a smile) and OATEN (Grainy in a way). Technically, café is maron foné, but I suppose because people order it NOIR, the answer's fair.

Was surprised that Will Shortz didn't clue 48A as "No ifs, /s / buts". (LMS knows what I'm talking about.)

Smiled at 4D (BOY'S LIFE). By older brother was once a features editor for that magaZINE, which included managing the joke page at the back. The deal was that Scouts would be rewarded with $1 or a free copy of the Boy Scout Manual if their joke was accepted. Most of the boys thought they could get by with recycling jokes from back issues. But my brother had a special drawer for the jokes that wouldn't pass the BL censors. He happened to mention aloud once that he hoped eventually to publish a book on Jokes I Couldn't Print in Boy's Life. He was thereupon swiftly introduced to the Boy Scout's legal counsel.

Z 8:31 AM  

Since Rex’s explication seems not to have sufficed for some, let’s see if this helps:

The bottom theme clues have had a word substituted per the upper theme answers. So “73 Seasonal cry (remember 43-a Crossword),” has had “help” replaced by “cry” per the answer CRY FOR HELP. “Seasonal help” properly clues TEMPORARY EMPLOYEE.

QuasiMojo 8:31 AM  

I was done before I ere knew it. Interesting concept that didn't quite pan out. It did cause me to "remember" the wonderful movie "Playing for Time." Anyone else notice the frequency of "ends" in this one? I have nothing else to add except that "scuba" was my first guess and first entry. I will never forget diving in the Virgin Islands. I stuck my head in the water for the first time with my mask on and there inches away from me was a gigantic ray. I nearly walked on water, fins and all.

'mericans in Paris 8:32 AM  

maron foncé

Mohair Sam 8:40 AM  

Easy themeless for us. Had to read Rex twice to get the theme. Unlike @Molly Shu's remark, which we got immediately. Good one Molly (I damn near entered it).

Hungry Mother 8:40 AM  

Played leisurely for me, not unwelcome on a Sunday morning when I’m trying to delay going out for an eight mile run. Some very nice fill. Had fun. Good success today not reading posts from the non-blues.

Go Democrats 9:02 AM  

Formerly fashionable area is outreborhood

Nancy 9:09 AM  

Like others, I didn't need to understand the theme to solve and therefore I didn't bother to check the cross-references. Being quite a lazy person, I tend to hate cross-referencing and avoid it whenever I can. It's the reason I find Acrostics so tedious. But today I deprived myself of some big Aha moments by not looking to see what was going on during the solve. It's truly a very clever theme and I'm sorry I missed it entirely. Had the puzzle been harder, I would have been forced to figure it all out in order to finish. And therefore I really wish that the puzzle had been harder.

John Morrison 9:14 AM  

The theme was annoying and utterly useless.

Stuart Showalter 9:20 AM  

“I wish I had more to say about this puzzle, but I don't.”

Well, Rex, I’m glad you DIDN’T have more to say about this puzzle. The less whining we hear from you the better.

kitshef 9:23 AM  

The AHA! was absolutely after the fact and played no role in solving. For me, that’s the difference between fantastic and merely good. Still in the top 5 Sunday puzzles over the last year.

In my gang, it's NOT suitable FOR WORK - is everyone else OK with SAFE?

JJ 9:37 AM  

Mr Ed lived in my neighborhood

Teedmn 9:48 AM  

This is an interesting theme. I'm not sure how I feel about PIECEs of the clues in one being in the answers of the other theme but I must say it didn't affect my solving at all, or if it did, it was only subconsciously. Solving randomly, as I do on Sundays, means I never saw one theme after the other so I didn't notice the dupes until CRY FOR HELP and "seasonal cry" came together. (REAR END END TABLES).

My favorite theme couple was RECIPE FOR DISASTER with EARTHQUAKE. My favorite clue and answer pairs were 1A for SCUBA, 59D for SHAVE and 70A for CHEESE.

I was fortunate to meet Victor Barocas in December at a crossword gathering in Minneapolis - nice Sunday puzzle, Victor and Andy.

Rob 9:49 AM  

@kitshef 9:23 AM: "Not safe for work" (or "NSFW") is a standard bit of Internet culture, yes.

Needed the theme explained (thanks Rex), I got everything filled in pretty quickly but I didn't understand the answers -- I could see they related but I didn't see how. Didn't care for some of the grid, but the ones Rex hated I thought were fine, except SHEDFUL. I'm skeptical of OATEN, LEANT, ALOP, and NIK, and I think one or two others I can't find now. I'm not saying they're not words, but they're mostly not words in common usage. NIK is fine but I've never heard "wordnik" before, and Googling it is making me doubt that it's a real thing, even if you can figure out the meaning by looking at it.

Wm. C. 10:03 AM  


@MetroGnome (from yesterday)--

You asked why Pella is a big name in Windows. I didn't see any responses yesterday, so here goes:

I guess you were thinking of the Microsoft product. But it was referring to real physical Windows that are manufactured by the Pella Corporation located in Pella, Iowa.

KRMunson 10:10 AM  

@kitshef. It’s Suitable for work for me too. Not safe.

Birchbark 10:11 AM  

I was thinking about BOYS LIFE and its joke page (@Z 8:15) during the solve. GROKed the them early on. It's right in line with the neat-code-breaker vibe I associate with Boy's Life.

Just for fun, I wanted SLEDFUL for SHEDFUL. After proving I'm not a robot, I'll go out to the garage, load the sled with some tools, and walk through the woods to an old collapsed shack I'm taking apart. It's fun, the temperature is a very mild 32 degrees, and the Vikings game starts late enough today that virtue in the interim is probably a good idea.

TubaDon 10:14 AM  

Theme was obvious. GAYBORHOODS wasn't. I travelled to NY and SF a lot in the 19980's and '90s and never heard that expression. Must be a neologism.

Wm. C. 10:15 AM  

I have to disagree with OFL on his point that a "Cry for Help" cannot be subtle.

He is fixating on the literal meaning of the phrase, which, of course, is NOT subtle, as he says.

But a "Cry for Help" can also be metaphorical, as, for example, when a person engages in some kind of bad behavior, in the underlying hope that someone will come to his/her aid.

Exubesq 10:31 AM  

Here in the City of Brotherly Love, we have a very proud Gayborhood, with rainbows on the street signs. No derogatory anything, just shops and excellent restaurants. It used to be sketchy as hell but has been transformed.
As for the puzzle, I was zipping through it too fast to work out the theme. The only complaint I have is the over abundance of abbreviations. It’s crossWORD, not crossWORDPARTS.
also all you kids get off my lawn.

Amie Devero 10:50 AM  

Finished the whole puzzle while remaining clueless about the theme. I even had to read Rex's explanation twice to get it. Terrible theme, ok themeless. Got the theme answers purely through crosses and intuition.

dsb 11:02 AM  

And this is why I come to this blog
Got it all right and had absolutely no idea what the puzzle was about
Talk about missing the forest for the trees, which I suppose could have been yet another answer in this puzzle somehow

Anonymous 11:04 AM  

GAYBORHOOD has been in the puzzle before (11/14/15)

Roo Monster 11:07 AM  

Hey All !
Thanks to @Z, I finally got the lightbulb moment. Even after Rex's explanation, and @LMS's explanation, it was still fuzzy. But the ole brain twisted to the theme after that third explanation. Man.

Saw some sort of connection twixt the top themers and the bottom ones, but as you've read, never GROKed the whole concept. Did manage to get puz 100℅ correct, though. YAY ME!

Just two writeovers, laIt-NOIR, Veep-VICE. Don't want to tell you the first eight-year-old thought when I read 103A. Har.

@LMS, enjoyed your write-up, but I thought you'd wax wordotic about LIE. Originally I had Lay!🙂

TWEE could be clued as "Whistle sound". No? Cool clue on ACE OF HEARTS.

ANGRY CHEESE, ARF
RooMonster
DarrinV

Sallie 11:12 AM  

I finished this faster than I’ve ever done a Sunday, I still don’t get the theme, really. I agree that If there’s a theme, it should play a major part in the fun of solving.

old timer 11:15 AM  

Solved it. Bit of a slog as Sundays often are.

Question: is it reasonable to call Chelsea a GAYBORHOOD? It covers a lot of territory in Manhattan and while parts of it are quite arty, it seems to me people of all persuasions live there. The Castro is, or at least was back when rents were affordable, quite different. I think over half of the residents were gay men, and let me tell you the Castro was a sight to be seen on Hallowe'en. They used to call Harvey Milk the mayor of Castro Street,

GHarris 11:15 AM  

Started on a flight to SF, was finished over Ohio. DNF because had prime crossing net and thought both were right. Fun anyway.

Anonymous 11:29 AM  

The committee thinks @Molly is a real wit! My ex-husband once told me that I wasn't as smart as people thought I was (see the ex part there). But in my heart I knew he was right and I still laugh about that.

Didn't finish, didn't feel bad. Recipe for disaster and earthquake, intricate construction,deeply thoughtful cluing and answers. Just not my own particular idea of fun.

GILL I. 11:33 AM  

The theme was super ON for me. I loved every minute of it. Huge light bulb moment at TEMPORARY EMPLOYEE. Looked at "Substitutes" went back up to CRY FOR HELP, scratched a little nit and finally shouted EUREKA!. I loved all of the puzzle. Yeah, I don't particularly like hunting and pecking around, but this made the effort worth it.
I particularly liked the long downs. WALK ON WATER reminds me of those little green lizards that skip/hop across the water as if dancing the NAE NAE.
Ah...memories of The Castro. When I arrived, the gays were just beginning to gentrify that once seedy, rundown part of town. They transformed it into something quite beautiful. Refurbished store-fronts, boutiques galore, sidewalks, old Victorians. It was incredible what they did. Harvey Milk did his best to get The Castro on a world-wide map. He did - for a while. It's a bit too too flamboyant for me now - especially when you come out after dinner late at night having just eaten the best pasta from Poesia on 18th and be looking at a handsome man in nothing but a leather jock strap. I do, though, wish Halloween Night on Castro Street were still a thing.
PRIMO crossword Victor and Andy.

CashPo’ 11:42 AM  

As far as I know, Chelsea’s gay denizens have decamped, pardon the pun, to Hell’s Kitchen aka Clinton. Chelsea, like the Village, got too gentrified and expensive and are both populated by gazillionaires from overseas ( thanks in part to the plutocratic tax/citizenship scam giveaway.)

jberg 11:48 AM  

I dunno, I loved what @Rex and many others hated, viz., the theme. It starts off pretty simple, and you're thinking "is that all it is? Phrases with FOR in the middle?" Then suddenly you hit 73A and you're totally at sea, no idea what's going on. I was trying to fit in TEMPORARY for the holidays, or something, but nothing was working. Then I saw 87A, saw that EARTHQUAKE worked, thought a little more, and aha! That's what I do puzzles for. I do agree that it might have been better had we been left to work out the cross references on our own. Maybe too hard that way, though.

@Loren, that was one of your best.

I, too, would say 'suitable' for SAFE -- and even thought that was the substitution, maybe, but it wouldn't work for the other top-half themers. But that may vary, in the nature of colloquialisms, so it was all right with me.

I assume the PET GOAT was a subtle dig at GW Bush's handling of Katrina, right?

I knew right away that it wouldn't be suitable to just put in laPD,so I waited for another cross, which game me the S. By my rough estimate, approximately 37% of the place names in California start with either San or Santa, so it could have been sj, sb, sd, sc (or the fictional st, where the fictional Kinsey Milhone runs her private investigative practice). Nevertheless, I put in the F at that point. I like to live dangerously.

Alan_S. 12:04 PM  

Can't understand why so many had such a hard time getting the theme (and it was definitely a theme). I thought it was obvious from a) the title and b) the _ for _ answers up top. It's not rocket science so I guess it was too simple for some of you rocket scientists to grok.

Stuartwm 12:07 PM  

I think GAYBORHOOD is right up there with "nabe" (for "neighborhood" in case you didn't know)--words I never hear in anyone's conversation. Both appear to qualify as "journalese" because news items are the only places where I've ever encountered them.

Pattywack 12:10 PM  

How is 'each' an answer for 'A pop' 40A?

Joseph Michael 12:10 PM  

I food this was a fun puzzle.

Andrew Heinegg 12:11 PM  

I didn't care for the puzzle although it was very easy. The cleverness of the theme is only interesting to me, as Nancy suggested, if it needs to be grasped to solve the puzzle but, that may be an unfair take.

I never heard of the terms gayborhood or naenae but, they filled themselves in from the crosses as did alop which is off-kilter? I guess so.

I believe OFL should have software installed so that LMS's comments automatically show up at the top of the entries so you are not forced to filter through anonymous political bot comments and the like. Yes, I'm sort of kidding but, not completely!

sanfranman59 12:17 PM  

This week's relative difficulty ratings. See my 1/2/2018 post for an explanation of my method. In a nutshell, the higher the ratio & percentage, the higher my solve time was relative to my norm for that day of the week.

(Day, Solve time, 26-wk Median, Ratio, %, Rating)

Mon 3:44 4:08 0.90 20.9% Easy-Medium
Tue 5:18 5:19 1.00 46.0% Medium
Wed 5:39 5:54 0.96 46.8% Medium
Thu 9:55 10:16 0.97 44.9% Medium
Fri 19:57 11:37 1.72 96.4% Very Challenging
Sat DNF
Sun 20:57 22:02 0.95 43.9% Medium

thefogman 12:20 PM  

I finished and was scratching my head to figure out the theme. I could not figure it out. Then I came here to discover it was a lunchbag letdown. This could be the worst themer ever. Garbage like this should not be given the green light by Mr. Shortz. Epic fail!

Dorrance Smith 12:23 PM  

SNL does not air in Prime Time

thefogman 12:25 PM  

@Pattywack

APOP: Those are nice widgets. Too bad they're $100 a pop...

irongirl 12:30 PM  

@Pattywack, if items cost fifty cents each, they are fifty cents a pop.

I really enjoyed this theme. The puzzle was easy, but the theme, I thought, was clever.

Two Ponies 12:44 PM  

@ JOHN X 12:44, Sean Young was too good to be true in Blade Runner and so perfect for the role. Unlike her movie character, she seems to have aged poorly.

@ LMS, I don't foresee a happy ending to the pet goat. Let us know. They are cute for about 30 min. then it's either off to the petting zoo or roasting on the BBQ.

Lots of cleverness today but as for the theme...too much work for a Sunday. This is supposed to be a day of rest.

TomAz 1:02 PM  

This puzzle was fine. The theme neither wowed me nor did it make me go wtf. It was fine.

Loved the clue for TESLAS though. That was first rate!

Anonymous 1:18 PM  

I still don't know what the theme is, and I don't care.

Shedful is an awful answer. Given that its neighbor could have been "art" or "act" it was just a nutty part of the grid. I had "art" and "seedful" (after having put in "yardful"). Blech. I don't understand how they won't bother to clean up junk like that.

Dan Steele 1:21 PM  

"Tickets are $20 each." "Tickets are $20 a pop." You've heard that expression?

Dan Steele 1:25 PM  

Easy, but I liked it. I'll never empathize with the " didn't get the theme, didn't bother trying to figure it out" comments. The Sunday puzzle is completely about the theme to me. If I finish every square, but don't understand what the theme was, that's a failure. If I have a few blanks, but I got the theme, and used it to do some solving, that's a win. Today was a win. And easy win, but a win nonetheless.

Richard 1:38 PM  

I may be in the minority because I identified the theme early in my solve of the bottom half of the grid. More specifically, I got it after filling in "Elizabethan era." It then became easier to complete the remaining theme answers at the bottom when I substituted the appropriate word in the clue.

phil phil 1:46 PM  

The theme was well structured.
I ran into the first x for y answer and said, 'ok substitute x for y. All have 'for' in the clues so wonder what the catch is?'
then got to the second half and the clue aptly said 'remember' that catch you looked for... aha ok cool what’s the big confusion with the theme. Can't really see a nit to pick folks.

phil phil 1:53 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
phil phil 1:54 PM  

Oops have to delete that ladt post, didn't finish reading her last line of comment

Pat 2:19 PM  

I pretty much agree with Rex today (yay!) -- I just wish there were something more exciting to agree about. I actually didn't realize that I hadn't fully understood the theme until after I had finished and came here. (I could intuit or explain everything but "telecommute" with my mistaken interpretation, which was dissatisfying.) I did find it a pretty boring puzzle, but would have been at least a bit more entertained if I'd fully gotten the gimmick. Next time!

Suzie Q 2:28 PM  

What in the world is Nina Simone wearing in that video?
It looks like a reusable shopping bag!

Hooverville is a mystery to me. Something about the Depression?

Kimberly 2:32 PM  

I am in the minority. Loved the substitution theme. Any theme which requires any thought at all makes me happy. They’re tricksy and tricksy always gives me that joyful “aha” moment. If you can add an “oh, that’s kind of clever” I’m even happier. Usually that’s thursdays and sundays, so after the let-down on Thursday, I was pleased. I don’t care if the “fill” is clean or if I can beat some arbitrary “solve time” (which adds zero pleasure for me—I don’t mind if it takes five minutes or an hour to complete a puzzle). I just like doing them, and even more so if they require me to think a bit. It’s a nice way to start the day.

Adam Frank 3:02 PM  

I loved the theme, but was really hoping that the substitutes would be in the grid - although I imagine it would be difficult to find phrases that work with both words in the substitute-from clues (CRY ME RHONDA isn't a thing, although it's along the lines I was thinking of). As soon as I saw PLAY FOR TIME I figured I would be substituting PLAY for TIME somewhere.

NAE NAE? WTF?

Joe Welling 3:30 PM  

De gustibus non est disputandum. I particularly loved SHEDFUL. And I plunked it in with few crosses, very pleased to see it ended up being correct.

JC66 3:36 PM  

A much better example of SUBSTITUTIONS is todays CRooked Crosswords' offering.

Anonymous 4:19 PM  

There are times with the NYT puzzle seems hopeless dated. Back in 1990, I lived in Haight Ashbury, and my uncle and his partner lived in the Castro, which was the gay neighborhood which had the world's best Halloween party. Flash forward 28 years and Haight Ashbury has a Whole Foods Market and is definitely not a hip or cool place, and the Castro is mostly occupied by very wealthy Chinese nationals, who bought out the neighborhood when the old gays died of AIDS (including my uncle and his partner) and the younger gays couldn't afford the Castro and no longer needed to be in a ghetto. So, the clue was untimely and rude and not quite right, and was sort of offensive, especially since the puzzle also included SFPD and rearend, which pretty much defines the struggle in the city while I lived there. The NYT needs to catch up with the time. Maybe add the word "historically" as in "historically black college" for Howard and "historically white college" for Harvard. And for what its worth, I've before heard the word gayborhood.

Anonymous 4:21 PM  

@Nancy: whine

Anonymous 4:24 PM  

@Adam Frank: It's something black people might say, therefore not recognized by anyone who does the NYT crossword or participates in this blog.

cwf 4:40 PM  

@jberg I think you're thinking of The Pet Goat, the book GWB was reading to some school kids when he was interrupted to be informed of the 9/11 attacks.

@FPBear Most on-line puzzle provide the puzzles in several formats, such as a .pdf which you will need to print out, and a .puz which you download and open with the (somewhat clunky) Across Lite app. Works on Windows and Mac and appears since the last time I looked at it to have been made available for iOS as well.

There are other xword apps available for mobile devices but last time I looked (years ago) they tended to want an additional subscription above and beyond what you have to pay to the NYT. Happy to be corrected on that point.

cwf 4:42 PM  

Oh, the puzzle. I liked it, but didn't really suss out the exact mechanics of the theme, though the first four did help me in the form of fuzzy quasi-hints to the latter four.

Joe Dipinto 4:55 PM  

@Susie Q 2:28 - Correct -- Hoovervilles were shanty towns built by the homeless during the Depression.

Aketi 5:24 PM  

@LMS, my BFF when I was growing up had a great PET GOAT named Shamrock. He tidily trimmed the lawn as well as the pony’s mane and tail, ate the oak leaves in the fall so no need to rake leaves, went on walks with us without needing a leash, and had exceedingly good manners when inside the house. He never needed a diaper not even when he snuck sips from the wine glasses and got a little tipsy.

Didn’t have a hard time figuring out the theme.

@‘mericans in Paris, I agree. Café is not noir.

Norm 5:52 PM  

I don't believe I've seen a comment on this part of the review yet, so I feel a need to comment: a CRY FOR HELP may very well be subtle, Rex. Actually, from someone who is "distressed" rather than distraught, it is very likely to be subtle. It may be a bit of behavior that does not fit the situation, or an action that is out of character for the person. It can be very subtle. Try to pay more attention to the people around you, and you may find yourself able to help someone.

Nancy 6:57 PM  

@Aketi (5:24) -- Too funny! That must have been some goat! Your avatar can't be Shamrock, can it. By now, he must be in The Great Pasture in the Sky. But the avatar you chose to represent him is a real cutie.

@Loren (7:31 a.m.) -- Love all your ayborhoods.

semioticus (shelbyl) 7:12 PM  

It has already been mentioned tens of times but let me join the chorus too. A "cry for help" is indeed subtle. That's a very literal -and weird- interpretation you're going with there Rex.

I was OK with this puzzle. I agree with the majority that the theme was weak, but the grid was very well done. The best I've seen this week. On a Sunday! That is bizarre but speaks to how much crap we've been fed all week. ACEOFHEARTS, GAYBORHOODS, SEMIPRIVATE, TELECOMMUTE, WALKONWATER now those are great answers.The 3-letter words were also neatly placed, away from important spots for the puzzle so I didn't mind them that much. And the cluing picked things up for some potentially boring answers.

Definitely best puzzle of a week that has been really bad for NYT standards. After all, I've given my first ever F! That Friday was so bad I'm still not over it.

GRADE: B, 3.6 stars.

Pet Monkey 7:41 PM  

The way you guys are describing "cry for help" being subtle just sounds like so much psycho-babble bilge water.
"Help me, I'm drowning!"
Now that's a cry for help.

Brian Baldwin 7:49 PM  

Rex, buy the Sunday times. Do it on paper. The theme works that way, and it's way more enjoyable.

Anonymous 8:40 PM  

@anon 4:19. You're not from around here either. Haight Ashbury is the intersection of two streets. You lived in the Upper Haight. Saying you lived in Haight Ashbury is like saying you lived in 'Frisco. The rest of your neighborhood history about the Castro is factually inaccurate, too. Take your ridiculous bs somewhere else. 'fess up. You read a book about gay life in SF (you know the one i'm talking about) and spent an hour in the airport. Ur a schmuck.

Santoria Senorita 9:19 PM  

Goats are not cute.
Their pupils are slits like a snake's.
No wonder they are in so many satanic images.

Ashkitty 11:20 PM  

I had no trouble solving as long as I ignored theme! I majored in English and never heard word Grok before. Only places u had to write over were my own fault: veep instead of vice and shanty instead of shacks. Fun puzzle but not challenging.

pat sanchez 5:06 AM  

Finished in 1hr 38, NW corner last. I'm from NYC and never heard gayborhood. Have no idea what Hooverville is. I did skip senior year but not for sports. My HS had 12 students a year go to an affiliated college. I hated this puzzle and theme and still have a headache. Phooey.

kitshef 8:54 AM  

Re: goats and pupils.
Most snakes have round pupils. A minority of snakes have slit pupils.
Kittens, which I do consider cute, have slit pupils.

skristol 9:21 AM  

Thanks to this puzzle and wikipedia, I now know a new term, nae nae : "The Nae Nae is a hip-hop dance that involves planting one’s feet, swaying with shoulder movement, placing one hand in the air and one hand down, and incorporating personal creativity. The move typically follows another move called "Whip (dance)" . The Whip involves lifting one foot off the ground and planting it with a stomp; simultaneously, the dancer twists and extends their opposite arm forward."

Anonymous 11:35 AM  

C'mon people, there are videos of Michelle Obama doing a little Whip and Nae Nae! They are not obscure dance moves!!

@Ashkitty Grok is from "Stranger in a Strange Land", a favorite book of middle-school Sci-Fi nerds & adult male crossword-puzzlers.

@Pat Sanchez
Hoovervilles were homeless encampments that sprang up when Herbert Hoover was President (1929-1933) and the Great Depression began.

I loved the theme - as soon as I saw the first "remember" clue, I understood what the "Substitution" title meant & was able to get all the bottom half theme answers quickly. This was one of my fastest Sunday times ever.

old timer 12:44 PM  

The Haight-Ashbury was pretty clearly defined in the '60's. Oak St, Central, Buena Vista Park, Waller, Stanyan. The name got shortened to "the Haight" in the '70's. Then the yuppies started moving in to the area of Haight and Fillmore, which was notorious for crime at the time, and mostly African-American. The urban pioneers there started to include the neighborhood in "the Haight".

In recent years, it has been customary to describe everything near Haight St east of Divisadero as the "lower Haight" and everything west of Divisadero as the "upper Haight." Which had the effect of enlarging that neighborhood by extending its confines east. Back in the '60's the area around Divisadero had no particular name I can remember. The Haight-Ashbury of old was essentially anywhere within a short walk of the old Drogstore, which in later years became a renowned brewpub. Still there AFAIK.

Hartley70 3:30 PM  

I'm a day late but found this a terrific Sunday both for theme and clueing.

Anonymous 9:25 PM  

ALOP? I saw somewhere that someone finally found this in the OED, guess I didn't have that 20 volume set handy. Pretty tired of GROK and its acceptance as a real word, no mention of slang in the clue, but getting used to it, kind of like fingernails on the blackboard. Oh, and a "cry for help" is hardly a 'subtle' sign of distress. Pfft. But the letters did fit the boxes.

spacecraft 11:24 AM  

CLEAN and LIVELY????? I cannot believe you said that, Fearless One. OMG I don't know where to start. QEII? CLEAN?? No, I'm not going to go on. This is the most junk-filled grid I've seen in a while. Bottom-of-the-barrel stuff, Will. I slogged through it, but it was an utterly joyless experience. Victor & Andy: I hope you have good day jobs. LANGE is one of several Jessicas worthy of the DOD sash. Double-bogey.

Burma Shave 1:56 PM  

SHE HADTO GOPRO

SUE'S TUBETOP was NOTSAFEFORWORK,
'TWAS EATIN' HUR what they'd ask HUR,
whether ACUTE FUNGI or EACH ANGRY jerk,
NAE,NAE,'TWAS a RECIPEFORDISASTER.

--- HELENA & ESTER LANGE, PHDS

BS2 1:57 PM  

ASSENTS OARED VICE

A SEMI-PRIVATE QUIETMAN would
PLAYFORTIME, his RANSOM paid
to ENTER in those GAYBORHOODS,
his REAREND left UNALLAYED.

--- JACOB EMILE DREYER, SFPD

Anonymous 2:01 PM  

a week behind here in the hinterlands. we had gopros and gogos. got most of the longer ones w/ crosses and a lot of false starts: atip for alop as I had tandy not lange. Snog is very brit and I always thought it meant more that just kissing or making out. the nanny one? that was just cruel. and shake for shave. did get all the theme ones. more anglophile stuff QE11, Elizabethan , tudor . and then the kid stuff eieio care bears, amazed I knew boys life as I am a woman. anyway not a bad puzzle - stumped at first but then grokked it. and gayborhood. really? so lame. Is that even a word or a thing? Guess if you don't live in NYC or SF it would never be heard.

rainforest 2:51 PM  

I guess I found this medium, and also fun to solve. Not getting the theme immediately, I got to 87A, which didn't make sense from the clue until looking at 56A and remembering the title. After that, 73A suddenly became clear (and yes, most cries for help are subtle).

Lots of cleverness in this puzzle, including the theme, and little dreck. Hard to do on a Sunday. Incidentally, SHEDFUL was my first thought (I also thought yarDFUL might do).
My girlfriend has a SHEDFUL of garden tools to the point that I have trouble finding my reciprocating saw or cordless drill.

I don't pick nits, but I've never liked OARED. Odd that "paddled" is OK, but OARED really isn't. If I ever do start picking nits, you'll know that it'a a CRY FOR HELP.

Diana, LIW 3:22 PM  

Success at last. Had veep for a while, but finally saw the light. What a week.

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords

rondo 4:10 PM  

One w/o with PRIMe in before PRIMO. Saw a connection between some of those answers, but didn't stop to GROK it completely. So it was nearly themeless to me. Got SCUBA right off (knowing BOYSLIFE sealed it), unlike OFL, and SHEDFUL as well, didn't think twice.

ORD is Swedish for "word". OLE would tell you, but apparently not Sven.

LOTS of Jessicas on the actress yeah baby list and Ms. LANGE (from MN) is one, and a fully spelled SEANYOUNG must qualify as well.

I've been introduced to Victor Barocas and he seems like a nice guy, but there are a few clues and answers I'd say NAE to. It played kinda long for me. Wouldn't go NEAR to calling it a DISASTER.

AnonymousPVX 5:06 PM  

No comments on NAENAE? I must be getting old...or older.
Got the solve but no fun. Geez, what’s with these sketchy themes?

Anonymous 6:15 PM  

I agree with Moly Shu. It was easy, but when the answers didn't make sense (Shakespearean play), so I had to figure it out, it was fun. Also liked Gayborhoods, but wasn't that out of the theme pattern? I had Gay for Hoods, which made no sense. Evidently I thought Caf was some alternative to Lyft I wasn't aware of...

strayling 7:05 PM  

I liked it, but it did get me wondering if TESLAE/NOVAE should be allowed.

Phillip Blackerby 2:28 AM  

So you say there was a theme after all? I didn't notice.

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