Eric of old CBS news / WED 1-10-18 / Bowery boozer / Beauty product line with slogan Ageless / Site of 1955 pact / Punta del Uruguayan resort / Filler ads in brief

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Constructor: Sen. Joe Donnelly and Michael S. Maurer

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging (a tick on the tough side, for a Wednesday)

THEME: basketball terms with wacky, non-basketball clues

Theme answers:
  • BANK SHOT (15A: Warning during a heist?)
  • ALLEY OOPS (18A: Gutterball?)
  • FAST BREAK (37A: Dinner at the end of Ramadan?)
  • FREE THROW (57A: Rug store promotion?)
  • FOUL LINE (64A: Something bleeped out for television?)
Word of the Day: Eric SEVAREID (33A: Eric of old CBS News) —
Arnold Eric Sevareid (November 26, 1912 – July 9, 1992) was an American author and CBS news journalist from 1939 to 1977. He was one of a group of elite war correspondents hired by pioneering CBS newsman Edward R. Murrow, and thus dubbed "Murrow's Boys". He was the first to report the fall of Paris when it was captured by the Germans during World War II. Traveling into Burma during World War II, his aircraft was shot down and he was rescued from behind enemy lines by a search and rescue teamestablished for that purpose. He was the final journalist to interview Adlai Stevensonbefore his death. After a long and distinguished career, he followed in Murrow's footsteps as a commentator on the CBS Evening News for 12 years for which he was recognized with Emmy and Peabody Awards. (wikipedia)
• • •

Hello, solvers. It's early January, which means it's time for my once-a-year, week-long pitch for financial contributions to the blog. The idea is very simple: if you read the blog regularly (or even semi-regularly), please consider what it's worth to you on an annual basis and give accordingly. To be clear—there are no major expenses involved in writing a blog. There's just my time. A lot of it. Every day (well, usually night), solving, writing, hunting down pictures and videos of various degrees of relevance and usefulness, chatting with folks and answering puzzle questions via email and social media, gathering and disseminating crossword-related information of various kinds, etc. It's a second job. My making this pitch means I'm all in for another calendar year of puzzle revelry with all y'all. I'm excited about the year. I've got my own crossword construction project I want to get off the ground, and I'm hoping to take a more active role (along with some crossword friends) in recruiting and mentoring new and aspiring constructors. But the bulk of my work will be the same as ever: I'll be here with a new post every single day. Solve, write, repeat. Despite my occasional (or, OK, maybe frequent) consternation with the State of The Puzzle, the crossword community continues to give me great joy, and I'm proud to run an independent, ad-free blog where people can find someone to commiserate with, someone to yell at, or, you know, someone who'll just give them the damn answers. Some people refuse to pay for what they can get for free. Others just don't have money to spare. All are welcome to read the blog—the site will always be open and free. But if you are able to express your appreciation monetarily, here are two options. First, a Paypal button (which you can also find in the blog sidebar):

Second, a mailing address:

Rex Parker c/o Michael Sharp
54 Matthews St
Binghamton, NY 13905

All Paypal contributions will be gratefully acknowledged by email. All snail mail contributions (I. Love. Snail mail!) will be gratefully acknowledged with hand-written postcards. This year's cards are "Women In Science"—Rachel Ignotofsky's beautiful cartoon portraits of women scientists from antiquity to the present. I've heard of a few of these women (mostly crossword names like ADA Lovelace, Marie CURIE, MAE Jemison) but most of these names are entirely new to me, so I'm excited to learn about them as I write my thank-you notes. Please note: I don't keep a "mailing list" and don't share my contributor info with anyone. And if you give by snail mail and (for some reason) don't want a thank-you card, just say NO CARD.  As ever, I'm so grateful for your readership and support.

Now on to the puzzle!

• • •

These kinds of themes, where terms from some field are given wacky clues unrelated to that field, can be fun. But this wasn't. Usually, when we have one of these "celebrity" / constructor pairings, the constructor can be relied upon to build a workable grid and make sure that the theme, even if it's fairly straightforward or simple, really comes off. This grid, however, is a mess. This is a Monday or Tuesday concept that's running on a Wednesday, it seems, largely because the grid is really poorly built, and so theme answers get visually buried and and the whole solve just comes off clunky. There's some pretty terrible fill in there too (OPCIT, GIE!?), but it's this 74-word grid, with its oddly large NW and SE corners, and its strange placement of themers in the NE and SW corners, that's really the problem. This should've been a clean, quick, easy puzzle. Instead—well, it's reasonably easy, but it's fussy, and just doesn't highlight the theme the way it should. For example, look at BANK SHOT. Why is that themer right on top of another non-theme answer with just as many squares (ORNATELY), and right *under* an answer that's nearly as long, and is somehow also "?"-clued (WISE ASS) (7A: Smart farm animal?)? Theme answers are supposed to stand out, especially in a simple theme like this. But this one (BANK SHOT) looks too much like the answer above it (both are "?"-clued) and too much like the one below it (both the same length). Even SEVAREID and LINSEEDS are kind of crowding the central themer, FAST BREAK. Let the theme answers stand out and breathe, esp. on a conceptually simple theme like this. This current layout is just ... Bizarre.

Because of the weird plural on ALLEY OOPS, it took me forever even to see the theme. I thought the "S" had been added for comic effect. Add an "S," get a goof. But no, it's just a straight basketball term. Pluralized. The puzzle took forever (for me) to come together as a *basketball* theme, so stuff like BANK SHOT and FOUL LINE, given their "?" clues, were hard to come up with, or even fathom. Do people really fire warning shots during heists, outside of the movies? I thought the law were the ones who fired "warning" shots. Grid needed to be better, clues needed to be snappier. Fine concept, but execution was rough. But hey, you got ASS and ARSE in the same grid, so that's something.

  • DIALOG (1A: Exchange of words) — a personal idiosyncacy: I *hate* this "UE"-less spelling with the power of several suns (but not SSTARS, as those are "cool," as I understand it)
  • SEVAREID (33A: Eric of old CBS News) — knew the name. Did not know how to spell the name. So I had SEVER EID. Oh, hey, look at that, the celebration to mark the end of Ramadan (Eid) is sitting right on top of [Dinner at the end of Ramadan?]. This is by far the greatest thing about this puzzle.
  • RIFLE (38D: Part of N.R.A.) — I had ASSOC., largely because I had [Dinner at the end of Ramadan?] as FAST BALLS for an embarrassing period of time.
  • CAKE (32D: One might say "Happy Birthday" — that is a damn good trap. I can't be the only one who got the initial letter or two and wrote in CARD.
  • GMC (28A: Yukon or Sierra) — I had SUV. But the Sierra is a pickup. FYI, a TAHOE (which is in the Sierra Nevada) is an SUV ... so there. 
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

PS the more I think about the clue on WISEASS (7A: Smart farm animal?), the more it bugs me. That's more a theme-type clue, not a normal "?" clue. Normal "?" clues have wordplay, sure, but they're interpretable in way that is ultimately literal. [The end of the British monarchy?], for instance, isn't the Greatest clue for ZED, but you can see that it's interpretable literally, i.e. ZED is, literally, the "end" of the alphabet for the British monarchy, as well as all other Brits, presumably. Likewise, 1D: Works with pupils?, despite looking like it's about teaching, is actually literally accurate  (in an ophthamological context) as a clue for DILATES. Whereas [Smart farm animal?] gives you no way to get to the actual term WISEASS. It's just an imagined different meaning. I guess you could say a WISEASS is "Smart" in the sense of sass-mouthed, but ... that still leaves a *&$^ing farm animal sitting there. Plus "Smart" seems to be just standing in as a synonym for "wise," so ... yeah, this clue isn't as cute or good as someone clearly thought it was.

PPS nice doubling of that [The end of the British monarchy?] clue. ARSE ZED!

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Abū al-Qāsim Muḥammad ibn ʿAbd Allāh ibn ʿAbd al-Muṭṭalib ibn Hāshim 12:05 AM  

You all know that you eat every day of Ramadan, no? We're not monsters, we don't make you fast for an entire 29 or 30 days. You just miss lunch and maybe have a late dinner. You don't have to wait for the last day of Ramadan to eat.

Theodore Stamos 12:12 AM  

Can we all agree to ban nonsense Burns syllables from now on?

TomAz 12:23 AM  

I second the motion to do away with "nonsense Burns syllables". Today's was inferrable -- I saw the clue and immediately said gotta get this from the crosses -- but blech. They are ugly, clumsy bits of adhesive -- old tape with dust, dead bugs and cat hair stuck to the side.

I agree with Rex that the themers didn't really stick out. Hence their italicized clues? That was a fair enough fix IMO.

I did like the theme though. I thought it was done reasonably well and was coherent and consistent. Also I like basketball.

All in all the puzzle passes muster. I found it on the easy side for a Wednesday -- two ticks under 10 minutes when 12 mins is more like my average.

E. Scrooge 12:27 AM  

No pledge drive needed this year. On the remote chance that you actually like a puzzle, write up an actual post. Otherwise, "Bah humbug!" is really all that's necessary. Seriously, why keep up the blog for another year when what feels like 4 out 5 posts is another word salad of why you don't like the puzzle. You're like a wine taster that spits out anything all over the waiter that's not a 1959 Chateau Lafite. The constant negativity is getting really, really old. Were it not for the comment section, I wouldn't check in here at all.

Ellen S 12:37 AM  

I don’t know nothin’ about basketball, so I approached this puzzle with some trepidation, but found it almost annoyingly easy. I’m surprised @Rex found it medium, let alone challenging. Maybe because I’m soft on puns. @Abu ... Hashim: yes, I wondered about the implied month-long Ramadan fast, but the answer was still easy to get, even if it didn’t make sense.

I had “Gnote” (it seemed to go with the general tone of the answer) before GRAND, and CArd before CAKE, but everything else pretty much just flowed. It wasn’t hard to see the themers, and I don’t know enough about the rules of puzzle constructing to care where they’re placed, so those flaws didn’t spoil it for me.

a.corn 12:40 AM  

A not so great basketball theme (HOW DO YOU NOT INCLUDE TRIPLE DOUBLE?!?!?!) with two baseball clues in the fill? Blechhhhh “hooks up” is sort of an embarrassing.. feels like the guy outside a concert asking if anyone knows where to find some good pot drugs. I’ll take 60A simply because the answer really ASSUAGES my yen/want/desire/craving for fun words to say.

mathgent 12:50 AM  

I liked FASTBREAK a lot. I also liked ALLEYOOPS (after I figured out the gag). But that's about it. Not enough, not even for a Wednesday.

MaharajaMack 12:50 AM  

If that’s a joke-name based on Ramadan, then kudos for going all-in. If it’s your real name, well, I think your parents managed to squeeze more crossword-ese into your name that any others in history.

MaharajaMack 12:52 AM  

Kiss off, WISEASS. If you don’t like the free food then don’t come to the party.

Mark Tebeau 12:54 AM  

Cute theme. Too easy for a Wednesday. Solved much faster than usual. Had Linseed quickly 'cause I once had Linseed Oil soaked rags spontaneously combust on me. Wasn't funny at the time, though in retrospect no harm no foul.

Anonymous 12:58 AM  

@rex nailed it and his comments are exactly why I read his reviews. the blog is his, and he has every right to add his political views. i love the way it agitates the base, as it were. my donation's in the snail mail.

Carola 1:08 AM  

I agree with @Rex's rating, having had trouble finding my footing in the upper tier. Even though I understood the theme would relate to basketball, I was looking for a verbal warning at the heist, and I was very slow on the uptake on the gutterball clue. Once I got to FAST BREAK, things went a lot faster. I also agree with @Rex about there being a little too much non-them WISE ASSery going on the with cluing - like the one for APPLE TV.

I'll leap to DEFEND GIE, appearing as it does in one of my favorite lines, in the concluding stanza of Burns's poem "To A Louse, On Seeing One On A Lady's Bonnet, At Church":
O wad some Power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us!

Moly Shu 1:19 AM  

@Z, 12 down 6 to go. Amirite?? GIE? I say fie on that. The rest was ok, maybe a little too easy.

Uncle Alvarez 2:08 AM  

“Let the theme answers stand out and breathe”

WTF? Are we wine tasting or are we doing a xword puzzle?

Harry Anslinger 2:14 AM  

“some good pot drugs“

What are you, over the age of 80? “That colored dope fiend was all hopped up on some good pot drugs!” Meet State Rep. Steve Alford.

Fountains of Golden Fluids 2:16 AM  

Does anyone remember good pot drugs?

JOHN X 2:20 AM  

Wow this was an easy puzzle. It was so easy I just looked at my iPad and *bang* it was solved. Except later I found out that my dog had actually solved the puzzle using his nose on the touchscreen, but that still means it's pretty easy.

You can go to any fire station from New York to Boston and ask for Joe Donnelly and Joe will come out or else they'll say when he'll be back. Go to any Catholic school in that same region and ask for Matt Kelly; when Matt comes out tell him Joe Donnelly is looking for him and wants to fight.

My word of the day is WINO.

Anonymous 3:21 AM  

The two eye clues in the NW made me think this was going to have an ophthalmology theme. A missed opportunity.

Years ago read SEVAREID's wonderful book "Canoeing With The Cree".

I had "GAE" instead of GIE which made the across "FOUL LANE" and which I contend is an almost equally good answer, since GAE is usually 'go' or 'gone' in Scots but in some constructions has the sense of 'give'.

Thomaso808 3:45 AM  

“But hey, you got ASS and ARSE in the same grid...”

Also an ASS-U-AGE in the SW. Brownie points.

I always get hung up on LASED, wanting to put a Z in there, even though I know what the root acronym stands for. It’s just a very compelling Z (hi @Z). Makes me wonder about why I don’t have any problems with his, busy, was, lose, and a ton of other words that use an S but sound like Z. I am so glad I am a native English speaker and don’t have to think about it too hard unless I want to!

Loren Muse Smith 4:30 AM  

Rex – I agree about the a the length of some of the themers making them harder to discern as themers, but we have seen grids like this before.

WISE ASS. Again. How can anyone *not* immediately think, again, of our stable genius?

I noticed some theme extras: HOOKS (anyone remember Joe Wolf?), BALL, AHEAD OF, DEFEND, SHOWERS. And the secret Go Heels meta message: D S S T. Dean Smith Stall Tactic. These letters are in the, wait for it, Four Corners of the grid. That’s when the puzzle won me over.

For those who care, Dean Smith never, to my knowledge, uttered the phrase ALLEY OOP. On the Dean Smith Show every Sunday, he’d always just call it a “nice pass.”

@a.corn - you must not watch Vanderpump Rules. HOOK UP totally means sex. And as to your “triple double,” I was thinking more of that “double dribble” that happens when you drink water but are still numb on both sides from the dentists. At least to other people. Never me.

Possible other themer – ASSIST. Colonoscopy man.

Rex – me, too, on dialogue spelling. I was telling my husband about the infer/imply commotion here, and he was disappointed. Said that was one difference he knew and was proud of using “correctly.” I said Yeah – we all have our pet little language show-off vehicles, and when the “incorrect” one becomes ok, we have to move on and find another way to separate ourselves from (the*) hoi polloi). Mine used to be lectern/podium. Now if you insist on calling it a lectern no one understands you. And, well, begs the question: What the Heck are You Talking About? So anyway, I still spell it dialogue, catalogue, prologue… And I write hiccough and doughnut. Whew. The alert reader will be still impressed with my language prowess. And yes – I have admitted freely here many times that I’m a hypocrite.

32D – That cake might say some pretty funny things. My favorite is this one.

Nice, easy Wednesday. Now back to school after several snow days.

*Numinous. I know that definite article shouldn’t be there.

phil phil 5:46 AM  

GaE for GIE extended my time on rather fast pozzle.

Thinking about the ? clue it seems if the clue/answer was reversed the clue would be a true play on words. Of course the answer, SMART FARM ANIMAL , is not a thing.

Lewis 6:05 AM  

Other possible theme clues/answers (hi,@ Loren!):

1. Send to the mat
2. Run-on sentence user
3. Drooler's feat
4. Shortest encyclopedia volume ever
5. Two
6. Announcement at a barn raising
7. When a dreidel falls


SkipperSkipper 6:12 AM  

That cake takes the cake.
How did people know to expect a basketball theme, as a couple of commenters have implied or outright said? I had to infer it from the puzzle.
Why does Rex think the themers don’t stick out? On my iPad they are both question-marked and italicized in the clueing. Are other versions different?
Disagree slightly with Rex’s admiration for the ZED/ARSE pair, because the first one would have been a less awkward clue if it had used “for” or “to” instead of “of,” but “of” is perfect for the second one, so there’s dissonance. At least to my mental ears.
I normally write “DIALOGue” but I’m pretty sure the church rag we got for years was called The Dialog, so it seems fine, plus saves us all from extra toxic ink in our landfills/recycling-mines.
I don’t care about lecterns, but every time some TV chat-mouth uses “impact” as a verb, my husband and I both automatically correct them with “affect, you moron!” Funny thing is they never change. And you hardly ever see a dentist on TV. My dad’s bugaboo was “attendee” (he used to tell HIS TV “that’s the bride, stupid!”); he would have been horrified to know that it’s been used in the NYTP. Anyway, we each have gout.

evil doug 6:44 AM  

"WISE ASS. Again. How can anyone *not* immediately think, again, of our stable genius?"

Et tu, Loren, delving into the political?...

But I do remember Dean's boring Four Corners. Get a lead? We can all go home
now. Thank God for the shot clock....

Kramer: Yeah, I'm here to pick up my new plates. My name is Kramer--Cosmo

Clerk: Kramer.... [checks computer] All right...Sign right here, please. [hands over clipboard]

Kramer: [signs it] Okay. [The clerk hands him a manila envelope]. Thanks.
[opens up the envelope] 'ASSMAN'? Oh, no, these don't belong to me. I'm
not the Assman. I think there's been a mistake.

Clerk: What's your name again?

Kramer: Cosmo Kramer.

Clerk: [checks computer again] Cosmo Kramer. You *are* the Assman.

Kramer: No! I'm not the Assman!

Clerk: Well, as far as the state of New York is concerned, you are.

Hmmmmm 6:50 AM  

Grand=thou? Explain, please.

Hungry Mother 6:58 AM  

Except for wanting aRcAnELY for a while, a quick solve today. Nice theme, on the easy side.

kitshef 7:21 AM  

Wonder of wonders … a car model I’ve heard of (thank you Supernatural).

Hate (or possibly love) the alphabet soup of consecutive across answers: PSASDMZENTGMC.

When we visited Munich, Oil of OLAY was called Oil of OLAz. On the German keyboard, the Z and Y are switched. I always wondered if the German name came about because some touch-typist did not realize they were using a different keyboard.

DeeJay 7:27 AM  

One thousand

QuasiMojo 7:33 AM  

MEH, indeed. Rex is spot on today. I did not even notice the theme since so many of the answers seemed to be punny tweaks of some sort. Did not notice that it was a "celeb" puzzle either. Sailed through it from STY to AFT.

Personally I find WISE ASS to be offensive and out of place in the NYT. But that's just me. Call me a Horse's ARSE. I had no clue what those odd "Monarchy" bits were but okay, if that's all you could think of guys, fine. No problemo.

What I DID like was the fact that aside from Mr. Sevareid (whom I used to love listening to on the nightly news) there were only A FEW proper names in this puzzle. And very little pop-arazzi. (There were vestiges in MALONE (Dorothy) and ESTE (e Lauder). So kudos for a clean, if not particularly exciting Wednesday.

clk 7:44 AM  

I really enjoyed this despite how easy it was and thought there was some clever cluing.
I second Skipper’s question—How did people know it was supposed to be basketball themed? It was easily solvable without realizing that.

I’m not sure why Rex would complain about being lured into filling in CArd instead of CAKE. Isn’t that kind of misdirection what a puzzle’s all about?

And just to be more contrary, I thought the ZED clue was the worst. I agree with Skipper that the phrasing was off. It should have been The end FOR the British monarchy, not of.

I have way less problem with the occasional Burns word than I do with a lot of crossword glue.

Anonymous 7:46 AM  

A delightful puzzle, maybe a Monday, so easy, but so out of the usual cliche box of the Rex world, absolutely fresh air.

What silly comments, such fussiness, so... strange, frankly

chefbea 7:53 AM  

Don't know anything about had now idea what the theme was. Thought ally oops had something to do with bowling

Birchbark 7:55 AM  

Wooster: ... the rank is but the guinea stamp and a girl's a girl for all that.
Jeeves: For "a" that, sir. The poet Burns wrote in the North British dialect.
Wooster: Well, "a" that, then if you prefer.
Jeeves: I have no preference in the matter, sir. It is simply that the poet Burns --
Wooster: Forget the poet Burns.
Jeeves: Very good, sir.
Wooster: Expunge the poet Burns from your mind.
Jeeves: I will do so immediately, sir.
Wooster: What we have to consider is not the poet Burns, but the Aunt Agatha.

dfan 8:12 AM  

The real travesty here is that the correct plural of ALLEY OOP is ALLEYS OOP.

Two Ponies 8:15 AM  

What a snooze. 49A says it all. "Meh"

At least we have the comments to entertain us.

I do believe @a.corn 12:40 was joking about pot drugs. That cracked me up.
Sounds like something Les Nessman or Ted Knight would say trying to be cool.

@ QuasiMojo 7:33, I had the same thought about smart ass but was hesitant to say anything. In real life I have been known to cuss like a sailor. Still that didn't sit well with me either.

@ evil doug 6:44, Who could forget the ass man?! Loved that one.

The end of the British monarchy? Marrying that American actress.

Anonymous 8:24 AM  

Why is there an "s" on ALLEYOOP? - the clue is singular.

Why "monarchy"?

ghthree 8:33 AM  

@Hmmmmm: A GRAND is a THOUsand dollars. Has nothing to do with the biblical pronoun.

I immediately wrote BREAKFAST for 37A. When a Muslim eats his first post-Ramadan meal, normally in the evening, he is breaking a fast of less than 24 hours. When an American non-Muslim eats breakfast, normally in the morning, he is also breaking a fast of less than 24 hours. Nobody is fasting for a full month. No reason for hair-splitting distinctions.

After a few crosses failed, I saw the need to reverse the two halves. About the same time (by then, I had FREETHROW and FOULLINE) I saw the basketball connection. This actually helped with BANKSHOT, but not with ALLEYOOPS, which we (my wife and I solve jointly) had to get from crosses. To me, ALLEYOOP is a caveman riding on a dinosaur, providing visual "proof" that the two species co-existed. The Flintstones provide similar "proof." ;-)

Joe Welling 8:33 AM  

@ Anonymous: because a gutterball is an ALLEY error or "OOPS." That's a singular mistake, but requires a plural basketball term.

@ Loren (re things like the infer/imply problem): our President recently used "misnomer" as a misnomer for "myth" or "misconception."

Another pet peeve of mine--also unrelated to today's puzzle except that it's common in sports talk--using "allude" to mean explicitly referring or mentioning something.

Unstable 8:33 AM  

Or is it nonstable? @Loren, Concrete vs. cement. Confusing the two is like calling a cake an egg. BTW, concrete cures, it doesn't dry.

Speaking of cake, hand up for card. Thumbs down for the trouble that misspelling Sevareid caused me. Ah, the Murrow Boys. A time of brave journalists and a president who was trusted and admired enough to be elected for four terms. Sure, the whole world was at war, but patience, we'll get there soon. Big button. (@the crazies, Someone just suggested something! Attack, attack!) Sorry @Evil Doug, I couldn't stop myself.

Someone should try working Op Seq into a puzzle. Unfortunately, I gave it a prolonged effort today.

Mark 8:44 AM  

Nice of today’s constructor to give a shout-out to the National RIFLE Association, which has given him an A rating and campaign contributions.

Joe Welling 8:44 AM  

Anonymous said, "Why 'monarchy'?"

To create a tricky, ambiguous clue. It's still accurate though. (So why not "monarchy"?) As OFL said, it's a nice double clue. Also cluing ZED for "end" or similar words has become a standard crossword thing lately.

Charles Flaster 8:45 AM  

Monday easy .
BANK SHOT= Sam Jones and I do not root for Celtics.
College basketball will enjoy another banner year with no outstanding team ( talk about parity).
Thanks SD and MSM. ( Who gets the “dime”?)

RavTom 8:49 AM  

I don't know what the digital edition says, but the paper version introduces the constructor as "basketball-loving senator Joe Donnelly."

JHC 8:56 AM  

I felt certain that Rex would call out ALLEY OOPS for "reinterpreting" a sports term as... a different sport. Weakens the theme, no?

Nancy 9:14 AM  

A delightful puzzle -- playful, lively, charming. ALLEY OOPS, FREE THROW and FOUL LINE were ADORBS, as clued. Liked WISE ASS too. I didn't think it was "too easy for a Wednesday" in that I've seen many Weds that were just as easy, but much, much less fun. There was even a trap that I fell into: CArd before CAKE at 32D. And I was relieved that, even though a Senator is one of the constructors, this was not a politically-themed puzzle. I don't think I could have taken the consequences after yesterday's blog. This was all wordplay -- which I always love -- and a very successful collaboration.

Clyde Barrow 9:17 AM  

Bank shot as a warning during a bank robbery does not work for me as an answer.
Every time I rob a bank I just show them the gun. Actually shooting it is for amateurs and show offs.

Glimmerglass 9:17 AM  

Re GIE and OP CIT. Both should be familiar to many people. GIE is twice in the last verse of Auld Lang Syne, and OP CIT should be famiar to any academic (or to xword junkies). I’m getting tired of @Rex’s unreasonable and arbitrary judgements about what’s appropriate for a NYT puzzle.

Suzie Q 9:27 AM  

Wow, nice bio of Eric Sevareid.
Being a journalist back then really meant something.

Sports puzzles bore me to tears.

Wise ass and arse in one puzzle. Oh, aren't we cute and daring?
Yeah, right.

Anonymous 9:29 AM  

No, The basketball term is singular: ALLEYOOP. Look it up.

Dad 9:30 AM  

Not digging "hitter" as answer for a successful batter, hitter is not a baseball term and even if it were (it ain't) putting the ball in play doesnt make you successful 60% of the time.

Nancy 9:42 AM  

Thank you, thank you, @Carola and @Glimmerglass! Like you, I don't understand the kerfuffle about GIE, when it's in both Auld Lang Syne and the famous *seeing ourselves as others see us* poem. You can't quote Burns too often, as far as I'm concerned. What a terrific ear that man had. Right up there with Tennyson, Blake, Poe and Kipling. Nevertheless, I loved your Wooster-Jeeves dialogue, @Birchbark (7:55).

As you can see, @Loren, I still spell it "dialogue." "Prologue", too. My eye has sort of adjusted to catalog, though. Sort of.

Odd Sock 9:57 AM  

Linseeds is silly.
I'm sure someone can use it in a sentence.
Okay, let's try.
How many linseeds do you have to squeeze to get a bottle of oil?
How much linseed must be pressed to get a bottle of oil?
You be the judge.
I say b.s.

Laurence Katz 10:13 AM  

Far more tiring than Rex's critiques are the complaints about his alleged negativity. Instead of telling Rex that he should stop writing, the haters should stop reading him. You've read enough to know what Rex's shtick is. Haven't you figured out that he's not going to change? If you don't like him, click something else.

JC66 10:20 AM  

@ semioticus (shelbyl) and you thought EBBETS was poor. ;-)

evil doug 10:20 AM  

Far more tiring than Rex's critiques and the complaints about his alleged negativity are lectures saying to stop reading him.

Anonymous 10:28 AM  


GILL I. 10:39 AM  

@Rex is right. The layout is a bit bizarre and distracts from elegance. It's like wearing a simple black Donna Karan dress and layering it with cheap bling. Not adorbs...
Even so, I rather liked the puzzle. I found it easy for a Wed. despite not knowing too much about basketball. The ALLEY OOPS answer clued me in on the theme. When the Sacramento Kings were at the top of their games, I'd go crazy watching Spud Webb and his short guy maneuvers slam dunking away. He and Chris webber were amazing to watch.
I love ARSE. I use it all the time. More delightful than ASS, though I still can't picture the queen sitting on it in her private throne. That image confuses me.
HOOKS UP was a quickie for me. I've never had one although I wanted to once with a very handsome but very dumb lawyer I met in a bar in San Francisco. If only I could've put some scotch tape over his mouth.
I don't know much about Indiana other than Gary is there so I looked up Senator Joe Donnelly. He sounds like a pretty decent person especially his take on our veterans. I'd vote for him. Evidently he's a huge fan of the NBA and the NRA.
Liked seeing Eric SEVAREID. He of the Cronkite era and Nana's go to man. So serious in those days. No fake news...nosiree.
Thanks for the romp JD and MSM. I enjoyed your puzzle.

Malsdemare 10:40 AM  

Any puzzle that brings my late mother to mind is a winner. Pauline had a prodigious memory for memorable quotes - poetry, philosophy, literature, jokes - and the two lines from Burns were favorites of hers (and mine). I like basketball more than most team sports (it requires a much smaller time sink), and having been at Marquette during the Al McGuire years, I smiled at all the themers. HOOKSUP made me wince; not a fan of one-night stands. Liked the appearance of the WISEASS, which I would argue is not comparable to our stable genius; comparing the two gives short shrift to the ass. ASSUAGES is great, especially since I put it in off just two letters. Yes! I'm very smart!

Someone on the blog recommended doing the May 26, 2009 puzzle, and I will second the recommendation. It was tons of fun and took quite a while to reveal it’s trick.

Time to go BREAK my FAST with a smoothie.

Anonymous 10:42 AM  

Re 33A. I'm going to dissent from some posts on Eric Sevareid. I know people loved him, and perhaps he had a distinguished career in the 1940s. I do remember that those of us against the Vietnam was in the 1960s found him jingoistic and extremely irritating.

I don’t know how many here remember Sevareid. He gave regular “editorial comments” usually toward the end of CBS News, led by Walter Cronkite. The thing I remember most was CBS’s enthusiastic endorsement of the Vietnam War. They normally tried to appear to be “moderate” but always argued that we could not abandon the effort. When the war became a manifest failure, when Nixon was president, Cronkite et al. attempted to reinvent themselves as those who opposed it, who spoke “truth to power.” Like all the mainstream media, CBS hated Nixon, and that helped them eventually turn against the war. But even in 1969, after the Tet offensive, when Nixon was attempting to tie the moon launching to an American success story, and to the war, Cronkite denounced on television the “funny-looking people” (sic!) who were skeptical about everything. Sevareid continuously railed against those who wanted us to withdraw.

The Washington Post, too, acted as a shill for the war through the 1960s. They of course hated Nixon too, and turned against the war eventually. But the idea that they were regularly speaking “truth to power,” which must be an emphasis of the movie just out (I’ve not seen it) is just nonsense. When Trump denounces the “mainstream media,” I think of a quotation from Eugene McCarthy, when Nixon did the same: I agree entirely with what he says, but I just cannot defend his right to say it. Where the news media has been consistent, at least in America from the 1960s to the 2010s, and from Fox News to MSNBC, is that the reporters are stupid and fundamentally reactionary, regardless of how they define themselves.

Anon. i.e. Poggius

the redanman 10:48 AM  


Like JOCKITCH, which I'm surprised wasn't part of this ugly grid.

Joyless solve.

GHarris 10:59 AM  

As usual, if Rex doesn't get a fast break he faults the puzzle. Also, had he paid more attention to the intro he would have been earlier alerted to the theme. This one may not make the Final Four but still it was an enjoyable workout.

Alysia 11:02 AM  

Since I didn’t see it called out, I’ll mention something I didn’t like. With the exception of 18A, all of the themers are non-sports-related. Gutterball, though, is not only sports related but refers to something that would occur with an actual ball on that sports “court” (alley).

Anywho, for me, it stuck out like a sore thumb (in addition to everything else I thought was just a bit sloppy).

JC66 11:11 AM  

@dfan 8:12A

"The real travesty here is that the correct plural of ALLEY OOP is ALLEYS OOP."

I literally Laughed Out Loud!

ColoradoCog 11:12 AM  

I also had a real problem with the use of “of the British monarchy” in the clues for ARSE and ZED. I think I get it, but I think it was misclued. A monarch has an ARSE, but the monarchy does not. Neither a British monarch nor the British monarchy has a ZED. So you can say “end of a British monarch” is an ARSE, and that’s not a bad clue, but not “end of the British monarchy.” Unless you want to assume that the person who will be the last British monarch, and as such will be the “end of the monarchy”, will be an ARSE. I guess. And as for ZED, I think you are forced to say “the end for a British monarch”, not “of”. So... fail.

Amelia 11:20 AM  

Ok, I do the puzzle in print (I read it in print, too so you can guess my age) so was confused as to why anyone else was confused about the basketball theme. So I went online to see what was what. (Ok, I pay for doing it online, too.) And sure enough, no notes on basketball, even though there is a notes section. Huh? I thought. And then, since my background is advertising, I thought about it for a couple of seconds and realized they want you to click through to the blog where there is an explanation and, more importantly, where there are ads. I don't fault the NY Times for wanting to find a way to pay their employees. It's just very odd that the print solvers sometimes have an advantage over the online solvers. First-world problems.

I liked the puzzle. And I'll tell you why. It was easy, probably too easy for a Wednesday, but some care was given to coming up with clues that weren't ho-hum. (Much like the WSJ early week puzzles.) Also, I'm a Knicks fan. (Don't ask.)

Glad they asked the Democratic senator!

Masked and Anonymous 11:23 AM  

Readin the CELEBRITY CROSSWORD Note kinda gave away part of the theme mcguffin. Especially the odd-lookin "the basketball-loving senator Joe Donnelly of Indiana" phrase.

As @RP says, a real different grid layout choice, for a 8-9-9-9-8 set of themers. But … different is dependably sorta refreshin to the M&A, SOO … ok. And, yep … as for many solvers, I had to kinda twist and strain and grunt, to try and convince self that WISEASS was gonna ever go with that farm animal clue. @muse: "stable genius" has pretty much now got a nice, desperate life of its own, huh?

har. This just in, from puz-eatin spouse: "A bunch of basketball terms? That's got to have been done about a THOU times before." She was also worried she had an error, cuz she ended up with a G-I-E entry.

staff weeject pick: Centerpiece DBL. Which can stand for "DouBLe" or "DriBbLe".

best ow de speration: LINSEEEDS. No no no. Every stable genius knows that the plural of LINSEED is FLAX SEEDS.

fave fillins: APPLETV [with another grunt&twist-inducin clue]. HOOKSUP [soo close to a themer]. SEVAREID [remember his commentary on CBS News shows]. ARSE near the bottom. GULP. DBL plurals of convenience in SE finale (yo, @Anoa Bob). WARSAW [More in-character clue, for this puz: {Power tool used in combat near the poles??} ].

This puppy was FUN-ky. Looked like it was designed by congressional committee. thUmbsUp to the collab crew. Nice vowel choices ... in the SW.

Masked & AnonymoUUs


Barry Frain 11:45 AM  

@M&A, my god but your schtick gets old.

Barry Frain
East Biggs, CA

Ernie Johnson 11:47 AM  

NBA is faaaaaannnntastic!!!!!

zatso 12:09 PM  

Two Ponies says: "The end of the British monarchy? Marrying that American actress."

Why, TP? -- She's not royal enough? British enough? Modestly dressed enough? White enough? Is it just that she's a -- gasp -- actress? What, exactly, is the problem?

tb 12:26 PM  

For me, a successful batter is one which produces a good bake.

Normal Norm 12:56 PM  

Oy, zatso, What chapter of the Antifa handbook covers race baiting?
I want to make sure you're reading the script correctly.

Teedmn 1:07 PM  

Three days in a row where I found the puzzle harder than usual for that day. I managed to fall into every trap today and made a few more for myself. And it doesn't help that of all major sports, basketball is the one I despise.

The SE posed the biggest challenge in that I was bouncing ideas off the wall at 58D, so I POSEd rather than ECHOed for a while and hones vs. WHETS clogged it up even more.

And almost a DNF - I decided Robert Burns would GaE rather than GIE so only my last minute realization that FOUL LaNE made no sense as clued saved me from that fate.

Nice job Sen. Donelly and Michael Maurer. Maybe baseball instead next time?

semioticus (shelbyl) 1:19 PM  

Ha, I feel like I can just copy paste my review from yesterday! Long story short: Bad fill (maybe not as dreadful as yesterday's, but still bad), a OK-to-good theme nicely executed, clues that are trying (sometimes too much even) and a meh experience overall.

The middle section with OPCIT DBL SEVAREID LINSEEDS was dreadful though. I can forgive all the Crossword glue if the puzzles offers great bonus answers and if the glue is scattered around properly. Not in this one. And to make it worse, almost all the 3-letter words were shite.

By the way, two-bagger is not an appropriate clue any more. Some people will immediately know what I'm talking about, some others will google it and be at the very least mildly surprised and most likely offended, and some will ignore it altogether.

GRADE: B-, 3.1 stars.

P.S.: "The end of the British monarchy?" = ARSE is simply great. Good job on that one.

semioticus (shelbyl) 1:30 PM  


Possible other themer – ASSIST. Colonoscopy man.

Legit LOLed at that one.


I'm impressed that you successfully foresaw my review! :) But I think overall this fill was just a little bit better than yesterday's. I tend to favor those that are not as heavy on short answers.

JC66 2:33 PM  


I was alluding to the sports angle.

tea73 2:40 PM  

I hate basketball and my Dad didn't watch it, which helps with other sports terms, so I don't know any of the puns. Played hard for me, but then my time was somewhat better than average. Liked ARSE, but didn't think the clue for ZED was fair. Hand up for CArd before CAKE. I also had GaE before switching it to GIE. I'm okay with a little Burns now and then. I give this puzzle a MEH.

zatso 2:50 PM  

She said it, Norm. I didn't say it. I happen to think that Harry's fiancee is charming and real and will be a wonderful addition to the British Monarchy.

Blue Stater 3:08 PM  

I find myself, unusually, differing with Rex on this one. I rather liked it, possibly because I finished in well under average time. The themers worked OK for me and there was relatively little trickery.

semioticus (shelbyl) 3:27 PM  


Baseball is the only major sport that I have zero interest in and only some basic knowledge about, so it was fine in that regard (except for DBL). Otherwise I am a huge sports guy :)

jberg 4:39 PM  

Hi everyone!-- Back from 10 days in England, puzzle-less. Usually I try to do the Guardian puzzles while I'm there, but I didn't even buy any newspapers this time. Anyway, I'm glad to be back to this one, even if I wasn't thrilled with it today/

I'm with @M&A, at least if I understood it right -- it's not really legit to tip off the theme in the biographical note.

Hey, @Loren -- are you coming around to our side in the idiom vs. analogy war?
It's a losing battle, all the same, altho not so much where spelling is concerned. I think the NYT lost its long-time campaign to call the NYC official the Controller, and the 59D seems to have given up it's long fight for 'thru.'

JC66 4:46 PM  


Sorry, bad assumption on my part.

sanfranman59 5:16 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 4:48 4:08 1.16 83.3% Challenging
Tue 4:53 5:35 0.88 23.2% Easy-Medium
Wed 5:57 5:54 1.01 59.4% Medium

andy 5:40 PM  

I don’t give a hoot if Rex hates every puzzle in the universe. His comments are consistently entertaining.

retired guy 7:16 PM  

O wad some Power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us!

Stanley Hudson 8:32 PM  

@poggius, your thoughts on Sevareid, Cronkite, and the WaPo much appreciated.

Z 8:49 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Z 8:51 PM  

@dfan - No No No. There are no ALLEYs to be pluralized. And OOP is clearly Greek, so ALLEY OOPopode is obviously and inarguably correct.

@Joe Welling and @Colorado Cog - The British Monarchy is used here to indicate that the answers will be in British English (as opposed to the original American version). That the signifier of a foreign language can be misunderstood as something other than just a signifier of a foreign language is just a puzzle bonus.

@Moly Shu - If House Republicans weren’t more loyal to party than country I’d have won already. I’m sure you agree.

@Abu - three fathers? Anyway, yes a month of fasting from sunrise to sunset. This means Ramadan in December is less challenging than Ramadan in June. Nevertheless Eid al-Fitr still celebrates a FAST BREAK. I didn’t even consider putting in Eid al-Fitr as that would not be nearly right-wing reactionary enough for the NYTX.

This was my least favorite of the celebrity puzzles pretty much for the reasons Rex articulated here and on Twitter. It also ranked behind the AVCX and Fireball puzzles I did today. Decent but not great.

nick strauss 10:53 PM

1-888-867-9209, QuickBooks Technical Support Phone Number 1:20 AM  
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
ColoradoCog 10:40 AM  

@Z, of course I understand that the ‘British Monarchy’ bit of the clue is to signify that the answer is British English, I’ve done a crossword or two in my life, but the clue needs to hold together grammatically, and these don’t. Show me a British monarchy’s ARSE. You can’t. A monarch has an ARSE. A monarchy does not.

Rita 10:42 AM  

@malsdemar pointed to a recommended puzzle, but got the year wrong. May 26 2009 is an unremarkable Tuesday. The recommended puzzle is Thursday 5/26/2011.

Burma Shave 10:17 AM  


I’MALONE INN the SHOWERS which DENOTES I could not
make a FREETHROW from the FOULLINE, not even a BANKSHOT.


thefogman 10:35 AM  

I'll admit I am no WISEASS or even a KGB. But I thought for sure it would be APPLEdj and not APPLETV. Alas, APPLETV HOOKSUP with ENT and SEVAREID which were both unknowns to me. That SEALed my fate. No OLAYs. I feel like IMALONE, but I see many others crossed this FOULLINE.

PS - Loved the cheeky 52D End of the British Monarchy? ARSE.

thefogman 10:39 AM  

PPS: Do erotic dancers get paid ASSUAGES?

Diana, LIW 11:10 AM  

@Foggy. Cheeky. Turn the other one. End.

Lady Di

Aphid Larue 11:49 AM  

How sweet, bout whiskey, the house Well, Valley Grande

So much for dictation. Type it in.

I thought of music,
Thou sweet thou pretty, thou swell, thou grand

spacecraft 1:09 PM  

If that's really true about the Dean Smith Stall Tactic, @muse, then either it's a mind-blowing coincidence or I have to withdraw my original impression--which was MEH. That would make an elegant icing on this CAKE, especially since the four-corners placement DENOTES the player position for said tactic.

I have to laugh: I am so out of touch that I was surprised to see this characterized as a "celebrity plus constructor" puzzle. I have NO IDEA which of these two names is a "celebrity." But then again, I have never heard of "APPLETV," either.

The theme took me quite a while to discern; as OFL said, it's kind of buried. Didn't cop to it until FOULLINE. I agree that the clue for BANKSHOT is strange. I thought, "Hey guys, the depression hit hard here: this BANK is SHOT." Finished with no writeovers--not even CArd. Yeah, I had the CA, but just didn't trust the obvious yet. So am I AHEADOF the curve?

What does "monarchy" have to do with those twin entries? Why wasn't the clue simply "British ends?"? That was a THROW--and it wasn't FREE. I, MALONE, will now bestow the DOD sash on SELENA star Jennifer Lopez. And I don't think IMALONE in that. Birdie.

leftcoastTAM 1:59 PM  

This simple basketball theme with some fill like WISEASS, ARSE, HOOKSUP to maybe pep it up doesn't quite cut it for a Wednesday. On the other hand, if you know little about basketball the puzzle could be a bit daunting. So, each to his/her/their own.

P.S. The "British monarchy" clues are awkward at best.

thefogman 2:22 PM  

Up above, @muse says That cake might say some pretty funny things. My favorite is ----- . The trouble is that link has a whole bunch of CAKES with funny things written on them. I am wondering which one @muse liked best... Any guesses?

rondo 2:23 PM  

EZ PZ after reading the dead giveaway note about the “basketball-loving senator”. Mighta been a record Wednesday time if I kept track. FASTBREAK was in way before getting to the CAKE clue, so no issue there. Speaking of that CAKE and its clue, and because others are so nit picky on usage lately, neither the CAKE nor the CArd *says* Happy Birthday. Either one would *read* Happy Birthday. A person might *say* it, or a recording might *say* it, but any printed matter will *read* it. Ask any editor except, apparently, at the NYTXword. Sad. (dang, now I’m doing it)

Yup. The yeah baby circle went around the JLO as SELENA clue.

BasketBALL stuff right up my ALLEY. OOPS, gotta go.

thefogman 3:43 PM  

This CAKE says Happy Birthday. Literally...

rainforest 5:40 PM  

@rondo - that would be EZED PZED, of course.

I liked this one, even with the slightly off themer clues.

I think that the ALLEY OOP was first a football term, and has been co-opted by basketball. I know basketball, I played basketball. But, I hate watching basketball, at least the NBA variety, especially since Steve Nash left the Suns.

Though not GRAND, this was just fine.

rondo 5:50 PM  

Ah yes, EZED. To go along with that Canadian dime I got in change yesterday. Hard to actually use.

BTW - are those cows down in that grassy area LEA FED?

wcutler 8:00 PM  

SkipperSkipper 6:12 AM, who asked "How did people know to expect a basketball theme, as a couple of commenters have implied or outright said? I had to infer it from the puzzle." M&A quoted part of the intro. Here is the whole thing, which took up more than half the length of the first column:

"This puzzle is a collaboration by the basketball-loving senator Joe Donnelly of Indiana, working together with longtime crossword contributor Michael S. (Mickey) Maurer, the owner of the Indianapolis Business Journal. This is Mickey's 25th crossword for The Times. More information about the making of today's puzzle appears in the Times's daily crossword column ("

Just to counter Barry Frain's comment, M&S's postings are among the ones I particularly look for every day. I recently even got excited to see a puzzle with so many U's.

Shelby Coleman 12:47 PM  

I just got to this puzzle and I am grateful you were here to say what I was thinking! And to help me finish it. Thanks!

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