Hypothetical particle that travels faster than light / WED 4-18-18 / Much-covered 1956 Screamin' Jay Hawkins song ./ Like Cockneys in British lingo / Colorful conical candy on stick

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Constructor: Peter A. Collins and Bruce Haight

Relative difficulty: Easy (oversized and I still got in under 4) (3:57)

THEME: "I PUT A SPELL ON YOU" (61A: Much-covered 1956 Screamin' Jay Hawkins song ... hinting at what happens three times in this puzzle's solution) — HEX appears directly on top of YOU three times in the grid

Word of the Day: NON U (59D: Like Cockneys, in British lingo) —
  1. (of language or social behavior) not characteristic of the upper social classes; not socially acceptable to certain people. (google)
• • •

Pfffffffffft, OK, so the basic theme is kind of cute. Very literal take on the song title. Or, fairly literal take, as HEX (not SPELL) is placed on top of YOU. And here lies the (or a) problem: that "XU" string that you've got to negotiate not once not twice but thrice in this grid. It gets you into some rough places. In one corner, you're forced into CDE and NON-U to make it work. In the middle you actually get away OK—OLES and ESAS aren't ideal, but they're not horrific, either. What is horrific, however, and what should've been a deal-breaker, is EOUS. I mean ... just look at that thing. It's a monster. It's an unholy gob of letters that can only be held in that particular configuration by a curse OMG I UNDERSTAND THE THEME NOW. Someone hailed Satan and put a spell on that answer to make those letters stay in that disgusting arrangement; and apparently someone put a spell on the puzzle-makers so that they would think -EOUS was a fine thing to perpetrate on the solving public. I mean, if they can take NONU and ENRY and AIT, surely they can choke down -EOUS! There are lots of synonyms for SPELL—why not try out some of them in addition to HEX. Or stay with your little HEX plan, but make a grid that works. Look at this thing. So horrifically pockmarked with black squares in the middle that the NE / SW corners end up ridiculously bloated just to keep this thing at a reasonable word limit. I mean, huge banks of three 8s and a 7, in a themed puzzle, having no relation to the theme at all? It's bizarre.

I knew TACHYON from having read Watchmen (once again) last month (46D: Hypothetical particle that travels faster than light). TACHYONs play a weirdly imporant role in the plot toward the end of the book. I don't know what an ASTROPOP is, but it was highly inferrable (38D: Colorful, conical candy on a stick). None of the other answers seem like ones that might present problems. EIRE is crosswordese, AIT is crosswordese, NITTI is crosswordese, CNET is crosswordese, UTNE, ASTI, NON U ... —if you didn't know those, you really should. I wish the constructors had been able to execute the theme better, with clean fill and a non-clownish grid, because the concept is pretty tight. Oh well.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

PS this video put a spell on me. She's ****ing magic.

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


a.corn 12:14 AM  

yuck. DNF on account of EOUS, NONU, and laziness.

Thomaso808 12:34 AM  

I did not get the theme til I came here, so no joy there. I was stuck on NONU / UTNE for way too long, but finally got it.

It’s funny on Xwordinfo.com that the two constructors, both very accomplished in their own right and whom I normally enjoy solving, try to give each other the main credit (blame?) for the puzzle. Bruce says “it was tough to fill” and Peter asks everyone to ignore the EOUS. They clearly know it’s not their best stuff. I still liked the solve.

Pete 12:36 AM  

I thought I had seen every Nina Simone video out there, but that one was new and great. Thanks

chefwen 12:39 AM  

Thought I got it but I didnt get it. Found the HEXes but didn’t get theYOUs. DOH! More clever than I.

Liked the NEXUS LEXUS pair, but the TOOTH EXTRAXTION made me wince. YOW!

jae 12:43 AM  

Pretty easy for me too. Fortunately, the theme trumped the cringy stuff, liked it.

Tom 12:47 AM  

Meh. Got the song title from crosses and didn’t care because of the lame clues. Two Old Macdonald clues. Why not a couple of oinks or quacks? CDE? Weakest of all kinds of clues. BTW, Siri never talks on my phone. I never ask her to. Other nits to pick? Who ever says SEXUP? ERROL skews 1930’s old unless clued as an owl in a Harry Potter movie. Looking forward to Dienstag.

Mo Pariser 12:55 AM  

I JOYOUSLY SPED/TORE through this puzzle in Monday time... until I reach the SE corner. NONU crossed with UTNE, French abbreviations disguised as Swiss (?), hypothetical particles galore, a misspelled Y(E)OW... (OK Miriam W. differs, but it's my first time reading such a spelling. Maybe this one's on me.) I'd also had CORNCHIPS for the longest time while scouring for my third HEX. Not fun. But to wax nostalgic over ASTROPOPS and Little League BASEHITS made it worth all the trouble.

Currently Spotifying every cover of I Put A Spell On You. Nina Simone gives me the chills. Joss Stone/Jeff Beck's is a must-listen. Carlos Santana/Buddy Guy- I mean, come on. About 1001 more versions to go. Exciting.

PS @LMS, appreciate the kind words. Have been reading your comments for some time, always with a smile.

PSS @Rex, if I'd known a few years ago that you've been using a pseudonym I'm sure I'd have had a much different collegiate experience. Oh well.

PSSS Go Bearcats


@Mo Pariser 12:55AM (who's Spotifying "I Put A Spell On You")

If you want some more well-covered standards to binge listen to, try BLUE MOON and (GET YOUR KICKS ON) ROUTE 66

Here are a few noted versions of each as performed by:

BLUE MOON: Billy Eckstine, Mel Torme, Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley (debut album), The Marcels, Django Reinhardt, The Cowboy Junkies, The Ventures, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald among others

ROUTE 66: Nat King Cole, Patti Page, The Rolling Stones, Them (with Van Morrison), The Cramps, Chuck Berry, Depeche Mode, Yo La Tengo, Asleep at the Wheel, Trini Lopez, M.A. Numminem among others (plus the song was written by Bobby Troup who was a doctor on "Emergency" and who hates Army jeeps)

TomAz 1:59 AM  

I_UT + Screamin Jay Hawkins gave me the revealer without any more effort. Didn't need to, or bother to, check why it worked. The fill was so easy that it played like a simple themeless to me.

I am guessing the NONU/UTNE cross may Natick a lot of folks. UTNE shows up enough that it'll be gettable for experienced solvers, but dicey for others. NONU is so foreign to me it might as well be in Klingon.

Post-solving, HEX over YOU is kinda cool, but I never saw it while I was actually doing the puzzle.

All in all the puzzle was fine, I suppose.

Loren Muse Smith 2:48 AM  

So many times when people are yeowing about an gluey entry, I have to go back and find it ‘cause I totally missed it. EOUS. Right. I had to hunt it down post-solve since that puppy went stealthily in through crosses (as did AIT and NONU). So, as usual with little warts, I don’t give a 9A 36A about it. Theme reigns supreme for me.

Pete, Bruce – I absolutely loved this idea. And what a trick! Love, love, love that I didn’t see what was going on until the reveal. Delighted, I went back and circled the HEXes on the YOUs.

Pachelbel’s Canon in DMAJ has to be one of the most beauteous pieces of music out there. You all agree, right?

“Cause of a cold” – GERM. Period. I despise wearing a coat. I mean, if I’m going to a football game, and it’s cold, of course I’ll wear one. But if I’m going from one heated place to another heated place, fuhgeddaboudit; I can be cold for a few minutes. Wanna know when I would throw a bowl at my husband? When we’re leaving for the mall and this exchange happens every single time.

Husband: You need a coat.
Me: No I don’t. I don’t want to carry it around in the mall.
Husband: You still need a coat. It’s freezing outside.
Me: No. I. Don’t. (Looking around for a bowl)
Husband: You can’t go without a coat.
Me: You’re not my keeper.
Husband: I’m taking your coat. I’ll carry it around in the mall.
Me: Suit yourself.

FWIW – he gets sick all the time. I haven’t had a cold in quite a while.

(Oh, and I would always let my kids carry their coats to the bus stop if they didn’t want to put them on. I just figured if they got cold, they’d put them on. It got awkward when other mothers there would insist their kids kept their coats on, and a big fight ensued. We’d just stand there staring at the ground. Holding our coats.)

The British expressions abound today.
It makes you long for some HOT TEA. To go with that ‘eavenly SPOTTED Dick.

Greg Charles 3:03 AM  

Thumbs up for the Nina Simone video!

sanfranman59 3:32 AM  

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. Your results may vary.

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

Mon 5:15 4:24 1.19 86.2% Challenging
Tue 4:38 5:37 0.82 12.5% Easy
Wed 7:43 6:00 1.29 87.5% Challenging

I was kinda shocked when I saw my solve time on this one. It definitely didn't feel Challenging as I solved. No stalls or sputters and only 5 erasures (and two of those were typos). I moved through it methodically but, apparently, relatively slowly.

The theme doesn't do a lot for me, though it's more interesting now that I've read Rex's post and know that it's more than just three HEXes. But starting my puzzle with a TOOTH EXTRACTION seems uncalled for.

Still, I don't recall any scowls, grunts or excessive eyebrow wrinkling. There's a little xword-ese in there, but not bad. ASTROPOP isn't in my lexicon, but it's a cool word. I also like saying SYNOPSIS and TACHYON. BASE HITS, EIRE, 'ENRY 'iggins and The Sound of Music are a few of my favorite things. Thumbs up.

Melrose 4:01 AM  

NONU is awful, inexcusable. Got it, but didn't understand it until Rex's explanation.

Theodore Stamos 4:09 AM  

Guess I need to brush up on my party mix ingredients. CORNCHEX added about a minute to my solve. The fact the it crossed with BURL didn't help much. What the heck is a BURL?

smoss11 5:20 AM  

Thought some of the clues were imprecise which really slowed me down. Steak is the way tuna is served (as opposed to tartar), not a cut. Got the "k" from knead and assumed the cross was maybe flank. Also struggled with 3D, thinking along the lines of rescue. Through crosses finally got adoptee which would apply to a pet acquired from a breeder as well.

John Child 5:37 AM  

Great theme idea with a lovely revealer. CDE broke this particular camel though. Thankfully we haven’t seen an {Alphabet run} in years. But sure -if we’re going with EOUS, why not?

Anonymous 5:48 AM  

Only now realizing that this isn’t a “TOLET”: ♭.
It’s not every day you learn something new.

Mark 6:07 AM  

17 Down would have been more appropriately clued as “suffix with hid”

Lewis 6:30 AM  

@loren -- From beginning to end, superb post, cracked me up. My only question is, was it written before you went to bed or after you woke up?

I loved the theme and the "what happens three times in this puzzle's solution" in its clue, meaning that the "I" in I PUT A SPELL ON YOU, is me, the solver! I didn't know I knew TACHYON but threw it right in with just two letters filled in. I wonder if everything -- everything -- we've ever experienced is stored in our noggins, available for EXTRACTION.

Also, recently, I've heard about a YOW worth millions of dollars...

John Morrison 6:41 AM  

I did not notice the theme until you pointed it out. There was some pretty weird stuff today.

BTW, if you are a Nina Simone fan, I recommend her cover of Jacque Brel's Ne Me Quitte Pas.

Hungry Mother 6:51 AM  

Felt lucky when I finished with no errors. I thought I was Naticked for a while. My friends from Natick left their viewing spot on Monday when their umbrella blew inside out.

Nickyboy 6:55 AM  

I still don't get the "Non U" answer. Can someone explain that one? I thought the Cockney accent dropped H's.

And also, I remember Astropops being a Popsicle. How is that a candy? Or am I remembering wrongly?

Any way, this puzzle was decidedly meh for me.

kitshef 7:08 AM  

NON-U? What EOUS was to Rex, NON-U was to me. You have to have the Theme to End All Themes to justify that in your grid.

ENRY UTNE AIT UPI EOUS CDE DMAJ MLLE CNET … that’s an awful load of bad fill to accept on any day, but several bridges too far on a day with NON-U.

This took two people? I guess one to fill in the grid and another to somehow come up with clues for the resulting nonsense.

And if you are going to have STU followed by CDE in your grid, at least have the courage to clue them both as “alphabet run”.

Learned ASTRO POP today.

kitshef 7:17 AM  

@Nickyboy - NON U is short for 'non-upper class'.

IrishCream 8:03 AM  

You’re not supposed to buckle babies/toddlers into their car seats with big coats on...the coats require you to loosen the straps too much to be safe. I guess that’s a relatively new guideline, because I would get the dirtiest looks from people in the preschool parking lot as I walked my kids the 15 feet to my car while carrying their coats. No one is getting hypothermic that quickly!

Anonymous 8:09 AM  

wtf is "nonu"?!
Never heard of "utne"
None + etne = DNF

Margo Timmins 8:15 AM  

@John X: Cowboy Junkies. No "The." And yes, it's a great cover.

Two Ponies 8:24 AM  

This was a fine Wed. with some nice vocabulary to make up for the crossword glue needed to hold this together.
My biggest chuckle was seeing Pachelbel's Canon since it had center stage just a few days ago.

An earlier comment reminded me of a nit that needs to be picked (or even have a bowl thrown at it.) When we use P.S. in a letter it means Post Script, right? So then an additional one becomes a Post-post Script not a Post Script-script. Sorry to the commenter above but it's a pet peeve of mine.

Reasonablewoman 8:24 AM  

A pet from a shelter is an adoptee. A pet from a breeder is a purchase.

Jenskis70 8:28 AM  

Non-U is middle class while cockneys are not.

pabloinnh 8:32 AM  

Ait, old friend! Where have you been? Seems like forever. When I first started doing the NYT x-word, it was during a free period with my high school department chairman. Our look-for word was always "atle", clued as "salt tree". Alas, no atles forever and ever. Farewell, atle. May you bloom and produce lovely salt fruit wherever you are.

Without bothering to look it up, I think the most-covered song ever is "Michelle". That might take some time to Spotify.

QuasiMojo 8:39 AM  

You snooze, you lose... time. This took me three times what it took Rex mostly because I was getting bored. CDE, EOUS, ASS, ASPS, COTS, IBET, UTNE, etc. (The one bright SPOT for me was ANIMALIA kingdom.) Okay, HEX over YOU is kinda cute but does it really suffice as a theme if the rest of the grid has to be drab, dull and ASHY? (Hate that word almost as much as SKED.)

@Loren, why not just leave your coat in the car when you get to the mall?

U and NON-U are not really "slang." It was a "linguistic class indicator" or "social dialect" according to the guy who invented the terminology. Nancy Mitford popularized it. It still holds true here in the States. If you're snooty you are supposed to say "sofa" not "couch," "curtains" never "drapes" etc in so-called "polite society." You'd be surprised how such mannerisms linger today. At least in the "lock-jaw" sections of the upper middle class.

As for spell-casters, I prefer Cole Porter: "Do do that voodoo that you do so well..." sporting a MOO MOO, of course!

michiganman 8:41 AM  

SE natick. Didn't know TACHYON, NONU. Got NEON but couldn't get CNET (should've known). I was locked into thinking ___reader was a techy thing so didn't get UTNE until I got "help" with CNET. I like that SNOB dovetails with NONU (now that I know what it means). Fun to see ASTROPOP. More fun, ANIMALIA crossing RATS and ASS. On the bawdy side, OHYES right below SEXUP.

Hartley70 8:52 AM  

UTNE was fine. I perused one about 25 years ago in a loo and thought it deserved better. NONU was hidEOUS. I assumed the SNOBs meant NON Uni, but Upper class is somehow worse.

I was shocked this winter to see my infant grandchild going from warm house to freezing car in his car seat without wearing a jacket or a snowsuit. This grandmother knew enough to zip her lips once the new reasoning was explained, but I didn't like it. Not everyone is a "hot body". I would have cried if I had to take my coat off while waiting for the school bus.

mmorgan 9:04 AM  

I had a reasonably enjoyable solve, but couldn't let go of eLLE for 35D, which left me with an inexplicable MATHEXAe in the middle, as I assumed it was having something to do with axes (as in x, y, or z axis). Oh well.

ASTROPOPS sounded like one of those boy bands.

I love Nina Simone.

wgh 9:07 AM  

NONU - UTNE is the worst cross in Wednesday history.

Nate 9:15 AM  

Ewwwwwwww... ewww. This puzzle. Ew.

The only positive here was a fairly cute theme. But this thing was chock full of dreadfill, no good, very bad fill. I loathe all of these answers: EOUS (woof), NITTI, COTS (this was an underrated dumb answer), OH YES, ESAS, LOTS (lotsa lameness), UPI, AIT (literally groaning), MLLE, BAA, ASPS, ASTI, BURL, YOW, NONU (just... no), CDE (WOW, come on), UTNE (ughhhh).

You cannot have two Old McDonald clues. You cannot.

If this thing didn't have the SIRI, I would have guessed it was a re-run of a puzzle originally printed in 1965. So, so old.

I don't really understand why a good theme is elevated so far above good fill in the NYT puzzling world. The fill in this puzzle is utter butt. Just who in the hell uses the word "ait" outside of a crossword puzzle? The Wikipedia page for the word literally cites three examples of its usage in the 21st century. Three!! Come on, try harder, please!

I'm a little peeved. Wednesday is my favorite day, usually, and this was not my favorite puzzle.

Z 9:17 AM  

I felt my inner Evil Doug coming out as I put in TOOTH EXTRACTION. I’ll save everyone my channeling of his rant about cutesy self-referential answers.

@LMS - having grown up where a coat from November to March wasn’t an option, I must still agree with you. I also noted Pachelbel’s return.

@anon5:48 - Yet another DOOK. I did the same thing.

@Nickyboy & @kitshef - I thought it was NON-University. Anyway, it makes a desultory appearance from time to time in crosswords, skulking in unwelcome and disheveled, only to be tsk tasked by the commentariat for its ugly appearance and lack of meaning in American English, then skulking away again to mope about our ungracious welcome.

@kitshef - re:STU - Yep.

@Two Ponies - re:PSS - Yep.

Pretty much what Rex said. Nice theme, but XU put too much strain on the fill. I did sigh in relief upon seeing ML- - in my grid turn into MLLE and not some RRN, so kudos there.

@Joe DiPinto late yesterday - Could you have saved us from putting Albania on the Aegean instead of the Adriatic, though? Two of us, “the geography experts” on the team averred with confidence on that mistake.

Sir Hillary 9:18 AM  

NONU -- Wow, extreme junk, but gettable if you knew UTNE.

EOUS -- Are you kidding? No doubt advantagEOUS to the constructors but as Hartley70 says, it's hidEOUS, and I wish it were extranEOUS. I am nausEOUS.

Enjoyed the theme, but it came at a big price.

Two Ponies 9:28 AM  

@ Hartley70 8:52,
I tried to read and enjoy Utne Reader back in the '70s but found it too boring so I agree that a trip to the loo deserves something better. :)

Nancy 9:37 AM  

Once I had TOOTH EXTRACTION and I got to the song by "Screamin' Jay Hawkins (whoever he is), I desperately wanted the song to be: I PUT A SmiLe ON YOU. I thought the theme was going to be all sorts of things that ruin smiles. Guess I must have a sick sense of humor. But I didn't notice the HEX thing until I had finished the puzzle and had I PUT A SPELL ON YOU. I did notice it before coming here, so there's that.

My other blind spot was not seeing the "abbr" in the clue for "Swiss miss, maybe", so I had eLLE instead of MLLE for too long. This gave me conniptions at 33A, where I had MATH -Xoe. (I also had ESoS instead of ESAS.) But I straightened it all out eventually.

Wonderfully lively and well-clued puzzle -- and not Wednesday-easy at all. I really enjoyed it a lot. Nice job, PAC and BH.

E.J. Copperman 9:40 AM  

I'm still trying to figure how SODAS make "a case for drinking." Lots of drinks come in cases. And the most-often covered song in history is "Yesterday."

kitshef 9:42 AM  

@pabloinnh - a different Beatles song, Yesterday, is usually cited as the most covered song.

@Nate - "dreadfill" - great word.

Odd Sock 9:52 AM  

When I saw that Peter and Bruce made this one I was hoping for a better puzzle. Maybe having two pros working together is too many cooks in the kitchen.

CDilly52 9:58 AM  

A burl is the knot on a tree trunk. Often they are highlighted by being and used as focal points in bowls or furniture.

Nancy 10:03 AM  

Wow! I was just reading @Loren and I see that every HEX sits atop a YOU. Now that is clever!!! Really great!!! Not being visual, I didn't see it, of course. Okay, back to finishing @Loren's post.

Masked and Anonymous 10:09 AM  

Very nice Nina Simone version of the "Spell" song. The Screamin Jay version is somethin else, tho. Mighty demented. Runs the gamut of just about every weird grunt sound. He used to get up outta a coffin sometimes, while singin it. Had tusks in his nose. And a skull called Henry that smoked cigs. The works, dudes and darlins.

NON U? In-con-seeve-able!!
EOUS. har

Staff weeject pick: HEX. AIT ain't bad, neither.

Primo "horrifically pockmarked" grid. har2

Thanx, Collins dude and Haightman, for gangin up on us. Demented.

Masked & Anonym8Us


GHarris 10:12 AM  

Got all the tough stuff including things I didn’t know (astropop,tachyon, etc) but foundered on the king of lions which messed up math exam and, thus, had a dnf.Still felt good about my performance even though I did not see the hex over you until I came here.

GILL I. 10:20 AM  

I liked it. TOOT HEX and all. Even NON U didn't bother because it has been in crosswords before.
Tough crowd today. Tough yesterday as well. @Rex sets the tone.
Yeah, an oink oink and a quack quack would have heads exploding. Today we get EOUS. Why not?
Who doesn't like Simone? My favorite rendition of I PUT A SPELL ON YOU is from John Fogerty. Both very different and both very soulful. Amen, brother.
I hate when people sneeze and don't cover their mouth. ACHOOOO me with your GERMs you imbecile. RATS.
Has there ever been a Peter Collins or a Bruce Haight (both pros) that @Rex has liked? Curious

Anonymous 10:20 AM  

How is TOLET a DOOK?

Bruce Haight 10:34 AM  

BritisH EXpressions over
MakesYOU long
Love it!

pabloinnh 10:39 AM  

So posted my post and went out to do some storm cleanup and while doing that thought,it's Yesterday, you idiot. Thanks to all for the correction.

While McCartney was writing "Yesterday", the first lyric he came up with was "Scrambled Eggs", which scans nicely.

Joseph Michael 11:07 AM  

OH YES, this puzzle has some really bad fill, but I'm willing to forgive most of it due to the brilliance of the theme.

I had detected the recurring HEX during the solve, but didn't notice the YOUs until I got to the revealer. A great aha moment (and a great song).

Not forgivable: EOUS, NONU, and a plurality of Old MacDonald clues. These should each be crumpled up and flushed down the TOLET.

Michael5000 11:08 AM  

I had to come here to figure out what the theme MEANT. Finishing took me twice as long as it would have without the clue, because I drove myself to distraction trying to find something to do with it's, it's, and spelling.

smoss11 11:20 AM  

Seems to me like a distinction without a difference. Thought the clue could be more precise.

Joe Bleaux 11:20 AM  

Elvis did "Blue Moon" AND "Blue Moon of Kentucky"?

jb129 11:44 AM  

I enjoyed this altho I didn't know "NON-U" until I read the blog.

Always loved Nina Simone - She had a great rendition of "My Baby Just Cares for Me"

old timer 11:57 AM  

I thought EOUS was just fine. Indeed, clever. Letter strings, not so much. UTNE needs to be retired. When is the last time it was relevant to anything?

Now the real problem with NON-U is the clue. The Cockney dialect is so far removed from standard English that it is neither U nor NON-U. It's like the Tyneside dialect in that way. Those who speak it and know how to speak standard English are making a deliberate choice to be regional, as are the Scots if they were educated at a good school but prefer to speak the language of Burns.

NON-U refers specifically to those in the middle classes who think they are being elegant by using "drapes" instead of "curtains"s and referring to hotel rooms as "accommodations", etc. The fellow who came up with the U vs. NON-U idea noticed that the aristocracy invariably used the less fancy-sounding terms, which distinguished them from those who thought calling a curtain a drape made them more upper-class.

jberg 11:57 AM  

I thought this one was fun, and the theme was pretty neat. I even liked EOUS -- true, it looks weird, but it's also obvious from the clue, so I thought it was fine.
@Loren, nice work coming up with another eous word. Is it a suffix in that case? What's the root? Maybe hide, as in 'that's something worthy of being hidden from sight?'

All you folks complaining aobut NON-U, rush out and find yourself a copy of Nancy Mitford's essay, "The English Aristocracy." Everything she wrote is worth reading, but this one is hilarious. Her communist sister Jessica worte a parody called something like 'how to talk L' (for Left), which is also very funny, but only if you've ever been part of a left group yourself so that you're familiar with the language she is making fun of.

The TRAPP family popularized both recorder-playing and cross-country skiing in the US, so I am eternally grateful to them.

@E.J. Copperman -- there are a lot of clues like that -- where the answer can be any of a good number of things, and you have to wait for the crosses. Some solvers hate them, some do not.

I'm pretty sure both "Ave Maria" and "Silent Night" are more covered than "Yesterday," but I have no data.

Wm. C. 11:59 AM  

Way too hard for a Wednesday for me because of the SE corner. I like a midweek challenge, but never heard of a tachyon, OFL managed to leap onto Tachyon because of recent reading, and I guess that's mainly why the SE opened up for him, and it was an overall easy solve.

Burl I knew once it was filled and I realized the trunk was a tree, not a storage box. Never heard of Screamin' Joe, hadda Google the song. Bewail? Shoulda got Lexus sooner after I got CornChex, but with BMW I was thinking of European luxury brands.

Also the theme was FAR too obscure, didn't get it until I got here, and I bet it's the same with the majority of visitors.


jberg 11:59 AM  

@Loren -- just read you again; I'd missed beauteous the first time through.

Interesting food article, as well. I don't think it's that Americans are afraid to EAT Spotted Dick; I think they're too embarrassed to ask for it. I had some once, in a restaurant in England; it's pretty good.

Masked and Anonymous 12:03 PM  

@RP: Looks like about five decent (if U count SEXUP) ??XU? words to choose from. MIXUP and FIXUP didn't get used up.

SEXUP has now been used twice in the NYTPuz. Both times by that Peter Collins dude.

Lyrics inspired by the puz:

I put a spell on EOUS
Sure glad it weren't mine

You better stop them NONUs you do
I tell ya I ain't lyin'
Mostly just cryin'

You know I can't stand it
You pock-marked grid hounds
You know better Shortzmeister
I can't stand five and ten Downs

I put a spell on EOUS
Let's hit the wine

M&A Lyric Pottery Div.

Z 12:18 PM  

@Anon10:20 - TO LET is a sign in the window of a flat when it is vacant and rentable. It is not another word for a musical flat. Unless maybe a DOOK and a GOAT are writing the score, they might use a TOLET.

BTW - “tsk tsked,” not “tsk tasked.” I really need to talk to SIRI about her autocorrect foibles.

@Gill I - after many pans, Rex has praised several of Collin’s puzzles. Lately, though, it’s been another long string of pans. This puzzle found Rex in a good mood, though. As for Haight, I’m thinking we will see a rave review from Rex sometime shortly after Satan puts on @LMS’s coat because of the icy chill in hell.

Kimberly 12:21 PM  

I’m going to focus on the positives in Rex’s diatribe (few and far between though the are). That video of Nina Simone is insane. I have the studio version in my playlist, which is remarkable, but never saw/heard this live recording until today. She was a goddess. If you haven’t seen the documentary “What Happened Miss Simone” go check it out. She was a woman even more complex, powerful and passionate than her music reveals (and her music was soul-wrenching).

Kimberly 12:33 PM  

@LMS - loved your comments as usual. I disagree on only one point: the most beauteous music award is a tie between Debussy’s Clair de Lune and his Arabesque no. 1. Even playing them on the piano is more transportive than P’s Canon. The Canon is lovely but plays more like an exercise than anything else.

If I were God I would replace all elevator, phone-hold, and store music with Debussy, and the world would be a better place.

semioticus (shelbyl) 12:54 PM  

Look, I get it. It's not easy to come up with smart themes, and I admire the love, willingness and stamina to construct an NYT puzzle as often as Mr. Haight does. But this fill is a dumpster fire and is totally disrespectful to the solver.

Again, I get it. Having stacks and a Scrabble-y theme means you have to sacrifice. So I'm OK with some crosswordese here and there. MLLE is ugly but sure. UTNE, sure. But some of the crap today isn't even crosswordese! ENRY? EOUS? NONU? WTF ARE THESE?

When the fill is so frustrating, and you have to spend a few extra minutes to figure out what the frak the theme is, it's a bad puzzle. Even the long answers don't salvage it.

Does NYT have test solvers? Ugh.

GRADE: C-, 2.1 stars.

Carola 1:08 PM  

Well, RATS! - the puzzle did put a HEX on me, blinding me to the YOUs that were staring me in the face. (Or, more succinctly, why I read @Rex.) Nice job! Which also goes for the many pleasurable Downs along with NESTLES, STEPPES, BEWAIL.
I liked the sequence SODAS-->TOOTH EXTRACTION-->EMPTY.

@mathgent - I thought of you with the matched pair MATH EXAM - JOYOUSLY. Sadly, more like BEWAIL for me.

@michiganman - I also got a kick out of ANIMALIA crossing MOO MOO....with that lone, forlorn BAA from across the way, somehow separated from its barnyard companion and confronted with ASPS.

Roo Monster 1:10 PM  

Hey All !
HEX YOU! :-)

Neat themeless. To pick a nit with the commentariat, if the HEXes and YOUs were in shaded squares, y'all would've been saying it was too easy to find the theme, and we would've figured it out on our own. Just sayin. You know I'm right...

I see grid has to be 16 long to get the center themers in. Seems a way to have done it in 15? Maybe? A tad shaky fill, as others have noted, but hey, it got published. Liked JOYOUSLY, CORNCHEX. MOOMOO. Actually didn't mind the NEXUS-LEXUS pair. Only writeover was putting in SPED first at 63A, then later realizing it was 66A, and 63A was TORE. So a fairly easy WedsPuz.

Also thought that ASTROPOP was a popsicle thing. If no one has answered the BURL question from a while back, it's a knot in the tree. Fancy NON-NON-U word!

Super TROOPERS 2 is coming out soon. Hoping it's as funny as the first one. Those Broken Lizard guys have had some misses, re: Slamming Salmon. (Club Dread, maybe also?)


Chip Hilton 1:10 PM  

One error. Guess where? I went with NONe and eTNE. In retrospect, UTNE should’ve been somewhere in the deep recesses of my gray matter. It’s been used here more than once.

The Pachelbel Canon is so lovely it survives its considerable over-exposure.

I liked some of the longer stuff and think the HEX over YOU gimmick is really neat, but the short fill left a lot to be desired. AIT?!?

Teedmn 1:25 PM  

Drat! RATS is one of my go-to lamentations but today I heard Charlie Brown in my head saying, "Drat." This led to the only writeover I had today so this played easy for a Wednesday in my book even though I couldn't start in the NW ('BAMA lama ding dong, I say, on college sports clues.)

How I giggled upon seeing EOUS and later CDE and then who the constructors were. We're in for a bumpy blog today, I thought.

Otter pops, Astro pops, Tootsie pops, hop on pops; I stick to SODAS pops.

Once I arrived at the SW corner, I SPED through 66A and then moved up one and did a Deja View (hi @M&A) double take at 63A - two "raced" clues stacked on top of each other - someone put a hex on the SW...

PAC and BH, I joyously solved your Wednesday puzzle, nice!

Amelia 1:27 PM  

Two Old McDonald clues and a repeat of Pachelbel's Canon key so soon after the last one pretty much sunk the puzzle for me. You're not coming back from those, even with a clever twist.

But it does give me the opportunity to tell you all, whether you're interested or not, that Screamin' Jay Hawkins delivers one of my favorite movie lines ever, in Jarmusch's Mystery Train.

"Do you have any more of those Japanese plums, or any other exotic fruits from around the globe?"


Roo Monster 1:50 PM  

I'm so sick of AutoCorrect. AutoCorrupt is more apt.
First line was supposed to say, Neat theme. That's it. Where the frak (awesome word @semioticus, LOL every time I read it) did that less come from? Ugh.


Masked and Anonymous 1:54 PM  


Full disclosure: I liked today's puz just fine and dandy, as is. Thoroughly enjoyed all its dementedness.

Possible EOUS-ectomy, if one insists:

5. Clock part
14. Tough place to insert new letters in the middle
19. Happiness is an ___ [Alternative Beatles tune]
22. All-mail HQ?
5. Do repairs on
6. 1-A or 3-D, e.g.
7. DeSoto or LaSalle, e.g.
8. Cheese that's made upside down??
17. Most Senators at a town meeting would prefer boos to this


JC66 1:55 PM  


I believe there's a way to shut autocorrect off, but don't ask me how.

Mohair Sam 2:20 PM  

Wow, I'm alone here. Really enjoyed, great theme - thought the HEX over YOU was worth a lot of junk fill, we're talking X over U here people - tough one. And a great aha moment when you caught it. Absolutely no prob with EOUS here.

@Kimberly (12:33) - I think @Loren was trying to get a rise out of us. But agree on Debussy, and Love your last paragraph - if you get to meet God make the suggestion. Clair de Lune the winner in my book, btw. There was a wonderful off-Broadway play called "Frankie and Johnie and the Caire de Lune" - Pachelbel never got that. (yes trolls, I know it was revived on Broadway years later)

@Loren - You related to my wife? She's a Syracuse native and if the snow ain't flying and the wind howling she's coatless - and like you she never catches a cold. I've become a believer over the years.

@John Morrison (6:41) - Nina's version of Ne Me Quitte Pas is terrific, but it's Piaf's song in my heart - or Brel himself.

@John X (1:59) - Never heard the Cowboy Junkies do "Blue Moon" - brought it up on YouTube - fantastic, thanks for the tip. And the Marcel's Doo Wop version took me back to high school. Great stuff.

FrankStein 2:32 PM  

@Kimberly 12:21PM. I agree about the need for more Debussy, but one of my favorite relaxing mood pieces is Satie's Gymnopédie No. 1. I have a vague memory of it being the music of some TV show on late at night in NYC ages ago. If anyone recalls what that might have been, please let me know.

Bruce R 2:46 PM  

It's not as bad as GOOK, but the pejorative word of the day is SPED. I am offended.

kitshef 3:16 PM  

@M&A - Alas, EMPTYGUN messes up one of the theme 'YOU's under a HEX.

Masked and Anonymous 3:23 PM  

@kitshef: Oh. yep. Well, hey -- at least the essential part (U) is still there!

Outlaw M&A

tea73 3:38 PM  

Coats! I had so many fights with the elementary school about them. The worst was the swarmy second grade teacher who said, "I'm sure you'll be glad to know I made your son zip up his coat, because it's cold outside." I gritted my teeth as I did not say, "My son is a pretty good judge of how cold or hot he is and it's hot as hell in this classroom. And by the way, I pick my battles and fighting about coats is about as stupid as it gets." A year or two later my other kid wrote an article in the school paper about requiring coats on the playground. He interviewed a doctor who said that no one ever got sick from being cold and that kids running around got hot, while lunch monitors standing around probably did not. Off my soap box. My kids are grown up and it still infuriates me!

The EOUS was so ridiculous I didn't really mind it, but I've never objected to partials as much as OFL. I do think alphabet runs are kind of cheating though.

I noticed the puzzle had a lot of X's when I was doing it - but didn't see the theme until the puzzle was complete.

I've heard of NON-U, but did not recognize it in this context. Luckily UTNE was a gimme.

I think I've heard the Fogerty version of I PUT A SPELL ON YOU most often, but they are all good.

GILL I. 3:59 PM  

John Fogerty "I Put A Spell On You
Something different!

Roo Monster 4:54 PM  

@JC66 1:55

Har! I thought I actually did, at one point on my phone, but apparently it didn't take. I guess I'll try again. (Or maybe my phone just hates me.)


Joe Dipinto 5:17 PM  

@Z re yesterday -- if the question was what sea is Albania on, I could have helped you on that one too. Don't think I knew that vanilla comes from an orchid though.

If I recall, for awhile "Stardust" was the most covered song, until it was supplanted by "Yesterday".

I like trumpeter Clifford Brown's version of "Blue Moon" on the "Clifford Brown with Strings" album -- arranged by Neal Hefti, who later wrote the "Odd Couple" theme.

Fun facts: The Marcels were asked to record "Blue Moon" to fill out a recording session, but the one singer that sort of knew the song didn't get the bridge right and his "wrong" version is what the group sang.

Also, "Blue Moon" had three different titles and sets of lyrics before it became the standard everyone knows. Richard Rodgers liked the melody so Lorenz Hart kept rewriting the lyrics to insert it into various shows before the final lyric and title emerged and became a hit.

I guess I should mention the puzzle. Let's see...well, it didn't have a clue from *that movie*. So there's that. :-)

JC66 5:20 PM  


On an iPhone (can't help with an Android):

Go to Settings to General to Keyboard.

There you'll see an On/Off toggle for Auto Correction.

Hope this helps

JC66 5:23 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
JC66 5:24 PM  


I just noticed there's also a toggle for "Predictive", which might also be the problem.

IrishCream 6:46 PM  

You can’t buckle them into car seats with coats on...if the straps are loose enough to accommodate a coat, the baby can slip out of the seat in a crash. Better a temporary chill than a baby through the windshield.

Monty Boy 6:56 PM  

I always like puzzles when I don’t have to look up anything. Even if it stretches the time a lot.

Some answers were like tooth extractions for me. NONU, LEON (didn’t know that Kings of), ASTROPOP (is that an East coast thing?). And I’ve not heard of Screamin’ Jay et.al. I was a teen in 1956 listening to all that rock on the radio, but this wasn’t “much covered” in Montana.

Fell into a couple of TRAPPs. Got to MATH_X__ and confidently put in AXIS since x, y, and z are. Someone here a long time ago gave the rule: if you’re stuck, it’s probably because the answer you’re absolutely sure of – is wrong. That’s what happened here for me.

Then for Old McDonald’s cry, I put in EIEIOs (s to make it fit). That one didn’t take too long to wilt under examination.

For @LMS and the shooter training: We had a similar training. First rule was find a locked room, lights off, and be quiet. Only trouble was the only locked room were full-time faculty who didn’t want t share keys with us part-timers. When I asked about it, I got a blank stare and no answer yet. I guess I’ll have to keep lots of books handy.

Aketi 9:52 PM  

I liked the HEX U theme. I think it might replace a certain other phrase that I reserve for people who realky piss me off.

@LMS, my son once managed 20 minutes in freezing sleet before finally caved in and put his gloves on. My standard line for commenters who would berate me when my son wouldn’t wear a coat was “why don’t you try putting iit on him?” Needless to say, they never took me up that challenge, He still clearly has no problem woth cold because he camped out overnight in a tent the middle of icy cold weather in Ithaca for fun. That is definitely not on my list of fun activities. As for GERMd, if it’s cold enough they freeze inside your nose and aren’t spread.its when you come inside and are cooped up with a lot of people and their frozen nostrils dethaw that you have to watch out for the GERMs.

Anonymous 10:25 PM  

29-A is not correct, according to what every article about catching a cold says about the cause. A cold is caused by a virus, not a germ.

Anonymous 11:04 PM  

Please look up the definition of germ.

Anonymous 12:01 AM  

I'd say settee, non nonu.

Burma Shave 10:07 AM  


TOLET us have SEXUP in my LEXUS,
and IBET we make a SCENE with our NEXUS.


thefogman 10:44 AM  

I like it. Not a lot - but surely much more than Rex.

Diana,LIW 1:09 PM  

Sure - easy my CORNCHEX.

I was on the verge - the vergiest of verges, of giving up. Then...I realized that nexus was not a BMW rival. Mr. W, the car nut and gear head, would be appalled.

First - the theme gave away the CHEX answer for me. Then the LEXUS parked itself in the right lane, and all fell into place.

And to think I knew BAMA right off the "bat" - I must be getting some sportstalk in me.

PC and BH - what a combo. But I win! (do too, did not, do too, did not, did toooooo) MOO MOO

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords, and remembering the vanilla/fudge ice cream rockets of my youth - thanks Mr. Good Humor!

rainforest 2:55 PM  

Lots of diverse opinions here. Personally, I liked EOUS - got it right off. Is there a rule about suffixes (suffices?, or is it the appearance of that weird letter string that grates? I dunno.

I suppose there were a few things that I wondered about: two Old MacDonald clues, a letter string, NONU. But I liked the theme and its execution. It was while filling in I PUT A SPELL ON YOU when I noticed the HEX/YOU thing. Nice.

My solve was actually pretty smooth. Liked the Haight touch.

leftcoastTAM 3:06 PM  

Very clever theme and execution. Got the HEX's (but didn't see the YOU's right under them until now).

Moved to the middle, but delayed there by the TOME/MENS/LEON minor cluster.

But the SE was a maze that trapped me. TACHYON/BURL/NONU/CORN.

No exit from that MAJor cluster@#$%.

rondo 3:50 PM  

I don’t wanna be a puz-SNOB. I’m in awe of constructors. I really am. But sometimes the dreck hurts: EOUS and CDE and the other stuff mentioned above. Getting HEX on YOU three times has gotta be hard, but some of the fallout is painful. And an RMK.

@D,LIW – that looked like a string of random playground RETORTS.

OLE’S here alone again. No yeah baby in sight so I won’t make one up, like SIRI.

The WSJ puz wasn’t really all that today either, so maybe it’s time for me to stop complaining and making a SCENE.

Oceanlake 11:14 PM  

Down: ends,
Across: Empty Net (Evidence of unlucky fishing) DPI (Dots Per Inch)

EOUS fixed

Anonymous 12:17 AM  

I guess Rex thought Mr Gross' puzzle was pretty gross. I kinda liked it, although it was a grinder for me. Did it somewhat bass ackwards by finishing in the SE and figuring out "I put a spell on you" near the end. Have never heard of Utne or non-u. I live in a proverbial cave. Thank you, Mr Gross.

Anonymous 12:20 AM  

My bad. Mr Gross constructed Thursday's puzzle. Apologies to the Wednesday constructors and to Mr. Gross.

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