Ocean buildup / SUN 4-22-18 / Title city in 1960 #1 song / 1899 gold rush destination / Script suggestion about starting fight scene / Tally in Britain / Supergiant in Cygnus / Early Chinese dynasty / Root beer brand since 1937

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Constructor: Ross Trudeau

Relative difficulty: Challenging (14:50) (I've had a ballgame beer and a martini, tho, so ... !)

THEME: Pluses and Minuses [read: Plus E's and Minus E's] — familiar phrases have E's added to one word and dropped from another word, creating wacky phrases, clued wackily:

Theme answers:
  • STARES AND STRIPS (23A: Makes eye contact before undressing?)
  • FATHER IN ONE'S CAPE (39A: Parent wearing your Superman costume?)
  • NOTE A MOMENT TO SPAR (54A: Script suggestion about starting the fight scene?)
  • JETE-PROPELLED PLAN (78A: Ballet choreography?)
  • HAD LESS HORSE MANE (96A: Was harder for the bronco buster to hold on to?)
  • LEAST BUT NOT LAST (115A: Like the digit "0" in 2018?)
Word of the Day: SEA OOZE (62A: Ocean buildup) —
1.Same as Sea mud

• • •

ERM, no. I mean, specifically, ERM is a terrible answer, and also, no, I didn't really enjoy working out this theme. Every answer felt painful. Like ... E is dropped where? And added where? Why are there Other Random Es In These Answers?! Shouldn't themers like this have two and only two Es? I will give props to the title, which is perfect, but ugh, slog city, working this thing out. I also think SMALL OJ and SEA OOZE (!?) are just junk. I mean, they seem like they came from a purchased wordlist, something a computer recommended and the constructor failed to override. SMALL OJ might've been ok if it had been clued differently, perhaps with reference to, I don't know, its *abbreviatedness* or *beverageness* or anything. Took Forever to get that, and since it intersected two already-hard-to-get themers, ugh, the slogginess. Not knowing the tail end of HYPNOS also complicated things. SEA OOZE, also, come on. And lying right alongside a themer, man, that was rough. Ugh, and with [Giggle syllable] in there (worst crossword clue type ever, could be a jillion things), and the totally enigmatic 50D: Tip of the tongue? (ESE) (!?) (because languages, or "tongues," end ... in -ESE ...), yeesh, that central area was a bear. And for what? NOTE A MOMENT TO SPAR? Pfffft, and I was having such a nice day up to this point. Got some great records this morning because it's Record Store Day 2018! And went to a baseball game this afternoon and saw a Tigers prospect with a great name (Funkhouser!) who struck out Tebow, twice. And it's sunnnnnnny for the first time since, I think, 1936, so ... yeah, my mood was good. And now it's less good. But the martini is still kinda working its magic, *and* I'm listening to Talking Heads "Remain in Light," so ... OK, things could be worse.

Got upended all over the place. Misspelled DIEZ as DIES, which made GRAZE super duper hard to pick up (69A: Eat a little here, a little there). I honestly, repeatedly considered ERASE. Also thought SADIES at first, not SALLYS (111A: Actresses Field and Hawkins). Sally Hawkins was in "The Shape of Water." Which I saw. I just ... Hawkins made me go SADIE. Reflex. I also totally tanked the southern part of the grid, everything around ORIANA, whose name I forgot and botched like nine times before I got it right. ALOP? Oy, no. PIANO, no. IS APT TO, ouch. Is it AS DO I or AS AM I??? Again, all of this stuff crossed *two* themers, so ... Slog City. Maybe some of the theme answers end up being clever or cute ... I guess I can see that. But getting there was awfully painful work. I did love "LA CUCARACHA," though!

    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

    [Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


    mmorgan 12:14 AM  

    Oh come on, Rex... I had many of the same bugaboos and roadblocks as you did. But for me this was really fun and the wackiness of the theme answers was just great. I filled in most of the answers pretty quickly but I had none of the themers -- an unusual and intriguing occurrence. Then they very gradually and painstakingly took shape with lots of groans and ahas and pleasure. I hope you enjoyed your beer and martini. I did not enjoy seeing the Red Sox no hit for the 12th time since 1908 or whatever, but you have to tip your hat. But don't poo out on this puzzle, this was really one of the best Sundays we've seen in a long while, no?

    Randall Clark 12:49 AM  

    Tough for me as well. Got STARESANDSTRIPS early and grokked the theme, but that didn't help me much - I needed almost all the crosses to get the rest of the theme answers. And I had CAPt for the longest which left me looking at tOTE to start the fight scene answer, which didn't help. Also thought the star was gENEB or possibly zENEB, and wasn't sure what kind of Wall St. worker was an -RB, so AID was my last get, to finally finish in just under an hour.

    RAD2626 12:51 AM  

    I liked the theme and the puzzle a lot. Thought the themers were very clever, the title a true aha bonus and some of the long fill (UPS AND DOWNS, AMETHYSTS, LA CUCARACHA, SCAPEGOAT) pretty special. Clue for LEGISLATE very clever.

    Favorite themes were STARES AND STRIPS and HAD LESS HORSE MANE. Only quarrel was LEAST BUT NOT LAST since it was just a transposed phrase which although it worked with the theme did not seem as clever as the others.

    Fun Sunday puzzle.

    pmdm 12:52 AM  

    Should there be no other Es in the theme entries exdept those that involve the theme? Of course there should. The only reason to complain about that feature of today's puzzle is to willfully complain. Sorry, Mike, but your complaint is just silly. At least it seems so is to me. Perhaps your complaint should be filed under O for overthinking. Then again, I may be oversensitive tonight.

    I just admit to being luke warm to the theme (even though I think its's a good theme), for whatever reason. I found the puzzle as a whole niether great nor horrible, just OK. But I did feel happy when I finally figured out the name of the Mexican folk tune. That alone was worth the solve for me.

    Anonymous 1:27 AM  

    maybe the martini got in the way of appreciating a fun theme?

    Harryp 1:34 AM  

    I saw the transposition Theme early, but the sheer puzzle volume kept me busy. DMX was the last word entered, and even if it is a bit of a cheat to have the happy tune, I was glad to finish this. SEA OOZE was a bit of a woe, clever clue for 37Down looped in a way, another for 86Across RR_____. This played easier than today's Mini.

    TomAz 1:57 AM  

    Remain in Light is such a great album, and a real watershed album in my musical journey. It came out during those magic years, when I was in college and a DJ (3 hr shift, once a week) at the campus radio station KTRU. And.. November 1980.. I saw Talking Heads in concert, touring in support of that album. And then I saw Bruce Springsteen for the first time the following week, touring on The River. Bleeping magical.

    As for the puzzle.. Rex's criticism is overblown, especially the 'two Es' part. But he's right in noting some of these themers worked a lot better than the others. STARES AND STRIPS made me actually smile mid-solve. FATHER IN ONES CAPE, too. HAD LESS HORSE MANE, not bad, not bad at all. But JETE PROPELLED PLAN made me cringe. I think it was a serious reach.

    I had SMALLO_ and couldn't see what fit for the life of me. Is SEA OOZE a thing? Never heard that phrase before. That whole middle bit was the last to fall for me, and it took a while, and when I was done, I (like Rex, it seems) was more miffed than pleased.

    But otherwise, the rest of the puzzle, was fine. Better than fine, even. Good stuff.

    chefwen 2:00 AM  

    I was sober but it still took me most of the afrernoon to chip away at this puzzle. Got messed up in the middle where I had SEA and ZE at 62A, not checking the downs I slapped down SEA haZE which is what our windows are covered with after this crazy winter.

    The monsoons clue was a fresh memory of last weekend when we were inundated with rain. Flooding, landslides and so much rain I was wondering how much work it would be to build an ark. We even had a bison that was swept away and ended up on a reef. It took four Paniolo and some private boat owners to lead her back to shore. They let her rest for a while and coaxed her into a truck to take her back to the rest of the herd.

    Gotta agree with the rating, but it was fun.

    Favorite was HAD LESS HORSE MANE.

    chefwen 2:01 AM  

    Oh, and never once in my life have I said ERM.

    Robin 2:23 AM  

    Huh, caught on earlier enough to the idea of vowel changes in first and last words of the themers but somehow didn't grok that it involved moving an E. Although checking back now, I can see it (slaps head).

    Had a few of the same problems as Rex, esp. SMALLOJ and DIEZ.

    But mostly my complaint with this one was that there seemed to be a lot 3-letter words for a big-grid Sunday puzzle.

    Nevertheless, done in better than average time.

    phil phil 3:04 AM  

    MIAMI went in off the bat. Florida city ending in state codes

    Loren Muse Smith 4:44 AM  

    Ok. So a dnf at SIX/DMX. I didn’t understand why “Boxcar’s half” was SIX. Rather than ask here and get lambasted for not googling it (y’all’re a buncha grumps), I finally found that it refers to rolling dice. Two sixes make a boxcar. You’re welcome.

    I loved the trick. In Rex’s defense, I noticed the extraneous E’s, too, but just shrugged. Just so you know, many of the rejected puzzles I’ve written avoided that kind of thing. @Roo and I are the Rodney Dangerfields of crossworld. But heck, maybe the lesson learned is that wackiness and good fill trump picky perceived elegance.

    Liked AMETHYSTS crossing GEM.

    The clue for VOWEL reminded me of this.

    I don’t know from EN DASHes, em dashes, and hyphens. And please don’t explain them to me here I do not care and will not pay attention I’m responsible for enough boring grammar conversations here anyway so there. All I know is that I don’t really understand the proper usage for a colon (see above admonition, please), so I just use a little line thingy instead. Maybe it’s a hyphen, maybe it’s an EN DASH, maybe the pedants here judge me. I. Don’t. Care. Some day if I’m a fancy journalist, I’ll look into it. And if you’re horrified that I’m a high school English teacher, rest assured I have bigger fish to fry than EN DASH vs. em dash. I have kids who write We seen to vary funy movey’s last nite. Seniors. I’m not kidding. Gotta learn to walk before you fly.

    But, well, speaking of grammar and correctness, I was talking about the word “forte” (clue for PIANO’s opposite) yesterday with another teacher, the Spanish teacher, with an awareness of language. I said blah blah was not my “forTAY” and then I told her that actually when it’s not about music, it should be pronounced “fort.” She knew that, too, and understood the dilemma – do you use the “correct” way and risk people thinking you’re dumb, or do you use the “ignorant” way and feel dirty? Do you send an email that says Just let me know a good time to come meet with chef and me knowing that the bride-to-be will think you made a mistake? Do you say Give the tip to whomever deserves it, when it should be whoever but you can’t stop to explain that ‘cause it’d be ridiculous to pause to give a grammar lesson and no one probably cares or notices? I did tell the teacher that I’m a full-on, unapologetic singular they user, and it feels great. Liberating. She decided she’d become one, too. She seemed happier, freer. We bonded.

    Ross Trudeau – I liked this. I have no idea how you came up with the themers. Must’ve taken forever! I thought of a dumb one and only because I learned that a squirrel lives in a drey. So he wears a DREY HAT while at home. That, folks, is why Ross gets paid the big bucks and I continue to be lint on Will’s shoulder.

    Lewis 6:20 AM  

    Much cleverness in this puzzle. I marvel at these theme answers -- how did Ross come up with them? Write a computer program? He did get at least one from David Steinberg (so he says in his notes -- the HORSE MANE one). But still, these theme answers are, for me, tough to come up with, and tough to suss -- they filled in very slowly, compared to the rest of the puzzle. I also loved the clever clue for LEAST BUT NOT LAST ("Like the digit "0" in 2018?").

    There were some lovely answers as well: SCAPEGOAT, LA CUCARACHA, UPS AND DOWNS. For "Fall guy" I threw i SCARECROW, and kinda like it.

    Dr. T two days in a row! ERM! And SEA OOZE, which Googles horribly (if you put it in quotes), but I don't care. I love it and I'm going to try to use it today, in fact, how about that martini/beer induced sea ooze of a solve that Rex had with this puzzle?

    three of clubs 7:16 AM  

    Googled sea ooze. Pelagic sediment does seem to be a thing. Guess that there must be tons of it.

    BarbieBarbie 7:25 AM  

    I didn’t find this challenging, based on having a few answers get by me because I had filled them in on crosses.

    Lots of fun stuff here, and it makes me happy that the switches weren’t all done the same (switching short and long vowel sounds, for example). HADLESSHORSEMANE was just genius.

    I love that Balance means REST in more than one sense.

    Good Sunday!

    Anonymous 7:32 AM  

    I forgot to say my big hangup was trying to think of a rapper named RR—- and even having a conversation with myself about whether an entry like that would stand the test of time. Har! [Major red face]

    chefbea 7:43 AM  

    Tough Sunday. But got most of the themers

    BarbieBarbie 7:49 AM  

    Oops. Anon@732 was me.

    Anonymous 7:55 AM  

    I liked SMALLOJ. At least in Greek NYC diners, this is either the juice of a breakfast special or an eye opener you order without having to break the bank (small oj - $1.95 med oj - $3.50, large oj - $5.95)

    AW 7:58 AM  

    Very clever idea but it falls on its face at 78A. A dance step (JETÉ) doesn't propel anything except maybe the dancer, and you don't "propel" choreography any more than you propel a battle plan or a blueprint. That phrase is just a tortured and unworkable word salad.

    For those who care:
    hyphen (shortest dash): used to separate numbers (e.g., 0-10)
    en-dash (width of the old typeset letter "n"): used to separate dates (e.g., Oct 10–Nov 2)
    em-dash (width of typeset "m"): used to set off a parenthetical phrase within a sentence (e.g., "Dashes are useful — I use them myself! — but can become a shortcut or a crutch.")

    ghthree 8:25 AM  

    I first had MINUS for 14 Down, assuming anything less than an A would be a blemish. But the crosses forced a change to BPLUS. So presumably AMINUS is not a blemish, but BPLUS is. Which raises the question: if you're grading musical compositions, is AMINUS enharmonic to BPLUS? I guess only if you're even-tempered.

    RJ 8:27 AM  

    @Loren Your post made me choke on my coffee because I can't laugh and swallow at the same time. So funny and so true about googling answers.

    As usual, I got the theme after completing the puzzle in just under an hour - this was due to a couple of typos and not knowing several names:

    PTSD typed in as PSTD put TACH in the wrong place and really messed up things for a while.

    Did anyone else guess DMZ instead of DMX? Finally changed it because at least I know that SIX is half of something.

    Never heard the term SEAOOZE but I guess it's a thing.

    SMALLOJ was really tough because I kept focusing on the "diner" part of the cluing.

    I've never heard anyone say ERM but I know someone who writes the term in her posts.

    Guessed ARIANA instead of ORIANA

    I'm at the stage in my solving abilities that my goal is to solve the puzzle..liking seems to be secondary, although I think I'm a natural grumper and I often dislike (can't solve) puzzles.

    pabloinnh 8:32 AM  

    Finding a cucaracha in a crossword is much more pleasant than finding a cucaracha in, say, the corner of your living room. Also, people who think Spaniards are a bunch of lispers deserve to be confused by dies vs. diez. In most of Spain in would be pronounced "dieth", which has to be a z, no problem, often written as "no problemo" (thanks for nothing, Bart Simpson). The word is "problema", and its misuse always makes be cringe, but it's a losing battle.

    Thought the puzzle was really clever and fun. Pretty fast solve for me.

    Glimmerglass 8:37 AM  

    @LMS: (note the colon) I taught high school English for 38 years without knowing what was meant by en- or em-, but I sure as hell knew the difference between a dash and a hyphen. And my students who used a typewriter (later, a word-processor) soon learned it too. Then I retired and got a job as a newspaper copy editor and learned that different length dashes are used for different situations (see AW, above). I liked the puzzle very much but struck out with headless for HAD LESS. I was trying to make Hairy out of HORSE MANE. Ah well.

    GHarris 8:59 AM  

    As usual, when Rex finds it difficult the puzzle is at fault. Typically, when I finish a puzzle Rex rates challenging without googling I am on top of the world. Today, Is one of those days.

    QuasiMojo 9:07 AM  

    Tricky and toothy Sunday fun. I found it a worthy challenge. Sounds like REX had a very dry Martini. Arid, sere, thirsty. I didn't catch on to the theme until "Fatherin one's cape" which made me chuckle just a bit, especially since cosplay has become quite popular and you do see DADS in all sorts of strange outfits these days sipping cappuccini at Starbucks or at yoga class. Which reminds me, I like the idea of a skipper named CAP'N CRUNCH (em-dash here?) you know, the guy on the cruise ship with the perfect 8-pack who leads the exercise program. The crowd STARES AND STRIPS down to their Spandex and speedos NOTE: A MOMENT TO (hide) SPARE tire.

    I imagine riding that long-haired horse (hippiecampus?) requires some expert HORSE MANEuvers (which sounds like something else they leave behind.)

    I struggled with LA OGRE thinking it was another Shrek clue.

    @Lewis, I love repeat answers too. Yesterday the WSJ had "NOT ART" when we had NON-ART. Who was right? We also had ERM not too long ago and several people pointed out it is primarily an English term for "umm."

    @Loren, I hear ya! Once I said "forté" at one of those snooty cocktail parties in Manhattan (if that isn't redundant since they were all drinking Manhattans) and this CHURL corrected me by telling me it should be "fort" since it is French. Well, a few weeks later I said "fort" at another swell affair and someone corrected me the other way! He told me that "forte" actually comes from the Italian -- a musical notation to hit hard -- so the last "e" is stressed as an "ay" sound. That led me to looking it up online which is the last resort of small but inquiring minds. Apparently the argument of the proper pronunciation of the word goes back centuries and no one has quite figured out its origin. I say keep the é. Ay-ay! Sashay, gurl!

    That remind me I'm reading "Eats, Shoots & Leaves" which is an hilarious book about punctuation (especially the period, the comma, inverted commas (which always makes me pity the poor things), but also semi-colons (cause for many proctologist jokes) and colons and even a few en-dashes). It's by an English lady so the period, or "full-stop" at the end of the quote is outside the quotes. Highly recommend.

    LEAST but not LAST, I thought MORPHEUS was the god of sleep. It certainly seems that way nowadays with all the opioids everyone is taking.

    If only OJ had been a bit smaller.

    You probably need a decent-sized funny bone (HUMERUS) to enjoy this puzzle. ERM, Rex.

    FLAC 9:26 AM  

    I honestly don't understand what’s not to like about this puzzle. A little crosswordESE is a small price to pay for such wonderful theme answers — (em-dash) even “least but not last.”

    Hartley70 9:27 AM  

    Seeing BPLUS up at the top confused me. I thought PLUS or minus would be hidden in the answers so it took me a while to grasp the dropped and added "E"s. NOTEAMIMENTTOSPAR gave it to me and then I marveled at the themers. I'm glad there are people who think like this and delight me on a Sunday morning when I am miserable with a cold.

    I went with SCArEcrow, but SCAPEGOAT is nice too. I had no complaint with JETEPROPELLED because some ballet combinations are propelled by an initial jete. Others begin with a chasse, pique turn or another such step. I thought this was the most clever of the themers.

    This took me longer than a usual Sunday but I enjoyed every minute.

    Teedmn 9:32 AM  

    This ran over my usual randomized Sunday time - URBANA crossing ORIANA, ARB and DENEB, ouch. It didn't help that I originally had FEMA giving me a "cot" and later, when I mixed the star up with the desert and had nEgEB in at 93D, I thought FEMA was either giving me a bIn for my belongings, or a tIn of CHOW. I guess I don't have a very high opinion of FEMA!

    Some of the theme answers were really clever - FATHER IN ONE'S CAPE, NOTE A MOMENT TO SPAR, HAD LESS HORSE MANE. The rest were good too, but those three gave me a tee-HEE. As did the mental discussion of HUMERI vs. HUMERodes.

    When left to my own devices, I usually GRAZE through the day rather than have big meals. A serving of yogurt here, a piece of toast there, some pepitas a few hours later. But the real grazing is when you are at a buffet and you just kind of put your head down and crop at whatever looks good. Too bad most of it never tastes as good as it looks.

    I had a lot of missteps - my diner breakfast was a SkiLLet, which wreaked havoc with the bible book after Jonah. My method of making potable water was to FILTERs rather than DESALTs. Something corroded was EATEN away, and my equilibrium was a SeeSaw until it settled into STASIS.

    A fine Sunday puzzle, in my opinion, thanks Ross Trudeau.

    Amelia 9:34 AM  
    This comment has been removed by the author.
    John McKnight 9:44 AM  

    Medium hard. I don’t like SEAOOZE either. This puzzle seems like what Nebraska would be like to just hang out here for a day or two.

    MickMcMick 9:44 AM  

    This was a killer! Got least but not last immediately, which actually stymied me a bit thinking it was a reversal theme. Smalloj was near impossible even though I took ballet years ago. This wasn’t fun

    Nancy 9:46 AM  

    Delightful theme. Awful, ranging on unacceptable, fill. I finished though. Quelle miracle.

    SMALL OJ? NAE NAE? RPG? SEA OOZE? Oh, puhleeze! Believe it or not, ORIANA Fallaci saved my bacon. Without her I would have been completely stuck a bit West of the Middle. I'm probably one of the few who did know her. She's not exactly on the "tip of the tongue" for most people, I should think.

    HYPNea before HYPNOS (thanks a lot for not helping me out, SMALL OJ) and RR line before RR XING. These two mistakes gave me A?LISTS where SEXISTS (71D) was to go. Worse, I misread the 71D clue as "Demeanors of the MeToo movement." So I'm thinking, what kind of demeanors would MeToo women have? ANGRY FACES? DEFIANT STARES? STIFF UPPER LIPS? COLD PIERCING EYES? CLENCHED FISTS? HEADS HELD HIGH? Only when I changed RR line to RR XING did I finally see that the clue was people who demean the MeToo movement. Well, better late than never.

    Did love the theme answers, though. Especially STARES AND STRIPS.

    Siberian Khatru 9:48 AM  

    I liked this a lot, but sorry, sea ooze is not a thing, and even if it is, the clue isn't enough.

    Birchbark 9:49 AM  

    I liked the quiet humor of UPS AND DOWNS as vertical answer. The themers hit their target, especially HAD LESS HORSEMANE and LEAST BUT NOT LAST.

    @LMS (4:44) -- your paragraph devoted to not caring about ENDASH = "apophasis," the rhetorical convention of emphasizing what you won't bother to discuss. @Rex deploys this technique sometimes as well, whether consciously or not. The best examples I've seen are in Umberto Eco's "Name of the Rose," where the narrator can go on for pages about what he will say nothing of.

    Warren Peace 9:56 AM  

    Amethysts are my birthstone and still couldn't get it. Hated them back in the day when wearing your birthstone was popular. Always got some piece of jewelry with the little purple annoyance (my least favorite color, and so random)!

    Got the theme early but struggled and dnf. Still, a lot of good fun (except for Fatherinone'scap). So ugly, sayst I.

    Finished War and Peace. Tolstoy covers the mass insanity of war and the pettiness and greed of human interaction. He spent quite a bit of time on the underpayment of crossword puzzle constructors and the fact that they were almost all white men. Cossacks with time on their hands. Oddly, he concluded that at a time when a madman's hand was ravaging the world, it was the least of anyone's concerns. Go figger.

    Two Ponies 10:12 AM  

    DNF by choice.

    Stanley Hudson 10:13 AM  

    Loved it. And @Nancy, I for one knew ORIANA Fallaci, who became a nasty Islamaphobe late in life.

    Charles Flaster 10:14 AM  

    Similar to others, I enjoyed this one much more than Rex. However, my solving experience was the same with HYPNOS and GRAZE being last to succumb.
    ESE , DELTA, and GRAZE were creatively clued.
    By far, my favorite themed was HAD LESS HORSE MANE. Just wonderful.
    Time to commit ROZ Chast to crosswordEASE.
    Thanks RT.

    Irene 10:19 AM  

    SMALL OJ is definitely a thing. You sit at a Greek coffee shop and ask for a bran muffin, toasted, and a small oj. So maybe it's a New York thing, but it's legitimate.
    Fun puzzle altogether.

    GILL I. 10:19 AM  

    Cute and fun and some hard work to boot! STARES AND STRIPS first thing in. Made me chuckle.
    Speaking of POT FARM...the rendition of the Gipsy Kings LA CUCARACHA is one I've not heard. There are a ton of them but I like that the critter has no marijuana que fumar. Imagine if he did.
    My biggest hang up was in the center. Could not see 72A PRESUME. The downs didn't help and neither did SEA OOZE. Didn't we just have ROZ Chast? Yes, but I still spelled her name with an S.
    @chefwen. Your bison story is almost as good as the one where you adopted a lost cow you found in your back yard. At least it wasn't a bison!
    Gorgeous weather here. Gonna be 80 plus with a DASH of a breeze.

    Anonymous 10:28 AM  

    since I do the puzzles as a relaxing diversion and "times" are irrelevant, I don't mind goofy clueing or stretches.
    Interesting to see the different takes folks have in here.
    I do like the time tracking, though, on the phone app. Fun to see the progression through the week.

    jackj 10:45 AM  

    A terrific NYT Sunday offering!

    Rex's review reminds us, "DON'T DRINK AND SCRIVE."

    cq cqxray 10:47 AM  

    So true about Rex's take on a crossword! I think he also makes a point of being curmudgeonly (that's the nice way of putting it) because more people read his site just to be entertained by the level of his choler.

    Roo Monster 10:52 AM  

    Hey All !
    SMALL OJ, Har. Had S_ALLO_, and just kept seeing SCALLOP or SHALLOT. I said Bleach to either one for breakfast! Finally saw the JETE ballet thing.

    Fun theme, favorite was HAD LESS HORSE MANE. Good stuff. Managed to get whole puz done, then crashed and burned in South center. :-( ARB a WOE, as was SON as clued. Put in UpsAlA (?) for URBANA first, so that didn't help. Didn't know PIANO as clued, either. So if something is not in your ken, is it PIANO? Singing for me is my PIANO. :-)


    All in all, a nice fun SunPuz. Didn't SHELLAC me too much.


    Z 10:52 AM  

    First and last impressions have a disproportionate influence on gut reactions, so finishing at SEA OOZE definitely lowered my enjoyment. Bogs OOZE. Fens OOZE. Marshes OOZE. Bayous OOZE. SEAs not so much. Well, maybe the Aral Sea these days. That SEA OOZE was buffered by DR. T and the second weakest themer didn’t help.

    I did think a couple of the themers fulfilled the “when you go whacky go big whacky” rule. HAD LESS HORSE MANE is great while STARES AND STRIPS called to mind this story.

    @phil phil - Hand up for Miami first. OCALA is classic ESE, so I managed to fix it easily, but for that answer I think the clue tries too hard by half. I agree with Rex about not calling attention to crosswordese, so I think this would have been a fine clue for Miami but not so much for OCALA.

    Hand up for loving the T. Heads. Hand up for having my baseball team improving my Saturday mood (hey, the rebuilding Tigers are not the worst team in the MLB). But I spent more time yesterday watching the new Prince video and reading some interesting observations. The video images are rehearsal clips. Wow.

    Nancy 10:52 AM  

    @Teedmn (9:32) -- If your "diner breakfast" was a SKILLET, you must have unusually good teeth.

    Feel better very soon, @Hartley!

    @GILL (10:19) -- We're (finally, finally, after the winter that wouldn't end) having glorious weather here in NYC too. Our glorious weather is brilliant sunshine, with temps about 20 degrees lower than yours, but I actually like it this way. More layers, but much more invigorating.

    @Loren (4:44) -- Your citing of that written sentence from one of your Seniors almost made me burst into tears. And btw, what is the length of the dash (or hyphen) I just used after your name? It's my own personal fave, though I have no idea what it's called. You (and others) also may have noticed that I have a special affection for semicolons; I have no idea why.

    TubaDon 11:01 AM  

    Didn't get the LEAST idea of the theme until the LAST one, so I had to slog upward from there. Finally got all the themesl, but couldn't convince myself that SEAOOZE was a word so I erred pn two letters. Even two cups of Irish Breakfast Tea didn't help me on that.

    Anonymous 11:22 AM  

    And then there’s the treatise on the effect of sundry exercise garb on running: Wear and Pace.

    Mohair Sam 11:31 AM  

    Flat-out loved it. Played Challenging/Easy here. Struggled madly until about 2/3 of the grid was filled, only then did we suss the theme - and the rest played easy. Themers were all delightful, HADLESSHORSEMANE the best, imo.

    I've shot enough craps to appreciate the boxcars clue, clever. LACUCARACHA - awesome. Wassamatter with Rex today? We've had breakfast at maybe 30 different diners in Eastern PA over the years and my wife always orders a small orange juice and I order a small tomato juice. And the waitress (they're always female around here) invariably repeats: "That's a SMALL OJ and a small tomato, right?" And what the heck is "PIANO, no"? That thing Hoagie Charmichael pounds in all those old movies you watch Rex is called a PIANO, short for pianoforte (soft and loud) - most folks who listened in eighth grade music class know that. Sober up.

    @Birchbark - "Name of the Rose" one of my favorite reads.

    @Z (from yesterday) - Did you actually read the ACLU link you provided? It made my case. The ACLU has always agreed with Antonin Scalia on the "Citizens United" Supreme Court ruling. The link you provided tells why. And Antonin and I agree with them totally.
    The ACLU has always been a champion of free speech above all. They fight campus speech codes, the support the right to march for the KKK and White Supremacists. All this (and Citizens) is detrimental to their fund raising, but they don't care. Do a little research and you'll find why they value free speech above all - it's worth your time.

    old timer 11:34 AM  

    I liked the puzzle fine. That is because (a) I finished it with no errors and (b) I found the theme amusing and also helpful in the solve. I did almost Natick with SEA OOZE, but put that in on faith. Now if I had thought of ESE as the end of a bunch of languages, I would have been confident.

    One variant of La CUCARACHA is about Pancho Villa, whose car had that name, as you can see:

    La CUCARACHA, La CUCARACHA, ya no puede caminar
    Porque no tiene, porque le falta
    Gasolina que quemar.


    Una cosa me da risa
    Pancho Villa sin camisa ....

    (One thing gives me a smile, Pancho Villa with no shirt on).

    SMALL OJ is very much in the language. No complaint there.

    JOHN X-ACTO 11:40 AM  

    This was a pretty good puzzle but I had a DNF so it doesn't matter, nothing matters really, pain is the default so why bother trying. It was friggin' PIANO that did me in, with those crosses ALOP and HUMERI. What a sad sad ditch to die in.

    SEAOOZE did make me groan, and so did DESALTS. I guess DESALTS is a word and all, but as someone who ran a desalinization plant in my youth, that word just seems fugly.

    But I really liked solving the themers, which I got pretty early on. This was still in the "happy time" before I died down in that ugly bottom corner.

    ORIANA Fallaci is classic crossword knowledge; you might as well know who she is because you're gonna see her again. She did a lot of things (she was a provocateur) but I think her most notable episode was interviewing astronaut Pete Conrad before his Apollo 12 flight. She claimed that Neil Armstrong's "One small step" line was written by NASA and given to him to say, and Conrad said nope Neil thought that up by himself. They made a bet that Conrad's first words on the moon would be "whoopee!" and sure enough Conrad's first word on the moon was "Whoopee!" He said she never paid him.

    Actually all of the "first words" of the Apollo astronauts as they stepped on the moon are interesting:

    "Looks like the secondary strut had a little thermal effects on it right here, Neil." -Aldrin
    "Okay, you're right. Al is on the surface." -Shepard, referring to himself
    "Boy, that front pad is really loose, isn't it?" - Irwin
    "Why don't you come over here and let me deploy your antenna?" - Schmitt

    John Young is the best, even though you wonder if his oxygen system is working fully:

    "There you are: Mysterious and Unknown Descartes. Highland
    plains. Apollo 16 is gonna change your image. I'm sure glad they got ol'
    Brer Rabbit, here, back in the briar patch where he belongs."

    Also, is SAYST really a thing? I've heard of SAYETH, but SAYST? Anyway, God always speaks to me in regular English so I don't know where this stuff comes from.

    Anyway, I had a DNF so life is meaningless to me right now.

    dennis ladnier 11:55 AM  

    Erm.....yeah......uh......not once in our life have we ever erm’ed

    Mark 12:01 PM  

    C'mon Rex! You're gonna [RAGE] AT this one? The theme, and themers, were great.

    Joseph Michael 12:16 PM  

    Hand up for liking this one a lot.

    Played on the easy side for me. Which means that I was able to complete the puzzle before getting bored by it, a rarity for Sunday puzzles in this household. And I still don't believe I was able to remember DENEB.

    Schoenling Beer 12:18 PM  

    JOHN X-ACTO, or Don From Accounting, LOL.

    Aketi 12:29 PM  

    Obviously, my fave was NOTE, A MOMENT TO SPAR, especially since it was timed with the big Spring Open competition in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in NYC this weekend.

    LA CUCARACHA the song does tickle my HUMERI. I won’t discuss the details of my experience with that species that started with a burst pipe in the kitchen that egested some sort of black OOZE far worse than anything that I have ever seen in the SEA. It was a hard fought SPARring match that I am proud to say I won. Mason jars RULE.

    @chefwen, great bison story.

    @Quasi, haha what have you been mixing in your OJ lately? You’ve been on a roll. I think @Rex should try some of whatever it is.

    @Hartley70, sounds like you could use a big glass of OJ with a little whiskey mixed in. Hope you feel better soon.
    The cost of OJ in NYC diners did induced me to teach my son to always order the SMALL OJs.

    @Nancy, at least it appears that @Loren’s students can write a complete sentence, which isn’t always the case with my sister’s students at the continuation high school. She’s their History teacher, not their English teacher. So it’s always a balancing act between teaching content and teaching how to communicate.

    P-CO 12:32 PM  

    On the subject of “erm.” We subscribe to the Acorn Channel (“The Best in British TV”-definitely worth it) . I have to use close captioning, not only to detect thick British accents and slang but because I’m hard of hearing even with hearing aids. Yes, CC can detect an “erm,” which is beyond me, because even I can hear the actor clearly say “um.” A prime example of why British English is both charming and bafflling.

    Masked and Anonymous 12:49 PM  

    Didn't experience the slog vibe that @RP did, on the themers. Granted, it's a pretty straightforward switch-a-letter theme idea, but it works ok, for m&e. STARES AND STRIPS started things out real well, and LEAST BUT NOT LAST was a cool finisher.

    Solvequest was generally smoooth. Do recall a slight MICAH/MAACO slowdown. HUMERI+ORIANO/PIANO and CATHER/DIEZ also got slightly hairy.

    Nice ALGORE anagram. Cool NADER clue. SEAOOZE … har

    staff weeject pick = DMX.


    Thanx, Mr. Trudeau.

    Masked & Anonym8Us


    Anonymous 12:56 PM  

    Another onanistic puzzle.

    jberg 1:29 PM  

    Another vowel-movement theme, and here's @Loren going on about colons.

    Oops! Gotta run-- later than I thought. We're going to afuneral. NOt mine, or I wouldn't mind being late. More later.

    Azzurro 1:40 PM  

    At least Rex picked up some good music from the Road House!

    old timer 1:45 PM  

    SAYST strikes me as wrong. I say, thou sayest, he says (or sayeth), we, you, they SAY.

    Birchbark 1:49 PM  

    @Nancy (10:52) -- I too am a big fan of "--", whatever it may be called. In relaxed writing, it's like a Swiss Army knife for keeping things moving. Emily Dickinson put it to profound use as well --

    Norm 1:56 PM  

    I liked the theme, but found the execution kind of clunky. STARES AND STRIPS and LEAST BUT NOT LAST were very good. The others seemed forced and clunky.

    SJ Austin 2:06 PM  

    I quite enjoyed this, both in many of the clues and in the theme, which kept me thinking hard even after I figured out what was going on. I started out really fast but got severely bogged down in the bottom half of the puzzle and then took a long time to fill in the scattered blank squares that always seem to remain after a few passes through the grid.

    My Record Store Day score was Phish's Billy Breathes, which I've been listening to since 1996 but always on CD or MP3. Cool to have it on vinyl now!

    Anonymous 2:20 PM  

    I don't think "monsoons" is a correct cluing for wet season. Monsoons are the atmospheric changes that cause wet seasons, not the season.

    Ruth F 2:52 PM  

    Started out with “ scarecrow” for “ scapegoat” after having crosses for s,c,a and e. Thought it was a very clever clue. You know — corn stalks, pumpkins, scarecrows and all that. Held on to it way too long.

    Trombone Tom 3:08 PM  

    I've lived on or close to the Pacific most of my life, but SEA OOZE was a great big WOE.

    Speaking of the Pacific we have definitely had a taste of summer and I can only hope it carries east to most of you.

    I thought this puzzle was a real workout that delivered at least moderate satisfaction with some great and some so-so themers. Enjoyed it more than did OFL.

    QuasiMojo 3:26 PM  

    @Old Timer 1:45 PM, the "say'st" is from Shakespeare I believe. It's a poetic contraction, I reckon, to fit the meter.

    @Aketi, 12:29 PM, thank you! Perhaps my getting up each day now at 5AM is helping me to focus more.

    Alan_S. 3:31 PM  

    Hated this puzzle. It was difficult just for the sake of being difficult. The theme was forced and nonsensical and there were way too many obscure entries crossing each other. DNF and proud of it.

    Jamie C 4:19 PM  

    Re: PITABREAD from Friday:

    JERRY: I mean, Bozo the Clown...does he really need "the clown" in his title, as clown? Bozo, "the" clown? Are we going to confuse him with Bozo the district attorney? Bozo the pope? There's no other Bozo...

    Anonymous 4:22 PM  

    Agree with all!

    Anonymous 4:27 PM  

    Also had Scarecrow for longest time!

    jberg 4:28 PM  

    Btw, everybody I know calls it "benthic OOZE." And any clue to Joni ERNST that doesn't mention her castrating of hogs is really tepid. But i did like the theme, which was of considerable help in solving.

    I also liked learning that Ralph NADER is in the Automotive Hall of Fame. I thought of him the other day, when I pulled out of my driveway and collided with a car that was speeding down the street. (If I knew why, it wouldn't have happened -- I'm guessing the truck parked a few yards down blockec my view). the damage was unsightly, but minimal -- thanks to the drive for safe construction that he initiated decades ago.

    Probably everyone has gone home by now, so I'll leave it at that.

    Anonymous 4:29 PM  


    Anonymous 4:31 PM  


    Anonymous 4:33 PM  


    JC66 4:38 PM  


    Glad you're OK.

    Aketi 4:54 PM  

    @jberg, ditto what @JC66 said.

    Banana Diaquiri 5:00 PM  

    And it's sunnnnnnny for the first time since, I think, 1936, so ... yeah, my mood was good.

    very OT, but is it just my part of New England, or has the NW wind been stronger, longer, colder, and more persistent than in living memory?? more product of global warming?? I know, they ain't be no such ting.

    Anonymous 5:02 PM  


    Banana Diaquiri 5:07 PM  

    Also, people who think Spaniards are a bunch of lispers deserve to be confused by dies vs. diez.

    that's because "people" here in the USofA here Caribbean spanish 99.44% of time, without the lisp.

    Quint 5:36 PM  

    @Mohair Sam 11:31 a.m. LOL that guy Z will never admit he’s wrong.

    IrishCream 5:41 PM  

    Ditto! That slowed me down for a while.

    wgh 6:38 PM  

    I have never said “erm” and by God I will never say “huzzah”.

    Joe Dipinto 7:30 PM  

    I pronounce the non-musical forte as "area of expertise". If I'm really in a hurry I'll pronounce it "strong suit". ;-)

    @Nancy -- the punctuation mark in your 10:52 post, and that I just used, is an em dash. Or it would be if the two hyphen-sized dashes were fully closed up.

    Okay puzzle, not bad, not great. Today's playlist: EL PASO; LA CUCARACHA; GRAZ(E)ing In The Grass; Believe it OR NOT, It's Just Me; DELTA Dawn; All My EXES Live In Texas; SuperSTAR; Maria ELENA; KITE(s) Are Fun; PIANO Man; HEAVEN On The 7th Floor.

    JC66 7:37 PM  

    @Joe D

    Where do you live/do. It would be great if you could post earlier so your posts were more widely viewed.

    Joe Dipinto 7:38 PM  

    @Mohair Sam 11:31 -- I too was rather incredulous that Rex wouldn't know PIANO, but I *think* what he meant is that he was having so much trouble in that section that the answers just wouldn't materialize for him.

    Hungry Mother 7:49 PM  

    A tough Sunday for me because of the many starts and stops that a travel day brought. Also, I laid down a wrong letter which caused me to stare at the grid for a long time before I saw my typo. Happy to be done, however slowly.

    Joe Dipinto 7:58 PM  

    @JC66 - That's right nice of you! I'm in Brooklyn, semi-retired, but I used to work in music publishing. I often don't get to the puzzle until the afternoon, so I tend to post later. And I like to read through all the other comments before I post. I notice that some of the regulars do come back later in the evening, so there's some give-and-take, as with you, and topics can carry over into the next day. But I'll see what I can do. :-)

    JC66 8:13 PM  

    @Joe Di

    Aha, Brooklyn. That explains it. ;-)

    Z 8:21 PM  

    @jberg - Good to know you're okay. When I totaled my first Prius it was a similar situation. The guy in the new Chrysler must have not seen me coming because he just pulled right in front of me. The car was toast. I was uninjured.

    @LMS - Have you looked at the Wiki article for Dash? OMFG. In short, 10,00 words or so about a difference which makes no difference. A difference which makes no differenceis no difference.

    @Mohair Sam - Did you skip this paragraph?
    In our view, the answer to that problem is to expand, not limit, the resources available for political advocacy. Thus, the ACLU supports a comprehensive and meaningful system of public financing that would help create a level playing field for every qualified candidate. We support carefully drawn disclosure rules. We support reasonable limits on campaign contributions and we support stricter enforcement of existing bans on coordination between candidates and super PACs.
    That's about as clear a thumbs up for the government's position as could be. Here is the key element of the dissent: The court's ruling threatens to undermine the integrity of elected institutions across the Nation. The path it has taken to reach its outcome will, I fear, do damage to this institution.... A democracy cannot function effectively when its constituent members believe laws are being bought and sold. A dissent, I will remind you, written by a Judge appointed by Nixon. A more prescient dissent prescient you will not find.

    ArtO 8:24 PM  

    I know it's coming late to the party but I did this yesterday (get the print version on Saturday), (ran around all day today) and kept on going like the Energizer Bunny, took a one minute break to let the subconscious do its work and managed to complete the wonderfully clever puzzle in slightly more than an hour. Any time less than an hour is good... less than three quarters of an hour FAST! ERM last to fall. Agree with comments on SEAOOZE and got a kick out of LACUCARACHA. A tune from way before Rex was around.

    pabloinnh 8:26 PM  

    Hi @ Banana Diaquiri--spring here in NH is at least two weeks behind, the wind is merciless, and snow remains in shady places. So far April is the cruelest month.

    You're right about the way people on this side of the Atlantic pronounce s's and c's and z's exactly alike. It's the way I taught it too, mostly because more people use this pronunciation. If I told kids about the th sound used in Spain they thought it was hilarious. Truth is it makes wonderfully logical orthographic sense.

    Mohair Sam 9:40 PM  

    @Joe Dipinto (7:38) - Thanks - and you're right, ooops. Sorry Rex (man do I feel stupid).

    @Quint (5:36) - You're right too, he will never admit. Unreal. See below.

    @Z - You're amazing. The ACLU supports the Court on Citizens United, period.
    You can't change that by pulling a paragraph out of context and interpreting it incorrectly. In that same statement the ACLU says the it would "firmly oppose" a constitutional amendment to reverse Citizens. What more do you need?

    Rather than search for a reason to pretend that the ACLU hasn't taken the stance it took, you might actually read more from the ACLU and discover why they firmly support Citizens United and all free speech.

    But you are amazing.

    Democraticus 9:45 PM  

    I'm with morgan (first comment): I found the theme and many of the clues to be clever and witty.

    P.S. Dear Rex, do you have ANY fun solving puzzles these days???

    Anonymous 10:02 PM  

    Please. Z is a fanatic. If this episode isnt proof, nothing is.

    kitshef 11:14 PM  

    Fair flew through this, and surely enjoyed the theme, but I spent over half the puzzle knowing I would have to come back to that DM_/SI_ cross, and assuming I would fail. Which I did.

    Remembering the Boxcar children, I dithered between SIs and SIb. Went with SIb. Oh, well.

    Bob Mills 8:57 AM  

    I thought the puzzle was great. Rex didn't like it. Makes perfect sense.

    pat sanchez 11:29 AM  

    I had the same problems as you Rex ESE,Smalloj (ugh) and had I hope to instead of is apt to. I'm assuming an Arb is someone who works in arbitrage but never heard it in 10 yrs. On Wall st. Have no clue what RPG means - never played Dungeons. Totup was stupid too. Same time next week. :)

    John Hoffman 12:03 AM  

    Ouch! I just finished Sunday. Set it down, picked it up, set it down, picked it up. This was hard for me. The theme was quite good, I thought. The moving letter e was fun.

    hcwfuua 4:43 PM  

    Rex, Thanks for the blog. It takes me more like 15 minutes + 2 days to finish a Sunday puzzle but I enjoy your commentary and a chance to check my work and learn. Great to hear you were listening to the seminal Remain in Light. David Byrne and his wonderful band performed here (Tucson) last week. They played Born Under Punches (The Heat Goes On), The Great Curve, and Once in a Lifetime from that album. They might be coming to a venue near you.
    - Cheers, Steve

    Anonymous 12:10 PM  

    Something must be wrong with my brain. I breeze through the few rare puzzles rated difficult, but struggle for an hour or two on all those other ones rated easy.

    Burma Shave 12:57 PM  


    I PRESUME that SALLY'S a GEM of a NAIF,
    LEASTBOTNOTLAST to come to REAL grips
    with how a NUDIE ISAPTTO ABASE a waif,
    so imMATURE, she just STARESANDSTRIPS.


    rondo 2:01 PM  

    Kinda dumb instead of wacky, but the keeper's gotta be HADLESSHORSEMANE. The dreadful SEAOOZE was the last word in. Write-over with EATENaway there first. OFL says "challenging" at 14:50; I SAYST rather EASY in +/- 40:00.

    How about some POTFARM CIGS? KILLER.

    Either of the SALLYS qualify as a yeah baby. The Shape of Water was quite good, and in part a NUDIE, and SALLY Hawkins had a birthday this past week, so she wins on currency.

    Brunch is on, so CHOW time. Hate to be a CHURL, but this puz didn't do much for me even if it was kinda EASY.

    AnonymousPVX 3:45 PM  

    I agree with every word Rex wrote.

    ERM? Do we just make up words now? SEA OOZE? Erm.....how about UGH.

    Wow, this was a poor puzzle.

    Diana,LIW 9:17 PM  

    An in-between chores puzzle that never got going for me. Liked the puns, but had to look up stuff, so...

    Diana, LIW

    rondo 9:37 PM  

    Hey @D,LIW - @QuasiMojo above is just now reading "Eats,Shoots,& Leaves". Better 30 years late than never.

    Anonymous 11:24 AM  

    Most of Rex’s negative comments correct HOWEVER this was a very good NYT puzzle that took a lot of grinding to complete. SmallOJ was the one that took me home with Nader (a politician of sorts, he got W elected) and DrT (my knowledge of the Gere canon is limited) the final answers. Despite my dislike of seaooze and the others noted the puzzle could be completely solved with sufficient work. I guess that’s what I consider the “fun” part. I’m still anonymous for the same reasons I have given before.

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