Rhythmic group dance of the 2010s / MON 4-9-18 / Sush consisting of thing slices of fish over rice / Fourth letter of business

Monday, April 9, 2018

Constructor: Erik Agard

Relative difficulty: Challenging (a Medium Tuesday time for me)

THEME: SILVER SCREEN (52A: Setting for the answers to the three starred clues—appropriately enough, given their initials) — initials of themers are AG, the symbol for the element silver:

Theme answers:
  • ALEC GUINNESS (20A: *Actor in "The Bridge on the River Kwai" (1957))
  • ANDY GARCIA (27A: *Actor in "Ocean's Eleven" (2001))
  • AVA GARDNER (46A: *Actress in "Mogambo" (1953)) (why are the years in these clues?)
Word of the Day: SWAGSURF (39D: Rhythmic group dance of the 2010s)
Produced by K.E. on tha Track, "Swag Surfin" was one of the biggest hood dance records of 2009. The song's video debuts the dance, which is also a literal one: all you have to do is just move like you're surfing...with some "swag." The song was remade that same year by Lil Wayne as the opener to his critically acclaimed mixtape No Ceilings, and the remix to the original song featured Maino, Fabolous, Red Caf̩ and Juelz Santana. (complex.com)

[It's an extremely big deal among black college students, especially at HBCU. See, for instance...]

• • •

Ten-minutes-ago me: "What the hell is this SWAG SURF *&$^%?!"
Current me: [Binge-watching SWAG SURF videos, swag surfing at my desk, etc.]

My ten minutes of SWAG SURF expertise has led to me to two conclusions, one of which is "swag surfin" is a far more common way to refer to the dance than SWAG SURF, and the other of which is someone needs to write a concise definition / history of the damn dance, 'cause there's not a good one out there. Anything this widespread and joyous deserves proper documentation.

Even before I hit SWAG SURF (for which I needed every cross), this felt tougher than a normal Monday crossword to me. Not tough tough, just tougher than normal. TAKEACUT, not easy. Had TAKE, still no idea. Really wanted ONCE MORE for 23A: "Encore!"; ONE MORE ended up feeling odd. "Heck, yeah" seems more likely than HECK, YES. NIGIRI is known to me but not so known that I could just plunk it down. I never think of the "I" in "business" as "silent." I thought the "letters" in 48D: Letters of support, for short (RECS) were actual letters, like R, E, C ... something? D? Oh, and I know ANDY GARCIA, but I had no idea he was in (the remake of) "Ocean's 11"—doesn't feel like an iconic role, but I'm not sure if he actually has one, actually. Also, the other roles aren't exactly iconic either. "Mogambo"!? LOL, I saw that once 20+ years ago and the only reason I'd even heard of it was because of my Grace Kelly obsession. What's AVA Gardner's iconic role? Does she have one? Is she the ANDY GARCIA of actresses (i.e. famous but not for any particular part)? The theme I liked fine. It's clever. Only three themers (+ revealer), so it's a little thin, but that doesn't take away from its charm, and also gives the other answers in the grid some space to breathe (which is to say, the grid has somewhat more interesting fill than it might have if it were more theme-dense). OK, that's all, bye.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Mikey G. 12:17 AM  

It's amusing how different people can have such different experiences. This was one of my fastest Mondays ever. Despite also needing every single cross for SWAG SURF, I found the rest of the puzzle easy and didn't really get tripped up elsewhere. I blew through most of the sections and finished a few minutes faster than usual. I was expecting to see an "Easy" rating on the blog, so I was amused to see it listed as "Challenging." To each his/her own.

Unknown 12:26 AM  

Ocean’s Eleven needed the 2001 to differentiate from the original OE. Don’t know about “iconic” but someone thought Garcia’s Terry Benedict character was worth revisiting in two sequels.

JOHN X 12:57 AM  

Andy Garcia was the casino owner in "Ocean's 11," the guy who gets boosted in the caper.

Andy Garcia was also in "Godfather III," the most misunderstood of the Godfather Trilogy. And that's because it is NOT the third film in the trilogy. The HBO movie "Phil Spector" is the true Godfather III: Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) lives alone, shunned and nutty, in his Xanadu mansion. He's tried for murder and wears crazy wigs.

"Godfather" (1972) - Young Michael Corleone
"Godfather Part II" (1974) - Middle-aged Michael Corleone
"Phil Spector" (2013) - Elderly Michael Corleone

It's true.

Harryp 1:25 AM  

Solidly Monday fare. Easy to suss out the theme AG = Silver. Some might have trouble with 28Down NIGIRI, but in Hawaii it might be lunch. Liked VIV at 47Down, got 29Down by the crosses, same as 39Down SWAGSURF.

Larry Gilstrap 1:26 AM  

Never saw SWAG SURF until I came here; the crosses were Monday enough. I had heard through the Twittervine that the puzzle was more of a Tuesday, but really, our perception of the level of difficulty has become that refined? It's still an early week effort, and I liked it.

I've written more than a few Letters of Recommendation, but not enough to boil them down to RECS. "I'm off to my office to write a few RECS," said nobody. But, then again, I was just a lowly high school teacher in an academic backwater. I spent more time writing disciplinary referrals. Think an umpire throwing a player out of the game. Very dramatic.

I took chemistry in high school, so I knew AG was SILVER. That's about as far as I got. My teacher tried, but I glazed over. Mentos in a two liter bottle of Diet Coke is a chemical reaction I can get my head around.

About that same time, I tried out for the Varsity basketball team. According to the coach there's NO I in team, and as he told me, "There's no you either." Still stings a little bit.

Anonymous 2:36 AM  

I actually sped through all of it. My only mess up was putting ssf instead of spf. Not sure what happened there. Nice and simple and clean I thought. Also have never heard of swagsurfin.

chefwen 2:45 AM  

I struggled with this one. I’m embarrassed to say that it was mainly putting the correct letters in the wrong spots. Time to get the eyes tested. SWAG SURF was new to me, but it sure looks like a good time. Swing era was first to come to mind until I reread the the clue and saw the years 2010’s, nope, nada, no way. Liquid Paper to the rescue.

A good start to the week.

Charles Flaster 2:58 AM  

Liked theme but puzzle played Wednesday cluing.
DNF at leaving mAKE A CUT.
Clue for FEDERAL was creative.
Thanks AG

jae 3:01 AM  

Would have been medium except I didn’t trust SWAGSURF and ULTA so, the time spent triple checking the crosses moved it into challenging territory. Clever, liked it.

'merican in Paris 3:21 AM  

ATTN: Took me lightly longer for a Monday than usual, but no real problems other than that "F" in SPF, which I can never remember.

Today, it seems, we could have an extension of yesterday's discussion over the meanings of "place" (it depends where you place your definition of place), this time over "setting". After seeing ALEC GUINNESS, I confidently entered "Southern asia"* at 52A. It wasn't until I completed the puzzle that I noticed the initials AG -- i.e., ArGent, as in ArGentina, as in SILVER. Hmmm.

*By the way, has anybody YET to see a x-word puzzle that includes blanks between words? I think that would be pretty cool as a straight-forward trick.

Was somewhat surprised to see EXPERT as a synonym for "Afficionado" (65A). My understanding is that the word means a person who is passionate about an activity, subject, or pastime. But I see that on-line thesauri give "expert" as one meaning, so there you are.

Nice to see a Hawaiian answer (MAUI), my undergraduate college town (ITHACA) -- especially next to CHIMES -- and the college across from the graduate school I attended (DREXEL). Haven't thought about the latter for YEARS. AGES even.

Loren Muse Smith 4:21 AM  

First off, a big congrats to erik on his huge ACPT win this year! Such a nice guy.

At first I thought the SILVER SCREEN guys were, you know, oldish. At that point I had ALEC GUINNESS and AVA GARDNER. Dumb. Then I realized that it was a chemical symbol deal. Hah.

I knew RECS from the NYT crossword blog. Over there, you can “like” a comment, and people call’em RECS. I think I referred to it as a “like” once and was quickly corrected.

Second entry was NIGIRI (crossing AGES). What’s your favorite nigirizushi? Mine is hamachi. Your day is now complete.

Ok, so now what startling thing do you consider REUSABLE? I reuse my daily disposable contacts for about a week. Sorry, Bruce Haight. I know I’m flirting with disaster, but money’s still tight. Gotta daughter about to start vet school. (And suddenly I’m reminded of when someone asks me to borrow a Kleenex. Hmmm.)

Hey, @Joe Bleaux from a while back. Yeah – I messed up somehow along the way and thought it’s all of the sudden. I’ve decided to keep it and not reform. Conversely, I say go jump in A lake. Not the lake.

Alternative clue for GEE – “half of eggnog.”

This CAT is no EXPERT. It’s only 14 seconds long.

Terrific start to the week. Ashley Greene, Anna Gunn – maybe next time…

PurpleCar 6:13 AM  

Wow. I had no idea Alec Guinness was such a dick.

Z 6:17 AM  

I did this in 5:50, which up to about a year ago would have been record setting easy, It now is more in the medium-challenging range for a Monday.

A fine Monday effort. I’ve only been doing the puzzle consistently for a little more than a decade, but in that time we’ve gone from threee theme answers being fairly typical to three and a revealer being, “a little thin.” Personally, three with fresh fill beats most five themed puzzles praying to OOXTEPLERNON.

@LMS - Why Matlock?*

*It’s a joke, son.

Lewis 6:18 AM  

I wanted to take that I from SILENTI and place it after YET to make YETI. I also like a couple of vertical names originating in the Maine corner: TED EASTERNEST and LIL' OHIOAN.

Nice tight theme with a clever twist, which gave me a sweet aha and is perfect for showing new puzzlers that a theme can add spark to a puzzle. And the puzzle shows Erik's range, going from the highest skill level (winning the ACPT), to creating a beautiful beginning-level puzzle.

Two Ponies 6:52 AM  

After filling my grid I had no idea what the theme was. It was a nice fun moment when I realized Ag = Silver. Good fun.

@ Larry G. 1:26, I'm sorry to laugh at your expense but your smart-ass coach really gave me a chuckle.

@ LMS, It's just to be polite I guess when people ask to "borrow" something like a Kleenex. I don't expect it to ever be returned. In fact, I would rather you didn't.

Swag surf? Yea, like I'm ever in a million years going to know that.

Anonymous 7:09 AM  

Rex Rex Rex this one was made just for you!

kitshef 7:21 AM  

It appears that the Times has abandoned the longstanding rules on what appears when, daywise.

First tipoff was the loss of the trippy Thursdays, followed by the Wednesday curveball we got a while back.

Now, apparently, ULTA (???), NIGIRI (?????????) and SWAG SURF (?????) are Monday-appropriate.

I’m actually OK with that in general – the day-puzzle rigidity was a bit of a drag. I do like the idea of Monday being beginner’s day, though, and am sorry to lose that. Not as sorry as I am to see NIGIRI in a crossword, but still sorry.

Irene 7:27 AM  

They lost me at ULTA. Is that something people should know?

Otherwise an uninteresting puzzle.

QuasiMojo 7:43 AM  

I bought some reading glasses the other day and AT LAST I can see what I'm doing here in this tiny box that pops up on my iPhone and laptop when I visit this blog. I even can take in all of your remarks without having to squint. I am beginning to THRIVE.

First off, AVA GARDNER is a major star, known for starring in Tennessee Williams' "Night of the Iguana," "The Barefoot Contessa," "Seven Days in May," and Hemingway's "The Sun Also Rises." And for a fan of film noir to diss her as being as unremarkable as Andy Garcia is REAL dumb since she starred in the iconic noir "The Killers."

Second, I never thought much of ALEC GUINNESS as an actor. He is rather amusing in "Kind Hearts and Coronets," but he always seemed to me to be too obviously putting on an act. That may have been the secret to his appeal, I don't know, all I can say is that he was known to be a "dick" as someone above described him, and he admitted as much in his well-reviewed memoirs "Blessings in Disguise." BUT, after hearing him in the video above taking the time to caution a young man to stop watching "Star Wars," all I can say is HECK YES! He is my new hero of the SILVER SCREEN. "Childish banalities" indeed.

Oh, and for the puzzle? Loved it. Great Monday fare. Strong shiny theme. I'm old enough to remember when they removed SILVER from our coinage. A sad day, indeed. Standards have slipped irrevocably since.

chefbea 7:47 AM  

Never heard of swag surf or recs!!!

Birchbark 7:52 AM  

AVA crossing VIV, and I started with palindromic EVE. gEnERAL elections before FEDERAL. All by way of agreeing with the Medium Tuesday review.

Yesterday I picked up a book called "Francis Bacon Wrote Shakespeare: The Arguments Pro and Con Frankly Dealt With" by H. Crouch Batchelor (1912). It shows what you can accomplish if you pay attention during Rhetoric class. H. Crouch Batchelor announces that the Stratfordians have everything to lose if the Baconians are right, and their Shakespeariolatry is false-idol worship. There's a theme puzzle in this somewhere.

Two Ponies 7:55 AM  

Someone earlier made a cutting remark about the Alec Guinness video. I could not disagree more. His remark only made me appreciate him as a mature adult offering advice on deaf ears.

'merican in Paris 7:57 AM  

Before I get behind in my comments, I thought it needs to be pointed out that one popular meaning of CUL is "ass", as in mon cul! (my ass!).

Z 8:28 AM  

Star Wars has some serious issues, but I must assume those of you bashing it this morning haven’t really paused to consider it, much. The original is a mostly prototypical hero’s journey story. Whether Moses, Gilgamesh, Jesus, Prince Hal, Jane Eyre (really? I never knew that), or Luke Skywalker, these tales have always held great cultural weight. It seems obvious to me that the great popularity of Star Wars is exactly because it is a hero’s journey. Is it the most well done example? I rather doubt it. But am I surprised that it struck a deep cultural chord? Nope. Is seeing it “a hundred times” bad? No worse than reading and rereading the Iliad a hundred times.

mmorgan 8:41 AM  

Seemed like a normal Monday level to me, although I had REfS for 48D, which had me momentarily pondering SWAG_URF and SILVER_FREEN. That at least made it clear that it had to be SCREEN (and RECS, not REfS -- I use both terms). I had also never ever ever heard of swag surfin' and those videos are awesome!

Roo Monster 8:47 AM  

Hey All !
Al Green, where are you? :-)

Funny/odd clue for FOOT. Wanted "untrained puppy" for CHIMES clue. At least I sorta made it in; RUE. :-)

High block count, 42. Thought maybe those center blocks were part of the theme at first. L7, or square-sonething.

@'merican 3:21
There was a puz which had empty squares that stood for the word "space" (I think) not too long ago. The reason I remember it is because I mailed out a puzzle to Will with that same theme the day before that puz came out! Talk about good timing... I got a rejection saying 'We just had a similar theme'. (Could have saved it for later, I thought. ☺️) Apparently puz wasn't REUSABLE. :-)

Anyway, enjoyable MonPuz. Wouldn't call it Challenging, but crispier than a regular Monday.


Hungry Mother 8:58 AM  

Juest an easy Mondat here. Crosses took care of any crunch.

Anonymous 8:58 AM  

@Z above, the point of Alec Guinness's remark, I think, was that the boy was only 12 and had seen the movie 100 times. That is the issue, not whether the movie is a pastiche of tired heroic tropes.

Nancy 9:09 AM  

Terrific theme, especially on a Monday. I love the wordplay of the revealer. It's a clever, clever revealer that I didn't see coming at all, and, thanks to @Tita, I was trying to guess what it would be as soon as I wrote it ALEC GUINNESS. (I never used to try to guess revealers). My guesses were all wrong.

First I'm thinking all the theme answers would end in a kind of beer. Was there anyone beery in "Ocean's Eleven"? Nope.

Then I'm thinking of a progression from GUINNESS to STOUT to LOYAL, say. Nope, not that either.

This was much better. And the constructor's last name is the piece de resistance. Probably someone has already pointed that out. Nice job.

Anonymous 9:11 AM  

Is this a troll?

Nancy 9:20 AM  

Really, @Quasi (7:43)???? I've always considered ALEC GUINNESS one of the greatest screen actors of all time. That's based on his incandescent performances in "Bridge On the River Kwai" and "Tunes of Glory". I've never seen him (or anyone else) in all the "Star Wars" nonsense, so my deep admiration for him has never been ruined.

Forgot to say: I've never heard of an APPLET, but when I had APP--- I thought: what would I name a "small computer program"? Why, I'd name it an APPLET! So watch out, @ACME -- I may be setting up a product-naming shop right next to yours in the near future :)

jberg 9:23 AM  

I never heard of SWAG SURF -- I actually put in StAGe SURF, not noticing that the E didn't fit, until RAW set me straight. I'll go back and look at those videos later. But anyway, no problem And I'll agree with @Z, I'll take PIX RAW EAVE over OOXTERPLON any day.

But it was a slow solve for me, because I wasted a lot of time trying to think of a NON-rhythmic dance.

@Loren, toro, aka "fatty tuna" is the best -- but these days it's not very ethical, as the fish it comes from are very endangered. So I'll go with maguro. On another topic, I just spent five minutes trying to find a meta in your comment (like the March 30 one). All I can come up with it "Time long -- eggnog lake. Hmmm. Complete corrected. Hah! Guy.

Not sure that works, though.

Mohair Sam 9:24 AM  

Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello's estate need to sue whoever is responsible for SWAGSURFing. They did just that in front of a green screen in several of their beach party movies.

Yeah, fun Monday. Played Monday Challenging for us because of new words ULTA, NIGIRI, and SWAGSURF (in spite of watching Frankie and Annette in action years back).

Let us pray that SWAG SURFING replaces "the wave" at sporting events.

@Rex - I'm suspending your TCM card for a month (again) - AVA GARDNER was a lot more than ANDY GARCIA popular in her day. She was a giant in Hollywood for her acting (a little bit - see list from @Quasimojo above), because she was smokin' hot (a little bit more), and because she was the gal who broke Sinatra's heart (mostly).

GARCIA, btw, is an underrated talent in our opinion - a favorite here.

Wish Rex had posted a video of himself doing the SWAG.

GILL I. 9:50 AM  

Ah, yes...I get some meat on my Monday.
Clever, fun, and I had to actually think! Something I do on occasion.
Had no trouble with ALEC ANDY nor AVA. I think ALEC was taking a piss on the Star War movie. I've seen some late interviews of him discussing his Obi-Wan role and how he thought the dialogue was rubbish. He never hid his distain. Poor little 12 year old.
I've seen some SWAG SURF on FaceBook, so no problem with that. ULTA was/Is in my wheelhouse . Our daughter's first really good part-time job was with them. She used to get a bunch of free samples and bring them home to "old" mom. Although they are pricey, I still buy their Luminizing Charcoal peel-off mask. Works wonders for the bags and sags!
Never heard of RECS. Thanks for splainin it. I remember a boss of mine once told me to write my own letter of recommendation and he'd sign it. I asked him if I could embellish the hell out of it. He told me that as long as my spelling was correct and I didn't use "extraordinarily bright," he would sign it. Best RECS I've ever done.
@Larry G: Your "There's no you either" made me laugh.
@Roo. Another good laugh with your puppy tinkling on the porch. God, I hate those CHIMES. Especially during a gale. I rather hear birds chirping.

Wm. C. 9:51 AM  

@JohnHoffman from late yesterday, re: "Hail Mary Pass" --

This refers to a long pass by BC QB Doug Flutie to defeat UMiami (reigning national champs) by two points in 1984, in a nationally-televised game. The "Hail Mary" term was used because BC is nominally a Catholic School. Many think of this as the most memorable play in all sports. I still vividly remember it, watching at a party at a friends house.

Wm. C. 10:00 AM  

@'Mericans -- Pretty impressive, two Ivy League degrees. ;-)

Wm. C. 10:09 AM  

@'Mericans (again) --

Re: your reference to "cul:"

When I lived in Paris, several of the guys in the office referred to one of the young ladies there as having a "PJC." (Sorry for the sexist remark, even though I doubt many here will get the reference.)

GHarris 10:11 AM  

Love it when I find easy a puzzle Rex designates as challenging. A rare occurrence. Really surprised that Rex makes light of Ava Gardner, a truly beautiful woman and an A-List actress.

pabloinnh 10:25 AM  

Thorny for a Monday but still fun. "Swag surf" sounds like looking over all the free stuff and trying to find the best item. Too bad Adrian Gonzalez couldn't make the team, if being baseball season and all.

Hey @merican--"Mon Cul" is also the name of John Paul Ziller's pet baboon in Another Roadside Attraction. There's an answer you won't find on the Jeopardy board.

JC66 10:28 AM  


Andrew (Spiderman) Garfield

jb129 10:32 AM  

I had never heard of swag surf or recs either but it worked itself out. Easy & enjoyable.

QuasiMojo 10:50 AM  

@Nancy, 9:20AM, perhaps I just can’t shake Guinness’s godawful performance in “A Passage to India.” Sorry! :)

Joe Bleaux 10:54 AM  

Anyone beery? Noah, there wasn't.

Loren Muse Smith 11:11 AM  

@jberg – no meta today! But, since you mentioned it…

It never fails to surprise me what I learn here. I, too enjoyed the SWAG SURFin’ clips.

Was impressed that SWAG SURF crossed two themers!

Actually, erik is so gifted, I wasn’t that surprised.

April so far has had some great puzzles!

Sixth (Steinberg’s) was my favorite so far.

Suzie Q 11:14 AM  

Well, that was more fun than the usual Monday. Is there such a thing as a normal insert-day-of-the-week puzzle anymore?
Clever theme and thanks to the 'mericans for the Argentina connection. I should have known that but now I'll never forget.
@Z, Bless your heart but geez is there ANYTHING you won't argue about?
You must really love crusades.

mathgent 11:21 AM  

When Ava Gardner was on the screen, I couldn't take my eyes off of her. That's the gift possessed by movie stars. There haven't been many.

She wrote a memoir/autobiography titled "Ava: My Story" shortly before she died. Very candid about a fascinating life. Maybe the best I've read in that genre.

I wouldn't call Mogombo her signature role but it was her only Oscar nomination. My favorites are Barefoot Contessa (with Bogart) and The Sun Also Rises (playing Lady Brett Ashley). She was also great in a non-starring role in that movie with Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas as generals attempting a coup.

old timer 11:21 AM  

FINISHED IT! But yes, way too tough for a Monday. Ended up putting in 20 minutes for my time, usually under 10 doing it with pen on paper. Never heard of SWAGSURF or ULTA.

@'merican, I'm going to have to Google for PJC.

Masked and Anonymous 11:35 AM  

Was just relieved that the revealer to all them AG's wasn't Jeff Sessions. Lotsa shady squares (42), for some reason … yet, ironically also no stand-alone, single black ones. Tasty weeject selection, tho … 22 of the lil jewels. staff pick: GEE, mainly becuz of @muse's clue for it.

ALEC GUINNESS dude was in "The Man in the White Suit". Excellent schlock flick.
ANDY GARCIA was in "Hero", a fave flick of mine.
AVA GARDNER played the worshipped Lillie Langtry, in "The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean", but she was also in quite a few other good flicks. She got nominated for an Oscar once, for her role in … get ready for it, @RP … "Mogambo".

@merican in Paris: yep. Blank square gimmick was used in a 13 Aug 2015 NYTPuz. U had a good theme idea, tho. That puz got a POW award, over at xwordinfo.chen.

Thanx for the MonFun, Mr. Agard.

Masked & Anonymo5Us


Lewis 11:42 AM  

My favorite clues from last week:

1. Bit of a comic (3)
2. Result of an oil surplus (4)
3. Cutlet? (4)
4. Rules for forming sentences (9)
5. Teens fight, for short (3)


Fashionista 11:47 AM  


Fashionista 11:48 AM  


puzzlehoarder 11:53 AM  

About a minute over my average Monday time. There was more unknown debut material than your average Monday. ULTA seems made for puzzles and for that reason I can't believe this is it's debut.

Some commenters seem familiar with RECS as an abbr. of recommendation. For whatever reason it's only been used this way as a clue in the last couple of years.

NIGIRI next to DREXEL is a bit unusual for a Monday. I had no problem with the crosses off of ADAPTS but dropping those two on off of ANDY would have been faster.

SWAGSURF is completely new to me. All in all an excellent Monday.

Carola 12:12 PM  

DNFDTDOD: Did Not Finish Due To Doing Only Downs. Having read others' comments about doing early-week puzzles Downs only, I thought I'd give it a try. I had to wait a bit to get HECK YES and DREXEL and change aLSo to ELSE, but it was SWAGSURF that did me in. With S.A.SU.. in place, various possible (incorrect) crosses could have been RAh, RAt, fill-in-the-blank+EE, OAt, OAf, SPa, SPy. So I threw up my hands and read the Across clues. I should add that I also had to read the clue for the reveal, as on my own I didn't notice the AG connection. Nice!

@Loren, thank you for that cat video, which has now gone family-viral.
@Quasimojo, your comment reminded me that I have an awesome film still from The Killers; need to go look for it. For anyone having trouble visualizing AVA GARDNER, see here for a couple of stills.

Aketi 12:15 PM  

Loved SWAG SURF. The NYC subway train is a perfect place to practice that move. Thre motion of the train is great for both SURFing and snowboarding.

I missed the CHIMES below ITHACA but did see the ICE dripping down the west side. I find the Cornell CHIMES and the CHIMES at the Central Park Zoo much nicer than the tinkly variety.

ALEC GUINNESS is a buzz kill. If he had kids, he certainly must not have paid much attention to them. Children often obsess over certain activities and movies. This develops their ability to focus deeply on a particular subject rather than superficially skimming. I remember a little girl in my son’s nursery school who watched all the Pokémon movies over and over. She could tell you the names of the over 200 Pokémon characters by the age of three. She later forget them but was very talented at memorizing and applying her knowledge as she grew up. My son watched the 10 minute black hole movie at the American Museum of Natural History over 1000 times (we live a few blocks away) and now he’s majoring in physics and was offered a summer job working on a partical accelerator. I have a friend who is an engineer who is firmly convinced that the best engineers she works with were all video game addicts when they were kids.

The topic of sci-fi movies that are entertaining but may not have an especially deep plot reminded me of Eddie Neumeier who had one of the movies he wrote featured in a recent puzzle. I have vague memories of him attending the School Within a School at my high school, but I could be wrong. It had a reputation for attracting pot and acid heads who wanted to enjoy a more “creative” environment. I thought the stream of consciousness writing class I was forced to take in the regular part of the high school was enough exposure to “creative” to last me a lifetime. I can’t quite reconcile Eddie Neumier’s current photos with the long haired grinning kid in my high school yearbook, I imagine a similar smile on that 12 year old boy being squashed out by AG like Godzilla stomping on Bambi.. Who knows though? Maybe that 12 year old now works for Space X in spite of AG.

Nate 12:21 PM  

This was about 2-3 minutes longer than my usual Monday time, and required far more guessing than I like. It was an odd mix of eras, which I'm fine with, but it slowed me down: I know of SWAG SURFin, but AVA GARDNER? No clue. Sounds like a name that I've heard of before, but she could just as well be a fictional character, to me. I also quit reading the SILENT I clue and put in SILENT S, which didn't help with the VIV answer.

Surphart 12:22 PM  

Flawed theme due to the fact that only two of the three themers were filmed in black and white...aka the silver screen. Maybe could of worked in Andy Griffith with "No Time for Sergeants".

Charles kluepfel 12:25 PM  

Needing all the crosses for SWAGSURF wasn't a problem as the crosses were not hard. But even after completing, I couldn't figure out what silver screen had to do with AG, I assume for two reasons : 1. the chemical symbol uses a lower case g and 2. The silver screens probably get their color from something like aluminum paint - Al.

Charles kluepfel 12:31 PM  

Silver Screen applies to movies in general ; not just b&w. In fact color 3d movies need a silvered (aluminized) screen to preserve the polarization, which a white screen would destroy.

Nancy 12:31 PM  

Great post, @GILL (9:50). Sure wish I'd had your boss at any stage in my career! I also agree with your shoutouts to @Larry G and @Roo for the funniest comments on the blog today. I laughed out loud, too.

I've been away from the blog for several hours because I've been (yet, again, still) researching laptops. My 2008 Asus reminds me periodically that it's been a good and loyal companion for lo these many years, but now it's tired and its keys ache, and it longs to go to that Great Cyber-Heaven in the Sky. And so I ask you all to Help Me Find a Laptop for Under $1,000. I don't need lots of fancy functions; there are only three things I can even do on a computer. The only things I care about: a screen that's at least 14" (could be more); excellent HD picture resolution (that's 1080, right?); top sound quality, as I sometimes listen to music on Youtube; and a keyboard that feels like a real keyboard and depresses. Also under 4 pounds, even though I never carry the darn thing anywhere. Anyone? I have an Asus laptop now. I'll post this again later in the week and earlier in the day in order to get more eyeballs. Thanks.

EdFromHackensack 12:33 PM  

Wm C. - the term "Hail Mary Pass" was coined long before Flutie's famous play

Canon Chasuble 12:47 PM  

When my students came to me wide-eyed after hearing their coach tell them "there is no I in team" I would tell them to remind the coach that "there is a I in win." That never went down very well for some reason.

GILL I. 12:55 PM  

@Nancy....MacBook Air. I got one for Christmas. It replaced my handy dandy Dell but the Mac is the best thing I've ever had. You can get them for about $800 or less. You can also get them cheaper if they're refurbished...! Just be sure to get a one year guarantee - at least.
Mine does everything for me except he gets uppity from time to time trying to type things he thinks I mean! Rather a bit of a bossy boots....Take it with you everywhere.
Now...get yourself an iPhone and you can talk on the computer as well as receive your messages while you type. I love this info age......

Teedmn 1:06 PM  

For me, the iconic ANDY GARCIA role is The Man From Elysian Fields, also from around 2001. It's one of those movies which I accidentally saw on cable and have never heard anyone else mention. I'd be interested in knowing how many other people here have heard of or seen it.

This was halfway between Monday and Tuesday for me, time-wise. I never thought of an aficionado as necessarily an expert - to me it just described someone who says HECK YES whenever subject X comes up, but the online dictionary tells me I am wrong.

I laughed to see LI'L come up in the NE because I had first put lIl in at 47D, a guess from the SILENT I in place there.

An Erik Agard puzzle that didn't take me down for a change. Thanks, EA!

Mohair Sam 1:12 PM  

@Wm C - Clearing up Hail Mary Passes - It is any pass play done in desperation, usually as time expires at the half or end of game. The term comes from "saying a prayer" when you throw the pass. According to Wikipedia it became popularized in 1975 when Roger Staubach threw a desperation pass to Drew Pearson to win a game - Roger let the world know he said a Hail Mary when he threw it. Flutie's famous throw came nine years later.

Mohair Sam 1:17 PM  

@Nancy - If those are your basic needs, and if you already use Google Chrome, you may want to look into a large Chromebook. You'll save a ton of money. We have a Chromebook that we use a lot and it is as quick as our other computers (for what we do) and very user friendly.

'merican in Paris 1:20 PM  

@Wm. C. and @old timer -- Har! I thought about using that as an example, but then backed off. I think more often the expression is JPC, with the JP standing for "jolie petite ... " (pretty little [fill in the blank]).

@Roo Monster and @M&A -- Thanks also for the info on past puzzles with blank squares!

Steve S from WH 1:21 PM  

I'm an idiot. I completed the puzzle quickly but thought the AG clue stood for Actors' Guild. I slapped my forehead when I read the Silver hint in Rex's blog. Doh!

tea73 1:37 PM  

Never heard of ULTA or SWAGSURF but apparently it didn't matter my time was somewhat below average. I caught on that they were AG movie actors before the revealers and it actually helped. People on college application oriented discussion boards talk about RECs all the time.

kitshef 1:40 PM  

@Nancy - I am loath to contradict Gill I, but my advice is stay as far away as possible from anything Apple, unless you want to have to re-learn how do do everything from scratch on a device with no instructions and completely counter-intuitive design.

mathgent 1:48 PM  

@Lewis: As usual, very appreciative of your clues of the week. I would have included "Lash with a bullwhip" for LARUE.

Lewis 1:54 PM  

@mathgent -- Yes, that was a good one. It was definitely in the mix.

Churlish Nabob 2:06 PM  
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
GILL I. 2:08 PM  

@kitshef...Have I mentioned that I collect voodoo dolls?

Banana Diaquiri 2:16 PM  

They lost me at ULTA. Is that something people should know?

I do now because they opened a store/salon next to B&N in a plaza here in town. which plaza I went to for the first time in months. otherwise, not a clue.

Hazel 2:16 PM  

Actually all three films are in colour.

Banana Diaquiri 2:17 PM  

I never thought much of ALEC GUINNESS as an actor. He is rather amusing in "Kind Hearts and Coronets," but he always seemed to me to be too obviously putting on an act.

well, then I'd suggest the 1979 mini-series version of "Tinker, Tailor,..."

Matthew G. 2:28 PM  

My wife (with whom I consult on any beauty- or fashion-related clue that stumps me) informs me that ULTA is incredibly famous. It was new to me, and I thought I knew all the four-letter cosmetic companies by now.

Sydney 3:11 PM  

I never heard of Ulta. Then I found out we have a branch in our city! I also never heard of swagsurf. As far as recs are concerned, while I was still working, I wrote hundreds...for students and fellow faculty. We had to write faculty ones for people who served on committees with us for our yearly evaluations. It became so tedious that I made up a form called Reddi-Rec... a standardized form where you just filled in blanks. ‘I served on———-committee with (fill in name). (Name) was a ———committee member who made many ——— suggestions and in general was ———in moving our work forward. etc., etc. I hoped to run these babies off on the copier and sell them to other faculty members, thus easing their work load and supplementing my meager salary. Unfortunately, a sense of humor was lacking upstairs and my plan had to be scuttled.

QuasiMojo 3:16 PM  

@Carola, thank you for the link to those sizzling shots of AVA GARDNER. Stunning.

@Nancy, I don't know if @GILL meant "euros" rather than dollars because new MacBook Airs (MacBooks Air?) start at $1,000. I have never heard of a ChromeBook but from what I've heard there are many reliable alternatives to Apple out there nowadays for the purposes you mention. Good luck! (I'm due to get a new one too.)

P.S. I should have kept my mouth shut about Alec Guinness. lol. Live and learn. And to each his own.

semioticus (shelbyl) 5:05 PM  

OK, so NO I and SILENT I in the same puzzle is not a dupe? God I will never understand what's a dupe and what's not.

sanfranman59 5:33 PM  

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

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

Mon 4:52 4:18 1.13 80.8% Challenging

This didn't seem like a Monday puzz to me. SWAG SURF (still more evidence that the world is passing me by) and ULTA mean absolutely nothing to me. I've come across NIGIRI, but can never remember what's what in a sushi restaurant. My last entry and only write-over was FOOT for bOOT. I didn't even look for the theme until well after my solve. By the time I got to the revealer, I just didn't care. Meh.

Nancy 6:17 PM  

@GILL and @Kitshef -- There is no way I'm going to change from a PC to a Mac. I have no idea in what ways they are different or which one is "better"; all I know is that they are said to be Very Different in Many Ways. Very Different in Many Ways for me = Traumatic. I'm going to have enough on my plate changing from Windows 7 to Windows 10, which I gather is unavoidable. I don't know in what ways the two Windows will be Very Different, but I'm sure they will be Very Different in ways that I will find Traumatic.

BTW, please understand that I have absolutely no idea what functions the different brands of computers control, what the different type of "Windows" (whatever-they-are) control, what Google Chrome controls, what Microsoft controls (if anything), etc, etc. I just know that I want Everything to be the Exactly the Same. I'm told it won't be. Sigh. I just know I'm very confused and have no idea what I'm doing in choosing a laptop.

Anonymous 6:39 PM  

@Nancy - whichever computer you get, invest a little extra in a good quality rechargeable, portable Bluetooth speaker (I got a Sony at Costco for well less than $200). You can use it with any of your electronics (if you have a smart phone, or any other such) and it goes wherever you want. The sound quality can be really stunning even with a relatively cheap speaker.

Two Ponies 8:49 PM  

@ Nancy, I feel your pain. I just made the transition from a Mac to a Dell PC. Apple isn't the friendly company they once were so I jumped ship. Anyway, my new computer has a program that allows my wonderful, patient tech guy to see my computer screen while I am talking to him on the phone. We have solved quite a few issues quickly and from the comfort of my desk. Good luck. Also, you get a lot more for your money if you buy a desktop model versus a laptop.

Anonymous 8:55 PM  

I didn't interpret Rex as dissing Ava Gardner but moreso asking if she's known for any one role. I'd say Barefoot Contessa.

Joe Dipinto 9:13 PM  

@Nancy -- in various jobs over the years I've switched from working on an IBM mainframe to a PC to a Mac, back to PC, and back to Mac, etc. Personally I prefer Macs, there seem to be relatively fewer problems with them. But, it's your preference that counts. I've found that if you're pretty well versed in one, you can learn the other fairly easily. Don't assume you can't.

Aketi 9:32 PM  

@Nancy, I recently bought a new iMac desktop and I found the hand holding at Apple to be as stellar as it was in the past if not more so. I used to be tech savvy eons ago but now I’m almost a Luddite. They are exceedingly patient and walked me through everything. They also can go into your computer and show you what you need to click on to set your computer up. My husband is definitely more of a Luddite than you are having clung to his Eang word processor long after everyone else switched to PCs. I now no longer attempt to explain things to him because Apple Care does a much better job and has far more patience than I have. I’d go will Gill I’s suggestion of a MacBook Air.

JC66 10:08 PM  


I own some Apple stock, so I'd recommend you buy a Mac.


@Aketi's experience echoes mine.

Joe Dipinto 10:56 PM  

@Nancy - ditto what Aketi and JC66 said -- the folks at the Apple Stores are incredibly helpful (don't be unnerved by the fact that they all look like 12-year-olds, they know their stuff and will never talk down to you). If you have issues/questions down the pike, you can make an appointment with the Genius Bar. They really are great with customer service.

Maybe try going to one of their stores to browse around, just to see what you think.

Z 11:27 PM  

@Anon8:55 - Yes. Yes. Yes. Katherine Hepburn makes me think immediately of African Queen., Bogie immediately makes me think of Casablanca, Jack Nicholson is forever making that face in The Shining.. But Ava? I’ve known of her since forever but I can’t think of a single role. Sure, Sure, lots of people will know her entire filmography, but none of her roles are “iconic.”

@Susie Q - LOL - I don’t argue with most stuff posted here. Although... State as fact something that isn’t and I’ll post a correction if no one beats me to it. Or aver a clue or answer is “wrong” and be prepared to have explained why it is not wrong. As for Star Wars, you think that I was arguing? That was barely more than an observation, and hardly one original to me. You should try googling “star wars hero’s journey” and maybe peruse one or twenty or 100 of the hits. I’d suggest trying any that include “Joseph Campbell” as part of the essay.

Suzie Q 11:55 PM  

@Z, Checking back late, and there you are! Believe it or not I have read some of Joseph Campbell's stuff. I see what you're saying but that kid was over the top and Alec's response cracked me up. You could just hear that kid's bubble bursting. Actually it was more fun thinking about his mother.

TomAz 12:32 AM  

I'm so late to this party I should just start doing the dishes.

I thought this was quite good. Finished a good minute under average, and I didn't know SWAG SURF either.

RECS, though causing me to wince a bit, was at least inferable.

@Lewis: "Teens fight" was my favorite of last week, glad to see it made your list, if a bit too low. (smiley face emoticon).

Uke Xensen 1:42 AM  

I found this one really easy despite not knowing SWAGSURF and ULTA.

RJ 6:45 AM  

Fun puzzle - even if I didn't know Ulta or Swag Surf - I love learning new things. Those videos of swag surfing dudes made my day.

Ulta - once again I'm reminded that living in central Mass can be the equivalent of a shopping desert. Googled "Ulta stores in ma" and looked at the map. All those balloons huddled together east of Worcester. The closest store is about 40 minutes away. Fortunately for me I can get to a good used bookstore in the same amount of time.

@Nancy - it IS traumatic to switch from Windows 7 to Windows 10. I finally did it when buying a new laptop last year but I still run Office 2003 because I've been using it forever, use a bunch of keystroke shortcuts, and don't like some of the new charting. I'm sure you'll get tons of advice from people here so I'll chime in - my nephew (very tech savvy and very cheap) has a nice chromebook that does everything he needs.

thefogman 8:52 AM  

I breezed through this one. SWAGSURF was also an unknown to me but was easily solved via the crosses. PS - Thank you to Kitschef and Rondo for explaining 14D ONEA (suited to serve) from Saturday.

Burma Shave 10:41 AM  


HECKYES LASS, we’ll have ONEMORE here,
we’re YEARS REMOVEd from REAL beer in us.
An EXPERT couldn’t pour a NICER beer,
so ATLAST, give me and ALECGUINNESS.


spacecraft 11:08 AM  

The first thing I noticed was the heading to the clue set:


So right away I'm thinking: why? Does this have something to do with the theme? Do answers run into the next line?--or, Does this have something to do with the name ROSS?? Well, turns out, none of the above. It was just a stupid typo peculiar (I'm guessing) to the Sun.

But that was only the first off-putting thing. Right away crosses forced ULTA. a "big" name?? Can't be. Next they forced NIGIRI. Are we supposed to KNOW this stuff? Next, RECS for letters of support. Apparently we should infer an abbr. for "recommendations." I have never heard this; REC is short for "recreation," as in REC ROOM. And finally SWAGSURF. Huh? And all this on a...MONDAY?????

But the final off-put is the worst: the RSL (random SILENT letter). And in this case, as has been pointed out, the I is NOT silent! Say it: "BIZ-NESS." The silent letter is, of course, U. But then, who's VuV? Then here's this one: I saw it coming one of these days, and here it is: there's NOI in team. May I soon see it going!

GUINNESS: one HECK of an actor, who made Bridge the iconic film it is. Garcia: for a long while I had him confused with Al Pacino, obviously from the Godfather flicks. That same bottled rage. And Gardner: today's DOD, in all her glory. But a special honorable mention to VIV Blaine, with whom I once acted in summer stock at my college. She was a wonderful lady, on stage and off.

You can be an aficionado without necessarily being an EXPERT, so that clue also clunks. Some of these clues are pre-K, practically. "Purr-fect pet?" "Number between dos and quatro?" Please. Why not "Numero?"

I did like the connection of the initials to the symbol for SILVER; points for that. But unfortunately, there was so much off-putting that this time Mr. Agard putted right off the green and made bogey. He should take lessons from Webb Simpson, who blew away the TPC field yesterday.

thefogman 11:53 AM  

Is Erik Agard's ego on display with the reveal/gimmick being AG - the first two letters of his surname?

rondo 12:14 PM  

It’s been mentioned above that there’s stuff in this puz that’s not Monday-ish. I know plenty about music and such, but SWAGSURF? Ain’t there. And I don’t memorize all the types of sushi. But no write-overs, so there’s that.

Yup, AVAGARDNER a yeah baby in her day, but I can reminisce, too. Summer of 1982, LEAH and I had neighboring cabins at a lake resort; all summer. And we spent time together in both. As Donny Iris would say, “Ah, LEAH.” Yeah baby.

A LI’L different Mon-puz originally published between conventional EASTER and Orthodox EASTER.

leftcoastTAM 1:44 PM  

This one worked quite well as a Monday puzzle with some style and bite, tougher than usual but fair and gettable for most, including newer solvers.

Theme, with its SILVER SCREEN, AG actors, all good ones, led the way.

NIGIRI and SWAG SURF were a bit out of reach, but the crosses did their thing and came across.

Happy Monday.

rainforest 2:24 PM  

There's NO I in "team", but there's a "me" in there.

"Business" is a funny word. The "u" is pronounced as "i", the "i" isn't pronounced, and some people don't even pronounce the first "s".

Pretty decent Monday puzzle. Appropriately easy (knew NIGIRI and DREXEL) even though I didn't know ULTA or SWAGSURF, but both yielded to crosses.

Sneaky good theme and revealer. Only after SILVER SCREEN went in did I see the connection with the actors' names (and maybe the constructor's last name).

Just to lay some truth on ya: ALEC GUINNESS is a brilliant actor (Bridge on the River Kwai, and Tunes of Glory are must-see); AVA GARDNER is absolutely the DOD and/or yeah baby, and a good actor, too.

Diana,LIW 2:30 PM  

I'm with you @Foggy - easy breezy. Completed this whilst waiting fro Mr. W to get ready for our walk, so a coupla' minutes - I never time. And, like @Rondo, never heard of SWAGSURF. I guess I'll hear it 20 times today - huh?

I also did Sunday's BEQ yesterday, but didn't get to post. (Surprisingly easy after looking up some unknown bleeping NAMES!!!) Too much going on Sunday - walking, house tours, eating, concert, eating. You get the pic. Poor Mr. W has that "every 10 year" exam tomorrow, so no foodoes today for him. I'll have to sneak chocolate in the car.

Forgot, again, to notice the Monday theme. Must go back.

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords

But not for summer - it's in the 80s

thefogman 3:20 PM  

@LadyDi - Yes. Poor Mr. W. The worst part of the 10-year exam is the "Turbo-Lax" type of stuff you need to take prior to the probe. Just google the movie Dumb and Dumber/Turbo-Lax if you don't know what I mean.

Anonymous 9:04 PM  

Thank you Erik for a nice Monday puzzle but I'm scratching my head about the silent i. Isn't the silent one the u ? And thank you Rondo for filling us in on your summer of love '82. I'm sure everyone is so interested in your intimacies.

rondo 9:38 PM  

@anon 9:04 - everyone/anyone who's been around for any amount of time knows the entire story, told over time on this blog as related to xword clues/answers/themes. And actual in-person conversations. So you can stop the snark.

leftcoastTAM 1:15 AM  


I've been around for a while myself, but what? Entire story? Snark?

Anonymous 8:01 PM  

Sorry Rondo - If one invites a snark he'll receive one, Not everyone has the time or inclination to research your entire library of life posts. I'm glad you enjoyed Leah's company.

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