Seuss's star-bellied creatures / THU 4-19-18 / Word before Johnny Lucy / Disney movie set in Arendelle / Chocolaty breakfast cereal

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Constructor: Todd Gross

Relative difficulty: Easyish (4:48)

THEME: COUNT THE SQUARES (35A: How to find out what "this many" is in 17-, 21-, 52- and 57-Across) — themers have "this many" as part of their clues, and "this many" = number of letters in the answer:

Theme answers:
  • BEETHOVEN (17A: He wrote this many symphonies)
  • MISSOURI (21A: It borders this many other states)
  • ARACHNID (52A: It has this many legs)
  • MARK SPITZ (57A: He won this many Olympic gold medals)
Word of the Day: KEENAN Wynn (3D: Actor Wynn of "Dr. Strangelove") —
Francis Xavier Aloysius James Jeremiah Keenan Wynn (July 27, 1916 – October 14, 1986) was an American character actor. His expressive face was his stock-in-trade; and, though he rarely carried the lead role, he had prominent billing in most of his film and television roles. (wikipedia)

• • •

This feels underbaked. Four pretty short themers, and a revealer that is not ... a thing people say. Not a stand-alone phrase. Not wordplayesque. Painfully literal instructions. Just not a lot of there there. Also, the number of letters is pretty iconic for three of the themers (BEETHOVEN's symphonies, spider's legs, Spitz's medals), but number of states that MISSOURI borders? It's an interesting piece of trivia (MO is tied with TN for state that borders most other states) but when I think Missouri I do not think "Oh, sure ... eight." The whole thing just doesn't quite come together on the thematic level. There's some quite delightful fill, though. AE HOUSMAN (10D: "A Shropshire Lad" author) and CROUPIER (11D: Casino employee) in the NE, ULULATES (37D: Grieves loudly) and SNEETCHES (33D: Seuss's star-bellied creatures) in the SW. I like those. Those were by far my favorite things about this puzzle. But the theme is kinda sorta very important on Thursdays, of all days, and outside those longer Downs the rest of the fill is OK but actually a bit on the weak side, so it's hard not to feel a tad disappointed by this one.

Started stupidly slow on this one. I blame POKE, which is horribly clued (1A: Slow sort, informally). Uh, I've heard "slow POKE," but never POKE on its own. The "slow" is necessary to make POKE make any sense, and "slow" is already in the clue, so ... yuck. I'm sure there's some example somewhere of POKE standing on its own, but come on. The phrase is "slow POKE" and everyone knows that so stop getting cute. Better to have [Slow ___], honestly. Hard, and accurate. Forgot KEENAN, never considered OREO OS, and thought 1D: Classic Milwaukee brews (PABSTS) could be lotsa things. Worst of all, I dropped ELENA into 20A: First name on the Supreme Court (SONIA) without hesitation. Dead certain. Whoops. Besides SSN, I didn't get a damn thing until I picked up UNO, and then the whole north section, and then backed into BEETHOVEN (without really understanding why—just saw ----OVEN and "symphonies" and plunked down the obvious answer). I thought maybe the clue number was the "this many," and so MISSOURI was a revelation. "21 states!? Wow ... I have completely misremembered my US map." Even after COUNT THE SQUARES, I didn't really put things together (this often happens when I'm flying). It was only at ARACHNID that I was like, "OK, hey, even I know spiders don't have 52 legs..." I did (very briefly) think some creature did, though, because I just had the -NID when I read the clue. "52 legs!? What ... the hell creature ... is that?" Only *then* did the full meaning of COUNT THE SQUARES hit me. So in went ARACHNID, and that heretofore pesky SW corner folded, and I was done.
    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

    [Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


    Brian B 12:06 AM  

    Missouri loves company.

    Moly Shu 12:13 AM  

    Way to easy for a Thursday. I mean c’mon, 11 minutes for me? That’s like difficult Monday normal Tuesday territory. Only hang ups were AEHOUSMAN and CHAST, who and who? Also, I know TO A Tee and the dook TOAT but not TOATURN. At least CROUPIER was in there to scratch my gambling itch. Need a 45-55 min Friday to make up for it.

    Harryp 12:18 AM  

    Beautiful puzzle. I would never have known the number of symphonies, states, or gold medals, but did know 8 arachnid and 6 insect. Amir before ALIF slowed me down just at tad, but this solved slightly below my average Thursday. Great fill, crosswordese and PPP at a minimum. TKS, Todd Gross.

    jae 12:37 AM  

    Medium-tough for me. @Rex I also put in elenA before SONIA and wanting Spaces (doesn’t fit) before SQUARES accounted for some nanosecond (@M&A) loss. Also had trouble seeing QEII and I’ve seen all the episodes of The Crown.

    Cute and clever, liked it.

    puzzlehoarder 12:49 AM  

    A little tricky in the NW and NE corners. Otherwise a pretty routine Thursday.

    From glancing at the clues for 17 and 21 across I was thinking the reference was to the number of the clue itself. That gives you a good idea how little thought I gave this theme and how I wasted no time trying to figure it out. I solved it as an easy themeless and it was fun.

    I've been absent a little while. Saturday was our daughter's wedding and we had family visiting this week.

    tkincher 1:06 AM  

    I got killed on some of the proper nouns like FOSSE and AILEY that I should know by now but this played on the easier side for me, a welcome distraction at the end of a long day. CROUPIER is s fun word.

    PABST and OREOOS, breakfast of champions!

    I was always good at spelling as a kid, winning bees and whatnot, so I will never forget the time in a fourth grade spelling test when we were given the word HAUGHTY. My mind drew a blank, and I think I went with a spelling of “hotte” as a guess. My mom never let me live that one down.

    Anonymous 2:36 AM  

    So Shortz has still not learned that the traditional beer of Oktoberfest is lager, not ALE. This error was also made on October 19 of last year. I suppose this version is less wrong because you could order an ALE if you wanted, but given that the clue is expressly aiming at the Oktoberfest connection think it would merit some indication that the order is non-standard. “Unusual Oktoberfest beer?”

    sanfranman59 2:56 AM  

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

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

    Mon 5:15 4:24 1.19 86.2% Challenging
    Tue 4:38 5:37 0.82 12.5% Easy
    Wed 7:43 6:00 1.29 87.5% Challenging
    Thu 8:59 10:09 0.89 31.8% Easy-Medium

    Mea culpa ... for a relative difficulty rating, I'm going with what my solve time should have been if I hadn't gone temporarily insane before submitting my solution. I finally realized my error at 11:04. But this was certainly not a Medium-Challenging Thursday for me.

    I whipped through this thing pretty well, even surprising myself with a few answers I didn't know I knew (AHORA, CHAST, NASH, RINSO). But I was foiled by leaving OREOhS/ThATURN in the NW. I was dead certain that I'd seen OREOhS on my grocery's shelves and somehow convinced myself that ThATURN(?!?) was some kind of modern lingo. Desperation does funny things to the mind sometimes.

    AE HOUSMAN and SNEETCHES were news to me, but the crosses were solid. In fact, when my ThATURN solution wasn't accepted, I spent about a minute focusing on what could be wrong with SNEETCHES.

    A decent puzzle. Too bad I botched the solve in the end.

    Hartley70 3:03 AM  

    Sorry, folks. This week Thursday is on sabbatical and we're having two Wednesdays instead.

    This was a perfectly respectable Wednesday with some interesting entries that @Rex named above. ULULATES was my personal favorite. I spent a few minutes just marveling that there was a word in English beginning with ULUL.

    Unfortunately there was no tricky grid, no visual humor, no infuriating misdirection and no head-slapping surprises. It was just Wednesday...again.

    chefwen 3:41 AM  

    Way too easy and “untricky” for my favorite puzzle day. I did get a couple of chuckles in. SNEETCH brought to mind the sound kitty makes when she sneezes, that made me smile. PABST reminded me of my teens growing up in Milwaukee “O.K. it’s your turn to bring the PBRB, I got it last time”. Friday night SMELT fries at the Elks Club with PABST beer to wash it down, another MIlwaukee memory. MIL always pronounced it SHMELT, drove me sideways.

    Cute puzzle, but count the squares didn’t cut it for me .

    Charles Flaster 4:16 AM  

    As others have stated, it was quite easy but a fun solve. BEETHOVEN and MISSOURI gave theme away.
    Only writeover was LITHO for reprO.
    Liked clue for SUITORS.
    Thanks TG

    Anonymous 4:25 AM  

    If AEHouseman is what passes as "delightful fill" then it's little wonder why I check in with Rex less and less frequently.

    Loren Muse Smith 4:26 AM  

    I can’t complain this was too easy ‘cause I flubbed the northwest. Like Rex – I put in “Elena,” too, and like @sanfranman59 “Oreo Ohs,” and, well, I just gave up. Gotta get in extra early this morning to grade a big old stack of stuff.

    @Hartley – I filled in “uvulates” first, and My marvel involved wondering how that little dangler would be involved in a noise and then picturing all those Bugs Bunny cartoon opera singers as their uvulas swing faster and faster and their faces get redder and redder.

    So does a loud mourner ululate, undulating uvula fully engaged?

    @tkincher – good one about that breakfast! Were you a Sigma Chi?

    Speaking of which, my breakfast this morning is is Not my beloved bacon and eggs ‘cause all my eggs were part of that salmonella recall. I checked. And I had already eaten 10 of one of the tainted dozen. Not at one sitting, but still. Guess I’m lucky. But maybe I’ll check the incubation period for salmonella. I could be sitting here all flippant and smug and be heading straight into some major trouble.

    I liked this just fine. Agree that it wasn’t really tricky Thursday and that MISSOURI is the outlier, but I’m not gonna go all ululation on everyone.

    JOHN XXX 4:46 AM  

    Well I finished this pretty darn quick. The NW was the only slow part because I put "lager" in 1D. Speaking of Milwaukee beer, do they still make Schlitz?

    Let's hear it for the awesome DAVE MATTHEWS BAND! DMB (or sometimes just "Dave") is music for people whose favorite book is "The Da Vinci Code" and whose favorite TV show is "Two and a Half Men." DMB is music for people who aren't fans of music but want other people to think they are.

    Have you ever seen and heard a bunch of Arab women ULULATING on TV? That's some crazy shit, bless their hearts.

    Why did SIAM change its name? It was better than "Thailand" if you ask me. RINSO is also a great name, very "old school." It's so old school it's called "washing powder" instead of detergent, even though it is just a surfactant like DUZ and ALL and LUX and FAB and CHEER and TREND and OXYDOL and you get the idea. I bought some 29 MULE TEAM BORAX, which predates education, but I used it to treat mold on my basement walls.

    Also, I've never ever heard TO A TURN. Maybe you have, I dunno.

    John Child 5:14 AM  

    Every puzzle so far this week has been on the easy side, so no surprise here. And no surprises either, unfortunately. Four sorta-include answers isn’t Thursday enough for me. Same mistakes as many of you. Same hopes for a couple of knotty themeless puzzles tomorrow and Saturday.

    Weird Al’s EAT IT:

    You’re welcome.

    Hmmmmm 6:03 AM  

    Sorry to be so dense...count what squares??

    QuasiMojo 6:17 AM  

    Way too easy for a Thursday. I'm surprised some of you and it's early yet, did not know A. E. Housman. His "A Shrophsire Lad" was required reading when I was a lad and still stands up to the test of time. I know the expression DONE TO A TURN but I can't recall seeing TO A TURN on its own. I guess that's similar to Rex's apt complaint about POKE (slowpoke is usually spelled as one word), but that didn't slow me up one bit. In fact, I raced through this puzzle in record time. My main stumbling block was that I thought Mark Spitz had won 7 gold medals, and I wasn't exactly wrong, since he did win 7 at the Munich Olympics. And that famous beefcake shot of him, shirtless with all that gold on his chest, is inscribed in my memory. I happened to be in Munich in the summer of 1972 and visited the swimming center where I saw many athletes training for the upcoming Olympics. I have always wondered if Mark Spitz were among them.

    Lewis 6:21 AM  

    I love this theme idea, connecting the "NUMBER OF letters" (my first stab at the reveal) to what they're spelling. I don't remember ever seeing this theme before and it makes each theme answer a little puzzle in itself. I cottoned to the theme trick quickly, and that's always a good feeling on Thursday.

    Lovely, lovely answers: HAUGHTY, SLIMES, CROUPIER, and -- as neighbors even! -- SNEETCHES and ULULATES, plus a strong mini theme of double EEs (7).

    I saw in the bookstore this week an offering by Carl Hiaasen, illustrated by Roz CHAST, "Assume The Worst: The Graduation Speech You'll Never Hear". It features Hiaasen's biting wit, and CHAST's illustrations, mostly one-panel cartoons, are hilarious.

    But regarding today's theme -- Sigh. It's too late now, but I was hoping reality would have supported the clue for a five letter answer: "He served as President this number of months".

    michiganman 7:01 AM  

    I just started the puzzle and have not read Rex or any comments but I can't wait to say that PABSTS is absolutely awful...AWFUL!

    Mark Laser 7:04 AM  

    No apology needed. The number of squares (letters) in each answer is the number of interest. An arachnid has 8 legs and 8 letters, etc.

    Two Ponies 7:08 AM  

    Boring puzzle that had me dozing off mid-solve.
    Again with the kid stuff. Sneetches and Frozen. Modern Disney is almost as bad for puzzling as Star Wars.
    "Pig in a poke" would have worked as a clue for me.
    Two choreographers?
    Goo not gook.
    Smelt seems like a very small fish to get roe from. Must be good to be worth the bother but to me all roe tastes the same.
    You know how Rex gets all red and ululates about all things Trump?
    Well, names like Sonia in this context do the same for me.

    Dave 7:09 AM  

    Besides MISSOURI, this one felt completely straightforward; I was on pace for a huge Thursday PR, until the Show Me State wouldn't show itself.

    Even after the revealer, I just couldn't think of a state that borders 8 other states and ends with an "I," so for the longest time I had Kentucky in there (turns out KY has 7 bordering states) . . . convincing myself that ESAI Morales had a new way of spelling his name! Eventually MISSOURI came to me, but that one answer took 70% of my overall time...

    kitshef 7:12 AM  

    180 degrees from what Rex said …

    Played like a medium Saturday for me, though oddly few over-writes for such a challenge. I guess the clues were so hard I couldn’t even come up with a good wrong answer:
    I gEt IT before I SEE IT, CHASe before CHAST (????????), SONyA before SONIA, Empty before EAT IT.

    Loved the challenge of it. Loved the theme. Everything that was wrong the last two days was made right today.

    Random fact: Tanzania borders eight other countries so could have been a themer.

    Hungry Mother 7:22 AM  

    Not easy here. I had one of those misry laden slogs through this one. The theme was easy enough, but I struggled. My time was under average somehow.

    Glimmerglass 7:24 AM  

    Done TO A TURN comes from frying meat (or metaphorically) other things involving heat, like sunbathing. I suppose the TURN has to do with turning the meat over to see the side down in the pan. When the meat is perfectly cooked (to your taste), it’s time to turn it over or remove it from the pan. Unfortunately, “Ah, done to a turn” is always after the fact (or not!).

    Small Town Blogger 7:29 AM  

    OMG - if this isn’t Missouri’s state slogan, it should be! Brilliant!

    FLAC 7:43 AM  

    To every rose-lipt maiden
    And every lightfoot lad:
    This Thursday puz was laden
    With far more good than bad.

    Birchbark 7:55 AM  

    I'm not sure OREO Os passes the breakfast test. But I do like @Rex's vision of an ARACHNID with 52 legs.

    I spent much too long second-guessing partial answers in the northeast, on the assumption that no states end in "I". Poor MISSOURI.

    Birchbark 8:00 AM  

    To be clear, my MISSOURIgnorance is my own shortcoming and no fault of the state, which I like a great deal. The same would apply to Mississippi, Hawaii, and any other I-enders I may have omitted.

    GHarris 8:06 AM  

    Nailed this one after leaving Elena and moving from Michigan. Lots I did not know but crosses were fair and recently saw ululate in a puzzle. Got the theme more quickly than apparently Rex did but that was no aid except for good old Beethoven. Had no clue on the other numbers.

    Abdul 8:19 AM  

    Had the A and the F for the Arab leader, so figured this is obviously ARAFat.

    CDilly52 8:24 AM  

    This should go to the state’s Tourism Board for sure!

    wgh 8:29 AM  

    I like tricky Thursdays. This felt like a Wednesday. :(

    ghthree 8:32 AM  

    My wife Jane and I regularly solve together on paper over breakfast (I print out two copies the previous night). We've been doing this for years, This morning, she asked me "What have you got for 12 down?" I replied "I haven't got there yet." She told me she always skims the entire list of clues before beginning to solve. So I tried it, writing in all the Across gimmees, and then the Downs.

    When I read a clue, the first thing I ask myself was "How long is the answer?" When I got to 51 Down (Bite playfully) I thought "If it's three letters, it's NIP. If it's five letters, it's NIP AT."

    When I found it, a warm feeling swept over me. Not only was it five letters, but the A was already in place. AHA! My natural habit of checking the length of the answer lead easily to 35 Across. Except for BEETHOVEN and ARACHNID the actual count didn't help.

    We were Naticked on 9 Down. CHASE looked like a more plausible name than CHAST, and we managed to convince ourselves that CUE UP was a plausible answer for "Riot." Other than that, everything went smoothly, and we probably finished in record Thursday time. (although we don't time ourselves).

    But the process was both faster and more enjoyable. Thank you, Jane!

    BTW, I agree with Rex that both POKE and ALE were badly clued. Otherwise, no complaints.

    Alicia Stetson 8:34 AM  

    New theory: the quality of the comments on this blog correlate with the quality of the day's puzzle. Discuss.

    Anonymous 8:40 AM  

    Oh, Roz CHAST! Used to love her. From a four-paneled cartoon titled “Humble Pie”:
    It’s not me, it’s the ingredients.
    *blushing* Why, I'm just an ole pie!
    Forget the other two panels.

    @Brian B - Hee!

    mmorgan 8:42 AM  

    Hoo boy. Most of this was great fun but the NW was a disaster, starting with Elena. Didn't know OREO OS and figured that "Exactly right" must be something called a TeeTURN (as in, yknow, the right angles of the letter T). And I figured that the plural must be OREOeS (since KEENeN seemed bizarre but reasonable).

    Also thought for a while that the clue number must be the answer (though MISSOURI touching 21 states stretched my credulity).

    But RINSO was a gimme! Now that's trivia!!

    Anonymous 8:43 AM  

    Check out She regularly has cartoons in the New Yorker magazine.

    Mohair Sam 8:49 AM  

    CROUPIER is a terrific movie (98% on Rotten Tomatoes) starring a young Clive Owen. Stream it.

    Excellent puzzle, but it should have appeared on a Wednesday.

    Until @QuasiMojo (6:17) enlightened me TOATURN made no sense at all. The long downs today were awesome, except for AEHOUSMAN - mostly because he forgot the "e" in his last name and slowed me up. When I was about 7 years old I added chocolate milk to my Wheaties and as a result have never even tried a chocolate breakfast cereal.

    @John Child - Thanks for the "EATIT" link. Why do we all love Weird Al?

    @Rex - Classic "Dr. Strangelove" Coca-Cola scene. Great stuff, great flick.

    J I 8:50 AM  

    Glad to see at least a couple of other people struggled with this. I thought I was so smart when I had COUNTTHE and immediately put in LETTERS....grinding halt....took forever to recover. SUITORS, FOSSE, TOATURN and ALIF all took forever. Liked the theme and the puzzle but must have been one of those days where the fill just didn’t speak to me. The rest of the week has been much easier for me. Tomorrow should be interesting.

    Bruce R 8:50 AM  

    Octoberfest order = ALE? Octoberfest is a celebration of lagered beers, not ales. They are different.

    Mohair Sam 8:55 AM  

    And oh yeah - @Rex - I use 'POKE all the time instead of slowpoke. Nobody is ever confused.

    AW 9:04 AM  

    Can someone kindly explain how "Two in the news" (7D) is ITEM? Thanks in advance. (Can it mean a(n) (in)famous couple?)

    Nancy 9:11 AM  

    Did any of you COUNT THE SQUARES? No one? Thought not.

    What a silly idea for a theme. The puzzle's so easy that you don't need the theme, and even if you did need it, it wouldn't help you. For instance, did you know that MISSOURI borders 8 other states? Or that MARK SPITZ won 9 gold medals?

    Initially, I thought the answers were going to be defined by the number of the clue. But then I realized that no creature has 52 legs. And that BEETHOVEN didn't write 17 symphonies.

    So easy and so dull for a Thursday. This can't be the best submission you got, Will. It just can't be. What a disappointment.

    F*ck this Puzzle 9:25 AM  


    TOATURN? Is that what that T stands for in To a T?

    Also thought it was OREOhS...which I think is a better name.

    ISEEIT for "aha" is not quite right. "I see it now!" <--- that's better.

    The cluing was tortured in places: 31D, 34D and 16A specifically. Specifically in ostensibly "Germany" during Oktoberfest (if you're going to get all German about it), you order a bier...not an ALE...especially with the other German words in the grid. HERE'S = two words. And 1890 called and they want their SUITORS back.

    ALIF? D'you mean ALeF?

    Obviously I didn't like the puzzle.

    Z 9:32 AM  

    TOAT URN, where I keep little Betsy’s ashes.

    AE HOUSEMAN? Yikes. Not on my “Read It” list. Not on my “To Read” list. His 15 seconds of fame ended a century ago. Only crossworthy in the “only dead white guys matter” universe many of you will now defend.

    “Lager” is another of our wrong answers from Tuesday night (what is the literal translation or somesuch), so no problem here with the less than optimal clue for ALE. For the uninformed/don’t care all that much crowd, most macro breweries make lagers. Budweiser, PABST, Fosters... all lagers. If one were to order an ALE during Oktoberfest it would probably be a top-fermented wheat beer. Think Blue Moon in the U.S.

    Hand up for elena before SONIA. Hand up for laughing about Neil already siding with the “liberals” on the court in a major case. I doubt that will continue much in the short term, but the only way to keep a judge conservative is to nominate stupid it seems. Anyway, The “classic Milwaukee beer now owned by a holding company from L.A. and produced by contract brewers” fixed that quickly.

    @Joe DiPinto - The actual question was “What country borders Albania to the south?” Either Ross or I confidently said “Turkey” and the other quickly agreed. No one else on the team offered a comment (not uncommon for us with any world geography question).

    Z 9:34 AM  

    @AW - You got it.

    GILL I. 9:36 AM  

    Too bad Todd didn't clue POKE as the new Hello on Facebook.
    Well, I did like all the answers today. Nothing offended except, perhaps, PABST. I think I learned all about it from watching Laverne and Shirley or maybe it was that other awful beer, Schmitz. I'm not much of a beer drinker and now I know why. American beers that I drank back in the 80's we so incredibly awful. I like some of the new ones that breweries are coming up with. If its dark and makes my lips pucker, then I'll drink it. If it's piss yellow, I won't.
    Anyway, this seemed awfully easy for Thursday. I'm with @Hartley wondering if this should have been a clever Wed. My only little problems reared its head with spelling: Is it STEIN or STIEN? Is Morales an ESAI or and ESAU (I never remember). I knew 11D was gonna be CROUPIER because of the easy C in CACHE. Let's to spell...two PP's or not. Easy fix with MISSOURI and SIAM in place. @Quasi...I think SIAM sounds more exotic than Thailand. But then if SIAM kept its name would we be ordering out SIA food?
    Liked seeing SPITZ sitting below RINSO. What do you do first? And BEET next to mom's admonition EAT IT. I hated BEETs until I grew up.
    PABST ALE in a STEIN. Not Oktoberfest fare says HERR in Mannheim.
    I'm glad ULULATE and SNEETCHES graced the puzzle....they make me smile.

    Roo Monster 9:38 AM  

    Hey All !
    Thought the South part of puz was easier than the North. Once I got ARACHNID, knew the theme was COUNTing THE SQUARES. Went to Revealer, made sure the Q worked in the Down, and wrote it in with no crosses! *Pats myself on the back* Had a way funny writeover, had MA___P___ for 57A, and put in MARCoPolo! Har!

    Agree WedsPuz-ish, by still a nice one. Managed to get 100% correct, with no cheats, so YAY ME!


    pabloinnh 10:08 AM  

    POKE should always be clued as _____Salad Annie, which is just a great fun song.

    I'm with @Lewis as wanting to finish the phrase COUNTTHE with LETTERS, which I'm glad I didn't do. Would have been as dumb as confusing "Michelle" with "Yesterday".

    Roger Angell, who is my favorite baseball writer, starts his description of the 1975 World Series between Boston and Cincinnati by quoting AEHOUSMAN--"Tarry delight, so seldom met", which is, in a word, perfect.

    Nancy 10:10 AM  

    @Lewis (6:21) -- Delectable 5-letter President witticism. I'd say: "From your lips to God's ear" -- only, of course, it's Much Too Late. (Sigh.)

    @FLAC (7:43) -- I don't share your positive appraisal of today's puzzle, but a very nice verse send-up anyway! And speaking of HOUSMAN...

    @Z (9:32) -- So you're completely dismissing AE HOUSMAN for having committed the unforgivable sin of being both white and dead? You're entitled to dismiss him after you've read him, but not before, @Z. His oeuvre was small, but what there was of it was, in the words of Spencer Tracy (or was it Bogie?) was "cherce". It reminds me of when my gourmet father said to me when I was quite young: "You're perfectly entitled not to like any food you don't like. But you're not entitled to not like it if you've never tasted it."

    jberg 10:23 AM  

    Like everyone else, I expected "this many" to be the number of the clue. I did have the B, from PABSTS (c'mon, it's The Beer that Made Milwaukee Famous, and neither Blatzes nor Schlitzes, nor Millers fits), but as has been said, BEETHOVEN didn't write 17 symphonies (or at least didn't publish them). Franz Benda did write exactly 17, but he's either one letter too long or four too short. As for Allan Petterson, there's just no famous Milwaukee beer with a P in that position. So I went ahead and put in BEETHOVEN, figuring the revealer would be "nine."

    After that, the only problems were ALeF, I gEt IT, and thinking there was an E in HOUSMAN.

    Speaking of which, @Z -- much more than 15 seconds. Tom Stoppard wrote a play about him, "The Invention of Love," in 1997. It got the New York Drama Circle Critics Best Play award.

    TOAT URN -- where you store your TOAT.

    Since this is Thursday, it might have been better to have a more cryptic revealer, to preserve the idea of having a trick.

    Anoa Bob 10:35 AM  

    Yesterday the theme was supreme but the fill was less than ideal. Today the theme maybe needed another TURN or two to be "Exactly right" (23A) but there were enough goodies, such as CROUPIER, ULULATES, and HAUGHTY, in the fill to balance things out and make this an enjoyable solve for me.

    KEENAN Wynn's role in "Dr. Strangelove" wasn't much more than a cameo but he made the most of it. Along with the "You'll answer to the Coca Cola Company" line, I liked "deviated prevert" and "You don't think I'd go into combat with loose change in my pocket, do you?"

    Peter Sellers played three parts including the title role of "Dr. Strangelove". Other notables included George C. Scott, Sterling (what a name!) Hayden, Slim Pickens and James Earl Jones. Peter Bull played the Russian ambassador TO A TURN. When asked by Sellers' President Merkin Muffley how he had learned about a top secret U.S program, he leaned over and whispered "I read about it in the New York Times".

    Amelia 11:02 AM  

    @nancy I swear I didn't think of this until I read your comment. Foolishly I counted them, and you're right. There was no reason for me to do that. I didn't get the "theme" until I got the revealer which was easy to get. And that's when I realized THERE WAS NO THEME.

    Has the NY Times decided we're all idiots?

    On a Thursday?

    Citizen Dain 11:17 AM  


    Anonymous 11:24 AM  

    @Z, 100 years from now no one will be reading Jonathan Franzen or whoever the next pop living writer is but they will still be reading A. E. Housman's "A Shropshire Lad."

    jb129 11:31 AM  

    I counted the squares & got 8 & 9. So I guess I didn't get the theme & didn't have time to read the entire blog to get it. But it was an easy Thursday (too easy!) & enjoyable. We'll see what Friday brings...

    Bob Mills 11:32 AM  

    I liked the puzzle, albeit it was on the easy side. I've found that whenever Rex likes a puzzle, I don't, and when he doesn't, I do. So I'm not inviting him to my granddaughter's wedding.

    paperandink 11:32 AM  

    to a turn refers to spit over fire cooking in olde days me thinks...loved the poem! clever comments galore...fosse was brilliant also did cabaret...go liza..had michigan for too long... must travel outside of the coasts.. or between?

    Masked and Anonymous 11:36 AM  

    For some odd and fortuitous reason, my very first entry splatzed into the puz was COUNTTHESQUARES. [I like to snoop around, huntin for revealers. Sorta like contestants poke around for "Daily Double" squares, on Jeopardy.] MISSOURI soon confirmed my upfront lucky guess. I believe we have entered Mo. from just about every other possible state, in our travels.

    All that made this a pretty darn eazy-E ThursPuz solvequest, at our house. But I can see where other nanosecond mileages might vary.

    fave fillins: SNEETCHES. ULULATES. SMELT. HAUGHTY. KEENAN (Wasn't he called Colonel Batguano, or somesuch? har. Primo flick!). SLIMES. Six-haired GOATEE.
    Real up-liftin EVIL clue quote.

    staff weeject pick: MTS. Plural abbrev. meat.

    Thanx for the fun, Mr. Gross. We counted on U, and U delivered.

    Masked & Anonymo9Us


    Joseph Michael 12:02 PM  

    This puz has a lot of cool words like ULULATES, RINSO, SNEETCHES, CROUPIER, HAUGHTY, and SLIMES.

    Theme is original and I learned some new trivia, such as the fact that if I were trapped in MISSOURI, I could escape to any of eight other states.

    Liked the pairing of the Devil's GOATEE and EVIL, FROZEN and ICEES, AILEY and FOSSE,
    CHAST and STEIN.

    It's not a rebus and on a Thursday that's disappointing but it's not the puzzle's fault.

    This many cheers for Todd Gross.

    Smiles 12:02 PM  

    Have wanted to comment on your blog forever. Puzzle and comments jump start my brain every day. Thank you for that 😎

    pmdm 12:09 PM  

    Fun puzzle.

    But I have one nit to pick. Beethoven composed something he called a Battle Symphony (Wellington's Victory). He was dismissive of the quality of the work (if not the money it earned him)which may explain why he didn't publish it as a numbered symphony (just as he didn't include his D Major Piano Concerto in his numbered piano concertos). But a Battle Symphony is a symphony, just not a numbered symphony.

    Back to the puzzle. I would vote that this is more of a Wednesday puzzle than a Thursday puzzle.

    Anonymous 12:22 PM  

    HERE"S is one word? Jeeper Creaper.

    Mohair Sam 12:24 PM  

    @Anoa Bob - Watch for Peter Bull struggling not to crack up during Peter Sellers' rant as "Strangelove" at the end of the movie. When Sellers grabs his own arm to fight against his Nazi salute Bull is in full grin mode.

    @Anonymous (11:24) - Good point.

    @Z - Yeah, sure, Antonin Scalia was a real klutz. Conservative justices these days are those who actually follow the constitution no matter what. Hence you get a Scalia defending flag burning as free speech and Gorsuch doing what he did a few days ago. This may tick off conservative politicians, but it's no surprise.

    Anonymous 12:26 PM  

    This was the first time I haven't finished in ages. The problem was 1 down. I am a Milwaukee guy and a Wisconsin lawyer, so I know that a classic Milwaukee brew is an "amber" or a "wisconsin read." so, Poke was a no go, as was Keenan and oreoos. That entire corner brings to mind my current residence--Natick.

    Trombone Tom 12:47 PM  

    What @Rex and y'all have already said.

    This was a nice effort but not what I look forward to at NYT on Thursday.

    I, too, think of Oktoberfest as more of a Bierfest.

    Hand up for ElenA before SONIA.

    Joe Bleaux 12:55 PM  
    This comment has been removed by the author.
    mathgent 1:17 PM  

    @Nancy (9:11): Heartily support your panning it. No sparkle, no wordplay, no personality. And Jeff Chen makes it his POW. What?

    Teedmn 1:35 PM  

    I had to POKE around a bit before getting anywhere in the NW AREA. That answer plus SSN and EAT IT turned into PABST and BEETHOVEN. No clue about the theme until I got the revealer, though.

    In the NE, I had never heard anyone say "I Love Johnny" or HERE'S Lucy but ESAI gave me the correct answer. Love Roz CHAST, she's the best. (Though I like Ed Koren and Edward Steed a lot also, hi @r.alph!)

    @Gill I, you'll possibly be glad to know that although the Schmidt beer brewery still carries the name on its smokestack in St. Paul, it no longer houses any beer-making establishment. All attempts to re-utilize the site have failed, to date.

    ULULATES - I consider it more of a celebratory sound than mourning, but the online dictionaries claim it is both. I also read up on how to actually do it but wasn't able to give it a try in our open-space office. A question that has occurred to me more than once - why is one more likely to hear ululating at a science fiction convention than at other venues? Most places I go, you hear "Woo-hoo", not ululation. But maybe that was just a passing fad - I haven't been to a sci-fi convention in decades.

    Todd Gross, nice Thursday!

    phil phil 1:45 PM  

    Stuck on mimeo for LITHO and amir for ALIF don't ever remember aleph/alef being spelled with the 'i'

    Azzurro 2:53 PM  

    Too many proper nouns. I don’t take much satisfaction from solving these sorts of puzzles because they’re either too easy (if you know the names) or they’re just an exercise in using Google (if you don’t). I much prefer something that requires thinking about the clue, not just looking up who _______ Morales is.

    Anonymous 3:48 PM  

    This was the first time I've ever heard the expression "To A Turn." Does ANYone say that? The answer may as well have been To A Pole for all the sense it made. Really, really bad there. Everything else was fairly easy.

    Martha 4:10 PM  

    I still don’t get It’s only have due/UNO. Huh?

    Anonymous 4:23 PM  

    “Uno” and “due” are Italian for “one” and “two”, respectively.

    Z 4:29 PM  

    You are making me feel psychic. Or is it psycho? No, definitely psychic.

    @Nancy - You almost had me convinced, but I don’t need to try every pilsener to know I won’t like the next one. What did Wikipedia say,... “the poems wistfully evoke the dooms and disappointments of youth in the English countryside. Their beauty, simplicity and distinctive imagery appealed strongly to late Victorian and Edwardian taste, ....” Yeah, no. Not my cuppa. I’ve no doubt they are beautifully executed works but I am quite confident that anything appealing to Victorian and Edwardian tastes won’t appeal to me. Try Binti by Nnedi Okorafor or Ancillary Justice by Anne Leckie (books I love) and then convince me otherwise.

    @jberg - Do you really think that if A.E. HOUSEMAN had been an South African Zulu woman writing about the “doom and disappointments of youth in Apartheid South Africa” there would have been a play and award? Maybe now, maybe even in 1977, but not in 1997.

    @anon11:24 - LOL. Uh, no. Maybe if it’s on a syllabus somewhere, and even then 75% of the class will just read the SparkNotes. Oh, wait, searching for “HOUSEMAN” on only gets Citizen Kane hits. Apparently he’s not on enough syllabuses to make it worth SparkNotes time to publish a “study guide.” Pulitzer Prize winner Kendrick Lamar is far more likely to be read in a hundred years than A.E. HOUSEMAN.

    Changing the subject - @mohair sam - Scalia is exhibit number one of “just because you are really smart doesn’t mean you are not dumb as a rock.” Even so, those who track such things say even he became more liberal during his service on the high court. Granted, he was very conservative to the end, just measurably more liberal than when he began.

    GILL I. 4:31 PM  

    Hi @Martha..."It's only half due" is Italian. Due is two, and half of that is one, or UNO. Tricky but we get lots of them.
    @Teedmn. I was actually going for that other lousy beer - SchlitZ. ;-)

    JC66 4:34 PM  


    Try Housman (no "e").

    Bagelboy 4:41 PM  

    "ELENA", "TENNESEE" (spelled wrong), "COUNTTHELETTERS" all slowed me down. Bottom half went smoothly though.

    Iain Matthews 4:49 PM  

    Singer/songwriter Matthews is DAVE?

    That clue is off. Puzzle otherwise too easy

    Anonymous 5:08 PM  

    @Z you base all your defenses and arguments on silly stuff found on the internet. Try learning something by studying rather than surfing.

    Anonymous 5:47 PM  

    Ale at the Oktoberfest? No. I have lived in Germany. No one there orders a Stein of beer. They order a Krug. We get stein from Steinkrug, which means stone(ware) mug.

    Joe Dipinto 6:50 PM  

    @Z - I was quite the world-atlas geek as a kid so I would have *insisted* that your team change its answer to Greece. (Of course the maps have changed quite a bit since then. I still don't have all the Stans in central Asia straightened out, never mind the African countries that have been renamed umpteen times.)

    @Mohair Sam -- Yes, "Croupier" is a really good movie. That was the film that introduced Clive Owen to American audiences.

    This puzzle was in the "why bother?" category, imo. It was redeemed solely by the inclusion of RINSO in the grid.

    Two Ponies 8:01 PM  

    I'm adding Croupier to my Netflix queue. Once again this blog is a great source for all sorts of recommendations. Thanks all.

    Anonymous 9:24 PM  

    I enjoyed this puzzle because of ululates. To a turn, rinso and oreoos slowed me down the most..

    @Bruce R: Thanks for that comment. I lived in Köln for a while and the beer there is an ale, unlike virtually everywhere else in Germany. At the real Oktoberfest, you drink from a Maas, the one litre glass, not a Stein.

    Mohair Sam 10:46 PM  

    @Two Ponies - If you like CROUPIER the recommendation was from me. If not, it was DiPinto.

    @Z - Nothing personal, but I'll take Ruth Bader Ginsberg's opinion of Scalia's wit over yours.

    Joe Dipinto 11:56 PM  

    @Mohair Sam -- I've never been so insulted in my life. Not by your comment, but because you spelled my name wrong (small p, please).

    SDP 12:23 AM  

    Oh F off. This one was full of proper BS fill. Theme was easy for a Thursday, but still, lots of challenging noodle scratchers. I suppose i liked it. 6/10

    Anonymous 10:59 AM  


    @z is quite wrong about a great many things. But surely his appraisal of Scalia's body of work in jurisprudence is near the top his hare-brained blatherings. Taney was no lawyer to speak of. He was simply a political functionary. I believe he was one of the first men to ever be rejected for a cabinet position by the congress. Regardless, Scalia's mind was the envy of his colleagues. No one ever doubted his brain. colleagues sometimes opposed his decisions but his legal acumen was never questioned. It remains universally admired. As for his personality, he was gracious, charming, considerate and as @Mohair notes, great friends with his ideological opposite Bader Ginsburg. She mourns him still.

    thefogman 9:27 AM  

    PABSTS? Not sure about that one...
    The NE corner gave me some misery. I finished with MISSOURY.

    thefogman 9:36 AM  

    PS - Rex, thanks a bunch for the Strangelove video. Just terrific.

    Burma Shave 9:46 AM  


    HERE’S a POKE and a NIPAT a CROUPIER gambler
    (NOTE: he gave AHORA TURN in his NASH-Rambler):
    ISEEIT as SENILE that he PESTERed and felt her,
    and HAUGHTY and EVIL when that jester SMELT her.


    BS2 10:14 AM  


    But she CHOSE to take CACHE, didn’t she SONIA SUE?
    SEAMs that nobody SNEETCHES on SUITORS they BLUE.


    spacecraft 11:05 AM  

    Easy for me. despite putting in Michigan off the MI at first, and CHASe before CHAST. Yeah, CUTUP took a few "nanoseconds" to come UP with. (@M&A's favorite WOD, tied with ULULATES)

    While not dense or even very remarkable, the theme does take some weird noticing to generate. I think it must have started with ARACHNID, or maybe "a bit of the old Ludwig Van." I agree that the state-bordering thing is ("You ARE-") the weakest link ("-Goodbye!")

    Long fill good to great; short? We-e-lll… there's QEII, but because that's what the ship is actually called, I'll let it pass. DOD is actress SONIA Braga. Par.

    rondo 2:20 PM  

    I had the concept after the first theme clue, but the only number of squares I knew for sure was for ARACHNID.

    I’ve seen the Alvin AILEY company dance, so gimme. FOSSE, gimme. No probs with the dance guys. A friend is a big DAVE Matthews fan; you can find him under the table and dreaming.

    ALE does not equal beer, which is what I would expect to order at Oktoberfest, which is actually in September.. Have a few PABSTS today and a few ALEs tomorrow. Not close. I’d probably quit drinking at all if there was nothing but ALE.

    A shout out to a real Lolita and yeah baby SUE Lyon.

    Better than most rebi, but no so much. Or maybe I’m getting SENILE.

    rainforest 2:23 PM  

    Another easy puzzle this week, but I don't mind easy puzzles if they are well-constructed and engaging, as this one was. I at first thought the clue number was the "number", and so Franz Liszt or Joseph Haydn first came to mind for the composer, but of course they didn't fit. BEETHOVEN was therefore a surprise, and stupid me, I really wondered if he actually composed 17 symphonies. The revealer was helpful there.

    Different sort of "theme", and good to see something different. I guess ALIF is an alternate spelling. No prob.

    I thought the fill was better than average. "Sneetches with stars on thar's". My grandson like that story. My mom used to use Rinso. And Vel.

    Diana,LIW 2:41 PM  

    I got TOATURN, but never heard it, either.

    All's well for a Thursday, except for the far SW - where I dnf.

    Diana, LIW

    leftcoastTAM 4:48 PM  

    SMELT out the theme/gimmick early, but wasn't very helpful in the solve.

    Real action was in the long downs in the NE and SW. Took a while to dig out AEHOUSMAN and SNEETCHES, the former only vaguely familiar and the latter lost to any memory at all, but minding the crosses in both cases helped. CROUPIER and ULULATES were pretty cool, too.

    Most vexing was the TOATURN__CUTUP row. "Exactlly right" is TOATURN? Coulda fooled me--and did. "Riot" as CUTUP? Again, coulda been fooled, but crosses forced it.

    So, didn't solve TOATURN today, but maybe tomorrow.

    spacecraft 8:34 PM  

    I think it comes from cooking. When something is "done to a turn," that means just right, esp. with things that need turning, such as flapjacks. Too early for flapjacks?

    Anonymous 1:35 AM  

    Didn't finish in 5 minutes or even 11 minutes but not too far behind. Clever theme that reinforces my amazement at the talent of the constructors of puzzles. A toast to Mr Gross and all his brethren.

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