Famous feuder with Jay-Z / WED 5-9-18 / Cut of beef in newport steak / She threw apple of discord in Greek myth / Famed fountain name / Utah town near Arches Canyonlands National Parks

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Constructor: Jeff Chen

Relative difficulty: Challenging (though it's oversized, so maybe more Medium-Challenging) (5:17)

THEME: SEEING DOUBLE (59A: Experiencing a vision problem) — clues refer to a common phrase, but it's supposed to be entered into the grid with one letter doubled, creating totally different phrases (that don't fit the clue at all). Remove the second of the doubled letters, and you get the actual answers to the clues:

Theme answers:
  • AMAZING GRACE (22A: Reality TV show, when 59-Across?)
  • OVER RICE (28A: Chilled, when 59-Across?)
  • VENTI LATTE (38A: Aerate, when 59-Across?)
  • DEEP ENDS (53A: "Possibly," when 59-Across?)
Word of the Day: MOAB (69A: Utah town near Arches and Canyonlands National Parks) —
Moab is a city on the southern edge of Grand County in eastern Utah in the western United States. The population was 5,046 at the 2010 census, and in 2015 the population was estimated to be 5,235. It is the county seat and largest city in Grand County. Moab attracts a large number of tourists every year, mostly visitors to the nearby Arches and Canyonlands national parks. The town is a popular base for mountain bikers who ride the extensive network of trails including the Slickrock Trail, and for off-roaders who come for the annual Moab Jeep Safari. (wikipedia)
• • •
On the one hand, it's a cute bit of lexical weirdness. On the other, it feels very thin. There's just four? Why those letters? They don't really make a coherent set, or spell anything, or ... anything. SEEING DOUBLE is not the greatest revealer here, either, as you're seeing just one letter doubled. There's just not that snap, that pop, that thing that really brings it all together. The revealer's somewhat loose and weak, the answers in question are OK on their own, but they don't make a terribly (or even faintly) coherent set. The first two themers double across two words (i.e. last letter of first word and first letter of last word are the doubled ones), but then the next two don't. It's weird. I imagine VENTI LATTE was the seed answer, as it's the funniest and most spectacular mutation of the bunch. But it just feels wobblier than it should, execution-wise. As for the rest of the grid, it tries a little too hard to get cute with nonsense (BILGE RAT??), but is overall pretty solid. LSD TABS was nice, and hard to parse.

I started out OK in the NW, and then came down and got as far as PRIX and then nothing. Big Mistake One: Wrote in BUD instead of LOU (49A: Costello of Abbott and Costello). That probably caused more slowness for me than anything inherent in the grid, though I do think having such large, open corners generally makes for a slower solve, even if you aren't face-planting with terrible wrong answers. I thought the ASP was sacred to Egyptians (29D: Sacred creature in ancient Egypt (CAT)). Other than that, I didn't have many mistakes, I just kept struggling to get any real momentum. Both pairs of 7s in the NE/SW were tough for me to come up with, CUE CARD in particular (13D: Line holdup?) (good clue). But the main issues were a. trouble grasping the theme, and b. the BUD-for-LOU mistake. I did have CARTS before LISTS (68A: Shopping aids), but that error was quickly and easily corrected.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


jae 12:06 AM  

On the tough side for me too. Also tried asp before CAT. Cute, but a tad messy, liked it.

Brian 12:14 AM  

Would have been good to have the revealer clued as diplopia

Larry Gilstrap 12:35 AM  

Fumbled my way through this Wednesday effort, figuring out the theme way too late for it to be of any help. My wife loves Starbuck's, so I've heard of a VENTI LATTE, but that just looks weird to us non-coffee people. I much prefer a rich meat fricassee OVER RICE.

My apple girl in Classical Mythology is Atalanta, but eventually discord brought me to ERIS.

I assume that SPELT is the British past tense of spell for the British word "O-D-O-U-R," but I had to work on that one. Looked like yelling at first.

AGE is just a number, but sometimes it's a big F'ing #. And then to rub salt in the wound, we get DEEPENDS. Most of my life I never heard the word incontinence, now we get a whole aisle at CVS. Enjoy your breakfast!

Cliff Robinson 12:47 AM  

Quite fast for me, although even after solving I had trouble parsing BILGERATS and VENTILATTE, so thanks to Rex for explaining.
I didn’t like 22D (Diver’s Need) — non-divers need AIR too.
TREVI was new to me — neeeded all the crosses for that one.
Feels like we’ve had ISAY in several recent puzzles.

TomAz 12:54 AM  

I'm thinking maybe Jeff Chen has never seen double. Cuz the 'only one letter doubled' thing doesn't work at all with the revealer. Just yesterday I said that Rex was being too literal, but here we have an example where the puzzle isn't literal enough. "Double Plays" would be lots better (yes I know I'm one letter short). Something like that.

I was very slow tonight, in part because it took me forever to suss out what was going on, and also watching the Dbacks/Dodgers. For future solving reference, should this regionalism arise again, we do in fact say "Dbacks" or "D-Backs" a lot more than we say "Diamondbacks" around here.

The oldest cat (we have 3) is having various late-in-life issues and everyone is out of town and I am having to give him three meds in the morning on my own. Two liquids (easy) and one pill (difficult). If any of you clever people have a clever way to get a 15-year-old cat to take a pill, I'm eager to hear it. Both the internet and my vet's techs have been unable to coach me to success so far.

ZenMonkey 1:05 AM  

I felt like the theme answers got left out in the cold, with nothing to hang them on. "Hymn sung on a reality show," for example, would have included both parts of the answer and been a lot more satisfying.

mathgent 1:32 AM  

Jeff Chen never disappoints. Sharp cluing, sparkly entries, Wednesday-level crunch. Absolutely great crossword.

As usual, Rex embarrasses himself by inventing faults in Chen's excellent work

Harryp 2:21 AM  

Nice puzzle by Jeff Chen. I put in VENTILATTE, and couldn't smell the coffee, but finished and saw the theme. Wednesday time, so maybe Medium.

Loren Muse Smith 2:24 AM  

I agree with Rex that VENTI LATTE is a spectacular find.

The cool thing here is that both the single letter and double letter phrases are in the language. Jeff didn’t have to resort to wackiness. (CRESCENT TROLL, ISLAMIC CLAW, PHYSICS SLAB…). That aspect makes this all the more elegant.

Another Classic Chen Elegance Factor - as both a Carolina fan and a grill fan, I always mix up WEBER (grill) and Webber (’93 Time-Out Guy). So I briefly went all Thursday and thought about a double letter rebus. And then later I saw that there are no non-theme double letters. Bet @Lewis noticed before I did.

Liked ON A DIET crossing TRI TIP OVER RICE. White food is the first thing I give up when I have to fit into this one outfit I have. That I wore four years ago. Pfft. When I worked at A Southern Season in Chapel Hill, our grumpiest customers were the Ricers – people who came from far and wide to participate in Duke’s rice diet program. I mean, ok – A Southern Season would be a cruel place for anyone on a diet, but still.

I found this pretty hard, too, and in fact I had a dnf: “clamp” for CLASP gave me this weird “McRip” currency, and I vaguely thought it must be some kind of McDonald’s frequent customer card punch deal. I can’t blame Jeff or Will and his staff, his, ahem, Times stable. I was just being dumb.

After Obama’s rendition at the funeral in South Carolina, this is my favorite AMAZING GRACE.

Hey Jeff – TRI got me thinking… CROSS SWORDS. Well, it’s sorta in the language.

chefwen 2:52 AM  

Took me a while to crack this open which I finally did with AMAZING GRACE, then I was off to the races.

Jeff Chen usually has me quavering in my boots, but I figured it was only Wednesday, how tough can it be? Not too tough at all. Loved it!

Only real slip was at 35D with fell before SLID, easy fix.

Thank you Mr, Chen, I will quaver no more.

sanfranman59 3:14 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 4:15 4:30 0.95 31.6% Easy-Medium
Tue 4:52 5:37 0.87 21.3% Easy-Medium
Wed 10:26 6:07 1.71 98.7% Very Challenging

A real toughie for me. I haven't posted this slow of a Wednesday solve time in 10 months. Even taking into account the wide grid, coming in at 4:19 over my 6-month median is pretty extreme. It's not uncommon for me to struggle with JC's cluing and I sure couldn't get on his wavelength here. But only one stall and 4 erasures seems like a moral victory.

I had a very tough time getting into the NE because (1) I needed every cross for BILGE RAT(?) I guess I don't know my pirate expressions, (2) mythology is my Achilles heel (Prometheus' LIVER), (3) I suck at rap (NAS) and (4) the trickily clued CUE CARD.

Alternate clue for 1A: Pick a 4-letter animal, any 4-letter animal

Anonymous 3:19 AM  

Have you ever seen the documentary "Worldplay"? There was a puzzle created by Merl Reagle (I think) that used CROSS SWORDS as one of the theme answers in the movie. One of the things that truly got me hooked on the NYT crossword (God help me...).

Kefra 3:49 AM  

Have to agree with Cliff that the clue for AIR is a bit imprecise. In fact, I wrote in FIN and it stayed there for quite a while. Other than that, I quite enjoyed the theme but did finish about 2:30 slower than usual for Wed.

Charles Flaster 3:57 AM  

Medium with a DNF as I never changed ERoS to the correct answer.
Liked the theme and its wackiness.
One write over was SLID for Sank.
CUE CARD is brilliantly clued and misdirected. It crosses I’M DUE which I hear quite often in the halls of AC.
Thanks JC.

BarbieBarbie 5:05 AM  

Had ROC for awhile there. Wrong country. [red face]

Average difficulty overall, but a good stretch. Crunchy longish words mixed with ultra-easy short fill. A true crossword.

Why would EROS have thrown an apple of discord, @Rex? Maybe on his day off?

Lewis 6:00 AM  

@LMS -- You betcha I noticed that there are no no- theme double letters. That must have taken some doing to accomplish.
@rex -- "Overall pretty solid". You spent that whole first paragraph detailing the things you didn't like. How about some details on the things you did like?

As opposed to Rex, I thought the theme was very solid. The reveal is is a common phrase explaining what is going on, and the theme answers are wonderfully clever. Try coming up with more of these! The grid is squeaky clean, as usual, for a Chen puzzle. Plus you have PHENOM and BILGE RAT, AMAZING GRACE resting on the POPE, and two terrific misdirects -- CAT instead of asp, and MEDALS instead of metals. And I must reiterate what an effort it took to keep the double letters out of the non theme answers.

Plus, there's that Chen polish. The patina that comes from a puzzle that was fine-tuned again and again. This was a most lovely solve, and thank you for that, Jeff!

Hungry Mother 6:10 AM  

CAT was last in. Didn’t really like the theme, but it helped. I did a lot of downs again today.

Brett 6:16 AM  

Fun puzzle. If I were going to nitpick, I think the main problem with the theme is not that it’s thin but that VENTILATTE is the only one that is not pronounced basically the same way when you remove the doubled letter.

three of clubs 6:42 AM  

Kept trying to think of a Chinese name for ____ Xing.

Thomaso808 6:50 AM  

Nice, clean grid, and I agree with Rex on the rating.


Glimmerglass 6:53 AM  

What Lewis said. . . .

Anonymous 7:12 AM  

Usually I agree with Rex, but I really liked this one. My idea of a great revealer is one which is solvable just when you desperately need its boost in understanding the puzzle and that's what happened for me here. Even after solving it, I had to play with a different understanding of what it implied to use its help, so it was a hint but not sledgehammer, and the themers filled out with that pleasant smile of realization. VENTILLATE was last for me, and most pleasant, so I guess I was the perfect target audience for this one.

kitshef 7:22 AM  

Felt like a Thursday, both in trickiness and difficulty.

Really impressive construction, avoiding any double-letters except in the themers and doing so with almost no junk.

Curiously repetitive review by Rex today ... felt like a student trying to pad their (hah!) word count.

QuasiMojo 7:25 AM  

Good news. No issues with the desktop version today. I tend to usually agree with Rex on issues of construction and today is no exception. I found this a challenging Wednesday although I did manage to finish without any goo-goo-googly eyes trained on the internet. I liked the idea of the theme but the execution left me CHILLED. The repetition of "when 59 ACROSS?" was inelegant and unnecessary. Answers like LSD TABS seemed contrived. "A tab of acid" is fine, but I doubt anyone has ever said I bought or took some LSD TABS. I did like HERESY though!

Like @LMS, I stumbled out of the gate with CLAMP rather than CLASP but remembered SCRIP from some documentary I once saw about laborers at a mill who were paid that way and could only pay for their own supplies by using it. They basically were indentured servants. (A similar thing happened to a friend of mine recently. At his job he was given "incentives" as rewards, basically gift cards to places like Barnes&Noble, Starbucks and Target. So rather than getting cash which he could have spent at the BEACH, he was forced to spend his free time at malls, spending his high-end SCRIP on VENTI LATTES and stir-fried brocolli OVER RICE in the Food Court.)

Maybe I need to switch shampoos, but I had no idea what a FLIP TOP is on a shampoo bottle. The ones I use have this annoying toggle cap that is impossible to see when you are under the shower spray and keeps getting clogged up.

CATS were often buried in the pharaoh's tomb. Or at least a likeness of one. I think King Tut had a giant gold one in his.

Finally, I found I'M DUE to be an odd response. "My luck is bound to change" to me signifies optimism not a sense of privilege. I wanted to HIT ME. But then I'm a gambler.

Conrad 7:38 AM  

WAY off-topic: @TomAz: Try Pill Pockets (https://www.chewy.com/greenies-pill-pockets-feline-chicken/dp/33778) they work like a charm for giving pills to our cats (they think the pills are extra-special treats and don’t even notice the medicine.

gberg 7:51 AM  

I have had some success with coating pills in butter and then briefly freezing them... slippery and not bad tasting. Good luck with it, never any fun.

Stanley Hudson 8:00 AM  

@Lewis got it right. This is a fine Jeff Chen puzzle.

@LMS, a big smile @ “Times stable.” I’m a morning person but am awed by your wordplay proficiency at such an early hour.

Two Ponies 8:02 AM  

Best Wed. in ages and I loved every minute of it.
Theme answers were great. Nice one Mr. Chen!

My shampoo has a pump but my favorite cap for toothpaste is the impossible-to-lose flip top.

Bilge rat gave me a chuckle.

Medal or metal for gold and silver?

Never heard of a Newport steak.

@ Brian 12:14, Agree that diplopia would have been good.

The Prometheus clue reminded me of a tomb in Pere Lachaise graveyard in Paris. Very dramatic.

mmorgan 8:28 AM  

I first had SkID for 35D, as I think that word is frequently used in connection with market declines, but then I realized the clue was calling for past tense and VENToKATTE didn't look right. Sadly, neither did VENToLATTE. Oops.

But this was a great puzzle!!

mike colt 8:31 AM  

Crush it to a fine particle and add to milk

Stuart Showalter 8:36 AM  


Anonymous 8:39 AM  

@ TomAz,That is such an old cat. Why not find something sedative and lethal to allow a graceful exit for your friend?

Stuart Showalter 8:42 AM  

Medium for me, and as usual I disagree with Rex’s cavilling. “Feels wobbly,” “tries to hard” and “feels thin” could be said of his review today (and most other days as well). But whiners gonna whine, and OFL is an expert at it.

Warren Peace 8:57 AM  

The very best solving experience I've had since the disappearance of Patrick Berry from the NYT. I think speed solving would be fun, but not my kind of fun. I also understand people who like to solve by going though the puzzle in each direction first. But I love, just love, knocking out a grid corner by corner, across, down middle out, whatever I can get along the way.

All the little battles of sussing out the aha moments, like being a spy in the house of puzzle love. Bilge rat and I'm due! I'm still smiling. God, I'm a cheap date.

Thanks Jeff Chen.

GHarris 9:07 AM  

Challenging yet enjoyable. For some dumb reason I put down overripe and never changed the p to a c so had a dnf. This was another instance when working on paper was a disadvantage. A solve on the computer would have alerted me that I had an error.

Mohair Sam 9:11 AM  

Man, I hadn't noticed that there were no other double letters. Nice - Jeff Chen puzzles always define clean. Otherwise, what @Lewis(6:00) said. Liked it a lot.

@Quasi - "Impossible to see under the shower spray" - you're lucky to have one that strong. We moved to an apartment complex a few years back, it's over 50 years old. One of our bathrooms had the original shower head tucked deep on a closet shelf, it must have been there for years. I changed the modern one out for the ugly oldie and nearly got blasted out of the tub by the water pressure. We moved to another unit in the same complex a couple of months back, this one totally refurbished including a lovely new shower head. I did a little plumbing and the lucky people who get our old unit will have that lovely new shower head - I'm never parting with that illegal oldie.

Z 9:12 AM  

The grading discussion yesterday reminded me of Mr. Van Grouw. My first Junior High English grade was a B+ with the comment, “not working up to ability.” @LMS and @Lewis often give thoughtful critiques of Rex’s hard reviews. To me Rex’s reviews are usually the equivalent of that comment on my first Junior High report card. Lots to love here, good work, but is it really the best Chen can do? Is it really a “gold standard” Wednesday puzzle. Would incorporating Rex’s criticisms make this a better puzzle? I think Rex is hard, but I do find myself appreciative of his high high standards, just like I now appreciate the kick in the ass I got from Mr. Van Grouw.

@Zen Monkey - I like your idea.

@Larry Gilstrap - I will let you in on a little secret, VENTI LATTE is pretty meaningless to coffee lovers, too. It’s marketing. I’ll go farther and state with no humility whatsoever that all the foreign words associated with coffee are marketing. CafĂ© au lait? Coffee with milk. LATTE? Really strong coffee with milk. Cappuccino? Really really strong coffee with steamed milk. Espresso? Really strong coffee. Americano? Watered down really strong coffee. I like my coffee strong and bitter and black, but I find the purveyor’s of good coffee propensity to play their customers for snobby fools just a tad annoying.

l'americaine 9:15 AM  

I’ve had a lot of success with a product called “pill masker” that you can coat the pill in. It’s a waxy bacon flavored substance and once the pill is coated I dip it in the gravy of wet food too to make it even more appealing.

ArtO 9:22 AM  

Toughest Wednesday in quite a while. That said, there's something satisfying to work it all out after an initial struggle. Never heard of TRITIP or "Newport steak" for that matter.

Usually just work from NW to bottom but with only LENA immediately coming to mind, had to work around and back up after going to the revealer to understand the theme. Loved the clue on CUECARD.

PB too busy with all the Sunday Times extra short puzzles.

Roo Monster 9:22 AM  

Hey All !
AMAZING DOUBLE LATTE. Well, not really. :-) Did enjoy puz. Did have my one-letter DNF, same place @LMS did. CLAmP/mCRIP. Almost changed POPE to bOPE to get MCRIB. Har.

Also wanted SEEING trOUBLE, since MEtALS was a way evil misdirect. Of course, trOUBLE was a letter too long. Finally, the Olympics leapt into the ole brain, and AHA, (not AAH/AHH) MEDALS.

RULE ONE is odd. Got the one L LAMA. No EELs, ASSes, RRNs. Nice clue for EXPONENT. Also impressed no other double letters. Nothing in here SPELT oddly. Only one PUNS, unless PUNS as it is here you don't think PUNS an actual PUN, then there's really no PUNS. But, yet there's still PUNS.
How's that for a RUN ON. Har.


phil phil 9:36 AM  

When I see people in the Starbucks in Paris i say 'Why'
But now another horror, they will open the first in Italy, (Milan)

GILL I. 9:40 AM  

Nice. Had to work at this Wed. but it was nice. So is Maya ANGELOU. Just noticed she's a LOU and so is Costello. She's brilliant - Costello - not so. Here is one of my favorite quotes by her:
If you're always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be. AMAZING GRACE yes, she is.
Chen is always clever. VENTI LATTE right smack in the middle. That's clever. Got the left side of the puzzle lickety split but came to a standstill when I went over to the right. BILGE RATE is new to e and couldn't remember what organ Prometheus was having to regenerate every night. How does one regenerate the liver? Stop drinking I suppose.
I don't own a cat @TomAZ but if I did, I'd probably smash the pill up and roll it in peanut butter like I do my dogs. I bet CATs would like that as well.

Nancy 9:54 AM  

This would have been "crunchy" on any day of the week, and on a Wednesday, it was PHENOMenal. Much thinking required -- and I enjoyed every minute of it. Study the cluing, all you constructors out there: almost nothing is straightforward and yet, at the same time, nothing is unfair. There are a lot of talking animals in fairy tales; in fact they all seem to talk! But when a FROG does, it's a sure sign he's about to turn into a Prince. What a great clue for PUNS (72A). Ditto CUE CARD (13D) and EXPONENT (39D). Had trouble thinking of BAIL (45A); all I could think of were "ditch" and "abandon".

I don't know any pirates, so I have no idea what their insults are like, but I don't think I'd like being called a BILGE RAT. And I thought I knew all the cuts of beef; as George Costanza would say: you've got your TBone, your sirloin, your porterhouse, your skirt steak, your filet mignon. What in heaven's name is a TRITIP (24A)? (Google's not accepting it, btw). Maybe I'm wrong? Forgot to check. Anyway, very entertaining puzzle.

Anonymous 9:54 AM  

If it’s any comfort Berry regularly provides a noncrossword word puzzle on the second puzzle page in the Sunday NYT Magazine, and of course they’re always good!

Amelia 10:15 AM  

As much as I hated yesterday's puzzle, I absolutely LOVED this one. It was plenty hard and I finished with mistakes, I'm not proud to say, because I really had trouble with the theme. How can you criticize a puzzle with bilge rat, for goodness sake. On a Wednesday!

Congratulations on a job exceedingly well done!

pmdm 10:19 AM  

"WHy those letters/" you ask, Mr. Sharp. Methinks you are overthinking it a bit. TomAz, I'm not sure you haven't overthought also, but you make a point that interests me.

Somehow I convinced myself this was a rebus puzzle, which really made things tough for me. If only I watch more television. I would have know about the Amazing Race show and have gotten the theme easily.

Here's an addendum concerning yesterday's discussion on the plural of asparagus. I took Latin four years in high school and two years in college (and no, I'm not a masochist), and this is what I remember. Latin nouns have five declensions, and asparagus belongs to the second declension. The plural ending in the second declension is "i" so the plural of asparagus is asparagi (which spell check marks as a spelling error). Some may find it interesting that fourth declension nouns also end in "us" (except neuter nouns which end in "u"). Their plural form also ends in "us" making the spelling of the singular the same as the spelling of the plural. I guess just to irritate some.

Nancy 10:30 AM  

@Quasi -- Do men use the same shampoos as women? I alternate between two that both have FLIP TOPS: Pantene Classic Clean 2-in-1 and Pert Classic Clean 2-in-1. The 2-in-1 means it's both a shampoo and a conditioner, saving you one long, boring step. (I alternate, because it's said that hair gets "used to" the same shampoo applied over and over, and doesn't respond with as much shine after a while. I read somewhere that you should alternate, but I have no idea where I read it.

@Lewis -- I avoided writing in "asp", but I did fall for the MEtALS mislead. Like you, I really admire Chen's misdirections.

@GILL -- Funny comment on regenerating the LIVER. @three of clubs -- Funny comment on Xing.

Carola 10:32 AM  

Tough. I really enjoyed grappling with this one - it took a long time for me to get a firm hold on the concept. I think the SEEING DOUBLE idea works perfectly, with the "blur" of the doubled letters showing the point where the two images overlap.

Do-overs: BarGE RAT, and for today's Dolt Award: PaD Xing (an Asian fusion Thai-Chinese noodle dish).

Anonymous 10:47 AM  

The revealer is wrong. It’s when you’re NOT seeing double (as in letters) that the theme clues make sense.

Warren Peace 10:59 AM  

@Nancy, tri-tip is a west coast thing. It's the beef of choice (not choice beef) for all that marinating and grilling we like to do.

RJ 10:59 AM  

Really enjoyable but tough for me- I'd rather have that than a zoomy quick puzzle.

Congrats @Brett for noticing the VENTILATTE thing

Had lots of trouble with TRITIP (what the heck is that?) but really enjoyed the clever clue for CUECARDS. I had a mistake in BAIL so I could not parse LSDTABS and didn't know MOAB. Don't like it because to me its one of those things no one ever says, like, I'm going go see my dealer for some LSDTABS.

I'll remember MOAB from now on because Merrel MOAB hikers are a favorite in my family.

Anonymous 11:04 AM  

You're taking Chen to task? You've got some nerve.

Mr. Chen, if you're around, thanks for a superb puzzle. try not to let rex and his boot-licking toadies get to you.

Anonymous 11:09 AM  

Everyone seems to love the CUECARD clue, I thought they were supposed to facilitate line readings. I had CHECKID in there, completely blocking me on IMDUE, NAS, and CRY.

Anonymous 11:13 AM  

Oh, I get it now, you hold it up so somebody can read it. Clever.

JC66 11:15 AM  

@Anon 11:09

The person helping the actor remember her lines HOLDS UP the CUE CARD.

QuasiMojo 11:21 AM  

@Nancy, I am mortified to inform you that I use a cheap knockoff of Head and Shoulders. Perhaps that is why mine doesn’t have a flip top. @Z forgive me if I told this anecdote before but one time I went to Starbucks in NYC and asked the barista for a “caffè latte” and she said, we don’t carry that. I told her that “latte” just means milk in Italian but she couldn’t or wouldn’t understand.

Lewis 11:28 AM  

To @tomaz -- I second @conrad's recommendation for Pill Pockets. They are the only thing that has worked with out finicky feral feline.

jberg 11:38 AM  

@Nancy, Google needs the hyphen (which is missing from the grid, of course):

"The tri-tip is a triangular cut of beef from the bottom sirloin sub primal cut, consisting of the tensor fasciae latae muscle. Untrimmed, the tri-tip weighs around 5 pounds."

I got the theme slowly -- saw that AMAZING GRACE was going to be tne answer for 22A but didn't understand why, then saw OVER RICE and came the dawn. But I had a really hard time parsing VENTILATTE. I tried doubling the L, then the A, before I finally got it.

Jeff was teasing us with that British SPELT, which would have been a double letter otherwise, and with AMORE, commonly used (in that very phrase) as a PUN for a kind of eel.

I almost went for the mCRIP thing (although I was going to put in McRib, even though it made no sense, until the crosses forced POPE upon me -- I had been thinking that was too obvious.) But since it didn't make sense, I stared at it until I saw that CLASP would work.

The revealer is still a theme answer, so it's OK, butthe double EE there doesn't work in the same way as the other double letters. Still an amazing achievement.

@TomAz, all those suggestions you've had may work sometimes, with the right cat, but not with other cats. The failsafe, if scary, way is to hold the cat's mouth open with one hand -- a little trial and error will show you how to do it in a way that it can't bite you -- and then use your other hand to push the pill so far down its throat that it can't do anything but swallow it. It took me a long time to learn, but once learnt it's foolproff. (And @anon 8:39AM, if that's how you treat your old friends I'm glad I'm not one of them.)

Amelia 11:41 AM  

Reminder: The New Yorker puzzle comes out on Mondays. And it's a beaut.

Masked and Anonymous 12:00 PM  

The Chenmeister … one of M&A's fave constructioneers. He had me way back in 4 May 2011, when he made that grid with all the giant U's in it.

This one was 16-wide, so more Chen for yer money. Makes the WedPuz a dash harder, of course. Overall, I'd rate this puppy about a Medium on feistiness … if I get to exclude one row's worth of nanosecond floggers.

Themers musta been hard to herd into alignment. Just plain hard to dream them up, and then U also need pairs with same lengths, and all that. Revealer seems ok, to m&e. It was good enough to completely give away the theme mcguffin, when I started out the solvequest by peekin at it. [My first reaction was *not* "Wow! He's gonna double every letter in the theme answers!"]

This theme has more the taste of clue misreadin, which I regularly participate in. Example: Thought the clue said "good" when it actually said "god", or somesuch.

Yo! GOODPARENT?! Just sayin'. Would be 10 long, like VENTILATTE. Then U could have 5 themers plus one, make @RP happier that there's more examples, get around havin to wall off the grid middle, go back to 15-wide grid, and probably really make the currently spanky-clean fill start to creak and groan with desperation.

staff weeject pick: PED. Wanted PEED.

Thanx, Mr. Chen. Good IDEA,MAN.

Masked & Anonymo5Us


RAD2626 12:35 PM  

I enjoy every Jeff Chen puzzle and find that he is always consistent with his commentary about others’ puzzles: clean fill, interesting theme and cluing, zippy non-theme fill or “bonuses”, all present here. He must truly agonize over every offering. In his comments today he muses that this puzzle may be too hard. I for one thought it was just right.

WSJ puzzle today also very well done. Good wordplay and minimal proper names. Terrific Wednesday all around.

Carola 12:40 PM  

@Amelia 11:41, thank you for the reminder!

Teedmn 1:16 PM  

@Larry Gilstrap, I had the same thought on DE[E]PENDS - and the same breakfast spoilage. I was pouring my Cheerios this morning and the current marketing tie-in made me think "Ew". The front of the box has a "Save $1.50 on Pampers Cruisers" with a cute baby crawling. The back has a much larger picture of the baby with little purple arrows depicting how the diaper allows little Cruisers a 3-way fit. And there's a Cheerios diaper bag too. Not what I want to consider at breakfast.

A 12 minute Wednesday made me glad to see @Rex's rating of challenging. I liked the theme IDEA but wasn't very excited by the first one because AMAZING RACE meant nothing to me so the doubling of the G to turn it into GRACE went right over my head. Much harder to hide the OVER RICE and VENTI LATTE changes to the phrases.

Jeff Chen's cluing added so much to the solve and I appreciate the struggle (after the fact, of course - I just felt stupid while solving!) MEtALS momentarily gave me some SEEING DOUBLE t[r]OUBLE and A TO Z at 7D was also tough for me.

puzzlehoarder 1:16 PM  

For someone who normally despises themed early week puzzles I was pleasantly supsurprized to enjoy today's offering.

It started off great. Of the six across clues for the top two rows I could only first guess LENA. Once I'd seen ISAY and AMORE the spell was broken but I still relied on the easy fill to keep the top half moving.

I have somehow never heard of a TRITIP or Newport steak. I misread the 23D clue to be reffering to some administrative person. Even when I had all of 22A in place the theme stayed a mystery.

The SE was the trick that turned the tide. It went in at Monday speed and so did the rest of the southern half inspite of a METAL/MEDAL write over.

After that hard start I actually finished in under my normal Wednesday time.

SCRIP next to PHENOM would look good in the best Saturday puzzle and on a Wednesday it's a real bonus.

I didn't fully get the theme until I finished in the SW so there was that extra little aha moment to go with the quality solving experience.

I wish every early week puzzle was this much fun.

@anon.11:04, I know "boot licking toadie" is meant to be derogatory unfortunately a really dedicated boot licker will take it as a badge of honor.

Anonymous 1:30 PM  


You are correct about those toadies. As for tritip, I only learned of it recently. A co-worker was raving about it and I asked her "what's tritip"? She looked at me the way I look at post from Z? Absolutely gob smacked that anyone could be so dim.

Anoa Bob 1:34 PM  

The top half worked great for me with each of the familiar two-word phrases getting the last letter of the first word doubled which then becomes the first letter of the new, but also familiar two-word phrase, AMAZING RACE to AMAZING GRACE and OVER ICE to OVER RICE. Very tight, very elegant.

That pattern, and the elegance, seemed to deteriorate for the next two themers. Each base, before any letters are doubled, is one word, VENTILATE & DEPEND, rather than two words as above. And there doesn't seem to be any rationale other than expedience for which letter it is that gets doubled. It's a letter late in the sequence for VENTILATE and early in the sequence for DEPEND. Plus, DEEP END is one letter short for its slot. POC to the rescue.

So it was a tale of two puzzles for me. And maybe I had a more critical reaction to the second half of this one because I've never been into a Starbucks. I plan on keeping it that way.

Suzy 2:32 PM  

Tough, but crisp and clean. No dross. Had grasp for clasp for the longest time, It all cell together when I changed a ton
to a to z— so often the little things!

GILL I. 3:21 PM  

Wow....So TRI TIP is a California thing only? It's my husband's go to BBQ meat. I guess the closest thing would be a flank steak or maybe a sirloin. I've had the alternatives but NOTHING beats TRI TIP. Make some Romesco sauce at the same time. Drizzle over the meat that you've cut on the bias and you'll ask your butcher to cut you a 2lb piece of meat from heaven from now until the cows come home.

Hungry Mother 3:22 PM  

I always choose the cheapest shampo available in the supermarket, usually VO5, (which has a fliptop). My wife chooses a brand for 5 times as much money; I don’t know how it opens. In 2003 I saw a Starbucks in Madrid in which had long lines. I figured they were people curious about what bad coffee tasted like.

Lindsay 3:25 PM  

@TomAz - Pill Pockets also get a nod from me, but be sure you pinch them closed or Kitty will be able to work the pill out of the 'treat'. We've had luck with crushing pills and stirring them into Gerber baby food, esp. the chicken or turkey, and also by wrapping the pill in a little piece of Kraft American 'cheese' (the wrapped slices). Theme = pick a food Kitty likes and make it the pill vehicle.

Lindsay 3:29 PM  

@TomAz - Has anyone suggested your CAT might like the pill more with a bit of TRITIP OVER RICE?

Darryl 3:53 PM  

This puzzle was better, way way better, than Rex gave it credit for "THEME: SEEING DOUBLE (59A: Experiencing a vision problem) — clues refer to a common phrase, but it's supposed to be entered into the grid with one letter doubled, creating totally different phrases (that don't fit the clue at all). Remove the second of the doubled letters, and you get the actual answers to the clues:"

Not only could you remove the second of the doubled letters to get the phrase, but you can actually remove the first of the doubled letters and get the same phrase!". Is that genius or what? How could Jeff C have accomplished that!?

Anonymous 3:58 PM  


I think triptip is big in cali., but not exclusive to it. Wegmens supermarket--headquartered in NY state--sells it here in NJ. But Shoprite does not. Mak of that what you will. ( I still haven't tried it, despite being told of its many virtues)

Z 5:36 PM  

@Quasimojo - Tee Hee.

Recognizing that this will make a whooshing sound for some, I just got back from coaching my HS ultimate team. I spent a lot of time complimenting my frosh while being really hard on my seniors even though the seniors’ execution was years better than my frosh. Allowing the seniors to be satisfied with being better than the ninth graders will not help them win at our upcoming tournament.

Going back to Rex’s, “Why those letters?” It seems that many of you took this as some sort of nit or “over-thinking” the puzzle. That’s not how I read it. My take was that Rex was implying that the constructor missed an opportunity to take this theme to another level. Have the letters have a purpose and the solver gets an extra “aha” moment. As a lame example, have the doubled letters be T-W-I-N and now the puzzle has another layer. Perhaps the cost of different themers would be other double letters, losing a piece of elegance appreciated by @Lewis and others. To me, though, having the doubled letters have an extra layer of meaning would have been more widely appreciated than the absence of other doubled letters.

pmanteau 11:37 PM  

I didn’t find it too hard. That being said I ended up convinced that a real alternative to legal tender is a McRib

TomAz 1:00 AM  

(late to reply, sorry)

@jberg -- I am very much in the error part of "trial and error" but your approach rings the truest to me. I just need to get better at it.

@ various others: in my experience pill pockets can work well for dogs but not so much for cats, who have much smaller throats and hence need to chew a bit.

@ Anonymous: my vet has told me it is too soon to give up the fight, and I have chosen to believe her.

@a All: thank you for your suggestions. It may have seemed odd to ask the question on here, but this is one of the few thoughtful corners of the internet that I have found.

Burma Shave 10:20 AM  


and a PHENOM is THEFLASH in THE pan,
To ADVANCE you must get THE IDEA,MAN.


spacecraft 10:51 AM  

ISAY, RULEONE: J.C.'s Wednesday is like my Friday. Couldn't get anything in the north. Noticed a series of clues referring to 59-across, so I jumped to the SW, where LOU and LASERS got me going. But even after SEEINGDOUBLE I still wasn't sure what the trick was. Then came VENTILATTE, and I thought: pure Chen, what an IDEAMAN!

Okay, I just wanna know the rules here. The clue contains the answer: "Left slack-jAWED." Not a violation?? Or just more Chen PUNS?

Enjoyed the solve, and as usual with this guy there was little fill slop. The AGEless LENA Horne takes DOD honors. Birdie.

BS2 12:09 PM  


Out on BAIL for a RUNON trouble,
she FORGED a ‘SCRIP’ in old MOAB.


BS3 12:15 PM  

OMG, I didn't even use NOTIT.

thefogman 12:44 PM  

I was thrown early on after getting AMAZINGGRACE and OVERRICE. It looked like the double letter gimmick was the last letter of the first word and the first letter of the second word. But the pattern did not hold. Good puzzle anyways, in spite of 47D being a bit sexist.

thefogman 1:06 PM  

PS - 47D could have been clued: Creative guy (or fellow).


69A could have been clued: Bunker buster...

A GBU-43 Massive Ordnance Air Blast (MOAB) bomb is one of the most powerful conventional weapons in existence. The bomb weighs more than 10,000 kilograms and contains 8,164 kilograms of explosive. Its explosion is equivalent to 11 tons of TNT and the blast radius is a mile wide.

rain forest 1:58 PM  

Tough, but fair. Like a good teacher.

Lots to like in this puzzle: clever theme and revealer, no dreck, and nice cluing throughout. There were several aha moments for me as I slowly realized exactly what the trick was. Sometimes I'm very obtuse.

I've had a VENTI LATTE, but it is a little too big for me, and anyway here in Vancouver I prefer JJ Bean and Cafe Artigiano to Starbucks. So far, no need for DE(E)PENDS, fingers crossed.

Learned what a TRI-TIP is, but I've never seen one in the wild - well, not so's I'd notice.

Very enjoyable Wednesday.

rainforest 2:01 PM  

@thefogman, isn't the MOAB (mother of all bombs) the one the US military dropped on that bunker in Afghanistan?

leftcoastTAM 2:45 PM  

Yes, on the challenging side, and trickier than it looks as the double letters turn up in the theme answers.

What follows is obvious now, but I want to make it all clear, at least to my own satisfaction:

Clearly, we see the two letters in the theme answers and removing one of them gives us answers consistent with their respective clues. But leave both letters in and we see a two-word phrase or term having nothing to do with the clues. Fair enough, and credit should be given for that, too.

VENTI LATTE is the best of them. OVER RICE is the least compelling, but okay.

There are some good clues and answers in the fill as well, particularly the long downs, like BILGERAT and EXPONENT.

The more I see of this puzzle, without SEEING DOUBLE, the more I like it.

thefogman 3:15 PM  

@rainforest. That is correct. The Mother Of All Bombs. The biggest non-nuclear explosive device. Not to be confused with Michael Richards' (aka Kramer) racist stand up routine/meltdown.


But now there's an even bigger one called the GBU-57 Bunker Buster which experts speculate could be used against underground targets - like North Korea's nuclear sites...



I am feeling safe and secure now... Not!

rondo 4:18 PM  

A nicely constructed puz with the themers being the only places to be SEEINGDOUBLE. Mr Chen is obviously an IDEAMAN.

I have used and owned nothing other than WEBER grills in my BBQ-ing career. Simply the best, and you will never catch me using a gas “grill”; that’s just an outdoor stove, IMHumbleO. Yeah they save time, but good eats are not about time, but quality. Salmon filets in cedar paper or planked, oh boy. I’ve even made from scratch pizza on a WEBER. Yum. There’s also a WEBER restaurant in Chicago with a giant grill as a marquee; I’ll be there in a few weeks.

MOAB is a great place to visit. Whitewater rafting, Delicate Arch, the local brewery; a slice of heaven.

In my teens I had a girlfriend named GRACE, and yes, she could be AMAZING.

Another LENA sighting with no Ole nor Sven. Whether LENA Horne or Olin, yeah baby.

Nice puz and again today, that is AWL.

Diana,LIW 10:07 PM  

IMDUE nearly did me in. Notice I said nearly. A change of venue seemed to rock some closed part of my brain. But life is a BEACH, not a b*tch, and my day was complete.

Went to a workshop all day and finished all of my CEUs for 2 years. Hooooooooooooray. No SIGH for me.

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords

jene avalon 10:20 PM  

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