Filler for une pipe / THU 5-31-18 / Broad-leaved endive / Rum-drinking buddy / First sub-saharan country to obtain independence from colonial rule / One millionth of meter along spiritual path / null number of natural numbers

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Constructor: Dominick Talvacchio

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium (5:25) (morning solve)

THEME: IT'S ALL GREEK TO ME (39A: What you might say upon seeing 17-, 23-, 51- and 62-Across) — Wacky clues ask for wacky phrases that also happen to be (when parsed differently) a series of Greek letters:

Theme answers:
  • BET A PIÉTA (17A: Wager one's sculpture of the Virgin Mary cradling the body of Jesus?) [beta, pi, eta]
  • CHIP-SIZE TAXI (23A: Hired vehicle that's only as big as a potato crisp?) [chi, psi, zeta, xi]
  • THE TAO MICRON (51A: One-millionth of a meter along a spiritual path?) [theta, omicron]
  • LAMB DATA U. (62A: Inst. of higher learning dedicated to the statistical analysis of young sheep?) [lambda, tau]
Word of the Day: Ally SHEEDY (47D: Ally of the Brat Pack) —
Alexandra Elizabeth Sheedy (born June 13, 1962) is an American actress and author. Following her film debut in 1983's Bad Boys, she became known as one of the Brat Pack group of actors in the films The Breakfast Club (1985) and St. Elmo's Fire (1985). She also acted in WarGames (1983) and Short Circuit (1986). For her performance in Lisa Cholodenko's High Art(1998), Sheedy won the Independent Spirit Award for Best Female Lead. According to IMDB, High Art was nominated for a number of awards, and won the GLAAD Media Awards 1999 Outstanding Film (Limited Release). (wikipedia)
• • •

Wow, very mixed feelings about this one. They were not mixed at the outset, when I entered the first few answers and thought, "o, lord, it's gonna be one of *these* days..." TABAC ALEPH APTS ASPS ... I wanted to issue a slew of fill violations right off the bat. Excessive Crud, with a penalty for Excessive Crud In The NW (i.e. Right Off The Bat Crud). If you can't get out of the NW corner without making a face, it's usually gonna be a long day. Or a long 5-ish minutes, as was the case today. I mean, TABAC? That is some "Break Only In Case of Emergency"-type fill, but the only emergency was "you didn't figure out a way to handle the crosses of your themers and so you ended up with very unfavorable letter patterns like --B-C (see also Z--G- at 26D). I got BET A PIÉTA pretty easily (because the clue was pretty literal) but had no idea why it was interesting, and so kept moving. Mostly I was wincing my way through this. I went from TABAC (!) to ICAL (!??!) pretty early on, so every answer felt like stepping in a minefield after that. What fresh hell was coming next. But mostly what was coming was bland old stuff. ESTEE ARNO SECY etc. So all I could think as "this better be in the service of ... something." I.e. the theme better be good. Because the non-theme stuff was not. Not good.

And then I hit the revealer and didn't really process it. Something about Greek letters, great, I'll figure it out when I'm done. But then I hit THE TAO MICRON and had the OMICRON bit and couldn't figure out the rest. I could see OMICRON was a Greek letter, but ... huh, nothing. It was then I looked back and saw that all the wacky themers were built entirely out of greek letter strings. This knowledge actually helped me get the remaining themers quicker (hurray). It also was a very nice and genuine aha moment. And credit to the puzzle for going nuts with the themers. If you're going to go loopy, go very loopy, I always say. And LAMB DATA U. is truly, extraordinarly loopy. That's like some sub-sub-sub-set of's research department. "You're doing great with the sheep data, kid, but we need you to get more specialized. We're sending you to ... the EWE" ('cause that is definitely what they would call it). Anyway, I like that the puzzle is all in for wackiness. And so I'm left admiring the theme, but sad that the overall experience of solving the puzzle was mostly dreary. This "the theme is Everything, fill schmill" approach is NYT standard, and awfully depressing. Treat the *whole* grid like it matters. Beause it does.

  • 5D: Cher, e.g. (AMI) — I know "cher" as an adj. and AMI as a noun so this was a little odd. But I guess "cher" can be a substantive adj., as in "mon cher(i)." But it still felt awkward; see also DDS clued as a "One" (?) instead of a degree (65D: One whose office has an opening to fill?: Abbr.), and NOEL clued as a "time" (?) (12D: Time of good cheer). It's a song. I'm sure it's technically a *time* by someone's definition, but not by anyone's current usage. Why make your forgettable fill more intolerable by giving them awk clues. I don't get it.
  • 28A: "So long" ("BYE NOW") — Wrote in BYE BYE, and then YIPE! at 30D: "Goodness sakes!" ("OH MY!"). But bad fill (which was also, for me, local fill) helped get me out of the jam: 45A: Locale of Rome and Syracuse: Abbr. (NYS). New York State. Total gimme. There should be a word for this feeling when fill you really don't like really helps you out. "Ugh, you again ... well, thanks, I guess."
  • 1A: Kitchen drawer? (TAP) — one of many ordinary answers where the clues forced me to get everything or nearly everything from crosses. Saw right through this one, I thought, because I have seen this clue before. For AROMA. So my brain just butted its head against AROMA and its synonyms until I freed it by moving on to crosses. Interesting move: using a common "tricky" crossword to play a new and different "trick."
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Hungry Mother 7:50 AM  

Sailed through it with half of my average time.

Birchbark 7:58 AM  

I spent a long time looking at FIRE EXIT and wondering how it was Greek. Then remembered the symmetrical ESCAROLE and moved on. I liked the NOUNS clue.

BYE NOW, and may THETA OMICRON smile upon you.

Loren Muse Smith 7:59 AM  

Mr. Talvacchio - πολύ καλά! Loved this idea. CHIP SIZE TAXI alone is worth the price of admission. Second fave is LAMB DATA U. I mean, I could look at those two phrases for the rest of my life and never ever notice that they’re strings of Greek letters. That, sports fans, is some seriously startling reparsing. And the reveal is absolutely perfect.

But BUT – I might’ve gone with a non-? clue for FIRE EXIT since it’s longish and it has XI in it. Unfortunately, I had that XI in place early, so I was vaguely thinking themer there.

My “dots for spots” deal was a “die” before a MAP. Even though I never say die. If we’re just playing with one, I still have to call it a dice ‘cause die feels conspicuous and snobby. Like toad and tortoise. Just can’t bring myself to say’em.

HAIRIEST/ESCAROLE. Hmm. Mental note to clean out fridge.

TAZO/OZAWA – better run for cover, Dominick. Gonna be some griping on that cross.

This is a stellar Thursday.

mmorgan 8:02 AM  

Fun, challenging, rewarding solve for me. Some great and very crunchy clues. I had only seen one Greek letter in each themer -- BETA, ZETA, etc... and I had 62A correctly but without parsing it as LAMB DATA U. (Ha!). So coming here and seeing that they were all made entirely of Greek letters made it even more impressive for me (despite Rex's misgivings).

RJ 8:02 AM  

Good Thursday with some lovely cluing.

Good ol' Joe 8:02 AM  

Fun theme, questionable fill, really questionable clues.

Richard Perlman 8:04 AM  

In french slang a pipe, pronounced peep, is a blow-job. No tobacco required.

GHarris 8:04 AM  

Took great pleasure in solving this puzzle with the only write over being bye now for bye bye. I would rate this one challenging,, requiring lots of imagination to come up with answers to wacky clues. Getting the revealer certainly helped.

Regina Olshan 8:04 AM  

What does NAS in Nancy mean or reference

Philogelos 8:09 AM  

There were some clever clues but when I'm done with my Thursday puzzle I want a feeling much better than "Thank God that's over."

zac 8:13 AM  

It is N as in Nancy.

kitshef 8:13 AM  

Absolutely brilliant in its conception and execution.

EASY??? Got the theme early, but still found it a notch or two above “challenging”. The W and SW in particular were hard-Saturday level.

The word GALAXY comes from the Greek for ‘milk’, from the Greek term for the Milky Way.

Lewis 8:14 AM  

This was not only a creative and fun theme, but it was clued with great care. There is much originality in these clues. Among my favorites were those for MAP (where I wanted "die" -- Hi, Loren!), GALAXY, NOUNS, and ECARD. This would have been a great puzzle with this theme and solid-but-same-old cluing. But the extra-clever inspired cluing here, IMO, elevated the puzzle to arresting, glorious, and memorable. Outstanding!

The Bard 8:14 AM  

Julius Caesar, Act I, scene II

CASSIUS: Did Cicero say any thing?

CASCA: Ay, he spoke Greek.

CASSIUS: To what effect?

CASCA: Nay, an I tell you that, Ill ne'er look you i' the
face again: but those that understood him smiled at
one another and shook their heads; but, for mine own
part, it was Greek to me. I could tell you more
news too: Marullus and Flavius, for pulling scarfs
off Caesar's images, are put to silence. Fare you
well. There was more foolery yet, if I could
remember it.

kitshef 8:16 AM  

@Regina Olshan - if you were giving a name like "Anton" over the phone, you might say "that's A as in alpha, N AS in Nancy, T as in tool ..."

@Loren Muse Smith - 'toad' sounds conspicuous and snobby????????

CFG 8:18 AM  

This was fun!

@reginaolshan “N as in Nancy.”

chefbea 8:25 AM  

I use to know the greek alphabet...could recite it...but I found this hard. Had to google a lot. As I said yesterday...I play words with friends by Zynga!!!

QuasiMojo 8:37 AM  

Bizarre crossword but if your theme is "It's All Greek to Me" then any amount of befuddlement is built in.

Seriously Rex, Noel is dated usage? I still get dozens of Christmas cards that say "Joyeux Noel." (Well, maybe half of those are E-CARDs...) I doubt they are referring to a song.

Someone above mentioned that "Galax" comes from the Greek for milk. There's a charming hill town in Virginia called Galax. A great place to stop for a burger and milk shake!

This puzzle today made me look up that wonderful old Merrie Melodie 'toon where the owl SINGS... "I LOVE TO ZYNGA..."

Hartley70 8:43 AM  

I loved this clever theme, and the fill was just fine with me. It was a delight to realize the themers were a string of Greek letters. Applause is due for the mind that conceives of this Thursday-worthy puzzle!
I can't call it easy because I got stuck in the little Mid-West section with EZPASS on the bottom, even though I had ITSALL. I wanted to ring a bell.

Harryp 8:47 AM  

As usual, I waded through this puzzle with no idea of the Theme, finally getting ZYNGA for the happy tune. I dimly saw that parts of the answers were Greek Letters, but only after finishing realized the Theme answers were letter strings of two, three, and four(!) letters of the Greek alphabet strung together. That is a beautiful conception, and I have only admiration for anyone who can come up with something like this.

Mohair Sam 9:03 AM  

Terrific puzzle, loved it. Sure you can bitch about TABAC/ALEPH and a little -ese, but what a theme! - and lots of fun clues (34D, 57A in particular).

I remembered OZAWA as OsAWA, but we were saved by our caffeine-free diet (shut up, Tom Brady eschews caffeine too) and knew TAZO herbal teas. Had what I thought was a gimme at 57A with "lawyer up" (What might help you beat the heat?), lost some time there. When I was a kid I used to drink KARO syrup straight (now I use a TAZO chaser).

Dominick - Awesome debut, more please. (and, btw, you were wise to listen to Will on OMEGAALPHA)

Z 9:04 AM  

NAS in Nancy is the rapper’s famous French travelogue. I can’t believe none of you have seen it. It’s huge on Netflix.

Ooh, not just letter play, but GREEK letter play. I’m swooning here. I follow some classicists on Twitter who fill their tweets with pornographic and scatological passages from ancient Greece. They’re quite fun. This, not so much. The themers went 2 for 4 for me. LAMB DATA U and THE TAU MICRON are hits. But BET A PIETA and CHIP SIZE TAXI just do nothing for me. Then reparsing them to get the English spelling of GREEK letters? Not my cuppa. Like yesterday, at least it’s ambitious.

I agree with @LMS - That TAZO/OZAWA cross is natickville waiting to trip people up. KARO/KERI is another brand name/person crossing, but that R seems more inferable in KE-I than the Z in O-AWA. Also, the picture on C1 of today’s NYT is of KERI Russell and Matthew Rhys, so no whining allowed from paper solvers.

I was surprised to learn that AARON still has more total bases than Bonds. Hand up for BYE bye before BUE NOW as well.

Blue Stater 9:05 AM  

Well, I know what *I* said (39A) after muddling around with this mess for a while. Another WS special: obscure, uninteresting, tricky for its own sake, eccchhh. As I've said many times before, we deserve better.

Moly Shu 9:16 AM  

@kitshef said “... T as in tool” har.
Agree with @Lewis on the elevation.
This played mostly difficult for me with the clues being the main culprit. Got the Greek angle about halfway through and only then was able to get solving traction. The clue for NOON in particular had me stumped for a good 5 min.
Anybody remember @Fountains of Golden Fluid, or humor??

John Child 9:21 AM  

Truly impressive, but not much fun. I bailed with a large part of the south unfilled. Unlike @Lewis I didn’t like the clueing much. De gustibus...

mathgent 9:30 AM  

I had fun stringing the Greek letters to make the loopy statements. Rex and Jeff Chen make valid points about the fill but that didn't spoil it for me.

Bob Mills 9:36 AM  

Wonderful puzzle. My compliments to the constructor.

Anonymous 9:53 AM  

Breezed through the north an just cave in the south. Oddly, this puzzle did leave me feeling a little depressed. It might be because you need to know the Greek alphabet to get the joke. So it was all Greek to me.

Nancy 9:56 AM  

Read it again, Nancy. It says IT'S ALL GREEK TO ME. Not IT'S PARTIALLY GREEK TO ME. Or SOME OF IT'S GREEK AND SOME OF IT ISN'T. Only after I'd filled in every theme answer did I see that each [highly peculiar] answer was made up of ALL Greek letters. Until then, I had only seen one or at the most two Greek letters in each answer. I didn't say "Aha!" Instead I said "Wow!!!"

One of the cleverest puzzles I've ever done. Hugely difficult in places, but with an enormous payoff. I did think there were many too many product names and those were the places that gave me fits, but the puzzle is so good that I'll forgive it anything. Even product names.

Unknown 9:56 AM  

Loved the Greek but as a slow solver, the W and SW gave me trouble mostly for holding onto wrong fills for far too long. Worse than average Thursday time.

pabloinnh 10:05 AM  

Rough ride here. Didn't see all the Greek letters until I got the revealer, which elicited a major doh! with a suitable self-inflicted dope slap. Knew Ozawa, thanks to Boston being nearby, but had never heard of Tazo. Likewise unfamiliar with Zynga, and my Greek letter was beta for far too long, leading to the mysterious CHIPSIBETAXI, which made no sense, and running the alphabet, even in Greek, is not a speedy way to get to z. But got 'er done, and felt good enough about that to compensate or some earlier incompetence.

Anonymous 10:16 AM  

That SE corner is atrocious. I didn't understand "NAS" in Nancy until reading it here. Sign your puzzle skews old? You opt for gibberish over one of the greatest rappers.

Sir Hillary 10:19 AM  

Yeah, some dodgy/tired fill, but more than outweighed by the original concept, the wacky themers and some outstanding clues.

Eleven Greek letters with no repeats!

My favorite clues were for APTS, EZPASS, LINE and ESTEE.

Good cryptic clue: Japanese watch Dust Bowlers go back.

Very nice work, Mr. Talvacchio.

Roo Monster 10:25 AM  

Hey All !
OH MY. Creative puz. Got the revealer first basically by pattern recognition. Had parts of a couple of themers, and figured it would be one GREEK letter concealed inside themer. Once I got BETAPIETA, I said, "Hey, there are three letters stuck together", which then helped to get the rather funny/ouchy LAMBDATAU. Also originally had biteSIZETAXI before seeing theme. Har.

Theme seems the HAIRIEST of ideas, but plays out well. PATTI Lupone DNF'ed me. And couldn't come up with TAZO, even though I think I've drank it before. Had TAgO/OgAWA. Isn't OGAWA something?

Adjectives and adverbs are NOUNS? Cool. Thought they were adjectives and adverbs. Silly me. My English rules have faded since High School (as I'm sure you grammarians know from reading my posts!)

NORM can be clued, Cheers cry? or some such. Remember that RCA TV show?

All WOES ASIDE, it played not too EZ PASS, I CAL it AMUSEing.


Leah 10:26 AM  

What does "kitchen drawer?" - TAP mean?

Frog Prince Kisser 10:29 AM  

Yeah, especially since I was positive that MUNCH was the Boston Symphony guy!

Excellent puzzle! Thanks!

G. Weissman 10:31 AM  

I guess TABAC means that any word in the French and Spanish languages, and perhaps others, is fair game for the NYT puzzle. Tennis without a net, anyone?

Cheerio 10:33 AM  

Agree with QuasiMojo on NOEL. I see no other way to understand the Christmas song, "The First Noel" except with Noel as a noun meaning Christmas. I was barely familiar with the use of the word as meaning "Christmas carol" until I started doing crosswords. I figured they were using that off-meaning to make things a little tricky. In this country at least, isn't it Christmas carols that we sing at Christmas, not noels? Do we go a-noelling? If you google the definition of noel, the first thing that comes up (for me) is a definition with only one meaning, Christmas. The song meaning is not listed.

Michael5000 10:34 AM  

This might be my favorite of the month. The Tao Micron!

Stanley Hudson 10:48 AM  

Impressive construction. Here’s hoping for more puzzles in the future from Mr. Talvacchio.

Nancy 10:58 AM  

I go to the other xword blogs only when there's a gem of a puzzle to be discussed, like today's. If the puzzle's a dud, I don't much care what any of the experts have to say about it. If it's sparkling, then the reactions at Wordplay and Xword may interest me. If I have time and I think about it -- I don't always think about it -- I venture over there.

Wanna see a winning lead? Here's Deb Amlen's at Wordplay:

"The first thing I will say is don't give up. You want to finish this one, trust me."

Is that a great lead or is that a great lead? Nice one, Deb. And for a puzzle that is truly worth of it.

TartanCalf 11:05 AM  

Loved this puzzle! I'm with you Michael5000. But I still can't figure out 33 down. The whole shebang: ATOZ.
What's wrong with me?

GILL I. 11:21 AM  

WOW. I'm using the WOW factor for this entire week but this one blew me away. I really didn't see this gem until I finished and took my time with each GREEK letter. CHI PSI ZETA XI. How did he come up with this?
TABAC was my first entry. I inhaled mucho of the stuff in my wild, carefree youthful days. When I wanted to get all Frenchie, I would dangle a Gauloise from my mouth. When I wanted to hack long and loud, I'd take out my cheap Spanish Ducados.
Same BYE bye as some of you. 29D NOON took care of my error.
I'm going to be the insidious know it all pain in the ass today and say HOW CAN YOU NOT KNOW WHO OZAWA is.? I would have loved to see 50D as OCTA mom. Or was she an OCTO? She still around?
My favorite clue was 34D: Fig. on a window (and with luck, not through the roof)....Hah. didn't like today's cluing? I even like DRS for Quinn and Quincy.
PIETA. It looks so huge and monument like in photos. It's small, though. You want to touch it and kiss it.
This puzzle has put me in a good humor.

Masked and Anonymous 11:29 AM  

Primo theme idea, but … no, no, NO! Themers are missin both MU and NU. Thank goodness for TAU.

{Naked mil. officer makig mom laugh??} = ?*
See that? ... it can be done. Just a little desperation can work wonders.

staff weeject pick: TUE. Nice weeject stacks in the N & S Central, btw. Good for new constructioneers to get used to developin those lil darlins, as they perfect their craft.

Lotsa cool X- and Z- meat in here. faves: EZPASS. FIREEXIT. GALAXY. Not so much, on TAZO/OZAWA, tho.

Lost buckets-O-nanoseconds just gettin started. All the Downs in the NW were a mystery, and two of the Acrossers had snarlin ?-clues. Finally bailed on the NW, with only ALA to show for all that floppin around time.
First theme-related thing M&A got: ITSALLGREEKTOM&E. Which I certainly agreed with, since most of that NW corner was evidently all Greek, a la my solvequest.
Finally sussed out CHIPSIZETAXI, no thanx to ZYNGA. Then things got quite a bit easier.

Thanx and congrats on yer debut, Mr. Talvacchio.

Masked & Anonymo3Us


** = Nude Lt. amusig ma. Has both yer NU and yer MU. Zynga!

Anonymous 11:40 AM  

Clever theme. Fill was strange mix of unknowns(to me) and easy junk. Overall a C+.

@LEAH, You draw water from a tap.

@LMS, Is there a less pretentious word for toad? or any other word for toad?

mathgent 11:45 AM  

@Sir Hillary (10:19): Neat cryptic clue.

jberg 11:46 AM  

@Leah - you draw water from the TAP.

I don't know how but somehow I got the theme right away. A moment of thinking it was about rhymes with BET A PIETA, but I already had ---TAXI there, and started noticing the Greek letters. They were still tough, but I got the revealer from the LL, so that was fun.

N AS stumped me, too. And I had to get PATTI Lupone from crosses, especially the I, because I couldn't get Ida Lupino out of my head.

@Rex's comments on NOEL are a good example of how professional expertise can betray you. a noel was a song in late medieval France, but today it's the season.

Dan in Balto 11:47 AM  

Lighten up on the fill whining, Rex. This was a fine, clever puzzle with a fun theme and some artful clues. Appreciated it quite a bit.

Dan in Balto 11:50 AM  

Leah, It's referring to a water tap at the kitchen sink, from which you "draw" water.

old timer 12:12 PM  

TABAC is a word totally familiar to anyone who has visited Paris. It is obviously the place to go for cigarettes, but also, usually, for newspapers and magazines.

Noel is the usual word for Christmas in France, as well as part of the title for a carol we sing in Englshs

I loved this puzzle but only at the end did I see that the themers were Greek letters and nothing but.

Nancy 12:15 PM  

Thanks, @mathgent. I'd missed @Sir Hillary's 10:19 wonderful cryptic clue. Agree that it's terrific. FWIW, @mathgent and I both love cryptics. Evidently, so does @Sir Hillary. Creating them is hard, though. Much more fun than creating normal clues, but really, really hard! You've got to play fair (you'd be amazed at how many cryptic creators don't) and you have to be terse (almost impossible for moi.) Really nice, @Sir Hillary!

A small aside. There's an obit today for tennis player and spy Fred Kovaleski who just died at age 93. I was privileged to know him in his later years. A charming, courtly and enormously interesting man who led the kind of story book life most people can only dream about. (The kind of life they make movies about. And maybe they will.) It's a beautiful tribute. I have the wrong cut-and-paste item on my computer right now to embed the link, but Google "Fred Kovaleski obituary" and it will come right up. If you're interested, that is.

Amelia 12:23 PM  

WOW. What a great puzzle. I hope the constructor bypasses Rex and goes straight to the comments, which are 90% glowing. I thought the fill was fine. The revealer and theme were excellent, and even though I finished pretty quickly, I was delighted with the effort.

What the hell does it take for him to like a puzzle completely?

As Dan in Balto says, "lighten up on the fill whining, Rex."

Small Town Blogger 12:28 PM  

You draw water from a tap (presumably in the kitchen)

jae 12:28 PM  

Tough for me. Recalling and juxtaposing Greeks letters took some effort. Add in some fill I was iffy about...ZYNGA, ALEPH, TAZO...and I had a fine Thurs. workout. It also could be I’m on a new med?

Me too for BYE bye.

Clever and crunchy, liked it a bunch. A fine Thur.!

JC66 12:37 PM  

For @Namcy

Trombone Tom 12:39 PM  

Clever and rewarding. The theme was novel and well-executed.

I thought I was done with the theme and went back and discovered several Greek letters I had missed.

I raised an eyebrow at BETA PIETA and went to a full on WOW! when I entered CHIP-SIZE TAXI.

Thank you Messrs. Talvacchio and Shortz for a thoroughly enjoyable Thursday. No rebus required.

Sir Hillary 12:44 PM  

[cryptic nerd alert]

@mathgent and @Nancy -- Thanks for the kind words. You correctly pegged me as a cryptic lover. I don't do very many these days (mostly just when they run in the NYT Magazine or the WSJ) but I enjoy them as much as ever. I can't speak any other languages, but doing a cryptic makes me feel as though I do -- you have to read and think so differently. I don't notice unfairness per se, but really good constructors avoid using the same wordplay too frequently -- an overreliance on anagrams (even good ones) is the surest sign of a less-experienced (or less patient) maker.

Today I found it amusing that SEIKO was right next to EDAM, which is clued based on its reversal. And yes, I do realize that a reversal is just a specific form of anagram! :)

[/cryptic nerd alert]

Phil Calbi 12:54 PM  

I put down LAMBDA EWE for 62 across and I still like my answer better.

Johnny Bohnen 12:55 PM  

My favorite daily puzzle of all time. It was perfect.

Anonymous 1:01 PM  

The troubling thing about the theme is that it doesn't hold together in that the wacky phrases have many changes in vowel sounds, and some consonant changes relative to the Greek letter sounds. Still very good but not quite. I think this problem is why many (me too) didn't grok the theme until reading the blog.

GI Joe 1:07 PM  

N as in November

Lewis 1:37 PM  

@sirhillary -- I join the fans of your cryptic clue at 10:19!

Anonymous 1:47 PM  

Feels like I'm the only one who got stuck on 20-across with amts instead of apts. Couldn't see anything else and didn't know Aleph in the numerical sense.

Loved the theme - I can still recite the Greek Alphabet from my sorority days...

sanfranman59 1:54 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 4:43 4:30 1.05 60.8% Medium-Challenging
Tue 5:54 5:26 1.09 67.7% Medium-Challenging
Wed 5:50 6:39 0.88 29.1% Easy-Medium
Thu 11:28 9:51 1.16 75.2% Medium-Challenging

Cool puzzle. Them are some wacky theme clues! I was flummoxed in the NW and didn't get much of a foothold until I moved east. Then I just kinda got in sync with the constructor's cluing style. Although I'd already filled in ITS ALL GREEK TO ME, I didn't pick up on the theme until almost 6 minutes in when I reached the SE. Then I noticed that I had OMICRON and TAU down there and looked northward and saw ETA and XI. Aha! I thought the cluing was a little overly cutesy and obtuse at times and TABAC right next to ALEPH-null(???) is kinda nuts but I enjoyed this challenge.

Dick Swart 2:25 PM  

είναι για μένα όλα τα αγγλικά

Canon Chasuble 2:34 PM  

I thought this a brilliant puzzle for the theme, and, indeed, got the clues and the revealer very quickly, but some of the rest was a slow go.

Omega = O Mega = Big O = a long O

Omicron = O Micron = Little O = a short O

Graham Blake 2:57 PM  

My Greek letter recall is rusty at the best of times and my brain had to work to convert to English phrases. I kept stubbing my toes and failed to ever get on the wavelength of the cluing. It was a slog. ....PIETA and ESCAROLE were both unknowns to me, and had to really work for them through crosses. The "clever" cluing of MAP and AMI left me staring blankly for a time. GHANA didn't come immediately, which delayed HAIRIEST, random-Euro-river, and NOEL. I thought this might even end a crash and burn with the way the NE went for me. I was satisfied when I finished - that I had finished - which is a more typical tough Saturday feeling.

Joe Bleaux 3:13 PM  

(In case you didn't see my note to you yesterday: Don't bother ... today's stellar clues can bump my suggested nominees for your list.)

Joe Bleaux 3:23 PM  

(Paper solver here, and certainly no whining when a glance at "Critic's Notebook" yields the clue that nails the word [GREEK], that helps suss out the theme early in the game)

LHS 888 3:27 PM  

I L-O-V-E loved this puzzle. TABAC was my first entry (not a usual occurrence to have a first instinct in the NW that prove to be correct). I got BETAPIETA right off the bat, and the revealer not much later. Went back and checked the parsing and saw BETA PI ETA. As @Nancy said earlier, Wow! rather than Aha! That allowed me to attack the rest of the themers with more focus. Still, _____OMICRON fell hard. Had to run thru the Greek alphabet several times before Aha!

In the end it was a disappointing DNF for me. I completely bombed in the mid-west coast. “Check all” showed me the error of eTal. Once that was ripped back out I was finally able to see my way to the finish line.

eTal > ATOZ
jet > LAM
baby > NORM

Thanks for an amazingly clever puzzle. Kudos!

RVA flier 3:43 PM  

“N as in Nancy.”

RVA flier 3:45 PM  

“...the rapper’s famous French travelogue.” 😂😂😂😂

Tim Aurthur 3:51 PM  

A BETA PIETA could be an early version of Michelangelo's sculpture, the one he showed around to see how people like it, before starting on the definitive version.

Aketi 4:00 PM  

Well that was worth battling through my inevitable motion sickness that I experience on the Cornell to Cornell bus ride up to Ithaca. It’s even worse on the less expensive local buses.

I wasn’t at ALL GREEK at any of the Us I went to, but the GREEK letters were fun to parse out. I missed some of them until I got to ALL GREEK and went back to take a second look at PI and ETA and CHI and PSI.

RVA flier 4:01 PM  

Loved this puzzle. Thank you Mr. Calvacchio.

Jay 4:02 PM  

Sensational concept. Just about one of the few remaining superlatives not used by other bloggers. I had no idea what the theme was and barely filled 30% of the grid. But what a nice surprise.

puzzlehoarder 4:38 PM  

I did this on my phone last night but I've been too busy to comment until now. This is the middle day of three days straight in the firehouse.

Since I was phone solving I had to be very careful to iron out all the mistakes before finishing in the SE. That way I got the congratulations as the last letter went in.

The biggest problem in the SE was my OCHO/OCTO write over. Oddly OCHO is what gave me HIZO which gave me OZAWA which gave me OWN. At this point NOUN became obvious and I remembered OCTO and TAZO. It's ironic that the solve grew out of the one wrong letter.

The ugly DATA U that came out of that SE corner was what got me to review the themes and realize that they were entirely made up of Greek letters. Until then, like a lot of people, I assumed they only started with Greek.

Another ironic thing is that the only people who "draw" water from a TAP are those without indoor plumbing. TAP was therefore hard to accept but TABAC, ALEPH and PATTI were all easy. Weird.

A fun puzzle and harder than the average Thursday for me.

BarbieBarbie 7:12 PM  

@Gil, whenever I have seen M’s Pieta, it’s been big. Not building-big, but big-statue-big. More life sized than David, though.

@Rex, I’m going to guess you don’t correct people who call you “a PhD.” Why not “a DDS?”

Dan M 7:54 PM  

Despite some of the HAIRIEST fill I’ve seen in a few spots, I loved this. Got the revealer, and had a “meh” response upon seeing a Greek letter embedded in the two themers I’d filled in, followed by a major aha! when I realized the full extent of it. And LAMB DATA U is truly inspired absurdity and made me (actually) LOL. Favorite puzzle in a while!

Kimberly 8:21 PM  

I got BET A PIETA and thought “they’re stupid almost-rhymes.” Then hit CHIP SIZE TAXI and thought “I will never parse this. Is it some phonetic thing I don’t get? Is there a pun I’m missing? I’ll never figure this out.” And I never did. Solved the themes on the downs. Omicron should have given it away, but I was still trying to figure out that damned taxi so I never did catch on until I hit up Rex. At that point I was too annoyed to appreciate it. In retrospect, CHIP SIZE TAXI is pretty clever.

I hate being stupid in my old age.

Charles Flaster 8:41 PM  

Just a great puzzle and theme.
Fabulous debut!
Thanks DT

Anonymous 8:56 PM  

"For behold I bring you glad tidings of good news" (the angelic announcement to the shepherds) becomes "know ye well" - Nowell - Noël. French got the word from early English, not English from French.

The carol "The First Nowell" usually retains the older spelling and also clearly shows the meaning of "News announcement":
"The first nowell the angel did say was to certain poor shepherds in fields where they lay a-keeping their sheep on a cold winter's night that was so deep. Nowell, nowell: born is the king of Israel."

Lewis 8:56 PM  

@joe -- Those clues from yesterday are definitely candidates, and yes, wasn't the cluing gorgeous today??

For those wondering about @dickswart's Greek message, it translates into "It's all English to me".

Logan M 9:52 PM  

It never said it was required. I prefer my women to be non-smokers.

GILL I. 10:03 PM  

@Barbie B. Maybe it has always been my child's eyes imagining Michelangelo's masterpiece bigger than life. He was my first artistic idol. I always imagined the Pieta to be larger than life until I saw his work at St.Peter's. It's small. David is small, too...In my view. At St.Peter's you can't get close. You have to see her from a distance. I wanted huge. I wanted to touch the Cabrera marble. David was nearer to the public and, to me, seemed bigger and more accessible.
Always the horrible fear that someone will again throw acid or break a nose.....

GILL I. 10:47 PM  

Make that Carrara.... Damn you, Mac.

Sallie 10:48 PM  

I thought this was a brilliant puzzle. But could someone clue me in on Mary, 34 down?

Mark 11:01 PM  

Although we now think of noon as meaning twelve, originally it meant nine. Things change, and etymologies get forgotten. (Kind of like how the Latin numbers of our final four months, after July and August squeezed in, got messed up so that September, the ninth month, is named after the Latin word for seven.)

JC66 11:05 PM  


34D is MSRP

Noam D. Elkies 10:13 AM  

If you're going to go all fancy-accent with πη, put the accent in the right place
(and direction) . . . it's PIETÀ (or plain PIETA); there's no "PIÉTA".

--NDE (a.k.a. ALEPH)

spacecraft 11:39 AM  

Along with many others, I had BETAPIETA from the quite literal clue, but didn't see the GREEK angle yet. Some stupid rhyme scheme?? Had CHIP and TAXI and still no idea what connected them. Finally got enough down letters into the gridspanner to suss out the reveal--and that was a huge aha! moment. I wouldn't say the puzzle got easier from then on; rather it changed from impossible to doable.

Today's marquee NHO: TAZO. Thank you, Seiji OZAWA, for coming to my rescue. I like the pinball mini-theme (SOHO/TILT). I miss pinball, and periodically visit the Pinball Hall of Fame here in Las Vegas. The proprietor restores old machines and donates profits to charity. Quite a place. If you're here on a visit, don't miss it.

Great theme and reveal; iffy fill with monster clues. Medium-challenging. DOD is Ally SHEEDY. Birdie.

Burma Shave 1:01 PM  


there ARNO AMATEURS, you see,
ASIDE from MEN's SEX play,


Diana,LIW 2:56 PM  

I had a lot of the puzzle, but oddly enough, I had Tot (a lil kid drawing on the walls) for 1A at first, so the NW took a while.

Like @Spacey I had the PIETA from the clues - took a while for the GREEK TO ME area to come clean.

And we should always NORM to show up at the bar.

Did not want SASSY to be correct, but then it let me finish.

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords

leftcoastTAM 3:18 PM  

Tough one to parse, and some very tricky cluing. Made for a good mental workout.

Didn't see the ALL GREEK thing until well through the puzzle. LAMB DATA U was hardest to see. What should have been the easiest was CHIP SIZE TAXI. But I didn't see ZETA to get the Z! [OH MY, oh my, oh my.] ZYNGA cross was a big WOE.

Another WOE: Fridge IT ("beat the heat" clue) instead of FIRE EXIT. Made the SW corner the HAIRIEST.

Agree with all who say this is an extraordinarily good puzzle, despite my DNF.

rainforest 3:50 PM  

Great puzzle, one which gradually built to a huge aha! as I uncovered the theme. The NW was quick and easy with TABAC, PATTI, and TAP, in that order as my first entries. BETA PIETA went in without my realizing that Greek was involved. Had CHIPS---TAXI, and thought it weird, but noticed the CHI and XI. Went to the revealer and that just confirmed that there were some Greek words in the theme answers. But then, I saw that 23A was made up of CHI PSI ZETA XI, and 17A was BETA PI ETA. So, aha!, as the revealer said, it's all Greek! Amazing.

The construction is a tour de force in my opinion, and I had no qualms about the fill or the cluing, expect for maybe SASSY for "mouthful" where just SASS would have sufficed.

Yes, theme trumps fill here, but even the fill was just fine.
Loved it.

thefogman 5:05 PM  

Greek letters are not my forte so this one was a real struggle for me. I recognized some of the letters but was oblivious to the fact that the themers each had several Greek letters in them - until I came here. ASIDE from all that I did finish, but not without a lot of hair pulling and gobs of white out - especially in the SE corner. It's pretty impressive what Mr. Talvacchio put together here. To bad ITSALGREEKTOME.

rondo 6:35 PM  

After the revealer I saw that there was a GREEK letter in each themer, but LAMBDATAU showed me it was ALLGREEK stuff. Darn clever.

I get to puzzle like crazy while the missus shops on the Magnificent Mile. Most of the stores have a bench for the bedraggled menfolk. It's not wasted space. I love the Sun-Times patternless xword, for a week or so each year.

KERI Russel: yeah baby.

I'll bet I could find a GREEK restaurant around here somewhere. Fine puz.

leftcoastTAM 7:40 PM  

Rex seems actually to like or respect this very clever puzzle, but refuses to say so. (Because it's in the NYT? Yet a big part of his schtick is to play off it? Go figure.)

Anonymous 9:24 PM  

I have to disagree with most everyone and label this a unpleasant solving experience. THETAOMICRON is the essence of absurdity followed closely by BETAPIETA. What a grind. I'm hoping for a sane Friday.

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