Paneer Indian dish made with spinach / MON 5-28-18 / Hinged part of airplane wing / Washington image seen on back of $50 bill / Corporate hustle bustle / Elizabethan neck decorations

Monday, May 28, 2018

Constructor: Alex Eaton-Salners

Relative difficulty: Challenging (3:36)

THEME: some damned psychotic smiley mouse or something — long answers about smiling and then black squares that approximate a "happy face"

Theme answers:
  • PUT ON A HAPPY FACE (16A: "Bye Bye Birdie" song)
  • BREAK INTO A SMILE (37A: What you might do if you sing 16-Across)
  • FULL OF GOOD CHEER (54A: How you might feel if you sing 16-Across)
Word of the Day: PALAK paneer (22D: ___ paneer (Indian dish made with spinach)) —
Palak paneer (pronounced [paːlək pəniːr]) is a vegetarian dish from the Indian Subcontinentconsisting of paneer in a thick paste made from puréed spinach and seasoned with garlicgaram masala, and other spices. (wikipedia)
• • •

Once more, the editorial decisions are incomprehensible. How're you gonna run this puzzle on a Monday. First of all, it's 72 words—a ridiculously low word count for a Monday. To be clear, 72 is Fri/Sat territory. If it seemed like there was a lot more white space, There Was. Long Acrosses to start, and then themers that cross-referenced. Leaving aside whether the puzzle was "good" or not, this is a damn midweek puzzle. Not Monday. Nope. I mean, on its face Not a Monday. The fill, also very non-Monday, PALAK being the most obvious example. That's gonna hurt a lot of people. I think it's a fine food phrase part, but a. It's A Food Phrase Part (i.e. inherently not great fill), and b. it's not gonna be known by a good chunk of solvers. I've eaten the damn thing and I was still like "DANG, what's that word...?" TRUE DAT is also gonna puzzle some folk. It's definitely ... a thing ... but to my mind, of late, it's a thing white people say when they are trying semi-ironically to sound black, so I'm not the Biggest fan. Plus a whole chunk of solvers are just gonna stare blankly at it. Again, I refer you to my "Not A Monday" assertion, above.

Then there's the manic mouse face. What the hell kind of drugs is that mouse on. Must be good. His pupils are Big. FULL OF GOOD CHEER is bad—bad in that it's not a verb phrase like the others, bad in that BE OF GOOD CHEER is the damned phrase (and hey, look, it's a verb phrase). The thing is, you severely increase the likelihood of solver discontent when you serve up an overly challenging, non-Monday style, strange-fill-having puzzle on a Monday. Monday is typically the day when solvers have a good chance of smiling. It's the most tolerable theme day of the week (along with Thursdays—which are often challenging, but we Expect them to be challenging). And so today we get a Monday puzzle that's all about smiling, but that, ironically, is far less likely to make the solver smile than your average Monday puzzle. TTH. Trying Too Hard. It's a problem. No when to say when.

First, you're assuming "Bye Bye Birdie" song will be a meaningful clue to people. I've seen the movie, and I don't remember that song. That is not a song I associate with that musical. Again, it's Monday. What are you doing? And if I'm singing, I'm telling you to put the damn face on. Cluing it in reference to the singer's smiling is odd. See also the last themer. The song is supposed to have an effect On The Listener. What is happening? ALY, ugh. I had AGA, and both are barfy crosswordese. ESS ESP EPI, ugh. OCALA, DSL, MOT, IDA, LAO, GOA, ABASE—this puzzle may have a few snazzy longer answers, but the cost, man, the cost ... And HAD A MEAL??? That is some super duper green paint. That is sub-ATE A SANDWICH. OK, not sub-, but definitely on a similar level. HAD A BITE is a thing. HAD LUNCH, mostly a thing. DEAL-A-MEAL, definitely a thing. But HAD A MEAL is just weak as a standalone phrase.

Lastly, but importantly, this:

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. yesterday's Washington Post Sunday puzzle (by Evan Birnholz) was much better than the NYT (as it often is). If you're not doing it, get on board (esp. when the NYT lets you down).

P.P.S. My friend Lena and I will now be writing up the New Yorker crossword (in dialogue form) every Thursday, on our now-no-longer-defunct blog "New Grids on the Block." New New Yorker crossword drops every Monday, Lena and I chat Monday night, then formatting etc. happens, and voila, Thursday post. We'll also be discussing ... well, whatever the hell else we wanna talk about from the world of crosswords. Oh, and Lena is obsessed with / perpetually mad at the NYT's new Spelling Bee puzzle, so we'll probably have a few words about that too. Here's the inaugural post, which is about all four New Yorker puzzles published to date.

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


jae 12:20 AM  

YES! @Rex, a very tough Mon. PALAK, PETIT, AILERON, ALY, OCALA (as clued), ARAMAIC...tough for a Mon. Plus, ring before CLIP.

I noticed he put all the face parts in the grid minus the nose.

Clever visual but definitely some fill issues, still liked it more than @Rex did.

Harry Keates 12:22 AM  

Aramaic, Aileron, Dacha, palak,
Ruffs (and how it is clued),
so and so (clued as"no-goodnik"),
Prince ALY Khan, and
Ear clip instead of earring

ON A MONDAY?? Are you kidding?

combined with the the long themers and the long downs, this was a Thursday puzzle at least. Honestly, I wonder if Will has lost track of the days.

Twice my normal Monday time, even though I knew the song that was the key to the theme immediately. Put the song in, but the NW corner of Tramps, truedat, and ratrace completely killed my momentum. When I was done, I had to go back and do a regular Monday from a few years ago just to make sure I hadn't lost it.

Mark 12:28 AM  

Pretty easy, but hard for a Monday. Constructor says theme began with designing the grid rather than with the idea.

Larry Gilstrap 12:48 AM  

Such a HAPPY theme, and such a grumpy response? Sure it was not a slam dunk Monday effort, but it's a holiday, so ramp it up! Low word count be damned. In reality, probably at least half of the populace TRAMPS off to work tomorrow, so there's that.

When I learned that Jesus spoke ARAMAIC, and not Latin, or Greek, or Hebrew, or Elizabethan English, I was concerned that he had good interpreters. Still a nagging question.

I'm learning to embrace my inner-Russian, so DACHA was a given and the PALAK cross fell into place.

NEUTER took a while, because I saw spray, not spay. Don't @me with shots of homeless puppies and kitties! Irresponsible pet owners need to be counseled. Take a break from propagation and the problem is solved. I'm talking pets here!

I've loved maps all my life and feel that my years of wanderlust resulted from my perusing those book. In California, we had the Thomas Bros. maps which were tossed in the back seat of our VW and were the Bible of road tripping. Yep! Pretty sure my iPhone has killed that old technology.

Trombone Tom 12:57 AM  

@Rex's critique may be accurate and on point, but much of what he said did not affect my enjoyment of the puzzle.

I couldn't get any traction with the theme answers so I proceeded without reference to the theme. By the time I had progressed through the clues much of the theme answers had become evident.

Admittedly this deprives the solver of one whole element of the solving experience. Also I failed to note the "art."

Bottom line: I'm not going to GROWL AT the SO-AND-SO who constructed this or the editor who plonked it in for a Monday.

* * * *

Let's spend our time and emotions in remembrance of those who gave their all, including my cousin Tom who is MIA in 'Nam.

Brian 1:06 AM  

Maybe a Holiday Monday puzzle has a different difficulty level than a regular Monday puzzle

chefwen 1:59 AM  

A little on the tough side, but not too, for Monday. ARAMAIC from crosses and I had to get help from aviator husband on the correct spelling of AILERON.

It certainly was an uplifting puzzle, minus the GROWL AT and SO AND SO.

Senior DANCE, Aga Kahn and elf’s before REFS set me back and made me pull out the Wite Out.

I loved Bye Bye Birdie when I was young, my favorite song was “Kids, what’s the matter with kids today”.

'merican in Paris 2:09 AM  

Thought I'd be late to the party, but 0 comments so far. Yeah, I did look at the HAPPY FACE and my first thought was, "er, on Memorial Day?"

Otherwise, my time was pretty normal for a Monday, and just 4.56 Rexes! Would have been faster if, like @Rex I hadn't entered AgA instead of ALY (and AAa instead of AAS. SO CLOSE).

Interesting juxtapositions: BIG MOUTH YAWNS (say AAS!), GROWL AT SO AND SO, HAD A MEAL [of] PALAK. Hmm, all of them involve using that facial orifice.

By the way, what happened to my DSL DATA? DANG SCAMS!

Harryp 2:25 AM  

I had a fun time solving this puzzle, which is why I do them. Slightly harder than the usual Monday far, but not that challenging. We need more of this type early in the week. Okole Maluna to Alex Eaton-Salners

ezra roenfeld 3:44 AM  

Time has come to stop covering up ignorance with "high fallutin" words

Stanley Hudson 4:35 AM  

First Monday I’ve done in months and was surprised at the difficulty (for a Monday). A very pleasant surprise.

On a completely different note, what an ugly 7th game between the Cavs and Celtics. Saying that as a Cavaliers fan and LeBron admirer. Hopefully tonight’s contest between Golden State and Houston will be an improvement.

Wishing everyone a pleasant Memorial Day. We’ve a lot of work to do to preserve the democratic republic so many have given their lives for.

Hungry Mother 5:39 AM  

Stumbled around the NE for a while. The theme was somewhat helpful. Tough Monday, but not a usual day anyway.

Lewis 6:09 AM  

On the up side, there's the theme and grid art.
So emotionally, we got dealt a full hand.

Loren Muse Smith 6:13 AM  

Jeez Louise, Rex. You sure put the grin in Grinch. You need to stop sugar-coating your stuff.

I didn’t even notice the smiley face and still wasn’t enraged by this theme/grid. Sure – I noticed HAD A MEAL and PALAK but I just shrugged. Didn’t notice it was a low-word count. Did finger count for grin from ear to ear. It’s a 16.

Maybe I wasn’t affected by the other things much ‘cause I put in “elfs” (misspelled) for REFS – the guys whistling while they work. I was upset on so many levels. First, they’re dwarfs. Second, I never can keep up with when it’s ok to stick with the final F in a plural: hoofs/hooves, dwarfs/dwarves, roofs/rooves?/ chiefs/chieves?/… I was too consumed with this, well, reverie, once I saw REF. (Could we say one ref, two reves?)

Back in the day when Dad worked for GM, he drove company cars. For a while, they all came with a complementary 8-track demo tape, and my sisters and I would promptly declare one song on the tape to be “My Song.” This was serious, solemn business. And if Shum’s song came on and I quietly said it was My Song, she’d go ballistic. I never picked on Meagan so much ‘cause her reaction wasn’t so delicious. Anyway, Good Morning Starshine was Shum’s song, and I claimed it as mine several times. (I wasn’t fast enough and had to settle for the lesser PUT ON A HAPPY FACE.) Under my breath. So Mom couldn’t hear. When her song came on, I’d quietly tell Shum, That’s my song. On a 10-hour descent into hell drive to Myrtle Beach. When Shum finally wailed and cried and carried on,Mom, she said it’s her song, and it’s my song! Mom would reach back swatting blindly at our legs with her arm and threaten to My Song both of us if we didn’t pipe down.
So this puzzle brought back fond memories of summer vacations, company cars, 8-tracks, and a wailing sister.

Happy Memorial Day.

PS – I thought the grid art was just fine, happy even. Nice job, Alex.

Kim McAfee 6:21 AM  

It took me longer than an average Monday. I see no reason to get upset about that.

pabloinnh 6:41 AM  

Tough for a Monday, for sure, and the grid looks more like a jack-o-lantern to me.

Hi @LMS--I'm pretty good about those word ending in f plurals. The one that puzzles me the most is Toronto's NHL team. Anyone know why they're the Maple LEAFS?

Eric 6:49 AM  

Not that hard and definitely not W/T in my book. Enjoyed a little more of a mental workout for a change. Nice work Alex wassup wi dat. .

Ted 6:56 AM  

As I was one quarter of the way through solving, I thought "Rex is going to tear this apart as a Monday..."

I got there, but at double my normal time, and having to go back and correct several wrong guesses.

EARRING, sure... but EAR CLIP? PALAK as mentioned, and it's crossing DACHA... that's a potential NATICK for many solvers. I don't know who Prince ALY Khan is, and at this point I'm afraid to ask. That's crossing AILERON, an airplane term that many may know but fewer probably can spell correctly...

PETIT crossing RECTO, again, pulling obscure or non-English words and then crossing them on a Monday. This felt more Wednesday or Thursday to me.

Aketi 7:17 AM  

I did get the REFS in there but did speculate over the dwarves that wouldn’t fit and the elves that would have to be misspelled.

@Rex, that hamster photo is so adorable that it makes even me, a total morning hater, PUT ON my HAPPY FACE. On the other hand there is always something disturbing when someone is overly CHEERful on a somber ocaission. So it is odd that this was released on Memorial Day.

CAPITOL hill slowed me down until finding the SCAMS straightened me out.

Kendall 7:19 AM  

Ignoring every other part of this puzzle that I either found frustrating or didn't like for some reason, I want to focus on AILERON. I am a traveling constant and I'm on a plane about twice a week and have been almost every week for going on 3 years. I've never heard this word, ever. It's just not one that comes up in everyday language even for those of us that fly all the time. So that means it's a great learning opportunity, right? Well, no. Not when you cross it with whoever the hell ALY Khan is. I have no doubt that people know who this iw, but I've asked ten people under the age of 35 (my age group) and not a single person had a clue who this is. I asked my Dad (born in 1951) - still no clue. This is simply just not a good enough cross for a Monday. That's two weeks in a row where I've been naticked by some insane cross on a Monday. You want to get more people to start doing the NYT puzzle? Stop putting nonsense like that in your Monday pizzles.

End rant.

John Child 7:54 AM  

I saw an evil clown, and moving a couple of black squares could even have given him spiky hair points. Now that *would* be fun with the theme! With left-right symmetry the last themed certainly could have been be OF GOOD CHEER. Maybe EAR CLIP could have been eliminated. This would have been a good Wednesday puzzle.

Aketi 7:55 AM  

@Kendall, good point on that natick. I did initially think Aga but HAPPY derailed that. I just guessed on the L because “ailie” means wing in French..

michiganman 8:00 AM  

I was happy to see a slightly more difficult Monday, much more interesting. 19 minutes(not that I care)
There's no-goodnik/SOANDSO, humiliate/ABASE, TRAUMAS, and GROWLAT for those who think the puzzle is too uplifting for Memorial Day. Peace.

Roo Monster 8:03 AM  

Hey All !
I saw Mr. HAPPY FACE as soon as I looked at grid. So there. 😋

@jae 12:20
What do you mean by no nose? It's right there dead center. The Center block is the nose. Along with Rex's extended eyes, the SNILE, even the eyebrows!

Liked puz, thought the themers were all good answers. Clues for themers seemed a bit RUFF, though. Could've been clued as something else, I guess. Just my two cents.

Puz not Memorial Day related per se, but it is a good day for reflections, memories, good and bad, some that should make you SMILE.

Writeovers, data-SULU, has-OWN, mAO-LAO (always confuse those two [thank goodness there's not more, PAO, RAO, CAO. Although, there is SAO Paulo. :-)])


pmdm 8:09 AM  

When I read the write-up and comments on this blog, I often smile in disbelief reading some of the complaints. No. Michael, the word count has nothing to do with whether a puzzle should be published on the Monday, methinks. It's purely about how simple it is to get the answers to the clues. While today's puzzle was a bit more difficult than most Monday puzzles, it doesn't really followed that Mr. Shortz made a horrible editorial decision. And as far as reactions to grid art, there's no accounting for taste and yours may be a tad austere.

When I looked at the grid before I started to solve, I felt a positive reactions. I tend to grids that lack crossword symmetry. And I thought more white space on a Monday is a good thing. (I strongly think less white space on non-thematic puzzles would be a very good thing, so I can swing both ways.)

But I too found the fill a little too tough for a Monday slot. I suspect a lot of new solvers will be turned off by this puzzle, which controverts the function of a NY Times Monday puzzle. (my enjoyment of solving the puzzle nonwithstanding).

Happy memorial day. And happy Stanley Cup finals. And very happy listening to those lucky enough to hear the NY Philharmonic perform the Saint-Saens Organ Symphony live and free with a real pipe organ.

Stuart Showalter 8:12 AM  

Hey @Rex, you want some cheese with that?

I only tune in here to read the daily whinefest and revel in Rex’s displeasure. Schadenfreude anyone?

Teedmn 8:23 AM  

Funny, I even thought to myself while solving, “This is a nice Monday puzzle for beginners” even as I took two minutes longer than my 6:30 Monday average. So I'm glad I'm not the only one to find this “hard” for a Monday.

I eat PALAK paneer nearly every day as it is my favorite of Amy's brand frozen dinners, yet I still had a minor hitch when entering that at 22D, not being used to writing it out. That and Chana masala are my two go-to choices for Indian food. Yum.

I have to admit that I never saw the happy face in the grid until I went to read Xwordinfo. I was struck by its resemblance to a scary clown, which does not make me break into a smile, but Rex’s mouse is a much cuter image. Still, it’s a nice idea and I think Alex had some great fill. The “whistle while you work” clue for REFS was very clever and a bonus themer though being SO CLOSE to TRAUMAS in the grid kind of negates the effect. And the contrasting of STEALS (“Super bargain”) with SCAMS (“Most deals that are too good to be true”) is interesting. Typing that out made me realize that TRUE was in the grid and in the clues. This has happened often enough lately that it seems to not be verboten anymore. Not that such things ever bothered me particularly but I know it does bother some people.

Thanks, AES for a Monday with a bit of challenge.

Nancy 8:32 AM  

What a pleasure to have a Monday where you're not just mindlessly filling in letters while simultaneously planning your grocery list. I loved this. I loved it for all the reasons that Rex seemingly hates it. But then my entire sense of self worth doesn't hinge on filling in a puzzle in under 2 minutes.

FWIW, if I were Puzzle Editor of the NYT, every Monday would be this challenging. Human beings at one time in the past arbitrarily decreed this ascension of difficulty from early week to late week. What they did then can easily be undone now. Would that this puzzle were a harbinger of Mondays to come. Alas, it's not. Still, it made me BREAK INTO A SMILE, at least for today.

Roo Monster 8:34 AM  

@pabloinnh 6:41
Ha, I submitted a puz with a Smiley type face in the grid that was supposed to be a jack-o'-lantern, along with a Halloween related theme. Will rejected it, saying he doesn't publish grid art puzs anymore. (Or maybe he was trying to get away from them.) (Har, after all my rejections, I'm still not going all bashy at Will.)

@pmdm 8:09
Stanley Cup Finals! WoiHoi! Go Knights Go! What a tremendous season. Anything less than the Cup will be a crushing blow.


QuasiMojo 8:40 AM  

Maybe Rex was the target for the theme. Geez, Louise, MAN, lighten up.

I loved this puzzle. I'm glad the NYT is trying to toughen up its puzzles. Even on a Monday. (Although I found this one quite easy.) My only stumble today was putting in MAC for MAN and fearing I'd have to go into the attic and pull out that warped LP from BYE BYE BIRDIE to find a song that started with PUCONA. It's been a while since I last listened to it. Never my favorite musical. Although it did feature yesterday's fill CHITA Rivera. (Not RITA!)

Lots of good stuff in here today to balance out the usual suspects.

Now someone PLEASE tell me Why on earth did they recently repaint the CAPITOL DOME a moldy off white? Almost like tofu. It looks horrible. The rest of the building looks fine. Am I the only one who has noticed this appalling change?

Sydney 8:45 AM  

I learned the word aileron in elementary school in a little lesson on How Planes Fly. Aly Khan was married to Rita Hayworth, a gorgeous movie star. Young people: it will not kill you to learn something that happened before your time. I have a hard time with the names of seven zillion rappers I do not listen to. Puzzle makers try to keep all of us happy, old and young; those who know nothing about sports and those who don’t know foreign languages... you get the idea. I eat Indian food, but had never seen the work palak. Okay, I learned something. While I am at it, I’d like to thank all those who comment. I frequently learn new things from you and I enjoy your humor.

Anonymous 8:49 AM  

(bash on Will - say I'm not bashing on Will - sums up the Rexites in a sentence)

SJ Austin 8:50 AM  

DACHA crossing PALAK on a Monday? Get outta here with that noise. While you're at it, take AILERON/ALY with you. And since you're going, you can also take RUFFS/RECTO. Come back on Wednesday. Or maybe even Thursday.

Anonymous 8:56 AM  

Nice puzzle. Palak was new.
This was enjoyable, but not particularly
rant worthy.

jackj 9:01 AM  

@Roo Monster 8:34

Here's to the Redskin"s tribal cousin, big chief "Crushing Blow"!

Go Caps!

Bob Mills 9:05 AM  

I thought the puzzle was easy, but very well designed and enjoyable to solve. I guess I'm stupid, Rex. You're always right, I know.

Z 9:07 AM  

Yep. A beautiful Wednesday puzzle, for all the reasons Rex and others have mentioned. I’d be willing to forgive the pretty obvious misplacement since it is a holiday, but, I’m sorry, PUT ON A HAPPY FACE is wildly inappropriate on a day set aside to remember those we lost protecting our country. I have been fortunate, but my mom was not and I remember what this day meant to her, the gold star banner hanging in my grandmother’s window (the grandmother who never learned English, BTW), the reminders to count our blessings. While I can discuss the various strengths and weaknesses of this puzzle, my visceral reaction to seeing it today was... not printable. I didn’t expect a holiday themed puzzle, but this felt insulting.

Anonymous 9:11 AM  

Serious question: Are the ones who thought this was too hard for Monday upset because it hurt their Monday average time? Other reasons? I'm curious.

Maybe . . . 9:32 AM  

as Brian noted, this was intentionally a national holiday Monday difficulty-level puzzle. Most everyone has a bit extra time this morning. I personally enjoyed spending an extra few minutes on this.

Anonymous 9:33 AM  

@Roo’s write-over inventory points up the presumably intentionally missed opportunity to clue 33A as another Star Wars character.

PALAK and DACHA were both gimmes for me. (I’ll second the Amy’s shout-out.) Iffy on the vowels in AILERON; unknown ALY didn’t get in the way. I’m HIP TO and on board with the weekly difficulty progression thing, but it’s not my religion.

There’s Memorial Day and then there’s Memorial Day weekend. I’m old enough to have seen the mood and emphasis of observances swing back and forth, and personally I wasn’t taken aback by today’s grid art.

Adam Jaffe 9:48 AM  

Thanks for posting that Stevie Wonder song! Such a lesser-known gem.

Wm. C. 9:52 AM  

I had no problem with Aileron. Of course, three of my roommates were Course 16 (Aero eng) MIT grads, when I was working at MIT's Instrumentation Lab (part of the Aero Eng Dept then).

But our work was with guidance, navigation, and control of missiles and space vehicles ... No ailerons there!

Anonymous 9:55 AM  

I agree some of the clues were way too hard for a Monday. The puzzle took me 11 minutes and a Monday usually takes me about 8 or 9 so definitely harder than an average Monday.

GHarris 9:59 AM  

Rex’s concern for and defense of Monday(presumably new solvers) only made me realize that I have moved up a few grades. Found this puzzle enjoyable and relatively easy.

Osgirl 10:02 AM  

Anyone know if there's an app for the WaPo crossword puzzles? I use the nYT crossword app but can't find one for the WaPo. Thanks!!

Randy 10:08 AM  

My high school senior daughter has just started doing the puzzles and you really do want at least one day each week that seems doable. Today seemed more like a Wednesday than a Monday and that was what I told her when I gave it to her. I bought her a compilation of Monday puzzles but it is especially nice when we can talk through the same puzzle together.

jberg 10:28 AM  

I guess it was easy if you knew the musical, which I didn't. But since I'd seen the happy face in the grid, I figured this must be the song. I still needed a lot of crosses for the other two themers.

Like @Sydney, I learned about the AILERON in grade school, but we all know that's been dumbed down so the kids can concentrate on high-stakes testing. And while I knew Jesus spoke ARAMAIC,I think I was 70 already when I learned it. But I'm with @Nancy, I don't mind a hard Monday.

OTOH, if it hadn't been Monday, I'd have gone with 'spanish' for Jesus's language.53A "What to do with a cute dog." 19A -- too risque for the NYT, Id have thought.

@Loren, I had the same thought as your avatar, but that might have been tougher for some.

Rita Flynn 10:28 AM  

I thought it was just me, but this was definitely a Wednesday puzzle.

FrankStein 10:43 AM  

Some of the comments here sound like Paul Lynde singing “What’s the matter with kids today?”

puzzlehoarder 10:47 AM  

I was pleasantly surprised by today's slight difficulty up tick. As soon as I printed out the puzzle and saw the smiley face I figured the puzzle would be just as inane. As it was this came in at one minute over my average Monday time.

Rather than wasting their time whining here neophyte solvers should check the xwordinfo clue lists for the entries they are unfamiliar with. Look at how many times they've been used and remind yourself that the average regular here was solving before the Shortz era. Cheer up too. At least you have an excuse. When I get Naticked I'm stuck with the adage that there's no fool like an old fool.

Speaking of old fool, if I had solved on my phone I would have been given the happy music when I finished in the SE. Solving on paper I looked over the finished puzzle and thought, AILERON doesn't look right, and changed the I to an E. The really ironic thing was that as soon as I found out that the I was correct I remembered that was because it is based on a French word. Obviously I've looked it up before but today I was misdirrected by words like aerodynamic. HEP and HIP are of course interchangeable.

Anonymous 10:47 AM  

Will, is that you? Way to be sneaky! Keep up the good work.

Carola 10:49 AM  

A Monday challenge for me, too, and DNF (HeP TO x AeLERON). Also never noticed the face until I read @Rex. DANG!

Anonymous 10:54 AM  

I am trying to imagine the people who are set off into despair or apoplectacy (made that up) by the crossword puzzle having a smile in it on Memorial Day. Please don’t let them look outside and see that their neighbors are having fun at barbecues or gleefully bouncing in the waves at the ocean.

jb129 11:28 AM  

Gotta say I agree with Rex - but I'm never fond of this constructor's puzzles anyway.

Anonymous 11:32 AM  

Agree with @Nancy at 8:32 -- although sometimes I do enjoy a quick fill in so as not to make me late to work ... on a holiday day, a crunchy puzzle is enjoyable. Although I get that Memorial Day may not have been the best day for it, the sentiment seems ever more needed in these times.

I also like learning new words -- I did not know "Aileron," but my high schooler did. :-) Love that!

Have a great day folks!

-- CS

Lewis 11:35 AM  

My favorite clues from last week:

1. Complaint about one's calves? (3)
2. Doctor or engineer (3)
3. Opposite of a poetry slam (3)
4. Parts of springs (4)
5. Long range (5)


Nancy 11:41 AM  

@Quasi (8:40 a.m.)-- I think that your unknown "song" from BYE BYE BIRDIE would have begun with PUTOCA, not PUCONA. Right?

Is Rex's cutie-pie photo of a hamster, per @Aketi (7:17) or of a mouse, per @Teedmn (8:23)?

I never noticed the grid art. And now that you tell me, I still don't see it. Too many black squares that are utterly extraneous to the human face.

Banana Diaquiri 11:46 AM  

I want to focus on AILERON. ... I've never heard this word, ever.

then you should watch "Air Disasters", M-F @6pm on Smithsonian. mentioned nearly every episode.

Masked and Anonymous 12:31 PM  

Hard puz for a MonPuz all right, but hey -- U got the whole day off to work on it. Sooo … suck it up, puzzlers. Get ye to yer DACHA and dine on some PALAK paneer.

Bein a giant E-W symmetry fan, M&A latched onto the happy face gridart pronto. Would be extra extra cool, if tomorrow's puzgrid drew out an angry face, or sad face, or somesuch.

Kinda laughed outloud, when I read @RP's take on the smiley face: manic mouse face on drugs. I figured the wide open 72-worded grid was an attempt to let the central gridart breath a little, btw. Does @RP have a mouse problem at his house? Are they gettin into his stash? Bummer, dude.

staff weeject pick: ALY. The one-L ally.
Best ow de speration: DACHA/PALAK/POOLTOY/HADAMEAL area. Not to beat a dead happy mouse to death.

Thanx, Mr. E-S. Nasty good grid.
Happy Memorial Day, everybody.

Masked & Anonymo5Us


old timer 12:43 PM  

I time myself on Mondays and the time showed it was quite Easy. Reason: Everything I did not know right off was quickly revealed by the crosses. But to be fair, those of us who do the puzzle every day can solve this level puzzle in a flash. For a beginner, a puzzle with PATAK and AILERON might be a challenge.

Bye Bye Birdie was the first musical I ever saw live, when my parents took me to Las Vegas with them. Don't remember that song being in it (what stuck with me was "We Love You Conrad" (oh yes, we do).) But PUT ON A HAPPY FACE is a Standard and has been for decades -- even though I might have thought it was in some Disney film. So, no roadblock for me there.

Nice story about your road trips, @LMS.

Teedmn 12:45 PM  

@Nancy, I'm guessing @Aketi is correct - I was just going along with Rex's mouse comments, which you probably didn't read. I'm not up on my rodents except to make sure I don't get any in my house.

G. Weissman 12:45 PM  

Is that really a reason to watch “Air Disasters”?

Stuart Showalter 1:00 PM  

I’m amazed at how many folks don’t know “aileron.” I guess “flaps” is more common. But get a window seat by a wing sometime and you’ll see what they are. They control banking and rolling.

JC66 1:00 PM  

@Z (9:07)

Couldn't agree more. Why PUTONAHAPPYFACE on Memorial Day, indeed!

QuasiMojo 1:13 PM  

Yes @ Nancy, “Putoca...” I was gonna correct it but was hoping no one noticed. :) btw your wry comments the other day sent me over the “moon.”

Canon Chasuble 1:16 PM  

The face smiling at me when I printed out the grid foretold it would not be a puzzle appropriate to how this day should be noted and celebrated. It the puzzle itself was straightforward and easy. I saw Dick van Dyke perform BBB during its initial run. Is that why I am old enough to know both aileron and Aramaic? Good grief!

JC66 1:19 PM  


Please read @Randy's 10:08 comment to appreciate the need for beginning solvers to have entry level puzzles to learn and hone their skills on. Having challenging puzzle once in awhile on a Monday doesn't really bother me, but upping the difficulty level every week to give experienced solvers more crunch at the expense of tyros doesn't work for me. We have five or six other days each week to flex our muscles.

Carlos 1:22 PM  

It’s fleet week here in New York City. There are a lot of US Navy men and women at the Yankee game in their uniforms. They were solemn and respectful when a young lady sailor sang the National Anthem beautifully. They seem to be having fun otherwise.

John Hoffman 1:28 PM  

Good puzzle! I’m a big Indian food fan, so PALAK paneer was a gimme. Far more challenging than a usual Monday. “Bye Bye Birdie” made Ann-Margret famous. And super-gay Paul Lynde camped it up, stole the show with his song “Kids.” Elvis Presley was penned in for the matinee idol role but didn’t do the movie after all.

Banana Diaquiri 1:29 PM  

ailerons, flaps, slats, brakes. all control surfaces
1 - ailerons swing above and below the wing and are at the far end, just inside the tip, and exert roll
2 - flaps are on the trailing edge of the wing and swing/extend down, and exert lift at low speed
3 - slats are on the leading edge of the wing, and swing/extend down, and exert lift at low speed
4 - brakes are the top surface of the wing from the trailing edge forward and swing up, and do what they say

one of the few times I flew was into Port Au Prince, from Miami. Cuba is in the way for a direct route, and Port Au Prince airport is on the harbor, and at the foot of mountains to the east, thus a winding route at altitude until nearly to the airport. so, we're at 30,000 feet (or so) and I could see the island out the window, and was puzzled. why were we still so high??? without announcing, the pilot "hit the brakes". if you weren't belted to your seat, you'd have banged your head. and the plane fell like an elevator with the cable cut. I was not amused.

all from watching "Air Disasters". and flying one place I shouldn't have. an episode about, I think, San Francisco, describes that landing type as the "slam dunk".

Robert A. Simon 1:31 PM  

Yes, I misspelled "ailerons,"which left me with "hep to," which in the context of "TRUEDAT" was perfectly fine to me. By the time I figured it out, my average Monday time climbed fifteen seconds to "It's Too Embarrassing To Reveal," one of seven levels on a personal scale that begins with "Don't Ask" and goes all the way up to "It's None of Your Damn Business."

And speaking of mistakes, anybody who buys a can, package, pouch, or jar of Amy's branded anything is confusing "edible" with "inedible." I've always thought that instead of waterboarding or dangling a suspect by his ankles out the door of a Huey at 2,000 feet, all the CIA had to do was feed these people Amy's food, and Amy's food only. Three meals a day plus snacks, and they had to eat it all. They would have told us anything we wanted to know in under a week.

Aketi 1:33 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
jae 1:38 PM  

@Roo - By face parts in the grid I meant the actual words...EAR clip, left EYE, big MOUTH..

Aketi 1:40 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mohair Sam 1:41 PM  

Like @Carola we knew AILERON but weren't sure of the spelling (second vowel "e" or "i") and the HIP/HeP crossing did us no good - but we guessed right because we'd never seen the "ael" combo stating a word.

Agree with @Brian (1:06) that Will might have toughened a holiday Monday because people have more time.

@Anon (10:56) - Thanks for injecting a little sanity. Lighten up folks, we're allowed to smile on Memorial Day - most people are having a ball today. Grid art's a bitch, but I liked the smile - still I cracked up on Rex's take on the thing.

@Frank Stein (10:43) - Nice call on the Paul Lynde song from the flick. Clever on two levels.

@Loren (6:13) - Nice sister story. I thought I hated my big sister - but if she was as mean as you she'd be gap-toothed today.

JC66 1:57 PM  


Great pet story. I really did Laugh Out Loud!

Saint-Exupéry 2:33 PM  

Non. It is aile.

Kendall 3:27 PM  

@Banana Diaquiri I don’t have cable, though I suppose if I did then Smithsonian might be one of the channels I would be interested in.

Paul Bowden 3:40 PM  

The only reason I have ever heard of it is "Aileron Roll", which I had no idea corresponded with an actual component. I am similar in flying multiple times a month.

AlexP 3:44 PM  

I agree! Thanks for the recap.

clk 4:10 PM  

I completely agree. There is absolutely no way the AILERON/ALY cross belongs on a Monday.

clk 4:16 PM  

I completely agree. Seeing that grin in the grid for such a solemn holiday was very offputting.

Anoa Bob 4:23 PM  

Anyone try SPANISH for 13A "Language spoken by Jesus"?

One year of a foreign language was required when I was an undergrad at San Diego State. I took Spanish. One of our profs told us about a call he got from the mother of a student who had failed his intro Spanish class. She was questioning why a foreign language was required in the first place. She argued that, as you can see right there in the Bible, English was good enough for Jesus, so it should be good enough as the only language required in school. He said he didn't have a good reply for that.

I believe that "grid art" is an oxymoron.

sanfranman59 4:26 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

This didn't strike me as a particularly ill-placed Monday puzzle, but I see the points made by others about some of the crosses and cluing. PALAK was unknown to me but DACHA crossing was a gimme, so no problem there. I know AILERON, so ALY wasn't an issue for me. EAR CLIP made me wince. I almost never notice grid art and today was no exception, but it was a nice post-solve revelation when Rex mentioned it in his unnecessarily scathing review (Word count? Really Rex?).

@Syndey ... amen re old-timey vs new-timey crossword references. One of the things I love most about my crossword-solving passion is learning new things, new and old. When I don't know PALAK, it gives me something to look up. I might or might not remember it tomorrow, but I'm grateful for the opportunity to learn. (I'll try to remember that with the next hip-hop/rap artist clue/answer!)

While solving, I thought the theme seemed an odd (almost insulting) choice for Memorial Day and see that I wasn't alone. My thoughts and prayers today are with all those who paid the ultimate price in service to our country and to their loved ones.

Anonymous 5:09 PM  

I thought the breadth of knowledge / familiarity with popular, literary, cultural, geographic, anatomical, etc is what a puzzle challenges. And, being 72, I had no problems with Rita Hayworth's husband or Bye Bye Birdie which I saw on Broadway when it was new. There was a major musical with Dick van Dyke and Chita Rivera (as well as the memorable Paul Lynde), and that song must have been reprised a dozrn times. Aramaic may seem arcane, but Mel Gibson's film about Jesus was IN Aramaic, with subtitles...I didn't see it but maybe someone here can confirm my recollection.

Dick Swart 5:13 PM  

I'm an 83-year-old white guy. For me to say "True dat" is about as likely as me putting on a sombrero and singing 'Chialito Lindo'.

Where does 'irony' cross 'cultural appropriation'?

Aketi 5:25 PM  

@Nancy, I had to redo the autocorrect grammatical errors and errors I managed without the help of autocorreact.

I know my mice. They were pet mistake number 2 after pet mistake number 1 (goldfish that were given to my son as a party favor at a 2 year olds birthday party that died of asphyxiation because I didn’t change the water in their bowl properly). I bought two cute little white mice that were female. Little did I know that the male mice that were separated from the females by a seemingly impermeable wall were adept at completely flattening themselves and squeezing under the wall. So 7 days after purchase, one of the two mice (Livia and Hannah named after my son’s kindergarten girlfriends) ballooned to double her size and produced a litter of seven. Then the fun began as they started to die from respiratory infections and sadly a crushing episode that occurred during cage cleaning. Finally one lone rather fat male (Chitter) remained as the sole survivor of the litter. Once he was weaned he was transplanted to his own cage with his own maze of tubes and wheels separate from the even bigger cage and elaborate set of tubes mom and aunt. At one point I sent $100 on his mom for an operation on the abscess she developed on her ear. The cages and tubes took up a good chunk of the room. It took forever to clean all the tubes every week. Eventually they all passed away during a heat wave. We stuck them in a freezer intending to bury them in film canister like the six babies that had died before, but we forgot about them till the refrigerator stopped working and they defrosted. I guarantee that @Rex’s picture is of a hamster, not a mouse.

Our cats have insured that there are no repeats of pet mistake number 2.

Anonymous 5:27 PM  

And with Amy's off-the-charts sodium content, their rising blood pressure might have finished them off.

Anonymous 6:08 PM  

@John Hoffman 1:28. Super-gay? Seriously? What does that even mean?

@sanfranman59. I'm confident your thoughts and prayers will make everything all better.

sanfranman59 6:08 PM  

@Aketi ... hilarious story ... thanks for the SMILE.

John Hoffman 6:29 PM  

@Anonymous: I call Paul Lynde super-gay because he was a very flamboyant gay man. He wasn't just an average gay guy like Apple CEO Tim Cook. Lynde was creative and funny and wild. What courage he had -- especially back then! He inspired me to be myself, to ignore society's rules, to go too far, to live my own life.

kitshef 6:34 PM  

Agree it was vastly, insanely hard for a Monday ... but would be normal for a Tuesday. I thought AILERON/HIP TO was worse than PALAK/DACHA. Grid art moved this into the 'plus' category for me.

JC66 6:35 PM  

@ John Hoffman


Anonymous 6:38 PM  

Anonymous 608,
Seriously, you dont know what super gay means?
Oh, thats right. You know full. You just dont like it.

Anonymous 6:39 PM  

Im sooo sory sorry anon 608. My come t was directed at,
Tbe apparently numbskuleed, John Hoffman.

Michael Stipe 6:40 PM  

@anon 6:08 : You can’t be that dumb. Just say that you are offended by the term “super-gay”, which Paul Lynde was btw and as a gay man I don’t mean that pejoratively.



mmespeer 10:37 PM  

I have been reading this blog and I have very rarely posted but I do remember a time when Rex was excited to have a crossword published in the Times.

Shark 1:08 AM  

Who decides if it is a Monday? Will?

+wordphan 2:56 AM  

Good thing I’m MAD for Indian cuisine!

spacecraft 10:45 AM  

PUT me in the non-Monday camp. More black-square art, and a few late-week clues mixed in. I'd say, about, Wed. or Thur. You have your ultra-obvious, but wrong, EARring, which literally everyone wrote in and then had to back out of. I guess there are EARCLIPs. I'll pay you 10 times the total sales of the clips if you pay me 10% of all earring sales.

The theme smacks of Pollyanna. The whole thing feels like the forced optimism of the Depression era--which is when that song came out. The clue seems to indicate the song originated with the musical; no. It is much older. That's the first thing that threw me.

Then there's the fill: gotta be careful when you're crossing your Russian cottages with your Indian dishes. Know either one and you're OK; I'm guessing there were some who knew neither. Other casualties have already been mentioned. Theme density is partly to blame.

Strangely, AILERON didn't bother me. I think I learned it as a kid--asked why that wing was "broken"--and it just stuck. Weird how the brain works sometimes.

For her courage in coming forth and helping to expose that nasty "doctor," I award the DOD title to ALY Raisman. You go, girl!

Some very "HIP" longer fill goes a long way here. I think the most damage was done slotting this into Monday; a Thursday birdie for sure. Par. 11:37 AM  

I think they put out a little harder ones in the summer to challenge us. Good puzzle. I missed one or two letters of things I've never heard of. ALY, Airplane thing, etc...

Diana,LIW 12:02 PM  

Haven't read other (Futureland) comments, but I saw @Rex's "challenging." And PALAK, which I spelled PALeK. (I don't have a smart phone, so I don't know the variations on roaming with one.) For a you-know-what. On a Monday. For me, the defender of Mondays. If you were a novice, picked this up cause somebody told you Mondays were easy, you'd run home, tail 'tween legs, and never attempt a crossword again.

Shame, shame NYT.

Yes - I got the rest. But felt like I was solving "the Observer," or some other crossword that likes the obscure. I mean AILERON??????? DACHA???? ARAMAIC??? Fine from Wednesday on, but NEVER ON A MONDAY, CAUSE THAT'S MY DAY OF REST.

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Common Sense

I'll bet some Futurefolks who want "more challenge" were happy, but that's not what Mondays are for.

thefogman 12:32 PM  

Unlike Rex and several others, I found this one to be very easy. I got the theme right away and that helped unlock the long answers. It was a fast solve for me even by Monday standards. Excuse me while I PUTONAHAPPYFACE now - because this doesn't happen too often.

Burma Shave 12:48 PM  


'TIS TRUEDAT some TRAMPS, while DANG HIPTO PET_IT down south,


thefogman 1:54 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
thefogman 1:58 PM  

DEB's LEFTEYE was bigger than the right but that's not all. One of her POOLTOYS seemed PETITe in her BRA while the other needed ACRES more room. FULLOFGOODCHEER she declared "That's NOTIT. DANG! 'TIS the CAPITOLDOME!"

leftcoastTAM 3:01 PM  

Rex is FULL OF something this morning (or last night), but it's clearly not GOOD CHEER.

This may not strictly be a Monday puzzle, but the long theme answers and all the crosses help in making one's way through it. But so what if it isn't?

The POOL TOY cross takes care of the otherwise non-Monday PALAK, though the TRUE DAT/ARAMAI/DACHA crosses could result in some Naticks for some new solvers. Would that discourage and drive them away? Maybe some, but not those who would be the WISER.

Okay, a Rex-like case might be made about this puzzle, but he needn't GROWL AT it.

rainforest 4:11 PM  

No paper today (Canada Day holiday), but I thought I'd check out the puz anyway. No knowing the clues, I have no idea of the difficulty level, but I know PALAK, AILERON, DACHA, and ARAMAIC, so maybe I could have given this one a run for its money.

I noticed that some commenters thought the publication of a "happy" puzzle was thought inappropriate on Memorial day. I don't get it. It's a puzzle. If you feel that way, why are you solving a puzzle anyway? Seems frivolous.

Still, I'd have liked a crack at it.

JimmyBgood 4:36 PM  

Put on a Happy Face was written in 1960,By Charles Strouse.

Diana,LIW 5:41 PM  

Post Script times two::

1 - I didn't find the puzzle all that hard for me - that wasn't my complaint. My gripe with the puzzle was it wasn't Monday-worthy - a puzzle to draw in the new solver.

2 - @Rainy - if you want to ever see clues/answers and don't have your paper, put "Bill Butler Crossword" in your search engine (Google?) - he had a syndicated button on his daily site, and lists all the clues and answers, with explanations of the more remote ones.

Lady Di

BS2 6:59 PM  


RUFF'S how IDA called 'em: AAS NOTIT BRA.


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