Start of Massachusetts state motto / WED 5-2-18 / Key parts of so-called supervocalic word / Automotive pioneer Ransom

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Constructor: Bryant White

Relative difficulty: Easy-Mediumish (4:45*) (*a.m. solve, always 20-30% slower than normal)

THEME: I don't know, exactly. Someplace with a HIDDEN STAIRCASE, I guess — letters spelling out HIDDEN STAIRCASE descend from TROPHY ROOM (?) (19A: Where gold and silver cups may be displayed) to WINE CELLAR (59A: Temperature- and humidity-controlled place). There are two different things you might "push" in order to reveal the staircase: a FALSE PANEL on a BOOKCASE or a WALL SCONCE in the ... TROPHY ROOM? Ugh, this isn't symmetrical. Why isn't HIDEAWAY connected to the others?

Word of the Day: Leopold AUER (6D: Violinist Leopold) —
Leopold von Auer (Hungarian'Auer Lipót'; June 7, 1845 – July 15, 1930) was a Hungarianviolinist, academic, conductor and composer, best known as an outstanding violin teacher. (wikipedia)
• • •

This wasn't hard to solve, but I have no idea whose house we are in, or why the relationship of the theme answers to one another is such a mess. Once you rope in BOOKCASE for your theme, everything kinda goes wonky, because HIDEAWAY has no spatial reference. I can see a "staircase" going from a TROPHY ROOM to a WINE CELLAR, got it. I see that you can push a FALSE PANEL on a BOOKCASE to (I assume) access the "staircase." But HIDEAWAY's just sitting there opposite BOOKCASE as this useless appendage. *What* is the HIDEAWAY? The staircase itself, the WINE CELLAR? It's just a related word with no cross-reference. Further, FALSE PANEL goes to BOOKCASE, but WALL SCONCE doesn't go to HIDEAWAY (which would things symmetrical); it goes up to TROPHY ROOM ... which is presumably also where the BOOKCASE is. And again, I have no idea what scenario is being created for us here. Some mansion with a hidden staircase. Who cares? Who lives here? It's a mess. I thought it was kinda cute how the little staircase thingie in the middle took you from one room to another, but the ancillary theme material really mucked things up. You're throwing extra theme material in here with no sense of purpose, no clear design.

Also, the fill gets Rough in places. Today's "Can We Please Boycott This 'Word' For Ever And Ever" is ENSE (30D: Start of Massachusetts' state motto)—"Parts of state mottos" is surely in the Top Ten of Worst Clue Types. And ENSE!? That has no context that anyone but a hardcore crossword solver or hardcore state motto enthusiast would ever know. It's desperate and terrible and constructors should banish it. You can also banish the AUER clan (there's an actor, Mischa, too ... and maybe someone else I'm repressing; they may not, in fact, be related). I'm not really sure why you had to go to AUER. The grid isn't exactly dense with theme material up there, but you've got AUER *and* AEIOU? Oof, and then ONER. LOL that the clue thinks that anyone uses ONER "in slang" (32D: Extraordinary thing, in slang). I have actually tried saying ONER in conversation, and no one understands what you're saying on first go 'round. "A what?" "[Explains]" "Oh ... that." Slang!

Speaking of "what is this doing in my grid??": NAZI. Why is there a NAZI in my grid? Why Is There A NAZI In Your WINE CELLAR!? Further, why is there a completely gratuitous NAZI in my grid? Even further, why the &^$% did you Scrabblef**k a NAZI into my grid.* How badly did you think this grid needed a "Z"? Imagine thinking, "I need to 'zazz this puzzle up? .... I know! I'll add NAZI!" It's possible that I could accept the word NAZI in my puzzle—I mean, I have accepted it before. But honestly you better be in a &$^%ing jam before you put NAZI in a grid, and even then you better put a proper clue on it, not some whimsical musical clue (69A: Extra in "The Producers"). You wanna Scrabblef**k that "J" into your grid in the NW, fine, whatever, JOLT and JAVA are harmless. But NAZI? Come on, man.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

*Scrabblef**cking is when you force high-value Scrabble letters into a corner of your grid in a misguided attempt to make your grid more interesting, resulting in a grid corner that is uglier than it would be if you'd just tried to fill it cleanly.

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Eric 6:23 AM  

Fastest Wednesday ever. Super easy and more like a Monday to me.

Lewis 6:26 AM  

Fun puzzle with the cool EERIE feel of a story going on. That is rare and wonderful in crosswords. The island in the middle looks to me like a secret room, to add to the atmosphere.

I liked the cross of JAVA and JOLT; they could have been cross-referenced. Also, nice word pairs in VINO and WINE CELLAR, and NAP/SNORE.

Then, in the West, another story formed. PAPA wouldn't ALLOW his ADOLESCENT daughter LENA to go on A DATE to the POLKA party, because he was leery of what her suitor ANTON might do with his PAW. So he said NOH, and she STAYED home.

Loren Muse Smith 6:29 AM  

Nancy Drew and The Hidden Staircase was one of my favorites, so of course I loved seeing this hidden staircase go down from the trophy room to the wine cellar. It starts with a kind of dupe (HIDDEN, HIDE), but it ends with one, too (CASE). Put up your dupes, buddy… go big or go home.

The word supervocalic is a supervocalic. Hah.

Phrases like SCHNAPPS’ STRENGTHS are undervocalics, what we describe in the business as vocalica anaemia. Phrases like CHATEAU AIOLI are hypervocalics, or vocalica flatulenciae.

POLKA – if you’ve never polkaed (?) at a party, put it on your bucket list. The minute you figure out the little hop part and really get’er going, you can’t help but smile. And secretly feel like an accomplished dancer.

What are some things that make you smile? Some of mine:

• Malapropisms
• Watching a toddler walk; I see myself in grad school lurching back over to the keg at 2am
• The William Tell Overture
• Walking past a student who’s just asked how I am, and with a bit of a screwed up face, I say, A little gassy today.
• Grammar “mistakes” committed by fancy pedant purists on crossword blogs in their tirades against “bad” grammar - happened a few days ago
• Talking into a banana like a phone. And offering it to students. The cool, self-actualized kids always play the game.
This clip that is me getting my 6th period going
This clip that is me in the copy room when Mr. Minney’s wife sends in a big basket of little personal banana bread loaves for us

I kept seeing the clue for 26A as food with claws and kept thinking crabs or lobsters. Condors.

Again the people who are surprised that REIN as in “control” is not spelled reign. It really should be spelled with the damn G. It just looks too vocalic without the G. Someone needs to write a letter.

Neat idea for a theme. Rex - I still don’t know how to pronounce ONER.

LHS 888 6:37 AM  

DNF due to Natick at ENSE/ELI cross. Could have been any one of several vowels.

Z 6:40 AM  

Who thought a Scooby Doo episode would be good theme material? Who thinks 75% PPP in the NW corner was a good idea. JAVA and OVID seem honky dory to me, but LENA the Hyena? ... Jesus Christ. I just looked it up. “The World’s Ugliest Woman” in Li’l Abner!?! I find it so hard to believe that this character hasn’t become a cultural icon in the 21st century. Seriously, misogynistic humor and NAZIs and Pearl Harbor, it’s the start of a 20th century greatest hits list. I wasn’t feeling all that warm towards this puzzle anyway, now, Bah. Humbug. I don’t even care that I DNF’ed at RaDS. No idea about bamboo swords so KENDa wasn’t going to scream “fix me.”

Seth 6:47 AM  

I've noticed this pattern in the NY Times. Their two categories for slang are "slang" and "modern slang." But the "slang" words are always so unbelievably old. No one EVER EVER EVER says ONER. Ever. Every single "slang" clue should be replaced by "old slang" and every "modern slang" clue can just be "slang."

And now I've said "slang" too many times and it doesn't sound like a word anymore.

Z 6:47 AM  

Oh, I got so distracted by LENA that I forgot to mention that a more American spelling of Ilya made the puzzle today.

@LMS -There is a Twitter Law that any tweet correcting someone else’s grammar or spelling must have a spelling or grammar error in it. I don’t know how Twitter enforces it, but Every. Single. Time.

DeeJay 6:48 AM  

I kept expecting a reference to Clue....

Charles Flaster 6:51 AM  

Like the theme and marvel at the construction.
Only writeover was TROPHY ROOM for TROPHY case.
Favorite clue was for BOOKCASE.
CrosswordEASE— NOH and ENSE.
I vaguely remember an Abbott and Costello movie with a plot involving many aspects of this theme. I am sure there were others.
Thanks BW.

Reasonablewoman 6:57 AM  

I had fun with this. Got stuck with TROPHYcase for a bit. New stuff - TNUT and another meaning for ESSAY. ADZE was good to see for some reason. Having PLANT,LIAM,ADZE,and REIN resulted in NAZI. We know what that was and is. I do not see the harm of having the word in a puzzle. I would support avoiding the word if it would make them go away. It won't.

Hungry Mother 6:57 AM  

Very easy with an almost Natick (maybe near Wellsley). Agree with Rex on the theme.

Hungry Mother 6:59 AM  


Glimmerglass 7:05 AM  

@Rex, I get it that you’ve set yourself as the arbiter of grid consistency, but these gripes are ridiculous. This grid is an entertaining trip into an old mystery novel or game. Stop trying to apply your standards to a puzzle that doesn’t need or want them. However, I agree with your gripe about ENSE. I live in Massachusetts, and I studied Latin all through high school and even a little in college. No idea what ENSE means. I see that it lies in the middle of the delightful staircase, and I have no suggestion for getting rid of it, but it still stinks. Luckily it is crossed both by its four across words and by the hidden phrase, so it’s doubly fair.

BarbieBarbie 7:08 AM  

Hmmm. Wellesley. What’s it called when a word has a lot of vowels, but they’re all the same vowel?

kitshef 7:13 AM  

This felt much harder than it was. By which I mean it felt like a struggle, but didn’t seem to take particularly long. Looking back, there just are no gimmes in the first 15 or so acrosses, making it hard to get started. Throw in the occasional AUER and ENSE and KENDO and it really doesn’t feel like a Wednesday.

Sequoia is my favorite supervocalic word. Now I’m off to vacataion in Port-au-Prince, Mozambique.

RJ 7:30 AM  

I can't get the Scooby Doo pictures out of my head after reading @Zs comment because yeah, it does seem like something from that show.

I almost missed a JOLT from my JAVA because I choked laughing at the clip linked by @Loren Muse Smith getting her 6th period class going. Since spring has finally arrived I'm assuming that this is a daily occurrence. The other clip is pretty funny, too.

QuasiMojo 7:40 AM  

The theme today reminded me of the movie "Notorious" directed Alfred Hitchcock. Maybe it was the NAZI lurking there that triggered that for me. Or the WINE CELLAR. One of my favorite Hitchcock films, and one of Cary Grant's best performances.

Plus I loved the clue for BOOKCASE, 24D, "Where you might adjust the volume?" I used to be one of those fussbudgets who was constantly adjusting the volumes on his bookshelf. I wanted them to stand straight, or to lean just-so at the ends if the books didn't fill the entire shelf. I draw the line though at color-coordinating the spines of the dustjackets. I read somewhere once that Calvin Klein's wife, Kelly, had decorated all the books in her library with white covers so that they all matched. I guess she didn't ever take them down to read. How would you find the tome you wanted?

So I give this one a thumbs-up, at least for effort, even though I totally agree about ENSE and ONER. ONER is a groaner, sort of like the word BONER, meaning gaffe, which you sometimes hear in old "Superman" episodes, the B/W ones with George Reeves. Time to put those ancient slang words on the shelf!

Seeing "Fee, Fi, Fo, Fum" made me see red for a bleeping moment since I used to love using those words in Scrabble until some wise-ASP told me that they weren't allowed. We couldn't find them in the Official Scrabble Dictionary, and I lost my turn, not to mention the game, so I wrote a letter to its editor and said that these words have been used in literature for a long time and should be allowed, but they wrote back, very politely, and told me that they were not considered acceptable for reasons I forget. I think it had to do with their not being in a certain dictionary which they had in their prized TROPHY ROOM of distinguished "official" reference guides. Pshaw! I still think they should be allowed, especially now that "'Za" and "Qi" are.

mathgent 7:45 AM  

Agree with Rex's criticism of the puzzle for its failure to cleanly execute the theme. I think that he expressed that criticism beautifully. Then he went off the tracks by decrying the appearance of NAZI.

Aside from STAIRCASE snaking gracefully through the middle of the grid, I didn't find much to enjoy here.

Kodak Jenkins 7:51 AM  

I'm glad someone mentioned the ENSE/ELI cross. I guess I could have guessed ELI as being more likely than ALI but DNF because of that and ECON/NOH (ECOL/LOH?).

Oh, boo on Rex today. I really liked the puzzle's hidden theme and Scooby Doo/Hardy Boys/Spooky Mansion ambience. The fact that the HIDDENSTAIRCASE connects the TROPHYROOM and WINECELLAR and BOOKCASE is clever and cute. Plus the FALSEPANEL and WALLSCONCE actually do spill out into the staircase once you've crossed the threshold. Hideaway is a bit out of place but it's a hideaway within a hidden staircase so...

And I don't mind Nazi. It's a thing.

Anonymous 8:05 AM  

A Mississippi beekeeper.

Trigger 8:12 AM  

I don’t see why Nazi, as clued, is objectionable. If all the evils in the world are expurgated the puzzles will become very boring.

QuasiMojo 8:19 AM  

Oh, I remember the reason why the Scrabble gods wouldn't allow "Fi, Fo and Fum." They said they were "ejaculations," not words. Just meaningless sounds. Haha. Okay, whatever...

Warren Peace 8:31 AM  

@Rex, do you have collections of things you like (say perhaps, star wars figurines) that you started in childhood when you meticulously lined them up?

Do you have narrow and specific interests in certain areas (maybe crossword puzzles or comic books), and somewhat ritualistic rules for everything associated with those interests? Do you become agitated when people break your rules or offend your sense of order?

Just wondering.

There was a good bit of bad fill sacrificed on the alter of this clever theme, thus dnf, but it was a fun little thing to look at when it was done. And I like the idea of a nazi hiding in the wine cellar. Especially when they cuff him and haul him away at the end, overacting with some 1950s spit-in-yer-eye bravado. We need some movies like that right now.

Calman Snoffelevich 8:31 AM  

Agreed. This "theme" makes no sense at all.

Rod Mann 8:32 AM  

Surprised at Rexie’s umbrage at the use of rhe term Nazi. Coming from a America hating socialist/communist such as lil Rex, I would have thought he would have embraced the term.

Stuart Showalter 8:38 AM  

Yes, “boo on Rex today” ... and most every other day too.

Aurelio Rodriguez 8:42 AM  

I am the most supervocalic player in baseball history

SJ Austin 8:43 AM  

There are people who will find this theme interesting and whimsical, and there are those who will allow obscure or arbitrary construction rules to ruin the fun. Count me in the first group. An impressive piece of work by Bryant White, if you ask me.

L 8:48 AM  

Nazis...I hate those guys. Yup, but sure is good to poke fun at them. Lighten up, Rex.

Linda Vale 8:58 AM  

NAZI Paikidze has won the US women’s chess championship twice - most recently this year.
Yet, Rex hates her name. Sad.

Pete 9:01 AM  

I was going to complain about how the hell should I know Old's middle name until I remembered REO Speed Wagon and realized that was a big slow straight one over the plate.

I'll repeat my complaint about SECRET or HIDDEN theme elements until the world adopts my viewpoint: THEY'RE NOT HIDDEN IF YOU PUT CIRCLES AROUND THEM POINT THEM OUT. Sorry for shouting, but I don't like being called stupid from the onset. I prefer that to be self-recriminatory when I read the blogs and realize that I didn't see the hidden staircase because it was, in fact, hidden.

Warren Peace 9:06 AM  

@Rod, this may come as a surprise to you but the Communists fought the Nazis in WWII. And I think that in America, you might be confusing the extreme left with the extreme right.

Two Ponies 9:07 AM  

Another type of clue that irks my is "quaintly" as in 72A. What is quaint about T-Men?
Agree on the state motto clues. Just cut the crap and say "some Latin word". They are as bad as RRNs.
@ QuasiMojo 7:40, I also heard Mrs. Klein only wears cashmere socks which must be ironed. Multiple dinner settings must be set every day in different rooms so they can choose where they want to dine on that day.
@ Rod Mann, If he didn't object he'd get kicked out of the club.

I love my new word - supervocalic. Somehow I will find a way to work that into conversation today.
I thought this was an odd puzzle. I suppose the strange mix of very easy to rather difficult clues made it proper for a Wed.
My favorite clue was for trios.

Anonymous 9:07 AM  

@Stuart, I'm surprised you feel that way.

James 9:11 AM  

Unwarranted and silly complaints again from Rex.

Stanley Hudson 9:14 AM  

A cool feat of construction that was fun to solve.

A day without Rex YOWLing about NAZIs is like a day without Trump Twittering.

@Aurelio Rodriguez, near coffee-spit. That guy had a cannon for an arm.

Jamie C 9:16 AM  

I slang some hash for breakfast this morning.

Lauren Gray 9:19 AM  

@Rod isn't confusing anything. He's a troll without any other purpose in life.

Emily 9:26 AM  

@Z, 6:47: I think that's called Muphry's Law.

Anonymous 9:28 AM  

Improve the theme symmetry if you like by losing the cross-reference in the 9D clue and independently tying the 20D and 24D clues to the STAIRCASE. The BOOKCASE might swivel to grant another entry point. A landing might serve as a HIDEAWAY.

Masked and Anonymous 9:32 AM  

Secret panels!
Desperate weeject STAircases! [STA = staff weeject pick]
Crossword Nazi!

Funky but entertainin. Thanx, Mr. White. Long time, no see.

Masked & Anonymo3Us

She's baaa-aack … C.C. darlin did the LA Times puz, today. Told yah. Prolific.

@muse: har. Were U wearin yer new dress, in that 6th period startup video?
Banana bread … mm-mm.


Alicia Stetson 9:33 AM  

@Z 6:47: Its true.

Anonymous 9:47 AM  

ENS_/_LI cost me dearly, but this still trended a tad slow and north of Medium for me.

Nancy 9:52 AM  

So today the clue for ECRU is "khaki-like color." Make up your mind, Will. Last time you put a bride in an ECRU dress. Which was fine with me, since I've always thought of it as a color that's off-white or ivory. But no self-respecting bride is going to wear khaki, for heaven's sake! Khaki is a hideous greenish-brown color that's made for hiding in the forest.

Oh, yes, the puzzle. Thought the fact that the HIDDEN STAIRWAY starts with the same three letters as HIDEAWAY was a bit of a cheat, construction-wise.

Two clues based on the X-Files are two too many.

Liked the clue for SNORE (68A).

I'd love to have a TROPHY ROOM, even though I don't have any trophies. Anyone else?

Mostly very easy, with a couple of places where I had to think. Wednesdayish.

GILL I. 9:55 AM  

There were circles in the puzzle? Not for me. Not one single circle so I was left to my imagination. Well it was obvious something was sneaky. This was beginning to feel like Manor House Mysteries or maybe an Agatha Christie novel. I even thought of LIAM (Neeson) crossing NAZI in his role as Schindler. Or maybe this was an ANTON Chekhov novel. Could've been anything. So, after looking at the circles provided by @Rex, I thought....cute! I like a good mystery and I certainly like to end up with VINO in a WINE CELLAR. One day, I will own one.
The clue for BOOK CASE was my favorite. Adjust your volume indeed. I actually had BOOT CAMP for a bit. TENDO sounds about right for something made of bamboo. Our favorite ASP to the rescue.
My one nit is that there seemed to be a lot of three letter words and a lot of "extra" people. T MEN are quaint?
@Mohair from yesterday....I laughed out loud reading you late last night. Maybe it was the VINO and who cares, but it brought back a funny memory. My Nana, who was a far-right Nixon Republican, called every single Democrat that she didn't like a commie rat. When JFK was elected she had a field-day at one of her DAR meetings. None there were commie rats. Cream Soda? Eww.

Tim Aurthur 10:10 AM  

REIN and REIGN have different etymologies. REIN comes from the Latin word for retain, REIGN from the word for royal state. Going way back to Indo-European, reign is related to the crossword-beloved word RAJA.

Nancy 10:16 AM  

Yes. Thank you, @Two Ponies. I loved that clue, too, but forgot to mention it. Certainly the best clue in today's puzzle, and the best clue for TRIOS that I've ever seen.

Also just read @GILL who mentions she'd like to have a WINE CELLAR. Forgot to mention that I'd like one, too, to go along with my recently wished-for TROPHY ROOM. Add to that a FALSE PANELled BOOKCASE, a WALL SCONCE, a GIANT PLANT and, of course, that HIDDEN STAIRCASE, and you've got a CO-OP with real CACHET. Is this Bryant White's wish-list, too, or has he just done unusually well in today's ECON?

Ellen S 10:21 AM  

My sainted hubby used to refer to anything unique as a ONER. It’s pronounced “One-er”, as in one-of-a-kind. But he was an old Maleskan, and taught me all those words, like ADIT (that’s a mine entrance, for you young ‘uns).

I’m Jewish and The Producers is one of my favorite movies. It wouldn’t be the same without the NAZIs. Too bad you can’t make evil things go away by making fun of them.

GHarris 10:39 AM  

The only phrase I accept from Rex’s over the top critique of the theme is “who cares”. Enjoyable even though easy.

Malsdemare 10:52 AM  

I thought this was just great fun and then I read Rex, and my good mood just crumbled. So thank dog for the good folks here. I didn't examine the finished product enough to notice that not all the themers connected to the stairs; I just liked the whole notion of pressing the WALLSCONCE in the TROPHYROOM, descending the STAIRCASE, into the WINECELLAR. Now if we could have some hanky-panky in the grid, or maybe a stud muffin or some eye candy, it would be perfect.

I knew Rex would be upset with NAZI, and reading his diatribe, I realized that "The Producers" today would be very cringey. Why oh why couldn't they have stayed gone (or almost) gone, or at least huddled in someone's musty WINECELLAR, and we could enjoy Mel Brooks' masterpiece? But I fear that's joined "The Honeymooners," and "M.A.S.H." as representative of stuff we regret we found funny?

@Seth, I finished your slang rant, experienced the same, "that's not a word" feeling, and instantly headed off to "sling, slang, slung." And I'm at the point where, as dog is my witness, I'm no longer sure that's wrong.

@LMS, that beaver is a hoot. It reminds me of the time early in my college teaching career when I read in one of my evaluations, from a male Freshman, "wear more leather." I went home and carefully put that black skirt in the back of my closet. In retrospect, I should have worn it on Mondays for my 8s or Thursday seminars.

Joseph Michael 11:02 AM  

My hidden staircase was shaded rather than circled. Either way, it's not much of a secret when it's highlghted. Would have preferred the challenge of finding the hidden passageway from the trophy room to the wine cellar.

Could have done without the dupes, such as "hidden/hideaway" and "tnut/tmen" and the crosswordese like "ense" and "oner," but I enjoyed the story that the puzzle tells, from the snoot in the trophy room to the Nazi hiding in the wine cellar.

Roo Monster 11:08 AM  

Hey All !
Ransome ELI Olds, car maker. Original marque was REO, as in a Speedwagon as one of the car names (hence where the music group, REO SPEEDWAGON got their name), then the marque Oldsmobile. Even Non-Har @Nancy would know that! (Hi @Nancy!)

Interesting theme. I take 20D, HIDEAWAY as the revealer, though it's not clued as such. There's your tie-in. Neat little "hidden" center section that the STAIRCASE goes through.

Couple cheater squares hanging out in NE and SW. LOL at last two Acrosses. Are TMEN TNUTs? ESSAY clue odd. Isn't ASSAY a better answer there? And to further puck at SE corner, isn't it ADZ, no E?

My grandfather loved POLKAS. His mother came over on the boat from Poland, not sure what year. But, he ended up meeting a 100℅ Polish woman, my grandmother, and they had three daughters, one of which, naturally :-), is my mother. So, I'm 50℅ Polish. So now you know why I'm how I am! :-P There was an AM radio station where we grew up in Pennsylvania that was all POLKAs, radio on that station all day! They all sounded the same to me!


James Pratt 11:09 AM  

The theme made me think of Clue (which, rumor has it, Ryan Reynolds is in talks to star in a remake of the '80s version). I liked it, and finished, even with some strangeness in there.

While I recognize the potential distaste of referencing NAZIs in our grids, I agree with Ellen S @ 10:21am, and others, that mentions of media where they're comedic help to alleviate the distaste a bit. And besides, who would Indiana Jones fight (don't say Russians - we don't speak of that one).

My favorite supervocalic word is facetious. All the vowels, plus, they're in alphabetical order.

al wander 11:18 AM  

Hey, it’s just a puzzle not a precision machine; can it be fun?

QuasiMojo 11:22 AM  

@Nancy, you’re right about “khaki” being green but it’s evolved over the years to be a pale white, what we used to call chinos I think. In any case it’s time to shelve “ecru” in the armoire of over-used crosswordese.

Anonymous 11:45 AM  

Y'all know that there's virtually no such thing as a FALSE PANEL, right? Just because something is secretly also a door doesn't make it not a panel. It's a real panel and a secret door. I have a FALSE PANEL in my utility room; it used to serve my electric furnaces and water-heaters, now everything behind it has been disconnected. I guess that may make it a false panel, but an extremely boring one.

Re NAZI: The issue mainly that the constructor went out of his way to get NAZI in there in the first place, probably just to have the Z, i.e. the Scrabble F#$king. If you're Scrabble F#$king a puzzle and NAZI is the only way to do it, don't do it, because no one wants NAZIs anywhere, not marching in the streets, not following @POTUS online, not being @POTUS, not in the puzzle. Forcing a PEZ/ZEPPO crossing when a PEP / PEPTO would equally fit is harmless Scrabble F#%king. Dragging fascists in, not so much.

old timer 11:53 AM  

I figure if we must know ESTO we might as well learn ENSE too. Though I have no idea what it means.

And really, @Rex, didn't you love Springtime for Hitler? The audience in The Producers did, so much that it made the play a hit, which was the last thing our heroes wanted.

Masked and Anonymous 12:06 PM  


Neo-no-NAZI SE corner possibility:

66. Adam's fave roof part
69. Related
72. "Latin Lives Today" word?
56. Do some caseload work
61. Eerie, almost??
62. A few feet from the track meet feature, maybe?
63. Tear up

But -- Original SE corner fill didn't seem to suffer much from the "Z", IM&AO.
Scrabble-twerkin don't actually bother m&e much. Bannin words from crosswords feels a bit too much like bannin books from libraries, tho.
Exception: PEWIT.

M&A Help Desk and Twerk Appraisal District

Things that make m&e smile:
* @muse blog comments [and most everybody else's comments, too].
* Crossword construction desperation moments.
* Cinnamon rolls.
* Bullets in a @RP blog write-up.
* Above average U-usage [supurvuculuc words].

jberg 12:08 PM  

Lots of extras in this one, not only the clues but that HIDEAWAY. It's a secret spot, which must have some relation to all that secret pushing going on.

I've lived in Massachusetts since 1964, and had no idea what the state motto was. Turns out I'm justified -- it has never actually been adopted as a motto, but can be found on the state seal. It means "By the sword we seek peace, but peace only under liberty." Don't think it would get adopted today, were anyone to propose it! I had to look it up, by the way -- my first thought was that ENSE meant "duck."

As for those NAZIs, come on, we're making fun of them!

But now let's get serious. I take it a supervocalic word is one with all the vowels? Why isn't that pan vocalic? Supervocalic ought to mean either that it has more than all the vowels, or else that all the vowels are on top.

@Loren, my students wrote "reign in" and "free reign" a lot, as well. I came to realize that they'd never been near a horse, so that those equestrian metaphors just didn't make sense to them.

OTOH, they did know how to pronounce co-op, unlike the students at Harvard.

Carola 12:10 PM  

Having been crazy about Clue, Nancy Drew, and the Dana Girls, I loved this puzzle. I also didn't find it particularly easy, and enjoyed the concentrated sleuthing it took to figure it all out.
@Lewis, thanks for the pairs and the story.
@Malsdemere - "Wear more leather" - hilarious!

Roo Monster 12:50 PM  

Auto-Corrupt strikes again! @Nancy, I meant to say "Even Non-Auto Nancy would know..."

@M&A, am constantly mind-boggled over your wordage. Supurvuculuc. Wow! Let's put in a call to Merriam-Webster to get that word in the books!

Who sometimes proof reads his posts, but not always, and that's usually when crazy things get auto corrected!

Z 1:04 PM  

@BarbieBarbie - Homovocalic.

@Emily - Or at least one of its many corollaries.

@Aurelio Rodriguez- You are in my supervocalic Hall of Fame. Go Tigers!

Greg Miller 1:09 PM  

It's OK. Rex refused to go see The Producers too.

Joe Bleaux 1:18 PM  

And a racist comment to boot ("honky dory")!

Teedmn 1:22 PM  

I tried quite hard to mess this solve up but the HIDDEN STAIRCASE saved me in the end. First off, writing in "ethic" for CREED caused a little problem because when I scratched a C over the "e" in ethic, it still looked like an "e". So 24D, "Where you might adjust the volume?" became a volumetric question to me, and I put in BOOz[e]___. This caused a jam-up, enabled by my "UFO" instead of FED at 9A. I fixed this FALSE start, but I had already written my final time at the top of my paper when I noticed a blank space in 30D's EN_E. I had put CNN at AoL (home is where your heart is, after all, and not necessarily a place, right?). So seeing the staircase making its stealthy way down the center saved me. (Okay, maybe not all that stealthy, since my puzzle had light gray squares lighting the way down the stairs.)

So do T-MEN go T-NUTs? Are ALGA and OLGA related to @Z's Ilya? Would you take A DATE to a POLKA? Do the French become piqued at pique-niques?

I loved @LMS's vocalic gassiness and @M&A's supurvuculuc. And @Nancy, I'm totally with you on ECRU not relating to khaki.

Thanks, Bryant White, your puzzle has CACHET.

Charley 1:27 PM  

41 Across is wrong. As railroad buffs know a stop along the way is a station. The “terminus” is a terminal. Hence, Grand Central Terminal for Metro-North, Grand Central Station for the subway.

Anonymous 1:41 PM  

Mostly agree with Rex. And we really didn't need Nazi as a word, especially since as clued, it's wrong. The only actual Nazi in "The Producers" is Franz Liebkind, the author of the play Springtime for Hitler. The other "Nazis" in the movie are actors PLAYING Nazis in the Springtime for Hitler production number. And yes I know that actors play the ETS and FEDs, but in "The Producers" we have actors playing actors playing Nazis.

Anonymous 1:51 PM  

"Put the candle back"

Anonymous 2:01 PM  

@ Warren Peace 9:06
Nazis were National SOCIALISTS. Socialists are from the left. The Nazis were to the right of the communists, but they were still leftists on the political spectrum.

Jeremy Smith

mathgent 2:02 PM  

I just read the late Tuesday posts. Thank you @Anon (7:02 pm). I had asked if anyone knew the source of the quote "Most people enjoy the smell of their own farts." Anon knew that it was W.H. Auden. It prompted me to look up other memorable quotes by that poet. A great one: "Death is the sound of distant thunder at a picnic."

Pete 2:11 PM  

@Z - Me thinks you didn't get @Emily's joke. Read her post carefully.
@Emily - well played.

cwf 2:26 PM  

I don't think I see this above, but I believe it's a HIDEAWAY BOOKCASE (symmetrical answers); i.e. a book case that pivots 180° when triggered (usually by tipping a book out), sweeping you into the adjacent room and replacing the bookcase with a façade. On cheesy old TV shows, I mean.

Mohair Sam 3:20 PM  

Puzzle different and lots of fun, I enjoyed discovering the HIDDEN STAIRCASE. And I liked seeing the other old mansiony stuff packed in the little house that is a 15x15. The kind of creativity we should be cheering.

Wish I had reason to have a TROPHY ROOM.

@Gill I - I think I picked up the "Commie Rat" insult from either George C. Scott or Sterling Hayden in "Dr. Strangelove" - love using it on folks who lean even slightly Left. Or those who exhibit anti-American behavior (i.e. hating cream soda).

68Charger 4:07 PM  


sanfranman59 4:47 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 5:27 4:30 1.21 87.7% Challenging
Tue 6:39 5:37 1.18 81.8% Challenging
Wed 8:07 6:07 1.33 89.6% Challenging

The NYT is kicking my butt this week. And today it's Bryant White giving me a thrashing as he often does in the archived puzzles. According to XWord Info, it's his first NYT puzzle in 20 years.

I got the circled square idea pretty early on, but my initial fill was HIDDEN STAIRwAys and that kept me from getting BOOKCASE for a bit. True to form here, I never seem to think of ESSAY as 'try' until it's my last puzzle entry. It took what felt like 5 minutes just to read the clue for AEIOU ("Key parts of a so-called supervocalic word") and since I don't recall encountering that term before, that was a time sink. "Li'l Abner" has never been on my reading list, so LENA's not on the tip of my tongue. I think I've encountered her in other puzzles over the years but this is her first time in the NYT since an ACME co-constructed puzzle in 2010. Leopold AUER makes one or two appearances per year. One of these years, I'm going to remember him, but apparently not this one. Is both VINO and WINE CELLAR kosher in the same puzz? I resisted WINE because I didn't think so.

Those were my struggles, but I enjoyed the challenge. Welcome back BW.

Paul Statt 4:51 PM  

Is there a Nobel Prize in ECON? I don't think so. Could have been a more interesting clue: "Not a Nobel subj."

Joe Bleaux 5:03 PM  

(If the gods had been Sherlock Holmes fans, they'd have known it wasn't at all uncommon for Doyle to write that Dr. Watson had "ejaculated" everyday words -- not meaningless sounds -- in awe of something the great detective had noticed.)

Former Enron Advisor Paul Krugman 5:26 PM  

@Paul 4:51: Yes. It is called the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences.

Anonymous 5:39 PM  


Publicly criticizing someone for criticizing or correcting someone's bad grammar is also public shaming - or don't you get that?

Anonymous 5:59 PM  

Re: "National Socialist Party" - has as much to do with socialism as "Republican Party" has to do with republics.

Sorry to break the news about this, but Mr. H. and friends did not adopt or pursue socialist policies. It takes a real right-wing orientation of "mind" not to understand them, their policies, and their actions as right-wing.

FrankStein 6:14 PM  

“The Hidden Staircase” is a classic Nancy Drew novel.

Larry Gilstrap 9:20 PM  

I have an active dream life, and this puzzle was reminiscent of finding yourself in in odd room for no obvious reason and wondering why the details? I kept feeling I was missing some reference, or allusion. The only HIDDEN STAIRCASE I remember seeing was at the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam. Moving place.

My favorite was ADAPT clued "Not a dinosaur." Reading comments on a Twitter post yesterday about the stuffiness of the NYT puzzles, the commentors were throwing around the word "old" like it was a very bad quality. I just had a big birthday and celebrated with orthopaedic surgery and have vowed to continue on working being as vital and relevant as the next guy. But, some of my contemporaries drive me crazy. One guy listens to the Kingston Trio exclusively? And those folks driving around in their Wandering Winnies with those annoying little dogs, but I'm stereotyping. My bad! In life, things change and you adapt. Science tells us that the dinosaurs were dealt a deal that was beyond adaptation.

Ask me about my experiences with poison oak encountered roaming around the Santa Ana Mountains. No Poison SUMAC around, but what we have is bad enough. Folks swear by Fels Naptha after a chance encounter, but if the rash flares after two days you are cursed.

Andrew M 9:23 PM  


Anonymous 9:29 PM  

I had trophy case and that was the end of me.

Is there such a thing as a "trophy room"? For people other than Serena Williams?

James Pratt 11:05 AM  

jberg @ 12:08pm - I think part of the amusement of the term "supervocalic" vs. "panvocalic" is that the word "supervocalic" is, in and of itself, supervocalic.

Add the three uses in that sentence to the one I wrote yesterday, and that is four more times that I have written the word "supervocalic" in the last 24 hours than I had ever done in my life before that. And now it's five.

Tom Beckett 11:55 PM  

Nazis aren’t funny unless you’re as funny as Mel Brooks telling a joke. This puzzle did NOT come anywhere lose to that bar.

Bob Fingerman 5:03 PM  

I find it interesting, and I’m guilty of it myself, when people get annoyed at a clue simply because it falls outside of their area of knowledge. I enjoyed the Lena the Hyena reference because I’m a cartoonist and I grew up reading Li’l Abner. But I can see where that clue would annoy people that hadn’t. And I’m glad you addressed “oner“ because that was some BS. No one says that. Ever.

spacecraft 10:32 AM  

Here we go. OFL screaming about NAZI. So, we should never again see terms that evoke the worst in humanity? Does not seeing them make them not exist? Not only did the NAZIs exist--I'm afraid they still do. To be in denial is just stupid. It's a thing. It can go in a puzzle. The author is not calling YOU a NAZI, or representing himself as one. He just put a word in a puzzle. Get over it.

Mini-rant over, I think OFL let his aversion creep into the rest of his critique. Me, I had fun doing this one. HIDDEN passageways: cool stuff! Trying to figure out the logistics of this imaginary house would get you ready for a M.L. Escher art show. Just roll with it.

There is a bit of misfortune in the fill; AEIOU is a tiresome crutch, and ENSE is indeed awful, but there's a ton of good fill too. Look at those tens alongside the themers: EIGHTSIDED ADOLESCENT. Maybe a new "South Park" character, the math whiz? Notice also the near-symmetry of TURNS and LATCH, wonderful lagniappes for the theme. I'm not a fan of TNUT and TMEN, especially twinned like that, but by and large, I liked this. Speaking of twins, we award two DOD's today to two sultry chanteuses: LENA Horne and xword fave Yma SUMAC. Birdie.

thefogman 10:33 AM  

Rex is picking things apart a bit too much here. It's clever and fun. It looks perfectly symmetrical to me and is one of the finest puzzles to come out in a long time. I liked this puzzle a lot. But I love themers and Rex does not. To each his own I guess.

thefogman 10:46 AM  

PS - I wonder if there are any entwicklungsroman novels in that supervocalic BOOKCASE?

Anonymous 11:42 AM  

to warren peace: in history one finds communists fighting communists, nazis fighting nazis, nazis fighting communists etc. the nazis were fascists with a socialist bent, thus their creed was National Socialism.
communists, fascists, statists all have in common the glorification of the state with all issues being solved by force of the state rather than through voluntary means. this creates conflict within and without, and hence a warlike society. not unlike what is evolving in the good ole usa today. the right vs left false dichotomy is a handy tool of the state to keep the populace pining for the next great leader.

and nice puzzle mr white.

leftcoastTAM 12:50 PM  

Do richly themed puzzles make for easy solves? Maybe today, it appears, but this one is also pretty entertaining. And what is the theme anyway? Is it solver's choice?

Mystery Story? The game, "Clue"? HIDDENSTAIRCASE? Other? Take your pick, or make another one up. It's part of the fun and entertainment and fun offered today by White and Shortz.

Accept it and thank them. I do.

leftcoastTAM 1:03 PM  

Thought it was "fun", but didn't mean to overstate it.

Diana,LIW 1:05 PM  

Almost dnf. Almost, until I realized the hidden place for trophies was not a shelf. Since that was not the "case," but was a ROOM, I then could complete with aplomb.

The Producers was hilarious because it made fun of you know whos. Well...also because it had several comedic geniuses at work.

Phew - a Mon thru Wed run, so far. Many memories of Nancy Drew were brought forth in the hidden corners.

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for a good mystery

Diana,LIW 1:06 PM  

PS - I have a jigsaw puzzle that is also a mystery puzzle - but at 1000 pieces, I've put it off. Perhaps this is an omen? hmmm

Lady Di

Burma Shave 2:23 PM  


I had ADATE with LENA so FAIR
in her EERIE HIDEAWAY lair,
TURNS out she had a GIANT PAIR
to PAW, so I’m walking ONAIR.


rondo 3:33 PM  

@anon 11:42 - You can’t pin down the politics of any group by what they name *themselves*, you must look at their actions/activities. By any and all accounts the NAZI party was extremely far-right. It was in fact nationalist and had nothing to do with socialism. But NAZI is still just a word in the puz and well, . . . like @spacey said.

To the puz: it’s a mystery. Of some sort. Not sure. Young Frankenstein? “Put ze kendle beck”? Mysterious. Lotsa yakkin’ about ONER which has appeared so often it’s gotta be crosswordese. And no write-overs so how tough could it be?

What’s the difference between T-MEN and T-women? T-NUTs.

Hey! LENA made the puz, but no Sven nor Ole. Gotta mention my favorite acting Olin, yeah baby LENA.

White/Shortz sounds like an answer to a recent puz. This one wasn’t a SNORE.

Anonymous 4:00 PM  


rainforest 4:35 PM  

Kind of an EERIE feeling making my way through this "house" with all its rooms connected by HIDDEN devices. The whole place is a HIDEAWAY, a possible theme revealer.

One write-over as I entered HIDDEN STAIRwell early in the solve which kept BOOKCASE "HIDDEN" for a bit.

How nice to have a theme which doesn't rely on rebi or words spanning other words. It is very visual reminding me of some of Liz Gorski's work. The "floor plan" idea opens up a whole new category of theme, I think. Quite Clue-ish.

The mild controversy over NAZI made me wonder if alt-right, or even alt-left would cause a furor. Depends on the clue, I suppose. Speaking of which, the clue for NAZI reminded me of how much I laughed when I watched The Producers.

Much fun today.

thefogman 4:39 PM  

A classic!

Diana,LIW 10:34 PM  

To @Foggy and @Rondo - T-Hee!


Anonymous 10:45 AM  

to rondo: looking at their activities - actually nazis had a lot to do with socialism. even though much of the property was in writing privately owned, that fascist state directed all business activity. so you may have "owned" your business but in reality the state directed it as if the state owned it. if you define right as private property ownership the nazi regime of the 20th century was very far left. and nationalist applies to the communist regimes as well who marched their militaries on may day parades etc and generally glorified their nation-states. red china, soviet union, albania etc.

Anonymous 12:50 PM  

That was fantastic! I didn't notice the little "room" between the trophy room and wine cellar! And the little side drama in the West you found was very entertaining! I'm only an occasional puzzle-doer and as such. I don't always have the paper with the answers lying around. That's how I stumbled upon this very enjoyable blog. For all the times I've meant to drop a comment about this or that, I just never have. But I just couldn't let your note go by without diving in and ssying "Bravo, Lewis!" You took what I thought was a pretty enjoyable puzzle already and made it all the better! Thanks!

  © Free Blogger Templates Columnus by 2008

Back to TOP