Superman-like stance / WED 5-23-18 / Island that's world's third-smallest country after Vatican City Monaco / Quarter barrel of beer /

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Constructor: David Steinberg

Relative difficulty: Challenging (laughably challenging—a full minute over my slowest recorded Wednesday time since I started keeping track in mid-April) (6:17)

THEME: "expanded" (??) — clues are followed by "... expanded?" and that apparently means that the answer can be found by joining elements on either end of the theme answer ... so the stuff in the middle, which appears to be gobbledygook, has "expanded" the real answer to make a newer, longer answer that is the answer to ... nothing? I think? [updated: fuller explanation below, in italics]

Theme answers:
  • 16A: Beginning, expanded? (STREET ART)
  • 22A: Forming a crust, expanded? (CALIFORNIA KING)
  • 47A: Choose in advance, expanded? (PRESIDENT-ELECT)
  • 57A: Inspiration for something, expanded? (SOUTH PARK)
Word of the Day: NAURU (49D: Island that's the world's third-smalles country, after Vatican City and Monaco) —
Nauru (NauruanNaoero/nɑːˈr/ nah-OO-roo or /ˈnɑːr/ NAH-roo), officially the Republic of Nauru (NauruanRepubrikin Naoero) and formerly known as Pleasant Island, is an island country in Micronesia, a subregion of Oceania, in the Central Pacific. Its nearest neighbour is Banaba Island in Kiribati, 300 kilometres (186 mi) to the east. It further lies northwest of Tuvalu, north of the Solomon Islands, east-northeast of Papua New Guinea, southeast of the Federated States of Micronesia and south of the Marshall Islands. With 11,347 residents in a 21-square-kilometre (8.1 sq mi) area, Nauru is the smallest state in the South Pacific, smallest republic and third smallest state by area in the world, behind only Vatican City and Monaco. (wikipedia)
• • •

What is this? I don't understand the theme. I get the "expanded" part, but ... why? What are the middle letters? What does the "expansion" mean or represent or anything? Why? It's entirely baffling to me why this puzzle got made, published, etc. Don't a lot of longer phrases have letters on either end that could also make ... a word? Is there even a concept here, something that's being enacted or demonstrated? I mean, honestly, anything? It's such a bad theme I cannot explain its existence. The constructor is prolific, so it's not like some new constructor just had a weak idea. And anyway, that's hardly the issue, since the editor had to accept this thing. And it's got a dumb shape AND it's ridiculously hard for a Wednesday. I routinely do Friday puzzles much faster than I did this thing. Not having Any Idea what the answers to the themers were (since they're utterly unclued), and having literally never heard of a CALIFORNIA KING (born and raised in California, btw), AND staring down giant NE and SW corners that had Fri/Sat-level clues in them, I was floundering. God, what an awful combination—terrible, inexplicable theme AND difficulty pitched way above average. I had to go to Twitter to make sure I wasn't missing something. Thankfully (for my sanity), other late-night solving stalwarts had no clue either.

[update: someone from crossword twitter read the "constructor's notes" and explained: apparently if you abbr. the first words in the themers, you get the answer to the clue. Well, that's better than I thought, but since it missed me, and loads of other people, I'm gonna stand by the idea that this was a design failure ... I mean ST and CA, alright, but PRES? And S??? Those are some weakass abbrevs. and the "expanded" answers remain entirely unclued]

The raisin on this terrible sundae was the stupid "Man up!" bullshit at 6D: "Grow ___!" ("Man up!") ("A PAIR"). You know what the NYT could use? More people without A PAIR. Lots and lots and lots more constructors and editors etc. who possess precisely no pairs. That whole place is such a sausagefest—I'm sure this "tickles" them no end, but honestly, this is an institution that not only inadequately represents women, but that just shrugs ignorantly at the very problem. Here's the preposterously naive recent editorial statement on gender imbalance in the ranks of NYT crossword constructors (posted to a semi-popular constructing listserv by the most famous person in all of crosswords):

Why don't more women wanna be part of this dickfest? I'm sure the problem is not at all cultural. Nope. Chicks just aren't interested man. Stop whining. Grow A PAIR. Etc. 

Also, **** that GHETTO clue, man (27A: Poor area). The puzzle is so white and affluent at every level that I'm not really up for this terse, reductive characterization of GHETTO. Keep it out of your puzzle or (last resort) clue it via music, preferably hip-hop (though Elvis is probably the most widely known referent for the puzzle-solving crowd). "Poor area"? Come on. The only "poor area" I see right now is the editorial office that exercised exceedingly "poor" judgment in publishing this thing. I'm too tired to even go into why the NE and SW were hard. They just were. And I totally forgot NAURU, possibly because it's impossibly small. Possibly because my brain couldn't think past PALAU. 

THUD THUD THUD THUD (either the sound of the puzzle falling flat or the sound of my head hitting my desk in frustration at the multiple levels of badness on display here—take your pick)

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Jared 12:07 AM  

Totally agree with Rex on this one. I finished it pretty quickly but I had no idea what the theme meant until I read the notes at the end so it was kind of like shooting darts blindfolded. If you're going to do this one you've gotta make the middle letters meaningful somehow.

BroJo 12:12 AM  

9 minutes slower than the Friday from the other month I just solved.

dp 12:17 AM  

I'm a very slow and recreational solver, but I found this one easy for a Wednesday (which means 24 minutes for me) simply because I managed to fill in enough of the theme clues to guess them all. I still don't understand it, even though you explained it.

Casimir 12:19 AM  

I usually think OFL is a bit overly critical of puzzles, but I almost always see his point. Today, I see his point AND share his passion. The "shortened" themers were really bad, imo, for the reasons Rex identified, and the "expanded" ones were not clued and thus served little purpose. I figured out the "shortened" words, but never saw the abbreviation trick, which was kind of lame as applied here.

One of my least favorite Times puzzles ever, but I might be missing something.

Harryp 12:29 AM  

It took a minute or so for me to put in CALIFORNIA KING. I thought it might be a fish or a crab, but the later Google says it is a mattress. No problem with the other Theme clues and answers. 3.6 Rexes, another good puzzle by D.S.

Tom 12:30 AM  

This of a theme. Never got it because it's so inept it's not very gettable. Solve on my iPhone, so no theme info available. Finished only 3 minutes slower than my average Wed, but only because the crosses worked for me. Got CALIFORNIAKING and thought WTF?
Interesting to have PONYKEG next to APERITIFS. College frat party vs. dinner in Paris.
Don't want to mention the juxtaposition of HOTROD next to A PAIR, but I just did.
Oh well, done and on to Thursday.

Anonymous 12:30 AM  

Rex, I agree with your broader point, but saying that there are too many dicks and balls in the community is a great way to exclude transwomen and nb folks.

Anonymous 12:47 AM  

I saw "START" by removing "TREE" from 16A and thought, wait there was another "tree" answer... yea... LEMONTREE... that must have something to do with the theme...


Mark 12:55 AM  

I liked the puzzle. I agree the theme was not the best, but the long answers ended up being interesting. I couldn’t care less about gender imbalance in authorship, I just want good puzzles. Anyway, I’m sure if more women submitted puzzles, more women’s puzzles would be published. Do I want worse puzzles for the sake of gender balance? No way! And Rex, you seem to think the Times is way too right leaning and conservative, where does that put you? Just because you live in an ivory tower, doesn’t mean the rest of us do.

Jyqm 1:08 AM  

LOL. I don’t think I’ve commented since the last time you parodied yourself this well, but I don’t have much more to say beyond LOL. Well done, this write-up is a masterpiece. Can’t say I enjoyed this puzzle as much I usually do David Steinberg’s efforts, but the fact that it produced the above bloviation more than justifies its existence.

Anonymous 1:10 AM  

No problems, really, just a bit longer than usual, although did not get the revealer and got most of the fill from crosses. California King is pretty common knowledge as a slightly larger than regular king mattress. Anyone who has shopped for a mattress or sheets would have come across this term frequently. My wife has forbid me from using Grow a Pair, Man Up, or Nut Up in the house. I likewise have scolded my privileged teen daughter from describing anything as "ghetto," ever. It gets tossed around casually among her peers.

Larry Gilstrap 1:21 AM  

I got an earful from my local M-W solver for certain. Those themers made no sense until OFL tipped the expansion part, and still I'm trying to explain what just happened and nobody is happy here. She's kinda pushing me around and perhaps I should exert myself. I distinctly remember growing A PAIR; 7th grade rings a bell, but I don't remember it making me more assertive. Pair is still intact and I'm still not assertive.

A compass has one function, and that is to point north, ever-fixed mark or the side of a TREE with the moss. So let's assume that a MORAL compass designates the right thing to do. Sounds good. It's not a MORAL weather vane or a MORAL wind sock. Right and wrong are open for interpretation? Really?

I rarely get drunk before dinner, but when I do, I prefer multiple APERITIFS.

JOHN X 1:22 AM  

This puzzle was fantastic!

I loved this thing! Especially in the middle when I was all like "what the hell's going on here?" I just sort of saw CALIFORNIAKING (hey I sleep on one babe) and then STREETART and then I got the expanded part but I'll be damned if I knew what was up. But that's what was great about it. There was no pattern except that there was.

And when I got to GROWAPAIR I just started laughing. The words in this puzzle are hysterical. There's a party going on in this grid and even you are invited.

And the bonus was Rex's write-up. Man this puzzle pressed every Rex button. Reading this was like watching an episode of Maude back in '70s. This was Classic Rex, the Real Rex, the Now Rex. Fresh, crunchy, non-Maleskian.

Anonymous 1:25 AM  

There’s nothing at all “weak-ass” about PRES and S being short for PRESIDENT and SOUTH. Truly surprised that OFL isn’t familiar with CALIFORNIA KING.

I’ve heard women use the phrase “grow A PAIR” (metaphorically, duh) about one another. Perhaps they might hope OFL would do the same and be less inclined to come to their speech-police “rescue.”

Yes, Virginia, ghettos are often poor areas. Poverty is real. Don’t tell anybody!

Anonymous 1:32 AM  

A CALIFORNIA KING is one size up from a king-size bed. With all due respect, it's aggressively common.

Here's some history on it ...

"In the early 1960s, a Los Angeles furniture company began making oversized beds for celebrity mansions. At a whopping 72 inches by 84 inches, this king bed became the largest on the market. It was dubbed the California king-sized bed and went into mass production a few years later."

And heck, Rihanna did a song in 2011 called "California King Bed." Here's to furniture-based music!

Moly Shu 1:34 AM  

He’s finally done it. @Rex has gone off the deep end. PRES is never an abbreviation for PRESIDENT and S just doesn’t work as an abbreviation for SOUTH, right ? Right? No, @Rex, that’s exactly how they are abbreviated. And the complaint that the grid is “stupid looking” seriously, WTF?? Almost forgot, toss in the obligatory -I’ve never heard of it so it’s terrible fill- complaint also. Maybe OFL should actually, you know, grow.... I liked that it was difficult and that the themers were (mostly) unclued. I thought the fill was top-notch, Nary an eel or ono or RRN to be found. There was ECRU and ASTI, but the rest sparkled. At least I thought so. Liked it as much or more than OFL hated it. Keep em coming Will and DS, I’ll solve em.

Mike 1:35 AM  

GHETTO... first time I’ve ever felt bad typing in an answer.

Johnny Vagabond 1:38 AM  

I don’t get what the problem is with Will Shortz explanation as to why there are so few women represented in the NYT’s crossword. Please explain why it’s so inadequate. It just seems like something that is true. Is that someone’s fault? Thanks Open to learning and growing.

chefwen 1:44 AM  

Couldn’t agree with the write up more. Didn’t even take the trouble to try to understand the theme. Even though all of my squares were filled in correctly I’ll take a DNF on the theme. As Rex said WHY? Should have just quit the damn thing, but I’m stubborn.

Anonymous 1:55 AM  

this was terrible — a new low for the puzzle

ColoradoCog 2:32 AM  

I have to agree with just about everything @Rex said. I mean... On a Wednesday? Really? This one very nearly was a DNF for me, but I did finish, albeit with an almost-Saturday time. And even with the extra explanation in italics, I understand but I don’t get it. OK, the first letters of the clue’s answer are abbreviations that if expanded become the start of a phrase that ends with the rest of the clue’s answer. OK... but the phrase has nothing to do with the clue. No wordplay, no puns. No clever twists that refer back to the clue or the answer. They’re just... words. That’s all. Um... Let’s just say it; the emperor has no clothes. This is not a theme.

jae 2:37 AM  

Medium-tough for me. My initial reaction was identical to @Rex’s....what, huh, this s** I stared at it for while knowing that there had to be more to it...nothing...then I got up to pour my self a night cap and A HA!!! abbreviations!

So, liked it more than @Rex did.

Kendall 2:41 AM  

I didn’t get even remotely close to finishing this because I couldn’t for the life of me figure out the theme, and I didn’t know every single cross to the theme answers to figure this out. I don’t have access to the constructor notes on my app but I can say with confidence most people aren’t going to get this without them. What a dumpster fire. I honestly thought I had my days confused and it was someone ridiculous Thursday rebus I was doomed to never understand.

Anonymous 3:20 AM  

Wow. @Rex clearly LOSES IT today. This was a little difficult - a minute or so over my average - but who doesn't like a little crunchiness in a mid-week puz? The fact that the theme was hard to grok (I didn't get it until I saw the explanation) doesn't make it a bad puzzle. Now that I see it, I think it's kind of neat. And, there's lots of other good stuff here. GHETTO is tone deaf, but POWERPOSE, EXONERATE, PONY KEG AND APERITIFS are all very nice.

And, I guess you have to count me as naive. What, exactly, is it the NYT is supposed to do to attract more female constructors? Advertise? Pay more? Accept lower quality? I just don't get @Rex's insinuation that there's some sort of gender bias going on in the selection of puzzles. It would be one thing if there were an equal number of male/female submissions and fewer female puzzles published, but that's not what's happening. If the submissions aren't there, they can't be published.

shza 3:22 AM  

My wavelength is so far off from Rex’s. I didn’t love this, and didn’t get the theme until reading the explanation here, but I finished this in well below my average Wednesday time (still almost double Rex’s time). On the other hand, I was slower than average both Monday (way slower) and Tuesday, which were allegedly “easy.”

Anonymous 3:29 AM  

Couldn’t let go of exTRA/BedS (as in riverbed). Missed the theme while solving, but I can appreciate how clever it is. @Rex argues that the theme missed him! Har. He gets frustrated: racism! sexism!

Richard Perlman 3:43 AM  

Agreed. I actually enjoyed Rex’s write-up more than the puzzle.

Anonymous 3:47 AM  

It's bad because it totally abdicates responsibility. Fewer women than men submit puzzles - okay, sure, true, that makes it hard to have equitable representation. But there's no discussion about what he plans to do to address the problem. There's no critical examination of why women might feel less included or able to contribute. Simply acknowledging a problem isn't enough any more - you get no brownie points for saying you wish something were different. You have to do something concrete, or try to, to make it better.

mathgent 4:09 AM  

I agree with Rex on one of his points and disagree on another.

Agree. "Expanded" in the clue to the four themers is not adequate. "Unabbreviated" would have been better. Had I been able to see that the answer "start" could thought of as "st" followed by "art," that is STREETART, the puzzle would have been a lot more fun.

Disagree. Rex is saying that the reason that more women don't submit puzzles to NYT is that they are repelled at the reek of testosterone in the editorial offices. Before making such a startling claim, he should provide some evidence. I don't believe that there is any.

As to the puzzle, it was not difficult to solve even without getting the gimmick. Not difficult and not fun. The only sparkle came from APAIR. Disappointing effort from the talented David Steinberg.

Ellen S 4:09 AM  

I don’t understand why there’s only about three of us, including me, who understood the theme. It wasn’t that complicated. E.g., “Beginning, expanded?” — a “beginning” is a START. The first letters (in this case the first two letters, but not always two letters) are ST, which is an abbreviation for STREET. So expand the abbreviation and you get STREETART.
“Forming a crust” is CAKING. “CA” is the postal abbreviation for CALIFORNIA. Substitute the expanded word for the abbreviation and you get CALIFORNIAKING.

I thought it was brilliant, and the non-themers were likewise. My fave, maybe, was MOO for “Complain about one’s calves”.

I agree with @Rex that @Will misses the point in wondering why there aren’t more women constructors submitting puzzles. But it’s 1am and while I feel awake enough to try to explain the brilliant-but-not-that-complicated puzzle theme, I’m not quite up to trying to explain how oppression and marginalization are institutionalized and perpetuated, so that the marginalizers and oppressors just innocently can’t figure out why they can’t recruit more of the groups that are excluded.

Anonymous 5:12 AM  

I actually got the theme while solving and found it helpful, but only partially enjoyed it; the problem is that the expanded phrases bear no link to the original or each other. They could've also been clued better in ways that link the original and expanded phrases.

But completely agree with the sexist and classist cluing. There's no reason for it - APAIR is something you can have in a poker hand, a GHETTO could be "___ Superstar" or "Site of Warsaw uprising." Just no reason for that whatsoever.

Thomaso808 5:34 AM  

I fortunately (weirdly?) saw the ST at the beginning and the ART at the end, and got the theme right away, so this was a fun solve. It was a big deal for me and my wife when we bought a CALIFORNIAKING back in the 80’s.

Yeah, APAIR raised an eyebrow for me.

But come on, S is a completely legitimate abbreviation for South, and turning it from Spark into SOUTHPARK is genius.

Pissball Pete 5:35 AM  

Rex, did you really just refer to a crossword puzzle editorial department as a "dickfest?"

Back in the '80s I was a crewman on a nuclear submarine. Now Rex, my boy, lemme tell ya something. That was a dickfest.

This is not a dickfest.

Please don't thank me for my f***ing service.

BarbieBarbie 5:43 AM  

Funny, I got the theme right away and my only hesitation was deciding which abbreviation for SOUTH had been used. The puzzle was challenging (ish) for a Wednesday, but that’s entirely because the fill was admirably free of junk. What a fun kind of wordplay. Hats off to DS.
Who is still my favorite constructor.

I have to admit I can’t follow OFL’s rant of the day. What was the event or clue or answer that led him to the tirade about constructor gender?

Anonymous 6:03 AM  

I'm a pretty terrible solver and this was a very easy wednesday for me. Theme seemed fine, helped me get the clues even while missing the whole first part being abbreviated bit (although in hindsight I think that was perfectly fine as well). I feel like Rex is liable to trash a puzzle any time it takes him longer than usual. Very little obscure fill. Seems like a super clean puzzle, if not more like tuesday difficulty imo.

Katisha 6:21 AM  

But they're nothing at all, compared
With those of his daughter-in-law elect!
Bow — Bow —
To his daughter-in-law elect!

Anonymous 6:28 AM  

I'm in my early 50's, and a slow solver, and I agree entirely with the anonymous who wrote:

"I actually got the theme while solving and found it helpful, but only partially enjoyed it; the problem is that the expanded phrases bear no link to the original or each other. They could've also been clued better in ways that link the original and expanded phrases."

There were a few of the moments one hopes for and expects - smiles, and "oh you bastard's! - but when I finally filled out the whole thing, earlier than expected, I had less than a sense of satisfaction than one would expect. It was a more a sense of having gotten through something than having accomplished something. I don't know why. I think it was an uneven solving experience: some real cleverness, and some weaker cluing.

Matt Mullins 6:33 AM  

I thought this was very easy...1 minute+ under my average even doing it groggy at 0400 (which still puts me at Rex's Worst. Time. Ever, it would seem, lol).

I came for the explanation of the theme which now makes sense, so thanks for that.

I stayed for the Very Woke commentary. I love the smell of satire in the morning. Thanks for the pre-dawn chuckle.

Jonathan Alexander 6:34 AM  

Put me in the "WTF was that?" camp....i mean, I saw the theme, but there was ZERO point or underlying premise to it. As soon as I finished (normal time for me despite the idiotic themes), my first thought was "Rex is going to destroy this puzzle."

Boy was I right.

John Morrison 6:48 AM  

The theme was a paradigmatic example of caketakery in the uselessness department. Ucch.

Jamie C 6:48 AM  

Agree with everything Rex said, except re: CALIFORNIAKING, which is really common. Just another one of those inexplicable holes in rex's knowledge base. I guess we all have them, but some of us try to accept this fact more graciously.

John Crowe 6:51 AM  

WOW. A years worth of PC bs in one blog.

Alicia Stetson 6:59 AM  

Good argument @John Crowe. Very well thought out and convincing.

puzzlehoarder 7:08 AM  

This puzzle continues the, next day's difficulty today, theme for the week. I didn't understand the theme but solved the puzzle anyway. I didn't get the abbreviation aspect and couldn't figure out why the expanding points seemed random. One nit I could pick with the theme is the presence of the word TREE in the first theme entry where as the rest simply create random letters. However that's on me and it really doesn't take much away from the cleverness of the puzzle.

As to all the commenting space dedicated to our hosts review let me once again say that I quit reading his comments awhile back and it greatly improved my enjoyment of this blog. The one redeeming quality of this or any other blog is it gives you a forum to discuss you're own experience with the puzzle.

While today's puzzle could be frustrating at times it provided a good Thursday level of solving which on a Wednesday is a bonus.

It's ironic that the word "bloviation" isn't to be found in my Webster's. Judging by the comment section's reaction to our hosts comments he would seem to be providing an excellent definition.

Hungry Mother 7:12 AM  

I hung onto rENOVO way too long, which made me believe that SCArP was a head covering. I finally saw it with a “DOH”. Tough theme which seemed a little green paintish.

Anonymous 7:18 AM  

I agree with @Mark that I prefer good puzzles rather than worrying about the gender of the constructor. Wasted anger on Rex's part. Agree with others that California King is well-known. If your wife bought the bed, you might not know or care about the different sizes. The conceit of the puzzle failed which is about the only thing in Rex's write-up I agree with.

Beaglelover 7:21 AM  

If only women would send in more submissions!
That is a very old cop out from Mr. Shortz. He is a smart guy who could figure out ways to make the playing field fairer, if he had the will to do it. Apparently just throwing up his hands is enough for him.
I remember hearing the same mantra from 12 year old boys who heard it from their fathers when I taught in a Catholic school in Rockland County NY. "Blacks don't want to work in the ice cream factory in Nyack. There are jobs. They don't want to work. The same has been said of Catholics in Northern Ireland. They don't want to work. They love the dole.
It takes an enormous amount of guts to apply for a job where you know you aren't wanted.

kitshef 7:24 AM  

I was really hoping there was more to the theme than I was seeing (and unlike Rex and his Twitterbugs, I did see the abbreviation angle). I hoped for some meta to make it all worthwhile.

I guess not. So … terrible theme, poor fill, middling cluing. A rare THUD from a truly talented constructor.

Odd Sock 7:29 AM  

I really liked the puzzle but I haven't laughed this much since Hector was a pup. If Rex was trying to satirize himself he nailed it.
Unfortunately he probably meant every word.
Thanks to D.S. for a memorable Wed. Hats off for making Rex lose his mind completely.
I'm gonna be grinning all morning picturing smoke coming out of Rex's ears.

TeaHag 7:50 AM  

I seem to always have the opposite experience to Rex when it comes to a puzzles difficulty. This one was fine for me, and I usually struggle with ones Rec ranks as "easy/medium." I think any puzzle that isn't full of baseball-related clues is an easy one in my books.

Totally agree the theme was incomprehensible and that that ghetto clue was shocking. I also generally cringe at their clues for durag, homes/homie/bro, and afro.

Sir Hillary 7:57 AM  

This puzzle was not very good, especially given the high bar David Steinberg has set for himself. The whole abbreviate-the-first-word-of-the-themer thing is too buried to come through during the solve.

But that's OK, because the puzzle served as the impetus for @Rex to demonstrate once again that he is the undisputed (California) king of unintentional comedy.

Unknown 8:02 AM  

How would one attract more women?

Philogelus 8:05 AM  

Master Steinberg does it again.
It must be torture to live in a world where everything around you reminds you of your consuming self hatred.

Teedmn 8:17 AM  

I'm with all of the SCALP-scratchers today. I missed the boat on the theme and so it took longer to solve than a usual Wednesday. It didn't help that 16A could be STREETART or STREETART (the latter giving the TREE leftovers, adding to my confusion).

But I read the Jeff Chen explanation post-solve and it gave me back my trust in David Steinberg's puzzle constructing skill - the fact that I didn't get it doesn't make it a bad puzzle. And many of the clues and answers were great. COX wasn't something I thought of right away and I've never heard of POWER POSE (I tried "arms akimbo", which didn't work) but most of it was fun. Lots of GAHs here while solving.

So thanks, DS, for trying something new and jazzing everybody up on a Wednesday.

Elder Cunningham 8:21 AM  

This took longer than my average Thursday which is almost twice as long as my average Wednesday. As for Man Up and Grow a Pair, those expressions were made for girly men like Rex so it’s not surprising he has his panties in a twist.

QuasiMojo 8:23 AM  

"Lemon tree, very pretty, and the lemon flower is sweet..."

Count me among the "I kinda liked it" group. The clue for OPEC won me over, as did PALE BUMS ALSO MEET gracing the corners. Not so sure about counting NOSES. Can someone help me there?

David Steinberg is always too clever by half, but sometimes that EXTRA bit makes it all the more intriguing. And amusing.

People use Grow A PAIR all the time nowadays, even on TV, so I can't complain that it is too vulgar for the Old Gray Lady anymore. I thought it was funny, in that making fun of yourself way.

Even the awkward POWER POSE fit the underlying theme of let's not take ourselves too seriously, folks. Thumbs UP!

D 8:43 AM  

i felt bad last night... took me 16 mins to finish, slowest Wed. in years. But then I took a shower and caught a glimpse of those two magnificent swinging hanglows, and decided I wasn’t going to kvetch about it on the Internet.

Anonymous 8:44 AM  

I used to work for an NBA power forward (he’s 7’2”). I set up his new place when he got traded so I actually am very familiar with California King mattresses. Moving one of them is like moving a dozen heavy dead bodies. That’s all I got today.

Wm. C. 8:55 AM  

@Alicia-- re: your negative reaction to John Crow's "WOW. A year's worth of PC in one blog." Sorry, I think JC is right on. We all know that OFL is a left-leaning NY prof, but in this one he's doing leftish cartwheels. It's almost like he's trying to parody himself. His write up was more entertaining for me than the puzzle itself.

As to which, like many others here, I didn't get the theme 'til I came here. Just filled 'em in with crosses, making it more-than-Wednesday difficult for me. Never heard of a California King bed, nor IPA, not a Facebook user so got the "Friend" connection only after-the-fact. Oh, well ...

As to the discussion on female constructors, I'd like to hear from those who object to Shortz's commentary as to what concrete actions he should take to publish more crosswords from them. Not that I expect to hear many constructive suggestions.

ArtO 8:57 AM  

D.S. is always clever but methinks this is too clever by half for Wednesday. Did not grok the theme and DNF. Never heard of a CALIFORNIA KING.

Kind of astonished that (Grow) APAIR made it past the "taste test."

People are funny 8:59 AM  

"I loved it!!" "I hated it!!" "Rex is right!" "Rex is a clod!"

Did you people do the same puzzle?


SD 9:01 AM  

I agree with Rex that this puzzle was difficult and the theme tough to figure out. But this write up puts his amazing stubbornness on full display. He hates Will so he can’t help from launching into an attack on the puzzle without spending 30 seconds reading the constructor’s note. (Of course, this is a guy who can’t even be bothered to read cross referenced clues so I guess we shouldn’t be surprised.) Adding to that, his dislike of Jeff Chen’s site is why he didn’t seek out the note from David Criticizing the puzzle is fine, Doing it without all the information, which is completely accessible, is not.

Anonymous 9:06 AM  

@Wm. C.- I have to admit to some skepticism that any NYT crossword solver would be unfamiliar with IPA. It must appear in the puzzle monthly.

Mohair Sam 9:09 AM  

Any comedian can tell you that if you have to explain your joke it's a bad joke. Any constructor can tell you . . . . . . .

Played medium time-wise here (I guess, we solve clockless on paper) and we liked the long downs a lot - APERITIFS particularly cool. I always like D.S.'s cluing, but I do think APAIR and GHETTO should have been modified by the editor - Steinberg's puzzles usually remind you they were constructed by a young guy.

Bill Clinton used to toss around the term "MORAL compass" a lot. That always made me think of the Washington Irving quote: "The more he talked of his honor the faster we counted out spoons."

@Rex - I have little doubt that women constructors can get by the horror of fill like "APAIR" and still feel safe submitting to the Times. Will is begging them for heaven's sake, and their odds of getting published are better than men according to Will's stats. OTOH - The argument that he should publish slightly weaker puzzles to encourage women constructors is not without merit, we've gone through some lousy puzzles to get experience for Will's "Young Guns" - maybe he owes the same favor to women.

Anonymous 9:11 AM  

I highly doubt that women don’t submit to the NYT due to a patriarchal “no girls allowed” barrier. More men construct puzzles. Period. It’s not a coincidence that the same percentage of submissions by females equates to the number that are run. Ridiculous thing for Rex to say with no evidence

Anonymous 9:14 AM  

If women don’t want to submit puzzles to the NYT, I’m okay with that. I’ve always found the analogy between sexism and racism to be untenable.

Z 9:15 AM  

OK, I see the theme. ST. ART, CA. KING, PRE. ELECT (not PRES. ELECT, @Moly Shu), and S. PARK. OK... yeah, it does nothing for me.

Not that anyone who doesn't realize it already will bother to learn this, but GHETTO isn't a "poor area," it is specifically an oppressed area. So, while I grew up poor I never lived in a GHETTO. On the other hand, one could be middle class and still be living in a GHETTO. Here, a little WWII history might help.

I used to say "grow A PAIR." I used to say, "man up." Then I worked with women and matured. Funny how that happens. But, go ahead, you do you.

I had to laugh at Rex's rant at Shortz. I said essentially the same thing (granted, in a calmer voice) here a few days ago.

Johnny Vagabond 9:18 AM  

Your reply makes sense to me Thank you for taking the time to respond and helping me understand. I want to remain teachable so I can become a better person.

Anonymous 9:22 AM  

@Z - a ghetto is generally a poor area. That is not to suggest that all poor areas are ghettoes. This shouldn’t be hard. BTW, you might want to look into the Italian origins of the word.

Pretty sure it’s PRES. ELECT.

Anonymous 9:29 AM  

My solve time was typical Thu. I disagree with OFL. The fill was reasonable. And the abbrev are common (Pres. and S. as well as CA and St.). I saw the theme after getting 2 theme answers. My experience level is one year of NYT xwords.

kitshef 9:34 AM  

I am curious just how Mr. Shortz determines how many women submit crosswords. When you submit a puzzle, do you have to declare your sex?

If so, that alone indicates a problem.

If not ... well, among my relatively small world of acquaintances I know women who go by Ronnie, Fred and Chuck. And as my own name is more common among women than men, I often get referred to as 'her' by people who have never met me.

Nancy 9:36 AM  

A challenging Thursday-ish Wednesday for which I say: Thank you, David Steinberg!

So I had CALIFORNIAKING first of the themers and I had no idea what it was. I was sure one of the letters had to be wrong. I wouldn't figure it out until I'd gotten everything else.

My big stumbling block was SCArf instead of SCALP at 28D. I never questioned it, and couldn't understand why I had fRESIDENT-something instead of PRESIDENT-something at 47A. And what is a rENOVO computer? I finally said: Damn it, I'm going to get a P there by hook or by crook. Only then did I see SCALP.

What a well-conceived and executed theme. Much thinking and re-thinking required. I'm just liking this constructor more and more with each successive puzzle.

Amelia 9:40 AM  

Some of the lyrics to Man Up from The Book of Mormon: What did Jesus do
When they sentenced him to die?
Did he try to run away?
Did he just break down and cry?
No, Jesus dug down deep
Knowing what he had to do
When faced with his own death
Jesus knew that he had to
Man up
He had to man up
So he crawled up on that cross
And he stuck it out
And he manned up
Christ, he manned up
And taught us all what real manning up is about
And now it's up to me
And it's time to man up
Jesus had his time to
Now it's mine to man up
I'm taking the reins
I'm crossing the bear
Just like Jesus
I'm growing a pair
I've gotta stand up
Can't just clam up
It's time to
Man up
It’s very funny I’d highly recommend it to those if you aren’t hypersensitive PC scolds like Rex.
It’s from the creators of South Park which is also in toddy’s puzzle, coincidentally or not .

Harryp 9:45 AM  

As to CALIFORNIA KING being a "commonplace", who among us has no holes in their knowledge base?

Anonymous 9:50 AM  

@Anon who educated us on California King - Actually, a standard king sized bed is larger than a California King by 12 square inches. A California King is 4" narrower but 4" longer than a standard king. As mentioned by an earlier Anon, great for tall folk who actually like to be able to fit into a bed, and don't need to be maximally distant from their sleeping partner, should they have one (no offense to the onanists out there).

Mother of Millennials 9:51 AM  

Love a Steinberg puzzle but not this one. Felt like I was hearing, from another room, a conversation among my millennial son and his friends home on spring break.

Grow a pair? Really?

And please stop the pandering to women thing.

If more women want to write crossword puzzles and submit them to the NYT, let's see them do it. Rosa Parks didn't sit at the back of the bus waiting for some college professor to give the green light. Gloria Steinem said, "‪"So whatever you want to do, just do it...Making a damn fool of yourself is absolutely essential."‬

Chris 9:53 AM  

Slightly faster than average for me. Kinda got the theme, but not completely.
Truly astonished at how many people have never heard of CALIFORNIAKING. They've been around since the 70s. And IPAs have been the hottest beers for the last decade (not to mention their ubiquity in xwords, as someone else noted.)
Agree with the raised eyebrow at GHETTO and APAIR. The former is tone deaf (as noted above). I'm less worried about the sexism of the latter, esp. as clued, than surprised that it made it in as borderline "dirty." OTOH, I'd like it if the borders on that sort of thing are being relaxed.

White Rushin 9:56 AM  

Rex, stop being such a SJW. GHETTOs are poor areas. Mostly black. Fact. A PAIR as clued is crass, but I'm sure women don't have their panties in a bunch over it. Oops, sexist.
Will, holy cow, your decline is on a marked scale. Only reason this puzzle is in is Steinberg is Wills buddy.

nyc_lo 10:01 AM  

Had no clue as to the theme until reading the explanation here, which added a bit of admiration for the construction. Slightly faster than average time for me (only 1.84 Rexes!).

And I’ve had plenty of women tell me to “grow APAIR” so I don’t think it would strike many as overtly offensive. But what do I know?

JD 10:08 AM  

Like “senior moment “ from the other day, whenever I hear “man up” or “grow a pair” it is almost if not always in a good natured, joking way. Where I work they are also as likely to be said by a woman as by a man. The fragile feelings shown by Rex and his politically correct cohorts is risible.

pmdm 10:17 AM  

For those confused why the gender discussion appears here, it derives from a Will Shortz quote included in a comment that was posted a few days ago. To understand what the discussion refers to, search out the previous days' comments until you come across the quote.

The disagreement boils down to this: some feel Mr. Shortz should use "affirmative action" to increase the number of female constructed submissions and some go a different route. I myself would not pretend to know the actual reason why fewer women submit puzzles then men, and I would postpone suggesting how to correct the problem(if you believe it is a problem) until I can determine with fair certainty why the problem exists. Lacking that, I would characterize the discussion as verging on the blind leading the blind.

As for today's puzzle, had the puzzle been published on a Thursday, perhaps there would be many less complaints about the themes, because Thursday themes are sometimes a bit cryptic. I would have clued the four theme entries a bit differently. Rather rather simply ending the clue with "expanded?" I would have started each clue with "Expand and combine to ..." which would alert the solver to expand what turns out to be an abbreviation at the beginning of the entry and then combine the abbreviation to form the answer to the clue. Or something like that. Perhaps changing the the actual definition part of the clue.

I don't believe this is the first time Mr. Steinberg has slipped an entry to one of his puzzles that could be termed offensive. There tends to much I dislike about his puzzles, especially his inclusion of modern slang. Perhaps if enough of solvers email Mr. Shortz and complain about offensive slang he will be more careful in the future.

Laurence Katz 10:20 AM  

The theme may not have been the greatest, but as with several other themed puzzles in recent weeks, the constructor was aiming for something new, fresh, different -- and succeeded in that aim, even if the result is short of perfection. Jeez, 365 puzzles a year (in the NYT alone) -- I have to give props to constructors for coming up with new gimmicks. Beats seeing same old same old.

As for the dearth of women constructors: this is a problem seen in many industries. I worked as a journalist for many years and saw the ranks of female employees steadily rise. Meanwhile, the ranks of non-white employees barely budged. Management always bemoaned this lack and stated its desire to diversify hires. But good intentions produced scant results. Some form of affirmative action is required. In the case of Shortz and the NYT, this means actively seeking out female constructors as well as people of color. No, it's not easy. But it would surely make the puzzles more fun in the long run by opening up the xword ghetto.

Stanley Hudson 10:23 AM  

Usually enjoy DS puzzles but today not so much.

“Grow a pair” is certainly a thing but whether or not it should be in the NYT puzzle is a different question. “Put a skirt on” is an old insult but I doubt that many on this blog would defend its inclusion in the puzzle.

Anonymous 10:24 AM  

You've lost all perspective. And with it, credibility. I understand the academy echo chamber, but at this point you do in fact sound like a send up of an SNL character spouting very questionable liberal talking points.
We get it, you think woman are the nuts. But give it a rest, for a day anyway. And yeah, grow a pair while you're at it.

Nancy 10:28 AM  

Good grief, not the why-aren't-there-more-women-constructors? rant again!!! And not with what @mathgent (4:09)rightly points out as the ridiculous and unsubstantiated argument that women are turned off by all that male testosterone in the editorial offices. Look, when you construct a puzzle, you never have to venture anywhere near the NYT editorial offices. You do it in the comfort of your own home. Assuming you want to do it at all. We have some women on this very blog who do enjoy the process, but I'm sure there are many more like me who would sooner walk on a bed of hot coals.

@Pissball Pete (5:35) -- What a sharp and devastating riposte! Liked your comment, too, @BarbieBarbie (5:43). @Puzzlehoarder (7:08), 2nd paragraph: I did the same thing you did many moons ago, and it greatly increased my enjoyment of the blog too. Unfortunately, 90% of the time I can infer his entire rant from the comments of those who do still read him.

michiganman 10:32 AM  

Maybe a clever construction but without a point or pleasure.

Peggy Lee's "Is That All There Is?" comes to mind:

Is that all there is, is that all there is
If that's all there is my friends, then let's keep dancing
Let's break out the booze and have a ball
If that's all there is

Check out the entire lyrics if you're unfamiliar with the song or for a great blast from the past.

Amelia 10:41 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Hartley70 10:43 AM  

This week has been unusually difficult. This is no exception. I enjoyed the clip last night on HBO's Real Sports of the ACPT this year. I couldn't spot any of the regulars here, but was delighted to hear Will describe Crossword lovers, not as nerds, but people with "flexible minds". My mind is flexing at this very moment!

Anonymous 10:45 AM  

@White Rushin: "GHETTOs are poor areas. Mostly black. Fact. "? You're not quite right, as in wrong.

a part of a city, especially a slum area, occupied by a minority group or groups.
put in or restrict to an isolated or segregated area or group.

I live in the SJW GHETTO of NYC, i.e. the Upper East Side, and we're rich and (mostly) lily-white.

So, thanks for giving support to Rex's rant about GHETTO here, that it only provokes bigotry. Good job there.

Wow 10:57 AM  

How can so many of you have not heard of CALIFORNIA KING? Get out in the world and do normal things. The things on here that people admit to not knowing is amazing. Don't know IPA? Really?

jberg 11:04 AM  

I got the expansion thing early on, so of course I thought it was a fine puzzle. Only I was disappointed that HAHA wasn't either clued as something Capability Brown might have constructed, or else replaced by LMAO or ROLF. The actual combination was lame.

I got held up by SonAR before SPEAR and Malta before NAURU (I'm not good with island areas), but toherwise it wasn't too tough. OPEC did take some crosses -- I wanted either NATO or FDIC, but didn't put them in.

I was going to suggest "Warsaw uprising site" as a clue for 27A, but anon 5:12 AM beat me to it.

Technically speaking, everybody's got a pair of something.

David Schinnerer 11:08 AM  

Call me a simpleton, but for me, the fun is figuring out which letters fit in which box. The theme is secondary to my enjoyment.

But the purists take it as a personal affront if EVERY SINGLE puzzle isn't worthy of the Crossword Hall of Fame. Freakin' relax! Someone takes the time to offer you a few minutes break from your work and worry and then gets vilified here. Write you own stinkin' puzzle. Those who Those who can't..criticize those that do for them.

And I will never get OFL's (Our F'd up Leader) logic with theme answers when he asks "Don't a lot of longer phrases have letters on either end that could make...a word?" Yes, Mike, there are a lot. Duh. But these are the (apparently wrong) ones he chose to include in his puzzle. Jesus, what an ass you are.

As a southern Californian, can I just say...thank you for leaving. One less pompous, irritated, self-important comic book professor in our state.

Now...if you want to know how I REALLY feel...

jberg 11:08 AM  

Also -- I never got this desire for ever-larger beds, at least not unless you are going to put more than two people in them. I think Amanda Palmer skewered this in The Bed Song.

jb129 11:13 AM  

Whew! Finished but never got the "theme" until I looked at Rex's page.

Buck Darmody 11:14 AM  

@White Rushin? more like @White Robes.

Malsdemare 11:17 AM  

This took me a while, about 4.5 rexes and I stared at that puzzle a long time trying to grok the theme. I had to come here to see what was going on. Lately, I'm finding that I need to bounce around the whole grid, filling in the easy answers here and there, confirming them with crosses and then, finally, returning to the clues I skipped. And at that point, something in my brain has clicked and what was at first an absolute mystery becomes clear as a bell. And so it was here. I completely blanked on the whole NW portion (bottoms? Anti-inflammatory? And 101 course was intro, which could not possibly be right) except for IRA. But when I returned, BUMS and then ALOE filled themselves and then it was done.

I liked MORAL compass; sort of North Star-ish. malsdeJay has a LENOVA laptop; I wouldn't recommend it. My daughter's best friend was the Coxswain on Bucknell's rowing team so COX fell easily. Yeah, I knew COX but not ALOE. My brain is a total mystery to me.

@Mark said "Anyway, I’m sure if more women submitted puzzles, more women’s puzzles would be published. Do I want worse puzzles for the sake of gender balance?" Ouch! Maybe you didn't mean to say that women's puzzles would be worse, but that's how it came out. I'm on the fence on the women and puzzle construction fence. I suppose Will could somehow solicit puzzles from women — have a contest? Somehow actively recruit? — but I'd be curious to know just how many women get published in other venues. It is POSSIBLE that fewer women care to construct puzzles; I know I don't. But if I did, I'd have no qualms about submitting to Will; testosterone-filled rooms are the norm for many women and how would I know just how "manly" Will's lair is? I'm not crazy about APAIR (though I've used in in my private rantings about my cowardly Congressman Rodney Davis), but my real dislike is saved for "pull up your big girl panties." Say it to me and and you could get mine inserted where you might not like it.

I wouldn't say I loved the puzzle but it was a healthy mental workout and I finished it. Steinberg's puzzles are always tough for me so this was just fine.

Foldyfish 11:19 AM  

How did this get published? The top left corner gave me a DNF. Bottoms = bums? I, like all the others I've read, did not get the theme until I came to Rex's blog. Ugh. Just... ugh.

Rita Flynn 11:23 AM  

Although my time on this one was average, I agree with the general consensus that the theme made no sense at all, even with the constructor’s notes taken into account. I watch enough HGTV that CALIFORNIA KING wasn’t unfamiliar, but it bears no relation to the theme. And the clueing for GHETTO made me cringe.

Anonymous 11:27 AM  

I agree, one of the best puzzles in a very long time! The fact that offal was made apoplectic by it was simply a bonus. Born & raised in CA & he doesn't know what a California King is - that's a construction problem?! - classic Rex!

mathgent 11:40 AM  

Wonderful obit of Philip Roth on today's front page of NYT. I've been trying to figure out why his writing appealed to me so much. He was just one year older than I was. He simultaneously loved his mother and was often deeply embarrassed by her. He was a smart good-looking guy who often did stupid things while controlled by sexual desire. He write long sentences rich with ideas. His favorite subject was himself and yet he wasn't an egotist. He most often wrote about his weaknesses and shortcomings. The obit calls him "an often blackly comic novelist." I never thought of him as comic, but he certainly was able to humor in the grimmest places. The obit mentions some of his books which I haven't read. They'll soon be making an appearance on my Kindle.

Anonymous 11:44 AM  

BOAS as drag show props represents a reductive (and offensive) understanding of drag culture.

And GHETTO should never be clued that way. It's derogatory and insulting to those from low-income areas.

I'm ashamed of the NYT and I'm one of its employees.

old timer 11:45 AM  

I am surprised that GHETTO is still in use, as a kind of slang for lower-class and/or Black. When my daughter was in college in Salem, Oregon, 20 years ago or so, the nearest supermarket was called the GHETTO Safeway. Though Salem, like the rest of Oregon, had very few Black people and those that are there have no special neighborhood.

I too was mystified by the theme. Did not get it until coming to the blog. But I certainly knew what a CALIFORNIA KING bed is. How OFL would not know this is a Mystery.

Joseph Michael 11:54 AM  

I guess I'm in the minority, but I liked this puzzle, especially when I realized that each themer takes an initial abbreviation and expands it. Especially liked SPARK becoming SOUTH PARK.

And speaking of testosterone, there seems to be a lot of it at work in the puzzle with references to naughty privates, bums, cox, growing a pair, and being at stud.

I kept wanting 30D to be "evaporate" and that made the western shore a challenge, but eventually it fell into place.

Excellent construction with very little crosswordese and a lot to crunch on. Good one, David.

relicofthe60s 12:02 PM  

Challenging for a Tuesday, but I thought the theme, though hard to figure out while solving, was quite clever. Certainly not deserving of Rex’s mean-tempered rant.

Masked and Anonymous 12:15 PM  

REET. LIFORNIA. IDENT. OUTH. Seems pretty straightforward, to m&e. har
Different, "runtification" type of theme. Like.

Too bad PREST-O-RUMP ain't somethin. Ditto, for POWERPOSE -- but, I digress.

Blew off numerous nanoseconds, tryin to tie the S(TREE)TART themer with LEMON(TREE), plus the usual snoopin around for a revealer.

fave longball fillins: PONYKEG. HOTROD. LIFORNIA.
staff weeject pick: GAH. Better clue = {Wicked witch headed north??}. Was also kinda admirin LEO in the ZOO, tho.

I assume there are lots of other potential answers that will fit this puztheme? I mean, shoot -- y'all have got the entire day-um atomic scoreboard at yer disposal. RA+DIUM+DIAL?
And all the postal scoreboard abbrevs. CO+LORADO+BRAS? [This one needs some more work.]

Thanx for the wed+nesday+dings, Steinbergmeister.
@RP: Quite a write-up. Looks like this puz musta plumb kicked the LIFORNIAs outta U.

Masked & Anonymo4Us

Anonymous 12:18 PM  

Is a POWERPOSE still a power pose, even if the research has been debunked?

Lewis 12:20 PM  

David found a quirk in our language -- a crazy thing you can do with it, and I'm guessing not too often -- where you can take an abbreviation, expand it to the full word, add a second word to make it a common phrase, then make a new word out of the initial abbreviation and end of the phrase. That was brilliant to come up with; it takes a special mind. And to one who loves wordplay, as I do, I found it to be so cool! I believe this puzzle should have been made just to showcase this quirk, being that crosswords are about wordplay. It was worth making and publishing.

The bread and butter of the puzzle, though, for me, filling in answers from clues, hopefully to completion, was marvelous. That's the norm for me for David's puzzles. He is a master of clue trickery, whether it's devilish wordplay, or not using wordplay, but delivering a feint that makes the answer only gettable through some brainwork or a sudden aha.

So I loved this puzzle on several levels, made by a language detective and clue master of the highest order. Excellent one, David!

GILL I. 12:31 PM  

Yeah....just when I'm beginning to look forward to ANY Steinberg puzzle, he throws this HAHA out. Might as well add "up your nose with a rubber hose."
Add me to the DODO's who didn't get the theme until I came here. Had to Google for the first time in years. I try never to on a Wed. Since I didn't know what the theme was and I didn't know 25D GOLDS, I had to look that one up. What is GIRL group 33A?
One clue made me laugh because it is typical boy: Like naughty privates? I don't think I've seen AWOL clued that way before...made me chuckle.
GHETTO is a slum area. Why not clue it as such. Poor area? I'm not sure how you define poor area. Poor in what? My area is poor in not having a Macy's within 10 miles of where I live.
Not my cuppa today.

Sam Field 12:35 PM  

Definitely don't need to be from California to have heard of the CALIFORNIA KING mattress size...

Dick Swart 12:39 PM  

Yet another moan from the Eponymous One.

It appears that this blog does better service as a carrier of intelligent exchange between readers.

Andrew Hoss 12:47 PM  

Can someone please explain to me what is wrong with 13% of NYT xwords being constructed by women? Shortz has demonstrated that he does not exclude on the basis of gender.

Period. The end. Who is being harmed here?

Bob Mills 12:49 PM  

Some themes are better than others. This one wasn't better than any I've seen. Also, what does "GAH" mean?

Anonymous 12:49 PM  

I know you're all Rex fans, I thought he was great when I started doing puzzle, I learned so much. But now, seriously, no one will call him out on his vicious meanness. Are we all to Trumpized to care?
Well, whatever nasty comments you can now direct at me, rest assured, I will not be back to read them.

Warren and No Peace 1:04 PM  

Most of rex's subs seem to be young women. I would like to this task distributed equally by gender (and btw race ... they all seem to be white).

Kimberly 1:17 PM  

Not sure how Rex has never heard of a California King (vs Eastern King) mattress. Who buys his beds?

I’m usually a big believer in the idea that all words should be ok in crosswords (because in that context they’re just words and they should be thought of as purely objective), but when you’ve got “grow a pair” and “ghetto” and “girl group” and references to prep schools and Izods the whole thing screams 1980s privileged white guy, and just made me feel the need to shower when I was done. I’m not saying the whole world should be perpetually politically correct but let’s just say both the constructor and the editor displayed a pretty huge amount of obliviousness there. I feel like I know them a bit better than they intended, and I wish I didn’t.

Anonymous 1:26 PM  

@Warren and No Peace - for that matter, this comments section seems to be overly male in composition. I would like to know what Rex is doing to increase the number of female commenters. Perhaps he should affirmatively reach out to non-crossword solving women and ask them to post here.

This will not stand.

Dom Delgardo 1:27 PM  

I've been solving the puzzle and reading your blog afterwards for several years, but felt the need to comment for the first time today. Totally agree with OFL on this one. I got to the 'a pair' answer last night and immediately went to twitter to see if you'd chimed in already. I hadn't even gotten to the horribly clued theme, or 'ghetto' to which I said out loud to myself...something not fit to print. This puzzle would be right in Judge Smail's wheelhouse...which is to say: not great.

Anonymous 1:38 PM  

You felt aggrieved, specifically, you felt dirty after doing a crossword puzzle? You may need therapy. Or maybe just turn down the hyperbole from its current 11 to a less insane 9.

Joe Bleaux 1:43 PM  

I'm still waiting for the David Steinberg puzzle that I don't enjoy working (or doubt that I'll want to ditto @Lewis's opinion of after I've read it). Yeah, this one was a little different, but so what? As always, I went into a Steinberg with trepidation and felt like a pretty decent solver when I finished. My only disappointment is that either @Loren hasn't posted yet, or I somehow missed it.

Charley 1:58 PM  

No one could get this theme. Got them all by crosses. Typically awful Steinberg puzzle. I cringe when I see his name.

tea73 2:02 PM  

3.1 Rexes. About 30 seconds longer than my average Wednesday.

I never saw the abbreviation part of the theme. So I guess I like it slightly better?

Got stuck in the northwest for the longest time until I finally erased intro and put in BASIC and erased ale and put in IPA.

I know what a California King is because it sometimes appears on architectural templates.

Z 2:09 PM  

@Anonymous9:22 - You’re right on PRES. Whatever the origin of the word, a GHETTO can’t be a GHETTO if the only defining characteristic is poverty. We Americans tend to think of them as primarily poor minorities with some justification. Red-lining was quite an effective strategy, after all. But it is not the poverty nor the minorities who live there, but systemic oppression that created them. These racists policies are still being pushed today. You need look no further than my native Michigan and the drive to enact work rules for medicaid that exempt people in primarily white districts but would apply in primarily minority districts. Get enough of these policies in place and GHETTOs will follow.

Suzie Q 2:15 PM  

D.S. always entertains me. If you choose to have fun, you will. If you choose to be over sensitive you can ruin anything.
I thought the playfulness was fresh and current.
Can't you just see the Superman stance? Even that was fun.
Ghetto is just slang.
If Iggy is the answer then Pop has to be my clue.
Girl group and boy band are both alliterative cute phrases that everybody uses.
@ jberg 11:04 is right, Everyone has a pair of something. I frequently use ovaries as my pair when I'm joking about courage.
If you've ever shopped for sheets you know you have to be careful because regular king and CA king are NOT interchangeable.

Anonymous 2:15 PM  

GROW A PAIR, Rex. You SJW POWERPOSE is boring outside the academic ZOO. You LOSE IT and make an ADO about such things, but you are ENMESHED in a MORAL crusade that is BASICally ULTRA ECRU.

Anonymous 2:23 PM  

LOL, only white guys wear izods. And no men of color have testicles. You're a riot. Thank, enjoy drinking the Kool-Aid with Rex and Miss Bechdel.

Anonymous 3:45 PM  

Rex-that you are a narcissist is beyond question. But even your egotism used to know bounds. No longer. re-read your note about the theme. You've got it backwards pal, the theme didn't miss you, YOU missed the theme. Set aside it's merits, acknowledge who is responsible for what in this scenario. You've got the onus on the wrong party. My God. You are literally demented.

Craig Percy 3:46 PM  

Enjoyed it very much

Anonymous 4:22 PM  

I enjoyed it. And I finished it!

Churlish Nabob 4:32 PM  

Hey Anon 2:15, don't quit your day job Sparky.

Trombone Tom 4:50 PM  

Another masterpiece from David S. and he managed to press nearly every one of @Rex's many buttons.

I finished more than 80% of the puzzle without a clue as to the theme and then the penny dropped.

We've become a nation too easily offended. I can't say whether or not anyone needs to grow A PAIR, but it does seem as though a lot of folks go through life with little or no sense of humor.

Tim Carey 5:07 PM  


I'm not a superhuman puzzle solver, I'm an ordinary mortal with a pretty good vocabulary that can solve M T W puzzles, but I need two LEGITIMATE clues for each square.

I guess now I'm only a M T solver.

Plus I'm offended by "APAIR" and "BUMS".

You know, we pay for this crossword subscription, it is real money every month. I you can't give us something on a Wednesday that makes ANY SENSE AT ALL, I have to reconsider my subscription.

Monty Boy 5:22 PM  

Like most Steinberg puzzles, a easimedchal for me. About 1/3 easy, 1/3 med, 1/3 challenging. Way over my average Wednesday time.

I tried to work AKIMBO into Superman's pose, but it wouldn't fit.

Is grow APAIR and ATSTUD a mini-theme?

The 34A clue for crew member: An excellent book is The Boys in the Boat, about the crew team for Univ of Washinton in the 1936 Olympics. It explains the crucial role of the coxswain in rowing. It also has a very interesting discussion of Hitler's preparation for the Olympics. Relevant for today's political climate.

sanfranman59 5:33 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 5:19 4:24 1.21 86.6% Challenging
Tue 4:34 5:26 0.84 16.6% Easy
Wed 15:58 6:39 2.40 100.0% Very, Very (almost impossibly) Challenging

Yikes! This was just an old-fashioned DS BUM-whipping. I didn't get it at all and never understood the theme until I finished and consulted Rex's write-up. Not only was the theme completely opaque to me, the fill cluing was standard issue Steinberg. I've gotten a little better over the years with his puzzles, but this is a throwback to the early days when I had little chance of completing his work. This solve time is the 8th highest of 9 years worth of NYT Wednesdays in my database (462 puzzles). I'm not going to bore others or aggravate myself by listing my struggles. The only good part of the experience was finally submitting it and getting Will's smiling face in Ralph's solving app. I seriously doubted that I would. Suffice it to say that I'm ready to move on to my other daily puzzles now. Ouch!

Airymom 5:42 PM  

How do you end up with more puzzles constructed by women? By actively recruiting them to construct puzzles, by enlisting mentors, by holding classes to learn the craft.

I am not a marketing genius, I'm a social worker and let me tell you what I did. About 20 years ago, I was moved from supervising the foster care unit in my county agency to the adoption home study unit. I was told that the staff in that unit never met deadlines, did things "their way" because "that's how it's always been done", etc.

I held back for several months. The NYC girl in me found that hard, but I knew I had to watch and figure out what was happening. This was the big challenge---each year about 2/3's of the children who became legally ready to be placed in an adoptive home were African American, while 3/4's of our approved homes were Caucasian. At that time, it was a state (and I believe Federal) mandate that we had to seek out a home that was most like the child, so we were committed to placing African American children in African American homes.

I asked staff, "why do we have so few approved African American families?". "They don't come to the initial information meeting." "Do we know why not?" (Keep in mind, my county was about 17% African American at that point). "They just don't"

I asked, "where do we hold the meetings?" "Towson.". I guess that in 2000, that part of the county was 95% Caucasian. I was floored. I asked, "why don't we have a meeting in Woodlawn or Randallstown, parts of the county which are predominantly African American?"

Someone said, "well if black families were really interested in adopting, they would drive to Towson." I said, "using that reasoning, then why did Target open 10 stores throughout our county? People are not going to drive 20 miles,after working all day,for a meeting."

So, two months later we had our meeting in Randallstown and 70 people showed up. Then we revised our schedule and alternated meetings between the two locations. Then I suggested that we "professionals" talk less, and instead invite one of our African American adoptive families to speak about their experience.

Within two years, we had 40 new approved homes with African American parents.

So, outreach does work. Meeting people where they are (literally and figuratively) does work. And, seeing someone "on the panel" who looks like you can be an inspiration.

The NY Times and other newspapers have marketing, diversity, human resources staff.

If little old me could figure stuff out, they could too.

Anoa Bob 5:45 PM  

HOT ROD COX, grow A PAIR and AT STUD tickled my inner (most of the time!) 14-year old's funny bone.

I thought CALIFORNIA KING was some kind of Pacific mackerel. Or maybe an item on a sushi bar menu. Must brush up on mattress sizes.

I bid you ADO.

Paul Courtright 5:53 PM  

The issue here is actually that the word GHETTO doesn't mean "poor area" but rather any area of segregated minorities.
Words have meaning, and that meaning can have impact.
The assumption that all people in a segregated area are poor, and that an individuals assertiveness is related to their reproductive organs influences the way our society treats minorities and women - including how those groups treat themselves. Women using a sexist phrase doesn't make it any less sexist.
Calling people out for being "speach-police" doesn't change the fact that words define our society.
I suspect the gay ghettos or Jewish ghettos of Virginia don't support this ignorance.
Condescendingly pointing out that poverty is real actually help anyone.

Banana Diaquiri 6:16 PM  


you must be one of those effete Eastern intellectuals. :) that's a compliment, BTW. I spent a decade on Capitol Hill, and it was a given that Maryland was more South than Virginia. and so it was.

Anonymous 6:41 PM  

Worst puzzle I can remember for all of the reasons Rex outlined. It sucked. Shameful.

Whatsername 6:50 PM  

I love a midweek challenge but I hated this. Difficulty level of a Friday or even Saturday with a ridiculous theme that made no sense. GROWAPAIR is tacky and IMO beneath what used to be the high standards of this intellectual site. I agree with everything Rex said except for the fact that I don’t care in the slightest how many female constructors there are or why.

john towle 7:02 PM  

Poor to me means disenfranchised (desamparado in Spanish), homeless, or unable to afford the simple bare necessities, to quote Phil Harris. The clue works. Every year I work mightily for my Kiwanis Club to support the aforementioned. I think the sniveling leftist twits on this blog who parsed this clue as incorrect ought to try to build puzzles as good as this one. Bravo David Steinberg! Keep up the the good fight.


john towle

Andrea Ojeda 7:22 PM  

Omygod, if I hear another person pointing out their times, or rating a puzzle on how many minutes it took them to solve, I’m gonna lose it (that includes OFL).
WE DO NOT CARE, alright??
Thanks for listening 😊

Concerned linguist 7:24 PM  

It’s DAIQUIRI, by the way.

Anonymous 7:26 PM  

Bravo! And thank you!

Bill L. 7:42 PM  

143 comments as I type this and no one has commented on @Rex's "And it's got a dumb shape" statement about the puzzle? Come on folks, that's funny stuff!

Mark 8:08 PM  

Can't find anything to like about this one.

Anonymous 8:43 PM  

(Same Anon here) thank you for trying to understand! It takes a lot of bravery to admit you don't know something and be willing to listen, and I'm glad that I was able to help.

Banana Diaquiri 8:57 PM  

"It’s DAIQUIRI, by the way."

it's name, BTW so I get to spell how ever I want. and, for that matter, how does he pronounce Favre????? I could have chosen Juhwanda.

Carola 9:02 PM  

My take: tough and unrewarding.

@Bill L. 7:42 p.m. - see @Moly Shu 1:34 a.m.

White Russain 9:58 PM  

If I want identify as a misspelled drink that’s my business

Michael 10:43 PM  

I think the ghetto clue/answer is inaccurate historically. The puzzle was hard for a Wednesday, but interesting.

I wonder why Rex and others never seem to worry about the proportion of minority crossword constructors...

Adam Frank 10:48 PM  

I'm with @Rex on this one. Totally didn't get the theme. And I clearly wasn't on Steinberg's wavelength w/r/t the clues. This played far harder for me than an average Wednesday or even a hard Wednesday. MALTA for NAURU didn't help - but who counts NOSES at meetings? You count HEADS, or BODIES or maybe have a show of HANDS. Trust me, I attend a lot of meetings, and I've never seen or heard anyone count "NOSES".

Ironically, given OFL's writeup, I got Ghetto from just the G in IGGY Azalea. But I'm not so easily offended by language. I also knew that that answer, and GROW A PAIR, would set @Rex off. For me, though, it was really the lack of enjoyment or of any "Aha" moment in solving. Like, I wanted INTRO for 1D, but luckily I knew IRA Glass was correct, so that wasn't going to work. (Talk about white and affluent!) Finally got MORAL compass, then BUMS and ALOE, and finally BASIC and ULTRA. But it was a real slog.

Alisha 12:56 AM  

I haven't read the other comments, but I wanted to agree with Rex re APAIR and GHETTO. Poor taste, esp. APAIR, for the reasons Rex listed. BTW I'm a female solver.

I'm just saying... 7:31 AM  

Awful puzzle - the whole "expanded" clue thing was just awful. Made no sense whatsoever.

Anonymous 12:18 PM  

Yes, you should reconsider.

burtonkd 9:50 AM  

@anon 11:27 best inadvertent comedy. Looks like your spellchecker changed OFL to offal. Feels appropriate today.
I am grateful for the explanation of theme and over the top complaining entertainment.

Burma Shave 10:27 AM  


Even a MORAL GIRL LOSESIT, you SEE, his HOTROD’s the thing,


fakt chekker 10:36 AM  


GHETTO means a crowded poor part of a city . . .

The clue "Poor area" is apt. So get over it.

spacecraft 10:41 AM  

Hey, a belated shout-out to yours truly, in the clue for POD! Thanks, David--or did Will write this clue? One thing Will did: he SET a Friday puzzle into a Wednesday slot. GAH!

This took me about eight Rexes, but I did manage to figure out the theme, so feel strangely superior--if only for a day--to OFL. I grant it was ULTRA-challenging, though. Clues throughout were endweek-tough.

Is POWERPOSE a thing? Luckily, that clue was descriptive enough. The Age of Taking Offense reasserts itself, with 6d and 27a. I'd say "Grow 6d" but...well, you know. I see no GIRL to award DOD; twice I can come within a single letter: SPEAR[S] or [T]HERON. As always, I have to give props to the brilliant mind of DS. Birdie.

Unknown 11:16 AM  

I'd like to let the publishers know that clues such as 6-down, "grow a pair," are representative of the crudeness that has crept into modern New York Times crossword puzzles. I reckon most of the younger ones find the crass and brassy content acceptable, but it is distasteful for some of us older ones who enjoyed the era of class. I also dislike all the sports figures, t.v. characters, actors, and celebrities being substituted for challenging words that can be turned over in your mind until you reach that "aha" moment. Sad days for the N.Y. Times crossword puzzle.

centralscrewtinizer 1:28 PM  

Until I read @Lewis and his very clear explanation of what happened here, I did not understand this beast, even though I beat it without understanding why or how.
Also his explanation means the second to last answer indeed starts with PRES, runs into president, then president elect, which allows pre-select.
Loved @Amelia and her ghetto refutation of poor area.

Diana,LIW 2:25 PM  

I once had a "boss" who I wished would grow a spine. I often imagined putting that in our yearly "performance eval." Perhaps if I had grown a pair? Nae, I doubt that, unless they were made of brass. I agree - crude - make this go away. And, no, I don't take offense at everything, but there's a reason we don't (yet) put d*ckhead into the puzzle. Oh well, we're in the age of tweeting every random thought, I guess.

Like OFL, I got it but didn't get it. Not sure I get "why" now either. Yo, David, it's Wednesday. Oh, sorry...yo, Will, it's Wednesday.

Had fun getting most of it , even if I didn't know why.

Diana, Lady, dam it

leftcoastTAM 3:00 PM  

--First thought, after getting started: "This is not a regular Wednesday puzzle."
--Next thought, after checking constructor: "Oh, oh, it's a Steinberg."
--Oh, oh, indeed.

Took quite a bit of time to figure out what was going on.

First light bulb went on at STREETART ("Beginning, expanded?"). Then, some hard work in getting more lights going.

The fill took some hard work, too, given more tough clues/answers.

Not a Wednesday puzzle in difficulty/ease ratio, for sure, but enjoyed the challenge and the solving of a Steinberg.

rainforest 3:40 PM  

What a clever idea, expertly executed, for a puzzle. I figured it out at 22A, noticing, or maybe even aha-ing, the abbreviation for CALIFORNIA, and so adding that CA to KING gives the unexpanded answer, an abbreviation of the expanded thing. Kind of reverse thinking called for, and I thought it was brilliant.

This was helpful for SOUTH PARK, where I had the beginning S and ----PARK in place. Neat!

With regard to the "controversial" entries, I think A PAIR is in the language for certain macho types, and everyone seems to have heard it said somewhere; GHETTOs are frequently poorer areas, even though there are counter-examples. In any case, these are bona fide terms in my opinion.

David Steinberg scores again.

rondo 6:46 PM  

Wow, almost forgot to comment, so busy. I’ve slept on a CALIFORNIAKING waterbed since 1976. Gotta use flat, not fitted sheets, so pain in the ass finding them. But I didn’t see the parsing going on until coming here.

Coulda clued APAIR as a low poker hand?

@spacey – you missed the obvious, yeah baby Courteney COX. Or Nikki for that matter.

I didn’t mind this puz at all. Nice to SEE DS mix it up some. Hope he never LOSESIT.

rondo 8:32 PM  

BTW - I didn't read many comments, did anyone mention that it's only 14 wide?

thefogman 8:38 PM  

Late to the party. Another good one from the wunderkind David Steinberg. Crossing PRESIDENTELECT and LOSESIT depicts the current sad state of affairs quite accurately. Will he be EXONERATED in the end? Stay tuned...

thefogman 9:55 PM  

I didn't know what a CALIFORNIAKING was.
Now I know...

Rihanna, California King

Anonymous 5:43 PM  

Kudos to you and your succinct, spot-on reply!

Anonymous 11:39 PM  

I'm 2 days late to this party so no one will probably read this except the blog author. I once ordered sheets for my California King bed. The order form only had king listed so I emphasized California King in the comment section of the order form. Received Eastern kings. When I called them to return them they said they had never offered Cal Kings. Nice if they would have mentioned that. But took them back at full refund and shipping.

This puzzle was a total grind, grind, grind. Distasteful clues and answers. Man up ? Man up - be a gentleman - provide decent and thoughtful clues and answers, and not verbal garbage.

Michael Leddy 9:54 PM  

Six weeks after the fact in syndication, and I am so happy not to be paying for the NYT puzzle anymore. Subscribing to the online paper is plenty. I am just not on Will Shortz’s wavelength when it comes to what’s amusing or clever or funny or smart.

  © Free Blogger Templates Columnus by 2008

Back to TOP