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Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Constructor: Jonathan Schmalzbach and Bill Albright

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging (I just wasn't on its wavelength, it's probably pretty normal) (4:47)

THEME: FRENCH TWIST (62A: Classic hairstyle ... or a hint to the puns in 17-, 25-, 39- and 51-Across) — answers are puns on the first names of French guys, with clues suggesting that the puns are "nicknakes":

Theme answers:
  • JEWELS VERNE (17A: Nickname for a glitzy author?)
  • CLOD DEBUSSY (25A: Nickname for a clumsy composer?)
  • TOO LOOSE LAUTREC (39A: Nickname for a sloppy painter?)
  • BLAZE PASCAL (51A: Nickname for a fiery philosopher?)
Word of the Day: AUDRA McDonald (35A: Actress McDonald) —
Audra Ann McDonald (born July 3, 1970) is a German-born American actress and singer. Primarily known for her work on the Broadway stage, she has won six Tony Awards, more performance wins than any other actor, and is the only person to win all four acting categories. She has performed in musicals, operas, and dramas such as A Moon for the Misbegotten110 in the ShadeCarouselRagtimeMaster Class and Porgy and Bess. As a classical soprano, she has performed in staged operas with the Houston Grand Operaand the Los Angeles Opera and in concerts with symphony orchestras like the Berlin Philharmonic and New York Philharmonic. In 2008 her recording of Kurt Weill's Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny with the Los Angeles Opera won the Grammy Award for Best Classical Album and the Grammy Award for Best Opera Recording. She has a close working relationship with composer Michael John LaChiusa who has written several works for her, including the Broadway musical Marie Christine, the opera Send (who are you? i love you), and The Seven Deadly Sins: A Song Cycle. With her full lyric soprano voice,[3]she maintains an active concert and recording career throughout the United States performing a wide repertoire from classical to musical theater to jazz and popular songs. In 2016, McDonald was awarded the National Medal of Arts by President Barack Obama. In 2017 she was inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame. (wikipedia)
• • •

French guys have funny names, I guess. I don't know. You like the puns or you don't and that's pretty much that. I don't really know what a FRENCH TWIST is, so the revealer didn't do much for me, and I don't think it really expresses what's going on in the theme. Or, it does, but only in the vaguest of ways. Why are these puns "nicknames"? What does "twist" have to do with nicknames? FRENCH TWIST could just as plausibly, probably more plausibly, be the revealer for a theme were French names are anagrammed.The wacky clues also don't make much sense. I mean, even if we accept the wacky context. Am I really gonna look at a painting and go, "mmm, TOO LOOSE, I think." What? Also, "tool ooze" is a better pun. I do not think of a "CLOD" as a clumsy person. I think of him as a tedious bore, perhaps socially awkward or irritation. Pratfalls don't really come into it. "Clod" is an abusive term for a stupid person. "Clumsy"? You're just ruining these. JUULS VERNE would've been great. [Nickname for a vaping author?]. It's legitimately loopy, and very current. These puns and clues just feel stiff. Musty. I get that puns are fun and all, but the execution here felt a little, well, clumsy. And old-fashioned.

Too much crosswordese, but that's not too shocking. I found the puzzle pretty easy *except* for the NW and far south, both of which drove me bonkers. 1A: Issue = ??? Is it a verb or a noun, and then which verb or noun meaning ... ? No idea. So TAJ went in to 1D: ___ Mahal and then I should've dropped in ONE at 2D: Start of every ZIP code in Pennsylvania, because the only other three-letter numerals are TWO and SIX and those obviously didn't work. But my brain just went "dunno" and kept going. 4D: Named, for short ... no way I was getting the awkwardly spelled IDED from that. Then there's 14A: What a current flows through (ANODE). What ... kind of current? I was thinking air. Total disaster up there. And down south. Had SELDOM and SPACED before SPARSE (47D: Few and far between). CRU (more crosswordeeeese) had that absurd "?" clue on it (63D: Grand finale?) ("grand cru" is a wine thing I'm not going to bother to look up right now, sorry). Totally blanked on Indian prime ministers not named Gandhi. ALEPH (still more crosswordese) eluded me as I wanted ALPHA (54D: Beth's preceder). And FAN, no way. No way I think of that as an "item," though I guess it falls under that very general category (62D: Item above a kitchen stove). It's usually integrated into the hood of the stove, so its item-ness doesn't really define it. I think I hated the cluing on this one more than anything. But mostly the puns just didn't entertain me much. Felt flat. DRIVE TIME is a good answer, though. We'll always have DRIVE TIME.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Hawkeye Finch 12:11 AM  

Gandhi never served as a prime minister for India. Pandit Nehru (of the Nehru jacket fame and as a paramour of Lady Mountbatten) was the first PM of India.

Charles Flaster 12:17 AM  

Very easy so Rex’s rating seems strange.
In fact it was easier than either Monday or Tuesday. Shortz would really shake up the crossword world if he interchanged the days of the week!!
Liked cluing for ALEPH and DESK.
John AMOS had me rollicking with his comedic expressions in “Good Times”.
Thanks JS and BA.

Harryp 12:17 AM  

I got the Theme as twisted French names of note. Caught it at JEWELS VERNE, and the puzzle played well below Wednesday average. Outside of the skewed names, there were no real hold-ups. As they say in the Islands here, Some Fun.

Ampersand 12:26 AM  

Major outlier today - Three full names, and a LAST name! Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. Toulouse is not his first name!

Anonymous 12:27 AM  

29A (Key below Z, on a Mac) is ALT? Aren’t the modifier keys on a Mac usually Option, Command, and Control, while PCs use Alt and Control?

jae 12:33 AM  

Medium-tough for me too. The puns were cute but ...

Unknown 12:57 AM  

So the key below Z on a Mac (29 across) is and has always been the Option key. The Alt key can only be found on Windows keyboards. This is, I think we can agree, a mistake.

Unknown 12:59 AM  

there’s no Alt key on a Mac keyboard. it’s Option

Johnny 1:01 AM  

Wow Rex it's like you're trolling your own blog now. I really don't know what to make of it. JUULS VERNE is an incredibly awful answer for a truly terrible clue.

Cliff Robinson 1:06 AM  

Played pretty fast to me; I thought the theme didn’t really justify all the short, dull fill.
I liked POWERTOOL (although was hoping “Jigsaw” referred to the horror movie character!) and the “Pandit” clue for NEHRU was new to me.

puzzlehoarder 1:36 AM  

This was a minute under what I consider to be average for a Wednesday day so slightly on the easy side. The first three themers are very familiar. The fourth was less so. Ironically the revealer needed the most crosses.

AUDRA was the last to go in. It got slowed down by a DULITH typo.

BEAU shaping up as BE_U made it momentarily unrecognizable. Weird.

Moly Shu 1:42 AM  

@Rex, maybe you should ask your wife what a FRENCHTWIST is, I hear she has a PhD.
To me, CLOD and clumsy are interchangeable. Maybe a regional thing.
I liked the puzzle. It put up some resistance in the SWAPS SLATES EAMES area. Plus we got some STATS. Now I’ll just go back to being persona non GRATA.

Larry Gilstrap 1:57 AM  

I live with a Francophone and a Francophile and it gets pretty crowded around here sometimes, JK. My first wife was a hair stylist; great business if you're any good at it, and it's cash usually. Customers are loyal as dogs and you only have to tolerate them once a week, or once a month. FRENCH TWIST rang a distant bell and the anglicised names were cute enough. CLOD is not a flattering eponym and TOO LOOSE once appeared on graded essay I once wrote. Ouch!

I never heard of Trap Music, but I like ATL's good young baseball team.

Never saw GOT. Do I need to buy a new TV?

I've rarely been to the Midwest, but allow me: Does this bus go to DULUTH? No, it goes beep beep!

Stutterers are fascinating. Does that still even exist? I went to school with a kid who was classic. Glenn would not shut up and had a lot of stuff to say, but it took forever. He once gave an oral report that took days, literally. MEL Tillis seemed to easily rise above his speech impediment, and even incorporated his disability into his his act. Singing was no problem. As a child, I was a stammerer and even today fall into an uncomfortable speech pattern, from time to time.

IDED is a DOOK, no?

Teddi and Teddy 2:08 AM  

True. They are not nicknames, but we got a chuckle out of them. Guess we were on the vibe since it all seemed pretty easy. Liked it.

sanfranman59 2:29 AM  

This week's relative difficulty ratings. See my 1/2/2018 post for an explanation of my method. In a nutshell, the higher the ratio & percentage, the higher my solve time was relative to my norm for that day of the week. Your results may vary.

(Day, Solve time, 26-wk Median, Ratio, %, Rating)

Mon 3:46 4:24 0.86 10.3% Easy
Tue 5:24 5:26 1.00 48.1% Medium
Wed 7:49 6:07 1.28 84.6% Challenging

I really struggled with this one, but that's not a bad thing. I thought the theme was lots of fun. It seemed like some of the cluing was a tad off of my wavelength.

AUDRA McDonald's a new name to me and I was glad to have the opportunity to learn about her. YUCKY is YUCKY (I have a feeling I'm not the only one who'll make that comment). HIGH ACS was a pain in the rear, but as a speed solver, I hate cross-references. Johnny OTIS is a real blast from the past. It turns out he was a Bay Area boy and his brother was ambassador to Jordan, then Egypt (thank you Wikipedia).

According to XWord Info, it's been almost exactly 20 years since JS had a puzzle published in the NYT. Welcome back.

JUULS VERNE Rex?!? Thank goodness you're not editing my crosswords! And you might be over-thinking the themer clues a tad or you're working a little too hard to critique a puzzle that you struggled with more than usual. Or both.

chefwen 2:54 AM  

Loved it! Thought the theme was clever and the long answers were chuckle worthy. TOO LOOSE LAUTREC made me laugh. Puzzle partner who was not involved with this kept giving me side long glances.

Hope @mericans wherever they are now, get to work this one, they will like it, especially the FRENCH TWIST.

RC rock crawling jeeps 3:47 AM  

Good puzzle...

Anonymous 3:49 AM  

Got hung up on some of the little things. More my fault than a fault of the puzzle. After seeing "VERNE" it was easy to get the theme but it didn't seem too cleaver.

19 across threw me ( "contains MSG" ) even after I filled it in on the down clues. Now I see ... maybe that's a standard crossword clue & answer.

68 across - Charles EAMES ... I knew who he was (but couldn't recall the spelling).

41 down - LAIC - clued as "secular" was a new word for me. Must be found mostly in crosswords.

Not bad but kind of bland.

BarbieBarbie 4:35 AM  

Can’t believe @Rex thinks JUUL would be a good entry in the NYTpuzz. I guess it could be clued “poorly-regulated device for delivery of addictive substances to minors.” Amazing.

Anonymous 4:35 AM  

Sorry, could someone explain 19A, 'contains M. S. G.' ? Is it simply that New York has restaurants that serve food that... may contain M. S. G.? I'm just not seeing it... Thanks!

mathgent 4:57 AM  

I really enjoyed it. Not crunchy but good sparkle for a Wednesday. "It contains M.S.G." for NYC. " 'The bay in the fifth,' for one" for TIP. The sound of ABYSS. Delightful theme.

Court 5:39 AM  

Great puzzle. Rex you are really crabby these days.

Jeffrey 6:02 AM  

Madison Square Garden

Joe Welling 6:23 AM  

Anonymous 4:35: MSG=Madison Square Garden

Jofried 6:32 AM  

Mostly enjoyed it but too many proper nouns for me. I couldn’t remember DEBUSSY’s first name and I don’t think of a CLOD as clumsy so I got stuck there for a bit.

Sydney 6:35 AM  

MSG is Madison Square Garden. I really liked the puzzle...lots of fun. Rex is exasperating.

Lewis 6:38 AM  

I smiled at the theme answers and had great fun guessing the last three with few letters in them, loved trying to come up with other theme answers (CUCKOO CHANEL, ORNERY MATISSE, A NICE NIN), enjoyed the cross of RUMOR and TOO LOOSE, and am very fond of the word ABYSS, but what I adored most of all, was the clue for NYC ("It contains M.S.G"), which, I believe, is world class.

John Morrison 6:43 AM  

You can do a French Twist in your hair; just follow these easy instructions.

Anonymous 6:52 AM  

Hello? Indira Gandhi was prime minister for 15 years. Daughter of Nehru. First female prime minister. Second-longest time as PM.

Glimmerglass 6:56 AM  

Fun puzzle, but Tuesday easy. Maybe Monday. Rex, you thought yourself up in knots. No puzzle is as bad as you made this one.

RJ 7:01 AM  

Sometimes a puzzle just fits all the right brain spaces. I finished this in under 10 while my coffee was brewing - something I usually don't try. The biggest slow downs for me were the spelling of LAUTREC and the delay in remembering PASCALs first name - he's one I think of only by last name. I generally like puns but the 5 year old in me snickered at TOOLOOSE.

Got the theme at JEWELSVERNE and just kept going. My first new brand new car was a metallic blue, 5 speed 1978 Toyota Celica hatch back with white leather interior - it looked like a Mustang. That was back in the day that I was able to talk the bank into giving me a car loan before I graduated from college. To this day I still don't know why he approved me.

Happy Wednesday everyone

Anonymous 7:08 AM  

There are non-power jigsaws, so 1/2 demerit on 3D

Hungry Mother 7:09 AM  

Semi-slog today. Riding on he Auto-train, returning home to Delaware for the season. Cute theme helped a lot.

kitshef 7:20 AM  

A very enjoyable theme, and I’ll stand by that despite the underwhelming revealer.

Note to budding constructors. When you have to put something weak like ATL in your grid, don’t call attention to it with a bonkers clue. You really don’t want people focusing on things like ATL. You want them to forget ATL was even there. See also: A LA.

Indira 7:26 AM  

Now THAT is an embarrassing first comment!

QuasiMojo 7:29 AM  

Rex seems a bit cranky this morning, as was I yesterday. But today I am in a more generous mood. I found this puzzle amusing even if it lacked a certain je ne sais quoi.

But really Rex, never heard of a French Twist? You the massive Hitchcock fan? Ever hear of "Vertigo"? Kim Novak's hair style is a type of chignon or French twist.

My pet peeve today is that CLOD and CLAUDE are not homophones, nor is BLAZE and BLAISE -- and one could argue that in French "Jules" does not really rhyme with JEWELS, (the j is different and technically the s is silent) but I think since these are puns one can cut the constructor some slack.

The goof (perhaps deliberate) in using Toulouse-Lautrec reminds me of the time I was talking about the composer Vaughan Williams to a famous conductor and made the mistake of referring to the composer by what I assumed was his first name "Vaughan" when I should have said "Ralph" (as in RAFE.) I was mortified.

My Macbook does have an ALT on the option key.

From my experience there is NO MSG served anywhere in M.S.G. But watch out for the Chinese take-out place around the corner.

à bientôt mes amis!

Clawed Monet 7:30 AM  

Clue for TOO LOOSE LAUTREC should have been "painter who sleeps around."

kitshef 7:35 AM  

@Larry Gilstrap 1:57 IDED didn't DOOK me, but ASPER sure did (Cleopatra, for one?).

Unknown 7:37 AM  

No ALT on Mac keyboard. I’m staring at one right now (keyboard)

Alexander Grimwade 7:54 AM  

On my Mac keyboard, “option”, below Z, has the label “alt”.

Nancy 8:01 AM  

Crunchy and ADORBS. I really enjoyed this puzzle. Finally -- puns based not on pop songs or rap singers or "dating sites" you never, ever want to go to but on genuinely famous people who have earned their fame over the years. The non-theme answers, if not all that difficult, are clued in ways that make them interesting: ONE (2D); POWER TOOL (3D); SWAP (60D); RUMOR (24D); SHE (10D) and DESK (22A). I'll even forgive the car model clue, car models being much harder for me than car makes. Great fun -- a splendid Wednesday.

SJ Austin 8:21 AM  

As usual, Rex's sense of relative difficulty is opposite mine. I think it's because he finds it easier when there is more stuff that is familiar to super-experienced solvers, and I find it harder. Anyway, this one was a breeze for me.

Traditionally, Macs don't have an ALT key, but more modern ones do put "alt" in small letters above the Option key, probably to help assimilate Windows migrators. I'm betting one of the constructors is a newer Mac user and was looking for a way to clue ALT, then glanced down at their MacBook…

Matthew G. 8:21 AM  

I enjoyed the puns, but like Rex, I am not sure what makes them a TWIST. I guess a pun is a twist of some kind, but the revealer still feels pretty thin here. Other than that, though, I really liked the puzzle.

A Goosed Rodin 8:25 AM  

Also on the easy side for me. It's curious when Rex considers a point of personal ignorance (we all have lots of them!) to be a limitation of the puzzle. I know what a French twist is (it's also a pastry) and to me the themers are twists on French names, so perfect. After I got the drift from the first one it was fun to try to guess the names just based on the clues. The reveal worked perfectly for me because the puzzle was quick and I didn't even notice the name-puns were all French until the end. I thought this was aces (though maybe for a Tuesday).

jberg 8:33 AM  

Rajiv Gandhi was also prime minister, after his mother was assassinated.

I got the theme from the J....V in JEWELS VERNE; TOOLOOSE came pretty fast,tooo; PASCAL and DEBUSSY needed a few more crosses. And I didn't notice that they were all Frenchuntil the revealer.

There were some tough spots, but then an absolute gimme would come along: TAJ, URIAH, EAMES, ONCE. So it ended up pretty easy. Toughest part was maybe A LA, since I was looking for a more specific dish, such as EEL.

I had the same thought, that the revealer's relationship to the theme was a bit distant; but then the theme was obvious once you got one of them (excpet for the French part), so that was OK.

I'm guessin gthe editor added that "(to)" to the clue for 42D, in order to get it past the censor.

Jon Baum 8:37 AM  

My 2013 MacBook Pro’s Option key has a lower case “alt” in its upper left corner. Could be in deference to Mac users who run Windows under Boot Camp or another Windows interface. That said, it’s still an awful clue.

Irene 8:38 AM  

Boy are you in a bad mood today. I took a lot of those slightly-off clues (such as TOPIC for issue, as in "tonight's topic") as original and challenging. Good Wednesday puzzle.

por que no los dos? 8:51 AM  

I have a MacBook Pro, mid 2013 version. The Option key is also called an Alt key...both words appear on the key.

Anonymous 9:09 AM  

Why are these puns "nicknames"? Say an English-speaker wasn’t familiar with the French name Jules. He or she might assume that people were referring to a “JEWELS” VERNE—perhaps imagining that VERNE was so called because of his lapidary writing style.

What does "twist" have to do with nicknames? “Twist” has to do with wordplay generally. Here the wordplay involves the use of English homonyms as imagined nicknames.

Anyone else think of “No-Time” Toulouse—the story of the wild and lawless days of the post-Impressionists?

The “option” key on my Mac keyboard includes the designation “alt” (in a smaller font).

Daniel Greysolon, Sieur du Lhut 9:13 AM  

Duluth in Minnesota and Georgia was named after me, a French explorer.

Jeff from CT 9:18 AM  

It’s jewels Verne, not juules Verne. Does that make it better?

DevoutAtheist 9:30 AM  

Regarding secular/LAIC

Secular: denoting attitudes, activities, or other things that have no religious or spiritual basis

Laic: nonclerical; lay

A lay person is religious, just not a minister.

Thus, secular and laic have very different meanings. Very bad clue/answer.

Airymom 9:35 AM  

I thought the puzzle was "meh" and for a moment I thought it was from the Maleska era.

For those who have never heard Audra McDonald, please find a youtube video or go see her in concert. She will be performing at the Baltimore Symphony in three weeks and I can't wait.

To me, a "clod" was a klutzy (clumsy) person, however, I grew up in a predominantly Jewish neighborhood, so in other parts of NYC and the world, "clod" could mean "dumb". We had our own vernacular.

When you learn the Hebrew alphabet, you learn your "Aleph-Bet." Not "beth". I was in kitah Aleph (first grade) about 55 years ago and already then it was "bet", not "beth."

Mohair Sam 9:37 AM  

I'm moving to the Binghamton area, there can be no nits within 50 miles.

Neat theme, neat puns, nice revealer. Awesome clues for NYC and TIP. More than enjoyable puzzle. I thought FRENCH TWIST was a pastry (no lie). I'd argue that if an Indian Prime Minister did not have a jacket named after them they had no cachet - so hang in there @Hawkeye.

@Moly Shu - Nice not to subtle shot at Rex this morning - he deserved it after yesterday's comment.

I worry about anyone sucking any chemical into their lungs, so I'll do without the Juul promotion in the puzzle, thanks Rex. It's "very current" as an excuse? So is Trump.

On the other hand, thanks @Rex for the Debussy link. I was afraid I'd discover trap music.

Miranda 9:38 AM  

Audra McDonald also starred for six seasons on the ABC drama Private Practice.

GILL I. 9:46 AM  

[sigh]...I was, for the strangest reason, hoping @Rex would like this one. JUULS? Really? Clumsy. And old fashioned? NOOOOO.
I smiled throughout the entire puzzle. I don't think I've seen one like this before. I also thought that a lot of work went into this little JEWEL of a puzzle. I didn't see any shortcuts nor made up words and there were lots of fun clues. I loved the MSG misdirect.
I really liked the clue for 70A NEHRU. Pandit means Hindu scholar. I read "Letters From A Father To His Daughter" many moons ago. NEHRU wrote some fascinating stuff to Indira when she was only 10. It's a wonderful book; it shaped her whole life as well as that of her son.
I. think of CLOD as clumsy. Remember Clod Kadidlehopper? Or was he a clam? Can't remember. Anyway I loved that one. TOO LOOSE was pretty good as well. TOOL OOZE? really? Nah. I like JS and BA's better.
@Rex. You really don't know a FRENCH TWIST? they've been around for eons. They're very popular now. If you have long hair, you probably put it in a twist every day like I do. Or if you're in a hurry, a pony tail. Comes in handy.
Best Wed. in a while for me. I wonder how many more people will say the ALT isn't below the Z. It is on my MacBook. I also wonder how many more will say Gandhi wasn't Prime Minister or that FUND is clued wrong.

Foldyfish 9:46 AM  

DNF. I had never heard of several of these answers. EAMES was a total mystery. I can't remember the last time I DNF on a Wednesday. Meh. I found this puzzle to be a real slog in parts and gave up in the southeast corner.

Anonymous 9:48 AM  

@Airymom - I'll remember that the next time I'm in Bethlehem.

Anonymous 9:51 AM  

@DevoutAtheist, no, no, no. Diocesan priests who are not in religious orders are called Seculars. You can be a fully ordained priest and a secular. You can be a non-ordained member of a religious order and laic.

Z 9:59 AM  

Rex mentions that he wasn’t on this puzzle’s wavelength right at the top then precedes to demonstrate it. I feel like he way overthought the puzzle. I do like his JUUL suggestion, very current and fresh and opens up a parallel cluing opportunity with BLAZE PASCAL. I also think TOO LOOSE needed a double entendre, especially considering LAUTREC’s known proclivities. A decent enough puzzle, but I feel like the cluing of the punny themers again falls short. If you’re going to pun go big and wacky. Tepid punning leaves me lukewarm.

@Anon7:08 - A clue doesn’t have to always be true. The whole puzzle idea is to clue in a way that is true but not expected. See 1A. Also the clue for ALT.

@Indira - Took the words right out of my fingers.

@kitshef7:20 - I generally agree. At times I think it becomes a game for the cluer, “Can I get an even obscurer factoid about this ese than the last guy?” I fully expect to someday see Eno clued by his childhood cat’s name or somesuch. And, of course, there are times when the bonkers clue succeeds. I am with @Lewis in just loving MSG -> NYC.

@JC66 yesterday - Why so literal? Do you really disagree that if the NYTX wanted to address the gender/ethnic/racial imbalance they could? Either it’s a problem or it isn’t. If it is then don’t tell me “I don’t know why.” Do something about it.

Anonymous 10:09 AM  

@anon 9:51,
I wouldn't waste my breath trying to convince DevoutAtheist anything.
He can't even get the big ideas, like God, right. There's little chance he'll appreciate distinctions in congregations, diocese, orders, or sees.

Also, not all swans have that S shaped neck. The common mute swan we all know does, but tundra swans, for example don't.

Rex, get help.

J.S and B.A, nice puzzle. Thanks.

GHarris 10:12 AM  

Count me among those who found this puzzle relatively easy and enjoyable and Rex to be hyper critical. Dnf for the sole reason that I had yecky which gave me a monkey named Abe. Had I solved on line I would have been alerted to the faux pas and corrected it. C’est la vie.

Clueless 10:15 AM  

@mohair Sam (9:45)

You gave me something to chew on.

French Twist, as pastry — is that an east vs west coast term

I recall French Twist as a twisted donut about the length of an eclair when I lived in California as a child

Is it the same as a cruller? Not certain because I haven't bought one in ages. And if I had, it would have been most likely in New York.

Thanks to anyone who can clarify

Anonymous 10:24 AM  

@Atheist, @anon 9:51 - so still a lousy clue, yes? Anon offers an esoteric definition of secular that makes the answer purely absurd.

Anonymous 10:25 AM  

(Storefront Captcha is the worst Captcha.)

michiganman 10:36 AM  

Clem Kadiddlehopper was a character of Red Skelton's on his TV show.

G. Weissman 10:37 AM  

DULUTH / MEL / AUDRA was a Natick for me because I don’t know my Great Lakes ports. Constructor’s overreliance on arcane proper names can really RILE.

jb129 10:37 AM  

Fun puzzle - loved it.

I'm hardly ever on Rex's wavelength like when he says a Friday and/or Saturday puzzle is "Easy" when clearly it's not.

Anonymous 10:46 AM  

By purely absurd, You mean correct, right? Nothing esoteric about that clue or answer. That you are unfamiliar with the usage is hardly damning.

Malsdemare 10:56 AM  

This was easy-ish and fun. My experience was 180 degrees from Rex's. I got JEWELSVERNE early and was off to the races. I was quite proud of myself that I got BLAZE PASCAL with only the B and AL, probably because I'm quite a fan of his wager. Yes, a. CLOD is clumsy; Rex's issue woth the term seems unwarranted. Back in the day when my hair was long and black I was known to wear a FRENCH TWIST, ala Audrey Hepburn. Very elegant hairstyle on her, okay on me.

Now to see what the blogsters say.

Amelia 10:59 AM  

Ridiculously easy for a Wednesday and not particularly interesting, either. If you don't know Edie Falco, Charles Eames, or Nehru, not sure why you're doing crossword puzzles. This is basic information. The MSG clue was the only one that was clever.

Broken record: Do the WSJ puzzle today. Miles above this one. Not particularly hard, but clever and not insulting.

Carola 11:00 AM  

Loved it, made me laugh.

Anonymous 11:06 AM  

Gawd, Rex, what a grouch. Lighten up. This ain't rocket surgery.

Mohair Sam 11:12 AM  

@Clueless (9:45) - So I Googled and found that I was right about the FRENCH TWIST. And tell me if the ingredients don't make you want one:
1. 11 ounces of breadstick dough
2. 2 tbsp cinnamon
3. 1/4 cup sugar
4. 5 ounces maple syrup.

And this makes just three.

Whoa! Get the silly meat and veggies out of your diet. This is its own food group.

Anonymous 11:14 AM  

@Anon 10:46 - What I was trying to point out is that using the definition of a secular that 9:51 brings up—a priest not belonging to a monastic or other order—the answer LAIC is absurd. Priests are clerics; cleric and LAIC are mutually exclusive categories. This definition is arguably more esoteric than the more common “denoting attitudes, activities, or other things that have no religious or spiritual basis” IMHO.

Bryan Kuhler 11:17 AM  

I thought this was a perfectly nice theme with very cute puns and didn’t find it the least bit “musty.“ I much prefer a clue that’s a tad stale vs. some obscure hip-hop, rap, techie game - or VAPE - specialized term that I never heard of. Juuls??? What? Very little challenge for a Wednesday though, the fill and theme extremely easy IMO. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Joseph Michael 11:20 AM  

Found this difficult for a Wednesday, due mainly to the fact thst nearly half of the Across answers are proper nouns.

An amusing theme and some very nice cluing along the way, especially the ones for TIP, POWER TOOL, SHE, and ONCE.

Thought I was knowledgeable about the art world, but have to admit that I was not familiar with Blaise PASCAL. Thought I was knowledgeable about the smoking world, but dld not know about Juuls either. However, I do at leadt know what a NEHRU jacket is.

@Moly Shu, your opening comment was a gem after yesterday's Rexplaining.

Bryan Kuhler 11:25 AM  

It was CLEM Kadiddlehopper and I think we can safely assume he was the definition of a clod, whatever that may be. LOL.

Anonymous 11:28 AM  

Ahhh, thank you!

Roo Monster 11:28 AM  

Hey All !
Did enjoy the ALT punny names. OK puz for a Wednesday. Nothing really YUCKY about it, but it didn't SPEAK HIGH, either. I guess I'm trying to say MEH.

A good amount of 3's. 27. Good for @M&A. :-) ATL, ALT, ALA. TSK.

Did like GRR clue. Not too much else to say. Not verbose today. :-)


Anonymous 11:34 AM  

Pascal a philosopher? OK, I guess so, but I've always thought of him as a mathematician. Wikipedia sez: "Blaise Pascal was a French mathematician, physicist, inventor, writer and Catholic theologian."

Laurel Grotto 11:48 AM  

This does not pass the breakfast test. To highlight a notorious womanizer from history disrespects #metoo.

Z 11:53 AM  

@Mohair Sam - I had a picture of just a TWIST in my mind. It seems what I’m more familiar with is made with doughnut dough, not breadstick dough, and sprinkled with sugar but not cinnamon. I do wonder what is FRENCH about maple syrup.

@anonymice - Before I embarrass myself I like to look things up, like, in a dictionary.

Masked and Anonymous 12:04 PM  

That Debussy dude sorta got the short end of the shtick, in the themer nicknames lottery. Good thing they didn't know his real first name was Achille.

Speakin of names, M&A lost precious nanoseconds in the upper grid parts, due to unknown names aboundin. [ABU. AUDRA. NED. AMOS. ARLEN.] Did happen to know MEL, URIAH, OTIS, REGIS, & EDIE, tho. And CELICA, real vaguely. Knew all the themer names, which sorta helped m&e limp on thru.

fave French tickler pun: TOOLOOSE LAUTREC.

staff weeject pick: ACS. Plural abbrev meat that rated its own cross-ref clue.

@RP: yep, DRIVETIME is ok, but my fave longball fill goes to: POWERTOOL & SLEAZE & YUCKY.

Thanx for gangin up on us and poor Claude, JS & BA. Congratz on yer debut, BA.

Masked & Anonym007Us
(Agent Bond will come roaring back, in: "Casino Rahal")


Wm. C. 12:19 PM  

I've never been to Duluth, and can't remember seeing any pictures there. But I've got kind of a negative image in mind of a port city loading freighters with Mesabi Range iron ore, for transit to one of the refineries on another lake. FWIW. Not much, I guess.

JC66 12:32 PM  


Yes, I do believe "that if the NYTX wanted to address the gender/ethnic/racial imbalance they could?" I also believe Will's post showed he was trying to address it, but that solving it is another matter entirely. Your suggestion that since he can pair a celebrity to a seasoned constructor is a clue to how to solve the problem makes no sense to me. I can't help if you think this is being "too literal."

Calman Snoffelevich 12:56 PM  

33A explanation?

Brian Miles 12:56 PM  

Enjoyed the puns, especially Jewels Verne. Disagree that Juules Verne would be better. Played about average for a Wednesday for me I think.

JC66 1:06 PM  

@Calman Snoffelevich

You're at the race track and a tout whispers in your ear "bet the bay in the fifth."

Pete 1:10 PM  

To anyone who has ever claimed that race / gender doesn't matter in modern day America, that talent will out, just consider how many people here haven't heard of AUDRA McDonald. She's probably the most talented actor working in America (perhaps ever) - 6 or 7 Tony wins (two more nominations), 5 Emmy nominations, 1 win. Sings opera with major companies on the side. Funny, charming and a stone-cold fox.

Were she white she would own Hollywood.

Anonymous 1:19 PM  

Cant decide whether you're more ignorant or arrogant. Laic as an adjective can indeed mean secular. But as a noun it always means non-clerical. What's more the preferred definition of the adjectival form is also non clerical. You should get a less crappy dictionary, partner.
The word comes to us from the French where it mean scommon people-as opposed to, wait for it, clergy. In the Christian tradition the laity are often anything but secular. They're simply not Religious, meaning a Priest, Brother, Nun etc.

Mohair Sam 1:20 PM  

@Z - Point well taken. The recipe says the maple syrup is for dipping purposes. Maybe they're talking about French Canadian maples, plenty to them up north.

Mark Rosenfield 1:20 PM  

Yes, it is aleph bet, not Beth. And Bethlehem in Hebrew (see above) is Bet Lechem (House of bread).

Anonymous 1:30 PM  


Here's the very first result from google:





adjective: laic


nonclerical; lay.


noun: laic; plural noun: laics


a layperson; a noncleric.


mid 16th century: from late Latin laicus (see lay2).

Banana Diaquiri 1:35 PM  

Were she white she would own Hollywood.

having seen her on the TeeVee, and heard her on CD, your unfortunately correct. absolutely stunning on all measures. didn't realize she'd been born in Germany, though; Army brat, not immigrant. take that MAGA.

EdFromHackensack 1:37 PM  

Great puzzle. Rex, if you cannot see how the revealer is in line with the theme you have issues. Nothing too tough. Didn't know ALEPH but inferred easy enough from the crosses. Nice job JS and BA, really enjoyed this one!

Mohair Sam 1:38 PM  

@Calman (just in case) - Bay is the color of many horses.

@Pete (1:10) - I will never argue with your premise, never - you're simply right that race/gender matters. But in this case I think Audra McDonald has the same "problem" as Kristin Chenoweth (white, but also unknown to most Americans) - both immensely talented, attractive, and both chose musical theater over movies or recording studios. I doubt that either regrets that decision - I know Broadway doesn't.

Calman Snoffelevich 1:43 PM  

Thanks. That is horribly obscure.

Mary Flaminio 1:45 PM  

Do you have any idea why they don't have the option to print the answer any longer? Just curious. Thank you.--Mary

Nancy 1:51 PM  

Hi, @Pete (1:10 p.m.)-- I used my F3 key to check on AUDRA and could only find two people on the blog who copped to not knowing her. Which made me very happy. You write: "Were she white she would own Hollywood." But here's the thing: AUDRA doesn't live in Hollywood; she lives in the NYC Musical Theater world. Where she is very, very well known to absolutely everyone with an interest in musical theater. It has nothing at all to do with her "color" or "gender" -- if you're not a Hollywood denizen, you're not going to "own Hollywood." Period. But she's a leading figure on the Great White Way.

One of our best composers in the BMI Composers and Lyricists Workshop scored a coup when AUDRA recorded one of his best songs, "I Won't Mind". It's about a famous American woman who was childless. You might want to listen to it. Here's the link

ArtO 2:13 PM  

TOPIC came to mind immediately for 1a and was cemented with the gimme TAJ for 1d. Would not rate it more than easy-medium for a Wednesday. Obviously more on my wave length than OFL.

Thought the theme was wonderful and enjoyed the puns. Best Wednesday puzzle in quite some time.

Mary from NYC 2:30 PM  

@Pete 1:10pm: What in God's name makes you think Audra McDonald would want to be a Hollywood actress ? She is at the peak of her profession. She’s one of the greatest Broadway actors of her generation. How about Sutton Foster, Kelli O’Hara, and Kristin Chenowth ? Do you think they’re clamoring to get in the movies ? No chance.

Pete 2:36 PM  

@MohairSam - Kristen Chenoweth had her own damned tv show in 2001. Maybe the writers failed, who knows why it failed, but she was given a shot in her full bloom of youth and it failed.
@Nancy - I counted 4 who didn't know her out of 5 that mentioned her. It made me not very happy. Yes, her singing and acting has made her very, very popular in the NYC Musical Theater world. So, in her day, did Julie Andrews. So did Carol Channing. So did Barbra Streisand. Notice and difference among these ladies?

The NYC Musical Theater World is maybe 250K people and a bunch of people with cars or bus tickets from the other side of one of the rivers. I'm sure both Kristen and Audra are devoted to these people, to Broadway, and to their careers there. I doubt they would turn down lead roles in a Hollywood movie or two for the big bucks, do you?

GILL I. 2:52 PM  

@Pete...Wow. I seriously doubt AUDRA McDonald would ever want to own Hollywood. She doesn't ever need to. @Nancy is right - her color/gender has nothing to do with her talent; she owns it along with Broadway. Like @Nancy I went back to see if anyone complained about not knowing her. No complaints - just how to make a FRECH TWIST brioche.

Banana Diaquiri 3:00 PM  


what's astonishing is that, as anyone whose actually attempted the trick, acting on a stage is utterly different from acting in front of a camera. I haven't seen her on stage, only read the 99.44% rave reviews of her work there. but I have seen her work on film. it was utterly without flaw. that she has a golden set of pipes, too. wow.

so, yeah, if she devoted to film, she's got the chops in spades.

Anonymous 3:01 PM  


Maybe if the show had been called Pushing up Daisies--the common phrase- instead of the nonsensical ans insipd Pushing Daisies, Chenoweth's show might have succeeded.

J. Hartunian 3:14 PM  

As the father of two girls who are very into musical theatre I can attest that they and their friends all dream of Broadway, not Hollywood. Hollywood is gross.

john towle 3:14 PM  

So Ole & Lena got married last Saturday in St. Cloud and as Ole was driving them to the driveway of their honeymoon hotel in St. Paul he reached over and put his hand on Lena’s knee. Lena started giggling and finally said, “Well doncha know Ole you could go a little farther! So Ole drove to Duluth.

Lets be real folks 4:29 PM  

Just because someone is a huge hit your little world it doesn't mean that person is a huge hit in the wider world. You may love Broadway, think it's the apex of all the arts, and maybe you're right. But it's tiny, almost insignificant compared to the rest of the entertainment world.

I've seen ads for Beautiful for years - for the life of me I couldn't name the actress who plays Carol King. She's clearly very good, and she works her butt off. Still, with about 1000 seats in the theater if it's a sellout and she does 7 shows a week, that's 365K distinct viewers a year. If a movie opens with only than 365K viewers in the first day it doesn't get a second day. What is a raging success on Broadway would be a colossal flop in Hollywood. And what that actress gets for playing Carol King that pales to what she would receive as the lead in a Hollywood movie.

@Nancy - For someone who wants nothing to do with Hollywood Audra sure seems to go there a lot, taking whatever roles she can get. A quick count gives 5 movies, 5 TV movies and about 10 different recurring minor roles. I would guess, given that she's willing to demean herself and tear herself away from the Great White Way for minor roles she might have been willing to do it for a star turn and big bucks, no?

Anonymous 4:41 PM  

@Z - checking your same dictionary...
see definition 2

Maryanne 5:23 PM  

The reason Audra McDonald, Kelli O’Hara, Sutton Foster, and Kristin Chenoweth are not Hollywood stars, assuming that any would like to be, is that they don’t make many big musicals anymore. These actresses are Broadway royalty in musicals. They rarely, if ever act in dramas on Broadway. The idea that Kelli, or Audra or Kristin or Sutton would own Hollywood if she were a different race is absurd. I think that guy Pete was probably trolling though. No one could really think that.

Nancy 5:44 PM  

@Let's be real folks (4:29)-- And I for the life of me can't remember what actress played the lead in Hollywood's (to me godawful and way overpraised) musical "La La Land." As for AUDRA -- I have absolutely no idea what she wants for herself in her career. I'm not a mind reader. If you're looking for money, Hollywood is always the best bet. If you're an actress, Hollywood may be the best bet. But if you're a singer and you want to be a legend...

Why not take this quiz, @Let's be real folks:

Name the female lead in My Fair Lady (stage).
Name the lead in My Fair Lady (movie)
Name the original female lead in South Pacific (stage)
Name the female lead in South Pacific (movie)
Name the original female lead in Annie Get Your Gun (stage)
Name the female lead in Annie Get Your Gun (movie)
Name the original female lead in Gypsy (stage)
Name the original female lead in The King and I (stage)
Name the female lead in Singin' In the Rain (movie)
Name the female lead in Show Boat (movie)
Name the female lead in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (movie)

Movies may be mass-market culture, but I'm betting that most people will be far more likely to remember the stage performer in these kinds of roles.

Cathy 6:29 PM  

@Nancy 5:44pm.
Brilliant post!

@Pete- I've been a fan of AUDRA. Thank you for pointing out her accomplishments.
As for bringing up her race, no thank you.

Also @ Pete- I responded to your "comment" very late May 12. Please read.

Anonymous 6:31 PM  

Where is @Two ponies?

Ben Silver 6:44 PM  

I think Johnny's point was that Rex's suggested alteration, from JEWELS to Juuls, is bad and he should feel bad.

Mohair Sam 6:59 PM  

@Nancy - The answer to all your movie questions could well be Marni Nixon. I love that she voiced "Maria" in "The Sound of Music" a few years after voicing all of Maria's songs in "West Side Story".

QuasiMojo 7:58 PM  

Fun pop-up quiz @Nancy, and good point! I got everyone right except The King and I. Although I should have. I think most people think of Deborah Kerr before Gertrude Lawrence. And some of your choices had more than one lead! Showboat for instance.

Hazel 8:37 PM  

She actually has a major part in the current series The Good Fight which is filmed in New York. That, of course, means she doesn't have to leave the Great White Way for a juicy TV role.

Nancy 8:53 PM  

@Mohair (6:59)-- You're right, of course. Marni sang for just about everyone: Deborah and Audrey and Natalie. I can't remember if she sang for Mitzi or not. I know she didn't sing for Betty. She was married to one of the tennis regulars in Central Park, a musician, and I met her at a party maybe 15 years ago. She seemed lovely and was very approachable. I always found her gift for vocal mimicry every bit as impressive as her singing talent -- if not more so. You can know she's subbing for all these people and yet you still can't tell when you listen.

I think you can find online an outtake from My Fair Lady where Audrey did her own singing. She wasn't half bad -- there was a lovely quality and much personality in her version -- but she didn't really have the volume, nor the training. Still, she could have done it, and I think I remember reading that she very much wanted to.

@Quasi -- I knew someone would find an exception to the stage singer being more well known than the movie singer, and I guessed it would be you, Quasi. Truly I did. But I didn't think it would be The King and I you'd cite. I thought it would be The Sound of Music. Julie Andrews is so remembered for that role, whereas I imagine that many people don't remember or never knew in the first place that Mary Martin had played Maria on stage.

Thanks for your lovely comment, @Cathy. Very much appreciated.

Anoa Bob 8:57 PM  

john towle @3:14, as I was reading your comment, somewhere right after Ole and Lena, I started hearing "Golden Girls" Rose's (Betty White) voice, yah. Good one.

Anonymous 9:34 PM  

I really don't get 34D. Hard throw, in baseball. When I think of "peg" with a baseball I think of "pegging" someone. Or hitting them.

Z 9:57 PM  

@JC66 - The too literal reference was to your Will/celebrity take from yesterday. Your responses seemed to indicate that your interpretation was that this strategy was my preferred strategy when I was just meaning it to be illustrative. So let me reiterate - I find Will's post frustrating and just a little self-servingly obtuse. When you're told you have a problem feel free to interrogate whether or not it is true. But tell me it is true and coming up with "I don't know why" is capital Bull capital Shit. I'd be argumentative but less incredulous if Will had just said, "you all are wrong, no issue here." As it is, he has admitted a problem but not articulated any strategy to address it. I don't care (or even really expect) if the strategy would work. I would just like to see an attempt.

@anonymice - You (plural you) went off on a rather arcane discussion that seemed to be arguing that the clue was wrong. The clue is not wrong. That LAIC and "secular" have other usages is irrelevant to whether the clue works. Oh, look, the OED.

Anonymous 4:13 AM  

Clue for TIP is not clicking for me, could someone explain?

Georgia 8:02 AM  

"The bay in the 5th" is a betting tip, a supposed insider telling you what horse to bet on to win.

spacecraft 10:20 AM  

Yeah, that clue really threw me, too. No tipster ever gives the color of a horse. It's always the name, or the post number. Those guys don't know from "bay" and "roan." I did get it after a little thought, though.

This grid seemed chock (Chuck?) full of PPPs to me. Including names in the themers. I'm glad JUULS didn't fit or I never would've gotten it. That BRAND is unknown to me. 'Course I think vaping is silly. You either smoke or you don't. The word that suggests itself is "vapid." DRIVETIME must be a thing; I filled it in on crosses. You mean, like, "What's your DRIVETIME?" "Oh, it takes me half an hour to get to work." That kind of thing?

Lots of names, so lots of DOD wannabes. In a hot competition, I pick OFL's WOD, AUDRA McDonald. A double sash wearer!

This one was a little TOOLOOSE with the names, and the theme is less than scintillating. Bogey.

thefogman 10:31 AM  

I found this one to be super duper easy. Only one write-over - I momentarily had LITre before LITER. Easy but fun. This one was light and tasty like a tray full of delectable petits fours.

Burma Shave 10:33 AM  


will SWAP LANES to LAY you in her BRAND new SUV.


thefogman 10:45 AM  

An old-timey race tip?


Camptown Races

Camptown ladies sing dis song, Doo-dah! doo-dah!
Camptown race-track five miles long, Oh, doo-dah day!
I come down dah wid my hat caved in, Doo-dah! doo-dah!
I go back home wid a pocket full of tin, Oh, doo-dah day!

Gwine to run all night!
Gwine to run all day!
I'll bet my money on de bob-tail nag,
Somebody bet on de bay.

rondo 12:21 PM  

TOPIC: funny FRENCH names. What a hoot. But I do associate a CLOD with being clumsy. Did not recall PASCAL’s first name, so crosses. Nice shout out to DULUTH, MN.

@spacey – morning and afternoon DRIVETIME slots are the prime radio advertising periods to reach consumers going to/from work. Supposedly DRIVETIME is also when they have their best/most popular and HIGHest paid DJs/hosts on the air.

URIAH Heep. “Easy Livin’”. You’ve probably heard it.

Seems that AUDRA McDonald is rather accomplished, SHE’s over-qualified for yeah baby status.

No write-overs so easy enough for this BEAU BEAU.

leftcoastTAM 2:23 PM  

Not generally disposed toward puns, but the theme and revealer made this puzzle a lot easier than it might have been.

First to go was TOOLOOSE LAUTREC, which opened up quite a bit of the puzzle. The rest of somewhat simplistic punners followed fairly quickly.

The more challenging part was the lower middle South. ALEPH (Beth's preceder?) crossing ASPER and NEHRU. TIP and NYC are cleverly misdirected. Had AUDRy (without an "e") before AUDRA.

Puns are okay, but not my favorite form of humor, an opinion confirmed today.

rainforest 2:56 PM  

This was a somewhat jocular puzzle today, and one I appreciated. Maybe "nicknames" aren't really what those puns are, but they are TWISTs a la francais wordplay - bon mots if you will.

There is some crosswordese in here, but also some good downs, along with a number of threes, but the thing that always rankles me, a good Canadian (actually we're all good) is that I always have to adjust my spelling to certain American takes on words, eg, RUMOUR, LITRE (note the "correct" spelling). Not to mention REGIS, which is correctly spelled BOZO.

Nevertheless, I liked it.

rondo 3:28 PM  

@rainy - ROFL re: REGIS.

strayling 6:56 PM  

Where I grew up CLODhoppers were big, clumsy boots worn by big, clumsy people. Never heard it used to mean only stupid, more like stupidly clumsy.

spacecraft 9:21 PM  

Lest we lose respect for the word, hear John Donne:

No man is an island, entire in itself.
If a CLOD be washed away, Europe is the less.

Diana,LIW 10:23 PM  

Busy day. Doctor appts, and then window washers (Inside and out - on our little "French" paned windows), roof and gutter raking, lawn mowers. Grand Central Station time - definitely like rush hour, without the DRIVE TIME.

But git 'er done I did, and I loved it. Love puns. Loved guessing the nicknames. Had a certain, je ne sais quoi to them. I say oui.

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords

Anonymous 2:26 AM  

I can't believe that Rex is actually as dense as how he sounds when not quite getting the theme/revealer. Rex, the theme is English homonyms for the original French names of famous people - a 'twist' on the French name. Maybe you are looking too deeply, crossword themes do not need to be too rigid or complex.

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