One of jacks in cribbage / FRI 7-6-18 / Ruler who died in 30BC / It time 1977 hit babys / Ironic reaction to dry humor

Friday, July 6, 2018

Constructor: Robyn Weintraub

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium (5:51)


THEME: none, although the MIDDLE answer is in the MIDDLE and the BOTTOM part of the BOTTOM answer is at the BOTTOM, so that's something

Word of the Day: NOB (42A: One of the jacks in cribbage) —
[no idea, and I've looked it up ... blah blah rules of cribbage blah blah something about nobs, nibs, knobs ... cribbage slang is garbage fill, what the hell even *is* cribbage? There's a reason you never, ever see cribbage slang in a grid ... Sigh, OK, fine, here's a definition ...]

In cribbage, nobs is the name given to the Jack of the turn-up suit. That is, if the turn-up card is a four of Diamonds, then the player holding the Jack of Diamonds scores an extra point in her hand, known as "one for nobs" (sometimes "knobs") or "one for his nob" (or sometimes "his nibs"). This is a very old term, which probably dates back to the origins of cribbage. What is a nob? The word is British English slang for an important person, so perhaps this is why. (Cribbage Corner)
• • •

Hey, this is pretty nice. Clean and interesting, and very ... inclusive, by which I mean there was not a ton of generation-dependent pop culture. In fact, it seems very light on the proper nouns overall, which is cool. I love names, but they are frequently divisive, opening up the puzzle for those who know them and locking out those who don't. If there's one thing I've learned in the many years I've been solving—and I'm not sure there is, but here goes—it's that constructors should be very, very careful with any proper noun that isn't obviously common knowledge. Nothing will tick solvers off faster than having their puzzle blown up by some name (especially an unusual or not terribly inferrable name) they haven't encountered before. Here, MUNRO is on top of ASTIN (!), but beyond that, there's not much in the way of contemporary name-age. Just a lot of common, but colorful, words and phrases. Colorful enough that LINO and ESE and ÉTÉ just kind of floated by me unnoticed. IAMSO, OTOE, all tolerable when the marquee stuff is working. Oh, speaking of names: just saw someone on Twitter say they screwed up the [River of forgetfulness, in myth] because they (understandably) misspelled EMERY (with an "O"). Hope that didn't happen to you. If it did, just cross the river LETHO and fuhgeddaboutit.


Got into this one via the tried-and-true solve-the-short-Downs method. CAIN LINO ELEV (whoops) got me CLEOPATRA (1A: Ruler who died in 30 B.C.), and the rest of the NW was easy from there. Got stymied coming out of there, though, as SWEET TALK wasn't easy to see (22A: Cajolery), nor was "WAS IT?" (23D: "You sure about that?"). Started over in the NE with CRIB and TONY, and then worked back to join up with the NW and move on down the grid. There were two answers I wanted but balked at because something felt off: ICE CAP (25A: One of two polar opposites), because somehow I think of that being only a North Pole thing. I know there's ice at the South Pole, but ... I dunno, I think of Antarctica as a continent ('cause it is), so somehow its having something that the North Pole also had just felt ... weird; and then there was RACE TO THE BOTTOM, which is what I wanted (8D: Competition that hurts everyone), but BOTTOM ... I couldn't get to work because of the three-letter 50A: Hawaiian souvenir, which BOTTOM would've caused to start with a "T" ... and surely the answer was LEI. Even later, when I gave in to BOTTOM (!), I couldn't understand the T. Thought maybe answer was ... TEE? (shirt)? Ugh to the cutesiness of thinking a TAN is a "souvenir." Anyway, nothing else in this grid gave me much trouble. Felt like I struggled, but a sub-6 time on Friday is pretty normal, even somewhat better than normal.
    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

    [Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]

    89 comments:

    Trombone Tom 12:21 AM  

    Great misdirect on TAN. Lei is such a reflexive answer.

    Music background was helpful on EIEIO, but everyone is familiar with the tune.

    I, too, thought something further might develop from the MIDDLE and BOTTOM clues.

    Felt on the easy side for Friday, but a thoroughly enjoyable romp from Robyn. Hmmm, "Rompin' Robyn" sounds like a good song title.

    Larry Gilstrap 1:24 AM  

    WAS IT? is what I'm looking at? Guess, I'll file that one away. Ok, not that bad in retrospect. I really wanted WASSUP?

    Lots of misdirection on a Friday is fair. But, seriously? You show up at work with a LEI and are still PASTY? That TAN is the real deal. Tropical islands have wet and dry sides, so consult Trip Advisor. Results may vary. I followed many blind alleys, so kudos to the constructor.

    Even this English major knows that our fellow planets, Mars for one, have an ICE CAP and no oceans. But, OFL begins the commentary with some good advice on the solving process. Not me, I start with the grid spanners and spin my wheels for hours. Not really.

    Anybody else ever watch the Danny Thomas show Make Room for Daddy? The SPIT TAKE was on heavy rotation with the writers, apparently. I kinda got the whole Lebanese thing, and he was pretty handsy, but I loved it.

    Alice MUNRO/TONY Orlando cross seems very safe to me. If that was a problem, step away from late week puzzles.

    HERA is the Goddess of Marriage and her husband was notoriously unfaithful, at least in Classical Mythology. He was the big cheese.

    puzzlehoarder 1:53 AM  

    Shouldn't RACETOTHEBOTTOM be paired up with MEATINTHEMUDHOLE. Yes I know the latter is a bit long and then there's the whole matter of taste but my "dry humor" makes me see it as a mini-theme. Maybe I'm just bored to distraction by easy puzzles. It's like the same thing you do with the lyrics of songs you've heard too many times.

    Part of today's ese was ESE. NOD and NOB were another couple of pieces of that ese which I felt were redeemed by their late week clues. Maybe others wouldn't find these references to be obscure but I did.

    SALEM was obvious from the S in spite of it having a debut clue. It really gave away the MIDDLE grid spanner. NOB could have given away BOTTOM, instead it was the other way around.

    Syndicate Bob 2:08 AM  

    Very easy for me: under (well under) half an hour. This may be because I did it doing it using the NYT app as a paid subscriber for the first time. I am used to being a “syndicate solver.” One drawback I see to doing the morning Friday puzzle on the night before instead of six weeks after is that you don’t to see any comments. Not that OFL’s critique isn’t a joy unto itself. It can be.

    Mike in Mountain View 2:23 AM  

    This played easy but fun. Great clue for SPITTAKE, and SPITTAKE and SWEETTALK is a nice little mini-theme of monosyllabic s word followed by monosyllabic t word.

    JUSTKIDDING, SCATTERSHOT, UMPTEENTH, all enjoyable.

    And when your proper nouns are CLEOPATRA, MUNRO, ASTIN, NInKON, OTOE, CAIN, and SALEM you're unlikely to leave many solvers behind.

    Thanks, Robyn.

    Token_Millenial 2:46 AM  

    There’s also the (unintentional?) Lord of the Rings sub-theme in the NE corner with Ents (not clued as LOTR) and clued Bloom (also would have fit as an answer for 18A) crossing Astin.

    Unknown 3:27 AM  

    Race to the bottom and meet in the middle cross at the “h” of the in both clues. I thought that was more clever than the wiretap yesterday.

    Paul Bowden 3:49 AM  

    Not being good enough (yet) for speed solving, I enjoy doing the acrosses first as it leads to more AHAs for me when I can figure out long blanks just from cluing.

    Friday is usually my favorite for this reason. This time, for example, I thoroughly enjoyed getting SPITTAKE from blanks, already making the puzzle a positive experience.

    I imagine the puzzle was made for this purpose, but I enjoyed the two grid spanners being a plunging RACE TO THE BOTTOM intersecting, directly in the middle of the board, MEET IN THE MIDDLE.

    It took me a while to release why "Decrease?" was IRON (read: de-crease)

    Rex seems to be in higher spirits. I am glad SCATTERSHOT went ignored in the review at least haha

    Harryp 3:57 AM  

    Easy except for Northeast corner, but EJECT put paid to that. It seemed like everything was in my wheelhouse today. THX, R.W.

    JOHN X 5:29 AM  

    I finished this puzzle in under twelve seconds even though I was catatonic and blind after swallowing a fistful of pills I bought off some bikers out in Colton that I washed down with prison moonshine and brake fluid. Don't worry my vision will eventually come back, I've done this before.

    Lewis 6:22 AM  

    This was lively and fun, with humorous clues (ARIAS, TAN, EIEIO) as well as tricky ones (HINT AT, VOCATIONS), and answers with spark (SWEET TALK, MEET IN THE MIDDLE, SPIT TAKE, UMPTEENTH, SCATTERSHOT, JUST KIDDING).

    To balance out that RACE TO THE BOTTOM going down, and that MEET IN THE MIDDLE in the center, we do have an "ATE up".

    My only nit is that the cluing felt to me like Thursday in difficulty. On the other hand, this sprint (for a Friday) gave me a rush.

    QuasiMojo 6:32 AM  

    I can't dislike a themeless puzzle, particularly since I keep begging for one. Well, this one felt fine to me. I loved starting off with Cleopatra. I had no difficulty with the answers until I came to that "polar opposite" clue. I went for BAD COP which held me up for a long time. I even began to think that a "kid's" retort would be BAA BAA something. Then SPITTAKE was new to me. I am not sure what that is. For a moment I thought maybe we were talking about mushrooms! I had to do some minor erasing. But that's what I love about late week puzzles. I'm under no rush to finish and I enjoy the feeling of completing it by meeting in the middle without racing to the bottom.

    Anonymous 6:59 AM  

    When I see birth order, and four letters, my go to is ESAU. Nice.

    AW 6:59 AM  

    :)

    FLAC 7:03 AM  

    Humble Rex today. We see him all too infrequently.

    Smooth and satisfying puzzle.

    Hungry Mother 7:18 AM  

    Killed it today for some reason. I got the big cross quickly and then just sailed on. I knew LETHE because I thought it flowed through Dublin, but Googled to find “Liffey.”

    kitshef 7:20 AM  

    Rough start with aLExander crossing Abel, the former “confirmed” by LINO and ESTD. What’s 300 years among friends.

    Great clue for ICE CAP.

    Surprised Rex gave a pass to the west side with IAMSO, EIEIO, WASIT and OTOE jammed in there. Terrible clue for WAS IT. The Times has changed clues a couple of times this week due to outright errors. Maybe today they can change one for ugliness.

    RJ 7:31 AM  

    Fridays are often the toughest of the week for me but so many of the answers fell into place like it did for Rex...CAIN, LINO, and ESTD got me CLEOPATRA. I thought there would be a theme because of BOTTOM and MIDDLE but no joy.

    Most difficult for me was SPITTAKE (?) - I had SPIT_A_E and couldn't make my brain see that "ring data" wasn't about something that wrapped around your finger.

    I love UMPTEENTH because no matter how bad your math skills, you've said (or yelled) it to someone sometime.

    Fun Friday - happy weekend everyone

    Anonymous 7:36 AM  

    Oh, how clever and funny of you!

    Birchbark 7:59 AM  

    SCATTERSHOT symmetry with JUST KIDDING. THE crossing THE in the center.

    I figured one of the two opposing poles, the North one in particular, was an ICE CAP. So that worked okay in my estimation.

    Anonymous 8:01 AM  

    @anonymous 3:58 July 5th Washington state does not and never has been on mountain time. Idaho is on Pacific time. The Pacific Northwest is on Pacific time.

    'merican in Paris 8:19 AM  

    No anywhere near easy or medium for me. I got about 2/3 done, and then threw in the towel and started Googling. I had nothing in the N.E. until I googles Alice MUNRO, then most of it filled in, but had to Google AS_IN. I still don't understand ENTS as an answer to 12 D (Drs. that see head cases.)

    Like others, had lei before TAN; nice misdirect.

    Had lots of write-overs on the longish answers:

    aLExandRA > CLEOPATRA (yes, I know, I need to study my history)
    and (grrr!)> PER (I'm glad my first guess was wrong!)
    arctic > ICECAP
    precedent > REASONING
    STATE seal > STATE TREE
    exChangeS > VOCATIONS

    I've also never, ever heard the phrase SPIT TAKE. Perhaps because I was more a fan of Marlo Thomas < sigh > than her dad, Danny. Also have never heard anybody refer to their home as their CRIB.

    Speaking of CRIBbage, in my family, the jack of the same suit was called "His NiBs". I guess others call him NOB.

    The answer to 33A ("Unlikely Top 40 songs") could have been anything. Not a helpful clue for ARIAS, in my opinion.

    I guess I have to admire the construction of this puzzle, but it defeated me, so I can't say in truth that I enjoyed the experience.

    Nancy 8:20 AM  

    Found this quite easy for a Friday, though I struggled somewhat in the NE. The only author Alice I could think of was Walker (16A), didn't know ASTIN (18A), and had to wait for some crosses to decide between JUST KIDDING and I WAS KIDDING (11D).

    I saw RACE TO THE BOTTOM right off the bat just off the RACE. Guess that's where my head is these days. I was cheered up somewhat by 44A. I certainly hope it shall be thus. I hope there will be actual REASONING at the Supreme Court in the near future, that they will be able to MEET IN THE MIDDLE rather than RACE TO THE BOTTOM. I hope there won't be a plethora of 5-4 decisions based on party affiliation for the UMPTEENTH time. Sigh.

    Was also fooled by TAN (50A). I had the T, so didn't think LEI, but I confidently wrote in TEE. Loved the clues for ARIAS (33A) and EIEIO (27D). An enjoyable and lively puzzle, if awfully easy for a Friday.

    David 8:36 AM  

    As a 60-something with a lifetime in publishing I'm surprised how many of you get "lino". Guess it's education by puzzle?

    Question, EMORY is a famous college. Has it ever been clued, "it has a board"?

    I love bad puns.

    Jocelyn B 8:54 AM  

    American in Paris: ENTS = Ear, Nose & Throats Drs.

    mike colt 9:03 AM  

    Laughed out loud

    Stanley Hudson 9:07 AM  

    What @JOHN X said.

    JUST KIDDING.

    Z 9:12 AM  

    Rex’s comments about the low proper noun count prompted me to do a more detailed analysis. As I suspected, not really all that low, just not especially high. It will surely help if 1970’s pop music is a part of your cultural frame of reference.

    PPP Analysis
    Pop Culture, Product Names, and Other Proper Nouns as a percentage of puzzle answers. Anything over 33% will cause some subset of solvers to struggle.

    20 of 70, for 29%. This is well within NYTX normal. The NYTX is more frequently above 33% than below 25%.
    The List:

    CLEOPATRA
    Alice MUNRO
    Sean ASTIN
    Land of NOD
    OIL (Standard OIL clue)
    ISN’T it Time (Babys’ hit)
    OTOE
    IBM
    River LETHE
    ARMOR (Monty Python clue)

    CAIN
    EMAIL (WikiLeaks clue)
    ENT
    TONY Orlando
    SALEM
    NIKON
    NAACP
    HERA
    Law and Order: SUV
    ÉTÉ (Bastille Day clue)

    'merican in Paris 9:30 AM  

    @Jocelyn B -- many thanks for the answer. I never hear the abbreviation ENT for ear, nose and throat doctor while a relative young'un in the 'States. But somewhere along the line, I got used to the term otorhinolaryngologist, or ORL, instead.

    Paul Rippey 9:33 AM  

    Thanks for that concept (PPP analysis), something we all feel subjectively but it’s nice to have it quantified.

    GILL I. 9:35 AM  

    I started this last night but decided I'd wait til morning to see if I was in a better mood. I absolutely despise clues like 1A. I always start there and I don't want trivia right off the bat. I mean, really? If you're gonna do a trivia clue for CLEOPATRA, make it interesting. How about character in a Shakespeare, subject of an opera and a feature in a Hollywood block buster film. Hah! Much better, in my humble opinion, than someone who died in 30 BC.
    Despite my grumbles, I enjoyed this VERY easy Friday. Nothing gave me pause except 55D SVU. I don't know what that is; I had CSI to begin. Easy to fix with the charming UMPTEENTH. My mom's favorite word. It always started with " For the UMPTEENTH time, get off your fanny and go clean your room."
    Loved the clue for ARIAS at 33A. I immediately thought of opera songs that probably made it to some top chart because they were sung so often. Summertime in Porgy and Bess ( I used to sing that in the shower at the top of my lungs), Time To Say Goodbye with Brightman and Bocelli and who could forget Carmen's Toreador song?
    Didn't know what a SCATTER SHOT is - I only know of scatter brain. I did know SPIT TAKE which I almost did after reading @Quasi's mushroom. "Please hold the SPIT TAKE on my pizza."
    Hoping for a more challenging one tomorrow. I'll probably have to eat my words!

    JC66 9:36 AM  

    @Larry G. 1:24AM

    I parsed 23D as a dook (WASIT, as in WASSUP) before coming here.

    @David 8:36AM

    The answer to 45D is EMERY board.

    Paul Rippey 9:41 AM  

    Hey, Caucasian solvers: Didja notice the racial assumptions behind the clue “Hawaiian souvenir” for TAN? The puzzle would have been more fun and a crapload bolder if the clue had been “White folks’ Hawaiian souvenir”. Or I think so at least.

    Nampa Bob 9:43 AM  

    Nice puzzle. Very nice.

    Mohair Sam 9:54 AM  

    Liked it for all the reasons most of y'all seemed to like it. Especially the delightful misdirects.

    WE had about 40% of the puzzle finished and were stuck in the NE thanks to our gimme "alert" at 10A. Lady M eventually yelled "EJECT" which gave us JUSTKIDDING and we flew through the rest. Odd how that happens. Anybody else try to fit Tiberius at 1A, we were stuck on Romans until CLEOPATRA almost totally filled. Thought NCR might have created the floppy, that cost some time. Loved how the two fifteens were in sync in their locations and crossing at the "H" in THE.

    If HERA is the Goddess of marriage why do I find myself doing the HoRA instead of the HERA at every Jewish wedding I attend? Get it right folks. And isn't the hora one of those things you swear you won't get involved in and end up dragged to the dance floor and loving it? I once found myself on the chair crew under a 250 pound groom, oy vey. But I survived, Hava Nagila.

    Roo Monster 10:10 AM  

    Hey All !
    I'm surprised some never heard of or seen SPITTAKE. It's a classic movie gag. Here is a compilation so you'll know in the future.

    This was a good FriPuz. Had nice answers, as Rex said, to let you SITS BY the gluey bits. But I'm puzzled by the EIEIO singing thing. mi mi re re do? Shoot, I thought it was E-I-E-I-O.

    Had lEAgelese for REASONING first. Har. Then saw 20A ESE. Liked UMPTEENTH, even though it was a SIDEL-y answer. Fell for LEI, what else could it be?

    Disagree with Rex on NOB. Cribbage is a fun game that's played quite a bit. It's the one with the board and the pegs, and you gets points with the cards in your hands. First one around the board wins. I used to play it with a buddy years ago while hanging out at the bar drinking! Good times.

    PASTY STATE TREES
    RooMonster
    DarrinV

    JC66 10:22 AM  

    @Roo

    Great SPIT TAKE reel. Thanks!

    Bob Mills 10:23 AM  

    Nice puzzle. A bit on the easy side for a Friday. I had "MEETATTHEMIDDLE" for a long time, a mistake I can't defend. Got "EIEIO" from the crosses, but the clue doesn't seem to fit.

    mathgent 10:28 AM  

    An OK puzzle but I want more out of a Friday. Jeff Chen blames it on the two crossing fifteens. I had eight Red Plusses in the margins where Fridays average around fifteen.

    @Paul Rippey (9:41): Nice one!

    I was just about to complain about the clue for SPITTAKE and reread it. I missed "ironic" in "Ironic reaction to dry humor." Now I love it.

    Learned the definition of "cajole." I thought that it meant to rib as in gently make fun of. Good word.

    I didn't take "blood tie" to be a thing and looked it up. There's a movie titled Blood Ties.

    Joseph Michael 10:29 AM  

    Fantastic Friday. Robyn is one of my favorite constructors and this puzzle is an example of why. Great long entries with minimal esoterica and crosswordese plus some clever clues.

    Especially liked RACE TO THE BOTTOM which is an apt description of our political climate today. Also liked JUST KIDDING which is what I wish someone could have said after announcing the result of the last presidential election.

    @John X, you’re the greatest.

    Anonymous 10:30 AM  

    @Larry Gilstrap: your jealousy of RP (MS) is more transparent than air...

    Jim Lemire 10:37 AM  

    @Paul Rippey - I would love to see that clue in a puzzle! Of course it also assumes that the person isn’t too white either...my son is essentially see-through, so unless by “TAN” you mean “the color of a boiled lobster” it doesn’t apply to him or other melanoidin-challenged beach goers!

    Suzie Q 10:37 AM  

    Must be a wave length sort of thing but many times today my first instinct turned out to be right! I love when that happens.
    As for the comments, I too remember Make Room for Daddy and I had my own spit take from JOHN X who always makes my day.

    Malsdemare 10:54 AM  
    This comment has been removed by the author.
    Malsdemare 11:11 AM  

    @ John X you're a joy!

    jb129 11:19 AM  

    Very enjoyable - I was stuck on Spittake but worked it out. A very nice surprise for Friday. Thank you Robyn!

    GHarris 11:21 AM  

    NW went right in as soon as I changed Alexander to Cleopatra which was virtually immediately since Cain was a gimme. Most of the rest was relatively easy except for the NE because I started by putting in only kidding and had to call for Mariano, the Closer(ie my wife) to get Munro, I knew Walker didn’t work. Btw, much of the text of Supreme Court decisions consists of citations and footnotes. Reasoning is rarely to be found these days.

    SBell 11:23 AM  

    CRIB is another term used in Cribbage — the crib is the group of cards contributed by each player which the dealer wins at the end of each hand.

    Old Nurse 11:27 AM  

    @ Paul Rippey 9:41, If you are trying to stir the pot it might be good to know what you are talking about. Blacks can darken from the sun and they also can be visibly pale when they are ill. So stop already.

    L 11:33 AM  

    Totally confused by EIEIO answer, as it wasn't clued in this sequence.

    TubaDon 11:36 AM  

    CAIN, LINO got me CLEO, AISLE.. and I fell into the LEI trap...oh no, am I becoming more like Rex? Managed to complete this contiguously with some guesses. SWEET TALK gave me SALEM (only capital with L in middle?) though I had no idea Hoover went to Oregon as a boy. STATE TREE and SCATTER SHOT gave me traction in the SE and SW. Finally was forced to conclude that RACE TO THE BOTTOM was a real situation since it did allow me to fill out the bottom of the puzzle.

    Malsdemare 11:37 AM  


    I got off to a roaring start, replacing Alexander with Cleopatra (my alleged ancestor!) almost immediately as one of my answers. That gave me the whole NW. Made that RACE TO THE BOTTOM early and then . kerthunk . . . Nothing. Slowed down to my more usual Friday plod, I slowly worked my way. I, of course, wanted lei but I was positive of BOTTOM, saw the T and didn't even think of TEE. Anyway, I had a ball, though it was over too soon.

    I have been on vacation with La Famille and our drive to our destination had us spend the night in Elkins, WV (picking up a daughter who was there for a conference. If you’re wondering why anyone would stage a conference in Elkins, I’ll share that she works for the Department of Natural Resources, and among other reasons, the small group was there to visit a reclaimed mine. A restaurant there, The Fork, delivered phenomenal food, service, and view.) Anyway, every time I drive through WV I am dazzled by its beauty. Yes, I’ve also seen those places that have been destroyed by mining, but holy cow! For this woman who sees corn as far as the eye can see (and that’s a good ways), that state soothes the soul. It saddens me that its economy relies on exploitation of its exquisite mountains and valleys. I’m not trying to start a discussion here about complex economies; just want to laud a state that doesn’t get much praise.

    I came home to two dogs bloodied by a dog fight at our beloved kennel. It’s been an interesting week . .

    Malsdemare 11:42 AM  

    @Paul Rippey, my Navajo friends get darker in the sun, or so they tell me. We've actually compared skin tones, with Irish me, after a summer on the Rez, much redder than they. Which they find hilarious — and deeply ironic.

    old timer 11:58 AM  

    Very easy Friday, and I think Robyn and I are in the same Karass, is why. As soon as I had RACE I wanted TO THE BOTTOM, and once I guessed MIDDLE, MET IN THE came to mind. My only writeover was SITSBY because I had "lets be" at first.

    I know enough about Greek myths to put in HERA, but in terms of having her as a wife, my immediate reaction was "Better you than me, father Zeus."

    I really should have remembered that Hoover lived in SALEM for a time. At Stanford, one learns a lot about Hoover, our most distinguished early grad. He was manager of the football team in the first Big Game.

    I took two of my daughters across the country on Amtrak, one in each direction and we shared a roomette. I have never played so much cribbage as I did then, because when the beds are up, there are chairs sitting across from each other with a little pull-out table just perfect for a cribbage board and a deck of cards. 15 two, 15 four, and a pair makes six....

    OFL was right to admire this one. I was smiling time after time, and only just now smiled at the clue for ATE.

    Paul Rippey 12:17 PM  

    @Malsdemare. Thanks. I had a friend in Conakry Guinea, where my family lived for five years, who said that he had ridden a motorcycle for hours in the hot sun and that to his amazement he thought he got a sunburn! So, point taken, but still tanning very strongly identified with whities.

    jae 12:30 PM  

    Easy. Cute mini-theme, a couple of nice long downs, smooth, liked it.

    pabloinnh 12:37 PM  

    People are wondering about the do re mi stuff, so:

    Sing "do re mi" (everybody can do this, right?)

    Now sing them going down--"mi re do".

    Now substitute E I for "mi", another E I for "re" and O for "do", and hey presto, there it is.

    Hope this helps.

    Banana Diaquiri 1:17 PM  

    @pabloinnh:
    Now substitute E I for "mi", another E I for "re" and O for "do", and hey presto, there it is.

    except it makes more sense to sub the letters from the staff. since E crosses from MEET... that's one letter for the note, not two. I left my dead trees version, but I recollect that the 5 "notes" didn't alternate, but were in the order of 2,2,1; re,re,mi,mi,do IIRC. 5 "note" with 5 spaces.

    Masked and Anonymous 1:22 PM  

    This puz had some serious 'tude. What with the nice MIDDLE/BOTTOM bonuses. Plus, any puz that has longballs like CLEOPATRA & JUSTKIDDING & SPITTAKE has my respect-full attention. themelessthUmbsUp.

    staff weeject picks: NOD & NOB. ESE has more desperation chops, but the NOx sisters are just so charmin. And M&A would hate to squeeze out the charmin.

    For some reason, I thought the Hoovermeister was born in Iowa. SALEM, Iowa? Maybe the Hoovers sucked it up, filled their bags, and decided to go pick things up out west? ... I reckon.
    One thing M&A knows: If it ARE in the NYTPuz, {ain't right} to sit there and try to use REASONING. Loses too many precious day-um nanoseconds.

    Raised-by-wolves clue dept.: {Word with black or blood}. M&A owns very few TIEs any more. Any TIEs with blood on em have been promptly discarded, as they could be used in evidence. [See 11-D]

    Thanx for the feisty fun, Robyn Weintraub darlin.

    [U have now RACEd TO THE BOTTOM of M&A's mighty middlin comment.]

    Masked & AnonymoUUs


    bottom dweller:
    **gruntz**

    jberg 1:36 PM  

    I dunno -- is it fair to put a Canadian writer in the puzzle? Can anyone be expected to know her? (Hey, JUST KIDDING!) Actually, she was my first answer, and I worked the crosses over to 20A. I put in ESE, because, you know, this is a crossword, but since it could have been ize or ist or ism, I chekced some crosses and got RACE TO THE BOTTOM right off. Great clue, great answer, but it was all pretty easy after tht.

    @Gill & others -- what I liked about the 1A clue is that a lot of us think that we don't know any rulers from 30 BC (or BCE) unless they were Romans; or, well, there's Boadicea or Vercingetorix, but they don't fit. So for me, at least it took getting CAIN to see that it could be an Egyptian. (And then I was still confused because I thought the clue for 19A referred to 1A rather than 1D).

    My main wheelhouse problem was TONY Orlando; for me, Orlando in the music world is this guy.

    Can we really call this a themeless, though?

    Anoa Bob 2:00 PM  

    Occasionally a single entry will make the puzzle for me. Today it was SCATTERSHOT, a true word nerd's delight. Very evocative in both its literal and metaphorical senses.

    Once I would have done a celebratory standing back flip to show my appreciation for such a beauty, but time and, uh, erm, maturity rule that out these days. JUST KIDDING.

    I do have a minor quibble (not even a nit, really) over the clue for 51D IRON, "Decrease". I learned to IRON in the Navy. When we would come into port, we would have to pass inspection before we could go ashore for liberty call. If we were wearing our dress white uniforms, they had to be snow white clean and they had to have sharp, straight CREASEs. So for me, "INCREASE" would be the preferred clue for IRON.

    Anonymous 2:10 PM  

    This played very hard for a Friday for me. Felt more like a Saturday. But I think that's mostly of my own doing. I had geNO for LINO, noR for PER, bit for ATE, and lei for TAN, which made the northwest corner rather difficult. I figured out INTERLACE which fixed bit to ATE, but it took me some time to see CLEOPATRA when I was fixated on Roman rulers (kept trying to squeeze Caesar in there somewhere).

    Also misread the clue on ASTIN and was trying to figure out how Elijah could fit into a 5 letter clue, and then had a typo in ARMiR which made it really hard to see SCATTERSHOT. Overall, I ended up being a full third over my average Friday time because of that comedy of errors.

    BBPDX 2:26 PM  

    @Paul Rippey seems racially uninformed or inexperienced. The skin of people of color darkens (tans) when exposed to the sun.

    Aketi 3:15 PM  

    Who says that a RACE TO THE BOTTOM has to be bad thing? I’m imagining how fast @pdmn must be zooming down hills on a bike to achieve a cooling effect in hot weather and how much fun the RACE tO THE BOTTOM segment of the ride would be. That was definitely the fun part of growing up at the top of a steep hill. There were any number of wheeled objects we used as kids to RACE kamikaze style to get to the BOTTOM. Home made GoKarts, skate boards, bikes. The unicycle was a fail.

    His Nob 3:20 PM  

    Ear Nose and Throat doctors .

    foxaroni 3:22 PM  

    @Anoa Bob--You've probably seen the video clip (CNN, for one), where the law officer does a back-flip for his audience. The gun tucked in the small of his back falls out. As he grabs it, the gun goes off and shoots an audience member in the leg. I believe the officer was suspended or lost his gun privileges. It proves the old adage: When back flips are outlawed, only outlaws will have backflips.

    Thought at first that 1A was looking for NERO something-or-other. Loved the "decrease" clue for "iron." Excellent puzzle, Robyn.

    foxaroni 3:27 PM  

    Forgot to add: @Roo--thanks for the spit-take link. Very funny!

    Blue Stater 3:39 PM  

    No tricks, no mistakes, no non-words. It can be done.

    Banana Diaquiri 3:49 PM  

    I'll defend RACETOTHEBOTTOM. in the econ/biz biz, this means that all producers engage in internecine cost/price cutting, thus wiping out profit of all producers. moreover, the consumer also loses, since the effort yields product of increasingly inferior quality with no alternatives.

    for those conversant with things personal computer, this is exactly what has happened with the technological replacement to the hard drive, the SSD. the ones I bought 5 years ago simply no longer are made. current product is little more than temporary, disposable storage. that's not good eats.

    Charles Flaster 3:49 PM  

    FWIW—An easy, enjoyable romp.
    TAN was cute.
    Thanks RW

    Anonymous 4:26 PM  

    Foxaroni,
    What you meant to say, I'm sure was that when officer backflip went to pick up the gun he pulled the trigger and shot a wedding guest.
    The gun went off as it was designed to: when its trigger was pulled.
    Now, why a yutz like that has access to a gun is another matter.

    Banana Diaquiri 5:17 PM  

    @anon/4:26
    he pulled the trigger and shot a wedding guest.

    well, not so simple. from the video, it appears to be a Glock/S&W/etc. semi-auto. you can't just pull the trigger to shoot it. it's not a double-action revolver. you either have to pull the slide to load a round and cock the hammer, or you have a live round and you have to cock the hammer. to fire as so far described, the gun had a live round, and the drop cocked the hammer. seems a pretty rare event. or he was carrying a live round under a cocked hammer. that's either really paranoid or really stupid.

    Harryp 7:56 PM  

    Guns do have a safety, so there is that too.

    Mark N 9:55 PM  

    Like most have said, a wonderfully solid puzzle. Kudos!

    Anonymous 10:30 PM  

    I finished in under 11 seconds, but I was clean and sober and could see.

    Ian Newbould 12:15 AM  

    Isn’t an ATM a bill dispenser, not a bill collector? And weary = tire, not tired?

    Z 9:24 AM  

    @Ian Newbould - Verbs - To weary = To tire. As opposed to, “I am weary/I am tired.” Also, one could use an ATM to make a cash deposit, not just a withdrawal.

    QuasiMojo 2:09 PM  

    @Z, I know a Bus Boy would be different but a captain is a term often used in restaurants. And I think the mess boy here refers to an army barracks right? Not a ship. As some above seemed to think.

    Burma Shave 10:36 AM  

    SCATTERSHOT REASONING

    WASIT CLEOPATRA’s SWEETTALK that got him?
    ISN’T she JUSTKIDDING with a HINTAT a riddle?
    That TEASE told anTONY, “It’s a RACETOTHEBOTTOM,
    so let’s INTERLACE and MEETINTHEMIDDLE.”

    --- NELLY MUNRO

    spacecraft 11:24 AM  

    I'm still trying to see the sense of "RACETOTHEBOTTOM," at least as clued. Is this a saying? If you're talking about skiing, OK--but then how does that "hurt everyone??" That sounds like 100% of competitive skiers sustain injuries sooner or later. Surely there has to be someone, somewhere, lucky enough to end a career with knees intact. And outside of that sport the phrase is pure nonsense.

    Nonetheless, REASONING demands TO and THE when RACE begins and BOTTOM ends the line. So no solving harm. I know SPITTAKE, but only from earlier editions of this page. In the non-crossword world I know only double-take--or simply a take. SCATTERSHOT to me is buckshot; lacking focus is SCATTERbrained. These WOEs aside, I did OK--even whipping the dreaded NW at the outset once I hit NOD. Thence flowed CAIN, and CLEOPATRA, so memorably played by Liz Taylor that I gave her the DOD sash right away.

    I learned cribbage in England, where they call it "his nobs." Tradition holds that if your opponent misses a score and completes his incorrect peg, YOU can peg the missing point(s) yourself. His nobs is the most overlooked score in that regard. [Side note: I once gave my opponent a perfect CRIB of 29. Well, what would YOU do when dealt 557788? It honest-to-God happened.]

    As far as "no non-words" goes: what about EIEIO? what word is that? No matter; I saw what he was going for. That section, along with the RPR (random playground retort) is the weakest in an otherwise strong puzzle. I didn't trust LEI simply because today is Friday; yay me on avoiding that writeover.

    Honorable DOD mention to Jorja Fox as Sara SIDLE. Kudos to the constructor for finding a NON-rap clue for NELLY. That makes up for the Old Macdonald refrain. Birdie.

    Diana,LIW 1:40 PM  

    And the winner is - me. You too?

    Well...I thought the two middle down and across phrases were pretty cool. And thought that someone...who?...would have some negative thoughts.

    Not hard for a Friday - at least for me. I was beginning to wonder if I'd lost all touch with crosswords.

    Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords

    centralscrewtinizer 1:57 PM  

    JOHN X needs to add another X to his handle.
    Wanted race against time since gas seemed to be the Standard product. Had a lot of trouble and did what the Paris guy did. Been having a rough time with puzzles lately.

    rondo 2:29 PM  

    Cleanest. Grid. Ever . . . on a Friday. IAMSO proud. It’s so darn neat and legible I oughta frame it. But still at least 3X OFL’s time. NOB a gimme. C’mon Rex, broaden the horizon. A little CRIBbage never hurt.

    @spacey – A semi-recent use of RACETOTHEBOTTOM happened here in the Midwest where Republican governors were pushing the “right-to-work” business, which is busting up unions to lower workers’ wages. The Dems argued that instead of raising everbody’s boats, the righties were making it into a RACETOTHEBOTTOM. Sorta like tossing your opponent that pair of fives, except there only you got burned..

    OLE. For the UMPTEENTH time.

    A CLAP of thunder and CAIN’s brother Abel were in the WSJ Contest puz today. BTW I figured out the answer to the contest.

    I’ll give a yeah baby to the “old” NELLY Furtado, not the “new” NELLY Furtado. She used to be one of the real HONEYS. And kind of a TEASE.

    Thought the semi-theme was great. This puz gets a positive NOD.

    Anonymous 3:05 PM  

    In American cribbage his nibs is the jack in the turned up cards' suit. His nobs is the other jack in the same color, and counts as one point versus two for the nibs.

    And why is a cribbage term more unfair than a weird tennis term, or a foreign word?

    thefogman 3:05 PM  

    What happened to Rex? He's all SWEETTALK and ISNT being a NOB today. Is he JUSTKIDDING or being a TEASE? Did he get BENT and TIE on one? WASIT what he ATE? Anywho, IAMSO pleased with this one that I CLAP and send mucho OLEs in Robyn Weintraub's direction.

    leftcoastTAM 5:28 PM  

    Relatively easy for Friday, more like medium-challenging Wednesday. And not at all complaining. Enjoyed it.

    LETHE (not LETHo) was the last entry, with EMERY (board) canceling out EMoRY (the university).

    Not JUST KIDDING, no SWEET TALK, this was a HONEY (forget about the S).

    rainforest 5:36 PM  

    A fine puzzle, much easier than yesterday's which I didn't start until 8:30 PM (babysitting), yet much more enjoyable.

    The crossing grid-spanners were a treat, and clued exquisitely. A RACE TO THE BOTTOM occurs most frequently in politics, appropriately. The exchange between Marco Rubio and Trump in the debates is a good example, but to the chagrin of so many, the Orange one emerged the less scathed.

    I've only heard the term NOB in the plural, but what's an "S" between friends in a crib game? I've never seen the "perfect" hand of 29, but I once had a 28 with four 5s and a queen, he said, fondly remembering the many crib games with Dad. Good game.

    And, good puzzle.



    leftcoastTAM 5:56 PM  

    Haven't checked yet, but I wonder how many saw the apparent "mini-theme" (via Bill Web) of the grid-spanning crossing entries RACE TO THE BOTTON and MEET IN THE MIDDLE? (Those are not bad metaphors for the way I solved this one.)

    Alice 1:31 AM  

    I liked this. It was too easy for a FRIDAY. Happy to see Alice MUNRO in the puzzle. It's time to read some more of her stories. I think her stories are amazing.

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