Eponymous Belgian resort town / FRI 11-9-18 / Bar Ireland's oldest pub dating to AD 900 / Sentry's query / JJ's sister on good times / Caesar's conquest of 58-50 BC

Friday, November 9, 2018

Constructor: Robyn Weintraub

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium (5:02) (actually probably very easy, but my brain is not yet warmed up this morning...)

THEME: none

Word of the Day: SEAN'S Bar (28A: ___ Bar, Ireland's oldest pub, dating to A.D. 900) —
Seán's Bar is a pub in the town of Athlone that is Ireland’s oldest pub, dating back to AD 900. In 2004 Guinness World Records listed Seán's Bar as the oldest pub in Europe.[1][2][3] Seán's Bar is located at 13 Main Street, Athlone, on the west bank of the River Shannon in central Ireland, and was originally known as "Luain's Inn". It is often colloquially referred to simply as "Seán's". (wikipedia)
• • •

I have no pep or vim or whatever this morning. I'm mostly just trying to get my eyes to focus on the screen without slowly shutting. And yet even at hunt-and-peck speed, I finished this in 5:02—nowhere near my record, but fast enough for me to think I could've smoked this thing if I'd been above 50% power. Twitter confirms alot of PBs (personal bests), so I think "Easy" is probably a fair rating. I loved this grid and if I'd been fully awake I likely would've wished that the cluing was somewhat harder. In my current condition, however, it felt just right. There were three parts that slowed me down. As usual, the beginning slowed me down (I should really just take this for granted—of course the beginning is likely to be one of the hardest moments in the puzzle: you have no information in the grid to go on). I ran the short Downs and got a few of them. Actually, of the shorter ones, I got only OER and ASAP, but I also got WHO GOES THERE? immediately, so that was nice. But NO-GOOD and CRED weren't easy for me as clued and, worse, once I got RE-R at the front end of 16A: Backward, I figured that third letter had to be an "A"—REAR-something. Then I wrote in YEAS for 2D: Agreeable answer to an invitation. Sigh. YEAS are "answers," plural, and they're more "answers" to calls for votes. So that was dumb. Then I couldn't drop REDEFINES down. I just had RED- and no idea (8D: Adjusts the parameters of). And that's the only way to get from that corner to the center and NE of the puzzle, so again, things slowed down.

Things very much slowed down around SEAN'S (???), which is bad fill (plural name) dressed up as if it were a class, cultured crossword clue. Nice save. Still, never heard of it, so I had to hack at every cross in that little section. But again I had huge luck with the longer answers. FUNNEL CAKES took no effort. TOURIST TRAP, eventually, took no effort. I had most of GLASS CEILING filled in before I saw the clue, so, easy. These long-answer victories made up for some of the shorter-answer flubs. I finished on a very murky section that had me a Little worried, because I couldn't remember CONESTOGA. I knew very well that the word was C- something -STOGA, but my problem was I never learned the wagon word until I was an adult, and growing up in California there was a bottled mineral water called CALISTOGA (there probably still is), and that is the only word my brain could think of. So between C- and -STOGA lay a void, a murky unknown, a scary dark territory that also contained an answer I had wrong (MENDS for MOLDS at 27D: Gets into shape?), and then one I wasn't entirely sure about (34A: Old Speckled Hen, for one — ALE). But I molded that section into shape block by block, and boom, done. And somehow my time was well below average. OK, then!

Five things:
  • 48D: Competitor of Us Weekly (STAR) — I would not know. STAR? Oh this is one of those supermarket check-out rags? Yeah, no.
  • 37D: Largest carrier in Japan (ANA) — All Nippon Airways. Crosswords taught me this. Actually, crosswords just taught me ANA. I only looked up what the letters stood for just now on the google.
  • 46A: Fishing basket (CREEL) — pretty funny to have this answer in the same puzzle with 21A: "Fish are friends, not ___" (line from "Finding Nemo"). Also, I think there should be an animated "Rocky" parody starring a fish boxer named "CREEL"; Nemo can be his trainer or something.
  • 40D: J.J.'s sister on "Good Times" (THELMA) — Scooby-Doo's VELMA was the only non-SELMA -ELMA I could think of at first, but then this name came back to me. Temporary layoffs!
  • 48A: Eponymous Belgian resort town (SPA) — this fact is still highly weird to me. It's like discovering there's a town in England called BATH. . . wait, what?! No. Really? Let me check. . . well whaddya know... well this all just came full circle: "The city became a SPA with the Latin name Aquae Sulis ("the waters of Sulis") c. 60 AD when the Romans built baths and a temple in the valley of the River Avon, although hot springs were known even before then." (wikipedia)
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Loren Muse Smith 6:53 AM  

Robyn, Robyn, Robyn – you’re shattering the GLASS CEILING for themeless POW female constructors. This is a beautiful puzzle. Anything involving a FUNNEL CAKE is ok by me. Those things are delicious.

Early mistake thinking that fish are friends, not “foes.” Oops.

The clue for CLOWN CAR is so good. I think of a clown car as that car that goes too slow in the left lane. Are these people just stupid? Do they think they’re doing a civic duty by controlling everyone’s speed? I bet there’s a study out there showing that this practice causes more accidents than speeding itself. I never go more than about 8 miles over the limit, so when I’m behind a clown car, I never try any funny business. I just crawl along behind and hate the driver with all my being. When she finally gets over, I drive past and give her a good, malevolent glare. Really give her the what-for, buddy.

I tell you – you have to be pretty comfortable with noodles to embrace the UDON-eating experience. Soba is thinner and less wormlike. UDON is a thick, in-your-face, serious noodle. For me, it’s just a little too much noodle; I feel weird eating it. Gives visceral a whole new meaning.

You ready to order? Yes, I’ll just have a bowel of udon. Bowl. I mean bowl of udon.

Rex – yeah – STAR is right next to InTouch and Ok! I have to keep abreast of the latest body part Gwyneth is having steam cleaned and how Jennifer Garner is doing post-divorce. (Since I’m out of the closet about reading crap like this, I do want it known that I read Siddhartha. In German. I really did.) Speaking of low-brow stuff, I love this new Google deal where I kind of have my own personal rag magazine offerings when I go to the Google app on my phone. It has pegged me correctly as the philistine who wants to bone up on stuff about Heather Dubrow’s house and Captain Lee’s happy marriage. I gobble it all up.

Robyn – again, this is a terrific grid. My one pause was the mistake on the clue for I-77. I regularly drive on I-77; it does go NNW, too. (Thanks in advance, @Z, for Getting Me.)

[Speaking of misspelling bowlthis misspelling is much more startling. Warning – this absolutely will fail your breakfast test.)]

BarbieBarbie 6:55 AM  

Mid-read 55a as singular and confidently entered AGORAPHOBE which slowed down the SE for a long time. Otherwise easy and very enjoyable. Looking forward to a puzzle without ODE in it- the new acne?

Hungry Mother 6:58 AM  

Oh yeah, very easy for a friday. Tuesdayish.

Rainbow 6:59 AM  

Loved the misspelling link. Stupidity can be so funny when it's not dangerous.

Anonymous 7:01 AM  

I agree it was on the easy side-- only 10 seconds slower than my Friday best. Still, I found the puzzle clever and enjoyable. Altogether delightful.

JOHN X 7:09 AM  

I thought this puzzle was easy.

To me at least, the clues gave away all the long answers, which opened everything, so maybe I was just on the constructor's wavelength. I got everything too easy with just a letter or two filled in. Or maybe I'm a genius and I need to up my day rate down at the cinder-block warehouse.

michiganman 7:14 AM  

I found this to be challenging, at least for a while. I did not know FUNNEL CAKE and had FUNNELConE, which made sense but wrong. PUPAE helped fix that. Had REDEsIgnS before REDEFINES. Especially liked CLOWNCARS, RETROGRADE, CONESTOGA. MOLDS was too easy with the "?", but OK. Hope nobody is bothered by 33A, 40A, and 29D.
Nice puzzle.

kitshef 7:15 AM  

Gimme clues like “Sentry’s query” and “The Devil’s playthings” just give away way too much real estate too quickly, leading to a Wednesday-like solve. Even my one spectacular failure, putting in RUN OF BAD LUCK for 20D off the ‘L’, was quickly fixed.

The fill is stellar. Every word of 7+ letters is a gem. I just wish it had been tougher.

Amy Yanni 7:22 AM  

Conestoga is one of my favorite words. (One of least favorite is jubilee.) Really beautiful puzzle but very easy for Friday....speaking of, my one wrong turn was to pop in fried for the beginning of Fair Food. Thought it might be fried butter, which is a thing. Fortunately the devil's idle hands got me back on track. TGIF.

Lewis 7:24 AM  

Oh yes, this was a puzzle with GRINS and WIT. It had answers with spark (CLOWN CARS, GO APE, IDLE HANDS, AMSCRAY, FUNNEL CAKES, WHO GOES THERE, CANDY CANE, TOURIST TRAP). It had likable answers not often seen in puzzles (RETROGRADE, CONESTOGA, WAITLISTED, GLASS CEILING). There were no ugly answers to take the grin away. And it came with a grab bag of zippy cluing.

Bottom line: The message I get from Robyn on her Fridays is, "I want you to have a good time." And I did. I loved this, Robyn!

Anonymous 7:27 AM  

I don’t agree with the clue for 29A CONESTOGA, or at least it is misleading. To quote Wikipedia:

“The term Conestoga wagon... is not a generic term for "covered wagon". The wagons used in the westward expansion of the United States were, for the most part, ordinary farm wagons fitted with canvas covers. A true Conestoga wagon was too heavy for use on the prairies.”

Joe R. 7:29 AM  

Just yesterday, I came across something talking about a bar in Ireland that dated back to the 900s, and I could not for the life of me remember the name. I needed most of the crosses before I could fill in SEANS. And it seems I can't remember where I saw it, either! I thought it was on the LearnedLeague forums, but I just looked there now and I can't find any mention of it.

Always so sad when the memory starts to go.....

Seamus O’Hooligan 8:10 AM  

There is information in the clue to know Sean’s Bar without ever having heard of it. cf “Ireland’s” oldest pub.

roscoe88 8:14 AM  

unbelievably i set a new friday record of 15 mins. this was either too easy or i am moving up in solving. Not a difficulty with any clue. i must congratulate myself.

mmorgan 8:19 AM  

This was great, though it felt easy for a Friday. The long downs seemed to cascade themselves into place with a whoosh. One can get FOOD such as FUNNEL CAKES in a TOURIST TRAP (and then have a CANDY CANE). Unfortunately, I had ELiS for 56A, which made it impossible for me to make sense out of SPECi, so I tried to assume it was an obscure term for the dot over a lower case i. Oh well. But a terrific puzzle!

Roo Monster 8:29 AM  

Hey All !
GRINS ON ME for this puz. Fun words, easy to finish. Only two NO GOOD mistakes (READ: writeovers), CONaSTOGA and PUPAs.

This easy FriPuz LENDS the ole brain a nice break from the usual TAUNTing.

Something heard at a fair? LETS TRY FUNNEL CAKES, TEENAGERS.
I could probably go on, there are lots of good combining words here, but you probably don't care. :-)


Rube 8:42 AM  

This was like a Tuesday. What's the point of a puzzle if you can just write in the answers? Question for Rex. How long would it take you if you had every answer on front of you and you just had to fill in the grid. I can't even write the answers in less than about 3.5 or 4 minutes. So how can a puzzle that you rate as easy medium only require a combibed 1.5 minutes of thought. That's about 3 seconds per clue assuming you only need half the clues to solve the puzzle

Atram007 8:51 AM  


Yes, easy. But also so fantastically filled.

One of my all-time favorites.

SJ Austin 8:52 AM  

I definitely PRed this one, but it was almost entirely due to locking in the long answers much faster than usual. And the cluing was clever and fun on some of those, so I wouldn't necessarily say this was misplaced on a Friday.

Really nice puzzle!

Matthew G. 9:00 AM  

Robyn is fast becoming one of my favorite themeless constructors, up there with Berry and KAC. More, please!

Tend to agree with Rex's difficulty assessment. I am sleep-deprived this week and it took me 5:56 while keeping one eye on a toddler; I think on a focused morning I could have done this in 4:30 or less.

GILL I. 9:02 AM  

I wish this had lasted much longer than it did.
I guess "Vamoose" comes from the Spanish vamonos? And I guess AMSCRAY is from scram? Such a language we have.
When I see Robyn's name I get all happy because she and I are on the same puzzle wave. She has the Midas touch as far as I'm concerned.
LETS CRED took me the longest so I hopped on over to the East Coast. That whole section scared me because nothing really gave me pause. GLASS CEILING just off the GL. It got me thinking of how Pelosi kept crowing about how she was the first to break it. I believe it was Feinstein who earned that title. Give credit where it's due, ladies.
TOURIST TRAP generated another memory. I lived in NYC and I don't think I ever walked around Times Square. I remember my sister conned my brother into taking her there for New Year's Eve. They both lasted about 5 minutes and ended up in a bar similar to SEANS in SoHo somewhere. I stayed home and snuggled up with a whisky sour.
I'm probably the only American that has never tried a FUNNEL CAKE. They look like little worms to me filled with powdered sugar and something else that would make false teeth fall out. I never liked corn dogs either. However the fried butter @Amy Yanni talks about sounds like something I'd gobble up.
I always think JAL before ANA. Never flown ANA but JAL and Singapore are two of the finest airlines that god created.
Tanks for the memories, Robyn, and the enjoyable Friday.

QuasiMojo 9:03 AM  

I thought the clue For Clown Cars was clever, but I couldn’t get Crown Cars out of my head since there used to be a limo service with that name in NY. There might still be. Anyway great easy puzzle to make this a breezy intro to the weekend. Fun fact, at least for me, my ancestors in Illinois used to make wagon wheels for the pioneer trade. It was a stopping off point for many of those heading to California for the Gold Rush. My folks had come from Ireland before “going west as young men” and carving out a new life in Anerica. If they hadn’t I might be at Sean’s right now.

Louis Michael Bell 9:04 AM  

BTW, SEAN’S is a passessive, not a plural. Shame on you, Rex, as a teacher.

Mr. Benson 9:14 AM  

Oddly, I was just thinking about the word REDEFINE yesterday -- in particular, how tediously overused it's become as a slogan word, along with its cousins reinvent and reimagine.

Nancy 9:18 AM  

Clever, imaginative cluing. Colorful, unfamiliar fill. Other than THELMA, absolutely no pop culture. A delightful puzzle from top to bottom.

I bet GLASS CEILING, and the way it was clued, brought about many GRINS. Not to mention CLOWN CAR, TREEHOUSES and TOURIST TRAP. A word from this lifelong New Yorker about TOURIST TRAP, otherwise known as Times Square:

The only time I'm ever there is when I'm going to theater, and I can't get out of there soon enough. WHO GOES THERE? Why tourists, of course. And not all of them by any means are going to theater. They are there because they've been told "it's a must-see, must-experience thing to do in NYC". No, it's not, dear tourists! It's the most crowded spot in NYC, largely because of you, dear tourists. It's the ugliest spot in NYC. It's the noisiest spot in NYC. This is a beautiful city! Stroll in Central Park. Spend time at both our rivers. Wander our colorful residential neighborhoods -- all so different from one another. If you insist on doing something touristy, get on the Staten Island Ferry. But skip Times Square unless you have -- or are getting -- theater tickets. Do we have a deal?

Rant over. Thanks for a terrific puzzle, Robyn.

Jon Baum 9:20 AM  

Related to your left lane clown car experience, I learned from a friend from Austria about the car snake, which is a long line of cars behind the slow one in front. And she asked me "Do you know the difference between a car snake and a real snake?". The answer is that in a car snake, the a**hole is in the front.

Z 9:22 AM  

Here’s a tip on how to make sure a puzzle ain’t too easy: With FOOD and ARGUES in place hastily write in FUunnel cake. Yessiree Bob. That’ll make sure you don’t set no “personal best” or complain about a puzzle being too easy. Compound the error by “confirming” the L with “get lost” for AMSCRAY and the SW becomes a nice tussle.

The FOLIAGE in WNC has been a let down this year I hear. The mountains stayed green past the prime TOURIST TRAP season of October and the colors allegedly aren’t as vibrant. I don’t know, the colors seem pretty awesome to me. And it’s snowing in Detroit. I’m good.
Your Daily Elvis.

Suzie Q 9:26 AM  

I loved everything about this one. So full of great words.
Easy but in a good way. I love tree houses!
If you take the train to Bath, England your ticket will say Bath Spa.
Thanks Robyn.

Sir Hillary 9:32 AM  

What a wonderful grid. Fantastic long entries knifing through one another, lots of white space, and clean as can possibly be. I mean, this one was polished with "Patrick Berry Junk Remover" until it gleamed so brightly that I needed sunglasses while solving. Just brilliant, brilliant, brilliant construction from Robyn Weintraub.

I just wish the solving experience had taken a bit longer. There are some clever clues in here -- the one for CLOWNCARS is good, the ones for MIDAS and INSOMNIACS are even better. But too many clues are just flat-out boring gimmes -- hello, clues for UDON, GOAPE, ARGUED, CANDYCANE, GAPE and SPECK. The CANDYCANE clue was particularly annoying -- this is one of the marquee downs, and it's given a Monday clue.

I had the same thought as @LMS regarding SSE -- I-77 isn't a one-way interstate, is it?

I owe my happiness to being WAITLISTED at my parents' alma mater on the West Coast, where I certainly would have gone had I been admitted straightaway. Instead, I went east for college, met a girl from Queens, and have been blissfully married for 29 years. So yeah, WAITLISTED makes me happy (and sappy).

Keep these amazing grids coming, Robyn -- just crank up the clues a bit. Then, you've not only broken the GLASSCEILING, you actually are the ceiling.

No Public Shaming 9:33 AM  

@Louis Michael Bell - Wrong, wrong, wrong. Per Wikipedia "What is referred to as the middle ages throughout Europe are frequently referred to as the Monastic Age in Ireland, or simply Monastic Ireland. This is primarily due to the order retained in Ireland withing the Monastic community, which preserved Western ideals and knowledge through the Dark Ages into the ensuing Late Middle Ages and on into the Renaissance...[Public accommodations]...In Monastic Ireland, public drinking establishments were banned. Hence what are now known as Guilds were initially formed as private drinking clubs, a pub for Coopers, Wainwrights, etc. Eventually these Guilds became advocacy groups for the trades they were formed around. This being Ireland, the need for private club for knaves, layabouts and scoundrels was high. To this end, Guilds were formed around the most unlikely of criteria. The classic example of this is 'Seans Pub', the oldest continuously operating Public House in Ireland. Its initial requirement was that you had only to be named Sean, or be related to someone named Sean. In actuality, the restriction was more relaxed than that, for in the 2.3% of the cases where someone wasn't actually related to a Sean no one ever refused admission to a potential client who said that his Grandfather's name was actually Seamus Sean O'Rourke, even though they knew it to be a lie."

Sir Hillary 9:37 AM  

@Z -- LOL. Unforced errors are the best. I can imagine your FUUNNELCAKE being made in some sort of vacuuum-like contraption. Perhaps by a woman in a muuumuuu.

Unknown 9:53 AM  

Fun and yet very, very easy for a Friday puzzle. More Wednesday-ish, but enjoyable.

Bob Mills 10:32 AM  

On the easy side for a Friday, but a well constructed puzzle. My compliments.

TubaDon 10:41 AM  

Started with TRY, then RETROGRADE, and was off to the races. My fastest Friday ever (under 15 min but my pen-scratching is not in the same league with Rex's). Somehow know all the long answers from just one or two crosses, exept for CLOWNCARS, my nomination for best clue/answer of the week. Only mistep was to originally write in ELIS at 56A (almost right--Yale only had 5 presidents-to-be). An easy but well put together puzzle, Robyn.

Anonymous 10:44 AM  

Enjoyable puzzle - only hangups were TOURISTstoP and thinking that the end of 29A would be some kind of STOre (had C----STO), thinking 'Pioneer mover' was a Friday misdirect based on the electronics brand. I figured it would be labeled Easy because I did finish much earlier that typical Fridays.

I can see the point some have made about the direction of I-77 could be SSE or NNW. On the other hand, who speaks of a highway running South-North?


Carola 10:53 AM  

GRINS all around for this beautiful puzzle. Agree with others that it would have been nice to have tougher cluing to prolong the pleasure.

Malsdemare 10:56 AM  

I slept in this morning after dragging myself out yesterday to once more protest the shenanigans of our president and was looking forward to a leisurely solve. Nope. This was lickety split, not a complaint at all because it was full of fun stuff, but a complaint because now I'll have to actually get to work. We saw some GLASSCEILINGS break Tuesday and the Georgia count may crack another though I'll admit that's a longshot. I think I'm going to put SEANS pub on my bucket list; Ireland is already there and the pub would be a great stop after a day of riding Irish ponies across the counteyside, another bucket list item. CONESTOGA fell easily, but I had PROWLCAR for High-occupancy vehicle, thinking it as some play on "high." Fixed that quickly when I got TREEHOUSES.

Fun that ended way too soon.

emily 11:06 AM  

I wanted it to fit, but did notice the plural...better answer than insomniacs IMHO.

jb129 11:18 AM  

I didn't know Funnel Cakes - LOVED AMSCRAY.... & I love your puzzles, Robyn - thank you!

Lewis 11:26 AM  

@sirhillary 9:32 -- Excellent post all the way through!

Banana Diaquiri 11:37 AM  

I may have missed the splain, but AMSCRAY is a clown version of scram: pig latin.

Straws Suck 11:38 AM  

Let’s dispense with plastic 35 acrosses!

Anoa Bob 12:00 PM  

Agree with others that this is a nicely crafted puzzle. I also agree that it did seem a bit on the easy side, and in light of a recent Sunday themeless, I wondered if this could have been a mid-week themeless puzzle. Maybe Wednesday would be a good day to break the themed-only for weekday puzzles tradition.

I did notice that quite a few entries needed a letter-count boosting S (POC) tacked on to their ends to fill their slots. This began with CLOWN CARS & TREE HOUSES starting out the NW and continued down to INSOMNIACS & TEENAGERS wrapping up the SW, with a bunch of them being of the two-for-one POCs variety, where an Across and a Down share a final S. This is more than you typically see in a grid and gets the fill a POC-assisted rating in my book and it may be one of the reasons that the puzzle seemed a tad too easy. Your results may vary.

John Hoffman 12:03 PM  

Fine puzzle! Wish this had lasted longer! Lots of good, long words; little junk fill. This is why we do crossword puzzles!!

Masked and Anonymous 12:05 PM  

Day-um -- agree, this is one smoothly-filled FriPuz. As others also mentioned, all the long-ball fillins are superb. themelessthUmbsUp.

I suspect the constructioneer really wanted to slip SEAN'S in at 28-Across. Must be a big pub fan. Otherwise, coulda just ran with the ROANS, I reckon.

M&A could never build a grid like this, the way he totally stubbornly hand-makes them. The warranty on his brain would wear out, before he ever got close to done. Amazin work, no matter how U got there, Robyn darlin.

staff weeject pick: SSE. Unknown freeway directions! Feisty lil clue. Speakin of which ...

Clues: Well, they tried to make things a little bit sneaky -- there's at least five ?-marked clues. Trouble is, all the fill is so clean, and relatively name-free, other than THELMA & the SEANS -- so they did indeed probably need a few more toughies, peppered around. Or one or two double-?? clues, of course.

Thanx for the great puz, Ms. Weintraub. Hard to beat a CLOWNCARS start-up.

Masked & Anonymo5Us

OISK 12:08 PM  

@Straws suck....Anticipating a possible ban, I recently purchased 200 large diameter plastic straws. Can't enjoy a thick shake without them!

Liked the puzzle, despite never having watched "Good Times, nor noticed that there is a publication called "Star." (there is a magazine called "Stern" (star) that I have seen in Germany though) Never knew anyone who was an "elk," but I have known some odd fellows, masons, and knights of Pythias... and Raccoons, of course..

Yes, it was easy for a Friday, but after being beaten by the OMG-WAY yesterday, it felt good to finish...

I'll have to Google, but the quote I recall is "The idle brain is the devil's playground..." not "idle hands." At least that's the way Professor Harold Hill said it. (Oh, you got trouble...)

JC66 12:13 PM  


I hope you'll wash and re-use those straws, Then you can hand them down to your grand kids.

OISK 12:23 PM  

@JC66. Nice idea, but I have no children. I just throw them away.

JC66 12:26 PM  


I hope you're joking.

OffTheGrid 12:34 PM  

I think your are right and idle hands are the devil's workshop.

GHarris 12:46 PM  

Whipped through this one with joy and verve. Hardly hesitated in putting in the answers yet still took 24 minutes. How the heck can Rex find problems and have to correct wrong answers and still achieve such incredibly quick solves.
Btw I invite all to read my letter to the editor which appears in today’s N Y Times.

Malsdemare 1:04 PM  

@gharris, very nice letter. I think the streets were pretty crowded last night. The sure were here in central Illinois.

Anonymous 1:05 PM  

Of all the superfluous plastic items we throw away why are straws any worse than, say, the plastic drink lids? It seems like there are many more serious issues to focus on.

Teedmn 1:10 PM  

Another personal Friday record for me, under 2 Rexes, so thanks, Robyn. I wasn't surprised to see your name at the top of this puzzle, post-solve; who else could make an easy yet smooth Friday like this? My one write-over was going from REDEsigns to REDEFINES.

Favorite clue/answer duo: "Touchy sort?" for MIDAS, har.

My brother-in-law's fear of CLOWNs, in CARS or out of them, is so well-known within the family that last year someone gave him a gag Christmas gift of a tee shirt depicting the clown from Stephen King's "It". Somehow, I doubt he has ever worn it or even used it as a grease rag.

@LMS, talking about misspelled or misused words, I was reading the comments in the NYT for an article about a recent political development - I can only hope it was an autocorrect problem because I doubt the Constitution mentions emollients anywhere.

Chip Hilton 1:15 PM  

I flew through this at lunch, starting with SPA and never really stalling. Beautiful puzzle with plenty of interesting fill and clues. Thanks, RW.

Z 1:27 PM  

@Anon1:05 - plastic STRAWs are not worse than plastic drink lids. They are, however, so often unnecessary that the unconscious distribution has been getting arched eyebrows from us for years. I haven’t needed a STRAW for my soda or ice tea or water or milk for well over 5 decades. I don’t generally spill drinks, and when I do both my clothes and me clean up well enough. I don’t usually need a plastic lid or a plastic STRAW (except for maybe an occasional shake or malted), so why use either? We all travel with reusable plastic water bottles and refill from the tap. We try hard to stop wait staff from giving us STRAWs, I occasionally remember to take reusable shopping bags with me when I grocery shop. Do I think I’m saving the planet? Nope. Just doing a little bit to make it an itsy bitsy wee bit less bad.

Sea Turtle Rep 1:29 PM  

@Anon 1:05 and @Oisk, Plastic straws (which have made their way to oceans en masse) are hard on sea creatures. You most likely didn't know that since the evidence and pictures are coming out slowly, but think of the pictures you may have seen of dolphins trapped in old discarded fishing nets. Straws have turned out to be the same hazard to smaller creatures.

The paper straws are available now and do a great job. Back in the day, there were only paper straws. No real reason to use plastic for something we just toss away.

Odd Sock 2:28 PM  

Lovely puzzle today. An example that I wish more constructors could follow. Nice words like foliage and all the ones mentioned above add to the pleasure. Amscray reminds me of the 3 Stooges.

I remember paper straws. They worked just fine. I don't eat out enough to really contribute to the cause but I do use my own coffee cup all the time when I'm on the road. Some places even give me a discount so bonus!

Anonymous 3:27 PM  

gee just yesterday i was thinking about straws. what a coincidence

Nancy 3:46 PM  

@GHarris (12:46) -- Terrific letter! It deserved to get in. I read it this morning -- having no idea as I read it that you were a fellow Rexite -- and thought: So this is the guy whose letter kept my letter out of the NYT today.:) We wrote on the same subject, as I imagine did thousands of alarmed and outraged other people. And when my letter wasn't accepted, I scoured the Letters to the Editor section to find out who had beaten me out. (I'm sort of spoiled on rate of acceptance; I've gotten a high proportion of letters into the Times over the years.) I knew that the letter I wrote was awfully strong, maybe a little over the top, but I wrote it anyway. I was that upset about the acting A/G hire. Here's the letter in question for anyone who's interested:

To: The New York Times
Sent: Thursday, November 8, 2018, 10:21:44 AM EST
Subject: Trump Replaces Sessions with a Loyalist (11/8/18, p. A1)


Have the alarm bells gone off yet, Congressional Republicans? Will the alarm bells ever go off? I can hear the Framers spinning in their graves right now, saying in disbelief and shock: We gave this nation every tool it could possibly need to stop tyranny in its tracks -- long before it can take root. We knew that once it takes root, it becomes much, much harder to dislodge. We knew from historical examples to numerous to list that would-be tyrants test the waters, seeing how much they can get away with. And that the more they get away with the farther they will go. Until one day they will be all but impossible to stop.

You have the tools, Congress. Will you use them while we still have a democracy? Will you use them while we still have a government of laws and not of men? The hour is very, very late. How much more evidence do you need that the President is bent on destroying every institution that can check his ever-expanding power? Protect the Mueller investigation! You must act now!


JC66 4:37 PM  

For those interested here's @GHarris' letter:

To the Editor:

Re “Trump Replaces Sessions With a Loyalist; Vows ‘Warlike’ Stance on House Inquiries” (front page, Nov. 8):

The firing of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the appointment of Matthew Whitaker as his replacement have brought this nation to the threshold of a constitutional crisis. Mr. Whitaker has said publicly, on multiple occasions, that the Mueller investigation was close to crossing a red line and should be curtailed. He has also defended Donald Trump Jr.’s taking a meeting with Russians who offered to provide dirt about Hillary Clinton. Ethical standards would mandate that Mr. Whitaker recuse himself from any role in overseeing the Mueller investigation.

That is not going to happen. While Mr. Whitaker may be foreclosed by law from firing Mr. Mueller without good cause, he is likely to claim falsely the existence of such cause. Alternatively, Mr. Whitaker will move to impede Mr. Mueller and ensure that his findings never see the light of day.

The response to this unfolding outrage must be immediate and robust. Congress must enact protective legislation. The soon-to-be chairmen of the House Intelligence Committee and the Judiciary Committee should instruct Mr. Mueller to deliver his findings to their committees. Mr. Mueller must share his work product with the United States attorneys having jurisdiction over the subject matter of his investigation.

Meanwhile, all respecters of the Constitution and the rule of law must take to the streets, en masse, to protest any attempt to subvert the critical work of the special counsel.

tkincher 5:43 PM  

After having two of the long downs be candy-related (FUNNEL CAKE and CANDY CANE) I was half-expecting the thing that "breaking it might be cause for celebtration" to be some sort of pińata answer, but ah well. Great puzzle!

Airymom 6:34 PM  

I circled eight answers which I thought were original and clever--that's a huge accomplishment. My favorite was clown car--what a great clue--what terrific fill!

This may be the best puzzle I've seen in years. Good work Robyn!

Space Is Deep 7:10 PM  

Fun and easy. I've never timed myself, but had to one of my fastest Friday puzzles.

Puzzle Fan 8:15 PM  

@JC66-agree with the sentiment but what on earth did if have to do with the puzzle ? Save it for
another forum. Enough politics !

Walker 8:19 PM  

I use plastic straws and I’m wiling to bet my carbon footprint is smaller than most here. Drive a car Z ? ps I don’t care if it’s a hybrid you still lose.

GHarris 8:26 PM  

Thanks for your kind words. I am humbled and honored that my letter was chosen given your very compelling and well-written plea. Perhaps we passed one another during last night’s protest in Times Square?
Thank you for spreading the word. These are the times that try men’s (and women’s) souls.

JC66 8:33 PM  

@Puzzle Fan

You may not have noticed but @GHarris ended his 12:46 PM post with the following:
"Btw I invite all to read my letter to the editor which appears in today’s N Y Times"
and @Nancy, citing @GH's letter, posted the letter she wrote to the Times at 3:46 PM.

I thought it would be a good idea to post @GH's letter for those who don't have access to the Times. I don't know why this would bother you.

Puzzle Fan 8:36 PM  

@JC66: I read it. You seem like a nice person. But I reiterate that GHarris’s post has nothing to do with the puzzle. I guess I’m guilty of that too. Good night.

Anonymous 8:38 PM  

@ GHarris & Nancy: Nice to know that other time wasters also care about our country.

Z 8:46 PM  

@walker - Thanks for your small carbon footprint. Why would someone so proud of their small carbon footprint use straws? Seems like a simple way to reduce your footprint even more.

GILL I. 9:00 PM  

@JC66....I, for one, thank you, @Nancy, and @GHarris for writing that letter to the Editor of the N.Y. Times.
@Puzzle Fan. I, for one, get my nickers in a twist when politics makes it into this forum. BUT, this was a well written piece by a @Rex blogger and I would have missed it had it not been mentioned by @Nancy.
Nothing nasty, no hurled insults to any blogger here.

OISK 10:13 PM  

@JC66...I really did buy two cartons of plastic straws, and have no intention of reusing any of them. I also eat meat, wear leather, and don't tell other people how to live. (but I do drive a hybrid, and generally use public transit, so I think it evens out.)

AskGina 10:54 PM  

@Oisk, Good for you. Screw the ocean!

Roo Monster 9:05 AM  

People people, Recycle! Use your plastic whatevers, but when you're done, put them in your recycling bins! Let the recycling plant worry about whether or not straws et. al. can be recycled. Stop throwing Recyclable stuff in the trash!


Thexmodgame Thexmodgames 4:09 PM  

Fun and easy. I've never timed myself, but had to one of my fastest Friday puzzles.

The Xmod Games Hacking APK software
How to use xmodgames

Burma Shave 10:35 AM  


WHOGOESTHERE arouses their WAITLISTED plans:


spacecraft 10:51 AM  

Now, let me get this straight. If you call mean names, you TAUNT; if you call funny names, you TEASE. That's putting a fine point on the whole name-calling thing, to which I see no discernible upside. Weird to see this tandem in one grid.

I did not know WAITLISTED was a thing--at least a one-word thing. And hand up for FOes; I had just filled in gimme WHOGOESTHERE ("friend or...?"). Can ya blame me? Yes, you can, because if I'd remembered the line from the film--which I DID see--I'd have known.

These little setbacks did not prevent one of my easiest Fridays ever. IDLEHANDS starts a saying that I know all too well, and most of the longer entries were served up on a platter for me.

THELMA, as clued, was Bern Nadette Stanis: primo DOD. Before I saw that I was prepared to change the C's to K's and give the sash to well-known stripper Kandy Kane. An amusing bit of pig-Latin might throw some solvers off, but I grokked it right away. Birdie.

thefogman 11:10 AM  

There was a misprint in my newspaper. The clue immediately following 26D was an out-of-place 58D (which does not exist). The reason was 26D had the following clue: Caesar's conquest of and that's it. The fragment that was missing was listed as 58 50 BC There was no hyphen between 58 and 50. The computer at the newspaper formatted the 58 as the clue number and deleted the hyphen thus creating a clue that did not exist. Aside from that, the puzzle was a bit on the easy side for Friday but most enjoyable. Bravo Robyn Weintraub!

Diana, LIW 12:06 PM  

I didn't think t was so *&$! easy. Got one corner - then, crickets for a long, long time.

But...after staring, it began to unfold, one word after another (word or phrase). That was a lot of fun. A lot.

Especially since everyone here has a cold or limping paw except for Lambo - the Rambo cat. Achoo.

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for a tissue

rondo 2:53 PM  

No write-overs in less than 3 Rexes. I can’t/won’t do a *Monday* in 5 minutes, but this one went quickly. For me. Did anyone notice all the plurals?

Might be cool sometime to go to SEAN’S for an ALE.

Geena as THELMA, or maybe THELMA Fardin. You know.

This puz seemed to be right in my TREEHOUSE.

leftcoastTAM 3:59 PM  

Fell into the pentHOUSE/TREEHOUSE trap early on, but otherwise found this one on the relatively easy side of medium. Over all, very good, smooth, and fun to do, remindful of Patrick Berry's constructions.

Especially liked the long downs -- FUNNELCAKES and GLASSCEILING -- and bonus acrosses in the NW and SE, including CLOWNCARS and WAITLISTED. Another one is CONESTOGA.

Smiled with the observation that "fish are friends, not FOOD", and thought that SMILE would be a better answer than GRINS. The latter could be tight and begrudging, or rueful and sad, or much other than "Friendly greetings".

Enjoyed this well-crafted work by Ms. Weintraub.

Anonymous 6:59 PM  

Not a bad week so far. Only needed one hint for yesterday's puzzle all week.

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