Fish dish that Nobu restaurants are noted for / SUN 1-6-19 / 19000 foot Peruvian volcano / Increasingly outmoded circus roles / Bird with blood-red eyes / Things used for dumping / Sea whose wikipedia article is written in the past tense

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Constructor: Zhouqin Burnikel

Relative difficulty: Easy (8:36)

THEME: "Breaking News" — theme answers are meant to be taken as self-referential, with each successive themer representing a letter in the phrase "Dear John," thus making those letters DEAR JOHN LETTERS (117A: Things used for dumping ... or a literal hint to the answers to the starred clues?):

Theme answers:
  • HOLLYWOOD ENDING (22A: *Stereotypical movie outcome) ("ending" of "Hollywood" is a "D")
  • EYE-OPENER (34A: *Startling disclosure) ("opener" of "eye" is an "E")
  • ARCTIC FRONT (46A: *Bringer of cold weather) ("front" of "arctic" is an "A")
  • RINGLEADER (53A: *Law enforcement target) ("leader" of "ring" is an "R")
  • JUMP START (69A: *Battery boost) ("start" of "jump" is a "J")
  • STOLE THIRD (87A: *Moved closer to home?) ("third" letter in "stole" is an "O")
  • REHAB CENTER (89A: *Help for users) ("center" of "rehab" is an "H")
  • ANY SECOND (99A: *Very soon) ("second" setter of "any" is an "N")
Word of the Day: Nobu (73A: Fish dish that Nobu restaurants are noted for = BLACK COD) —
Nobuyuki "NobuMatsuhisa (松久 信幸 Matsuhisa Nobuyuki; born March 10, 1949) is a Japanese celebrity chef and restaurateur known for his fusion cuisine blending traditional Japanese dishes with Peruvian ingredients. His signature dish is black cod in miso. He has restaurants bearing his name in several countries. (wikipedia)
• • •

HELLO, SYNDICATION SOLVERS! (i.e. the majority of my readership—those of you who are reading this on Sunday, Januray 13) It's early January and that means it's time for my annual pitch for financial contributions to the blog, during which I ask regular readers to consider what the blog is worth to them on an annual basis and give accordingly. As you know, I write this blog every. Single. Day. OK, two days a month I pay young people to write it, but every other day, all me. OK sometimes I take vacations and generous friends of mine sit in, but otherwise, I'm a non-stop blogging machine. Seriously, it's a lot of work. It's at least as much work as my day job, and unlike my day job, the hours *kinda* suck—I typically solve and write between 10pm and midnight, or in the early hours of the morning, so that the blog can be up and ready for solvers to read with their breakfast or on the train or in a forest or wherever it is you people enjoy the internet. I have no major expenses, just my time. As I've said before, I have no interest in "monetizing" the blog in any way beyond simply asking for money once a year. I hate ads in real life, so why would I subject you all to them. I actually considered redesigning the site earlier this year, making it slicker or fancier somehow. I even got the process partly underway, but then when I let slip that I was considering it, feedback was brisk and clear: don't change. Turns out people don't really want whistles and bells. Just the plain, internet-retro style of a blogger blog. So that's what you're getting. No amount of technical tinkering is gonna change the blog, which is essentially just my voice. My ridiculous opinionated voice yelling at you, cheerfully and angrily, about how much I love / hate crosswords. I hope that this site has made you laugh or taught you things or given you a feeling of shared joy, or anger, or failure, or even given you someone to yell at. I'm fine with that. I also hope I've introduced some of you to the Wider World of Crosswords, beyond the NYT. I am passionate about puzzles and I (mostly) adore the people who solve them—so many of my friends, and the thousands of you I've never met. I can't stop, and I won't stop, and I hope you find that effort worth supporting.

Some people refuse to pay for what they can get for free. Others just don't have money to spare. All are welcome to read the blog—the site will always be open and free. But if you are able to express your appreciation monetarily, here are two options. First, a Paypal button (which you can also find in the blog sidebar):

Second, a mailing address:

Rex Parker c/o Michael Sharp
54 Matthews St
Binghamton, NY 13905

All Paypal contributions will be gratefully acknowledged by email. All snail mail contributions (I. Love. Snail mail!) will be gratefully acknowledged with hand-written postcards. This year's cards are illustrations from "Alice in Wonderland"—all kinds of illustrations from throughout the book's publication history. Who will get the coveted, crosswordesey "EATME!" card!? Someone, I'm sure. You, I hope. Please note: I don't keep a "mailing list" and don't share my contributor info with anyone. And if you give by snail mail and (for some reason) don't want a thank-you card, just say NO CARD.  As ever, I'm so grateful for your readership and support.

Now on to the puzzle!
• • •

Hello! I have had a Rusty Nail, and I feel prrrretty good. Just one though. Don't blog drunk, I mostly say! Solving on one drink seems to be a recipe (wink!) for success, though, because I Lit This Puzzle Up. 8:36 is among my top five Sunday solves of the past year. I think that sometimes there's this thing that happens when I'm solving quickly ... oh yeah, it's called frustration ... that can kind of get in my head and make things worse. With one drink, that "frustration" factor seems to disappear, and not giving a bleeeeeep seems to help me lock in and fly. Alcohol can be quite terrible—devastating, even—but for some people [waves] in small quantities it can really act as a destressing agent in oddly productive ways. As always, your mileage may vary! The main thing to say about this puzzle is I finished quickly, I had no awful wincing moments, annnnnd I had no idea what the theme was all about when I was all through. It took me almost half as long again to figure out the theme as it did to solve the damn puzzle in the first place. So maybe one drink is not helpful for ALL aspects of puzzle-solving. Anyway, once I did finally "get" "it," I thought it was really clever. Obviously I've seen the self-referential answer-is-indicating-a-letter thing before, but not in this way, and the revealer, with its play on "letters," really works. Neat and satisfying in ways that Sunday puzzles often aren't. And hey, our first female constructor of the new year; and for the fourth time in the past six years, that constructor is C.C.! (the name Zhouqin Burnikel actually goes by, as I understand it). Nice work, C.C.!

What were the potential problem areas? Well, right off the bat, you've got EL MISTI (1A: 19,000+- foot Peruvian volcano) crossing MOLESKINE (3D: Big name in notebooks), which might cause some people to have this feeling:

[a "Natick" is an unguessable crossing of two answers, usually proper nouns; see sidebar for more info]

I have a lot of notebooks and I enjoy notebooks so MOLESKINE is very familiar to me (even if I did think it was spelled MOLESKIN and didn't understand why it wouldn't fit). But EL MISTI, hoo boy, I know that *only* because of crosswords, and even then needed almost every cross to get it. So it is very much imaginable to me that someone could get very, irrevocably stuck at EL -ISTI / -OLESKINE. In fact, I saw on Twitter that someone had, which is the main reason for my remarking on this cross at all. Sometimes, it helps to see things through others' eyes. I'm not mad at this cross, but I can see how one might be.

I watched "Doctor Zhivago" at least once and totally forgot that (olde-tyme crossword favorite) Lara's husband was PASHA. That answer crossing "AW, GEE!" was a minor mess for a bit. CUREL is a brand that is lost in the mists of time, for me, so I needed every cross there. I have never been to a Nobu restaurant and know nothing about their specialty so BLACK COD was new to me. I wrote in JAMES at first for JIM LOVELL (82D: Apollo 13 commander). I don't believe any human has ever been referred to as a DO-ALL. "DO ALL y'all know the name of a good DO-ALL?" "Do we!?" End scene. Anyone else have INASECOND at first instead of ANYSECOND? Yeah you did. I know you did. One of you did. You, over there, in the t-shirt. You. You did.

Man, Peru's getting a lot of action today. First EL MISTI, then JORGE Chávez International Airport (69D), neither of which I knew. I clearly have to work on my Peruvian knowledge. After, uh, PERU, and LIMA, and maybe ANDES (?), or LLAMA (???), I'm out. I like learning new things from crosswords, even if I immediately forget most of them. The answers I enjoyed seeing today were PORCINI (28D: Pricey mushroom) and CUP O' JOE (81A: Morning fix, slangily). I like both of them, though usually not together. Thank you to all those who read this far. See you tomorrow!

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld (Twitter @rexparker / #NYTXW)

[72A: "___ makes men wiser and clear-sighted": Vladimir Putin (CHESS)]

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Joel 12:06 AM  

Ugh, what a dreadful theme. Just no joy at all in this solve. No cleverness, no wordplay, no humor. Let's hope we don't see anything like this the rest of the year.

Joe Dipinto 12:06 AM  

I so wanted 72a to be VODKA.

This was a damn sight better than most of the recent Sunday offerings. I would have welcomed a smidgen more difficulty, but overall I give it very high marks. The theme clues/answers are clever and work really well.

I thought the episode following the pilot should be Episode 2, no? Well, maybe not anymore. I guess a pilot is now a one-shot that could air well in advance of when a series is picked up and a full contingent of episodes is ordered.

Anyway, brava to the constructor. Some good potential band names in here: the Tiki Ooh-Oohs; Eddy & the Cup o' Joes; Snide Yenta; the Art Asana Trio.

(The thing about IN A SECOND: IN A is two words. So no, I didn't have it.)

Marc Kwiatkowski 12:13 AM  

Sounds like OFL discovered the Ballmer Peak.

"Programmers sometimes have a reputation for drinking habits, and programmer gatherings (such as hackfests) tend to offer copious amounts of alcohol. More generally, intoxicated programmers can get the impression that, by being a little disconnected from physical reality, they become more efficient at their programming."

See xkcd

jae 12:14 AM  

Easy-medium. I’ll admit I needed to stare at the finished grid for more than a few nanoseconds (@m&a) before it hit me. Clever and pretty smooth, liked it.

Anonymous 1:04 AM  

ETH crossed with EL MISTI was a NATICK for me. Only 8 out of every 100 ordinals (20th, 30th, ..., 90th) are ETHs and I never thought of that.

Then LOON crossing EL MISTI and NEO - I thought of LOON but it didn't seem possible because I was stuck on ETH being NTH.

OSAGE crossing OSAKAN and LUEGO was another.

mmorgan 1:31 AM  

The puzzle was pretty smooth and easy and yet nondescript for me. Interesting that the first two comments here take diametrically opposing views on it. I usually like this constructor’s work, a lot, but this one just didn’t have the usual zing for me. I survived several potential Naticks, but still I ended up with an error at 21A because I only know Purex and never heard of Curel. So I had a minor but fatal disaster there.

But. My Curel debacle aside, I otherwise finished but just could not figure out the theme. Wracked my brains, to no avail. This happens from time to time and I’m never sure if the problem is with me or with the puzzle.

I see Rex also had trouble with it. From his explanation, I see that it’s very, very clever, and I can appreciate the clever wordplay and construction.

From a solver’s perspective (i.e., mine), however, the theme was utterly invisible and irrelevant.

So, bravo for the construction but I like a Sunday where the theme really is the focus of the solving experience.

chefwen 1:35 AM  

@Rex, can I get a BITE ME card? That would be fun.

I have no idea how Zhouqin aka C.C. does it, and, as a second language, I am in awe.

Liked it, finished it, but Im sorry to say I didn’t take the time to figure out the trick. Very clever. I guess after doing the Wall Street puzzle and this one I was just puzzled out.

puzzlehoarder 2:29 AM  

ELMISTI was an excellent start. The rest of the puzzle wasn't bad either. I only know of "moleskin" which is that tape you put on blistered toes so that extra E at the end of 3D looks completely wrong. It was a case of "if the crosses say it's true it's true.

SOY, TOWS and IDOL provided the easy start. The solve was steady from then on. There were many areas where I had to seek out the path of least resistance but it was always there.

After solving I had to spend another 15 minutes figuring out the theme. A funny thing about 99A is that you can read it as A NY SECOND. As in the proverbial New York second. I never noticed that before but then again I've never read it (along with all the other themers) as many times as it took me to realize that I just needed to read them literally.

I hate themes so figuring this one out was about the only time I felt any resentment toward the puzzle. I'm glad I kept at it, though, because it actually wound up enhancing my enjoyment of the puzzle. I couldn't have appreciated the relavance of "ordinals" appearing in the 1D clue otherwise.

Loren Muse Smith 2:42 AM  

Rex – Just sent you a donation. Best money I spend all year. We rarely see eye-to-eye on the puzzles, but I always read your write-ups and deeply appreciate the time and effort you exert to provide this salon for our little coterie of word nerds to convene and confabulate. When I get up, I never know what kind of day I might have, what the weather might be, what shirt I might have ironed and ready to wear, but I always know that the day’s Rex Parker page will be there, and the trouble you must go to to procure subs when you can’t do it yourself is not lost on me. I will cheerfully continue to send money so that I don’t have to x-out of those stinking blinky pop-up ads every few seconds. To this end, I’ll join you and thank the people who donate. Those here who vaunt their disdain for your style and brag that they never read your write-up will, alas, probably miss this opportunity.

Ok. So revenons à nos moutons. This is, without a doubt, the single most delicious, satisfying aha moment I’ve ever had. @puzzlehoarder - I had to list the themers to figure this out. When I noticed their end words, the clouds began to clear, and when I saw it, this.

Think about what CC did here. She had to...

*get a phrase for that first D with the same number of letters as DEAR JOHN LETTERS: HOLLYWOOD ENDING (15)

*Then same deal with the E of DEAR and the N of JOHN: EYE OPENER, ANY SECOND (9)



*And because the J entry can’t have a symmetrical partner, she uses JUMP START.

Mind you, these matching number, in-the-language phrases had to end with the correct word describing the position of the letter at hand. Beastly good. I'm astonished that some commenters are already saying meh.

This is mind-bending. But in the good mind-bending way.

“Drain feature” – the fact that that little silver stopper will drain through when you want to soak the limp cilantro in ice water for 30 minutes but totally stop up when you want to drain the water to catch the grapefruit pulp. This is a Truth of life.

“It’s in your jeans” – I’m not going to overthink the “in” part of this clue, especially since most jeans these days mercifully have some stretchy stuff added to the DENIM, but, sheesh, look at those middle three letters of this five-letter word and appreciate the mischief of this clue. Bravo.

@Joe Dipinto - Hah! That clue for CHESS. Be scared. Be very scared. I would imagine, ahem, someone else firing up his Fisher-Price See 'n Say during commercial breaks.

CC – this is my favorite of all your puzzles to date. Very, very cool.

PS – Rex, I dig your Scotch and Drambuie personality.

Brookboy 3:00 AM  

I thought it was kind of a slog, not bad, but a bit of a chore. It was like taking an exam, one that I eventually passed, but still something to get through.

I am amazed at Rex’s ability to find the wow element in the puzzle. It makes me yet again appreciate the creativity of so many constructors. I am in perpetual awe at the talent it takes just to construct a puzzle in the first place, let alone being able to incorporate so many creative elements. (And yet here I am saying that I thought this puzzle was also a bit of a slog, in spite of its marvelous creativity. I do think a puzzle can be both. I didn’t used to think that at all, but after years of enjoying crosswords I do enjoy some more than others, and I think even the ones i enjoy less can be creative and even awesome. Go figure.)

Rex, perhaps you should reconsider the timing of your annual appeal for funds. January is such a dreary month, with the wonderful exception of the celebration of MLK’s birthday. It’s the Monday of months, and besides it being rather cold and gray (at least here in the northeast), it’s the time when the bills from the holiday season are beginning to roll in. You might see an uptick in donations if you made your appeal in, say, November, when everyone is primed to spend. Just sayin’...

'merican in Paris 3:29 AM  

@Rex -- I don't have a PayPal account, so my contribution to the cause will be a snail-mailed check from overseas.

@Tita — Welcome back! And stay warm!

OK, I admire the cleverness of the theme, which I admit I didn't see until coming here.

I (Mrs. 'mericans is in Florida) DNF on what should have been an easy Sunday. (Hands up for having to look up EL MISTI, which is not even Peru's tallest volcano.) I’m not too pleased with that. I certainly had some over-writes that slowed me down, such as:

cOOt > LOON (a cOOt has red eyes also)

gHI > CHI (I thought it was referring to a place where people cooked with gHee)

nivEa > CUREL

aLDER > ELDER (I know, I need to learn which trees are boxed)

gDp > RDA (the economist, rather than the nutritionist, side of me prevailed)

parasol > ECLIPSE

Those were my errors. But I really, really have an issue with some of the cluing, which reflects as much the editor's choices as the constructor's. (I loved the one for BISON, on the other hand.) I’m sure some of you will correct me and shout “Fair!”, but here’s just a few of my BUGBEARS:

(Note: I had links in the following comments, but the comments box would not allow them. Instead I got back a message: "Your HTML cannot be accepted: Reference "“http:" is not allowed:".) That never happened to me before.)

AMORALLY and SUDDEN — OK, I see now what is going on here: clue the word or phrase as an adjective but have in mind usage as an adverb, or vice-versa. Is this common? I don’t recall such clues in the past. “Without principles” by itself, to me, is equivalent to AMORAL, not AMORALLY. On the other hand, the equivalent of “Out-of-the-blue” is SUDDENLY, not SUDDEN. Most of the I consulted on this matter seem to agree.

CUP O’ JOE — CUP Of JOE is already slang. Does anybody actually say “CUP O’ JOE”? (Brits I used to work with would say CUPpa.)

GREECE — The clue is “Empire once spanning three continents”. GREEk Empire gets over 400,000 hits on Google; GREECE Empire gets just over 26,000. Can one call the whole Empire “GREECE”? I’d like the opinion on that of some classisists. I would have thought that only part of it would have been called “GREECE” (or Thrace or Macedonia) and the rest Judah, Cilicia, Phrygia, Parthia, etc.

IXNAY — In my childhood vocabulary, this pig-Latin word meant simply “no” or “nix” or, in a lowered voice, “stop saying that!”. I have never heard it used as a substitute for “No way!”, especially with that exclamation mark and as a stand-alone response. Have I missed out on its evolution?

LEO — Can the NYT please stop expecting us to know, much less care, which zodiac sign famous people are born under? Fair enough to expect solvers to know the name of the zodiac signs, or the given name of the character who plays Chief of Staff on “The West Wing”. But the zodiac sign of a president (with the possible exception of Ronald Reagan, who believed in astrology) Does. Not. Matter. Indeed, in my view it insults our intelligence to even ask.

OEDS — OED is used too much as it is. But it’s plural?! This is a plural of convenience (POC) (hat tip to @Anoa Bob) if there ever was one, especially as clued. A single hardcover (20-volume) set of the complete, 1989 edition (the latest) OED, purchased from the publisher will indeed cost you more than $1000 (£ 845 plus shipping).

I could go on, but I’ll spare everybody. A pity. With a bit more editing, this could have been a much more enjoyable puzzle.

'merican in Paris 4:05 AM  

Correction: "its plural".

Lewis 6:50 AM  

The clever theme didn't help my solve but figuring it out was satisfying in its own right. The solve started choppy, as the NW corner fought me hard, but then things turned smooth.

Are ORAL and ARAL distant cousins of Heckle and Jeckle? And, speaking of animals, I noticed many direct and indirect animal references in the answers: EGGED, SLUGS, OINK, BLACK COD, LEO, HARE, LOON, MOLE-, BISON, TAMERS, HONEY, BUGBEAR, CLAM, and DEERE. Plus the animal call and a human call that sounds animalish: OINK and OOH OOH.

JOHN X 7:10 AM  

This was a really good Sunday puzzle.

I got a DNF on a singe square: 96D

I searched for the error even though I had a correct grid (from this site) and my own (incorrect) grid. I never could find it. My eyes played tricks with pattern recognition. I feel shame. Please forgive.

Tomorrow is another day.

Anonymous 7:12 AM  

liked this a lot. good mix of old and new, foreign and domestic, animal/vegetable/mineral. solved it as a themeless and didn't grok the theme until i came here. loved the photo of our own "Mobu" (Mike + Nobu) or "Robu" (Rex + Nobu) and daughter looking, like, totally embarrassed by dad, you know, as if he only had a clue, as if, "Dobu" (daughter + Nobu) but missing "Sobu" (wife Sandy + Nobu) happy holidays. Zippy

QuasiMojo 7:24 AM  

I agree that this is one of this constructor’s best puzzles. I wondered too if I should Play El Misti For Me to not have a Natick. But I guessed right. My bugbear today is that I finished the puzzle but the app told me I hadn’t. So I checked every damn box against Rex’s and saw no errors. Then I hit the check grid button and two errors appeared that I had not made. Very odd. Nice job CC. PS those Beastie Boys are still there! Maybe I need to reboot my phone.

Anonymous 8:10 AM  

Often people do not contribute for fear of being seen as “cheap,” akin to “better to keep one’s mouth closed and be thought a fool, rather than open it and remove all doubt.” So, what do you think is a range of “fair” contributions to your efforts? A dollar for each month, week, day? Please give at least a hint to the clue “fair token of appreciation for a crossword blogger.”

Anonymous 8:12 AM  

The theme is ALL word-play.

Z 8:21 AM  

I enjoyed the solve fine, but I’m far more cynical than @LMS. The HOLLYWOOD ENDING to clue “dee” type clue is a cluing trope, so I’m guessing there’s a clue data base out there with all sorts of possibilities. Maybe our constructor came up with these on their own, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they had database help.

@Brookboy - Yay, nuance.

LOL at the Putin quote. I hear something like that and my immediate thought is “what an idiot.” CHESS, crosswords, Bridge, Settlers of Catan, et cetera, et cetera are pastimes. Anyone claiming any kind of superiority from engaging in a recreation is just a tad delusional. Now, maybe he said that at some sort of awards ceremony, where gracious words tend to be a little over the top, but the cynic in me says nah, he believes it. As Socrates said, never trust anyone who wants the job, especially if they are former KGB officers.

Z 8:33 AM  

@anon8:10 - I don’t think anyone who donates even a dollar can be considered cheap when compared to people who give nothing. 10¢ a day would be $36.50 for the year. OTOH, anyone who is a daily Starbucks drinker should really consider the dollar-a-day level since Rex is at least worth what you tip your barista, right? In other words - it is up to you. Nobody will consider you “cheap.”

QuasiMojo 8:35 AM  

PPS, the Newsday Saturday Stumper had a nearly identical clue for BISON yesterday. Small world. I was just watching Bless the Beasts and Children the other day. Wonderful movie from the 60s about a group of misfit campers who free a herd of bison (buffalos) that are destined to be shot to death.

John Hnedak 8:50 AM  

I would like to edit a comment. Can anyone tell me how to do that?

John Hnedak 8:51 AM  

Forgot to check the follow-up box to my question, how do I edit a comment before it gets posted?

Amy Yanni 9:21 AM  

In awe. Another one not seeing the theme until after the solve. And had to look up El Misti. It's ok; I used to live a town over from Natick (Framingham) so try to have tolerance.
There's a seafood fest going on downtown and that's just a half mile stroll, so that's on today's schedule.

Putin Sucks 9:33 AM  

I spent a few months with two guys from Ukraine last summer. Both were old enough to have served in the soviet army (which they both did) and having grown up during the cold war myself, it was an amazing summer of being able to talk with these guys about their experience from their side of things. It was truly a lesson in learning what we should know but so often forget: people are still just people. While I grew up being taught to hate the soviets, the truth of it was, the soviet union was filled with people just like me who felt like much of what happened on the "big stage" had little or nothing to do with their everyday lives. They did what they had to do every day, and adapted as needed. They laughed and cried the same as me...but there was one element that was very different...and that was the fear they had to live with.

Today's takeaway from the summer, and I quote, "There is no such thing as ex-KGB." To this day those men live with the specter of the KGB hiding in the shadows...everywhere. One gentleman knew Putin...he also liked to watch Fox News. The other gentleman hated Putin. But both men said that the KGB could literally be anyone never knew.

To somehow make light of Putin and to clue "CHESS" like this is to ignore the reality of the situation of the citizens of the USSR during the cold war. Putin, to those people, is not some kind of cartoonish super villain meddling in world affairs and pulling strings of an American Orange-tinted Idiot, he represents a reality we in this country will never understand.

C'mon Will. Seriously? Chess has a rich history and Putin's opinion of it doesn't matter at all. Putin is KGB to this day. There are people who still know what they were capable of doing to their families and to friends if there were missteps. The stories we heard as Americans growing up in the cold war were probably exaggerated some, but the reality is life was very very different for those people than for us in America (or the west). The KGB was very real then as it is today for them, and Putin is still one of them.

I wonder if Idi Amin was a fan of Australian wines? Or whether Pol Pot did xword puzzles? Who cares? Putin's opinion of chess is so wrong in so many ways.

Anonymous 9:34 AM  

If you perform an action without principles, you perform it amorally - amorally is an adverb modifying perform. If you yourself are without principles, you are amoral - amoral is an adjective modifying you.

Ditto with out-of-the-blue - an object appearing out of the blue would be appearing suddenly. But if an event occurs out of the blue, the event itself is sudden.

So in each case both the adjective and the adverb seem like fair answers to the same clue.

kitshef 9:40 AM  

Never heard of MOLESKINE in my life. Having Googled it, I’m not sure why I should be expected to. Fortunately, EL MISTI ran a very, very faint bell or that cross would have been a one-in-eight guess.

Not sure how I feel about the theme. I mean, it’s very clever, but while solving – even after getting the revealer – it meant nothing to me. Only post-solve did I work it out. And the thing is, the fill suffered for the theme with the likes of CUP O JOE and BLACK COD and BLO and ASPER (alternate clue: snake charmer), etc.

Tom Collins 9:44 AM  

Rex, did you follow that Rusty Nail up with a Sidecar? Or a Manhattan? or a Tom Collins.

I remember, as a kid in the 60s, going to a restaurant whose placemats had all of those drinks lining the border of the paper placemat. They all looked delicious to me. When I got old enough to actually try them, I discovered they were terrible. So, not to yuck your yum...but yuck.

Also, you should drink Rusty Nails more often before you blog. Your giddiness is charming when you've had what evidently was at least a "stiff" Rusty Nail. And don't read much into that...

I hated the puzzle. The theme was contrived, I didn't care to figure it out, and then when I read your explanation of it, I didn't care. Good for CC for having a brain that takes joy in contrivances like this. I bet she's a blast after a couple of Rusty Nails.

Also Rex your forgot Kuzco in your Peruvian xword list. Which, btw, The Emperor's New Groove is a classic.

I Googled Peruvian volcanoes, and it appears ELMISTI is not a major one...there are several others that Google mentions before you have to go digging for this one.

I wonder if CC is the one who clued CHESS that way or if it was our favorite tone deaf editor WS. I wonder if someone took him aside and reminded him that Putin is a dick...and that he said he was unfamiliar with what a "dick" is so the clue would stand. Can't wait for the non-apology apology this time.

"I'm sorry if the mention of Putin's name affected such a large group of people who grew up with the threat of the KGB knocking on their door, but...well...I don't really care." -- Will Shortz probably

Loren Muse Smith 9:46 AM  

@Johnny Hnedak – you can’t edit it before it goes live. But since you have a blue name, you have the power to go in and delete your comment, hopefully before anyone sees the embarrassing error. I’ve torn through the house to delete a comment when I was like Did I type your or ,you’re? ‘cause God knows I’ll be judged. As you’re reading your comment after it’s posted, look at the bottom where the time stamp is, and next to that is a garbage can icon. Click on the icon and follow the directions. Just be sure to copy and save your post before you publish it, that way, you just paste it back in with the newer version. But copy that, too! You may need a third tweak!

@Z – I love you and your singular they. You da man.

If I think about what I contribute in terms of how many dollars that boils down to per day, yeesh. Not much. I don’t go to Starbucks, but still. I should probably up it a little. Money’s tight for us, especially since my daughter just started vet school. I chose this year, this morning, to donate and forgo the nifty camel color cardigan I had been eyeing.

The cardigan I can live without; Rex Parker, I cannot..

Anonymous 9:47 AM  

I admit it. I had INASECOND before ANYSECOND . . . and I'm wearing a t-shirt

Teedmn 9:50 AM  

Cool theme! I had to wait for the revealer to see it. I think STOLE THIRD, REHAB CENTER and ANY SECOND are great ways to get those DEAR JOHN LETTERS (almost Runt-ish!)

I didn't find this easy - about 5 minutes over my average randomized Sunday. I don't know things like the Apollo 13 commander in spite of having seen the movie. (Ironically, although I'm a huge science fiction fan, I never was interested in the space launches as a kid, don't know why). Also PASHA, EL MISTI, CUREL, all WOEs.

I didn't think my wanting AMIgA at 99D was out of the question. I loved the clue for OINK. "One of eight in "Old MacDonald Had a Farm" had me trying to conflate that song with "The 12 Days of Christmas". Har.

"It's in your jeans" = DENIM, nice. But CUP O' JOE? I dunno. And I haven't heard of DO-ALL as a handyman.

But I don't mean to give CC any FLAK. Great Sunday, thanks Ms. Burnikel.

RVA flier 9:51 AM  

Yes, I had INASECOND at first. And I’m wearing a t-shirt. How could Rex possibly have known that? Eerie.....

Took me a few minutes of staring at the completed puzzle to get the theme, but a great aha moment when it clicked. Personal best time for a Sunday too. Loved this puzzle. Thank you Zhouqin Burnikel.

Teedmn 9:54 AM  

And MOLESKINE was a surprising gimme for me - I just read a Stephen King book, "Finders Keepers", in which MOLESKINE notebooks played a very large role. Verily for me!

GILL I. 10:02 AM  

OKAY....there's nothing more letdownish (for me, anyway) than solving a Sunday puzzle as a themeless and then staring at the "theme" answers and feeling like the monkey's uncle. Maybe a Rusty Nail could've helped - dunno - even my morning latte didn't.
C.C. is one of my all time favorite constructors. She's incredibly clever. The fact that English is not her native language gives me hope!. Man, I wish a light bulb had lit up when finished. I'm so glad for this blog otherwise the brilliance of this puzzle would have passed me by.
EL MISTI was no problem; MOLESKINE was - got it from crosses. Cluing, as usual, was primo. Nothing here made me want to tear out my hair - other than trying to figure out what planet I happened to be on.
Speaking of donations....I went gambling with my friends last November and made some money on one of those penny machines. I don't understand why they call it penny when you're actually playing like $3 a pop. The machine I was playing on had a picture of Brittany Spears and was all shiny and glarey so I played her. She spit out a wad. I took my winnings to the bar and remembered it was @Rex's birthday. I had my chocolate martini and the rest went to @Rex. Made me feel good - like donating to your favorite charity.
@Rex has been my favorite morning fix for many years. We don't see eye to eye on lots of his reviews but it IS his house. I don't have to eat the filet mignon or drink his Pinot Noir if I choose, I can just stop by, say hi, and leave politely. I almost alway choose to stay and partake the goodies with my friends that I've met here. I have learned to be opened minded, I have learned new words - both good and bad, and the blog brings me joy. A contribution - just to keep the blog going - gets my biggest vote. Thank you @Rex for that!

Hungry Mother 10:02 AM  

The theme did nothing for me, but I thought that EL MISTI sounded reasonable for the Spanish name for a volcano. I wouldn’t call it easy, but it wasn’t all that hard either. My silver lining for today is that my cold woes have wrecked my appetite, so maybe I’m losing some weight so I can run faster when I’m able to run again. The rule for runners it to stop running during a chest cold.

Rube 10:04 AM  

Joel is right. If you solve top to bottom and left to right you don't even get to the big hint until you're nearly done. So the puzzle is essentially themeless with no clever answers.

Nancy 10:09 AM  

A clever idea, well executed as least as far as the theme answers were concerned. And I yawned and yawned anyway. What's the problem? First, I had no idea what the theme was as I was solving, didn't need it or miss knowing it in the least, and still didn't understand it when I first saw the revealer. But I'm stubborn. I said "Before I go to the blog, I'm going to figure it out on my own." And I did. A belated "Aha" followed. But it was, I'm afraid, much too belated.

The second problem is cluing that's often too bland and on-the-nose. To give credit where it's due, there are some major exceptions. "Things used for dumping" is a wonderfully misleading and really funny clue for DEAR JOHN LETTERS. STOLE THIRD (87A) has a great clue and I thought the CHESS quote (72A) was an interesting bit of info. I liked "It's in your jeans" for DENIM. Also liked the LEO clue (76A). LEOs are said to be charismatic, natural leaders. I wonder how many other LEOs we've had as president? And in other countries, too?

If only as much care and imagination had gone into all the clues. Well, maybe next time...

Andrea Ojeda 10:36 AM  

Come for the write-up, stay for LMS comments. That’s why I love this blog :^)

TomAz 10:50 AM  

This puzzle and I seem to live in slightly different universes. Leading off with EL MISTI and then PASHA bode poorly. "Quarters" and ABODE have slightly different meanings, without enough overlap IMO. I don't know TOO GOOD as clued. I don't know CUREL. EGG(ing) someone on is goading them, not instigating. It got better after the first three rows, but still.

Then the theme: of no use (or fun) while solving, and the solving experience is what we're here for right? In retrospect, yes, I can see the cleverness in construction, but it's almost like the constructor was thinking "I am going to show off to my fellow puzzle-makers" rather than "I am going to make this a good puzzle."

IXNAY on the ALE TAP, ok? It's just a TAP.

Had EVA (as in, Peron, who was forced into exile with her husband) because ARLE seemed plausible. and CUP O JOE without the 'f'? Are we in Dublin?

And then the Putin quote. $%^& that guy. No wonder "irritation" and "ticks off" are in the puzzle.

I'm glad others enjoyed this, but I sure didn't.

OffTheGrid 10:52 AM  

Odds and ends..

I had Diyer for 104D, holding my nose. Relieved it was wrong but DOALL not really better.

Astrology is hokum.

Scariest thing about Putin is Donny's mancrush on him.


Wanted pedophiles for 78A.

I let 3D fool me twice. I first thought paper binder kind of notebook, then thought "Oh the E kind. Then it was the former all along. Never heard of MOLESKINE anyway.

Kate 10:54 AM  

I finished the puzzle but I had no idea what the theme was about... and I hadnt even had any drinks. Also I have no idea what a BUGBEAR is. Can’t say I loved this one. I also really wanted a stock holder to be a POT.

Anonymous 10:57 AM  

A challenging, clever Sunday puzzle except for two clues:

instigated does not mean egged on.

"No way!" does not mean exnay.

There is no way these two clues should have been instigated.

GHarris 11:00 AM  

Tried to use the first word of each answer to concoct a story of a romance (ala Hollywood) that almost led to marriage (ring) but went cold(arctic) when another (stole) her heart which in (any)case resulted in the sending of that Dear John letter. Somehow I knew that was not the theme but was the best I could come up with until I came here and was enlightened. Btw I naticked because I had Curex as the moisturizer.

Anonymous 11:04 AM  

73A Black Cod: From the clue, thought first of fugu, but that is too short. After a couple of crosses, a black cod flopped into my boat. AKA sablefish, it is caught off Alaska in good quantities, but most of the catch goes straight to Japan. A lovely fish, roasted or grilled after an oriental marinade, that's a treat. Seldom available in my small city, but when WF has it I always buy it.

Adam12 11:12 AM  

I, I over here, had IN A SECOND. And I’m wearing a tee shirt to boot.

Suzie Q 11:17 AM  

After having some wonderfully difficult puzzles this week an easy but not-too-easy Sunday was just the ticket for me.
Notes scribbled in the margins:
El Misti was known but why that name? A play on misty sounds more like English than Spanish. Anyone know?
I've eaten at a Nobu but had no idea of the Peruvian influence.
The Catholic church will never recover. Is there a single solver who did not have some thought of deviant behavior for 78A?
Certain keg attachment. Frat boy?
You don't hear bug bear much these days. Fun phrase.
This could have been themeless but then we would not have had those wicked good theme clues.

Bourbon Street 11:26 AM  

@QuasiMojo: Something similar happened to me but it turns out the mistake I made was that I had hit the zero on the keyboard instead of the “o”. It was almost impossible to see until I used the “reveal puzzle” button (or whatever it’s called).

I got AMICA right away because my fifth grade teacher was a nun with that name. She did not tolerate any nonsense but she was an effective teacher, so I have no complaints except I really missed being able to pass notes to my friends. Is that a lost art in this day & age of texts? Sister AMICA was the only teacher I had that taught how to diagram a sentence.

Black Sun 11:39 AM  

I saw 66A before reading the clue and thought we had us a DOOK.
A guy that raises cobras?

Pleasant puzzles with few downers.
If the thought of Putin and the KGB looking over your shoulder concerns you then perhaps you should stop electing Socialists.
Then we have the "lovely" Biblical story of Isaac. Add Abraham to that list and tell me what sort of god demands you worships him or he will kill your children? If that won't make you an atheist then you are truly an idiot.

retired guy 11:42 AM  

no such thing as the GREECE empire (54D). The Athenians had an empire, but it didn't span three continents (they did play around in Egypt but failed to conquer it). Alexander the Great built a three-continent empire but it was the Alexandrian Empire (or perhaps the Hellenistic or Macedonian Empire). Calling it GREECE or the GREECE empire is just plain bizarre. And it didn't survive him. Of all the possible ways of cluing GREECE, this has to be about the nuttiest.

Amelia 11:51 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Karl Grouch 11:54 AM  

This is a Dear Rex letter.
I fail to see how my appreciation for your blog should be translated into a donation. As you say yourself, you don't have any expenses to pay or costs to cover.
I do realize the amounts of time and energy you put into it and I admire you for that.
Being such a cause célèbre in the xword microcosmos, having us all faithful followers, should be enough shouldn't it?
I don't know to what use you will put the amount I donated to the blog; consider it a present from a fellow blogger.
So, this is not an adieu dear Rex, it's just an au revoir.

Aketi 11:56 AM  

Well, I could use an extra CUPOJOE as an EYEOPENER to get a JUMPSTART on what’s left of the day.

The Peru clue had me distracted by Machu Picchu which was obviously wrong. I have been to Arequipa but forgot about EL MISTI until I’d filled in EL MIST.

Knitwit 11:56 AM  

Wow! This was a hard one for me. I only appreciated it when I landed here! Amazing! As are you,Rex! Thanks for all you’re hard work and for providing a place to “meet”!!

TubaDon 12:02 PM  

     Slogged (not zoomed) through this without having a clue as to what the theme was even after intuiting 177A. Thought ZB did a good job, but after grokking the theme, upgraded it to a very good puzzle. Only weak answers were DOALL and CUPOJOE. Proud to have gotten ELMISTI without sneaking a peek at an atlas, and somehow remembered MOLESKIN(E?) though I've never used one.
     @Anonymous: IXNAY on the EXNAY!

JC66 12:08 PM  

Like everyone else, I solved this as a themeless. Then, it took me many nanoseconds (hi M&A) post solve to figure out the theme. The "Breaking News" title sure didn't help. But once the clouds lifted..WOW. Just terrific. Thank you, CC.


Your comments are so wonderful and add so much to everyone's enjoyment of this site that @Rex should be paying you, rather than you paying him.

Adam Frank 12:15 PM  

I usually love good wordplay. I love the monthly HEX puzzles in the Wall Street Journal, my daughter got me puzzle books for the holidays, ? clues often are the most fun for me to solve.

I was ready. “Breaking” as a cryptic clue usually indicates anagramming. So when I got DEAR JOHN LETTERS relatively early, I looked for anagrams. But no - nothing doing.

The theme usually helps you understand answers you’ve already gotten AND helps you parse clues for answers you haven’t. This did neither. I’ve had no drinks, I’ve had my morning coffee, and I still drew a complete blank on figuring out what the hell the theme was.

It’s clever, but each theme answer would work as part of a cryptic clue. If the title were “Cryptic News” I might have been more likely to see the wordplay. But calling it “Breaking” News meant I didn’t have a chance.

Kudos to those who got it during the solve, but even.m now that I understand it, while I like the individual answers I’m unimpressed with the puzzle. And the fill was fine, but generally unexciting. And the Putin quote was just gratuitous; there must be other ways to clue CHESS. I mean, come on.

Bugbear 12:16 PM  

How much would it take for you to quit blogging forever ? I know, “No one’s forcing you to read it why don’t you just go away ? “ Well, there’s a reason for that. I’m convinced that this blog influences the constructors and the editors, to the puzzle’s detriment. I promise I’ll go away as soon as Rex does.

Laura Brooks 12:17 PM  

I liked the puzzle a lot. Since I wasn’t having much luck at the top, I skipped to the bottom and solved there first , getting the revealer early. That helped me enjoy working the rest of the puzzle a lot more. The variety in clueing on the theme answers was really well done - I’d assumed at first that they’d all Vecino the first or last letter.

Carola 12:27 PM  

As a regular solver of cryptic puzzles, in which clues like RING LEADER are common, I was chagrined that I didn't understand the theme until the grid was complete. And that was after I had the reveal halfway through the solve. I paused there to 1) look for the letters in DEAR JOHN in each theme answer, 2) look for the names of famous JOHNs, 3) examine all of the word breaks (because of the Breaking News title). Nuthin. So, I continued my clockwise sweep, ending, appropriately, with HOLLYWOOD ENDING, and that's when the light finally dawned. I agree with @Loren about the brilliance of the construction and agree with others that's it's too bad it had no bearing on the enjoyment of the puzzle.

Banana Diaquiri 12:34 PM  

@Joe DiPinto:
I thought the episode following the pilot should be Episode 2, no?

pilots are one-offs. and, I suspect, mostly slotted in as episode 1. but... one of the more famous uses is the original 'Law and Order'. the pilot was shot about 2 years before the show aired. the DA wasn't even Schiff/Hill, but Wentworth/Thinnes, and was run as episode 6, with Thinnes as 'guest star' (haven't seen it in a while). lots of exposition of the characters, who'd been around for 5 episodes with this different DA.

Aketi 12:34 PM  

I actually love MOLESKINE notebooks but it took me a while to remember the spelling.

Andy 12:35 PM  

Solved the whole thing and never got the stupid "theme" or "trick" or whatever you call it. The whole thing was ridiculous.

Tim Carey 12:38 PM  

5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th... there are many... it was the E that killed me... "TH" I get, but "ETH"?

I just guessed I...

Masked and Anonymous 12:41 PM  

This SunPuz kinda had a "meta" theme. Had to figure out what all the themers were about, after the fact. Different. Like. Only thing was I usually like some humor in the theme mcguffin, to keep the huge SunPuz solvequest from gettin overly laborious. Just a masked nerd thing, maybe.

Didn't know some longball entries, like: MOLESKINE. PORCINI. ELMISTI. Nobu/BLACKCOD. Sooo … lost precious nanosecs, but learned new stuff.

The Putin quote didn't phase m&e too overly much … U sorta get used to hearin them there Putin quotes/opinions, in indirectly un-cited format, from the Prez, anyhoo. Can see why the Prez mighta not picked up on a CHESS quote, tho.

Was sad to see no U's in the meta-spellin party. Or much elsewhere, in fact. But I give CC lotsa credit for an otherwise primo constructioneerin job.

Thanx, CC.

Masked & Anonymo5Us


TomAz 12:50 PM  

btw: if you like good seafood and enjoy cooking, Nobu Matsuhisa's recipe for BLACK COD with Miso is definitely worth making:

don't use 'true cod' here.. it's a completely different fish and would likely fall apart in this recipe.

Malsdemare 12:55 PM  

Good golly, Miss Molly, I had the same experience as Rex only just a little slower (like 5 times as slow). Stuck in the same places plus lots more. And I DNFd at the OOHOOH/LEO cross, helped along by having CUPaJOE leaving me with OOH-aH. I got the themer answer about halfway through and it really didn't help. In fact, even after I had — sorta — finished the grid, I had to stare quite a while before the penny dropped. It didn't help that my brain absolutely refused to give me Hasta LUEGO. Silly brain.

I solved with two cups o' joe; maybe I should try the drinking thing, but then I'd either have to imbibe in the AM, a bad idea if ever there was one, or solve at night, ruining my lovely morning ritual.

Thanks, CC. Good on ya!

mmorgan 1:12 PM  

@TomAz — I believe you mean Isabelle Peron, not Eva.

Malcolm Gibson 1:17 PM  

Simply, dull. And a DNF for me because of (unfair) 1 across, 3 down. Otherwise, pretty easy; no real challenge, which is sad for a Sunday.

clk 1:30 PM  

Thank you for untangling the LEO mystery for me. I thought it meant law enforcement officer, which seemed a stretch to me. I agree that the zodiac signs of famous people are pretty uninteresting, and in this case, kind of insulting. I guess the interesting part of this clue is learning that their birthdays are close together.

Roth 1:34 PM  

Only understood the theme after reading your blog. And yes, the M in "El Misti" left me at a loss.

The biggest irritation is that "porcini" should be clued as "Pricy mushrooms" -- plural. The singular is "porcino".

Thanks for the blog! I sent a few bucks (under another name).


CDilly52 1:36 PM  


Anonymous 1:37 PM  

Whew! Tough one (for me, anyway). This really blew me away. Thanks very much for the challenge Ms. Burnikel.

Joseph M 1:37 PM  

Classic theme. Wordplay at its finest. Though I have to admit that I solved the puzzle without any idea of what the theme could be. The aha! that finally occurred was a big and satisfying one. Thank you to Zhouqin for the puzzle and to Rex for helping me see the light.

I didn’t know that there are eight oinks in “Old MacDonald,” that Putin is a chess lover, that the organ at Radio City Music Hall is famous, or that some handymen are called do alls. So thanks for that as well.

TSG 1:41 PM  

Please, just go away.

Mona 1:43 PM  

Thanks for the blog. I rarely comment, but check the blog daily, and love it.
"In a second," I'll send you a little sumpin sumpin in appreciation.

Anonymous 1:45 PM  

Hmm. My high school Latin teacher claimed the AMICA was to be used only with extreme care because it also meant prostitute. However, on Googling that meaning now, I see very few references.

CDilly52 1:52 PM  

I put this in what I call a “constructor’s puzzle” category. A massive theme and superbly executed, but few other than the constructor (and possibly other expert constructors) will suss it out. I didn’t. And I had to read @Rex three times to figure it out. Light bulb finally came on (gotta get some of those spiral, long lasting ones, I guess) and I grew some metaphorical confetti and blew my (also metaphorical) party horn in celebration of such a great theme. Blasted through all but “Natick town” in the NW. Had most of the downs: LOON, SOY, TOWS, IDOL so I guessed the E in EL. Eventually just had to guess at the M. Never heard of MOLESKINE. Moleskin yes, brand of notebook, nope. Easy except the NW, and kudos to the constructor and to all who got this massive and clever theme!

Z 2:08 PM  

@clk- I don’t think we are actually expected to know various people’s signs. LEO is just common Ese and clue writers are looking for creative clues. Today’s clue is trying to get solvers to go “dem” but with a little experience the solver says “too obvious” and either waits or just thinks “three letter crosswordese.” The longer I solve the faster the “esey” translations come and the fewer misdirection traps I fall into.

@Muse - Hand up for thinking that if you put out a tip jar you could easily afford that cardigan. Heck, maybe even vet school.

kitshef 2:09 PM  

@Suzie Q - checked around and the MISTI name comes not from Spanish but from Quechua, and means something like 'the big guy'.

Anonymous 2:50 PM  

The theme was clever in a way, but I needed Rex to find it, and I don't like themes which don't help solve the puzzle (because they are too hard to figure out while completing it).

Roo Monster 2:55 PM  

Hey All !
Another LOON here who couldn't grasp what the theme was. Thought it had something to do with the actual writing of a DEAR JOHN LETTER, since the endings of the themers were sorta kinda parts, ala ENDING, OPENER, FRONT, LEADER, START, THIRD, CENTER, SECOND. The ole brain kept seeing a pattern there that wasn't there. "Let's see, you START the LETTER, with an OPENER, and LEAD the FRONT sentence? followed by the SECOND paragraph, then the CENTER, then THIRD paragraph, and then the ENDING?" Yes, that's how my brain works. Seemed convoluted, but Hey, I'm not a big Cryptic seer.

After coming here and saying, "Oh now I SEE!", well, I say Brava to one CC! TOO GOOD! DEEP even. But AW GEE, it ASKS ALOT of me to suss out. EVEN NOW after all these puzs, I'm not a DO ALL IDOL. But I did LIKED it OKAY.

I am a LEO, though. August 12, if anyone cares. :-)

Old McDonald had a farm, E-I-E-I-O, and on that farm he had a pig, E-I-E-I-O, with an OINK OINK here, and an OINK OINK there, here an OINK, there an OINK, everywhere an OINK OINK. Eight. :-)


Calman Snoffelevich 3:07 PM  

What's the pun behind STOCK HOLDER? = (POT)?

JC66 3:14 PM  


I think one can make soup from STOCK (beef, chicken, whatever) in a POT.

Suzie Q 3:17 PM  

@ kitshef, Wow, that's a cool name for a mountain. And Quechua too.

Farmer John 3:28 PM  

Stock holder was pen ,I.e. livestock. 8d, unless there was another one I somehow elided over.

JC66 3:39 PM  

@Farmer John

You're right. The answer to 8D "Stock Holder" is PEN, but I like @Calman's POT better. ;-)

tkincher 4:04 PM  

I feel like there are so many better ways to clue KAREN (yesterday) and CHESS (today) without relying on Pence or Putin things that no one knows, or cares about, or should care about.

Crimson Devil 4:19 PM  

Enjoyed Stole Third Base and A NY Second/Anysecond.
Doall not so much.
I’m sending check.

Anonymous 4:34 PM  

@Black Sun: I think the post was about people who lived in the Soviet Union who felt like the KGB was everywhere. And that they still are.

Anonymous 4:44 PM  

With an OINK, OINK here
OINK, OINK there
Here an OINK, there an OINK
Everywhere an OINK, OINK

The Grateful Read 4:57 PM  

This was an extraordinary effort of construction. To place those letters with such a minimum of junk is impressive. Thanks.

Banana Diaquiri 5:27 PM  

the KGB was everywhere. And that they still are.

too much to ignore: just look at the nutball at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. we can all see he's doing they're bidding. :)

Anonymous 6:06 PM  


Logan Mahler 6:30 PM  

Kudos for your reference, but the model has been updated: 😉

FYI - My Malbolge is FORTRAN conversions. Even at .1337%

Logan Mahler 6:32 PM  

Shouldn’t you know what shirt since you’ve already ironed it? 😉

Great analysis, and can’t agree more about the aha. Such a fun puzzle.

thefogman 6:46 PM  

Ugh! Worst puzzle of 2019. The constructor has lost her touch lately.

Calman Snoffelevich 6:48 PM  

What's the pun behind STOCK HOLDER? = (PEN)?

I mistakenly wrote POT earlier.

Roo Monster 7:15 PM  

See @Farmer John 3:28.
PENs are where you keep your liveSTOCK.


Charlotte 7:19 PM  

Speaking of Putin, the Russian restaurant I went to on New Year's Eve here in Portland serves a dish called Vladimir poutine. In case someone wants to steal a pun.

Anonymous 11:02 PM  

@'Mericans - there are two clues in this puzzle that depend on reading carefully:
Out-of-the-blue for Sudden
Word-of-mouth for Oral

Neither of those phrases would have hyphens in it if it were substantive. The hyphenation shows that the phrases must be read attributively.

Out of the blue, she appeared = Suddenly, she appeared
She made an out-of-the-blue appearance = She made a sudden appearance

The news spread by word of mouth = The news spread orally
That was word-of-mouth information = That was oral information

Both of those struck me at the time as a sign of very careful editing, though I believe it's a sin to think so around here.

Sara Dacus 1:22 AM  

I hope my penchant for vintage postage makes me a contender for EATME.

I am an Arkansas girl (using the term "girl" liberally) who has been solving for a year and a half. Got interested after reading a David Sedaris anecdote about the puzzle in Theft by Finding. I found the app and then this blog shortly after. I enjoy the camaraderie even though I haven't commented very often.

However, I have been thinking of starting a semi-regular comment to encourage/commiserate with fellow neophytes (even though I know most of you are encouraging and not time snobs):

Arkansas Girl's Time Who Has Been Solving for a Year and a Half: 2:36:41. I am still focusing on my goal of doing a Sunday under one hour. I have come very close several times, but obviously today I fell very very short of this goal (El Misti, Curel, Bugbear).

Donna Hoke 2:53 AM  

The problem is in the cluing. The DEAR JOHN LETTERS entry was not a literal hint; it was a hint, yes, but not a literal one. At best, it was a literal explanation. Trying to use it as a literal hint led nowhere; leaving out the word literal would have been a better option. Better still would have been a way to use it to cross reference the solving, e.g. The literal result of the starred answers. The misplaced "literal" made the whole thing misleading and unfun.

Anonymous 5:05 PM  

@Donna Hoke, in case you come back - "literal" _literally_ means "by the letter" or "to the letter" or "letter by letter" - it literally means what the puzzle said it means. Try rethinking it and see if you change your mind about the clue.

Literate doesn't just mean "highly educated" - it means "knows one letter from another"
Illiterate doesn't just mean "not so smart" - it means "can't tell one letter from another"

Patricia Markert 6:45 PM  

Completely agree. Sorry I did not have a rusty nail to take the edge off of such a baffling theme as this.

Anonymous 7:58 PM  

Just finished it myself.. ugh, kinda brutal. Like many here, I stared at the finished grid and couldn't see the wordplay for the life of me. Very opaque.

Also, first time here- 8:36, Rex, seriously? I'm not going to say how long it took me, simply out of pure shame, but... It took me longer. Very impressive, I don't think I could tap the letters into the Android app that quickly.

Sara Dacus 10:56 PM  

Please see my comment three up to feel better about yourself.

Donna Hoke 2:48 AM  

@Anonymous Agree, but what you describe still describes the clues which should be taken "letter by letter" or "by the letter." DEAR JOHN LETTERS is not taken that way at all; it's a whole that is the sum of literal clues, with literal being used as you described. That does not make the hint itself literal, and I think that's why so many people had trouble with this puzzle's trick. It took my husband telling me, "Ignore that clue completely; it doesn't make any sense as written" for me to get it.

pat sanchez 5:05 PM  

Finished everything but some nw/ne clues because I refused to write in TOO GOOD (should be you're good) and what the hell is a BUGBEAR??? Also never heard of MOLESKIN with an E. Still don't get 32A SETI. IXNAY was just wrong. Never heard of a DO ALL. A MORALLY was wrong. Always heard CUPPA JOE not cup o joe.

Even if the title had been Breaking UP News, I wouldn't have understood the theme. First I thought it was about baseball (third, second center) or basketball (Center, jump, start). It was clever, however I'd rather there'd be no titles instead of bad ones. If only I was using my cryptic crossword brain. Then again, I rarely get the themes even though I finish the puxxles. Anyway...I think I donated to you but it may have been Wikipedia.

Have a great week Rex!

Anonymous 8:38 PM  

this was ok. didn't figure the theme until i read Rex's blog. Coupla things though GREECE EMPIRE?

Two golf clues in the same puzzle while not being golf themed is kind of lazy. At least use something like 'get it by someone'-ACE

Fred 7:55 PM  

Thanks, Rex, for explaining this, but it does not relieve my disappointment. I felt this puzzle was totally dumb. The thematic answers were simple-minded, without any relation that I could detect, even after finishing it, to the "give away" 117A. A waste of time.

OlyL 2:13 PM  

I can’t believe all of you in T shirts! We’re you actually dressed, or were they part of you PJ ensemble? And, yes. I fell for it in a second.

Burma Shave 9:29 AM  


it ASKSALOT to be IDEALLY reckoned.
EVENNOW I think the RINGLEADER could


rondo 10:08 AM  

If we Syndi-landers are the majority of readers, why so few commenters? Just askin'.
To the puz - EZ yes, but I started in the NE and worked back around to the NW, finding the revealer along the way, creating an extra bit of enjoyment. The M in the 3 hole was the last in and a pure guess as neither ELMISTI nor MOLESKINE were known to me; definite Natick potential. But ultimately success.

I had my course rarity ACE about 25 years ago. Haven't been closer than 3 feet since.

I always prefer a musical yeah baby like CUTIE ALANIS Morissette.

I'll bet that the folks who didn't like this puz would ABHOR cryptics ike the Harper's puz. Too bad, there's gold in them thar hills. Nice puz by CC to JUMPSTART the day.

spacecraft 12:18 PM  

Old joke: what did the farmer who went off to war get? A JOHN DEERE LETTER. Well, I said it was old. But DEERE appears, so I went for it.

After my first pass through, I had: CLE. That was it. I thought, Am I ever gonna get this? IXNAY! But I toiled on, spotting the reveal clue and trying to work out the SE. This I did, and soon filled in my first themer: STOLETHIRD. I stared and stared at that, and wondered how in the HELL that had any connection with 117-across?

Then I got another one, and the light dawned. I had my own HOLLYWOODENDING right there in the NW; what else is new; and came down to the 3 square. The letter M just seemed to beckon; it looked so "right" (but what do I know?); so M it was. Woohoo! Got it! I'm not gonna try to express my time in multiple Rexes, but if you include getting the maguffin--as I did while solving--maybe the number isn't so high. At any rate, I'd never call this easy, and gigantic triumph points attend.

DOD ALANIS is a CUTIE for sure. Oh--and this reporter, resplendent in his Eagles t-shirt (Beat the Saints!) went for INASECOND. Kudos, as usual, to honorable-mention DOD CC Burnikel for this eagle!

rainforest 3:58 PM  

As for many others, the M at the EL MISTI/MOLESKINE cross was my last letter. Neat name for a mountain I say, but I've never heard of the notebook.

I found this a good puzzle, and I managed to get 4 of the themers without knowing what the theme was, but then I hit the revealer, and pondered the meaning. Looking back at ARCTIC FRONT gave me the clue. Aha, said I, and motored to the end. Fun, not a slog, and pristinely constructed.

Diana, LIW 5:47 PM  

DEAR dear - I never would have understood the themer. Never.

Got the puz, mostly. Have me some of them MOLESKINE notebooks - like 'em.

CC's grasp of English idio9ms and phases continues to astound me. She should open a language institute.

I always thought we Synders had to be the largest group. I think most Synders who read the blog don't realize that they can post 5 weeks after the puzzle appears, and that there is a merry bank of Syndie peeps.

Lady Di

leftcoastTAM 6:45 PM  

Rex is in a damn good mood today. Good for him and many of us, though I don't begrudge him his occasional rants. In fact, they're part of the fun here. And today was fun--and easy.

Didn't get the theme until coming here.

In my callow youth I got a DEAR JOHN LETTER from my coquettish high school girlfriend within a couple of months of my having left for college in a distant state. She even inked the envelope with a black border, for pete's sake! Her new boyfriend's name, I learned, was JOHN, not Pete.

My last letter in was the E in the ELMISTI/ETH cross.

Enjoyed CC's work here.

Anonymous 2:25 PM  

@Rondo, speaking for myself from Syndi-land...of what possible relevance would comments 1 week out (Sunday) or 5 weeks out (dailies) have, & who would read them? I come here often and enjoy this blog. Love all the regulars' takes on the puzzles. I laugh, scowl, and yes, occasionally have steam coming out of my ears at some of the things posted here.
I'm a relative newbie compared to some folks here, but manage to hold my own most days. I solve on paper by choice, don't time myself, and my DNFs are frequent by comparison, but diminishing in number.
So I'll continue to plod along, and keep on reading, albeit as a "troll!"
Thanks for asking. Your take on this would be enlightening!

Diana, LIW 4:43 PM  

From Tomorrowland:

"@Anon 2:25 from yesterday (Sunday) asked @Rondo why we post. Allow me to 'splain some of the reasons. I, too, was a beginner a few years ago when I began posting here. I have since completed a million anthologies of NYT X-words to catch up with the 30-year-plus solvers. I have also attended 4 tournaments, two of which were in St. Paul, where I met up with @Rondo and @Teedmn (from Futureland) and toured the city, Summit Blvd, the cathedral, and even saw cat videos at the James Hill house. And I saw @Rondo win 3rd place in the Minnesota tourney - complete with trophy! @Teed and I have since also gone to 2 ACPT tourneys, where I came in 631st out of about 750 solvers. (I only enrolled as a competitor to have both a chair and a table to solve on - I DO NOT SPEED SOLVE.) I skim @Rex and the Futurelanders, but always read my beloved Synders"

Lady Di

Satch Carlson 2:45 PM  

I come here on occasion when I am puzzled (WHAH! Somebody stop me!) and need to figure out where I have gone astray. (I think that deserves a modest stipend, even though these visits are rare, mostly backwards Google searches on my phone involving the terms “NYU puzzle,” “Rex,” and one of the more prominent clues.)

I could not see the theme even after the grid was complete (I have used many Moleskines over the years), so Rex’s explication was welcome—and once it was explained to me, I found it brilliant.

Since this relief will save me many days of wondering, wondering, I will now hit that PayPal button. I still have meager coppers there from Sam Bee’s silly civics quiz.

Jaime Gunderson 12:59 PM  

Awesome and insightful comment. Thank you.

Saluki 6:26 AM  

To Anonymous at 10:57
Instigated does have as one of its many meanings "to egg on"
synonyms: incite, encourage, urge, goad, provoke, spur on, drive on, egg on, entice, stimulate, push, press, prod, prompt, induce, impel, prevail upon, constrain, motivate, make, influence, persuade, sway;

Anonymous 1:34 PM  

Awesome. How can anyone say the 117-across answer didn't help? When I saw "Dear John letters", I immediately thought of D-E-A-...etc. Then JUMPSTART confirmed what was obviously going on after I counted off the starred clues.

I've never commented before, but the whining I've seen here is ridiculous. It was an ingenious and fun theme.

Anonymous 11:10 AM  

But it's a crossword puzzle, not an oped page. How anyone could be offended by a puzzle is beyond me.

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