Literally dwarf dog / FRI 1-4-19 / Small mammals that secrete musk used in perfumes / Heraldic charge indicating supposed illegitimate birth / Certain mideast native / Avid fan of Stephenie Meyer young adult series / Serengeti stampeders

Friday, January 4, 2019

Constructor: Neil Padrick Wilson

Relative difficulty: Medium to Medium-Challenging (skewed pretty easy until I hit the upper NE) (6:03)

THEME: none

Word of the Day: BAR SINISTER (11D: Heraldic charge indicating supposed illegitimate birth) —
In heraldry, a bend is a band or strap running from the upper dexter (the bearer's right side and the viewer's left) corner of the shield to the lower sinister (the bearer's left side, and the viewer's right). Authorities differ as to how much of the field it should cover, ranging from one-fifth (if shown between other charges) up to one-third (if charged alone). The supposed rule that a bend should occupy a maximum of one-third of the field appears to exclude the possibility of three bends being shown together, but contrary examples exist. Outside heraldry, the term "bend (or bar) sinister" is sometimes used to imply illegitimacy, though it is almost never true that a bend sinister has this significance, and a "bar sinister" cannot, by its nature, exist. [...] The usual bend is occasionally called a bend dexter when it needs to contrast with the bend sinister, which runs in the other direction, like a sash worn diagonally from the left shoulder (Latin sinistermeans left). The bend sinister and its diminutives such as the baton sinister are rare as an independent motif; they occur more often as marks of distinction. The term "bar sinister" is an erroneous term when used in this context, since the "bar" in heraldry refers to a horizontal line. [...] Sir Walter Scott is credited with inventing the phrase bar sinister, which has become a metonymic term for bastardy. Heraldry scholar Arthur Charles Fox-Davies and others state that the phrase derives from a misspelling of barre, the French term for bend. Despite its not being a real heraldic symbol (a bar cannot actually be either dexter or sinister since it is horizontal), bar sinister has become a standard euphemism for illegitimate birth. (wikipedia) (my emph. / my emph.)
• • •
In heraldry, a charge is any emblem or device occupying the field of an escutcheon(shield). (wikipedia) 
I had to look up the answer *and* the clue phrase on that one. Yikes. This puzzle was pretty easy until the NE, where that top 3x5 section very nearly did me in. I don't really know SABRA, in that ... I have only ever seen it in crosswords, and even now, before looking it up, can't tell you with confidence what one is. I think it's something Israeli, but ??? Hang on ... Aha!
Sabra (Hebrewצבר‬, tzabar) is a Jew born on Israeli territory. (wikipedia)
So, you know, ballpark! But vague awareness of the term didn't help. At all. For a while I had just -A-R- and zero idea how anyone could make any "native" out of that. Also, typically, was not sure if "Mideast" meant Middle East or, like, middle part of the eastern seaboard of the U.S. Is that a thing? Looks like yeah, kinda. Here's an example:

Anyway, almost zero hope up there with SABRA. And something even closer to zero hope with SFC—oy, military classifications. So crosswordesey. Keeping them straight is like keeping all the UK military awards straight. DSO? OBE? RAF? ISAY? Even with -FC I thought maybe PFC (which, yes, is a thing: Private First Class). SFC is Sergeant First Class. Somehow I was able to guess the "B" after getting -ARSINISTER (Simon Bar Sinister ... is that someone??? Yes! He was a mad scientist on "Underdog," one of my favorite cartoons as a child!)

Guessing the "B" made me remember SABRA was a thing so I tried the "S" and boom, done! But man did lose a lot of time up there. Didn't help that it took me longer than it should've to get both ARIA (13D: It might have a cadenza ... I think I guessed SOFA at one point) and CORGI (18A: Literally, "dwarf dog" ... I wanted something like SIRIUS ... some constellation or something). Ironically, I've been listening to a lot of ARIAs lately, as I have developed a low-grade opera enthusiasm. I know nothing about opera, so it's all new and interesting to me. Do you all know this new opera podcast, "ARIA Code"? It's wonderful. I'm knee-deep in "La Traviata" because of it. Where was I? Oh right, I tanked the NE big time. The rest, mostly easy.

The longer answers in the SW were much friendlier and (to my mind) much nicer than their NE counterparts. I MEAN, REALLY! = divine. Most of the rest of this is fine. Lots of colloquial sass. I probably lost many seconds out of pure defiance when I, for the life of me, couldn't remember "Twilight." I could see the book cover. I could see the actors. But my brain just wouldn't click onto the dang title. Kept coming back to it, and it kept not coming back to me. "TWIHARD," ugh (22A: Avid fan of a Stephenie Meyer young adult series). Where are the TWIHARDs now? Those books weren't good (well, the one I bothered reading). I still can't believe that was a phenomenon. It really died ... hard. My only other sticking point came when I had -O--L for 50D: Texter's "too funny" and guessed LOLOL. Do people still do ROTFL? ROFL? Feels dated for some reason. I'm much more likely to write LOLOL despite the fact that the letters don't really mean anything once you get past the LOL part. I just think of the extra OL as an intensifier. You can add as many as you need. Did you know I was the first person to put XOXO in a daily NYT crossword. It's true. I had no idea, but then I saw the stats and was like "Dang! Look at me, putting such tenderness out into the crossword databases of the world!" Very on-brand.
    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

    P.S. there's a Slate piece that came out yesterday about Tuesday's whole 2D/racial slur controversy. Not much in the way of new or surprising info, but it's a decent summation of the issues involved.

    [Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


    jae 12:16 AM  

    Tough. Finally, a Fri. challenge! Finished by changing MeSS to MUSS as eNWED made no sense. Lots to like here!

    puzzlehoarder 12:30 AM  

    Seeing all the three letter entries, while printing out the puzzle, l was dreading an easy solve. The initial difficulty was a pleasant surprise.

    Reading through the clues in the top third the only entries I was sure of were ELI and OSHA. The solve didn't get started until OMEN and TNT. Once started it settled down to a standard Friday speed.

    Right before that start I had a brief misfire thinking 28 A was ROTTEN which of course agreed with TRAGIC. That little time waster along with bouncing off so many of the early clues pushed this over average time.

    The NE corner was the last to go in. BARSINISTER had a big hand in that. What a great entry. I consider it the highpoint of the puzzle.

    This was an excellent late week debut. It really held out initially but when I was done it was all clear as a bell.

    mmorgan 12:52 AM  

    Wow. Hard. Fun. Clever. Rewarding. Fair. Varied. Challenging. Clean. Gettable. Pleasure with each small success. Good workout and so much to appreciate! Wow.

    More like this please!!!!

    And a nice writeup from Rex. Who could ask for more?

    If there was anything problematic or disturbing in this puzzle, I missed it entirely. Thank you, NPW, for the kind of solving experience many of us crave. A lovely, impressive, terrific piece of work!

    Harryp 12:54 AM  

    I managed to get SABRA off of BAR SINISTER, and thought AMYL nitrate was a drug from the 60's or so. Somehow I managed to get through this with words like MAITREDS and TWIHARD? It went faster than most Fridays, but I wouldn't classify it as easy.

    mmorgan 12:57 AM  

    ps - I first put in LMFAO for 50D even though I knew it couldn’t possibly be right. But one can hope...

    okanaganer 1:13 AM  

    High school French is a big bonus solving crosswords, but sometimes too much knowledge leads one astray. I had MAITRES D' for 5 down and really resisted changing those last 2 letters. Does one really write MAITRE D's? ("master of's")

    I'm sure y'all know this, but SINISTER is simply Latin for left-handed.

    NPW 1:31 AM  

    Constructor here! (Think my original reply got lost, so trying again).

    First off, apologies for the NE corner! According to Twitter, lots of people are having issues with it. That section was also a bugbear during construction, in large part because I kept refusing to let myself slap a pluralizing "S" at the 50A/31D intersection. (I need to let that pet peeve go already). Granted, I actually liked BAR SINISTER as an old-timey phrase as juxtaposed with it's neighbor, "RIGHT ON TIME!" And as a bonus, BAR SINISTER powerfully evokes Jon Snow from Game of Thrones in my mind.

    As for the cluing in the NE corner, I will note that I actually tried to skew my clues to be kinder in that portion of the puzzle. BAR SINISTER still ended up with a straightforward, definitional clue, but my submitted clue also alluded to a mark/stripe, which I felt would help solvers infer BAR. I also clued SABRA as the familiar hummus brand, but it didn't survive editing. If I had to wager a guess, Will was trying to avoid using brand names. If I didn't already know all of the answers, I would probably also get tripped up in that corner as-clued.

    I was very nervous about the inclusion of BIKINI WAX, especially since it intersected with SEX COMEDY. But the Scrabble-y side of me loved how collectively crunchy all those consonants are (BKWXCMDY). I tried to keep the clues on the tame side of the spectrum, which at least seemed to pan out in post.

    On another note, I tried to convince Will and the team to clue TPK as a "Total Party Kill," but no dice. Just another boring turnpike. Boo!

    Finally, for those interested in the process, feel free to check of my original (rejected!) version of this puzzle on xword info. At least the NE corner was kinder! RUMPUS ROOMS and JAMES MONROE intersecting with DEMI MOORE (Clue: "Actress with a famous scene at the wheel?").

    If anybody has questions, I can try to field them later on Friday!

    Larry Gilstrap 1:36 AM  

    Looking for a Certain Mideast native gave me pause, then I remembered that Israel is in the Mideast. SABRA has been a popular liqueur for decades, so I'm concerned that OFL struggled. He, as do I, enjoys an adult beverage from time to time. Thank goodness he never reads these comments. I've noticed that some of the regulars have been popping off. You know who you are.

    It has been unusually cold in the desert and my body and my wardrobe are trying to sort it out. WARM FUZZIES make sense about now, because I will have a different feeling about them in July.

    My coat of arms feature a salmon and a belt enhanced by a BAR SINISTER. ROTFL; hoping the F is not the F-word.

    I began attending dances in junior high school and I was clueless. I was pretty much convinced that the girls in my class were only nice to boys to be polite. But, when I finally realized that I was holding a young beautiful person, I liked it. I have actually used the phrase: MAY I CUT IN. In a civil atmosphere, it works. Intuition or observation?

    Clark 1:38 AM  

    Almost dnf-ed on TWIHARD. Getting the R was just a guess based on phonetic possibilities. MAITREDS looked like gibberish until I did an aha.

    I thought I remembered Simon Bar Sinister from Felix the Cat. Turns out that was Master Cylinder. Oh the things we forget. Two of my little sisters loved Underdog, which meant that I thought it was stupid. I had no idea I had picked up the name of the villain.

    Robin 1:45 AM  

    I think SABRA used to be more of thing about 20-30 years ago, when Israel was a fairly young state and one had to be hard-core to be a locally born Jew. These days, not so much.

    On the other hand, SFC? WTF?

    Brookboy 1:45 AM  

    Skewed pretty tough for me in the northeast as well. I had pretty much the same experience as Rex on this one. ”BARSINISTER”? Never heard of it in all my seven plus decades. Don’t particularly want to again. SFC was a gimme, being an Army veteran. SABRA, on the other hand, not so quickly. Enjoyed solving it, overall.

    chefwen 1:46 AM  

    We dug in our heels and resisted the urge to consult Uncle Google on 11D. SABRA finally clicked at 9A and we were done. BARSINISTER is even more confusing after reading the explanation, I’m not going to reread it as my head is still spinning, no idea, but it fit, I’ll go with it.

    BITE ME made me laugh because we have a friend who says that to his brother all the time, I won’t tell you what the other brother replies, it’s worse.

    I have never said OH MY STARS or had BIKINI WAX and it’s going to remain that way.

    Gregory Schmidt 3:19 AM  

    SABRA crossing SFC (not PFC?) and BARSINISTER. Yikes.

    I really wanted TWIHARD to be TWITARD. :)

    Thomaso808 3:45 AM  

    I had fOTFL (fall on the floor laughing) crossing fEVERED (Held High) for way too long.

    I learned HAUTE from a local lunch place called “Hank’s Haute Dogs” — an establishment of fine dining based on a wide variety of tube steaks.

    Loren Muse Smith 4:25 AM  
    This comment has been removed by the author.
    Lewis 6:13 AM  

    More and more my solves are getting similar to Rex's. I think I should feel good about that!

    I liked how just below ONEAL is the same word with the last letter removed. "Busing supervisor" gave me fits as my mind only saw the transportation type of busing. Never heard of TWIHARD but it made sense after I had TWIHA--. I like BITE ME just under MAY I CUT IN, the former being a possible response to the latter. I was thinking I wasn't going to finish this without help when the North kept fighting me, but changing iCoN to SCAN, and finally seeing UNWED did the trick. Plenty here to get my mind into high gear, to reward me for what I know, and to get me to problem solve -- all reasons to be grateful. Thank you, NPW!

    Loren Muse Smith 6:16 AM  

    I liked your write-up this morning, Rex. Not exactly WARM FUZZY but good-natured and funny. But it wasn’t full-on cold-prickly.

    I tried “tweener” before I sussed out TWIHARD. As the resident low-brow books reader, I have a high tolerance for crappy writing. But even I noticed how awful the writing was in the Twiligh tbooks. I choked’em down, though, because the storyline was delicious. Meyer has exactly three verbs for whenever Bella says anything: mumble, mutter, murmur. Talk about yer basic twiversifying. Yeesh. Stephenie Meyer should twialittleharder to find some other verbs.

    (While I’m being all lit crit and stuff – am I the only one who noticed and got unspeakably sick of the bajillion similes in A Man Called Ove? I made myself finish the book, but I swear, the likes and as ifs – sometimes five or six on one page – just exhausted me like a warm-fuzzy seminar leader in a non-ironic Christmas sweater.)

    Despite my best efforts at being tolerant and accepting, I still feel schadenfreude when someone here spells it reign and not REIN when the word means “pull in.” I’m thinking the thrill comes from an evil, petty, childish place. Like when I found myself in a dust-up with a woman (not here) who was putting herself out there as someone who could not abide “bad” English, and at one point she wrote, I could care less. . . blah blah blah. My mean little heart sang. It really did. It sang.

    “Line at a dance” – before my first dance in middle school, Mom took me aside and told me a very important rule. She made this An Event: if someone asks you to dance, and you say no, then you absolutely may not say yes to any other guy during that same song. She communicated this with an intense vehemence that had me sitting up and paying attention. Kindness. I’m so grateful I have a mom like that.

    @’mericans from yesterday – nice stand list. We can add stand PAT from today.

    @okanaganer - I guess in English, in my neck of the woods, it’s materdees. (Mettradeez if you’re trying to impress someone.) If I heard someone say mettrazdee pronouncing that S there that would be silent anyway (and we know this since we studied French, sniff sniff), I’d think they’re an asshole. In Hebrew, the plural is easy – maitre d’im. Just kidding.

    Serendipity – (for the newbies here, this means you just skip this part ‘cause it has nothing really to do with the puzzle) – Yesterday in the break room, I saw a box (destined for our clinic) that said, “disposable specula.” So that answered my question as to the plural of, well, women, ahem. We’ve all been there - stirrupped and trying to sound all I’m totally cool with this and did you see Mary Poppins yet it was sold out so we saw Vice instead....when actually (at least I) am dying a little death inside because I’m officially the most modest person in the United States. I’ve told several OB GYNs that they should hire a person to give you a quick little complimentary BIKINI WAX as you’re subjected to this humiliating, magnificent exposure. It’s the &^%$ least they could do. Just a speculation.

    NPW – thanks for stopping by. I loved BRUTE/OIL UP and some new blood yesterday saying, RIGHT ON TIME, MAY I CUT IN?

    kitshef 7:21 AM  

    Hard for me – felt like a Saturday. A lot of days I’ll have trouble getting started, but once things start to fall I’ll pick up steam. Not today. Just chip away chip away all the way through.

    Instense disklike for I MEAN REALLY and ARE WE DONE, but most of the rest was good clear fun (well ... good fun – SEX COMEDY not so clean).

    Better clue for 29D: Gore.

    Hand up for getting BAR SINISTER thanks to Underdog.

    Anonymous 7:38 AM  

    Option B for BAR SINISTER clue: GIULIANI doppelgänger from the Underdog Show

    Rob 7:46 AM  

    Really fun puzzle with some great fill. Never heard TWIHARD before, but loved it as a child of the Internet. BITE ME was good too. Skeptical that SEX COMEDY is really a thing, but what can you do? Northeast corner definitely tough but very doable. Liked ARIA and CODA being in opposite corners.

    Amy Yanni 7:48 AM  

    Lol at 29D, kitshef. One Al. Really lovely puzzle. Luckily knew Sabra b/c Bar Sinister is new to me...and I love the things I learn in the crossword. Was stumped by American Pie for a while as I was thinking Don McLean. Finally got Bikini Wax, although me too, never have, never will. TGIF, even though it is a short week.

    Z 7:49 AM  

    Easy west, hair-pulling NE. After SABRA finally went in it took many many many precious nanoseconds for me to parse BARSINISTER. SIBELIUS and CIVETS in the SE were also matters of faith. If I had been solving in the paper I might have continued to puzzle over the correct grid.

    Ken R 7:55 AM  

    @NPW Great puzzle. Knew Sabra so the NE was not a problem at all. Any puzzle with a Ramones reference suits me fine ! I mean really ! Who wouldn't get the warm fuzzies completing this puzzle? As for the requisite PC policing by Rex all I say is are we done? I fear not. The agenda continues.

    Z 7:57 AM  

    @Rob - not just a thing, a movie. Okay, maybe a bit of a dated term these days since the movie is from 36 years ago.

    Beaglelover 8:03 AM  

    Growing up in NYC, one saw hot dog stands with the word SABRA ,in big letters, on the umbrella.! I assumed it meant kosher.

    Preferred Customer 8:12 AM  

    @NPK great puzzle, the crosses and clues got me through it without having to visit Dr. Google.

    The NE was fairly easy for me, even if I did put in pasha before sabra.


    nitram lepok 8:15 AM  

    May I cut in? I wonder when the last time that line was uttered

    tb 8:44 AM  

    My favorite puzzle of the year!

    But seriously, this was a great puzzle.

    Debra 8:58 AM  

    Very fun puzzle.

    EdTech@mjbha 9:02 AM  

    I stared as MAITRED for too long before it made sense.

    Hungry Mother 9:04 AM  

    A couple of wags broke my way, leading me to a faster than usual time, in spite of a chest cold that’s keeping me in check today. As a left-hander, I take offense at the use of the word “sinister.”

    Anonymous 9:06 AM  


    OffTheGrid 9:21 AM  

    Good Friday, which usually means I have to stretch and even grab a helping hand at times.
    BITEME was terrific.
    Wanted juice for 54A
    Had to google to get ROTFL (I think social media abbreviations are pretty lowbrow as clues)
    TAR was easy but hardly an alternative for gravel
    How about MAO?...anyone want to take that on?....anyone?

    Wm. C. 9:24 AM  

    Wow, I didn't get SABRA, even though I saw it written on a license plate here in MA just yesterday, then vaguely understood that it was some kind of Jewish woman, probably from reading novels. Didn't make the connection today, though, even with ALOOF, RIGHT, and ARIA giving me "-A-RA."

    With that, I too floundered in the NE, with that and, by God, never having heard of BAR.SINISTER, even with all but the B in place.

    Also, TWIHARD? How many NYT Puzzlers have ever even heard of that! Or read those novels? And I.MEAN.REALLY is a stretch also.

    Hey, Fridays are supposed to be tough, but at a minimum shouldn't have fill totally unknown to most of us mixed in with the legitimately challenging fill. Sheesh!

    'merican in Paris 9:27 AM  

    Crash and burn for me. Came so close, but for me it was the NW that did me in. Had "to-do" and FETE and FAB just never came to me. Noah Webster attended Yale? We're supposed to know that? Also, what about ONE A and ONE AL in the same puzzle?

    In any case, I did at least get some pleasure filling in the bottom 13 rows. Loved seeing both CORGI and INSANE. For those unfamiliar with Crazy Eddy, here's a link to one of his "Where the prices are INSANE!!" commercials. I hope he runs for president in 2020.

    And here's a fun fact about CIVETS: they gave their name to the scientific name for the durian fruit, Durio zibethinus. In the species name, zibethinus refers to the Indian civet cat, Viverra zibetha, the STENCH of whose urine bears some similarity to strong odor of a ripe durian (which is said to "smell like hell, but taste like heaven"). Those of you who have ever traveled to south-east Asia will no doubt have seen the signs in airports and hotels banning the eating and sometimes even the mere possession of durian fruit.



    Sir Hillary 9:32 AM  

    Nifty Puzzle -- Wow!

    Any puzzle with REFUSENIK near CZAR and near an answer clued with No-goodnik works for me.

    Please tell me there is an unmarked speakeasy-like establishment called BARSINISTER somewhere in Soho or the East Village.

    I had never heard SABRA until Geoffrey Rush said it to Eric Bana in the final scene of "Munich".

    Big day for 1 -- 1AL, 1A, RAM1, AREWED1.

    @LMS -- Stellar as usual. As a man, I won't pretend to be able to relate to the stirrups experience, but your suggestion of some sort of BIKINIWAX APPLIANCE seems RIGHT ON, TIMEly and not at all INSANE to me.

    Anonymous 9:42 AM  

    Isn't a refusenik someone, usually Jewish, who was refused permission to emigrate from the USSR?

    TubaDon 9:52 AM  

         Somewhat under the weather here, so I was surprised when I started with SIBELIUS and was able to branch out from there. Knew SABRA from old crosswords and adding the BAR was no big deal with SINISTER in place. Last word in was TWIHARD. I have no idea what that is and refuse to look it up, but all the crosses made sense.

    QuasiMojo 10:02 AM  

    Excellent Friday puzzle brimming with gnarly crunch. Nice to see its composer comment here. I too first had Rotten. I was just talking to a friend about the Sex Pistols last night. I never had warm fuzzies for the Ramones. For some reason, btw, when I come to Rex’s blog the videos posted are from several days ago. So I had the god-awful Beastie Boys and Cherry Pie to entertain me this morning.

    Reading the entry about Bar Sinister was weird to me because it claims Sir Walter Scott misspelled “barre” when coining the term “Bar sinister” —well wouldn’t he have used the English spelling anyway? The web is full of such inanities. One must proceed with caution whenever citing wiki documents as proof of something.

    My favorite bits today were the stampeding Zebras, that old blue Noah, May I Cut In next to Bite Me. I wanted Sex Tragedy for “American Pie” because it was anything but a comedy. The cultural equivalent of getting a Bikini Wax. Oh maybe that Cherry Pie video was meant for today after all. My bad.

    Nancy 10:08 AM  

    Who ever says "OH MY STARS" anymore? But then who ever says "MAY I CUT IN?" anymore, either? I, for one, would willingly put up with the fustiness of OH MY STARS if it were to bring back the courtesy and elegance of MAY I CUT IN.

    In case both are too old fashioned -- baffling, even --for a new generation, we have such relatively recent coinages as ARE WE DONE?; BITE ME (ugh!) and TWIHARD (I had trouble with this; I may not have twied hard enough).

    Since everyone likes to talk about a "breakfast test", neither BIKINI WAX nor STENCH passed mine. The former is too painful (or so I've heard; I would never do such an awful thing to myself), and the latter is too smelly.

    I loved WARM FUZZIES. I have no idea what a BAR SINISTER is or looks like. If no one has described it on the blog already, I'll Google it. Found the puzzle somewhat challenging and mostly interesting.

    Crimson Devil 10:14 AM  

    Nice friday puz.
    Learned bar sinister, sabra, twihard, ramone.

    Mike R. 10:16 AM  

    Re 29D - pretty sure the reference is to O'Neal (as in Shaquille - former LA Lakers center) not ONE AL as a number of comments refer to. Definitely a challenging puzzle.

    JB 10:20 AM  

    I love your draft clue for tpk!

    JB 10:24 AM  

    BTW, those British acronyms you can't keep straight aren't military, they're called honors (honours?) and the queen gives them out to notables as she sees fit. I don't believe recipients necessarily have to be britisB in all cases. Generally a step down from a knighthood.

    GILL I. 10:30 AM  

    This was tres hard and tres fun. I needed patience, patience, patience (hi @Z) in order to finally finish.
    So many wrong answers that fit: gala>FETE. canus>CORGI. cad>CUR. mess/MUSS and, well, the list went on. I do my puzzles in pen so I have to be careful not to get too cocky.
    So much to love here, lots I didn't know...really happy that with perseverance I didn't have to Google an answer. I did use it but only to verify answers like TWIHARD and BAR SINISTER.
    I'm glad I knew that Noah Webster was an ELI because that one answer opened the door for me. Change to FETE and I'm a smiling and feeling all WARM FUZZIES. So it's FAB and the ouch BKINI WAX. I'm glad those days are over. Gads, the things one does to look all Housewivesy. I lived in Spain for almost a decade and did what all the natives did. NOTHING!
    I liked MAY I CUT IN? It was always a polite tap on the shoulder and the ensuing BITE ME during my tenure. I enviably was the tallest little girl on the floor and you could bet your bippy that the shortest, zitty little boy would ask me to dance. At least I could see the brill cream he used to slick the hair down.
    I always use xoxo when I sign off. My friends and lovers can vouch for me.
    Loved your puzzle NPW. Like @mmorgan, more like this, please!!!

    Roo Monster 10:34 AM  

    Hey All !
    Sussed out whole puz refusing to use Check feature. And after all the brain tweaking, got to SA_RA/_ARSINISTER and ran the alphabet. Thought it might be the B, but only know SABRA as a hotdog/hummus brand, so didn't think it could a people. So put in a D. Argh! One letter DNF. That's becoming my legacy.

    NW actually held me up a bit also. EPI sneakily clued, wanted unI or trI. TPK also, hwy only thing I could think of. FETE went through gala, to-do. 1D was aok for a bit.

    Other writeovers, iRonIC-TRAGIC, tsAR-CZAR, alone-UNWED, che-MAO. That alone-UNWED also MUSSed me up in the NE. And had gAgCOMEDY for a time.

    ROTFL should actually be ROFL, which is Rolling On (The) Floor Laughing. For those who asked.
    LMAO= Laughing My Ass Off.
    LMFAO=Laughing My F#√¢ing Ass Off.
    Then there's also ROFLMFAO. It gets out of hand quickly. OH MY STARS. ☺️


    Nancy 10:45 AM  

    I don't know "American Pie" the SEX COMEDY. I know "American Pie" as one of the great songs from, I think, the 1960s. I'm going to supply the link to those who have never heard the song. It has a longish intro (otherwise known as a "verse") that isn't great and that isn't remembered. Hang on a minute for the marvelous main portion of the song that begins "Bye, bye..." It will give you a heck of an earworm. AMERICAN PIE

    Suzie Q 10:49 AM  

    I loved this puzzle. Just what I hoped for. I also enjoyed the overall casual feel.
    Simon Barsinister is a good example of the subtle way cartoons taught me things I didn't even know I was learning. There are lots of examples like the classical music of Warner Bros. and the cleverness of Bullwinkle.
    Everyone has said what needs to be said but @ Gregory Schmidt 3:19 really had me ROTFL with Twitard!
    Thanks for a memorable fun Friday Mr. Wilson and nice of you to stop by. Come back soon.

    Whatsername 11:06 AM  

    @NPW - This was tough but I learned a few things which is one reason I do crosswords, so thanks for the slight uptick in my intellectual level today. Nice of you to join the conversation this morning. And no hard feelings regarding barsinister. No, I mean really. I’m actually ROTFL.

    @LMS - As a kindred low-brow book reader, I recommend “The Story of Arthur Truluv” by Elizabeth Berg. It’s along the lines of Ove (minus the similes) but I liked it much better and found Arthur a considerably more agreeable fellow. And BTW your opinion is absolutely spot-on re the dreaded OB-GYN experience. The horror!

    Amelia 11:11 AM  
    This comment has been removed by the author.
    Anonymous 11:30 AM  

    Neil Padrick Wilson,

    If you're around, Thank you, thank you, thank you. Terrific puzzle. Bar sinster was an especial treat.

    pabloinnh 11:33 AM  

    In with SIBELIUS and O'TOOLE and off and running. Who says proper names are always a bad thing? BARSINISTER was in the brain attic somewhere and now I even have a definition to go with it, so good.

    @Nancy-Speaking of singing, which we were a while ago, "American Pie" is definitely an all-timefavorite, since it fits my guitar skills and voice range. Just a little too long for our Monday hootenannies. Other folks like to have a turn too. "Vincent", from the same album, is another one I never get tired of.

    Excellent Friday puzzle, and on the right day or the week too.

    Anonymous 11:41 AM  

    Unlike OFL, I had no problems with the NE in general. "Bar sinister" came easily, as did "sabra." I did have issue with the clue on 20D; a "hue" is a color characteristic, and as I type this I'm seeing the connection with "spectral". I generally associate that word with the occult or with ghosts. Tough solve, but I liked it.

    JOHN XOXO 11:58 AM  

    Pretty good Friday! Simon BARSINISTER! RAMONE! BIKINIWAX! OILUP!

    AMYL nitrate: Diesel fuel additive? Poppers! They're fun for about a minute!

    SABRA: Refugee camp massacre!

    OTOOLE: Plenty!

    BITE ME !

    What? 11:59 AM  

    Pretty easy except for 9D (no idea what SFC is) and 11 D. Got SABRA (resding the Times cover to cover every day helps) but BARS..... Got all the letters and so solved it but never heard of it. Does this count - no idea of an answer but gets filled in by across or down answers?

    Masked and Anonymous 12:00 PM  

    Downt have to twi hard to like this puppy. Had somethin for everyone. Ranged, non-appliancely, from WARMFUZZIES to BITEME -- and back again to them climactic XOXOs. M&A really wants one of them neat BAR SINISTERs in his arms coat, now. Shoot, if it's good enough for Herald, sure sounds super-cool for M&A.

    The grid had m&e at the quad weeject stacks, in the NW & SE. sTaff PicK: TPK.

    @RP: I lucked out & got SABRA just off the ?A???. Was in the army, but musta totally forgot about that SFC rank. Maybe they've changed the names on the various kinds of sarges, since the late 60s? Me, I was more of a corporal sinister third class. Had to watch out for them highest-upper [master?] sarges, tho ... They'd come out of nowhere and make U climb up and stomp down the trash on the top of a barracks dumpster, so the day-um trash would look spiffier.

    Thanx for the feisty fun, Mr. Wilson. Harsh but fair, and all that other stuff that @mmorgan said.

    Masked & Anonym007Us


    Anonymous 12:02 PM  

    After getting a BIKINI WAX, this puzzle should OIL UP and flex its muscles. Great language fest, from BAR SINISTER to REFUSENIK to TWIHARD.

    Wanted Shakespeare's plays to be IAMBIC before they became TRAGIC and thought that "American Pie" might be a BRO COMEDY instead of a SEX COMEDY. Either way, I'd rather just take the song by Don McLean.


    Madeleine Sann 12:06 PM  

    In Hebrew, sabra is the name for the prickly pear (cactus). Hard on the outside, soft on the inside. When I was growing up three centuries ago, sabra was used to refer to Jews born and living in Palestine pre-Israel. Anyway, the use of sabra for native born Israeli comes from the prickly pear. Or so I’ve been told.

    jb129 12:46 PM  

    Thank you NPW for your response :)

    I didn't know "Twihard" -but I loved this puzzle & it kept me going (enjoyably) for awhile - Great! Especially on a Friday - thank you again.

    JC66 1:07 PM  

    @Madeleine Sann

    That's what I was taught the derivation of SABRA was, too.

    Teedmn 1:09 PM  

    NPW, your sophomore NYT puzzle gave me a good workout for a Friday so I'd call it better than hunky-dory. Thanks and congrats.

    OSHA went in and came out because I knew there were no credenzas for sofAs (13D) so 18A couldn't end in an A. Silly me. RIGHT ON TIME helped set me right in that corner.

    HAUTE couture with a nearby OUTFIT. Would you call a Dior design an "outfit"?. Seems too casual.

    TWIHARD - good name, though why that became such a phenomenon escapes me. Granted, I never read any of the books but the few scenes I caught of the movies left me unmoved.

    I was convinced that, with ____OM____ in place in 8D, there would be a brOMance in the grid but COMEDY works better (it actually fits).

    Carola 1:14 PM  

    Discouraged by a very low yield in the upper tier (OSHA, OMEN), I went for the soft underbelly (TKO x XOXO) and solved from the bottom up. All went well until....???SINISTER, Man, that NE corner. Finally erased the p of pFC, saw SABRA and finished. WARM FUZZIES + BIKINI WAX! Too good! Loved the puzzle, loved the challenge. Thanks to the constructor.

    Joe Dipinto 1:21 PM  

    there's a Slate piece that came out yesterday about Tuesday's whole 2D/racial slur controversy. Not much in the way of new or surprising info, but it's a decent summation of the issues involved.

    I have no interest in reading it.

    Miss Manners 1:31 PM  

    Please no more OB-GYN stories, and no one cares who B-waxes or not.

    Joe Bleaux 1:58 PM  

    Whoo-whee! What a suss-fest, but great Friday-worthy fun. I felt your pain, @‘merican, up there in the cold NW, where I finally finished — after juggling every combo of AOK, FAB, UNI, TRI, EPI, GALA, FETE, HOV, TPK, and finally ELI (Eli? Gotta be). Anyway, brought it in with no help and no mistakes, in well under an hour. Thanks for a real workout, Mr. Wilson (and for dropping by). Happy New Weekend, all.

    Anonymous 2:07 PM  

    I crashed and burned on this one in a way that hasn't happened to me in 40 years. Literally. That northwest corner. I don't know what goes on in a spa, painful or otherwise. I didn't know that American Pie was anything other than a song by Don McLean. As a Wyoming guy, that clue for "Range" just brought to mind a hundred things other than appliances, mostly having to do with grassland.I am not familiar with twilight in any way, shape or form, and I don't know what an epicycle is, and a busing supervisor is, where I come from, called a monitor. This was death on a massive scale for my first dnf since my grandmama died.

    fifirouge 2:15 PM  

    I DNF'd today on MAYIbUTIN and bIVETS. I've never heard of a CIVET, and while I thought it was kind of rude for someone to butt in on dance partners (and despite my skepticism that *but* was correct instead of *butt*), I didn't really question it.

    Otherwise a really fun puzzle!

    Anonymous 2:16 PM  

    Tough one, but fun. Thanks very much, Mr. Wilson, for the challenge.

    TomAz 2:21 PM  

    Naticked at SABRA / BAR SINISTER. Never heard either before. (Well, actually, if NPW's original hummus clue had been allowed to stand, I might have gotten this one!)

    Otherwise I enjoyed this. Didn't know TWIHARD either but at least it was inferrable. And any puzzle featuring Joey, Johnny, DeeDee, or Tommy is OK by me.

    Do people still say "May I cut in?" That seemed dated 40 years ago.

    DavidL 2:55 PM  

    I had "PFC" for 9 down and a blank for the first letter of "_AR SINISTER". So I was trying to figure out some Mideast resident that fits "PA_RA". Padra? Pasra? Pakra? Nothing. So did not finish. It never occurred to me that PFC could be wrong. I have never been in the army (no thank you for my lack of service) and never heard of Sergeant First Class. And SABRA would have been a gimme for me if I had had the "S".

    Otherwise, pretty cool puzzle, right? WARM FUZZIES, I MEAN REALLY, BIKINI WAX, MAY I CUT IN, ARE WE DONE - Wow, all in one puzzle.

    REFUSENIK - I only ever heard of that term in connection with Soviet Jews of the 1970s and 80s, but figured it out from the more general clue.

    Anonymous 2:57 PM  

    Oh, my gosh! Exodus, Ari Ben Canaan, Sabra. Loved that book when I read it in High School.

    geoff 3:09 PM  

    Tar is a sealant. Nobody ever seals anything with gravel. Tar is also a sailor. Are there gravels on ships?

    CaliMarie 3:20 PM  

    I thought TWIHEAD might work. Never heard of this Meyer person.

    JC66 3:20 PM  


    TAR roads

    Leila 3:23 PM  

    Yes, Sabra means refugee camp massacre to me too.

    DeeJay 3:36 PM  

    Mr. Wilson, this was an awesome puzzle, tough, funny, fun, interesting.

    Thank you.

    Anonymous 4:10 PM  

    No such thing as a tar road.

    rittenbc 4:16 PM  

    Should 34 across THINE not have been clued as "Yours of yore" rather than "Your of yore"?

    Banana Diaquiri 4:26 PM  

    well... I recall a line from 'The Avengers', TeeVee not movie, where Mrs. Peel refers to another character as 'bar sinister' which just meant someone with a hyphenated last name. I guess there was a hint of bastardization in the olde times.

    Anonymous 5:36 PM  

    Re 34A, I agree with rittenbc. As is it is not quite grammatically right.

    pabloinnh 5:49 PM  

    Anon@4:10 is right--in these parts they are tah roads, and yes they do exist.

    CDilly52 6:23 PM  

    ROTFL=Rolling On the Floor Laughing

    JOHN X 6:27 PM  

    Of course TAR roads exist!

    Didn't you ever see Cool Hand Luke?

    Also: that guy can eat fitty eggs

    Anonymous 7:23 PM  

    Sabra is an Israeli born in Israel, the term taken from the name in Hebrew for the prickly pear cactus (Genus: opuntia; aka tuna, sabra, nopal, depending on where you live; State Flower of Texas) that grows wild in the desert there. I think a wonderful multilingual pun clue would have been “tuna Mexicana in the Middle East.”

    pabloinnh 7:50 PM  

    Hey @ JOHN X-Absolutely right about Cool Hand and tar, or tah, roads.

    Why did Luke eat fifty eggs?

    "I dunno. Somethin' to do."

    For this excellent reference, award yourself five cold drinks, and you don't have to spend the night in the box.

    Also, "Come on, safety pin!"

    GEB 9:02 PM  

    This was my one complaint about today's puzzle, too (other than having the common NE corner trouble) -- "Your of yore" should be THY, not THINE, so I got stuck here for a bit, sure that the NYT editors wouldn't make such a clear grammatical error.

    Z 9:39 PM  

    @GEB - They didn’t.

    Anonymous 10:00 PM  

    A quick Google lookup indicates that "thine" is used when the word following it begins with a vowel, as in "to thine own self be true", or "know thine enemy". So in that usage it means your rather than yours.

    Anonymous 11:34 PM  

    Thine eyes have seen the glory of the Lord etc.

    Monty Boy 11:43 PM  

    Tough for me. I had to google the proper names to get past having about half done. I had UNI for cycle for a while.

    @LMS: The closest we men get to the stirrup experience is the prostate exam. No awkward hardware, but(t) an awkward exam.

    grampa 2:36 AM  

    Can anyone explain the "Eli" answer in 4D for me? The only one in the puzzle that still doesn't make sense to me, even after a cursory Google search. Abbreviation for a title? Nickname or pseudonym of Noah Webster? I feel like it's gonna be obvious in retrospect, but I'll be damned if it isn't driving me nuts in the meantime...

    fakt chekker 10:42 AM  

    @grampa - a grad of Elihu Yale's institution of learning is often called an ELI. Standard crosswordese.

    thefogman 11:32 AM  

    Got 'er done. But not without a struggle. The top half was the most challenging of all. I had unI before EPI and nuT before TNT and that area took forever to unravel. There were plenty of other clever misdirects. Well done Neil Padrick Wilson. Now I can enjoy the WARMFUZZIES of my victory.

    spacecraft 11:48 AM  

    I didn't have all that much trouble with the NE. I did have to go all the way down to Mr. O'TOOLE to break in, polishing off the SE and continuing northward. Breaking into the western half took a few moments, but after filling in GMAT (??) on crosses and sussing out TWIHARD ('m presuming "Twilight diehard?"), the West was Won.

    Amusing triplet: UNWED SCAN SEXCOMEDY. Haven't seen this name, but apparently, from reading his post (always glad to have the builders visit us), not a debut. The guy could come back anytime, for my money. Interesting, sometimes conversational fill, and despite those 3-rows in the NW & SE corners not too much detritus. He gives an Irish shout-out to Peter and to DOD Tatum ONEAL--and a Tyrannosaurus nod to OFL. Birdie.

    Burma Shave 1:28 PM  


    IFNOT it’s no TRAGIC crime.
    IMEAN,REALLY, I know HOWTO climax,


    rondo 2:04 PM  

    No, no, no. That is not HOWTO use TAR.

    I had a few hold-ups of my own making to correct: Sgt crossing SAudi in the NE, a MeSS of the MUSS, and BlUnt before BRUTE. I’ll TWIHARDer to not make write-over mistakes that tend to BITEME.

    Like REX, I too thought of Simon BARSINISTER. That’s INSANE.

    It’s been a long time since I played any music, but didn’t a CODA sign send you back to play something over? Not necessarily in the closing bars?

    Lana Wood portrays Plenty O' TOOLE in Diamonds are Forever and SHEDS her OUTFIT for James Bond. Yeah baby. Nearly meets a TRAGIC end, save for the pool.

    IFNOT for the TAR blunder, I’d say this puz was quite good.

    rainforest 3:51 PM  

    How in TARnation can TAR be an alternative to gravel. I think I'll join forces with @rondo on this issue. Thanks to him, I know everything about the subject.

    Like @Spacey, O'TOOLE was my toe-hold, and from there, along with MAO, the South went down relatively quickly.

    In the NE I was confused by two things: aren't "the mideast" and "the Middle East" different venues? I was looking for native Americans (First Nations we call them in Canada), and I've never heard of SFC. Is that an actual rank?

    Anyway, I knew SABRA, so that helped a bunch.

    I think the puzzle was appropriate in difficulty and quality for a Friday. Good fun.

    Diana, LIW 4:08 PM  

    top coupla rows pretty much eluded me. Got the rest. Tough for a Friday, in that way.

    Lady Di

    leftcoastTAM 6:50 PM  

    I'm with Lady Di on this one.

    fritz 12:36 AM  

    I got the B in painful spa treatment and Brazilian fit right in there messing me up for a long time.

    Anonymous 8:37 PM  

    Agree with Rondo. Tar is badly clued. But otherwise a fair and very difficult solve. Took me into Saturday to finish but it felt rewarding and somewhat informative. On to Saturday with the hope it won't take me into Sunday. Great write-up by Rex. And it hurts to think of any kind of wax. OUCH.

    Anonymous 8:42 PM  

    Best CODA in music can be found in Magnetic Rag by the immortal Scott Joplin. He may have died in his forties but he composed lifetimes of music. Magnetic Rag was a fitting lasting finish to an incredible output of original music.

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