Nurmi 1920s Olympic runner nicknamed Flying Finn / SUN 8-11-19 / Diaper in Britspeak / Chinese liquor made from sorghum / Missile first used in Yom Kippur War / Mathematician taught by Bernoulli / Swimmer in Himeji castle moat / Best Play Tony winner with geographical name / Fairy tale alter ego

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Constructor: Alex Eaton-Salners

Relative difficulty: Medium (9:31)


THEME: "Bird Play" — Four answers have circled squares that literally represent some bird idiom (those idioms are also theme answers):

Theme answers:
  • SC(OFF) (41A: Jeer) over POPU(LAR K)IDS (49A: In-group at school)
  • HILARY(SWAN)K (19A: Best Actress winner of 1999 and 2004)
  • THE PLOT T(HICKEN)S (25A: "Curiouser and curiouser ...")
  • (E)V(A)N(G)E(L)IZ(E) (52A: Preach the gospel) 
which represent:
  • OFF ON A LARK (81A: What's depicted by the circled letters in 41-/49-Across)
  • SPREAD EAGLE (84A: ... in 52-Across)
  • HEADLESS CHICKEN (106A: ... in 25-Across)
  • SWAN DIVE (116A: ... and in 19-Across)
Word of the Day: ELENA of Avalor (118A: Princess of Avalor, in children's TV)
Elena of Avalor is an American computer-animated adventure television series that premiered on Disney Channel on July 22, 2016, and moved to Disney Junior on July 14, 2018. The series features Aimee Carreroas the voice of Elena, a young Latina princess. (wikipedia)
• • •

Underneath all the technical / architectural glitz of this one is just a bunch of groany dad puns. Visual dad puns. There's nothing theme-y about any of this except the HILARY (SWAN)K answer, which makes it a wicked outlier. None of the other themers have anything funky going on with them at all. They're just straight clue/answers with circled squares in the answers. The SWAN DIVE is a real anomaly. Another anomaly (that bugged me more) was the non-bird circled squares OFF, used as part of the visual representation of OFF ON A LARK. All the others are birds (or, I guess, partial birds, in the case of HICKEN). OFF is not a bird. So boo to that. Also, if you want to go full groan-joke, it's OFF on *A* LARK not U LARK. But the real issue is circled OFF. I mean, whatever, it's all just wackiness and who cares, on one level, but it was a bit too wobbly in the execution for me, and the payoff wasn't great. Was nice to find the bottom half of the grid so easy, though. Once you've got those circled squares in place, it's real easy to see what phrases they represent. This is my fifth (recorded) Sunday in a row where I've finished in under 10 minutes. Not sure if they've gotten easier or I've gotten faster, but this one only felt fast in the second (lower) half. The first (upper) half felt normal, maybe even slightly tougher than normal.


Speaking of tougher than normal, we need to discuss the one truly inexcusable part of this puzzle: the cross at 33D: ___ Nurmi, 1920s Olympic runner nicknamed the "Flying Finn" (PAAVO) / 46A: Part of a three-in-a-row (TAC). Now I know PAAVO because ... well, I've been doing xwords a long time, so even though he's well before my time, I've seen that name enough that it stuck. He's certainly crossworthy. But with proper nouns, especially ones that are likely to be outside many people's ken, you really have to make sure all the crosses are fair, especially if the proper noun in question is not an inferrable name. Like, if the missing "A" had been in DAVID, I wouldn't have much sympathy for you if you couldn't just guess it. But today, the name was PAAVO, and the cross was complete ambiguous; that is, there are two totally accurate responses to 46A: Part of a three-in-a-row: TIC and TAC (unless three-in-a-row *isn't* tic-tac-toe, in which case I don't know what to say). TIC is right. TAC is right. Now obviously only TAC is *truly* right since only PAAVO is correct. But you should not leave solvers with two possible right answers at a cross that is a. a vowel b. in the middle of a foreign and very uncommon name. PAIVO? I mean, why not? PAAVO's a name. This is all to say that a decent editor would've indicated that the answer was the *Second* part of three-in-a-row. Non-fans of Finnish runners of antiquity would still have wondered (possibly aloud) what the hell PAAVO was, but they could've gone to all the crosses, found them indisputable, and moved on. As is, a good chunk of solverdom will just wipe out at that cross. Very, very bad editing.


Five things:
  • 53D: Diaper, in Britspeak (NAPPIE) — whoa. Not sure I've ever seen this word in the singular. Really wanted -Y ending. 
  • 27D: Ocelli (EYE SPOTS) — to me, this is the thing that happens when you see spots ... like maybe ... floaters, or other things in your field of vision. I thought they were eye-shaped ... something. Windows? Buuuuut no; it turns out they are the spots that resemble eyes, "as on the tail feathers of a male peacock" (?!). 
  • 59A: Chinese liquor made from sorghum (MAOTAI) — reforgot this. I look forward to reforgetting it again many times before I finally remember that it's just MAITAI misspelled.
  • 70D: See the future with a crystal ball (SCRY) — you know that's not a real thing, right? [See the future with a crystal ball] = SCAM. But SCRY is a funny word so I'm not too mad.
  • 118A: Princess of Avalor, in children's TV (ELENA) — hard "Whaaa?" Give her a movie so she can be a legit, crossworthy "Disney princess." Or don't, whatever. I guess any new ELENA clue is a good ELENA clue.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. Hey, next weekend (Sat. Aug. 17) is Lollapuzzoola, one of the biggest annual crossword tournaments in the country, and the only one (that I know of) in NYC. There are still some spaces left for those who want to participate in some hardcore, in-person nerddom (actually a very fun tournament with a low-key vibe and hundreds of lovely people). But if you just want to see what tournament puzzles are like without the fear of public humiliation*, then there's also the Solve At-Home Division of the tournament, which you should get in on. Lolla and Indie 500 (in DC) are my favorite tournaments, and the only ones I participate in regularly. So come solve and say hi. Or solve at home and wish you had. Whatever. Just sign up! INFORMATION HERE.

*there's no public humiliation except that which you heap on yourself, trust me

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]

94 comments:

Phaedrus 12:11 AM  

I was hoping a Bizarro Rex would show up today so I could read his opinion on “take a knee.”


Chapps 12:17 AM  

I'll be honest - I can usually get through any day's puzzle, no matter how tortured, hackneyed, or downright awful. I just couldn't spend the energy to finish this one. Bored, didn't care, hated the gimmick.

jae 12:20 AM  

Mostly easy. GOLGOTHA was a WOE so nanoseconds (m&a) we’re lost in that area. Fun Sunday, liked it quite a bit more than @Rex seemed to and I knew PAAVO.

I recently discovered I’ve been mentally pronouncing EULER wrong (mentally because the guy almost never comes up in conversation). I thought it sounded like ruler, but my math major granddaughter told me it sounds like a tanker ship...oiler.

Jyqm 12:29 AM  

Of all of Rex’s ridiculous ideological hangups, his self-righteous bafflement that Shortz refuses to explicitly clue bits of esoterica as “not real, you stupid idiots” is the only one that actually makes me laugh.

Swagomatic 12:39 AM  

Glad to see REM in the write up. I actually thought of that very song when Sean popped up.

chefwen 2:38 AM  

Had a great time with this one. I’m a bird lover so this was right up my alley. HEADLESS CHICKEN brought on a little grimace, but I can deal with that. With millions of chickens running around this rock, avatar has rendered a few of them headless, never a pretty sight. It’s a dog thing.

24A bugged me, why do they ask for a College TOWN and then add the state? This happens all the time, I’m looking for a town that starts with AM and ends with an A. Calling foul play on those clues.

NE was the last to fall with HILARY, I knew A SWAN played in there, but it took me a long time to come up with SWANK. Felt pretty foolish when I finally figured it out. DUH!

Fun one AES.

Joe Dipinto 3:14 AM  

Paint your palette blue and grey
Look out on a summer's day


Hey, any opportunity to use my "Starry Night" avatar... Don McLean gets to do two numbers today:

I saw Satan laughing with delight
The day the music died


Nice to see that Ona Lark attended today's event instead of her husband Asa, who got a chilly reception last time. Reportedly Asa stayed home to binge on ranch dip, salsa and cocoa mix.

So we're down to four theme answers on Sunday now. I agree with Rex's critique, basically. The EAGLE and CHICKEN answers work; the other two, not quite. HILARY SWANK, a gimme right off the bat, gave away the whole game, so I immediately put in SWAN DIVE and went from there. Maybe if the themers had been a little harder to suss out it would have felt more interesting.

I did like a number of non-theme answers: GATEAU, VESPA, EYESPOTS, MISCALL, SLEEPER CAR, GOLGOTHA, ESCALATE

We don't need to escalate
You see, war is not the answer
For only love can conquer hate


I knew PAAVO so that cross didn't bother me. Opera trivia: Puccini wrote an opera called EDGAR. It was a flop.

I think I usually like this constructor's submissions so I'm not inclined to be too harsh with this one. Here's the Association to start Sunday off with a breezy little ditty:

Who's peeking out from under a stairway
Calling a name that's lighter than air?...

Punchdrunkdoc 4:28 AM  

As a Brit, I can confirm - no one spells it nappie. Always nappy.

Cakewad 5:26 AM  

OFFONALARK had me stuck for way too long. I thought everything in circles would be birds, so I had OWL instead of off, which of course made no sense.

(Nice Camera Obscura insert.)

Lewis 6:08 AM  

I liked the variety of bird-word visual puns. If they were all of the same ilk, the one-trick pony theme, to me, wouldn't have been as interesting. My only writeover was EyE before EWE. And given that I am a dad of a certain age, I suppose, I do like visual word puns and found the puzzle to be fun.

We just got a kitten, barely two months old (a rescue), because our last cat, Diva, was a nasty hellion, a Hemingway cat with six toes on one front paw and seven on the other, who terrorized not only our dog, but every person in the house since tearing my wife's leg into ribbons eight years ago. Diva's life ended six months ago, and we didn't want what was possibly our last cat to be that one. So this week Wiley came into our lives and is a sweetheart, the polar opposite, and we are in love.

Ever watch a kitten go into hunting mode after a little bug, tensing up in full concentration to where if you sneezed it would jump three feet into the air? So, as I was doing this puzzle, I flashed on the image of a cat hiding, perhaps among the REEDS, in wait, in hopes of bagging a bird, with visions of it being ATE ALIVE.

Then, as I looked the puzzle over post-solve, I saw cats all over the place in it. We had a KAT, a GATEAU which sounds sorta like GATO (the Spanish for cat), and then there was TAC, and finally SLY, a nickname for Sylvester, a famous you-know-what.

Normally I would apologize for a diversion like this, but as I mentioned earlier, I am in love, and I may do it again tomorrow.

three of clubs 7:00 AM  

I guess the editor/constructor didn't get the notice that names (ELI) are only historically gendered by the false consciousness of an oppressive patriarchy.

Anonymous 7:04 AM  

I didn't find PAAVO crossing TAC to be a Natick, even though I'd never in my life heard of PAAVO, because I've seen enough Finnish names to know that PAiVO isn't likely to be one but PAAVO is.

But ORGANA crossing TOTO was, to me, a total Natick. All 5 vowels were almost equally likely as far as I was concerned. My wife knew ORGANA but I sure didn't. I actually knew the song Africa and have heard it many times, but had no idea who performed it.

BIGD gave me endless problems because my mind was stuck on variants of "Home on the range."

EU is pronounced oi in German. From the Greek, I would guess, though I'm not sure it is pronounced that way in Greek any more. Hilarious recording: a German opera singer doing "Que faro Euridice" and pronouncing "Eu" as "Oi" instead of making it two syllables as it is in Italian.

Got HILLARYSK from the crosses but never got the trick.

Had EVANGELIsE crossing PREs and wondered why they used the British spelling. Isn't that actually a case of two equally correct versions of the puzzle?




Solverinserbia 7:28 AM  

I liked the puns. New idea to me to have related (bird, in this case) puns in some answers and then other answers about what those puns represented. The fill on the other hand was tough PAAVO/TAC was one of three squares I missed.

QuasiMojo 8:06 AM  

The usual Sunday slog with a few bright SPOTS. I liked the idea of the theme although at times I wondered why I kept going. SWAN DIVE gets a TEN, and an 8 for SPREAD EAGLE. Couldn't have been easy to construct that one. So yes ART is apt today. GOLGOTHA was my first entry point. I know it from my Catholic upbringing but also Gore Vidal's unpopular novel "Live From Golgotha" about a camera crew that Time travels to the Crucifixion. Cruci-fiction? I don't get Rex's disdain for the supernatural. Our culture is based on it. Hey @Joe, good CALL on EDGAR. Verdi's "La Traviata" was a failure too, at least at its opening. EVANGELIZE sounds like either a drag name or a B-list portmanteau. Candied EELS? One man's emetic is another man's poisson.

Hungry Mother 8:11 AM  

Off by one again; a bad habit Fun theme, but didn’t have the L in HEAL.

oopsydeb 8:21 AM  

OFF being in circled letters was sloppy. And HEADLESS CHICKEN? No no no. It's CHICKEN with its head cut off.

PAAVE/TAC got me at first, but it was the first place I looked when my filled grid didn't work.

RooMonster 8:29 AM  

Hey All !
@Joe D 3:14 - Technically there are Eight themers. The circles, and what they represent.

THEY go to THE Y. Har.

Nice misdirection on the COCOA MIX clue. Having C___AM__, naturally threw in CINNAMON.

From the "pencil in lightly what you think is the answer, to end up finding it somewhere else in the puz" files, PIANO for SOFAS.

This was a nice puz. Fun. Had some trouble spots, figuring out HILARY SWANK was a little toughie, kept looking for a clue that said something about 15D's circles. The ole brain finally cottoned to the circles being part of 19A. Lightbulb moment was when I figured out THE PLOT THICKENS, and said, "Hey, there's no C for CHICKEN", and then going down to 106A, and seeing it was indeed HEADLESS CHICKEN. Ah, said I, literal themers.

Fell into Rex's TiC trap. One of five wrong letters/ nine wrong answers. Others, you ask? PREs/EVANGELIsE, sEAL/GOLGOTsA, VANDa/ELENi/NaiD.

I really wanted that H for GOLGOTHA, and I really should know that place regardless. But had to get it letter by letter and still missed. sEAL just as valid as HEAL there.

Couple of "Seriously?" moments, PIRN, which is what I thought if initially after reading the clue, but thought "Nah, that wouldn't be in s NYT puz." Lo and behold, PORN. And TAKES A KNEE as clued. C'mon man, don't glorify the foofaraw Kapernick started. We're just getting over all that nonsense, and you put it in a clue. How about "Proposes?" or some other word playey clue?

Writeovers today, seARS-CHARS, starting writing in Korea for KYOTO before headslap moment of Korea being a country, not a city, ymca-THEY, odED-SPED, Snake-SATAN, aLI-ELI, SlIpS-SKIFS, ETaS-ETDS (iffy clue), winDS-REEDS, REw-REC, clue-LEAD.

Overall, a good time, just enough crunch.

Do the POPULAR KIDS ATTEND VANDY? I SPOSE.

AND SO it is
RooMonster
DarrinV


Anonymous 8:34 AM  

I was a victim of the Paavo-Tac Syndrome. At least it wasn’t the Bird Flu ...

pabloinnh 8:46 AM  

I got 25A in a hurry and thought, a straight word rebus is what we're getting here, "chicken with its head cut off", and then there was the spread eagle and so on. I'm used to these, like T-A-L-E going all vertical and elongated to mean "tall tale", so I wondered how the constructor was going to resolve everything. Turns out he just supplied the answers. Kind of more fun to figure them out on your own, the explanations seemed redundant, and the whole thing had a lot of moo-cowness (hi M&A).

Hey @JoeD-Sang "Starry Night" at the nursing home this week, and almost choked myself up. That one always gets to me.

Nice enough Sundecito, or Sundito, or Sundecillo, can't decide. Thanks AE-S.

Nancy 8:53 AM  

This puzzle has the odd distinction of being confusing and deadly dull at the same time. Let me bring you up to date on what I see -- and what I don't see -- at the very instant of dropping it with a loud thud a bit more than halfway through.

I see HILARY SWAN from SWAN going down, but that final K is somewhere else and it's not circled.

I see a circled HICKEN. Where's the C, if this is "Bird Play"?

I see a circled LARK with a circled OFF above it.

I see EVANGELIZE with circled letters that produce EAGLE.

And I see a lot of really boring clues and really pedestrian fill. And it's taking much too long.

I'm sure there's a reason for all this. I'll go back now, read y'all and find out what it is. It may be a perfectly good reason for all I know. But the process of solving is just not enjoyable. Sorry. Thud.

mmorgan 8:57 AM  

For me, 90% or more of this was really, really easy, but 10% was somewhere between difficult and impossible. I found the theme slight -- first, I thought they would all be like the HILARY [SWAN]K pattern, which could have been fun -- and I actually liked the clues/answers *about* the answers with circles more than the main themers themselves, especially SWAN DIVE and OFF ON A LARK.

As was likely the case for many others, the PA_VO/T_C cross was a total guess -- and I guessed wrong, going with I instead of A. I suppose in retrospect that PAAVO was more likely. And I just couldn't bring myself to change ETaS to ETDS. Duh.

Not a wonderful puzzle but not too bad, and I actually enjoyed it most when it stumped me. And now I know the word SCRY and Princess ELENA so it's a good day.

pmdm 9:08 AM  

I happen to like outliers, so I would defend the circles around "OFF."

Classical music fans should be very familiar with the Jarvi family. PAAVO has even conducted the New York Philharmonic. But the family is Estonian, not Finnish.

If a grid contains mostly unobjectionable fill, what is one to do? Obsess on the one ot two entries that you don't like. Why bother mentioning that the puzzle is better than most recent Sunday puzzles?

Pleasant enough puzzle that made me want to continue to struggle until I finished solving it. Nice job, Alex.

Anonymous 9:28 AM  

"Scry" is most certainly a "real thing" (real word, anyhow.) From dictionary.com:
Scry--
verb (used without object), scried, scry·ing.
to use divination to discover hidden knowledge or future events, especially by means of a crystal ball.

kitshef 9:28 AM  

Yesterday I seemed be to an outlier, disliking a puzzle that most enjoyed. Same today - I liked this puzzle that so many dislike. I like that they were all bird themers, and while I'm not a big an of circles, this worked for me.

Currently reading a book about the first four-minute mile, and PAAVO Nurmi gets a lot of mention. I had always heard the original Vampira, Maila Nurmi, was his niece, but this appears to be lack evidence.

Anonymous 9:40 AM  

Knew PAAVO Nurmi as Babe's favorite runner in Marathon Man (the novel), even though in Marathon Man (the movie) shows clips of Abebe Bikila. When I was in my teens I thought the clips were Nurmi too.

Teedmn 9:43 AM  

Even more so than Erik Agard, Alex Eaton-Salners has my number. This took forever, even after I finally saw my first bird (HILARY S[WAN]K). I got the second part of the theme from SPREADEAGLE. Then it became fun to guess the rebopodes formed by the circles of birds. I got a laugh when the aforementioned SWAN had me trying to redo the crosses at 113D and 106D so SWAN Down would fit. It's usually "Swan's down" (if I Google that without the apostrophe, all I get is some flour brand I've never heard of) but that didn't stop me from trying to cram it in. SWAN DIVE, aha.

Meanwhile, back at the far SE, I was brought down by the VANDY (V AND Y was how I was interpreting it, total WOE) crossing NYAD. Of course, when that Y finally arrived, I remembered Diana (not LIW :-) from previous crosswords but it was too late - DNF. Second DNF was also unmemorized crosswordese - I left in PAiVO crossing TiC. Once PAAVO filled in, I was in for my second head slap. Sheesh.

Brown powder - CinnAMon worked great until it didn't, as @Roo points out. Everybody was working out at the "club", not THE Y. SlIpS in for SKIDS - the theme's LARK helped fix that.

Not a whole lot of clever clues (31A, 73A, 102A and 108D were all I found) but some interesting data such as KYOTO meaning "capital" and TAIWAN relating to the UN.

Nice job, Alex. I liked this theme.

Isandxan 9:56 AM  

There are three bad edits / crosses in this one. PAAVO / TAC, of course, but also GOLGOTHA / HEAL, which could just as easily be GOLGATSA / SEAL (crossing clue is: close up, say) if you aren’t a biblical scholar and don’t know variations for Calvary (hands up) and the previously mentioned PREZ / EVANGELIZE which could use S instead of Z and was the error I had to hunt down last.

Nancy 10:00 AM  

@Lewis (6:08) -- You kept a cat that "tore your wife's leg into ribbons" 8 years ago??? Have you lost your everlovin' mind, Lewis??? That is by far the worst cat story I've heard on this blog, and I've heard some doozies. All the Rexblog cats sound pretty much impossible to live with, but yours took the cake. I'm sure the new one will be a lot nicer, as how could he not, and I wish you a happy future in a family of unscathed limbs.

Years ago I offered the opinion that golfers are masochists and tennis players are hedonists. I consider it one of my most original and perceptive observations. Let me now make the same observation about cat owners (masochists) and dog owners (hedonists). You can live with an animal who will completely ignore you when he's not in the right mood; run your household the way he wants it run and you damn well better obey; and be the total Diva (at least she was well-named, Lewis). Or you can live with an animal who offers love, love, love, love in endless supply and considers you the center of his universe. Which would the non-masochist choose?

Sure, I'm a dog person. To the marrow. And I rest my case.

Taffy-Kun 10:16 AM  

Our family (ex-PR) has completely adopted “napcito” for a rest. I like your Sundecito!

davidm 10:35 AM  

I thought this was fun. There are actually eight themers, but they consist of four pairs, which is unusual right there. The first pair I got was EVANGELIZE and SPREAD EAGLE, and was momentarily puzzled until I noticed the circled letters. Then I knew that all the circled letters would be about birds, but with different descriptions. I already had SWAN from ASWAN and thought, is this a SWAN DIVE? And later on, sure enough … what was much harder to infer was HLLARY SWANK. So, yes, it was an outlier, and a nice one.

I don’t see how any of these are technically puns at all, much less groany dad puns. They are just clever word play, to me. Puns are a subset of word play.

Nice to see a puzzle with EULER in it, the kind of proper name I can dig: not a celebrity, movie star, etc., but a thinker.

ColoradoCog 10:38 AM  

As someone who had no idea who PAAVO was and who struggled to find my TAC error, I had the same exact thought. Why couldn’t you simply clue this as “Second part...”. Glad to see @Rex call the editing out on that one. Inexcusable fail there.

However, I applaud the editorial decision to clue TAIWAN as a “nation”. Call a duck a duck, even if it ruffles feathers.

Anonymous 10:44 AM  

I disagree with the author that D-VID would obviously be David. It could easily be Dovid, a perfectly valid Yiddish name. That's the problem with proper nouns, especially non-English proper nouns, and especially especially vowels in non-English proper nouns. The crosses can't be obscure.

Norm 10:59 AM  

I was prepared to be bored when I saw SWAN and totally missed the theme at that point, since I do not know my acting people and the number of made-up names in show business is so great that HILARY SK seemed perfectly plausible. Then I was annoyed by HICKEN. What the heck, says I? And then I got it. I had a good time with this one. Not a marvel of construction, I guess, but entertaining. And what's wrong with dad puns, Rex?

Unknown 11:08 AM  

Way too many proper nouns in this one. Left me with a dnf. Bummer.

Fred Romagnolo 11:09 AM  

I'd venture to guess that the most famous classic Olympics poster was that of Nurmi. First word in the Schiller/Beethoven Ode to Joy: Freude, pronounced Froydah, now you won't mispronounce EULER again. TAIWAN used to be in the U.N., but when Mao got the seat, it was ousted. Rack up "Carmen" as another failed at first Opera. Surely POPULARKIDS is green paint. In 2013 it was much remarked that NIAD was a naiad (water nymph).

SouthsideJohnny 11:13 AM  

Never heard of a PROW, so learned something there (not even sure what a PLEB is as well, lol).

I also have a nit with the clue for BIGD - it seems like it should be clued as “Cowboys’ home” (not “Cowboy’s home”). An individual cowboy in the everyday usage of the term could live live anywhere, so the clue would make no sense that way. Similarly, any of the individual football players could live anywhere within commuting distance of Dallas. When referring to the team itself, I believe the alternate cluing is appropriate.

Anonymous 11:15 AM  

I would just point out that while PAiVO and GOLGOTsA are plausible, they simply aren't correct, even though the correct answers are fairly obscure to all other than Finns who listen to the gospel being read every Sunday.

With EVANGELIZE and PREZ, the alternate using an S is 100% correct for both words. It's unusual to see a puzzle where that happens.

Many cats provide large amounts of love for relatively little grief in return. I agree that leg shred into ribbons, if anywhere near literally true, is extending tolerance extremely far.

the redanman 11:19 AM  

Messy. Lost. Interest.

Near-Natick Notable

TJS 11:30 AM  

@Nancy, totally agree with everything expressed in both your posts today. And I thought this was one of the worst puzzles I can remember ever having to waste time and brain cells on. Amazing to me that Rex can go easy on so much of this worthless dreck simply because "it was nice to find the bottom half of the grid so easy." Gotta love those record times, apparently.
One last old man gripe. When did "dad" become a term of derision ? Odd that someone who can take offense at the slightest hint of sexism, NRA reference, etc. has no concerns for denigrating fatherhood. Hey, lets bring back "blond" jokes ! Or Polish jokes, they were always good for a laugh. Seems you can't have it both ways.

Unknown 11:37 AM  

Found the theme very difficult to unravel. Luckily we do this together as a family and I had help! Had no trouble with Paavo Nurmi, and I think Rex spent entirely too much time on this topic. But love the REM reference that followed!

Lynx 11:38 AM  

The ELENA / NYAD cross meant a DNF. Annoying because "Nyad" crossed my mind but I didn't trust it. Sigh.

Unknown 11:45 AM  

Agree! LOL!

CDilly52 11:45 AM  

Thanks for the validation @Punchdrunkdic! I can now cry foul. And so I do.

CDilly52 11:53 AM  

Here’s to you @Lewis and to Wiley! We only became “cat people” by accident in 2013 when my daughter came to help me recuperate from a full knee replacement and had to bring her two cats with her. When she, Midnight and Cass left us we were bereft. Went to our shelter on Valentines Day and appropriately fell in love ourselves. Now, I am so grateful for my two sweet cats’ company and antics every day.

Anonymous 11:54 AM  

Ha. I just went to the supermarket, where they play Sirius Radio. As I walk in, the announcer is saying "Toto's biggest hit was Africa ..."

He then went on to play something else by Toto, which sounded quite similar.

Lewis 12:02 PM  

@nancy -- We did think about putting Diva down after that incident, but our hearts were more against it than for it, and we ended up kind of working things out with her, ending up in a state of mutual toleration. I can tell you that we do not terribly miss her!

jberg 12:03 PM  

The theme idea is OK, but the clues are really boring, most notably HEADLESS CHICKEN. How about "what runs around after decapitation," or some that doesn't just repeat the name of the bird? I guess that's true of all of them, but at least OFF ON A LARK has the visual pun, and SWAN DIVE is clever. Also, tough, for me -- I've never heard of HILARY SWANK, figured maybe she used her initials like Louis C.K., and thought the water behind the ASWAN dam might constitute a lake, so I wrote in the name of the ballet. Only when I saw that was wrong did I suddenly comprehend the dive thing.

@Rex, I think you were confusing Ocelli with Oculi, a natural mistake.

I've certainly heard of the Flying Finn, but had only a vague idea of his first name --Pavlo and Pavvo before finally getting PAVVO. I know a Finn named Teivo, so I could have accepted Paivo, but my memory was pretty firm on that broad A sound, so that came out all right.

OK, so here is an instance of surprising myself with my own reaction. I'm a convinced atheist, and was raised by very liberal thinking Congregationalists, but somehow I'm really surprised that so many people didn't know GOLGOTHA. I don't know if it's good or bad, and maybe this is a less Bible-reading crowd than America at large. I'm just surprised, thought it was an absolute gimme.

When I had VAND_ I almost wrote in A (for the museum) without checking the clue. But something made me check, so I was saved.

@Quasi, I'm rolling on the floor over both cruci-fiction and "another man's poisson." Keep 'em coming!

GILL I. 12:06 PM  

Well, yeah. I was thinking three men in a TUB and all that rub-a dub-dub thing. SLEEPERbAR makes perfect sense to me for that 3D Berth place.
I saw HILARY taking that SWAN dive even though she was missing her K and it gave me hope that this was going to be fun. Nope. The rest were.....for the birds. OFF ON A LARK? EVANGELISE? VALET with an S?
I'm joining @Nancy.

CDilly52 12:06 PM  

Except I, who was a died in the wool dog person for the reasons you (@Nancy) listed have had to change my tune. I have two beauties who come when called and can’t wait for me to get home from work every day and who give me love, love, love all day every day if they could. Admittedly, they are not purebreds but mixed breed American shorthairs, an orange tabby and a Torby-tortoise/tabby mix. To each his/her own.

The Émigré 12:45 PM  

As another Brit, I second that. Nappy and nappies. Never nappie.

Joseph M 1:02 PM  

Even though I hated the SE corner and wanted to EAT A LIME at MANDY university, I loved the puzzle overall, especially the visual antics of SPREAD EAGLE, SWAN DIVE, and HEADLESS CHICKEN.

When I first started solving, I wondered why there were circles only in the upper half of the puzzle and enjoyed the process of discovering why.

I agree that the circled OFF seems a little OFF and cringed at the second appearance of SPOSE this week, but the fun outweighed the flaws.

As I read Rex’s reviews, I wonder why he usually seems more eager to pan a puzzle than to praise it and to languish in the minute details of the pan. Whether it’s due to high standards, professional jealousy, a need to feel superior, cosmic loneliness, or just human nature, it makes me CURIOUSER AND CURIOUSER about why I always enjoy reading these reviews.

Tyler 1:17 PM  

I’ve never used a rideshare app that gives me an ETD. ETA, for sure...but ETD? I estimate the car to depart as soon as I get in it.

Tyler 1:18 PM  

I’ve never used a rideshare app that gives me an ETD. ETA, for sure... but ETD? I estimate the car to depart as soon as I get in it.

Anonymous 1:27 PM  

I didn't know GOLGOTHA and had "close up" as sEAL, so this was a DNF for me. Ugh. I hate that this one beat me.

Anonymous 1:52 PM  

Another Brit confirming that Nappie is incorrect.

Bob Mills 1:54 PM  

Inconsistent gimmick. Hilary Swank's name is at a 90-degree angle, but none of the other theme clues work the same way. If you have a theme, make it a consistent one. And, what kind of mind is a "HIVE"? And the "SWAN DIVE" is part of a down line, not part of the HilarySK cross. Please, Will, give us Sunday puzzles that make sense.

What? 2:30 PM  

Liked the puzzle cause I finished it (except SEAL instead of HEAL) but will somebody explain 106D, HIVE.

QuasiMojo 2:40 PM  

Thank you @jberg. Glad you took the time to read my post. Will certainly try! :)

Mo-T 2:43 PM  

@Lewis 6:08 and @Nancy 10:00

Our Tommy-Boy died in June. He was an 8-month-old rescue (from people we knew who could not keep him) when I first brought him home. I should have known we would nickname him the Juvenile Delinquent "The JD" when I picked him up and he was ripping their upholstered ottoman to shreds.

He was loving and beautiful, but such a bad boy. Some people cover their furniture with plastic; we wrapped ours. Floor mats, door mats, scatter rugs? Not so much. Plus, he had about 10 toes on each paw. Lots of nails.

He ended up being best friends with our 100 pound dog, so his new nickname was L.D. for Little Dog. They did everything together. If Duke went out, Tommy went out. If I was brushing Duke, Tommy would insert himself between us to get his brushing. If I vacuumed Duke, Tommy would practically knock me over to get vacuumed. (Yes, a cat who was not afraid of the vacuum. In fact, he was not afraid of anything. His one nickname was not Scaredy Cat.)

Nancy, we loved him despite his faults. And Lewis, so good of you to adopt another kitty. But no new cats for us. We have our dog and our old lady cat Rabbit. When they go, that's it. We're way too sad when they die.

I did do the puzzle today between making pickles and baking, and I enjoyed it! Sorry for the cat digression.

retired guy 3:06 PM  

Re: 106D Hive mind is definitely a thing.

https://www.beeculture.com/the-hive-mind/

Anonymous 3:29 PM  

What is a HIVE mind?

Georgia 3:40 PM  

I didn't know hive mind either but here it is:.
hive mind
noun
a notional entity consisting of a large number of people who share their knowledge or opinions with one another, regarded as producing either uncritical conformity or collective intelligence.
"he has become one of those celebrities whose online presence has made him a favorite of the Internet hive mind"
(in science fiction) a unified consciousness or intelligence formed by a number of alien individuals, the resulting consciousness typically exerting control over its constituent members.
"there is a Borg Queen who controls the hive mind"

Newport Carl 3:42 PM  

We west-coasters always have the last word. (Heh, he said word) so gotta say as a very long time lurker (because everything has already been said by the time I get the paper) that I really value this board and all the participants.
I had no clue what a 'gateau' is. I liked the headless chicken, I 'spose. Got caught in the tic-tac-toe trap and felt much better when Rex forgave.
Thanks for letting me hang with the 'popular kids'

OffTheGrid 3:48 PM  

The Borg on Star Trek were a hive mind. Separate beings but with one mind.

Hartley70 5:12 PM  

Oh man, I’m a big fan of The Borg and their HIVE mind. Best Sci-fi villain ever!

Meanwhile, I thought this puzzle was pretty darn fantastic for a Sunday slog-o-rama. It took me twice my normal time to complete and I never got bored. I’m crazy for birds and visual interest in puzzles so this was a win-win.

John Hoffman 5:16 PM  

I had to leave this puzzle. Too weird, convoluted. It's a challenge to just read Rex's description, try to see what's happening here. But it looks like it's an enjoyable puzzle for the majority here!

Sunnyvale Solver 5:25 PM  

The Natick that got me was 118A/111D. ELENA crossing NYAD. Two obscure-ish proper nouns. Actually I’m going to call a double-natick, because of 115A/111D in the square above. What university does V-and-Y represent?

Anonymous 5:33 PM  

Has anyone mentioned yet that Hillary Swank won her Oscar for Boys Don't Cry in 2000, not in 1999, when Gwyneth Paltrow was the winner for Shakespeare in Love? That's kind of an important error, wouldn't you say?

Anonymous 5:44 PM  

VANDY is supposedly a nickname for Vanderbilt University.


GILL I. 5:49 PM  

OK....Cat story because @Lewis started it and he's always dishing up trouble.
First cat:
Blonde (everybody loved her - still do) sister HAD to have a cat. We've always been dog people. Mother capitulates and she brings home a stray. Cat shits everywhere - bathroom tub, kitchen sink, even the damn fireplace. I'm cat hating.
Second cat:
Dad moves to Florida. They have a Siamese that won't ever go in a cat carrier, sit in a car or fly so Dad asks if he can leave him with me for a few weeks. I'm living in SFO in a no pet apartment. I say yes...reluctantly. I fall in love. "Siam" and I bond...he cries when I leave for work and he purrs when I come home. I have to ship him back to Florida and I cry for days. Siam arrives safely and proceeds to sratch the hell out of my step-mom's head. They have to find a new home for her.
Third cat.
Son BEGS for a kitty. We already have a Sheltie and a Lab pup. I say NO. Son cries for days. I capitulate. Not only one but TWO. He names them Snow and Marmalade. I fall in love again. My four 4 legged furry best friends gave me every reason on this earth to come home, cook dinner and drink a good Zin.
Sometimes you get lucky.....Sometimes your don't.....Animals keep you young....I promise.

Canis Nebula 6:21 PM  

PAiVO is actually a Finnish name, I knew a Paivo from Finland in grad school. So I definitely lost it there.

Joe Dipinto 6:21 PM  

@Roo Monster 8:29 -- I realize the themers take up eight locations in the grid, but since two of those are devoted to each bird, to me it's solving only four separate themers, not eight.

I will give credit for the construction though. It must have been hard to get this to work. There must be few commonplace phrases containing a type of bird that could be represented visually in a crossword grid. The constructor mentions a couple more that were under consideration at XWord Info.

SouthsideJohnny 6:29 PM  

@anon 5:44 - there is no supposedly, nobody calls it anything other than Vandy.

RooMonster 7:02 PM  

@Anon 5:33
We've had this discussion about Oscars many time on here, but if it drives home the point to everyone not to inquire about it ever again, I'm gonna 'splain it once more.
The Oscars for 1999 are given out in 2000. For all the movies of 1999 to he considered, the Oscar voters have to see all that years movies, even those that came out in December. Then they have to tally all their votes, and give out the awards in 2000.
So, the Oscar Awards that are given out in 2000 are for 1999 movies. So when Hilary Swank won her Oscar, it was for her 1999 movie, but given in 2000. But it's for the year 1999.

Got it? I tried to splay it out best I could.

RooMonster

Anonymous 7:08 PM  

once again, Oscar (and, so far as I recall, Emmy and Tony) is given in the year following. since the award is for work in year X, it can't reasonably be given in year X; no time. so 1999 work gets the Oscar in 2000.

Blue Stater 8:07 PM  

Pointlessly and brutally difficult. SCRY? Please.

KevCo 8:59 PM  

@Carl, "gateau" is the literal French translation for "cake."

Hilary Swank won the 1999 Best Actress. She got in 2000, but the award was for 1999 movies, so it's the 1999 Best Actress, and whoever gets the Oscar in March 2020 will have won the 2019 Best Actress award.

I overcame the PAAVO/TAC problem only because I remember from the recesses of my memory that PAAVO Nurmi has shown up in puzzles before, but I had the exact same thought progression as Rex about the problem with that crossing.

Thinking of starting a running tally of whether we get more BS contrivances of words starting with "mis-" or "a-." "MISCALL" an election? Who says that? Nobody says that.

Susan 10:45 PM  

Of course you kept her! She’s a cat, doing what cats do. Good for you and for going for it again. Each one is a new member of the family - for better or worse.

sixtyni yogini 10:59 PM  

What Rex said.
(😝🧩😝)
✌🏼

PatKS 7:02 AM  

For a bird puzzle Lark, Swan and Chicken seem pretty slimited pickings. This puzzle gave me a headache.Never heard of Organa, Robert Siegel, Run It,Scry, Hive mind, Neale Greasy,Mao Tai and even though I endured 12 years of Catholic school I didn't connect with Golgotha.

As for cats, aside from being super allergic to them, when I see one on TV or in person I get sick to my stomach. #DogsRule

Have a nice week Rex!

Eddie 10:22 AM  

Leadless Chicken worked for me - no lead “C” - as did like for “kind of mind” and Swandike....that Aswan dam ....

Anonymous 1:12 PM  

Oscars are named by the year they are presented, which is why the 2019 Oscars have already been given out--in February--while movies are still being made that will qualify for the 2020 Oscars.

Anonymous 2:26 PM  

Gwyneth Paltrow, winner of Best Actress, 1999. Look it up. And while you're at it, look up Boys Don't Cry Oscars—you will find on all the reliable sites that Swank and her co-star both won Oscars for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress, respectively, in 2005 (not 2004, as the clue incorrectly references—the puzzle maker blew both dates).

He was apparently consulting a mistaken source without cross-referencing his facts and put in two incorrect dates, making the clue a bad clue, not just bad in in the sense of being confusing or annoying, but bad in the sense of being completely wrong and, therefore, a clue to which there is no answer.Hillary Swank won Oscars in 2000 and 2005, not 1999 and 2004.

Dice 11:43 AM  

100% Good job, me.

lizpolaris 1:47 PM  

Hilary Swank was not the best actress in 1999 nor 2004. Some commenter here has said that the clue creator meant 2000 and 2005, the year after whatever movie was made and the year the award was given. If that's what is meant, then the clue should be best actress in 2000 and 2005. Stupid BS - not fun. If you're digging that far down to be 'devious' maybe it's too far of a stretch.

Anonymous 2:58 AM  

OK, thanks to Georgia for the explanation of hive mind, but if you gave me 50 guesses to come up with a kind of mind (type of mind?) 'hive' would not be one of them. Had to Google 'scry' after I wrote it in, because I didn't believe it was a word. Clever is OK. Totally obscure is not so much fun.

Burma Shave 12:52 PM  

SCENE EYESPOT

We're OFFONALARK with THE POPULARKIDS,
ANDSO in AMES,IOWA THEPLOTTHICKENS,
in a LOCAL park I SPOSE THEY hit THE SKIDS,
THEY'd go RUNIT with HEADLESSCHICKENS.

--- VANDY SIEGEL, AKA EMERIL GATEAU

rondo 1:11 PM  

No write-overs in this work of . . . ART. Unless you've got every award for every year memorized does it really matter when yeah baby HILARYSWANK did the work for it or when she took it home? There's some semantics in there somewhere.

ANDSO another Sun-puz passes. PSST . . . GERMS, PORN.

Diana, LIW 5:35 PM  

Did this whilst waiting for Mr. W to get ready for a walk. Not that I was fast...

I do and don't like these "refer to the other place" puzzles, but for the genre, this was a good one.

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for tomorrow's walk

rainforest 5:51 PM  

At first I found this tough, and verging toward "sloggy", but once I got to the italicized clues, the puzzle jumped up a notch in enjoyability. SPREADEAGLE was the first "revealer" I got and I started to really like the puzzle from then on.

I knew PAAVO, so that section was easy.
I didn't know HIVE mind, but that's what it had to be.
Took forever to get the SE (didn't we have ATE ALIVE with a different clue yesterday?)
What the heck is VANDY? Short for Vanderbilt maybe?

Anway, overall a good Sunday.

Anonymous 12:44 PM  

The worst Sunday puzzle ever, and I've been doing them a very long time. Boring, pointless, error-ridden. Just awful.

Unknown 10:22 AM  

Verdi din't write Tosca. Puccini did. For shame, copy editors.

Rick J 8:00 AM  

Somehow, the assertion (even from "the KING") that Will Shortz is a poor editor seems at best blasphemous, and at worst sour grapes. I thought the puzzle was pretty good, quite difficult (even though I knew it was either PAAVO or PAULO or some such). Until I started reading this blog after I "complete" a Sunday puzzle (which takes me days; I work on it almost exclusive on the porcelain throne) I thought I was a passing fair solver, but if someone solved this puzzle in ten minutes I truly TAKE A KNEE in worship rather than contempt.

And to be critical of a crossword puzzle for being "pointless"? Really? To assert that something as mundane as a crossword puzzle needs to have a point seems a little pompous.

Rick J 8:14 AM  

Also, can someone more well-versed than I tell me what the clues mean in this puzzle which print out in my copy as (I think--the font is really tiny on my printer) clue in here . Does this by chance mean it should be in italics? Since I only subscribe to the online version of my local paper, I wonder if it actually WAS in italics in the printed newspaper.

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