SUNDAY, Jun 7, 2009 — It opened in Manhattan in 1924 / Bygone Toyotas / Long-snouted swimmer / Frodo foe / Color Me * 1990s R&B group

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Constructor: Jeremy Newton

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: "SHIFTY BUSINESS" — a rebus puzzle where circled squares represent gear positions on a 5-speed transmission

Word of the Day: GAR (63A: Long-snouted swimmer) — n.

  1. Any of several ganoid fishes of the family Lepisosteidae of fresh and brackish waters of North and Central America, having long narrow jaws, an elongated body, and a long snout.
  2. A similar or related fish, such as the needlefish. Also called garfish, garpike.

[Short for GARFISH.]


tr.v. Scots., garred, gar·ring, gars.

To cause or compel.

[Middle English geren, from Old Norse gera, to make.]

I knew I'd come to regret giving up my stick-shift for an automatic — I just didn't know it would have crossword consequences. I didn't see the gear shift pattern until the very, very end. That is, I had every square filled but the two rebus squares that were *not* ordinal numbers (NEUTRAL, REVERSE). What's super weird about the central square, NEUTRAL, is that the Down answer makes sense without the square filled in (an ODORIZER is a thing ... OK, maybe it's DEODORIZER and ODOR EATER that I'm conflating, but it sounded like a thing) while the Across answer is the opposite of its clue ("TAKES A STANCE?? ... but you just said the guy didn't care one way or the other?!"). Only after flipping through synonyms for "FLIP" did I discover "REVERSE" and thus the whole big idea behind the puzzle. It really is an impressive construction, this theme. Perfect positioning on the gears. The grid also felt much more open than most Sunday grids, especially in the east and west, with their 2 stacks each of 5-, 6-, 7-, and 8-letter words. Filling this grid required some daring and, er, creativity, but the results were mostly impressive.

The only real objection I have to the theme answers involves "GO TO [THIRD] BASE," clued as 35A: Anticipate heading home. I see that the clue was trying to get you to think of "home" in a non-baseball fashion (tricksy), but the tone of both the clue and answer feels off. You can't "anticipate" heading home too much or your head's out of the game and you get picked off or make a bad running decision or something. Plus, if the batter sucks, you might, in fact, "anticipate" heading to the dugout in a few more pitches. If the answer had been clued more baseballishly, with reference to a triple or, I don't know, the result of some balks, I would have liked it better. "Oh, my, there's home plate, just 90 ft. away. I can't wait to arrive there, what with all the fanfare my arrival will likely cause. It will be joyous indeed." A sex clue might have been more accurate as well, though clearly not Sunday morning material. Baseball gripe aside, this puzzle was solid and enjoyable.

Theme answers:

  • 33A: Teacher's question at the start of show-and-tell ("Who's 1st?")
  • 5D: Witnessed (saw 1st hand)

  • 35A: Anticipate heading home (go to 3rd base)
  • 10D: Finish last on "Jeopardy!" (come 3rd) — now here, a sex clue really would have been objectionable (i.e. where's my "in"?)

  • 38A: Endings for Shakespeare (5th acts)
  • 15D: It opened in Manhattan in 1924 (Saks 5th Avenue)

  • 67A: Doesn't care either way (takes a NEUTRAL stance)
  • 48D: It freshens the air (odor NEUTRAL izer)

  • 98A: At once (this 2nd)
  • 67D: TV advertising staple (thirty 2nd spot)

  • 101A: Some summer feasts in the U.S. (July 4th BBQs)
  • 102D: Hardly commendable (4th rate) - wouldn't any ordinal 2nd or higher have worked here?

  • 103A: Where to sign a credit card (REVERSE side)
  • 84D: Trick the defensive line, maybe (run a REVERSE play)

Let's highlight some of the ballsier fill of the day, much of which I'm actually on the fence about liking/disliking (which means the answer is that the fill is probably good, but I'm going to highlight it anyway, for your consideration). First, there's a single UV RAY (66A: Thing absorbed by the ozone layer, for short). I don't believe I've ever seen one out all by its lonesome. In fact, I don't think I've ever heard or seen the singular at all. Can you measure a single ray (scientists!)? Actually, the first answer I hit that made me go "Wha?" as ON NOW (1D: Available for viewing). In fact, I might have exclaimed "Come ON, NOW! That's not a phrase!" "I can't talk. 'Golden Girls' is ON NOW." OK, maybe I can imagine having said that at some point in my life. Moving on ... a FACE MASK is something a football helmet has. Jason wore a HOCKEY MASK (55A: "Friday the 13th" prop). Famously. Yes, it was a MASK that covered his FACE and thus FACE MASK, technically, works, but purism (is that a word?) says we should honor the hockey specificity of one of the most iconic horror movie "props" of all time. LIL BATE would make a good rapper name, but BATE on its own (76A: Diminish) ... how is it different from ABATE, again? Lastly, SNORTY (61A: Audibly upset, as a bull). Dictionary I just consulted says "(British informal) ill-tempered or annoyed." Webster's 3rd Int'l just has "characterized by or given to snorting" — no "British," no "informal," no bull. Which raises the question: do bulls snort when they are not upset? That is, is snorting a particular act of annoyance, or do bulls just snort a lot? And what about British bulls? I'm telling you — can of worms.


  • 21A: Biological rings (areolae) - that would be 2nd base
  • 8D: Frodo foe (orc) - ENT good, ORC bad.
  • 22A: 1950 University of Havana grad (Castro) - really, who else was it going to be?
  • 47A: Prefix with ribonucleic (deoxy-) — as in "deoxyribonucleic acid," or DNA.
  • 54A: Color Me _____, 1990s R&B group (Badd) - I wrote my senior thesis on the fact that 1987-1991 was the nadir of American pop music. OK, I wrote that in my head, not in actuality, but I stand by the theory. I consider Color Me Badd to be a very, very good example of what is meant by the phrase "Rock Bottom."

  • 56A: Inning stretcher, maybe (rain delay) - more baseball, accurately clued
  • 123A: Texas/Louisiana border river (Sabine) - learned from crosswords
  • 126A: It's bound to be used in a service (hymnal) - good clue. I had HEARSE.
  • 3D: Boogie, Bee Gees-style (disco) - Is "boogie" a noun here? Or is "disco" a verb? Both words have strong late 70s cred.
  • 7D: Bygone Toyotas (Paseos) - this model got by me, somehow
  • 18D: Rock singer Reznor (Trent) - front man for NIN (Nine Inch Nails). Here's Johnny Cash covering the Nine Inch Nails song "Hurt":

  • 41D: Old El Paso competitor (Ortega) - salsa!
  • 50D: Baker v. _____, landmark 1962 Supreme Court case (Carr) - something about reapportionment. More here.
  • 64D: Roman who declared "Carthage must be destroyed" (Cato) - and it was.
  • 71D: Home of Rainbow Bridge National monument (Utah) - the world's largest known natural bridge, according to wikipedia. Rainbow Bridge is also what your pet crosses over when it dies. Or so the poem on my vet's wall tells me.
  • 105D: Title girl in a Ritchie Valens hit (Donna) - I know someone named Donna. In fact, I'm pet-sitting for her right now: "She has a dog / Baxter is his name"...
  • 120D: Creator of the chess champion Deep Blue (IBM) - wouldn't [Creator of Deep Blue] have worked here? Deep Blue is super famous as a chess-playing computer.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


JannieB 8:52 AM  

I think the placement of the rebus answers was fine but the phrases were very forced and didn't all seem to be "in the language" - especially "reverse side", "come third" and "fourth rate".

Average Sunday for me - but no real wow factor.

Jeffrey 8:55 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jeffrey 8:56 AM  

NEUTERS and NEUTRAL and pretty close. Not that I care, I just want to be the FIRST to mention it.


Hilarious! I crack myself up sometimes.

It has been 20 years since a drove a standard, but I still find my right hand moves toward the gear shift at times. Any one else do this?

Loved the puzzle.

Anonymous 8:57 AM  

Can someone explain "atoz" for "all inclusive?"

Anonymous 8:58 AM  

Nevermind, I got it...I'm not that bright.
Thanks all!

retired_chemist 9:01 AM  

@ anon 8:57 - A to Z

@ R P- A RAY (66A) is a beam of light. I see your problem with it but I think it is OK. Sorta.

This was tough for me. I wasted time because I had the rebus wrong - failed to look at the puzzle title until the end, and I was just fitting in ordinal numbers. Made ODOR(NEUTRAL)IZER and RUN A(REVERSE)PLAY hard to fill in, so I dithered for far too long before the light dawned. But I agree with RP: it was pretty.

Never head of BADD (54A) or SKYY (52D). Still find the clue for CRISCO (Oil bigwig?) undecipherable: I know Crisco but why bigwig? SNORTY (61A)? Huh? Is WEAPON a verb you can make a past tense for (9D)? POOR BOX yes, ALMS BOX (11D) ugh.

But DEOXY (47A), ERNESTO (93A), SABINE (123A), and SIESTA (124A) were gimmes, and quite a few others were also easy after 2 or 3 crosses, so I can’t complain too loudly.

Some bright spots, some slogging, and some unenthralling fill. All told, a decent Sunday but not one of my favorites.

Rex Parker 9:03 AM  

I think everyone, at some point in his/her solving career, has that "what the hell is ATOZ?" moment. I know I did, and I get email questions about that specific answer nearly every time it shows up. So you're in good (huge) company, anon 8:57.


HudsonHawk 9:06 AM  

I liked it, overall. I had the same solving experience as Rex, filling in the non-numerical rebuses last. Pretty sad, given that every car I've ever owned has had a 5-speed manual transmission.

I thought 27A might be a shout-out to our beloved NAME dropper Andrea, but was surprised that DUTCH treat (70A) made the grid given a recent discussion here. Sorry, mac.

@r_c, I thought the CRISCO clue was kinda cute, as it is a prominent name in (vegetable) oil.

Rex, I cracked up on the 2nd base reference regarding AREOLAE. Nice.

retired_chemist 9:11 AM  

@HH - OK, I sorta get it now. Thanks. But I don't have to like it. Never heard bigwig used except in reference to a person.

Oscar 9:18 AM  

Impressive construction, even if a bit forced. Open corners all around is fancy-schmancy. Oh, and technically a prop that's worn is a costume piece. FWIW.

joho 9:24 AM  

I, too, took way to long to get R & N. And when I finally did it was more of a DOH than an AHA for me.

I loved that you can "shift" correctly with the answers.

I loved the puzzle! It took me for a really nice Sunday drive.

Thanks Jeremy Newton!

Hobbyist 9:34 AM  

Two beefs. I always thought a face mask was used for swimming, not as a disguise. Since when has weaponed become a verb, I want to know?

PlantieBea 9:41 AM  

I liked this puzzle, and found it fairly easy. The theme was okay, but I'm not wild about the two different meanings of second in 67 down/96 across--just seems inconsistent with the other themed answers' use of the ordinal numbers.

We have garfish down here--they're pretty spectacular because they're so prehistoric looking, especially when you see schools of them in the clear springs.

Liked the J. Cash.

Anonymous 9:41 AM  

I've never driven a stick shift, so wasted a lot of time trying to fit in PARK and DRIVE. Also, SNORTY? What a nasty word.

Clark 9:58 AM  

I got the shift thing early on, but I still got stuck in the middle of the puzzle. For some reason I was trying to make N work instead of NEUTRAL. Then it dawned on me and everything fell into place.

I grew up in a small town in Northern MIchigan (well, a big town for Northern Michigan). Canada, 70 miles accross Lake Superior, was closer to us than the nearest traffic light. Serious hockey country. 'Face mask' was definitely in the language up there as a hockey mask. I remember my friend Al caught a slapshot right to the mouth of this face mask. He lost his front teeth, but he made the save.

Pinky 10:06 AM  

I Got the numerical thing - not the gearshifty thing.....even with the SHIFTY BUSINESS title (doh)

Had "B" side instead of "reverse" for credit card/football play and never did fill in "neutral" cause I went looking for "zero" or "nothing".

Noam D. Elkies 10:40 AM  

Neat concept, even if it led to some visible seams in the construction (noted already). A non-New Yorker might think that the circle at 38 would as likely be 4th rather than 5th, but the rest of the theme should resolve that ambiguity.

I have no problem with 76A:BATE; if it's identical with ABATE then perhaps we should ask why the longer word is needed. Actually they're not quite identical, if only because of the "bated breath" idiom, but that still leaves us without a reason to use "abate" outside crosswords...

Was worried for a while that the Hannover-to-Berlin direction would be ÖSÖ until I got to 60D:ÖST.

In the pre-Shortz days one sometimes saw not just 82A:ATOZ but also the tricky clue "first half of series" for ATOM.

The clues for 126A (with the pun on "bound") and 44D ("tired") felt like they were Trying Too Hard to be clever. I did like the clues for 54D:BAREXAM and 88D:AIRBUSES, the nods to 39D:ASIMOV and (in 120D) Deep Blue, and the misdirections in 64A ("oil"), 68D ("lush") and 70D ("quarters").


P.S. Of course Rex hasn't seen a single 66A:UV RAY -- they're ultraviolet, ergo invisible ;-)

Anonymous 10:44 AM  

I agree with the others who think "weaponed" is forced, although the Free Online dictionary does say it is a transitive verb as well as a noun. My husband spent over 30 years dealing with disarmament issues and he said he had never heard it used this way (of course, he was more interested in "unweaponing"...)

Cheers, Sally

George NYC 10:57 AM  

Great puzzle.
I once owned an MG that had a 4-speed stick plus a switch on the dashboard for "overdrive." Only the British would come up with such a thing.

ArtLvr 11:09 AM  

I'm impressed with today's puzzle as a whole, but agree that the Bigwig in CRISCO's clue is wrong since it refers only to a person. SKYY was new to me, but I left it in because of SNORTY -- very funny.

Also, I thought SHIATSU was something else, like a mushroom perhaps, so I learned a new word! Now I'd really like a massage!


Unknown 11:17 AM  

I agree that neither Come third or Go to Third are idiomatic and, in fact, I kept resisting actually filling those in since they seemed so off.

Ruth 11:56 AM  

As a clue for 35A, how about "Consider heading home"? Because one often would. . .

bill from fl 12:01 PM  

I think when someone GAPES AT something, he does it open-mouthed, not necessarily wide-eyed.

treedweller 12:17 PM  

I dunno, Rex. I thought "Go to Third" was a sex clue. But, even I never considered that connotation for COMETHIRD. Now, that would be a "Jeopardy" to watch. Wait, now that I think about the average contestant, maybe not. Perhaps during "College Week." Anyway, I agree there's an "in" missing.

As I filled in the SW, I got to _NORT_ and thought, "Oh, no, you di'nt just use SNORTY." I am glad to see it called out here. In fact, I'm feeling quite perturby about it.

I never quite grokked the shift pattern. Early on, I noticed the numbers were "out of order," and decided with some disappointment that they must be random. The pattern used is much better, of course. I'm going to blame it on the fact that I drive a six-speed, so reverse is up-and-right.

In the end, I found it to be an impressive construction and a fun solve. First Sunday in awhile that didn't have me glazing over halfway through wondering why I was even bothering.

treedweller 12:18 PM  

OOPS, misplaced my html. It was supposed to be was a sex clue.

Anonymous 12:20 PM  

The mistake of doordie (pronounced door dee) but is actually do or die. That is what happened to atoz you had a doordie.CPM

Richie 12:37 PM  

The puzzle appears to have been plotted out with rebus squares, and then force-filled with boring stuff--FOURTH RATE and COME THIRD, WEAPONED, SNORTY .

I figured out the theme, but the grid lacks sparkle or wordplay to tie it together.

John 12:39 PM  

Had ETAL for all inclusive. Slowly got it corrected one letter at a time. AGONY!

Which came first the Chicken or the Egg? Only the Ref knows for sure!

alanrichard 12:47 PM  

I never drove a manual transmission. So,... I figured out the theme easily and quickly but I kept looking for DRIVE to be somewhere in the circles!!! DUH!!!

Stan 1:04 PM  

Starting at the bottom, I stumbled on the rebus at 4th, then downshifted through the rest (yes, I know my joke doesn't quite work because of 5th but whatever...)

Out of pure masochism, I watched all of the Color Me Badd video. Your thesis is very defensible, Rex.

PIX 1:08 PM  

Clever idea, well executed...not perfect but made for a very enjoyable time while solving it at the thanks to Jeremy Newton.

@ 47A: if anyone cares: To make RNA you need the sugar Ribose…if you remove one oxygen from the ribose (i.e. deoxygenate or “deoxy”) it, you have Deoxyribose and you are on your way to making DNA (other changes also required).

Anonymous 1:10 PM  

The ATOZ discussion reminds me of my confusion in a recent puzzle about why travelers would care about the best Band B.

KarmaSartre 1:14 PM  

Will Shortz discusses the theme/circles at the Wordplay blog today.

@Crosscan - I forgot we called them "standard" transmissions. They have been non-standard for so long now...

jeff in chicago 1:17 PM  

Before I figured out the theme (I should really look at the title once in a while) I had GET A [SECOND] WIND for 35A. It's a runner thing, I rationalized. Once I got around to looking at down clues the Jeopardy reference set me straight.

I almost got to the 2-minute mark of the BADD video. And BADD is the proper word. Those clothes. That "dancing." That sculpted facial hair. EEK! I love that the singer goes into the audience and most of the people there act like they couldn't care less.

I found the puzzle to completely acceptable, while nothing to write home about. I have a friend who says "OK then" constantly. He will be happy to know he was referenced in the NYT today.

mac 1:21 PM  

I have never owned an automatic car, but I didn't get the theme until I put in neutral... I got the number part of the theme very early on, of course because of Saks 5th Avenue, which I got off the first 2 letters. My favorite store in NY, I could work at their information desk.

I for one was happy with the chess clue, it made it much easier to get IBM. That particular little SE corner was the last area to be filled in. Lots of delays, maul for mash, chapel for hymnal, ...pass for, but remembering Donna fixed it. I hadn't heard of the Sabine either, thought that was something mythical. Ok, ok, I'll look it up.

Nice video of Johnny Cash; I had never seen him look so old and grey.

All in all a good Sunday puzzle.

wld 1:30 PM  

Rex will appreciate that when "...nd...." appeared in the middle of "inning stretcher", I started to write in "moundtrip" but held off and soon the skies cleared and the game continued.

Brendan Emmett Quigley 1:31 PM  

This one is a tour-de-force construction. Quibbles on some of the forced-nature of some theme entries aside, this one had SO MANY GREAT things about it, I really wished I had made this one. What a great puzzle. Double plus approved.

FACE MASK is a penalty in football. Maybe that might have been a better clue.

And yeah, the music of the late 80s and early 90s were ghastly.

Leon 1:33 PM  

Great puzzle Mr. Newton.

I enjoyed the Cato quote. After a while, Cato was ending his all his senatorial speeches, no matter what the subject, with: Ceterum censeo Carthaginem esse delendam.

Boy, did Carthage get destroyed.

However, I just learned, the salting of the fields of Carthage has been called into question.

Mike 1:44 PM  

This puzzle left me cold, although the construction was very cool. Some of the cluing really irked/threw me though. My two biggest problems were with COME THIRD and INDIE. GO TO THIRD BASE is fine if not a little awkward, but COME THIRD without an in?! Huh?

And I posted this rant over at Orange's blog, but I feel compelled to post it here too, just to see if anyone here can illuminate me...

INDIE feels wrong to me the way it's clued; you don't enter an INDIE, you enter an INDIE "film". Maybe I've never heard it because I'm not in the biz or something, but I have a number of filmmaker friends on both coasts and have gone to their screenings and hobnobbed with filmmakers and producers and actors afterward, and have never heard the word "Indie" used without the word "film" following it. You don't tend to hear the phrase "Let's go see an indie tonight." At least I don't; maybe some people have. As a side note, when you google "Indie" on its own, you get lots of hits for indie rock, which IS often just called "indie," but practically none that I can see that are describing films as indies. OK, rant over.

Favorite clue by far: They get tired for CARS.

Susan 2:00 PM  

ARGH. I don't understand why the NYTimes site says my puzzle is incorrect. It looks just like Rex's! Aren't you supposed to be able to put just the first letter of the smushed-in thing? I am clearly doing something wrong and am extremely frustrated.

In other news, "Come in third" (which I friend of mine actually recently did on Jeopardy!) is more common but "come third" sounds fine to me. Maybe it's an anglicism or a regionalism of some kind, but it works for me. (My friend, on the other hand, was not so pleased to "come third.")

Lili 2:12 PM  

I found this rather boring. I got the theme on "Saks Fifth Avenue," and I enjoyed easy sailing from there, asking for one assist from my husband in order to make sure there was such a thing as a "reverse play." I don't know much about stick shifts, but I know even less about football.

"Weaponed" didn't please me at all -- very awkward. Mike, I see the term "indie" for "independent film" all the time. One doesn't talked about going to an indie, true, but articles about actresses and actors often say something along the lines of "She has made her reputation in indies rather than mainstream films." Any article about the Sundance Festival is going to mention indies.

treedweller 2:13 PM  

OK, there was a lot of bad music in the late 80's/early 90's. But I must speak up for a few:
De La Soul
Los Lobos
Paul Simon (Rhythm of the Saints was 1990)
Sonic Youth
Urban Dance Squad
Red Hot Chili Peppers (they were good before they were bad)
Public Enemy
Beastie Boys
Camper Van Beethoven
Dead Milkmen (and I won't go down the rabbit hole of ever-more-obscure "alternative" bands)

A highly subjective list, of course, but that's just off the top of my head. And to avoid endless debate about which ones don't deserve to be there, I'll just say three and out.

Glitch 2:40 PM  


You beat me to it, I have a different, very subjective list of "good music" from the era in question, (which I won't go into).

At least RP calls it a "nadir in American pop", presents as opinion, and gives a good example.

Blanket statments that include "everyone" and "nobody", or omit "IMO" bother me.

Off to drive a few practice nails, gotta work on my swing.


jae 2:58 PM  

Easy breezy Sun. for me. Liked the puzzle and caught the theme early. Agree with the critics of WEAPONED and no "in" after COME, but other than that a fine puzzle with one exception. LSTs were not used "for getting troops ashore." The T stands for Tank. These were fairly large ships that carried tanks and trucks. If you consider the tank and truck crews as troops I suppose the clue is technically correct but LSTs were not the boats seen in movies like Saving Private Ryan or The Longest Day off loading combat troops on the beach. Those boats were LCVPs (Landing Craft Vehicle/Personnel) or Higgins boats. I kinda have a personal interest in this as my good friend Jim was a signalman (read prime target) on an LST on D-Day and my beloved uncle drove a Higgins boat onto Omaha beach on the same day. Both those guys do NYT crosswords and it would be nice if the Times could get it right for them.

retired_chemist 3:05 PM  

Well said, jae!

Rex Parker 3:07 PM  

@treedweller & glitch,

No question, there was good music produced during that time. My main point had to do with pop music of the pop chart variety. Hits. I did actual research on this once (when very bored), and as part of my case, I'd like to submit virtually the entire careers of:

Michael Bolton
New Kids on the Block
Wilson Phillips
Milli Vanilli
Paula Abdul
Rick Astley

Those acts all had anywhere between 5 and 9 Top 40 singles in the 1987-91 span. Then there's other assorted soul-crushing stuff like:

Cheap Trick's worst single, "The Flame"

The Bangles' "Eternal Flame"

The Beach Boys' "Kokomo" (oh god, just writing it out hurts me)

Phil Collins' sappiest and (paradoxically) most popular period

... and on and on. Now, I like me some Debbie Gibson and Madonna and Def Leppard as much as the next pop music sucker, but the years in question, *on average*, were largely an unmitigated disaster.

Rap music and what used to be called "college" or "alternative radio" were exceptions. Some very good stuff there. I'll single out for approbation Public Enemy, The Smiths, Cowboy Junkies, Crowded House, Pixies, and Beastie Boys.

I thank Color Me BADD for helping me justify to myself the above treatise.


Mike 3:11 PM  


Thanks for the response.

The thing that irked me about the usage of "Indie" in this puzzle is that it was used as a noun when it's really an adjective, unless this is some new slang thing where you can describe a particular film as an "indie." Sure, you see the genre and/or films within it described as "indies" all the time, but I've never seen it used without the clarifying word "film" attached to it when describing a singular film; this puzzle clues it as a specific entry into Sundance, not as the genre in general.

Luvh 3:13 PM  

I really thought "place for matches at home" referred to the ability of matches to be ODOR NEUTRALIZERS (or perhaps just odorizers), so I had BATHROOM for a little while.

Waited until after breakfast to post this.

retired_chemist 3:28 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Clark 3:28 PM  

In defense of GO TO THIRD BASE clued as 'anticipate heading home': Why else would one go to third base if not in anticipation of heading home? You're not going to go to third base and plan to go from there directly to, say, a movie. And I've never seen anyone go to third base and then just walk off saying that's enough for me . . .

(@NDE -- Ost (east) has no umlaut; östlich (eastern, easterly) has an umlaut. Just thought you might want to know.)

retired_chemist 3:35 PM  

re indie as a noun: even my pathetic Mac OS 10 Dashboard dictionary widget, frequently silent but never wrong in my experience, says it's both adjective and noun, the latter mentioning an independent film company in its definition. It didn't say independent film though.

I'd like to hear from others whether the clue mandates a noun answer anyway, or if it could be stretched to include an adjective. Analogy: could "Tree, often" clue GREEN acceptably?

fikink 3:40 PM  

Clark, it must all be in the definition of anticipate, which too often is confused with "intend."

Puffin 3:40 PM  

@Jeff in Chicago

Did your friend pick up "OK then", from "Raising Arizona"?

joho 3:56 PM  

I just now watched the clips and can only say that Badd is awful.

Now "Hurt" is a whole other story, it's bad.

June Carter and Johnny Cash were the real deal.

Larry I in LA 3:57 PM  

Never "officially" finished because for some reason the applet wouldn't let me use numbers, even though Rex obviously could and the FAQ says they're allowed..."FIRS" and "SECO", etc., didn't pass muster. That's OK because I went to bed with the puzzle half-finished and my solving time would have been >10 HOURS!

For the lower-right rebus, before I figured out the manual transmission gimmick (lifelong stick driver--should have gotten it sooner) and before I sussed out "NEUTRAL", I wanted to use "COUNTER". A little forced, but it is an actual football term (less mis-direction than a reverse, however); could be a synonym for "other" side of a credit card, or even an awkward reference to *where* the signer is when signing it (although that is more correctly a credit slip, etc.); and the "count" reference seemed sensible to me after filling in "FIRST" through "FIFTH". Oh, well...

DJG 4:08 PM  

Very clever idea and the symmetry is terrific. Great puzzle potential, but the aforementioned forced entries drop it to a little below-average, in my book. More than half the theme entries are either contrived or arbitrary phrases.

RUNAREVERSEPLAY is especially painfully for me. I watch about 400 hours of football every fall and can say with confidence the phrase is "run a reverse".

Larry I in LA 4:10 PM  


We live near Hollywood and use this word fairly often, although it's usually an adjective.

ME: Let's go to the movies.

MY WIFE: Sure, but none of your INDIE crap. I want to see Jason Statham rip off his shirt.

bill from fl 4:11 PM  

There was music in the 1980s-early 90s that utterly repudiated the pop garbage that Rex lists: Black Flag, Bad Brains, Misfits, Minor Threat, Operation Ivy, Replacements. Just for the record.

Glitch 4:12 PM  


Actually I was agreeing with your presentation, (limited to pop, stated as personal, giving an example).

The "Blanket statement" comment was referring to others who-are-not-to-be-named lest I be accused of sniping rather than commenting.

I respect YOUR opinion [on this topic] altho I may not agree with all of it ;-)


Shamik 4:15 PM  

Bravo to Treedweller and Rex on the lists of take-me-back-to-the-80's the good, the bad and the ugly. And WOW on the Johny Cash video. Not a big Johnny Cash fan, but that was great.

Oh yeah, the puzzle....easy-medium at 20:17 which surprised me because it felt more challenging than that. Got the rebus almost immediately. Great construction...except for WEAPONED and COMETHIRD. That's just souding "off."

edith b 5:22 PM  

I got the rebus at SAKS(5th)AVENUE and was moving westward when I ground to a halt at GOTO(3rd)BASE/COME(3RD) next to WEAPONED. I thought the 3 of them were awful particularly GOTO . . . where I couldnt figure out what was wanted there.

I thought the construction was shoddy at the various places others have mentione and although I found the rebus itself delightful, the fill left something to be desired and overall the puzzle IMO was unsatisfying.

Rex Parker 5:44 PM  


Nothing about my above music-related comment was intended as contentious. I was just elaborating.

"[on this topic]" made me LOL.


michael 6:15 PM  

I have only owned cars with manual transmission. A good thing, too, or else I would have found this puzzle even harder than I did. I got, but it took a while. A lot of answers seemed a bit off, as others have observed. I felt like I was doing a puzzle written by someone whose English was a different from mine -- maybe British. "come third" "weaponed," "snorty", etc.

Ulrich 6:17 PM  

I drove standard-shift cars for more than half my life, and it was a real embarrassment for me how long it took me to get the theme--like mac, it was at the neutral square, smack in the center, when the coin finally dropped and I was able to fill in the final word and get the theme.

I was going to complain that Ost (no umlaut, as was already noted) is a prefix, not a stand-alone word indicating a direction, but my dictionary told me better. Nevertheless, I have never heard it used in that way--the common word for the direction, stand-alone, is Osten. And yes, the umlaut occurs in the adjective, östlich (easterly)--I'm just saying since others have brought it up.

Matt 6:45 PM  

This puzzle must have been on the easy side, because I made it through with some confidence in my answers. One near miss at the end: with no German training, I put in the French "est" instead of "ost." I hadn't heard of "typee" but "omeo" looked awful. Then I remebered that old crossword standby "omoo," which I like to imagine is about bovines lost at sea.

Patch 7:26 PM  

LOL @ atoz comments. I thought this puzzle was smooth and filling. I didn't get the gear shift theme until the very end, either. And knowing nothing about football, I assumed a "sixth play" was a plausible football strategy. And you can sign the sixth side of a, ah, huge multisided box if you want to pay with your...oh never mind!!!

retired_chemist 7:28 PM  

@ Ulrich - is Osten as a direction a shortened "zum Osten?" My college German left me with Ost as the noun. Und auch interessant vielleicht - Österreich. Ein Nomen....

@ Matt - "bovines lost at sea" - LOL!

Noam D. Elkies 7:32 PM  

@Clark (and Ulrich), re 60D:OST (no umlaut) — Danke schön for the correction. Would one in fact use SO or OSO as an abbreviated direction analogous to our SE, ESE, etc.?


Campesite 7:40 PM  

Dammit Rex, I was just getting the stink of that Color Me Badd out of my ears and you go and bring up Kokomo! I'm going to dunk my head in hydrogen peroxide.

Ulrich 8:05 PM  

@R_C: No, Osten simply means "east", as in der Ferne Osten (the Far East). "toward the east" would be nach Osten in German. And yes, Österreich (Austria) means "Eastern Empire" or "Realm".

@NDE: I think so, yes.

edith b 9:20 PM  

I think what bothered me the most wasn't so much the "shoddy" construction as I originally indicated but perhaps the ESL nature or perhaps British feeling I got from this puzzle.

Anyway the translated feeling I got from it disoriented me. Sorry for the shoddy comment, Mr. Newton.

Anonymous 9:37 PM  

The only time the phrase "COME THIRD" is valid is when you're at Plato's Retreat, or its ilk.

WEAPONED - Sorry, no, absolutley no, contstructing artifact obviates this monstrosity.

Thumbs down.

Anonymous 9:47 PM  

I'm surprised no one has noticed the BIG FAT MISTAKE in today's puzzle -- 51 Down. "Esta" means "is" in Spanish. But my wife (native Spanish speaker) confirms it does not mean "are." "Estan" and "estas" = "are."

JannieB 9:56 PM  

Como esta usted = how ARE you, does it not?

Stan 10:36 PM  

Nice job on the pop-music exchange today -- all of you.

Rex's throwaway comment on good bands doing bad stuff in that era was painful but admittedly rang true. Happily, when I pulled out my copy of "Cheap Trick at Budokan" I found that "The Flame" wasn't on it.

Blackhawk 2:39 AM  

Good puzzle, nicely challenging in places, good not to have all the theme answers be some sort of pun, clever construction -- altogether, just right for a Sunday.

Matt 3:45 AM  

@anonymous. well, when addressing one's wife, I'm sure you would use the familiar tú form estás. In a more formal setting, está is used to mean "you are" in the usted form. In Spain only, they also use the vosotros form to address multiple familiar folks - estáis = you are. Now that would be some obscure fill.

Joe in Montreal 6:36 AM  

those of us who get the daily in syndication notice that OMOO was in Saturday's puzzle with a different clue. I have to admit I took "SHIFTY" to indicate the way the ending of the numbers was SHIFTED up, so I got everything but NEUTRAL and REVERSE by concept, and those two by fill.

william e emba 11:32 AM  

I had everything filled in, except the central "neutral" was blank and I had 2nd SIDE crossed with RUN A 2nd PLAY. The second occurence of 2nd bothered me, as did the blank, as did the title "SHIFTY", as did the fact that "TAKE A _ STANCE" was backwards. It took a while, but then it dawned on me all at once what the gag was.

Off-topic, but I wish to point out that for three weeks in a row now, the other NYT Sunday puzzle (an acrostic, a diagramless, and another acrostic) have been blatantly scientific in their themes. Not that I am objecting, but I am surprised.

Amelie 12:02 PM  

Whenever "ATOZ" comes up in a puzzle, I am reminded of the old "Star Trek" episode in which there was a librarian named "Mr. Atoz" ;-)

Old Al 1:14 PM  

Oh, no! Your pet doesn't cross over the Rainbow Bridge when it dies. It just goes to the Rainbow Bridge and waits there until you, too, shuffle off this mortal coil and then, together, you cross the Rainbow Bridge.

For any pet owners who are not familiar with this, see if you can read about it without getting a little misty eyed.

bill komissaroff 10:55 PM  

I liked this one. The first themed clue to fall for me was Thirty2ndspot (Or :30sec as I would write it after spending my life working in radio.)

I would propose swapping the word maybe in the two baseball clues. I would add it to 35a Anticipate heading home, (maybe) and I would remove it from 56a Inning stretcher.

A rain delay has to stretch an inning. No need for maybe.

A baserunner might anticipate heading home depending on the play and where the ball is, and would alter his approach to third accordingly by taking a circle route as oppossed to the direct path he would take if he was not anticipating going home. Hence maybe.

Thanks Rex...incredible blog!

Anonymous 9:32 PM  

Not sure a rain delay has to stretch an inning. What if it takes place between innings, for example, after the bottom of the second ends, but before the top of the third starts? In that case, it would be stretching the game, but not any one inning in particular. You can also have a rain delay before the game begins. So I'm okay with the use of "maybe" in that clue. (I did this puzzle WAY late, I know, and nobody will ever see this! Haha.)


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