Malay for human / THU 11-21-13 / Trypanosome carrier / People for whom tena joe means hello / Her birthday is Oct 4 2011 / O'Brien's team / President whose initials stink /

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Constructor: Jules P. Markey

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: DOWN COMFORTERS (15D: Some bedcovers … or, literally, what the four unclued answers are) — four DOWN theme answers are all phrases that might comfort someone, i.e. COMFORTERS. All theme answers are clued "[ ]":

Theme answers:
Word of the Day: BAIN Capital (47D: ___ Capital) —
Bain Capital is an American alternative asset management and financial services company based in Boston, Massachusetts. It specializes in private equityventure capitalcredit and public market investments. Bain invests across a broad range of industry sectors and geographic regions. As of early 2012, the firm managed approximately $66 billion of investor capital across its various investment platforms.
The firm was founded in 1984 by partners from the consulting firm Bain & Company. Since inception it has invested in or acquired hundreds of companies including AMC TheatresAspen Education GroupBrookstoneBurger KingBurlington Coat FactoryClear Channel CommunicationsDomino's PizzaDoubleClickDunkin' DonutsD&M HoldingsGuitar CenterHospital Corporation of America (HCA)SealySports AuthorityStaplesToys "R" UsWarner Music Group andThe Weather Channel.
As of the end of 2011, Bain Capital had approximately 400 professionals, most with previous experience in consulting, operations or finance. Bain is headquartered at the John Hancock Tower in Boston, Massachusetts with additional offices in New York CityChicagoPalo AltoLondonLuxembourgMunichHong KongShanghaiMumbai, and Tokyo.
The company, and its actions during its first 15 years, became the subject of political and media scrutiny as a result of co-founder Mitt Romney's later political career, especially his 2012 presidential campaign. (wikipedia)
• • •

Thought this one was pretty cute, but man was it clued hard (by which I mean, more specifically, vaguely). [___ Capital]? Yikes. [Fleet vehicle] = ship, limo, TAXI. I still don't know how TEES are [Athletic supporters?] unless you wear a TEE shirt with your team logo on it … ? [Oh, wait, TEES prop up balls for striking … OK, I guess that works] The clue on OBAMA stinks (53D: President whose initials "stink"), as no one thinks of presidential "initials" as consisting of only two letters. JFK, LBJ, DDE, HST, ETC. It's BHO, not "B.O." Booo to that. Also, I was unaware of the existence of the term NON-WAGES (27A: 401(k) employer matching contributions, e.g.). That answer alone cost me tons of time. GIVES for CAVES, ELM for OAK, ARM for ARC (4A: Go ballistic? — because balls ARC through the air? Booo to that, too). Cluing was either vague—[Card]? [Acid]? [In]? [On]?—and bland or a bit off. But the fill is OK, and the revealer is adorable. Only problem with the theme (that I can see) is that "THIS WILL PASS" feels off to me. When I search it (in quotation marks), I get a bajillion hits, but the entire first page of hits all refer to a recent quote from Richie Incognito, for some reason. I'm not kidding. Every Single Hit on that first page of results. Weird. It's probably a fine phrase, but "This too shall pass" is the phrase I keep hearing in my head.

Most disappointed in my utter failure to recall John FOWLES (22A: John who wrote "The French Lieutenant's Woman"). I've read "The French Lieutenant's Woman" and can name several FOWLES novels but as I was solving I just couldn't retrieve it, despite having the initial letters. I was like "FOLLET? FOWLER?" Ugh. I've seen that ORANG clue before (10D: Malay for "human"), but didn't remember it today. Pretty vicious. SAMOS also seems vicious (56D: Aegean island). I had -AMOS and no idea what to do with the first letter, as I had no idea what "Trypanosome" was and so TSE-TSE wasn't coming (55A: Trypanosome carrier). All in all, a solid theme with decent fill and less-than-delightful cluing.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Keenan Mahoney 12:07 AM  

The TEE in question is a golf tee, I believe.

And ORANG crossing NONWAGES? I was stuck there for a looong time. I like the theme answers a lot, though.

August West 12:07 AM  

Helped greatly knowing OMNIA out of the chute, overriding the knee-jerk inclination to drop "pig" into 1A. CON, HMO and ANT begat CHARM/RITE/MAORIS and NOTTO. WIT begat NOTTOWORRY, although I then had no idea how it related to [ ]. That sent me looking for the theme revealer and, on finding it at 15D, I set about chopping it down, er, across, with its largely very easy crosses. And then it was over.

Lots of good stuff in there, but my favorite was the clue and aha answer to 4A. Three little letters doesn't always suck. Loved the clue for OBAMA, for a change not NYT fawning.

Biggest holdup was at 31D/41A, as I'd never heard of nor do I care what Muslims call their mystics, and the clue for FIRSTS seemed, and still does seem off to me. I get how one's personal record may certainly not be the first time such an end has been achieved, ever, but my mind couldn't let go of the biased, if incorrect proposition that all records are FIRSTS, aren't they?

Best NYTX in a few weeks, Nice job.

@Rex: Think golf tees. Agreed, it ain't great.

jae 12:16 AM  

Medium for me, mostly because I never read the 15d clue until after I'd finished.   I just assumed it was another pair of () and skipped it.  I thought the down phrases were just trying to make me feel better for being PO'd about the lack of a theme. So, this was probably easy.   Other minor problems: I read 7d as a verb and put in ASSErT,  I had WORdY for WORRY for a while (hey, the clue was definitely not wordy),  and COPY-read for EDIT.

WOE: LOEB.  Fortunately I knew FOWLES.

I don't think all 3s should be automatically classified as crosswordese.  In this puzzle most of the 3s were forced abbrs. or unfamiliar letter sequences except for maybe ABO.  And, you need stuff like EMU, NÉE, ANT, OAK, ARC, SEE, make these things work.  So, cute theme OK grid, liked it.

Acetic Caves Melees 12:22 AM  

OWS! Shoula realized there was no Team mOCO!
I don't get ARc, either.

Funny, couldn't get past THIS TOO SHALL PASS as what I hear in my head, along with all the other voices!

This reminded me of a puzzle Patrick Blindauer and I made, our first, with things you say to the runner-up
I liked that this had a reveal, which is what made it not a Tuesday...and that things ran down.

Needless to say ITGETSBETTER (I'm guessing the seed entry?) is nice and fresh and meaningful.

Despite knowing OMNIA, i still fell for hOg.
Oh wait, I started with OMNIs so tried eskimo for MAORI. IDYLS saved me.

I never think of OBAMA as BHO, but by the same token, I thought the clue was immature and a little disrespectful, of all the ways to clue OBAMA. UGH
(Ulysses Grant Hussein)

I also had CedES for too long, till I CAVEd, literally!

Brian B 12:25 AM  

Not only golf TEES but also kicking TEES in American football.

Acme 12:27 AM  

Ps John FOWLES used to be my favorite writer, I have almost everything he's written and I still struggled to think of his name.
Only remembered because I never know if I should pronounce it FOULS or FOALS.

And LOEB super hard... Came only because there is a theatre at Harvard called The LOEB, so whoever they are, they're rich and loved endowing Harvard. Maybe it was one of the presidents?

wreck 12:34 AM  

Overall -- I liked it. The 15D revealer clue was very clever. Took me a little longer, but solved without any google help.

ESP 1:41 AM  

Liked this but for that NE corner. ESSES, SISALS, NON-WAGES, and the THIS that should be IT.

NON-WAGES struck me as doubly bad because of its clue, which by itself seems to suggest something the constructor was forced into.

Also, AT HOME clued "in"? When I think of "in" and "out" in relation to a location, I think of the workplace, not home ("the doctor is in"). But I see it has been clued this way many times in the past, so maybe I'm wrong.

Steve J 1:57 AM  
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Steve J 2:04 AM  

The stuff I liked, I really liked (DOWN COMFORTER - even misspelled initially as COMFORToR - is a great theme revealer; plus NOT TO WORRY, OLD HAT, clues for CON and ARC).

The stuff I disliked, I really, really disliked (NON-WAGES, THIS (too) (shall) PASS), the crosswordese multicar pileup in the SE, LOD, some of the insanely obscure cluing).

NE was brutal for me, driven in large part by the bad NON-WAGES (there's non-wage compensation, although even that's relatively uncommon; the plural is borderline ridiculous) and yet another BS phonetic clue for ESSES (I'm exaggerating slightly for effect - hi Loren! - although I still think phonetic clues are lame). Nothing in that corner was apparent to me other than NÉE. I can never remember SISALS, and AT HOME would never have occurred to me in a million years for "In". In fact, it didn't. DNF for me in that corner.

Nice theme (even with 8D being off), but very uneven puzzle overall.

ESP 2:07 AM  

I guess "in" works for AT HOME in the context of "staying in," but "no one's in" meaning "no one's at home" feels unnatural to me.

chefwen 2:28 AM  

Thought this one was very cute. Got DOWN COMFORTERS right away, but like Steve J. spelled it incorrectly with ORS. Don't get much use of ours, considering the climate here, but when you need one, you REALLY need one. It can get very cold with the dampness n'all. The downs set up more of a roadblock. 1A pig/sow/cow ??? Finally got CON which opened up NOT TO WORRY, I was off to the races after all that foofarall.

Questinia 2:58 AM  

Like @ jae skipped 15D for same reason thereby making this puzzle twice as long to get through and consequently curing me of my speed solving kick.

[under my down comforter]

John Child 4:54 AM  

This took me a bit longer than a typical Thursday bet felt easy somehow. I filled the grid in stops and starts, six or eight or ten answers quickly and then a drought while I looked for the next opening. Filled in DOWNCOMFORTER without any crosses and was surprised that it held up. Yes, the clues were vague/hard, but if they hadn't been then we would all be dissing the puzzle as too easy. The theme answers were all abvious with a handful of crosses, so those crosses had to be tough to make this a Thursday puzzle.
I really liked this. Thanks Mr Markey.

Danp 5:36 AM  

They could have clued OBAMA as President whose dog's name stinks. But at least they didn't pander to August West by cluing it ____Nation.

George Barany 6:11 AM  

Despite some hiccups, this one went down (sic) quite comfort(er)ably. Thanks, Jules Markey! As a chemist, I was pleased to see the molecular formula for ACETIC acid in the clue for 15-Across, but was then taken aback a bit to see the word "acid" used to clue LSD (aka lysergic acid). MS (manuscript) recipients to clue EDS (editors) is crossword clue writing 101, but then the puzzle provides a more detailed description of what an editor does, i.e. COPY-EDIT (52-across). All of which is a roundabout way to give a shout-out to Will Shortz on the exact 20th anniversary of his tenure at the helm of the NYT crossword puzzle. As this list shows, the very first puzzle that he edited was on November 21, 1993. Congratulations, Will!

Glimmerglass 7:11 AM  

Medium for me. About a normal amount of time and effort for this part of the week. The path of a ballistic missile (or any missile once launched) is an arc. "Go" is a distractor. For some reason, much of this was in my wheelhouse, especially the old awkward platitudes.

RavTom 7:20 AM  

@ ACETIC: ARC is the shape of something that is going ballistic.

RavTom 7:23 AM  

@ ESP: Think of the 19th/early 20th century meaning of "at home" as holding visiting hours for callers; in other words, IN.

MetaRex 7:26 AM  

There's a lot that's very nice today...I especially like the DOWN reveal and the big 16 x 15 grid. At the same time, it really would be nice to have a better NE corner...the theme answer is not so strong, ESSES is weak, and NON-WAGES is really pretty bad. Maybe @Evan can show us a better corner...or maybe ya really need a cheater square. OTOH, we know from xwordinfo that there was plentya doctoring done on this puzz...also, the matching SW COPYEDIT corner is v. nice, and giving it up to fix up the weak NE would be v. painful.

Ah, the price ya gotta pay, even if you're a lucky solver like pretty much all of us here, or a lucky NYT-accepted constructor (whose initials are JPM, no less), or a lucky editor at the pinnacle of CrossWorld.

ESE count today = 78...a new high for a non-Sunday, but not a fair comparison given the extra-large grid.

baja 7:47 AM  

Loved the answer - non-wages. Could have used that expression when I was working and felt my pay was too low

AliasZ 7:59 AM  

Great puzzle. I got THERE, THERE from the crosses, which gave me the revealer without any crosses.

My comforters always go wild when I come home from work late and dead tired. They jump up at me screeching and whining with their corners wagging wildly. I often have to yell at them: DOWN, COMFORTERS!

I have a different meaning associated with IT GETS BETTER. It sounds to me like a sentence someone telling an incredible story would insert before the punch line. "You will never believe this, but it's a true story. I was at a night club in Paris, sitting in a quiet corner booth between Claudia Cardinale and Catherine Deneuve, sipping drinks, listening to the piano player and telling dirty jokes. Wait, IT GETS BETTER. The door swings open, and guess who walks in? Sophia Loren!"

As @Acme, @Steve J also noted, the phrase I know is "This too shall pass." It is a proverb indicating that all material conditions, positive or negative, are temporary. The phrase seems to have originated in the writings of medieval Persian SUFI poets, and is often attached to a fable of a great king who is humbled by the simple words, sometimes inscribed on a ring, which has the ability to make the happy man sad and the sad man happy. Jewish folklore often describes King Solomon as giving or receiving the phrase. The proverb and associated fable were popular in the 19th century, used by Abraham Lincoln in a speech before the Wisconsin State Agricultural Society in Milwaukee, in 1859:

"It is said an Eastern monarch once charged his wise men to invent him a sentence, to be ever in view, and which should be true and appropriate in all times and situations. They presented him the words: 'And this, too, shall PASS away.' How much it expresses! How chastening in the hour of pride! How consoling in the depths of affliction!"

baja 8:01 AM  

@August West - don't think the sentence regarding Muslims was in any way helpful.

dk 8:18 AM  

@AliasZ, are you having LSD flashbacks?

Along with our dear leader I blanked on FOWLES. All the rage at one time.

Wallowed about solving this one. Sometimes I am just happy the puzzle is done: THISWILLPASS. NONWAGES pained me.

Off to the Muff for espresso.

** (2 Stars) cute and easy

jberg 8:22 AM  

@Rex, @ACME -- I'm noticing wild disagreements about whether 4A ARC was great or terrible. Some of us loved it because it is what "go ballistic" means literally: to travel on a path influenced only by gravity, which path will be an ARC -- really, a section of an orbit. ICBMs, or Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles, were designed to be powered in only the first part of their flight -- this would place them in an orbit that would intersect the surface of the earth at the location of the target. I think the metaphor came from the association of word with the missile -- or maybe because when the missile 'goes ballistic' it was no longer controllable.

OK, that's today's science lesson! My big problem with this puzzle was the ASSErT/NOrWAGES crossing. I finally decided N.O.R. must be some kind of tax-accountant acronym ('not on record?'), and was about to go with that when the NON/ASSENT possibility finally dawned on me as I was firing up the computer to come here. Another advantage of solving in the paper: you get that extra moment to reflect on your answers.

Too bad it wasn't NOj WAGES, that would have given us a pangram.

Mohair Sam 8:24 AM  

Fun puzzle, great reveal. Remembering FOWLES helped open up the top for us and helped get the reveal fairly early (with the gimme WOOD). So this played easy-medium for us.

I think most of what gripes we're seeing here are sour grapes. THISWILLPASS is fine in spite of Incognito's use of the phrase and the fact that "this too shall pass" feels more familiar. NONWAGES was difficult for us - but I've heard it before. And the OBAMA clue was awkward, but a gimme (it must be murder trying to think of a new clue for this crossword-friendly Presidential name).

And SIRI appears again! I'll get her a card for her 3rd birthday next year, as I'm sure we'll be seeing her again. Four letters, one S, two vowels - what's not to love?

joho 8:28 AM  

Loved the reveal and most of the down theme answers, but like many others, can't get past the missing "TOO" in THISWILLPASS. That simply is not the phrase.

Anybody else have ITGETSEASIer before ITGETSBETTER?

@Rex, President Obama's signature lacks an "H" and visually reads as BO. Plus he named his dog BO. So I think President whose initials "stink" is legit. A Bit Offensive, too.

For anybody who didn't like one, NOTTOWORRY, THERETHERE, THIS(TOO)WILLPASS be assured that ITGETSBETTER.

Great concept with the DOWNCOMFORTERS, Jules, thank you!

joho 8:31 AM  

... who didn't like this one ...

jburgs 8:35 AM  

@baja 8:01 - It's best not to take the bait.

I got through this one and enjoyed it. I often come here and find out I've got errors, but not today.

GILL I. 8:55 AM  

Really enjoyable puzzle but ooof, what a workout for me.
@Acetic Caves - I too had ARm for 4A which gave me the funny mOCO. I didn't even notice it until now but moco in Spanish means booger...
I had the same mistakes/write overs etc. as ye all. Did anyone else have EDDAS instead of IDYLS. Throw in OLDpro instead of his HAT. I left my head-to-head contact (72A) as EaP because SAMOa took over. eap eap!
Even though I did a lot of head scratching, these type of puzzles amuse me no end.
I'll take a ton more Jules P. Markey.......

OISK 9:05 AM  

This is just about right for a Thursday. Found it challenging, interesting, clever, but fair. Technically, a DNF for me, because I never got around to correcting "Norwages." I think that was a perfectly fair clue though; as my students say, "my bad."

Any other chemists try "acidic" before settling on "acetic"?

Good puzzle, Jules!

Loren Muse Smith 9:06 AM  

Once I dispatched the gimmes SUFI, LOD, LETTS, LOEB, and BAIN (mornin' Gareth!), I was stuck for a while. Right.

I really liked the theme/revealer. Clever. I'm with @AliasZ and @joho on the IT GETS BETTER take. "It'll get better" feels more COMFORTing and IT GETS BETTER sounds more like the phrase right before the best part of the funny story.

Rex – you said it - "Also, I was unaware of the existence of the term NON-WAGES (27A: 401(k) employer matching contributions, e.g.)" That one dealt me yet another dnf. 7D was first "assure" and then "assert" (morning" @jae, @jeberg). I was completely sure of "assert," so I had N _ RWAGES and was baffled.
@ESP and @Steve J - @M & A's take on fill like NON-WAGES ("EYE PIT. . . has that sweet smell of desperation that I so cherish. . .") I kind of like that attitude.

Like Rex – "gives" before CAVES.

Flirted with "fir" before OAK, thinking "stir" for FLAP. But then it occurred to me that "fir" for a state tree would be lame. West Virginia state tree – nut.

Rex – your Follet, Fowler was closer than my Forbes.

FLAP and MELEE! I kept wanting "stir."

I briefly, ridiculously, considered "Goa" for LOD.

And I had "ashore" way before AT HOME. Sheesh.


@August West – with herculean effort, I resisted writing in "pig" or "hog." I kept considering CON but didn't write it in until I finally saw CHARM and NOT TO WORRY.

@Acme and @Steve J– Hand up for hearing "this too shall pass."

@Steve J and @MetaRex – aw, come on – the ESSES clue and answer are great!

Kind of cool to have TSE TSE crossing THERE THERE. Ha ha. (And the TS-AR/E cross) Also cool to have the Muslim cross of SUFI and UAR. And COCO crossing LOCO.

Looks like Suri Cruise has two siblings in the grid – SUFI and SIRI.

Look, I know I've been talking about plurals a lot – but I did pause at ROOFS, wondering if it had ever been "rooves." Nah. (Spoof – spooves, goof – gooves.) And speaking of plurals, it seems that adding an S to a noun is somehow more objectionable than making a verb singular – adding an S. We've adopted the term POC and complain about MAORIS, SISALS, etc, but I don't hear a lot of grumbling about adding an S to "mutilate" or "amble."

@AliasZ – do you have that poster "Lord, help me be the person my COMFORTERS think I am?"

Nice, nice puzzle, Jules. Loved it!

Sir Hillary 9:08 AM  

Superb Thursday puzzle -- freshest theme in the NYT for quite some time. Wonderful job, Jules. error-fest for me. The LOon at 18A drove me LOCO, as did the esteemed author FOWLEr and my decision to ASSErt that 7D was corrext. I repaired all that, but the NONtAxEd 401(k) match (incorrect both in this puzzle and in fact!) took me to the absurd borough of the bRoNx as somehow Malay-derived. Then I decided to BOOKAroom and hire a LIMO when a TRIP and a TAXI were more appropriate.

I had to ROAM the SAHARA for a while (no CAVES for shelter nor a SUFI for guidance) but NOTTOWORRY, in the end this puzzle delivered an excellent ROI of my time.

Carola 9:09 AM  

A very enjoyable puzzle, I thought, with a cute theme and much WIT and CHARM otherwise. I made my way to the reveal by writing in its S; then SIRI, the TSARS, and TSETSE led me to THERE THERE, and I got the idea. Was helped by knowing FOWLES (I was fascinated by that novel when it came out) and by just having ordered a book from the LOEB Classical Library series. Wavered between ARC and ARm and chose wrong, so DNF.

The reveal reminded me of one of my favorite "picked the wrong German word from the dictionary" mistakes from when I was teaching. Describing her dorm room, a student wrote, "Auf unseren Betten liegen blaue Tröster." She meant, "On our beds lie blue comforters," but "Tröster" are "persons who offer comfort" and "blau," besides meaning "blue," also means "drunk." She added that they were nice to come home to after long days in class, and I got a kick out of the image of them greeting her.


Sir Hillary 9:10 AM  

The error-fest continues..."correct" for "corrext".

Carola 9:17 AM  

@loren - On IT GETS BETTER - I took it as referring to the It Gets Better Project for LGBT youth.

Anonymous 9:29 AM  

Batting tees, as in T Ball. Littlest baseball players.

Norm 9:39 AM  

A lot of work for little reward. Don't really see how ASSENT works for SAY SO, but NORWAGES was nonsense so I had to give up my ASSENT, which seemed far more appropriate. At least there weren't any rappers and movies in this one.

John V 9:49 AM  

Loved it! Most/all of the snags @Rex noted. Cluing was really hard in a bunch of spots. NE was a bitch, esp (alas) 27A.

Felt like Jules was channeling Jeff Chen's muse in a few spots: fun, cheeky!

Great change of pace for a Thursday, Will!

lawprof 9:57 AM  

A very satisfying Thursday puzzle. Just enough resistance to put up a fight, but ultimately doable. Writeovers: LOon/LOCO; ACidIC/ACETIC; Fete/FLAP. Had to wait on 40D, as three-letter trees abound (elm; yew; fir; ban; yan; OAK).

Got the first word in the revealer (DOWN) right off the bat, so COMFORTER came early, which set up the theme answers in short order.

I don't see a problem with NONWAGES. I'm no accountant, but one's itemized pay stub typically lists wages, which are taxable, and NONWAGES, which are not.

Liked it; congratulations Mr. Markey.

Cruxlogger 9:59 AM  

Add football to golf and baseball tees. A perfect Thursday stretch.

AliasZ 10:05 AM  

Publius Vergilius Maro (70 BC – 19 BC), usually called Virgil or Vergil in English, was an ancient Roman poet of the Augustan period. He is known for three major works of Latin literature, the Eclogues (or Bucolics), the Georgics, and the epic Aeneid. A number of minor poems, collected in the Appendix Vergiliana, are sometimes attributed to him. Virgil's book of Eclogae contains ten pieces, populated by and large with herdsmen imagined conversing and performing amoebaean singing in largely rural settings. Performed with great success on the Roman stage, they feature a mix of visionary politics and eroticism that made Virgil a celebrity, legendary in his own lifetime.

His Eclogue X contains the following lines:

"Iam neque hamadryades rursus nec carmina nobis
ipsa placent; ipsae rursus concedite silvae.
non illum nostri possunt mutare labores,
nec si frigoribus mediis Hebrumque bibamus,
Sithoniasque nives hiemis subeamus aquosae,
nec si, cum moriens alta liber aret in ulmo,
Aethiopum versemus ovis sub sidere Cancri.
OMNIA vincit Amor; et nos cedamus Amori."

For the Latin-challenged readers, it goes something like this:

"Now neither Hamadryads, no, nor songs
Delight me more: ye woods, away with you!
No pangs of ours can change him; not though we
In the mid-frost should drink of Hebrus' stream,
And in wet winters face Sithonian snows,
Or, when the bark of the tall elm-tree bole
Of drought is dying, should, under Cancer's Sign,
In Aethiopian deserts drive our flocks.
Love conquers all things; yield we too to love!"

Anonymous 10:11 AM  

I concur with some that the Obama clue was in very very very poor taste.

Theme? I didn't like it.

quilter1 10:14 AM  

Pretty tough, but I finished. Got DOWN COMFORTERS right away but the other theme answers were invisible without many crosses. I say tada!

Steve J 10:15 AM  

@Norm: Think of it as in the phrase "gave it his say-so" as synonymous with giving it an ok or ASSENT.

Of course, in that sense, the clue technically should be hyphenated to be correct, since "say-so" is a noun and not a verb phrase as "say so" indicates.

Z 10:24 AM  

I still cannot come up with a way that ASSENT fits the clue "Say so." I'm sure it must fit, but not in my world. If someone would like to share an example and lessen my ignorance it would be appreciated. DNF with NOrWAGES, figured it was something obscure that would be the WOD.

OBAMA is the best moderate Republican president since Eisenhower in my opinion, but I'm still amazed that anyone would find the cluing "offensive." Making fun of the president is one of our greatest traditions; It is one of the things in our culture that makes me proud to be an American.

@August West - The mystics of any religion are almost always the best examples of what is good in that religion. I'd rather know about Loyola, not the Inquisition, the SUFIs, not AlQaeda. That all religions seem to produce both extremes says more about people than about the religions.

Hand up for loving ARC, giVES before CAVES, pig before CON and wondering where the "too" went in 8D (WILL for shall didn't bother me). My "to-do" was the partying Fete before the contentious FLAP.

@Steve J - A little Jon Stewart is always good for a laugh. Be forewarned - this clip is juvenile and inappropriate (and hilarious) and has added "finding the press box" to the world's euphemisms.

Z 10:30 AM  

@Steve J - to me, your example is of a directive, not an agreement. It just doesn't work for me. This is probably just me being obtuse, but I just don't see it.

retired_chemist 10:33 AM  

Hand up for ARm and not getting ARC until AL told me the letter was wrong. Forgot the definition of ballistic that involved traveling solely under the influence of gravity. My bad. The clue is fine if tricky.

Challenging because of tricky cluing, but that made it a slow and enjoyable solve.

Thanks, Mr. Markey.

mac 10:43 AM  

Very good puzzle, where the reveal really helped me filling in the other long answers. Had some of the same problems others had (arm/arc, assert/assent, which I don't think is clued right).

This too shall pass sounds better to me as well. Had a John Fowles period as well, loved his books.

Sandy K 10:50 AM  

I liked the theme and its 4 DOWN COMFORTERS.

Agree with those who thought the clue for 53D lacks WIT and really "stink"s!

Mad at myself for finishing with ARm = Go ballistic? And forgetting Conan O'Brien's Team COCO.

I'm no chemist, but I also had ACidIC before ACETIC.

Two Ponies 10:57 AM  

Just couldn't get in the groove today. I guess the vague clues were actually opaque to this solver.

Bob Kerfuffle 11:07 AM  

Fine puzzle, about as good as a Thursday gets without a rebus. :>(

(I agree that ASSENT should have been clued "say-so.)

And great comments as usual, especially @AliasZ's quotes of Lincoln's Milwaukee Address and Virgil's amoebaean poetry.

Nancy 11:07 AM  

FOWLES, TSARS (which led to TSE TSE) and, believe it or not, ARC (I guessed that immediately) got me started on what at first was really hard. I knew it was DOWN something-or-other. Like others, I had NOrWAGES at first and, like others, I don't "get" ASSENT. Assert is much more apt. Like others, I'm wondering whether the Obama clue was inspired by Obama-hatred; it seems offensive to me, too. But the theme is wonderful and so are the theme answers. I finished and had a wonderful time solving.

Wonderin' Z 11:24 AM  

So, the "I've never read it" set still far exceeds the "I've read it" set. I can't help but notice that the FOWLES lovers all use the past tense. Was it just a phase we all look back on now and wonder why we were so enamored with his writing or is there one or two novels I might pick up today and enjoy?

AliasZ 11:41 AM  
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Elle54 11:41 AM  

Liked! But didn't get the FOWLES ARC ROOF area

AliasZ 11:44 AM  

The fine theme execution of today’s puzzle was thoroughly examined and analyzed, so let’s concentrate a little on the fill:

There is nothing wrong with NONWAGES. “Non-wage labor costs are social security and insurance contributions and other costs related to employing someone and may include: retirement, health insurance, unemployment, child allowance, maternity, disability and other contingencies.” -Wikipedia

@Carola, loved your travel plans, but I’d skip SAHARA – not much to see there. I WOOD instead venture into the MELEE Peninsula to see an ORANG or two in its natural habitat, visit the island nations of SIRI LANKA, New Zealand to say "tena koe" to the MAORIS there, and ERIN – the Emerald Isle – to explore a few CAVES perhaps. Then on to the Dutch city of EDAM for some cheese, to LOD in Israel to see what a hub city looks like, and to Africa where the TSETSE flies. I’d also use a TAXI or trains pulled by LOCOmotives when necessary.

The LOCO | COCO crossing looked a bit odd.

The plural of hoof is hooves, so it stands to reason that rooves should be the plural of roof.

In closing, let me wish Will Shortz a happy 20th anniversary at the NYT. Here’s hoping for many more years of fruitful contribution. I for one appreciate the incredibly tough job he has dealing with hundreds of constructors and complaining bloggers every day. Yet he keeps his delightful sense of humor, his professional attitude, and an inventive, creative mind and personality that provide constructors with invaluable advice, and solvers with the most challenging, best quality entertainment one can wish for.

Steve J 11:54 AM  
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Steve J 11:55 AM  

@Z: Thanks for the link. Hilarious.

As far as "say-so", perhaps it's clearer to think of it as the same sort of thing that can happen with "go ahead" and "go-ahead":

"She told me to go ahead and book the trip."

"I got the go-ahead to book the trip."

Say so/say-so functions the same way. In the noun form, it is synonymous with ASSENT. I don't think it's as commonly used in that fashion as, say, go-ahead, but I've encountered it.

@Alias Z: My issue with NON-WAGES is the use of the plural. As I noted in my first post, I have seen it used as an adjective in phrases such as "non-wage compensation" or the example you cited. But turning it into a noun - and a plural one at that - is the problem. As used, NON-WAGES is simply not in the language. (For example, nobody when discussing compensation for a new job is going to say, "OK, now that we've discussed the salary, can you tell me what kind of non-wages you offer?".) Had the puzzle stuck with NON-WAGE, there would be no argument from my corner.

GAR 12:14 PM  

Enjoyed it, even though it took me a while to get the theme answers. The NE was particularly brutal for me. Did not know SISALS, ORANG or LOEB. Initially had AGREED for ASSENT; EDGES for ESSES, GRAZES for SHARES; and ACIDIC for ACETIC. Altogether, they made it impossible to see NONWAGES (which I thought was pretty weak when I did get it). I finally erased it all and started over with ACETIC which led to ASSENT (after first entering ASSErT, which put me on the right path. Still had to guess on the ORANG/SISAL cross but guessed right for a change.

Anonymous 12:43 PM  

DNF after 2 hours of overthink/under intuit Got bogged down with very credible wrong answers. Fray was ravel. Say so was intent. Hosts was throws. I was clearly on the wrong wavelength.

But CHARM for mojo? That's like saying the right mix of ego and super ego will make up for a deficit in id. It won't. Charm is what you fall back on to excuse the absence of mojo.

My puzzle solving buddy called it an easy Thursday. But he's a priest.

Anonymous 12:49 PM  

Only one that bothers me is arc instead of arm. I guess that's because I still have no idea what Team Coco is.

Carola 12:51 PM  

@AliasZ - Yes, I think U AR RITE about the SAHARA, especially since heat is the BAIN of my existence, travelwise. While you're in the Antipodes, perhaps you could hop over to Australia to see an EMU and other interesting FOWLES like cassowaries.

Mauritania and Aegean 12:53 PM  

Primo puz. For my pate grade, the most challengin part was the snappin-snake-shaped staircase of:

fave fillins: SUFI and SAMOS. Always intriguin to read the clues for guys like this, and confidently say "oh. oh. I think I know this". ...Only to later discover "No you don't". It's sorta like the "Puz Pie in the Face" effect.

Happy 20, @Shortzmeister. Man, that's a lotta ARLOs over the dam. Good work, dude. For your tireless quest, I hereby dub you Sir Shortz. Try sayin that three times, real fast.

fave weeject: UAR. Kinda like har, fortified with vitamin-U. thUmbsUp.

fave desperate (hey, @muse) fillin: BOOKATRIP. This gives me renewed hope that I could fill an NYT-worthy grid. Opens up a whole kaleidoscope of material, like:
ICEACAKE...BUILDADAM...BOGARTAJOINT...etc. tUbUlar. I know 4-Oh is gettin excited...


David Glasser 12:58 PM  

The Malay word is one of the explanations for the title of A Clockwork Orange.

Masked and Anonymo3Us 1:12 PM  

p.s. 15x16 grid. More for yer money!

p.p.s.s. Yo, 4-Oh. Really outstandin writeup, today. Kinda cheery, too. Toss in a few bullets, and we'da been talkin Pulitzer.


KarenSampsonHudson 1:14 PM  

That clue for "Obama" stinks in more ways than just crossword construction. I considered it more offensive than the actual answer itself would be!

Z 2:04 PM  

@Steve J - "I have the bosses say so - so quit yer bellyachin' and get on it." Okay - I can see it.

For some perspective, Al Kaline played just over 21 seasons for the Tigers. Congratulations Mr. Shortz. May the next 20 be as inventive and fun as the first 20.

Milford 2:11 PM  

This was a mix of the theme and the revealer being the easy part of the puzzle, and the fill being what did me in. I had trouble with the area around SUFI, IDYLS, SLAY, COPYEDIT, mostly due to my leaving giVES for CAVES way too long.

I like the play on words for DOWN COMFORTERS, so that made the puzzle nice for me.

Liked POUCH as clued, OLD HAT, BOOK A TRIP, and the fun MAORIS clue. My crossword history definitely helped get the one Malay word I know - ORANG.

I personally liked the difficult cluing of AT HOME ("In"), and it's pair ABOARD ("On").

@Rex - Thanks for the OK Go clip. My kids and I love their videos. The guy at the start (red paint dude) is from Kalamazoo, and went to my high school.

@Anon 12:49 - I don't know the details, but Team COCO is a reference to Conan O'Brien.

Norm 2:24 PM  

Many thanks for the explanations of ASSENT. Still nits to be picked, obviously, but it's no longer as baffling as it was.

okanaganer 2:25 PM  

...Could not get past that for 3D! I had ------ORRY, and knowing the theme, that last word just had to be SORRY.

A big DNF today because of that, and also ASSERT.

M and A and That's It 2:29 PM  

At this momentous 20th Anniversary milestone for the Sir Shortzmeister, I feel it only right and proper to reflect on my fave NYT puzs during his reign, so far...
(Please--no wagering)

1. May 4, 2011. Jeff Chen. Flyin U's grid.
2. Oct 17-22, 2011. Patrick MetaBerry puzfest week. Epic.
3. Feb 10, 2000. Manny Nosowsky. My kind of humor.
4. May 27, 2004. Cathy Millhauser. And a pangram in a pear tree.
5. Honrable mention: Almost any puz that bravely goes somewheres that really sets 4-Oh off.

Other faves, folks?...


Bird 2:36 PM  

I don't have time now to read comments, but I will read later.

So we get brackets instead of circles.

I liked it. The reveal was great as were most of the themers (8D being the exception). Took forever for me to finish the NE (22A and 27A were unknown, wasn’t sure about the top of 8D, the clue for 7D should be hyphenated so I wasn’t thinking “permission” and no clue what the clue for 10D means).

In the end I finished with an error. I put in EWE at 66A and forgot to check after putting in EQUIP at 57D.

Needed to change my original answer at 43A (FRAY) after getting to clue at 11D.

gringa 2:44 PM  

"It gets better" is the motto of an organization dedicated to outreach and support to gay teenagers.

I loved this one. Pulled many answers out of thin air including "down comforters" "there there", aboard etc.

I beg to differ with rex. I love clues like "in" "on" and "card". They reveal how flexible and dynamic the language is

Lewis 2:59 PM  

@acme -- ugh joke made me laugh

@metarex and others who don't like answers like ESSES with tricky clues. I respectfully disagree. I love these!

I don't mind vague clueing, so long as things eventually become clear. They leave more white space on first pass, but provide more aha opportunities, IMO.

Loved the theme, and while it took me longer than my normal Thursday, enjoyed the solve. And while "this too shall pass" is more familiar to me too, I have certainly heard and probably said THIS WILL PASS, and find it legitimate.

sanfranman59 3:17 PM  

Midday report of relative difficulty (see my 8/1/2009 post for an explanation of my method and my 10/15/2012 post for an explanation of a tweak to my method):

All solvers (median solve time, average for day of week, ratio, percentile, rating)

Thu 19:03, 17:14, 1.11, 68%, Medium-Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Thu 11:55, 10:07, 1.18, 76%, Medium-Challenging

LaneB 3:26 PM  

Agree with everything Rex said about this one even though I managed to stagger to the finish line with a little Google help [looked up Malay for human, trypanosome and a list of Aegean islands-loys having 5 letters and beginning with "S".] Clues were often almost impossible.

Why are bookends on shelves ESSES? ARm makes more sense than ARC for 'ballistic and COCO is certainly an obscure part of the Conan O'Brien 'team--if one stays up late enough to tune in. And HAS for "eats"? Also Jason Kidd retired the same year as SHAQ and if one put that down first, all kinds of trouble followed.
Also again, I didn't know that the UAR was an "org." Always thought of it as a nation.
Finally, does SIRI have a gender? The use of "she" threw me off but the vertical fill eventually allowed me to avoid a Thursday DNF, no thanks to Mr. Markey.

Bob Kerfuffle 3:48 PM  

@LaneB - The word "shelves" begins and ends with the letter "S" -- ESSES.

Siri 3:52 PM  

The name Siri is Norwegian, meaning "beautiful woman who leads you to victory", and comes from the intended name for the original developer's first child.

newb 3:52 PM  

It's BO, because we don't acknowledge or use his middle name. I don't know Clinton's.

Anonymous 3:55 PM  


July 25, 2013
Patrick Blindauer


MJL 3:58 PM  

It's a ballistic missile that arcs, Rex!

Anonymous 4:01 PM  

@LaneB- The United Arab Republic was a short-lived union between Egypt and Syria. 1958-1961

Anonymous 4:04 PM  

William Jefferson Clinton.

Ray J 4:06 PM  

@M&A 2:29

This fave comes immediately to mind:

January 15, 2004. Patrick Merrell. Goofy fun.

pdf thanks to Jim Horne

ahimsa 4:16 PM  

Cute puzzle, loved the vertical themes!

I wrote in DOWN COMFORTERS before I had completely figured out the theme and wondered whether it was right. Lucky guess!

@Rex, thanks for the laugh by using the photo of Bane to illustrate BAIN capital. I haven't even seen that Batman movie but the promos were so ubiquitous that I recognized the face.

I was helped by remembering FOWLES. I saw the movie version back in the early 1980s but don't think I ever read the book. Thank goodness because I have no idea what Team COCO is (out of touch with late night shows other than Daily Show and Colbert).

@August West, I laughed at your not knowing/caring about Muslim mystics because it was the opposite for me. I was delayed by thinking of a few other answers (Faqir? Pir?) before I hit on SUFI. I guess we all have different "who knows? who cares?" areas when it comes to crosswords. :-)

@AliasZ, I loved your alternate interpretation of the reveal as a command ("Down, comforters!"). Oh, and I recognize that story about the king and "This too shall pass" written on a ring.

And although it took me forever to get it, I loved the "go ballistic" clue for ARC.

wreck 4:21 PM  

July 25, 2013
Patrick Blindauer


...was my favorite as well!

ahimsa 4:54 PM  

@Siri, the name always reminds me of author Siri Hustvedt. I read "What I Loved" (a novel) some years ago.

Now that I've seen the video @Rex posted I'm inspired to share another video by OK Go. You won't have to day, "DOWN, COMFORTERS!" to these dogs:

White Knuckles

Anonymous 6:37 PM  

A puzzle that stands out in my mind
is from the Maleska days. Jan.5, 1986
by Julian Ochrymowych.

It was called JANUS STYLE (long before Gangnam Style)...for the Roman god Janus having 2 faces looking in opposite directions.

The clue was 'evil' and you had to fill in PERNICIOUS in one direction and look at the clue again- from left to right, 'live' and put in ANIMATE- backwards! So your final answer was:

Or 'REWARD' which was RECOMPENSE one way, and SKETCHER backwards for 'DRAWER' thus RECOMPENSEREHCTEKS.

Hardest puzzle ever and I was just a newbie. But I never forgot it.

fergus 9:32 PM  

Bygone contributor, yet extant reader says, after sharing of several stressful events today:

"Being acutely sensitive is sometimes not an asset.
Yet in many a social situation some potential for anxiety lies.
and even when a conflict flares up, it can be put to rest.

Just did today's Crossword where the conceit was DOWN COMFORTER, where unClued Down entries included: NOT TO WORRY, THIS WILL PASS, IT GETS BETTER and THERE THERE.

Maybe another mere coincidence, or some cosmic concatenation?"

sanfranman59 10:03 PM  

This week's relative difficulty ratings. See my 8/1/2009 post for an explanation and my 10/15/2012 post for an explanation of a tweak I've made to my method. In a nutshell, the higher the ratio, the higher this week's median solve time is relative to the average for the corresponding day of the week.

All solvers (this week's median solve time, average for day of week, ratio, percentile, rating)

Mon 6:36, 6:06, 1.08, 82%, Challenging
Tue 7:49, 8:12, 0.95, 34%, Easy-Medium
Wed 10:26, 9:52, 1.06, 68%, Medium-Challenging
Thu 19:16, 17:14, 1.12, 71%, Medium-Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:59, 3:46, 1.06, 78%, Medium-Challenging
Tue 4:50, 5:01, 0.96, 36%, Easy-Medium
Wed 6:23, 5:49, 1.10, 76%, Medium-Challenging
Thu 11:29, 10:07, 1.13, 73%, Medium-Challenging

Rolis 1:19 AM  

Will. Huzzah!

Anonymous 2:05 AM  

This too shall pass is certainly familiar, but I would say this will pass to someone I was trying to comfort.


Anonymous 11:01 AM  

Thanks Mr. Markey for a truly great and innovative puzzle. Please disregard all the above negatives, including Mr. Parkers. I had a good time with this one. I would rate its difficulty as "medium."

Ron Diego, 8:AM PST 12/26/13

spacecraft 12:11 PM  

Brutal! This belongs squarely in a Saturday slot. Did I manage, somehow, to finish it? Yeah, but I felt like I'd done a whole day's TOIL.

Guessed the natick at SUFI/UAR only because other vowels (E, O) would have yielded common words across. Still lucky I didn't stick an A or an I in there.

To say so is (among other choices) to ASSErT. ASSENT is say-so. Note the hyphen. That non-hyphenated clue gets the spacecraft flag. It is simply WRONG. I almost left the R in place, but NOrWAGES was giving me bad vibes. Finally the bulb came on, so I avoided a OWS finish.

In a similar vein, what the HEY was O'Brien's Team mOCO? I have no clue who O'Brien is or what team other than Penn State he heads. But at least COCO registers a couple of hits in my brain. But ARC for "Go ballistic?"?? Man, that is just plain mean-spirited. And the day after Christmas, too. Not wrong, just...brutal.

Never-heard-ofs, in addition to SUFI: LOEB, BAIN capital, SAMOS. Had to trust the crosses on all of these. Hand up for giVES and hOg. If this is only Thursday, I dread the next two days.

rain forest 3:04 PM  

I very much liked this puzzle, particularly all the themers and the revealer. Despite what MetaRex said, crosswordese was not noticeable in this little gem.

Started with FOWLES, ARC, ACETIC, and kind of circled back to the NW where CON dawned on me, and whipped around the West, across the South and back up to the NE which was the knottiest section. Paused at ASSENT, thinking maybe 'assert', but NONWAGES made some sense.

ESSES was cute, but that kind of clue and answer is getting a little old, although this was a nice example of the type.

Solving in Seattle 3:50 PM  

Sure wish I'd have eaten and drunk more yesterday...

@M&A, I agree with @Anon 3:55 that "DOUBLE FEATURE" by Patrick Blindauer was my fav puz so far. Simply brilliant.

Jules, I liked your cwpuz today, too. No FLAP about cluing from me. Cute that ORANG is ATHOME with the MELEE peninsula.

I did business with BAIN capital once. There is a reason their ilk is called "vulture capitalists."

@DMG, what do you think of the numerical capchas?

Joshua 4:33 PM  

I disagree with the clue "El Al hub city" for LOD. I recognize LOD as the site of Tel Aviv's airport, but the hub city for El Al is Tel Aviv, not LOD.

A clue such as "Site of Ben-Gurion Airport" would have been better for LOD.

Dirigonzo 4:39 PM  

I had quickly and confidently entered ACidIC for 30a so after I figured out what the revealer meant and managed to finish the grid I sat for a while trying to understand how ASS ENd meant "Say so". It was with great reluctance that I finally changed the answer.

@Z - Your video clip was everything you promised and more!

Dirigonzo 4:47 PM  

@Joshua - wiki (and maybe SIRI, too) begs to disagree.

strayling 7:05 PM  

I had COLD comforters, because that's what those phrases seemed to offer. Therefore I DNF, which is a bit of a DOWNer.

\ the multiple meanings of all those words are a consolation prize.

Dirigonzo 9:10 PM  

I was just reminded of the need to wish all syndilanders who pledge loyalty to the Queen of England a very happy Boxing Day!

Ginger 10:09 PM  

Took me most of the day, and half the night, (between kids, grands, and greats) but I finished with only a little help from Google. I count it as a DNF that I feel pretty good about.

Had trouble in the same spots as have been mentioned, many times. ARC,LOD and LOEB. Had a lucky guess at CON (what does that say about me?) Looking at the grid post solve it doesn't look so bad, it's that confounding, clever, circuitous clueing that cills.

Hand up for "Double Feature". Great and unforgettable.

Nomad UK 8:37 AM  

First in 4d AWL. then got WOOD and DOWN COMFORTER and then basically just skipped though it thinking this is a really easy Thursday until I get back to where I started at 4a and confidently plunked in ARM...So everything perfect except for my last entry......GRRRRR!! Where are those down comforters.

Nomad UK 9:44 AM  

One of my favourite puzzles was Liz Gorski's 'Downward Spiral' on Oct. 13 2002, which in essence was a double helix.

strayling 8:06 PM  

Thank-you. I hope you had a good one too.

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