Noodles in Japanese cookery / WED 11-27-13 / Lisa with 1997 hit I Do / Brand from Holland / Old ragtime dance / Many aria singer informally

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Constructor: Jules P. Markey

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: THANKSGIVING DAY (39A: Setting for the starts of 17-, 24-, 51- and 64-Across) — opening words in familiar two-word phrases are parts of a THANKSGIVING DAY meal:

Theme answers:
  • 17A: Source of easy money (GRAVY TRAIN)
  • 24A: One of a pair in a court (SQUASH RACKET)
  • 51A: Locale for a big mirror (DRESSING ROOM)
  • 64A: Old ragtime dance (TURKEY TROT)

Word of the Day: SOBA (58A: Noodles in Japanese cookery) —
Soba (そば or 蕎麦?) is the Japanese name for buckwheat. It is synonymous with a type of thin noodle made from buckwheatflour, and in Japan can refer to any thin noodle (unlike thick wheat noodles, known as udon). Soba noodles are served either chilled with a dipping sauce, or in hot broth as a noodle soup. It takes three months for buckwheat to be ready for harvest, so it can be harvested four times a year, mainly in spring, summer, and autumn. In Japan, buckwheat is produced mainly inHokkaido. Soba that is made with newly harvested buckwheat is called "shin-soba". It is sweeter and more flavorful than regular soba. (wikipedia)
• • •

Let's start with the fact that it is not, in fact, THANKSGIVING DAY. Minor consideration, perhaps, but I'm gonna start there anyway. Not the puzzle's fault it got placed on a Wednesday. Only … no, wait it *is* the puzzle's fault. Since THANKSGIVING DAY is always on Thursday, you need to develop a Thursday-worthy theme if you want to do a THANKSGIVING DAY puzzle. This is a Monday theme at best. This puzzle should've been rejected on the basis of non-Thursdayness alone, but let's move on. Whose THANKSGIVING DAY meal consists of only turkey (w/ gravy and dressing) and squash? Squash? I've literally never had squash at a THANKSGIVING DAY meal. I am sure someone has. I recognize that it is a food associated with autumn. But a. it's not iconic enough to be part of a THANKSGIVING DAY meal, and b. Where Are The Other, Actually Iconic THANKSGIVING DAY Foods? Mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce … I don't know, something! This is a rather incomplete meal I'm being offered here. Then there's the fact that this theme ("first words") is old as the hills and needs to Really snap in order not to feel musty. Then there's the fill, which is dire, and you know that. I'm not making up reasons to complain here. These are all obvious problems. No pro puts ETTE EROS and ESE all in the same damn small corner. I guarantee you this grid was created without constructing software. It's a very small investment to keep help you keep your fill from looking like dated crap. Don't be afraid of databases. You can over-rely on them—they are no substitute for good judgment—but they do help keep things clean. Gah! NEOS BIOTA OTOS ISH OVI AGA ALA ACRO ASHY ENERO ESL etc. … this is Not a hard grid to fill. 76 words. And you needed 2 cheater squares*? Man alive.

Did this faster than I did yesterday's. Would've been very close to 3 minutes flat had I not gotten royally turned around in the NE, where BUICK SEDAN (really? are we just accepting [any make] SEDAN now?) just would not come (10D: LaCrosse, for one). Needed almost every cross before I saw it. Also just blanked on 16A: Word before income or exhaust (DUAL), even after I had D-AL. Got mildly slippery in the LOOIES section of the grid, but otherwise it was mostly fill-in-the-blank-and-try-not-to-wince. SE corner is borderline if not out-and-out Scrabble-f***ing. MEZZO is not that great a "word" in the first place, and if it forces us to endure YMA and ALOOP, just for the sake of two "Z"s, I have to question its value.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

*black squares that do not add to word count but make puzzle (often much) easier to fill (here, the black square next to the "8" square and before the "70" square)


jae 12:09 AM  

Very easy Wed.  Started out with Sasha before I checked the downs and that was my only erasure.  Caught the theme and filled in the answers with mostly no crosses.

3s that were ESE: ISH, ALA, AGA, ESE, YMA, OVI, ESL
3s that were fine: LIN, SHY, WES, CHE, ANY
3s I'm on the fence about: ACE, ADD, SAT
So, yes it's a subjective process.

Not zippy, but then why would it be.  I thought this was OK for a holiday puzzle, but Rex has some good points.

gifcan 12:11 AM  

Maybe we could work from the second half of the answers. Is there such a thing as DAY TRAIN, DAY RACKET, DAY ROOM, or DAY TROT? Didn't think so.

Oooh, what a captcha, FckFish (caps as written).

Steve J 12:14 AM  

It was a crossword puzzle.

That's about all I can come up with. Can't even be bothered to be irritated with this one. It was there, I did it, I'm moving on.

Anonymous 12:18 AM  

Awfully easy Wednesday. But willing to cut some (very little) slack in light of the holiday week.

Anonymous 12:18 AM  

I disagree, thinking the theme was perfectly fine and timely. One day early, not an issue to me.

The issue I have is with the crosswordese.

Fill I would try to avoid on a Wednesday: UCONN, CHE, OTOS, ITALO, LOOIES, SOBA, ETTE, ALOOP, ENERO, QUIK, AGA, OVI, NEOS, AMSTEL, ORZO, ESE and YMA.

I have a problem with 51D: "Hardly Mr. Cool" = DWEEB. Shouldn't the answer be an adjective? DWEEB is not an adjective, DWEEBISH is.

And since Jeff Chen discussed it on XWordInfo, my list of what I try to put on my crosswords, from best to worst.

1. Slang/Themeless Seed Entries
3. Full names
4. Ordinary words that make good fill (BEAUTIFUL, EUPHORIA, etc.)
5. Things from arts/entertainment/literature/hobbies/etc. that are fairly well known
6. Ordinary common words (CHASM, SWEET, HEART, FROG, etc.)
7. Well known crosswordese that are not partials (EPEE, OLEO, ARIA, MON, ATOZ, etc.)
8. Partials
9. Obscure crosswordese (ADIT, UNAU)

Anonymous 12:25 AM  

Postscript Note: The simple reason for my list above of best to worse is for five simple reasons:

1: To avoid overused fill entries.
2: To maximize liveliness of fill entries.
3: To use fill entries with significant cluing potential.
4: To maximize quality of fill entries.
5: To ensure that the entries are accessible to a wide audience.

August West 12:28 AM  

Blazed through this easy, gruel-filled Tuesday evening homage to Thursday a full 20 seconds faster than yesterday's poorly executed offering. Only slowdowns to uninterrupted typing were at 20A, 65D and 10D, where I

* didn't immediately think of SOME used in its clued context,;

* initially fell for the sly misdirect in the clue for YMA, leading me to muse, "And here I am, not up on many Peruvian membranous irritants!", and;

* entered stICKSport for a second in Pavlovian response to my life experience.

Easy crosses steered me right and sped my course, along with a few things I know only from crosswords, but...know...nonetheless: ITALO, LOEB, BIOTA, MEZZO, SOBA.

Found it perfectly...okay as I was solving, and can't say I was consciously aware of the overwhelming percentage of dreck until reading Rex's write up. Which made me laugh out loud a whole lot more than the puzzle did (3-0).

QUIK? Two days late.

JFC 12:30 AM  

"It's a very small investment to keep help you keep your fill from looking like dated crap."

Rex, you might want to redo that sentence. After all, if you are going to dis, you don't want to be the disee....


PS. It's Thanksgiving. Be thankful.

MetaRex 1:08 AM  

Liked getting snaggled on MALIA vs. SASHA at 1A.

The ESE count = 71. That's high. 57 theme squares, which is pretty high.

Here's how my ESE numbers for the threes compare to @jae's non-numerical ratings:

3s that were ESE: ISH (2), ALA (3), AGA (2), ESE (3), YMA (3), OVI (3), ESL (2)

3s that were fine: LIN (1), SHY (1), WES (1), CHE (1), ANY (1)

3s I'm on the fence about: ACE (1), ADD (1), SAT (1)

Yep, there's subjectivity.

Yay for birthdays and for Thanksgiving Days! And for all days we're lucky enough to be solving puzzes and having something to say about them...

Evan 1:19 AM  

Jeff brings up a good point at Xwordinfo that the food items in the theme entries don't refer to the actual foods, so it probably is hard to include the other traditional Thanksgiving dishes without making them very food-specific entries. ROLLS OVER and PIE CHARTS might be good 9-letter options (and I'll also cop to wondering if people consider SQUASH a traditional Thanksgiving certainly never was for me). Still, I didn't think this kind of theme really belonged on a Wednesday -- I don't mind a holiday-themed puzzle running early, it's just that the first-words-in-the-theme-entries-share-this-in-common type seems more suited for a Monday or a Tuesday.

As a choir singer, I hear MEZZO all the time. But it's hard to know if that's just musician-shorthand that I hear in rehearsals, where most others would use the full MEZZO SOPRANO.

John Child 1:22 AM  

This puzzle didn't particularly bother me. I had a couple of WTF moments and a couple of overwrites, but finished quickly for a Wednesday and liked the theme answers and CHARLESTON, GIRTH and BOZO.

It's clearly not a Thursday puzzle, but Mr Markey knows how to do a Thursday -- he's had three of them in the NYT in the last 18 months. So what if it's a day before the holiday: Let's see what we get for a puzzle tomorrow...

Nothing in Fearless Leader's comments (or the gang's) for Mr Markey earlier puzzles suggests that he lacks constructors' software or generates unacceptable fill. In general Mr Markey has fared better than many other constructors from Michael's sharp comments:

Last Thursday was "pretty cute" but clued hard and vaguely. Since we know the editor adjusts a substantial portion of the clues in most puzzles, this isn't necessarily Mr Markey's fault.

February 2013: DUTCH (+DOOR) OVEN (+DOOR), etc. Seven theme answers got the thumbs up; fill was called weak but excused because of the theme density.

Oct 2012, a Tuesday: MAIL theme: FIRST CLASS CABIN, REGISTERED NURSE, etc. This one got a "liked it."

May 2012, a Thursday: Circles that showed SUIT, ROPE etc. and a revealer of JUMP. Downs JUMPed (skipped) the circles. Some question of whether the trick was fair, but F.L. liked the fill and thought the puzzle was "interesting."

chefwen 1:24 AM  

Where's my pie?

August West, same thought on Quik.

Easy Wednesday puzzle (way too easy for Thursday) but, I still want my pie and I want it now!

@Rex, how was the cake?

Benko 1:24 AM  

Like @Augustwest, I finished this puzzle 20 seconds faster than yesterday's. Feels like a Tuesday to me, but that would distance it even more from its intended Thanksgiving release.
Only write over: SOBA for UDON, though even as I wrote "udon" I thought, "Oh, could be SOBA instead."

John Child 1:26 AM  

P.S. Winter SQUASH has been on my THANKSGIVING DAY dinner table every year since I was old enough to remember. Something orange is essential, and no one in my family liked sweet potatoes, so ...

Evan 1:43 AM  

Also, per Jeff and @Anonymous 12:18, here's a good opportunity to actually write out my list of things to avoid putting in the fill, roughly in order. Before I wrote this, I hadn't realized how big the list of Fill I Try To Avoid really was.

1. Obscure Word crossing another Obscure Word.
1A. Uninteresting obscurities (i.e. water bug genus).
1B. Some completely made-up word or phrase. These first three are probably a given for most constructors and should be avoided at all costs.
2. Variants. I hate these with a passion.
3. Random Roman Numerals. Actually, I'd avoid most Roman numerals, although low numbers that you'd see in the U.S. Constitution like VII or VIII are less egregious than the really random ones.
4. Uncommon abbreviations.
5. Uncommon acronyms.
6. Prefixes/Suffixes 5 letters long or longer.
7. 5-letter partials.
8. Repeats of common words (like HIT and HIT UP).
9. Nominalizations. These are words which take verbs and turn them into bizarre nouns by adding -R or -ER at the end and the definition is just "one who [verb]s" (i.e. a STANDER is one who stands, a HOPER is one who hopes).
10. Similar to Nominalizations, words which arbitrarily add RE- to the beginning.
11. Plurals of Convenience. I don't mind plurals of common nouns and verbs, but I do mind the ones which are completely arbitrary. The worst examples I can think of are plural first or last names.
12. 4-letter prefixes/suffixes.
13. 4-letter partials.
14. Timeworn crosswordese.
15. Repeats of incredibly common words (A, THE, TO, IN, etc).
16. 3-letter prefixes/suffixes.
17. 3-letter partials.

It's near-impossible not to have one or more of these in a grid, though I'd do just about anything to avoid #1-13, and if I were forced, I'd rather have an OLEO than -ITE or RETAPS.

Feel free to add your own ideas.

Atria Cactus Malias 3:02 AM  

UCK, so much focus these days on three letter words, and less on the puzzle and themes.

Yes, easy -peasy (hey, did you have peas at Thanksgiving?) but all the first words were used in a different context than the food, so right on!

And Thanksgivinukah starts for just about everyone Wednesday these days. Heck, folks are already lined up for Black Friday...
Tuesday is the new Thursday.

Whatever...I liked it, bec I love ITALO Calvino, I liked that a guy constructor had a weird subtheme of salons...
and joining two long theme answers with a four letter word that starts with Q ends with K is both fun fun fun and lucky as helll!

Also I love those clues like 16A... I also needed D-AL before I could come up with DUAL and then I got to marvel two such disparate phrases but joined by one word in a DUAL capacity!

@Evan and the anon constructor give excellent advice of all the myriad things that go into making a puzzle and what to avoid... but really one can just follow one's heart (ATRIA?) and sense (TRUSTS?) what is amusing, fun, good or not.

Davis 3:31 AM  

I get just a twinge of sadness knowing that so many people consider one of my favorite authors--ITALO Calvino--to be crosswordese.

jae 4:54 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
jae 4:58 AM  

@Davis - guilty - I only know ITALO from crosswords.

Hungry Mother 6:36 AM  

Acorn squash filled with quinoa, dates, and walnuts has been my vegan holiday meal for years.

Loren Muse Smith 6:55 AM  

Those Obama girls are always tricky. _ A _ _ A. Probably like lots of others, "tennis" RACKET before I saw the theme. Hey – at least it wasn't a variant, racquet!

As the theme became clear, I was thinking that we would all be arguing about what the proper fare is for THANKSGIVING. I agree with Rex - SQUASH has never been part of our tradition, but "pickled peaches" (the jar calls'em spiced peaches) and this delicious Mom-made-up butter/garlic dip for the turkey were stalwart offerings with the Thanksgiving spread on Ozark Circle in Chattanooga. (Caleb – if you're reading this – I knew before I even saw the picture yesterday in Learned League that it would be Moon Pie. Hah!) I've persuaded my husband to go with DRESSING and not stuffing because when you just have stuffing, there's never enough.

I made my husband watch Amber Riley's CHARLESTON yesterday on DWTS. Mom taught me the basic CHARLESTON step when I was a kid, a lesson that I've always been grateful for. Really. It's cool to be able to pivot your feet back and forth while whipping your legs forward and back. She also taught me the basic Jitterbug step. And we've already been over the fact that she taught me the proper way to eat bread and soup. (And when she visits, she still checks that I've folded the napkin –paper or cloth- so that the bottom right corner top part has four separate layers and no folds.) Give her a mask and a cape.

Rex (and @Evan)– I have a question about BUICK SEDAN because I had the same thought. Last year VEAL RIB was in a grid. To me, that's not a *thing* either. And I don't remember anyone complaining about it. So I was left with the impression that as long as it's not a themer it can be like green paint? Would you object to a non-themer like, say, LACROSSE GOAL? As a fledgling constructor, I can't help but hear your voice when I fill in beauts like REKEYERS.

I love the word DWEEB. And GIRTH is one you don't see a lot. GIRTH, worth, dearth, berth.

"Dodo" before BOZO. BOZO, dodo, loco, hobo – all no-nos.

@Z - our internet was out so much yesterday I couldn't respond to your idea of a final consonant progression, but I thought about it all day. I didn't come up with one, but we have another start today with LOAM and LOAN. The problem you run into are the pesky vowels.

I get a kick out of clues like 53D. "Hem and haw" - VERBS. "Far and wide"- ADJECTIVES. "Off and on. . ." "here and there. . "Ok, I'll stop.

PRANKS – I just read yesterday in some TABLOID BUZZ that George Clooney had business cards made with Brad Pitt's name and info. Then he scrawled out some acting tips on the back of one and sent it to Meryl Streep.

I liked it. Lots of other possibilities for THANKSGIVING offerings - SOBA, ORZO, RACK of lamb, AMISH bread, MUGS of QUIK, DICEd tomatoes, AMSTEL light. . . Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! May tomorrow's feast not ADD to your GIRTH.

Mohair Sam 7:34 AM  

Thoroughly enjoyed @Rex's rant. It made doing this boring Mondayish puzzle worthwhile.

Nit to pick with Rex however. The clue at 39A did not specify Setting at Rex Parker's house, hence SQUASH was fine. Along with others who have posted above, said food is a part of our Thanksgiving table each year. And (unlike turkey, dressing, and gravy) SQUASH is served on no other day. We all hate the stuff - but it makes the table on T'day.

r.alphbunker 7:43 AM  

As expected, the gridderati did not like this puzzle.

If our host were a food critic I would not want him at my Thanksgiving dinner. Will Shortz regularly serves up decent crossword fare but these people want a 10 course gourmet meal every day!

@JFC's point is well taken. There is much to be thankful for in these puzzles. The point of Thanksgiving is to count our blessings in a world where there is much that is awry.

Z 8:01 AM  

If you hate SQUASH you ain't cooking it right. Peas, on the other hand, (Hi, @ACME) are proof that God has a sense of humor.

@August West - I thought of you as I tried to parse ---CKeEDAN. Fixing OTOe finally got me off of wondering if stiCKEE DAN was some sort of weird Lacrosse/Japanese hybrid term.

That e to S was my sole writeover, but only because I waited to decide between MALIA and her sister.

Best part of this puzzle were the DWEEBs and NERDs at the salon for RINSES and DYES, probably in preparation for dates with LOEB and EYRE.

Beer Rating - AMSTEL Light. Yeah, that's just about exactly right.

ArtO 8:09 AM  

I'm with@r.bunker. Let's not all pile on the criticism. @Rex had enough for all of us. And, yes, one of the easiest Wednesday's ever.

joho 8:16 AM  

Yes, Monday easy but regardless I appreciated Will running a THANKSGIVINGDAY theme as we're all getting into the mood today: last day of the work week, big travel day and lots of cooks already in the kitchen. Why not celebrate a little earlier?

I did write, "Where are the mashed potatoes?!" in the margin but I was only kidding, I mean, try working that into a theme answer! The dishes that Mr. Markey picked are all just fine.

Loved seeing DWEEB, NERD and BOZO all at the same table. Made me wonder if they'd be wearing TURKEY hats.

Also liked the opposing RETRO/NEOS.

I love THANKSGIVING! And I thank this puzzle for getting it started!

jberg 8:24 AM  

I teach a class with 20 students enrolled. Tuesday, the attendance was 8 - for the rest of them, THANKSGIVING DAY had come already. So I didn't mind this on a Wednesday, but I agree that it was Monday fare.

I did like Lacrosse in the clue crossing SQUASH RACKET; subtheme of "sports for the upper class."

I'm pro SQUASH on this one. We always have it, and it's good. Here's a simple recipe: cut it in half lengthwise, scrape out the seeds, rub oil on it all around, put it on a baking sheet (or in a lasagna pan) cut side down, poke a few holes in the skin (so it won't explode), then roast for about 20 minutes and eat it, skin and all. My son Andy is bringing the squash tomorrow - I hope it's the spicy Asian recipe he made once; I've never been able to replicate it.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. Enjoy your SOBA!

AliasZ 8:29 AM  

LOOIES? Jeez, Luise, I thought they were people who lived in British johns.

While ITALO Calvino may not be strictly crosswordese today, he may become one for future generations. A decent enough author, but I couldn't say I love him or call him a favorite as @Amish Cache Mezzo and @Davis. However, he did write a tribute to CHE Guevara, published in Cuba in 1968.

I believe it was Rudyard Kipling who wrote the following immortal lines:

"A million surplus LOOIES are willing to bear the yoke;
And ALOOP is only ALOOP, but a good Cigar is a Smoke.

Light me another Cuba - I hold to my first-sworn vows.
If LOOIES will have no rival, I'll have no LOOIES for Spouse!"


Carola 8:55 AM  

Yes, easy, but I thought it was fun. I mean, GRAVY TRAIN and TURKEY TROT - you have to smile (well, I did anyway).

SQUASH on the THANKSGIVING table? Always. Peel and slice (not DICE) SOME butternut SQUASH, steam until tender, place in baking dish. Top with mix of grated ginger, orange zest, brown sugar, add a little orange juice, bake until edges are caramelized.

Loved GIRTH as a bonus THANKSGIVING dinner answer, expecially since it crossed the clue about the mirror.

Michael Hanko 9:10 AM  

I'm feeling lots of thanks during this season of gratitude to @Rex and everyone who comments here for another year of intellectual stimulation and entertainment. Lately I've been thinking back to all those thousands of puzzles I solved in my life before blogging was a thing and how much more interesting, interactive, even social this formerly solitary activity has become. We are lucky indeed.

Haven't gotten your fill of Thanksgiving fare (I mean the puzzling kind)? Some good cruciverbal friends of mine have composed a really hilarious puzzle in honor of this year's super-rare confluence of holidays. You can find it in several solving formats at George Barany's website:

Mohair Sam 9:12 AM  

@r.alphbunker - Did you just invent "gridderati"? Or have I not noticed the word before? Either way, I love it.

@jberg - will try to talk spouse into letting me try your squash recipe tomorrow, it's different and sounds good. Maybe we'll finally get some of the that iconic food eaten in this household.

Anonymous 9:20 AM  

I liked it fine. The theme was useful in solving. I particularly liked DWEEB. For a newb like me, a googleless, errorless Wednesday is a cause for celebration.

AoRti and OTOi slowed me down, as ATRIA wasnt reflexive and I didn't believe OTOS was an acceptable plural of otoe. That's 20 minutes of misplaced trust right there.

Unknown 9:24 AM  

Aw, it was easy and fun and seasonally appropriate. Holidays are special cases and in my opinion it's perfectly fine for the holiday theme to trump the expected level of difficulty, or come a day early, or both.

I agree - I'm thankful for this growing little community of crossword DWEEBs and NERDs!

Bob Kerfuffle 9:28 AM  

My thought was, If the first themer is GRAVY TRAIN on the day before Thanksgiving, you know it's going to be an easy puzzle.

jburgs 9:30 AM  

This puzzle took me a little longer than usual for a Wednesday. I had put in tennisCOURT early before knowing the theme, among other little mental blocks. I am shocked at people dissing squash as a clue. In my life, I always remember squashes, pumpkins, gourds of various sorts being associated with thanksgiving. If you Google images for the first Thanksgiving, you will see scurvy preventing squash and pumpkins always in the foreground, or in any image of a cornucopia. Are cornucopias thanksgiving related? I will google it.

As a recreational solver, I think the puzzle was just fine.

The fact that the puzzle is a day early is inconsequential to me. I am sure that all those sitting at the airport today waiting for their delayed flight will appreciate the distraction. Small mercies.

Doug 9:39 AM  

Wow, you are a little cranky. Glad I'm not chowing down with you tom'w. God help us if the Thurs. puzzle has a terrible theme, terrible fill, and awful clues.

Rob C 9:40 AM  

Easiest Wed in a while. (Although I didn't post yesterday, I found it to be one of the more difficult Tuesday's in a while).

Theme was appropriate for the day before Thanksgiving. We all prep for the holiday well before, so we're all thinking about it already. However, to me, when there are so many questions about why something was included in the theme and why other more obvious things were not, it doesn't hit the mark.

@r.alph - gridderati - great word and concept. Of the regulaar posters here, who are the members? I'd nominate:

anoa bob

I'm sure I'm missing others. Any more nominations? Makes me think how interesting it is and lucky we are to get daily insight from folks like these.

baja 9:44 AM  

@r.alphbunker like +1, gridderati

quilter1 9:53 AM  

Everyone's Thanksgiving spread is different with varying traditions. As we have seen in the comments, many count SQUASH as their tradition. How about baked acorn SQUASH mashed with butter and brown sugar and garnished with toasted pecans? My contribution this year is Brussels Sprouts slaw with dried cranberries, the aforementioned toasted pecans and a balsamic vinaigrette.

Easy puzzle for a busy day.

Z 9:57 AM  

@Rob C - Rob C.

After you scoop out the seeds and goop in the middle of the halved squash you have a perfect little cavity for a sausage stuffing (if you're a meat eater) or all kinds of sweet/savory other things if vegetables are your thing. Let your creativity run wild. Beautiful on the table and tasty to dig into.

Rex's SQUASH 'plaint was that it isn't iconic - I'm of the belief that it once was part of the Thanksgiving iconography and will be again. With vegetarianism and veganism growing I think gourds are primed for a comeback. Invest in your gourd farm now.

Anonymous 10:01 AM  

How sad. So many of those commenting here are so hard to please that ---- well, today's criticism says it all. Quibbling about a Thanksgiving theme published the day before Thanksgiving ---- well, why bother to respond.

Bach and Beethoven may have written the greatest music ever, but if someone likes bubble gum music, there is a place for it, just like there is a place for the puzzles Mr. Shortz accepts for publication.

I don't complain about one complaining. What you feel is what you feel. But at times this blog can depress me a bit. The quibbles day after day makes it sound that most of you on most days do not enjoy the puzzles. How sad.

retired_chemist 10:12 AM  

Fun and easy. Mediocre time since my sling (due to rotator cuff surgery) messes up my typing.

Many 3 and 4 letter words give a choppy feel. But some of the short fill is lively enough IMO (SOBA, CONG, BONE as clued..... OK, not much more) to leave a not so bad taste in my mouth.

I object to the designations of NERD and DWEEB as non-cool because I am one. We are plenty cool! :-)

Thanks, Mr. Markey.

OISK 10:21 AM  

Like retired, chemist, I am a really cool nerd. (and a chemist) Never heard of Lisa Loeb, but one pop star in a puzzle is OK. Also don't like two cooking terms crossing each other - Soba and Orzo.

But those minor quibbles aside, enjoyed the puzzle and the timely theme. Average time for a Wednesday for me, but after missing a single square in three of the last four puzzles, (Sat, Sun, Tues) I am very happy just to have finished. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. We will be adding potato latkes to the feast this year!

GILL I. 10:23 AM  

Roasted acorn SQUASH glazed with cinnamon butter...
I'm wondering if the pilgrims ate SQUASH before they ever ate a TURKEY...
Puzzle was fine and got me in the mood. I just wish Mr. Markey had put a PIE in there since I'm in charge of them this year. No one likes pumpkin nor pecan so I'm making cherry and apple...
Those of you travelling - be safe. Happy Thanksgiving/Hanukkah (or as @Atria Cactus said THANKSGIVINUKA to all!!!!!

Mutman 10:25 AM  

Wah, wah, wah Rex!

Two Ponies 10:43 AM  

I heard yesterday on NPR that the Pilgrims most certainly had squash on the table but most likely had venison not turkey. I think that qualifies as iconic. It will be on my table tomorrow.
Gridderati is a great word!

Of the many things I'm thankful for I must include this blog.

chefbea 10:51 AM  

easy easy puzzle!!! Got gravy train right away and knew what the theme was. I too have never had squash on thanksgiving.
Busy making my stuffing/dressing now…then pumpkin angel food cake.

ADevore 10:59 AM  

You are so right about squash. Wrong, just wrong. Disagree about Enero, Thought it kind of fun, had to think about the translation and the reversal of seasons, and being an opera fan, mezzo was great.

Questinia 11:03 AM  


✪✶✬ GRIDDERATI ✪✶✬✪✶✬

or as I like to say it, "gridder-ah-TAY" : those who sneer at a grid's louche verbal decor while sparkling with bon mots and esprit. off to make a reasonable facsimile of @ Carola's squash and @ quilter's slaw.

Just Joe 11:09 AM  

Had a hard time with this one. Kept trying to make squash stuffing - where I come from it's called stuffing not retrospect should have been easier.

Like the man said "Butter-nut squash? How disappointing - no butter, no nuts...just squash."

Masked and Anonymo5Us 11:11 AM  

1. Mashed taters.
2. Big bird.
3. Gravy.
4. Dressing.
5. Brussels sprouts.
6. Cranberry sauce.
7. Corn.
8. Rolls.
9. Celery.
10. White wine.
11. Pumpkin pie.
12. Pepsid AC.
13. Thankfulness.
14. Football game.

Woulda made the ThursPuz about the above. Wednesday is about a whole passle of vacuumin. Woulda made WedPuz about vacuum cleaners.
This puz was a fun solve, tho. Sir Shortz says that's it fer T-Day puzs, this year.

Gridderati. har.
Happy Vacuumin Day.

Member of the Vacuummarati.

r.alphbunker 11:44 AM  

I guess I made it up. Googling gridderati returned two hits, my post(!) and some image of a TABLOID page with the headline "FAN 'GRIDDERATI' GET SUPER SOIRE/Sexy treat at top-of-line bash" It evidently has something to do with football because the two women are holding a football.

In my original conception of the word it had a negative connotation focusing more on , in @Questina's words, the sneering than the bon mots.

If @acme is a member of the gridderati, then it makes the term a positive one.

Anonymous 11:48 AM  

I'm tired of your daily bitching You becoming a grouchy old bore. Lighten up.

Pete 11:52 AM  

You know what I'm thankful for? - Quality, thoughtful fare. I'll never understand how thrown together crap in service of a holiday theme can be accepted, be it music, TV, or puzzles.

I would much prefer a quality puzzle than a mediocre holiday themed puzzle. Just as I'd prefer a good steak to dried out turkey on Thanksgiving.

Rob C 11:55 AM  

@M&A - I'm sure you'd be a member of the Gridderati if you divulge your identity

Anonymous 11:55 AM  

whoa. this anonymous just saw her rare last name above DeVore..that's a nice treat! here in Ma. we often have squash at Thanksgiving. liked puzzle if easy, wasn't keen on Italo/Lin cross as I blanked on Italo. letter Os and Bs amused..

Rob C 11:58 AM  

PS - I definitely considered Gridderati a positive term. not the sneering elite.

Evan 12:14 PM  


I wouldn't care for LACROSSE GOAL as fill. No one would be that descriptive when watching lacrosse, just like you wouldn't say BASKETBALL SHOT -- you'd just call it a GOAL.

As for BUICK does seem a little arbitrary on the GREEN PAINT level, though I suppose it has the advantage of being something that you would see in an ad on TV. I dunno, I'd have to think about that. I'd probably choose a different long filler answer if I could.

@Rob C:

I'll wear any gridderati badge I get with pride. I also nominate r.alphbunker.

Z 12:31 PM  

@Evan - "Not your father's BUICK SEDAN" - yep, definitely not slogan worthy.

@anonymice - You are not required to read the blog or comments if it ruins your day. Thank you for your kind and insightful contributions.

@OISK and @RetiredChemist - You do know that NERD chic is a thing, don't you?

Danp 12:35 PM  

@Evan - please add to your list verbs converted to adjectives by adding the letter "a", such as ablaze, aboil, etc.

Squash: If it's brown it's Thanksgiving fare. Cranberry sauce, on the other hand, is the bastard at the family reunion. Green beans were never Thanksgiving day food until someone came up with the idea of mixing it with mushroom soup and throwing fried onion rings on top. And potatoes are only allowed if they are sweet potatoes with burnt marshmallows, or mashed and covered with gravy. Even the pies have to be mincemeat, pumpkin or apple with lots of cinnamon and raisons.

M and Also 12:42 PM  

@Rob C... har.
Count me in the puzzerati, tho. That and the vacuummerati have that crucial U-power I so cherish.

I think just about any old puz could be turned into a Thanksgiving Day Puz, what with some real crafty cluin.

Take yesterday's puz...
GRENOLABAR ... Banning of certain snacks during the T-Day feast.
TABLOIDBUZZ ... Rumors about tom and his hen.
ESCALATORCLAUSE ... Santa's post-T-Day helper.
YOYODIETING ... [trivial exercise, left for the readers].
TRADEMARKS ... Butterball labels, e.g.

Of course, even more fun, if you start out thinkin of themers that might adpt well to this strategy...
TOUGHNUTTOCRACK ... It may not make it into the pecan pie.
TBIRDCOUP ... Revolt of the toms and hens?

Fixin now to fire up that sucker...

Steve J 12:59 PM  

@Evan: That's a pretty good list from a solver's perspective, too, in terms of stuff I'd rather not see in a puzzle on more than a very occasional basis.

I'd add on to/ammend your point 1 to include crosses that require specific knowledge crossing each other. For example, in a recent AV Crossword, I DNF because I was unable to figure out a Game of Thrones character name crossing a Game of Thrones character name. Yes, the show's popular and a genuine pop-culture phenomenon, so having one answer from the show was entirely fair. But crossing with another reference from the same show was just evil, as you have zero possibility of sussing it out without that specific knowledge.

@Z: I don't think it ruins the Anonymice's day at all. In fact, coming in with a drive-by bitching probably makes their day. Why else would they do it every damn day - and yet not seem to be happy on days (like Monday) where the puzzle is rated highly?

Carola 1:09 PM  

I add my thanks for getting to hang around the clubhouse with this witty and knowledgable crew.

@Questinia - Hope you like the SQUASH. I think it nicely straddles the line between vegetable side and confection.

@r.alphbunker - "Gridderati" :) !

[captcha: "saustruc" - cranberries on board?]

Lewis 1:11 PM  

I am hoping for another Thanksgiving puzzle for tomorrow, that this was the hors d'oeuvre. I have to agree that there was a lot of grid gruel, but the puzzle got me thinking about Thanksgiving, and I did like that.

I really liked the clue for DICE. For me squash isn't normal T-day fare; it's sweet potatoes. But what puzzle answer can start with that? YAM MOMMA WEARS ARMY BOOTS. Nope, can't think of one.

MetaRex 1:24 PM  

[warning: navel-gazing ahead...]

Funny thing about people and roles and a sense of duty...

OFL doesn't have to put this blog out every single day...but there are a lot of us who care about what he does, and a role he fulfills for us. He feels a powerful sense of duty, mebbe...and mebbe he feels from time to time a certain grouchiness connected to that sense of duty...I would fer sure.

And others of us, gridderati or otherwise, in our smaller ways play our roles, and may likewise feel some sense of duty. Maybe we don't want on a given day to talk about ESE or recipes or linguistics or too many pop stars or U's...but mebbe we have our own minimeta senses of duty paralleling OFL's big one, and we beat on, boats doing somethin or other...

What a great community!...and it wouldn't be what it is w/o the gripin. Got a paper deadline for Sunday...will be out of the lists for a while...enjoy the holiday huzzahs and moanin fer me!

AliasZ 1:33 PM  

@ Lewis,

I hate to be the one to burst your bubble, but this is what Will Shortz says in xwordinfo:

"Even though THANKSGIVING DAY is tomorrow, this holiday-themed puzzle feels more Wednesday-ish, so I scheduled it for today. Don't look for another Thanksgiving puzzle tomorrow. This one is it."

Bring on the stuffing!

I Heart Crosswords 1:46 PM  

A few people have mentioned Jeff over at xwordinfo. Obviously Jeff isn't a puzzle expert like Rex and Amy are but I find his insights very interesting. I think the knock against him is probably that he actually likes the puzzles or at least finds something worthy in each of them, but so do I so I'm ok with that! I realize the standard mode here is hate and despair for some past golden age that might or might not have actually existed but, even though he's not as entertaining as Rex, he's worth checking out. I learn more from Jeff's site than from Rex's most days.

Anonymous 2:06 PM  

I probably won't have time to do the puzzle tomorrow, so I liked having it today.

There are three foods for me Without-Which-It-Would-Not-Be-Thanksgiving: turkey, pumpkin pie, and my famous (well, locally famous) SQUASH CASSEROLE! Off to make it...mmmmmmmm!!

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Anonymous 2:06 PM  

Never had squash at Thanksgiving, Rex? Have you never had pumpkin pie? Pumpkin is a squash.

C.J. from Green Bay 2:13 PM  

YOYO DIETING ... Why Ma passed on the mashed taters?

Happy V-Day and T-Day,

Just Askin' 2:22 PM, in a symmetrical grid, if there are cheater squares, can there possibly be *less* than two?

Benko 2:25 PM  

@ACM and @Davis: I also love Italo Calvino's writing, particularly Cosmicomics, although I've got most of his books on the shelves and in the piles in my house. I'm not sure if people consider him crosswordese because of obscurity (unfair) or because he pops up so disproportionately often (probably fair). It's not his fault that, like his fellow Italian postmodernist Umberto ECO, he fits into grids so easily!
@RobC: Surprised to see my name on your list, but thanks for the shout out!
@IheartCrosswords: I would consider Jeff Chen to definitely be a puzzle expert!

Benko 2:33 PM  

@Iheartcrosswords: It occurs to me upon reflection that you were very likely being sarcastic in your post about Jeff Chen not being a puzzle expert on the bloggers' level. It's hard to read sarcasm sometimes in print.

I Heart Crosswords 2:53 PM  

I just meant that he has only been blogging about crosswords for a short time so he obviously doesn't know as much about analyzing puzzles as the people who have been doing it for years.

John V 3:26 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
acme 3:35 PM  

Maybe one can think of the easiness of this puzzle and its theme as eating Monday leftovers late Tuesday night/early Wed.
If it was made well, it should still be tasty.

Yes, I am very thankful to this blog and community to give space to think about and discuss the puzzle on many levels!
It was brilliant for @Rex to dream this place up...
and altho we "occasionally" disagree, I think of it as a (dysfunctional) family that I still enjoy being a part of.

Not crazy about the trend toward negativity, many times baseless and cruel (moved 2500 miles away from my own family + 20 years of therapy to deal with that)
but the gems that shine thru when least expected (in comments, in puzzles, in the blog writeup) make this a daily treasure hunt.

It's also helped me to clarify my own thoughts on puzzles, perhaps avoiding some pit-falls (EYE and SAND for two) and clarify why I continue to make them, solve them, comment on them.
Plus, it's invaluable to have a reason to write every day.

But obviously I am most thankful for the collaborations and the non-virtual friendships that have evolved from this site. As they say, PRICELESS.

August West 3:38 PM  

@Evan, lms: while I agree that you wouldn't ordinarily call a scoring shot a "lacrosse goal," the physical goal, itself, with its unique shape, is often identified as such. On my side yard, I have a horseshoe pit, a Bounce Back and a lacrosse goal.

@r.alph, others mulling the "going forward" definition of "gridderati," I was among those who read its original publication not to refer to accomplished constructors but to churlish snipes, like me.

sanfranman59 4:16 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)

Wed 9:01, 9:44, 0.93, 33%, Easy-Medium

Top 100 solvers

Wed 5:31, 5:37, 0.98, 44%, Medium

Sfingi 5:57 PM  

@Evan - loved your list.

I do like entries with the same clue; hardly Mr. Cool and salon supplies, here.

Also liked CHARLESTON and TURKEY TROT. Those sorts of things brighten my mother, though she has advanced Alzheimers. That. along with old music, poetry and sayings. That;s all that's left.

dodo before BOZO. Been called worse.

ahimsa 6:05 PM  

Fun puzzle! Too easy for a Wednesday but I didn't mind that much.

My Thanksgiving dinner will be a vegetarian potluck with a large group of folks. Quite different from the traditional feast but we all enjoy it. No "tofu turkey" -- yuck! Just various dishes made with beans, grains, veggies, fruits, nuts, etc. One year I made BBQ tempeh from the Vegan Soul Kitchen cookbook by Bryant Terry.

Happy Thanksgiving (or Thanksgivinukah, if you are combining celebrations) to all - @Rex, gridderati, anonymice, and even all the lurkers!

ahimsa 6:21 PM  

Re: SQUASH, yes, I think pumpkin pie counts!

And some folks in the south even make a "squash pie" instead (it's a thing, look it up) that uses butternut squash (and maybe even other types) instead of pumpkin. It's not as common as sweet potato pie but it does exist.

joho 6:32 PM  

I feel compelled to give my thanks to @Rex for this blog as a big part of my thanksgivings. His brilliance at transforming solitary solving into a community affair where we all gather religiously to analyze every word and nuance is fascinating and liberating. I would be delighted to meet any person here anytime. Wouldn't it be something if someone you work with is a Rexite and you don't know it? Maybe we all need to start wearing badges that say something like NYTnerd. Or XWnerd. NYTXW. Make up a name. Acme?

Whassup with that? 6:36 PM  

@Rob C

Depending on what you mean by "gridderati", your list of nominees serves either to insult those you have omitted, or give them a sigh of relief.

Z pretending to be Walt Whitman 6:57 PM  

Re: the probable meaning of "Glideratti:"

The past and present wilt — I have fill'd them, emptied them,
And proceed to fill my next fold of the future.

Listener up there! what have you to confide to me?
Look in my face while I snuff the sidle of evening,
(Talk honestly, no one else hears you, and I stay only a
minute longer.)

Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)

I concentrate toward them that are nigh, I wait on the door-slab.

Who has done his day's work? who will soonest be through
with his supper?
Who wishes to walk with me?

Z 6:59 PM  

Sure - I can spell, most of the time...

Rob C 7:54 PM  

Sheesh. Just to clear up any confusion. Some definitions of glitterati I found are:

-people who are famous, wealthy, and attractive (Mer-Webster)

-Highly fashionable celebrities; the smart set (the free dictionary

-the fashionable set of people engaged in show business or some other glamorous activity (google)

See, nothing negative by definition. Just using r.alph's term in a bit of a tongue-in-cheek way to apply to the smart accomplished people we know here. Not an insult to those I named. Besides which, I've already stated I meant it in a positive light.

Also, not an insult to those I didn't name. I acknowledged when I wrote there are probably some that I forgot and invited other "nominations".

My main point, which was obviously lost on some was that we are lucky to get daily insight from folks like these into a hobby we enjoy and they've mastered in various ways.

@Rob C - in the future, just stick to the puzzle.

sanfranman59 10:02 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 6:29, 6:07, 1.06, 79%, Medium-Challenging
Tue 9:06, 8:12, 1.11, 76%, Medium-Challenging
Wed 8:59, 9:44, 0.92, 31%, Easy-Medium

Top 100 solvers

Mon 4:08, 3:46, 1.10, 85%, Challenging
Tue 5:36, 5:01, 1.12, 79%, Medium-Challenging
Wed 5:28, 5:37, 0.97, 42%, Medium

Tita 10:17 PM  

Well, I liked this puzzle, because it is puzzle-spouse's birthday, and,on his birthday, lo these many ears ago, it WAS actually Thanksgiving Day.
So for him, was perfectly aligned.

Also liked the syncronicity of OFL's shoutout to SOBA - I never knew it was buckwheat.
Neither did I know that "grano saraceno" was buckwheat.
In an Italian market last week, I bought several grains and legumes, some which I knew, like lenticci piccolo, and others, which I didn't know. But "Grano Saraceno" had such an evocative name...

Well, it's just good old buckwheat.

Anyhow, I liked the puzzle.
Thanks Mr. Markey.

And Happy Thanksgiving to everyone here.

spacecraft 10:47 AM  

Toot! Toot! Happy New Year! And the fill in this one grates like those horrid noisemakers on my poor ears.

SQUASH? Not on this guy's table. That seemed nothing more than a gratuitous Q. How fortunate for our constructor that Nestle chose to misspell a word for their brand name.

BUICKSEDAN is an instance of clue-as-entry. It certainly does not belong in the same grid with the CHARLESTON, or even the TURKEYTROT, two headlamps trying to light the way through the rest of the fog. Yes, OFL returns to curmudgeonism, but in this case: justified. Not a great way to kick off thw new year.

First captcha word is Cates, recalling that great play/film "Inherit the Wind."

Waxy in Montreal 11:54 AM  

Things I didn't know until 2014: Nestlés doesn't market QUIK anymore - not being fond of milk au naturel, I grew up on the stuff (ah, I see from google it's morphed to NESQUIK now), SOBA/ORZO (personal nattick), LOEB/BIOTA.

"EROS ANTE MEZZO" - proposed slogan for an adult film studio hoping to compete with MGM's "Ars Gratia Artis".

Happy New Year to all syndilanders...

DMG 2:22 PM  

As always we in Syndiland are a holiday or two out of sync. I rather expect our Feb 14th puzzle to talk about mistletoe! But, be that as it may, I enjoyed this T'Day tribute, as I sit here watching the Rose Parade!!

Best of everything to all in the New Year!!

jentaps 3:14 PM  

And I'm in Sacramento. Talk about being "not on the holiday"! I enjoyed the theme. Had problems with Looies, Soba, and Orzo.
Happy New Year to all the gridderati! :-)

Ginger 6:07 PM  

A few sidedishes short of a T'giving feast. OTOH the puzzle and the posters have sure whetted my appetite. Brussels sprouts slaw with cranberries and various squash recipes have me salivating on the keyboard;-). But, here in syndiland it's the New Year, so I'm gonna finish off the egg-nog and watch football.

HAPPY NEW YEAR everyone!

strayling 7:02 PM  

Bland as a pumpkin pie, but - like said pie - oddly satisfying.

Happy New Year to all.

Solving in Seattle 7:47 PM  

I enjoyed it, Mr. Markey. Happy belated Thanksgiving.

Learned a new word: BIOTA. I'm going to use it twice out loud today.

@Spacy, I'm with you re: SQUASH. Yuck. Oh, btw, a company cannot normally trademark a commonly spelled name, e.g. QUIcK. So leave out the "c" and voila, you can trademark it.

Happy 2014 to all.

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