Seminomadic Kenyan / WED 4-9-14 / Product of domesticated insect / Mikado accessory / Trivia whiz Jennings

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Constructor: John E. Bennett

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: "WHAT'S IN THE BOXES?" (37A: Question asked by a customs officer or a kid on Christmas … with a hint to this puzzle's circled squares) — six sets of four circles form little "boxes," and the letters in those squares spell out types of boxes:

Theme answers:
  • MAIL
  • GEAR
  • PILL
  • SAND 
  • SHOE
  • SALT
Word of the Day: PAPAL States (5D: ___ States) —
The Papal States were territories in the Italian peninsula under the sovereign direct rule of thepope, from the 700s until 1870. They were among the major states of Italy from roughly the eighth century until the Italian Peninsula was unified in 1861 by the Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia. At their zenith, they covered most of the modern Italian regions of Lazio (that includes most of Rome), MarcheUmbria and Romagna, as well as portions of Emilia. These holdings were considered to be a manifestation of the temporal power of the pope, as opposed to his ecclesiastical primacy. After 1861 the Papal States, reduced to Lazio, continued to exist until 1870. Between 1870 and 1929 the Pope had no physical territory at all. Eventually Italian fascist leader Benito Mussolini solved the crisis between modern Italy and the Vatican, and in 1929 theVatican State was founded as the smallest of all nations. (wikipedia)
• • •

On the one hand, this is a cute puzzle with a reasonably tight theme. The central question is *mildly* contrived, but it's plausible, and neatly directs our attention to those circle formations. This last part is important because I finished the puzzle having no idea what the theme was. There was no need to know. It was a super-easy puzzle. Knowing the theme helped not one bit. It played like an afterthought: "Oh, there was a theme? Oh … yeah … look at that." I think a theme like this works much better with a higher level of difficulty. There's no chance for the theme to help you, or to play any role at all, when the puzzle is this easy. Hard to fully appreciate something you didn't notice at all.

I also think that in a puzzle like this, you gotta construct the grid in such a way that you don't have all these false themers, i.e. long Across answers (8+) arranged in the grid the way that theme answers typically are. Weird to have such prominent-looking answer be completely unrelated to the theme. Fill is just OK. The theme boxes cause some trouble (IS NO, IS ON), but actually most of the mediocrity is elsewhere—common short fill abounds. Not a sin, but not scintillating, either. PSST OMAN TNT ALI ODEON AGEE SEER … taken individually, just fine; piled up, a bit tedious. How many PEDROS does it take to make this puzzle? More than ONE, apparently. ONE is usually enough.

By far the hardest part of this puzzle was PAPAL—that fill-in-the-blank is a massive outlier in terms of difficulty. First, the clue is super-ambiguous. Second, when's the last time anyone thought about the PAPAL States? Everything else in this puzzle is straight over the plate: familiar, and non-cleverly clued. [Seminomadic Kenyan] makes things a little interesting in the SW, but for a puzzle with a WATER SNAKE, it had very little in the way of teeth. It's very competently made, but not terribly exciting.
    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


    Mark 12:19 AM  

    Very easy. Got WHATSINTHEBOXES immediately and for a moment thought that the circled quads might each contain the literal W H A T. By the way, Magnus Carlsen's game could also be clued Knight's contest.

    wreck 12:28 AM  
    This comment has been removed by the author.
    wreck 12:30 AM  

    I guess everyone has a different idea what makes a good puzzle -- I thought this one was clever and had pretty decent fill. A very representative Wednesday!

    jae 12:40 AM  

    Easy-medium for me mostly because I had dpi before RES and had trouble spelling ODEON ( U anyone? M&A ?)  FAIN as a gimme this time helped.   There's some nice stuff in the grid, but the reveal seems off.  Some of those things are not what I'd expect to find in a Christmas box or luggage.   But, perhaps I'm over thinking it.  So, liked it, but...

    Mark 12:56 AM  

    Thanks to a recent puzzle, now we all know that "'April Love' is for the very Fain" (sung to the tune of "April Love" by Sammy Fain)

    Anonymous 12:59 AM  

    "By far the hardest part of this puzzle was PAPAL."
    ? Oooookay.
    Rex being ironic? Although he doesn't strike me as the ironic type. Byronic maybe, ironic not so much.

    Unknown 1:05 AM  

    Scratched on MUSKs/sEN and had to come here for the reveal. Guessed at the A in MASAI as Sammy FAIN was already mostly gone from memory. Is MASAI rote crosswordese? Do they live in the Olduvai Gorge? Was I playing hooky that day in geography class? PAPALSTATES, on the other hand, was easy. I got it off the L. All but NE and SW took 25 min. Those two took 15 minutes and constituted the DNF.

    Theme was no help. It was a distraction really as I spent time midsolve pondering what MAIL and GEAR had in common. Boxes? Really? Oh, I get it, I guess.

    retired_chemist 1:12 AM  

    Easy here, but the NY Times times seem preliminarily to make it medium at least.

    Rex is dead on when he says it is easy enough that the clever theme is irrelevant to the solve. Fill gave me little to think about - it all just went in easily. I don't think I had an overwrite.

    Pleasant but not memorable. Thanks, Mr. Bennett.

    Steve J 1:16 AM  

    Found this quite underwhelming. Got the revealer early, but it felt off (the singular WHAT'S IN THE BOX feels much more natural and real - and appropriate to the clue - than WHAT'S IN THE BOXES). That kind of soured my mood early on.

    The bits in circles were definitely words that, together with "box", form real phrases. I found them about as exciting as that preceding sentence.

    Fill wasn't particularly sparkly, cluing was less so. Nothing much to ooh and aah over.

    (With the WHAT'S IN THE BOX(es) revealer, I was sure I was going to see a clip of Brad Pitt yelling that from Seven. Kinda surprised Rex didn't include that.)

    Unknown 1:23 AM  

    The West African franc, used in sEN (Senegal) is indeed issued in banknotes from 1000 to 10,000. Hands up for sEN and its West African franc? Anybody?

    Moly Shu 1:24 AM  

    Played easy here, theme was neither a help nor a hindrance. Just kind of - there. Don't know what a SALT box is. I liked TENSILE and MASAI. Could do without UPLAND, more like ugh-land. The long non-theme answers didn't bother me, it played like a themeless, and then at the end a kind of "that's cool" feeling on seeing the boxes. Very easy for a Wednesday, but liked it.

    @Jae, maybe a little overthinking. GEARbox, PILLbox, SANDbox, etc. At least that's how I made sense of it. The 4 letter words are literally "in a box"

    jae 2:48 AM  

    @Moly Shu - Yep, I got that part and it works just fine for me. It's the wording of the clue for reveal that seems misleading. Maybe just keep it simple.... "Question that makes sense of the shaded squares...(smiley face)"

    chefwen 2:58 AM  

    Super easy week continues, but this was so cute it's difficult not to love it. Had no write-overs, no questions that made me halt for a nanosec. Thanks Mr. Bennett.

    Moly Shu 3:04 AM  

    @Jae, gotcha.i see your point. Maybe I underthought it. At least I found out what a SALTbox was (smiley face)

    Mohair Sam 7:26 AM  

    Easy Wednesday. Agree totally with Rex today.

    Sammy Fain wrote the wonderful classic "I'll be Seeing You" (best done by Sinatra, btw) and we have to get reminded twice in one week of the sappy "April Love"? C'mon Will.

    Unknown 7:31 AM  

    Agree with the write-up completely.

    Had to chuckle at Sammy FAIN's appearance again. Clearly Will is trying to see if we learned it last time.

    jberg 7:40 AM  

    @Mohair Sam -- I'm guessing we'll get "April Love" clues all month, then "I'll Be Seeing You" on the 30th, as Mr. Fain says farewell for 11 months.

    I did have a couple of writeovers, a-bOmbS before U-BOATS, island before UPLAND, but it was still pretty easy. The theme did help me get the revealer, if that makes any senses--I knew it was WHAT'S IN THE, but got BOXES from the boxes.

    I guess PAPAL States was a bit harder -- I wanted penAL at first, even though that doesn't mean anything -- but I've always found them memorable because of Machiavelli's amusing stories about Cesare Borgia's political career.

    Dawn 7:57 AM  

    Thinking of an airport pat down, filled in PAtS for PAWS. Otherwise did well.

    Z 8:02 AM  

    I've said it before, I'll say it again, the shaded squares in the paper are so much more pleasing to the eye than those lame little circles. Perhaps the worst part of this is that shading a square in a box on a computer screen was solved by Excel decades ago (okay - I don't know which spreadsheet did it first, but if I said "Quattro" I'd get funny looks from people).

    I liked the theme - agreed that it didn't help the solve so it was a little bonus puzzle - "Oh, types of boxes, neat." Felt a little Tuesdayish, here, despite the whole "What the heck does sEN stand for...OHhhhh, 'Y'" thing. @casco kid - you are not alone.

    Kim Scudera 8:04 AM  

    Easy solve, cute theme. Got it at GEAR, then ignored it until the end, when I went back to enjoy all the different types of boxes.

    Agree with @Rex about the clue for PAPAL, but I would take it a step further: the difficulty level of the clues is inconsistent across the puzzle. @CascoKid highlights one in particular with his post about YEN, which was clued in a way that the answer could have been a number of things (sEN, apparently :-) (but @Casco: if you've got _EN and aren't sure which way to go, look carefully at the clue for MUSK_, which starts "Like some...," indicating an adjectival form rather than the plural noun, and then MUSKY/YEN makes more sense than MUSKS/SEN.)

    Z 8:13 AM  

    @jberg - You should reread The Prince, only imagine it as Stephen Colbert's persona doing the writing. It is a hoot. Personally, I am of the opinion that most people are entirely too serious and don't get the joke.

    joho 8:25 AM  

    Well done, John Bennett, all of your boxes are neatly tied up in a ribbon!

    Jeez Louise, 6 theme answers, very little awkward fill and some nice long answers. I especially liked WATERSNAKE, STRADDLED and FIRSTLIGHT. I think this was a perfect Monday puzzle ... had it run then I'll bet the reviews would have been better.

    Loved SNOOT!

    Carola 8:27 AM  

    I liked it very much - neat idea for all the four-letter boxes whose letters are all arranged in the same order and placed so nicely in the grid. Unlike others, the theme helped me: from MAIL and GEAR I got the reveal, and that helped me with SAND.

    Many other pleasures: FIRST LIGHT is lovely, also liked TENSILE, STRADDLED, WORDINESS; SMILED offset by SIGHED and MOANED; the MUSKY PAWS and TOES. Got a kick out of the Sammy FAIN quiz.

    AliasZ 8:28 AM  

    What made this puzzle attractive and interesting to me was the fill more than the theme or its execution. No, I don't think it was bad, but it lacked humor. For instance, the contents of BOXES (TOOL, SOAP, CASH, JURY) could have alternated with types of BOXES (LOCK, JUKE, CALL, PINE, BOOM) or mixed in with what is literally IN THE BOX (JACK).

    What made this puzzle for me were WATER SNAKE, SIGNET, FIRST LIGHT, WORDINESS, STRADDLED, TENSILE, TUSSLE, MASAI and a few others, but UPLAND not so much. Highland yes, UPLAND no. Lowland yes, downland no. The short fill was mostly groanless too, except perhaps ISNO and ISON.

    Sadly, the works of English composer Sir Arthur Bliss (1891-1975) are rarely performed outside Great Britain. Let me in a very small way remedy the situation by presenting a brief portion of his CHESS-themed ballet suite, Checkmate. If you are interested, his film music for the 1936 movie Things to Come produced by Alexander Korda, based on the book The Shape of Things to Come by H. G. Wells, is an especially stirring work.

    Have an ICE (CUBE) day.

    Ludyjynn 8:31 AM  

    Very easy Wed. puzzle. But I learned something new @64Across w/ the clue for TSAR. Which makes me wonder, does anyone here know why there is an alternate spelling, CZAR, used just as commonly?

    Also liked MASAI, SALINE and TENSILE, nice Wed. words.

    @CascoKid, @KimScudera is right on point about the clue for MUSKY. Slow down and take advantage of the help the constructor gave there, by leading the solver to a Y word ending, not an S.

    Thanks, JB and WS. I have a feeling Th. will be a bear to make up for today's walk in the park!

    Hartley70 8:48 AM  

    I think this week's puzzles have been identical in difficulty so far. No progression to be seen. I don't look at the grid until I've answered the clues without it on the app, so the theme on this was wasted on me until it was an afterthought. Maybe we're all getting a break after last week's agonies!

    Dawn 8:51 AM  


    I use TSAR all the time in puzzles to avoid the rare and nasty letter Z in CZAR. Dont know where I have learned that spelling. It came naturally after eating General TSOs chicken!

    David 8:52 AM  

    My first thought was the boxes represented some type of duality as I saw Mali/Lima and then Gear/Rage - of course that fell apart with Pill...

    John Child 8:52 AM  

    @Susan McConnell yes to seeing Sammy FAIN again. Will does this a lot it seems to me. I think that part of his scheduling algorithm is to place puzzle answers like this close to each other in time. I like it.

    Sir Hillary 9:00 AM  

    Solid puzzle. Agree with those who found it easy. Wasn't too easy for me though, because I found both the N and NE to be somewhat vexing. Last letter in was the 7 square.

    I had never heard of a salt box until this morning, but I now realize I see them often in my neck of the woods. Cool.

    Lewis 9:01 AM  

    Yes, easy week so far. I thought this puzzle's reveal had too much WORDINESS, it didn't need both the customs officer and Christmas kid; would have been fine with one.

    I didn't know what a saltbox was -- a type of house -- so I learned that.

    No big wows in the puzzle, but nothing that set me off either. It got my brain rolling this morning -- thank you John!

    Did Trip Payne's "anything goes" crossword puzzle, last week's Fireball puzzle. It was my first puzzle of this genre. Wow! I was happily blown away by the creativity. I'd like to see some of that creep into the NYT puzzles.

    chefbea 9:21 AM  

    Easy puzzle, I agree. But did forget Fain and didn't know papal. But it all came together.

    Now to make some potato chip cookies!!!

    Unknown 9:22 AM  

    @KimScudera @Z @LudyJynn Yes, MUSKY is better than MUSKs based on its adjectival clue, and YEN would have been far easier to accept off the cross than sEN. It was clear in the post mortem. MASAI/FAIN (could it be MeSAI/FeIN??) consumed my solve-overtime fretting after my submission was rejected.

    Easy doesn't really describe this puzzle. I'm with @Kim on inconsistent.

    OISK 9:24 AM  

    Breezed through, but really enjoyed this one. I thought the theme was really cute, mail, gear, pill, OH! I didn't understand "ERA" until just now. Baseball!

    Thanks, John.

    quilter1 10:18 AM  

    Just filled it all in. PAPAL no problem. Easy and a cute idea.

    Bob Kerfuffle 10:28 AM  

    Agreed, good puzzle, very easy.

    Also learned something: Had not previously known that TENSILE meant stretchable.

    mac 10:40 AM  

    Yes, easy but good. Learned a few things: tsar / caesar connection and tensile.

    I liked first light and straddled, was sure the last one would be a 2-word answer.

    @chefbea: wouldn't you rather make the fried artichokes?

    Arlene 10:41 AM  

    The newspaper version, with the shaded squares, made the theme make more sense. In answer to "What's in the boxes" - referring to the four-shaded-square boxes - made it cute to see what was in them once the puzzle was done. Maybe that was the intention - not to help solve the puzzle, but to see what was in them afterward - just like the custom agent or child would.

    tensace 10:41 AM  

    PAPAL states was a gimme for me. They're referred to in Puzo's "The Family". A great read and favorite of mine centering on a not so stellar example of papal behavior. (And I'm overall a fan of the Catholic church).

    MASAI came easily as well. They're featured in Wilbur Smith's "Assegai" that I'm have way through. So far its a bit too much focussed on big game hunting. A "sport" I'm glad is nearly or should be extinct. Still there's hope for the rest of the novel and a historical perspective of Africa.

    JenCT 10:47 AM  

    @Z: Remember the spreadsheet program "Twin"? I had a Twin/dBase class. We've come a loooong way...

    Everything around here is UConn Basketball - big homecoming celebrations, lots of traffic! Hope most of you enjoyed the games.

    retired_chemist 10:50 AM  

    @ Hartley70 - right. My M Tu W times were within ten seconds of each other.

    Benko 10:57 AM  

    @Lewis: As far as I know! Trip Payne is the only person doing that type of puzzle. I just got done doing the free cryptics on his site--some of the best American cryptics I've done.

    Jayaye 11:34 AM  

    I don't think I have ever heard reference to "Ashe Stadium", always "Arthur Ashe Stadium". For me, this would be like saying the "Louis Arena" in Detroit. Doesn't work...

    Needless to say I had to take out "Shea" pretty early on. Hmmm why is it not William Shea Stadium?

    Justin Timberlake & Andy Samdberg 11:48 AM  

    WHATSINTHEBOXES? Seriously, you have a WHATSINTHEBOXES puzzle, and you don't have the archetype for the answer to WHATSINTHEBOXES?

    Epic fail!

    Jisvan 11:54 AM  

    Sweet, easy hump day puzzle with six little presents to open, what is not to like?
    UPLAND is seen often in the plural around here, usually as part of the name for a swanky subdivision with ocean views. I live in the downland, myself. Slightly out of the tsunami zone, hopefully.
    @chefbea, potato chip cookies? Hmmmmm. I am intrigued.

    Anonymous 11:59 AM  

    I agree with AliasZ that it would have been more fun had the shaded squares contained words like JUKE or JACK (that's the best one, I think). Still, it was a pleasing puzzle that took me, a relatively poor cruciverbalist, just 15 minutes. This week's puzzles have definitely felt 'right' in terms of solving time. I did Monday's in 5 minutes and yesterday's in 10.

    PAPAL was the last clue I filled in, but it was vaguely familiar. I didn't get MASAI until the MRS gave me the M. The shaded boxes _did_ help a bit at the end after I'd figured out the theme -- it helped me get that PAPAL area as well as the MAIL spot (I don't know Arabian peninsula lands!).

    I agree that it was odd to have non-themed long answers like WATERSNAKE and STRADDLED. But on the whole I definitely enjoyed the puzzle.

    - David

    chefbea 12:16 PM  

    @Mac - have had the artichokes many times when visiting Rome. Might have to try making them myself.

    @Jisvan - e-mail me and I will send you the recipe!!

    Matthew A. Harmer 12:23 PM  

    I'm sure I've mentioned it before, but I see more EBIs in crossword puzzles then I ever did living in Japan.

    I got the NW right off the bat, then filled in the long 37a; way too easy for me to guess the theme (and yes, I was thinking of Brad Pitt's scene the whole time). It was neat, but this puzzle was easy even for me, a true novice.

    30d was odd. Don't all the Manhattan avenues run parallel to each other? I had SIX in their for a brief moment before the crosses gave me STRADDLED. Then I figured out it had to be LEX since names were clued, not numbers.

    Billy 12:38 PM  

    The theme actually did help me. Usually they don't

    mathguy 1:08 PM  

    I'm a little embarrassed to say that I needed GEAR in the box to get the section with PAPAL. Embarrassed because the fill was so easy : I count 35 entries which are straight definitions or close to it.

    But somehow I liked it. Never knew that "tsar" came as a corruption of "Caesar."

    dk 1:13 PM  

    πŸŒ•πŸŒ• (2 Moons)

    Yawn. I had to keep telling myself this was Wednesday and not Tuesday. As Rex stated the idea is a good one just a little simple.

    I would have loved to have seen JACK in a box…. and I thought the TSAR derivation from Caesar begin with, well…. a C.

    And lastly, RINDS are a garnish not an ingredient. The oil from the rind may be an ingredient but not the rind itself. Splitting hairs I know but as a member of the American Cocktail…..

    dk 1:13 PM  

    πŸŒ•πŸŒ• (2 Moons)

    Yawn. I had to keep telling myself this was Wednesday and not Tuesday. As Rex stated the idea is a good one just a little simple.

    I would have loved to have seen JACK in a box…. and I thought the TSAR derivation from Caesar begin with, well…. a C.

    And lastly, RINDS are a garnish not an ingredient. The oil from the rind may be an ingredient but not the rind itself. Splitting hairs I know but as a member of the American Cocktail…..

    dk 1:14 PM  


    Anoa Bob 1:29 PM  

    Growing up in rural Tennessee meant always being alert for snakes. The two that were at the top of our list were the Copperhead, which made a recent NYT grid appearance, and the Cottonmouth, which clues today's WATER SNAKE. We also called it the Water Moccasin and debated whether or not it could bite you under water.

    FIRST LIGHT is always a welcome and at times sublime experience when at sea in a small sailboat.

    In my never ending quest to improve the POCometer™, I've added a new feature. It now gives a readout of the frequency of the letter "S" in the grid, converted to percent. The benchmark for the appearance of "S" in English is 6.3%. "S" makes up a full 14% of today's grid, so, yeah, a bit on the heavy side.

    For comparison, out of the 100 tiles in Scrabble, 4 (%) of them are esses.

    Benko 2:13 PM  

    @anoa bob: Same experience growing up in rural North Carolina. Though I see more cottonmouths down here in Florida.

    Tita 2:39 PM  

    Hearing cheers of "WE'RE #1" in these parts. Even non-sports fans like me can't help but get caught up.

    Syncronicity - inexplicably, "Put another nickel in..." was the test pattern of my mind a few days ago. I paused to consider the word, and realized that nickelODEON means "nickel theatre". Thank you, crosswords!

    I encountered a nest of WATERSNAKEs at the confluence of the Ten Mile Rive and the Housatonic. They were about a foot from my hand as I grabbed some bushes to steady myself. Eek! I was more impressed then they were.

    My mother's elementary school outside Lisbon had domesticated SILKworms that the girls would tend. They also grew flax, and other textile-related things, in teaching them some of the science and business behind the "domestic sciences".

    A fine puzzle, Mr. Bennett. Thanks.

    ksquare 2:42 PM  

    @dk 1:13 You"re right. Czar also was used for royalty and derived from Caesar.
    And the three spaces starting at 55A could have been circled for those of us who remember what kind of boxes were used before electric (and even gas) refrigerators became ubiquitous.

    sanfranman59 3:59 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 8:27, 10:13, 0.83, 11%, Easy

    Top 100 solvers

    Wed 5:37, 6:14, 0.90, 24%, Easy-Medium

    Mohair Sam 4:21 PM  

    @jberg - thanks for the laugh, and point well taken. Maybe for the next eleven months we can get "I'll Remember April" clues with answers like Parker or Sinatra or Julie London (swoon). If Will's gotta go for earworms, he should make a little effort and go with the best.

    Thavas 4:31 PM  

    The box this puzzle needed....

    Puzzle Mom 5:07 PM  

    By far my fastest Wednesday ever. I breezed through this puzzle and I pretty much never breeze through anything past Monday. I, too, finished and then thought, hmmm, I wonder what all those circles were about?

    Noam D. Elkies 5:46 PM  

    Rex writes "There's no chance for the theme to help you, or to play any role at all, when the puzzle is this easy" — but who is "you"? Rex is consistently in the top 100 solvers in the country, which means almost all solvers find crosswords harder than he does. The theme must have been a welcome help to numerous solvers. I certainly appreciated using the theme to fill in a few shaded squares, even if as a C-level solver (I was around 250th in the one ACPT where I competed) I didn't actually need it.


    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 5:45, 6:12, 0.93, 16%, Easy
    Tue 7:19, 8:32, 0.86, 11%, Easy
    Wed 8:21, 10:13, 0.82, 11%, Easy

    Top 100 solvers

    Mon 3:46, 3:58, 0.95, 21%, Easy-Medium
    Tue 4:39, 5:11, 0.90, 14%, Easy
    Wed 5:22, 6:14, 0.86, 12%, Easy

    Sfingi 10:07 PM  

    Today, Hubster discussed the PAPAL states, saying that in those states,
    people were treated poorly, the Pope being not unlike a dictator, and the people, as a result, became the most anti-clerical.

    Jisvan 10:52 PM  

    I guess now we live in the PayPal states... OK, sorry, on to Thursday!

    Fred Romagnolo 1:13 PM  

    The ruler of Russia was a TSar, not a CZar. There is actually a letter in the Cyrillic alphabet (Russian),that is "ts". Both Tsar and Czar are derived from Caesar, as is Kaiser. We use Czar when referring to someone in charge of a large field of activity, usually government appointed. Incidentally, Kaiser is how Caesar would have pronounced it.

    Anonymous 12:08 PM  

    A very nice Wed. puzzle thanks to Mr. Bennett. There is absolutely NOTHING wrong with it, in my humble opinion.....Cute, clever, different and snappy. I truly believe some commenters go to extremes when dissecting each and every square.

    Ron Diego 9:05 AM PST 5/14

    spacecraft 12:35 PM  

    I too thought it was going to be super-easy, zipping out of the NW--straight into a natick. I don't know from Microsoft Excel commands or pixel density thingies. Anything goes wrong with my puter I call up my puter guy. He opens windows I never even knew existed--or couldn't understand even if I did. The dude makes house calls, bless him!

    I did manage to navigate "around by Funston's," as we said where I used to live. MASAI wasn't exactly a gimme, but crosses helped. Not much trouble elsewhere, though I forgot about LEXington. Been a while. Back around to the natick, where I found "R" to make SORT and RES. Seemed reasonable, and, thankfully, was.

    So, not "easy," but the unease occurred in a couple of spots. Most of it was pretty simple. I give thumbs up for theme cleverness and execution; SALTBOX notwithstanding. In my 73+ years, I never heard of this till looking it up today, so SALT is hardly mainstream BOX fill. To me a SALTBOX is cylindrical, and has a picture of a little girl with an umbrella. But I never called it a "BOX." Boxes are supposed to have, like, sides and corners and stuff.

    Today I could only EKE out three deuces.

    spacecraft 12:40 PM  

    P.S.: I guess, re the Morton's, all this time I should have been thinking (no! Don't say it!)...Okay, I won't.

    Ah, now that's better: four 9's!

    Anonymous 1:41 PM  

    Didn't we just have Sammy Fain last week?

    rain forest 2:03 PM  

    No fair, @Spacey, posting twice to get a better hand.

    I liked this easy puzzle, and actually used the theme to get SAND, because I had entered Shea in there.

    My son teaches in Nairobi, and has sent many photos of *MAASAI* warriors (note the double A) so I was initially reluctant to put MASAI in there. They are a gentle and interesting people, and as my son, a volleyball player, says, great leapers.

    I think SALTboxes are, or were, real things where salt was kept.

    The longer non-themers were not a distraction because the theme was clearly the grid-spanner and the six shaded areas.

    OK, I'm only going to play against @Spacey's first hand, here. Fair's fair.

    Boat. 8's and 6's. Raise.

    DMG 2:28 PM  

    Solved this one, but has to check here for a couple of squares, I guessed at, the R in RES (no idea what that means, it just seemed like it might work), and ERA. Think that means "earned run average" which seems like something one would want to be "high", not "low", but then, I know nothing about baseball. As for that Russian emperor, I always fill in the AR and wait to see what version the constructor has selected.

    Another hot, over 100° day, 2% humidity, and raging winds, but the fire threat seems to be stabilized for the nonce. Expect this to be a long, hot, dry summer with a lot of finger crossing, but for now we are promised more normal May weather by Saturday!!

    @Diri: thanks for the kind thoughts!

    Three 5’s.

    Dirigonzo 4:26 PM  

    I had the whole grid filled in except the top-center section and when I finally managed a couple of crosswirds the GEARbox was very helpful in finishing up.

    Sammy FAIN was here only last Friday and I still needed all the crosses to produce his name again.

    @DMG - the ERA stat is a measure of how many "earned runs" a pitcher allows and so lower is better. Glad things are a little better for you today.

    Two pair - fold.

    Z 10:30 PM  

    Oh Canada! Go Habs!

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