Czar's edict / WED 11-19-14 / Self-proclaimed leader of ISIS, e.g. / Krupp Works city / Instrument with sympathetic strings / Tropicana Field site informally

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Constructor: Jacob Stulberg

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: THERE'S NO TWO / WAYS ABOUT IT (18A: With 64-Across, words of certainty .i.. or a hint to 23-, 40- and 56-Across) — "NO" appears at the beginning of each theme answer, and "NO" going the other way (i.e. "ON") appears at the end of each theme answer. So there's "no" two ways about (i.e. on either side of of, framing) each theme answer.

Theme answers:
  • NORA EPHRON (23A: "Silkwood" screenwriter)
  • NON-PRESCRIPTION (40A: Like Advil vis-à-vis Vicodin)  (is the "vis-à-vis" necessary here? Advil is NON-PRESCRIPTION. It just … is.)
  • NOMINATION (56A: Convention outcome)
Word of the Day: UKASE (53D: Czar's edict) —
ukase, or ukaz (/juːˈks/Russianуказ [ʊˈkas], formally "imposition"), in Imperial Russia, was a proclamation of the tsar, government, or a religious leader (patriarch) that had the force of law. "Edict" and "decree" are adequate translations using the terminology and concepts of Roman law.
From the Russian term, the word ukase has entered the English language with the meaning of "any proclamation or decree; an order or regulation of a final or arbitrary nature". (wikipedia)
• • •

I actually like the basic concept here. The theme repurposes a fairly common colloquial expression, and does so in a precisely literal way. Now, the theme answers aren't exactly scintillating (NORA EPHRON is great, the others are forgettable), and that's a Lot of real estate to waste on the revealer, but overall the theme holds up. Shockingly, neither NORA EPHRON nor NOMINATION (!?!) is in the database. Now, that database is not without its gaps (one of my LAT puzzles somehow never made it in), but it's pretty damned deep, and goes back roughly 20 years, so the complete absence of both those terms is stunning to me. I'm slightly down on NON-PRESCRIPTION, but only because NON- is so close to NO. Seems like ideally "NO" would be "hidden" (i.e. the letter pairing would appear in answer where it didn't have the negative meaning of the word "no"). But it's gotta be pretty hard to get answers to follow this NO…ON formula. So the concept is nifty, the resulting theme answers so-so. The fill is completely unremarkable. Net result is neither good nor bad. It just is. Actually, I take that back—it's a little on the disappointing side. It's painfully dull. Grid structure doesn't allow for any longer interesting answers, and the 5-letter and shorter stuff is pretty mothbally. But if you're looking for good fill on a regular basis, you're really doing the wrong puzzle at this point.

So … UKASE. I learned this word from crosswords, and I have never seen it outside crosswords. It strikes me that if genpop (i.e. non-puzzle-nerds) were to look at this grid, *that* is the term they'd be least likely to know. Maybe ERSE would be the bigger WTF, but UKASE strikes me as fairly arcane. Is that true? I consider it really bad fill, largely because a. as I said, it's arcane, and b. it's lazy. It's not in anyone's grid because it's beloved—it's there because vowel/consonant/vowel/consonant/vowel, and someone's used it before so Good Enough! But I know some people who are not nearly as UKASE-intolerant as I am, so maybe mine is a highly idiosyncratic personal reaction.

  • 49D: ___ dragon (huge lizard) (KOMODO) — turns out I really, really can't spell this. First vowel had me flummoxed. Wanted KIMODO. That still looks better to me.
  • 21D: Self-proclaimed leader of ISIS, e.g. (CALIPH) — I'm generally opposed to calling attention to terrorists in crosswords, especially if they are still active. I don't feel very strongly about this, however.
  • 51D: Like a "before" versus "after" photo subject, say (FATTER) — puzzle seems oddly fat-obsessed of late. FAT AS A PIG, very recent. "Phat mama" in the THAI clue. OK, so maybe not "obsessed."
  • 33A: Little pain in the you-know-where (IMP) — it's weird to me that the puzzle can be all ANAL this and ANAL that but somehow blushes at "ass."
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


jae 12:07 AM  

Easy for me too.   No erasures and no WOEs.  Clever theme idea with pretty smooth grid.  Not very zippy, but it's Wednesday. Liked it.

UKASE is starting to sink in after 3 or 4 encounters.

MAURA Tierney did a season of Rescue Me which IMHO is up there with Breaking Bad in the pantheon of high quality TV.  Netflix has it on streaming.

Steve J 12:14 AM  

Pretty easy, pretty decent theme. Nothing scintillating, but nothing much that was particularly grating, either.

Got slowed down in a couple spots: Got my orange-juice stadiums mixed up, and couldn't unlatch from wanting to fill in Houston (Minute Maid Field, as I finally recalled) at 36D until most of of ST PETE was filled in. And then messed up UKASE for a while. I think I conflated it with the phonetically similar (but not remotely conceptually similar) omakase.

And, for me, it'll always and forever be Maura Tierney of "Newsradio"; all the other shows are just add-ons.

7d5a9b1 12:15 AM  

"Painfully dull"? Oh, "Rex," face it, you don't like crosswords. They bore you. Possibly you've outgrown them. Why not take up another hobby?

Whirred Whacks 12:16 AM  

ADORE and ESSEN are two more words that seem to have been in about fourth puzzle lately (but not as frequently as ANAL).

Answers I liked: KOMODO and TREMOR.

After I solved the crossword portion of the puzzle, it took me a minute to "get" what THERE'S NO TWO WAYS ABOUT IT meant. When my "Eureka" moment came, I felt a little let down. "Is that all there is?" I thought. I guess I was expecting something more.

Anyway, nice enough puzzle!

Carola 12:16 AM  

Agree about the clever theme. I had to look at the three NO...ON answers for a couple of minutes before I understood the NO TWO WAYS. Nice!

I just checked a crossword dictionary for other possibilities that would fit the grid, and all are "NON's": nonfiction; nonassimilation, noncontinuation, nondistribution,nonintervention.

Didn't know that NORA EPHRON wrote the screenplay for "Silkwood." I smiled at HAMS EMOTE also fitting the NO TWO WAYS ABOUT IT theme.

Pete 12:19 AM  

@Rex - Your UKASE take is wrong, just plain wrong. Why, the NY Times has their entire oevre digitized, so I can just look up how often it's been in the paper. Wait, give me a second I'll do it now. While it's searching in another tab, let me tell you my guess: At least 2times per month over the past year. 2 times per month, at the very least I say!. Wait, the other tab is dinging that the search is completed.

Drum roll please.... 0 Appearances in the past year.

Zero times in the paper of record.

Hmm, maybe you're not the crazy winer every one says you are

Whirred Whacks 12:26 AM  

@Steve J 12:14
I also first thought of "Minute Maid Field" in Houston before writing down ST PETE.

As you probably know, "Minute Maid Field" started out as "Enron Field." The offenses there were so successful (weak pitching?) that it quickly became known as "Ten-Run Field."

Of course, Enron's 2001 demise led to the name change.

Anonymous 12:34 AM  

If the Times would start allowing titles for these dailies then THERE'S NO TWO WAYS ABOUT IT could
have been removed from the grid, allowing for a better fill and less 3-letter words (23?)

Jisvan 12:52 AM  

Confidently threw down NONhabitformIng for 40A! Ta-da! IWIN! Except nothing followed... Oh well, a great 15 for some other puzzle, (which has no doubt been done...) This was a nice easy Wednesday, they don't all have to be killer clever! Went well with my HOT TEA and SITAR OPERA. Happy Wednesday, Rexites.

Moly Shu 1:05 AM  

KOMODO, awesome. UKASE, not so much, but I did get it from crossword solving, so there's that. Decent Wednesday IMO.

owIng before IDIOM. Guess I was being too literal.

@7d5a9b1, you seem as obsessed with @Rex's criticism of poor fill, as he is with criticizing poor fill. I can't imagine constantly reading a blog that I disagree with. Yet you're here every day to let us know how wrong @Rex is. You claim to want to read a "fair" review of the puzzles. Then why come here? You obviously have you're mind made up that @Rex is not that reviewer.

mathguy 1:15 AM  

The Closer had some neighbor ladies over for dinner so I repaired to our excellent local restaurant for dinner. I returned at nine with three Absolut Citrons under my belt. I printed out the puzzle and did it in short order with no help. Couldn't have been that hard.

Didn't understand the theme until I read Rex.

Was delighted to see Hans of the Katzenjammer kids. He and Fritz were my favorite comics when I was five or so.

No dreck but also not much zip. Okay puzzle.

chefwen 1:42 AM  

@7D5A9B1 - It's getting really old, give it up.

Cute puzzle that I had little problem with until I tried to spell EMIGRANT with two M's until I ran out of spaces. DOH! Also had isles at 12D until it wouldn't work.

@Pete - I thought I was a crazy winer, not Rex.

Shout out to Dear Old Dad at 62D (the old curmudgeon)95 on Friday.

jae 2:25 AM  

@Steve J - I kept expecting Dave and Lisa to get back together and it never happened.

Charles Flaster 5:18 AM  

EZ and uneventful. Only "aha" was reading Rex to understand the theme.
Maybe other words could have been used - notion, Norton, nonfiction etc..
Lots of crosswordEASE making puzzle even smoother----SNO, OATER, UKASE, ESSEN, ERSE.
Liked cluing for--TOT, EMIGRANT, DUEL.
Thanks JS.

GILL I. 6:04 AM  

@MEX, er, @Rex, your write-ups lately have been giggle inducing. Can I have some of what you're eating?
This was a cute hump day puzzle - just what the doctor ordered..!
Q: What did the grape say when the KOMODO Dragon stood on it?
A: Nothing, it just let out a little wine.....
Little pain in the you-know-where clue was my favorite.....and, MAURA Tierney is da bomb!
Good job Jacob Stulberg. I'll take seconds please!

Anonymous 6:58 AM  

Some crosswordese I've come to enjoy (or at least not mind), such as UKASE. But if I ever see ALERO again, it will be too soon.

Danp 7:09 AM  

I'd be interested in knowing why NORAEPHRON is a great entry. It may be the first time her first and last name appeared together, but it's also a name I might not know if not for the frequency of her appearances in these puzzles. Would UTAHAGEN or YMASUMAC be great?

LHS 888 7:15 AM  

Mostly easy for me. Only the SW corner offered serious resistance. I had ---SABOUTIT, but was unsure about the opening word of the 2nd half of the phrase. I didn't know UKASE. I didn't know how to spell ELYSE. Thank goodness for OKLAHOMA. I guessed LEERS and ESSEN, saw DUEL, then DOWEL, and finished!

I didn't get the theme until @Rex explained it. I was hung up on 2 words ending in TION.

@Rex - My guess is you want KiMODO over KOMODO because of kimono which is much more common in the wild.

Favorite clue: DUEL

Thanks, JS / WS!

ArtLvr911 7:25 AM  

NO two ways: forwards and well start and finish.. nice!
As for UKASE, an arbitrary decree, you may not use it much, but Merriam-Webster says "English speakers adopted 'ukase' the early 18th century." One might apply it in the case of a U.S. Governor who declares an Emergency requiring closing of schools for a month prior to the report of a grand jury!

Unknown 7:45 AM  

I don't like the clue for EMIGRANT. Ellis Island is traditionally where people entered the U.S. An emigrant is a person leaving a country.

Lewis 7:58 AM  

I'm guessing @aliasz will come up with some other theme answer possibilities.

I liked the clues for EMOTE and LIE, though on Wednesday's I'm expecting a few more clever clues. The best part of the puzzle for me was the cleverness of the theme. It only helped with the solve because WAYSABOUTIT fell right in.

I liked seeing TREMOR and KOMODO. There are a lot of words, it seems to me, ending with R (8). I'm with Rex about bringing terrorists into the puzzle -- I'm sure Will was trying to be relevant, but I think CALIPH should have had a different clue.

I liked the across line ERECT EMIGRANT, and two columns: the CALIPH LASER (which the DOD is probably trying to come up with) and the imagery of RAMEN TNT DOWEL.

Quick solve that got the brain rolling -- thank you Jacob.

joho 8:05 AM  

Loved the reveal ... original and unexpected! I'll bet Jacob was happy when he realized the phrase breaks into TWO perfect 11's.

I also appreciated that he came up with a 15 with NONPRESCRIPTION.

Anybody else notice RAW WASTE at the top?

I got a blast out of the cute clue for TNT. :)

Nice Wednesday puzzle! Hoping for a rebus tomorrow!

Dorothy Biggs 8:10 AM  

I found the puzzle easy...maybe even a little easier than yesterday. I blitzed through it before I finished my first cup of coffee and before my cat finally got comfortable on my lap after saying good morning.

I'm with LHS in questioning the TION endings on two of the words. Not that it would matter (since all the theme answers start with NO), but it seemed kinda cheap to get the backward -ON by using -tion twice. I compose music for a living and there are times when I embark on a direction of a piece of music and it doesn't quite pan I abandon the direction and either adapt what I have or just start over. This conceit (NO...blah, blah, blah...ON) should either work without repetition or be adapted to some other theme. But, IMO, using -tion twice is a bit lame. It follows a bit what Rex said in that the NO shouldn't be so close to the word no.

I missed the word "anal" in today's puzzle, but I noticed our old friends ADORE, ERE, and EMOTE were there.

Weirdly, I just finished playing for a production of OKLAHOMA a week ago and last night I went to see Book of Mormon, nice to see my life is all connected in these little ways.

I didn't care for the clue to 6A (It might go away for the summer). Unless you live at the North/South Poles, I'm pretty sure the ICE will go away for the summer. There might be some snow on the mountains, but I don't usually think about ICE-capped yeah, ICE does go away in the summer even if you life in Finland. Anyone from Finland care to confirm this?

RooMonster 8:10 AM  

Hey All !
Zipped through today's puz faster than Mon or Tues! Weird how sometimes the brain is tuned in on different days. Liked the puz overall, seems the grid could have been set up slightly different so as not to have segmented areas. Just sayin.

Wanted Asshole for the Isis clue, but wouldn't fit. If you ask me, we need to nuke the living hell out of that whole area, but that's a subject for another site.

Also had the i in KOMODO at first, but the cross fixed that. Had WhilE in for WASTE, only writover. Finished, no Googs, no errors!

Oh, MAURA Tierney was also the ex in Liar Liar. Funny movie.


Lewis 8:15 AM  

Factoid: One TITHE is the German government's church tax (Kirchensteuer), compulsory to all who declare themselves Christians, or 8-9% of their income tax. Anyone who wants to stop paying it has to declare in writing that they are leaving the Church. They are then crossed off the Church registers and can no longer receive the sacraments, confession and certain services; Roman Catholic church may deny such as person a burial plot. (Wikipedia)

Quotoid: "When a man tells you that he got rich through hard work, ASK him: 'Whose?'" -- Don Marquis

Unknown 8:22 AM  

Would have been a medium Monday. As is, a very easy Wednesday. Did not pick up on the theme, but I was flying through the puzzle and felt no need to waste time worrying about it.

I forget who mentioned her above, but it is true - we've not seen UTAHAGEN in a long long time. Not that I mind.....

Anonymous 8:22 AM  

I've used UKASE twice lately in Words with Friends. Knew that there was some obscure word that had those letters. Now I've seen a definition. Don't need to know a definition for Words, but it does help in doing crossword puzzles and vice versa.

Sir Hillary 8:29 AM  

Six-letter words I was hoping would answer 21D:

Lemonade714 8:36 AM  

I like the concept very much but agree that using NON is unfortunate. Maybe NOSY STOOL PIGEON or something of that sort.

RooMonster 8:40 AM  

@Sir Hillary

Awesome! Brought a huge smile to my face!


Ludyjynn 8:41 AM  

Easiest Wes. puzz. in recent memory, no two ways about it.

NORAEPHRON and Alice Arlen were NOMINATed for an Oscar for best original screenplay for "Silkwood". I had forgotten that Mike Nichols directed; also nominated.

Funny how the OPERA haters here were able to avoid 'aria' or 'basso', but not the genre itself!

Would have liked the clue for 22A to read: "One headed FROM ____ to Ellis Island, say".

What are "sympathetic strings"?

OCH, RAMEN--the mainstay of many "in the red" college students' diet.

Thanks, JS and WS; a breezy mid-week outing for me.

AliasZ 8:43 AM  

Goody, no ANAL today.

I liked this one, but found it almost Monday easy. The length of the revealer however sort-of killed the theme for me. It took up so much space, the fun of finding more entries with NO-ON bookends was somewhat anticlimactic, but it helped that the center theme answer was a 15. Two additional down themers would have been the ticket. What about NOON as a revealer?

Some additional possibilities:

NOise pollutiON
NOrman JewisON
NOcturnal emissION - this one's too long,
NOt to mentiON
NOrth-Atlantic Treaty OrganizatiON.

Yesterday's ÉLYSÉE lost an E today.
Fat as a pig, FATTER, phat mama - are you trying to tell me something?
I liked the two noodle dish clues.
Heads, I WIN, tails, you lose.
Didn't you also confuse KOMODO with kimono? They are nothing alike. That nasty KOMODO dragon wouldn't be caught dead wearing a kimono.

One day Rachmaninoff had some time to kill and he decided to attend a concert about which he wrote: "I heard a performance of a bad concerto by some American composer named DOWEL." Let's listen to Piano Concerto No.2 by American Romantic composer Edward MacDowell (1860-1908) and see if Rachmaninoff was right. What do you think?

Happy Wednesday.

jberg 8:46 AM  

Turned 71 today, but didn't feel old until I read @danp's comment. NORA EPHRON obscure? But she wrote all those best-selling novels, just a few, um, decades ago!

Aside from that, what everyone says -- really easy for a Wednesday. If you want to avoid two TION endings, you have to go to multiword phrases, e.g. "29 days of every 30?" NOT A FULL MOON.

I've seen UKASE used once in a while to describe some arbitrary edict from a bureaucrat; the general meaning is 'this doesn't make any sense, but we have to do it anyway because of where it's coming from.'

@Joseph Welling, the clue is "headed for Ellis Island." You can interpret that as someone about to get on a ship in some European port, i.e., emigrating from his or her native country. Once the ship arrives at Ellis Island, he or she will be an immigrant.

Mild complaint: RAMEN is a kind of noodle, not a "noodle dish."

Hartley70 8:49 AM  

@LEWIS Fascinating. Ya gotta love that First Amendment!

I thought Monday was a Tuesday puzz, but now I see it was a Wednesday. This was the easiest this week. No crosses needed. I didn't pay much attention to the theme except to note the initial "no"s and came here to see the "on" at the end. Cute.

Honeysmom 9:10 AM  

Easy and dull for you pros, maybe, but first Wednesday I completely aced with no googles in record time for me. Oh happy day!

Leapfinger 9:21 AM  

Happy Birthay, @jberg!

@Lewis, loved your quotoid! Don Marquis is always good for some archiness.

@AliasZ, I was going to say there's no such thing as too long, but I have to take that back.

@Rex thinks the fill too mothbally? Not if you read it right! Some parts got borderline blush-worthy. How about just reading down the 4 NW Across entries [Leers Oater Lad]?

Theme took me a while; based on a freestanding 18A, I was looking for missing T,W and O. [sigh]

UKASE the joint, I'll watch for a cops.

@Rex unloading those mothballs reminded me:
Q: Why are mothballs so small?
A: Because very few of them know how to dance.

Yup, back to Grade 4 for me. But remember, NO MON is an Island.

xyz 9:22 AM  

The excellence of meh continues

Theme was new & exciting like the Gravity plot within Interstellar was

chefbea 9:26 AM  

Didn't get the theme at all. So far no aha moments this week. Maybe tomorrow

Darryll 9:33 AM  

@Honey's Mom - Congratulations! Welcome! Keep coming Back! That is, unless you're Honey Boo-Boo's mom, then I'm calling the authorities on you.

Z 9:41 AM  

The reason NORA EPHRON is a great answer.

UKASE is a feature, not a bug, for new solvers. It is the kind of arcana that puts a NYTX just out of reach for many smart people and allows one to feel superior when one gets it. Of course, if you are a veteran solver it is just a piece of trivial trivia that you see in xwords but never in the wild.

If I were Muslim I would be highly insulted by 21D. Imagine Jim Jones (of Jonestown) clued as "self-proclaimed apostle of Christ." Yes, the guy has proclaimed himself that - but murderous ego-maniacal nut jobs shouldn't have their delusions of grandeur reinforced by the media.

@jae - If Dave and Lisa had gotten back together the show would have lost just a little bit of its greatness.

A nifty little Wednesday, although having NORA EPHRON and THERES NO ---- led to a big chunk being filled in and a Tuesdayish solve time.

quilter1 9:43 AM  

Easy and UKASE no problem. I was lucky to be listening to NPR the day after NORA EPHRON's death a couple of years ago. Very interesting interviews and tributes to a wise, witty and talented writer.

noone 9:49 AM  

Rex, if you wear an OBI to keep your KIMODO closed, you won't catch a code.

Z 9:51 AM  

Apropos nothing today, I just read this XKCD comic which might help you understand "meta."

Hey - a captcha word - erwswer - what you have before you write-over.

Anonymous 9:55 AM  

I surprised @Rex didn't note that technically, NORAEPHRON doesn't actually work. NOTWOWAYSABOUTIT could mean "NO" two ways "NO" & "ON" about "IT" which technically, you can find IT in both the other clues. I realize I'm stretching it, but I've seem little things like that pointed out before.

I found this one more a Thursday than a Wednesday, but overall okay.

Leapfinger 9:56 AM  

Long time ago, "It's High NOON in the Super Bowl" was a catchphrase in my college group -- meaning that things are down to the wire. Does anyone remember where that comes from?

Glitch 9:57 AM  

@Moly Shu and @ Chefwen, perhaps @7d5a9b1 is just doing what @Rex is doing, daily bashing the current in hope of a return to the glorious past.

Try reading some of Rex's old reviews, the one citing @acme as "the greatest" is particularly ironic.


Bob Kerfuffle 10:14 AM  

Nice puzzle, worthy of a smile.

Happy birthday, @jberg!

The question asked by @Joseph Welling re: EMIGRANT, very well answered by @jberg, reminds me of something I once read. I'm shaky on the details, but it claimed that American soldiers in close combat would yell "Incoming!" when a mortar round was coming in their direction, while soldiers from some other nation (Brits? French? Israeli?) would yell "Outgoing!", meaning that they had observed a shell launched from the enemy side.

Anonymous 10:15 AM  

Enjoyable theme- very well done!

For MAURA Tierney fans- She stars as Helen Solloway on the HBO show The Affair.

Zeke 10:23 AM  

@Glitch - Welcome(?) back. Except, of course, that you're wrong. Puzzle content - specifically fill, and resultant criticism, has evolved over the past 8 years. Will admits this (see Delpygate), Rex certainly would. No one is hoping for a return to the glorious past, they're wondering why the inglorious past is resurecting itself on such a frequent basis.

Anonymous 10:25 AM  

My, my is Will Shortz being naughty? Sure when I'm ERECT you have my attention. But I surely can be "at attention" without being erect.

Maybe Will's playing catch up ball with Ben Tausig whose puzzles often border on porn and recently had F@CKBODY as an answer to a clue.

I can hardly wait to see what Ben has in store today. I'll be ERECT in anticipation.

Guy who can't help but make a French joke 10:25 AM  

@Bob Kerfuffle - It was the French, and it wasn't a comment about the shell, it was a command to run away.

Mr. Benson 10:28 AM  

I don't mind the 21D clue/answer (CALIPH) from a sensitivity standpoint, but think it's slightly inaccurate. A more accurate clue would be "self-proclaimed status of the leader of ISIS." The clue as phrased implies that there's a dispute as to whether he (Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi) is actually the leader of ISIS.

On the sensitivity point, I think "self-proclaimed" saves it; that phrase casts doubts, raises eyebrows, etc. I wouldn't be offended by the above Jim Jones clue.

Nancy 10:35 AM  

For those of you too young to know NORA EPHRON, google as many of her interviews as you can on YouTube. She was funny, brilliant, warm, and wildly original -- and her premature death a few years ago was a real tragedy. I'm not someone who cares much, if at all, about celebs, but I would have loved to have known her. She was just a couple of years older than I am and she trenchantly captured all the various eras of my life in both articles and film. See if you can find the piece that launched her fame -- her hilarious first-person account of being the only White House intern that JFK DIDN'T make a pass at.
BTW, I'm also the age where my preferred answer to 57D is "Gene", not MAURA. (Obviously I never watched ER.) Other than MAURA, a really easy puzzle.

RnRGhost57 10:40 AM  

The Tao of Meh

RooMonster 10:51 AM  

al-Baghdadi can suck my al-ass. Only a (many explecitive deletes) needs to behead people to get ERECT. He needs about 36 bullets to the head.


Hartley70 10:52 AM  

@NANCY How I would have love just one lunch with Nora! I howled my way through everything she wrote.

@BobKerfuffle. This reminds me of riding in the passenger seat and giving directions to a visiting British friend who was practicing driving in our town. As we approached a red light she started to hesitate and I said "Pull up, PULL UP!" wanting her to move closer to the intersection and it caused her to slam on the brakes. Oh those wild and crazy Brits!

jae 11:21 AM  

@anon 10:15 - That would be Showtime not HBO.

Benko 11:26 AM  

BRAID! Wow, haven't heard those guys in like 15 years.

Arlene 11:29 AM  

I filled in the puzzle - wasn't quite sure about the theme until arriving here.
I thought it was something that the beginnings were NO in various forms - NOR, NON, NOM - so more than two ways about NO.
OY - I think I've been doing crossword puzzles for too long. The brain cells are creating things that don't exist.

Oldactor 11:30 AM  

Could it be the Gary Cooper classic "High Noon"?
Great movie about a gun fight.

Andrew Heinegg 12:06 PM  

Amen. Why some people need to do a character assassination on someone who is reviewing crossword puzzles is incomprehensible to me.

Noam D. Elkies 12:16 PM  

Fun puzzle. Surprised about the, um, NOise pollutiON (14, alas) in re 53D:UKASE, because it feels like I've known this well before I started doing crosswords. Besides the phat/fat mini theme, there's also Christian 28A:REV (I expected Jewish REB), Mormon 44A:TITHE, and Moslem 21D:CALIPH; plus musical 11D:SITAR, 50A:FIFE, and 63A:TEMPO.


LaneB 12:17 PM  

Must have been an "easy" Wednesday because I sailed through with no Google help or erasures. Nice for a change.

wreck 12:18 PM  

I had another "mothballs" joke in mind (why they are so small).

Nice snappy Wednesday, but another puzzle I solved without totally groking the theme.

GILL I. 12:22 PM  

@Glitch...Hey, good to see you (again!).
See, here's the deal in my estimation. It's like the bloke who goes to a popular restaurant day after day after day, only to exclaim after each and every meal..."This food stinks"...
@Rex can be caustic but he's also very funny - especially when you read between the lines. Some people maybe need a thicker hide?

Anoa Bob 12:37 PM  

Having names, words or phrases that start with NO and end with ON (THERES NO TWO WAYS)seems a tad thin for a theme, maybe okay for a 13X13 puzz at the back of your local Bargain Mart, but not for the NYT.

The only thing left then, to give the theme some flare, is the "IT" in ABOUT IT. So what the heck is "IT"? Like anon@9:55, I see TI just before the final ON in two themers, 40 & 56 Across, but no TI or IT in the third at 23 Across.

So what's the deal? I don't get IT.

Anonymous 12:39 PM  

A bit of a let-down for a Wednesday. Let me start off with the grammatically incorrect theme. THERE'S NO TWO WAYS ABOUT IT. I've never said that nor heard anyone say it. "There are no two ways..." is correct.

I got the revealer long after I got the theme answers. There wasn't much zing to them. NOMINATION is way too generic for a Wednesday theme answer and NONPRESCRIPTION is almost as sinful. They both use a Latin-root prefix and the same Latin-root suffix.

I'm not sure why the northwest corner was such a hassle for me. The most difficult for me was the southwest. Too many proper nouns.

The three-letter fill induced gagging. TNT/ HOI/ ANT and LIE/ EOS/ SNO? No thanks.

51D bothered me. I had to read the clue several times and even after I solved it, it caused a headache. Terrible wording.

I kept wanting to read 11D as "synthetic strings."

21D is not appropriate. It implies that caliphates are terrorist organizations. Not true. The clue would have sufficed with out the "of ISIS" part.

-JW Norwich

Z 12:54 PM  

@Gill I - Read between the lines? Some (usually anonymice) have a hard time even reading what Rex writes. The number of times Rex has been criticized for something he didn't actually write is a rather large non-zero number. If you don't like Rex he provides link to other blogs right there on the right side of his page. Dan Does Not Blog has never published a negative word about a NYTX puzzle for example.

@12:39 - "Two ways" is a singular collective noun here, making "THERE'S" correct. "There are" may also be correct if one uses "two ways" as an adjective/noun pair. Just don't use it in the passive voice, whomsoever you are.

Clark 3:31 PM  

You youngsters may be unfamiliar with the word 'Ukase' outside of puzzles. It's a different story for anyone who did hide-under-the-desk drills during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Here, from google books ngrams is a graph of 'ukase' usage from 1950 to 2014. There is quite a drop off from 1970 to 1990.

Your mother 3:33 PM  

Do you call your significant other "The Closer"? If so, that is truly delightful :-)

beatrice 3:52 PM  

@Ludyjynn -- I thought perhaps your question re:'sympathetic strings' would elicit a response from AliasZ or jberg, who are both (I think) classical musicians...and maybe you have looked into it by now. I'm a poor substitute, but shall have a go at it: they are a set of tuned strings on certain stringed instruments which are situated underneath or sometimes (I think) beside the strings which are actually played, and which vibrate sympathetically with certain pitches produced by those played strings, thus in some way enhancing the sound. Apparently quite a few such instruments exist in the world, only very few in Western classical music (with which I am most familiar). The most commonly used one that I know of is called a 'viola d'amore', which has a lovely, sometimes shiver-inducing quality. One of my all-time favorite pieces of music is the Concerto for viola d'amore, lute and strings in d minor, RV 540 by Antonio Vivaldi. I first knew and fell in love with this piece as being for viola and guitar, and when, years later, I heard it performed on the intended instruments, it was an absolute shock... I am still not able to embed, but there are a number of performances of it on YouTube, so please, if you or anyone else here is at all inclined to check it out, please, please do so (that goes especially for you, @LMS!).

Alas, my still favorite version is that first one, on an old Turnabout LP, which I never owned and which was apparently never transferred to CD.

beatrice 4:06 PM  

@Ludyjynn -- should have read 'it was an absolute shock and revelation...' -- 'shock' should have been deleted instead of 'revelation', 'shock' sounding rather hyperbolic -- but accurate nonetheless.

Ludyjynn 4:31 PM  

Thank you, @Beatrice, for your explanation. It just so happens Vivaldi is my favorite classical composer, but my technical musical knowledge is sorely lacking. This helps.

Forgot to add earlier that Cher won best supporting actress for "Silkwood".

At Your Service 4:46 PM  

Vivaldi - Double Concerto, for viola d'amore & lute RV 540

7d5a9b1 5:01 PM  

Moly Shu says that if I want to read "fair" reviews of puzzles, I ought not to come here. I think this is excellent advice. I mean to take it.

Teedmn 6:16 PM  

Hey @Gill I, shouldn't the second half of the diner's whine be "and the portions are so small"?

After putting in NORA EPHRON and the first half of the revealer, I jumped to 64A and filled in the second half, put NO ON in the other theme entries and had an easy fill from there. Had to get UKASE from the crosses. Although I know I've seen it not so long ago, I think I need more repeats of new info than I used to, to make it stick.

No real challenges but no complaints, though I think the case being made against the clue for CALIPH has merit.

mac 7:45 PM  

Very easy puzzle, done on the train to NY. I had to look twice at that "emigrant" clue as well. I guess you can talk yourself into it.

Happy birthday, @jberg! You and our old friend Dave.

@Nancy and @Hartley: the four of us would have a ball!

Ludyjynn 8:52 PM  

@AtYourService, your link was much appreciated. Enjoyed the YouTube recording. This is why I follow this blog...learn something new every day.

beatrice 10:12 PM  

Yes, thank you, @At Your Service (for the second time?), and @Ludyjynn, so glad you enjoyed it.

Mountaineer 12:11 AM  

@NCA President, I've crossed glaciers in both the USA and Canada in the months of July and August. Even though glaciers are receding, I can assure you there was still plenty of ice there.

Leapfinger 6:38 AM  

Thanks, @ludyjynn, for asking; @beatrice, for your excellent answer, and @At Your Service, for coming through. Y'all teamed up to put together the best part of today's commentary, I thought.

Anonymous 7:56 AM  

Obviously, the theme,"There's no two ways about it," means there's only one "a" in each of the theme answers. You bunch of dummmies!

Anonymous Responder 8:11 AM  

Mmm, dummmies!

Anonymous 8:56 AM  

If you've spent any time reading Russian history, UKASE is a gimme.

Anonymous 3:14 PM  

Breezed through and finished without thinking about the theme. Now I wonder if I would have seen it on my own. I did not like the use of ISIS.

Unknown 3:39 PM  

Jberg said:
"@Joseph Welling, the clue is "headed for Ellis Island." You can interpret that as someone about to get on a ship in some European port, i.e., emigrating from his or her native country. Once the ship arrives at Ellis Island, he or she will be an immigrant."

I don't buy it. Emigrant means leaving--going out of a place. The clue is worded only as going toward a place.

Z 3:50 PM  

@Joseph Welling - I'm sitting here in Detroit. I've got my one way bus ticket. My bags are packed. I'm moving south to Windsor, ON. According to you I am an immigrant. In this case, either could be correct depending on one's point of view and the current location of the subject.

spacecraft 11:29 AM  

Busy period for the (self-proclaimed!) spellcasters. Why do they pick on this site? Or are they this prolific all across the internet? Yikes!

I was really hoping OFL would list today's theme as "Lunchtime sandwiches," with NO- and -ON as the "bread." It's unfortunate that those words are 9 and 10 letters long, respectively, or it would have made a boffo revealer. The actual one is good, but...

Yeah, I was amused at the clue "at attention" for ERECT--but when that word "penetrated" the HOTTEA I howled. That was worth the price of admission.

My first thought for Aleve vs. Vicadin was NONaddictive, which is why it can be sold NONPRESCRIPTION.

Synchronicity: just last night on Jeopardy a contestant gave the response "What is a monitor lizard?" and was called wrong; I yelled into the TV that she was NOT wrong--and sure enough, just before Final Jeopardy Alex announced a score change, giving her credit and explaining, rightly, that the KOMODO dragon IS one of the monitors.

Theme: decent. Fill: for so many 3's, actually not bad at all. B.

NO #s today, just the message--which I relay heartily to all you syndies: Happy Holidays!

DMG 12:36 PM  

Breezed through this one, and actually figured out the no...on bit. Rare for me to figure out the gimmick, so I'm smiling this Christmas Eve. Greetings of the Season to all, and to all, a good night!

100 guess that's coal in my stocking

rain forest 12:41 PM  

Pretty good puzzle with a theme that I sussed. I think I prefer a revealer to actually help with the solve rather than to describe the theme afterwards. Nevertheless, I liked it.

Merry Christmas to all you syndilanders.

rondo 1:28 PM  

Decent puzzle, nothing outrageous.
Did have to switch around the I/Y between CALyPH and ELiSE, otherwise no problems.
OCH = "and" in Swedish.
Yeah babies LARA and MAURA and in there somewhere ERECT.
Lots and lots of 3 letter words today, but done well enough to eschew complaint.
Very merry to all syndi-solvers.

Let's see that captcha - 2710 = 1

Addy Renaline 2:47 PM  

NOREAEPHRON makes me ready for flight or fight. Heard she wrote with an Epi-pen.

leftcoastTAM 7:45 PM  

As noted above, it's a day here on the left coast to say "Merry Christmas" to all other of us syndicalists.

About the puzzle, I want to say "Thanks, Santa," for a pleasantly easy solve.

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