Big purveyor of fishing gear / THU 8-13-15 / Dutch city where Charles II lived in exile / Like Potala Palace of Tibet / World of Suzie 1957 novel / Israeli city on slopes of Mount Carmel / Bit of letter-shaped hardware on door / Queens stadium eponym / Transmission-related units

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Constructor: Jim Hilger

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: breaks — word "break" is supplied by actual break in answer (i.e. a blank square); four such squares appear in the grid

Theme answers:
Word of the Day: SHAVETEAILS (11D: Rookie officers, in slang) —
USmilitary slangderogatory
plural noun: shavetails
  1. a newly commissioned officer, especially a second lieutenant.
    • informal
      an inexperienced person.

      "the shavetail Assistant District Attorney"
figuratively, from the early sense ‘untrained pack animal’ (identified by a shaved tail). (google)
• • •

Probably maybe gonna try to see this meteor shower thingie, so I'm going to keep this short. Maybe just bullet points. Or ... nah, I'll just do bulletish paragraphs.

Didn't take me too long to check out. Here's where:

 [ANTHER the question!]

ASHE crossing ASHEN is pretty bad. FER, yuck. [some letter]-HINGE, ARUN, no and no. I mean, I've down-voted half the fill and this thing just started. The point at which I checked out came roughly 10 seconds before I figured out the theme. My reaction to figuring it out was, "Oh." (Imagine a vocal inflection tinged more with ENNUI than elation ... speaking of ENNUI, I think it goes deeper and is more existential than the mere boredom suggested by yawning.) So there are problems aplenty the theme answers, for starters. The SHORT in SHORT LUNCH (break) turns the answer to total "green paint," i.e. you now have a made-up phrase—a phrase one might say, but that is not a tight, stand-alone phrase. "LUNCH (break)," sure,; SHORT LUNCH (break), absurd (from a crossword themer standpoint). More absurd is SPRING (break) VACATION, a phrase that is cumbersome and without much colloquial validity. "We went to Florida for SPRING (break)"—the phrase itself implies "vacation." Yes, one might say "SPRING (break) VACATION," but again, as with SHORT LUNCH (break), an added word has made the whole answer dumb and wrong-sounding. (Also, who gets "A couple weeks" for SPRING (break)??? Lucky people, that's who.).

OLD BAT (and [Biddy]) = sexist. ORVIS = ??? AARE = UUGH. DOST ILSA NAS? Who knows? The fill here is standard-issue NYT substandard. DAH? DAH. OK bedtime for me now.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Steve J 12:08 AM  

Novel theme idea that I mostly liked. SHORT LUNCH (break) indeed feels green paintish, and SPRING (break) VACATION is indeed awkward. But the others all work quite well with in-the-language phrases.

Outside of the theme, things are much rougher. There's definitely some problematic fill, and some things felt quite obscure (with the usual caveat that they could be obscure only to me). I ultimately crashed and burned at SHAVETAILS (WTF?) crossing AZO and OLD BAT. The latter could also be OLD BAg, and honestly, SHAVEgAILS seems only slightly less absurd than what's actually there.

Loved the clue for IHOP.

jae 12:09 AM  

Easy-medium for me.  I saw the note and wished I hadn't seen it.  This would have been more fun/Thursdayish without it.

 My only erasure was Tense before TAXED.   

Last square filled was the G in HAG.  I suspect I'm not the only one who read Beldam as Bedlam. 

 Liked more than Rex did it, but he's right about a lot of the fill and somewhat strange theme answers.

Pete 12:14 AM  

A Biddy is an old hen, which is all of accurate, sexist, and insulting enough to serve any and all attempts to offend. Why extend it to OLD BAT (or bag or hag or nag or...)?

wreck 12:14 AM  

I totally enjoyed this one. I seriously don't mind iffy fill if it results in a challenging, fun puzzle as the end result. Who cares if you had to stretch a bit to make things work. I look at puzzles as always requiring you to use your mind a little differently sometimes. This one did just that.

RooMonster 12:23 AM  

Hey All !
Just wanted to say Thanks to everybody who wished me well yesterday! Youse guys are great!
Will do puz later this morning. Looking forward to a nice ThursPuz!


chefwen 12:34 AM  

Whee! How much fun was that? Of course I liked it a lot more than Rex, but I usually do. Had an inkling (where did that phrase come from, must check the Google). I knew that break would factor in, but where? Think I got it at HEA RT and COMMER CIAL. Figuring where the blank would fit in was the challenging part and much Liquid Paper was put to use.

An excellent Thursday puzzle in my not so humble opinion.

Thank you Mr. Hilger

chefwen 2:55 AM  

@jae -As usual, I didn't see the note and you are right, it made the solve much more enjoyable. Didn't even know there was a note until I read your post. Ingnorance is sometimes bliss.

MDMA 2:57 AM  

The NE corner was preposterous.

An utterly obscure word that looks dyslexic, some utterly obscure dye, BAT and BAG equally plausible and equally dumb, crossed with an alleged slang term for which gives an entirely different meaning... what a clusterfuck of fail.

Moly Shu 3:06 AM  

One week without you, thought I'd forget. Two weeks without you and I still haven't gotten over you yet. Thx @Rex for that earworm.
Got the theme with the tennis clue, knew BREAK had to be there somewhere. Clue for FER was outside my wheelhouse. Not too difficult once I figured out the BREAKS, but agree with most that the NE was iffy. Liked it, but slightly too easy.

@MohairSam from yesterday, thanks for the laugh, it made my day.

Anonymous 5:19 AM  

There is a perfectly good alternative answer to one of the squares.
AntLer is a part of a flower
L hinges are available in hardware stores.
Black mark for NYT crosswords today

h_lina_k 6:07 AM  

Does anyone know what the iOS app wants the "blanks" to be to complete the thing?

Thomaso808 6:49 AM  

Definitely on the challenging side for me, but overall I liked it. A different twist for a theme two days in a row, so NYT is on a roll.

COMMER_CIAL (break) was tricky because it was clued to indicate a plural -- good one!

SHAVETAILS definitely a WOE.

DNF because of the HAI_A cross with _ER which was a Natick for me.

I have hung dozens of doors in my life, but never thought of HHINGE as a thing, but Amazon says it is so.

Speaking of Natick, my company just yesterday got notified by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers of an upcoming a Request for Proposal for some Army housing renovation work in Natick, MA. That led to me enthusiastically trying to explain to a junior colleague what a Natick was in the Crossworld, confirming to him without a doubt that I am an old fart nerd. Oh well.

AliasZ 6:50 AM  

This was fun -- fresh, clever theme that we rarely (if ever) see. Not having read the note, I rebused BREAK into the empty squares and got the happy song. Hence I do not know if the solution with four squares left blank would have been accepted as correct, and am too lazy to do it again.

I didn't mind SHORT LUNCH BREAK, because if I told someone I only have 15 minutes for lunch, she most likely would say "Boy, that's a SHORT L^UNCH. It's more like a COF^FEE" True, it is not a routine phrase, but the clue is specific enough to make it acceptable in my view. SPRING BREAK VACATION does indeed sound forced and redundant, but all the other BREAKS are excellent.

The fill: HAG and OLD BAT in the same area? Wow. ASHE and ASHEN FER shirr called attention to themselves, as did ARUN and H-HINGE. But I loved UNI right above DUO, and SHAVETAILS was a new one on me as well. M-W tells us it originates from shaving the tails of newly broken mules to distinguish them from experienced ones. Therefore as it pertains to SHAVETAILS, I am one. I never heard of ORVIS, and BREDA came slowly, thinking BRuges at first. Never mind that they are in different countries. They are actually only 71.75 miles apart as the erne flies. Some of the iffy fill and a few minor missteps however didn't dampen my enjoyment.

You may enjoy this Windows™ waltz on PCS, but you definitely will enjoy this beautiful Romance by Norwegian composer Johan SVENdsen (1840-1911). The way this violinist plays it will break your heart.

The only thing I want to add: take the advice of Ogden Nash and if called by a panther, don't ANTHER.

Have a nashful Thursday.

Loren Muse Smith 6:50 AM  

I didn't see the trick until I was well into the solve, and when I finally got it at HEART BREAK, the aha moment that accompanied it was supremely satisfying – not a trace of ennui.

OLD BAT – yeah, I figured this would raise eyebrows. As one who is rapidly approaching old batdom, I have to say the phrase doesn't bother me. I just hope I don't become an OLD BATtleaxe, which I imagine entails a larger degree of grumpy bossiness.

Today's my first day back with students, so I had to give up before sorting out the northeast. My faux-hold, "Ooh" for SHA was the deathblow. And a ridiculous "Olive" TAIL makes as much sense to me as SHAVE TAIL. What. Do hazers sometimes turn newbies over their knees and grab the Atra?

And, yes, @jae – I never saw that it was "beldam" and not "bedlam." Bet lots went with "Shea" and my "Ooh" first, too. I also was going "latte" for SANKA, wondering why anyone would bother.

H HINGE – I had the HINGE. Closed my eyes and summoned forth an image of that piece and saw the H. Can an H HINGE be a kind of HASP?

I felt snarky and angry when I read the clue for COMMERCIAL BREAK. The ratio of ads/actual show is quickly approaching 50/50. Wonder if someday soon it'll be instead an Actual Show Break you get in between all the &^%$ commercials. Commercials that devote a full 2 minute warning you about all the side effects of an allergy medicine while showing the mother smiling as she pushes her daughter on the swing.

I'm with those who liked it, iffy fill notwithstanding.

Glimmerglass 7:41 AM  

It doesn't pay to overthink a xword puzzle theme. Overthinking spoils what might otherwise be a fun experience. Of course, a xword blogger is supposed to be analytical, which explains why @Rex suffers from chronic [intellectual] indigestion. This puzzle was Friday-hard for me, which means I loved it!

Charles Flaster 7:43 AM  

Have to agree with Rex.
My DNF was doomed with 1 across - Jaffa and never seeing the more obvious HAIFA.
Cannot justify JAWED for gossiped in 6 across.
Remainder of puzzle was extremely well executed by JH.
Enjoyed the theme esp. TIGERS and JINX.
Thanks JH.

joho 7:48 AM  

I thought the break = (blank square) trick was super clever and Thursday worthy of my admiration. I really enjoyed finding all the break points in the grid.

@jae, what note? So glad I didn't see it.

@Steve J, I, too, dnf with OLDBAg. A shame because OLDBAT sounds so much better 😊

@Rex, I see nothing wrong with dit's partner DAH. And isn't ORVIS a well known store? It sure is to me.

I thought this was a lot of fun ... thanks, Jim Hilger!

Lewis 7:51 AM  

Loved the clue for IHOP, and the mini theme of words ending in A, of which there are eleven. At first I thought STATIONBREAK and COMMERCIALBREAK were the same thing, but upon reflection (and looking up "station break") I see that a station break can include a commercial break, but doesn't have to. Cluing was Thursday level, which I liked, and I had to work hard to finish this, which I always like. I don't mind a few bad small fills if the solving experience is good, and this one was. Thank you J&W.

dk 7:59 AM  

🌕🌕🌕 (3 mOOOns)

Not a fan of puzzles tricks but this one rocked (as young folks might opine). Had some trouble (34a) figuring out where the breaks went and found 51a to be TAXED.

On the lunch break topic my once and former co-workers (see 59a) used the phrase long and short. We also used the term matinee. Matinee shocked me at first (in NYC it had a wink wink meaning involving hotel rooms) but I found that in the 51a it means an afternoon movie.

Off topic: Trying my hand a slow cooking a pork butt on my new Green Egg tomorrow. 8 hours on the grill. Every dog in the hood will be in my yard.

Thank you Jim

Lewis 7:59 AM  

Factoid: The cartoon characters Tom and Jerry were originally called Jasper and JINX.

Quotoid: "I was just on the edge of getting married, and I was frenzied at the prospect of this great step in my life after having been a bachelor for so long. And I really wanted to take my mind off of the AGONY, and so I decided to sit down and write a book." -- Ian Fleming

Aketi 8:16 AM  

@Rex, hahaha, didn't get too far into this one to know that it would fill you with ENNUI.

While I do find it mildly IRITATING that OLD BATs, HAGs, NAGs, and even witches like ENDORA have been catching a BAD BREAK in the puzzles lately by being negatively associated with old age, I am never one to BROOD over such slights. I prefer to always look for the BEACON of hope in any situation including the inevitable aging. The anthropologist Kristen Hawkes has provided mathematical support for the "grandmother theory" that our ancestors were able to increase their lifespans thanks to grandmothers living long enough to assist In feeding the children.

As for the poor BATs, I actually find them kind of cute as long as they aren't living in my room. When I lived in Ithaca, something started waking me up every night by fluttering over my bed. At first I thought it was a big moth. Then I suspected it was a small bird. After many sleepless nights I finally saw the perpetrator - a bat. That night I was terrified enough to sleep in the bathroom. But then I recovered enough to try to trap the bat the next night. That was when I discovered that it had been sleeping in box of files right next to the computer. It must have been sleeping right next to me every. I managed to catch it in a blanket. The poor thing shrieked so much that I really felt bad when I threw it out the door in the middle of a very snowy cold winter.

jberg 8:24 AM  

Wow, @Rex complaining about a rapper! Is this a first? I can see why, though -- since my own reaction was "3-letter rapper, must be NAS."

I didn't notice the note until reading these comments. I figured out the 'break' part, but thought it would go where you would say it, i.e. SERVICE[break]. Finally JA IL helped me see the light, since I had originally written in ______LUNCH.

It was nice to see SHAVETAILS, a word I know only from fiction, and BAUDS was OK. LHASAN, though!

I could go on, but I have an early appointment. Have a good day, everyone!

blinker474 8:26 AM  

Liked this one a lot. Some of the theme answers are contrived and awkward, but that's not something that I would criticize. Constructing a very nice puzzle like this one is tough to do, and constructors must be given some slack. At least I think so.

Carola 8:27 AM  

For me, breaking up was hard to do (sorry). I struggled all the way down to HEA_RT before I got the idea. Cute - liked it!

I found the rest of the grid nicely challenging, too. Previous puzzles helped me out with NAS, AARE, and the farily recently seen OLD BAT, DC AREA, and SVEN; years of receiving unwanted catalogs with ORVIS, art history with BREDA; and days of pondering BAUD rates waiting for a modem connection in olden times (with HAG and OLD BAT in the grid, BAwDS fits right in).

@jae - Thanks for explaining "Bedlam"! The H in HAG was my last letter in.

Zeke 8:36 AM  

This was a squandered great them idea. Each across themer has problems: As has been pointed out, nobody says SPRING BREAK VACATION, people don't eat green paint for their SHORT LUNCH BREAK, and STATION BREAK and COMMERCIAL BREAK are too similar to be interesting. I did like having to find the blanks, which basically made this thing mostly a rebus (except that "break" was sometimes "broken").
After doing this puzzle, I am a M AN. I am bored so I'm going to watch ARR OW. Will promised the puzzles would be better. It was a PROMI SE.

Aketi 8:45 AM  

@Rex, thanks for the explanation of SHAVETAILS. Forgive me if I, Queen of the typos myself, noticed that you added and extra E in the TAIL section. I always thought the TAIL that was SHAVED was the flat top buzz cut popular with male police recruits, while growing the STACHE is for male firefighter recruits.

Anonymous 8:47 AM  

Maybe Will should THE FOU RTH WALL and talk to his audience?

Teedmn 8:48 AM  

Another piratey Thursday - aaargh! My brain took a total BREAK in the NW. I had a daring JALIL break and a HASAN Palace in Tibet. I didn't parse the clever 3D clue so with sHOP, I couldn't see HAIFA. Oh well, it's been a while since I went that far wrong,

If you want to complain about sexism, look no further than "The Princess and the Pea" and don't bother with the HAG, OLD BAT and BAUDS :-). That poor prince who just couldn't find a 'real' princess, boo hoo. I can tell you what the real IRRITATION was in that story but I'm not going to BROOD about it because I'm on SPRING VACATION (okay, a four day weekend in August in MN doesn't really count but hey, I'm not at work).

@rondo, they finally put SVEN in the puzzle instead of Ole!

Thanks for the puzzle, Jim Huger. I'll HAZERd an opinion that most people will be less TAXED than I was today.

Generic Solver 8:51 AM  

BAUD(S) was a pleasant reminder of the old days when we used 300 baud modems, and if we were really on top of the curve, a 1200 baud one. Those modem connection noises and beeps when signing into AOL were classic.

Whirred Whacks 8:57 AM  

Fun puzzle. I figured out the concept early at spring break.

One answer that rang decidedly false for me was BAUDS. I worked in the computer industry in the 1970-90s (first IBM, then as an independent consultant) and never once saw or heard the term BAUD written or spoken as BAUDS.

Nice to see the return of Babe Ruth's trusted weapon at the plate -- his OLD BAT.

Billy C 9:08 AM  

@MDMA: Nice tantrum, but complaining that a part of the puzzle was too hard for you, especially a section that was creative, novel, and fairly clued, just makes you look like a poor sport.

Nancy 9:28 AM  

Loved it! I agree with everything @wreck said at 12:14. When there's a great and challenging trick, who cares if ASHE crosses ASHEN or other such Mickey Mouse stuff?

I caught the trick at JA IL. And then, as a tennis player, I knew 23D was going to be SER VICE, even before looking at the grid. I then remembered to look for the name of the constructor, something I never do, but I liked the puzzle and thought he was worth remembering. I'm pretty sure I've seen his name before, but I don't remember where or how often. And now I know who he is and maybe I'll remember his name all the way to next Tuesday. More than likely, I won't. And I certainly won't remember that he constructed THIS puzzle, anymore than I remember what he's constructed in the past. Of all the things that interest me about this blog, nothing amazes me more than the familiarity solvers here seem to have with various constructors. There are so many constructors. There are so many puzzles. How can anyone possibly remember?

Anyway, a really nice job, Jim, even though I'll probably have to discover you all over again when next you appear.

Nancy 9:38 AM  

@Teedmn (8:48)-- I knew people would comment on HAG and OLD BAT, but your comment on the sexism inherent in "The Princess and the Pea" was unexpected, very trenchant, and absolutely hilarious. You've given me a whole nother way of looking at that story.

Carola 9:48 AM  

@Teedmn - JINX! :)

Mohair Sam 9:58 AM  

DNF'd because we confidently filled sASh for HASP (I know, I know), and were comfortable with hEP for 20a. FER an unknown French word here; so between the starting "S" and no "F" the obvious HAIFA never had a chance. Sad.

Never saw a note, but it didn't matter - assuming it concerned the theme. Speaking of the theme - I hear where @Rex is coming from with his complaints about a couple of the themers, but it didn't bother us as much - we enjoyed this one a lot.

@Whirred - You're dead right on BAUDS. There were BAUD rateS, never BAUDS. I remember sneering at neighboring computer time-sharers with lower BAUD rates.

@Moly Shu - Glad you appreciated. I was nervous about dealing it straight, sometimes sarcasm gets lost in print.

Steve J 9:58 AM  

@h_lina_k: The iOS app wants nothing in the blank spots (other things may work, but mine accepted with blanks). Odds are you have a mistake somewhere else in the grid. I did (OLD BAg instead of OLD BAT), and once I corrected that I got the puzzle complete jingle.

Dorothy Biggs 10:07 AM  

I liked this one. Funny, of all the themes that exist, this is one that I thought would be a good one ever since I started doing puzzles. I'd dreamed it up as a [space] rather than a [break], but I always thought it would be cool to leave a square open without blackening it in. So I thought this one was, you know, genius.

It played difficult for me. There were lots of things I didn't know (ANTHER/HHINGE, AZO/SHAVETAIL, for example). A couple of things I got wrong for a while, alto --> DIVA, OLDBAg --> OLDBAT, a number of different lettered hinges, shea --> ASHE, chic --> for BIEN, swiSh --> RINSE, to name a few.

I don't care for DCAREA. I don't know why. FER...what level of French are we up to now? Do they cover "sword" in French 1? I doubt it. I took four years of German...I have no idea what the German word for "sword" is. I would have preferred the standard "Not agin but..." clue.

But it was a two-cupper day...not a bad payoff with the reveal. I did not read the note ahead of time...and I'm glad I didn't. IMO it shouldn't have been included anyway. Funny how the NYT was one of the few that included the helping qualifier "2 wds." in its have to figure that out on your own. The theme here should have been approached the same way.

quilter1 10:27 AM  

Sexist or not you gotta love Carol Burnett in Once Upon a Mattress. I liked this one, appreciated the task of where the breaks were. Good Thursday.

Anonymous 10:32 AM  

sometimes these puzzles are just plain fun. that's something that gets lost in the shuffle. not all the fill was great, and there was some green paint, but so what? It's been a long time since I've been able to say that a times puzzle is just plain fun, so I'll say it twice. It also took me over seven minutes because it wasn't the kind of puzzle you could fill in without reading the clues, so the little extra time out of my day was appreciated too.

Bob Kerfuffle 10:36 AM  

My kind of puzzle; I liked it a lot.

Ludyjynn 10:41 AM  

My 'pea' brain insisted on putting the 'break' at the end of the phrases in question. Couldn't make the leap to physically breaking the phrases apart. That led to a great deal of IRRITATION here. Constructor is much CAGIER than moi.

Thought ASHE crossing ASHEN was ugly, but IHOP clue was tres BIEN.

Had 'typeas' instead of TIGERS. I really could have used ENDORA's or Samantha's help today. The AGONY of a DNF haunts like a GHOST.

Thanks, JH and WS.

RIP, Uggie (the actor dog). You had A great RUN.

Hartley70 10:48 AM  

I liked this one! The theme was visual, always a plus for me, and I can't recall seeing it before. I struggled a bit with SHAVETAILS, but that was the fun, after all, like PANGOLIN yesterday. A little learning every morning is a good thing. I agree SHORT could have been anything, but we all managed to figure it out.

My only unpleasant moment this morning was reading your bat story, @Aketi. Over the years bats have occasionally come down the chimney or gotten in the door. But I've developed a horror of bats late in life after getting stuck inside a closed patio umbrella with one several summers ago. I had ducked inside the folds so I could open it and the bat sleeping inside and I went bonkers together. There was a good deal of multi-species screaming and thrashing about. My doctor insisted I begin the rabies treatment at the local hospital and I didn't enjoy it. With that much contact I'm surprised you avoided it. Today, I can't even think about bats without a little shiver up my spine.

Masked and Anonymous 10:53 AM  

I'm hot and cold on the fence over this here Note business. Kinda cute how they advised Across-Lite solvers to put a "B" for "Blank" in, wherever a square should be left blank. Then that "B" ends up standin for "Break", when the smoke clears.
On the other hand, that Note does spill some of the beans, on pre-announcin what the gimmick is gonna be …

SPR(burp)ING VACATION - Holds up pretty well, when I Google it. @009: Maybe most students don't get two weeks off, but once they get to Florida, they just sorta linger there?

SHORT L(burp)UNCH - Holds up less robustly, when Googled. Did get a cool pic of some dude eatin somethin at his desk. But really like the B=burp possibilities, there. Need a whole puztheme with burps! HEA(burp)RTBURN, anybody?

fave weeject: FER. I'm fer it. Was old French swords made from iron (FE), so they was FE-ers? I usually don't come up with that there educational derivation stuff … just a LUC(burp)KY, this time, I reckon.

@009--What the (burp) are those little black E.T.-like heads that U stuck into them 4 blank squares?? (Or am I WONG to ask?)

Also liked the weeject countdown, in the SW corner: UNI … DUO … SIN! Now, there's yer SPR(burp)ING rodeo!

OLD BAT + HAG + GHOSTS + JEB near DCAREA + BLED + JINX + squeakyHINGE = HHaunted GGrid. I can dig it.


**departure gruntz**

NYer 10:57 AM  

Like many, I enjoyed the theme. When I was still working in NYC, I would alsways say "i'm just taking a SHORT LUNCH BREAK", usually in the middle of month-end bedlam.

ORVIS is a well-known store, full of recreational stuff like fishing poles and vests.

I ultimately DNF because the Northeast happened.

NYer 10:58 AM  

BTW, has anyone heard from John lately? E one who's always travelling?

mathgent 11:03 AM  

I never met a rebus I didn't like. But, as Rex points out, it could have been a lot better.

I had a tough time, partially because I was simultaneously watching a slow-moving film (A Little Chaos, Kate Winslet, Alan Rickman). The Closer was engrossed so I couldn't call her in until after ten. She got SVEN and SHA in NE and BLED in SE. It still took me until eleven to finish.

Is FER a legitimate answer for "Sword: Fr."? The Internet says that it means iron.

I was introduced to ten words, including BELDAM and HHINGE. That alone makes it worthwhile.

@Alias Z: Nice post!

It just started yesterday. Instead of my iPad displaying a blank screen before I slide it open, Apple has provided a full-screen ad.

mac 11:04 AM  

I have to agree with Rex's gripes, but I thought it was an nice theme.
I noticed the note very late in the game, and that made it easier; before that I
had tried to put something in that extra box.

Only a q short of a pangram, I think.

Haiku Nerd 11:24 AM  


old timer 11:37 AM  

One of my favorite people, who lived to a very advanced age, was a social activist all her life and was delighted when the women's movement came to the fore. She called *herself* an OLD BAT, so I do not think the term is offensive. "Old bag" might be.

I thought the puzzle was delightful. It did help that the printed version warns the solver of the four black squares, though the reason for the blanks is something you have to find out for yourself. I didn't get traction at all until the SE corner, when the crosses made COMMER CIAL clear, thus supplying the word "break". Confirmed by the delightful HEA RT break. The rest was pretty easy to figure out. B AD gave me enough for SHAVETAILS, which I was able to dredge out of my memory. It was and probably still is Army slang for a Second Louie, fresh out of OCS or West Point, with a fresh haircut and that neatly shaved neck you get only at a barbershop. I just figured the back of a man's hair is its TAIL, and kind of doubt the term derived from donkey training. The best advice anyone ever gave a SHAVETAIL Lieutenant in Vietnam was to always be guided by the veteran sergeant in your unit, and lead by following *him* A lot of new lieutenants did not last long in combat.

I have no trouble with SPRING [break] VACATION. Spring Break and Spring Vacation are the same thing, but if you call it Spring Break, then VACATION would be added only if you did, in fact, go to Florida or Mexico or somewhere like that. Often enough, SPRING BREAK was spent at home with the parents, and old friends, in my day. No problem with SHORT LUNCH [break] either, since a co-worker might used those very words to describe your hurried meal. A 15-minute meal break is illegal, you know: the law requires at least a half hour.

Writeovers: BAUDS replaced "bands" and DIVA replaced "alto".

GPO 11:42 AM  

I kind of liked it, though I was sure I would DNF for a while. At first I thought the "break" had to be in between the words "SHORT" and "LUNCH," which left me wondering what a JAlIL was. Seriously.

Once I figured that out, the only other real problem was wanting ooh instead of SHA.

Joseph Michael 11:47 AM  

Another "literal" theme. Enjoyed most of it in spite of some B AD fill and IRRITATIONs like ANTHER, LHASAN, and SHAVETAILS which TAXED my patience during the solve.

STA TION and COMMER CIAL are too much alike, but the gimmick is fun. Liked DC AREA and the clues for BEACON, IHOP, and LAPD.

GILL I. 12:10 PM  

Yikes, I was thinking BAwDS. The OLD BAT the HAG and some BAwDS met up and JAWED with Suzie WONG and the witch ENDORA. The DC SHAVETAILS enjoyed the IRRITATION.
I, for one, am glad the note was there otherwise this would have taken me mucho time. I caught on at SPRING and SERVICE and went merrily on my way looking for the other BREAKS...
Liked that little IAGO/DIVA/AIDA corner.
Thou Dost made a fun Thursday puzzle Jim Hilger. It was a bit different and did not cause ENNUI for me.

Regnad Kcin 12:29 PM  

The clue and answer for 26A brought Firesign Theater to mind.

Hartley70 12:33 PM  

And now for a COMMER CIAL, I'd like to recommend a trip to the Manchester ORVIS store the next time you're in Vermont. It's a beautifully unique building and filled with quality items for the sportsman and those of us more sofa inclined. There's a fly-fishing school on site. And most importantly, they're very fond of dogs also, so you're sure to find a visitor to pet!

John V 12:57 PM  

Fun. Okay, but the North per @Rex was tough. ANTHER new to me. LHASAN pretty tough, too.

Masked and Anonymous 1:08 PM  

I thought the fill was funky good.

For the anti-ASHE/ASHEN/FER/WONG crowd, M&A would suggest …

1. Dude buried in the MetLife Stadium end zone, some claim
6. Tired
14. Lion often associated with a witch and a wardrobe
20. Running dog's contact?

2. Ergonomically correct harpers, abbreviatedly?
3. Just go with it, man
4. Not even close
6. Make a deep, resonant, non-burp sound

"On The Road Until Further Notice"

Tom Faure 1:11 PM  

No, I'm sorry, this was very poor. I got stuck on the themera because a) there's no logic I can discern to the placement of the blanks, b) NO ONE says "spring break vacation" or "short lunch break." As an actual French person I grow tired of the NYTX's cheap French fills, "fer" being a cheap trick because it is archaic so should include that qualifier, and I didn't think OLD BAT would be the right answer because I live in the 21st century. What's next, KITCHEN for "wife's locale"? Just dumb and unnecessary. Then there's H-HINGE. H-HINGE! Terrible.

Martel Moopsbane 1:26 PM  

@ Tom Faure, if you dislike H-HINGE so much I can only imagine what you would say about K-K-K-Katy.

RooMonster 1:37 PM  

Nice puz. For those od you who don't remember something like this, allow me to refresh your memory about the Space puz a few months back. Remember? Had the "SPACE" bar mid south, like 7 blank squares in a row?

Got it at HEA RT and COMMER CIAL. I thought the note was just the thing to spur me along, so I appreciated seeing it. Overall, descent Thurs difficulty. Some dreck, but still OK. Liked the misdirectional clues for IHOP and LAPD.


cwf 1:51 PM  

This would have been more enjoyable if could have followed @Rex's advice to ignore notes but my greedy eyes read it before I could ink it out. As it was the theme came very quickly, knowing there would be blank squares (on STATION (break), specifically).

I knew SHAVETAIL from Avatar. Random imdb user's seemingly folk-etymology confirmed (sort of) by The Free Dictionary:
"[1890–95, Amer.; orig. in reference to unbroken army mules, whose tails were shaved for identification]"

millenial 1:54 PM  

This puzzle was awful because there were words I didn't know. Wah.

Mike D. 1:58 PM  

Anon @ 5:19: Flowers do not have ANTlERS, sorry.

Masked and Anonymous 2:08 PM  

Coulda also gone with a NW of:


Gets yer U-count up from 3 to 4.
But, I digress …
See yah.


Martin 2:54 PM  

For those of you who have never seen a hinge, this is why "H" might have been a good guess.

Karl 3:32 PM  

I keep waiting to be thrown a curve with "RICK" instead of "ILSA" when I see that four-letter Casablanca clue...

foxaroni 3:56 PM  

The note, for me, was completely misleading. It said that "four squares will remain empty." Being somewhat of a literalist (which can be a real drawback when solving), I took the note to mean the squares would, in fact, be empty--thus having no meaning. Empty="break" never occurred to me. "Which ones and why" inferred, to me, that there were more than four places where the empty squares could be placed.

Like @lms, I first put "latte" for decaf option. (I don't drink coffee. How would I know?)

Otherwise, one of the few Thursday puzzles I came close to completing.

Tom Faure 4:58 PM  

@Moopsbane Yeah I was a tad grumpier this morning than what the puzzle called for. There was fresh cluing on the plus side. And FER is acceptable, though not the standard word for sword (épé) - FER is more figurative. But it's fine. And I pick on HINGEs of all denominations. But the two themers were forced, that bugged me more. Thought the other themers were elegant.

Norm 6:38 PM  

I loved this puzzle. Ignored the note and was so glad I did when I read it later. Was baffled for the longest time. Kept trying to make it a rebus puzzle, but it was far more clever than that. SHAVETAILS was wonderful old military lingo. (I doubt you'll ever find the Urban Dictionary much help in solving the NYT; now BEQ is a different matter entirely.) For some reason, FER[de-lance] sprang to mind, although I have no idea where from. Kim, maybe, or some other novel. This was a perfect Thursday puzzle.

Tita 6:54 PM  

Did no one else go out at 2am for the Pesreids? It was a beautiful, breezy, cool night/morning, punctuated by dozens of meteors - some bright, many faint. Hope you saw it too, Rex!

Puzzle...I agree with the complaints, but I liked it nonetheless. A very clever trick.
I saw no note, so it was REALLY hard to figure out what was going on. I had too many empty squares to make the trick obvious.

My mom and her friends, in their 80's and 90's dubbed themselves the Tea Bags, since they often met at each other's houses for tea.

Thanks Mr. Higher.

Music man 7:50 PM  

New job plus Mr. Robot Wednesdays at 10 make for me not getting to the puzzle on time anymore, and my favorite day at that :/ well actually Friday is starting to edge out Thursday especially after this one. I actually really liked the Idea of the theme, but I didn't like it's execution on the whole. Also didn't like having both COMMERCIAL break and STATION break, isn't it a "break for STATION identification"?

Anonymous 8:31 PM  

Just leaving them blank worked for me

OISK 9:19 PM  

I found it very easy, and enjoyed it. I don't understand most of the quibbles. Liked the theme as well.

Anonymous 9:32 PM  

I actually thought "Spring [break] vacation" was a clever joke, as if it was a few weeks OFF from the partying you were doing in Florida.

In my mind I was comparing the actual clue: "A couple weeks OFF partying in FL" versus the more colloquial "A couple weeks OF partying in FL."

But then, none of the other themers were clever in this way.

Anonymous 10:38 PM  

Just as the word steel may figuratively mean a sword in some contexts, fer (iron) may figuratively mean an epee. Still a tough clue.

Meg 2:23 AM  

Rex: thank you forever for calling out sexist clues. If the male solvers don't see the difference between women self-identifing as a thing and a man calling them that thing they can [blank] my [blank]. And also spend some time learning about how the world works for all the people who are not white men.

Hey, if a BIMBO (7/7/2015) like me can figure out the Thursday conceit within 10 clues the Gray Lady better step up "her" game.

paulsfo 5:34 PM  

I was going to complain that Orvis must be East-Coast only until i googled it and found that i have actually walked by one of their stores (San Jose, CA) multiple times but never registered it. :)

Liked the clues for LAPD and DCAREA.

Tita 9:34 AM  

Puzzle spouse just got around to doing this, and asked if anyone else here had objected to BAUDS...having taught BAUDot code in the army, he was incensed to find this grossly wrong PoC in the puzzle.
@ww and @mohair...add us to the non-plussed list.

I wouldn't say hertzes if you were talking about cycles per second, now would you...?

paulsfo 1:34 PM  

@Tita: I agree that I neverheard the word BAUDS, back in the day. However, I just found a dictionary online which had thsi:

\ˈbȯd, ˈbäd, British ˈbōd\
plural baud also bauds
:a variable unit of data transmission speed (as one bit per second)

Jaime 9:53 AM  


spacecraft 11:25 AM  

Started, strangely enough, in the SW with ENNUI and the DIVA singing AIDA. This posed a problem with the tennis thing, obviously [something]SERVICE. Left that -VICE and went east via COMMERCIALs; nice and comfy; looked right. Couldn't make sense of the SE corner, though. And with the lover's hurt coming __AC__, I thought it had to be [something]ACHE. But again the corner wouldn't work. Left it again and went north.

SHAVETAILS was a gimme--thankfully--but i was having more headaches with 34 across. I mean, ABBA is ABBA, that B is engraved. No way that can be wrong. So what could possibly be B_A_ and mean a bit of misfortune? At the same time I'm wrestling with STATION[something].

At this point I got what detectives would call a BREAK in the case! All of a sudden everything made sense, and getting rid of that S of 58 across and sliding the -CIAL one over fixed that corner. Plus of course, SERVICE "break."

On to the NW, where I at once saw JA/IL, and done. I must say I enjoyed the rebus with its epiphany, but you're right, O fearless one, we paid dearly for it. The specifics of the clue made SHORT LUNCH break evident, but lemme tell ya, I'd never work for a company that makes you wolf it down in 15 minutes. And no one tacks on the word VACATION after SPRING break. No one. And you're right again, it's almost universally ONE week. Maybe if they added up all your leftover lunch time per 17 across, it might equal the second week.

Here comes the HHINGE rant; I'll even let DCAREA go. WOEs were AZO and ORVIS. 64 across recalls the biology teacher in "Fast Times":

"I just switched to SANKA, so have a heart."

But HHINGES? CMON, man. C-.

rondo 12:25 PM  

CMON. Gimme a BREAK! This has got to be my least favorite type of puz. AGONY all around, except it wasn’t that tough.

When we used to make blueprints the dye was AZO or diAZO; the ammonia to make it change color would knock your socks off.

Didn’t we all know the BAUD rates on our ancient modems?

SVEN finally showed up, but without pal Ole. That’s nearly a SIN in my neighborhood.

But Ingrid Bergman as ILSA, yeah baby in my neighborhood.

This rebus was an IRRITATION for me. Hope the rest of you enjoyed it.

Burma Shave 1:01 PM  


During SPRINGBREAKVACATION my head was spinning.
Was it an IRRITATION or BADBREAK I was SINning?
the HAG JINXed me at that.
Is my HEARTBREAK an ENDORA beginning?

--- H.H. INGE

Anonymous 5:14 PM  

In my not so humble thoughts this was Challenging. It took me too long to figure out the gimmick. I finally caught on with commercial and heart breaks. Then the rest made sense. Enjoyed the puzzle very much because I had the extra time. Don't give a dam that Charles II lived in Breda. Royalty is not my thing. The Brits should have abolished the whole thing years ago, and confiscated the assets for the national treasury. Being born a Roosevelt or Kennedy is one thing. At least they accomplished something and added to the world. My Hungarian Grandmother was a minor member of the Hapsburg clan and always said, "Don't look back. Live for today and tomorrow." She didn't like the Gabors.

Anyway, a great puzzle with only one look-up: Caleb Carr. Thanks to Jim Hilger.

Ron Diego, La Mesa, CA

leftcoastTAM 6:26 PM  

Nice poem, @Burma Shave.

I liked this puzzle, mainly I suppose, because I got it. Much meandering, though, before I saw there would be a break in the SHORTLUNCH, and then found where the four breaks were. This is pretty clever and entertaining construction IMO.

I didn't mind the green paint stuff. This is a puzzle, after all, not an exercise in ferreting out some harmless, though apt, linguistic redundancy.

My last entry was the H in the ANTHER/HHINGE cross.

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