Great Plains tunneler / THU 8-20-15 / Siblinig duo in Lady Be Good 1924 / 1970s TV series set at 165 Eaton Place / German boy's name meaning wealthy / Edgar Bergen's dummy of old radio / Like breeds Kerry Hill English Leicester /

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Constructor: Jules P. Markey

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium (for a rebus)

THEME: COMPRESSED [AIR] (29D: Gas station supply ... or what acan be found eight times in this puzzle) — The letter string "AIR" is "COMPRESSED" (i.e. rebusized) into 8 different boxes in the grid.

Word of the Day: Bagatelle (BAUBLE (1A)) —
noun: bagatelle; plural noun: bagatelles
  1. 1.
    a thing of little importance; a very easy task.

    "dealing with these boats was a mere bagatelle for the world's oldest yacht club"
  2. 2.
    a game in which small balls are hit and then allowed to roll down a sloping board on which there are holes, each numbered with the score achieved if a ball goes into it, with pins acting as obstructions. (google)
• • •

Wow. It's been a big week for Adele Astaire. Which says everything about the NYTX's cultural center of gravity of late. (73A: Sibling duo in "Lady, Be Good!," 1924)

The theme concept here is solid. Nice revealer that literally explains what's going on the grid. But once you turn up the trick, the puzzle is a slog—a longer-than-average slog, as this grid is 'roided up to 16x15 (likely to accommodate that central themer with the two rebus squares, "UPSTAIRS, DOWNSTAIRS", which, at 14 squares long, can't sit squarely in the middle of a standard 15x15 grid). Fill is not horrendous, but it's once again overly familiar, prone to datedness and arcana, full of SCH ENE ERGS-type stuff. ESO NOS. INE crossing the -INE of OVINE. Just lots of little things that add up to a certain joylessness. AIR is sometimes (properly) hidden / buried, sometimes not. I'm looking around for something remarkable or noteworthy. I'd say the most noteworthy thing, besides (but related to) the grid's bigness, is the word count. 83!? That's nutty. Max on a 15x15 is 78. I'll give you a full three extra answers for your additional row, that gives you 81. Max. 83 ... may be part of the reason the puzzle plays so dull. Hard to do much that is interesting when your grid is chopped all to hell and you have mostly 3s, 4s, and 5s to work with. Result: reliance on good ol' reliable tried and true seen-it-seen-it-seen-it stuff.

Anything happening on the clue front? Not really. 17A: Great Plains tunneler is *almost* a good misdirection, in that "Great Plains" is a descriptor I'd associate with people, not animals, but what kind of people tunnel on the plains? No kind, I think, is the kind. There's at least some attempt at cleverness at 27A: They rarely cover more than two feet in one day (PAIR OF SOCKS). I had SHOES, so ... at least my forward progress was stopped for a bit. I weirdly liked the clue for OVINE (32A: Like the breeds Kerry Hill and English Leicester) because I had to think about it. I forget that there are breeds of sheep as there are dogs, cattle, etc. And OVINE usually gets some dumb clue like [Sheepish?]. There's some trivia, if you're in to that. Didn't know OTTO meant "wealthy," didn't know UPTON SINCLAIR wrote anything called "Dragon's Teeth"—seriously, I can name a bunch of his novels ... oh, no, crap. I'm thinking of SINCLAIR LEWIS. OK, no, I know only "The Jungle" by UPTON SINCLAIR. So, "Dragon's Teeth" ... interesting. I wonder if it is about a dragon's teeth. Oh, no, it's about Nazis. Alrighty, then...

A friend of mine just hypothesized on Twitter that one of the crosses in today's puzzle might pose a problem for some solvers: "For tomorrow's NYT crossword: I have a hunch that the cross between 42-Across [DADO] and 23-Down [SNERD] is really gonna stump people." My guess is that he is right, but mainly for under-40s who have no real experience with Mortimer SNERD. Also, DADO is not a common word for most folks (outside the crossword). But the core NYT solving demographic will have no problem: even if they don't know DADO, SNERD will come marching creepily forth, as dummies will. Maybe we can try to make *this* meaning of SNERD happen...

Hey, did you see the great crossword retort to Slate's attack on the NYT's "Mini" crossword yesterday? Joel Fagliano, who makes the Minis, responded to the Slate article "The New York Times 'Mini' Crossword Is an Utter Disgrace to the NYT Crossword Brand" with this neat little custom-made puzzle. See if you can see the hidden message:

The author of the Slate piece, Ruth Graham, to her enormous credit, immediately recognized the brilliance of Joel's reply, tweeting this:

... and then writing this appreciation of Joel's Mini-puzzle rebuttal. I love that both Ruth and Joel are so passionate about puzzles that they took the time to get mad, and get even, respectively. The whole back-and-forth made me irrationally happy. Now I'm gonna do the Mini regularly just to find the hidden messages. Don't Disappoint Me, Joel!

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

PS If you are a fan of Hayley Gold's webcomic about the NYT Crossword Puzzle, "Across & Down," you should know that she is considering stopping, since she will no longer be able to get the puzzles early. She is listening to feedback and suggestions about what she should do going forward. Here's her initial plea for advice, and here's her first post thereafter. Oh, and here's her webcomic (the latest one's about today's puzzle!), which, if you don't know about it yet, you might enjoy.

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


chefwen 12:43 AM  

Got it almost too easily when UPTON SINCLair wouldn't fit and figured AIR was going to be the rebus (geez, I love Thursdays). Growing up in Scotland confirmed my guess with wee BairNS, our baby sitter called us that.

Loved the reveal.

This was not a TRUDGE for me.

Unknown 2:05 AM  

I am also a big fan of Haley Gold, and feel we should make a special plea to Will Shortz to allow her to continue to preview puzzles for her blog/cartoon. I'm not sure why being a student has allowed her to preview puzzles, but if it caused no harm, why not let it continue? Hers is certainly is a special case and she has something really special to offer. I suggested to her that maybe she could be allowed a once a week preview on a rotating basis (Monday one week, Tuesday the next) rather than let her choose from a whole week's worth of puzzles, as has seemingly been the case in the past. It would certainly pose more of a challenge to her, but also let us anticipate her take on a puzzle. But in any case, I urge us all to plead on her behalf to be able to preview the puzzles. I would be happy to see them come in later, but still love the provocation of knowing she's going to have a special angle on today's puzzle.

jae 2:12 AM  

Medium for me.  My main problems with this were (a) not knowing Bagatelle was not a bread product and (b) misreading Contiguous as Contagious .  Caught the rebus fairly quickly but it took some time to sort out the BAUBLE/BAIRNS/I MPAIRED crosses.

Delightful rebus, liked it!

Charles Flaster 2:41 AM  

Very EZ Thursday and loved clues for two themers-PRAIRIE DOGS and PAIR OF SOCKS.
Also liked KNELT and DOA is a great B&W film noir.
CrosswordEASE--DADO, SDS and EDDA.
Write overs were SAO for SAn and ATT for inT.
Thanks JPM.

Da Bears 2:52 AM  

Rex, your blog was as solid and as much a slog as you describe the puzzle.

Loren Muse Smith 4:07 AM  

Spot-on, perfect reveal, especially since I solve on paper and had to COMPRESS the AIRs. Cool.

My first entries were the thrilling "schwa" for ONE BC and "tee" for INE. Hah! Serves me right.

Liked the AMORE/EROS and resisted AFOOT because of "feet" in the terrific clue for PAIR OF SOCKS. And Rex – good catch on INE crossing itself at OVINE.

Several palindromes: OTTO, ENE, SDS, SEXES, TET.

I got the trick with ASTAIRES and since the AIR was on the bottom, my first thought was that it was going to be things on AIR like "walking on air."

The DADO/SNERD cross gave me pause only in that the clue had Bergen's first name, too. DADO was no problem because, ahem, I've made a DADO before. With a Skil Saw, thank you very much. Won't do that again – a panel router will make your DADOs evener.

"Stop, DROP, and roll" is also my dog Molly's mo when encountering a four-day old dead anything. I guess the SCENT is heavenly for her.

A Thursday rebus right across the plate for me.

George Barany 4:10 AM  

The review by @Rex of the rebus puzzle by @Jules Markey brings up any number of good points. Then, as a bonus, quite a bit of the post regales us with dramatic recent news in the puzzling young lives of @Joel Fagliano and @Hayley Gold. What a community!

The puzzle reminds us that next month, it's back to SCH, where us chemists will teach about element X (NEON) in the Periodic Table, while our physics colleagues deal with ERGS and (at least one) LEPTON -- and then later in Sept. (say Yom Kippur), it will be off to TEMPLE (as luck would have it, I'm writing this from a hotel room in the city of brotherly love, not that far from @Bill Cosby's alma mater).

Among the final down answers are the short abbreviations ORS, clued as "Hosp. areas," and EMTS, clued as "Producers of many revivals, for short." So far so good, but could not these clues have been coupled? And weren't we regaled just a few days ago, in @Jeff Chen's puzzle that entered the fully spelled out EMERGENCY_ROOM into the grid, with this sensational clue: "Setting of many a revival"?

john 6:54 AM  

I first learned bagatelle from the classic Honeymooners episode where Ralph keeps calling situations " a mere bag of shells"

joho 7:34 AM  

Interesting, while @Rex was experiencing joylessness I was reveling in sheer rebus glee!

I got it at CLAIRVOYANT then wondered if I was. 😊

I did not TRUDGE but felt like I was walking on AIR in my best PAIROFSOCKS as I raced around the grid seeking out the rebuses. So much Thursday fun!

Thank you, Jules P. Markey!

Lewis 7:59 AM  

Rex, you've been ranting about same-old/tired-old lately. I maintain that this is often a necessary sacrifice to accommodate other worthy answers. So I thought I would pick a puzzle of yours to see what I could find, and I picked the last one you made for the NYT, a 2013 Friday themeless. You had some terrific answers, such as PORTLANDIA, AMYPOEHLER, GREGARIOUS, EARLMONROE, and TRENDING. But to support these, you had a huge collection of oldies, crosswordese and ugliness: ASEA / OED /PHD/ REA / INSP / ROG /IRT/ ORL / LGA / SMA / ARES / TMAN / AIME / BRYN / ECO / SMA / ETNAS / OGLE / IOS / ARP / PRE, and, interestingly, OLDNESS. The point is, in making a puzzle, to get the good, you often need some ugly support. Now one can look at this puzzle of yours and see it as an interesting and worthwhile solve (and I loved many of the answers and cluing), or see it as tired and same-old. You generally choose the latter in your writeups, and I often think it is unfair.

Regarding this puzzle, I loved the clues for KNELT, PAIROFSOCKS, HOE, SNIT, ONEBC, OUTRUN, and EMTS, and the answer HOISTS. There's a restaurant server's story in the ITSY TIP SNIT area. I wondered why OTTO was a "boy's name" -- does it have to change when the boy becomes a man? I liked the tussle, with tricky cluing, and a good number of AHAs. I found it to be a breath of fresh AIR.

Z 8:12 AM  

We're back from "where the middle of nowhere is somewhere."

I got the rebus at PR(AIR)IE DOG, and then it was just a matter of finding them. Biggest trouble was spelling CL(AIR)VOYANT as I wasn't sure about the last vowel and DOA remains unseen by me.

Thomaso808 8:16 AM  

I'm always up for a good rebus puzzle, and this was a good one. It seemed a little on the tough side, but in the end I finished in average Thurs time. I think the high word count just bogged things down a bit.

I like it when the rebuses are not symmetrical -- it makes the puzzle a little treasure hunt with potential pearls around every corner.

One of my favorite old Irish pub songs is "Mairi's Wedding" which is actually a Scottish song. It has a verse with a line wishing Mairi "plenty bonnie bairns as weel" which I always thought referred to material wealth, as in "plenty of barns". Ohhhh, now I get it -- plenty of kids! Makes a lot more sense for a wedding wish!

pmdm 8:30 AM  

Thursday rebus puzzles can usually be recognized by their lack of long theme entries. The best thing about this puzzle is that it should surprise puzzler solvers when they first realize it includes rebus squares.

The unfortunate thing is that 3 of the eight rebus squares involve proper nouns - an author's name, a TV show and the surname of two famous dancers. Anyone familiar with those names will get the theme immediately.

Speaking of proper nouns, 5 of the first 6 down entries are proper nouns. A bit too much for my taste.

r.alphbunker 8:46 AM  

Puzzle report

If a compressed air puzzle needs an extra row, what would a hot air puzzle need?

I really enjoyed the puzzle. Initially thought the rebus was SIN because of the SIN in SINCLAIR. Learned that clairvoyAnt is spelled with an A (finished with clairvoyEnt/doE)

Word counts for previous 15x16 puzzles
Martin Ashwood-Smith and Joe Krozel dominate.
Minimum word count 1 by Joe Krozel
Maximum word count 85 by Gary and Stephen Kennedy

Dorothy Biggs 8:57 AM  

I actually think Haley is spot on with her criticism of the puzzle today. There were a lot of missed opportunities, AirBNB being my favorite. I don't know if Jules intentionally planted UP in three answers as a nod to AIR...but he at least didn't mention it in his xword comments. If he did not intentionally slide those UPs in there, it's another missed opportunity to take the puzzle to another level.

I do like Thursdays that have rebuses (rebussi?)...and I liked that the AIRs were not placed symmetrically. I like with the AIR doesn't mean "air." But SEA-AIR, CON-AIR, along with the revealer were lame...especially given the number of alternatives that Haley mentioned.

I can see why, with a puzzle like this, that some puzzles take years to make. As the puzzle ages I'm sure more ideas pop into your head...entries that you hadn't considered before...that provide less and less obvious answers. This one probably should have incubated another few months. So close and yet...meh.

As for Haley getting an early puzzle dispensation...I say let her do it! (But then I think Pete Rose should be included in the BB, take my opinion for what it's worth).

quilter1 9:00 AM  

I liked it. I agree with @Lewis that the supporting players are not as attractive as the resulting wonderful answers, but necessary. Once I saw the rebus it was easy.

Free Huey 9:12 AM  

Let Hayley be Hayley

ArtO 9:12 AM  

Boy, oh boy did @Lewis hit the nail on the head. Can you just imagine how badly Rex would have ripped his very own creation?!

Benko 9:21 AM  

No talking heads today? David Byrne: "AIR can hurt you too. Some people say not to worry about the AIR. Some people never had experience with AIR."

Leapfinger 9:25 AM  

A debonAIR little affAIR for crossword luminAIRies that pAIRed across-with-down flAIR from New Jersy-Montclair to Kinshasa-Zaire and never AIRed on the side of caution.

Hardly had to read the 3D clue: UPTON_SINCLAIR_Lewis has been one of the oldest entries in my Horatio_Alger_Hiss folder, a list I started years ago because I always had to rethink twice to sort out which was the "rags-to-riches" fellow and which the alleged spy. Enjoyed finding all the pockets of AIR, but CON_AIR also stood out, for one of the best and briefest movie reviews: 'A transport plane filled with hardened criminals? What could possibly go wrong??!!'

Enjoyed KNELT crossing TEMPLE and AFOOT lying across a PAIR_OF_SOCKS. That had me looking for a nearby INCH or YARD, but I had to make do with just a little TOW. The clue for PAIR_OF_SOCKS was outstanding, but a bit curious, I thought: 'They rarely cover more than two feet in one day'? I just couldn't think of any time a pair of socks would ever end upon more than two feet in one day. Anybody know of a regional clothes-swapping day? Switch lockers at the gym day?

The other excellent clue was the revival approach for EMTS, and, as @GeorgeB mentioned, it's just too bad that it appeared only a couple of days ago. I do Not recommend trying for three times weekly!

My eagle eye LEPTON the fact that the themers are not symmetrically arranged,and that there are more AIR rebi at the bottom than at the top. This, however, is not a drawback but a feature, since everybody knows that AIR is less dense at higher altitudes. (I think this might be Boyle's Law, devised after he tried to brew coffee on a mountain peak.) In this way, Jules Markey gives us our second Physics lesson in two days, following @Loren's cockatoo that delightfully demonstrated the Physics of sound. We are becoming more educated every day.

Thanks to Jules for a Marquis effort from me and my wirehaired Airedale Cairn tairrier-mix puppy. Now all I have to do is sort out the SHEL Silverstein-SINCLAIR Lewis Babbitt/ Runny Babbitt


Zeke 9:32 AM  

I was sure we were going to have some sort of "jag right" trick with SIN coming off UPTON to the right, but it turns out that SIN just crossed SIN in SINCLAIR. Clever misdirect, overthinking on my part, or sloppiness on the part of the constructor? Possibly some of each?!
I'd say Rex needs to go on vacation more often. It seems he has rediscovered the joy in crosswording, and it's made this blog much more fun. Maybe his new goal of deleting unnecessary meanness from the comments section made him reflect on his own snark?

Wm C 9:46 AM  

@Thomas @8:16: Wishing a couple "plenty of kids" sounds more like a curse than a wish to me. I guess that's what makes the world series.

demit 9:52 AM  

john @ 6:54: I don't remember that one from the Honeymooners, but I always laugh when I remember "string of poloponies."

Teedmn 10:05 AM  

Fun puzzle, love the rebus, which I got at BAIRNS. And I said, "Nice", when I saw the theme revealer. I liked the clue for SPRY. LEPTON was fun to see - I always picture it as a subatomic particle with bunny ears. The talking tree diseases ENT RUSTS must be a first in crosswords :-).

@Lewis, you are certainly correct on the clue for 63A. Surely it is aTTa boy and after puberty, it is OTTO man.

Thanks, JPM.

And I'm all for letting Hayley Gold get the puzzle in advance.

John Child 10:11 AM  

I love me my rebus puzzles. This one was pretty challenging for me but less rewarding than many, due I think to the large number of very short words: 22 threes and 17 fours. Clueing NEON with 10 when TEN is in the grid felt wrong, though we've seen enough of that sort of thing recently to understand that it doesn't bother the editor. UP... UP... UP...

Nancy 10:12 AM  

Oh, happy day -- a Thursday rebus. Nicely constructed and fun to solve. I knew it had to be a rebus when UPSTAIRS DOWNSTAIRS wouldn't fit and I cottoned onto what the rebus was at HOME REPAIR. I had NO RUSH before NOT NOW at 16A, which slowed me down in the NW, but other than that, pretty smooth sailing. Despite all the names that @pmdm mentions in the NW, there really wasn't any junk; these are all names that we should know, even if we don't. Except, perhaps, for Uncle LEO, but he was pretty easy for most people I bet.

mathgent 10:22 AM  

I love all rebuses but I agree with the strong criticisms of both Rex and Hayley Gold.

I've seen DADO in many puzzles but only as a part of a pedestal. In his blog, Bill Butler points out that in joinery a DADO is a slot in a piece of wood that goes against the grain and a groove is one that goes with the grain.

Minor annoyances: UPHOLDER, EVENER, SEXES (used as a verb).


When GIGI was in the puzzle a week or so ago, I mentioned that I needed to see the movie again. We saw it last night. It's showing its age, but it still has its great spirit and Maurice Chevalier is magnificent.

chefbea 10:24 AM  

Good thursday rebus. Did it while waiting at the doctor's office. Second day this week for revivals !! What does ATT stand for in football. Loved the clue for pair of socks.

Welcome @Mary Watts. I'll drink my favorite scotch to you

Anonymous 10:36 AM  

In what shop would you see an EVENER (Leveling tool)? Answer: none.

Tita 10:38 AM  

Wait - you can have a ventriloquist act on the radio??? Wow.

@joho - what you said! Love me a rebus, and as @lms said, this one was spot-on.

I really, really don't get the obsession against old stuff. Everything that didn't just happen now - no wait - I mean NOW - oh damn, there it's gone again...
I mean - it's ALL old!
Is now-6 months new? now-18 months - still new enough?
Is there another threshold where stale becomes valid history, and lack of said trivia labels you as an ignoramus?
I'm so tired of that stale complaint.

@Thomaso808 - barns - lol! I have heard of BARIRNS, but wains is what my Irish in-laws call wee-uns...which is, actually, just another way to spell wee-uns.

@Lewis - well said.

Thanks Mr. Markey - in awe of the construction feat, and a fun hunt.

Hartley70 10:50 AM  

I do love a rebus, and if you're kind enough to hand me a good revealer and 8 opportunities to use it, I'm not going to complain about a thing. My time was right in line for a Thursday, so in the immortal words of Baby Bear, "It was just right!"

@Lewis, feeling brave this morning? You have me a chuckle!

Mohair Sam 10:56 AM  

If Will Shortz looks at this blog he can count another emphatic YES for Haley Gold's dispensation. What the heck is wrong with the thinking at the NYT anyhow?

Totally agree with OFL's take on this one. Totally. Rare day.

And a huge thanks to @rex for admitting to the Sinclair Lewis/UPTONSINCLAIR mixup. Confusing those names cost me at least .2 on my GPA and I wasn't even an English major (shut up G.N.).

Hartley70 11:00 AM  

Hayley Gold is a real talent, and the Times should be celebrating her. Make her a paid contributor and put a link on the website is the way I'd go. She's smart, she's young and isn't that the readership all newspapers need today? Cutting off her source material is a short-sighted move.

Bob Kerfuffle 11:04 AM  

Welcome home, Thursday rebus! (Even if much on the Easy side.)

We've had plenty of complaints that the puzzle is getting musty; this one lets some AIR in.

Mike D 11:14 AM  

I am bored. I have no job, I have no friends. All I have is this crossword blog. In the past, I could count on some frequent creative banter. I'd hit refresh repeatedly, and, during the early part of the day, I could count on a new, witty post every 5 minutes or so. A pun from Leapy, a bon mot from Roo, a witticism from LMS, a story of central park from Nancy, some Seinfeld from evil doug, a political cheap shot from wired wacks. Now I hit refresh, and...crickets. Now I'll have to go outside, maybe exercise, maybe write a novel or something. This new comment dump every few hours has left me with nothing in my sad, lonely, pitiful life. Thanks a lot, haters, for taking away the one thing I had that gave messing and joy to an otherwise empty existence.

Joseph Michael 11:25 AM  

Liked almost everything about this puzzle. The best one by far this week.

Yes, there is the occasional TET, ATT, and SCH, but the theme makes for a great rebus with a lot of rich themers, such as UPSTAIRS DOWNSTAIRS. The idea to COMPRESS AIR in the puzzle is innovative and I enjoyed the fact that the AIRs were not symmetrical, so they had to be hunted down.

@Lewis, your critque if the critique is well stated and apparently well researched. Score!

OISK 11:31 AM  

My first hat trick in - I dunno, - a decade? Three consecutive DNF! This time I guessed wrong on a 50-50. Snert or Snerd? Dado or Tado? Damn! Tomorrow I go for the golden sombrero ( four strike-outs in baseball...).

Nevertheless, a very enjoyable puzzle. Got the rebus immediately from "Bairns" (Scottish folk song "Dream Angus" "All the wee bairns are sleeping..."} Liked the cluing too. Despite my error, pretty easy for a Thursday. Just a bad decision from this (s)nerd...

r.alphbunker 11:35 AM  

Right on!
You inspired me to find all the three and four letters words from Michael Sharp's seven NYT puzzles and mark those in red that I can imagine Rex Parker complaining about. The results are here.

IMO, you need pennies to make change, you need TLWs to construct a grid. Including a string of TLWs in a review is gratuitous and adds nothing to the review.

jberg 11:48 AM  

Wow, nearly noon and still only 15 comments showing -- I expect I'm really the 141st.

I got PRAIRIE DOG off of the D in EDDA (and don't try calling them "Norse," as the clue does, in Iceland!) Pretty easy after that.

Also, don't try calling me a "SPRY grandpa" and expecting me to think it's a compliment! Next it'll be "well preserved," I suppose.

Not just crossing INEs, but you've got another one just below in NINERS, leading to nifty 3-letter diagonal chains of I and N:


That looks better in the puzzle, with the grid lines in.

When I was 14, I got a call from a local canning factory asking if I could start work that night at 6. Since I hadn't applied for a job, I supposed it was my father's doing -- but for the rest of the summer, except Sundays, I went down there at 6 PM, spent the night lugging boxes of rotten cherries from the sorting machines to a dumptruck (which later delivered them to a local pig farm), and trudged home at 7 AM. By then my clothes were so drenched with cherry juice that I went in by a side door to the basement, where there was a shower, left my pants there on the floor for my mother to wash, and cleaned up before entering the house proper. Why am I telling you this? Because my chief recreation during this 6-8 week period (to the end of the cherry season) was reading ALL of the Lanny Budd novels by UPTON SINCLAIR. Unfortunately, I had not remembered the titles of any of them, but once I had the UP that one was easy.

I enjoyed the puzzle. Aside from the theme, I liked SNIT as clued.

RooMonster 11:59 AM  

Hey All !
Fine rebus, actually sussed it out when I had enough crosses to see DOWNST(AIR)S. Funny, though, that my rebus "find" started as Sphinx for 37D, and put IX in as the rebus, and unix as the cross. Once I woke up a bit more, realized the end of sphinx was NX, not IX, so my theory of an RRN rebus went away!

Once figured out it was AIR, went through puz fairly easily. There were some odd clues to navigate. NE gave me fits, as both Down names were not coming into the ole brain. Had my Patent Pending one letter DNF up there with an L for the second B in BAUBLE. Thinking Bagatelle was a roll or bun of some sort. g(AIR)NS sounded as good to me as anything else.

Writeover for SCENT, had aroma in first. Also wrote in seas for ASIA, but knew immediately it was wrong as clue was singular. Was thinking about lewis SINCLAIR for UPTON, but now know it's Sinclair Lewis, thanks to a previous post! You should know by now, I'm not well read. (Although if I keep messing up Authors and/or their books, I'll be well red!)

Overall, cool ThursPuz. One row extra, added bonus? I'd like to keep seeing Hayley toons,is there a website directly to Will Shortz about that?


mac 12:07 PM  

Nice rebus, medium and slow for me....

Slow right at the start, I always think of bagatelle as something unimportant, rather than a piece
of jewelry. Maybe the Dutch interpretation.

Prairy dog gave it away, it fell pretty quickly after that. Pair of socks is nice, as is clairvoyant. And yes, I had some trouble at dado and DOA, as well as at sexes/Mex.

RAD2626 12:09 PM  

Liked the puzzle a lot. Got snagged by 53A clue: It can make a row. Tried tOE, as in Tic, Tac; tried fOE, as a clever misdirection, and finally settled on HOE, but only after PETHAIR made sense.

Agree entirely with @ Cyn Warren on Hayley Gold. Her efforts are extraordinarily clever and will lose some impact being delayed. If there is a way to lobby for her continuing to get the puzzles early, I am happy to participate. Jeff Chen is not a student, and he gets them.

AliasZ 12:32 PM  

A good rebus puzzle on Thursday is worth two in the bush. As soon as I found where the rebus was hiding at AST[AIR]ES and from this, COMPRESSED[AIR] (great revealer!), I LEPTON this one with wild abandon and promptly finished. My last letters were the two B's in BAUBLE, because I hesitated for an instant whether two-B or not two-B.

It was neat that Jules P. decided to place UPST[AIR]S DOWNST[AIR]S vertically to make it geographically correct and self-descriptive. P[AIR] OF SOCKS crossing A FOOT was funny too.

The three UP's in the grid were a little unsightly, but it reminded me of this guy I knew once who was extremely organized with his UPST[AIR]S library, but not great at spelling. He cataloged all his books and inserted UPTON SINCL[AIR] into his U-PHOLDER.

@Leapy, thanks for the hilarious Pityuka story about the fur trade upon which his water fell. Was he one of the Pál utcai fiúk?

I could offer one or three of Beethoven's 24 Bagatelles, the last six of which, Op. 126, were his very last works for the piano he ever composed, but instead I will go with Béla Bartók and his 14 Bagatelles Op. 6 that, in his own words, "... inaugurate a new trend of piano writing in my career, which is consistently followed in almost all of my successive piano works."

The Camptown ladies sing this song, DADO, DADO,
The Camptown racetrack's five miles long, all de DADO day.

Make sure you go to TEMPLE on the Sabbath.

John V 12:47 PM  

Good rebus, for me. Got snagged by LEPTON/ATT/AFOOT intersection, but otherwise just fine.

Carola 12:52 PM  

I can't say that @Rex and Hayley Gold's criticisms of the puzzle are unfAIR, but I thought it was delightful, with a great reveal and bubbles of COMPRESSED AIR floating about in the grid. For me, the non-symmetrical placement of the theme answers and the various witty flourishes others have mentioned kept things interesting to the end.

Ludyjynn 1:14 PM  

Anyone familiar w/ master carpenter, Norm Abrams, from PBS' "This Old House" (the ultimate HOMEREPAIR series) and "The New Yankee Workshop" knows all about DADOs and biscuits, two of his woodworking techniques. Can't recall any EVENER tool referred to by him.

Speaking of PBS, when "Downton Abbey" first aired, I boycotted it, griping that it would be a pale imitation of the beloved, venerable "UPSTAIRSDOWNSTAIRS". Nevertheless, by the end of Season Two, I was sucked into the Downton vortex and will sorely miss it when the upcoming final episodes conclude.

For once, I got the rebus early on and enjoyed all eight related answers.

Thanks, JPM and WS. A TIP of the hat to you.

nick 1:14 PM  

Scanned the clues and desp(air)ed -- who the heck was Edgar Bergen and why am I supposed to know his dummy's name? But then caught the snappy rebus and for a little while, lots of fun! And then the musty universe of the pop culture references made TRUDGE feel about right after all.

Loved finding that h/t from Slate last night -- glad @rex wrote it in.

Anonymous 1:28 PM  

@Tita - Nothing's wrong with old, it's when it's all old that there's a problem.

weingolb 1:45 PM  

The list of things in this puzzle that I've never ever heard of (and absolutely had to google) is too long to reproduce here, so here instead are things that I haven't heard of yet remind me of things I have frequently heard, making them near-impossible to nail:

INE got a clever clue that's actually no fun at all. Awkward clue for ASIA sounds like it should be read out on trivia night.

This felt like one of those gameshows you see where it's clear the producers don't want to give the money away. Yesterday's puzzle was much nicer.

Lewis 2:33 PM  

@teedmn -- attaboy/ottoman -- LOL!
@mathgent -- After all these years, I still love the music from Gigi.
@willshortz -- Keep feeding Hayley early!

Nancy 2:34 PM  

Re Hayley Gold: New York Times and WS -- It's called "value added". And it's not costing you a nickel. What more could you possibly want? Why would you want to discourage her? @Hartley nailed it: Put this talented young self-starter on your staff and let her see any puzzle she likes.

@Lewis -- Your meticulous research has led to what I'd call a TOUCHE moment. I found your post today to be a real eye-opener and a real surprise. Who woulda guessed?

@jberg -- I had the same thought you did when writing in 7D. This cannot be right! SPRY is not a compliment! SPRY is patronizing and condescending.

@Mike D. -- I share your "pain." I, too, was wandering in the blog wilderness this a.m., wondering where everyone was and would I ever get to see them again. And you're right: the malign influence of the trolls -- even though they can no longer post -- is still with us. It's a real shame. And, btw, thank you, Mike, for your nice comment yesterday.

Leapfinger 2:43 PM  

@Mike D, I feel your pain. You aren't alone with the crickets. I'm sure there are lorn others to keep you company. Not exactly forlorn, certainly not lovelorn, but in some indefinable way, bloglorn...

@Teedmn, the day will come when you'll roux that 'ATTAboy, OTTOman' throwaway line.

@mathgent, re the verbification of SEXES: Quite some time ago, I read (while I was supposed to be studying) that there is in fact an occupation known as a chicken-sexer. These people assess newly-hatched chicks on a categorical variable and separate the girl chicks from the boy chicks. This is done because you don't want too many chickens to come home to rooster, so the boychicks have something done that I'm still somewhat vague on, but apparently it leaves them with their caps on. Or something like that. I hope this bit of random trivia helps you be more accepting of 31D as presented. At least you have less to complain of than the boychicks.

@Alias, glad you enjoyed, and 'pologies for the ms-spelt words. The quartet of OCULI was an eye-opener.


Anonymous 2:59 PM  

I'm not a woodworker but I know what a DADO is. It's not that uncommon.

Clue for PAIROFSOCKS is one of the best in a long time.

Masked and Anonymous 3:29 PM  

I'd be an UPHOLDER of this ThursPuz.

I guess what I like about the NYTPuzs is they're like a box of chocolates. With more variety
that most other comparable chocolates-every-darn-day crosswords. Come to think of it, NYTPuz solvers are kinda like a box of something or other, too.

Would a real shame, if Hayley couldn't do her current-puzzle cartoon thing, anymore. Seems like she
has a pretty good reason for getting dispensation to see them a week early -- probably a much better reason than yer average "student" would have. And her cartoons really enhance the whole NYTPuz Experience dealy. How'bout they give Hayley a job, doin these cartoons, as part of the xwordinfo enterprise, or somesuch? I know them dudes get to see these puzs in advance.

fave weeject: MOO.


U-count: 5. Probably about average, for a 16x15 grid.

oldest word: ONEBC. newest words: NOTNOW (implies in the future), or that AMORE album. middleagediest word: CONAIR. chocolatiest word: CLAIRVOYANT.



Jamie C 3:34 PM  

For me, PETHAIR was a DOOK.

JFC 3:36 PM  

@wingolb you haven't heard of PET HAIR? Seriously?!
ALMOST as strange as Rex never having heard of Yosemite Falls...

RooMonster 4:05 PM  

@chefbea, in case no one's answered you yet, ATT in football is throwing ATTempts by the QB, full stat is Completions/Attempts. One more thing ti cram into your brain!


bwalker 5:05 PM  

Amazingly, I got the rebus right away at PR[AIR]IE DOG and finished many minutes under my average time. Though Thursdays are often my downfall, the record streak continues!
Woo hoo!!!

Liked the puzzle. B[AIR]RNS reminds me of Scotty in the original Star Trek. I never much cared for Masterpiece on PBS, but had to sit through UPST[AIR]S DOWNST[AIR]s because we only had one TV and my parents insisted. I was too young to appreciate it; I much preferred I, Claudius.

Rex Parker 5:31 PM  

Ralph, you're a longtime commenter, so I'll take your criticism seriously. That list you link to is gratuitous and completely out of context. I wouldn't complain about half the things you have in red. The fact that you (and Lewis) can't tell the difference between suboptimal fill used to hold good stuff together and suboptimal fill used as a matter of habit, at This stage in the game (i.e. after you've been solving and thinking about puzzles this long), is kind of stunning.


P.S. my early puzzles were admittedly not great. I mean, OIE (!?). OIE was I thinking? Still, worst thing "I"'ve ever put in a grid (IAT) wasn't put there by me. Editorial override.

Music man 5:40 PM  

Yeah this weeks been rough on me being in myid 20s. I really liked the theme and especially the reveal here though.

Also, OTTO was a gimme for me. I've wanted to have a boy named OTTO for a while, still trying to convince my wife, so I've looked up the meaning and tried to use it to an advantage haha. Not working so well though.

AliasZ 5:45 PM  

@Leapy, once again we LEPTON the same few things with a three-hour difference. I left UPTON_SINCL[AIR]_Lewis for your Horatio Alger Hiss U-PHOLDER. I apologize for the duplication. You should try the Bartók bagatelles too.

@Lewis, @Ralph, what is stunning to me is that you missed the best entry in a Michael Sharp puzzle: EYEING. Was this glue or a matter of habit? I couldn't tell.

It is discouraging to see only 15 posts at 12:30 when I posted my comment, at which time the last one was posted around 9:00 AM. The flow of the blog is gone. Quick, witty replies are gone. The ability to avoid repetition is gone. But best of all, the trolls are gone.

chefbea 5:50 PM  

@Roo monster...thanks for attempting to explain it to me :-)

weingolb 6:07 PM  

Hi @JFC ... I would honestly question the first language of the person who told me they were allergic to PETHAIR. Maybe it's a regionalism and that's why I don't get it, but I don't think I've never heard anyone say that. Easy CHAIR was also lost on me even though it's common usage, so it's perfectly possible that I'm the odd one here.

Everyone seemed to do well with it. My worst DNF for me that I can recall.

Hayley 6:38 PM  

Hi, this is Hayley. I was reading your comments and I have to iterate, the question is not should I get the puzzles, it is should I keep doing the comic with the week delay or end the entire webcomic. The NYT is adamant and there is nothing I can do, and no, I cannot get them again even if I go back to school, apparently I should've never been allowed to have them at all. Please email me your thoughts on the question at hand. Thanks

allergy doctor 6:39 PM  

re "common allergen": The PET HAIR itself is not an allergen, but the hair can hold dust and dander. Pet dander can remain airborne for long periods of time as well. It can eventually find its way into your eyes or lungs.

Jamie C 6:46 PM  

AliasZ said: "It is discouraging to see only 15 posts at 12:30 when I posted my comment, at which time the last one was posted around 9:00 AM. The flow of the blog is gone. Quick, witty replies are gone. The ability to avoid repetition is gone. But best of all, the trolls are gone."

I'd say the "trolls" were never that bad. Never threatening, never mean for meanness sake. Just lonely and bored, but harmless and easily ignored. The loss of banter and flow on this board is a shame. Questions are repeated or never answered, replies are repeated, and rapid back and forth wittiness is gone. Criticism of Rex's posts is being selectively and somewhat randomly allowed. The sense of community is gone.

IMHO, the trade-off is not worth it. I suspect others (and Rex) feel otherwise. It's his party, he can invite whomever he pleases, but I think the harm has outweighed the benefit.

kitshef 7:59 PM  

As I almost always solve in the evening, I don't notice the delay due to comment moderation. I love what it has done to the comments section. It felt like 40% of comments were either anonymous blasts or GN posts/counterposts. I have this hope that whoever is moderating is paying attention to how many get filtered out, and that some over time the blockees will lose interest and open commenting can be revived.

Oh, the puzzle. Lots of fun, agree that CONAIR and SEAAIR were cheats, but when you have 17 themers that seems much more than acceptable to me. COMPRESSEDAIR is not a cheat as revealers are generally not also themers, so I say bonus points for making it so in this case.

Only one overwrite, which is unheard of for a Thursday, and it's a completely shameful one. nEtrON before LEPTON. Somehow the 'u' fell out of my brain.

I don't know if anyone keeps such stats, and this is the fist time I've looked at it, but by my count 45% of the white squares and 37% of the total squares are part of the theme. Both even higher than yesterday, which itself seemed very themer-dense to me. If anyone knows of a place where such things are tracked, I'd be interested to know where.

Torb 11:18 AM  

Fun. Got the theme right away from Upton Sinclair.

Anonymous 12:26 PM  

Funny that PAIROFSOCKS crosses AFOOT, only one?
The SATYR was IMPAIRED, but into the TEMPLE he walks,
‘twas a SIN he wore only a PAIROFSOCKS.
He dreams of AMORE and HOISTS up a drink,
and ENTRUSTS his actions to EROS, I think.
He SATES his thirst to the last DROP,
an UPHOLDER of evil NOTNOW or ever he’ll stop.
UPSTAIRS and DOWNSTAIRS and a pair of ASTAIRES, has anyone LEPTON that?

spacecraft 12:41 PM  

Hmm...this science junkie has heard of quarks (including "UPSTAIRS" and "DOWNSTAIRS" varieties). Mesons and Higgs bosons, but never LEPTONs. I'm gonna Google that sucker immediately I get off here.

Got the rebus right away with 4-down. I can still hear Scotty bemoaning the strain being put on his warp engines: "Me BAIRNS, me poor BAIRNS!" This led to IMPAIRED, and the game was AFOOT--loved that this word crossed PAIROFSOCKS. This was a fun theme; it's a shame it all had to fall so easily. Shoulda been a Wednesday rebus.

Fill paid the price, to be sure. Even a couple of the longer entries--UPHOLDER and EVENER--seem rather forced, but at least we have a cool payoff. Too bad we couldn't have included a recent George Clooney know the one. And where's that lovable AIREDALE? B-.

rondo 12:45 PM  

I knew PRAIRIEDOG was going to be correct and wondered about the AIR trick and finally figured it out somewhere down below. What an irritation until I got on the SCENT.

I believe SHEL Silverstein also wrote all of the songs for Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show. Saw them in concert in the 1970s.

I would have clued DOA as the creepy Bloodrock song. Radio 89.3 The Current plays it every Halloween on the Morning Show, stream it if you care to.

This puz wasn’t terrible, though I general dislike the multi-letter squares. And no yeah babies.

spacecraft 12:51 PM  

Wow, who knew? The good ol' electron, that we all know and love, is actually one of the LEPTONs! The rest of them are so unstable they all become electrons anyway, so there you have it. The electron IS, essentially, the LEPTON. A rose by any other name....

Anonymous 1:36 PM  

This one has to be an EASY one for a Thurs. I skipped around, put in what I knew was correct and then AHAed at clairvoyant. The rest tumbled like domino tiles. I'll rate this an S, as in Superb. Really enjoyed the long ones.

Also, reading/scanning through the comments I noticed a certain debate going on with OFL. AMEN to the Yay-sayers.

Ron Diego, La Mesa, CA
(Where everyday is taxes, pay cable, pay credit cards, etc. etc.

spacecraft 7:11 PM  

SHEL Silverstein is also a cartoonist. Playboy used to feature some of his work, including my all-time favorite: Two guys taking their shoes off in a nudist colony locker room; one's saying to the other:

"I KNOW you never get one, but what do you do if you DO get one?"


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