Highly emotional in dated lingo / SUN 8-9-15 / Chrome alternative / Port of Puerto Rico / Stage of Tour de France / Homage with humor / Coal-mining waste / Indian tourist mecca / D'Artagnan mentor / When doubled, Ramone

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Constructor: Melanie Miller

Relative difficulty: Easyish

THEME: "Help Wanted" — Familiar phrases (following the structure "[VERB] the [NOUN]") are re-imagined as goals of various "Help Wanted" ads, with the familiar phrases punning on the occupations mentioned in the theme clues (all of which are written as "Help Wanted ads, following the structure "Need [OCCUPATION] to ..." . Thus:

Theme answers:
  • 23A: Need rural real estate investor to ... (BUY THE FARM)
  • 25A: Need retail marketer to ... (FILL THE GAP) 
  • 45A: Need cocktail waitress to ... (CALL THE SHOTS)
  • 17D: Need stunt pilot to ... (FLIP THE BIRD)
  • 41D: Need control tower operator to ... (CLEAR THE AIR)
  • 56A: Need bakery assistant to ... (TAKE THE CAKE)
  • 80A: Need cruise ship band to ... (ROCK THE BOAT)
  • 89A: Need orchestra conductor to ... (FACE THE MUSIC)
  • 114A: Need blackjack dealer to ... (HIT THE DECK)
  • 116A: Need magician to ... (DO THE TRICK) 
Word of the Day: BLATS (39D: Calf cries) —
verb: blat; 3rd person present: blats; past tense: blatted; past participle: blatted; gerund or present participle: blatting
  1. 1.
    make a bleating sound.
noun: blat; plural noun: blats
  1. 1.
    a bleat or similar noise.

    "the blat of Jack's horn"
• • •

Hi there. Still in NYC, still totally off my normal blogging schedule (which is See Puzzle, Get Puzzle, Do Puzzle, Blog Puzzle, right as it comes out). I had a long, amazing day of crossword tournamenting at Lollapuzzoola 8, and then walked 40+ blocks back to the hotel because I really needed it, and then somehow managed to do the puzzle, and then promptly collapsed, and my phone alarm was set for 6am, and I know it went off, but I also know that the next thing I remember was my wife saying "It's 8:20" and me mumbling some kind of expletive. It is currently 8:43. I will write about the tournament and post pictures and such some time in the coming week. But briefly—it was the biggest crossword tournament I've been to outside the ACPT (200+ competitors!) but still small enough to have a relaxed, fun, intimate feel that only a smaller, independent tournament can have. Lollapuzzoola is designed with the entertainment of All contestants in mind. Puzzles are top-notch, but mostly doable in the time allotted, and you can use "Google tickets" after a certain amount of time has passed, which means you can hand in a little ticket in exchange for one non-theme answer. This means that there is no reason for anyone to be permanently stuck on the harder puzzles. The vibe of the tournament is really relaxed, even though the puzzles are as good as those you'll find anywhere on the planet (Anna Shechtman's and Joon Pahk's were particularly brilliant) and the solving talent in that room, dear lord: first-rate. Congrats to Francis Heaney, by the way, for pulling out a genuinely thrilling, genuinely last-second victory over Trip Payne and Erik Agard in the finals. Again, more later. Just try to keep the first Saturday in August (or thereabouts) free next year if you have Any interest in trying out a tournament. Lots of people came up to me and said this was their first tournament and they were so glad they came. That could be you!

 [Adesina Koiki, working it out. If you come to Lollapuzzoola, you will look like this ... and LOVE it!]

This puzzle! Was a Sunday puzzle! That I did! On a Saturday in August! It is fine—kind of a throwback puzzle in the straightforwardness of the theme and the wordplay involved. The phrases didn't always work for me. FILL THE GAP refers to the specific retail establishment The Gap? That specificity is odd, especially compared to the other, much much more general answers. Also, cocktail waitresses take orders for shots. Nurses and basketball announcers are more people who CALL THE SHOTS. TAKE THE CAKE is way way too vague to be something a "bakery assistant" does. Take it where? And why would a dealer HIT THE DECK. What did the deck ever do to her? I did love (love!) the clue for ROCK THE BOAT. Image of the cruise ship band jamming away was spot-on and vivid.

Fill is probably on the wrong side of average, but not too far on that side. ABRA should be deleted from all word lists and all people's memories. It is simply not an acceptable answer, no matter how many times it keeps showing up. Most of the rest of the fill is inoffensive but often bland and overly familiar, or just mildly icky. ETAPE, you know? You know? Yeah. OK, it's almost 9am, so I'm gonna let you have at it. See you all tomorrow. I'm off to Yankee Stadium today to see Tanaka pitch against the ragtag, ad hoc, makeshift, and probably now very very good Toronto Blue Jays today. Should be fun.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Lewis 9:15 AM  

This was a clean and fun puzzle. The last theme answer I got was FLIPTHEBIRD and it hit me like a punch line -- I almost laughed out loud, and I heard cheers ringing through crossworld. I loved the clue for SOME, as well as for LIP, AGENDA, DEMO and SEESAW. There seemed to be many H's -- not only all those for the theme answers, but I counted six beyond that. Wonderful debut, and I look forward to more, Melanie -- like the teacher's Help Wanted says, this one MAKES THE GRADE!

mathgent 9:26 AM  

@Lewis: Happy to see you back. Hope that your vacation went well.

I agree with Rex almost completely. Mildly entertaining with mostly clunky themers.

Aketi 9:26 AM  

So, if you HIT THE DECK too quickly or too hard will it ROCK THE BOAT? If someone gets pissed off that you ROCKed the BOAT, will they thrn FLIP you THE BIRD? Or will they bring it to the captain's attention so you will have to FACE THE MUSIC? If you apologize, will that CLEAR THE AIR?

Max Sherer 9:30 AM  

Good puzzle, mostly... but one question:

Why the hell would you clue ATOM as A TO M?

Mohair Sam 9:30 AM  

Fun and easy summer Sunday puzzle. Debut puzz? Nicely done.

Just like @Lewis we finished last on FLIPTHEBIRD. Mrs. Mohair insisted the NYT would never allow it, I insisted that SAFARI had to be the Chrome alternative and what else could be in there? Loved the levity - thanks for letting it through Will.

Looks like the Jays who were active at the trade deadline are getting ready to fly by @Rex's Yankees who stood pat. Good luck at the ball park today Rex. Sounds like a beauty weather-wise, enjoy the game whatever the outcome on the field.

Loren Muse Smith 9:32 AM  

Rex – looking forward to pictures from the tournament. And I was glad BLAT was the wod. I just looks funny. Makes me want to revisit the word blatant.

Agree with you on ROCK THE BOAT and its clue. I first thought "miss" the boat and was wondering how that worked.

@Lewis – welcome back!!!! Fun time?

Yesterday we had ONE STEP and today we have STEP ONE.

SEE SAW – first thought was "tango" (then "tangle," my own personal eggcorn I sometimes say accidentally and then feel stupid - certainly not unchartered territory). Reminds me of this Monty Python sketch: wrestle yourself

WRENCH – serendipity. I barely slept last night because I wrenched a chest muscle yesterday practicing my knife-throwing skills. Sticking those really cool ninja-esque knives is lot harder than you would imagine. I pretty much stink.

"you're" before HERO'S. And going with "sauce" as alcohol, "sip" and "nip" before LIP.

Nowadays a rehearsal dinner is pretty much a ROAST of the groom, complete with an OPEN MIC that gets more and more use as THE SHOTS flow. I myself have had to start a Rehearsal Dinner Folder for my son because it's hard to keep up with his goofball antics.

@ED 7:50pm from last night. Right on, man. Rex – I don't mind waiting for posts to be updated and still really, really appreciate your exterminating actions. I dub you our Rexterminator!

I said on Wednesday's PB that I like imagining situations where an idiom would be meant literally, so I enjoyed today's offering. Fun to think play around with other possibilities:

Need Orlando Magic to… BEAT THE HEAT
Really needed Rio de Janeiro to… TEST THE WATERS before bidding on the summer Olympics

A fine debut, MM. I'm impressed!

quilter1 9:34 AM  

Easy and straightforward. No nits here.

Plantation 9:37 AM  

When you want a card in blackjack, you say "hit me."

Steve J 9:42 AM  

This was about as straight down the middle as a puzzle can get. Theme was perfectly fine, if not particularly exciting. Ditto the fill. Ditto the clues. Nothing jumped out good or bad. Fill was rather clean, which is always welcome, especially on a large Sunday grid. Nice enough diversion for my Saturday afternoon.

DrLee77 9:44 AM  

I enjoyed the theme and the clues. I started filling in FLIPTHEBIRD, and had the same I can't believe this answer as @Lewis + ROARING with laughter. I told my wife and stepson about the answer and they laughed. I liked all of the theme answers and the theme came quickly. Pretty easy and fun Sunday puzzle. Weird posting at 9:43 and only one omment is posted.

jberg 9:45 AM  

It looks like I'm second, but unless @Rex has a way to moderate from Yankee Stadium, I'll probably come in around 100th.

My biggest problem with this puzzle was sloppy writing -- the V in my EVITA looked more like an N, so I figured 'the fold' must be a hockey thing (there's a crease, why not a fold?) and put in On IcE. That gave me SEREcE, which I could see had to be SERENE, so maybe O NINE? Luckily, I finally noticed the V, and all was well.

The one I didn't like was BUY THE FARM -- which is, after all, a metaphor based on the idea that you will actually buy a farm once the war is over, so it's a little too literal for me. The others were OK, some better than others.

But ELHI should be put away with ABRA (K12 is what everyone says), and the clue for 107D is horrible -- since the last letter of the first encyclopedia volume can be virtually anything except A and Z, that's basically an uncrossed square. Since there are so many other ways to clue ATOM == could be "bit of everything," to match the symmetrical "bit of marine life" at 16D -- there's just no reason for this clue.

Ah well. I'd love to plan for Lollapuzzoola, but no the first Saturday in August, my Down East vacation time. It does sound great!

I've never seen Law and Order. Does BRATT BLAT?

F.O.G. 9:49 AM  

Loved the clues for OVINE and YEAST, but this puzzle gets a DEMERIT for HEARKEN. Who uses that word? A-minus.

Thanks Melanie for an enjoyable Sunday morning.

evil doug 9:59 AM  

Thanks, Loren. To their credit, Michael and his folks went back and terminated the bogus poster.

joho 10:00 AM  

@Lewis, is your two week vacation already over? I agree with you FLIPTHEBIRD was totally unexpected and hilarious, too! good for Melanie and Will for running it!

@Rex, love your NYC tournament blogging vibe ... Keep it going !

I enjoyed this Sunday romp but now must run to hit the (bike) trail ...thank you, Melanie, what a way to debut with a Sunday size puzzle!

Bob Kerfuffle 10:06 AM  

@jberg, 9:45 AM - My understanding of BUY THE FARM, based on I-don't-know-what, was that it referred to NOT coming back from the war: One's life insurance payment would provide the money to buy the farm.

Which may be part of the reason I wasn't very satisfied with this theme: several of the entries seemed to be things I would never want to hire anyone to do!

Or maybe because it was the tenth or twelfth (and last) crossword I did on Saturday, and I was just worn out. Took 92 D from TOREADOR (didn't fit) to PICADOR to MATADOR!

Ellen S 10:13 AM  

The last thing I put in was the "A" in "BLATS", then expected to get the Razzberry of Wrongness, to my surprise Puzzazz gave me the Chime of Completeness. @LMS, I looked up the etymology of Blatant; it was coined by Edmund Spenser to describe a monster (which he called the "blatant beast"), and is thought to be a variant of Scottish "blatand" meaning "bleating." And BLAT seems to be an okay word that nobody has ever heard of. Thirty Days to a More Powerful Vocabulary, indeed!

Fun puzzle. I liked the themers and not much junk. Agree ElHi needs to go. My daughter is a schoolteacher and she mentions K12 sometimes, but never ElHi. (I just Googled it; the first dozen or so hits are dictionary sites, then finally a publishing site mentions "selling to the elhi market", then some more dictionaries and then it begins to go off into people's names. Not used much in common parlance, or should I say blatance?)

chefbea 10:14 AM  

What a fun easy puzzle!! Loved the clue for 86 across.
Saw a few pictures on face book from the tournament. Hope to see more

RooMonster 10:16 AM  

Hey All !
Great write up today Rex! Was the explitive Rat Fudge? :-)

Favorite theme was FLIP THE BIRD! Too funny! Miss Miller crammed 10 themers in this here puz. Nice feat. Small amount of dreck, also. Interesting cross at ON DVD/VCRS. The center 5's and the crossing 6's crammed twixt two thwmers, very nice, difficult to have real words with that testraint.

Felt the east half of puz a bit easier than the west. Overall, easy-medium. Troubles in SW corner, as had FEEL THE MUSIC first, along with OLe and leANTo for a while, made CANDY EGG hard to see. As a non-well-read-reading-type, couldn't get GESTE. Last one to fill, and out of desperation, plus with HEARKoN, put in GEnTo. So a two letter DNF today. Is that an improvement over a pne letter DNF, or not? :-) Maybe because the puz is bigger a two letterer equals the daily one letterer? Is letterer even a word?

Anyway, real nice SunPuz, only 68 blocks, normally 74-ish or so. Some nice clues and nice answers.

This should TAKE THE CAKE. I'll ROCK THE BOAT while I DO THE TRICK, CALL THE SHOTS, and FLIP THE BIRD! Then I'll have to FACE THE MUSIC. I'll FILL THE GAP of astonishment as I try to CLEAR THE AIR, then HIT THE DECK and hopefully not BUY THE FARM!


Ludyjynn 10:25 AM  

Grrr...I hate to admit it, but I DNFed at ETAPE, thinking 'etage' means stage, when it really means 'floor' in French. C'est la vie!

@jberg, I'm gobsmacked that you have never seen "Law and Order". Dick Wolf's brainchild ran for a record 20 seasons, from 1990-2010, and is seen daily since in syndication! (I watched two episodes last night). Benjamin BRATT appeared opposite Jerry Orbach as a junior detective for a few seasons. He never BLATted; rather he was cast for his sex appeal, and coincidentally, at the time was dating "Pretty Woman" a/k/a "Erin Brockovich" Oscar winner Julia Roberts, who guest starred in a "L&O" episode w/ him. Art imitating life.

Can't CARP about this puzzle. A lot to like and a fine start to a beautiful Summer Sunday. Thanks, MM and WS.

Norm 10:26 AM  

The clue for ATOM specified that it was a two-volume so the second letter couldn't really be "anything" jberg@9:45 M is the 13the letter. That clue actually made me smile. Knew Rex would knock ETAPE. Knew it only as the old day's march, but that made sense for a Tour de France stage. And, if all of you complain too much about magic ABRA, I'll start a campaign for East of Eden [one of the best books ever] ABRA. Clunky themes, yes, but the criticism of the fill seems like nit-picking to me.

Teedmn 10:28 AM  

Easy Sunday for me (this does not translate to 'fast' necessarily, 33 minutes) and I found it cleverly clued, so nice debut, Ms. Miller.

A few writeovers, HEAR out before HEARKEN, enl before LTR, and I misspelled DOuSE but WILES put me back on track. Speaking of which, 61A was one of the clues I liked (Track runner), Characters in "The Hobbit" had me looking for you know what, briefly had hOME body, liked CURRENT being up in the air and the themers HIT THE DECK and DO THE TRICK did the trick for me.

I suppose if you live in a SHANTY, you are not sipping or LIPping Chianti. I considered hARP before CARP because finding one lone survivor in the carton when you want to bake is having a hANDY EGG indeed. I think of a trumpeter's toots as BLATS before the little calf's cries. (Visiting a friend's dairy farm when I was young, I found it delightful that the little calves loved to suck on people's hands - they didn't have teeth so they could get a pretty good suction going. But slimy!)

Good Sunday to all!

Carola 10:34 AM  

A fine, old-timey puzzle. My favorite was FILL THE GAP (also timely, I believe, as sales are down). Also liked LUMEN, SHANTY, WILES, DITTY, SNOWCAP + ARARAT, DVD x VCRS, AERIE x ARIES. Last letter in: the A in HEARKEN x BRATT.

John Child 10:41 AM  

I'm often not a fan of Sunday puzzles, but this was just right IMO: fine theme, no exclamations of distaste as I solved, and clever clues. On the easy side for me which contributed to my enjoyment. Congratulations on an excellent debut. More please!

Alan_S. 10:46 AM  

Hey, it's 2015. I think its ok for the nyt crossword to be a little risqué now and again. Not trashy but a little risqué is always fun. "Flip the bird" is not exactly hard core so there's still some room to fly. Next week lets have "choke the chicken", "drain the snake" and "do the nasty".

jae 11:22 AM  

What everyone else has said so far, an easyish fun Sun. An excellent debut! @Ellen S - thanks for the background on BLAT which was my only WOE if you don't count the alternative spelling for HEARKEN.

old timer 11:30 AM  

I, too, am wondering how OFL will manage to watch the Yankees and OK our posts at the same time. But the game does not start for a couple of hours, so maybe ... or maybe the Minions will sub in during the game.

I thought this was the finest Sunday puzzle I've done for a long time. Of course I like somewhat corny or wordplayish humor. But the real reason I liked it was there was outstanding theme density and excellent fill. Yeah, ABRA, but it was very misleadingly clued -- I was looking for something that would *precede* magic for a while. ETAPE is a word that belongs in an August puzzle, as the Tour de France is still fresh in our memories, well my memory at least -- been watching it since the early Lance Armstrong days when all you got on TV was a weekly recap.

I worked as a bakery assistant for a few weeks one summer when I was 19. My job, often, was to TAKE THE CAKEs to the retailers that sold them -- far better than my other job there washing pots and pans, but scarier too. Fortunately I never dropped one. And while a cocktail waitress does not CALL THE SHOTS when taking an order, she *definitely* does when she gives the orders to the bartender. The only doubtful one is HIT THE DECK, bu a blackjack dealer does give the bettor a HIT from THE DECK, so that's not too bad.

I liked FLIP THE BIRD, but there was something artisanal (craftswomanlike) about FACE THE MUSIC. Melanie Miller, if I run into you next Spring, I will definitely give you a CANDYEGG in honor of the season.

'mericans in Paris 11:40 AM  

Took awhile to get a foothold, but then once I started in the northeast, managed to fill the lower right-hand half pretty quickly, even guessing some theme answers with only one or two letters in. Turned it over to Mrs. 'Mericans who filled in the remainder in even shorter time.

Agree that it was a pleasant solve, but don't agree with the cluing for MATADOR. Bull runs take place in the streets with amateurs; it's bull fights in stadiums that involve men with capes and swords.

Couldn't think of a real noir story line with this week's vocabulary, so the Matt Esquare episode is rather unEVENTful.

The next ÉTAP of Matt Esquare, Ace Detective!

Sunday mornings often found me flat on my face in bed until noon. But with Maria around, I had cleaned up my act. I was up at 8:00 and even ran a MILE and back to buy a newspaper from my favourite news agent.

The woman behind the counter, RUTH, started with the usual banter. "It really TAKEs THE CAKE, eh Esquare?"

"What does?"

"Look at the headline: 'HIKER goes missing in Belle Isle Park'. I mean, how in the hell can somebody get lost in a city park on a tiny island, for cripe's sake?"

I shrugged. "Dunno. Guess I'm going have to read the article to find out."

"If you ask me," RUTH continued, "the guy's got to be some kind of DODO. Why, when I was in the U.S. ARMY, we used to be dropped down in the middle of nowhere and not only were expected to find our way back, but to find our own food, too!" She SWORE inaudibly and then SPAT. "Why, I even once bit the head off of a live pigeon!"

I rolled my eyes. Somehow RUTH always brought the conversation around to her years in the military.

"You're the SAVAGE, RUTH! Love to talk with you some more, but I gotta go. Give my best regards to ELMO! ELMO was her lay-about husband who lately had taken to referring to himself in the third person.

I skedaddled home, where I brewed a pot of java on the HOTPLATE and settled down with the paper. It was the usual stuff, with the most lurid headlines commanding the largest PRINT. Various tribes or countries were at AT WAR; HOARDS of immigrants were arriving on the shores of Italy; another suburb in the Midwest had experienced a RACE RIOT; Congress was refusing to approve a TREATY; a TRAIN on the TRANS-Siberian Railroad had CRASHED into a truck carrying SHAD roe destined for China.

I turned to the OBITS. Some OLD fart I had never heard of had died, bequeathing most of his wealth to the care and maintenance of his prize collection of TERI-cotta – some obscure art form from the early 20th century that involved mixing shredded face towels with clay.

The classified ads were the most interesting part of the paper. Some enterprising web site, called "e-LOPE", said it could obtain marriage licenses for young couples without them ever having to leave home.

Finally I turned to the crossword puzzle. I had a lot of ERASURES at first, but once I got the theme I was able to finish it in under an HOUR.

Satisfied with myself, I got up, humming a little DITTY from EVITA ("The Lady's Got Potential") to check on Maria. She looked so SERENE, I felt bad waking her up. But it was going on noon. I gently pushed her over from RECTO to verso. "What's on today's AGENDA, Matt?" she ASKED through sleepy eyes.

"C'mon girl. GET a move ON. TIME TO FACE THE MUSIC. Let's go and grab some brunch."


"I passed a new place not far from here. Calls itself EATS INTO. Why don't we give it a try?"

(continued below)

'mericans in Paris 11:41 AM  

(continued from above)

In the EVENT, the restaurant was more of a dive than I expected, with an eclectic selection of dishes, such as CANDY EGG with HASH-brown potatoes. Turned off by the breakfast fare, I asked about the CATCH of the day and was told it was ROAST CARP. I must have grimaced visibly, because the gum-chewing waitress added: "Yeah, I know they live on FILTH, but we buy only the best: guaranteed free of E-COLI." In the end, Maria and I both ordered sandwiches and SOME iced TEA. The HEROS seemed freshly made, at least. A customer at another table had ordered tuna MELT and the cheese looked more like Velveeta.

At the end of the meal, Maria ASKED, "Matt, can I CLEAR THE AIR?"

"Uh, sure," I said, dreading what she might say next.

"You snore."

That I already knew. I nodded OVINEly.

"Actually, your snores would be more accurately called BLATs. Your nose generates enough vibration that if we were to sleep on a cruise ship you'd ROCK THE BOAT."

I held up my hands in mock DEFENSE. "OK, what do you want me to do about it?"

"I've read that rubbing your upper LIP with garlic before you go to bed can DO THE TRICK."

"No way. That WON'T DO. The smell would keep me up all night."

"OK. I've also read that if you rinse your nasal passages with EPSOM salts … ."

"WAIT!", I interrupted. "How about, STEP ONE: LET ME BE?"

Maria frowned. "OK, SKIP it," I said. "I'll go see a doctor. But not just YET. Not until we solve this case."

Hartley70 11:41 AM  

Fun Sunday! I tend to get bored with Sunday, now that I've discovered the agony and ecstasy of Thursday, Friday and Saturday, but not today. I loved that there were so many themers across and down and even though they weren't difficult, they just tickled me. Very nice job, Melanie!

mathgent 11:42 AM  

@Bob Kerfuffle: Thanks for your explanation of the origin of BUYTHEFARM. You did 10 to 12 crosswords Saturday? How about during the week? I sometimes feel that I'm sitting in my comfortable chair doing puzzles too much -- I do the 8x8 KenKen, the NYT, and the LAT every day except Sunday. But I'm quite sure that you knock them out much more quickly than I do.

Tita 11:52 AM  

What @lewis said about the puzzle.
I was a tiny bit disappointed that the theme wasn't a bit trickier, but these were fun, and not groan-inducing like that recent one with the "I merely..." schtick.
I actually dnf'd because I couldn't accept BRATT as a name more than I couldn't accept HEeRKEN as a word.
Did his parents BLAT while typing in BReTT while completing the birth certificate?

Serendipity at 30A, as I was just looking up recipes for tahini, which is of course made from SESAME seeds. Any of our resident chefs have tips for which type of seeds to use?

And of course at the crossword-friendly port of BREST.
Tangentoid: the Paris-BREST pastry, one of my mom's dramatic specialties, was created to commemorate a bicycle race with the first and last ETAPE being those cities.

Overall a nice Sunday that leaves me time to chill after a wracking Saturday and enjoy this beautiful day.
Thanks Ms. Miller.

Joseph Michael 12:05 PM  

Easy Sunday. Theme felt old and kind of lame, though I did love FLIP THE BIRD. (The highlight of the solve) Most of the fill was decent. So an okay puzzle, but nothing to write home about.

Nit pick: dIdn't like the DO repetition: DO THE TRICK and WON'T DO, especially with DODO thrown in nearby.

cwf 12:54 PM  

I pulled out the magazine yesterday and did this one when I got stuck on Saturday's puzzle. Found it easy-ish and fun. Which seems to happen less and less often on Sundays. Congratulations on the debut, Melanie Miller! It got my engines up and running sufficiently to return to Saturdays and finish it (except, of course, for AMICE/ETAMINE).

Ken Wurman 12:58 PM  

Easy. More like a Tuesday puzzle. ..

George Barany 1:04 PM  

Congratulations to @Melanie Miller for a delightful debut, with ten theme entries!

Two small nits: (1) the clever clue for CURRENT, i.e., "It's up in the air" seems to me to duplicate theme answer CLEAR_THE_AIR; (2) parsing ATOM as A_TO_M rather than its scientific definition for the full word doesn't quite work -- I just pulled a 943 page one-volume encyclopedia off my shelf, and the N's start on page 576, not too surprisingly since the English language is biased towards words, names, phrases starting with the first half of the alphabet. I would think that a two-volume publisher would want both volumes to be of approximately equal width, so I propose ATOK and LTOZ as future crossword entries ... not.

Anonymous 2:19 PM  

Very easy, fun puzzle. One question however. 24D- the "xx" of xx:yy- hour? Am I missing the obvious?

evil doug 2:53 PM  

Does Matt get paid by the word? Jets a challenge for you: See how many puzzle entries you can get in the shortest space....

evil doug 2:54 PM  

There's more?

Aketi 3:00 PM  

@anonymous 2:19 pm, took me a while on that one because I was thinking of graphs. The yy is the minutes. It's the readout on a digital clock.

Matt Williams 3:08 PM  

Ripped through this in 24:03, which may not seem impressive to some, but is my best Sunday time ever.

Bob Kerfuffle 3:12 PM  

@mathgent, 11:42 AM - Sorry if I gave the wrong impression! I generally only do the Times crossword everyday, and sometimes also a runtpuz, or a Gaffney meta, or one of the indies.

But Saturday I was at Lollapuzzoola 8, which meant

1. A "warm-up puzzle" with the registration material

2, 3, 4, 5, 6. - The tournament puzzles

7, 8 - Trying to do the finalist puzzle, with both easier and harder clues, while the finalists did them on the whiteboards (maybe the hardest finalist puzzles I've seen at a tournament)

9, 10 - Working on a couple of sections of a "meta-puzzle" (variety-type stuff, not pure crossword) with table-mates at the tournament

and finally, 11, 12 - getting home that night, picking up my paper NYT and catching up with the Saturday and Sunday puzzles!

Far from a typical day!

Matt Williams 3:12 PM  

...BTW Anonymous: To see xx as hour, picture it on a digital clock, where xx:yy might be 12:05, etc. More typically to demonstrate format it's represented as hh:mm rather than xx:yy.

Music man 3:21 PM  

Well that a fun and easy puzzle. That's the easiest sunday I think I've ever attempted. I didn't even have to ask my grandmother in law and for any answers! Obviously, my favorite answer FLIP THE BIRD. I couldn't believe what I saw. I laughed pretty hard.

And yes I was watching some show called something along the lines of "Americas secret slang" or something, and they explained BUYing THE FARM. If you died in the war, I forget which one, your family was given a farm as sort of a life insurance. So if a soldier is killed, they would say he bought the farm.

Aketi 3:43 PM  

@lms, you ninja knife throwing technique slayed me when you stuck the Monty Python "wrestle yourself" link into your comments. Hope no one will ROAST me for confessing that I probably looked like that at least once in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Professor Jucão was teaching us one of those complicated moves that involve snaking the lapel of the gi jacket under an armpit and around a neck while planting your forehead on the floor and pivoting your body. Instead of the desired result of choking my partner, I kept choking myself. Even Professor couldn't figure out why. Fortunately, hopping into a tub filled with lavender EPSOM salt bubble bath will DO THE TRICK to alleviate the TRAUMA of such a humiliating fail and make me feel SERENE again. Now I have your link as well for any future episodes.

Warren Howie Hughes 5:57 PM  

"Miller Makes it Right"

Billy C 6:12 PM  

I bristled at WAIT clued the same as the cocktail waitress themer. Overall boring and unchallenging Sunday. Surprised rex was so relatively benign to this one after trashing a similar puzzle week.

Norm 7:27 PM  

@ George Barany: The compact OED is A-O & P-Z, so there are many different ways to split up the English language. I liked that ATOM was not gibberish in the grid -- unlike the other options you proffer. Ooh! A new clue for ATOP! I'm so thrilled.

Hugh 7:34 PM  

I desperately needed a straightforward, relatively easy Sunday and this one did indeed 'DO THE TRICK" (also FIT THE BILL). The last couple of weeks I struggled mightily so this was a welcome change.

Maybe a bit too straightforward, but the fun factor was there so I was happy. Had a few minor cluing likes:


The themers all held the same amount of modest appeal for me, none stood out.

Congrats to Ms. Miller if this is a first timer! Well done!

Have a great week all.

ghkozen 8:18 PM  

I agree that this puzzle was very easy, like last week. Maybe they are trying to toe Sunday down a notch?

My one gripe, Rex, is your hatred with ABRA. It's a word that everyone knows and uses when appropriate. Heck, it's even a Pokemon! I have a lot I object to in puzzles (obscure baseball errata, random letter strings posing as legitimate acronyms, arias nobody under 85 has heard of, etc.) but I think ABRA is legitimate fill. Do I love it? Probably not. Does it need to get excised from all puzzles? Certainly not.

Leapfinger 3:58 AM  

@ghkozen, I feel your pain. ABRA isn't even one of those 'moist' words.

I must have been using my pushing-toward-85 brain, because I found this harder than most solvers seemed to. Too many clues suggested alt possibilities, and had to wait for confirming crosses. Nice to see a new constructor of the female persuasion and do not want to CARP, but I did think perhaps REGENT indicated AGENDA bias. Sorry if I'm overthinking, Melanie M.

Cute idea for the theme, and thought FACE THE MUSIC got the good-conduct medal. Appreciate the backstory on BUY THE FARM, by the way.

Found in the grid:
We need a mechanic to WRENCH your back (or WENCH it, as almost happened)
We need AROD to GET_ON the ball
Or do we need AROD to spoil the child?

Fashion-wise, we need Manolo Blahnik to toe the line, and maybe
a miniskirt that DEMOs the knees ...
or a toreador pants. Whatever's most CURRENT, Pebbles or B-B-Bam-Bam.

I have to admit I'm a little stuck with this middle-aged perspective. I tried to get some help from a Medievalist I know, but he always RUNES the surprise.

Bottom line: we got a frontrunner debut that trumps the rest...and I mean that in a good way.

Leapfinger 4:09 AM  

@Evil, I think Matt Esquare has a fanbase just as he is, with his TE-RIcotta collection and his HOARDS of immigrants.

I'm not sure why, but he always seems to come in two parts.

@Tita, thanks. Just as you said, it was EVITA

old timer 10:40 AM  

Thanx, 'mericans. Been hoping for another ETAPE of Matt.

kitshef 3:47 PM  

Odd to check in here and find everyone has it as easy, which it assuredly was not for me. Probably in the top 10% of Sundays for difficulty for me.

No real sticking points other than @ludyjynn's 'etage', but overall just slow going. Fill in a bit in the NE, hit a wall, jump to SW for a bit, hit a wall, etc. A lot of theme puzzles are like that until you hit the them then you roll over the rest. Not for me today (well, yesterday actually).

Overally a good, fun puzzle. Like Billy C - real or not - I hated WAIT (as in wait tables) and WAITRESS in the same puzzle, though.

spacecraft 12:19 PM  

Well, we certainly have to suspend our dislike of "THE" for today: it's the core of every theme answer! So be it. Kick it off with a rather grisly BUYTHEFARM--then end up in the west (hardest part for me) with an absolute whizbang FLIPTHEBIRD: the unquestioned star of this show.

Along the way my BJ dealer cut THEDECK before HITting it; hitting is what the dealer does to a player's hand, not the deck. 'Course, it is also the player who cuts the deck (not me, I always pass. No bad shoe is gonna be MY fault!).

What happened to the E in BLeAT? BLAT??? Really? Yep, BLAT is a real word--and it means bleat! Go figure. Sounds more like something that comes out of the OTHER end of the animal. That's obscure, and IMO it WONTDO.

Of all the yeahbaby TERIs she could have picked, I don't know Polo. OTOH, ABRA is just fine, as Aron's GF in "East of Eden" (fetchingly played by Julie Harris in the film) or as A BRA (see 101-down) or even, as today, preceding -CADABRA (great Steve Miller Band tune). See how I worked in that Miller connection?

Which brings us to...a debut? If so, not a bad one at all. Workable theme, finished off with that sockdolager at 37-down, and fewer owies than one might expect in the larger grid. Well done, milady: B+.

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