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Sunday, October 18, 2015

Constructor: Dan Schoenholz

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: "Big Names in E-Tail" — familiar phrases have "E" added to end of one part, changing that part into a famous person's name. Wacky "?" clues for wacky answers.

Theme answers:
  • I DON'T KNOW HOWE (22A: Admission of a lack of familiarity with Mr. Hockey?)
  • LONE WOLFE (4D: Single copy of "The Bonfire of the Vanities"?)
  • LIGHT GREENE (33A: Less serious works by the author of "Brighton Rock"?)
  • BUNS OF STEELE (52A: Reason for Brosnan fans to watch 1980s TV?)
  • SHOPPING MALLE (65A: Trying to sell one's "Au Revoir les Enfants" video?)
  • VOLCANIC ASHE (82A: Explosive side of a former tennis great?)
  • JOKER'S WILDE (96A: Comic's copy of "The Importance of Being Earnest"?)
  • LAY IT ON THICKE (113A: Assign blame to the singer of "Blurred Lines"?)
  • BACK PAINE (81D: Buy into "Common Sense"?) 
Word of the Day: TROPHIC (51D: Nutrition-related) —
• • •

And so, jarringly, we come back to Old Ideas week. Add an "E"! There is nothing "wrong" with this puzzle. The grid is quite clean / polished, and the theme has a certain consistency—added "E" never changes the pronunciation of the base word, which, if you've ever tried adding "E"s to things, isn't easy to do. It's also pretty dense, what with those extra Down themers in the NW and SE. But adding an "E" is definitely an old idea, and a slight one, and after the experimental fare of the past week, all I'm left with is this sense that the typical fare is stale, stuck, moribund. True, there is something comfy and familiar about this kind of theme. Mild wordplay, light wackiness. Looks like hundreds of others of puzzles before it. And the title at least gives it a little bit of playfulness, as the godawful "E-Tail" gets put to good use, for once in its life. But ... I guess if the way things have always been done is what suits you best, then by gum, you've got your puzzle here. But there are ways to remain faithful to certain old ways while adjusting to the times and keeping things fresh. There's only one Thursday a week, and only one Sunday, and if those aren't days for Ambition, then pfft. What's the point of it all? Disappointing. Again, this puzzle is super-competent. It's just of a type that's the opposite of "New."

No problems at all today except with TROPHIC, which ... ??? Took me a bit to sort out the whole TROPHIC / KOOL / KHZ area. Also took me a while to figure out which Brosnan incarnation I was supposed to care about. Sadly, the only 80s TV that I could think of that seemed to fit was "Scarecrow & Mrs King." In my head, it's the same as "Remington STEELE." I didn't watch either, so I can make that equivalency without any problem. Anyway, BUNS OF STEELE was definitely the hardest themer to come up with (several of them were near-gimmes), and OAXACAN didn't make matters easier (54D: Resident of southern Mexico). Very tough to parse. But that section was an anomaly. Mostly, this was cake.

  • 55A: "Home, ___" (JAMES) — Uh ... OK. I wanted JEEVES. I don't know who JAMES is. A chauffeur, no doubt.
  • 103D: First year in Constantine's reign (CCCVI) — I actually knew it was 3-something. That didn't make me like this long RRN any better.
  • 91A: "Smack!" ("POW!") — I had POP. Made sense at the time. Also made NEWSROOM (83D: Post office?) hard to see for a bit. 

Reposting these items from yesterday, since many of you won't have seen them:
  1. Caleb Madison (ed. of the new BuzzFeed crossword, which debuted this past Monday) and I did a radio interview with the great Emily Jo Cureton yesterday about the state of contemporary crosswords. I really enjoyed it. You can listen here (roughly 20 min.).
  2. The BuzzFeed puzzles are very much worth checking out (Friday's themeless by 15-year-old phenom Paolo Pasco was particularly impressive) (get it here) (read about it here). Another puzzle debuted this week too—HIGH:low, a biweekly (free!) themeless puzzle by the super-talented K. Austin Collins (currently Ph.D.-ing at Princeton). The main idea is low word-count, high quality. Sign up to have the puzzle delivered right to your inbox on the 1st and 15th of every month. I solved (and wrote about) HIGH:low #1, and it was really entertaining.
    And adding this:
    American Values Crossword Puzzle is looking to add a new constructor to their rotation. Please see the job listing here for details.

    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

    [Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


    Vincent Lima 12:48 AM  

    Is SHOVEIT, unlike the BLT, kosher? Does one have to specify where you should shove it to make it too vulgar for the NY Times puzzle?

    jae 1:31 AM  

    Easy for me too.  No erasures and no WOEs.  Pretty smooth, mildly amusing, sorta liked it.

    Note the clue for ELO.  First time I saw it was in a BEQ puz.

    jae 1:40 AM  

    Oops - oversight/memory lapse/senior moment - TROPHIC was a WOE. @Rex thanks for the google.

    chefwen 2:20 AM  

    As much as I enjoyed last week (other than Thursday and Saturday) it was nice to get my feet back onto terra firma. As Rex said it was easy and I enjoyed sailing through it. Besides, after the time consuming Thursday puzzle I felt like I had already completed a Sunday puzzle.

    Other than laY LOW before FLY LOW I had no other write-overs. Loved all the theme answers, especially VOLCANIC ASHE.

    Used to have a TOQUE with Chef Wen embroidered on it. Must have lost it in one of our moves. Oh well, I felt stupid wearing it anyway.

    Good puzzle to welcome us back to some semblance of normalcy.

    Fitzy 3:34 AM  

    Weird triple coincidence: my 4 year old was hopping around the room pretending to be a kangaroo when I got to the 77 Down "Hundred Acre Wood" clue AND news report came on TV about a kangaroo on the loose on Staten Island! (I'll have to see if there is a horse named "Kangaroo" racing anytime soon)

    George Barany 4:32 AM  

    @Dan Schoenholz picks the most common single letter in the English language [no doubt with apologies to George Perec] and places it at a predictable position, the tail. I'm aware of several add-a-letter (or better, add-a-bigram) themes that were declined on predictability grounds. Of the nine theme entries, all but one (the BUNS_OF_STEELE) refer to real people; were it not for the hockey great already in the puzzle at 22-Across, the law firm of Dewey Cheatem & Howe might have been a useful addition [and speaking of hockey, an unusual clue for ORR at 75-Across].

    Does anyone know whether the last name of the French director is pronounced the same way as the proverbial suburban hangout in 65-Across [not to be confused with a word spelled and pronounced the same way, in the clue for MEMORIALS]? I was amused by the business clue for 24-Across, since this puzzle's theme, one might argue, was SILENT_E [I suppose there's no silent "I" in silent "team"].

    Making up for my unfamiliarity with NABOO, TROPHIC, and the precise spelling of OAXACAN, I do appreciate the shootouts to LAB safety at 68-Across, and to a treasured University of Minnesota alum at 117-Across. @Dan, if you're still reading, my friend @Paul Schoenholz wants to know whether the two of you are related. @Paul is definitely one of those NICE_PEOPLE that I've met since moving from New York to the Midwest some 35 years ago.

    'mericans in Paris 5:32 AM  

    HAI all! Our solving experience was almost identical to that of @Rex. At first we thought that the theme would involve answers with names like Amazon, L.L.Bean, and FTD. But as we started solving the themers our reaction turned to "O NO, is that all there is?" It's as if this puzzle had been lying dormant for two decades and suddenly burst from its COCOON.

    Like @Rex, we were STYMIEd by 52A ("Reason for Brosnan fans to watch 1980s TV?"). Having left the USA, and US television, in the 1980s, we were stymied. We eventually got the answer from the crosses.

    And, like @Rex, we had a problem in the TROPHIC-KOOL-KHZ area. Come on, the home of Jar Jar Binks (44D: NABOO) is pretty obscure. And KOOL, along with other cigarette brands, hasn't been able to advertise on TV since 1971 and its advertisements have largely disappeared from the print media and billboards in most states.

    I should have known TROPHIC as the answer to 51D ("Nutrition-related"), but Mrs. 'mericans had entered "seAS" as the answer to 56A ("Beach fronts?"). She calls the top half of a two-piece bathing suit a "bikini top". I'd be curious to know: of those of you who call the bathing-suit top a BRA, what do you call the bottom half? Panties?

    Answers we did like: IRONING, GHANA, LEX, SALTY, SCREE. Good also to see a new clue for ELO that doesn't relate to the Electric Light Orchestra. We liked the answer LETS LOOSE, but not its cluing ("Relaxes and has some fun" -- the opposite of RESTIVE). LETS LOOSE is what one does with horses, or a gaseous bodily emission, or (with "on") what The Donald does whenever he is given half an opportunity.

    P.S., Request to crossword constructors: could you please ban EPCOT from your puzzles for a TIME, say, the next decade? You can also leave your old BVDs in the room. Thanks.

    Bob Kerfuffle 6:19 AM  

    I found 61 D, KHZ, to be helpful, because in the past I have been uncertain if 71 A would be INES or INEZ. It seems one Don Juan has a mother named Inez; another Don Juan (Tenorio) has a girlfriend named Ines.

    chefbea 7:34 AM  

    Found this pretty easy. Wanted bees for beach fronts!!. Of course I knew bow ties and toque. Never had one with chef bea embroidered on it @chef wen

    F.O.G. 7:54 AM  

    Like Rex, I struggled with TROPHIC, KHZ, KOOL. Initially had vHs for "Radio frequency." It came together after replacing INEs with INEZ.

    Loved 41D, "Dead-end position" for MCJOB, and 41A, "One making a roaring start?" for MGM LION.

    Easy but fun. Thanks DS and WS.

    Carola 9:14 AM  

    Cute title, some clever word play - I especially liked LAY IT ON THICKE and BACK PAINE - and over very quickly.
    How to account for words we like? The puzzle won me over with SCREE and KRAIT.

    Mohair Sam 9:18 AM  

    Really easy, yet really enjoyable Sunday. A dearth of crosswordese and dense theme made this one a lot of fun for us. Hadn't noticed that the pronunciation of the names never changed with the "e" subtraction until we came here, impressive.

    I really liked the fact that the themers covered the gamut of sports, art, and pop culture from Oscar WILDE, to Gordi HOWE, to Alan THICKE's kid (who I only know because he was famously twerked at by Miley) - so everybody had their gimme, and everybody had their blank. Our total blank was MALLE whose name we totally forgot in spite of his wonderful movie.

    The Food Network has fired Paula DEEN, why can't the NYT puzzle do the same so I don't have to think about her? And why can't the Food Network do me a favor and fire Guy Fieri too?

    Listened to the radio interview with Rex and Caleb Madison. Got a feel for where Rex is coming from with some of his criticism, particularly his negative tone on days like today.

    Teedmn 9:24 AM  

    It was nice to start the puzzle today without feeling like there was a ticking time bomb waiting inside it :-).

    My words of defiance started as "So sue me". I'm glad I was able to fix that or else I would have missed the great answer to 'Topsiders'. I stared at that one for a while thinking it would be sailing related. And as @Vincent Lima commented, I spent some time considering the SHOVE IT phrase. It was a popular rejoinder when I was in high school because you could be vulgar without being called on it.

    Thinking mHZ first made KOOL hard to see. Once I did think of it, I could see the logo - I think my mother must have smoked KOOL brand at some point. And of course, I grew up in the era where cigarettes were advertised on TV. But I totally did the @'mericans in Paris thing and had seAS at 56A due to the NABOO WOE. So a DNF. Certainly TeOPHIC didn't look right but it being my last entry, I was ready to call it quits.

    @George B, fun thought on the silent I in team.

    Nice puzzle, DS.

    Z 9:45 AM  

    Pretty much what Rex said. Competent. Consistent. Mildly amusing. Very little that gets the side-eye. So why does it feel like we're damning with faint praise?

    Interesting to note that LAY IT ON THICKE did not include BRAS in Blurred Lines. Apparently Pharrell and THICKE were part of the #FreeTheNipple vanguard.*

    I also noted INEZ not INEs today along with the SILENT I in business, while wondering what LIGHT GREENE paint looks like. Just a bonanza of blog references today.

    CCCVI? Okay, maybe a little side eye.

    *If you didn't realize this was a JOKE you need LETS LOOSE a little.

    Noreen 9:46 AM  

    Easy. But 32A , Kyoto concurrence = HAI? Unknown to me. Likewise 60A , John Lennon's middle name = ONO. Really? Never heard that before, got it on crosses.

    Old Lady 9:51 AM  

    MGMLION was there at the beginning of a silent Hitchcock film (The Lodger) that I watched in an unheated former town hall in Vermont just las night. The film was accompanied by an extremely talented organist for whom this is an avocation that delights. And yes, he roared when the lion did on the screen.

    Nancy 9:53 AM  

    An inspired guess on KOOL (when I had V--L, because I wanted VHS, not KHS) enabled me to avoid the NABOO/KOOL/KHS natick that was staring me in the face. I guessed bravely, because I had already decided that I didn't care if I naticked on a "Star Wars"/brand name combo. (Wasn't OPEN SPACE yesterday a "Star Wars" reference too? Except that yesterday, I cared a lot, since that was the key to the whole puzzle.)

    I walked out of "Star Wars" after about an hour or so when the movie first appeared, but I made a big mistake. I should have walked out after only ten minutes, but I kept hoping it would get better. This is because a guy I was friendly with at work told me I had to see it and that HE HAD SEEN IT FIVE TIMES AND IT WAS THE BEST MOVIE HE'D EVER SEEN! How could Jim be so wrong? It just HAD to get better. Only it didn't. God, I hated that movie! So all "Star Wars" references are complete Greek to me. Just like the movie was.

    Oh, yes, the puzzle. Other than that one area, it was really, really easy. You don't have to know all the proper names (and I certainly didn't) since they come in from the crosses and from the sense of the phrase. So no "suffering" for me today, after a really challenging week.

    joho 9:54 AM  

    Super-dense theme extremely well executed, thank you, Dan Schoenholz!

    Easy, yes, but a pleasant break from some of the mind-boggling craziness of the last week.

    I like add-a-letter wordplay. My first published puzzle that I did with Andrea was add an O. Remember FULLSPEEDOAHEAD?

    @Rex, I smiled at your not knowing who JAMES is. My plate reads JAMESFC for JAMESFenimoreCooper. I have actually said, "Home, JAMES." 😊

    Ludyjynn 9:55 AM  

    Was STYMIEd by TROPHIC/HAW cross after an otherwise pleasant Sunday romp.

    I liked the Jupiter, FLA misdirect. Have spent a couple of weeks there during frigid Winter months and recommend the area highly, esp. for nature lovers. Just south on US I is Juno Beach, home to the Loggerhead Marinelife Center, which is a sea turtle conservation organization, also dedicated to educating the public. A must see if you're in the Jupiter area.

    Pierce Brosnan was never hotter than when he played Remington STEELE opposite Stephanie Zimbalist on '80s tv. Unfortunately for him, his contractual commitment to the show prevented him from playing James Bond on the big screen at that point. It was not until years later that he got the part. IMHO, he was by then too old to do Bond justice. TIMing is everything.

    Also enjoyed the clue for MCJOB. Nice one.

    Rex, "Home, JAMES" is what my Mom would say to my Dad after the family piled into the car from a dinner out and my Dad was the designated driver. A fond memory for me.

    Thanks, DS and WS. Me likey.

    Bill L. 9:59 AM  

    Smooth sailing except for the KOOL, NABOO mess. I had seA where the puzzle wanted BRA and the radio frequency could have been KHZ or mHZ. My bad for not knowing TROPHIC. I just ended up leaving a few squares empty and came over here to let Rex clue me in. Thanks as always for your terrific blog.

    Rex, while I agree that some of the Indie puzzles are sometimes more fun than what we've been seeing in the NY Times for a while, I've got to say that after trying a few of the BuzzFeed puzzles yesterday I definitely prefer the cluing style of Will. I'm not in their target demographic so maybe it's just me, but do you like those long winded clues? They drove me nuts!

    Roo Monster 10:01 AM  

    Hey All !
    Quirky E-ending theme puzzle thingy. I did like parsing the themers. As Rex funningly puts it, "Wacky".

    Looking back over my grid, it seems I only had two writeovers! Wow! DEaN->DEEN, mHZ->KHZ. And got puz 100% correct! So, it must've been easy! Not too much dreck, of course, there is I Is. Ouch. Liked I WAS HAD, NICE PEOPLE, STYMIE, SALTY (wanted dirTY thete first :-P). KRAIT a WOE, but crosses fair.

    I even snuck into the puz!


    Anonymous 10:14 AM  

    Had MHZ in place of KHZ for a while but knew it was wrong because...MOOL? Had to Google TROPHIC so I didn't really solve the puzzle on my own. The shame.

    OAXACAN was unexpected but not too hard. Oaxaca occasionally comes up in conversations with cooking friends about another obsession, regional foods of Mexico.

    The BUNSOFSTEELE entry was my gateway to the rest of the puzzle. Once I saw the gimmick, all other theme entries pretty much answered themselves.

    It dawned on me during the last few puzzles how crosswords have broadened my knowledge of weird factoids. I know random rappers names, some opera trivia, a bit of useless slang. Someday it will all coalesce into one grand puzzle for an amazing solve time.

    Loren Muse Smith 10:20 AM  

    I had a double dnf: just gave up and didn't guess on all the NABOO/TROPHIC/KOOL crosses and in the southeast, I ended up with "Donder/hot/cccdi." Never considered changing it to DENVER.

    Rex – "James" was my very first entry, but I don't know who he is, either.

    "Chills out" before LETS LOOSE. And I don't have an issue with the meaning of LETS LOOSE. You're unleashing your Inner Party Beast, the one who dons someone's bvds like a hat, dances with closed eyes, your upper teeth biting you lower lip, head bopping, arms out, shaking your assets, bugling like an elk. Sigh. Good times. I did this at the last party I was invited to. About ten years ago. (I've shamelessly stolen this line from Steve Martin.)

    Midwest's NICE PEOPLE crossing KEILLOR. Cool.

    I had a weird moment when I misread ALPACA's clue as "llama's kiln." Pictured some kind of Sandra Boynton critter making a clay coffee mug. But just for a minute.

    I don't harbor the hate for our new prefix E. There's another in the grid – MC. So I guess Rex could call this a McPuzzle?

    I enjoyed this one, Dan, and liked trying to guess the themer with few crosses.

    Anonymous 10:22 AM  

    I thought for sure that Rex would flip out over LIGHTGREENE. Green paint, anyone?

    Hartley70 10:28 AM  

    I agree with Rex and the first ten posters. I was hung up in the TROPHIC/HAWS cross and I also stuck with seas too long before switching to BRAS. I think BRAS is a terrible answer because they have backs also. It makes no sense to me. The best answer was MCJOB to balance out BRAS, the worst. The last themer to fall for me was also the Remington Steele one but I knew that was the tv show referenced. All in all on the easy side, but probably average difficulty for a Sunday.

    GILL I. 10:45 AM  

    Comfy and familiar...YES! Like wearing my late dad's favorite red sweater while curled up in my favorite chair and reading a good book! (I just finished reading "The Signature of All Things" by Elizabeth Gilbert - terrific book)...So, I was pretty happy with this one.
    BUNS OF STEELE would be just about right for Brosnan - favorite James Bond - man that he is. Wasn't thrilled with LIGHT GREENE but that was about all.
    @George B....One of my favorite places to visit in Mexico is OAXACA. Best mole you'll ever try. I love how many American tourists would say how they'd like to book a trip to "Waxsaca..." [sigh]
    @Rex, my niece works for BuzzFeed U.K. and I told her about the new puzzles. She (E)mailed back that she's now hooked!
    @Bob K. I too, have the same problems with INES (Z).
    Off to enjoy the rest of this gorgeous day.

    Tita 10:52 AM  

    Is was a just fine Sunday.

    Synchronicity for 32a...I was at the Cloisters in NY yesterday for a garden tour. Saw a new (to me) exhibit about medieval rings...there were several astonishingly carved cameos. Reading the labels, I learned that ONYX was the stone used.

    On Halloween, a must-stop house was that of the ambassador from GHANA down the street. They had the best candy ASSORTment by far of anyone else! OHENRY BARS and more. That was back when we roamed the streets by ourselves at night...in Thomas PAINE's apple orchard, in fact...the house I grew up in had two apple trees in the yard, just off PAINE Ave.

    Thanks, Mr. S. Now off to clear all the plants that succumbed to last night,'s freeze.

    Horace S. Patoot 11:07 AM  

    Are there really people who decorate for Thanksgiving with COBS? Do they also decorate with cores, peels, and rinds?

    Anonymous 11:19 AM  

    @'mericans argh no to "panties". I don't even call panties "panties". Your wife is right: bikinis have tops and bottoms. Not fronts. Not bras.

    Anonymous 11:34 AM  

    Having a new concept for a crossword puzzle seems like a high bar, given how long crossword puzzles have been around at this point. Is Rex saying that if the concept isn't new, the fill should be fresher? Just seems as though criticizing the concept for being stale is itself stale…..

    Virginia Lady 11:44 AM  

    I am surprised no one mentioned "I was had" for "they got me"! I thought it had to be wrong because I just now got "hate" for hardly fancy.

    Love that fellow Virginian Arthur Ashe got a mention, although he was hardly volcanic!

    Leapfinger 11:54 AM  

    Odd that LIGHT_GREENE is green-paintish, while GREENE_LIGHT is not.

    @GeorgeB, to my ear, Louis MALLE -- Mr. Candice Bergen that was -- is pronounced as in 'Honi soit qui MAL y pense' ("Honey, don't think badly of it") rather than like 'maul', as in MALL of America.

    @Lewis, your APES*IT of yesterday seems to have morphed into the CHEFSHAT today. With all appropriate apologies to @CHEFsBea and Wen...

    I read "Sirens of TITAN" back in the '70s, thought it um, iconic Vonnegut at the time. Years later, I was driving South on I95 to Boca; just North of Jupiter FL (really), I was passed by a car full of teenage boys, laughing their heads off. First and only time in my life I saw a Pale Moon Rising.

    I CLAP FOR the MGM_LION and that whole little section down to BAR; liked the non-Mall e-tails, esp VOLCANIC_ASHE, maybe because Arthur seemed so even-tempered. Overall, have no quarrel with a 'return to normalcy'. Little, I Femme FATALLe.

    Enjoy your Octoberish Sundays, y'all.

    AliasZ 11:57 AM  

    @GeorgeB, you are right, the name of French director Louis Malle (1932-1995) is pronounced nothing like the English word "mall." It is the only theme entry in which the added "E" changes the pronunciation of the base word. I guess for the NYT close enough is close enough. But the theme still works if you ignore the pronunciation and concentrate strictly on pinning a visual E-TAIL on this donkey.

    Other E-TAIL words that made me think they should have been clued differently: LETS LOOSE (Allowes Brit Johns), ECOLE (Greene sci.), ABODE ("What ___!" Muscle Beach crye), RENÉE (Descartées). True, the logic gets a little convoluted, but this is wordplay.

    -- NICE PEOPLE (Lovely crevice!).
    -- Today's green paint entry was actually LIGHT GREENE.
    -- The first thing that popped into my mind when I saw the clue "Flaky stuff" was dandruff -- perhaps the effect of "uff".
    -- Is there another English word in which the meaning of the -IVE suffix has the same meaning as -less, as in RESTIVE=RESTless? I can't think of any.
    -- OAKEN barrels? How about ashen baseball bats and rosen tea? "Pinocchio, make this pine look more like oak." "OK boss, I'll OAKEN it."

    The unfortunate side effect of so many threes are comical-looking repetitions like NAH NOH and ONO, ORR EEK ELK and ELO. My tolerance for threes therefore is 12 in a 15x15 and 24 in a 21x21. Today's 33 is way above that. You disagree with me, SOL? SOW SOO me.

    Still an enjoyable, fun solve for me. Thank you, Dan Schoenholz.

    Teedmn 12:03 PM  

    KEILLOR in the grid made me laugh. Last night I was watching The Wire. Two kids from inner city Baltimore are driving out of state on a drug run. The rap radio station starts fading out on them and the passenger doesn't understand why - he's never been out of the city before. They hit the seek button and Garrison KEILLOR's voice begins intoning about a Lutheran potluck or some such. The scene keeps cutting in and out with this nerve-wracking (for the kids in the car) drive through an unfamiliar city underscored by A Prairie Home Companion. Delicious.

    And the quote in the clue at 1A is indeed priceless. And a gimme - SCALIA Is the only member of SCOTUS who would author a criticism of the majority's reasoning and refer to fortune cookies.

    old timer 12:11 PM  

    Well, you know @Rex, thTis was not an easy puzzle for you or any of us. It started off so Easy and so lamely Easy that I figured you were going to REAM Mr. Schoenholz out. ONO! AGRO! Who SEWs SOO's socks? SOO SEWs SOO's socks! The entire W side of the puzzle was way to simple and way too 1950's.

    Then it suddenly got harder, and devilishly hard at times. I confidently wrote in "Dallas" for DENVER, replaced it with "Denton", and only got the right answer with the very clever BACK PAINE. In the NE, I wrote in "fame" for TIME, and switched back when I realized SHOVE IT really was deemed acceptable by the Good Gray Lady. The Middle was the hardest part, where I had htz at first, then thought of mhz before KHZ saved me, and also gave me SHOPPING MALLE

    So in the end I thought it was actually a pretty good puzzle, hard enough to engage the brain quite a bit.

    Q: is "Malle" pronounced in French like "Mall" is in English? Kinda sorta. French vowels almost never sound totally identical to English vowels. An American has to be totally immersed in the language to sound like a French person, and if you go to France as rarely as I do, you can't help using the American way of pronouncing vowels, both short and long. You learned how to do a French long U in school, and know that a long E is like our A, and a long A is like our "ah", and a long I is like our "ee" (that sound, for once, really is identical to ours). So if M. Malle's name is pronounced like "Mall", you certainly will be understood, but there is still une petite difference.

    'mericans in Paris 1:36 PM  

    A bit off-topic, but did any of you watch the Australia-Scotland quarter-final match in the Rugby World Cup, which just ended? What a match! With one minute to go, Scotland (the underdog) was ahead, 34-32, and then was penalized for a knock-on at a lineout. Australia kicked it in for a three-point penalty with just seconds to spare and the game ended with Australia the winner, 35-34.

    For the first time in Rugby World Cup history there will no Six Nations team (i.e., no England, France, Ireland, Italy, Scotland or Wales) in the semi-finals.

    Still, there will be a lot of NICE PEOPLE CLAPping in appreciation for Scotland's more than respectable performance. This afternoon's game showed once again that it takes leather balls and BUNS OF STEEL to play rugby.

    Indypuzzler 1:38 PM  

    I thought this puzzle was very well done with very clever cluing. I must admit that when I saw "Midwesterners, stereotypically" I thought, oh boy what is this going to be...in the true paranoia of a "Midwesterner" who thinks that there will only be hayseed or flyover country references. So I'm stepping up to own the "nice people" designation even though I think the term Midwest should be Mideast for Ohio, Indiana and Illinois. And I bet we're not as nice as Iowans....

    Paul Johnson 1:49 PM  

    I so thought, wanted Noted 2nd place finisher to be GORE. And seriously thought it was. Oh well.

    Paul Johnson 1:55 PM  

    I should add that VOLCANICASHE would have rung truer for me if clued as "Oxymoronic (or polar opposite) tennis great". Ashe made Borg look temperamental.

    And as an ex-virologist (really I am) EBOLA was straight forward once I tried not to over think it, actually over tech it.

    Mohair Sam 2:15 PM  

    @teedmn - We probably had similar experiences at 1a - my wife ran the puzzle while I watched the baseball game, she yelled the quote for 1a at me from the kitchen. I told her I'd never heard it, but if it was six letters it was most likely SCALIA. Like you say, who else would refer to the fortune cookie in an opinion?

    mac 2:28 PM  

    I found this puzzle more enjoyable than most Sunday sized ones, probably because it was nice to think up the names of the characters.

    I gave up because of Kool and trophic.... That s or z at the end of 71A was not helping.

    Alan_S. 2:33 PM  

    With the ah sound, as in mahl as opposed to mawl.

    Lewis 2:56 PM  

    @gill -- I loved that book too.
    @leapy -- I actually had it in my notes that my brain wanted to parse the answer as CHEF SHAT!
    @roo -- they also hid you in the NEWSROOM.

    Back to normal is not bad for me, just keep things freaky on Thursday and often on Sunday. There were some terrific clues today: COCOON, BAR, ELK, SHINGLES, SEW, HATE. I really enjoyed three answers: SHOVEIT, MCJOB, and RESTIVE. There was a double-o mini theme (7). I think the puzzle would have been a touch more elegant if the only clues with question marks were theme clues.

    A busy day for me, almost didn't post, which would have made me a SILENTi.

    Masked and Anonymous 3:20 PM  

    Bless U, LULU. (2/3 of entire pUz stash, this sUnday.)

    Real fun solve, but missed a primo tail op: MASKEDANDANONYMOUSE.

    fave wingless PEWIT: KRAIT.

    fave word ladder with MIRV warhead (yo, @AliasZ):
    ROO --> SOO --> SOW --> {SOL,SEW,POW}.

    fave wild and crazy partygoer: @muse.

    Solve went pretty smooth, but M&A kept avoidin the NE corner.
    Reason: Bucket-o'wrong answers, there.
    NE Bullets:
    * Wanted Paula DUNN. Then DEAN.
    * SWEAT instead of ASSET, built on the A of DEAN.
    * WHOSAYS instead of SHOVEIT, built off the W in SWEAT. Allowed SOL to still fit, btw.
    * RES instead of LEX.
    That was a deep, doo-doo filled hole to dig out of, NE sports fans.

    Thanx, Constructor Dan. Good non-weird job.

    "Oaxacan CCCVI of Crossworld"

    **gruntz of the worst sort!**

    jberg 5:19 PM  

    So, my excuse was that I just spent 5 hours at an open house for prospective students (and their parents, unfortunately), working on the puzzle whenever things got slow. Anyway, I lost my concentration, and so ended up with an error.

    I stopped seeing Star Wars movies after the third one (Episode 6, I think that was), but still guessed the planet, because it sounded sort of like the old Mormon city of Nauvoo (which I misrememberd as Navoo) -- and most of the names in the movies are derived from real names somewhere. But I went with mHZ for the frequency, and as an FM listener never questioned it. I thought maybe the brand name would be mOOg, but didn't think to recheck it after I had ALPACA. Whether checking would have helped, I don't know!

    Otherwise, I liked it -- at least as a nice distraction while sitting at a table all day.

    I think "Home, James" must come from some old movie; it was a cliche when I was growing up, although my ex-wife, whose grandmother said it all the time to her chauffeur (who was actually named Lewis) was clearly familiar with it. Glad to see it making a comeback.

    @Noreen, people speaking Japanese say "HAI!" to mean, "yes, I understand." Ergo,"concurrence." I think Lennon added ONO to his name after taking up with Yoko.

    L 5:21 PM  

    Enjoyed the puzzle a lot, but Beach Front => bras makes absolutely no sense! For the men who dont wear ladies swimwear, here's the deal: Some swimsuits have bra cups built in, but that's as far as it goes. They're called "bikini tops" if you're wearing a 2 piece. Bras have a front and a back, unless you're sporting those self-adhesive gel cups. Now you know.

    LindaPRmaven 5:36 PM  

    C'mon @Rex. If there's a day one wants playful, it's Sunday. Who wants to slog through a big puz on what should be a relaxing day. Loved MGMLION ("One making a roaring start?)

    Honeysmom 5:38 PM  

    Puzzle themes don't have to be new to be clever and fun. Ironic, coming from Rex, whose monotonous griping is old and boring.

    jberg 5:42 PM  

    If anyone has posted it yet, it's still awaiting moderation -- so I'll just mention that Hayley Gold has now put up this comic about last week's whole "new ideas" series.

    old timer 5:51 PM  

    I'm a lawyer and have read lots of opinions by SCALIA. He really does write like that, all the time, especially in dissent. My favorite SCALIA moment, though, was in the Bush v. Gore argument, where the attorney representing the Florida Secretary of State was in way over his head, and repeatedly addressed one justice by another justice's name. Tony broke in and said, "I'm Scalia" and then, as I recall, advised the hapless lawyer not to try using names any more.

    Someone observed that "mal" is pronounced like "maul" and not "mawl". Quite true. Very few Parisians speak with a New Yawk accent. But "mal" is not *quite* the same as "Malle", because every French native knows there is an "e" at the end, which means he or she *could* pronounce it "maul-uh", and will, if needed for clarity or emphasis. In her songs, Edith Piaf very often pronounced that often silent e if it ended a phrase.

    Nancy 6:17 PM  

    @Hartley -- I also was torn between BRAS and seAS for the longest time, while wondering if I was alone in my indecision. Not having a clue as to the identity of Jar Jar Binks (who he????) didn't help.

    @Teedmn & @Mohair Sam -- When the voice is sardonic, bordering on snarky, but the idea being espoused is colorful and original, it almost doesn't matter what is being said or whether you agree with it or not. It's SCALIA and it can't be anyone else. Not on this court, at any rate. I wrote in his name immediately. (I sometimes think: if RBG likes him, mightn't I come to like him too? Or is that a bridge too far?)

    Gregory Schmidt 8:03 PM  

    Wow, I must really be out of practice to not be one of the many who thought this was an easy solve. I thought the cluing on the theme answers was inconsistent, and there seemed to be plenty of "crosswordese" that I was unfamiliar with. ARLES/ORR was a complete Natick for me, and I guess I'm just not experienced enough yet to quickly fill in NOH, ELO, SOO, etc. And is no one going to mention the Roman numerals? I thought that was one of Rex's pet peeves. Overall, I thought a lot of the cluing was crap, and found this to be a peevish and disagreeable solve. I enjoyed any of last week's puzzles more than this one.

    Z 11:46 PM  

    The MALLE v mall discussion is a hoot. To my ear a French MALLE is generally closer to a Midwestern "mall" than a Midwestern "mall" is to a southern drawled "mall." You'll hear a slight difference in the vowel sound depending on whether you're near Paris or are in Provence. Dialects are such fun. The difference is so slight as to be no difference.

    Burma Shave 11:36 AM  


    OHENRY, I WANNA say IWASHAD by this grid,
    IIS SILENT,I can’t CLAPFOR what I did,
    IDONTKNOWHOWE, IFATALL, I should taint it.
    Maybe LAYITONTHICKE when I LIGHTGREENE paint it?


    BS2 12:42 PM  


    We HATE to be RESTIVE and all the TIME feel ONEDGE.
    While ROSETEA, ORR ICET, ORR NESTLE’S SWISS suit our neighbors,
    ONO, we’ll DRAIN beer into STEINS and I’ll give HERA lot of HEAD.


    fairygirl 1:00 PM  

    Home, James, and don't spare the horses!

    rondo 1:06 PM  

    Haha, so wacky I could hardly stand it. Perhaps most interesting were new clues for ELO and ORR. NAH, I mean NOH. AL,PACA KRAIT of suspect fill for these NICEPEOPLE and, well . . .

    The Pioneer Press apparently had a font issue today. For the down clues, the numbers were a different size and font, and the quotation marks and apostrophes were some kind of foreign letter. Thought something tricky was going on for a while.

    @spacey will HATE CCCVI. Is that “sieze six” or “seas sicks” or sees my late aunt Vi???

    RENEE in Xena was a kinda cute yeah baby in a butch sorta manner.
    Both MIAs are yeah babies in their own ways,

    So I spent an hour or so on this and the biggest revelation is that someone in NY thinks that Minnesotans (and others nearby) are NICEPEOPLE.

    spacecraft 1:43 PM  

    Yep, C-sick for sure. But not as sick as SILENTI. I near lost my Wheaties on that one. You know what you can do with SILENTI? See the line directly above.

    A fairly easy do, if TIME-consuming. Starting in the SE with gimme LEROY Nieman, I didn't know "Blurred Lines," so mistakenly thought the final E ("E-TAIL") was to be dropped--hence LAYITONTHelin. L, you see, is also a Roman numeral (grrr). Eventually got that straightened out. Had another writeover at BeeS: great clue for "Beach fronts?" But BRAS work too. Yes they do. Even better than BeeS. (Here's where the C's belong!)

    SOO, I think I may have OVEREXTENDed that metaphor. LETSLOOSE that idea and just say, with two glaring exceptions, that it was a solid enough effort and give it a B-.

    rick 3:12 PM  

    I apologize if I missed it, but did NOBODY pick up on the fact that SEAN Lennon's middle name is ONO , not John's. Sean being the son of Yoko and John, this seems entirely conventional. Editng oversight I would imagine. John's middle name I believe, is Winston.

    Anonymous 3:35 PM  

    "After his marriage to Yoko Ono in 1969, he changed his name to John Ono Lennon." (wiki)

    Anonymous 4:27 PM  

    VHS was video home system; your old movie format

    VHF is very high frequency radio; used mostly in marine communications; which I wanted to use, as UFH was television frequency, but I also knew it was KOOL and it sure wasn't INEf

    And yes, I thought the John/Sean middle name was odd, but then shrugged and thought "maybe he changed it......"

    bananafish 2:25 PM  

    Unfortunately, I went with the ELEKTRA spelling of the Sophocles tragedy, and so ended up with SKREE. Not really familiar with SCREE, but I probably would have switched to that if I had paused long enough to consider.

    Writeovers: SULTRY for STEAMY, MHZ and GHZ for KHZ, MONUMENTS for MEMORIALS, MUSEE for ECOLE, HAM for BLT, and REY for SOL. Still, I raced around the grid until struggling through the TROPHIC/NABOO/NOH/KOOL/KHZ area.

    If I was the constructor I would have gone for a Nero Wolfe clue rather than a Tom Wolfe clue, a la "Single copy of a Rex Stout detective novel." But that's because I am a huge fan of Nero (have read all 73 stories) and not at all a fan of Tom (could not finish Bonfire - way too trite).

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