Odette's counterpart in Swan Lake / SUN 10-4-15 / Half classic Mad magazine feature / Vegas casino with mascot Lucky Leprechaun / Piece in early Indian chess sets / Pop star with fragrance Miami Glow

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Constructor: Jeremy Newton

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: "Sound Argument" — ["SOUND" is in the grid at 42D, but we'll just pretend that isn't true] ... "childish debate" (represented by "IS NOT" and "IS TOO") is represented aurally in the wacky theme answers, where the "IS" sound is either added to or subtracted from familiar names and phrases...

Theme answers:
  • FICKLE THERAPIST (21A: *Shrink who's always changing his diagnosis?) (physical therapist minus "IS") (i.e. "physical" with no "IS" sound = "fickle")
  • DANCING CUISINE (26A: **What ballet patrons dine on?) ("Dancing Queen" + "IS") (i.e. "queen" with an added "IS" sound = "cuisine")
  • BEA AS A BEAVER (40A: *Oregon State's mascot played by actress Arthur?) (busy as a beaver minus "IS")
  • BUY ONE GET ONE FRIZZY (54A: **A deal on Afro wigs?) (buy one get one free + "IS")
  • MURRAY LOVES COMPANY (80A: *How actor Bill feels about houseguests?) (misery loves company minus "IS")
  • DIG UP DESSERT (95A: **Find cake or Jell-O in the back of the fridge?) (dig up dirt + "IS")
  • AUTUMN SPECTRUM (113A: *Fall colors?) (autism spectrum minus "IS")
  • ARE YOU FOR ISRAEL? (121A: **Question from El Al security?) ("are you for real?" + "IS")
Word of the Day: O'SHEAS (15D: Vegas casino with the mascot Lucky the Leprechaun) —
O'Sheas Casino is a casino located within The Linq Resort and Casino on the Las Vegas Strip in Paradise, Nevada. As part of The Linq, it is owned by Caesars Entertainment and is connected on the exterior to a shopping/dining promenade, also owned by Caesars. The revitalized O'Sheas has three bars - the main Dublin Up Bar, the Lucky Bar and the exterior-facing Blarney Bar. The casino includes beer pong tables, a stage, a dance floor and a pit with games including blackjack, roulette and craps. (wikipedia)
• • •

I definitely enjoyed this theme. I am a sucker for repurposed crosswordese. Why not make something pretty out of something terrible. The whole [Playground retort] genre is played right out, but here it's been made into an interesting theme concept. The argument doesn't quite work, because it would seem to be about whether there is or isn't an "IS" (sound), but what happens is the addition of one when it's not there, or the elimination of one when it is, so the two arguers are not arguing about the same thing ... but taken literally, removed from the "childish" argument context, the theme works fine. IS NOT = "IS" sound removed. IS TOO = "IS" sound added. My only issue with the theme is that the last two answers made me wince a little. "ARE YOU FOR ISRAEL?" clued as a security question from El Al just felt creepy and militaristic and ick. Conjured up interrogations and loyalty oaths and all kinds of other crap. In short, tonally, that clue sucked. The autism pun bugged me more, though. HA ha, autism ... is not a juxtaposition I'm comfortable with. I have no problem with AUTISM being an answer, but something about punning on it for your wacky theme answer felt yuck to me. I realize these are just personal feelings. I'm not particularly offended. Just saying the vibe was kinda wrecked for me there at the end. As I say, I enjoyed the puzzle overall.

It's a bit heavy on junk in places, though. It would be great if it had about half as many of these answers: ABORC, ODILE, OSHEAS, NOBU, ALB, SSS, ANYA, SSR, LON (esp. as clued, wtf?), ETALIA, and SATIVA, which is the worst of them all. You can think it's cool and hip because it's pot and all, but a Latin partial is a Latin partial, i.e. boo.

I supposed you could clue with the (re-)pronunciation in a few of these themers, but they seem close enough for government work to me. I had only a slight amount of trouble solving this, and most of that came in the NE, which had a casino I didn't know (ugh to today's poker STU, ugh to casinos), and an abbr. pop star w/o an abbr. clue, and SSS, and a (for me) tough clue on JUJITSU (13D: It has a variety of locks and pins), and what I thought was a comparative but what ended up being a superlative adjective in LEANEST (14D: Like buffalo meat vis-à-vis beef and pork). Oh, also, I couldn't get into the bottom of that section for a while because I couldn't see DECK OUT from DEC- (47A: Festoon). Kept wanting DECORATE or the like, and it kept not working. Had to do a late change of TODDER to DODDER (17A: Move unsteadily). Otherwise, no real issues.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Anonymous 12:10 AM  

Never heard of autism spectrum, so to me it isn't on a par with the other themers.

Nancy 12:11 AM  

It's 12:03 a.m., and I'm still up, so I may as well be the first person to comment. (Oh, and I did today's Sunday puzzle on Saturday, since the weather was so miserable and I had nothing better to do.) I found this one of the lamest puzzles I've ever done. I suppose it's an interesting idea, but I really didn't "hear" the wordplay in my head at all. I had no idea what a FICKLE THERAPIST was and came here to find out that it's PHYSICAL THERAPIST without the "is" sound. And AUTUMN SPECTRUM is really AUTISM SPECTRUM without the "is" sound? Oh. Okay. If you say so. This absolutely didn't work for me at all and I got no enjoyment out of solving it.

jae 12:13 AM  

Easy puzzle, somewhat complicated theme.  So, I'm sounding out theme answers post-solve.  Odd puzzle, liked it. 

chefwen 12:50 AM  

Very cute puzzle that I whipped right through. Sundays are usually an all day affair of putting little, itty bitty letters in very small boxes, today I just flew through and finished before I wanted to be finished.

Got DANCING CUISINE early on and spent the rest of the solve singing "Let's all go to the lobby" and picturing different snack items dancing around with each other. That was both amusing and annoying at the same time.

Teeter/totter O.K. TODDER??? Loved BUY ONE GET ONE FRIZZY.

Good one Jeremy Newton

Steve J 1:00 AM  

This didn't really work for me. Add/subtract sound themes are well-worn, so already that made it hard for me to get excited by this. But the bigger issue was that, for a theme that relies on phonetics, too many themers didn't work phonetically. BEA and "busy" have completely different vowels; same with "misery" and MURRAY. Meanwhile, while we're supposed to only be subtracting IS, FICKLE actually chucks a whole syllable on top of the IS (it would have worked if the original word was "fiscal" rather than "physical"). This was just was nowhere near as tight as it needed to be.

While there were a few nice spots - OH HELL NO, KERPLUNKS (although the unnatural plural takes some of the shine off), JUJITSU, the clues for both - there were as many problematic spots. KENO GAME is redundant and maybe even tautological. The clue for ET ALIA is literally true, I guess, but it seems like usage is such that etc. always refers to "stuff", and ET ALIA is reserved for people. And ABORC should have been aborted.

Really mixed bag, ultimately leaning toward the disappointing side.

Bob Kerfuffle 3:06 AM  

Filled the grid correctly with Medium effort, but the precise working of the theme proved too subtle for my currently addled brain (no, really, that's from jet lag!)

Otherwise, I suspect I would have loved it.

tkr 6:28 AM  


This was stupid.


Lewis 6:44 AM  

I like how the "is not" and "is too" answers alternate like a real back-and-forth. I'm thinking it must have been hard to create these theme answers whose lengths had to match, and it's a clever idea, but it didn't help my solve. Some areas played hard for me; I just wasn't on the cluing wavelength. This is a good thing. Getting out of my crossword box will make me a better solver. Truly, the only puzzles I don't like are the ones that feel boring, and this was anything but that!

Loren Muse Smith 7:10 AM  

I wouldn't rate this easy, but I finished and *finally* saw the trick. How cool is this idea?! IS NOT, IS TOO. And there are the themers in that order boom boom boom. First two and last two are stacked.

Rex – I bet those of us who wanted a comparative for LEANEST are legion, but then I figured out why the clue had three meats to consider rather than two.

I resisted CASE forever because of the abbreviation in the clue. Maybe CASE is the short form of some other fancy grammar word?

Loved, loved, loved OH HELL NO.

The clue for WET made me pause; I have lots of "tear-stained" stuff that's not WET. Worked a puzzle recently while catching the end of Sleepless in Seattle. I always start crying as soon as Meg Ryan finds that backpack just as Tom Hanks and his son are returning for it. Tears drip onto the grid. Tears dry. And you should see the last pages of my copy of The Education of Little Tree.

Once I saw TERNS and not "teens," I finally sorted out the northwest. You wanna see some beach walkers? I'll show you some beach walkers… Just wasted a ton of &%$&# time trying to find this clip on youtube to no avail, so I posted it on my Facebook page. It's the video titled "The Mind Unleashed."

beach walkers

These themers work so perfectly in terms of sound. That iz is inserted or deleted with no change to the original pronunciation. So something like LOUNGE LARD or LIZARD BISCUITS wouldn't work as elegantly, but the latter could bring on an English breakfast tizzy. Nigel, dahling, you have a little scale stuck to your cheek.

I had a really fun time figuring this one out, and the aha moment was supremely satisfying. Perfect title and great puzzle.

Lobster11 8:21 AM  

@Steve J said everything I was going to say. I'll just add that until I read OFL's blog post, I was sure that 21A was "fiscal therapist," which is something I've never heard of but could imagine existing (e.g., some kind of business consultant). "Physical" never occurred to me because of the extra syllable. Kinda-clever theme, but more slog than joy for me.

Loren Muse Smith 8:30 AM  

@Steve J – we totally disagree, and that sets off alarms in my head; you're usually right. How do these not work perfectly phonetically?

bee – b + iz + EE
murree – m + iz + uree
fickle – fi + iz + icle.

On a different note, I thought of another one: old geezer fish: GRIZZLED SNAPPER.

Mohair Sam 8:35 AM  

Well she did most of the top half while he watched football, and he did most of the bottom half while she watched a movie so they never sussed the theme. And we dnfed because the distaff side of the household (not pointing any fingers here) never watched any poker on ESPN. Harumph.

Live a long way from Colorado and Washington, and it's a long time since the '60's so we had to (correctly) guess the "T" is ASTI to avoid getting busted by the drug clue.

Looking at the theme now I very much agree with @Steve J that it depends on phonetics but just doesn't always work phonetically. And like @anon 12:10 we didn't know the term autism spectrum so probably would have never seen the full theme anyway.

@lms - "Sleepless" a fine flick - but the best scene is when the guys fake the tears at the demise of Jim Brown in "The Dirty Dozen".

Wondering if ANYA Seton has overtaken Anais Nin in Cruciverbia.

Anonymous 8:42 AM  

I actually quit about 3/4 of the way through this puzzle. Not because it was too difficult, just too boring. Can't recall EVER having done that before.

Paul Nichols 8:59 AM  

ROT and nearby ROTC very weak

Teedmn 9:32 AM  

I had the first two themers in but couldn't FATHOM the trick because 28A was eluding my grasp due to LON (a WOE) and having trouble in the TAB area. Once I got ISNOT (and yes, I SNOT did occur to me, snort) I could see Dancing Queen but Physical Therapist was eluding me. I kept trying to suss FICKLE THE RAPT, wracking my brain for a song of that name, based on the title of this puzzle and DANCING CUISINE. The penny finally KERPLUNKed and the rest were much easier to get.

There are a few egomaniacal clues today, with I, VAN; I, SNOT; I, FEVER; I, STOO; I, CU.

Unlike REX, the NE was easier for me than the SATIVA area because that was an unknown unknown for me and it didn't help that I was reading Suave, not Soave so I was thinking shampoo, not ASTI, and the misdirect on the frozen bank asset was successfully leading me astray. So it was a nice aha when O_U_ became OVUM. Fat lot of help MSU was, NOT!

To my Midwestern ear, MURRAY works for misery and the end of busy sounds just like BEA so the puzzle worked for me sonically. A nice double TWIST, Mr. Newton.

Anonymous 9:35 AM  

@Steve J: the vowels you mention are essentially the same in whatever dialect it is that I speak with. BEA and MURRAY also give up a syllable, don't they? So FISCAL wouldn't be an outlier in that regard.

Anonymous 9:44 AM  

Funny difficulty, not helped because I didn't get the theme until I had filled it all in. Must have been Easy because I got it all without asking anybody for help, not even strangers on Google. Must have been Hard because I had to skip around and make many, many passes to get it done. So, Medium on average, I guess.

BUT, for me, "et alia" refers to people, not things. Anyone else? Maybe just because I am the eternal co-author?

Music man 9:46 AM  

I liked the theme as well, though there were some spots in the fill where I cringed a bit. @Anon 12:10, not sure how you've never heard of autism spectrum. I guess in today's education training it is a much more used term. I on the other hand have never heard misery loves company...

Carole Shmurak 9:50 AM  

@chefwen: it was DODDER, not TODDER.

Questinia 9:50 AM  

I've been studying the huge trend of makeup gurus on YouTube. Mostly young women and men who rate makeup, give tutorials to achieve certain looks, and attempt to empower those who participate in the Instagram currency of looking flawless. JLO's Miami Glow therefore was a gimme. Not to mention I've picked up a few pointers on how to look less Appalachian.

This puzzle was sort of like doing petit-point of a phonetic fractal but I too have an addled brain. Maybe as I'm looking better on the outside I'm getting dumber on the inside. This took FOR-EVER.

Aren't the crosswordese schoolyard retorts usually amnot-artoo? I appreciate the conceit but this seemed contrived and a bit sloppy, Latin plurals notwithstanding. A puzzle should never be sloppy but should always be look flawless. In that regard I suppose Professor Rex is really the makeup guru of crosswords.

Leapfinger 9:57 AM  

Alert to all who thought the themers didn't sound right [you know who you are]: it all depends on where you think the extra IS IS.
Makes @Bill's classic comeback strangely prescient, don't it?

otoh, anyone who's worked closely with F(is)ICLE THERAPISTs will say it's pure calumny to call them FICKLE; focussed to a fault is more like it. But it all sounds spot on, umm ... with the exception of ARE_YOU_FOR_(IS)RAEL, since that -AE- turns into a split vowel sound, no matter how it's said. Invoking Louis Riel would have worked better, but he might be too arcane outside la Belle Province de Quebec. And I agree with esteemed @Anon first poster, cuz AUT(is)UMN was outside my SPECTRUM also. So it was more of a giggle than a niggle or boggle or HAGGLE, pour moi.

Thought I'd caught the whole theme when IS_NOT confirmed the pattern suggested by FICKLE and BEA_AS_A_BEAVER, so was on the lookout for more absent 'izzes', and thought it pretty inelegant to have the Downs insert an -IS- in the NE of 26A. When the other demi-reveal appeared with IS_TOO, I saw just how cleverly the whole theme the whole theme was put together: Bi-iig smiles all around!! All the IS_NOTs left-justified and all the IS_TOOs right justified? That's elegant. Plus, the alignment suggests that IS_TOO is 'right' in that 'childish debate'; I call that a win-win.

Not a tough Sunday, with only 2 writeovers:
TETLEY's Tiny Little Tea Leaves before NESTEA, which ain't TEA, and something I don't remember before TEED (sorry, @TEEDmn!)

Bottom line: I can't FATHOM how a grid fails to PLEAS with TATA RAITT FIR JLO emblazoned across the top: I call that Bodacious (hi @Alias). However, my POOR DODDER is visiting in Charleston SC, so she may be even more WET and FRIZZY than I.

Putting A BORC next to Justice ELENA? Cool, Mr. Newton! A verrry sound puzzle.

Questinia 10:00 AM  

*Be looking flawless*. Now you see my point.

Anonymous 10:04 AM  


Brian W. Ogilvie 10:10 AM  

This one was pretty easy once I figured out the theme. Just a bit of trouble at the top with ETO, where I wanted AEF for Allied Expeditionary Force.

Anonymous@9:44: people are "et alii" or "et aliae" if they're all women. "Alia" is the plural of the neuter "aliud."

Leapfinger 10:23 AM  

'...I've picked up a few pointers on how to look less Appalachian.'

@Questinia, could you expound further on that? Not long ago, I fell asleep with the TV on, woke to some kind of tutorial on how to achieve the 'smoky eyes' look. In the privacy of my boudoir, I pulled out my stash of Rarely Used cosmetics, and tried my hand at a modest duplication. The effect was striking, but I came out looking like close kin to the Rackety Coon Chile. I s'pose that's Appalachian.

btw, I Loved SATIVA, but then I'm a sucker for taxonomic humour. I think that started with Botany classes, when we had to draw the cellular structure of Pinus pinus.

Ogden Nash 10:25 AM  

Leave no TERNS unstoned.

joho 10:27 AM  

This big Sunday puzzle was anything but boring to me which is a solidly SOUND ARGUMENT for my big bravo, Jeremy Newton!

Thank you to you and to all the commenters today whose posts are more interesting than usual ...could this be the result of a more interesting puzzle?

Joseph Welling 10:41 AM  

As much as I liked some parts of this, I'm annoyed by the near misses.

The last two syllables of ISRAEL is not a homonym for REAL.

I'm not sure REVS up is ever the same thing as supercharges. I can rev up the tiny motor in my '95 Aspire, and it's certainly not supercharged!

ET ALIA means "and others" (meaning other people) not "and other stuff." Et cetera means "and others" in this more general way.

The clue for KERPLUNKS was intended to mislead, but was not fair. You don't get plural KERPLUNKS from a singular fall. It's pushing it for the question mark (which usually is clue of some sort of pun) to excuse the mismatch in number.

Joseph Welling 10:42 AM  

Chefwen said "Teeter/totter O.K. TODDER??"


AliasZ 10:42 AM  

@Rex, are you for rael? It's wordplay, don't read into it more than is there.

@SteveJ, I didn't understand your objection to "physical". If you take the IS sound out "ph[ys]ical" you are left with phical (fickle), but if you take IS out of "f[is]cal" you get "fcal" lacking the ick syllable.

MURRAY LOVES COMPANY and BEA AS A BEAVER were my favorites because the best puns are the ones that stretch and contort phonetics. Thus when I am called by a panther, I don't anther.

DANCING Queen was the hardest for me to figure out because I never heard of it. Come to find out, it's an ABBA song from 1976, the bicentennial year when I was too Bea getting ready to wed, let alone paying attention to what ABBA was doing.

Too bad a superfluous "IS" word slipped in: TWIST from which ISNOT could make a "twit" with a little stretch, but otherwise I liked the fill with the TACTICAL "LET'ER RIP", DECK OUT, PETUNIA, SOUND CARD and JUJITSU, never mind that DODDER was teeter at first. I would call the iMac, iPod, iPad, iPhone etc. craze in recent puzzles, 51-across: IFEVER.

And just because LAMER was not clued as the Debussy masterpiece, let me finish with the dialogue between the wind and the sea.

Enjoy your Sunday.

Bill L. 10:49 AM  

Maybe I'm just in a good mood because I had PIE for breakfast, but I thought this was a lively and fun way to use the tired little playground retort. Played easy here 'cause I was able to fill in large chunks of most themers with just a few crosses.

ETA, ETO and ET ALIA bug me a bit for some reason and we get an E-less CIG today.

I agree with REX on this one right down to the late change of todder (started as toddle) to dodder.

Thanks for your very enjoyable blog, Rex!


Z 10:50 AM  

ANYA Seton, Anne Sexton. What is wrong with their families?

I can appreciate the cleverness of this theme, but it didn't do much for me during the solve. I think this is in part due to the amount of work required to grok the subtraction half of the theme (briefly was thinking along the lines of @Steve J and @Lobster11, but a little extra thought helped me see that they all work) for not much pay off. Reparsing 40A as BEA 'AS A BEAVER provided a little juvenile smirk, but that was about it. Agree with Rex on ARE YOU FOR ISRAEL, especially these days with the Israeli Tea Party in power (no shocker here, I'm pro J Street not AIPAC). I did think the clue for BUY ONE GET ONE FRIZZY was off. Afro's aren't frizzy. A split ends reference would have been better.

@Anon9:44 - I'm with you, and since I worked down the west coast first and hadn't grokked the theme yet, the four boxes for "cetera" made me consider a rebus might be afoot.

Mary Watts 10:52 AM  

Thank you for "mindUnleashed". Masterful.

Jamie C 10:56 AM  

ET ALIA is people, not stuff.

floatingboy 10:59 AM  

The theme is based on how your pronounce it in standard American dialect. Not based on how it's written. Hence, F(IZ)ICKLE THERAPIST, B(IZ)-E AS A BEAVER, BUY ONE GET ONE FR(IZ)Y, etc. Yes, it's an extra syllable. That's the idea. Or lacking a syllable, as in M(IZ)URRAY LOVES COMPANY.

As for the Israel one...interrogations and loyalty oaths? Chilllll, dude.

Maruchka 11:04 AM  

Loving or not loving the phonetics TWIST? I'm with @SteveJ and @Nancy today.

Perhaps it's a regional thing. I could neither hear nor see it, until major revisiting. I now see it, I now sort of hear it, still a big NAH. Sorry.

A really good misdirect for FIR. Drove me wild. Kept trying to remember what I think is a 3-letter synonym for pin cushion. Still can't. Anyone?

FRIZZY was fun, but shouldn't the sound then be 'fry', not 'free'? Dunno. Maybe it'll grow on me, even though I'm prejudiced. Never trusted the whole phonics craze. This seems like a CASE in point.

Tita 11:07 AM  

The sounds /syllables all work fine, @SteveJ ETALIA... In 'busy', remove the 'is' that is the second syllable, and you are left with 'bea'. Etc..

Well, except, of course, for the 'ISRAEL' minus 'IS' is 'rai--ell' which is not 'real'.

Anyhow, the theme helped my solve...Once through the grid and I had lots of blank squares all over. I tried to not look at the reveal ers...wait - there are two revealers??!
Finally looked, finally got the ISRAEL one, which was the hardest because of well, being wrong...(see above)...


I liked this puzzle...thanks Mr. Newton!

Roo Monster 11:09 AM  

Hey All !
One word summation for me : Awful. I normally like SunPuzs, but this one was too far of a stretch phonetically and visually. I mean, Autism Spectrum? Even if you've heard of that, it's difficult to go from AUTUMN to Autism. And I agree with Rex on the creepiness of it. Then the throwing off of having IS in THERAPIST when there shouldn't be an IS in that answer, right?

ABORC, c'mon, man. That should have been laughed right out of the puz. ALO? No. FIR as clued? No. IMED? Is that even a thing anymore? RETAP a keg? Once it's tapped, that's it. And OH HELL NO? Oh Hell No!

The concept itself was good, just didn't play out well. But hey, it apparently blew Will's skirt up, so bravo.

Took a DNF in the middle, as the marijuana clue was a WOE, and at that point, stopped caring anyway.


Maruchka 11:10 AM  

Ah, mea culpa. My brain kicked in, too late. The pin cushion is an 'etui'. NOT 3 letters..

Norm 11:19 AM  

Ugh. Off to do a Merl rerun and hope to save some of the good feeling I had when I got up this morning. This puzzle put a big hole in it.

Anonymous 11:26 AM  

Not enjoyable at all. The whole sounding plus or minus IS totally escaped my Mexican ears.

Deborah Wess 11:38 AM  

Autism spectrum not off-putting, but afros as frizzy??? Seems unnecessarily perjorative. Autism spectrum so well-known that "spectrum" autofilled in on my Android device.

Ludyjynn 11:39 AM  

Am in total accord w/ Rex about the ickiness factor of the autism and El Al references. I would add a third ick for "FRIZZY" being as demeaning as "nappy" when alluding to "Afro" hair. Left a bad taste for an otherwise okay puzzle overall.

Most satisfying part of the solve was finding a "Golden Girls" marathon to watch on cable tv this morning just as I filled in BEA Arthur answer in the grid. Everyone but Betty White is gone now, but aside from the dated wardrobe, the shows have held up remarkably well. Wonderful ensemble acting. Better than most of the crap on now, sadly.

Rain has finally stopped and the winds have died down so I'll say TATA and get outside for some fresh air.

GILL I. 11:59 AM  

Hmmmm. I'm not sure about this puzzle. I may have become prejudiced with my first TATA entry. NO ONE (at least nobody I know and I know lots of Brits) says TATA - not even at Wimbledon. TA, yes...or even cheers but leave the TATA's to the upper parts of the JLO's of this world. Rant over.
I found this quite hard. Maybe it was the cluing, maybe some of the words such as DODDER and ABORC. I had to practically finish it before I understood the ISNOT/ISTOO. I packed my bags and went back upstairs and stared and stared at FICKLE THERAPIST. I got it - but reluctantly.
AUTUMN SPECTRUM made no sense to me even with the correct autism. SNORE.
I don't mind working hard but dang, I want a Sunday payoff. Didn't quite have it for moi.
Must have been a real bear to construct, though.

David Krost 12:12 PM  

I didn't like this one much either, but that's just whatever. I am surprised no one has complained about the pronunciation issue with the Israel themer. It isn't "Isreal", it is IZ-ray-el, or IZ-rail, with the occasional Iz-ray-EL pronunciation. But it is never Iz-real. That one just totally fails IMO, whether one thinks it is a bit icky or not as a total answer politically. I don't care about political correctness to that degree, personally. I also have no issue with Autism Spectrum. But for a puzzle based on phonic agreement for the theme to work, the Israel answer fails completely.

Steve J 12:15 PM  

@Loren: II'll go to IPA to show that the vowels don't line up:

Busy = ˈbɪzi
Bea (bee) = biː
The vowel in busy is closed, while the vowel in bea/bee is open. Just say the first syllable of busy followed immediately by bee, and you can fell the shape of your mouth move slightly as you move the vowel further back in your mouth with the first syllable of busy.

The vowels here are close to each other, but to my ear they're definitely distinct.

Misery = ˈmɪzəɹɪ
Murray = ˈmʌɹi

These ones are even further apart. The first syllable in misery is like the first syllable in mineral, while the first syllable of Murray sounds like myrrh. Those aren't even close enough for near-rhyme.

Fickle = two syllables
Physical = three syllables. More importantly, the IS sound is in the first syllable: fizz-i-cul. If I remove only the IS, I'm left with fi-i-cul. Where did that middle I go? The transformation removed more than the IS; it removed the ISI. That's why I mentioned that a phrase beginning in fiscal rather than physical would have worked.

@Anon 9:35 - That's one challenge with any phonetically based theme: Dialects can change the vowels significantly. In whatever mishmash it is I speak, the vowels definitely diverge, as outlined above.

Regarding the syllables removed for BEA and MURRAY, those are fine because they only remove the syllable that IS is part of. Also as explained above, FICKLE removes IS-I - there's an extra sound, that got excised, whereas all other themers only added or subtracted the IS sound.

Again, a bit nitpicky. But to my ear the differences were noticeable and significant. And that made a them based on phonetics unsuccessful to my ear.

dhd 12:22 PM  

I'm no Latin scholar but I too entered ETALIA reluctantly.
The rules re: abbreviated clues for abbreviated answers seem to be broken more often than in the past.
E.g.: clue for 78D should have been "Nominative, for example."

I must think better visually than aurally because I solved the puzzle without getting the theme. I found it challenging, but I can see it would be easier for someone who had it figured out.

No "YAY" from me today.

David Krost 12:30 PM  

I am not sure my other comment went through, so in short:

I don't think the Israel themer works. It is pronounced IZ-ray-el, or IZ-rail, and occasionally Iz-ray-EL, but never IZ-real. For a theme that depends on phonic similarities, this fails completely, regardless of political correctness or whatever.

cwf 12:34 PM  

Based on __E, I answered "Edible entry at a county fair" as EWE and thought, That's just creepy. Fortunately, of course, PIE.

old timer 12:34 PM  

"Nominative, e.g." means "nominative, for example." I did not read that as the kind of abbr. that calls for an abbreviated answer, so put in "case" right away. Ya gotcher nominative, genitive, ablative, accusative and -- well, what is that last case? Been a long time since I took Latin, and very little of it stuck.

I don't quite know why OFL hates partials. I think a partial is fine, if the clue is specific and not green-painty. Very specific, with Cannabis SATIVA, which I have known since law school if not before.Odd fact: Today, a lot of pot has some Cannabis Indica in it, which at one point was not necessarily illegal, depending on how marijuana was defined.

I found the puzzle very difficult at first, then quite boring, and finally a lot of fun. The theme made it possible for me to get FICKLE THERAPIST, so my last entry was TATA. What in the world is a "tata"? and what does it have to do with tennis, I asked? Then got the joke and went out with a grin.

I was confused by ALO, which sounds more Italian than Spanish. The usual Spanish for "hello" is "hola", but since the h is silent, I've often seen it spelled "ola", which I put in, but had to overwrite.

Paul Johnson 12:39 PM  

Hated it. Awkward groaner after awkward groaner.

Paul Johnson 12:41 PM  

Hated it. Awkward groaner after awkward groaner. I solved most all of the starred clues and could only parse a couple. UGH UGH UGH.

Anonymous 12:54 PM  

You're not alone in your iffy feelings about the Israel and Autism bits. I got those early on and it ruined the puzzle for me. Definitely had an icky vibe to it.

Numinous 12:58 PM  

Is it my imagination, Rex, or have you become less curmudgeonly during my blogging sabatical? I can't believe you excused SOUND Argument and SOUND CARD. That was one of the very first answers I saw and thought, "Are you (censored) kidding me?" I won't go into the argument that the title of a puzzle is a clue and the notion that no answer word should ever appear in the clues.

@LMS, did you notice the clever paralipsis there?

DANCING queen never occurred to me and I've never heard of autism SPECTRUM. My inner fourteen year-old sniggered at FICKLE THE RAPIST even while I saw physical THERAPIST. Misery LOVES COMPANY and ARE YOU FOR real came easily but DIG UP dirt and BEA Arthur AS A BEAVER just wouldn't jump up in my mind. I did get a chuckle out of the Angela Davis fright wigs.

Over all, I'd say this was average for me though the theme seemed uninspired and rather dreary. Jeremy Newton says he got this idea six years ago but only finished it up this year. Maybe, if the idea doesn't gel fairly quickly, it's in danger of being forced.

Anonymous 1:12 PM  

BTW, for those that do the Mini via ipad, the point total clue is wrong. It is now possible to get one point in a game. A safety on an extra point try gets one point. While highly unlikely, it is possible.

'mericans back in Paris 1:21 PM  

Have been traveling a lot the past five weeks (Hi, Chef Wen!), so have not had time to post. My wife (travelling back from California) and I started this one separately; fortunately she started attacking the north, while I was working my way up from the south. After combining forces, it was still a battle. Would RAITT it a solid medium, at least, FIR us.

Strange theme, but we figured it out eventually. (YAY!) Agree with Rex that the El Al clue and answer are creepy. However, I don't FATHOM his complaint about asking for the second part of a species name. I would bet that as many people could complete the phrase "Cannabis ___" as "Homo __".

Had quite a few write-overs, such as tOttER before DODDER, tEtlEy before NESTEA, and reversed IS NOT and IS TOO at first.

Two Loony-Tune characters (PETUNIA Pig and TWEETY Bird) in one puzzle -- must be a record! And chuckled at the crossing of A, B OR C with ERROR.

Masked and Anonymous 1:23 PM  

Kept getting confused on what ISNOT and ISTOO meant, but kinda roughly got the general theme idea at BUYONEGETONEFRIZZY. Kept trying to convert FICKLETHERAPIST to FICKLE THE RAPT, which made about as much sense as one of them day-um long French phrases.

So, a fairly fun solve, even tho M&A went at it like a blind bull in a French china shoppe. [i.e., Like a May-urd-ador]

Hard not to like grid fill that includes 12 U's, KERPLUNKS, LETERRIP (yo, @undie-ease 2G), and OHHELLNO.
Hard not to laugh at NOBU ALO SATIVA, as M&A tries valiantly to insert extra sounds into them, using his new 2G technology.

Thanx, Mr. Newton. Man, the apple musta hit U fierce hard on the head, right before U conjured this idea up.


Anonymous 1:31 PM  

This puzzle was joyless.

That is all.

L 1:33 PM  

I enjoyed the puzzle a lot, but had a far easier time sussing out the IS TOO answers over the IS NOT. I needed this write up to figure out what FICKLE THERAPIST and MURRAY LOVES COMPANY were supposed to be. That was frustrating. But it was still a fun solve. Enjoyed the clues for JUJITSU and KERPLUNK a lot.

Billy C. 2:05 PM  

@Old Timer --

Latin case you forgot is probably Dative, although in fact there are a few other lesser-used cases.

All of which dredges up ugly memories of my four years' HS Latin with Miss Mason. She was a heavy-set, not-particularly-attractive lady known affectionately -- and surreptitiously -- as "Moose" Mason. She often spoke about her past experiences in London as a young woman, then sighing "...but it's a long time since I was abroad." All us juvenile guys would titter at that one. Anyway, I had to study Latin longer each night than for my other four subjects combined, just to avoid a "C" grade which would keep me off the honor roll.

And then in college I took a year of Russian, since it it or German was required of Science/math majors. In retrospect, an absolutely stupid requirement, as though we were going to read research papers in their original language. I actually changed majors to Engineering to avoid the requirement in Sophomore year, after missing Dean's List because of Russian Second term Freshman year. Just as well, Engineering jobs were better for me.

Oh well, sorry for the rambling, as interesting as I'm sure it was for everyone. ;-)

Humphrey Bogár. 2:11 PM  

See, Pal, apparently the best thing, when called by a panther, IS TOO not anther, just stamen and keep your pistil at hand.

Cherry PIE

Steve J 2:17 PM  

Ok, I misthought this significantly. @Tita, thanks for finally kicking my brain off of the single track it was on. Not sure how I got myself down that rabbit hole, but now that I've gone back and taken something like my fifth look at this, nearly all of these do work.

Except for the one I forgot to cite: ISRAEL. As others pointed out, despite the commonality of the pronunciation, the final syllable is not pronounced as real.

Suitably chagrined, I'm going to go enjoy the rest of my football-saturated Sunday.

Tim 2:24 PM  

One nice bit of symmetry that I liked: in the ISNOT answers, the IS has been removed after the first syllable; in the ISTOO answers, it's been inserted before the last. (Except for ISRAEL, which sleazily sneaks a syllable in with the REAL->RAEL transition, which is my only quibble with the theme.)

@SteveJ is entitled to his own interpretation, of course, but hauling out IPA charts to prove that the pronunciation has been shortchanged strikes me as substantially missing the point of punning.

I am quite surprised that so many people in this day and age had never heard of "autism spectrum."

Anony Maw 2:26 PM  

Soylent Green is people; ET_ALIA (neuter, plural) can be used to refer to things, no problem.

All Et Alia is, of course, a European airline, flies you into Rome.

chefbea 2:33 PM  

@Leapfinger Thanks so much for the GREAT explanation!! I now understand all of the themers.

Keep it Real 2:45 PM  

@David Krost, both your comments came through just fine. No telling what all had passed moderation when you posted, but if you look back you'll find that mention was made of the real/ Israel issue before noon, purely with regard to pronunciation and no emotive or political content.

Would that it could stay so.

Loren Muse Smith 2:54 PM  

@Steve J – too funny. I've just sat here saying themers over and over

(Pause for a moment to feel bad for my husband)

trying to detect some kind of vowel movement in my mouth.* And before I could post saying I still don't get why it doesn't work, you posted again. Glad you revisited it.

@M&A – Hah! Pull on those thunderpants and LET'ER RIP, buddy.

@Tim – speaking of IPA a good cold one would do just about now.

*Yes. I went there.

Leapfinger 3:02 PM  



Whence this ISI sound you claim IS being cut?

Nancy 3:18 PM  

@Billy C (2:05) So if you can "out" your high school Latin teacher, "Moose" Mason, it gives me an excuse to "out" MY high school Latin teacher, "Mrs. Cannon, ducky". (I assume she's been long dead these many years, and that there are no heirs to sue me.) In a top private NYC high school, she was the teacher who shouldn't have been there. (Every school has at least one, right?) A British Cockney and a bit of a ditz (well more than a bit of, actually), she called all her students "Ducky"; fancied herself a talented but undiscovered opera diva; and taught us the hic, haec, hoc declension (or whatever part of speech it was), by singing it, in warbling falsetto, to the tune of Three Blind Mice. (Try it, @Billy C; it actually works.) I remember absolutely NOTHING of First Year Latin (which we students dubbed "Latin, Self-Taught"), except for the hic, haec, hoc declension which, more than a half-century later, I can parrot back to you perfectly. (But only if I sing it to "Three Blind Mice.). Happily, unlike you, @Billy C, I only took 2 years of high school Latin. And that, I assure you, with "Mrs. Cannon, ducky" as teacher, was more than enough! So bring on your "Moose"; she doesn't frighten me :)

Jet City Gambler 3:29 PM  

Although SATIVA is clued as a Latin partial, I think it works by itself, perhaps clued as "Pot shop section".

At the marijuana stores here in Washington, it's very common to see their wares categorized, SATIVA, INDICA, HYBRIDS, EDIBLES, etc.

Fun puzzle, especially the back-and-forth nature of the themers.

Anonymous 3:31 PM  

The BIG CHISEL de-izzifies into The BIG CHEL by spelling, Big Chle (mmmfw) by pronunciation, so this isn't exactly easy, izzit?

Maybe a nice hot cuppa tizzy will help.

Bronxdoc 4:11 PM  

Upon completion, I feel only curmudgeonly. Autism, Afros, and Israel. There must be a few more groups to make fun of. Just a joyless, nearly tasteless slog over all.

Questinia 4:57 PM  

@Leapy: Think Appalachian Calamity Jane DIY-er who spends most of her time in Carharts, burred hair and burning brush piles.
Smokey eyes are always just one smudge away from looking like a critter!

wreck 5:06 PM  

I too thought there was phonetics "stretch" until I saw Leapy's post. I have to admit I did not fully grasp the "is" (or lack of "is") until way after finishing! This was a pretty decent Sunday IMHO.

Z 5:27 PM  

I have heard "Israel" pronounced at least four different ways with "Is Reel" or "Is Ree Al" sounding rightest to me while "Is Rail" and "Is Ray El" seems more like the way a choir sings it than anyone I know says it. I have no idea which pronunciation is preferred by whom. The themer worked fine to my ear.

ET ALIA ain't wrong as clued, but it is a small misdirect based on Latin rather than wordplay, ergo suboptimal in my humble opinion. As commonly used in English ET ALIA refers to people.

@oldtimer - Longer partials are expressly discouraged in the NYTX submission guidelines and I think there is a general consensus that any partial is suboptimal.*

@cwf - Dark. Funny. But a little dark.

@Gill I - I resent the notion that I've ever thought about J.LO's TATAs. Everyone knows that with J.LO it is a matter of turning the other cheek.

*Yes, I watch Men in Blazers.

Joseph Welling 6:12 PM  

Steve J said: "Fickle = two syllables
Physical = three syllables. More importantly, the IS sound is in the first syllable: fizz-i-cul. If I remove only the IS, I'm left with fi-i-cul. Where did that middle I go? The transformation removed more than the IS; it removed the ISI."

Your math is wrong. As you point out, we start with a 3 syllable word. Remove the one syllable /iz/ and we're left with a 2 syllable word that sounds just like fickle. If the two syllable /izi/ were removed, it'd leave a one syllable word with a pair of consonant sounds together that are not allowed in English something like "fkul"

Benko 6:58 PM  

SATIVA and indica are most certainly standalone names. They may be species names under the genus Cannabis, but walk into any dispensary or Amsterdam coffeeshop and you will see each strain labeled as "SATIVA", "indica", or "hybrid", and these are the common names used.

OISK 7:23 PM  

I got a DNF on a perfectly fine clue, (dodder), but that isn't related to my enjoyment of this puzzle, which was minimal. The theme, once I figured it out, was just too strenuous, and the "autism spectrum" answer was too obscure for me. I never remember the correct letters for "ADHD," and didn't fix "the two T's " from totter, once I realized it began with a "D".

Had a DNF yesterday, and realized it after I posted that I never DNF on Silk puzzles. (One careless square).That's two days in a row, after a few successful weeks. However, yesterday, I like the puzzle despite the error, today, not so much.

ZenMonkey 8:44 PM  

Even though I've been conversing today about Yiddish (and being Jewish) compared with the Irish language, the Israel joke just gave me a little laugh and I moved on. I didn't think at all about the relationship to the clue, though, and I'm with Rex on that one. Tons of better ways it could be clued -- a sports match leaps to mind.

As far as the autism joke, I'm not on the spectrum so I speak for no one who is. But if my disability/illness made it into the puzzle *and* via a pun, I'd frame that puzzle. (Maybe I should get on writing one.) My sense of humor about such things does extend past many people's comfort zones. I would imagine people on the spectrum would have a spectrum of opinions, as with most things.

Dolgo 9:58 PM  

I don't think I'm particularly dense, but I never got the theme until I read this blog. I finished the puzzle anyway.

Edible County Fare 10:44 PM  

@cfw and (secondarily) @Z,

Mutton chef

Ben Eggenberger 2:42 PM  

Wah, wah, wah! You guys are no fun. Loved it! :-)

Anonymous 6:30 PM  

I wasn't thrilled with the theme, but was very grateful for a clean traditional puzzle. No pop culture that couldn't be solved by context, few proper nouns, good unobjectionable clues. Lots of clues that were lateral thinking and misled me until I figured it out, putting a smile on my face. I tried to forget the stretch of a theme and focus on the excellent cluing, which made it enjoyable.

Anonymous 8:19 PM  

Were you trying to stuff 4 pounds of "etui" into a 3 pound "fir?"

Ed 8:31 PM  

Maybe I'm being dense, but I don't get 41D.

Z 8:39 PM  

@Ed - Maybe this will help. Read. Remember. ALB will return to a crossword near you soon.

Lauren 10:17 PM  

This seems like the perfect time to bring up a longstanding crosswordese question. In the Playground Retorts clues, it always says "is too" or "are too"- why isn't it "is to"? Isn't the opposite of "is not" more "is so" than it is "is also"?

terry 12:39 AM  

Sorry, but this sucked the fun out of Sunday crosswords. All of my frustrations have been expressed in the eighty-some comments above. I never want to see another Jeremy Newton puzzle again.

Online Macmillan Dictionary 9:16 AM  

@Lauren --

No explanation given, but this entry occurs in the online Macmillan Dictionary:

TOO --

SPOKEN -- Used for emphasizing that something is true when someone does not believe it. This is used especially by children

“You don’t know how to change a tire.” “I do too.”

David 9:51 PM  

Neighbor of a "-" => Answer TAB. Not unless you stretch the meaning of neighbor. Tab is on the other side of the keyboard from -.

Burma Shave 12:52 PM  




rondo 1:11 PM  

Like this puz? OHHELLNO! Like someone above said – stupid. Or maybe I’m the stupid one for not getting the trick until the Bill MURRAY phrase. Or for doing this whole dumb thing.

The top row started out great with two musical yeah babies in RAITT and JLO, but then went nowhere fast, like JLO’s last movie.

@spacey will surely hate ABORC, and KENOGAME seems really green-paintish to me.

Don’t know about you folks, but in MN it’s dee-ZERT not DIZZ-ert, there’s no “IS” there, so that one and the ISRAEL answers don’t come close enough IMO.

So, as long as I can’t find anything good to say about this puz, I guess I’ll go out and enjoy a rare 80 degree October MN day. Stupid not to.

spacecraft 2:02 PM  

DNF. Never got as far south as ABORC, so yeah, I probably would've howled. I was stopped cold in the south central. Not to be a goody two-shoes, but i have no clue what follows Cannabis...except usually the munchies. Could not parse the start of the DESSERT line, and don't know what-all might follow Google: a techie I'm not. No idea what Soave is, so, that whole section just sat there, a "multi-natick." After that, it seemed pointless to continue; a good thing, since I NEVER would get 113 across. No chance.

So take your easy-medium and stuff it. The cluing seems to want to outdo even Saturday. Guys, a tough puzzle is fine, but for Sunday I want a little more entertainment and just a tad less mindbending. Sunday is not supposed to be Uber-Saturday. INC.

AnonymousPVX 3:05 PM  

10/11/15 - we get it a week late here…

And it was not worth the wait. A lot of work but no fun and a really strained theme, IMO. Not much else to add.

Anonymous 12:31 AM  

Weak, sloppy, and no fun, for all the reasons mentioned above. Iz-reel was particularly egregious. Also, strategy and tactics are NOT the same thing. This puzzle was just not up to NYT standards IMO.

Ray o sunshine 3:11 PM  

Did this one a day later on Columb( ) Day. Thought I'd finished but incorecctly had "fathem" crossed with "Len" not "fathom" and "Lon". So I'm p( )ed off!

Robert E. 7:05 PM  

I'm with Nancy and tkr - this one was really, really, really lame

Swagomatic 6:52 PM  

I effing HATED this puzzle. I almost quit and looked up the answers - we get the puzzle a week late here out in the hinterlands - but I had to finish it out of spite. I came here expecting Rex to rip this puzzle up, but he liked it. That is so weird, this is maybe my most disliked NYT puzzle of all time.

Swagomatic 7:05 PM  

Also, "alo," I think, is not commonly used as a phone greeting (at least in Mexico and here, in Arizona).

Anthony Cavaliere 11:45 AM  

i started this puzzle timely but had to leave it for a variety of reasons. When I finally got back to it yesterday morning, it took me a while to finish it because the theme was incomprehensible to me. Lately these Sunday Times puzzle themes are this way. I don't like it.

Moore Williams 3:23 AM  

Yearbook THEMES!?!?!?
Mascots Shiping Company

ชื่อที่แสดง 8:36 AM  

Sorry, but this sucked the fun out of Sunday crosswords. All of my frustrations have been expressed in the eighty-some comments above.
thanks for sharing...

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