Actor Sheridan / WED 11-18-15 / Nazi cipher machine broken by allies / Close-up magician's prop / Rwandan president Paul Kagame's ethnicity / Math term usually followed by a subscript number / Former Obama adviser David

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Constructor: Zachary Spitz

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging (slow for me)

THEME: it's wonderful — [It's ___!] clues are transformed from idiomatic / colloquial to literal

Theme answers:
  • LIGHTNING BOLT (20A: It's strking!)
  • BALD-FACED LIE (33A: It's unbelievable!)
  • ASTHMA ATTACK (43A: It's breathtaking!)
  • DRY ERASE BOARD (59A: It's remarkable!) 
Word of the Day: TYE Sheridan (48A: Actor Sheridan) —
Tye Kayle Sheridan (born November 11, 1996) is an American actor.[1][2][3] Sheridan made his feature film debut in Terrence Malick's experimental drama film The Tree of Life (2011) and had his first leading role in the coming-of-age film Mud (2012). He co-starred in the drama Joe (2013). In 2015, he starred in the drama The Stanford Prison Experiment. Sheridan will play the role of the young Cyclops in the 2016 film X-Men: Apocalypse. (wikipedia)
• • •

This theme is cute. Slight and forgettable, but cute. Tight enough. Fine. Maybe it's because I just woke up after a long, long sleep, but I had all kinds of problems filling this grid in correctly. Started with wanting AIR-something for 1D: A 747 has two of them (AISLES) and then got especially bad in the middle of the grid, where I wrote in DDAY at 35D: When the Battle of Normandy started, but then tore it out for the [Actor Sheridan], which I was sure was ANN. I then changed DDAY to DAWN (!?), but then kept putting in LOATHE and taking out LOATHE etc.  (34D: Can't stomach). The problem was clearly [Actor Sheridan]. What other actor Sheridan is there. When I was finally done, I had the letters T and Y and E there ... and apparently that is some kid who just turned 19 and is in movies I haven't seen. OK. Great. Star in all the movies you want, kid, TYE is never going to be good fill, and you will never be ANN Sheridan! Also never good: LOD, which didn't even get its own clue (it was cross-referenced with TEL AVIV in a way that gave no specific geographical info about either place). So the whole LOD / TYE area, coupled with my inability to come up with whatever ATTACK was happening in the middle, slowed me down.

["Got a cigarette?"]

Also slowing me down: the clue on TARO (47A: ___ cake (Chinese New Year delicacy)). Baffling. I associate TARO with the Pacific Islands, so ... I was like "TACO cake? Do the Chinese like that for some reason? What *is* that?" But overall, the fill on this one is OK. I mean, yes, "EEK, it's ESME!" but most areas are pretty clean. The one thing that really marred the puzzle, though, was that clue on MEN (71A: Exasperated comment from a feminist). Sigh. OK, as someone who has spent his entire life surrounded by feminists, let me say, resoundingly, no. You are confusing feminists with decidedly NOT-feminist sitcom ladies who grouse about their shlubby husbands. Also, you are confusing feminism with anti-man sentiment (a common, pernicious mistake). "MEN!" is not something an exasperated feminist says. "MEN!" is something someone who believes in the essential *in*equality of the sexes says, someone who believes all that Mars/Venus crap, and is just mad that her husband bought her the wrong kind of birthday gift or got soup on his tie or won't stop watching football and clean out the gutters. Not. Feminist. Not not not. This is another (another!) tin-eared clumsy clue that highlights how puzzle makers are a monoculture of (mostly) white (mostly) men. "Sure, baby, we'll let 'feminist' in to the puzzle, but here's the deal: you gotta look pretty and make a funny face into the camera and go 'MEN!' and roll your eyes like 'whaddyagonnado?', OK? OK. That's a good girl."

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. a feminist is someone who doesn't blink at writing in a woman's name for the clue [Actor Sheridan].

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


George Barany 8:35 AM  

It's always nice to see a debut constructor. Hi @Zachary Spitz.

I like the Chicago flavor with Obama's mentor @David AXELROD, who interestingly overlapped with me at Stuyvesant High School in New York City in the late '60s/early '70s. On a sadder note, the LOD airport was the site of an infamous terrorist attack in 1972 in which the prominent Israeli biophysical chemist Aahron Katzir-Katchalski was murdered.

If I may change the subject, there are some loose ends with respect to yesterday's INNER EAR theme by @Paula Gamache. My friend @Martin Ashwood-Smith directed our attention to this puzzle of his from 2009. Moreover, MAS just recently constructed an interesting puzzle (click on the link) which hides a 5-letter word in several theme entries, and throws in several stacks for good measure.

Finally, several friends told me about this article, dealing with stink bugs. Let me quote the key sentence (italicized emphasis added by me): "... some stink bugs under study had laid dusky-colored eggs on the black squares and pale-colored eggs on the white squares of a crossword puzzle lining their cage."

jberg 8:36 AM  

We call them whiteboards around here, but if you said DRY ERASE BOARD everyone would know what you meant -- even Randy from RANDD, who's persnickety about words. OTOH, OTOE! AVAST there with the ESE.

I had the same reaction to the MEN clue.

My only real problem was LOD, which for some reason I thought was in Poland; when Warsaw proved too short, I saw that was wrong, but for some reason thought of Tbilisi before TEL AVIV. TYb was as good as TYE, for all I knew.

Well off to work.

Tim Pierce 8:47 AM  

Mostly I found this one pretty clean, but I was also stumped at LOD and TYE. I couldn't help but think the fill would be a little cleaner PARM/ROE/DEAR/TRE in the place of PARM/LOD/DDAY/TYE. Not exciting stuff, but at least it's a way to get LOD out of there!

AliasZ 8:51 AM  

The second NYT debut in three days -- must be a record of Shortz, as D-DAY must be, three days in a row.

It's a cute punny theme today, the re-markable DRY ERASE BOARD being the best of them. I liked the breathtaking ASTHMA ATTACK and the striking LIGHTNING BOLT too, but BALDFACED LIE fell flat for me because a lie is inherently not to be believed -- so where is the pun? [I hope this wasn't too STRIDENT, was it?]

If you ESME, I liked the fill as well, WARTS and all. It was re-markably clean for a debut puzzle. The world famous law firm RAKISH, ATEON and THINKOF Attorneys-at-Law headquartered in TEL AVIV deserves special mention. They remind me of the slogan "From SHARP minds come SHARP products."

What is that would truly ENRICH
My love life -- into Nirvana?
Not the Donald's ex-IVANA
But Miličević,
Two of us in a cabana
Not wearing a STITCH.

To show my appreciation, let me offer this lovely piece of music, not by the composer of the "ENIGMA Variations", but by one of his compatriots Frederick Devious (1862-1934). The title of the work is "On Hearing the First KOKO in Spring" (lovingly called "on cooking the first hero in spring" by music students everywhere), in this performance by Sir Thomas BETCHAm, whose official title was "2nd Baronet" or BART for short.

Enjoy your Wednesday.

Tim Pierce 8:55 AM  

Jeff's blog notes that Zachary Spitz is a first-year student at the University of Chicago and that this is his first NYT puzzle. I think that it's worth calling out as a very nice debut puzzle (even despite my armchair quarterbacking about the fill).

I did love the cluing on 11D, Assistant to the regional manager, for one. But I also shared Rex's distaste for 71D, Exasperated comment from a feminist. That's a Don Draper clue right there, folks. Let's leave it behind with the Luckies where it belongs.

Mary Ellen Segraves 8:59 AM  

Loved your comments about feminism and the word "men"--very astute! I never heard of Tye Sheridan, either.

Tita 9:01 AM grenade to I was thinking this was a fine, if forgettable puzzle, when you hand us that STRIDENT rant, Mr. SHARP.
It made me look more closely at the fill...

Surely that is a woman jumping on the chair while EEKing. And we all know how IVANA rolls her eyes when that CAD of an ex says something stupid.
There are far too many misogynistic entries in this puzzle for me to LOG...not to mention how many MEN appear... HERB, ART, IAN, OSAMA, TYE, RAJAH, HST...
Maybe I was just in a good mood, but that clue didn't flutter an eyelash...

I actually dnf'd...I had pmS instead of MPS...gave me the mSAT, yoga pAdS, and dARO cake.

Anyhow, no comments yet...will I be standing alone as a woman who giggled when she saw MEN?

Thanks, Mr. Spitz.

gberg 9:04 AM  

Ok thank you, I am with you on the tone-deaf "feminist" remark.
Otherwise my only complaint, really, is that the puzzle is too easy. I used to be challenged on Wednesdays, but not anymore, generally.

Charles Flaster 9:05 AM  

Liked it more than Rex and found it easier too,
Never changed KOmO to KOKO so a DNF.
Liked cluing for DRY ERASE BOARD , ASTHMA ATTACK , and EACH.
Writeovers DEBIT for taroT and SHARP(happy B day Michael) for SmARt.
CrosswordEASE--OTOE and TAU.
Thanks ZS

big steve 46 9:09 AM  

I am not sure why an innocuous 3-letter (and simple) clue ("men") got Rex so riled up. Sometimes, you do have to repeat, "its only a crossword puzzle." The point is to fill in the empty boxes with the letters that the creator of the puzzle intended to be there. That's it!

Anyway, here's a suggestion for a clue that our esteemed x-word leader would have been happier with: "Like what an exasperated Lucy might say to Desi." Now, Rex - feel better?

Nancy 9:12 AM  

I never heard of a DRY ERASE BOARD and have no idea why it's "remarkable!" And I only got it once I changed CiNDI to CYNDI. I loved BALD FACED LIE, which enabled me to change THINK On to THINK OF. And, @mathgent, yet again another math term I didn't know: LOG. That's because I don't know what a "subscript"number is. And yet, I liked math, took several electives in both high school and college, and was pretty good at it. I think I have an explanation for my recent blind spots: It's because I took Old Math, way back in the day, and know nothing about New Math and its strange terminology. I'm sure I know -- or at least knew at one time --all these concepts -- just with an entirely different vocabulary.

I thought this was an excellent Wednesday puzzle and wish more of them were this challenging.

Zed 9:15 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown 9:26 AM  

For whatever reason, I zoomed through this puzzle in record time - nearly half the time of a normal Wednesday for me. Whatever. Regarding the idiotic 71A clue, I agree with Rex. It isn't something I'd ever say and last time I checked I am a woman and a feminist. The irksome thing is that it suggests that feminism can be reduced to exasperation (by women and because of men) rather than by anyone (men and women) who supports political, economic and social equality of all. Frankly I'd rather just enjoy the puzzle without politicizing it, but clumsy cluing makes it difficult. Maybe the NYT thinks I don't know my place.

Ludyjynn 9:27 AM  

I so so badly wanted fARTS instead of WARTS. Rex summed up nicely my LOATHing of the MEN clue; thanks, Rex!

ANI and TYE were ENIGMAs to me; luckily, the crosses filled them in. Kept scratching my head and going, "why is this Wed. puzzle taking me so long?"

You BETCHA made me THINK OF the STRIDENT Sarah Palin; EEK!

But I liked the "Peanuts" clue for KITE, and the clues for RANDD and GENES. So it was an overall okay start to the day. Thanks, ZS and WS.

Joe 9:31 AM  

The feminist clue caught my eye right away. What here letter comment could it be! Can't fit parental leave or equal pay or systemic objectification... maybe MRA? That gives me some exasperation. Good on the constructor for that little bit!

Then.... no. The same reaction as you. The clue didn't come from someone who knew what feminism was, but someone who thought it was a crude stereotype of what it is. It was disappointing.

Zed 9:37 AM  

@Nancy from late yesterday - I try to avoid analyzing why Rex writes what he writes. He's as consistent on what makes good or bad crosswords as any movie or book reviewer is regarding their subjects.
As for my "research," here's a ProTip: At the very end of each blog post (after the sign-off and little icons for various social media sites) you will find Labels. One of the labels is always the constructor(s). Click on the constructor's name here and your browser will load the blogs about that constructor. It took me all of five minutes to peruse reviews of Gamache's puzzles. I suppose if you really wanted you could go back further and see if there's been a discernible change.

chefbea 9:40 AM  

Tough puzzle. Heard of Ann Sheridan but not Tye. Is is ok to have Axelrod and hot rod in the same puzzle??
@Nancy A dry erase board is re-markable because it can be marked on again!! Get it??

Greg 9:47 AM  

I'll just second everything that Rex said about the MEN clue and what feminism represents (and doesn't). Terrible clueing. Should never have made it in.

Zed 9:48 AM  

So many little errors even I was irked:

Medium challenging here as well, but for mostly different reasons. RAKISH is quite different than "debonair" to me, so I needed all the crosses to see it. If a man is RAKISH he wants to take advantage of you. If a man is debonair you want to take advantage of him.

A couple of the crosses were slow in coming (SKI and SHARP), partly because I, too, wanted AIr something. I didn't get the airport city until I had V-V filled in. That narrows down the choices, eh? BETter before the Palinesque BETCHA also slowed me down. Hand up for ann crossing noon before TYE crossing D-DAY. For whatever reason the clue said "Normandy" and the brain went "Hastings," making "noon" seem reasonable.

Mostly okay but I arched an eyebrow at having MPS/LOD/CHA/END right through the middle. Having four 3 letter answers right in the middle is probably a grid design to avoid when possible.

Rex - Thanks for the ANN Sheridan clip. Fantastic. Nothing like an exposed knee to get a doctor all flustered and late for dinner.

Doug Garr 9:52 AM  

I think everyone who's a Baby Boomer or older got flummoxed by putting in ANN instead of TYE. Never heard of TYE. Since Ann Sheridan goes way back, I'd like to snivel a bit: usually the complaints are about clues or answers being too dated.

Howard F 9:55 AM  

I'm pretty sure there's a music producer named David AXELROD. Would've liked to have seen him clued in somehow instead. I don't know much about him, but I think he's been sampled quite a bit.

There's also a band called MEN, that has JD Samson from Le Tigre.

RooMonster 10:06 AM  

Hey All !
Fun-ly clued puz. Was worried about the "threes"count, as they are 14 across. But only 4 down, so it became a normal three count puz. Agree with @Tim 8:47AM, would've been a better grouping.

Relatively easy, an obscure clue or two, but overall nice and small dreck. Gives me hope that Will is debuting a bunch of new constructors. I feel like waving my hand in the air yelling, "Pick me, pick me!" :-)


Anonymous 10:17 AM  

Some of the cluing was good but too many were VERY ANNOYING.

Theme was okay.

Mohair Sam 10:19 AM  

So the moment MEN filled I turned gleefully to Mrs. Mohair and said "Rex is going to birth a whole herd of holsteins on that one." He did not let me down - what a delightful rant. How the heck can Will Shortz be so reliably tone deaf? The feminists in our extended family run from mildly (equal pay) to militant (no women's rooms, no girl scouts, no gender specific pronouns) and I can tell you that the more militant the less likely the exasperated comment MEN!

The puzzle? Found it medium/challenging as did OFL, and enjoyed it - just not as much as we did Rex's rant.

@Rex - Had ann before TYE just like you, but didn't notice the "actor" thing at all - no blink or anything. Does that make this normally non-PC guy post-feminist?

Nancy 10:22 AM  

Oh! Re-markable. Nice one! Thanks @Chefbea.

No chance for this Boomer to write in "Ann" instead of TYE. By the time I got to the clue, I already had the TY- from LOATHE and DDAY.

I, too, did a double take at MEN and think it's not in the least what a feminist, exasperated or not, would say. But then I'm thinking: Let's say you're a successful woman in a business meeting with a group of men, all of them MANSPLAINING to you the very subject on which you've been brought in as the country's foremost expert. Every time you try to speak, one or more of them interrupts. Might you not at least think to yourself: MEN! Well, even if you wouldn't, I probably would.

Carola 10:30 AM  

I really liked this trickier-then-usual Wednesday, although I didn't feel like the SHARPest tool in the drawer while solving it. I struggled to come up with AISLES,RAKISH, WARTS, STRIDENT; my LIE began as BAre-FACED, and I also had to change Card to COIN, HEar to HEED, CiNDI to CYNDI. Clever theme, many interesting answers. I look forward to more from Zachary Spitz.

@jberg - Maybe you were THINKing OF the Polish airline LOT?

BonnieB 10:49 AM  

I loved the DRY ERASE BOARD fill - it's "remarkable" cause you can erase and "remark" - aka write, etc - on the board again!

Da Bears 10:49 AM  

One of Rex's lamest critiques I can recall in a long time.

Court Jeffster 10:50 AM  

Zachary Spitz’s lovely debut serves the snarky wit and schpritz that has been the chief virtue of the millennials as constructors. LOVED the incongruity between the exclamatory theme clues and the increasing dryness and irreverence of the answers culminating in ASTHMA ATTACK and DRYERASEBOARD. The pop culture refs to the Office and Peanuts are accessible enough they shouldn’t leave the Vineyard Vines wilting on a Wednesday.

You’d think Mr. Shortz would be less of a schmuck, being a nerd and all. It's precisely because he lets so much patriarchal BS into the puzzle, that we need more female and intersectional construction talent like K. Austin Collins to snap some sense into us.

Like Rex, I kept wanting to put R instead of the correct S in the AI(S)LES/(S)KI cross, so the NW corner was the last to fall for me. But overall, I was entertained. A morning of perverse laughter before I have to put on my workaday 9-5 game face. That’s all I ask of a crossword puzzle. Bring on Thursday.

mac 10:51 AM  

Medium for me, decent Wednesday. I ended up having to run the alphabet for "warts".

"Men" is tone deaf indeed, and old, makes me think of Lucy and Ethel.

Do we eat on a plate, or off a plate?

Anonymous 10:56 AM  

Oh, Rex. You and your fragile sensibilities. "EEK! Someone wrote a clue that stepped on my widdle toes! Sound the alarm to raise the PC police!"

Never change!

Joseph Michael 10:57 AM  

Enjoyed this meaty Wednesday and its punny theme. A nice debut for Zachary.

The puz made me THINK OF. the time I met David AXELROD in a Chicago restaurant when he still had his mustache. Very SHARP fellow.

Favorite pun: a DRY ERASE BOARD that is RE-MARKABLE.

Most unpleasant moment: the STRIDENT image that comes to mind when I hear the phrase: YOU BETCHA..

Hartley70 11:00 AM  

Good one @Nancy! Hopefully it doesn't happen often any more, but it sure did in the 70's and before.

@MohairSam, you really cracked me up this morning! Breakfast with you must have been a treat for Mrs M.

I thought this was a great Wednesday puzzle and I'm more impressed it's creator is a first-timer. The theme and it's execution were fresh. LIGHTENINGBOLT was easier than DRYERASEBOARD, but each themer gave me pause. ASTHMAATTACK was great. TYE was new to me but I didn't fall into the Ann trap because she's too old even for old me. Nicolette was the only Sheridan I could remember. I liked learning LOD was outside TELAVIV. Like @Z I was stuck in Poland.

I thought this was a perfect amount of zip and push back for a Wednesday. I really look forward to Zachery's next puzzle!

Phil 11:05 AM  

Never seen actress clued as actor. I maybe wrong about that, but LOATHE DDAY and TELAVIV coming from gimme V's is just too much rationalization one should ever display in public, whining about an easy cross like TYE.
Close to record time for me.

Lewis 11:07 AM  

Seems to be AVAST difference in how people perceived the difficulty of this puzzle, either easier than usual or pretty tough for Wednesday. I come in on the former. TYE never entered the equation for me; it got filled in by the downs, and LOD I knew because I've flown into it.

I liked the quirky theme, plus the low-flying KITE and the fact that the END is in the middle. I liked the five-letter words that make new words when read backward, WARTS and TIMER. I knew Rex would appropriately EEK at the clue for MEN, and he expressed it well. I would have liked some trickier cluing, but overall, this one was a lot of fun, and as Rex said recently, that's what it's all about.

Indypuzzler 11:15 AM  

I can tell I am getting the hang of Rex-think, plus it is rubbing off because I agreed with everything he said! I too was resistant to LOATHE and I can't see a feminist saying "MEN!" In exasperation, but the other fill saved the day. I also have noticed my brain's inability to compute AND embedded in initials, i.e. RANDD which I stared at after completion for way too long before "research and development" finally came to mind. @Z, I thought the same thing about RAKISH and resisted filling it in until I decided there was no alternative.
I thought the theme questions were clever/cute and I enjoyed this puzzle

jae 11:22 AM  

Easy-medium for me with no erasures and no WOEs.  The medium part was the NW where I had the same problems as many of you.  @Z RAKISH seemed off to me also.

Pretty nice debut.  Reasonably smooth grid, punny theme, just about right for a Wed.

Masked and Anonymous 11:40 AM  

It's unthinkable!
It's without equal!
It's stark!
It's desperate! (Woe ES ME.)
It ain't real SHARP, neither.
It's a single, solitary U.

fave weeject: taU. Also, nice weeject stacks, in NW and SE. Center row also has a nice mess of em. Good job.

Congrats on yer strikin/unbelievable/breathtakin/remarkable debut, Zachary Spitz. (To get back to average, yer next puz'll need about 8 of the lil jUwels. Just sayin.)



Zed 11:48 AM  

Realizing now that my, "errors" comment could be misunderstood if you don't know that "Comment Deleted" at 9:15 is me. I normally don't worry about typos (it's a blog, not a dissertation), but I noticed a couple of typos that went too far. The "errors" comment is about my initial post, not the puzzle.

Mohair Sam 11:50 AM  

@Z - Well said on RAKISH/debonair. I hesitated there, but it filled so easily.

@Zachary Spitz. Didn't realize this was a NYT debut, impressive - congrats. Keep 'em coming.

Bob Kerfuffle 11:53 AM  


Finished, on paper, correctly, but with an unusually messy grid: write-overs at BETTER >> BETCHA; BARE-FACED LIE >> BALD-FACED LIE; LOT >> LOD; and, SCREAM >> STITCH. Plus a couple of entries which I put in the wrong place initially because I mis-read the numbers, not to mention stumbling over the spelling of ASTHMA ATTACK.

But is was, indeed, a good puzzle.

(It helped that we have seen the 1 D clue before.)

Unknown 12:09 PM  

@Nancy (if not already explained): LOG. This has nothing to do with the ”new math.” LOGarithms have been around since the 1500s and are extensively used in mathematics and engineering. A LOGarithm is the inverse of exponentiation (raising a number to some power). As an example, I use them all the time for calculating audio signal levels in terms of decibels. Prior to electronic calculators, the ubiquitous slide rule (invented around 1620–1630, based on the work of John Napier) was graduated in LOG scales to do multiplication and division. A "subscript" number is simply a number physically placed with, usually, a word or symbol as a subscript. Exponents are placed as superscripts.

Speaking of engineering, one nitpick about an otherwise great puzzle (great namely because I could finish it without cheating!):

I worked in several RANDD “divisions” (a.b.k.a. - also better known [to me] as departments) and think that “Testing division” is a rather loose descriptor. Testing things was only one of many tasks involved in the work. So was technical writing, mathematical calculations, prototyping, cost analyses, feasibility studies, market analysis, CAD work, materials analysis, etc. etc. “Testing” was a relatively minor part of the process, most certainly in terms of the time spent doing it.


Birthplace of products, for short

What some engineers do,…

11d: _____engineer,…

Precursor to manufacturing,…

Engineering partners ,…

And my personal favorite ---

Money pit department,…

The last at least in the view of the “beancounters” in today’s businesses, I know this firsthand from some of my work experiences. There’s an old engineer’s query to management, ”You have three choices: better, faster, and cheaper. Pick two.” I’m sure, dear reader, you have seen many examples of their picking the latter two.

A perfect example: I replaced the kitchen sink drain a few days ago, removing a useless garage disposal. (The previous owner had put it in and, with a septic system, using one is the #1 no-no according to our local septic guys.). The first drain I bought had a serious design flaw, so I returned it. However, the second model I got has a serious manufacturing flaw, for which I did a work-around. Fool me once…fool me twice… was enough. I didn’t want to find out what fool me thrice entailed.

Speaking of thrice, that’s all I can THINKOF, CHA CHA CHA…END (a musical ENDing I’ve played many times).

Elephant's Child 12:12 PM  

@Z, if a hat is set at a RAKISH angle, who's taking advantage of it? Will that differ based on whether it's a man's or woman's hat? Whether it's on a man's or woman's head?

Looking at the bigger bone of contention in today's grid, I'm having a little cognitive dissonance over how @Rex squares his position on the MEN clue with his choice of Ann SHERIDAN clips. Isn't that perpetuating some stereotype he ought to be busy stamping out?

Consistency is such a foolish hobgoblin.

Think I'll go stand with @Tita now.

old timer 12:20 PM  

I didn't like the puzzle much. I thought it lacked any sparkle, and, well, ESME. Had to come here to learn why a DRY ERASE BOARD is re-markable, though. Did like AXELROD, my hero of 2008.

LOD was kind of a gimme, for me. But I like my geography. At a trivia quiz last night I could immediately name 7 of the 8 countries that border France (the one I missed, of course, was Monaco, but a teammate thought of it. Fun fact: Before 1860, Monaco did not border France. Instead it was surrounded by the County of Nice (Nizza), part of the Kingdom of Sardinia, which included Savoy and Nice.

MEN! really is something any long-married woman is likely to utter to her best female friend. I can hear Lucille Ball saying it, or see, in my mind's eye, Blondie saying it, and it would have been easy to change the clue. Either to something like what I just wrote, or if you want to you could say,"These people often exasperate a feminist."

jp flanigan 12:50 PM  

Slow for a wednesday. SMART/SHARP, BETTER/BETCHA, MIND/PALM, HEAR/HEED. Took me a while to untangle. I liked the theme.

Anonymous 12:52 PM  

Rex, been a few weeks since you have been able to weigh in on the political correctness front. Agreed it was not a great clue, nor answer. Just think you gave this issue a lot more ink than it merited. If I'm looking for cultural commentary a crossword blog is not the f place Id look

Alicia Stetson 12:54 PM  

Yes, Rex, entering a woman's name incorrectly in a crossword puzzle makes you a feminist.

Numinous 1:07 PM  

Another speedy solve for me. I'd have done it in half my average time were it not for my sticking at WART/WATT/THINK OF. Gotta say that gave me pause as I was MiRED there for a looooong time. Otherwise, I'd say this was easy. I was very surprised when I went to xwordinfo to discover that this was a debut and that @Mr Spitz is so tender of age.

@Commentariat: Boomers beware. Y'all need to be boning up on contemporary culture if y'all are going to keep up with crosswording (I'm including myself here). It seems like we are getting more and more constructors who are up on what's current.

Even though I'm a pre-boomer (by 28 days, does that make me a war-baby? Both of my parents were Marines.) I never thought of ANN Sheridan especially as TYE filled himself in so handily. ANN would makes sense in that most actresses seem to prefer to call themselves actors these dyas and even the IMdB refers to them that way.

@mac, I believe you could also EAT from a plate. ON, off, or from, I have this silly vision of the ump bending over making sure that the one at home was clean enough.

I have not problem at all with combining Debonair with RAKISH. I'm reminded of the picaresque character Mcheath in John Gay's The Beggar's Opera. He was a higywayman and a rakehell. All the hot chicks in London were after his attentions and, sadly, in the end, for him, he was equally unable to resist their charms. In the sequal, Polly he is hanged.

Congratulations, Zachary. Now you've hit the big TIMES. Keep up the good work!

Teedmn 1:14 PM  

This puzzle played average for a Wednesday for me, although a DRY ERASE BOARD would have come in handy. I started with wanting AIr at 1D a la @Rex, "sting" first for TOXIN and my gorilla was named KiKO, KaKO, then KOKO. I,plunked down "rice" at 47A, wondering how anyone.on earth could make a rice cake a delicacy (they taste like I imagine packing peanuts would taste, maybe not as good) but I've had TARO chips before so I could see they would make a nice tasting cake too.

This was a great debut. I liked the theme, didn't mind the crosswordese, missed the clue for MEN during the solve, wondered a tiny bit about HOTRODS with AXELROD, wasn't totally keen on the clue for SKI but didn't think EEK about anything.

Congrats, Zachary Spitz, and thanks.

Leapfinger 1:49 PM  

I say, this one had me firing AXONS, SHARP from tOP TO TOE! Guess I'm a sucker for an opening that offers a RAKISH ENIGMA, and doubly impressed that it's a DEBuT. With the newbie constructor falling in the young MEN category, guess that makes him a DEBu-oncle. I'm sure Mr. Spitz gets the point.

Liked the backstory of how the theme was born with the scarecrow 'out standing' in his field, and thought all the themers (both the used and the bypassed) fresh and inventive. It must be one SMART TUTSI to THINK OF all that, A VAST improvement over the more usual Wednes fare. I call it impressive journalism, as inGENEiously rivetting as anything Levi Strauss invented, and also shows some incredible street smarts. It's spectacular with or without bifocals, but mind-boggling enough to require a football helmet. Okay, maybe I ran a little effusive, but I did like it.

Other likes:
WATT touching LIGHT
Nod to my #1 nephew, counsel to VIACOM for many years
(w)'AS TH' MAATTA, CK? (Louis CK)
WARTS ENRICH_ES ME (Sign in Dermatologist's office)
I s'pose a Dermatologist can also rake it in treating a variety of thin-skin conditions.
What's that sugarless gum? 'S TRIDENT

@jberg, I also thought of LODz before I could getto LOD.
@AliasZ, I'd rather enjoy your Wednesday; even though it's getting cool here, that part about the cabana sounds downright interesting.

@Zachary, the bit about AXELROD's "AXE Files" tickled me, but I wonder if he chose that mostly because "A-ROD" was already taken. One ancillary word of advice: if you eventually grow into one of those MEN who marries, don't pick a liberated spouse whose surname starts with A, or your initials will be ZS-A, perhaps even ZS-A & ZS-A. No amount of gab or splaining will free you of that very unliberated label.

Thanks for today; the future is bright.

Unknown 2:28 PM  

So am I the only one who put PLOUFFE instead of AXELROD? Seen both of these geniuses a few times in this college town. MEN I got right away.

Nancy 3:18 PM  

@Chuck McGregor -- I thought LOG might be short for logarithm, but none of my math teachers gave logarithms a nickname back in the day. Nor were exponents ever referred to as superscripts. I will say, when I saw "subscript", I thought: "Now that sounds like the opposite of an exponent." I persist in thinking that much of my ignorance IS based on a change in math vocabulary. But I must also admit that, while I was good at math, it was Trigonometry that nearly did me in. We weren't allowed to use slide rules back then. We had to interpolate. Trig was the only math subject I truly hated and the only one that I thought I was going to fail. When I read your very complicated, challenging post, referring to what seem like Trig-related calculations, though of course I could be wrong, I remember why I decided NOT to major in math.

@Numinous -- People keep wanting to make this blog a battle of the generations. I, on the other hand, think of it as a battle between Information Worth Knowing and Information Not Worth Knowing. There is plenty of trivial pop culture nonsense from the 50s and 60s that no one should be obligated to know, remember, or regurgitate. And there are plenty of important developments in the 21st century that even the oldest among us SHOULD know, even when we don't. But when a solver is being asked to deal in remembering obscure names and places, rather than in showing a facility with words and phrases, then the names and places being asked for should at least have some importance in the great scheme of things. I also think that the greatest crossword clues are the ones that CAN'T be Googled.

Ed 3:38 PM  

Enjoyed your especially witty comments and love the tribute to Ann Sheridan.

mathgent 3:39 PM  

@Chuck McGregor: What you commented is true, but @Nancy also has a valid point. When she took high-school mathematics, that is pre-calculus mathematics and pre-New Math mathematics, subscripts were generally not used with the word "log." All the logarithms studied were base ten. No subscript was needed. Later, in calculus, the "natural logarithm" was studied. Natural logarithms are based on the irrational number e. Natural logarithms can be written using the word log and the subscript e, but usually they are written using "ln," as in "ln x."

Anonymous 4:01 PM  

Rex is right: Real feminists don't blame "men"; they blame "a monoculture of (mostly) white (mostly) men."

J R 4:13 PM  

Amen to Rex for a thoughtful review of 71-Across. I wouldn't want to knock Zachary Spitz has a first-time constructor solely on this point, but he and Will (most disappointingly) should hear about its tone-deafness.

LeVine & Shirley 5:05 PM  

@Court Jeffster, for a serving of 'snarky wit and schpritz', why don't you hunt up some Jonathan Swift and GB Shaw, maybe read the preface to "Doctor's Dilemma" or leaf through Ari's Toffee Knees wry "Lizzie's Trotter". You might discover that there were some pretty hot millennia before this most recent one. Perhaps the paleo diet of yore favored the strong dentition needed for that kind of omnivore chew. Unlike the sweet and salty pap that can pass for nourishment these days.

'Intersectional construction talent', eh? You make poor Kam sound like some kind of Naugahyde living-room sofa... Some assembly required?

Just remember, many of those Vineyard Vines have tendrils that will last and cling on long after the plant has withered. Mind you don't get tangled and strangled in a garden run wilde.

Dr.D 5:09 PM  

I consider myself a feminist and had no hesitation about entering MEN.

chefwen 6:54 PM  

@MohairSam - The thought of Rex birthing a herd of Holsteins, not only one, but a herd send me into fits of laughter. Best comment of the day.

Other than spelling KOKO with C's (like my avatar) I had no problem with this fun Wednesday offering. Thank you Zachary Spitz and congratulations.

da kine 8:46 PM  

Most days: "we need fresh new clues that don't appeal to 60+ year-old white men!

Today: "who is this Tye character and why is he in my crossword!"

Brother, there's a difference between shifty fill and stuff you don't know. We play crosswords to be challenged and you seem to get all het up when you don't breeze through a fucking Friday or easier, unless it's a constructor you know, in which case it's the greatest thing since sliced bread.

Hell, this constructor could have had SLICED BREAD as an answer and you would have found a way to say it was STALE.

Unknown 8:58 PM  

Was that a Dwight Schrute reference at 11d? Funny.

Anonymous 9:14 PM  

As a long time sufferer of asthma I find it unsettling that so many people find the clue for asthma attack humorous. Each day 6 Americans
die from asthma attacks. Martin Van Buren and Christiaan Barnard
both died from asthma attacks. Surely, another theme entry could have
been used.

Anonymous 11:01 PM  

The women who don't share your opinions about feminism aren't women, are they, Rex?

Court Jeffster 11:04 PM  

@LeVine & Shirley.

> You might discover that there were some pretty hot millennia before this most recent one. Perhaps the paleo diet of yore favored the strong dentition needed for that kind of omnivore chew. Unlike the sweet and salty pap that can pass for nourishment these days.

Given that I teach literature and theater, your comment strikes me as naive and over-defensive, but I'm man enough to admit that I had it coming. What Swift and Pope taught us is how to smuggle bigotry through the backdoor of wit. Because of them, Lady Mary Montagu and the Earl of Rochester would join forces as the first fag hag and gay blade fighting to take them down on their own dry turf.

> You make poor Kam sound like some kind of Naugahyde living-room sofa

Intersectionality is bond and code among women and queers of color in the academy. This is an advanced topic that NPR has saved for the later sessions. In due time dearie.

> Just remember, many of those Vineyard Vines have tendrils that will last and cling on long after the plant has withered. Mind you don't get tangled and strangled in a garden run wilde.

Don't worry. Queers don't believe in your kind of Nature. That's why Wilde dyed his carnation green. Fair warning, Peggy Poonans and Lazy Susans don't scare me with their micro-aggressions. I apprenticed with the best of the best: Bette Midler, and Rita Moreno, and Margaret Cho.

Just LeVine; Shirley's left 1:50 AM  

Shoot, @Court Jeffster, you're waa-ay too serious. All you had to do was look down and you'd have seen your leg being pulled. Swift should have been the tip-off: remember "A Modest Proposal"?

I appreciate the tweak to my vocabulary and Peggy PooNans is a hoot, but forget about there being different kinds of Nature: there's only the one, and even for the Green CarNations and the Black Tulips, only the temporo-spatial coordinates change. It's a Gaian Gal world out here. It's a fair bette that Midler, at least, would agree.

To be candid, it's possible I'm naive but doubt the over-defensive, because [seriously] I have nothing to defend. However, having done both, I do know the difference between the doing and the teaching. As I suggested earlier, omnivore chew is its own reward; come back and tell me when you're doing both, also.

Six hour turn-around time? You can do better.

Rina 5:32 AM  

ASTRONAUTAIR almost worked until I got to KOKO and when BELAY turned out to be AVAST because of RITA. Somehow writing in wrong answers actually helps me get to the correct ones. I always buy the analog version (newspaper) and do the puzzle in pen. Messy but fun this one.

Tim Pierce 10:41 AM  

With due respect to @Nancy, the use of "log" for "logarithm" long predates New Math. Textbooks as old as 1910 use the notation log x to refer to common (base 10) logarithms, e.g. William Charles Brenke's "Textbook on Advanced Algebra and Trigonometry" (available on It's common enough that IMHO it's an acceptable crossword answer regardless of age.

That said, I think "subscript" is more of a typographical term than a mathematical one, and while it does come up in math notation, the word itself isn't as common (and is usually abbreviated "sub" in speech anyway). It's also a legit word but I can see why someone might not immediately associate it with logarithmic notation if they're not immersed in math.

Unknown 12:53 PM  

(A day late)

@Nancy 3:18 PM & @mathgent 3:39 PM: Agree with all you both said and it was well said. My Waterloo was Calculus. Just couldn't wrap my brain around it. No problem with algebra or geometry (plane & solid). I even picked up one of those "Calculus for Dummies" books not long ago. I figured with all the math I've done and been exposed to since school, I thought I might now get it. I tried to wade through it and still no joy.

I also did not "get" the new math and its use of "set theory." I'm far too old to have been taught it, but looking at the teachings, my only question was, and still is: Why?

In 1965, physicist Richard Feynman wrote in an essay evaluating math texts for the California curriculum about the "new math" with regard to set theory:

"In a first-grade book (a primer, in fact) I find the sentence: 'Find out if the set of the lollypops is equal in number to the set of girls' - whereas what is meant is: 'Find out if there are just enough lollypops for the girls.' "

In my career I did a LOT of math (still do) but have never run across what Feynman called the "elaborate notations" for or, for that matter, used the concepts of set theory in my thinking. However, I may have without knowing and to that I defer to @mathget.

Feynman was a champion of "The Answer" meaning how you got there is not what is important as long as it works. He would often develop his own methodologies to arrive at correct mathematical solutions: "Before entering college, he was experimenting with and deriving mathematical topics such as the half-derivative using his own notation." (Wiki) I recall reading somewhere that he exasperated some of his professors at MIT with this attitude of "the correct answers are what counts" and unorthodox ways he would invent to do calculations. His legacy attests to the efficacy of his methods.


Anonymous 3:51 PM  

Sigh... I guess the predictable PC rant is the price we now have to pay to read the otherwise interesting puzzle commentary. I wish that Rex (and, evidently, much of the insulated and insular academic community) would ask himself... "am I certain that my barometer of acceptable language and expression is the standard that needs to be imposed on others?

Anonymous 11:20 PM  

Oo, intersectionality! So many syllables!

kitshef 8:35 AM  

Two days late, so it is entirely possible no one will ever see this. Yes, MEN gave me pause, as it is clearly wrong. What also gave me pause was @Rex's response, which assumes that feminists are some kind of monolithic bloc who all think and speak the same.
They are not, and I can assure you that some feminists do indeed use MEN in an exasperated fashion. Some do it in an ironic or amusing fashion. Many use it because they are human beings, and sometimes their actions at a single moment of exasperation are inconsistent with their philosophy.
The point is, making a generalization about feminists, even in defense of feminism, is just as bad a making one about Latinas, or Slovaks, or Muslims.

Unknown 4:19 PM  

kitshef 8:35 AM

It has been seen :>)

Was thinking the same thing just before I read your post. "In an ironic or amusing fashion" is the usual context in which I have heard it and that from "human beings."


Burma Shave 9:54 AM  


fo’ a JOBTITLE not to PSAT, an’ de COIN WATT HEED be paid.

today’s stream of unconsciousness brought to you by all PACT and TOXIN is leap

rondo 10:33 AM  

Big hand up for B/W yeah baby Ann Sheridan. That and VIctOr made a bit of a mess in the nether regions. And those regions sure contained a lot of proper nouns, EEK!

@spacey might have something to say about RANDD.

HERB could’ve been clued “Tarlick of WKRP”. And MATS as Wilander. Too obscure?

HOTRODS and AXELRODs, you BETCHA CHA. AVAST array of clues for ODE MEN.

IVANA would seem more of a yeah baby had she not been involved with the Donald. Never thought of fun girl CYNDI as the yeah baby type.

This puz had some WARTS, but quite tolerable. ALOHA. END

spacecraft 12:47 PM  

I want to know why no one, during the dance craze of the '50s, ever made a song called "You BETCHA-CHA?" My reaction was: can you DO that?

Re ANDD: you know, for the first time I wasn't stumped by this ridiculousness; with the clue I knew it was going to be RANDD. Somehow, not being stumped made me LOATHE it less. A little.

Never heard of a hilarious person referred to as a STITCH before; it made the whole section difficult to unravel. It started with my LIE being BAreFACED instead if BALDFACED--and nearly led to a DNF. I was trying to put some kind of RRN in for the Normandy battle start, overlooking the obvious bleedover DDAY. Thankfully, it all got straightened out.

I know, descriptively, what a "DRYERASEBOARD" is, but is the actual term a thing? I have never encountered it, which made for further headaches in the area, till I remembered how to spell CYNDI.

The feminist thing? Well, I knew what he meant; he just got the semantics wrong. I call it a simple gaffe, and not a deep misunderstanding of the term. Benefit of the doubt. I'd rather rant about 66-across.

Cute theme, taking intense expressions and providing matter-of-fact definitions for them. I like the idea and the execution is fine. Fill is interesting in places; rough in others. This played on the hard side for me, never having been to LOD. Say, med-chall. B-.

Longbeachlee 1:44 PM  

If there was a "like" option, I would give Chuck Mc Gregor a like. As an old test engineer I also blanched at this one. Testing is the end of the development cycle, and R and D the beginning.
As for men, I must be the poster boy for sexist pigs. Men was a gimme for me.

rain forest 1:55 PM  

The clue/themers weren't really puns, per se, but the puzzle was fun and pretty solid, especially for a debut. Congrats, Zachary.

So Rex hates it when a puzzle has old stuff in it, but you get a current actor, TYE, in there, and he wishes it were ANN from 50 years ago? I dunno. MEN!

Speaking of which, that answer is just fine, whether or not it is spoken by a feminist. I think "exasperated" was the operative here, and anyway, it isn't something that old white men hang their hat on, regardless of the mind-reading that Rex indulges in. As LMS would say--Sheesh!

Note to @Spacey - people do say "R AND D". I have a friend who used to work on hi-tech submersibles, and he'd say "I'm in R AND D" all the time. If people say it, isn't it OK? Oh, I know--FLAG!

@rondo - MATS Wilander used to be a favourite tennis player of mine.

leftcoastTAM 6:40 PM  

Probably last and least:

I can imagine the first three theme answers ending with an !, but DRYERASEBOARD! No! Not in a million years!

spacecraft 7:20 PM  

@rainy: I'm just talking about the printed form. Sure we say RANDD--but if you're chatting online instead of with your vocal cords, you'd expect to see "R&D." In print, why waste two spaces with AND when & will do? Because, of course, the ampersand won't go quietly into a crossword grid. So then, why doesn't someone construct a puzzle using &-signs? The gauntlet is down, people! Let's see one!

Unknown 6:18 PM  

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kate 9:34 AM  

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