Travolta's Saturday Night Fever role / THU 11-5-15 / John Peter early English publisher free press champion / Big record label in 1960s pop / Opera with Willow Song / Greek matchmaker / Mother of Selene / Short negligee for short / Small-runway craft in brief

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Constructor: Samuel A. Donaldson

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: HIGHER POWER (63A: Divine being ... or a hint to 17-, 31- and 48-Across) — the letter string "NTH" in various answer has been "raised" above its home answer, into the answer above it (where it appears in circled squares, as seen above). So NTH (a degree, or POWER) has been raised (made HIGHER)

Theme answers:
  • ALLI(NTH)EFAMILY (17A: Groundbreaking 1970s sitcom)
  • ELEVE(NTH)HOUR (31A: Just before the deadline)
  • EVE(NTH)ORIZON (48A: Point beyond which light cannot escape from a black hole) 
Word of the Day: John Peter ZENGER (49D: John Peter ___, early American publisher and free press champion) —
John Peter Zenger (October 26, 1697 – July 28, 1746) was a German American printer and journalist in New York City. Zenger printed The New York Weekly Journal. The first generation of American editors discovered readers loved it when they criticized the local governor; the governors discovered they could shut down the newspapers. The most dramatic confrontation came in New York in 1734, where the governor brought Zenger to trial for criminal libel after the publication of satirical attacks. The jury acquitted Zenger, who became the iconic American hero for freedom of the press. // In 1733, Zenger began printing The New York Weekly Journal, in which he voiced opinions critical of the colonial governor, William Cosby. On November 17, 1734, on Cosby's orders, the sheriff arrested Zenger. After a grand jury refused to indict him, the attorney general Richard Bradley charged him with libel in August of 1735.[4] // Zenger's lawyers, Andrew Hamilton and William Smith, Sr., successfully argued that truth is a defense against charges of libel. (wikipedia)
• • •

ZENGER and MANERO (1A: Travolta's "Saturday Night Fever" role) were mysteries to me (even though I've seen "Saturday Night Fever" many times), but besides them, the only part of this puzzle that put up any resistance was (initially) the theme. But once I got it, zoom zoom. I'm ambivalent about the execution here. Maybe I'm not math-y enough to appreciate what's going on. Here, you raise the NTH ... but don't you normally raise something *to* the NTH degree? I think there is meant to be some connection between the raised NTH and the superscript that exponents are normally written in too. Maybe? There's raising and there's raising, is what I'm saying. The concept seems a little blurry / muddled to me, even though I can lawyer my way into an explanation for any one part of it. I'm not sure what the rationale is—or if there is one, of if there needs to be one—for the way the theme answers have to kind of double back on themselves after they return from their NTH journey. Feels a little awkward. As does AGE ONE (that whole section is kind of rough). But fill is OK. Not atrocious. Fine, but not exciting. The longer Downs are solid. Not sizzling, but solid. All in all, a clever, if somewhat wonkily executed, theme. I would say something about 54D: Heads of the black community? (AFROS), but I'm kind of exhausted with talking about the way the NYT crossword treats "the black community." Maybe someone else can do it for a while.

Big news in puzzle world: Evan Birnholz has been chosen as the Washington Post's new Sunday crossword constructor, taking over a position last held by the late, great Merl Reagle. I'm excited to see what kind of work he produces over there on a weekly basis. Merl is irreplaceable, but I'm happy to see the Post giving someone young, ambitious, and absolutely in love with crosswords a shot at the gig. This should be fun.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Unknown 12:19 AM  

Good Lord, Rex. In math you absolutely raise something to the tenth power, or fiftieth power, or nth power. Not fuzzy in the least.

As far as the afro part, get over your white guilt. Sometimes the world is just the world. Just because a description of someone in the office is "You know, John. The black guy with the medium size afro" doesn't make that person a racist. This thing with you and the NYT about their use of black-associated terms seems juvenile and exhausting. Try slaying real dragons.

George Barany 12:25 AM  

I enjoyed @Sam Donaldson's puzzle -- the theme became obvious with ALL_IN_THE_FAMILY and was quickly reinforced with the other two theme answers and the reveal.

Some of the details were tough, including the AGE_ONE answer and surroundings, as already pointed out by @Rex [seeing "walk" in the clue, and still thinking baseball, I thought of BALL_FOUR and was wondering how a rebus, or making part of the answer an exponent, might be working].

Another problem, I mangled the spelling of 1-Across, despite being familiar with the movie and the character ... not the most auspicious way to start.

I loved the fill and/or clues for ELS, OZONE_LAYER, and OTELLO. The clue for 60-Across had me thinking hockey (HULL, anyone?) rather than PELE.

For those who are in Thursday puzzle mood, and still want more, may I recommend Mu, by @John Child, a regular contributor to this blog. Then, once you finish, and are wondering "What's Mu?"--be sure to check out the "midrash."

Back to @Sam Donaldson--he wrote one of the puzzles for the recent LA crossword tournament. I was able to access the complete puzzle set here, and let me say, I'm glad that I did!

jae 12:37 AM  

I agree with Rex, puzzle was actually fairly easy, sussing out the "theme", however,  took some time, e.g. I was sure it was ALL IN THE FAMILY but I couldn't quite see how it was going to fit.   NW was the toughest corner for me as ALLY and AYES were elusive, and remembering/spelling the Travolta role was a challenge. 

Anyone else think bIMBO at first for 32d?

Fun solve, liked it.

Anonymous 12:37 AM  

So what exactly is the "black community"? The people Skip Gates hangs with? Robert Johnson's gaggle of CEO buddies or the brothers working on the docks? Poor southern blacks or rich southern blacks?

You would think this nonsense would stop, or if not stopped, at least edited out.

Music man 12:42 AM  

So I had a whole thing written up about 54d and it all got erased because of my iphone 4.

Anyway, the school I teach at is about 55% Hispanic/Latino (though they will mostly say "no I'm Puerto Rican") and 45% Black. I did not say African American because most Black people don't have the luxury of knowing exactly where they came from actually.

Watch this video without crying

Disgusting isn't it.

Where does a child so young learn such a negative racial identity?

By the way, 1 of about 200 students I teach (music teachers tend to teach the majority of students in a given school) has an Afro.

The puzzle actually had about 10-15 clues that made me say "wow what an amazing clue" even though the theme was a bit contrived. Good, just a Got the theme early on actually and then was disappointed to only find 3 theme answers. If this had maybe 4-5 and no shaded squares, I would have enjoyed it much, much more. Please don't insult my intelligence by putting in shaded squares when the theme could have been sussed without them. This week has been another interesting week, just unannounced like 2 weeks ago, but shading the squares made this one too obvious.

Music man 12:47 AM  

Oh and, at least in philly, the Merle reagle has been replaced with the newsday crossword, which I find I solve in about 1/32 the time, so if the birnholz trend can keep going beyond the washington post, PLEASE DO SO

chefwen 2:12 AM  

It wasn't the rebus I was hoping for, but pretty darn close. Took me forever to catch on but when I finally did, like Rex, it went pretty smoothly. It finally clicked at the eleventh hour with the ELEVEnth HOUR. ALL IN FAMILY stymied me for a long time, I knew it was right, but how was I going to squeeze that in? Ah so, I get it now.

Clever puzzle, put me in the "liked it" column

Anonymous 2:28 AM  

First, congrats to Evan. Those are big shoes to fill, and I admire your guts and ambotion to be creative enough to produce a 21x21 on a weekly basis.

My second comment is to Rex (and has nothing to do with Evan's accomplishment): while I can hardly disagree with your WP comments, I feel I have to point out that many pro constructors are "absolutely in love with crosswords" too. You pretty much had to be in the pre PC days, when you had do learn to construct by hand... and realized to your horror how insanely tough it was to create wide-open grids by hand. My point being that most constructors young and old abdolutely love their hobby!

As for Evan, he's got more thematic creativity than I have in my little finger! (Lest anyone get the wrong message from my post!)


Dolgo 4:06 AM  

Pretty silly, if you ask me!

smalltowndoc 6:35 AM  

@rex: The theme is a play on "raised to the NTH power"; a colloquial way to indicate a very large number. I've usually seen it as "raised to the NTH degree", but they're synonymous. Agree with the clue for AFROS. Both antiquated and more than a little racist; not worth the attempt at being cute with the cluing.

Lewis 6:55 AM  

@rex -- I saw it as NTH being the term associated with "power" in math, and it is simply higher than the word it is connected with, rather than "raised to".

I had to guess at the M at square one, and enjoyed the clues for ELSIE, MONTHS, AGEONE, and AWLS, plus seeing that PFFT. I liked the REOS/SORE anagrams next to each other. I learned that NAIF can mean ingenious as well as naive, though two of the main online dictionaries I go to didn't have that meaning, so maybe this definition is new or rare?

It's a level better theme than simply making NTH a rebus because it plays on the reveal clue word "higher". I liked it -- a good solid solve. Thank you, Sam.

Lewis 6:59 AM  

If it hadn't happened two days in a row, I wouldn't bring it up today, but yesterday, when I checked the comments at 10 p.m., the most recent comment posted was from 12:39 p.m., and it turns out that 14 comments were made during that interval. If this becomes the new normal, no one is going to want to post in the afternoon, it seems to me...

Anonymous 7:10 AM  

NYT racists missed a golden opportunity with the OTELLO clue.

Lewis 7:46 AM  

Oops! I see the clue is "ingenuous" not "ingenious"!

Jamie C 7:54 AM  

The race thing is tough. I have agreed with Rex on all of his observations regarding "homies," "hoods," "thugs," and, today, AFROs. Just awful stuff. So a question: Is there any way to use "culture," be it Latino, Jewish, Asian, Irish, or African American, etc., in crosswords without coming across as an ass? Easy enough to clue all of these answers in other ways. Or, because of America's disgraceful history, is African-American a separate category that is pretty much off limits? I mean, I could see an Irish person being offended by a clue like "someone who might say b'gosh and b'gora," but not to the degree that today's AFRO was offensive. Just meandering here...

Hartley70 7:57 AM  

Cute, if a bit on the easy side thematically, because of the shaded hint. I found LAMAR, ATCO and REO to be the most difficult. The rest of the puzzle wasn't too much of a challenge, but it held my attention. I have to admit I was back to hoping for a rebus.

jberg 8:01 AM  

I got the theme right off -- I had PLINTH, saw that 17A had to be ALL IN THE FAMILY, and there was no other way to get it in, so I was off. Pretty easy, except that I had no idea about the name of Travolta's character and for some reason thought of sTE for an address abbreviation before RTE. MANEsO seemed like an unlikely name, but what did I know? So I ended up with an error.

Wave if nostalgia with PDA and TSR.

I agree with what @Rex didn't say about the AFROS clue -- it's the 'the' that makes it stereotyping. No big deal, but why do it?

Carola 8:04 AM  

Nice reveal! I agree with @Rex on "easy," except for a little struggle with MANERO x MPAA and having to correct HOME movies (wrong device), and ArCO (confusion of gasoline with record industry). Oh, and having to run the alphabet for LI??O x LA?AR.

I caught on to the raised NTHs with ALL IN THE FAMILY, and having the NTH pattern down really helped with EVENT HORIZON, a term I wasn't familiar with. Cute that ELEVEN MONTHS is so close to AGE ONE.

@Lewis, did you maybe misread the clue for 56A? "Ingenuous," not "ingenious."

@Rex, super news about Evan.

Knitwit 8:05 AM  

This was just okay. AFRO made me cringe. Mostly wanted to say congratulations to Evan!!

Jim M 8:08 AM  

Saw the afro clue and thought now Will is just baiting Rex...

AliasZ 8:30 AM  

This one didn't exactly raise my solving enjoyment to the NTH power, maybe to the third. It would have been neater to literally raise the portion of the theme entries after the NTH, to the row above in a stair-step fashion. That would have been a more accurate graphic depiction of raising the phrases to the nth power. The way it was, it was more a letdown to descend from the nth above to finish the phrase in the row below.

Isn't it fun to sit back and act the Monday morning quarterback? I love it!

I liked the theme and its execution. It's Sam Donaldson's obvious JAPE at the expense of one of the most common and least liked junk fill, especially when pluralized. Today he gave us three NTHS.

@Leapy, the third paragraph of your late post last night was a tour-de-force on the games people play. Loved, LOVED it to the nth degree. Fave: "'Here's Johnny!' for those who found Paar cheesy." Pure genius!

@Beatrice, thank you for those lovely Paul Van Nevel links and especially "Fir minus Caron". The downside was that the next two+ hours I did nothing but listen to more. While Firminus may not displace Dufay, Ockeghem or Josquin, it was a revelation to dig into his Helas que pourra devenir, a multi-platinum mega-hit by 15th-century standards. One of the earliest masses based on the old tune L'homme armé is also by Caron.

As you were.

Jamie C 8:35 AM  

Given today's headlines about what Gearge HW Bush thinks of Cheney ETAL, I am really hoping we see IRONASS as a crossword answer very soon.

Tim Pierce 8:39 AM  

Fun and some really nice cluing. I especially liked 30D "It's found all around the world", 65D "Grp. concerned with class struggles?" and 57D "I'm right here, you know".

Cranky about AMOS/STOL, which I got wrong (I maintain the Bible really should have a book AMOR) and THEA/ATCO, but oh well. Very little to complain about.

Except 54D. As soon as I saw the clue I knew it was going to make me cringe. Seriously, what is going on over there?

Anonymous 9:02 AM  

Not terribly clever theme, but 14 instances of three-letter drek in one puzzle casts a pall over the solve.

Unknown 9:06 AM  

Definitely easy.

I thought AGEONE was clever, and it had me stumped for the longest time. I had ONE and kept wanting to make that an hour.

I also liked the balanced "us" and "them" clues.

But yeah, AFROS was terrible.

Mike D 9:07 AM  

BTW, today's buzzfeed xword is outstanding. I'd highly recommend it:

GILL I. 9:09 AM  

Golly...I thought AFROS was a hairstyle. Lots of people of lots of colors wore them. My cute first San Francisco Italian boyfriend proudly displayed his. The clue is just bad, that's all...
ALL IN THE FAMILY gave me the NTH's.(Short for Nice To Have) something funny to watch every Thursday. Did you know that the first toilet flush was actually heard on that sitcom? Something to deeply ponder, no?
I did find this a bit on the easy side but there were some answers I didn't know. Kept plugging away to get ZENGER and like @Rex, couldn't remember MANERO. I guess I should commit to memory the likes of MPAA PFFT and get my adzes and AWLS in order.
Not at all sure I understand how ELS is related to logical extremes. That's ok, I'll try to Google it -
@Tita from yesterday. I would have posted but I got tired of waiting late afternoon for something to show up on @Rex. So, I'm early today and just want to say "Your Mom Rocks" or YMR. ACORNS! and you also had a dog named Aga. Fun...
@Evan. Wow, just wow. Congratulations. Having a career in something you love is just wonderful.

Tita 9:36 AM  

Liked this a lot. Took me forever to suss the trick.. Got it after noticing two NTHs, then happy realizing that my first thoughts for all the themers were right, so was able to write them all in lickers-split..
However, I still couldn't get the revealer...needed 4 hours of sleep...when I looked at it in the morning, it came instantly. Didn't help that I had mikadO as the Willow song opera...didn't Mssrs. G & S have something about tit willow?

Even so, finished with 2 wrong squares...PFFf/tSR, and thought it was "vertical Take Off and Landing.

Congratulations, Evan!!! And to think, I knew ye when...

Thanks Mr. D. I thought this was a spot-on idea and revealer. Love the mathiness.

Jamie C 9:50 AM  

GILL: There are "L"'s on both ends of "logical," thus ELS are logical extremes. Google unlikely to be helpful
I suspect I will be the 30th to mention this by the time my comment gets approved and posted.

Da Bears 9:57 AM  

@Chaos, my long-time buddy since September 19, 2010, when Kevin Der’s Sunday puzzle contained JUKE as 1A, clued as: "Diner fixture, informally". I had just completed my treatment for PCa when we exchanged comments (something no longer possible here), so I’m quite sure your testosterone level was higher (testosterone is the mother’s milk for PCa and is squashed as part of the treatment).

Today’s word JAPE is meaningful because that is what I have been doing to you ever since. Originally you took it that way, so I’m not sure what’s changed. Just teasing in all good fun.

You can go here ( to see the comments by you, me and Rex or here ( to see the entire Blog and all the comments.


Katzzz 9:59 AM  

Undoubtedly, unfortunately,but understandably there is cultural bias in the New York Times xword puzzles (as there is in so many other places). The solution is greater participation by the black community, which perhaps would lead to some puzzles that recognize African American culture beyond the use of "afro," "homey" and "thug." How to achieve this is the problem. Not easily done, on the xword page and elsewhere. Maybe, for starters, the NYTimes should offer free puzzle subscriptions to school children (might be a good way to win future Times readers, too).

Anonymous 10:04 AM  

@GILL I --

The first and last letters (the extremes) of "logical" are Ls.

On another note, I personally do not believe that AFROS as "heads of the black community?" Is terribly off-base. It is stereotyping, but we've also seen stereotyping of Jews and Asians here -- ethnic groups who at times have also been ill-treated in this country. Someone above makes the valid point that there is a serious matter of degree here, OK, maybe so. Still, I think there may be a bit of over-reaction here by our PC Professor.

Speaking of Professors, our pal Barany's at it again, promoting his puzzles here. Get a life, Georgie!

Carola 10:09 AM  

@Gill I., I'm sure I'll be the NTH person to answer, but just in case, the letter EL is on each end of the word "logical."

AliasZ 10:13 AM  

Can someone explain ONE-L?

Malsdemare 10:24 AM  

Required puzzle comment: fun, fast -- really fast -- with a minor wince at AFROS. Seems to me that Art Garfuncle had an afro, as did Billy Crystal at one point. For that matter, so did I back in the day when perms were all the rage. At what point can it become a hairstyle unassociated with any particular group of people? Ever? Never?

@Tita. How do you manage to collect the acorns intact? I would have a squirrel insurrection if I tried to scoop up ours. Besides, my dog would be heartbroken if she couldn't engage in her winter sport of plotting which upsidedown squirrel was going to be dessert. Your Aga story reminds me of my late dachshund who also liked to steal clothes when we were gone, but limited himself to just one particular item of women's clothing. Yeah, that one. Yummy! My teenage daughters were embarrassed and appalled.

Btw, I agree that the bibke needs a book Amor. And also a Pace.

Nancy 10:28 AM  

Really enjoyed this puzzle, as, finally, there was a theme that was both needed in order to solve and was actually helpful in solving. I especially needed it for 48A, as I had no clue as to the black hole answer. I also didn't know MANERO.

Now let's get to AFROS, which, once again, predictably offended so many. Evidently, because not all blacks wear AFROS, this seemed racist to some people. Well, by that argument, HEF should be considered offensive too. It's sexism of the worst kind to assume that every young, nubile Playboy "bunny" would want this lecherous old goat -- old enough to be her grandfather, for heaven's sake! -- as her "beau". I'm offended. I am way beyond offended. Sam and Will should just hang their heads in shame for including such a sexist clue.

Have I made it clear just how ridiculous all this being offended -- more often than not on behalf of OTHER people -- is? It's become so tiresome and I think it's often patronizing as well.

Unknown 10:37 AM  

I'm with David Krost. But I have two bigger beefs, try Googling FEY. Effeminate never comes up. Instead you get:

• giving an impression of vague unworldliness. e.g. "his mother was a strange, fey woman"
• having supernatural powers of clairvoyance.

"his mother was a strange, EFFEMINATE woman" It's strange for a woman to be EFFEMINATE??? That's pretty much what I look for in a woman. At least partly.

And EPEE as "it may be waved at the Olympics". Try that waving an epee in fencing and count on by jabbed about a dozen times on you're way to an instant loss. Better clue "come on puzzlers, you know it, it's got 3 E's" vs. 2 (ERIE). If you really can't come up with a better clue for EPEE drop it from the puzzle. Same for ERIE, OBOE, AREA, ACRE.... and on and on.

gifcan 10:41 AM  

Nothing offensive about the word AFROS, it's a hairstyle.

Good puzzle. I print it off with grey squares (ink saver), the NTH squares were also grey. Took a while to see there was a difference.

Unknown 10:45 AM  

Three of a kind in Texas Holdem, if you're holding the pair. Otherwise, it's trips.

Masked and Anonymous 10:50 AM  

Pro-NTHs. fave: EVE**N + ORIZON.
Con-AFROS clue.
Pro-MANERO. Tony MANERO, right? Trouble maybe with this kinda answer is you don't see the name spelled out much, during the film. Otherwise, cool film and worth a shout out.
Pro-U's (to the 3 power)
Pro-ZENGER, in that all the crosses were pretty gettable. Sorta like CAMI.

Powerfully enjoyable solve. Has some STOL, THEA, ENISLE stuff. But, then again, one of those pups has Double Patrick Berry Immunity -- guess which one?*

Thanx, Sam. Barrel OHFUN. Congrats on yer 20th NYTPuz!



* THEA. PB1 clues: {"Take ___ Train"}, {Singer/songwriter Gilmore}.

Ludyjynn 11:09 AM  

If you got hot under the collar about AFROS, you should read the great cornrow debate highlighted in today's NYT Style section, page D4, entitled "Does Anyone Own the Cornrow?"

This puzzle was easy for Rex and some of you, but a big fat DNF for me at EVORIZON. What is a STOL, pray tell? Never heard of ZENGER. Sigh.

Speaking of "ALL IN THE FAMILY", Norman Lear, its iconic creator, is still as sharp as ever. PBS just aired a miniseries called "I'll Have What Phil's Having", in which the guy who created "Everybody Loves Raymond" samples foods in several cities around the world. In the final episode which was filmed in LA, Phil had a 'nosh' with Norman Lear and other celebs. Worth catching when they rerun it over and over...

I liked the theme and some clever clueing. A chewy medium Thursday, for me. Thanks, SAD and WS.

Greater Fall River Committee for Peace & Justice 11:11 AM  

First clue I got was for 'Otello' which jumped out at me. Which quickly led to 'Higher Power'. Then I got eleventh hour and supposedly had everything figured out. 70's TV show with a mathematical power in it? Was there some show called 'Seventh Heaven'? Didn't fit. Black Hole limit? Obviously called for some mathematical construct I hadn't thought of since my college cosmology course.... Took me quite a while.

NeilD 11:17 AM  

The 'raising to the NTH power' theme is crystal clear.

However, I agree on the clue for AFROS. It tries to be clever - and it kind of is - but it's pretty tone deaf on race.

Leapfinger 11:36 AM  

@GBarany, another BALL_FOUR Declaration?

@Alias, glad you weren't board by it; I had fun doing it also. Tried to save the best for the last. Fur geschmack, you know.

old timer 11:37 AM  

When I saw the AFROS clue, I winced. My immediate thought: the clue would have been fine, and totally inoffensive, with the addition of a single word, "some". That *some* heads in the black community have AFROS is simply a fact -- or was, back in the 1970s. And "some" means that the clue is not making a general statement about black people.

I simply could not find the word AGE before ONE. Kicked myself when I saw it on Rex's site, especially because the same clue appeared in a different puzzle a couple of weeks ago.

I thought it was a fine puzzle. Loved ZENGER because, well, I happened to know it. I wasn't thrown off by the NTH, because n can stand for any number. 2, for instance. 2 to the 2d is 4. Raise it to a higher power, you get a bigger number, maybe 8 or 16 or 64. Though that doesn't work at all with 1 -- 1 to the nth power is always still 1. Works backward with numbers less than 1, of course.

Favorite answer: OHFUN

Anoa Bob 11:38 AM  

Any puzz with "Point beyond which light cannot escape from a black hole" for 48A EVENTHORIZON is a winner for me. I wonder if Mr. Donaldson ever had thoughts of submitting this one to the CHE.

For those of you keeping score at home, and I know you are legion, today's grid has a Super POC par excellence SASSES (71A). Not only is it a plural of convenience itself, it potentially enables four other POCs! It also illustrates that being a POC doesn't depend on it being any particular part of speech. It just depends on getting a gratuitous boost in grid-filling power from an added S or ES. The supermostest POC that comes to mind would be ASSESSES. Constructioneers (har), nota bene.

Anonymous 11:39 AM  

I get real frustrated when the only blank in my grid is the top left square where I am confronting __ aneso from a movie I've never seen with ___mpaa, also having to do with movies, to which I'm clueless. and since the 1D is an abbreviation, and the first letter of _ aneso could be a first initial of a name, you can't even guess at what this might be. This should be absolutely barred from any crossword puzzle and leaves me so frustrated that I don't really notice anything else in the puzzle, and I used to live in Natick. John Peter Zenger was the first word I put in, and after that I put in amos for book after joel, and I would guess that some would be offended that you could, as I did, end up with Afro without even seeing the clue, since I do crosses first. So I didn't even have a chance to experience indignant wrath at the times!

Leapfinger 11:39 AM  

Infamous First Words: Gawd, I hope that isn't ENISLE!

But it was, and it all turned out to be perfectly acceptable, being as it was in service of a HIGHER Good. And let's face it, there's nothing better than the unfolding of serial Ahas. That's how this one flew: first the circling of the NTHs, then the relationship to the underlying entry, then the levity-ation effect of the HIGHER POWER. Taken together, the effect was truly exponential. DOZ that work for all y'all?

Thought 'Bar entertainment' and 'Beast of Borden' were DELIcious, and I'll be murmuring PLINTH for the rest of the day. If nothing elsie, those'll make up for the clump of tired entries in the SE. Had some resistance to the CAMI clue, but found one lone corroborating dictionary reference (#3), and suspect the same will hold true for PEASHOOTER = toy gun. HOWever, I have a friend who made the Olympic Fencing "B" team back in the '70s, and I bet she wouldn't like the EPEE clue: tight circling, parrying and lunging, Yes, but the waving around is all movie show. With TORN LIGAMENT up yesterday, I s'pose it would be too soon to go Orthopedic with a Total Shoulder Replacement, but I would've known that better than whatever D&D is...

Some clue A FRO,
And away we run.

I'm just enough of a NAIF to have called my do a Hebe-RO once upon a time, so I'm the last one to say whether that clue is PFFTing.

Absolutely enjoyed this solve: it made the Sam Donald Sun shine today. SD, you rose to the occasion.

thfenn 12:24 PM  

Puzzles like today's just establish I haven't moved from beginner to intermediate yet. I was very happy to catch on to the theme right off the bat, and via a much loved TV show during my formative years, but much of the fill was hard for me and this was basically a DNF (well, of course I finished it, but not without lots of cheating). Clearly have to stop starting late in the week puzzles with that 'oh I'm never going to get this' feeling, as that often just makes them harder than they are, but stuff like MANERO, PLINTH, UNIT, HOED, AGEONE, ATCO, NAIF, JAPE, EPEE, and then MPAA, THEA, REOS, ZENGER, etc is stuff that's just not at my fingertips yet. When ELS being the answer to 'Logical extremes?' is still a problem, I guess you still have a long way to go. JAPE is a practical joke? No idea. I still read 'it may be waved at the Olympics' and think FLAG, so, in the end, I'm just frustrated that I'm still so far from being able to say 'this was easy'.

Count me among those that think the clueing for AFROS was worse than unnecessary, and among those who don't think saying so is juvenile, exhausting, or time wasted trying to slay fake dragons.

Anonymous 12:25 PM  

I am sure there will be a dozen of these by the time it is published, but @Gill, there are L's at the extreme ends of the word LogicaL (insert head-slap now).

Hardest for me were the 2 lower NTH areas, because was not familiar with EVENTHORIZON as it related to black holes, and despite getting ELEVENTHHOUR, did not recall THEA, so that A was the last to go into the grid. One other troublesome spot was having wAIF for NAIF, which was not helpful in trying to get (WOE) ZENGER.

Enjoyable struggle, but certainly not easy here.


Seth 12:34 PM  

I fully agree with the first comment, @David Krost, about the AFROS clue. Who has afros overwhelmingly more than any other group of people? Black people. That's not racist, that's a fact. Like this: people from China have black hair. That's not racist. That's a fact.

I agree that some clues in the NYT can be insensitive at times, but that doesn't mean EVERY clue involving black people (or any other group of people) is insensitive. In my opinion, this clue was fine.

And I'll even go beyond that and say it was clever, and a nice, refreshing new clue for a word we see all the time.

Unknown 12:44 PM  

Good grief! The racial hypersensitivity here is getting ridiculous. What is insulting about "Black community" and "Afro"? The clue has a "?" So it is a play on words. What is so upsetting? Afro is a hairstyle that originated in the black community

Howard F 1:11 PM  

Really enjoyed the puzzle today, I just finished Sam Donaldson's LA Tournament Xword, and was really impressed.

I would love to see JEWFRO in a puzzle soon! I totally get how people would be rankled by the stereotyping we get in the puzzle today. AFROPUNK would be a cool word to see.

Teedmn 1:23 PM  

I found this more difficult than need be, judging from the amount of writeovers, even with getting the theme right at ALL I(NTH)E FAMILY. I got held up by AGE ONE, even though we had pretty much the same clue for that answer just last week and I got it that time. HOME VIDEOS became movieS for some reason before going back to VIDEOS. I cannot get TSR to stick in my head so I wasn't sure if PFFT was going to be right but FSR/PFFF didn't look right either, so I guessed correctly.

Walk before TAXI because of course runway was the fashion world's version in my mind. Am I so NAIF?

Today's CAMIs would not qualify as short negligees, in my opinion so I think the answer to that one is in LIMBO. I loved the Beast of Borden clue, and what being "anti-weed" entailed. I'm glad I didn't need to know STOL because that was a WOE.

An altogether Thursday-worthy effort, I think, Thanks, S.A.D.

Greg 1:25 PM  

I got the theme right off the bat, but the fill (for me), ugh. I'll just echo thfenn in saying that I'm haven't done enough of these yet to rip through these proper name crossings. THEA/ATCO? complete Natick. MANERO/ENISLE? Ok, I knew it had to be a vowel, but... Also, I have heard of VTOL (Vertical Take Off and Landing), but not STOL, which gave me AMOV. I figured that might be a book of the Torah I didn't know. I got it eventually, but for me it devolved into random vowel substitution.

Teedmn 1:26 PM  

I swear @Rex can tell when I am entering my comment. I even started the puzzle a half hour early today and still missed the cut off. Aaargh. See you all at 9 PM CST.

Random Black Guy 1:34 PM  

@Gill I "Logical" begins and ends with an "L"

Just out of curiosity, and for comparison's sake, what's the corresponding Head of "White people community" ? Because white people are exactly as monolithic as black people.

Johnny Vagabond 1:46 PM  

Rex. Stop trying to complicate the themes. You over think things. But then, maybe that's what makes you a great solver.

thfenn 1:55 PM  

You know, I don't think people who suggest AFROS could've been clued differently have to be reprimanded for being tiresome, juvenile, hypersensitive, upset, insulted, ignorant of facts, being too PC, slaying false dragons, or consumed with guilt.

AFROS could've been clued differently. That, too, is a fact, and saying so didn't need a smackdown. 'Course all this is why this section is a moderated list of comments rather than a conversation, I imagine. Too bad.

Mohair Sam 2:08 PM  

Very slow start because the gimme EVENTHORIZON didn't fit. ALLINTHEFAMILY eventually made sense and we were saved, and the puzzle became a medium and fun Thursday.

Mrs. Mohair actually remembered MANERO from "Saturday Night Fever", I'm more than a little annoyed. Thought the revealer was clever, nifty clue for LIMBO, and loved PEASHOOTER.

For about the fourth time in 2 weeks: I hate the PC police but . . . . . . . .

Chim cham 2:16 PM  

Here here.

Anonymous 2:48 PM  

Brand-new to the blog, came across it googling to find out if anyone else thought the AFROS clue was sort of cheap/offensive. Will definitely be coming back on a daily basis.

Quick question: what does "fill" mean in the context of describing a puzzle? Thanks.

Anonymous 3:56 PM  


STOL is Short Takeoff or Landing, used to define and aircraft or landing field category. (VTOL is Vertical Takeoff or Landing, e.g., a helicopter or Harrier jump-jet.)


Fun puzzle. I'm with what @Rex didn't say about "afros."

Jackie 4:58 PM  

Ha -- totally agree that JEWFRO and AFROPUNK would be great to see. Also, TUCHUS. But today's clue for the ubiquitous AFROS was really offensive. It's not just a matter of cultural stereotyping. Just a couple weeks ago, in the predominantly black, working-class grocery store where I usually shop, I witnessed a young man get totally scoffed at and mocked to his face by middle-aged women who thought his longish, natural hair looked sloppy and "street." They told him he should have some pride in himself and get a haircut. The Afro may be a kind of hairstyle that only people of African descent can have naturally, but it is NOT some kind of defining style of "the black community."

Mscharlie 5:00 PM  


RooMonster 5:07 PM  

Hey All !
Cool having HIGHER POWER NTHs above the answers. Kinda odd how it broke up the themers, but at least they all follow the same pattern. Funky looking block pattern, gets ya two stacks of 10 letter Downs. I personally don't think the dreck is much, as this seemed hard to construct with the restraints. Just sayin.

CRIES UNCLE was funny! GI JOES cool, too. Loved Anoa Bob's Super POC SASSES. Have seen SSS as an answer in puzs clued various ways. Would that be a Super Concentrated POC?

No PFFT over AFROS clue. Too many people reading too much into that. Or IS IT ME?


Anonymous 5:13 PM  

@Howard Flax - You missed the JEWFRO controversy of 2010

Zed 5:21 PM  

@Anon2:48 - The "good stuff" in a xword are the themes and long answers. The rest is called "fill."

Charles Flaster 5:58 PM  

Loved it. Medium.
Great misdirect cluing!
Thanks SAD

Anonymous 6:00 PM  

Actually my favorite POC
S Sasse aka sasses

Ludyjynn 6:13 PM  

Thanks, @anonymous, for the STOL info.

Just read the JEWFRO link, above; very entertaining. Recognized some long-time posters' handles. I'm looking at you, @Chefwen and ChefBea and @M&A. You guys have staying power!

GILL I. 9:00 PM  

I hope someone reads this...! Thanks for the ELS splaining. Yes, major head slap.
Comments were fun today. @Rex...GOYFRO was priceless - so were the comments that day. I miss @Foodie and @Andrea....well, I miss lots of the exes.

Anonymous 8:10 AM  

Agree with the rating of "Easy", but really didn't really enjoy this one. Pretty inane!

Abu Owlfish 3:57 PM  

Random Black Guy makes a fair point. Would anyone be offended if the word "blondes" were clued "Some heads of the white community?" and in that case would the race of the constructor matter? There may be a shade of racism in the "afros" clue, but it was more than off-set by its original definition of generic fill.

+wordphan 2:46 AM  

"This should be fun"
Rex Parker

Unknown 7:19 AM  

I have been doing the NYT crossword for many, many years and recently begun to read your blog. At first, I truly appreciated having runnng commentary that was knowledgeable, experienced, and snarky at the same time. I would finish the puzzle with my own take and then switch to you to see if we were in synch. Of late, however, I am finding your reviews repetitive/redundant on the negative side and have begun to wonder why you continue to slog along. Surely there must be more enjoyable things to do with your time.

Zed 8:47 PM  

@rain forest (in case you didn't see my late post last night)- It's bad but not as bad as you stated. It's actually closer to 6-8% of Americans, roughly equal to the number who believe the moon landing was faked.

rondo 10:26 AM  

Don't usually like rebus puzzles, but this one's kinda tolerable, less the plethora of 3 letter and abbr. answers.

Far too much wincing and cringing and hand-wringing going on. I will again mention the comic strip "Candorville" by Darrin Bell, right next to the puz in my paper. If it ran in all your newspapers there would be so much cringing and wincing that you folks would double over and never recover.

Just clue FEY as yeah baby Tina and that discussion is solved.

I will again appeal to a HIGHERPOWER for good puzzles.

Burma Shave 11:38 AM  


When AUNTIE CRIESUNCLE and to her HIGHERPOWER. (oh, god!)


spacecraft 11:50 AM  

Started out rough; I knew it had to be ALL IN THE FAMILY but it was too LONG. Then the rebus: THEALLFAMILY; get it? But no, still one too many. Eventually I got it, but I wouldn't call this easy. Mr. D must be one of OFL's buddies, because he never mentions the fact that in ELEVENTHHOUR the NTH fails to span two words--a fact that he harps on with other constructors.

As to the fill, he was kind to a fault. Lots of problems here, starting with ENISLE, one of those never-used actual words that really shouldn't be. Somebody should "edit" the English language and get rid of all the crap like ENISLE. Its ONLY purpose is for crosswords. On we go to a natick at THE_/_TCO. "A" seemed reasonable to me, so I guessed that one right.

ISITME, or does the whole thing seem too clunky? It's amusing that everybody fusses about AFROS and nobody mentions FEY. Selective offense-taking? ILLSEE. Sorry; maybe if I knew Samuel we'd be friends too, but as it is, I have to say that overall, this just went PFFT for me. C-.

P.S. I do admit seeing one of my all-time favorite clues: "Beast of Borden." Okay, take the minus off. C.

BS2 12:03 PM  




Longbeachlee 12:44 PM  

@random black guy; Can't answer that, but how about, neck of white community? Red

rain forest 2:24 PM  

@Z - Are you saying the moon landing wasn't faked?! ha ha
Regarding the leading Republican candidate, this would be a racist to the NTH power, beside which the clue for AFROS, and the somewhat knee-jerk recoiling, seems trivial. But I don't want to really enter that debate.

I thought the puzzle was entertaining, with a coherent theme complete with an excellent revealer. I guess I found it easy-medium, except for the answer HRS for "big hits". Anyone?

Also, the fill was just fine with me. I prefer this bit of cleverness to "let's cram a bunch of letters into one square" rebus.

rondo 3:03 PM  

@rain forest - HR is baseball notation for home run (or home runs), HRS is a rather bad plural FORM.

leftcoastTAM 6:32 PM  

@rain forest: Again I'm probably repeating what you've heard too much about by now, but HRS=home runs.

I liked the puzzle. Good idea, nicely executed in another semi-rebus Thursday.

I'm late but like to go on record anyway.

spacecraft 6:40 PM  

Home Runs. I know, I know. See what I mean?

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