Grammy-nominated rapper with 2002 hit Oh Boy / TUE 12-29-15 / Stradivari's teacher / Brazilian dance popular in 1980s / Less than 300 dots per inch commonly / Gettysburg opponent of Lee / Big bang maker informally /

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Constructor: Jeff Stillman

Relative difficulty: Harder than usual Tuesday by a little

THEME: Compliment for a ...? — theme answers are common complimentary phrases, clued as if they had some literal aptness for their recipients. Thus:

Theme answers:
  • NOT BAD AT ALL (18A: Compliment for a fruit-of-the-month club?) [because fruit sometimes goes "bad"...] [etc.]
  • STELLAR (24A: Compliment for a planetarium?) 
  • KEEP IT UP! (29A: Compliment for an airline?)
  • WELL DONE (46A: Compliment for a steakhouse?)
  • WAY TO GO (50A: Compliment for a GPS manufacturer?)
  • YOU'RE ON FIRE (60A: Compliment for a charcoal seller?)
Word of the Day: CAM'RON (48D: Grammy-nominated rapper with the 2002 hit "Oh Boy") —
Cameron Ezike Giles (born February 4, 1976), better known by his stage name Cam'ron (formerly Killa Cam), is an American rapper, actor and entrepreneur from Harlem, New York. He is the de facto leader of East Coast hip hop groups The Diplomats (also known as Dipset), and U.N. (Us Now). Cam'ron was also a part of the group Children of the Corn before they disbanded in 1997. // In 1998 Cam'ron released his debut album Confessions of Fire on Epic, the album would achieve gold status by the RIAA. In 2000 Cam'ron released his second album S.D.E. (Sports Drugs & Entertainment). In 2001 Cam'ron signed a new label deal with Roc-A-Fella Records and released his critically acclaimed, third studio album Come Home with Me. it achieved platinum status by the RIAA, and also contained Cam'ron's highest charting Billboard single to date, "Oh Boy," featuring his artist at the time Juelz Santana. In 2002 Cam'ron starred in the Roc-A-Fella films Paper Soldiers and Paid in Full. In 2004 Cam'ron released his fourth studio album Purple Haze to critical acclaim reaching gold status by the RIAA. // In 2005 after disbanding his record label, Diplomat Records, from Roc-A-Fella Records due to business disagreements, Cam'ron signed the label to a distribution deal with Asylum Records. In 2006 Cam'ron released his fifth studio album, Killa Season. Though it did not chart higher than his previous albums, it still managed to go gold status by the RIAA. The album also contained a movie of the same name, in which Cam'ron made his director/screenwriter debut and starred as the main character. In 2009, after taking a hiatus due to his mother's health, Cam'ron returned to music and released his sixth studio album Crime Pays. It reached #3 on the Billboard 200. (wikipedia)
• • •

The humor here is corny, but maybe you're into that. What I hope you're not into, however, is the strange and often inapt cluing on these themers. Too often, the "pun" involved was not clearly related to the entity being complimented at all. Fruit-of-the-month club? For "bad"? First, why not just a fruit stand? You know, a thing that normal people experience on a regular basis? Second, "bad" just doesn't say "fruit." Part of the reason this puzzle played harder than normal was that the clue / answer connections seemed so weak or odd. I had NOT BAD and then needed every cross to get AT ALL and then had no idea what was going on. How is that appropriate for a ... fruit-of-the-month club? Later, I "got" it, but the connection is still weak. WELL DONE, by contrast, is spot-on as a compliment for a steakhouse. You see that, right? How the play on words with the steakhouse is Perfect, whereas with the fruit ... not so much. Anything can be "bad." Most things, in fact. And why would the charcoal *seller* be on fire? A "charcoal seller" doesn't feel like a thing, actually. The  "YOU'RE" part of "YOU'RE ON FIRE" weirdly personalizes it—makes it sound like some poor guy has been accidentally set aflame. These theme answers stuck the landing only about half the time, and none of them are actually funny.

The grid, on the other hand, is a cut above most Tuesdays. Very kinetic, what with the BARREL ROLL and the TRAMPOLINE. CAM'RON seems pretty obscure for a Tuesday, but I'm not too mad about that. I also liked seeing KWAME Kilpatrick, even though he's in jail now. I can't ever remember seeing any KWAME in the grid before—oh, wait, I think I probably have, in the form of KWAME Nkrumah, the first president of Ghana. The only other KWAME I can think of is Brown—the first number one NBA draft pick to be selected straight out of high school. He had a long if not terribly noteworthy career.  I also liked the SPLASHY / LAMBADA pairing. LOW RES gave me fits. Needed every cross. It was a weird, slightly toughish, occasionally enjoyable Tuesday (which, honestly, makes it better than most Tuesdays).

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


jae 12:06 AM  

Easy Tues. for me. This was delightful. Low on dreck, cute/zippy theme, some nice long downs, definitely a cut above the average Tues. Liked it a lot.

Just checked and Jeff Chen gave it POW, plus Jeff Stillman was also not happy with the fruit clue.

kozmikvoid 12:12 AM  

I didn't have a problem with the theme. I think the logic that Rex is missing is that you wouldn't compliment a fruit, you would compliment a person or business providing the object associated with the pun. I'll grant that fruit-of-the-month club is not a thing, but I'm still OK with it. What I am absolutely not OK with is LOWRES. This simply does not exist, formally or informally. There is low-resolution and high-resolution, and then there is lo-res and hi-res. But not LOWRES. Never, anywhere does that 'W' belong. The crosses made it fairly apparent to see, but still, no. Other than that, it was enjoyable. I'm not generally much of a punster, but I actually liked these.

Anonymous 12:14 AM  

Fruit of the month answer should have been JUST PEACHY

David Krost 12:35 AM  

Interestingly, "That's peachy" fits perfectly for the fruit stand clue and would have been dead on as a fit. That was what I immediately went with but of course ended up erasing it within seconds of doing the crosses.

Z 12:48 AM  

Nail the beginning and the end and your writing will be memorable. Unfortunately, those are the two weakest themers here. I really like the other four, so this is two thirds great and one third "huh?" I needed all the crosses to finish the NE because I had no idea how the eventual answer fit the clue. I reached the same conclusion as OFL after a little post solve musing.

Still, a real theme with some playfulness. WELL DONE and better than many Tuesdays.

John Hoffman 1:49 AM  

I didn't know that word Carom.

Anonymous 2:21 AM  

I Did Not Like 2D. A UBOAT is not a "Destroyer destroyer." Any U-boat commander willfully engaging a destroyer was more likely to be destroyed himself. Most solvers probably jotted in UBOAT and confidently moved on, but from an historic and realistic perspective, the cluing simply Does Not Work.

- Brennan

chefwen 2:28 AM  

I could not figure out how NOT BAD AT ALL fit into the scheme of things until Rex 'splained it to me. After he did I still didn't find it funny or clever. KEEP IT UP, now that's clever. WELL DONE and YOU'RE ON FIRE didn't really blow my skirt up either.

OK, let's skip to KWAME. Never in a hundred years would I have gotten that had it not been for the crosses. How do you even pronounce it?

WhIrl at 36A first, Erin at 30D, SPAN ???, and KWAME all added to my confusion in that middle area. Quite happy when I got it all sorted out. I was still I sure I had something wrong thanks to KWAME, but Google said Yes, it's true, that is actually a name.

Onward to Wednesday!

Charles Flaster 5:20 AM  

Agree with Rex. Themers were very general.
Liked TRAMPOLINE and OWLET cluing.
Over- SWIRL for tWIRL and STELLAR for STarLit.
ANIME=? pour moi.
Thanks JS

Aketi 6:38 AM  

I would have had a decent solve time if I hadn't fallen asleep on the iPad thinking I had finished, Had to look for the empty square in OWLE_ to make the clock stop running,

Loved HANG, hanging from the top of the puzzle next to BARREL ROLL along with a TRAMPOLINE dropping out of KEEP IT UP, Then there is a SPIN and a SWIRL and CAROM. Adding a BATON to the performance made it even more SPlASHY.

My mother always told me to CHEW your MEAT well so it doesn't get stuck in your CRAW,

I thought this puzzle was NOT BAD AT ALL (sorry Rex that was an instafill for me).

Lewis 7:20 AM  

Right at the upper end of Tuesday difficulty, yet not a Wednesday; very nice to have this level occasionally. It's a cute and original theme idea, which is a joy to see. I like the SPIN/SWIRL cross and the STARS on high, and Mazda will be happy to see MIYATA crossing WAYTOGO. Very good clues for OWLET and TRAMPOLINE, and I liked the answers CRAW and SPLASHY. The clue for NOT BAD AT ALL (which could have simply been NOT BAD) fell flat to me, but I can't think of anything better -- but I bet someone here can.

The puzzle was closer to YOU'RE ON FIRE than NOT BAD AT ALL and got my mind rolling nicely -- thank you Jeff!

The Rhino 7:20 AM  

Completely agreed about the first themer. I also needed every cross because the clue made no sense to me. Found myself wondering if a 'nut-bag' was a thing, as if that would help it make more sense. (Would 'Nut bag at all' be better than NOT BAD AT ALL? Probably not. But it wouldn't be worse either.)

But all was forgiven at LAMBADA - the forbidden dance! I didn't know it was ever a thing in Brazil. I just remember the two crappy (I assume, never saw them) movies that came out within months of each other in.... 1992. Or 93?

Anonymous 7:35 AM  

For me, the MEADE/STAD crossing was a Natick. And now that I know the answers, they still don't resonate.


blinker474 7:37 AM  

Really enjoyed this puzzle. But I don't like the 'well done' answer for a compliment to a steak house. Rare, medium rare, medium are the usual conditions of steaks. Well done exists, but is usually returned to the kitchen.

smalltowndoc 7:39 AM  

LOW RES? Yuck!

Also, apparently, OCTOPI is not the plural of octopus. This is the subject of much discussion among grammarians on the InterWeb.

Hungry Mother 7:42 AM  

Crunchy, but got it after a slog.

Roo Monster 8:00 AM  

Hey All !
Catchy theme, each time I got one, felt the sides of my mouth curl into a wry smile. I do agree with the NOT BAD one as an outlier. Had BEaT for BELT giving me an AA there, knowing something was amiss.

Wanted _BOmb at 2D, but crosses didn't work, then found the BOMB further down! Funny how that happens sometime. Lots of W's in here, 7. Got held up in N center, having TWOtAN, thinking it was punny. Held up MEADE/STAD. Not being able to find that mistake, led me to a TuesPuz DNF. Ugh.

Liked it overall, six themers, light dreck, some fun clues and answers. Only three POCs for our resident hunter. Only three U's for our resident lover-of-all-things-U.

Was thinking about doing the obvious complimentary statement of praise with the themers, but that's too cliche!


Anonymous 8:18 AM  

Maybe the AT ALL refers obliquely to the periodic nature of Fruit-of-the-Month shipments. I got nothing for YOU'RE ON FIRE. Compliment for a human torch?

@Rhino- I can attest to the not surprising crappiness of at least one of the LAMBADA movies.

Anonymous 8:35 AM  

@Anon 2:21 / Brennan - Tell that to those lost on those destroyer crews who died when their ships were sunk by UBoats in WWII. About 20 destroyers.

RAD2626 8:43 AM  

I think people are being too harsh on the theme answers. NOT BAD AT ALL was really not bad at all. Puzzle terrific for a Tuesday theme: BARREL ROLL, LAMBADA, KWAME. Great stuff. My only nit is really small: why does Screeching baby warrant a ? I expected something weirder than OWLET. What would Rex want for YOU'RE ON FIRE? "Compliment for Satan?", or "Compliment for self-immolator?" Though the clue worked fine.

Nancy 8:47 AM  

The theme answers were delightful. As opposed to yesterday's "theme" -- the responses to which ranged from Who cares? to Who noticed? -- this zippy, playful theme elevates the puzzle well above the usual Tuesday. And the rest of the grid was almost completely free of junk. WELL DONE, Jeff Stillman, even if you're not a steakhouse. Or a steak.

Dr. Haber 8:49 AM  

I'm surprised no one pointed out that the clue "Not bad at all" is a reference to the phrase, "One bad apple spoils the barrel," which is why I mistakenly started with "Not bad apple." Still I agree with Rex that this clue was dumb. Maybe the clue should have read, "Compliment for apple-of-the-month."

Loren Muse Smith 8:56 AM  

I just bought two huge boxes of grapefruit from the Future Farmers of America and was really please that not a one was getting dark and squishy. So NOT BAD AT ALL didn’t make me pause. For me, it's the outlier in its litotes-ness.

I almost put in "hoard" for SWARM until I remembered it was "horde."

@Gil – I was going "Macarena," too, and then "La Bamba."

With _ _LINE in place, I was thinking the big scary bouncer dude who won't let non A-listers in the club.

Also – I was thinking cards, so I had "on top" as ready to be drawn.
CHEW crosses WELL DONE. Well, uh, yeah. CHEW and CHEW and CHEW. And like @Lewis says, then it gets stuck in your CRAW. I'll go ahead and put myself out there as a meat temperature snob. And while I'm at it… (in for a penny, in for a pound) – here is the stereotype the waiters had at Quinn's Mill in Atlanta where I had my first job as a cocktail waitress:

Pina Colada, Thousand Island dressing, WELL DONE prime rib with Heinz 57 = bad tip
Scotch neat, oil and vinegar dressing, rare prime rib with horseradish = good tip

Now that I've insulted a swarm of posters, I will weenie out of this and assert that this was not my observation – just one shared by all the food servers there.

How cool is it that no matter how you read the clue "slug" (hit or swallow), its synonym is BELT? I've never met a White Russian I didn't want to slug.

I liked this theme and all the puns. I would argue, though, that KEEP IT UP would be more of a silent prayer an airline pilot.

Anonymous 8:56 AM  

This was definitely more difficult than a typical Tuesday. After much huffing and puffing there were still patches of blank spaces across the grid. Got the cute WELL DONE and STELLAR. Also got NOT BAD AT ALL but could not understand the connection with the clue. The obscure names did not help either.

Jim 9:00 AM  

How is something being "Not Bad" a compliment? I am guessing describing the puzzle as Not Bad would not be warmly received. Terrible clue really dampened a good puzzle overall.

Tralen Cooper 9:01 AM  

Compliment to Mick Jones on his new groundbreaking music group: "Not B.A.D. At all!"

Mohair Sam 9:03 AM  

For reasons unknown we never really got into the rhythm of this one and each theme answer came tough. Quite sure it was the fault was in our brains, not the construction - but it made the puzzle a difficult one for us on a Tuesday. Had enough gimme nouns (i.e. BLOOM, MEADE, KWAME) that we were able to work through our thematic troubles.

@Z - Perfectly put. Four wonderful themers framed by two that just don't seem to belong.

@Anon 2:21 - Same feeling here on 2d (Destroyer destroyer), clue just wrong. Think I'll send Will Shortz a copy of "Das Boot".

@Chefwen - Lots of KWAME's out there. My first KWAME was the NBA's Brown, just like @Rex. (Hey, my Sixers won a game Saturday - two down!)

Ludyjynn 9:16 AM  

All of the themers aptly describe my positive response to this chewy Tuesday, esp. STELLAR.

Too many nice words to list. Nothing stuck in my CRAW. But I don't pick as many nits as OFL.

My favorite aunt would proudly prepare the family steak dinners, WELL DONE, for holiday meals. She was married to a butcher, Uncle Ben. Behind her back, we would all refer to having to smile sweetly as we forced down Aunt Hannah's shoe leather offerings.

Personally, I detest GPS, which misguides the user more often than not.

Never had a MIATA, but loved my '86 Mazda RX-7, 5 speed manual trans., which I drove and drove and drove for 10 years. Never felt more connected to the road than in that wonderful vehicle. Nobody needed GPS to get from Point A to Point B. Everyone could read a map and a road sign. Few had a 'dumbphone' to distract them from the joy of driving. 'Progress' is not all it is cracked up to be.

WAY TO GO, JS and WS. Me likey.

Z 9:30 AM  

@chefwen - KWA ME. Pretty infamous. Influence peddling. An affair. Long running rumor of a stripper being killed at a party at the mayor's mansion (the state AG even investigated - rumors continued). Local political heavyweight family brought down by text messages. You can probably still find The KWAME Sutra on Amazon. Yep.

Anonymous 9:33 AM  

The fruit of the month should have been something about apples since the phrase is one bad apple does not spoil the whole bunch. I, like Rex, took a while to get the theme which I also agree was weak.

GILL I. 9:35 AM  

I hadn't even taken a sip of coffee yet and here I was confident as a LAMBADA dancer and penning in CHI/CALMS as my first entry. Then I moved over and thought my volley ball teams are all TANNED because I think of a luge or an army when I see TWO MAN....
I really enjoyed this puzzle - especially after I cleaned up my mess upstairs. Contemplated NOT BAD AppLe because AT ALL wasn't making much sense but then my answer doesn't either.
I like having to scratch my head on a Tuesday and this one fit the bill.
@chefwen...depending on which side of the pond you're on, I think his name is pronounced either KWAHMAY or KWAHME. Neat name that means "born on Saturday." He's still sitting in the pokey but I read somewhere that he might be released early because his crime was non-violent !
Why do I always confuse DNA with RNA?

jberg 9:37 AM  

I was in college when Ghana became independent, so KWAME Nkrumah is still famous in my mind, which makes me remember other KWAMEs in politics (probbly mostly named in honor of Nkrumah). I agree about the U-BOAT, better clued as 'what destroyers destroy.'

As for Fruit-of-the-Month-Club, I used to belong, but it's really not worth it if you live in a city. I guess NOT BAD AT ALL means none of the fruit have gone bad? Lame, I agree.

Other than that, my only problem was thinking maybe some beach volleyball teams were SamoAN. Hey, why not?

NCA President 9:37 AM  

Tougher than usual Tuesday for me. I got hung up smack dab in the middle with the KWAME/ANIME crossing. I didn't really know "SPIN Room" and so that made SWIRL anything from whIRL to tWIRL to some manifestation of aWIRL etc. Along with the completely unknown KWAME (which I only know that name from basketball and my randomly hearing it mentioned on Sports Center), I came to a halt that sounded like an OWLET.

HBOMB was, for a while, NTEST.

I didn't care for the NOTBADATALL themer. Completely agree with Rex that it could refer to lots of other things than fruit and so didn't have the punch that the others had. YOUREONFIRE is kind of a thing, but "Charcoal seller?" Is that the person who works as a marketing/adperson for Kingsford? Seems like a very narrow group of people and I doubt any of them would call themselves "charcoal sellers."

So, yeah...weak sauce.

I'm going to go now and try to find a "fruit of the month" club.

chefbea 9:42 AM  

Tough Tuesday. Never heard of lambada and I like to dance. Two more meats today...but I'll reiterate from yesterday...turkey is not meat!!!

Fan of WKCR 9:53 AM  

The theme clue/answers evoked a positive response from me. Perfect for a Tuesday. Unfortunately, some of the proper names in the fill did not resonate with me, making the puzzle much harder. In fact, because I'm pressed for time right now, I stopped solving after getting the theme answers. A schizophrenic response from me.

By the way, an aside about one of the constructors. Jacob Stulberg has had 9 puzzles published to date. Columbia University's radio station WKRC (which streams over the Internet) has program hosts most of whom are undergraduate students. During the winter break, many go home for the holidays, leaving the station's understaffed. Years ago the station began the tradition of programming a J. S. Bach marathon during this time and allowing graduates to return as temporary hosts. Yesterday the host's name between 6 and 9 PM EST was Jacob Stulberg. I had to satisfy my curiosity so I called the station (the telephone number is on the web site) are verified he indeed is the constructor of the puzzles. So if any of you loved his puzzles (three of which earned a POW from Jeff Chen), tune in (perhaps on the Internet). You can listen to great music and, should he host another time slot, you can call him and personally encourage him to keep up the good work.

gharris 9:53 AM  

At first I wrote "not bad apple" which would seem to make more sense. Generally enjoyed it.

gharris 9:55 AM  

At first I wrote "not bad apple" which would seem to make more sense. Generally enjoyed it.

Chuck McGregor 10:20 AM  

A nicely challenging puzzle (Tuesday or otherwise), even if the theme answers might be corny (@Rex).

An observation: The theme answers could all be encouragements to someone trying to learn most anything.

@Anonymous 2:21 AM & @Anonymous 8:35 AM – Being an ex-destroyerman and looking at the historical record I agree: a poor clue. Destroyers were specifically tasked with anti-submarine warfare, i.e. to destroy submarines. We had (c. 1970) ASROCs (Anti-Submarine ROCkets), torpedoes, DASH (Drone Anti-Submarine Helicopter), passive / active sonar, and two, twin, 5-inch gun turrets. Originally it had three turrets, but one was removed to install DASH, and depth charges, also removed at one point. All this armament was figuratively and literally aimed primarily at submarines. Once the tactics were sorted out in WWII, particularly in the North Atlantic, enemy submarines tended to give them a wide berth.

Only a handful of destroyers were sunk by U-boats. According to Wiki, only 6 (@Anonymous 8:35 AM where did 20 come from?) out of 77 destroyers lost in WWII were sunk by U-boats. One was the result of a destroyer/U-boat collision (both sunk), the others by torpedoes. The same Wiki record, states only 3 were sunk by Japanese submarines, one of those being in question.

On the other hand, U-boats, were not tasked to destroy destroyers, but primarily merchant/naval supply ships, their nemeses being the destroyers that were tasked with protecting those ships.

As opposed to a “small jazz band,” a large jazz band would be called what? …..A big band? Who knew?

For what it’s worth (I think I said this re another puzzle) -- over the last 60 years I’ve played in many, many small musical groups, jazz and otherwise, befitting of the word COMBO. However, I do not think I ever said I played In a COMBO.

In regards making LOAN payments, a wise OWLET would say KEEP IT UP.

Wrote in TWOsom recalling the USA’s decidedly un-man-like, gold medal twosomE of Kerri Walsh Jennings and Misty May-Treanor. For some reason, two-MAN team just did not come to mind.


Lobster11 10:26 AM  

I'm not usually as picky about these sorts of things as OFL, but I have to agree about the cluing for NOTBADATALL. That's not what bugged me the most, though: My solve crashed and burned because of the cluing on CHAP. A British "buddy" is a MATE, which I wrote in with complete confidence and was unwilling to reconsider. A CHAP is a British "fellow" or "man or boy," not necessarily a "buddy." I cry foul.

Anonymous 10:28 AM  

Found this difficult for tues. Even wed. Had to Google dragon Ball genre and the rapper. Agreed 2 of the theme clues were slightly off the mark.

Joseph Michael 10:34 AM  

Great theme concept but unevenly executed. Thought WAY TO GO, WELL DONE, and STELLAR were BLOOMing good.

NOT BAD AT ALL is too general, YOU'RE ON FIRE is weakly clued, and KEEP IT UP seems more like an encouragement than a compliment.

However, the pluses outweigh the minuses so I enjoyed it overall.

Otto Kretschmer 10:38 AM  

@Anon8:35, re: "Destroyer destroyer" => "Uboat:"

I'm of several minds on this, now that you bring up the point ... beyond the fact that the fill was obvious.

First, you're right that about 20 destroyers being sunk in WWII, about 10% of the ~200 vessels sunk in your list, is not a trivial amount.

However, there were several other causes in this list: foundering in bad weather (particularly small craft) being foremost, but also aircraft bombing and (for large vessels like cruisers and battle wagons), surface fire from large enemy vessels.

Nonetheless, I have to agree with Brennan that Uboats would rarely attack Destroyers. Destroyers are small vessels and are tactically and strategically insignificant compared to the merchant vessels carrying much-needed war supplies across the Atlantic first to besieged England and then to American forces in England later in the war. Destroyers are also the most dangerous to Uboats, fast and maneuverable, and loaded with depth charges specifically to kill the Uboats preying on the convoys that destroyers were invented to defend.

Uboats would attack strategically important surface combatants like Battleships or Cruisers. But they would attack Destroyers only as a defensive necessity, or as a target of opportunity when strategically important vessels were not at hand.

Bob Kerfuffle 10:44 AM  

Does nobody love Raymond?

Mohair Sam 10:46 AM  

@Anon 8:35 - Eating crow here (although cooked, not raw) - I see that 20 destroyers were sunk by UBOATS, certainly validating the destroyer destroyer clue. It is also true that destroyers sank 24 UBOATs during the war (Googled), giving them a slight edge.

My late Uncle Carl served on a destroyer in WW II and I think I let his sub chasing stories influence my post (I would have thought they won 50 - 2) - should always Google before typing!

Nancy 10:47 AM  

@blinker 474 and @lms -- I also fall into the camp of those who consider serving meat WELL DONE to be an abomination. I like my steak and prime rib rare and I like my hamburger "VERY rare". "That means red, not pink, on the inside," I tell the waitress. "If it's not red on the inside, it's going back." This warning comes up front because I hate waste and I have had too many instances of being served overdone hamburgers and sending them back. My absolute favorite thing is steak tartare, but I had to give it up in the wake of mad cow disease (making me worry about the meat) and salmonella (making me worry about the raw egg that simply MUST be served on steak tartare.) I consider giving it up to be a HUGE loss.

But I must beg to differ with you on one thing, Loren. I would definitely have been your Scotch; oil and vinegar dressing; and rare prime rib with horseradish customer. But, sadly, I might not have fallen into your "good tip" category. I like to think I would have left a fair tip, but a "good tip" (which I assume means more than 20%) -- not so likely. Liking Scotch and rare meat does not necessarily make someone the last of the bigtime spenders -- something of which I've never been accused. Still, I find your behind-the-scenes glimpses of the life of a waitress to be extremely colorful, informative and funny.

Tita 10:53 AM  

@kozmikvoid is 100% right re LOWRES. Well done.

Plenty of great fill, as everyone's already said.

I'll jump on the NOTBADATALL bandwagon - I can not stretch that phrase to compliment a box of fruit - NOTBAD, sure, but the ATALL makes no sense.

Having just gotten a crate of Florida oranges sent here last week, I would definitely go with NOTALLBAD, which most decidedly NOT the case with this case - a full 40% were BAD.
They replaced those with more that were BAD. Just what is their business model...?

I liked the puzzle, even if not every themer was great.

I loved the misdirect at OWLET.
FOr the past 2 years, we have had a family of barred OWLs move in.
How do I know this? Early one evening, I heard a terrifying screech just off our back deck. It just kept on and on. With great trepidation, I slid open the back door. It sounded like a baby, or a baby hyena, was being tortured mabout 10 feet away.
When what to my wondering eyes did appear? Two sets of glimmering eyes, and two puffy gray/beige bodies on a low hemlocj branch...2 barred owl siblings, recently fledged.

Seems they fly about, never too far from the nest, begging their parents for food. They fly absolutely silently - startling for a bird that size. And a decided advantage when they're out shopping for their next meal.
They are fascinating birds, and I'm happy that they find out humble woods compliment-worthy.
(But just like your own kids - they sure do hang around home begging for their next meal for way too long...!)

Oh - these are the very same owls hoo once grown up chant "Who cooks for you..." - a very different call from their fledgling screeches.

So thanks, Mr. Stillman!

Music Man 10:58 AM  

Yeah I did not get the NOT BAD AT ALL themer, I started searching to see if there was a fruit called an "atall" lol

Numinous 11:13 AM  

In the ‘70s, I drove, with another CHAP who was not my buddy, from Berkeley, California toe Ann Arbor, Michigan without even a map. No GPS required.

Speaking of CHAPS, I have never heard anyone say anything like, "Hey, CHAP, I wanna ask ya somethin'". Or, "I'd like you to meet my god CHAPpy." "Buddy" is not any sort of equivalent to CHAP. Bloke, guy, fellow, man, person, but not buddy or pal. I put in mate at first but when CHAP became apparent from crosses, the corners of my mouth, @Roo, turned down in a frown.

I didn't get quite get NOT BAD AT ALL in relation to the clue but, as has been remarked, neither did JS, so I'll live with that. I thought the rest were ok, @Rex, except for YOU'RE ON FIRE. I got the punniness but not the aptness. Somehow, the theme, having been inspired by a steak house coaster strikes me as, I don't know, maybe four themers would have been better. It's like the theme was a bit forced. This took me longer than it sould have but there were a few names I had to dig for, they just wouldn't come off the top of my head at first. Leopoldo BLOOM, MIATA, ALAN Rickman, to name a few.

But overall, I thought this was a reasonable puzzle, more Wednesday than Tuesday, but that's Okay.

old timer 11:16 AM  

Loved the puzzle. Loved the theme. I still think NOT BAD AT ALL is off, though the explanations given above help me like it a little more. I have no problem with YOURE ON FIRE.

Nor Easy for a Tuesday, but my 14 minute time was respectable.

I winced as I put in OCTOPI. One octopus, two octopuses. But it's so common my more modern dictionary has it as an alternative plural.

"Not bad" is not always a glowing compliment here. It can be in England, and it's French equivalent, "pas mal" means "excellent" most of the time.

Smart phones? I use the iPhone more often than a map these days, and Siri has really gotten very good at directions. The time I study a paper map is *before* getting on the road.

Hartley70 11:18 AM  

This is a very enjoyable Tuesday offering. The theme held together for me. The fill was dreck free, although OSLO is getting extra play time. Blissfully, OLEO is missing. I'll take OSLO over OLEO any day of the week.

TRAMPOLINE was worth a chuckle because I too was stuck on a venue bouncer once I had LINE. I looked at that word and thought that it was possible bouncers kept TRAMPs out of the hot spots at night. NY seems to have more homeless on the streets under this mayor, unfortunately. Let them into the hot spots on a cold night, I thought. Duh,...Head slap! Oh yea TRAMPOLINE! I get a kick when that happens. Sometimes it's amusing to be the dumbest one in the room.

Shout out today to @r.alphbunker, clearly one of the nicest CHAPs in puzzledom.

Chuck McGregor 11:19 AM  

Update to @Anonymous 8:35 AM:

Sorry, I was only considering U.S. ships. You are correct for (I count) 18 Royal navy destroyers which was the bulk of their destroyer loses. It does not alter the fact that this was hardly a “normal” U-boat task. The total number of ships that U-boats sank, according to one source, was around 2,800. The 2 dozen U.S./British destroyers they sank comprised about 1% of that.

AliasZ 11:19 AM  

When I saw KEEP IT UP, airplanes were not the first thing that came to mind.

A kooky theme entry that is difficult to clue, and then hard to grasp the connection to, is not worth keeping. NOT BAD AT ALL was such an entry. It should have been chucked. Perhaps "Compliment to a roadside apple stand" would have worked better (bad apple?), but chuck it anyway. Alternate suggestions (all 11 letters):

MAGNIFICENT "Compliment to a microscope maker."
EXCEPTIONAL "... to a grammarian."
OUTSTANDING "... to a scaffold builder."
VERY NICE JOB "... to a glassblower."

I'm sure there are many others.

Also, when was the last time you ran into a charcoal seller? It could've been clued "Compliment to the Kingsford Company" for YOU'RE ON FIRE, but that's blatant commercialism. We don't mix editorial content with commercials at the NYT.

But I still liked the puzzle as a whole. The fill wasn't bad either, CAMRON and KWAME notwithstanding. I never heard of CAMRON. KWAME Nkrumah (1909-1972) was instrumental in Ghana gaining its independence in 1957, and he became its the first president in 1960. He envisioned himself as the Lenin of Africa and was awarded the Lenin Prize for his efforts in 1963. He was best buddy with our favorite revolutionary murderer Che Guevara, and communist dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu. In fact, he died in Bucharest, Romania, during his cancer treatment there in 1972. His namesake Kilpatrick is serving a 28-year sentence on 24 federal felony counts, including mail fraud, wire fraud, and racketeering. Excellent role models!

I thought a few of the Goldring Variations by J.S. Bach, played by Glenn Gold, would be appropriate for the Five Golden Rings on the fifth day of Christmas. Sorry -- that's GoldBERG Variations. And Glenn GOULD. Nevermind... The Ring Cycle is on its way as soon as the spin cycle ends.

Doug Garr 11:33 AM  

May I add a snivel? A British buddy is more of a clue for the word MATE (which I had and completely screwed up my SE). CHAP usually refers to any description of a guy. He's a fine old chap, etc., and not necessarily a "buddy." So not only was this an inapt clue, IMHO it was also an inept clue.

Andrew Heinegg 11:44 AM  

I thought this was Wednesday level-ish and not an easy Wednesday at that. But, I am happy for that as it made me think a bit. The themes were decent puns and consistent in referring to the sellers of the goods/service. You would not address compliments to the product/service itself both because they are either inanimate objects or a service. The only 'problem', as RP suggested,is that the puns are not groaners which should always be a goal for the puzzle maker. My standard for judging is how the puzzle compares to other Tuesdays and this one is significantly better than most. One demerit for lowres, however.

nick 11:44 AM  

Really enjoyed this one -- zippy and fun. Gratifyingly low on musty pop culture and high in 'aha' moments. Didn't share @rex's displeasure re: clueing. Very nice way to ease toward year's end.

mac 11:46 AM  

I liked this Tuesday, harder than normal but enjoyable to solve. Only problem are was the Kwame region. Just
didn't remember that man.

@Loren: great lines from the food servers.

The fruit-of-the-month answer wasn't too odd to me. We are given this Harry and David service every year, but sometimes we are away and it does go bad if I don't ask someone to pick it up. What's remarkable is how perfectly ripe the fruit is, especially the peaches. I never am so lucky at the local stores.

Anonymous 12:04 PM  

How does NOT BAD AT ALL pertain to "fruit of the month club?" Someone please explain the connection.

This one lacked flow--took me over 10 minutes, unusual for Tuesday.

Aketi 12:04 PM  


NOT BAD AT ALL is high praise from my Brazilian Jiu Jitsu professors. They don't believe in false praise, Basically you suck and the goal is to suck a little less. I only recently started to get an ocaissional NOT BAD. If they added "AT ALL" I'd think I died and went to heaven. Hence my atypical response to what others consider a phrase that damns with faint praise.

Richard Bynum 12:10 PM  

Pretty tough.

I should tell you that on Mon. and Tues. I fill in the entire outer row, then the adjacent row, etc. Try it!

Teedmn 12:31 PM  

I'm sitting here looking at the small amount of snow we got overnight, the result of a highly hyped snow alert warning of one inch per hour snowfall, and I'm thinking, NOT BAD AT ALL. This does not mean the roads are good, but it does mean less shoveling than expected.

If I'm getting 18A, as per @Rex and the other commenters, it is indeed the outlier of the themers, the rest of which I liked.

GATES reminds me of my decision Sunday to not do the slalom run set up at our local ski resort. I was considering trying it but while I was on the chairlift I watched a young girl go down, whipping through the GATES like a pro, and I figured I'd just probably poke my eye out (or is it "in"?).

There's something about TRAMPOLINE UNTO PAIN sitting next to each other that strikes me as apt. I liked seeing Leopoldo BLOOM in the grid because I read 'Ulysses' for the first time last year (and probably for the last time :-).) My brother thinks he makes a SPLASHY entrance when he drives up in his MIATA.

Thanks, Jeff Stillman, NOT SO shabby!

dick swart 12:42 PM  

I read "not bad at all" as a compliment on the consistency of the deliveries 12 months of the year. Too bad.

Seemed like quite a few new fill words ... great on a Tuesday when your still thinking Monday.

beatrice 3:05 PM  

The presence in the puzzle of the great AMATI called for something violin (or could have been viola or cello). The Florentine virtuoso and excellent composer for the violin, Francesco Veracini (1690-1768), perhaps rivaled Mr. Z's virtuoso Glenn Gould for colorful eccentricity. (I had made this choice before AliasZ's post came up!) For those interested, Wiki has a good article. And for some reason, an asteroid has been named for him, 10875 Veracini.

He is best-known nowadays for his violin sonatas, and this is one of them.

Anonymous 3:11 PM  

There's no inherent connection between the very-much-a-thing NOT BAD AT ALL and the adage about one bad apple not spoiling the BARREL(ROLL).

@Kerfuffle - I hope that's a link to the scene where Marie expresses horror upon learning that an endless stream of fruit will soon be coming her way!

GILL I. 3:40 PM  

@chefbea....I'm not a chef so you probably know something I don't and it certainly wouldn't be the first or last time... but, I'm pretty sure that meat comes from the flesh of animals....I know TURKEY has the "white" meat or "dark" meat lovers. I also know my daughter (who went through a vegan phase) would have never eaten turkey nor chicken.
Is it different in the culinary world?
@Loren. Ay dios mio! Daughter (the same one mentioned upstairs) has worked her way through college (for the last million years) and the current one is one of these upscale - we only import the most expensive scotch, the deli meats and cheese you get are from France or Spain and we make the best bread in town - type. Very Expensive and a bit on the snob side. She told me those clients are the cheapest tippers - maybe 10%...Her hamburger joint patrons always tipped 20%+.....The RICH know how to get richer don't they?

chefwen 3:41 PM  

@Z & Gil I. Just got done reading up on that CHAP, KWAME, sounds like a STELLAR upstanding citizen. Great candidate for a mayor. YIKES!

Z 3:47 PM  

@smalltowndoc - I think we flayed the OCTOPI/octopodes/octopuses dead horse with all eight of our commentariat arms at least once before. Here, for example.

@LMS - Here, I thought that was the slogan for a Viagra ad. And what's with the big words?

Regarding U-BOATs and destroyers, if it happened once it is clue worthy.

Teedmn 4:17 PM  

@Bob Kerfuffle, thanks for the apt link. I never watched that show but it's a great scene.

@Alias Z, I'd clue VERY NICE JOB as "Compliment to a Bible illuminator".

Anonymous 4:25 PM  

@Chuck etal: So, of the 23 British destroyers sunk during WWII, 18 (78%) were sunk by U-Boats, and there remains a question of whether U-Boats destroy destroyers? If you say so. The clue didn't ask for the primary targets of U-Boats, whether U-Boats were destroyed by Destroyers, nor how may dinghies capsized during WWII and how the 10s of thousands of capsized dinghies puts the measly 18 destroyers to shame, it asks what destroyed destroyers, and the clear answer is a U-Boat.

Face P 5:36 PM  

@ Maruckka: been meaning to let you know..when you expressed PAIN, lamenting the demise of the Second Avenue Deli..
It's not gone! It just moved over to Third Avenue - between 3rd and Lex at 33rd - with a SPIN-off on the East side at 75th, just for you. You may know this by now?
Same people,menu, prices and same pastrami MEAT, and with a TSP of this and a pound of that, the same potato salad, with slaw ONTAP.

Same STELLAR TWOMAN service, too.
Happy CHEWing
and Happy Newing Year.

OISK 5:42 PM  

Not bad at all is really weak. Didn't "get" it until I came here. Found this one very difficult for a Tuesday, with Kwame and especially Camron the really annoying obscurities. The cross of "STAD" with "MEADE" could be a Natick for some, but fortunately, I am something of a Civil War buff.

I did not like this one as much as @Nancy did, but we apparently like our steaks cooked the same way!

Mohair Sam 6:08 PM  

Ooops - I gave a 24 to 20 count on Destroyers vs. UBOATs earlier. Turns out that was allied subs vs. UBOATs. Turns out 264 UBOATs were sunk by ships - likely an awful lot of those ships were destroyers whose main function was protecting merchant and attack fleets from said UBOATs. So it was a lopsided destroyer victory and 2 down is a lousy clue.

@Z - Saying that "if it happened once it is clue worthy" is like saying "KC Royal defeater" is clue worthy for NYMET.

Gregory Schmidt 6:35 PM  

I thought that the STAD/MEADE/OWLET clump was a little out there for a Tuesday. Of course it all makes sense once it's filled in, but the North Central sat undone for a long time for me. I had somehow never heard of MEADE, and it took me a long time to think of TWOMAN (I had TOOTAN?) So all that combined to blow up my time far beyond a usual Tuesday.

On the steakhouse topic, I must unfortunately report that WELLDONE is in fact a thing, because that's how both my parents order their steaks. If they discover even a hint of pink inside, it goes back to the kitchen for additional killing.

Leapfinger 9:45 PM  

I thought NOT_BAD_AT_ALL a quite an apt compliment of the low-key, non-effusive variety, and moderately appropriate for a Fruit-of-the-Month Club, which is supposed to deliver fruit that is NOT AT ALL BAD. (@Tita, I'm so sorry that your experience was otherwise. Twice.) However, for those who are willing to accept the phrase as a compliment but have trouble accepting its object, er, subject, how about:

Compliment for a hooker with a heart of gold?

Thought that WAY TO GO was great for a GPS, but would've preferred the steakhouse had a RARE TREAT instead ofa WELL DONE. At the VA, our Ortho offices were down the hall from Urology, where Pete (his loyal patients called him Dr. Love) ran the ED Clinic. KEEP It UP, Pete!!

Loved the screech OWLET and 5D, which was T(WO)WOMAN in my mind, if not in the grid. Had trouble spots in NE, starting out with NONET x NSA in place of COMBO x CIA. Also was curiously blind to S_A_M, probably because 'SWARM here at a time when what we're used to'SCOLD. Is it too rambunctious to have a column with both LAMB and EWE?

Thought it a clever ploy for Jeff Stillman to load the grid with upbeat complimentary phrases. On the off-chance he has time to sail or practice archery, "Take a bow, Jeff!"

Z 9:51 PM  

@Mohair Sam - @Z - Saying that "if it happened once it is clue worthy" is like saying "KC Royal defeater" is clue worthy for NYMET. Just to be clear, I didn't say I liked it, only that it is so. I would say your NY MET clue would most likely be slightly modified on a Saturday, say "One time Royal defeater," but would any long time solver really be all that surprised by such a clue?

Leapfinger 9:54 PM  

I'm dying to know how come you know about the colour of yak colostrum. That seems like highly specialized knowledge to me.

(Considering that somewhere along the line, I've picked up the tidbit that an elephant placenta is approx the size of a bathmat, I shouldn't press, but I'll bet you have a story behind that.)

Elephant's Child 11:18 PM  

'The Ring Cycle is on its way as soon as the spin cycle ends.'

[chortle] Pure gold, that is.

Amy 2:56 AM  

"one bad apple don't spoil the whole bunch girl"

Cameron, WITH an 'e' 2:31 AM  

Having only done crosswords for a year now, find myself often questioning clues like "place for a bouncer" not having a question mark. Seems like for many other constructors this clue would get one, indicating th answer is punny, literal, or not what you might first think. I actually like the answer Trampoline but feel it warrants the question mark. Pet peeve of mine, but maybe I'm off the mark, misunderstanding the convention, or just need to get used to it.

At least it's not as bad when they break the abbreviation rule and either don't clue it, or worse when it's in the clue but not the answer. I haven't seen Rex specifically call out constructors for there form on these, but then again I only infrequently check, and usually only through Thursday's as that's the most I can make it through thus far.

Burma Shave 9:52 AM  


She was a STELLAR TEASE who knew the WAYTOGO,
and ITT was NOTBADATALL in my TWOMAN Jeep pick-up.
She said, ”YOUREONFIRE, but NOTSO fast, go slow,
for a job WELLDONE you OTTO be ABLE to KEEPITUP.”


spacecraft 10:56 AM  

I was sailing along in grand fashion, then I got to the center. Not deeply into politics (I rather like to keep my breakfast down), the term "SPIN room" is totally foreign to me, as is the outlandish name KWAME--really? KWAME?? WHO would name their kid that??? Nor do I have any idea what genre belongs to "Dragon Ball 2," or 1 or 3, for that matter. I wound up guessing at about half the letters in there.

I agree about the "bouncer" misdirect: even later in the week it should come with a question mark. For a while my Brit pal was a CHum, but I wasn't at all sure about the C--another rapper! (I could lay out another string of first-row upper case symbols, but that would get tiresome.) I don't even remember how I backtracked through that whole center/SE area to pick up everything, but somehow I did--with more than one lucky guess.

Best thing about today's puzzle? The Boss clip. Doing the puzzle itself was like "a freight train runnin' through the middle of my head." Some of the theme answers were clever; others, NOTSO much. And TWO basketball leagues in one grid? Holy hoops, Batman! Medium-challenging, fill pretty much runs the gamut, from LAMBADA to ICEES. C-.

rondo 11:59 AM  

I agree with OFL that his was better than most Tuesdays. But that is really faint praise. That fruit clue was not up to PAR and was a long WAYTOGO for that answer.

In 2008 I was offered two different jobs within the Ft. MEADE complex. I turned them both down and forever ruined any chance I had to work for the Army Corps of Engineers. By now I’d have been making +/- 30% more than I do, and playing golf on a private course. WAYTOGO @rondo.

Years before JLo and other STARS got noticed in those revealing dresses, there was country yeah baby REBA McEntire in full BLOOM in that famous red dress. Talk about ONFIRE! As far as I was concerned she could KEEPITUP.

Maybe not a STELLAR puz, and nothing to WRITE home about, but nothing stuck in my CRAW.

leftcoastTAM 1:41 PM  

Today's puzzle NOTBAD....

Names I needed to CHEW on a bit: KWAME, CAMRON, and SIMON. WELLDONE.

I prefer medium rare.

Diana,LIW 2:47 PM  

This was really easy. Until it became difficult. An odd mix, methinks.

The first Sunday in May is Bloomsday in Spokane, with a 12-K road race that draws about 50,000 runners and walkers. The race follows a course based on Leopold Bloom's day in Dublin. Many a soul celebrates at one of our Irish pubs in their "finisher" t-shirt.

Mate before CHAP. Agree re the clues for NOTBAD and TRAMPOLINE. Would "compliment to an angel" work?

Couldn't remember KWAME, didn't know CAMRON or AMATI, and never watched any of the idol/dancing shows. Liked HANGS, CHEW, and CRAW. Mostly liked the themers - had a smile or two.

@Rondo! My hublet worked at the ACOE for over 20 yrs, negotiating contracts. He called it "arguing for a living." One day the gov't would underpay a contractor by $5K, then the next they'd let a bogus $50,000 overcharge go unchallenged. Drove him nuts! But good pay, good hours (every other Fri off), excellent benes, lotsa vaca, and an actual pension along with the typical IRA kept him on the job. And the DAY he could retire - he did.

@eCameron - One thing I learned from the good folks here was to keep stabbing away at Thurs thru Sun. Bit by bit you'll suss out more and more until one day - voila! Success will be yours. Don't remember seeing you before, so welcome!

And Happy Groundhog's day to all. How are you celebrating?

rain forest 3:13 PM  

I liked the "differentness" of this puzzle - the many different words, the different phrasing of some of the clues, and the different theme. I don't know what a "fruit of the month club" is, or even if there is such a thing, but I kind of wonder how their meetings would go.

"Okay people, it's October. What should be our fruit for October? Pumpkins?"
"Are pumpkins really fruit?"
"You bet they are, and they're NOT BAD AT ALL, or not all of them are bad, or they're not at all bad. Whatever. Okay who has the minutes of last meeting which was all about apples which Rex said were NOT BAD AT ALL?"
Riveting stuff, to be sure.

A steak well-done is a steak wasted. I order medium rare because frequently it will come rare which is what I like but if I order rare, it sometimes arrives blue and I have to send it back. Awkwardness ensues.

However, I found nothing awkward about this puzzle. Vive la difference.

Diana,LIW 7:04 PM  

Hey @rainy. Fruit of the month clubs do exist. They send you a box of fruit (see Harry and David) every month. I always wondered why folks couldn't just go to the store and buy what they wanted...

However, I loved your "riveting" minutes of the club's meeting. WELLDONE!

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords

Cathy 7:47 PM  

Nice puzzle. SWIRL SWARM STREW caught my eye. I also thought mate for CHAP. Though using pen on paper, I could easily see the whole picture and not write it in. On a free trial a while back to NYT, I tried the online version. Could not get the hang of it. I gotta have a pen in my hand! And a real map. Case in point-

One time my truck broke down and the tow driver insisted on GPS. Hilarious. Well, not really...At first things were fine until he started going West past the Silvertons (hi @Spacecraft) I live East in Green Valley. I swear, if anyone's ever watched the movie Idiocracy, this was it.
Dude, I've lived in Vegas for 17 years. Your going the wrong way. He was so frustrated with me. Pulled over and called the office. Never spoke a word the rest of the way. That guy never got a tip.

@Loren Muse Smith- As a waitress/bartender, when someone orders tap water with extra lemons and sugar (their making their own lemonade) bad tip! And I gotta say, WELL DONE steak? Bad tip. Oh, I could go on....


Cathy 9:15 PM  

@Diana,LIW- Happy Groundhog Day to you! He didn't see his shadow, early spring:) I've been looking for STARS and listening to my OWLETS screeching, well, my kitty's meowing for treats:) Hope your day has been nice:)

Scotsman 11:46 AM  

This played easier for me than it seemed to for most of you. I flew right through it, my only write-over being when I started to wring SPLendid instead of SPLASHY before realizing the letter count was wrong. Easily fixed.

The theme answers were a mixed bag but overall NOT BAD AT ALL. I kept wondering if there's some kind of obscure fruit called an ATALL, but nope, it's just that the fruit didn't go bad. Not the best themer, but it does work.

WELL DONE, Jeff Stillman!

Used PC Dealer 6:28 AM  

Nice Blog Post !

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