Amphibious W.W. II vessel / SUN 1-10-16 / First gemstone mentioned in Bible / Bambino's first word / Ornithologist James / Poke kids book series / Author whose most famous character is introduced as Edward Bear / Ned's bride on Simpsons in 2012 / Object of hunt in Lord of Flies

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Constructor: Patrick Merrell

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: "Political Promises" — Clues are common promises that politicians make on the campaign trail. Answers are funny / ironic / undercutting:

Theme answers:
  • 23A: "Unemployment will be a thing of the past! ("... FOR ME IF I'M ELECTED!")
  • 35A: "No new taxes!" ("JUST MORE OF THE OLD ONES")
  • 54A: "I will maintain a strong defense!" ("WHEN OPPONENTS ATTACK ME")
  • 77A: "Deficit spending must stop!" ("DONATE TO MY CAMPAIGN NOW")
  • 93A: "I'll slow this country's spread of drugs!" ("EXPECT CUTS IN MEDICARE")
  • 113A: "Education will be my top priority!" ("I'VE GOT A LOT TO LEARN") 
  • NEOPHYTES (79D: Novices)
  • "WHO, YOU?" (63D: Question of surprise to a volunteer)
  • "I'M IT!" (33A: "You're looking at the whole department")
Trouble fill:
  • IHS (113D: Monogram on Christian crosses)
  • SAE (56D: Coll. fraternity)
Word of the Day: I.H.S. (113D: Monogram on Christian crosses) —
A Christogram is a monogram or combination of letters that forms an abbreviation for the name of Jesus Christ, traditionally used as a Christian symbol. As in the case of Chrismon, the term Christogram comes from the Latin phrase "Christi Monogramma", meaning "monogram of Christ". // Different types of Christograms are associated with the various traditions of Christianity, e.g. the IHS monogram referring to the Holy Name of Jesus or ΙϹΧϹ referring to Christ. [...] In the Latin-speaking Christianity of medieval Western Europe (and so among Catholics and many Protestants today), the most common Christogram became "IHS" or "IHC", denoting the first three letters of the Greek name of Jesus, IHΣΟΥΣ, iota-eta-sigma, or ΙΗΣ. (wikipedia)
• • •
SPECIAL MESSAGE for syndicated solvers for the week of January 17-January 24, 2016 

Hello, syndicated (i.e. 1-to-5-week-behind) solvers! Somehow, it is January again, which means it's time for my once-a-year pitch for financial contributions to the blog. The idea is very simple: if you read the blog regularly (or even semi-regularly), please consider what it's worth to you on an annual basis and give accordingly. In making this pitch, I'm pledging that the blog will continue to be here for you to read / enjoy / grimace at for at least another calendar year. This year is special, as it will mark the 10th anniversary of Rex Parker Does the NYT Crossword Puzzle, and despite my not-infrequent grumblings about less-than-stellar puzzles, I've actually never been so excited to be thinking and writing about crosswords. I have no way of knowing what's coming from the NYT, but the broader world of crosswords looks very bright, and that is sustaining. Whatever happens, this blog will remain an outpost of the Old Internet: no ads, no corporate sponsorship, no whistles and bells. Just the singular, personal voice of someone talking passionately about a topic he loves. As I have said in years past, I know that some people are opposed to paying for what they can get for free, and still others really don't have money to spare. Both kinds of people are welcome to continue reading my blog, with my compliments. It will always be free. I have no interest in cordoning it off, nor do I have any interest in taking advertising. I value my independence too much. Anyway, if you are so moved, there is a Paypal button in the sidebar, and a mailing address here:

Rex Parker
℅ Michael Sharp
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Binghamton NY 13905

And here: I'll stick a PayPal button in here for the mobile users.

There. Hope that helps.

For people who send me actual, honest-to-god (i.e. "snail") mail (I love snail mail!), this year my thank-you cards are "Sibley Backyard Birding Postcards"—each card a different watercolor illustration by ornithologist David Sibley. You could get a Black PHOEBE. A California TOWHEE. Or maybe even a picture of some fabled SCARLET TANAGERS (15). Or give via PayPal and get a thank-you email. That's cool too. Please note: I don't keep a "mailing list" and don't share my contributor info with anyone. And if you give by snail mail and (for some reason) don't want a thank-you card, just say NO CARD.  As I say in every thank-you card (and email), I'm so grateful for your readership and support. So thanks, not A TAD, but A TON (partial fill! coming in useful!). Now on to the puzzle …

• • •

A cute puzzle for the upcoming (and current, and eternal) political season—one we can all get behind. Throw the bums out, am I right? Let's just not say who, exactly, we think the "bums" are, and we'll all get along swimmingly. I enjoyed the lighthearted cynicism of this theme, and because I had to really work for the front end of the first themer, the "FOR ME" part of "FOR ME, IF I AM ELECTED" came as a sudden, genuine surprise and made me legit-LOL. All the themers are at least marginally funny, and I really like the self-aware closer: "I'VE GOT A LOT TO LEARN." Apt in an age when ignorance seems to be a virtue. Although maybe not apt, as an actual politician would likely not be inclined to acknowledge, let alone confront, their own ignorance. (I used singular "their" there in honor of the 2015 Word of the Year (as determined by the American Dialect Society): the singular "they").

Back to the puzzle—the theme has just six answers, but they're all monsters (i.e. 20+ letters in length), so I don't mind that there aren't more of them. I do wish there were more flashy, interesting, somewhat longer non-theme fill. Lots and lots and lots of the short stuff. It's actually surprising the fill isn't worse, given how much 3-4-letter stuff there is. I only really choked on two answers: SAE (56D: Coll. fraternity) and IHS (113D: Monogram on Christian crosses). In both cases, I had no idea what the letters stood for. With SAE, I can at least guess (Sigma Alpha Epsilon? ... yes, that is correct). With IHS, wow, no. No no. I thought the only cross inscription I had to know was INRI. I've been doing these things How long and never seen IHS??? I should admit that I finished with an error there, one that I tracked down only after minutes of searching. In my defense, MEAT SENSOR is not completely inaccurate. Plus, it has the added virtue of being semi-hilarious.

Are you wondering who John ST. AMOS is? I hope so, because that amuses me. It's just John STAMOS, of "Full House" fame. I've never heard of Fox's "Grandfathered," so I guess I'm not as pop culturally hip as I'd imagined (if a show called "Grandfathered" can be said to be "hip," which seems unlikely). Most of the rest of the grid was pretty familiar. I hesitated over the spelling of Billy ELLIOT (one L two Ts? ... two Ls one T ... ?). I had ENBALM until the impossible SNU forced the change at 44A: Dallas sch. (SMU). Had UNTAME for 96D: Wild (INSANE). Then I had UNSAFE (?). Right next door, I had SPURNS for 95D: Treats vengefully (SPITES). So I guess that whole MEAT SENSOR area was rough for me. This puzzle deserves some kind of "Bad Fill Redemption" medal for cluing "I'M IT" in plausible, believable, snappy way (33A: "You're looking at the whole department"), thus rescuing it from the "Improbable things one might say while playing tag" and "Abbr." categories.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Anonymous 12:30 AM  

I lost interest in the blurb that alleged to explain what the hell IHS stands for before it deigned to actually provide the answer, but if you ever need to get into a church that has an alpha-numeric key entry, try IHS. I have (legitimate) access to a half-dozen of churches, and IHS works half the time. I'm betting INRI works the other half.

Oh, this may well be the first puzzle I've ever done where I actually liked the majority of the theme entries. 40 years, 52 weeks, 3-4 themed puzzles per week. Who says there's nothing new under the sun.

Carola 12:32 AM  

A cleverly apt theme with a couple of real winners (the first and last ones, I thought). But I didn't find many JOYS in the rest - too much FASO, REMO, APSO, ETC.

jae 12:58 AM  

I'm with Rex, liked it.

Music Man 2:16 AM  

I'm surprised anyone liked the theme actually, who cares? My friend and I spent a SLEW OF time (?) debating weather the theme was hidden or just insanely stupid and worthless, turns out it was the latter:..:(

submarinerss 3:44 AM  

Errors keep popping up. 53 across. Acey deucey is a variant of backgammon, played primarily in the US Navy. It is not a card game, despite thevallusionsbto the ace and deuce. I played thousands of games in the course of my career.

Unknown 3:48 AM  

Pleasant enough. I don't get SANDER for "Tool used in the evening?" Is it in reference to the Sandman? Doesn't he carry a bag of sleepy sand? I have an image of the Sandman with a belt sander and a board, making sawdust all over the kids. When I first saw, "No new taxes", I kept trying to shoehorn some version of George HW Bush into the grid. WHOYOU elicited a tsk tsk. Seemed a little close to WHODAT. Clueing for LST "Amphibious W.W.II vessel" seems off to me. I guess I want an amphibious vessel to be able to actually travel on land, which an LST does not. I suppose that would be an amphibious "vehicle", like the LARC or the DUKW.

Loren Muse Smith 6:47 AM  

I'm reporting pretty tough here, but a lot of fun. So, so cool that Patrick could do a political theme smacking of, as Rex said, "Let's throw all the bums out," but it's one anyone can get behind. If you squint, you can read in other periphery cynical stuff: OUST, HATE, ABASE, NEOPHYTES, INSANE, SPITES, STOOGE, WHO? YOU? And if Patrick had made MERGED, STRAYS, and SAGA to "termed, steeps," and "same," we could add "idiots."

You could argue that the themers are all candidate BS'S.

Some goofs:

"mid May, mid Mar" for WINTER.
"seat" for SECT
"planer" for SANDER
"pin" for SSN
"elhi" for ELEM
"opal" for ONYX
"fee" for SCI. A low moment
"dot" for ROM. I bet we're legion this morning.

And I bet a ton of us kept making sure "cross" didn't fit for DART. What a great clue. Second only to the one for I'M IT.

AD RAG – In Style or Vogue. Seriously.

Re Rex's DONATE TO MY CAMPAIGN NOW request… I donate every year and plan to continue. When he changed our commenting system to one where he had to approve posts, I was delighted. Delighted. But when I realized that posts would appear much less frequently and then en masse, I found I lacked the time to read all the new stuff in one fell swoop, missed the back-and-forth that was a casualty, and couldn't abide the multiple answers to a poster's question about an entry. Over the Christmas break I was pleased to have more time to participate here again, and it seems that posts are being approved more frequently now. Yay, Rex! Your promise of "no ads, no corporate sponsorship, no whistles and bells" is a huge draw for me. This place is very user-friendly; those pop-up ads and "whistles and bells" that convolute comments and replies to comments can be really frustrating.

SAINT Patrick Merrell – you always deliver. Terrific Sunday. Thanks!

Lewis 6:47 AM  

Is Patrick hinting who his favorite candidate is at 67D (SANDER)???

I loved the theme and its answers. They point to the truth we all know and hate, that so many if not most politicians talk out of both sides of their mouths. It's rotten, yes, but the hypocrisy is also funny, and these answers today brought out the funny -- good one, Patrick!

Not a lot of stellar non-theme answers (I only jotted down IMIT), but that's made up for by some terrific cluing: LEGS, ICE, STRAYS, STNICK, WOKS, TALC, IMIT, and SANDER. And many other clues weren't overtly clever, but were still good head puzzles.

With its wit and humor, this was not a Sunday slog. It was a darn good puzzle!

Bob Kerfuffle 6:47 AM  

A clever puzzle, but I wanted to like it more than I did. Can't pin down exactly why, but it seemed to take me twice as long as a typical Sunday. Maybe because humor depends on an unexpected twist, so the long answers weren't obvious.

Five or six write-overs, including 63 D, WHY YOU? >> WHO? YOU and 67 D., PLANER >> SANDER.

But I have learned something today, again quite unexpected. All my life I have believed (must have been told this!) that IHS stood for In Hoc Signo (vinces), "In this sign (you will conquer.)"

And since Rex doesn't spell it out, I also believe INRI stands for the Latin for "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews." Now I'll have to look that one up, too.

chefbea 7:16 AM  

Easy fun puzzle which I finished last night...after cheating a dab!!! Loved the clue:bridge table foursome....
wanted suits or something to do with cards.

Looking forward to my bird thank you card. I have all my cards from Rex next to a picture of Rex , Mac and me taken at the tournament in Brooklyn.

Stupefyin Jones 7:29 AM  

Didn't win the Powerball but I finished the NYT Sunday crossword with no cheats! That's just as good, amirite? After forty years it still gets me just a little giddy.
I was on a plane some time ago doing an initial perfunctory perusal of my properly quarter-folded Times puzzle when the lady sitting next to me politely offered a pencil...A PENCIL! As if! For some reason I felt it necessary to announce that, just like my Daddy, I always filled in the squares with INK. Harrumph to you, ma'am. Is anyone else out there so smug about doing puzzles with a pen?

Anonymous 7:36 AM  

An excellent Sunday puzzle. Loved the political smash and grab. Lots of words you don't see often like neophyte, Pawnees, caplet, and stooge. But ski bum could never refer to that cute Kiwi person who works the lift at Alpine Meadows. It's their Overseas Adventure.

I had a little trouble in the Phi/Sci area. Onyx was opal once, and I could not remember the film guy.

Wondering if there is a better way to suss the relative difficulty. Maybe take each word, multiply its number of letters by the number of times it has been used in a time period (say the WS era), and divide by the same time period times the grid size or number of words in the puzzle or something like that.


Trombone Tom 7:41 AM  

Patrick Merrell gives us a workout with this election year appropriate paean to political doubletalk. To me this was kind of like jerky; chewy and mildly satisfying.

I got hung up at 52d by trying to force in SuD instead of the patron saint of Paris, ST DENIS. I did like the misdirection of "Bridge table foursome" LEGS and "Tool used in the evening" SANDER. These were among the last to fall.

chefbea 7:46 AM  

@Stupefyin Jones I use an erasable pen!!!

Unknown 7:53 AM  

What is the pun of SANDER?

GILL I. 7:54 AM  

Well, I never did get SAE nor IHS (I'm more of the Jesus, King of the Jews aka IMRI type person)
Doesn't matter because I still really enjoyed this puzzle.
ON A DATE brought a smile because my first one was at the Cine Miramar in Havana, holding (timidly) hands with Joey Williams who was two years older than I was and his mother taught the 6th grade and I was scared to death someone would find out but I didn't care because he was so handsome......
This puzzle by Mr. Merrell just simply reminds me of why I used to love Sunday Puzzles. So many of the recent ones have just been slogs and never seemed to bring any JOYS. This, however, has the fun whimsy I expect and it's completely doable (other than the SAE IHS @Rex pointed out).
JUST FOR THE OLD ONES sitting just below I MUS SCOOT IM IT..! was worth the price of admission.
HULAS to all.....

Anonymous 7:58 AM  

Hi Mr Music Man. Well, ya got trouble, my friend, right here, I say, trouble right here in Whether City.

Loved the rant, right up to the weather report. Reminds me of a recent posting on a local blog. Someone reported that a wench had been stolen off his trailer. A neighbor asked for a photo or description. Comments were made. Hilarity ensued.

Mayor Shinn: "You watch your phraseology!"

George Barany 7:58 AM  

@Patrick Merrell is an old pro [note to self: be careful, same age, within experimental error, as myself] and offers a delightful and topical puzzle. Interestingly, all six long theme entries are fresh, but of the remainder of the puzzle, only TUNEUPS is a debut word for the @Will Shortz era (and the singular has been used twice).

With respect to some of the early comments (@Gregory Schmidt, @Loren Muse Smith, @Lewis), let me reiterate the obvious and point out that when a rough surface is uneven, a SANDER (say, sandpaper?) could be used to even it out. Very tricky clue ... and it's the singular of one of the current candidates for President.

Cleared2Land 8:01 AM  

Rex, if you remember, SAE was the fraternity whose members were filmed singing a ridiculous, racist themed song on a bus. The resulting outcry meant, well, one less SAE chapter in the national fraternity picture. I was a little surprised the clue didn't reference this in some way.

F.O.G. 8:19 AM  

Some great clues here. I especially enjoyed those for NEWTS, APPLIED, UNCORK and ONYX.

The theme answers were witty. And I linked a few to current Presidential candidates. A timely puzzle, indeed!

Unknown 8:31 AM  

I also finished with the same MEAT SENSOR error. As an avid barbecuer I was sad to have to change it.

Glimmerglass 8:34 AM  

I dropped a few bucks on Rex, and the rest of you regulars should, too.
Today, Rex showed uncharacteristic modesty in rating "easy-medium" a puzzle that gave him considerable trouble. I found it clearly "medium," and on the hard side of that. I found the theme clever and amusing -- not hilarious, but amusing.

Anonymous 8:42 AM  

@Lewis- if men were angels, we wouldn't need hypocrisy either.

Hartley70 8:59 AM  

Fantastic job, Mr. Merrell. Your theme was surprising and sharp and perfectly on point. It could not have pleased me more if it was a rebus or quad stack, and that's saying a lot because I love those grids! The short fill was difficult enough to sustain my interest. This was just a great Sunday! I'd give it a medium difficulty rating.

Thursday, Friday, Saturday and now Sunday were stellar puzzles and so worthy of the NYT. Thanks for the fun, Will!

Unknown 9:02 AM  

67 down - sander?

Unknown 9:08 AM  

That's what I learned from my Catholic education 50 years ago. I think it may still be the basis for a more contemporary interpretation.

Anonymous 9:09 AM  

@Submariners The ACEY-Deucey card game.

Kristin McCracken 9:09 AM  

Used in the "evening," as in evening out or making even. Get it?

'mericans in Paris 9:11 AM  

Happy New Year everybody!

Like @Rex and most of the others, we liked this one OSSO good. As for the theme answers, none of them are what one would expect a politician to say publicly, but rather to mutter to him or herself, or as an aside to an aide.

The fill wasn't too bad either. We didn't find IHS too obscure, as anybody who has visited a Catholic church (even as a tourist) will have seen it everywhere. Not being big tennis fans, ADIN was much less familiar to us. STILl don't like "BRA" for bikini top, but I guess we just have to accept that one as crosswordese.

SAINT NICK was a strange answer two weeks after Christmas, but the cluing was clever. Can DNA LABS also tell us anything about RNAS? Nice pairing of GLOWS and EMBER.

The NW and north were the last to fall for us. I had inserted "rATE" instead of "HATE", which threw us off for a long while. Also had IMoS before IMUS, so didn't see SKI BUM until quite late.

January advice: If you are going to take your DATE out ON A walk onto the ICE in the WINTER, don't do it in the BUFF, and make sure you cover your REAR and LEGS with something padded lest you slip and ABASE yourself.

PHI, SCI, FRO, fum, gotta SCOOT.

Sacha R. Phleim 9:17 AM  

Loved the theme answers. I also found the MEAT SENSOR area to be tough.

I was disappointed that MEAT SENSOR was incorrect. I like it's hinting at something vaguely carnal, if not literally.

I'm all for the singular they. He/she gets very tedious after a while.

@Music Man - perhaps you misspelled some of the theme answers and that's why you didn't like them. Of course, I'm not sure whether I'm right.

Anonymous 9:25 AM  

Wikipedia suggests that the middle letter in the Christogram iota-eta-sigma, which represents the first three letters in the Greek form of the name Jesus, is the source of the jocular expression Jesus H. Christ.

Z 9:26 AM  

Democracy is the worst form of government Man has ever created, except for every other form of government. - Churchill (or was it Twain?)

@Gregory Schmidt - Hint - "evening" doesn't mean that time after afternoon here.

@submarinerss - Yes, but is is also a card game. Dang people, too lazy to come up with a new name. I've actually played both, but it's been years.

I think I'm going for a Scartlet Tanager this year.

Teedmn 9:31 AM  

The minus 11 degrees F temp outside this morning might have sent some extra blood to my brain but this puzzle was an easy Sunday for me. The only real trouble spot was in the NW where I joined @LMS' legion with dOt and SKI BUM was a slow reveal. The cluing was more straightforward than not but the goofy theme concept kept me amused. All politicians should have little cartoon balloons over their heads showing what they're really thinking when they are promising the BS du jour.

My fave clue today was 16A for SEW, which is the only way I put on buttons. No politics on my lapels, just the I VOTED sticker on primary or Election Day.

Speaking of buttons, I hit the PayPal button for @Rex also. If I recall correctly, last year's donations helped keep Annabel as a monthly blog-writer, which we can all agree is a worthy cause, right? And giving here doesn't lead to the incessant follow-up pleas for money that you get if you DONATE to a CAMPAIGN!

Thanks, Patrick Merrell, for an apt Sunday puzzle, and thank you, @Rex, for providing the forum of this blog.

zac 9:51 AM  

Evening as in making more even.

L 9:53 AM  

I thought this was a really good Sunday puzzle. Took some time, but I'm always pleased when I can finish with practically no help or googling. My only nitpick is OAT. I love muffins but I've never seen an OAT muffin. OAT BRAN, for sure. But never OAT.

SANDER took me a ridiculously long time to get. I never even considered a second meaning for evening.

Ken Wurman 9:56 AM  

For me, a very easy and enjoyable puzzle. I really liked the theme and the theme answers. Like everyone else I do not understand the answer "sander."

Generic Solver 10:05 AM  

For those asking, SANDER, "a tool used in the evening" - evening as in making flat and smooth, not the nighttime.

MI Nana 10:06 AM  

@Bob Kerfuffle: we must have been taught by the same nuns.
@George Barany: thanks for pointing out what becomes head-slappingly obvious only after your explanation of sander.

staaffe 10:09 AM  

Sander as in using sandpaper to even out. Thus: evening

Tita 10:32 AM  

@Stupefy...I use erasable pencil.

Don't forget 16A as a themer...great clue for SEW.

92A...same style of humor as my brother's puerile jokes back when he was 8. "What do cowboys usually have?" Same answer. "Why did the cowboy bury his horse? Because it was dead."
Why he didn't pursue a career in stand-up (or crosswords) remains a mystery.

72D is also an ingredient in pretzels. It's added to the water for the boiling phase to give them that dark brown sheen. I make Laugenbrötchen from time to time...I just love recipes that require welding gloves and goggles...

"Celebrity chef" is an abomination. If you need a studio audience and a band, you're no chef.

I did really like the puzzle. Thanks, Mr. Merrill!

Bob Kerfuffle 10:38 AM  

@MI Nana -- Sorry, but just for the record, no nuns in my educational background. I was confirmed in the Episcopal Church, more than half a century ago, and went to all public schools.

@Stupefyin Jones -- I wouldn't say it was a matter of being smug, but I do almost all of my crosswords in ink, just because it looks and feels better to me. When I say I have a "write-over," it is exactly that, because who cares, it's only for my amusement. The only time I do puzzles in pencil is at tournaments. (Somebody please tell Will Shortz I'm waiting for the hotel reservation information to be posted so I can sign up for the ACPT!)

kozmikvoid 10:43 AM  

I thought this was much more on the easy side. IHS and SAE were indeed tough, but that's about it. A nice change of pace after the 3+ hours it took for the trilogy of mega-challenges that preceded it. Seriously, this past Thursday-Saturday run was brutal.

I thought the theme answers were good and mildly amusing. I suppose that's all you can ask of a crossword answer. My only comment would be that there wasn't any consistency with the form of the answer. Some theme answers complete the sentence of the clue (54A), others act as an aside to the politician's actual quote (35A), and others act as paraphrases of the clue (113A). That's more of an observation than a complaint.

Looking at the grid, it seems a few stopper squares could've been removed to make some longer down answers. Other than SAINTNICK and NEOPHYTES, I don't see anything longer than 7-letters in the downs. Perhaps a few longer downs would've upped the challenge factor.

ACEY-deucey is most certainly a card game. I've lost enough money playing it to know it exists.

noreen 10:44 AM  

I really enjoyed this puzzle. Found it more on the easy side, but the theme answers were so apt that they made the solving fun. A small bone: IHS is not really found ON Christian crosses. Most often, the INSCRIPTION on the cross is INRI. IHS may be found on vestments or on decorated parts of the church. FWIW, the title, Jesus, Son of God and Saviour, is often signified by the Greek word ICHTHUS which is an abbreviation of the first letters of the title words but also means FISH. And that's why the fish symbol represents Jesus.
More than anyone wanted to know about Christian symbols!

Ludyjynn 10:47 AM  

Perhaps the most meaningful book in my library is SHEL Silverstein's short but powerful story of "The Giving Tree", which I make it a point to re-read annually. For those of you w/ young kids or grandchildren, access Barnes & Noble NOW and get them a copy!

This puzzle fell easily for me, but that's not why I enJOYed it. The cynical theme and SLEW OF clever clue-ing was the perfect Sunday morning diversion.

Thanks, PM and WS. You DREAMT up a terrific grid. Would love to see more Sundays like this!

Nancy 10:52 AM  

@Z -- Churchill.

A very timely crossword compendium of political cynicism -- tailor-made for this, the most cynical political season of my lifetime. The pandering politicians are cynical. Their handlers are cynical. The donors are cynical. And the electorate may be the most cynical of all. The humor of the answers takes way some of the sting, but for my money, there can't be too much sting. I found it mostly very easy for a Sunday -- until I came to the SANDER/A DOT section, where I had to guess at the D. (Thank you, everyone, who supplied the reasoning for SANDER much earlier, when I was still in bed or having breakfast.)

My one comment is on the "question of surprise to a volunteer". WHO YOU? seems like a crashingly ungrateful response. "May I protect you from this galloping herd of wild horses?" WHO YOU? "Can I help you fix up your home after the tornado?" WHO YOU? "I think I'm a match and I'd like to donate one of my kidneys." WHO YOU? Well, maybe it's just one more cynical answer for an already cynical puzzle.

Now off to read all of you. Perhaps I'll be back to respond to some of your comments.

'mericans in Paris 10:56 AM  

@L at 9:53 AM

I make OAT muffins frequently. Plugging in "OAT muffin" on Mr. Google yielded 241,000 results. Try them; you'll like them! (unless you are gluten-intolerant)

RooMonster 10:56 AM  

Hey All !
Enjoyable solve, although didn't enjoy it quite as much as most of youse! The themers were typical what the pols mean, but the clues are what they tell you. All, yes ALL, pols only tell you what you want to hear so you vote for them. All crooked and liars, Dems, Reps, Inds, doesn't matter. Just sayin.

Lots of POCs, where's @Anoa Bob when you need him? :-) Some very clever clues. Managed to get HEAT SENSOR without the M writeover.

@Stupefying, I always do my puzs in pen! If in pencil, how could I see my writeovers? :-) My one drawback to ink is if you writeover two or three times! It ends up looking like a Rorschach test!


Norm 10:58 AM  

I found this one very dreary and tiresome. So much three-letter dreck. Call it a lost 20minutes I'll never get back.

Anonymous 11:03 AM  

I was totally geared up to blast Rex for not liking this puzzle - he hates everything, right? I'm thinking, "How could he NOT like this one, so timely and clever." So Rex, my apologies for wanting to strangle you today. Alas, tomorrow is another day!

Unknown 11:28 AM  

Well, the last three days, including today, were a miserable failures on my part. Have little time this AM to comment, this being my concert day.

I do want to say that Friday’s comments (the only one’s I’ve had time to read since Thursday) brought many CHUCKles and coffee-spitting moments from e.g. @Leapfinger, @Nancy, @ Lewis, @ Mohair Sam, @ Greater Fall River Committee for Peace & Justice (For the “they can’t make this stuff up” political tale).

In particular, the musical stories from @LMS and @ Nancy were hilarious.

I’ve done a lot of technical writing about acoustics. I constantly did and do misspell ASORPTION, every which way ‘til Tuesday. I thanked the gods when spell check arrived.

The theme for today was great. “They” always promise A NEW DAY of some sort, the themers providing a nice counter point to those promises.

Got to SCOOT to get ready for the JOYS of my concert. Of course I will be doing the TUNEUPS of my basses before it starts.


Z 11:41 AM  

I use pen for the same reason @Bob Kerfuffle and @Roo Monster - it is just simply more visible, especially when I want to lightly write something in to see if it pans out. Besides, have you ever tried to erase on newspaper paper? Gah. So when I write "writeover" I mean I wrote over whatever was there first. That I never disavow anyone of their hero-worshipful response when they see me solving a NYTX in pen is just a little vanity bonus.

@Nancy - So you didn't read my little exposition the other day?

Anonymous 12:03 PM  

The lower Mississippi River meanders about so much that any and all directions would be correct.
And has been pointed out, achy-deucey is a board game, not a card game.

Blue Stater 12:03 PM  

I liked this one, most of all for the fact that I was ready to be very annoyed at the "present day figure"/SAINTNICK clue-answer pair. Then I realized that the hyphen was omitted for a reason. Very clever.

And I'm enthusiastically contributing to the blog. I find the kowtowing to WS by constructors on the other NYT-oriented blogs to be off-putting, to put it mildly. Not much of that on this blog, and good on ya, sez I. IM not-so-H O the puzzles have slid badly in the last couple of decades, and I'm hoping that they will one day be restored to the intellectual feast they once were, before I go off to the Big Natick in the Sky.

Anonymous 12:17 PM  

The PHI/PAWNEES cross is a bit unfair, as the Greek letter could have just as correctly been chi, and Cawnees is a plausible name for an Indian tribe.

archaeoprof 12:26 PM  

This is my idea of a good Sunday. Not too hard, with a current, amusing theme.
IHS comes from the vision of Constantine at the Milvian Bridge.
Let's all give Rex our financial support!

mac 12:35 PM  

Enjoyable Sunday puzzle, easy medium for me too. What a pro, Patrick Merrell!

@Ludy: I agree. I have a copy in the house, loved to read it to my son.

Sander was my favorite answer.

Ok, @Rex, I will donate to your campaign now!

Alan_S. 1:17 PM  

Yes, it is a card game

Emtreidy 1:32 PM  

As an EMT, I have to take exception to APNEA as a "difficulty" in breathing. Apnea is not breathing at all. Dyspnea is difficulty breathing.

And despite 12 years of Catholic school, I was not familiar with IHS.

Nancy 1:32 PM  

@Z (11:41) What exposition? If it was your long post on Friday, I already gave you a very complimentary shout-out at 5:57 p.m. on Friday. You want, maybe, MORE praise?

Unknown 2:03 PM  

Debating weather? Climate change is a real thing.

Mohair Sam 2:22 PM  

Best Sunday in a while. Lots of fun - played medium in this household. Cluing and theme make a puzzle and Patrick Merrill did nicely on both. SANDER a beauty, didn't figure it out until we got here. Loved the clue for IMIT too.

Disagree with @Nancy about the WHO YOU clue (Question of surprise to a volunteer). I thought it was snarky as all hell and just plain fun.

@StupefyinJones - Pen only here too. We buy Wite'Out by the quart.

@cleared2land - Didn't realize that SAE was the racist frat. I didn't like the clue because any three letter grouping that corresponds to the Greek Alphabet is probably a fraternity or sorority somewhere. But your point invalidates SAE from the puzzle entirely in my mind, should have clued it as a motor oil value or something.

Anoa Bob 2:31 PM  

The promises in the theme clues and their reinterpreted, truer versions in the theme answers are both funny and sad at the same time, funny in how they cynically play on stereotypes of politicians and sad because they are all too true.

I have several sanders (belt, disk, random-orbital, finishing) and there are several terms I would use to describe how I use them. Sanding, smoothing, shaping & abrading come to mind, but not "evening". It isn't, however, completely wrong. The phrase "A tool used in THE evening" to describe a SANDER, one the other hand, is. The same way "A tool used in the cutting" to describe a "saw" is wrong. That use of "the" to make native speakers naturally think of a time of day crosses the line, methinks, from clever misdirection into incorrect use of the English language.

Yep, @Roo Monster, I did notice quite a few POCs. I think one reason many of those convenient plurals stood out was because they were tacked onto abbreviations or initialisms, such as AGTS, BSS, RNAS, CTRS, SLRS, et al. The super handy for filling the grid letter "S" clocks in at a little over 10% of the total number of letters in the grid, as compared to its frequency of a little over 6% in standard English text.

Masked and Anonymous 2:49 PM  

I reckon that punchline themers make up my fave kind of SunPuz. Humor. At the expense of politicians. Hard to beat.

fave weeject: IHS. Admirable A-dab of desperation in a fairly solid act of overall constructioneerin.

HEATSENSOR. har! HEATENGINE disassembly in progress!

Twins of mystery: STAMOS and FASO.

Didn't have any other problems, at all, in the solving quest. Happy camper with intact eraser.


** gruntz (now available in Across-Slite) **

Only one crossword this year with fabUloUs U-count, so 2015 I Fink U Freeky trophy goes, uncontested, to: 9 Nov 2015 NYTPuz by Pawel Fludzinski, for his nice flud of 11 U's. Congrats. That's it, as far as M&A knows.

S. Jones 3:06 PM  

So maybe pencil equals belt, pen with erasable ink and/or wite-out is belt and suspenders, whilst the mighty pen alone says ... the power of positive thinking will keep my pants up?

Anonymous 3:36 PM  

SAE, or Sigma Alpha Epsilon, stands for Society of Automotive Engineers, as I recall (someone else can check, if they care to).

SANDER had me confused---does it refer to the Sandman who brings sleep? Sander == person or thing that sands, so I guess it could be that.

Anonymous 3:39 PM  

I looked up SAE myself---OUCH!!! This is the nasty frat that has been in the news fairly recently, nothing to do with the automotive organization with the same initials.

Lobster11 4:15 PM  

This was the first Sunday puzzle in some time that I've enjoyed enough to bother actually finishing. These days, once I figure out the theme/trick/gimmick, I typically get bored while slogging through all the rest and eventually just don't care enough to finish. This time, however, I was eager to find out what all the theme answers would turn out to be -- I thought they were all pretty darn funny -- and there were enough yuks to be found in the clever cluing to keep me going to the end.

In other news, count me among those who are very unhappy about the singular "they" being not only recognized as a legitimate thing, but as an award-worthy one at that. Call me old-fashioned, but that will just never sound right to me ear. I'm perfectly happy with "he/she" or "his/her" as an admittedly awkward, but at least grammatical, solution to the problem at hand.

jeezmom 5:04 PM  

I went to public school, but we had Religious Education in school. The well-meaning nuns, simplifying things for us semi-heathen students, told us that IHS stood for "I have suffered." It may not have been correct, but I never forgot it,and used that kernel of information for the first time in this puzzle. Thank you, Sisters!

Nancy 5:29 PM  

@Sacha R. Phleim (9:17 a.m.) -- Why am I so convinced that your Rexblog name is an anagram of your real name? Maybe because it's hard to believe that anyone who has the name Sacha R. Phleim would have neglected to change it. Although that does remind me of a story:

My closest friend at Smith was standing at the bulletin board in Seelye Hall. She saw a notice posted by an unknown classmate named Cricket Hearth. In her driest tone of voice, Pat turned to the woman she was with and said: "Really! Can you imagine that ANYONE in the world has the name Cricket Hearth?" And another woman, standing no more than two feet away, said: "Yes. MY name is Cricket Hearth."

So if I'm wrong, Sacha, my apologies.

Meg 6:08 PM  

It's both a backgammon variant AND a card game.

Hugh 6:37 PM  

First time writing in many weeks - last several Sundays beat me up so much I had nothing to report...thought they were all solid, just had very little success with them.

This week - cute theme and I liked the fill for the most part -same "likes" as Rex. DNF as I had some incorrect wording in a couple of the themers that I just couldn't shake:


Both made some sense to me other than not getting the crosses :o)

On another note - finally was able to achieve an "excellent" rating on the Spelling Bee on page 58 of the Mag!! :o)

Have a great week all!

Z 7:23 PM  

@Nancy - I tease. My parenthetical question was a call back to my quote observation. Maybe I shoulda said, "or was it Seuss?"

Writing on an iPhone as I wait for my flight to leave. Lots of those non sequiturs make sense now. IPHONE POSTERS - the reply feature only works in the iPhone. Everywhere else your comments appear to be random.

Iron Eyes Cody 8:39 PM  

Have never heard of an Indian tribe called "Cawnee." "Pawnee" yes, "Cawnee" no.

Anonymous 10:35 PM  

@Meg - party pooper

tea73 11:46 PM  

I'm not even a Christian, but have been in enough churches to recognize IHS. The SAE as a fraternity have been in the news because of the racist chants of the branch at Oklahoma University and unsavory hazing rituals.

Anonymous 12:33 AM  

Hey everyone, this is the first nyt sunday crossword that I have ever solved 100%. Yay ! And Rex didn't rate it super easy !!

Who else could I tell that would care??

Leapfinger 2:01 AM  

@Roomie, 'BUFF ON A DATE? I'm kinda hoping you meant 'In theBUFF ON A DATE...
@Anne Reid, as a PA, I also paused at APNEA being a disorder, but then remembered 'sleep APNEA', so I decided intermittent APNEA gives the clue a pass.

I also had WHY YOU first, so when that changed to WHO YOU, it just sounded like confusion as to person: WHO (the &%**#$) are YOU? Must have barked my shin on a table LEG. Nobody else have PAyutES instead of PAWNEES?
Hand up for FEE Fi faux fun before SCI Fi (no shame, @lms) and the popular Opal/ONYX.
Liked pre-K better than ELEM, and when it comes to 'preparing for the afterlife', I rather thought I'd have a shot at REPENT while EMBALM was, premature.

Hey, I'll tell you, there's a lot of APPLIED research going into electioneering. If half those dudes put the same energy into governing as they do into getting elected, it would be smooth SALINE for all the rest of us. As it is, Epoxy Both the Houses, say I.

Some nice synchronicity with AAMILNE here today after yesterday's extensive meet with James James Morrison Morrison. Although I'm also a fan of SHEL Silverstein in his many guises, I remember more from MILNE's writings, including the tidbit that Edward (Pooh) Bear lived in the Hundred Acre Wood (literally) under the name of SANDERs.

We also had a couple of days of NO_MSG, and today we got 'Acid', No LYE.

I think Groucho Marx worked a stint writing copy for an AD_RAG:
I DREAMT I was ON A DATE with a BUFF SKIBUM in my Maidenform BRA. How he got in my Maidenform BRA, I'll never know.

[I know, that there's downright EMBER-a-SSN]

Thought this one rolled right Merrelly along, and I was never BOARD.

Fred Romagnolo 12:59 PM  

@archaeoprof: Milvian Bridge was In Hoc Signo VINCES, not I H S; In this sign you will conquer. I got the evening bit, but got thrown by wanting planer. I have no idea what a SKI BUM is. I'm with @lobster11 on the singular they. Too much bastardization of the language going on today; is it because of Gates and Jobs (or just laziness)? As to icthus: the fish was the logo of Christianity for a long time before the cross was.

Newport Carl 7:06 PM  

Absolutely smug, plus a pencil doesn't feel smooth and having to cross out your errors with a pen is good punishment for some vague past sins

Tarheel Ed 9:02 PM  

Why is a sander a tool used in the evening unless this is a weird reference to the Sandman! See 67 down.

Joe in St. John's 12:30 PM  

Evening means making even.
coming in very late I know here but a brief note about IHS. It is not I.H.S. I ask the poetry professionals, is it a macarone or a rebus?

David Storrs 7:50 AM  

Where does one go to search on past examples of word usage?

David Storrs 8:13 AM  

Cawnee may be plausible but I don't see it in tribe list. Lots of Pawnees go to pawn shops.

Z 9:17 AM  

@David Storrs - Any search engine. "Singular they usage" will get you started.

SaltyDog 10:42 AM  

I had the exact same UNTAME / UNSAFE / INSANE progression that Rex did.

@Stupefyin Jones: Yes, always in ink, on paper. Nothing else feels right.

@Rex I'll double my planned donation if you go to your Blogspot comment options and add at least one level so we can reply directly to other comments.

spacecraft 11:28 AM  

I was taught IHS stood for In Hoc Signo, Latin for "In this sign." No one, however taught me what that was supposed to mean.

This was fun, if a bit sloggish because of being so chopped up. In such a grid, you are bound to have fill difficulties, but I think Mr. Merrell pretty much pulled off a good one here. A couple of dimples:

BOTH DNA and RNA in the same grid? Is there a law? Should there be?

Defect in the clue and answer for 34-down: the M of HMO and of MDS stands for, wait. It's Health Maintenance Org. OK, I take that one back. Ha, you knew that before you wrote the clue, didn't you, Patrick?

I do have one other legitimate gripe: Need (to) and OUGHT are two vastly different things. Not at all compatible.

Cool misdirects present day (not "today" but "day on which presents are given") and evening (not "time of the day" but "that which makes even"). Did a number (sic) on me.

One thing's for sure, 113-across. I liked this, and it gets an A-.

Burma Shave 1:30 PM  


While out ONADATE, SUM of you NEOPHYTES OUGHT to remember
your inner HEATSENSOR GLOWS ADAB more than an EMBER,
and ‘twixt your BUFF LEGS the JOYS of SECT SEW do burn.


rondo 2:25 PM  

I did find the theme amusing, moreso than most every Sun-puz. But the abundance of abbr.s and 3 ltr. ans. and 3 ltr. abbr.s made for quite the irritation, IMO. Too many threes to even count, 30 maybe? Too many by the time this puz ISDONE.

As mentioned above, SAE is only Society of Automotive Engineers to me. Check the label on the next quart of oil you buy. SAE will be there.

SHEL not only wrote that song, but most all of ‘em for Dr. Hook & the Medicine Show – they did get on the Cover of the Rolling Stone – and for various country artists and others. I remember his byline appearing in Playboy frequently. By contrast, he also wrote kids’ books. Probably an inspiration for @Burma Shave.

I remember Johnny Cash performing “Boy Named Sue” at the MN State Fair at the height of his popularity, first time the grandstand there ever sold out, twenty-some thousand. Front row for me as I played in one of the opening acts. At the end of that song where the boy says he will name his own son “Bill or George, anything but Sue”, Johnny unfortunately ad-libbed that line to “Bill or George or Hitler, anything but Sue”. I can’t have been the only one of +20,000 to hear that, or remember it to this day!?!? Other than that split second gaffe, I have loved Johnny Cash’s contributions to music. But the things people remember . . .

Funny theme, parts of which I’ll try to remember and repeat. Nice trip down memory lane. But no yeah babies and way too many 3s detract from it SUM. Hope you all find a place for your mEATSENSORs. Har.

rondo 2:36 PM  

@Stupefyin' Jones, et al. - PEN, always PEN. SARASA Zebra 0.7 preferred and used for most of the last 10+ years. Don't know if they are even available anymore and I may be on my last one. PENCILS are for the weak-of-heart.

@Diana LIW and Cathy, still available and waiting.

Anonymous 7:36 PM  

An entertaining puzzle, I thought: fun theme, many clever clues. Just what I look for in a Sunday puzzle.
I agree, however, that an LST is not amphibious
@Stupefyin Jones: I always use a pen. Sometimes several times in the same square.
@Noreen: The IHS monogram is actually quite common on altar crosses, as well as on vestments and paraments. See a typical example here:

Diana,LIW 8:20 PM  

Finally! A cheat-free total solve. Once I got the theme of political double-talk, I enjoyed guessing the responses. Easy-medium fill. A fun Sunday romp for me.

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords

Diana,LIW 8:55 PM  

Important PSS
Synderellas - we may be late- but we OUGHT to support Rex. Pay attention to his PLEA, please. We don't want to ERR on the side of the SLEW OF BOARDS that don't pay up. When Rex says DONATETOMYCAMPAIGNNOW we should pay attention. I want his blog to go on and on, 'cause IVEGOTALOTTOLEARN. Hope the STRAYS will pay attention.

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords

bananafish 8:23 PM  

I enjoyed this one, but I thought there were several weirdly unnecessary additions to fill-in-the-blank clues. Why was "(Niger neighbor)" necessary for "Burkina ____", "(card game)" for "____-deucey", "(dog breed)" for "Lhasa ____", and even "(kids' book series) for "Poke-____!" What, if (Niger neighbor) was not put in for the "Burkina ____" clue, I would have wasted all my precious time thinking of all the other two word phrases I know where the first word is Burkina? None of those additions provides any genuine assistance in narrowing down the field - just leave them out.

I could have also lived without "2000 film" for "Billy ______", and "("Bummer")" for "What _____", but those at least serve as hints to the solver as to how to narrow down what to consider (though with the double-quotes in for "Billy _____", it was already clear it was a title of some sort).

Jhon Smith 4:16 AM  

I loved the theme and its answers. Thanks for posting such content.

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