Political commentator Molly / THU 1-7-16 / Mom Dad slangily / Abdullah I made it capital city / Non-PC add-on / TV host who inspired Neil deGrasse Tyson / Juno Paycock setting / Short-term retail location nowadays

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Constructor: Andrew J. Ries

Relative difficulty: Challenging (despite the whole middle being a virtual gimme)

THEME: DOCTORS / WITHOUT / BORDERS (34A: With 36- and 40-Across, organization whose name hints at some missing letters in this puzzle) — four "doctors" are found outside (or "without") the "borders" of the puzzle ...

Theme answers:
  • OREO (9D: Chocolaty goodie) / ZEROS (10D: Round numbers?) (Dr. OZ)
  • CHEW (37A) / BOOTH (41A) / BRANDO (45A) (Dr. WHO) 
  • SAGAN (50D) / LENO (57D) (Dr. NO)
  • DROVES (29A) / ROPED (33A) / EDEN (35A) (Dr. DRE)

Word of the Day: "Juno and the Paycock" (11D: "Juno and the Paycock" setting => DUBLIN) —
Juno and the Paycock is a play by Sean O'Casey, and is highly regarded and often performed in Ireland. It was first staged at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin in 1924. It is set in the working class tenements of Dublin in the early 1920s, during the Irish Civil War period. // It is the second of his "Dublin Trilogy" – the other two being The Shadow of a Gunman (1923) and The Plough and the Stars (1926). (wikipedia)
• • •

Andrew Ries has this week's Fireball too, and both that puzzle and this were (in parts) the kind of "challenging" that I find more annoying than bracing, with attempts at cleverness in cluing that feel more strained than truly clever. (Note: the Fireball is both harder and better) Here, I think there must have been some urgency to toughen things up in the cluing, since the middle mostly just fills itself in once you get a cross or two (I needed only the crosses MR. T and LOGOS, i.e. three total squares, to fill in all of the "revealer"). I realize now that when talking about the difficulty, I'm talking almost exclusively about the NW. Other parts were toughish, but up there I just had empty space for what felt like a long time. Couldn't make any of the Acrosses or Downs work except UNSHAVEN. I had a sense of the org. that was supposed to go at 2D: Pirate-fighting org., but I also knew it was one of those crap pieces of fill I can never remember because I never see it outside of crosswords and don't know what it stands for (RIAA? Recording ... something something? Yes, Recording Industry Association of America. Why not American Recording Industry Association? Now that's a proper (and apt) acronym, that is).

The "cousin" in the TWIN clue threw me (1D: King's little cousin) (King and TWIN are both bed sizes, in case that wasn't clear). RIAA ... was RIAA. ESS is somehow "Un-P.C." despite the fact that The Bloggess is a feminist blogger (a million ughs to every part of that clue) (4D: Non-P.C. add-on?). AMMAN I couldn't get from its back end. TRUE DAT already feels about as dated as BLING or GETTING JIGGY WITH IT, and it just didn't occur to me. WINSOME is a *great* word (14A: Appealing in appearance), but with no crosses, no hope. So, that corner was a nightmare. I might've been less hostile to the puzzle's precious cluing if I hadn't seen this theme before. Twice, in fact, in just the past year. Here's a Fireball contest puzzle from last March (by Dave Sullivan):

 [photo courtesy of Diary of a Crossword Fiend]

And here's a Buzzfeed version from just a couple months ago (by Mary Lou Guizzo):

 [photo courtesy of New Grids on the Block]

This puzzle has the interesting twist of having the incomplete words (the ones that extend beyond the borders) also be words in their own right, i.e. the grid looks fine as is. REO and EROS are both words on their own. So it appears that there's been some kind of cluing error—what does EROS have to do with [Round numbers?]. It's only when you get the theme (probably) that you understand letters are missing. The other versions of this theme (above) have grids with answers that look like nonsense until you supply the outside-the-borders stuff. Does anyone use the singular COAT TAIL? I should say that I really liked POP-UP STORE (8D: Short-term retail location, nowadays), which feels about as fresh as TRUE DAT ... isn't. I'm not convinced THOUS is a thing. The end.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Anonymous 12:05 AM  

There is a TV show Doctor WHO, but there is no Doctor WHO. His name's not WHO. He's not called Doctor WHO.

jae 12:06 AM  

Dang! Pretty cool Thurs.! Tough for me. Tried a rebus at first, gave that up and wrote the letters out side the grid. When I finally caught on I finished pretty quickly, but it took a while to get there.

Hang ups: ASSUMEd the sex symbol was female, went with MPAA at first, handSOME wouldn't fit even though I tried, had Boxer as a Sen before DEM, was sad before WOE, and tried to make THE rents fit before OLDS (ENO fixed that one).

I hadn't seen this theme before, so this was just fun. Lots of zip including the doctors....liked it a bunch!

The Ear Worm 12:14 AM  

This puz beat me black and blue. Didn't get the revealer until I had about half the letters, though I'd figured out 'who' and 'no' at that point. The revealer didn't really help except with oREO, maybe.

Took a long time to get started and also ended up pushing through the NW at the end (though as I work at an audio company, RIAA was a gimme, though it could easily have been MPAA.

Otherwise tough all over: ANDRE GIDE and LORI Singer were both unknown to me. Tough cluing meant it took almost all the crosses to get ALIBIS.

Before the revealer came out for me, I was trying to do something with NO Dog, since I think of HOT DIGGITY dog before HOT DIGGITY.

So yeah, my longest Thursday time in months, but managed to push all the way to the end with no Google, so minor victories.

ghkozen 12:52 AM  

Can someone please explain to me how "Kings little cousin" is TWIN, and how SSS are draft letters? Thanks!

Carola 1:06 AM  

I thought this was a terrific puzzle, with a clever idea, a great reveal, and with the grid still making sense after the DOCTORS had been pushed outside the BORDERS.

Like @Rex, I found it challenging, with the NW the toughest section. But for me, the center reveal was far from a gimme. In fact, I didn't find easy pickin's anywhere, spending a lot of time jumping hither and yon, probing for soft spots, waiting fot the "Eureka" moment. That came (I thought) when I saw how [WHO] appeared over the right edge. So, I thought the puzzle might have something to do with interrogatives. Eventually, I did get DOCTORS WITHOUT BORDERS, and thought, "Aha! World Health Organization!" I didn't understand it was Dr. WHO until coming here - I've heard of the character but have no idea WHO he is.

Anyway, I had fun finding the other doctors and thought there was lots to like otherwise - HUSH MONEY, HOT DIGGITY, ANDRE GIDE, COATTAIL, BENGALI, BESTIE. An enjoyable struggle, very satisfying to finish.

Deej 2:13 AM  

Can someone please clue me in as to how a TWIN is a "King's little cousin?" I'm just not making the connection. I'm thinking chess, royalty, Martin Luther, Elvis, and just missing it... Thank you.

Dr. Demento 2:23 AM  

I liked it more than Rex did, but that's par for the course. I also needed far more crosses than Rex to get the revealer. Also par for the course.

A good puzzle. Tricky NW and was similarly thrown by ESS.

My big gripe was getting Natick'ed at the cross of UTA Hagen and ETOILE. C'mon! Uta Hagen would have been in the wheelhouse of my long-deceased grandma, I ASSUME, but not of this 40 year old. And crossing it with a not-so-common French word? MAYDAY! MAYDAY!

Anonymous 3:40 AM  

I'd wager there was a moment in time when OFL would've fully endorsed the "un-P.C."-nESS of that particular suffix. It all reminds of that lesser Seuss fable about the birds with the stars (or not) on their chests. I can't keep up. Hoping to see the TWIN clue explained.

Loren Muse Smith 4:45 AM  

Because I barely have time nowadays to do even one puzzle a day, I just can't participate in Fireballs and Buzzfeeds yet. So I bet like thousands of solvers, this was the first time I've seen this theme. It was cool to see those other two puzzles and how Mary Lou and Dave handled the conceit. Mary Lou included the reveal, too, but more spread out.

I agree with Rex that the northwest was brutal.

And I agree that the reveal was very quickly gettable. But… I immediately was thinking the wrong meaning of WITHOUT.

When BOOTH where we CHEW broke ope the whole trick, I saw the other meaning of WITHOUT.

But, man, that northwest… kept trying to fit in "comely" because I. had. Nothing. UNSHAVEN finally gave me the little crack I needed.

I agree with Rex that it's elegant to have the parts in the grid be actual words. Also somehow elegant to have TOUCHED ON running down through the middle.

"Punjabi" and then "Marathi" before BENGALI.
"slug" before SEAT
"blackmail" before HUSH MONEY
"ehran" before AMMAN, utterly ignoring the symmetry of the other doctors, approaching panic.

Funny how yesterday's theme made the OPE/OPE and BRA/BRA crosses scream out, huh?

Before I started teaching full time, I would usually do BEQ's Mondays and Thursdays. Here's one he did a while back with a similar trick, but much cheekier. I loved this one:
Side Boob. You have to scroll down past a couple other puzzles to see it.

Fun trick. I love Thursday challenges that - well, honestly I'm not trying to be funny here - challenges that have us thinking outside the box.

da kine 6:10 AM  

That NW corner kicked my ass. I thought it was pretty cool/challenging that some of the trick answers were only partial since that kept it difficult after I got the theme (SAGAN was an easy fill-in). Speaking of Buzzfeed, are they not doing puzzles anymore? Those were some fine puzzles and they'll be missed if they're gone.

Anonymous 6:41 AM  

One problem not mentioned is if you do the puzzle online the placement of the "missing letters" don't appear until the puzzle is done. Another is there is no indication as to how many "missing" doctors there are. And lastly, and most snidely, none of the doctors are all that memorable. What do we have? A botoxed TV personality friend-of-Oprah, a children's TV character, a movie character from the golden age of misogyny, and some guy named Andre. DWB, on the other hand, is a Nobel Peace Prize laureate.

Ditto "coat tail" and "winsome." Didn't know Andre Gide. As Rex said, the corners were brutal.

At least it's over and no more themes for a few more days.


GILL I. 6:49 AM  

When I finished this puzzle, I poured myself a drink and just stared at it and thought, why?...I remembered a time in my life when I had an art professor who spent days passionately explaining the beauty of abstract paintings. He honed in on Kandinsky. If anyone in his class had a "puzzled" look he would go into detail about how gutsy it was in the 1940's to just toss some colors together and make them look like anything you like.....TRUEDAT made me want to toss some cookies.
La belle ETOILE might have saved the bell but then I look at BESTIE and it GNAWS at THE OLDS in me.
Shouldn't ASININE have two esses?

Lewis 7:25 AM  

This made me work hard, between the theme and the tricky cluing. I like hard work, as long as I don't feel taken advantage of (and I didn't). I plugged on and on, getting things here and there, and lights popped on throughout, which makes for a very satisfying solve. I loved the clues for COATTAIL, GET, NAH, ALIBIS, MAYDAY, and TWIN, plus the answers HUSHMONEY and BESTIE. I felt like the HOTDIGGETY needed a "dog". In the end, the only thing I hadn't heard of was RIAA, but figuring out the theme was a huge aha. Excellent brain waker-upper, beautifully executed. Bravo on this!

AliasZ 7:46 AM  

RIAA was an early gimme. Every LP jacket printed in the USA has the RIAA logo on its back, otherwise it would be as unacceptable an entry as NAMM, NAB, CES, SMPTE or numerous other acronyms from the music and entertainment industry. Also, years ago I knew a guy who would often interject "Word!" when someone else spoke, and used the term TRUE DAT all the time (I cringed every time). This made the NW corner very easy for me.

The SE was the opposite. I had MY FOLKS for "Mom and dad..." which slowed me down there. Thank goodness the O, L and S were correct, otherwise I would be still staring at that unfilled corner.

"Honey, would you prefer the Caddy or the Duesy?"
"Let's take THE OLDS. It's only a movie theater."

-- I used to fantasize about opening a mom & POPUP STORE.
-- We don't use thees, thys, thines and THOUS much nowadays, do we?

The maestro walks out to the front of the orchestra and bows to the applauding audience. After a few seconds he turns around to face the musicians, baton in hand, when the crowd breaks into a roaring laughter: he only had one COAT TAIL. The other one was torn off by the winds. They hated his guts.

My chickadee
And Svengali
(As I can too),
But no BANTU.
Mostly lose some.

Happy Thursday!

Z 8:00 AM  

I'm with @Lewis today. A fun challenge. The clever clues struck me as just fine, not strained at all. Yes, I had to spend some extra time in a couple of spots, but nothing stuck me as unfair or trying too hard. I did do the BF puzzle (and seem to remember Ries saying the equivalent of "oh shit" somewhere) and I think the fact that the remaining entries are words makes this one just a smidgen better.

Beds. King, Queen, Full, Twin.

The draft was eliminated long ago, but the SSS is still around. I know of some guys in Oregon, like to play with guns, who would be good candidates for the SSS.

@Dr. Demento - UTA, UMA, ENO, ONO, YMA - Learn your ese and Ms. Hagen's semi-frequent appearance will be less frustrating.

@Loren Muse Smith - No need to fret about not doing the BuzzFeed puzzle. Apparently it is no more.

zac 8:13 AM  

A bed. Also. Answered in the write up.

blinker474 8:14 AM  

This puzzle was too tough for me. I did figure out the theme eventually, but had to get answers from across lite to do it.

For those who asked, Twin is a little cousin of King because they are bed sizes. Rex included this in his commentary.

John V 8:16 AM  

I got nothin. Not even close.

RavTom 8:17 AM  

@ghkozen: SSS = Selective Service System, the government agency that ran the military draft. @ghkozen, @deej: As Rex explained, a TWIN bed is a "smaller cousin" to a KING bed.

Generic Solver 8:31 AM  

I was going to gripe that POOL BOY was sexist, until I found the definition in Urban Dictionary, and the Top Definition is rather comical, definitely worth a look.

Kevin 8:34 AM  

Think mattress.

NCA President 9:03 AM  

@GILL I.: I agree about TRUEDAT. I guess the "yep" part of the clue was supposed to somehow allude to turning "that" into "dat?" When "true that," as a phrase is colloquial in and of itself. I believe I might have cursed out loud when I filled it in. I've only had one cup of coffee so I can't quite pinpoint the number of things wrong with TRUE DAT...ranging from some veiled racism in co-opting a colloquialism from rap culture (by turning "that" into "dat," like "sup?" or it's little brother, "what up?" These are things white people shouldn't say.) to how old and dated it is to how out of place it is in the entire grid. Just awful.

If there was such a thing as a literal wheelhouse, and I owned one, this puzzle would not be in it. In the Venn diagram of my life, this puzzle would exist in a circle somewhere out in space about 400 light years away. The "doctors" chosen are random and randomly placed. I guess it's supposed to be cute? Challenging? Interesting? It wasn't. There are plenty of evil doctors to choose from, or TV doctors on TV doctor shows, or Oprah-style spinoff doctors...but two fictional doctors, a rapper, and a recognized hack is not just a motley assortment, it appears completely thrown together. Ugh.

And don't get me started on ANDREGIDE, LORI Singer, (neither of whom I've heard of), THEOLDS (wtf?), and I still don't know what NAH means. I'm not sure I'll like it.

I talked with a guy yesterday about crossword puzzles. He does them with his wife from various outlets, but he doesn't do the NYT. I submit this puzzle as exhibit A in why some people don't do NYT xword puzzles.

Anonymous 9:20 AM  

Rex explained TWIN in his comments. They're both mattress sizes. "SSS" is the acronym for the Selective Service System, the arm of the U.S. government that administers the military draft (see www.sss.gov).

Wednesday's Child 9:32 AM  

Struggled in the NW and the SE. Had many of the theme answers before I got the revealer. POPUPSlide didn't help.

I'm hesitant to answer questions others ask because of the time lag. But . . .

SSS - Selective Service System (military draft)
King/TWIN (see Rex) - beds

r.alphbunker 9:37 AM  

This was a wonderful variation on the doctors without borders theme. Plusses included:
1. no gibberish in the grid
2. no crosswordese
3. after discovering the revealer there was still a lot of work left to do
4. hidden doctor names were symmetric

Jim 9:51 AM  

Have not seen the theme before so I liked it. Clever but relatively easy to discern. Unfortunately, the rest of the puzzle cluing was so overly cute as to make the experience bad. Had no idea on Kings little cousin until I came here. Passing remark? as "Nah". RIAA (as Rex mentioned) is terrible (does anyone really call those stealing music "pirates"?). Hated "The Olds", Moms and Dads could be quite young. "Interoffice email" is a not a thing. And it is Pop Up Shop (it rhymes), not Pop Up Store. Yuck

Brian's Thong 9:56 AM  

It's like Andrew Ries read my comment yesterday and decided to crank it up to 11. Molly Ivins, Andre Gide, "Hot Diggity," coat tail(s), ancient plays, and the painfully out-of-touch "true dat" and "the olds". Ouch.

phil phil 10:14 AM  

I've never seen this theme before but i got the center as well with only OR and OUT, but i amazed myself with that.
Otherwise didn't get the hint. Tried to see MD at ends of answers or DR etc. had UNSHAVEN but took it out as too inaccurate.so missed the top and NW and dnf.
Had diners option as BOwl, best i could do without getting the theme.

quilter1 10:20 AM  

DNf as I don't at all get TRUEDAT and I could not get the theme. Seems obvious when explained but not a fan.

Chuck McGregor 10:23 AM  

Re: @yesterday CITYLINE signs:

We visited a small town in the mountains outside Vancouver B.C. Driving out of town we reached the CITYLINE marked by a sign with the town’s name ---

“Leaving Hope”

We slowed and pondered a few moments whether it was a good idea or not to continue on…



I had my DOUBTS that this puzzle would not not [sic] get the BESTIE of me. I had much the same solving experience as @Lewis and others. Partway through the first pass I thought I might end up with a lonely OPT amongst DROVES of white. Here and there I got some tow-holds (as in dragging me along). Just tough; no SWISH; a SOLIDly challenging puzzle. I did not think it ASINiNE at all.

As another audio guy (Hi @ The Ear Worm) I knew RIAA easily. I’ve known those letters since the early 1950s before the equalization used for cutting and playing records became standardized. I was also familiar with the other forms of equalization mentioned in this Wiki link as our mono hi-fi amplifer (“stereo” wasn’t available until several years later) had settings for most of those.

If you have a record player, the associated electronics have the RIAA equalization built in Reminds me of the other day when OFL complained about no one ever mentioning the VCHIP. No one mentions it either, but the “RIAA curve” has been an integral and essential part of making and playing records for the past 60 years. TRUEDAT!

Was at our local RITEAID just yesterday.

My son has a 1980s Cutlass, aka THE OLDS.

I often heard (long ago…from TEENs) HOT DIGGITY with and WITHOUT “dog.”

I still have my SSS-issued draft card (unlike others, I didn’t burn it back then, but would have liked to).

Not much else to CHEW on…well, there are those WINSOME OREOs in the cupboard……GNAWS, I’ll wait until lunch.


Bob Kerfuffle 10:30 AM  

I found this puzzle to be challenging but lots of fun. Yes, the gimmick has been used before (is there one that hasn't been?), but not all that recently in the Times (I ASSUME, or it would have been cited.)

One write-over: 45 A, BARDOT >> BRANDO.

I came to the blog with questions about two clues, but as I read, the meanings dawned on me: 20 A, "Passing remark?" for NAH (i.e., "I'll pass on that.") and 42 D, "Stand outs?" for ALIBIS (i.e., excuses you may give on the witness stand to get out of a charge.)

@NCA President, 9:03 AM -- Your complaints about the doctors chosen for the puzzle are unarguable matters of taste, but you cannot say that they are "randomly placed." In fact, they are positioned perfectly symmetrically with respect to the grid.

Nancy 10:32 AM  

I give this puzzle my highest award: "Fiendish." I came perilously close to not finishing. In fact, I came perilously close to barely starting. I kept saying to myself: What does this puzzle want from me and where does it want it? Finally, finally, WOE at 36D gave me DOCTORS WITHOUT BORDERS and it all became clear. Sort of.

At 45A, sexist me wanted a female sex symbol, so I was trying to make BARDOT work. Had the B, but never thought of BRANDO. I wanted a book term for "jacket flap" at 37D. Wanted a religious term for "Hallelujah."

My only nit is 1A. "Not fair, dat," I'd say. And it really loused me up in the NW, when I had POSITS instead of DOUBTS at 5D. Dat DAT, had I had it, would have really straightened me out.

I'd call this a Saturday-level puzzle. I haven't read the comments, yet, but I'm sure many will find it undo-able. I escaped by the skin of my teeth. Wonderful, except for 1A and 2D.

Nancy 10:38 AM  

I see many, many of you also objected to TRUE DAT. But I mostly came back to talk about THE OLDS. Is that really a nickname for mom and dad????? If so, how truly awful!!!!

bko 11:04 AM  

The olds?? The sad thing is that I stuck it in on a hunch when the E and O showed up.
My first bike had a banana seat- sooo cool.
I liked the puzzle, but it took the input of my SO to get DOUBTS, and to grok why TWIN was the correct answer.

archaeoprof 11:12 AM  

For some time I tried to make 45A BARDOT. And many thanks to Rex for taking time this morning to Skype with my crossword puzzle class. He was charming and informative, as always!

Hartley70 11:31 AM  

Loved it!! I was puzzling until the last minute of the solve as I got to the NW. I was trying to make the pirate chasing USCG work but it clashed with UNSHAVEN (No beards in that branch, right?). Two U's weren't going to fly on the across.

That leads me to TRUEDAT which is like fingernails on a chalkboard to my ears and ketchup on peanut butter to my eyes. Why not break out one of yesterday's four OEDs and find a real word?

It's impossible for me not to get excited about a puzzle that gives a nod to The Doctor....WHO of course. I take umbrage at the @Anonymous who refers to him as a "children's" television character. Tinky Winky and LaLa are for the kiddies, and I'm not knocking Teletubbies. But Doctor Who is quick and sophisticated humor that the Brits do best. The little kids should be in bed when it's aired.

Greater Fall River Committee for Peace & Justice 11:36 AM  

ALIBIS as stand-outs? Why? I never got NAH, having no clue on RIAA or TWIN, but don't know why it would be a passing remark. And what in the world is a Banana SEAT?

Leapfinger 11:37 AM  

He'chalutz l'man avodah
Avodah l'man he'chalutz


Anybody else?

Ah well, as the man said, You winsome, you lissome!

mac 11:40 AM  

Did not get that A in RIAA and NAH. Otherwise medium-challenging, and I enjoyed the solve. The pop-up store was great, I see them all over. Better than those closed-up shops.

The olds? Never heard that, and I'm pretty sure my son wouldn't say it.

Lobster11 11:42 AM  

NW was brutal, to be sure, but was I the only one who struggled equally in the NE, with DEM (tough clue) and UTA (who?) crossing ETOILE?

Steve Reed 11:43 AM  

I was just about to write the same thing! I found this incredibly annoying to do on my iPhone. Didn't see the outside letters were doctors until I came here.

Also annoying: subject mismatch in "come with" and "bring"; who did you bring could be who did you come with, but not so much the other way around.
Attn is an old fashioned interoffice memo convention, don't know why it's clued as email.
An out is an escape - I've not heard of it as an alibi.
I for ego also seems like a dud. That's the best you can do? Three letter word for i was a gimme, but I and ego aren't the same things in English. If you go that route don't you have to hint at Latin?
Finally, I'm sick of ope oer oft eer ere, but I guess that's just how it goes when you've got a deadline. Can you at least steer clear of saying "in verse" and "poetic"? How bout a quote instead?

Now I'm just ranting. I liked pop up store.

kozmikvoid 11:45 AM  

Holy crap this was tough...over an hour for me, and I only stuck with it because I felt like I was "that close" to figuring it out the whole time, but then, nothing. I got the revealer very early and got WHO NO and OZ pretty quickly. But I didn't see that there was symmetry to the theme answers so I was looking at every edge answer as if it had missing-letter potential. At one point I had HANSOME in there thinking the NW had missing letters in the middle of the answer. There were some clever clues in there (had an "aaaah, very clever" moment for ALIBIS). When I finally finished I was glad I stuck with it, so I guess I liked it more than I disliked it...but not by much. ALIBIS may have been the difference.

Prof. Gary Weissman 12:01 PM  

Can we start an ENO WATCH for 2017? Is this the first Eno sighting in the NYT puzzle this year? Very many more sure to come.

Karen Bruce 12:08 PM  

I appreciated how the NYT, after pointing out in a clue that ESS was a non-PC suffix, went on and used it in the clue for LORI Singer (instead of saying Actor Singer). Never change, NYT, never change.

Grumpy Old Xword Solver 12:32 PM  

What a goddamned gibberish mess.

bwalker 12:47 PM  

The theme really challenged me. The revealer was a snap, but overthinking only confused me. I got WHO, but thought World Health Organization. Did they go together? DR ENO?!? Why is ENO in the puzzle twice? I was definitely not in Kansas anymore. Hoo!

Still overthinking missing letters, I had THE (f)OLkS/KINk as the last wrong cross -- not the KIND of variety you'd expect from Mom and Dad.

I enjoyed the workout. Nicely done.

kozmikvoid 1:04 PM  

Alibi as in it gives the defendant an "out" on the witness stand.

Nah as is "Would you like some pie?" The response could be "I'll pass" or simply "Nah."

Also, I'm a former Fall River-ite. What on Earth is going on with the politics in that city???

Ludyjynn 1:09 PM  

I am of two minds here. There were some brilliant clues: for TWIN, DEM, POOLBOY, ALIBIS (my favorite), SWISH, but some dreck answers: TRUEDAT, RIAA, NAH and the awful THEOLDS. But I also liked TOUCHEDON crossing BORDERS.

I only knew BESTIE courtesy of the geeky character, Amy Farrah Fowler, on "The Big Bang Theory", who proudly claims the ultra cool and WINSOME Penny as hers. New episode airs tonight, BTW. I am not on the CBS payroll; just love the show.

Could use a DRINK after this struggle, esp. as many others had, in the NW quad, which caused me WOE. BRING on Friday, WS.

Sir Hillary 1:15 PM  

Loved it. See @r.alphbunker's 9:37am post for the reasons why.

As @LMS says, it is a blessing to not be encumbered by too much knowledge of what theme has been when/where -- to me, this was fresh as Spring.

Chuckling at how many of today's complaints stem from phrases the complainants have never heard of. Since when is this a problem?

And @NCA Prez -- My daughter used to say TRUEDAT all the time. I'll make sure and tell her she's a veiled racist. Where's the rolling eyes emoji when I need it?

johnnymcguirk 1:19 PM  

Thanks PC Principal

Z 2:34 PM  

Curious about all the TRUE DAT hate, I searched for "TRUE DAT 2015." It seems to be still pretty current in the vernacular. My favorite of what I came across was this.

Tita 2:57 PM  

Can't wait to come back and read all the comments. For now, just want to say ouch- thte NW for sure, but also the SW. Had to resort to erase wrong letters, thenrevealingi 2 letters, to finally finalize.
I hadn't seen the other puzzles.
When for a while the off-the-grid letters were N, O, E, I was thinking I was gonna find NORTH, EAST...

THis was way harder than it needed to be, with really vagie clueing on those missing-lettter words...I mean - "Chocalaty goodie"?? That could be anything, if you don't know that is where trickiness is underway.
Diner option? I had melt for a long time.
Sex symbol? BRAga.

Had we had Creme-filled cookie, Diner seating option, and Godfather portrayer, would have seemed more Thursday-level. I'm all for crunchy, and I'm not complaining, I just thought that the clueing on the tricksy words was crunchier than the normal Thu.

Overall, I thought it was well done. Thanks Mr. Ries.

Anonymous 3:00 PM  

@blinker474, etc. - if I ain't mistaken, OFL's elucidation re bed sizes was a late redaction. that sometimes happens.

Roo Monster 3:04 PM  

Hey All !
Crazy busy CES week here in Las Vegas. Hard to find time to comment. Consumer Electronic Show, in case you were wondering. Approx 170,000 people in town.

Did do puz, liked it, figured out theme after quite a while. Agree with Rex on NW corner.

THEOLDS?? Really?


Chloe's Dad 3:17 PM  

After getting Oz, I kept looking to drop in Phil. 14 across HANDSOME was the perfect spot - 4 across clues for the p,h,i and l. Once Oz and No and Who and DRE revealed symmetry, I kicked Phil out of the puzzle, switched to winsome and managed to finish.

Michael Knight 3:24 PM  

I am inclined to believe that 'thous' could be a thing if anybody besides the likes of the the Carnegies and the Rockefellers had ever actually seen a $1000 bill.

Anonymous 3:59 PM  

@Jim - quite young, yes, but, alas, always relatively old.

Hartley70 4:14 PM  

@GFRCFP&J I'm thinking of an ALIBI as something that prevents your arrest and thereby keeps off the witness "stand". If you are being passed an item that you don't want you might say NAH rather than "No thank you" if you're a boob. I remember banana SEATs on boy's low slung bikes several decades ago. I hope that helps.

Anoa Bob 4:15 PM  

Congrats to those who finished this one. The NW put a DNF on me.

There's a French connection between ETOILE at 12D & MAYDAY at 13D. I remembered and Uncle Google confirmed that MAYDAY, repeated three times as a distress call, originated from the French "m'aidez", which means "Help Me". This goes back to a time when French was part of the lengua franca of international travel & commerce.

Teedmn 4:24 PM  

I got trounced today. I had every NW issue that @Rex had plus I was still waiting for the outside letters to form a single word because I've only seen Dr. OZ in crosswords so it didn't register. If I could have seen WHO, the penny might have dropped but I'm sorry, "sweets" is not a term of endearment I've ever heard, not from the local diner waitrESS serving me in a BOOTh, not the Southern or Midwestern person of a certain age (male or female) that I'm talking to on the phone, not my parents, not a single Significant Other, not any characters on a sit-com. No "sweets" ever! So HON wasn't happening and without that, BRANDO didn't click.

A fine theme and some interesting fill - I got HOT DIGGITY with just the H and the last IT; the three revealer lines dropped in easily, ALIBIS clued as "Stand Outs?", and POOLBOY clued as it was (I was thinking of a worker in a dairy skimming off cream). A new clue for A RAT. Lots of good stuff but I can only focus on "sweets".

Thanks for the Thursday challenge, AJR, even though it means I've started my new year on a roll downhill.

Roo Monster 4:30 PM  

We can start one for 2016 if you'd like...

(What a wise ass, eh?)


Anonymous 5:07 PM  

I got the idea, but tried to use the letters from BORDERS outside the grid. That didn't work.

Anonymous 5:23 PM  

I do believe THE OLDS is from Clockwork Orange. No matter how much I try to forget that movie and book, I just can't. Ugh.

I figured out the borderlessness of this puzzle because SAGAN and LENO couldn't possibly be anything else. However, because I am clueless (har har), I didn't even realize the letters outside the puzzle were DOCTORS. I only got the WITHOUT BORDERS part.

So, I agree with Rex. Hated it. NW corner was a pain.

Mohair Sam 6:09 PM  

What a delightful challenge. Except for the blasted TRUEDAT! Can't be TRUEthAT dear, said I, Doesn't fit. Glad to see I'm not alone.

dnfed because of TRUEDAT and an impatient wife. She gave up in the NW while I hung in there and gradually filled. Eventually she told me that my "I" at 4D was wrong. Well that meant that the annoying ...DAT was right and AMMAN did indeed have double 'ems' and I quickly finished. But still, it's a dnf. We probably won't speak for a week.

Got the gimme middle when WHO became obvious. I thought World Health Organization and therefore never got the Drs. outside the edges theme until I came here. Made this tough puzz even tougher.

And ain't it great that a couple of generations don't know what SSS means? In many ways it's a better world - we should all be a little happier.

Anonymous 6:41 PM  

I don't understand "THOUS" for "Cleveland's bills, for short" ?? The city? The president? I don't get it.

Anonymous 6:43 PM  

Never mind. (Re: Cleveland). Sorry, it's like I just figured out that google is, in fact, a thing.

Elephant's Child 7:13 PM  

Kind of funny that @ghkozen 12:52am asked about the King's little cousin.

ConfuciuESS 7:28 PM  

What's that?? TOUCHED ON down the center? I thought it was "Touché, Don"! Like in yesterday's grid, it was JOE DON, not JOED ON; JOED ON doesn't make any sense.

OISK 7:39 PM  

The olds?? I have never heard anyone say that. Lucky I know who Barbara Boxer is, (we went to the same college). And I join many others in disliking "Truedat". Have I ever heard anyone say that in person? Nah! But I got it because Leonard on "Big Bang Theory," uses it to try to be "With it" or "Hip" or whatever expression is current.

Found it very, very difficult, but I did finish it, and there were no Naticks, once I filled it in I was pretty confident I was correct. So difficult, beyond a normal Thursday, but clever.

(How's this for ethnocentrism....for "original language of India's anthem" my first thought was English...)

Unknown 7:47 PM  

I thought a coat tail was in the back of those old tuxedo styles, as in "top hat and tails", not a lapel. Anyone agree?

Leapfinger 7:54 PM  

TRUE DAT has consequences, some of DEM less than winsome. Consider...

"Honey, would you prefer to take da Caddy or da Duesy?"
"Hmmm... Da Cord."
"Right you are!"

ASININE is not 'totally far-fetched'. Swift's "A Modest Proposal" is totally far-fetched, but it isn't ASININE; it's satire. ASININE is simply ridiculous, whether fetched far or near. So, yes, @Gilly, go ahead with DUBLIN that ESS.

Laura 8:05 PM  

Ditto for "what's up?"

Rabi Abonour 8:07 PM  

When the PuzzFeed ran, didn't this constructor pipe in to say that he had already submitted this puzzle and just got beaten out? I feel like I remember reading that.

This one took me forever to get a hold on. Some good stuff in here once you get going, but some questionable stuff too. I'm certainly familiar with old people being "olds" but I've never heard parents specifically called THE OLDS. Not loving that clue. NAH was a pretty good misdirect for me; I wanted OBIT (with the theme). Didn't we just see Molly IVINS? Lazy editing, even though I'm happy to see her referenced.

I hear POP-UP SHOP much more than POP-UP STORE, but the latter Googles well enough to get a pass.

Anonymous 8:41 PM  

@NCA_President (0903), I promise not to start you on ANDREGIDE, if you promise to withhold the sordid details on how the fellow you talked to yesterday found himself a wife from various outlets.

Almost forgot: I struck a happy medium tonight, and heard that apparently ANDREGIDE says not to get him started on you.


Diana,LIW 9:26 PM  

Hey Nancy. I think we grew up in the same area (NJ, PA, NY) and we often have the same reactions to the puz. I'm here "forward from the past" (rather than back to the future) and checking posts while attempting to not get too much info about a puz in my five-week future. (Which I would fail to remember anyway.)
So I'm looking forward to seeing if I have the same reaction to this puz. Fiendish. Wonderful! (And, I hope, semi-free of unknown names!)
Diana, Lady in Waiting of CrossWorld

Tita 10:01 PM  

@KarenB...good catch! Painfully ironic, that.
Though I suspect that it was, in fact, a conscious decision to make the clue a bit fairer. Admit it...most of us, even us girls, think of a guy when we hear "actor", so Will chose to make the clue for a somewhat obscure actor a little bit easier by pushing the gender in our faces.
I mean, like @Nancy, I thought the sex symbol was female (Bardot and BRAga were my early contenders), and most people, including women, get stymied by that riddle about the father and son who were in a crash, the father gets killed, but when the surgeon at the hospital looks at the kid on the table, says "I can't operate on this child...he's my son".
I was pleased as punch when an 8 year old looked at me quizzically at the end of that not long ago, the explanation being so obvious to him that he saw no irony or twist.
Some things DO change for the better!

johnranta 10:26 PM  

The ipad version is wrong. If you fill in the Drs. As rebuses, properly, it gives you a fail. The "correct" puzzle leaves out the letters of the Drs names, which eans the words that cross the Drs names are wrong. It's not "roves", it's "droves". If you filled in the Drs as rebuses you should be awarded for solving the puzzle.

I hate rebuses, and I especially hate solving the g*ddamn things and then being told it's wrong. Rebuses should be outlawed.

Anonymous 11:35 PM  

For anyone using the NYT App: is it my imagination or is there a picture of a snail on your time when you (finally) finish and it's slower than usual? I've been doing better than average lately (until today!) and thought I saw that. Hoping it's my fevered imagination because otherwise that's just mean.

Aketi 12:27 AM  

@Anoa Bob, what a great reminder that m'aidez lis linked to MAYDAY and fits with the mission of Medcins Sans Frontiers otherwise known as DOCTORS WITHOUT BORDERS. Attempted this puzzle in the morning and got stuck on DOCTOR DRE. I thought it was a rebus and the darned checker rejected the DR, RO and ED. It all fell into place when I came back late tonight for my second attempt. I needed the break to be able to think outside the box, Didn't have too much trouble with the TWIN bed,

THEOLDS in my life was the first car I ever purchased as a grad student, despite being a giant gas guzzling rust heap, it was great for driving through the snow in upstate New York since it was so heavy it never slid. It was also great for offering rides to a plenitude of grad students because it was so huge.i sadly lost THE OLDS in my life when I took a summer job training Oeace Corps Volunteers in Niger at a time when DOCTOrS WITHOUT BORDERS and many other relief organizations were helping out with the famine. I left my OLDS with a grad student friend who parked it in a spot she thought was safe. She barely used it and didn't notice when the Ithaca police towed it away. by the time I returned from Niger the fines on THE OLDS were more than it was worth.

As fir Barbara BOXER, MY OLD dad had a long standing feed with her because she parked her campaign truck right in a Marin County road construction site, which violated County regulations, So my Dad had her campaign truck towed away, She tried unsuccessfully to get him fired fir many years to no avail,

the redanman 11:18 AM  

Odd mix of rote and inside knowledge of a current puzzle trick. It's what the internet and too many puzzles has given us. I don't dislike it, but it does nothing for me. Agree with too clever and too cute in spots and too absurdly easy in others. A solid meh, here

Prof. Gary Weissman 6:19 PM  

Yes, I was jumping the gun on 2017 ...

kitshef 10:58 PM  

All kinds of hard, but after a long struggle was able go get all except the TWIN/RIAA/NAH intersections. Never TWIgged to TWIN, NAH is NAe a word, and RIAA is a flat WoE - I even assumed it was music piracy and that got me nowhere.

Burma Shave 10:36 AM  


When I was a TEEN POOLBOY, my WINSOME clients gave orders,
I TOUCHEDON their BRAs, ‘til they cried, “WOE,HOTDIGGITY!”
I gave the RITEAID like Doc OZ, by DUBLIN their jiggity-jiggity.


spacecraft 11:27 AM  

Wow. If OFL didn't say "challenging" TODAY, I was ready to hunt him down and...well, nevermind. Yes, and despite the central giveaway (I got it just about exactly as he did) it was hard to figure out which way this was going. My first thought for 8-down was momandPoPSTORE, which would leave MOMA outside the grid. That, methinks, is another puzzle.

HOTDIGGITY (clearly today's star!) would BRING me to the SW, where the two hosts SAGAN--my hero!--and LENO (the former, of course, having hosted the fantastic original Cosmos) gave me NO on the outside, which strange(love?)ly still didn't turn on the light.

That magnificent aha! moment occurred in the little north section, when I thought of POPUPSTORE (never heard of it, but it makes sense with the clue). This led to PRE and REO; gotta be OREO. Then the round numbers are --- *SHAZAM!* --- Good old Dr. OZ, he of the nutty diet, at whom I said just recently, "How come squirrels don't live forever?"

By the time I swung around to the west, I already had DRE in place before even looking at the clues. But then there's the NW, and that truly AWFUL double natick at 20-across. I had to come here to get the bed connection for 1-down, didn't know the acronym--and STILL can't reconcile "Passing remark?" with NAH. Somebody please explain that one; it is total nonsense to me. What did I do? Well, square 20 had to be G, N or T. Okay, including candy brands, X. So we have G_H, N_H, or T_H. Talk about drawing a blank! With a shrug I put in NAH, thinking even as I did it: NAH, that ain't it. But i simply didn't know what else to do.

So, correctly solved, though not neat: my 50's sex symbol was Bardot--wasn't yours? Also Mom and Dad were THErents. At this point I didn't know what pattern the outside letters was going to form, or where they were. Dense and clever as the theme was, I had to come here to notice that all the extended entries included stand-alone ones within the grid. OLE! and both ears and the TAIL for that! Must dock one full grade for that horrible clue at 20. B+.

rondo 12:43 PM  

For a front -end alignment I get my wheels TRUEDAT Complete Automotive, TRUEDAT. And the gimmicks continue this week. Got the revealer from the tail ends of those 3 words before any of the DOCTORS showed up, OZ being the first with NO second and WHO on third. I feel like Bud Abbott. Filled in that NW backwards, too, very last. TRUEDAT.

First car I ever bought at auction was THEOLDS 88 when I was still a TEEN. Got it for nineTEEN bucks. Drove it for a month, took the battery out and snow tires off and put them on my “good” car, took the brand new hydraulic jack from the trunk, and sold THEOLDS to my brother for $40. He drove THEOLDS for two years, it always started in the winter with no assist. I think he sold THEOLDS for $50. Never heard of THEOLDS as parents.

If I use any answer twice in a comment it usually means I didn’t like it. See above.

ETOILE should be easy for any MN solver as MN is “L’ETOILE du nord”, The Star of the North. That’s why our first NHL team was called the North Stars. Then in the 90s the franchise moved to Dallas. Norm Green still sucks.

LORI Singer is definitely today’s footloose yeah baby. Ms. IVINS is not in the running. WINSOME, lose some. In that order. For those two ladies.

They should BANTU or more gimmicks per week. It starts to become ASININE.

Longbeachlee 1:50 PM  

Gave up without seeing doubts. Saw Bantu, but refused to go there, because I knew that no word ended in bt.

Cathy 2:17 PM  

Yikes! I called MAYDAY on this one. Even after sussing out OZ, WHO, NO, (I filled in troves for droves which gave me TRE) could not figure out the middle.


Crash burn to what appears to have been a fun puzzle.

rain forest 2:22 PM  

Very challenging, especially at first. However, I saw that OREO and ZEROS would work if the O and Z were either rebused or outside the grid.

Moving down the East side, I was able to get most of the South, and saw that N and O were also outside the grid. Figuring out the connection was difficult until I did that little West section where we have DRE. When I read the revealer, I had the Aha moment that frequently eludes me.

Getting that centre section almost cleaned the whole thing up, but getting back to the NW, I spent a long time before (slap on head) NAH came to me. One of my problems was thinking of The Prince and the Pauper for the king/twin thing, but of course the poor twin was not a cousin. Didn't matter. In went twin, and only OFL cleared that up for me. Regardless I finished without having a clue about IVINS, ANDRE GIDE, or Ms. Sanger.

Some nifty cluing in there (king/twen, stand outs, Cleveland's bills), among others). I was just not going to accept another dnf so soon after my last one. Proud.

centralscrewtinizer 2:36 PM  

DNF due to NW also. Had UNSHAVEN and BANTU, but wanted USCG for pirate fighter which gave me UGH for passing remark. Couldn't see DOUBTS, but doubt that would have helped.
Happy to have gotten that far though, after a first run through left my EGO with a TKO.

leftcoastTAM 3:14 PM  

Clever, medium-challenging Thursday with what IASSUME could be called an inside-out rebus.

Found the four symmetrically located DOCTORS outside (WITHOUT)the BORDERS easily enough, and the rest of it eventually fell into line.

TWIN (cutesy clever), RIAA, and TRUEDAT were gettable outliers for me. And CHEW on seems to me much more apt than "chew over," but au chew son gout.

Diana,LIW 3:46 PM  

Like a good, long fart after a wonderful meal, this puzzle managed to be both very satisfying and stinky. Even with tons of WOES for me, I was thrilled to complete 78.67% of the puzzle w/o help. After my first go-thru of the clues I thot

7 ?? clues
Zulu? Good Lord, isn't French, German, Spanish, and Latin enough?
Unknown Nobelist
Unknown actress
Juno and wah?
Cutesy clues
Missing letters? Oh no - worse than a rebus!

Went down the wrong road for cupped apparel - duh when I got it.

I learned from Bill Butler's blog that there are 100s of Bantu languages. Gee, I hope they all show up soon.

DAT and OLDS were just no, no, no. What's next - Eddie Murphy's rendition of Wookin' Pa Nub? And when Anon pointed out that OLDS may be from Clockwork O, I hated it even more.

And yet - there truly is great satisfaction for the 78.67% I completed. Phew! Gonna take a nap...

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords

Thursday googler 5:00 PM  

Having relatives in Ohio did not lead to thinking about presidents on high denomination dollar bills for thous. ...

rain forest 5:42 PM  

@Spacey - suppose we're with a group of people and I ask "who wants a beer?"
You could say, "I pass", or you could say "nah"

spacecraft 6:22 PM  

That's it? Unbelievable. The flag stays out. And by the way: if you offer ME a beer I'd say "Sure, thanks."

Thomas Bowers 7:08 AM  

My thinking is exactly the same as Rex's. All the clues and answers he identifies as problematic are ones I hated. I know that's a strong word, but I after missing only one answer (I answered Sagar instead of Sagan), I was totally unpleased with my accomplishment. I just felt abused, as I do when answers comprise too many obscure proper nouns and nonstandard slang.

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