Pause word in psalms / SUN 5-1-16 / Eyelike opening in architecture / Pirate's mate in literature film / Red giant in constellation cetus / Language descended from Old Norse / Pro-consumer ideology

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Constructor: Joel Fagliano and Byron Walden

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium (more Easy for me, but those big open spaces might slow you down)

THEME: "Stellar Work" —theme clues look like normal clues marked with asterisks, but in order for the clues to make sense, those asterisks must be interpreted as standing for the word "STAR":

Theme answers:
  • CABLE CHANNEL (22A: *Z, for one)
  • RIGHT SIDE (38A: *Board)
  • UNITED AIRLINES (42A: *Alliance member)
  • BROKERED A SETTLEMENT (60A: *Ted talks, say) (this answers is drifting into Green Paint territory...)
  • ROMEO AND JULIET (87A: *Crossed pair)
  • ED MCMAHON (89A: *Search party)
  • ACTING CAREER (110A: *Let's hope) 
Word of the Day: MIRA (86A: Red giant in the constellation Cetus) —
Mira (/ˈmrə/, also known as Omicron Ceti, ο Ceti, ο Cet) is a red giant star estimated 200–400 light years away in the constellation Cetus. Mira is a binary star, consisting of the red giant Mira A along with Mira B. Mira A is also an oscillating variable star and was the first non-supernova variable star discovered, with the possible exception of Algol. Mira is the brightest periodic variable in the sky that is not visible to the naked eye for part of its cycle. Its distance is uncertain; pre-Hipparcos estimates centered on 220 light-years; while Hipparcos data from the 2007 reduction suggest a distance of 299 light-years, with a margin of error of 11% (wikipedia) (I have no idea what half of this means)
• • •

The theme is ... a theme. It works. It doesn't really do much, because once you catch on (this took me about 1.5 theme answers), then you just mentally add "star" to the front of the theme clues, so whatever misdirection there was supposed to be ... isn't. Isn't there. So it's pretty straightforward, bordering on ho-hum, themewise. But the grid is pretty sensational, especially considering it's a mere 130 words (compare to a NYT norm of 138-140 ... I checked with a bunch of old Sunday grids and the first eight I looked at were all 140, which is supposed to be the max, but which also appears to be close to the average). If it seemed like you were looking at a lot more white space than normal, your eyes weren't lying to you. Those are giant, open corners in the NE and SW, and big open pockets in the ESE and WNW—very challenging to fill well. Considering that there is usually a fair amount of junk even in a 140-worder, the clean, crisp quality of this 130-worder is pretty remarkable. There's some yarpy stuff here and there. Some SMEE-on-SPEE action in the NE, and the AGRO-LOMA HALIDES aren't particularly beautiful, but the grid felt very sturdy and well made overall. We're not looking at anything scintillating here. We're looking at what *should* be NYT-average, but isn't. It's above-average. NYT B.

Theme didn't register for me at first because I just figured "Z" was some CABLE CHANNEL I hadn't heard of. There are nine thousand of them, so why not? Only with the UNITED AIRLINES clue did I see what was going on. Really enjoyed OWN GOAL and PI DAY. I taught some English translations of Psalms earlier this semester, and we talked a bunch about the odd word "SELAH," so that was easy. Surprised OCULUS didn't get the OCULUS Rift clue. Do they speak FAROESE on the Faroe Islands? They do! I weirdly just ran across the Faroe Islands today in a soccer story, of all places. Seems that the coach of Leicester City (which is about to win the Premier League title) was the coach of the Greek national team last year but was fired after his team lost to ... the Faroe Islands (a country with a population < 50K). So ... there's some FAROESE-adjacent trivia for you! (Not sure why NYT is spelling the country "Faeroe Islands." Perhaps some conflation with Spenser's "Faerie Queene"? Who knows?)

Thought FORAGE might be SILAGE. Thought NAMIB was NEGEV (or NAGIV to be precise ... but the NEGEV is middle eastern, not southern African). I am now amusing myself by making rhymes and nonsense phrases out of the answers in the SW ("ADESTE HESTER, MR. MISTER!"), so I should probably go.

ICYMI—here's the "Future of Crosswords" podcast (under 7 minutes) by Tufts University student Julia Press, featuring me, Dan Feyer and others. And here's the Ollie Roeder article about the "punishment" handed down to plagiarizing crossword editor Timothy Parker (spoiler: it's not much of a punishment). See you tomorrow.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


John Child 12:25 AM  

It took me more than half of the puzzle to get the theme gimmick. I saw early that I didn't understand and so just worked around the themers until one filled itself in. AHA! And, as Rex says, all the rest of the themers went down quickly. So in the end an average solve here.

But SALAH and HGTV was a perfect Natick for me: never heard of either. And I guessed wrong for my second DNF in a row. I'm not complaining at all. I like hard puzzles. M - T - W - and often Thursday just don't put up enough fight to be fun.

In a different sort of fight, one prominent national figure hooked up with another this week, and we bring you a timely puzzle about their unholy union. Try for some fun this Sunday. Warning: Potentially offensive content for kids and staunch Republicans. Warning: Amusement in store for everyone else.

gourmand 12:31 AM  

There actually WAS a Z Channel. Knowing this caused me to not understand the theme for an embarrassingly long time ("The first clue is so straightforward...what am I missing?!").

paulsfo 1:16 AM  

I found it easy, though I couldn't finish till I conceded that 28A might not be *either* of Finnish or Flemish. :)

jae 1:18 AM  

DId this while chatting with my sister and niece who are visiting from New York for a couple of days and had no real problems. I then went back to figure out what the asterisks were all about...nice "a ha".

Smooth grid, cute theme, liked it.

Arna D 2:07 AM  

Færoe is usually written Faeroe in languages that don't have the letter "æ"

Unknown 5:49 AM  

I did not catch on to the theme for quite a while. Figuring it out was a genuine "Aha!" moment. My favorite theme clue/answer pairs were CABLE CHANNEL (*Z, for one) and ED MCMAHON (*Search party). It made me smile.

Did not finish. I was thwarted at three squares. SELAm/mGTV is my fault: I should know SELAH. HGTV is gibberish to me. I didn't know MR. MISTER and guessed MR. sISTER (thinking of Twisted Sister). The real killer was HALIDES/LOMA. I know YORBA Linda, birthplace of Richard Nixon. But LOMA Linda? I'm guessing that I won't be the only one to stumble at that crossing.

But I don't want to dwell on the gnarly spots. This was a hugely impressive grid and enjoyed working my way through it. I liked the answers RUBY SLIPPER, MUGGLES, OWN GOAL, PI DAY, and NADERISM.

I enjoyed the many odd bits of trivia:

- Language descended from Old Norse: FAROESE
- Sch. whose mascot is Paydirt Pete: UTEP
- Casino offering, derived from the Latin for "five each": KENO

Speaking of trivia and casinos, the TANGIERS Casino is mildly interesting. It's a fictional name, invented for the movie "Casino" to avoid legal trouble. The real-life Tangiers was the Stardust. That invented name then gets used by the tv show "CSI": the Tangiers is the casino owned by character Sam Braun.

Back to the crossword. I always enjoy a clue that involves a quotation:

- "SERAPH of Heaven! too gentle to be human'

I liked the gentle word play:

- Takes its toll?: PEAL
- Kind of band: ELASTIC
- Unlofty loft: GARRET

And, best of all:

- Labor pain: UNION STRIKE

That's my favorite clue/answer pair in the grid! Good stuff.

P.S. I am most definitely an EGOTIST, and so I must mention that I got a perfect 36 on the Science Reasoning section of the ACT. Naturally, I became an English major.

Lewis 6:31 AM  

Joel and Brad, you got me fair and square this time, but even without grokking the theme, the puzzle tuned out to be solvable and it gave me a very satisfying fight. Had I heard of Star Alliance, of Ed McMahon's connection with Star Search, or that starboard meant the right side, I think I would have caught on to the theme.

But I wish all the clues were like "*Ted talks, say" and "Let's hope" -- where there is a terrific play on words. The theme would have been tougher to figure out, I think, but the aha tremendous. If I'd have figured that out, I would have *gazed at myself in the mirror.

Loren Muse Smith 6:35 AM  

This trick didn't border on the "ho hum" for me – how cool to take the letters s-t-a-r, represent'em with a star, and put'em at the beginning of clues, - like we see so many times as a way to set a clue apart. This is a kind of mental rebus cluing. Kind of. From your mind to the clue, the letters s-t-a-r rebusize into an asterisk. What a terrific idea.

AND, and….. the letters after "star" make sense on their own, even if they're sneakily part of a bigger word. "*Ted talks, *Let's hope." Man, these guys are good. The only one I can think of, "*Sandbars," is off-putting and misses because the "bars" has to become a separate word.

I feel bad that I didn't notice immediately all the white space. I did notice that it took a lot longer to "finish." I got 90% of the theme at ROMEO AND JULIET, but unfortunately, that was the "star-crossed" one, so because of "cross," I was still on full theme alert, looking for one other "cross" layer. Hah. I was there all along and just didn't know it. Hi, Dorothy. Toss me that ruby slipper. Let's go into a little cahoot, why don't we?

So, yeah, Cinderella has just one, but not Dorothy.

FAROESE – huh? Never heard of it. With that F, I kept wondering if it was some variant of Farsi, a ridiculous though considering it comes from Norse. Faarsii. Or Frisian. But FAROESE looks like a language AMENHOTEP spoke.
Actually that SPEE/FAROESE cross was tough – I guessed the final E since a lot of languages end that way. But I've been burned before by such thinking. Yeah, I'm looking at you, Mr. Romany-not-Romani.

The cross that dealt me a dnf was HEMP/HALIDES. I had "Rosa" Linda, California, so I was never gonna see MR MISTER. Didn’t' help that my first thought on the fuel source was "peat."

My owls were eating "eaglets" before RODENTS. And I was thinking, "How. Horrible." Can't raptors show a little solidarity?

Also, my dogs may be different, but I've never seen them PAW at the doggie door. They full-on head-butt it. What's worse, my dog Ethel once launched herself at the back of our SUV, ready to go for a ride, but the back was still closed. She splatted up against it and slid down, starring in her own private cartoon. Still, her enthusiasm was endearing and heart-warming.

Joel, Byron – I knew I was in for a treat when I saw your *billing at the top. Well done!!

Anonymous 6:40 AM  

Thanks much for the theme explanation. Finished puzzle, but did not get the theme and felt stupid. And after reading your explanation I feel even stupider, especially with the R&J answer.

George Barany 6:48 AM  

Before anything, a hat-tip to @Rex for drawing attention to @Ollie Roeder's reporting on graduate, as well as the delightful vocal essay by @Julia Press on the future of crosswords.

As for today's collaborative puzzle by @Joel Fagliano and @Byron Walden, I guess the extended tribute to the Bard (see this blog a few days ago and a week ago) continues with ROMEO_AND_JULIET. The New York Times actually employs an OPERA_CRITIC, and this link takes you to @Anthony Tomassini review of tenor Roberto Alagna and his then real-life wife, soprano Angela Gheorghiu, as the *-crossed lovers in Gounod's opera that played in 1998 at the Met (alas, they divorced a decade later).

Bringing up the DERRIERE, I wonder how many @Rex-ites know that the 1954 Nobel Prize did not go to either Salk or Sabin, but rather to Enders, Weller, and Robbins whose tissue culture work enabled the later POLIO vaccine development. And did all of you have a (PAUL)PIERCE of PIE on PI_DAY?

marysue 7:56 AM  

Solved the puzzle but never figured out what now seems like the obvious "star" theme. Some answers were much harder than others, such as BROKEREDSETTLEMENT. Had the same stumble as Rex on 22A, assuming Z was just another cable channel. Didn't know MRMISTER. Enjoyed KEROSENE and HALIDES, which reminded me of college chemistry factoids. It was a reasonably fun puzzle with a mostly accessible clues and some stumpers. Nice way to finish out a weekend.

chefbea 7:58 AM  

got most of the puzzle but had no idea what the theme was until Rex explained. When I got United Airlines, I thought all the themers were going to things up in the sky. No fun...but did have fun with my family from Rome for the past few days.

jberg 8:26 AM  

Yeah, @Loren, my dog nosED AT that pet door for a long time, while I wanted my kite to have a taiL, so that Minnesota section was the land of uncertainty for way too long. I also got all the way down to ROMEO AND JULIET before I figured out the theme -- and even with them, they could as well just have been crossed lovers.

I was once in a B&B in Copenhagen when the hostess's husband came home from a trip to the Faroes (or Faeroes, or whatever). He was a raconteur, and told me a long story about attempting to buy a halibut there. The locals kept insisting that there were none to be had (I think there was some sort of conservation ban at the time) until he finally said, "if you give me a halibut I will give you my pants." Success. I think that memory helped me here; otherwise I might have written in Finnish while cursing the editor for not knowing that it was in a completely different language group.

I have somehow, somewhere seen SELAH before, and it's damn lucky, as I had no idea about HGTV.

Finally, I've never known a seaman to use a MAP, especially of the ocean -- they use charts. Oh well.

But I really liked TAPENADES, GET AN EDGE, SUMP, DERRIERE, AMULET-- so it was a pretty good puzzle, IMHO. Now on to "Craftily Rerun Zodiac."

Anonymous 8:26 AM  

For me, easy and flat-out boring. I expected to see a Rex-rant of unusual ferocity, but instead he... Likes it!?? I see that a large component of this is appreciation of the construction. Feeling like an amateur!!

Rabi Abonour 8:39 AM  

Took me longer than it maybe should have to get the theme, but there wasn't much joy to the discovery. This is basically just a themeless - a big, clean one, but still not what I want on Sunday. Props to the constructors for putting serious effort into the gross, but I don't think it's unreasonable to expect the flagship puzzle of the Greatest Puzzle in the World to have A polished grid AND a great theme.

Nancy 8:55 AM  

A much cleverer puzzle than I realized while solving -- or rather almost solving. I had no idea what the asterisks meant until I came here. I am proud of myself for guessing correctly at the HALIDES/HEMP/MR MISTER (!) answers, none of which I knew. And I thought I had finished -- until I came here and saw that what I had left incompleted, slap dab in the middle of the puzzle, was AROK-RED SETTLEMENT. (I had NAMIA instead of NAMIB at 43D.) I had been baffled, and I left it, meaning to come back to it, but I never did. So a nice, quite unusual gimmick that went right over my head. As for the rest of the grid -- I found it pretty easy, even without knowing what was going on. ED MCMAHON baffled me a bit, but there could have been a TV show called "Search." Right?

Kevin 8:56 AM  

Always love the sports trivia clues (PAULPIERCE). Only one answer truly bothered me: OCEANMAP. That isn't a thing. Sailors don't use maps; they use charts. If you're going to use something that is specific to a profession, get it right or don't use it.

CBCD 8:58 AM  

Nitpick - 21 Across - Seaman's aid - OCEAN MAP - once you are at sea, there are no maps, just charts. Nor are there any ropes - they are called lines. I could be wrong.

Unknown 9:03 AM  

lol at that NE section!

Teedmn 9:20 AM  

I'm going out on a limb here and am going to declare that ICE FOG is not a thing here in Minnesota. I've never heard the term and can't picture what it would manifest as - sleet perhaps? So my crystalline weather phenomenon was sundOG, put in with no crosses, literally my very first entry, and that's the way it stayed. With the confirming RIP OPEN and RIGHT SIDE, why would it be anything else? I got SERAPH and SMEE, scratched my head over why neither CIA nor NSA worked at 11D, and solved the rest of the puzzle as a themeless because I didn't get the trick.

I had a glimmer - the title was "Stellar Work" and "ROMEO AND JULIET" are the ultimate in *crossed lovers but I never watched *search and can't remember ever hearing *Alliance so my chance of finishing this was *K even with all of those asterisks *ing me in the face. So a big DNF two days in a row.

Z 9:43 AM  

I got the * = star the same way Rex did. At this point the puzzle became just a big themeless. Relatively clean, but not scintillating. Not much to hate, but not a lot that made me go "cool," either. Well, there is the "golden goal" clue. I've never heard the term associated with hockey, only soccer. Wikipedia says it is used in ice hockey, so it's legit. BUT, I think you can sift through a lot of NHL overtime coverage and never see the term.

Pop Culture, Product Name, and Proper Noun Analysis

35/130, 27% with 6 of the 35 being from the clues (e.g. 7A)

PPP is also fairly distributed, Shakespeare and Rowling, Hawthorne and Barrie, a German admiral and the US D.O.D., sneakers, health insurance and topographical candy. No complaints, this is what PPP should be, in my opinion.

Unknown 9:51 AM  

Didn't get the theme until Ed McMahon, and then went back to get the others.

UTEP and NAMIB I only got because of the crosses.

Knew Mr.Mister but not Paul Pierce.......guess there something for everyone here

Overall a medium puzzle, with an ok theme

mac 9:58 AM  

A very good Sunday puzzle, in parts easy-medium, but I had some problems in the North.

It took me way too long to figure out the trick, but it was a good moment!

The Leicester - Manchester match is on, and I have a hard time deciding who to root for.

Unknown 10:04 AM  

Never figured out the theme but did get theme answers. Of course that left me wondering why in the world ED MCMAHON was a “Search party,” et al. That I got 87a as clued early on with no help and without considering the “*” certainly didn’t help. I then thought the answer for 6d must have something to do with it. I did this pen and paper and kept looking for the revealer clue. Finally I went back to the computer to see the note I must have missed when I printed it out.

Logging on to @Rex provided the (duh!) answer. Sometimes I have no idea how he figures these things out. As @Chaos said yesterday, “That can only come from being the King Of Crosswords!“

Not sure about “Labor pain” as a UNION STRIKE. I’m sure strikes can be a pain for management’s bottom line. Contrarily, the results of a union strike can reduce economic pain for labor with increased wages and/or benefits. Actual physical pain and death was and is meted out to the laborers. As such, managers have sanctioned the “deadly suppression of labor unions on a large scale [that] persists into the new century [2000],” (Wiki) Contrarily, physical pain to managerial types as a result of union strikes has been insignificant by comparison.

So, it depends on your definition of pain and whose pain you are talking about.


RooMonster 10:09 AM  

Hey All !
Well, I never grocked the theme, and left 72/73/74 D and their accompanying Acrosses blank, as that section was never going to happen. Also, left a couple of empty squares in NE. FOROESE a definite WOE. So a Big Fat DNF!

So now we have to look out for Clue Symbols as part of a theme? Oof. Never would've figured it out, guess the ole brain doesn't twist that way.

Did notice the wide spaces, as trying to fill large chunks of space cleanly with actual words can be downright hard to do.

Many writeovers, many WOEs. Now that I get the theme thanks to OFzl, I can appreciate the Clues more. But still a tad unfair! :-)

TAKEN PAINS (as in hurting the ole brain!)

Anonymous 10:16 AM  

Dear Smart People, Please tell me what lifesavers have to do with "tori"?

Jonathan 10:24 AM  

I was sure that 21 across was pole star. It took me quite a while to give it up

Dorothy Biggs 10:25 AM  

Never got the theme until I came here, so I did the puzzle in complete darkness. That is, I got no help from the (at the time) seemingly random "themers." I got UNITEDAIRLINES and ROMEOANDJULIET to start and figured that there were no shenanigans with the themers (apart from not knowing what they meant), so when I got enough letters to suss out a phrase/name/thing, I filled it in hoping something would jump out at me. It didn't.

The NADERISM/NAME/MIRA crossing was my last skirmish with the puzzle, not knowing "Naderism" (Ralph Nader?) or Mira or seeing what reputation with -A-E was. I initially had fAcE. Nope. I also had a bit of a todo with FAROESE and GARRET...well, the entire NE for that matter.

Overall, OK. I didn't care for the clue for EDMCMAHON (*Search party). Party? Really? Points off for gratuitous obscurity.

Also, is it me or have there been recent mentions of MRMISTER? Seems like just last week?

RAD2626 10:41 AM  

HGTV now consistently in the top five cable networks in prime time so definitely crossword worthy. Although shows are staged and formulaic, programs like Property Brothers and Love it or List it are entertaining.

Hand up for DNF on sEMP/sALINES. Pretty dopey on my part. Never got theme so those answers came fairly hard, especially ED MCMAHON. Like others accepted Z as a cable network and ROMEO AND JULIET were a crossed pair whatever that means. Kept waiting for an asterisk revealer.

Great Sunday puzzle even if it played like a themeless for me.

Unknown 10:49 AM  

The fastest time for this puzzle was 3:14. Is that realistic? If I had the answers in front of me I'm not sure if I could fill out the form in 3:14.

kitshef 10:58 AM  

First themers in were CABLECHANNEL and UNITEDAIRLINES, which could just as easily be clued without the *, so it took until ROMEOANDJULIUT to understand what was going on.

As I worked my way down, the mind wobbled at some of the terrible cluing in the N (for PAWED, IDO and LOKI, most notably), and that awful NE (SMEE and SPEE and SERAPH and OCEANMAP). I was thinking the theme will need to be very clever to make up for this. It wasn't.

A surprising number of WoEs for a Sunday - MCG, ADESTE, TANGIERS, SELAH, TAPENADES AND HOTEL (as clued)- those last two could easily have Naticked me but I could not see HOTaL being right. Happy to see the DERRIERE of this one.

@Rex, if memory serves, the last time we had NAMIB you wanted Negev, so that's one to commit to memory.

AliasZ 11:09 AM  

I ignored the asterisks as I always do, and solved this one as a themeless. Great fun, clean and enjoyable. I little tougher than the average Tue.-level Sunday offerings of late, which is why I liked this one. Despite the theme.

There were so many lovely long entries, many of them across three theme answers, it's hard to choose a favorite, but I enjoyed to see someone NEEDING HELP to GET AN EDGE.

Excellent work, Joel and Byron.

Now I'm off to PEAL a grape for Mae West.

Phil Schifley 11:13 AM  

I didn't even read the title until the end, so never really figured out the asterisk was supposed to be a star. The theme clues just sort of got filled in through the crosses and guesswork. Was easy, but fun

Maruchka 11:31 AM  

Helas. Could not see the meaning of *, I think because upper case letters followed them. I assumed that indicated clueing to come, and we all know what that gets one: a big fat DNF.

Very clever, Messrs.

FARO (umlatted) is a small island off Gotland in the Baltic Sea (not to be confused with the FAROE islands, which are owned by Denmark). FARO was the last home of Ingmar Bergman, where the locals fiercely protected his privacy. All this and more can be seen in sweet documentary titled "Bergman Island". I want to go there, too.

Anonymous 12:29 PM  

Can someone explain "Lifesavers" - "Tori"?

old timer 12:52 PM  

QUOIN??? Sorry, I could not finish last week's Split Decisions, and that was why. Never heard of that word. Had to vent my spleen.

Re today's Sunday puzzle, it was easy and amusing. I got the theme at UNITEDAIRLINES, just like OFL, and found the themers very helpful for completing the long answers. BROKERED SETLLEMENT for instance. I had been certain that the last word would be "element" so I was all agrin when the true answer revealed itself.

Gotta say, HGTV was easy in our household because my wife has it on most of the time.

Writeover: I had "screen" CAREER before ACTING.

Jeffrey Hardy's *Search Party 1:05 PM  

I have a second cousin named SELAH

Anonymous 1:17 PM  

A Torus (plural TORI) is a geometric shap, examples of which are donuts or life-savers. Mathematically, it's a solid with a hole in it which cannot undergo a continuous transformation without eliminating the hole. Mathematically, a coffee cup is a torus.

Z 1:31 PM  

@Me - Topological not topographical. So close.

@TORIcurious anonymouses - If you have one Torus times two you end up with TORI Amos.

Alex 1:49 PM  

Thanks for the explanation about TORI. That was my last answer to go in, and when I received the green "yay!" In Puzzaz, I was pretty surprised.
I began pretty randomly, as the NW didn't jump out at me. Because of that, one of the first answers I wrote in was ROMEOANDJULIET, which made figuring out the theme pretty easy.
It's funny how subjective difficult/easy is. I didn't know Selah at all, nor Admiral Spee, but I DID know that Icelandic and Faroese are close descendants of Old Norse. But we are a community with random factoids rattling around in our heads, aren't we?

Anonymous 2:22 PM  

not the most difficult puzzle. completed
it without ever figuring out what the
theme was.

Nancy 3:00 PM  

@old timer (12:52 pm) -- Re: Split Decisions: I never heard of QUOIN (!) either, but I was totally sure of my horizontal crosses and therefore, with that second U a certainty, as well as the final N, and with the other side of the split therefore having to be (shhh, you know), I therefore wrote in QUOIN and went to the dictionary to see if there was such a word. Since I would have gone out of my mind if it hadn't been there, I was happy as a lark to see that it was.

puzzle hoarder 3:19 PM  

I didn't get the theme until I finished by throwing out FINNISH and filling in the NE corner. RIGHTSIDE was the nearest themer. I know that's the starboard side of a ship so the second I looked back at the clue I got it. While solving I just figured the asterisks were the standard indication of an answer being part of the theme. This was a clever conceit. The themers mostly slowed my solve until the answers were obvious. Solving as a themeless my best trivia triumphs were UTEP and LOMA. What I wasn't familiar with I could always work around.
Being the hoarder that I am went over yesterday's comments to see how people did. Of the named commenters who declared it 12 finished and 29 DNFed. That has to be a record for difficulty.
Today's puzzle a outstanding for it's construction but only low late week for difficulty.
Something new, there's now a McG to go with McQ.

'mericans back in Paris 4:25 PM  

Coming in late here because we didn't get started on the puz until 2:30 p.m. today. Found it easy to start, but then it morphed into medium. Took us awhile before we caught the theme, but there was an "Aha!" moment with 42A (*Alliance member). When I saw the "*Z, for one" clue, I was hoping it had something to do with one or the other of the contributors here who use "Z" as their monikers.

Kudos to Joel Fagliano and Byron Walden for fitting such long words in the downs. My first one was "RUBY SLIPPER", with no letters to work with, a pretty easy one for anybody who grew up watching the Wizard of Oz every year. (Gawd did my parents grow tired of it quickly!) Also got "OPERA CRITIC" and "LICENCE FEES" pretty quickly.

Lucked out on much of the fill, as I used to work on agricultural issues, including those caused by the application of too many AGRO-chemicals, am a fan of KURT Vonnegut, and once shared a taxi (driving from Hamburg to Copenhagen at 150 km/hr across the dark plains of Schleswig-Holstein) with a Swedish film director and a couple of young fishermen from the FAROE Islands.

Like some of the other commentators, I take issue with OCEAN MAP. Also, while it is technically possible to make biodiesel from HEMP oil (indeed, from almost any plant or animal oil or grease, even ear wax) -- or, with more complex and expensive procedures from other parts of the plant -- I don't know of any biodiesel that is being produced commercially from HEMP. A better clue would have been "Source of fiber" or "Some rope is made from it".

That said, overall an enjoyable Sunday exercise.

Anonymous 4:25 PM  

Ocean Map - UGH!

Ludyjynn 5:49 PM  

My sailing friends' boat is aptly named AMULET; so far, so good on their round the world adventures. Hand up for being annoyed w/ OCEAN 'MAP', which is never used in lieu of the correct term, CHART.

HGTV stands for Home and Garden Tele Vision. These days, they air virtually no garden shows, just real estate, real estate and more real estate. Boring, but fine white noise.

EDMCMAHON revealed the theme; at one time, "Star Search" was a hit show, a precursor to "American Idol", and all the other talent shows which followed.

Okay Sunday diversion.

Mohair Sam 5:58 PM  

Hand up with the apparently large group who do not associate the word "star" with the asterisk symbol and never got the theme. Like @gourmand I thought I remembered a "Z" cable channel, then the second themer we got was BROKEREDASETTLEMENT which made no sense as we saw it, hence we were confused throughout. Eventually finished, and due to our theme ignorance and a few new-to-us words (TAPENADES/SELAH/FAROESE/MCG) it played medium-challenging here.

@Kevin is so right about the ridiculous (as clued) OCEANMAP. I can hear Ahab: "Aye Starbuck, I've traced the white whale's journeys on my OCEAN MAPs for 30 years . ." Please. Otherwise we enjoyed this one in spite of having to fill in the theme answers letter by letter (had ROMEOAsaJULIET for a while - it actually works with the downs - it's just not a thing).

Anyhow, any puzzle with MRMISTER can't be all bad. Had OT going down for the "W" clue and confidently put in POTUS, cost us a ton of time. SPEE a gimme here because of personal favorite old flick "Pursuit of the Graf Spee". Told Mrs. M. I'd need one letter to get 20d (PAUL PIERCE) and that's exactly what happened (the C).

I'm watching the standout stars portion of the Phillies postgame show as I type. I'm thinking standout asterisks.

Dorothea 8:16 PM  

Had "get a nudge" instead of "get an edge" for the longest time...

Janet 9:00 PM  

I did the whole puzzle without getting the theme. I had to come here to find out what was going on. Disappointing. At least I did finish.

Unknown 2:48 AM  

Having just had a baby, "labor pain" was obviously designed to get me to enter "contraction." Anyone else go this route?

Anonymous 8:10 AM  

Lifesavers - tori????

joannalan 9:46 AM  

I did for the longest time.

Ryan Fitz Gibbon 12:28 PM  

I still don't understand how lifesaver eg is TORI. Can someone explain?

Ryan Fitz Gibbon 12:29 PM  

Yep, I confidently entered contraction too.

Ryan Fitz Gibbon 12:29 PM  

Yep, I fell into that trap as well.

Leapfinger 2:17 PM  

'ericans, greatly enjoyed the vision of filling the tank at a Cerumenex station. Instead of using a pump, perhaps there's a Very Large Q-Tip?

Anonymous 5:04 PM  

What is "green paint territory?"

kitshef 9:30 PM  

Anon@5:04. 'Green Paint' is shorthand for a pairing of an adjective and a noun (like 'green' and 'paint') that don't form a real, standalone phrase.

bellota 4:25 PM  

I never got the theme, but managed to get the starred clues correct. How did that happen? Dunno.

PapaJ 10:35 PM  

I see many ?? re: TORI but no response that I can understand. Someone, Rex, please -- driving me nuts!

Rex Parker 11:53 PM  

PapaJ see comment at 1:17, above.


Burma Shave 9:38 AM  


but his OWNGOAL at GAMETIME meant he’d get some DERRIERE.


spacecraft 12:03 PM  

Easy-medium my OCULUS. This was a 21x21 Saturday. Look at the cluing! I had to think about almost every one.

Finally found a way in, way down there with HESTER. God forbid I should ever get a foothold in the NW! So, my first theme encounter was __M__AH_N. Already worried that I'd fouled up, I tried to think of how the AH part made sense. Search party?? And then the AHA! of the year (so far) hit. I remember Star Search! It's where Louie Anderson got his break. and the host, good old EDMCMAHON.

But even after it all came to light, I had troubles. Started to write OVERSTEP for "Exceed" but ran out of squares. But what then? It's OVERSTEP. Don't tell me we have a rebus?? Turns "out" the (NON!) word is OUTSTEP. This will incur a two-stroke penalty for out-of-bounds. You see, OUTSTEP


That's right, folks, not a word. Moreover, even if it were, it would never replace OVERSTEP. Guys, clearly you...well, you know.

SELAH was easy, from "East of Eden," when Adam Trask has Cal reading from Scripture, and mentions that "you don't have to say that every time." Cal's response is to say emphatically, "SELAH." Ah, rebellion. Nary a DOD to be found today, but perhaps the best part of one: DERRIERE. Or maybe one of the many portrayers of JULIET?

Medium-challenging, containing so much stuff I didn't know that it's a wonder how I managed to finish with only that silly writeover for not counting spaces beforehand. Better-than-average fill, considering, so it's a par. They were putting for a bird, but 88-down hopped out of the cup. These things happen.

rondo 1:07 PM  

Who would ever have thought that I’d say EDMCMAHON saved my puz? Like OFL I thought a CABLECHANNEL might be called Z, and I had a lot of blanks all over the grid before that notable sidekick just filled himself in, and the aha moment of Star Search. SEEMS like it took too long to register. MORON.

130 words and not a yeah baby clued? TORI not as Amos like the other day. SEEMS like she gets around.

I suppose it’d be a NICEIDEA to continue to give my EMPLOYER the same effort as this puz today and not be an IDLER. But you get break time on Sundays too, no?

rain forest 2:44 PM  

Overall medium-challenging here. Put in FACTS at 1D, then SASH, then left the NW. The North Central was much more friendly and I got my main foothold there, which eventually led to RIGHT SIDE. That confused me, until I parsed the *, and then I was off, sort of.

I'm not sure that "headstrong" can mean RASH--more like "stubborn". Nevertheless, I RASHly stuck with RASH. The whole bottom half of the puzzle went smoothly from there, balking at OUTSTEP like @Spacecraft.

The NW and NE were, for me, by far the most difficult. Only because I thought that 3D had something to do with red shoes could I get FORAGE, and from that it took almost square by square filling to complete the NW. The NE was opaque for too long. Guessing GARRET and SMEE, and sort of knowing SPEE, I gradually wound down to that language from the Norse. I think I've experienced ICE FOG, tiny crystals in the air, and only after I accepted FAROESE did I vaguely remember that embarrassing loss by the Greek soccer team.

And that was that. Not quite a slog, kind of interesting though I didn't know StarZ, or Star Alliance, and the *Ted talks was just weird. You haven't brokered a settlement until you've finished talks, no?

I'd say that JULIET is a yeah baby, though.

AnonymousPVX 2:58 PM  

Nasty clueing throughout.

Wrong clueing "ocean map"? C'mon, we just make things up and use it as a clue?

Really unenjoyable, more like work than fun to solve. And this was rated "easy"? Wow.

Diana,LIW 8:20 PM  

One of my worst DNFs ever! Not a clue as to what was going on. Kudos to the constructors - fair, and gnarly, word/idea/theme play.

Will write tomorrow after I recover.

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords, with no cross words for this puzzle, even tho it vanquished me, utterly

leftcoastTAM 10:52 PM  

Late, but will put in 2 cents worth.

Found much of it a tough slog. Cheated in the NW and North Central to get FORAGE and TORI, then finished the rest of it off.

Glad it's over.

Anonymous 1:45 AM  

Asterisk is from the ancient Greek "asteriskos" meaning "little star" and my syndicated newsprint puzzle actually printed it as a tiny, 5-pointed star, and yet I didn't catch on until 2/3 of the way through. Duh.

Still, an uncommonly easy Sunday puzzle. Cheers for DERRIERE, FAROESE, HALIDES, RUBYSLIPPER. Boo for OUTSTEP. And really, can anyone who knows that *board is the RIGHTSIDE not know that sailors use charts, not OCEANMAPS?

And in the "but still..." department: yeah, the Shelley quote at 13D is correct, but Shelley was consumed by longing for a woman who was beyond his reach, and knew zip about the Seraphim, who are fearsome, not gentle.

"Above [the Lord] stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost... (Isaiah 6:2-5).

--Left Coast Late Nighter

Unknown 12:39 PM  

I always come very late to this blog, since I solve the Sunday Times puzzle over a period of several days and get behind. So I never post. But, having been a journalist for my entire working life, I must say tha I am astounded that Timothy Parker was not fired.

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