Phrase in group photo caption / THU 6-23-16 / Radiohead frontman Thom / Speakeasy-goer / They're best left untouched generally

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Constructor: Megan Amram and David Kwong

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: Formal expressions! — familiar expressions containing a word that can also be a shortened version of a common name have that word changed into the more formal version of the name, resulting in hilarious nonsense:

Theme answers:
  • ROBERT FOR APPLES (17A: Play a game on Halloween, formally?)
  • PENELOPE PINCH (25A: Be exceedingly frugal, formally?)
  • DOROTHY MATRIX (40A: Kind of printer, formally?)
  • SYLVESTER AS A FOX (52A: Very cunning, formally?)
Word of the Day: RENEE Elise Goldsberry (18D: "Hamilton" actress ___ Elise Goldsberry) —
Renée Elise Goldsberry (born January 2, 1971) is an American actress, singer and songwriter. // She is currently performing on Broadway as Angelica Schuyler Church in Hamilton, a performance for which she won the 2016 Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical. Goldsberry's other Broadway credits include Nettie in The Color Purple, Mimi in Rent, and Nala in The Lion King. Goldsberry has also portrayed many roles on television, perhaps best known for her recurring roles as a singer on Ally McBeal, as assistant Cook County State's Attorney Geneva Pine on The Good Wife, and her starring role as Evangeline Williamson on One Life to Live. (wikipedia)
• • •
Megan paid me to say that this puzzle was good, but she didn't have to. I sincerely loved it. I mean, I'm keeping the money. I'm just saying it wasn't *necessary*.

This felt like more of a Wednesday than a Thursday, but that's about the only complaint I have. This was a lot of fun to solve, and the concept was absurd in just the right way. I legitimately LOL'd (or, formally, laughed out loud) at the first theme answer. My whole theory of wacky is: if you're going to go wacky, go completely insane or go home. That first themer makes me imagine a guy named Robert who is very pro-apples. He will put an apple in every pot. Vote Robert: For Apples. Then the second themer had my wife's name in it, so honestly the rest of the grid could've just been filled with EERO, I was sold.

I had one dumb mistake I had to track down when I went with the (to my ear) more appropriate AH YES at 21A: "Now I remember" instead of "OH YES," which reads more, uh, orgasmic. "Ah yes, I remember it well" is a lyric of some sort, right? By CAEN or CAAN or KERN or LOEWE or some such? OMG, look, crossword coincidence: it's from "GIGI"!

Didn't help that that initial vowel was crossing a Greek word, but honestly, POLIS > PALIS even if you know little to no Greek. Still, I can imagine someone ERRing there. At one point I wondered what WARS BARS were, but only briefly. WELD and MELD both work perfectly well for 36A: Fuse, but alas, there are no WARS BARS (yet). I made the usual G-for-J error at GIBES JIBES. I didn't know RENEE because I am not rich / lucky enough to have seen "Hamilton" yet, but crosses were easy. The long answers, LEFT TO RIGHT and HELEN (grrrr...) MIRREN were the special sauce that made this puzzle extra tasty. And I liked how Keanu REEVES crossed the "MATRIX" answer. That is all.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


jae 12:09 AM  

Easy for me too, except for the @Rex POLIS/HALO/OH YES area. I made an educated correct guess (see Evan's rule of thumb from a couple of years back), but it could have been messy. I was iffy on the game and @Rex POLIS was a WOE. Also, instead of Rex's error, if you didn't know the video game and went with AH YES you might have ended up with ParIS. The SAL/LEONA cross might also present a problem.

Cute, but too easy for a Thurs. Nice debut though, liked it.

I highly recommend you google Megan Amram, do not under any circumstances rely on her picture at Xwordinfo.

George Barany 12:58 AM  

I really enjoyed this puzzle, along with @Rex's writeup. While @David Kwong's puzzling magic is familiar to regular New York Times solvers, this is a debut for @Megan Amram, whose oeuvre, in hindsight, some of us will recognize [please give yourself the pleasure of your own Google search, which is sure to lead to several gems beyond this recent New Yorker piece].

I wonder whether we were set up for 52-Across, just a few days ago, when @David Woolf clued STALLONE as "Sly one?" My mother used to tell a story about me as a toddler when we lived in Israel, as poor refugees from the Hungarian revolution. At great expense, she bought one banana each for me and my infant brother. Having gobbled up my own banana, I cajoled Francis, who was in no position to talk back, out of the uneaten portion of his banana. Mom told me that I was sly as a fox. A few days later, I was reading one of those books that has an animal for each letter of the alphabet. On F, I pointed to the picture, and said, there's a fox, he's as sly as George.

I enjoyed learning about HELEN_MIRREN's feat at 23-Down, and the throw-back clue for ELON at 2-Down (the North Carolina university, rather than entrepreneur Musk). It was a stretch to remember ELLEN as the Mrs. Wilson before Edith, and there were other proper names with difficult clues or crossings that exposed my lack of familiarity with the latest in pop culture or video games. That's on me, I suppose, though that's no excuse for not knowing POLIS either.

However, I do think that I have some standing to protest the clue for 53-Down, especially given how many options there are to clue SAL. I've worked as a chemist, handling lab compounds, for nearly 50 years (and no, I'm not that old), and have never ever encountered that particular usage [a friend e-mailed this photo, and all I can say in response, look at the rust on those cans].

In closing, there is some dramatic stuff going down on the floor of Congress, even as I write this. We ENTREAT (20-Across, with grammatical liberties) our elected representatives to pay heed to A Piece of Our Mind ... and do something to keep all these first-person shooters out of schools, churches, and bars.

Marty Van B 1:44 AM  

This felt like a Thursday to me until I realized what the theme was. Kept jumping around the grid trying to get some kind of a foothold. After getting one themer, though, the puzzle quickly fell. The whole solve was fun throughout.

Greg 2:24 AM  

Not a fan of the INGA/AGEE cross, nor SAL/LEONA.

Ghostface Puzzlah 2:28 AM  

I'm sorry, but my wife is a literally a chemist, and she has no idea what a SAL is either. Wikipedia is no help either. Can anyone translate this JOT of crossword-ese?

Aketi 5:09 AM  

I hate it when I fall asleep on the iPad and somehow erase half the answers I fill in. I drifted off when I couldn't figure out how to fit Penny PINCHer into the puzzle ONLY to wake up when the airconditioning stuffed up my sinuses. So, my first OH YES disvovery was when I realized I that I really had filled HALO before I fell asleep because my son gave me the answer, which meant that I had not merely imagined that I filed in YEW, PASS and SOAP.

My second OH.YES experience was when I realized that FOR APPLES wasn't preceded by some other verb conjugation for Bob, it was ROBERT. So PENELOPE PINCH became an instafill. I had a great aunt who was called Dot, so DOROTHY was obvious but I haven't anyone called Dot in 40 years or so. I was sure that OFL would have something to say about that.

My third OH YES experience was that Rex liked it. Somehow, an alternate version of the old Miley Likes It Life cereal commercial often pops into my head just before I read the blog. The version in my head is of Mikey, in typical toddler fashion, saying NO LIKEE and tossing the bowl of cereal on the floor. Then the OPTOMISTS dance in with bright smiles singing happy songs of the Julie Andrews variety while they clean up the mess. In the wee hours of this morning Mikey liked it, rainbow and unicorns have been added to the musical in my head and I'm going back to sleep..

mac 5:37 AM  

Nice puzzle, and the oh yes gave me pauze, too.
The Robert gave it away, then it was fun figuring out the
other ones. Silvester!

Loren Muse Smith 5:56 AM  

"Then the second themer had my wife's name in it, so honestly the rest of the grid could've just been filled with EERO, I was sold." Rex - that's my take on themed puzzles in general. I agree, though, that this one is really fun.

I somehow started in the southeast, so my first themer to wrestle with was SYLV _ _ FOX. Am I the only one who went straight to some kind of "silver fox" thing? But spelled all weirdly? Took me a while to suss that out because LORDE and SAL were really hard. Once I got it, though, I laughed.

First thought for the Emmy/Oscar/Tony person was Rita Moreno.

Think the phrase in an Arabic or Hebrew group photo caption says "right to left?" Inquiring minds want to know.

Rex – I was thinking "ah yes" first, too. And I always want to spell it "syphon" for some reason.

What a cheeky, fun theme. Bravo!

Conrad 6:03 AM  

Who are you and what have you done with Our Fearless Leader, Rex?

Anonymous 7:23 AM  

I agree with Gregory Schmidt and George Barany on SAL and with Schmidt on INGA, especially because it could have been SYPHON. I figured INGA was more likely than YN_A, but still . . .

Charles Flaster 7:24 AM  

Fun, easy romp especially after ROBERT fell so readily and creatively.In the fifties there was a "Cyclops" rage and the neighborhood good guy was Seymour(Cy)--his name morphed into " Seymourclops".
This was a DNF ( I belong to the Thou Shalt Not Google sect). I kept kEW and not YEW as in Kew Gardens. Kept PaLIS not POLIS -- how could I forget MetroPOLIS?
CrosswordEASE--ELON and ERIE.
Interesting write over --MARS BARS for MAlomARS( sp).
Loved creative cluing for POBOY, PYRO, and SOFA.
Liked LEFT TO RIGHT and I would wager the creators thought about placing it left to right.
Thanks MA and DK

Anonymous 7:52 AM  

The Navy and Air Force have bases. The Army has camps, forts and posts, but never bases. Otherwise an enjoyable puzzle.

G. Harris 8:04 AM  

Easy? Yeah, after I googled Ellen and Leona.

Carola 8:05 AM  

I liked PENELOPE PINCH, who sounded like she might be a character in a cozy British novel, perhaps one of the ladies working at the jumble sale in ye olde YORKE. But I'm a little grouchy at how easy the puzzle was. It happened that my toehold was suitably at the foot of the puzzle where ERIE DOES crossed paths wth PYRO PLIE, giving me the string YLV in the theme answer. "SYLVan?" quickly yielded to SYLVESTER, and the rest of the grid went fast, with only a couple of points of resistance. I wanted the PE of PENELOPE to be the first letters of PEnnies - nope; and Gandi's dhoti had to change into SARIS.

Sir Hillary 8:11 AM  

Nice puzzle -- fun theme, and the clues pushed back in places. The OHYES/POLIS cross is BS, however.

Those of you who solve as I do -- on paper in the NYT Arts section -- may notice an interesting coincidence involving one of today's long down entries and something else on the page.

Nancy 8:16 AM  

A fun theme, along with some nice misleading clues: SOFA; ARMY BASE; and especially POBOY, which really fooled me at first. But the Radiohead guy, the singer, the Grammy winner, the Hamilton actress (yes, I saw and loved the show, but I certainly didn't remember her name) and the Jon (wrong AGEE for someone of my generation) made this feel much too PPP-heavy to be truly enjoyable. Thank God for HELEN MIRREN -- a gimme. Could have been more fun than it was, had there been fewer pop names.

kitshef 8:24 AM  

Fun, though ridiculously easy - more Tuesday than Wednesday, says I. And like Tuesday, you can fill in huge amounts of space once you get the theme. The only themer than gave any pause was PiNchpenelopes ... oh that won't fit, before PENELOPE PINCH.

Quite a bit of Schroedingering along the way ... LOGON/LOGin, MELD/wELD, OHYES/aHYES, and for me, REEVES/REaVES, I not being sure of the spelling. Also had aNnA, which sounds so right, before INGA, which does not.

I am told that as a tad I pronounced antelope with a long 'e', apparently assuming it was analogous to PENELOPE ... an-TEL-uh-pee.

Did PENELOPE PINCH make anyone else think of this??

Kitty 8:25 AM  

Such a coincidence:
Final Jeopardy answer tonight is

gcedwards10 8:28 AM  

"SAL" is completely unacceptable cluing.

Hungry Mother 8:33 AM  

I figured SAL was short for SALT, but now that I think of it, a bit of a stretch. Anyway, very easy Thursday.

jberg 8:39 AM  

DNF 😢 -- I was looking for the name of a specific Greek city, and PaLIS seemed good enough. Unfortunately, the puzzle in the paper doesn't let you know you're not done. Aside from that, my only trouble was dhoti before SARIS.

I liked the ENTAIL/ENTREAT cross.

Anonymous 8:41 AM  

For a while I had bRAS for 44A. Just didn't seem right...

Tita 8:46 AM smugly dropped in "RIGHTTOLEFT" with no crosses, brushing away the JOT of a thought warning me of such impetuous behavior.

I just love this idea! Got the theme right away, knew Rex would like it because PENELOPE, then did the never-before act of going straight for the remaining themers without any crosses first, to see if I could guess them,. OHYES I could!

Just yesterday I noticed that the bar of soap I just bought says "pain de beauté"... Beauty bread? I definitely would prefer some beauty cake myself...

Almost a DNF. Pure guess at the SA_/_EONA crossing. I didn't believe SAL Was a thing, but must be LEONA, right?
Harder for me with all the PPPs.
And almost got caught by the clever misdirect at Hero of New Orleans...just assumed it was another sports ref. With the I from LOGiN tossed in to up the difficulty in seeing the light.
I was happy to see POBOY emerge...I have fond memories of Debris from Mother's...mmm, mmm!

Thanks, MA/DK. Super idea. (I'm hoping for some additional themers from our clever posters today.)

AliasZ 8:48 AM  

Is Tom YORKE (whoever he is) worthy if inclusion in a NYT puzzle? Likewise LEONA Lewis? Or Jon AGEE? And who on God's green earth knows the name of Woodrow Wilson's first wife? Or the the dog's name belonging to Adlai Stevenson's next door neighbor?

YORKE was BORKE, CORKE, DORKE, FORKE, GORKE, PORKE, RORKE, etc. until I got to the letter Y. Some of these are just as likely as YORKE. What a jorke. INGA/AGEE was a lucky guess, oddly, INGA being tucked away in a dusty folder labeled "Obscure Names That Most Likely You Will Never Need for the Rest of Your Life" in a creaky old file cabinet, half of whose drawers are permanently rusted shut, that is my brain.

This, plus a plethora of other equally befuddling names totally killed this puzzle for me, even though the theme was lots of fun.

Theodore Bear (no relation to Patricia Cake).

PS.: Acropolis = high city (not unlike Denver).

Dorothy Biggs 8:51 AM  

I get PENELOPEPINCH = Penny pinch, SYLVESTERASAFOX = Sly as a fox, but how does ROBERTFORAPPLES = Bobbing for apples?? Bobby-ing for apples? This outlier is the problem I had with the puzzle and I'm very surprised that Rex, who usually dissects these themes down to every JOT and tiddle and nuance of meaning. This seems like a pretty big problem with the theme.

The long HELENMIRREN posed a few problems, mostly in terms of confirming my crosses, because I have no idea who that is. I Googled her and her face is familiar...but I've only seen just a couple of her movies and all of those were from a long time ago. She's certainly not a name on my radar.

Most of the proper nouns were obscure to me: YORKE, RENEE from Hamilton, and LEONA. And then there are the names that I know only because of xwords: ALEC, INGA, and ERATO.

HELIX reminds me of Steely Dan's Aja..."Double helix in the sky tonight, throw out the hardware, let's do it right." Yep, I'll be singing that most of the morning...and that earworm is probably the worst thing this puzzle left me with, so apart from "bobby for apples," it was a good puzzle.

But Rex, seriously did you miss that?

Tita 9:07 AM  

For years, I've kept quiet when many don't know something that is basic to me, because those examples are far, far outnumbered by things I don't know that are gimmes for everyone else. And because we all have our own wheelhouses and can't go all judgy on different wheelhouses. But I can hold out no longer!!!

POLIS! Really!?
Greek for city/state/citizen etc..
Politics, cosmopolitan, metropolitan, policy, police...!
And how about Naples<<Neapolis=New City.
Tripoli<<Three Cities

Do we not all consider ourselves to be cosmopolitan citizens of the world?
Even Rex and Jeff@xwordinfo?!


chefbea 9:08 AM  

Fun easy it at syvester as a fox. What does speakeasy goer have to do with wet?????

Rex Parker 9:09 AM  


orangeblossomspecial 9:11 AM  

There are a few songs along today's theme:

Bing Crosby and Connee Boswell: 'BOB White'

Dinah Shore and Tony Martin: 'A PENNY a kiss'

Hushpuppy212 9:17 AM  

I'm old, so I still do the puzzle on paper, in the paper, and was amused to see the Jeopardy answer, next to the crossword: 'She won a 2006 Oscar and a 2015 Tony for playing the same monarch, though in different productions'. Of course, the 'question' is 'Who is Helen Mirren?' Surely this is the first time we've had matching Jeopardy / crossword clues on the same day

Wm. C. 9:24 AM  

For 23D, the 3X Acting award winner, I already the acrosses IRAS and ARMYBASE, so I confidently threw in JEREMYIRONS -- who coincidentally was a 3X winner.

Understandably, I think, I stubbornly held onto this, even though, later, ---SA at the bottom made no sense for some singer's first name, and --worse-- I knew the themer above hadda be DOROTHYMATRIX! And above that, LOGON and ROLES.

Fully Stumped, I finally did something I (almost) never do -- came here to Rex-ville to untangle my brain cells.


W. C. 9:32 AM  


During the prohibition era (the time of speakeasies, illegal bars), the opposing forces on the issue were called the "Wets" and the "Dries." Needless to say, it was the Wets who frequented the Speakeasies.

Bookwoman 9:32 AM  

Salts are chemical compounds, so perhaps SAL as in the Latin for 'salt', as used in sal volatile? I'm no chemist, though.

Elliot Ness 9:40 AM  

@chefbea, during Prohibition, if you were an alcohol drinker and went to a speakeasy you were a "wet." If you supported the alcohol ban you were a "dry."

Mohair Sam 9:42 AM  

Well I've been fooling around constructing a puzzle for a while and now I'm doing a little reworking here to make sure I include PENELOPE, @Rex's opinion being important to me. If anyone knows the names of Rex's dogs please pass them along.

What a delightful theme! We went absolutely nuts trying to crack it, and were cursing the PPP (too much of that imo) forever. Had DOROTHYM______ and ROBE_gFORAPPLES but still couldn't figure things out. Finally got smart and started naming aloud every printer type I knew starting with dot MATRIX. Duh. Puzzle was filled within minutes.

Whilom a heck of a tough clue (ERST), but filled easily enough. Is ERATO the only Muse in Cruciverbia? Embarrassed that we didn't know RENEE, that is one hell of a resume. AGEE/INGA a nasty cross (Mrs. M. remembered INGA, barely). Interesting factoid on the wonderful actress HELEN MIRREN, DCI Tennyson in this house.

@Conrad - If they're trying to raise a ransom I'm not kicking in, I kinda like the pretender.

pmdm 9:55 AM  

As far as the names go, I'm with AliasZ and NCA President. I will await Z's proper name analysis. If you didn't know the proper names, the puzzle was anything but easy.

NCA President: Fans of the PBS Mystery series are very familiar with Helen Mirren from her wonderful performances on the Prime Suspect series. In that series, for a twist you knew the murderer right away. The point of the series was a woman investigator in a sexist office trying to get a conviction. Highly recommended.

JC66 10:03 AM  

@ NCA President

I think it's BOB for apples.

GILL I. 10:13 AM  

@Rex = Bob...I hope everybody reads that...
I don't ever remember a crossword with so many proper names. You start out with ALEC ELLEN INGA, and if you don't know them or any of the other million names, the theme answers aren't as fun as they should be.
I got ROBERT (Bob) FOR APPLES pretty quickly and like @Tita I just skipped the rest of the fill and filled (guessed) the others. I like the idea - it was cute. But damn, other than HELEN MIRREN, the rest of the fill was just no fun.
AEROmexico. My nemesis!

RooMonster 10:18 AM  

Hey All !
Theme- good. Fill- not so good. Lots of names, thinking only reason ran on Thursday. Otherwise Wednesday, no tricks, just a FORMALity.

Actually liked puz as a whole... (yea, whole lotta s&!# :-) ). Just a joke, folks! Bombed out on YEW and SAL. So DNF here.

Actually did online today, as had to wake up at 2:30am to go to work for 4:00am. Which is no biggie, as that is my usual start time. (Usually print puz from NYT site and do at work.)(Limo driver, do twixt rides.) The biggie was waking up to no power in the house! Must've just shut off, cause it was still cool in the house, refrigerator stuff still cold. So had to do the three S's with the flashlight on on my phone! The first two S's weren't too bad, but shaving by flashlight was a bit of a challenge! Then, garage door opens manually if no power, but couldn't get it to stay up to get car out! Dropped my phone twice during that ordeal, where of course it opened, battery flying out, trying to find the pieces in the dark. Energy company fixing power by that time, but I had to leave. Luckily, neighbor was outside by then, so she held door up while I zipped out of garage. And of course, as soon as I got my car out, the power came back on. But had no time to start computer to print puz.

And after all that, get to work to hear, "Why are you here? You don't have any rides." --- ! So I left, got some breakfast, and did puz online.

Some days are diamonds, some days kick ya in the jewels!


John V 10:21 AM  

Fun but with some iffy crosses/proper name: YORKE, LEONA LORDE, INGA. No way to know HALO without the HELLENMIRREN cross, which I also did not know. So, fun, but just one thumb up from this senior solver.

Dorothy Biggs 10:29 AM  

Ah so...BOB for apples. I guess I've always played "bobbing" for apples as the name of the game....and afterward I had "bobbed" for apples. I suppose there would be a time when I would ask someone if they were going to "bob" for apples. Makes sense now. Thanks, JC66!

Anonymous 10:29 AM  

I'm with George. I've had 7 semesters of chemistry, worked in labs for 7 years and sold to chemistry labs for over 20 and NEVER EVER heard or saw SAL in a lab.

Hartley70 10:37 AM  

Easy breezy Thursday. It did take me a bit to see the theme but dotMATRIX did it for me. The popular names were all known to me, except Thom's where I needed the RKE to get rolling. SAL will remain a mystery.

I liked this. The theme felt fresh and the fill felt young.

Zwhatever 10:49 AM  

@Tita A - My thoughts exactly on POLIS, until the mention of "specific Greek city." I think a lot of times it comes down to which clue you see first. I think looking at P-LIS and seeing that clue most would plunk in the O. But filling in aH YES and then seeing PaLIS the instinct is to see how that might work, not see how it is wrong.

@G. Harris and others - I translate "The first Mrs. Woodrow Wilson" to "some woman's first name. That makes seeing ELLEN easier whereas if I focus on the trivia cluing I'll block on it far longer.

@Alias Z - Radiohead and Thom YORKE are not my cuppa, but they've been performing since the mid 80's, had their first huge hit in the early 90's, have had several #1 albums, and their albums a generally critically acclaimed. Definitely NYTX worthy. LEONA Lewis is a Brit. I don't think she is quite on the level of Thom YORKE, but I've seen the name before. Besides, how many ways can you turn -EONA into a name? As for Jon AGEE - my children's librarian wife knew the name immediately.

@NCA Prez - My thought at first as well, but read the clue again and you will see that (BOB) FOR APPLES is the grammatically correct answer.

@anon7:52 - Looky what I found - a list of ARMY BASEs.

PPP to follow...

chefbea 11:03 AM  

Thanks all for the answer to wet. I wasn't around during prohibition...that's why I didn't know

kitshef 11:09 AM  

@AliasZ - Funny how one man's poison is another man's gnat. I did not even notice YORKE in the puzzle, having gotten it from crosses, and wondered if you were commenting on a puzzle from another day.

@Roo Monster. Maybe this is not an option at your job, but I would not even consider trying to shave if the power was out. Indeed, I'm always surprised by the circumstances in which people do shave. We are at the time of year when a lot of Appalachian Trail thru-hikers come through - many of them clean-shaven. Sleeping in a tent, doing what bears do in the woods, a thousand miles into a journey twice that long, and you're still shaving every day???

Lewis 11:19 AM  

Pair David Kwong with a comedian and it's just got to end up fun. And it was, from guessing the theme answers with few or no letters, to clues like those for SOAP, SYPHON, ARMYBASE, TIE, and POBOY. There's also a backward SARI in the SARIS neighborhood, a crossing of ROLES with HELENMIRREN. YEW is not a common crossword answer, yet, ironically, it appears overUSED. And if you start with the T in ERST you can, Boggle-style, get a THOM to go with that YORKE.

Lots of fun! If I could, I'd advertise this puzzle on a williamboard.

Zwhatever 11:20 AM  

PPP Analysis
Pop Culture, Product Names, and Proper Names as a percentage of the puzzle. Once the percentage hits 33% a puzzle will be difficult for some subset of solvers.

The four themers have Proper Names in them, but they are a play on a non-proper name phrase. Are they PPP? I'll let you decide.

There are 22 PPP answers out of 72 not including the themers. This is a highish 29% of the puzzle answers. Add the themers and it becomes 26/72, a definitely problematic 36%. At the same time, two of the PPP answers are longer answers, HELEN MIRREN and MARS BARS, something I don't account for in how I do the calculation. In short, this puzzle is right in that area where the PPP begins to cause issues of the PPP is not in a solver's wheelhouse.

The List
* For Musty
** For Ephemeral


INGA (Swenson is a frequent INGA clue - remember this one)*
ROLE (Shakespeare clue)
SARI (Ghandi clue)
LEONA Lewis**

ONLY (pop music clue)
RENÉE Elise Goldsberry
AERO México

Joe Bleaux 11:28 AM  

Another hand up for way too many (I counted 10) names, many of which I didn't know until the fills revealed 'em. Fun theme, though (and Whilom = ERST for my learn-something-from-a-puzzle-nearly-every-day claim).

chefbea 11:36 AM  

@Lewis...good one

What do you call a british policeman formally?? a Robert

Joseph Michael 12:09 PM  

A surprisingly easy but fun Thursday. Once I figured out the theme, which was early on, I leaped ahead and pretty much just dropped in the rest of the themers.


Other formalities that come to mind:

Last William and Testament
Ramond of Light
Arthur Deco
Playing a Thomas Thomas
Taking it to the Maximilian

Tom 12:30 PM  

Being on the Left Coast, I do the puzzle when I get up and print it out. Couldn't figure out the theme until I filled in lots of downs, and was about to give up until I had my AHYES moment looking at FORAPPLES. ROBERT! Did the same thing OFL did, LOL. Gleefully filled in the rest of the puzzle.

Thought SAMIS might be a forgotten Greek city for a while, then remembered metroPOLIS for the gimme. Good guess at SAL/LEONA, just made sense. Saw a documentary once about prohibition, so WETs vs. drys came to mind. YEW is a kind of tree/bush, so had the Y for YORKE, a good British name for a Thom.

Hope the Brexit vote today keeps the Brits in the Union. I mean, they have their pound notes instead of Euros, so work with the rest of the communities. Stock market thinks they're staying in…

Trombone Tom 12:56 PM  

Anon 7:52 The Oakland (CA) Army Base moved much of the materiel to the Pacific theater in WWII.

Teedmn 1:45 PM  

Once again being savvy about alcohol came to my rescue. I had no idea what today's theme ENTAILed until I got my first entry at WETS crossing YEW. YORKE was a gimme since I love Radiohead. Still, for a long time I had ROBERT, PENELOPE and DOROTHY with nary a clue as to why they were there.

@Tita, thank you for the rant; I dare say I will now remember that Greek root, especially considering I live in a suburb of MinneaPOLIS.

Perhaps the muse of crosswords was on my side today since I luckily avoided a DNF in the SAL/LEONA, AIRED/AERO area. A bunch of those squares were empty when I finally saw AIRED and made the fateful decision about the L of SAL. Thanks, @GeorgeB, for the photo link.

Congrats, Ms. Amram for the debut, along with David Kwong.

lg 2:27 PM  

JiVES for JIBES and SyPHON for SIPHON. Other than those mistakes, not a bad little puzzle!

Andrew Heinegg 3:25 PM  

When Prohibition was passed, the people who were dismayed at all alcohol being illegal were 'wets' as in they wanted to wet their pallets and had to go to a speakeasy to do so. The days were those folks who wanted alcohol to be illegal.

Terry B. 3:35 PM  

Fun fun fun. Like Rex, I LOL'd at the theme.

Hey Rex, here's a question. I was chatting with a friend, and we wondered if anyone has done a puzzle that is nearly all crossword cliches. You know, "etoi, aloe, nfler, etc"

Tita 4:00 PM  

@Mohair - one of the funniest comments this year!!

To be fair, I often like a puzzle *just* because my car, or favorite planet, or some other very personal-but-nothing-to-do-with-puzzle-value thing is in it, even if it's a lousy puzzle.
In fact, it is the ability to evoke lots of memories/stories that make me enjoy a puzzle - and give me plenty of fodder to bore y'all with!

Anoa Bob 4:10 PM  

SAL used to get clued as some variation of "Actor ___ Mineo". I guess he's becoming a bit dated. Another option, even more dated though, would be the old Bristol-Myers laxative/cathartic SAL Hepatica. With summer in swing, maybe it's time to bring it back.

OISK 4:31 PM  

I got aDNF because I misspelled "siphon" as "siphen". My fault, but I would have caught it if not for the terrible clue for "Halo." A video game??? PLEASE!!! Gimme a break! And then there were the totally meaningless to me Leona Lewis, someone called "Lorde," something called Radiohead involving Yorke, Renee Goldsberry, John Agee , adding to my general dissatisfaction. Given that much completely unfamiliar ( and uninteresting to me) material, I guess I should be happy to have missed only one square. But I'm not!

Pop culture fill aside, I liked the theme. (and got Polis by trying every two letter combination P--is, where the second letter was A or O. When I got to POLIS, I thought of metropolis and guessed it. )

kitshef 4:59 PM  

@Anoa Bob - Sal hepatica, like sal ammoniac(which some folks will surely remember), is the sense in which SAL is being clued in the puzzle, I think.

Jon 6:56 PM  

Fun theme. Good to see I wasn't only one thinking up of these. Did the ol' Richard Hertz when having a sub on the signin sheet in high school. To make it more formal and less obvious pun.

Hartley70 7:48 PM  

@Kitty and @Hushpuppy, as an online puzzle solver I would enjoy the evening's final Jeopardy question much more if you did not reveal it hours before it airs. I'm a digital NYT subscriber and had no idea they ruin that night's Jeopardy game in the paper. I understood they offered the question the day after it aired. Thank you in advance for your future consideration.

Sailor 10:00 PM  

As @Bookwoman guessed, SAL is Latin for salt. No idea how commonly it is used these days, but well within my lifetime it was commonly used to name salt compounds (sal ammoniac or ammonium chloride, NH4Cl; sal soda or sodium carbonate, Na2CO3) and brand-name commercial mixtures of salts (Sal Hepatica). Kinda surprised, actually, that the chemists in the group are unfamiliar with this usage.

On the other hand, whilom??? Now that's really going back in time.

Mohair Sam 10:43 PM  

@Hartley70 - Amen

GILL I. 10:48 PM  

@Hartley...I completely floored my husband by coming up with the final Jeopardy answer.....I didn't have the heart (mean streak) to tell him I heard here...

lynn 11:46 PM  

I hadn't noticed but thanks for pointing that out!

Unknown 12:33 PM  

Apologies for this comment littering inboxes so after the fact. I got to this puzzle a couple weeks late but was nonetheless compelled to comment.

A cute theme was ruined by 15 proper nouns, a good 5 of which were obscure. X-word puzzles that become trivia contests are no fun. The rest was too easy for a Thursday and the fill was meh. The bad and the ugly trumped the good in this puzzle. Did an evil villain slip a Roofie into Rex's coffee before he reviewed it? This was not the voice of our fearless leader.

Burma Shave 9:08 AM  


OHYES, I let PENELOPEPINCH my ass, and give AFEW SWATs, as well.
Oh LORDE she ONLY makes that PASS when she ENTREATS me to ENTAIL.


rondo 10:35 AM  

Easiest puz this week, names notwithstanding. Actually helping. All seemed fair to me. Especially yeah babies HELENMIRREN, LEONA Lewis, LORDE, and RENEE Goldsberry. Never really considered INGA Swenson that way, but I’ve been wrong before. The gals might have a yeah baby in Keanu REEVES? I don’t read People mag or watch any of those tabloid TV shows, yet I know most of the names that pop up, how are so many other folks so unaware? PENELOPE for your thoughts. Penny Cruz? Don’t like how that rolls.

Even considering how silly this theme was (and I got it at the RO in the first themer), it’s better than a rebus. But probably too easy for Thursday, unless one is not familiar with the PPP factor here.

spacecraft 10:57 AM  

I could actually start in the NW this time! And after laying down the first themer, a gimme with the clue + the ROBE...start, I thought, hey guys, it's Thursday; better toughen this one up. They tried to in the NE by picking an obscure AGEE, but it didn't work. Never heard of "ONLY Sixteen" or "ONLY Time," but the Platters' signature hit was enough. Momentary confusion in the east with IVY for the hedge plant; I thought YEW was a tree. But by and large I sailed through this one. Call it easy-easy-medium. (Or EEM, if you're doing RD's).

I like the unstrained use of the high-scrabble letters. For DOD, I'll use one of @rondo"s from yesterday: DOROTHY Lamour. Va, as they used to say, va voom. Re military installation nomenclature: FORMALLY, it's true the Army doesn't have "BASEs," but you can still say that "the Army has two new companies BASEd at Ft. Dix." In that sense I'm okay with it. It ain't the hill I wanna die on.

Does anybody remember SAL Hepatica? 'Nuff said. Birdie.

spacecraft 11:01 AM  

P.S. Forgot to mention: the syndicated spot has been glued to Saturday June 18 all week. Wake up there, hoss!

rain forest 1:38 PM  

I guess I am one of the few who did not find this easy, not because of the plethora of names, but just because I was obtuse for way too long. Even though I had the four corners all worked out, the "formally" thing didn't click and in the Hallowe'en clue, I was trying to work something around "trick or treat" (hah). The French cutie was 'amour' at first, and only when I changed that to CHERI did the PENELOPE drop. Of course - formal names!

From that point things went rather well. Got all the themers, got HELEN MIRREN, a favourite of mine, but had to struggle with the South centre and the midwest for a bit. Btw, @Alias Z, Thom Yorke and Radiohead do belong here. Great band.

Maybe a nit, but as far as I know, only Stallone is referred to as SLY. A friend of mine from high school was named SYLVESTER, and the shortened version of his name was Syl. Makes more sense. Anyway, liked this puzzle, as stupid as I was in eventually getting to a finish.

@Spacy - hope all went well with your surgery.

rondo 2:15 PM  

@rainy - Sylvester "Sly" Stone (originally Stewart)

Sailor 2:19 PM  

@spacecraft: I think that SAL needed a better clue, and preferably one that indicated it’s not current usage. But it’s not ancient history, either. Sal Hepatica was produced by Bristol-Myers until 1958 , and it had been a big seller throughout the first half of the 20th century. I remember it well from my childhood, and I’m not retired yet. It was in my grandparents’ medicine cabinet, and advertisements for it seemed to be everywhere. So I’m just as surprised that you have apparently never heard of it, as you are that I have.

Anonymous 2:24 PM  

Outside Pittsburgh, there is a Coraopolis, named after someone's wife Cora!

But you should be familiar with Annapolis, Minneapolis, & Clark Kent's home, Metropolis!

While walking around Charleston SC, we noticed historic markers used the term "Carolopoplis" - which

the Preservation society apparently chose as a high-falutin' way to say "Charles-town"

leftcoastTAM 4:24 PM  

Finally broke the code on the themers with ROBERT, but after further delays got TIEd up in the YEW/YORKE/ERATO crossings.

YORKE was the real culprit here, but was also am-bushed by what appeared to be an out-of-place YEW in an English hedge, and couldn't identify ERATO as part of a nonet.

Thought for a while that I was INIT, but no SOAP.

Diana,LIW 6:01 PM  

Did you know that Meryl Streep has the same number of letters as HELENMIRREN? I sure do. It even crosses well with ARMYBASE - all the wordplay clues were gimmes for me - SOAP, SOFA, POBOY all jumped into the puzzle. Then, getting the theme early on, I filled in the themers lickity split.

But the PPPs? Not so much. Lots of guessing. Lots. Why, @Rondo asks? How can I miss this stuff? Well, deafie husband can't stand the sound systems at the movies - my last movie-house movie was Titanic. Really. TV is either movies (to make up for above) or Mr. W's sports. I listen to NPR. I do read the "people" column in the paper, so I get some pop culture news there, on the radio, and of course there's the magazines at the checkout stands at the grocery. I study them carefully as I wait my turn.

But I guessed well. My only error was ERrS for ERAS. Yes, I know, I know - you needn't rub it in. Yes, I did say to myself that the puz wouldn't have ERR and ERrS in the same grid. And, yes, ERrTO makes no sense at all. I really mythed that one.

@Spacey - glad to see you're in fine fettle. I noticed the Syndie lag too, and took the deLorean to futureland and saw that REX has a sub this week. I guess someone clued him in, as now the Syndie button works just as well as my fabulous car.

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords

spacecraft 6:25 PM  

Ah, @Sailor, you misunderstood my last line. I DO remember that product--and agree with all you said about its popularity. I was wondering why no one ELSE seemed to recall it. (On closer inspection, I see that a couple folks did mention it, so that was what probably confused you.) Still, there were better clues available, starting with the Kerouac protagonist.

Thanks @rainy; it was routine, but no surgery is 100% safe. Mine evidently was.

@Diana LIW: Thanks, and Mr. W. has a kindred spirit re modern movie-house sound systems. Blast you out of your seat!

Sailor 8:22 PM  

@spacecraft, you are right, I misunderstood your point. My apologies.

Nightowl 10:55 PM  

*hopefully they wet their palates only!

Nightowl 11:20 PM  

I'm no chemist, either. But I remember 'sal hepatica' being very common. Googled it; it went out in 1958.Part of the Bristol-Myers corp history, along with Ipana toothpaste.And, yes, it was a salt.

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