Worker at Omnicrom Group / WED 6-29-16 / Fodder's place but not mudder's / 100 points to jeweler / Despised figure in Fiddler on Roof / Natty neckwear / bisschen not much Ger /

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Constructor: John Lampkin

Relative difficulty: Medium (felt Easy, but clock said otherwise)

THEME: gratis — clues (which all follow the pattern [It ___]) suggest something for which you don't have to pay, but answers take the clues in other, unexpected directions:

Theme answers:
  • WEATHERVANE (19A: It's on the house)
  • DEAD BATTERY (53A: It carries no charge) 
  • EMPTY CHAIR (27D: It's free)
  • RAVE REVIEW (10D: It's complimentary) 
Word of the Day: GELÉE (31D: Hair goop) —

a jellied substance, especially a cosmetic gel or a jellied food. (
• • •

Not much to say here. This seems highly adequate: it's this, it's that, but not what you think, aha, I see, the end. Honestly, I had no idea what the theme was until I was done and went looking. Answers themselves told me nothing. Only after examining the clues for the longest answer did I see the pattern. Interestingly unobtrusive, this theme. Why wouldn't you say [It's free of charge] for DEAD BATTERY? Seems a much more natural phrase, and still literally applies to a DEAD BATTERY. Oh, right, I see. You've got [It's free] as one of your other theme clues. OK then. I guess "carries no charge" will have to do. Inelegant, but acceptable/necessary. Didn't mind the double [Pub offering] but the triple was irksome. Pubs don't offer SUDS. ALE and BREW are not slang, so the non-slang clue fits. SUDS needs slang in the clue to fly. Felt similarly about GELÉE, but in reverse. That's a formal word—one used way way less than simple GEL—so "goop" hardly seems appropriate. For GEL, sure, "goop." But GELÉE needs a less downscale word.

Not sure why you clue ARI as an abbr. except for the sole purpose of getting people to guess STL first (9D: Cardinals, in stats). "In stats" is a ridiculous phrase. It's not anything "in stats." It *is* something "in football stats," but then no one would step into your little trap. Traps should be clever! Speaking of clever, that COLLEGE clue (29A: Emerson or Dickinson). Now that's a trap. Or, rather, an incredible misdirection. Needed many crosses before I stopped looking for something to do with 19th-century American literature. Had HAM IT (a la PIG IT!) instead of HAM UP (26D: Overplay), IVORY before CAMAY (33A: Brand once billed as "the soap of beautiful women"), I LOSE before I LOST (24D: "You beat me"), and DIG DOWN before DIG DEEP (41D: Try one's utmost). Else ... you know, a puzzle. It's a puzzle. It's nice.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. here a little something on yesterday's HAREM clue and the broader problem it represents.

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


jae 12:13 AM  

Easy-medium for me. Had BeEr before BREW and tried Mosaics for 15a but it wouldn't fit and that was about it for erasures.

Solid fill, subtle but cute theme, liked it.

Carola 12:23 AM  

MISS A CUE? Definitely. I couldn't find a theme and never thought to look back at the clues. I appreciate the puzzle a lot more now. Except...EMPTY CHAIR? Is a thing? Isn't isn't it usually "empty seat," if anything?

I found the west side much easier than the east: it took a while for CUREALL, RAVE REVIEW, COLLEGE, and BOWL OVER (I so wanted "gobsmack") to come into view. I liked the MAGMA clue and BLOW x WEATHERVANE.

George Barany 12:32 AM  

I was multitasking while solving @John Lampkin's pleasant puzzle, and fell into the STL vs. ARI trap and the IVORY vs. CAMAY trap and the GELEE huh trap, all mentioned by @Rex, though happily I had enough crossing letters to not fall into the Emerson/Dickenson trap.

For some dumb reason, I thought of ALTO ahead of ALPS, so that slowed me down in the SW corner. OH_BOY, I grew up in the 1960s without a TV, so was unfamiliar with "ASTRO_Boy." It was a clever touch to have three of the last five across clues all be "pub offering," and fun to see ASS together with BUTT_DIAL, OH_BOY teamed with "ASTRO_Boy" (sorry, I grew up in the 60s without a TV), and SEAT alongside an EMPTY_CHAIR.

The kind of joke a chemist tells: A neutron walks into a pub and gets a drink. How much do I owe? For you, no charge!

Loose ends from yesterday: (1) yay @LOREN (Muse Smith) for being in the center of the puzzle (crossing HAREM). (2) The EULER clue was rather clever, referring to its pronunciation (homophone of oiler). In the Academy Award nominated "The Imitation Game," starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Turing, the character (Joan Clarke) played by Keira Knightley pronounces it "yoo-ler" (rhymes with "popular"). This is quickly corrected by Cumberbatch-Turing, as discussed further here (thanks @Noam Elkies for the link).

Trombone Tom 12:41 AM  

Sassy little puzzle that I enjoyed a lot. Few missteps except for groping for traction after I put in MISSpeak for MISSACUE. And yes, ivorY before CAMAY.

Lots of clever cluing like "unhung paintings" for MURALS and the possible names of a COLLEGE. And what's not to like about BUTTDIAL.

I don't parse the drinks as finely as OFL and have no problem with BREW and SUDS, even though the SUDS should be on top.

Andrew M 1:11 AM  

Surprised there wasn't attention called to BUTT DIAL, my favorite part of this puzzle. Very in-the-language.

I also dig the clue for TRIVIA night, which is definitely A Thing in my yuppie circles.

Virginia 1:34 AM  

Perfectly enjoyable, though I must confess I didn't even notice the theme. Took me quite a bit longer than usual for a Wednesday, for no particular reason. Like Rex, I initially had IVORY for CAMAY and I LOSE instead of I LOST. And yeah, the clue for COLLEGES was sneaky -- but I was a bit embarrassed at how long it took me to get it, given that my grandparents lived a few miles from Fairleigh Dickinson College and I actually visited Emerson with my son a few years ago.

Last to fall were HAITI (I was thinking of Hispaniola as a possible synonym for Spain, and to make matters worse, I'd mistyped an N at the end of what should have been BLAH) and then IBISES (because I'd misspelled AENEID as AENEAD).

It makes me happy to see the expression BUTT DIAL in the New York Times.

Anonymous 4:02 AM  

Yesterday's "harem" entry and "Why Is the New York Times Crossword So Clueless About Race and Gender?" over at Slate. Rex is cited throughout. Just Google the title and you'll get the Slate hit.

Loren Muse Smith 4:37 AM  

Ok, recently a couple of times I've run my mouth saying I'd have liked to try the puzzle without the reveal. So today I finished and had a little panic. I ended up listing the themers to look for vowel or letter patterns. I studied the first and last words of each to see if there was a commonality. I kept looking back at the entirety of the clues to see if I missed a reveal -you know how you kinda squint to pick out that longest clue with all the numbers? C'mon, we all do it, right? I sat up when I noticed BLOW crossing WEATHERVANE. Now I was on to something. . . nope. I finally looked at each theme clue and saw it instantly. But man oh man I came close to what for me is a personal dnf – solve the puzzle but miss the theme.

"Ladies" before TRIVIA for 18A. But I didn't write it in.

Kept parsing 10D as _ _ _ _ RE VIEW.

Resisted OH BOY for a bit because of the clue for 34D.

Loved the clue for SILO 39A. Hah! So do you give this mudder fodder?

Ahem. I can't say BUTT DIAL. I have to say "pocket dial" because it's more seemly and I'm all proper and stuff.

JL – nice work here, and I really enjoyed the late aha moment of finally seeing the theme.

Anonymous 5:45 AM  

@Rex - regarding the "little something"

Cassieopia 6:10 AM  

The Slate article is good and I recommend people click on it if they haven't already. However, I can't believe they point out HAREM and past missteps without using the most egregious example that I remember: WHITEHOPE from a month or two ago. That one had me truly aghast.

As for today's puzzle, I really liked it. The subtle theme and misdirectional clues were fun to discover, and BUTTDIAL was pure awesomeness. I read the clue, I thought "butt dial!" and was delighted to find that it fit! This was very easy for me, putting me a full 8 minutes below my Wednesday average. Of course, that does say something about my Wednesday average... ;)

da kine 6:34 AM  

I thought that was well-constructed and fun. I didn't get the theme until Rex told me. Speaking of Rex, methinks he's still a bit grumpy from yesterday's kerfuffle.

Hungry Mother 6:39 AM  

Very easy for a Wednesday, maybe to make up for yesterday. Every day I do the LAT puzzle and then the NYT puzzle. I almost always enjoy the LAT puzzle more (except for the occasional NYT rebus).

Glimmerglass 7:21 AM  

Excellent mid-week puzzle. Lots of clever clues. Bar words was a mini-theme (ALE, BREW, SUDS, TRIVIA). I liked the two- and three-word entries (BUTT DIAL, SPY RING, CURE-ALL, MISS A CUE). I made an amusing mistake: why would "flabbergast" be cow lover? after changing Colombia to Bolivia, cow lover became BOWL OVER.

Dorothy Biggs 7:45 AM  

Relatively challenging for the upper part of my time range for a Wednesday. I blame it mostly on misdirection and me rushing to fill in the blanks (wrongly): DIGDown, BeEr, horse/sabEr, ladies, and ALIi. I managed to avoid the misdirects of ARI and CAMAY...mainly because the crosses wouldn't allow either one of them early on. My first thought was Ivory, but with SHE right above it, I knew something starting with HV--- was wrongo.

Not only was there a triple "Pub offering," but a double "Overplay." On the one hand, if this is going to be a thing in a puzzle, make it a thing...maybe even a theme. But these double/triple clues were so random that they started to look lazy.

BUTTDIAL and ASS in the same puzzle...hmmm...cheeky, and maybe just a WEE bit juvenile. We just need a couple of "Heh, heh" type answers in there and we have the perfect Beavis and Butthead puzzle.

I won't say I loved this puzzle...but true to my descriptive analogy of liking a puzzle, I would only have a beer with this puzzle if I were stuck in one of the wedding situations where I don't know many people but I have a beer and I feel I should talk with someone. This puzzle would be the person that I'd choose to spend my time with in a room full of strangers at a wedding reception that has an open bar, we'd just never become FaceBook what I'm trying to say.

Unknown 7:48 AM  

I enjoyed quickly finishing the grid but did not notice the theme until I came here. Fun.

johnnymcguirk 7:49 AM  

Average Wednesday for me too, within one second of my normal time. Sadly, one second slower than average. Re: harem, no one cares outside of Rex's PC echo chamber. Meanwhile, in Istanbul, Muslim terrorists killed 41 people and Rex and his friends are trying to figure out how to blame it on Christian Republicans and are wondering why working class Brits decided to Brexit. Must be xenophobia. Look up oikophobia.

Unknown 7:59 AM  

Fastest Wednesday ever. Had no idea what the theme was. Loved the repeat clues in both the West and SSE. Got Gelee from the crosses but knew everything else. Maybe they switched Tuesday and Wednesday this week?!?

Anonymous 8:07 AM  

A nearby bar lists their beers under the heading SUDS.

Undone by OHjOY -- which looked nice near ODE. Figured IjISES were just something I'd never heard of.

Jon88 8:16 AM  

Re the Slate article: Why are publications so clueless about the difference between US and UK crossword grids?

Aketi 8:27 AM  

When I first saw OPTIONAL TRIVIA, I thought of puzzles with high PPP counts. If you view the obscure TRIVIA in puzzles as OPTIONAL bonus questions like those extra hard bonus questions that teachers give in COLLEGE to rack up extra points in case you BLOW an exam, it doesn't feel so bad when you can't figure them out.

My son and I always fight over the iChargers. The cords always seem to be mysteriously disappear and we blame the cats who sometimes play with the cords and hide them.. Often one of us wakes up with a MOBILE with a DEAD BATTERY in the morning because whoever stays up the latest makes sure their MOBILE is on the charger for the night.

I preferred the beerfest of ALE, SUDS, and BREW in the SE to the STRAP and PAINED in the SW. Back in the dark ages of my childhood STRAPs were used for corporal punishment when kids (particularly boys) misbehaved, I was equally unpleasant to notice the SCABS on BUTT cross above. Little boys in that era were expected to DIG DEEP and endure the PAIN. Some things do change for the better,

kitshef 8:30 AM  

Apparently I'm moving into Rex territory as a solver, for I, too, had ivorY before CAMAY and ILOSe before ILOST. But I also had SwAgS before STABS and dull before BLAH. And best just not to mention my times.

MAORIS appears to be technically OK, but I've never heard it IRL. Always heard MAORI for the singular and the plural. And I don't recognize GELEE, as a formal word or otherwise. I would call BREW slang in the same way that SUDS is.

Loved LEADEN paired with PAINED. Could have used the feet clue for both of those.

Was William Tell a BOW LOVER?

Aketi 8:37 AM  

If you don't have pockets in your running gear
and you like listen to music on your MOBILE while you run
and the only secure place you find to carry your MOBILE is to tuck it in your sports bra
it is possible to Bra DIAL someone.

@Nancy, I am really hoping that you finally get you DIAL tone back permanently.

Nancy 8:37 AM  

OH BOY was I happy to see that IVORY soap is the soap of beautiful women! It's the soap that I use! The Y proved that I was right and I couldn't see past my error. Which loused up the whole Far West middle section for me. Also, I had EMOTE where HAM UP should be and only realized my mistake when I found the real EMOTE at 37A. To make it worse, I've never heard the term BUTTDIAL.

So this puzzle was not at all easy for me, but I thought it was a nice challenge -- especially for a Wed. Liked the misdirection for ALPS (I had ALTO at first) at 51D and was looking for a writer, not a COLLEGE at 29A. Fun.

Nancy 8:39 AM  

@Mohair (from yesterday) --

I do hate Verizon. But knowledge is power and I wanted to know just WHO they "want back" and why. And if lots of people have left them in a flood of fury, I want to know that too.

jberg 8:42 AM  

Speaking of upscale language, for some reason my mind went to 'rUmp DIAL' first. Fortunately I only wrote in the DIAL part, but the idea kept me from seeing BUTT for too long.

My other mental failure was changing ivory to CAMrY at first. That would be one slippery car.

I forgot to look for the theme before I came here, so I'm sad about that, but the puzzle was fine.

jberg 8:47 AM  

I liked the Slate article (see @Rex's link above), but didn't like that it was headed by a stock photo of a British-style crossword. The writer seemed more sophisticated than that, but I suppose she didn't get to pick the illustration.

John V 8:57 AM  

A nice Wednesday themeless.

chefbea 9:13 AM  

Tough for a Wednesday..DNF. Had STL for Cardinals and that held me up. Never did figure out the theme until I came here.

RooMonster 9:18 AM  

Hey All !
Seems we all had the same goofs/misdirects. Mine were ivorY-Coast-CAMAY, stl-ARI (it is Baseball Season, after all), WEE in, then out, then in. GELEE was a WOE, never knew it was the "proper" name for hair stuff. Agree that E was tougher than W. Also, S easier than N. Enjoyed seeing BUTT DIAL, who hasn't done that/got a call like that. You're all like, "Hello? Hello?" and all you hear are rustlings and far away voices.

Caught the clue-theme theme. Things that are "no cost". But different answers to them. Didn't mind this one as much as some Clue-themes. As long as it's interesting, I guess...

Knew YEWS this time!

G(eorge) E LEE-Roberts brother?

Zwhatever 9:20 AM  

Down the west coast, across the south, and then up the east coast. A very straightforward solve. Then a long, "what is the theme?" I didn't spend as long as @Loren and never thought to look at the clues again, so a TDNF. I was having a discussion with former regular Rexite and current Sunday Washington Post Crossword Constructor @Evan last night about the relative merits of a note/hint. Generally, I'm opposed. Yet I understand that some want/need such assistance (including me not that long ago). A tough call.

The Slate article reminded me of an experience I had last week. Beyoncé was performing at Ford Field here in Detroit (a five minute walk from my front door). As I walked Samurai (my 15 year-old Shiba Inu) I have never felt older, whiter, nor maler. The people walking through my neighborhood to get from their cars to the stadium were 95% female, 67% African-American, 100% at least 20 years younger me, and 75% suburban. I don't know, but I'm thinking that crowd may have written a very different clue for "harem."

JD 9:24 AM  

Easy for me because I'm old (I love just blurting that out now) but had children in my 30s so I know things like butt dial and trivia night (instead of ladies night cause the bar would probably be sued for discrimination against men)

Mr. Benson 9:30 AM  

I also had ALTO for ALPS at 51D and think it might have been an intentional misdirect... but I had also read the clue as "Range of the von Trapp *sisters*," which makes ALTO a little less preposterous (just thinking to myself "huh, none of the girls were sopranos? interesting factoid").

Charles Flaster 9:32 AM  

Easy and should have been interchanged with yesterday's more difficult puzzle.
Liked the theme but had no bearing on the solve.
Favorite clues were for DIG DEEP, BUTT DIAL, and COLLEGE.
BTW --notice DIAL soap near CAMAY and if BOWL OVER would have been Bend OVER,
we would have Dove soap.
The misdirection for ARI would have been better ( not easier) with "on scoreboard" in clue.
Completed puzzle after returning from my Tuesday TRIVIA night finishing fourth out of eight. Did not know Java was world's
most populous island. Also not very familiar with music past 1980.
My only write over was SCABS for SCArS.
Liked STABS and SCABS in same puzzle.
Thanks JL

orangeblossomspecial 9:34 AM  

Maoris have created beautiful music through the years. This song became a worldwide hit following WW2 although it was written prior to WW1.

In the US, Bing Crosby's version reached #1 in 1948 'Now is the hour'

Gracie Fields brought it from New Zealand following the war 'Now is the hour'

Ana Hato had an early version in 1927 in Maori 'Po atarau'

Chaos344 9:39 AM  

Anonymous said...

"@Rex - regarding the "little something""

5:45 AM

Not just no, Hell no!

Lobster11 10:06 AM  

I thought this was just right for a Wednesday. I like a Wednesday puzzle to reflect Wednesday-level difficulty consistently throughout the puzzle, rather than (as is too often the case) simply containing a handful of difficult/arcane entries scattered around what is otherwise a Monday-level puzzle.

I have to admit that I had no idea there was a theme -- apart from the "Pub offering" trio -- until I came here. Unlike @Loren, however, I don't consider that a "personal DNF," but rather a personal DNC (did not care). My preference for non-themed puzzles seems to get stronger every week.

Re: the brouhaha regarding alleged racism and misogyny in NYT puzzles, I'm somewhere in the middle. There are times that I completely agree with the PC Police, but about equally often I think folks are being overly sensitive. I agree with everyone who thought the recent GREATWHITEHOPE was awful, for example, but I thought yesterday's HAREM clue was clever and entirely inoffensive.

GILL I. 10:20 AM  

FUN...OH BOY I enjoyed this quickie. About halfway thru, I kept going back upstairs to see where this was leading me. Drank some more coffee and still could not see the forest for the trees. Dang, I hate that. Sailed right on (no problem with CAMAY because that's the only soap my mom used until the Ivory ads kept saying you would never get wrinkles EVER, so she switched. She had a beautiful, wrinkly face until her 82 birthday)
@NCA P. You would be the type I'd migrate toward at a wedding where I only know the bride's mom because we shop at the same grocery store and I want to be polite so I show up and hug the bar. Except I'd probably order a Zin because SUDS make me burp way too much and I hate holding it in.
@Z...Just be thankful the Biebs wasn't in town.
Except for not getting the theme, I loved all the cluing and the fact that no one was insulted by a MISSACUE . This was just plain BUTT ASS good Wednesday. Thanks JL

Zwhatever 10:23 AM  

@johnnymcguirk - First, there is nothing, NOTHING, uniquely "muslim" about terrorists. Planned Parenthood bombers, the IRA, the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna, Brit HaKanaim, the list of terrorists is quite long and inclusive of all religions and anti-religions. But I'm not sure why you think terrorist violence is at all relevant to a discussion about insensitivity in cluing? Is it that terrorists' crimes are so much worse that treating women as an after thought is okay? "Hey I don't murder people so cut me some slack for being a sexist bigot!" Well, okay. You're right. Being a sexist is not as bad as being a suicide bomber. Pardon me if I set a slightly higher standard for myself.

old timer 10:38 AM  

@Rex probably doesn't remember when beer was never artisanal. But in my college days, it was pretty common to go out for some SUDS -- usually Coors. And there is a place in Rutland, Vermont called SUDS South that has been on South Main St for at least 40 years.

I much prefer ALE to BEER. ALE is the stuff you can get in an English pub. But they call it BEER all the same, even Bass ALE is called BEER. Go figure.

My time today was slightly slower than yesterday's so it was Wednesdayish. Not the most scintillating puzzle, but it'll do.

Tim Pierce 10:42 AM  

Didn't understand ARI. Didn't understand it after Rex griped about it. Didn't understand it after reading through the comments here twice. Then something clicked and I googled "Arizona Cardinals." Yeesh. I accept that sports is my bête noire for crosswords and trivia, but that's just not cricket. Not a Wednesday clue, IMHO.

I also could have done without the hat trick of 62A, 63A, 66A: Pub offerings. I don't mind a doubled or even tripled clue, but I expect them to exploit different parsings of the clue. ALE + BREW + SUDS? No thanks. I might have accepted, say, ESPN and NUTS, but even that feels a stretch.

I did enjoy the misdirection on 29A: Emerson or Dickinson. Having spent most of my adult life living around Emerson's old stomping grounds of Concord, Massachusetts, and having spent my undergraduate years in Dickinson's old stomping grounds of Amherst, Massachusetts, that one kept me humming for a while.

Chaos344 10:55 AM  

@johnnymcguirk: Excellent comment regarding "harem" and the Slate link. You saved me the trouble of posting a similar comment. Mine would not have been nearly as succinct as yours!

@Aketi: Is it possible to bra-dial someone regardless of the season? I would assume that it would have to be really, really cold out for that particular phenomenon to occur on a regular basis,no?

Hartley70 11:15 AM  

I could swear that I got up in the middle of the night, did the puzzle and submitted a post. Was it all a dream? The puzzle is completed but I see no post. Perhaps I was "sleep-solving", a skill that is brag worthy!

WEATHERVANE is my favorite answer today. It inspired me to lean out the window and take a photo of my own. I'd forgotten it was a pineapple. Years ago it was a horse.

Now that I look at the solve, I know that I knew the glamorous CAMAY right off the bat. Ivory's big claim to fame is that it could float. I come from a Palmolive family, myself.

BUTTDIAL is very topical. We got one yesterday morning at 7:50am. I assume it's from a phone that has us on speed dial, so I have a good idea who to blame, a very good idea, son of mine. I wish I could have heard something interesting but no such luck.

@Nancy, take note of @Aketi's second post. I am not crazy. You too can be cool!

SPYRING, I'd like to wear one or be in one. Either would give me a kick.

I'm not sure how I felt about this puzzle at 3am, but this morning I like it.

OISK 11:16 AM  

Zoom, zoom, zoom! Played like a Monday for me, although I did not see the theme at all. Much easier than yesterday's and for me, somewhat less interesting. Gelee is the only unfamiliar entry. I did like the clues for Dead Battery and Weathervane - after completing the SE I expected (having not found a theme) to find such answers as "stout," "lager," "pilsner" "IPA," - nope. I don't recall ever seeing a beer-themed puzzle. It would (in my imagination) include non-beer clues that lead to beer related answers "German berry," (beer) "backside" (for Heinie) stout, brew, and suds would be easy, as would Bud, Miller, Bass...

Joseph Michael 11:18 AM  

I liked everything about this puzzle except GELEE, a word I'm not glad I learned.

Thought the theme was first rate and enjoyed much of the cluing, especially the "Emerson or Dickinson" trap.

Also liked BUTT DIAL, having been the recipient of many such calls.

But where is ONE L? I must have missed it.

Anonymous 11:33 AM  

I studied German for sechs jahren (6 years) some fünfzig jahren (50 years) ago and didn't realize that in 1996 Germans all but abandoned the ß for ss. So BISSCHEN threw me off. Still the clue is wrong. It doesn't mean "not much". It means "a bit". Pretty much synonymous I'll concede, but not the same. Plus it's interesting that whatever spellchecker Rex uses, it knew how to spell funfzig even tossed in an umlaut (but oddly just didn't).

Warren Howie Hughes 11:39 AM  

I absolutely loved this incredibly intoxicating Wednesday Xword puzzle offering from the nimble mind of John Lampkin, that lit the way and was anything but BLAH! Especially after having filled in the lower portion of the grid, when I decided to describe it as having been not only ALE and hearty, but also as being Beery,Beery good!

Sheryl 12:28 PM  

I saw the theme right away and thought it was cute. I think the only way you could miss it is if you were speed-solving, which I never do. I'd find that stressful. I pick the puzzle up, put it down, sip coffee, listen to the news, and eventually focus on it enough to finish it. I liked today's puzzle - had no problems with it.

BC 12:38 PM  

Good Wednesday puzzle! But, DNF because of 5 down and 22 across - I guessed OHJOY. Oh well. OPTIONAL, MURALS, and TRIVIA were my "should have gotten them sooner words" for I also fell into the LADIES night trap. I remembered CAMAY from my Wacky Packages collecting days!

Teedmn 1:14 PM  

This fun themeless Wednesday took me a bit longer than my usual Wednesday solves. At least "themeless" was my conclusion when looking at what I thought were themers yielded nothing more than a circled BOWL and BAT (35A and 53A, respectively). So it was fun to find my error in sussing out the theme.

Dull and Ladies before BLAH and TRIVIA were my biggest hang ups. Fortunately, I did not fall into the "Ivory" soap trap. And with __LLE at 29A, ASCOT gave me COLLEGE without much drama.

One time I was sitting next to my husband and asked him what that noise was. I moved around until I ascertained that it was coming from his abdomen area. He had "belly-DIALed" a friend who was trying to get his attention. Weirdness.

I loved the subtlety of this puzzle. Thanks, John Lampkin

Anonymous 1:21 PM  

Best NY Times puzzle in weeks, if you ask me.

Carola 1:35 PM  

@orangblossomspecial - "Now Is the Hour" - MAORI! I listened to all three links plus another one of a girls' choir. It brought back sweet memories of high school harmonizing with my best friend; I think we would usually segue into "Moonlight Bay.". Thank you.

puzzle hoarder 1:44 PM  

This puzzle was three minutes longer than yesterday's but today no one's complaining. One reason this took so long was having a hard time coming up with the W for BLOW. Go figure, I was four minutes into solving this thing when the lightbulb went off(shouldn't it be on?)
I didn't write IVORY because I couldn't support the V and I also considered ALMAY. This turns out to be a cosmetics line but you can see how easy it is to conflate it with CAMAY.
I had to change SCARS to SCABS. BTW, SCAR appears a little more than twice as often as SCAB.
EMPTTYSEAT is more of an actual phrase but no one has pointed out that SEAT is just to the left of CHAIR.
SABER before STEED in conjunction with COLLEGE slowed down the middle east section. Once I got over pondering the difficult parts and filled in the Monday easy portions of the NE and SW solving was a breeze.

xyz 1:50 PM  

Solid but rather unspectacular as I am wont to opine. Adequate someone said. Nice to see CAMAY - played a particular role in a short story I once wrote at university. Liked BUTTDIAL a lot.

Warren Howie Hughes 2:43 PM  

I was absolutely thrown for a LOPE when I unsuccessfully tried submitting this comment earlier today, but I'm fairly certain this one will make the grid. I found this Xword puzzle by John Lampkin to be highly intoxicating, especially down at the bottom where ALE and hearty and all the other "pub offerings" were served up, Beery, Beery, nicely! Proving still once again "I'm not a robot" goes!?

Mohair Sam 3:31 PM  

How can you not love a puzzle with BUTTDIAL? And we loved this one. Never saw the theme until Rex informed us. We worked around the grid counter-clockwise and stalled for a not a little while at three o'clock, having guessed COLombia for BOLivia and falling for the great misdirect at the Emerson or Dickinson clue. Hence she played medium/challenging for us.

Working counter-clockwise also gave us _____VIEW hence we thought some sort of VIEW was a give away at a hotel or something. After we finished we spent a few minutes wondering what a RAVERE VIEW was, and where we could find one, maybe at the Ramada in Rome, New York?

@George Barany - Loved the chemist joke.

@Z - Detroit hunh? Was that you in that Clint Eastwood movie? Bigot with a heart of gold?

Although I hardly noticed the offending HAREM clue, I did read the Slate Piece - and certainly see the point. The examples she gives are egregious for sure. Maybe Will should run every puzzle by somebody on the Times Editorial board, I'm betting they're not "tone deaf." (I'm reading Umberto Eco's "Foucault's Pendulum" - the main character worries "aloud" to the reader about where to put the period when a sentence ends in quote marks - inside or outside. Me too. Help!)

Chronic dnfer 3:37 PM  

Medium puz. Dnf'd at aenein/one.

Rabi Abonour 3:56 PM  

I enjoyed this. Totally satisfactory Wednesday. I didn't notice the theme at all, though. When you double "Overplay" and triple "Pub offering," the repetition of the theme clues gets lost.

schmuzz 6:01 PM  

i'm probably the only one who originally put in BUTTCALL because that's what my sister and i call it LOL

Aketi 9:48 PM  

@chaos344, I only run in warm weather.

Leapfinger 11:54 PM  

Hi @Aketi, just wanted to ask if anyone ever led you down the BRADIAL path?

Betting that some of those ladies expert in tassel-twirling could BRADIAL someone on an old rotary phone.

I know, I know, I'm so far from being enlightened, it's pure pitiful. Guess I'm just 'Slated' for extinction

Chaos344 9:04 AM  

You and me both Leapy!

spacecraft 10:29 AM  

Intriguing. The grid itself is a themeless (on Wednesday?) but it's the clues that carry the theme. I noticed it about 3/4 of the way through--OHBOY, does that mean I'm quicker on the uptake than OFL?? I like the misdirectional clues; already had ASCOT when I came to the poets' clue, so COLLEGE dropped right in. But here's one I don't see mentioned: "Range of the Von Trapp singers." That could be ALPS--or ALto! That SW was my last to go; 61-across and its clue didn't match very well. Perhaps if the full clue read "Evincing discomfort, as an expression" PAINED would be more understandable.

But the sticker, filled in on crosses, was EMPTYCHAIR. Somebody is going to have to explain "It's free" to me, because right now this makes zero sense.

Not much in the DOD department. LOLA--as long as you don't mean The Kinks' LOLA--will suffice. If I wanted to stretch beyond the breaking point, I might mention STEED's sexy partner of yore Mrs. Peel. Mr. Peel you are one lucky guy!

Minimal fill dreck, and a...non-theme. Birdie.

But still. How is an EMPTYCHAIR free? Surely you don't simply mean it's unoccupied. That can't be it...can it?

Burma Shave 10:33 AM  


I put my ASS in a SEAT at the first EMPTYCHAIR
since the ADMAN gave the joint a RAVEREVIEW.
ILOST my mind to the OPTIONAL CUREALL there -
a SALVE of SUDS not SPARSE with ALE and BREW.


Sailor 11:20 AM  

I am in agreement with whomever it was up above in realtime who wrote "solid but unspectacular." Also with @Rabi Abonour who pointed out that the double "Overplay" and triple "Pub offering" clues overshadowed the actual theme clues.

@spacecraft, yep, I think you got it, as in "is this chair free?" The weakest of the theme answers, for sure.

Sailor 12:42 PM  

PS: I read the Salon article, thought it was well written, and am in sympathy with the point. Nevertheless, I still think the reaction to the HAREM clue was overblown, and I still think it had no reference, by implication or otherwise, to sex workers or women in sex slavery.

Is it possible for a woman in a plural marriage, in a culture which strictly segregates women, to be a feminist? Sure: even if she outwardly accepts the cultural restrictions placed upon her, she can at the same time hold views to the contrary, and look for opportunities to influence the men who hold power over such things.

Did the clue display a stereotypical view of feminism? Yes, it did, and it was definitely groan-worthy, but not intentionally mean-spirited, it seemed to me, and certainly well short of "hateful."

From the "Pots and Kettles" Department: How did everyone feel about the article's characterization of the NYT crossword as a "daily brain-teaser for dweebs"? Groan. Is that kind of name-calling not also offensive? Should we not shout down Ms. Graham for her and stereotyping of crossword solvers? I think not, because, while her comment is childish, it seems merely insensitive rather than consciously mean-spirited.

Sometimes we use a battering ram, when a quiet word in the ear would be more likely to have a positive effect.

leftcoastTAM 1:27 PM  

I guess WS decided to shuffle the puzzles around so far this week. Today's was a Monday medium and yesterday's a Wednesday challenging. But I guess there's no hard and fast rule about it, nor need there be.

The only pauses were the spelling of AENEID and getting ASTRO Boy, both of which became quickly obvious with the crosses.

Not really BLAH, but a WEE LEADEN.

rain forest 1:54 PM  

@Spacy - you're so right about Mrs. Peel (Diana Rigg), one of my all-time DODs or yeah babies.

Like LMS, I searched the puzzle, then read the clues after I had finished before I found the "theme". Subtle.

I can imagine someone asking "Is this chair free?", and then picking it up and walking off with it.

A friend of mine was BUTT DIALED once, much to his chagrin, as he heard, "now please don't tell him that...." You fill in the rest. Hah, gotcha! It was about a surprise birthday party.

This was an enjoyable and easy puzzle with lots of good stuff in it, but I guess I have to admit that I am a tone-deaf Dweeb. Sigh.

Sailor 3:02 PM  

Oops. Sorry. That article about yesterday's puzzle was at Slate, not Salon. The comments there were pretty interesting. Lots of them seemed to say, in one way or another, "get a life."

rondo 3:37 PM  

Sorta had an idea in the back of my head that several clues seemed similar, didn’t really realize that was the theme. One w/o at DIGDeep.

I remember the rooster WEATHERVANE atop the barn when I was a kid. It was the first thing checked in the morning. West=usual; North=cold; South=warm; East=rain. Not 100% but pretty good indicator.

No yeah baby as clued, but LOLA Falana would do. She’s showed up a coupla times in the past year or so. Or MISS ACUE.

Think I got a SPYRING in a cereal box once. Har

Better clue for EIN is “A German”.

Serviceable puz, but no RAVEREVIEW.

Diana,LIW 3:54 PM  

The theme slipped in and out of my conscious awareness. Clever.

Last to fall was the NE. Great misdirection(s).

Now, off to make a reservation for dinner. Hope they have a table "free."

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Dinner

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