Bygone dagger / MON 7-11-16 / Material in fire starter set / Like some pond growths / ha ha elicitor

Monday, July 11, 2016

Constructor: Freddie Cheng

Relative difficulty: Medium (normal Monday)

THEME: WOW FACTOR (36D: Pizazz ... or what 18-, 23-, 46- and 56-Across each has?) — theme answers are three-letter phrases where first letters of the words involved are W, O, and W, respectively:

Theme answers:
  • WAR OF WORDS (18A: Heated argument)
  • WALTZ OFF WITH (23A: Take while no one's looking, say)
  • WALKS ON WATER (46A: Exhibits a superhuman ability)
  • "WAY OUT WEST" (56A: 1937 Laurel and Hardy romp in the frontier) 
Word of the Day: MATCHWOOD (34A: Material in fire starter set)
noun: matchwood
  1. very small pieces or splinters of wood.

    "their boat was shattered into matchwood against the rocks"
    • light wood suitable for making matches. (google)
• • •

This is a variation on a theme type that I once used, possibly in my first published NYT puzzle, with S.O.S. as the premise (which, it turns out, Peter Gordon had also done, in a Sunday-sized version, many years earlier). Like today's constructor, I made sure that all my "O"s were different. His revealer gives this one an added, uh, WOW FACTOR, I guess (my revealer was probably just S.O.S.). "WAY OUT WEST" seems at least mildly obscure for a Monday puzzle, but with WAY OUT in place, if I'd had to guess (and I did), I'd've guessed WEST (and I did). I'm surprised I finished this in normal (i.e. just sub-3) time today, because I felt thwarted at many turns. Got WALTZ (well, after I got ALGAL, ugh gag etc.), but couldn't immediately come up with OFF WITH. Brain wanted ON PATROL, so ON WATCH took a lot of hammering (9D: Doing sentry duty). Wanted EGAD for 32D: "By Jove!" ("I SAY!"), which slowed things down in the west.

The biggest issue for me, though, was MATCHWOOD. I just stared at the clue [Material in a fire starter set] wondering what any of it meant. What is a "fire starter set?" I googled it in quotation marks and all I got were Lego sets involving firemen. Also, what is MATCHWOOD? (I wondered). I had MATCH and no idea what to do next. As you can see, that WOOD is *the* gateway to the SE corner, so I had the door slammed in my face there. As you can see in the Word of the Day definition of MATCHWOOD, there's nothing about building a fire (assuming that's what a "fire starter set" does; tbh I'm still not really sure).

Fill was subpar a bit too often, with the gangrenous ALGAL leading the way (3D: Like some pond growths). ASSN over SNEE crossing ASWOON is crusty as well. Most of the rest is OK. Oh, plural NOONS? Come on. That's two times in recent memory that the puzzle has tried to pass this off as a word. OOF. Stop. Do better. So the theme seems fine for a Monday, even if the fill seems a little wobbly and bygone. Not bad.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld 

P.S. here is the problem that you can cause when you dabble in obscure junk like SNEE (15A: Bygone dagger)—since it has an entirely uninferrable spelling, if all those crosses aren't obvious, solvers who don't know what word are doomed:

He's right about SNARF v. SCARF—both are fair answers for 6D: Wolf (down). Now, you and I may think "SCEE ... why would you think SCEE was a word?" But honestly, why would anyone think SNEE was a word? It's not like it pops up in conversation, or print, or ... anywhere. It's crosswordese, therefore I know it. That is the Only reason I know it.

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


kitshef 12:12 AM  

I can see SARA/ARETE cross giving troubles, but the poison point in this puzzle is the SNARF/SNEE cross. I most commonly hear ScARF down, but SNARF up, which doesn't help. Fortunately SNEE was known so no harm done.

And if you're going to complain about the NW fill, leave the lovely ALGAL alone and go pick on RAGA.

Clever insertion of the F WORD at 19A.

newspaperguy 12:29 AM  

I do lots of puzzles from the NTY archive. "Oof" has come up three times in the last week. Three times too many. And yes, let's get rid of "snee". Matchwood is the puzzle maker's creation, I think. Otherwise an okay Monday.

jae 12:35 AM  

Tough Mon. for me for some reason. I had trouble seeing WALTZ, had WRiTE before WROTE, did not know ORSON as clued, just came off doing a LAT Sun. that was on the tough side...all which cost me more than a few @M&A nanoseconds.

@Rex - Yep, that's the only reason I know SNEE.

Reasonably smooth grid, delightful theme/reveal, liked it.

Tom 12:37 AM  

Wow, left coast Tom here, first time I saw zero comments. It's 9:29 in Santa Cruz, and I had a martini (HOOCH) (SUNDAY YAY!) and a couple of glasses of wine. Sat down at the computer to do the pub cause I finished the Sunday faster than usual.

Plowed through this one pretty fast given my Sunday haze. Paid no attention to the theme, just went from top to bottom. Routine Monday. Looking forward to the next segment of Tour de France. You guys on the east coast sleeping?

Unknown 12:54 AM  

Of course the is something about building a fire. Definition 2: wood used to make matches. Matches are used to start fires. Surely you are not saying that is too big a leap. Give me a break.

Larry Gilstrap 1:08 AM  

I grew up in a culture that wasn't really XENOphobic, but more ethnocentric, kinda clueless about cultural diversity. What came to be called World Music, was cacophonous atonality to my ears. I started practicing yoga almost three years ago and often do my personal Sivananda practice while streaming the Indian Classical Music channel offered by Pandora. May I suggest a RAGA as the antidote for that negative dialog that sometimes pops up into consciousness. AVOW/aver are distinct I'm told, and SNEE/Smee might appear in a crossword near you soon.

Vincent Lima 1:35 AM  

SNEE may well be in a crossword-construction database, but it's not in Merriam-Webster's online dictionary. I don't see how that's acceptable on a Monday, especially when the cross could, as @Rex noted, be either SCARF or SNARF.

Unknown 2:04 AM  

Three books in the answers. I rank them:

1. "Twenty Thousand LEAGUES Under the Sea" (Jules Verne)
2. "The Taming of the SHREW" (William Shakespeare)
3000. "Ender's Game" (ORSON Scott Card)

Though I might be persuaded to rank "Ender's Game" lower. A dumb, cruel book with delusions of intellectual ambition.


I attempted this one by using down answers only—well, after I read 1-Across and filled in STAB. I've tried this a few times before, but there has always been a section or two that I couldn't solve. In this case, I managed to get everything but two squares.

I didn't know the Fleetwood Mac song, and I guessed that it was LARA/LARGE rather than SARA/SARGE. When I completed the puzzle and was told that there were errors, I immediately double-checked this square and corrected it. The other was that SNARF/SNEE crossing where, yes, I had SCARF/SCEE. Would have got that wrong even with the across clue.

Using downs only did make for some fun solving. The west was particularly tricky. I had ---ELUNCH and guessed FREE_LUNCH but couldn't make the downs work. It took me a bit to abandon FREE, but once I did, JOKE and G.I.JOE cracked it open.

Nice use of ZEEs with WALTZ_OFF_WITH and BLAST_ZONE. WOW_FACTOR was a great revealer.

Phil 2:50 AM  

I seem to see snee in the crosswords often enough to remember its either smee or snee.

But after looking it up on google i was surprised to not find it so easily. I expected sites with the whole gamet of dirks, daggers, sabers along with smees and pictures of the whole kit and caboodle. Sword and knife collecting is a hobby with a huge fan base. And I think one with plenty of advertising loaded sites to please the google search engine. But couldn't find an informative and comprehensive site.

Franciscus van Munster 3:48 AM  

Never heard of SNARF and SCEE seemed plausible enough, so had to "Check puzzle" to find out where my error was. Having to "Check puzzle" on a Monday make me feel totally inadequate as a solver

RAD2626 5:47 AM  

I totally agree with @bbhendrickson, whom Rex quoted. ASWOON was bad enough but ScARF is much more likely than SNARF and I never heard of a SNEE. So actually a Monday dnf. Theme answers did not jump off the page either with the L in ALGEL begrudgingly necessary after ZEE went in. ARÊTE, XENO and CGI no day at the beach either. Liked WAR OF WORDS and WALK ON WATER. Liked revealer a lot and liked that O words were all different. But a pretty rough go overall.

Anonymous J 5:49 AM  

thanks for this puzzle admin am also running the blog like this but you are my teacher in this matter my blog is about Crosswords Clues and personal blog is Pkcod

George Barany 6:28 AM  

Very generous review of @Freddie Cheng's puzzle by @Rex. Any reason the OOF/SOW crossing could not have been changed to OAF/SAW?

Loren Muse Smith 7:11 AM  

For that knife, I did what I always do – fill in S _ EE and then wait to remember if it's SNEE or the guy from Peter Pan, Smee. Then I forgot all about it and later filled in "scarf." So I had a dnf that I wasn't aware of because of no heads-up from any computer program. If I had been solving online, I could've easily fixed it.

SNARF or scarf – I can hang with anyone, buddy. Even when I'm not hungry, that's the way I roll. I've thought a lot about this, and I really believe you have a better eating experience when every single taste bud in your mouth is engaged. A fist-sized chunk crammed in there all at once does the trick. Color me SOW. The sensations are heightened when standing over the sink and periodically checking to make sure no one is watching.

@kitshef – good catch on FWORD! (18A, though.)

@newspaperguy - OOF and other onomatopoeic entries always please me. Cheng added flourish today by crossing it with a ONE TWO punch. Cool.

@Larry Gilstrap – I misread your comment as " do my personal Sivananda practice while screaming the Indian Classical Music…" Now that'll get someone's attention. I kinda like the thought of a bunch of people doing yoga while scream-singing. Hello.

I found this a lot easier than people are reporting, ahem, maybe because I didn't fret over the SNEE cross. I guess if you're not concerned with getting anything correct, puzzles can be a breeze.

I was writing in "walk off with" and when it didn't fit, I checked the clue to see if it needed and S.

But MATCHWOOD went right in no prob, Rex. I liked that it was right over BIRCH bark, the go-to kindling for us expert survivalist fire starter people. But I've taken to carrying around a small thing of Vaseline, flint, and some cotton balls because, well, you just never know…

Once I got WAR OF WORDS and WALKS ON WATER, I saw what was going on, so it was pretty easy to fill in W's here and there after prepositions. I would've really liked it if the WOW FACTER had been buried in stuff like TWO WHEELER or SNOW OWL, but there's not much out there.

All in all, a fine Monday offering. Thanks, FC.

Scott 7:17 AM  

SCARF/SCEE got me too.

Aketi 7:34 AM  

Yes, I SCARFed instead of SNARFED, otherwise it was an instafill.

@Martin Abresch, ORSON Scott Card is a very uneven writer. I wouldn't disagree with your order on literary grounds. Nevertheless, I still like Ender's Game, just like I enjoy Marvel Comics movies (at least the ones that make fun of themselves). Many SciFi novels describe cruel survivalist dystopias. Maze Runner, is just as harsh in terms of putting a bunch of kids into a survivalist situation that will somehow harden them so they can save the world when the adults can't. Many of the sequels in the Ender series delve into Ende's regret over the XENOcide he committed. I'm sure you would rank the book "XENOcide" (one of the books in the Ender series which deals with potential extermination of yet another group of aliens) down near the bottom of your list.

Glimmerglass 7:44 AM  

@Brett Hendrickson: life is tough; sometimes a person has to guess. In solving crosswords, it's what Rex calls a Natick. SNEE is a bit of crosswordese that you probably will remember from now on. Maybe you'll remember snickersnee from the Mikado. My objection is not that SNEE is unusual, but that it's all too common in crosswords. Don't be upset with the constructor when you get Naticked. And don't be upset with yourself. It happens.

Lobster11 7:52 AM  

Everything Rex said.

Except... I didn't even notice the SNARF/SNEE issue because I dropped in SNEE without even thinking. Of course, I only know this "word" from crosswords, but it (unfortunately) comes up so often that it (unfortunately) is now etched in my brain. This is not a boast; it is a confession. I take no pride in knowing words that are never seen outside crosswords. If anything it makes me feel a bit embarrassed, as if were somehow cheating.

Z 7:55 AM  

If it is ALGAL is it green? Inquiring minds fully expect someone will not get that I'm joking.

No Award winners so I won't get to mention question 16a in Rex's FAQs. I'm so bummed I did it anyway.

To SNEE or not to SNEE, that is the question. Whether tis better to suffer a Monday DNF or to SNARF down the glory of knifing to the end.

@GB - There's the GORE clue, but an alternate movie could be used.

@Martin Abresch - Not to actually disagree much, but Ender's Game was a short story that got stretched into a novel that then had multiple sequels written. The short story was probably sufficient. I think it and Rendezvous with Rama are great books to explore with young readers. Plenty of action so they don't realize the books are asking some interesting questions about what it means to be human. As for SHREW, one of Billy's more problematic plays for modern sensibilities. What is truly amazing is how most of his work isn't problematic for modern sensibilities.

MATCHWOOD = kindling, n'est-ce pas?

Two and a half minutes longer than my Monday standard, but mostly on me. ON guard slowed me down. WRiTE added nanoseconds to the solve as well, and then there were several areas that did not fill at typical Monday speed for me. I liked the theme, the fill was mostly serviceable (I'm a SNEE-r from doing many puzzles), so a fine Monday offering in my opinion.

Dorothy Biggs 8:03 AM  

Both hands up for the SNARF/ScARF mistake. I was equally sure of ScARF and SNEE. But their resulting crosses didn't look right to me...ScEE and SNARF both looked equally wrong. I went on a Joey Tribbiani-like (from Friends) internal debate (a la "supposedly v. supposably?) with SNARF and ScARF. ScARF won. It didn't help matters that (like @phil phil) SmEE seemed possible too. SmARF? SNARF? ScARF?

I had to do a rare check puzzle on a Monday to discover that it was that blasted C that was the problem. I was so sure that SNEE wasn't right, that I still put an M in there (knowing that SmARF wasn't right either). Ugh.

ALGAL looked wrong too...but WAeTZOFFWITH was too wrong to go with ALGAe.

So constructors, is there a way to fix that central north crossing?

chefbea 8:07 AM  

Hand up for scarf...never hear of snarfing food.
When I first to waltz...figured it was going to be a dance theme.
And what is seen in Saw?=gore...someone explain

Wm. C. 8:33 AM  

Me, too, hand up for SCARF. If i'd've checked the vertical cross on the C, i'd've noticed that SCEE was an improbable word. SNEE is improbable too, but less so and i'd've gone with it. But alas no, Naticked, on a Monday no less! Shame, shame ...

Charles Flaster 8:35 AM  

Very easy and lots of crosswordEASE --SNEE, ARÊTE, RAGA , and XENO.
Writeovers-- BLAST ZONE for BLAST sitE and AVOW for AVer.
Liked description of FLINCH and love LAUREL and HARDY.
Thanks FC.

Z 8:37 AM  

@chefbea - Saw is a horror movie franchise often described as "torture porn."

SNEE is a verb. Who knew?

G. Weissman 8:45 AM  

I would assume that a "fire starter set" would include matches, not light pieces of wood suitable for being made into matches. Think of that the next time you buy a box of matches and find that it contains small pieces of wood not yet made into matches. And give us all a break.

Wm. C. 8:46 AM  


Re: What's seen in "Saw?"

I confess I got it (GORE) from the verticals, but thought it OK, probably some kind of horror a film. But just checking now, I see that it became a franchise, with several follow-ons. Whew, who knew? ... Or cared? Anyway ...

Paul Rippey 8:50 AM  

Wow! You really didn't like Ender's Game, did you? I recently re read it after about a twenty year gap. Still great, I thought. It's SciFi, so one should calibrate expectations accordingly.

jberg 9:00 AM  

Well, sure, there are fire-starter kits. Actually two kinds: in the Boy Scouts, at some point you have to make fire by friction, which involves a wooden stick (a 'drill'), a stick with a string tied loosely to each end (a "bow"), a little cup of wood so that you can hold the top of the drill without hurting your hand as it turns, and a board with holes in it. You stick the drill in a hole, loop the bow around it, and turn the drill as fast as you can by moving the bow back and forth. Eventually, you are supposed to get sparks, which will ignite the tinder, or maybe MATCHWOOD, you have placed in a strategic place.

Either that, or it's something you carry with you while backpacking, containing matches and tinder, so that you can start a campfire even if all the wood is wet. Nobody does this anymore, though, because there are so many other people backpacking that we have all realized that we would destroy the forest if we used it for firewood.

Still, I've never heard it called that -- only tinder.

@Loren, me too for WALK AWAY WITH -- though around here we more commonly way that something "walked away" or "walked off," as my Weber grill did a month or so ago.

Wiktionary has SNICKERSNEE and SNICK OR SNEE, but standalone SNEE only with a different meaning. I share Loren's method of putting in S_EE, but I just thought of a mnemonic: SMEE is a Man, SNEE is a (k)Nife. I can't wait for a chance to see if I remember that next time. If it works, I'll be ASWOON.

Mike Rees 9:03 AM  

Hand up for the SNARF/SNEE BS call. WOE either of those are is beyond me.

On a Wednesday or Thursday that might have been fair. I blame the editor.

msue 9:07 AM  

I fell on the SCARF/SCEE cross until trying random letters at that cross until N worked. Have heard of SNARF but always thought it was a colloquialism amongst my goofball friends. Surprised to see that it is NYT approved. As for SNEE - will need to devote a neuron to it along with SMEE and OMOO and all the other words that float around in the dusty regions of my brain. Any tips on building neuroplasticity are welcome because after all these puzzles I seem to fall on the same words over & over. Yikes.

Nancy 9:18 AM  

SNARF? SNARF????!!!!! Now SNEE was a gimme for me, so I was looking for some sort of N/C rebus. Only today is a Monday and we don't get rebuses, so I was really confused. Because 6D just had to be SCARF. When I finish typing, I'll go to my Webster's and look up SNARF. I imagine it will be there, but still -- sigh.

And I TAKE LUNCH about as often as I TAKE A MEETING. Which means never. Here's the only situation I can think of where I would say TAKE LUNCH:

You: "Nancy, you're such a wonderful, fun person that I'd love to treat you to a sumptuous meal at Jean-Georges. Which would you prefer -- lunch or dinner?"

Me: Thank you so much! I'll TAKE LUNCH."

(Though actually, I wouldn't. I'd much rather TAKE DINNER.)

This was a pretty lively Monday, nits aside, and I enjoyed it.

Mohair Sam 9:29 AM  

My mother always hollered at me for ScARFing my food. Then my wife. Then my kids. Recently my granddaughter asked me why I ScARFed my food. No one has ever complained about my SNARFing my chow - hence a Monday dnf today. I did have a drill instructor in basic training who was quite pleased with my scarfing, so I'll cling to that.

Otherwise this still played tough-for-a-Monday in this house. How many of you without royal blood in the veins actually "TAKE" LUNCH? - not complaining about the clue, btw, we've all heard it - usually on "Downton Abbey" - "We'll be taking lunch in the outhouse this afternoon, Carson." "Very good, Milord."

And oh yeah - it's Steven Tyler, not Steve.

Tim Pierce 9:32 AM  

I also fell for the SNARF/SNEE crossing, as indeed SCARF made much more sense to me and SNEE is one of those bits of old-school crosswordese with which I am still not familiar. I'm glad to have learned it now, though, as I'm still working my way through a book of Will Weng-era crosswords and I have no doubt it'll make an appearance there at some point.

I nearly stumbled at SARA/ARETE as well. I know the word "arete" only because a friend of mine used to work for a company called Arete Systems, and though I'm a Fleetwood Mac fan I didn't recognize the song "Sara". I would have gotten it if it had been "Starship hit" (sigh, the Eighties).

I liked the theme answers for the most part, but this was a notch above a Monday difficulty for me.

Carola 9:35 AM  

A Monday with a little bit of bite, of the playful nip variety. I thought the theme answers were all good, especially WALTZ OFF WITH. Nice reveal. I liked learning MATCHWOOD.


I guess I read enough swashbucklers in my youth that SNEE became part of my active vocabulary, along with its extended version, snickersnee. Such a cute word for the wicked weapon that it became permanently EMBEDded in memory. Looking the word up just now, I learned that "Snickersnee is a variant of the earlier snick or snee, which in turn comes from the Dutch sleken meaning 'to stick' and snijden meaning 'to cut,'" i.e., basically what you want in a knife. Besides the Mikado quote mentioned by @glimmerglass, I found one from Washington Irving: "The commander of the sloop was hurrying about and giving a world of orders, which were not very strictly attended to; one man being busy in lighting his pipe, and another in sharpening his snicker-snee.". Bracebridge Hall, 1822.

Bill L. 9:36 AM  

I downloaded the .puz file and got the mini instead ala @Rex on Saturday. I closed & reopened the browser and got the real puzzle. Weird!

Also weird: The clue for GASES (Argon and xenon) next to XENO.

I prefer OOF/SOW to @GB's oaf/saw. Seems livelier to me.

DNF with ScEE. Actually never saw it as I entered ScARF and never looked back. Like others here, I know SNEE from crossword puzzles so that's on me. Overall I thought it was an enjoyable Monday puzzle.

Gabe Tuerk 9:42 AM  

I liked arete but want to see it later in the week clued with its classical usage: "Greek virtue". Hopefully I don't get blasted as xenophobic for using a "label" for convenience. Arête would have gone well with our precocious pawn Ender. comparing apples to apples, Ender's Game gets relatively good marks against other Bildungsroman intended for a young audience ( the Xanth series, Narnia, prydain ).

AskGina 9:42 AM  

Snarf snee sucked. But that aside, finally I have reason to ask a question that's been troubling me for years. Given that we've been at war in one form or another for almost all of the 21st century, what's up with Beetle Bailey? There's the real lost platoon. They stumbled into the late '50s and never found their way out. No war, just a lot of ogling Miss Buxley and Sarge beating up Beetle. I try not to read it in my local paper (yes I read the funnies, I'm not ashamed of my love, as my kids used to say) the Sacramento Bee but I can't avert my eyes. It's too close to Blondie.

Hungry Mother 9:58 AM  

Definitely wanted SCARF, but knew SNEE, so went with that.

Andrew Heinegg 10:19 AM  

Snarf would be unacceptable on any day of the week. But, it is particularly irksome on a Monday. I put down scarf and then changed it because, while I never heard of snarf, I could imagine it being a word and, since this is a crossword puzzle, there is no other word for bygone dagger other than the dreaded snee. But, that is a lousy way to be able to finish a Monday. Does anybody buy a fire starter set except an arsonist?! I have never heard of or seen such a thing. For campers?

I agree with Rex about Way Out West. I get the w theme but all the rest are figurative descriptive phrases until the Laurel and Hardy movie comes out of nowhere. This is a dull way to start the work week.

LH 10:21 AM  

New to crossword puzzles. Matchwood was pretty easy for someone who camps. A lot of us keep a fire starter kit in our packs for emergency (matches, dryer lint, fist-full of tinder). More bothered by "aswoon" (which auto-correct keeps changing to "swoon"). Like Rex, never heard of "Way Out West" but was able to guess from having way out filled in.

the redanman 10:27 AM  

SNARF, uhm no. Otherwise nice clean Monday, not too dependent on rote fill.

I SCARF down a meal in a hurry never that other word.

old timer 10:39 AM  

SCARF was the word for it when I was in college 50 years ago. But so was SNARF. SNEE I know from crosswords but also Gilbert and Sullivan, and the lovely snickerSNEE which in context means a kind of knife, so the word SNEE looked familiar to me the first time I encountered it. Which was probably also 50 years ago, doing crosswords out of a book or magazine.

A slow solve for a Monday though thanks to a plethora of obscured words like ASWOON and the unlikely themers and, of course MATCHWOOD. I had MATCHbook for a while.

Congrats to Portugal for their win yesterday. And rest well, you cyclists. Time for Peter Sagan to get back his green jersey, and he'll probably need to win a stage to do it.

E Maleska 10:39 AM  

So, the "war on fill" has its first know casualty, and of course the fault lies elsewhere, not on those who started the "war". All you crossword snobs have railed against crosswordese for years, never bothering to think of the unintended consequences. You've now created a generation of solvers who've never heard of SNEE, and their ignorance (created entirely by you and your followers I might add) caused the puzzle to be at fault? Seriously, the puzzle has a fault? Are there no limits to your self–righteous avoidance of any responsibility on your part?

You did this. Accept responsibility for a change.

L 10:43 AM  

Add me to the SCARF camp. That and ALGAL threw me off. Bad sign for the week ahead.

three of clubs 10:46 AM  

if all those crosses aren't obvious, solvers who don't know what word are doomed:

Doomed I say. and doomed I was. 26 letters and no inclination to guess.

chasklu 10:48 AM  

never heard of SNARF so SARA/ARETE was my stopper for the R.

Joseph Michael 11:04 AM  

Really easy Monday one Q short of a pangram.

Liked the WOW FACTOR theme and thought most of the fill was good to acceptable. No problem with SNEE and had only two pauses in solving: one for MATCHWOOD and one for ORSON. Otherwise this fell quickly without a HOOCH.

Unknown 11:08 AM  

I too fell on the sword/dagger of scarf/scee and snarf/snee.

Snarf is a Thundercats character, imo, not a word for gluttonous eating. It's not an original word but a presumed blend of SNort and scARF. -1 point Freddie Chang!

Snee is only a word used in the crossword community -- it doesn't mean dagger. It's Dutch for cut, and used in conjunction with snick or snee, thrust and cut. It'd be ok if the clue were to be "to knife" someone, or any use as a verb, but it *does not* mean dagger. -100 points!

Can we agree to stop using it as such, please!!

Bronxdoc 11:17 AM  

After the war of words I'm going to snarf down my breakfast then waltz off way out west and stab myself, not with the matchwood but with my snee, which has more wow factor. Oh gee, I won't be able to walk on water, I'll be a aswoon.

Sheryl 11:19 AM  

I found today's puzzle very easy. I don't time myself, but I filled in all the boxes without hesitation.

My only problem was ScARF/SNARF, as previously mentioned, because I didn't know SNEE.

mac 11:23 AM  

I had the same hickups as most seem to. Knew snee, but not snarf. That waltz needed some staring.

Just back from the continent of Tour de France, Wimbledon, Formula 1 racing, Europe Cup and European Championships in athletics. Never watched so much sport on tv.

Alex 11:32 AM  

I did the Monday thing of working on the Downs instead, which lead to some pretty funny Acrosses. All pretty easily fixed, but for some reason I couldn't see my way out of ALGAE for ALGAL. Tried ALGAN - no, no joy there, and I boggled at what Scrabble word would give me 10 points with two Es - only options were JEE and XEE - neither of which helped with the across. I think I would have been fine had I started with the Acrosses instead. Puny human brain. But it did make a Monday a lot more interesting, which was the point.

RooMonster 11:39 AM  

Hey All!
Work schedule interfering with my puzzle doing. Hence, didn't get to YesterPuz, and did todays late.

Anyway, crying aside, thought this puz was pretty good for a MonPuz. 4 themers plus a Down revealer, not too shabby. My nit is 4D should've somehow been linked to theme. A few misdirects in here, made it a mediumish Monday. Writeovers were ONgAurd-ONWATCH (yes, realize guard was spelled wrong), MATCHbOOk-WOOD, beigE-TAUPE. So took longer than regular time for me. Printed out todays, so not sure the time. Longer than Rex, naturally. :-)

Missing the Q for the pangram.

Liked it overall. Brain pleasing.


Hartley70 12:15 PM  

I got snafu-ed by WALTZoutWITH. I was imagining a shoplifter going out the door with an Hermes scarf (or is it SNARF). Eventually when I got to my final open entry, SNARF, even the obvious and erroneous SCARF wouldn't work. Shamefully, I threw in the Monday towel.

Unknown 12:29 PM  

Another SNARF/SNEE here. I have actually never heard/seen SNARF as a synonym for SCARF. In fact, the only reference I can think of for SNARF is a sidekick character in an '80's animated feature called Thunder Cats.

kitshef 12:31 PM  

@George Barany: OaF/SaW would mean the SaW would appear as an answer and in the clue "Seen in SAW". And is there is no other reasonable way to clue GORE...

Ralph 12:33 PM  

The trouble with "Ender's Game" is that there is no climax, not just for Ender but for the reader as well.

Anoa Bob 12:49 PM  

I've seen (and smelled!) ALGAL in the wild, as in Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB). They are commonly called "red tides" even though they are neither red not tides.

I sometimes get the impression that the early-week puzzles are purposefully left a bit rough-hewn (ORI, ASON, SNEE, SNARF, ASWOON, AYES, NOONS, e.g.) to give them a kind of folk art feel, like they are from apprentice constructors still learning their trade, while the more polished fine art from the masters comes later in the week. That's a kinder, gentler interpretation than saying they have a "Hey, it's Monday. It'll do." feel to them.

Anonymous 1:00 PM  

Long time lurker, first time poster.

Just wanted to say what a GREAT, GREAT song Sara by Fleetwood Mac is. Definitely the best Stevie Nicks song.

Jennifer H 1:00 PM  

I am apparently still 12 years old, because the highlight for me was filling in "tidE" for COVE at 28D, then snickering at 34A __TCH_I__ when I realized that "bitchtits" fit.

Anyone volunteer to make a racier version of this fill?

Teedmn 1:11 PM  

Lots of words ending in CH today - HOOCH, WATCH, FLINCH, WITCH, MATCH, BIRCH, LUNCH.

I didn't think much of 40A's TAKE LUNCH phrasing but I chortled over @Nancy's interpretation of it.

Fire Starter Kits: over the years, my husband and I have done a lot of camping, sometimes in below zero weather. We have purchased many different kinds of Fire Starter kits. Some involved striking sparks off a chunk of magnesium into MATCH WOOD (a hit or miss proposition in more ways than one). Some had flammable stuff mixed with wax with WOOD shavings EMBEDded in the mix. Earlier this year, we tried to start some extremely wet wood with a tube of some flammable paste. The paste burned very nicely but never started the wood. @LMS's BIRCH bark is pretty much foolproof. Dryer lint a friend brought along smoldered but did not start wet wood. So the clue for 34A is truly a thing.

To WALTZ OFF WITH something made me smile - I can hear my mother say that plain as day.

Thanks, Freddie Cheng, for the WOW FACTOR.

AskGina 1:51 PM  

Re. "Take lunch." I've heard this in offices in California for years, as in "Where's the receptionist?" "She's taking lunch." Or, someone says, "I'm going to take lunch now, when the receptionist gets back tell her I'll be back at 2:00."

I always thought that they parenthetically mean taking (a) lunch (break).

Masked and Anonymous 3:05 PM  

yep. Pretty good set of WOWs.

For all U SNEE/ASWOON/SNARF fans, the M&A Help Desk semi-proudly offers this alternative:

5. Gds.
15. Not yet paid
21. ___ Lanka
5. Keeps cutting the grass till the cows come home??
6. Pluto's less than stellar planetary classification
8. Old name for Tokyo until 1868, when baseballer Ed O fell from favor

Desperation -- there *is* no substitute.

Thanx, Mr. Cheng.

Masked & Anonymo3Us

RooMonster 3:23 PM  

Just finished YesterPuz, agree not PB1's best, but after reading the comments, only one person (@Leapy) noticed the other astonishingly impossible constructor feat that he pulled off. No other double-letters anywhere outside the themers. So not only did you get a "Double Quote", buy II, HH, YY letters together, a Revealer, and light dreck/clean fill, you also had no other doubles. WOW! (A little tie-in to todays puz!)

PB1, I'm tellin ya.


George Barany 3:53 PM  

Several of you have pointed out that the horror film "Saw" is referenced in the clue for GORE. I fully agree that every effort should be made to avoid duplication between answer words in the grid and the language in the clues.

My remedy, then, would be to clue GORE for this guy, who was the commencement speaker at my daughter's college graduation. According to campus legend, he waived his fee in return for renaming the existing
Blood Fitness Center as the "Blood and GORE Center" [and lest you laugh, check out the authors on this Wall Street Journal article].

GILL I. 3:56 PM  

@David Hall....a dagger IS a knife!
I've been doing puzzle since I first arrived in the States in the 70's so I knew of the SNEE. I did flirt with DIRK though because he too appears as a bygone dagger.
I thought this was a pretty good puzzle, SNARF and all. I'm always amused when the oldy moldy answers appear from time to time. I had some time on my hands when I finished this morning, so I downloaded a Saturday Manny Nosowsky from 1993. Did you know that back in the olden days an EXTERNE is a nonresident doctor.....! I finished his puzzle in under ten minutes which gave me a tremendous boost to my ego. Let the good times roll.
Fun seeing WAY OUT WEST. I came down with hepatitis while visiting my dad in Buenos Aires and was sent to bed for a month. There wasn't much to watch on TV other than some old black and white movies and comedies. I watched all the episodes of Laurel and Hardy as well as the Three Stooges. You could hear me cackle with delight all the way to Casa Rosada.
Fun Monday, Freddie Cheng...Thanks for the memories!

Mark L. 4:16 PM  

Cluing this little fellow would have helped me out a lot more for 6 Down.

The SNEE/SNARF crossing left my scratching my head trying to figure out what was wrong when the puzzle was finished.

OISK 4:17 PM  

As I gnashed my teeth, when from its sheath I drew my snicker- snee...

That and "Way out West" were easy for me. Lucky thing I know Arete as well, because there were three completely unfamiliar answers in the South. (happens on Mondays - pop culture that the constructor thinks is Monday-level...they're writing Monday clues, but not for me...)

Have no idea who Fleetwood Mac is or what he sang, although of course I know the name. Country?? Never heard of Steve Perry, nor of Tyler Perry, although they may have been in prior puzzles, nor Orson Scott Card. Hey, it's Monday! Orson Welles, Orson Bean!!

Also, I had blast site before I got blast zone, which slowed me up a lot. Still, I liked this puzzle overall.

George Barany 4:20 PM  

Many comments today remind me of a wonderful segment from "The Mikado"--click here and try 30 seconds in (the word gets repeated several times). For those who prefer written over auditory, this essay may amuse.

Anonymous 5:44 PM  

If we must include SNEE in the NYT crossword, then let's start cluing it as Chris Snee, two-time Super Bowl Champion in recent New York Giants history.

He is much more relevant than something which must be clued as "bygone."

chefbea 5:50 PM  

Just read that there are two new sodas coming soon....Hilary Hooch

And also Trump tonic

Unknown 6:26 PM  

@Aketi - I haven't read "Maze Runner," and I haven't read anything of Card's beyond "Ender's Game." I liked your description of "Maze Runner": "putting a bunch of kids into a survivalist situation that will somehow harden them so they can save the world when the adults can't." The full weight of that sentence falling squarely on the word "somehow."

One of my biggest problems with "Ender's Game" is that the teaching strategy, such as it is, basically comes down to making Ender's life as miserable as possible and praying that he somehow becomes a military genius. (And it'd be a nice bonus if he survives, too.) It's like teaching a kid to play the violin by blaring The Eagles, Maynard Ferguson, and Billy Ray Cyrus at him 24/7.

@Z - I didn't know that "Ender's Game" originated as a short story originally, but my issue with it isn't about the length. It's paced well enough. It's more that, as a reader, I felt as if the book was constantly trying to corner me into answer hypothetical questions and trying to get me to weight the efficacy of child abuse and genocide. I didn't feel as if it was asking me to agree with these: I felt that, in the end, it raises up its arms and says, "I'm just broaching issues others are afraid to consider and asking tough questions." It's full of itself.

Early in the book, I found myself rejecting the premise—rejecting Card's cruel universe—and then reading it, as it were, from the outside: watching it pull its levers and work its gears as it manipulates the reader into being complicit with a genocidal act. The book trolls the reader.

@Paul Rippey - I did come into "Ender's Game" with high expectations—having had several friends recommend it to me—and those high expectations certainly made my poor reading experience feel even worse.

Michael 6:29 PM  

thought process:

An easy Monday so far..

matchwood? Huh?

Whats this blank blank ee? Must be "epee." Nope, doesn't work. Aswoon? Really?

ok, s blank arf. Must be scarf. Hold on, what's scee? Maybe it's smee. But then what's smarf?

I give up!

snee/snarf If you say so. Monday?

rosebud 7:32 PM  

Happy to see the first prophesy of Christmas from Isaiah...and in the midwest we do snarf down our cheese fries and brats.

chefwen 7:58 PM  

The way I look at is that people SCARF their food while dogs SNARF their food as there is usually some snorting and chuffing when dogs do it. (Spellcheck just changed by SCARF to scarface, odd)

@Loren - if you carry a fire starter kit with you what else is in that bag and how much does that puppy weigh?

Only problem I had with this was the L in ALGEL, I had ALGAS first but WAsTZ made no kind of sense.

Laura 8:03 PM  

Went to college with a guy with the last name of SNEE (also went to college with @Prof Gary Weissman -- hi Gary!)

Would have made these edits:
SMEE ("Hook's Mate")
SMARF ("Cat puppet in 'Too Many Cooks'" [although that's a pop-culture reference obscure enough to belong in a BuzzFeed puzzle instead])

Anonymous 8:23 PM  

In Gilbert and Sullivan's operetta, the mikado, the mikado sings about how he would chop off someone's with a 'snickerSnee'.

Aketi 8:30 PM  

@ George Barany, speaking of blood and GORE, I was walking past the Metropolitan Museum of Art today and happened to spy the Norman Bates Pychobarn installation on top.

@ Ralph, there is a climax to Ender's Game, just not a pleasant one since he exterminated a sentient species of bugs and later came to recognize the value of their hive mind mentality. Personally, I'm not particularly sympathetic to the real life, hopefully not very sentient variety, right now since it is summer time in New York City. I've declared WAR on them but if they were sentient they would surely be laughing at me because they reproduce at a faster rate than my pathetic attempts of squirting Tilex at them can annihilate them.

The climax of Ender's Game was sort of the reverse of the ending of I Am Legend in the book version. The movie version has a happy Hollywood ending that totally changes the meaning of the end of the book version. On the other hand, either the book was blatantly racist (even by the standards of the time) or the author was portraying the protagonist as a blatant racist. Given the ending of the book I'm leaning towards the later.

As for ALGAL blooms, I actually found some beautiful pictures of red ALGAE yesterday when I was procrastinating about doing household chores.

Nancy 8:36 PM  

When I was working in an office, I too, would decide when to TAKE my LUNCH break. Should I TAKE it at 12:30? 1:00? But that was the break, not the lunch. As far as lunch itself goes, I HAVE lunch. Or I EAT lunch. Or I GO FOR lunch. I agree with @Mohair -- TAKE LUNCH is the sort of thing you heard on Downton Abbey all the time. It's veddy British. (Loved your outhouse joke, btw, Mohair.) And @Teedmn -- thanks.

Wick 8:51 PM  

Amen to the SNARF vs SCARF comment. SNARF down is *not* a common phrase and to me means something more along the lines of snarky.

Teedmn 11:59 PM  

Ender's Shadow was a far superior book to Ender's Game. Written many years after Ender's Game, Ender's Shadow was much more sophisticated and pretty much repeated the entire first book from Bean's POV instead of Ender's . I tend to take books at their face value and not "read" that deeply into them. If I like the characters, I like the book. It appears, looking at my library, that I gave up on the the series in 2005.

Anonymous J 12:07 AM  

I liked the theme answers for the most part, but this was a notch above a Monday difficulty for me. Sonia Rizvi

Z 12:36 AM  

@anon5:44 - Uh, no.

@Martin Abresch - "Sink or swim" is not generally considered child abuse unless the kid drowns.* Also, a novel that considers how societies respond to perceived existential threats is too often germaine. Again, not really disagreeing with you, just pointing out that there is an audience for whom this is a fine book to spend time with. My librarian wife once suggested that when the protagonist is not an adult a book is aimed at readers ~2 years younger than the protagonist. Seems about right.

*Too dark?

Lurker Librarian 12:59 AM  

@AskGina @Nancy I can absolutely vouch that in California we do indeed TAKE LUNCH. I had no idea it was regional, though. Fascinating! I also hear it as "lunch [break]."

"Hey, Lurkey, did ya TAKE LUNCH yet?"
"Nope. I'm gonna TAKE it later."

+wordphan 1:30 AM  

Snarf? Familiar with "snee," I do crosswords in my sleep. Creative crap with snarf"! Why does this puzzle have an "editor"? Shortz must "take lunch."

Burma Shave 10:15 AM  


OHGEE, the WOWFACTOR is good.
ZEN-like, he’ll WALTZOFFWITH the best,
ASON of a BIRCH, no-one can MATCHWOOD.


spacecraft 10:20 AM  

Just don't take MY lunch, or I'll strike my MATCHWOOD (!) and make you FLINCH. All it is is HOOCH, anyway, you WITCH. OK, you've been warned: I'm ONWATCH. This puzzle has been brought to you by the letter W, and by the diphthong -CH. Poor Q, however, has to wait for another day.

Has it now become all right to use ridiculous partials like ORI? I mean, c'mon, man. That entire north central section should have been STABbed into oblivion, and restarted. You guessed it: I'm not ASWOON with it.

Can't believe they didn't make use of a tie-in clue: (42-across) "44-across, e.g." No matter, if we're talking golfing Swedes, we'll congratulate Henrik Stenson on his silver medal at the Games--and borrow Anika Sorenstam for today's DOD. She'll be announcing the ladies' event in Rio. A classic beauty.

Which this puzz is not. Appropriately, it's the same score that poor Henrik made on the last hole: bogey.

rain forest 12:24 PM  

SNARF/SNEE? No prob. Puzzle? No prob.

Doing acrosses only, I first wrote aH GEE which was changed after I finished when aN WATCH made no sense.

Like the theme and the revealer, and really didn't FLINCH at the fill. I SAY it was a fine puzzle.

I miss the old captcha days of playing either poker or - what was that other game?

rondo 12:47 PM  

@spacey - Ernie ELS is South African, not a SWEDE. And I’ve spoken to yeah baby Annika, in Swedish, in person. I think she appreciated it.

This puz played a bit harder than a normal Monday, almost didn’t finish before time to go to work. SNEE should be a gimme for any regular solver. ALGAL not so much.

Agree with whoever above mentioned that it is STEVEn Tyler and STEVE Perry. Another instance of the editing staff needing to sharpen up.

Anyone who hasn’t seen WAYOUTWEST really must. The musical numbers and dance routine still kill me. Laurel and Hardy are so much better than what passes for comedy today. They make me WAX nostalgic.

I won’t make a complete L-EYE-ESS-ZEE –T of the shortcomings, but there are a few.

rondo 12:50 PM  

@rainy - baccarat
Time for me to TAKELUNCH

leftcoastTAM 3:10 PM  

Monday with some bite, but I wouldn't SNARF LUNCH down I would ScARF it down, nor would I TAKE it, I'd have it, just as I don't TAKE meetings, either.

If I were really trying not to be noticed, I'd try to furtively walk off with something rather than WALTZOFFWITH it.

Clever and fun, but not sure that it scores a WOWFACTOR.

spacecraft 6:24 PM  

@rondo: Of course, I knew that. Seenyer moment. But hey, it opened the door for HER!

ELS is certainly a Dutch name; in fact it's also a female first name. Used to date an ELS, but that's another story.

rain forest 7:24 PM  

Aw, come on @Spacey. Tell us about Els. After all @rondo lets us in on everything! Even talking to Annika Sweetie (or should I say Swedie), in Swedish yet. Pray tell, what other stuff about you do we not yet know?

leftcoastTAM 8:00 PM  

ISAY, rondo, spacey and rain forest, I have to guess that I'm older than you guys, or we happen to have similar strains of nostalgia, or both. Probably both, and that's not too surprising, nor is it that at least one of us is much less inclined to let us in on everything.

rain forest 8:45 PM  

@leftcoastTAM - As it happens, today is my 70th birthday. I'm not expecting everyone to tell me their age, but the coincidence was too much to overlook. Yes, as we age nostalgia has much room to roam. Now, there was this one time, when I happened to run into Mary Travers (of Peter, Paul, and Mary fame) in Honolulu...

centralscrewtinizer 10:57 PM  

Yes, I too was impaled by scee, but actually knew snee, having seen it before, once it was pointed out. I use scarf, never snarf, which sounds like eating with your nose.

rondo 11:08 PM  

Happy Bday @rainy!

Followed the SWEDE Annika for all of a Sunday final round at a tourney about 10 years ago when she CAME back from 4 or 5 strokes to win. Gave her encouragement in Swedish as she was walking off every hole. After no noticeable recognition after the first few holes, I got a fist bump or high five and a “Thank you” and or “We’ll see” (in Swedish) after all the rest except the 18th when she sealed the win and was surrounded. I’d like to think I had something to do with the comeback, but at the time she was the best in the world. Maria Hjorth, however, was available afterward, for conversation. This all was a coupla days after I EMBED-ed an American player who missed the cut after Friday and then left. The following summer I met two blonde lady SWEDEs who were musicians visiting my part of MN to perform for Midsommersdag. That worked out well. Knowing a foreign language can be oh so handy. @teedMN can vouch that I speak SWEDE, she does too.

leftcoastTAM 2:30 AM  

I gotta give you this, rondo, you really do let it all hang out.

Rainy, a somewhat belated happy birthday. I will disclose that I celebrated my own 70th some years ago, after which I became increasingly reluctant to acknowledge or celebrate them. I don't feel much older, but there's no denying the numbers.

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