Green spirit / SUN 8-28-16 / Taiping Rebellion general / Fastener with ring-shaped head / Mythical father of Harmonia strangely enough / Hit upside the head in slang / Cousin of lemming

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Constructor: Paolo Pasco

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: "The First Shall Be Last" — first letter of a word in each themer is moved to the end of the word, creating wackiness galore:

Theme answers:
  • RADAR ANGER (22A: Reason to scream "Why won't this damn thing locate airplanes!"?)
  • DAME CHEESE (23A: Honorary title in Wisconsin?)
  • SENATE IDEA (42A: "Hey, let's gather 100 people to enact laws and ratify treaties"?)
  • HEAR PERLMAN (50A: Listen to violinist Itzhak's music?)
  • SPRITE DE CORPS (65A: Soft drink favored by the Marines?)
  • ASSUMED AMEN (79A: Church response that's taken as a given?)
  • INSIDE OPED (87A: Newspaper essay on why not to go outdoors?)
  • THANE ALLEN (108A: Woody playing a medieval baron?)
  • IM'ED NOVELS (110A: Books written entirely in chat rooms?) 
[UPDATE: I just found out there is an "unofficial" metapuzzle element to this thing. I did the write-up without knowing this (how could I know?) so keep that in mind. If you want to figure out the meta for your self, don't look at the very end of this write-up—I'll add the answer in a P.S.] 

[The meta answer is a nine-letter word] 

[please disregard Everything I say in the write-up about the theme being loose] 

[Again, why on god's green would you keep this hidden from the solving public, WTF?]

Word of the Day: DOPE SLAP (82D: Hit upside the head, in slang) —
A corrective action that consists of the following:
  1. Take open palm.
  2. Deliver slap directly to the back of the skull.
  3. Optional: Ask some variant of "What are you, stupid or something?"
The Dope Slap is a (generally) lighthearted slap (or knuckle tap) to the back of the skull that is intended as a disciplinary move by one character when another character does, says, or even thinks something that is uniformly stupid, or just to shut them up. The slap is almost always in some way played for laughs; think of it as an attempt at Percussive Maintenance on somebody's brain, and thus occasionally overlaps with Get a Hold of Yourself, Man!. Another variation is a "shut up" poke to the ribs with the elbow. Finally, it may also be performed simply by making a slapping motion in the direction of the target, without any actual physical contact occurring. (
• • •

This Pasco kid is everywhere of late—or so it seems. He won two different divisions at the most recent Lollapuzzoola crossword tournament (which I missed because my beloved 14-year-old dog was sick, [frowny face]), and he is the constructor of the most recent American Values Club Crossword—a meta puzzle that kinda puts today's puzzle to shame (both of them Sunday-sized, but the AVCX just far more clever and much more fun to solve). I mean, this puzzle is fine, but it's pretty ordinary NYT fare. This is how I now think of the difference between the NYT (the self-styled "best puzzle in the world") and the AVCX (the actual best puzzle in ... well, the country, let's be reasonable; what do I know from "the world"?): the NYT does what it does and what it's been doing for a quarter century-ish, and it does it, most days, relatively well. At least competently. It's certainly still the best daily (though WSJ makes a run at it many days). But for sheer ingenuity and cleverness and especially for pure solving pleasure, the (once-a-week) AVCX is the best thing around. So this puzzle is a victim of its constructor's own success (seriously, you should do his "Girl, Interrupted" AVCX puzzle—it's pretty sweet; and you still have til the end of today to solve the meta and enter the contest).


This move-a-letter concept feels old, even if the results are occasionally very funny. Sometime first word, sometimes last word ... so conceptually loose as well. Hey, there's a DOPE dupe (sort of ... play on the phrase "inside dope" and then the answer DOPE SLAP, which ... only barely qualifies as a thing, and is certainly not a thing I've ever heard in my increasingly-close-to-half-a-century's existence). Speaking of near dupes, LAO-TSE and General TSO in the same grid? Those two aren't allowed anywhere near each other. The fill on this is very average, and when it's not, it stands out in not-great ways (see DOPE SLAP). EYE BOLT is pretty original, but it's yet another thing I've never heard of. Honestly, sincerely, I thought it was a term for a piercing, like ... a facial piercing of your eye ... lid? brow? Something. At any rate, puzzle was quite easy except for the SW corner, where all the Downs were hard for me, and I thought BAAS (uck) were MOOS and I thought Robert HAYS was Robert something else, possibly RIES (?), and SALES DAYS is blarghy. I do like ABSINTHE though (79D: Green spirit). A lot. But usually just as a rinse in a cocktail like a sazerac. Too much, and it's SANTA HAT time, in that I might literally put on the SANTA HAT that currently resides on one of the three dog sculptures in my living room.

All of you should find the equivalence of [Intellectual] and EGG-HEADED annoying. Uh, you're the Sunday New York Times Crossword, so who are you calling EGG-HEADED, anyway? Clue may as well have said [Like you, probably]. I would've respected it more. Lastly, re: clue on IM'ED NOVELS ... I don't think IM'ing has a very tight connection with "chat rooms"—I'm sure they are technically related, but the association feels thin, in that plenty of kids IM (or used to, when that was more of a thing) completely outside the context of "chat rooms" (a phrase which reeks of 1998). But an online chat is a form of instant messaging, and insofar as such IM'ing might take place in "chat rooms," I guess the clue is at least semi-valid. Feels imprecise, clumsy, and dated, but defensible. (I feel this about NYT clues not infrequently)


Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. the answer to the meta puzzle is:

REAR-ENDED (a word formed from the moved letters in the theme answers, taken in the order in which they appear in the grid)

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


jae 12:08 AM  

Easy and I was going to say rather ho-hum until I read about the " bonus answer" at Xwordinfo. That kicks this one up a notch (TM Emeril). Like @Rex I just wish that there had been a note or hint because I'm not going looking for a meta/bonus unless you tell me about it. And I second Rex on Paolo's AVCX puzzle this week, an excellent meta!

So, liked it more than I thought I did.

Sir Hillary 12:20 AM  

Daughter #1 and I did this together and enjoyed it more than most recent Sunday NYT fare. No clue about the bonus answer until I came here. The fact that the NYT has no means to -- or chooses not to -- alert solvers to such a "meta" supports @Rex's frequent complaint that the NYT is a stodgy, clunky venue. Anyway, I enjoyed this puzzle even without being aware of the bonus answer, but I would have appreciated it even more had I known.

Anonymous 12:21 AM  

I think it's time (for me, obviously) to give up the Sunday slog, er, puzzle. It was just hideously boring and intellectually unsatisfying (e.g., SENATE IDEA is simply in no way comparable to HEAR PERLMAN). Normally I solve the daily puzzles and enjoy doing them; lately, the Sundays have just seemed a lot of real estate and none of it terribly interesting. This puzzle is quite terrible, and if the "unofficial" theme is real (ie., constructed in that way), then it is ridiculous not to signal it in some way. I hated this puzzle but I did finish it while watching mindless TV--and the TV was way more interesting and engaging.

chefwen 1:01 AM  

Not too easy for me. Took me way too long to catch onto the theme, finally got it at 65A, then I was still a little confused as to what and where to switch a letter. Some days I can be pretty slow on the uptake. Oh Well!

I so wanted CHEESE HEAD for 23A. That's pretty HONORARY in my book.

Kenneth Wurman 1:06 AM  

I give this one an A-.
Could someone please explain 6 down???
Month? ???

Kenneth Wurman 1:07 AM  
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worst 1:21 AM  
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worst 1:22 AM  

Just want to speak up in defense of DOPE SLAP. I have run into it in the Internet wild often enough that it didn't give me pause. @kenneth, 1/2, 7/4, 12/31, 8/28...

Aketi 2:10 AM  
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Larry Gilstrap 2:12 AM  

I finished the puzzle, finally, YAYS to me! and had no idea what I had done. Ok, SPRITE DE CORPS, is clever, as is DAME CHEESE and IMED NOVELS, but what is the purpose of a theme, anyway? During the week good solvers often just blow through them and look for a revealer and muse, that was nice. Sometimes, a theme helps in a crunchy puzzle, and that is kinda fun. Thanks Mr./Ms./Mrs. Constructor for thinking of me, lowly solver. Where is the joy in a post puzzle accident scene investigation? I feel like the CHP officer I saw today on Highway 79 measuring skid marks. But when I truly feel like a lowly solver scrambling to make sense out of stuff like eTHAN ALLEN, where did he come from? Green Mountains, indeed. I get it, all you constructors or wannabes, you are clever. But who pays the bills around this place? Deep breath... Based upon an ugly part of my youth, choice word EENIE or meenie or minie or moe, conjure up an ugly second verse, and should no longer be referenced. RAFA again? I, apparently, am the same age as Jackson Browne, "in '69 I was twenty-one and called the road my own..." and even now we are running ON E? Too tired to even finish off the word. He still looks good with flowing locks and all, but I think he's had a little work. Second day of apologizing on this blog, but sorry for getting all KEYED up.

Aketi 2:17 AM  
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Charles Flaster 3:19 AM  

Very easy and solved without theme .
Rear ended now makes sense.
Did not like ON E.
Liked clue for SANTA HAT.
Thanks PP

tkr 3:46 AM  

So painful...such a slog...

Also, Edam Cheese is an embarrassing theme clue. Edam Cheese is not a thing, unless you would drink a Sprite Soda in your Ford Car on the way to the Costco Store to buy yourself some Edam Cheese.

What's the best way to get access to the other puzzles Rex mentioned?

Aketi 3:51 AM  

I thought I nailed the theme when I spotted ESPRIT DE CORPS and EDAM CHEESE, but was foiled by ESENAT IDEA. I retrieved it by finally spotting that AIDE while waiting for today's blog to appear. Gave myself my first "YAY me" for that.

@Rex, thanks for the hint about the meta theme.

I gave myself another "YAY me" when I figured out the meta theme without the PS, followed by a third when I successfully posted a link using HTML.

I then had to resort to giving myself my first DOPE SLAP for all the typos I missed, followed by a second DOPE SLAP for managing to irretrievably delete the entire post and the copy I had saved for editing.

I do know of cell phone NOVELS but I don't know if these are considered IM'ED.

@Rex, I just discovered that SUNY Binghamton is the only school that my son is applying to that uses ZEE MEE instead of the "supplemental essays" required by the other schools he's applying to. Since it replaces the essay style response with the creation of social media style "Meet Me" videos, picture-laden activity pages, and blog posts, a terrible vision popped into my head of all the English classes being replaced with social media classes. I also envisioned the outcry that might ensue if a constructor included ZEE MEE in a puzzle.

Anonymous 4:50 AM  

I really disliked this puzzle. No pleasure at all - a slog. Why are sticky spots NESTS? Usually a church has a STEEPLE and a cathedral a SPIRE. Yes, easy. The cryptic puzzle was better.

Loren Muse Smith 7:03 AM  

UZO was my first entry, followed by STRUT and RADAR ANGER. Saw the theme, counted the themers, and guessed that there would be a meta answer REAR-ENDED. Yeah, right.

I did finish thinking I had "finished." Agree that it's too bad that the coolest part of this will be missed by most solvers.

I found this much, much harder than normal. I didn't have many mistakes, just a ton of empty white for a long time. I think my only erasure was a ridiculous "NYU" for BYU.

I jump all over the place during any solve, so a lot of times I miss nice little cluing flourishes. Today, though, I appreciated . . .

both 21A "mail" and 21D "mailed"
30A "Hamiltons" and 32A "Domain of Hamilton"
36A "takes in" crossing 37D "took in."

I was grateful for the extra help on CYRANO. Otherwise I may have gone with his lesser-known cousin, Jethro.

"Words of concession" 87D– A Coke Zero and some nachos. Even though I sat through three quarters resisting the urge to get those chips and sublimely delicious gross, orange cheese. Watching everyone else eat it. Actually, could I get extra cheese, please? And a Snickers. I took in every last bite, resigned.

Paolo – So glad that someone alerted the Powers That Be about the added REAR-ENDED. Wow. Find nine words whose last letter can be moved to the front to make a new word. Limit the letters to just those in REAR-ENDED, and then put'em in the right order. Bravo! (And remember I'm limiting my exclamation points, so this is a pretty big deal.)

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm gonna revisit the Sunday grids from this past year to see if I missed some kind of meta.

Anonymous 7:06 AM  

NESTS are "sticky spots" because they are...

...wait for it...

made of sticks!


Thank you, I'm here all week. Try the meatloaf, it's delicious.

phil phil 7:21 AM  

I am pretty sure I heard of DOPESLAP before 'the car guys' made it a recognizeable term. Nevertheless, they have that great NPR show with lots of laughs. Give them a listen. (I hope they're still on.)

EYEBOLT is arguably one of the most ubiquitous utility fastener visible in everyday life. Strange Rex wouldn't know its name.

pauer 7:32 AM  

This kid is on fire! Great stuff from Paolo, as usual. Really wanted DOMEHEAD and MOLE, so VAPOR was tough to see. Loved all the musical theatre refs, natch.

PS: it's the LAST DAY to buy the xwords for Lollapuzzoola 9: It's Hip to Be Squared. Visit bemoresmarter dot com and bring $12 for all the tourney puzzles plus a "Twinlets" puz from my cohost Brian Cimmet and "Different Strokes," an 11-puz meta suite by me. Strong stuff from Mike Nothnagel, Doug Peterson, Evan Birnholz, Francis Heaney, and Sam Donaldson. Was sorry that some people couldn't make it, but we were packed to the rafters, anyway. To paraphrase "Jaws": "We're gonna need a bigger church."

Jim Crotteau 7:32 AM  

1/2 as in January 2nd. I think in Europe, the answer to the clue would be DAY.

Jim C in Maine

David 7:47 AM  

Kind of a slog but I did like the BROS cross with BYU.

chefbea 8:02 AM  

Did not like the puzzle at all. Didn't know what letters to switch What is RRADA Anger?????

Kenneth Wurman 8:02 AM  

The clue would have been better if it was "the 1 in 1/2/06"

Passing Shot 8:03 AM  

Did not ejoy this. What on earth is "SuperNES"? Have never heard the term DOPESLAP; where I come from, we say bit_hSLAP. IRESIGN is not the same "I quit" or "I give up." Was confused by the inconsistency of the answers -- got EDAMCHEESE first and assumed all the themes would revolve around the first word.


Mike D 8:24 AM  

re: Anon 12:21AM: AND I'm going to hold my breath until I turn blue...

Mike D 8:30 AM  

@Kenneth 8:02: No, the clue would have been much, much worse. You see, the idea is that clues are clever an maybe a bit obscure, rather than "what does the '1' stand for in "1/02/16?," which would be insulting to the solver and really boring.

Natraj Sitaram 8:42 AM  

I finished the puzzle without getting the theme or the meta word. That should not be allowed to happen. What say you?

Aketi 9:12 AM  
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Aketi 9:19 AM  

@Jim C in Maine, you have a good point but it's not confined to Europe. According to one map and reference in Wikipedia:

3,295,000,000 people exclusively use DM
As marked in light blue on the map
---> all of these use DMY for the placement of the year
---> a fair number of these countries speak English as their first or second language including Autralia, New Zealand, India and Nigeria
(1,519,000,000 people in those four countries)

2,440,000,000 people use MD
as marked by all the other colors except light gray on the map
* light gray is the countries for which they didn't provide data, I used to visit for work in some of those and I think they are mostly DM

Of those that use MD:
460,000,000 use both MD and DM

@ Will Shortz if you happen to read this, isn't the Old Gray Lady supposed to be international?

Carola 9:32 AM  

DAME CHEESE is also known as Alice in Dairyland Emerita. I enjoyed figuring out the theme answers but wish I'd known about the meta.

Nancy 9:32 AM  

This puzzle was just puzzling enough to hold my attention throughout. I picked up the theme early, thanks to THE FIRST SHALL BE LAST headline. Without it, I might not have known what was going on. And, while I thought the theme was pretty meh, the fact that I might not have been able to solve without knowing it made it seem better. It was not that most dreaded of things: an "after the fact" theme. But now I come here to find I've missed the "best", "coolest" part of the puzzle -- a "meta" something-or-other. I'll go and look for it right now, but since I haven't a clue exactly what I'm looking for, I'll probably have to go to the aforementioned blog to find out.

Aketi 9:35 AM  

@LMS, from yesterday, if you were elected President and made America GRATE again I might have to leave the country since there is no chore related to meal preparation that I hate more than GRATing.

Hungry Mother 9:36 AM  

More of a struggle than my usual Sunday, but I finally got it with SCENA's last letter. I'm always confident that I can do a Sunday puzzle, given enough time, but I wasn't sure today. I liked the theme, but IMED was troubling, although "dime novel" was clear enough.

Nancy 9:42 AM  

Turns out I didn't have to go anywhere. The meta answer is right here on this blog. I never would have seen it in a million years on my own. I wonder if a single one of you will, either.

Rex Parker 10:02 AM  

"The clue would have been better if it was "the 1 in 1/2/06""


The clue would've been more Obvious if it had read "the 1 in 1/2/06." You would've gotten it more easily. That is what you mean. The "1/2" version is manifestly better because of the misdirect to "one half."


Lewis 10:13 AM  

There were at least 18 non-theme answers that turned into words found in crosswords when you shift the last letter to the front, my favorite being HARKS. The puzzle was neither exciting nor boring, but it kept me in my solving gear (as opposed to being on autopilot), so it was worthwhile.

The theme is impressive, especially with the meta, and I'm guessing it was hard to come up with these answers, and thank you for putting in that effort, Paolo!

Blue Stater 10:13 AM  

I just hated this. Not entertaining at all. Every so often I actively contemplate giving up the NYT puzzles after nearly 70 years of doing them, and this is one of those times. I keep hoping vainly that the puzzles will get better -- or at least will not continue to decline.

H777 10:20 AM  

6 down: 1/2 = January 2nd. 1= the month

Anonymous 10:29 AM  

I not only failed to finish the puzzle but couldn’t make much sense of the Rex Parker denouement. What’s a meta-puzzle? Where does REAR-ENDED fit into the scheme of things here?

One thing I do know, though, is that no one, absolutely no one, uses 1/2 to describe a calendar date. No one.

And after decades to the contrary, I side with Anonymous 12:21 AM. It’s time for me to give up on the Sunday puzzle. Bye, bye, time wasters.

Mike D 10:36 AM  

Ha! I beat you to it, @Rex Parker. See my comment at 0830 and yours at 1002. It's rare for me to agree with you so strongly, or really, at all. I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship...

Aaron James 10:54 AM  

A lot of bitter anonymice today! The one at 1029 is quite entertaining. I guess in the history of writing dates, nobody has ever written the date 1/2. Oh wait, I did a brief internet search and found this:

1/2 bowl games

But "no one, absolutely no one, uses 1/2 to describe a calendar date. No one."


Alysia 10:56 AM  

@anon 10:29 - I do. Often. As do my coworkers. We often end emails with something like, "I'll get back to you by 8/24"...or, "Can we push the due date to 11/6?"

Anywho. Whether the puzzle was mind-blowingly, knock-my-socks-off amazing or not, I have an immense amount of respect for anyone's ability to construct something like this.

I do have one minor complaint that I didn't see mentioned above, and that's HERB TEA. Is this some new colloquialism of which I'm unawares? Isn't the proper term "herbAL tea"?

Oh - I happened to like ON E.

Side note: after completing yesterday's puzzle, I was hit with what I believe would be an incredible and brilliant puzzle theme. I spent about an hour at work on it before thinking, "Gosh, it's possible this would absolute never fly and the Rex Parker crew would absolutely pick me apart." So...if anyone out there has nothing better to do and would like to give me feedback on my potentially wonderful-amazing-brilliant puzzle idea before it becomes a pointless time-suck, please let me know.

Stanley Hudson 11:22 AM  

Liked it a lot. This puzzle took some time and sweat to construct. Thank you Paolo Pasco.

oldactor 11:25 AM  

@chefbea: Radaranger is Radar range.

Mr. Grumpypants 11:28 AM  

Rex said the "last letter of a word in each themer is moved to the front of the word." but then the title should be "The Last Shall Be First" so I guess you have to think of it as moving the first letter to the end -- not that it matters or makes this slog of a puzzle any more enjoyable. DAME CHEESE, THANE ALLEN, and IM'ED NOVELS were okay; the other themers were weak and not funny, and the hidden meta was a yawner.

old timer 11:28 AM  

The puzzle was a bit of a slog, but SPRITE DE CORPS made it interesting. And the Chastity pledge at BYU. I mean, probably Catholic universities expect their unmarried students to be chaste, too, but Catholics tend not to believe they have the right to pry. So I put in BYU at once.

I *liked* having a properly-clued General TSO in the same puzzle with LAO TSE. Is there some secret Constructors' Code that makes this wrong?

Mohair Sam 11:29 AM  

Chiming in on the 1/2 discussion: Yeah, Rex is right, it is much better as clued. We got hung up in the NE for a while until Lady M aha'd the meaning of "1" as month - adding to the puzzles fun. Save "1/2/16" for a Monday, or maybe don't save it at all.

Found the puzzle medium/challenging, didn't care for it much because the cluing just seemed a bit off to us. Hard to pin down why, stuff like "Frat boy types" (BROS) - why "types" when "Frat boys" does fine? Would have liked it more if Will Shortz had let us know there was a Meta. Jeez. And I avoided reading Rex (as he told us), but made the mistake of coming here and discovering the answer to the Meta. Rats. Don't think I would have gotten it anyhow - but the search would have added to the fun of the solve.

"Ratatouille" one of the few modern kiddie cartoon length movies I just didn't care for. Awful lot of unknown-to-us PPP today, maybe that's why we were sour on the puzz, had Bill Maher for HADER for a while for the movie (is it a movie?) we never heard of. Got the theme idea at PERLMAN thanks to the TV ad in which Rhea tries a little violin - all the themers filled in quickly from there.

Go see "Hell or High Water"

prandolph 11:31 AM  

Solved it, but didnt like it at all. Worst NYT crossword I can remember.

Jamie C 11:37 AM  

I count 43 "s"'s (or ESSES?!) in this puzzle, OR 11.4% of the letters in the puzzle. I know some people here pay attention to such things and have super-geeky computer ways to compare this to other puzzles, but this has got to be some kind of record for a non-vowel in a non-gimmick puzzle, no?

Wm. C. 11:40 AM  

@Aketi9:19 --

First, there may be some 1.5 billion people in Australia, New Zealand, India and New Zealand. But in India -- nearly 1.3 billion of these people -- while having English as a second language -- have only a minority of about 25% with the education to speak it at a functional level. Interestingly, Nigeria has a stronger emphasis on English in its secondary education system, and the majority of the population know English at a basic level at least.

On your question to the Shortzmeister: Yes, the NYT company caters to an international audience. But its subsidiary, the International New York Times, has its own Paris-based head editorial staff. It uses a lot af the NYT content, but this is in a secondary role to its own content, which has primarily an international scope, but mainly focusing on Europe as I recall.

But as to the NYT XWord: When I lived in Paris around 1990, our office subscribed to the International Herald Tribune, as it was then called. It carried the NYT XWord, but without a Sunday edition, we'd get the Sunday puzzle on Friday as I recall. Lots of fun downstairs at our local pub in La Defense on Friday after work, doing the puzzle on the glass atop the pinball machine.

Unknown 11:44 AM  

This author is young and evolving. Presently, he is focused on being clever and tricky. He has potential to take us on an enjoyable crossword journey in the future.

TonySaratoga 11:46 AM  

Will Shortz, if you're reading, seriously, WHY didn't you tell us about the meta component? I don't get that at all? Seems like editorial malpractice.

jberg 11:50 AM  

Apparently she's famous, but I'd never heard of Rhea PERLMAN, so I finally decided that was just an awkward clue, not a theme answer. I even checked the symmetry, but somehow got that wrong.

This was quite a slog for me, but made much better when I heard about the meta (and @Rex, maybe telling that is is 9 letters makes it a little too easy).

Much of my trouble was from reverting to my childhood, specifically 6 years old, when I had bronchitis and my moter would feed me hot milk (with honey). So that stayed at 9D for a long time, causing all kinds of trouble with 18 and 22A (made worse becuase I decided 18A was a themer).

I've seen a lot of SANTA HATS, but I've never seen one made of felt. I guess I don't get around enough.

Hartley70 11:53 AM  

Once I read Rex's heads up on the meta (thanks!), I stopped reading and went to hunt it down. Easy to find, tough to construct, I'm sure. The theme density and difficulty is evidence that Paolo can be giving nascient constructors PROTIPS if he's so inclined.

There was some lovely misdirection. I particularly like NESTS. I couldn't see it until some kind soul here mentioned "sticks". 1/2 was also good fun! I'm intrigued by @Lewis' discovery of the large number of non-theme words that mimic the theme. His eye is terrific.

I'm with @MohairSam that this was Medium-Challenging for a Sunday, which is a good thing. It look me a third again longer than usual to finish and get what the theme was doing. I agree that if the title was inverted to The Last Shall Be First, it would be easier to see the trick. Funny, how that is.

Alicia Stetson 11:53 AM  

My 5-year old daughter loves the following riddle:

Q: What's brown and sticky?
A: A stick!

I suppose a NEST would be just as good an answer.

NCA President 11:58 AM  

Weirdly, I got my "best" time today according to the website. I guess that means I found it easy, but I am visiting some friends and I started the puzzle, put it away, had breakfast, sat around and visited, did a little more of the puzzle, and then finally finished it after three starts. It felt easy-ish, but I was very surprised how quickly I did it. I nearly matched my best Saturday time which is saying a lot given that Sundays are interminable.

Today's theme took a while to crack, but once I did, it was a rare time when the theme helped me solve some sticky places, specifically the SW and NW.

ABSINTHE has a pretty sordid history here in the US. Its definitely an interesting read (Google "Is wormwood legal in the US") if you are interested in stuff like that. I'm not a big fan of the anise flavored liqueurs out there so I'm definitely no expert...but there are devotees of the Green Fairy and they have clear opinions about the non-wormwood stuff that's Absinthe-like.

Otherwise, absent the puns, the puzzle was fine. I'm not a big fan of some of the cluing, but I've come to accept that I won't love ever puzzle's clues.

Alicia Stetson 11:58 AM  

Jberg: I just read your comment and decided SANTAHATS would have made an excellent themer. Or reverse themer, I suppose...

"What happened after St. Nick took ex-lax?"

pseudo-egghead-braggart 12:49 PM  

Are you saying that you're so smart that you were able to complete a puzzle (that you really didn't even care for) while paying more attention to a mindless TV show that you found more engaging? Really? Anonymous?

QuasiMojo 1:04 PM  

This was one of the most tortured, boring and dumb puzzles I've done in a long time. And it took me a long time to do it. No googling. If this is the direction the NYT is going with its puzzles (especially the much revered Sunday Times) then I guess I'll just have to switch over to the WSJ and the vapid LAT. Seriously, what is the point of filling in all this drivel just to get some meta meme? or whatever it was. I didn't bother to look. So many things wrong with this one I won't bore you any further by delineating them. Except to say "Ciao," baby," "Bye-Bye." See ya later, alligator.

Unknown 1:05 PM  

Not so easy here either. Finally figured it out, sort of, but ARES, NES and IMED totally stumped me, and I thought SCRAP might be SCRUB.

Becky 1:09 PM  

HATED IT. probably because I saved last week's National Parks theme for a flight yesterday and it was so delightful and easy.

Kathie 1:13 PM  

I finished pretty much the whole puzzle, with all the theme answers, and STILL didn't get it . Doh. Took awhile to figure it out even with Rex's help. What in the world is an Imed novel? Oh wait: instant messaged---double doh. Maybe my brain is slowing down.
BTW while cheating with Google I came up with "nape slap" rather than "dope slap". The first seems to be a legitimate Persian/Arabic word. Did no one think "spose" was reaching? Hated "har". Would never have guessed at the meta answer.

GILL I. 1:15 PM  

Assent to a married mujer is what kept me going. I loved SI SENORA, but dang, this was tres hard for me. I must have stared at DAME CHEESE for a good hour before I did the DOPE SLAP. Change this first and last letter around. Oh, OK. But wait, which word do I do that to and where? This was not making sense.... Finally finished and went back to find each and every one of the misdirects. WOW, just wow says I. This was clever. Now I really would have fallen off my chair had I known there was a meta. Damnation to hell....that really would have been the cherry on top.
@Mohair Sam...I loved "Ratatouille." I assumed REMY was named after Remy Martin. I mean how clever to make a sweet little movie around the life of a rat chef...and, he crosses DAME CHEESE.
Adele is an ALTO? I thought she was a mezzo-soprano. Isn't ALTO used for a man's voice range?...inquiring minds.

Alan_S. 1:19 PM  

I too found today's puzzle to be a slog, but never have I seen so many uppity commenters threaten to stop doing the Sunday staple. Especially the ones solving for 70 years or the anonymous one who is so brilliant he/she can finish it while watching mindless TV; Must have been "Teen Mom Housewives of Trashville" you were watching. Anyway, stop threatening and go! Bye bye!

chefbea 1:25 PM  

And what is a meta puzzle?????

Anonymous 1:30 PM  

@anon 10:29


GILL I. 1:33 PM  

P.S. @Rex. I just went back to read last nights late comments. Very nicely said....Thank you. Not sure about the "overwhelmingly older white men." Like @Nancy said, most of the "older" folks on this blog seem pretty durn nice...and polite.

Kimberly 1:33 PM  

I'm sure this has already been said a dozen times, but you worded the theme backwards:

"THEME: "The First Shall Be Last" — last letter of a word in each themer is moved to the front of the word, creating wackiness galore:"

Actually, the first letter of one of the theme's words was moved to the end. The first became last.

Edam became dame. Range became anger. Etc.

If ever there was a place to pick nits, I figure it's here. :-)

Old timer 1:49 PM  

It's a good question what cheeses are never followed by the word "cheese" and what cheeses often are. Roquefort never but Parmesan very often. Brie and Camembert never but the lesser known Pont l'Evecque usually. I think Edam is somewhere in the middle. Because it is after all a Dutch town.

Anoa Bob 2:28 PM  

RADAR ANGER followed by DAME CHEESE? Both sound totally nonsensical to me. The first might work as the name for a TEEN ANGST band, and the second for a GIRL GROUPS, but as the lead-off themers, it spelled BYE BYE for me.

Was the meta planned before construction started or was it a serendipitous post-construction discovery? If it was the former, then I agree that having no indication of a meta in the title or in a note was a major oversight.

Anonymous 2:32 PM  

Nests are often constructed from sticks, hence "stick-y spots."

Masked and Anonymous 2:50 PM  

The extra "meta" mystery could be explained thisaway:

1. Constructioneer imbeds an extra "Easter egg" REARENDED answer in his SunPuz.
2. Constructioneer doesn't inform the Shortzmeister of this extra. Constructioneer has a real sneaky streak.
3. No one on the Shortzmeister staff spotted the extra.
4. Or, constructioneer originally had an obscure hint in his clues about the Easter egg, but the hint got re-written, by the unsuspectin NYTPuz staff.

But, this is all conspiracy theory stuff. Only Paolo Pasco knows, for sure. M&A did not spot the Easter egg, pre-@RP-writeup-update.

fave weeject: UZO.
Staff desperation pick: SASHED. Slangy version of the scholar's-preferred BESASHED.
fave possible Easter egg hint stuffins: EGGHEADED. Not sure how it mighta been originally clued, tho. Maybe: {Constructioneer's state of mind, when he hid his special first-be-last message??}.

Thanx, Sneaky Paolo. Did U spot M&A's hidden message, in this comment?

Masked & Anonymo9Us


Malsdemare 2:59 PM  

@anonymous 10:29. Uh oh! I'm a genealogist and because Europe uses D/M/Y, and because I share my ancestral findings on European websites, I use 1/2. It's also the genie standard. And there are bazillions of us, as priests and ministers and county clerks and librarians --all who are hounded nonstop by people seeking ancestors--will tell you.

I liked the puzzle, and once warned by FL about the meta, sleuthed that out as well. Feeling smug today! Loved DOPESLAP, but I really wanted headCHEESE; It was the first themer I got (I thought) so I figured you take the second word and put it in front. My daughter is a cheesehead; Head can be an honorific, yes?

RP, is your dog doling better? My 11 1/2 year old guy is failing fast so I feel your pain.

Masked and Anonymous 2:59 PM  

The extra "meta" mystery could be explained thisaway:

1. Constructioneer imbeds an extra "Easter egg" REARENDED answer in his SunPuz.
2. Constructioneer doesn't inform the Shortzmeister of this extra. Constructioneer has a real sneaky streak.
3. No one on the Shortzmeister staff spotted the extra.
4. Or, constructioneer originally had an obscure hint in his clues about the Easter egg, but the hint got re-written, by the unsuspectin NYTPuz staff.

But, this is all conspiracy theory stuff. Only Paolo Pasco knows, for sure. M&A did not spot the Easter egg, pre-@RP-writeup-update.

fave weeject: UZO.
Staff desperation pick: SASHED. Slangy version of the scholar's-preferred BESASHED.
fave possible Easter egg hint stuffins: EGGHEADED. Not sure how it mighta been originally clued, tho. Maybe: {Constructioneer's state of mind, when he hid his special first-be-last message??}.

Thanx, Sneaky Paolo. Did U spot M&A's hidden message, in this comment?

Masked & Anonymo9Us


Imfromjersey 2:59 PM  

I smiled when I saw DOPE SLAP. As a fan of NPR's "Car Talk" before Tom passed away and Ray retired, the Magliazzi brothers were always talking about giving one another a dope slap, or suggesting that a wife give her husband a dope slap for some cockamamie idea they had about how to drive their car. Didn't see the meta puzzle but figured it out pretty quickly as soon as @rex mentioned it.
Overall, a nice puzzle!

Masked and Anonymous 3:06 PM  

My previous two (longer) comment tries couldn't stick their landings, in The Blorg.

So … I'll just say thanx and [see SEVENTY FOUR SACROS] to Sneaky Paolo.

Masked & Anonymo9Us

'mericans in Paris 3:32 PM  

Hi all! Rather late to the game. Finished it yesterday in medium time, but today was taken up by having to bicycle out to where my wife's car broke down. Help her with that, and then figure out how both of us could get back home.

As for the puzzle, We really struggled in the NE and finally finished in the NW. Found the theme OK, but I like answers to include excruciating puns or to be whacky. This puzzle was neither. I am in admiration of Paolo Pasco for designing a puzzle with a meta answer, but having one doesn't make the solving experience any better, at least not in this case.

We were annoyed too often also by the cluing on the fill. Our favorite kind of clue is the kind that makes one do a DOPE SLAP -- e.g., depends on a less common (but common enough) meaning of a word or phrase. We found many of the clues in this puzzle simply off-target.

@Old Time gets it right about Edam cheese: I have certainly heard plenty of people call it that. Edam, by the way, is a cheese that one has to search high and low for in the Netherlands itself.

Finally, as for the 1/2 = month/day clue, I've seen that several times in NYT puzzles. Ho-hum. Writing day/month/year (or, as in some countries, day.month.year) seems to me more logical than month/day/year (or month-day-year). Of course,, as one sees sometimes in databases (making sorting dates easier), and in Chinese documents, is equally logical.

High School Math Teacher 3:37 PM  

A few have asked, "What is a meta-puzzle?"

In today's case, it is a puzzle after-the-fact. Each theme answer was created by moving the first letter of a common phrase/name to the end. If you go in order of themers and write the letter that moved down on a piece of paper (as I did after reading this blog), it spells out the word "REAR-ENDED," which is a purposeful and appropriate conclusion to this theme.

Generally, I've always understood a meta-puzzle to be a further challenge that combines multiple elements of one or more puzzles together into a surprising bonus challenge. Lollapuzzoola offers a wonderful variety puzzle that has always included a meta-puzzle that combines the solutions to the various puzzles in the variety pack. This year's was totally delightful! I recommend it!

Masked and Anonymous 4:07 PM  

Hey! I got it!
The NYTimes just debuted the world's first meta meta crossword puz!
(There's a meta answer, and U have to figure out there is one, yerself.)



AliasZ 4:12 PM  

Obviously the 1 of 1/2 could not be DAY unless one spells it DAAYY. Clever clue!

In fact, I enjoyed the entire puzzle very much. I read its mysterious Bible-quote title and forgot it almost as quickly as I read it. I didn't even think of trying to figure out why it was there and what it meant. The meta aspect gave it an extra zip that I only appreciated after reading Paolo's notes at xwordinfo. This also explained the choice and order of the wacky phrases with letter swaps.

So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen. Matthew 20:16. Now I'm waiting for CHAPTER to be clued "What the '20' of '20:16' represents" in a puzzle coming soon to a NYT puzzle near you.

EGGHEADED bothered me but not for the reason @Rex stated. Egghead yea, EGG HEADED nay. Pinhead yea, pinheaded nay. Pigheaded yea, pighead nay. Having both HEAD PIN and EGG HEADED also raised an eyebrow or two.

I loved that beautiful open center swath with the esprit de corps running across it.

Great one, Paolo Pasco. I would rate it an "A-".

Jeff 4:12 PM  

REAR-ENDED just doesn't work as a meta answer. Some of the theme answers have the letters switched in the first entry, not the last. Plus since it's the first letters of the base phrases moved to the last, a more appropriate explanation would be that the theme answers are FIRST-ENDED, which obviously isn't a standalone phrase.

So I can understand why the note wasn't included, because it just doesn't work. Whether or not the puzzle is publishable is a different conversation.

Vancouver Nana 4:17 PM  

Loved clue/answer for 73D :-)

Happy Pencil 4:30 PM  

Wow, a lot of commenters on here seem to be way too invested in having the puzzle give deeper meaning to their lives. It's a puzzle, people. It's meant to be fun. If you didn't like this one, there'll be another along tomorrow.

Like @Malsdemare, I hope Rex's dog is on the mend. A sick pet is a very sad thing.

Joe Bleaux 4:31 PM  

FWIW: Having participated in my share of dust-ups in Southern honky-tonks, I can assure you that taking a "hit upside the head" is a far serious affair than being on the receiving end of a DOPE SLAP (as one is described by Rex, anyway).

Joe Bleaux 4:33 PM  

Wups ... "far MORE serious"

Mohair Sam 4:36 PM  

@Rex - This old white guy just went back and read your posts from yesterday. Glad to see you'll be protecting us from politics only screeds when you can. I'm pretty much in the middle of the road politically (which means everybody hates me) so your efforts are appreciated, especially in this election season.

Also want to thank you for the introduction to the term "sneering dickishness" - I will be using it!

@Nancy - Think I speak for all the, um, seasoned guys in thanking you for your support yesterday.

Joe Bleaux 4:59 PM  

What, oh what, is Super NES? If a poster explained it here, I missed it, and apologize. But if not, will someone please enlighten me? Thanks!
PS -- Am I the only one who's always generally equated "hit upside the head" with "knock the hell out of"? Is my take just a Southern thang?

De 5:06 PM  

Circles in the grid to highlight the meta clue would have been a big help. I had trouble both because of the inconsistency with which word of the phrase was being rear ended and because I did not know how many themers to look for.

Martin 5:10 PM  

Super NES = Super NInendo Entertainment System. Forgive me, but.. bleh.

Mr. Grumpypants 5:13 PM  

I vote for Masked and Anonymous @4:07pm for comment of the year. Almost makes me feel charitable toward the puzzle. Almost ...

Sheryl 5:33 PM  

It was an okay puzzle, but am I the only one bothered by the Marines being referred to as "DE CORPS"? It was the only answer with extraneous letters in it, and it bothered me.

Mike D 5:39 PM  

Jeff @ 4:12: "Whether or not the puzzle is publishable is a different conversation." Ummm...

Norm 6:41 PM  

Yes, Sheryl, you are the only one bothered by that. Esprit de corps is the heart, the culture of the Marine Corps. There are no extraneous letters. What did you think it should say instead of SPRITE DE CORPS? SCOTCH DE CORPS would be more accurate but would not fit the theme. Oorah!

Leapfinger 6:59 PM  

Like many others, I had a time figuring out the first of what became the last of where, and it took the blatantly recognizable phrase of 'esprit decor' to do it. Still managed a cheesy mess at 23A: the title I thought of to fit -A-- was EARL, which left me trying to justify LEAR_CHEESE as good plane food. Bye the Bye, I've no problem specifying EDAM as CHEESE: it's unnecessary with Gorgonzola but optional with such as Swiss, helpful with Blue, and essentially mandatory with Cottage and Cream.

Had a bit of a mental wander at 18A; my 'Tourist's report' wanted to make that a TRAVELGUIDE. One letter too long, and I was wondering; If there's no I in TEAM, maybe there's no U in GUIDE? I came that close, until I remembered that Andre Gide was raised in isolated conditions in Normandy. He started writing prolifically at an early age, but in his 20s experienced a period dangerously close to running dry. A mentor, appalled by his cloistered existence, said "TRAVEL, GIDE!!!" And the rest is history.

I felt SANTAHATS are more likely to be velvet and cheerfully recommend NCIS for years of Gibbs:DiNozzo DOPESLAPS. I SPOSE I liked HAR UnUsUally for its application to these boards and still wonder how one gets to be EGGHEADED

Usain is Ewe_BOLT; his brother Ivan is EYE_BOLT

KERNELS SERRA, Mrs. Campbell; may I ASSUME an AMEN?

Nice bonus meta post facto, but something about it niggles: aren't all things that go front-to-back REARENDED?

Molto grazie, PAOLO.

QuasiMojo 7:05 PM  

For all of you smartalecks out there who think it's "uppity" or silly of people to take a puzzle seriously, I will remind you that the NYT puzzle has traditionally been the finest puzzle in the country, or once was, and it is therefore of some significance, and to be frank, somewhat depressing, when the standards of a once inspiring puzzle have been declining precipitously of late, and also that someone is paid $1000 to construct the Sunday puzzle. So no it is not just something fun, a mere bagatelle, to be dismissed lightly, or overlooked. It has value and therefore is worthy of criticism when that value is diminished.

Mohair Sam 7:24 PM  

@Quasimojo - Nicely put

David Stone 8:42 PM  

Not better. Easier

David Stone 8:45 PM  

My least favorite Sunday puzzle. My wife and I couldn't wait to be done with it. Not sure why we bothered to finish. Habit, I guess.

OISK 8:59 PM  

@Nancy - Thanks for the shout-out yesterday. I also enjoyed seeing Princess Ida in yesterday's puzzle, a lovely operetta. But on the topic of yesterday's puzzle, I was surprised that more people did not DNF on

SOM_NEX Crossing __HS. Fortunately, I recall the commercial jingle, "Take Sominex tonight and sleep, safe and restful sleep, sleep, sleep." But otherwise, I would have guessed "OHS". Our holy savior, maybe. Is that abbreviation (IHS) actually common knowledge?? I didn't like yesterday's puzzle anyway - too many product names. But on to Sunday.

I did not dislike this puzzle anywhere near as much as many here did. ___verily. Anyone else immediately think of the Danny Kaye movie, "The Court Jester"? Yea, verily yea.... Don't know who Sha na na , TLC or Destiny's Child are, but I did remember Rhea Perlman from Cheers.

I was amused (as others were) that "Rostand protagonist" had to be included in the clue ___de Bergerac. Really?? I mix up NES with NAS. One of those is a rock group, right?

I think it was Friday, when I was trying to solve a clue that was something like " Common theme in ENO." Eventually I got the answer, "Teen angst." Why would the English National Opera be dealing with teen angst? Are they performing Joan of Ark ? Of course, it was EMO (meaningless to me,) but my eyes, like the insidious Spell Checks on Facebook, rendered it ENO.

Carol J 10:16 PM  

I've been doing the Sunday NYT puzzles for more years than I want to say and haven't seen too many really clever ones since Will Weng was the editor! Some of them, like today's, feel like trying to put a square peg into a round hole.

Leapfinger 10:50 PM  

Agree with @OISK et alii. If you know CYRANO, Rostand is unnecessary; if you don't, Rostand is unlikely to help. It could be useful for ROXANNE; who nose what would help RAGUENEAU?

Is the EGGHEAD to be a PERManent change?

Leapfinger 10:58 PM  

Follow-up to Sticky spots = NESTS:

Where do you find ABSINTHE?
Generally, you find ABSINTHE torso. Anteriorly.


puzzle hoarder 11:48 PM  

Dear @Rex, nice to see you trip over your own snark. Disregard anything in your write-up? You're preaching to the choir.

Margaret 10:22 AM  

Well, I admit I got this very, very, slowly (note that I am posting this on Monday at 10 am), but I really feel that the meta-puzzle answer, "rear-ended" was unfair. There ought to have been a way to give the puzzle doer a clue. In fact, it would have worked best, IMHO, if it had been IN the puzzle. OK -- 'nuff said.

About 6D -- another commenter asked about it. The clue is "What the'1' of '1/2' represents," and the answer is "month." Huh? Unless this is yet another example of lousy editing, which is really dereliction of duty for a cross word puzzle. But if the numbered the question had read "What the '1' of '1/12' represents" then "month" might fit.

Just thinking out loud.


Anonymous 1:49 PM  

I thought it was fun, easy-medium and less dated that most Sunday puzzles.

Hamilton, Uzo Aduba, and Nadal are current references; Patti LaBelle, Destiny's Child and TLC, and Super NES are within the past 20 years. Rhea Perlman from Cheers and Robert Hays from Airplane are 1970-80s clues..

BUT compared to all the puzzles with Arthur Ashe, Mel Ott and Alou family ...Harpo Marx or Finian's Rainbow....this puzzle is ultra modern.

And for those of us who care, it's nice to see several woman mentioned who are not famous for their BRA sizes, Ccups or Dcups (my LEAST favorite Will Shortz go-to)

Anonymous 1:58 PM  

For those quibbling over the title...

The bible verse can vary a bit by translation, but the full thought is

"The last shall be first and the first, last."

So the title works as a HINT even if you're picky.

Also, I thought 1/2 was fine -typical misdirection. And a liked the neighboring pairs -across downs with

similar clues.

kitshef 4:44 PM  

WOW! Did that ever stink. I think that's the least fun I've had on a Sunday Times puzzle, and that's saying something. Felt like it was put together by a non-English speaker with a list of words and definitions but no understanding of usage.

I stopped counting the terrible clues/fill long before I was done, but here are the first few: ROM, California missionary Junipero ____, SEA RACE, HEAD PIN, Listens to Shakespeare?, UZO, SALE DAYS, DOPE SLAP, SHEERER.

Well, we had two puzzle recently that will be in my top ten for the year I suspect, so we were due for a dog.

Anonymous 9:39 PM  

Liked it a lot. Very clever puzzle.
A but not D.

Anonymous 1:37 PM  

Nests are made out of sticks, hence sticky spot

radleris 7:11 PM  

Oddest clue for me was 49A (Super ____) leading to NES. Nintendo Entertainment System seemed obscure, but I may be showing my age by not making that connection. Liked the variations in where the first/last letter was placed in each answer.

Burma Shave 11:48 AM  


and saying, “MISDATE me.” sounds VAIN, SASSY, and fresh,
‘cause ITEMONE is my NOSE.
Give me a DOPESLAP because I’m an EGGHEADED lech.


spacecraft 12:32 PM  

Every once in a while I need a comeuppance to disabuse me of the notion that I'm smart. There is no way, after finishing this puzzle--which I did, laboriously, with much slogging--that I would have seen the "meta," as you call it, even if you told me there WAS one. Finding it without knowing there was something to find? Never if I stared at it for 500 (I mistakenly thought that the beginning D of the city signified that number) years. You guys are BRILLIANT!

It took me quite a while to lock onto what was going on here; finally happening KNEEDEEP in the SE with IMEDNOVELS. But even after, problems remained. The cluing is more proof that Sunday is the new Saturday. "Sticky spots?" for NESTS? "Takes in" for HAS? I get it; "I'll HAVE the portobello chicken." (It was good, too.) So the 36-37 cross is the same thing. Weird.

But the sockdolager is ON [space!] E. There must be ONE thousand ways to clue ONE, and he picks it apart. Isn't it HERBal TEA? I don't recognize it without the -al.

Is MISDATE a thing? Well, yeah, it's a real word, go figure. Now that I think about it, I've been on a few MISDATEs...but that's another story. I think this whole puzzle was MISDATEd; it belongs to Saturday.

Finished up in the NE after finally grokking that the 500 was a land race, as opposed to SEARACE (now is THAT a thing?). Also that you can't have SENT and SEND for "Mailed" and "mail." Ergo SHIP. Not a SNL fan, I don't know OPERAMAN, but just the SENATEIDEA of Sandler with a monocle...HAR!

Not much in the GIRLGROUPS department; PATTI Labelle is a possibility--or really, any of myriad SASHED (?) contestants. Never knew that one could be a verb. Like they said to Sandra: "You've been SASHED!" Ah, Miss Congeniality...since the word made me think of you, I'll make you the DOD. You could be my DO every D. Cleverness: eagle; solving experience: bogey. I guess a birdie then.

rondo 12:52 PM  

Fun and interesting puz? I S’POSE if you TSE TSO. After headCHEESE didn’t work I went to the S and SE where yeah baby PATTI Labelle and the GIRLGROUPS got me into enough of a groove to get the gimmick. A purely unfunny slog to the finish after that. I think ASSUMEDAMEN was the “funniest” of the bunch.

If you had an early Amana microwave I SPOSE you were a RADARANGER. Har.

This puz was KNEEDEEP in something, probably the green paint themers, and the paper it was printed on is already SCRAP. BYEBYE.

rain forest 3:49 PM  

What a range of reactions today! Or should I say ANGER of reactions? Sometimes I think I shouldn't read others' comments because frequently I want to get back at them with a well-chosen, "Oh yeah? Well, your mother wears army boots!" But then I remember I'm down here in the garage a week later (*on Sunday*) and who would see what I did there?

As for me, I really liked this puzzle. After reading the title, I was looking for putting the first word of the themers last, but when I got to SPRITE DE CORPS, I saw the trick. Good one, too. Some tricky but fair clues, words I didn't know (ELAINE, HADER, REMY, DOPE SLAP) filled by crosses, and all around craftsmanship, made this puzzle a delight. When I read that @Rex said there was a meta, I immediately looked at my solution and saw REAR ENDED--very nice. But who would think to do that unless there was a hint somewhere that a meta was afoot?

I don't know how anyone could solve this without paying attention to the theme, as some said. If you change a word by placing the first letter last to get another word, that's the theme. You had to notice that. Liars.

Definitely not a slog here. Medium with a high fun quotient.

@Burma Shave - brilliant.

Diana,LIW 4:51 PM  

I absolutely knew headcheese was correct. When I still got some of the themers, they didn't make a lot of sense and seemed random and uneven. Then there was quite a bit that wouldn't be sussed, so a huge dnf for me. Haven't read all comments (of course I read the Synders) but I must say I wasn't completely amused with this one. Of course, that may be more my big error (put last word first kind of thing sorta) than the puzzle.

Gonna go enjoy a gorgeous day and then read a book. Pet a cat. Guaranteed fun.

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for theme enlightenment

AnonymousPVX 4:57 PM  

So no one here has ever watched NCIS? The most popular show on TV, and Jethro has done numerous dope-slaps to both Tony and Probie.
And as much as I dislike gimmick puzzles, I have no idea why the letters for the meta didn't have circles around them.
The puzzle was a toughie, at least for me, and I was pleased to complete it.

Anonymous 8:12 PM  

"THEME: "The First Shall Be Last" — first letter of a word in each themer is moved to the end of the word." Actually, it's the last letter of a word in each theme is moved to the front of the same word. I think this is another "play" based on a Bible passage: "the first shall be last AND THE LAST SHALL BE FIRST." Being a minister, I heard that completed verse said in my head before I even started the puzzle, so I was looking to see if a last word or letter might be moving to the front and I got it eventually with Assumed Name.

BS2 11:26 PM  

@rainy - Thanks. As you know, they don't all fall together like that.

Nightowl 12:02 PM  

I believe Super NES is a Nintendo entertainment system, which was hugely popular a while back!!

Nightowl 12:04 PM  

Maybe esprit d'corps ??

Anonymous 11:32 PM  

Along with no mention of a meta puzzle, my syndicate paper did not even print the title. Does that make it a meta meta meta?

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