Bygone Broadway critic Walter / THU 9-8-16 / Biblical region from which name of language is derived / Football player's application / Man's name that's latin for honey / cry from veronese lover

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Constructor: Joanne Sullivan

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: black squares — five of them; all answers leading into or flowing from them pick up the word "black"...

Theme answers:

Word of the Day: ARAM (26D: Biblical region from which the name of a language is derived) —
  1. ancient Syria —its Hebrew name (M-W)
• • •

I've seen this exact theme done before, and I've seen the type multiple times. There is nothing special or outstanding about this incarnation. It's adequate. It's been done. "The Best Crossword in the World"'s marquee puzzle (Thursday!) should be better than this, or at least more original than this. This theme is pretty dense, I'll give it that. But once you get the gimmick (and I got it early—not tough), then there's not much to do but find the BLACK stuff. Shrug. Something like this needs value added. Some raison d'etre. There's nothing clever happening here. It's like a constructing exercise rather than an artfully-conceived crossword. I don't have much to say about it. There it is.

THE NEW BLACK is a partial, so I don't care how much you like that show, that answer is not good. I had most trouble with BLACKMAILERS, mostly because it went through ARAM (?) and MCCRAE (?) (22D: "In Flanders Fields" poet John). The "E" in ENV ended up being oddly hard too (46A: It might have a street name: Abbr.). But that was the one sticking point in an otherwise phenomenally easy puzzle. Knowing the theme helps you fill in huge chunks of this thing with very little effort. I did have SKIRTS instead of SKATES for a bit (3D: Carefully avoids, with "around")—that likely cost me valuable seconds, but no other problems of note arose. 1-Across gimme *again* signaled superfast solve. Gonna go watch tennis now. Just watched Serena Williams beat Simona HALEP (great player, great crossword potential). Now to see how DEL POTRO (whose name also has great grid possibilities) is faring against Stan WAWRINKA (use only in case of themeless).

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


paulsfo 12:05 AM  

I got the theme but I was wondering how to know that I had found all of the "black" squares. Was there a way to tell? Maybe the (sort of) symmetrical arrangement of those squares?

jae 12:07 AM  

Easy-medium for me. Caught the theme at B FEEET, but held on to @Rex SKirtS before SKATES for a bit longer than I should've. Plus, my last entry was changing the B to M in MAILERS, using the rule "that if it doesn't look right it probably isn't" (this rule does not work with things like ZUZGWANG).

In the author's defense, her original submission was not a black square rebus. It was a white square rebus with the word BLACK in the square (see details at Xwordinfo).

That said, this was a pretty good BLACK square rebus. Liked it.

floregonian 12:34 AM  

A lot harder for me than for folks who have been plugging away at crosswords for a long time, I guess. Late in the week there are always words that are new to me, or sideways definitions of words that are new to me. EGEST may be a relatively common word, but this literature major doesn't remember it. Funny that IDEE FIXE was easy and EGEST was hard. It's difficult to place words, though, if you have no memory of ever seeing them before.

Loved the clue on EMILY Post. Loved the clue on TEXTS, though I know a lot of (very strange) people who use one thumb and one index finger to text. It looks funny, but it must be effective because it's awfully common in my universe.

No idea who John MCCRAE is, or what ARAM is (though I assume it's the namesake of Aramaic). Had KNOCK for what old knees do, and then CRACK, and then finally CREAK.

Serviceable Thursday, though I agree with Rex . . . it lacks the zing that a great Thursday can often have. Just finished the AVC for this week, and—even reading between the lines—it was the picture of a super creative puzzle. It's not always a fair comparison, I think, but today it's a pretty stark one, however you slice it.

mathgent 12:51 AM  

I print out the puzzle and do it on paper. Usually the blocks are jet black, but tonight the blocks are gray. The fact that five of the gray squares become BLACK gives the puzzle a bit of extra fizz.

Rex's comments have become more and more irrelevant to me. I loved the puzzle and found it quite challenging. An A in my book.

Larry Gilstrap 12:59 AM  

Lots of names, did you notice? The whole black squares among black squares seemed a bit random until the symmetry became obvious. I skirted when I should have SKATEd. "PAINT IT Black" came out 50 years ago and I find that remarkable. Was the Coldplay song "Yellow" on "VIVA La Vida"? Hazy Thursday for me with few patches of BLUE. How many PANS does it take to bake a frittata? One other nit: shouldn't Baja California be an estado?

Bookin' the Cooks 1:10 AM  

Haven't looked at Rex's solved puzzle yet, nor have I read his commentary, because...

Drat. I use the iPhone app to solve the NY Times Crossword and the latest update has rendered it inaccessible. Is anyone else who uses the app having a problem with it?

Anonymous 1:14 AM  

I found this puzzle challenging in the extreme; so much so that I was flabbergast that Rex found it easy (of course he's going to find it easier than I do; but my time was more in line with a Friday than a Thursday). I found it confusing to figure out the black square, and a lot of fairly difficult clues. Obviously, some puzzles that are easy for some are hard for others--but I found this one hard.

Anonymous 1:17 AM  

I totally agree

Randy 1:32 AM  

I always thought YOSHI was a dragon. Looking online I guess he's referred to as both.

Anyway, this has been an easy week for me (best time ever for a Tuesday at 5:50) so far but a few confident bad fills in the NW and SE corners made this one a DNF for me.

Brian 1:39 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Brian 1:41 AM  

Had the same problem with the iPhone app as Bookin' the Cooks above. The official Twitter account said to delete the app and reinstall it, and that worked for me. It also said that if you weren't logged in prior to the update to hold off for the update to the update, or else you'll lose your records.

paulsfo 1:41 AM  

@Bookin' the Cooks: yes, NY Times Crossword app started immediately dieing on me today. I updated my iphone within the last few days so that may have been the issue.
I tried killing the app, and then "hard"-restarting the iphone; neither helped. I finally deleted the app and reinstalled it. That worked for me. However, that also wipes out your history so that could be a problem if you care about steaks. If so then I'd suggest writing to the app's owners.
Good luck.

Anoa Bob 1:44 AM  

Picked up on the black square = BLACK early on but the slew of names and proper nouns slew me. MCCRAE, JACK, JOE & ARAM put a big dnf on me. IRKSome.

What is popularly called Baja California is actually two STATES (52D), Baja California del Norte & Baja California del Sur. Tijuana & La Paz are the capitals, respectively.

Gustave EIFFEL (34D) designed a prefabricated iron church that was built in France, moved to Brussels, and then acquired by a mining company that disassembled, moved and then re-assembled it in Santa Rosalía, Baja California del Sur.

Here's a Placa con información.

Here are a couple of
exterior & interior pictures.

Cassieopia 2:14 AM  

Yes!!! Someone help?

jae 2:29 AM  

Here is the Xwordinfo

tkr 5:47 AM  

I had to delete and reinstall, then it worked.

tkr 5:48 AM  

It doesn't wipe your history if you have a set up nytimes account. You just have to go download and open all of the puzzles on your streak and also click restore purchases in settings. At least, that got mine back.

Martín Abresch 7:03 AM  

Proper names and abbreviations made for some tricky spots. At one point, I was wondering whether I was going to be able to solve the puzzle. But there was just enough there for me to wind my way through it, and I ended up finishing in slightly faster than normal time. Last square was the MCCRAE/ENV.

The best example of my difficulties was the clue for IN THE BLACK (Solvent). For some time, I missed that this would be a theme answer and assumed it would be a chemical term with which I was unfamiliar. When I realized my error, the difficulty dissolved away.

The sheer density of the theme is impressive—there is a ton of interlocking—but goodness does that do a number on the fill. The two longest answers are IDEE FIXE and Jean-Bertrand ARISTIDE. Ugh.

For me, the saving grace of this puzzle was the cluing. I liked EAR (Where waves come in?), ENV (It might have a street name: Abbr.), TEXTS (Comments from ones who are all thumbs?), BLUE (Like Cookie Monster and Grover), CREW (J. Follower) and SHEILA (E. preceder), and SHOEBLACK (Person whose work shines).

The notes over at XWordInfo are interesting. As @jae mentions, the author's original intentions were slightly different, and they included cluing certain theme answers as one long before & after answer (Result of firewalking? = COALBLACKFEET). It's fun to look at what other long answers would have been produced. For some, I can easily imagine a clue (THE NEW BLACK ARTS, SHOE BLACKLIST). For others, I have no idea what the clue could have been (LAMP BLACK VELVET).

Lewis 7:07 AM  

There was just enough out of my knowledge base (BLACKSHIRT, MEETJOEBLACK, VIVA, MCCRAE) to make me work hard in a couple of AREAs, and I love when that happens. Loved the clues for EMILY and LBS, and the answer NICETY. I like the backward POT joining up with PAN, and having "First place" and "Second" as clues.

A huge chunk of the puzzle is devoted to theme, yet the fill is clean. I had a great time with this. Not a black eye in the least, Joanne, and closer to black magic. Thank you for this!

Anonymous 7:28 AM  

UBER black/black JACK!

joebloggs 8:04 AM  

Same problem. As per usual the great NYT service department is all radio silence. I got real antsy so I deleted the app then downloaded it and when I signed in my historical stats were there. This should work for you guys but that's unacceptable customer service from NYT. Shame on them...

Megan 8:14 AM  

As a Canadian solver, MCCRAE was one of the first fills during my initial perusal. Canadian kids are generally taught the poem in elementary school, so I was rather pleased to see it in the NYT. A good break (at least for me) from the baseball and football trivia I keep struggling with!

Anonymous 8:16 AM  

I also had SKIRTS. As usual, I liked it more than Rex. Yes, it was easy once the theme became clear, but that was still a very nice moment as it suddenly lit up the whole puzzle.

Anonymous 8:19 AM  


Z 8:21 AM  

@anon7:28 - See Rex's theme answer list.

@iPhone solvers - Solving on an iPhone is an abomination and the God of Crosswords has begun to exact retribution. Repent now before She goes all Noah on you.

Didn't a "dark" version of this theme just get published?

Off to xwordinfo, but based on what has been said here I think I'd have preferred the constructor's original vision.

Hungry Mother 8:33 AM  

I didn't find it easy, but I got the theme and slugged it out.

Sailor Steve Holt! 9:00 AM  

I'm new to NYT crosswords (crosswords in general), so... I enjoyed it? Perhaps because I don't know any better? Once I picked up on the theme, I had a fun time figuring out the way in which "black" related to the clues. No IDEE about MCCRAE but I deduced the surrounding answers early. My family speaks ARAMaic—technically a derivative of it, I guess—so that was a pleasant surprise, though I didn't realize its stem referred to an actual ancient polity/people. (Could anyone aside from Ancient-Near-East–ologists?) TEETHE flummoxed me; I assumed it would precede "black." (black JACK Black, etc.) TEETHE black? TEE THE black? Unless I'm still mistaken, "black" wasn't meant to play a part at all.

I've been following this blog for a few weeks now. I don't know who Rex is. His impressive knowledge of pop culture led me to believe he he's on the younger side? (I don't mean to offend; I'm 31 and have an easier time with the YOSHIs than the KERRs. Plus, I love Stranger Things (and the reference to it the other day) and thought it'd be too low-brow for mature sophisticates, all of which is to say that the image of a young-ish person already succumbed to orneriness and Andy-Rooney–style tirades endears him to me.)

Leapfinger 9:03 AM  

@Megan, ditto moi! (J'etais Quebecoise.) It would have been grade 4 or 5, and I still recall vividly how we were taught to ignore the line breaks and to declaim:

To you from failing hands we throw THE TORCH;
Be yours to hold it high

evil doug 9:04 AM  

Get Swype and give your texting thumbs a break.

Colonelius 9:12 AM  

Last square was mccrae/env (was positive it was mccr-A but not E or Y... Still don't get what 46 across clue means.

Charles Flaster 9:20 AM  

Hard and DNF at IDEE FIXE. Also BLACKball in lieu of BLACKLIST.
The black squares should have been circled.
Liked cluing for TEXTS, CREAK, and BLACK MAILERS.
Overall I enjoyed this quirky challenge.
Thanks JS

QuasiMojo 9:25 AM  

It does amaze me to watch millennials texting since they type so fast with their thumbs. I used to type 80 words a minute when I was working in an office (on a cutting edge IBM Selectric!) But now I'm back to hunting and pecking. As I did with this puzzle. All thumbs. Took me a whopping 40 minutes to finish this "ebon"-ic pastime, so I am inclined not to agree with OFL today. Challenging. Not because of the theme, which I sussed out at "shirt," but because I had not heard of most of the PPP stuff. I give it two "thumbs" -- OMG, WTF, IMO, TMI, LMAO -- up!

Mike Rees 9:25 AM  

This played on the easy side of medium for me. After reading the constructor's notes on xwordinfo, I'm very confident saying the submitted puzzle was better and would have been more challenging. It didn't take long at all to figure out that the single black squares translated literally to "black," whereas a white rebus square would have taken much more effort to suss out.

I'm blaming the editor on this one.

Tita A 9:35 AM  

An ok Thursday...the kind of trick I like, but missing some little bit of sparkle. Ms. Sullivan's original idea would have been it...
(Btw...This seems to be a very rare Puzzazz fail...did the print version have the [black] squares as grey? Woulda been fun to blacken the squares... The app did pop in the word BLACK when you hit the Explain button, but didn't render any shading. Roy has explained how they review each puzzle and do what is needed to render it as faithfully as possible, and they have been Really good at that. I sit here bemused reading all the complaints about across lite or the nyt app, when Puzzazz had gotten it perfect.)

@Anoa...thanks for those links...awesome! He also designed a bridge in Porto. But it was never moved!

@Sailor...welcome! And yes, that's our endearing nailed it.

And speaking of spot-on observations, @ED...agree re: Swype.

Sir Hillary 9:51 AM  

I really liked this in both concept and execution -- no issue there at all.

But I found it so difficult in spots that I DNF. The killer area was EAR / ARAM / MCCRAE / [BLACK]AMILERS / INTHE[BLACK]. Here's why:
-- NAV fit so well at 46A that I just knew it was correct.
-- So now I have _ATHE[BLACK] and I am sure it must me some kind of turpentine-like solvent, maybe what you clean a lathe with. The financial definition of "solvent" never entered my mind.
-- OK, now I'm looking at [BLACK]__LLERS. Blackballers? Blacktellers? Sure, why not?
-- I also thought the "waves" clue called for an EEG or EKG, even though the resulting letter combos were pretty wacky.

You can see I was now so deeply entrenched in my own errors that I just couldn't recover. One or two mistakes are fixable. Five or six, all building on each other? Not so much.

Good puzzle that got me good.

jberg 9:52 AM  

We learned in the USA, (Wisconsin, late 50s$too--we had a schoolwide assembly on Armistice Day with candles and recitation of the poem. But I never heard the poet identified.

Mohair Sam 9:53 AM  

Brutally tough Thursday for us. Why? Oh, there was some tough-for-us PPP (KERR/BLACKVELVET/VIVA/YOSHI) - but all fairly crossed, we got the theme early - no prob there. But I was damned sure of bootBLACKball, dead positive. LIST made sense after a while and that corner fell, but I've never before heard the term SHOEBLACK, and we were looking for a name, not a group for the radical - so the middle south took forever. Finally gave in to SKA for Marley's Wailers and beat this thing.

Enjoyed it much more than Rex, much more. Yeah, it's all been done before Rex, but so have Spring and Summer - and this one was done well. Very little "ese", I liked the cluing, learned something (MEL), and we covered generations (AKIRA to JACK BLACK) and tastes (SKA to OPERA) - what's not to like?

@Sailor Steve Holt - Love your take on our Rex. If you want to know more about him click the "Rex Parker in the News" button atop this homepage.

@Colonelius - In case no one else has answered: ENV is abbrev for envelope.

Wm. C. 9:53 AM  

@Leapy --

Now I know your gender. And BTW, once a Quebecker, always a Quebecker! ;-)

Wm. C. 10:04 AM  

@Colonelius9:12 --

Re: 46A "It might have a street name (Abbr.). => ENV. Mailed ENVelopes can have a Street name in the address.

BTW, very difficult for me also. I didn't twig to the conceit until about half filled. Then I failed to deliberately find the black squares to help make a quick finish. My bad!

Anonymous 10:14 AM  

@Sailor Steve - people with a passing familiarity with the OT: “And you shall make response before the LORD your God, ‘A wandering Aramean was my father. And he went down into Egypt and sojourned there, few in number, and there he became a nation, great, mighty, and populous.’” (Deut. 26:5)

Happy Pencil 10:24 AM  

Count me among the Canadians who plopped in MCCRAE as fast as my fingers could type. It's a little disheartening, actually, to see how few people here know his name. I hope you at least know the poem! Dr. McCrae wrote it after the death of a close friend at Ypres, and although today the poem is sort of synonymous with the pointlessness of war, it was actually used at the time as a propaganda tool to bolster enlistment.

I thought the puzzle was solid, but I agree that we saw something similar not too long ago, or so it seems. I had fun sussing out the black squares, though. If grades were still being given, I'd probably award this puzzle a B.

Nancy 11:03 AM  

There were two problems with this puzzle for me. 1) Some of the black squares meant "black" and some of the black squares didn't mean "black", and there was really no way to know the difference. 2)There was a plethera of pop music clues -- none of which I knew and none of which I wanted to learn. I simply put the puzzle down -- 4/5 done -- and said: "That's it."

What I've learned about myself is that the DNF/DNC response in me is not a conscious decision so much as a visceral reaction. Yesterday, as @OISK noted, there was an awful lot of PPP nonsense, too. It really got to OISK, whereas it only mildly bothered me. I was able to get around the junk, and was, meanwhile, enjoying the humor of the theme answers. Here I couldn't get around it, was completely bored with a great many of the clues, and my mind kept wandering. I could have looked stuff up, but there's no point in doing that. My prediction: OISK will hate this one, too. Perhaps he'll finish, though -- he's a proud guy.

Hartley70 11:18 AM  

No problem so far.

mac 11:18 AM  

Tougher for me, too, but I enjoyed the dense theme. Lots to look for.
50 years ago? Oh, no!

Anonymous 11:21 AM  

Italian Fascist: I had no idea OBAMA was Italian.

Masked and Anonymous 11:24 AM  

@RP: EASY?!? Maybe if U know yer Nintendo dinosaurs, don't have SKIRTS, and think COAL is an ok answer to {Jet}, as is, and know what a (black)SHIRT is. Man, that corner messed me up.

Did, however latch onto THENEW and PAINTIT pretty quick, after abandonin the NW corner like it was some sorta unseen radiation zone of death. Had further trouble at MCCRAE, but I don't wannatalkaboutit.

82 words. 36 black squares. 5 more black squares with an attitude. Real different. Like different.

Thought maybe Italian Facists was called SHARTs. Seems reasonable, if U are anti-facist and are coinin words on behalf of the Italians. Altho I woulda thought SHARTO might sound more Italian. I recall SHART fondly from its root definition, of intendin to pass gas in public, and passin yer solid/liquid state of matter, instead. No help, that YOSHA sounded as good as any other stupid name for a dinosaur. But, I digress to NW corner flashbacks.

Staff weeject pick: LBS. Has that pleasin plural-abbreviation-desperation flavor. Speakin of which …

Real surprised there wasn't a heap more desperation, after eye-ballin how many black themers are skulkin around in this here grid, slammin into or passin thru each other like a mess of 18 panicky black mambas. Shart, dude.

Thanx, Ms. Sullivan. Nice job.

Masked & Anonymo2Us

Anonymous 11:25 AM  

My first guess at many a metrosexual was going to be gay, but would the Times go there? Fop (which autocorrect wants to be GOP) are a total disconnect in my world.

Black Squares Mattered 11:35 AM  

The term "bootblack" is much more common than SHOEBLACK.

chefbea 11:35 AM  

Too tough for me...DNF

Anyone else having trouble getting Joe Fagliano's mini puzzle today??? I do it every day.

Joseph Michael 11:38 AM  

Did not find this easy at all, but enjoyed the solve and was impressed by the theme density.

Would have liked a revealer that tied all of the theme blacks together.

Liked ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK. Could be Donald Trump's campaign slogan.

GILL I. 11:38 AM  

OK...find the BLACK stuff. Where's my sugar?
Ooof - not easy for me. I got the BLACK thing and all but there were sure a lot of names I didn't know. If Ms Sullivan had clued 32D as blended Canadian whisky, I would have plopped in that VELVET sucker without a problem...Never heard of Alannah Myles. OK @Z...does she join Mimi Lamar SIA? Please don't...
The only dumb clue I found was the one for the frittata equipment. Doesn't one need PANS for just about any cuisine? I know Brown SHIRT as referenced the Nazis but I could not remember what the Italian fascist were called....Beni Musso?
@Nancy...I get a kick out of your @OISK puzzle prognostication... Will he like it or won't he???? You've got me guessing as well.

kgev 11:39 AM  

The puzzle was fine for me. Often, this blog strikes me as unnecessarily negative. It's not as much fun to read as it once was, but maybe I'm not the target audience. I just don't find most of the puzzles nearly as off-putting as Rex seems to.

Hartley70 11:41 AM  

I rate this baby medium/challenging. I had real trouble getting on the constructor's wavelength for the clues. Things got better once I understood the black theme, but the unpredictability of the relevant black squares made it tough. I loved it! I don't recall seeing this before so, unlike Rex, there's no ennui factor for me...just a bit of fun!

I had SKirt before SKATE. YOSHI, SHEILA and MCCRAE were a mystery. SHOEBLACK is a product to me and not an occupation. FOP is overly pejorative for the metrosexual in my opinion. I bet a fair number do the puzzle and won't love this. I don't. I needed help from here to understand ENV. I thought VELVET without black was sufficient because I had never heard of the artist or the song.

Everything else I loved, especially the BLUE "Sesame Street" duo and OROMEO!

Bassetwrangler 11:41 AM  

The NYT update of Sept 7 to the iPad app also rendered the app unusable on my iPad Air 1. Send a comment to the NYT so it gets fixed.

Aketi 11:44 AM  

Hahaha, the BLACK squares matter puzzle.

1 positive (IN THE-)
3 negative (-LIST, -MAILERS, -ARTS)
2 oraganizations, one on the far left, one on the far right (-PANTHER, -SHIRT)
12 neutral including two names (JACK- & -JOE who is part of a movie title) two songs (PAINTIT-, and -VELVET)

Fairly diverse array surrounding the black, except the skewing towards the male side of the spectrum with FOP nudging the spectrum a bit in terms of dress style.

Aketi 11:46 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Joanne Sullivan 11:59 AM  

Thanks everyone for your compliments and constructive criticism.

@Martín Abresch (7:03 AM)
The clue [Smutty and sensuous material?] for LAMP BLACK VELVET was probably my favorite.

You might be able to come up with better clues than the ones I submitted for the other combined theme answers:
JACK BLACK TOP [Steal asphalt?]
PAINT IT BLACK MAILERS [Rolling Stones’ shipping containers?]
EYE BLACK BEAN [Hit an athlete on the cheekbone?]
SHOE BLACK LIST [“Clean, polish, brush, and buff”?]
MEET JOE BLACK PANTHER [Film about a deadly cat?]
THE NEW BLACK ARTS [Latest witchcraft?]

Tita A 12:01 PM  

@Sir Hilary - me too for too deeply entrenched. It's only reading the comments now that I realize I missed even MORE than I thought! Yes, it was a pretty bad that same spot.
The song? VELVET - sure, why not...that was enough.
Never, ever figured the intended meaning of solvent, so looked at INTHE as a totally bizarre word.
("A solution is its own best solvent" is my go-to advice whenever someone has a spill or stain they wonder how to remove...)

Roo Monster 12:03 PM  

Hey All !
Anyone say "OH THAT!" at OH THAT?
56 Across clue too clever by three-fourths!
Are SHOE shiners really called SHOEBLACKs?
LAMPBLACK a thing? Yeesh.
Had Tar for TOP, royally vexing me in that area. Ended up with

CRacK-CREAK, utes-FEET (before theme figuring), BEef-BEAN (again, before).

And in that NEish mess, had to Goog ARISTIDE, because who the hell keeps up with former Haitian prezs anyway?
W easy, E medium to tough, specially that OVER/PANS-ORC/EAR areas.
Wasn't DUMB, didn't leave me BLUE, had some SASS, ended up with a NICETY!


old timer 12:06 PM  

I think of the Black VELVET Band as a classic Irish pub song.

I agree with OFL, this one lacked sparkle. And I missed many of the black entries, such as BlackFEET. Missing that one meant I was bored with the theme. (I had FEET on crosses). But wait! Now that I look at the puzzle again I think it is pretty brilliant. Each of the Themer black squares has 4 black answers. Or three in two cases closer to the top and bottom. Pretty nifty, I now think. I'm raising my imaginary grade to B+.

I got IDEE FIXE as soon as I got to that part. And DAFOE for some reason. Really didn't need to Google for MEET JOE BLACK (though I did) as I would have gotten that on crosses.

Nice to see Walter KERR in the puzzle. His book, "The Decline of Pleasure" really influenced me when it came out. I think it is among the books I lost, but I bet it's in my local library. I'd like to read it again.

Aketi 12:08 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Aketi 12:14 PM  

@Hartley, yes I liked the BLUE too.
Of course, until I read your comment, I didn't think of the double meaning of BLACK and BLUE in terms of bruises and lives.

Speaking of bruises, I kind of like the atypical order of EYE BLACK
Plus it is the only one that is truly reversible thanks to the palindromic EYE.
JACK needs that BLACK square to his left to turn into a card game.

The BLUE EYE & JACK add a nice touch of asymmetry in a theme that is otherwise entirely symmetrical.

Masked and Anonymous 12:32 PM  

Really liked {When leaves 56-Across} clue at 56-Across. See self clue.
WERR not.


U want EASY?!? Here's real easy:

Z 12:42 PM  

@Gill I - If you like your Hot Canadian Women in BLACK leather chaps check out the Myles' video that Rex posted. She is no SIA, so her Mimi would have a less... uh.... choreographed feeling to it.

As for FOP - that clue struck me as a very Bro clue. Urban Dictionary definition number 3 is my favorite: "A straight guy who’s so cool, smart, attractive, stylish, and cultured, that everyone thinks he’s gay. But he’s so secure in his masculinity that he doesn’t care." #2 references James Bond. The notion of metrosexuals being FOPs comes from a very homophobic place, IMHO.

@Sailor Steve - TEETHE gave me a moments pause when I just had the consonants. T--TH-. Even looking at it now that combination looks odd.

Teedmn 1:03 PM  

Not easy for me today and not because of the theme, which I got at the NE BLACK square. As Rex's theory states, as the NW goes, so goes the puzzle. So my Needle at 1D and SKirtS started me off on the wrong FEET and only coming back around to see COAL filled that in properly.

"Beat" before PACE at 37D PAINTed a bit more of my grid BLACK and "Oh, THis" just piled more on though once I re-read 50D to see it preceded E, the SHEILA went right in.

My tendency to meet adversity with profanity gave me DaMn at 5A and it wasn't until I couldn't find anything "n_T" crunchy for lunch did I see BLT, then ABEL, then UBER. Damn!

Thanks, Joanne Sullivan, this made for a great second NYT effort. Your version with the clues you offered here on the blog rocks! And it's fine as published also.

Passing Shot 1:04 PM  

Got the theme quickly at JACK (black) and (black)FEET. Nuance for NICETY held me up for the longest time. Knew the poem but not the autjor and went back and forth between MCCRAy and MCCRAE. Liked it; just enought fight to make a VERY dense theme interesting. Glad Will and JS did not give it a title or any other clue to the conceit.

yacoza 1:11 PM  

MCCRAE was a total gimme as I attended John McCrae public school (located 100 yards from the house in which he was born) in Guelph, Ontario (Canada) and went to the same high school as he did (over a hundred years later, mind you). As far as poets go, he's got to be one of the biggest one-hit wonders ever.

Crossword related trivia bit: McCrae, a medical doctor, studied under renowned Canadian physician and occasional crossword crasher William OSLER at Johns Hopkins Hospital.

Dick Swart 1:17 PM  

Seemed like a Wednesday with black edging.

The bright spots for me were Jack Black and Orange is the new black.

Joe Bleaux 1:19 PM  


OISK 1:21 PM  

@old timer.... "Her eyes, they shone like diamonds, you'd think she was queen of the land..."

Never heard of Yoshi, the Wailers, still don't know what SKA is, never heard of Nacho Libre, Viva la Vida, (although Viva was an easy guess...) never heard of Alannah Myles, nor of the song "Black Velvet," - but like old timer, I DO know "Black velvet band..." what the heck is a Sheila E.? ( don't bother, I Googled it), never heard of Paint it Black nor of "Grover," but guessed that he must be blue, Willem DaFoe? I actually DID hear of Meet Joe Black, but that is just another of the far too numerous pop culture references in this puzzle.

I did know Mccrae, though. I memorized "Flanders Fields" while in high school. It has an unusual, difficult to construct rhyme scheme, which I think is called a rondeau. The entire poem uses only two rhymes; every line ends with a word either rhyming with "blow" or "sky." It is also a rare, PRO-war poem , that many people misconstrue as anti-war. Aristide was a gimme for me as well, although I thought it was "Aristides" until I ran out of boxes. Aristides was a famous Greek....

@Nancy predicted my reaction pretty well! Very annoyed at all the pop culture, but very satisfied to have finished it correctly, especially after having DNF yesterday.

Carola 1:32 PM  

Nicely done! I caught on at LAMP. and really admired the intersecting [BLACK] entries. Execpt...not knowing the Stones' song, I accepted "PAINT IT!" as the complete song title and had to do an alphabet run for ?AILERS; only after writing in the M with a DUMB shrug of "whatever" did I "see" [BLACK].

The puzzle was made tough for me by not knowing YOSHI, MCCRAE, BLACK VELVET, MEET JOE BLACK, VIVA, SHEILA, or "Nacho Libre. Favorite non-theme lightbulb moment was finally getting U?ER x A?EL.

Ellen S 1:39 PM  

@Sailor Steve -- your problem with TEETHE was a problem for me throughout. I got the theme at [black]SHIRT (sad commentary on our current election process, maybe) but never could see the pattern of which black squares were the word BLACK and which were just black squares. Made for a lumpy solve. I never heard of the MEET JOE BLACK movie, which made that a real toughie; I had ME__J__ and finally went to IMDb. I'm more embarrassed that I just couldn't see [black]MAILER when I had everything except the M!

I cussed and complained about all the pop culture (even old pop culture eludes me) but got all of those answers without cheating. Maybe Socrates was on to something. All the answers are within me, I just don't want to know I know them.

I never know how long it takes me to solve, as I usually start the puzzle at night, fall asleep at some point, and finish it in the morning. I finished this kind of late because I medicated and fed all the animals first. Did I tell you the vet says I'm running an Eskaton for dogs and cats? Why does my 7-year old cat need arthritis medicine? Just so she'll fit in with the rest of the geezers? My back-injured dog wound up at the emergency room at 3:30am yesterday morning. He knows the drill now, and looks forward to his methadone injection, cheerfully limps away with the techs. He was in such good shape by sunrise that I wonder if he was faking an injury just to get his fix. I know you supposedly don't get high from it but Liam is so happy afterward, I wonder if people on Methadone are just fibbing about the effects. Wasn't Heroin a cure for morphine and/or opium addiction? Promised by Bayer that it had no side effects and was not habit forming? I can just see my dog knocking over convenience stores to get money to go to the E.R. (No, I can't see that: he'll make me do it.)

Z 1:47 PM  

I was going to mention and forgot that lists two puzzles for Ms. Sullivan, this one and a 2010 Tuesday that Rex called "easily my favorite Tuesday of the year." Hopefully we'll see more from Ms. Sullivan before 2022.

Proud Mamma 2:14 PM  

I just don't get why the black boxes around coal/shirt feet are rectangles, not squares. Same with in the/shoe/list.

newspaperguy 2:18 PM  

"It's been done before." Really? What hasn't been done before? Seems like Rex is just looking for something to complain about.

BC 2:21 PM  

Because I overlooked the "orange" clue for a good twenty minutes, I caught the theme late in the game, despite getting JACK and VELVET early. Whenever I guess in ink (Hoffmann for PANTHER) I get stuck, especially when the guess fits another clue (beef for BEAN). I should use a pencil.

BC 2:23 PM  

Because I overlooked the "orange" clue for a good twenty minutes, I caught the theme late in the game, despite getting JACK and VELVET early. Whenever I guess in ink (Hoffmann for PANTHER) I get stuck, especially when the guess fits another clue (beef for BEAN). I should use a pencil.

puzzle hoarder 3:05 PM  

This puzzle deserves more credit than @Rex gave it. It had to be a lot of work to build such a dense and symmetrical theme and keep the fill as challenging and interesting as it was. A good portion of the experienced solvers who comment here stumbled on at least one section. I'm no exception. I screwed up what seemed to be one of the easier sections. It's easy to confuse the actor's name with that of the historical DEFOE. An even bigger mistake was falling for the big brother misdirect and assuming 15A was some Orwell character. I also put in USER at 6D. The connection to app was weak. ESEL doesn't even look like a name but this was early in the solve and I forgot about that section by the time I'd finished
Reading through the xwordinfo comments ABEL was mentioned and I thought hey I don't recall that being in the puzzle. It makes 5A seem very relevant.

Hartley70 3:12 PM  

@EllenS, for 2 days I've wondered what Eskalon was, but I now see it's a Northern California Shangri-La for oldsters. I gather it's a little more positive than hospice and congrats on being a BENEVOLENT warden of yours.

Liam has wisely decided to take health matters into his own hands and medicate himself to Nirvana. Is he single? I think I'm in love with him from afar. He just might call a taxi should you be too tired to take him for his fix at 3am. You might keep an eye on your credit cards going forward.

I have a nurse friend who believes that all seniors of a certain age should receive a script for Zoloft with their Medicare statement every month to be used as needed. It's a shock to personally discover the downside of the aging process and Liam is handling his with aplomb.

Thanks for letting us know him a bit!

Atlantasolver 3:26 PM  

I was always glad the Blackfeet and Flatheads did not intermarry.

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Martín Abresch 3:45 PM  

@Joanne Sullivan - Thank you for listing the other clues! I like that clue for LAMP BLACK VELVET.

I'm not sure which puzzle is better. The puzzle that ran is much cleaner conceptually. Your plan to have connected answers would have made the puzzle less segmented and added an extra dash of fun.

Masked and Anonymous 4:03 PM  

@Joanne Sullivan: yep. Like yer themers, better, personally. More cowbell. Thanx for droppin by. Stop by again any old time, with more crosswords. Hopefully they won't edit the snot out of em, next go-round.

@Nancy and @OISK: DNF is indeed a proud and noble option. M&A's pop-culture/(who's yer bygone Nobelist) alt-option: Research. M&A figures the constructioneer/editor had to look some of that stuff up to write the clues, so fair's fair. Just evens the playin field, so to speak. I mean, hell's bells: Walter KERR? (Wanted WERR -- sounds smoother).


Alexander Grimwade 4:37 PM  

Really poor QC in the NYT software department...delete and reinstall is the only cure

sanfranman59 4:42 PM  

FWIW, the posted solve times for this puzzle are well above the usual for Thursdays and it currently has among the fewest solvers of any Thursday this year (I track these things each day in a spreadsheet and have since mid-2009). So I don't think it was in any way easy for most solvers (certainly not this one!).

aging soprano 4:57 PM  

Charles Ives composed a wonderful setting of the poem.

Anonymous 5:35 PM  

Dear Anonymous who posted at 11:21AM: We don't gather here to do political commentary. So skip the insults or take them elsewhere. Not amused.

Rob 6:32 PM  

Pleasant solve for me, but I'm a bit nettled that there doesn't seem to be much rhyme or reason to how the [BLACK] squares are laid out. It's sort of symmetrical, I guess, but the effect is ruined by the right-hand ones being offset from the left-hand ones by one square. At minimum I'd have preferred some kind of revealer. It's fine but I think the theme could have been more artfully executed.

Glad to hear I'm not the only one having iPhone issues. Deleting and reinstalling would probably work for me, but I'm kind of hoping there'll be a patch instead and I won't need to do anything myself.

Anonymous 6:45 PM  

So what the heck is a "Google teethe"? I got it from the crosses, by even after asking Google itself, I have no, um, clue what it means.

Z 7:01 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Z 7:04 PM  

@Anonymous6:45pm - "Google _____" is the clue for 22A, MAPS, not 23A, TEETHE.

@sanfranman59 - And yet you never share anymore. I do wonder if the solving app issues are partly to blame for skewing your numbers. I noticed that my iPad updated the app today (I use PuzzAzz when I solve online, but keep the NYT app for reference sake for when I want to see what all the bitching is about).

Norm 7:31 PM  

A black BEAN would make for a pretty skimpy burrito. I use beans. But that was far from the most annoying thing about this puzzle. The names, the names, the names. They drive me crazy. Would have preferred BLACK VELVET clued to the whiskey rather than a song I've never heard of. The apparently random placement of the rebus squares was annoying, although once I found two of them I looked for symmetry, and the bottom half of the puzzle was easier for that reason. Didn't hate it; didn't really like it, and a hidden rebus is usually fun.

Roo Monster 7:44 PM  

@Rob 6:32, The [BLACK] rebus squares are symmetrical.

Ms. Myles was basically a one-hit wonder with that song. It was a good one, though.

Got out first spell-caster thing since unresticiveness. Ugh.

@sanfranman back after about 26 years! :-)

@M&A, love your perspective on wonkitude in puzs. And cinnamon rolls, natch.


Anonymous 7:57 PM  

It's two-fold rotational symmetry, no? Ignoring the UBER black - blackJACK theme fart.

Anonymous 10:12 PM  

I'm no expert but i would not say it was easy

SailorSteveHolt 6:35 AM  

FWIW, I'm a Millennial (barely missed the cutoff) and I use one finger when I text on my iPhone. Cellphones of yesteryear? I was a speed demon. Smartphones? I find it impossible. Even though I manage pretty well hunting and pecking, I still avoid doing it in public...

SailorSteveHolt 6:38 AM  

Haven't figured out yet whether you can get notified when someone replies to a comment (and therefore whether or not you'd even look back to w thread posted yesterday), but thank you! Glad to see my shallow analysis not far off.

SailorSteveHolt 6:44 AM  

Thank you! My rush to judgment is usually not so successful... I couldn't find the links but maybe the mobile version of the site is, like many others, woefully lacking when it comes to reconfiguring typical desktop features? That or I'm incompetent; also strong possibility.

SailorSteveHolt 7:01 AM  

I can't remember what I had at first... Maybe TEE– – –? Or TE–T– –? My problem was the (apparently not-in-play) following black square. Btw, I think FOP has a more dignified pedigree (i.e., not Urban Dictionary slang where to be honest I'm surprised it even appears) than that, though I wouldn't be surprised if were code for something homophobic/misogynistic.

SailorSteveHolt 7:09 AM  

Heh, the funny thing is the first late-90s Brad Pitt movie that popped into my head was MEET JOE "black" but clearly there weren't enough squares for the whole title. When I finally had my theme epiphany, though, I went back and filled it in with self-satisfied glee. I enjoyed finding out where the theme applied, but at first, yeah, I thought it only occurred at 'floating' black squares—the ones that didn't share a side with another black square.

Cristie 11:15 PM  

You don't have to uninstall if you just update it again - the new update came out this morning and fixed it!

Susan Berger-Jones 11:52 AM  

The plural of tarsus is tarsi not tarsuses.

RonL 9:59 AM  

The word is ZUGZWANG.

kitshef 11:25 PM  

Back to back super-easy. And back-to-back great themes. Wanted (black)ball before (black)LIST.

Love both (black)VELVET and PAINTIT(black).

Burma Shave 11:58 AM  


INTHE COALBLACK of night, take YORE LAMP with you,
if you MEETJOEBLACK and his BLACKLISTed wrecking CREW,
or they’ll make YORE EYEBLACK, OHTHAT’s what they do,
and the rest of YORE face will be THENEWBLACK and BLUE!


Burma Shave 11:59 AM  


INTHE COALBLACK of night, take YORE LAMP with you,
if you MEETJOEBLACK and his BLACKLISTed wrecking CREW,
or they’ll make YORE EYEBLACK, OHTHAT’s what they do,
and the rest of YORE face will be THENEWBLACK and BLUE!


spacecraft 12:04 PM  

So, was there NO ONE who plunked down NUANCE off the N of NOSY? Come on, NOBODY?? That almost cost me the whole enchilada. Only after going elsewhere and picking up on the BLACK thing did I go back and try COAL, after which the NW finally made sense. I also had Tar for the driveway covering (before the aha, of course).

It infuriates me when OFL smugly calls a puzzle like this easy. Even if you do pick up on the trick earlier than I did, the overall cluing level makes this a hard solve throughout. And I still don't get ENV. Envelope? "It might have a street name"??? Yeah, okay, it "might." But that's a VERY strange clue. I ran the alphabet for that square, and decided that E was the only logical choice. And you're going to call a puzzle with that clue easy??

I noticed a complete name (well, the surname is one letter different): SHEILA MaCRAE, actress-singer from back in MY day, thus, my DOD. I liked this one, no fill garbage and a dense, clever theme. So it's been done before, generically. That doesn't diminish from how well THIS one was done. I'm not familiar with this constructor, but today's offering can hardly be a debut. If it is, watch your six, Patrick! Touchdown and a 2-point conversion!

rondo 12:31 PM  

I had trouble with my blue pen trying to make BLACK squares. Is anyone else having that problem? How do you fix it? Didn’t catch on to the BLACK square thing first time through the across answers; figured it out in the downs and then it came together. Wouldn’t call it easy.

Drummer/singer and ultra yeah baby SHEILA E. used to play with Prince, among others. She will not be performing at tonight’s gala Prince tribute concert (it’s officially Prince Day in St. Paul today) but will headline another one in Mpls sometime soon. Stevie Wonder, Christina Aguilera, Chaka Khan, Anita Baker and many others will perform tonight.

@OISK – you need to get out more often, OHTHAT’s’s a lot to not know. Especially the Wailers? Really?

I must’ve played BLACKVELVET by yeah baby Alannah Myles on the jukebox a few hundred times back when I used to hang out after work. Seems like the Stones’ PAINTITBLACK shows up in many TV shows and films dealing with Nam.

Didn’t know that Thursday puzzles were the “signature” TYPE. Often annoying to me. Gimmicks are signatures? That’s DUMB.

rain forest 2:41 PM  

@Spacey - though I didn't "plunk down" Nuance, it was my first thought, but I immediately saw I couldn't use the rest of the letters. I too left the NW at that point, and noodled around other parts of the puzzle. The BLACK rebus came to me at LAMP___, but I was very slow to see that the word BLACK was going to be used in all directions. I'm sometimes so obtuse. Briefly wondered if there was an actual tribe called the FEET Indians.

So, once I fully understood the theme, things went better, but I found many of the clues tricky, clever, and misdirective--in my opinion it was the cluing, in addition to the theme, that gave the puzzle "sparkle".

As a Canadian, I was pleased to see John MCCRAE clued by his iconic poem. And I was very pleased to finish this excellent and challenging puzzle.

leftcoastTAM 3:43 PM  

Got the unstated "black" gimmick early with FEET, and it helped a lot that the themers were symmetrically placed.

What didn't help was the abundance of proper nouns. Strung out the solving time and thwarted the solve. The MCCRAE/JACK/ORC/ARAM cluster-f#!@ in the middle didn't FALL. Neither did the SHEILA/BLUE cross in the SW.

Won't bother to LIST my DUMB guesses. Very IRKsome.

Diana,LIW 6:22 PM  

Got the "black" with feet, but way too many WOES. Pretty much what @Lefty said. dnf

Diana, LIW

wcutler 7:57 PM  

I agree with Anonymous 1:14 AM, NOT easy. I didn't get even half the answers, and some I got were wrong. SKIRTS around instead of SKATES around started me wrong enough to miss THENEW, which works as a revealer clue. I never, ever would have come up with EGEST - had EVICT, then EJECT. I don't really know the term "eye black" so was looking for "patch" as missing somethings, don't know any of the songs or the actors or the movies. I did get IDEE FIXE, ARISTIDE and MEL. I got the upper right, and the lower middle left. This was way harder than the last Friday I completed. I like missing word puzzles too. I didn't dislike this, just couldn't do it and never figured out what was going on.

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