Radioactive form of hydrogen / SUN 11-6-16 / Small semicircular grooves on column / Game with mallets played on hard-surfaced court / Opposite of outflux

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Constructor: Joe DiPietro

Relative difficulty: Challenging

THEME: "It's All an Elision" — familiar phrases beginning "It's" have the "It's" changed to just "S," creating wackiness etc.

Theme answers:
  • STUFF OUT THERE (23A: "Do your taxidermy on the patio instead"?)
  • SNOW SURPRISE (40A: A foot on the ground in Phoenix?)
  • SOUR LITTLE SECRET (17D: Mystery ingredient in SweeTarts?)
  • STEW DAMN HOT (68A: Comfort food causing oral discomfort?)
  • STAKING ME FOREVER (37D: Always putting up my entry fees?)
  • SIOUX YOU KNOW (92A: Crazy Horse, Sitting Bull and that's probably it?) (my favorite)
  • SIP TO BE SQUARE (113A: Slogan for wine geeks?)
Word of the Day: YORK (14D: Pennsylvania city) —
York (Deitsch: Yarrick), known as the White Rose City (after the symbol of the House of York), is the city serving as the county seat of York County, Pennsylvania, United States, both being located in the south-central region of the state. The population within York's city limits was 43,718 at the 2010 census, a 7.0% increase from the 2000 count of 40,862. When combined with the adjacent boroughs of West York and North York and surrounding Spring Garden, West Manchester, and Springettsbury townships, the population of Greater York was 108,386. York is the county seat of York County and is located at 39°58′00″N 76°45′00″W. York is currently the 11th largest city in Pennsylvania. (wikipedia)
• • •

This is an adequate cornball theme. Wack wack wacky, more groanery than legit funny, but fine, whatever, it's acceptable. Theme itself, not a problem, pretty easy to pick up. In fact, the only real problem I had with the theme was that the themers weren't really relevant to my solve. I never saw half of them. Wacky clues meant nothing to me. I just put "S" at the beginning of the themers and then imagined phrases beginning "It's"—usually by the time I got around to thinking about the themer, I could tell from the letters I already had what the answer was going to be. So this puzzle should've been easy. But holy crud, the opposite. I never got up any speed. Every clue fought me. So much "?" cluing and off-cluing and slant-cluing ... very, very rough to solve. Twice I hit patches were I wasn't sure I was going to be able to complete the puzzle. First in the NW, where everything above DITKA and west of SOUR was blank for what felt like ever, and then again around what ended up being the IRON part of EIGHT IRON (?). WHEY instead of WORT (90A: Extract used in brewing) really, really blew me up down there. Kept wanting 52D: Rough choice? to be EIGHT-ISH (with "rough" suggesting an estimate?) but then there was the extra letter... just a mess. But even beyond those two dead spots, the puzzle fought me everywhere. Applause for added difficulty, even if the experience wasn't exactly pleasurable.

 [dead zones]

So many things I didn't know. ROQUE? No-que (102D: Game with mallets played on a hard-surfaced court). TRITIUM? (13D: Radioactive form of hydrogen) Oy, no. There's a YORK, PA now? David IVES? (44A: "Venus in Fur" playwright David) ETHEL Muggs? My daughter is an "Archie" fanatic and there are Archies aplenty in my house and I read three current Archie titles and nope nope nope. No recollection of ETHEL Muggs. The western section, with its astonishing pair of non-theme Downs alongside the long themer, was emblematic of my trouble. Need crosses to work a section like that, but:
  • 35A: Thrown (CAST)—I had LOST
  • 56A: Skinflints (PIKERS)—I had MISERS
  • 71A: Harpies (NAGS)—I had HAGS
  • 75A: Common New England street name (ELM)—???
  • 79A: Many, after "a" (SLEW OF)—I don't know, HEAP OF, MESS OF, etc.?

Also, the Cole Porter song is TOO DARN HOT, so STEW DAMN HOT made no sense to me as a phrase. I don't know why "too damn hot" is a good base phrase. Just sounds like something someone might say, but not something coherent enough to be a stand-alone phrase. Oh, and the far north was a bear too. TENURES, ouch (6A: Terms of service). That clue suggests something very, very different. NITRO for 8D: It blows things up, in brief, again, tough. Wasn't sure what "blows up" meant there. Was thinking enlargement, not explosion. REEDING?? (10D: Small semicircular grooves on a column) LOL what is that? 9D: Some wedding figures is insanely vague for USHERS. The whole puzzle was like this.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


paulsfo 12:16 AM  

felt like a medium to me.
"It's Too Darn Hot" is in the (extremely famous) song sixteen times, so that makes it a pretty common phrase in my book.
In The Shining, Jack Nicholson tries to bash his son's head in with a roque mallet (though I only remember this, myself, because I recently reread the book).

Go vote on Tuesday if you haven't already. Bye to everyone if the world ends on Wednesday.

chris 12:37 AM  

"So much "?" cluing and off-cluing and slant-cluing ... very, very rough to solve."

this, this, a thousand times this. very slow solve, because of this, and not very pleasant. and unlike rex, didn't care much for the theme either--just didn't hit my funny bone.

in all, this ended up feeling like something i had to finish out of obligation, not because i wanted to.

in general, i find the NYT sunday puzzles to be meh. there's some good ones, to be sure, but maybe one a month at best. and especially with such a big puzzle, there has got to be a push to make sunday a priority in getting consistently good puzzles.

Lucky Loochyanno 1:33 AM  

I finished this in 38:13 on an iPad, which is normally slow for me but in all fairness I could only use my left hand because Johnny Law handcuffed my right hand to the chair and two stupid detectives would not shut up with their idiotic questions which wasn't helping and neither of them knew any of the answers to the puzzle or anything else apparently so it took me a little longer with all those distractions, as I'm sure you can imagine.

Larry Gilstrap 1:55 AM  

Solving after dinner, my wife reminded me that we used to do the Sunday puzzle as a team, and she invited me to cozy up on the couch. Now, she is an early week solver and has zero patience with any misdirection or things she doesn't know. Sound familiar. I, on the other hand, solve everyday. To humor her, I took a stroll down memory lane. Well, to my surprise, she started ripping through the north central zone and sorted out the theme, tout de suite. Soon ennui set in and I was sent off to solve in solitude, which was my original intention.

Nice to see MAYS as the Giants legend, not Ott, which could have become RAYS and OFL and Cole Porter both could have had it Too DArN HOT. I honestly don't see the elements of a challenging rating, but I did have help, after all. Nice word play, interesting themers, consistent level of difficulty, minimal dreck, all add up to a good Sunday puzzle.

jae 1:32 AM  

This was on the tough side for me too. Not quite sure why but I did have meH before NAH for a long time which made GENTLE BEN difficult to see. I kinda half-assed got the theme (semi @lms dnf?) but my interest level was borderline NADIR. Liked the crunch.

Alison 2:36 AM  

The Sioux you know clue is microaggressive, at best. Why do puzzle constructor and editor assume solvers don't know -- or are not themselves -- Native Americans?

John Child 3:24 AM  

I really don't like this sort of wordplay, but the lack of junk (I ticked off DOUP and REFIX only) and challenging clues made the puzzle fun. It ROQUEd me for a fun 45 minutes.

Unknown 4:28 AM  

An enjoyable Sunday crossword!

My partner aided me in this solve, and our combined abilities kept us chugging along steadily. Strangely, the dead zones in Rex's grid show where we began and ended. We began in the NE where she knew TRITIUM and I knew YORK, PA (not far from Lancaster, PA). We ended in the near-SE area with NUT LITCHI, WORT, LITTERS, and ROQUE.

The two of us saw David IVES's Venus in Furs in the theatre a few Valentine's Days ago. Fun play. I enjoyed our local rag's review of it: "For a play draped in sadomasochism and sexuality, Venus in Fur is surprisingly wholesome. Ives may have written the most family-friendly adaptation of Sacher-Masoch in history."

Earlier this evening, on our way to an English friend's annual Guy Fawkes party (featuring a genuine burning of a Guy effigy), she reminded me that I still need to read John Kennedy TOOLE's A Confederacy of Dunces, noting that I would probably enjoy the verbose and pompous protagonist. Hmm.

Favorite gimme: TRUE LOVE ("The Princess Bride" theme).

Several theme answers made me laugh: SOUR LITTLE SECRET (Mystery Ingredient in SweeTarts?), STUFF OUT THERE ("Do your taxidermy on the patio instead!"?) SIOUX YOU KNOW (Crazy Horse, Sitting Bull and that's probably it?), and SIP TO BE SQUARE (Slogan for wine geeks?). That last one was a groaner.

For fill, I liked ANNIE HALL (Best picture winner between "Rocky" and "The Deer Hunter"), POP OPEN (What an overstuffed suitcase might do), and I OWE YA (Informal words of thanks). The long answers along the sides were a pleasure. In general, though, I wasn't delighted by the fill. It seemed rather average and often quite dated, but what helped to elevate that fill was ...

... the strong cluing. As Rex points out, there was a lot of slant and trick cluing. This solver was *loving* it. Personal favorites: TENURES (Terms of service), ROLL-ONS (Sure things), HEIRS (Ones who have it coming to them?), EYE CARE (Field of vision), and LITTERS (Drops to the ground?). My brain was properly entertained.

Plus I always love a good quotation clue: SLEEP ("Silence is the ___ that nourishes wisdom": Bacon).

P.S. Apropos of nothing, I did a bit of research and discovered that John Steinbeck wrote the introduction to a book collection of Lil Abner comics. From a summary in A John Steinbeck Encyclopedia: "In the introduction, Steinbeck argued against critical highbrow conceptualizations of art, insisting instead that literature is first and foremost what people read, and that the role of literature and art was to instruct changes and otherwise perform a criticism of society." Steinbeck wrote that Lil Abner creator Al Capp "may very possibly be the best writer in the world today. I am sure that he is the best satirist since Laurence Sterne.” As a side note, the foreword to this volume was written by Charlie Chaplin.

Unknown 4:47 AM  

P.P.S. And here is an article from The Paris Review entitled "Why John Updike Loved Comics."

Charles Flaster 4:52 AM  

Everything Rex said except I never put it's in front of the answers.
Only trouble spot was the middle with SCREWS and EIGHT IRON( rough = golf--duh).
Liked cluing for ROLL ONS and the first themer--STUFF OUT THERE.
Only write over was EUR for ore--Portugal for Portland.
Always love me some MAYS in a puzzle.
Hoping he hangs in there healthwise.
Thanks JD

Anonymous 5:54 AM  

Yes, Mikey, there's a York, PA "now" - founded August 19, 1749

During the American Revolutionary War (1775–1783), York served as the temporary capital of the Continental Congress. The Articles of Confederation were drafted and adopted in York, though they would not be ratified until March 1781.

ZenMonkey 6:04 AM  

I think the "probably" in the Sioux clue covers both those who know more and those who don't.

TRUE LOVE is spelled wrong by my standards. That's because my now-husband and I watched the movie the first time I visited his place, and my engagement ring therefore has the phrase as the great Peter Cook had it: TWU WUV.

It is most definitely Too DArN Hot and the reason I DNF. (For all I know there's a Giants player named Rays, although of course MAYS made sense once I checked which letter was wrong.)

I like these puzzles because I enjoy trying to figure out the wordplay with as few crosses as possible. Definitely the hardest Sunday in recent memory, although my time wasn't bad at all. Weird.

Susierah 6:18 AM  

I live in Georgia, so Stew damn hot made plenty of sense to me! It was 90 degrees on Halloween! That's too damn hot!

kitshef 6:53 AM  

Average Sunday here. Slow in the center. ILER over IGOR, smack in the middle of the brutal-but-fair clue for EIGHTIRON made finishing tough.

oNce before ANTE, mIsERS before PIKERS, alas before OH NO, all in that one W section, were major slowdowns, as well.

On the other hand, Pivot TV has ceased all programming, meaning the morning get-ready-for-work show of choice (Buffy) is no longer available, so Mad About You has been on in the background this week. HELEN HUNT was a gimme and the E flew by.

Poetic justice for @Rex to get tripped up by an Archie reference following yesterday's explosion.

Liked ONO and OHNO.

Loren Muse Smith 7:05 AM  

I saw a name here on the blog recently that reminded me of Joe DiPietro, and it reminded me of the Grand Punmeister. I always like his puns.

So glad to see that other people found it challenging. Man oh man was this hard. So many goofs:

xfactor – X AMOUNT and hence…
loose – UNTIE
abyss – NADIR, and that crossed the…
bass clef – ALTO clef
lychee – LYTCHI
free love – TRUE LOVE (Sorry, @Martin A – I was watching the news. SIGH TIME)
shoo-ins – ROLL ONS (22A - a question mark after that clue would have helped)

@Larry Gilstrap – my first thought was Ott for 115D BAT.

I can't be the only one thinking Mr. Ed for that 1960s 650 pound tv star.

POP OPEN crosses AEROLOAS. Helloooooo, Janet Jackson's wardrobe malfunction.

I had to guess the E on the TOOLE/SENNET cross. An A there would've worked for me, too. I've never read Toole, and given the flap yesterday…

...@kitschef – I know, right? How timely to have an Archie comics clue. I'm mainly just a curious bystander when arguments flare up here about "highbrow" vs "lowbrow" things. Mainly, I just feel guilty and ashamed that I don't spend my time reading Lofty stuff because I usually buy into what @token millennial said yesterday – "as if the only things we're supposed to know and incorporate into our culture are high-brow subjects and esteemed authors." I do deep down want to be able at least to come across as, as @Martin A puts it, a "cultural snob" when the need presents itself. To this end, I just take careful notes while reading all the smart people here, memorize authors, books, whatever, so I can throw them around in a conversation. (@Martin – I'm now armed with Marjane Satrapi's name – مرسی!) I loved your Barnes and Noble tote bag comment.

I finally got the trick with SIOUX YOU KNOW, and it was a terrific aha moment. I like all the themers, and two pairs of them cross! Very nice.

Let's all pause and appreciate that Joe spared us a play on phlegmology – IT'S NOT ROCKET SCIENCE.

So all the people who complain Sunday is too easy. Here you are. I got a kick out of this in every way. Good one, Joe.

Ruth F 7:28 AM  

I agree about the difficulty of this puzzle -- but really liked it! It highlighted why SLEEP IS GOOD. Before bed and tired after dinner and a movie with family, got very little traction -- one themer and lots of maybe, could-be fill. Eight hours later, coffee in hand, lots of ahas, appreciation for clever cluing and misdirects. It's true. Your brain makes connections why you sleep. Sleep makes you smarter.

Dorothy Biggs 7:36 AM  

This puzzle is that roommate in college who is likable enough, but insists on watching Three Stooges reruns all the damn time. Yeah, they're funny, but they're not that funny...not funny enough to watch all the damn time. Puzzle, your puns are cute, but really, not that cute. Not cute enough for an entire Sunday puzzle. The absence of all my groans this past week was more than made up for in this one rollicking pun-filled groaner of a puzzle...and I don't mean "groaner" in the good way.

Bogeyman = SCARER?
IOWEYA? <--- WTF is that but just terrible?
ROLLONS = Sure things? Yeah, I get that "Sure" is a deodorant, but as I stand in front of the myriad of Sure products, do I call them things? No. Do I ask an Kroger employee where the Sure things are? No. Never are Sure products called things.

Bottom line, I agree with Rex that cluing was dodgy. In fact, too too. So, Mr. Puzzle, I hope you enjoy your Three Stooges reruns and laugh at each one of them like it's the first time you've ever seen them, I'm just going to step out for the day. I've had enough.

chefbea 7:47 AM  

Tough puzzle. Got sip to be square first and thought all S's were changed to H...but no!!! Too much stuff I did not know

A.R.T. 8:03 AM  

It's trouper, not trooper. Not the first time this error has appeared in the NYT puzzle. Will Shortz seems to think that the ubiquitousness of this error makes it acceptable. It does not. It utterly evicerates the meaning. It makes no sense.

'mericans in Paris 8:05 AM  

Nice to see STENT in a puzzle. Four years ago a LITTLE one, inserted in the nick of time in my left anterior descending (LAD) coronary artery (a.k.a., "the widow maker"), saved me from the BIG one.

We consider any puzzle that we don't have to resort to Google for a "medium", though perhaps a challenging rating covers that. We certainly had to wrestle with it in many places. DNF, however, because thought the rival to the the Today Show was "A.M. America", hence aMA.

Like @LMS, my first thought on 39D was Mister Ed, then Flipper. Both too short. Then thought of Green Acres, but that was one letter too long, and the pig was a little one. Then Mrs. 'mericans got in "...BEN", and finally recalled GENTLE BEN. Even I, who was living only about 50 miles to the east of the Everglades location in which that show was filmed had long forgotten about it. It ran for only two seasons ('67-68 and '68-69), I presume because the gentle "star" ate one of the co-stars.

Never heard the term RARE GAS for the noble variety. (Would have preferred that one to have been clued as "Claim by somebody who eschews beans".) In my post-puzzle searching, I learned that a mixture of neon, fluorine and argon is used during laser operations on corneas. So nice placement just below EYE CARE.

Only two days to go before the STENCH of this SORDID, XENOphobic, NASTy election is over. Seems like it'S TAKING FOREVER!

Anonymous 8:24 AM  

Ethel liked Jughead.

Anonymous 8:38 AM  

I second A.R.T.'s comment: TROOPER for TROUPER is unacceptable, especially because if you want TROOPER, then just clue it. Also, no self-respecting harpy would be described as a NAG. Not really HAG, either, but it's at least in the ballpark.

Anonymous 8:53 AM  

FWIW, Wikipedia notes that, in common usage, "The term [harpy] is often used metaphorically to refer to a NASTy or annoying woman." One wonders what subliminal message the constructor (or Will Shortz) is trying to send here.

I'm with har, by the way.

Anonymous 8:58 AM  

And, to continue with the theme, a SiRIN (as opposed to SARIN), is "a mythological creature of Russian legends, with the head and chest of a beautiful woman and the body of a bird (usually an owl)."

Anonymous 9:01 AM  

Rex is slipping - no Velvet Underground viedo for Venus in Furs?

Unknown 9:02 AM  

tough but, in a weird way i don't quite know how to articulate, fair. after the battle for EIGHT IRON: "ok. i'm not thrilled about this but ok. you got me."

Nancy 9:06 AM  

Very hard, very rewarding. I've always liked this constructor who, I imagine, must be the musical theater lyricist Joe DiPietro. (How many Joe DiPietros can there be, anyway?) Seems the wordplay of lyric writing matches well with the wordplay of crossword construction and cluing: Sondheim and Maltby are other well-known lyricist/puzzle creators, though they work almost exclusively in cryptics. Anyway, wordplay abounds in this puzzle and, once I figured out what the hell was going on, I enjoyed and admired it. I love a themed puzzle where it's virtually impossible to solve, unless and until you figure out the gimmick. I should have figured it out much sooner because of the wonderful headline: IT'S ALL AN ELISION.

I thought all the theme answers were clever and funny, but my two faves are SOUR LITTLE SECRET and SIOUX YOU KNOW. What's more, the non-theme clues were nicely oblique and hard to suss out. Some of my favorites of these: "Sure things"= ROLL-ONS; "Field of vision" = EYECARE; and "Rough choice" = EIGHT IRON. I struggled aplenty, and it didn't go quickly, but I thought this was one of the best Sundays in a long time.

Unknown 9:27 AM  

I decided to use my extra hour on a Sunday to recover from yesterday's contretemps, and to enjoy the all-brow resumption of the dialogue today. So many interesting contributions from many whom I've come to know in cyberspace or even personally.

First, to @Nancy, today's constructor, @Joe DiPietro, is most decidedly not the musical theater guy. Rather, he is one of the most prolific New York Times constructors of the past two decades, with 126 puzzles to his credit (the vast majority late week and Sundays).

@kitshef and @Loren Muse Smith both commented on the "Archie" clue at 121-Across. I struck out on that, which was kind of ironic, since I'm not ashamed to confess to having occasionally looked at those comics in my youth. In fact, I recently pitched USA Today with VERONICAMARS, ARCHIEBUNKER, BETTYCROCKER, but was told that without JUGHEAD, it was too thin.

XENO and RED were both gimmes, which reminds us all that the American electorate faces An Embarrassment of Riches on Tuesday.

Lewis 9:29 AM  


I am grateful. This puzzle taught me a lot. For a good number of clues and answers, my mantra was: SNOT IN MY WHEELHOUSE.

Anonymous 9:30 AM  

As someone who enjoys puzzles but is not as "fiendish" as some (think Monday-Thursday + Sunday), I was terribly disappointed in this one. I got the theme OK but so many obscure references made this undoable, and I usually look forward to the weekend fun. I looked up a couple things I really had no way of knowing just to keep going but then it became just a slog.
Thank you Rex for at least confirming that this was indeed "challenging;" it was a relief to know I wasn't alone in finding it so!

Hope that next week brings better things (on all fronts ;-))


Anonymous 9:31 AM  

Chuckled over themers. Learned WORT. Didn't know IGOR Levit (my bad).
Best clues: "Sure things" - ROLLONS, "Rough choice?" - EIGHTIRON.
ROQUE is also a shot in croquet.
YORK, Pa has been in the news lately for the racist tweets of its mayor.

dj1969 9:40 AM  

Yep. York is more than 50 years older than Binghamton, and has a lot more history. Of course, it helps that I grew up there. (That's not a phrase you'll hear me say often!)

Bobby G 9:42 AM  

I enjoyed the puzzle, except for one clue: 78D: Drops to the ground?

The L in LITTERS was the last letter for me to fill in, and I'm still sore about it. Isn't that a bad clue? I'm a newbie, so maybe you guys can help me out with this one. I think a question mark indicates a play on words, but the only "wordplay" as I understand it is that "drops to the ground" is a transitive verb phrase (if it is to match *this* answer), i.e. "drops [something] to the ground" is how it's used, while "litters" is intransitive. So to me, the clue didn't match the answer, though if it did, it would have been quite literal. I thought I would have just clued it "Drops it?"

What am I missing here?

seanm 9:54 AM  

very challenging for a sunday. was just not on the right wave length for most of these clues. didn't fully get the clue until after i was done, which would have helped. maybe because i think of several of the base phrases without the ITS i didn't see the connection. had a very rough time getting into the top left and middle left.

can we agree that the actor who played AJ Soprano is not puzzle worthy?

didn't know GENTLEBEN, IVES, SENNETT, ETHEL, BELA, WOUK, TRITIUM, REEDING or ROQUE, all of which caused me some trouble.

Nancy 10:04 AM  

@George B -- Thanks for letting me know. I've seen Joe's name often in crosswords and I've always assumed they were the same person. Assuming I remember your correction over the course of the next several years -- not a slam-dunk assumption, by any means -- I won't make that mistake again.

Leapfinger 10:14 AM  


Opted for STEW DAMN bad, but it was the SIOUX themer that fooled me good: I kept trying variants like SIOUX YOU AND I and SIOUX YOU NOR I. D'oh. Probably why I like 'SIOUX YOU KNOW so much. Taint joking, neither.

Also went off-road with MUD for RUT, with DNA and MISER for PIKER. Not so ERIE I had my pair of PENn cities wrong-end first.

Had a little memory stroll-down about old days in the lab. Flash fires under the hood, a gallon of fresh-made chromic acid tipping down the backs of my legs... We used a lot of radioactive tracers in working with RNA, and when the lab was checked, they found contamination all down the floors and trailing out into the hallways. Fortunately, P32 has a short half-life, but it was TRITIUM kept us in hot water.

Something about that NASTy NADIR duo put me put me in mind that STENCHoices face us shortly. It'll be a RARE GAS to see what happens in the SENNETT, eh?

I keep wanting to DOUP REVALUE with an odd pronunciation: Reveille REVALUE. Kind of wakes you UP, DO it not? Don't even start me on POPO PEN and IOWEYA.

CARP' diem, people. Might take TENURES to recover from this SLEWOF SORDID RUN. Struth.

Katzzz 10:16 AM  

Thank you, ART! Trooper as clued embraces the kind of ignorance the NYTimes xword should stand against.

Z 10:27 AM  

I'm sorry, but what is the line between "micro-aggressive" and "overly-sensitive" again?

@YORK defenders - There are many ways to clue YORK, the House or the city in YORKshire or even that city's namesake at the mouth of the Hudson. So why choose the small town in Pennsylvania? This cluing decision takes a trivia answer and makes it trivier. Bah.

@Martin A. - "Apropos of nothing" - Har! I do like "the role of literature (is to) perform a criticism of society." Yes. a thousand times yes.

I solved while keeping an eye on the Hotspur/Arsenal game. The game was very entertaining, making the puzzle feel less sloggy to me. 21x21 grids tend to lose my interest most times. The wacky has to be SIOUX YOU KNOW or wackier or I tend to get predisposed to groan rather than enjoy. A couple of areas were challenging, but nothing too outre, so a fine Sunday as Sundays go.

Gayle 10:28 AM  

I think Ethel is Jughead's girlfriend (possibly unrequited?).

jberg 10:36 AM  

Yep, TROuPER. But I'm OK with it -- let's not start another argument!

But not OK with TYPESET, as clued -- a different, earlier step in the process than layout.

"Kiss Me Kate" first opened in 1948. I figure Cole Porter meant TOO DAMN HOT, but couldn't have that said on the stage -- so the answer was all right with me.

I knew HELEN HUNT only as the woman in charge of the lost and found, as in "You've lost your wallet? Well, go to HELEN HUNT for it!" (say it aloud a few times).

I didn't like this one while I was doing it, but the more I think about it the more I admire its features.

Leapfinger 10:44 AM  

@lms, thnx for reminding me of grade 3 recess: You think that's funny but it's not

Thought of bocce before ROQUE, but appreciate the potential in ROQUE WORT cheese

I didn't know you could have a stand-alone WORT. Thought it had to be a bloodWORT, feverwort, cole (porter)WORT and soon. Guess one could ask GENTLE BEN about bearWORT.

@Martin Abs, my personal favourites among intros are the ones Garry Trudeau writes for his own collections, but I'm happy to enlarge my views. Agree about Al Capp's satiriety, starting with his first Shmoozing (which book I still have, falling to pieces), but was dismayed to read that he was likely the main single-handed source of the Southern stereotype, ala Dogpatch. Thanks for nuthin, AC. You have to admit he kind of lost it in his bedroom ONO-Lennon interview.

@GeoB, thnx. Just thnx

Maruchka 10:47 AM  

Alas, could not find the groove-needle. DNF. Not a slog, though. Mr. diPietro gets no SLAG from me. Well constructed.

Fav of the day - (It') SOUR LITTLE SECRET. Usually works out that way, no?

Ok, ok, now for some fun STUFF OUT THERE!

@'mericans - You nailed it. Will we all need to move to Canada? O, I hope not.

@ZenMonkey - Adorable story. I can hear him now: 'Wuv, twu wuv.." He was genius.

@Lewis - Well snorted!

Teedmn 10:54 AM  

I agree with the Challenging rating today, mostly because it took me longer than usual, not because it was intrinsically more difficult. Using @r.alph's randomizing feature makes the puzzle less of a slog but it also makes it harder to see when you've made wrong entries because it may take you several jumps to the same clue to see where it just isn't working. You can see what I mean here, IT'S ALL AN ELISION. And you can see my embarrassing DNF at the CAdPHONES/dNA cross!

My fave themers mirrored @Martin Abresch's. Like @ZenMonkey, I was hearing "Wuv, twu wuv" for 6D. And all the talk about tailgating on the autobahn yesterday (hi @Tita) inspired my "tail" in place of HEED for "Follow closely" at 50D.

Thanks, Joe DiPietro, for a nice Sunday challenge.

Alan_S. 10:59 AM  

Always love reading your comments. They are becoming increasingly more entertaining than the Sunday puzzles themselves. And, love your themer suggestion, "Snot Rocket Science", also a great name for a punk band.

Trombone Tom 11:06 AM  

Hard but rewarding! The cluing here was definitely on the tricky side.

TROOPER grates a bit, but I can overlook it.

My biggest problem involved the LITCHI spelling. This always appeared as LIchee when I first learned of them in SF's Chinatown back in the 1940's.

Didn't know Archie's ETHEL, but the crosses gave it up. Had HErD before HEED.

Unlike @Rex I have heard of and remembered REEDING, WORT, and ROQUE. I am not turned off by learning new words and regard that as one of the many pleasures of xwords.

A fairly difficult and highly rewarding effort by Joe DiPietro.

CDilly52 11:08 AM  

After years and years of admittedly tres amateur solving, I continue to marvel at the differences in what I "get" and "don't get." Why this solve was easier than nearly any Sunday ever, who knows? If you don't vote, you can't complain! If you need to know where to vote, your local state election board website will tell you. Here's hope we all wake up on Wednesday!

Mohair Sam 11:09 AM  

One of the best Sunday's of the year, played medium here, loved everything about it - terrific cluing. Oh heck, what @Martin Abresch said.

Speaking of whom - @Martin A.: Thanks for the chuckle from your English friend's "Dunces" suggestion, you might want to add a few m's to your "hmm". TOOLE's book is indeed a rare read, get at it. And thanks for the update via Steinbeck on yesterday's discussion. Amen.

@Lewis - "Snot in my wheelhouse" - Nice!

Terrific Sunday Joe DiPietro.

Alan_S. 11:22 AM  

If this kind of clueing bothers you then you should stop doing crosswords, now, before it's too late. Blowing up the English language is what they're all about, apparently.

Dorothy Biggs 11:26 AM  

@ Nancy: I don't think that is him. I believe there are at least two Joe DiPietros.

Molson 11:31 AM  

Awlful, awful natick at 80D x 86A. Pick a vowel A or U?

Carola 11:50 AM  

I thought this was one of the best Sunday puzzles in a while. Clever theme idea carried out with solid and funny theme entries. I liked the way the words in the "real" phrases were so nicely hidden in some: tough-->TUFF, no-->NOW, too-->TEW, who-->IOUX (genius),

Agree on challenging, with the RAFTS of tough clues. A couple of mis-guesses really held me up: shoo-iNS in the NE until TRITIUM emerged from the memory recess storing lore from thrillers about the making of the atomic bomb; beaD before STUD; flutING before REEDING.

Token Millennial 12:04 PM  

This was a painful slog for me... But I didn't hate it. When cluing deviates from NYT standards (straightforward or a certain type of slant driven by Will's editing), it's like a familiar but different language, akin to knowing Spanish but reading Italian. You comprehend some of it, and some of it goes over your head. Big fat DNF in the end, but it kept me entertained for a nice long time on this lazy Sunday morning.

GILL I. 12:09 PM  

One of the hardest Sundays in a long time and I don't know whether I liked it or not. Some of the cluing was fiendish - terms of service = TENURES = aaaach. Then there is the REEDING TRITUM NITRO RARE GAS SARIN ROQUE. I thought a PIKER was a poor migrant to California and I agree YORK could have had a better clue. But then I came to the CORK and thought what a great cab stopper clue.
I hated it, I loved it, I spell my NUT LICHEE, my car doesn't PURR and harpies are beautiful winged maidens not NAGS.
TROUPER vs TROOPER.I always think of trouper as meaning the show must go on type scenario and to be a real trooper would show courage. So, "To be a real sport" could go either
Is SLOUGH OF the same as SLEW OF?

Chaos344 12:10 PM  

Good puzzle that had some really tough cluing. The solve was on the verge of becoming a slog, but I was able to wrap it up before I lost my patience. Needed lot of crosses in some spots, but entered TRITIUM with no letters in place. Mainly, because I slept next to a pile of it, off and on, for over three years. Fond memories!

Moosehead 12:17 PM  

@Molson, I read The City Boy at 14, and Marjorie Morningstar about 2 years later. Winds of War and War and Remembrance were more recently read, as an adult. So nary a Natick, regardless of number of awfuls.
Ever hear of The Caine Mutiny?

old timer 12:26 PM  

Certainly a super-DOUPer tough puzzle. One error: "Syd" and "lytchi" instead of SID and LYTCHI. Have I ever had that nut in my chow mein? One error more, "bet" for BAT. I did not know that Batman created a "giant" image over Gotham. Ended up Googling for Mr WOUK. That's because I misspelled our noble SIOUX at first. And yes, those are two SIOUX you probably know. I agree with OFL, this was the funniest of the themers. And I really thought SIP TO BE SQUARE was lame, so lame WS should have asked for it to be reworked. Wine geeks (me included) do not sip to be square, we sip to experience great tastes in our mouths, and if you sip enough you'll be far from SQUARE.

I admired the craftsmanship in most of the puzzle though. CORK along with the wine clue. YORK along with the better-known ERIE. The image of those ancient CAR PHONES. The clever misdirect for TENURES. And PIKERS. Betcha had "misers" at first.

Of course I wrote in "Dunne" before TOOLE. I think my proudest moment was getting INFLOW off the clue right away.

three of clubs 12:30 PM  

Solved it with my wife and had a good time. Light entertainment, good banter. I'm actually starting to like bad cluing etc. I'm not here to speed solve although I get through most puzzles quickly. And, if I wanted intellectual fulfillment, I might even read a contemporary short story --- can't really recall the last time I did that. Meaning, I wish I still smoked; the quick hit of a crossword seems to address the same need.

Anonymous 12:38 PM  

Hate IRE I've yet to find a single dictionary that lists it as meaning "high dudgeon". So a needlessly obscure fill. TRITIUM was a gimme for me. I sold it to life sciences labs as a tracer for more than a decade.

Speaking of labs, when in yesterday's puzzle SMOCK was the answer for "Lab wear", I groaned and scratched my head. No one, and I mean no one, calls anything a SMOCK in the lab. And I worked in one for 6 years and called on them as a sales rep for more than 20.

Anonymous 12:41 PM  

... maybe Will's SMOCKing me.

QuasiMojo 12:49 PM  

Hog's Wort, anyone?

I used to spend time in York, PA. It is not a small town by any means. And fancies itself the First Capital of the United States. Lovely place. With great farmers' markets and shoo-fly pie.

Took me an hour to do this puzzler and I didn't regret it. I liked the theme answers but not particularly their clueing.

"It's Too Darn Hot" is a well-known phrase that Cole Porter used as the germ of his song. It doesn't date from his creation of it.

Yesterday's "contretemps" to use Barany's term seemed much more civilized than some people are giving it credit for. Unless perhaps some of the less gentle comments were deleted before I saw them. All in all, I think it was a very helpful exercise and a way to expiate (one hopes) pet peeves for at least another week or so.

My one initial mistake today was "I Love Ya" instead of "I Owe Ya." I guess I was in an amorous mood.

puzzle hoarder 12:59 PM  

The only time you'd REFIX anything is if the dog's nuts grow back. SCARER is another non-word. EYE CARE is a non-phrase. 37D sums up my experience of solving this puzzle. There was a lot of bouncing off clues looking ahead for the gimmies and back filling. Four write overs contributed to the tedium. I got the "Cab" clue but "Sure" went right over my head. Did anyone else think PASTEUP for 13A? Playwright David is a debut clue for IVES. The masochism connection is appropriate for this puzzle. I did the horse/dolphin/bear thing at 39D. To whom it may concern horses start around 1000 pounds. My only dnf was WAUK/FAUT. The QB I could care less about. My excuse for the writer is I can't spell, it doesn't affect the pronunciation and I conflated the spelling with that of WAUGH.
What made this puzzle worth doing was REEDING and ROQUE. These are two actual words which are new to me.

Masked and Anonymous 1:04 PM  

Almost stew day-um stuff. Great SunPuz, tho.

fave entry: IOWEYA. Great clue, but even better: {Informal state name??}.

stuffest themer for M&A to parse out: SIOUXYOUKNOW. [I'm guessing this = IT'S WHO YOU KNOW?]

staff weeject pick: EUR. As in: EUR STEW CUTE 2 B DESPERATE. Honrable mention to IMS.

Did not know whether DAMN or DARN was correct in whatever the popular 68-A phrase was, so ... was blissfully happy as a dumb clamato. Either way, 69-D = MAYS/RAYS is a solid, non-desperate entry, so … pass.

Thanx, Mr. DiPietro.

Masked & Anonym18Us


Hungry Mother 2:20 PM  

Very long slog today. Luckily, I ran (slogged) for 13.1 miles this morning, so I just wanted to lie on the couch with my iPad anyway. I got the theme answers without too much difficulty, but the fill seemed Saturdayish to me. I enjoyed the long battle and got it done without problem, just very slowly (just like my running nowadays). Another lovely week of puzzling. I really wanted a rebus today; maybe next Sunday.

Masked and Anonymous 2:42 PM  

@muse: Ooo … I had {"Bodacious boogers, dude!"} = SNOTABIGTHING. But I sure admire yer snotty version, a bunch.

Fun theme to expand on, tho. Best M&A can do:

1. {Biden's opinion of Trump's casino building prowess?}
2. {Feisty like a maker of self emulating devices?}
3. {No balls left in play?}
4. {Persian poobah and cool cat?}
5. {Filling stations will be showing their age?}

(answers be low -- no peekin.)

Now it's yer turn again, @muse …


Answers be low:

Dick Swart 2:51 PM  


Whatever happened to LYCHEE?

DNF because of exhaustion.

Masked and Anonymous 2:56 PM  


… 6. {Piece needed to complete a primo urn?}

(Had to come back, to honor that there Steinberg FriPuz.)

'S M&A Potatoes

Answer be low:

Mohair Sam 2:57 PM  

@Z - Spurs fanatic since seeing my first match at White Hart Lane half a century ago. Half a century of heartache. Could not believe that own goal today.

Anonymous 3:44 PM  

I Sink thisss puzzzzzle shoulda been called Sis One's on Me. Cheers and hic!

Unknown 4:36 PM  

Love the bonus themers from @LMS and @M&A!

Joe Bleaux 4:45 PM  

Ditto on that, A.R.T. !! You too, Mr. Katz. Rankles me every time, and Mr. Shortz should know better if the constructor doesn't.

RooMonster 5:10 PM  

Hey All !
Late again, cause I was watching my Steelers lay another egg. Ugh.

Neat theme. Haven't read everyone yet, so still don't know what an Elision is, if it's been covered. The wide open sides were a nice touch. No real dreck pulling that off, or even on the open corners. Liked the slanty cluing, as Rex put it. Kept one on your toes. Got our DOOK today, DOUP. Clue for ROLL ONS very clever.

Knew York, PA, as from Scranton area originally. I actually bought a car from someone in York! Lots of F's in here. Ok, 6 (just counted!). @M&A, 7 G's. So I can see where you're coming from.

Middle section took a while to fanangle, EIGHTORON section. Test of puz mediumish, with all the slant-astic clues. Had air-RUN only writeover.

No smell farts? RARE GAS :-D

Princess Bride reference, cool.

ROUX :-)

'mericans in Paris 5:20 PM  

SAW RAP (Hip-hop played on make-shift instrument?)
SIN HIS KISS (Condemn Trump's uninvited advances?)
SNEER TO IMPOSSIBLE (Mock futility?)

Unknown 5:37 PM  

I enjoyed all the "elisions" although I found it too much of a thrash getting to them. But I do have one possible grammatical quibble. Those guys with the broad-brimmed hats who pull you over for driving infractions -- I've never encountered one whom I would consider a "real sport." I think it would be a lot easier to talk your way out of a ticket if dealing with a "trouper."

Chapps 5:48 PM  

Pikers? Pikers?? Seriously, are we suddenly British ... and in another decade? Yeah, this was another not-pleasant puzzle. What happened to the NYT? I remember when doing the crossword every day would be the greatest pleasure before breakfast. Sigh.

Anonymous 6:28 PM  

I believe SEMICIRCULAR GROOVES ON A COLUMN would be flutes...REEDS are semicircular projections.

Tough one. Never saw Gentle Ben.

The cluing felt like the work of a committee.

RooMonster 6:49 PM  

Here's some late thrmer extras ( not sure who's gonna read'em) -
Better Call guy doing well? SAUL GOOD
Male pasta drainers? STRAINING MEN
Eat while levitating? SUP IN THE AIR.

"That's a miracle pill?"
"The chocolate coating makes it go down easier. But, you have to wait fifteen minutes for full potency, and you shouldn't go swimming after, for at least, what?"
"An hour."


RooMonster 6:51 PM  

Oh, and @M&A, No. 3, Laughing till I hurt!


Unknown 7:35 PM  

given the upcoming election and, regardlesx of the outcome of the
not so popular vote, i reckon the least the nyt and mr. shortz could have done was publish that "grail" of all puzzles or a puzzle akin to the theme of that monty python "funniest joke in the world" skit...

Unknown 7:35 PM  

given the upcoming election and, regardlesx of the outcome of the
not so popular vote, i reckon the least the nyt and mr. shortz could have done was publish that "grail" of all puzzles or a puzzle akin to the theme of that monty python "funniest joke in the world" skit...

Z 8:26 PM  

TROOPER is no longer incorrect (except by those who refuse to acknowledge that language evolves).

@Mohair - I'm a neutral. I love Varady, Kane, Pogba (although the Pogba ads could change my mind - over saturation is not a good thing), and Lukaku. I also like Klopp and enjoy despising Costa. I was hoping for better from Leicester, root for Crystal Palace because Rebecca Lowe is a fan, and would say that of the current top 8 Tottenham and Liverpool would be my preferred 1-2 finishers come May.

Staffy Apple 8:27 PM  

@M&A, no 'SMA Potatoes on your plate! Good thing this wasn't on yesterday, or there'd be Smushed instead of Smashed potatoes.

There was an old lady who swallowed a bee: 'STUNG IN CHEEK
(For the culture vultures) Blue laws in Bavaria: 'SOBERAMMERGAU
What the grandfather clock said to the shillelagh: 'STICK TALK

Did some obvious shopping today: PATENT 'SPENDING

See ya.

James B Commey 8:52 PM  

Not only was this puzzle total crap, but @Rex's review bordered on the criminal in its negligence in pointing that out. Mind you I've neither done the puzzle nor read the review, but just felt you should know that.
[..time elapses, someone does the puzzle for me..other stuff happens..]

Never mind.

Unknown 9:03 PM  

Agreed! Really poor word choice, to say the least!

Unknown 9:19 PM  

Agreed! Really poor word choice, to say the least!

Mohair Sam 11:27 PM  

@Z - TROOPER/TROuPER - thanks for clearing that up. I was going to join the complainants myself but remembered Rex's answer to FAQ 16 (if you think the Times made an error you're almost certainly wrong).

Got a chuckle from "enjoy despising Costa" - don't we all. And no better reason to support Palace, she is amazing.

coco14 7:50 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
coco14 7:56 AM  

Loved every single second solving this puzzle! I will never understand those who complain.

More like this please.

Anokha 1:28 AM  

I couldn't finish this one -- got stuck and was too uninspired to finish.

Anonymous 10:37 PM  

10 Down as clued refers to "fluting", not "reeding". Fluting are vertical concave *grooves* (not necessarily half circles), and Reeding are convex vertical *ridges* (likewise not necessarily half circles).

I refused to change FLUTING even though I could see it would lead to a DNF.

signed DNF.

Anonymous 2:47 PM  

Coming late to the conversation here, but as a biochemist, I've got to point out that RNA doesn't replicate. It is created by transcription and is read in translation, but it's DNA that replicates, not RNA.

Linda M 9:58 AM  

Really enjoyed this one. It was tough and I had to Google here and there but I only allow myself a Google or two to help break an impass, then close the computer and go back to trying to solve. This puzzle only comes in my Nova Scotia Saturday paper AFTER it's been published in the NYT previously. It starts my Saturday's.

Burma Shave 11:43 AM  




spacecraft 12:10 PM  

Wow. Would this day ever come? I gave an easier rating than OFL?? It's here. This one was easy-medium except for the lower of his two dead zones. Not up on my Chinese cuisine or my brewing needs, I had three blank squares in 78-down, so had to figure out what "Drops to the ground?" means. Finally decided on WORT and NUT, then ran the alphabet for _ITTERS. Soon as I hit the L I had it. So, medium.

The golf NUT in me helped with EIGHTIRON, though I agree it looked like "EITHER-" something at first, maybe EITHER-ORS or EITHER ONE. Rough choice. Groan! Another temporary snag occurred in the west, where I thought the skinflints were PIKERS right off--but decided mIsERS had more common letters and was probably right. Only to discover I had it the first time! Also the "just for openers" thing: oNcE, as in "Once upon a time." No, it was my old poker buddy the ANTE. Shoulda known. About that time I was thinking STAKINGMEFOREVER but it didn't really.

On the SIOUXYOUKNOW thing, I was thinking that one didn't really work; as in "[just] so you know." "So" and "SIOUX" weren't rhyming. But when we put the understood "It's" in there, it becomes "It's who you know" and I agree, that one's my favorite.

A few "SLAGs": we have had a disturbing invasion lately of the TSETSE fly; I hope this is contained going forward. Don't want too much SLEEP. There's a MOUNT/AMOUNT near-dupe, and awkwardness here and there, such as SCARER. Love the repetition in POPOPEN. DOD is HELENHUNT, who memorably displayed her AREOLAS, however briefly, in that rain scene in "As Good As it Gets." OK, sorry about that; I'm channeling the Donald. Unintentionally, I assure you.

I bravely hacked my EIGHTIRON out of the rough and plunked it stiff for a birdie.

rondo 12:27 PM  

While doing this puz I used “contemplating tobacco” – snufftomakeyouthink. Kodiak to be exact, it’s the STYLI prefer. Yeah, it might kill me, but a tin lasts 3 weeks or so, not a heavy USER.

IREFUSEd to change bass clef to ALTO for the longest time, that and hoIStUP had to be REFIXed, or just fixed, to finally get the NW. Also started with STEWDArNHOT until The Say Hey Kid, Willie MAYS, showed up.

Suppose ROQUE might be something like cROQUEt? Seems there’s a faint memory of something.

Always nice to see AREOLAS (had AREOLAe first) in a puz or any other time. Which reminds me of completely spelled out yeah baby HELENHUNT’s gratuitous wet tee shirt scene in As Good as it Gets.

Better than a rebus, wacky enough. Brunch is on, gotta RUN.

rondo 12:32 PM  

@spacey - I was writing as you were posting. Great minds? Or something.

AnonymousPVX 3:29 PM  

Toughest Sunday in quite some time. Agree that "scarer" and " Ioweya" are super-poor. Hate that trooper and trouper have become synonyms for sloppy constructors. Liked "Gentle Ben".

Ray - O - Sunshine 4:19 PM  

The clue answers pertaining to the theme were too inconsistent. Too many invented answers...DNF. What a waste of a warmish sunny Fall upstate NY day.

Diana,LIW 8:32 PM  

Anyone else think of that silly song we sang as kids that ended with the line: THEYTHINKITSCANDYBUTITSNOT?

I love wackiness, so what's not to like here? Perfect Sunday fun, playing the puzzle for a couple of hours in between playing fetch with my dog-like cat.

Another 95% w/o checking for correctness. Good enuf for me!

Now, get out there and look at the super moon.

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords

Unknown 9:47 AM  

I always knew Jughead's girlfriend as Big Ethel; never knew her last name was Muggs...

Bananafishie 7:17 PM  

As a home brewer, I was not crazy about the clue for WORT ("Extract used in brewing").

The first step in brewing is extracting sugars and other goodness from barley, which brewers generally do by mashing barley up and boiling it in water, thus creating the wort. Hops are then added to the wort, transforming it from "sweet wort" to "hopped wort" or "bitter wort," and then yeast is added as an agent to ferment the extracted sugars. The term "wort" is used for that liquid all through the process.

The word "extract" used as a noun implies that the material (in this case a liquid) is the selectively filtered items extracted from something else - you can see that is the general meaning of extract by terms like vanilla extract, yeast extract, almond extract - McCormick's site is full of them:

Sure, wort includes sugars extracted from barley, but that does not mean you would call wort an "extract." The liquid is still called a wort as other ingredients are added and processed - and once those items are added, we no longer have a purely filtered substance. To the extent that you have a substance at the beginning of the process with extracted sugars, we refer to that under a different extract name - malt extract. (In fact, many home brewers make the process of brewing easier on themselves by buying malt extract rather than barley grains, and initiating the brewing process by adding the malt extract to the boiling water.)

BSChief 11:34 PM  

That's an excellent piece of trivia about Steinbeck buried in an interesting literary observation.

BSChief 11:39 PM  

Thank you A.R.T. for flagging this error--and what's with NO ONE ELSE MENTIONING IT, including our Fearless Leader Rex Parker? I was surprised that he didn't surface the error in his comments.

Z 11:56 PM  

@BSChief - A quick perusal turned up a minimum of four other trooper/trouper comments, including a stunningly witty* and brief rebuttal by yours truly. I'll make no comment on my creative spelling of Vardy other than to say I had a colleague by the name of Varady once upon a time. Damn auto-correct.

*Seriously? If you can't tell there's no hope for you.

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