Eponymous Belgian tourist locale / WED 12-7-16 / High-end British sports car / Mexican tourist city known for its silver / Diminutive fashionwise / Obese Star Wars character / Bluff-busting words

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Constructor: David Steinberg

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: PAST TENSE (58A: Like either word in the answers to the five starred clues) —the puzzle is as described:

Theme answers:
  • FIXED COST (16A: *Expense independent of production)
  • LEFT-HANDED (23A: *How Clayton Kershaw pitches)
  • CUT ROSE (36A: *One of a dozen for a sweetheart)
  • SHOT PUT (38A: *Decathlon event)
  • LOST GROUND (47A: *Something to make up)
Word of the Day: MCLAREN (44A: High-end British sports car) —
McLaren Automotive (often simply McLaren) is a British automaker founded in 1963 by New Zealander Bruce McLaren and is based at the McLaren Technology Campus in Woking, Surrey. It produces and manufactures sports and luxury cars, usually produced in-house at designated production facilities. (wikipedia)
• • •

This has to be in the running for one of the dullest themes of all time. I don't understand why this concept ever seemed remotely interesting. A theme like this should involve a kind of aha moment where you notice that the revealer asks us to radically imagine the meaning of the words in the themers. But ... the first word in all of these answers is already past tense in the base phrase—or, rather, it's an adjectival form of the past tense, i.e. the cost is fixed 'cause someone FIXED it, the rose is cut 'cause someone CUT it, etc. There's just *one* answer where that does not hold true: LEFT-HANDED. So there isn't really much in the way of reorienting our understanding of nearly *half* the words in the themers, and the one answer that *does* reorient that first word is an outlier. Thus, even though we're asked to look at "either word," it's really only the second word that's being reimagined in any kind of remotely interesting way. Further, "remotely" is the key word there. "Oh yeah, COST can be a PAST TENSE verb ..." is about as much of an excited thought as you are going to have while solving this. Actually, you were probably more excited by DEAD DROPS (10D: Spy communication spots) and DEETS (27D: Specifics, slangily) than you were by *anything* having to do with the theme.

"Like either word" puzzles are often unpleasant because constructors tend to force words to go together that don't really want to do so, and so you get barely passable or awkward phrases. That wasn't so much a problem today, though I definitely lost some time with RED ROSE instead of CUT ROSE. I mean, when I got to a florist to buy flowers and ask for roses, they never bring me entire bushes to look at, so ... the phrase CUT ROSE, while it makes sense to me, isn't really familiar to me. Completely unfamiliar to me was MCLAREN. Needed every cross. Never heard of it. I must not live a very "high-end" lifestyle. MCLAREN / COOPTS was the toughest area of the puzzle for me, partly because I kept insisting on seeing the latter as a one-syllable word. Lastly, to acknowledge the elephant in the room, yes, IS BAD is bad.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Unknown 6:13 AM  
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Brett 6:14 AM  

Not my favorite. Having both ISBAD and WAS seems like at least one too many instances of the verb "to be." Also, the cross of WHA and TAXCO is sketchy.

Unknown 6:24 AM  

No infamy for today's puzzle by my friend @David Steinberg, who just two weeks ago celebrated a milestone birthday as you can learn by solving this puzzle (H/T to @Roy Leban for this format).

Like @Rex, it took me a bit of time to CUT my losses on the red_ROSE,and like @Brett, I had some difficulty with the WHA/TAXCO crossing, but other than those minor concerns, my sincere (not LEFT-HANDED) compliments to @David.

Loren Muse Smith 6:27 AM  

@Brett - I had a dnf because I sat there and made sure my mouth was open when I said, "who." So I had "who/Toxco." I went through and mouth-tested how, why and who, and my is open for each one. I swear. Try it. Hmmm…

And @Brett – the grid has ROSE and RISEN, too.

Rex – I didn’t find this dull at all, and it did have an aha moment for me. I’ll take radically re-imagining ROSE, LEFT, GROUND, etc. and appreciating that their partners are past tenses, too. I agree that CUT ROSE isn’t as in the language as “cut flowers.” FIXED COST was my least favorite. I have a BOXED SET of Gone With the Wind in Korean. And Dutch. And B-BALL has a SET SHOT. Cool. It's fun to think about these. Too bad there's no FELT SPREAD for our beds.

Liked the PETITE RUMP cross. Yeah, right. The holiday season is upon us, and I'm already a walking mouth on legs. Yesterday someone brought in a ton of donuts, and I scarfed down three bam bam bam. Three. And they weren't even that good.

David – cerebral theme that made me sit and revisit words, look closer, think. You speaka my language.

Anonymous 6:29 AM  

I, me, my. This puzzle sucks. Blah, blah, blah. I teach comic books . . . Please donate to my site,

Lewis 6:37 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lewis 6:39 AM  

How people can react so differently to a puzzle. The theme didn't help the solve, but afterward, when I saw it, I thought the non-verb-to-past-tense-verb idea was tres cool. Mostly, though, the solve was terrific.

How was this puzzle for me? I saw it as a creatively-themed, solid, honest, clean-gridded, resistance-providing, aha-rich, quality-clued, persistence-rewarding joy. I started with a WHA and ended with a YEP, and a solve just doesn't get better than that.

Unknown 6:49 AM  

Having had a bit more time to reflect about @David Steinberg's puzzle, brav(a/o) to @Loren Muse Smith and to @Lewis for your thoughtful comments [see what I did there -- WHA/WHo?]

@Rex's LEFT-HANDED graphic brings to mind the hero of Fast Ball. The MCLAREN entry, which didn't phase me at all, led me to this wikipedia biography of the legendary Formula One race car driver and inventor who was tragically killed at age 32.

John le CarrĂ© 6:55 AM  

Read Smiley's People for "Moscow Rules" and dead drops,

Dorothy Biggs 6:59 AM  


I would leave my entire post right there, but I have to mention that I knew MCLAREN because I was deep into Hot Wheels cars when I was a kid and there was a MCLAREN car as part of that collection. IIRC it was an open wheel car probably used in Formula One racing? I could Google it, but frankly, I don't care. Wha?

WHA? I guess it's a "word" in the same way argh or pffft or meh or even (a recent xword favorite) d'oh are "words." Maybe it's because it crossed TAXCO, maybe it was because of how it was clued, I don't know, but WHA is why I didn't like this puzzle at all. Well that, and the ridiculous clue for 1A "One of two in Hamilton." If you Google "clues that are trying too hard" I'm sure this one would be near the top hits list.

Quite honestly I was surprised that DS was the constructor and that I didn't like this puzzle at all. I've come to like his efforts...but this one was a step back for me.

Elle54 7:34 AM  

Mclarens is the bar in How I Met Your Mother, I think. Nice puzzle. Brilliant young man, David

kitshef 7:43 AM  

NCA President beat me to it. WHA is the elephant in the room. It's a word, but not one you should cross with a foreign town with a population of fifty thousand.

MCLAREN dominated Formula 1 for a decade starting in the mid-80s, but hasn't done much since so a youngster like @Rex can be forgiven for not knowing them.

Fun fact from the TAXCO Wikipedia page: Dishes distinctive of Taxco include jumiles (a type of stink bug) prepared in tacos...

Anonymous 7:46 AM  

Actually, knowing what a McLaren is has less to do with a high end life style than being a car guy. When they came out in the sixties they were just this incredibly cool and unattainable custom built car, that this teenage boy at the time could only lust after. I liked the entry as it brought back memories of pleasantly wasted hours reading car magazines

Hungry Mother 7:50 AM  

Very fast Wednesday for me. Disappointed in the reveal; wanted a challenge there.

AWS 7:52 AM  

Disagree with Rex on this one. I appreciated all the themers, because it's not actually that easy to come up with past-tense verbs that can be adjectived so nicely... Thought the fill was nice and clean, as I've come to expect from Steinberg. Loved the totally superfluous Hamilton shout out in 1A. And sort of agree with @LMS regarding the open-mouthedness of those one-word questions, but I'll argue that from 0% open (yum!) to 100% open (ahhh!), wha (80%) is definitely ahead of what (10%) and why/who (40%) in terms of finishing mouth openness. And yes, I'm sure my co-commuters really enjoyed me making those calculations on the subway this morning.

relicofthe60s 8:04 AM  

In "shot put," "shot" is not past tense. The "shot" is the item (large heavy metal ball) being "put" (not thrown as is often misstated). So there are two answers that meet Rex's criterion.

Anonymous 8:05 AM  

Coming from the black fly capital of the world, seeing DEET in the puzzle led me to think up the awful clue - "Insect repellents" DEETS.

I didn't know MCLARENs were still being made. I remember when Bruce MCLAREN was racing and knew MCLARENs were on the racing circuit, so l was able to piece it together from a few crosses.

Like many others, I detested the WHA/TAXCO cross. There were some nice parts of the puzzle, though. Seeing DEADDROP made me wonder if there ever has been a theme where the answers are legitimate reversals of more common phrases - drop dead is definitely more common than DEADDROP, but both are real phrases. I couldn't think of any others off hand. Ha, there's another - hand off, off hand. Just a thought.

- Jim C. in Maine

chefbea 8:23 AM  

Had to google a lot but finally finished. Wanted red rose at first but then got the revealer...so that didn't work unless you say...I have red the book.

Wm. C. 8:26 AM  

@Professor Barany --

Faze? ;-)

mathgent 8:28 AM  

DEETS is short for details, it seems. In what subculture, I wonder?

I'm currently reading Lonesome Dove, the long but extremely entertaining Pulitzer-prize-winning 1986 novel by Larry McMurtry. The story is better-remembered from the 1989 miniseries starring Robert Duval and Tommy Lee Jones. One of its characters is Joshua DEETS, an ex-slave who served in the Texas Rangers with Call and Gus. He's the guide on the cattle drive.

My wife did the puzzle. She enjoyed it.

RooMonster 8:47 AM  

Hey All !
Agree with odd theme choice, not up to usual DS standards. Was flummoxed in the NE as had addEDCOST for FIXEDCOST, cause that seemed to fit the clue better. Couldn't get the Downs to work, so after a while just put in ACT and WHy and came here to see my mistake. FIXED. Ugh.

Fell for the redROSE trap also. And acne before PORE. The long Downs were nice, though. Maybe DS is mellowing in his old age! :-)

U's aplenty, and 4 F's!


Anonymous 8:55 AM  

WHA? DEETS? I didn't bother to complete this disaster.

QuasiMojo 8:59 AM  

You had me at "wha..." -- Really? what the hell is that? I didn't know the NYT puzzle was resorting to gibberish. Of course if I knew Taxco, I'd not have stumbled there. I had Tonco and Fined Cost. Haha. Guess I needed more caffeine this morning.

I was disappointed the theme didn't have something to do with things being "tense" in the "past." Or a combination of those two words in succession. "Long Stretch." etc.

Also FDR was elected four times but he did not serve four terms.

And "Urban Art" is just bad "green paint." Slapdash.

So much for a Hump Day thrill. I'll have to get my jollies at the WSJ instead.

Tita 8:59 AM  

I racked my brain ever so briefly trying to discover the commonalities befor reading the revealer. I never would have came up with the tense thing. When I did, I so wanted to be part of the cerebral kids and just love the idea. I admire it, but that's it.
If all had been like SHOTPUT (thx, @relic) and LEFTHANDED, would have been a bit smarter.

But there was a very bright moment. Reading Rex this morning, while brushing my teeth with one of those Braun crosses between a toothbrush with an immersion blender, I got to the part where the florist is bringing out some rose bushes... talk about yer battery-operated spittake...

I too raised an eyebrow when I replaced budROSES with CUT.

McClarens...wasn't first to mind, but popped in easy. I thought they only made Formula 1s, though...didn't know they made streetcars.

Augustus McCrae 9:02 AM  

A mediocre workmanlike offering from David Steinberg, igod.

Mohair Sam 9:03 AM  

@Mathgent - And Joshua DEETS would have been a far better clue at 27D imo. -Miniseries was fine, but the book is one of the best reads ever.

Never heard the DEETS for details before. DNF'd on WHO for WHA because I don't know my Mexican towns. MCLAREN a gimme here (Hi, @George). I've reviewed thousands of balance sheets and still took forever to fill FIXEDCOST, think I'm enjoying retirement too much. OverHANDED before LEFTHANDED on Kershaw (is that guy good or what?). Spent a few summer days at LOON Lake way Upstate in New York - peaceful.

I'm a big Steinberg fan but I have to agree with @Rex on this one - not a lot of fun.

Hartley70 9:17 AM  

@Rex lives around the corner from Watkins Glen, home of US Formula One racing for more than 20 years. Bruce McClaren was still racing when I used to attend the Grand Prix there in the 60's and after his death, (cars and speed don't mix well) I took my new husband to see Emerson Fittipaldi win for team McClaren in 1974. Before and after Woodstock, Watkins Glen was the best outdoor party to be had in NY State. The race has moved to Austin by now, but the Golden Age was at Watkins Glen and McClaren was a big part of that era.

Once I started reminiscing about my college fun, I lost focus on the puzzle. Who knows what my time was? About average I would guess. I appreciate the theme, but it didn't ring bells for me. Perhaps its charm was a bit subtle for that time in the morning. I could have needed a theme that smacked me like a 2x4 to emerge from my reverie. Thanks for the memory David! I always enjoy seeing your name at the top of the screen.

Unknown 9:18 AM  

Technically "UNO momento" is poor Spanish; "un momento" is correct

Nancy 9:20 AM  

After completing the puzzle, I looked back at it and could see absolutely nothing to make it praiseworthy. And yet I quite enjoyed the process of solving it. Go figure. I ignored the completely ignorable theme, and therefore it didn't bother me. DEETS, however, did. Oh, please, please no, I thought, please say this answer isn't going to be DEETS. But it was. Is there anything, anything left in the language that hasn't been or isn't about to be turned into an abbrev.?

I've never heard of a MCLAREN. There. I've admitted it. The high end cars I have heard of include the Rolls, the Lexus, the Mercedes, the BMW, the Jag, the Alfa Romeo, the Porsche...well I think my car "collection" rivals Jay Leno's, so I make no apology for not knowing the MCLAREN.

It's been a full 10 years since PLUTO was downgraded? It seems much more recent than that, doesn't it?

A puzzle I enjoyed more than I admire.

evil doug 9:21 AM  

Deets. Sure. Between Valley Girls, rap "artists" names/lyrics, ancient Yiddish, Ebonics/regional dialect bastardization of the language, and text message shorthand, I guess crossword fill is like Thunderdome: Anything goes.

Leapfinger 9:28 AM  

ISBAD is abbrev for ISlamaBAD. Ask anyone in Lahore. Or Peru.

Wondering if COOPT is an alt-spelling for COOPed.

Thought the clue for WHA whas whonderful, and am willing to put up good money that most every mother's child checked it out. Talk about mouth-breathers, eh?

Cutting any ROSE remarks, but that MCLAREN had better be for RECKLESS drivers, David, considering the cost. Wish you'd put in something about how the FED EXED a recent increase.

Well done!

Leapfinger 9:31 AM  

As usual, the Dev's in the DEETS.

Anonymous 9:42 AM  

For us less experienced solvers - How is a "square dance party? a GAL and a female soldier an ANT ?

Anonymous 9:51 AM  

@Anon 9:42 - Guys and GALS are the participants (parties in ) a square dance. There are female soldier ANTs.

GILL I. 9:56 AM  

I loved DEETS. Gimme da DEETS. Who makes these words up? And I loved WHA. I think I use if often.
Like @Nancy, I'm not sure why I enjoyed this, but I did.
TAXCO was my first entry. It's a beautiful little town. I used to take our travel agents on fam trips to Mexico and one of the favorite destinations was starting out in Mexico City to Cuernavaca then travel by luxury bus to Taxco - buy lots of silver - and then continue on to Acapulco.
@Hartley...Loved your Formula One story...My very first was at Brands Hatch in England - just outside of Kent. I think it was in 1968. It seemed like everyone owned a mini then. Just outside the gates of the track, you could see red Minis racing up and down the wet grass while the pros on the inside would be behind the wheel of a Lotus.
See what you did David? A crossword that evokes fun memories and scary new words....

jberg 9:57 AM  

It's pretty much all been said -- I didn't spend enough time trying to figure out the theme, might have liked it better if I had. I've heard DEETS often enough, and I like my OKRA spicy and stir-fried.

AP ART is a companion course to the one where you read the AENEID. In college, I audited a philosophy class where the professor couldn't get through class without a cigarette (we thought it was cool at the time). He'd been told not to smoke -- the building was a firetrap -- so he posted his TA at the door with instructions to declaim the first line, "Arma virumque canto..." at any sign of an inspector. Ah, the memories!

@Loren, I'm trying it, and I find my mouth pursing up at the end of HOW and WHO -- wide open for both WHA and WHY, though.

Nancy 10:04 AM  

Re: How to overcome yesterday's blog glitch. Surprised no one's mentioned it. Don't know what it was or what caused it, but when you scrolled through the comments, you suddenly hit a big blob of white space and couldn't scroll down any farther. The cure? Jump to the comments at the very bottom and then scroll back UP, in order to see those comments that were posted after the big white blob appeared. (The fact that technophobic, Luddite me figured this out is nothing short of a miracle).

Anonymous 10:08 AM  

I loved "deets" and I will use it to sound cool at work in front of young people today. I know how impressed I WAS when fogies tried to pull that off when I was young. Seriously, more stuff like deets! I have fun with a David Steinberg puzzle for that reason alone.

For a while the puz seemed to be going for an "Up" theme. Fixed up, left up, cut up, shot up. "Lost" put that to rest, tho (see how cool I was right there) I could have forced myself to believe ground up. In any case, dnf cause I didn't see the theme and the crosses in the southeast didn't help. The dev is indeed in the deets.

r.alphbunker 10:26 AM  

Hand up for WHO/TOXCO. On fail, I tried WHY/TYXCO before I ended up with WHA/TAXCO. Jeff Chen's wordlist did not like ESL, FLO, WHA, ARNE, ISBAD and TAXCO.

Details are here.

Unknown 10:29 AM  

Busy morning for me. On the whole, I liked this puzzle. The theme may not have been exciting, but the revealer did give me a minor "Aha!" moment. The fill was lively.

kitshef 10:33 AM  

@Daniel Peirce-

I have one aunt, one uncle, three first cousins, and a passel of first cousins once removed in the town of Darlington in England. There is a restaurant there called UNO momento that is surprisingly good, as restaurants in Darlington go.

Presumably that clue was referring to the restaurant.

old timer 10:41 AM  

I thought DEETS was just fine. Both heard it and read it, and I'm on old codger. TAXCO is one of those places you've heard of if you have ever thought about going to Mexico. And WHA really is what people say with mouth agape.

I think OFL is just playing with our heads when he disses the theme. I thought it was pretty clever myself. You didn't need the theme to get any of the answers, so the fact that all the theme answers are two words in the PAST TENSE comes as a pleasant surprise.

Technical DNF for me because I had "adopts" instead of the more accurate COOPTS, and for all I knew there was a "Malaren" car. Never heard of MCLAREN before today.

QuasiMojo 10:51 AM  

@Nancy, I came upon that "white hole" too. But on my phone app I was able to scroll through it (albeit with infinite patience.) Lots of curious imps on this blog including my three (not that I'm counting) missing posts. :)

old timer 10:53 AM  

Gotta go back to yesterdays Xmas carol discussion. Someone reminded me of my very favorite carol, the Cherry Tree Carol. The song really is based on a Gospel passage:

"Then up spoke Virgin Mary in a voice meek and mild
Joseph gather me some cherries for I am with child
Joseph gather me some cherries for I am with child

Then Joseph flew in anger, in anger flew he
Let the father of thy baby gather cherries for thee
Let the father of thy baby gather cherries for thee."

The Holy Ghost obliges, by making the cherry tree bow down to Mary's hand, Joseph falls on his knees to worship the unborn child, and all is right with the world.

I first heard that song on a Joan Baez album. Worth taking a listen, at this season.

newspaperguy 10:59 AM  

Gold star for "Devil's in the deets." Two thirds of the way in this felt like a DFN and then everything just seemed to drop into place. Still, I was surprised when I had no errors. Not really fun, but still satisfying.

Carola 11:00 AM  

Having spent 30 teaching grammar - and loving it - I luxuriated in going over every one of the theme answers in post-reveal contentment. I also thought the theme was a nice little nod to those crossword clues like "Hit" or "Put" that can be present or past tense and thus mess the solver up.

EONS ago, when schoolkids had to learn geography facts (perhaps they still do), I had TAXCO drilled into me. I never took Latin, though, so guessed that the AP kids were reading cicEro. Cool and up to the minute as I am, I use WHA? when texting with my kids - useful shorthand for "I have no idea what you're talking about." I loved the clue for WILES: "Foxy tricks"!

Joseph Michael 11:00 AM  

Rex creates shoulds and shouldn'ts and then gets testy when the rest of the world doesn't abide by them. Such is the case here where a perfectly fine puzzle gets slammed for not being the way Rex would have done it.

Enjoyed the aha of realizing what made all of the 10 theme words alike. A simple but clever idea that kept me guessing until I got to the revealer.

Had "lids" before LIPS and FBI before IRS. Knew DEETS only because I have seen it before in the NYT puzzle.

However, I never did get WHA or TAXCO. A cruel crossing in an otherwise friendly grid.

AliasZ 11:13 AM  

Wouldn't it have been neater if the revealer were also PAST TENSED?

I guess Thomas ARNE (1710-1778), composer of Rule Britannia is no longer acceptable fill. This was one of my sticking points in today's puzzle, since I didn't know edu.sec. Duncan from a hole in the ground. It could have been ARNA, ARNO, ARNI, ARNY -- what do I know? Plus DEETS didn't occur to me as short for 'details' until much later.

The other sticking point was the WHA / TAXCO crossing. In my world WHY is asked with a more open mouth than WHA, whereas with WHO one tends to pucker one's lips, thus "O" was out. But I doubted any Mexican city could be called TYXCO, so I guessed "A".

STOP SPLAY! -- Command to dog asking for belly rubs.

If you haven't heard of MCLAREN, you owe it to yourself to view this video of a MCLAREN 570GT from the pages of none other than the New York Times herself.

QuasiMojo 11:17 AM  

I think the "wha" refers to the sound we make at the dentist or doctor's office in response to a question.

Mohair Sam 11:19 AM  

@Gill I - My first Formula One was at Brands Hatch 1966 (hence my MCLAREN gimme). Very small world. Lived in Syracuse for years and attended a couple at Watkins Glen too.

Charles Flaster 11:21 AM  

Quick solve but a DNF at WHA, never changed WHo. Should have been a Monday.
Theme was enjoyable and another RUMP.
Yesterday was RUMPLE.
My two favorite clues were for GAL and ANT.
Thanks DS

Anonymous 11:30 AM  


Kevin Colby 11:34 AM  


You need to watch formula 1. Mclarens are staple of F1 along with ferraris!

CDilly52 11:39 AM  

This may have been a puzzle for oldies (like me). Loved my 1960 McLaren Hot Wheels racer, later in high school and at university adored Joan Baez, Judy Collins, Peter, Paul & Mary and each of their versions of the Cherry Tree Carol (thanks for the nod fellow @oldtimer). Took lots of Spanish and knejw Taxco for sure. Otherwise would not have believed "wha." As for the theme, Luke warm, especially the cut rose and the "non-revealer" but the overall experience was pleasant and quicker than the usual Wednesday.

Nancy 11:44 AM  

Hi, @Alias. So I went to look at the MCLAREN. It looks very...expensive. And, at $200,000, it is very expensive. Very, very expensive. So it's a good thing that I don't drive and that, therefore, I'm not subject to such temptation. I'm worried, though, that @Hartley, @Tita, @GILL and @NCA Pres might prove vulnerable to an irresistible impulse that they would later come to regret. Would you put a liquor ad in front of a former alcoholic, @Alias? Just asking.

Anonymous 11:48 AM  

Rex, you need to get out of the house more often.

Anonymous 11:50 AM  

The "aha" moment for me is that this is political commentary. "Trump" (squares 3,4,5, and 6) cross 4D "Reckless". "Wha" and "fence" are arranged together. The puzzle also comprises "loon" 22A and "is bad" 20A.

Taffy-Kun 11:52 AM  

Uno momento is plain illiterate in Spanish - what next, "No Problemo" ?

Greater Fall River Committee for Peace & Justice 11:54 AM  

UNO momento is, I believe Italian, not Spanish.Solving on paper and not worrying about golden pencils or whatever you guys look for, I was perfectly happy with a WHY/TYXCO cross. I was a little worried about the Munch museum -- I am told there is a Museum of Spam in Minnesota somewhere, though the time I had an afternoon to kill there I visited the Viking Rune stone instead. I drew a circle around the clue 'I don't give a _', 4 letters, on first seeing it, but was relieved to find that the answer was HOOT.

The Academica: Tita A asked about it. The pipes all burst last winter in a freezing spell, I don't think they have managed to reopen yet. I've been getting my Shrimp Mozambique fix at TA's down the street. (that would be Tabacaria acoreana, with diacriticals)

Anonymous 11:56 AM  

Had to Google Taxco because "wha" is not really a word or a question! It is an unfinished "what". I think most people would actually say, "wahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh" when shocked and not "whaaaaaaaaa?"
That last spelling would be the more correct one IMHO for an astonished question. I hope we don't start seeing "deets" in the puzzle. Yuck. I am a linguist, but can't really say I enjoyed the theme so much.

Masked and Anonymous 11:57 AM  


Had RHINO at 2-D, becuz …
1. Hadn't heard tell of CHINO. M&A standard uniform = (sweat shirt / T shirt) + blue jeans, so whaddaiknow about fashion. RHINO sounds like good, tough material for slacks.
2. ART at 1-A is a perfectly good word. Ain't been to "Hamilton". Figured maybe there were two dudes in the show named Art. Whaddaiknow ...

I'll bet the Steinmeisterberg had RHINO/ART up there, too … until he hadta go with URBANART, over there in the NE, and APART down there in the SW. At that point, he'da hadta change the 1-A ART clue to: {One of three in "SteinbergPuz"}. And, thusly RHINO bit the dust.

MCLAREN sounds slightly familiar. Ditto, for CUTROSE. TAXCO, not so much. CUTROSE is the NYTPuz debut word of the bunch, so it gets the daily could-be-innovative-could-be-desperate award.

fave weeject: YEP.

@muse: No doubt about it, girl. U are a purebred, finely-tuned, remorseless pastry-eatin machine! Brava. Always good to bulk-up for the winter, M&A says. Tradition at our house is: M&A always goes to the donut store, if it's snowin out that mornin. Talkin chocolate-covered cinnamon rolls, now. [Please - Try not to salivate all over this comment paragraph. ISBAD for yer digital device.]

fave Christmassy entry: COOPTS. (Sounds slightly like one of Santa's reindeer.) I guess RUBIO sounds slightly like Rudolph, also. May hafta compile a list: Santa's desperate reindeer team...

Thanx, Mr. Steinberg. This puppy was way past tense, and all the way over into the fun column.

Masked & Anonym8Us

a tribute

G.Harris 12:05 PM  

Whenever I get answers I never knew (Mclaren, Taxco) by working hard on the crosses and don't have to resort to Google it's a good day.

Wm. C. 12:05 PM  

I have a neighbor in FL who is addicted to exotic sports cars, keeping each only a year. McClaren, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Maserati, etc.

When asked if he ever opens them up out on I75, he smiles and say "yep, all the way to 65 in the passing lane." He says that he's always tailed by cops on the Interstate, and stopped several times by cops who only wanted to see the inside.

His wife refuses to ride in his cars. When they drive out to dinner together, he's always driving her small Ford station wagon, smiling ruefully.

Numinous 12:21 PM  

Here we go, back to when I was 17. While on a trip to Ensenada, I bought a silver ring with crosses and circles on it. Inside was stamped the word TAXCO. It was years later that I discovered that TAXCO was a town filled with silversmiths in Mexico. I wore that ring for ten or fifteen years.

I had the same prob many of y'all had with red before CUT but I CALL finally straightened me out. See, I had fbi before IRS. This seemed like a pretty normal Steinberg puzzle to me. Try THIS and then realize it was really THAT. When I got to the revealer, I looked back at the starred answers and thought, oh yeah, so they are, clever! I think I saw someone earlier missing the point. SHOTPUT, SHOT and PUT are three separate things. So are CUT and ROSES. All of the themers are three separate things, common in the language or not. I don't have a problem with CUT ROSES as it is a description of something. Occasionally there are word combinations in puzzzles that are just off but others seem to have a legitimacy as descriptors. Never thought abot that before but suddenly it makes sense to me. Like, some green paint works for me. Some answers seem arbitrary but if they fit the clue, so WAH?

@oldtimer, I posted the link to The Cherry Tree Carol. Thanks for the shout out. Amazing to realize it is as old as it is (14th c. And earlier? Apparently is was derived from several songs based on a story in the apocrypha). Like I said, I prefer Christmas music that is older than me, that has a tradition that goes way back. I wouldn't call I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus a Christmas Carol. Then again, I'm not sure what the difference between a song and a carol is.

MCLARENs are a little obscure for the average American I would think. Yes, they do still make sports cars for the street, @Tita. They cost more than Lamborghini and Ferraris. The hover int the price range of Maybachs (another car a little obscure for Americans) though they are radically different from each other. Some MCLARENs have gone for as much as 1.4 million dollars. You can check out the DEETS on google.

I always like David's puzzles and I like seeing him mature. I remember when his puzzles were all teenage look-at-how-smart-I-am exercises. His fill is usually pretty smooth with little glue. One day he'll be another PB1. Possibly he'll wind up being the NYTX editor.

Thanks for the memories, @David

Big Steve 46 12:30 PM  

I'm wondering: if "old-timer" had ADOPT instead of COOPT - what happens to LOSTGROUND? Just asking ... I had ADOPT in there too for a while. As a fellow "old-timer" I then vaguely recalled "McLaren" as a race auto. As a young Syracuse University student, I hitchhiked to Watkins Glen for what turned out to be the last Grand Prix at which you were allowed to camp out in the infield - and me oh my, what a party it was! By my now quite faulty old-timer memory, it would have been 1965 - or maybe 1966.

Teedmn 1:11 PM  

A 16 minute Wednesday - WHA?? It was about 10 years ago when a friend told me her daughter had come back with "WHA?" and Mom had to stop that in its tracks right then and there. So I actually plopped that in with no hesitation. But don't JUDGE me if I confess to having a tough time in the PORE/SHOTPUT area.

I had __AD DROPS and couldn't think of what the first part of the phrase was. I misspelled DEtES and my skin concern was a waRt. Add Bentley to @Nancy's list of British cars that I know - forget MCLAREN, a total WOE. That mix made seeing URBAN ART, SHOT PUT and PRONE/PORE extremely difficult. It was AWFUL and I had FEAR that I would fail to finish but I FIXED it all at no extra COST (except for great expenditures of black ink).

CUT ROSE not a thing in my book so even though RUBIO got the "red" out of that answer, _UT didn't CUT it for me. I CALL that answer's bluff.

But I'm not going to complain (any further :-) ) about a bit of crunch in my Wednesday, so thanks David Steinberg.

Anoa Bob 1:14 PM  

This has happened before. I take the reveal literally, word-for-word literally and it doesn't jibe with the theme. And it appears I'm the only one. Today it was the "...in the answers..." part of the reveal that threw me. None of the words in the answers are verbs as best as I can tell, so how can they be PAST TENSE? I know those words in other contexts can be PAST TENSE verbs, but as used here, they are not.

So for the reveal to work for me, it would need some additional information indicating that the words referred to also can be PAST TENSE verbs in other contexts. It needed more DEETS.

Anonymous 1:21 PM  

Wah is the modern equivalent of Huh? Furrow your brow, think about saying, "What the h are you talking about?" and then say Wah? instead o' Huh?

Warren Howie Hughes 1:33 PM  

What does A.P. stand for, in the clue for 54 across?

Anonymous 1:35 PM  

Use the Syndicated Puzzle button above. Travel back in time.
Go to near the end of the comments. 5 week late posters.
See clever verse from @Burma Shave. Daily contributor.

SF Michael 1:53 PM  

How come Rex inserted a picture of Sandy Koufax? Couldn't find one of Kershaw?

RooMonster 1:53 PM  

@WHH 1:33
Guessing Advanced Placement?
Maybe Aggravating Poetry?
Aggressive Performance?
Animalistic Poohbah?
Almost Purple?
Active Puzzle?
Accidental Pusillaminity?

RooMonster ...

Doc John 1:56 PM  

I had a MCLAREN M-16 Hot Wheels car growing up (and maybe still do). Who knew it would come in handy 45 years later?
Lots of weird stuff in this puzzle. Not exactly Wednesday-like, at all.
For Warren Howie Hughes- A.P. stands for Advanced Placement. A class you would take in high school to get college credit and to pad your GPA (assuming you got an A or a B).

Wm. C. 1:58 PM  

@WarrenHH --

AP => Advanced Placement. (the Aeneid)

Maybe AP for some schools, I suppose. But when I took 4 years' Latin with ole Miss "Moose" Mason teaching, The Aeneid and The Odyssey were standard HS curricula.

BTW, what a mistake that was for me! For four years I spent more time studying Latin trying to avoid C's that would keep me off the honor roll, than for all my other subjects combined. With poor foreign language aptitude I shoulda taken two years of Frech (similar grammar and vocabulary to English), and called it quits!

And then I made another mistake, enrolling in Russian freshman year in college. Oy Veh!

RooMonster 1:59 PM  

Amazonian Polevaulter
And the recent favorite At Par

Matt Skoczen 2:17 PM  

Nothing against David because I do like him very much, but, as far as this puzzle and it being selected by Will, I have this to say: When it comes to certain constructors for Will, it seems, I believe, Will sees no wrong in their puzzles. Things that Will had outright rejected in a puzzle or two I had sent would later appear in puzzles by "noted" constructors. I won't drag this on, but that's more to say about this ho-hum theme running, as some noted it is, that would be a no-go for so many other constructors.

Masked and Anonymous 2:17 PM  

all poopy?


Mostly Bob Kerfuffle's fault.

Warren Howie Hughes 2:55 PM  

Thank you all, for the very A.P.(all Porpoise) responses to my query...I'm Dolphin my cap to ya's! :-)

Chronic dnfer 3:24 PM  

Had detes for too long. I still think that's the word. Mercedes makes a mclaren version of their sports car. $600k. Good grief.

Chronic dnfer 3:26 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Pdxrains 3:28 PM  

Any car guy would know the McLaren F1 is one of the greatest production sports cars ever made, sir!

Chronic dnfer 3:28 PM  


Chronic dnfer 3:31 PM  

Haven't seen ennui for a while. I would say medium challenging for a Wednesday. Maybe harder.

Taffy-Kun 4:18 PM  

Even in Italian, uno should only be used before s & a consonant, z y,gn or ps.

Warren Howie Hughes 4:19 PM  

Chronic dnfer, And ENNUI go to Thursday! LOL

Mike Rees 4:34 PM  

WHA - North American sports league from 1972-1979. Bam. Ridiculous clue is fixed and now works nicely with the tattered cross of TAXCO.

Tita 5:33 PM  

@Greater Fall River - I thought something had happened there. Checking there FB page, they are still closed. What a shame - The CamarĂ£o Mozambicana, and that pork loin with homemade chips and rice and a fried egg...
Such a shame.

I'll look for the Tabacaria when next in the area. Thanks for the update.

@Hartley, @Mohair, @Gil, @NCA - lots of racing fans here.
@Nancy...no temptations here - though I wouldn't mind getting my hands on one for a quick spin. Hmm... I wonder if ZIPCAR has them available...

jae 6:08 PM  


Anonymous 7:38 PM  

If anyone's remotely interested, the car-maker MCLAREN was in the news recently. Apple appeared to be talking to MCLAREN about buying the UK car company. MCLAREN has some very hi-tech "stuff", which interested Apple. As far as I know Apple decided against aquiring the company, but speculation was in "the news" on and off for a while. I think these talks were within the last 2 months, FYI.


Mexican Girl 12:12 AM  

UNO momento??? REALLY??!!??!!
This is a big low for Will Shortz.

Leapfinger 6:10 AM  

@M&A, loved yer ARTful rant.

Ditto @Tita, on your toothbrushing spittake. Impressed, as I usually can't multitask if I have something in my mouth. Recent visit to a perio, was recommended a Pro 5000 model of some electronic toothbrush. Looking it up to see why it cost so much, discovered it was Bluetooth-enabled. Decided I didn't want a toothbrush more computer-savvy than its user.

Hey @CharlesF, I also enjoyed RUMP following RUMPLE; maybe Friday there'll be RUM. RUMPLE of The Bailey has a lovely collection of Christmas short stories.

That MCLAREN 570GT is sure built for speed; too bad it doesn't come in red. I didn't know if it was Anne or ARNE either, @AliasZ, but that's no reason to slam edu. sec. Dunc.

Have to stop or I'll never get to the Thurspuzz.

Anonymous 7:43 AM  

A dermatologist, I thought, could be concerned with a SORE, a PONE, a wart, a rash, acne, a knot, bleb or bubo, but unlikely to be concerned with a pore old PORE unless aesthetically moonlighting under the name of ESTEE, cosmetologist.

@AnoaBob, thought you'd be throwing your back out if you kept that up, and here I'm doing ditto. lol

@HowieML, AP stands for "After PastorMunster", you know. ENNUI go, for sure... 'cept for those times when ON US goes.

Cheers from Pogo

Anonymous 10:33 AM  

I'm not a regular here, but when I'm tickled by a theme -- as I was with this one -- I often drop by here to see how and why Rex disapproves. Glad I still have my beginner's mind.

Anonymous 10:24 AM  

You have become an overly picky, hypercritical know-it-all. Lighten up, enjoy the puzzles.

Anonymous 2:37 PM  

FIXED COST isn't fixed because someone fixed it. It's a term from economics that means a cost that does not vary with production. If you increase production of something from 100 units to 500 units you need to pay more for labor, parts, etc. these are variable costs. But if your rent on your facility is $1,000 per month, then you will pay $1,000 weather you produce one million units or zero units, hence it is a fixed cost.

It is an important term that any undergrad who has ever taken an introductory economics class will have learned at some point. Best clue in the puzzle.

spacecraft 11:17 AM  

Little time today. Liked it, did it before I saw the byline, then I knew why. Inkfest in the west: from RED to TEA at last to CUT. Kudos for successfully hiding the theme from me till the revealer. Only one entry ISBAD...

No time to look for a DOD. Birdie.

rondo 11:50 AM  

Oops, first post went to yesterday.

I might not have figured the theme without the revealer. Did it like a themeless and then looked back. PASTTENSE? OK if you SAYSO.

C’mon, many of you must’ve see A Mighty Wind about 15 years ago with the catchphrase “WHA Happened?”. Not new at all. Must not be many Formula 1 fans either, MCLAREN is huge in that AREA. I had an acquaintance who named his daughter MCLAREN.

RUBIO goes over better in MN as T’Wolves point guard Ricky.

Back in the Cheers era I had a big crush on SHELLEY Long as overqualified yeah baby waitress Diane Chambers.

Maybe this puz didn’t pop, but not AWFUL at all if I were to JUDGE.

Burma Shave 12:45 PM  


PRONE to sit her RUMP on the FENCE,
she’d be JUDGEd a GAL way PASTTENSE.


Diana,LIW 12:49 PM  

I'm always stumped when it comes to answering "ancient Greek goddess of skin POREs" type of clues, but years of following Mr. W to car events made the MCLAREN a gimmee for me, if I do SAYSO.

I was fine with the theme - noticed the verbal possibilities before I got to the revealer. Not a giant HOOT, but good fun.

Didn't notice DS was the constructor until I was done. Didn't feel like a DS to me, but what do I know?

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords

Anonymous 12:53 PM  

Challenging, fun, fair and rewarding to accomplish. Seems a few were displeased by the theme - get over it. Great puzzle!

leftcoastTAM 2:34 PM  

Pretty much with Rex on the theme. Usually expect more from David S., and for the most part, he delivers, just as he did today, for the most part.

Lots of clever and tough but fair and gettable stuff. LEFTHANDED was the best of the themers and the last to go.

The toughest for me, in that I botched it, was the TAXCO/WHA cross, where I settled for WHo and ToXCO. Don't like "wha?" as a question, and never use it.

So it goes.

rain forest 7:34 PM  

Wha? People didn't like this puzzle? I thought it was great.

You got themers, which are not past tense verbs, made up of two, TWO, past tense verbs. Kind of neat, in my opinion. Thought Taxco would be a gimme for y'all. Loved many of the oblique clues. Also loved @Leapfinger's "The dev's in the deets".

I used to be very interested in sports cars, but if were to try to drive a McLaren, I'd likely be dead in about 5 minutes. An MGB is more my style, not to mention in my price range, if they made them anymore.

Good on 'ya David

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