Auto designer Maserati / WED 2-8-17 / Great plains plaints / Fire-breathing monster of myth

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Constructor: Ned White

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: LETTER DROP (55A: Opening at the post office ... or, when read as three words, a hint to the answers to the starred clues) — theme answers are familiar (ish) phrases with the letter string "TER" "dropped" (i.e. omitted), creating wacky (that's a euphemism) phrases, clued wackily.

Theme answers:
  • PRAIRIE OYS (16A: *Great Plains plaints?)
  • GIMME SHEL (24A: *"Get Silverstein on the phone now!") [no question mark??]
  • STRAIGHT SHOO (29A: *Command like "Let me be direct: Get lost!"?)
  • PORTRAIT PAIN (38A: *Cramps from posing too long?)
  • TRAIN SPOT (46A: *Teach Dick and Jane's dog new tricks?)
Word of the Day: William STEIG (5D: Shrek creator William) —
William Steig (November 14, 1907 – October 3, 2003) was an American cartoonist, sculptor, and, late in life, an illustrator and writer of children's books. Best known for the picture books Sylvester and the Magic Pebble, Abel's Island, and Doctor De Soto, he was also the creator of Shrek!, which inspired the film series of the same name. He was the U.S. nominee for both of the biennial, international Hans Christian Andersen Awards, as a children's book illustrator in 1982 and a writer in 1988. (wikipedia)
• • •

Yeah, no. Not feeling this one at all. The themers are all terribly forced and awkward. STRAIGHT SHOO is borderline incoherent. Sooooooo many words have "TER" in them, you couldn't have done better than STRAIGHT SHOO? All those "?" clues and ridiculous answers, and then a revealer that feels ... I want to say dated. What is a LETTER DROP? Is that, like, a slot you put mail through? Seriously, I am 47 and go into post offices not infrequently and I don't really know what this is. Feels bygone. Ah, yes, I see it is a "slot through which letters can be pushed." OK, then. I'd've called it a slot, but at least I know what the phrase means now. The clues/answers are so ridiculous that the clues are barely any help, and so the puzzle definitely played on the hard side. I'm sure there will be people who don't fully grok the theme even upon completion. I *know* there will be people with an error in the last square of 7D: Bottomless pit because ... I mean, ABYSM? A "bottomless pit" is an abyss. ABYSM is just abysmal. Oy. So many (non-prairie) oys.

[Bottom topper?] for TALC. That clue ain't right. It's a baby's bottom, not a sundae. "Topper?" Come on. Had trouble with 23D: Bill fatteners because a. clue is needlessly plural and b. I wasn't sure what meaning of "bill" was in play. Had LATTE for LECHE (20A: Café lightener). Had most of my trouble in the SE due simply to vagueness of clues, like 40D: Stereo component (TUNER) and 45A: Supreme Court action (RULING) and 52A: Like refrigerators, at times (RAIDED) and 64A: Visa concern (DEBT). Mostly this thing was just a slog. "GIMME SHEL!" is the closest thing this puzzle has to an entertaining moment. That's not nearly enough.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Robert 12:01 AM  


WhoisMark 12:13 AM  

This paper solver should have used pencil instead of pen even though it's a Wednesday puzzle. Of course I could have helped myself by waiting for more help on the crosses as I erred on first instinct with:
MOLINE for PEORIA (I'm a city slicker and don't know Deere from Caterpillar)

Yes, I had ABYSS and I finished with LOTTERDROP leaving me to figure out the theme to complete the final correction needed.

Anonymous 12:17 AM  

Ugh found this one brutal and the theme barely coherent. Plus, 'abysm' was abysmal.

Lindra Duii 12:33 AM  

I'm with Robert: Prexy???

Mike in Mountain View 12:38 AM  

PREXY is bad, but the "honcho" clue does suggest old slang.

LETTER slOt before LETTER DROP, but the correct answer was familiar enough.

As a Deadhead, I would have liked the clue: Communist Australian babies? . . .

One too many letters for this diagram, though.

Disapproval at Cape Canaveral?

Also the wrong number of letters, as is:

Embarrassment to New York's finest?

That last one might come too close to violating the rule that the TER-less word should be used in a way that is unrelated to the TER word.

How Kimmel gets to work?

Pop music tennis shots?

Not my favorite puzzle, but liked it more than Rex did.

Mike in Mountain View 12:42 AM  

And, of course, for the chess players:

Moms' moms?

rudy 12:44 AM  

Rex! Will namechecked you at a Q&A he did tonight. You likely have already received it, but in case you haven't:

chefwen 12:51 AM  

Gotta go with Rex with this one. Almost got 'er done, but I didn't know 5D and STEIn sounded plausible and, of course, I had ABYSs at 7D which gave me NISMESHEL at 24A. At that point I didn't care anymore, you might say I was SICK OF it, and just let it be, NO LIE.

Nice shout out to Mr. and Lady MOHAIR at 25D.

Unknown 1:02 AM  

"That clue ain't right" is the funniest thing I've seen all day.

Mike in Mountain View 1:06 AM  

Depending on your age:

Blondie's reefer? or Hogwarts grass?

The next one was top of mind in the 80s but isn't talked about much these days (although perhaps it should be).

Arms race goal?

Jerry 1:25 AM  

I have not heard prexy before in my life and now it'll be burned in my mind

jae 1:27 AM  

Medium for me. Had phonESHEL and would have had some trouble with that theme answer if I had not known the Stones song. STIEG was WOE and ABYSs (which I also had at first) seems as valid as ABYSM. Other than sLOgged before PLODDED, rest was mostly easy.

Liked it more than @Rex did.

Trombone Tom 1:57 AM  

I enjoyed this a lot more than OFL. Nevertheless, I had the same reservations about TALC (not in most people's minds a "topper") and ABYSM (I know, archaic/poetic is allowed).

LETTER DROP(S)have been around in post offices and some large office buildings all my life. C'mon @Rex, don't dismiss it if you don't happen to know it.

The theme was certainly like many others we've seen before. Maybe not exciting, but acceptable.

As a certified train nut, I liked TRAIN SPOTter.

All went along pretty well except for that last letter En ABYSM, which GIMME SHEL(ter) cleared up.

Except for those few troubling areas this was a pretty easy romp for Wednesday.

JB in VT 2:04 AM  

Revealer "when read as three words"..."ter" ain't no word.

Brian 2:15 AM  

Yeah, PREXY I only knew from doing a puzzle from NYT's archives and being stumped on it before. My brain is becoming full of dumb crosswordese.

Guessing STEIn for STEIG and ABYSs for ABYSM led me to stare at the GIMMESHEL cross for longer than I should have before getting it and finishing the puzzle.

Moly Shu 2:22 AM  

trieS before STABS and adageS before MAXIMS really got me off to a bad start, but that was nothing compared to the finish. PREXY and ABYSM ? C'mon, that's just horrible. I'll take a pass on this one.

Anoa Bob 2:25 AM  

Enjoyed seeing CHIMERA, a top echelon entry for this old word-nerd.

A big chunk of my life was spent in academia and I don't recall ever hearing PREXY. I was thinking maybe "dean" or "provost", but of course they didn't fit.

I like ABYSM. I think its has more panache than the pedestrian "abyss".

Dolgo 3:24 AM  

"Prexy," eh? I've spent 57 or so years in the Olive Groves of Academe and never heard that word used. I think I read it once in an academic novel in my misspent youth (I've always been fond of the genre), but it was probably in some crusty old groaner like "Tom Brown's Schooldays," passed down from my grandfather.
In general, I thought this was pretty dumb. Why on earth was it at all "challenging"?

Larry Gilstrap 3:48 AM  

For some odd reason, PREXY offered no problem. I think it might have appeared in terse headlines, back when people used to read papers. LETTER DROP also dropped right in. Old multi-story office buildings had glass fronted chutes labeled LETTER DROP, back when people used to write letters. My phone tells me that PRAIRIE OYSTER can be one of two things. I'm going for the hangover cure. Also, wouldn't mind if someone referred to me as a STRAIGHT SHOOTER. On the other hand, I only had heard of TRAIN SPOTTER as something in an art film I have never seen. What fun can solving a puzzle be to folks who know everything?

"Oh, oh, there goes Tokyo...GODZILLA" Got to check my sources.

Al Gore appeared on SNL shortly after the second most bizarre election of my lifetime. In the skit, as I remember, he finds himself alone in the Oval Office set from West Wing. He warily approaches the desk, sneaks into the chair, picks up the dummy phone, and says, "GIMME Putin!" SHEL Silverstein was a featured contributor to Playboy Magazine, back when people used to read magazines. He also wrote the lyrics for the song, "A Boy Named Sue."

Johnny 4:17 AM  

Did this mostly fast but never got the theme until I got here. Last letter was correcting ABYSs to ABYSM.

More importantly, yesterday's post mentioned the July 15 2005 puzzle. HOLY COW. I am at over 3:20 right now (that's hours:minutes folks) and the grid is only half full and I've swapped half a dozen words. No google or cheating yet. And I finish an average saturday in under 25 minutes. This puzzle is an awesome ass-kicker.

Anonymous 4:37 AM  

Oh come on. It wasn't hard and certainly not incoherent. Not the most brilliant, but fine for a Wednesday. Yeah I had ABYSS until I saw the across, but that just made it a bit more
fun. Relax, Rex. It's ok if you get stuck momentarily - this isn't just about speed, is it?

BarbieBarbie 6:02 AM  

For me, just like Anonymous@4:37. (Eastern time). Just hard enough so that I couldn't finish it in bed, but did it right away this morning. I think it was an advantage this time to be less corossworldy-wise. I didn't grok the theme until TRAINSPOT or whatever it was, then looked at all the others and finally got the revealer. That saved me a lot of confusion, it seems, compared to Rex. Though ABYSM did get me until I got the cross. Yes, letter drops are a thing. Maybe regional?

Lewis 6:45 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Passing Shot 6:54 AM  

chaSM, then abYSs, then just confusion. AM SO? No. PREXY? Only in a crossword puzzle. This was just a mess.

Lewis 6:56 AM  

Hmmm. Must have been on my wavelength. The cluing felt easy. The theme is cute and catchy (alt. theme answers are already coming out from commenters) but not particularly funny as executed. The reveal, nonetheless, is perfect. PREXY I've seen, but in any case, is ugly to look at, IMO. I liked the clues for UMPED and LECHE.

I had the SM of ABYSM, and threw in CHASM, a great answer, I thought, until it didn't work. The puzzle has a low DEBT, a SNAP up, NITE is rite, we have a TAIL to go with the "Bottom topper" clue, and SOUS is in its perfect place, on the puzzle's nether side.

Thank you, Ned, you got my brain rolling this morning. It's been spinning a lot these days (from the DTs), which hasn't felt that good, but the rolling feels great.

Outside The Box 7:05 AM  


BdlF 7:09 AM  

Yeah, seriously. That was ridiculous.

Leon 7:15 AM  

Prexy's was a chain in NYC that was known for having The Hamburger With A College Education.

kitshef 7:25 AM  

Another really good puzzle. Six out of the last seven days have been highly enjoyable. Loved the theme, and disagree with all @Rex's criticisms except for Bottom topper, which doesn't work for me.

Today I learned that chimeras breathe fire.

So many four-letter skating jumps: AXEL, loop, lutz, flip. Lutz at least could be ruled out as the plural is six letters.

erf 7:28 AM  

I seem to be an outlier here - really enjoyed this one. My children loved the Steig books -- must have read Sylvester, Amos and Boris, Duncan, etc to them hundreds of times -- so that brought a smile and some good memories. And my wife thought that they ought to like "The Giving Tree", so we read that to them as well (although it never became a favorite), so Shel worked for me as well. And I really liked "Praire Oys". Agree that "prexy" and "abysm" are a bit abstruse; never used in conversation but familiar from previous puzzles -- and much more inferable (for me) than many of the proper nouns I run across in the puzzle. Thought it was a good one - thanks Mr. White!

Unknown 7:47 AM  

Another quibble: the clue for POISONS is a clue for the container, not the contents.

The Rhino 7:56 AM  

I agree with Rex on the details - particularly STRAIGHT SHOO and ABYSM, and I want to join my 'What the hell is a PREXY?' to the chorus. Still, I kind of liked it. The good outweighed the bad and I give it a non very enthusiastic thumbs up.

On the other hand I just got around to doing last Thursday's puzzle - and I loved it. Going backwards then forwards then switching back. Fill was great. I know I'm almost a week late to the party but that was a great puzzle.

Oscar 8:00 AM  

In addition to its piss-poor clue, TALC isn't used on babies anymore because it can be inhaled and cause respiratory problems.

Crane Poole 8:09 AM  

Counr me in - in counting me out. Need some PREXY ABYSMol this morning.

r.alphbunker 8:09 AM  

Didn't know the theme when I handed in the puzzle which made me nervous. But everything was okay.

Detail are here.

Aketi 8:12 AM  

Apart from PREXY, this was a SNAP.

@Rex, if you lived in NYC you would know that there are LETTER DROP boxes every few blocks. Hardly anyone goes to a post office to drop off letters.

No one tops baby bottoms with TALC anymore.

WEANing isn't always slow. Sometimes medical conditions make it necessary to abruptly WEAN,.

Andrea 8:35 AM  

Portuguese: CAFÉ COM LEITE

Anonymous 8:37 AM  

Some, along the Somme: des. Does des stand for destroyer? Usually I can figure out post-puzzle clue/answer logic but this one had a few that made me scratch my head. Prexy?

Z 8:40 AM  

PRAIRIE OYS(TER) was a WTF and now that I've read about it it is still a WTF. And then there is the more current derogatory meaning of TRAIN SPOT(TER) (def. 2, minus the extraneous sexual allegations,ias the one I'm most familiar with).

"Not feeling this one at all" pretty much sums up my reaction. Some will like it, I'm sure. just not me.

Z 8:44 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
His Radiance 8:44 AM  

As a former HEO and college prof had no problem with "prexy". Maybe it's an age thing.

The Clerk 8:45 AM  

TER isn't a word. It's a "part" I guess, but not a word. Puzzle felt clumsy.

Z 8:50 AM  

@anon8:27 - DES can be translated as "some." DES is just a French word, suggested by using the homophonic Somme River in the clue. Nothing trickier than that. Mes, ses, and les all can be clued Frenchily.

puzzle hoarder 8:57 AM  

After Tuesday's fine offering this was a real bucket of cold water, slap in the face return to the kind of corn-ball routine early week fair that the NYT serves up far too often. The main problem was the constructor putting in too much theme which forced him to use tons of short cliched fill. I was genuinely surprised by the difficulty rating as I did this in average Monday time. That was with three write overs SEIG/STEIN, ABYSS/ABYSM and REVIEW/RULING. All of these were corrected effortlessly because the crosses were so shop worn. SOUS and PREXY I don't recall. My theory on that is that they're always used in puzzles like this and they just get lost in the torrent of dreck.
@Johnny you have far more patience with that '95 puzzle than I did. I had to cheat in every section and it was still hard. There's another like it from that year that I'm going to look up. It's hard to remember that I cut my teeth on puzzles like that. It must have been brutal.

Anonymous 8:58 AM  

Who is Bill, and why is he fattened with PORK?

Charles Flaster 9:08 AM  

Really liked this clever theme unlike Rex. Once the theme was sussed I completed PRAIRIE OYS( wonderful visual!) Never knew ABYSM but GIMME SHEL made it
Loved clues for UMPED, RAIDED,META, and TMI.
Thanks NW

Anonymous 9:08 AM  

This was horrid!!! Prexy? Abysm instead of abyss? Umped? Ugh!

Nancy 9:16 AM  

Oh what a lovely Wednesday surprise -- breezy, playful, and unusually challenging for a midweek puzzle. I found the theme answers very amusing, with the first three making me chuckle. I do have a few non-PRAIRIE OYS: I could have skipped yet again another OH SNAP, which seems to only exist in the NYT xword and nowhere else. And I did hate PREXY. But otherwise no complaints. Two brief stumbling blocks: ABYSs before ABYSM -- doesn't everyone use the former? Does anyone use the latter? And UPSa before UPSY. Other than that, smooth sailing and a lot of fun.

A hearty public thank you to @jae, who took the trouble to track me down off-blog and provide me with a copy of the 7/15/95 puzzle that everyone here has been raving about. I look forward to it.

Stanley Hudson 9:24 AM  

LETTERDROP is perfectly legitimate.

Have seen PREXY on the written page but in 35+ years in higher ed have never actually heard any one use it in conversation.

Z 9:34 AM  

@Anon8:58 - I hope this link clarifies it for you.

ScreamingEagle 9:36 AM  

PREXY?? What the heck is a PREXY?

Also ABYSM instead of abyss??

And what the f*** is a PRARIE OYS(TER)?? Never heard of it. Just looked it up and it sounds ABYSMal.

So much "no" today. SIGH.

GHarris 9:37 AM  

Found this challenging but doable until I sank in the abysm. Bill is an invoice which may be larded with excess charges otherwise known as pork.

chefbea 9:51 AM  

couldn't figure this puzzle out!!! guessed that one letter would be dropped...not TER

The only thing I liked about the puzzle was sous chef...and the fact that puzzle husband worked for the post office for 31 years!!!

GILL I. 9:56 AM  

Poor ole Johnson & Johnson. Some lady using talc on her bottom or wherever sued for 70 million and won because a bottom topper gave her cancer. OY.
I thought this was a cute Wed.. Didn't understand ANY of the themes though because I've never heard of a PRAIRIE OYSter nor a NISMESHEL. SIGH. Yeah, ABYSM is abysmal and I had to look up PREXY. I got "pretty and sexy" which confused me because, well because I don't associate a college honcho as being that! Isn't it OOPSY?
Anyway, I was entertained with words like CHIMERA POISONS O ROMEO.
@Nancy from yesterday. ha ha ha ha ha ha. Re-peek at him in his blonde wig days. I think he's about 10 feet tall and he's always standing next to some teeny tiny thing. He's much better looking as a woman than as a man me thinks. And, I too, think Bernie is kinda cute in a muppet sorta way...!

Blue Stater 9:56 AM  

@Anonymous 12:17 a.m.: Right on. A nasty, utterly uninteresting mess. Aren't we entitled to better than this? As always, no, it seems.

QuasiMojo 10:04 AM  

I have little to "talc" about regarding this puzzle today. I did not find it as objectionable as Rex but then I know what a "letter drop" is and have no problem with "abysm" which I liked. So too "chimera."

@Andrea Ojeda, don't forget "kaffee" in German.

Rex's mention of "latte" reminds me of a silly anecdote. I had gone to a Starbucks in Seattle once and asked for a "caffè latte." The young woman at the counter stared at me petulantly and said "I'm sorry we don't have that." I pointed to the menu and said it is right up there. "Oh a latte?" she said. She had no idea what it was she was serving. I told her that "latte" just means milk in Italian. The drink is a caffè latte. Anyway, chalk one up for the pedants.

On a final note, I'd like to add that I was feeling a bit like Elizabeth Warren yesterday. I was silenced by this blog. I had replied to a comment by one of the anonymous users asking about Ellery Queen (which as he pointed out would have been a nice addition to yesterday's puzzle) but my response was removed after it was posted. It was a perfectly benign comment, with no political rantings in it, or foul language, or any attacks on OFL. And yet it was censored. I thought perhaps it was a fluke, a glitch, as others have pointed out to me before when something like this has happened. So I posted it again a few hours later. That comment too was removed. Why on earth?

I wonder if this comment will be removed as well. I am going to make a copy of it just in case.

Peace out my friends. I am fond of many of you but I don't like feeling that my usually innocuous remarks are at risk of being deleted due to someone else's or perhaps the mods, illogical whims.

Cassieopia 10:05 AM  

Solving this puzzle was the most fun I have had in a long time - I absolutely loved it! It took me 10 minutes over my average Wednesday time to solve, but I did not have to google once, and the puzzle gave me that oh-so-satisfying feeling of going down blind alleys, then backing out, and heading in another direction with the answers snapping into place.

There were so many false starts: LattE before LECHE, tokyo before OSAKA, urbanA before PEORIA, trieS before STABS, claw before TAIL. Then there were enough "I know it HAS to be..." moments, that I was left with the delicious experience of switching my brain out of its rut and into a different way of thinking.

The theme appealed to me too, taking a two-word phrase and chopping it up. Initially I came up with the phonetic "Let Her Drop?" then realized the theme was literal: "Let Ter Drop". That made PRAIRIEOYS so incredibly enjoyable - I went to college at University of Idaho and Rocky Mountain Oysters, aka PRARIEOYSters, were a thing - never ever expected to encounter them in a NYT xword!

Delights abounded for me, I was smiling for a long time after solving this one. And that is what a good crossword experience should be! Thank you, thank you, thank you Ned White!

Anonymous 10:12 AM  

Deserves an F simply for ABYSM.

Amie Devero 10:13 AM  

Hated this puzzle. Even once I filled in every word I was unsure and ended up checking it twice, still not getting it. Never heard of half the fill, didn't understand the theme or the theme clues/answers. Incoherent.

Anonymous 10:18 AM  

I think "pork" refers to local projects added to a legislative bill which are included to entice reps to vote "aye."

don't tell anyone, but talc is still used all over the world. only in the over-litigated us...

i'm surprised that diapers don't come with a warning label.

@Aketi: I live in a small town (pop 2,112) and the mail is delivered to the post office. we don't have home mail delivery. only ups and fed-ex deliver to your home here. i'm not sure what the us rural population is, but i'd never say "Hardly anyone goes to a post office to drop off letters." It may be true due to increases in email correspondence, etc, but that has nothing to do with letter boxes.

as for the puzzle, the wednesday puzzle is always just something to do before i head out the door, but it reminds me that the friday puzzle is nigh. "nigh?" how come we never see that word in the puzzle? we get abysm but not nigh? not fair.

Anonymous 10:21 AM  

Arrrrgh. Hated this. Abysm???

Guest 10:26 AM  

I would add--because Rex has trained me to look at themers this way--that "Trainspot" is not like the others, and additionally defective, in that it could be the verb form of the noun created by adding TER. One who train spots is a train spotter.

Anonymous 10:27 AM  

I thought this puzzle was fun. Letter drop is a very common phrase I have heard a lot. I wonder if it is used more by older people, though. We used to call them "mountain oysters" not "prairie oysters". At church dinners, they would always be labeled "mystery meat". We always had a great laugh after the little old ladies would eat them and then would find out later what they really were!

Lojman 10:46 AM  

I'm with you, Tom. Sussed the theme pretty quickly and came out ahead of my Wednesday average. Some corny puns - so I knew OFL wouldn't like - but not at all a failure of a puzzle.

mathgent 10:49 AM  

An OK puzzle for me. Eight red plusses when I reviewed after solving, about average for early-week.

Since we all love words, let me recommend a movie we saw last night from Netflix. Genius, about Thomas Wolfe and his editor at Scribners, Maxwell Perkins. You may not have heard about it because it bombed at the box-office, less than two million. Too much dialogue, I'm guessing, a lot of it Wolfe's own poetic words.

The focus was the ambivalent feelings Wolfe had for Perkins. He loved that Perkins helped him become a best-selling novelist but he hated that he discarded thousands of pages of his beloved words. Raymond Carver had similar feelings for his editor.

Wonderful acting. Colin Firth as Perkins, Jude Law as Wolfe, Nicole Kidman as Wolfe's patron/lover.

It makes me despair about the movie industry when a work of art like this gets no recognition.

AZPETE 10:50 AM  

Could u share it?

AZPETE 10:51 AM  

Allegedly gave her cancer.

Prospero 10:52 AM  

Thou hadst, and more, Miranda. But how is it
That this lives in thy mind? What seest thou else
In the dark backward and abysm of time?
If thou remember'st aught ere thou camest here,
How thou camest here thou mayst.

AZPETE 10:55 AM  

The longer you live, the more likely you are to die. Ergo, living is hazardous to you health. Liked puzzle.

Malsdemare 10:59 AM  

Meh! Much of what I'd say has been said. I've heard of/read all the arguable terms, but thought some of it was pretty forced. PREXY sounds like 1950s sorority speak to me. No, I'm not that old but I have older sisters. PREXY just shouts snug cashmere sweaters, bobby sox, and jaunty scarves. Maybe it's just me?

Malsdemare 11:05 AM  

@quasimoto. I went back to yesterday's puzzle blog and could only find two removed comments, both removed by author. If Rex deletes a comment, it says "removed by administrator." So maybe Rex didn't delete yours? However, I have no idea what might have happened. Curious . . .

Anonymous 11:13 AM  

Yeah, after yesterday's pleasant surprise of a puzzle, today's was flat out Not Fun. PLODDED indeed. That said, miss you Shel!

Len Van Vliet 11:33 AM  

You can find prexy at the bottom of any abysm. That is all.

Len Van Vliet 11:33 AM  

You can find prexy at the bottom of any abysm. That is all.

Unknown 11:34 AM  

All kinds of trouble in the upper-middle, due to not knowing William STEIG, not being 100% sure about NAOMI, and never having heard ABYSM. Kept trying to make it either ABYSS or CHASM. That little section alone added a good 5 minutes. Otherwise I didn't mind it. Theme a little lame, yes.

Happy Pencil 11:37 AM  

@mathgent, please read the book on which the movie is based -- Editor of Genius by Scott Berg. It's one of the best books there is about publishing and the often-complicated relationships between authors and their editors. And it's much, much better than the movie. (Also great is Berg's biography of Charles Lindbergh, especially the chapter in which he describes Lindbergh's Atlantic flight.)

I didn't mind the theme answers in this puzzle, but the rest did feel fusty. I was sure I would get no happy pencil at the end because of PREXY, but much to my surprise ...

The most fun was to be had in imagining what Rex was going to write, because I knew he'd hate it.

Joseph Michael 11:39 AM  

Liked PRAIRIE OYS and GIMME SHEL. The other themers not so much, with STRAIGHT SHOO being the "bottom" of the barrel.

No prob with LETTER DROP. It's a thing. And am impressed that 25 & 27 Down both manage to intersect three themers.

Also liked the clues for UMPED and RAIDED among others.

Agree that PREXY belongs in the La Brea TAR pit of unexisting words.

old timer 11:46 AM  

OFL got it right. DNF because did not guess ABYSM. My own fault for not thinking through the revealer and not realizing the multiple letter in TER were dropped. Had I realized that I would have had GIsMESHEL(ter) and I would have put in ABYSM, the tune to that old Rolling Stones song running through my head.

BTW SHEL was sorta the house lyricist for the great Dr Hook & the Medicine Show. The boys in that band were having a lot of fun as you can see on some YouTube clips.

@LindaPRmaven 11:54 AM  

Coming from Rochester, NY, home of the Cutler Mail Chute (thanks for description Larry Gilstrap)LETTER DROP gave me no problem. But the theme answers were subpar, except for PRAIRIEOYSters, which gave me a laugh. Commenters have come up with much better, funner themers. Played more like a Thursday for me.

RooMonster 12:04 PM  

Hey All !
Like all y'all I ended up with ABYSs, but got the G in STEIG, which got me GIsMESHEL. Ran the alphabet for that G about three times, as I was dead sure of the ABYSmal S. (Insert epithet here.)

Kind of a wild ride puz, some weird clues, some weird answers, some good stuff mixed in. With PREXY, already had the E in LETTERDROP, but couldn't figure out 63A, with N_SE. Did a vowel run, and finally the ole brain clicked on the Y for the Stock.

cremE here for LECHE. tries-STABS. I see MOHAIR Sam made the puz, as did I, in French, RUE. :-) And now I know if someone knocks on my door and wants to borrow 1/48 of a cup of something, it's a TSP.

Figured out theme with getting TRAINSPOT and PORTRAITPAIN at the same time. Although at first I thought it was parsing the themers as three words, not the Revealer. Until that didn't make sense. "PORT RAIT PAIN wha....?" Good stuff.


QuasiMojo 12:11 PM  

@Malsdemare, thank you for checking that out. I guess it's just some oddity in blogger's system. None of my other comments disappeared. Perhaps I posted it with invisble ink. :)

puzzle hoarder 12:28 PM  

I thought ABYSM looked familiar. I checked it out on and we just had on Nov. 3rd. You might recall we had an election that day. I used ABYSM in my comments on the 4th.

Diana,LIW 12:29 PM  

It's never too visit Syndieland, 5 weeks in the past. Our small band posts every day, and sometimes we answer you - an echo of your comments. But tomorrow we have an open house to celebrate @Burma Shave's 2nd anniversary - today he completed 2 years (731 days) of poems using the cross words of the day. Bring a snack and have a toast to our bard. See ya!

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords, back to the deLorean

Anonymous 12:37 PM  

Maybe it's an age thing, but I had no problem with PREXY or LETTERDROP. My downfall was that I thought it was a single letter that was dropped, which made it impossible for me to understand the answers for the starred clues. And I stayed with ABYSS all the way to the end, so I ended up with an error.

Anonymous 12:40 PM  

TALC does not and cannot cause ovarian cancer. It simply cannot find its way to the ovaries. Not unless you're using a turkey baster. OY!

Masked and Anonymous 12:49 PM  

M&A greatly esteems ABYSM. [Not an ABYSMTER drop-themer, btw.]

One time at our weeklong summer retreat lodge, I handed out some M&Ade-em crosswords. A lady came up after solvin most of one, pointin out an area in it near the bottom, where she'd had lotsa trouble. "Oh, yeah -- that answer there is ABYSM," I sympathetically informed her. (Perhaps tinged with a schmear of pride, as the M in ABYSM ohso aptly touched the bottom of the grid.) She looked back at m&e liked I'd stolen her watch, repeatin "Abysm" in a sorta zombie-like tone. Good times.

This theme is visionary. Letter drop themes are real old hat. Sooo … here, old crafty Ned uses LETTERDROP as his revealer, and instead starts droppin *chunks* of letters. Really admired PRAIRIEOYS themer … it drove m&e nuts, tho, as I was steamin thru the NW faster than snot, until I beheld an in-progress ?RA?RIEOYS. Precious nanoseconds hit the splatz fan, as I wrestled with alterin the crosses, so that I could maybe tame that I-E-O-Y string into somethin more plausible. Wrong (but right) again, M&A breath.

LECHE. That answer just ain't lightenin up my cafe today. (yo, @RP -- really enjoyed yer "that clue ain't right" comment. Grammar correction, tho: "that there clue ain't right".)

staff weeject pick: PSS. Better clue: {Piss, off??}.
Most of the loong-ish fillins were mucho semi-exquisite: CHIMERA after a round of chili peppers. POISONS with jolly rodgers. PEORIA with caterpillars. SONOMA without William. OROMEO without an H. UMPED with a U and a primo clue. MOHAIR with no curly hair or larry hair. SKA with no TER. ABYSM. Luvly ABYSM. The ABYSM of all ABYSMs. Did I ever tell U about the time at the summer retreat lodge … ?

Thanx, Mr. White. [Crafty-good constructioneer, and new Clue character by recent executive order.]

Masked & Anonymo4Us

@r.alph's DownHome picture-viewer highly recommended, on this pup:

Chapps 12:50 PM  

Unfortunately, 'abysm' is a word ... or *was* a word in the freaking Middle Ages. I think that the last time it was used was in the 14th century, and it stood for Hell specifically. Argh. Not happy with the puzzles lately.

Joe Bleaux 12:50 PM  

As a former Nashville songwriter who worked with Shel back in the day, I recommend that you check out Bobby Bare's discography; he recorded entire album's of Shel's songs (and one ditty that I co-wrote with Shel).

Struggling 12:54 PM  

I loved this puzzle except for abysm

A 'Nuck 1:10 PM  

As a Canadian, PRAIRIEOYS[TER] most definitely didn't pass the breakfast test. Perhaps you Yanks have heard of Rocky Mountain Oysters?.

Teedmn 1:15 PM  

I'll go with Med-Challenging today - over my average time and a DNF to boot, due to having a RAIsED refrigerator ("really?", I said to myself) crossing sES for "Some along the Somme", totally my idiocy.

Like others, my biggest mess was the North Central where GIMME fought nisME but eventually won. And my West Central was topsy-turvy with UPSadaisy, which is a variation of the UPSY version per the online dictionary. Oops!

@Mike in Mountain View, nice TER DROP alternatives.

And @M&A, I have often been turned become zombie-like after a Runt, so I can sympathize with your test subject. Though you've never stolen my watch, just mere nano-seconds :-).

Thanks, Ned White, this was no LAUGHING MAT! (Yoga equipment programmed to cruelly critique your poses).

oldactor 1:16 PM  

What's wrong with you people. I loved it.

I learned two new words: Prexy: College slang for President since early 19th cent.
and Abysm: literary or poetic term for Abyss.

It sounds like some of you think your vocabulary is sufficient and there's no
room for improvement.

I guess you're wrong.

Andrew Heinegg 1:23 PM  

This was a double negative for me. I dnfed because of my refusal to consider abyss as incorrect even though I could see it wasn't right. I thought the puzzle was on the wrong side of boring. I could not find one answer that was clever, informative or humorous.

As Rex said, Gimme Shelter was the closest thing to good but, that was only made possible by abysm to which I, like many others,say: 'no, no,no'. Prexy wasn't good either but, at least it wasn't abysmonable.

Z 1:24 PM  

@Quasimojo - The last time something like this happened (to M&A and @George B. I believe) the issue seemed to be related to posting links from a non-blue account. That doesn't seem to be the case for you. Rex is very hands off the comments, usually only stepping in when the complaints get deafening. He also usually posts a comment when he does delete something, so I doubt that it is him. Everything posted and then deleted does get emailed out. Everything I remember seeing is still there, but I didn't check off the follow-up box until later in the day so I can't be sure. Whatever the cause, I hope you keep commenting

Bill Palmer 1:26 PM  

I wish Mitch McConnell would have cut off this puzzle instead of Senator Warren

Carola 1:27 PM  

Thought it was cute and easy. PRAIRIE OYS - fantastic.

RooMonster 1:30 PM  

Prairie Oysters, or Rocky Mountain Oysters. Bletch. In a world (or even your own "hood") with so much good food, why, oh why, would you knowingly and wantingly eat cow balls. Yeesh.

How about a nice pizza?

Connoisseur of non-ball foods...

Andy 1:42 PM  

One word: drek.

Leapfinger 1:46 PM  

There's no such thing as ' cow balls'

mathgent 1:49 PM  

@Happy Pencil: Thanks. I just downloaded the Berg book into my Kindle..

Cassieopia 1:49 PM  

Wish I could learn how to post a link elegantly, but in the meantime, here's an ugly link to a classic scene from "Funny Farm" about "lamb fries".

WELL worth the 60 seconds especially if you are curious about 'prairie oysters'.

Blackbird 1:52 PM  

I found the puzzle easy. Very fast fill. Abysm was a stretch. Of course I had abyss first. But gimme shelter led me to recognize abysm.

Carter Revard 3:06 PM  

Hey, you abysmal illiterates, have any of you read The Tempest lately (or at all)? If not, you can find ABYSM in the comment above by Prospero.

QuasiMojo 3:09 PM  

@Z, that may indeed by why. I had mentioned a different web site although I did not link it. Grazie!

JC66 3:24 PM  


Re: OH SNAP. I hope this helps:

I wanted to send this to you off sight, but your profile doesn't include your email.

Wileyfex 3:42 PM  

My parents were both university professors so I grew up hearing the world prexy and do not find it strange. Must be a 30s through 50s word.

tea73 3:53 PM  

Back when my husband was in grad school it was a tradition to send people away by playing Shel Silverstein's album Freakin' at the Freaker's Ball. He wrote a number of famous song's including my Girl Scout camp favorite "Unicorn song" made famous by the Irish Rovers.

I had a terrible time seeing PRAIRIE OYSters even though I've eaten them. (Edible, but I wouldn't order them again.)Partly because I just couldn't believe ABYSM was a word and chasm, seemed so much more reasonable. I have read The Tempest, but certainly don't remember that passage!

My husband has been a college prof for going on 40 years. I don't think I've ever hear the term PREXY.

Doug 4:10 PM  

For once, I finished this puzzle after a long battle and said, I'll bet I hate it more than Rex. And I was right. Too many clues left me with WTF? And the theme answers were ridiculously off except for GIMMESHEL which is pretty obscure anyway.

Anonymous 4:30 PM  

Thanks for the clarification.

Z 4:36 PM  

@anon12:40 - Never say never, although asbestos may be the real culprit.

@oldactor - I think the general complaints regarding ABYSM are two-fold; it is archaic and it is too close to the more common "abyss." I'd go farther and say the only reason to know ABYSM now is to make the meter work in a bad poem. Knowing the word runs the risk one might use it and appear a snob. I would go farther still and argue that adding this word to one's vocabulary is a detriment to understanding and communication, not an improvement.

@Carter Revard - I assume you go around using "seest" and "camest" all the time. Shakespeare using ABYSM is legit. White and Shortz, not so much.

Anonymous 5:31 PM  

As a beginner puzzle fanatic, I could not come up with answers on this puzzle to more clues that I care to admit. After seeing the answers, I don't feel too badly. I have come to understand there is some "flexibility" in crosswords answers but this puzzle stretched this into another realm. " straight shoo" ???

Easy D 5:32 PM  

It's a good thing that I crushed this in record time, as now I'm available. Ladies? Oh hell, who's kidding whom, Anyone?

Hungry Mother 6:14 PM  

Kinda medium for me. I knew there were missing letters, but it took me down to the end to realize that it was all about "ter".

Anonymous 7:30 PM  

Jeff Sessions is our new Attorney General and we didn't even need Pence. Phew. As President Obama said , "elections have consequences."

Anonymous 7:43 PM  

Did you mean to say oh screw. Another supporter of the alternative facts President in power.

jberg 7:48 PM  

I was noticing that by the time I solved the puzzle, read the comments, commented myself, and then read online comics, it was about 11AM, leaving little time to write -- so I'm now solving the puzzle after 5 PM, and coming here after everyone else is gone (except for those syndicated folks -- (Diana, that's why you are 'lady-in-waiting!' I never got it before.)

Anyway, I'm with @Nancy, @M&A, and @Oldactor -- loved this puzzle! I think it's the incongruity -- adding the TER makes one word into something completely different, as in pain>painter. And whoever complained about trainspotting, the point is that it's clued as something completely different - different meanings of both TRAIN and SPOT. So that's OK.

PREXY sounds like irreverent talk of the 20s (about to come around again!), but was OK with me.

Some troll is going to accuse me of bragging -- but still, I want to point out that I'm no relation whatsoever to Scott Berg, but Maxwell Perkins was my ex-wife's great uncle. Until the divorce, it caused a lot of confusion in the family.

jberg 7:54 PM  

@jedlevine from yesterday -- apparently, RuPaul uses both she and he indiscriminately. As explained here.

Anonymous 7:56 PM  

Fauxcahontas vs. Curt Schilling in 2018 Mass.Senate race. I don't know who is more pathetic, someone who lied and said she was Native American to get a job at Harvard Law School (diversity LOL) or someone who lied about a bloody sock to prove he's tough. I hope they both lose.

Adam 8:33 PM  

Loved GIMME SHEL. That's it. PREXY and ABYSM - feh. I had CHASM then ABYSS. Blech.

Anonymous 9:31 PM  

Elizabeth Warren is a hoax. Anyone in academia knows that it is a lot easier to get ahead if you have minority status. For better or for worse, everyone knows so called diversity is a difference maker, Most of us don't lie. E. Warren lied and it worked. Congrats.

Z 10:33 PM  

July 15, 1995 Puzzle - I'll work to avoid spoilers but continue at your own risk.

All the chatter moved me to give this one a go. A total failure of a puzzle with 1A getting me off on a "What the hell does this clue have to do with this answer?" roaring start and it got worse from there.

Awful Clue/Answer pairs
1A (maybe there's a different usage but the answer in no way relates to the clue in any way I understand either)
15A (are ballet fans really that affected?)
27A (British as a foreign language)
61A (pretty bad when a dead language isn't even the worst answer on this list)
5D (even in 1995 that's a 49 year old song)
7D (Quiddity?)
8D (Wow, I missed the section on ancient Greek wraiths)
14D (Does the fact that she died in 1672 help? I didn't think so)
38D ("in olden times" just means "obscure")

There is more that is less obscure, but this was not a crossword puzzle, this was a cross trivia puzzle. Yes, it was challenging, but not in any way that's interesting to me. Three answers are just randomly ordered letters, two answers are variant (more accurately "wrong") spellings, foreign languages including Latin, French, British, Polynesian, Spanish, and Science, and finally everyone's favorite late Latvian GrandMaster to end the puzzle.

Anonymous 10:52 PM  


Anonymous 12:14 AM  

Hey! The biggest liar since Adolf Hitler now occupies the White House. Congrats.

Selwyn-Lloyd McPherson 4:14 AM  

Oh gosh what a puzzle.

LETTERDROP ( vs LETTERSLOT ( Actually, now, letter slot sounds dirty.
OPSY(or OPSI or OPSE) for "___-daisy". I wanted it to be oopsie-daisy. Midwestern.
-STRAIN wanted to be -PAIN
PRARIEOYS would have been is a great entry on any other day. I've never heard of a prairie oyster. I've had Rocky Mountain Oysters, though! Apparently it's not the same.
PREXY came as a gift, thankfully. I've been to plenty of school and I can't say I've heard of that one before.r

Aketi 8:16 AM  

@Anonymous 10:13 am, I should have clarified that hardly anyone in New York City goes to the post office to drop off letters. I grew up in an even smaller town where we had a POBox. The Post Mistress knew everyone so well that she'd even put mail in your box if the sender forgot to add the box number.

BC 5:20 PM  

Love that mug!

Burma Shave 12:33 PM  


Those TRAINSPOT(TER)s won’t WEAN off of POISONS,
a STRAIGHTSHOO(TER) each NITE they take joys in,
[SIGH] they’re a PORTRAIT of PAIN,
ERNESTO and NAOMI can’t abstain,
they’ll LETTERDROP into the ABYSM that destroy ‘em.


leftcoastTAM 12:52 PM  

Have to agree with Rex on this one. Themers are strained, and not much to like here.

UMPED is a good misdirect, though, and one of the last to go in. In that same cluster, got in trouble with the singular-plural YAK and PORK, giving up and leaving it with YAs/PORs, which were obviously wrong.

I didn't care, so SHOOT me.

Anonymous 12:57 PM  

Paid no attention to the "theme". Happily filled in abyss and was entirely satisfied with the answer "tisishel".

Correctly answered "great plains plaints" with "prairieoys", reasoning Jews live there, too.

Diana,LIW 1:52 PM  

Knew we'd be hearing about "wackiness" today. I didn't love the puz, but didn't hate it either.

Having attended or worked at just about every kind of college/university (large public, small private, state, community) I've never heard PREXY. Never heard it in an old movie either, as it seems to be from another era.

Had a dnf from the start, as I had accidently seen TALC - which I never in 100 years would think of as a bottom topper. I'm sure someone else mentioned it, but they say it's not good for baby to use talc - it's now on the no-no list.


Mind was still elsewhere today - Mr. W is flying home this evening.

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords

rain forest 2:51 PM  

Maybe I was in a sportive mood today (still am), but I liked the puzzle. One of the few, and the proud, but not a Marine.

I liked all the themers, even STRAIGHT SHOO, mainly because that was the one where I got the theme, and enabled me to go back to 24A and correct ABYSs. Also, there was little dreck in here. PREXY is an old one, but it has been in previous xwords, and it is valid.

Wacky enough for me.

rain forest 2:57 PM  

While I was typing the previous comment, the Orange One was on TV delivering a speech to his base, fully in still-on-the-campaign mode repeating everything he has said before and pointedly ignoring his Russian ties and his ridiculous Tweet about Obama's supposed wire-tapping. Totally fails the "breakfast test".

What is the matter with this man?

rondo 3:37 PM  

Hand up for ABYSS before I got down to the revealer and worked back up through the various blank spots in the themers with the G in GIMMESHEL being filled last. Not a great concept, but passable.

My dad worked for Caterpillar for 41 years and once on vacation we got to stay in PEORIA with one of his former co-workers and venture out into the countryside to see some of Cat’s biggest shovels working the coal strip mines. Impressive for a kid. That’s how that played in PEORIA. BTW, that Cat pension, complete with health insurance, is still taking care of Mom some 23 years after my dad’s passing. From back when unions and pensions meant something.

Have told my own NAOMI story before, back when sowing wild OATES. But NAOMI Watts has to be the yeah baby today.

And I will be seeing Hall & OATES along with Tears for Fears when they come to St. Paul in May.

I seem to remember PREXY from headlines back when I was a kid. Tough for a 4 year old to figure out. And OFL never heard of LETTRDROP? C’mon.

This puz was strained, but OK I guess. After all this OT at work I’ll need to stop toNITE and pick up a SIX pack.

BS2 4:46 PM  

Not every day is duckies and bunnies.


shoooting up heoroin or the like. Called so because a session will leave a dark linear mark (known as a "track") at the site of the affected vein. Hardcore users will tend to have multiple sites of injection and will locate, or "spot" an optimum vein - one with minimal "tracks" and discomfort or infection.

spacecraft 8:36 PM  

Very late today; overslept. Not that the puzzle was all that tough though: c'mon guys. Doesn't anybody remember Hinky Pinks? This is a word game where you supply definitions for rhyming pairs--the wackier the better. The only hint is the number of syllables: "hink pink, hinky pinky, hinkety pinkety," etc. One of the most famous ones was a hinky pinkly: "An appealing head of state."*

Yes, I confess to a very temporary misprint of ABYSs, quickly corrected by my buds the Stones with GIMMESHEL(TER). But writing ABYSS made me think of the smokin' hot Mary Louise Mastrantonio in that movie, a LETTER off but what the hey, close enough for DOD.

I thought the theme clever and a little different, and very contrary to OFL, I LOLed at STRAIGHTSHOO. And if PSS is the only fill trash, we are good. Birdie.

*Oh yeah. Sexy PREXY.

Unknown 10:35 AM  

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