John of pro wrestling / FRI 3-31-17 / Alphabetically rhyming river name / Mammasl using echolocation / 1980s big city mayor / Ff Sumter battler / Good practice for show it's academic

Friday, March 31, 2017

Constructor: David C. Duncan Dekker

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: none 

Word of the Day: John CENA (23A: John of pro wrestling) —
John Felix Anthony Cena Jr. (/ˈsnə/; born April 23, 1977) is an American professional wrestler, rapper, actor, and reality television show host. He is signed to WWE, where he performs on the SmackDown brand. Cena started his professional wrestling career in 1999 with Ultimate Pro Wrestling (UPW) and won the UPW Heavyweight Championship the following year.[8] Cena signed a developmental contract with the World Wrestling Federation (WWF, later renamed to World Wrestling Entertainment, or simply WWE) in 2001, debuting on the WWE main roster in 2002. [...] Outside of wrestling, Cena has released the rap album You Can't See Me, which debuted at No. 15 on the US Billboard 200 chart, and starred in the feature films The Marine (2006), 12 Rounds (2009), Legendary (2010), The Reunion (2011), Trainwreck (2015), and Sisters (2015).  Cena has also made appearances on television shows including Manhunt, Deal or No Deal, MADtv, Saturday Night Live, Punk'd, Psych, and Parks and Recreation. He was also a contestant on Fast Cars and Superstars: The Gillette Young Guns Celebrity Race, where he made it to the final round before being eliminated, placing third in the overall competition. Cena is also the host of American Grit on Fox. Cena is involved in numerous philanthropic causes; most notably with the Make-A-Wish Foundation. He has granted the most wishes in Make-A-Wish history (wikipedia).
• • •

The virtues of a 72-word themeless are *supposed* to be clean, fresh, interesting fill (72 is the highest word count allowed for themelesses, and a high word count means the grid is easier to fill well). But this grid is constructed in the way least likely to make the clean, fresh, interesting stuff happen. You still have these giant corners, which will only ever top out at OK, even if you are a pretty good constructor. The result is a grid that is mostly dull, with some ugly (short fill) patches, which is then bedecked with Qs and Zs in a rather cynical attempt to distract the solver with shininess. ODETS CENA and EDKOCH start us with a glut of names and then PEEDEE gets a hyper-dumb (and to me, indecipherable) clue (2D: Alphabetically rhyming river name). Not even a geographic location. And "alphabetically" means "in alphabetical order" to me, so I just had to rely on crosses and knowing the PEEDEE river exists. A trivial sum is TWO *PENCE*? Cor Blimey! Here in America, I give my two cents, not my two pence. How did that not have a "to Brits" tag like ENQUIRY? GUIDE crossing GUIDO? Ouch. There was not a lot of joy here. Is a BSC a Bachelor of ... SCience? How "common" is a BSC? Is it different from a B.S.? I teach in a degree-granting place and I have no idea. I google BSC and the first hit that comes up is "Boston Sports Clubs." That was the last answer I got.

Two major errors held me up today. First BUTT OUT for BUZZ OFF (24D: "Go away!"). And then, much worse, OKRAS for ORCAS (11D: Things in a pod). I thought the clue on SWIMMEET was pretty decent (13D: What has different strokes for different folks?). But there wasn't much else that was entertaining. I mean, PIZZA (amazing, delicious!) and the best clue you can come up with is [___ topping]?? That's criminal. Overall, this is not terrible, but it's highly blah, and makes me miss the days when killer themeless constructors roamed the Friday and Saturday puzzles. [Redacted nostalgic passage] [Redacted remark about talent depletion] [Decision to go drink BOOZE].

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Anonymous 6:58 AM  

SMEARY is... ugh.

Moly Shu 7:03 AM  

BSC and SMEARY, not so good. But we did get John CENA eating PUDDING and drinking BOOZE. We also got my all time favorite answer, wait for it ........... SHU. @M&A, how bout some weeject love?
Toughest section was BSC, RHYS, ORCAS area. Had OkrAS also which caused most of the problems. Wanted whales or dolphin or something aquatic before SHREWS. Who knew?

kitshef 7:16 AM  

Other than the shout-out to @Moly, the swarm of double-letters, and one magnificent row (JACUZZI QUIXOTE), not much to see here.

Too many of the 8s are wasted on multi-word phrases like WELL INTO and TWO PENCE.

Then there is the sub-basement stuff like PEEDEE and SMEARY.

Still, liked it better than @Rex did as it certainly gave me a challenge, especially the top two sections. Tough, but fair.

ORCAS and its cross with SALMA were my entry to the grid. The vegetable meaning of pod never occurred to me.

DeeJay 7:16 AM  

Gosh, this is an exciting, fun and challenging puzzle, studded with the solver's best friends: Q's, z's, V's, X's and k's! Entering BEFORE for BYGONE slowed me down a ton.

Loren Muse Smith 7:16 AM  

After I solved this, I was convinced it was a double or even triple pangram. Nope. But close.

The UZI was invented by Uziel Gal, who didn’t want the gun named after him. Oops. The Avtomat Kalashnikova – the AK 47 - was named after Mikhail Kalishnikov – invented in, yup, 1947. (Little known fact – the M16 was created by Skeeter McSplettstoesser because his last name has 16 letters.)

The JACUZZI was invented by Émile Zola.

Ok. I have this little dustpan and broom that I use throughout the day to sweep up dried mud from my students’ boots and explain that I try to do what I can to help out the, well, the custodians. I never say JANITOR. I’m wondering if I’m overthinking this, thinking that JANITOR is going the way of housewife, stewardess, secretary. When Cindy comes in my room after school, after all the teachers have left, while I’m still there, overthinking lesson plans, grading, yada yada, I scramble to tacitly let her know that I don’t think I’m all superior and stuff because she’s mopping my floor. Oh – I didn’t see that broken pencil on the floor– here, let me get that out of your way. Sorry I missed that dirt; I try to sweep over the course of the day. Want a Tootsie Pop? I have cherry and grape. I pray that she chooses the cherry one but don’t blink when she takes the grape one. My garbage is only half full; don’t bother with it.
When she empties it, I apologize, ridiculously. For what? That I managed to fill only half of it? That she’s emptying it anyway? After she leaves, I think my behavior is probably more insulting to her than just shutting up and letting her work. Was I smarmy? I overthink that, too. And the whole time she’s in the room, I’m thinking custodian, custodian, custodian – never JANITOR. So two weeks ago she tells me that it’ll be hard to afford this trip she wants to take “on a janitor’s pay.” She. Used. The. Word. Gotta think about that one.

No complaints here – I thought it was a fine Friday. Crunchy, scrabbly. I liked learning about SHREWS. I felt smart knowing ALONZO.

Forsythia 7:17 AM  

Super hard to get a toe hold, but bit by bit it came together. FUR was an early answer and I hesitated since that seems non-PC these days. WATER/WYLE was my last entry, just couldn't see it but liked the clue for WATER when I got it. Hated SMEARY. Spelled OsARKS wrong so had a DNF. And I know those mtns, but ALAKAsAM seemed ok unfortunately. As others have said in the past, spelling out nonsense words is a frustrating effort. Liked the clue for BOOZE. Figuring out that the puzzle was full of scrabble letters helped me get JACUZZI, and that clue was amusing.
All in all, tough cluing but mainly fair. I enjoyed all the JKQZs. Great puzzle for me, or would have been if I had spelled OZARKS correctly!

puzzle hoarder 7:21 AM  

When our host delivers one of these professor Parker take downs of what's wrong with a given puzzle I just picture some SNL actor in a smoking jacket with a pipe doing a tonight on crossword masterpiece theater skit and it's much more amusing.
As for the puzzle, after solving I thought it should have been much easier than it was with those high value letters. I had that same BUTTOUT write over and it screwed up what should have been the easiest section. Anywhere there was.a problem like thjs I could just skip ahead then restart and back fill. You can't hide entries like IKEA and AORTA. Overall this was tougher than yesterday's solve so I wasn't disappointed. A fun solve to a clean grid.

Irene 7:36 AM  

Medium? Really?
I knew I was in trouble when the only gimmee was RHYS crossing SALMA. Finally finished after what felt like ages. But it was satisfying. Good cluing and it was fun seeing all those Zs appearing.

r.alphbunker 7:36 AM  

These two cascos in the SE slowed me down
44D. {Winter coat lining} FRINGE-->FLEECE


Details are here

Nettie 7:37 AM  

Rex, yes a Bachelor of Science is commonly abbreviated B.Sc. or BSc. Although I have seen BS used, I would have to think for a second before knowing what it meant if I saw it after someone's name. Could this be regional?

SMEARY - I don't even know what to say about that. This isn't something!

doorslam 7:42 AM  

Other than SMEARY, I thought today was pretty good for a themeless. It was also super easy for me for some reason (about half my usual Friday time), which always improves my opinion of a puzzle as it makes me feel smart. While some of the fill was clunky, it was at least different from the usual clunky.

Mister Mxyzptlk 7:53 AM  

I figured Rex would love it because it's a Pangram.

Kim Scudera 7:53 AM  

I was heading for a record Friday time, and enjoying the ride, when I stumbled on the CENA/COTTA crossing. COTTo is just as valid an answer at 4D, and CENA was no more gettable for me than CENo. Grr. DNF with one error.

Mahalyasree 7:54 AM  

It's like you read my mind! You seem to know a lot about this, like you wrote the book in it or something. I think that you can do with some pics to drive the message home a little bit, but instead of that, this is fantastic blog. A great read. I will definitely be back.
Office Interiors in Chennai
Home Interior Decorators in Chennai

Charles Flaster 8:00 AM  

Liked it much better than Rex even with SMEARY. The first 95% was easy but I had to take a DNF with not knowing RHYS and never changing OkraS. BS is much more commonly used than BSC .
Liked cluing for JACUZZI and SWIM MEET.
Thanks DCDD.
@LMS-- I try to never use "janitor" or "cop".

Glimmerglass 8:05 AM  

@LMS, if this is what you really think/say to the custodian, then yes, you are seriously overthinking it! You are patronizing in the extreme. Try to think of him/her as a colleague, stop apologzing, smile pleasantly, and make the kind of small talk you might make with that shy complit teacher. "Think the Red Sox will have a good year?" is a suggestion. The puzzle was hard for me, and so I didn't find it dull. I left a blank at CENA/COTTA. I forgot to go back and guess.

EES 8:19 AM  

Misery loves company. Thank God I have this group of grumblers to commiserate with. Had everything except part of the NW quadrant which kept me bleary-eyed last night before going to bed. "Maybe in the morning I'll know what an alphabetical rhyming river name is!" I thought naively. Instead it led me to a DNF. Tried every way I could think of to wrangle the sound of 'q' into those spaces since 'q' comes after 'p' right? CUE. QUE. But no. DEE?? Sorry, but that's not what the word alphabetical means. Never heard of CENA or ODETS. So much for getting ED KOCH right away and thinking that would open things up. And as for's an insult to all New York bagel eaters who know the only word that can describe cream cheese on a bagel is SCHMEAR. And in the NYTXWP no less? Ugh.
Also, are ELM TREES shadier than other kinds of trees?
I agree with @kitshef that JACUZZI QUIXOTE was a pretty dazzling line. But it wasn't enough to er...hold water. Btw, for those of you looking for a fun google search, check out the Jacuzzi Brothers. Real people!
Hoping Saturday clears the palette.

Passing Shot 8:27 AM  

SMEARY??? As a bagel-lovin' Brooklynite, no. Everyone knows it's a "schmear." There have got to be better clues for both SMEARY and SPY. Seemed like there was a lot of trivia. Liked seeing FESSES but the rest of it, ugh.

keleng 8:28 AM  

certainly in Canada, a BSc (big S, little c) is the standard term for Bachelor of Science. CENA/COTTA got me as well, and what the heck is a QUIZBOWL??

Sir Hillary 8:32 AM  

"...bedecked with Qs and Zs in a rather cynical attempt to distract the solver..."

Oh brother. Yeah, I'm sure DCDD was thinking Hmmm...pretty boring prevent people from noticing, I better stick in a run of Zs and Qs, a few Ks and an X...because that's so easy to do.... Please.

SMEARY is pretty bad, but aside from that, is there really much to complain about here? Not to me. The PEEDEE clue is a little off? Horrors!

I liked.

Aketi 8:38 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown 8:40 AM  

I'd give TUPPENCE for TWO PENCE...

Aketi 8:41 AM  

I stared at _U_ _ OFF for a long time before the presence of all the other Zs realigned my thinking about what would be a more appropriate entry than the one that first popped into my head.

Nancy 8:43 AM  

So easy...until it wasn't. I raced through the NW, then hit a wall that began at 34A, where I had ---UZZI and couldn't for the life of me think of anything that fit. Yes, yes, I know. Don't laugh. So I went elsewhere. Big mistake at 43D, where I had BefOrE before BYGONE. Also had Jean AUEL before Jean RHYS (10D); SeLMA before SALMA and SPREAD before SMEARY (60A). In addition, I had SOT before SPY for the stereotypical sunglasses wearer. (Well, we all have our reasons for wearing them, don't we?) Today, what saved me were stereotypical crossword puzzle words. I'm looking at you ED KOCH, OXO, and IKEA. I would have known ED (my Mayor, after all) but only xwords have given me OXO which, since I spend as little time as possible in the kitchen, I would never have heard of otherwise. And the clue was so clever on IKEA that I wouldn't have gotten it, but for it's xword ubiquity. I liked the clues for IKEA; ELM TREES; SWIM MEET; SUN; WATER; DEMO TAPE; AORTA and BROWSE. This presented more challenge than I expected at first, and solving it made me feel both smart and persistent.

Sez Anne 8:49 AM  

@EES, it's "clears the palate". Unless you're doing oil paints. Or loading pallets.

Unknown 8:55 AM  

@puzzle hoarder made me laugh. The image of Rex in a smoking jacket will make the cranky reviews much more entertaining.

Leapfinger 9:00 AM  


All furrowed I BROWSE
Were sure "Moo ___" meant COWS.

And that's for SHU, @Moly! (AORTA know when I've been SHREWed, eh?)

Lewis 9:08 AM  

@rex -- Hand up for OkrAS"

Well dang! So many people are mentioning the ugly SMEARY and overlooking the gorgeous parts of this puzzle. I think Rex is right -- the answers are plain in general, maybe excepting KEPTATIT, BUZZOFF, WELLINTO. But, as @nancy has alluded to, the cluing has sparkle. OAT, JACUZZI, AORTA, WATER, TOMATOES. I hope I never become so jaded that clever clues like this don't tickle my fancy.

This was a double letter fest -- 18 -- which is more than the NYT has had in quite some time, but the highly unusual high double letter count (as I, your resident alphadoppeltotter has determined after years of tracking them) starts at 20.

I learned something new about SHREWS and liked the neighboring Qs and Zs, and felt good about conquering what seemed like persistent resistance. I'd give this a highish score on my TOMATOmeter.

Anonymous 9:08 AM  

The best way to stop worrying about coming across as feeling superior is to stop feeling superior.

Lewis 9:09 AM  

@leapy -- Priceless verse!

Z 9:19 AM  

I hate it when the first comment pretty much sums up my reaction. Thanks for nothing @anon6:58, now I have nothing to say.

@LMS - I'm with @glimmerglass, although I'd go beyond the small talk and ask Cindy about the students. The JANITORs often are the people in the building with the most continuity with the building and are the group most tied to the community, so have useful insights to the kids and what's going on. And I also cannot come up with any reason to use "custodian" in preference to "JANITOR" other than the extra syllable. My middle son, the one now studying Sanskrit in his Masters program, went to a college that required every student to work 15 hours a week. He was placed on the "heavy duty" crew cleaning toilets and taking out trash. When he continued on it his junior year I asked him why he didn't ask to get on a different crew. His answer was he liked his boss, others who had changed ended up hating the new work crew, and cleaning was "oddly meditative." I sometimes wonder if he'll end up like the comic strip character Frazz.

One last semi-puzzle related thing, I wonder if Nancy Sinatra is singing about the same guy here? Seems likely, doesn't it.

Matt 9:19 AM  

Foiled by hoMeTAPE

Amie Devero 9:25 AM  

I suspect this constructor has spent a lot of time in the UK. (I don't know this, just think). Many of the clues were common British-isms, albeit unglued as such. Eg: pudding, BSc (I have an MSc), two-pence (pronounced tuppence). In other words, several of Rex' hated fill examples stemmed from a poor American editorial effort.

EES 9:38 AM  

Well I am an artist...but something did feel off there. ;)

QuasiMojo 9:43 AM  

Wikipedia (that fount of infallibility) tells me that "Don Juan" is a satiric poem, what Byron dubbed "an epic satire." I remember thinking it was a giant put-on, when we read it in college, much more fun than Don Giovanni (which is too long and has "too many notes" to quote a king.)

I wanted "schmear" for the damn bagel spread. Never heard of "smeary" and this trend to add "y"'s to words to make them fit is pretty smarmy if you ask me! Unwise!

The only good thing about all those Z's and Q's is that it made grokking the "Ozarks" all that much easier. I first had Tetons.

I like @Nancy's SOT more than SPY (which is pretty dated, like something from MAD magazine.) I had VIP in there for the longest time.

I only had to cheat once today which is not so bad for a Friday. I had to look up Hershey Bars online because I couldn't for the life of me figure out SKOR. Four SKOR and seven years ago, they didn't sell those thingamajigs in my candy store.

Calling an "orca" a "thing" is pretty weak. They're mammals too. And have feelings.

I thought JANITOR had gone the way of Garbage Man and Stewardess.

There are a couple of SHREWS that hang out at the cafe I frequent who seem to love hearing their own echoes.

As far as I can see there is only ONE PENCE. Can it really have been coincidence to have "tomatoes" right above that one? Hmmmm....

Norm 9:53 AM  

I pretty much agree with Rex across the board on this one. Challenging in places, but mainly because of stupid & obscure [rather than clever] cluing.

Nancy 9:55 AM  

SMEARY being too smarmy. Four SKOR and seven years ago. ORCAS have feelings, too. And there are several more rib-ticklers. What a witty and delightful post, @Quasi (9:43). Much fun to read.

mathgent 10:04 AM  

Lotsa Zs here as in ZZZZZZ.

Anonymous 10:10 AM  

I thought this was a great puzzle with lots of interesting letters being used. Once I finished it, I thought to myself, "Finally! A puzzle Rex should like!" Silly me.

Frayed Knot 10:17 AM  

Totally stumped by the NE corner
Didn't know RHYS, couldn't get ESCAPADE as clued, tried both 'Whales' and 'Okras' but never hit on ORCAS, and still have no clue what BSC or OXO are.

Greater Fall River Committee for Peace & Justice 10:20 AM  

I believe that our Ms Smith is wrong in claiming that Zola invented the Jacuzzi. I am probably missing a hilarious reason she pretended it. But Zola is in the news for other reasons today, there's an article elsewhere in today's arts section about a new French movie, "Cezanne et Moi", about the friendship between Zola and Cezanne, all-but shattered when Zola writes a novel depicting a Cezanne-like character as a 'castrated, defeated, pathetic loser'.

GILL I. 10:24 AM  

Oh, come on. This was a cute puzzle. ALAKAZAM made me smile especially since I was wracking or maybe racking my brain out trying to remember how to spell it. Alikasam Alakabam yikes how QUIXOTic.
Had the same DNF up in the okra/ORCAS BSC area. I had the LIC for the biorhythms clue and all I could think of was garLIC. Maybe it's grown in a CYCLIC climate and boy was I looking for all kinds of bats using the echolocation system. So, I was a SIMP but I still enjoyed it, yes I did.
@Loren. Maybe you should start a "go fund me" for your JANITOR friend so she can take the vacation of her dreams. I, personally, think it's a perfectly good word that got carted off to the PC cellar for no good reason. Same as stewardess. I think they got mad when everyone started shortening it to STEW (which I wanted for the airline VIP clue). I looked up the meaning - just to be sure. JANITOR originally meant "doorkeeper" and then "an usher in a school" What the hell is wrong with that title? Ay dios mio.
@Leapy my dear BFF. I can't tell you how pleasing it is to have a big belly laugh first thing in the morning. Thanks.
What a strange way to clue BOOZE. I've never met one that was hard to swallow. Well, maybe tequila. It tastes like cactus to me.
DCDD I like to get FUZZY and this did it.....

Nancy 10:29 AM  

GILL -- BOOZE is the "hard stuff," as opposed to "soft drinks" like Coke.

Unknown 10:43 AM  

When looking at the finished puzzle I had only one thought, where can I get some of that BOOZE PUDDING? My choice would be a Sticky Toffee Mudslide.

GILL I. 10:43 AM  

Blimey @Nancy. SIMP indeed. Maybe I'll go hit the stuff.

Greg 10:46 AM  

@EES, your comment finally made me figure out (I think) what was meant by alphabetically rhyming. "Pee" and "Dee" are both letters of the alphabet, 'P' and 'D'. So rhyming alphabetically would be rhyming using letters. "Beady", for instance, would be another instance of rhyming alphabetically. I'm not sure I'm right about this, but after 12 hours of being annoyed by it, it's the best I can come up with.

Ellen S 10:48 AM  

@r.alph bunker (and others) - okay, I give, what's a "casco"? It's not in the FAQs, so not coined by @Rex.

bswein99 11:10 AM  

There were a number of less than enjoyable clues in this puzzle, but "two pence" is just plain wrong. As Rex said, in the US it would be "two cents." In Britain, it's "tuppence."

Warren Howie Hughes 11:13 AM  

"ODETS, be not proud!"

mac 11:18 AM  

Medium Friday for me, with the SW the last part to fall.

Hand up for tuppence, and I first thought of my teapot, a Brown Betty from Stoke-on-Trent.

All in all, I enjoyed this one, some beautiful words.

GHarris 11:18 AM  

Was getting it all done with great satisfaction until I cratered in the SW. The cross of taros with skor (which I never heard used) undid me and smeary didn't help.

kitshef 11:20 AM  

@Greater Fall River Committee for Peace & Justice - LMS was making a pun on Zola's most famous letter, J'accuse, which sounds similar to Jacuzzi.

Joe Bleaux 11:25 AM  

Constructors' consensus seems to be that elms indeed the shadiest, so OK (but elm TREES remain as redundant as pine TREES, oak TREES, etc.)

QuasiMojo 11:26 AM  

@Nancy -- glad you noticed. Thank you so much! :-)

Hartley70 11:31 AM  

@Fall River, J'accuse!!

@Ellen, a "casco" is named for the @Casco Kid, whose puzzle answers were often wrong, and yet made brilliant sense (to me at least) It was so entertaining to see where he went askew. I think @Lewis invented the term.

Sallie (FullTime-Life) 11:33 AM  

I thought it was tuppence.

Anoa Bob 11:38 AM  

Not sure how EPIS ODEI at 7D is "Series opener". Looks weird.

Biorhythms should be CYCLIC but, due to hectic lifestyles, often aren't, Circadian Rhythm Disorders being one of the most common examples.

Several plurals of convenience, including a number of two-for-one, share-a-final-S types, earns this grid a POC assisted rating. FESSES at 45D is a Super-POC. Not only is it a plural of convenience itself, filling 50% more space than its base word FESS, it also enables three more POCs at CAGES, TOMATOES & ELM TREES. Grid fill gold!

Joe Bleaux 11:41 AM  

Ditto on SMEARY and TWOPENCE. Ugh. Once again, though, Three D has come through for me with a Friday puzzle that's "tough but fair" (hi, @kitshef, and @forsythia). I finished the rascal, and even if I kept track of how long it takes me to solve, it wouldn't have been in record time. Anyone, please help out @keleng and me: What's a QUIZBOWL? Is it a lower-tier version of "It's Academic," or what?

RooMonster 11:47 AM  

Hey All !
Well, I thought the sparkly Z's and Q's were pretty cool. And the pinwheel looking grid is neat, giving us only 27 blocks. SW easy, NW easy-medium, had trouble in the SE. Usually good with actor names, but for some reason, WYLE wasn't entering the ole brain. Had to Goog to get it, then SE filled, after changing my BefOrE to BYGONE. NE tough! Didn't know RHYS, Googed that, but couldn't get off of Bas for BSC. Had correct SALMA, but changed first A to E, had OboeS after OkrAS for ORCAS. Dang. DNF.

BOOZE took me a while to grok. Had truth first, just as cool an answer!


Anonymous 11:52 AM  

In a rarity I'm with Rex on BSC. I have BS (and an MS but not an MSc). Rarely, and I'm talking unicorn rare, have I seen it called a BSc or BSC. If BSC is what you're going for at (var.)

Hartley70 11:52 AM  

I was done in, defeated, made to look like a SMEARY schnook today. I did the east side first and handled TUPPENCE like I lived in Maida Vale, but the west side was a nightmare. How could it not be a schmear? I was up in the air with the jet stream. I did know Clifford Odets but was defeated by the wrestler. I don't care for panna cotta so I erased it from my memory bank and tried to use "rosti" like I was in Switzerland (not yesterday's Swaziland).

I think of Apple Brown Betty as a crumble, not a PUDDING, unless you are using PUDDING as a dessert, but why would you do that unless you were in Maida Vale? My moment of triumph? I had the PEEDEE because you pass over it on 95 when you're doing the endless drive down to Disney World with a backseat full of squabbling kids driving you mad. Any distraction is welcome, even a scatologically named stream.

All in all a disastrous dnf. I think I vote for challenging.

Mohair Sam 11:59 AM  

Jeez @Rex this was kinda fun, although we agreed with your medium rating. Liked all the Z's and Q's (I'll leave the U's to M&A). ALAKAZAM, PEEDEE, BUZZOFF - different, neat stuff imo.

First thing I looked at 1D and said all I can think of is KOCH and he doesn't fit, Damn. EDKOCH was one of our last entries. Spent a year's worth of weekends in a bed sitter in Stoke Newington (London) - when folks there were looking to hit you up for a pint at the local they never said they didn't have TWO PENCE, the complaint was always "I ain't got tuppence ha'penny" - trust me on this. But I guess it wouldn't fit at 59A.

@LMS - Whoa lady, you are thinking way too much. Just ask her how's the weather and get out of her way.

@Ellen S - at the risk of being the tenth to post this. A Casco is when you fall in love with an incorrect entry i.e. BUttOut for BUZZOFF (like I did today), and just refuse to let it go for way too long. A regular here named "The Casco Kid" would do that all the time often blowing up otherwise perfect solves, his delightful complaints left us all laughing. Eventually we adopted the term CASCO for the hangup. Wish Rex would formalize it.

Hungry Mother 12:03 PM  

I liked this better than yesterday. Some very nice answers. Funny how themeless puzzles leave me grasping for a handhold.

old timer 12:04 PM  

I admit it, I cheated for every name I did not know. Plus an after-the-fact lookup of TAROS. I love anything made of TARO root, but did not believe it was a member of the Arum family. Even so, there were many EPIC fails in my grid. "Spread" before the unlikely (and awful) SMEARY. "Before" before the far better BYGONE.

And folks, didn't any of you confidently write in "whales" before SHREWS?

This was a very, very British puzzle, what with BSC (we use BS at American universities) and TWO PENCE and PUDDING. A Brown Betty is not a PUDDING in the American sense, though it is a dessert and in Britain any dessert can be a PUDDING.

And it has to be a pangram. Is there some letter that was left out?

Anonymous 12:05 PM  

Want to learn what the NEA's program "Degrees Not Debt" is about? Go to their website Not a word about reducing tuition, eliminating needless staff, trimming bloated salaries (eg. assoc. profs pulling down $150K + [a real number at Michigan State for example] or getting degrees that are marketable (did you really think a "gender studies" major was going to land 60G's out of college???). It's the usual left "solution": more grants, lower interest, loan forgiveness, blah, blah, blah

old timer 12:08 PM  

Oh, what ever was insulting about JANITOR? A perfectly straightforward job name if you ask me. Though it did inspire jokes about Janiting, just like "usher" inspired jokes about "ushing".

Ellen S 12:10 PM  

@Hartley70, thanks for the casco update. I remember the @Casco Kid, but can't call to mind the missteps. It would be based on a misunderstanding of the clue? Or just something ever so slightly related to the clue So @R.alphbunker's FringE for FLEECE is um, well, yes, not what the clue said but vaguely textile-related?? @Roo Monster's OboeS for things in a pod cracked me up. But not a casco, just an act of desperation, something that would fit? (@Darrin, please don't be offended. You should see how I do jigsaw puzzles. With a hammer to pound in the pieces that don't want to fit where I want them.)

nick 12:14 PM  

Quadruple natick here thanks to never having heard of the river or the wrestler and forgetting the playwright. Wish I was as forgiving as the rest of the commenters here but ugh, kind of hated this.

mathgent 12:16 PM  

@LMS: I applaud your bravery for telling us your very personal feelings about the person who cleans your room.

CDilly52 12:39 PM  

Thank you @LMS and Leapfinger for your trivia, creativity, and humor-the poem made me laugh! Feel my leg being pulled with the reference to Mr. McSplettstoesser, though. I think a fellow named Stoner led the way with the M15-16.

The puzzle made me head for the BOOZE. Was sure the theme was about Qs and Zs. Minding your PEEDEE, Qs. . . And Zs? Oh well. Thrown by tuppence, (nobody says "TWOPENCE") and BROWN BETTY needed the "Brit" reference because it is not PUDDING. Wished I could have waved my magic wand and ALAKAZAM, the puzzle is done!

gifcan 12:51 PM  

I'm with those who dnf'd at COTTo/CENo.
Buttttt . . . I thoroughly enjoyed the puzzle. I started with SALMA/ORCAS and then picked my way through. There was much I didn't know but the crosses were fair.

SMEARY could be re-clued. Kids fingerpainting, now that's smeary.

I figured Ha Ha Tonka was definitely Hawaiian. So much to know, so pleasurable to learn new things.

Mohair Sam 12:55 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous 12:57 PM  

re Kim Scudera at 7:53. You are right. "Baked, in Bologna" by itself normally is *cotto*, since the masculine adjective is normally the default (it's where one goes in the dictionary, at any rate). True, *Cena* (Italian for *dinner*) is a more common surname than *Ceno*, but who knows with professional wrestlers? Better clue for 4D would have given the feminine, e.g. *describing lasagna, ready-to-eat* or *like lasagna, at a tavola calda*. I did guess *cotta*, but it was just a guess, supposing the distinction I gave was too subtle, and that the normal *terra -----* was too easy for Friday, and, as I said, *Ceno* an unusual surname.

Happy Pencil 1:06 PM  

@Kim Scudera, I'm totally with you -- although I had COTTe/CENe. Yeah, that made me grumpy about the puzzle as a whole, but not as grumpy as Rex (of course).

I have never, ever called the degree anything but a BSC, so that one got plunked in without a second thought. Perhaps it's a Canadian thing? Don't know if the constructor is from here, but the Britishisms would suggest that possibility as well.

Anonymous 1:20 PM  


Sounds to me like you think you are, or at least believe your job, is superior to the custodian.
get over your own virtue.

And yeah, I know. LMS is everyone's darling, and I'm an anonymouse. I got it. But come on regulars, take away the name from that post and parse that bit of it and ask yourself what it really says.

Teedmn 1:35 PM  

Is there a visual concept equivalent to the audial "onomatopoeia"? If so, that's the word I need to describe my SMEARY, which is so full of black ink, it becomes self-referential. (I started with "Schm__", never mind, then "Spread").

The right side of this puzzle wasn't so bad, starting off the UZI/SHU cross (hi @r.alph) but I feel like I crow-barred my way into the West. The only thing I felt sure about in the SW was RAGTOP. And in the NW, thinking 27A would be "you", I was imagining the 80's mayor might be _Daley (though only one year of that decade had a Daley as a mayor of Chicago.)

I never fell into the BUttOut hole because the B from BOOZE made me want "Beat it" which didn't fit (and it Beats me why I was pretty sure it wouldn't be Beat OFF :-). )

Some cute cluing and a satisfying solve (albeit long for a Friday) made this a great puzzle for me, so thanks, DCDD.

And @Leapfinger, loved the EPIC POEM!

sf27shirley 1:37 PM  

Also brown betty is not Pudding

Leapfinger 1:39 PM  

Not sure exactly what in the comments made me think of Ernie Kovacs and his alter ego Percy Dovetonsils, but it led me to the discovery of an L.A. poet, Doug Lane, who published under that nom de plume. One of his poems, written in '09, still seems timely. Can it get any verse?

My Single Prayer Plan - by Percy Dovetonsils

I’m sending up a single prayer plan
for every uninsured American
who hasn’t got a prayer
when he gets canned.

I’m sending up a single prayer plan
for all those with insecurance
who get screwed and cut off
when they so much as cough.

I'm sending up a single prayer plan
for every woman and man
for whom life
is a pre-existing condition:
God have mercy on your souls
because this nation
will have none
on your bodies.

I’m sending up a single prayer plan
for those sold out
Senators and Congressmen
with fabulous, personal, federal health plans
who shout 'Perdition! '
about the socialized medicine
they pretend to fear
and might even be growing near
for their voters.

I’m sending up a single prayer plan
for the Big Insecurance Man
who bites off
40% of medical costs
-his gain being
our loss.

I’m sending up a single prayer plan
for the surviving
who has to pay for workers' care
while he competes
on a field that's unfair
against companies in countries
with universal care.

I’m sending up a single prayer plan
for doctors
who get nervous
unless they see
their public service
as a private profit tree.

I’m sending up a single prayer plan
for a government
that would rather
devour its own
to enrich a few
than do
what it ought to.

A votre sante, y'all!

Putting in my TWO PENCE 1:48 PM  

Yes, Anonymous 1:20, we do like, respect and enjoy reading Loren. And nothing mean- spirited or nasty that you say is going to change our minds. Jealous of her popularity, perhaps? Whereas you have never been popular, either on or off a blog?That's sure what it sounds like.

Ronghoti 1:54 PM  

Common in the 1950s on radio and TV. In the 60s there was a show called "College Bowl".

Anonymous 1:56 PM  

Two Pence,

I don't believe I said anything mean spirited. Or untrue for that matter. You on the other hand made an accusation without any information to support it.
I too often enjoy reading LMS's posts. But not today's. I stand by my criticism. LMS, if I hurt your feelings I apologize. But my take on your post stands.

For the rest of the white knighrts, surely reasonable people can have a different take on what someone has written, no?

Carola 2:08 PM  

Tough stedding for me. Some familiar guideposts - RHYS, ODETS, ALONZO, and SALMA along with learned-from-crosswords AFFAIRE and PEEDEE - helped me negotiate most of the run, but professional wrestling proved too rough a terrain and I crashed at COTTo x CENo, joining @Kim Scudera, @Happy Pencil and others in the pile-up.

Gosh, it took me a long time to get JACUZZI. Like @Hartley70, I had my eyes directed skyward - or at the weather map, where in Wisconsin winters it tells me if we're in the path of an Alberta Clipper. I swear, there are times when there's a uvula-like dip in the jet stream right over my house. Okay, moving on. Agree that the JACUZZI-QUIXOTE line is terrific.

Me, too, for having to correct BeforE, Shmear, BUttOut.

I enjoyed working on this one - lots of pleasure jolts when words became clear (e.g., AORTA, ALAKAZAM, BOOZE).

okanaganer 2:58 PM  

Hands up for BSc (I have one) from Canada. I always assumed BS was archaic; guess not!

Reminds me of the lame joke:
What do BS, MS, and PhD stand for?
Bull S---, More of the Same, Piled Higher and Deeper.

John 3:01 PM  

Cena, cotti for me.

John 3:02 PM  


jberg 3:03 PM  

I too thought at first that it should be "tuppence," not TWO PENCE; but I think @Amie Devero is right -- it's one of those things that spelled one way and pronounced another, like 'victuals' (pronounced 'vittles') or 'viz.' (pronounced 'namely.')

But I can't claim any expertise, since I too made the sexist presumption that it was COTTo.

On the other hand, I had a stroke of luck -- now that my wife and I are retired, we decided to extend our Florida spring break to two weeks (3 next year), and made up the extra cost by driving down, with our bikes on the car, thereby saving the airfare, car rental, and bike rental. As a result I added South Carolina to the nearly-complete list of states I've been in, and of necessity crossing the PEEDEE River. It's hard to forget a name like that, so I got that one. I just looked it up, and it's named after the local Indian tribe -- I had been hoping for a more colorful origin.

Just for completeness, I should note that @Casco himself called Cascos "going down a rabbithole."

And for those of you coming over all superior on @Loren Muse Smith, you really should learn to tell when she's making fun of herself.

Charley 3:13 PM  

A movie star stereotypically wears sunglasses? Maybe. But a spy? A spy wears a disguise. And smeary isn't even a thing.

Anonymous 3:53 PM  

It's either TUPPENCE or TWO CENTS, but TWO PENCE? Phooey!

Hartley70 4:16 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Hartley70 4:19 PM  

@Ellen, think of a multiple choice test where one answer A is ridiculous. Answer B is just wrong. C and D are tough to distinguish. Either one "could" be right, but some how you get a sense that D is what the test wants. You could argue in an essay that C is correct and your defense would be brilliant, but no, D is just an easier "right". @Casco went with C.

I suspect he's a genius.

Dolgo 4:29 PM  

I'm surprised nobody complained about Ha Ha Tonka. I got it right away since I was born and grew up in Missouri. I remember visiting there as a kid before the Lake of the Ozarks, Branson, etc. There's a ruined "castle" there of that name, built and then burned down. Only the masonry walls remain. It is a potential image from my youth, sometimes appearing in my dreams. I guess most people Naticked "Ozarks."

Dolgo 4:33 PM  

Damn autocorrect!! Of course, I meant "potent."

Mohair Sam 4:48 PM  

@Dolgo - I kinda preferred "potential" there, neat pairing with dreams if you know what I mean.

Hartley70 4:48 PM  

@Anonymous 9:08am. Having just met Loren, my observation is that she doesn't have a "superior feeling" bone in her body.

Dolgo 4:52 PM  

Thanks, @Mohair Sam! I like and appreciated your comment. I even considered letting it stand.

Tita 4:55 PM  

My head hurts. OkrAS in pods...or whe things weren't working, could it be whale? Nah. Wait...Whales use! Or wait...may a cousin of the oKapi does?

ParshEET is what I thought might record different strokes. Oh man...that corner was an absolute bear! So was the SE. took me all day, but I finally got it with zero cheating.

So I forgive DCDD the clunkers.

Anonymous 5:06 PM  


Another poem just made up from someone seeing situations in Orange County CA:

I crossed your border
I don't care
Because you said
"Go anywhere"

I'm just doing a job
That you won't do
But to my homeland
I will be true

The County's flag
Of my birth
Is more than yours
Will ever be worth

If I get ill
I just use ER
In every sanctuary city
They are not far

If it accrues
A very large fee
There is no worry
With your taxes they're free

For education
I'll use your public schools
You pay for it
You dumb ass tools

Keep caring for me
More than your kin and friends
Thanks for the charity
It seems it never ends

I care more for mine
Than you do yours
We'll take your country
With no wars

I'll bring my kids
And my spouse
Just one more thing
Give me your house.

So keep on thinking
Your cause it true
The next person seeking a better life
Will soon be you

Happy Cesar Chavez Day!

Tita 5:22 PM  

@Hartley...on the next trip down, take the back roads and ferries. You'll get to snigger at the sign for the causeway over Little Assawoman Bay.

We have a lowercase j JACUZZI. Last blizzard was the perfect snow for jacuzzi snow angels. Good times.

And I think the only gimme in this puzzle was RAGTOP, a term I have always liked. So summertime-at-the-beach carefree.
My second one could have been in the dictionary next to the word, as the top Was only slightly more substantial than a rag. The big black Frankenstein stitching I added to hold it together along the wear points really gave it some style. And it took about 20 minutes to tug, snap and screw into place.
Now I push a button. Ahh, progress.

JerryH 6:02 PM  

Re: booze. I'm taste testing wine with the Ullo wine purifier. It removes sulphiites. Stayed with an overpriced Sonoma Cutrer (not the superb Russian River version). I'll have to expand my test group. Off to buy French Montrachet in AM.

old timer 6:32 PM  

People I know who are undocumented immigrants work hard, have taxes deducted from their paycheck (yeah, their Social Security card is fake)and have to be super-careful to obey the most minor laws. Because they are at risk with even the smallest deviation. And if they commit a serious crime, they are going to prison, and will be deported afterwards -- sanctuary cities don't help in that case. IMO it is their citizen children who are most at risk of getting involved with gangs.

But I came back to note that while there is no "two pence" coin there was in my memory a three pence "bit" and a sixpence coin, and the 3d coin said "three pence" even though it was pronounced "thrup'ny"

BarbieBarbie 7:00 PM  

Maybe I'm too new at this to be jaded, but I enjoyed the doubles and high-Scrabble-score letters. Once I noticed ehat was going on the puzzle was a lot easier. But still I had to go round and round, so Medium is a good call.
Until someone who works for a janitorial service tells me "janitor" is a demeaning term, I'll continue to think it's a fair and d sc iptive word. "Custodian" can mean someone who takes care of anything. "Janitor" is more specific.
How does the Ullo remove sulphites?

jae 7:04 PM  

Easy-medium for me with the NE the toughest. Liked this more than @Rex did. The cluing and scrabblely letters gave it some zip.

Me too for TWO cents.

If you're interested in what ED KOCH was doing in the late '70s the second half of part 1 of The Get Down shows up on Netflix on Apr. 7.

Anonymous 7:11 PM  

Oh, I see. You have zero experience in the educational system and you figure that all that needs to be done to correct it is cut down on the money expended for public education.

Let's cut the education budget by $54 billion or so and put it towards more nuclear weapons. That will make world a better place to live. And, by the way, professors salaries are pure capitalism. The universities pay out what the market place dictates they have to get and keep quality teachers.

Andrew Heinegg 7:16 PM  

I too was curious about that Ullo thing. I would surely be careful about removing sulfites from a $250-$1,000 bottle of Montrachet, which is fairly well recognized as the finest form of Chardonnay to be had.

Anonymous 7:19 PM  

@old timer

Not so. As an auditor for the State of California for 13+ years employers frequently pay illegals cash and report it on 1099's. They then deduct those cash payments on their 1040 Schedule C's. While no State or Federal taxes are taken out, they still have to be reported for workers' comp purposes. Get it yet? And yes, those employers are reported to EDD and the DA. If they pursue the case is not in my hands. Unfortunately, I, (and citizens in general), have no voice.

Again, thank you California for Cesar Chavez day off!

Bill Feeney 7:50 PM  

Jacuzzi: Zola's work translated into Italian.

Hartley70 8:41 PM  

@Leapy, and you are why we need a "like" button today.

Phil 9:20 PM  

Yes i believe just by grace of genetics the kids should get at least a chance at fame... but except daddy buying all her records I don't know how any would have ever sold.

Chris 9:21 PM  

As others have noted, COTTA and COTTO are equally valid, and the answer is crossed with the name of a pro wrestler whose existence has somehow evaded me, though I'm sure that what he does matters to someone, somewhere. Overall, this puzzle was SMEARY.

ghostoflectricity 10:51 PM  

"Twopence" doesn't even exist. When you're talking about 2/100ths of a British pound, the phrase Brits use is "tuppence." In other words, a lousy clue with an even lousier answer, one that doesn't even exist in spoken or written British English. The rest of the fill was mostly just as annoying. And what's the deal, as Rex points out, with filling a Friday themeless with so many Z's and Q's? More trying to be clever for clever's sake (see: John Cena). Awful puzzle.

Anonymous 12:14 AM  

Forget "cotta/cotto" which means cooked, not baked.
Baked is "al forno"

Devon 9:20 AM  

That was the worst. As I filled in the crosses (I first had SPREAD), I was also filling with dread. No... please no... OH GOD THEY ACTUALLY DID IT.

Joe Bleaux 5:57 PM  

And so, at the end of the day (to coin a phrase 😏), I still don't know whether QUIZ BOWL is a thing.

Unknown 6:31 PM  

I cannot figure out how to do two letters per square with the digital puzzle. Is it even possible?

Unknown 12:32 PM  

I call bullshit on that M16 "fact". The Emile Zola thing sounds pretty suspect as well...

Burma Shave 10:43 AM  


I was WELLINTO FUZZY, getting a BUZZOFF of some BOOZE,
My METHODS were CYCLIC, like the COVERAGE of an UZI,
with girls of all SIZES, like a SWIMMEET in a JACUZZI.
Like QUIXOTE I’d GUIDE them to SKOR, I’d suppose
an ESCAPADE in the water with TWOPENCE TOMATOES.


this stream of unconsciousness first published in the OZARKS GAZETTE

spacecraft 11:14 AM  

This grid contains an astounding 428 Scrabble points. I'm offering that as a record (15x15). Can anybody beat it?

Easier than yesterday; perhaps easy-medium. It helped to know a name that for many might be obscure: ALONZO--and what a fabulous name for a crossword! There were a couple of hiccups. ENQUIRe because I read "probe" as a verb, and TupPENCE, which is how they say it over there. TWOPENCE might be "proper," but it is never spoken.

I liked a lot of the entries, though all the 10-pointers just seemed to say, "Oh, look at me: I can Scrabble-f***!" GUIDE crossing GUIDO is unlovely. I didn't know the Nancy song: if her last name wasn't Sinatra, no one would ever have heard of this zero-talent "singer."

Unchallenged DOD is SALMA--that's a gimme. Hey, I actually did the NW first!! I'd give this one a birdie, except I don't want to encourage the SF thing. Sure, we want a bit of crunch in our grid, but this guy went overboard. Par.

rondo 12:43 PM  

Hand up for BefOrE before BYGONE and wHaleS for SHREWS. That NE quad was empty (or wrong, as in wHaleS) except for yeah baby SALMA until I finally had that ESCAPADE with her to finish off the puz. Did not finish in PEEDEE cue time, but KEPTATIT and got there eventually.

I always thought Brown Betty was like an apple crisp, which I don’t consider as a PUDDING. Seems a bit FUZZY there. Figured baked earth terra COTTA made more sense than COTTo as in salami. Pro wrestler? Okay then. Hmmm.

I guess if you could mind your Zs and Qs with some Fing also going on, you could navigate the central areas. Kinda had fun with the whole AFFAIRE.

rain forest 1:54 PM  

I found this to be lovely, and remarkably easy, save the SW where I had to wait to grudgingly accept SMEARY, but not a deal breaker. All the Zs and Qs, etc, were fun, in my opinion. I don't impute intent, other than to provide entertainment.

Amazingly, my first two entries were EPIC POEM and ED KOCH! That'll give you huge traction right off the bat. From there I guess the operative word is "wheelhouse", whatever that really means.

There were a lot of very nice clues here: for OAT, JACUZZI, WELL INTO, SWIM MEET, BOOZE, among others.

Just my TWO PENCE. Oh, by the way, I have a BSc (and a MSc), as does every Canadian graduate in Science. I would be affronted if it were called a BS.

Diana,LIW 2:45 PM  

Oh man...Rex has been pulling out some of the cheesiest videos ever lately. Talk about EPIC.

Agreed with reviews by @Nancy and @Lewis, except for the solving part. Enjoyed the journey, the parts that I got, and the great word play. Lots of "ahas" and "oh of course" moments. But got Naticked by my outhouse today. Funny - the other day my gimmes were others' unknowns...and so it goes.

Also had Schmer before SMEARY, and "before" before BYGONE.

Thanks, @Rainy, for the Canadian take on BSc. I, too, have worked in academia for a long, long time and haven't seen anything but BS for our science degrees. Although I know I've seen it elsewhere - just not at colleges or universities.

Happy Cinque de Mayo. (And yesterday, may the Fourth be with you.)

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords

Waxy in Montreal 4:29 PM  

WELLINTO solving this puzzle, the middle was complete but all four corners remained a mystery. KEPTATIT though and eventually all was revealed including both my undergrad degree (B.Sc.) and local paper (GAZETTE) which coincidentally(?) carries the NYT Crossword - may need an ENQUIRY. When I was a young lad in Worcestershire, "tuppence ha'penny" (two and a half pennies) was the standard slang for a trivial amount.

leftcoastTAM 5:14 PM  

Bailed out of this one early after getting the middle filled in, but then started to struggle in the corners.

Might have finished if I had KEPTATIT, but, then again, I might not have. Really not my day.

Anonymous 8:13 PM  

I would like other solvers thought on this. One answer was looked up. Another I knew had to be Bac or BSc and I checked. Does that count as half a hint? Or a full hint?


rondo 9:02 PM  

In the truest sense of a correct finish (unassisted) a one-square Natick counts as DNF, so I think a one-square hint is a full hint. And a DNF unassisted,
But still pretty good. 99%+ on a Friday puts you up there.

Anonymous 10:15 PM  

Rondo,here is it is. 1. I looked up the writer's name. 2. Knew it was Bac or bsc. 3. There is a April instead of Aorta and Skol instead of skor. So with those two it is still 3 letters off. Have done better on Friday puzzles.


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