Millionths of meter / TUE 3-7-17 / Foreign Legion hat / Agave fiber used in rugs / Chess champ Mikhail / Historical figure played by David Bowie in Prestige / Famously unfinished 14th century literary work

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Constructor: Freddie Cheng

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging (not sure why, played harder than normal)



THEME: STALE and its anagrams 

Theme answers:
  • "CANTERBURY TALES" (17A: Famously unfinished 14th-century literary work, with "The")
  • "THAT'S A STEAL" (24A: "How cheap!")
  • CLEAN SLATE (30A: What one might start over with)
  • GOING STALE (43A: Losing crunchiness, as chips)
  • NIKOLA TESLA (48A: Historical figure played by David Bowie in "The Prestige")
  • "LAST BUT NOT LEAST" (60A: "Finally ...")
Word of the Day: MICRA (1D: Millionths of a meter) —
MICRON (n. pl. mi·crons or mi·cra (-krə) also mi·krons or mi·kra (-krə))
A unit of length equal to one thousandth (10-3) of a millimeter or one millionth (10-6) of a meter. Also called micrometer. (thefreedictionary.com)
• • •

This is one of those anagrams I run through in my head from time to time, and no I'm not kidding. My brain needs something to keep it from being irate and how terribly everybody else is driving. Anyway, I am stunned it hasn't been the basis of a crossword before—and I mean, A Long Time Ago. It's about as thin as theme premises come. The phrases are all fine (I'm being generous to GOING STALE, I know), but there's no entertainment value here. It's just not clever or interesting. Meanwhile, the fill, [deep sigh]. It's particularly bad today. Like, *all* the STALE All-Stars have come out to play. Look at it all. It's pretty stunning, actually. I don't want to do the thing where I lay it all out for you end to end, because that would likely earn me multiple TSKS (again, [deep sigh]); I think you can see for yourself, if you can bear to stare it all in the face. I predict that if you count all the terrible things about the fill today, you would count to somewhere between TEN and LII. Closer to the latter, I'm guessing.


AHS are not [Sighs of relief]. You're thinking of AAHS. AHS are the sounds people make at the dentist (side note: had a cleaning today, and my mouth is apparently falling apart at a somewhat slower rate now, yay!). How is a KEY CASE "just for openers"? I get how a *key* is, but you can't open anything with a case. Bizarre. That answer, and AMUST, and ACK-not-EEK, made the north pretty rough for me. I also got stymied by stupid small stuff in the west. What time zone is Texas in? Which letter goes with "winter"? These are not the questions my brain enjoys answering ... ever. And I figured that since I'd never heard of either one,  [The Stones' "12 x 5" and "Flowers"] were EPS. Put "Exile on Main Street" and "Some Girls" in that clue, and I get LPS easy.


I wrote part of my Ph.D. dissertation on "THE CANTERBURY TALES" and I don't think of its unfinishedness as "famous." In fact, I rarely ever think about it. It's "famous" for so many other reasons (which I'm happy to talk about on request!). And it is, technically, unfinished, but that is not what I would call its most distinctive or remarkable feature. "The Aeneid" is more famously unfinished. "The Mystery of Edwin Drood" even more so. So, famous yes, unfinished yes, famously unfinished ... I dunno. I guess. Weak connection, though, I'd say. There are two things I like about this puzzle. One is that the longer Downs are both in the imperative mood—twin pillars of imperative power. DON'T SPEAK! STAND BACK! I like a puzzle that takes charge. I also like the final theme answer, to the extent that it comes last and is thus apt. APT!


Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]

98 comments:

Charles Flaster 1:39 AM  

Very easy with no write overs at all.
Lots of crosswordEASE--AMOS, KEPI, TAL, and SKYE.
Creative cluing for SPAYS and GAL.
Thanks FC

Randy 1:59 AM  

Most of it was a breeze but SISAL crossing KEPI is pretty difficult for a Tuesday. And I'll always think GALPAL is a ridiculous answer, whenever it comes up.

Also, just as a nitpick, the PSAT is taken by high school sophomores and juniors and isn't a part of the college admissions process. The SAT is a different test with a different range and is generally taken at the very end of junior year. The clueing is technically fine I guess (you wouldn't bother taking it if you had no plans of attending college) but I've never seen a clue that differentiated it from the must more notable & important SAT tests.

jae 2:00 AM  

Medium for me. No real problems except for my continuing penchant for reading the wrong clue. If you solve electronically this is not usually a problem because the correct clue is shown on the screen.

Not too bad for a Tues. which is to say a tad ho-hum (stale?) That said, some of the theme answers had a bit of zip, liked it slightly more than @Rex did.

If anyone is interested in another killer Sat. from the past, try the Feb. 3 puzzle from 1996. I think it was by Frank Longo. I finally got it but it took staring at it off and on for days.

CDilly52 2:04 AM  

This was not GOING STALE, but was way beyond. Maybe petrified. Anagrams can be fun, but I think if the theme is all about the anagram, then the themers should be related somehow to each other, and clever. This had several of my most despised "crosswordesey" answers (as @Rex noted). It missed my all time most despised, "IT'D," so that may be the only plus. Such a snoozer that I fell asleep mid-solve so it is a good thing I don't try to keep improving my solve time. This would have ruined my Tuesday average. Or, all my crankiness could just be a crappy day at the office-which it was. Tomorrow is another day, and hope springs eternal. At least the seasonal flowers and trees in full bloom are beautiful and cheery...and early!

chefwen 2:04 AM  

With TINKLY, KISSY, and ARTSY this turned into a pretty CUTSY puzzle. Started out thinking that this was going to be one of those tough Tuesdays, but once I got going it was quite easy.

DON'T say it turned into DON'T SPEAK and set to @ 11D morphed into MELEE. Those were about the only two major goofs that needed fixin'.

Let me tell you about GOING STALE, it's sooo damp here that chips and crackers go limp even before you open the bag. Gotta keep those puppies in the freezer for maximum crispness.

Larry Gilstrap 2:30 AM  

Finally got my hands on a paper puzzle after struggling mightily to solve on an electronic device these last few days. A laptop is for business, an iPad Mini is for music, and a iPhone is for communication. But for solving, I'm still stuck in the Medieval World.

Speaking of which, I loved teaching Chaucer's The Nun's Priest Tale. Chanticleer is the prototypical mansplaining know-it-all, and on top of that, he is a rooster, and a well read one, to boot. Find a good translation of The CANTERBURY TALES and keep reminding yourself that this was written more than 600 years ago.

I never saw the anagram themers until I read OFL's analysis, to be honest. I glaze over at Jumble, for example. I've always associated groups of letters with meaning and it's served me well enough. Very clever Mr. Constructor.

Mini rant: I'm not a pet person, but I admire groups like ASPCA who basically are mopping up the negligence of irresponsible humans. My FB feed is constantly fraught with pictures of sad faced homeless animals or entertaining videos of darling kittens or puppies. See where I'm going with this. A true animal lover SPAYS or neuters the family pet.

Unknown 2:55 AM  

Not nitpicking. You are correct . Clue re PSAT was poor (and incorrect).

Unknown 2:58 AM  

Paper is way better, Aren't we on our devices enough anyway? And paper with a fountain pen is the best!

Moly Shu 3:22 AM  

@Rex re: how is a key case "just for openers"? Well, a key case holds keys and keys open things, hence they are openers. So the case holding these things that open are "just for openers". Unless I'm missing something. Now if you'd have asked what a key case was, I couldn't tell you. Is it one of those little leather pouches with hooks? No idea.
We get SKA and DONTSPEAK, but not the No Doubt video? Boo @Rex, missed opportunity.
I'm gonna take a pass on the anagram thing. Not a big fan.

Punctuated equilibrium 3:29 AM  

The use of micra is dated. Current use is micrometers or microns.
TESLA, while cool to see in a puzzle, stands out from the other anagrams as a proper noun.
Had no idea about IZAAK but SKYE worked.

Robin 4:22 AM  

I have a PhD in the physical sciences dating back way too many years, I can honestly say that I have never before heard the plural of micrometer (or micron) said to be MICRA. I could probably run that by the numerous researchers at the office and the only ones who would have heard of MICRA would be those who happened to work on this particular NYT crossword (which since the office is in NYC would probably be quite a few, but nevertheless).

Otherwise, okay for a Tuesday. Theme is fine (the Bowie=NIKOLA_TESLA clue was nice), but not otherwise too challenging.

Loren Muse Smith 4:24 AM  

Ah. Anagrams. They’re not the be-all and end-all for me as far as themes go, but this was ok. I like today’s because the rearranged letters spell other real words – as opposed to the letters being rearranged in between two words.

STAND BACK reminds me of the Famous Last Words game we used to play as kids.

Rex – I missed the STAND BACK and DON’T SPEAK pair you pointed out. Nice.

I liked KISSY-(Hi, @chefwen) but I really just use it in KISSY face.

@Randy – don’t worry – the nitpick MEDAL today goes to the complaint about the clue for KEYCASE. (Hi, @Moly Shu)

@Larry Gilstrap – totally agree on the paper solving deal. I hate solving on the computer.

CLEAN SLATE anagrams to CLEANS LATE. You’re welcome.

Orange anagrams to an ogre. Rage on. ACK.

Mark 4:52 AM  

I agree about Micra. I don't care what the free dictionary said, I'm a scientist and I've never heard of it, much heard or seen it used.

Anonymous 4:54 AM  

Not anagrams of STALE, but anagrams of LEAST. All positionsed at the end of phrases. Where they are LAST BUT NOT LEAST.

DON'T SPEAK. Reminds me, I think, of Bullets Over Broadway.

Anonymous 5:53 AM  

Also, the Happy Day's clue may be wrong. Al ran and eventually owned the diner but unless I'm mistaken, the name stayed as Arnold's, right?

Music Man 6:16 AM  

Because a key is an opener, and a key case is for keys

puzzle hoarder 6:23 AM  

This was a real mixture of high and low. The ese fest really brings it down. In his notes the constructors mentions that DONTSPEAK was a hit song for No Doubt. It would have been better clued that way. He didn't mention, and it may just be a coincidence but it's twin STAND BACK is a Stevie Nicks song. Wether it's intentional or not it's an interesting wrinkle of the puzzle that's easy to miss.

Z 6:36 AM  

@Moly Shu - You took the words right out of my mouth. And then, just because a Prince Guitar Solo of a George Harrison song showing why Prince > Clapton is never old, this.

Oh, the rest of the puzzle? LII. 'Nuff said.

Glimmerglass 7:08 AM  

@Molly Shu: Yes, it was a case to hold your "openers." I guess people don't use ket cases any more, perhaps because people carry fewer keys. A KEY CASE was a small appliance, (a couple of inches long and an inch or so wide) usually leather, fitted with clips or swivels for holding keys (house keys, car keys, office keys, gym locker, etc.). One would generally leave the car key sticking out. Keys have been replaced by keypads and electronic keys that don't leave your pocket.. Businessmen carried key cases; working stiffs had a key ring, sometimes on a chain. Very easy puzzle. The inaccurate clueing didn't even slow me down.

Tim Pierce 7:23 AM  

MICRA = nope. Nope nope nope. That's a "redo that corner" word.

Can we please have some kind of embargo on answers starting with the article A? A POP is bad enough when it turns up every other puzzle, but A MUST? Should we just expect that any noun answer might be preceded by A at any time?

"Chevy Nova, for one" = A CAR
"It's bound to be read" = A BOOK
"Halloween gourd" = A PUMPKIN
"Prehistoric mastodon" = A WOOLLY MAMMOTH

Fun puzzle and I liked not having an explicit revealer, but those clues really stood out for me as being big fat NOPEs.

Also: I was almost Naticked at the USTA/TAL crossing. "Almost" because USTA is inferrable if you know what sport Arthur Ashe played, but it was still a guess.

kitshef 7:28 AM  

Quite surprised that Rex would say the the themers are all fine. THATS A STEAL is not fine, it is a made up phrase that no one would ever say. It is the lowest point in a puzzle with plenty to dislike, and spawns two terrible crosses to boot (A MUST, KEY CASE).

Is a TOTHE similar to a DOOK?

wgh 7:40 AM  

KEP(I) + S(I)SAL = NATICK

Forsythia 7:46 AM  

My comment before 7 a.m. must have gotten lost! "How cheap" clue has a derogatory connotation, and THATSASTEAL is more a congratulatory "grab it quick!"

Ted 7:58 AM  

SISAL + KEPI = NATICK

Bill Feeney 8:03 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
chefbea 8:06 AM  

Had no Idea what the theme was in the beginning...then after a few themers. realized they ended in anagrams. That helped a lot

Hand up for PSAT being wrong....Hate stale potato chips...we give them to the birds!!!

Wm. C. 8:08 AM  

@Tim Pierce --

Re: your problem with the "a" in "a must."

I respectfully disagree. Standalone "must" is a verb, but "a must" is a noun, clearly called for in the "something necessary" clue.

Bill Feeney 8:10 AM  

OK, OK, You don't like the clue for micra. How about Nissan model? I thought the answer was suns, not tans so my answer began shat....I thought the expression was It's a steal.

Unknown 8:20 AM  

A keycase is for openers:keys. Awkward, but correct. And any Stones fan should know those two lps. 12x5 is one of their great early ones. Overall, however, it was really un-special.

Anonymous 8:49 AM  

Way to blow my imagery of TESLA. A truly fascinating genius now marred by a Bowie portrayal. Wretch.

Roo Monster 9:00 AM  

Hey All !
Wow, fill. Agree with Rex on the the awfulness of it. 28 3's again. Compare this one to a puz people say is smooth and you'll see the difference.

Did like theme, five letter word in five iterations.

TO THE ACK
RooMonster
DarrinV

Anonymous 9:03 AM  

Ditto on micra. I just assumed the diner was called Ols. Was in school, doing hard problem sets, not watching TV when Happy Days aired, but Google finally gave me Als, to complete the correct puzzle.

Leapfinger 9:10 AM  

So, General Sherman, we meade at last! Does hugh grant or doesn't hugh grant ME LEE??

re KEYCASE: what the legal team presents to the Supremes. Otherwise, what @MolyS et alii said.

re 9D: Maybe I've hung around too many libraries, but "Shhh!" says NO TALKING to me. "Hush/ Hush now" translates to BE QUIET, while DON'T SPEAK would have to be something along the lines of "Zip it!". Riding the same hobbyhorse, STAND BACK sounds more natural to my ear after "Give him room". 'Space' seems to be what's needed for breaking up, while 'some room' apparently helps after injury. Will have to check my Dictionary of Implied Subtexts, but they's my interpretations.

ACKshually, it seemed the DON'TS PEAK with a number of well-worn 3s, but the reliable old anagram theme is still fair fodder for a TuesPuzz. Some wags' TALES are a comings&GOINGS TALE, and if I blew that one, THAT'S AS TEAL as I can make it. Evenso, I think there's a case to be made for the quasi revealer to be LEAST BUT NOT LAST. Given the word we're anagramming and all. Frankly, either way seems a curious point to stress, given that so many lists end with what's both LAST andLEAST.

SAY, isn't 42A spelled ON TAPP?

Onto Wednesday

GILL I. 9:22 AM  

Do the ASPCA, USTA and DEA ASSN's meet up in CST with MAE, ALI and LAO?
DON'T SPEAK he SAYS SO. OK.
I enjoyed the puz but I'm not crazy about lots of orgs. At least I know they have an A in them somewhere.
I bet Freddie likes KKKKKKK's - I do too!
I think I'd rather listen to TNT go off than the sound of TINKLY chimes. And nothing is worse than a STALE potato chip. My favorite is Kettle Brand with sea salt and vinegar.
Off to check up on Feb 3, 1996.
Yours truly, KISSY ACK AKA.

GILL I. 9:32 AM  

@jae...I downloaded the Feb 3, 1996 and it's a Sat. by W.R. Williams. Is this the one you're referring to? So far, I'm just staring. It's "Flashy in the extreme."

Nancy 9:34 AM  

I, too, thought there was more challenge than usual for a Tuesday puzzle, so on that score I liked it. But I found the theme both boring and STALE -- at LEAST as STALE as those chips in 43A. And, btw, a loss of crunchiness would be the LEAST of the problems of chips that are GOING STALE. I would think they'd be more likely to be hard as a rock. And with a really horrible taste.

Of course, I don't eat chips -- ever -- so I wouldn't really know. That's not a brag. There are many aspects of my diet that one might have every reason to say TSK to. But chips are not among them.

I read the CANTERBURY TALES in high school. In the original Old English, or whichever English they were written in. Very colorful stories, but very, very hard to suss out, language-wise. No one ever told me they were "unfinished", famously or otherwise. They were quite long and, therefore, seemed totally finished to me.

Hungry Mother 9:35 AM  

Easy one today. PSAT was a gimme regardless of the clue. I didn't find any terrible fill, just stuff I could deal with.

Anonymous 9:40 AM  

The case houses the keys. The keys are the openers.

QuasiMojo 9:41 AM  

Just for OPENERS I had no idea there was a theme to this shockingly weak NYT puzzle. Rex is spot on today. I particularly liked his criticism of the Chaucer clue. "Redic," as the young 'uns say today. And since I haven't seen "Diner" in about a hundred years I found it hard to recall the owner's name. Much less care. I had ILS for a while thinking it was short for ILSA (a common bit of crosswordese) and MICRI made more sense. haha. I know, my bad. I wonder if they measure miles in "micra" in Micronesia.

Having taken the PSAT and the SAT I can concur that there is a very big difference between the two. Did Will Shortz not even look at this one?

But more than all of that, this puzzle was depressing because it was so damn flat and stale! No imagination and humor or word play other than a tortured anagram theme (stale chips, btw, are NOT soft).

That dull first clue across about summed it up. It reminded me of the time the NYT began elongating their headlines to fill out a line so that there would be no empty space above an article. Some of the extended phrasing was tortured at best. I think they still do it but who's paying attention anymore?

mathgent 9:49 AM  

I used to count Terrible Threes and the most I can remember in a puzzle is around 20. Today's has 28.

Anonymous (4:54): Correct! "Don't speak" was from Bullets Over Broadway. Dianne Wiest to John Cusack. This conversation was one of the few things I liked in it.

I just checked out the cast. A lot of familiar names including Tony Sirico and Edie Falco from The Sopranos.

Nancy 9:53 AM  

@Happy Pencil from late yesterday -- Think nothing of it. I can't rely on my faulty memory either.

Robert 10:34 AM  

I agree. I have a PhD Material Science BS physics and I work in surface science and microcontamination and I have never seen micra before. This is over 40 years of experience.

r.alphbunker 10:37 AM  

Solved without the downs and almost made it. AMUS_ going down sure looked like AMUSe and that gave _ _ E _ _SASTEAL for 24A {"How cheap!"} THATSASTEAL. Also had 48A {Historical figure played by David Bowie in "The Prestige"} NIcOLATESLA/50D {Given to smooching} cISSY (as in Spacek)

Detail are here.

Anonymous 10:39 AM  

@Nancy
Of course you don't eat chips
As usual, TMI.

AliasZ 10:40 AM  


This was a collection of twisted TALES, nothing more.

MICRA for microns. Next up: millia for millions. Is camera plural for Cameron? "Camera Diaz and Monaghan to appear together..." TSKS! Along the same line, OPERA could have been clued as the plural of opus.

IZAAK and TAL were too obscure for a Tuesday, I thought. Odd that Mikhail TAL's much older World Championship opponent Mikhail Botvinnik never once appeared in a NYT puzzle, but TAL did 155 times.

"STAND BACK! DON'T SPEAK!" I often wish I could utter these words forcefully and loudly while commuting on NYC subways. Some people seem to have lost all sense of personal space, and don't realize that the other fifty people sardined into the car can hear every word they are saying. Or they just don't give a rat's AHS.

GRADUAL is a responsorial chant in the Catholic Mass. Here is an example of GRADUAL and Alleluia for Easter Sunday. Listen to it, it will bring peace to your soul.

Cheers!

Elmer Fudd 10:42 AM  

Surprised that Leapy was apparently the only one who caught the significance of Rex's blog picture. Those ducks are Green-winged Teal. I know, because I've eaten hundreds of them over 50+ years. They're very small as ducks go, so you need at least 3 or 4 to have enough for a decent meal. That said, Teal are extremely tender and have a very delicate taste.

There are also Blue-winged Teal and Cinnamon Teal. Both are larger that Green-wings, but not as large as most puddle ducks.

Finally, since Rex loves to nit-pick, I'll give him a dose of his own medicine. His picture doesn't really work with the theme. The plural of Teal is not TEALS, its TEAL. Think sheep. So, although TEALS anagrams to the theme words in the puzzle, it does not equate to using two ducks in his picture. His picture contains a pair of Teal, or two Teal, but not two Teals!

Just Sayin.

MJB 10:43 AM  

Sister Gregory issued me two demerits for laughing in study hall; she couldn't really fault me for reading Chaucer, but tsk-tsked at The Miller's Tale.

Numinous 10:43 AM  

According to Freddie Cheng over on xwordinfo.com, TESLA as in NIKOLA, was the seed entry. While technically correct as all of the theme answers are anagrams of each other, @Rex's claim was incorrect. No big deal, really but I had already read Freddie's comments on the puzzle so I ACKed at Rex's statement.

KEPI/SISAL, Natick? I used to make rope. I used jute and hemp. If you look in Home Depot at the rope they have available, other than the synthetics, there are manila and SISAL. The latter being a pale yellow and the former a dark brown. My step-daughter was in the high school marching band and always wore her KEPI at football games. I skipped over MICRA thinking, "Oh, really? Who knew?"

The dreidel playing wife's parents would say things like "ITS A STEAL" often enough that seeing it didn't bother me though I won't say it conjured fond memories either.

LAST BUT NOT LEAST, this puzzle played about average for me. I'll attribute that to stopping to take sips of my coffee before it got cold. Any excuse I can think of, right? I wasn't as bothered by this as most of y'all. There may have been one or two poor choices but with so many themers the gluey bits were inevitable.

Hartley70 11:01 AM  

Today is a first for me. I don't think Rex was tough enough on this puzzle! You are too kind, Rex, with your medium-challenging rating. Can we call it easy peasy and be done?

It was beyond ho hum and went straight to boring. The themers were clued so easily that one letter was enough to reveal the entry and the STALE anagram didn't redeem this at all. I'm afraid it was prescient.

jberg 11:38 AM  

@Loren, I wanted to go orange picking, but I had no gear for the task.

I'd never heard of the USTA (as opposed to the USLTA), but I guess it's a thing. Never heard of MICRA either, almost went with oLS, but that seemed too improbable.

As for ACK, isn't that what Bill the Cat says? And he doesn't mean "oh, no."

But I liked the theme OK, once I saw LAST BUT NOT LEAST.

old timer 11:53 AM  

I never get the theme until I come here. And it'd be fine with me if all weekday puzzles were themeless. However I do use a KEYCASE. Has keys for house, office, safe deposit, basement and a spare key for opening wife's van.

I took a Chaucer class in college and learned to read Late Middle English aloud. I think Chaucer is famous for his poetic skill, which if you read a tale aloud you can hear for yourself. Perhaps even more famous for his wit and his understanding of the varied aspects of society assembled at the Tabard. But famous, too, for his running out of time and energy to complete the tales. We are (as I recall) promised two tales from each pilgrim. We end up with one tale from most, but not all of them. And if you love Chaucer as much as I do, you would be glad if there were more Tales. Oh well. Chaucer had a lot of work to do in the real world.

Anonymous 11:55 AM  

Elmer,

Love it! Saw the teal and never cottoned to the problem of the plural. I can't think of another duck species that works that way. Or have we been mis pluralizing all manner of suck wrong for years? ... Thanks.

Ever have red heads? They're more common in the middle of the country than the east coast,( where I am). I hear they're pretty good ( owing to diet, I'm told).
I know all the fish eaters like mergs are disgusting!

Anonymous 12:11 PM  

Dear old timer{sic}, The premise was 4 tales per pilgrim... 2 on the way to Canterbury and 2 on the way back. He also planned prologues for each. Ambitious, Chaucer was. And everyone who has read the tales can tell you they were unfinished. That's part of their mystique. Sorry we didn't all write our dissertation on it, Rex, but we do all think of that as an interesting aspect of the famous incomplete collection.

If I have finished a puzzle and assume it was a themeless and then find out that there was a theme only when I read Rex, does the theme count? Not for me. Who cares that they are all anagrams? It wasn't pointed out. The clues weren't related. And that information had absolutely no bearing on solving the puzzle. Why bother?

Joseph Michael 12:16 PM  

Yes, there was some bad fill (hello KISSY and TINKLY).

And I had a DNF thanks to that "T" in the USTA/TAL cross (just not up on my Russian chess champs) (ACK! did I say "Russian"!?!)

However -- and maybe I'm in the minority -- I thought the theme was clever. Had a nice AHa moment when I finally figured it out. LAST BUT NOT LEAST is a great revealer and the themers are all solid.

Also liked ARTSY next to EASEL Some good clues, too, such as those for SPAYS, MAE, and KEY CASE.

So please STAND BACK and give the constructor a little credit where credit is due.



Masked and Anonymous 12:28 PM  

Dang, @RP. U weren't exactly all ARTSY-KISSY-TINKLY, over this one. Well … maybe TINKLY.

This puz and M&A were good. M&A has gotta admit it, tho. Gettin sorta tired of anagram themes and word ladder themes. Even tho they are both totally puzzle-minded ideas, they just don't seem "fresh" anymore. They need some sort of new "edge", to liven em up. M&A has got to think …

staff weeject pick: Tough litter of choices. But there's somethin about both BAA and LII that caught my two eyepits. It's like someone was tryin to say a longer word, when they got stabbed. Another [classic] example, with cooler vowels: ETTU, BRUU…

Kinda liked TOTHE. It's like a hybrid [or smashed up] slithy tove. Alsooo … really admired the KEYCASE clue. Too bad @RP was all hung up in traffic, and couldn't figure it out. Maybe he weren't expectin anything quite that sneaky in a TuesPuz, so he just TINKLed on it, and moved on to thinkin about anagrams of HOGCALLS or somesuch, not noticin that the light had changed? har

Exquisite smatterin of the desperate bits, luvinly scattered throughout like fragrant rose petals. Cannot possibly say enough nice things about TINKLY/LII. [Cousin of Pinky Lee?] Also the famous unfinished OSSA/ASSN.

Thought that DONTSPEAK & STANDBACK were primo looong entries. Probably real popular staff phrases around the oval office, nowadays.

…. AHAR! Got it! A combo word-ladder/anagram-list (Ladderagram) puztheme!
(Modest example, drawn from yer recent everyday experiences: TSKS --> TASK --> TANS --> ANTZ --> etc.) Well, *there's* yer rodeo!

Thanks, shankt, and kshatn, Mr. Cheng. Fun solvequest. Come on back, once U get a primo Ladderagram worked out. TINKLY write-up, @RP.

Masked & Anonymo4Us


Back to the good old days (yo, @jae):
**gruntz**

Nancy 12:31 PM  

@kitshef, Bill Feeney, Numinous -- So, if I show you the Chanel jacket I got for $50 at the neighborhood Thrift Shop, I agree you'd probably say IT'S A STEAL, not THAT'S A STEAL. But supposing I hold up the $50 Chanel jacket in one hand, alongside the $4900.00 Saint Laurent jacket from Saks in the other. You might then point at the Chanel and say THAT'S A STEAL.

Masked and Anonymous 12:59 PM  

p.s.
@Nancy: yep.
Or ... if U R comparin the tastes of gourmet frog and ostrich meals, on which one has more of a small, freshwater duck-ish flavor. Y'all might point to the ostrich serving, and say ...
THAT'S AS TEAL.

M&A Help Desk

Teedmn 1:19 PM  

I was on M&As Jabberwocky groove at 26D when I was "gibing and jibing and jiving" as well as gyring and gimbling in the wabe. Because I mixed up "gibe" with "jibe", I had 26D down as TAllys (TAllies didn't fit) which not only would lower the U count but didn't make Arthur Ashe's 35A ASSN easy to see. ACK.

I liked the clue for NIKOLA TESLA - "The Prestige" was a creepy little movie that held my interest throughout.

Thanks, @Leapfinger, for diving into the subtexts of STAND BACK. And @Nancy, you are right - STALEness is the LEAST of old chips' problems. My mother-in-law's sense of smell is so compromised that we don't eat her chips anymore - they are out and out rancid. Guess how I found out. Shudder.

Anonymous 1:43 PM  

MICRA really threw me - in fact it made me think this was a rebus puzzle....

I am a physicist, and I had _never_ heard of "micra" - "microns" is the only plural of "micron" I had ever heard, in a field where it comes up often.

That start made me wary all the way through.

Anonymous 1:44 PM  

Sorry, @M&Abreath. THAT'S AS TEAL has been done, if you HARken back to 0910, para starting with ACK.

@Teedmn, ain't no old chip gets as rancid as homemade pork-rind rancid, even when freshly made.

KISSYfface.

Jennifer Freeman 1:46 PM  

Priceless!

Anoa Bob 1:55 PM  

When the bull elephants grow restless and combative and begin to ooze oily liquid from the porous spots in their foreheads, the mahouts chain their big beasts of burden securely until the sexual mating madness passes. They know that if they leave them unchained, they will wreak havoc and run AMUST.

I think six themers are way too many for a 15X15 grid. It requires a lot of MICRA TOTHE OSSA LII to pull it off. Time was when three themers was the norm. That left plenty of room for the ARTful arrangement of interesting words crossing one another. As themer density inflation GRADUALly set in, the words-crossing-each-other part became less and less ARTful and more and more ARTSYish. Today's offering I think would more accurately be called a word play puzzle than a crossword puzzle. ACK.

Masked and Anonymous 2:50 PM  

p.p.s.s.
@Leapy - as per maskless anonymous at 1:44pm: Sincerest apologies -- didn't mean to step on yer duck.

M&Also Again.

tkincher 3:14 PM  

Puzzle was okay, I had to guess at the NE corner though. But yay M. Ward!

Elmer Fudd 3:15 PM  

@Anonymous@ 11:55AM

Couldn't say for sure if Teal are the only ducks that fit the plural/singular issue we're discussing, and I'm too lazy to mentally run through ever species of duck I know.

As to your second query, yes, I've had Redheads on more than one occasion. They're very tasty. In fact, I almost married one.

But back to the ducks. Redheads are in the category know as divers and are very similar to Broadbill (Scaup) in both habit and taste. Those two species, along with Canvasback, are generally considered by hunters as the best table fare of the diving category. In fact, during the heyday of commercial hunting, Cans fetched the best price of all species on the market.

As for the much maligned Mergie, and other diving ducks that feed exclusively on fish and small crustaceans, I have recipes for them too. Not only can I make them palatable, I can make them so tasty that even the most experienced hunter will not believe he's eating Merganser. Cooking wild stuff is my forte. You'd die for my snapping turtle!

Happy Hunting!

Anonymous 3:29 PM  

I didn't mind the anagrammed answers but the fill was strictly dreck. Foooey.

Anonymous 3:42 PM  

Took 18 minutes to finish without hints but I made a few errors. Got Nickla instead of Nikola. Scot instead of Skye and Saysok instead of sayso.

jae 4:28 PM  

@GIL - That's the one. Good luck!

Aketi 4:59 PM  

Today's puzzle gave me something to do since binge watching to Serires of Unfortunate Events while my knee was passsively being rotated up and down had gotten rather STALE. So NIKOLA TESLA reminded me thar I hadn't yet watched The Prestige.

JohnA401006 5:21 PM  

Thanks for the link. Outstanding

Sherm Reinhardt 5:48 PM  

No complaints. Near a record Tuesday.

I think NULLS was a little weird, but if you don't want to rip out the SW and start over, I guess it's acceptable.

The anagrams helped. Once I got CANTERBURYTALES and THATSASTEAL and realized the last five letters of each clue were the same, it made the other long ones easier. Often the theme makes no difference-- I just solve.

Thanks, Freddy Cheng.

Anonymous 5:51 PM  

*Freddie

jae 5:56 PM  

@GIL and M&A - Frank Longo had the Jan. 20 puz which I also did recently. I was too lazy to check on it last night.

Doc John 5:58 PM  

STAND BACK

David Hallman 6:31 PM  

@jae, thanks for the puzzle suggestion. That south central portion had a couple of unusually interchangeable Short entries. There was another '95 Saturday puzzle of about the same difficulty I did recently. I'll have to look it up now.

David Hallman 6:32 PM  

@jae, thanks for the puzzle suggestion. That south central portion had a couple of unusually interchangeable Short entries. There was another '95 Saturday puzzle of about the same difficulty I did recently. I'll have to look it up now.

puzzle hoarder 6:33 PM  

@jae, thanks for the puzzle suggestion. That south central portion had a couple of unusually interchangeable Short entries. There was another '95 Saturday puzzle of about the same difficulty I did recently. I'll have to look it up now.

Joseph Welling 7:05 PM  

Cathy always says "Ack!" and not "Eek!" http://testdb.msmagazine.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/Cathy-Comic1.jpg

Alison 9:06 PM  

I love this thread!

Anonymous 9:07 PM  

Does anyone remember laughter in study hall?

Orson Bean 9:16 PM  

Of course Kitty Carlisle doesn't eat chips.

GILL I. 9:19 PM  

@jae. Good lord...I would love @Rex's take on the Feb 3rd crossword.
I'm still figuring out "having belts."
I think I'm happier with our 2017 crosswords......!

BarbieBarbie 10:47 PM  

Easy. And yet another person who has "a PhD... In Science!" and working in physics-related fields all my adult life chiming in to say micra are not a thing, or several things, either. Micron, microns or micrometers. Here's the dumb question I need to ask, being new to this: how does Rex know the theme? Is it published as a title in some apps, or in print, or is he just figuring it out? I have to say my intuition told me something was up, but that's as far as I took it.
Chaicer, good memories. Beyond the prologue every sophomore loved to spout I mainly remember how horrified I was to learn that a wardrobe in LME is a sewer in modern English. A child was thrown into one in the Miller's Tale, maybe?

Uke Xensen 1:28 AM  

Easy. But I completely missed the anagram thing.

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Amy 9:02 AM  

no. the puzzle theme was not "stale and its anagrams" - it was "least" in the "last" position but "not least."
and so the revealer is 60 across except it doesn't announce itself as the revealer tho it could have, marking the theme just a bit more subtle and therefore satisfying to the average at best puzzle solver such as myself.

Jim H. 11:08 AM  

flowers and 12x5 were not eps, they were full lps.
LPs we're shorter in those days.

Burma Shave 10:33 AM  

ARTSY LIE

With just a CLEANSLATE, Chaucer was GRADUAL in GOINGSTALE,
“IMONIT”’ he CARPS, “but first, AMUST. ONTAP TOTHE ALE!”
“DONTSPEAK in TAUNTS of the TASK,
so LET’s STANDBACK and DON’T ask
if LASTBUTNOTLEAST I MAE finish 'The CANTERBURYTALES'."

--- IZAAK ERNST SISAL

spacecraft 11:06 AM  

This way TOTHE ACK! That about sums it up. As Happy Quinn likes to say, "Not good." Theme is okay; fill...uh-uh. The RTZ, the RRN, STR TSKS...yeah, many TSKS. One won't do. DOD MAE, always a pleasure, darlin'. Let's ride the TBAR and get KISSY. Mini-theme: medieval writers IZAAK and Geoffrey. Enough to save a bogey.

rondo 11:47 AM  

Knew OFL would find the theme STALE. Sure this type is common enough, but how many 5 letter words anagram to sensible words? Lotsa threes and lotsa abbr.s and lotsa POCs in the fill, so it runs on Tuesday where expectations seem to be low, or GOINGSTALE. I did one write-over with KEYCArd, which I use every workday; it is just for “openers”.

As to the diner where the “TEENs” hung out, it seems to have been named both Arnold’s and ALS. If we could stand just one more abbr. we might have gone with Lou Gehrig and ALS.

LASTBUTNOTLEAST, original yeah baby MAE West makes another of her frequent appearances.

Might have to find some ALE ONTAP tonight, after which I’ll feel all TINKLY.

Anonymous 12:12 PM  

Straight forward, on the easy side, and lots of fun to solve. Another drive-by hate attack for a Tuesday puzzle.

leftcoastTAM 2:40 PM  

Won't CARP about this one, like some people. Just fine for Tuesday with its shares of the familiar and no-so-familiar.

KEYCASE makes sense as a case for "openers", i.e., KEYs.
KISSY is cute, I guess.

From Isaac to IZAAK. Sure, have heard and seen his name often enough, but the spelling never quite registered. Old standby UZI helped jog memory cells there.

LASTBUTNOTLEAST, enjoyed the puzzle.

Diana,LIW 3:10 PM  

Pretty much agree with @Lefty today - fine Tuesday, no quibbles.

However, I agree with @Nancy's assessment of Monday's (yesterday's) puzzle - kind of the perfect puzzle for a newbie. So this one was paler in comparison, but only in comparison.

Left our kitties with the vet today - she claimed that they needed to refill their bladders to get a sample. Then, as she was turning the corner, I heard her say she was so excited to have our guys for the day. Everyone in the office loves to look in on them. I think it was a ploy. But because we had a small flood in our basement and the plumber is coming, at least we don't have to worry about locking the guys in a room.

Carry on.

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords

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rondo 6:21 PM  

@SOPHIE - can ya hear me now?

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