Old-fashioned wine holder / MON 3-27-17 / What Google's Ngram program tracks for word usage / Labourite's opponent in British politics / Group of books that educated person is supposed to be familiar with

Monday, March 27, 2017

Constructor: Tom McCoy

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging (slowish for Monday, though maybe that's 'cause the grid is extra-wide today)

THEME: STAKE OUT (39A: Police operation ... or, when read another way, what a grammarian would like to do to 18-, 24-, 52- and 65-Across) — ungrammatical expressions involving extra esses...

Theme answers:
  • ALL'S I KNOW... (18A: "The one thing that's clear to me ...")
  • A LONG WAYS OFF (24A: Distant)
  • AND THEN I SAYS ... (52A: Narrative conncector) [that is One Hell of a vague clue]
  • HOW'S ABOUT ...? (65A: "What do you think of ...?")
Word of the Day: TROIKA (30D: Group of three) —
noun: troika; plural noun: troikas
  1. 1.
    a Russian vehicle pulled by a team of three horses abreast.
    • a team of three horses for a troika.
  2. 2.
    a group of three people working together, especially in an administrative or managerial capacity. (google)
• • •

Can't tell if this was slightly harder than the average Monday, or just took slightly longer because of the extra-wide (16) grid. All's I know is I was about 15-20 seconds slower than normal (significant on a Monday). At first, I wasn't sure why the 16-square width was necessary, but if you're gonna put an even-number-lettered revealer in the center, then yeah, your grid has to be an even number of squares wide. I didn't think the revealer worked very well as clued; that is, "a grammarian would like to 'S' take out" sounds totally ridiculous, but that's the formulation the clue specifically asks for. S TAKE-OUT is better as a noun—something a grammarian would like to perform on the relevant theme entries. Clued as a verb phrase, it's nonsense. Further, A LONG WAYS OFF seems like an outlier here in at least a couple way(s). It's the only truly stand-alone phrase, all the other being sentence lead-ins. It's the only one that is not definitively colloquial, i.e. a commonly if not exclusively *spoken* formulation. It's also the least grammar-violating, ALL'S and HOW'S being grammatically nonsensical, and I SAYS being a matter of overt subj/verb disagreement. Changing WAY to WAYS (or vice versa) just doesn't seem in the same universe as the other grammarian-offending phrases.

The non-theme stuff, on the other hand, is quite nice, with six Downs of 7+ letters in length giving the grid a lot more character than you typically see on a Monday. Plus, there's very little in the way of junk. This has all been nicely polished, with only AAHED and maybe GLO getting me even the slightest bit RILEd. I love the words FLAGON (27D: Old-fashioned wine holder) and TROIKA, for purely aesthetic reasons.

[sorry this song was in the background of the trailer for the movie "STAKEOUT" and so I looked it up and it is pretty evocative of a pretty terrible time in pop music videos so I thought 'sure, throw it in...']

Congrats to Dan Feyer, who won his 7th American Crossword Puzzle Tournament championship yesterday, beating out fellow killer-solvers Tyler Hinman and Joon Pahk. I HOPE to see you tomorrow. Au revoir.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

PS NOT SO'S YOU'D NOTICE woulda made a nice central 15 in a normal-sized grid ... maybe change the revealer to SLOP and shove it in a corner ... I'm just spitballin' here ...

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Corey Donahue 12:06 AM  

Can someone please explain the 10%er/AGT thing?

razerx 12:08 AM  

Agents gets 10% I guesd

Charles Flaster 12:24 AM  

Medium then very easy once the "S" was removed. Probably should have been a Wednesday puzzle.
Liked cluing for ODDS ARE , ROAR, and FLOSS.
CROSSWORDease--ARGO, MISO, and PHO. I do enjoy both soups.
Thanks TM

jae 1:24 AM  

Medium for me. Cute and grammatically amusing, liked it.

John Child 2:08 AM  

The puzzle is sort of AAHED, but it's cute and different. It didn't feel difficult, but I had to skip enough answers at first in each section that returning to fill things in took longer than a typical Monday time.

@Lewis will like the double-letter bonus entries. That Y Y pair may require some deep breathing. ;-)

A slightly out-of-date Ginsberg database shows people have been pretty creative finding double Ys. There's WHY YES and HEY YOU of course, but also

ABBACYYOUNG : {Children that hang out at a monastery?}
MARY YAK COSMETICS : {Most popular makeup in Tibet?}
THE YYYMEN : {Magi?}

chefwen 2:40 AM  

Dear Old Dad learned English as a second language, didn't know a word of It when he stepped off the boat in New York as an 18 year old who just escaped from Austria. I would have gotten a threat of the dreaded Back of the Hand had I said any of those phrases. He was very strict in the correct usage of the English language.

I don't time myself, but this one seemed to take a little longer than your usual slam bam Mondays and for that reason I liked it.

Mike in Mountain View 2:45 AM  

@John Child: You could do a themer with THE YYY MEN (Magi?), AAAA (Incursions?), TT (Students getting remedial help?), SAIL THE CCCCCCC (Explore the earth?), THE EEEEEEEE (Brat Pack era?), . . .

jae 4:07 AM  

@lms - go Heels!

CDilly52 4:24 AM  

Thoroughly enjoyed the fill and similar to @chefwen's experience, my stickler of a Granddad would have set me down at the dining room table for some grammar homework after washing my mouth out with soap had I used any of those phrases. I think I could identify the basic parts of speech by the time I was about 7. As soon as I began to read, he started teaching me about those sentences in the books we enjoyed. Much later in life, I appreciated him. One of my colleagues and I used to have contests to see who could diagram a sentence from the Internal Revenue Code fastest. Horrible writing, but always brought back fond memories. My daughter was never taught to diagram at school and thought me the meanest parent in the world for making her learn. She is now raising a fourth generation grammarian. Decent Monday puzzle and a wonderful trip down Memory Lane.

CDilly52 4:25 AM  

Good grief- SAT not set! Thought I caught all my typos!

Carola 4:34 AM  

An engaing Monday puzzle and a Medium for me. Like @John Child, I had to do more circling back than usual to see answers, e.g., LUCKY YOU, ODDS ARE, AND THEN I SAYS, and like @chefwen, I like it when Mondays take a little longer.

Loren Muse Smith 5:27 AM  

How have I missed all these extraneous S’s all my life? Sheesh! (I remember being stunned to learn in Spanish class that some dialects drop them in words like hablaste. And then I noticed that I run around dropping the S in isn’t, wasn’t, and hasn’t. Hah.) But yeah, yeah – this theme isn’t about pronunciation. Still. This is a cool theme.

LUCKY YOU – this isn’t something I’d normally say if I were jealous. I’ve sat here thinking about it. Someone tells me they just met David Sedaris and actually got to sit down and have coffee with him… I’d never say LUCKY YOU. Well. Maybe. I’ve overthought it now. But I’d use it more as a statement of compassion:

I just had two cups of coffee and now I have to go over there and wait in line at that nasty porta-potty.
Lucky you.

I agree with Rex on the WAYS OFF being a bit of an outlier, but really it’s just barely one. That S here feels less folksy -more like the S-or-no-S in torward/torwards kind of stuff.

The man who helps us on our farm – just about the smartest man I’ve ever known – says oncet (one syllable – the word once with a t sound at the end.) Just so’s you know. (Rex – I liked your alternate NOT SO’S YOU’D NOTICE/SLOP suggestion)

And I agree that the syntax of S TAKE OUT is odd, but no biggie. Wonder if Tom played around with TAKES OUT there. Hmm. (Makes you reconsider FLOSS. Don’t knock yourself out – I tried it (LYING MONKEYS, HORROR LICK, BEE LO MEIN, LASH IN THE PAN blah blah) and was soundly rejected.)

Russian TROIKA crossing TRUMP. Well… da.

That “old fashioned wine holder” - we used tennis ball cans to smuggle wine into bars when I was at Georgia Southern. We even dressed the part and carried in rackets, too. Poverty is the mother of invention. Good times.

ACPT was great! Except I didn’t realize that if I registered as a “non-competitor” I’d be relegated to the back of the room. Someone told me last year that it meant I’d sit at the adult table with everyone else and just not turn my puzzles in to the officials. Wrong. We had to stay out of the way, seated along outside walls (Diana, Lady-in-Waiting) wrangled some chairs for us). It felt funny – buncha sad little wannabes. And a grumpy girl next to me shushed me when I was talking to @Tita while they were going over minutiae that didn’t concern us hoi polloi. That’s always embarrassing. Hey – at least they didn’t have velvet ropes to keep us in our place. Anyway – I won’t make that mistake again. It’s worth the extra money to be a full-fledged competitor. (Sorry I steered you wrong, @Larry Gilstrap.) @Tita had been scolded earlier for taking some strawberries from the buffet – the start of the buffet. The server said, You can’t take those yet; they’re for dessert. And then she covered them and the melon with napkins. How weird was that? I actually was semi scolded one other time when I was waiting to buy some Motrin. The person in front of me was a hotel employee who had ordered some kind of complicated coffee drink. Sigh. Doesn’t it always happen that way? Anyway, I was studying the array of meds on the wall and grabbed a packet for a closer look. The cashier said I’ll be right with you in that way that means GET THE HELL BACK FROM THERE AND DON’T TOUCH THAT STUFF. The complicated coffee-ordering employee said something to the effect that he knew his order was a pain and she said loudly It’s just that she’s not supposed to be back there. Hmm. She probably had seen my nametag whose color indicated I was a non-competitor who had to sit along the wall.

Eric NC 6:04 AM  

@LMS Would have loved your puzzle with FLoss. You could have told them at the ACPT to "clean that spilled fancy coffee off your shirt?" Get the uck off.

Eric NC 6:06 AM  

I know. I'll set me down for a spell. Don't make no sense to me neither.

BarbieBarbie 6:20 AM  

@LMS, petty authority... We hates it.
@Corey and razerx, yep, "ten-percenter" means "agent," the showbiz kind.

Lewis 6:20 AM  

@johnchild -- I did like those double Ys, but it's an average amount of double letters in the puzzle.
@lms -- Missed you, welcome back, and you're back with a vengeance with that terrific riff on being a periphery person.

There were some lovely non-theme answers: TOOSOON, TOPHEAVY, ODDSARE, and TROIKA. But, upon scanning the completed grid, my eyes keep returning to that spot where STRAIT jackets TRUMP.

evil doug 7:14 AM  

Yeah, Loren, sounds like a real warm experience with pleasant people I really want to hang with. The shusher would have respected you more if you cheerfully told her, "Eat me!", and I think you could take her punk ass. Glad I stayed in Cincinnati....

kitshef 7:29 AM  

Felt like a run-of-the-mill Monday to me. That is, I'm not as fond of it as most seem to be.

Love FLAGON and TROIKA, but that's it. The rest was just ... Monday.

Some more alternative revealers: SPARE, SCUT, CUTOFFS, SNIP

Glenn Patton 7:42 AM  


Elle54 7:56 AM  

I think I saw Hal Holbrook on Grey's Anatomy last week.! He was great!

chefbea 7:58 AM  

What a fun puzzle. @Loren..loved your description!!! Is the the first time Trump has been in a puzzle??
Love chopped liver and also the two soups - miso and pho

Anonymous 8:26 AM  

Sigh... Other than ALONGWAYSOFF (which is common in Standard American English too), these are all just sentences in non-prestige varieties of English. So, while I have no doubt that there are self-styled "grammarians" who would want to "correct" them, it's a shame that the NYT passes off this sort of linguistic prejudice as a fun playful theme.

John Child 8:33 AM  

@Mike in Mountain View: Yer on if you want to co-construct. The stretches of same-letter crosses will be a bear, but why not try? You will find my email by clicking my blue name.

QuasiMojo 8:37 AM  

Rex is right, that S-Take Out conceit just doesn't make sense. Like so many NYT puzzles lately, the theme is contrived and forced and not very clever, leading to a lot of junk fill. Day Glo? Best Buy? Runs In? Yes Ma'am? Pretty silly. As was that awful video from Stake Out. Thanks Rex for the nostalgia neuralgia. @Loren Muse Smith, thanks for the early morning laughs.

Brenda Bowen 8:37 AM  


Lewis 8:44 AM  
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L 8:47 AM  

I've wondering about the OHO soup when I see my error - TOO heavy for TOPHEAVY. I still like the idea of OHO soup though. Something I bet the kids would enjoy.

Numinous 8:55 AM  
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Numinous 9:00 AM  
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Numinous 9:02 AM  

There is, in parts of the south, a fast food joint that delivers. It's called STEAK OUT and they deliver decent STEAK dinners if you are in their delivery area. Sadly, the closest one to me is twenty-eight miles aways. Okay, okay, STeaK has all the right letters, just in the wrong order.

Who knew @Tom McCoy was a grammar Nazi? Those randomly added esses have always bothered me too. I think Tom did a great job with this. Very little EASy glue. Some glue, I thinks, gets excused by wonderful cluing and I doubt that a puzzle can be constructed without any at all (I'm sure someone is gonna prove me wrong here).

Then there is the Ptolemy P TAKE OUT that bothers me more. Some people witl start a sentence that should start, "Well, I've been thinking . . " but they'll say "Welp" and I've even seen it with an 'H". Who says that? What do they mean? Drives me crazy. (Oh, and by the way, did y'all know that modern Egyptians pronounce the P in Ptolemy? Puhtolemy. Who knew?

Like @Rex, this took me a little longer than average and I failed to notice that it was 16x15. I still think Tom McCoy looks like Jim Carrey butt that's aother matter entirely. I enjoyed this a lot and I don't think hoi ARGO is glue at all. I liked that story.

Anonymous 9:11 AM  

There was one old-timey clue: does anyone under the age of 30 (who doesn't do crosswords) really know how to complete the phrase "Smoking or ____"? It's not something that appears in a lot of literature or even contemporaneous TV, movies, etc. Non-smoking sections in restaurants had a relatively brief heyday around the era that people used their clickers to change the UHF channels, dust off their pet rocks, and decide whether it was time to change out their mimeos for a xerox -- and when the changeover from Lira to Euros was still a long way off.

Tom4 9:11 AM  

Lovely Monday! Agree with Rex on the revealer verb phrase. Disagree with Rex's view of "a long ways off" - it's grammatically wrong, plain and simple. And it is spoken/colloquial too. Written usage would be a long ways off from correct writing.

Fountains of Golden Fluids 9:13 AM  

Does anyone remember laughter?

pmdm 9:13 AM  

The theme got me to thinking. Why not do the opposite: instead of adding an S delete an S by changing the S to something else.


and so forth. Must have already been done.

Note to Z about yesterday's comment: I had to laugh. I'm familiar with both systems, but of course I was just using the system Jeff used in the puzzle. But I know a lot of people who are baffled by how a RGB video screen work. They can't figure out how to get yellow from red green and blue.

Nancy 9:18 AM  

Witty, lively, colorful -- a delight from beginning to end. I wish all Mondays could be this good. Of course, when late yesterday JC66, having done today's puzzle, said that he couldn't wait to see the blog comments today, I was already looking forward to finding out why. I suppose that, with the geographical diversity on this blog, some people here will actually employ one or more of these locutions. Or not. I'll go back and read y'all now to find out.

@jberg from late yesterday -- Thank you!

Anonymous 9:27 AM  

Am I missing the point, or did OFL miscount the number of letters in "Not so's you'd notice"?

And from yesterday, there's no BING-Hampton on Long Island. ;-)

Mohair Sam 10:11 AM  

Sounds to me like our buddies @Loren and @Tita raised serious Hell at the ACPT. Reading between Loren's lines it appears Tita couldn't keep her hands out of the fruit bowls to the extent they had to cover the merchandise. Then puzzlers couldn't hear their instructions over the chatter of the twosome. Finally our impatient Southern girl was ripping apart the pain killer display because she had to wait a few seconds while a Connecticut Yankee made a perfectly normal coffee order. She's lucky she didn't end up in the Stamford jail.

Puzzle was fun. I use HOWS ABOUT when I'm feeling playful (HOWS ABOUT we go to a movie tonight?) and "how about" when I'm serious (How about cleaning your room this weekend Kevin?). There was a stock car racer near my home town whose first name was Axel, how cool is that?

@Loren - Like your farm helper, my father and his brothers used "oncet" - they were all born and raised in Brooklyn. Their parents were Irish immigrants however, maybe it's an Irish construct? Where's your friend from?

Greater Fall River Committee for Peace & Justice 10:21 AM  

Reminds me that every time I type interjections like 'Anyways' my spellchecker tells me I misspelled them. Of course it is now telling me I misspelled spellchecker, so why should I listen to it? Don't know its own name.

Hartley70 10:24 AM  

I'm very relieved to hear that even @Rex found this a slow Monday. I was afraid I'd fried my brain just by looking briefly at the clues for the A division final puzzle at yesterday's ACPT. Tyler Hinson who could have won it all by speed, had the crowd screaming as he raised his hand without checking to see a one square error. The pain was palpable. It was a humbling experience for me. I'd need three more days in the week post-Saturday to find something comparable. I was reminded of @Casco's appearance several years ago at his first ACPT tournament.

I registered as a rookie non-competitor and was up against the wall with @Loren, @Tita and @Diana. Perhaps not the best choice, and a seasoned regular here, the ever helpful @mac, suggested it is far better to go as a competitor and not hand your puzzle in to be ranked if you so choose. It's good advice. After an hour of solving in your lap, a seat at the table looks mighty appealing. Despite the grousing, the experience was terrific fun and meeting @Acme was the icing on the cake. Thanks @Loren for the introduction, and kudos to first timer @Teedmn who performed really well! @Tita was the organizer and very well connected. You could not find a nicer gang of puzzlers than Rexites, including @Larry Gilstrap, @JeninCT and @BobKerfuffle. If you find yourself debating next year. My advice is go!

I wonder what the @grammar nazi would say about today's puzzle. On second thought.....

Hungry Mother 10:27 AM  

Very easy except for my fiirst try at the NE with "letsup", even though I knew it didn't really fit. I didn't look at the downs up there until I checked it over. All of my acrosses were good. On paper I would have quit. There's a lesson for me in there somewheres.

RooMonster 10:28 AM  

Heys All !
I's think this was a nice puz. I's also think Rex liked it, but still decided to picks a nit with one of the themers. Just to do the reviewing/critique blog. It would blow people's minds if Rex just wrote, "Puzzle was good. Nice theme, nice fill. See ya." No?

Thought I had puz 100%, but had SlID for SKID. ARGH! TROIlA sounded good to me. LETUPS was holding me UP for a bit, so in 9D, had _UCK_YOU, and was thinking of some colorful alternatives! Seemed all the long Downs were partials. But still nice, and no real dreck to nit about. Nice X to start puz. Too bad @Anoa Bob, about the last box S though. But maybe, in an extra S theme, that softens the blow of that last S. Still see alot of POCs, however.

I think the LUCKY YOU was meant as sarcasm.

ODDS ARE that I HOPE it's a BEST BUY to get a procedure to get TOP HEAVY, YES MAAM. LUCKY YOU. :-P


JC66 10:59 AM  


Like the "old wive's tale" that taking an umbrella with you insures it won't rain, my late comment yesterday about looking forward to today's comments (with TRUMP as an answer) seems to have prevented all the political back and forth.

@LMS and @Glenn Patton did hit the TRUMP/TROIKA thing.

old timer 11:00 AM  

A slow Monday and though I had the extra S's I kinda did not know they were there. I wish Mondays could be themeless, myself.

I was good at Spanish in school, and most every night I wrote out all the verb forms. "Hablaste", being first conjugation, was among the earliest. You almost never actually hear it or read it, though. Seems to me people go out of their way to avoid the second-person preterite. Now there was a Cuban boy at our school, and the letter he often dropped was "d". "hablado" became "hablao", etc. I can't recall what dialect dropped its s's, but there must be one.

Nancy 11:15 AM  

@JC66 (10:59) -- I never thought of the TRUMP thing. I thought it was the potential Grammar Nazi thing that made you anticipate today's blog comments. Actually, the comments been quite tame on both counts.

Kate 11:39 AM  

Wow. Somehow I've gotten to 42 years old without ever hearing or reading the word Tyro. That added the most time for me.

Tita 11:43 AM  

TOPHEAVY gave me flashbacks of my husband's midlife crisis minivan. I've always driven very low-to-the-ground cars. With my Fiat 850 Spider convertible, there were times where I just knew I could scoot right underneath the belly of that semi who wouldn't get out of my way.
Riding in that Ford Windstar, I was constantly gripping the mammamia bar and the armrest. It was sooo unsettling to have such a high center of gravity.

@ Glenn Patton ... funny!

I loved the idea of this puzzle. Thanks, Mr. McCoy!

mathgent 11:45 AM  

TOPHEAVY just came up on Friday. I was with a bunch of friends and we were remembering a bowling league we had been in years ago. I mentioned that one of my most vivid memories of the league was watching Linda's delivery. Linda was a sweet friend of ours who had prodigious breasts. When she released the ball, she couldn't keep her feet. She would end up head first and face down on the hardwood (but still safely behind the foul line).

I used to love diagramming sentences. When I transferred into Catholic school in the seventh grade, the other kids had been diagramming all along and I had to pick it up in the run. I used to love putting noun clauses on stilts on the subject or object lines. It was also a kick finding adverbial phrases modifying other adverbial phrases.

The guys I went to high school with from the Mission district used to say things like "Alls I know is ..."

nick 12:16 PM  

Between 'trump', the Russian 'troika', and the answer to 'blue state' being 'misery', feels like a teensy bit of trolling is going on.

BarbieBarbie 12:29 PM  

@pmdm, you don't need to defent yourself-- yesterday Z had just been to see the Wiki Oracle and had to do some Z-splaining, is all. I don't think anybody else here thought you were confused. Hoping nobody other than Z assumed I didn't know what I was talking about, and doubting anybody cares. Spent some interesting time, though, mired in cognitive dissonance, alternating between "that's what I get for choosing a name like BarbieBarbie" and "hey wait a minute, NOW who's profiling?!?" It's a funny kind of reaction.

BRM 12:33 PM  

I read stakeout 'another way' as take out s.

GILL I. 12:33 PM  

@CDilly....Your diagram reference brought some vivid memories to moi. I think when I arrived in the States, I was put in the 7th grade. My American English wasn't all that good and as LUCK would have it, my English teacher was big on diagramming. Everyone else had several years advantage and all I could think of was "how the hell am I going to learn this language if I have to draw it every time I speak." My grandmother (English teacher) told me that it's like making language into an orderly puzzle. Sweet words that meant nothing to me especially when she started explaining object complements.
I think shushing someone is so incredibly rude - unless you're in a movie theatre. Even then, you better hope someone doesn't take out a gun and shoot your popcorn. If it's done to me I just smile back. A big smile...really, really big. It's very hard for someone to not smile back and feel like a complete jerk.
@ole timer...Yes, sometimes the Cubans drop the "D" but they take the cake dropping the S. "Vamo a coger la guagua."
I thought this was a fine meaty Monday puzzle. Different in a TROIKA FLAGON sort of way.
LUCKY YOU all ACPT goers. Sounds like you had some good times. @Hartley - thanks for the pics and the up-date.
@Nancy from yesterday. Boy you had me. I thought to myself WOW, our Nancy collaborated with Tony Bennett?

Nate 12:48 PM  

A big, fat DNF because of the AGT/TYRO cross.

To my knowledge, I have never heard of the word "tyro". It is totally foreign to me.

I haven't a clue what "AGT" is supposed to mean with that clue. Agent? What agents get 10%? 10% of what? I feel like I'm going crazy. I'm generally familiar with real estate agents, who do not receive a 10% commission, and sports agents. I have no idea what sports agents take from the contracts they negotiation. I somehow doubt it is uniform. If "AGT" does, indeed, mean "agent", surely there was a better clue.

Nancy 12:57 PM  

Not being a car person, here's how I initially read @Tita's 11:43 opening sentence: "TOP HEAVY gave me flashbacks of my husband's midlife crisis."

Indeed, my initial reaction to TOP HEAVY was much closer to @mathgent's absolutely hysterical depiction (11:45) of the hapless Linda falling, breasts first, at the bowling alley. What an image! They should make a movie.

Moly Shu 1:08 PM  

TRUMP in the puzzle and no nuclear explosion from @Rex?? Maybe the sky isn't falling or maybe OFL is softening a bit, or maybe (and most likely) he got the answer from crosses and never saw it. Liked FLAGON and UTOPIA, balked at LETUPS. ALLSIKNOW is this was a decent Monday, even a little on the difficult side. Go Heels !

Teedmn 1:13 PM  

Nice puzzle - I tried all of the grammatically challenged themers to see if they tripped off my LIPS easily - I can hear A LONG WAYS OFF (or the A LONG WAYS away, which I tried to fit there) emanate from my mouth - I think I need the S to smooth the way for the next vowel sound. And ALL'S I KNOW or HOW'S ABOUT could be used by me ironically. But I think it's safe to SAYS that 52A has never been uttered by yours truly or at least I HOPE not.

The ACPT was a great MIXER. One of my favorite moments was joining 4 or 5 women in an attempt to polish off the ginormous piece of STAKEOUT cheesecake that @Loren Muse Smith shared with us from the Cheesecake Factory (Red Velvet cake cheesecake with whipped cream) and it was almost too much for all of us. Insane portion, but delicious. Definitely a BEST BUY.

Great Monday puzzle, Tom McCoy. And thanks, @Hartley70, for the congrats. I was quite pleased to come in at the 50 percent level for my first ACPT.

jberg 1:47 PM  

@Moly Shu - no explostion from @Evil Doug about XMAS, either -- I seem to remember one from a few years ago. I've always accepted X=Chi=Christ's initial, so thought it was unobjectionable.

So, STAKEOUT, a verb (though it could also be a noun -- 'the police set up a STAKEOUT of the drug kingpin'), when read another way, is a noun phrase:

S TAKE-OUT, which grammarians (me included) would want for those phrases. Seems fine to me.

I never read A Series of Unfortunate Events, so I had to get it from the crosses, but it's still a refreshing new way to clue OLAF. I guess it doesn't let you add I, II, etc. when clued this way, though.

scaupnyc 1:54 PM  

My thought exactly...along with the poor speech!

evil doug 2:09 PM  

Not offended by Xmas--except by the laziness of people to spelling Christ out. Kind of a respect thing....

Joe Bleaux 2:17 PM  
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Masked and Anonymous 3:14 PM  

Exquisite NE/SW weeject stacks. Also, real partial to PHO.

S TAKE OUT revealer was ok by m&e. Wondered why they didn't use TAKE OUT S [{Pizza-to-go orders}] instead -- but maybe it was because that looked too obvious?

Grid had lotsa good fill -- and all the longest Down stuff was multi-word … nice touch. LUCKYYOU is extra churse. [Had IENVYYOU, at first.] Also, liked the slightly desperate POC finish in square #240.

fave moo-cow MonPuz eazy-E clue: { ___ Lanka} = SRI. Honrable mention to the CAW/WOW L-entry, btw. Anagrams to AWW COW, after all.

Congratz to Dan Feyer, on his ACPT 7th championship.
@muse: yep. Steer clear of the cheap seats, darlin. U coulda been a contender.

Thanx, Mr. McCoys. I liked the way yer themers spoke to m&e.

Masked & Anonymo6Us

Anonymous 3:28 PM  

I didn't come up with one in the nano-second I allotted to the task, but I'm pretty sure there's a way to clue TAKES OUT reasonably to replace (the totally awkward) STAKEOUT reveal.

Moly Shu 5:10 PM  

@JoeBleaux, we may disagree, but that was genius! @mericaninparis-esque even. Shame it's gone. I genuinely LOL'd.

RooMonster 6:39 PM  

TAKES OUT - Goes on a date, or Gets food to go, or Eliminates, or Steals ins opposite. :-)


Barbara Powell 6:39 PM  

How is a novice a tyro?

Tita 7:04 PM  

@Nancy...you've met me - TOPHEAVY is never an adjective that would be applied to me using @MathGent's thought process. And yes, that was a vivid picture he paints!
(Wait - that doesn't mean I'm the opposite either...let's just say I have a girlish figure. As long as that girl is 11 y ears old...)
(After @lms' Cheesecake, however, bottomHEAVY might be imminent.)

Tita 7:21 PM  

Re: ACPT...
My 3rd. Not in a row. 1st as a fellow 2nd-class against-the-wall citizen.
I had decided to save some bucks, and retire from competition at the probable height of my game. (I rose 44 points in my two attempts - chuff chuff)

But @mac is so right - not worth it.

What @Hartley said - if you're thinking about it, do it!

So nice to see everyone I've become great friends with, and each year an opportunity to meet new ones. Michael Alpern organized the Cru Dinner Friday night. Sat with old and new folks. The line for the buffet was interminably long, but, not a problem, as it gave us a chance to make even more friends.
As for the "No Fruit Before Dinner" incident, guilty as charged. But not even being deprived of food could dampen my spirits.
(If you've had a meal with me, you have also learned not to get between me and a fork.)

I also got to meet our time-travelling and gracious friend, Diana-Lady-in-Waiting. Thanks to her we at least got chairs instead of feeling like we were aWaiting the firing squad. Thanks!

Thanks everyone for being so friendly and smart.

(And extra-special treat - being allowed a few minutes nuzzling with Emmy, JenCT's unflappable and irrepressible service dog!)

Oldflappyfrommississappy 10:58 PM  

Does anyone remember big hooters?

Leapfinger 12:11 AM  

@Moly Shu, thanks luv! Go Heels fer sure! Was that not a spectacular finish? If we're LUCKY, Luke Maye do it again next weekend; it'll be 'Pins on needles' time. Don't want a FLAGON the play...

The way I SEED this, today's theme is done right: STAKE_OUT/S_TAKE_OUT needs a tweak on grammatical contortion to clue well, but is a much more clevererer reveal than TAKESOUT or TAKEOUTS. MISO grateful for the new PHO facts, as soup is always interesting, as a matter of course. Otherwise, Id say take this job and schav it. [So sorrel about that...]

Relieved I'm not the only one who thought a TROIKA isn't necessarily all work and no play. Or so I've heard.

LUCKY YOUse guys who went to ACPT, enjoyed y'all's stories. Pictures, please?

Dr. Bunger 1:57 AM  

At any time it is a strange sight to the TYRO to see with what wondrous habitude of unconscious skill the whaleman will maintain an erect posture in his boat...

Larry Gilstrap 2:37 AM  

My first ACPT and what a nerd fest! Sadly, I fit right in. When Tyler bonked on that TEATAX thing, it reminded of the Bobby Thompson homerun, which I also witnessed. Not really. If there is any video of that Talent Show extant, it is must see TV for puzzle people. If not, than shame on the management. I'm a tough crowd but I laughed, I cried, and I walked out singing a tune.

Anonymous 3:47 AM  

I would have liked to see the reveal as TAKES OUT

Leapfinger 5:22 AM  

@Anonymous 0347, you're dating yourself.

Burma Shave 10:37 AM  


ODDSARE it’s ALONGWAYSOFF, your LIPS to kiss?”


spacecraft 10:54 AM  

WOW, Scrabble seX right from BoX 1! I AAHED (NON). It was inevitable, I suppose, but here it is: The Donald is in a grid. It made me smile, though, when I wrote FAILED in the east (you know, where Washington is). Further, I refuse to name a family member DOD, so that leaves me only TORY (mis-)Spelling. First shame of the day.

No one says the 52-across thing any more; nowadayS it's "And then I'm like..." I don't know how this particular stupidity got started, but it seems to have gotten a stronghold across the country. If I catch my grandson saying it I pull him up short every time. I won't have such nonsense in my house.

This has an outrageous feel--but I somehow like it. I agree the revealer is awkwardly phrased as clued, but the other way is too straightforward, even on a Monday. This is better. McCoY, You done good. It's the real McCoY: Yeah! Birdie.

rondo 12:21 PM  

Didn’t realize the grid was 16 wide until OFL’s mention of it. ODDSARE my solve time went up by nanoseconds.
. . . ANDTHENISAYS to myself, ISAYS, “HOWSABOUT that for a Mon-puz?”, ISAYS. As a one-L, my Civ-Pro prof would have bounced anyone right out of class and FAILED him/her for such lingo. But ALLSIKNOW is that he had no sense of humor. A bunch of us dropped his class after hearing he was retiring after that semester; his class was pure MISERY. Paper Chase anyone?

STEMS, but only one corresponding SEED? Commander Cody and his Lost Planet Airmen have CHOSEN to use the plural, SEEDs.

I will give a nod to billionaire fashionista and yeah baby TORY Burch. YESMAAM! How do I know of her? Too much shopping with the missus will create a MISERY like you’ve never known, whether on 5th Avenue in NYC or just off the Miracle Mile in Chicago. It’s getting to the point that I let her loose in the stores while I RUNSIN to the nearest bar to STAKEOUT a stool. I’ve been in more stores than I knew existed, including TORY Burch’s.

ANYways, IHOPE you liked it as much as I SEEMed to.

leftcoastTAM 1:47 PM  

Clever, fun, and with plenty of bite for Monday. Great start to the week and I hope a harbinger of what it is to come.

Nice work, Mr. McCoy, and thanks.

leftcoastTAM 2:00 PM  

Rex, I think you're really going after the nits today.

Diana,LIW 3:09 PM  

Lovely Monday puzzle. And a @Rex review that, while he has his nits, I would actually rate a "safe for @Rainy" critique. And I agree with OFL that the revealer was a bit off - one could understand it, but I like his SLOP suggestion better.

In retrospect, it must have been a really swell puzzle as I actually forgot that a certain hotel magnate was in it, giving me momentary pause.

Fun to relive the ACPT experience. Kudos to the kind staff person at the Marriot who brought a whole truckload of chairs when he saw me stealing one from the registration area!

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords

Anonymous 6:13 PM  

My thoughts were similar to those of Teedmn - is there a reason for adding the s? And it might have something to do with coming before a vowel. I don't think that this is really a grammar problem, more like dialect or pronunciation, as those who mentioned other languages were somewhat suggesting.

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