One-horse carriage / THU 3-23-17 / Distinctive filmmakers / Old typesetting machine informally / Certain bourdeaux informally

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Constructor: Sandy Ganzell

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: straitened circumstances — three Down columns are less wide than the others; words meaning "the opposite of wide" must precede all the answers in those columns in order for them to make sense (i.e. you have to mentally supply the initial word)

Theme answers:
  • [Thin] MINTS (14D: Girl Scout cookie offering)
  • [Slim] CHANCE (42D: What a long shot has) (ironically, "Fat" also works as the initial word here)
  • [Lean] CUISINE (22D: Brand for weight-watchers)
  • [Narrow] ESCAPE (16D: Barely successful avoidance of calamity)
  • [Skinny] JEANS (49D: Form-fitting casual wear)
Word of the Day: CARIOLE (17A: One-horse carriage) —
noun: cariole
  1. 1.
    a small open horse-drawn carriage for one person.
    • a light covered cart.
  2. 2.
    (in Canada) a kind of sled pulled by a horse or dogs and with space for one or more passengers. (google)
• • •

It's annoying when I have to read a "Note" to understand the theme because AcrossLite can't display it (apparently the "app" can't either), but tech problems aside, I think this is a wonderful little theme. Really uses *all* the viable synonyms for "the opposite of wide. I want to say the theme is thin ... because it is ... I mean it is, and it is ... sparse, I mean. You know what I mean—there aren't many theme squares. That kind of thin. Just 29 squares involved. Even a lightly themed puzzle will have a minimum of 40 or so. And yet this one feels complete as is. Seems possible that one could have added some THIN-related elements somewhere else in the grid, but it seems just as likely that that would've bogged the grid down and resulted in less clean fill. As it is, this grid is mostly very cleanly filled. CARIOLE, though (ugggggh) nearly destroyed me (17A: One-horse carriage). How on god's green am I supposed to keep all the carriage terminology straight, crossword gods! We've been on to the automobile for a century now, come on. Brougham, landau, phaeton, surrey, stanhope, sulky, fiacre ... I've seen most if not all of those in crosswords before. Well, landau for sure.  Maybe I dreamed the others. My point is that CARIOLE was one where I needed every cross and because it crossed a quotation word (TACT) and a vaguely clued clothing item (SARI), and *those* crossed a [random TV station], I was staring down the barrel of Fail for a bit. Had CAMI for 3D: Article of apparel that often leaves one arm bare, and that gave me _BC for 1A: Cable channel owned by Time Warner, which seemed *very* plausible. Ended up figuring out that it had to be TACT at 1D, which gave me TBS, and then SARI. But none of that trouble would've been real trouble without nutso time-traveling archaic CARIOLE. Blargh.

["Should I bring the brougham around, Dad?" "No! CARIOLE, my wayward son!"]

But as I say, nothing else rankled in the slightest. This appears to be a debut from this constructor, and it's a promising one. I like this better than the entire oeuvre of at least a couple oft-published NYT regulars. I mean, that bar's not terribly high, because those guys' puzzles are super-ugh, but still—nice to have a solid hit your first time out. Oh, wait. COSM is terrible. Very terrible. My general good feeling, though, is undiminished.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Johnny 12:18 AM  

Nice puzzle. Cleverly clued, not many answers gave themselves away without a few crosses.

In one case, I went from Ucla to UTes to finally UTAH

mathgent 12:20 AM  

Terrible. No Thursday rebus to begin with. And then a trivial puzzle with bland entries and straightforward clues. I zipped through it on auto pilot.

My online version had all the columns the same size, so I didn't see (or need) the gimmick.

Punctuated equilibrium 12:22 AM  

Although I didn't see the theme right away (without the print visual cues), this turned out to be my fastest Thursday ever (perhaps I should say not by a -slim- margin). It was an enjoyable puzzle, except for the vague and ridiculous description of SARI (I am *Indian* and found it hard to guess! You wear a blouse underneath so neither arm is bare). First time I've heard of a'd think all my years of reading Jane Austen would have helped. I kept picturing Henry Tilney in his curricle. Oh, well.

Unknown 12:24 AM  

Congratulations to @Sandy Ganzell on your debut; thanks @Rex for your review which explained the charms of today's puzzle with insight and humor.

Basketball trivia, both YAO Ming and HAKEEM Olajuwon pursued their respective Hall-of-Fame N.B.A. careers with the Houston Rockets. The former carried the host country flag at the Beijing Olympics. The latter changed the spelling of his first name well into his professional career; the H-less version is now best clued to a fictional Eddie Murphy character in a film called "Coming to America."

The ISRAELI clue reminded me of this poignant piece that a friend e-mailed earlier this week. Take a minute or two to read and watch.

Unfinished business, on behalf of @John Child and myself, thanks to everyone for your interesting, warm, and witty comments a couple of days ago. They mean a lot to us.

Trombone Tom 12:25 AM  

I printed this puzzle from the NYT site and got no narrow columns, so I had a really difficult time sensing the theme. I knew there had to be a "thin" associated with MINTS; it's Girl Scout cookie season, after all. I finally sussed all the other narrows with the exception of skinny JEANS. We don't have anyone living in our household who wears those.

Stumbled around with CARIOLE, trying my best to make it CABRIOLE. And I tried to parse 35A to I FEVER; egotism?

I liked the puzzle better than @Rex did (which is true most of the time.) There was substantial "crunch" to it. I hope to see a lot more from Sandy Ganzell.

Punctuated equilibrium 12:29 AM  

A belated congratulations to both of you on your puzzle!

jae 12:30 AM  

I printed this out using AcrossLite and never saw the blurb. So, the theme was elusive at first but I figured it out fairly quickly. My biggest problem was yada before BLAH for waaay toooo long. Medium-tough for me. Nice debut! Liked it!

Robin 12:51 AM  

Got the gimmick fairly quickly, as the thin columns were visible on the Times website version. However, the obvious ESCAPE was the first of the theme answers I filled in, as I ended up working from the NE down to SE, back up to NW and finishing up in the SW with the X in EXECUTE.

EJECT and EVICTS in the same puzzle? I might have entered EJECTS for 41A if I hadn't already filled in 48A.

Seemed like I struggled just a bit, but the clock on the Times site says I finished in 2/3 my average Thursday time.

chefwen 1:09 AM  

Didn't see the note (hardly ever do) and printed it out in Across Lite so no skinny boxes, Hi @jae, didn't need either. Figured it out with slim CHANCE.

Biggest mistake that took me a while to sort out was puppy before STRAY, I doubt that I'm the only one to do that. AUTEURS was my learning word.

Maybe a tad bit too easy for a Thursday, but I liked it a lot.

Mr. Fitch 1:10 AM  

The theme was ok. There was nothing punchy or interesting in the theme clues or answers, wordplay-wise. I found the fill to be boringly acceptable, and breezed through it at a fraction of my usual time. It felt as though the constructor avoided taking risks on crunchier entries in favor of a "meh" fill that nobody was going to complain much about. That's understandble given that this is a debut, but overall I'd call this about average or below-average. There's not much that's good--or bad--to bring up.

Larry Gilstrap 1:12 AM  

This just in! This Thursday effort came with an explanatory note which eluded being spewed out of my printer and, as a result, an equally elusive theme. I guess KIRSTIE would be an outlier. Thank you very much. I'm reading OFL's review and thinking is this the same puzzle I just completed? I guess I need to upgrade to the deluxe NYT puzzle subscription that includes necessary information. Deep breath.

Yet, I persisted and finished with a bit of head scratching. Balked at the clue for THRICE thinking we needed another "and again," but, by golly, the clue is legit. I stand corrected.

I wonder if George Brett does the puzzle. Remember his homerun that was negated by PINETAR? Now, that was a RANT that would make Rex Parker look like a Zen master. Anybody following the WBC final game at Dodger Stadium? No RAINOUT tonight, even in damp CA. I'd get all "USA! USA! USA!" on you, but all the teams have such great players: I'm looking at you PR and DR.

Back to the puzzle; not a lot of schlock evident in this one and even some delightful fill: SHINDIG, AUTEURS, and OMNISCIENT. Ever see a LINOtype machine in action? Beyond amazing old-school technology.

One nit: two three letter spanners form the crust on the pie.

puzzle hoarder 1:37 AM  

I'll keep it short as My phone just lost my entire comment as I was about to finish. I solved this on my tablet. It had the thin squares so this was easy.

Carola 1:48 AM  

This one would have been a delight to solve in the newspaper, with its obviously skinny columns for the theme answers. As it is, I'm away from home and have to solve online, where all the columns looked the same to me. I got the idea with CUISINE, which has 4 blank spaces above it for the missing "Lean" - like, you get so thin you disappear? The one black square above ESCAPE scotched that idea. I also went astray thinking of a sarcastic "fat" CHANCE, until I realized that it had to be "slim" in order to fit the theme. In the past, when I've solved online I've sometimes checked the "newspaper" version under the Print option to see if there's something Thursday-unusual going on with the grid. Wish I'd done that this time.

i liked the EATERY: TOURISTS PEER INTO CUISINE nexus. I'm such a chicken that I never travel to places where I'd have to guess about what might be on my plate.

@Trombone Tom - Me, too, for thinking of "cabriolet" ("a light, two-wheeled carriage with a hood, drawn by one horse"). Luckily close enough to help.

@Sandy Ganzell, I look forward to your next one!

Roy Leban 2:38 AM  

For those who printed the puzzle and didn't get the right version ...

If you print off the puzzle from the NYT web site rather than solving in Puzzazz, you should choose to print the Newspaper Version. For some reason, the default is to print the .puz version which is almost always compromised in some way, from missing shaded squares, to modified clues, and special tricks like the thin columns in this puzzle. In contrast, the Newspaper Version is the same version that appears in the newspaper.

It's not completely the NYT's fault and their web site does get some things right that aren't supported by the .puz format. The .puz file format was invented in the dark ages (not really, but close) and is extremely limited. This is one of the reasons why Puzzazz created the free and open ipuz standard. New standards take time but other companies are starting to adopt it and we think it's only a matter of time before .puz is gone.

Some people (including Rex sometimes) think that these differences don't matter. Whatever your opinion, wouldn't you rather solve the puzzle as Will Shortz intended? That's what we aim to deliver every day.

While I'm here, I liked this theme, though I do hate Thin Mints (my favorite Girl Scout cookies were the discontinued All-Abouts). Nice debut puzzle.

paulsfo 2:47 AM  

There's definitely no accounting for (Rex's) taste. I was sure he'd hate the theme but he loved it. My problem with the theme was that, as soon as I read the note, it was too obvious. I needed several crosses to get 22D but the others were a snooze.

Elaine2 4:10 AM  

Hi -- I agree with @paulsfo -- I was SURE Rex would hate this! Oh, well -- I found it pretty "meh", but not offensive. I do always find it a little weird when the longest answers aren't theme-related. And I missed having a rebus...

Happy Thursday, all.

Jeremy Mercer 4:19 AM  

@Roy Leban - Thanks for the tip. I have been printing the puzzle for years and hadn't realised I was using the default .puz format ... Feeling frustrated that I missed out on the visual gimmick here, also frustrated there wasn't some sort of indication that we should print the Newspaper Version to fully enjoy the puzzle...

TrudyJ 4:51 AM  

I never did figure out the theme (I use the NYT app so no narrow columns). The theme answers seemed slightly off to me -- "Aren't those cookies called Thin Mints? Can you call them just Mints?" I had that reaction to every single theme answer without ever figuring out what the common element was. Can't really blame the constructor for that one.

BarbieBarbie 5:44 AM  

@Trudy M-C, me too. @Larry, HAH! Your comment was the best part of the (for me) themeless puzzle. Not often I hear snare drums over my coffee.
I had the whole East half filled in quickly and only a few letter-freckles on the West side. Looked like one of those armless SARIs.
Where I live there are two commercial bakers for GS cookies and the ones who make Samoas are way better than the ones who makw Car'Mel Delites (supposed to be the same cookie). But both use brown wax instead of chocolate. Still, the girls look so cute and pitiful, trying to sell cookies outdoors in February.

Oren 5:45 AM  

I'm with Paulsfo - thought Rex wouldn't like it - and with mathgent - thought it was pretty awful. Didn't see thin squares and didn't get the theme until I saw the note. Call me old-fashioned, but I like my crosswords to be about crossing words, and my themes to have revealers. It makes for a more fun solve. But the fill was pretty clean, OFL's nits notwithsanding.

G. Eastman 5:46 AM  

As for 67A:

SNL isn't "filmed" at Rockefeller Center, it's broadcast live. Hence the name.

And while it is recorded for West Coast airing and otherwise for posterity, that is done on tape, not film (early episodes did have filmed segments by Albert Brooks and Gary Weiss). Even in the digital HD age, data tapes are used for long-term storage. It is not "filmed," even in the slangy sense of that word.

That's a factually awkward clue.

L. Michaels 5:56 AM  

@ G. Eastman. Not the first time this error has been made in the crossword. And I have pointed it out. Be prepared, however, to be "corrected" (wrongly) by the self-appointed arbiter of truth on here.

Phil 6:05 AM  

bIg toe and gazeINTO gave me a bad anchor corner slowing down the NW for me.
SARI I had toga (:
Yada yada yada

Anonymous 6:16 AM  

Wow. Magnetic tapes, for long-term storage?. Somebody is seriously misinformed.

Charles Flaster 6:44 AM  

Easy to finish even without the note.
Two writeovers--ELAPSED for EnActED and TIP for bIg.
Cluing was very uneventful but right on.
George Brett will forever be linked with PINE TAR--maybe even on his tombstone!
Very nice debut puzzle.
Thanks SG.

Lewis 6:55 AM  

Not an especially tricky Thursday, but trim, as it were, and like a little jewel, a treat. The narrow columns provided an out-of-the-box feel, the cluing provided plenty of resistance in the beginning, and there were some lovely longer answers: OMNICIENT, TOOKHEART, and PEERINTO. I tried to think of additional theme answers -- perhaps [Compact] DISK?

It started slow, then suddenly great swaths were filled in. A very promising debut, and a sweet solve. Thank you and congratulations, Sandy!

Saavik 7:00 AM  

I downloaded and printed a .pdf version which has the thin/slim/skinny/lean/narrow columns.

Hungry Mother 7:02 AM  

I solve on my iPad, so the theme was lost on me. However, I breezed through the puzzle with no thought of narrowness. I don't expect the end of the week puzzles to make a lot of sense, so my answers are very flexible.

LaurieG in Connecticut 7:08 AM  

I'm with you. I found this completely boring and barely challenging.

kitshef 7:10 AM  

Back to back days of terrible struggle in the NW. bIg before TIP, gaze INTO before PEER INTO, a deep chaNnEl before THINKER, yada before BLAH, toga before SARI, Tnt before TBS. Those were all my overwrites in the entire puzzle, and all are in that one tiny area.

CARIOLE being utterly unknown sure didn’t help.

Anyway, I feel like this should have been more fun that it was – but the theme was too much of a giveaway. In retrospect, there are a log of nifty crosses: THINKER crossing IDLER, SHIN/JEANS, CRUEL/LASH, EATERY/MENU, ESCAPE/ACT, but those are after-the-solve treats not noticed while working through the grid.

Fell completely in love with KIRSTIE Alley as Mister Saavik. Subsequently fell out. Did you know she was a contestant on Match Game? Not as a celebrity, but as a regular contestant.

evil doug 7:14 AM  

Yeah, pretty easy, but excellent theme answers--Skinny JEANS! God, they're stupid looking!--and even better fill: PUT TO A VOTE (crossing ENACTED. Buh-bye, ObamaCare!), AUTEURS, TOOK HEART, SHINDIG (remember the go-go dancers on the music show? Look up The Byrds singing Feel A Whole Lot Better on YouTube), AERATE, ROOSTER, FREE TRIAL, IGGY, PINE TAR (way to go, USA baseball,winning the World Baseball Classic), I FEVER (oops, IF EVER)....

Aketi 7:25 AM  

I solved on the iPad too. I was annoyed with the JEANS clue because I didn't suss out the hidden skinny, Thanks to a typo I briefly had a rebus that I quickly realized was wrong and corrected. I was grasping fir some sort of Thursday trick. Too bad the trick is likely to be opaque to some iPad solvers.

evil doug 7:36 AM  

When I was an AEROBAT, I came real CLOSE to EJECTing. On one of my first solos in the T-37, I decided to attempt a barrel roll that my instructor had not yet cleared me to do solo--bad case of I FEVER. Somehow screwed it up and entered a high speed inverted dive. My NUMB THINKER finally woke up and I TOOK HEART that I could EXECUTE a recovery before RAMming into terra firma, "ruining my whole day and most of my weekend", as aviators joke. A NARROW ESCAPE after nearly going (IGGY) pop....

Glimmerglass 7:37 AM  

Very easy puzzle -- except for the NW, which was a bear. I started with 2D yada and 3D toga (not a single correct letter of the 8). 1D could have been anything. ALA MODE was the only thing that fit with MODE, which got out Mr. Happy Eraser. The corner finally materialized (CARIOLE entirely from crosses). I never noticed the note, but even so the rest of the puzzle was super easy. Except for CUISINE, the answers worked ok without the note.

RooMonster 7:50 AM  

Hey All !
Why, Sandy, I didn't know you cared so much to put me smack dab in the center of the puz! :-D

Disappointed that the NYT site that I print out all my puzs didn't have either the note, nor the skinny columns. :-( First time that's happened. Puz is usually correct on all tricksy things. Harumph. Did manage to solve (even getting it 100% correct!), but not grokking the theme. Was thinking to myself, Where's the ThursPuz trickiness? I think the "thin" columns are quite cool. Can someone write what the note said?

Some writeovers, bIg-TIP (funny how they both work well!), pupal-LARVA, TAlk-TACT. Originally thought the longer Downs were theme before starting grid. If you turn puz 90° either direction, it looks like a regular type Across themer grid.

Best puz of the year so far. Of course, I might be biased! As Alice in Chains sing, "Yeah, here comes the ROOSTER" :-)


Z 8:01 AM  

I'm away from home, so was forced to solve a digital version. No note needed because I use PuzzAzz. Even grokking the theme early (those half width cells are a pretty big hint) I enjoyed this. But then, I do like creative looking grids that are creative looking for a reason (cf@ACME's earthquake puzzle).

@evil doug - having suffered the indignity of being a teen when leisure suits were in, I try to make it a policy to never* comment on modern fashion. Fortunately for me, my teen years were before the instagram era, so there is very little photographic evidence with which to blackmail me.

@G.Eastman/@L.Michaels - Seriously, dude, learn to use a dictionary. You can find them on the interweb and they're mostly free.

*"never" is a very long time

chefbea 8:06 AM  

great puzzle...but I count 5 skinny answers not 3 as Rex said. Got all the themers...had to google other stuff

chefbea 8:07 AM  

Also..had no note when I printed the puzzle

r.alphbunker 8:10 AM  

Answers flowed rapidly through the narrow channels. Details are here.

pauer 8:13 AM  

Saw there was a note about the layout so I printed the PDF, which looks cool (except for the DOWN orphan in the 2nd column).

NW was the toughest for me, what with CARIOLE and my incorrect YADA. Luckily, I've learned that if the crossings aren't working, I probably have something wrong.

We'll see if I can remember that in the midst of tourney solving this weekend.

GHarris 8:22 AM  

My new found expertise continues to bear me along and completed before finishing breakfast.

Tita 8:28 AM  

Just love the puzzle. I was well into it...[LEAN]CUISINE is what finally broke it open. So clever. I noticed the odd grid right away, but needed to be spoon fed that one finally obvious clue to wuss it.

I solved on Puzzazz, which always gets the oddities right,
Though i really wish there was an android version.

Great debut, Mr. Ganzell. More please.

Knitwit 8:38 AM  

I really liked this one. Since I solve the old fashion way--my newspaper while eating breakfast--I had the grid. The NW corner was the last to be filled. Wanted YADA for 2D, but THINKER opened it up.

Teedmn 8:45 AM  

A cute theme today but the note that came with the downloaded version really gave too much away, planting the idea of width in one's mind (though I suppose the literally narrower columns would have had the same effect). I didn't have any narrow ESCAPES on this one - it went in pretty smoothly. I liked seeing THIN[KER] crossing MINTS.

When did BLAH THRICE become part of the language? One day, perhaps in the 80's, I heard myself say it and wondered where it came from, except everyone was saying it. I never noticed it slipping through the cracks of my skinny JEANS.

My boyfriend (at the time) and I once changed the IDLER arm on my '68 Mustang Fastback. It was the hottest day in years, at 105 degrees, just the kind of weather where one wants to be under a car with a torch to loosen old bolts. Now I just take my Prius in for an oil change - no more wrenching for me.

Congratulations, Sandy Ganzell, on your debut.

Anonymous 8:50 AM  

The aha moment for me occurred while reading Rex's critique. To my defense the printed copy of the puzzle had no note attached to it and all the columns were of equal width. Also the "theme answers" made somewhat sense to me on their own standing.

My first entry was yada in 2D and I never saw BLAH. So the top left corner remained unfilled.

QuasiMojo 8:59 AM  

My online account told me that I did last Thursday's puzzle in "0.02 seconds" which struck me as odd (if not impossible, even for Rex). So when I saw the squeezed-in downs I thought it was just a bug in the program. But I eventually caught on to the gimmick, thinking at one point that it might be all about "squeezing" into "jeans"! lol. Something on my mind lately.

I usually say "Fat Chance" rather than "Slim Chance." But no matter. And I liked "Omniscient" and "Put to a Vote" coming down, but honestly overall I thought this puzzle was way too easy for a Thursday and strangely flat. Some of the clues were overwritten. The one for "Erie" for instance. And the one for "Israeli" left me "numb." And shouldn't "Shindig" be "Big do"? A "to-do" is a fuss or a spat. And just for the record, anyone who calls a "cabernet" a "cab" can go jump in a Lake "Erie" or otherwise.

Gareth Bain 9:03 AM  


Tita 9:11 AM  

Oops - to *suss* it. too - I've hung up my timing gun for good. '68 Fastback, eh? Hot car on a hot day...

@Quasi - my chances of getting near the top at ACPT this weekend are slim to none.

Sir Hillary 9:18 AM  

Good puzzle.

I scuffed a bit in the NW by dropping in hBo, which I "confirmed" with BLAH. Oops.

I love that with respect to CHANCE, "thin" and "fat" mean the same thing. Hmm, maybe a sequel is in order -- CHANCE could make a repeat appearance, joined by CHECKER, DAYLIGHT, RECEIVER and MONKEY. There you go -- symmetry and everything. Have at it, constructors.

Nancy 9:26 AM  

When I first looked at this weirdo grid, I knew that something was Very Wrong, though I wasn't quite sure what. It sort of looked as though it had emerged from a House of Horrors or a torture chamber. Like it had been put on the rack...or vice versa. It looked sort of creepy, to tell the truth. When I finally saw why the grid looked so strange, I thought, Oh, no, I'll never be able to do this, whatever it is. So that when I started to solve, and all the Acrosses came right in, just as you would expect, I felt an enormous sense of relief. Oh, it's only that one Down answer that's affected, thank heavens. And after all my angst, it turned out that the puzzle was actually quite easy after all -- certainly easier than most Thursdays. I thought it was a cute idea, but not all that challenging once you figure it out.

All my problems were in the NW. I wanted YADA instead of BLAH, but never wrote it in, because there's no cable channel with a Y in the middle. I had CAMI instead of SARI at 3D, hence was looking for TMC instead of TBS. When MLAH at 2D proved impossible, I was able to correct all of the above. I enjoyed the puzzle, but I enjoyed yesterday's much more.

John V 9:27 AM  

Printed from web site and didn't get the skinny columns so no idea of the theme.

Unknown 9:28 AM  

A better clue for 35 Across would have been Egomania?

Nancy 9:46 AM  

It would take an @Z to figure out the stats, but it seems to me that more than 90% of the comments include complaints about the problems of solving a puzzle like this one on a gadget. As a paper solver, I was provided with narrow squares and no note -- a note not being needed when you have narrow squares. Let me rave about the glories of solving on paper once again -- it's just so much better. For those who didn't see narrow squares on their grid, and I sort of don't understand why an app can't get this right, the puzzle must have seemed boring beyond description, as well as off-the-mark on 5 clues.

@Quasi -- I had the exact same reaction to SHINDIG that you did. It's incorrectly clued.

Anonymous 9:49 AM  

Nice puzzle. Did not know about the thin rows but somehow blundered into the right answers. No point in commenting if you are not going to be pedantic. There are few to none cabernets in Bordeaux. The right bank is mostly merlot and virtually all the left bank is heavily blended. Should have gone with California.

kitshef 9:53 AM  

@Tita A - I'm sure it goes back way earlier than this, but the first time I recall hearing blah blah blah is in "Save the Life of My Child", by Simon and Garfunkel:

A patrol car passing by halted to a stop.
Said officer MacDougal in dismay,
"The force can't do a decent job 'coz the kids got no respect for the law today" (and blah blah blah)

Hartley70 10:03 AM  

I never look at the puzzle info to learn the constructor until after I finish, so the note was an afterthought. What I found irritating was that the note I had gave a link to a correct interactive online version of the puzzle that didn't work. Why bother. One can only refresh so many times before it's time to get on with the day. Online solvers are not second class. If the NYT uses a gimmick in the print version that online solvers can't appreciate, then give us a separate puzzle that we can. How about a @RooMonster submission?

evil doug 10:04 AM  

George: Listen to this. Marcy comes up and she tells me her ex-boyfriend was over late last night, and "yada yada yada, I'm really tired today." You don't think she'd yada yada sex?

Elaine: (Raising hand) I've yada yada'd sex.

George: Really?

Elaine: Yeah. I met this lawyer, we went out to dinner, I had the lobster bisque, we went back to my place, yada yada yada, I never heard from him again.

Jerry: But you yada yada'd over the best part.

Elaine: No, I mentioned the bisque....

John Child 10:19 AM  

Peculiar. Curious. A mind stretcher, and that's good. Congrats on the debut!


GILL I. 10:20 AM  

this was a delightful theme-less puzzle.
No note, no thin columns, no nada - just a pleasant Huh.
At first I thought we were looking at French origin words - what with CARIOLE, AUTEURS, CUISINE, BIEN but that wasn't making sense. I knew CUISINE was missing its lean. and ESCAPE seemed to be missing a narrow or maybe even a close. Fat CHANCE says I. I can't make heads nor tails BLAH blah blah.
Not knowing what the note said now makes me angry. I thought the puzzle was filled with great words. The note probably would have made this too easy - nevertheless, it was easy anyway with no apparent theme in sight.
Good job Sandy Ganzell. I hope you scream to somebody. I can imagine there are hundreds of thousands of people doing this puzzle that didn't get the note and will end up scratching their heads all day long and saying things like "why doesn't JEANS have a skinny in front?"

RooMonster 10:27 AM  

LOL! Thanks for the shout-out. I'm just curious to see how bad Rex would rip a puz of mine!
I think all my puzs are aces, of course. Doubtful others would... :-)


CDilly52 11:20 AM  

Hand up with those who had neither the "skinny" squares nor the explanation, and for
the fact that SNL (as in "live") is not filmed, and for this being fairly easy.

Slow at first because I was certain that TBS was correct. . . until I became certain that YADA was correct at 2D. IFEVER I needed to be a THINKER, it was in the NW to get me going.

I understood that there had to be some sort of a "diet" theme when I got the idea for [lean] CUISINE instantly. The remaining answers came easily through the crosses or were obvious (especially since we just finished the last of our [thin] MINTS over the weekend). Problem was that I finished the puzzle and never "found" the theme. No clever revealer. Nothing. Alas.

Overall though, quite a snappy offering and an enjoyable solve. And I learned that I need to find another format for solving. So, enjoyable puzzle, I learned something new and that's a good way to start the day.

Moly Shu 11:23 AM  

I solve on my phone, so when I read the note, like @Hartley70 I went to the "correct" online version via the link. However, no thin columns appeared. So I just solved it on the site rather than going back to the app. After I finished I had what I thought was a great idea. I'll go back to the app and see how fast I can do the puzzle. Since I already know all the answers, this will give me the chance to see if all those who say "even if I knew all the answers, I couldn't enter them in (insert random @Rex finishing time)" were correct. Genius, right? No, idiot as usual. When I opened the app, the grid was filled and my time from the site was posted as my finishing time.
The puzzle? Nifty. Liked it.
I want an @Roo offering also.

CDilly52 11:24 AM  

One of my very favorite Seinfeld exchanges and exactly what became to mind with the clue. Slowed me down in the NW for sure.

Joseph Michael 11:26 AM  

My printout had no note and no narrow columns, so I solved this as a themeless and didn't know otherwise until I came online to Jeff Chen's site and then here.

Fun theme. Wish I could have participated in it. Lots of good fill to make up for the void, especially the long downs. Also liked a lot of the clues, such as the ones for THRICE and BLAH.

I guess that, when one can't stop looking at one's iPhone, one has I FEVER.

Leapfinger 11:27 AM  

Ditto here. I thought it was very tastefully done.

Numinous 11:43 AM  

I read the note first and saw there were narrow columns mentioned. Then I didn't think about it. I found the solve to be pretty easy in spite of not recalling which clues were narrow. Like practically everyone here, I had a challenging NW experience. _yt made no sense while I was thinking yada x 3 and toga. And BLAH BLAH BLAH.

CUISINE bothered me once it filled itself in as did ESCAPE and CHANCE. Then I remembered the mention of the narrow columns. That was my AHA moment and once I'd gotten the congratulations pop-up I went back and read the note and listed the columns. Sure enough, those wre the ones.

I like rebuses but don't think every Thursday should have one. I also don't think every Thursday should be a mind-bender. I think of Thursdays as "Tricky Thursday". To me, that means Thursday's should be "deliciously different", a bit of a surprise, something unique, outside the box (or in today's case, snugly within it). Fridays and Saturdays are the brain-wrenchers.

I think this is a terriffic debut for Sandy Ganzell despite how different this is from his initial idea. We have Will and Joel to thank for their encouragement, and thier helping Sandy whip this into shape.

@Roy Leban, assuming you have something to do with Puzzaz, I would use that app IF it allowed the use of an external keyboard. Across Lite does in limited fashion (in portrait mode only). They NYT app allow it too. I regard my iPad as a virtual laptop so I don't like apps that won't accomodate that. Also, Puzzaz refuses to recognize my handwriting. If there is another app that utilizes ipuz format that recognizes an external keyboard, I'd like to know about it.

Anonymous 11:59 AM  

It would have been nice to have a clip of Simon & Garfunkel doing "Save the Life of My Child"

A patrol car passing by
Halted to a stop
Said officer MacDougal in dismay
"The force can't do a decent job
'Cause the kids got no respect
For the law today" (and blah blah blah)

Masked and Anonymous 12:01 PM  

My copy of the puz had yer skinny columns, so it was workin as designed, at our house. Got the theme idea pretty quick, off the (lean)CUISINE themer.

Woulda said this was more of a WedPuz-level rodeo, if I hadn't lost so many precious nanoseconds on CARIOLE, AUTEURS/HAKEEM and PEU. All that stuff was way up in the northern hemisphere, tho. Sooo … armed with the theme, the puz solvequest actually tended to get much easier, as we went along.

Since NYTPuzs tend to get harder as the week wears on, maybe it would be appropriate to construct a single puz sometime where **it** on-purpose gets harder, as U pro-cede further down into its grid. Sooo … first few rows would be all well-known words and phrases, with moo-cow MonPuz eazy-E clues. Then gradually ramp things up, as the grid progresses, until the bottom few rows are like all near-Martian words and phrases, with nothin but double-?? clues. har. Wouldn't **that** be fun to bump up against, at the ACPT? The hotel bar would rake in a fortune off drinks, right after that puz's round. Bodies would line the corridors. But, I digress.

This here ThursPuz was a dynamite debut. Different theme slant -- always an M&A pleaser. Smooth fill, once U park the CAR+skinny I+OLE. Eight U's. thUUUUmbsUUUUp.

Thanx and congratz and come on back, Sandy Ganzell. Was 4-A *meant* to be one of them "traps", suckerin us to write in BIG? Don't make m&e come down there.

Masked & Anonym8Us


Numinous 12:08 PM  

Right or wrong for all you technically minded peedants out there, filming has become synonymous with "taping" and "recording". Whinge and moan all you want but you ain't gonna change it. Ultimately, it's all "moving pictures" which were originally on film. The verb "to film" means to record moving pictures. "Taping" and "recording" can equally apply to making a record of sound by itself. So the verb "to film" has come to mean capturing moving pictures by means other than just the medium of silver halide on a nitrate or cellulose backing.

As a former film student and a former film editor I loathe that use of the verb "to film" but I have come to accept it as I have also come to accept the way language EVOLVEs. English is not the only language with that problem, like, I just don't get how a typewriter in French is un machine.

I managed to complete yesterdays puzzle with a break in the middle so I never even got to reading the comments. I had to mend a fence to keep my dogs out off my neighbor's yard. Our common fence is old and rusted and made up of so many different bits and pieces the dogs are constantly finding holes. Mrs. Numi tells me to just make it do for now, HAR, now only lasts for so long. If one is to do something one should do it right instead of making it work for a week or two. Why do the same thing twice? As it happens, what I was fixing was one of those sorts of patches. Sadly, given my age and health, the job took me way longer than it would have just a few years ago.

Ellen S 12:14 PM  

Puzzazz showed the narrow columns, unlike a lot of other solving platforms. That was a huge help. However, it had a "show/hide" explanations which didn't show (or hide) anything. Oh, wait, each theme clue has the full answer (e.g. 'THIN MINTS") inserted after the clue when you show explanations.

I liked the puzzle, got the theme immediately (and I'm not a good theme-getter!!) and had a lot of fun with it. Congrats on a fine debut Mr. G!

James Pratt 12:23 PM  

Count me as another who printed the non-newspaper version from the website (I prefer using that method, since it allows me to adjust the darkness of the black cells, allowing me to save precious black ink in my home printer). Consequently, the columns looked normal, and I saw no note. As I was solving, ESCAPE, CHANCE, and JEANS were acceptable, if a little off (I skipped the Girl Scout Cookies question on my first pass), but when CUISINE went in, I immediately got the theme, and figured out that the other answers were also part of it (MINTS also went in at that moment).

old timer 12:51 PM  

I can't be the only person who subscribes to the actual paper, and I'm glad I did when I saw the thin columns today. MINTS went right in. I figured all of the phrases started with "thin" though, which left me scratching my head a little. Only when I read OFL's analysis and (shockingly favorable) review did I realize I could have supplied "thin" and four synonyms for "thin". Which made the puzzle much cleverer than I had thought.

I had no trouble with CAB though I did consider "zin". Cabernet is certainly the primary grape you see as you drive through the Medoc, which is why the Napa wine pioneers adopted it, as a basis for making Bordeaux-style wines. The interesting difference: The Medoc is very flat. While that is true of the Napa Valley also, many of our region's best CABs come from hillside vineyards in the Mayacamas, and also to some extent in northwestern Sonoma County. Surely one of the best days of my life, at age 21 was driving through the Medoc with a friend. One or two of the great chateaux allowed us in to taste with no reservation required, though we thought the little roadside tasting rooms run by small producers made more accessible wines.

Uke Xensen 1:05 PM  

Very easy for a Friday (used print version, so saw narrow columns). Only difficulty was NW, where I had TOGA for SARI, did not know CARIOLE, and had trouble finding BLAH. Struggled a bit there.

Ellen S 1:17 PM  

@Numinous, read your critique of Puzzazz with interest. (I'm a fairly early user, not a developer/investor/blah blah blah.) I don't think the app has changed in how it recognizes hand drawn letters, but I'm better at doing what it wants. Sometimes to get it to recognize an "A", I have to write it right to left. I've gotten fairly fluent with Puzzazz's little built-in keyboard, but yes, I'd love to be able to use the external keyboard. (If I'm solving while lying in bed, though, it's too hard to balance the tablet and not cover up part of the keyboard, keep leaning on the screen brighten/dim button, or worse, the delete key.) Anyway, I find the advantage of Puzzazz outweighs those drawbacks-- the reliable replication of the printed version. And sometimes, I think people complain of errors in the print version, but Puzzazz always delivers the goods.

This was a free, voluntary and unsolicited endorsement.

wgh 1:18 PM  

DNF. Everything flowed like wine until the NW.

Trombone Tom 2:09 PM  

@QuasiMojo you are entitled to your own opinion about the use of "cab" for cabernet. But I can testify that many in the wine business use "cab" and "zin" frequently and with no less regard for those fine varietals. For the record we've been growing cab in St. Helena for generations and the price per ton is the same whether you call it cab or cabernet sauvignon. Please don't relegate me to Lake Erie; it's cold up there!

paulsfo 4:01 PM  


great idea about a puzzle that gets harder as you go from top to bottom!

Barbara D 4:15 PM  

What is the " note" everyone is referring to?

QuasiMojo 4:31 PM  

@Trombone Tom -- how 'bout Lake Tahoe? Thanks for the info. I guess if you are in the "biz" or in the wine valley that makes more sense. I just cringe, however, when I hear it from those who want to sound more "in the know" at restaurants back East. :)

jberg 4:51 PM  

@trombone and @carola, thanks for explaining Cabriolet-- I think that was what I had in mind when I wrote in CARIOLE, which I realize now I'd never heard of.

Unlike everyone else, apparently, it was the SW that held me up. That was probably because I put in pupae instead of LARVA, which left me wearing a protective Lens over my eyes. I finally saw OMNISCIENT, and all was well.

i don't see why people are arguing about whether there are CABs in Bordeaus, the clue just says "Certain varietal for short," no geography involved.

@Nancy, I solve on paper too, and wouldn't want to do it any other way. Here in Boston I can get home delivery, but I'm not sure if folks on the West Coast can do that. And I've noticed that many solvers like to do the puzzle the night before it's date. Maybe you can do that in New York if you go out to a newsstand (are there still newsstands?), but not here, so I rely on home delivery in the morning.

As for seeing the trick -- I noticed the narrow columns after I had 7 or 8 answers, but put in MINTS thinking that was OK (maybe they have two kinds of mints, for all I know). But CUISINE really doesn't make sense without the LEAN, so then I knew what I was dealing with.

Roy Leban 5:50 PM  

@Numinous: Puzzazz doesn't generally announce future releases and features, but I think you'll be very happy in a few days. (Hint, hint.) Keyboard support has been one of the most requested features. It's awesome, even in all the crazy puzzles Puzzazz supports, like spirals, rows gardens, etc. and, of course, doesn't have any silly limitations like not working in Landscape.

@Ellen S: Good point that the explanations weren't obvious. We've updated the puzzle so a note at the top now reads "Explanations have been added to some clues in this puzzle" when you Show Explanations.

Our TouchWrite handwriting recognition system also has some slight improvements coming.

Numinous 6:16 PM  

@Ellen S, I messaged Puzzazz a while back about the external keyboard thing and they never replied. I also mentioned it to Across Lite and they told me that they wanted it to work for AL users with previous versions of IOS. I see lots of apps that say things like" requires IOS 7 or later." I don't believe that AL users are incapable of updating their operating systems when new versions come out.

In general, I've managed to get along ok when NYTX adds a note telling me how inferior the app version of a puzzle is compared to the print version. I guess, since I'm used to it, I find the NYT app about te easiest to use. But I thank you for your unsolicited voluntary endorsement.

Numinous 6:18 PM  

Well, @Roy that sounds like good news. Thanks.

Joe Bleaux 7:18 PM  

Excellent trivia! Thanks.

Joe Bleaux 7:50 PM  

@Quasi -- Unlike Nancy, I disagree on "to-do" having only negative connotations. As a matter of fact, as a Southerner, I've heard it used more often to refer to fun events ... "Yeah, we're going to the big to-do at the fairgrounds (or some such)." Maybe it's a regional thing? Since I do the print version exclusively, I got the theme trick almost instantly and the puzzle was an easy solve for a Thursday. Congrats on a nice debut, Ms. Ganzell. I'm posting so late because the incompetents at the Atlanta newspaper press (which prints the NYT's regional edition) LEFT OUT THE ARTS SECTION! For the third time. And on a Thursday every time. Pathetic. @evil doug: The classic T-37! I'm impressed. Re 20A, "delayed" is a seven-letter word too😏..

Mark 8:19 PM  

The look of the puzzle with the thin columns was the best part. It made me want to do the puzzle right away. But otherwise I found it like a Wednesday. Not too many themes and very straightforward to solve

Nancy 8:43 PM  

@Joe Bleaux -- It must be regional. I'd be truly puzzled if I heard someone say he was going to the big to-do at the fairgrounds. I've only heard to-do used in 2 ways: 1) to describe some sort of fracas and 2) a "To-do list", usually comprised of chores.

@jberg (4:51)-- I get Times Home Delivery, too. And for that reason, I shall never be one of the first people posting on the blog. [Sigh]. BTW, you can get home delivery on the West Coast. @Mathgent gets it in SF, though it sounds like they miss his delivery much too often. And I don't know how much recourse he has when they do.

Andrew Heinegg 10:37 PM  

Oh you snobby East Coasters (I'm originally from tres au courant Brooklyn)! I have lived in the bustling town of Poulsbo, Washington (population @10,000 after lots of growth in recent years), for almost 11 years. I have had the N.Y. Times delivered daily for the last 10 years.

Nice puzzle. Be careful you don't count your chickens before they hatch, Evil. Trump et al have not quite brought the ACA down yet.

OASAS 1:16 AM  

Agreed. Nice, clean puzzle. Fast for a Thursday, so even more rewarding. UCLA to UTEP to Utah. Being Canadian, I had no trouble with CARIOLE!

Roy Leban 4:35 AM  

@Numinous: Sorry if we missed an email from you. Feel free to resend it.

I don't know what the Across Lite folks said to you, but it doesn't make sense. First, iOS has supported bluetooth keyboards since iOS 4.3 (current is iOS 10). Second, even if they supported older iOS releases (and they don't), they could support the keyboard on newer devices. Third, our stats show that >90% of our users are on iOS 9 or above and 99% are on iOS 8 and above. In most cases, people who have not updated to a more recent release are limited by their hardware rather than choosing to stay on an old iOS.

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Space Is Deep 6:32 PM  

I always print my puzzles. No narrow columns. Thought this was a themeless Thursday. Had no idea what the gimmick was. Kept telling my wife, "something must be wrong."

spacecraft 12:07 PM  

I'll have you know, I've lost 45 pounds simply by eliminating wheat from my diet. Forget all that stuff you hear about "whole grain is healthy:" wheat is the culprit. See "Wheat Belly" by William Davis.

Welcome to the fabulous NW, Fearless One! Now you know what I go through at least half the time--including, for sure, today. BLAH x3= etcetera?? Nah, you either say the word itself, "etcetera," or "and so on and so forth." BLAH is how you're feeling on an off day. And I thought Turner owned TBS; that's what the T stands for! But perhaps he sold it. SARI saved me; I could only think of that or TOGA for the one-arm-bare effect. Didn't know the Butler quote, though I should have. And you'd have to be OMNISCIENT to know that carriage. Altogether a mean, nasty NW.

But the rest of it had been relatively easy up to then. Starting in the NE, I quickly saw that the slim downs were second halves of expressions that required you to supply the svelte adjective. Once I saw [narrow] ESCAPE I TOOKHEART that I could finish smartly. Except for you-know-where, I did.

When DOD is PUTTOAVOTE, The weight-battling but still lovely KIRSTIE Alley wins out. Mini baller theme with HAKEEM and YAO--and in the opposite corner a different sport with RAINOUT and PINETAR. At 7, the U-count will please @M&A. The whole thing--well, almost--pleased me. Good debut. Birdie.

Burma Shave 12:23 PM  


after CRUEL TEASING I THINKER appetite slowed.
instead of a MENU of (THIN)MINTS ALAMODE.


leftcoastTAM 1:34 PM  

No note with my syndicated version, but no matter. This one had to slip through some narrow and other cracks to make it into Thursday, it appears.

Figuring out the correct unstated words in each theme answer after getting the stated ones is not one of my favorite gimmicks. But, okay.

"Narrow" was good enough for CHANCE, JEANS, and ESCAPE in my book, though of course it didn't make sense for CUISINE and MINTS. Lean and thin ESCAPEd me. Getting the general idea seemed CLOSE enough.

If that's a dnf, again, no matter.

rain forest 1:41 PM  

What a fun puzzle today! I didn't get a note on mine, but of course saw the skinny places for the themers. It took a while to get going, especially in the NW, but working from the NE, I got (narrow) ESCAPE and the jig was up. At first I thought that all the skinny guys would be preceded by "narrow", but CHANCE cleared that up.

I like that there was no revealer, and in retrospect am glad there was no note. Fun to figure it out.

I thought COSM was great, and I actually think I've seen CARIOLE before, but it took a long time to suss out that corner.

Nevertheless, a good time was had by all.

Diana,LIW 2:07 PM  

The thin columns scared me a bit at first - would they be some kind of "half rebus?"

But the puzzle wasn't CRUEL.

Got the SE pretty quickly, then NE, SW, and had the same hangup in the NW as @Rex. Had "gown" for SARI, then considered toga crossing tnt. And had "yada" for BLAH, so we had a staring contest. Then, after seeing the other possibilities, I finished without "getting" why those columns were so "not wide." Then, and only then, came the aha (or oho) moment.

Hey! I knew both the NBA guys! 'Mazing.

Since I completely solved it, I knew a few, at least, would tell me how easy it was.

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords

rondo 2:45 PM  

No note here either, just the smaller spaces. And the same problem as OFL with cAmI in the NW, etc. And gmc before RAM, and UCLA before Utah. Scattered little inkfests. Pretty much did it bottom to top, NW last. The names really helped.

Nice to see IGGY as Pop and not Azalea. Another day with OLE and no Sven.

Like @Diana, I was wondering what type of rebus would fit into those narrow spaces. Just letters, so not hard to EXECUTE.

KIRSTIE had her day, but I will go with yeah baby IONE Skye. And what would xwords do without her?

SARI, but that was too CLOSE to a DNF in the NW, NARROW ESCAPE. And I’m not TEASING, but I could.

Losing at solving 10:29 AM  

I solve the NYT crossword in my local alternative newspaper. What is this "note" that most of you refer to seeing? Is it a clue of sone sort?

Losing at solving 10:40 AM  

I don't know either, but if it's a "cheat" that makes the puzzle easier for the people that see it...well that makes me feel a bit mad, but also a bit less sad that I often have trouble with puzzels that some people on here call "easy."

Losing at solving 10:42 AM  

And, yes, for those of you about to point out how stupid I am, I do know to spell "puzzle."
Typos happen.

James Comey and the Giant IMPEACH 3:19 AM  

Really fine puzzle. I like seeing CARIOLE in the grid. It wakes up some napping neurons! May have learned this word from 19th century Russian novels. Now I'm hungry for Thin Mints....

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