Roger who played part on Cheers / TUE 4-18-17 / Roger formerly of Fox News

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Constructor: Bruce Haight

Relative difficulty: Don't know ... don't care

THEME: grid uses only letters R, E, T, L, S, I, and A 

Word of the Day: no, none of these are good enough
• • •

Well here's where I would've stopped if I didn't have a crossword blog:

Hard to overstate how bad this concept is. How joyless and STALE and etc. What's worse, it's not even original *to the constructor*. He (and the editor, who somehow accepts this stuff) foisted a similar disaster on us a couple years back, where just eight letters were used in the construction of the grid. Here, see (Apr. 14, 2015):

Fun, right? And now, just seven. I can't wait for 6, 5, etc. I'm sure things will improve with fewer letters. I'm sure of it.

Here's a tweet re: *Sunday's* puzzle, before this thing ever came out:

I think we can roll it over and apply it to today as well. Moreso. Here are some more tweets, just because I don't have anything to say about this puzzle that isn't obvious.

 I like this one:

Oh, here's an actual puzzle-related problem someone had:

Let's all pretend today's puzzle never happened. Yes, that's nice.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. SISSIES is a bullshit pejorative (15D: Fraidy-cats). Let's retire it. It's mostly just "S"s anyway, no one would miss it.

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


evil doug 7:26 AM  

Seven boring letters, a whole mess of boring words. I'll give him Pink Pearl: ERASER, and he can have the rest back.

Hartley70 7:26 AM  

To use only seven letters to construct this puzzle is a clever conceit. I'm sure it was a challenge for the constructor but I'm not sure that it was a satisfying experience for most solvers. It took an easy Tuesday puzzle and made the puzzle even easier. I don't think @Rex will like this and neither do I. In fact, Rex is so late posting he may have folded up his tent and left for sunnier climes.

Marty 7:34 AM  

"of the only 7 letters used to make this puzzle" made me laugh, so there's that.

r.alphbunker 7:35 AM  

Does it help that REALISTS, ALISTERS, SALTIER and RETAILS might be the only single word anagrams of the letters?

Details are here.

kitshef 7:35 AM  

As soon as I sussed the theme, I knew @Rex would go ape. In this case, I agree with him. I like usually like gimmicks, but this was demon dull.

Loren Muse Smith 7:38 AM  

Nineteen letters shy of a pangram.

I entered the grid at ESTES and kinda worked up northwesterly from there. And since I hadn’t seen the reveal, I’m pleased that I figured out that Bruce was using only seven letters for every entry.

Even though there’s a lot of haight out there for stunt puzzles, I get a kick out of them from time to time. A good statue of liberty play is thrilling. The outrageous concoctions created by molecular gastronomists fascinate me; I want to try watermelon caviar. And aren’t there movies filmed in one continuous take? Or that movie Phone Booth, where the entire thing is shot in a little old phone booth? An occasional stunt is entertaining. Interesting. Mixes things up…

. . .speaking of which, that Bruce added four anagrams that use all seven letters is cool.

Luckily, I had seen the letter restriction when I went to fill in 15D “fraidy cats” - _ _ SSIES. Ahem.

I’m glad Will accepted this. I’m glad I solved it. I won’t forget it.

Marty 7:39 AM  

That time that [Bond rating] was used to clue AAA, AAAA, AAAAA, and AAAAAAA? That one was worse. I think it had only As in it.

Z 7:45 AM  

"Nineteen letters shy of a pangram."

The rest of us can just close our browsers now, @LMS has already won the comments.

Lewis 7:48 AM  

Just goes to show how lesser-used letters can spice up a puzzle! There was another anagram (STAR/RATS), but I was expecting more, given the theme. Also, there were 17 double letters, which is high, but not unusually high (more than 20), and, for the same reason I was expecting more.

I had the urge to cover my ears before reading Rex's review, knowing his reaction, and he was uncharacteristically subdued. I thought he would say that TRITE abutting STALE_AIR was the actual puzzle theme. But, even subdued, he got his feelings across.

I was bothered by Roger AILES in the grid, given what he's accused of. I think that area should have been reworked. Or am I being over-sensitive?

A quick, relatively clean exercise, and thank you for that Bruce, but may I request, for next time, something a bit SALTIER?

chefbea 7:48 AM  

Well this FOODIE liked the puzzle!!! Amazing to make a puzzle out of only 7 letters!!! Of course it was very easy

mambridge 7:50 AM  

"Animals" rounded up are STEERs not STEER.

Mr. Fitch 7:51 AM  

There's also TAILERS though.

btgrover 7:51 AM  

Tuesday puzzles are such softballs, I actually enjoyed this one, which took me somewhat longer than my average solve time, despite the advantage of having a limited pool of letters to choose from.

Is Rex Parker 100 years old? Have taken to reading his blog in the voice of a senior citizen who hates everything, has seen everything before and it was always better then.

broken.pheonix 7:55 AM  

Ugh. This was awful and a 50% increase on my normal Tuesday time. I even had to Google "pink pearl" because that phrase means something completely different where I come from. Something not very crossword appropriate.

Also I was glad to find it wasn't just me that thought the use of a perjorative like sissies was in poor taste.

Hopefully the rest of the week gets better...

Oh and I'm now a daily reader Rex. Thoroughly enjoying your blog.

Tim Pierce 7:55 AM  

@r.alphbunker: No, it doesn't really help, especially since A-LISTER is not a "single word" anyway.

Unknown 7:56 AM  


Mr. Fitch 7:59 AM  

Is there a contest to see who can use the lowest number of letters in a puzzle? I so, there shouldn't be. It's like one of those idiotic Guinness world records, like lowest number of gulps to drink a liter of water. I'm not amazed. It wasn't enjoyable. And no, I don't give a damn if someone sets a new record.

What's the logical conclusion of this pointless race, anyway? A grid filled with just A's, with each creatively clued? "Reeeeeally small battery?" "AAAAAAA"? Someone should do this just to put this terrible concept to rest.

QuasiMojo 8:04 AM  

LOL. As I was filling in today's grid, I noticed the repetition of letters but considering that so many puzzles in the NYT are like that now I thought nothing was out of the ordinary. Then I come here and find out it was some sort of a gimmick. Felt like just any old Tuesday to me. I don't understand why Rex posts these tweets as some sort of evidence to back up his points. Are these famous crossword people? Or just random commenters? Because frankly their comments are unimpressive. Way too much bile today. Save it for the ones that are not only silly but downright lousy. This one was just "starile."

wgh 8:06 AM  

Not a fan

Glimmerglass 8:08 AM  

Constructing a puzzle using only seven letters is interesting, but makes for a relatively easy puzzle. When the time comes to run the alphabet, seven letters doesn't take very long! Certainly this has to be an early week puzzle. My complaint about these seven letters is that one of them is an S. Of course using S made the challenge for the constructor more manageable, but it made the solver's job kind of boring. Just as an example, what if Haight had swapped out the S for a D, giving REDTAIL, TRAILED, DILATER, DETRAIL(?). Or, of course, some other letter -- anything but S.

Nancy 8:11 AM  

There are 26 letters in our alphabet and I'm inordinately fond of every single one of them. Why a constructor would set himself a gratuitous and pointless task that can only impoverish the solving experience for everyone else is beyond me. Loved Rex's review today. Rex says he would have quit early if he didn't have a crossword blog. Well, I don/t have a crossword blog, so I did quit early. What a dumb puzzle.

Z 8:16 AM  

@Lewis - I was a bit surprised at the "Zionist's homeland" clue, too. Not how I would choose to clue ISRAEL. As for AILES, he's right there with O'Reilly and Cosby, men I would not miss if they never appeared anywhere in our public discourse ever again. Yes, all perfectly crossworthy, but all failing my personal breakfast test.

Lon 8:18 AM  

After completing this puzzle, I couldn't wait to read Rex's write-up. Not disappointed. The Pete Townsend song was great!

Lon 8:24 AM  

Now make a puzzle using only B, J, K, Q, U, X and Z.

Anonymous 8:26 AM  

You kids get off my lawn!!!
... It's just a crossword puzzle. Get over it.

John Child 8:33 AM  

Rex's first screenshot is exactly where I stopped.

How about a puzzle with only 3- and 4-letter words next?

Tita 8:43 AM  

Well said, @Nancy... about a puzzle using only the 12 letters of the Hawaiian alphabet?

I used to show off my Italian by reciting (not singing) 16A and also "Voi que sapete". To clarify, i speak virtually no Italian, nor can I rattle off random opera lyrics willy-nilly. I would really like to be better at both those things, but I'm not.

Even with @lms' bright take, I can't quite rally myself behind this effort. Not really the sort of thing I would shout "Tada!" after finishing.

Anonymous 8:45 AM  

I'm a lurker. Have been doing the puzzle since the Will Weng days. Used to be a joy (although I must admit I didn't love the stepquote). I love predicting Rex Parker's reaction. I do the puzzle before I go to bed, and one of the first things I do in the morning is read Rex's column. I love the criticism and nearly always agree. What's with the recent right-wing stuff? It feels like "Pence" is an answer a couple of times a week, probably hyperbole on my part. Today " Ailes." And "sissies" absolutely needs to be retired. No one even uses it anymore as a pejorative. The only time I hear it is when I watch "All in the Family" reruns.

Carola 8:45 AM  

I ususally like Bruce Haight's puzzles, but this one.... EIRE next to ELEA next to STALE....yeah. Agree with @Rex about the whole thing and with @evil doug about Pink Pearl (I thought it was a punk rock band...until the answer reminded me of how many of those ERASERs have gotten lost in my junk drawer). @M&A is often noting whiffs of desperation in the grid; for today, I nominate the effort to make "ELLS" interesting.

Bruce Haight 8:47 AM  

@Loren Muse Smith
You rock!

Anonymous 8:47 AM  

Oh... I know that the step quote was a Eugene Maleska addition. If memory serves me correctly. Not from Will Weng.

mathgent 8:50 AM  

One thing to like about it: only six Terrible Threes. There aren't many to choose from. Only 343 possible three-letter sequences and 64 of them don't contain a vowel.

Richard Gross 8:57 AM  

My immediate reaction after a few fills was, yuch! Like Rex, I lost any interest and never even completed the "puzzle." Agreeing with Hartley70, this was constructor's shallow conceit. Back to Morning Joe........

Unknown 8:57 AM  

Let's call puzzles like these Trumpster Fires. Nutty ego trip for the constructor and joyless solve for the rest of us. Might not even have noticed the seven letter thing except for the brute force clue at the first anagram. Yuk! NYT I pay for this s**t?

Lobster11 9:03 AM  

If it weren't for the Look-at-me-I-can-make-a-puzzle-using-only-7-letters gimmick, I would have guessed this was some kind of parody puzzle. By the time I got down South to ESAI, ETATS, and IRAE I was nearly laughing out loud. And not because I was enjoying myself.

Aketi 9:04 AM  

Our always-getting-bigger cat Charlie loves those pink pearls to bat around and chew on. He might have swallowed a few too. I'd rather he munch on ERASERs than munch on my flip flops that he drags out of the closet whenever the door is left ajar.

@LMS, SISSIES made me go back and rewatch Trevor Noah's take on the feline equivalent of that word so between that and your comments, I did get a tad of indirect enjoyment out of the puzzle this morning.

Unknown 9:07 AM  

@Bruce Haight I agree with you - @Loren Muse Smith does rock. Your puzzle, not so much.

Mr. Benson 9:14 AM  

This time I'm fully on board with Rex's curmudgeonly write-up. I angrily quit less than halfway through. Why does Will Shortz continue to accept submissions from a constructor who appears to specialize in awful, unpleasant puzzles? I admire nothing about this. I am not impressed.

Having quit, I never saw SELES/AILES while solving, but I will say that it's absolutely not a Natick. Not even close. Even if you never saw the front page of a sports section during the 90s and don't know Monica Seles, Roger Ailes is a name that every semi-educated adult knows (and I don't watch Fox News either).

Unknown 9:14 AM  

To quote Steve Snyder: " Yuk! NYT I pay for this s**t?"
This was not a fun morning.

Hungry Mother 9:16 AM  

A bit too easy, but nothing to get upset about.

Charles Flaster 9:17 AM  

Very easy and would have been more enjoyable had there been no reveal at all.
I imagine the constraint of only seven letters is more challenging to create.
Liked the clue for LARIAT and loved watching Monica SELES compete.
Thanks BH

Anonymous 9:18 AM  

Sissies is a great word. Lots more useful than cis whatever.

AWS 9:18 AM  

100%. Fabulous faint, damning praise, even with the rest of her comment after.

Whirred Whacks 9:26 AM  

Thought this was a lot of fun. Congrats to Bruce Haight! I liked the 8-letter puzzle he did two years ago as well. Constraints are good. As FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT repeatedly told his students:

"Limits are an artist's best friend."

People give up various things for Lent; this year I gave up Twitter. Yesterday I returned to Twitter for a bit. This puzz made me curious about Michael Sharp/Rex Parker was thinking and posting about these days. I was not surprised to see that he is unhappy about things. Actually I'll wager that Bruce Haight is a happier person than Rex.

Enjoy your Tuesday folks!

abalani500 9:28 AM  

The only enjoyment I got was when I asked myself, "who the hell is ALISTER??" before it dawned on me that it's A-LISTER. At least that made me laugh, albeit at myself.

Wm. C. 9:30 AM  

@Aketi et al from yesterday --

My post about Cornell was meant largely tongue-in-cheek. In fact my son went there undergrad in Electrical Engineering, and from there did his SM and ScD at MIT. (BTW, I paid full-boat out-of-state tuition, at a rate a multiple of what in-staters pay.) Anyway, I'm aware it's academically rigorous, at least in some fields.

I agree with someone's comment that Cornell tends to the practical more than other Ivies. Maybe its status as a Land Grant college has something to do with this.

I recall that the engineering students referred to the Animal Science school as "Moo U."

Another commenter posted a list of areas, mostly practical, where Cornell is highly rated. In one of these, Hotel Management, the school has no close rival: it's simple hands-down the best in the world.

Mohair Sam 9:30 AM  

@LMS - "Nineteen letters shy of a pangram." You saved the day, thanks.

JT 9:31 AM  

Yes! That's an actual mistake. I can't find any dictionary that says the plural of steer can be "steer." I don't thinkI've ever caught this kind of singular/plural error in a NYT puzzle.

GILL I. 9:33 AM  

Good gravy. Do Will and Bruce even know what Pink Pearl is? Now THAT'S a word that won't make it in NYT puzzledom. So, I went for ISLAND until I realized we're playing with sevens here and one of them ain't no D. Dang!
@Rex...You have a twitterer that never heard of SELES nor AILES? You have one of the biggest tennis stars ever crossing "Mr. I can't keep it in my pants." Classical!
Why do I always think Keisters is your mouth. Am I thinking Kissers?
I wish Bruce had started this with STAR and ended with RATS.

Lindsay 9:42 AM  

Please RELEE-EASE me, let me go ....

Jonathan 9:45 AM  

I'm going to confess I actually enjoyed it-- a puzzle like this uses a different part of the brain, tosses in words like LARIAT that one wouldn't usually see on a Tuesday, and I like anagrams. Although entirely agreed that SISSIES has NO place in a puzzle anymore.

Also, at least it wasn't by a serial rapist.

Rita Flynn 10:02 AM  

Has my name in it, so it can't be all bad.

Anonymous 10:02 AM  

I guess I'm a little dense. Why is "sissies" a no-no?

I'm guessing it's because it COULD be used as a derogative description of a gay? --???

OK, but it can also be used in other less-colored senses, f'rinstance, "Don't be a sissie, c'mon with me down this Black Diamond ski trail."

Lighten up, folks, it's only a crossword puzzle.

Nancy 10:24 AM  

I was wondering the same thing, re SISSIES, Anon 10:02. And I agree with what you just said. There's absolutely nothing wrong with the word in its fraidy-cat context. Not only can it be used in a way that has nothing at all to do with a gay slur; it can be used in a way that isn't a male slur either. Girls and women can be SISSIES, too. I have often referred to myself thusly when someone has been so foolish as to ask me if I want to take a roller coaster ride; climb wet, slippery rocks; shimmy up a rope ladder; or go on any sort of ski vacation where I'm not at liberty to stay safely in the lodge, drinking lots of Bloody Marys and spending my time in the hot tub. SISSIES is a perfectly good word with a great many wonderful uses. I also agree with Anon 9:18 that it's a lot better than the godawful cis.

Joseph Michael 10:26 AM  

This is the kind of puzzle that is more fun for the constructor than for the solver. Yes, it's an impressive feat, what?

To B, C, D, F, G, H, J, K, M, N, O, P, Q, U, V, W, X, Y, and Z, please come home. We miss you!

Anonymous 10:28 AM  


Can't you just hera the SJWs?

How dare you tell us to lighten up. Don't you know that's just patriarchal hegemony. You're probably a fascist too! Go back to Breitbart!!!!

As for me, I'll make the double black diamond run with you.
Sissies be damned.

RooMonster 10:30 AM  

Hey All !
I have to give props to Bruce, this had to be ridiculously hard to construct. When you limit yourself to seven letters, there are only so many words that will comply, and then you have to cross them and end up with real words. Impressive. Granted, the solve does become easy and/or tired to some, but you can ramp up the clues a bit to make it tougher, ala for a Thursday. Bruce chose Tuesday clues.

So, I enjoyed and respected this puz. I'll stand over with @LMS and her nineteen extra letters! (Awesome opening sentence, btw!)

Oh, and Monica SELES should be well known, even for non-tennis fans. I particularly liked Martina Hingis. She was No, 1 for a long time.


amyyanni 10:42 AM  

Agreed. Always a word girl, the NYT is turning me into a Sudoku fan.

Blue Stater 10:52 AM  

Glad someone else spotted the STEER mistake. Rex articulated better than I can why I loathed this little exercise. The rot continues apace.

Jonathan 10:57 AM  


Sissy: Disparaging and Offensive. an effeminate boy or man.

So, yeah, it's basically a homophobic slur. But please, keep defending it!

And if anyone wants to tell me that Ru Paul uses it, as in "Sissy that walk", I'd say that's about as good a rationale for using the n-word in a puzzle and say that they've heard black people use that.

Masked and Anonymous 11:02 AM  

Bless U, @Lon, for your fine vowel choice.

M&A once made a 15x15 puz usin only the letter E. [Inspired at the time by a widely-acclaimed Patrick Berry puz, which had all the letters *except* E.] The black squares formed a giant "E" in the middle of the grid. Took forever to clue it up, especially the grid-spanner entries. It drew a similar reaction, from the PuzEatinSpouse, as did Mr. Haight's one here today. Fortunately, reality intervened: Across-Lite couldn't handle an all-E puz, so I never got to distribute it. Soo … there seems to be some floor of letter variety past which Across-Lite will not let the constructioneer pass.

EEE = {Capital of Libya} was my fave all-E clue, back then. But, I digress … puz analysis says this NYT TuesPuz has a freshness factor of 0.1 percentile. I think that means that the puzvocab might tend to come off as a bit dull, overall. I sure like stunt puzs, but dull vocab might be a tough puzfeature to sell to the general xword fanbase. Anyhoo, I'm ok with this puz, as a daring experiment -- altho not especially thrilled by it.

yo -- this puz did not play the EELS card! On the other hand: ELEA. har.

Thanx, Mr. Haight. And, indeed, bless U, @muse.
How'bout a puz that only uses letters with at least two curves in them? [B,C,D,G,J,O,P,Q,R,S,U.] My guess is that'd net pretty desperate fill.

Masked & Anonymo s


old timer 11:09 AM  

You know, I found this very hard for a Tuesday. The words were often so obscure that the correct answer did not leap to mind, as it usually does early in the week. And like most of you, even though I got the seven-letter thing early, it was not at all an enjoyable solve. I remember Mr. Haight's earlier 8-letter puzzle and remember it being way more enjoyable.

Of course I knew SELES right away, and while I try not to think of AILES, I do think that those who object to any word, and especially those who object to names associated with Mr. Trump or conservatives in general are SISSIES.

Anonymous 11:15 AM  


You need a better dictionary. And, I'm guessing, big boy pants.

Numinous 11:15 AM  

I guess I have to give Bruce credit for not giving up. Apparently he's submitted three or four seven letter puzzles before this was accepted, He's also done one with eight letter in the past and created the short-lived "H8ers" club. He has also submitted three six letter puzzles.

@Loren gave us the brightest spark of the day. This puzzle simply bored me.

I've said something like this before but now I really believe I've become a Haighter.

Malsdemare 11:18 AM  

@lms. You nailed it today! Thanks for the giggle. I guess I get the "you gotta hit her on the for her to notice any trickery" award. I totally -- again - missed that @Bruce Haight (no sissy there; to show up today took real cojones) used just seven letters. I blew through this awfully fast; I knew Monica and Roger, both fair in my minnd for a Tuesday. But the STEER singular slowed me down. No and No. My guess is that was just a typo?

As an itty-bitty female who still throws like a girl, I was never too crazy about the word SISSY until I became a real adult. But while there are no double black diamond runs for me, there's stuff I do that my 6'3" partner won't go near (get hoisted to the top of the mast to change a light bulb, clear out the wasps in the garden shed, break up a dog fight, give birth MORE THAN ONCE!!!) and there's real joy in calling him a sissy. So there's that.

I just like having something to do with my brain while I have my coffee; this worked. Thanks, Bruce.

G. Weissman 11:22 AM  

Won't forget what?

Nancy 11:27 AM  

@Jonathan (10:57)-- Maybe I've led an unusually sheltered life, or perhaps I am privileged to know enormously evolved people, but I've heard SISSY used as an anti-gay slur exactly 0 times in my life. I'm not talking about in movies or on TV, but in actual conversation. 0 times. Whereas I have heard it used to make fun of people who are afraid to do dangerous stuff hundreds, perhaps thousands of times. I own three dead-tree dictionaries: Webster's New Collegiate; the Doubleday Dictionary; and the Concise Oxford English Dictionary (my 11th-grade British English teacher insisted on it.) Every one of them has a second definition that refers only to the fraidy-cat definition. Yes, the word can be used in a nasty and disparaging way; so can many multifaceted and useful words.

A few weeks ago I was chastised, though mercifully not by name, for using the phrase "a lame puzzle." The poster said that using "lame" in such a context was insensitive and disparaging to people with mobility challenges. And what I thought, though I didn't respond, was Good grief, give me a break. (I also thought that if I were lame, I would have a lot more serious problems on my plate than this particular turn of phrase). Are we going to start purging our beautiful, complex language of all its richness? I really believe that there are far too many attempts at word censorship on this blog.

Robert A. Simon 11:33 AM  

Here's the official transcript of a meeting held at the NY Times a month before the paper started selling crossword subscriptions to offset plummeting print sales...

EXEC A: Now, Shortz, you're probably wondering why we all asked to see you...

WILL: Well, I see a couple of Sulzbergers, the CFO, the Chief Revenue Officer and the Treasurer, so I'm guessing, gee, it's about money.

CFO: Cut the tone, Shortz, this is serious. That Interweb thing is killing us.

WILL: Yes, I know. (PAUSE) I'm already on board with selling crosswords subscriptions. What else can I do?

CFO: Make them easier.

WILL: What?

CFO: Make them know, like the ones in People and TV Guide, but not all about entertainment and stuff.

TEASURER: Now I'm pretty smart, but I can only get through like half a puzzle--on Mondays.

WILL: Well, we try and...

CFO: Don't interrupt! We need easier, more obvious, less inventive puzzles if we're ever going to have a chance of getting millions of people to sign up.

WILL; But the difficulty and cleverness are hallmarks of...

ONE OF THE SULZBERGERS: Dammit, Shortz, this paper has been selling out for twenty years! We're averaging five kale recipes a month, for God's sake. Get off your high horse. If you play ball, we'll give you==let's say-- one decent puzzle every three months.

WILL; Guys, listen......I don't know.

ANOTHER SULZBERGER: Here's an idea to get you started. I think the puzzles are hard because you've been using all 26 letters. How about puzzles that use only, say, seven?

WILL: Please! The crossword helps define the paper's standards! Smart. Insightful.

YET ANOTHER SULZBERGER: Yeah, yeah. Just do it. (To secretary) Edna! Get the International Desk in here, and tell them they better haver twenty damn good reasons why a London bureau is all that important...

I swear this meeting took place.. How else can you explain what happened?

Anonymous 11:42 AM  


You're being too generous to Jonathan who all but called you a bigot.
I have two dictionaries on my desk: The Pocket Oxford dictionary and The Random House Dictionary. Neither lists sissy as derogatory; one says it's slang, the other just calls it a noun.

Noam D. Elkies 11:49 AM  

I have no real complaints about the puzzle -- it's a constructional feat (possibly a new record), and despite the heavy constraints no worse a solve than many other Tuesdays. As for 15D:SISSIES, that's from sis = sister, so originally a slur "effeminate boys/men"; but we use "scumbag" and "brown-nose" despite *their* unsavory origins, and (so far) don't denigrate "denigrate", so maybe we can also hold on to "sissy" as a gender-neutral equivalent to "coward". I'm surprised Rex would write "It's mostly just "S"s anyway no one would miss it": in crosswords such words are prized for ending stacks etc. (as with today's 12D:SASS).

Anonymous 11:57 AM  

Rex, if you disapprove, you can create puzzles for the NYTimes; else, as my mom said, be polite when being critical.

Bert 12:02 PM  

Yeh, it's sad, believe me, Missy,
When you're born to be a sissy
Without the vim and verve.
But I could show my prowess, be a lion not a mou-ess
If I only had the nerve.

Tita 12:03 PM  

Welcome @Anon @ 8:45 - only get yourself a handle so we can recognize you!
And welcome too to @BarbieBarbie and
@Gregory Nuttle - any relation to Graig Nettles?

@John Child from yesterday - if that was a "made ya look" post, it worked. I saw nothing new in Rex's FAQ...

And while I can count on the fingers of one hand the times I chided anyone for not knowing something I know...
Good grief - AILES has been splashed all over all the news outlets - not just Fox. Months ago, and now again, for related reasons.

Jonathan 12:11 PM  

People! Just google "sissy". Language evolves-- "fraidy-cats" is no longer apt. The good news is that it's outdated enough now that it doesn't really pack much of a punch-- still, as a gay man, the second I saw it I grimaced.

Andrew Heinegg 12:17 PM  

As a non-constructor of puzzles, I suppose I am not qualified to assess whether it is difficult to construct a puzzle using only seven letters. But, my reaction is: if the only merit to the puzzle is the difficulty of construction and virtually everyone is in agreement that the finished product is, at best, meh, what's the point?

When the principal topic of comment in the blog is the political correctness of words in the puzzle, maybe the puzzle should have been put into the 'no thanks' pile.

oldbizmark 12:20 PM  

Rex - "Bullshit Pejorative" deserves to be in everyone's lexicon. May have to start a band so that I can call ourselves the Bullshit Pejoratives. That made my day. I salute you.

Dick Swart 12:36 PM  

I do the NYT xword to wake my brain in the morning over a cuppa and a chocolate croissant. It doesn't occur to me that I am missing out on all the fun of meta discussion after-the-fact.

I run off the NYT and the LAT on the front and back of a sheet of bright heavy-weight printer paper. I solve them in ink with a fountain pen. Today I used a 1950s black Lamy Model 27 and Noodlers 'American Aristocrat' ink ... an old port color.

Instead of timing myself against a clock, I take the time to enjoy the words and their overtones and usages.

Today the word(s) was 'pink pearl' ... an eraser with a history:

I guess at 82, I prefer to find my enjoyment in the preparation for doing the puzzle and the finding of small bits of trivia or recollection within them.

Uke Xensen 12:46 PM  

Easy and pretty dull. I don't agree with those who say it must have been very hard to construct. Those are among the most common letters in English.

Anonymous 12:55 PM  

Hated this boring, annoying thing.

Anoa Bob 12:57 PM  

This puzz also has the lowest Scrabble score possible since every letter used in the grid has a one-point value. The eight-letters-only puzz had some two-point Gs and four-point Hs.

Wait! The blank tiles have a score of zero! So maybe there's a lower Scrabble score puzz possible. What about a grid with only blank white squares in it? And all the clues will be blank!

Unicorn Slayer 1:02 PM  

Why all the hatred for SISSIES Rex. Too many unpleasant childhood playground memories? As LMS pointed out, SISSIES was only used because of the letter limit. It was replaced years ago by PUSSIES and followed closely by WUSSIES. Many opine that wussy is a hybrid of pussy and wimp. Others disagree on that. At any rate, both have been replaced. First by cupcake and now by snowflake. Yes they are all pejorative, but as the joke goes, "If the Foo Shits, Wear it."

@Lewis: asks, "Or am I being overly sensitive?"

Ya Think! Take heart Lewis. 90% of the regulars here are overly sensitive. Many have raised virtue signaling to an art form. Evil Doug and Moly Shu usually keep them in check.

As for the puzzle, Rex nailed it. Not worth
the time to bother with.

Anonymous 1:11 PM  


I googled sissy. Not a peep about it being offensive.
Here's their definition.





plural noun: sissies

a person regarded as effeminate or cowardly.

synonyms: coward, weakling, milksop, namby-pamby, baby, wimp; More
informal softie, chicken, milquetoast;

mama's boy, pantywaist, twinkie, crybaby, powder puff

"he's a real sissy"


mid 19th century (in the sense ‘sister’): from sis + -y2.

Teedmn 1:24 PM  

I usually look at the constructor's byline before solving but for some reason I failed to this morning. Thus, halfway through solving this puppy I thought, "This is a Bruce Haight oeuvre" and peeked to confirm it so that gave me a laugh. I never got a chance at the ACPT to talk to Bruce and let him know I enjoy his puzzles, even ACPT puzzle #1 which I biffed at the obvious place.

Yup, 40A STEERs us wrong - I did chuckle at the thought of someone cluing this (not speculating on who) thinking deer:deer, so it must be steer:steer. Hah.

And @LMS's opening line made me laugh, not just for its great humor but because I had read over at xwordinfo that before Mr. Haight's haightful eight puzzle, the low letter count record was held by Peter Gordon with a 10 letter puzzle. I clicked on the link to that puzzle and looked at the list of letters "missing" and it didn't look like all that many. But I added them up and they totaled 16. Guess I could have done the arithmetic :-).

So, BH, I got enjoyment out of this puzzle, just not from the fill. Keep on TILTing at windmills and letter minimums but maybe hold off a couple more years for the 6-count puzzle.

Anonymous 1:28 PM  

I thought it was a fun puzzle. SELES/AILES as a cross on Tuesday seemed fine for me, I'd imagine most people are familiar with one or the other.

Don't wanna get deep in the SISSIES debate but I agree with Rex there.

Masked and Anonymous 1:34 PM  

@muse: Most feature-length flicks don't get shot in one take, becuz the camera magazine won't hold enough film to do that. Hitchcock directed a "Rope" movie once, that kinda gives the illusion of one gigantic take, by zoomin in on the back of someone's suit or chair or somesuch, to hide the film re-load moments. He did allow actors to have lines involvin words with most of the letters, tho.

Maybe this here TuesPuz woulda had a bit more zip, if there'd been a few grid-spanner entries. Peter Gordon once did a 10-letter NYTPuz, but included some grid-spanners to liven things up.

With only 7 letters to choose from, yer grid-spanners could sport some real serious desperation. Sooo … there's yer rodeo! Examples:

* SEA EELS AS TREATS. Alternative fare, when yer host just will not abide do-nuts.
* SISSIES EAT STEER. This also has the bonus feature of keepin several existin controversies goin strong.
* EARLESS SEAL LIST. Part of a perfectly legit zoological study.
* REAL EARL TEA IT IS. Yoda's reply to a guest's query about the gray breakfast drinks.
* STILL TREE SERIAL. Silent cliffhanger flick starrin a bunch of yews.
* … Etc.

M&A Rewrite Desk and Do-Nut Support Group

jae 1:34 PM  


Larry Gilstrap 1:37 PM  

Wow! Tough Tuesday crowd. Remember when there was a penalty in football called "piling on"?

My phone tells me that the ARAL Sea was once one of the four largest lakes in the world. Yes, past tense. It also is described as "one of the planet's worst environmental disasters." Water is a precious, threatened resource world-wide. But, then the first thing I see on my news feed this morning is about nuclear war. Concerned about the well being of our posterity? What have they ever done for us?

I am surprised that anyone found trouble with either AILES or SELES. His alleged scandals were in all the papers. How do guys get away with this stuff for so long? From the ridiculous to the sublime, Monica SELES was a joy to watch and one of the best tennis players of all time. Speaking of creepy guys, her career was interrupted when she was attacked and stabbed on court. Horrible!

Oh yeah, some found the puzzle to be mundane.

Masked and Anonymous 1:49 PM  


* REAL ESTATE LEASE. Dude, this one clearly transcends do-nuts for breakfast, even!

Rock on, darlins.


Tita 1:54 PM  

@Dick Swart - I love writing with fountain pens - had to in Catholic grammar school, though they allowed us the new-fangled cartridge type.
I was always fascinated by the whole mechanism, the smell of the ink, carrying extra cartridges... Always liked the complex simplicity of a fine one.
And thanks for that link to the Pink Pearl, which then lead me (pun intended) to the Crayola story.

Aah... and blue ink stains - caused either by accident, or by the boys in the playground starting a fountain pen fight - flicking an open pen rapidly, causing the ink to stream out onto anything and everything in its path.
(No pigtails in the inkwells, though - that was before my time.)
Etched indelibly in my brain.


Dr. Bunger 1:56 PM  

"D'ye mark him, Flask?" whispered Stubb; "the chick that's in him pecks the shell. 'Twill soon be out."

Anonymous 2:10 PM  

Anybody who grew up on the South side of Chicago knows that "sissy" is a synonym for fag or ferry or queer, or a host of other names that should be banned from usage in a word game. For once, Rex is right but not nearly strong enough.

Apology, please, constructor and editor . . . .

Jim in Chicago 3:13 PM  

A quick look at the Oxford Dictionary of Abbreviations shows well over a hundred examples of just AAA.

So, it should be very easy to clue a puzzle so every answer was AAA. Just a single letter should be hard to beat.

evil doug 3:18 PM  

George: "You know, Jason, I, uh, I couldn't help notice, I... I didn't get my apology."
Hanke: "Apology? For what?"
George: "A drafty apartment? A... sweaterless friend? A ball-game giveaway Metlife windbreaker?"
Hanke: "George, come on, not that neck hole thing."
George: "Yeah, the neck hole thing, and I would appreciate it if you would
say you're sorry."
Hanke: "No way, you would've completely stretched it out."
George: "You're an alcoholic! You have to apologize. Step Nine! Step Nine!"
Hanke: "All right, George, all right. I'm sorry. I'm very, very sorry. I'm so
sorry that I didn't want your rather bulbous head struggling to find its way
through the normal-size neck hole of my finely knit sweater."

Tim Aurthur 3:28 PM  

I envy anyone who's never heard of Roger AILES.

chefwen 3:42 PM  

@Tita - Now THAT would be fun. AEIOU HKLMNPW. Have at it Bruce!

I kept checking last night to see if Rex has posted early, but he probably had to cool down before he posted.

Anonymous 4:50 PM  

Of course "sissy" is pejorative. So what ? Don't be a sissy.

Anonymous 5:07 PM  

I needed a break from a hellish work day that began at 6:15 a.m. but alas, I had to stop. Just made me more miserable. I went a bit longer than Rex said he would've. But not by much.

Anonymous 5:09 PM  

@All who said some variant of "this puzzle must have been difficult to create". How so, exactly? You get crossword construction software, buy a word list (Hi Jeff!), delete from that word list all words containing anything but the magic 7 letters. Pick a grid, put in your big 3 REALIST / RETAILS / SALTIER "themers" and hit the Fill The Grid button. I guarantee you the result wouldn't be any worse than this.

Anonymous 5:24 PM  

All Michael Sharp can do is spew hate, and condemn those he deems hateful. Snowflake is the new sissy.

Doc John 5:35 PM  

I've played music for a long time and I've never seen ASSAI. Granted, I'm not a professional (not even close) but I have seen my share of charts.

Rob 6:07 PM  

Well, that happened.

Anonymous 7:58 PM  

And oh, how we all wish it hadn't. And since I quit, I hadn't even seen SISSIES. Yes, that needs to be retired -- boys that act like girls, because being a girl is so degrading. Girls are disgusting. I'm cancelling my subscription to this puzzle now and getting that much of my life back. It's done.

Anonymous 10:04 PM  

I liked it.

Leapfinger 10:15 PM  

@Tim Pierce, actually, ALISTER is a single word; at any rate, it's a proper noun, since that's how Messers McGrath and MacKenzie both spell their given name. [I find it surprising that the most straight-forward spelling should be the least common, but that's the UK for you. I guess we're lucky they don't spell Lt. Jeffrey JIEUrey]

You must remember this
A kiss is still a kiss
The fundamental things applai
As time goes by

Found it interesting in its constraints, and set assai poor mwa.

Anonymous 10:25 PM  

Not great but not that bad. The Sissy question threw me for awhile but I still solved the entire puzzle without hints.

Z 10:26 PM  

@Nancy - Rarified dictionaries are seldom a good place to start with slang terms. In this instance, Wiktionary has an informative article. And I will repeat again what I often say in these contexts, people can use all the pejoratives they want, they just can't be surprised at the reactions they get. Using "sissy" isn't indicative of having a rich vocabulary, quite the opposite, and implies the user is mean-spirited and churlish. Look no further than the anonymice today if you need any proof.

RooMonster 10:32 PM  

On a lighter note, Holy Cow @M&A! Those were a REAL STELLAR LIST! Had me laughing so hard, could barely read your "clues" from water in the eyes!

And @Tim Arthur 3:28, I don't watch the news, too much bullshit and negatively get-you-down-stuff. So I blissfully go through life only knowing about the big issues that you can't miss from being online. If you fret about every little thing, your brain will explode!


Anonymous 10:40 PM  

"mean-spirited" is a pejorative

Noah Henry Fowler Webster 10:46 PM  

Z -- So I guess you'd also take the film reviews of basically any Tom, Dick, Harry or Sylvia posting on the Internet over the reviews of the LAT, NYT, or WoPo film critics? Wikipedia and Wictionary are the work of amateurs. Just about anyone at all can chime right in.

Anonymous 10:58 PM  

"mean-spirited' and "churlish" are pejoratives, but they are impressive (vocabulary wise)

Mark 11:01 PM  

In early 1991 Monica Seles took the number 1 position away from Steffi Graf, who is generally acknowledged to be the best of all time. If Seles had not been stabbed in the back, before her twentieth birthday, by some demented piece of trash, she might well be best of all time, certainly at least second best. She won NINE Grand Slam titles.

Elephant's Child 11:20 PM  

@Z, I was surprised by 'Zionist's homeland' for ISRAEL also, but happen to think that clue is spot-on. I doubt I'd be as pleased with whatever you'd have chosen.

I can see where a righteous twink would want Ailes, O'Reilly and Cosby blocked from public discourse. Despite the fact that it's private discourse where they do their best work.

Carry on.

Anonymous 7:26 AM  

I guess because I'm no genius I quite enjoyed this puzzle and admired the inventiveness required to use only seven letters. I like feeling capable every once in awhile instead of bludgeoned (as I do on most Fridays and Saturdays). This was a perfectly good Tuesday puzzle. The only booboo was STEER, but it wasn't a roadblock.

As for SISSIES, I had no idea it's now controversial. How silly.

Elephant's Child 8:31 AM  

@M'n'A, I call shenanigans on your 2-curve letters puzzle idea. All the letters in your roster have only one curve except for two, and Who could constructioneer a grid with only B-S in it?

Tarheeled 11:01 PM  

I'm late with this comment as I get the nyt in the mail and it never comes on the day it is supposed to. I am only writing, Rex, because you left the word "of" out of "a couple years back." This form of bad grammar is everywhere now and it really pisses me off. No one says, a couple years back! What they are saying is, a coupla years back. They are eliding sloppy speech to the point that even the 'a' is dropped.
Speech can be sloppy, but writing should never be sloppy! A couple of years from now...

Anonymous 6:26 PM  

Me likey.

Burma Shave 9:57 AM  




spacecraft 11:11 AM  

DNBTF. Fatal error: sEAtS for "Keisters." But even if I had REARS, ASSAI is...a tropical tree. Music? Never heard of it. Also had no idea in the world about any "Pink Pearl." Ridiculous. I suppose I might have continued, maybe even eventually found REARS, but I Just Didn't Care. Who wants to write all those S's? I was already yawning.

Honestly, there are some days when I believe I could edit these puzzles better than Mr. Shortz, who should have stuck with Games Magazine. *TILT*

centralscrewtinizer 11:12 AM  

Well, the mordantly petty, fuddy-duddy, pusillanimous house-whitey posters were in full flame today.

rondo 12:26 PM  

Didn’t care for that one 2 years ago, liked this less than 7/8 as much. Maybe we can do one in binary code with only Is and Os, and with a rebus or II. Probably wouldn’t need any black squares. Now that’s something that hasn’t been done. One of those RARITIES.

Never cared for Ms. SELES’ grunting. That makes Julia STILES yeah baby for a day. Or, of course, that LASS ELLE MacPherson, an A-LISTER.

Did the NYT RELEE need this one?

Anonymous 12:41 PM  

From Syndication Land:

Give me a pangram any day! I like all the letters, and really missed them here!

Anonymous 12:44 PM  

29D: By the time this puzzle appeared in syndication Roger AILES was formerly *alive* !

leftcoastTAM 1:32 PM  

@Lady Di, rain forest, Teedmn: You coaxed a change of mind and mood. Thanks for the boost.

The puzzle: I guess you can do a lot with three vowels and three consonants, but it's not all that interesting, particularly when you rely on much too much easy crosswordese.

REES and RIIS are good.

The shared A in ERASER/ASSAI was last letter in. Vaguely remembered them both.

Otherwise, will not pile on

rondo 4:22 PM  

@lefty - good to see you here today. Stick around. Please.

rain forest 5:58 PM  

Late again today, as seems to be my wont. Love me some wonts.

Well, I never dislike a puzzle, or if I do I don't say so. My admiration for construction and my enjoyment of solving seem to coalesce somehow along a continuum, and I guess this tends to the construction admiration end. I like how I said that, by the way.

When I was in Grade 1, I shared a desk with a guy who became my friend for life. He had the PINK PEARL eraser, and I had to have the cheaper grey/black thing that only tore holes in the paper. I don't think I ever got over my envy.

So, while very easy, (ASSAI, I knew), this puzzle, for me, was not the most vile thing that I have ever done.

Hey, @leftcoastTAM, glad you're sticking around!

Diana,LIW 8:08 PM  

I started this puzzle and saw the "anagram #1" clue, and thought "this'll be hard." Then went off to my 5-hour, 7 a.m. dentist's appointment, which turned into an 8-hour appt.

Yeth, it thertainly wath quite the day.

Came home only to find the restraints made the puzzle much easier than pie, or pi.

Tho I thay, EEEEEEEE! @Lefty stayed with us.

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for a few more letters

leftcoastTAM 9:37 PM  

@Lady Di--Good to thee you thaw in through in good thyle, I athume.

leftcoastTAM 9:43 PM  

"...IT through..."

Diana,LIW 10:10 PM  

Thhat's thwell, @Lefty. Earlier, I thoughd have thaid "thayed" with us. Tho, in vs. ti - tho much for perfection.

Lady Di

wcutler 2:53 AM  

What if the puzzle had been different and had not elicited the comments from @LMS and @M&A? They were my best laughs of the month.

I kind of liked the puzzle, but knew the whole time that Rex would hate it. I hardly ever get to just write in answers - words don't come to me easily and I need some filled-in squares for most answers. So this allowed me virtual filled-in squares, where I didn't have to have the letters in place, but knowing they were somewhere allowed me to come up with the answers right away and feel a titch more clever.

I filled in ASSAI as soon as I read the gimmick. It must be a term I've seen.

Blogger 9:39 AM  

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