Colonial-era headgear / TUE 7-18-17 / Cleverness thought of too late to use / Peter who wrote Serpico / Dressing up as fictional characters with others / Cartoon character who explores with Boots

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Constructor: Michael Hawkins

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: ON THE UP AND UP (42A: Straight-shooting) — two other themers start with devices that can take you up (or down, actually, but whatever). So since there are two ... UP ... and UP:

Theme answers:
  • STAIRCASE WIT (17A: Cleverness thought of too late to use)
  • ESCALATOR CLAUSE (30A: Flexible contract provision) 
Word of the Day: SCRY (27D: Foretell the future by using a crystal ball) —
verb: scry; 3rd person present: scries; past tense: scried; past participle: scried; gerund or present participle: scrying
  1. foretell the future using a crystal ball or other reflective object or surface.
[this clue really should say [*Pretend* to foretell the future etc.], come on ...] [also, what the hell is "other reflective object or surface"!?]
• • •

These are not the most familiar of themers. I knew one. My wife knew one. They were not the same ones, and the one I knew, I knew only in French—never heard STAIRCASE WIT, but I inferred it from "l'esprit de l'escalier." ESCALATOR CLAUSE baffled me. I had CLAUSE and ESC- and had to resort to crosses because ESCAPE wouldn't fill the space. I like the weird grid shape, and I actually kind of like the super-light theme (3 answers? 39 squares?), and the fact that they didn't even bother trying to give the revealer a dopey revealer clue. Simple. People can figure it out without your getting all corny with it. And yet I don't think I Like liked this puzzle. Any puzzle with REUNE(S) starts with two strikes against it, and ugh, SCRY and ATTA and AER and TNN ... so much MAASwordese, blargh. A puzzle with only three themers should have Much better fill than this. "Annie Hall," yes, ANTEHALL, no (31D: Entrance room where guests wait). So despite its quirky charms, I'm gonna say nay. Wait. Wait, no, I changed my mind—I thought it was a near-miss, but then I noticed that you can kinda sorta make a case that the grid has a kind of staircase/escalator shape (taken from SW corner to NE corner), and even if that is what we in the business call "reading too much into things," I don't care. I need Tuesday not to fail every week. So consider this the most marginal of positive reviews.

Aside from ESCALATOR, I didn't have much trouble here. Biggest issue by far (compounded by its adjacency to ESCALATOR) was with 26A: Place to find a pen and teller (BANK). I had the -NK and my eye got only as far as "pen" and I wrote in ... OINK. Now this "makes sense" insofar as a pig oinks and a pig lives in a pen. In all other ways, it makes no sense, particularly considering that OINK is not a "place," ugh. Otherwise, smooth sailing.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Unknown 12:19 AM  

Thanks, @Rex, for your self-described marginally positive review of @Michael Hawkins' Tuesday puzzle. I did a double-take at SCRY, but sure enough, it's in the dictionary. The BANK clue, winking at @Penn and @Teller, was very clever.

The original French version of STAIRCASE WIT goes back to Diderot in the 18th century ... and no, I did not know that prior to solving the puzzle and then researching it on Google. When I saw ... CLAUSE, I initially thought of the punchline to this classic @Marx Brothers scene. As for the ESCALATOR part, please ...

BTW, New York Times debut for COSPLAY, and only second appearance for each of CHALLAH and ICE CUBE TRAY (the latter with a fabulous clue). A 1995 puzzle by the legendary @A.J. Santora had ELEVATOR MUSIC (horizontal) and ESCALATOR CLAUSE (vertical) crossing at the central O, while today's puzzle settles for just MUSIC.

Kendall 12:22 AM  

I appreciate all of your reviews Rex, and often agree with them, but I think personally this is the worst early week puzzle I have ever seen. I've been doing early week puzzles for 6 years and never have I not understood so much about a Monday or Tuesday level puzzle. I've never heard of either theme answer, though perhaps I can maybe agree about the shape of the grid? Maybe? The NE corner was almost impossible if not for guessing enough letters to finally make it work. Other things I've never heard of outside of theme answers - ASYLA, ANTE HALL, REUNES (though at least it was possible to guess at), TRICORN, PORK (in this context, and I've been a government contractor since graduating college), MAAS, and probably others but I'm tired of looking.

Goodnight all, and hope the solve was better for you than me.

Anonymous 12:24 AM  

SCRY is shamefully, woefully, ignominiously bad. And I don't need any kind of crystal ball or other tool of divination to know that for a fact. Really an insult to solvers.

Ron 12:53 AM  

Tough puzzle for me. NE was the last to fall with TRICORN and TURIN (I put in TRENT, which took a long time for me to change). Of the three themers, I had only heard of ON THE UP AND UP. Fortunately, I did know SCRY from fantasy literature. Never heard of REUNES, MAAS or ASYLA (I would have guessed ASYLi based on asylum). Meh.

puzzlehoarder 1:01 AM  

I loved this puzzle. It was a real surprise after yesterday's dial it in snooze fest. It's great when an early week gets up and fights back and right off the bat too with CHALLAH. That one was all by the crosses. With SKRY I was dreading the "almost there" warning but the crosses were correct there too. I'm all for judicious use of a preShortz word. I don't understand the thinking that these words shouldn't be used. Why limit the depth of the language? The theme was a plus as well since I'm completely unfamiliar with STAIRCASEWIT. It's nice to know that no matter how much you solve there are always unknowns to work around.

jae 1:08 AM  

I'm on the road and am trying out, for the first time, the AcrossLite iPad app because my Standalone crossword app stopped loading the NYT puzzle. The AcrossLite app mostly sucks because tapping on a letter does not always result in the letter appearing in the grid. But, bad solving experience aside, this was a pretty tough Tues...SCRY is not good, STAIRCASE WIT was a WOE, ESCALATOR CLAUSE was a tad obscure (wanted escape clause which didn't fit). Still, the stair step grid pattern was a nice touch, liked it.

Larry Gilstrap 1:49 AM  

Hardest Tuesday since the last solar eclipse. Sure, I finished my solve before the ice in my drink melted, but SCRY? Conjugate that verb for me please! Or, is it an acronym for a dessert chain?

I've heard the NYT is on an austerity kick, but only two themers and a revealer? Gaunt! And now OFL warns us about, "reading too much into things"? If that is the new normal, then this blog is official over. IT'S been fun while it lasted.

As a student, I was forced to read some Henry James novels which featured people hanging on doorknobs, assuming kinda like STAIRCASE WIT. Now, just text them and move on! I'm also assuming that DORA is an Explora and not from Dickens. I could be wrong.

Kids these days! Of course, I see youngsters on social media dressed up in elaborate costumes emulating characters from popular culture and that, I'm told, is COSPLAY. I don't even dress up for Halloween, but my neighbors costume up at the drop of a hat. I do enjoy seeing the images of some of the select characters at Comic-Con. There may be snow on the roof, but there's a fire in the fireplace. Thanks Google!

If you ever have the chance to see Penn & Teller in performance, do it! I'll never forget the bit with the baby bunny and the chipper. The most monumental group cringe since the Roman Colosseum. That's magic!

Larry Gilstrap 1:55 AM  

...officially over, but you knew that.

Larry Gilstrap 2:05 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Hartley70 3:05 AM  

I'm right there with ya @puzzlehoarder! Today's offering is more like it and you said exactly what I was thinking, and better than I could at this time of night. I like the visual staircases. ESCALATORCLAUSE and STAIRCASE WIT and COSPLAY were new to me but fun and very gettable. I thought the clue for ICECUBETRAY was outstanding and SCRY is a terrific word. I like it when a puzzle reminds us of words that have fallen out of favor. Vocabulary can be so fickle. This is one of the better Tuesdays I can recall. Well done, Michael Hawkins.

Dolgo 3:11 AM  

I've never heard STAIRCASE WIT, but, like others, I've often been amused by the French phrase. Interestingly, I just ran into it again in the last couple of weeks. I wonder if Michael Hawkins I have been reading the same stuff!!
The rest of the puzzle was Tuesday dull.

Anonymous 3:18 AM  

Anyone else seeing the mini puzzle when they click the daily in Android? I keep getting the mini. Set a new Tuesday record with 25s, but that doesn't seem fair.

Worked fine on iOS, so solved on an iPad. But I'm curious if others had this problem.

chefwen 3:50 AM  

My neighbor is coming over this weekend and we're going to make CHALLAH. I've never made it before, not worried about the bread, worried about the braiding part. There are three different braids and we are going to try all of them.

SCRY, STAIRCASE WIT and COSPLAY were unknown, but easily filled in with crosses.

I bet @Evil Doug does a great EVIL EYE.

Lise 5:15 AM  

SCRY brought to mind the excellent Bartimaeus Trilogy by Jonathan Stroud in which SCRYing can be done with a small glass disc or even by looking in a puddle. If I remember correctly, it's also done in the Septimus Heap series by Angie Sage. Both of those are well-crafted fantasy with excellent storylines and well-developed characters.

For me, this was a very enjoyable puzzle!

Thomaso808 5:29 AM  

Yay, COSPLAY has finally arrived as a debut! Years ago the idea was initially FROWNEDUPON in my house, but my daughters eventually brought me around. As I have mentioned before, they once got me to dress up as a Muggle for a movie debut.

STAIRCASEWIT was also new for me but I love the concept!

Anonymous 5:34 AM  

Donald Trump Jr's meeting with the Russians is a big nothing burger.

evil doug 5:37 AM  

COSPLAY? That's when coeds gape their legs. Manspreading for college chicks.

Z 6:10 AM  

@jae - download PuzzAzz. You'll be much happier, especially on any unusual grid days, and it downloads the puzzle.

Definitely staircases in the grid.

Best Tuesday ever.

AW 6:20 AM  

What is a WOE? Took me awhile to figure out DNF = did not finish, but can't get WOE. And can't understand STAIRCASE WIT, either. What, you finally think of a clever retort when you reach the top or bottom of the stairs?

Lewis 6:34 AM  

Yes! This one made me work and taught me things. Thank you for this, Michael.

* Beautiful stair step grid.
* Clever clues: (BANK, ICE CUBE TRAY, DEW).
*I learned COSPLAY, SCRY, and STAIRCASE WIT, which were all fairly crossed.
* It was a hybrid puzzle, that is, Tuesday theme, Wednesday difficulty.
* I saw ON THE UP AND UP as the reveal, with the two UPs referring to STAIRCASE and ESCALATOR.

I also liked the adjacent HESITANT ROCK OPERA ROMANCES, which sounds like a Jeopardy category.

QuasiMojo 6:38 AM  

I was expecting a third themer "downstairs."

SCRY was a cool word to learn but having HORRID before SORDID made me stumble first.

A nearly InSCRYtable puzzle. Thumbs up from me.

Loren Muse Smith 6:47 AM  
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Loren Muse Smith 6:52 AM  

Rex – great catch on the staircase-ish look of the grid. I mean, I liked the puzzle before that, but it’s a great visual to boot.

Loved the clue for ICE CUBE TRAYS (“freeze frame?”).

ROPE is a second-tier themer. Back when I was a little backyard monkey child, I could climb our rope-swing rope all the way up to the limb it was tied to. Mom caught me once and shrieked SHRIEKED! for me to come down. Had an quick introduction to Rope Burn 101. Still have that scar. I swear. Just checked. It’s faint, but it’s there.

Me, too, for not knowing STAIRCASE WIT. I googled it:
This name for the phenomenon comes from French encyclopedist and philosopher Denis Diderot's description of such a situation in his Paradoxe sur le comédien.[1] During a dinner at the home of statesman Jacques Necker, a remark was made to Diderot which left him speechless at the time, because, he explains, "l’homme sensible, comme moi, tout entier à ce qu’on lui objecte, perd la tête et ne se retrouve qu’au bas de l’escalier" ("a sensitive man, such as myself, overwhelmed by the argument levelled against him, becomes confused and can only think clearly again [when he reaches] the bottom of the stairs").
In this case, “the bottom of the stairs” refers to the architecture of the kind of hôtel particulier or mansion to which Diderot had been invited. In such houses, the reception rooms were on the étage noble, one floor above the ground floor.[2] To have reached the bottom of the stairs means to have definitively left the gathering.

So, (@AW) interesting that the spirit in which it was first meant was that the thought occurred to you after you had gone down the staircase. (And “woe” is “what on earth” – a polite way to say “wtf”)

At any rate, what a great thing to have an expression for, right? At first glance, anyway, but how would you actually use it to describe the experience if it happens to you? The expression itself seems to be one you have to use after the fact, too. I mean, this’d be weird: Man, I thought of the best retort, but went all staircase wit on myself. Damn. Coulda really gotten him. or Go get’em, Eugene. You tell him. You got this. Just go get in your zone and avoid that staircase wit.

Seriously -can anyone use it in a sentence that actually refers to the experience itself and not just what the phrase means?

I’m not too quick on the uptake, but boy am I covered in the staircase wit department.

Rex – “ ‘even if that is what we in the business call "reading too much into things.’ " Man oh man oh man am I experiencing this now in all these Freudian analyses of the Gothic. Here’s a sentence in something I’m studying for a mid-term: “Frankenstein confronts a desire to reunite with his dead mother and somehow engender artificial life from her and his biological decay… something like a return to the confusion and loss of identity in being half-inside and half-outside the mother…” And we’ve already learned that there are teeth there to negotiate. Ok. I know the Gothic whining is getting old. Sorry.

Michael Hawkins – cute Tuesday fare.

kitshef 7:24 AM  

Not really a theme. I was expecting the third themer to be elevatorshoe or something like that. But really, it was just a vaguely related phrase.

ANTEHALL fails the skyey test, and is not even close. This is my own test for word obscurity - if the Google Ngrams shows the word appears less often than 'skyey', it's a no go. Exceptions for more current words (e.g. COSPLAY) as Ngrams only go up to 2000.

Despite those, I enjoyed it overall thanks to some nice fill (EVIL EYE, CHALLAH, SATIATE, TRICORN, SCRY, DAPPLE).

I can now see out of both eyes, but the right is still puffy and only opens to a slit. A lot of people will think I'm giving them the EVIL EYE today.

GHarris 7:41 AM  

Count me among those who found this educational, fun and very doable.

RAD2626 7:54 AM  

I made a mess of this, some my doing, some not. I sort of knew TCBY but thought it was an acronym for I Can't Believe it's Yogurt. Instead it is The Country's Best Yogurt. But I should have known an iRICORN was not a good hat. On the other hand, TRICORN is not on the tip of mind either. ASYLA new to me. And an awful lot of posters already have had no clue about STAIRCASE WIT which makes me wonder about it appearing on Tuesday. TOBY (not to be confused with TCBY) MAAS, SCRY, DORA even ET CETERA as clued all required the crosses. ET CETERA clue was great upon staircase reflection.

Appreciate comments by those who liked it because it was harder than yesterday (by a long shot) but I thought yesterday was a perfect Monday and gave it to two of my granddaughters to try. Today did not fit that sequence in my opinion, but that is not the constructor's issue.

Vlad 7:58 AM  

I am still not gettink this. I put in all letters and iPad says OK YOU WIN but words not makink sense. Is step stairs? This is crazy talk I am so sure of this.

chefbea 8:02 AM  

fun puzzle starting out with challah!!! This is one chef who has never made it...but my daughter has...@chef wen. Never hear of scry or tricorn. But a fun puzzle on the up and up!!

evil doug 8:16 AM  

Keel moose and squirrel.

Mr. Fitch 8:22 AM  

Rex is too kind.

* "Fill to the gills" felt off for SATIATE. To sate is to satisfy fully, but filling to the gills goes further than that, in my book. It's more extreme.

* REUNES is a dealbreaker. I'd never view any puzzle that contained this answer positively. It's simply not a thing. "Did you reune with your family last week, Doris?" No.

* ASYLA, see above.

* SCRY, no thanks.


Cassieopia 8:25 AM  

Puzzle went fast for me so didn't notice the stairs till I came here. I'm with @puzzlehoarder. COSPLAY and TRICORN fell immediately but that didn't diminish the delight I felt in seeing completely new words on a Tuesday. I thought this was a great Tuesday and now that y'all pointed out the stairs, I like it even better.

Anonymous 8:43 AM  

How long did it take Mika Brzezinski to complete this puzzle?

Two Ponies 8:48 AM  

What an odd puzzle. I liked it. New words? Great, give me more.

I'm disappointed that @ evil doug did not dig up some Seinfeld for us regarding staircase wit. It reminded me of what was, for me, the absolute worst episode. George is so desperate to deliver some staircase wit that he actually gets on a plane to do it. Something about a jerk store. It must have been written during a writer's strike or something.

@ LMS, That class sounds so terrible. You should ask for your money back. Frankenstein is a excellent book that is more appropriate for a philosophy course than whatever it is you are taking. The book reminds me of Blade Runner with the questions on mortality. The recent version with Robert DeNiro as the monster is fantastic.

Anonymous 8:49 AM  

uTe for ATV (3D), and REMi for REMY (37A) slowed me down a fair bit.

Otherwise gettable, but not easy Tuesday-ish.

Glimmerglass 8:52 AM  

Not much to say about the puzzle, but last evening I ate a delicious cup of rum raisin icecream at Scoops after the chamber music concert in Edgartown.

Mohair Sam 8:53 AM  

Reallly tough Tuesday in this house. Set a record for Tuesday words and terms we didn't know, and that's with us having a near gimme at ESCALATOR CLAUSE. That doesn't mean we didn't like it, we did, it just means we think Will published it about a day and a half too soon.

You always learn something in the Times puzzle, and today we're a lot less ignorant - CHALLAH, SCRY, COSPLAY, MAAS, OSSA, TNN as clued, STAIR CASE WIT, and TRICORN. And REUNES was sloppy. Like I said, it was a good thing for us this contract had an ESCALATOR CLAUSE.

Aketi 8:56 AM  

@kitchef, glad your stereoscopic vision has returned.

I liked the ROCK OPERA as the y axis and COSPLAY as the x axis. Long before it was called COSPLAY, I still remember the midnight lines of people dressed up for the ROCKy Horror Picture Show. I saw the play in a London with another American and we were both shushed when we tried to recite the requisite chants of "toast, toast" for midnight viewing in the US. Still chuckling over standing in line with a bunch of 20 somethings for the Game of Thrones pop up bar in DC with my 50 something sister a couple of weeks ago. The 20 somethings were quite funny and, unlike my generation, didn't seem to think it was horrible to chat with their elders. We were not dressed for the occasion, but the bar provided furs for selfies on the Iron Throne.

TMI alert.
As for ROPE Burn 101, back in the days of totally unsupervised play we explored the possibilities to the hilt, with ROPE swings, rickety attach your own early precursors of zip lines, and tug of wars. The worst ROPE burn I ever witnessed, however, was a drunken adult who had tangled in the tow rope while attempting to waterski with a group of similarly drunken adults who didn't notice he'd fallen and was being dragged through the water wiith the rope tearing up his leg. My mother and the ROPE burn victim were transported in the same ambulance to a tiny little local hospital. My mother had one of her fingers almost completely smashed off when she tried to stop our ski boat from smashing into the house boat we rented. Again, all the adults had been drinking. They decided to beach the house boat for a picnic, but forgot they tied the ski boat up to the back of the boat, not the side with bump.. So of course, my mother's hand was completely ineffective as a bumper when the prow smashed straight into the back of the house boat. I'll never forget the look on all the kids faces when my mother ran back into the main cabin and planted her hand on my cousin's back with her finger hanging by a bit of skin. Between the two accidents was an unforgettable day of how alcohol and boats don't mix.

gzodik 8:59 AM  

@Loren: use it in a sentence?

I am the master of staircase wit.

Nancy 9:07 AM  

First of all, though I thought my vocabulary was perfectly swell, thank you very much, I learned two new words: SCRY and COSPLAY. (I'm wondering if the COS is pronounced like it is in COSTUME or like it is in COAST.) Second, I've never in my life heard of STAIRCASE WIT, though it's a pretty nifty phrase, come to think of it. That's what it looked like the phrase was going to be from the combo of letters I had, but I had to wait for ESCALATOR CLAUSE to see the pattern and be sure. I guessed right on the cross of TCBY (wha?) and TOBY. (It could have been TOnY, but I didn't think so.) The clue for ICECUBE TRAY (19D) was wicked. The clue for ET CETERA (9D) was delightful.

Wow! What a treat to have this amount of crunch on a Tuesday. Everyone praised yesterday's puzzle -- a puzzle that I found pleasant, smooth, easy as pie, and completely forgettable. This is what I long for in an early-week puzzle. It made me think; it made me work; it held my attention from beginning to end.

Ted 9:08 AM  


This was pretty hard for a Tuesday. Got most of it by crosses until that southwest corner, then it was just...

What the hell is ASYLA? I do not know this word at all.

Ted 9:09 AM  

Oh. The plural of Asylum.

Literally no one says that.

L 9:12 AM  

This is one of my favorite challah braiding videos. It's in Hebrew, but you really just need to watch. (She does recommend smearing a little oil on your hands as you braid, to prevent sticking and for a nice shine). Enjoy!

Anonymous 9:13 AM  

@Loren Muses Smith,

You're going to let KFC have the last word? You're not only a plagiarist, but a coward.

I don't know about chicken bit I know a cock when I see one.

katherine catmull 9:25 AM  

SCRY is a word I've known since childhood so I am taken aback at all the hate for that one, which had a nice straightforward clue, too.. ASYLA (really??) and REUNES were way more annoying.

Nancy 9:26 AM  

@kitshef -- Sorry I didn't say anything yesterday, but I'm very, very sorry about your eye. Being stung in the eye is a SORDID thing to have happen, and I hope the swelling SECEDES from your lid very soon, enabling you to say "I SEE perfectly". Would an ICECUBE TRAY help?

Masked and Anonymous 9:27 AM  

yep. @Lewis covered it pretty well, short and sweetly. Pretty different & cool TuesPuz. Plus, it has DEW DUES.

staff weeject pick: BTW. Nice stacks of em, in the NW & SE, BTW.

Thanx, Mr. Hawkins. thUmbsUp. And Up.

Masked & Anonymo5Us

JB 9:34 AM  

Scry haters clearly never read fantasy literature or play d&d. And as far as other reflective surface - mirrors? Pools of water?

jberg 9:39 AM  

I have mixed feelings about this one. I loved ICE CUBE TRAY, CHALLAH, and the theme, and for that matter SCRY --- I think Tolkien uses it, and a lot of other fantasy fiction does. I learned the word COSPLAY from Twitter, so that was OK -- and it was nice to have both the old-fashioned term and the very new one.

BTW, I had thought SCRY was broader -- to include reading tea leaves, ET CETERA (nice clue on that one), so I learned something.

On the other hand, we have the partial clue for IT'S, ASYLA (correct in Latin, but not in English) and ANTEHALL. anteroom is a thing, hall is not -- unless it's clued "Monty's father's sister."

I knew the concept of STAIRCASE WIT, but couldn't remember the exact word (stairway? stoop? on the subway going home? Lucky none of those fit.) And I knew ESCALATOR CLAUSE, but have only the vaguest notion of what one might be.

@George, thanks for the video links!

OSSA is a real mountain, as you can see here. But the Greeks did have myths about it, which is where the saying comes from. (The picture says Kissavos, but that's the same mountain in Bulgarian.)

BRM 9:42 AM  

Other reflective surface - Mirror mirror on the wall who's the fairest ...

Joseph Michael 9:44 AM  

A rock opera:

Dora, Toby, and Han reune in the antehalls of the asyla to don tricorns and scry the sordid art of cosplay while satiating themselves with Sara Lee challah.


Cassieopia 9:45 AM  

@nancy - like "costume". COStumePLAY. I agree with you on today's puzzle. Monday was spaghetti squash (nutrition, I love it, but bland and forgettable) while today's was pate - smooth and a special treat!

Daniel 9:51 AM  

The avid Mini puzzler will recognize REUNE from Monday's microchallenge. I FROWNED UPON that answer not 12 hours ago.

AP 9:52 AM  

I'm surprised that people (both Rex and commenters) seem more upset about SCRY, which is a real if somewhat obscure word that I've definitely seen in print multiple times before, than about REUNES and ANTEHALL, which are not things that people say. At all. Both of those answers delayed my solve in that I got them, but didn't fill them in until I had all the crosses because I was desperately hoping that they would be something, anything, else.

ASYLA also bothers me less than those two, because I feel like it's reasonable to expect well-read solvers to know the pattern that many words ending in -um (i.e., the ones that were second declension neuter in Latin) can have plurals ending in -a. It's still contrived and bad, but I'd rather have a thousand ASYLA than one REUNES, damn.

Warren Howie Hughes 9:58 AM  

BTW,Rex Old Top, Wasn't ANTEHALL one of the films that Woody Allen directed?

Anonymous 9:58 AM  

Struggled through this Wednesday-like. NE did me in.

Thought "discouraged" was an adverb and used "PutUpon." That gave me "StaircaseTit." Blamed it on the youngsters. My God, are they still working "tit" into everything! Clicked on reveal. Ouch.

ArtO 10:04 AM  

Pretty damn tough for Tuesday. NE was a total blank after LEFTS until a couple of guesses opened it up. SCRY, COSPLAY, STAIRCASEWIT and more were woes. Was looking for ESCALATionCLAUSE but readily corrected with the non-fit. Have heard of ANTEroom, not ANTEHALL.

RooMonster 10:08 AM  

Hey All !
SCRY?? Holy EVIL EYE! That's a SCaRY word if you don't know it. And I didn't, which got me my famous one-letter DNF. Had mORDID/mCRY. Thinking of it like a McScam, or something. Made MeCRY! :-)

Lots of blocks to pull off the UP AND UP-ness trick. 42. Normal max 38, but Will stretches stuff like that out if he likes a theme.

Worked at an in-store bakery department which baked and sold CHALLAH bread. Sometimes spelt without either H. TRICORN new, picturing a uniCORN with three horns, har. Is there a duoCORN? And nobody doesn't lime SARA LEE. (Which I used to think was - No one Does it Like SARA LEE {which actually works if you think about it}) Fun to see whole ETCETERA in puz. I get annoyed when people abbreviate it ECT. Like a stick poked in your side. It irks.

Top row Downs easiest of puz. Would've been awesome if constructor somehow managed to get a SW to NE diagonal escalating word in puz, but then that might've Elevated (har, no pun meant!) puz to a Thursday.

Didn't anyone else have puss for DORA first? Puss and Boots? Or is the ole brain messing with me again?


Nancy 10:16 AM  

@Cassieopia (9:45) -- Thanks. I thought so, but I wasn't completely sure. Now I can shoehorn COSPLAY into idle conversation. And, we have something in common, beyond really savoring today's puzzle. I, too, adore pate and consider it a special treat. (It would be better, of course, if I didn't.) But while others contend with too great a love for sweets, my culinary "sins" are the "grease foods" -- pate and chopped chicken liver and every kind of cheese (except goat cheese) and sour cream with all the wonderful things you mix into it. But I have found a substitute that's healthy and keeps me away (mostly) from all of the above. Guacamole. It fulfills the same craving, I've found.

Bill Feeney 10:21 AM  

Doing the acrosses first, I confidently filled in overeat and rustles for 13A and 15A and thought smugly I was going to eat that puzzle up! Yes @RooMonster, puss first.

G. Weissman 10:22 AM  

Staircase wit? Antehall? Reunes? Asylum?Lame, lame, lame, lame.

G. Weissman 10:23 AM  

My autocorrect changed asyla to asylum, as all good autocorrects will.

Passing Shot 10:36 AM  

Liked it mire than OFL, but I'm giving ASYLA some side-eye. 😠

Anonymous 10:55 AM  

@Ron at 12:53 a.m. (Gimme a break, I'm on the West Coast and have to have my first cup of coffee before I solve): lots of words ending in -um singulars have plurals in -a: data, media, bacteria, curricula, criteria, spectra, errata....and that's just a few common ones. Latin loan words ending in -um are neuter, with plurals in -a. Good thing to know for crosswords.

old timer 11:06 AM  

@Joseph Michaels: Bravo!

Never heard of SCRY, which turned a 14 minute solve into a 20 minute solve. Neither SCRY nor ANTEHALL are in my Webster's Collegiate dictionary, which is only 25 years old. I am sure it does not have COSPLAY either but that is to be expected. Newly minted words have every right to be in puzzles but if you ask me words that no doubt have been around for decades but appear only in the Unabridged are FROWNED UPON. I would not have accepted the puzzle were I WS for those reasons alone. ASYLA is I think a word that only appears in crosswords, but is legit. Latin first-declension neuter nouns end in "um" and the plural form is "a". Phylum, phyla. You kind of have to learn that in high school science.

I did get STAIRCASE WIT, which is a translation of the French "l'esprit de l'escalier" and which I have seen many a time in both English and French letters.

GILL I. 11:11 AM  

Wow. A Tuesday with meat. Nary a turkey in sight.
Loved it all even the EVIL SCRY. What a word! I like SCRY because I believe you can foretell the future by gazing into a ball. Self hypnosis is a real thing. Remember "The Man Who Knows?"
STAIRCASE WIT rang a little bell for me. I'm not sure where I might of heard it. It does sound a bit Agatha Christieish and I've read all her books so maybe it was Poirot coming down the stairs wishing his verbal exchange with Colonel Race the night before Shaitana was murdered had been more forthcoming. I guess I'm reading too much into this.
The hardest entry for me was wondering if R.H. was Mays or MACY. Pour MACY's. It's being taken over my Amazon. They all are. Our downtown store was always packed now it's like a ghost town. I hope it survives if only to continue their annual parade.
Nice job Michael Hawkins. Before I started the puzzle I was already pitying you for being the hated Tuesday constructor. But look what you did!!!! Bravo.

jb129 11:24 AM  

I went into this thinking "I'll be done in no time" & started filling in like crazy......

Absolutely HATED Scry, Cosplay & Staircase Wit - SCRY more than the others - so nearly an hour later (LATE for a Tuesday!) I had to cheat to get Scry. This puzzle annoyed me more than I enjoyed it.

jrstocker 11:33 AM  

I've never heard of STAIRCASE WIT either, but I absolutely love the phrase.

All I could think of was 'The jerk store called, and they're running out of YOU!'

Lewis 12:00 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown 12:15 PM  

I'm surprised at how much everyone hates scry. I've come across it several times in literature. Can't remember specific works but I definitely remember reading of a "scrier" and as far as "other reflective surfaces" I believe these scriers divined the future from pools of water and such. Seems legit to me.

Unknown 12:29 PM  

Escalator Clause is a fairly common term in modern sports talk, if you pay attention to that sort of thing. I've never heard the phrase staircase wit.

I have also never heard the words scry or asyla. But that's ok, just seemed hard for a Tuesday. I liked the dew clue.

Hungry Mother 12:53 PM  

Evil Doug's definiation of COSPLAY. Was the single bright moment in a bleak solve. Got it done, slower than usual, but didn't enjoy it much.

Teedmn 1:21 PM  

Many's the fantasy book I've read where SCRYing was involved. Usually it is a tool used to see from afar rather than into the future - and often it can be done with just a bowl of water rather than a crystal ball. Dorothy scried Auntie Em in a crystal ball but the Wicked Witch was able to cut into the signal. Creepy.

After seeing SATIATE and then putting in HESITate at 7D, I was expecting an ATE theme. I don't think ON THE UP AND UP would work very well as that revealer.

I tried coming up with other UP phrases, to flesh out the theme a bit. First was @GeorgeB's "elevator MUSIC". Mechanic's hoist is the item itself ("Hoist in your own petard", but would need a Sunday-sized grid). Cherry picker is like Mechanic's hoist but could be clued differently. Now you all know why I'm not a crossword constructor.

I liked trying to figure out a "laugh" word ending in Y when the answer was BRAY (14D). "Overnight delivery" coming from Mother Nature rather than Amazon (29D). Trying to come up with a Latin ennui instead of ET CETERA (9D). Nice Tuesday, thanks, MH.

Anoa Bob 1:24 PM  

One of the guidelines I remember from when I was checking out xword publishers' specs was to the effect that if you have to explain to the editor what the theme is, then, ipso facto, the theme is no good.

So I'm wondering how many solvers saw any kind of STAIRCASE or ESCALATOR in the grid before it was pointed out to them. Not me. Even after the fact, I'm not sure where it/they is/are supposed to be. The center diagonal? Looks dangerous with that middle step missing. The lower right? Then we get upside-down UP AND UP in the upper left. At least that would be kind of M.C. Escheresque.

What I saw was four B-2 Stealth bombers riding shotgun in the sky.

Stephen Minehart 1:26 PM  

REUNE is definitely not a thing, but why all the hate for SCRY? Haven't any NYT readers also read the fantasy genre? Not even once in middle school? Even Tolkien, which is kinda highbrow, refers to scrying stones. It's a legitimate word, way better than epee, which is used in every other puzzle. Nobody says reune, even if it is in the dictionary.

Unknown 1:30 PM  

SCRY is just awful.

AW 1:43 PM  

Thank you, Loren Muse Smith, for the pithy explanation of staircase wit. Definitely one to remember. And thank you too for putting me out of my misery regarding WOE.

As for ANTEHALL, not in Websters but in Random House, so legit but really ugly. :)

Carola 2:04 PM  

I thought it was very cute - with its STAIRCASEs in the grid and WIT in the reveal. While solving, I'd thought the grid had an unusual shape but I didn't see the stair steps until I looked it over at the end - a nice "Part 2" of the reveal.
Apparently, to "descry" you only need your eyes, but to SCRY you need a divining device. Huh.
I waste time on a royals-watching blog frequented by FOLK much younger that I who are always talking about COSPLAY - and I had no idea what they were talking about. Unfortunately, I've already forgotten what the clue said.
I was surprised at @Rex's focus on AER, ATTA, ET CETERA. I found so much to like in the DOWNS - won't bother naming them all, but have to highlight the lovely DAPPLE.

@Michael Hawkins, I thought this was a stellar Tuesday.

tea73 2:14 PM  

Surprised SCRY was a new word to so many. As a devoted reader of fantasy fiction it's been in my vocabulary since middle school at least. (And in fact rarely involves crystal balls, though Pippen takes a look at a palantir - I can't remember whether Tolkein uses the word.)

I also knew STAIRCASE WIT only from the French. I've heard of ESCALATOR CLAUSES, though I no longer actually knew what they meant.

ANTE HALL was dreadful. It's an ANTE room. Otherwise fun puzzle.

Joe Bleaux 2:39 PM  

News to me, too: STAIRCASE WIT and SCRY. But ITS an exceptionally good Tuesday puzzle, nonetheless. Thanks and kudos, Michael Hawkins. @Nancy. Me too on the greasy goodies, and cheeses (but "except" the goat? Gouda gracious!). @evil doug. "Keel moose ..." HAR, HAR! Laugh o'the day!

KevCo 2:44 PM  

I have never heard of STAIRCASE WIT, but I cannot wait to work into my lexicon, along with Stakhanov and bush telegraph, each of which I learned this weekend.

I have never heard of SCRY, but I was lucky in that I got all the crosses and never actually had to look at the clue. Never heard of ESCALATOR CLAUSE either, but it came easy enough ("CLAUSE" was a gimme off "contract provision" in the clue).

I usually don't solve on Monday or Tuesday, so I can't chime in with the rest of the group about how this stacks up, but it was pleasant enough for me.

Anonymous 3:18 PM  

I just donated to Maxine Waters. Hope it doesn't end up in her daughter's hands.

Cassieopia 3:25 PM  

@nancy and @joe bleaux: obviously we need to arrange a party.

Anonymous 4:00 PM  

This took a bit longer to do than most Tuesdays. Despite that I solved it without hints. SCRY was the odd one out. I had SCRA. No vowels in that. Never heard of it either. Still only one letter wrong in the whole puzzle. How about the rest of you?


Joe Bleaux 4:00 PM  

So-o-o off-any-topic, so apologies in advance, but ... just learned that the guy who got fired by Disney after 28 years of being Kermit's voice graduated from Berkmar! Thought you'd find it noteworthy.

semioticus (shelbyl) 5:05 PM  

Doing crosswords as someone whose native tongue isn't English is always a bit tricky; oftentimes I ask myself "Does this sound like a word?" and fill the grid if the answer is affirmative. That being said, today was super weird even though I totally expect to run into some trouble every now and then, but this fill for a Tuesday? TRICORN, REUNES, TCBY, SCRY I mean come on.

Anonymous 5:45 PM  

So now it wrong to pass health care legislation without transparency? Wait, what?

Tim Aurthur 5:51 PM  

Thanks for pointing out the little staircases on the grid. That's why I come here.

Here's Bill "Bojangles" Robinson doing his step dance.

BarbieBarbie 7:22 PM  

@unknown and others, REUNE is in fact a word used by at least the alumni/ae of my college. That's what we go to Reunions to do. Granted, it's a made-up word, but so are a lot of words-- laser, used as a verb by surgeons, for example. Impact, used as a verb by anyone who is not a dentist or an asteroid. Attendee, unless referring to a bride. Etcetera-- pronounced by many as exetera. And so on. "Re-view mirror..." Oh wait, that's just my kids. But, all of them!

Anonymous 10:35 PM  

Unfortunately for you Trumpsters and fortunately for the rest of the American people, the kind of meal it was will be determined by Mr. Mueller et al. You have to say though, the meeting had some pretty well-known Trump folks like Manafort, Kushner and DT, Jr. present.

You can't blame the public for being confused. On the same day Spicer said it was about adoptions (had no idea that interested Manafort and Kushner), Trump said it was about getting dirt on Hillary from Russians.

Carter Revard 10:36 PM  

Come ON, you illiterate dummies--haven't any of you actually ever read the poems of a certain Thomas Stearns Eliot? If so, how come you don't recall his use of the phrase HARUSPICATE AND SCRY? Rex, you teach English Lit, you are of an age to have studied Eliot and likely taught at least some of his work? So at least quit screwing around with SCRY, and slink back to your dens in shame.

Cassieopia 11:11 PM  

Ok, Joel Fagliano is just trolling us, plain and simple. I went back and did Monday's mini and there it was: REUNE. Must. Do. Mini more!

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rondo 9:23 AM  

HESITANT to say much either way. Some good stuff, some not so much ONTHEUPANDUP

In order to RE-UNE don’t you first have to UNE? Not legit in my book though I’ve seen it before. Makes me disgruntled, as if I was ever gruntled.


@Ted 9:09 – perhaps literally nobody says ASYLA, but actually, people do.

Cunning never fits into the squares for AER.

ELLA wins by virtue of no yeah baby competition today.

Nothing to write home about; this is where my comment STALLS.

Burma Shave 10:05 AM  


ISEE Santa is not HESITANT - never for STAIRCASEWIT he STALLS.


thefogman 11:18 AM  

DNF and had a good cry when i realized it was SCRY and not SCRi. Said GEE when it found it was REMY and not REMi. This one was a lot harder than most Tuesday puzzles. It seemed more of the Thursday or even Friday variety to me. Got a few chuckles when I solved 26A and 19D. The NE corner was a tough one. I kept trying to justify BETRay for 14A. A stay in court procedings is a recess so I reasoned to "Stay faithful" would be to suspend it whilst you tryst. Then the light clicked on when I deciphered the DOOK within BETRUE. 42D and 52A were a bit beyond a Tuesday level of difficulty and rather mean. Has anyone ever used the plural of asylum - ASYLA? Maybe Consumer Reports in their feature story: This month CR takes a look at America's top ten ASYLA. TCBY was a huge question mark for me and I only managed to solve after I finally got MACY/MASS. Another tricky spot was where I had DoPPLED before DAPPLED and briefly considered MoN (as the island version of MAN) before ditching it. There was a bit of a theme going on with STAIRCASE, ESCALATOR and UPANDUP but not enough for it to be worthwhile or satisfying. Oh well. Musn't SCRY over spilt ink.

centralscrewtinizer 11:38 AM  

What @Lewis said about the revealer. And hand up and up for hORrID before SORDID. Otherwise, not much to frown upon. I SCRY a tough Thursday.
Oh, and hand up for wanting rustles before INVESTS.
Tough but fair Tuesday with some nifty cluing.

spacecraft 12:46 PM  

Wait, have I been asleep for three days? This can't be Tuesday! Easy-medium? EASY-MEDIUM??? I was damn lucky to finish the thing. My WOE list is frighteningly long. Every letter of STAIRCASEWIT had to go on crosses. Didn't know TOBY (is it Keith TOBY, or TOBY Keith? I know not, neither do I care). I would never call TCBY a "dessert" place; to me, yogurt is not dessert.

And then we come to SCRY. On a...wait, is this REALLY Tuesday? Thank goodness I dimly recall once seeing the brand REMY-Martin. More non-Tuesday fare: OSSA/ASYLA. This feels like one of those Observer puzzles that are always filled with obscure plant genera and minor rivers. Two things save this one from the total EVILEUYE: that marvelous clue (but once again it belongs later on in the week) for BANK. I love Penn & Teller. And, the old pinball wizard himself, ROCKOPERA Tommy, right there in the marquee position. DOD ELLA repeats; we'll take all of her--why not? Had this appeared on, say, Thursday, it might have earned a birdie. This early it's jarring. Par.

rondo 2:22 PM  

BTW, there seems to be exactly 3 TCBY stores in MN, none of which I have ever seen. TCBY was a head-scratcher for me.

leftcoastTAM 2:45 PM  

Isn't this a misfiled late week puzzle? Rex says it's easy-medium. Yeah, maybe for a Thursday or even a Friday?

STAIRCASEWIT? COSPLAY? DORA? ROCKOPERA? CHALLAH?, and wanted Laced instead of LEFTS for "some punches". It was tough digging them all out.

The one that stayed buried was the SCRY/REMY cross. Guessed "I" instead of "Y". Maybe I should have flipped a coin.

thefogman 3:53 PM  

I had no idea what TCBY was. Thought it might be a Southern bakery franchise by the name of Taking Care of Beignets Y'all

Anonymous 4:17 PM  

Tuesday puzzles should be pisser free. This pile had 7. Rejected.

Unknown 5:04 PM  

I totally agree with your comment. I too loved this puzzle, especially for the fact that it was a Tuesday puzzle and not easy peasy AND I learned some new words and phrases to boot!

Unknown 5:06 PM  

The Country's Best Yogurt

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