Command in Macbeth / THU 7-13-17 / Product whose jingle uses Dragnet theme

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Constructor: Lewis E. Rothlein

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: X MARKS THE SPOT (15D: Treasure hunt phrase ... or a hint to seven Across answers) — seven squares that have SPOT in the Across direction, X in the Down

Theme answers:
  • SPOT ON 
Word of the Day: MAT (2D: Hair clump) —

• • •

Interesting concept, UNEVEN execution. It was weirdly easy to tiptoe through the grid without getting any theme stuff. AUEL ALEPH IPAD SHWA (...) AWASH, stall. Reboot with SUTRA RIFF ATTY TRAILMIX and then (drum roll) I hit -IFY and figured it all out. Thus, when I came to the "revealer," it didn't really "reveal" much. It was "redundant." "Unnecessary." I am surprised this theme hasn't been done before. The revealer has certainly been a theme answer before (a lot) but never quite in this way (that I can see, or remember). There are some good moments here ("OUT, DAMNED X!") but there's an awful lot of gunk. AGE ONE is just bad, and the repeated ONE (see ONE CUP) makes it worse. UNTUNE is pretty yuck, and yuckier for being in same corner with another longish UN-prefixed word (UNEVEN). You've also got the dreaded full-phrase ETALII and the awful-when-spelled-out ITEN. The density of junk is what's bad here—and there's not even a "X" in that section to deal with. ON A TEAM? Can you just put any prepositional phrase in a puzzle? IN A PUZZLE? There's just too much wince-y stuff here.

Once you crack the theme, there's not much to trouble you. I honestly had no idea that MAT was spelled with just one "T"—I've never had occasion to spell it and never gave it a thought. For a nanosecond, I thought there might be a "TT" rebus for some reason. For more than a nanosecond, I thought Japan might be a FRENEMY (43D: Japan, to the U.S. => EXENEMY). When I get an answer like TYE so easily, I feel like I'm cheating #crosswordese. I hadn't really thought out "Tum, t-tum-tum-TUMS!" but hey, yeah, that is the "Dragnet" theme (62A: Product whose jingle uses the "Dragnet" theme) ("Dragnet" ... what do you mean, 'What's 'Dragnet'? ... it was a show ... on television ... television ... tel-e-vis-ion! ... it was this box oh nevermind."

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Anonymous 1:03 AM  

Took me forever to figure out the theme. I think my puzzle was about 70% finished before I saw the X = SPOT theme. After that, the remainder of the fill went fast.

GHarris 1:04 AM  

Took an hour to complete even though I got the theme early on. Enjoyed it a lot more than Rex did and am left with a sense of satisfaction whenever I complete a late in the week puzzle without resort to outside assistance.

Erin Hollander 1:11 AM  

I'm a young'un (26) but Dragnet was my FAVORITE show when I was 4. I used to stay up late and watch it with my dad, along with Superman and Rescue 911. There's even home video of me singing the theme! But it still took me a while to get it...

MaharajaMack 1:36 AM  

Thought for a while that the clue for AGEONE might be "ovulation" but it didn't fit.

puzzlehoarder 1:39 AM  

I found this to be north of medium in it's difficulty largely due to a slow start. It's the exception to strike out completely on the top tier but today I started with AUEL supported by ALEPH. Of course I know this is because I'm dealing with a rebus somewhere but still it took crosswordese 101 to get a toehold. If I were really smart I'd have gotten DESPOTISM and PRIXFIXE right then and there. Being only half smart I went east and used AWASH, UTA and EERIE to give me the reveal. It's rare for me to find a reveal so early and then have it be the key to the puzzle. East of the reveal became early week easy but the NW and SW were still tricky. STIFFARM is a great bonus entry and 44A is just tough. I rarely like themed puzzles for their themes but this was a a standout. Congratulations to @Lewis for this very enjoyable puzzle.

Anonymous 1:43 AM  

I was recently solving David Steinberg's puzzle of last Saturday when I got a distinct feeling of déjà vu. Eventually I realized why: I had just finished a puzzle by Frank Longo from his book Absolutely Nasty Crosswords Level 3 which had no fewer than four of the same answers as the Steinberg puzzle, namely TBILISI, OMARR, SEDER, and ADS. They weren't the same puzzle at all, but it still seems like an amazing coincidence!

Carola 2:06 AM  

@Lewis, I really enjoyed this. Theme-wise, I gave up on the unpromising IN A rut and began to ponder the possibilities of a POT of gold on the treasure map (POT of tea, DES-POT-ISM), but that didn't work, either. Eventually I SPOTted the trick with the X. Still, there was some pleasurable brain-racking involved in working out how the X's functioned in the Downs: were they SPOTs, too, or just letters? I found ??IX?IXE particularly vexing, as neither possibility made sense to me. Evenually TEXTER answered my question, and the genius PRIX FIXE snapped into view (I liked its grid pairing with TRAIL MIX). Nice placement of DAMNED SPOT under A WASH.

Larry Gilstrap 2:11 AM  

Thursday enough for me. My only quibble would have to do with the theme's disappearance in the SW. On completion, I stared at that corner and stared, again. Fair enough. Some folks seem very concerned about symmetry. Quibble #2: I love that Scottish Play, but have never heard the line stated other than, "Out, OUT DAMNED X!" Lady Macbeth was insistent. Try and make a CASE that Shakespeare was anti-feminist. Some of his strongest characters were women, even the adolescent Juliet, the not-so shrewish Kate, the brilliant Portia, ET Aliae. That's what my phone suggests for feminine plural.

I make every effort not to be viewed as a PEDANT in this forum. I know a lot of stuff and have had marvelous experiences, but I assume you have too. When I was a submarine Captain, I was constantly consulting my OCEAN MAP. Ok, I made that part up.

Greatest clue in a long time: 31A Oppressive rule by absolute power gives us DEXISM. I was ready to move on, but I'm glad I stayed around and ground out that seemingly extraneous "X." Well done!

If you ever get to our desert, might I suggest the PRIX FIXE dinner option at the Palms at Indian Head. It is X ON.

jae 2:34 AM  

Easy-medium for me. My only real problem other than sussing the theme was Mop before MAT, but SpIFF ARM just wasn't going to work.

This seemed very low on PPPs. Cute, liked it a bunch more than @Rex did.

Trombone Tom 2:41 AM  

As is so often the case I enjoyed this more than OFL did. I'll admit to being two-thirds done before the penny dropped. I looked and looked at Lady McB's line and that puzzling DEXISM until that aha moment came. I kept wondering how sEXISM could be squared with the clue.

I liked the clues for AGE ONE and SILOS. And a shout out for ANKLEBITERS and STIFFARM.

A very different and enjoyable Thursday. Thanks Lewis and Will.

Moly Shu 2:50 AM  

I think John Doe, Exene Cervenka, Billy Zoom, and DJ Bonebreak would love this puzzle. Who? You may ask. Just watch the video.

@LarryGilstrap, all along I thought you were a submarine captain. So disappointed, sorta like my reaction to this puzzle.

Prolly coulda switched the clues for IMP and ANKLEBITER. Wouldn't have made a DIFF.

chefwen 3:02 AM  

Got the trick so early in the game with X OF TEA and GUEST X, I thought that can't be right, I'm not that good. I was wrong. However, I did try to overthink it by trying to get the downs to work with the theme. I first wrote SPOT into the little square and tried to get TOSS POT to work with 12D, it didn't, so I gave up on that idea, but I was on the right track.

Someday, I am hopeful that I will learn to spell BASIE, I always plop down BASsi, it never works.

Loren Muse Smith 4:38 AM  

Lewis! Terrific idea!

Unlike others, I sniffed out the funny business very early, wanting some kind of XLNT for 66A. But right after that, I got X IN and saw XIFY. I whooped. Well – my whoop is more of a grinning Hah!

I immediately checked to see if the X’s would be symmetrical, saw they weren’t, and settled in to hunt’em down. I always prefer rebus squares to be asymmetrical. Non-symmetrical. Missymmetrical. Whatever.

I agree that this could’ve worked without the reveal, but I finally went and filled it in because that northeast was a beast for me. That I had a pretty confident “walk on” for GUEST X didn’t help.

@chefwen – I had the same thought on 12D being TOSX.

Loved the clue for AGE ONE. Bet those of us who went straight to That Time of the Month are legion. “What precedes a terrible period?” A pig-fest of eating the entire bag of Fritos, making brownies, eating six of them, opening the can of Pringles I was saving for a gift basket for a co-worker, dispatching those while standing over the sink, eating two more brownies… Didn’t fit. So then I went all grammar on the clue. Hmm. A PEDANT wouldn’t want a “fragment” there. Didn’t fit. (FWIW, the sentence fragment is my new go-to transition trick for essays. I’m having a love-affair with sentence fragments.)

Another area that gave me fits was 34A “they’re often grain-fed.” First thought and I’m not making this up was “teens.” I pictured my son and his friends fenced off in some pasture. Throw some grain at’em at 9am and at 4pm. Then I put in the initial S _ _ _ S and had an even more ridiculous thought of “Sikhs.” ਸਿਤ ਸ਼੝ਰੀ ਅਕਾਲ, all you grain-eaters, you.

And I bet I’m not alone in seeing _ _ _ _ FARM first. I was going with some phrase that means you “farm” all the good stuff in a selfish, piggish way. Like hiding the last of the ham in the fridge in Maine and suddenly “finding it” when it’s time to make your sandwich and you know everyone else’s lunch is packed and ready to go. Oh look, Molly, here is that ham. Wanna split it? Other items I put away in a place where they might not be found but if they are no one suspects anything: the last bagel, the last of the smoked salmon, the last can of Fresca, cherries.

I’ve just finished this book by Kory Stamper (hi, again, @Curtis) that I wish all PEDANTS would read. TRAIL MIX reminded me of it. It’s gorp, right? “But Stamper says, “We like our false acronymic etymologies to be sexier, like “Good Old Raisins and Peanuts or North East West South.” I guarantee you almost anyone on this blog will find this book delightful and may lure the PEDANTS over to the, uh, the correct way to see language. Besides, with information like this, “Who thought that “pumpernickel” was a good name for a dark rye bread? Because when you trace the word back to its German origins, you find means “fart goblin” (pg 182). It’s a treasure trove of really fun stuff. Hey, Molly - you won't believe this! I found that fart goblin bread There are two pieces left – wanna split it?

Congrats, Lewis. This one hit that Thursday sweet X.

Conrad 5:21 AM  

The Times puzzle page told me I had an error. Couldn't find it. Everything looked right to me, so (as often happens) I came here with my tail between my legs to find out what I did wrong. It turned out my "mistake" was entering SPOT as a rebus instead of just X. It should be acceptable either way. I call shenanigans.

evil doug 6:00 AM  

How about "cramps", Loren? Plus we have "It goes with the flow" at 53D....

Guessed the theme with just the K from ANKLEBITER. That long vertical, plus giving the key to the theme answers, made it a pretty easy Thursday.

My favorite answer was DESPOTISM, but I was disappointed that it was the only theme answer to hide the SPOT in a more treasure-hunting way....

Happy for you, Lewis.

BarbieBarbie 6:15 AM  

Yup, @Evil/LMS/Maha, "cramps" was my first guess, but I knew someone was just messing with me so I didn't write it in.

I wait all week for a Thursday fun aha and I was not disappointed today. Loved DEXISM. Happy my iPad didn't light up and show me all seven SPOTS when I landed on the revealer-it felt like a real treasure-hunt that way.

kitshef 6:26 AM  

Ran into ON A TEAM pretty early, which set a very bad tone.

Of course, by the time I got to the end, ON A TEAM looked downright brilliant.



Forsythia 6:44 AM  

Easy, fun, perfect Thursday! DEXISM confused for a bit until the revealer made all clear.

We just got back from Maine (real place, not hide-away in the fridge @LMS) where my husband finished the Appalachian Trail (all but Mt Katahdin which he will hike with our adult kids over Labor Day to celebrate a decades-long endeavor). TRAILMIX was ubiquitous the last couple weeks. But PRIXFIXE menus at some fabulous seafood restaurants made up for the swarms of ANKLEBITER (and other body parts) mosquitos (even with deet etal.)

I wanted another OUT for Lady M's cry as well but the quote came easily with a smile at the clue.

There were some ragged areas that OFL pointed out but the long non-themers as well as the theme made up for them. Best puzzle for me in a long time.

Z 6:51 AM  

I had the SPOT half earlyish, but it wasn't until XIFY/X IN that I realized it wasn't a rebus, but that X MARKS THE SPOT (@Conrad - I'm sure you were joking, but for others... X works in the downs, not SPOT, and that X indicates where SPOT should be in the across answers. Thus, you have to enter X to have the correct answer). A nifty theme with that little added layer to raise the puzzling aspect.

@jae - You are correct, sir. Pop Culture, Product Names, and other Proper Nouns make up just 13 of 74 answers, an almost unheard of low of 18%. Any solver out there wish there had been more?

I'm ambilobal on the. symmetry question. I thought today's puzzle, especially with the long central revealer, was fine and symmetry would have made it too easy. Add in the treasure map nature of the theme and it makes perfect sense that we have to go hunting for the treasure, There have been other times where I've been thankful for symmetrical rebus squares and the nature of the theme suggested that symmetry made sense. So, rebus squares should be symmetrical except for when they need not.

Hungry Mother 7:10 AM  

My kind of puzzle. Instead of trivia, a poser. I got the theme early on and had a smooth solve.

Glimmerglass 7:10 AM  

I enjoyed this, but when I was done, I was sure @Rex would hate it (spotless SW, for example), but I was wrong. He wrote a fair and balancd review. It's true he liked it less than I did, but that's normal. BTW, this week's Fireball is fantastic. Pretty sure I got the contest mega, but whenever I do, there are always a hundred or more others, so my chances of a prize are small.

Z 7:15 AM  

@Teedm and others from yesterday - Softie that I am, I think of this as GMO at its best.

tkincher 7:16 AM  

@Moly Shu: perhaps even more so because Exene's name shows up in EXENEMY :)

Spot-IFY was definitely the tip-off on the theme for me. Fun puzzle! Oddly, things like GASLIT came easily, but that small NW corner vexed me until the end. Also wanted "what's the deal?" for "what's the DIFF". But I learned a new thing about astronauts, so there's that.

clk 7:16 AM  

I really liked this one. I got the theme fairly early from figuring out the SPOT part of its answer. DESPOTISM was my favorite theme answer, because of the disguised SPOT.

I came here to say I still didn't understand AGE ONE as a preceder of a difficult period and then the light went on. Very cute, especially with ANKLEBITER in there too.

Anonymous 7:23 AM  

Me too! Aargh. Was so pleased to figure it out and disappointed to be "told" I got it wrong.

Lewis 7:30 AM  

Like @glimmerglass, I thought Rex's review of my puzzle was right on the mark. Everything he didn't like, I didn't like -- believe me, I tried not to have them. As I get better at this, I will hopefully get better at smoothing these things out.

My main worry when making a puzzle is -- Will it make for a satisfying solve? Based on the comments so far, on the whole, I think, the puzzle was that for many, and that makes my day.

Elle54 7:35 AM  

Loved it! Spotify was the give away

Danield 7:44 AM  

Thanks for your excellent puzzle. Great way to start my Thursday. Loved all its "perfect imperfections." Variety is the spice and all that..I look forward to your next creation.

QuasiMojo 7:45 AM  

Having just seen a production of Macbeth, I found this one pretty easy to suss out, although I kept entering SPOT instead of X. Took some time to prettify it all. I had one of those EERIE moments while solving it since I was actually thinking about Japan being an EX-ENEMY just yesterday. I've never heard of "ankle biter" and I hope I never meet one!

John 7:48 AM  

Really hard ... then the reveal ... then really easy

chefbea 8:22 AM  

tough puzzle. got the revealer right away...then had to find all the X's Of course knew the answer to eight fluid ounces. Never heard of a gag reel. Love trail mix...make it all the time. There is a new recipe out using oreo (good xword) cereal that I am going to make...actually it's bark - not trail mix.

Tyler James Young 8:29 AM  

I encountered the same solving in the app

Alicia Stetson 8:43 AM  

"I make every effort not to be viewed as a PEDANT in this forum." That sentence makes you a pedant.

Jamie C 8:47 AM  

POSH is the best false acronymic etymology there is. Surprised you omitted it. You must be some kind of crackx.

Hal Bent 8:49 AM  

ThiSHWAs a fun puzzle!

AW 9:05 AM  

Couldn't remember which was Calvin and which was Hobbes (1A) so tried CAT and BOY. Eventually got the P from PRIX FIXE but gave up and used "reveal word" to get IMP. Found the theme clever and entertaining.

Dr. Haber 9:06 AM  

I liked this one save for one thing. All the xs represent the word "spot" except for the x in despotism where it's a syllable. Am I being too pedant-ic?

More Whit 9:15 AM  

Stiff arm made me chuckle as I thought of Jim Brown fending off 11 tackles on his way to the end zone. Dexism had me wake up the neighborhood with a wild whoop once I saw the embedded "spot" and let go of some imagined evil "Dex"! Fun Thursday solve.

Nancy 9:16 AM  

I always love it when a rebus square means two different things in the Across and Down answers. This was a great example, with a XON revealer. I picked up the theme at XOFTEA -- I had been suffering with that X, knowing that PRIX FIXE had to be right, but questioning it anyway. And then when nothing could work at 14A except INAX (Huh????), my dim brain finally got it -- and confirmed it by quickly filling in the 15D revealer.

Thank heavens, because -EXISM at 31A had been such a WOE that I hadn't filled in the D, even though I had SO-A for the six-pack purchase. (Duh.) But DEXISM is not a Thing. However, DESPOTISM is a Thing -- and that, for me, was the biggest "Aha" in the puzzle. The puzzle was great up to that point anyway, but once DESPOTISM came in, the puzzle became just plain wonderful. Loved it.

Two Ponies 9:26 AM  

Yesterday's fun fest made me feel pity for this constructor even before I started. Sort of like the saying about following an animal act on stage. But being Thursday I was hoping for a rebus puzzle.
I almost got my wish but having the trick work in only one direction seemed second-rate.
Some of the clues felt forced and long-winded. Do we need an entire paragraph to clue untune or Tums?
I did love stiff arm and ankle biter although I usually think of the latter as a small nasty dog.

Also @ Elayne came by to visit after her debut.

Nancy 9:30 AM  

OMG -- I'm reading the comments and I just realized that this puzzle I loved so much is by our very own @Lewis! That makes it all the sweeter. I swear, Lewis, that when I praised it, I had no idea it was by you. Mid Year's Resolution: to always check the puzzle byline. Always. That means every single day. No exceptions.

But being me, I'll probably break that Resolution by tomorrow morning. Anyway, congrats, Lewis. You're a really talented constructor!

RooMonster 9:36 AM  

Hey All !
Good on you, Lewis, for getting accepted, I'm still trying. I will say I have gotten better with fill, regardless of not getting a puz in. I guess my themes are blah. :-)

Did like the theme, with the nice long revealer down the middle. My puz is quite inky,though! Lots of writeovers, started writing in tyranny for DEXISM til it didn't fit, then thought it would be a rebus, which gave me rayn-AUEL, sOdA-COLA. helmsMAn-OCEANMAP, pIEces-pIECUT-DIECUT, nAY-nAN-PAN, RIFt-RIFF, eNE-ENE. Sakes alive!

Finally sussed everything out, got a hoot out of PRIXFIXE, nice way to sneak in two X's. Lots of F's also! 7 of 'em. As pointed out (by me) before, F's seem to be the consonant comparison to @M&A's U's. No respect.

11 Double Letters, Lewis, since you didn't alphadop yourself. (Forgot the whole word! Bad memory here...) :-)


Anonymous 9:37 AM  

X had plenty of great tunes of their own; I was disappointed that @RX linked to a cover.

jackj 9:50 AM  

It's a given that Michael has a BLIND X for all puzzles edited by Will Shortz, but with his comments calling bits of your puzzle "uneven", "redundant" and "unnecessary" with "just too much wince-y stuff", he has unwittingly accorded you the crossword constructor's equivalence of a Marilyn Monroe BEAUTY X.

Terrific puzzle, Lewis!

cwf 10:07 AM  

Got stuck in the NW when I put the (misspelled) "tyrany" where DESPOTISM would eventually reside. Circled around clockwise from the NE and once I had the theme (at SPOTIFY), was able to finish that corner. Thanks, @Lewis! Three down, hopefully a lot more to go. Also, I'd say you're getting better at this every time (though I've enjoyed all of your puzzles).

Anonymous 10:08 AM  

I liked the theme a ton in this puzzle, but would agree there was some less than great fill outside of the theme. There are so many theme answers I suppose that's bound to happen elsewhere, so probably a worthy sacrifice. I think the only answer that I've never heard of before was GUESTSPOT. I've heard of guest appearances, guest hosts, a celebrity guest, and probably others, but not GUESTSPOT. I get it, but since I hadn't figured out the theme yet at that point it was rough. I spent probably at least 30 minutes continually trying to re-work the top half of this puzzle before finally moving on to the South where, like Rex, SPOTIFY finally made it click what was going on.

In contrast to how I felt yesterday, this puzzle was a lot of fun for me because it was challenging in a way that I could work through. No amount of running the alphabet and racking my brain can produce pop culture knowledge from 3+ decades before I was alive, and today didn't have that. So for that I say kudos to you, Lewis. Thanks for a fun solve!

blinker474 10:21 AM  

A delightful puzzle, marred only by Rex's insistence on complaining about fill. There will always be bad fill.

Mohair Sam 10:22 AM  

Decided we liked it before we knew it was by "our" Lewis - Congrats! Three now? Impressive.

Philadelphia caught my eye and we plopped in NNE, then the near gimme ONECUP, and this "MacBeth" lover knew it had to be OUTDAMNED(SPOT), searched for the revealer - and pretty much sped through a quick Thursday from there.

When I've held open the door and ordered a naughty dog out of our house I've said "OUT DAMNED SPOT" every single time - they cringe appropriately. Anybody else waste time looking for more horrible terms than GASLIT for Dickens? It's my experience that if your menu includes a PRIXFIXE that FIXEd PRIX is pretty DAMNED high, I like my prices in English.

Speaking of MacBeth - Any of you Shakespeare fanatics who haven't seen Ian Mckellen's "Acting Shakespeare" might enjoy his analysis of Macbeth's "Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow" soliloquy on YouTube.

Fun puzz @Lewis - keep 'em coming.

Joseph Michael 10:31 AM  

Congrats, @Lewis, this puzzle was a bright X in the week. It was fun to hunt down the rebuses and the fact that they aren't symmetrically located made it all the better.

Got nailed in the NW corner with "mop" and "for" leading to "spiffarm," which I thought might be a place where spifs are grown.

Lots of "sparkle" to enjoy, with entries like ANKLE BITER, PRIX FIXE, ESPRIT, GAS LIT, GAG REEL, TEXTER, and more.

Of the themers, I liked OUT, DAMNED X the best. X OF TEA ain't bad either. But perhaps the most interesting gridiom to emerge here is DEXISM: discrimination against people who are high on Dexedrine?

Puzzle also brought me back to the memorable 90s film "Trainspotting." Or TrainXting, as it would be known here.

Seeing the word DAMN in the grid calls to mind the controversy that "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn" caused at the end of "Gone With the Wind." It was because of that four-letter word that the Catholic Church's Legion of Decency gave the film a Condemned rating (see this movie and go to hell). How times gave changed.

Tony 10:44 AM  

Newbie here. Had a hard time cracking the NW corner. Why is MUCH FAR? Rex thought TYE was a gimme? Gimme a break, it had me tied up till the end.


ColoradoCog 10:46 AM  

I enjoyed this one. OUTDAMNEDX was outstanding.

Does TUMS still use the Dragnet theme? I remembered this from my childhood, but only barely. I found this on YouTube from 1981:

Anonymous 10:50 AM  

Ambilobal @Z? Maybe alobal.

David Eisner 10:56 AM  

Say, isn't today the one-week anniversary of a certain offending clue? I'm looking forward to your Rum Raisin Redux, Rex.

G. Weissman 10:57 AM  

Are AGE ONE and EX-ENEMY actual things? Does anyone ever X-IN a questionnaire box? Is X MARKS THE SPOT a treasure hunt phrase for anyone other than pirates? This puzzle really pushes it.

Carola 10:57 AM  

@Tony 10:44 - As in "It is a far, far better thing that I do...."

boomer54 10:58 AM  

Impossibly hard ...thought the theme was ... " G marks the spot " ...

jberg 11:05 AM  

First of all, what's with TYE? Neither my dictionary nor an internet search turns up anything that fits the clue. I wanted 'line' there, but it wouldn't fit.

Aside from that, nice puzzle. @Lewis, I didn't know your surname, and kept noticing references to you even though you hadn't posted anything. Penny finally dropped when I got to @Loren.

There seem to be competing schools of thought on two different points.

A) Whether a rebus has to work both ways. Actually, this one does -- that is, wherever it is SPOT across it has to be X down. That's fine with me, and adds a little bit of extra difficulty.

B) Whether it should be symmetrical. While a symmetrical rebus is harder to construct, it's a lot easier to solve, since you no in advance when you are dealing with one. I prefer them this way.

But getting back on board, they don't have maps on a submarine; they have charts. OK, that's my bit of PEDANTry for today.

mathgent 11:08 AM  

Great humble post by our blogmate. Very enjoyable puzzle.

Lewis 11:19 AM  

@jberg -- -- definition #3, and may I never have to use it again!

I solved the puzzle this morning because I'm addicted to my streak (sigh), but when I finished, my thought was, "hey, this may be the only time I solve a puzzle faster than Rex!"

old timer 11:23 AM  

I guessed everything right in the NE including PRIXFIXE, which left me with XOFTEA. Then INAX, and I write down the revealer at 15D as fast as I could. The rest if the puzzle was Monday-Easy I thought. Until I got to the NE where I could not see GAGREEL or GASLIT -- and I wonder when gas lighting came in? INTAKE finally gave me GUESTX and the solve was complete.

UNTUNE is a legitimate word, I think. Not so sure OCEANMAP is something submariners consult more than other sailors.

TOCraig 11:36 AM  

Enjoyed this a lot. Thought it was great. No complaints at all. On with my day!

GILL I. 11:52 AM  

I told ya I'd like it....
The clue for AGE ONE is tres wonderful.
Too bad BOOZER upended TEXTER. Hate them both!
I'll take several more of these Lewis....Thanks for a fun Thursday.

QuasiMojo 11:56 AM  

Thanks @Nancy for pointing out that it was our very own learned Lewis who composed this puzzle. Well done. Did anyone else try to have "table d'hote" first before "prix fixe"?

Two Ponies 11:57 AM  

Hey @ Lewis, I'm happy you got a puzzle published. I'm interested to hear how many of the clues are yours and how many Will changed.
I would like to think that some of the clues that I had mixed feelings about were the work of the editor. Thank you in advance if you reply.

Anonymous 12:21 PM  

But SPOT doesn't mark the X. You need the X.

JC66 12:27 PM  

Great Thursday rebus @Lewis. Thanks and keep them coming.

Masked and Anonymous 12:30 PM  

Fun ThursPuz, @Lewis. Spot on. Hit the spot. Theme idea was well-spotted. Etc.

M&A initial reaction, upon first layin eyes on the empty grid: Hey there's no real long answers in there, except for 15-Downthemiddle! Read its clue. Guessed XMARKSTHESPOT, almost immediately. Wrote er in. Guess held up for crossin UTA and BASIE. Went to work on the X in box-15. Figured out theme. Had cinnamon roll, to celebrate. Lost yummy nanosecs.

SEEXRUN looks kinda kinky. Well-left out.
Inexplicably drawn to bestow honrable mention on DEXISM, tho.

staff weeject pick: XIN. Hey! Primo Xtra revealer, as in: X-in' lotsa them puz spots.
Weeject honors were nearly almost in a tie with TYE, however.

@RP already did a puzgunk riff, altho the only ONE that truly rose to M&A full-entertainment-level was UNTUNE. Better clue: {Many a rap album track??].

fave non-themer themer: PRISPOT FISPOTE. har

Thanx and congratz, to our own Comment Gallery @Lewis dude. Good job and awesome show of vowel respect. Proud of U.

Masked @ Anonym8Us


Malsdemare 12:47 PM  

I do love me them puzzles that solicit a really good "aha" and this one did that. Sadly, I filled in the rebus and not the x, so my iPad thinks I'm still working. Of course, there could be an error still; I'm notoriously blind to my mistakes, but I'm too lazy to go back and X in all the Xes. ONATEAM earned a massive groan and there were a couple of B-list entries but the theme entries make those meaningless. Tho I gotta say, it's OUT out DAMNED SPOT.

@Lewis, great job. I love that our little blogX harbors constructors. I'm with @Nancy; I've got to start paying attention to constructor names.

Lewis 12:58 PM  

@two ponies -- I give several clues usually for each answer (not uncommon to do), and in the final puzzle about 75% of the clues are mine.

sloan wolf 1:10 PM  

I did the puzzle last night and, as with Lewis’ other puzzles I found it very satisfying! For transparency I confess my bias as one of Lewis’ yoga students. But I still enjoyed it! My time was 28:48 which is a little long for me for Thursdays lately. I think that's a fair representation of its challenge to me.

I picked up on the theme once I saw the theme clue. I remember treasure maps with an X from Cap'n Crunch growing up. So that's stuck in my head, probably for good now.

"OUTDAMNEDSPOT" is worth the price of admission itself for me. I remember reading MacBeth in high school and coming to grips with the "blood on our hands" concept. How we can't wash off the blood no matter how much we wish off the guilt. Tragically, a timeless theme. The other buried treasure X's were fun to hunt down. I struggled with PRIXFIXE but am glad to know it now. SPOTIFY is a thing for over a decade now and the foreseeable future, so the puzzle should age well. And it's relevant to the plague facing human discourse with a "fake artist" scandal brewing at this time. So is DESPOTISM, which even more tragically needs no reference.

EERIE, Lewis. Maybe too SPOT-ON. :)

Teedmn 1:20 PM  

You get your wish today @Lewis - for me, this definitely hit the sweet Thursday SPOT.

I had to go all the way down to the SE to make inroads - "prob" at 4D and "outtake" at 7D (along with a "maybe it's "blooper"" thought) kept me out of the N central and NE for quite a while. Kama SUTRA to the rescue - TRAIL MIX going down, crossing [SPOT]IFY gave me the theme, nice one!

Like many here, I loved getting 44A and it saved me from making a stupid mistake at 47D, where I had put pIECed which left TUMS and TYE pretty hard to see. But it all got PRIXFIXEd.

I considered there might be an X-marked SPOT in the SE where 54D might have "teX" in it but that never PANned out.

Keep them coming, Lewis!

Teedmn 1:29 PM  

Oops, I-TEx would be (appropriately) in the SW.

And @Z, like you, I am hoping that genetics-based treatments for diseases become a panacea for all who are suffering. I just saw that cartoon last night and thought it was appropriate to some of yesterday's discussions.

Tessabelle 1:45 PM  

Spotify was my hardest fill.The rest went in at an agreeable pace. I must get some streaming in my life! I have heard of it from my kids, but never signed up because of hearing loss and being out of the loop ,I guess. The rest of the puzzle was clever and enjoyable.

Aketi 2:31 PM  

@Nancy, "Yes and thank you," in response to yesterday's question. I liked the puzzle before your constructor reveal.

@Lewis, thank for a run solve even though I gave up last night when I couldn't find a way into the NE. It was much easier starting in the SE. I climbed my way up from OUT DAMNED _ to DE_ISM to _ OF TEA looking for what else needed to be jammed into the rebus with SPOT for the iPad to stop rejecting spot. The FARM got me to X MARKS the SPOT and Once I took the ARM out of the FARM I got the STIFF ARM everything fell into place. XIFY came in a close second to DEXISM.

@Z, good example of ethical use.

Cassieopia 3:35 PM  

Read half of the comments, agreed with most of them that this was a fun solve, then found out from @Nancy that this is "our" @Lewis - too cool! Always gives me a fangirl thrill to post in the same exalted forum as crossword constructors!

Nothing really new to say; I too:
1. First thought it was a rebus
2. Then with the Macbeth quote thought the black squares somehow meant "spot"
3. XIFY clued me in but "what about the downs?" she asked herself.
4. 15D solved that problem.

Was able to solve a Thursday puzzle with NO cheating! Took a bit, but was sooooo satisfying! I finished, thinking, ooooh two great days in a row! Of such things are happy memories made.

The Macbeth quote was the most fun to suss out, as I vacillated among many options (complicated by wanting prECUT for DIECUT):
- OUToutdamn
- OUTDAMNepx (you never know about that Olde English)
- OUTDAMme(SP/OT double rebus)

Count BASIE saved me from any more embarrassing Ps stuck into a famous Shakespeare quote as I finally landed DIECUT, which made OUTDAMNED fit, and there was the X.

Really great and I'm not just saying that because of @Lewis. But it's fun that I know he gets to hear it :)

Harpsichordist 4:41 PM  

I was really hoping for FRENEMY...

Lauren 5:17 PM  

Cramps fit, but alas.

Molson 5:18 PM  

ONECUP is only acceptable as an answer if it is clued as "Accessory for 2 Girls"

Anonymous 5:26 PM  

I never would have though Calvin was an IMP

Anonymous 5:27 PM  

@molson nice

hankster65 5:44 PM  

I really enjoyed this puzzle a lot. At first glance I thought no way, no how but then it MOSTLY fell into place. At much struggling I finally declared a DNF. Auel, huh? NW naticked me into oblivion. (Well, that may be a bit strong, I'm still alive and getting ready to fix dinner.)

Anonymous 5:45 PM  

@molson nasty!

Anonymous 7:04 PM  

I got every answer right (I thought), but finally gave up after checking and rechecking, and looked at your solution. Turns out my "error" was typing in the "SPOT" rebus in each of the seven trick squares, instead of just an "X". Boo.

Thomaso808 7:25 PM  

I always look forward to Thursday trickery and @Lewis you came through! Great theme. Very fun solve. Thanks much!

@Z, I like more PPPs if they're known to me, i.e. familiar to most educated and culturally aware people. I don't like more PPPs if they are unknown to me, i.e. the stuff of boors and the illiterati. Kind of like your rule about rebus squares being symmetrical.

Mohair Sam 7:47 PM  

@Malsdemere - Here's MacBeth's "Out, Out"

Act V, Scene V

"Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
To the last syllable of recorded time,
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. OUT, OUT, BRIEF CANDLE,
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing."

RAD2626 8:21 PM  

Terrific theme very well -executed. Agree with all the positives. Liked it a lot.

@Lewis. Congratulations on your third NYT puzzle. Very impressive. And you killed it over at Crossword Fiend too. Nice going.

Scott 2:25 AM  

You're weird, but in a good way.

Leapfinger 3:51 AM  

'I think John Doe, Exene Cervenka, Billy Zoom, and DJ Bonebreak would love this puzzle. Who? You may ask. Just watch the video.'...

Don't want to be a fusX, @Moly Shu, but I sure wish you'd linked said video. Woulda saved me playing @Rex's clip of X being Breathless to see if that wuzzit [shiver]. But your submarine line tickled me.

@Forsythia, I hope you and/or spouse have discovered Bill Bryson's A Walk in the Woods (book, not movie), about his yeoman attempt to walk the entire Appalachian Trail. What he says about getting to Mt Katahdin could make a body aspirate gorp.

Speaking of TRAILMIX, @chefbea... Yours barks? Woof!

Had a diff riff on STIFFFARM, having read PCornwall on planted evidence. [Not trying to be cryptic, here]

@Lewis, I had allot of fun. AUELways a lovely surprise to find you as the day's constructive maitre d', and the lovely surprises cont'd. Did I also love your ANKLEBITERS? Gnaw.

Ohyes, a PS for any cavilers: a TYE is something you find on an E-SPRIT


Z 9:00 AM  

@Thomas808 - You made me laugh. Careful, though, someone is bound to take such comments excessively literally.

Tyler James Young 9:54 AM  

The letters S-P-O-T are used in the answers to the theme clues. I totally get the argument against accepting them by the theme's logic, but I think when you're doing as poor a job as the NYT does presenting the physical puzzle as digital (see Puzzazz for an example of how much closer they could be getting), then it probably makes sense to accept any solution that answers all the clues. If I were solving this on paper, I would have written "SPOT" in small letters through the middle of an X to represent both direction's answers.

Blogger 7:45 AM  

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Unknown 8:40 AM  

I see what you did there!

thefogman 10:20 AM  

My only troubleX was at the intersection of ALEPH and SHWA. I resorted to The Google to discover the SHWA symbol to resolve what I consider to be a Natick. ETALLII was also a bit devious but was solved via the easy crosses. Other than that it was medium in difficulty for me. XON for a Thursday - and it did not leave me feeling X at all.

Burma Shave 10:52 AM  


Ate a CASE of TUMS after PRIXFIXE –
AWASH with a (SPOT)OFTEA and I’m sick,
that INTAKE made me GAGREEL quick.


rondo 12:00 PM  

Got the rebus-iness at DEXISM while going down the west side. Filled in the revealer and the rest was not too tough. Only w/o was Xed before XIN, having read “choose” as “chose”. Must get new specs. Hard to believe SHWA is legit.

Are those “selfish ends” the guys on a football team who give the STIFFARM?

SODA is not my six-pack of choice.

Is there really such a thing as an OCEANMAP? Is that what you’d call a MAP of the OCEAN floor? Must google.

Only hint of a yeah baby is omnipresent UTA Hagen. Was UTA a yeah baby? Must google.

Tolerable as rebi go. UNEVEN is about right. Gotta go google.

spacecraft 12:16 PM  

Nifty! It took a bit to get going, but aha!-ing ANKLEBITER led to the bigger aha with XMARKSTHESPOT. Now I understood the last across--had wanted TRAILMIX but rejected it because what 3-letter word meaning perfect can start with an X?

Yeah, I was kind of rambling (AMBIENT?) all over the grid trying to Get What It Was All About. Once found, the rest of the puzzle was pretty easy. So let's say challenging-easy, or I suppose medium.

As rewarding as the solve was, the fill suffered. I picture this piano tuner not having enough business, so he hires a guy to go around and UNTUNE people's instruments. Much (FAR???) of today's music (???) can also be described with that interesting word. I noted, along with OFL, the repeat of ONE. I don't view this sort of thing as absolutely taboo, more like "Well, let's give this guy immunity." A lot of the fill has sparkle (would you call ESPRIT that? I wouldn't), so I guess we can say it's UNEVEN. Or: odd.

Many of the clues, too, were fun, like those "grain-fed" SILOS. DOD is IDA, someone I met only too briefly a long time ago. Trust me, if you'd seen her you'd agree. Despite awkward partials and all, I'm gonna give this one a birdie. It was fun to do.

thefogman 12:28 PM  

What does DOD stand for - besides Department of Defense?

rondo 12:43 PM  

@foggy - I point out yeah babies, @spacey names the Damsel of the Day (DOD).

thefogman 1:13 PM  

Cheers Rondo!

centralscrewtinizer 2:02 PM  

Very slick puzzle. At first I was INAFIX, but SPOTIFY saved the day and everything ended up SPOTON.
It gives a nice look into the mind of @Lewis, a fine person, except for that TYE thing, but he says never again, so ok.

Anonymous 3:06 PM  

My newspaper publishes them five weeks late, and without a byline (except on Sundays,) so I did not know it was @lewis until I came here! Nice to see so many comments directed to him, but even nicer to read his own admission of the "inadequacies."

I enjoyed the theme. Never heard of PRIX FIXE, so I thought I may have made an error there, but nope😊.

DEXISM was truly the best themer, where the SPOT was hidden in the word, with XIFY as runner up. ANKLEBITER brought a smile to my face.

Thanks, @lewis!

leftcoastTAM 3:16 PM  

The big revealer for me was X(SPOT)ON in the SE corner, with a big "aha!". From there it was a quick jump to OUTDAMNEDSPOT and TRAILMIX.

Then, much more time needed to flush out the remaining X SPOTs. Again, the NW was the toughest. PRIXMIXE with the MAT/IMP crosses were the last entries in.

DIECUT/TYE and AGEONE/TEXTER crosses were also delayed entries.

Very clever and fun to solve, paid for with extra time, but worth it.

rain forest 6:17 PM  

Took me a while to grok the theme, but I had enough letters to get X MARKS THE SPOT, and that was pretty well all she/he wrote. But there were tricky clues and misdirects enough to keep up the interest.

Also took some time to parse FAR as "much", but then I thought of "this is much/FAR tougher than I thought". Good one.

I like Lewis and I like his puzzles. You can tell he cares.

Very enjoyable.

leftcoastTAM 6:37 PM  

Just 1 thought:

In reviewing 2 many comments, from top 2 down, it occurs 2 me that 2 many commenters try 2 hard 2 be 2 clever 2 much of the time.

1 of my 2 thoughts for the day. (Not sure what 2 is.)

Unknown 11:38 AM  

DNF for a stupid reason: OUI.
I hate, hate, hate foreign words in crossword puzzles. Always have. If you want to make a French puzzle, make a French puzzle. Otherwise, make it in English. IMO, Mixing languages is a cheat, and unfair to us who are monolingual. (Not for lack of trying. I learned enough French to get by in Paris for a couple of weeks about 20 years ago. After the trip, it all disappeared rather quickly. And I've been trying to teach myself Spanish for years. I just don't grok it. I think my brain just doesn't work that way.)

Anyhow, as I had absolutely no idea who wrote "Clan of the Cave Bear," and since it crossed with a RFW (Random Foreign Word), I was left with a single blank square. I ran the alphabet, but... only the consonants! It really looked like a consonant should have gone there. Finally I admitted defeat and crawled here with my tail between my legs for the answer.

Talk about a head-slap moment! OUI! Only the single most well-known French word ever. I felt dumb and should have gotten it, but I still don't like seeing RFW's popping up in the Great American Crossword Puzzle.

Other than that, I liked this one. Hope to X Lewis's name on more puzzles in the future!

Michael 3:42 PM  

When I saw the X as 'Spotify';in 51 across, the other clues clicked..
Odd, I don't use Spotify much!

絹スミレ 4:53 PM  

So did crying. lol

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