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Sunday, August 13, 2017

Constructor: Eric Berlin

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: "The Magic Show" — theme answers are magic tricks that are literally depicted elsewhere in the grid:

Theme answers:
  • VANISHING COIN (23A: Magic trick performed at 78-Down) (78D: Provide part of a coverage policy for) should be COINSURE, but the COIN ... has vanished)
  • LINKING RINGS (47A: Magic trick performed at 119-Across and 104-Down) (those answers intersect at a RING rebus square) 
  • SAWING A LADY IN HALF (67A: Magic trick performed at 123- and 124-Across) (LADY is split across ELLA and DYS)
  • CHANGING CARD (91A: Magic trick performed at 55-Across) ("Peking" changed to PEACE ... I am just noticing this one as I type it, holy hell, no Wonder that area destroyed me)
  • LEVITATING MAN (115A: Magic trick performed at 15-, 16- and 17-Down) (all those Downs have their first letters missing and those letters spell out M-A-N ... presumable "MAN" has "levitated" above the grid) 
Word of the Day: CONIES (96D: Furs from rabbits) —

noun, plural conies.

the fur of a rabbit, especially when dyed to simulate Hudson seal. ( ("Hudson seal" wtf?!)
• • •

This is ambitious and, at times, very clever. But too often the phrasing on the themers felt quite off, and the overall quality of the fill was on the low side. The short bad stuff becomes a major issue when it's not offset by a preponderance of wonderful fill and/or a great theme. ERGOT LAH IBN OTOE ANNI and I hadn't gotten out of the NW yet. You can tell what the tolerance level is going to be for elder-fill pretty soon after starting a crossword. There just wasn't nearly enough snappy fill to rescue this thing. IN A SNARL ... you don't ever want to give your long answers over to such awkward phrases. Or to bygone things like the ACE AWARDs or to arcane things like TRIOLETS. Or to arbitrary things like TEN TO ONE. Or to actual old terms *signifying* oldness like GRANDDAD. It was very interesting to see how the various theme answers played out in their respective parts of the grid, but awkward theme phrasing + DUDS aplenty in the fill meant the overall solving experience wasn't so hot.

I have no idea what CHANGING CARD is. That is not a trick I know or have every heard of. I mean, I'm guessing that the magician somehow makes a card appear to change ... but it's no SAWING A LADY IN HALF, in terms of iconic magic tricks, I'll tell you that. LEVITATING MAN is worse. What is that? I know that Blaine has appeared to make himself levitate, but is that the LEVITATING MAN ... trick??? Oy. Changing KING to ACE at 55A: PEACE was absolutely brutal, especially considering that section was already blarghishly tough, what with GYM SHOES (I had OLD SHOES) and GLYPH (??) and is-it-LOA-or-is-it-KEA (worst magic trick ever) and the utterly ridiculous, please-take-it-back-and-smash-it YOWEE. I thought I was going to die in that section. And I mean die, as in not finish. At all. I stalled for what felt like a long time. I guess I would've gotten in there eventually once I noticed the theme clue indicating a CHANGING CARD but yowie that hurt. Anyway, I like the ambition but it was too rough and wobbly for me.

That said, Eric Berlin is in general an excellent puzzle-maker *and* he is one of the only people I know making top-notch puzzles *for kids*. Solve sample puzzles and sign up for a free weekly puzzle here:

All my love to the non-Nazis of Charlottesville.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. re: 30A: Sugar found in beer (MALTOSE)


[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Anonymous 12:14 AM  

I liked the inclusion of SVENGALI, as it also refers to a trick card deck

Brian 12:27 AM  

peACE crosses ACEaward so there is also a King Award as.well as Peking

Anonymous 12:52 AM  

iels bohr? shouldn't it be neils?

Unknown 1:11 AM  

It is "Niels" - the "n" is the last letter of the levitating MAN above.

My times/relative difficulties appear to have zero correlation with Rex's. I finished this considerably faster than yesterday's, which I found especially difficult.

Anonymous 1:11 AM  

@Anon 12:52 - the N, and a preceding M and A (to spell MAN), float above the grid.

Martin 1:19 AM  

It's a rare beer that has no maltose after fermentation. Which is good, because it would taste pretty lousy.

jae 1:49 AM  

Mostly easy-medium, but some of this was very tough, e.g. @Rex YOWEEville. It was irritating for a while. I got the MAN trick early but really didn't read the clues carefully enough to grok what was going on. That's my problem, I have a tendency to ignore cross referenced clues. Once I took the time to actually read the clues I really liked it. Very clever!

chefwen 2:25 AM  

Got the levating MAN thing pretty early and I thought "ooh, this is going to be fun", and that's as far as that thought went. Stared at ELLA DYS for a long, long time before it took hold and it has taken me until now to get the PeKING/ACE trick. Handed it to puzzle partner half way through and told him to take over as my brain was hurting.

This was a love/hate puzzle.

@mericans, three today.

Joe Dipinto 3:05 AM  

I don't know what the "changing card" magic trick is either. Don't most card tricks involve revealing/identifying the *same* card that the magician's stooge picks? Anyway, I liked this puzzle a lot. Good themers, you had to look around to figure them out, which is always fun, imo, and they were all different from each other. Quite cleverly constructed, imo.

Aubrey Raech 3:15 AM  

Okay, so apart from the Peking/ace baloney, this was one of the most enjoyable Sunday puzzles for me to solve. Having a single random rebus in the SW corner made me so happy, since it fit the theme so perfectly.

I think Rex is getting jaded; it's so rare I read about him actually enjoying a puzzle, even if it's pretty darn good. I guess that too many crosswords gives one cross words about the puzzles! :o

Anonymous 3:36 AM  

Usually I don't like cross-referenced clues but this was a lot of fun. Do we have to be so nit-picking about the name of tricks?

Anonymous 3:58 AM  

Boo to @Rex for dissing GRANDDAD. I'm a GRANDDAD. It's what my grandkids call me, and I love it!

Dawn 5:40 AM  

This was a very clever and well-constructed puzzle. PEACE was tough but doable. YOWEE was terrible but the rest of the fill was fine. I don't get Rex's obsession with no "old" fill. Not every solver is a teenager who needs slangy, modern fill (all of which will also be dated soon enough anyway). I don't see what the problem is with references that work for a range of ages. It's ridiculous and ageist to think we can't even use GRANDDAD now. -- from a "youngish" solver who hopes to be an old solver someday. ;)

da kine 6:03 AM  

Of course there is maltose left in beer. If there wasn't any, it would have no body.

Lewis 6:17 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lewis 6:29 AM  

Sunday puzzles, IMO, are best when the solve goes smoothly or when they're tough but very clever (so there is motivation to stay in it). Today's puzzle was one of the former for me, and I thought the theme was original and fun. I liked the consistency of the theme answers starting with words that end in ING (and made me wish, for elegance sake, that PANELING would NOT BE in the puzzle).

I pictured another theme answer -- TAKING A RABBIT FROM A HAT (would have spanned the grid). The graphic visual would be STOVEPIPE in the shape of a U (M&A would approve), with the E as the bottom of the U, and three black squares directly above that E. Above the three black squares, in a column, would be the word BUNNY.

Loren Muse Smith 6:29 AM  

Very cool concept. I got the essence of the deal really early in – almost immediately – with SYRINGE/STRINGBEAN since I do the fill-in-the-blanks first and work from those. So I started in the southwest with NOT BE.


Yeah – I kept reading and rereading Rex’s deal with GRANDDAD thinking I must be missing something. Otherwise, it’s mystifying that anyone would think that word is fusty and old. (Hi, @Dawn)

My least favorite themer was the COINSURE. It would have been great to have the COIN more hidden like, say, in TOBACCO INDUSTRY or some such.

My favorite was the one I didn’t get. Like Rex said, that PEKING duck area was brutal. I had “yowie” and never thought to change it. So PEACE/PEKING wasn’t gonna happen, no way no how. But BUT… I was stunned when I saw the solution. For some reason, the fact that KING goes to ACE like that just made my day. What a trick. Seriously. I tried to think of other pairs where the card would move up one slot, but could only find one where the card would move down one: JACKET to TENET. Hah. So you could have a dinner tenet. Don’t talk with food in your mouth. That’s always a good one. Never eat anything you can’t lift - another one, I think, from Miss Piggy.

Rex – you included the quintessential magic trick with your picture of the bunny ears coming out of the hat. I was kinda looking for some kind of rabbit – “Peter” or “Roger” crossing upwards out of “showboater” maybe.

Eric – I really got a kick out of this one. And I appreciated that all the descriptions of the tricks were in the ING form.

Lisa 6:37 AM  

Thank you, Rex, from Charlottesville.

The puzzle made me smile, sometimes laugh, and generally take a break from sadness. I appreciate the cleverness (always an Eric Berlin fan, enjoyed the Winston Breem series as a children's bookseller) and looked forward to each new trick.

Thanks again.

Susierah 6:39 AM  

A DNF! Just couldn't get peace card, because of yowie. Knew that macaws had to be right, and spent way too much time trying to get the trick!

chefbea 7:03 AM  

too tough for me...didn't get it at all....I love Peking duck...what is peace duck???

QuasiMojo 7:10 AM  

Filled this one in in record time, no stopping, not even to scratch my head. It was as easy as, well, Banana Pie. Great concept! But the final result can be achieved without even being aware of it, except perhaps for the floating MAN on top. I liked it but I expect a bit more difficulty on a Sunday. I recently tried one of those non-alcoholic Jamaican beers, Malto (for Maltose, I guess.) Pretty god-awful. No VANISHING ACT there. I had to leave it unfinished.

'mericans in Paris 7:19 AM  

Hey GANG, holy CHEESES, MOMA of CITE this was a clever puzzle! Mrs. 'mericans and I zoomed through it quicker than we do on most Sundays, and by 11:00 a.m. on Saturday morning were wondering what to do with the extra time. Got the rebus at LEVITATING MAN, as it was the only way to make sense of 15-17 Down. PEking ==> PEACE was an ah-ha! moment, as was ELLA and DYS representing LADY SAWn IN HALF. ERGOT, we liked it and were CLAD to have persisted.

Sadly, we DNF because we didn't know 76A and first had "rOOk" and then "rube" for 77D before finally settling on "bOOB" (not far from TITI). Had heard of "newBie" and would have "accepted "newB". But it SEEMS NOOB is a term used nowadays, on the web at least.

VANISHING COIN sounds like a clue that a detective might follow up in the MALTOSE falcon.

@chefwen: we were thinking of you as we entered LEI, MONA LOA and UKULELE!

That's awl for now, chers AMIs. PEACE be with you, and VARY good Sunday!

Rob 7:32 AM  

It's not without problems but I really enjoyed this. Bunch of different, clever theme tricks.

Struggled for a long time with UKULELE. I think I've only seen it as UKELELE and I had to get the Down from crosses.

BarbieBarbie 7:49 AM  

@Loren, huh? TOBACDUSTRY isn't a word, so you can't use TOBACCOINDUSTRY for a vanishing coin trick.

Good puzzle, a little confusing to follow, but easy to fill in.

Joining OFL in sorrow for the part of Virginia that's still for lovers.

GaryStroh 7:58 AM  

Thanks @Rex for the info on puzzle your kids. My son always wants to try to get a few answers but gets frustrated quickly. I can't wait to introduce him to these and help him to be a future NYT puzzle solver.

Tim Aurthur 8:23 AM  

Technical issues aside, I really enjoyed this one. A grab bag of theme ideas in one puzzle. I don't recall seeing that before.

pmdm 8:23 AM  

Chefbea, the answer to your question is a simple concept that can sound awkward when put into words. The magic trick involves turning a KING card into an ACE card. According to Jeff Chen, who did some research, that trick in the magician's trade is called the changing card trick. I'm not a magician, so I never heard of it but I've seen it many times and I'll take his word for what its official name is. Anyway, if you perform a changing card trick, you may wind up turning a peKING duck into a peACE duck.

The write-up here pretty much echoed Mr. Chen's comments about the quality of the fill. Mr. Chen though eliminating one of the theme pairs would have helped get rid of the junk. For me, it was an acceptable trade off because I enjoyed having so many different tricks in one puzzle.

Groovy Don from Oregon 8:37 AM  

AJAX is one of the most fascinating words we have because not only is it a Greek warrior of myth it is also a powdered household cleanser and this is very intersting to me and several other parties as well. Thank you for your time.

TOCraig 8:46 AM  

Liked it very much, but had Anna for Anni and ukalele for ukulele. Sigh....
Nice one, Mr. Berlin!

Anonymous 8:51 AM  

Anyone who still supports this administration, whether they are a Republican in congress, a Nazi murderer in Charlottesville, or a commenting troll on a crossword blog, is complicit in fascism. It is that simple.

Renee Arnold 9:00 AM  

I finished almost the entire puzzle and, of course, saw that there were magic tricks in the fill and, honestly, even reading about how "magic" was incorporated, still can't quite figure this out. Neils Bohr--the N is from the N from Levitating Man??? I still liked it, because whenever I can fill in most of it without too much of a problem, I'm happy.

Anonymous 9:11 AM  

Is it a coincidence that the MAN is also above DELA? Obama referenced a quote from him yesterday. I miss sanity in our leadership.

Christian Heurich 9:13 AM  

Basically, if there weren't residual sugars, including maltose, in beer, the final (specific) gravity of all beer would be 1.000. It's usually 1.010 to 1.030. The residual sugars (yes, and yeast and other additives) account for this, and they give the beer its taste.

Maruchka 9:13 AM  

OK, so here's my one quibble @Rex: why are M-A-N letters not within/without the boxes? Seems more disappearing than LEVITATING. Hi again, Henry A - you're on a roll!

Liked this very much. Until the dreaded PE(KING)/ACE. Didn't have a clue, and needed one. I'm wondering if the kid puzzles have shading or asterisks or slashes or - something? Sigh.

Happy to report that 'Rex Parker' is recently holding a steady first place in my drop down. 'Bye, Tillerson..

Condolences to the Charlottesville victims and their families.

kitshef 9:21 AM  

So often Sunday puzzles are tedious slogs, but a couple of times a year we get a brilliancy like today’s.

The theme is so clever, so fun, that you can shrug off an ORFF or TRIOLETS or, God help us, NOTBE because you are so excited to see the next trick.

I’m so happy right now!

Other Side of the Fence 9:22 AM  

If you people here have your way your daughter will be coming home wearing a hijab and spreading out a prayer rug in your living room.
Then you can brag to all of your friends.

Enjoy your Sharia law, esp. all of the feminists.
You do know how the women are treated, yes?

Z 9:27 AM  

@Dawn and @LMS - I don't think Rex was criticizing GRANDDAD per se, but rather suggesting that if one uses "bygone" fill like ACE AWARDS one risks reinforcing a dated feel to the puzzle by using a term that epitomizes "old" like GRANDDAD. I don't think I buy that argument, at least not for this puzzle, but I have seen puzzles for which it would be true.

@Renee Arnold - MAN levitates above the puzzle, METRES, AARON, and NIELS have their initial letters above the puzzle. Does that make sense now?

@Martin - Care to provide a quick synopsis to your link?

I liked this as much as I like any 21x21 puzzle these days.

Z 9:29 AM  

@Maruchka - In a printed version one would write MAN above the grid, "levitating."

Roadie 9:50 AM  

Why all this gushing over Charlottesville?
Everyone there was looking for trouble.

What about the Australian lady in Minnesota shot by a Somalian cop?
Her family needs some sympathy.

No nonsense 9:58 AM  

Talk about living in an alternate reality. Seriously, wtf are you talking about?? Get back into your breitbart cave and leave the sane world alone.

clk 9:59 AM  

Now that I see it, the changing card from peking to PEACE was very clever, but YOWEE made it much tougher than it should have been. Wouldn't you spell it yowie?

Tita 10:02 AM  

Overall really fun and different theme. Yes, LEVITATINGMAN and CHANGINGCARD are weak/weird, but didn't diminish my joy too much.

I did not get the trick at PEACE duck. So I guess that means a DNF.
Yes, I know there is an iconic dish called Peking Duck, but figured there is also a Peace Duck on menus.

My stepson, as a four-year-old, often ordered his favorite at the little local Chinese place..."Romatic Honey Duck".
It was actually "Aromatic Honey Duck".

We always liked his name better.

Thanks for a totally different Sunday puzzle, Mr. Berlin, and I go to check your puzzles for kids.

Aketi 10:03 AM  

While he was packing up all his belongings for to be shipped to his college dorm last week, my son collected all the COINs he had dropped all over his room for the last 10 or so years and made them DISAPPEAR. He intended to go to a Coinstar machine and change them into paper money But those machines seem to have disappeared in our neighborhood. He had to do it the old fashioned way of counting up all th COINs and putting them in ROLLs. Between that and other forms of procrastination lhe managed to wrangle me into pulling an all nighter with him. So I'm finally catching up on my puzzles.

The LEVITATING invisible MAN was fairly transparent. I got stuck on trying to stuff that KING into the duck ONE WAY OR ANOTHER. Took a while to change that into an ACE and then discover that it was a crisscrossing double ACE! How cool is that?

No nonsense 10:07 AM  

Which she did, aplenty. And by the way, why do you find the need to say Somalian cop? How about all the other cops that have shot and killed countless innocent people (mostly black)? Do you need to say they were an Italian cop? An Irish cop? A puertorrican cop? A Nigerian cop? They're all cops, period.
It is a sad, pathetic world where any ignorant bigot is allowed to spew hate and idiotic discriminatory comments, openly, in any place they choose, gratuitously and uninvitedly.

Teedmn 10:07 AM  

YOWiE, I had a one letter DNF today, guess where?

This was fun. It seemed rather work-a-day at first until I got the theme. I'm not SURE when the COIN dropped but it was well after I was scratching my head over ETRES, ARON and EILS in the NE.

Not much in the way of clever cluing but some really nice words such as CHARISMA, AUGMENTS, the whole UKULELE, CHASTENS, TAFFETA.

Thanks, Eric Berlin

Frank 10:08 AM  

Didn't anyone else have an issue with syringe and string bean or am I missing something

Carola 10:08 AM  

I loved this puzzle, with its variety of magical grid tricks: letters floating outside the grid (MAN), sharing a square (RING), spaced apart (LA DY), vanishing (COIN), or changing (king-->ACE). Doing the puzzle on paper (rather than online) perhaps made it easier, in terms of matching the answers - I found this one went quite fast. I agree that PEACE was the trickiest: its reveal was the last one I filled in - I'd been eagerly anticipating how PEking and PEACE were going to be related: never saw the CHANGING CARD until the end. Loved it!

Also loved SAWING A LADY IN HALF at the puzzle's waistline and the line pairing of NOISE with UKULELE. Perhaps overall grid sparkle was somewhat muted today, but for me TAFFETA, CHARISMA and the wonderful SVENGALI make up for a lot.

Thank you, Eric Berlin - terrific fun.

Nicholas Winton 10:12 AM  

I think @Roadie at 9:50 has some confusion about what country he lives in--it was an AMERICAN cop. If his point is that our police, in general, are too quick to pull the trigger on non-threatening people, I completely agree. Maybe he'll join the next protest against excessive use of force by police. Seems unlikely, though, doesn't it, given that he likely fetishizes uniforms and guns?

Nancy 10:12 AM  

The best Sunday puzzle I've seen in ages. Clever, lively, and with every trick different, so that figuring out one won't help you with the next. What's more, the rest of the fill is challenging, so there was a lot of crunch. Much I hadn't heard of: PEACE duck (!); CONIES; and I wanted AQUAS or TEALS where CYANS goes (85A). I kept looking and looking at -YANS, and I still didn't see it. Then I remembered cyanide. But I thought it was pure blue, not greenish blue.

I DNF. Since I didn't know ANSARI (76A), I put COINS as a rebus in the S square, followed by URE instead of SURE. It was a truly stupid blunder: If I'd thought about it a bit longer, I would have figured it out. It's only one COIN, and it's disappearing, not rebus-ing. Oh well -- I still thought this was a great puzzle.

BTW -- for all the years I've come to the blog, people have been writing about things that don't "pass the breakfast test." They tend to be clues about wars and bombs and tyrants and all sorts of things that are perhaps unpleasant to think about, but have nothing at all to do with spoiling breakfast. In 36A however, you have a clue/answer that for me really doesn't pass the breakfast test. Fortunately, I always eat breakfast before solving.

Tarheeled 10:21 AM  

Many years ago, in Doylestown, PA, was a restaurant called Tiffany (because all the lamps were Tiffany lamps). They served huge New York cut steaks at everyday prices. There was only one dessert available. Take it or leave it. Rum-raisin ice cream!! It was delicious!

Tarheeled 10:22 AM  

Now I'll do the puzzle!

Dawn 10:26 AM  

That was the puzzle's only rebus (Ring), clued as linking rings for the 'trick'.

livebug 10:27 AM  

I really liked this theme even though it defeated me in a few places and I didn't understand the peACE to peKING until I came here. However, I just want to echo how great Eric Berlin's puzzles for kids are. Clever, creative, fun for the adults who may be puzzling WITH the kids, and not at all condescending or just dumb the way lots of kid-oriented "crosswords" are. I hope everyone checks them out!

Two Ponies 10:29 AM  

Love @ Tita A's duck story.
With interesting names on Asian menus like Happy Family the Peace Duck doesn't really sound like much of a stretch now that I think about it.

Frank 10:34 AM  

Duh I missed it just filled it in had all the other themes just thought this was a hanging rebus
Thx Dawn

chefbea 10:36 AM  

@PMDM thanks!!

Nancy 10:37 AM  

Welcome, welcome to the blog, "youngish solver" @Dawn (5:40 a.m.), and let me join @Loren in thanking you for your delightfully un-ageist comment. You drove me back to Rex's GRANDDAD complaint which I hadn't read because I don't read Rex, and I couldn't believe it either. I do hope you survive to be an "old solver someday" because you're the hope of the next generation. Were you all to turn out to be as militantly anti-old people as Rex seems to be, heaven help us all!

GHarris 10:44 AM  

DNF because of unfair SW. Abe is not a nickname, it is a diminutive. Never heard of Agfa so I had Fuji down crossing Ike (which is a nickname) Also. never heard of Ansari.

RooMonster 10:47 AM  

Hey All !
Add me to the PEACE Huh? group. Had nOLAN for DOLAN first, so was thinking CHANGING yARn, which really doesn't make sense, however, the CHANGING CARD only makes a tad more sense. And with DICTU (wha?) there, with NINE as clued also, made for a real cluster there. Never did see the king-ACE trick, knew it was PEking Duck, but the ole brain doesn't twist that way. Plus, YOWEE was Yeoch-YOWch-YowiE-YOWEE. Adding in the kind of obscure HEWED TO didn't help.

So DNF, also with idIOMS for AXIOMS. The AGFA/GOURD cross tough too.

Did enjoy the theme. Fill not absolutely horrible considering the restraints. Got theme at the VANISHING MAN, but still tough to grok the rest.

@M&A, check out @Anon 1:11,
"a preceding M and A"
Har, I thought it was funny.


Unknown 10:50 AM  

Dawn said:

"That was the puzzle's only rebus (Ring), clued as linking rings for the 'trick'."

Only if you narrowly (and IMO incorrectly) define a rebus puzzle to be multiple letters in a single square on a crossword puzzle. The term rebus puzzle exists beyond crossword puzzles and would fit all of the theme answers in today's puzzle.

Rebus puzzles involving visual puns were common in heraldry. A couple of examples of very simple rebus puzzles from long-ago kids' puzzle books (the kind we see in today's themers) are:



I would also count as a rebus the style of puzzle that was under the old Concentration game (revealed after removing enough matches). These would usually involve a phrase or sentence made of graphics representing words (often puns like an eye for the word "I") with some of the words changed to other words by adding or subtracting letters.

Anonymous 10:53 AM  

Here is a link to a 1953 paper in which the sugar contents of worts and beer were determined. This from the summary: "In beer were found maltose, isomaltose and very small quantities of two unidentified sugars." The quantity of maltose was considerably less than in the wort, but it was present.

ArtO 10:58 AM  

This should stay a crossword forum, not a political one. There are plenty of other sites on which to vent these days...and vent one should!

That said, this was an exceptionally clever, tough puzzle. Never did get the PEKING duck changing card trick. That's why I appreciate coming here.

Anonymous 11:03 AM  

for those wondering, I read (and seems so to me) somewhere, perhaps Rex, that Sunday is a large Wednesday on the crosswords Rockwell scale.

Kingdaddy 11:13 AM  

Isn't 65A completely wrong? A feudal vassal is someone's subordinate. A liege is someone's superior.

Dawn 11:19 AM  

Hi Loren! To be fair, I think Rex meant GRANDPA epitomizes the rest of the "old" fill. My point is that while no one wants to return to the Maleska days of arcane fill, it doesn't all have to be trendy either. :)

relicofthe60s 11:20 AM  

Rex's ageism is getting a little tiresome.

puzzlehoarder 11:22 AM  

This was one of the few Sundays that I was able to enjoy solving and not just feel I was slogging through to finish. I filled in all the theme answers correctly and understood how each one worked. However I still had a two space dnf due to my unfamiliarity with DICTU and TRIOLET. I now know we just had the latter in Jan. of this year but I had no memory of it. The word "mirabile" in the 82D clue I took to be a French word and wrote in DICEE. My thinking was that this could be the conjugation of a French verb similar to the Spanish "decir." DICTU reminds me of the old sci-fi phrase "Klaatu barada nikto." Maybe if I'd known that UKULELE could be spelled with that second U I could have figured it out but that's doubtful. No regrets in spite of the dnf. This was a good puzzle.

Joseph Michael 11:26 AM  

In spite of some really cruddy fill, I loved It!

HumanBean 11:32 AM  

Maruchka, the letters M-A-N levitate or hover above the grid. :)

Phipps44 11:38 AM  

"Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups" This so true today. Lets all hate the Jews... no wait that was Hitler, sorry got my dictators confused.

Andrea Schamis 11:44 AM  

Hey Rex if your old shoes stink you have a foot problem!

jberg 11:47 AM  

I guess I finished. I mean, I figured everything out, including the ACE to KING switch in PEKING duck -- only I had no idea about the old cable TV award, so I wasn't sure if it was the ACE AWARD or the KING AWARD. Good enough for me.

And, like everyone else, I had YOWiE at first, making that whole area harder.

At least in my Epson printer, the blue toner is called CYAN -- would never have got that otherwise. Like @Nancy, I thought it was just plain blue.

The hardest part of this for me was keeping track of which answers the magic tricks referred to; I kept poring over the tiny print of the clues to find them, until I finally started making notes on the paper.

I have no desire at all go get into political debate here, but I do want to shed a tear for Heather Heyer.

Charley 11:53 AM  

I don't know what it's doing here, but if opposing Nazis is "looking for trouble" count me in.

Dawn 12:01 PM  

Thanks, Nancy. I'm not young per se, but in Rex's age group, I think. 36A, by the way, prompted me to lace up my sneakers and take myself to the gym. �� There are other words I find unappealing in the fill these days, but I'll save that rant for another day.

Joe in Newfoundland 12:17 PM  

xSince I didn't know the name of the comic, I put in COINS and was left wondering how VANISHING COIN became COINS. That and PEACE makes me think that a different cluing would have been helpful- eg "Chinese entree becomes concord", and "partial coverage becomes confident". A bit crypticky, but would explain PEACE and SURE.

Anonymous 12:19 PM  

My absolutely non-exhaustive web research suggests that popular beer varieties have, indeed, little to no maltose left in them.

BarbieBarbie 12:31 PM  

@Nancy, I had GYMSockS at first. Worse, huh? Phew.

@ArtO, it's Rex's blog, so if he brings up anything outside the puzzle it's up to the commenters whether to run with it or ignore it, but we don't get to make rules for what Rex can discuss.

Unknown 12:54 PM  

Who are all these people who spell ukulele with three E's? Never seen that...

Really good puzzle. Didn't finish, because my brain couldn't convert to rebus mode for "ring." I appreciate that the constructor managed to surprise me with that at the end though.

old timer 12:56 PM  

GYMSHOES stink far more than GYM Socss. You probably wear those socks only once and off they to to the laundry. The shoes might be worn for weeks before being washed or at least aired out.

If I lived in New York I would surely know Timothy Cardinal DOLAN. But I didn't and that was today's WOE Oter than that I reaiized early on that I would have too solve most of the puzzle then go back to the themers to halp with the rest. So that CARD was the last to fall.

My favorite English beers taste a little malty, so I figured OFL's correspondent was wrong about all the MALTOSE being used up in the brewing process. Probably they are when Bud is made. But that, I have not drunk in years.

I'm a GRANDDAD myself, of 3 3/4 grandkids so far; looking forward to that final one. I think OFL is right GRANDDAD is a little fusty. I am called "grandpa" by the three who can talk.

John Sooner 1:01 PM  

Walgreens has bought RiteAid, so they're not "Walgreens competitor" really.

nick 1:05 PM  

Loved it. Sundays are usually a slog and this one was great fun. Didn't have a problem with the 'elder-fill', which fairly light.

Got snarled up in the old shoes/gym shoes trap and never understood the very clever PEACE/Peking duck answer til coming hear.

ncmathsadist 1:18 PM  

I hated the "Change card" and Peace → Peking thing. I thought it annoyingly stilted and arcane.

Frayed Knot 1:27 PM  

Groovy Don": "AJAX is one of the most fascinating words we have because not only is it a Greek warrior of myth it is also a powdered household cleanser and this is very intersting to me and several other parties as well."

It's also the name of a top football (soccer) club in the Netherlands (where it is pronounced Eye-Ax) which has long been one of the most successful clubs in Europe and has a long history of being the go-to club for Jewish European soccer fans (for reasons which aren't clear to me).

Cyclist227 1:42 PM  

A little to clever by half for my taste, making the puzzle seem a bit forced. But an interesting puzzle. I started off very strong, but had the same trouble Re did with the Peace Duck area. The long clues were pretty easy.

Beatricedel Peugia 1:54 PM  

im still scratching my head at that one.

Joe Dipinto 2:24 PM  

@Barbie 7:49 -- yes, wouldn't that be more like "sawing a coin in half?" (Which I don't think is a magic trick.)

pcardout 2:38 PM  

Peking duck was the tough clue ... The trick there was Changing Card (91Across). peACE peKING... brutal ... but cool.

pcardout 2:44 PM  

I loved it ... and I got (as in understood) peACE peKING after quite a struggle. Niels Bohr gave away levitating MAN ... It just had to be Niels ... I agree that Rex needs a vacation. I would call this a hard puzzle if you include actually understanding the themers and not just managing to fill in all the blanks. Rex complained he almost got stuck. Isn't that the point? Also, weak fill is fine with me if it enables awesome!

Dragoncat 2:53 PM  

15, 16, and 17 all have lost a letter: m from meters; a from Aaron ; and n from niels. Together those letters spell "man": the magic trick is "levitating man" (115 across) so man was removed from these three clues. Levitated out. Cute, huh?

Unknown 2:55 PM  

In the 1930s Chinese (which meant Cantonese) restaurants offered
"Pekin Duck" so there went the KING/ACE in my grid

Dragoncat 2:55 PM  

I filled in peace which then led me to think 23 across was vanishing dove having associated peace and dove. Big mess there for awhile.

Adam 3:16 PM  

I quite enjoyed this puzzle. Grokked the theme early on and actually used the cross-references to help on both sides. Had ELLA and DYS and the HALF part of the long clue; saw the LA DY and wrote in SAWING A LADY IN HALF without further ado. Similarly, I knew NIELS Bohr, laid down METRES and AARON, and realized that MAN was levitating above the top row - voila! On the other side, I filled in CHANGING CARDS, knew that ht should be Peking duck, but with 5 letters realized what had to happen and threw down PEACE (I like the way that's also a word, btw). That area was the last I finished - once I got PEACE i got ACE AWARD (although I didn't love ACE crossing ACE), then the rest.

THe rest of the fill was okay, but I found this far easier than yesterday's puzzle and I really liked the execution of the theme. Very enjoyable - thanks, @Eric Berlin!

Cassieopia 3:21 PM  

My sister and I solved this together and had the *most* fun doing so! I caught the RINGS and COIN trick, she caught the LEVITATINGMAN and PEACE duck trick, and we both found LA DY at the same time. We high-fived each other at the end. It was everything a Sunday crossword should be - smooth, enjoyable, filled with tricks, and leaving the solvers with a very happy smile and feeling of accomplishment at the end! One of my favorite solving experiences - ever! Thank you thank you thank you Eric Berlin!

Blue Stater 4:37 PM  

Worst Sunday in a long time. A typical WS-era puzzle: too clever by about 99/100ths. Complete waste of time.

Stanley Hudson 4:41 PM  

Speaking of AJAX . . . Years ago I knew a guy who, to avoid the Vietnam draft, snorted a bunch of AJAX prior to his physical. The doctor apparently took one look at his uncontrollable nose bleeding and shooed him home.

Mohair Sam 4:55 PM  

Very different and tons of fun. Loved the CARD trick - if there is not an actual CHANGING CARD magic trick there should be. We struggled most with (coin)SURE, probably because we don't know the comic. We sat there saying pennysure, nicklesure, dimesure, . . . .farthingsure. It was awful.

GLYPH tough. YOWEE forgivable to get the great PE(ACE) answer. "Minahs" before MACAWS cost us all kinds of time. One needs a puzzle partner to find out that TAFFETA is crisp and that UKULELE has a second U. When I lived in England had a cat that would kill VOLES and offer them as gifts. "Starry Night", "Christina's World" - I've got to get back to the MoMA at least one more time.

122A - Watching the Phillies lose again while I'm typing. Color commentator John Kruk is eating a Way Back Burger called a Triple Triple. That's nine burger patties with nine slices of CHEESES (plus a piece of lettuce and slice of tomato to make you vegans happy) on a bun. I googled - 2,200 calories. He's lovin' it. I may puke.

Awesome Sunday puzzle Eric Berlin - Many thanks.

Rina 4:58 PM  

Never understood PEACE part, but when I sussed the rebus I gave myself the Nobel Prize on general principles.

evil doug 5:57 PM  

Pretty funny. Somebody served--maybe died--in his place.

Larry Gilstrap 6:01 PM  

Sometimes a themed puzzle can be entertaining, but I prefer the theme hit me over the head and not make me resort to a post mortem in an effort to eventually comprehend. Looking at you ACE/KING mashup. On the other hand, that SYRING/STRINGBEAN cross is about as good as it gets.

I taught Coleridge's Rime of the Ancient Mariner, dark, enigmatic, classic blend of Romanticism and narrative poetry:

WATER, WATER every where,
And all the boards did shrink;
WATER, WATER every where,
Nor any drop to drink.

It's late, so indulge me one nit. When did we start with this Blue State/Red State nonsense? The political system is incredibly complex and any assumption that an absolute distinction exists between states based upon the results of an election seems misleading, even a gross oversimplification, at best. I think we all know better. If we could only live in that spectrum of purple.

Anonymous 6:04 PM  

Bill Ballard said...
In the 1930s Chinese (which meant Cantonese) restaurants offered
"Pekin Duck" so there went the KING/ACE in my grid

Canton was the English word for Guangzhou, the capital of Guangdong province. The traditional spicy food from the area is called Cantonese in the US. "Cantonese" is still the name of the language spoken in Guangdong.

Peking was the English word for Beijing, the Chinese capital. Peking duck is from that area, and unrelated to Cantonese food.

Anonymous 6:05 PM  

EvilDoug 5:57...and maybe somebody else survived because that self-involved twit wasn't there to fail to back him up.

Mohair Sam 6:32 PM  

@Evil Doug - It's a losing battle. During the Viet Nam era 27 million men came of draft age, only 11 million served. Draft dodging stories will always have appreciative audiences.

Nancy 6:41 PM  

Yes, indeed, this is why I come here. I never heard of the CHANGING CARD trick, and I thank all of you who explained what a PEACE duck really is. Were I not on the Rexblog, I would have gone to my grave without remotely understanding that answer.

@Larry G (6:01 p.m.) -- You have quoted from one of my absolute favorite poems. But neither your quoted stanza, nor the famous "He prayeth best who loveth best..." stanza (though I deeply loveth both) are my favorite stanzas. This is the one that blows me away:

The many men, so beautiful!
And they all dead do lie:
And a thousand thousand slimy things
Lived on; and so did I./

L 8:25 PM  

Don't feed the trolls!

yarnaddict45 8:25 PM  

It's "Niels" Bohr and Hank "Aaron" NOT "iels" and "Aron". I mean, come on, this is a NY Times Sunday Crossword! The constructor may want to stick to children's puzzles, LOL!

L 8:28 PM  

The PEACE duck did me in. I tried (l'o)RANGE, thinking maybe I needed a dangling LO, like the MAN...but this went nowhere. Too clever for me.

Anonymous 8:32 PM  

Never understood the theme until I was done. I thought the "places where the tricks were performed" would be geographical locations where certain famous feats of magic were done. So knowing that I did not have that sort of inside magic knowledge, I gave up on solving the themes any other way than by brut force (most or all the crosses). Peking being a place name seemed to confirm my early idea about geographical places, but what's this? "Peace?" hmm. Got the missing MAN in the NE corner quickly, and saw the rebus right away with a "Strange ... a puzzle with just one rebus?" Finished the puzzle in normal time for me (much longer than most of you, I'm sure!) but totally without the benefit of seeing the theme unfold. But I loved the theme once I finally saw it!

RooMonster 9:11 PM  

Um, that was part of the trick. LEVITATING MAN, ergo, the letters M-A-N "levitating" above the grid of the entries of ETRES (should be METRES), ARON (should be AARON), IELS (should be NIELS). The first letters of MAN are outside the grid box, hence LEVITATING MAN. Get it?

Missing @M&A's take on puz. He likes wacky things like this.

Anonymous 9:18 PM  

@evil @mohair,

I think it was closer to nine million American soldiers in Viet Nam.
A fair bit, but not close to the sixteen million who served in WWII. Yah know, a coNFL is the that mattered.
Sorry guys, That kerfuffle in Southeast Asia lasted love going time, but didn't mean a thing.

Tita 10:15 PM  

@Nancy...excellent explanation of why this puzzle was great... was a new trick to solve with each themer.

Andy 10:31 PM  

Another stupid NYT Sunday puzzle. I'm really beginning to HATE these! I never heard of any of these so-called tricks. I finished the whole puzzle - and it was challenging - but I had no idea what it was all about.

Andy 10:34 PM  

Totally agree. Pure junk on so many levels.

Andy 10:35 PM  

Yup, me too. Ridiculous puzzle.

Andy 10:36 PM  

And just plain stupid.

Andy 10:38 PM  

YES YES YES Thank you!

Andy 10:39 PM  

You're singing my tune!

Andy 10:45 PM  

You're singing my tune!

Andy 10:45 PM  

YES YES YES Thank you!

Mohair Sam 10:57 PM  

@Anonymous (9:18) - The number (9 million) you quote is world wide active duty 1964-1975 (mine included all who answered the draft), not those who went to VietNam - 2.6 million in country, 3 million if you count the Navy. Those numbers only prove my point: The great majority beat the draft and therefore the great majority enjoy draft dodger stories.

And if you think Johnson's mistake in Vietnam didn't mean a thing, then I suppose you think Bush's mistake in Iraq is no big deal.

GPO 11:29 PM  

Peace Duck.

A superhero for our times, am I right?

Joe Bleaux 11:33 PM  

Trust me, you would've spent even more time had you *insisted* for about an hour that those talkative birds were mynahs.

Joe Bleaux 12:20 AM  

Celebrating my birthday with fam and friends, I didn't get to the puzzle til deep into the evening, so I finished late. The good news is I ended up reading a lot more comments than usual. It's comforting to know I'm far from being the only one to have a hard time with the peace duck. My problem was that I left "mynahs" in for the talkative-bird clue for a *long* time. And even after changing birds, it a few to get the card trick. The thing was diabolically clever. Bravo, Eric Berlin, and thanks for something of a roller coaster ride.

Joe Bleaux 12:22 AM  

"it TOOK a few ..." (It's so late, I doubt that anyone read it anyway, but still ...)

Hartley70 2:34 AM  

Loved this one! It's my favorite Sunday puzzle in quite a while. It's two tricks in one. The themers that keep on giving. Thanks!

Laura 10:39 AM  

PE(ACE) duck is just PE(king) duck with the cards changed - like the magic trick!

Laura 10:44 AM  

I really loved this one - maybe in my top ten. Yes, some of the fill was a slog, and I did not finish the whole thing, but dang, I loved the theme! I kept yelling out in excitement with each new trick. My husband (who hates crosswords, especially ones with hidden tricks) thought I was losing my mind. This is what I look for in a Sunday puzzle! So much fun.

Unknown 3:12 PM  

I liked this puzzle, fun clever. And as an
amateur magician, I even knew the names
of some of the tricks which helped.

For's a link to the Changing
Card trick which in this video actually uses a
King to an Ace

Ody Grant 5:50 PM  

Ergot grows on rye, not wheat. Rust would be a concern of what farmers. Or price or yield.

mjddon 9:39 PM  

Interesting article on "ukulele "

Anonymous 9:57 PM  

You just violated your own rule, asshole.

Anonymous 10:00 PM  

Just like our president. And his "bone spur."

Jennifer 1:09 AM  

Walgreens has bought (in process of buying) RiteAid so not a competitor

Unknown 9:30 AM  

This was the easiest Sunday puzzle ever for me. Other than "peace" got everything from the extrinsic clues. Ergo, I didn't get the theme! I should have known something was up !

tkincher 8:07 PM  

The crossings of DICTU/TRIOLETS and NAUTICA/TAFETTA were naticks for me. I ran into some of the same errors as others, wanting mynahs and idioms instead sod MACAWS and AXIOMS, but managed to suss them out eventually. Fun theme!

I've never seen UKULELE spelled any other way in a crossword, but it's abbreviated version is "uke" (and is a frequent crossword entry) so I understand the confusion there.

rondo 11:49 AM  

OK, I'm sure this is as close as I'm ever going to get with my SVENs V.OLES comments. There's a SVEN, by GALI, crossing the other HALF of my case. Enough of that for now, to the puz: we've magically jammed in almost every kind of puz rebus known to man. Clever construction, but let's never do it again. Please. Disinclination to rebi now at bursting point. If you like 'em I'm happy for you today.

Haven't read any comments yet, hope these weren't covered:

RAPSONGS aren't.

All parts of P.E.I. have six letters. Huh.

Both AJAX and MRCLEAN made for a clean solve there.

When I ran for city council my campaign slogan was ELECTRON. EZ to remember.

I've always considered Lesley STAHL a yeah baby.

Not exactly my cuppa, so hope to not see this type ANYTIME soon. CHEESES!

spacecraft 12:48 PM  

First of all, can somebody wake up the syndi-linker,,,AGAIN??? I tell you, we oughta fire that guy and hire somebody who can stay awake. Second, face it, (formerly) Fearless One. You Are Going To Get Old. Old is NOT to be feared. I'm old, and I'm having the time of my life. STOP DISSING OLD! Consider the alternative...

Third, oh yeah, the puzzle. Devilishly, almost frighteningly, clever. As I came to these "places" where the magic happens I just went with the flow. Just wrote MAN above the NE grid to make sense of the three downs and went on, assuming there would be more outside-the-box activity. In the weird west, everything worked except "PiACE" duck. Well, I thought, it could be YOWEE, which at least would allow a real word at 55-across. Even more weirdly, it turns out, there's a movie called "55 Days at Peking," a Charlton Heston saga about the Boxer Rebellion. Not much PEACE there. But before grokking it, I simply left the section, assuming that "PEACE duck" was a dish I'd never heard of. (There are a lot of those.)

Later on, when I came to the CHANGINGCARD trick--and really, so many of you don't recognize that? Paul Newman even did it in "The Sting."--I looked back at 55-a and the light bulb came on. Quite an aha! moment, for sure.

I have a couple of bones to pick with the fill: how many THYMES do I have to tell you how awkward it is to pluralize collective nouns? Also, CYAN may have the merest tinge of green, but to my eye it's a pale blue, period. "Greenish blue" is teal or tourquoise. Or aqua maybe. I'd never clue CYAN as "greenish."

But the big one--the femur, if you will, is LIEGE. This is most definitely NOT a "feudal vassal." The vassal was, in fact, a person who leased land FROM the owner--the LIEGE--in return for allegiance. That clue is clearly WRONG. I didn't see this mentioned above; I'm surprised that everybody missed it.

As a solving experience, this was entertaining, and fairly rewarding. Did we pay for it in the fill? Sure, but not inordinately. DOD ELLA takes a curtain call. Birdie.

Burma Shave 1:05 PM  


for CHANGINGCARDs into a PEACE duck,
TENTOONE no ONE gives a DEM.


rain forest 3:03 PM  

Wow! 5 "magic tricks" which are clued as such, and depicted, each in a different way, in other parts of the puzzle. ERGO(T), a non-slog Sunday which was entertaining throughout the solve.

Easy in parts, especially the North, but tricky in many other places, courtesy of the theme. And that little section in the middle West was just plain tough. We've had that comic before, but if it weren't for TITI, I would've misspelled his name, and just above that, PiACE, YOWiE, ACE AWARD, and GLYPH gave me fits.

It didn't help when I sussed out MAN outside the grid which had me thinking that I was looking for things outside for all the tricks. Of course, that didn't pan out, and getting (COIN)SURE was a hint to the scope of the trickery. Well done, I say.

Re the GRANDDAD thing. I mean that's the word, still used today. When I visit my 3 grandchildren out East every year, that's what they call me, and they call their other grandfather GRAMPA. My other grandchild here, whom I frequently look after, calls me PAPA, and his other grandfather is GRANDDAD. It can get confusing, and I'm sure you're keen to know all this. Hope you took notes.

Hey, @Rondo, how did you do in that election? Had I been there, and not been purged from the voter rolls, I'd have voted for you. You're sort of my hero.

AnonymousPVX 3:49 PM  

I don't understand how anyone could enjoy this puzzle. Now we have gimmicks that actually involve letters that are not present. Talk about being in thrall to the almighty theme. Never mind all the ridiculous and arcane answers needed to support this swill of a grid. Hardly fun or enjoyable, just another disappointing slog....and I was able to solve. Geez, what a hot mess.

rondo 6:03 PM  

@rainy - Won the first time, didn't really "campaign" 4 years later and the competition (next door neighbor) ran on issues I had already addressed, and she won and promptly made a mess of things. That was the year Jesse Ventura became MN governor. This city's public was fooled twice in that election.

leftcoastTAM 10:08 PM  

Bailed out early on hitting too many PPP blocks to theme answers which, in any case, confused me.

One rebus square (RING), fine. One out of grid completion(MAN), okay. Several cross-references, my least favorite puzzle feature. Mix them all together and I've had it, at least for today.

Pavel 1:21 AM  

Actually, it goes both ways: you can have a "liege lord" (your superior) and also a "liege man" (your inferior); the word in general describes the relationship, but not its directionality. That being said, you're probably most familiar with the phrase "my liege", which is short for "my liege lord".

So, in common parlance, yes, the clue is wrong. But in full generality, it's perfectly correct.

Pavel 1:39 AM  

From Merriam-Webster:

Definition of liege
a : a vassal bound to feudal service and allegiance (see allegiance 1a)
b : a loyal subject
: a feudal superior to whom allegiance and service are due

wcutler 4:33 PM  

Best.Puzzle.Ever. So much fun; the tricks were just fun.

DNF at the ends of ANSARA and TITA, seems kind of natick-y there.

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