Nemesis of Clanton gang / THU 8-3-17 / Modern home of ancient Tripolitania / Drawings seen in France's Rouffignac cave / President whose initials were also his dog's name / Code broken by rats

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Constructor: Timothy Polin

Relative difficulty: Medium, leaning Medium-Challenging? (no idea—I had an ultra-slow time due almost entirely to a spelling error ... and then Another Spelling Error)

THEME: BELT LOOP (61A: Waistband site ... or what 20-, 39- and 55-Across each have?) — circled letters contain types of belts, and those belts (AMMO, LAP, TOOL) "loop" from the east side of the grid back to the west.
  • WOOLLY MAM / MOTHS (20A: Drawings seen in France's Rouffignac Cave)
  • STOCKS COLL / APSE (39A: Headline after a market crash)
  • PIMIENTO O / LIVES (55A: Stuffed garnishes)
Word of the Day: VOIT (10A: Basketball brand) —
The Voit Corporation is a sporting goods company founded by German American entrepreneur William J. Voit of Worthington, Indiana (1880–1946). // Voit began in Los Angeles in 1922 as a tire retreading products factory. In the late 1920s Voit developed and patented the first full-molded, all-rubber inflatable ball and the first needle-type air retention valves. (wikipedia)
• • •

My brain just came unglued during this one, not because the concept was so tough to grasp (it wasn't), but because I committed to multiple misspellings. The last one, PIMIENTO, was the least bad. I went PIMENTO (and then ELSA instead of ILSA, just like in all my crossword-confusion nightmares!!!), but in pretty short time realized that that wasn't going to work. I had the theme by then and could approach those circled letters more methodically. But the first misspelling, holy moly. I figured if something is like unto wool it is WOOLY. Blogger just red-underlined it, so obviously it's wrong. Its STEELY, it's MOODY, dagnabbit it should be WOOLY!  So anyway I had WOOLYMAMM written in there and just ... died. *Died*. Basketball brand? Total blank. ILIAD, from *that* stupid generic clue? No way (12D: Long, old yarn). And don't get me started on the clue for CAL (16D: Nutritional label abbr.). There are so many amazing CAL options, how in the &$(^#$ing world do you make it an abbr., and the most boring abbr. imaginable. Ugh. Eventually, somehow, I realized that the circled squares were probably connected somehow, and MMMO made no sense, but AMMO did. So I went to WOOLLY and whaddya know, everything fell into place.

I dig the weird-shaped grid, but the overall theme concept is kind of a letdown. The wraparound conceit is well-worn, and I found this particular incarnation kinda anti-climactic. Just three ... belts, only one of which really really lands (TOOL). Is an AMMO belt like a bandolier? LAP belts barely exist any more, except in old cars, in the back seat. SEAT is more in-language. GARTER mighta been nice. Coulda gone BLACK. Coulda gone metaphorical and tried RUST or BIBLE. Shrug. Three belts. And we have to endure non-answers like STOCKSCOLL (that was my first "what do I have wrong!?" moment). Cluing overall seemed pretty hard. LIVES as [Video game *units*] was rough. Same with clue on VENT (53D: Magma conduit) and ONSET (26D: Dawn) and KABOOM (14A: Big report) and on and on. Very Friday/Saturday, this cluing. Which is fine. Got totally confused on ASK NO quarter (29D: ___ quarter (refuse mercy)) because I was reading "refuse mercy" as "refuse to extend mercy," not "refuse to be the beneficiary of mercy." So this was just rough for me all over, with no real pleasure spots. It's conceptually OK, and the grid shape is innovative. I dunno. Neither good nor bad for me today.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. I am being told that the grid is supposed to be a graphic depiction of a belt. Huh ... nope. Not seeing it. I'm seeing something vaguely beltish, maybe, but only because someone told me to look for it. Therefore: graphic fail (assuming it was even a graphic attempt).

P.P.S. TEDS LOL no (66A: Spreads, as straw). I'm so glad I never saw that answer because that is one stupid word.

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


JC66 12:06 AM  

After reading the puff piece about Will Shortz in yesterday’s Times, I have the sneaky suspicion he may not be around much longer and @Rex will have to find another bugbear.

jae 12:12 AM  

Medium for me. I got the theme about half way through when I wrote APSE in the margin after the COLL of STOCK COLLAPSE. It occurred to me that I'd just put in APSE on the west side of the grid....aha!

Found out I didn't know how to spell @Rex WOOLLY and didn't remember how spell (@Rex again) PIMIENTO.

SKYY is less than half the price of Grey Goose, not sure if it is really a "competitor".
Speaking of vodka, Viking Fjord may be the best I've ever tasted...although the bottle I acquired was from the mid '90s and the G was left off Vikin. Hopefully the later version with the G has the same great taste. It is not easy to find.

Smooth, clever, and amusing, liked it a bunch! Best puzzle of the week so far IMHO. ...and the grid does kinda resemble a belt across the middle although Jeff did not mention it at Xwordinfo.

Unknown 12:19 AM  

Thanks, @Rex, for your interesting review of @Timothy Polin's ambitious puzzle, appearing on the evening that OBAMA's successor (amusing clue, BTW) signed off on SANCTIONs (left-over from yesterday's @Bruce Haight puzzle). Possibly justifying the rather unusual symmetry in the grid, each of the three CONTINUE (another left-over) words that loop around on the left side, are real words (in order, MOTHS, APSE, and LIVES), legitimately clued. Woe to any constructors who will now update their wordlists with the likes of WOOLLYMAM, etc.

I considered HALO ahead of TACO on 2-Down, JESUS and MAMMA (however it might be spelled) ahead of TERMS on 13-Down, CLAUS ahead of CLARA on 24-Down, and CALEB ahead of JACOB on 28-Down. Still, despite not knowing the unreal (Sci-fi) MCCOY, based on the clue, and wincing at NESTER, the theme emerged quickly enough, and the various ambiguities in the cluing resolved themselves as well. I also hope that CLEAN AIR will remain an E.P.A. concern.

So, in summary, much admiration for what @Timothy has achieved here.

Anonymous 12:36 AM  

WOOLLY threw me for a (belt) loop until I realized I'd written MAMMMOTH, after that it all fell in place.

Mark 12:40 AM  

Great puzzle. My only complaint is not only is the clue for "cal" bad, I think it's wrong. I think it must mean Calcium, but the abbreviation for calcium is Ca, or maybe Calc, but never cal

Whirred Whacks 12:42 AM  

I'm still basking in the glow from Wednesday's amazing BRUCE HAIGHT contronym puzzle.

Anonymous 12:43 AM  

I had a correctly solved puzzle until I saw TEDS which I immediately changed to BEDS as I have, in fact, spread straw while BEDding a stall.

Anonymous 12:53 AM  

Calories. Not calcium.

Natick Runner 12:57 AM  

Reluctantly threw in TACO and IBET and was off to the races.

Grokked the gimmick early at WOOLYMAM. Just needed to figure out where the MOTH went. Didn't see the circles on the other side of the puzzle until much later (if ever?). The revealer provided the aha to look across the grid, but I didn't notice the "belts" until I came here.

One extra A in STOCKSCOLLAPSE at the wrap cost me time. Still, 18 min is 4 min better than Thursday average (and still probably 3+ times slower than OFL). Other than Monday, this week has been easy for me.

Never heard of the novel, so fortunate that the crosses were fair.

Liked it.

Trombone Tom 1:00 AM  

Is TEDS another example of something that is "stupid" because it is unknown to one? At that rate, how does one go about learning anything new? Strikes me as an unusual position for one in the teaching profession.

I was fortunate in avoiding the spelling issues cited by OFL, so made it through this puzzle unscathed. However I agree with @Rex as to the weakness of the theme implementation.

I hesitated on LAPBELT, but figured since they are still used on rides that was ok.

This was a good workout, but lacked some of the "KABOOM" a Thursday can summon up.

Ron 2:32 AM  

I wasn't familiar with ROEG, and had HOPiN crossing ROiG, which held me up for a few minutes while I was hunting for the error I made. Before I got the theme, I had STOCKSfaLL and PIMIENTOs but could not figure out what the first themer was. Fun puzzle!

Anonymous 3:05 AM  

Can someone explain teds to me for spreads straw. I don't understand!

Johnny 3:30 AM  

One of the selling points of VINYL records was that they were unbreakable, unlike the shellac records they replaced that were easily broken.

Therefore, the correct answer for 10D is SHELLAC

Anonymous 3:58 AM  

I'm surprised @Rex's complaint about TEDS wasn't that it is crosswordese. It is in fact a fine word that I've seen many times in older puzzles. According to Merriam-Webster it means" to spread or turn from the swath and scatter (new-mown grass) for drying." Just this summer my wife and I have twice seen farmers tedding hayfields, once in England and once in France.

Thomaso808 4:05 AM  

Anon 3:05 there's this thing called Google and if you type in "TEDS definition" the first thing that comes up is an obscure definition "turn over and spread out (grass, hay, or straw) to dry or for bedding".

I really liked the top bottom symmetry as a brain stretching change.

LIEGE threw me for a while because of the clue "one working for the lord". I thought LIEGE was the lord, not the other way around. Checking Merriam iI seems this might be a contronym of sorts and can mean either the one receiving allegiance or the one owing allegiance.

A very clean puzzle with a little Thurs trickery -- liked it!

Thomaso808 4:19 AM  

Also, I enjoyed Rex's rant about WOOLLY, though @Lewis might like the extra L. Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs got it right, spelling it Wooly Bully.

chefwen 4:25 AM  

Got off to a messy start as grease was my tough to remove stain and I was at the race track at Santa Anita at 24D. Never did catch onto the the BELT theme. Thought the LOOP thing was the answers looping around to the left. Felt like an idiot when I read the write up. Oh well, it wasn't the first time and I'm damn sure it won't be the last. Regardless, I liked it.

Loren Muse Smith 6:06 AM  

I’m with Rex and @Thomaso808 on liking the grid – top/bottom symmetry. And since he pointed it out, I think I can see a kind of BELT there.

Like @Natick Runner, I knew I wanted the added MOTH to WOOLLY MAM, but for so long I couldn’t figure it out. When I finally did, it was a terrific aha moment. I agree with Rex that TOOL is the strongest themer. I liked his suggestions of BLACK, GARTER, BIBLE, SEAT, RUST. Sat there trying to figure out how Timothy did this. It seems to be pretty involved:

1. Find a phrase that embeds one of the belts. So, say, WOOLLY MAMMOTHS.
2. Make sure that the second half of the phrase that will appear on the left is an honest-to-gosh word, as @George B points out. (MOTHS is, so we’re still good.)
3. Put the WOOLLY MAM on the right edge and put the MOTHS to its left on the other edge.
4. Add circles to spotlight AMMO.
5. Clue the left part as the separate word. So MOTHS is clued as the bug. Tricky, tricky, Timothy.
6. Clue the right part, the WOOLLYMAM as the whole phrase.

Did I miss something? This is really cool. I remember only one puzzle that had this kind of wrap-around theme. Spoiler alert – it’s the solution, so if you want to solve it, it ran on April 13, 2013. Doug Peterson reviewed it.

It would’ve been beastly tough to figure out the trick if both halves had been viable expressions and clued separately. Think about it. That WOOLLYMAM on a Thursday was such a big fat clue pointing to the funny business.

Early on, I considered “let me think” for what you say when you put your finger on your lips. Dumb.

Loved the clue for SKIM. I kept thinking odds and wanted “slim” there.

The clue for OBAMA really startled me. For about 30 seconds, I sat there thinking they’d named their dog B.O., as in the cumin smell. And I decided that was really funny and a terrific name for a dog. Wonder if Peter Ustinov ever considered using his initials for a dog name.

My cousin had a principal once who made a speech and kept using the word astigmatism for STIGMA. Said there was an astigmatism attached to the free breakfast program. Ouch.

I’m with all the people here who liked it – I really enjoyed the conceit and the solve.

Oh, and @LisaG – I noticed yesterday that your name is now blue! You’re here to stay, and I predict you’ll make lots of friends here. Welcome again.

Lewis 6:37 AM  

Loved the clues for MOTHS and STIGMA, and the answer CRUCIBLE. I'd like to think that MCCOY is a nod to a fellow constructor. Some of this puzzle fell fast and some -- especially the NW -- put up a fight. I was going to detail how brilliant it was for Timothy to come up with these theme answers, but @Lauren has done that, except on top of all those provisos, each answer must have 14 letters (with the last five being a bonafide word). Amazing.

I like the cross of OBAMA and CLEAN_AIR (which he was in favor of), and would have liked a corresponding cross of TRUMP and HOT_AIR. And how was the solve? Everything I want in a Thursday. Great one, Timothy!

kitshef 7:17 AM  

The wraparound concept was way cool, but the belts really added nothing to the solve for me. Feel like if you scrap the belts and make the revealer just LOOPS you could make better themers. I mean, WOOLLYMAMMOTH is super, but the other two not so much.

It's not like the fill suffered - that is first rate. Just the themers didn't sparkle.

Glimmerglass 7:20 AM  


kitshef 7:26 AM  

@Lewis - does WOOLLY MAM/MOTHS count for two double letters or three?

RAD2626 7:27 AM  

Thought the puzzle was fun and agree challengingly clued. Same spelling issues as everyone plus put in SKYe which confused me on Bones for a bit. Wanted blue skinned deity to be from Avatar, particularly after I had the opening K. Actually really wanted it to be Papa Smurf. And who knew I was eating pickle & PIMIENTO loaf all these years? As weird spelling as poinsettia. Or Worcester.

@lms: also played with let me think and then tried please shut up. Amazing how many options there are. Maybe your cousin's principal was trying to bring astigmatism into the vernacular like myopia has managed to accomplish.

Anonymous 7:28 AM  

Thanks for the reminder of Obama's narcissism. As messed up as the current White House is, it could be worse.

Eric 7:30 AM  

Do you remember an Inn,
Do you remember an Inn?
And the tedding and the spreading
Of the straw for a bedding,
And the fleas that tease in the High Pyrenees,

Can someone explain pimiento ol?

LisaG 7:31 AM  

Ugh. This one was tough for me....especially since before I understood the theme,I tried spelling "pimientos" as "pimenntos". I knew that wasn't right, but was I was desperate. And very, very wrong.

@Loren--Thanks so much for the warm welcome.

George 7:33 AM  

Clue for 18A should be "Erstwhile cancer for EPA." Same spelling errors here. But even more important, another awesome music video in the Rex blog!!! I had no idea that 'Cantaloop' was a Herbie Hancock song, but 'Cantaloop (Flip Fantasia)' by Us3 has been one of my favorites since the first time I heard it in 1993. Thanks again Rex for expanding my musical horizons!

Anonymous 7:36 AM  

I also thought of Avatar when I saw blue-skinned. A tough puzzle, but very fun. Great work, Timothy.

QuasiMojo 7:44 AM  

Did anyone else misread Clanton for Clinton? I tried to fit WHITEWATER in there. lol.

I liked the idea of words looping but adding the twist that they are types of belts seemed de trop.

Luckily, I finished this without any errors but ended with a big feeling of "so what?" That for me is the problem with these increasingly common gimmicky themes. So much effort is made by the constructor and the person doing the puzzle to fulfill some random idea of a cool concept. But ultimately the puzzle suffers for it.

I too read that very odd profile of Will Shortz too (thanks to the fellow commenter here who posted the link) and came away wondering what the editors were thinking. I can see such an article in a magazine, such as New York, perhaps, but in the Times itself? It boggles the mind. YESSIREE.

Hungry Mother 7:53 AM  

Very easy for me today, about Tuesday level. Everything was on my wavelength for some reason. I don't know my grandkids birthdays, but I know ILSA and "Elsa".

Lewis 7:55 AM  

@kitshef -- I counted it as two, but of course it's arbitrary, there are no rules. But I just look at what grid in front of me shows. Great question -- one I've wondered about as your resident alphadoppeltotter!

chefbea 8:09 AM  

Didn't understand teds...never heard of it. And stuffed garnishes are olives that have been stuffed with why is the answer pimentoo...with two O's

Have been to Parris Island many times...seeing all my Marine husbands grand sons become marines!!!

GHarris 8:10 AM  

Everything went in quickly and easily even a word unknown to me (teds). Got the concept of looping back to complete the answers but never picked up the belt theme until coming here. Dnf because I had Skye and accepted McCoe. Was fun and gratifying.

Kim Scudera 8:12 AM  

@George: "Cantaloop" by US3 ( is one of my favorite tunes, sampling Herbie Hancock's "Cantaloupe Island", another of my favorite tunes :D

Thanks, Rex, for the video!

Two Ponies 8:17 AM  

The double layer of themes is great.
Nice puzzle to flex our muscles and little gray cells before the weekend.
If you've ever ridden on an airplane you might have noticed that strap with the buckle.

mmorgan 8:18 AM  

I had STOCKSFALL and just sat there staring for a long even with the revealer in hand. Finally.... Ding!

Powderfinger 8:19 AM  

Red means run, son,
Numbers add up to nothing

evil doug 8:20 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
evil doug 8:23 AM  

Ponies, you're right: It looks like an airliner LAP BELT. The tab--the middle five rows on the right--is about to be inserted into the buckle, Tetris-style, depicted by the five middle rows on the left.

Phil 8:30 AM  

Agree with anon
TED is a cog in the crosswordese machine.

LIVES and VENT another headscratcher as why Rex thought those were tough.

stonymed 8:38 AM  

the kerfuffle over 'ted' just makes me understand how urban our population has become. in vermont farmers have tedders for their tractors so they can turn the hay after it's cut.... important in this rainy summer! give the rants a rest and enjoy learning something new!

Robert A. Simon 8:41 AM  

Lucky for me, I always have a jar of PIMIENTO OLIVES in the fridge, as I think I drink more dirty martini than any other liquid--at least on some days. So I can unequivocably agree with @jae that SKYY and Grey Goose don't play in the same ballpark. Much better clue would have been, "Grey Goose wannabe." I loved the puzzle, but for quite a while, it didn't love me back. Unlike OFL, I can't parse the cluing on some sort of day-of-the-week scale. All I know is that there were some great ones, 1D being my favorite. Terrific puzzle.

L 8:42 AM  

You guys really see something resembling a belt?!? I think that's the power of suggestion.

Knitwit 8:46 AM  


Wm. C. 8:46 AM  

@Chefbea --

Pimiento has two 'o's because the second is the first letter in the wraparound word 'olives..'

So, how many Marine husbands did you have? ;-)

Kendall 8:47 AM  

DNF, which happens sometimes, but came to comment on the NE corner of this puzzle which I found impossible. I got VINYL and OBAMA (awesome clue here) and then nothing else. VOIT? That doesn't google well at all and doesn't show up under the notable list of basketball manufacturers on Wikipedia, making that clue ruthlessly challenging. In fact, they don't even really have a website of their own indicating what it is they do and their Wikipedia page makes no mention of basketballs. They make soccer balls (footballs) for a European league, but no basketballs. Do other people know what this company is? I played basketball and regularly watch both college and the NBA and I've never heard of this company. End VOIT rant.

Rest of the puzzle is really neat now that I'm seeing the completed version.

chefbea 9:07 AM  

@WmC thanks for explaining the olive thing...I guess I was lacking the apostrophe in husband's...he is also a marine as was his son. We have a marine wall of all the pictures!!! Semper Fi

More Whit 9:12 AM  

This one cracked open easier than most Thursdays, partly because I am a Tombstone fan and also the wrap around at mammoth broke things open early. Never heard of teds in that vein - tried to fold it onto TED talks and that ended with some hilarity. I'd have to have several belts of Jameson before seeing any belt on the grid. Loopy.

Mohair Sam 9:12 AM  

Clever, maybe a little easy for a Thursday - but fun. Fun too reading about @Rex's spelling adventures - had the same silliness with ILSA (and I love "Casablanca") and PIMIENTO. @Thomas 808 - Point well taken - How can anyone overrule Sam the Sham? Wooly it is!

I've bedded more than a few stalls with straw saw so I can see the "bED" for TED mistake - but that leaves you with UNLIb for the clue "dark" at 47D - your politics are showing. SKYY competes with Grey Goose the way the Kia competes with Lexus. I'm still betting we consume more TACOs north of the border than south of the border. Good old VOIT - fired off a zillion jumpers with them, even sunk a few.

I've TEDded a few hay fields, it's a common enough word on the farm and an important procedure when making hay on humid days. Less common with straw I think. I also think @Rex is just baiting us with his sneer. I prefer to chuckle at Rex for not noticing the LAP belt he fastened on his most recent flight.

Wm. C. 9:17 AM  

@Chefbea --

Many thanks for your family's service.

I sometimes see some National-Guarders dining at lunch at my local Chinese restaurant. I always tell the waiter to omit their check and give it to me, without telling them who is paying. It gives me some small pleasure to be able to thank them for all they do for the rest of us.

Two Ponies 9:19 AM  

To all of the vodka lovers in the crowd
there was, and still may be, a bar in Vegas called Red Square.
I think it was at Mandalay Bay and easy to find because of the headless statue of Lenin near the door.
They had a selection of Russian vodkas that was unbelievable
and what I tried was unlike anything I had ever had. Wonderful.
To go with your vodka was a fine selection of caviar.
Great place to spend your winnings.

Brian 9:29 AM  

Easy doing down clues first. 6 minutes faster.

Anonymous 9:37 AM  

Nearly everyone commenting here, including Rex, focuses on how much they liked or disliked the puzzle. Who cares? This one needs more explaining and less adoring.

semioticus (shelbyl) 9:49 AM  

There's something about Timothy Polin's clues and/or fill that just doesn't do it for me. I had no pleasure in solving this. Zero. And this isn't the first time it happened.

Nancy 9:56 AM  

Maybe if I'd understood why MOTHS (19A) are an outdoor lighting feature (?), I would have seen what on earth --OLLYMAM at 20A was. And maybe if I'd known how to spell PIMIENTOS, that would have helped too. (PIMENTOS, anyone?) I finally filled in BELT LOOP, then picked up the theme at STOCKS COLL when I saw the APSE at 38A. Oh, I said, let's see what's going on where the other tiny little circles are. And I saw. The tiny little circles were more a hindrance than a help and just annoyed me. They don't seem to involve enough letters. I guess this was clever. It certainly was hard. But I couldn't really concentrate: I just got a letter under my door early this morning that says a ginormous construction project putting two apartments together will commenceright next door to me on August 15. It could go on for six months!!!! Anyone have any idea where someone who doesn't drive a car might escape to for a few weeks to get away from the worst of the initial demolition? Somewhere that's less than $300 a night? I'm already a basket case, and it hasn't happened yet.

Mohair Sam 10:06 AM  

@Nancy - "I'm already a basket case"

I'm letting that slide, you owe me.

Nancy 10:10 AM  

@Mohair (10:06) -- How's that again??????

Anonymous 10:13 AM  

You need a bigger basket.

Peter 10:18 AM  

I was looking for examples of TED in use and discovered passages like this: "In the afternoon the throwndown grass cocks should be shaken up, after which the grass which had been tedded in the forenoon is windrowed and put into grass cocks, in the manner just described. Before the evening, the throwndown grass cocks are put into larger cocks, called hand cocks,."

Clearly, we must demand far more obscure farming terminology!! I want puzzles with GRASS COCKS, HAND COCKS, WINDROWED, HAY KNIFE, HORSE RAKE, THROWNDOWN....

Did I mention HAND COCKS?

RooMonster 10:21 AM  

Hey All !
Wraparound themers. Unfortunately I missed that. :-( I thought it was just the "belts" in the circles that looped, not the entire themers. Was gonna raise a stink about 'kids these days shortening words' with WOOLLY MAM. *Headslap* Har.

Agree that WOOLLY looks oddlly. Two L's? Huh. Who knew? Is BELLTLOOP far behind?

Not sure what to call this symmetry. It's Top/Bottom flipped 90°. Technically not left/right. Right? Squinting a bit reveals the belt grid art, for me. Disregard the Top and Bottom 5 black squares to better be able to see it.

NE was my downfall. Had to cheat for CAL, managed to get CLEAN AIR, knowing my rda was wrong. But CRUCIBLE was WOEy, VOIT and LADS were unknowns, and the whole extra WHOOLLLLLLLLY MAM L's just did me in. Also, since not grokking the whole themers "LOOPing", had STOCKSfaLL. Ugh.

But did like puz overall, even though the ole brain was fizzing and popping while solving. Different, like @M&A says, different is good.


jberg 10:44 AM  

I had the same spelling mistakes as everyone else, and while I got TEDS I didn't believe it until I looked it up. (That was OK, puzzle was finished already). I thought it was a fine puzzle,lots of fun to solve.

@Nancy, the clue says "outdoor lighting fixtures?" not features. I think the idea is that moths die and get stuck on, or affixed to, the lights. I've got a bunch hanging from my rear porch light right now.

Per @Rex's suggestions, the problem is that they have to be able to wrap into a standalone word in the West. GARTER is pretty doable; BLACK maybe harder. -- oh wait, it doesn't have to be a word in the East, right? So anything would work.

How can you not love a puzzle with HEDONISTIC in it?

evil doug 10:47 AM  

Nancy: Port Authority Bus Terminal. It's free!

Stanley Hudson 10:54 AM  

@Powderfinger: genuine LOL.

@Peter, if you perform all that correctly you'll be the COCK o' the walk.

kitshef 10:57 AM  

@Nancy, @jberg - I think it's fixtures as in "Spike Lee was a fixture at Knick games" - something that you see in a place frequently. You see moths around outdoor lighting a lot.

mathgent 11:02 AM  

I think that Will should have sent this one back. Too many problems. They aren't called pimiento olives, they're olives stuffed with pimientos. No paper would run a headline STOCKSCOLLAPSE. The kinds of belts are forced. Another Thursday letdown. I rage, rage against the dying of the rebus.

Joseph Michael 11:03 AM  

If you can actually see a belt in this grid, maybe you've been doing too many crossword puzzles.

At first I thought this puzzle would be impossible to solve but then gradually it "cracked" open with iCES UP. Figured out the MAM MOTHS loop when I finally realized how to spell WOOLLY.

Unfortunately I didn't figure out how to spell SKYY so ended up with a DNF thanks to final Y. Besides I thought the vodka should have been "Tito" which is much more competitive with the over-rated Grey Goose.

The theme is clever, but didn't quite work me since the circled word in each themer didn't have any relation to the word being "looped," e.g. what does a TOOL BELT have to do with PIMIENTO OLIVES? Also had a problem with LAP BELT which seems like an an odd way to say SEAT BELT.

Neverthless it's hard not to like a Timothy Polin puzzle. Some really great clues, such as those for LIVES, MOTHS, NESTER, KABOOM, and STIGMA (I was praying it wouldn't be "smegma").

Not familiar with the Rouffignac cave drawings, but do know about Woolly Mammoth Theatre in Washington DC, though I've never been there. I wonder what their REARMOST seats are like.

Fountains of Golden Fluids 11:04 AM  

Does anyone remember COCKING?

QuasiMojo 11:05 AM  

@Nancy, what's your hipster tolerance level? Asheville NC is a fun place to hide out for a week. If you can get there without driving. Or Ogunquit ME

boomer54 11:07 AM  

Anti-TEDS ... Take Heart ...Clue could have been ...Cruz and Nugent ...

Jamie C 11:24 AM  

EXTORTion and blackmail are two different things.

Hartley70 11:26 AM  

I'm pleased as can be that I got VOIT off the V in VItal, which of course in the end had to change to VINYL. It took me too long to see the wraparound. I knew the words were there. I just kept looking in all the wrong places. (Sorry, terrible ear worm just struck.) I didn't know TED and considered bED, but in the end just let it be. (Better.)

@LisaG I've often thought teaching dogs to read would be my ideal occupation. Welcome!

@Nancy, you will survive, with a little help from your friends. (Best.) A world cruise, perhaps? Or Bose noise cancelling headphones? Either one would work.

Mike Bailey 11:29 AM  


Arrogance and ignorance is a bad combination.

Natick Runner 11:41 AM  

@jberg & @Nancy, I took it to mean that MOTHs are "fixtures" around outdoor lighting - kinda like sots are fixtures at bars (more likely sipping SKYY than Grey Goose). Made sense to me after filling it in.

Liked HEDONISTIC and the rarer full-named version of our familiar lawman, WYATTEARP.

In addition to my aforementioned lucky first guesses, I found lots of gimmes to confidently fill in: MCCOY, ARLO, DUEL, LONI, ILSA, VENT. Made for smooth sailing.

Liked the clue for OMERTA.

TEDS was a WOE, but I went with it.

Bob Mills 11:42 AM  

This is an example of a puzzle created by someone with an overactive imagination. Not clever or funny, just overactive.

Aketi 11:47 AM  

@Nancy, I agree with Harley on the cruise idea,

I wanted more belt loops

WAY...........PARK (Although the belt would have to come first)

jb129 11:47 AM  

I agree with Rex on this puzzle (I thought he was going to take over the Wil shortz spot????)

This puzzle was hard work (I got BELT LOOP right away) but with little payback - as in enjoying doing it.

jb129 11:47 AM  

Why does the trash can keep appearing on my posts?

Dick Swart 11:50 AM  

In spite of Rex, a very enjoyable puzzle. And the theme is certainly complex.

And yes! There is a belt in the scheme. Simply invert the puzzle and superimpose the star layout of Orion the Hunter on it. You will find Orion's Belt just where it should be, but Betelgeuse is slightly out of position.

Aketi 11:54 AM  

I don't often watch MMA fights, but I did watch them last weekend at a restaurant with members of the fight club. I knew wrestlers would get a giant BELT as s prize and that they seem to have gotten bigger over the years. I didn't know that they were awarded for MMA fights too. The belts are now so big that it seems like the next step is to turn them into dual purpose BELT chest protectors. Not one person could explain to me why BELTS were given as prizes and what prompted the size inflation

JC66 12:01 PM  


Click on it if you want to delete your post

puzzlehoarder 12:02 PM  

I hate to admit that I had a single letter dnf on a puzzle this easy but it happened. It was a byproduct of hurried solving and doing it on paper where there's nothing to point your errors out. Anything pertaining to social media is a weak point for me. I knew 34D had something to do with carbon just not exactly what. STOCKSROLL made no sense to me but neither did SKYY (not a drinker.) I started in the NE and was working my way south. I didn't figure out the theme until I'd finished and by then I'd forgotten all about CRS. What was really weird was I didn't notice it last night after catching onto the circled words/ BELT connection. Even going over the clue lists at xwordinfo I didn't notice. I picked up on it reading the comments this morning. At first I thought I'd completely missed there being a middle!e themed but then I remembered seeing LAP/BELT last night. I'm at the firehouse today hence the late commenting. I'm here for 48 hours so unfortunately I'll be doing the next two puzzles on my tablet.

Joe Bleaux 12:03 PM  

It's not such a mind boggler for daily readers of the Times' print product. Such "inside baseball" features are common on Page 2, which was redesigned fairly recently.

Malcolm Gibson 12:13 PM  

Hmmm, quickest Thursday ever, even after a short stall in the SW corner. Not sure why, but everything just quickly fell into place. In fact, at the end (when I always rate the puzzle a la Rex), I gave it a "Too Easy". Oh, and yes, I, at first, left the second "i" out of pimiento...until I came up one letter short. I do find most Thursdays more challenging than what Rex rates 'em.

Anonymous 12:15 PM  

So Rex also dislikes puzzels when they fool him? Seemed like the puzzle played fair for a Thursday.
Is Obama the new crossword favorite? Probablly not, because Ike has so many different vairations, but our previous president does appear so often you wonder how crosswords were constructed without the 5 letter word with three vowels?

Joe Bleaux 12:37 PM  

Fun puzzle. Thanks, TP. I approached from the middle up, got the gimmick with the woolly moths. Had the same prob as Rex at first on "refuse mercy." That, I thought, called for "GIVE no quarter." Oh, well. Seeing how I could be wrong was an "aha" moment, too. Glad OBAMA was gotten quickly on the crosses ... I thought the dog's name would be at least a couple of syllables, and maybe the prez's three initials a phonetic-pronouncement thing. But, no. Who's a good Bho?

Masked and Anonymous 12:43 PM  

Righteous dude of a ThursPuz. WOOLLY AMMO BELTS was my fave themer. And who doesn't luv havin a few belts, while solvin the puz? thUmbsUp.

Superb grid art [wraparound belt] -- and with the ultra-rare North-South symmetry situation, to enable said art. Can't say enough good things about this puppy, sooo … let's tour the darkside …

staff weeject pick: CCS = {Burnikels, and others??}.

fave wraparound leftovers, in order of increasin desperation:
1. TACO. [Coat belt]
2. APSE. ["Goo leak! Fasten yer SEAP belts!"]
3. ILSA. [Go on a SAIL belt cruise]
4. COPES. [SCOPE belt -- O.R. device for operatin on patients' money belts]
5. DANGER. [E.R. DANG belt -- another medical term, left as an exercise for the reader]
6. MOOCH. [Where is he … he was here a nanosecond ago …? ]

TEDS. har
Honrable mention to the CAL RESIN ETS column.

MOOED. Great clue. A gnu low? [yeah yeah, I know … sorry]

Thanx, Mr. Polin. Loopy good fun. M&A likes loopy and/or different [yo, @Roo].

Masked & Anonymo3Us


GILL I. 12:48 PM  

Why, when I finally got WOOLLY MAM, did I go looking for the other MAL? I forgot about the MOTHS. Gaaa, that took me forever to figure out. Oh, GOSH damn, it's a WOOLLY MAMMOTH not a mammal.
This took me a long time but when I finally cleaned up messes like stinks instead of STIGMA (don't ask.) Egad for GOSH, nee for AKA and, well, you get the idea, I sat back and did a WOW.
KRISHNA was my hardest entry. I don't think of Hare Krishna in any blue hue, instead I think of street robed chanters in Swamy in Hippyland. Hey, I learned something new! Welcome to all the new blue people....
We've had TEDS in the past. Didn't know rats broke the OMERTA code. Oooh..THAT rat... and giving away the code of honor. GOSH, I was imagining them running some sort of maze squeaking to get out.
So, HEDONISM II wasn't correct. Jamaica's play ground - nudity is an option - don't sag.
@Loren. Peter Ustinov was my first laugh today...How long does it take you to come up with that stuff?
@Nancy...Ay caramba muchacha. You can live cheaply in Oaxaca. Rent an Airbnb and eat delicious TACOS daily. Cost you about $200 a week or less and you can learn espanol.
You're pretty clever Timothy Polin.

Masked and Anonymous 12:59 PM  

Due to misspellin problems, the staff has decided to move "1. TACO" to the bottom of the wraparound leftovers list. Please adjust your desperation, accordionly.

"Wrong Again, TACO Breath"

offered in atonement:

Jeff 1:17 PM  

My sister sent a link to the NY Times Live doing the crossword. It's kind of interesting to see how beginners approach the puzzle.

Teedmn 1:29 PM  

Not a fast solve for me today, but successful. I had most of the same misspellings as many here but nothing held me up too long. ILSA reminded me how to spell PIMIENTO[O] and MAMMOTHS came up after I figured out the theme so it was just a matter of back spelling from MOTHS to figure out why 20A wasn't working. I even stuck the L into the circle in 39A, knowing the theme and having APSE.

SKYY far too similar to SKYeY (hi @Diana).

I did have to give up my "uhOH" at 4D, which I got from the MOTHS "H" but I don't think there is any astigmatism attached to that (thanks for that story, @LMS).

Lots of fun, Timothy Polin; I love the sideways mirror puzzle layout (and I can just see the BELT buckle and wrap-around end in the grid.)

Anonymous 2:07 PM  

Digiorno's is better than Tombstone. Much better. Makes me question everything else you wrote.

Anonymous 2:12 PM  

Tx 4 the visual suggestion. I guess I see it now.

Dolgo 2:24 PM  

I have a cavil on VINYL, We were doing "Laura" in a community when I was working in a summer theater back in the early 60's. The plot involves the detective breaking one of Laura's phonograph records by dropping it on the floor. Vinyl wouldn't break. Not even old 78's would break. We finally made records out of plaster-of-paris and painting them black. Soooo--needless to say that one clue made little sense to me.

okanaganer 3:12 PM  

Interesting that TEDS was so summarily dissed by Rex, and yet became the most talked-about answer. I loved the snippet posted by @Peter.

You know who should have named his pet after his initials? Pierre Elliot Trudeau.

Carola 4:10 PM  

A real brain-racker for me and worth every minute. Tough start, had to scan clues all the way to CHOLERA. Descending from there, STOCK COLL-APSE gave me an inkling of the theme, while PIMIENTO crosses got me the crucial BELT component. Needed the AMMO BELT to finish up top, Liked ICES UP as a nod to the habitat of the WOOLLY MAMMOTH.

Joe Dipinto 5:25 PM  

@Dolgo -- vinyl records won't break if you simply drop them, but they will break in two quite easily if you forcefully bend them with your hands. (However, the clue does seem to imply that it is easy to *accidentally* break them, which isn't the case.)

Aketi 7:06 PM  


Unknown 8:22 PM  

My printer was low on ink, so it didn't print out the dark boxes. Anyone else notice this crossword is NOT symmetrical? Makes it tough to shade in the empty spaces as you go.

Unknown 8:24 PM  

Or Dixie Oglesby Goddard.

Sunnyvale Solver 10:03 PM  

Strongly object to the clue for ILIAD (12D: Long, old yarn).

To call something a "yarn" is to state that it is totally made up, i.e., totally fictional. But the ILIAD is likely an account of actual people in an actual war - yes, there is dialog and other details that have been added, thus perhaps you could call it "fictionalized". But it's not made up whole cloth.

The Odyssey is a yarn. Gilgamesh is a yarn. The Iliad is not a yarn.

TartanCalf 5:31 PM  

Teds is not a stupid word! I finished using our tedder just an hour ago. It spreads hay or straw out to dry before baling. I think an apology is in order It's the only hay job I do!

MaharajaMack 3:19 AM  

Fastest time ever for a Thursday!

acornembryo 7:22 PM  

Saw at least three farmers tedding hay last week - helps dry it out before raking! And this was within 50 miles of.manhattan but above commenter is right, population has become quite far from the farm... fun thursday puzzle though

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Diana,LIW 12:32 AM  

Just dropping in late at night to say a heartfelt thanks to all who wished Mr. W well. Yesterday was looooooong, as LMS would say. Surgery - 5 hours, recovery 3 hours, pre-op wait3 hours. Haven't yet eaten so that's next. See you tomorrow.

Lady Di

spacecraft 11:08 AM  

Okay, let's get something straight once and for all--this is the second time I've seen this error:

The LIEGE does NOT work for the lord! He IS the lord! SERFS work for HIM! Got it now?

That G was my last letter in. I know no ROEG; maybe he's a rogue, who cares. But there sat that LIEGE again; I couldn't believe that the same mistake had been made TWICE. But what else is LIE_E? It's a synonym, for cryin' out loud. "My LIEGE" = "My lord," or, "Milord."

The rest of this was pretty easy, given late-week clues as is proper for a Thursday. But WYATTEARP and HEDONISTIC are gimmes that shred the center in an amusingly-shaped N/S symmetric grid. As to TEDS, it's a word. As Brad said to Jeff, "Learn it. Know it. Live it."

We were just talking about Luscious LONI, and here she is! Put on the DOD sash, honey! could just stand there and hold it...

I liked this; it's a bit different--and as we all know, different is good (cf. the final scene of "Groundhog Day"). Birdie.

thefogman 11:12 AM  

I completed with one little exception. I got burned on 1D when I debated between SKIM and SlIM for the clue Less than 1%, say. I reasoned that a less than one per cent chance is a slim chance but at the same time knew that KABOOM was a possible answer to 1A. I decided to go with SlIM figuring lABOOM was some kind of hip and/or internet slang. #Fail! DOD is LONI Anderson although Jan Smithers who played Bailey Quarters was/is much more my type, YESSIREE.

thefogman 11:17 AM  

To DLIW - Sending positive vibes to Mr. W for a speedy and full recovery.

Burma Shave 11:39 AM  




fakt chekker 11:52 AM  

I was with @spacecraft, but now confused. From Wiktionary:


liege (plural lieges)
1.A free and independent person; specifically, a lord paramount; a sovereign.
2.The subject of a sovereign or lord; a liegeman.

rondo 12:22 PM  

Pretty nice puz with only w/o having Santa CLAus first. VOIT a gimme for their rubber basketball; playing outdoors will ruin your nice NCAA regulation leather ball. I’ve had several of each.

I hope to increase my VINYL collection once moved into the new property. HEDONISTIC enough to get an entertainment center that easily accommodates my turntable. GOSH it’s a pain the way it’s set up now.

Recent WKRP, ERGO yeah baby LONI shows up.

Better than the usual Thursday rebus-iness. YESSIREE.

Anonymous 1:25 PM  

As for vodka, a panel tasted unlabeled vodkas of all types. Smirnoff placed the highest, and is relatively inexpensive. Skyy is very smooth, GG overrated by snob appeal.

Diana,LIW 1:33 PM  

A dnf 'cause I didn't totally get it - gee, my mind was elsewhere. TEDS? Mr. W always answers "TED' when I ask him a crossword clue. Have to tall him when I visit today. Surgery took so long they want to keep their eyes on him for another day.

Just didn't get with this puzzle. Probably me.

Funny, but OFL's comments today confirm for me that his criteria foe "difficulty" is only based on his timing. His misspellings have nothing to do with the puzzle's ease or difficulty. Love those PIMIENTOOLIVES.

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords

leftcoastTAM 3:41 PM  

The big "aha" moment came at the very end when everything was in place.

The BELTLOOP, its function, and everything on it (or the LAP near it?) from the AMMO to the TOOL. No SKIMpy theme here.

The previous, small "aha" was seeing the STOCKCOLLAPSE, which made the other themers visible.

Some resistant fill: STIGMA, CRUCIBLE, and TEDS(?).

Alas, had an error (AKA dnf) at SKYe/MCCOe cross. Know SKYY well enough, which should have identified MCOY, but I simply missed it.

Liked this one a lot.

rain forest 4:21 PM  

Loved the North/South symmetry for some reason. Different. Really liked the dual-use themers (they loop! They include examples of loops!). Different.

I wrote in VOIT immediately as I owned both a VOIT football and basketball - they wore like iron. Do they still make them?

@rondo - I have a slide-out shelf for my turntable. Works like a charm, even though my VINYL COLLECTION was badly depleted in the settlement.

For some strange reason I knew how to spell PIMIENTO correctly, but are those things called PIMIENTO OLIVES, or are they OLIVES stuffed with PIMIENTOS? I have to know. I also have to know if people can distinguish different vodkas in a blind tasting. I will admit I detect a certain, almost "fruitiness" in Grey Goose, but if it is mixed with anything, it doesn't matter.


leftcoastTAM 4:30 PM  

@fakt chekker, @spacecraft--

I chekt my trusty unabridged M-W, and agree that "liege" as defined can be a bit confusing.

It's clear that the liege is without question the lord. It also seems clear enough that the vassal or serf is the subject who has liege obligations to the lord and may be called a "liegeman", but he is not the lord.

Conclusion: @spacecraft is right.

spacecraft 6:49 PM  

Thanks, @fakt checker & lefty. Quite correct: a liegeman is one who owes alLIEG[E]iance to the LIEGE: hence the word. And fast if not furious recovery to Mr. Waiting. <3

Anonymous 7:48 PM  

After four Thursdays without hints I need to look up answers four clues. A odd bit of symmetry. Two were missing one letter. US_C and C_S. Was not sure MOOED was right but it is. AMP And SKIM were the two full hints.

As for theme,well the looping is both the answer the long and the circled answers. First assumed that the missing "looped" part had to be contained in the circled letters. Of course that did not work. After finishing the puzzle you see it.

How about the rest of you?


wcutler 8:03 PM  

I liked the puzzle a lot, but had to come here to find out what the circles were about. And I hadn't seen the belt, but now that I'm told about it, it looks just like the click belts on backpacks, where the right side (as we're looking at it) fits into the left side. Under a loop. That's pretty good.

I love reading this blog, but it's a bit distressing how many comments indicate that people didn't read other people's comments. People just want to talk, not listen to what others want to say?

leftcoastTAM 8:54 PM  

@wcutler--Good comment.

kitshef 3:44 PM  

wcutler - so late here you may never see it, but a lot of people like to post there comments without seeing what Rex and/or the other commenters thought, to avoid being influenced. Then they go back and read everything.

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Tarheeled 12:32 PM  

Fun PUZZLE, I kept slogging away until the trick appeared. I have know about ted for meany eons of xwording. TED is als a lecture venue. When I was younger I had a bigger belly than I have now. I always threatened to have it tattooed "VOIT" or maybe
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