Silent film opener / WED 8-16-17 / J Peterman employee on Seinfeld / Kind of soup mentioned in Genesis / Kind of tea from Asia / Name assumed by billiards great Rudolf Wanderone

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Constructor: Andrew Kingsley and John Lieb

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: SPIN CLASS (60A: Modern exercise option ... or what the answers to 17-, 26-, 36- or 49-Across could teach?) — answers are all dudes who spin ... things:

Theme answers:
  • SPIDER-MAN (17A: Peter Parker is his alter ego) – he spins webs (not really, see below)
  • SKRILLEX (26A: Grammy-winning music producer and D.J.) — he spins records (OK)
  • MINNESOTA FATS (36A: Name assumed by billiards great Rudolf Wanderone) — he spins ... what, the cue ball? Pfff, OK
  • PAT SAJAK (49A: Longtime co-worker of Vanna White) — he spins ... nothing. I mean, he sometimes spins the wheel late in the game when they're running out of time, right, but ...???! Don't the contestants spin? Vanna spins more than Pat (does she still "spin" the damn letters or is it all touch-screen digital malarkey now?)
Word of the Day: IRIS-IN (47D: Silent film opener)

noun, Movies, Television.
the gradual appearance of an image or scene through an expanding circle.(
• • •

Seems very, very musty and tired, both at the theme and fill levels, and I know at least one of these guys is not at all old, so what the hell? SKRILLEX is pretty 21st-century, but all the other dudes ... and the fill? Very old style. They brought ASSAM back, damn. And "L.A. LAW" (current!). And IRIS-IN, which I know will befuddle many, and which I know only because I saw it once (or twice) in crosswords. ANI DiFranco is back, EMO Philips is back. The LSTS are active again. "AJA" is on the turntable. It's not even that the fill is so terrible; it's just relentlessly "you again?" And the theme is too wobbly. SPIDER-MAN *slings* webs. To say he "spins" webs is to fundamentally misunderstand him. He's not Charlotte. He doesn't wait around for flies. He *slings* the damn webs. "Webslinger" is, in fact, one of his aliases (whereas "Webspinner" ... isn't). I wouldn't say a billiards player "spins" balls, although he might *put spin* on a ball (give it some English, I think is the term), so fine, I'll give you Fats, and SKRILLEX, but PAT SAJAK I will not give you. He. Doesn't. Spin. Contestants spin. As I say above, I think Pat might spin if it's late in the show and they're running out of time, but in general, no. No. Unless the game has changed so dramatically in the last 20 years (last time I looked at it, I think) that it's become unrecognizable. Which I doubt. So the theme just doesn't go the distance.

[Dammit, this song says "spins a web"! Bah! I stand by my objection!]

Amazingly easy, though, this thing. Had vowel trouble with SKRILLEX (had -IX) and MARADONA (wasn't sure about that second "A"); had trouble figuring out BOB (33D: Short cut); and didn't know HBO NOW was a thing (HBO GO, I know). The only issues that were even semi-serious, though, came in the SE, with IRIS-IN and KATANA and the clue on ANNIE (64A: Fictional orphan protected by Punjab). Also, as I've said before, I'm terrible and "comes after and before"-type clues, so IT IS needed crosses (57A: Words said before and after "what"). Still finished in the low 3s—a fast Wednesday time for me.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. [Kind of tea from Asia] is about the worst clue I've ever seen. Every kind of tea is "from Asia." Black, green, oolong ... Asia, Asia, Asia. Come on.

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


jae 12:06 AM  

Easy except for @Rex SE which took a smidge more effort. KATANA and IRIS IN did not immediately leap to mind.

And speaking of leaping to mind, MINSK always evokes the semi-erotic movie "Rochelle, Rochelle".

Fun theme, I did not catch it until reveal and then I had to recheck the theme answers.

Pretty smooth with a bit of zip, liked it a lot and so did Jeff at Xwordinfo who gave it POW?

Whirred Whacks 12:07 AM  

I wish the NYT clue-writers would come up with some alternatives for NYE that don't refer to the frickin' douchebag "Bill ___, Science Guy."

Perhaps comedian Louie ___ (NYE)
Abbrev. for the last day of the year (NYE)

Anonymous 12:17 AM  

I can see the blurb on his new posters: Emo Phillips is back! - Rex Parker

Anonymous 12:26 AM  

But PAT SAJAK could most assuredly teach a class on SPINning that wheel, couldn't he? And wouldn't FATS be able to teach a class on how to put SPIN on the cue ball, no? And don't webs need to be spun either before or as their slung?

Bryce 12:28 AM  

Are there...less cantankerous NYT Crossword blogs out there? This is exhausting.

Seth 12:31 AM  

Rex, I think you're being overly critical of the theme answers. The reveal doesn't say these people actually spin things. It says that they could teach a class on spinning. And in that respect, the theme answers are spot on. MINNESOTA FATS could definitely teach a class on spinning cue balls. SKRILLEX is obvious. PAT SAJAK could definitely teach a class on spinning the wheel. And SPIDERMAN could teach a class on spinning webs. So...all theme answers are great, in my opinion.

Johnny 12:44 AM  

- SPIDERMAN indeed spins webs, the song says so. He also slings them.
- SKRILLEX is the most out-of-date entry in the whole puzzle.
- Just as the captain of a ship doesn't actually touch the controls, PATSAJAK spins the wheel by ordering the contestants to do so. Pat Sajak is the boss, therefore he is spinning the wheel by extension. The wheel spins because Pat commands it to be spun.

I once got drunk with Louis NYE and Buddy Hackett in a Chinese restaurant in Santa Monica.

Arlene 12:48 AM  

IRISIN was new to me - had it from the crosses and still didn't know what it was. Ah - the education one gets from these daily exercises.

Hartley70 1:11 AM  

I liked the theme. I couldn't see the connection until the revealer which is fun. It was a fast solve but very enjoyable.

When I hear MINNESOTAFATS, all I can see is Jackie Gleason. I live with a billiards fanatic and you can bet there's some spinning going on continuously in a practice session. I sat through one tonight. It was $2 taco night in Dover VT so I wasn't bored a bit and I lived without a WINELIST. A Stella did the trick.

The connection between SPIDEy, PAT and SPIN was just fine in my brain. Sometimes one can just pick these things to death. SKRILLIX is just obviously appropriate.

I was relieved to see this EMO, even though I don't know if it's a man or woman's name. I'm tired of the music. Does anyone not love a KIT Kat? I'm going to sleep thinking of one and that should guarantee sweet dreams.

okanaganer 1:18 AM  

I YAM what I YAM!

So sure of that answer, I totally forgot to check that the crosses worked. Thanks, happy pencil on a Wednesday. CRINGE!

The Planet 1:25 AM  

Apparently Whirred is one of those douche bag climate change deniers.

Trombone Tom 2:02 AM  

Went really fast for a Wednesday. @Seth I, too, think OFL's criticisms of the theme answers are too picky. C'mon guys these are crossword puzzles; a little slack ought to be allowed.

Didn't know IRIS IN or HBONOW, but they're inferable.

Larry Gilstrap 2:23 AM  

What @Seth said. Wow! Tough crowd for Wednesday. Definitely, the themers and the revealer are lifted from popular culture. Some were out of my wheelhouse, but I enjoyed having them appear via the crosses. OFL was, apparently, looking for a more cohesive theme structure. Slowed him down to under three minutes.

I spent way more than that amount of time on that little mess in the Fla. Panhandle. I watch the silents on TCM on Sunday nights, so finally the impossible IRIS IN came into focus. Had I known that that ANNIE! was the orphan; the Punjab clue was lost on me. The only Samurai film I ever saw involved turtles.

Once I got out of the English teaching gig, I have enjoyed reading science writers. I like Bill NYE's writing. He lives the scientific method, and has actually changed his policies on such things as GMO products, for example. Sorry, but I'm certain he sides with the majority of scientists on the reality of anthropogenic climate change.

My fashionista actually was a contestant on Wheel of Fortune. She met a talent coordinator on a flight and was fast-tracked to appear. She had never seen the show previously, so for weeks we played the game. I went to the taping in Culver City, and that Vanna White kept gazing at me even as she tapped the touch screens. Oddly, I wasn't creeped out. Ok, I made that part up. She, not Vanna, won $4k, but could have won a lot more; there is no "W" in granite counter tops. Sore subject around the cabin.

David G. 2:28 AM  

My least favorite answer was I'M SORE. Ugh. Is any phrase with I'm in front of it acceptable now? I'M SICK. I'M TIRED. I'M HOT. I'M LAZY. I'M HORNY.

No. Stop the madness.

My favorite clue/answer? Probably the Snowden/EXILE combo. Made me think for a moment.

SKRILLEX seemed like a weird attempt to be current. Pop culture answers should at least feign some pretense at sustained relevance.

Johnny 2:50 AM  


"Selznick International Pictures" was the studio for "Gone With The Wind," not MGM. The film was shot entirely at the Selznick studio in Culver City and on the RKO Forty Acres backlot nearby (all of Selznick's studio facilities were leased from RKO). There were a handful of exterior location shots done elsewhere, including only one single exterior shot done on MGM's nearby Lot #2 also in Culver City.

David O. Seznick hated MGM boss Louis B. Mayer but had to make a deal with him in order to get MGM contract star Clark Gable, who was the only choice to play Rhett Butler. In exchange for Gable, MGM put up half the film's budget and took half the film's post-distribution profits, and the film would be distributed by MGM's parent company Loews Inc., and would premiere and first run at Loews theaters nationwide.

Selznick intentionally avoided using any MGM facilities so that Mayer couldn't claim any artistic authorship bragging rights for MGM, with that single short exterior shot being the one exception. GWTW was a Selznick International Picture, not an MGM picture.

Incidentally, Louis B. Mayer was David O. Selznick's father-in-law.

Loren Muse Smith 3:55 AM  

Rex – when you said that Spiderman didn’t SPIN a web, I totally believed you, thinking I had gotten that song wrong all these years. I even took the new lyrics for a mental, well, spin: Slings a web, any size…. Glad you noted you were wrong.

I loved this. Have to brag. I had the SPIN of the reveal, and when I had just MINNESOTA FATS and SPIDER MAN, I guessed the theme and how they related. I one thousand percent agree with the others who argue that you can certainly teach someone about spin if you play pool. The complaint that there’s a fundamental difference between spinning a ball and putting spin on a ball is startling.

The ball-spin angle reminded me of Four Square. Man, we had some knock-down-drag-outs playing Four Square out back after supper. If anyone put “English,” as Rex said, on the ball, all hell broke loose.

And I have no problem at all with PAT SAJAK in the grid. If I were going on Wheel of Fortune, I would listen to any advice he could give me on how to spin the wheel. Bet he’d offer some terrific pointers….

Very nice, northwest corner with CRINGE/OH NO right over REGRET. So, LaVerne, when are you due?

A couple of second-tier themers with TOP (2 of’em), ANGLE (as in spin doctor), and that CAMARO you take for a spin.

Andrew, John – nice job. I liked learning IRIS IN.

BarbieBarbie 4:53 AM  

Wow, @okanaganer, what a great answer, even if wrong.
@Johnny, thanks for the GWTW insights. This is such a great blog for learning stuff.
Agree with all who point out the theme is teaching, not doing. Loved this theme and the way all the themers (4!!) were completely different takes on it. Very clever.
One and a half rounds. Easy easy easy except for a mental hiccup on MINNESOTAFATS. I read the clue and my pre-coffee brain kept saying "something about skinny..." Which was right coin, wrong side. But it came after one cycle. As did the DJ I didn't know. Another new thing learned before the coffee is cold.
Even though this was easy it was far from boring. I felt good about the retrieval process for most of the major clues. And that's what makes a puzzle feel satisfying.
Thanks for this one!
Yesterday I learned what the notarobot CAPTCHA acronym stands for. Too early for complete retrieval but the last bit is Telling Computers and Humans Apart. Cute, huh? Now to identify a few store fronts...

Anonymous 5:13 AM  

Sajak giving the Wheel a final SPIN when game time is running out is actually a fairly common occurrence.

Lewis 6:13 AM  

@loren -- That intersection of CRINGE with REGRET and OH NO seemed very TOPICAL to me! My head is still SPINning.

Quick and cute. Clever/original theme. I'm very grateful, John and Andrew, for the effort you put into this, because it brought me pleasure. I could say this practically every day, and it would be heartfelt every time!

Brendan Behan 6:40 AM  

Hey leave Whirred Whacks alone !

Rex: It is what it is.

QuasiMojo 6:41 AM  

What else do they pay Pat Sajak to do? Of course he spins that silly wheel. Iris In was brand new to me. Is it only used in silent films? Way too much pop junk in this one for me to give it a thumbs up. Was debating with some young people yesterday about the direction of the NYT puzzle of late. They were very excited about the changes, the use of current pop culture, comic books, sci-fi, sorcery, video games, rap stars and the lot. I guess that is what they want and they are getting it. It may be time for me to take up macrame.

kitshef 7:15 AM  

I would have thought that FIFA was at rock bottom in my estimation, but knowing that put the cheater MARADONA on a par with the brilliant PELE proves me wrong.

Theme escaped me to the very end. Would never have understood it without the revealer.

If you have ever wondered how it is possible that in this day of information availability, there can still be people who don't believe [fill in blank here], look no further then @Rex's Spiderman rant. His own research shows that he's wrong ... but he won't admit it.

Really solid, interesting grid, but … sorry, M&A.

Chris Sorry 7:18 AM  

This was, I think, Puzzle #2 or 3 at the BOSWORDS tournament held a couple weeks ago. It was excellently run, and in the most beautiful venue you can imagine. The weather was glorious, and even though I made errors on two puzzles, I had a really nice time.

LisaG 7:22 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Irene 7:25 AM  

Horrible puzzle.
Like others, I was totally sure of (and enchanted by) I yam what I yam

HBO Now?
All gettable by crosses but no fun.

Cmon, guys.

Irene 7:27 AM  

Also, what's the deal with Incan?
To me, an early Peruvian is an Inca.

Anonymous 8:00 AM  

Although some of the fill was musty, the revealers were enjoyable enough. As others have stated, these folks could definitely teach a spin class so Rex missed it on that part of the review. Sometimes I think these reviews are just churned out without much reflection--just blog whatever comes to mind without a second thought.

mmorgan 8:16 AM  

Had no idea what a SKRILLEX or a SPINCLASS was but I got them from crosses. I don't mind "dated" puzzles or "musty" fill but this wasn't an especially exciting theme to me.

L 8:25 AM  

Waaaay too many proper nouns to make this interesting, especially on a Wednesday. KATANA and IRISIN = DNF.

Birchbark 8:31 AM  

Sumac tea isn't from Asia, nor is Mormon tea.

Nancy 8:39 AM  

IRIS IN????? (47D) What in the world does that mean????? Add to that the fact that I know nothing about Samurai swords (46D) and that while I might say "What IT IS", I wouldn't be likely to say "IT IS what" (57A) and you have a two-letter DNF. Those were the letters I would have guessed had I been in a guessing mood, but I wasn't. Because I DNC that I DNF. There was a lot of arcane trivia knowledge needed -- some pop, some not -- to solve this puzzle, and the puzzle mostly annoyed me.

Speaking of some of the non-PPP answers, CRINGE; OH NO; IRE; ANTIS and TOPICAL, I need to turn on the TV now and find out if we still have a country. It's not a slam dunk by any means.

Wm. C. 8:42 AM  

@Irene7:27 --

Re: "To me, an early Peruvian is an Inca."

Yeah, after thinking about it a bit, you're correct. If the clue were just "Peruvian," it could be either a noun or an adjective, and the adjectival choice would be "Incan."

But with the adjective "early" in the lead, "Peruvian" must be a noun, and the fill should be "Inca."

Z 8:43 AM  

Remember me going from noodles to ranting about hamburgers? This showed up today to prove my point. Also, thanks for the illumination @kitshef.

@LMS - "Startling?" The distinction makes perfect sense to this Ultimate player. If I'm spinning the disc I'm standing there (probably talking strategy) with the disc on one finger. But when I put spin on the disc I'm making it fly. Of course, when I teach people how to control their throws it could be described as a "spin class." If you don't impart enough rotation the thing won't fly far, let alone where the thrower wants it to go.

Wm. C. 8:55 AM  

@Nancy --

Yeah, I too initially had a problem with "it is" as the fill for "Words said before and after "What" .

The "and" in the clue is ambiguous. I was thinking of it as "or," which leads to one instance of " it is" in the referenced phrase.

But reading the "and" as meaning twice, we get the phrase " It is what it is," which now makes sense.

BTW, even after getting all the fill for "irisin" I still has no clue. And katana, eats it, maradona, Skrillex, gnats (trick clue) ... Too tough for a Wednesday.

Bill Feeney 9:10 AM  

"Well, I saw what I saw and I'm not changing my mind," he said with arms folded across his chest.

Nancy 9:15 AM  

@Wm C (8:55) -- "It is what it is." Of course!! Thank you!

@Quasi (6:41 a.m.) -- What a depressing conversation that must have been. May I join you on the macrame court? I couldn't agree more on the awful pop culture direction the NYT puzzle is taking more and more frequently.

@Johnny (2:50 am) -- Not since I read "Memo from David O. Selznick" back in the day when I was an Editor at the Literary Guild have I read a more interesting behind-the-scenes discussion of the making of GWTW. (I knew MGM was wrong, too, and couldn't imagine what it was doing there as an answer.) So either you, Johnny, also read that book, or you read a book very much like it, or you were somehow yourself involved in the inside drama. (No, you can't be old enough.) You are perhaps a Selznick relative? A Louis B. Mayer relative? A Clark Gable relative? At any rate: to everyone else: "Memo" was published sometime in the 1970s and may not exist anymore. But if it does exist, do yourselves a favor: order it and read it. It's one of the juiciest, most compulsively readable Hollywood books ever written. Maybe the best. Gosh -- I really, really hope it still exists.

bookmark 9:26 AM  

In South Carolina we have the Charleston Tea Plantation, the only tea plantation in the US. You can buy American Classic Tea in 17 states.

Vincent Lima 9:31 AM  

I was at an ANI DiFranco concert less than two years ago, and she's currently on tour. Yes, she is no spring chicken, and she's in the puzzle often; but unlike, say LALAW, she's current.

Mohair Sam 9:32 AM  

Got a kick out of the puzzle. And enjoyed @Rex's rant about SPIDERMAN too -c'mon folks, it was funny. Don't care what the silly song says, that guy flings, no spinning (of course I've only seen the first movie, didn't care for it).

SPINCLASS, IRISIN, and KATANA all new to us, so we were in personal natick danger in the SE. But the IRIS gimmick popped into mind and CLASS made sense so we muddled through. I wanted to pop in "Dondi" at 64A, remember him? Spent some time trying to get six letters out of Benes. SKRILLEX - neat name, had to fill that one.

@okanaganer (1:18) 57A - IYAM what IYAM is so much better than ITIS what ITIS that under whatever authority is necessary I am declaring your puzzle correct and the rest of us wrong. Welcome to the world KAYANA sword and I RASIN film opener.

Fun puzzle Kingsley and Lieb, just right for Wednesday (except for your error at 57A).

chefbea 9:38 AM  

worst puzzle ever!!! Had no idea what was going on...other than tater tots!!!!!

Mohair Sam 9:40 AM  

@kitshef - nearly forgot - Agreed, that "Hand of God" guy does not belong on the same page of any book with Pele.

mathgent 9:49 AM  

@Nancy: I just checked Amazon. Memo from David O. Selznick is available there.

I was intrigued by Rex's claim that all tea comes from Asia. He was exaggerating (some comes from Kenya, for example) but it is still a weak clue.

An OK Wednesday, but seriously lacking in crunch and wordplay.

IRISIN is a welcome addition to my fleshy database. Happy to see MINNESOTAFATS. "I understand that you shoot pool for money, Fast Eddy."

Stanley Hudson 9:52 AM  

Early Peruvian flake?

pmdm 9:55 AM  

I always go to XCrossInfo before visiting this site because I like to end up on a downer note. Seriously, I finish here because I enjoy the entertaining (and sometimes educational) comments posted on this blog. One advantage of going to Jeff Chen's site first is knowing when he awards (as he did today) the POW [Puzzle of the Week] Award. That alerts one that the write-up here will skewer the puzzle and justify the complaints with tortured (or erroneous) logic.

OK, I am overstating my feelings. Others have already pointed out that Mr. Sajak does indeed spin the wheel (though not nearly as often as the contestants) and that it doesn't matter because the theme is not about spinning something but about teaching a spin class. I guess when I read a "review" that so unjustifiably skewers something, I feel the urge to return the favor. And I didn't even like the puzzle that much.

On a lighter note, I'm happy to learn that others wanted I YAM to be the entry for 57A. I suppose that answer might have been criticized for being old fashioned. Why does such an answer really tickle me? I can't say for sure, so I'll just remark I YAM WHAT I YAM.

Joseph Michael 10:02 AM  

Most of Rex's objections to the theme today are ridiculous. However, I might have agreed with his negative SPIN if he had complained about the overuse of proper nouns (roughly one third of the grid). Do we really need to know who makes Tater Tots?

i did like the discovery of how four seemingly unrelated men were alike, even though I had never heard of one of them (sorry, SKRILLEX).

IRIS IN and KATANA were my final guesses in a SE corner that almost left me stumped. It all came together when IT IS finally appeared as the words before and after "what." (For too long, I could think only of "I am what I am" which obviously didn't fit.)

Decided recently to overcome my cultural resistance to "Game of Thrones" and began to watch Season 1. There are a lot of characters and story lines to track, but after only two episodes, I have to admit that I'm hooked. I wonder if this will lead eventually to reading "Harry Potter" books.

Anonymous 10:09 AM  

if SKRILLEX EPs are CDs they don't "spin"! If they are vinyl they do.

SAJAK has spun the wheel on every show I have ever watched.

jberg 10:17 AM  

Terrific theme, I though -- I expected @Rex to like it, was surprised he didn't. Four completely different senses of "spin," each one interesting in and of itself.Come on!

OHNO today, OHHI the other day -- what else? OHMY, OHDO, OHOK ....

Or the mnemonic for stellar types, OHBE a fine girl, kiss me...

My only slight quibble is that MINNESOTA FATS played pool; you can call it "pocket billiards," but "billiards" is a different game. Fats could probably play it, but it's not what he was famous for.

@Irene, @Wm.C-- "Is that an early Peruvian piece of pottery you're holding?"

"Yes, it's INCAN."

jrstocker 10:22 AM  

I thought the theme was great. If you define Spin Class as 'Teaching people how to spin things', every one works perfectly.

puzzlehoarder 10:30 AM  

This is the kind of themed puzzle I like. It comes across as an easy theme less to the point that you don't even know it has a theme until you stumble onto the revealer. In their "silly self serving" comments at xwordinfo the constructors point out that this puzzle started as a theme less and it shows. This explains the rather high level of late week entries. IRISIN seems counter intuitive. If it's the opening of a scene it should really be "iris out" but obviously IN is the term they use. I'm surprised that KATANA is a debut. I love that word. Sometimes I like to of my solving skill as a mental KATANA and the clues as opponents. When I type in the correct final letter when using my tablet it feels like that scene in "Pulp Fiction" where Bruce Willis slashes that kidnapper with the samurai sword then he backward stabs him. That final letter is like the backward stab and the "Congrats" is the sound of the body hitting the floor. That's the great thing about being a fireman. You never have to grow up.

TOCraig 10:41 AM  

Easy until a DNF in SE corner due to katana and irisin. ☹️

GILL I. 10:44 AM  

Gee, @Rex....the clue ends with "could teach?" All the theme answers COULD teach a thing or two on how to do the SPIN. No problem there.
When I started I did think "Uh oh" we're going to get oldy moldy again, so I do agree on your stale take. The theme tickled me enough so that I enjoyed this.
Add IT IS what IT IS to my list of "baby daddy" and "whatever" run out of the room whenever I hear it stupid utterance log. I guess another favorite is "I borrowed him some money."
Hey...Only little eye brow going up moment was for 11D. Heck, I order the wine list at Chevy's. Hmmmm, what constitutes fine dining?
@Joseph Michael...I started watching "Game of Thrones" because of the tons of NYT puzzle clues referencing that series. I trudged through the first episode, reluctantly watched the second and now I can't stop watching. I'm on the second episode now and it only get better....

Anonymous 10:59 AM  

Rex is all wet. His bias is showing. Not only is the puzzle smoother than the dreck he used to publish, his principal complaint is demonstrably wrong.

The puzzle is plenty current.

Hell, one this summer's early blockbusters was (yet another) Spiderman movie. That's plenty current.

HBONow launched in April of 2015. Truly up-to-the-minute TV distribution.

Skrillex. Already noted, but this is a list. It stays to underscore his madness.

Pat Sajak. The host of the currently highest rated syndicated TV show in the country.

Calling out Steely Dan as old without acknowledging that Ani DiFranco is current. her most recent record was released two months ago today. Seems current to me.

Yeah, Minnesota Fats was born a century ago, but I cant recall seeing him a puzzle and I sure didn't know his real name. That seems fresh.

Same with Camaro. Can't recall ever seeing the Chevy so described in a crossword puzzle.

I could go on, but the friends of Rex can't be convinced ( looking at you here @Z) and everyone else knows Rex is just being pissy.

roxanne 11:01 AM  

assam is not an asian tea......assam is a northern province of india where this tea is grown.

Salemhill 11:03 AM  


semioticus (shelbyl) 11:09 AM  

I don't know if Rex reads the comments at all, but anyway, I'm here to correct him.

In my town, Wheel of Fortune is the lead-in to Jeopardy, so often times I end up watching the final few minutes of the show. Pat Sajak spins the wheel once a show at least, because it's the final spin and then contestants just go guess in a rapid fire way.

So yes, he does spin the wheel. I understand the urge to get mad at the theme answers, but maybe it's a better idea to do some fact-checking beforehand (as in the Spiderman theme song)

Anonymous 11:16 AM  

Quick, somebody get fainting couch. Rex has erred!
@semioticus. You of course are correct, as was the anonymous poster who said essentially the same thing. Rex is wrong so often, its hardly worth noting anymore. He just likes to disparage the puzzle; facts wont stand in the way of his jihad.

jb129 11:20 AM  

Started it flying through - ended it stuck on "iris in" - never grasped the theme altho I got it all - aokay but disappointing at the end.

Joe Bleaux 11:28 AM  

Dated PPPs, modern PPPs, more than a very few is way too many -- but still a fine Wednesday puzzle by AK and JL. And it's not every day you see an answer that could be clued: "Pop of jazz's James, she claims." (Etta said Minnesota Fats was her biological father.)

Michelle Turner 11:30 AM  

As many before me have stated the theme is about teaching a spin class, not spinning. As a teacher (professor) I would have thought Rex would understand the distinction.

Salemhill 11:30 AM  

40-Across fits the theme too... Press Secretaries certainly can teach spin.

Anonymous 11:35 AM  

@jberg; pool, snooker, carom billiards, and other games of this type are all billiard games. We usually refer to carom billiards as just billiards, but all of these games are, in general, billiards so I would say the clue is correct.

QuasiMojo 12:22 PM  

@Nancy 9:15 -- anytime! We'd knock em dead. Irene Selznick wrote a great memoir too.

Anonymous 12:24 PM  

@Roxanne 11:01. India is in Asia.

Anonymous 12:33 PM  

A spider "spins the silk" and "weaves a web" what...Spider-Man's body evidently spins silk and weaves pre-woven webs! Excessive analysis of whether these people or characters could "teach spin class" (hahaha it's a joke) and criticism of how "tight" it is or isn't just slays me. It was an enjoyable reveal. Thank you constructors.

old timer 12:37 PM  

I did 3/4 of the puzzle in record time and thought it was way too easy for a Wednesday, Then I had to look up SKRILLEX because DETOXES just would not come to me.

I did put in ITIS but only now has it DAWNED on me that IT IS what IT IS is a common though always obnoxious saying.

Punjab was a regular in te Little Orphan ANNIE comic strip I read every day in the mid 1950's. I was impressed by his turban,

Carola 12:58 PM  

Clever theme with an amusing array of teachers on the roster of the SPINning Department.
I enjoyed the cross of EATS IT with the single LENTIL, which is about all my husband can abide, no matter how I try to gussy them up.
MGM went right in - so interesting to learn the background!
New to me: KATANA.
I learned IRIS IN during my teaching days from a student presentation on German Expressionist film

@Nancy, here's an example of IRIS IN from the opening of "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari," at 1:03.

@Loren and Lewis, love your takes on the CRINGE area.

RooMonster 12:58 PM  

Hey All !
Took the ole brain on a spin, this did. Amazing most of y'all know who SKRILLEX is. I only know him from the billboards here in Las Vegas, otherwise I'd be all like "Whosa what...?"

Had no writeovers today! Yay MAE! Didn't finish in Rex's low 3's, but did find it easy. No EELs, but a Losing Tic-Tac-Toe OXO. IRIS IN a complete unknown, and so far no one has explained exactly what it is.

CAMARO, spelled correctly. I've said before, but I find it funny people who spell it CAMeRO, and some of them actually own the car! Ha. Like that Snickers Tattoo commercial, she puts NO REgerTS on his arm!


RooMonster 1:05 PM  

@Carola 12:58, Ha, typing at the same time. Thanks for that.

And I really have to watch my typos! I'll just blame Autocorrect!


Teedmn 1:21 PM  

Spin vs. sling - before reading @Rex, I was singing the theme song in my head - the line "does whatever a spider can" got me thinking that at least SPIDERMAN wasn't sitting in the middle of a web in the corner of our tool shed, which gave me a chuckle. And after reading @Rex, I started thinking about what it meant to SPIN. It seems to me that the spider only extrudes the silk. It's the act of forming the web that constitutes the SPINning, in my opinion. So where does that leave @Rex's rant? I'm trying to remember if the cartoon SPIDERMAN ever made a web. Maybe to ensnare bad guys.

@Gill I, I'm with you on the "IT IS what IT IS" phrase causing my teeth to grind. One more of those things I try to avoid saying. And I blame people's using "borrowed" as "lend" on the Swedes. Their phrase for lend is "Lanar til" (loan to) and for borrow it is "lanar av" (loan from) (imagine the first "a" in lanar has a little circle on top of it to form a long O sound), making the two seem interchangeable. I've always wondered if my theory holds water. Anyone else?

Nice theme, AK and JL.

Aketi 2:59 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Aketi 3:01 PM  

There are Peruvians that predate INCAN civilization, such as the Nazca and the Moche. I knew the Moche made pottery but I thought the Nazca only made lines. Turns out they also made pottery. When tourists visit Cusco they often only visit Machu Picchu which is of course spectacular, but they miss seeing some of the older ruins that predate the Incas.

GILL I. 3:04 PM  

@Carola. Thanks (I think) for that IRIS IN clip. I, too, didn't know what it meant and I'm glad I didn't.
I LOVE some of the old back and white movies - Casablanca being my favorite. You show me any "Silent Film" and for some reason I get the creeps. I watched Buster Keaton in "The General" and I wanted to shout out WASH YOUR EYE MAKEUP. The same with Lilian Gish. I just could not imagine anyone looking or acting like that EVER. The black eye lids were too much.
@Teedmn. I think it's just plain laziness. Words are made up daily and it's "cool" to accept them. I remember my grandmother having a conniption fit when the OED deemed "ain't" perfectly acceptable.....

Mohair Sam 3:41 PM  

@Carola - Would love to know where you found that classic. Neat stuff. Thanks.

@Gill I - What's your problem with the Gish peepers? She had Bette Davis eyes. Or Bette Davis had Lillian Gish eyes, I guess. Besides, it's Lillian, two L's. Sheesh.

tkincher 3:43 PM  

@ Anonymous 10:09 AM: CDs absolutely spin, that's how they work. MP3s, on the other hand...

@GILL I.: "Sherlock Jr." is my favorite Buster Keaton movie. Eye makeup be damned, that's a funny film.

"Spins a web, any size, catches thieves, just like flies..."

Michael Leddy 4:45 PM  

I tried leaving a comment earlier — not sure what happened to it. Anyway:

The Times clue is troublesome. Some film books define iris-in as the move inward and iris-out as the move outward; others reverse the terms. The 2013 clue for this word — “Silent film effect” — is a better one.

Hal 4:49 PM  

Almost everyone does. The trick is, they don't look up the citations for support, and then edit Wikipedia with the better information. That's mostly because people are lazy (or efficient - it's all a question of point of view.)

Hal 4:53 PM  

But, Wikipedia agrees with him anyway, in the entries for both GWTW and Selznick International.

Carola 5:46 PM  

@Mohair Sam, when I taught German Expressionist literature, I found it helpful to first show the students visual images of Expressionist Art and this movie to prepare them for the poetry we'd be reading. The film is especially good at conveying the typically Expressionist distorted perspectives, heightened emotions, and intense subjectivity. More info on the film here.

retired guy 6:07 PM  

16A is wrong. Snowden is not an exile. An exile is someone who is not allowed to return to his or her home country. Snowden chooses not to. Big difference.

bob mills 6:14 PM  

Pretty awful. Unless, that is, you're trying to sound "super cool" to other millennials or Gen-Xers.

Joe Dipinto 6:21 PM  

When I saw the constructors' byline, my first reaction was, "The other guy from Wham! is writing puzzles for the Times now?" Then I remembered that the other guy from Wham! was named Andrew Ridgeley.

Nothing bad to say about this puzzle, I rather liked the themers. The semi-obscurities (TATANA, IRIS IN, HBO NOW) were easily gettable via the crosses.

Mohair Sam 6:52 PM  

@Carola - Some of the Amazon reviews felt like a class in German Expressionism. Thanks for the link.

GILL I. 7:17 PM  


Anonymous 10:22 PM  

Katana and iris in, crossed by annie, which was clued more like a Friday? "Famous orphan" I'd have gotten. Punjab made me think there was some Kipling I hadn't read.


andrea carla michaels 3:39 AM  

Just for the record, MINNESOTAFATS was in a puzzle dec 2012:


a tribute to where I was born, grew up and now live :)

And for the record, Rex hated that one, too!

(And I'll refrain from posting winning a motorhome on "Wheel of Fortune"... Highlight of my life )

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Anonymous 8:52 AM  

Was not so easy for me in the SE w IRISIN. Huh? Why is Rex perennially in a sour mood? If 90% of the puzzles don't pass muster, maybe he's got the bar set wrong? And why so ornery about it? Why not make the same points with humor. Oh well, just remarking. I guess the "brand" now is made out of this sourness.

I liked this one. Who cares if Spidey doesn't spin he his own webs, I thought it was a really cute way to tie the themed answers together - I didn't get it until I saw the revealer, and when I did it made sense, which is to me how it should be.


Anonymous 12:31 AM  

Rex. You are ridic. Lighten up Francis.

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spacecraft 11:11 AM  

This is about the most uneven puzzle ever. I mean, just take the two symmetric themers SKRILLEX and PATSAJAK. One half of the solving audience will know one--and the other half will know the other. Me, I needed every single crossing letter for SKRILLEX--and when I saw what was there I was sure I'd gone wrong somewhere, but left it because there was no other way to go. PAT, on the other hand, was a gimme. There really is a person named SKRILLEX. That can't possibly be his given name; what on EARTH was he thinking? Oh well, ITIS what ITIS. I know precisely zero DJ names.

The NW, normally a sticking point, went down like a Monday--I thought: oh, THERE you are! NE, except for that weird dude, was just as easy. Took a couple of beats to grok "cloud in the summer;" I think that's my favorite clue of the day.

FATS was another gimme, but MARADONA? Never heard of him. And KATANA? Not even a word! IRISIN?? Who would know this? Thank the stars for breaking me off a piece of that KIT Kat bar! If it wasn't for that I'd have a DNF...when about 85% of it was stupidly easy. If ever there was a puzzle that deserved an "easy-challenging" rating, this ISIT. I'm not so fussy about the theme "spinners;" they all work fine for me. In truth, I wondered what all these guys had in common, so the revealer was a bit of an aha! moment. MAE West is a timeless DOD. I both liked it and didn't. See what I mean? Par.

thefogman 11:17 AM  

Rex might not like it but in the lyrics to the original theme song, Spiderman spins a web any size, (catches thieves just like flies.)
Most ELEMENTS were not very TOPICAL. I would have liked to see Sean Spicer as one of the other themers. That guy could outperform Maytag with his spin cycle.
No writeovers today. Medium for a Wednesday with only the NE corner taking a bit longer to solve than the rest. All in all, ITIS what ITIS. An OK Wednesday puzzle.

Burma Shave 11:43 AM  


when he EATSIT because he TOSSES NONET.


rondo 12:34 PM  

I saw the SK_I___ and shuddered. An R was the only possibility for that first blank so I thought, “It’s not going to be SKRILLEX is it?” IT IS. I would rather listen to .50 Cent [CRINGE] than SKRILLEX. Grammies must not be what they used to be, like when Steely Dan’s AJA won one. But it’s a fair entry, I guess, and I finished with no w/os and no REGRET. Other than knowing SKRILLEX.

Who ever said watching cartoons was a waste? That’s how I know ARRIBA.

Pretty sure that MINNESOTAFATS never set foot in MN.

Yeah baby ANI Difranco is much more than a folk singer.

Nice Wednesday puz with a little BITE.

rain forest 1:29 PM  

Cute and easy puzzle with 4 different SPINs on SPIN.

I was lucky today because I knew IRISIN and SKRILLEX, the latter from a previous crossword puzzle, and so I had zero holdups.

I much prefer "I yam what I yam" to the inane IT IS what IT IS. MARADONA was a great player, but his issues relegate him to somewhere lower than the lordly Pele.

Except for the tic-tac-toe answer, there was no dreck here today. I really enjoyed solving it.

Diana,LIW 1:46 PM  

WOE is I.

Does SKRILLEX play music that sounds like his name? Kinda screechy.

Dunno HBONOW. GNATS was the best answer I didn't get. Thanks.

Well, misspelling CAMeRO would have done me in anyway.

On to tricky Thursday...

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords

leftcoastTAM 2:03 PM  

Solved this one barely knowing what I was doing before figuring out the SPIN stuff. But SKRILLEX? Who he?

Then KATANA and IRISIN. Tough unknowns.

Okay, learned something new. ITIS what ITIS, definitely not new, and should be TOSSED.

Good exercise.

Longbeachlee 5:00 PM  

To Johnny - Let's all brag about important people we got drunk with. For me it was in Houston at the Crazy Cajun with Bjorni Trygasson, an astronaut.

To all, I thought easy, hard, etc. was relative to the day of the week norm. Not easy.

wcutler 5:54 PM  

I had to come here to learn theme. DNF all over the place, but still enjoyed the puzzle that had interesting or challenging clues.

I see someone else has posted a link to a film using the iris-in technique. That was a new term to me, so looked it up on YouTube, found this with several examples:

rondo 5:57 PM  

@teedmn - exactly what you said re: the Swedish verbing for to borrow/lend

leftcoastTAM 6:52 PM  

It is what it is is an inanity.

thefogman 6:57 PM  

I am what I am > It is what it is

leftcoastTAM 7:37 PM  

@longbeachlee--I got drunk in my younger days with quite a few important people--they were my friends at least on those occasions.

Longbeachlee 8:35 PM  

For LeftcoastTAM
There's the love for a son by a mother,
and the love between brother and brother,
but the greatest love in all the world
is the love of one drunken bum for another

Diana,LIW 8:48 PM  

Synders are silly today. I'll drink to that.

Lady Di

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