Pioneering 1990s computer game / THU 11-16-17 / Frequent vag gogh setting / 22+ pages of the Oxford English dictionary / German steel city / Some yacht assitants / Brand trusted by cooks who know / celeb chef Batali

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Constructor: Alex Eylar

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: Now "See" this! — clues with answers describe the clues themselves:

Theme answers:
  • TAUTOLOGY (17A: See 58-Across) (58A: See 17-Across)
  • RECURSION (25A: See 25-Across)
  • A WILD GOOSE CHASE (36A: See 66-Across)
  • AMBIGUITY (46A: See ??-Across) 
Word of the Day: Mike ROWE (28D: Host Mike of "Dirty Jobs" and "Somebody's Gotta Do It") —
Michael Gregory Rowe (born March 18, 1962) is an American actor primarily known as a television host and narrator. He is known for his work on the Discovery Channel series Dirty Jobs and the CNN series Somebody's Gotta Do It. He also hosts a podcast, The Way I Heard It with Mike Rowe, which he describes as "short stories designed specifically for the curious mind plagued with a short attention span". Rowe hosts a series produced for Facebook called Returning the Favor, Rowe finds people doing good deeds and does something for them in return. Rowe has narrated programs on the Discovery Channel, The Science Channel and National Geographic Channel such as Deadliest Catch, How the Universe Works, and Shark Week. He has appeared on commercials for firms such as the Ford Motor Company. He has served as a social activist on the causes of economic growth and job expansion as well. Past efforts include being an opera singer and a salesman. (wikipedia)
• • •

The concept here is clever, and I'd say 60% of these themers land (that is, if you count both TAUTOLOGY entries—if not, then half, I guess). A WILD GOOSE CHASE is the obvious winner of the bunch: a perfect 15, right down the center of the grid, delivering a genuinely amusing aha moment. TAUTOLOGY x 2, also cute. Clue on AMBIGUITY just seems wrong. Putting "??" in there doesn't make things AMBIGUOUS; it makes them downright indeterminable. Unknown. AMBIGUITY implies that you have some basis for understanding, but things remain unclear. "??" gives us nothing. Nothing is not AMBIGUITY. Nothing is nothing. And RECURSION ... I'm sure that's an accurate use of that word, and I understand the basic concept at play, but RECURSION was a rough word to come up with. I had the adjective RECURSIVE in there at first, because that's a word I've actually seen. I think I know the noun as "recursiveness." RECURSION is maybe a math thing (?). Anyway, that whole corner was rough for me because I just couldn't come up with the right word. Plus the SAFARI clue had forced ambiguity with the inclusion of that "the" (9D: What you might see the big game on), so of course I wanted some kind of TV ... and then my quartet had a VIOLA at first (12D: Quartet member). So no joy in RECURSION-ville. But TAUT TAUT GOOSE was good. Ditch the others, and you're in business.

["COUNT ... ON ... IT?"]

Let's stay in that corner for a little longer. I feel like I've been having train-wreck corners lately, where the rest of the puzzle goes fine, and then there's one corner where one little thing goes wrong and the wheels just come off. I wrote in BUM DEAL (22D: Short end of the stick) and OMIT (30A: Strike out), but OMIT gave me a terminal "I" for that damned "the big game" clue, so I doubted it and pulled it. Then went to RAW DEAL. Ugh. What's more humiliating—the thing that bailed me out up there: crosswordese! All hail OOXTEPLERNON (the god of short bad fill)! I was saved by ESSEN and ARLES! Lord help me.

How many damned HAMS are you eating at Christmas? Jesus! Seriously, Jesus! I have never had a ham at Christmas (which I treat as Thanksgiving II), so that answer eluded me. As did NIBLET (43D: Corn kernel, e.g.), because it is probably the grossest word since "moist." Its proximity to EGESTS is apt. Barf. OK, that's all, bye.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Anonymous 12:05 AM  

Stupid fun tidbit: go to Google, search “recursion”, and click on the "Did you mean..."

Lee Coller 12:10 AM  

Recursion is a Computer Science term - thus the Google easter egg

jae 12:16 AM  

This would have been easy if I hadn't put in COUNT me in. It took a while to fix that.
Cute, liked it...reminds me of a book by Doug Hofstadter I read over a couple of decades ago and only vaguely understood then.

puzzlehoarder 12:27 AM  

TAUTOLOGY is old hat but it was no surprise that RECURSION is a debut. After solving I had to look that one up to be sure it was a word. This was a fun solve with a few unknowns and clever clues to work around.

In the spirit of the puzzle I either misread the word assistants as destination or else just reread the 34D clue for 33D altogether. That slowed down getting CABINBOYS for a little while.

AMBIGUITY was the last theme entry to go in. By that point I was able to infer it just off the ITY. My biggest oversight was needing SLIMIER to give me the M of HAMS. This puzzle came in at what's probably a little over average time for a Thursday.

ghkozen 12:30 AM  

Strongly disagree. I would nominate this as worst puzzle of the year, simply for the clues to STY and ICON. Will never waste my time on Alex Eylar trash ever again.

okanaganer 12:30 AM  

In computer science (well web page coding anyway), the absolute perfect answer to 9A is WHITE SPACE. Which would make a great rebus type entry! (Both letters in each space contributing to the down answer, or WHITE just missing's white, so you can't see it.) Constructors are you listening...?

I skip M-W 12:45 AM  

Interestingly, after doing the puzzle, I texted my stepson, pointing out both the puzzle and that he could visit a friend I met through Doug Hofstadter (see JAE's comment).My claim to fame is being one of the numerous people Doug thanked in GEB, which I found out when I went to a book party for it, and someone I started talking with knew my name for just having been in the acknowledgements...

Anonymous 12:52 AM  

Loved, loved, loved this puzzle. So clean! And fun!

(Rex, "Recursion" is perfect, particularly if you are in a computer programming field.)

Larry Gilstrap 1:17 AM  

I always finish the puzzle before posting. Sometimes the theme eludes me. OFL explains what is obvious to some people and I go "Aha!" Today I read his review and I still don't know what I just did. Clever and cute in a world I do not inhabit. I've just revealed too much.

Episode IV of the unnecessary indefinite article is needed to answer 66A, or 36A, or am I being recursive? I generally use block capital letters to solve. I know some of you folks try to solve using only downs. Anybody ever try to solve using cursive letters? What a hoot, I'm guessin'. Now, I'm talking nonsense.

Christmas is a Christian holiday and HAMS are taboo in most non-Christian religions. Washington Irving, America's first great writer, wrote about his experiences in 1820 visiting Bracebridge Hall and the traditions of the English holiday festivities, long before Coca-Cola and Clement Moore and Brenda Lee began creating the American version of Christmas. The main feature of the feast was the boar's head and peacock pie, among other things. In this part of the world, we have the HoneyBaked Ham Co. and when driving by a store any time before the holiday one will notice a line around the block of those waiting to pick-up their orders. Peacock Pie, not so much.

Thank goodness the crosses were fair.

mathgent 1:23 AM  

I don't like the clue for TAUTOLOGY. A tautology is a statement which is always true, like x=x. So the statement "the word 'tautology' is the same as the word 'tautology' " is a tautology. But the statement "the word 'kazoo' is the same as the word 'kazoo.' " is also a tautology. So the clue doesn't point to the word "tautology" any more than it does to the word "kazoo."

I know that this is a crossword puzzle and not a treatise on logic, but the clue doesn't seem right.

I also agree with Rex when he objects to the clue for AMBIGUITY. But I still liked the puzzle. Lots of good stuff in it. According to what I found on the internet, it seems that the definition of the verb "set" was the longest in the original OED. I would guess that the definition of the noun "set" would also be very long.

travis 1:49 AM  

On the online web app, why did 36A highlight 1A. I was thinking it was going to be something about wrapping around, and actually was annoyed for the 'extra' hint. And then it turned out being meaningless. Was it just a coding bug? I would have thought the cross-references were manually done for each puzzle. But how would you code it so it would wrap around like that accidentally.

Kimberly 3:04 AM  

I loved this, although I agree the clueing for STY and ICON were bad form. Crossword clues are alternative meanings, not responses or definitions.

That said, the whole idea was clever, and I can forgive the clueing deviations.

Davis 4:03 AM  

I think a better clue for AMBIGUITY would have been something like “See 46”. That’s genuine ambiguity—does it mean 46D or 46A?

evil doug 6:00 AM  

"The problem with this puzzle is that it's going to stimulate EGESTS of geek BABBLE," I GROANED....

Anonymous 6:16 AM  

Trump won a year ago because Hillary was SLIMIER. And that's pretty danged slimy.

Lewis 6:19 AM  

@davis -- Terrific idea.

I found SO much to like in this puzzle. Tricky and witty cluing; genuine aha moments with getting SEER, HAIL, SAFARI, and THE. Some lovely answers: RIVET, BUM DEAL, COUNT ON IT, NIBLET (I've always loved this one, Rex). A magnificent tussle in the NE, where I went from BABBLE to RAMBLE, then back to BABBLE, and BAD DEAL to RAW DEAL to BUM DEAL. (And after looking it up, I'm still not sure what RECURSION means!) The sweet cross of PSST and MYST, and the snicker at TOOTS crossing EGESTS.

It felt different, it felt out of the box, as though it took me on a vacation to a new place. Come back soon, Alex!

Robso 6:32 AM  

I too got lost in the NE, putting in RAMBLE which gave me RUM DEAL which sounds like a britishism but who knows and then PROMST which is not a name but then again neither is PROBST (sorry Jeff).
So, here we are.

BarbieBarbie 6:50 AM  

Had QUOTE in the NE, which gave me a TENOR in my quartet, still allowed ESSEN, and had me watching the big game a little uneasily on my QUASAR. What a mess. Thanks to the doubt about the TV I ripped it all out and started over, and this time it came out better.

Thanksgiving II on Dec 25 means somebody is not able to enjoy the time with the family because s/he has to keep running into the kitchen to tend to the turkey. It’s downright cruel. Go for the “throw into oven and forget” meals. Ham is fine, and tons of people have it. (I don’t, but only because I’m familiar with confinement operations.) anyway, Rex, like many men with dogmatic ideas about the way things should be in your home, my guess is you don’t have a lot to do with the actual work of getting them that way. I see your shoes.

Robso 6:51 AM  

And I agree with @ghkozen—not that this is the worst puzzle of the year—but the cluing for STY and ICON is nonsense. Take ICON: so Click it=ICON, or verb+direct object=noun? So should we expect Drive it=CAR or Eat it=FOOD? I think I’ve seen something else like this recently. Stop trying to make verb+direct object=noun happen. It’s not going to happen. And STY? So exclamation=specific noun? Should we expect Darn it!=MEND or Oh my lord!=GOD? That is the type of cluing that a ten-year-old might come up with. So, no.

kitshef 7:17 AM  

With that early ‘click it’ clue, and shortly thereafter ‘what a mess!’, I was all set to hate this - as several others apparently did. But then things got interesting, and I wound up thinking it was a great puzzle. It's hard to overcome first impressions, so kudos for that. Still hate those two clues, though.

The NYT day-of-week conventions don’t always thrill me, but I do like that Thursdays play with the boundaries of puzzledom.

Hungry Mother 7:34 AM  

Loved the puzzle. I taught a course on GEB in two universities. Here’s a recursive acronym: GNU (GNUs not unix). I had a nice chat with Doug Hofstadter when he visited our math and computer science department. Also, I had a chance to meet Richard Stallman (last of the hackers), creator of GNU, at a seminar.

Bageleater 7:37 AM  

I think “niblets” as a word has been seriously wronged. You say it is one of the grossest words, but I maintain that its only crime is closely resembling “giblets” which does, indeed, describe a gross thing {check your giblets out as you make your turkey next week). It’s like blaming a twin for the crime his brother committed.

BarbieBarbie 7:40 AM  

Forgot to ask. Does the OED take 22 pages to define SET, or what? I don’t get that one.

QuasiMojo 7:41 AM  

"Christmas Hams" are things kind bosses send you at the holidays. Or at least they were back in the day. Ages ago when I slaved away at Warner Bros as a gofer, I got a smoked Virginia ham from Steve Ross. I cherished it. Loved seeing GOOSE in the same grid as the Christmas meals since that is what the Cratchit family got from Scrooge in "A Christmas Carol." Missed opportunity GIBLET instead of NIBLET. Btw, I love the word "moist." Super tough Thursday puzzle. Loved it! No problem with STY or ICON as clued in this grid. The TIMES they are a changin'...

Glimmerglass 7:49 AM  

Fun puzzle. A perfect Thursday. A caviler will always find something to cavil about (me included), but this is really clean and fresh. @Lewis has it right.

Robert A. Simon 7:49 AM  

I loved this puzzle, despite all the flaws so eloquently noted by all you contributors who actually know what you're talking about. So yes, I loved this puzzle. (The sound you didn't just hear was the constructor breathing a sigh of relief.) I finished the puzzle without any outside help , and tied my all-time best with a "UAD," which stands for "Under A Day."

For those of you keeping score at home, I wrote advertising for big-time clients for forty years. (At some point, I guarantee you bought something that wasn't quite as tasty or well-made or reliable as I told you it would be. For that, I hereby apologize.) But more to the point, the puzzle was clever, and clever was the coin of our realm. I couldn't always come up with it, but I admire it when I see it.

90% of the disagreements I had with clients were due to their viewing what I presented through the lens of their own habits and practices. OFL's mini-rant on Christmas ham brought back memories of too many conference rooms filled with uneaten bagels and unheeded advice.

And please, no remarks about advertising. None of you will be able to top George Orwell who defined it as "The rattling of a stick inside a swill bucket." That's a little dark, but then again, "1984" doesn't exactly depict Toad Hollow.

Two Ponies 7:57 AM  

I'm with the folks who can't stand clues/answers like icon and sty.
Childish garbage not fitting for what used to be the standard of crossword quality. And yes @ Robso 6:51 I have had the misfortune of seeing the examples you were wondering about.

Liable to peep? Peek would make more sense to me.
Chicks peep and Nosy Parkers peek.

@ evil doug, Spot on as the geek fest is bound to continue all day.

Christmas ham!? Is that still allowed?

TomAz 7:58 AM  

I totally agree with @travis. When I clicked on 36A it highlighted 1A -- thus causing me to wonder how FACT related to AWILDGOOSECHASE. Perhaps some dry commentary on the current state of affairs in Washington? A sly wink to Robert Mueller's work? It all seemed too tenuous to me. Then (after I'd completed the puzzle) I re-read the actual clue and saw that the highlighting of 1A was an error.

This was one of those puzzles I appreciated a lot more when I was done and could see how it all hung together than while I was actually solving. It felt hard and kind of a slog as I was going through it, although I finished in average time. I was a math major back in the day so RECURSION was actually the easiest of the theme answers. TAUTOLOGY was sort of an eye-roller.

Like another commenter said, I had QUOTE, TENOR, and ESSEN in the NE, and then took it out because I couldn't figure out 9D. I have never heard of ZOD and I hope never to again. Never heard of Mike ROWE or Jeff PROBST. ERIC Rohmer, at least, is crossword-worthy.

kvilksen 8:06 AM  

Had the same issues as others except I doubled down in the NE having vioLa right next to ESSEx and tying to figure out what type of tax 25A was. Also went from COUNTmeIn to COUNTusIn before i finally GROANED when I realized the ONIT ending. Still managed to beat my average by 4 min though!

Anonymous 8:14 AM  

Great, clever Thursday though went by too fast. I was offended by 46-D because it made me think of dead babies.

Anonymous 8:23 AM  

Ding ding ding!
We have a winner with Anon (8:14).
First to have a fit about abort.

Who's gonna be the winner for cisgender?
The clock is ticking.

chefbea 8:23 AM  

Never heard of recursion or tautology...or cis...what does that mean. Mario Batali would never cook a ham in crisco

I actually met Mario when I was working at a kitchen store in Ct. Of course he was wearing his orange crocs!!!

Phipps44 8:54 AM  

Never thought of that.. goog idea!

Anonypuss 8:56 AM  

One of my fastest Thursday's ever (5:59), which is 36 seconds above my Thursday best.

It's sad not to take time to savor, especially when the puzzle is this wonderful, but I can't help it.

Maybe Rex is so crabby because he's even faster. Or maybe he's just a hypersensitive asshat.

Paul Rippey 9:05 AM  

This puzzle got me sitting up straight the way few others have recently. A delight. And I’m amazed at how many of you know Douglas Hofstadter personally. Wow. Reading Le tombeau de Marot was one of my very happy times.

Unknown 9:06 AM  

I had BADDEAL crossed with EDIT for a long time. So RECURSION took me a while to parse. COOS helped to bail me out. I liked this puzzle. Clever.

Nancy 9:07 AM  

Proof positive that a puzzle you end up admiring for its cleverness and originality can be no damn fun at all while you're doing it. As a lazy person, I've always hated the tedium of reading and filling in cross-referenced clues. This was worse. This was cross-referencing that at first seemed to lead nowhere and produce no answers at all. It felt like an exercise in pure aggravation. But I'll tell you exactly where I started to love it and that's when I got to A WILD GOOSE CHASE. Well, I'll be darned, I thought, this is good! And I also loved AMBIGUITY. But the two TAUTOLOGYs and the one RECURSION (huh?) did not fill me with joy. This was a mixed bag for me -- hard, often frustrating, and certainly not a fast solve.

Anonymous 9:10 AM  

Wasted a lot of time at 22D with BadDrAw, and then BumDrAw. Then looked for a trick with inCURSION/exCURSION at 25A. Had COUNTmeIn way too long at 3D as well.

Misdirections aplenty put me almost to normal time, which felt rather slow.

Georgia 9:12 AM  

Yes, please someone explain .... not knowing Mike of Dirty Jobs made it a guess only.

Anonymous 9:22 AM  

Theme? There was no theme. Just a jumble of one-offs.
Tautology is not Recursion is not Ambiguity is not A Wild Goose Chase.
Will Shortz was asleep at the switch on this one.

Steve M 9:28 AM  

Awful awful

Anon 9:30 AM  

Upper right gave me problems too. I was sure on Probst and Arles, but had TENOR before CELLO. Also a hard time with CRISCO. I thought TIAMO, so put in IRIS before ERIC.

Suzie Q 9:30 AM  

I thought the alternative to elbow was a trick for a pasta answer.
I've seen hail before as clued but I still like it.
Lots of proper nouns and some high-end vocabulary for sure.
Off balance or well balanced, I am ambiguous.
I did not know recursion and a quick glance looked like it might be excursion. Nope but at least that is a word I know.
Not our best Thursday by a long shot. Maybe there is something fun over at the WSJ.
Cabin boy? What is his job? Maybe he stands around looking cute while pretending to work. Sorta like a pool boy?

Lewis 9:36 AM  

@ghkozen, @robso, @kitshef, @twoponies -- Martin, who comments on WordPlay, and who previews the NYT puzzles for Will, had this to say about the clues to STY and ICON:

The "it" clue is a long-standing crossword convention. "It" as the last word of a clue signals that the entry is "it," the thing being acted on. "Beat it!" for DRUM is another example.

Not every clue that ends in "it" or "it!" works this way. It's used sparingly enough to remain a potent trap.

In any case, it's an accepted clue form.

Anonymous 9:39 AM  

I agree with Larry Gilstrap. I don’t inhabit that world either! I really didn’t get/enjoy that puzzle.

Sir Hillary 9:48 AM  

Thursday is for quirky puzzles, and this one definitely fits the bill. I don't love it, but it works well enough. The fill is actually quite clean.

@Davis -- Good idea for cluing AMBIGUITY. I was thinking See one of the Acrosses. Either would work.

The North and West were by far the toughest for me, thanks mainly to GALE and PEAL, neither of which I think of as bursts of laughter. Good stuff.

Nice to see MARIO clued with a chef rather than a video game.

Interesting that ERIC Rohmer is preceded by BARBET, as BARBET Schroeder's company produced many French New Wave films.

HAMS and yAMS -- A decent Schrodinger entry, as clued. Maybe more Thanksgiving than Christmas.

Hartley70 9:59 AM  

I found this Thursday interesting enough that I did not miss a rebus one little bit. I didn't always understand what I was reading (true for some of the comments here too) but I had a good time figuring it out, and that time was considerably longer than average.

My black hole was in the upper Midwest. I was completely unfamiliar with RECURSION. I had BadDEAL crossed by edIT, and while I knew COOS should be the answer, for me the vowel in ZOD was up for grabs. I finally had to see BUM before I could sort this out. Oh and I entered SET without understanding why.

As soon as I got the happy sound, I googled the definition of RECURSION. No joy there for me I'm afraid. My formal education ended before the computer age.

BH 10:04 AM  

I strongly disagree with Anonypuss 8:56's description of our dear friend Rex as an asshat. We all know better. But I have been a little concerned in recent weeks about how crabby he's been. I'm worried that he might be getting too good at all this and so losing the fun. For instance, the AMBIGUITY of the cluing for 3D is (for me) fun to figure out. For someone who seems all-consumed with the clock it's probably tedious.
Also, Mrs. Smith clearly does all the marketing in their household, or he would have noticed the huge pile of hams causing the counter to groan in late December. I also do Thanksgiving ll, but why get snarky about it?

Anonymous 10:11 AM  

Rex - Christmas Day, hop on I-81 and head south for about 5 hours. Pull off and enjoy a Christmas ham, dry and salty, mmm-mmm.

Anonymous 10:14 AM  

This was a very easy puzzle and a tad annoying.

Hartley70 10:17 AM  

@Barbie Barbie, the only sane reason I can come up with for having another whole turkey dinner barely a month after the first is that turkey was 64 cents a pound in Wal-Mart last weekend. Why not buy two? If I needed to feed a crowd again, it's a more economical choice than fillet mignon, my first choice.

Stanley Hudson 10:25 AM  

This was fun and I hope we see more of Alex Eylar.

I like ham for Xmas dinner; isn’t pork “the other white meat”? But then, as an omnivore, I like just about anything for Xmas dinner.

jberg 10:36 AM  

SWEET, TOO SWEET was my feeling about this brilliant use of cross-referencing. True, it's not really a theme, but this is Thursday -- it's supposed to have a gimmick instead, and this is a nifty one.

Not knowing where to get a boar's head, I settle for cooking a GOOSE on Christmas Day, although not a wild one. (I do often wonder, though, why people don't eat the Canada geese that have been plaguing American cities for the past 30 years.) I'll enjoy a nice Virginia ham if somebody sends me one, but I'm going to roast that goose anyway.

Me too for COUNT me In at first; at least it saved me from bucklED, my first choice for 27A.

I'm too lazy to lug out my copy of the OED to see if SET really takes 22 pages -- anyway, I have the 9-pages per page version that comes with its own magnifying glass, so it would get in under 3. But I can well believe it, there are so many meanings of that little word, and the origin of each would have to be explained.

Where can I get one of those calculators with a button for SIN? That really fills a need--especially if there is another one for ATONE.

Mike Rees 10:46 AM  

Top right corner slowed me down a lot. I had QUOTE for 9A, which gave me QLEDTV for the down (because why not?) which tied me up for an insufferable period of time. Add to that my choice of TENOR for the quartet member on my original mistake and ... yeah. Dumpster fire.

Hand up for COUNTmeIn. Didn’t take as long to fix that, though. TAUTOLOGY is new to me.

Fun and easy-medium once I got past my personal gong show in the NE.

Mike Rees 10:54 AM  

Yes, there are 22 pages of definitions for the one word. It’s one of the most versatile words in the language, perhaps second only to the ubiquitous F-word.

GILL I. 10:58 AM  

A tough puzzle but very enjoyable once I got on the bus.
I learned the meaning of TAUTOLOGY right here on this blog. You smart people who throw around words like RECURSION and BABBLE TOOTS make my day. I go around throwing them words out to my 90 year old neighbor.
This was new and different and fun. The clue for PSST made me laugh because I wanted a KNEE. You one to the groin.
Ham is for Easter in this house. I'm not really a fan of turkey other than to have the white meat slathered in Best Foods mayo on two pieces of pure white bread at 2 in the AM. At Christmas, we have filet mignon (Hi @Hartley). I save all year long to have it. I don't care that it cost $80 a pound. I go to the same butcher every year and he knows me by name. He cuts the center loin just for me and for his efforts, I give him a huge smile.
Do I have to look up CIS gendered? Can one of you RECURSION users splain to moi? My calculator doesn't have SIN on it either.
CABIN BOYS bring you your martinis and make sure you have plenty of monogram towels. They also check on the shrimp and the raw oysters. Can't sail without them.

RooMonster 11:07 AM  

Hey All !
A ?? clue?!?!?!?! @M&A, the revolution has begun!

Puz was a lot of BABBLE to me. Not knowing the meanings of the themers (and I'm not dumb, at least I think not!) held me up. AMBIGUITY was known, but the TAUTOLOGY and RECURSION meanings had me flummoxed. The definitions were outside my base of knowledge and therefore foreign in their understanding. (That last sentence was brought to you by "The Council of Seeming Smart by Using Big Words".)

Wouldn't exactly rate puz SLIMIER, but definitely sent me on A WILD GOOSE CHASE in spots. Come to think of it, that center could be the Revealer, as the other themers are self-referential and you seem to chase your tail. Cool.

Theory on why 1A lit up on app when you were on 36A. On the NYT site, the cross referenced clues light up the other clue it's referencing, ergo, since there is no 66A, it reverted to the next clue in line, 1A. Makes sense, right?

Or it could be a FACT that the puz IS AWILDGOOSECHASE. :-) (@Joe Bleaux from yesterday, Enquiring minds!)

SPACE TOOTS (Do they make a sound?)

Z 11:07 AM  

TFW you’re just not on the cluer’s wave length. I really liked this puzzle but, wow, did it take me a long time to get going. Absolutely nothing wrong with the cluing, it was just every time a clue zigged I zagged and if it zagged I zigged. CELLO? Nah, has to be a tenor. SEER with a crystal ball? Nah, a SEal with a beach ball. AGES or Aeon? I think I’ll try Aeon. “Against” has to mean “opposed” so Anti, not ABUT. And so it went. Solving the dead tree version, so no real idea of just how long this took me, but I’m guessing I got into Saturday time.

Thanks, @Lewis, for the “it” explanation. I knew the cluing wasn’t a problem, but was struggling to articulate why. I much prefer that kind of cluing word play to being able to plop ESSEN in because I do lots of puzzles.

@BarbieBarbie - I believe that’s right, the OED definition of SET is 22 pages long. I don’t own a copy, but I’ve seen that factoid somewhere before, maybe at a trivia night somewhere.

ColoradoCog 11:14 AM  

It’s always interesting to me when a puzzle elicits strong reactions in both directions. The puzzle becomes a sort of Rorschach test, perhaps saying something more about the commenters than the about puzzle itself. I’m in the “loved it” camp on this one. Analyze that as you will.

Joseph Michael 11:17 AM  

Great puzzle. Loved the themers as clued, especially the one for A WILD GOOSE CHASE.

Also thought the clues were exceptionally clever, especially those for HAIL THE SAFARI BUGLE (which also makes a nice command).

In the spirit of the theme, I thought that the clue for 9A should have just been left blank.

The clue for ICON wasn't a problem since I''ve seen it clued that way at least once or twice before.

Have to agree with Rex about the clue for AMBIGUITY which signifies more than one interpretation for a given thing. Perhaps something like "Might or might not be this" would have been more apt.

Hope to see the name Alex Eylar again soon.

SJ Austin 11:18 AM  

I liked this puzzle a lot, despite the poor clues for STY and ICON. And I learned a new word (ARABLE), which deepened my appreciation for the wit of E.B. White, who named his farmer family the Arables in Charlotte's Web.

old timer 11:20 AM  

Fun puzzle and easier for me when I came up with A WILD GOOSE CHASE, which I could do because my toeholds were all in the South, I Googled for ROWE, but did not want to Google for PROBST. It's been a long time since I watched Survivor, but I watched every episode for the first few years. Ultimately Jeff's name came to mind, and that final T made it clear that I needed OMIT, and therefore BUM DEAL instead of a "bad" DEAL.

My only real complaint was the clue for GROANED, Just didn't seem right, somehow.

pmdm 11:24 AM  

Chefbea: "cis" is a prefix that more or less means "on the same side as." For example, in chemistry, if an organic compound has the same group of atoms attached to the center of the same side of the compound, it is called cis-compound (whatever the compound name is) and if the same group of atoms is on opposite sides of the center of the same compound, it is called trans-compound. (OK, my terminology is not really correct, but you should get the idea.) Retaining the meaning of "same," a cis-gender person retains the same sexual identity the person was born with (as opposed to a trans-gendered person).

mathgent: Your definition is correct for tautology when applied to the field of Logic. However, it has another meaning when not applied to the field of logic. That second meaning conveys the idea of repetition, often needless. So the clue is correct because it does not use the definition of tautology used in the field of Logic. Hope that sounds logical to you.

mathgent 11:24 AM  

@Hungry Mother (7:34): You inspired me to try to read Godel Escher Bach again. When it first came out, I couldn't get much out of it and characteristically I blamed the book. Amazon is going to send me a used copy for ten bucks. Godel is one of my biggest heroes in mathematics. His incompleteness theorem is mind-blowing.

semioticus (shelbyl) 11:29 AM  

I did this puzzle on the NYT website. The clue for 36-ACROSS referenced 1-ACROSS. I already had FACT down, so it took me a really long while to figure the apparently best theme answer. If you can't fraking do it right on your own fraking website, why do I even bother?

So yes, my initial grade was B- because I didn't like the theme answer. Apparently it was cute and clever. So I upgraded it to a B+, but damn am I pissed now.

Two Ponies 11:33 AM  

I may or may not remember the new high-falutin' words of today's puzzle (Hi @Roo) but I guarantee that I will remember that the farmers from Charlotte's Web were the Arables. Thanks @ SJ Austin.
Now that is a fun bit of wordplay trivia.

kitshef 11:36 AM  


You asked a while back about what went into a good puzzle. A flip side of that would be what goes into a bad puzzle. I don't think most of us were trying to say that 'Click it' was not a viable style of clue; we were saying we don't like that style of clue.

There are some things that crosswords accept that I think you'll find a lot of solvers don't like: quote puzzles, roman numerals, and, yes, action clues. There are probably people who get joy from each of those, but they are likely in the minority.

Gareth Bain 11:37 AM  

Also had problems in top-right. Like Mike did TENOR and QUOTE buffaloed me and I spent about 5 minutes trying to unravel it.

jb129 11:48 AM  

Agree with chefbea @ 8.23 am.

I was stuck on recursion, didn't understand the repeat of "tautology" & had bad deal for bum deal & couldn't move away from it.

Oh well - we have FRIDAY to look forward to!

The Clerk 11:58 AM  

Loved this theme!

Tim Aurthur 12:05 PM  

Got stalled in the NE with SAvAna crossing rAmBLE. And having no idea what the "Survivor" host's name is.

howardk 12:08 PM  

I had six for calculator button. what is sin?

Anonymous 12:10 PM  

As I used to say many decades ago:

"recursion is easy to understand once you unserstand recursion"

I make no claim of originality.

Rosewood 12:15 PM  

THE GALE hit and my brain GROANED.....and then, BAM! The bells began to PEAL. An old SEER peered over the MYST said, “PSST—ESSEN is under attack.” Luckily, l well-placed TOOT on the BUGLE (no AMP necessary) was enough to FOIL the inCURSION.

Joe Bleaux 12:24 PM  

No rebus, no real gimmick, no theme, but still ... different, so it's Thursday-worthy, especially with its sprinkling of "aha" plays. Thanks, AE. And thanks@Lewis, for clearing "it" up for those of us crying foul on its usage in cluing. Today's example, "Click it," prompts relatively few answers: ICON, of course, and "seatbelt," maybe, or "lock." But many such imperative-mood constructions invite answers from all over the county. "Bet it," for example, would accommodate answers ranging from "the farm" to "your sweet ass." So, yes, best used sparingly indeed.

Anonymous 12:41 PM  

O my. Devastating news no doubt for the constructor, how will they manage to go on?!

Anonymous 12:44 PM  

So are you older or younger than ten?

paculino 12:46 PM  

Liked it a lot. Got misdirected just enough that I got to feel clever when I corrected myself, tickled by the RECURSION and WILD GOOSE themers.

Mr. Benson 12:50 PM  

I wish Mike ROWE would just go away. People think he's some kind of fount of blue collar wisdom, when he's really just a vaguely Trumpian anti-intellectual who's famous for pretending to work hard on TV.

mathgent 12:52 PM  

@howardk (12:08): Some calculators give values for trig functions. "Sin" is short for "sine."

Honeysmom 12:53 PM  

Two firsts: Finished a Thursday all on my own. Enjoyed Rex's rantless review.

Austenlover 1:08 PM  

I, too, had BadDEAL crossing edIT. Still don’t understand recursion.

Thanksgiving = turkey. Christmas = prime rib roast. Easter = ham.

Anonymous 1:13 PM  

Mr Benson - keep wishing. Worked well for you a year ago.

JM 1:36 PM  

The two main definitions of "tautology are:' 1. Saying the same things using different words, and 2. Saying something that cannot within its own terms be anything but correct (e.g., "it is what it is"). I think the answer couplet "tautology, tautology" doesn't quite fit either definition. However, the couplet "tautology, truism" would have fit the first definition (though, of course, the two words in the latter couplet have different letter counts).

Lewis 1:40 PM  

@gareth -- Good to see you here, feels like it's been a while. And are you on a NYT puzzle hiatus? It's been more than two years. I miss your puzzles!

@kitshef -- Ah, good point. I remember thinking those clues were weird and hokey when I first ran into them, but over time, they've won me over, as long as they don't come around too often.

Teedmn 1:40 PM  

I'm missing a long paragraph of explication of TAUTOLOGY from @Loren Muse Smith, who seems to know all those word words. I may have looked up the definition in the past but it didn't stick with me. Thus, I got the bottom one but filled in 17A very cautiously, not expecting a full RECURSION (which I briefly had as exCURSION).

This was really tough for me. The cluing seemed AMBIGUous everywhere I turned. CABIN crew, yAMS, badDEAL, Sum (before SIN) and on and on. I jumped around the grid taking little NIBLETS here and there; I seem to have succeeded, albeit after 20 minutes. It didn't help that PROBST, ROWE, MARIO, and ERIC were all WOEs.

Depending on who did the clues, Mr. Eylar or the editors, I can see some killer themelesses in Mr. Eylar's future. Nice debut, thanks!

Chris 1:50 PM  

Surprised no one has mentioned (I don't think) two repeats from yesterday, PSST and ICON.
It doesn't really bother me any more, but I still think it's strange editing.

Nice puzzle. Didn't know ROWE, but gettable. Played a little under average for me.

Susanna 2:05 PM  

Tautology as a noun also means a redundancy. Like saying "Let's everyone work together as a team" when "Let's work together" is simply fine.

GeezerJackYale48 2:11 PM  

Well, we are all different, aren’t we? I like the guy.

GeezerJackYale48 2:18 PM  

After reading all these deep comments, I almost hesitate to bring up an item that may be trivial, but bothers me every time I see it. That is equating “strike out” with “omit”. To omit is to leave out, not remove. When you omit it, it is not there. You can’t strike it out! End of rant.

Michelle Turner 2:46 PM  

Thoroughly enjoyed the puzzle! It made me think and I was able to finish it without outside help despite not knowing or caring who Mike Rowe and Jeff Probst are.

Anonymous 3:12 PM  

GeezerJack - I get your point, but there is the "omit" used in editing, i.e., directing/suggesting that a portion of a manuscript be deleted (removed). This usage of course employs "omit" in the intentional sense of the word, and not the more common neglectful sense.

Anonymous 3:13 PM  

52a should’ve been clued “trump’s 2nd son.” Only fair after 8 years of “malia” and”Sasha”

Ando 3:15 PM  

Where does the theme name appear? (In the case of this puzzle, "Now "See" this!"). Is it in the print edition? It doesn't show up on the NYT website or in the NYT app, I believe.

Ando 3:20 PM  

I liked RECURSION but didn't think it was perfect.. recursion in programming is typically a function which calls itself, like if you want to display a series of nested computer folders you could have a function which displays the contents and for each subfolder runs itself (displaying the contents and diving into each subfolder etc). It feels like there's a more clever way of conveying this in a crossword but I'm not sure what it is, or if anyone would get it.

BarbieBarbie 3:37 PM  

Action clues acceptable, check. But as a clue for ICON the editor should have gone for “Click ON it,” not “Click it.” That’s for seatbelts.

@Austenlover, us too on the menus, plus toggling leg of lamb for Easter.

Anonymous 3:54 PM  

Must be a good puzzle cuz comments section felt like a less angry family.

Slow Motion 3:57 PM  

I am confused — or perhaps amused is more correct — by those of you who claim a clue is flawed if the answer somehow isn’t EXACTLY PERFECTLY represented by its clue. IT’S A CLUE! If you successfully determine the answer, then the clue worked; it led you to the answer. If you need a letter or two from crosses to get it, because it’s not exactly what you expect, well, tough. I understand what a tautology is, and wasn’t expecting the other answer to also be TAUTOLOGY, but it was. I don’t see that as a weakness or a flaw.

Anonymous 3:59 PM  

We're saving the angry family bit for NEXT Thursday.

GeezerJackYale48 4:01 PM  

Well yep but in that sense, the item in question has not ever been in the version that is meant to be seen, so the editor is saying “ leave it out”. Do I get half agreement? OK, then, now I will rant about the expression “get it for free”. Makes me just as mad since free means for nothing. So get it for free is like saying “get it for for nothing”. I have other rants for rainy days.

Joe Dipinto 4:16 PM  

@Davis 4:03 -- actually, "See 46" would have been a brilliant clue for AMBIGUITY, since its symmetrical answer RECURSION also refers to its own clue number.

Joe Dipinto 4:32 PM  

I had fun trying to figure out what was going on in this puzzle. @Davis's clue idea is much better than what was used, though. And the A starting 36a looks a little uncomfortable sitting there. And shouldn't BUGLE be wake-up caller? Reveille is the wake-up call.

Apropos of nothing, today I found out that Rex and I have something in common: we both hate the word "moist."

Slow Motion 4:51 PM  

@Joe, you and Rex are in good company. “Moist” is always first on the list of Most Reviled Words. Remember that when you’d like to describe a delicious cake as “moist.” It might be, but find another word.

Nancy 4:55 PM  

I'm with you 100% on OMIT, @Geezer Jack. It was inaccurately clued and it bothered me while I was solving. On a day when fewer other things were also bothering me, I might have mentioned it. But the two TAUTOLOGYs plus RECURSION gave me such early FITS that I never thought to even mention OMIT. Glad you did, though!

Re RECURSION. The in-depth discussion here today, which like @Hartley I didn't understand a single word of, reminds me again that there are some very, very, very smart people on this blog. Funnily enough, I also really enjoyed Anon 12:10's RECURSION joke, even though I didn't understand a word of that, either.

abalani500 5:37 PM  

Me too! Quote, tenor and quasar. And RECURSION was a woe.

Trombone Tom 5:50 PM  

Count me in for liking this puzzle from Alex Eylar. He and I were most definitely on a shared frequency.

When I work a crossword I try to maintain a somewhat relaxed attitude toward usage and definition, particularly toward the end of the NYT week. I find that this leads me to a higher rate of successful completion. I don't disagree with some of the reservations expressed on the blog with the theme answers. It just didn't stop me from reaching the finish line.

I thought this was a novel and refreshing theme. I look forward to seeing more from Mr. Eylar.

Joe Dipinto 6:15 PM  

@Slow Motion - Hah! That's an intriguing factoid. "Moist" is #1 most hated in the US, the UK, Canada, and Australia.

Joe Dipinto 6:45 PM  

Whoa, they missed the opportunity to clue 11a as "____ Opera ('SW' film genre)". Oh happy we!

Joe Dipinto 6:56 PM  

@Ando 3:15 -- there are no actual theme names for the Monday-Saturday puzzles (that was a subject of discussion here yesterday). Rex will use the theme clues/answers/revealers to make up a title for the purpose of the blog.

Unknown 7:06 PM  

Infinite RECURSION is a fairly common term (at least in my wheelhouse), so it seemed like fair game to me. I agree on the lack of AMBIGUITY.

Me biggest qualm here is TAUTOLOGY. It usually refers to repetition with different wording, so I kept trying to make a different word fit in the second slot.

Over all, a very solid Thursday with minimal junk fill.

Joy2u 7:51 PM  

@Lewis said " felt out of the box" and I say it is so far out that the only true solution is to put it back. If it will still fit.
I knew as soon as I saw the 'no clues to nowhere' that I was not going to have anything even remotely resembling 'fun' much less success with this stupid thing. And it is only Thursday.
I have to agree with @ghkozen who said it might possibly be the WORST puzzle of the year.
Bah . . humbug.

nick strauss 9:09 PM  

I completed at safari and then space last. RECURSION was hard, I tried SELF REFER first.

OISK 9:19 PM  

.Clever and tough . I liked it!

Carola 10:19 PM  

Can we add Heisenberg's uncertainty principle to the mix? For most of the puzzle I wasn't sure where I was going, and I enjoyed feeling my way to the finish.

Sallie 10:31 PM  

I still need an explanation of recursion.

Billy 11:45 PM  

As somebody who works in robotics and deals with programming a fair amount, the clue for RECURSION might be my favorite clue ever.

For those still wondering, in computers (or in math, too), recursion is doing something that, as part of completing the task, must first complete the task. More technically, it's a computer code that calls itself.

An example in the computer world would be to list everything in a folder, including the folders in that folder, and the folders in those folders, and so on. A less computery example is a Russian nesting doll. Inside each doll is another doll, so it's a recursive doll.

More generally, RECURSION can be anytime a thing refers to itself, though I believe this is a more recent loosening of the original meaning, as computer terms get more commonly applied to daily life. So the clue for 25A pointing you to look at 25A creates an infinite cycle of pointing you back to 25A, and is hence (in the loose, crosswordy sense) RECURSION.

Sunnyvale Solver 4:33 AM  

Great video of “Vincent”

warrenjay 8:45 AM  

maybe a better clue for 46 across would have been see 9 down, meaning the 9 down clue rather than the 9 down answer. a sort of double ambiguity. maybe that would be an ambiguous ambiguity? is an ambiguous ambiguity a tautology?

running dog press 12:13 PM  

Ready for action. Ready yourself: Gir"D" your loins Girt? past tense. Once knew a girl named Gert. My bad: thought,for awhile, that Karads were some sort of atomic particle involved in "chain" reactions.

Bob Kerfuffle 5:19 PM  

Just did this puzzle today (11/19/17) and really liked it; I found it, as @Joe Beaux said at 12:24 PM, "different," in a very pleasing way.

But I am commenting now to respond to @QuasiMojo at 7:41 AM, where he (? - sorry, don't know) posted, "Loved seeing GOOSE in the same grid as the Christmas meals since that is what the Cratchit family got from Scrooge in 'A Christmas Carol.'" (I am hoping @QuasiMojo is one who has clicked the box to continue receiving follow-up comments!)

This issue has a special resonance with me because I engaged in a bit of online back and forth with Will Shortz even before I discovered Rex's blog many years ago. In one of Scrooge's visions, guided by the Ghost of Christmas Present, I believe, Dickens lavishes many details on the preparation of a Christmas goose by the Cratchit family. But this is just a vision. After Scrooge awakes on Christmas morning, following the visits of the three ghosts, he calls out the window to a boy in the street, and instructs the boy to run to the butcher shop and fetch the fattest TURKEY hanging there and deliver it to the Cratchits. So I contend that in reality, it was turkey on the Cratchit table that year.

And because I have checked the "Email follow-up comments to . . . " box, I will have spellcasters on my table for years to come!

Email follow-up comments to . . .

thefogman 11:14 AM  

Rex GROANED a bit, but I hugely loved this puzzle in a massive way. All HAIL Alex Eylar! BRAVO.

thefogman 11:42 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
thefogman 11:55 AM  


FACT! Trump EGESTS his own RECURSION here:

Burma Shave 12:13 PM  


With CRISCO on her HAMS, there’s no SLIMIER SIN she’d OMIT –
having GROANED, “For this BUMDEAL and ACAI have, come NIBLET.”


rainforest 1:43 PM  

Comment was eaten. I won't redo it, so I'll just say that I really liked the puzzle and the off-beat themers/non-themers. Superior to a rebus.

rondo 3:17 PM  

I did this one pretty much from bottom to top. Trouble on THE way back up with rAmBLE before BABBLE creating a rawDEAL/BadDEAL/BUMDEAL inkfest. That’s no ALIBI, just a FACT. Kinda GROANED at THE repeat of TAUTOLOGY, but what else to do?

Used to play THE BUGLE part at military funerals back in my H.S. days. THE services for THE WWI & WWII guys were tough enough, but THE one for my buddy’s brother killed in Nam . . . We had ridden THE same school bus and gone to THE same church; that one gave me FITS.

PSST, can’t find a yeah baby today, but ISLE know her when I SEER with my own AYES. Maybe GALE Storm; My Little Margie from AGES ago has been playing on one of those oldie TV stations.

Agree with @rainy that it’s much better than a rebus – not an if, nor an and, nor ABUT.

thefogman 3:38 PM  

Honor Blackman was Cathy GALE from the original Avengers series and also played Pussy Galore in Goldfinger. She's still alive and kicking.

rondo 3:42 PM  

For those wondering about Christmas HAMS:

Julskinka (Christmas ham) is the centrepiece of a Swedish julbord (Christmas buffet). It is always served cold in Sweden. Swedes normally boil their julskinka and then finish it off in the oven with a mustard and breadcrumb crust/glaze.

centralscrewtinizer 3:44 PM  

Tough. Got going with TE AMO in the SE which yielded my first themer, which got me to the NW, then over to the NE, and finally down to the SW, which had the most resistance. ABORT allowed BARBET and ORALS, which allowed MARIO, but still took a looooonnnnggg time to get RIVET and EGESTS. Cool puzzle and great comments from the peanut gallery.

rondo 4:07 PM  

@central - Today woulda been Frank's b'day

leftcoastTAM 4:27 PM  

Clever, tricky, mostly fun and interesting. Got the theme, which was pretty AMBIGUOUS.

But GROANED on reaching the west-middle, anchored by the too-elusive (for me) ON IT. Tried ME IN, ON ME, US IN. Nothing worked. Gave up.

Big DNF. Still groaning.

J Howard 7:25 PM  

I save NYTs until I get down time to do them, so I'm often late to these parties. I have to say, though, it seems I'm also an exception to most solvers here when it comes to my knowledge bank. ICON was my first gimme, and RECURSION was my first themer.

What held me back longest was my insistence that there will never be more than one occurrence of any word in a grid, so I kept trying to make one of the TAUTOLOGYs into TAUTOLism (or some other variant). Having the same word twice in a grid is my hard and fast mortal sin for a crossword. My only complaint for this challenging puzzle.

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