1/20 of a ton abbr. / SUN 12-31-17 / County in New Mexico Colorado / Three-foot 1980s sitcom character / Hip-hop's Shakur / Film director C Kenton / Historic Mesopotamian city / Kyrgyz city / Result of French powdered drink shortage

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Constructor: John Lampkin

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: "Ring Out the Old, Ring in the New" —themers are wacky phrases where "O"s have been removed (in the top half) or added (in the bottom half) to ordinary phrases ... "Happy" New Year!

Theme answers:
  • LAST TANG IN PARIS (22A: Result of a French powdered drink shortage?)
  • CELL RECITAL (35A: List of things said by Siri?)
  • POL GROUNDS (55A: Washington, D.C.?)
  • I NEED A HUGO (76A: Struggling sci-fi writer's plea for recognition?)
  • URANIUM OREO (96A: Treat that gives a glowing complexion?)
  • SEVEN DAYS IN MAYO (113A: Weeklong Irish vacation?)
  • SUM WRESTLER (15D: One having trouble with basic arithmetic?)
  • FLOPPY DISCO (64D: Some loose dancing?)
  • CAM GEAR (34D: Photog's bagful?)
  • MAD CAPO (65D: Godfather after being double-crossed?)
Word of the Day: CCC (4A: New Deal org.) —
The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) was a public work relief program that operated from 1933 to 1942 in the United States for unemployed, unmarried men. Originally for young men ages 18–25, it was eventually expanded to young men ages 17–28. Robert Fechner was the first director of the agency, succeeded by James McEntee following Fechner's death. The CCC was a major part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal that provided unskilled manual labor jobs related to the conservation and development of natural resources in rural lands owned by federal, state, and local governments. The CCC was designed to provide jobs for young men and to relieve families who had difficulty finding jobs during the Great Depression in the United States. Maximum enrollment at any one time was 300,000. Over the course of its nine years in operation, 3 million young men participated in the CCC, which provided them with shelter, clothing, and food, together with a small wage of $30 (about $547 in 2015[2]) per month ($25 of which had to be sent home to their families). (wikipedia)
• • •

I tried, you guys. I really did. I went in to this like, "Damn it, I am going to *like* a Sunday puzzle. This has been a terrible, terrible year for Sunday puzzles, but by gum (!), I'm gonna enjoy this one." And then the puzzle proceeded to hold up its middle finger at me for 11-12 minutes. It's inexplicable, this incredible decline. This grotesque charade. This completely uninventive and unclever and sad thing that the Sunday puzzle—the marquee puzzle of the week!—has become.

Add a letter, drop a letter, wacky wacky wacky, piles of crosswordese ... in 2017, with as much constructing talent as there is out there, it's baffling. The slimmest, frailest of concepts—it's a play on "ring," get it!?—is supposed to carry you through an entire 21x21 grid? Perhaps with a truly talented clue writer, a concept like this might be salvaged, might be carried out over a giant grid without becoming supremely tiresome. But instead: [Some loose dancing?] for FLOPPY DISCO!? That's it? That's your clue? And SEVEN DAYS IN MAYO gets [Weeklong Irish vacation?]? Can you not feeeeeel how boring that clue is. When your theme concept is this thin (add/subtract a single letter), and is entirely reliant on the wackiness really *landing*, then you better step up and make those themers and clues hum. You need to work. Care. Craft. Something! Anything! But no. It's all workmanlike. And then the fill: ERLE, BAIO, SPOSE, NEH, ENS, and on and on and on. Up the pay to $3000 for a Sunday (a tiny drop in the bucket compared to what they make off a single Sunday puzzle), give the puzzle the editorial care it deserves, and maybe some of the talent you've lost in the past few years will start to come back (there are Big Names you haven't seen in forever ... for a reason). Until then, loyalists will continue to create OK puzzles and the rest of the time, we'll get ... this.

Though the theme is weak, the worst part of this puzzle—the memory that so many are going to be left with—is the unforgivably atrocious crossing of 4A and 4D. Never. Ever. Ever cross answers at a letter that is an abbr. In Both Directions. And *especially* don't do it when neither abbr. is a common term. I honestly couldn't tell you what either CCC or CWT stand for, and the *only* reason I guessed the letter there successfully is that I'd seen CWT somewhere in a puzzle before. That's all. That's it. The only reasonable thing to do if you absolutely insist on going to press with a CCC / CWT crossing is to clue CCC as a Roman numeral. It's 300. The idea that people in 2017 should know the Civilian Conservation Corps is absurd. Let me be clear: it's not that it's not "worth knowing." It's that it's generally not at all well known any more. And when you give it the remarkably lazy and vague [New Deal org.] clue ... it's all so contemptuous of solvers who care about (not to mention pay for) the "greatest puzzle in the world." Constructors should sniff out bad crosses like this, and editors *especially* should sniff them out.

Toughest part for me was the NW, where NOSE BLEED (3D: Result of a haymaker, maybe) and STEALTH (19D: Good hunting skill) and TROOP (31D: Batch of Brownies?) (all abutting one another) all were clued in ways I couldn't decipher. And then of course there's the CCC / CWT thing right there. Is "camo gear" a real phrase? That feels phenomenally weak as a self-standing phrase. Also, I was not looking for a theme answer on those seven-letter Downs—not when you've got nine-letter Downs that *aren't* themed. MAD CAPO and CAM GEAR therefore gave me more trouble than all the other themers by far (because I didn't know they were themers). Other major slow-down came, unfortunately but somewhat predictably, at a very weak answer—the partial A HINT (92A: "Give me ___"). I had AH-N- and without hesitation wrote in A HAND. Pfffffft. It's one thing to be fooled into a wrong answer by a clever clue, when the answer itself is at least a real, even if not particularly interesting, word. But to get snagged by a fill-in-the-blank partial? It's just not fun. I'll give A HINT one thing—it's stronger than A LION (!?!) (37D). But still, fool me with cleverness, if you're gonna fool me. I won't bother enumerating all the tired, hackneyed short stuff here. You can see it all over, from ARP to SOLER to OTERO. May the New Year bring you, and me, better Sunday puzzles. This Is My Sincere Wish.

Happy New Year, everyone.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. "Floppy disk" is spelled With a "K" ... it really is. Type "floppy di..." into google and see what predictive text gives you. Go ahead, I'll wait. No, I won't wait—it's all "disks." Therefore FLOPPY DISCO is, to borrow a phrase from yesterday's puzzle, NOT VALID. I have no idea what this puzzle thinks it's doing.

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


OISK 12:13 AM  

I liked this one. I have found so few of the most recent Sunday puzzles to be Natick-free, but this one was, and I likes many of the theme answers (last Tang in Paris...) very much. Lots of "Aha!" in this puzzle. As far as I am concerned, best Sunday puzzle in a very long time. ( I need a Hugo...Love it!)

OISK 12:16 AM  

I LIKED many of the theme answers. Is there some way to edit after you have posted?

Unknown 12:23 AM  

I don’t know that rayon isn’t plural already. Silks can be plural when referring to jockey clothes, but I have a hard time imagining RAYONS used gracefully. “Should I put this by the stack of Dacron polyester ones?” “No, put it by the RAYONS.”

TomAz 12:23 AM  

I am not opposed to add-a-letter, drop-a-letter, wacky cluing puzzles. It feels like NYT xword tradition. Either go with it or not. I go with it.

This time, I thought the theme concept was a bit baffling. Deleting Os in the top half, adding them in the bottom, I got the pattern but not the reason for the pattern. OK. I smiled at some of the actual themers, though. INEEDAHUGO was probably my favorite. LASTTANGINPARIS and URANIUMOREO were also enjoyable. SEVENDAYSINMAYO, not so much, I am not sure what "seven days in May" refers to.

The rest of the fill was OK. Not bad. PHONEME gave me the most trouble. "Give me a call" would have been a better clue than reaching for obscurity.

Happy New Year, everyone!

Anon 12:24 AM  


ghkozen 12:27 AM  

I disagree that CCC is obscure. They built many, many trails and lodges state parks all across the country. In your neck of the woods: Fillmore Glen, Watkins Glen, Treman, Buttermilk Falls, Letchworth, Taughannock, Niagra Falls, and Harriman state parks, among others. There are plaques in each of these placea commemorating the CCC. Many of us pay attention to such memorials. That you don’t does not make them obscure. It just makes you inattentive.

Anonymous 12:43 AM  

Lucky some posts the other day had alfa (russian sub) as the NATO alphabet, so I didn't have trouble in that corner and was able to finish this puzzler.

Trombone Tom 1:18 AM  

This was a struggle for me and I didn't feel the reward was equal to the effort. I liked it better than OFL did, if for no other reason than my having no problem at all with 4A/D. The works of the CCC survive in many places such as Yosemite NP and the CCC program was an important part of US history.

I liked the clue for LOP.

Some of the themers were clever (e.g. TANG); others not so much.

@Rex makes valid general criticisms of the NYT Sunday offerings.

smoss11 2:06 AM  

Seven Days in May is one of the best political movies of all time with an all star cast. Strongly recommended!!

jae 2:10 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
jae 2:12 AM  

H humo

JOHN X 2:25 AM  

I usually always like something about every puzzle but I cringed at this one. It isn't whether one of the answers is a good movie or another is a historically important program, it's that this was almost nonsensical in its approach. At the end I hit the "Reveal Puzzle" button with five squares to go because I just didn't care anymore (and blew a 96 puzzle streak by doing so, if that matters which it doesn't)

chefwen 2:29 AM  

Got through top and bottom with no problems but stumbled around in the middle section for a long time. I guess the Badger game distracted my attention. What a great game, I’m sure @Carola agrees with me.

Loved all the theme answers and chuckled more than once. Favorite being I NEED A HUGO.

@mericans in Paris, fun seeing you here on days other than Sunday, you have a thoughtful son.

Robin 2:35 AM  

Okay, so Rex was on a tear, but screw that. I thought this was "not bad" (okay, that's weak tea, so let's call it sufficient for a Sunday). I particularly liked that the upper half of the puzzle we subtracted an O from a well-known phrase but in the lower half we added it.

As an sf reader I particularly liked INEEDAHUGO, although I expect the average user would be WTF is Hugo. But to be honest, I liked just about all of the themers.

Finished in average time whilst sitting at SBUX listening to some iTunes Radio jazz.

Unknown 3:19 AM  

Glad to see the outcry over the CCC/CWT cross. Always maddening to spend so much time on a Sunday puzzle only to fail because of a cross like that.

MommaJ 3:55 AM  

It gets awfully tiresome when Rex or a poster bristles because they haven't heard of a particular answer. Personally I thought CCC was a no brainer, but I'm not grousing about the fact that I had never heard of the NATO alphabet. We all come to the Sunday puzzle with different backgrounds, educations, and life experiences. No one knows everything, and your not knowing a particular fact doesn't justify criticism or snark.

Sluggo 4:25 AM  

Count me as another who got Natticked at 4A/4D. I knew what a “hundredweight” is, and figured it was abbreviated as hWT. I had no idea about the CCC, so hCC seemed reasonable enough. Learned something new to finish out the year.

SteveM 5:19 AM  

I used to read Rex every day, now I'm down to a couple of times a month. He really takes the fun out of crossword puzzles. I had no problem with CWT and CCC, probably because I'm old and I've been to a few national parks. But there are plenty of answers that are gimmies for the youngsters that I never heard of because I am old. But when I encounter these I don't throw a tantrum, I try to figure them out through crosses, learn things, and have fun. Unless I read Rex that day.

'mericans in Paris 5:21 AM  

............... RAGTAG .........

That's the way I'd describe this Sunday puzzle. The grid had its moments, but I wish the theme answers had been given time to mature. I agree with others that "I NEED A HUGO" was very good, and one can imagine somebody even saying it. It takes a well-known phrase and turns it into one that makes sense. By contrast, "URANIUM OREO" is not a real thing, and never will be. Wacky, for sure, but not funny as well as wacky.

Then there's "LAST TANG IN PARIS". Spoiler alert, TANG is not to be found in Paris! It's not even sold in the "American food stores", of which there a few. What those stores do sell are breakfast cereals like Grape Nuts (for $10 a box!), Marshmallow Fluff, frozen bagels, and a few other things that can't be found in French grocery stores.

By the way, I pass by the apartment building where the "butter" scene was filmed for "LAST TANGo in PARIS, every day on the Metro (Line 6) during my daily commute. I guess you could call that flick "BRAND[o] X".

The other theme answers were yawnable in my opinion. I did like BATTENS, GOLIATH, FAIR TRADE (expect to hear that phrase in the news often in 2018), HAIRPIN, and FLEDGE, however.

Have a safe and enjoyable New Year's Eve everyone!

@chefwen: Thanks for the shout-out. I probably won't be posting so regularly once I'm back at work. Was off this week, so had more time. By the way, there is a Hawai'ian theme answer in today's Mini puzzle.

Anonypuss 6:27 AM  

I didn't realize there was anything in this puzzle to complain about until I read Rex's column. I am so dumb.

This played easy for me. Finished in under 18 minutes. Would have been a few minutes faster but I had to hunt down a typo.

Virgil Sollozzo / Bruno Tattaglia / Emilio "The Wolf" Barzini 6:38 AM  

46D is incorrect.

The Godfather is the Boss and beneath him is the Underboss. He is not a Capo.

A caporegime (or capo) is in charge of a group of soldiers and enforcers who report directly to him. A capo (also known as captain or "skipper") is appointed by the boss and reports to him or the underboss. A captain runs his own territory and gives a percentage of his (and his underlings) earnings to the boss. He is also responsible for any tasks assigned, including murder. In labor racketeering it is usually a capo who controls the infiltration of union locals.

We will use the dead tree version of this puzzle to wrap dead fish in Luca Brasi's bulletproof vest before sending it to Vito.

Virgil Sollozzo / Bruno Tattaglia / Emilio "The Wolf" Barzini 6:43 AM  

MADDONE ! We meant 65D.

Lewis 6:58 AM  

@rex scored high in Grouch Marks today.

I liked the New Year's title and how it played out in the puzzle, and loved the clever clue for FAN ("Blade runner?") and tricky clue for SPATS ("Short rows?"). I learned CCC and CWT and love the word FLEDGE. The answer OBSESSED tripped off the phrase "o-obsessed" in my head, which the puzzle was, and the alphabet feel of that tripped off fond memories of recently departed and crossword-friendly Sue Grafton.

On the last day of the year, giving thanks to the NYT for providing high quality puzzles -- often memorable gems -- and wishing all here happy surprises in the coming 365.

chefbea 7:46 AM  

Tough puzzle...what does SH,TH,OU have to do with phone me???

Happy new year...see ya next year!!!

Whitey 7:50 AM  

I don't get the theme. What is the connection between the title of the puzzle and adding or dropping an 'O'? Is it something like "Ringo," as in Ringo Starr? That's all I can think of.

Whitey 7:54 AM  

A "phoneme" (one word) is a technical term defined as "the smallest unit of speech that can be used to make one word different from another word."

Eric NC 8:05 AM  

Followed @rex advice many moon# ago and find WSJ puzzles using dead tree much more enjoyable. That said I’m not giving up on the NYT online puzzles yet but you surely can notice the difference between the two. Can not imagine how good a WSJ Sunday might be.

Sue 8:07 AM  

Yup! I totally agree with this. Clever puzzle building has nothing to do with what we as silvers might or might not know. Learning something new is good. But yes, this was not such clever puzzle building. Happy new year. May it be everything 2017 was not.

Sue 8:08 AM  

*solvers*--autocorrect!! Lol

Glimmerglass 8:18 AM  

I found today’s puzzle okay. Not brilliant, but nowhere near as bad as @Rex’s rant. One assumes that @Rex has only the good of the NYT puzzle in mind, but wonders if the money it pays would be an issue if he himself did not work as a constructor (and sometimes get rejected).

Rob 8:28 AM  

Really hated this. Having read Rex's writeup I understand that there was some kind of order to the theme answers, but while doing it it just seemed random. Several of the theme answers that are supposed to be the highlights of the puzzle were gibberish to me.

Luckily my wife knew CCC, otherwise it would have been a total guess for me.

kitshef 8:43 AM  

Excellent, and one hopes a harbinger of what 2018 has in store.

By far my favorite was LAST TANG IN PARIS, which reminded me of Homer Simpson to Bill Clinton, “I figured if anyone knew where to get some Tang, it'd be you”.

It seems 56D LUSH have broken up again following their brief reunion. But in their honor, a link to the Ladykillers video.

Loren Muse Smith 8:44 AM  

Yeah – I left that 4D/4A square blank.

@Lewis – “grouch marks” – good one. And I liked your “o-obsessed.” FLEDGE is indeed a great word. I’ve managed to avoid fledging, but there was that one time when mom and I were ingesting food-grade flea killer so our hair would be thicker. When she started growing hair on her temples, we stopped. At least they weren’t feathers.

I really liked OWLS crossing WHO’S WHO. I got a girl at school recently, got’er good. I said, Oh my gosh, Selina - that girl said you always sound just like an owl. She said who? She even drew it out some. And as she was saying it, she heard herself stepping into the trap. Good times.

For 92A, I went with “a sign.”

@TomAz - I have never noticed that PHONEME parses to PHONE ME. Hah. I have a PHONEME story that I’ll post separately. I may have told it before, but that’s never stopped me before.

@jae – “H Humo.” Hah.

Look. I guess we all sound like broken records here. Rex hates add-a-letter-subtract-a-letter themes unless the resulting phrases are stellar. Fair enough. I always like them because the resulting phrases are just so surprising; that they’re not always knee-slappers doesn’t anger me.

Fun to think of other themers. HELL KITTY, CAMEO UNGLUED, NO PESTO STRIP, PALEO ALE… And back in the day, we could’ve said to Petraeus, CIAO DIRECTOR.

It does seem that some goliath constructors have abandoned the NYT. There are some big names we haven’t seen in quite some time. Croce, Gaffney, La Liz, Longo, Quarfoot… I love their puzzles. Who knows, though, why they’ve gone quiet? Are they really submitting elsewhere now? I normally have time every day for just one puzzle. If there are better ones out there to do, I still wouldn’t abandon ship because of this community, this little home you’ve created for us, Rex. It’d feel so lonely. Out of curiosity, and because I’m snowed in, I did yesterday’s WSJ “Finally.” It was ok, but I liked this one more. But there’s barely any commentary.

I agree that URANIUM OREO is terrific, especially since there seem to be new kinds of Oreos all the time now. And I rather liked FLOPPY DISCO.

Hippo Gnu Deer to Ewe. Stolen from Sandra Boynton.

Möbius Spliff 8:55 AM  

@ghkozen The clueing on CCC is most definitely obscure, and needlessly so. I’d happily have accepted a more interesting clue like “Spartan tragic number” or, given the answer’s location, just “300, once”. Or perhaps you’re as inattentive to history/mythology/Roman numerals/Frank Miller comics as the rest of us are to dust bowl trivia?

QuasiMojo 9:05 AM  

Seems pretty obvious to me that since a ton is 2000 pounds that 1/20th of it would be 100, hence C WT. And the CCC is still very well-known to anyone who knows about the National Park system which I imagine is a lot of people considering how popular the Ken Burns series was about it. There have also been recent documentaries about the CCC on its own. Get out more often, Rex and you might see the fine work that the CCC did to improve our parks and infrastructure.

I'm not a big fan of gimmicky themes but this one seemed okay. There was a better Add an O/take an O away theme done very recently in either the LAT or the WSJ. I can't recall which. But it was either this week or last.

I NEED A HUGO got a chuckle out of me.

John H 9:05 AM  

I agree with all the comments about knowing/not knowing answers. Yes, if you like to hog to parks you probably know about the CCC (an organization that the youth of America could really use today). Many national parks have CCC photo albums on their web pages.Anyone with a reasonably liberal education understands the substitution of "C" for "hundred." I don't complain about pop culture clues (just not interested in that), I just work with the crosses.So get over it.

I have to agree with Rex on the cluing. The clue/answer combos could have been much more entertaining.

Maruchka 9:05 AM  

@TromTom: Indeed. The CCC could work as a model for our times. I've visited several sites where the high quality of construction and design is still tangible. Many are beautifully woven into the terrain. @Rex, I believe you'd enjoy.

webwinger 9:07 AM  

Agree that this was overall a hohum puzzle; no themers that really landed for me and more drecky fill than warranted. I didn’t have a problem with 4A/4D, though. Disk/disc has always confused me. Interesting diskussion of this distinction in Wikipedia. Learned that disc is usually used for optical media like CDs and disk for magnetic, but no need to get in a lather about it...

pmdm 9:07 AM  

Seems that the CCC/CWT crossing seems to have grabbed people's attention, so there isn't any grumbling about OSAMA. Can ADOLF be far behind?

According to the constructor, Will rejected this puzzle at first because he didn't like the title. I am a bit surprised by that fact.

I am not an expert in trivia, proper names, pop music after the 70s, and some other subjects. So for me to complete most puzzles after Wednesday, I need to do some research. Since I play by the rule that I, the solver, can use any source that constructors use when composing the puzzle, I have no problem with crosses like CCC/CWT. Some of what I learn doesn't interest me (things like rap music names) I am often happily enlightened with a fact I had not known. To each his own.

Add/subtract a letter themes of course have been ubiquitous for quite a while. But I think I've said this before. As new solvers enter the world of crossworddom (should that coined word have one or two Ds?) they deserve the opportunity to solve puzzles with those themes. Since I am more concerned with that group of solvers than the "experts," I am happy when such themes recur. I can understand why many will find a theme as trite, but new solvers can take great pleasure encountering that type of theme that still resonates with them. Perhaps a good resolution would be to give more leeway to constructors, allowing construction of puzzles aimed for the new NY Times puzzle solvers.

Happy New Year.

bookmark 9:16 AM  

My father-in-law was in the CCC. It was a lifeline to young men and their families during the Depression. There are CCC plaques all over our state.

Teedmn 9:23 AM  

Overall a nice, sturdy puzzle, not boring. But I have the feeling people will be pointing fingers at 55A and tsking. If I thought to check whether any of the ring-losing themers had extraneous Os that didn't get rung (wrung) out, you know I won't be the only one.

I did like the unexpected bonus themers of CAMGEAR and MADCAPO. I got half the theme at LAST TANG IN PARIS which was also my favorite.

Nice job, John Lampkin. Happy and safe New Year's Eve, everybody.

Aketi 9:25 AM  

Well I fess up to playing whack a letter to get the C before CC. Fortunately C is near the start of the alphabet so it was only a one sip of coffee slowdown.
NOSE BLEED was a gimme since I have experienced the full ramification of a haymaker I didn't block.

@jae, I agree.
@Lewis, say it isn't so. I missed that in the news. Sad that she didn't make to Z is for Zero. I might devote this last cold day of the year to starting a binge reading week from Q to Y.
@Robin, HUGO was a HUGe gimme to me. I'm not so sure there aren't others who also indulge in the genre.
@OISK, the only way is to copy what you wrote and paste the copy into a new post and then edit it and republish. Then delete the old post.

I haven't been "ringing" out the old this year. Since our FLEGEling left the nest for college, I've been "tossing" it out or giving it to Salvation Army and Good Will. The process was the reverse of the 12 days of Christmas as I tossed out more and more out every day.. The New Year's resolution is to keep anything new that comes in to a minimum.

zelda 9:27 AM  

If you live somewhere that recognizes the work the CCC did and the opportunities it gave young men the answer is not obscure. Just had to eliminate TVA and NRA first.
Good puzzle clues and answers challenge all ages. I'd hate to do an old folks puzzle. Or one for younguns.

Small Town Blogger 9:30 AM  

Liked this puzzle. Can’t believe no one else has mentioned the New Year’s Eve “ball drop” theme - the “o’s” in the top half drop down to the bottom half. Well done and CCC is the first clue I filled in!

Birchbark 9:30 AM  

ETS, PHONEME. It is -28 degrees CELSIUS this morning.

CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps): One summer forty or so years ago, my dad, my brother and our good friend Fr. Evans spent two weeks canoeing in the Boundary Waters Wilderness on the Minnesota/Ontario border. Fr. Evans told us that as a youth he'd worked for the CCC building the trails that canoers use to portage between lakes. It was a hot summer and hard manual labor. One afternoon near the end, the powers-that-be delivered tubs of ice cream by float plane to the remote lake. Best ice cream he ever had.

CCC = Depression-era workers eating ice cream on a hot day on a trail they made in the backwoods.

Loren Muse Smith 9:37 AM  

PHONEME story...

So I was a TA teaching an introductory course in linguistics at UNC, and this other TA “Margie” was terrified of teaching. She taught in the same room that I was in; I taught at 10am, she taught at 11am. She asked me if she could sit in on my class every day so that she’d already be in the room and not have to enter for her class. No prob.

The day I had to teach the idea of the PHONEME - tricky because a phoneme is more of a concept than an actual sound – I explained it like this: The T sounds in top, stop, pot, heck, maybe in butter and button – all have a “t” sound, but each one is different as it comes out of your mouth. So they’re kinda like a family of T’s. They all share this “T-ness.”

Margie thought this was a good way to explain the phoneme, but unfortunately for her examples, she switched to P’s – pit, spit, tip. So to bring it home, she said told the class that the sounds all shared a “P-ness.”

'mericans in Paris 9:41 AM  

Nice one, LMS. Now I'm just waiting to hear from our "Fountains" troll.

John 9:43 AM  

Nope, didn't like it.

Unknown 9:44 AM  

Can someone explain the answer to 52 across, savvy

Hartley70 9:57 AM  

The 4a cross didn't get me. My Dad was in the CCC.

URANIUMOREO made me laugh. Finally a new way to use the ubiquitous cookie!

I enjoyed the wacky themers. LASTTANGINPARIS and INEEDAHUGO were my favorites, but MAYO was a close third.

Solving this wasn't rocket science, Rex, but I found it an amusing Sunday morning pastime. Wackadoodle was right up my alley today.

Anonymous 10:05 AM  

@Steve Goldberg savvy is another way to ask "do you understand?" hence the answer "get me?" as in do you get me? aka, understand me.

Nancy 10:10 AM  

I thought the theme answers were cute and provided some nice surprises. Had some trouble in the SW with nikON instead of EPSON at 111A leading to mindS instead of OBEYS at 98D. I also had woRSTS before FIRSTS at 20D. Now why would Guinness celebrate that kind of record?

"If you have it, you might know what this answer is before reading the clue." Well, actually, no -- not always necessary. Some answers are so obvious that you hardly would need ESP to get them without reading the clue. I'm sure every single person here has has that experience, ESP on Mondays and Tuesdays. I even had it here today on a couple of answers, although I'm darned if I remember which ones they were.

A pleasant enough puzzle. I especially liked POL GROUNDS and I NEED A HUGO.

Charles Flaster 10:17 AM  

Fair puzzle.
Liked themers and easy to suss.
DNF at TED conference.
Learned FLEDGE.
Thanks JL

Michael A. Shea 10:18 AM  

Camo gear enough of a phrase, it's legit. And the CCC is a very interesting bit of history. In places where some infrastructure has been standing for a long time - RI, WV, state parks, parts of Virginia - there are actually plaques/markers with CCC on them in more places than we typically realize. I agree with the overall point that not reasonable for CCC to be widely known, but once you start looking for it, it pops out more than you would thought.

Joe in Nfld 10:19 AM  

Is a TARPIT really an archeological treasure trove, or rather a paleontological treasure trove?

EdFromHackensack 10:26 AM  

I liked this puzzle a lot. CCC was a gimme, I learned that in high school. OTERO/LOP cross was a guess and I guessed wrong.

Robert A. Simon 10:27 AM  

What @MommaJ said. Squared.

Listen--I don't know much, but I know this: disappointment is a function of expectation.

In addition to the absence of crosswordese crap--an expectation we all share--Rex sits down and expects to know everything and be able to finish in near-record time. And why is that? Because he lives in the world of competitive solvers, and any speed bump--of course--becomes a candidate for his wrath.

Me? I expect cleverness, challenges to my memory, and as many AHA moments as possible. The second speed becomes important, the possibility of enjoying the puzzle is put into severe jeopardy. Not knowing one fact (today it's the CCC) can ruin your day because it ruins your time. And then what happens? We get a debate over whether Rex--or anyone--should have known the answer. (Of course he should have. Pulling the country out of the great depression has to rank very high on the list of legislative achievements, one-two with civil rights. If FDR and Congress don't solve that problem, what do you think happens in WW II? Nothing good, that's what.)

From what I can figure out, 98% of you solve faster than I can--and you have to know I respect that. But if anyone is sacrificing enjoyment at the altar of speed, I suggest that in the coming year they get off the bullet train and enjoy the scenery, and yeah, that wasn't my best metaphor, but the coffee hasn't kicked in yet.

And please, keep contributing here. I have really enjoyed meeting several of you, and just so you know, I have conclusive proof that "Anonymous" is actually a bunch of Russian, Chinese, and North Korean hackers who come here to ruin the fun of some very smart and enjoyable people.

That's my theory, and I'm sticking to it. Happy New Year, everyone.

Anonymous 10:33 AM  

I didn't know the answers.
I couldn't figure out the clues.
This PUZZLE is stupid, I'm not.
Am too.

Aketi 10:41 AM  

@Lewis, you triggered me to be O OBSSSESSd I just had to count all 23 Os plus the 5 rings that were out and the five rings that were in. And three double Os
@M&A seemed like a fairly high u count too.

Norm 10:44 AM  

So, history [i.e., CCC] doesn't matter because Rex doesn't know it? Maybe he should read some. What a silly complaint.

MimaW 10:45 AM  

Thank heavens there is a Puns & Anagrams to make up for this horrible puzzle!

Mohair Sam 10:47 AM  

Liked it. CWT a gimme here because I did some research on commodities futures markets years ago and the end product units are usually measured in CWTs (or were at that time). And I noticed that most CCC complainers were younger - I guess the New Deal programs are too far back for history classes in the last few decades.

@LMS - Good one.

Anonymous 10:47 AM  

Well, fine...
I actually enjoyed this puzzle.
I don't fret about the time. I gave a cup of coffee and spend as much time as it takes.
Enjoy every minute of it.
Bad puns, hipster stuff, obscure (to those of use who don't listen to) rap references... politically incorrect but historically accurate stuff...
Whatever. Never read Harry Potter, don't intend to. So I have to look stuff like that up. Big deal.
I like it all.
It's a game, not life or death, for me.
If it's a big deal to you, that's okay too.
Whatever keeps your personal watercraft afloat.

ghthree 10:52 AM  

I don't think there is such a thing as CAMoGEAR. To me, 34D (CAMGEAR) isn't a themer. The clue probably should have omitted the question mark.
My biggest problem was with 78A. I had no prbolem with the HUGO part, but my first try was "I WANNA HUGO" (influenced by Wednesday's 65A clue "I WANNA" with the answer "LEMME"). When that failed, I tried "GIMME A HUGO" and then back to "I WANNA" before the crosses finally set me straight.
I found "CCC" a gimme. I'm older than Rex. But like Lewis, I enjoy using crosses to work out things from other generations.

Wm. C. 11:01 AM  

Lotsa outcry about the CCC/CWT cross, but I had no problems with it.

I quickly guessed that 100 pounds would be a centi-weight (?), and then confirmed it with the CCC. Granted, I was able to do this ONLY because my uncle was in the CCC during the depression. I'm generally not a great fan of government programs, but this was a very successful one.

JulieT 11:09 AM  

Is there any way this was meant to allude to dropping the ball in Times Square? That is, the" ball" (the "O") kind of falls from the top to the bottom? I'm really reaching her for anything redemptive. This was DREADFUL.

Two Ponies 11:14 AM  

Some of the theme answers were fun but remembering CCC was the best.
It seems that all of my life I have stumbled upon works done by the CCC and always found them to be amazing. Many of the structures are made from native stone of the area and blend into the natural settings beautifully. I have found them not only in national parks but also tiny city parks as well. What a wonderful program.

OISK 11:19 AM  

Since others have brought up the WSJ puzzles, there is a marvelously devious, clever puzzle (Last Shift) by Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon in Saturday's paper. (page C 13. For some reason, on Saturday, they don't list the puzzle page in the index...) The Journal DOES print what we call a Sunday puzzle, but on Saturday. ( 21 by 21 yesterday), by Julian Thorne. Have not tried it yet)

Blue Stater 11:19 AM  

Glad to see I'm not the only one who thinks the Sunday puzzles have gone far downhill. It seems that WS is too busy being famous to tend to his day job.

84D is just wrong, and conceptually muddled to boot.Phonemes are sounds, not letters, or, at a minimum, phonetic representations of sounds. For English, that would define the *sounds* *represented* *by* "sh" and "th." But I've no idea what the constructor had in mind by "ou" as a "phoneme."

A consistent failing of WS's puzzles (but by no means the only or worst one) is that he doesn't get informed help when cluing in specialized fields. Surely there's someone on the NYT copydesk who has some background in English linguistics and could catch a howler like this. But no, as far as I can tell WS doesn't run the puzzles through the copydesk (as I have been urging for at least 10 years). If he did, he'd save himself some embarrassment and his solvers a lot of aggravation.

Malsdemare 11:25 AM  

Lots of grear comments here today, and so far, everyone’s playing nice. LMS, Robert Simon, pmdm, Aketi, ya’ll said it better than I can. Puzzle was just fine: a nice start to a very brutal weather day. It’s -14 with the wind chill and Illinois without the wind is like the Queen without her handbag. I need to get out today; am dreading the experience.

I’m one of those who has seen those CCC signs everywhere and still was awfully slow getting 4A, even with -CC. Sigh! Really liked I NEED A HUGO and the other themers were totally enjoyable, even if CAPO is wrong.

I’m with the others on the death of Sue Grafton. I’m ot sure which letter I’m up to but I think I’ll do a quick browse and get the books I haven’t read. Y is due out in April, I believe, so sort of like getting one final glimse of Carrie Fisher in “Last of the Jedi,” we’ll get one last visit with Sue. Her family has said that the alphabet will end with Y; Grafton was adamant about no movies, no TV series, and no ghostwriters, and the family will honor her wishes. As they should.

Gonna go dress like the Nanook of the North in prep for my artctic adventure.

DJG 11:26 AM  

Agreed, QuasiMojo. I inferred CWT in this exact way. It’s not a 100% Natick.

Anonymous 11:33 AM  

I’m glad Mr. Shortz included Osama in the puzzle. No prominent person no matter how evil, including Hitler and Mao, should be off limits. I’m also glad that Rex didn’t voice any objection to Osama’s inclusion. The fact that Rex has no problem with Osama bin Laden, however, makes his opposition to the inclusion of DeVos, Ivanka, et. al. even more ridiculous.

GHarris 11:33 AM  

Enjoyed doing this puzzle. Agree with all those who have taken Rex to task for throwing a tantrum whenever he encounters material beyond his ken. We all have our blind spots but we just muddle through. Today I needed outside help to get the country beginning with Es because I was not thinking nonEnglish spelling.Otherwise, it all went in with relative ease.

tubadon 11:40 AM  

Allthough to my shame I once said a ton was 1000 pounds on a school quiz, cwt was a gimme, and ccc has been used often enough in past xwds that it should be familiar also. Wanted mammoth for goliath, which slowed down the western region.

Unknown 11:48 AM  

Nice holiday theme, I thought. "Add an O"...yeah, kind of tired. But combined with "subtract an o"...where the two halves land in coherent areas...well, coherent when combined with a clever title, tied to today's holiday...hey, I approve. If that Ball Dropping thing was intentional...very well done.

Anonymous 11:58 AM  

@Malsdemare ~ "Y is for Yesterday" is sitting on my bookshelf waiting for me to finish just plain "X". Z is gone with the wind, unfortunately.
RIP, Sue Grafton.

Anonymous 12:03 PM  

I am a fairly new crossworder & enjoy reading this commentary often because it gives me more to think about but I admit I can’t totally get your point of view. Are you angry because it is was too hard in places (brownie troop, nosebleed- both of which were clear for me- surely that’s just the luck of ones background knowledge & neural pathways), too easy (a lion) or too trivial (cwt, ccc)? I thought it was pretty fun but I’m no expert. I appreciated the rings going in and out—more appropriate than synonyms for hitting people on Xmas, certainly. Reading these harangues every day makes me wonder what YOU are looking for? Share a link to one you like! I’d love to see it.

Buggy Bunny 12:07 PM  

"TROOP (31D: Batch of Brownies?)"

I gave up on this one early on. and that was one of the reasons. was a Boy Scout, and before that Cub Scout. OK, so Cub and Brownie are age equivalents, and Cubs were in "dens", Boys were in Troops. Girl Scouts were in Troops. I have no idea what Brownies were in, but not Troops. I expect I'm not the first in this comment stream to point that out, but it's too annoying to wait.

Unknown 12:10 PM  

Nowadays the ? seems to mean " there is a blatant error in this clue."

Malsdemare 12:11 PM  

In the for what it’s worth department: Grafton named her last novel “Z is for Zero.” Sadly, that works just fine. So I think ending at Y is quite fitting. And I stand corrected; I really did think Y was not yet out. I’ll go get it now.

GILL I. 12:23 PM  

@Robert A. Simon 10:27...Great post!
I never like to say anything bad about a crossword because I know how difficult it is to construct one. Without sounding pedantic ...this puzzle stank.
I wish I could be as eloquent as @Robert, but I'm not. I fully agree with @Rex about the cluing. It was boring - plain and simple. I'm easy to please and yet nothing made me happy. Well, maybe IN NEED OF A HUGO.
The clue for URANIUM OREO was just plain awful. Why complexion? Why clue YIPPIES with the dull "some 1960's radicals"? Throw in their anarchy-communism ideology or even Abbie Hoffman. There were lots of radicals in the 60's...Remember the Black Power movement? @Rex is right about the stale, lifeless cluing.
The add a letter theme has never bothered me and I bet BEQ could juice up any of them with a chuckle or two. This puzzle came across as dull as a dish rag.
A new year is upon us. YAY. A Happy one to all of you. Amen....!

ArtO 12:29 PM  

Here to second the many comments in favor of the puzzle and to defend the CCC/CWT cross. Anyone with a scintilla of U.S. history should be aware of the Civilian Conservation Corps and with any basic knowledge would know that 1/20th of a ton is one hundred pounds (and the abbreviation thereof). Rex knows a ton of stuff that is out of my wheelhouse (generally an age related thing) but it's really getting old to hear him complain about anything that relates to before he was born.

As for the theme, yes, it's basic but I got a kick out of LASTTANGINPARIS, URANIUMOREO and POLGROUNDS.

Toughest part was PHONEME and ERLE cross plus having Rex's problem with putting in AHaNd instead of AHINT.

astroman 12:31 PM  

Hated hated hated the 'wacky' bits. Right on Rex.

Stuartwm 12:34 PM  

I imagine the argument over what is or is not "common knowledge" began with the first crossword. I agree with those who believe it's pointless to kvetch about specific examples and one should accept the fact that some topics are a closed book to some, not to others. And part of the fun of crosswords is solving the puzzle WITHOUT knowing all the answers.

And it's really not clear to me why the 4A/4D "CCC" and "CWT" provoked such outrage. Why is crossing abbreviations such a "no-no" according to @Rex? For the record, I had no trouble with either--except performing the mental arithmetic for 4D.

Georgia 12:35 PM  

You can remove and retype.

GILL I. 12:39 PM  

If you really want a chuckle try and get ahold of Dave Barry's 'SO LONG, 2017. Don't let the door hit you on the way out." It has appears today in The Sacramento Bee, but I bet you can probably down-load it from the internet somewhere.
I love Dave Barry!

old timer 12:45 PM  

I thought this was way better than average for a Sunday. I do think the clue for MADCAPO was off, because a Godfather is not a CAPO though he may have been one in the past. And CAPO gave rise to the horrible ASAN, which could have been clued as a cut=off position (ASANa.)

CWT is something most people though apparently not OFL, know. Fairly clued too. And the CCC was perhaps the New Deal program with the most lasting value, They built things to last, in those days.

Wishing @'mericans an excellent Reveillon du Nouvel An tonight. Tomorrow we visit friends who kept a seasonal B&B in the Dordogne for many years. They usually invite a few francophones to their party,

Masked and Anonymous 1:05 PM  

Overall, I liked it. The theme had lotsa humor, which is what U need in a gi-normous SunPuz grid, to keep U interested over the loong haul. Best ahar moments:
* SUMWRESTLER. Cleverest.
Wobbliest themers:
* POLGROUNDS. Still has two rings. Would hafta be PLGRUNDS, to fully qualify.
* FLOPPYDISCO. By similar logic, undoctored version would need to be: FLPPYDISC.
* URANIUMOREO. Would've then needed to start out as: URANIUMRE.
On a lossey-goosey technicality, theme completely works, since puz title ain't "RINGs OUT THE OLD, RINGs IN THE NEW", I reckn. Sooo … ok with an asterisk.

@Aketi: yo & yep. 10 U's is a bit above the SunPuz average, which runs around 8-ish.

Had no problemo with CCC/CWT, but can see how some might.

fave ow de speartion: UNRIPE. NEH. ONEHOP. GDS. ALION. AHINT.
staff weejeccct piccck: CCC. Better clue: {Cease but also sees, in a way??}.

Thanx for the SunFun, Mr. Lampkin.

Masked and Anonymo10Us

now let's really drop the ball …

Anonymous 1:06 PM  

Hey @LMS:
Who's there?
"Owls" who?
Yes. Yes they do.

Buggy Bunny 1:10 PM  

@old timer:
And the CCC was perhaps the New Deal program with the most lasting value, They built things to last, in those days.

and the cruel irony of that fact: most of the building happened in what today identify as Red States who want the damn gummint out of their lives. except when they need the damn gummint to save them. most of the South wouldn't have electricity or running water or piped sewerage without FDR, damn Socialist. HAPPY! new year. and watch HAPPY! on SyFy, it's a riot.

Joseph Michael 1:11 PM  

I think I like the title and the play on "ring" better than the actual puzzle itself, though it did yield some fun entries, such as I NEED A HUGO.

Who left the door open and let all of those prepositions in? LIE TO, FELL TO, BLAME ON, DINES ON, etc. I felt SAD AT the conclusion of this puzzle.

"Give me a RINGO" is what the Queen said when she was looking for someone to knight.

SPATS might be what Ringo will wear when he and Barry Gibb take the knee. Possibly a HAIR PIN as well I SPOSE.

AS AN is the middle of only *some* similies since others might have an AS A, LIKE AN, LIKE A, or just plain AS or LIKE.

Wanted "mammoth" before GOLIATH and that caused some problems in finding that FLOPPY DISCO. Otherwise this was a fairly easy stroll through the last NYT puzzle of 2017. Too bad the year couldn't have ended with more of a bang and less crosswordese.

Alan_S. 1:11 PM  

I completely agree about "this community, this little home..." . It's probably the only reason I still visit every Saturday/Sunday.

But, the quality of the Sunday NYT Magazine crossword puzzle has declined markedly over the last few years, as evidenced, in part, by the fact that you can come up with a few themers, off the top of your head no less, that are far more clever and cute than the mostly lame ones that this constructor presumably worked hours to come up with.

As much as Rex's whining can be tiresome at times, I can't blame him for berating Will and many of the entries of late and trying to return us to the glory days; you know, those days that you couldn't resist running around showing everyone in the house how clever a clue was or how amazing the construction of the puzzle was. I haven't done that in years.

Oh, and your rotating avatars are cute too!

The Hermit Philosopher 1:15 PM  

@GILL I asked "Why glowing?" Because radiation supposedly would make you glow in the dark. :-)

I agree with those who are appalled at Rex's kvetching, yet I keep coming back here just to see what else he can complain about. Apparently he makes the rules for what constitutes a good puzzle. CCC/CWT violates Rex Rule 1375.342(c)(1), I think.

Anoa Bob 1:17 PM  

Today another mini lesson in Spanglish. 1) In Spanish, "Saber" means "To know", so the answer to the clue for 28D, "Quién ___?" is the third person singular SABE, so the phrase means "Who knows?" 2)In Spanish, the letter B sounds like the letter V. 3) So gringos hear "savvy" instead of "sabe". 4) Then the answer to the clue for 52A, "Savvy?", is GET ME(?). (On 12-19, the answer to the clue for 32A "sharper" was SAVVIER.)

While I'm at it, although the accent mark over the "e" in the clue "Quién ___?" is there, an ¿ at the beginning to match the ? at the end also should have been included. And if you think these sorts of thing---accent marks, upside down question marks, tildes, and such---are unimportant, then let me wish you a ¡Próspero Ano Nuevo! You savvy?

Malsdemare 1:18 PM  

Absolutely off-topic; apologies to all those annoyed. I like the idea of binge-reading Grafton but have no idea what my last book was. I'm thinking of going backwards. Bad idea? Does it matter?

Kimberly 1:19 PM  

I usually chastise Rex for his negativity, but I can’t today. This was horrid. He could have saved up the complaining from all year and dumped it on this one puzzle and he wouldn’t have been wrong.

Aketi 1:19 PM  

@Julie T, the ball at Times Square drops straight down. Those rings seem to have encountered a tornado on their drop into the bottom five themers. I thought perhaps the ROUND in POLG(ROUND)S might have been part of the theme or perpas the five rings that dropped out and in were related to the Olympics or the Lord of the Rings or a very intense circus.

@Buggy Bunny, Brownies were the youngest Girl Scouts and so they were in . I wasn't a Girl Scout I was a Camp Fire Girl which was nonsectarian. It is now coed and merely called Camp Fire. The youngest Camp Fire Girls were called Bluebirds. They also formed TROOPs. I did 4-H too. No one called members of 4 H a TROOP.

Buggy Bunny 1:21 PM  

As much as Rex's whining can be tiresome at times, I can't blame him for berating Will and many of the entries of late and trying to return us to the glory days

the problem is that all human progress is defined by that damned sigmoid curve; eventually it levels out to a vewy, vewy slow asymptote of progress. we all live in that condition now. most every item in your daily life is just the result of teeny, tiny increments to science/tech invented many decades ago. one of today's biggest fiasco is the Apple iOS situation: tanking older models with older batteries. problem is really that once we got Li-ion batteries, we'd reached the end of the line in battery tech. well, unless/until someone invents an atom with better free electron density, of course.

cell phones, you say??? well:
"A car phone is a mobile phone device specifically designed for and fitted into an automobile. This service originated with the Bell System, and was first used in St. Louis on June 17, 1946."
from the Wiki.

‘mericans in Paris 1:23 PM  

Merci, @old timer! Meilleurs voeux pour la nouvelle année à vous aussi!

Anonymous 1:30 PM  

"Brownies units are called Packs"

from the Wiki. so there.

pcardout 1:37 PM  

I agree with you John and want to take a shot at the CCC crybabies. I knew CCC immediately, but last week I didn't know Adele, and I didn't bitch about that clue. The puzzle is for all generations, and, given that Republicans are working hard to erase all of FDRs legacy, it is worth reminding ourselves about it. BTW, a non-profit, the SCA, has continued to put students in parks for past 50 years.

Virgil Sollozzo / Bruno Tattaglia / Emilio "The Wolf" Barzini 1:45 PM  

We get a piece of the action, so here's the official Girl Scouts' page:

What Brownies Do

Girl Scouts in the Brownie® program are ready to take on the world, and Girl Scouts lets them do just that! They want to learn new things and show off what they know. They want to explore the world and meet new people. And they want to do big things that make them feel great!

At Girl Scouts, she'll take that first hike in the great outdoors, visit a science museum, and band together as a mighty Brownie team to sell cookies (and use some of the money to help others). Life is good when you’re a Brownie!

As a Brownie (grades 2–3), she might:

Expand her circle of friends in a troop

Have fun learning all kinds of new skills as she earns badges

Do a project that makes a difference in her community (and beyond) as part of a Girl Scout Leadership Journey

Bond with her friends as she sells cookies

CDilly52 1:47 PM  

While I agree that this was certainly not “marquee quality” work for Sunday, I am baffled that OFL, who surely must have studied American history of the Great Depression had not heard of the CCC. It was discussed recently, comparing President Obama’s stimulus package to FDR’s response in creating the CCC to provide jobs and job training. So many of our national and state parks owe much of their infrastructure to the work of the CCC. Not an oddity or an outlier at all.

Old Fat Basterd 1:56 PM  

Sharp is a crybaby snowflake. He whines more than Nancy, if that’s possible.

Nancy 1:58 PM  

@webwinger (9:07) -- Me too for always being flummoxed by the difference between disk and disc. I went to Wiki per your suggestion, read about the "optical" vs "magnetic" distinction, and am now more baffled than ever :)

@GILL (12:39) -- I found the Dave Barry article and am awarding him a Purple Heart. He had to relive every horrendous thing that happened in 2017 in order to write it. Imagine putting yourself through such a thing voluntarily. It was excruciating enough to live through once.

lg 2:04 PM  

Troops. Brownies are in Troops. And technically, a Cub Scout Den is equivalent to a Boy Scout Patrol. Den’s are part of a Pack, Patrol’s are part of a Troop.

Bob Mills 2:08 PM  

A capo isn't a godfather. A capo is an underboss.

Oldflappyfrommississappy 2:22 PM  

Thanks Bob Mills for saying what at least 10 people already said!

Fountains of Golden Fluids 2:23 PM  

Does anyone remember p-ness?

CDilly52 2:31 PM  

Wonderful explanation of the beginning of the Girl Scout adventure. I enjoyed scouting from Brownies through Seniors finishing almost 40 years ago and am involved in our local council’s leadership program. Scouting has grown and changed to continue to give girls opportunities to acquire skills and build friendships that last a lifetime. Thanks for sharing!

CDilly52 2:32 PM  

Nope - troops

Anonymous 2:40 PM  

As far as I can tell, Brownies are also in troops. Cub Scouts are in packs.

Austenlover 2:52 PM  

I am surprised to see comments about whether a certain answer was or was not a themer.g. In my version of the puzzle (I solve on an iPad), the clues to themers appeared in italics, so there was no question about which were part of the theme, including MADCAPO and CAMOGEAR.

Crane Poole 2:55 PM  

30 minutes added to time looking for a wrong when everything was right. Had to hit Reveal needlessly. Has this happened to you?

I'm mostly with Rex on this one. I NEED A HUGO was excellent but more was needed; much more.

noreen 3:04 PM  

I enjoy doing the Sunday puzzle, no matter what form it takes. Some are more clever or funnier than others, but I enjoy them all to a greater or lesser degree. Comments from Robert A. Simon, LMS, and Anonymous 10:47 were a good expression of my perspective. If people want a more balanced and less angry and critical commentary than Rex Parker's, they can look at Deb Amlen's exposition. She is quite good.
BTW, LMS, thanks for a good story too.

Anonymous 3:05 PM  

It really irritated me that the answer to "archeological treasure trove" was "tar pit". The clue should have been "paleontological treasure trove." Tar pits have few human remains. Boy, am I boring, or what?

Bagelboy 3:06 PM  

As for CCC/CWT cross. I figured it was for Hundredweight which i have heard of but assumed would be abbreviated HWT

My only othe problem was 7 down RENT vs REND. I didnt know the cross SNERT vs SNERD.

Joe Dipinto 3:22 PM  

Pretty 116a, imo, as puzzles go. Had REGAN before EDGAR, and SHOER before SOLER. Having to fix those probably provided the most interest in solving this thing. And having to fix those wasn't interesting.

puzzlehoarder 3:30 PM  

Solving this in bed before falling asleep was a bad idea. With the exception of the CCC/CWT crossing the top tier including the 22A themer went in smoothly. Then I got to 34D and, question mark or not, I confidently entered CAMERAS because what else could it be? From that point on it was as if a switch had been thrown and my solving skills went right out the window. I'm too stubborn to quit when I ought to and finished with a clean grid but it was a long slog. I do Sundays to do them, if you skip them you miss a lot.

Speaking of missing things, as clued this is the 12th appearance for CCC under the current editor. For CWT it's the 11th. If they've been hiding it's been in plain sight. Anything a solver finds befuddling in a puzzle they should review the xwordinfo clue lists on that particular entry before they comment. It will give them a whole new perspective.

The downside to all that analysis is that really good solving experiences like yesterday's SW corner become harder and harder to find. Long gone are the days of scanning entire clue lists to put in an entry or two.

A Happy New Year to all especially constructors who can bring their A game otherwise things get BOOOORING! Just like JoAnn Worley used to say it.

@ Nancy, I changed NIKON to EPSON too only I had to go through EPSOM first. ACURA is Honda's luxury line. For your resolution I want you to go to the xwordinfo "clue finder" option punch in the words CAR and AUTO and see what comes up. Fight fire with fire.

Andy 3:32 PM  

Not nearly as awful as Rex would have you believe. And everyone who knows a smidge of American history should know what CCC is. Rex, your comments on that answer reveal a certain degree of distain for knowledge. Are you turning into an anti-"elitist" with your comment? :)

Buggy Bunny 3:33 PM  

not to extend the controversy too much longer (wellllll), the clue was "Batch", so that, logically, refers to the Brownie's *immediate* membership, and whatever that might be it sure ain't the Troop, since that is, at least, a Batch of Batches of Brownies.

Unknown 3:54 PM  

Totally agree. I’m not even American, but anyone who has ever hiked anywhere in a National Park has surely seen those plaques!

Outside The Box 4:13 PM  

Sorry Rex, but your question about why should anyone in 2017 should know what the CCC is, is, well, asinine.

That’s the problem today. Most of the younger generation(s) know nothing about our history. They’re ignorance is mind-boggling and it shows in their world view, such as it is, in their vacuous tweets and posts and ultimately in the voting booth.

Millions of people obsess over what they had for lunch on any given day or where they ate it, but they probably couldn’t tell you who Franklin D. Roosevelt’s wife was. (They would probably answer: Mrs. Roosevelt.)

Joe Bleaux 4:17 PM  

@Joe D (from yesterday), thanks for the kind words. Re MNEMONIC, @Birchbark and @JC66 spelled it out for me. I thought there must have been more to it, but no.

Anonymous 5:01 PM  

Why no whining for the absence of a tilde in the clue for España.

Stanley Hudson 5:14 PM  

Of no particular interest to most on this blog: Years ago there was a state highway in Ohio that the locals referred to as “3 Cs highway.” It ran from Cincinnati to Columbus to Cleveland, or vice versa if one prefers.

As some posters have already commented, many of us are old enough to know people who worked in the Civilian Conservation Corps. Had it not been for that agency and others like it, the WPA for example, many of those folks would’ve starved to death. Well worth knowing that history, even in the 21st-century, or so it seems to me.

Nancy 5:41 PM  

@noreen (3:04)-- Deb Amlen of Wordplay is a very nice person in real life too. She went out of her way a few years ago to help me with a puzzle project, even though I was a complete stranger to her. She could not have been nicer. I love her good-natured and positive approach to puzzles and I think she's a far, far more graceful and accomplished writer than Rex. I might well have ended up on that blog instead of this one -- both had been recommended to me over the phone by Will Shortz -- but I could not master the %!$%#! scrolling system on Wordplay. It must have been designed by the Marquis de Sade. I can't imagine it not driving everyone who uses it completely crazy. If they ever straighten it out, who knows? Except that as LMS says, we have created a terrific community here and there are lots of people I'd really miss. Wonder if they've created an equally close-knit community over there?

Unknown 5:50 PM  

Rex is right about compensation for constructors.

The NYT Crossword Digital subscription revenues were $9.3M in 2016. That is $25,000 of revenue for the x-word app per day, every day of the year. Paying $200 for weekday puzzles and $1000 for Sunday is absurd. The Times TOTAL compensation for constructors is under $150,000 per year for a product that is on track to hit $20M annual revenue in the next year or two. Quarterly reports don't break out xword subscription directly, but 3Q 2017 report indicated that digital subscriptions overall had grown 46% compared to 2016.

Source: https://docs.google.com/viewer?url=http://s1.q4cdn.com/156149269/files/doc_financials/annual/2016/Final-Web-Ready-Bookmarked-Annual-Report-(1).pdf)

Joe Dipinto 5:51 PM  

@Joe B 4:17 - yeah, I saw. I really think the cluing has been getting weirder and/or more obtuse.

thefogman 6:23 PM  

I liked this puzzle a lot. Just the right amount of crunch and aha! moments. A nice way to spend a lazy NYE. Happy New Year 2018 to all!

Stanley Hudson 6:50 PM  

@Nancy, Wordplay has a nice community of regular commenters. Less snark and negativity than this site, but not as much ribald humor from the posters (no evil doug).

Go Democrats 7:16 PM  

My first thought was WPA

JC66 7:18 PM  

@ Everyone


Masked and Anonymous 7:29 PM  

My first msg had lotsa typos/autocorrections. Musta been them mimosas.
Plus, a far better CCC clue = {Seize in a way, or "Si, si, si!" cousin, or U's in a windstorm??}. A little wordy, but kinda gives one a chance to pick out a fave.

I always enjoy the interactions hereabouts from the Comment Gallery. Agree with @RP & [primo commenter and former runtpuz-head] @muse, that some mighty great constructioneers unfortunately haven't done many NYTPuzs lately. NYT pays about as high-$ as anyone for the puzs, tho, I think. More might help, I suppose.


Anonymous 7:37 PM  

That clue irked me as well. Archaeological = human artifacts. Not even human fossils mind you, which would be "paleoanthropological".

thefogman 7:37 PM  

Hey Rex. For 2018, I demand $3,000 for each of my blog entries from now on. LOL! Happy New Year you old grouch!

Unknown 8:07 PM  

I don't understand 122A: Neuron's ends? (ens)

Anonymous 8:09 PM  

@the insane Buggy Bunny - the Girl Scouts' own website calls Brownie Troops Troops of Brownies so go jump in the coldest lake you can find and hope a troop of Brownies comes to save your butt. How many times a day do you have to post to prove your own ignorance?

Anonymous 8:39 PM  

You are correct, Rax....lame again. We may stop doing the NYT all together.

JC66 9:05 PM  

@Calman Snoffelevich

It's an old crossword trick: NeuroN starts and ends with the letter N.

Masked and Anonymous 9:32 PM  

I seem to remember that the NYT pays about the highest-$ that anyone does, for a puz.
My guess is that maybe it's not the $ so much as it is the loong waits that make constructioneers think twice about goin the NYTPuz route. Usually takes a few months to hear whether a puz is a Go or a No-Go. If it's a Go, then it can take a year or more after that to get published & see the harsh light of RexWorld. Not exactly yer instant gratification.

I do agree with @RP, that they can't pay a body near enough to go to all the trouble to make a gi-normous SunPuz, when U may only have a 1 in 10 or so chance of gettin it accepted. You'd think makin a FriPuz would be the way to go. Takes any theme-related issues out of the picture … "all" U have left to do is make a smooth, wide-open grid. Maybe that's why Patrick Berry usually goes that route?


An even better CCC clue = {U's in a windstorm??}.

Masked and Anonymous 9:33 PM  

I seem to remember that the NYT pays about the highest-$ that anyone does, for a puz.
My guess is that maybe it's not the $ so much as it is the loong waits that make constructioneers think twice about goin the NYTPuz route. Usually takes a few months to hear whether a puz is a Go or a No-Go. If it's a Go, then it can take a year or more after that to get published & see the harsh light of RexWorld. Not exactly yer instant gratification.

I do agree with @RP, that they can't pay a body near enough to go to all the trouble to make a gi-normous SunPuz, when U may only have a 1 in 10 or so chance of gettin it accepted. You'd think makin a FriPuz would be the way to go. Takes any theme-related issues out of the picture … "all" U have left to do is make a smooth, wide-open grid. Maybe that's why Patrick Berry usually goes that route?


An even better CCC clue = {U's in a windstorm??}.

D in NC 10:36 PM  

I didn't find CCC obscure. Or CWT, for that matter. You guys who complained make me feel like I'm really really old. And I'm not! But yes, probably older than the complainers.

GILL I. 10:50 PM  

My two cents...and a wish for a better New year.
What @Rex has done - without a doubt, is to raise awareness of some really creative and fun puzzles being offered outside of the so-called golden NYT's. Those of us who only come here for out daily commentary bread, have gone on and tested the alien puzzle waters because of him. At least, I have! You do them and then you sit back after a few good moments and understand his frustration. The WSJ is good - so are others.
I don't like his vitriol, but I understand why he complains about bad cluing, oldie answers and the endless three letter pap from eras gone-by. The NYT's is fast becoming an AARP or People magazine outlet. Not good!
I won't go to any other site because of the people he's brought here. As @Loren pointed out and @Two Ponies...where else would we go? No other blog is as fun as this one. Period.
I'm really hoping that @WS does heed some of his advice. In other words, put some more oomph into the the "Marquee." They have become stale, Will. They need a lot more salt and some pepper flakes. I know you can do it.!
Here's to you 2018...

Unknown 11:30 PM  

I'm old enough to remember when the Giants left the Polo Grounds for San Francisco. Of course, this was the Polo Grounds in NYC, not Washington, DC. With this in my head, I couldn't put this clue together.

Hungry Mother 8:15 AM  

My father ran a CCC Camp after graduating from Penn State as an electrical engineer in 1929. Even so, I had fCC at first until I thought about it. I liked the theme and the puzzle. I worked it a day late due to end of the year chores yesterday. Happy New Year to you brilliant solvers.

Sandy Asher 1:32 PM  

I've come to enjoy your kvetching, Rex, far more than doing the puzzles. It's comforting to know I'm not grumping and groaning alone. Thank you.

Dennis Doubleday 2:01 PM  

Agree on CWT/CCC, but not because CCC is obscure (it isn't, you need to study some history), but because CWT is.

Monty Boy 2:18 PM  

@Robert A. Simon 10:27. Amen brother. Thanks for saying very well what I fee. I also value enjoyment over time (largely because I'm slow). Also, big LMS fan.

semioticus (shelbyl) 4:29 PM  

I think many of you are missing the point on CCC/CWT. CCC is an acceptable answer in this context, but not when crossed with CWT and not when clued in such a lazy way. That's the main argument. Not whether everyone should remember/know/respect CCC or not. There are tens of New Deal agencies. If you can remember all of them, good for you. Not everyone can.

As for the puzzle; the fill was average. That's the only good thing I can say about it. The rest was an abomination. Lazy cluing, a mediocre/well-trodden theme idea with subpar execution, and zero fun but a ton of loud groans for me.

GRADE: D+, 1.7 stars.

Unknown 11:01 PM  

I agree this puzzle was a bore, and when I figured out the theme, I pretty much dreaded the next 15 minutes or so. But CCC? That's a gimme; presumably we all went to junior high school. And no, I'm not old (by xword standards). Just about everything OFL takes direct issue with, come on. The fill was uniquely terrible and the puzzle was an all-out slog, but TROOP/STEALTH/NOSEBLEED? All perfectly fair game. I didn't "know" CWT but it was easily inferrable (what's an abbreviation for 100 lbs?). Just because something happens to fall outside your knowledge base doesn't mean it's bad...

Unknown 9:25 AM  

Thank you anonymous

Anonymous 12:02 AM  

Would TVA and WPA also be obscure? This was taught elementary through high school and in college. Thumbs up on the workmanship of the CCC and the WPA. (I'm not that old either.)

Unknown 11:22 PM  

I agreed with Rex. For once. At first. The 4d/4a was horrendous, and I had HWT/HCC and *was sure*. But he piled on, as usual, only revealing his own baffling ignorance and petulance. Why, o why did I even log on to this blog? Scott BAIO is well known to folks our age. "Disc" was ALWAYS spelled thus, *especially* when both Rex and I were teens. Most of all, Rex's hatred of puns and wordplay is wholly inconsistent with enjoying crossword puzzles, and I frankly don't get why he even does them. New year's resolution: quit reading this horrible, spiteful blog. Hang it up, "Rex".

Unknown 3:54 PM  

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lodsf 7:47 PM  

Enjoyed the puzzle (from syn. land). As a child / grandchild of Roosevelt Democrats the CCC is very familiar to me. CCC was so well known that I’m surprised more — who hadn’t heard if it — didn’t consider this a “learning moment” instead of a complaint. Just sayin. Although I admit that I did have WPA in there until I went back to ‘crack’ that section.
Happy syndicated new year.

spacecraft 1:24 PM  

Well, one: I can't see what any of the syndilanders posted. Tried "older post," took me to Saturday. Tried "newer post," took me to, you got it, Monday. There is no "page 2." So I have no way of knowing whether my post makes it onto the blog. Somebody tell me how to access page 2--but PLEASE wait till tomorrow!

Today? DNF. Too much impossibly obscure crap in the center. There's a guy who sometimes posts here late and always uses the word "pisser(s)." While I decry his lack of vocabulary, this time he'd be spot on. I mean come on now: EDESSA, OSH, GAI??? This puzzle is a first-class diuretic. Rejected. Next case.

Diana, LIW 1:31 PM  

@Spacey - I think the Syndielanders are having their first Sunday morning of 2018 having breakfast in bed w/o the newspaper or puzzle. I only see one other Synder 'cept you and I. And tho I liked it in the end, I agree on the "pisser level" of too many entries.

Another day of chip chipping away. Gotta love my eraser! Much better results than yesterday's dnf. But took a while for a toehold, and then it was toe by toe. Then needed to extract a toe to put in another. Repeated as needed.

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords

Eventually got it - liked the O theme. Haven't read OFL, but knew he'd have a moo-cow(o).

Burma Shave 1:55 PM  


ATODDS to be INATUB with Scott BAIO,
"I AMTOO OBSESSED, OLDBOY, with the PLAGUE, if we get busy,


Anonymous 2:18 PM  

ok again week behind- but this puzzle for me had a very slow bad start- then the dam broke and I filled most of it- had to check blog for the final few. I had 4th for 114d which of course made sense until I realized it was nth. Really? maybe if degree and been in the clue it would be valid. A crap answer. My dad was in the CCC's before enlisting in WWII. so I knew that one cause I am 66. I wanted lost to for 59A- and for 61A I was pronouncing the clue w/ the emphasis on the 1st syl. so didn't get that until the end and I'm sorry what the heck is an uranium oreo. Guess some rich person who can go to spas might know that but for us plebians a cheap shot, well I guess not so cheap. for whatever that is. but I did like some of the answers: hairpin , goliath, whos who, fair trade. too many cars in this puzzle. and one hop? - I wanted one hit- not a sports person. As a woman - not interested. I had to figure out go solo or go stag- so hunting answers- not a hunter- hate guns. all in all a mixed bag of cleverness and awfulness. But where I am upstate ny - Mohawk valley- it was a cheap indoor pastime as it has been frickin freezing out- minus 16 last night. Happy New year to all

rondo 2:19 PM  

C'mon Rex, CWT making the cross CCC (instead of WPA or TVA) is just plain a gimme. Just because you don't know your hundredweights or the New Deal org that four of my uncles worked in doesn't mean the rest of us don't. Many of those CCC works, especially buildings, are still standing. I see examples every day. And I SPOSE you think everything is measured in grams or stones, or . . . what?

Yeah, THEBABE of the day must be EDIE Falco.

I got the missing O thing right off, but was confused a bit to start adding an O in the bottom half. This puz took a little over an hour to finish, but only because I'm watching the James Bond marathon on BBC America (courtesy of Sling TV); it wasn't YUCKY, but neither would I give it any YIPPIES.

AnonymousPVX 2:57 PM  

It wasn’t that bad, but then again I got the solve.

Unknown 7:11 PM  

Does anyone remember Eugene Maleska?
He ruled! When he died, the Golden Era of the NYT crossword puzzle died with him...
I listen to WS on NPR on Sundays, and I cringe every time.
Uraniumoreo; really?

Joe 8:12 PM  

So sorry for this man,”Rex”. He is so unhappy. Suggestion: Stop.

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