Grace's last name on Will Grace / THU 12-14-17 / 2800 mile river to Laptev Sea / Hero architect in Fountainhead / Potential dragon roll ingredient

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Constructor: Timothy Polin

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: BURY THE / HATCHET (40D: With 43-Down, make peace ... or what you must do to complete this puzzle?) — the letters "AX" are "buried" underneath the grid (i.e. they extend off the grid—you have to mentally supply them)

Theme answers:
  • NONE OF YOUR BEESW(AX) (3D: "Butt out!")
  • STELLAR / PARALL(AX) (5D: With 45-Down, effect used by astronomers to measure distance)
  • SIT BACK / AND REL(AX) (9D: With 46-Down, chill out)
  • PERSONAL INCOME T(AX) (11D: Everyone's duty?)
Word of the Day: Chuck COLSON (44D: Chuck who was part of the Watergate Seven) —
Charles Wendell "Chuck" Colson (October 16, 1931 – April 21, 2012) was an Evangelical Christian leader who founded Prison Fellowship, Prison Fellowship International, and BreakPoint. He served as Special Counsel to President Richard Nixon from 1969 to 1973. // Once known as President Nixon's "hatchet man," Colson gained notoriety at the height of the Watergate scandal, for being named as one of the Watergate Seven, and pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice for attempting to defame Pentagon Papers defendant Daniel Ellsberg. In 1974, he served seven months in the federal Maxwell Prison in Alabama as the first member of the Nixon administration to be incarcerated for Watergate-related charges. (wikipedia) (emph. mine!)
• • •

WEDNESDAY, JANUARY, 17, 2018: A MESSAGE FOR THOSE SOLVING IN SYNDICATION (i.e. the majority of my readers):

Hello, from the present (that is, today; actual today, and not one-week-ago or five-weeks-ago-on-weekdays today, like usual)! It's January, which means it's time for my once-a-year, week-long pitch for financial contributions to the blog. The idea is very simple: if you read the blog regularly (or even semi-regularly), please consider what it's worth to you on an annual basis and give accordingly. To be clear—there are no major expenses involved in writing a blog. There's just my time. A lot of it. Every day (well, usually night), solving, writing, hunting down pictures and videos of various degrees of relevance and usefulness, chatting with folks and answering puzzle questions via email and social media, gathering and disseminating crossword-related information of various kinds, etc. It's a second job. My making this pitch means I'm all in for another calendar year of puzzle revelry with all y'all. I'm excited about the year. I've got my own crossword construction project I want to get off the ground, and I'm hoping to take a more active role (along with some crossword friends) in recruiting and mentoring new and aspiring constructors. But the bulk of my work will be the same as ever: I'll be here with a new post every single day. Solve, write, repeat. Despite my occasional (or, OK, maybe frequent) consternation with the State of The Puzzle, the crossword community continues to give me great joy, and I'm proud to run an independent, ad-free blog where people can find someone to commiserate with, someone to yell at, or, you know, someone who'll just give them the damn answers. Some people refuse to pay for what they can get for free. Others just don't have money to spare. All are welcome to read the blog—the site will always be open and free. But if you are able to express your appreciation monetarily, here are two options. First, a Paypal button (which you can also find in the blog sidebar):

Second, a mailing address:

Rex Parker c/o Michael Sharp
54 Matthews St
Binghamton, NY 13905

All Paypal contributions will be gratefully acknowledged by email. All snail mail contributions (I. Love. Snail mail!) will be gratefully acknowledged with hand-written postcards. This year's cards are "Women In Science"—Rachel Ignotofsky's beautiful cartoon portraits of women scientists from antiquity to the present. I've heard of a few of these women (mostly crossword names like ADA Lovelace, Marie CURIE, MAE Jemison) but most of these names are entirely new to me, so I'm excited to learn about them as I write my thank-you notes. Please note: I don't keep a "mailing list" and don't share my contributor info with anyone. And if you give by snail mail and (for some reason) don't want a thank-you card, just say NO CARD.  As ever, I'm so grateful for your readership and support.

Now on to the puzzle!

• • •

I think the concept here is decent, but I didn't enjoy solving this much at all. This is probably because it relied on several proper nouns I just didn't know: a fictional TV character's last name (?) (ADLER) and Chuck COLSON, who ... yeah, before my time. I have asked for COLSON Whitehead to be the COLSON clue in the past, to no avail. I am never going to remember Chuck COLSON. He's not historically significant enough now. Some "bygone" people can survive their "bygoneness" and some can't. Chuck can't. So the names weren't great and the short stuff was all fussily / vaguely clued. No luck at all at first with TANK, ATON, OAF, FLUB, LYES, SPOT, NEWT, OHSO, etc. I also wrote in LENAPE instead of LAKOTA (stupid "L") (47D: Great Plains tribe), and never heard of STELLAR / PARALL(AX), and wrote in PERSONAL INCOMES (?) before I ever knew what the theme was, and then later forgot it was a themer and was wondering why the hell my SE corner wouldn't come together. Got BURY THE / HATCHET before I got any themer, then figured it out with SIT BACK / AND REL(AX). I enjoyed NONE OF YOUR BEESW(AX), but not much else. Four buried AXes ... OK. It's fine, passable. Not for me, really, but not bad, by any means.

My favorite part of this puzzle was discovering that Chuck COLSON was Nixon's "hatchet man." That is an amazing secret bonus theme-related answer. I also like the unusual grid shape (with its L/R symmetry and that weird isolated bucket of answers hanging in the middle of the grid (LAB MICE on top, TIN on the bottom). But overall this one just left me cold. It's not the puzzle's fault. It certainly met minimal standards for a Thursday. It just didn't amuse or amaze me. Speaking of amusing and amazing, you should really give Paolo Pasco's independent puzzles a try. Get them here (at his puzzle blog, "Grids These Days"). His latest is a model of what a "wacky" theme should be. OK, by now.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


toast 12:19 AM  

Theme yielded a very satisfying "aha!" moment for me. STELLAR PARALL(AX) was a total gimme for me, or would have been if it had fit. Wrote in STELLAR anyway and frowned at that too-short 45-down until I got around to the revealer and it all clicked. Very smooth after that, despite not knowing some of the proper names.

puzzlehoarder 12:33 AM  

Part of my lost comments from yesterday was a prediction that Wednesday's puzzle may be the hardest of the week. So far today's puzzle is making that come true. One of the easiest Thursdays ever. It's hard to believe Jeff Chen gave this a POW. He must like boring. The outside letters are all at the bottom of the puzzle and you get to them just as you're putting in BURYTHEHATCHET. Getting the theme segues seamlessly from solving. All this in a puzzle larded with crossword 101 fill makes for an effortless solve.

Maybe I'm just cranky from yesterday's computer glitch.@Carola, before I forget again I'm glad you liked "The Minutes." My wife is planning to see it again with a friend. We saw the first preview performance and apparently there have been some changes. You may have seen a slightly different version from the one we saw.

Anonymous 12:37 AM  

COLSON should be known also for his post-Watergate prison ministry. Wanted to take long, winter's nAPS.

Outside The Box 12:40 AM  

I know the two comments above are generally positive, but I found this to be boring, badly clued and the “ax” gimmick thoroughly uninteresting. Lousy puzzle.

Trombone Tom 12:59 AM  

To this older solver Colson was a gimme and the theme was obvious at PARALL(AX). Not so easy if those are not in your ken.

Give 'em the ax
Give 'em the ax
Give 'em the ax

Right in the neck
Right in the neck
Right in the neck

The prize for the Big Game between Cal and Stanford is the Ax Trophy.

As a graduate of both I'm always conflicted.

Kimberly 1:04 AM  

I always read Rex and the Crossword fiend. One thing for sure is that the crossword fiend folks are far less likely to die of heart disease.

Seek joy, Rex. Seek joy. You’ll live longer.

Unknown 1:07 AM  

I didn't know the proper nouns either, but for whatever reason that didn't slow me down. I thought this was an easy Thursday - one of those rare times when I rate something easier than Rex did. Good puzzle. I don't get why people are hating on it so much.

mathgent 1:07 AM  

I enjoyed it. It put up a decent fight. I liked the buried hatchets. I would have liked a bit more zip, though.

I don't know about 1A. Falling apart in competition is "choking." TANKing, certainly in tennis, is losing on purpose.

Anonymous 1:20 AM  

@Kimberly - don’t underestimate the preservative powers of bile.

Unknown 2:16 AM  

I filled in the “ax”es as rebus ... and figured you had to “bury” them to have the crosses fit...

Larry Gilstrap 2:18 AM  

A HATCHET is a small AX. Really not the same thing. Close enough for crosswords, I guess. I'm not sure I have ever seen all the rebuses as residue at the bottom of the tank. I kept looking for floaters, to no avail. Thursday enough for me, particularly around that border wall.

Speaking of the rich cultural resource of diversity, 'tis the season for TAMALES and thank goodness for my Mexican friends. I'll tell you what makes America great: Hanukkah begins on the same day as the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Share the joy!

I have a dear friend from high school, my college roommate, and a career English teacher, as was I. He drank the Anti-Shakespearean Kool-Aid at some seminar a few years back. I love him like a brother, but what a bunch of crap! Worse than Amway.

I hate rats, but twice tried to jam them in this puzzle.

I remember the fall of the Nixon Administration. COLSON was KNOWN as the "Evil Genius" of that group. He flourished in his prison ministry. His is a fascinating story.

Thomaso808 4:48 AM  

I love any kind of mirror symmetry. I love puzzles that go outside the lines. Definitely POW-worthy! Great puzzle, Timothy!

On the easy side for me in under half my average Thursday time. I think Rex’s story about his solving experience shows that we all have bad days.

IRON crossing TIN made me check — sorry, there seems to be no alloy with both.

I’m really disappointed that Rex called Chuck Colson “not historically significant“. Long after Watergate, Colson’s influence on public policy toward prison reform is still being implemented internationally. He was perhaps the figure of highest stature that fought against the “lock ‘em up and forget ‘em” mentality. His time in prison was pretty short but there are thousands of ex-inmates now who have benefited from his influence.

Anonymous 5:54 AM  

If you really want to get Mike animated, ask him about the scenario in which Trump will be impeached. Brace yourself for some incredible conspiracy shit though.

BarbieBarbie 5:59 AM  

@Thomas, actually I think iron and tin do make an alloy, just not one with commercial use. Pretty sure I used it to teach undergrads about alloys and phase changes and temperatures in a lab course awhile ago.

@ Rex, Lenape, really?? The Great Plains are now on the East Coast??

I had an app-dnf. Got everything right but put each AX in as a rebusand considered it “buried” because the Across didn’t use it. Stupid, because I did note they were all on the bottom row. Anyway, I got the “go back and check” message and finally used Check Puzzle to see my quasi-mistake. So, dnf. Ish.

Colson as hatchet man is a great Easter Egg.

Anonypuss 6:18 AM  

Meaty, enjoyable puzzle. Nothing to complain about. True of today's puzzle, true of life. (Rex is such a cantankerous SOB. That's why we love him.)

And like @puzzlehoarder, today's was easier for me (by 23 seconds) than yesterday's.

Two Ponies 6:24 AM  

Rats before mice was just one example of several where my mind just didn't seem to follow Mr. Polin's lead.

The clues for eel and ore are verging on desperate these days.

I'm wondering what gift you buy for the tin anniversary.

Lewis 6:33 AM  

This puzzle was beautifully designed. Coming up with "burying" the AXes six feet under the grid was brilliant, IMO. This felt like a Puzzle, with a theme that required cracking, and clever and tough cluing (I loved the clues for STEP, ORE, IRON and ROBED). I had GAULT for ROARK at first, and read "Tiny fey sort" as "Tina Fey sort" (which I'm guessing Timothy intended as a misdirect).

Love the grid art -- a happy face -- going along with BURY THE HATCHET.

Jofried 6:44 AM  

I flew right through this except for that little square in the middle, where I wallowed around for a while with lab rats until I finally fixed it. Enjoyable puzzle...but I might just be in a good mood as our district just called for a delayed opening due to snow. Two extra hours to relax and maybe get a little more sleep. Hooray! One of the few little perks of being a teacher. 😊

chefbea 6:58 AM  

too tough for me...but I do like hot tamales!!!

QuasiMojo 7:06 AM  

Don't AX, don't fell?

FEY is one of those words that people misuse A TON. So I was glad to see it used properly here. I liked @Lewis's misreading of the clue as Tina Fey much more than I enjoyed the puzzle.

OAF doing gymnastics? That seemed like a real "stretch" to me.

smalltowndoc 7:17 AM  

COLSON was a gimme. Maybe Rex doesn’t think the details of Watergate are worth learning? Hard to believe.

This was my fasted Thursday ever, 3 minutes off my prior best.

I thought the theme, revealer and grid layout were clever and well done. The Themed answers were all very legitimate phrases and I loved their “AXes” burying themselves under the bottom of the grid!

Very enjoyable. Great job!

kitshef 7:21 AM  

Weird segmented grid – played almost like seven min-puzzles. The heartland was the hardest with LAB MICE, WoE ROARK, AGO and TIN all non-obvious.

DNF at aHSO/COLSaN. Had COLSON, but couldn’t make sense of OHSO so I changed it. I was oh-so close.

I like the word BURL. Also furl, gnarl, snarl, knurl. That little family or -arl -url words just sound neat.

Adam 7:24 AM  

COLSON was a gimme for me as well. Which is good, because I originally had AH SO for “Quite”. OH SO - not SO much. But that was my only quibble - I thought this held together really well. I also got BURY THE HATCHET before any of the themes, and then saw SIT BACK AND REL(AX), and that was that. The NE was the last section, but I pretty well flew through the grid with little in the way of stumbling. LAB RATS before LAB MICE, and then NAGS would have worked for 29D, but TK in 9D and the rest wouldn’t fit, so when I got the C in SIT BACK I quickly made the change.

I liked it a lot more that @Rex. And I read a lot of science fiction as a kid and so STELLAR PARALL(AX) was pretty easy once I got the theme.

A very enjoyable Thursday.

Adam 7:25 AM  

Also nice to see ETTA clued as something other than “Singer James”.

Hungry Mother 7:34 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
mathgent 7:38 AM  

I think that this can be considered a rebus. Four squares need to be drawn along the bottom of the grid and then AX is written into each of them. There is no such thing as a bad rebus.

relicofthe60s 7:45 AM  

So Rex objects to Chuck Colson, a key figure in the greatest political scandal of the 20th century, and wants instead someone I had to Google to find out who we was? Jeez! If for nothing else, Colson should be remembered for saying “Get ‘em by the balls and their hearts and minds will follow.” I thought this was a fine puzzle.

Hungry Mother 7:48 AM  

Fun stuff! I got the theme easily, but struggled too long on the reveal. Then I had HATCHaT for a while. But, I still was faster than usual for a Thursday.

Birchbark 7:50 AM  

I experienced a phase akin to twilight or dawn, between knowing enough revealers even though they wouldn't fit and actually solving the theme. A pleasant half-mystery feeling. I wanted PARALLax RELax, and 50-50 on BEESWax, plus had BURY THE HATCHET. But it hadn't come together yet, in the way the darkness behind the trees pales into light, and then there they are.

Maybe the subliminal smiley-faced guy in the puzzle helped that along.

Encore, ORE.

Robert A. Simon 7:52 AM  

@Two Ponies: I, too, wondered what to give on the tin anniversary. Tin snips? A tin drum? I had almost talked myself into Tintin books, but then, thanks to doing circled-letter crosswords, it hit me: plaTINum. My wife hasn't minded my doing crosswords ever since.

TomAz 7:58 AM  

I liked this puzzle a lot. I found it easy and fun. We've seen these sorts of "letters falling off the edge of the grid" puzzles before, and I almost always like them.

Rex's complaints about Chuck COLSON are not well-founded. He (COLSON, not Rex) was in the headlines and on talked about on the network news nearly every day for about two years running. Even though I was a kid I still remember it very well. He was "bigger" then than Steve Bannon is now, for example. And certainly more significant than 2/3rds of the TV actors we've seen in the puzzle recently.

I am wondering if we should worry about Rex. That last paragraph:

"It just amuse or amaze me"

"OK, by now"

I mean yes these are understandable slip-ups when you're writing something in a hurry. But so uncharacteristic of Rex that I was actually startled when I read them. Even the best writers need an editor to help them out sometimes, I suppose.

DeeJay 7:59 AM  

Jeez Louise, if this puzzle doesn't excite you, it's time to recognize that something is wrong. Very wrong.

Anonymous 8:01 AM  

One could argue that LAKOTA, opposite COLSON, is also a Easter egg / bonus themer, in that the Lakota were among the tribes who used tomahawks as tools and weapons, and the shaft of the tomahawk was often drilled out to use as a (peace) pipe. BURYing THE HATCHET itself is a reference to a Native American (Iroquois?) custom of literally burying (or at least putting aside) weapons in times of peace.

TomAz 8:02 AM  

Oh one other thing. I agree with @mathgent's comment that the clue for TANK is wrong. TANK in the sports context means, to me, losing on purpose. "The Suns tanked to improve their draft position." See, for example,

Anonymous 8:04 AM  

Agree with those who note that Colson is certainly an important figure in what was, until the Obama administration, the poster child administration for corruption and obstruction of justice.

Carolynne 8:08 AM  

I liked it! It was an easy Thursday for me.
Are lab “mice” even a thing?
I had ORE and then got LABRATS so I erased it and then got MAGI and changed it to LABMICE and filled ORE back in. I’m still unconvinced!

Two Ponies 8:10 AM  

@ Robert A. Simon 7:52, That might be a stretch but I'll take anything platinum over a tin drum as a present for sure.

Passing Shot 8:10 AM  

Very tough but good. Best puzzle in quite a while. Thanks, Mr. Polin.

Go Democrats 8:28 AM  

Yes lab mice are definitely a thing. My sister had a biology experiment in college that involved suffocating pregnant mice and then measuring something I forget what.

Mohair Sam 8:32 AM  

We liked it well enough. Wish Timothy had given us a few AX's hanging off the sides to thicken the theme. But it was fresh and clean as it was.

Wanted to move the Apache from the Southwest to the Plains, but those who know their Indian studies know they would never have gotten by the Comanche anyhow. Wanted an E in OBOISTS too. Mattel before LIONEL - most of my problems today were of my own doing. A Star Wars reference - how unusual!

Nice to see that although Rex was unhappy with COLSON - Rex was willing to use the puzzle to learn a little - see folks, even speed solvers learn something every day in the NYT puzzle. Bet a lot of us learned STELLAR PARALLAX (a least those of us who don't watch Star Wars). Speaking of COLSON . . . .

@relicofthe60s (7:45) - It was actually "If you've got them by the balls their hearts and minds will follow." - and Chuck COLSON never said it, it was a sign hanging on the wall behind his desk - a gift, he said, from a green beret. Colson found religion in prison (I read his first book years ago) and, as @Thomas808 pointed out, dedicated the rest of his life to prison ministry and prison reform. Unlike another Watergate conspirator G. Gordon Liddy (read his book too) who has spent the rest of his life pumping up his "tough guy" image and cashing in.

Anonymous 8:38 AM  

@Carolynne, mice are very important for labs doing work in genetics, gene splicing, disease research. Lab mice is very definitely a thing.

Anonymous 8:38 AM  

Quit smoking that meth. It's ruining your mind.

Eric NC 8:57 AM  

Don’t blame OFL for typos in a hurry. Remember Al Gore invented the internet and Dan Quayle invented Spellcheck

Anonymous 9:05 AM  

Sipping on a cuppa joe
basking in the afterglow
of bowels freshly voided.

Sir Hillary 9:14 AM  

Very nice puzzle. Unfortunately, I had a really hard time gaining a foothold, so I ended up starting at the bottom and sussing the theme at the very beginning. Not as much fun that way, but it was my fault, not the puzzle's.

COLSON was first in. I'm older than @Rex, so definitely remember the Watergate crowd. Shame he is so dismissive of COLSON -- would be kind of like me dismissing Robert McNamara just because I don't have memories of him.

COLSON brought to mind 1970s political paranoia, which reminded me of one of my favorite films, "The PARALL[AX] View. It is STELLAR.

I'm really struggling with ELECT for "Chosen few". Is ELECT really a plural noun? I initially had ELite, as I have to imagine many people did.

STELLA[r] ADLER was an acting coach, right?

Pretentious architecture? ARTY DECO.

Nancy 9:27 AM  

Do four buried AXes make up for the easiest, most mindless puzzle I've ever seen on a Thursday? Not bloody likely!

gruffed 9:33 AM  

Surprisingly easy for a Thursday.

Tom S 9:35 AM  

Well, two days later I've finally resolved the doofus issue. It turns out that doofus is correct, dufus is an accepted variant, and that Google's spell checker sucks. I don't know what to do with this new found knowledge.

Anyway, @QuasiMojo's statement: "FEY is one of those words that people misuse A TON. So I was glad to see it used properly here" made me assume that I had been using FEY incorrectly all my life, much as Google's spell checker convinced me I didn't know how to spell doofus. So, I checked to see if ELVES were persistently in imminent peril of death or persistently sick or ailing, because that's the oldest documented usage of FEY, which has to be the one correct usage QuasiMojo's referring to. Turns out - not so much about elves being in imminent peril of death. Of course, elves being fictitious and all you can't get accurate documentation about their longevity and general health trends, but if it were true you would find some supporting evidence in the literature, no?

So, the next oldest definition seems to be having the ability to see the future or to have an aura of otherworldliness. Again this definition doesn't really relate to elves. The final definition, the one I would assume @QuasiMojo is objecting to, is campy or marked by excessive refinement. It's here, and here alone, that we get to the crux of the issue. This usage of FEY comes, most likely, from conflating FEY (which has nothing to do with elves) and FAY which has everything to do with elves because it was the word for elves once upon a time.

So, @QuasiMojo was 100% wrong in assuming that Fey meant elvish "in its true meaning", and the clue was 100% wrong, as a Tiny FAY sort clues an ELF.

Further, it's tough being a doofus, trust me. What makes it tougher is having institutions (Google, NYTimes, etc) and People spouting arrant nonsense at me all the time, asserting that I am wrong, have always been wrong when in fact they are wrong and can't even be bothered to double check things before they tell me I'm wrong.

Wm. C. 9:38 AM  

Chuck Colson was the Steve Bannon of the Nixon administration. Speaking of Bannon, how can a public figure like him allow himself to appear rumpled, drowsy, and slumping in public all the time????

Anonymous 9:44 AM  

Excellent puzzle. Maybe because I started in the SW corner.

Nancy 9:49 AM  

I think I have a big, big surprise for everyone who hasn't already Googled it. I knew it wasn't COLSON who made the "hearts and minds" comment, but I was quite sure it was LBJ. Nonetheless, I decided to look it up first, before saying so. Well, you'll never guess who actually originated the comment. It was Teddy Roosevelt!

@Mathgent (1:07) and TomAz (1:07) -- I don't mind the TANK answer and, in fact, got it immediately. Unless you're being paid by gamblers to deliberately throw a match, TANKing, which admittedly is deliberately losing, usually happens because a competitor has already "fallen apart" in the match, is playing abysmally, knows he isn't going to win no matter how hard he tries because his game is in the toilet, and therefore goes into the TANK -- trying to get the whole wretched thing over with as quickly as possible. I've seen that happen many times in tennis. It's quite a fair clue, I think.

howard a. brenner 9:50 AM  

A shout out thank you to whoever it was who turned me on to Jeff Chen. Had to come back to say that today.

Z 9:56 AM  

I really liked this puzzle. COLSON went in with nary a picosecond delay. Still, no. COLSON is as historically significant as Albert Bacon Fall. Unless Fall is KNOWN to you, please stick your "how could Rex not know COLSON" comments in your peace pipe and smoke them. Crossword worthy in 2017? Sure. Historically significant? Bull Pucky.

@Larry Gilstrap - I ran into my first Oxfordian as a young teacher. Smartest guy on staff (second smartest person on staff) and an otherwise great guy had drank* the kool-aid.

*"drank" is the past participle and "drunk" the noun? It just sounds wrong to my ear. What say you?

mathgent 9:56 AM  

@Mohair Sam (8:32): Loved the quote, hadn't heard it before. Reminds me of what LBJ liked to say, "Never trust a man unless you have his pecker in your pocket."

mmorgan 10:02 AM  

I'll never forget Chuck Colson.

I still hatehatehate the update of the Across Lite iPad app!

Z 10:18 AM  

Regarding TANK, the second example sentence in the Oxford Dictionaries definition in the link is "No, but while some teams choose to TANK, others have a TANKed season forced upon them." I think the "choosing to" aspect is the more common usage these days, but the "failing completely" is still out there, especially in the sense of being so outclassed that the team's effort is almost non-existent.

Charles Flaster 10:29 AM  

Loved it from the start. PARALLAX gave me the AX theme although I had to get rid of
epSOm for LYSOL.
Loved cluing for OBOISTS, LYES, and LAB MICE.
46 Down — once taught a student named
COLSON is certainly well known but puzzle would have been much trickier if Chuck had been eliminated from the clue ( IMHO ).
Thanks TP

Amelia 10:30 AM  
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chipperj 10:43 AM  

Loved it. Excellent puzzle. Haters need to drink some water.

chris 10:43 AM  

the clue for ETTA is wrong. diminutive Italian suffixes are INO or INA. ETTA, ETTO are used to form terms of endearment.

also, ETTA is not gender neutral.

they'd never use such a sloppy clue when French is involved...

Joseph Michael 10:52 AM  

Put me in the camp of those who really like this puzzle (and Timothy Polin). It was easier than the usual Thursday, but the theme was clever, the grid design elegant, and the fill solid throughout. Like the fact that the axes are literally buried below the grid.

Was amused to see SOHO get anagrammed into OH SO. Know who Chuck COLSON is and consider him more than crossword worthy (and relevant in TODAY's era). Didn't like the clue for LYES, but thought most of the cluing was fair.

@puzzlehoarder, I'm not sure you should bother to see "The Minutes" again. I'm a Tracy Letts fan, but thought this was his weakest work.

FrankStein 10:53 AM  

To Chris above, what about “machinetta” for automobile or espresso machine? That’s not a term of endearment.

Churlish Nabob 10:57 AM  

Charles Colton is not historically significant? What an ignorant comment for an intellectual. Oh I forgot, you teach comic books.

GILL I. 10:59 AM  

What a shame. Had to practically finish the puzzle before I could get an AX. AX me no questions, please.
Upstairs was so easy I was dreading going down to the basement. Like @Rex, had the BURY THE HATCHET before getting all the AX AX AX AX. Kept jumping around looking for the word HATCHET. Finally saw the light at NONE OF YOUR BEES W[AX]. So, that brought a smile.
I don't know my RATS from MICE nor my LENAPS from my LAKOTA's. I've never played Clue so the rooms are a poke in the dark for me. I do love Hot TAMALES and we always get a few dozen of them for Christmas cheer. I've finally learned how to make a yummy masa with real pigs lard. That could also be clued as a non kosher deli item.
Every time I see the word Watergate I'm never reminded of Nixon nor COLSON (he, famous for his prison reform). Instead, I'm reminded of a very handsome politician I dated for a period who happened to have a darling apartment at Watergate. He had a huge fish tank filled with exotic things in it and that was his excuse to get me up to see it. It worked. He never taped our conversations.
My sweet husband gave me a pair of crystal wine goblets that had pure casted tin rose petals etched in the glass. I broke one of them but I treasure the other one. 31 years for us.
What an unfortunate SHIH Tzu name for such a cute dog.
I'll have to go and Google ANT TRAP because I do't know what one looks like. Does it snap their little legs off?
Off to the firehouse to deliver cookies and deviled eggs.

KRMunson 11:01 AM  

Very hard puz for me today. And LAB MICE are most certainly not a thing. I’ve been in Research for over 30 years. They are LAB RATS.

chris 11:04 AM  


"macchinetta" is not the diminutive of macchina, that's "macchinina".

macchinetta bears not just small as a meaning, but also nice, pretty, cozy, fancy. you'd never use etto or etta for something ugly or bad. it sounds a little like putting "lil" in front of an english word.

Stanley Hudson 11:09 AM  

I like this one a lot, but then I usually like Polin’s puzzles.

Albert B. Fall was the corrupt Secretary of Interior in the Harding administration. No living person remembers him, unlike Chuck Colson who is remembered by millions.

QuasiMojo 11:10 AM  

@TomS. At 9:35, I value your input and actually agree with you but all I meant was that fey means supernatural, otherworldly which elves certainly are, but it does not mean effeminate or queer as some use it erroneously today. To say someone is very fey, as I hear all the time, as a synonym for gay, in a kind of derogatory meaning, is the issue. Elves and fairies were not always traditionally effeminate or even androgynous creatures. I also assumed, perhaps incorrectly, that fey has some connection in English to “feerique” in French. Sorry i can’t add accents here. But I probably was wrong there. I beg your pardon. Keep up the discourse though! It’s appreciated.

semioticus (shelbyl) 11:15 AM  

Well, this was not easy.

Fill: Maybe not a ton of, but not insignificant amount of glue here. Or at least it feels that way, because 3 and 4 letter words make up more than half of the answers. AGO, MAGI and ORE 2 days in a row! We also have CTA, NAE, CPAS, SHIH, BLTS... Unfortunately, the longer answers do not make up for this deficiency. COLSON, LAKOTA, LIONEL, ATATILT... It's a very constrained grid, yes, but I would have liked some sparkles here and there.

Theme/long answers: Nice one. When you finally get it (and it took me a while), it's a very well-deserved a-ha moment. The theme itself is executed well. It's a Thursday puzzle, so it's OK to work on it a little bit.

Clues: I used to hate Mr. Polin's clues, but I think I'm getting used to them. "Some wind blowers", "Involuntary test subjects", "Extraction target", "Everyone's duty?" were the highlights for me.

Pleasurability: South was very frustrating in the beginning. When I figured out the gimmick, it didn't become super fun though, because the fill there was meh. I would have loved it if I could finish the puzzle just like that after getting the theme, but a lot of drag there. So that took away from how fun this could have been. I agree with Rex, this is a fine puzzle, but whether it's pleasant or not depends a lot on personal knowledge/taste.

GRADE: B, 3.6/5 stars.

John Child 11:24 AM  

Doppler Effect, also correct in a way, for STELLAR PARALL(ax) led me down a deep rabbit hole with rebus squares (maybe the squares read differently across than down?, I asked myself). BURY THE fell very late, but I was then able to unwind the errors and finish.

Slower than an average Saturday because of that, so by no means easy. But good fun to finally reveal the answer and keep my head, so to speak. Remarkable clean fill for all the constraints in the south. Thumbs up here.

jberg 11:27 AM  

I loved it. Loves the theme, the bilateral symmetry, the TIN/IRON cross, the symmetrical EEL and ORE, the CPAS/CPuS ambiguity, and A TON more.

I first noticed that all the cross-referenced answers were symmetrical, which make me look for something about their shape. I didn't see the theme until I was looking at AND_EL next to PERSONAL INCOME_, when it suddently leaped out at me. I had STELLAR, but I so much wanted 'red shift' or 'doppler effect' that I didn't think of PARALLAX until much later.

When Colson got religion in prison I and everyone I knew thought he was faking it in order to rehab his reputation. Had to admire the guy when he turned out to be sincere. BTW, please read @Rex carefully before knocking what he says. his argument was NOT that Colson wasn't historically significant, but that most people don't remember his name today (except us old folks). I think he's wrong (but then, I'm 74). I mean Charles Pinckney was an important national political figure at the time of the Revolution, but a lot of us would scream and holler if he were clued that way today.

For you LAB MICE doubters, you can get some here.

FEY Fop 11:29 AM  

I’m prancing!

Stanley Hudson 11:30 AM  

@John Child, good to have you back.

Chip Hilton 11:44 AM  

I enjoyed this one to the m.

COLSON may be from another age but Watergate and its figures are timeless.

Rats everywhere, except in the final version.

Thanks, Tim Polin. A fun Thursday, by my standards.

old timer 11:45 AM  

I accuse Professor Plum, in the HALL with an AX (OK, Clue did not have an AX, but I must have played 1000 games of Clue so I certainly know all the rooms).

Delightful puzzle, and no problem at all to write those four AXes at the bottom of the grid. I would call the puzzle Easy (for a Thursday).

I well remember Watergate summer. My office-mate lived in the apartment that we converted to an office. Every day, we watched the hearings on his TV. "God is not mocked" said good old Sam Ervin. Many times. Nothing was more thrilling than the moment Butterfield disclosed that Nixon's office was equipped with tape recorders, and it was the tapes that brought Nixon down in the end. So I knew all about COLSON.

jb129 11:47 AM  

I usually struggle with TP puzzles, as I did with this one. But I saw that it was "do-able" so I stuck with it. When I got what was going on here, I had an aha moment & loved it. Didn't know Lakota kept wanting Dakota but that wasn't going to happen.
Great puzzle, TP!

Masked and Anonymous 11:48 AM  

Good use of the old "extend stuff outside the box" puztheme mcguffin. Too bad Tim Polin ain't our Comment Gallery's @Evil Doug. This could then be an Axes of Evil puz.

Got the theme off PERSONAL IN COMET, after a few nanoseconds of extra WTF-ing. Since ETAXTA wouldn't be likely, even for the Italians, decided it was an outside-the-boxer instead of a rebusser. Cute post-ahar-moment revealer on BURYTHE+HATCHET. The NONEOFYOURBEESW+AX themer was extra-classic.

As always, M&A luvs them East/West symmetry grids. Today's E/W-edition sports an image of a face that looks like a creepy mask that an ax murderer in a shlock flick might wear. Primo. Even has curious LABMICE for its mustache.

This grid is really theme-dense, in the bottom half: 40 of the 85 letter-squares down there are theme material. [As opposed to a mere 16 themed squares in the upper/middle rows.] This promises some bodacious Ow de Speration entries, down below…

Axed-half grid desperation:
* ORBBATSNOCTA. With stress on the SNOCTA syllables. And featurin the staff weeject pick = SNO. Makes M&A wanna do a whole day-um runtpuz [patent still pending] with SNO-like themers (GLO, FLO, BRO, GRO, CAF, etc.)
* SHIH. har… kinda like SNO, really.
* ROBED. Not too bad, I guess. Coulda been worse. Coulda splatzed RODED/DDTS/ADDER in there. How'bout ROPED/PATS/ADEAR, tho? Better!?! … didn't think so.
* ASTO/SEETO. Slightly too TO, perhaps. Minor infraction. M&A is gettin to picky, which means mosta the fillins down there were actually pretty "upper-class".

Maybe clued up a dash too friendly, for a ThursPuz. Shoulda gone to town on single-? or even double-?? clues, at least in that rarefied themer-ed, upper halfpuz, IM&AOH. Still ... a mighty Fun solvequest. thUmbsUp.

Thanx, Mr. Polin.

Maxked & Axonymo3Us

On the 2nd Day of Christmas, my true luv gave to m&e …

Two Tiny Feys.
… and a SIRENE in a FERRITE tree.

jb129 11:48 AM  

Didn't know Colson either...

ColoradoCog 12:03 PM  

This one was strange for me. It felt moderately challenging as I was doing it, but by the end I had crushed my normal Thursday time. Go figure.

@mmorgan, I’m curious why you hatehatehate the Across Lite iPad update. I for one lovelovelove it. It was (for me) pretty much unusable before the update, and now it’s my go-to iPad puzzle app. The app store reviews are very strong as well, so where has the update gone wrong from your perspective?

FrankStein 12:06 PM  

Grazie at Chris. Perfetto! Forgive my misspelling too!

Roy Moore 12:09 PM  

Just to let you all know, I refuse to concede my emperorship of Narnia.

Masked and Anonymous 12:15 PM  

Correction: Actually, it would have to have been ROPED/PETS/ADEER. Anyhoo … it just amuse or amaze m&e. har

M&Axelso [AXE deserves some equal time. Peace on Earth, Good Will toward AXEs.]


Anonymous 12:15 PM  

Does anyone remember Google?

Anonymous 12:20 PM  

This was fairly easy for a Thursday....until I got to the SW corner. I didn't know Chuck Colson so I had a hard time getting the L for the start of 53-across, which was HORRIBLY clued ("very basic things" equals...lyes?? C'mon). I can think of 20 better clues for Lyes off the top of my head; surely the constructor could, too?

RooMonster 12:26 PM  

Hey All !
AX me if I care. Har.
Puz good. Got stuck in NE corner, the PERSONAL part wasn't entering the ole brain, plus the LENA River (??), ARMORY trickily clued, CPAS eluding me, and ___TRAP (tried fly, bug, rat), even CLAIM not wanting me to know it, led to many Reveal Words up there.

Also, LYES as clued is a Huh? LAKOTA also a WOE. The rest of puz was on the easy side.

So a half easy, half impossible puz. Enjoyed it 50℅! :-) Did like the BURY-ed AX aspect.


howardk 12:43 PM  

since when is mock pretended.
mocked...pretend. either one

Mohair Sam 12:59 PM  

@mathgent (9:56) - Don't remember that one, but don't doubt it - good ol' LBJ is always hard to beat. I read Goodwin's biography on him when it was published years ago, and if you think Trump is the coarsest voice ever in the White House, think again.

@Roy Moore (12:09) That was funny. The Democrats are going to wish you won, and the Republicans should be thankful you lost - you were worth 5 points in the Democrats column nationwide.

Odd Sock 1:23 PM  

You folks are usually a smart crowd so why the fuss over the clue for lyes? Is it the plural?
That's a very basic chemistry clue (pun intended).

Teedmn 1:24 PM  

Not a particularly easy puzzle here - the SW put up a fight with BURr and those very basic things, the abcS. When I was finally down to _YES, I still had to run the alphabet. Even with the increased references to Watergate one hears nowadays, due to certain PARALLAXes with the present day, COLSON was a total WOE. I mostly avoided the Watergate hearings, being an apolitical teenager at the time.

Up top, with EKE in place, I still wanted to put ELite as the chosen few and that caused some consternation in solving the top center.

Does anyone else think of Petticoat Junction when they hear "SIT BACK AND REL[AX]? I know that phrase isn't in the lyrics but the word RELAX is, hence the weird connection in my brain.

Thanks, Timothy Polin, for a SPOT-on Thursday.

Anonymous 1:34 PM  

Fun puzzle, but where was Lizzie Borden?

Ray Yuen 1:41 PM  

Hater's hating again. Just because it's out of your realm doesn't make it bad.

Two Ponies 1:51 PM  

Maybe it was Beverly Hillbilies? Either way I can hear that familiar voice-over too.

Buggy Bunny 2:21 PM  

@ Wm. C.
"how can a public figure like him allow himself to appear rumpled, drowsy, and slumping in public all the time????"

easy. he self-identifies as today's Lenin. not Yoko's.

Joe Bleaux 2:28 PM  

Rats! The damn mice was my only writeovers, and it was on the easy side for a Thursday, but Polin rarely disappoints. It put up a fair challenge, as someone (@mathgent?) noted. @Teedmn (et al): Wasn't "just sit back and I'll tell the tale ... " or something quite like that part of the "Gilligan's Island" theme (" ... Minnow ... a three-hour cruise," yadda yadda)? Maybe not. I'm not sure I remember all the lyrics of the "Batman" theme anymore.

Larry Gilstrap 2:30 PM  

@Z the three principle parts of the verb "to drink," are drink, drank, and drunk: present, past, and past participle in that order, the last time I looked. I first visited Stratford in '78 and stayed with a local family. No question about authorship in the minds of those people.

TomAz 4:17 PM  

@Tom S & @QuasiMojo:


"Fey is traditionally an adjective meaning (1) fated to die or (2) in a disordered state of mind like one prepared to die, while fay is traditionally a poetic noun referring to a fairy or an elf (fay has the same Old French origin as fairy). Today, the two words have melded into the sense of fey most English speakers are familiar with—fairylike, elfin, or otherworldly. The darker definitions of fey are mostly gone, and the original fay is now just an archaic variant of fairy.

There are still some who insist the newer sense of fey is wrong—and a few dictionaries still list only the old definitions—but the change is well established in general usage."

GHarris 4:20 PM  

Typically, if Rex don’t know it he don’t like it. Always thought the object was to work out what you don’t know and, thus, derive new knowledge. Like Rex I, too, went first with Lenape and lab rats but course corrected. I don’t buy tanking for choking, very different concepts and the latter so much better fits the clue.

Anonymous 4:31 PM  

@mmorgan - I don't use the app but have a suggestion that might help. If there is a settings menu or icon that you can select you might find that the new version of the app has default settings that are not what you are used to. Look around for settings and, if there are choices to make, see if you can't make it more like what you want & expect by changing the settings.

David in CA 4:37 PM  

@Nancy: I would say your explanation of tank completely supports the argument that the clue is incorrect. You are saying the "tanking" is what happens AFTER the falling apart, a completely separate action. I googled several different online dictionaries including M.W. and Oxford and couldn't find any support for this meaning of "tank".

I sure don't get your "mindless" categorization - thought it was somewhat easier than a typical Thursday, but plenty of clever clues and mis-directs. Several great answers like STELLAR PARALLAX.

@Anon 12:20: OK. What are your 20 better clues for LYES? I can't think of any myself, but maybe there is a meaning I don't know for it. Certainly an awkward answer, but with _YE_ set by the theme I'm guessing there was little else could be done in that corner to make it better.

@Rex: Great negative writeup for once. I disagree with you on most counts, but I really appreciate the replacement of the usual "voice on high" bile with just pointing out why you didn't like things. So much more fun to read.

Anonymous 5:00 PM  

Count me among those who thought the clue for LYES was a clever one and therefore good. It made me smile.

G. Weissman 5:45 PM  

Can someone please explain 53A? Thanks. I get that lye is a “caustic basic solution” but how are lyes “very basic things”?.

Questinia 5:50 PM  

What @ Lewis said.

Mike Herlihy 5:59 PM  

Late to the party, but Anonymus at 8:01 AM (EST) has a good point about the LAKOTA/hatchet Easter egg.

semioticus (shelbyl) 7:50 PM  

That's the thing about Polin's clues. He always tries to go the whole nine yards. Sometimes it feels too much, but you now that he's gonna give you everything and the kitchen sink. For me, "very basic things" was just unnecessary, but that's the way he rolls.

Scott 8:19 PM  

You choose to ignore Chuck Colson at your peril. Historic albeit notorious figure. Please stop whining about not knowing him.

Joe 9:37 PM  

@Kimberly Thanks for the link to Crossword Fiend. You’re right. The tone is strikingly different.

Anonymous 7:35 AM  

Chuck Colson is well-known. I would not say that he 'got religion' but rather that God turned his life around or upside-down. In any case, he has had brought tremendous attention and change to the prison system. He is certainly better known than some of the other figures in Watergate. Count me with those who liked the clue for "lyes". I struggled with that until the aha moment hit me.

G. Weissman 11:36 AM  

Where? Time code.

Unknown 2:04 PM  

Basic, as in the opposite of acidic. 😌

Unknown 2:19 PM  

Not knowing COLSON suggests that one is not, as one ought to, making it a religious observance to re-watch ‘All the President’s Men’ at least once a year. For shame.

Janis evans 12:52 AM  

Thank you so much for posting...
outsource invoice processing services

Diana, LIW 12:34 AM  

@Foggy from yesterday - I do remember the EraserMate pend from last year's puzzle. Must check them out!

Lady Di

Burma Shave 10:34 AM  




spacecraft 10:41 AM  

Funny experience, getting this one done. Jumped the gun on mattEL, then "corrected" to chanEL before realizing it was LIONEL. Think about it: all have to do with models in their various defs. Some days I do regret my ink when, after glomming onto the theme ("basically" easy, IMHO), I blithely started to write in federalINCO...whoops! That's not gonna come out right! Had to go BACK and change all THOSE letters too.

Still, despite enough inkblots to make LABMICE dizzy--what, they couldn't afford rats?--I filled this out pretty quickly--for me. I enjoyed the solve. No need to clue DOD LENA Horne that way: what, there's a Laptev Sea?? A whole SEA that I never heard of??? Never mind the river. 2.800-mile, you say? Unbelievable.

With LYES AND LYSOL, the PH around here is skyrocketing. Birdie.

N, Drew 10:55 AM  

The jig is up
- it's time to cave
We want to know
- who's Burma Shave?

- Nancy Drew, Lady in Snooping

thefogman 11:22 AM  

Challenging and enjoyable. I got stuck in the NW corner and had to give in and look up COLSON, so DNF for me. Lots of erasures, but cluing was clever and fair. Good one.

thefogman 11:32 AM  

To Diana, LIW: The pens are okay, so long as you don't have to erase and then erase again on the same (damned) spot over and over again (like I did in the NW corner). If that happens, things can turn into a pasty, smudgy mess. The pens are forgiving up to a point. Once you've exceeded that limit (two or three erasures) it's back to the correction tape. As always, the best way to proceed is not to make any mistakes.

rondo 12:22 PM  

Thought maybe the theme could be Thanks 4 AXin’. And what’s up with names/not names clues: LENA not Horne, ETTA not James nor Kett, LIONEL not Richie, BURL not Ives, NEWT not Gingrich, EARL not Scruggs, and yeah baby STELLAR not Stevens? Well, forgive that last one, but the others, I’m not SHIH TIN’.

COLSON pretty much a gimme if you’re my age ORE more.

Speaking of ORE, if one goes to Duluth, MN there’s a good chance of seeing an IRON ORE BOAT.

Not a bad puz if you AX me.

rainforest 2:19 PM  

I'd place this in the "medium with a bit of push-back" category. Enjoyable, too.

Considered TANK crossing KNOWN right off, but wasn't sure of TANK, and the rest of the NW didn't jump out at me, so I moved to the due North, and my first thought for 5D was Doppler shift, which clearly wasn't going to work. Ergo, I attacked this baby from the NE, down the entire East side, across the South and then up. Travelogue brought to you by @rainforest.

BURY THE HATCHET gave up the theme, and I finally saw the AXes.

No write-overs. Nice feeling upon completion.

Anonymous 7:19 PM  

Rex, a little humility would teach you that your age group (and therefore what's easy and familiar to you) isn't the same as everyone else. For some of us the clues that you scorn are easy for others, and vice versa. I for one knew Chuck Colson but never heard of the Colson you wanted instead.

strayling 7:58 PM  

AX me no questions, I'll tell you no LYES.

A few too many proper nouns for my taste, but all gettable from crosses.

Watergate Baby 1:27 AM  

Gen Xer here,(Same age as Rex) COLSON was a gimme. He was in the news during the W.Bush administration too.October 3, 2002, Colson was one of the co-signers of the Land letter sent to President George W. Bush. The letter, written by Richard D. Land, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention and co-signed by four prominent American evangelical Christian leaders with COLSON among them. The letter outlined their theological support for a just war in the form of a pre-emptive invasion of Iraq. (From Wikipedia) You might like the SLOW BURN podcast. It's all about Watergate.

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