Administrative regions in Russia / MON 1-22-18 / Stoic politician of ancient Rome / Wallace co-founder of Reader's Digest / Fish typically split before cooking

Monday, January 22, 2018

Constructor: Paolo Pasco

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging (slightly tougher than normal, for a Monday)

THEME: EROSION (46D: Natural process illustrated by the last words of 18-, 24-, 37-, 534- and 61-Across) — Final word of first themer undergoes process of EROSION in successive themers, with one letter disappearing each time, until we go from STONE to O:

Theme answers:
  • EMMA STONE (18A: 2016 Best Actress Oscar winner for "La La Land")
  • QUARTER TONE (24A: Half of a half step in music)
  • METRIC TON (37A: Weight unit equal to about 2,205 pounds)
  • "I MEAN, COME ON!" (54A: "Puh-LEEZE!")
  • STANDING O (61A: Enthusiastic audience response)
Word of the Day: OBLASTS (40D: Administrative regions in Russia) —
plural noun: oblasts
  1. an administrative division or region in Russia and the former Soviet Union, and in some of its former constituent republics. (google)
• • •

Would've liked this better on Tuesday—both because this was more in line with Tuesday difficulty, and because Tuesdays often suh-uck and this did not. I feel like I've done a version of this theme before, somewhere ... but that doesn't diminish the way it's done here, with remarkably fresh and clean answers. Just lose OBLASTS (not really a Monday-level answer) and make the clues *slightly* easier, and you have a perfect Monday puzzle. As it is, you have a very good one. Once again, the puzzle's heavy reliance on colloquialisms made it tough for me to move quickly. Just the simple "OH, FUN" required many crosses, as it really could've been "OH, a lot of things" (GEE, WOW ... RAD?). Same thing with the I MEAN part of "I MEAN, COME ON!" It's a great expression, but I had the "COME ON" part and ... ??? Just wanted "Oh." I was also slowed by not considering CHALUPA a real food (I've never heard of it anywhere but in Taco Bell commercials—I figured they just made it up), and by repeatedly misparsing words. STANDINGO in particular was a disaster, as I solved it from the back end and kept wondering what was going to happen to the DINGO.

S answers that gave me trouble:

  • 28A: Abbr. in an office address (STE) — seems a hardish clue for STE (here, an abbr. for "suite")
  • 35D: Look down on (SCORN) — I just couldn't find the handle here, no idea why. SNORT and SNEER and various condescending faces were coming to mind, but not SCORN.
  • 68A: Fish typically split before cooking (SCROD) — me: "Uh ... all of them?" This seems like kind of a deep cut, SCROD-knowledge-wise. [this answer appears to have a different clue in the app: [Fish often used in fish fingers] — not sure if it was always this way, or if they changed it, or what. Seems to be a lot of last-minute clue tinkering across formats lately...]
  • 45D: Bond film after "Skyfall" ("SPECTRE") — Me: "Uh ... SKYFALL? No wait, that's in the clue. Uh ... SKYFALL?" Total blank.
  • 19D: Sailor's patron ("ST. ELMO") — Had "STEL-" and wanted STELLA ... because it means "stars" ... and sailors ... navigate ... by those? STELLA!!!!!

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


TomAz 12:16 AM  

I disagree with Rex; this would have been far too easy for a Tuesday. I finished just seconds longer than my normal Monday time.

STANDING O was great. OBLASTS was very good (for some reason I knew this). METRIC TON was good. TRICE was good. I could have done without EMMA STONE, but eh, different strokes etc. XACTO slowed me down for xactly 10 seconds, so it was fine.

MUTER - meh. not my favorite. To me, mute means not talking at all, and shouldn't be used to describe varying degrees of talkativeness. OCTAD is acceptable as clued but not a very 'real' word; pretty sure I've only seen it in xwords as opposed to actual spoken or written English.

In the end, I liked the puzzle, certainly on the plus side of good.

Token_Millenial 12:23 AM  

Loved this puzzle except for AFTS. Would have taken a plural boat butt clue, and morn’ is a thing, but aft’ is not. But besides that we got TOSTADAs, CHALUPAs, the well timed most boring division in the NFL, and TANLINE next to SPEEDOs, plus the themers were all good? A+. I feel like the early week puzzles have been better of late...

Anonymous 12:26 AM  

STAN Dingo was Mandingo's slightly nerdy younger brother.

Moly Shu 12:27 AM  

My mom made CHALUPAs long before Taco Bell added them to their menu, and they were delicious. All cheesy and chickeny and saucy. I’m thinking I could eat a METRICTON of them. Liked TANLINE next to SPEEDOS.

JBT 12:28 AM  

68A had a different clue on the iPhone App. It said “Fish often used in fish fingers”. Is that a fish stick?

Carola 12:30 AM  

Clever theme! I liked how the STONE got worn down to the nubbin of the the O at its core. I found the puzzle easy, but agree that OBLASTS aren't usually Monday fare, maybe not CATO and LILA either. For me it was a Monday bonus that the theme kept me guessing for a good while.

I also liked the SNORTS of SCORN and I MEAN COME ON. Which was sort of my reaction to MUTER.

Eponymous 12:32 AM  

Easy, even for a Monday, except for my usual Natick on the "Rap" item. Actually, I much prefer Dave Barry's name for the genre, "Angry People Shouting".

Don Pardo 12:36 AM  

MANDINGO!! Where men and women breed like cattle!

TomAz 12:44 AM  

@Token_Millenial: completely forgot to mention AFTS in my post. That one was dreadful. Saved by the crosses, but still.

@Eponymous: Ugh, where do I start? (1) rap is far more than 'angry people shouting'; if you bothered to listen you could find eloquence, lyricism, and logic (2) of course they're angry, have you not been paying attention? I know when I'm angry I tend to express it too, and (3) go *&$% yourself you racist dirtbag.

Eponymous 12:55 AM  

@TomAz, you know nothing about me. They have every right to be angry and to shout about it. But without melody or harmony, music it is not. Like "poetry" that tries to substitute random linefeeds for rhyme and meter, the music of language. O.K., I guess that you do know that I'm old.

Anonymous 1:01 AM  

My 68A was “Fish often used in fish fingers”

chefwen 1:17 AM  

Very cute Monday, liked it a lot. Gotta agree with @TomAz re. MUTER and AFTS, scrunched up my nose a little entering those two.

Finally getting around to my puzzle solving routine after a week of excess eating, drinking, and non stop parties. Put my buddy on a plane to take her (finally thawed out bones) back to the frozen tundra. By the time she gets there they may be above freezing. Sure don’t miss that.

Might have to name our next dog STAN.

Larry Gilstrap 1:36 AM  

The theme is EROSION and we go from a rolling STONE to a STANDING O. Ever hike in the Grand Canyon? Exhibit A. Monday is becoming my favorite day, I hate to admit. Well, maybe because Sunday is often tedious.

I balked at CHALUPA as clued, but I have learned to trust Mexicans, and I see claims for authenticity. I have done the math, and I could live on Taco Bell for about $7.00 a day. I might write a book about it. Might be a sad book.

Wow! I see we now have EL NINO to blame for all the unusual weather. Hi, tilde people. Abnormal is the new normal.

A few years ago, I became suspicious that perhaps some alien force could RIG an election. The validity of the electoral process used to be a given. I vote into a weird electronic box and my vote goes where? And all that crazy noise on social media beforehand. I'm worried.

Bert and ERNIE are puppets, not Marionettes. Howdy Doody was asexual, so there's that. Something to do with the proximity of the hand?

I people watch; who doesn't? I'm a mature man who sometimes looks at attractive people, but certainly never LEERS. That's my story...

Hey, I dig OFL and send him a pittance every year, but, most importantly, read him every day. Last year at ACPT, while sitting along the wall, Hi @LMS, Will sat next to me. I said,"Sup?" I am from CA. But, didn't want to intrude; I am from CA. Often people learn of my crossword habit, and I hear about their longtime fandom for the NPR Sunday radio feature. Why not? It's a big thing. Honestly, because of this, I feel torn when OFL tears into the NYT and it's puzzle policies. Will and Michael, let's meet at the bar in Stamford some Thursday night in March and bury the hatchet. Rhino and the tick bird.

Sherman 1:36 AM  

Do not have to paraphrase or type when I can google and copy/paste -
A traveller who is a huge fan of seafood arrives in Boston for the first time. He leaves the airport and hails a cab. After he gets in, he excitedly says to the cabbie, "Hey, I'm new in town. Can you tell me a good place to go to get scrod?" The cabbie replies [in a thick Boston accent], "Pal, I've got to congratulate you. I've heard that question a lot over the years, but that's the first time I've ever heard it in the pluperfect subjunctive."

Domesti-City 1:37 AM  

Same here!

The Man 2:34 AM  

This was a typical Monday until I got to the end and read the clue for 55D. WTF? Was this clue written/edited by a twelve year old boy? Paolo Pasco & Will Shortz are the names attached to the puzzle, so let me tell you two guys something: I've seen some stupid shit in my life, and that clue is stupid.

Speaking of stupid, @TomAz 12:44 AM wants to know where to start. Start by growing up you little dipshit.

mathgent 3:50 AM  

I've read some people here complain about the auto-correction feature on Apple devices. It's also been anniying me on my iPad. I just turned it off yesterday. Settings, General, Keyboard. Slide the green button to off.

Nice puzzle.

Loren Muse Smith 4:11 AM  

Listen, this is probably a dumb thing to point out, but I really appreciate that the things eroding are all full-on words. STONE – TONE – TON – ON – O. The erosion is so much clearer and more vivid. Left to my own devices, I may have gotten all cutesy and tried to do it with embedded words and circles. (LAST ONE TO KNOW, BURST ON THE SCENE – SEARS TOWER, blah blah.) That’s why Paolo gets paid the big bucks.

@Moly Shu - good catch on TAN LINE next to SPEEDOS.

@TomAz – Yeah – MUTER feels like deader or pregnanter.

STANDING O – really, there are two kinds. The first one is the one you have to participate in because one or two people stand, and one is &^%$ right next to you and you have to stand, too, so you don’t look like a jerk, and, then, well, group pressure and all that. I hate that kind. Perfunctory, anemic, awkward.

The other kind is when the performance is so good, everyone jumps up together because they can’t help it. Jubilant, enthusiastic, sincere.

Speaking of which – nice to have CLAPTON crossing STANDING O and CLAP up in the northeast.

Paolo – I enjoyed this terrific idea for a theme and its beautiful execution. Bravo.

PS - @Larry - does that mean you'll be there again this year? We learned a lesson, didn't we? If you go to the ACPT, under no circumstances sign up as a non-competitor. You have to sign up as a competitor, or you're relegated to being crammed up against the wall in a chair if you're lucky.

'merican in Paris 5:51 AM  

Best thing about today's puzzle was Sherman's (1:36 AM) joke about SCROD.

Glad to see that @Rex had a similar experience as I did, and also found the puzzle more challenging than usual for a Monday. Like him, I got stuck at STE, and had exactly the same reaction to 45D: Bond film after "Skyfall". Had OCTet before OCTAD. However, like TomAz for some reason I knew OBLASTS.

Really cute theme, especially as what was eroded was a STONE. Couldn't do that with "rock", but perhaps with SLOPE, LOPE (a long bounding stride"), OPE (literary or archaic form of open), PE (abbreviation for physical education; or postal code for Prince Edward Island), and E (abbreviation for food additives that comply with EU regulations).

Speaking of "E", there were an unusual number of answers that began with that letter today (EMMA STONE, EL NIÑO, EARN, EPICS, ELAINE, EROSION, and EARNIE). But only one single, lonely "U", and at the intersection of the worst two answers in the grid (MUTER and OH FUN).

Lots on my TO DO list today, so enough of the MAMBO jumbo.

Lewis 5:57 AM  

@lms -- Not only the CLAPTON and CLAP association with STANDING O, but it is also crossed by TADA.

The puzzle's theme is lovely -- simple and elegant -- and overall the puzzle is solid. Even in a terrific puzzle I'm not surprised by one or two ugly answers; often it's a necessary price to make a puzzle excellent. So while I experienced a tiny inner eye-roll when I wrote in MUTER, I quickly moved on.

My keep falling to that MID right in the mid of the grid.

Anonymous 6:28 AM  

I agree that the clue for Bert and Ernie was ridiculous. It reminds me of those people who contribute to the urban dictionary constantly taking normal words and trying to give them a weird meaning. Not a big rap fan, so thought Dave Barry's definition was rather funny---sorry @TomAz was rather sensitive about that.

BarbieBarbie 6:41 AM  

This was not a Tuesday. Monday’s signature, for me, is that there are clues and answers I never know about until I come here, because they fell to the crosses and my review was imperfect and sketchy. Today’s puzzle was like that. OTOH my time was longish, I did more actual thinking than usual for a Monday, and I had a write over (OCTet ==> OCTAD). ergo: medium-to-challenging Monday. I really liked this puzzle, admire the themer density with quality fill, and appreciate the revealer running Down so I didn’t spoil the Aha. I loved that the eroding STONE eroded from the outside in, and that they were all real words ending real phrases. So clever and fun. More please! On Mondays.

Anonymous 7:05 AM  

Eroded from the outside in, specifically with the letters falling alternatively off the beginning and end of the words.

Glimmerglass 7:12 AM  

@Sherman. That was one of my father’s favorite jokes. In his version (c. 1950) two women get in a cab at Logan, and one gushes, “I always come to Boston to get schrod.” (Delivered in falsetto) The cab driver growls almost exactly the same punchline. My father, like @Sherman, was not a grammarian. “Schrod” might be subjunctive, I suppose, but there’s no way it’s pluperfect. Interesting to see that the joke holds that punchline all these years later.

kitshef 7:18 AM  

I still confuse my RIALs (Iran, Oman, Yemen) RIELs (Cambodia), REALs (Brazil) and RIYALs (Qatar, Saudi Arabia).

Some really terrible stuff in the grid (AFTS, STE, MUTER, SETAT/AIMAT/FLOORIT) and some grating CECs (OHFUN, IMEANCOMEON) made for a no-fun puzzle, and a lukewarme them did nothing to imrove it.

What was fun was Rex's writeup. There oughta be a name for the experience he had with Skyfall.

kitshef 7:30 AM  

Read the comments, and now my appreciation for the theme goes up. Still, it's an 'after the solve' pleasure and does not retroactively add to the solving enjoyment.

Anonymous 7:31 AM  

yyyyyeahhhh, Tom in AZ ... we're racist if we don't appreciate rap.

Anonymous 7:48 AM  

@Tom, You're politics seem to disqualify you as a shtwit but your attitude does push the envelope. The committee is pondering. In the 60s my parents and their friends hated rock music and its long haired commie musicians, but they could listen to Motown all day long. A lot of them were racists, sure, but they knew what they liked.

Hungry Mother 7:54 AM  

A tad harder today. Lot’s of non-blue comments to ignore today.

chefbea 7:55 AM  

Fun easy Monday puzzle...but is it OK to have aim at and set at in the same puzzle. ...and clap and ton ...with clapton??? Loved all the food...minced it!!

Sallie (FullTime-Life) 8:14 AM  

This brings back the joy of word play ... instead of gimmicks (like yesterday’s). More, please, I solved on my iPad and got the fish fingers clue .... I only know scrod from crosswords, whether split or in fingers .

QuasiMojo 8:17 AM  

Not bad! I'll take it. But I was not thrilled with the repeat of CLAP and TON (three times I think) and the wrong clue for "retro." This is not the first time the Times has made this mistake. Retro means "imitative of a style from the past." It does not mean "back in style." Wearing Bobby SOX to a Soph Hop would be retro but not necessarily stylish. "Retro Chic" is another thing entirely.

Nancy 8:19 AM  

A very nice Monday. The theme is cute and original, though, as so often happens, I didn't notice it until after I'd solved. The fill has some nice un-Mondayish words and phrases: STANDING O; TRICE; OBLASTS; FLOOR IT. There's very little junk, though there is one rapper, along with every crossword's favorite (only?) weather event, EL NINO.

I was not going to MINCE words about MUTER, though. But I see that everyone, I mean everyone has already done so. That leaves me with the goings-on between Bert and ERNIE. I had absolutely no idea. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Loved TAN LINE abutting SPEEDOS. Normally I don't notice juxtapositions the way so many other blog regulars do, but this one was staring me in the face. So to speak. Anyway, this was a Monday that I quite liked.

paperandink 8:20 AM  

I,too, loved Sherman's comment... I remember taking my copy of Larousse Gastronomique to the docks in Boston and having a spirited discussion with the fishermen about the
textures of NE fish versus Med fish and how to layer each transliteration to produce the perfect bouillabaisse in our graduate school hot-plate kitchen...such fun

I was bothered by the plural of speedo for a racer's swinsuit...I also thought of ste as saint and office as prayers..

Loved the theme...

rap iz musik 8:54 AM  

rap is musical even if it doesn't line up with some peoples' musical sensibilities. you can analyze all music in any of these 5 categories: sound, harmony, melody, rhythm, and form. rap has all of those. the harmony exists in the rhythm section or background. the melody exists in the way the words are "sung."

if you want to get all uppity about what constitutes music, you'll need to also justify serial music, aleatoric music, and to some, minimalism. music is pretty diverse and includes lots and lots of expressions.

so, @epony, don't fall into the trap of calling something "not music" just because you don't like it. if you don't like it, fine. it doesn't like you anyway. but it's music. in the same way gravity doesn't care if you believe in it or not when you jump out of a window, so music doesn't care if you don't think rap music is "music."

and yeah...there is a hint of racism in your assessment. you don't understand rap music because you don't understand the culture. i'm guessing you're more inclined to like berlo or stockhausen because they're white and european.

Ann 9:04 AM  

Great puzzle for a novice (who studied Russian so knew "oblast"). Thank you.

The Hermit Philosopher 9:06 AM  

Color me disappointed: no whining from Rex today. 😕

RooMonster 9:12 AM  

Hey All !
It seems the latest Bond movies aren't fareing as well as the past ones. Maybe Daniel Craig isn't as charismatic as other Bonds? Not sure, but the movies themselves are actually pretty good. When I turn my TV on, the brand name SCEPTRE comes on the screen in big letters, making me always think of the movie SPECTRE, so that was a gimmie!

Like the EROSION process, first the S, then the E, T, N, leaving the MIDdle O as the edges wore away. Neat. Like the EROSION at Niagara Falls. If you notice after the Falls the big cliffs on each side, is because the Falls have eroded all that rock.

I thought the word was OBLATES, not OBLASTS. I guess I'll Google it before someone SCORNs me ABIT.

"You're not quiet enough! Make it MUTER!" :-)


Anonymous 9:15 AM  

Someday I shall learn to distinguish MAMBO (the dance) from sAMBa (the dance) and MAMBa (the snake), but today is not that day. I put in MAMBa every damn time.

Yargh 9:15 AM  

GOP AST = Trump

Two Ponies 9:30 AM  

The theme was only OK. The rest of the puzzle seems so filled with pop crap that it seemed more like People magazine than the NYT.

Stan Dingo and Elaine in the same grid! Where is @ evil doug when we need him? "Maybe the dingoes ate your baby!"

Just when it seemed things couldn't get worse we have the gay agenda creeping into Sesame Street. Oh Puh-LEEZE!

@ TomAz 12:44, You've outdone yourself today. Here's a surprise. I agree with Eponymous and Dave Barry.

The only fun I had with this was remembering Reader's Digest. It seems like every home had a copy and I grew up reading it. Most fun for me, as a child, was the collection of short anecdotes and humor sprinkled throughout each issue. I also read a ton of their condensed books.

Eponymous 9:31 AM  

@rap, I have no problem with rap, or the prose creations modern "poets" write -- both can be quite moving. I just object to calling them music and poetry. I miss poetry. Why can't we have things like, say, Larkin's "Next, Please" in today's world? Hey, I guess rap is the poetry of our time, isn't it?

Steve M 9:49 AM  

Very nice Monday, and it's nice to see most are in agreement. Definitely an average Monday time for me, about 9 minutes, which is as fast as I can read the clues and type them in, while still drinking my coffee without spilling. I only object to the cluing on AFTS. Not a thing. Got to stick with the backs of boats.

The three most important elements of music are rhythm, rhythm, and rhythm. A cliche, but I have heard it said by every music teacher I have every had. And of course, rap also includes melody and harmony, but that isn't really the point. Declaring rap to be not music indicates ignorance about both rap and music. Not liking rap doesn't indicate racism. Making such an obviously inflammatory comment about a predominately African American art form, on a blog read (I assume) by predominately middle age, middle class white people suggests that you are completely oblivious to the consequences of your own words, or that you were intentionally inviting the obvious backlash that would follow.

gloriosky 9:51 AM  

And not all Rap is angry - anyone heard of Lin Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton? Brilliant.

Kendrick Lamar 9:59 AM  

@ rap iz musik: LOL smowflake

G. Weissman 10:08 AM  

That sounds about right, for you.

Anonymous 10:14 AM  

there isn't enough outrage here about 55Down. First of all, Ernie and Bert are puppets or whatever. Second, I've always assumed they are children. I've also always assumed that the are brothers, which is why they share a room. It was always my understanding that the point of those skits was for the benefit of those of us who had to share a room with our brothers and who always aspired to a little privacy. So, what kind of psycho moron finds anything sexual in that relationship and, more importantly, where the hell was Will Shortz in catching this and axing it? this is really really disturbing, and it says a lot about the NYT and the decay of its puzzle.

Black Sun 10:22 AM  

Well said @Anon 10:14. Forcing degeneracy on our children is evil.
Allowing them to listen to the angry, hateful words in rap is another way to erode our society. Children deserve their happiness and innocence.

GILL I. 10:27 AM  

What a welcoming Monday puzzle. I'm glad it aired today instead of Tuesday.
CHALUPAS and TOSTADA. You have to go to Oaxaca. I think it's interesting that Taco Hell brought the names of these foods to the forefront. I also like Gorditas. My sweet 90 year old neighbor tells me that everything she knows about Spanish is thanks to that chain of god-awful food.
I couldn't figure out what all the fuss was about SpongeBob and his pal Squidwart and now we have Bert and ERNIE? What a life. I guess you can't be buds and straight at the same time.
I won't tell any BLONDE jokes but since y'all are having a RAP discussion:
Q: Why did the rapper carry an umbrella?
A: Fo' drizzle.
That's the only one I know. Feel free to give me a STANDING O.
Clever puzzle Paolo. It was OH FUN except for your MUTER.

Biff Gnarly 10:27 AM  

I don't really think of TOSTADAs as deep fried. I suppose the shell was fried, but it wasn't a TOSTADA at that point. It didn't become a TOSTADA till the stuff was put on top and it wasn't deep fried after that.

Odd Sock 10:30 AM  

I love rap. Especially when those lovely deep bass tones coming from the black Escalade with spinning hub caps and tinted windows next to me at the stop light rattle my coffee cup and shake the fillings out of my teeth. Sure starts my morning with a winning attitude. I can't hear all of the words but sometimes one or two shines through and keeps me smiling all day long.

Hungry Mother 10:30 AM  

This guy gets into my cab and asks to be taken to the airport. He was in town for business and he's leaving. Then he says to me,

"I was kinda busy this trip, and there are some things I didn't get to try. Where do you suppose I could have got scrod around here?"

I thought for a second, then I said,

"You know, I've been driving this cab for three years now and I must have heard that question a thousand times, but that's the first time anyone's asked it in the pluperfect subjunctive."

Aketi 10:32 AM  

@TomAz, after a California road trip with my son when he was visiting colleges I concluded I actually like Rap. His selection included a good mix of funny rap (at least that’s how I interpreted Just a Friend by Biz Markie) and what I termed STONEr rap with a touch of angry rap. I know it’s now old, but every time I hear Right Aboiut it by Lil Wayne which one of the guys put into the mix for Saturday fight club music, it makes my want to jump up and down with joy like that guy in the opening sequence of Ballers. I’m a total neophyte to the genre and never remember names of songs and artists but my son did expose me to the wide range that Rap encompasses and I’m glad he did.

Anonymous 10:34 AM  

@Eponymous if you can't finish a Monday puzzle, maybe you're too stupid to be a music critic?

Anonymous 10:37 AM  

@the man, your ignorance makes you an idiot. It doesn't make the puzzle creators stupid.

pabloinnh 10:38 AM  

Hey @kitshef, there is a name for Rex's experience with "Skyfall", it's "aging".

I happen to know this from personal experience.

Alicia Stetson 10:42 AM  

@rap is music: Hear hear! Extremely well said.

Malsdemare 10:44 AM  

OBLASTS!!! My problem was a kNot which gave me OBLASkS which looked perfectly fine. So dnf here. I was a little chagrinned by the singular clue for plural SPEEDOS (weinie poppers in this swimmers' house; yeah the girls wear them too, but that didn't matter). I really liked seeing the EROSION so elegantly managed. STANDINGO was terrific, something the RAP music in "Hamilton" gets every night. I don't think we needed the uncomfortable clue for ERNIE. I don't think about the preferences of living, breathing people, so why would I wonder about Bert and his pal? If the idea behind the speculation is to show kids that same sex relationships are fine, then make the clue about partners, not lovers.

Good puzzle overall. I liked it!

Anonymous 10:47 AM  

@Eponymous if you can't finish a Monday puzzle, maybe you're too stupid to be a music critic?

johnpag 10:52 AM  

Shouldn't the clue for 13 Down be "Racers' swimwear" (plural) since the answer is "Speeedos" (plural)?

Joseph Michael 10:54 AM  

Good Monday puzzle. My nits have already been voiced so I won't repeat them, but DAME it, I was A BIT sad that @LMs beat me to the "pregnanter" example.

And, in closing, I will probably never look at Bert and ERNIE quite the same way again.

Honeysmom 10:55 AM  

Agree with comments about Bert and Ernie. "I mean come on."

Z 10:55 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
semioticus (shelbyl) 11:00 AM  

Huh, this was actually one of my faster Mondays. Yes, difficulty is mostly a subjective thing, but I really can't fathom how this can be challenging for some. There are some Monday-tough phrases, but the crosses are very fair. I hadn't even noticed OBLASTS as an answer until after I read the review.

This was definitely a fresh fill. A tad heavy on plurals, and the NW corner was not the best in terms of gluey answers, but all those FLOORIT GOPAST TOSTADA CHALUPA AFCEAST (very APT after yesterday) make it a fun experience and a better than passable fill. I almost always like Pasco's puzzles, and I think the cluing was "dumbed down" perfectly without losing its zest at all.

Oh, and the theme. Brilliant for a Monday, with very good answers and clues and reveal.

This was a fine puzzle. I felt like it was missing something while solving it, but maybe I'm just groggy on a Monday because I can't pinpoint the problem. So I guess this was actually a very good puzzle.

GRADE: A-, 4.1 stars.

semioticus (shelbyl) 11:03 AM  

Also, here's an ear worm for you. (I don't know why I know this commercial.)

Z 11:04 AM  

Agree on the medium challenging and on the generally high quality of the puzzle. I thought the EROSION was particularly well handled.

Having grown up with Mexican food more appropriately named “tex-mex,” the CHAPULA was a new one for me when Taco Bell introduced it. I’m sure you’ll all be shocked to learn that their version is nothing like the original.

In a similar vein, I generally don’t rely on taxi/uber/lift drivers for my grammar lessons. Of course, the mistaken grammar is probably just part of the joke.

Seriously people? The Bert and ERNIE thing was a fairly big thing 7 years ago. I feel like I first heard speculation about their relationship in some stand-up comedian’s routine decades ago. Like 1970’s or 80’s, maybe even on Johnny Carson.*

Let’s see. Stereotyping. Dismissive. Overly simplifying. If this quip struck you as apt and funny and then elicited such a vehement response your reaction could be to try to understand why such a seemingly innocent quip was so bothersome. Or you could get mad at @TomAz for being upset. Up to you.

*Sorry about the delete and repost - apparently I messed up my links and Blogger combined my taxi come t and my ERNIE comment.

Anonymous 11:11 AM  

Anonymous @12:26 a.m. That was funny.

Lauren Muse Smith...the OTHER standing O is where your partner is pleasuring you while you are standing...

I finished in normal time for a Monday. It was fun. (I'm talking about the puzzle, not my comment above)

Anonymous 11:11 AM  

I agree with the "Speedos" complaint - Racer's Swimsuits or Racers' Swimsuits would make more sense.

I didn't know St. Elmo was the patron saint of sailors, but I did know "St. Elmo's Fire" occurs around ship masts, so...

semioticus (shelbyl) 11:15 AM  

Also, I'd like to congratulate those who have never heard the "Bert and Ernie are gay" rumor for living under what I presume a very comfortable rock.

Oh, and rap is "angry people shouting"? Hi, grandpas.

Anonymous 11:16 AM  

Rap police, stuff a sock in it already. Go and do something constructive in the world if you want to fight racism. Join Big Brothers and Sisters and help out a kid. Volunteer at an after school program. Teach a rap appreciation class at the senior citizen home for crissake.

Attacking a stranger on a puzzle blog doesn't change anything. It just makes you feel like you did. You don't know anything about this guy.

The puzzle was fun. A challenge on Mondays starts the week out right.

Nancy 11:21 AM  

@Steve M (9:49) -- If "every music teacher you've ever had" told you that "the three most important elements in music are rhythm, rhythm and rhythm", then I guess you'll forget more about music than I'll ever know. I only had one music teacher, my piano teacher, who didn't exactly turn me into Vladimir Horowitz. Well, there was also my high school chorus teacher, who didn't exactly turn me into Beverly Sills. But at least they didn't tell me that the three most important elements in music were rhythm, rhythm, and rhythm. For me, the most important element in music is melody. Always has been, always will be. Chacon on son gout, as they say.

The Rainbow Warrior 11:22 AM  

Wow, Rex freaked out over the mere presence of Lolita in a puzzle (a fictional character in a novel written a half-century ago). Where's the outrage today ? I can't believe that dear old OFL doesn't have his panties in a complete uproar over the assertion that Bert and Ernie are fags! He rarely misses such an easy opportunity to dump a shitload of PC garbage all over Shortz's ass. No justice, No peace, No justice No peace . . . .

chefbea 11:27 AM  

@Hungry mother...good one!!!

Banana Diaquiri 11:29 AM  

I grew up on the other end of the state, and worked in "Boston" for some years (being from "Boston" means any town inside/on RT128), and scrod is a young/small cod. the jokes, I don't recall.

Lewis 12:21 PM  

My five favorite clues from last week:

1. Maker's mark? (10)
2. Asian vessels (4)
3. Small grouse (3)
4. Meals for seals (4)
5. Gray head (3)


FrankStein 12:25 PM  

Swimwear can be plural so Speedos is fine. And it’s “chacun à son goût.” Great aria from Der Fledermaus.

FrankStein 12:26 PM  

Lol “Die Fledermaus.” Pardon.

So confused 12:30 PM  

If I don’t like rap, but have only heard Eminem’s songs, am I still a racist?

Larry 12:35 PM  

I've seen Clapton in concert twice. Talented. But not a showman. Bordered on boring. The Who, Springsteen, Stones, J Geils, Petty, etc all put on much better live shows

John Hoffman 12:40 PM  

I was a DNF. I thought it was very challenging. I do the puzzles 7 days a week: I often get through Friday and Saturday but can’t do the Monday. AFC EAST means nothing to me. OH FUN is fair but I couldn’t see it. But still enjoyable.

Rob 12:51 PM  

Love the picture of Stan Dingo!!!!

Doc John 12:56 PM  


Teedmn 1:00 PM  

Wow, a Monday that I loved! Not all that common an occurrence. I got the revealer but waited until the end to go back and see how it worked. I loved the "wearing away the STONE" aha.

CHALUPA went in from the CH. Our neighbor's dog had a chihuahua chew toy that came from the 1999 Drop the CHALUPA ad campaign. (Sorry if I'm the tenth person to include this link). The neighbor had the dog trained to drop the toy upon his saying, duh, "Drop the CHALUPA" which is how I heard the phrase out in the wild. Hard to believe it was that long ago.

I had @Rex's momentary DINGO questioning - whenever my husband sees a dog wandering loose in the area, he points out the "wild Minnesota DINGO" so I was wondering from where the enthusiastic audience was going to come: fanDINGO? but once it filled in, I recognized the STANDING O.

I needed all the crosses for OBLASTS. It looks like the next step up from a cytoblast. "The cell divided, creating an OBLAST". Okay, not very scientific here, nor ANTIC.

Thanks, Paolo, nicely creative.

Larry Gilstrap 1:03 PM  

Yep, @Loren, I'm booked and solving at a table. I'm certain I won't come in dead last.

In high school, I was a good kid and played by the rules. By the time I was a senior, it seemed I was one of the few who had to take a PE class for some reason, so I was stuck in a morning class with younger kids. This was back in the day when we had to dress out, exercise, and then shower and get back into street clothes in a few minutes. I decided to be the class clown and got lots of attention from the other kids. Every Friday, we were chastened to take our gym gear home with us and bring it back clean on Monday. Not me. Fortunately most of our activities were outdoors, so ODOR was a small issue. The eventual rash that ensued became a very big issue. I continued to goof off, but in cleaner garments.

Joe Bleaux 1:03 PM  

During what probably was my 40th or 50th viewing of "It's a Wonderful Life," I happened to notice that the two police officers are named Bert and Ernie. Would a 55(D) clue based on that trivia have generated much excitement among the commentariat?

Two Ponies 1:13 PM  

@ Doc John (12:56), Thanks for the laugh. Short and sweet.
Where ya been lately? It's been awhile.

chefbea 1:15 PM  

@Hungrey mother..great one. I posted this earlier..guess it didn't go through

RooMonster 1:19 PM  

In light of @Odd Sock 10:30 post, there's an awesome movie if you've never seen it, Undercover Brother. Comedy pitting blacks against whites. The whites led by The Man, whose lackey is trying not to dance to a certain tune. Here is the clip. Cracks me up every time.

Oh, and @Gill I 1027, it's SpongeBob and Patrick. Sqiudward is the work frenemy. Sad I know this...


JC66 1:24 PM  

They, not it, are called SPEEDOS. Nobody in her/his life has ever put on a SPEEDO.

kitshef 1:26 PM  

Thinking about @FrankStein’s post, and also about a recent board discussion about DAS RHEINGOLD, and also influenced by the fact that I’m currently reading LES MISERABLES.

Why is it that we listen to “Die Fledermaus”, rather than “The Bat”, and read “Les Miserables”, rather than “The Miserable Ones”? But we listen to “The Blue Danube”, rather than “An der schönen blauen Donau“, and we read "The Plague“, rather than "la Peste”?

Who determines what foreign works get their titles translated for US release?

Wharsername 1:50 PM  

I did not find it the least bit challenging and finished in a trice with nary a snag. I agree with a couple of other commenters that the clue for 55D is in poor taste and beneath this forum. A simple "Bert's buddy" would have sufficed.

Joe Dipinto 2:29 PM  

This was hardly challenging, it was as easy as an average Monday. The Bert/Ernie clue was just juvenile (wouldn't "Sesame Street character" have sufficed?). The clues often seem to contain these pointless wink-wink asides as of late. I also agree the clue for 13d should have been Racers', plural.

GILL I. 2:37 PM  

@Roo. It just goes to show you I don't know my Little Kiddies morning toon gays.
@Wharsername. I thought the clue was more gratuitous than in poor taste. I'm not particularly partial to "let me sound all up in the gay scenario and throw out a cute muppet while I'm at it." Rather than clue ERNIE as Bert's lover, clue him as Bert's best friend.

Oldflappyfrommississappy 2:48 PM  

Didn't Bert give the CLAP to ERNIE?

JC66 2:59 PM  

@ Joe D

Does a racer wear a swim trunk?

It seems to me that SPEEDOS fall in the same category as Levis, Lees, pants, etc in that a pair means one, but is treated as a plural.

Anonymous 3:10 PM  

The Gospel according to Rex: it is acceptable for the NYT to out Bert and Ernie, yet is is a crime against nature for Shortz to acknowledge the great job that US. President and Chief Executive Donald John Trump is doing steering the economy and battling terrorism.

jberg 3:11 PM  

First off, Paolo doesn't say they're gay, he says it's a rumor. He's not making that up -- see here. Anyway, it was nice to see their saintly, ticklish fellow muppet ELMO in there with them.

Second, SCROD is not a fish! No such animal. The story I've heard is that in the days when a chef would go to the fish market each morning to get what was fresh, one chef needed to print the menus before he got the fish. He was pretty sure he could get either haddock or cod, so he listed "broiled scrod" on the menu. The usage went viral.

I'm really tempted to link to a performance of John Cage's 4'33" in order to questions our definitions of music. It does have sound, as Cage always insisted, but I don't think you could say it has rhythm, rhythm, or rhythm.

Anyway, loved the theme, loved the puzzle. But then I knew OBLAST right off.

Wow 3:25 PM  

@Anon 3:10
Really? Wow. And I thought Trump was out of his mind.
Idiots leading idiots.

Düdie 3:44 PM  

I am no crossword expert and this was super easy for me. It felt like my best time and I solved 95% of the across clues without looking at the downs.
I even got the themer just by having 18A and the clue.

Hey Jackass! 3:47 PM  

@Anon 3:30 Rex wrote not one comment about Bert nor Ernie, not a single one. I mean, I'm glad you're good and angry at Rex, but still, make get mad about something that actually happened, no?

Nancy 3:53 PM  

@FrankStein (12:25) -- So I'd turned off my computer, put on 3-4 outdoor layers (a time-consuming process), was rushing off to an appointment, was not due back for at least several hours, and I realized that I'd written "Chacon on son gout" instead of "Chacon a son gout" in my last post. Now my French isn't all that great, but it's not all that bad either. I'm thinking: Will anyone call me out on my typo or Senior Moment or brain freeze or whatever it was? Nah, I thought. Too unimportant. Only important to you, Nancy, surely not to anyone else.

No such luck :)

Hartley70 3:54 PM  

@JC66 swimwear is the plural which makes SPEEDOS correct. A racer needs multiple SPEEDOS and often wears them all at the same time to increase drag during practice.

The SCROD clue that I saw drove me nuts because New Englanders know there is no fish called a SCROD. It's a made up moniker for any number of unidentified white fish that can be pretty yummy as "fish 'n chips". I had the split down the center clue. The fish finger one would be more accurate.

This was an outstanding Monday. The theme was really well done.

Two Ponies 3:57 PM  

Yes Nancy, no good deed goes unpunished around here! Ha!

John Schidt 4:05 PM  

@ Anon 3;10
Your 401K is doing well, your stock portfolio is sparkling, even your dead-beat brother-in-law found a job, black unemployment is at its lowest since they started tracking it but until everyone who is not a citizen is free to continue sponging off the system will President Trump get any credit for his hard work on behalf of the country he loves.

Joe Dipinto 4:29 PM  

@JC66 - I've only ever heard "Speedo" to refer to a single pair of trunks. But since @Hartley70 has pointed out that racers may wear multiple Speedos (Speedoses?) at the same time, which I didn't know, I guess the point is moot and the clue is fine as is.

puzzlehoarder 4:51 PM  

I couldn't come up with OBLAST just off of the O but once I had the B the rest of it came back to me. That's not too bad for not having dealt with it in seven and a half years. What use it's had in the puzzles has mostly been as a clue.

The Reader's Digest lady didn't come back to me either. However that one went in off of the crosses without my noticing so no chance to recognize off a letter or two.

Brushing up on odd crosswordese is about all a puzzle like this is good for. Otherwise I found this tedious.

Joe Dipinto 4:55 PM  

Re the Speedo vs. Speedos question, I did some googling, and here's part of a NY Daily News piece that used "Speedo" to mean a single pair of trunks:

Lifeguard, 61, sues state for firing him after he refused to wear Speedo


Roy Lester is out to prove that no man above the age of 50 has any business wearing a skimpy, form-hugging Speedo.

In 2007, Lester was forced out of the Jones Beach lifeguard job he had held for four decades when he was told he had to squeeze into a Speedo for the annual swim test.

"I wore a Speedo when I was in my 20s," Lester said. "But come on. There should be a law prohibiting anyone over the age of 50 from wearing a Speedo."

TCProf 5:02 PM  

"Afts"? Come on. That's trbl.

JC66 5:08 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Space Ninja 5:11 PM  

@Hey Jackass 3:47. I believe that is the point Anon is making. Frequently OFL will contort himself into a pretzyl either looking for or fabricating something to bitch and moan about, however on this issue his silence is deafening. I don't agree with either, nor do I care if Speedo is singular or plural, lol.

JC66 5:12 PM  

Here's the SPEEDO I know:

Unknown 5:15 PM  

This week's relative difficulty ratings. See my 1/2/2018 post for an explanation of my method. In a nutshell, the higher the ratio & percentage, the higher my solve time was relative to my norm for that day of the week.

(Day, Solve time, 26-wk Median, Ratio, %, Rating)

Mon 4:14 4:08 1.02 60.7% Medium-Challenging

Aketi 5:29 PM  

@Joe Dipinto, try telling that to the old Russian dudes who hang out at the beach at Coney Island. They squeeze themselves into SPEEDOS and flaunt their stuff no matter how big their belly is and I actually kind of find it refreshing that they don’t care.

Joe Dipinto 6:53 PM  

@Aketi -- Oh I know, I've seen those guys many times at Brighton Beach, "hang out" being the operative phrase. They just let it all hang out.

@JC66 -- good song, one of my 1950's faves! Apropos of musical Speedos, there's a current operatic bass-baritone named Ryan Speedo Green:

FrankStein 6:58 PM  

@Nancy, lol, good one. I only mentioned it because I love the aria. Hugs.

FrankStein 7:04 PM  

And @kitshef, good question! I don't have a good answer. Sometimes both versions are acceptable, as in The Alpine Symphony for Strauss's Eine Alpensinfonie. I bet the Grove Dictionary of Music delves into the whys and wherefores here. I've also been curious why some city names are changed from their originals to English variations, such as Marseille, rather than Marseilles, and Lyon vs Lyons. I'm sure there are many others.

JC66 7:23 PM  

@Joe D

Interesting. Thanks for the link. What a difference 60 years make. ;-)

Uncle Alvarez 7:30 PM  

I wonder if Bert wears a SPEEDO before he takes it up the ass from ERNIE?

Anonymous 7:32 PM  

No, ERNIE wears a SPEEDO before taking it up the ass from Bert!!

CDilly52 8:34 PM  

Agree. I am always amazed at what is in or out of one’s wheelhouse and this one wal 100% in mine, OBLASTS included. Blew through it in near (for me) record Monday time and enjoyed it.

CDilly52 8:38 PM  

Re: alien election-rigging. Watch the tv series “Colony” and shudder.

Joy2u 8:42 PM  

Are these purveyors of putrid permitted to take over each day's blog with their pre-teen prattle?
It seems that each day's discourse has the same sort of closing 'thoughts'.
What a shame . .

... and music is SO MUCH more than just rhythm. 'P T the FOO' that can only 'feel the beat' but cannot ride the waves of harmony and melody.

He said "anus" 9:20 PM  

Does anyone remember purveyors of putrid puke who putrefy the blog with their pre-teen prattle?

Beavis Butthead 9:23 PM  

Heh, heh, heh, heh ...

Joy2u said "putrid"

Heh, heh, heh, heh ...

Hungry Mother 10:36 PM  

Anlother fine day ignoring the gutless wonders. If you aren’t blue, I won’t see you.

Anonymous 11:16 PM  

@ Hungry Mother

That's probably why you missed @Sherman's 1:36 AM post.

Anonymous 12:15 AM  

The haughty hen told the same joke twice.

Butthead Beevis 12:16 AM  
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
crabby 9:48 AM  

Rap is not music. Rhythmic poetry at best.

Burma Shave 10:26 AM  


TODO the horizontal MAMBO with DAME LILA SCROD?

--- EDDIE D.

BS2 10:30 AM  

Sorry - odd - no caps

spacecraft 10:47 AM  

Wait..."Tuesdays often su-u-uck and THIS DID NOT"(caps mine)?? You HAVE to be kidding! This thing was so bad I quit after half of it, aka DNBTF. After AFCEAST QVC VPS SETAT AIMAT RIAL (RMU or random monetary unit; OK if you must but certainly not on a Monday) STE STELMO ASEA, the ODOR became too gross. And let me add: MUTER?? No. There is no degree of mute. OHFUN?? Not.

EMMASTONE, you deserve the DOD title, though I'm ashamed to confer it upon anyone today. That is all: I don't score DNFs.

Cripes, it was so full of crap I even forgot the rap clue!

rondo 11:28 AM  

You mean to say there were actually across clues below METRICTON? I filled it all on downs with OBLASTS being a gimme along with the rest. Did not blank on SPECTRE, as I have seen all the Bond flicks since Thunderball in theaters.

One CLAPTON show I went to was almost stolen by Robert Cray. But during CLAPTON’s set Phil Collins came on to play drums about half way through to liven it up. STANDINGO all around.

No doubt re: complete yeah baby and sometimes BLONDE EMMASTONE.

Easy peasy, IMEANCOMEON . . .

Diana, LIW 12:40 PM  

I was so late yesterday I didn't even post.

Today seemed harder than the avg Monday - See what @Spacey said.

But HORRORS. Does Rex have a new format? If so, I HATE, HATE, HATE, HATE IT.



Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for the old format to come back

Diana, LIW 2:14 PM  


I just read LMS and Larry G. They are most likely going to be at ACPT again this year. Me too. Go as a competitor, even if your goal is to finish with the slowest time. It's the only to get a seat - and a place at the table. Literally.

Go Stamford!

Lady Di

leftcoastTAM 2:55 PM  

OHFUN, right down to the last STANDING O. Nice work, PP.

leftcoastTAM 5:33 PM  

@Diana -- New format? What's new about it?

rainforest 6:19 PM  

I totally liked this, and totally whipped through it. The theme was so well executed as the STONE gradually went through EROSION to its central O.

Hey, @Spacey, I'm old too (maybe a couple of years younger), and I've always admired your posts, but lately you seem a little curmudgeonly. It's OK, though. On you, it looks good.

The Bert and Ernie thing has been around for awhile. Silly rumour, but even sillier to get bent out of shape about it.

Matt wears a Speedo. Ted wears a Speedo. They both wear SPEEDOS. But, I would never wear a Speedo. I have my standards.

rondo 8:04 PM  

I have a pair of SPEEDO brand trunks that come down almost to my knees, like basketball shorts. The "farmer" TANLINE of swimwear.

William Heyman 9:52 PM  

I rarely post, but one thing comes up every so often. And it is the person who says that they do not like rap music, and is always greeted with "you are a racist." I know music, sang with the Cantare Chorale (they sang at Carnegie Hall) and have collections of Armstrong, Basie, Ellington, Holliday, etc. And I do not care for rap music, and I know a lot of musicians that also do not care for rap music. And they all grew up in integrated California. So please stop the cheap shots.

Diana, LIW 10:23 PM  

OK, folks.

When I first logged on today, the internet brought me to a form of Rex's site that I never saw before, and it didn't have a link to Syndieland.

I've logged on a few more times today, and this hasn't happened yet, so who knows? User error? So I take back my initial comments - thanks for asking, @Lefty.

Lady Di

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