Angle between leafstalk stem / WED 1-24-18 / Christian singer Tornquist / Futuristic Volkswagen / Immune response trigger / BBC sci-fi series informally

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Constructor: Kathy Wienberg

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: at, an end... — phrases have 'AT' added to the end for some reason, creating nonsense phrases

Theme answers:
  • MAMMOTH CAVEAT (20A: Big "but"?)
  • ESTATE CARAT (27A: Small diamond handed down to an heir?)
  • HONEY COMBAT (44A: Fight between two lovers?)
  • FORWARD PASSAT (55A: Futuristic Volkswagen?)
Word of the Day: AXIL (17A: Angle between a leafstalk and a stem) —
  1. the upper angle between a leaf stalk or branch and the stem or trunk from which it is growing. (google)
• • •

Oof. Back-to-back grim offerings. I'm startled that this theme concept passed muster. I honestly don't get it. You just shove "AT" on the end of things? There's not even an attempt at a clever revealer or anything. Completely baffling. I have a hard time imagining the LA Times running this thing, let alone the "best puzzle in the world" or whatever the NY Times calls itself. And the theme answers ... ??? I don't think I even know what an "estate car" is, so ESTATE CARAT was super-meaningless to me, and thus super-hard to get. Didn't help that I had that first letter as a "D" since 21D: Good ___ days did nothing to get me to OLE. [Note: ["good old days"] = 14.6 million hits; ["good ole days"] = 387K] And the crosswordese, dear lord. The only thing worse than RATA on its own is actually cross-referencing the full term, PRO / RATA (59D: With 9-Down, according to share), especially when you put the first part way down at the bottom of the grid and the second part at the top. I haven't seen AXIL in years, for good reason. The "informally" in that DR. WHO clue is killing me (8A: BBC sci-fi series, informally). You don't mean "informally," which implies speech, because "DR. WHO" and the correct "DOCTOR WHO" *sound the same.* You mean "in informal writing, like a text, say." Clues should be precise ... but let's move on. [Christian singer...] You can stop right there, I guarantee you I have no idea. UPENN would be a fine answer because people actually call it that. UTENN, less fine. And then there's the super-choppy grid, which means only tiny passageways between sections. Irksome.

And then of course I wanted the more common terms (what a sucker!) like STAND FIRM instead of STAND FAST (33D: Not budge) and PIANO BENCH instead of PIANO STOOL (59A: Seat for a ragtime player) ... there was literally nothing pleasant about solving this. The best answer is SCREEN TIME, and somehow the puzzle managed to mangle the clue so badly that I could barely understand it (18A: Subject of a parent's restriction for a child). [Something a parent might place limits on], that might work. Something about "subject" and the redundant "for a child" just made that clue ugly.

Wrong answers:
  • 6D: What an oatmeal bath alleviates (ITCH) — ACHE, then RASH
  • 3D: Prettify (PRIMP) — PREEN
  • 1D: "Likewise" ("AS AM I") — "AS DO I"
  • 66A: Fella (LAD) — I didn't mess this up. I just think it's wrong. "Fella" is a grown person, LAD ... isn't.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


TomAz 12:16 AM  

Rex's comments are not invalid but they are far too harsh today.

The old "stick some extra letters in there somewhere" theme is tried and true and while it may not be the cleverest thing it's still more than acceptable. It was easy to suss out and it was fine. Lack of a revealer was not a problem for this solver.

I also had PIANO bench at first, but I think PIANO STOOL is a better answer for the image of someone playing ragtime. STAND FAST is fine and an equal to STAND Firm imo. AXIL is of course dreadful but it was easily gettable from crosses.

I could quibble with the clue for ASCOT: in my universe, a four-in-hand is one (of several) ways to knot a tie, and so an 'alternative' would be one of the other ways to knot a tie. An ascot is a different piece of brightly colored silk altogether. Different shape, cut, etc. But it was close enough that it didn't really slow me down.

Rex lumps this in with yesterday's puzzle, but I thought it was an improvement.

Arlene 12:27 AM  

I also thought it odd that there was no revealer.

a.corn 12:35 AM  


Anonymous 12:45 AM  

Not sure how tau ("𝜏" or "T") is cross-shaped...?

Robin 12:53 AM  

I think ESTATECAR is British for station wagon.

Agree with TomAz that PIANOSTOOL made more sense than piano bench even the clue.

I liked MAMMOTHCAVEAT and HONEYCOMBAT. Less thrilled by the other two. Not unhappy that there was no revealer, as sometimes they're just a waste of space.

Wasn't sure why DRWHO was considered informal. Is the formal version DOCTORWHO?

Finished a shade slower than my average Wednesday. Wasn't much impressed by this, but didn't hate it as did OFL.

Carola 1:14 AM  

Well, it was interesting to see how adding an -AT changes the sound of the preceding As and O in the original expressions. Fun with vowels! Otherwise...I wish the constructor had been able to come up with four phrases that make sense - wacky sense, but sense nevertheless - in their transformed state. Like MAMMOTH CAVEAT, which I definitely found smile worthy. FORWARD PASSAT might just scrape by, but without the tortured clues I'm not sure anythoing could be made of ESTATE CARAT and HONEY COMBAT. And I missed a snappy reveal.

Stanley Hudson 1:16 AM  

What @TomAz said.

Brother Pat 1:20 AM  

You don't know any Christian singers, Rex?

Perhaps if hou accepted Christ our Savior into your heart, and felt His blessed joy and heard His holy songs of praise, then maybe, just maybe, He could miracle your ass into finishing a puzzle without whining so goddam much.

Dan Menssen 1:29 AM  

I didn’t even realize they all ended in AT until I read this.

HATED this puzzle. Average Wed time, but I was just angry for the whole thing. Generally I think Rex is a curmudgeon, but today I get it.

Have watched enough Top Gear that ESTATECAR[AT] was the first themer I got, but that made me think there was some British slang thing going on, which there wasn’t.

Not having a theme reveal feels like holding in a sneeze and then never actually getting to sneeze for the rest of your life.

This literally made my life worse.

Larry Gilstrap 1:43 AM  

I had a fun solve, for whatever reason. Anyone notice OFL being OFL? Mixed reaction: Ugh!, it was like a Sunday puzzle, theme-wise, but the size of a Wednesday puzzle, Yeah! I think PRIMP is what people do: Preen is what birds do when they SPREAD their wing feathers

Threw in AS do I, before ASAMI which looks Finnish to my eye. Usually, SIX AM involves eyelids covering eyeballs. Lucky me! So when this blog drops at three AM PST, my eventual comments are superfluous. My late afternoon posts are a CRY FOR HELP; Hi, @syndiland.

I appreciate when common answers are clued differently. Exhibit A: STAR and ASPS and EIRE. Any others?

Marcel MARCEAU was not only MUTER than most celebrities, he was undoubtedly the MUTEST. And the Oscar for MUTEST actor in a supporting role goes to...Lillian Gish.

An upright PIANO is definitely associated with Ragtime played by a guy sitting on a STOOL. I guess it is up to the musician.

chefwen 1:58 AM  

@Brother Pat, You are one funny guy. Had to wake my puzzle partner just to read your post. We both had a good laugh. Much better than this puzzle.

Misread 47D as spot from a POd and put in PEA, wasn’t quite sure what HONEY COMBAp meant, obviously nothing, DOH!

Looking forward to a Thursday rebus (please).

Thomaso808 2:08 AM  

What a relief after the Mon/Tues SLOGs. Mon / Tues = almost double my average times. Wed = almost half.

@TomAz, once again you get it right. You wanna be the next Dread Pirate Roberts, I mean Rex Parker? You get my vote.

The constructor Kathy Weinberg called this her “At issue” puzzle, but Rex calls it the “At, an end”. Good one, Rex. I really liked the theme, and it helped me get the last answer FORWARDPASSAT. Good timing with Super Bowl coming up. I think if a theme is obvious, a revealer just gets in the way.

I enjoyed the Macklemore / Kesha video from Rex. Maybe an easy intro to a sort of rap for some of our rap-challenged friends here?

andy 2:17 AM  

Agree with Rex. Wretched clues all around and a dumb gimmick. Solved puzzle before I figured it out. Never in my life seen or heard UTENN. UConn, yes, UPenn. sure. Never UTENN.

And for those trolls that persist in insulting Rex, I have a suggestion DONT READ HIM.

Harryp 2:42 AM  

Wanted Screamtime for 18A, and Gnu for 24A, but worked it out in the end. Fun puzzle.

Franck Hanselman 2:43 AM  

Since we’re nit picking: I think SCREEN TIME is what actors get, and TV TIME is what parents restrict (obviously to their children; who else, the neighbours across the street?)

Eric J 2:52 AM  

I have to agree with Rex on this HORSESHIT-AT CROSSWORDPUZZLE-AT. Hey, I can also add -AT to phrases! I went to college in Tennessee and I can guarantee no one called it UTENN... Well, everyone was drunk all the time, so maybe they don't remember the good OLE (seriously, wtf?) daze-AT Knoxville.
Go Rocky Top!

I think Will needs a vacation.

Unknown 2:52 AM  

@Franck, SCREENTIME is far more current, given that kids use screens that aren’t TV screens all the time. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard “TV time,” even as a kid in the 80s. “No more screentime” has been said (at least by my wife and me, to our kids) many, many times.

While I liked that answer just fine, I generally agree with Rex — did not enjoy this one, from weak theme to bad crosswordese fill.

Loren Muse Smith 4:00 AM  

Like others, I agree with what @TomAZ said. Not the sexiest theme, “stick some extra letters in there somewhere,” but I don’t find it objectionable at all. For the bajillionth time, seeing a phrase morph into something surprising - just because you added a couple of letters - is amusing.

I agree that today's resulting phrases aren’t knee-slappers. Again. I don’t care. I just like the surprise. HONEY COMBAT is pretty good, though, on both the wacky meaning level and the COMB to COMBAT level. I would have liked this more it the AT had been added to create a phrase that is also reparsed:

MALI GNAT – bug that flies around djablani drinks and speaks Bombara
DIA BLOAT – when I eat too much salt and blow up like a tick during the day. My fingers are fat little sausages.
VISI BLEAT – when it’s so cold outside, shepherds can see their sheep’s breath

And again like @TomAZ (and @Robin) that there’s no reveal doesn’t make me angry.

I, too thought “bench” first and had to settle with the number two choice, STOOL.

@Larry – Yay! Look for us in the Marriott Lobby Friday afternoon. And any other Rexites – please find us if you’re so inclined. I’ve been gently corrected – Bob Kerfuffle wears his special red shirt on the big day, Saturday. I can guarandamntee you, though, that I’ll have on a black cardigan. It’s all I ever wear. Long story.

xyz 4:32 AM  

Joyless drivel two days running.


Far too cutesy clever obscure sheite in here with lousy "Theme".

Curmudgeonly, just like my post.

Jamie C 4:48 AM  

This puzzle was a BORAT.

Unknown 4:49 AM  

I finished the puzzle fairly quickly for me, looked at those “ats”, and thought, “Well, there’s ten minutes I can never get back.”

Anonymous 5:58 AM  

Was hoping that 24A Zoo animal was going to be "OFL" or "Rex." Alas, it was not to be. Hey, Mr. Grumpypants, you missed a huge opportunity to poke the tiger!

Didn't mind the theme. Actually, didn't notice the theme. I pretended it was an early-midweek puzzle, solved it, and came to the blog to see what today's outrage was.

If this " / " is a forward slash, why do italics lean "to the right"? Why don't they lean forward? And do italics lean to the left in the southern hemisphere? Coriolis effect, and all that...

Lewis 6:04 AM  

I liked the clues for TEA and MAMMOTH CAVEAT and the answer STAND FAST. I liked that there was some bite in the cluing. I liked the anagram of "stars" crossing STAR and the contradictory cross of UNION and HONEY COMBAT. My mind said, "Hey, what are some other words that could work as theme answer ends?", and it went exploring... This puzzle was in excellent FORMAT... I wonder if the prospective home buyer kicked the HABITAT... My favorite of her menagerie is my mother's WOMBAT...

I squeezed a lot out of what turned out to be a tasty orange to start my day -- thank you Kathy!

BarbieBarbie 6:06 AM  

The theme could have been, sort of, “at the end.”

@Larry, anyone notice OFL being OFL when he posts at midnight, but much less-so when he posts at 6AM? Kind of interesting.

Like @TomAz, I can see the minuses, but I had fun. Also I found it easier than Rex did, mainly I think because my mind is still open to different-seeming answers. You can’t seriously complain about crosswordese and also complain when answers aren’t rote enough. If it’s in the language, it’s fair. Google hits are a pretty silly way to rate crossword fill.

Glad to see fellow non-blue TomAz getting a couple of blue shout-outs. If every blue contributer would just reference one non-blue contribution (not this one), you could really yank on whoever it is who keeps dismissively announcing they are blue-only comment-readers. (I’d be interested in hearing what the blue advantage is, by the way.)

BarbieBarbie 6:09 AM  

@anon5:58, the Coriolis effect only leans italics to the left in the Southern Hemisphere when they are written on something much bigger than a toilet.

Loren Muse Smith 6:26 AM  

@Lewis - good ones!

@BarbieBarbie – as regards having a blue name, two advantages for me are:

1. I can notice that I misspelled a word or got a name wrong or something and go back, delete bad post, repair it, and repost it so that no one notices I spelled led as lead (hi, @ED). Or roll as role. Or use it’s instead of its, mistakes I make sometimes. So, basically, I can continue my hypocrisy of running off at the mouth about “correctness” being over-rated while in the background scrambling to be “correct.”

2. I can have my email clickonable, and I’ve made some very, very good friends off blog. And I receive terrific emails with anecdotes and comments from people who don’t wanna be public.

Anonymous 6:54 AM  

Yes, Rex is curmudgeonly, but it would also suck if every day he said "another wonderful puzzle!"

mmbeitlermd 7:02 AM  

I would say the editing of the NYT crossword puzzle is about on par with the abysmal level of coverage they offer up of our current disastrous political environment. I am about a micron away from cancelling my subscription.

Hungry Mother 7:15 AM  

Found it easy and the theme helpful. @Harryp, GNU is my favorite recursive acronym.

kitshef 7:15 AM  

Liked the theme - no revealer needed - and the puzzle, although there were a few too many minor ‘take a guess’ irritants:

STANDFirm led to some unintended but juvenile humor after I put in OUTTA and PIANOSTOOL, but before I got ROSIN.

Is having an affair with your father’s trophy wife a STEP-SIN? Asking for a friend.

David Stone 7:15 AM  

That’s a helluva reply and devilishly clever!

Anon 7:26 AM  

One of my faster Wednesday times. But nothing memorable. Theme helped a little.

Hungry Mother 7:31 AM  

@BarbieBarbie, my position of “blue” posting is that I stand behind my comments, now and forever, identified as me. This can lend credence to what I write, based on any qualifications or experiences that I might possess; or it might evoke “oh, that old guy again.” It also prevents me from saying irresponsible things that could embarrass me later with my friends that read this blog.

kitshef 7:34 AM  

@BarbieBarbie - an advantage of a name in blue is that if I have a question or comment about a post that would be boring to most people, I can contact the person directly to discuss it.

@Robin - Yes, the TV show is called Doctor Who.

Birchbark 7:51 AM  

Solved this a little after SIX AM. So it took a fair amount of math to decide on SIX or ten.

Demurred at OL__ until the cross supplied the E. Did not demur at AhHED, and would RhTA not discuss it.

Elsewhere, @Rex has said that pointless revealers use up valuable real estate and generate poor fill. None necessary here.

Doug 8:01 AM  

I have to agree with Rex today. I found it somewhat tougher than Mon. Tues. this week. This was a klunky puzzle and while solving it was baffled by the theme clues which took a lot of crosses to finally get. I have a huge quibble (I know, I know, if it's a quibble how can it be huge?): The clue "slip in a pot" is really lame for IOU. Any poker player knows that term is either incredibly antiquated -- or more accurately -- never used. It's called a "marker." Maybe kids playing in the basement once put an IOU in a pot, but nobody I know ever did.

Z 8:23 AM  

I always like me a good Star Wars™ Themed Puzzle.

What @TomAZ and @LMS said. And a double thumbs up on skipping the revealer. If you're going to go with a relatively common theme that is so obvious please spare me a cutesy revealer.

@Franck Hanselman - Some cable company or satellite dish company or other has an ad about all the different platforms their users can stream TV shows which ends with the two kids, one watching a computer and the other watching a tablet (or is it a smartphone?) asking "who watches TV on TV?" or some such. So, SCREENTIME is much more 21st Century.

@BarbieBarbie - If you click on my Blue Name you'll see my profile page and discover that Ursula K. LeGuin is one of my favorite authors. She is to writing... Well, here, a fitting tribute by someone who says it far better than I ever could.

Anyway, it's a bit of a pain to set up the account, but you get to set up a profile, let people curious enough to look to know a little bit about yourself, you can post a profile pic (and change it everyday if you like), and you can link an email to let people contact you off blog. Also, it provides some protection against people posing as you. Yes, really, people will pretend to be regular members of the commentariat, sometimes with an intent to be satirical, but mostly just out of some odd meanness.

chefbea 8:29 AM  

too tough for me...and on a wednesday?????

George 8:31 AM  

Thiis was ok from a solving standpoint, had to stop and think a few times. I love the term ESTATECAR. Makes me think of landed gentry, maybe if Downton Abbey made it into the 1960's. When I travel to the UK for business and fly into Stansted Airport, I often get a nice new BMW 3 series ESTATECAR as a rental, or 'hired car' as they say.

Rob 8:44 AM  

Thought this was fine. Not every puzzle theme has to reinvent the genre. Definitely did expect PIANO BENCH, and I've never heard the phrase "mammoth cave, but the weirder answers were all gettable through crosses.

The Hermit Philosopher 8:50 AM  

“Far too harsh today.” Copy that phrase and paste it into your comment EVERY day.

The Hermit Philosopher 8:51 AM  

Amen and amen!

Two Ponies 8:55 AM  

My feelings about this puzzle took a 180 turn mid-solve.
I thought the way an addition of -at changed the vowel sound of the preceding syllable was really clever. So far only @ Carola 1:14 seems to have noticed. Fun with English! One of my favorite pastimes.

@ Brother Pat 1:20, Great post. You really had me going for a second and then I had a good laugh.

@ BarbieBarbie 6:06, I agree that a.m. Rex is quite different from
p.m. Rex.

Odd how Bullies and Cows fit together in that context.

I wonder if it is true about the oxen plowing an acre in a day. That's not a very big plot if you're trying to feed your family off of it.

When I went to Denmark I never picked up a single word of Danish. Not even Mange tak (8D) because everyone spoke English. It sort of took the charm out of traveling there. Sure, it made things easy but struggling with a foreign language is part of the fun for me.

The Hermit Philosopher 8:57 AM  

“Screen time” could also be use of a computer, smartphone, tablet, video game etc.

Anonymous 8:59 AM  

Loren Muse Smith: " ... the number two choice, STOOL." Classic!

Mohair Sam 9:01 AM  

We enjoyed the puzzle, played easy here for some reason. Agree with about half of what Rex said, but none of that spoiled the solving experience. And very surprised he hasn't heard the term ESTATE CAR.

Anyhow, the puzzle was worth the effort just to get @Lewis' suggestions - especially:
"I wonder if the prospective home buyer kicked the HABITAT."

@Barbie - yeah, go blue for all the reasons given above.

Anonymous 9:02 AM  

Like, I'm reading this adorbs new graphic novel about a really cool cat who is literally a detective. It's called MANGE TEK. You gottta read it.

pabloinnh 9:08 AM  

I think all this puzzle needed was a Sunday-like title (I'm thinking "At last"), and then more people would have liked it, but probably not.

I thought it was just fine, but then I think the secret to happiness is being easily pleased. Your mileage may vary, as they say.

QuasiMojo 9:17 AM  

The ASPS and WASPS clue made me smile because a friend told me once that it was redundant to call someone a WASP when you meant "White Anglo-Saxon Protestant" because Anglo-Saxons are all white. He called them ASPS. Which is more apt, I think, since they tend to bite rather than sting.

This puzzle otherwise was about as exciting as a PASSAT (which is basically a Rabbit in drag.)

I had MAMMOTH CAVERN first, then got the gimmick. I won't call it a theme. And isn't HONEYCOMB one word? That doesn't mesh with the other themers.

Apparently ROSIN is derived from the word RESIN (Latin "resina") so I don't feel bad about typing RESIN first.

I'm going out onto the thin ice outside and try a triple AXIL.

RooMonster 9:35 AM  

Hey All !
Where my ATs AT?
1D, metoo-ditto-ASdoI-ASAMI. It's like the AMTOO, ARESO, etc. answer. You need to wait for the crosses.

Not much else to say about puz. Seems Tuesday-ish. Nothing really LEAPT out AT me.


Nancy 9:41 AM  

Loved it. Hard for a Wednesday and only made harder by the lack of a revealer. Added difficulty is always a good thing, as far as I'm concerned. And I thought the cluing was wonderfully oblique for many of the most common words and phrases: ASPS (1A); ITCH (6D); TEA (47D); MANIA (25D); SIX AM (2D); and the wonderfully poking-fun-at-crosswords-clue for EMU (24A). The made up phrases are cute, as clued, even though they're not in actual parlance. Playful and fun and I had a good time.

@Quasi (9:17) -- I never know the difference between ROSIN and RESIN either.

G. Weissman 9:46 AM  

“I choose, on a daily basis, to read a blog that upsets my delicate soul because the reviewer is too harsh in his judgment of the NYT crossword(!), so I continually whine about the blogger being too harsh.” Copy that phrase and paste it into your comment EVERY day, because you are clueless.

ArtO 9:49 AM  

Found this a bit tougher than usual for Wednesday but thought the clues clever and the reveals OK. Agree that adding AT is not much but it resulted in some fun theme answers.

STANDFAST over stand firm any day! Same with PIANOSTOOL vs bench for a ragtime player.

As usual, @LMS offers the most thoughtful and fair commentary.

G. Weissman 9:50 AM  

I caution against accepting any fictional supernatural being into any bodily organ.

Pet Monkey 9:52 AM  

If the Q of that alphabet soup stands for Queer does that mean it's OK to say that now?
If so, why not ditch the rest of those letters?
Q kinds covers it all and makes the rest redundant.

Nancy 9:55 AM  

@BarbieBarbie -- I always enjoy your interesting and well-written comments, even though you're not in blue. I spent my first year or so on the blog in black, was having problems with the captcha, and someone told me that if I went to blue, I'd never have to worry my pretty little head about the captcha ever again. Of course, as a complete technophobe, I hadn't a clue how to change to blue, but someone here explained it, I think. And I think the fact that I had a Gmail email account was what made it possible, though I'm not 100% sure. (I'm not only technologically-challenged, but I have a fuzzy memory too.) At any rate, what I do remember is that I got myself a blue name, but didn't have an avatar. @Hartley asked me for some personal info and then, to my complete surprise and all the way from CT!) found an avatar for me and put it on my profile. I was completely gobsmacked and very appreciative. But my Rexlife has been much better in blue, and I highly recommend that you do it too. You'll never look back.

Suzie Q 10:04 AM  

I don't understand the confusion between bench and stool.
I've never seen a ragtime piano player sit on a bench.
The stool is part of the uniform.
I thought a four-in-hand had something to do with some kind of horse-drawn carriage or wagon.
I am supposed to know Straight Outa Compton? What or where is that?

If a man gave me a one carat diamond I would never think it was small!

This was a fine Wed. Lots of original cluing. Nice one Kathy W. Debut?

Larry Summers 10:05 AM  

Rex Parker: I demand more puzzles by women constructors !
Will Shortz: O.K. Here's a puzzle by a woman constructor.
Rex Parker: Unacceptable ! I demand that you publish one of the myriad high quality puzzles constructed by women that is hidden away in your drawer !
Will Shortz: Uh, O.K. (face palm)

jberg 10:23 AM  

OK, about revealers -- @TomAz, @Loren, @Z -- a revealer would not have made this any easier (that would have been hard to do), but to make the simple process of adding an AT to most of the long answers more interesting. It would have given me something to smile about, and made me like the puzzle better.

If the theme is harder to get, it can be more fun without a revealer -- it's the easy, potentially boring themes that need one.

@SuzyQ -- it's both: a carriage where the driver holds holds reins for four horses, and a particular way to tie a necktie. The clue is a little off as it contrasts a type of tie with a type of knot; alternative to Windsor would have been better.

leah712 10:26 AM  

I would not call a one-carat diamond "small."

I so regret listening to the child psychologist who advised me to limit my child's screen time sixteen years ago.

Larry Summers 10:31 AM  

Rex Parker: I demand more puzzles from female constructors.
Will Shortz: O.K. Here’s one.
Rex Parker: Unacceptable ! I demand you publish one of the myriad high quality puzzles submitted by a female constructor that is hidden away in your drawer !
Will Shortz: Uh, O.K.

Stephen Minehart 10:38 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Stephen Minehart 10:41 AM  

I didn't love or hate this puzzle. Finished in normal-ish time, despite trying to force Estate Court to work - I don't remember coming across the term Estate Car, so I had to get the theme before finally fixing those NE problems.

GILL I. 10:51 AM  

Wow...Right off the bat and everyone's hating. @Rex sets the mood I see.
I rather enjoyed this one. Had to work hard and thought I might not be able to finish it in some places.
SCREAM TIME gave me the "thank you very much" DAME. Maybe Mae West threw some Mange tak around at the boys. Took a while to clean up the AS DO I and the DANE and the SCREEN which led me to finally get MAMMOTH CAVEAT which I loved.
On to the middle section and 31D was a LOOFA for a time and I kept thinking who do I know who's a 41 or 43 and is a LUSH. HONEY COMBAT cleared up that mess.
All the cluing today is what I enjoyed. Maybe the clue for OLE needed a ye before it or even an El Codobez fan shout. Didn't think to EVER see how many Google hits it would take. If I'm going to Google, it would be for something that I've never heard before like mange tak or that a four-in-hand is an ASCOT.
Fad X 10 was MANIA clever.
Yup....I'm ready for a rebus.

GetWynded 10:58 AM  

Love you put what answers should be! I had the same feeling. Thank you for giving this one a whooping.

kitshef 11:00 AM  

@SuzyQ - Straight Outta Compton was the US top-grossing movie by a black director until Get Out passed it last year. It is a biographical movie about the group N.W.A.

kodak jenkins 11:03 AM  

Rex was extra persnickety today!

There's usually a lot to complain about once you've decided that's the thing to do.
-EUR is an answer I didn't know to a clue I didn't understand
-LAD could have a better clue. I started with BUD
-UTENN is a stretch

-1 across ASPS was fun and a good way to start.
-EMU had a cute clue
-AXIL is something I didn't know but now I do
-ACRE is a common answer but I'd never seen it clued like this and I was glad to learn of it

Now that I'm gone over it again I like this puzzle better!

This puzzle was ok, kind of easy but fairly normal.

Anonymous 11:05 AM  

I had two real problems with this. Knowing that this was the NYT of 2018 under Will, I just assumed that 38 down, part of lgbt whatever was the revealer. You stick something at the end? And the answer is gay!!

the other weird thing was "bench warmer" which was defined as "sub" Really? Often, the bench warmer is dog meat, not a player. But "sun" actually fits. But then honeycombat did not work, but honey comb is weird because "honey" is generally spousal, although that could be lovers of course, and I just couldn't get my brain around that cross.

katherine catmull 11:11 AM  

Although I tried three different answers in the the "Fella" slot (pal, guy), LAD was lovely -- a reference, I thought, to the (possibly old now) British expression "fella-me-lad." Well, now, young fella-me-lad . . . .

mathgent 11:13 AM  

I had nine red plusses in the margins, the average for a Wednesday.

MAMMOTHCAVEAT was excellent and so was its clue, "Big 'but'?"

"Mange tak" for "Thank you" reminds me of a Danish friend who compared the Danish language to a disease of the throat.

Disappointed that my favorite 2017 movie, Mollie's Game, didn't get nominated for Best Picture. Aaron Sorkin was nominated for the screenplay.

katherine catmull 11:15 AM  

oh also -- @kitshef said
> @Robin - Yes, the TV show is called Doctor Who.

The reason the "Dr." "Dr. Who" is an abbreviation is the ongoing joke of the series: his name isn't "Dr. Who," his name is The Doctor, but when people meet him they always ask, understandably, "Doctor Who?"

Citizen Dain 11:26 AM  

I liked most of the theme answers, although I have no idea WTF an "estate car" is. Could be an e-State Car or an Esta Tecar or an Es Tatecar. All of those combinations mean the same thing to me (i.e., nothing).

Didn't like boring fill like EMU and PRO/RATA and TAU and EIRE and EUR and AAHED. I hated "EVIE".

I really liked SCREENTIME and laughed out loud at HONEYCOMBAT.

emily 11:43 AM  

A but sanctimonious, but still kinda funny! Had loofa for 39D which messed me up for a long time....

old timer 11:43 AM  

Folks, have you ever noticed that if OFL finds his time is slow, he blames it on the puzzle and not on himself. Had he raced through the puzzle he would have praised it, and of course still picked a few nits.

I found the puzzle quite easy and quick to finish once I got the 'AT trick. At the end I went back and was pleased to find that each of the words ending in AT changed its sound when the AT was added. ESTATE CARAT turns into ESTATE CAR AT, etc. It would have been sad if this had not happened.

Only been to Denmark once, for a couple of nights on a bus tour. Basically saw only Copenhagen. But I well remember the hypothetical discussions when I was in high school. If you were in one of those programs where you stay with a family for a week or too, would you get naked when they went swimming or went to a public bath? Yes, seeing naked women and girls would be (we figured) erotic, but joining in would be so embarrassing!

emily 11:47 AM  

As a new grandmother it is SCREENTIME, that is restricted the light emanated could be harmful to developing eyes/brains...

Joseph Michael 11:48 AM  

The Etta James song "AT LAST" could have been a revealer for this AT fest.

Clever clues for ASPS, BUSH, EMU, and SIX AM among others. STEPSIN could almost describe Hamlet's relationship to Claudius.

Theme is nothing to write home about, but serviceable. Liked the concept of a MAMMOTH CAVEAT. It's the intro to most of Rex's reviews, even his occasional raves: "This puzzle wasn't bad, BUT..."

QTIP 11:52 AM  

Q in LGBTQ can also mean "Questioning" rather than Queer.

Derace Kingsley 12:16 PM  

Rex you’re the greatest. Reading your blog is one of the highlights of my day. Why’d you go and use “literally” as an intensifier? You were one of two media stars I was counting on to not do that. Now there’s just Brian Lehrer. 😐

Joe Bleaux 12:17 PM  

It's the Grand OLE Opry in Nashville. Listened to it, in the good OLD days.

jb129 12:20 PM  

I agree with Rex & any others who said "joyless."

And I didn't think the NYT would pass 42D - Embroil for Entangle.

sanfranman59 12:36 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
Tue 6:00 5:33 1.08 65.7% Medium-Challenging
Wed 6:34 5:54 1.11 70.0% Medium-Challenging

I wonder if Rex has a macro for producing "I'm startled that this theme concept passed muster. I honestly don't get it."? This is a pretty standard crossword theme and I admit that ESTATE CAR isn't in my lexicon either, but it wasn't difficult to come up with. I also agree with Rex about LAD.

potter 12:55 PM  

Rob - Mammoth Cave is a national park in Kentucky not a phrase

Teedmn 1:02 PM  

I found Kathy Wienberg's third NYT puzzle to be "where it's AT". Perfectly charming clues and theme. And some of the clues hit my funny bone today for some reason.

I loved "What an oatmeal bath alleviates" = ITCH. Obviously @Rex has never sat BATHing in a bunch of floating oatmeal, hoping against hope that the poison ivy ITCHing will dissipate. Do I sound like I know this from experience? Oh yeah. I laughed to think that "Marcel of few words" would never be mistaken for Marcel Proust. And "Scrub in a tub" (nice rhyme) and "Pupa to be" (insect wannabes?) were fun.

Except for trying to fit allerGEN in at 37A and thinking "rod" before ORB at 49A, this puzzle was a (fresh) breeze of a Wednesday.

Masked and Anonymous 1:07 PM  

Just finally got to work on solvin this week's litter of puzs. Won't comment at length here on the others, except to say:

!!!*** slight spoiler alert on this week's puzzles, I reckon ***!!!

* SunPuz - Different theme idea. Half set-up, half punch-lines. I like different.
* MonPuz - Great how the theme kinda carefully eats itself up.
* TuesPuz - Double entendre theme interpretation. Pretty clever. [Best 3-letter alphabet string run, *ever* in history, btw.]
* WedPuz - Themers were re-presented, AT length. Basic, but well done. [More on this puppy, below.]

*** end spoiler alert zone ***

Good week, so far. Cool variety of approaches. Haven't read many reviews/comments yet. Will go do that, now …

----- Many nanoseconds later: ---------

Day-um! Thoroughly mixed-nuts crowd. ANYhoo, on to today's puz ...

Yep. When I worked this puz, I lost many precious nanoseconds early on, busy with a theme revealer hunt. Had MAMMOTHCA???T, and didn't quite get what the remainin crossers were about, so automatically went lookin for the friendly PuzRevealer Help Desk. To this puz's feisty credit, it was havin none of that. Howsomever ...

On the one hand, revealers are sorta fun. They give constructioneers a chance to give some desperate/weirdball/har-larious reason behind what the themers are goin for (yo, @jberg). [Also, they can cut the M&A some slack, in helpin him solve the puz's theme mcguffin.]

On the other hand, revealers can sorta be mini-spoilers. If the theme is pretty straightforward, what the heck -- let the solvers figure it out on their own time, especially for a WedPuz or beyond (yo, @TomAZ). It's good for solvers to suffer, later on in the week. Also, squeezin a long-ish revealer in can no doubt put a little extra strain on the puz's fill.

Sooo … M&A ends up on the fence, but somehow woulda still enjoyed a revealer slightly more, on this occasion. (And yo, @muse: har. Absolutely primo at-lernate universe themer ideas!)

But, hey -- whadda I know … I'm evidently in the minority ... I liked *all* the puzs a lot, this week so far, each in their own bewitchinly different ways. De busta gut.

Thanx, Ms. Weinberg.

Masked & ATonymo6Us


OISK 1:30 PM  

I enjoyed this puzzle. Had trouble getting started, actually, and began with the SE corner. But Forward Passat gave me the theme, and it was fun from there. I liked yesterday's as well.

I am always amused when I read about (@Joseph Mitchell) "The Etta James song" "At Last." The song was written 20 years before James recorded it, and if you want to hear how it actually goes, listen to the Nat King Cole rendition. I belong to a tiny, tiny minority who think that James (and by extension Beyonce's) versions are butcheries of a lovely tune. James doesn't sing "At Last," she changes it from the second line. There is no "Oh Yeah" in the lyrics. "And life is like a song" is downscale, not up. Her butchery of "Stormy Weather" is even worse, but at least no one (that I know of) refers to that classic song as "The Etta James Song."

This is strictly a matter of taste; I get that, and I don't mind jazzing up a jazzy song, although that's a matter of taste as well. But what bothers me is that most people probably have heard James, and never heard Cole sing "At Last," and don't actually know how the song goes, as written.

Bob Mills 1:38 PM  

Nice puzzle, but I have no idea what an estate car is. I only got it from the crosses.

Harry 1:48 PM  

All that complaining and you didn't even mention "member of a crossword zoo?" really?? That's one step away from the clue being "crosswordese." Maybe there should be a puzzle where the theme is crosswordese and the clue on all of the three letter fill would be "a bit of crosswordese?"

I didn't enjoy this one, it wasn't fun or interesting, more of an annoying slog. I did like both the Monday and Tuesday puzzles a lot better.

Beck 2:03 PM  

This puzzle is where it's AT!

Pdxrains 3:25 PM  

There is no such thing as a piano stool. It’s a fucking bench.

jb129 3:42 PM  

Sorry Devin - I learned to play the piano with a stool & graduated to the bench

Odd Sock 4:29 PM  

@ Devin, Reconsider and think perhaps of a piano player in a honky tonk, a saloon, or some other casual setting. Perhaps you've never watched a movie. If that is the case then....well, you might need a bit more exposure to the world outside your bedroom.

semioticus (shelbyl) 4:36 PM  

Just like yesterday's, the ceiling is not too high for this one structurally, but within that it does a good job.

The fill is not fresh at all, but i) there aren't any cesspools where a few stale/problematic answers meet and make it unbearable and ii) the clues are actively trying to make this a fun experience. "Member of a crossword zoo?" is so honest. "Number 41 or 43" is good. I like the trivia clues for METALS and ACRE. "Fad x 10", "Fashion line?", "It comes a quarter of the way into the day" there is actual, legitimate effort here. I appreciate that as a solver.

Again, this type of puzzle cannot score really high anyways, but this one tries its best at remedying all its lacking parts.

GRADE: C+, 2.95 stars.

iamjess 4:46 PM  

All right, I'm sold. How do I make myself blue?

Nancy 4:52 PM  

@mathgent (11:13) -- Your Danish friend has a wonderful sense of humor. So funny!

@OISK (1:30)-- We are so in agreement on music that it's uncanny. While I don't know the song "At Last" and have never heard either the Etta James or Nat King Cole versions of it, I am absolutely appalled when someone changes either the melody or the lyrics of a song. Especially of a great song. It's why I tend to dislike jazz. Melodic lines are changed willy-nilly on a performer's whim. Yes, as OISK says, you can speed the song up or slow it down, but you're not allowed to alter the bleeping melody! Not in my book. If Richard Rodgers or Cole Porter or George Gershwin writes an absolutely perfect melody (which is what they all do 99.9% of the time), don't you dare muck around with it. If you're such an inspired tunesmith, write your own damned melody. That's what I say. Rant over. Stepping off my soapbox now.

thfenn 5:57 PM  

I'm with Nancy, GILL, and others that liked this one. First off, working my way through a Wednesday that got a medium-challenging is still gratifying. I AAHED. Getting the theme helped the completion, with or without a revealer, which I enjoyed. TELEVISION and VIDEOGAMES before SCREENTIME earned an AAH. BENCH before STOOL earned an AAH. Thought the cluing for ASPS and ITAL was clever, enjoyed seeing how COWS works for Bullies. Got tripped up on plenty - also had SHEEP before STEER, ABLE before ONIT, FIRM before FAST, CZARS before TSARS, and agree that ASCOT is not really an alternative to a four-in-hand, but everything fell into place eventually. 'Course, I enjoyed yesterday's too, so am not much of a critic...

GILL I. 5:59 PM  

@Nancy...I, too, am not a great jazz fan - particularly Dixieland - but that's me. However, no one I listen to can modify, weave or improvise a melody as well as Nina Simone. Take a little hear at her "I Loves you Porgy." Might change your mind.
@Mathgent...On the plus side, "Lady Bird" is up for the nomination. All of my hometown favorites are features in the movie. I can't believe she actually featured Club Raven - a seedy dive (but fun and has good funky music) in her film. I believe Moonbeam used to drop in. Sacramento is growing up!

Joe Dipinto 7:06 PM  

@OISK and @Nancy - Oh please. I'm sure the estates of Harry Warren and Mack Gordon are delighted with the royalties they've collected off the Etta James version of "At Last".

A good song can stand up to numerous interpretive decisions, including alterations of tempo, melody, or even chord changes. To insist otherwise is myopic.

GILL I. 7:13 PM  

@Joe Dip...Myopic? who's calling the kettle black?

John Towle 7:15 PM  

So why did the bumble bee wear a yarmulke?.

Because he didn’t want to be mistaken for a WASP.

Nancy 7:54 PM  

Hi, Joe DiPinto (7:06)-- I so often agree with you but I can't in this case. While I often greatly enjoy jazz versions of songs that change the tempo -- Ella and Frank were especially genius at doing this in ways that were irresistible -- I draw the line at changing the melody. I have heard jazz versions of songs I love where the melody has been changed so completely that the song is pretty much unrecognizable. To me, it's like "improving" on Monet by adding your very own frog to his "Water Lilies" painting.

But I love you anyway, Joe DiP :)

John Towle 8:06 PM  

GILL I @ 5:59 Have a listen to Norah Jones & Edith Piaf. Gloria Estephan & Lena Horne get my votes as well.

JC66 8:10 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
JC66 8:29 PM  

Like @OISK said, it's all matter of taste.

For me, I prefer Etta's version over Nat's.

Joe Dipinto 8:31 PM  

@Nancy -- well, I am a big jazz fan. If you are talking specifically about jazz *singers* -- yes, some can go off the rails with excessive embellishments that end up destroying any real communication of the lyric. That, I am not a fan of. But the good ones know how to alter an original melody just enough to work with their interpretations. I think the Etta James version of "At Last" fits into that category. And -- sorry @OISK -- hers is the version of the song that most living persons are now familiar with, so it's going to continue to be identified with her.

Anyway, love to you too @Nancy. @GILL I. -- I really don't get why you invoked that expression. You yourself pointed out Nina Simone's ability to transform a song.

Anonymous 8:37 PM  

A perfectly acceptable Wednesday but not one I liked. It made me squint and go "huh?" Mange tak anyway.

Derace Kingsley 8:47 PM

GILL I. 10:02 PM  

@Joe D. I didn't call @Nancy or @OISK myopic. That's on you.

Jack Dammit 10:47 PM  

Can we please confine comments to the xword puzzle and drop the tedious arguing over jazz vocal stylings?

Good Christ . . . I’d rather see political debates.

Joe Dipinto 10:59 PM  

@GILL I. - I did not call any specific person myopic. I called a specific stance (musically) myopic. And if I am the pot calling the kettle black, how am I myopic unless you are also calling Nancy and OISK myopic by using that cliche? That's on you to answer.

OISK 11:35 PM  

Wha?? I said it was a matter of taste. Muti is famous for conducting "come scritto," (as written). Others take liberties. Preferring one approach over the other isn't myopic. I think that the song writer is probably a more talented composer than the singer, so I prefer to hear the song writer's tune. Myopic??

Hartley70 12:37 AM  

How can Rex's Thursday review be posted when the app won't even download it to my phone yet?

It's swell to see a female constructor who gives me a little DRWHO first thing in the morning. I can't wait to see the first female DR coming to BBCAmerica this year. This was a nice tight Wednesday with no flaws for me. The theme was well done. Two thumbs up.

muskox 2:46 PM  

One changes the height of a piano stool by rotating it. A bench is eithe fixed in its elevation or can be adjusted by turning handles located at the sides.

spacecraft 10:54 AM  

Scanning the posts very quickly, I started seeing discussions about "At Last." That was the first title for today's offering that occurred to me, too. And in the absence of any other good DOD candidate, let us go ahead and install our old crossword friend ETTA James in that honor.

I kinda liked this one: a themer sans revealer. As we've often seen, revealers can take much away from the solving experience. I once again was flummoxed by the NW; it wound up being my last job again. I started in the west with BUSH/BATHE, and went down from there. The clue and space count for 55 across suggested FORWARDPASSAT, so I hunted around for ATLAST, or something like it. ATTHEEND, maybe? But no such came along. I withheld filling in 55 across because of that absence, but as more and more letters began dropping into my original answer, I gave up and put it in.

No, I don't know what an "estate car" is either. I would guess it'd be something like Bick Benedict had to get around to various ACREs of Reata. Not yer "good car." But I got it all right. Only four themers and no reveal, so the fill should be relatively (always gotta use that word, when PB is off duty) clean--and it was. For the novelty of solving without in-grid help, birdie.

Unknown 10:54 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown 10:54 AM  

What a whiner! Theme was a bit obscure, to be sure, but it is a Wednesday, after all. Otherwise, there were few challenges and the traps were all easy to work back out of. Someone needs a cup of coffee.

Unknown 10:54 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Diana, LIW 11:22 AM  

I see @Rex was gushing his usual compliments to the puzzle chef. After glancing at a few comments, think I'll re-think the theme, and come back.

Lady Di

Burma Shave 12:21 PM  


HONET,COMBAT happens when some LAD STEPSIN
with DISTASTE to make a FORWARDPASSAT you.
I’ll STANDFAST until he’s TRAMPLED, in the END,
OUTTA respect for our UNION, it’s what IOU.


BS2 12:22 PM  

must proofread - HONEY - grrr

rondo 1:00 PM  

The literal translation from that DANE (OLE?) is “Many thanks.” When you speak one Scandinavian language you can pretty much get by in them all, excluding the spoken Finnish. And finish I did, without write-overs. Changing vowel sounds seems good enough for me.

A tuning fork could be the PIANO’S_TOOL?

Dump the mime and go for Bond girl and yeah baby Sophie MARCEAU.

Cleverish puz to wake UPONE’s brain at SIXAM. I’m OUTTA here.

leftcoastTAM 3:07 PM  

Okay, there's something of a "theme" here, but I'm not sure what it is other than having something to do with AT and the end of each phrase or term that turns one of its meanings into a completely unrelated meaning.

Oh, and there's one END that has nothing to do with the theme, whatever it is.

Got that? Okay.

leftcoastTAM 3:37 PM  

I see that Jeff Chen over at xwordinfo gave KW's puzzle a genuinely kind, generally positive review. He may have extended himself a bit, but I admire his tact.

strayling 6:28 PM  

An estate car is essentially a four-door shooting brake. What's so obscure about that?

Anonymous 8:50 PM  

I finished but there were no aha or aah moments. On to tomorrow's offering

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