Flattish sea creatures / SUN 1-7-18 / Caninelike animal more closely related to cat than dog / Jerusalem's onetime kingdom / Crime-fighting mom of 1980s TV / Often-oval floor decor

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Constructor: David Steinberg

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging (the "Challenging" part is more due to the fussiness of dealing with the two-letters-per-square thing, not actual difficulty)

THEME: "Vowel Play" — themers have anywhere from 2 to 5 squares that contain two letters; in the themers themselves, the clues are doubled, so the 2 letters function in an either/or kind of way, whereas in the crosses, both letters are required to complete the answer.

Theme answers:
  • DEAL-A-MEAL / DAILY MAIL (22A: Richard Simmons diet regimen / London tabloid)
  • SPICY FOOD / SPECIFIED (29A: What a red pepper on a menu may signal / Made clear)
  • FOUL CALL / FUEL CELL (43A: Preceder of free throws / Juice container?)
  • TRICKSTER / TRACK STAR (69A: Fooler / Summer Olympics standout)
  • CHO CHANG / CHA-CHING (94A: Harry Potter's ex-girlfriend / Register sound)
  • WHAT A TOOL! / WHITE TAIL (110A: "He's so lame!" / Deer variety)
  • STRING TIE / STRONG TEA  (118A: Thin neckwear / Assam or Earl Grey)
  • MINT OREOS / MANTA RAYS (42D: Cookies filled with green creme / Flattish sea creatures)
  • DANGEROUS / DUNGAREES (47D: Risky / Denim attire)
Word of the Day: SUBGUM (65A: Chow mein relative) —
Subgum or sub gum (traditional: ; simplified: ; Cantonese: sap6 gam2; pinyin: shí jǐn; literally "numerous and varied") is a type of American Chinese dish in which one or more meats or seafood are mixed with vegetables, and sometimes also noodles, rice, or soup. It originates from Cantonese cuisine and is a commonly encountered dish on the menus of Chinese restaurants in North America. (wikipedia)
• • •

JANUARY, 14, 2018: A MESSAGE FOR THOSE SOLVING IN SYNDICATION (i.e. the majority of my readers):

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

Second, a mailing address:

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

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

Now on to the puzzle!

• • •

So, some warnings / notifications up front. First, the L(IO)NS clue (114D: Only N.F.L. team ever to go 0-16 for a season) is incorrect as of 12/31—the Cleveland Browns just completed their own 0-16 season, and so two NFL teams now hold the dubious distinction of Worst Regular Season Record Ever. I am not pointing this out to be spiteful. It was pointed out to me, days ago, by the NYT's own Deb Amlen. So, it was a known issue, but just not "known" early enough to change the clue in print. Not sure why it couldn't have been changed in the .puz version, but whatever. I hear it got changed on the app. Was it changed in syndication? Let me know. Next, if you solved digitally, the grid looks different than it does in print. Here is the print grid:

Divided squares would've made things visually clearer, but whaddyagonnado? I managed fine with the circled squares, though, like I said—fussy. Lastly, if you solve in the app, you may have encountered a mild-to-extremely infuriating glitch—with two of the squares, the vowels must be entered *in reverse* in order for your grid to be accepted as "correct."

Perhaps that glitch has been fixed by now. Perhaps not. Anyway, now you know.

I'm not sure I enjoyed this puzzle, but I definitely enjoyed it more than I've been enjoying Sundays of late. It was more of a grind than a joy, but at least it was inventive and had some teeth. Weird coincidence: the Newsday Friday crossword had this same title ("Vowel Play"). I remember this a. because I just did it this morning, completing my week-long (M-F) streak of solving both the Newsday and the LA Times Downs-only (#bragbrag), and b. I spent a few seconds wondering what the hell the pun was (it's "Foul Play," of course). Needless to say, this puzzle is far more elaborate than the Newsday (which was fine, but just involved a simple sound change from one theme answer to the next (PROUST, PRESSED, PRIEST)). Why am I blogging the Newsday puzzle? Not my job.

I think maybe this puzzle went to the Latinate-plural well once too often. LAMINAE *and* TOGAE? WHO AM I, Caesar? The CAR FIRES clue was cute (13D: Flare-ups in the hood?), but briefly confusing / disturbing, as I thought the clue was trying to tell me that CAR FIRES are mostly associated with "the 'hood," i.e. black neighborhoods. Then I realized the "hood" was a car hood. OK. My favorite mistake, By Far, involved my repeatedly misreading [Risky / Denim attire] as [Risky denim attire], which resulted in my trying to make MOM JEANS work. I also still can't spell ICHOR (ICHER!) (88D: Olympian blood), and, despite wikipedia's claim that it's a "commonly encountered dish on Chinese restaurant menus in North America," I have somehow made it perilously close to age 50 without ever having seen SUBGUM on any menu ever in my life. So that was weird. 

  • 1D: Jerusalem's onetime kingdom (JUDAH) — slow start up top there, as I tried SEP for 1A: Start of the third qtr. (JUL), and then SYRIA for this clue. That is so much Wrong in so little time. 
  • 98D: Actress Ronan of "Lady Bird" (SAOIRSE) — I've finally learned how to say this. I went from "????" to "SORE-shuh" to the correct "SER- (or SEER-) shuh." Here she is, trying to pronounce other celebrity names:
  • 74D: Crime-fighting mom of 1980s TV (LACEY) — Aw, I miss this show. So much so that I can't remember which one was Cagney and which one was LACEY (I do know which one was Sharon Gless and which one was Tyne Daly, so that's something)
  • 89D: Like some German wines (RHENISH) — so "of the Rhine and the regions adjoining it" is RHENISH? Not RHINISH? Or RHEINISH? This is almost as confusing as spelling "The Rhinegold" was the other day. Too many spelling variables, Germania. Work on it.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Anonymous 12:07 AM  

RHENISH is mentioned in Hamlet. I'm sure the Shakespeare guy or lady will be here shortly to give the full quote.

Unknown 12:09 AM  

Someone explain 61D, please?

Anonymous 12:09 AM  

Yes, flip your vowels in the 14D and 44D rebuses.

Anonymous 12:11 AM  

The train of some bridal gowns...

Kevin 12:17 AM  

I solve using the NYT app, and the football clue was about the "first team" not to win a game, so it was fixed at least there.

The entry pattern was maddening. I stared at all my answers for thirty minutes and COULD NOT find even a possible error. I was about to give up, when I decided to just enter one letter per box in hopes that the "answer" only needed the first alternate. Oddly, after I had deleted the second letter from the first ten or so rebuses, all of the sudden, it said I had solved the puzzle. So, my "right" answer has some of the rebuses filled in and some not.


TomAz 12:23 AM  

This was a brilliant puzzle concept, daring, inventive, and well-executed. Unfortunately it was also a bit of a slog to solve. While I could figure out the answers I couldn't really "see" them in the puzzle.. intuition didn't work for me in filling in the rebuses so I just had to work each one out one by one. Which wound up feeling tedious. I wasn't spending time trying to figure out answers, I was spending time trying to figure out which vowel went first.

But still, wow. I am impressed. I didn't have fun but I am impressed. Now that I'm done, yeah, very cool.

JC66 12:24 AM  
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JC66 12:25 AM  

I never read notes pre-solve. so it took me twice as long as usual to solve this sucker in AcrossLite. (The slashes vs circles would make it much easier, IMO).

38A - Never heard of SUMER

62D - Comp SCI - Never heard of it. What’s the Comp stand for? Competitive, Combined, Co-ed? Oh, Computer Science. Who knew?

101D - ATANDT??? - You’ve got to be kidding.

This had to be a bear to construct.

@RP I made my yearly donation, despite the PayPal link being faulty. BTW, many thanks for doing this.

Graham Blake 12:45 AM  

Before anyone else loses their mind the way I did, it appears the key was wrong on the copy I received for the iOS app. The third rebus in 29A and the first rebus in 43A had to be flipped to incorrect entries for the puzzle to register as complete. Very frustrating. Spent ages looking for my typo and there wasn’t one.

Lee Coller 12:49 AM  

It looks like they've fixed the 14d and 44d rebuses, as well as the clue for 114D - it is now "First N.F.L. team ever to go 0-16 for a season (2008)."

This puzzle brought me no joy.

Joe Dipinto 12:50 AM  

This seemed immediately like a variant of Split Decisions, formerly created for the variety puzzles by George Bredehorn and now continued by Fred Piscop. Those do not rely on both interchangeable letters being either vowels or consonants, which provides more intrigue. I can see why it was probably necessary to use only vowels here, since there were crosses involved in every case.

I'm a big fan of David Steinberg's puzzles: there's never any junk fill, and they are always elegantly constructed with a good mix of the classic and the modern . That's all true here, and I enjoyed solving it. But -- the theme answers didn't really make it interesting or entertaining. WHAT A TOOL was my favorite themer; none of the others had a comparable zing, imo.

It seemed ultimately like a clever exercise in puzzle construction, but not something where you get a true sense of satisfaction at having figured it out at the end. Still, Mr. Steinberg's entries top most others in in my book, so I won't complain a lot. :-)

Anonymous 12:58 AM  

Thank you for the backwards rebus info! It's not fixed on the android app, at least not mine. I combed over it for ages trying to find my error!

Anonymous 1:14 AM  

Turned off by too many ons, ats, ins and ofs.

lg 1:20 AM  

Solved in the iOS app and sure enough 44-d and 14-d vowels had to be reversed to be counted as solved. Took about 25 minutes of trying everything else before coming here for help, so thanks for the solve. Without the app glitch, I might have liked this puzzle, but as frustrating as that error was/is, this puzzle feels like a major bust to me.

chefwen 1:23 AM  

Many people have asked me why I never opened my own restaurant, my reply is usually “I never wanted to work that hard” that’s why half way through this one I crumpled it into a ball and played fetch with our new puppy, Spud. We had a blast.

John Hoffman 1:29 AM  

I thought that ICHOR,SUBGUM, Zeno of ELEA and SUMER were quite hard to get. ATANDT counts as crossword-ese so i got it from seeing it over the years. The GAINSON area was hard for me -- RHENISH and SAOIRSE didn't help. Overall what a feat to make this puzzle! Good job, constructor. Agree with Rex: I'd call it Medium-challenging for a Sunday.

puzzlehoarder 1:34 AM  

The eye strain of solving a Sunday puzzle on paper is brutal but it's better than dealing with computer problems on top of it. Or is that COMP problems? This was a slogfest enough without having to worry about how I entered the vowels.

The worst part of solving was the snacking. We were out at a play tonight and we had desert when we got back. So I had a bag of dark chocolate covered almonds in front of me when I started solving. Bad idea. Every time I got a little bogged down I'd reach for another (last) one. I finished the puzzle but came away feeling a little queasy and guilty.

Robin 2:07 AM  

Ill just chime in with the crowd who complain that solving this puzzle was a slog.

Didn't help that I got the idea early, almost instantly, as there was just too much tedious work to follow. So B-.

Bane for me was the LAGEAR/GANGS crossing. Wanted to put in a W there and the West Side Story hinting on GANGS just flew right past me.

Graham 2:15 AM  

Broken streak rage, indeed, is coming. My streak is 463 puzzles, and my grid won’t register as correct. Arrrg.

Graham 2:19 AM  

Oh, they seem to have fixed it. I closed the puzzle (to the app menu), then opened it again, and it was happy.

Dolgo 2:24 AM  

It's too long to quotr, but it's in Act I when the Canon goes off off stage and Hamlet accuses the king of drunkenness, the bad rep all Danes suffer from. He says Claudius is knocking back a quaff of Rhenish.

Dolgo 2:25 AM  

Train of bridal gown.

Paul Rippey 2:28 AM  

Loved it. Dang, that was crazy clever.

Dolgo 2:30 AM  

Those split squares are too small, even with the sharpest pencil when you download the puzzle the night before, as I do, and it's reduced to letter-sized paper. I got to frustrated to finish.

Sue T. 2:42 AM  

ICHOR / ERIS was a Natick for me. Finally finished this puzzle, but it was no fun. I probably would have bailed but I gotta keep my streak up (damn you NYT).

Anonymous 4:37 AM  

Loved it. The copy I solved in the Int'l NYT had no circles or slashes in the grid so figuring out where the rebuses/vowels fell was part of the fun, and slowed down the solving. Nice to see such an ambitious puzzle.

Loren Muse Smith 5:24 AM  

@Kimberly - you're a class act. Would you be willing to email me?

@Joe Dipinto – exactly my thought about this resembling one of the Split Decisions puzzles. I love those. It’s the only kind of puzzle my daughter will do with me.

I’m so impressed with this list of entries that work. They’re like a list of possible Schrödinger entries. (Hi, @imsdave – I know you keep this list, too.) I thought of raisin/reason. Then I was done. There’s unite and untie, but that wouldn’t be vowel play so much as vowel movement.

Rex – I laughed at your wrong “mom jeans” thought. I had heard last night that there was a clue that was no longer true, so for 43A “Juice container?” I confidently wrote in “jail cell.” And I was dead serious.

“Treatment center” would be a great clue for TEE. In an M&A runtish kind of way.

Ever noticed that so so many women’s middle names, if they’re two syllables, are IAMBIC?

Parts of a wedding that drag…
* A song sung by a friend or relative who has no access to autotune.
* Vows written by the bride and groom. (I always feel they’re TMI and make me uncomfortable.)

Parts of a wedding reception that drag.
* The mother/son dance. People, take my advice – just dance to the the first part of the song. Get’er done and get off the floor. It gets really awkward, really fast.
* Toasts when there’s an open bar. And people wobble up to the mic with stapled sheets of paper.

I liked the clue for HELLO. When a conversation takes place, you, the listener, have a job to do while the speaker speaks, namely to make utterances, give feedback, (yeah, uh-huh) and gestures (nods, smiles) to signal that you’re actually listening. It’s called back-channeling. I’ll pause while you get a pen to take notes. We’re all experts at going through these motions while actually wondering if there’s still some ham left in the fridge or whether we took that dress out of the dryer to hang so it won’t get wrinkled. Anyhoo, cultures vary in their back-channeling requirements; English is kind of in the middle. In Japanese, the listener is responsible for a TON of back-channeling; he’s practically as vocal as the speaker in a sing-songy kind of way. So many times when I was on the phone in Japan, the speaker would suddenly stop and say, Moshi, moshi (HELLO?) since I wasn’t back-channeling enough and he though the connection had been lost.

@Randall Clark - Yay! We’ll meet in Stamford! Like* I said, look for us in the lobby or at the bar when you get there. I’ve used my most recent picture as my avatar so you’ll recognize us. And yes I’m just kidding because Rachel Ward is the Supreme Most Beautiful Woman Ever in the History of the Universe.

(And, yes, you have to register through this link to get the nifty discount, let alone a room.)

David – another impressive feat. See you this March!

*finger in the eye, you pedantic purists.

The Bard 5:39 AM  

First Clown: Why, sir, his hide is so tanned with his trade, that
he will keep out water a great while; and your water
is a sore decayer of your whoreson dead body.
Here's a skull now; this skull has lain in the earth
three and twenty years.

HAMLET: Whose was it?

First Clown: A whoreson mad fellow's it was: whose do you think it was?

HAMLET: Nay, I know not.

First Clown: A pestilence on him for a mad rogue! a' poured a
flagon of Rhenish on my head once. This same skull,
sir, was Yorick's skull, the king's jester.


First Clown: E'en that.

HAMLET: Let me see.

[Takes the skull]

Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio: a fellow
of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy: he hath
borne me on his back a thousand times; and now, how
abhorred in my imagination it is! my gorge rims at
it. Here hung those lips that I have kissed I know
not how oft. Where be your gibes now? your
gambols? your songs? your flashes of merriment,
that were wont to set the table on a roar? Not one
now, to mock your own grinning? quite chap-fallen?
Now get you to my lady's chamber, and tell her, let
her paint an inch thick, to this favour she must
come; make her laugh at that. Prithee, Horatio, tell
me one thing.

Hamlet Act V, scene I

Margaret 6:09 AM  

I had everything in place and couldn’t figure out what was wrong and why the app didn’t say it was completed; then read this post so I switched the order of 14D and 44D and then it said it was completed, so I’m not sure the app is up to date with correct answers yet. Otherwise I thought this was a really clever puzzle. Good first Sunday of the year!

Margaret 6:10 AM  

Try swapping the order in 14D and 44D; it worked for me in the app to get it to register as complete

Lewis 6:15 AM  

My first thought was, "Did David write a computer program to come up with these?" Because if he did this in his head, he would be significantly more of a crossword genius in my estimation than the no-doubt-about-it one he already is. And yes, he did write a program, according to his notes.

I found the theme answers fairly easy to get, and the puzzle fell with little resistance, save for the process of filling in the two-letter squares. I felt bad for David that such a classic puzzle was marred by technical glitches.

David's puzzles will always be clean, with several remarkably clever clues (i.e. TRIG, AREA), and just have the stamp of quality. Always. At such a young age, he has already left an indelible mark in Crossworld. I'm excited, because I feel like he's still on the rise.

Anonymous 6:15 AM  

i felt like i'd been waterboarded. when i had all the squares filled in and the app said there were mistakes, i was so tired i just clicked on "reveal puzzle" and let if be. i never would have found the two errors.

i'm surprised the nyt does not offer a "streak freeze" or "pay to maintain the streak" like DuoLingo.

Anonymous 7:04 AM  

I also solved in the Int’l NYT and would have liked to have had the slashed squares as a hint.

Unknown 7:16 AM  

By the time I started (7:30 Sat. night) they had fixed the vowels being reversed in 14D & 44D. However, they "fixed" it by requiring that there be a / between those two vowels. I only found this after revealing those two squares (which has killed my streak).
Serious editing problems on this one.

chefbea 7:50 AM  

Too tough for me

Lewis 7:52 AM  

@lms -- You had me laughing at things that make the wedding ceremony and reception drag. And the back channeling info was fascinating. Thank you for both!

Z 8:27 AM  

Hand up for immediately seeing Split Decision. As for me, definitely not my cuppa (Split Decision puzzles or this puzzle). There is no particular cleverness involved here, just the fact that words are made up of letters, so sometimes there is overlap. I am not surprised that Steinberg used a computer to find the themers, it is the kind of rote task we invented computers to save us from. Then Steinberg/Shortz foist the drudgery on us? Bah Humbug. I’m also not in agreement with the “clean fill” assertion. From the Yless JUL to STP, we get a fair share of ese classics. ELIAS Howe and Zeno of ELEA. CORA Dithers eating JELL-o. And perhaps the worst POC ever foisted on a solve to make a theme work, TOGAE. Yep, a full A TO Z of ese.

I’m sure many will love this, app issues aside, just not me.

Amy 8:31 AM  

this played very orderly in print (yay print), and i thought it was in fact an easy puzzle masquerading as a difficult one. three ways to get a themer made for quick (ish) work. (a rarity for me).

evil doug 8:47 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
evil doug 8:56 AM  

I understand back-channeling on the phone, because all those visual communication signals are missing.

But it can be irritating face-to-face if the listener is *constantly* nodding away as if to impatiently say, 'go on, hurry up, I get it'. And one of the chief causes of speakers employing vocalized pauses (um, er, you know, like, I mean, right?) is the (legitimate) fear that the listener will jump in with the punch line or otherwise complete the thought the speaker is attempting to make--nature abhors a vacuum, especially among impatient Americans in a conversation, so God help me if I thoughtfully pause to organize my words.

To me, the best back-channeling is maintaining earnest and continuous eye-contact with an occasional nod or smile to signal comprehension.

xyz 9:09 AM  

Sorry if this offends any, but What a pain in the ass

Easy but a nuisance, ugh Rex is right

pmdm 9:11 AM  

The constructor wrote some interesting comments about how this puzzle came to be and Jeff Chen wrote an interesting analysis of how many times slashed squares have appeared in a Times crossword, so if you are interested pop over to XWordInfo.

I figured the gimmick out quickly since 69A fell immediately. Knowing the trick help me a great deal and made this puzzle easier for me than other Sunday puzzles.

By the way, the incorrect clue was corrected on page 4 of the Main Section. This is not the first time an incorrect clue in the Sunday puzzle was corrected in the Main Section. Not take it helps those who get the puzzle and slove it on a Saturday (like myself).

pmdm 9:14 AM  

I hit the Publish button prematurely. What does help is that the correction was printed on page A17 of Saturday's Main Section.

kitshef 9:14 AM  

SUBGUM a WoE for me, too.

Chevy Chase and Goldie Hawn did a pair of romantic comedies 35+ years ago: Foul Play and Seems Like Old Times. They are both well worth watching - and I don't say that about a lot of Chevy Chase movies.

'mericans in Paris 9:17 AM  

@evil doug: GREAT observation. I couldn't agree more.

@LMS: Agree about Japanese. I've often had an office near a Japanese colleague, and when they get on the phone mostly what I hear -- every 5 seconds it seems -- is an affirmative "Hi!" Ever been to India? The back-channeling is often accomplished through head wagging (sorry, there is probably a more accurate term for it), which can really make it difficult to concentrate on your own words if you are not used to it. Keeping eye contact ... not!

@chefwen: Looking forward to meeting your new puppy in late April or early May!

As for my experience with the puzzle ... some of you can imagine. I gritted my teeth through the slashed clues, and then got into the puzzle. Clever, but not all of the clues did it for me. Never heard of "WHAT A TOOL". But did like DANGEROUS paired with DUNGAREES.

Mrs. 'mericans and I are in Gainesville, FL, and did the puzzle on the APP. Figured out the trick at SPICEY FOOD - SPECIFIED. Naticked at ICHO_ and E_IS, however.

The worst part, however, was not realizing that we had to put a @#$%! slash between the vowels. So even though we got all the vowel pairs right, and in the right order, our puzzle did not pass muster because we left out the /s. Grrrr.

Kurt Rosell 9:19 AM  

The one subset of solvers that had/will have no problem with Rhenish is students and alumni/a of Wake Forest University. I am one and dropped it right in. I am confident I would never have known it otherwise.

The Wake fight song begins "Oh here's to Wake Forest/A glass of the finest/Red Ruddy Rhenish filled up to the brim". I know it looks awkward, but if you know the fight song's tune it flows off the tongue. We forgive the redundancy of "Red Ruddy" because it is so alliterative with the following "Rhenish" and you need it to fit the tune.

Legend has it that the author of the song included the wine reference to tweak the powers that be at the school, which at the time was a Baptist school that forbade drinking or dancing. The dancing ban lasted a remarkably long time. When I arrived on campus in 1978 (yikes!) the seniors had lived with the ban their freshman year. The drinking prohibition fell by the wayside much earlier and never existed in reality as booze finds its way into all things regardless of efforts to the contrary.

Richard 9:30 AM  

I completed the puzzle accurately and then, following the advice here, got it to register as completed by taking out the OI in 14D's answer using the list format and replacing it with an I. So now it is wrong on my screen but the solving streak remains intact.

Jon in Saint Paul 9:37 AM  

I had an unbroken streak of solving every puzzle every day since I began solving in the app or online about a year ago. That all ended two days ago with that brutal BOOR / ROTOS cross, and now again today with ICHOR / IRWIN. Two big fat DNFs in three days. Maddening. I enjoyed today's puzzle otherwise, but dang.

Anonymous 9:38 AM  

Glitch not fixed yet. GRRR. upped my time a bunch as I tried to find my “mistake”. Thanks for the heads up. At least it registered as finished once I changed it.

Unknown 9:39 AM  

This is one of those puzzles that felt like homework. Blechhh. Tedious.

Robso 9:46 AM  

Sorry, SUBGUM is not a “Chow mein relative,” but instead those black dots on the subway platform you see as you are running to catch your train.

American Liberal Elite 9:51 AM  

What an ungratifying slog that was - couldn't wait to put it behind me and move on.

Unknown 9:53 AM  

what a puzzle. this was different from the streak we've been on and therefore was welcomed by me, despite some (maybe) fussy parts. really liked WHATATOOL/WHITETAIL and MINTOREOS/MANTARAYS. i appreciate the thought and effort that went into this puzzle. good job everyone.

Two Ponies 9:54 AM  

There was not enough of a pay day for all of the work required.

Things of note for me:
ESPN airs the spelling bee? I can't wrap my head around that.
Hyenas are closer to cats than dogs? Cool, I want to know more.

Why bother tying the clues to album and stamp. Don't we have enough to do in this grid?
What a long convoluted clue for 123A. All that for Ess?

At times this felt like doing my taxes. Tedious and no fun.
Yes, David S. you can write some great puzzles. Please keep us poor solvers in mind. We're here mostly to have fun.

In conversation the eye contact is what I look for. I avoid talking with people who can't hide their anticipation for the moment I stop to think or breathe so they can jump in.

Snail mail it is, Rex.

Nancy 9:56 AM  

Oh was this ever great!! Such an intricately designed puzzle. So much thinking required. It's been a long time since I've enjoyed a Sunday puzzle this much.

The Mideast was where I almost got defeated -- but I prevailed. You see, my prewar bathroom floor has mustard-yellow oval tiles, so I really, really wanted TILES as the second word of 66D (oval floor decor). This was complicated by having dim sUM at 65A. (What on earth is SUBGUM?). Nor have I ever heard of LA GEAR (76A). I've heard of Keds and Adidas and Nike and Puma and Saucony (which I wear) and New Balance and Wilson, etc. I've heard of a lot of sneakers. I bow to no one in my prodigious sneaker knowledge. But LA GEAR? Must be a California thing. Anyway, back to the oval floor decor at 66D. Not only didn't I get the TILES I wanted, I had ------DRUG. Now what kind of floor decor, oval or otherwise, is fashioned out of a DRUG? What a DOOK. I finally saw that it was some kind of -R--DED RUG and all was well.

So much fun! Thanks, DS. One of your best ever.

The Hermit Philosopher 10:04 AM  

Hated it. A slog. Like pulling teeth. Pulling my hair out. Etc. etc. Aaarghhh!

Charles Flaster 10:05 AM  

Agree totally and I enjoy most of Chevy Chase’s movies.

Teedmn 10:06 AM  

I owe David Steinberg an apology - I was thinking this puzzle was SAD because it seemed random as to whether the rebuses (rebi? rebopodes?) went down or across, and I never noticed that you could use both sets of vowels in the opposite direction to get two different answers. What did I think that extra clue after the slash was in the theme answers? I might as well ask WHO AM I? Sheesh.

So this turned out to be very elegant after I read the explanation by Jeff Chen. I had another double DNF today with AMIgA crossing AKg (should have had that one) and ERIa crossing aTOP. One drawback of using r.alphbunker's randomization option - you aren't solving one area all at once. I like to think that without solving randomly, I would have looked at the clue at 113D again, instead of thinking aTOP looked just fine (but not with the clue, HELLO!!)

A couple of nice DOOKs with LAGEAR and ATANDT. The latter, I had to stare at post solve before it finally hit me, even though I had run ATT, T-mobile and Verizon through my brain as a Sprint competitor. The former filled in easily but later when looking at my finished grid, I had to look up what the clue was for LAG EAR. Right.

Thanks, David, very nice Sunday puzzle!

Anonymous 10:07 AM  

This was god awful.

QuasiMojo 10:09 AM  

I would have titled this one "Vowel Movement" due to its difficulty level. At least in constructing it.

Despite wanting to RIP it a new one, or RAIL AT it, I was indeed challenged by it, especially at the end when I couldn't get the final bell to ring even though I was pretty sure I got it all right. I've stopped STREAKING due to problems with the online system. Not worth the sense of triumph when the app or whatever it is is often wrong.

SAT IN seemed a bit cruel considering it could have been SATIN, and then I wouldn't have put in SAT ON which held me up a bit.

JUDEA before JUDAH didn't help me either.

TRACK STAR is the weakest answer since many competitors are complete unknowns at the Olympics and may become a "star" but are not one necessarily even if they win the race. USAIN BOLT is a track star.

Having STRAIGHT TIE slowed me down considerably. I like that kind of knotty corner.

Kudos Mr. Steinberg.

@LMS, don't forget the TOOL who breaks his wine glass by banging it with his spoon.

Can we send CASH, Rex? --

"He drinks the best of Rhenish wine,— I would the Pope's gay lot were mine." -- The Book of Humorous Verse

Charles Flaster 10:10 AM  

What a feat even if computer driven.
Two “old” answers—
Have not heard SUB GUM or DUNGAREES
since I left Brooklyn in 1975.
DNF at I LOSE ( I givE is much more common).
@LMS—the wedding scene you paint is hilarious.
Thanks again DS

FKDIVER 10:23 AM  

Solved it but it was a slog. More out of sheer stubbornness than anything else. JUST NOT FUN. and the broken/backward answer key was a real treat as well.

Nancy 10:31 AM  

Of course that's why I liked this puzzle so much. Thanks, @Joe Dipinto (12:40) for pointing up the similarity to SPLIT DECISIONS -- a Variety NYT Sunday Magazine puzzle I absolutely love and always look forward to. Wish there were more of them.

Don't feel guilty about your puzzle-solving snack, @puzzlehoarder (1:34): I know you'll quickly work off all those chocolate-covered almonds at the firehouse. Probably in less than an hour. Whereas, if I did that...

@chefwen (1:23) -- I love, love, love the name "Spud" for a puppy.

Once again, I see that solving on various gadgets, using a wide variety of apps, has served to make this puzzle an unnecessarily unpleasant experience for many solvers. My New Year's wish for you all: a puzzle life graced by paper, pen and pencil.

RAD2626 10:46 AM  

Extremely fun and rewarding. Thought it was great. Quickly wrote in BAlleR for LA GEAR and was impressed with constructor’s timeliness. That cost me some serious time. Also confused myself a few times with which way the circles went but that was all my fault. Just a terrifically clever puzzle without much junk for a Sunday.

Two Ponies 10:55 AM  

Oops. Almost forgot to thank the Bard.
I always appreciate your efforts.
A little Shakespeare in the morning is a welcome
start to my day.

I don't know where you went but I'm glad you're back.

Teedmn 10:57 AM  

Regarding @LMS's backchanneling discussion - many's the time I would be within earshot of my mother's phone calls and could hear her intoning, "uhhuh" or the more nasal "umhmm" at regular intervals. It brings her voice back so clearly. And it demonstrates she was a better listener than her phone companion!

In Sweden, a common type of backchanneling is saying "yuh" only on an in-taken breath. I'm used to it now, but at first it sounded as if the person had just seen something scary and was gasping in terror. I would jump and turn around to look for what DANGEROUS thing they had seen but there would be nothing amiss and the speaker would be looking at me weirdly after I turned back around. It's also the sound they use on the phone for the same purpose.

Mohair Sam 11:08 AM  

Once again - We like different. So we had fun with this one in spite of much PPP which was Greek to us, and two Latin plurals. Guessed right on the "R" in ERIS (just sounded good) to avoid the natick, pure luck.

@Z (8:27) makes some good points, although we enjoyed the puzzle much more than he - David Steinberg's cluing gets better and better, and for us overcomes most other complaints.

SUBGUM sounds like a concern for your periodontist, not something you'd eat. Did the @Quasimojo thing with JUDea and fought for it until _YENA filled. Thought SMARMy was a word and SMARM wasn't - yeah, I know. In Cruciverbia ETHEL is the only identifiable Kennedy. Always learn something in the Times puzz - learned SUMER and ICHOR and PINEAL amd ELEA today, not to mention SUBGUM again.

Played challenging for us - but we enjoyed and whupped it.

Anonymous 11:09 AM  

Alas, to this trying-to-be-ex-puzzle-solver, this puzzle only reinforced my
reasons for wanting to stop: it was more tedium than challenging, more
trivial than interesting. True, there were brief moments of spark (such as
1 Down or 114 across), but the majority of the puzzle felt like the constructor
was using (and making up) words and phrases that would help to complete
his gimmick. Indeed, the entire puzzle felt like a gimmick, or a boast: “I bet
I can fill an entire puzzle using this double vowel trick.” Ok, conststuctor, you
won the bet, but, at the same time, lost your audience - at least this one.


wilmie 11:16 AM  

Easiest ever which is how I like ‘em —- once in a awhile anyway.

Mohair Sam 11:22 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mohair Sam 11:23 AM  

@Loren - Loved the back-channeling link, thanks. If you feel a need to practice back-channeling I'll give you my sister-in-law June's number. Just call, no need to identify yourself, and ask how she's feeling. You'll get two to three hours of quality back-channeling opportunity. When you've had enough tell her your house is on fire or some such thing, she won't react and she'll hate you for hanging up - but at least you won't feel guilty about it.

Anonymous 11:25 AM  

On one hand, this was quite a construction feat and should be applauded soundly. On the other hand, it failed at the level of the solver's enjoyment. I soon grew tired of putting in all the rebus things on the app. Extremely tedious. Next time I could pass on that.

TubaDon 11:27 AM  

David should have suspected what ex-Clevelanders like me knew more than halfway through the NFL season, that there was going to be more than one winless team by the end of the year!
(And those tiny half-cells are hard on old eyes.

Birchbark 11:34 AM  

@LMS et al -- I thought back-channeling meant side-discussions where we figure out what we're going to do before the meeting where we figure out what we're going to do. But it could also mean canoeing the sluggish waters away from the main current -- often under a magically quiet canopy of trees growing on sandbars. Or noisy in a prehistoric way, as when you accidentally find yourself under a heron rookery.

ESPN is frequently the TV channel of choice in hotel bars. That's how I watched the finals of the National Spelling Bee last year. The pressure on those kids, and the grace with which they handled it, has stayed with me.

DNF on easily fixable DU/Eat, crossing obviously wrong RaP/AtP. But with the OP ART waviness of checking my work verging on DANGEROUS, I gave up after verifying the rebuses.

Charley 11:42 AM  

LIke all of Steinberg’s puzzles I found this annoying, unfun and a slog.

RooMonster 11:43 AM  

Hey All !
All the glitches Rex mentioned were fixed as of my starting solve time of about 7:15 AM PST. I wrote in only the first vowel of each themers, and when complete, the app changed all the circled letters to the two vowels-slash thing. Also, the LIONS clue said "First N.F.L. team...", so, good.

Enjoyed this puz, even though had to write down the themers on a piece of paper to remember all the vowels needed for the crosses. Very neat idea, nicely executed. Favorite themers was DANGEROUS/DUNGAREES. You never hear DUNGAREES anymore.

After all the brain draining and struggles to finagle this puz, ended up with two wrong letters for a DNF. ARGH! Had TORTe, never noticing that eLITTLE could've been A LITTLE. And eRWIN/eCHOR, as haven't heard of either. I cry Natick! Why not clue IRWIN as either Steve or Bindi? :-)

So a better than regular SunPuz, very light dreck considering the constraints, non made up themers, and all in all a pleasurable solving experience. Took me 1 hour 13 minutes. No cheats! No Check feature use! Pissed off at two-seater DNF! SUBGUM!(!??!)

Probably like everyone else, had dimsUM in first. ETHEL in and out about five times. SUMER a WOE, LAGEAR tricky, isn't that a type of beer? :-)


xyz 11:46 AM  

So rubbish, I lost interest in finishing it despite figuring it out almost immediately and just losing interest at the utter tedium of filling it out. I did the puzzle in A-Lite before filling in the "rebus" circles, then started. I couldn't care an IOTA more to finish it after filling in just a few.

That makes it bad to me. Paper would not have been any better. JAVA script - c'est le même chose as A-lite.

(C&P from another comment I left elsewhere, just an expansion of my dismay)

God, I truly hated this me longrun/short hop

Aketi 11:49 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nancy 11:50 AM  

Re: Back-channeling: The most mysterious, spooky thing is that when you're talking on the phone and the person at the other end -- someone who is not necessarily a "back-channeler" at all -- suddenly completely stops listening and starts thinking about something else, you almost always know it. And you know that you know it. And it's often confirmed when the person on the other end subsequently says: "I'm sorry, I lost what you were saying about..." But how do you know it? It's one of the things that make ultra-rationalist me believe that there is such a thing as ESP. I'm betting that everyone here has had that experience.

Of course, there are far more powerful instances of ESP. I've experienced one such incident many years ago, but won't go into it here.

Aketi 11:51 AM  

That glitch is still not fixed. I got the double vowel thing right away, but OPIOID just refused to be accepted. Made me want to SMACK DAMN the iPad. Instead I hit the clear all button more than once’s to see if my REDOES would force the app to accept it before I finally I gave up and let OPIOD take its place.

@Chefwen, Spud seems like he could be a brother of another species to our cat Charlie. He likes to shred newspaper and cardboard boxes.

All that finger exercise this morning made me hungry and I found yet another recipe for a MINT OREO layered desert that also includes cool whip, powdered sugar, cream cheese, and chocolate pudding. Reminds me of my mothers recipe for 10 hour pudding which involved vanilla wafers, powdered sugar, butter, whipped cream, bananas and sadly raw eggs which now make it too risky to eat.

zelda 12:05 PM  

What a PITA if you're solving online. Geez!

greg 12:14 PM  

I lurk here nearly daily, but have never posted. I went nuts for the last 30 mins trying to figure out where I went wrong only to finally come here and find that there was a glitch in the puzzle. Geeez. Now I’ve had too much coffee. Other than that, I had a good time with the puzzle.

Q: switching the letters, as suggested, preserves my streak. Do I do it? Or do I lose my streak and leave the blue square in the archive as an acknowledgement that the NYT was off its game?

Q: How petty am I being? (Pretty sure I know the answer to this.)

Rex, I’ll send you a snail mail contribution. I’m relatively new to daily solving and this blog and I’ve found visiting here, reading your write-ups and the comments to be a delightful part of my day. Glad you’re keeping it going another year.

Cheers all!

Non So Old 12:22 PM  

I love my extremely bright son and could listen to him talk all day. He lives in the Bay Area where he's getting his PhD and everything he says now is over my head. But with those conversations I get to see and understand the world as it is now, which is to say, leaving my baby boomer assumptions in the dust (good riddance).

That's exactly how I feel about a David Steinberg puzzle. Can't keep up but love reading the answers I DIDN'T get when I finally surrender. I'm a little younger for the experience.

old timer 12:22 PM  

I did finish it but only now figured out ATOZ.

I love Split Decisions and had only a little difficulty with the themers. A well crafted puzzle methinks.

ArtO 12:42 PM  

A masterpiece by DS. He is truly one of the greats of crossword construction. Yes, it was a slog. Probably infuriated the time obsessed solvers but for me it's just a bit more time on an otherwise quiet Sunday morning. Liked the workout.

RHENISH was something new to me as I'm fairly knowledgeable when it comes to wine.

GILL I. 1:19 PM  

If ever I were to use the word gobsmacked, it would be now. What a feat, David. I hope you become an engineer some day and fix the rusty nails on the Bay Bridge.
My only disappointment was learning that a computer program helped him in coming up with some of the answers. Even so, I loved the concept and thought it quite brilliant.
I had a heck of a time figuring this thing out. For some reason, can't envision themes like these in the across answers. I can with the downs. I finally saw what he was doing with 42D...MINT OREOS/MANTA RAYS. Like the TOOL that I am, I actually shouted with glee. Went back up to the attic where I had the most trouble and finally figured out DEAL A MEAL/DAILY MAIL. Wow. How clever and wow, how hard to come up with these.
I feel sorry for all you app people. No problems here. I HAVE to do my puzzles on paper and pen. I tried a few times on my iPhone and the iPad and I hate it...To each...
Funny you mentioned the L(IO)NS at 114D, @Rex. I wanted - and badly - to rebus in the NINERS. Talk about a team that makes you cry. We now have Jimmy Handsome Garoppolo as the QB and I think he will surprise us fans next year. I hope so.
She fine vintage David stuff like SMARM STAID WHELP WHAM. Also like the little KISSED STEED MANE PEST. I'd like some more Sundays like this one.
@Nancy. Talk about the phone ESP. When I speak to my sister in Charleston and I don't get interrupted at least a million times by her, I KNOW she's not listening. I stop mid-sentence and keep a long pause and she goes ballistic. I ask her to repeat my last sentence and I know she can't. She'll hang up on me then call me back and say the house was on fire (Hi @Mohair).

Carola 1:20 PM  

I'm another big fan of Split Decisions puzzles, and I think for me that took some of the shine off this one. The crosses made the theme pairings easy to get, and, at least for me, most of the theme pairings didn't have the sparkle to make up for the lack of brain-racking fun. I did like the idea of DANGEROUS DUNGAREES and the encounter of MANTA RAYS with MINT OREOS.

Unknown 1:33 PM  

ugh. i spent 2 gruelling hours trying to find my mistake. Then I came here... like others, my streak had already been broken by BOOb, but... ugh.

Nice puzzle, though.

Two Ponies 1:34 PM  

Speaking of ESP, as Nancy just did, reminded me of something that happened here recently. I used James Randi's name in the wrong context and someone corrected me. I went on to learn about The Amazing Randi. I now have a lot of respect for the man and have watched many of his YouTube videos. So, a belated thanks to the fellow blogger that set me straight.

Masked and Anonymous 1:36 PM  

DEALYMEAL/DAILAMAIL themer completely foofed the M&A at first on what the theme mcguffin was gonna be. At that point thought it was shapin up to be a bit strange/borin. But then the 2-way/no-gimme mcguffin emerged, and I was all-OK with this. And some of vowel/vowels were U's! Nice SunPuz.

SUBGUM. Word Definition of the Day: What holds the periscope together, on an old U-boat.

Central weeject stack! SCI-AKC-TSA! Desperately says it all. Co-winners, of staff weeject pick.

fave M&A fillins: RARIN.
Non-WOTD entry of mystery: RHENISH. Why not Rhinish? The official M&A Ref Dict vaguely blames a medieval Latin alteration incident involvin a rhesus monkey and a rhea wearin a rheostat. TMI.

fave unslashed longballs: LENINSTOMB. ATANDT [mainly just cuz it looks weird]. TRIJETS. SMARM.

Thanx, Steinbergmeister. Woulda been extra-extra impressive, if the slashes had been placed symmetrical-like. Maybe if you'd buckled down, and spent a couple extra years on buildin this. [We don't ask for much, here.]

Masked & Anonym007Us

p.s. M&A intends to send 10% of all his runtpuz income to the @RP blog drive. Right after the routine tax audit is finished. [Will send ALITTLE somethin in early, just in case.]


thefogman 1:42 PM  

ATOZ was my final entry. Plenty of tricky areas but nothing was insurmountable - you just had to hammer away until it JELLed. I have not encountered a split vowel puzzle before and I thoroughly enjoyed this one. Just the right amount of crunch and sparkle for a lazy Sunday morning. And I'm proud to say I finished it.

Masked and Anonymous 1:44 PM  

DEALYMEAL/DAILAMAIL themer completely foofed the M&A at first on what the theme mcguffin was gonna be. At that point thought it was shapin up to be a bit strange/borin. But then the 2-way/no-gimme mcguffin emerged, and I was all-OK with this. And some of vowel/vowels were U's! Nice SunPuz.

SUBGUM. Word Definition of the Day: What holds the periscope together, on an old U-boat.

Central weeject stack! SCI-AKC-TSA! Desperately says it all. Co-winners, of staff weeject pick.

fave M&A fillins: RARIN.
Non-WOTD entry of mystery: RHENISH. Why not Rhinish? The official M&A Ref Dict vaguely blames a medieval Latin alteration incident involvin a rhesus monkey and a rhea wearin a rheostat. TMI.

fave unslashed longballs: LENINSTOMB. ATANDT [mainly just cuz it looks weird]. TRIJETS. SMARM.

Thanx, Steinbergmeister. Woulda been extra-extra impressive, if the slashes had been placed symmetrical-like. Maybe if you'd buckled down, and spent a couple extra years on buildin this. [We don't ask for much, here.]

Masked & Anonym007Us

p.s. M&A intends to send 10% of all his runtpuz income to the @RP blog drive. Right after the routine tax audit is finished. [Will send ALITTLE somethin in early, just in case.]

Kimberly 1:46 PM  

By the time I did this today the flip-glitch was fixed so I had no idea it existed until I read the blog.

Loved Rex’s comments today. It was uplifting to have enjoyed the puzzle and have the added surprise of seeing Rex enjoyed it too.

Nice capper for a rough week in crossword-land.

Trombone Tom 1:49 PM  

What a work of art from David S. But I DNF'd simply due to my lack of infinite patience. I finally gave up because of the difficulty of trying to place two legible letters into those damnable circles. (I prefer to print out the puzzle and solve in ink. These old thumbs don't work as well on electronic media.) I, too, enjoy Split Decisions. At least they give me room to write in the letters.

Joe Dipinto 1:53 PM  

@LMS -- I like the Split Decisions puzzles too. I think they got a little more challenging after Fred Piscop took them over. Having a bit of trouble with today's Acrostic... :-(

BTW, does anyone know if they ever printed the answers to the Mega puzzle in the supplement a few weeks ago, or if they revealed the contest winners? Weren't they supposed to have done that by now?

Unknown 1:55 PM  

Annoying...and now my streak is over because of those dang vowel pairs, the app flagged 2 of them as incorrect and i didn't see your note about flipping the order. Grrrrr.....

ncmathsadist 2:09 PM  

The large numbers of rebuses and the fussy interface were toothgrindingly annoying.

Masked and Anonymous 2:20 PM  

When I submitted my first comment with a "gruntz" hyperthingy at the end, The Blorg thought I was a spellcaster, and exorcised m&e. Sooo… sent er in again, without the hypergruntz.
But … I will still send in a blog donation…

"Still Loopy from Schlock Flicks and Routine Audits"


boomer54 2:28 PM  

I greatly respect and admire the contributions of LMS ...however ... I thought today's was going to end with ..." I am a stable genius "

JC66 2:31 PM  

@Joe Dipinto Agree about today's Acrostic. Took me forever.

Their Crooked Crosswords puzzle was not as difficult.

Chapps 2:38 PM  

I know that many of you feel respect for the constructor, but I recall when the NYT xword puzzle used to be FUN to solve - particularly the difficult ones. This was just a joyless slog. I don’t get the way it worked at all. Some of the down answers use both letters of the rebus, some only one of the two letters. No consistency at all.

I’ve solved NYT puzzles for about 40 years now, and about a year ago, I just stopped doing them, as the quality had gone so far downhill. I’ve resumed recently, but the joy is gone. Still very inconsistent quality, and so little joy. Maybe that’s partly me.

JB's Blog 2:44 PM  

Same!! Actually came on here to see what I had wrong and was nothing.

Anonymous 2:45 PM  

Just a little disturbed by similarities to some of the clues/answers in today'S LA Times puzzle by Pancho Harrison, such as MRSC, SAHIB, HELI, GOYAS, ATSEA. Also EAT IT/ OUT EAT, HAD AT/HAD A GO AT, and the clues Summer Olympics event/Summer Olympics standout, and SoCal sneakers/Nike competitor. I recognize some as crosswordese, but it's still disconcerting.

Kevin 3:03 PM  

I didn't see anyone raise this above, but what's up with the name of the puzzle: Vowel Movement. I get that all of the vowels in all of the theme answers can be swapped to form other things, but just the title itself. It's either an on-the-nose description of the puzzle or a pun on BOWEL movement. Is there some other wordplay that I'm missing?

Anonymous 3:15 PM  

I was at the point of giving up; took a break, reentered one letter (no changes!) and presto it was recognized as correct. This disconnect between the print and online versions was one of the worst, and I think is inexcusable.

HatcreekRedneck 3:16 PM  

Thanks for ruining my streak with the rebus error. Don’t they know this is all some of us have?

semioticus (shelbyl) 3:27 PM  

So, it wasn't unenjoyable, but some parts in the fill made it a hassle. I'm not gonna blame the puzzle for NYT website's ineptitude though. The theme idea was innovative, or if not that, different in a good way. Selection of theme entries were also mostly cool. And given the crap we are fed almost every Sunday, I'm not gonna complain.

I had trouble at ICHOR/ERIS, THEASP/STP (the double-letter circle thing definitely contributed to that), WHELP/ELEA. RHENISH, LIPOS, SUBGUM (what?), ATANDT (will never get used to this but at least it stopped giving me trouble), RARIN, CORA were other answers that I would rather not have dealt with. HADAGOATIT, LENINSTOMB and CARFIRES (brilliant clue!) were non-theme highlights.

GRADE: B+, 3.65 stars.

DigitalDan 3:35 PM  

My understanding is that SUBGUM means something like "anything and everything but the kitchen sink", often used as a modifier for "chop suey,"*** and that chow mein is noodle. Sigh.

*** My midwestern mother once ordered her favorite sub gum chop suey in an SF Chinatown restaurant. When it arrived with baby octopus and other such exotica, ....

Foamfollower 3:43 PM  

Alas, The Juice is out of his jail cell now. Living in Vegas, which has a certain symmetry. Probably busy looking for the real killers...

Steve M 3:54 PM  

Just because a puzzle is hard to construct does not make it worth solving.

Hungry Mother 3:55 PM  

No problem getting the theme tricks, but DNF on a couple of pieces of trivia. I finally just checked the puzzle, no longer giving a DAMN.

Robert A. Simon 4:01 PM  

In view of all the snarky, misogynistic and just plain mean things people write here, I have a suggestion for the new year:

"This author has been removed by the comment."

Unknown 4:48 PM  

When I finished (~10am Pacific) on the NYT app, I got the “almost” note and, after checking everything twice, just hit “reveal,” and ended my 100-plus-day streak. 14d and 44d were the culprits, but what the app wanted was not reverse-order vowels, but slashes between the properly ordered vowels. It did not want slashes for any of the other vowel pairs in the puzzle though. Mildly frustrating to lose a streak on a coding error in the app, but I really liked the concept of the puzzle and appreciated the difficulty and creativity that went into constructing it.

sanfranman59 5:04 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 5:00 4:03 1.23 88.3% Challenging
Tue 4:29 5:35 0.80 9.5% Easy
Wed 5:45 5:57 0.97 49.6% Medium
Thu 17:44 10:28 1.69 97.1% Very Challenging
Fri 14:41 11:42 1.25 79.4% Medium-Challenging
Sat 11:34 17:21 0.66 10.9% Easy
Sun 29:25 22:02 1.34 87.6% Challenging

I agree with Rex's assessment of this one ... probably really Medium-Challenging clues and answers, but the difficulty of the 'slash' circle/squares ramped things up some.

Mr. Benson 5:10 PM  

I had a weird mnemonic for remembering which one was Cagney and which one was LACEY. The one who did NOT have the accent that sounded like James Cagney was Cagney. So that's Sharon Gless, and Lacey was Tyne Daly.

Blue Stater 5:12 PM  

Predictably, I just hated this one. It is so sad to see the once-great NYT puzzles degenerate into this compendium of trickery rather than the test of factual knowledge and linguistic accuracy that they once were. I quit in disgust after an hour.

Nancy 5:13 PM  

Delightfully clever comment, @Robert A. Simon (4:01 p.m.) And I'm going over the limit to tell you so. I like both your sentiment and the wit with which it's expressed, and I would love to see a button (no, no, dear God, not that button!) that could make it actually happen. Rex?

Anonymous 5:17 PM  


sanfranman59 5:27 PM  

As Anon @ 2:45 points out, there's more fodder for a crossword constructor conspiracy theory today. I just finished the LAT puzzle and found the apparent cross-fertilization between the two puzzles a little shocking. Are David Steinberg and Pancho Harrison pseudonyms?

Mohair Sam 5:39 PM  

@sanfranman50- Probably not pseudonyms, maybe they use the same software.

AmandaPup 5:47 PM  

I guess it is some comfort that the problem re: the app has been known for nearly a full day. Maybe if I had checked here first, I would not have ruined my streak - but it was broken less than a month ago, so it wasn't much of a streak. But so irritating.

RooMonster 5:52 PM  

@Kevin 3:03
My puz title was Vowel Play. I use the $39 a year NYT app, which has two ways to print out the puz, but only one way to solve it online. The online solve had the circles and the note, but for printing out, either option was available (circles or slashes.) Odd.


Anonymous 6:16 PM  

Blue Stater @5:12

Amen..Thank you!

Dick Swart 6:26 PM  

Just too hard to do on paper with pen. Started with best intentions but got too frustrated with trying to keep the vowels visible by writing out the fill-so-far for some hope at a revelation. I guess at 83, I don't need the irritation.

On the other hand, the Sunday LA Times was fun!

And on an even further other hand, Sharon Gless was Cagny and is a delite as the chain-smoking wise-cracking mother in the 7 seasons of Burn Case.

And for a fourth hand (and isn't everyone always looking for a fourth?), yes, I have sent in my contribution. Isn't this how Barack Obama started?

Anonymous 6:34 PM  

Koko the chimp here,
My dad still says dungarees. That would be enough for me to like this puzzle. The fact that it was clever, fresh and loaded with good fill made me love it more.
Thanks DS

evil doug 6:46 PM  

... the *pet* chimp....

Crane Poole 6:48 PM  

Bravo, Steinberg. Bravo.

JC66 7:08 PM  

@Dick Swart

I think you meant Burn Notice.

Anonymous 7:20 PM  

Nope.Reead your hateful posts. You called me,among another things,coco (sic). Try to keep up.

Larry Gilstrap 7:36 PM  

It's never too late. Yikes! I get little squares with circles in them and then I'm supposed to bisect that circle and squeeze in two vowels?

The constructor showed some mastery of the craft. No doubt about that! I hit some serious roadblocks along the way, particularly in the SE.

I took a break and put away the Xmas Tree paraphernalia, a job only slightly less tedious than completing the last themer.

Anonymous 8:10 PM  

@Mohair - very funny about your sis-in-law.

CORA reminds me my of all time favorite Blondie comic strip. Dagwood is browsing in a pet shop, attended by that stock elderly shop-keep character (who possibly bears a resemblance to Mr. Dithers). Admiring the fish tanks, Dagwood espys a little beastie swimming around with its head above water and, I think, wearing a tiny hat. In every panel, a long line of E’s are coming out of its mouth, followed with an exclamation point (Eeeeeeeeee!). “What's this,” asks our hero. “It's a rare Screaming Sea Elf,” is the reply. “Why’s it screaming?” “It can’t swim.”

Bob Mills 8:24 PM  

"RHEINISH" would work. Not "RHENISH." Crazy puzzle, but a relief to finish.

Noam D. Elkies 8:32 PM  

Fun to solve on paper. 89D:RHENISH -- I know very little from wine, but recognized the adjective from Schumann's "Rhenish" symphony (#3). It's also related with the name of the rare heavy metal rhenium.

114D: L[IO]NS -- as it happens the Ivy League football team with the same mascot had an even longer losing streak, enough to get its own subheading in the Wikipedia entry (they managed to lose 44 games in a row!)


Anonymous 8:32 PM  

Paypal is a radical left-wing company that bans companies that don’t suit their ideology, so sorry; refuse to use it. You, too, are terminally left-wing, but apparently don’t ban opposing opinions, so I wouldn’t mind chipping in, but not via Paypal.

Millihelen 8:49 PM  

Ugh, this took me half again as long as it usually does. Stupid circles. Solving on an iPhone screen did not help.

Former English major, so I didn't bat an eye at RHENISH. I didn't remember it being referenced in the graveyard scene; I remember it from Act I, Scene 4:
And, as [the king] drains his draughts of Rhenish down,
The kettle-drum and trumpet thus bray out
The triumph of his pledge.

Couldn't have come up with either LAGEAR or LI/ONS to save my life, though.

Hartley70 9:12 PM  

What a mess! When I have to flip correctly placed vowels to satisfy the app I give up. I have picked this up multiple times today and it is perhaps the most frustrating puzzle I've ever attempted on the teeny tiny squares of the iPhone app.

Unknown 9:17 PM  

Every track and field athlete that goes to the Olympics is most definitely a track star.

Adam 9:17 PM  

Tripp Payne has been doing this kind of puzzle for years. I can’t remember what he calls it, but the grid has an extra square where two letters can go. In my experience he didn’t do it only with vowels, but it’s hardly a new concept. That said, it was well executed - but I agree with OFL, it was kind of a slog. Good fill, though, and at least it was interesting. And there was certainly a lot of theme to go around. More work than fun, though.

Unknown 9:23 PM  

If the puzzle is challenging and eventually I make serious progress, that's what it's all about to me. This one satisfied both conditions. Maybe a little easier than many Sunday puzzles because of the multiple paths to each theme answer. Anyway, I enjoyed it. I'll never understand complaints like "felt like work."

Deep Mac 10:04 PM  

HATED IT. Seriously: TOGAE? G'night.

Jack 10:07 PM  

I saw that in the print version also and found it easy. Was surprised to see Rex listed as challenging until I read about the app issues that others had to deal with. I agree it's cleverly constructed, what as Amy says the multiple ways of getting the answers made it quite easy to finish.

Jack 10:09 PM  

*solved it* in the print...

Nathan Rodriguez 10:51 PM  

Hello Rex,

Nice crossword blog you have here, congratulations on the effort to keep it, some of the NY puzzles are very entertaining. I've started a related blog too, with easy educational puzzles, you may visit it at:

Crossword Puzzle Easy Games

Keep up with the good work!

skristol 10:53 PM  

F-stop sounded familiar, but I didn't know what it was--I thought it might have something to do with a musical instrument. The number of camera-related clues in the NYT puzzles is interesting, given how few of us own cameras any more.

a.corn 12:41 AM  

Also same...streak broken. Whattttyagonnado

Unknown 2:25 AM  

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paul kurtz 9:36 AM  

Can somebody 'splain 102A to me? I know what trig is and I know what sine is.....but what is the connection between trig and sin?

skristol 10:08 AM  

I had trouble with sin/sine as well in 102A, but according to Wikipedia's list of mathematical abbreviations, sin is an abbreviation for sine. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_mathematical_abbreviations

paul kurtz 10:12 AM  

arggh.....an abbreviation for a four-letter word.....that makes a whole lot of sens


Katzzz 12:52 PM  

Ditto for 1a. Jul!!!! Who does that?

Anonymous 3:47 PM  

Why are you charging people for a free blog? Where does this money go?

Unknown 9:33 PM  

This puzzle left me with on giant headache. Maybe because I as solving on my IPad. No matter how good the theme and the clues are, this was not enjoyable. It was tedious.

rondo 11:31 AM  

You (OFL) wanted something different and here it is. But, yes, it turned into somewhat of a grind. I imagine that those types of word changing possibilities are what go through constructors' minds when fine tuning their grids. A little resistance in the due south area, but not enough to not finish.

1a JUL shoulda been clued as "Nordic Christmas". And the LIONS clue was changed to "first" in the St.PPP and I expect in the Mpls. rag.

Har. A yeah baby in a DS puz - SAORISE Ronan.

Mighta tossed it into the cozy living room fire if it had a different byline, but rather glad to have HADAGOATIT.

spacecraft 12:03 PM  

Yes, he COULD do it...but SHOULD he have? We have to put up with no fewer than five awkward partials": STAYSAT, RAILON, POSEDAS, TOREAT, GAINSON--and to top it off, the sockdolager, 101-down. The classic ampersandwich. No. He shouldn't have.

To be sure, this is a tour de force--way TOO forced IMO. Particularly delightful is the couplet DANGEROUS DUNGAREES, which we can only imagine are filled by old-school DOD ANN-Margret. But the slog is a high price; to borrow from yesterday, I felt I had to PAY EXTRA. Was there really a CHOCHANG?? Is there actually a SAOIRSE??? YIKES! What demon mashed those vowels together for a NAME?? Next we'll be getting something in Welsh with four L's strung together. Too strange. (W)help! Bogey.

Burma Shave 12:22 PM  


An ad about DEALAMEAL in the DAILYMAIL
who HADAGOATIT said, "How CANIT fail


AnonymousPVX 3:42 PM  

I agree this was a grind. Also HATE that he misled with SIN as an abbr for SINE, especially in a clue, also JUL/JULY, all of that.

I intensely dislike the clue that isn’t a clue. And I got the solve.

rainforest 5:51 PM  

Early on during my solve I began to feel that "oh-oh, slog coming" feeling, but then I got momentum, and I just kept going, enjoying it all the way. Great construction with the themers having me shaking my head: SPICY FOOD/SPECIFIED, brilliant. Maybe it's primarily good computer programming, but I don't care.

I've seen SUBGUM on a Chinese menu, and I laughed at M&A's definition (I laugh at almost everything he says.)

Just to show what big heart I have, I will send a donation to the blog because I do enjoy reading the comments, and offering my own. Regarding the puzzles, I continue to admire and am awed by the talents of the constructors, and as most of you know, I like them all. So, thanks, Rex, for keeping this up. Your diligence, if not your tone in your posts, is much appreciated.

Teedmn 6:15 PM  

@rainforest, I sent my donation in to Rex this week as I have for the last 3 years. Yeah, he can be a pill but he is often entertaining and my life would have a bit less sparkle without this blog.

And I agree that M&A is a hoot - his dayum/shucks persona fails to conceal a very clever mind. If you've ever thought of solving online, click on one of M&A's gruntz links and use DownHome (@r.alphbunker's adapted crossword software) or go to runtpuz.blogspot.com for the full access to all of M&A's work. His 7X7 grids which take the usual crossword rules and twist them, M&A-style, are addicting. And prolific. He comes up with one almost every day unless he's on a road trip. There are 5 of us who regularly solve Runt puzzles but I can't believe there aren't more solvers; they're so...adorbs, for a lack of a better word and an annoying temptation to be "cute" on my part. :-)

Phillip Blackerby 2:52 AM  

While many of you had technical problems with various apps, my local Arizona Republic dropped off the last dozen or so Down clues. Finally they re-published the entire puzzle on Wednesday. We get it a week later anyway, so I'm pretty sure no one reads my comments. DNF due to iRWIN (why not eRWIN?) / iCHOr / ErIS. Never heard of any of 'em. Kudos to the very clever constructor, David Steinberg!

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