Site of Zeno's teaching / WED 1-17-18 / Dystopian novel set in year 2540 / Close-fitting head covering / Longtime Syrian strongman

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Constructor: Jules P. Markey

Relative difficulty: Easy (note: grid is oversized at 15x16)

THEME: DOWN FEATHERS (11D: Warm winter coat contents ... or what is present in the answer to each starred clue?) — different birds are embedded in the long "down" answers. Birds have "feathers" ... and the answers go "down" ... so there you go.

Theme answers:
  • WAYNE GRETZKY (25D: *Sports legend who was an M.V.P. for eight consecutive seasons)
  • A GAME OF INCHES (5D: *Baseball, according to some)
  • "TELL ME ANOTHER ONE" (7D: *"A likely story!")
  • BRAVE NEW WORLD (22D: *Dystopian novel set in the year 2540)
Word of the Day: down (11-Down) —
  1. soft fine fluffy feathers that form the first covering of a young bird or an insulating layer below the contour feathers of an adult bird.
    synonyms:soft feathers, fine hair; More
    • soft fine fluffy feathers taken from ducks or their nests and used for stuffing cushions, quilts, etc.; eiderdown.
    • fine soft hair on the face or body of a person.

      "the little girl had a covering of golden down on her head"
• • •

This puzzle has one major (maybe not fatal, but major) flaw, and that's that the revealer is an awkward redundancy. As you can see from the Word of the Day definition, "down" *means* feathers.  So ... DOWN FEATHERS ... !?!? Your revealer needs to be snappy and in-the-language and bang-on, and this one just flomps. That's when you "flop" in a "lump" on the ground, I think. DOWN FEATHERS was the answer I finished on, and unlike the rest of the puzzle, it took a bunch of work because ... again, DOWN FEATHERS, not a good phrase. "Down comforter," "down coat," etc. The word "feathers" is absurdly excessive. It's sad because there's potential to this type of embedded-word puzzle. You just need the right revealer, and this wasn't it. Also, as I've said before, with embedded words, the ideal is that every word in the theme answers touches said word, so there are no uninvolved words. WAYNE GRETZKY is a *perfect* embedded-word answer. Beautiful. Who knew EGRET was in there!? A revelation! The rest have extraneous words. A GAME, not involved, TELL ME, not involved, WORLD, not involved. And then there's the revealer. So if you solved left-to-right, as I did, this went from promising and possibly delightful to frowny-face disappointing.

The grid is chock full o' crosswordese (I mean, that first row is paradigmatic ... actually, the second row doesn't get much better ...), so that was unfortunate, but I've definitely seen worse grids. ARIOSE and LIENEE, despite being look-uppable words, are gruesome crosswordese to me (I only ever see them in crosswords, they are only here because of the favorable letter combinations they provide, not because someone thought, "ooh, that'll look nice..."). I have to say, though, that the clue on APOSTROPHE is a hall-of-famer. A perfect use of the "?" clue. Evokes one thing, actually clues something *entirely* different. Aggressively, unexpectedly literal clue. Also, I like bourbon. So that clue, like bourbon, warms my heart.

  • 6A: Site of Zeno's teaching (STOA) — OK, so just now I learned that there are two Zenos. That ... hurts. (e)How did I not know that?? There's Zeno of ELEA (the answer I wanted here) (he's the ZENO of "Zeno's Paradoxes"), and then there's Zeno of Citium (!?!?!) (c. 334 – c. 262 BC), the founder of (wait for it ...) STOIcism, so-named for the place where he taught: the Stoa Poikile in Athens. STOA is here a proper noun. It is also a regular noun meaning "a classical portico or roofed colonnade" (google).
  • 65A: Pasta used in soups and salads (ORZO) — always have to stop and think which one is ORZO and which one is OUZO (the anise-flavored Greek liqueur)
  • 38D: Mortgagor, e.g. (LIENEE) — the clue and the answer are competing in a "who's uglier?' contest. Too close to call.
  • 9D: Longtime Syrian strongman (ASSAD) — well, at least they called him "strongman." I'd've gone with something ... stronger. Actually, I'd probably not use him in a grid at all. Bygone tyrants, I can tolerate in my grids somewhat. Active ones, less so.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Hungry Mother 6:42 AM  

Very quick for a Wednesday. Never got the theme.

Seamus Schwartz 6:46 AM  

Is there a sport that is not “a game of inches” ?

Loren Muse Smith 6:58 AM  

Rex – yeah, FEATHERS feels a little superfluous. But still, works for me. Alert the presses.

And I agree that the clue for APOSTROPHE is stellar.

I’m so glad this had no circles. It was fun to finally see what the FEATHERS were, and it took me a minute. [insert birdbrain joke here]

This is a very tight list of themers. They’re all five-letter birds, which ups the level of difficulty, imo. COMPUTER NERD, BOW LEGGED, HANDED OVER - there must be a bajillion ways to embed three and four-letter bird words. (“Beware of bird, a dreadful word, that looks like beard, but sounds like heard”) And each bird spans two words (I don’t care that some themers have more than two words), so no REGRETFULLY or GRAVEN IMAGE. Nice.

From now on, I’m going to play it safe refer to any igloo-dwelling, caribou skin-wearing person as an INTUIT.

LIENEE/Mortgagor. What a mess we have with these -ee and -or suffixes. I can’t even.

SLOWS - how jarring the clue for SLOWS looks. Sheesh. If I group my students according to their reading levels, I hear that word within seconds. Seconds.

LATISH. Pfui. Inconsideratish, disrespectfulish, arrogantish, selfish

Yeah, yeah – so maybe you live here but you’re from Trinidad or Brazil, an “event time”/“collectivist culture” – y’all have a more flexible idea of time. (I’m studying under the esteemed cultural anthropologist, David Livermore at the moment.)

But we here in this country are a “clock time”/ “individualist culture.” Precise times matter here. So…

8:05pm – I’m just turning off the lamp to go to sleep. LATISH
8:05pm – You were supposed to call me at 8:00pm. LATE. Period. Ain’t no ISH about it.

And, by the way, my sister-in-law is probably *the* most considerate, thoughtful, unarrogant person I have ever met, and she’s always late. So my tirade holds no water. If I were in his actual classroom, I would have to speak to Dr. Livermore about her.

I had a DOWN JACKET theme rejected once. I have to say that this puzzle is a ton better than my pedestrian attempt.

@M&A – my avatar is for you.

Anonymous 6:59 AM  

Regrettably I got hung up badly in the northeast when I was quite sure, having gotten EVICT, that ABRACE was the proper answer at 21 Across. Even after figuring out the avian part of the theme, I never twigged to ABUNCH.

Lewis 6:59 AM  

Random observations re this lovely puzzle:
* OATHS provides a little echo to yesterday's FOUR LETTER WORDS.
* Second day in a row of a mini-theme of double E's (5).
* Great clues for WOKS, ATE, and APOSTROPHE.
* There's an anagrammed "owl" in SLOWS and "rail" in LIRAS.
* SERENE crossing BRAVE NEW WORLD brought "soma" to mind.

Thank you, Jules!

Unknown 7:00 AM  

Not knowing ACELA, my "zap" was a tASE, not a LASE. Tough cross.

Unknown 7:20 AM  

Again with the "the only acceptable politics in a crossword are my politics." Get over it Rex. People are going to include current world leaders even if you don't like them.

kitshef 7:27 AM  

One of those days when the main thrust of Rex's comments does not work for me. If I find a feather, my first differentiation is whether it is a flight feather, a contour feather, or a DOWN FEATHER.

In the ‘big four’ sports, WAYNEGREZKY's eight straight MVPs is double what anyone else ever got. Steroids user Bonds is second with four. If you choose to throw him out, no one else has more than three.

@Seamus Schwartz - I agree that 'game of inches' gets applied to pretty much every sport.

Conrad 7:31 AM  

Does it bother anyone else that HERON and EGRET are the same? According to Wikipedia, "An egret is any of several herons ..."

Birchbark 7:51 AM  

I needed most of the crosses to get INTUIT.

DNF after triple-checking for the same reason as @Kris -- ACEtA/tASE

Agree with @Kitshef on DOWN correctly modifying FEATHERS. But the answer made me pause. Down is so different in form and function from other feathers -- in my personal universe, birds have down and they have feathers, and ne'er the twain shall meet.

Maybe just reclue 11D as "Bird protester's chant?"

QuasiMojo 8:01 AM  

The last time I rode the ACELA it took longer than the regular train and it bounced from side to side causing me to spill my coffee on the paper I was working on. The conductor (no WIRES attached) told me that the tracks weren't designed to accomodate the high-speed train! (Maybe this was A BUNCH of time ago! I hope they fixed it since.)

Fun puzzle that felt like it could have run on another day. Nice inoffensive clue for DO RAG. Cool to remember Darva CONGER too who ended up marrying that EEL on national TV.

DNA Samples makes me think about that gruesome show Forensic Files which often referred to "biological material" found on DOWN comforters. @LMS, I like your idea for a DOWN JACKET theme.

Love WAYNE GRETZKY and EGRETS, so I was happy with that one. I often eat ORZO as a meal, not just in soups and salads.

I had CLODS before SLOWS for "retards." Good one, Jules.

chefbea 8:06 AM  

Hand up for apostrophe having a great time to finish...will do so later

Anonymous 8:18 AM  

Donald John Trump, President of the United States of America.

Two Ponies 8:19 AM  

I enjoyed the clever word play and misdirection today. The clues for wok and rune made me pause and appreciate. Also there were a few unusual words like ledger and intuit.

When I saw MVP in the clue I groaned. Oh no, not another Thug Ball clue, yuck. I was happy to see it was hockey and a name I knew. Eight years in a row? Wow.

Being a birder and loving all things Norse I was glad to see an avian theme that included a raven.
Down feathers was a fine revealer to me.

Paul Rippey 8:25 AM  

I started at the bottom and worked up, and had _ _ _ _FEATHERS. “Well, it’s DOWN”, said my wife. “No no no,” I confidently mansplined, “That’d be redundant.”

Anonymous 8:25 AM  

@Alex, Here's a clue for Assad taken from one of today's papers, "Syrian tyrant ... ‘unleashing deadly chlorine gas as kids suffocate on poison fumes’

Ah heck too long. Although the committee agreed w/your gripe that the "only acceptable politics are (Rex's) politics" you are today's shtwit. No one will come close to that depth of uninformed.

John Child 8:29 AM  

I worked hard to get birdFEATHERS to fit for the revealer, so I agree with @OFL about the NE being tough. Worth reading the constructor notes today to see what revealer he originally planned...

EHOW again! I’m sure Shortz does this deliberately.


Unknown 8:29 AM  

Soccer. It’s a game of feet.

Unknown 8:42 AM  

@Anonymous Bold words from someone afraid to show his face.

The Hermit Philosopher 8:47 AM  

“Down feathers” is NOT a redundancy and therefore NOT a flaw, major minor or otherwise. But Rex had to find something to whine about.

If the NYT published only puzzles that live up to Rex’s ridiculous standards, we would have about 3 puzzles per year. GET OVER YOURSELF, Rex!

kitshef 8:52 AM  

@Cass Garnet - humorous.

RavTom 9:00 AM  

@Rex and @LorenMuseSmith: I thought Mortgagor/LIENEE were a great match. You usually think of the -ee ending as the one who owes money, but the mortgagor is the one who owes. So pairing that -or ending with an -ee ending to get synonyms was pretty cool. Or maybe it's because I used to practice law.

Odd Sock 9:00 AM  

Rex criticizes the puzzle.
Morally superior bloggers criticize Rex.
Rinse and repeat.

I'm gonna start counting how many times a day this happens
and publish those stats.
Sounds really boring?
My point exactly.

oldbizmark 9:03 AM  

Five letter to describe this puzzle: UNFUN

Yes. I am witty.

Evil Doug 9:04 AM  

Has there been a "downward facing dog" puzzle? Revealer clue: "yoga or sex position." Maybe not NYT fare...

SkipperSkipper 9:04 AM  

Constructor wanted to use BIRD DROPPINGS and the editors balked so DOWN FEATHERS was a compromise. According to NYzt Wordplay.

Anonymous 9:10 AM  

re@Odd Sock: And then an even more morally superior blogger criticizes THOSE bloggers...

Nancy 9:10 AM  

So I solved the puzzle and then went looking for the DOWN FEATHERS, whatever they were. Oh, it's birds, I realized -- hidden birds. And birds have FEATHERS. So that's it. How underwhelming.

Look, I initially thought it was going to be much worse. When I saw the starred clue answer BRAVE NEW WORLD, I thought it was going to be unhidden Native Americans. Who wear FEATHERS instead of having FEATHERS. And that would have been even sillier, right?

I solved it as a themeless, and didn't have to think about the FEATHERS until it was over. A good thing. I didn't think it had nearly enough challenge for a Wednesday, though I've seen worse.

Wm. C. 9:11 AM  

@AlexWright7:20 -- so let me see if I got this (W)right: Rex's "politics" are inappropriate because he dislikes Syria's Assad? A man who has displaced millions of his countrymen, has shot chlorine-gas-laced missiles into hospitals, etc., etc. ??? Sheesh. And @Stuart8:47 -- yep, Rex has ridiculous standards for disliking Assad.

Speaking of Egrets, my condo here in FL backs into a marsh with around 75 of the Egrets there now. Appropriately, our street is called Egrets Landing.

@Seamus Schwartz -- Great bi-ethnic name! (No offense intended.)

Anonymous 9:11 AM  

Michael Sharp only reads things that confirms his bias.

Anonymous 9:12 AM  

The down is a layer of fine feathers and a down feather is a particular kind of feather found in that layer. The puzzle is correct.

mathgent 9:13 AM  

After looking it up, I learned that DOWNFEATHERS are a specific kind. The soft feathers under the outer feathers.

I watch sports to excess and, while many sports could be called games of inches, baseball is the only one I've heard referred to in that way. It's a cliche among baseball commentators, not among commentators of other sports.

No puzzle is worthless when I learn something, but this one comes close.

How dull is the word play? "Maker's Mark?" for APOSTROPHE stands out.

Cliff 9:16 AM  

Outstanding. Thank you very much

Mohair Sam 9:17 AM  
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Anonymous 9:29 AM  

Michael Richard Pence.

Anonymous 9:31 AM  


How many are there?!

Anonymous 9:32 AM  

@Mohair ummm...

Anonymous 9:37 AM  

Barbara here.

I was expecting the birds to be ones who’s feather are used to stuff coats - goose, chicken, eider. The revealer clue misses me. Anyone ever had a finch feather coat? Would someone please explain what I’m missing. Thanks!

@Cass Garnet - hee hee!

TomAz 9:39 AM  

I thought this was pretty cool but like Rex I thought the revealer was awkward. To me (in my ignorance as it turns out) I think of DOWN as one thing and FEATHERS as another. But reading the comments here I now accept that DOWN FEATHERS are in face a real thing and so I have learned something.

But yeah hiding the birds was cool. The extraneous words in the themers that Rex complains about are not a bad thing and are in fact necessary for the phrase to make sense.

Count me among those impressed with the clue for APOSTROPHES. I also thought the clue for WOKS was a nice misdirection.

Noah Webster 9:43 AM  

@Supporters of DOWNFEATHERS - You can look at the phrase "down feathers" and think that down is an adjective which modifies feathers all you want, but until a dictionary supports down as an adjective, not exclusively as a noun meaning a soft feather, you're just plain wrong.

GILL I. 9:49 AM  

Two boatloads, two debates, an AVA and an EVE, an EMAIL here and an EHOW there, the required EELS and EPEE and a DOWN FEATHERS reveal...what's not to like?
Hardest area NE because I always get TWITs mixed up with TWaTs and I always forget NOVA salmon even though I eat it often.
Isn't there a Fannie Mae?
Just a few hiccups then I went about my business of finding the boids. I like embedded anything and these were fun to suss out. @Rex is right about the elegance of WAYNE GRETZKY but I don't really care that the other theme answers have extra words that don't have a bird in it.
LATISH is rude. Not only do I hate being interrupted but I begin to pace when someone is late. I think I became paranoid about being on time when I worked a part-time telephone operation job and I had to punch in. If you were just one minute late, you were docked and hours pay. Talk about tyrants! If I'm in a bar waiting for you I don't mind too much if your LATISH but if I have an appointment, don't keep me waiting.
Jules Markey, do you enjoy Maker's mark?

GHarris 9:49 AM  

Only a minor holdup in the SW with ariose crossing latish and first thinking blur for74A. Otherwise relatively easy and, as
whenever I finish, fun.

BarbieBarbie 9:51 AM  

@Noah, so “exterior paint” is not a thing?

Nancy 9:51 AM  

@Skipper Skipper 9:04 -- Yeesssss! That revealer would have made this puzzle so much more of a bird's-eye! Too bad the constructor got censored. I'm on my way to Wordplay to learn more.

A lot of wit on the blog today:
@mathgent (9:13) "No puzzle is worthless when I learn something, but this one comes close."
@Barbara (9:37) "Anyone ever had a finch feather coat?"
@Paul Rippey (8:25) "No, no, no...That'd be redundant."

Brian Eno 9:54 AM  

@ Barbara (9:37),
No finch coat but I have had Larks Tongue in Aspic.

Unknown 9:56 AM  

I agree that the revealer is bad, but technically correct. There are different kinds of feathers on birds, and the down feathers are the soft fluffy ones that are warm, as opposed to the stiff wing feathers, for example.

Anonymous 9:56 AM  

A relay race is a game of meeters.

Anonymous 9:57 AM  

Lawn tennis is a game of yards.

pmdm 9:59 AM  

The puzzle, as originally constructed with BIRD DROPPINGS as the revealer, would have been much better. I guess Will Shortz is not a fan of the Pink Panther movies (and countless other comedy movies). The problem with the final revealer for me is that it probably takes having at least two of the three themed entries as well as the revealer before you understand what's going on. (And some like myself didn't get what was going on while solving the puzzle, turning it into a themeless. That's OK but not ideal for a Wednesday puzzle.)

So overall I'm happy with the puzzle and disappointed in Will's veto of the original.

The Hermit Philosopher 10:00 AM  

Dear Noah Webster:
Get a better dictionary. The OED lists “down” as an adjective and gives examples. Consider: “The Dow Jones Average had a down week.” Or: “This wire is a down lead from the antenna.”

Loren Muse Smith 10:11 AM  

@Noah- I'm afraid I'm not following, either. Are you just objecting to a redundancy? So you would take issue with "usual custom" or "false pretense," too?

srsly now 10:15 AM  

Hey're just as faceless as anyone who is anonymous. this is the internet...people say shit here no one would say to anyone if they met them face to face. so while you're all "hey, i got a link to my name!" as though that matters, you're still "anonymous" to every single one of us who have never met you.

so troll on, good sir...if indeed you are a "sir," because "alex" could go either way, and it only proves that you're just another faceless link in the crowd.

btw, this comments section is way too full of trump trolls. yikes. it's just a blog by one guy and his opinion about a puzzle. why does his opinion trigger you so? if i posted that trump is an ass 50 times, and you loves you some trump, why would it matter to you? surely you know there are lots of people (like the entire country of germany) who think trump is a shithole, yes? why are you surprised someone would criticize him?

Noah Webster 10:25 AM  

@BarbieBarbie Exterior's first definition is an adjective, as in exterior paint, where it is used as an adjective to modify the noun paint.

So, thanks for making my point. Exterior paint is correct, down feather isn't.

@Z - Anticipating the "language changes ...blah.. " diatribe. Absolutely it does. That's why we are on our umpteenth edition. Umpteenth wasn't in our first edition, it is in our current. What we do is document how language gets used. Neologisms come - sometimes purposefully, sometimes via stupidity. Those that hang around long enough, widely enough, merit an entry in dictionaries so that when someone uses a word or phrase you don't understand you can figure out what it means. We're not saying it's good or bad, just that it's common.

Our current assessment is that "down feather" resides in the neologism through ignorance, not widely used category.

Sir Hillary 10:26 AM  

A perfectly acceptable Wednesday affair. It's not the mOST RICHly conceived puzzle of all time, but it didn't make my head thROB IN disgust either. (Sorry).

Sometimes I hate it, but today I really liked the reuse of several clues.

Yesterday -- ERA, EHOW, ISEE, EPEES, OATH. Today -- ERA, EHOW, OHISEE, EPEE, OATHS. I am convinced that WS does this on purpose.

One of these centuries I will get straight the difference between Fannie Mae, GINNIE Mae, Sallie Mae and Freddie Mac. Or maybe I won't.

Tyler Tillman 10:30 AM  

I thought my problem was with the same cross, not knowing what the ACELA or ACETA was called. The only thing I tried there sadly was changing the CON to NON thinking maybe it would make sense to have ANETA with the NE standing for NorthEast Train Assn or something like that. Thus I failed...

Tyler Tillman 10:30 AM  
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Unknown 10:32 AM  

I read “DOWN” as a reference to all the theme answers being down clues.

pabloinnh 10:35 AM  

I was having trouble with the revealer in this puzzle because I was failing to see the feather/bird equivalency, but then my wife said "There sure are a lot of feathers at the feather feeding this morning" and the clouds parted and I went on the hidden bird search, which was fun.

kitshef 10:37 AM  

@Noah Webster: So, until a dictionary defines 'football' as an adjective, I can't be a football coach?

Until 'math' is defined as a adjective, there is no such thing as a math teacher?

Nouns are used as adjectives all the time.

Alysia 10:40 AM  
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Alysia 10:41 AM  
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Alysia 10:43 AM  

Cass wins today.

thfenn 10:53 AM  

I still celebrate completing Wednesdays in less than half an hour without cheating, so really enjoyed this one (and liked Monday's and yesterday's as well). The theme was fun. Enjoyed the duplicate clues (debate side, solidify, and sense). Enjoyed birdbrain along with the theme (tho @gill, mixing up twit and twat might not leave you in some's good graces). Surprised to see EHOW two days in a row. Agree the cluing for APOSTROPHE was great. Anything with birds, baseball, and bourbon involved can only be great.

Amelia 10:57 AM  
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jrstocker 10:58 AM  

A giant boo to the ACELA/LASE crossing. Not good.

Charles Flaster 11:01 AM  

Fun, easy romp.
Theme very early on apparent.
Two wonderful clues—ATE and APOSTROPHE (a la Rex).
Gretzky’s 8 consecutive MVPs will never be approached in any of our lifetimes.
Thanks JPM

Cato Rosenbaum 11:06 AM  

Stuart Showalter's greatest joy every morning is getting outraged by Rex's complaints. It's quite entertaining for him and oft tiring for everyone else to read. At this point I'm not sure I understand his and other commenters like him's need to continue reading and criticizing something that clearly isn't meant for them.

Joseph Michael 11:07 AM  

Just last night watched the film "Hidden Figures" which could be a subtitle for this puzzle.

Other hidden, though non-feathered, figures include the ASS in ASSAD, the APE in NAPE, the RAT in ERATO, the EELS in FEELS, and the HARE in O'HARE.

I agree that "bird droppings" would have been a funnier, more clever revealer but also understand Will's concern that it might not pass the breakfast test for many.

Thanks, Jules. Thought the puz was a good workout overall. And, by the way, "Hidden Figures" was well worth seeing.

BarbieBarbie 11:08 AM  

Interesting perspective, @Noah. My sense of “exterior” paint is that it is paint applied to a particular location, which is the outside part of a building, called its exterior. But “football coach” was a much better example.

Albus Dumbledore 11:09 AM  

Hey Will don’t listen to this dope who has a problem with Assad but not Osama bin Laden. Thanks.

Malsdemare 11:19 AM  

Hand up for liking BIRD DROPPINGS as the theme. I was initially put off by the seeming reduntancy of DOWNFEATHERS, but happily stand corrected; I'll accept DOWN as a separate entity. I DNF'd at ORZO; dropped in an S and never saw my error. Stared forever at Salmon in the Deli; wanted lox and that clearly wouldn't work. Loved APOSTROPHE and winced, as did LMS at the clue for SLOWS (see? Can't even type it). I was awfully slow to get LEDGER and really enjoyed the clue for ANTHEM; maybe that's not new to others, but it is to me, and I thought it was cute.

Single digit temps and five inches of snow mean that there are lots of feathered friends — sadly, no RAVENs or EGRETs — at our two feeders. I used to put them on the back deck; much easier to access to refill. But the malamute turned that idea into a bird smorgasbord so now I have TONs of gorgeous avian friends where I can't sit and watch them.

Antifa 11:25 AM  

Michael Sharp’s jealous hatred of Will Shortz is a sickness . Sharp is trying to undermine the NYTimes crossword. If he would blog about puzzle in the Binghampton Gazette (or whatever it is they call the rag up there), he would be ignored. As it is, those who love the puzzle must resist the haters such as Sharp. He’s a cancer.

Anonymous 11:29 AM  

Amelia honey, slow down, you're going to blow gasket.

Malsdemare 11:30 AM  

@Joseph Michaels. I am reading "Hidden Figures," and if anything it’s even better than the movie. The details about the origins of the Computers with the effort to compete in the air during WWII are awesome.

When we were last at the Greenbrier, our favorite DJ, Mayonnaise, told us about Katherine Johnson having worked as a young woman at the resort, but the full story, as told in the book, is even better. Spoiler alert: it turns out, Katherine was working there as a housekeeper and was "caught" one day listening intently to a Countess as she spoke rapid French to a friend in Paris (on the phone). When the conversation ended, she turned to Katherine and asked, in French, "were you listening?" When Katherine answered "Oui," the countess marched her to the kitchen and convinced the French pastry chef to spend an hour a day tutoring the young woman in French. When she returned to high school that fall, her french teacher was astonished at her fluency and her perfect Parisian accent. (And yes, I know I'm extraordinarily lucky to have stayed at the Greenbrier multiple times. I have no idea what I did to deserve such luck.)

xyz 11:30 AM  

ugly and uninteresting, so much -ese fill

Oh Wait! it's 15x16.


Noah Webster 11:37 AM  

@Kitshef, @BarbieBarbie - "Noun adjunct, a noun that qualifies another noun, like college in college student" Or, football coach or math teacher. Or, possibly, down feather and I just don't like the redundancy or ignorance of the fact that down is a feather, by definition.

@LMS your comment was:, FEATHERS feels a little superfluous. But still, works for me. " What possible objection could I, or anyone (living or dead) take to that? What woke me from my sleep was comments such as "“Down feathers” is NOT a redundancy and therefore NOT a flaw, major minor or otherwise. But Rex had to find something to whine about. "

"Down coats" 1.6MM google hits. "Down Feather Coats", 49k google hits, and I dare you to find the actual phrase "Down Feather Coats" in the text of the page you find. Coats are filled with down.

Anonymous 11:38 AM  

You decided to end with a joke right? As someone who never had grandparents, sisters, a brother, dozens of aunts, uncles, and cousins because they were murdered by the Germans, I'm astonished that you would have Americans judge their leader by the assessment of Germany. A shithole country if ever there was one.

Anonymous 11:40 AM  

Neil McGill Gorsuch, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States of America.

jb129 11:51 AM  

I enjoyed this & finished it without knowing the theme. When I saw Rex's page, I thought this should have been my "aha" moment. But all in all, a fun puzzle & I also loved "Apostrophe."

SJ Austin 11:55 AM  

This is a very, very good puzzle. APOSTROPHE and RUNE both got me good. Some terrific misdirection and tricky double cluing on "One side of a debate" and "'Hurray!'" And the themers are really beautifully embedded. I see both sides of the argument about DOWN FEATHERS, but I side with the constructor on this one.

Found this very challenging for a Wednesday, but Rex and I usually have opposite opinions about relative difficulty, so that's not too surprising.

jb129 11:57 AM  

Anonymous said...
Amelia honey, slow down, you're going to blow gasket.

11:29 AM


old timer 12:02 PM  

I have a down comforter on my bed. It is filled with DOWN FEATHERS. Now if I knew or remembered which kind of bird supplied the FEATHERS I would probably say I had a gooseDOWN comforter or a duck DOWN comforter or (if it was really old) an eiderDOWN comforter. But I don't know, so DOWN comforter is all I can say.

Very easy puzzle today, but I enjoyed it.

ghostoflectricity 12:07 PM  

"Towel" in and of itself is not a verb; it's always "towel off." Similarly, "law" is never slang for the police; it's always "the law." Finally, "ehow" is still fairly obscure, AND was used earlier this week as an answer. Bad fill, bad fill, go stand in the corner.

Masked and Anonymous 12:12 PM  

@muse: That there avatar is for the birds. OHARE*.

DOWNFEATHERS are real little soft feathers, like on budgie butts. There ain't much in the world wrong with sayin DOWNFEATHERS. Or PINFEATHERS. Or CHICKENFEATHERS. Or HORSEFEATHERS.

Saw the "what is present in" part of the revealer clue. That, combined with A GAME O' FINCHES, pretty much sealed the deal on what the puztheme mcguffin was gonna be. Agree with the constructioneer, that BIRDDROPPINGS is A-1-fabulous and U would sure hate to see it go.

Some superb ow de speration droppings here and there, that M&A really enjoyed:

* AVA/AVIV/NAPE. They are desperately tryin to morph into AVIAN.
* A-BUNCH. {A-TEAM, prior to training??}.
* TIA/LIENEE. {Star of Maddum Secretory??}.

staff weeject pick: PUP. Works with BIRDDROPPINGS, if the U "goes long". [*oHARe]

APOSTROPHE is a primo extra longish ball, with extra-cool clue. Makes its Markey.

Fun WedPuz. Truly enjoyed every MAGIC ROW of it.
Thanx, Mr. Markey. Cheep thrills!

Masked & AnonymoUUs


Anonymous 12:18 PM  

@ jb129,
Honey, now YOU'RE going to blow a gasket. Relax.

Irene 12:19 PM  

I've only heard football referred to as a game of inches.

Banana Diaquiri 12:28 PM  

FWIW, when I worked in Jack Anderson's office in the 80s, the frequently asked question, "who's causing all the trouble in the middle east?" was answered, "Assad in Syria". how can that be??? well, the current Assad is the son of the bygone father. dynasties are so much fun.

Two Ponies 12:39 PM  

@ M&A, A-bunch is fantastic!

Bob Mills 12:42 PM  

What are "IPAS?" Can one actually drink an ipa?

John Molson 12:47 PM  

IPA=beer for people who don’t like beer

BarbieBarbie 12:50 PM  

@Noah, Aha, now I get it. Thanks.

Amelia 12:59 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous 1:02 PM  

By posting Trump, Pence and Gorsuch's names and titles, are you attempting to compile a list of things that Trump cannot lie about?

Anonymous 1:05 PM  

Polo is a game of PRICKS.

Teedmn 1:07 PM  

RAH, OLE, EHOW, fun puzzle. I found it a bit sticky for a Wednesday and I was definitely biting my fingernails on whether 4D should be LASE or tASE. I've seen the ACELA trains in NYC but didn't know about the Boston-Washington connection.

I think DOWN FEATHERS is okay - DOWN is feathers but not all feathers are DOWN.

I like the clue for LAMEST. At first I thought it was the LAMEST clue ever, but then thought of the other definition of "buy" and decided I liked it. Not INTUITively obvious. And "towel" not being a noun but instead an action, fun! I had to look up EVE, post-solve to assure myself that it wasn't actually EVa that Wall-E loved - in my head, I was hearing the little robot voice plaintively saying "EVa", but I guess I'm wrong. That certainly had me wondering who _AYNA was going to turn out to be at 25D (dAYNA?) OH I SEE, we're talking hockey and Gretzky.

Thanks, Jules Markey.

Mohair Sam 1:10 PM  

@Anonymous (9:32) - Deleted my dumb post - thanks.

Anoa Bob 1:14 PM  

When __OA emerged at 6 Across, I caught my breath and sat up a little straighter with giddy anticipation, but then I saw that the clue referred to some Zeno dude, and my heart sank, kerplunk.

Conrad @7:31, I see HERONs and EGRETs on a daily basis hereabouts. Years ago I read that "All EGRETs are HERONs, but not all HERONs are EGRETs". So if I've got that right, there's definitely some overlap there, but no redundancy.

Many's the time when I see someone transfixed on their hand-held device while completely ignoring all else around them that I'm reminded of the role of soma in Huxley's BRAVE NEW WORLD. Looks like we got there half a millennium earlier than Aldous imagined.

Ashley K. 1:22 PM  

As per xword info , dorag has been an answer in the Times crossword puzzle since 1995. When did it offensive ? Get over yourself it’s just a puzzle.

Z 1:27 PM  

@Noah Webster - Uh, why so judgemental? Anyway, I think you must have missed @kitshef’s comment. DOWN certainly can stand alone. If the people suffering through another artic blast start discussing their new DOWN FEATHER coats I’ll assume the cold has affected their brains. So I agree there are many times it would be redundant to use the puzzle answer. But, and this is a big but and I cannot lie, there are times when it would be perfectly okay to emphasize that the FEATHER in question is a DOWN FEATHER, like, say, when Wikipedia wants to title an article on it and using just DOWN has too many other confusing possibilities.

RooMonster 1:29 PM  

Hey All !
Starting to think that actually talking about the puz is taboo. Every one in three comment is something else.

Was looking for actual FEATHERS in the DOWNs. Har. Not knowing different types didn't help! A BUNCH of Birds, ah. OH I SEE. Biggest hold up was fOr for CON. Also gLOm-CLOT.

Kinda sorta seemed TuesPuz-ish. But still a nice one. RAH.


semioticus (shelbyl) 1:36 PM  

Some bright spots, unfortunately mostly very dimly lit spots.

I think this week's puzzles are in a secret contest to come up with most stale fill. Weird plurals (SEPIAS), long-term residents of Crosswordistan (STYE STOA NAPE IDEO RAH ESE ERATO) I mean, I'm impressed in a way. I've never been fed such dull fills for such a long period.

Now the theme. Unlike Rex, I had heard of "down feather" before so I wasn't repulsed by it, but it wasn't the best reveal, I agree. Cool theme answers though.

But the coolest part of this puzzle, as many have already agreed on, is the clue for APOSTROPHE. That's a Hall of Famer right there. "Made a fast stop?" I wish there were more of those, but when your answers are stale, it's not easy to make the clues zippy.

GRADE: B-, 3.05 stars.

Carola 1:42 PM  

I'm among those who were ready to emit a squawk of protest at DOWN FEATHERS (thinking "down pillows" v. "feather pillows"), until I read @kitshef 7:27. Still, I wish Will Shortz had gone with "bird droppings" - much funnier and apter. I enjoyed searching out the birds in the thicket of letters; for me, the HERON was particularly elusive.
@Loren, thank you for pointing out that all are 5-letter birds.
Besides the tricky and entertaing clues others have mentioned, I liked the one for LAMEST.

@Two Ponies, re: "all things Norse" - even lutefisk? Just kidding. I'm 3/4 Norwegian and 1/4 Danish, grandparent-wise, and your comment made me reflect on what all things Norse actually means for me - and it turns out it's mainly delicious things to eat...lefse, sandbakkels, krumkake....

Anonymous 1:53 PM  

Is @Amelia a Rex parody account? Maybe the return of @Rex Porker in disguise? Asking for a friend...

Noah II 2:20 PM  

@Z - Yeah, Wikipedia has an article on Down Feathers. First, the article is only titled that as part of the disambiguation process. There article couldn't simply be called "Down". Here's the article on the comic strip "Down": Down (comics) Wikipedia titling their article Down (comics) doesn't change the name the comic from Down to Down (comics) any more that it makes Down Feathers a legitimate stand alone phrase.

Further, if you read the article you cite, you'll note that they use down by itself almost to exclusion. Here's the lede:

"The down of birds is a layer of fine feathers found under the tougher exterior feathers. Very young birds are clad only in down. Powder down is a specialized type of down found only in a few groups of birds. Down is a fine thermal insulator and padding, used in goods such as jackets, bedding (duvets), pillows and sleeping bags. The discovery of feathers trapped in ancient amber suggests that some species of dinosaur may have possessed down-like feathers."

See the term "down feathers" anywhere?

Good luck buying a down feather jacket. You can't find one, anywhere. only sells down jackets. Columbia sells a nice looking winter jacket, but it's 80% duck down and 20% duck feather and some man-made stuff mix. This is the closest to what you're looking for, but it's a Down/Feather&Foam jacket, not a Down Feather jacket. We can have a fight about this, that Columbia should have "20 % Non-Down Feathers and some man-made stuff mix" but we'll let them off the hook -I liked the old lady who did those commercials all those years ago and she's probably so senile she couldn't know better. The North Face has a very nice looking jacket, guaranteed to keep you warm to -30F, but unfortunately it's filled with 100% goose down so you're out of luck there. At the other end of the spectrum, Burlington Coat Factory sells a nice looking jacket for only 49.99, but it claims "Fill: 90% down, 10% feathers" Clearly Burlington missed the down is feathers half of the discussion, but at least they didn't just say 100% feathers. Who knows, maybe it's really 100% down but they didn't feel like bragging and changed it to 90% Down, 10% feathers out of sense of modesty. Not that the possiblity offers you hope, because you still can't find a Down Feather jacket.

Anonymous 2:22 PM  

When it comes to Trump, I become unhinged.

semioticus (shelbyl) 2:30 PM  

@Noah II

Quoting Macy's website:

"Down jackets are made out of two different types of down: synthetic and down feathers[emphasis added]. Both types of down provide an extra layer of warmth that allows the body to keep warm when the temperatures start to drop in the winter."

I think the way it is used in the article is fine. The whole thing is not executed perfectly, but it is fine.

semioticus (shelbyl) 2:31 PM  

And of course by article, I mean the crossword puzzle.

Jules 2:33 PM  

The FEATHERed friends are all in long DOWN entries.

Wow 2:33 PM  

Noah II 2:20

jberg 2:34 PM  

EELS going OLE, EHOW twice in a row... And RIPON would have been much better clued as "where the Republican Party was founded," although I realize some contest that claim.

The DOWN FEATHER thing -- @Rex didn't say that it's wrong, just that it's not idiomatic. But what are you gonna do?

As for ASSAD, the problem is that both of them fit the clue -- if the clue had said "either of two" it would have been much better - could even leave out "Syrian" in that case, to make it interesting.

For some reason, it was really hard for me to see HERON. I got the answer early, but the bird only near the end of the solve. Some psychological thing about its being so far down on the page?

Since someone asked, I think there are three Ms, GINNIE, FANNIE, and SALLIE. There's also FREDDY MAC. I think that's the lot, but there's bound to be another one coming along soon.

@Loren, when Kofi Annan became Secretary General of the UN, they ran a profile of him in the Times. The one point I remember is that he is (or at least was, I haven't kept up) married to a Swedish woman, and they had a terrible time when they were invited to a party -- he thought it was rude to show up fewer than 2 hours after the time on the invitation, and she thought it was rude not to get there 15 minutes early and then walk around the block unitl it was time to go in. These things are deeply ingrained.

John Hoffman 2:44 PM  

Too much weird stuff and crosswordeeeze. It's words I would never hear in a lifetime. I understand the challenges of themed puzzles -- to make it work, constructors have to use quite odd words and letter combinations. Instead I wish we could have more themeless puzzles, but with all words in common use.

Joseph Michael 3:01 PM  

@Malsdemare, thank you for the book recommendation and the anecdote about Katherine Johnson. She was quite a woman!

Kimberly 3:03 PM  

“Feathers” as a synonym for “birds” was strange to me. It kept writhing in my brain making the whole puzzle feel harder than it should have been Birds going down... ok, but., surely there must be more. Right? And is feather really another word for bird? Some sort of old slang? I don’t think I’ve ever called a bird a feather. Maybe a “feathered friend,” but just “feather?”etc. etc. on and on. I let myself be so distracted, hoping for an “aha” moment which never came (more of a sighing “oh, ok” moment instead) that I didn’t enjoy the puzzle as much as I could have. My fault, really. I let my expectations get too big for a Wednesday.

Whatsername 3:12 PM  

Without getting into the whole down vs. feather issue, I just wanted to say, I have a coat – which was marketed as a "down" coat – and the label states "60% Down/40% water fowl feathers." In that vein, after solving the revealer, I started looking for goose and duck first before finding finch etc. which I thought made it a bit awkward since not all birds of feather have down . . . feathers.

Old Joker 3:36 PM  

How do you get down from an elephant ?

Two Ponies 4:01 PM  

Since down is the topic of the day: I was taking a tour of a high-end shop that made down clothing. The man giving the demo had me close my eyes and hold out my palm. Then he asked me to tell him when I thought he had placed some down feathers in my hand. My palm got warm before I ever felt any weight at all. He had placed a generous amount in my palm but it was absolutely weightless. I was amazed when I opened my eyes. He also said that the only way genuine eider down could be harvested was by gathering it from abandoned nests. No wonder it is so pricey for real eider if you even can find it.

@ Carola 1:42, I love more than the food but by coincidence I am making Kalpudding with lingonberry sauce tonight.

jb129 4:25 PM  

Anonymous - you are probably w__acking off while you write your very nasty comments because you obviously get a "rise" out of doing so.... otherwise you would have the other hand to post your name

Sorry, Rex this was beneath me .....

Unknown 4:26 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 3:44 4:08 0.90 20.9% Easy-Medium
Tue 5:18 5:19 1.00 46.0% Medium
Wed 5:39 5:54 0.96 46.8% Medium

Anonymous 5:06 PM  

Herons,blue, fuzzy breast, yellow legs, are not the same as Egrets, white feathers, black legs. Think "gritty legs" to remind you of E-GRIT.

Kimberly 5:23 PM  

I think the debate on which birds have down feathers may be moot because I think the word “down” was simply a directional clue: all theme answers were on the downs. “Feather” was the theme clue. Still very weak, though, since themes are usually synonyms or puns and “feather” was iffy.

jb129 5:23 PM  

To Amelia @ 11:57 am

RE: Annonymous comments

Thank you for your comment - see mine @ 4:25 pm - he's probably fast asleep waiting for tomorrow to spew his shit.

Can you guys (Rex or Wil) do anything about this guy?

Joe Dipinto 5:51 PM  

BIRD DROPPINGS would have worked brilliantly as the revealer. DOWN FEATHERS, alas, tanks the puzzle spectacularly. When has "feather" been used as a metonym for "bird"? Never, that's when. What are the editors smoking?

Seriously? 7:26 PM  

@Stuart Showalter please try to keep up. No one is talking about down as a directional adjective.

Keeping Warm 7:41 PM  

So much detailed info today about down coats and what they're made of and in what proportion. My mother bought me my first fur coat when I was 35. I had been coming down with colds virtually every winter since I was a child. My mother said: "People rave about down. But down isn't fur." She was right. It's not. Maybe I've never worn the "best" quality down, I don't know, but the down I've worn can't hold a candle to fur for warmth. It really can't.

I thought I'd better go "undercover" to make what's such an obviously politically incorrect statement. Otherwise someone might throw paint on me. You should understand, though, that since that first fur, I've bought my subsequent ones second-hand. That way I can say that I didn't "put the contract out" on that cute little critter.

Anonymous 7:55 PM  

I fucking love it. Anonymous assholes (jb129) telling other anonymous assholes (me) that we're assholes. How meta.

nick strauss 9:08 PM  

Never got the theme. INTUIT last.

Sonia 9:18 PM  

@ Keeping Warm, You are so right. I have several second-hand furs that are great.

Ranter 9:35 PM  

When I was a kid my parents always said the pillows had down feathers. I think because there were chicken feather pillows (not down) and eider down feather pillows. Down feather pillows were better than chicken feathers.

SkipperSkipper 9:44 PM  

@Ranter, we still have both kinds. The chicken feather ones kind of stick you through the ticking because the feather-shafts are sturdier. But they are more washable, which is why we still have them.

Unknown 10:42 PM  

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Yargh 11:03 PM  

Gonna call "Dr. Unity" right away! Since "he broke up me and brought in another girl" and "i did all i could to get him back, but all proved abortive." So, "28 hours later, my boyfriend really called me."
Dang, speak much? If you're going to Spam us, at least speak properly. Same as calling help lines for anything, you get an Indian speaker you can't understand.
Here's an idea, spellcaster asshats, go to

Ian 11:11 PM  

Salmon at a deli = nova? I don't get it.

Anonymous 11:13 PM  

Does anyone remember niggardly?

Anonymous 11:16 PM  

Are the negroes niggarrdly?

JC66 11:35 PM  

@Ian Newbould

Lox = Smoked/NOVA Scotia Salmon

Unknown 1:00 AM  

@ghostofelectricity I have heard the phrase "those damn dirty laws" used to refer to police officers. By criminals.

Kimberly 1:01 AM  

I’d rather have posts from assholes (of any variety) than from love spell vendors.

Pat 12:28 PM  

Is RUNE for "Tolkien character" a frequent pairing? I was geekily aghast at the error for a moment--'There is no "Rune" character in the stories, that's the elvish wri-aaaah, I get it." . Do finches and ravens actually have down (feathers)?

Warren Howie Hughes 1:08 PM  

I haven't the faintest IDEO what anyone felt about this Puz, but it WOKS for me!

Anonymous 3:44 PM  

Wall-E's love is Eva, not Eve!

AW 5:50 PM  

Actually, Wall-e pronounces it "ee-vah," but it is indeed EVE (Extraterrestrial Vegetation Evaluator).

Anonymous 4:13 PM  

Oh! Thanks. Oops.

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Burma Shave 10:41 AM  


I sent my DNASAMPLES in for an EXAM,
an EMAIL ARRIVED to say WHO I am.
I FEEL like a TWIT, ABUNCH of idiots do it,
OHISEE it’s a CON, unless you’re INTUIT.


Diana, LIW 10:54 AM  

My name is Diana and I am here to say that Crosswords have cast a spell over me. I ran away and left my happy home for the grocery store, but the crosswords called me back. Now I play every day. Maybe @Rondo is right - I should send DNA for an exam. Hmmm

Lady Di, questioning

thefogman 11:34 AM  

It's ASSAD day when REX decides to RIPON such an excellent puzzle. To DRONE on about DOWNFEATHERS being a fatally-flawed reveal is just the LAMEST. TRI to be objective. A real PRO isn't CON everything. He's hardly a TWIT but maybe he's just not INTUIT today. The fact remains. DOWNFEATHERS is/are a thing. Does this RUNE how I feel? No way. To Jules P Markey I say RAH and OLE.


spacecraft 11:38 AM  

Like OFL, my appreciation of this puzzle dwindled as I moved ESE (!). And please, PLEASE, if you have to include a bleedover, PLEASE don't make it EHOW!!! "Hmm, problem with 59-a...oh, I can use EHOW! They used it yesterday, SO IT MUST BE ALL RIGHT (emphasis mine). There's a big fat flaw in yer logic there, Jules. In fact, that just about RUNEd the experience for me. The revealer didn't bother me; I know it's green paint but it's not the hill I wanna die on. WAYNEGRETZKY, the theme entry and the player, is really "the great one."

The rest (pre-SE) of this puzzle was a pleasant, easy solve; good theme--and I'm also not bothered by interior words that don't touch the theme imbedment. The inelegance factor is minute, IMO. Several clue pairs--including a near-symmetrical debate--ADD to the pleasure. Like @Irene, I've never heard our national pastime referred to as AGAMEOFINCHES, though it surely can be that at times. No, that's football, c'mon, man. That's the sport that shoulda been in your clue.

Going old school for DOD AVA Gardner. This really wanted to be a "birdie" [elbow, elbow], but deteriorated to a par at the end.

thefogman 11:57 AM  

Alternative clue for 21D:
Chant for scribes going on strike?

rondo 12:09 PM  

Like @Old Joker asked, how do you get DOWN from an elephant? You don’t, you get DOWN from a duck. And OFL has to RIPON DOWN? In this case it’s obviously a direction. Hard to imagine RAVEN DOWN.

Another OLE with no Sven nor Lena. That rubs me RAH.

The recidivist prisoner was a PRO CON.

@D,LIW – your deli NOVA sits proudly in sight today. As for reading this future post from your crystal ball, I don’t need to send in my DNASAMPLES to RUNE my family tree. I’ve got records back into the 1500s in Sweden, names and locations, and sometimes occupations (WOKS of life). According to Uncle Google, Burma Shave only goes back to 1925.

I will name TIA Carrere yeah baby today. Do not cry “Uncle.”

I liked this puz ABUNCH; certainly not the LAMEST we’ve had.

Diana, LIW 1:25 PM  

I guess EHOW is the new EPEE? Okey doke.

But NOVA, the locks of royalty. No need to DRONE on about that. Just say cheese, and I'll bagel to have a bite.

@Rondo - Yes I am prescient. You and BS are the same in my mind as the poets of the S-Land. "Now that makes sense!"

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords

SharonAK 2:11 PM  

@ Sir Hillary
"I am convinced" sounded negative.
I would have said I assume Will does this on purpose, as did his predecessor, so that new solvers (or weak ones like me) have a better chance to solve the puzzles while they are learning.
I started before Will was the editor and I was told by more experienced solvers that words would repeat, so after a while solving would be easier.
As I remember, "Alamo" turned up about twice a week for years.

leftcoastTAM 2:23 PM  

Frustratingly held up by the DOWNFEATHERS thing.

Tried to reason that the bird answers were all DOWNs, and the birds were within those downs, but then, so what? They don't provide the down from THEIR feathers, do they? No, but ducks do.

An otherwise good puzzle spoiled.

thefogman 2:45 PM  

Almost all birds have down. Even parrots and cockatiels. Chicks have down before their true feathers are established. Of course geese are used to harvest down for the garment industry because they have more down with higher insulating properties.

leftcoastTAM 3:05 PM  

I understand, @fogman, but most birds don't supply down for "warm winter coats". Ducks and geese (ya got me on that one) do.

thefogman 3:11 PM  

Agreed. A RAVEN down coat - while theoretically possible - remains improbable.

rainforest 4:03 PM  

I liked this one quite a lot. Relatively easy with a good theme and revealer. Yup, "bird droppings" would have been better. I'm having trouble with the arguments around DOWN FEATHERS since that is a type of feather, and the themers are down answers containing hidden birds. Nit-pickers love to be specific, but rarely in crosswords is specificity maintained. The point is clear, in any case.

There were 4 or 5 excellent clues ('maker's mark' is a Hall of Famer), and the grid is relatively free of dreck.

I'd heard of Freddie Mac, and Fanny Mae. Now it is GINNIE MAE. What the heck are these things. Something to do with the 2008 recession?

@Rondo - I'm officially hoping to see SVEN appear as OLE's partner/stooge/counterpart in some puzzle.

thefogman 4:54 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
thefogman 4:56 PM  

I'll admit the reveal was not perfect, but even so I found it clever because it had a double meaning - in the sense that DOWN refers a type of feather and also to a direction. The themers all contained hidden birds (i.e. feathers) and they were all answers to DOWN clues.

leftcoastTAM 5:54 PM  

@fogman -- "... birds (i.e., feathers)...." The last I've seen of them, birds were not just their feathers. Maybe I'm missing something here.

@rainy -- Down is a "type of feather"? Okay, so birds=feathers=down.

Now I'm really confused.

strayling 6:14 PM  

That was an interesting debate about DOWN FEATHERS up-thread. It's clunky, but legitimate. The example which pops into my mind is lawn grass, as opposed to any other sort of grass.

strayling 6:20 PM  

Better example: crude and crude oil.

leftcoastTAM 6:51 PM  

My last (bird) shot at DOWNFEATHERS -- If you look for some consistency between that revealer clue, the down answers and the birds' names found within those answers, you won't find it. The revealer at best is inapt.

crabby 7:24 PM  

From Rex' first sentence of comment:

" different birds are embedded in the long "down" answers. Birds have "feathers" ... and the answers go "down" ... so there you go."

Don't overthink it.

thefogman 8:20 PM  

Something to consider...

Fur and feather

Game mammals and birds.

Source Oxford Living Dictionary

leftcoastTAM 11:57 PM  

Down and done. Appreciated the replies.

wcutler 3:43 AM  

@Wm. C. 9:11 AM, re the actual egrets at Egrets Landing, I'm so surprised to read that. I thought it was a rule of street names that they be totally inappropriate to their situation. Seaside Avenue not along the sea, Elm street with no elms, Whateverview Road with no whatevers in sight.

@kitshef 10:37 AM, nouns are used as *modifiers* all the time. Maybe it was just "new grammar" that was taught in my school that held that nouns used in their noun sense as a modifier retained their part of speech as a noun; nouns can modify nouns, as @Noah Webster 11:37 AM said. Exterior as an adjective ("exterior finish", say, is a bit different from the word as a noun in that it carries some meaning about its composition).

Anonymous 10:15 PM  

At least Assad never invaded the US. The US has invaded there and elsewhere. So who's the tyrant ? Just askin'

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