Lead role in Boys Don't Cry 1999 / SUN 2-25-18 / Nanki-poo's father / Neighbor of Montenegrin / TV demonstrator at 1939 World's Fair / Bygone deliverers / Seaweed in Japanese cuisine

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Constructor: Will Nediger

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: "Letter Recycling" — pairs of intersecting answers with identical clues are made up of the same set of letters:

  • IRON AGE (2D: Historical period) / GEORGIAN ERA (22A: Historical period spelled using only the letters of 2-Down)
  • ETHAN ALLEN (13D: Revolutionary War hero) / NATHAN HALE (28A: Revolutionary War hero spelled using etc.)
  • POTATO CHIPS (36D: Snack items) / PISTACHIOS 
  • OUTSTANDING (39D: Really impressive) / ASTOUNDING 
  • SCHMEAR (89D: Bagel topping) / CREAM CHEESE

Word of the Day: EGBERT (18D: Grandfather of Alfred the Great) —
Ecgberht (771/775 – 839), also spelled EgbertEcgbert, or Ecgbriht, was King of Wessex from 802 until his death in 839. His father was Ealhmund of Kent. In the 780s Ecgberht was forced into exile by Offa of Mercia and Beorhtric of Wessex, but on Beorhtric's death in 802 Ecgberht returned and took the throne.
Little is known of the first 20 years of Ecgberht's reign, but it is thought that he was able to maintain the independence of Wessex against the kingdom of Mercia, which at that time dominated the other southern English kingdoms. In 825 Ecgberht defeated Beornwulf of Mercia, ended Mercia's supremacy at the Battle of Ellandun, and proceeded to take control of the Mercian dependencies in southeastern England. In 829 he defeated Wiglaf of Mercia and drove him out of his kingdom, temporarily ruling Mercia directly. Later that year Ecgberht received the submission of the Northumbrian king at Dore. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle subsequently described Ecgberht as a bretwalda or 'wide-ruler' of Anglo-Saxon lands.
Ecgberht was unable to maintain this dominant position, and within a year Wiglaf regained the throne of Mercia. However, Wessex did retain control of Kent, Sussex, and Surrey; these territories were given to Ecgberht's son Æthelwulf to rule as a subking under Ecgberht. When Ecgberht died in 839, Æthelwulf succeeded him; the southeastern kingdoms were finally absorbed into the kingdom of Wessex after Æthelwulf's death in 858. (wikipedia)
• • •

This grid looks like it was architecturally challenging to put together: all themers are part of intersecting pairs, and some of those pairs actually abut. ABUT, I say! There's hardly any part of the grid that isn't affected by / impinged on by a theme answer. It's actually astonishing that the grid is as clean as it is, given how grid-pressuring this theme is. That said, I found it really lifeless, so much so that I just ignored the theme, for the most part. You didn't really need to know that the word pairs used the same letter bank. You could just solve them based on their rather general clues. The fact that OUTSTANDING and ASTOUNDING use the same letters just isn't that interesting. I think CREAM CHEESE / SCHMEAR is my favorite pairing, with PISTACHIOS / POTATO CHIPS a close second, but as I say, it's nothing I thought about (or had to think about, for that matter), as I was solving.

  • WE'RE ON
Final score: ON 4, IN 3. Good game, fellas.

Trouble spots:
  • 31A: Order to go (MUSH— wanted SHOO or SCAT or something related to fast food
  • 34A: Woman's name that sounds like its second and first letters, respectively (ELLY) — solving this was like trying to spell AUGUSTA backward the other day: brain-breaking
  • 107A: Bygone deliverer (ICEMEN) — went looking for some folksy, olde-tymey term for OB/GYN
  • 120A: "Aw rats!" ("DARN!") — DRAT, DANG, etc. the usual suspects
  • 6D: Was dateless (WENT STAG) — had the WENT, went with SOLO
  • 47D: Seaweed in Japanese culture (KOMBU) — wait, is this where "kombucha" comes from??? [yes and no: here's an explainer] The only seaweed I know very well is NORI, though KOMBU as crossed my field of vision somewhere before...
  • 103D: Lead role in "Boys Don't Cry," 1999 (TEENA) — I saw this in the theater and don't remember it at all, except Swank was in it. But the puzzle was generally so easy that I didn't have to spend any time wondering about this clue; it filled in via crosses very quickly.
Check out Will Nediger's puzzle blog, "Bewilderingly." You should especially check out 21-Down in his latest puzzle (Puzzle 70: "Not With a Bang"): a cluing choice that other constructors and editors would do well to imitate.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


David Stone 12:24 AM  

This was an astonishing feat of construction AND fun. I loved DADBLASTED. And Rex, you’re right about Nediger’s NRA cluing.

Cyclist227 12:44 AM  

I guess I didn't appreciate enough the puzzles construction. I just found it generally uninteredting. I finished pretty quickly, sort of not really paying much attention as I was doing it. Too easy for a Sunday.

puzzlehoarder 12:51 AM  

For a puzzle that turned out to be easy this was hard to start. From ENID south is where the domino effect really kicked in. While the theme is clever I never really used it to solve. SCHMEAR was the only point where I immediately saw the theme connection while solving. Coincidentally the constructor's says that SCHMEAR along with CREAMCHEESE were the seed pair for the puzzle.

For myself this was like solving a themeless with some similar entries. Puzzles often seem to have random mini themes occurring just because a number of entries fit into a particular category. Today there was a set of unusual K entries. KOMBU was the one that was completely new to me.

Robin 12:53 AM  

The OXO / AXILLA crossing, uck.

And negative points for using "reunion" in a clue and REUNES elsewhere as an answer. Bad editing.

sanfranman59 2:58 AM  

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. Your results may vary.

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

Mon 6:03 4:09 1.46 97.9% Very Challenging
Tue 5:35 5:44 0.96 39.6% Easy-Medium
Wed 6:56 6:07 1.13 72.9% Medium-Challenging
Thu 10:54 10:09 1.07 64.3% Medium-Challenging
Fri 15:41 11:37 1.35 84.6% Challenging
Sat 21:31 18:35 1.16 73.5% Medium-Challenging
Sun 14:45 21:46 0.68 9.7% Easy

phibetakitty 4:00 AM  

I liked seeing ergo. “I just heard Herbert say ‘Ergo.’ That means if we don’t do something we won’t get out of here till two o’clock.”

Mary Petty cartoon. The ladies are in the hall ready to go home and the gents are still enjoying their brandies.

Thomaso808 4:32 AM  

As a son of Irish immigrants I was thinking 16D might be OXTERS, which my dad always called my armpits. Anyone else ever heard that?

Harryp 6:13 AM  

It took me 1:00:26 to get through this slog, and the last to be filled in was the potential natick KASHI/KESHA. I would never have gotten a finish on paper. The happy tone/tune saved me.

Lewis 6:15 AM  
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Lewis 6:20 AM  

@rex -- I'm not going to hold my breath waiting for the NYT to run a clue like the one you pointed out in "Not With a Bang".

My strongest reactions were as follows:
1. How did he come up with these theme pairs? I wouldn't know how to think to even begin to do this. Then I saw the answer (in the constructor's comments), that after some point, computer code was used. That made sense.
2. What a beautiful feat of construction! Go to Xwordinfo dot com, click "solution and notes". You'll see the completed puzzle with the theme answers highlighted, and you may very well have the same reaction.

The puzzle solved quickly for Sunday, with the cluing on the easy side -- just like last Sunday's "Namedropper". I adored the clue for SWATS ("Tries to beat the buzzer?"). I think the theme helped me a little to get a few theme answers, but mainly the theme pairs themselves kept making me go "Wow!"

Trombone Tom 6:41 AM  

Interesting construction feat. And some of the pairs were interesting, too.

SURFNTURN was slow to come and I had Hill before HEAP.

I liked the clue for MUSH.

Except for working out some of the shared letters, this was fairly easy.

QuasiMojo 7:09 AM  

I had no trouble with this one. I was done in 20 minutes which is faster than most of my weekday times. Not that I'm a clock watcher or a watch-clocker, but you'd think a Sunday puzzle would take time. I didn't savor anything in this puzzle but I did go ooh and aah occasionally when I noticed that NATHAN HALE and ETHAN ALLEN shared the same letters. I think I've seen PISTACHIO POTATO CHIPS in a gourmet store. Or maybe they just went green by being past their DUE BEFORE date. Well, on to breakfast. KASHI with LACTAID milk. A bowl of MUSH.

BarbieBarbie 7:13 AM  

Impressive construction, maybe (I’m not a good judge), but for the solve, I’m in the Meh camp. You could solve it like a themeless and use the theme to check your answer. OK. I’m with OFL on this one.

Anonymous 8:07 AM  

Rather enjoyed it. It was challenging enough, I could not solve it completely after the first run through of the answers. I thought it was a very good feat of construction and interesting to get the same definition of two words that are anagrammed. Good job! Mush was one of the more challenging answers and one of the last to go in.

Hartley70 8:07 AM  
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clk 8:10 AM  

I’ve never heard DAD-BLASTED; dad-blamed or dad-gummed sound more natural to me, especially here in Roy Williams land. It didn’t help that I’d never heard of OSSIE Davis (and still don’t recognize him after looking him up). Plus, the kids always refer to them as AP exams, not APTESTS so the SW slowed me down. Still, quite an easy Sunday.

Hartley70 8:18 AM  

There were only two entries that gave me any trouble. I didn't know AYESHA and I'm not on friendly terms with Japanese seaweed. Everything else was filled in quickly with MUSH being last to fall. That could have been first for @LMS, or the "legion" of Alaskan readers who solve while they mush. I went right to the take-out menu drawer and MUSH isn't a big seller.

I suppose I can see the difficulty of constructing this theme, but as a solver the theme didn't impact my experience, except to note, "Who thinks of this?". Hitting the i button gave me the answer, Will Nediger.

JOHN X 8:29 AM  

"Actor Davis" with five squares is always a toughie with no crosses. Today it was OSSIE, but it can just as easily be BETTE or GEENA. I think VIOLA is lesser used because the "V" limits its versatility somewhat, and SAMMY might be pushing it; the man could sing his ass off but he wasn't much of an actor and an even worse talk show host. Plus the "Jr" part messes things up.

Nice sunday puzzle if a little on the easy side. I did use the theme when I tried to guess some of the answers and had to make sure the letters matched the other answer, but not very often. Actually I think I used that trick exactly once. Still a nice theme though.

Unknown 8:32 AM  

didn't know AYESHA plus the clue is extremely disrespectful to however many other wives the guy had, even if it is true. must they continue to suffer like this, in puzzles forever. REUNES is something i always get kind of fussy about. I also will gripe about the AXILLA corner a little although it was probably mostly my fault. anyway as always and despite the complaining, i enjoy the puzzle and i'm glad someone puts in the effort that lets me do them.

Glimmerglass 8:32 AM  

Fun puzzle, though like many Sundays it was easier than I wish for. ETHAN ALLEN and NATHAN HALE was an interesting pairing. Bit of a bland review from @Rex, but that’s how he found the puzzle. Pet peeve re 82A. Neither ADIOS nor adieu means “See you later.” There are both French and Spanish expressions that mean that (hasty la vista, au revoir, among others), but 82A means “[I commend you] to God,” with the implication that the speaker may not see the friend again anytime soon. The clue is correct only in the general sense of “goodbye.” I see this so often that it doesn’t even slow me up, but I shake my head every time.

Z 8:38 AM  

I feel like I’m growing predictable..., the observation that words are made up of letters is never going to lead to a theme that tickles my fancy. This “theme” is more of a challenge that the constructor set for himself than a theme. What else connects these themers other than they use letters? Nothing, nada, zilch, nil. And he resorted to a computer to come up with the themers? Sounds like a DNF in my book.

As a Sunday themeless this was fine. Although I did note CD TOWER as I solved. Has any piece of furniture ever have a shorter shelf life. Could you still find one at your local Target or Ikea? From not a thing to ubiquitous thing to curiosity that most middle schoolers have never seen in 25 years or so. My thought as I wrote it in was “past time to take this out of your word list, constructors.”

chefbea 8:39 AM  

Fun easy puzzle!! About to go out for breakfast...maybe I'll have a schemer of cream cheese on a bagel...of course with lox!!

Z 8:48 AM  

@Glimmerglass - I was taught in French class way back when that “adieu” very much means you expect to never see the other person again for the reason you mention. ADIOS comes from the same Romance language source, but no longer seeems to carry that connotation in the common vernacular. I’m curious how true this distinction still is in either language. Also, funny autocorrect of “hasta la vista.”

mathgent 9:12 AM  

I didn't do it, but I looked over the list of clues. Liked "Tried to beat the buzzer" for SWATS. Another cute one was in yesterday's LAT crossword by Neville Fogarty and Doug Peterson. "Combs differently?" for PDIDDY.

Still high over how the Warriors took apart the Thunder last night.

Exubesq 9:15 AM  

The combination of anagrams and cross-references makes me grumble, but I really didn’t need either, as others have noted. I thought some clues were a bit musty. If I didn’t have so many fat-finger typos this could have been a record time.

kitshef 9:25 AM  

Classic construction feat that adds nothing to the solve, which was dull, easy and peppered with horrible CECs.

Teedmn 9:27 AM  

I owe Mr. Nediger an apology. I finished this thinking it was the lamest excuse for a theme ever. Until I read his comments over at Xwordinfo, I didn't notice that the cross-referenced theme answers had the same clue. It sort of tickled my brain at ETHANALLEN and NATHANHALE but never rose to the surface completely.

There wasn't a lot of clever cluing that makes for a non-sloggy Sunday but I learned a couple of things (EGBERT, AYESHA, the sun is up in the SKY, yuck, yuck) and the fill was fine. My favorite themers were PISTACHIOS and POTATO CHIPS. Not my favorite snacks but my husband's.

Snoble 9:34 AM  

Thanks, @glimmerglass and @Z. I've never made the connection between "adios"and "adieu" and their derivations. This group always enriches my understanding of the language.

kitshef 9:44 AM  

Took a look at the Nediger puzzle Rex recommended. Clue for 27A is the real star of the show.

RooMonster 9:45 AM  

Hey All !
I'm of the terrific feat of construction, nice solving experience camp. (I think I'm the only one so far. Most feel the feat, but also meh solving.) I did notice the same clues for the themers. Neat. Threw in wAsHiNgton for NATHANHALE first, patting myself on the back for being so clever. Same with taSTyCakeS-PISTACHIOS. *Reverse Humblebrag :-)

AS FOR the rest of puz, very well filled. Light dreck for a theme-splatzed puz. (Thanks @M&A for such a great word!) Had that FNT in SURFNTURF before any other crosses, and thought something was definitely wrong. Had a few of the 'wait-on-the-cross' answers, like ETALI(AI), MODEL(TA)S, IN(THEMID)AIR, (BEERSODA)CANS, (those last two were writeovers here). Some other wrongness, besTof-TOPTEN, raw-BIG, RECap-RECTO.

While not an. ASTOUNDING solve, I don't feel the need to DARN this puz either. IT IS what IT IS. Har.


Siberian Khatru 10:08 AM  

Theme was OK. I really hate "reunes". "CD Tower"?

Charley 10:21 AM  

Elly? Not Elle or Ellie?

Birchbark 10:24 AM  

Quadruple-checked but DNF at ELie. As with the other February DNF last week, I knew where the problem was and was irked that the words looked wrong (except, of course, ELie). BOGEeS isn't a word and the iA in AXILiA is at best suspicious. Clicked on the solution and shook like a JARFUL of ELLY.

I've never gone a month without a DNF. As with a good round of golf, I start thinking about it with a few holes to go and the whole thing goes to pieces. Onward to March soon enough.

Now to plow the driveway and shovel. Then work through the Canterbury Tales. My copy has Chaucer RECTO and modern English verso to help with the tough parts. So many great crossword words, if Eugene T. Maleska could return from the Elysian Fields for maybe one puzzle a month. The Monk who loves to hunt and cares little for Benedict and Augustine: "He yaf nat of that text a pulled hen/That seith, that hunters be nat holy men." And the good Oxford Clerk: "Souninge in moral vertu was his speche/And gladly wolde he lerne, and gladly teche."

Piper 10:24 AM  

Can anyone explain why “mush” is order to go? Not getting it!

cwf 10:30 AM  

@Piper: think "sled dog"

GILL I. 10:31 AM  

A puzzle, that when completed, looked pretty awesome. Like @Teedmn, my favorite was the pairing of PISTACHIOS with POTATO CHIPS.
I wish I hadn't learned that this accomplishment was due to another computer. Deflated a few of my AHAS and OOHS. Regardless, it was an interesting Sunday.
Lots that I struggled with. Could not see SWATS. Did not understand why FORTY is "double a score" and never heard of AYESHA KESHA KASHI KOMBU. Any want to dance?
Gave up on the attic area and went looking for a foot-hold. Found it in the EBAY MUSH WADEIN ELLY section and off I went to the prom. Everything after that was pretty easy and fun.
I liked ICEMEN but also did a TSK. A friend sent me photographs from the National Archives. One interesting one was a black and white showing two females about to heft a huge piece of ice onto a waiting truck. They stepped I wile the men went off to fight WWI. Sorta like a Rosie the Riveter. I guess you could have named them Rosie's the ICE women.
@Glimmerglass. I haven't thought of the "to God" ADIOS in forever. I speak Spanish and there are lots of words Will will allow that are incorrect or just plain bad. I've offered to translate for him but not interested. Anyway, ADIOS is just one of those words that has evolved to mean practically anything having to do with a departure. But yes, it should be hasta la vista [BABY].
The sun is out and I have to go play. DADBLASTED is a word I will try and use today. Where the heck did it come from?

Anonymous 10:35 AM  

Think dog-sled team—mush=go!

Norm 10:42 AM  

I'm disappointed. I expected a "rip this apart and start over" review. What a tepid, boring puzzle this was. Oh, by the way, I didn't like it.

Nancy 10:48 AM  

So I've been singing the song for, like, forever, and I thought the WASSAIL was the container you put the Christmas drink in, not the Christmas drink itself. Live 'n' learn. Sort of like SURF 'N' TURF.

Hit a few snags. Had Fantasy before FIGMENT (60A). Then, thanks to the G from GUSTO, I changed Fantasy to FIGlEaf. Still didn't have FIGMENT. I didn't know the seaweed (47D) and I had aREa before ORES for what the assayer assays. Big mess in that section. At the bottom, I had NICEan before NICENE (97D) which slowed me down there, too.

After the terrific puzzles of the last few days, this one was not OUTSTANDING. But it was interesting. I liked the fact that the two clues for the repeating letters were clued identically. Hating cross-referencing as I do, I didn't avail myself of the extra help much, but I think it may have helped me once or twice. A puzzle that did its job: it helped pass another rainy and dreary morning.

Amie Devero 10:50 AM  

Liked it. Just one quibble. There is no C in shmear. Just sayin'.

Anonymous 11:02 AM  

Doesn’t an anagram require using the exact same letters (same # of each letter used)? That wasn’t the case here—observation not a complaint. I really enjoyed this puzzle (in part because I love anagrams and whatever their kin are called)

Nancy 11:10 AM  

The original meaning of ADIOS and adieu, as referred to in the comments of @Glimmerglass and @Z was the most interesting thing I learned from the blog today. I was thinking I was going to be really worried if anyone ever said either of those words to me ever again. Did they know something I didn't? So I'm relieved to know that the original meaning doesn't really apply anymore. (Thanks, GILL.)

@Z (8:38) -- Such a short shelf life, that I've never seen one.

Z 11:12 AM  

@Anon11:02 - You are correct, these are not anagrams. Anagrams would have been an improvement, but still not enough to make an actual theme in my opinion.

JC66 11:28 AM  

After following the instructions in the clue for 22A and using the letters from 2D (IRONAGE) to get GEORGIANERA, like many others here, I solved the rest of the puzzle as a themeless. Although I'm not a speed solver, this ended up being one of my fastest Sundays.

Post solve, I went back and checked out the themers. My favorite, by far is SCHMEAR/CREAMCHEESE (sorry @Arnie, I use the C), then PISTACHIO/POTATOCHIP. It was all downhill from there.

I can't help wondering why a constructer would build a puzzle that is easier to solve by avoiding using the theme rather than using the theme.

Banana Diaquiri 11:32 AM  

"four score and seven years ago..."

SCHMEAR depends on where you live. in Brooklyn, then yes.

old timer 11:53 AM  

Any blog that has a new (to me) version of Richard Thompson singing "Tear Stained Letter" is worth taking a look at. The puzzle was a slog as Sundays often are. But pretty Easy as OFL notes.

Adios means every kind of goodbye, in Spanish. Only the French make delicate distinctions as @'Mericans would tell us. Adieu can mean goodbye forever. Au revoir means see you again sometime. A blentot means see you soon. A demain means expect to see me tomorrow. And if you say that to a French shopkeeper and do come the next day, expect a warm greeting, maybe even accompanied by a smile. I read both French and Spanish, but admire French more, for its great precision of meaning.

Unknown 11:57 AM  

I liked the theme and like others, moved through it fairly well. Knew Rex would say it was easy when I finished without any real roadblocks, although I did jump around a lot between the middle and the bottom. Made the BEER/SODA mistake and was also convinced I had an error with the RFNT crosses but didn’t get hung up and worked it out. Didn’t like REUNES or DADBLASTED both feel a little made up to me. Enjoyed the AORTAS clue. Now what to do with the extra 30 minutes I budgeted for the puzzle....hide out from last weeks HONEYDO list probably...

andy 12:17 PM  

Am I the only moron who had never heard of RECTO and, as my wife informs me, verso?

billocohoes 12:18 PM  

“Goodbye” itself is a contraction (per Wiki) of “God be by ye” or god be with you, so similar derivation to adios/adieu

TubaDon 12:28 PM  

Always nice to have a puzzle with ones first (nick) name in it! Somewhere between NATHAN and ETHAN I fell asleep, so I guess this puzzle's theme didn't thrill me. (Although, dadblast it, I did appreciate the semi-clone answers, including a few I'd never seen in a grid before.)

BarbieBarbie 12:31 PM  

@billocohoes, you beat me to it..”Adios” means “goodbye” and “hasta la vista” doesn’t. it means “see you later” or “a bientot.”

@Z, you’re right. The CDTOWER is the PT Cruiser of furniture.

@LMS, good luck to all of you in the battle for fair pay for the dedicated educators in W Va.

Malsdemare 12:36 PM  

I imagine this was really tough to construct so kudos to the constructor. I really liked the clues and fill but the "trick" was, as it emerged, sort of bland. But DADBLASTED (I wanted DADBLAmED, which of course, doesn't fit), PISTACHIOS, SURFNTURF, and two Revolutionary war heroes were really fun. At the risk of being called a snowflake, I have to admit to wincing at that damn FIREARM. Yeah, it’s just a crossowrd entry; just not ready for the reminder.

I continue to misread clues, which definitely slows me down. I saw "when it comes to" as "what" which gave me AStOp. I had no idea MIKADO was a person; I thought it was a place (insert headslap here). Good former Catholic, I know it as the NICEan Credo, so that held me up a bit. And I needed the FI-E to get that little flute.

I was ten minutes faster than my average but tat's still a lovely, leisurely Sunday. And now to read comments.

Joe in Canada 12:39 PM  

My only problem was with 82 across. French and Italian differentiate between "good bye" and "see you later", so I thought "adios" must be wrong. But it doesn't indicate Sp. so I was overthinking.

Anonymous 12:46 PM  

Thanks for the confirmation—now, on to the NYT Puns and Anagram puzzle also in today’s paper!

Scrub 12:49 PM  

Like one of the other commenters, I got red-herringed really nastily by filling in WASHINGTON once I had the A, H, and first N in NATHANHALE from crosses. It took me a loooong time to let go of that, even as nothing around it was making any sense.

Other than that (which you can't really blame on the constructor), I really enjoyed this puzzle and thought that the vast majority of it was pretty fresh.

Z 12:53 PM  

@andy - Now that you know them remember them. One or the other will be coming to a crossword puzzle near you soon.

Masked and Anonymous 1:37 PM  

Luved the tasty weeject stack snacks, in the W, E, NE, and SW corners. Also, smaller ones in the S-NW and N-SE, btw.

And the award for most desperate stack goes to …
… which ain't all that desperate, actually. Just has 2/3 abbrev meat.
Solid fill threwout, as @RP has already well covered.

Puztheme was unbelievable:
1. Unbelievable, in that anyone could come up with this many good themers for it. [This week's neat Fireball crossword contest made U come up on yer own with an extra themer that did somethin weirdball like this … took M&A forever to come up with it.]
2. Unbelievably dull (IM&AO), for a Sunday-sized puz. SunPuzs need to be funnier, or somehow fascinatingly puzzlin, to keep m&e goin on em for that long a haul. As a dailypuz, this "use the same letter bank" theme woulda been just fine, tho.

DADBLASTED is great, and this DARN puz gets a "pass" from me, based solely on that there.
Is AYESHA and KESHA related? Surely only a coupla degrees of separation max, in any case?

Nice blog bullets, @RP. Thanx.

Thanx also to Mr. Nediger for goin to this much DADBLASTED trouble on a Sunday.
FYI: ELLY and YELL scream out "same letter bank!", btw.

Masked & Anonymo10Us


Stanley Hudson 2:02 PM  

A pleasant hour wasted on a gray Sunday morning.
Trying to think of a good rhyme but they all die a-borning.

mathgent 2:07 PM  

Some of us here like math puzzles. Here is a cute one from yesterday's WSJ puzzle page.

Jones and Brown are planning a paintball duel. They agree to take turns shooting at each other until someone has been hit. Jones, who can hit someone in a single shot only 40% of the time, is allowed to go first. If the duel favors neither, what is Brown's probability of hitting Jones in a single shot?

Malcolm Gibson 2:11 PM  

Pretty blah, from my point of view. And as with Rex, ignored the theme. Useless. Please, Will, up your game as editor of what WAS the world's best crossword.

GHarris 2:12 PM  

Did this on paper and so never realized I had misspelled chi as cha, Elly as Elie etc. This gave me idest, bogees and axilia.Oh well, still enjoyable and somewhat challenging.

Lewis 2:17 PM  

@m&a -- Yes, that Fireball was a bear!

Lean ween 2:21 PM  

Know your seaweeds:

...and agar!

A Grimwade 2:22 PM  

I didn’t even know I had armpits until I was about twelve. They were always oxters on the west coast of Scotland

A Grimwade 2:24 PM  

A plaid is a tartan shawl. A kilt is a tartan skirt. KILTs are not made of plaid.

Bob Mills 3:23 PM  

Nice imaginative puzzle, even if a bit on the easy side.

Mike Herlihy 3:23 PM  

@GILL - a "score" is twenty years. It had me going for a while, as well.

sixtyni yogini 3:31 PM  

Good one! Cleverness is appealing and makes it fun.

patsypalooza 3:38 PM  

Ok, since no one else had the same problem I did, gotta call out "office worker's problem," as I had the ST and AIN (suspected AYEAYE and RECTO, but was hesitating to fill them in (I do this in pen in the magazine), as they obviously did not work with the obvious answer of WRISTPAIN). Ha. Didn't make the finished puzzle too ugly though, as I only had to add a little leg to the P to make it an R and three little shelves to the I to make it an E. Only two writeover letters = not bad!

I didn't have the same "aw, this is too easy" feeling as all y'all, probably because at first I suspected the letter recycling theme to be more intense, and I was looking from the top for multiple letters per square in FREE TICKET and the like ��

GILL I. 3:48 PM  

@Mike Herlihy. Gracias, amigo. I wish I knew my scores a tad better, but now it makes sense.

Joe Dipinto 4:18 PM  

I guess I would describe this puzzle as slightly more than "serviceable". I was fine with everything about it. And I didn't notice until after I finished that each pair of related themers intersected each other in the grid, which is pretty impressive. I think that with the title being LETTER RECYCLING, the secondary themer clues should have omitted "spelled using only the letters of..."; it would have been more interesting if it had been left to the solver to figure out that each pair of identically clued answers used the same letters. The theme clues could have been asterisked or italicized instead.

Anonymous 4:37 PM  

Thrown by 101D because Essie Davis stars as the Aussie detective Miss Fisher.

Anonymous 4:53 PM  

@Nancy - "Wes hail" = old English for "be healthy!", a phrase for toasting someone.

The drink you drink to another person's health gets named by the toast itself = Wassail,
then that word gets transferred to the act of running around the neighborhood asking for a drink so you can drink the drink-provider's health with it (here we come a-wassailing). The wassail cup or wassail bowl is named for the punchbowl / cup passed from hand to hand in the act. Not very sanitary, but then it's usually a potent potable.

Z 4:56 PM  

@Lewis and @M&A - Just finished the Fireball Xword - Have to now apply the Magnificent Beast Gray Matter to the contest solution. Oy Vey! Now that there is a PPP* worth chewing over.

*Post Puzzle Puzzle, not Pop Culture, Product Names and other Proper Nouns.

Unknown 5:13 PM  

Found this easy and i’m no RP. Got stuck on went solo until I figured that the ancient theaters could only be odea. Also thought schmear was spelled schmeer, but knew author Nin.

Nancy 5:18 PM  

SCHMEAR or shmear? Schlock or Shlock? Schlep or Shlep? Schmooze or Shmooze? Schmuck or Shmuck? Schlemiel or Shlemiel? Schmo or Shmo? Only in the last instance have I ever been entirely sure. (Shmo looks ridiculous.) I've always gone for the C, but have continued to harbor doubts every time I write it. Now I know why. Yes, I come from a Jewish background, but I grew up in Manhattan, not Brooklyn. Which I guess can make you schizoid/shizoid.

Anonymous 5:23 PM  

Has anyone really seen Elly spelled like that? All I've ever seen is Ellie, or even Elle (mispronounced as Ellie). I liked the anagrams involved in the themed clues. Kombu got me for awhile (and I lived in Tokyo!) as did Mush. Had to get all the across clues for Nanki-Poo's father (is Nanki-Poo real? A movie character?)

'mericans in Colombia 5:39 PM  

We liked today's Sunday, and admired the construction feat, but it still took us longer than usual to complete. Naticked on the K_SHA--AR_TES crossing. An "A" there, shich would make "KASH(A) seemed to make sense for somebody using a $ sign in her name. Oh well.

One place we got stuck was 7-Down. The clue should have had "variant" added to it. The Prophet's favorite wife is spelled "Aisha" in the leading Wikipedia entry, and is "Aicha" to French-speaking Muslims of the Maghreb. Here's a link to a video of the catchy love song "Aicha" performed by Algerian-born Cheb Khaled, recorded in 1996:


As for the various forms of good-bye in French (hi @old timer!), indeed they are many. One I didn't catch onto at first was "A+". It's used a lot in e-mails and text messages, and is short for "à plus tard", or "see you later!"

A+, amigos!

P.S., One surprising thing to see prominently displayed in a bookstore here in beautiful, historic Cartagena: Fuego y Furia -- i.e., Michael Wolff's recent book translated into Spanish.

Joe Dipinto 6:04 PM  

@Anon 5:23 -- Elly Ameling was an operatic soprano, and there was a theater actress-singer named Elly Stone back in the 60's/70's. Granted, they won't be familiar to a whole lot of people, but the name does exist spelled that way.

BTW, also want to give a shout-out to Sam Ezersky's terrific Puns & Anagrams in the variety puzzles. Some of the clues really cracked me up. (I'm not quite grokking 23D, although I have the answer from the crosses.)

Aketi 6:11 PM  

@GILL I, never did manage to comment on your hilarious avatar while it was up thanks to not noticing it until @Nancy mentioned it and the aftermath of having to set up a new computer while in the midst of filling out tax and financial aid forms. Now I feel obligated to go to Bored Panda and share that photo with all the Breastfeeding Facebook groups that I've been added to thanks to my profession.

@Nancy, I would have asked for your anagrams had I not been spending every other day for the last two weeks either on the phone all day with tech support for the DADBLASTED computer or swearing at it when it took more than the time I needed to make and drink two cappuccinos to load only to crash every fifteen minutes when trying to fill out spreadsheets and Turbo tax. My husband is more of the L word that appeared in one of the recent puzzle than you are but he finally conceded two years after I started asking for it, to replace the old computer.

The computer has now been set off to DIOS (recyling) after being wiped clean in an astonishingly fast 5 minutes. Had it done anything that fast in the last two years that I've been begging my husband for a new one I might not have been so IRATE. I experience zero EYESTRAIN with the new computer since it has such high resolution that I can almost read the tiniest of words without using my glasses. You better believe that I am not looking at any selfies on this computer ever.

I liked the PISTACHIOS in the puzzle.

Nancy 6:34 PM  

For @JoeDiPinto (6:04). For everyone else: SPOILER ALERT for today's "Puns and Anagrams" in the Magazine. Scroll down, Joe. And if I had your email, I wouldn't have to burden everyone else with this explanation:

23D: Clue should be interpreted as"C" sides, and what's on both sides of C is BD.

I wasn't clear on 40D. I assume there must be a person named Fred ARMISEN.

Anonymous 6:41 PM  

re: comments of Glimmerglass and Nancy on "au revoir" and "adieu" distinction.

There's a famous short story regularly assigned in high schools more a half century ago. I read it and can't remember the author, but Google tells me it was John Collier of UK (and the title is *The Chaser*, but my memory was telling me *The Love Potion*). A young man's love is unrequited, and he is told that a certain apothecary sells a love potion. He goes to the chemist and to his great surprise finds the cost is practically nothing. The chemist warns him that the antidote, on the other hand, costs thousands. The chemist then describes the effects of the potion: she will be all over you, never departing your side, etc. etc. (this description went on a great length). The grateful and elated your man buys the potion, thanks the chemist profusely, and then departs, saying "adieu." The chemist responds, closing the story: "au revoir."

[after that story, the distinction of the greetings was etched on my mind]

Anon. i.e. Poggius

Joe Dipinto 6:48 PM  

Replying to myself -- Never mind, I get 23D in Puns now. Should've grokked it sooner.

Joe Dipinto 6:59 PM  

@Nancy -- Thanks, I eventually figured it out before I saw your response. And yes, Fred Armisen is an actor/comedian who, as a long-time SNL cast member, was known for his impression of Barack Obama, among other things.

Jethro Bodine 7:11 PM  

Re: Elly as per xword info- been an answer thirteen times since 2001. Nine time as Elly Mae Clampett from Beverly Hillbillies, twice as “For Better or for Worse (whatever that is) Matriarch,”and once as soprano Ameling in addition to today’s. I winced when I was doing the puzzle this morning but in retrospect, it’s a clever clue to a questionable answer.. It has my imprimatur.

semioticus (shelbyl) 7:20 PM  

The theme was brilliant. I love anagrams, and you're telling me that there's an extra twist to it? Awesome.

Some clues were simply great too. Tries to beat the buzzer? was a good omen from the get-go, and there were some others like that. The general tone was pleasant.

The fill, though. The overall quality was passable, but man, the corners were a drag; especially the two blocks in NE became more dreadful as time passed on. NICENE/IAMS/VIM also gave me a headache. The puzzle rode too much on its theme; there weren't any other long answers that wowed me. SURFNTURF was nice, I guess, but that's about it.

Yet again, overall, if this were the Sunday standard I would be more than OK with it.

GRADE: B+, 3.8 stars.

JC66 7:24 PM  


@Joe D must have been typing when you posted. ;-)

Yes, Fred ARMISEN is correct. He's a SNL alumnus, co-stars on his niche/popular Cable comedy "Portlandia" and sits in on drums regularly with The Late Show with Seth Meyers' band.

Joe Dipinto 7:41 PM  

@Anon Poggius 6:41 -- that's great! I'd never read the short story, but it was adapted into a classic Twilight Zone episode, wherein the young man does indeed go back to buy the "glove cleaner", which of course the chemist knew all along he would do.

jberg 8:43 PM  

I’ve been doing @Nancy’s anagrams, and at first thought these were basically anagrams for the lazy, since the letter counts didn’t have to match. But as I solved them, I concluded that they were actually harder than true anagrams, since you can’t eliminate a letter once you have used it. I enjoyed the whole thing, especially the SCHMEAR of CRESM CHEESE.

My hardest part was fixating on cherry pits— I grew up picking cherries every summer, then graduating to work in the cherry-canning factory, and the pits really piled up. AXILLA should have rules that out, but I didn’t notice. So it was really hard to see SURFNTURF. I really liked this puzzle.

Joe Bleaux 9:36 PM  
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Joe Bleaux 9:39 PM  

@kitshef, what's a CEC? (And are they all horrible?)

Unknown 10:02 PM  

Shocked to see a genocidal military dictatorship make it into the clues and DOUBLY shocked that ol sensitive Rex let it by! Happy Sunday all

Nancy 10:02 PM  

@Poggius & @JoeDiPinto -- Damn I love this blog! Intrigued by your discussion of the adieu/au revoir short story and the Twilight Zone episode based on it -- an episode which surprisingly I hadn't seen, even though I watched the program obsessively in my youth -- I went to YouTube and I found it. (I'm terrible with technology, but I'm a quite resourceful Google-er.) I was able to watch the episode in its entirety! And I really enjoyed it, even though it's far from the best acted Twilight Zone episode I've ever seen. Thanks for the tip, guys.

OISK 10:04 PM  

A very quick DNF. THREE Naticks, and too many product names defeated me. I guessed right on one of the three. (the rest of the puzzle was easy...) OXO? I guess it has appeared before. No idea what it is, and Avilla looked OK. Perhaps had I TRIED an X, I'd have preferred Axilla.

Kashi? What is that??? Throws together - Makes? or Mates? I guessed "Mates" and "Tashi." O for two.

Elly? or Elie? Avilia, or Avilla? (or Axilia , had I gotten the X) Guessed right on that one.

Another 1 name singer, Kesha. Got that one, since she has been in puzzles before, but had Keisha, or Kiesha been possible, I would never have known. So the NE had two brand names, one one-names singer, and one ambiguous and misspelled (I thought it was always Ellie) first name. That makes me irate, and sorry I ever waded in. At least I knew the dog food brand. IAMS..orry I bothered... (but the theme answers were brilliant)

TomAz 11:08 PM  

I thought it was DAg BLASTED. Dad-gummed I know, but not Dad-blasted. I figured it out though.

But no matter. It was a puzzle is what it was. Easy-ish, uncompelling. The related themers sharing letters and crossing were mildly interesting anecdotes.

Jack the Lad 11:31 PM  
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Lord Hogg-Cumbernauld 11:43 PM  
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FatFlappy 12:42 AM  
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kitshef 8:13 AM  

@Joe Bleaux - CECs are colloquial equivalency clues. Like cluing ISTHATOK with "Do you mind?"

التميز المثالي للخدمات المنزلية 2:19 PM  
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التميز المثالي للخدمات المنزلية 2:19 PM  
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Unknown 7:35 PM  

Or EMMY. data and deal can be RAW, a more apt cluing.

JN 6:06 PM  
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JN 6:10 PM  

Yeah EMMY overstayed her welcome in my grid. Overall I thought it was quite well constructed and have no problem with the computational component. Wasted a lot of time trying to Make WHOOPIEPIES worK - then WHEATTHINS in the other direction. Also became too enamored with NICEAN.

rondo 12:02 PM  

When the puz announces that the same letters are to be used over and over you can expect something less than ASTOUNDING or OUTSTANDING and on that this one delivered. What a yawn. Even with doubled up clues.

CDTOWER? I have several and they aren't going away anytime soon. Analog LPs always strove to get as close as possible to reproducing music. CDs left it to the ones and zeroes, but still pretty good. Most of today's digital music options are so compressed that they are of really low audio quality. Hardly listenable for those who care. I treasure what's in my CDTOWERs (and my vinyl).

Only the APTEST take an APTEST.

One thing not a yawn was the hidden gem of yeah baby Barbi BENTON. TOPTEN of all-time in Hef's mag for sure.

Overcast here today, not sure the puz was worth the EYESTRAIN.

Diana, LIW 12:23 PM  

Now that Mr. W's tinnitus (sp?) has abated, he's become quite the audiophile. @Rondo - he would agree with you 100%. Some of his best classical recordings were done in the 1950's!!! I myself haven't moved on to the digital age when it comes to listening to music, so CDs are my mainstay. When I'm not listening to NPR. Which is most of the time.

HEY GANG - ANYONE ELSE FOR ACPT MARCH 23-25 in lovely downtown Stamford, CT????? I'll see you there - I'm the one still solving when everyone else has moved on to their Cola and Peanut M&M snacks. (Hi "you-know-who.") Remember, even if you're a snail like me, sign up as a contender so you can get a SEAT at the TABLE. You been warned...

Oh right - almost forgot this puzzle. In fact, I did forget...where did that go...?

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords
PS - Will I wear my tiara> Only one way to find out. Not too late to sign up for ACPT.

spacecraft 12:35 PM  

So, "using only the letters of..." I am underwhelmed. Gee, using only 26 letters we get about 200,000 words. Am I supposed to get excited about this? ITIS a bit of a problem construction-wise, I suppose, but not worth stuff like (again!) REUNE. This is one "word" (and that NEEDS the quote marks) with which I never wish to ***** again.

The saving grace was that it played easy enough to avoid slog status. It's like an annoying 5-second commercial: at least it's over soon. I was torn between the -SHA's, AYESHA and KESHA, for DOD, but failed to unearth @rondo's gem Ms. BENTON. The sash is awarded to her--only because he beat me to the blog. Par.

Anonymous 2:14 PM  

I hated this puzzle- a lot of cheap shot clues and answers, I have NEVER heard of dadblasted. Is this a millennial term? It makes no sense anyway. Nor schmear- is that a Yiddish word for smear, as in smear on the cream cheese. ???I finally got mush when I subbed in mid for the, had rum and the figured out ska. I will say I thought CDtower and surf & turf were clever. But the clues had to be looked at upside down so to speak. most of these was from crosses. of course I was trying to think of a sports term for 5A. so that took awhile.Eyestrain was good. Still have no clue what recto means. And forensic was clever. but there were too many dumb clues and dumb answers. Like darn and oven and it is- really? just bad.

rainforest 2:31 PM  

I think the answer to @mathgent's math puzzle is 24%.

I like the idea of the theme, and I wonder if you just snatch any old word out of the air, how difficult it is to find another word that can be clued the same and use only the letters (all of them) from the first word. Computer to the rescue, I guess.

So, yes a remarkable construction achievement, and maybe not the most scintillating solve, but there were a few excellent clue answer combos, so OK.

Easy enough to not enter slog territory. I don't think the theme was a help in finding the pairs of words, but it was certainly a help in verifying them.

DOD? Easy - @Lady Di, wearing her tiara.

Burma Shave 2:53 PM  




BS2 2:59 PM  

that's "Ts & As" in case you missed it

Teedmn 4:21 PM  

@Diana, thanks for not outing me on my poor choice of breakfast foods (and that's diet cola, don’t forget!). At last year's ACPT, when I admitted to @LMS what I’d eaten for breakfast, she immediately asked, “plain or peanut?” And we both agreed peanut M&M’s were the only way to go so maybe I’m not alone there...

@rainforest, that’s the answer I came up with also but I was too nervous to accept @mathgent’s invitation to contact him for the answer off-blog. On one of the days last week I had announced my love of math in my comment and I didn’t want to be exposed as an idiot if 24% was wrong!

AnonymousPVX 4:44 PM  

Well, DADBLASTED is something Walter Brennan used to say in the Real McCoys, among other roles, in the 1950’s, so hardly a Millennial choice, haha.
I found this puzzle...wearing....hard to begin and then just a slog. As with some others, I ignored the “using only letters” stuff and just solved.
I can appreciate the work it took to put this together without appreciating the result.
Always happy to get the solve, so there is that.

rondo 6:18 PM  

Seems like 40% of the remaining 60% would be right.

leftcoastTAM 7:26 PM  

Yeah, easy, I guess, but like most Sundays, a pain in the arse. (Right, I'm not required to do them.)

After fiddling with the MAKES/KASHI cross for too long, chose a T instead of a K. MAtES/tASHI looked pretty good. ERROR.

Cross references are my least favorite gimmicks, so I ignored them.

Anonymous 5:00 PM  

Rex, Apu may disagree with you about "NYMET:"


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