Mark Twain farce about painter who fakes his own demise / SUN 2-11-18 / As-yet-undeciphered Cretan script / First mass consumer product offering wifi / Buoyant cadences / Runner Liddell depicted in Chariots of Fire

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Constructor: Matt Ginsberg

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: PARONOMASIA — this is a word that means "play on words; pun" ... I don't know if PARONOMASIA is supposed to sound like something else, or ... what. The theme answers appear to be oronyms, which is a word I just learned from the crossword a few days ago ("a string of words or a phrase that sounds the same as another string of words or phrase, but is spelt differently")

Theme answers:
  • ORCHESTRATES (orca straits)
  • LOCOMOTION (Lowe commotion)
  • LOCKSMITH (lox myth)
  • GROUPIES (grew peas)
  • GERIATRICIAN (Jerry attrition)
  • WHEATIES (wee tees)
  • BORDEAUX (bore dough)
  • MOUSETRAPS (Mao straps)
  • IDEALOGUES (idea logs) (isn't the word "ideologues"?)
  • STRATOSPHERE (stratus fear)
  • MISTLETOE (missile tow)
  • DULCIMER (dull simmer)
  • PROFITEERING (prophet earring)
  • PHARMACIST (farm assist)
Word of the Day: EDH (4D: Old English letter) —
noun: edh
  1. an Old English letter, ð or Ð, representing the dental fricatives T͟H and TH. It was superseded by the digraph th, but is now used as a phonetic symbol for the voiced dental fricative T͟H in the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) system. (google)
• • •

So, these Sunday numbers just got worse:

I have no idea why it is so hard to make a decent Sunday puzzle, but it sure seems to be. This was a death march. Just a horrible, painful idea that Would Not End. Imagine thinking you were going to make it better by *adding* theme answers—as many as you can, crossing each other, in every nook and cranny. "Idea logs? Hilarious!" quips someone I cannot imagine. "Jerry attrition" is as close to clever as these paranomawhatevers ever come, and nothing else about the grid is even remotely endearing. I got some mail in January that essentially said "you should lighten up on the Sunday puzzles." No. No. Sundays should lighten up on me. This is abuse. The marquee puzzle has become a joke. Again, I refer you to Evan Birnholz's WaPo Sunday Crossword, which even on a so-so day is better than this. Why don't more people recognize this objective reality? (marketing, inertia, blah blah blah, I actually know the answers here, but it's still annoying).

[SAIL, HO!] [??]

Can't you do this crap with tons of words. From this grid alone: DINETTES (dye nets?); SENILE (scene aisle?); O'CASEY (okay, see...?); ARLENE (are lean?); RAMBO (ram beau?). Etc. The theme stuff is sooooo dense that none of the rest of the puzzle can breathe. The grid is strangulated by theme overgrowth. An invasive species of theme. Theme kudzu. It's an ecotastrophe. I could assail the overly common and crosswordesey stuff in this grid, but why bother? It's a bust. A total bust. Gonna go watch some minor Olympic sports to wash the taste of this puzzle out of my brain. Before you go saying "oh, you're getting so negative blah blah blah," I liked Thursday and Friday and Saturday a whole lot, and my puzzle approval trendline is actually up this year, and markedly so.

So there.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. Hey Peter Gordon's weekly Fireball Newsflash Crossword kickstarter for 2018-19 ends today, so get in on that and keep your xword skills and current events trivia Up To Date throughout the year.

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Moly Shu 12:05 AM  

Umm LINEARA? What? I’ll take a pass thanks.

Pete 12:08 AM  

In the midst of that beautiful diatribe clarity was provided for something that confused me a week or so ago - I was sure the African Antelope was KUDZU, which of course didn't fit so it had to be some other thing. Now I at least know what the kudzu I was thinking about was.

Fourteen themers, not a one which wasn't a train wreck.

Anonymous 12:13 AM  

Shouldn't IDEoLOGUE be clued as "variant"? I've never seen idealogue.

Anonymous 12:25 AM  

Nice to read reasonable criticism.

Gen. Frank Savage 12:59 AM  

I think the clue for 35A should have been "Combined RAF/USAAF Strategic Fighter Objectives Against Luftwaffe Elements Over Northwestern Europe, 1944 to 1945 Inclusive." Additionally, I'd like to see more answers featuring radial engines and turbo super-chargers if available, so get on this. That is all.

Anonymous 1:07 AM  

@Moly Shu
Linear A is a thing. A really cool thing. Minoan script that hasn't been deciphered. Please look it up.
I'm only anonymous because I mistrust the entire internet. My name is Cynthia Ward and I teach at UH Manoa.

CyrilB 1:08 AM  

Since Rex chose 'edh' as the word of the day, here's a fun fact:
The 'Ye'in quaint signs advertising "Ye Olde Shoppe" doesn't make sense as an old form of 'you'. What they are really trying to say is "The Olde Shoppe", since edh in Old English represented the sound 'th'. Edh was written with a symbol whose top half looks like the modern letter 'y', and when no one recognized the edh anymore, it was recopied as a 'y'.

The obscure undeciphered language is not "Lineara" but "Linear A", so-called because there is a related "Linear B".

Harryp 1:16 AM  

I know some people groan at puns, but I do the Star Advertiser Jumble every morning, so might be considered a glutton for punnishment. Also still doing marathons at 78, and that can be punishing too. Got the theme early, and finished in half my normal Sunday time. I liked the simpler ones like GREW PEAS, and MISSILE TOW.

The Big Salad 1:19 AM  

GERIATRICIde did me in.

Thought that section was brutal, even with ARTIFICIAL, SAIL__, PRIM, and MOUSETRAPS. Should have known ALEPH by now, and also should have gone with gut that CIde was not right as it didn't produce a clean themer like the others.

Longest streak to date broken with this. F.

Anonymous 1:24 AM  

@Cyril - that fact was fun.
@Anon 1:07 - on my way to look up LINEAR A...
Solid, measuresd criticism from OFL today.

operapianist 1:43 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Moly Shu 1:51 AM  

@CynthiaWard, thx but I’ll just take your word for it. I can barely communicate in English. Undeciphered Minoan script is way above my pay grade. Mahalo.

chefwen 2:16 AM  

I guess I’m the odd one out here, I actually loved this one. Worked it from the bottom up and caught the theme with PROFITEERING. Took me a long time to wade through, but I enjoyed the ride.

Had a little giggle with RELENTS at 26A, I put in REpENTS, so my neighbor of Palisades Park was FT PEE. Kinda figured that wasn’t right.

Had I to pick a favorite it would most likely be DULCIMER.

MommaJ 2:45 AM  

Am I the only one who kept trying to come up with a cereal for 118 across? I blame that silly rabbit. Otherwise, this was just the right level of challenge for me, and I enjoyed it.

jae 2:53 AM  

I'm with @chefwen. Liked it more than @Rex did and DULCIMER was delightful.

DP 3:10 AM  

SEAsian here, so, pretty familiar with the pillars of Islam - Hadj is almost always anglicized to Hajj. Brutal Sunday!

Robin 3:30 AM  

Screwed by the crossing of COO and ONIT. Tried to go with with CIO and INIT, but did not get the suucess dialog from the TIme website.

I did like the theme, but there was too mcuh 3-letter fill for a Sunday.

Anonymous 4:01 AM  

I got Naticked at NOSEEUM and MGS. I can never remember the letters of Jaguars so I kept assuming it would be an XK or XE or something and couldn’t remember NOSEEUM. I got through most of the puzzle fairly quickly, then got mired in the bottom center and right.

'mericans in Paris 4:13 AM  

Welcome back, Ol'Rex! A fair write-up from OFL, in my view, as it doesn't get personal.

Really brutal. Gave up and started consulting The Oracle (a.k.a. Google) about two-thirds through, in order to make some progress. The crossing of C_U and A_EPH would have been a Natick for us no matter what -- didn't have a CLU. Garfield's girlfriend, really? SAIL HO? ROARER?

DULCIMER is clever, but we wanted something that was more like "low simmer". I just Googled the phrase "DULl sImMER" and it gets a grand total of 328 hits (the top one of which is an answer to a crossword clue), as opposed to "about 406,000" for "low simmer.

We were thrown also by MOUSETRAPS don't know whether that one counts as an oronym, but breaks it into its constituents, and you get MOU SETRAPS. OK, the "e" is silent, but (Lord) SETRAP is a thing: "a wrathful emanation of the Buddha Amitabha, where he protects us as angry, though concerned, parents would towards their wayward children" -- kinda like @Rex.

Also the cluing of WHEATIES wasn't right. Ts are simple short-sleeved shirts that are one wears in public, not "small undergarments". The ones we put on under other shirts as a way to increase our thermal insulation are called "undershirts". OK, perhaps that's a cavil.

LINEAR A was hard, but fair, IMO. IS HE DEAD was also tough, but I suppose fair. Not a Twain oeuvre with which most of us OFs would have been familiar, as it wasn't published until 2003, and not performed until 2007.

Question of the Day: In the making of the film version of "Lord of the Rings", did they use REL ENTS?

oliver klozoff 4:54 AM  

Working plug in an auto salvage yard?


You may groan now.

Charles Flaster 5:14 AM  

Just liked it — no reason and knew what was afoot , from the onset.
Reminded me of Victor Borge and his penchant for musical puns—extreme groaners.
Favorite was GROUPIES.
Only writeover—RUMBA for sUgar.
Thanks MG( see 116 Across).

'mericans in Paris 6:14 AM  

By the way, "strong boil" sounds like some awful dermatological problem that is resistant to all but the most aggressive chemical treatments.

Lewis 6:30 AM  

Wow. How different points of view can be. Where Rex saw one train wreck pun after another ad NOSEEUM, I was wriggling with delight. Matt's criterion here was two-word phrases, both words of which needed to be spelled differently (so RAMBO wouldn't work, Rex) -- and every one of them gave me a smile. DULCIMER gave me an out-loud laugh.

Like Rex, I looked for other examples in the grid, and the one I liked best was PREEMIE ("Sparkle in one of my parent's eyes?")

Terrific clues for DIGITS ("All thumbs"), CUES ("Sticks for breaking things"), and UNITS ("Second and fifth"). In fact, IMO, we've had four phenomenal days in a row.

Anonymous 7:00 AM  

What happened to San Fran Man? His puzzle ratings were a nice objective response
to Rex’s subjective ratings on the difficulty level - and yet, to Rex’s credit, it was pretty
cool how often the two ratings were the same. Or, like campfire stories - EERIE.

p.s. Likening this puzzle to a “death march” is pretty extreme; you see, um, one key
difference between a death march and doing crossword puzzles, is that at any point
while doing a puzzle you can simply put your pen down; I am pretty sure prisoners in
a death march do not have this option. Yes, Rex an attention-getting comparison, but
a wildly inapt one, I think.

Anonymous 7:48 AM  

I, too, looked for cereal.

chefbea 7:48 AM  

I love puns...but hated this puzzle!!! At least I learned a new word - paronomasia!!! Had to look it up. Sunday's are suppose to be fun

smoss11 7:54 AM  

Had "land ho" which really slowed me down. Also,one can be pro without voting so I had yea which complicated the SE corner for me. Still don't understand why "Second and fifth" is a Unit. I thought some of the themes were very clever,particularly dulcimer. Others,like stratosphere, not so much.

Edwords 7:54 AM  

Ok, I’ll counter-opine. I liked it, edging toward love. The puns were clever, the clueing a cut above (Trix alternative, rank things were good misdirection), very few proper names that you either knew or didn’t ... and not too easy or hard. I’m a fan.

Anonymous 7:58 AM  

Idealogues is not a variant but an error. All make mistakes, and I don't blame the constructor as much as Shortz.

Did some clue get changed for 14D, artificial? I would think at one time there must have been some clue like "gallery judge?" or something to keep make the answer one of the themes, an art official.

Fortunately, I know Linear A and its history. 118A, ette, a mystery to me until I read someone's post above. Thanks!

Anon. i.e. Poggius

mmorgan 8:15 AM  

I knew Rex would hate this, but for me on this one, Fill Schmill. I got a kick out of every single one of the theme answers (IDEALOGUES notwithstanding, oops). Every single one gave me an aha-smile -- the kind where you've filled in the answer but it takes a few seconds or more to "get" it. I'm sure I'll be in the minority but I found this to be super-fun.

Annie 8:18 AM  

A long, painful, slog. Kept hoping it would get better, but it never did.

Anonymous 8:21 AM  

The puzzles are OK - unfortunately NO ONE seems to EDIT them - thus we end up with silly or even wrong clues!

kitshef 8:22 AM  

ROARER ARBORED WIRERS were pretty weak.

DULCIMER LINARA OCASEY UNITS section was very difficult – possibly unfairly so.

All easily overlooked for an entertaining theme.

I think that’s four times in a row I’ve tried PEte Mondrian, and seventeen in a row for mother LOad

Glimmerglass 8:27 AM  

@Rex is correct. The joke should be IDEOLOGUES. I even doubted myself enough to look up “idealogue.” There is such a word, but it’s too close to the punny definition to be funny. It means someone who lives in a dream world. Fixing it would be hard. The constructor would have difficulty getting an O where the A is. I love puns (a joy inherited from my father), but I agree with @Rex about this puzzle. Some of the puns are funny (Mao’s straps, orca straits), but not all ten. The fill is very dull and mostly too easy for my taste. Like many punsters (myself included), Matt Ginsberg is in love with his own cleverness, and sacrificed the puzzle to display it.

kitshef 8:36 AM  

@smoss11: A ‘second’ is a UNIT of time. A ‘fifth’ is a UNIT of volume.

H777 8:40 AM  

Rex, you’re a jerk! This was one of the most fun, clever puzzles ever!

Two Ponies 8:54 AM  

I had a good time but I guess I sorta cheated because I looked up the definition of the title before I started. Cool word.
Something seemed different about these puns. I suppose it is because they are oronyms and don't seem as groan-worthy as puns usually are.
Put me with the dulcimer crowd. That was the best of the bunch and there were a bunch with mistletoe a close second. Theme kudzu indeed!

When I see dinettes I think of furniture not the room it's in.

Every time I read Ft. Lee, N.J. I hear Gilda Radner as Roseanne Rosannadanna reading her letters on SNL.

BarbieBarbie 8:56 AM  

@Glimmerglass, the constructor has said IDEALOGUES was a slip-up and that he intended IDEOLOGUES and could have made the fill easily.

I am with @Lewis and others. I don’t always love the punny puzzles, but this one was just so clever, requiring two words, changes in pronunciation, and often changes in cadence, so that I had to say them out loud to appreciate them, which led to multiple AHAS and giggles. So much fun. These were not your Dad’s puns. I can’t list my favorites without taking up too much space here. Probably BORDEAUX would head the list, though that wasn’t a cadence change. A little drecky fill is a price I’ll gladly pay.

Thanks Matt and more please!

Anonymous 9:00 AM  

If veritable and lawful, is not given
By imposition of the foreign hand,
Nor chosen from a pretty pattern-book
Of some domestic IDEALOGUE who sits
And coldly chooses empire, where as well
He might republic.
-Elizabeth Barrett Browning [EMPHASISMINE]

PuzzleGrandma 9:08 AM  

Isn’t Garfield the cat and Arlene is John*s girlfriend? (83D)

David 9:11 AM  

Rex should do more than accept the first google definition of a word that pops up. "Paronomasia" is a rhetorical device that means precisely what is done here. Likewise with "idealogue"; it's not an error, it's not a misspelling: "Ideologue" is an adherent, generally an uncompromising ass such as those ruining our country on both sides of the aisle; "idealogue" is someone who theorizes, such as the clued inventor.

From where I sit, this was the best puzzle in the Times for several weeks. I enjoyed it.

QuasiMojo 9:15 AM  

I enjoyed doing this puzzle until I found out I had a DNF because I had NOT SO (rather than NUTSO) for WACK (I think wack can me similar to jack, no? It's wack??) Not knowing who CLO (rather CLU) was didn't help me.

Idealogue slowed me up too but I see it is in use these days, per google.

It's only after coming here that I can understand Rex's arguments and slowly my enthusiasm for the puzzle diminished. There are some funny puns and I love good ones, but a STRONG word like DULCIMER is undercut by the weak pun. I've never heard of a DULL SIMMER. Although I will admit that watching something simmering on a stove top can be very dull. Just as is waiting for something to come to a strong boil.

Plus LOCKSMITH would have been more apt if about the Loch Ness monster.

Glad to see CRETAN in here after being called one yesterday.

Happy Sunday everyone.

Anonymous 9:18 AM  

The worst...inane....boring

Ken 9:20 AM  

Rex, I admire your self awareness and how negative an elitist you are perceived to be. That being said, the puzzle was a bore and I finally agree with your analysis!

George 9:39 AM  

@Gen. Frank Savage, Yes--we need more radial engines and turbo-superchargers. Maybe clue 'Merlin' at the Rolls-Royce engine and so on...

Another Bloody Rainy Day 9:44 AM  

I loved this one. Thanks Matt.

Nancy 9:44 AM  

All wordplay all the time! What's not to love? And I did love it! A lot! Some of the most delicious puns I've ever seen in a puzzle, and so many of them. How can one not love DULCIMER for dull simmer? Or IDEALOGUES for idea logs? Or GERIATRICIAN for Jerry attrition? And the clues were all so fair. Skipping past Rex and y'all to write this comment, I couldn't help but notice that others may have had a very different reaction. Do I really want to know that? Will it make me think of many of y'all as kvetches/MOANERS? But curiosity is getting the best of me, so I'll go back and read the comments now. Please like this puzzle, people. Please!

Z 9:46 AM  

Not only is IDEALOGUE a thing (even if you do have to explain to Uncle Google that, no, I’m not looking for ideologue) but it is the only one that works here. “Ideologue” is pronounced with an “id” (rhymes with “lid”) so doesn’t work as a pun on “idea log.”

Per Sunday, I’d have been happier if this was a 15x15, or even a 17x17. Otherwise found this a pleasant diversion.

@PuzzleGrandma - Jon’s girlfriend is not Arlene, the clue is correct. Don’t ask me who the girlfriend actually is, though.

@MommaJ - Hand up for being led astray by that silly rabbit. I’m sure that was a quite intentional misdirection.

Unknown 9:50 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Andrew Heinegg 10:08 AM  

I see that I am in disagreement with other folks here. The problem I have with 'pun' puzzles is that, in order to be enjoyable, the puns need to be absolute groaners.

E.g., locksmith as an answer to fable about a salmon; it is clever-ish but, not groan-chuckle inducing for me. And so on; if the puns aren't groaners, then the centerpiece of your puzzle has fallen flat.

I also developed some bias against it with such words as roarer therein. My auto-correct doesn't like it as a word and I don't like it as a crossword. And, just because I am kinda cranky today, I will also take issue with moaners. I hate the word and I don't think it is a proper synonym for kvetches. Okay, enough kvetching from me.

Unknown 10:14 AM  

Puzzle was simple for paronomasiacs. Rex isn’t one for sure.

Teedmn 10:17 AM  

I loved this theme. I got it at LOCOMOTION but that didn't help much in solving the others. The SE of this puzzle gave me fits. I had CLAre de Lune and was far, far too sold on 118A's Trix as a breakfast cereal. I was positive bows were made of yew, not ELM, and couldn't begin to parse what the opposite of a "strong boil" was at 95A. The opposite of strong is dull? Not in my lexicon, so the clue could have been better, in my opinion. But overall, a great puzzle.

Gerry Attrition
Orca Straits
Missile Tow
Mao Straps
Lox Myth
Wee Tees

I loved all of those. Nice job Matt Ginsberg, even if I did DNF by using the "check" button twice and walking over to my piano to confirm CLAIR.

PuzzleGrandma 10:18 AM  

My bad. She’s Dr. Liz. Thanks.

Unknown 10:22 AM  

Normally, I think Rex is overly negative in his reviews. But I have to agree with him today. Not fun at all

kgev 10:23 AM  

I'm with you. Lighten up, Rex.
So there.

Birchbark 10:24 AM  

For personal reasons, I'm PRO PROFITEERING as theme answers go today.

In the slow, directionless multitasks of the morning routine, I was looking out the window, guessing the time per dawn light-level, checking in on season progress per sunrise location, and thinking how I'd clue DELPHI if I ever constructed a puzzle. "Oracle locale" about the WILDEst of the bunch.

Later, what shows up but a wacky Delphi clue for PROFITEERING -- outstanding. Not really EERIE, but there's a word for the coincidence of seeing something you were just thinking about. I wondered briefly whether it might be Paranomasia, but no.

And now, if I ever construct a puzzle, the clue for DELPHI is "Prophet center?" with a tip of the hat to Matt Ginsberg.

I've noticed the marked upturn in good @Rex reviews. It matters little whether @Rex likes or dislikes a puzzle. But as to what does matter, the reviews are definitely returning to the bright, clever, and on-the-rails vibe that brought me here in the first place.

@'mericans, I think the WHEATIES clue is fine. Yes, tees on their own are not small undergarments, but wee tees are.

Questinia 10:27 AM  

What @ Lewis said re wriggling.

Norm 10:29 AM  

I liked this puzzle -- a lot. It plays with words. Isn't that the purpose of a crossword puzzle?

TubaDon 10:38 AM  

Puns are fun (sometimes). Three alternate clues that Rex didn't mention are 14D ("Curator"), 68D (Ill Civil War general). and 34D ("tackle football runner Jackson") plus many others.

Unknown 10:38 AM  

i am under the weather so maybe that made it less fun, but i doubt it.

Robert A. Simon 10:39 AM  

@Nancy: Just for you. I loved it. That's because today's puzzle cleared my only two hurdles. Was it fun? And, harder, was it clever? Yes and God, yes.

Anonymous 10:41 AM  

I seem to be just stopping in the middle of puzzles these days and walking away. Today I got Locomotion and thought OK, first two letters of a name will result in a pun. Then I got Orchestrates and just stopped. Problem with puns in writing is that they're even worse than hearing a pun (and not in cool pun "worseness" terms). So when I see Groupies as a pun, I think Grew Pies?

Paul Rippey 10:52 AM  

Hm. Wrote in HADJ with no hesitation. At least in crosswords there’s seldom a double J.

charlesr55 10:55 AM  

Second and fifth....Units? Can someone explain?

OISK 10:59 AM  

Nancy and I agree, as usual. And Robert A. Simon. Loved this puzzle. A series of clever (well, I think so) puns, and remarkably little (for a Sunday) completely unfamiliar pop-culture references. And I finished it with no errors, which feels good after two pop culture DNF this week, including "Koenig" crossing "OKSO" yesterday, and TayeDiggs crossing "Stix" (a candy brand?) Thursday.

You don't like "Orca-straits" = Orchestrates? Prophet earring = profiteering? These are GREAT!! I don't understand the moaners. But humor is a matter of taste; I know people who find Colbert funny. ( not a political comment; I DO find John Oliver funny).

Two Ponies 11:04 AM  

@ Anon 10:41, I like your pun even if it doesn't work. If I could figure out how to grow pies in my garden it sure would save me a lot of time and bother!

Carola 11:04 AM  

I liked the brain reset needed for me to get some of these; BORDEAUX, PHARMACIST, WHEATIES, GROUPIES and had fun with the easy ones: ORCHESTRATES, MISTLETOE, LOCKSMITH. Took me forever to remember LINEAR A - and to get that rascally rabbit out of my head. Favorite: GERIATRICIAN.

Anonymous 11:12 AM  

Agree @Two, Pie is the Queen of Desserts.

JC66 11:21 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
JC66 11:23 AM  

I mostly solved this as a themeless and then went back to interpret the PARONOMASIAS upon completion.

Two puzzles for the price of one; and a lot of fun. Particularly liked 35A (my name's Jerry).

Really enjoyed it, Thanks, Matt

TomAz 11:25 AM  

There was nothing fun about this puzzle whatsoever. I mean I enjoy puns, I do. I like to laugh, I do. But whatever wavelength this puzzle is on is orthogonal to my own. Rex called it a "death march", and I can't think of a better description.

There's really no point in listing out all the problems. I'll just say "SAIL HO" and be done with it.

I envy those who enjoyed this, just as I envy those who look forward to their annual trip to the dentist.

Matt Ginsberg 11:38 AM  

We live in an America that is divided and angry. I believe it is incumbent on every one of us to treat every other one of us with more kindness, respect, and grace than ever before. The bigger your megaphone, the more important that is.

There is nothing wrong with criticism. There is everything wrong with likening a puzzle to one of the many hateful atrocities of the Nazi regime.

Donald Trump would be proud of you today, Rex.

Sam 11:40 AM  

Forget the dumb puns. This puzzle is a train wreck on a fill level. Absolutely nothing fun happening in the grid because it's so full of the (lackluster) theme. It's also completely stodgy. The only treat us under-30 solvers get is GMAIL. Everything else is obscure Twain works, Handel facts, and old Irish playwrights. Spare me. I'm with Rex on this one.

ArtO 11:49 AM  

Yeah. I had to work hard on most of these puns but what's wrong with that?? The very density of them gets my hand up for a compliment. And I thought they were quite clever. Nice work, Matt.

puzzlehoarder 11:51 AM  

I'm not sure where paronomasia let's off and oronyms begin but the simple term "pun" seems to cover it all.

My solving route was determined by the black square pattern and my own write overs. I had REPENTS/RELENTS which kept me from filling the NW in one go. SEA/SPA and KENS/GETS blocked my entry to the first of the three middle stair step sections. Not getting LODE off of TANKARD made me skip the second one. Only when I supported ARTIFICIAL with PIET leading to PRIM did I really get a rhythm going SAMBA/RUMBA stalled it but SCHMO opened up the SW corner and despite my CLARE/CLAIR and YASER/YASIR write overs that whole SE corner was the easiest to fill.

At this point I finally had a balance between getting the puns and sticking to the fill. That's what I find hardest about these kind of puzzles is the mental gear switching between the themes and the fill.

After finishing the SE it was steady work from the SW back up through the stair steps ending with a clean grid. Not especially enjoyable but a good workout.

Jamie C 11:54 AM  

@norm you are mistaken. "The purpose of a crossword puzzle" is to piss off rex.

Anonymous 11:58 AM  

So you don't like puns, so?

IDEALOGUE is in the dictionary.

Nancy 11:59 AM  

@Matt Ginsberg -- How delightful to see you appear on this blog after gifting us with such a clever, playful, inventive, fun puzzle! Do wish you'd been able to come under happier circumstances, though. You wouldn't have deserved Rex's invective even if you'd created a really bad puzzle. But you didn't -- you created a really, really good puzzle.

You should know that I never read Rex -- not only because of his snarkiness and negativity, but also because I find his prose less than scintillating and his passions (other than dogs) generally quite sophomoric. I went back and read him today after reading your 11:38 post and it only reminded me of why I don't read him in the first place.

Why am I so certain that on his best day, in his best year, in his best decade, Rex would not be able to create a puzzle nearly as good as yours?

Anonymous 12:00 PM  

I thought the theme was OK, I still don't understand the cluing/answer for 118A. The only "Trix" I know of is the cereal; never heard of "ette." Am I just being dense? Also disliked "hadj" and "Idealogue,' though apparently the latter is a real word.

Rube 12:03 PM  

Why do you people use Google. That is cheating. This is not a research exercise. Its a puzzle.have fun. Had no idea about linear a but this is a CROSSword puzzle so I was able to figure it out from the crosses.

JC66 12:07 PM  

@Anon 12:00

TRIX, like ETTE is a feminine suffix.

Think AviaTRIX, dominaTRIX, etc,

Banana Diaquiri 12:08 PM  

@anon/4 AM
"I got Naticked at NOSEEUM"

that's more Natick than you might know. here in Elitist New England, we have em and named em.

'mericans in Paris 12:13 PM  

@Rube: I use Google only when I have given up on the puzzle, and am quite open about when I do it. I can't speak for others, but eventually the reward-to-time ratio declines to the point where I say to myself, "OK, time to throw in the towel." Often when I do resort to Google, it's because I get stuck in an area where I can't figure it out from the crosses -- e.g., because the answer requires knowledge of some character on a TV program that I have never watched. (Despite what some people may think, only a fraction of U.S. sitcoms make it to France, and then they're dubbed.) So, if getting the answer to that character name or other PPP releases the roadblock, I may still have fun finishing the rest of the puzzle. Also, I'm usually curious as to what the finished puzzle looks like.

OISK 12:17 PM  

WTG, Nancy! WTG, Matt!

Banana Diaquiri 12:17 PM  

and, oh yeah, for all the yammering for/agin puns, and if you live far enough from the Left Coast (and/or unwilling to pay the innterTubes toll) not to get dead trees version; go to your local bookstore and pick up LA Times Sunday Puzzle books. every Sunday puzzle is a pun-fest.

Rube 12:17 PM  

If you've conceded defeat then ok because you want to find out what you missed. But I suggest instead, just put it down and then come back a little later. I can't tell you how many times something as simple as walking from my house to my car is enough to change my thought process and unblock a puzzle

GILL I. 12:18 PM  

In my mind I did a coin toss. Will @Rex like or maybe even love the puzzle, or will he hate it to bits?. I should have known....I always forget that he dislikes puns or a play on words
I've seen the word paronomasia somewhere in this universe but had no idea what it meant. I didn't want to spoil any surprise I might get so I waited and smiled through my waits until I got to GROUPIES. What? OH, OH, OH..HO HO. GREW PEAS. I seriously laughed out loud. Did the same with DULCIMER.
I loved this one to pieces. I seriously didn't wan't to finish it and I rarely say that on Sunday. This one gets my favorite of the year award.
Nothing gave me angst. I had to work hard in some parts but it was worth it. Strangely enough, getting RUMBA for the well known Cuban export was difficult. Boy did I want CIGAR. The other one was misreading highboy for hautboy. Couldn't thing of anything that might be a cousin to an oboe.'re a pro. You also should know better by now to take @Rex's critiques with a grain of salt. He has excoriated lots and lots of clever constructors. It's his shtick. My advice? Don't read the comments instead. Most are positive.

RooMonster 12:27 PM  

Hey All !
Well, I kept writing in the puns as actual puns, the ole brain never realizing that they were the actual words. Example: MISselTOw for MISTLETOE. I thought that that was the point. Really messed up the entire puz with that "knowledge". (Nothing like opening yourself to troll idiot calling.)

Ended up with much wrongness all over. My SW corner was a nightmare. Gave up down there. Never heard of IS HE DEAD, toughie on ALLROUND (isn't it ALL(A)ROUND?), ALTERS tough, and having Iguess for ITLLDO definitely didn't help. Also CLU section, with GERIATRICIde, PIEF (who the heck?), and really terrible SAILHO, left that section blank (oddly enough did know CLU!). SE also, 4 answers left blank.

So, :-) , although I think the whole pun thing is clever, and now that I see how it was supposed to work, and with lots of theme (which I like), it was just too too for me today. I almost caught it at the LOCKSMITH/ARTIFICAL cross,cas had the Y for MYTH, but never bothered to change it to make ARTIFICIAL correct. Oh well, you can't be a winner every day! :-)

Very nicely done puz, Matt. I just didn't twist the ole brain to what was happening.


'mericans in Paris 12:27 PM  

@Rube -- Um, thanks for helping us Grandmas and Grandpas with instructions on how to suck eggs. I for one am not a speed solver, and usually start a Sunday puzzle in the morning and finish in the afternoon, with lots of breaks in-between. But I don't have all the time in the world.

Mannix Murphy 12:32 PM  

Just did The Washington Post Sunday puzzle. It was a pun filled puzzle also. I preferred today’s Times puzzle to but that’s just me. There is no doubt in my mind that if the Post puzzle had intstead run in the Times (caveat being the assumption he isn’t friends with the constructor) Rex would’ve shredded it. My biggest complaint about the Post puzzle is that it’s much more difficult to navigate on the IPad than the Times puzzle and since it’s free, unlike the Times, that’s really no complaint. Next time I’ll print it out.

Joseph Michael 12:32 PM  

The paronomasia was priceless. A "farm assist" crossing a "profit earring" and a "lox myth" to boot? C'mon, Rex. Lighten up.

Thought all of the themers, except perhaps for "Lowe commotion," were wordplay gems.

Was it easy to solve? Not for me. Had to work really hard to decipher the sounds. The last to fall was "Mao straps." The "Mao" popped into view right away but the rest of it eluded me for quite a while.

Thanks for the workout, Matt. I always enjoy your puzzles.

Unknown 12:33 PM  

i am so angry about idealogues v ideologues because in none of the themes clues was the actual word included in the answer until this one. wtf!

clk 12:38 PM  

I really dislike answers like YASIR and HADJ that are variants of foreign words that are commonly spelled differently.

Rube 12:41 PM  

You're welcome. I stopped going for speed last century because it's more fun to chew over the clues than it is to race all over the grid in a rush. And as for time, grandparents usually have plenty of it as do I. Dinner at 4pm? Sounds great!

Two Ponies 12:45 PM  

@ Matt Ginsberg, Thank you for dropping in. I am one of the fans of this puzzle and had tons of fun. I appreciate your frankness in response to the harsh criticism which was over the top today. For what it's worth you started my day off with a smile.
If thinking about Nazis brought our president to mind I do have to question the angle of that thought tangent but on other matters you do seem to have a playful, intelligent sense of humor and that's what mattered the most today.

TomAz 12:53 PM  

Hey @Rube, if you like vanilla ice cream instead of chocolate, I suggest you stop eating vanilla and switch to chocolate cuz that's what I like better.

Dick Sward 12:53 PM  

Evil Doug still posts on this site, just under a different name.

Masked and Anonymous 12:56 PM  

Wow. Nice keyword selection, @RP:
* death march. har … now I feel much better about what he's said about my puz.
* horrible.
* painful.
* abuse.
* a joke.
* annoying.
* crap.
* invasive species. [schlocky! nice.]
* overly common & crossowdesey.
* ecotastrophe. [staff pick]
* a bust.
* wash the taste out.
* my puzzle approval trend line is actually up. [too defensive. re-do.]

Here's the thing(s), IM&AO:

1. This is indeed a little too much of a good thing. Maybe a shorter list of paro-themers, that are somehow related, woulda been a tighter, more widely-acceptable theme.

2. Mighta been ok, as is, for a WedPuz theme. It's over sooner, thataway. [This is the runtpuz strategy. btw ... 7x7 puzthemes are over so fast, it's hard to zero in on the bad taste, before it's safely flushed down during Millertime.]

3. Some mighta had more fun with it, if U split the labor. Less of that OD-ed feelin. M&A worked half this 21x21 puppy, then handed it off to PuzEatinSpouse to finish. Thereby apportionin about a WedPuz's-worth of square-fillin solvequest to each of us. [No spousal abuse intended or inflicted -- she sorta kinda liked the lower half ok.]

Had EMAIL/EROUPIES up in m&y halfpuz, and just figured I wasn't quite grokkin EURO PEAS's drift.


@RP: Curlin. Now that's yer ticket. M&A's absolute fave winter oleo-limpics spectator sport.

Thanx for the upper halfpuz, Mr. Ginsberg.

Masked & Anonym8Us


Rube 1:01 PM  

Hmmm. Perhaps I will try that but I will not switch to frozen yogurt and try to delude myself into thinking it's as satisfying as ice cream.

Cait O’Sullivan 1:01 PM  

Agree that the death march metaphor was unnecessary, but there is this visceral hatred the blogger has for Will Shortz and he can’t help himself.

Anonymous 1:05 PM  

@Matt Ginsberg
Wonderful puzzle!
Wonderful comment!
Thank you for both!

Bob Mills 1:11 PM  

Rex is right about "IDEOLOGUES." Misspelled words shouldn't be allowed. But I liked the puzzle, otherwise. Either you like puns or you don't. Obviously Rex doesn't.

Stanley Hudson 1:15 PM  

Thanks for a very fun puzzle Matt Ginsberg, and appreciate you stopping by.

Eggs, home fries, fruit, and the NYT xword are a Sunday morning tradition at my house. Today was especially delightful.

What @‘mericans in Paris said about Google. And if you think googling is cheating, that’s fine, let a 100 flowers bloom.

Aketi 1:17 PM  

@Rube, this is not the Olympics where you need to weed out the cheaters to assure that medals are awarded to those who play fair. It’s a pass time and therefore I google whenever I feel like it because I can. I mostly cheat for High PPP count puzzles when I have no interest in memorizing trivia that might overload my remaining gray cells. I have plenty of other pursuits where I compete without cheating.

@Matt Ginsberg, when I got to ORCHESTRATES I knew that @Nancy would love it and @Rex would hate it, I reread his critique and it actually seemed on the mild side for him. I really don’t see where he made any reference to atrocities of the Nazi regime in his post unless it was edited before I read it. My tastes run to grid art and rebuses, but I can appreciate the plethora of puns you managed to cram into this puzzle even though puns don’t ring my chimes the way they do @Nancy.

Rube 1:21 PM  

Nice job with Mouse traps in today's puzzle. How did you solve puzzles before the internet?

Selma Bouvier 1:24 PM  

Will Shortz reminds me of Ned Flanders and Rex reminds me of Homer.

RnRGhost57 1:27 PM  


JC66 1:32 PM  

Q Aketi

I think @Matt was referring to the fact that @Rex's first & second sentences read:

"I have no idea why it is so hard to make a decent Sunday puzzle, but it sure seems to be. This was a death march."

Anonymous 1:42 PM  

I thought it was the Imperial Japanese Army in WW-II who was more known for its death marches, most infamously the 70-mile Bataan Death March, in April 1942, which involved the forcible transfer of 60,000–80,000 Filipino and American prisoners of war.

Aphid Larue 1:57 PM  

I think that the symbol for edh is called a thorn. Per my father.

sixtyni yogini 2:04 PM  

Liked this one a lot. Not boring and fun to figure out. 👍🏽🤸‍♂️👍🏽

JC66 2:04 PM  

@Anonymous 1:42

I think you're right, but isn't the walk to the gas chambers referred to as death march, as well?

Either way, I agree with@Matt that the comment is much too harsh for a crossword critique.

kitshef 2:28 PM  

Germany and Japan are both associated with death marches. For that matter, so are we (European colonists of the new world).

Demonizing opponents allows us to do horrible things to them.

Anonymous 2:30 PM  

Since the question has been raised, I think the German death marches refer to the period when the Red Army was moving westward through Poland, when the Germans realized they were going to lose the war. Those still alive in the concentration camps could not be quickly killed and hidden by the Germans, and they were marched westward away from the Red Army, with the expectation, often realized, that they, with almost no food or proper clothing, would die en route. Many somehow survived to tell the story.

Anon. i.e. Poggius
ps to constructor: my apologies about earlier comment on "idealogues"--which I guess appears in some dictionaries. It is not in my Funk and Wagnalls, ca. 1960, which is fairly comprehensive and careful about variants. It still sounds to me like some modern word that never should have been brought into the English language.

The Man 2:35 PM  

I gotta agree that death marches had nothing to do with the Nazis, they were a Japanese specialty. If you're going to throw the N-word around at least get your historic facts straight.

Also, for a constructor to post a Rex complaint in this comment section and then give that whiny diatribe is pretty tacky, Matt. Grow a pair, son.

Anonymous 2:38 PM  

Really @Matt? Rex calls your puzzle a death march and you go all holocaust? Surely you have more imagination than that. I agree that we could all try harder to get along but I think maybe you're being too sensitive. The term is frequently used in the same sense one would use to describe a slog. My friends and I use it to describe long, torturous mountain bike rides or hikes all the time.

Here's a quote from a review of the anime series Death March to the Parallel World Rhapsody:

"Death March is exactly what the title implies - a dull slog to a dispiriting destination. Hard pass."

FWIW I didn't care for the puzzle either. No surprise there since I rarely enjoy the Sunday puzzle. There is usually way too much of it and unless it really grabs my attention I move on with my day halfway through. Don't take it personally. Many people here liked it a lot, so listen to them. You can't please everyone all the time.

Anonymous 2:51 PM  

Matt Ginsberg,

Your puzzle we terrific. Thank you.
But as a few have already noted the Nazis weren't the savages responsible for death marches.
But your far worse mistake was comi g on Red's blog and kvetching. Rex is an asshole. You know that. Hell everyone here knows that. Rex knows it. Let your work speak for itself. Or as the death march authors put it "be happy in your work".

Anon 4:01,
The Jaguar XK series-- 120, 140, 150 and even the E type are all marvels, but not realted to Mgs.
MG is an altogether different mark. The name comes from Morris Garage. They were in Abington.
The cat (Jaguar) was built in Coventry. Hence the nickname Coventry Cat.

Fred Romagnolo 2:56 PM  

Greatest puzzle since the tragic death of Merl Reagle. Rex isn't going to lighten up, and we all know it. All Hail to Matt Ginsburg (if Rex doesn't liken that to a Nazi salute).

Unknown 3:05 PM  

What is OFL?

Anonymous 3:07 PM  

@Cyril Barnert 1:08 am posted an interesting fact that is incorrect in one particular. The letter in "Ye olde shoppe" that is mistaken for a "Y" is the obsolete letter Thorn, and is a completely different letter from the Edh (the crossed D shape shown in Rex's post). The confusion of edh and thorn is understandable because they are both transliterated as "th" in modern English; even more understandable because they were never always one sound or the other (th in then, th in thin).

It took a long time scrolling through all the comments to get to the only one I could find (@Aphid Larue 1:57 pm) to mention that Ye Olde letter is thorn. Aphid's father was correct to call the letter a thorn, but not to call "that edh a thorn."

Anonymous 3:08 PM  

@Fred - I think you've got that backwards. @Matt is doing the likening today.

Anonymous 3:25 PM  

Good lord, that was awful. If I weren't sick with the flu and in bed, I would have quit at the first two themers.

Dorothea 3:26 PM  

Liked this one...

old timer 3:33 PM  

I totally agree with OFL today. It was a slog as many a Sunday is, it was totally not enjoyable, and there were so many puns none were as amusing as fewer puns would have been. I would have been sad if Our Fearless Leader had praised it.

Thanks to the folks above in the comments who recognized that Death Marches are more associated with the Japs than the Nazis. Actually if all the people in the death camps had been expected to walk there few would have died in the ovens. And many, no doubt, would have escaped along the way, aided by the German soldiers who would have faded away into the countryside along with their captives.

But no, rhe Nazis built the death camps where there was excellent access by rail.

Hartley70 3:54 PM  

These puns were very, very clever and while the first half of each came easily, the back half had me struggling. LOCOMOTION and GERIATRICIAN were my favorites although DULCIMER was lovely. I spent well over an hour on this and found it unusually challenging for a Sunday and that's a good thing. I think Sunday's have gotten much easier through the years.

I got a kick out of Matt pushing back on Rex's miserable screed. What you posted was completely correct, Matt, and needed to be said. I'm doubtful Rex will change his critical tone or that the unpleasant commenters will take heed of your call for civility and respect. Their raison d'etre is to provoke.

GILL I. 3:57 PM  

"Being forced to endure a task that is really tedious or long and drawn out." Urban Dictionary and, well, keep scrolling around.
Given @Rex's propensity for being the champion of the underdog, I really don't think Bataan or nazi's crossed his mind.
@old timer...Japs?

Rex Parker 4:06 PM  

Dear Aphid,

The EDH and the thorn are two different letters, though they represent the same sound (voiced or unvoiced "th")

EDH = ð
Thorn = Þ


Maria L. 4:23 PM  

Maybe someone here can help me. I was looking at the registration form for the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament. It is fifty bucks more to enroll as a competitor v a non-competitor. I am a relative novice and want to compete but just for fun. Can I still get a ranking if I enter as a non-competitor?

Joe Dipinto 4:24 PM  

@Calman -- OFL is "Our Fearless Leader", a way that some posters here refer to Rex.

I rather enjoyed the puzzle. I like that there were so many theme answers, and I like the puns themselves (though I object to IDEALOGUES for the same reason @Candice Bates 12:33 does).

I think I'm suffering from "cloudophobia" right now. So much dreary weather. Can we please have a sunny day soon?

JC66 4:28 PM  

@Maria L.

I've never attended the Tournament, but from all the comments I've read over the years going as a competitor is a far more rewarding experience.

Joe Dipinto 4:34 PM  

@Maria L -- The registration page has an email address to contact for help at the bottom. Having done the tournament in the past, I believe non-competitors don't get an official ranking, but you would get your point totals so you could see where you would have ranked. But email them to find out.

Thomaso808 4:35 PM  

@anon 1:07 am (Cynthia Ward), a Manoan discussing Minoan? Very interesting!

Maria L. 4:49 PM  

@Joe D ....Duh (me) Thank (you)

thefogman 4:49 PM  

I thought this puzzle was pretty, pretty, pretty good.

Nancy 5:00 PM  

@Joe Dipinto (4:24) and @OISK (10:59) -- Like you, Joe, I'm being driven crazy by the depressing weather. Not just clouds and gloom -- it seems it's been raining non-stop in NY for 48 hours straight. But OISK's complimentary comment about John Oliver made me realize that I hadn't watched him in a very long time. (I don't get HBO, have to go to YouTube to see him, and never think to do it, even though, like OISK, I think he's hilarious.) I just spent a happy hour catching up with some of his more recent shows. It cheered me up on a bleak afternoon. Thanks, OISK! I recommend John Oliver to anyone who needs to brighten up their day. (Yes, I have succumbed to the singular PLURAL. I've actually come to love it, in fact.)

Wet in Bronxville 5:11 PM  

Hey Nancy I live about ten miles north of you. Be thankful it’s not twenty degrees colder. If the rule of thumb (ten inches of snow for every inch of rain) held true, we would have about fifty feet of snow (I know math is hard just a little hyperbole). Think of the rain as a blessing. That’s what my cab driver in Jamaica said when it was pouring and I was sad (I think they’re told to say that).

Z 5:34 PM  

@Matt Ginsberg - I might have had some sympathy if you had managed to avoid the “Donald Trump” insult. I find that if one is going to ask for kindness it usually helps to act kindly. Also, I have to agree with the “well actually” crowd. When I think “death march” the first name that comes to my mind is Andrew Jackson (the guy whose portrait now hangs in the Oval Office).

Anonymous 5:51 PM  

Living in DC I don’t get the Birnholz love. I am a moderate solver and consistently finish his Sunday puzzles in under 20 minutes. I also don’t usually finish them and say “gee, that was clever”

JC66 6:15 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Moira 6:26 PM  

Great puzzle thanks !

Stanley Hudson 6:28 PM  

From the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum website:

Death Marches

Near the end of the war, when Germany's military force was collapsing, the Allied armies closed in on the Nazi concentration camps. The Soviets approached from the east, and the British, French, and Americans from the west. The Germans began frantically to move the prisoners out of the camps near the front and take them to be used as forced laborers in camps inside Germany. Prisoners were first taken by train and then by foot on "death marches," as they became known. Prisoners were forced to march long distances in bitter cold, with little or no food, water, or rest. Those who could not keep up were shot.

The largest death marches took place in the winter of 1944-1945, when the Soviet army began its liberation of Poland. Nine days before the Soviets arrived at Auschwitz, the Germans marched 60,000 prisoners out of the camp toward Wodzislaw, a town thirty-five miles away, where they were put on freight trains to other camps. About one in four died on the way.

The Nazis often killed large groups of prisoners before, during, or after marches. During one march, 7,000 Jewish prisoners, 6,000 of them women, were moved from camps in the Danzig region bordered on the north by the Baltic Sea. On the ten-day march, 700 were murdered. Those still alive when the marchers reached the shores of the sea were driven into the water and shot.

Stanley Hudson 6:32 PM  

"Death march" was used in the European theater during World War II, especially in the latter stages of the war.

Unknown 6:49 PM  

What's the explanation for SECOND and FIFTH being UNITS?

American PTA 6:59 PM  

Kudos to Matt for standing up to the bullies.

Mohair Sam 7:44 PM  

Busy day - got to the puzz late. Played tough for us, and we vote with the group with flat out loved it - but then we're suckers for puns.

Citizen Dain 7:59 PM  

Oh my God. Took an hour and a half and I finally got through it. The theme answers ranged wildly from sort of clever ("Jerry attrition") to not good ("Bore dough") to downright inane and impossible (I only figured "Mouse straps" from this blog and... I still don't get it. "Mao's traps"? "Mao straps"? Is "strap" really a synonym for "belt"?)

If the theme answers were so-so but the rest of the grid was great, it would be one think. But ETTE, IDEST, TSE, HIE, MGS, EDH, FRO, ONIT, REDO, ISLA, MIAS, AWOL, ESAI, LAI, ASIF... just rubbish ALLROUND.

I'm usually much much easier on the puzzle than Rex is, and enjoy the good parts while glossing over the bad. But today it was painful.

Anonymous 9:49 PM  

THANK YOU that puzzle was the worst!

Doris 10:00 PM  

I used to look forward to the Sunday puzzle with its puzzle within the puzzle, but the themes have become too obscure for me. This one was so bad, I still didn't get it until I got to Rex's final explanation. When will they be fun again??

Anonymous 10:06 PM  

EDH should really be spelled ETH. EDH/ETH and THORN (Þ, þ) represent distinct sounds, but both are represented with the TH. Think about "think" compared to "this". These represent vestiges of the futhark (fuþark) alphabet used in northern Europe before the adoption of Christianity.

With the adoption of Christianity, the northern Europeans attempted to adopt the Roman alphabet. The problem was the Roman alphabet lacked letters for important sounds in the languages used in northern Europe, such as (Þ, þ) and wen (W). Speakers of these languages had to choose between changing their language or supplementing the Roman alphabet. Those who spoke German (Deutsch) tried to stick to the Roman alphabet, so all of the thorns in their speech were replaced with D (so words like "three" turned into "drei".)

Speakers of (proto-) English and Icelandic chose to add (Þ, þ) and wen (W) to the end of their versions of the Roman alphabet. This worked until the introduction of printing presses, but the printing presses were made for people who spoke German and they could not print the thorns (Þ, þ). In hand-written forms, the thorns looked sort of like a Y, so English started to use the Y to represent the thorns, leading to things like Ye, Yis, Yem, etc. for the words Þe, Þis, and Þem which we now write as the, this, them, etc.

The use of Y for (Þ, þ) was replaced with "th" around 1800.

Lynn 11:47 PM  

Actually, for us Greek majors, this clue was a gimmee.

Lynn 11:48 PM  


Anonymous 11:50 PM  

I had to go back and reread your review/diatribe to see what Mr Ginsberg (real or impersonator) was referring to, as the provenance of the death march metaphor didn’t register with me when I read it. I think it’s a valid point. Certainly, there were other ways to convey your feeling that the puzzle was relentlessly painful and seemingly endless without comparing it to the actions of genocidal mass murderers. For example, you could have likened it to John Bonham’s drum solo during Moby Dick at a Led Zeppelin concert I had the misfortune to attend a long time ago.

TomAz 11:58 PM  

I like the spelling "edh". It can be convenient in Words With Friends. But mostly I like the logic. 't' is unvoiced and 'd' is voiced, so why not 'th' for the unvoiced in words like 'thing' and 'dh' for words like 'that'?

English spelling is so chock full of bizarre historical remnants though. It may not be pushing things to far to say our writing has a logographic component to it. Spelling reform, which has been accepted in other languages (see German), is passionately resisted in English. Am i rite?

semioticus (shelbyl) 11:59 PM  

My gods. 4 days ago, I was really harsh on Stu Ockman, and I thought his absolutely horrible fill would not be outdone for a long time to come. Well, I was wrong.

This was... a torture to solve. Look, after the fact, I sorta kinda appreciate the effort that went into creating those puns... No actually no I'm not appreciating them sorry.

Wow. Just wow. Dear Matt Ginsberg: If you have groan-inducing puns for your theme, cut down on them, find them a common theme or I don't know, just do something that will be distinctive. If you can't do that, work on your fill, cut down the crap. If you also can't do that, at least make the clues more straight-forward/funny.

Just do something. Please.

GRADE: D-, 1.1 stars.

P.S.: How this puzzle got an average grade of 3.31 over at Crosswordfiend I absolutely cannot fathom. Wow.

Anonymous 12:17 AM  

Per kitshef 8:36 AM

A ‘second’ is a UNIT of time. A ‘fifth’ is a UNIT of volume.

Unknown 12:19 AM  

Rube @ 12:03pm:

When I first started solving crosswords, some 35 years ago, there was no internet, and I used a crossword dictionary to help me through the unknowns. How else would I have known that “black bird” was an “ana”? But that was cheating. As my skills grew, I dropped the “crossword” dictionary, but figured a regular dictionary was fair game.

Flash forward 35 years, and it’s a different world. I google selected clues (and take it as a point of pride when I google none). But I refuse to follow any link which takes me to a crossword clue site. I prefer Wikipedia links, and I generally read the whole article, rather than scan it for an answer.

In adhering to this (admittedly personal and sometimes arbitrary) standard, solving the puzzle sometimes becomes an occasion for self-education and edification. I find nothing wrong with that at all, unless I’m trying to prove that my solve was somehow superior to yours. I don’t, because it wasn’t. But I am better for having done it.

I’ve always loved this quote:

“It’s your puzzle. Solve it any way you like.” — Will Weng, the second crosswords editor of The New York Times (1969 - 1977)

I use this puzzle as a mental status-check, With experience, my average times have come down, over the years (though not approaching the speed of OFL). That became very important after a heart attack last year, and a month in the hospital where my mental status was entirely unclear. My NYT crossword average times helped me know I had recovered.

FWIW: I didn’t enjoy today’s puzzle, and thought Rex’s commentary was essentially correct. But I was 33% faster than my average. {shrug}

Anyway, you can keep your opinion that all googling is cheating, but I doubt it is universally shared.

Mike Walter

'mericans in Paris 1:32 AM  

Dear Anonymous @10:06 PM

Wow! Really fascinating. Thank you so much for that. I had wondered why nobody had mentioned those Icelandic letters. Now I understand. "The problem was the Roman alphabet lacked letters for important sounds in the languages used in northern Europe." The same thing happened with Turkish (which in the 20th century, under Ataturk, abandoned Arabic script for Roman), hence additional letters, such as an "i" without a dot, and in Vietnamese, which has all kinds of wonderful additional letters with squiggles, dots, and what resemble accent marks.

Ckimball 2:08 AM  

Thank you for the criticism. I thought the puzzle bad and without redeeming features like an aha at a good pun.
But I’m such a novice that I don’t trust whether it’s me or the puzzle, so I’m calibrating off the column.

patsypalooza 2:55 AM  

I enjoyed the puzzle, was irked by "dull simmer" (but LOVE "dulcimer," so that one was a wash. My only writeovers were sea/spa, O'Leary/ocasey, rerents/relets, and some weird thing where I somehow thought rank things could be order, for WAY too long.

To those still asking about the second/fifth UNITS, it was answered (and I needed it to be!) upthread: second=unit of time, fifth=unit of volume

PatKS 6:34 AM  

I agree with Rex that this puzzle was a slog. Finished in 2 hours (no cheats) Got the theme at Locomotion. Meh. Didn't understand trix/ ette until I saw,above comments. I knew had but when I read the book years ago there was no D. The 1st and only time I went to S.C. the noseeums were a nightmare. Never heard of John Rae or is it Rae John? Finally, how are ties or tees undergarments especially if they are wee?

J Cordell 11:33 AM  

I agree with Rex about @ Evan Birnholz. I always do them first on Sundays then the NYT wen I have time. Evan's puzzle sparkle, they're solvable and fun, and he provides a new one himself every week, which is pretty amazing.

Anonymous 5:17 PM  

@Anonymous 10:06 your post is really fine up until 1800 as the date for the obsolescence of thorn in English. 1600 is probably still too late a date for it; edh and wen had died out much earlier. Ash, usually as a simple letter pair "ae" lived longest. The only printed letterform from 1800 that could stump a modern reader would be the long s.

Brendan Norwood 10:27 AM  

Same with HADJ. Never seen hajj spelled that way.

FreddyR 10:37 AM  

With all due respect to Rex, I found this week’s Sunday puzzle to be both challenging and satisfying. The theme – puns on sounds rather than words alone – was innovative. It was noteworthy that theme answers ran both across and down, at times intersecting, which added to the challenge. All in all, this puzzle was exactly what I hope for, but so often do not find, in the Sunday NYT. I look forward to Matt Ginsberg’s early return to the Sunday NYT.

In comparing this week’s puzzle with last Sunday’s (with its silly “Y’s” chopped into “V’s” and “I’s”), I wonder if a second dimension – “Satisfaction” – should be considered for rating a puzzle’s quality. As other contributors to this post have noted, “Relative difficulty” is in the eye of the solver depending on their age, education, background, and crossword experience. At the end of the day, more important to me at least, is whether I had fun and derived satisfaction in finally solving the theme answers. I would agree with Rex’s rating of “Medium” for difficulty this week, and would add a “High” for the satisfaction I felt in finishing it. In contrast, I would rate last week’s edition as “Medium” in difficulty (compared to Rex’s “Very Easy”), but the theme answers were so dumb and few in number that the puzzle provided zero satisfaction, and only a sense of time wasted.

Alas, there is no objective measure of crossword quality. “Fun” is also in the eye of the solver, as reflected in the various posts this week (e.g., TomAz).

BTW, I heartedly endorse Rex’s recommendation for Evan Birnholz's WaPo Sunday Crossword.

Anonymous 7:27 PM  

Grok. Seriously? Again, and again, and again, and again. What's with this obsession? It's never even identified as slang for those who haven't seen this idiotic clue for the thousandth time. Always mismatched with an actual word. I'm about to skim the puzzles before starting to make sure grok isn't in them before starting. Seriously.

Frank s. 12:45 PM  

I loved this one, very clever. I especially appreciated dulcimer and mistletoe.
Give them a little break, Rex

Dilligaf 5:49 PM  
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Dilligaf 1:17 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dilligaf 1:29 AM  

My bad. I posted my previous comments then realized that it wasn't a themed clue. I guess I didn't have a clue after all.

Anonymous 11:45 AM  

One of the worst puzzles ever!!! As I live upstate the puzzle in the UTICA OD is always a week behind. Not only was this puzzle so arcane in its ridiculous clues- my puzzle had the page cut off wrong in the printing so I didn't have multiple clues from the bottom 4th of the puzzle grid. On top of the that some of these answers were ridiculous and made zero sense. e.g the ans to 72 A - pet?? what the hell is that. never heard of ibook. the answer moaners doesn't even have same type of word as the clue, Rambo of course I wanted to put in rocky but found that wouldn't work - nutso? and noseeum?- as I didn't have the clue - and the Wheaties what the hell was that - just awful . one of the worse puzzles ever.

Diana, LIW 12:25 PM  

'K - I've only read a few comments, but they intrigue me. So I'll post more later. But this puzzle, tho a dnf, was a real treat - for me.

Seems like some comment leavers don't like a puzzle if it isn't "challenging" yet easy.

Lady Di

Hi @Foggy - you're a Futurelander on Sundays!

Anonymous 12:32 PM  

To Rube@12:03, Why would I do a puzzle if I don't learn from it? By using google or a dictionary, I learn, and do not leave a void of ignorance unfilled.
To anon @2:30.In my Century Dictionary, last copywrite date 1914, idealogue is listed with, "see ideologue", which is preferred. There is a quote though by Mrs. Browning, using idealogue.
Yes, I am old, but "not dead yet", and still learning:)

spacecraft 12:36 PM  

Oh boy, I knew the death march crack was gonna open a whole Pandora's box of ILLS. The EDH controversy, however, was totally unexpected. I saw what was going on early, and fielded the pun-ishment throughout. Puns aren't awful, groaning things; they are what they are. No big deal, and certainly not worthy of OFL's obvious wrath. I liked doing it--until I got to the SE corner. That puppy was an absolute BEAR! Second and fifth?? Okay, I get second UNIT, they're often employed in filmmaking. But fifth UNIT??? WHA??? Eventually I got it, after prophet-earring finally occurred. But that section took me as much time as the whole rest of the puzzle.

So a very uneven difficulty rating: easy-challenging, and a mini-triumph factor. Fill was not nearly as atrocious as OFL SAYS. Hey, any time you can give ol' Supe (KAL-EL) a shout-out, that's a plus. For DOD I must tack a silent E onto CLAIR and nominate CLAIRE BLOOM.

This one gets a birdie from me, and OFL's post a double-bogey.

Diana, LIW 1:24 PM  

Imagine am Olympic skier got the a slalom course, or whatever those tricky puppies are with all kinds of obstacles are, and said, "Hey - I wanted this to be a straight, downhill run so my time could be fast."

You know who I'm thinking of.

It's a freaking puzzle. It should make you THINK. This did. Puns within puns. Sure, it beat me. So what? If I wanted easy I'd turn to the local paper.

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords, especially when they are tricky

rainforest 2:25 PM  

Aha, a whimsical puzzle where I truly enjoyed the whimsy.

My solve was similar to @Spacey's where I found the SE to be by far the most difficult section with the fiendish clues for DIGITS, PROFITEERING, ETTE, UNITS, and DULCIMER.

Unlike others, the theme density is what kept me going, and it was fun figuring out what the constructor/editor was going for. I got ARTIFICIAL for the wrong reason and had an AHA when I saw what the paronoword really was. Actually now that just typed that, belay it. I was correct at first and being too cute for jazz.

Good Sunday.

AnonymousPVX 3:48 PM  

Ugh. The worst of the worst. I understood once I got ORCHESTRATES, and then immediately put this in the recycling.

Life’s too short for this mess of a puzzle.

El Dingo 4:16 PM  

Well, huh! I rather enjoyed the wordplay. And now that I know what an oronym is, I realize why STRATOSPHERE works (stratus fear). Doooh!

It's interesting the rules we set for ourselves, innit? In my case, I "win" if I complete the puzzle without resorting to Google——but resort I will if I have to in order to complete the fill. (As the saying goes, "I'm not OCD, I'm CDO: It's the same thing, but with the letters in alphabetical order, as they damn well should be.") For some reason I couldn't complete O'CASEY (Ochsey? Ocksey?), so Linear A was a fail. But at least now I'm kind of curious about Linear A and Linear B.

In my Old English class, it was always spell Eth.

Burma Shave 6:01 PM  


or so CALM he ORCHESTRATES a nap?"
"I want TODO him in ARTIFICIAL LACE", she said,
"IT'LLDO . . . oh, and ALSO that SERAPE."


rondo 7:13 PM  

No, the themers aren't zingers, more like MOANERS, but if ya want wordplay, this puz is full of it. My biggest complaint, beyond things like PIET and PAIX, is the doodoo, as in ITLLDO TODO REDO OUTDO. A quad DO. Haven't yet read comments. Anything about DOs? Agree with @spacey and @rainy on SE difficulties.

I'll go deep on the yeah baby front with ARLENE Martel (Tiger on Hogan's Heroes), who also appeared in Star Trek.

If you ARBORED with puns I can understand the dislike. If not, it was a good da,y if you could understand the CLU.

leftcoastTAM 7:14 PM  

First reaction--after cheating to get it finished: brilliant and very challenging puzzle. Especially impressed by the theme clues and answers--except for STRATOSPHERE as a homonym. The "O" just doesn't make it work as well as it should. Thought all the others, especially PHARMACIST, were better.

Second reaction: I learned from it, and I need to learn more about these things.

Ralph 10:10 PM  

Got this puzzle a week later in my local paper. Filled in some of the theme clues without understanding the pun. Horrible.

Rube 10:04 AM  

Many days later. You can "learn" by googling (or by just checking the solution )AFTER you have conceded defeat as I have
What a only use internet to get a hint rather than going straight for the answer. And again, while nothing wrong with going for speed I maintain that it is more enjoyable to mull clues over for a few extra seconds.

Anonymous 12:42 PM  

I am no great fan of NYT and prefer WSJ. That being said, this was one of the best NYT Sundays I have done in a while. What some see as groaners, I found clever. The lack of much standard xw crap was a welcome relief in a shortz vehicle. If you didn’t know edh it was easily solvable by the crosses; and while I was previously unaware of Linear A, I was glad to use downs to learn a new term. Crosswords should be fun and mentally stimulating. I’m anonymous because while I find some of the comments clever or interesting, many, if not most, reflect that side of puzzling which I find tiresome.

Unknown 11:43 PM  

No, Arlene is a pink cat with a gap in her teeth. John is not popular with the ladies but he tries to date her owner maybe? According to wikipedia they dated for less than 2 months

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