Phoenician goddess of fertility / FRI 2-23-18 / Vehicle used by police to catch thieves / Cream in cobalt blue jar / In classic form of diamond / Co-star of Office who played Ryan Howard

Friday, February 23, 2018

Constructor: Trenton Charlson

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: none

Word of the Day: ROSE CUT diamond (15A: In a classic form of diamond) —
Various forms of the rose cut have been in use since the mid-16th century. Like the step cuts, they were derived from older types of cuts. The basic rose cut has a flat base—that is, it lacks a pavilion—and has a crown composed of triangular facets (usually 12 or 24) rising to form a point (there is no table facet) in an arrangement with sixfold rotational symmetry. The so-called double rose cut is a variation that adds six kite facets at the margin of the base. The classic rose cut is circular in outline; non-circular variations on the rose cut include the briolette (oval), Antwerp rose (hexagonal), and double Dutch rose (resembling two rose cuts united back-to-back). Rose-cut diamonds are seldom seen nowadays, except in antique jewelry. Like the older style brilliants and step cuts, there is a growing demand for the purpose of repairing or reproducing antique pieces. (wikipedia)
• • •

I warmed to this puzzle as it went on. At first, it was very DAD PUZZLE (puzz equiv of DAD JOKE), with its ROSE CUT diamonds and NOXZEMA and kinda limp fill like OXIDATE and DNA LABS and BUTNO and the long crosswordese ASTARTE (13D: Phoenician goddess of fertility). But somewhere around the SWAGGER line it found its swagger and once CTHULHU took the BAIT CAR, I was in. Speaking of CTHULHU, a thousand monkeys typing for a thousand years could probably type out that letter combination but I could not, and cannot, and I *know* the Lovecraftian creature in cwestion. Anyway, that whole SW corner, clues and fill and all of it, is just lovely. AMIRITE? Yes, I am. The rest of the puzzle was just fine, but that's the corner that sold me. [Modern screen test] is especially good for CAPTCHA—it's all kinds of deceptive because of the more common, cinematic meaning of "screen test" (CAPTCHA is the text you have to enter sometimes online to prove you are not a robot—lately I've just had to check "I am not a robot" boxes rather than actually write in a CAPTCHA element ... is CAPTCHA becoming bygone?). The only thing I don't quite understand about this puzzle is why ABU / BIT as opposed to APU / SIT. You can come at APU at least two ways, where ABU there's just the one, and it's not the moooost familiar of proper nouns. Speaking of unfamiliar proper nouns: BJ NOVAK! (8A: Co-star of "The Office" who played Ryan Howard) (jk, I knew him ... but, I mean, he's no MINDY KALING ... where is KALING??? Seriously, I should've seen KALING in a puzzle by now, folks. Work on it.).

Struggled to get started, with BUTNO and XII and OPINE being especially tricky to come up with, for me. Also, NUDE is somehow not on the list of adjectives that quickly come to mind when I think of "The Thinker," despite the fact that he's clearly NUDE, so that was odd. Had real trouble later on with 64A: Places in the field (DEPLOYS) (was "places" a verb or noun? what kind of 'field'?). Last square was the "R" in MARKS (30D: Targets). Again, the verb / noun problem thwarted me, and 36A: Shaker's cry? ("BRR!")was no help until I had that final square surrounded—then the "R" was obvious. I briefly tried to convince myself that UGLI was three syllables, so that was fun (5D: Four-letter fruit pronounced in three syllables => AÇAI). Not sure anything needs explaining today. A POL is a "Party person" in the sense of "political party." Aren't peas an "ingredient," singular? (23A: Shepherd's pie ingredients). Would you really refer to each individual pea as a separate ingredient? Please chew on that. Good night.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Mike in Mountain View 12:14 AM  

The placement of XII is appropriate, as the puzzle's author points out on

I didn't know the Lovecraft character and don't know actors' names, so this played challenging for me, but that's ok. There was some good cluing here, starting at 1 across.

malE before NUDE.

Ian 12:15 AM  

I enjoyed it. I got seriously tripped up trying to spell Noxzema. I just couldn’t get the Z, and was baffled by fluid abbreviation that should have helped me.

JJ 12:28 AM  

Lots of good stuff here. Slowed down by SASHA, leaving the cross as RICOAST. I kept pronouncing it in varying permutations until I realized it must be SACHA---RICO ACT is very clever. Enjoyed the puzzle

TomAz 12:58 AM  

I knew CTHULHU but couldn't remember how to spell it. I knew NOXZEMA but couldn't figure out why I had an extra square. Had bADJOKE at first. Had CUrtAin at first. Had OXIDizE at first. also had RICOAsT at first, couldn't figure out why the New England seashore would equate to mob rule. Had RASh at first too.

Didn't know OMANIS were Bedouins. No idea about BJNOVAK (thought I recognized his face afterwards).

All these misspelling meant it played hard for me, more like a Saturday. The completed puzzle looks very nice, and cluing is fair, but I struggled. In a good way though.. this puzzle works well.

puzzlehoarder 12:59 AM  

A little late to solving I watched the women's Olympic ice skating with my wife. I'm glad to see that this puzzle got the POW. It really is only medium in difficulty but a very clean good looking medium.

It started hard. I went through the across clues until I guessed LUDDITE (takes one to know one.) OLD and NUDE (yeesh) were the first things I wrote in. It took a little thinking to see how JOULE was going to fit in but once it gave me YOULOSE, so did the puzzle.

It was steady work clockwise from there until I hit a snag at RIOTACT. I went back to the top and came around counterclockwise to fix that.

This CTHULHU thing looks familiar to me and I can't figure out why. It's an all time debut and it's never been used in a clue. I must have seen it doing a Wikipedia search on Lovecraft.

TomAz 1:02 AM  

Oh I also wanted The Thinker to be mUtE. Which, after all, he is.

Unknown 1:06 AM  

I'm with you, JJ - had SAsHA and could not get RICOACT until I realized the s was a C. Was wondering if published could be pUT until I saw the light. Before that, had the ---HONE of the speed of sound, and kept trying to force it to be --pHONE, since phone is a suffix relating to sound, right, like homophone? When I finally realized it was MACH ONE I was embarrassed, because I used to be a pilot. Not a pilot who flew at the speed of sound, but one who read Chuck Yeager's autobiography, and so should have known better. Overall somewhat challenging but doable, like a good Friday should be.

monkeyscrub 1:17 AM  

I liked everything but the SW corner. Amirite is most certainly just wrong and while I am very familiar with Metallica's Call of Ktulu that other thing is most unpleasant. This, combined with not knowing if mob rule should be RICO or riot act left me with a DNF.

Trombone Tom 1:21 AM  

I, too, waited on the outcome of the women's skating.

This played like two puzzles; the SW was tough for me. RIotACT-->RICOACT, SunNI-->OMANI, and I can't pronounce, let alone spell, CTHULHU. The crosses of MONARCH and CAPTCHA saved the day.

BJNOVAK was a WOE, but crosses were helpful here, too.

So rate it 75% easy for a Friday and 25% really tough. You do the math!

puzzlehoarder 1:37 AM  

I must have misspelled CTHULHU when I put it into the xwordinfo clue search. It's been used three different times as part of a clue. All those were rather recent too. No wonder it looked familiar. Even though it's a debut as an entry, this is really it's fourth appearance.

Anonymous 1:40 AM  

Amazingly clean grid. POL is the worst thing and it's unfixable. But the only other bad spot, WBA/BRR is easily fixed as TEA/ERR (with SWAGGER->STAGGER).

I want to hate XSANDOS but it's so ridiculous I can't help but like it.

JOHN X 1:43 AM  

Hey did you see that post at 1:11AM all spelled out in those idiot Russian letters? Wow! I have a friend who speaks Sputnik and he said it's an ad for ice cream flavored with beets and cabbage. Far out!

This puzzle was awesome I finished it in no time. I just knew everything even the stuff I didn't know. Some things I just guessed on the first pass and I was right. Some days you eat the bear and some days why he eats you: today I'm picking bear out of my teeth as part of a healthy dental regimen of brushing and flossing.

Trombone Tom 1:58 AM  

Message from Russian troll (1:11) above:

Pay attention to all the comrades in the homeland. (Except for you, Mr. Trump). Important fake news events will soon appear. Stop tinkering with this silly crossword and go back to your stations in CNN and Fox!

At least this troll has a sense of humor.

chefwen 2:12 AM  

Had to cheat a wee bit to get a foothold. Looking at you BJ NOVAK and CTHULHU. NO clue. After that things got better, but it was still a struggle with MACHONE and BAIT CAR ??? Did the whole puzzle in fits and starts. Quite the mixture of easy vs. tough.

jae 2:26 AM  

Mostly easy except for SW. The T in CTHULHU was my last entry. Add me to SAsHA before SACHA. Solid Fri., liked it a bunch!

Anonymous 2:31 AM  

@ Trombone Tom - the "na" preposition in the first sentence should not be translated into English "to" - I guess you put it into a google translator? It is, "Pay attention, all comrades in the homeland," not "Pay attention to all the comrades in the homeland."

@Rex - peas already suffered this sg/pl confusion. Pise (a pea) became English "pease" which was then mistaken for a plural (it wasn't), giving rise to the word "pea" for one of them. The original word survives in the "Pease porridge" nursery rhyme.

Dolgo 2:42 AM  

It's some foolishness about Trump. Try to ignore it.

Dolgo 2:45 AM  

I got all the hard stuff. It was the southeast that got me. Sometimes even if you know how to spell CTHULHU it doesn't help! Go figure!

Dolgo 2:56 AM  

PS. Horror (movies, fiction, etc.) is one of my guilty pleasures. I read Lovecraft as a boy and he scared the Bejesus out of me. I still read him for fun and recommend him highly. There have been several films based on his works ("The Dunwich Horror," "The Rejuvenator") but they are pretty bad. He had this whole mythology involving "Ancient Ones" from the extreme past which threaten to intrude into the present, mostly to drive us insane (the Cthulhu Mythos is an example). A good short intro is "Rats in the Walls." Go read it on some dark, lonely night--I dare you.

Erin Hollander 2:56 AM  

I wanted RIotACT so badly that it took me forever to figure out where I went wrong. Surprisingly almost everything else fell right in. (Except CAPTCHA — that took me forever.) This puzzle was way in my wheelhouse. Loved it.

I still want RIotACT, though.

Harryp 4:17 AM  

DNF in Southwest and Northeast corners. Just enough PPP to sink me.

TrudyJ 5:30 AM  

I was so excited to have my hometown show up in a puzzle and so disappointed it turned out to be a DNF for me as I"d never heard of RICOACT and couldn't get past thinking it had to be RIOTACT. Oh well.

Sleepless in STJOHNS.

Jon Alexander 6:01 AM  

SW was definitely most difficult part of the grid for me. Like a lot of people, it seems, I had RIOTACT at first. I also had forgotten CHTULHU was a Lovecraft creation (I mostly know of the cult of Chtuhlu and South Park).

Liked MONTE c passing MARKS, seems apt.

Lewis 6:30 AM  

Splendid clues for XII, BRR, CUECARD, and CAPTCHA, and a lovely cross of OLD/LUDDITE. RiotACT, I reasoned, HAD to be rite, and that greatly held me up, blinded me to CAPTCHA. Two words I ended up knowing but had no idea I knew: CTHULHU and ROSECUT.

My brain had to really grind it in some areas, which enlivens and maybe even burnishes it. Thank you for this, Trenton!

Two Ponies 6:33 AM  

Is a heat map any more colorful than a rain map or a snow map?
Every time Noxzema appears it trips up a few people.
Each quadrant of this grid had an element of difficulty that depended on some real obscurity. I'm looking at you Astarte.
Cthulhu looks like I typed it with my elbow. Or maybe that mythical Mexican creature that eats goats.
TKO before TBA. I still don't get it.
I can't justify the plural clue for peas no matter how I parse it.

Aketi 6:46 AM  

I disinterred CTHULHU OUT of the crevices of my OLD memory banks.

I wouldn’t have known about CAPTCHA if I hadn’t found this blog.

@Puzzlehoarder, your reaction to OLD and NUDE made me think of a hilarious ad where there is a group of young people in various states of undress playing strip poker. Then a health worker knocks on the door and enters then you see that they are really a group of OLD people in some sort of home. Might have been a vitamin ad. Some pseudo article in the news suggested that those who think of themselves as younger than they actually are and ever since I stopped looking in the mirror and gave up on the notion that I had to act my age.

The comments about the deleted Russian post are hilarious. Made me morning,

BarbieBarbie 7:01 AM  

So I remembered the very helpful comment here a bit ago that NOXZEMA was named to celebrate its claim of No Exzema, but I couldn’t spell exzema, so I still had to get it on crosses.
I’ve been solving these puzzles for over a year now and am finally starting to appreciate the themeless. I think of a solved one like today’s as satisfying rather than fun, but still want to thank the constructor. Thanks!
Me too on usually just a checkoff on the CAPTCHA.

Unknown 7:11 AM  


Anonymous 7:11 AM  
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous 7:12 AM  

@barbiebarbie You still can't spell eczema.

Irene 7:18 AM  

Loved it. Zoomed through it, chuckling. But since when is AMIRITE a single word?

Glimmerglass 7:31 AM  

Liked, not loved, this puzzle. Don’t know Lovecraft, and decided AMIRITE must be a trap for the moronic, which I brilliantly avoided with a C instead of a T. I got PEAS (from crosses) even though my wife’s shepherd’s pie has corn niblets.

DeeJay 7:49 AM  

DNF here as well, as I was convinced Mob Law was RIOTACT.

Birchbark 7:51 AM  

First DNF of February at the oft-mentioned RICOAsT/SAsHA.

@TwoPonies, nice elbow-type CTHULHU. I have the works of H.P. Lovecraft on my bookshelf. It's one of those volumes that probably glows at night when no-one is around. He says things like "the bulbous, fungoid moon" on just about every page.

@Aketi, I got a new pair of glasses a couple of weeks ago and see a lot better. But when I looked in the mirror, yikes. Turns out that's what I look like? If the old ones weren't broken I'd go back to them.

QuasiMojo 7:54 AM  

Tough chewy Friday. I sailed through most of it but got gummed up at the SW corner. I did not know the Lovecraft story and thought something like CONTRACT would be a "mob law" but that didn't fit so I struggled with extract, detract, before seeing The ACT (without Liza Minnelli, thank you) and plopped in RIOT which eventually transmogrified into RICO. All in all a worthwhile time-suck. I call it the Puzzle of the Week so far.

P.S. Ghostwriters do get bylines sometimes, for instance the guy who ghosted Donald Trump's SWAGGER-stuffed "Art of the Deal" (no relation to the ART that Orson Welles was OPINING about.)

Anonymous 8:15 AM  

Novak is also the author of a popular children's book called The Book With No Pictures. My 5-year-old kid loves it.

Anonymous 8:16 AM  

So happy to hear someone else complain about AMIRITE, Just incorrect. Since when does changing RIGHT to RITE imply that you said it faster? I thought that maybe 'amirite' was mineral somewhat akin to pyrite, in which case the clue would have been awesome, but it isn't, so the clue then sucks. Am I right? :-)

Don King 8:19 AM  

@2 ponies— the answer is WBA and it stands for World Boxing Association.

RavTom 8:20 AM  

By definition, a ghostwriter doesn't get a byline. If you get a byline, you're a coauthor.

Unknown 8:22 AM  

Agree with some of the other comments about being alternately easy and hard. Got most of the top quickly, LUDDITE and YOULOSE came quick and KEEBLER makes my favorite cookies, so that was a gimme. Had OXIDIZE forever but DNALABS got me to AÇAÍ (which I had no clue was three syllables, AÇAÍ is the snipe of superfoods for me, still haven’t seen a real one......) which brought the rest in line, stumbled a bit on NOXZEMA, for some reason wanted two Xs but then looked back at the cross clue and had a forehead slap for OZS. Completely blew the bottom. Got MONARCH off the bat and then HEATMAP, thought I knew SASHA and finished up with CAPTCHA and AMIRITE. Got the dreaded incorrect answer prompt and was absolutely convinced that CTHULHU was wrong, no clue what that is and no better off after reading the blog, still a mystery. Spent five minutes trying to find which letter was wrong and could not see that RICOAST probably wasn’t a thing......

Sir Hillary 8:37 AM  

Not a fan of this one. I like themeless puzzles to have some long entries, but the 90-degree symmetry meant seven letters was the max. Boo.

Hated the SW corner. CTHULHU? Whatever -- OK, Lovecraft is significant enough that I could have been reasonably expected to know it. But I reserve my true hatred for AMIRITE. Who actually writes that? Looks more like a mineral.

BAITCAR? Seriously?

Mistakes that held me up, albeit not for too long: OXIDizE, bADJOKE, RIotACT, SOamI.

Couple of columns made me chuckle:
-- Recently watched the ESPN "30 for 30" on the rise and fall of the Big East conference. Good interviews with, among others, Lou Carnesecca and Chris Mullin, who together LED STJOHNS OUT of the shadows in the '80s.
-- OLD GOGREEN POL: Teddy Roosevelt?

So, I guess these days you can put "Dad" in front of anything to signify oldish nerdiness?

Pining for a Patrick Berry Friday...


Unknown 8:56 AM  

If the clue is "in one word," shouldn't the answer be one word? AMIRITE? Puhleze!

Anonymous 9:13 AM  

Can anyone explain XII? How is that "top part of a face"?

Stanley Hudson 9:26 AM  

I’ve been seeing AMIRITE quite a lot lately. It is rather silly and you have to wonder where it got started.

@Two Ponies said “I can't justify the plural clue for peas no matter how I parse it.” Agreed.

Lewis 9:32 AM  

@anon 9:13 -- XII is the 12 at the north of a clock face on one of those clocks where the numbers are Roman numerals.

Nancy 9:34 AM  

A "baker's shortcut" may be CAKE MIX. A non-baker's shortcut is CAKE.

I know the word LUDDITE as well as I know my own name. Sometimes I think it is my own name.

I'm looking at 38D and thinking: Don't you dare be AMIRITE! Don't you dare! But you were.

I bet everyone had bAD JOKE before DAD JOKE. Am I right? (Take that, Trenton C!)

In two words, CTHULCO was im possible.

@Evil Doug's not here, so here's my impression of what George Costanza would have said about 15A:

I'll tell you about diamonds, Jerry. You got your round CUT. You got your square CUT. You got your marquise CUT. You got your pear-shape CUT. So what's a ROSE CUT? Believe me, there's no such thing as a ROSE CUT.

An enjoyable themeless that I found "Medium" too.

mmorgan 9:36 AM  

Much to love in this puzzle! Didn't know either BJNOVAK or ASTARTE but got them both easily from crosses. CUECARD was also a winner for me. However, I ended up with those staring at the RI COAST trying to figure out what that had to do with "Mob law?". And I know the RI COAST very well!

mathgent 9:41 AM  

@Sir Hillary (8:37): That's what I think of it, too.

I liked XSANDOS because it looked like a Greek island. It might have been clued to describe a coach who is good at designing plays.

I looked up AMIRITE and found it in some online dictionaries, but not the standard ones.

D. Schrute 9:43 AM  

Fun Fact:

Bj Novak (Ryan Howard), John Krasinski (Jim Halpert), Mindy Kaling (Kelly Kapoor)and Steve Carell (Michael Scott) all grew up within a few miles of each other homes on an axis of suburban towns to WNW of Boston (Newton-Weston-Acton). In fact, Novak and Krasinski were high school classmates and friends.

And the town abutting that axis to the south. None other than Natick.

Music Man 9:50 AM  

“Amarite” sounds like the name of a stone or mineral, like quartzite or malachite!

Anonymous 9:56 AM  

My English wife from Yorkshire would never, not ever put peas in shepherd's pie.

Good puzzle.

Z 9:58 AM  

Looking at the completed puzzle there is no reason not to like it. Still, this puzzle managed to be more irritating than enjoyable at every turn. There’s been a dearth of RRNs lately, but going clock face instead of some random Leo doesn’t redeem its inclusion. BJ NOVAK is at best the third most famous co-star of a show I didn’t watch. Apparently I don’t know how to pronounce AÇAÍ, I must be anglicizing it down to two syllables. NOXZEMA and the Canadian ST. JOHNS buffered by AS I SAID was a lot of trivia for little payoff. Since, much to my chagrin, there is never just one PEA in Shepherds Pie I had no problem with clue or answer but have I mentioned how much I despise PEAS. Ugh Ugh Ugh. PEAS, proof god has a sense of humor. As for CTHULHU, I am more of a Pastafarian, but I am aware of both CTHULHU and the trekkiesque devotees. Saw the clue and had the eyes roll involuntarily. Perfectly okay crossword entry that I just find personally irritating. Even seemingly innocuous clues managed to irritate. People who say BRR are shivering, not shaking. Sure, those two motions might look the same to an untrained observer, but let me assure you that a shaker is not having the same experience as a shiverer. Bah. As I stated initially, nothing objectively bad about this puzzle. I still didn’t like it.

AMIRITE is specifically the slang spelling to indicate it is being said as one word, often in a setting where the unstated thought of the listeners is “No.” When you see it in print you are supposed to understand it differently than if the writer had written, “Am I right?”

Ami Luddite 10:05 AM  

“Non-baker’s shortcut” made my morning. Thank you

Anonymous 10:06 AM  
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Two Ponies 10:06 AM  

Thanks Don King. I saw stagger was a word and just kept moving.
Swagger makes sense and WBA I understand. No aha for me, but now a big duh.

Me too on the mineral confusion. I'm feeling more and more like a luddite. Is that a mineral too?

Aketi 10:09 AM  

@Birchbark, never ever wear glasses when looking in the mirror. The fading of our near vision is nature’s way of keeping us young at heart.

I can thank my son’s forcing me to text for not batting an eyelash at AMIRITE.

But who could resist a ROSE CUT AMERITE JOULE if such a thing actually existed?

Teedmn 10:10 AM  

Once more, my tendency to ignore warning signs led to an avoidable DNF. After doing crossword puzzles for so many years, when I see something that totally leaves me blank, shouldn't I check the crosses to at least attempt to clear it up, rather than shrug and move on? So "mob law" was RICOAsT and I was completely uncaring that it MEANT nothing to me. I can't say I would have seen SAsHA was wrong, but shouldn't I have at least looked?

The SW was my hardest area but mostly because I had CAtscan for a modern screen test. I've never had a CAT SCAN, haven't heard anyone describe the experience, so maybe you watch it on a screen? CTHULHU saved me. I've never read Lovecraft, but in my favorite Science Fiction/Fantasy genre, CTHULHU has great status and I've always loved pronouncing the name out loud when I run into it. That habit stood me in good stead today, paring away the incorrect A from "scan" when I had __a__HU in place.

I loved the clue for BRR. __R in place at 36A and wanting MARKS at 30D left me wondering what either oRR or eRR had to do with the Shaker religion. Running down the list of wrestling organizations I could think of gave me the B and the fun aha.

Maybe I've never run into the right RISOTTO but I have mostly sworn off ordering them in restaurants (same as with anything with alfredo sauce). Not enough texture to offset the creaminess, perhaps.

Nice themeless debut, Mr. Charlson, thanks.

gruffed 10:12 AM  

I bet most of us mere mortals were unable to captcha Cthulhu, amirite?

Anonymous 10:12 AM  

Mindy Chokalingam would fit in a 16 grid

Nancy 10:19 AM  

I mistyped CTHULHU on my previous post. But CTHULHU makes every bit as little sense as what I did type.

When you live on the East Coast and also get more sleep -- or try to -- than @Loren, you miss some interesting late night stuff. I missed the Russian troll and, like @Aketi, am lamenting the fact. The comments about the post are hilarious.

@mathgent (9:41): Son-of-a-gun, it does look like a Greek island! Funny comment.

Forgot to say that when I had A-A--ED for "Like many screenplays", I immediately thought AbAndonED, even though it didn't fit. (It's the pessimistic way we writers sometimes think, alas, even though I've never tried my hand at a screenplay.) Speaking of that, some ghostwriters do get BYLINES. Charlie S., our Managing Editor at the Literary Guild, didn't get one, though, for "From Those Wonderful Folks Who Gave You Pearl Harbor" -- a side-splittingly funny tell-all behind-the-scenes satire of the advertising world ostensibly by one of the towering advertising execs of his era. I queried Charlie about it, since apparently he'd written pretty much every single word of the book. Charlie said: "Well here's the way it's going down. Jerry is getting all of the credit. And I'm getting most of the money." The book, btw, became a huge bestseller, so perhaps Charlie made a good deal after all.

GILL I. 10:21 AM  

There is nothing I didn't like here. I ran a bit and I walked a bit which is what I like to do on a Friday.
Like @TomAZ I had misspellings up the wazoo and I won't even mention them because they were so bad. Then I had write-overs galore. Hand up for NOXZEMA. That stuff smells so awful no wonder I can't spell it. Every time I got a sun burn, my mom would slather that stuff on me. Good way to stop sunning.
Got to Rodin's "The Thinker" and I knew he was NUDE but he's also BENT. Hmmm which one? Is dated OLD or ELD? Hmmm. Isn't "One referred to as "the crown" MISS USA? No? Dang...
H.P. Lovecraft was some strange dude. I had the LHU at the end there and remembered he wrote some horror fiction that only he could spell. Like @chefwen, I had my little Google cheat with that spelling. For a Friday, that's pretty good for me.
Don't mind AM I RITE. I also don't mind fabu adorbs. But I don't put PEAS in my Shepherd's pie either. I do know the Brits put peas in everything. One time my mom and I went to London for a short visit. We were staying in the Kensington area looking for antiques. We asked our hotel concierge for a good Italian restaurant nearby and he guided us to something very Italian sounding, like Guido's. I remember exactly what the restaurant looked like and what I ordered. A salad and a plate of lasagna. The salad came with some chopped iceberg, a few old tomatoes and PEAS! Yes...they served me PEAS on my salad in an Italian restaurant!
I like KEEBLER. I usually make my own pie crust, but they have a good one. "Baker's shortcut"!!!!
I'll take a puzzle full of BUT NO, AS I SAID, SO DO I, MEANT TO and my favorite XSANDOS.

RVA flier 10:23 AM  

Roman numeral for 12 at the top of a clock face

Cheerio 10:26 AM  

I enjoyed doing the CAPTCHA for this blog today. The clue for RICO ACT was so deviously sweet, because RIOT ACT could have the very same clue. Has that been done before? Never heard of a BAIT CAR, but I suppose I should have. BRR was also interestingly clued - so tough! Learned that I don't know how to pronounce ACAI. BOO to ASTARTE. Overall, nice puzzle!

TubaDon 10:31 AM  

Started with STEEPLE and solved contiguously clockwise without a hitch. Guessed the Lovecraft title but on the last letter failed to spell NOX?EMA correctly. Bummer. So close.

Carola 11:05 AM  

Easy until the SW, where a me-too guess at RIot ACT and wanting some kind of ???pHONE (hi, @Randall Clark) slowed me down for a while. I liked the cross of BAIT and EAT IT UP and enjoyed my can't-get-me-this-time moment of remembering the XZ combination in NOXZEMA. Fun to read the tidbits about Lovecraft.

JC66 11:07 AM  

Never heard of CTHULHU, so this played tough for me.


Your first post was terrific. Whatever you had for breakfast, have it more often.


How was the lasagna?

Z 11:11 AM  

@Gill I - Interesting avatar.

I remember the days when the commentariat played the game of wittiest CAPTCHA, but the game ended when the random letters were replaced by the pictures. Now the CAPTCHA is so advanced that I don’t even have to avow/aver that I’m not a robot if I’m logged into my google account. I guess Google is more omniscient than Facebook or Twitter.

Suzie Q 11:12 AM  

I started off so well in the NW and thought I was going to mop the floor with this one but I ended up being the floor, not the mop.

Brits put corn on their pizza! So I'll put my peas in my Shepherd's Pie if I wanna.

Two Ponies 11:33 AM  

@ GILL.I, I noticed your avatar yesterday and like @Z I am curious. It looks ghastly in the thumbnail form. Is she doing what I think she's doing?!

John Hoffman 11:48 AM  

I had a good start on this one but then failed to finish. Lotta hard stuff!

Ellen S 11:54 AM  

So, yesterday I was waiting my turn at the hair cutting place, and leafed through a 2-year-old copy of Bon Appetit. There was an article introduced by the editor explaining what snobby foodies they all were, having, for example, learned that Açaí is three syllables. I don’t remember what the three syllables are. Maybe “amirite”, but no matter, it really helped the puzzle-solving!!

Nancy 12:00 PM  

Thanks, @JC66!

If anyone wanted to know just how non-visual and unobservant I am, here's proof positive. I completely missed @GILL's eye-popping new avatar twice -- once late yesterday and once today. Were it not for @Z and @Two Ponies, I wouldn't have ever noticed it. How is that even possible? How is that even possible???? I dunno. It just is.

Anonymous 12:10 PM  

@Two Ponies, chupacabra is Puerto Rican. Not that we expect you to know that there's a difference between Mexican and Puerto Rican. You do wear your politics on your sleeve, after all.

Joseph Michael 12:29 PM  

I loved it until I hated it.

Some great entries like LUDDITE, SWAGGER, and XS AND OS. And some great clues such as those for CAPTCHA, STEEPLE, CUE CARD, and XII.

But CTHULHU crossing AMIRITE and BJNOVAK crossing ASTARTE and KEEBLER just SEEMS cruel.

GHarris 12:29 PM  

Worked hard to get it all until the SW. Still, I refuse to concede. Even wrote in amirite (as absurd as that is) but removed it because I couldn’t see how the t would follow a c. But the reason I call foul; no one in the field says Rico Act. Though technically correct, it is simply referred to as Rico.And captcha is just not in my lexicon.

Unknown 12:30 PM  

I will second JC66, Nancy, your first post today was a real gem. I always enjoy your writing, so it seems you picked the correct profession.

Arden 12:33 PM  

Loved the puzzle and it all fell into place except the cross of WBA with BRR. So close!

GILL I. 12:37 PM  

@Two Ponies....Yup!.....I got this one off of BoredPanda. This Dude takes these pictures of his family and Photoshops them. So yeah, that's his wife blowing up her other boob.
@JC66. Would you eat the lasagna after someone just put a bunch of PEAS on your salad?

JC66 12:47 PM  


Right answer!

And I love your new avatar. Thanks for pointing it out @Z (pun intended).

Masked and Anonymous 12:52 PM  

Scrabbly lil cuss. Otherwise, was pretty FriPuz-ish, on average.

Got in at XII/INEXILE. Sooo … I reckon U'd say they were *my* seed entries.

Trouble spots, at our house:

* BJNOVAK/ASTARTE. Neither of these were of any help in the NE, but M&A did eventually guess the crossin "A"-ok.
* AMIRITE/RICOACT/CTHULHU/CAPTCHA/HEATMAP. Holy BAITCAR, Batman. Tough SW corner to piece together. Lost a big DAB of precious nanoseconds. Don't believe I've ever heard of the term "HEATMAP" before. My weather dudes and darlins out here must say "TEMPERATUREMAP" instead? CTHULHU is nutsy but nice. Mighty nice.
* ROSECUT & DADJOKE. Produced minor nanosecond DROOPin, in the NW.
* SE corner was easiest, IM&AO.
* BRR/WBA. Best weeject desperation; beats ABU/BIT by a nip.

staff weeject pick: OZS. Better clue: {Carpet Baumings??}.

@RP: UG-L-I. har.
re: PEAS: The official M&A Help Desk Dictionary defines "ingredient" as follows:
"any of the foods or substances that are combined to make a particular dish".
PEAS are a food. PEA is a food, too -- but that don't sound quite rite.
Concollusion: Better PEAS clue = {Shepherd's pie herd??}.

Thanx, Mr. Charlson. themelessthUmbsUp.

Masked & Anonymo6Us

I'll see yer LABS, and raise U one:

Georgia 1:01 PM  

No one else put "catscan" for modern screen test?!

semioticus (shelbyl) 1:15 PM  

This is the kind of puzzle that I want on Fridays.

The constructor really used the abundance of 7-letter entries well. This grid structure means you're going all in on those words, if they are boring/obscure, there's nothing else that can make you go "but at least the puzzle had this." This one mostly had a very nice selection. I had learned about NOXZEMA from another NYT puzzle and appreciated the punny nature, so that fell in fast. Not every answer can be exciting, but when the word fails, the clue makes up for it. STEEPLE, for example, is OK, but the cluing elevates it to another level. Stuff like that shows me that the constructor actually cared about their work.

To nitpick, maybe the NE corner could have been better? ASTARTE is not a fresh answer, so that brings the puzzle down a notch, but hey, overall it's really difficult to complain about this one. Outstanding job.

GRADE: A, 4.6 stars.

Chip Hilton 1:18 PM  

Sorry, Rex, I thought it was a great puzzle except for the SW corner, which totallly defeated me. KAPEESH was my first fill in for 39D and, while I quickly abandoned that, I could have stared at the blank for weeks without getting AMIRITE. One word? Really? The Lovecraft alphabet soup answer? Never heard of it. I blame myself for the rest of it down there. Otherwise, I thought this was dandy.

RooMonster 1:28 PM  

Hey All !
Typical tough-ish FriPuz here. Congrats on the debut, if it is one. I think someone above mentioned that.

I knew CTHULHU through good ole South Park. Carman (of course) befriended it. And hasn't anyone watched those Police Video shows where they use BAITCARs to capture criminals? Good stuff.

So, @Gill I, which part is the photoshopped part? Who thinks of this stuff?


Bob Mills 1:30 PM  

Don't understand "MACHONE" for "Speed of sound." Help, anyone? Also, what is a "CAPTCHA?" The Southwest killed me, even though I guessed correctly on "AMIRITE."

Tyler Tillman 1:34 PM  

same here... never even heard the words RICOACT, was convinced RIOTACT was correct... AGH!

Austenlover 1:50 PM  

AMIRITE may have got started in the movie Groundhog Day, in the funny scene when the insurance salesman Ned Ryerson introduces himself to Bill Murray’s character and gives him a spiel about insurance, ending with AMIRITE or AMIRITE or AMIRITE.

JC66 1:57 PM  

@Bob Mills


Abalini 1:59 PM  

The speed of sound is Mach one (two words). Rex explains Captcha in his write up. It’s what you have to type into some forms on the internet to prove you are not a robot.

Two Ponies 2:05 PM  

@ Anon 12:10, I guess those cryptocritters can swim then because they are supposed to live in the Southwest, Texas, and Mexico besides P.R.

Stanley Hudson 2:12 PM  

@Austenlover, thanks for mentioning Groundhog Day and salesman's repeated AMIRITE. Had forgotten all about that and suspect you might be right about that being when AMIRITE entered the ether.

semioticus (shelbyl) 2:14 PM  

For more on RICOACT I'd recommend The Sopranos, the second-best drama ever made for TV. (The #1 spot of course belongs to The Wire.)

Robert A. Simon 2:23 PM  

The puzzle was of medium difficulty in that the top was easy and the bottom was impossible.

D Snell 3:03 PM  

I cry foul at CTHULHU and amirite.
Ya know, sometimes you can be tootoo G.D. cutesy for your own good.
What kind of smug, smartass stuff is that?
Hope you're happy, having made fools outta people.
Fine job of editing. NOT

Hartley70 3:06 PM  

Has anyone NOT checked out @Gill's avatar by now? The pic is really tiny on a phone, but it still makes one go ewww. We may pick up some new posters.

CTHULHU is impossible to believe if you haven't read Lovecraft. I had to hit the check word function. There was no guilt with that cheat.

The cluing was good and the puzzle felt current and smart. This was an excellent Friday.

Anonymous 3:27 PM  

How can we allow the madeup one word amiright be the more made up amirite? Why? Why is this okay with Rex?

MetroGnome 3:31 PM  

"AMIRITE" is "one word"??? Has hipsterbonics commandeered the entire English language to THIS extent??? And does making a [supposedly] literate crossword puzzle more (small-d) "democratic" or "anti-elitist" HAVE TO mean dumbing everything down to the lowest common denominator?

Z 3:38 PM  

@Two Ponies - Wikipedia has your back.

I got a funny feeling RICO ACT may become a much more familiar part of the lexicon in the not too distant future. CTHULHU not so much.

Joe Dipinto 3:56 PM  

The SW was a bit of poser (waves to @Nancy), to the point where I thought I would have a DNF. I was pretty sure it was SACHA with a C, and I too was thinking RIOT ACT at first, though it didn't really make sense. Then when figured out CAPTCHA I remembered the RICO ACT. AMIRITE and CTHULHU are new to me. I assume AMIRITE is something people use in texts.

HEAT MAP seems green paint-y to me. Shouldn't it be a TEMPERATURE MAP? And I don't think of RISOTTO as being creamy, at least not when I make it. But overall, it was a good Friday workout.

Anonymous 4:05 PM  

Rex. For God's sakes, save us from amirite. You hate everything and you're okay with that? Please revisit. That question mark does not come after clue. It's just part of the question in the clue. How can this be acceptable in any way without at least a question mark or an "in modern slang" qualification?

'Mericans in Colombia 4:08 PM  

Didn't have time to post this morning, even though Mrs. 'Mericans and I finished the puzzle in record time for us (and for a Friday): 50 minutes. Also, to our surprise, when we entered the last square we got the happy pencil. No cheats; no mistakes!

LUDDITE was my first entry. That brought a chuckle as, in our family, Mrs. 'Mericans (who has a degree in mechanical engineering) is a late adopter, to say the least. We must be the last 'mericans to have installed a microwave oven in our kitchen. (Yes, she uses it often.) When our son received a message from her a couple of years ago saying "Sent from my iPad" he just about fell off his chair.

But back to the puzzle. The SW was, indeed, brutal. Mrs. 'Mericans wouldn't accept AMIRITE as one word, but in the end I just thought -- OK, if it's wrong, we'll get a message. Also assumed that CTHULHU might as well be RITE as any other answer.

Faves: DAD JOKE, MACH ONE, IMPIETY. CAKEMIX SEEMS NAPA? I couldn't agree more.

Kimberly 4:29 PM  

AMARITE? Is that like some sort of existential ritual? A Descartian liturgy? Because I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone spelling it like that. Not on purpose.

Joe Dipinto 4:39 PM  

@Oops, I meant "When I figured out CAPTCHA..." (Speaking of which, the first time I ever saw that word was when it was an answer in an ACT puzzle by BEQ some years back, situated at 1 Across, no less. I had no idea what it meant, but I learned it that day.)

Stephen Minehart 5:34 PM  

Great puzzle. Great week. DNF, but because for the life of me, I couldn't figure out what the R.I. coast had to do with mob law, I mean, I knew Providence, R.I. had a big mafia presence once, but not the coast, that's all Vanderbilts and Astors...LOL I'm an idiot.

Odd Sock 6:33 PM  

Amirite? Sooo... ifItalkrealfast it becomes a new word?

Loren Muse Smith 6:46 PM  

@Odd Sock. I dunno. Maybe. Sorta cool, though, huh?

semioticus (shelbyl) 7:05 PM  

OK, too much complaining about amirite.

Language is a living an evolving entity, so yes, if enough people use a word, it becomes a legitimate word.

Does it apply to amirite? Well, yes, thanks for asking. Oxford English Dictionary surely thinks so.

Loren Muse Smith 7:19 PM  

@semioticus (shelbyl) - Yes! Think people can prevent new words from entering our language? Fuhgeddaboutit!

JC66 7:48 PM  


What are you doing up so early?

BarbieBarbie 7:53 PM  

@Joe, no. A heat map is a particular kind of 2D plot. Of anything.
@anon 7:12, har! On me. Made me giggle, which was a ice treat on a themeless day.

Harryp 7:56 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
BarbieBarbie 7:57 PM  

Forgot to say. I know BJNOVAK as an author of great short stories, not for kids, though I gave his no-words book to a niece a couple of years ago. Am I the only one here who thinks of him as an author?

Harryp 8:00 PM  

I finally figured out where I have seen CTHULHU. It was Cartman's biddable monster on an episode of South Park!

Unknown 8:01 PM  

I think that you can place some blame for AMIRITE on the wonderful delivery of the line in Groundhog Day.

It is defined as a single word by Oxford University Press.

Harryp 8:16 PM  

Sorry @roo monster, you got there first. I didn't see your comments until after I posted.

Unknown 9:10 PM  


OISK 9:18 PM  

Found the SW brutally hard, and for a long time had 9 empty squares. I was about to come here and report that for the first time in months I had a DNF that was not due to a pop culture obscurity (to me. My wife knew Minaj) And then 'Rico Act" popped into my tired brain, and I solved. I still think AMIRITE is either an obscure ore, or three separate words, and I never heard of CTHULHU, but I got it. Tough, but rewarding. (never heard of BJ Novak either).

Nancy 10:39 PM  

I'm sure you're one of the nicest people on the blog, Loren, but I don't think I want to play Scrabble with you. You neither, @semioticus. AMIRITE indeed! :)

Unknown 5:00 AM  
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Matthew G. 10:56 AM  

Was on track for a Friday record until I confidently put in RIOT ACT instead of RICO ACT and couldn’t understand why the crossings were impossible. Alas.

Theresa williams 11:03 AM  
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
kitshef 2:44 PM  

Yes, AMIRITE was terrible. But DAD JOKE was far worse (and demeaning both to Dads and jokes). Also, I don't think of a LUDDITE as one fearing technology, but one disliking it. I am not afraid of smartphones; I just don't want one.

Fat Al 4:48 PM  

RIOTACT was the far more clever answer; not to mention that RICOACT should not have been the answer to a question mark clue -- it's literally why the law was enacted.

Unknown 2:37 PM  

Rex, your comment about the bizarre spelling of Cthulhu, the whole idea is that the names of the "Other Gods" were not pronounceable by human beings. The human race had not yet been born when the Other Gods went into their hibernation period. Lovecraft explained that it's a good thing that their names are unpronounceable to humans because a correct pronunciation would be instantly heard by that god, who would instantly suck out your soul. Or something to that effect.

Unknown 2:46 PM  

"Title woman of a Beatles song" isn't really accurate, because it isn't a reference to a girl at all. Even at the time it came out it was very well publicized that this was a bitter attack on the Maharishi Yogi who was accused of acting inappropriately to women who came to study with him. John was very angry about being conned: "You made a fool of everyone." Most of the witnesses still living today say that the accusations against him were false, but at the time they were believed. At any rate, "Sadie" wasn't a "Beatles girl".

rondo 10:37 AM  

@Gerald Montagna – you are so correct. The original word for “Sexy SADIE” was “Maharishi”. Not about a girl at all.
Until I saw the CAPTCHA the RIotACT wouldn’t go away and I sure couldn’t rember the CTHULHU spelling and the last letter in was the O in figuring it OUT.

SEEMS I can’t find a yeah baby, NUDE or otherwise except a mis-spelled Stacy KEEBLER.

Other than the trouble in the SW this went along fairly well. Others liked it and SODOI.

spacecraft 10:51 AM  

Not much time today so I'll be brief. All but gave up trying at first, but wound up nailing it for a ginormous triumph factor. OZS seemed forced; XSANDOS seemed REALLY forced, but OK--that's what they are. Very tricky cluing, as befits the day--and I nailed it despite being clueless on that actor at 8 across. To me, Ryan Howard is a baseball slugger for the Phillies. Or, was. AMIRITE will always put me in mind of Ned Ryerson of Groundhog Day fame. {"You could always use more--AMIRITE or AMIRITE or AMIRITE?") No wonder Phil punched him. I don't know any SADIEs, but one of them will have to be DOD. Perhaps Ms. Hawkins of Li'l Abner fame. Birdie.

Diana, LIW 12:07 PM  

I don't think my first post went thru - sorry if this duplicates.

Wrong S in SAsHA.

SADIE stories were interesting. Must listen again.


Lady Di

Burma Shave 12:18 PM  


and that OLD GIRL really MEANTTO strip.
SODOI OPINE on what DROOPED when she’s NUDE?
AMIRITE that it SEEMS it’s her NIPS?


rainforest 1:48 PM  

Story of two puzzles: the SW, and the rest of it, and unfortunately I DNF in the SW.

I started off strong and had the entire upper half in quick order, and was thinking that this is a good puzzle and that I am brilliant. Har.

Slowed down in the SE and suddenly "seeing" RISOTTO and taking a stab at NIN cleared it up. Some clever cluing in there.

However, the SW is another story. Started off with SAsHA, natch, and just couldn't see a C in there. Btw, I saw Borat, and just hated it. Stupidity abounded. But, that's neither here nor there, just like that damn CTHULHU, whatever that is. Never heard of the RICO ACT.

Anyway, essentially a one-square DNF, only because I think I know what a HEAT MAP is, and I simply sighed as I accepted 61 A. I must look it up.

Proud to get CAPTCHA, and I still think this is a good puzzle despite my failure.

leftcoastTAM 7:31 PM  

Late, last, and least. One word: CTHULHU

Anonymous 11:28 PM  

Contra Mike/Rex I thought the SW corner ruined this otherwise nice challenging puzzle. Shouldn't Rico Act be an Anti-Mob Law ? Who has ever heard of or at least spelled out that Lovecraft thingy ? Amirite is sketchy and who the hell ever says heat map ? Looks like others also thought that SW was suspect. Frustrating to have a corner with so much obscure fill.

Anonymous 3:03 PM  

I side with those who think the SW was awful. AMIRITE next to CAPTCHA? RUKIDDINGME? WATTAMESS! Then we have the stack of RICOACT, CTUHULHU, AND HEATMAP. HEATMAP is a term I've never heard in a meteorological context. In the winter would it be replaced with a COLDMAP? CTHULHU would be a hard one to come up with even if you've read the story, and otherwise it's impossible. RICOACT would be fair in another context, but with the clue also applying to RIOTACT, it made a problematic corner even worse.

Otherwise, I thought the puzzle was fine. I actually liked the "Thinker" clue for NUDE, because it goes against the stereotype the word being used primarily for the female form in works of art. As for complaining about "PEAS" being clued with the plural "Ingredients", to complain about that seems akin to complaining about a singular one beneath twenty mattresses.

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