Velvety growth / "The Simpsons" bus driver / The void / Subjects of the Second Commandment / Barfly

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Constructor: Damon Gulczynski

Relative difficulty: real, REAL easy (personal best Thursday for me)

THEME: INITIALLY (54A: At the start ... or how the first two letters of each starred clue relate to the answer?) -- clues for themed answers only make sense when their first two letters are broken off as initials, at which point they become dead giveaways, basically.

Theme answers:
  • RYAN O'NEAL (17A: Roman of Hollywood?)
  • LINDA EVANS (24A: Legal acting in a 1980s prime-time soap opera?)
  • MARIE ANTOINETTE (34A: Malady of French history?)
  • ROGER EBERT (46A: Regent of film criticism?)
Word of the Day: ROLFE (46D: John of colonial Jamestown) —
John Rolfe (1585–1622) was one of the early English settlers of North America. He is credited with the first successful cultivation of tobacco as an export crop in the Colony of Virginia.  (wikipedia)
• • •

AND he married Pocahontas!  How does that fact get lower billing than the tobacco thing, or Rolfe being "of colonial Jamestown"?  I'm not a big fan of defining people by their choice of spouse, but I do think a fair rule is this: if you marry someone, and Disney makes a movie about that person 350 years later, you get to be "Mr. Pocahontas" thereafter.  Yes, I realize this means that by 2340 or so, Jay-Z will be known exclusively as "Mr. Beyonce."  I am fine with that.

Anyway: hi, everyone!  Pleased to meet you and Happy February!  I'm Ken Walczak.  I usually write about booze or yammer about David Lynch on the Internet, but tonight I'm filling in for Rex while he catches up on [/consults notes] screaming into the void.  Oh wait, sorry.   I mean, "screaming into OBLIVION."  My mistake. 

I breezed through this one, and even shaved a few seconds off my personal best Thursday time, thanks to a pedestrian theme (Rex notes that the initial gimmick has been used before, and less than two years ago, by the NYT) that revealed its secrets super quick.

Man, that theme, though.  The first themed clue--"Roman of Hollywood?"--juts right out on to the thinnest of ice.  I mean: it's February 1, 2018, during that brief hopeful window between Oscar nominations and the Oscar telecast, but also right smack in the middle of #MeToo and #TimesUp and a burgeoning awareness about the horrible deeds of horrible men in every industry but famously and perhaps especially in Hollywood ... and the most famous crossword puzzle in the country chooses a clue that will surely elicit, for many people, the immediate first guess: "Polanski."

As in: Roman Polanski, the director whose films have won eight Academy Awards, six of them after he fled the United States to escape sentencing after pleading guilty to unlawful sexual intercourse with a 13-year-old girl.


And then RYAN O'NEAL, the answer that apparently could not have been clued any other way than with "Roman of Hollywood?", because Ryan is after all a "man of Hollywood" with the initials R.O., crosses ... OGLE.  "Roman of Hollywood?" + OGLE.  Very gross.

Less SORELY vexing, but still notable: 24 across.  We all love Linda Evans (speaking of which, Wonder Woman: 28 fewer nominations than films by Roman Polanski) but "legal acting" is ... not a phrase.  Not a thing.  Is the alternative "illegal acting"? #LegalizeActing!  No.  Maladies, regents, Romans: all nouns one might use in a clue that would be intelligible on its own, i.e. without this "initialism" gimmick.  "Legal acting" is not.

[EDIT: It's been noted that Lynda-with-a-y Carter was Wonder Woman in the 1970s and that Linda Evans was on Dynasty and that I am an idiot.  All three things are true!]

Qualms about the theme aside, the fill was solid overall.  It would have been pointless to expect sparkling answers in the scrawny 3 x 4 corners (NW and SE), but nothing there was truly awful ... and ECHELONS, OBLIVION, PRETAX, and STEM CELLS all get a ROGER EBERT memorial thumbs-up from me.

Other Gripes, Even Though I Liked the Puzzle Overall and Had Fun:
  • 19A: Pretend (LET ON) — Webster has "pretend" as a third definition for this phrase, and ... sure/maybe/I guess??!? ... but I cannot think of a single time anyone has ever used it that way in conversation.  Here in real life, "let on" always means "admit" to me.  As in: "he still won't LET ON, but that senator knows exactly what Trump said about Africa."
  • 20A: Shoe company based in Southern California (LA GEAR) — Can we retire this one, please?  I have not seen a pair of L.A. Gears on a living human being's feet in more than a decade.  The last athlete L.A. Gear signed to an endorsement contract was, hand to Wikipedia, Ron Artest.  Not even "Metta World Peace" yet!  Famous Original Ron Artest!  Yet LAGEAR, persists, endures, crops up roughly twice a month.  Please stop.
  • 22D: Average guy (SCHMO) — I think of calling someone a "schmo" as a bit more pejorative than just calling them "average", and it's a bit odd to see SCHMO clued without a "Joe" anywhere in sight.  NBD, though, as the kids (and constructors needing to fill a 3 x 4 corner) say.
  • 39A: Really binges, in brief  (ODS) — Way overused, inevitably clued in some cutesy way like "binges" to evoke "ODing" on potato chips or Netflix.  Invariably makes me think of hard drugs anyway.  Would love to see it ICEd (oh yeah, "clinch" for "ice" also strikes me as odd!) but I do try to set realistic expectations.  
Oh man, this was super fun!  Hopefully Rex lets me do it again some time.

Signed, Ken Walczak, BARFLY of CrossWorld

[I'm on Twitter and Instagram!]

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Gopman 5:31 AM  

Had IcOnS for IDOLS, which left me with VITAnE for VITALE. I was ok with those. I had no idea what was going on with BRIcE though...

Other than that, a super fast Thursday.

Music Man 5:34 AM  

Were you thinking of Lynda Carter (as Wonder Woman), not Linda Evans?

Anonymous 5:43 AM  

Pretty embarrassing goof by our guest blogger today. All actresses named Linda are not the same.

Anonymous 6:11 AM  

Sniveling snowflake. Not the brightest bulb in the chandelier.

Harryp 6:12 AM  

This was also my personal best Thursday time of 13 minutes and 1 second. Usually I have a bad time with PPP, or Pop culture, Product names, & Proper nouns as @ Z describes them, but somehow this was in my wheelhouse too.

Two Ponies 6:47 AM  

I should have just skipped this puzzle day altogether.
Man, gal, lady, gent. That's all I get for a Thursday?
Then we get a stand-in soy boy. Geez.

puzzlehoarder 7:01 AM  

This was a Wednesday level theme. There was no step up to an extra level of cleverness or difficulty. While the "Roman" of the 17A clue might evoke "Polanski" the fill was so easy I already was sure of the R and the Y. The lightbulb didn't go off there for me, as far the theme went. The first theme to go in completely was the grid spanner and that was the one theme entry where the first two letters of MARIE matched the initials of the full name. This confused the concept for me until I'd finished.

Finishing was not difficult. The fill was as weak as the theme. Some of the longer material is fine in and of itself but there isn't a debut in the entire puzzle. Even the themes are straight up answers. The grid spanner has of course received the most use making it that much more obvious.

Yesterday I commented about the "Hit it" clue. Today's "Beat it!" for PINATA is the exact same type of clue.

kitshef 7:12 AM  

Theme is kind of dumb … yet brilliant. Solved as a themeless then went back to figure it out and got the big-time Aha.

Puzzle overall was awfully easy.

HOAR OTTO SOT and ODS CPAS RETD are awfully ese-y.

But the long answers – both across and down – were great.

Eileen Arden 7:16 AM  

What a geek. This reviewer makes Rex seem cool. As for Linda Carter/Evans mixup-hey stuff happens. If the review weren’t otherwise so smug I think people would be more forgiving.

Anonymous 7:25 AM  

Hands up if you didn’t think of Polanski until you read the review. Now is the time to be triggered.

Hungry Mother 7:27 AM  

Yeah, fun solve today; felt smart for a change. No more procrastinating before my run this morning.

Birchbark 7:33 AM  

it is -20 CELSIUS today, with an audible wind chill of -29. Welcome, Super Bowl fans.

And welcome, guest blogger who also WRITES about David Lynch.

Curious to see regent MARIE ANTOINETTE among the entertainment crowd of RYAN ONEAL, LINDA EVANS, and ROGER EBERT. It works in the way that dreams do.

It's already February, and still no AMEN HOTEP.

Anonymous 7:37 AM  

I was feeling good about myself until I came here. It seems like almost everyone had a personal(day of the week) best today. Oh well.i 5hought it was clever and the fact that the th3me has been done before doesn’t bother me. Thanks Damon.

kodak jenkins 7:39 AM  

I also don't like the "Hit it" or "Beat it!" clues, although I guess if they were regular things I could get use to them. But since "Beat it!" almost always clues for SCRAM or something similar it was rather deceitful today.

It was Tuesday easy but I did get hung up by the BONGO/ORIOLE cross.

guest blogger: Wonder Woman error aside, he seems almost like a sunny version of Rex, someone who got up on the correct side of the bed and had Corn Flakes entire devoid of urine. I enjoyed him.

That being said I think he and Rex are both a bit too prickly about these "sensitive" subjects. I personally don't mind a puzzle that references dictators, fallen heroes or famous criminals. I don't believe it celebrates their actions but rather acknowledges their infamy.

Lobster11 7:50 AM  

So not only should we ban Polanski from ever appearing as a clue or answer in a puzzle, we should also ban all clues that might lead solvers to erroneously thinking of him? I'm a tree-hugging, bleeding-heart liberal hippie college professor, and even I am fed up with the PC Police these days.

Anonymous 7:53 AM  

I was going to say this puzzle was the worst part of my morning, but then I read your write-up.

El Gran Jugador 7:54 AM  

43-Down is not a SERIES; it’s a SEQUENCE. Specifically, a Fibonacci sequence. A sequence has commas, a series is a sum.

RooMonster 8:02 AM  

Hey All !
INITIALLY, I was looking for a rebus. Kinda Dis-a-POIN-ted! (Isn't that what VITALE says?)
Speaking of VITALE, I had enberg in first. Another famous Dick (please keep the snickering to a minimum!) Nice misdirection. Held up that NE corner.

gram for NANA, sob for CRY were two others that slowed me down. And couldn't get BiNGO out of the ole brain, until BONGO finally bonked into the forefront.

Although I agree it should've been a WedsPuz, still liked it overall. A chintzy theme for a Thursday, but the INITIAL first-two-letters-clue-thing was a mite neat. Says this SCHMO anyways.

LINDA EVANS was of Dallas fame, no? Lynda Carter was Wonder Woman. And newest Woman, Gal Gadot. Unfortunately, with this #MeToo movement, I can't say they were both s**Y. See? I got censored! :-)


Unknown 8:16 AM  

The idea of Disney making a movie about Beyonce in 2340 made me laugh so hard. Nice write-up, mix-up aside. Not sure why people are being so rude about it. Would be happy if you returned, Ken.

bookmark 8:17 AM  

@Lobster11 7:50. I totally agree. Why does the pendulum always swing too far into absurdity?

GHarris 8:20 AM  

One of the very few times figuring out the theme facilitated completing the puzzle. Was fun and I guess I have to concede relatively easy.

chefbea 8:20 AM  

Did not get it at all!!!!! Had to google a lot. Too many things I did not know

Eric NC 8:26 AM  

Ken, haters gotta hate. Thanks for standing in for Rex

Anonymous 8:31 AM  

Didn't Linda Lavin play Wonder Woman? Oh wait, that was Alice.

Non finish 8:32 AM  

@El Gran Thank you. The way the Fibonacci sequence plays out in nature is a beautiful thing.

This puzzle wasn't easy for me, DNF. @Roo, gram for NANA, sob for CRY, yep.

The roughly summed collective ages (is that redundant?) of the themers is just under 3000 years if they were all still alive. Of course, Plato pumps that number up significantly.

This from the wiki on his death, "A variety of sources have given accounts of Plato's death. One story, based on a mutilated manuscript, suggests Plato died in his bed, whilst a young Thracian girl played the flute to him. Another tradition suggests Plato died at a wedding feast."

Dude, way to go.

Anonymous 8:47 AM  

Why are all of Rex's xword friends uber liberal snowflakes. Just enjoy the puzzle for what it is. They are not fodder for people paid by us to teach our precious future about comic books. What a waste

Nancy 8:52 AM  

Very, very easy once you get the gimmick, and I got the gimmick right off the bat. As who could not? I mean they tell you it's the first two letters -- not in the revealer, but in the clue to the revealer, for heaven's sake! And yet I liked the puzzle quite a bit because I liked the gimmick. I just wish they hadn't given so much away upfront. They could have made it more Thursdayish.

If the "average guy" is a SCHMO (22D), it's going to be slim pickings for all of us women.

I added at least 90 seconds to my solving time -- evidently a veritable lifetime to those who care about such things -- because I wanted something about guns or militias at 12D. Seems I thought I was reading about the Second Amendment instead of the Second Commandment. (!)

Anyone else find the answer to 9D a real downer?

An enjoyable puzzle -- just not a real Thursday.

Anonypuss 8:53 AM  

Very easy (6:19) but not quite a personal best for Thursday.

Despite my tendency to cheerful obliviousness, I'm aligned with the haters today.

Carola 8:54 AM  

My first thought of a Roman in Hollywood is Russell Crowe as a gladiator, so I was flummoxed by RYAN O'NEAL. After LINDA EVANS, though, I saw how the initials were working and that made the other two names instant fill-ins. After finishing, I tried to think of some other possibilities with ??lad, ??lass, ??boy... but came up empty - made me appreciate the theme more.

mathgent 8:58 AM  

Another nice job by Damon G. Smart cluing. Sparkly. But not enough crunch. I saw the gimmick when I got RYANONEAL from the crosses which allowed me to fill in MARIEANTOINETTE and ROGEREBERT immediately. Making the rest of the solve routine.

RYANONEAL seems (Is he still alive?) to have had an enormous ego. When John McEnroe was his son-in-law, he would challenge him to play tennis. He thought that he could beat him.

El Gran Jugador (7:54) is correct that in mathematics a series is a sum. Like an arithmetic series or a geometric series. But, in the world of crosswords, series and sequence are pretty much interchangeable. By the way, are you Pele?

Just for the record, I did think of Roman Polanski. So what?

Like @puzzlehoarder (7:01) and @Kodak Jenkins (7:39), I don't like "Beat it!" as a clue for BONGO. But, based on the reaction here when I've complained before, most of us think it's acceptable.

A holt of OTTERs? I wonder where that came from.

I hope that AMY Adams hasnt been aged out of the movie business. She's so good.

Stanley Hudson 8:58 AM  

Weak puzzle theme and a somewhat caffeinated commentary by Ken.

Oldfatbasterd 9:02 AM  

Linda Evans/Carter/Ellerbee/Lavin/Cardellini/Hunt. Keep trying moron.

Gretchen 9:03 AM  


QuasiMojo 9:03 AM  

To the SCHMO above, Linda Evans was on Dynasty, not Dallas.

Talk about "skewing old" -- I agree with the guest today. This one sorta made me scratch my head and check for gray hairs. (Plenty of those, alas.) In fact I wanted RUTH ROMAN for the first themer. Star of "Strangers on a Train." :) And PLATO made me think of Sal Mineo.

We are in the midst of an unprecedented OPIOD crisis and yet the NYT everyday for what seems like years has used ODs or ODed in its puzzle as if it were some cutesy-wutsey way of using slang. I MEAN C'MON!

Silly theme with little to recommend it. Before I grokked it I was spitting nails about the "malady" pun. I'm pretty sure DG meant "milady" and was playing off of that. But apparently not since he needed the initials and then got LADY. But I still resent the implication that Marie Antoinette was a "malady." And Gent for Ebert was weak.

Shortz should have given this back to DG and asked him to come up with more recent names for his theme and to improve the rather tortured clueing. But what do I know? I can't even figure out how to download graph paper so I can try my own hand at puzzle-constructing.

Anonymous 9:07 AM  

Wow! Three seconds off of my Thursday record. Played more like an easy Wednesday. A few twists and turns, but overall a fun jaunt.

I'll take it.

pmdm 9:29 AM  

I disliked this puzzle quite a bit. The entries were just not my cup of tea. Even when I know the proper names (Roger Ebert, Marie Antoinette) I still don't like them. And the fill was not exactly elegant.

For me, the criterion for including a name into a puzzle is the importance of the person, not whether the person was/is good or bad. Richard Wagner was bad. Does it matter? Yes, the PC Police should go away. Perhaps the censors are the worst of all.

Over at XWordInfo, JimH tells us that this theme has been done before (two years ago) and posts a link to that puzzle. Did any of you notice? Probably not (absence of comments). So does it matter? Apparently not.

The later on in the week, the more clues misdirect. The clue to 43D seems to be a misdirection. It is a sequence of numbers that just happens to be a named sequence, but you just as well looked at it as a series of numbers and not the sequence that is assigned a name. I would abolish misdirection involving technical terms. The results seem so wrong, as in this case. But then, if I did that I would become a censor.

Kim 9:29 AM  

Is no one else concerned that this was a theme only TWO years ago (February 11, 2016)? Down to the "Malady" cluing for Marie Antoinette and "Legal" cluing for Linda Evans?

Donald J Trumpp 9:30 AM  

These comments are a shithole country.

JC66 9:33 AM  

@ Lobster11

Absolutely agree.

Come back @Rex.

Music Man 9:38 AM  

Linda Evans played Krystle on Dynasty; Linda Grey played Sue Ellen on Dallas.

Anonymous 9:40 AM  

John Rolfe married Elizabeth Warren?

Z 9:41 AM  

@Harryp - Your comment recalled for me the origin of my tabulating PPP. I think it was a Saturday puzzle that I found especially easy and thought was mostly PPP free. I was quite surprised to see lots of solvers complaining about the proper names so I counted. I was shocked to find a really high amount of PPP. And that is the problem with PPP, when it’s in your wheelhouse a puzzle can be very easy but if it is in your outhouse the puzzle can be nigh on impossible. I spent a month or two carefully tabulating the PPP and monitoring the comments here to come up with my guideline that when the PPP hits 33% or higher some subset of solvers is going to struggle. My correlate is that Word Play > Trivia.

@Lobster11 - Sorry but I disagree. It would be one thing if there were no other play on R.O. MAN to use as a clue, but it is definitely tone deaf at best to use a clue that naturally misdirection to Mr. Polanski at this particular moment. While I’m pretty sure the issue never occurred to the constructor when he made this puzzle however long ago, it would be nice if the editorial team were aware enough to brainstorm a less oogy clue. Would anyone have minded if the clue had been “Roman super-hero” for example? If we all can learn not to swear in front of our NANAs I think we can all learn to be a little more sensitive to those around us.

Z 9:44 AM  

@pmdm - Shortz doesn’t think it matters. He is wrong. But I have nothing new to say on the subject.

Anonymous 9:45 AM  


GILL I. 9:54 AM  

I'm not sure what I was supposed to do after I finished the puzzle. I got all the names; I figured out the first two letters thingie and said "so what am I supposed to think?"
Yup...Roman Polanski. Why not? We get CHE and IDI all the time. Anyway, at first I thought maybe Roman was a character RYAN ONEAL played. I only saw him in Paper Moon and Love Story. I saw Love Story in Madrid and it was all in Catalan Spanish. Try translating "Love means never having to say you're sorry" without giggling. When Jenny finally dies at the end, I couldn't stop sobbing. Then I saw the movie about 20 years later in English and thought it was one of the sappiest, dumbest movie I had ever seen.
So, I had some fun with some memories but dang, this thing was over faster than two sips of coffee. Nothing gave me much of a pause. My only unknown was VITALE but the downs were so easy that I didn't suffer angst.
Went all around trying to find a smile or two. Nope, nothing here. Everything is so old - even NANA NENE. I had a NANA. My other grandmother was grandmother. Let's see....I guess STEM CELLS is kinda current. Nothing else.
OK so the idea was OK but the clues were incredibly blah and yes, Legal Acting makes absolutely no sense.

Vincent Lima 9:55 AM  

> it's going to be slim pickings for all of us women.

And you're discovering that *now*?

Second commandment clue reminded me of the scene in the first episode of the West Wing, where Toby yelled at the priggish leaders of the religious right:

John Van Dyke: The First Commandment says “Honor thy Father–”
Toby: No, it doesn't.
Josh: Toby–
Toby: It doesn't.
Josh: Listen–
Toby: No if I'm going to make you sit through this preposterous exercise, we're going to get the names of the damn commandments right.

(Does remembering this make me an "uber liberal snowflake" or is condemning Polanski for statutory rape all it takes?)

cwf 10:04 AM  

I for one found the review amusing. The puzzle sucked, though.

Anonymous 10:05 AM  

Anyone know what time the memo comes out today?

Anonymous 10:05 AM  

Intolerable for a red meat eating broad like yourself!

Anonymous 10:06 AM  

Everyday I thank God for Roman Polanski.

RooMonster 10:19 AM  

@AlexP 9:38
Too many Lindas! Thanks for that.
Oh, and you too @QuasiMojo. I got a genuine LOL from that!


Barksdale 10:21 AM  

@Lobster. Thank you for being a voice of reason. My gosh to be offended by a crossword clue. Do these people ever leave their houses ?

Nancy 10:30 AM  

@mathgent (8:58) -- Very interesting and revealing anecdote about RYAN O'NEAL who sounds...pretty obnoxious.

@GILL (9:54) Re your "Love Story" observations: No, I can't imagine what it would be like to translate "Love means never having to say you're sorry" into Spanish. But I did have some English language observations back when the novel came out. Using the methods of a book titled SHRINKLETS by Maurice Sagoff (1970), a book that boiled famous novels down to their essences in verse, I came up with this "tribute" to "Love Story":

She is dying,
Young and fair,
Flinging "bullshits"
Just to show she
Doesn't care.

He, her hubby,
Harvard jock,
Thinks it's grubby
To show shock.
("Sorry" has no
Place in schlock.)

So he jokes
Until she dies.
Then at last
Breaks down and cries.
Get some Kleenex
For your eyes.

BTW, I wonder whether it's still possible to get a copy of SHRINKLETS. Sagoff is a terrific versifier and the book is an absolute delight. Sort of like a Cheat Sheet for Great Literature, only much funnier, and in verse.

Uncle Alvarez 10:39 AM  

Guffaws!! all around.

DavidL 10:45 AM  

Having not seen this theme before, it struck me as clever and had an "aha" moment for second day in a row. Yes, on the easy side for Thursday. Loved the clue "Digital communication" for ASL. Who knew otters live in a HOLT?

Linda Evangelista 10:47 AM  

Help! The New York Times Crossword made me THINK of Roman Polanski! Someone fetch me my emotional support peacock!

Oh, wait, it didn't make me think of Roman Polanski-- who has rather famously not been anywhere near Hollywood in 40 years-- at all. Actually it's this column that was all about Roman Polanski, when the puzzle itself had nothing to do with him. And you couldn't even have added a Content Warning? Thanks a lot.

newspaperguy 10:50 AM  

@ Kim said...
Is no one else concerned that this was a theme only TWO years ago

Are you serious? Something happening every 700 puzzles or so does not really qualify as repetitious. Find something else to complain about.

Anonymous 10:56 AM  

Too easy. Like a previous commenter, I had so many confident downs in place by the time I got to 17A that the name of Hollywood until-only-very-very-recently-darling Polanski never surfaced. Briefly tried to anagram ROMAN. Then I read the note.

Perhaps because it’s often the case and missing the name, I was thinking that the guest blogger was a lady; I was therefore initially surprised by the offhand tone of all the dissing here.

Aketi 10:57 AM  

@Carola, I’d take your Roman pick any time over the alternative, haha. The Spartacus series, however, was merely a CGI fest of showing a different way to slice through a head in every new episode. CGI gore porn.

@mathgent, this link explains names for groups of OTTERS and the meaning of holt but not its origin.

@Nancy, 9 down always makes me think of the black hole movie in the American Museum of Natural History. My son must have watched it well over a thousand times before the age of five and never seemed to be bothered by the screen going black after the event horizon is crossed. I put watching that movie on the same list as the sky tram at the Bronx zoo among things that I only did for my kid. Watching it once was enough. Th Big Bang is an infinitely more expansive and I find it less unsettling to think about. Apparently physicists now weigh in on the side of continued expansion. so as long as we don’t fall into a black hole or sink to the bottom of the ocean without being inside a pressure chamber we won’t be compressed into 9 down.

@Vincent Lima, good point.

pabloinnh 10:59 AM  

@GILL-I saw Marat/Sade in Madrid a long time ago (Franco was still in power) and it was much easier to read the Spanish subtitles that to try to decipher the British accents. Memories.

I for one find an occasional sunny review refreshing.

Anonymous 11:02 AM  

@DavidL - thanks! just getting it. Had iSL first, thinking of iSp. Re HOLT, not I.

kitshef 11:04 AM  

Begin rant - skip it if you are looking for puzzle-related thoughts.

Lots of griping about PC today. My take.
There are people who think there is absolutely nothing wrong with using the word ‘nigger’ as an insult to black people.
There are people who would never do that, but think it’s OK to use ‘wop’ or ‘yid’ or ‘dago’.
There are people who would not use those, but think it’s fine to use ‘faggot’ or ‘homo’.
There are people who would not use those, but think ‘broad’ and ‘chick’ are okay.
Or who think all those are bad, but will freely use ‘religious nutbag’ or ‘moron’ or ‘lame’.

And so on…

If you are in that first group, thinking ALL of these things are OK, then congratulations, you are non-PC.

If you are ANYONE else, then you are being PC, and all you are really doing is drawing the line in a different place.

Rather than getting mad at people who draw the line somewhere higher than you do, accusing them of being racist or sexist or homophobic ...

And rather than getting mad at people two draw the line somewhere lower than you do, calling them snowflakes or ‘the PC police’ or wusses ...

Acknowledge that not everyone draws the line in the same place, and save that anger and scorn for those who actually deserve it (i.e. that first group).

End rant

Kirsten 11:06 AM  

@newspaper guy: there’s no reason to be nasty about it Kim was raising a legitimate question . I happen to agree with your general point. It’s not a big deal to repeat a theme every year or so. The vast majority of solvers won’t notice and if they do most likely won’t mind. There are always going to be a few painful people who need to complain about something. Thanks to Will Shortz for ignoring them for the most part.

t-dawg 11:09 AM  

This was HARDER than average for me. Probably because it’s super dated. I am
36 years old and I have never heard of Ryan O’Neal or Linda Evans.

semioticus (shelbyl) 11:11 AM  

Great review and welcome Ken, but today's puzzle really needed that good old Rex spite. This was... horrible. I know that 12 straight days of good-to-superb puzzles meant that we were in for a treat, and there we go.

Wow. As mentioned on many sites, this is a rehash of a very recent theme, with two duplicate answers. I didn't like it, but I would be OK with giving it a pass. Not now. Different publication or distant memory would be a tolerable oversight. This? Not cool. Not cool at all.

The fill is meh, despite having relatively few short answers: RETD, NANA and NENE, CPAS, CLIO, ATOI, ODS and OTS, ASL... And not one single answers to make you go smile. IMALLEARS is debatably the highlight answer... meh. "Vast amounts" and "Tons" in the same puzzle. I guess it is not only rehashing old themes but it is also rehashing itself! Maybe that's the hidden theme? Really uninspired cluing here.

Seriously, what's good about this puzzle?

GRADE: D+, 1.8 stars.

P.S.: Jeff Chen and Andy @CrosswordFiend are both saying that the fill is really solid and/or smooth. What am I missing?

Sir Hillary 11:13 AM  

This crowd certainly ODS on offense taken.

"Roman of Hollywood" made me think of Russell Crowe or Clooney in that not-so-great Coen Brothers film from a few years ago. But not anymore, courtesy of the write-up. Thanks a lot, bin Laden.

Decent theme, although super-easy once I figured it out. Should have run earlier in the week.

Anyone else put in Enberg before VITALE?

I love the rant on LAGEAR. I seem to remember Karl Malone being their highest-profile endorser. Do they even exist anymore?

Anonymous 11:15 AM  

I generally agree with you that puzzle theme ideas repeating isn’t a huge deal, but in that puzzle two of the clues AND answers were very nearly identical! I think that’s kinda lame.

jb129 11:18 AM  

I didn't like it & I have to use "lame" for the theme too...

Aketi 11:22 AM  

@Quasi, I pretty much missed all the Lindas of Dynasty, Dallas, Wonder Woman and more. From the late 1970s through the 1990s, I rarely watched TV because I didn’t own one and I was either studying, traveling or working too much to care. Yet I did somehow manage to pluck the name LINDA EVANS out of OBLIVION. I did briefly get a small dose of LA Law at some point when I had a housemate who watched TV. So I was thinking maybe the LINDA EVANS was one of the actor lawyers on that show. Haha, as well as one can tell from Dr Google, not a single LINDA ever acted in LA law.

MJB 11:23 AM  

@Nancy: A copy of Shrinklets atAbeBooks is available for $16.

Linda 11:24 AM  

In 24A, I read "Legal" in "Legal acting" as a noun. Maybe not commonly used that way, but I seem to have heard it. I just checked Webster's and found it there, defined as "one that conforms to rules or the law."

Anonymous 11:26 AM  

Memo to released tomorrow morning.

Aketi 11:26 AM  

@Kitchef, that was a stellar post. Sums it all up nicely. We all have our biases.

Foldyfish 11:29 AM  

I'm often surprised how different a person's experience can be. This puzzle is WAY out of my wheelhouse and I DNF. This was so far from easy for me.

Nancy 11:47 AM  

@MJB (11:23) -- Thanks so much, but I still possess my 1970 petite hardcover Doubleday edition, with Maurice Sagoff's special and quite laudatory note to me in the flyleaf. It's a cherished piece of memorabilia that I would never part with. But can you believe that the cover price in 1970 was $3.95???? And it is a hardcover, if very small. So I guess I shouldn't expect anyone on the blog to spend $16 now. But maybe Amazon has it for less? Or maybe some of Sagoff's verse can be accessed online? For anyone who's a Lit major, this is really, really good fun.

mathgent 11:58 AM  

A group of otters is also called a romp (I just read). Much better.

Masked and Anonymous 12:07 PM  

@semioticus(shelby): I thought the fill was reasonably smooth for a 74-word themed puz. But … maybe the fill didn't sparkle for U, due to a few unique features, such as:

* Grid is pretty Scrabble-desperate. Has one X and that's about it. Has a few second-tier Scrabbly letters like F and V and W and H and Y, but they may not be all that excitin to some.
* One U. Subliminally, U know this vowel disrespect had some kinda effect on y'all.
* Lack of debut words. U have seen all this here stuff before. WRITERS comes closest, becuz it was a debutter for the Era of Shortzmeister, but was around before then.

The grid did try its best to be interestin, tho. Lotsa long-ball words, like: IMALLEARS. OBLIVION [Not sure why @RP took time off to shout at it, tho. Confuses the M&A]. LAGEAR. CLEMENS. SWARMED. STEMCELLS. ECHELONS [Point shaved off on last two, due to bein plural meat]. PRETAX [With its token Scrabble shout into oblivion]. Good stuff-ins.

Did think that the theme kinda rang familiar, as I was in the middle of the solve quest somewhere. (yo, @CC. A nice salute to yer original idea, tho).

Fibonacci numbers! [43-Down] Sweet. Also, kinda slick, havin a Random RO-man flick star, right after a real recent puz's Random Ramen noodle. But, M&A is sooo easily pleazed.

Thanx, Mr. Scrabbly-name-at-least. [RETD = har, btw.]


Caution: Sunday-sized runt, shoutin into oblivion:

Noam D. Elkies 12:11 PM  

Nice puzzle idea (though apparently not quite new), but I can't get that excited about a puzzle whose theme entries are just a bunch of names. At least the showbiz names are reasonably well-known, though I imagine that by 2340 they'll all be historical footnotes together with Jay-Zed, Beytwicé, and the rest.

22D:SCHMO is originally a euphemism for "schmuck", and used to mean "jerk", so I'm still surprised that the NYTimes allows it at all; but I see that even Maleska used it, and Shortz even broke the SHTUP barrier in 2014.

"Barfly" (cluing 31A:SOT) always looks like an adjective, as in "that drink was so barfly I actually threw up". Here it's symmetrical with OD's -- hm.

The math clue was not the Cartesian 54D (this time English I_AM, not the Latin SUM) but the Fibonacci 43D:SERIES. (Yesterday we had "pointless" INTEGERS.) Should 60A:TEENS really intersect 42D:AGE_TEN? (I'm also reminded of the punny clue "Decimal?" for 57A:OF_TEN.)


QuasiMojo 12:17 PM  

So many LOL moments today in the comment feed. @Aketi, I was actually responding to @Roo Monster who self-identified as a "schmo." And, like you, I did not watch any of those shows when they were aired. Personally i thought Dynasty was god-awful, at least the hair-pulling bits I did manage to see while couch-surfing chez the odd friend. Thanks for laughing, Roo!

@Nancy, love your verse. Always so concise. I took my Mom to see "Love Story" and was expecting her to cry but instead she kept laughing hysterically after seeing Ray Milland for the first time sans his toupée.

RooMonster 12:20 PM  

Is a Group of Crossword Solvers a Complaint? Har. :-)

@Sir Hillary 11:13
I had Enberg. Read my first post. Not to brag, but I made a funny! ;-P.
(Disclaimer:Not being serious.) (Seriously.) (Disclaimer disclaimer: Sad to need a disclaimer.) (But don't want backlash.) (Too many parentheses?) (Nah.)

Roo ( )

semioticus (shelbyl) 12:23 PM  

@Masked and Anonymous

I was aware that the lack of debut answers affected my judgment, but the Scrabble thing is a legit insight. Thanks!

GILL I. 12:27 PM  

So I'm already grumpy this morning because I really do look forward to Thursday and this was pretty bad and so I take the pups to the dog park and some [add filthy name] didn't clean up his dog poop and I step in it. It's too early to pour myself a drink but I did get my belly laugh reading @Nancy.....
I'll have to get myself a copy of Shrinklets. Your "ode" to Love Story has me in stitches and I can't wait to read it to my husband when he wakes up!....
@pabloinnh...I really do hate English/Spanish subtitles because I spend so much time reading what's being said, that I don't enjoy the movie!
Speaking of Polanski....Has anybody ever watched his "Repulsion" with Catherine Deneuve? Scariest movie ever made. I wonder what made me think of it....

fifirouge 12:31 PM  

In retrospect the theme was super easy, but it durn messed me up while solving. I got MARIEANTOINETTE and the revealer at the same time, so I misunderstood the gimmick. Definitely thought it was that the first two letters of the answer were the initials. And did I think it was odd that they were calling dearest MARIE a "malady?" Not really, a little dramatic, but I'm sure she's been called worse.

Then I got to ROGEREBERT and was stumped. Have I had his name wrong this whole time? Was he a Reggie or something and I've just lost it? Again the clue was maybe a little dramatic, but if I had to nominate someone as the regent of film criticism, it would be him, whatever his first name is. I left it alone and went to a different part of the grid hoping another theme answer would help.

Unfortunately I don't know who RYANONEAL is. Got RYAN from crosses and dropped in "young" because...that's what I did.

I eventually got it sorted out, but there were an ugly few minutes in there...

Moly Shu 12:46 PM  

@Kitshef, I’m going to draw my line at someone who gets offended by a crossword answer that ISN’T ACTUALLY A CROSSWORD ANSWER. Or maybe just below that, not sure yet. Hand up for enberg for way too long (hi @Roo). VITALE is more of a buffoon/color commentator than a sportscaster to me.

@Z, respectfully disagree, I’m in the @Lobster11 camp

@LindaEvangelista, you busy tonight?

Gene 12:46 PM  

Are we sure this review isn't just a parody of political correctness 😅

Bob Mills 12:47 PM  

Right. "SCHMO" is not an average guy, he's a jerk, definitely below average. Very misleading clue.

I think the Linda Evans clue uses "legal" as a noun, as in "paralegal." In that case it's OK if she played that kind of part in a soap opera. Since I don't watch TV, I wouldn't know.

Can anyone explain what "VENTI" has to do with Starbucks?

Warren Howie Hughes 12:54 PM  

At 1 Across, I personally would've gone with either Putz or Prig, rather than PAIN!

Anonymous 1:03 PM  

I have never commented before. The tone of the criticism of Rex’s stand-in is embarrassing, tasteless and wholly unnecessary. Complete lack of civility. Makes me kinda sad.

Teedmn 1:07 PM  

INITIALLY while solving, and encountering seemingly random well-known names, I was anticipating an interesting reveal. I was SORELY abused of that notion when I got to 54A and said, "What is this APERY of a Monday theme doing in my Thursday puzzlle??"

Not that it was easy for me - probably average for a Thursday, at 12:10. 9A started out as "enrol", leading me to wonder if my own state's State Bird, the Loon, was endangered but PRE-TAX sent that into OBLIVION. Otherwise, AUTO crossing OTTO in the OTTER holt was about as exciting as it gets in this one.

Not a huge fan, sorry Damon. But that's mostly due to what day of the week it appeared. The puzzle is well-executed and the fill is fine.

Anonymous 1:28 PM  

Ditto! Nice work Da Vinci. Long live the golden ratio.

Two Ponies 1:34 PM  

@ NDE 12:11, Stellar post.

I watched about half of the video posted in the review. What does that have to do with the puzzle and/or the write-up?

@ Nancy, I'm going to try to find that book.

@ GILL I., Thanks for the movie recommendation. You have some interesting posts today, as usual.

I have followed up on so many books and movies mentioned on this blog and considering my hermit's lifestyle I really appreciate it.

Banana Diaquiri 1:46 PM  

@Roo Monster:
I had Enberg.

so did I. as many times as I read the clue, by eye-brain connection said 'baseball' and that's an Enberg sport. as it is, I hit mute and play a CD whenever Vitale is screaming.

Anonymous 1:47 PM  

Got a helluva hunch that if and when we dispense with one word summaries that never fit any pigeonhole, such as “snowflakes” or “deplorables”, we’ll all move a little farther away from oblivion.

Anonymous 1:59 PM  

Exactly...hit the mute and watch the action on the floor and skip the hype. Cousy knew the game and hated hype and I could listen to him all day try to pronounce “periphery”.

Nancy 2:19 PM  

@GILL and @Two Ponies -- I went to see if it's available on Amazon and it is. Not only that, it's $1.50 for the paper edition. (I didn't even know that there was a paper edition.) But the hardcover is handsome -- if you can get it for a steal, buy that instead. Here's the link, though I don't know how to put it in blue.

Unknown 2:25 PM  

Borrowing from yesterday’s puzzle, I just had my ah ha moment...ASL = American Sign Language. Duh.

Bob Mills 2:53 PM  

I thought first of Enberg, also. But he wasn't specifically a basketball guy, while Vitale was. So the clue is valid.

Mr. G. 3:16 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mr. G. 3:18 PM  

The answer to 36D, “apery” is not a real word. Maybe in Words with Friends, but not in Webster’s or the OED. Doesn’t anybody check these first?

JC66 3:24 PM  

@ Mr. G

The Merriam Webster has it

or The English Oxford

Unknown 3:24 PM  

Schmo, series, and lace are clued really badly. Oceans and a load having identical clues is unbelievable. Who proofread this crap?!

Girish 3:27 PM  

@Uncle Alvarez 10:39 AM
Uncle Alvarez likes to lurk
on the internet for his perks
assuming with anonymous smirks
he’s backed by a pack of initially...

JTHurst 3:32 PM  

Is it the wrong timing to pardon Roman and allow him back in the country? Maybe a petition to DJT. Those of you with acute Apophenia might disagree but times up.

Kimberly 3:45 PM  

Yet another blogger who thinks disdain and hostility make them look cool. His only salvation is his interest in Lynch. Perhaps given enough exposure Lynch’s Buddhism maybe he’ll meditate some of that negativity away.

Kimberly 3:47 PM  

Forgot to mention, loved the AUTO/OTTO cross.

andy 3:51 PM  

I’m a card carrying Progressive as well and I also think this PC stuff in puzzles is silly. What’s next? Banning his movies from TV? He’s a person of interest so he gets to be in a puzzle.

Besides that I thought Ken did a nice job in his comments, and yeah, I thought I was becoming a genius until I read how easy this was for most people.

Larry Gilstrap 4:14 PM  

I solved themelessly and was baffled by the revealer. "The first two letters of each starred clue" is exactly what I circled, providing no help and testing both my patience and my faith in the editor and the constructor. Not good! Sure, INITIALLY is a hint, but I'm still not certain any of this was worth it. To each his own.

I once heard John McEnroe mention how cool it was to have Thanksgiving dinner with Farrah Fawcett. Well, not as cool as with Pocahontas.

Abner Doubleday 4:24 PM  

Roger Clemens was a 'roids user/abuser and his name should never be in a NYT puzzle.

Bearded Pomposity 4:31 PM  

Good ole Shelby Glidden
If there's intelligence it's hidden
His thoughts are a joke
He surely ain't woke
Let's throw all his posts on a midden

Ugly Kid Schmoe 4:36 PM  

Isn't Dick Vitale like the worst basketball color commentator of all time? I'm sure he's nice to his wife and doesn't kick puppies but the guy is so hyper he oughta be on a Xanax drip 24-7.

sanfranman59 4:37 PM  

This week's relative difficulty ratings. See my 1/2/2018 post for an explanation of my method. In a nutshell, the higher the ratio & percentage, the higher my solve time was relative to my norm for that day of the week.

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

Mon 4:50 4:13 1.15 80.9% Challenging
Tue 5:40 5:44 0.99 44.0% Medium
Wed 6:43 5:54 1.14 74.5% Medium-Challenging
Thu 7:36 10:11 0.75 15.7% Easy

Not a record Thursday solve time for me, but close (18th of 431 puzzles). Not much of a Thursday-ish theme. After a bit of a slow start in the NW (2:45), I raced through rest in less than 5 minutes. I didn't get the theme until after I submitted my solution. Next please.

Joe Dipinto 4:53 PM  

This puzzle was okay, but I did recall the theme having been used before, and even vaguely recalled MARIE ANTOINETTE having been in it. Thanks for confirming, @Kim.

@Nancy, your "Love Story" shrinklet is hilarious, and a perfect synopsis of the movie. I may have to get that book. (I also have fond memories of the "Love Story" parody on "The Carol Burnett Show".)

Anonymous 4:55 PM  

Every day I thank God for shrinklets.

sanfranman59 5:29 PM  

@Bob Mills ... Venti is one of the cup sizes at Starbucks ... Short (8 oz), Tall (12), Grande (16), Venti (20) and I think I read recently (maybe here?) that there was a Trenta size as well (32 oz maybe?).

Nancy 5:41 PM  

A correction on the book. It's SHRINKLITS, not SHRINKLeTS. As in LITerature. I don't want anyone here to be frustrated or disappointed if they try to buy it and can't. And if enough of you do buy it, maybe Maurice Sagoff will remember me in his will. Although, if this book has stayed in print for 48 years, he doesn't really need any help from me.

jberg 6:18 PM  

Am I the only one here who bungedin RIAL right away for "Qatar's capital?" Made me feel really smart, and totally messed up my solve. I finally saw DINE IN, and that fixed it.

And I never fully got the theme -- even though I noticed that malady = ma lady, I didn't apply it to the answer, and didn't look to see how the rest of the first word (after the first two letters) worked into the clue. Now I like the puzzle a lot more.

I think you all are taking Ken's Polanski remarks a little too literally. Open your minds to a little fun, folks!

@Nancy, great poem! Got any more?

BarbieBarbie 8:30 PM  

Nothing wrong with using SCHMO to mean average guy if you put Joe in front of it (no offense meant, @Bleaux).

I only rarely have to prove I’m not a robot. Why?

JC66 8:45 PM  


Just another reason to go blue.

Girish 9:00 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Girish 9:05 PM  

Dear Ed: I don’t understand why
You will publish this other guy -
When I’m brilliant, devoted,
And an excellent poet!
Yet you publish Anonymous. Fie!

Banana Diaquiri 9:29 PM  

@anon, 1:59
"Cousy knew the game and hated hype and I could listen to him all day try to pronounce “periphery”."

not to mention that Auerbach was referred to as "Ahnold", long before the Governator. Cousy was a New Englander.

Unknown 1:21 AM  

If ROLFE had been clued any way via Pocohontas, Rex (or his surrogate) would have cried Racism! I love (not) how nothing about the NYT crossword can EVER please these contrarians. Again, I occasionally read this blog for pure Schadenfreude and shake my head at the constant negativity.

Unknown 1:26 AM  

Plus, you people are sick who were offended by 17 across. Get your minds out of the gutter. I didn't think of that till I read this blog, and you all need to get lives outside of pop newsmedia.

Burma Shave 9:59 AM  


AHEM . . . when I HEARD about injecting STEMCELLS,
INITIALLY I had fears,
and I OFTEN don’t LETON about PAIN with decibels,
now it seems that I’MALLEARS.


retired_chemist 11:16 AM  

Do comments of those who do the puzzle in syndication get recorded?

Diana, LIW 11:21 AM  

Wow. I got the puzzle AND the theme. Broke my "themeless" spell.

Guess all it takes is hitting me over the head. Even so, I was initially (sorry, couldn't be helped) on another path...pathetic.

As has been noted, didn't seem like a Thursday theme - more of a Tuesday?

I don't usually rant about rants. Or rant in general. At least, not here. But @kitshef's 11:04 am rant on ranters struck me as well put. Especially as one who doesn't appreciate many rants about minor details. But, I guess, what's a puzzle for?

Also, I ordered the book @Nancy 10:30 am suggested. (Shrinklets) Hope to bring it with me to ACPT, for those of you who are going. I mean, you are going - right? 'Cause it sure is coming up quickly.

Diana, Lady-in-Anticipation of ACPT March 21-25.

spacecraft 12:33 PM  

A complaint of crossword bloggers! Perfect, @Roo! And now, MY "initial" complaint: ODS bodkins, what a bleedover! I think constructors are enamored over this "weeject" because it takes so many different clues. It's like EAT or ATE. Not to be confused with DINEIN--which along with EATIN should really be retired.

The theme was middling clever--and then I uncovered that extra layer of the first clue word being the initials + a person--and that made it ALOAD more clever. I rate it easy-medium for the day; had SWAmpED before SWARMED, and couldn't think of RYANONEAL for a short while. Polanski never occurred. When someone does that particular crime I tend to shove him out of my memory--and no, no points for being a directorial genius. I'm willing to throw THAT baby out with the bathwater.

Interesting that CLEMENS and ROGER both appear. I liked it; there was little if any dreck in the fill. I'm pleased to award the DOD sash to LINDAEVANS today. She is my LE gal. Birdie.

Diana, LIW 12:53 PM  

ACPT - March 23 to 25. Fat fingers and sensitive keyboard. (Excuses, excuses)

Lady Di

centralscrewtinizer 1:05 PM  

Retired chemist...where have you been?

rondo 1:55 PM  

Finally had an idea about the theme/gimmick when most of MARIEANTOINETTE was showing up. Done before? I can’t remember and I musta done it. OBLIVION here. There’s a noticeably different flow to the solve when the threes are kept to a minimum.

I had a set of BONGOs. Think I donated them to the church youth. Maynard G. Krebs I ain’t.

Had AMY Adams circled as potential yeah baby, then the complete LINDAEVANS came along. What to do?

Any non-rebus you can walk away from AUTO/OTTO/OTTER be good enough.

rondo 1:58 PM  

BTW - I emailed the St. Paul paper about not showing the constructor's name and . . . magically it is there today!

leftcoastTAM 2:48 PM  

A bit too clever for me today, I'm afraid.

Theme: "First two letters"-- Kept looking at letters of answer, not clue. Doh.

Natick in the North: LAGEAR, totally unknown, crossed by OGLE, clued by "Beach look?"?

In the South: unexpected IAM in place of my unmovable SUM, with the INITIALLY cross. Clever, but a bit sneaky, too, maybe, at least for me. Doh, again.

Not my day.

rainforest 3:10 PM  

Hey, welcome back, @retired chemist. Are you back, and in syndiland? I always liked your comments.

Yes, a very easy puzzle, but I don't mind easy.

When RYAN ONEAL went in, I actually wondered if he was from Rome. LINDA EVANS caused ??, but then got the theme at the "let them eat cake" lady.

No write-overs, smooth solve, silly guest blog post. Why complain about a possible name that wasn't even in the puzzle? I never thought of Polanski, but even if he were in there, it is certainly no worse than IDI AMIN who has appeared twice in the last week. A bit of @Rex apery going on there, methinks.

strayling 8:00 PM  

Any puzzle which has UNIX as an answer is ok by me.

I kept looking for more to the theme than was there, and not finding anything except the initials gimmick was a bit of a disappointment. Still, it was a nice clean puzzle which I enjoyed solving, so I won't quibble about the theme.

Hm, someone up-thread wondered about a collective noun.

A quibble of crossword puzzlers?

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