German border river / SUN 3-4-18 / Title family name in old TV / Cossack weapon / Daschle's successor as Senate majority leader / Martial art with bamboo swords / Oxygen reliant organism / Metaphoric acknowledgment

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Constructor: Byron Walden

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: "Character Building" — first words in theme answers go from IN to STARTLING, adding precisely one letter (i.e. "character") at each step along the way; theme answers are familiar base phrases + whatever the added letter is for that particular answer on the road from IN to STARTLING (i.e. the theme answers are wacky and get "?" clues)

Theme answers:
  • IN THOUGHT AS MUCH (23A: Equally pensive?) ("N" added to "I thought as much")
  • SIN SOME SMALL WAY (30A: Commit a peccadillo?) ("S" added to "In some small way")
  • SING OF OMISSION (47A: Perform the hit "Things I Should Have Said"?) ("G" added etc.)
  • STING IN THE SHOWER (55A: The Police frontman filming a shampoo commercial?)
  • STRING OPERATIONS (66A: Tying packages, securing helium balloons, etc.?)
  • STARING QUARTET (77A: The Beatles showing absolute amazement?)
  • STARTING DAGGERS (93A: First weapons used in a knife fight?)
  • STARTLING LINEUP (105A: Surprising group of suspects?)
Word of the Day: NOISETTE (110A: Lean fillet, as of lamb) —
  1. 1
    a small round piece of lean meat, especially lamb.
  2. 2
    a chocolate made with hazelnuts.
• • •

Figured when I saw the constructor that the puzzle would be harder than normal, and that was true, mostly because there seemed to be so much open space, and the themers were often hard for me to come up with—this is what happens when you do not figure out what the hell is going on with the theme until after you are complete finished. I knew letters were being added, but I could not see why. Granted, I don't often stop to try to figure it all out when I'm mid-solve. In fact, I never do that unless I have to. But looking back, I really should've noticed, especially by the end. My feelings toward the theme are pretty neutral—which is to say, much warmer than my feelings toward most Sunday themes are. Maybe that's the secret on a Sunday (i.e. a puzzle where you have to sustain thematic interest over a too-large amount of space): keep the themers varied (and possibly wacky), keep it relative simple, make it somewhat challenging, and make the grid pretty clean / largely inoffensive. I will say that I was surprised at the amount of icky fill in this one (icky fill not being something I associate with Walden puzzles). But when I say I was surprised, I mean that my expectations were that it would be close to nil and instead it was > nil. It was still a sight better than most Sunday puzzles, especially Sunday puzzles with a relatively low word count (harder to fill cleanly). So this was perfectly acceptable, which is the highest praise I've had for a Sunday in what feels like ages.

Frowny faces to NEISSE ESIGN ENDE ANIMAS (plural?) and PSHAWS (plural!? LOL, c'mon). Smiley faces to HAT TIP, EBENEZER SCROOGE, TV MOM, and especially OH, MAMA! on top of YES, YES! That last one was, as the adjacent word suggests, STARTLING, in a good way. Do people really say VID? (35D: Snapchat posting, for short). By which I mean, do *Snapchat* users really say VID? I didn't not know MONTAG was German for "Monday" and I had no idea what a NOISETTE was. Then it turned out I have music in my iTunes by a group called the NOISETTEs ... from 2009 ... for some reason. I assume they're named after the chocolate made w/ hazelnuts and not the small round piece of lamb, but who knows? Only one part of the puzzle really made me fear I might not finish with a perfect grid, and that was when I wrote in IN AUTO instead of ON AUTO (91D: Out of control?) ... as if AUTO were a gear on a car ... which of course it isn't ... I mean, there's an AUTOmatic transmission of course, but ... annnnnyway, I was left wondering for too long how CIG could be the answer for 90A: Important but sometimes ignored piece (COG).

On Sundays I'm going to start recommending one good thing—something I read or watched or heard or used or whatever, that I really enjoyed. It might be crossword-related, but mostly it won't be. Today, it's The Prince & the Dressmaker (2018) by Jen Wang—a comic book fairy tale about a daring young dressmaker and the prince who hires her to make dresses ... for him. It's a very sweet story about non-conformity with a very original romance at its core, but the best thing about it is the cartooning. The art and design are exquisite, the colors confectionery. It's just a delightful book to hold in your hand. Really impressive.

See you ... Tuesday (tomorrow is Annabel...)

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

PS HAT TIP (3D: Metahporic acknowledgment) can be a literal acknowledgment, obviously, but these days it's more commonly a metaphoric acknowledgment, often abbreviated online as "h/t"; for instance, if you post something that someone else turned you onto or otherwise told you about, you can acknowledge that person with an "h/t" at the end of your post.

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


r.alphbunker 12:16 AM indicates that the theme is going from I to STARTLING where IN is the second word in the sequence. After I finished I noticed the increasing similarities between the starting strings of the theme answers. The theme did not help me during the solve.

Details of my solution are here.

Unknown 12:24 AM  

Neutral on the theme as well. I hate "add a letter to make it wacky" themes but I do love the structure of the word progression. Also, what was up with two past Senators in the puzzle?

MSJ 12:36 AM  

I loved this puzzle’s construction and agree with Rex: such an improvement over the recent Sunday fare. It took me 40 minutes, but I enjoyed every one of them for a change.

Lowy 12:45 AM  

I liked this puzzle and the theme but I had one issue with the tense on the clueing of 38D one seeing ghosts. A Christmas carol was an historical novel so even if you are reading it right now , he saw ghosts , Not is seeing , which made the clue feel like a term for a person who is currently seeing ghosts . Scrooge is not currently seeing ghosts , unless he started dating the ghost of Christmas past in the sequel. Otherwise , this was fun for a Sunday and getting the clue halfway in made the bottom half a breeze . Rex, great blog, been reading for years . First comment , thanks for all you do!

Brian 1:03 AM  

In the story he was seeing ghosts.

TomAz 1:06 AM  

Add-a-letter I got. The progression I did not see until after. A cool thing but not relevant to my solving experience.

I finished this fairly quickly (for me). It was not a slog as Sundays often are, so I agree with Rex's overall take.

The N in SING OF OMISSION was the last letter to fall, because I don't know who ENDE is, or what The Neverending Story is.

NOISETTE means 'hazelnut' in French. For what that's worth. Right now I have some lamb shoulder chops (which are nicely marbled and hence not lean) marinating in cilantro, mint, fish sauce, sugar, jalapeno, and lime juice. For grilling tomorrow. No nor'easters here in the sou'west!

chefwen 2:16 AM  

We did it, we finished it with no cheats. Puzzle partner did most of the heavy lifting as this one just didn’t interest me. When the answers make no sense “IN THOUGHT AS MUCH” I’m done. Not cute or amusing in my not so humble opinion.


Rev. Adam Carl 2:56 AM  

Grok-ed the theme very early, starting (!) with the final answer and then worked backward up the grid, filling in each theme answer pretty quickly. Might’ve just been dumb luck, but as a result the whole puzzle played easy for me and I ended up exactly 1 minute longer than my Sunday best.

‘mericans back in Paris 2:59 AM  

Pretty much like @Rex and our fellow commentators, we didn’t fully appreciate the word progression in the theme answers until very late in the solve. DNF, however, because we had “IN shORt” instead of “IN A WORD” for 49D. That gave us a mispelling for the obscure German border river, the (to us) obscure martial art, and “ThAS” instead of “TWAS” for the Wordsworth quote. Well, he had poetic license, so who are we to challenge that?

Despite all that, we are in awe at the feat of construction. Personally, I liked the clue to The Left Banke’s 1966 hit, “Walk Away RENEE”. Their other big hit was “Pretty Ballerina”, which has been covered by many other. performers, including Eels (named after, no doubt, one of the most common crossword answers, because ELO was already taken).

BALOO made me think of that great comic western of the same ERA (oops, sorry: wrong puzzle day), CAT BALOu — not to be confused with CAT DOOR. Jane Fonda, Lee Marvin, and music by Nat King Cole: what’s not to like?


Robin 3:06 AM  

To be honest, I didn't see the progression until reading Rex's review. Just thought the theme was matter of inserting a letter in to a well-known phrase. So kudos to the designer and to Rex for figuring it out.

An okay Sunday puzzle, but just okay. Was not happy with the clueing of "School closing?" for MARM, as that increased my solve time by 10%.

Harryp 3:22 AM  

Lots of words, many ways to go wrong. My last fill was the A in 15D-28A SAGAL/LABATT. I see you can drop letters from the answers but really didn't grok the theme. Otherwise Easy Sunday.

sanfranman59 4:02 AM  

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

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

Mon 3:40 4:09 0.89 13.8% Easy (almost goes without saying with an ACME puzz)
Tue 4:08 5:47 0.73 2.8% Very Easy
Wed 6:47 6:07 1.11 67.6% Medium-Challenging
Thu 9:37 10:01 0.96 44.4% Medium
Fri 16:42 11:42 1.43 91.0% Challenging
Sat 11:44 18:30 0.63 9.5% Easy
Sun 21:00 21:22 0.98 50.3% Medium

Rare is the day that I rate a puzzle easier than Rex and it feels like an accomplishment on a Byron Walden puzzle since I usually struggle with his constructions. I think NOISETTE has to be the oddball word of the day for me, with BALOO, NEISSE and MONTAG not far behind.

Anonymous 4:23 AM  

Seems that few got the word progression until completion, if ever, which makes the puzzle a big fail to me. Half the fun in solving is getting the theme partway through and using it to complete the puzzle. In this case the progressive aspect of the theme eluded most solvers, so I have to say it existed primarily to entertain the constructor--just a kind of masturbatory exercise.

Lewis 6:19 AM  

I came into the puzzle with trepidation because Byron Walden. But I think the oft-vicious cluer was in a merciful mood, and my solve was relatively smooth for a Walden work. I caught onto the letter-ladder theme early on, and it helped my solve, where STARING gave me STARTING, which gave me STARTLING. All in all, this puzzle gave me a keep-my-interest lovely experience, and had a stamp of quality. Like Rex, I found that OHMAMA lying atop YESYES to be a STARTLING LINEUP in a rather NEISSE way, NO LIE.

Dave 6:30 AM  

There is the clever theme, and then there is the way each theme answer is a phrase referring back to the previous answer. Incredibly clever I must say, I must say!

RJ 6:32 AM  

I'm in the process of switching from iPad to paper for solving - at least Friday thru Sunday. One of the reasons I am doing this is to minimize typos that I have to hunt for at the end. Even on paper this puzzle took nearly 50 minutes to finish. I did notice the progression of added letters but it didn't make much of an impact.

Did not know Frist, Noisette, or Neisse and mis-spelled Gramm. My German husband gave me Montag and I hated vid and paren. Longest hold up was filling in taco early on instead of gyro. I guess I'm pretty neutral on this one.

Lewis 6:38 AM  

For those following @lms's teachers' battle in West Virginia, here is a nice op-ed: .

Molly Bloom 7:18 AM  

Gibraltar as a girl where I was a Flower of the mountain yes when I put the rose in my hair like the Andalusian girls used or shall I wear a red yes and how he kissed me under the Moorish wall and I thought well as well him as another and then I asked him with my
eyes to ask again yes and then he asked me would I yes to say yes my mountain flower and first I put my arms around him yes and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will Yes.

chefbea 7:18 AM  

Made no sense to me!!! Did not understand the theme!! DNF

Cathy 7:42 AM  

Wow - I hadn’t noticed this! Thanks for pointing that out.

clk 8:01 AM  

Yes, that’s the aspect of the theme I got and it helped me a lot in solving.

QuasiMojo 8:06 AM  

Tough but easy to swallow puzzle, sort of like a hazelnut. I was a HAZEL-nut as a child until I graduated to the ADDAMS family. Morticia was my favorite TV MOM.

I had a problem with the clue for SATYR. They were woodland creatures, half-man, half-animal but I wouldn't call them gods. I see that something called the Oxford Dictionary online says they were gods. But I can't find anyone else calling them that. I'm sure I am wrong, but it did make me scratch my head.

BUT what does IN THOUGHT AS MUCH mean? I had I'D THOUGHT but then had to switch to the N to get the final congratulatory salute.

I wasn't too happy with ANIMAS in the plural either.

Otherwise some solid fun fill. Not bad for the day before MONTAG.

Glimmerglass 8:09 AM  

@lowry: A Christmas Carol is quite obviously fiction, and not based on an historical event, so you’re confused about “historical novel.” The convention is to use the present tense when summarizing plots. If one uses the past tense, it sounds as if one is speaking of [history] facts, not fiction. Challenging puzzle, good fun, better than the average Sunday, which is usually just a long Wednesday. I understood that we were adding a letter to a common expression, and noticed that many of the letters repeated, but stupidly didn’t catch the word-ladder until I came here.

Birchbark 8:13 AM  

It is a STARTLING LINEUP. I've gone back over it a few times. It's a very quiet, strong structure with lots of layers. Each first word "twist" is the "straight" first word for the next theme answer.

As emotions go, closest thing to the second movement of Mahler's 8th symphony that I've come across in a crossword puzzle.

It's a little after 7:00 in the morning. In a perfect world, I'd have NOISETTEs and eggs for breakfast. But a bagel with salmon is good too.

pmdm 8:17 AM  

Like many (most?) of the solvers, I never understood the theme while solving the party. Perhaps a different title wold have let many solvers figure out the theme during the solving process. But that would probably have been bad. If the first theme answer one figured out were the last theme answer, the letters of a ton of spaces would have been revealed, which is not ideal.

I am not displeased if a puzzle has no theme. In fact, I would prefer to occasionally solve themeless puzzles on Sunday through Thursday if the puzzles have much better than average fill. So I did not mind solving today's puzzle as a themeless.

Happy Daylight Savings Time, which will occur next Sunday before you solve next week's puzzle (unless you solve on Saturday(.

ncmathsadist 8:20 AM  

The theme was utterly useless. It was just an irksome annoyance.

Hungry Mother 8:29 AM  

Quite a slog, even when I caught the theme. Rather joyless.

David 8:31 AM  

Got "sin some small way" first and thought "building characters" meant something to do with people. Finally gave up on that idea and just filled the theme answers without caring about the theme.

On auto is a saying. "He's on auto". In my experience it's said of someone who is doing a job they've done a million times before while they are thinking of something else so they look kind of vacant. That would mean saying somebody is "on auto" means they're in such complete control they don't need to bother thinking about what it is they're doing. Quite the opposite of being "out of control".

Anonymous 8:43 AM  

@lowry @glimmer - probably biting off more grammar than I can chew, but I’m not sure that “seeing” even has tense in the clue for 38D. I think “one seeing ghosts” can shorthand for both “one who is seeing” and “one who was seeing.” It’s an adjectival gerund in this context, yes?

GHarris 9:03 AM  

I, too, as does QuasiMojo, do not think of satyres as gods but, hey, you do what the grid requires and finishing without a cheat on a Sunday rated medium challenging by Rex is not to be pooh poohed.

Two Ponies 9:04 AM  

Too much work for so little in return.

When the grid is this large I find it annoying to have so many clues that are qualified. Lots of "in short, informally, familiarly" and lots of abbreviations. Sacrificing real words for a lame theme is not entertaining to me.

Stanley Hudson 9:08 AM  

A pleasant way to start Sunday morning. One of the better Sunday puzzles this year.

pwoodfin 9:13 AM  

You missed out, Anonymous. Your loss.

Jamie C 9:19 AM  

"Perfectly acceptable" = RABID enthusiasm from Rex!

Unknown 9:30 AM  

the NE gave me immediate notice that i was going to be going slower than normal. this was put together well, clued challengingly, and a welcome change of pace. that said, it was kind of boring, theme-wise, in my "opinion on the internet." have a great sunday yall!

Aketi 9:45 AM  

I lucked out and spotted the IN SIN prgression early and proceeded to fill in all the theme answers before fleshing out the rest of the puzzle anf chuckled over the OHMAMA YES YES at the bottom. It usually takes me a long time to finish Sunday puzzles but having all the them answers dropped it down to an unprecedented less than one cappuccino Sunday solve.

Teedmn 9:46 AM  
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Teedmn 9:47 AM  
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Ry 9:50 AM  

Cosign from me as well. Getting the last themer and working backward made the solving so much easier and I thought it was pretty elegant construction to have each correct base phrase (e.g. IN SOME SMALL WAY include the first word of the previous themer.

Teedmn 9:50 AM  

IN SIN SING STING STRING STARING STARTING STARTLING: I've made a cursory attempt to find a meta in this STRING of STARTING words and have failed to make a connection. Still, it's cool to find this word-ladder cousin. Are there any other words that can be built upon like this? It's beyond my whereWITHal to determine.

I had to "build" up slowly to discovering the theme - as I randomly made my way across the grid, little things went in, or more likely, didn't go in. Only a couple of absolute rewrites - "Molson" before LABATT at 28D, "No way" before "No MSG" at 44D, Fun before FEY at 62A. Often I had an inkling what the answer was so I put in a partial (e.g. ST. at 1A because I couldn't come up with HELENA right off). My random solve is here.

So this was a mildly amusing puzzle with mostly straightforward cluing. I'm not RABID about it but there are NOH real PROBLEM SECTIONS. Thanks, Byron Walden.

Nancy 9:53 AM  

I had --G at 90A, so when I read "Important but sometimes ignored piece", I confidently wrote in "wiG".

I had immediately written in BAmbi for the Disney deer (anyone else?), but EBENEZER SCROOGE (the best clue/answer in the puzzle, I thought) enabled me to switch to BALOO. (Who?)

If you've done any "fine dining" in your life, you'll probably be familiar with the word NOISETTE. Sometimes the lamb is worthy of the designation, sometimes not so much, but that's what fine restaurants often call it.

If you want your robot to live on in cinematic history, just give it a crossword-friendly name like ARTOO.

I don't want my bed to "fold" (26A). Any more than I want it to spindle or mutilate.

An easy, pleasant puzzle with some cute theme clues and answers. I enjoyed it.

jordan.wright 10:00 AM  

I ignore most themes. They can slow you down when they are obscure or letter specific. “Character Building” held no key for me, but it was easy enough to see where things were going. And I must have a very different educational background (more classical, less popular culture) than Rex because many of the words that elude him come easily to me. But “hips” for “handholds for slow-dancing”? Should we know that?

'mericans back in Paris 10:02 AM  

@Teedmn: STARTLINGLY, I can only continue the string by adding two letters, L and Y.

Bubba 10:09 AM  

To Quasimojo:

Bullfinch's "The Age of Fable" states that the Satyrs were deities of the woods... and deities are defined as gods so there is another source.

Jack Dammit 10:24 AM  

I’m an award winning scholar of mythology and can state with confidence that satyrs are not gods.

Mother Pence 10:32 AM  

There is no such thing as a small sin.

GILL I. 10:33 AM  

@Rex said what I would've said STARTING with "you do not figure what the hell is going on with the theme until after you are complete finish." The puzzle assumes you start at the top and finish at the bottom. Not this dummy...I had problems everywhere - from START to SINS to STING. Oh, I figured it had to be one of those add a letter or maybe even subtract one, but gee whiz, Byron..!!!
When I finally finished and came here and saw the word letter all spelled out and looking purty, I did do a AHA. Barely.
There were an awful lot of crucial crossings being mucked up by names of people, places and things that I didn't know. First off the bat was 2D. I've never heard of a TENURE track. So instead of 23A starting with IN, I had ID. TEDURE track looks about right. Now you see how I got discombobulated running into the SIN SOME SMALL WAY. And I know don't give a rats ass.
PROBLEM SECTION is part of math books? Clue it as an answer in this puzzle.
Favorite long down :EBENEZER SCROOGE.
I make Beurre NOISETTE and my lamb was a LOIN CHOP. Screwed me up something fierce. I've seen NOISETTE in many recipes but I thought a tad too fancy. And...I eat a TACO - never a GYRO out of a roach coach.
Looking back, this really is elegant. You could've left out NEISSE ANIMAS QING MONTAG an I would have been quite happy. had LION TAMER OH MAMA YES YES PRYNNE.
Just one word of advice. Don't call our Golden State CALI. And, don't call it FRISCO either.

Anonymous 10:34 AM  

I hate to complain, but golly, this was dreadful. Satyrs are indeed not gods. The anima is an archetype, not a soul. On auto is kind of meaningless. And most of all, two Married With Children references is just from hunger. Despite all of which, ridiculously easy, too.

Birchbark 10:35 AM  

@TeedMN, note that the theme phrases also make a ladder (beyond the word-string). Each first word "twist" is the "straight" first word for the next theme answer.

E.g., I[n] THOUGHT AS MUCH --> [s]IN SOME SMALL WAY: the goofy "in" in the first themer becomes the straight foil for the goofy "sin" in the second. "Sin" then becomes the straight foil for the goofy "Sing" in SING OF OMISSION.

I know this puzzle is largely getting mixed reviews, but it SINGs to me today in multiple ways.

Paul Rippey 10:37 AM  

Really liked the Noisettes video!

Teedmn 11:02 AM  

@Birchbark, I did notice that progression in the themers but failed to note it in my comment, but thanks for the TIP. I did like this theme and used it to solve, especially in STRING OPERATIONS.

Are you getting ice rain over in the east metro? We are up here in Ham Lake, off and on. Some snow to look forward to tomorrow. Yesterday's TV forecast (a rare sighting for me) made it look like you will be in the heaviest precipitation corridor, if I have guessed your likely location correctly (Stillwater or Marine, since you've mentioned William O'Brien in the past).

Austenlover 11:02 AM  

I tried to make the added letters in each theme answer spell something. But they don’t. Didn’t figure out what was going on until I came here.

QuasiMojo 11:03 AM  

@Nancy 9:53, I think the clue said Disney "bear" not "deer" and you had me ROFL with your "Do not fold, spindle...etc" comment. I loved that TV-movie with some wonderful old stars: Helen Hayes, Sylvia Sidney, and the recently mentioned Myrna Loy. Sorry, no Virna Lisi, however. But it did feature Mildred Natwick!

nyc_lo 11:15 AM  

STHELENA just would not come for the longest time. All I could remember was Elba. Then I wanted it to be Sardinia for the longest time, don’t ask me why. That, along with some relatively tough crosses made the northwest corner the last to fall for me. My admiration for the construction went up several fold after the solve, when I realized each expanded word formed the basis for the next themed clue. Still finished slightly better than average since the rest of the puzzle went fairly quickly for me.

Anonymous 11:18 AM  

90 across, “important but sometimes ignored piece”, I had COD at first, thinking that was pretty funny, and true. Sorry to see it was actually the mundane COG.

QuasiMojo 11:22 AM  

@Bubba, thank you for that tidbit! (Or titbit, if you're British.) I looked at Edith Hamilton's "Mythology" and she calls them "beast-gods." I guess my dismay over that clue is misplaced.

Birchbark 11:34 AM  

@TeedMN, good guess -- Marine, downstream from Wm. O'Brien State Park. Where it's sleeting straight down. This too shall pass (into snow first, and then that too will pass) --

Going north on 65 from Minneapolis back in the day, Ham Lake is where it seemed like the Cities dissolved and the good stuff began.

JOHN X 11:39 AM  

Hey Molly Bloom, I can never read your soliloquy without thinking of The Firesign Theatre and hearing those very words in Ralph Spoilsport's voice.

I finished this pretty quickly, with my only hangup being the SW, because I had BAbOO for the bear, and that was really messing up the Hemingway fish. That incorrect "B" just destroyed any pattern recognition of the rather obvious MARLIN, which I found an interesting phenomenon how that one particular letter could do that to me.

Like everyone else, I saw the added-letter theme early but I didn't see the ladder until I read it here.

Nancy 11:41 AM  

"Bear". Not deer. Of course! Thanks, @Quasi.

I thought my WIG was funny for 90A. Your COD is much funnier, @Anon 11:18!

I agree, @GILL. I don't even live there, and I immediately knew CALI was dead wrong. It's been CA for quite a while now. When addressing envelopes before the days of CA, you wrote "Calif". And when it's a school or university of some sort, it's always "Cal". CALI? GOD, NO.

And, GILL, I sure wish I lived in CA and could drop by for dinner. Everything you say you cook sounds absolutely wonderful! One dish more delicious than the next.

Z 11:46 AM  

I don’t have much to say about the puzzle that hasn’t been said, but the wrong choir is cracking me up. You’ve a pretty narrow misunderstanding of “gods” if you don’t believe that a SATYR fit the heading. I do wonder if SATYR docs ever warn about the dangers of an erection lasting more than four hours.
Likewise, you’re being overly technical if Jungian souls give you pause. Sure, mark it wrong on the mid-term but it is perfectly okay in a xword context. Soul encompasses much in common parlance. Any terminology that attempts to parse and quantify our inner spirit will be equated with “soul.” “Sometimes, when a thing becomes part of the zeitgeist, you just have to accept it and move on.”*

@Gill I - Hand up for non-sequential solving. I went NE to SW to SE to middle to NW. Hand up for missing the building part of the theme, too.

My writeovers: no Mas to no MSG, SEGa to SEGO, mING to QING, dAZE to HAZE, and, of course, tacO truck before GYRO.

*See, @Nancy, it fits.

Wm. C. 11:47 AM  

This puzzle was considerably more difficult than typical Sunday's for me. Kinda sad, my feelings were mainly of frustration than enjoyment. Like many others, didn't grok the theme until I got here. I can't remember that happening on any oast Sunday. So I agree that most of the enjoyment went to the constructor and editor, not to the solver. Shame on you, Mr. Shortz ... It's your job to avoid this kind of thing!

[Mostly Off-Topic starts here ...]

I got NEISSE off the obvious "S" ending for the fill to the 66A clue (tying packages ... etc.), because of my historical recollection of the "Oder-Neisse Line" as a historical border between East Germany and Poland in the post-WWII territorial settlements ... and later between Germany and Poland, post-reunification. That area of what is now Western Poland was a historical contentious and war-contributing issue, with a historical mix of Poles and Germans. After the post-WWII partition, most Germans fled West into East Germany; and many who remained were killed.

Banana Diaquiri 11:56 AM  

ASHBIN is a Brit-ism. on this side of The Pond, it's an ASHcan.
SINEW is a physical thing, not an abstract idea.

TubaDon 11:57 AM  

Started in the NE and proceeded clockwise so I didn't get the theme until I was finished. Took a long time to convince myself that INTHOUGHT was a legitimate answer.

Nancy 12:14 PM  

Wow! @Z has just quoted me again! This is just too wonderful! Thanks, @Z!

All right, Mr. Bartlett. I'm ready for my closeup.

Malsdemare 12:16 PM  

You can put me in the caught-the-ladder, enjoyed-it column. But my solve was totally random as I scurried from one locale to another trying to find stuff I knew, and I made EXACTLY the same mistakes as @Z so obviously I failed in my quest. I also failed to see ON AUTO and was deeply puzzled by what on earth ON A UTO could possibly mean. I had to read Rex before I caught the dook. Ergo, this took a while, which is fine with me as my plan for today includes getting STARTed on taxes, doing a last pass on an editing job and then getting dragged by my un-leash-trained dog as we work on anihilating that UN part.

And why can't I just leave him at home and enjoy a lovely non-dragging walk on this gorgeous day, you ask? Because, I say, when I returned from a delightful but short walk yesterday, I saw Mr. 80-pound Malamute watching me from the kitchen window. Which is over a counter. Upon which he SAT like a very furry but serene Buddha. Sigh!

Wish me luck, folks.

Longoftooth 12:25 PM  

Can someone explain what a "paren" is (52 across)

EdFromHackensack 12:35 PM  

Birchbark, I am glad you mentioned how the first word in a theme answer is the first word, straight, in the next themer. That adds a dimension which makes the construction that much more impressive. I finished, no errors though it took me awhile. For some reason, EASTWOOD did not come to me and the N in NOISETTE was an educated guess. I must say once I noticed how the theme worked STARTLINGLINEUP fell in its entirety. Congrats to Byron Walden.... I really enjoyed your puzzle!

GILL I. 12:38 PM  

Why thank you, @Nancy [blush]. There's always and empty chair waiting for you (and anybody else who has a good sense of humor) to join in the food fetes at our house.....
I always loved to cook but really never had the time until I retired. My poor husband has become the guinea pig for my tried and trued recipes
One time FENNEL appeared in a crossword and I went on and on about how much I hate anise and then mentioned my first feeling of being a SOT in Almeria drinking anisette and in that same sentence saying how much I loved cooking with FENNEL. @Mohair wanted to know what to do with it so I sent him a picture of my simple Lemon Chicken With Fennel recipe. I sent him the recipe and he said he and the Mrs. (whom I think hated the stuff) really enjoyed it. Maybe he was just being polite!
If you ever get on facebook, you'll see pictures of @Hartley's beautiful salads and just maybe we can coax @chefwen to part with her muffin recipe.

Anoa Bob 12:53 PM  

When I told my family I had landed a TENURE (2D) track position, my mom ask "Why is it limited to ten years?"

Got one of those FUTONS (26A) during my stay in Japan. Still have it. I always roll it up, never fold it up.

Y'all have a cold LABATT Blue on me. Hell, life is short, have two!

Glimmerglass 12:58 PM  

@anon 8:43. "Seeing" is a present participle, and implies a current activity, so Lowy is correct about that. But "One who has seen ghosts," would probably imply fact rather than fiction.

WillGH 12:58 PM  

Funny to read the comments above. If you notice the full theme (how the answer actually makes more sense with the first word of the previous answer) it’s easier and more fun. But if you miss that then then theme is kind of a meh “add a letter and get wacky answers”.

Masked and Anonymous 12:59 PM  

NSGTRATL-icious. Outstandin. Best SunPuz in many moons.

Had trouble seein the theme mcguffin for quite a while, simply becuz the day-um themer answers were soo looong and oso zany. Took m&e forever to get em filled in -- so that checkin em for a pattern was delayed by quite a bit. Real neat idea, once I got it all figured out -- in time for the theme to help a little bit on STARINGQUARTET & STARTLINGLINEUP.

NOISETTE? Sounds like a subtle almost-sbd fart or somesuch. LOVATO/NOH also a bit difficult. BALOO & QING also had some tuff bark on em. But most of the fill was sane, which helped offset the in-sane, sin-sane, sing-sane, etc., nanosec-guzzlin themers.

Corner of ultimate funkiness: ADDAMS/Cafe THE/OHMAMA/YESYES/GETME/Marshall AR-RAY one. Primo.

Had TACO instead of GYRO for a spell. Dribbled out some more precious nanoseconds, there'bouts.

Thanx for the sUnfUn, Mr. Walden. Great stuff.
Ooooh, ooooh … I know! … NSGTRATL anagrams to STARTLNG … [Big surprise, huh]. Woulda done even better there, if bought a vowel coulda I.

Masked & Anonymo5Us


puzzlehoarder 1:00 PM  

I don't care for themes so today's multi layered theme was simply that much more annoyance. Knowing that a letter needed to be added to a common phrase was obvious and I knew there was a word repetition going on but other than that I just stuck to my usual approach and solved it as a themeless. It didn't disappoint in that regard. The theme did force some ugly fill such as PAREN, CALI and VID but mostly it was quality material and some challenging cluing.

I really sweated that N of NOISETTE. Why does PRYNNE need two N's and why am I so unfamiliar this famous name? Just when I thought I'd finished I realized that NOA_ at 68D still needed it's H. However 71D had already gone from LEER to PEER and the DOOR is a point of purchase for tickets so... I spent an extra five minutes coming up with PEEK to finish the puzzle.

@ Nancy, your misreading "bear" as "dear" and then somehow mentally converting it to "deer" to come up with BAMBI was the most interesting thing in the comments today.

Z 1:06 PM  

@Longoftooth - as near as I can tell it was originally an abbreviation for parentheses that is now informally used for a single parenthesis, perhaps mostly by computer coders. I am in no way certain about this, though, just trying to make sense of the various sources I ran across.

Anonymous 1:13 PM  

This 77-year-old California girl just came to complain about the misuse of CALI!

SuperCALIfragilistic 1:15 PM  

"California is a sun-washed land of dreamers and builders, with a relaxed creativity and natural luxury inspiring the world. CALI Whiskey is a reflection of that warm, welcoming, mellow culture. Rich, and smooth, with a deep tan and a bit of easy-going complexity CALI Distillery presents a unique California Twist on classic American Sipping Whiskey."

They beg to differ.

Unknown 1:19 PM  

I can't compete with most of you most weeks. But I grokked this theme pretty early, working basically top-down. And used the theme to solve several answers. I enjoyed it. I DID struggle with the ugly first themer a little bit. "In thought as much" is not good.

ColoradoCog 1:29 PM  

@Longoftooth @Z, PAREN is indeed short for parentheses and indeed often used by coders, but in my IT experience usually not alone. Typically I hear it as part of “open paren” or “close paren”. “Your script is missing a close paren at the end of your loop. There’s your error.”

Interesting comments today. As they say, sometimes you get the bear, sometimes the bear gets you. Today I am happy to say I got the bear. Saw the theme, including the ladder aspect, very early while working on the top and it helped me in solving the bottom. Ended up with a time about 60% of my normal Sunday, and I enjoyed it. Thumbs up from me.

Masked and Anonymous 1:34 PM  
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jberg 1:41 PM  

Drat! I saw we were adding a letter to a common phrase, and I even saw that some of the STARTING words resembled each other, but somehow I never noticed the progression. And I used to play a lot of anagrams, where you could steal someone's word by adding a letter to rearrange it into another word. Kicking myself now.

I think there is a town cqalled MexiCALI somewhere on the border, so you can make a case for that abbreviation -- but it's a weak one.

Now a rant: Disney is taking over everything! Cluing BALOO as a "Disney bear" is only the latest (he's a Kipling bear! All Disney did is buy the rights from old Rudyard's estate, and cartoonify him). Winnie-the-Pooh is even worse, where they bought the rights and then redrew the original drawings to something much worse, though probably easier to draw. There oughta be a law!

Which reminds me ot the metaphorical "tip of the Hatlo hat" in the comic of that name. Hatlo doesn't use that exact phrase in any of the comics reproduced there; I guess he developed it later.

Mohair Sam 2:20 PM  

That was fun. Played surprisingly easy for a Walden puzz. Think it was because there were several longish gimmes for us (STHELENA (which with FUTONS gave us LIONTAMER), THEPIANIST, EASTWOOD, and ORLANDO. That covered a lot of territory. We built from the bottom up (off EASTWOOD/PIANIST) -still we needed to come here to grok the theme.

@Anon (11:18) - COd before COG here too, thought the Times was getting a bit ballsy.

Hand up with the taco before GYRO crowd. Seeing a great deal of animus over ANIMAS, didn't bother me. Have a taco joint here called CALI burrito, best damned vegan chili you'll ever eat - tastes like the real thing. Speaking of food . . . .

@Gill I - The first recipe you sent me off the fennel clue was fennel and glazed pork loin (glazed with honey, dijon, garlic, etc). To die for, we have it at least once a month. Remember you had to mail me additional instructions for cutting the fennel into "fingers"? Then you sent me the lemon chicken and fennel - also awesome. Trust her cooking @Nancy.

D Snell 2:21 PM  

"No _____."
Not "MAS" but "MSG."

Funny thing about MSG:
They've studied the stuffing out of the stuff but never found anything wrong with it.

Winnie 2:23 PM  

I still don’t get the theme but maybe it’s because I am dyslexic. Even your post @M&A didn’t help.

John Hoffman 2:24 PM  

Thx Rex for explaining the theme -- all I saw was added letters. Yes, wacky answers! Quite a feat of construction. This was a difficult Sunday for me. I think of the Sunday puzzle at about Wednesday difficulty, but larger. This was much harder.

Nancy 2:40 PM  

You now cook all these wonderful fennel dishes, too, @Mohair? Remember, PA is a lot closer to NY than CA! I'd be careful, Mohair, very careful... Fair warning. :)

Masked and Anonymous 2:43 PM  

Everyone does get the extra-extra theme mcguffin dealie here, right? From readin all them blog write-ups, not sure everybody did.

It ain't just yer average Add-A-Letter to the Front Word theme. I mean, look at @RP's Theme Answers list:

IN instead of I in the first themer makes it wacky.
SIN instead of IN in the 2nd themer makes it wacky.
SING instead of SIN in the 3rd themer makes it wacky.
STING instead of SING in the 4th themer makes it wacky.
STRING instead of STING in the 5th themer makes it wacky.

Sooo … the exact same word in the one themer that makes it wacky is always the *same* word as you woulda used in the *next* themer's sane version. Hard to pull all that off well, if you ask the M&A. [Insert epic mind-explosion, here.]

GETME? Am I makin any sense, here? yeah … didn't think so.

Like I said B-4. Outstandin SunPuz. Wonderful. [gurgle] [other noisettes]

M&A Help Desk

Anonymous 2:44 PM  

@Nancy 9:53 - Noisettes in a fancy restaurant is a reference to the cut, not the meat, its quality or flavoring. A noisette of lamb / pork / beef is a round shaped, moderate-to-small cut that is moderately thick. You'll see "Noisettes de____(name of meat) Sauce ____ (name of flavoring sauce)."

@Banana Daiquiri - figurative speech is a human thing, try it sometime.
"That organization has a lot of muscle in this town."
"She showed some backbone there."
"His idea just doesn't have legs."
Likewise: "The bodies of men, munition, and money, may justly be called the sinews of war." (Sir Walter Raleigh)

semioticus (shelbyl) 3:04 PM  

Another above average Sunday (3 in a row!), but nothing sparkly.

My problem with the fill is usually with the shorter words that are obscure abbreviations or simply imaginary stuff that clog up a spot. This one actually does pretty well in that department. On the other hand, some of the medium-length fill was just weird. PAREN PSHAWS ANIMAS NEISSE ONAUTO were the ones that made me go "OK seriously?" Still, above average quality for sure.

The theme was fun to figure out, but made you overdose after a while. The kooky answers were not LOL funny, which took away from its strength (maybe the cluing could have been better but I really don't know how) Yet at this point, I welcome anything that doesn't make me go "WHO THOUGHT THIS WAS A GOOD IDEA?!?!" with open arms on Sundays.

But yeah, the clues. For me they are a very important component of a good puzzle, and this one lacked dearly.

GRADE: B-, 3.2 stars.

Banana Diaquiri 3:15 PM  

anon 2:44

yeah, but..... physical sinew doesn't provide strength. the muscle on one end does. sinew and tendon are strong, in the sense of (mostly) unbreakable, although, of course, they will if pulled on with enough strength.
"I can bench 500 lbs. because of the power of my sinews"???

Masked and Anonymous 3:55 PM  

Add-A-Letter to the Front Word themers, that wouldn'ta done what M&A's last "p.s." extra-dealie comment was talkin about [and woulda made the puz a *real* stinker to solve] [and woulda made Herr @RP go ape-scheiss] …


See that? … M&A ain't entirely three oars short of a rowboat.
Maybe 2.

Hope that clears anything up…

M&A Help Help Desk

Carola 3:58 PM  

Wowza, tough! I got the idea of "add a letter to the previous" about half way through, but it still took me a long time to figure out all the phrases. Hardest for me to see was SIN SOME SMALL WAY. Tough cluing otherwise, too, I thought.

Anonymous 4:00 PM  

Really, no comment on SEGO / GRAMM / MARM ? Abysmal, that bit... unless you're a 70 year old Texan flower collector maybe...

kitshef 4:17 PM  

Possibly I am just crabby heading into day three of no electricity (which means no heat for us), but this thing took forever and I didn't like any of it.

It's not that there is a lot of bad stuff (though CALI and VID sure fit the bill) - more that there were no smiles - no AHAs - no 'clever's.

Wm, C. 4:22 PM  

@JBerg1:5- --

Yep, there is a town called Mexicali in Mexico on the California border.

Correspondingly, its sister town right across the border in California is Calexico.

Anonymous 4:44 PM  

The first Disney bear I came up with was "Bongo". 1947 film, story read by Dinah Shore.

Z 5:01 PM  

@ColoradoCog - Thx. Makes more sense your way. I think this is a perfect example of a back-formation, a term I probably learned from @LMS.

@M&A - Making as much since as you ever do. I understood your p.s. perfectly.

@Anon4:00 p.m. - SEGO will be appearing in a puzzle near you soon, probably with Yma Sumac co-starring. It’s one of those words I only ever run into in xwords, which is part of the reason I always forget that it ends in O not A. The reason you’re not seeing more complaints is that most of us do too many crosswords so it’s general knowledge/use rareness has been lost to us.

@kitshef - Stay warm.

Z 5:03 PM  

Since? Where did I learn to spell?

Masked and Anonymous 5:28 PM  


Of course, on the other hand, they coulda had themers like this:


Where the base "sane" phrase would be STATING THE OBVIOUS, but yet STATING was not the first word of the previous themer [STARING QUARTET]. Soo … a lot of possible ways to go floppin around, on this here magnificent theme.

@[Magnificent Beast] Z: Glad to hear M&A is livin up to his usual "standards of coherent-ness". har

Outlaw M&A [sorry]

Hell yes 6:07 PM  
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Anonymous 7:26 PM  
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Joe Dipinto 7:32 PM  

That was fiendishly tricky, but brilliant, imo. Worthy to be a #5 "Bastard Puzzle" at the ACPT, if the grid had been smaller. And any puzzle that references "Walk Away Renee" automatically gets a thumbs-up from me.

Anders 7:41 PM  

It's hard to explain this concisely, but as several commenters note, the cool thing is that it doesn't merely add a letter each time. In addition, the (wackified) first word of each theme answer is the first word of the next themer's *base phrase* (the phrase before wackification). IN THOUGHT AS MUCH => [S]IN A SMALL WAY => SIN[G] OF OMISSION => S[T]ING IN THE SHOWER => ST[R]ING OPERATIONS ....

Adam 8:39 PM  

I loved the theme, and in fact got it early enough that I used it to fill in STARTING and STARTLING. Fun all around, and answers I didn’t know (NOISETTE, NEISSE) were fairly crossed, so didn’t give me too much trouble. Enjoyed it!

OISK 12:35 AM  

Took me all night, but I solved this very clever puzzle. Harder than an average Sunday for me, but I finished it! This was extremely important, because I DNF on Friday and Saturday, and a failure today would have been an unprecedented lost weekend. The failure hat trick of puzzle solving. In fact, if I count Thursday, where I solved but missed the theme, today (Sunday) could have been the golden sombrero. But it wasn't. I am grateful.

Elle54 8:30 AM  

@MandA. Thank you! I was wondering too if anyone saw that! I used that to solve....Staring quartet is usually string ( the answer above in string operations) etc.
Also on auto refers to on autopilot or not in one's control.

Mr. Cheese 10:36 AM  

I’m always amazed at how little (no) credit some of you give themes such as this one. It boggles my mind that one could conjure up this idea and THEN implement it.

Gayle 11:59 AM  

Enjoyed the Police video - thanks. Hadn't seen that one before!

Unknown 12:48 PM  
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St.Genevieve 2:07 PM  

I took on “ auto” to mean on “autopilot”. The clue has a question mark after it , so you know it’s a pun of some sort. Out of “control” (gear) and on “autopilot”(gear) is my best explanation on this one.

Joe Bleaux 2:41 PM  

Wow! You went through all that < > coding on all those boldface yeses to say THAT?

Joe Bleaux 2:45 PM  
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PatKS 3:53 PM  

F××k this stupid as* puzzle, especially NW corner. Oh mama how I hated everything about it.

Anonymous 7:53 PM  

I still don't understand the theme. What's going on in this puzzle is *word* building (if that's a thing), not "character" building. Characters (i.e., letters) are being added, not built.

Unknown 3:51 PM  

Me too I got stuck with inshort, until I realized the Golden State was Cali & the martial art was kendo. Noisette have to admit I knew, bilingual, but really who in the US would ask their butcher for that or even know the word except maybe snooty restaurant menus?

Nancy Gold 2:42 AM  

Excellent—totally missed that!!

Anonymous 2:37 PM  

I too did not know the theme til I read about it here. I knew there had to be a theme beyond the altered familiar phrases but absolutely could not discern it.

JN 2:16 PM  

Just couldn't let "not tip" go as a metaphoric acknolwedgement (of bad service)

Anonymous 11:54 AM  

I got the adding a letter thing about half way thru - but it didn't help. There were some clever answers. And to have the police and sting and the beatles as well as walk away Renee in a puzzle was pennies from heaven for this old boomer girl. Beatles in the 60's The Police in the 80's- those were my favs. So even tho some of the clues and answers were lame: god no, a to z, this puzzle was the best one in many sundays. ps - wanted to put blur in for haze and inside for tenure- but oh well . artoo!!

kitshef 12:28 PM  

Looking back, I think the power outage really did affect me. I did not realize that each themer 'should' use the word from the previous themer.

For example, STRING OPERATIONS is normally sting OPERATIONS - and STING is in the previous themer, STING IN THE SHOWER.

Then STING IN THE SHOWER is normally sing IN THE SHOWER, and SING is in the previous themer, SING OF OMISSION.

And so on. That's very clever, and I'm sorry I did not see it earlier.

spacecraft 12:47 PM  

I was expecting a "character" at the end; was thinking STARLING, as in Clarice. But no, it just meant letter building. Dell puzzle books used to have a game called "Letter Addition," in which the letters added spelled out a relevant word. But this? NSGTRATL??? So, meh on the theme. And we had to endure a printed orgasm (109 & 112 across) and plenty of other crapola in the fill. It certainly is fun to work EBENEZERSCROOGE into a grid, but that's about it. The symmetric entry is very green-paint: PROBLEMSECTIONS. this puzzle was a problem section, not worth the time it took to get through. TVMOM Katy SAGAL makes DOD--if she can bring along TV daughter Christine Applegate. Bogey.

Diana, LIW 1:31 PM  

Completed the puzzle, and got the theme, except for the NW corner.

I haven't heard anyone ever say INTHOUGHTASMUCH, so that wasn't helping me there. Looking back, I shoulda had that corner down. Oh well.

Otherwise, fun finally getting the theme during the puzzle.

happy Sunday - saving your time?

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting no longer for that extra hour.

Burma Shave 1:57 PM  


be A_TEASE, THE COYNESS goes away,


rondo 2:34 PM  

Well that took about an hour. The themers were too gappy (har) for too long until finally seeing the add-a-letter/use-the-previous-STARTING-word thing. Then I CAMETO. The NW took a bit of sussing as did NOISETTE down SE.

LENA's here, no Ole. NOLIE, GODNO.

The N and NE offers yeah baby options with gimme Demi LOVATO, TVMOM Katey SAGAL, or perhaps Heidi MONTAG? YESYES.

Only the mING before QING could GETME on w/os today on a very deliberate solve. Thumbs up for two Peg Bundy clues.

Anonymous 4:36 PM  

Earth to Mr Walden: NO ONE calls California " Cali ".

Cali is a place in Colombia.

(from a person who has lived in the Golden State for 60+ years)

AnonymousPVX 5:05 PM the solve without understanding the theme...when I read it here, I could only respect the difficulty of creating such a grid. Wow, impressive construction.
Nice to see a good Sunday puzzle, nice to get the solve, and again, just an amazing concept. This from a solver who usually just detests these theme puzzles.

spacecraft 7:25 PM  

Maybe they don't call it CALI, but the T-shirt is ubiquitous:


so there's that.

Kevin 9:47 PM  

Kinda cheesy clue for parenthesis

Anonymous 11:10 AM  

Frist?...I'm pissed

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