Traditional Japanese gate / TUE 3-20-18 / Pennsylvania university that's home to the Fighting Scots / Edible succulent / Prized taste in ramen / Critical cluck

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Constructor: Andrew Zhou

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: SEASON OPENERS (53A: Much-anticipated sporting events ... or, when spoken, what 20-, 28-, 35- and 43-Across have) — spring, summer, autumn, winter ... at the beginning of each themer, respectively

Theme answers:
  • SPRINKLER HEAD (20A: Part of a fire safety system)
  • SOMERSAULTED (28A: Flipped)
  • OTTOMAN EMPIRE (35A: Constantinople was its capital)
  • WIND TURBINES (43A: Instruments of renewable energy)
Word of the Day: ROSS Douthat (42A: Op-ed writer Douthat) —
Ross Gregory Douthat (/ˈdθæt/; born November 28, 1979) is an American author, blogger and New York Times columnist. (wikipedia)
• • •

Took me a non-zero amount of time after finishing the puzzle to understand what the hell the theme was. Me: "SEASON OPENERS ... so the first one is SPRINKLER HEAD ... so ... if you "sprinkle" salt on something you are "seasoning" it????" The "openers" to me are the opening words, and when you say SPRINKLE, SOMERSAULTED, OTTOMAN, and WIND in order, well, not much happens. But it's the sounds of parts of words. A small part, or a combination of parts. I dunno. When I say the themers, I kinda hear the seasons. But figuring this one out was less "Oooh!" and more "Uh ... er ... I guess?" The real noteworthy accomplishment in this puzzle is THREE-RING BINDER (7D: Loose-leaf sheet holder), a central Down that is the longest answer in the puzzle and ... has nothing to do with the theme. It just comes crashing down through all the themers, like "Oh yeah!" (that's the Kool-Aid man, for you youngsters).

It's honestly the weirdest non-theme long Down I've ever seen in a puzzle. Straight through five themers ... for no theme reason! Just a "look at me!" photobomb of an answer. Totally upstages the theme. I approve.

Tiny struggles everywhere in this one, starting at 1A: Put a cork in ... which I took as cork-specific. But no. It's just CLOSE (can't believe I'm saying this, but really could've used a "..., say" in that clue).  "WE'LL pass" instead of IT'LL (6A: "___ pass"). Had SPRINKLER and no idea what could follow it. Got the "H" and went with HOSE (?). Which led to ORG at 22D: Alternative to .com (EDU). Had both DOWN and GLUM before BLUE at 19A: Feeling sad. Couldn't be convinced NIP had anything to do with eating (it's a drinking term) (47D: Light bite). I see now that the clue was talking about an actual bite, with teeth. Two "?" clues in the SE slowed things a bit too (60A: Pitch-perfect? / 66A: Old flame?). And I am not at all convinced that a STUNT SHOW is a thing, so ... that was weird (32D: "Don't try this at home" spectacle). Still, time was pretty normal.
    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

    [Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


    oliver klozoff 1:42 AM  

    Sposed ta be the four seasons but it is not very well done.

    Spring-kler? Wind-tur?

    chefwen 2:06 AM  

    Finished it faster than Monday’s puzzle but with less enjoyment. I’ll use one of Rex’s words WEIRD. I don’t think I’m missing some clever cluing, it just didn’t cut the muster for me.

    Anxious to read other comments.

    Mr. Fitch 3:06 AM  

    ORU crossing TORII on a Tuesday? Yikes.

    Mark H. 3:07 AM  

    I know it's not officially being Naticked but the OSU/TORII cross seemed like a cruel trap for a Tuesday. Since I'm not up my Shinto architecture, TOSII seems just as reasonable as TORII. Could stare at that for 20 years and wouldn't know it's wrong.

    salty 3:15 AM  

    Plus, not just one but *two* Apple ads... my favorites.

    'merican in Paris 3:21 AM  

    Well, I finally learned how to spell SOMERSAULT. I don't think I've ever written it down anywhere before. Spelled it first as SuMERSAULT (as in, a playful activity that dates back to the SuMERian civilization). But when I got the unhappy pencil, I tried changing the U to other letters. Eventually settled on an O. Still would not complete, so finally gave up and pushed the reveal button. Seems I didn't realize that people ever abbreviate Oral Roberts University; I, of course, entered OSU. But that state university, I now see, is based in Stillwater, not Tulsa. So DNF.

    I was prepared to really like this puzzle ... until I didn't. But, even after finishing it, I couldn't see how the theme answers were SEASON OPENERS. SPRINKLE, sure. SOME (R) SAULT, I'll allow. WIND, as in "wind a strip of bacon around that old pizza CRUST"? No.

    OK, nowwwwww I get it. SPRIN(G), SOMER, OTTOM, and WINTUR. Hmmm. I guess if more groaning the better when it comes to wacky uns, this puzzle wins a GOLD STAR.

    Ellen S 4:09 AM  

    So, a few years ago I was driving from Sacramento to the coast with my granddaughter, and as we headed up Altamont Pass, she asked, “Will we see the winter-bines?” I sweartoGAWD that’s what I heard, asked her to repeat, several times, until the windmills hove into view and I realized, WIND TURBINES.

    So @Andrew, don’t let these tin-eared solvers get to you. I heard your meaning perfectly. Good job!

    Loren Muse Smith 4:09 AM  

    I’m in a huge hurry this morning to get into school and face the enormous work that is preparing for a sub Thursday and Friday (helloooooo ACPT). But I had to chime in and say I think absolutely all the themers start out just fine as homophones for the seasons. That open O of “autumn” is problematic across dialects, but I imagine there are lots of people who pronounce “auto” and “otto” the same way. WIND TUR is the biggest stretch imo.

    I confidently put in “hall” pass. Just commissioned one from a freshman who whittles. I just said it should be about 4x4 and not too heavy. And attachable to a lanyard.

    The down spanner is kind of unexpected, but I like its self-referential BINDER part. Hah.

    'merican in Paris 5:03 AM  

    Just for the record, here in Europe, where (like most of the rest of the world), the standard size for a piece of paper is A4 (21 x 29.7 cm), rather than the slightly wider and shorter U.S. standard letter size (8.5 x 11 inches), the BINDERS have either two or four RINGs.

    And here's a fun fact: it turns out that 2012 Presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, really did have (THREE-RING) "BINDERS full of women".

    Anon 6:37 AM  

    In puzzles, it always seems to be Oral Roberts for schools in Oklahoma. To me, OSU is a school in Ohio . My problem was the BURO/BORO crossing SOMER.

    puzzlehoarder 6:38 AM  

    I had a BURO/SUMER dnf. This is is what happens when the crosses don't autocorrect my spelling. EDINBORO is a debut.

    Cristi 6:45 AM  

    I’m not from Tulsa either...Pure crossword-ese and it got me, too.

    QuasiMojo 7:10 AM  

    ORU is a staple of crosswords so I managed to figure that one out. But I had forgotten how to spell UMAMI and had EDENBORO which sounded just fine, thank you.

    Otherwise, the theme was simply GAWD-awful.

    Anonymous 7:19 AM  

    @chefwen - it's "cut the mustard" or "pass muster"

    Two Ponies 7:23 AM  

    Some days I am quite cynical and other days I am easily amused.
    The theme answers cracked me up.
    @ Ellen S 4:09 verifies at least one answer with a true experience.
    I liked them all.
    The tricky bits as has been noted ratcheted up the difficulty and saved the day for the dreaded Tuesday.
    Is today the solstice? If it is then this is good timing.
    Photo bomb indeed! The craziness of that central answer just made me like it even more.
    Does a dohyo have a torii?

    kitshef 7:23 AM  

    I also DNFed at the cross of ORU and TORII. I initially toyed with OkU before going with OsU.

    ORU would have been maybe my sixth guess there. OtU, ,OpU, OnU …

    Of course, the rest of the puzzle was equally GAWDawful. Two themers pronounced almost exactly like their seasons, and two pronounced in only a vaguely similar way. This felt like a midweek USA Today offering.

    Anonymous 7:32 AM  

    Not a good puzzle.

    Anonymous 7:39 AM  


    Hungry Mother 7:42 AM  

    Oral Roberts bailed me out at the end. I taught at Shippensburg, a sister school to EDINBORO.

    Glimmerglass 7:44 AM  

    The theme was a big stretch to get “sounds like,” but the problem is only with the revealer, not the four themes, which would work fine in a themeless. I wrote in ORU just from the Oklahoma clue (Tulsa). Why? Because Oral Roberts has been in lots and lots of puzzles, not because I know anything else about the college. This as a very easy puzzle: SPRINKLER**** had to be HEAD. THREE RING BINDER off the THREE (so what if it’s not theme-connected? I hadn’t got to the revealer yet.) I don’t keep track of time, but I do know that this puzzle didn’t entertain me very long.

    pwoodfin 8:08 AM  

    Here too! Same mistake.

    Sir Hillary 8:10 AM  

    Um no, sorry, I've never said, "I can't wait for this GAWD-damned wind-ter weather to be done."

    ROSS Douthat -- LOL, talk about NYT insider-ness. Way worse than the (supposed) Indigo Girls self-wink.

    Birchbark 8:11 AM  

    Happy SPRINK.

    Nonthemers :: Themers as EDINBORO, GAWD, LITE, ITT :: SPRINK, SOMER, OTTOM, WINDTUR.

    Equal opportunity OGLE.

    Suzie Q 8:25 AM  

    That northeast corner was naughty with both leer and ogle but I see the ladies got equal time to boy-watch.
    That being said, should it be Ottoperson Empire?

    Jonathan 8:35 AM  

    I rarely find myself defending a puzzle everyone else is pretty meh on-- but I thought the themers were totally adorable. The fact that I can still look at them the next morning after solving it and chuckle makes it FAR better than most NYT puzzles, in my book. (Though yes, of course, the ORU/TORII cross was ridiculous.)

    Z 8:39 AM  

    Did a “wow” when I grokked the theme. Not a “Wow! How cool.” More of a “Wow! Way to over-reach and pull it off.” Props.

    The Kool-Aid Man riff is hilarious. Fits in with my sense of the theme. “Hey, solvers, besides making you mangle clean pronunciations to get the theme I’m going to show off with a grid-spanning 15 that has nothing to do with the theme. So there.”

    I did not flinch at TORII/ORU. Threw in UMAMI without reading the clue. Yeah, maybe I do too many crossword puzzles. Knowing those are like solving in ink. It looks impressive to non-solvers or new solvers, but experienced solvers realize it is just convenience at work. For you who struggled with TORII, two “I’s” is Japanese architecture. One “I” is the doughnut shape. Both make regular appearances in crossworld.

    True fact. I have seen the cover to Tapestry a gajillion times in my life and never before this morning noticed that cat. I actually googled images to make sure someone didn’t add it in as some sort of cat photobomb meme. Nope, it seems to have been there all along. Wow. Way to be observant, Z.

    Teedmn 8:40 AM  

    I love the phonetic seasons! OTTOM[AN] seems especially inspired. At first I said SPRINKLERHEAD to myself and didn't think much of it but saying it again, I heard the SPRIN[g] clearly and the rest of the themers performed the same STUNT, so I like it.

    This is ridiculously easy though, even with all of the unknown colleges - below my Monday average and I solved online, usually a 25% longer solve for me. So have I just become better online or would this have been a sub 5 minute Tuesday on paper? This is where I wish I could access the parallel universe where I solved this on paper and peek at my results :-) Hey, I'm doing the ACPT in a few days - time is of the essence, if you want a TRITE phrase!

    I was supposed to fly out today, to Philadelphia, but my flight was canceled so I guess I will just BIDE a wee and get there tomorrow, sigh.

    Thanks, Andrew Zhou, nice Tuesday effort.

    Two Ponies 8:41 AM  

    @ Doc John from yesterday, I was thinking the same thing but didn't think there were many left who still remembered that feud so I didn't mention it.

    Lojman 8:43 AM  
    This comment has been removed by the author.
    Lojman 8:44 AM  

    Same here. Don’t know my Oklahoma universities that are abbreviated OXU so well. Nor do I know Japanese. Alas.

    Unknown 8:48 AM  

    Other than that ORU/TORII cross (which I had as OSU and searched for for a full minute and a half as the sole error before I got my completion jingle), I enjoyed it. I actually liked the theme. It made me think of baseball season, take note of today's equinox, and have to work to understand the revealer. Some themes help in solving; but there can be enjoy when the revealer is itself a puzzle.

    Nate 8:50 AM  

    Put me down as another DNR for the OSU/TOSII crossing. What the hell is a TORII? TOSII seemed just fine to me. Oral Roberts is certainly a crossword favorite, so I don't have any excuses there, but I just saw "Oklahoma school," plopped in OSU, which seemed to fit, and moved on. Eh.

    I had to think about SPINKLE for a solid three minutes before I realized how it fit into the theme.

    Things I liked: NOOK and IBOOKS in the same puzzle. ISOLDE is a nice word. Space clues are always cool, so CERES is welcome. I think that's it.

    Nate 8:51 AM  

    Gah, DNF, not DNR.

    Mohair Sam 8:54 AM  

    So we're expecting snow here on the first day of SPRINK? Oy vey.

    How come there's no Aimee Semple McPherson University?

    When I was a kid Oral Roberts was alive and busy healing people on television (yes young readers, this was TV fare back then). He'd always give his address as Tulsa, Oklahoma - hence Oklahoma State was out as an option at 40A, no natick here.

    @Loren - Congrats on finding someone who still whittles (love that word).

    Unknown 9:00 AM  

    Did anyone else see THREE RING BINDER vertically bisecting the puzzle as a visual for an actual binder, in which, when open, the metal spine runs straight down the middle? I didn’t get a strong thematic tie-in, either, but thought the image was sort of surprising and elegant.

    G. Weissman 9:01 AM  

    The theme was utter garbage. In what universe does OTTOMAN suggest AUTUMN and SPRINKLER suggest SPRING? And the overuse of university initials should be outlawed. This puzzle is a fail.

    Nancy 9:02 AM  

    It takes a certain genius to come up with wordplay that's as unremittingly awful as this, so there's that. And it is wordplay. So I guess I shouldn't groan too loudly. And I did emit a [very mild] chuckle at WIND TUR. The constructor certainly had to do some thinking, even though I didn't have to do much. Not too bad for a Tuesday.

    TomAz 9:16 AM  

    I absolutely loved this puzzle. Loved it. I didn't see the theme til I was done, but then when it clicked, I smiled. I may have even beamed, I was so tickled. What a clever approach! Infer the seasons through homophones (or, homophon-ishness) ... and then a THREE RING BINDER to, I dunno, hold everything together? This is so over-the-top goofy that I have to admire it.

    I am surprised that TORII gate was so hard for folks. It feels as natural and basic to me as the name of that big metal tower they got in Paris.

    EDINBORO took a few crosses to spell right. STUNT SHOW feels like a made-up thing (is this an actual phrase?). Loved the clue for LOU Reed though.

    Wm. C. 9:21 AM  

    Like others, I Naticked with a OSU/TOSII crossing, not knowing what a "Traditional Japanese gate" is, and thought that Tulsa was a reasonable location for Oklahoma State.

    And the four "Season Opener" entries made ZERO sense to me until I came here; now I think they make NEAR-ZERO sense.

    Good ol' Joe 9:25 AM  

    I thought the theme was OK. But if “wait awhile” is a valid clue for BIDE I must not understand the substitution rule for clues. “If the other party is late for an appointment you may have to bide.” Not buying it.

    Also ORES are not “rocks”.

    Those were surprising to see in a NYT puzzle.

    mathgent 9:45 AM  

    Twenty-two Terrible Threes, 18 among the downs. Much too many.

    I remember Oral Roberts from when he was the foremost televangelist. I believe that he founded ORU because he felt that most universities were too far to the left.

    If you think that the Reverand Roberts has a weird first name, you should see what his siblings are called.

    GILL I. 9:57 AM  

    Oh, the opprobrium of mispronunciations, then toss in bad spelling, and then mention that English is not your first language choice and what do you get? A Tuesday puzzle that needed a 5 BINDER. I'm still stinging from Yosemite!
    Lots of EDU type things in this puzzle. A bit over the top since every time I came to one the loud UGH was emitted from this cake hole.
    SPRINK....I guess some people pronounce the G like a K?
    SOMER....Pronounced like Homer? At least I now know how to spell that thing I used to do quite well as a child. Five in a row.
    OTTOM. That one sounds about right - although I pronounce it autumn.
    WINDTUR....I pronounce it like @Ellen's granddaughter.
    Maybe I'm sad because I never ever was given any GOLD STARS when I was in elementary school. We got a free pass to the library instead.
    I wish RAHM would make up his mind on how one should spell his name. I like my RHAM much better.
    One too many LEER OGLE...TSK.

    Bob Mills 10:12 AM  

    I love puns, so this puzzle was a winner for me. It's clear from the comments that not everyone loves puns.

    Tim Aurthur 10:15 AM  

    Puns don't have to be perfect homophones. This is cute wordplay, which is rarely seen on a Tuesday. So thumbs up from me.

    QuasiMojo 10:19 AM  

    Oh I get it. EDINBORO like EDINBURGH. Man, I am dumb sometimes.

    wgh 10:23 AM  

    Theme is weird TBH.

    chefbea 10:24 AM  

    Fun puzzle!!!...and on the first day of sprink!!!

    Kiwimom 10:27 AM  

    Hi, I don't think the nip reference has anything to do with eating, it's like the dog didn't bite, it was just a little nip.

    RooMonster 10:31 AM  

    Hey All !
    Add me to the OsU/TOsII crowd. (M)EEK. RAHM not the easiest, either, but fairly crossed.

    Happy First Day of Spring! If you're getting slammed by snow, I feel for ya. How come these stupid storms happen in March/April?

    Theme was passable. Not the greatest pronunciation type thing, but Andrew got a bunch of people to speak aloud the themers, so that's fun. Especially in a crowded room.

    When did eBOOKS become IBOOKS? Misread 2D clue as Places for geniuses, couldn't figure out LAM_S from that. Har. Lord, GAWD was a TSK. Did enjoy the 15 crossing all the themers. Tough to do, and have an actual thing. All the SEASONS are on the left of the BINDER, nice. Opposite of Rex, I enjoyed the two "?" clues in SE.
    OWL be going now.

    LEER, OGLE, TSK :-)

    Joe Bleaux 10:35 AM  

    From my corner of the crossword world: Happy Birthday on your 70th, Bobby Orr!

    Dick Veit 10:35 AM  

    Phonetically, Ottoman works for Will Shortz but not for most New Yorkers. For Midwesterners (for whom "caught" and "cot" sound alike), the opening vowels of "autumn" and "Ottoman" are identical. For most Easterners, however, "autumn" has mid back vowel [ɔ], and "Ottoman" has a low back [a] vowel.

    Azzurro 10:44 AM  

    I loved it. The puns were cute. I knew a guy who used to coach at ORU, so no struggle there.

    My only trouble came at EDINBORO/SOMERSAULT. I was thinking of the summer in Edinburgh and had a U there at first.

    Happy Sprin(g)!

    Citizen Dain 10:47 AM  

    Ah yes, the four seasons: summer, autumn, winter, and sprink.

    What the hell?

    Anonymous 10:49 AM  

    OKU/Tokii, DNF either. That’s a pretty nasty cross for a Tuesday.

    Foldyfish 10:55 AM  

    OSU, TOSII. Yep, got me too. I did not like this puzzle. It was as uncomfortable as a popcorn kernel stuck in my teeth.

    Whatsername 11:11 AM  

    Had the same first reaction as Rex with sprinkle and salt, thinking the theme was seasonings for food. Since when does sprink equal spring and wind turb equal winter? It’s a bit of a stretch IMO. Not a fan.

    nyc_lo 11:13 AM  

    I don’t think anyone anywhere has ever pronounced “spring” as anything remotely like SPRINK. Except maybe Popeye. And WINDTUR? Maybe if you have a cold. Sheesh.

    jb129 11:21 AM  

    Didn't enjoy this at all

    Trombone Tom 11:30 AM  

    Punny answers turn some into harsh critics. I had no problem with eliding WIND TURBINES into winter ...

    TORII and ORU are crossword staples, so better get used to them.

    Nice, bouncy Tuesday.

    Anonymous 11:30 AM  

    Constantinople was not the capital of the Ottoman Empire.

    Joseph Michael 11:32 AM  

    This puzzle triggered the WINDTUR of my discontent by including both ORU and MSU in it, as if one of these GAWD-awful answers wouldn't have been bad enough.

    Then things got worse when I realized that I was supposed to accept SPRINK as a SEASON. And it went downhill from there.

    The saving grace was THREE-RING BINDER which, as Rex pointed out, has nothing to do with the theme but at least fits nicely down the spine as if it's doing something important.

    Unknown 11:32 AM  

    Same here. Ridiculous.

    Masked and Anonymous 11:33 AM  

    thUmbsUp. Greatly admired the wonky seasonal desperation. And talk about yer long-ball nonthemer answers! BIND(ER)S the themers all together. Primo!

    staff weeject picks: RTE & STE. Was actually hopin to string together several weejects, to build somethin that sounds sorta like vernal equinox. Example: VAR+NIL+EKE+WIN+OKS. But … nooo.

    @muse: If I were yer student, I might not be able to hold it in long enough to whittle my hall pass. Wish I could be at that there ACPT, but can't get to there, this time. Wishin U a real high time & a real high finish, too.

    Thanx, Mr. Zhou. Xtra-Fun TuesPuz.

    Masked & Anonymo6Us


    newspaperguy 11:35 AM  

    I have a number of Snowbird friends who Wind Turd in Arizona. The phrase pretty much sums up this puzzle for me.

    Tyler Tillman 11:35 AM  

    me too... OSU/TOSII DNF

    Anoa Bob 11:36 AM  

    Saw several TORII* while in Japan but have seen them more often in the NYT crossword puzzle. TORII has appeared 63 times over the years, 12 times during the Shortz era. Sixty-two times it was clued as a traditional Japanese gate and once as five-time MLB All Star Hunter.

    *If I remember correctly, there is no singular/plural distinction with nouns in Japanese. Whether TORII, for example, refers to one or to more than one is determined by the context. So maybe a Saturday level clue for TORII could be "Traditional Shinto gates".

    Z 11:39 AM  

    TORII images. You’ve probably seen theme before, now you know the name for them. TORII will appear again.

    @Sprink Complainers - If you say SPRINKLER HEAD out loud you might notice that the KL diphthong (is that an actual diphthong?) is closer to sounding like “ring” than “rink.”

    @Dick Velt - You must be from a part of the midwest that’s not actually in the midwest. “Caught” rhymes with “ought” and “cot” rhymes with “lot” in Michigan.

    old timer 11:45 AM  

    A big dnf for me thanks to putting in "OSU" and thinking "tosii" could be a thing in Japan. I bet TORII is a word that exists only in crosswords.

    A love the Altamont Pass discussion above. If you are going to Socal from the Bay Area you most likely use that pass to get to I-5. So my children grew up believing there really was a Windmill State Park because that's what I told them it was.

    JOHN X 11:52 AM  

    Wow! Look at all the OSU/TOSII DNFs!

    Folks, it's always ORU. It's a crossword staple. Ya gotta know this one. Besides, OSU is in Stillwater; ya gotta know that too.

    Now, do ya gotta know these things on a TUESDAY? That's debatable.

    TomAz 11:56 AM  

    @Anon 11:30:

    Don't be ridiculous. Constantinople was most certainly the capital of the Ottomon empire. For centuries. Do you work in the White House?

    Banana Diaquiri 12:01 PM  

    not sure ORU is a legit answer. here me out. I do the thing in the paper at my local coffee shop, and leave it for the others to read. all the news, and all that. my recollection of the clue was "state school", which ORU is certainly not.

    anyone have the exact clue?

    Anonymous 12:03 PM  

    "Tulsa sch."

    JC66 12:04 PM  
    This comment has been removed by the author.
    Banana Diaquiri 12:21 PM  

    to all:

    the theme is 'season opener', so SPRINkler and the like, not the whole season name. OTtoman is phonetic, as is SOMersault, since (at least here in the Effete Intellectual East) it is said as summer.

    Anonymous 12:31 PM  

    I don't know about the diphthongs and SPRINK but I do think that the combination of immediate D to T in WIND TURBINE (or wind tunnel) very much sounds like WIN TURBINE. At least for lazy tongued folks like me. On the other hand, my tongue can be pretty lazy and say SPRINKLER with a crisp K.

    TomAz 12:41 PM  

    It has nothing to do with not pronouncing the K. It is the "g" sound that precedes it that makes the homophone work. No one says "sprink". They say "spingk".

    TomAz 12:42 PM  

    errr. "springk"


    BarbieBarbie 1:03 PM  

    Yup. They are spring-klers, not sprink-lers.

    And turbines are pronounced like what the bad-guy Hogwarts prof wore on his head. And thanks for the Altamont Pass memory! My home town. Among other things.

    I plonked down OSU too, but looked at TOsII and thought it didn’t look like a Japanese word, so I was able to correct that square without knowing either answer. Which was a different kind of wordplay, and enjoyable.

    Medium solve for me and I loved having the long nonsensical 3 ring binder running down the middle. Also liked the baseball refs, since it is season opener season. Also liked that the first day (opener) of Spring is today. So, nice, imaginative job. Thanks.

    Bax'N'Nex 1:24 PM  

    When I was younger, Universal Studios had a STUNT SHOW you could watch to get a "behind the scenes" look at how many stunts were performed. Don't know if they still do (probably not...the simpler things have been abandoned, I'm sure) But it definitely IS (WAS?) a thing.

    Other than glad we cleared up the important issues of the day regarding "Sprink" vs. "Spring", etc.

    Masked and Anonymous 1:34 PM  

    There seems to be trouble, right here in ORU/TORII/STUNTSHOW City.

    Hard area to fill; must cross three precious seasons. Plus, attempts at a re-do must be do-ed delicately, as a U is in harm's way, in any such project … lil darlins.

    One possibility …? ...

    40. Pekoe pot shot?
    48. Mountain chain over 5000 miles long
    57. Early comic strip cartoonist with a subtle political edge [har]
    61. Precious stone, and car brand sound-alike
    64. Obligation
    31. Slight convergence of car wheels toward the center of the axle
    32. Doesn't care to draw any
    40. Old PANAM rival
    44. Far down
    57. Fish with a chin barbel
    58. "Much ___ About Nothing" (Episode of "The Simpsons")

    M&A Help Desk

    jberg 1:36 PM  

    One person's wheelhouse is another one's Natick, I guess.In my visits to Japan, I've seen many more than 63 torii -- there's one in front of every shrine (how you know it's not a temple0> (Well, plus there are Buddhas, etc., in the temples). Here's a picture of probably the most famous one. It's atypical with those extra pillars (perhaps needed to support it in the tides), most just have two posts with the arch across them.

    I grew up in NE Wisconsin, and caught certainly did not rhyme with cot. But, like @Loren, I think it's good enough for a pun.

    It is indeed the quinox, but I'd have like it better on opening day.

    Mohair Sam 1:38 PM  

    @Z - Always love your stubborn contrariness, but once in a while . . . .

    So I called Lady M's Uncle Bob and asked him about "sprngler heads", he laughed his ass off and asked if I was nuts. Uncle Bob has spent 30 of the last 40 years installing and repairing sprinkler systems, the other 10 selling them. I asked him what Uncle Ron (who owns the company) would say to an employee who called a customer about a "springler" system. Bob was sure Ron would say "You're fired".

    jberg 1:40 PM  

    Second most famous torii, I'd guess -- at the Meiji Shrine in Tokyo. More typical shape than Myajima.

    Banana Diaquiri 1:46 PM  

    once again: the theme is season OPENers, not SEASONS. SPRIN is all that is needed to fulfil the theme; the rest of the word is irregardless. same, more or less, for the other three.

    Gene 1:48 PM  

    Rating of Medium hard to fathom, since I was able to finish correctly with just the down clues.

    Anonymous 2:18 PM  
    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
    Anoa Bob 2:20 PM  

    @jberg, you've seen more than 63 TORII in person in Japan? I'm impressed! I only remember a hand full and most of those was when I visited Kyoto. Not knowing the history and full Shinto significance behind them, I was of the seen-one-shrine-seen-them-all school and spent more time in pool halls and watering holes (mizu shobai) than at shrines.

    Tony 2:38 PM  

    What, no comment or video about Lou Reed?

    MexGirl 2:48 PM  

    Potato, potahto, every homophonic puzzle is lost in me. Can’t make head or tails of English pronunciation, no matter the region. To me, this was themeless.

    Masked and Anonymous 3:01 PM  

    In fairness to Mr. Zhou, I personally had no trouble solvin the TORII/ORU STUNTSHOW. But Jeff Chen [xwordinfo dude] thought folks could, so I posted a possible alternative [above], just in case some of them craved another shot at a clean solvequest.
    Still thingk it was a great puz, as is, Mr. Zhou.

    Anyhoo … Happy Springk!


    riddle: If the press briefin presenters all sign a non-disclosure agreement in the white house woods, will any reporter ever get to hear the truth hit the ground?

    TomAz 3:18 PM  

    @Anoa Bob --

    if you've been to Kyoto did you not see the famous torii path at Fushimi Inari-taisha? That walk alone has like 10,000 torii gates.

    TomAz 3:20 PM  

    @Mohair Sam:

    The K does not need to be silent for the homophone to work. No inference of "springler" is necessary.

    Carola 3:31 PM  

    I thought this was a creative and witty puzzle. After reading the clue for the reveal, I went back and read the 4 theme answers aloud...three times, before I heard WINDTUR as a SEASON. Wish I could say I then wrote in the reveal with no crosses, but I had the N from BINDERS. Still, it was fun to get the answer to the riddle. l liked how the SEASONS were hiding in plain sight.

    I thought NO HIT was nice under SEASON OPENERS, and I wondered if the lead-off CLOSE was also baseball-related, although I guess it would need to be CLOSEr.

    Anonymous 3:39 PM  

    A Sumersaulter is one who jumps over really ancient history and goes directly to the early Greeks.

    Anon. i.e. Poggius

    rosebud 4:01 PM  

    I was doing this after going to VOTE since today is our wild & crazy primary...amused to see the Mayor in there, he is keeping a low profile today, waiting to see which way the wind ($$) blows....i love 3 ring binders and enjoyed the puzzle. Hope i am as happy with the election results...

    Tristan 4:06 PM  

    Gah, had OSU/TOSII and couldn't believe I was about to fill the grid in under 3 when the app barked at me that something was off. Never, never would've guessed it was really ORU and haven't heard of TORII. Also never seen Oral Roberts abbreviated before. Went from a minute under my Tuesday best to a DNF. NYT, you are a cruel mistress.

    Z 4:15 PM  

    @Mohair Sam - Well, at least I'm not alone in my contrary stubbornness today. Too bad @LMS is busy or she could weigh in with a little linguistic expertise. What I hear is something in between "spring" and "sprink." Not a hard Kay sound, but not a full guttural G sound, either, like some seem to be suggesting. Leave off the "-er" and the g sound remains but the k seems more distinct.

    @Tom AZ & @Anon11:30 - Istanbul and Constantinople are the same place, which made me wonder what it was called during the OTTOMAN EMPIRE. I did not realize that "Istanbul" is basically just, "The City," and the official change may have been as late as the last century. Fascinating stuff.

    jordaps 4:17 PM  

    Worst groan inducing puzzle I may have ever worked. Finished it, still didn’t get it, found solace in your post - still - GROAN. For the first time ever with a NYTIMES puzzle, I felt I’d wasted my time!

    Geophany 4:32 PM  

    I was WINTURBed about the OGLE clue. Yuk

    Banana Diaquiri 4:32 PM  

    What I hear is something in between "spring" and "sprink." Not a hard Kay sound, but not a full guttural G sound

    may be, may be not. but irregardless to the theme, which is the OPENer to the SEASONs which SPRINkler is. so are the others. why this obsession with concocting a finishing of SEASONs words??? that's not the theme!!!

    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. Your results may vary.

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

    Mon 4:42 4:14 1.11 79.7% Medium-Challenging
    Tue 5:27 5:22 1.01 55.4% Medium

    Pretty weak theme, IMHO. I expected the 15 at 7D to be part of the theme, but no. Also, you best either know SOMERSAULTED is spelled with an O or how to spell obscure Pennsylvania universities (per Wikipedia, total enrollment in 2016: 6,181), lest you wind up with a U in that cross. I'm guessing this tripped up more than one solver.

    Thanks @TomAz for yesterday's shout-out. It's good to know that someone out there finds my stats to be of interest.

    JC66 4:50 PM  

    Istanbul Not Constantinople

    mathgent 4:56 PM  

    I'm with all of us who thought it was a dud. But I just got my fix from today's WSJ by Max Carpenter. Fresh with a smart theme. BOURGEOISIE was in it. Also GEOCENTRISM, which was the revealer -- four of the long acrosses had GEO embedded.

    The WSJ puzzles aren't all great, but the early week offerings aren't dumbed down.

    TomAz 4:57 PM  


    The Ottomans conquered the Byzantines in Constantinople in 1453.
    Constantinople became Istanbul in 1930.

    and yes, @JC66, may we all now have TMBG running an endless earworm loop today!

    Snag 5:00 PM  

    Well I had season options and that worked for sprinkle salt herb and must have sent the answer Ottoman Empire a hundred times trying to find some season option in the way it sounded. Okay Tuesday is usually the only day I finish after Monday. So I'm still a newbie. This made me laugh when I saw my mistake and I finished the whole puzzle didn't get the same until I read Rex. So even after I corrected it to season openers and got the whole thing done I could not see autumn or that they were talking about the Four Seasons.

    CashPo’ 5:05 PM  

    Would be cool if we could go back to the three comment limit here. Even with the mods.

    David in CA 5:23 PM  

    Man it is hard to keep track of the rules of construction! So now I see one is supposed to add "thou shalt not have long down answers in your puzzle with across themes". Thanks, Rex, it is good to know these things.

    Found out there actually IS an OSU - Tulsa, at least I would assume that would be an OK initialism for the Oklahoma State U. there. Would be a nasty little late-week trick to have that instead of ORU.
    @Tristan: you can do a puzzle in <3 min. and have never seen ORU??? Hard to believe - maybe someone with database access could fill us in on how often that appears in the NYT? I sure feel like it is quite common.

    Personally thought it was about as perfect a theme as you could have on a Tuesday! Not pop or other culture trivia. Not boringly literal. WAS a bit of a stretch - put puns are supposed to be I thought! And it helped me solve the puzzle, admittedly mainly because I ended up solving mostly from the bottom up.

    22D is wrong though. ".EDU" is an alternative to ".COM"; "EDU" is and alternative to "COM"; you can't drop the "." in one case and not the other Will/Andrew!

    Joe Dipinto 5:23 PM  

    I think the seasonal homophones work just fine. If you say "sprinkler" and stop right before you pronounce the k, you've said "spring", the way it would normally sound. Some people may clearly separate the d and t sounds in WIND TURBINES but others run them together so it sounds like "winter-bines."

    1d confused me at first because I thought it was referring to leftover pizza that you might reheat later. I thought to myself "But pizza has a crust when you first order it. Why 'leftover'?" Then I realized it referred to parts that people often discard without eating.

    Lindsay 5:24 PM  

    Was pleased to learn a new word today, until I discovered TOSII wasn't one, but that TORII was standard crossword-ese. The puzzle was good enough, but the comments were excellent, so I feel my time was well spent. Thank you for cracking me up on this dreary SPRINK day. And Nate, glad to hear you changed your mind about that DNR.

    JC66 5:33 PM  

    @Math Gent

    It's a good thing it's late in the day. You only ruined the WSJ puzzle for some of us.

    Joe Dipinto 6:23 PM  

    @mathgent - Yikes. I don't do the WSJ puzzle but that is quite a bit of a spoiler.

    Outside The Box 6:31 PM  

    Agree! Too clever by half.

    mathgent 6:36 PM  

    @JC66 (5:33): Sorry. Do you do the WSJ puzzle?

    Z 6:38 PM  

    Going OverTime here

    @TomAZ - Based only on the Wikipedia articles, it looks like “Istanbul” has ancient provenance and even some official OTTOMAN use. If the welcome to the city signs said anything it would have been something akin to Kostantiniyye, but probably not in the Latin alphabet, until 1930. So you’re correct but it seems to be more complex than a “it changed in 1930” suggests.

    @Banana Diaquiri - The full season name appears at the start of each themer when one says the themes. WIND TURBINES, OTTOMAN EMPIRE, and SOMERSAULTED. Therefore, if there is not something resembling the “g” in SPRINKLERHEAD, when spoken the theme wouldn’t work.

    @David in CA - There are exceptions, usually when some sort of trickeration is going on, but as a general rule theme answers are the longest answers in the puzzle. Go ahead and check back at older puzzles and you will find this is almost always the case. That’s not a Rex thing, that is Standard Crossword Construction.

    JC66 6:38 PM  


    Yep. But not every day like the NYTimes.


    I do other puzzles, too 6:48 PM  

    @mathgent - As a regular reader of this blog, I've enjoyed reading your comments but have learned to skip over them after one too many spoilers for puzzles I haven't yet gotten to. It would be nice if you could at least give a spoiler alert.

    Mohair Sam 7:23 PM  

    @Z - Stubborn! I love it.

    @Banana - We all know that, but we're fussing over the actual pronunciation of sprinkler. Good old Z is invoking linquistics experts. I'm invoking people who sell and install the damned things. Nobody will win, but we're having fun.

    Butting into another Z discussion. Anybody remember the song "Constantinople"? You can't go back there because it's Istanbul.

    JC66 7:29 PM  


    See my 4:50PM post.

    Banana Diaquiri 8:06 PM  


    I'll grant you SOMERsault, but no one among the Effect Eastern Intellectual community says WIND TURBINE with a silent D, nor is OTTOMan pronounced autumn but rather (for the EEI) AUTO-Man. SPRINkler is just that, at least here among the EEI.

    I rest my case.

    semioticus (shelbyl) 8:19 PM  

    No offense intended to either Tulsa or Japanese gates, but seriously, ORU/TORII doesn't belong in a Tuesday puzzle. Heck, it doesn't belong in any puzzle. Seriously.

    I like the novelty behind the theme, but Ottoman = autumn is just too much for me. In a tricky theme like this, your execution needs to be pitch perfect. With a head scratcher like that, it immediately downgrades from "AHA!" to "oh *eyerolls*"

    THREERINGBINDER is an impressive entry, but does nothing for me in terms of excitement. Same for GOLDSTARS EDINBORO. Plus there are too many short answers, so although I sorta appreciate the construction a little bit, it's still one of the most boring fills this month.

    So yeah. Tuesday tuezzed I guess.

    GRADE: C, 2.4 stars.

    sanfranman59 8:39 PM  
    This comment has been removed by the author.
    sanfranman59 8:50 PM  

    FWIW, xwordinfo says ORU has been used in a Shortz-era puzzle 32 times over 23 years and 13 times in the last 5 years. TORII has been used 12 times, including 3 times in the last 5 years. I'm rather OCD about my crossword puzzle habit and have been regularly solving the NYT for close to 20 years, but I'm surprised if experienced solvers haven't come across these two words at some point. Of course, I say "I've never heard of blah-blah" and then later discover that blah-blah has been in 27 puzzles that I've solved in the past. I'm just somehow able to access the engrams for ORU and TORII when necessary, but not for blah-blah.

    Addendum: 10 minutes after originally posting this, I looked at xwordinfo a little more closely. In the interest of accuracy, one TORII answer was clued as "Outfielder Hunter with nine Gold Gloves". The rest are some variation on Japanese or Shinto gateway or entrance. All of the ORU clues have to do with the school in Tulsa. But be glad this instance wasn't clued as "The Golden Eagles of the Summit League, in brief" (Alan Arbesfeld, Saturday, 8/8/2015).

    Joe Dipinto 8:52 PM  

    Ottoman, New York -- one of my favorite songs. Especially as played by Chet Baker.

    Anonymous 9:30 PM  

    Not that I have hopes of clearing anything up, but I’d like to point out that the NG sound is its own thing. It’s not a N sound + a G sound. In the same way that the TH sound(s) is its own thing. Note in some dialects a G sound is added after the NG. Looking at you, Long G’Island.

    Big Jim 9:35 PM  

    Natick on torii/oru. That really is extremely ANNOYING on a Wednesday. As one person said above… No way to know it’s wrong unless you happen to know all about Japanese gates and second tier schools in Oklahoma. I had a super quick time but just couldn’t find the “R” in this combo. So DNF. I see you from the post above that these words aren’t exactly rare in Crosswords. Yet I maintain they should not commune together on Tuesdays. NO TORIIORU!

    GILL I. 9:41 PM  

    @Banana Diaquiri....
    Here in the CWC (Consummate Western Cerebration) I, at least, pronounce WIND TURBINE with a silent D.
    I don't, however, keep the D silent in my Daiquiri. Allow me to invite you to my Hemingway white rum...shaken well. Limes need to be squeezed. You need the pucker.

    RooMonster 10:44 PM  

    @Banana Diaquiri
    Normally I'm not nit-picks grammar wise, but your irregardless is not correct. There's no ir. It's just regardless. Maybe thinking irrelevant?

    And I came up with a rhyme for TORI/TORII (because I'm wicked smart!) (Yeah, right!)
    The LAMA/LLAMA saying goes, "The one-L lama, he's a priest. The two-L llama, he's a beast." Mine goes, "The one-I TORI, it's sort of ovate. The two-I TORII, it's a Shinto gate."
    Har. Use at your own peril.


    JamieP 10:54 PM  

    Irrespective, not irregardless.
    Regardless will do.

    Yup. I'm that guy.

    JamieP 10:55 PM  

    I see Roo is that guy, too!

    Erin Hollander 11:33 PM  

    Could be my linguistics background, but I really liked the theme. Of course it may not be true across all dialects, but in general, when the themers are pronounced the way people actually say them in casual conversation, the seasons are very clearly in there. I thought it was cool.

    That said, I too naticked at TOsII/OsU. No way I would have ever seen that mistake. What the heck, man, it’s Tuesday.

    Mo 11:49 PM  

    Unbelievable. OSU is not an hour out of Tulsa, but Oral Robert?? Who knew it was even a U(niversity)? And to cross it with the most obscure Japanese clue of the day. My only snag in the puzzle, I actually enjoyed the phonetic theme.

    Anonymous 12:33 AM  
    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
    Anonymous 5:04 AM  

    ORU was a gimme, as I grew up in Tulsa and attended the 1967 dedication of the school with my parents, who were big donors. Billy Graham was the featured speaker. Figured out when I was about 10 that Tulsa was not where I belonged! Happy to be living on the West Coast now.

    Burma Shave 10:26 AM  


    Oh GAWD, to OGLE and LEER ARE not DEEMED to conform,
    ITT’s the TRITE PRESENCE of fear will UNDO that NORM.

    --- ORU.EDU

    spacecraft 11:25 AM  

    Maybe it's my foggy morning-mind, but this wasn't a typical fill-in-the-squares M/T offering. Trouble with the north; couldn't get a haLL pass. ITLL eventually emerged, but ITLL never be one of my favorite fills.

    More trouble with the Natick at ROSS/IOS. What kind of a name is Douthat? And an op-ed writer? Clearly too obscure to put in a puzzle. Oh wait, I get it: he's a NYT columnist. Now I know this is a NYT puzzle...but still. I don't object to the name ROSS; it could've been clued as a sea, or as a Friends character--but NOT as someone that a non-New Yorker cannot POSSIBLY know. I guessed at the letter O, because IOS somehow looked better than IUS.

    More fill hurts: our old friend EKE is back (GAWD no!), along with TSK (TSK!), and there's at LEAST one too many RIHLs (random institutes of higher learning). Plus both OGLE and LEER.

    Nor any real DOD to OGLE or LEER at. Wait: there's SIG, another awful piece of fill, but could be short for Sigourney Weaver. ITLL do (much more common, BTW, than ITLL pass).

    The theme did have the virtue of not being obvious till the reveal. For a moment there starting out, I mused over the SPRINK/SOMER combo, thinking seasons, but turning OTTOPMAN into "autumn" just didn't occur, and neither did WINDTUR_____ into winter. I must record some admiration at those.

    Some TRITE fill in need of a little REHAB, but overall a Tuesday with a bit more bite than a NIP. Give it a par.

    BS2 11:36 AM  


    IT’LL be no THREERINGBINDER, I was RAZED to read IBOOKS instead,
    of when the OTTOMANEMPIRE would WIND_TURBINES ‘round their HEAD.

    --- RAHM UMAMI

    rondo 12:06 PM  

    When you start 1d with “slice” instead of CRUST there is an immediate inkfest. And not knowing the school it was at first EDINBuRg. So plenty of mess in the NW, t the rest OK. I didn’t get CLOSE to the theme right away and I’ll bet even Frankie Valli wouldn’t have sussed out the four SEASONs.


    OARS ORES went unmentioned.

    SIG should never appear in a puz again since it is a brand of firearms. (kidding) Merged company name is SIG Sauer.

    Just take a look at the LPGA tournament standings most any week and you’ll see just how many Korean KIMs there are playing pro golf, one of whom could surely pass as today’s yeah baby. Or KIM Novak.

    For a Tues-puz, this is about the NORM.

    leftcoastTAM 3:31 PM  

    You can fill in all the squares correctly (as I did), but the themers, "when spoken" give you SEASONOPENERS, just don't work. At least IMO, among many others I suspect.

    TORII, Orb before OWL, and OsU before ORU slowed things down further in the middle of the West side.

    I'm left not with UMAMI, but, TRITE to say, a somewhat sour taste in my mouth.

    Diana,LIW 3:34 PM  

    Hey @Spacey - which would you rather have. A writer for the NYT and former senior editor for The Atlantic, or the latest rap/pop singer? Maybe not on a Tuesday, but still fair game. Esp with the crosses.

    Once again I forgot to look at the theme. (too sub towel for me?) Just did the puzzle. Which was fine with me. Only a few erasable errors leading to a final completion. Yeah Tuesday and AZ.

    Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords and 70+ degree weather today!

    rainforest 6:07 PM  

    Stupid DNF at ORU/TORII; stupid because I *know* TORII. Let's say "careless", because I hate the person after whom ORU is named.

    Other than that, I liked the puzzle. I followed the directions (I do that) and sounded out the themers. Lo and behold, they work, at least to my ears. I have to ask how in heck OTTO and "auto" differ in pronunciation, not to mention "cot" and "caught". It's the same, to quote a friend. I was caught napping on the cot.

    "Thou shalt not have a non-theme answer longer than a themer". "Why". "Because". Thank you.

    One last question: "Is CRATE and Barrel high-end, or run of the mill?"

    rondo 6:45 PM  

    @rainy - CRATE & Barrel must not be high-end enough because the missus tosses the catalogs.

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