Chest protectors? / THU 6-28-18 / Holds / Ones going down the tubes? / Macbeth and Macduff / Literally, "big wind"

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Constructor: Jeff Chen

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: ENTER (37A: Key that moves the cursor to the next line...or a hint to answering five clues in this puzzle) — The solver presses an imaginary ENTER key in the middle of each theme answer, causing the second half of the entry to appear on the next line. You can think of ENTER as an "invisible" rebus that must be placed between the two stacked answers to complete the theme entry.

Theme answers:
  • TAKE CENTER STAGE (1A: Assume a leading role)
  • CARPENTER ANTS (15A: Insects that nest in deadwood)
  • USS ENTERPRISE (32A: In sci-fi, it had the registry number NCC-1701)
  • THE ENTERTAINER (49A: Classic Scott Joplin rag)
  • CHICKEN TERIYAKI ("Fowl"-tasting Japanese dish)

Word of the Day: PETRA (16A: Jordanian tourist site) —
Petra (Arabic: البتراء, Al-BatrāʾAncient Greek: Πέτρα), originally known to its inhabitants as Raqmu, is a historical and archaeological city in southern Jordan. Petra lies on the slope of Jabal Al-Madbah in a basin among the mountains which form the eastern flank of Arabah valley that run from the Dead Sea to the Gulf of Aqaba.[3] Petra is believed to have been settled as early as 9,000 BC, and it was possibly established in the 4th century BC as the capital city of the Nabataean Kingdom. The Nabataeans were nomadic Arabs who invested in Petra's proximity to the trade routes by establishing it as a major regional trading hub.
• • •

Hello CrossWorld! My name is Don and I will be your guest blogger today. As you probably know, Thursday is the day of the week where the NYT puzzle gets a bit tricky and tries to throw something at us we don't expect. Today's offering from veteran constructor Jeff Chen does not disappoint in that regard. I struggled with some of the fill more than I'm used to on a Thursday, but I thought this theme was clever and innovative.

I had trouble getting a foothold in several sections of this puzzle, starting right with 1A (Assume a leading role) when neither STAR IN nor STEP UP would fit. PETRA was a gimme for me, but with 13A un-clued, I still couldn't get anywhere with the downs in that corner other than ATE, so I moved to the top middle section. Luckily, I was able to drop in FREE SPIRITS from the F in FROS, so with ESTEE's help I made it back and completed that NW corner. I saw that the theme involved the missing ENTER, but I didn't fully understand it until I worked my way down the left side and found USS [ENTER]PRISE. After that, I immediately and confidently dropped in THE [ENTER]TAINER with no crosses, but that's where the fun ended. I made my way through the rest of the grid, but I just could not manage to see either of the other two theme entries. I can't blame the puzzle, though, because I was stuck on wrong answers: KEY for CAY (fine) and SHEELA for SHEEHY (no idea what I was thinking). I got there eventually, but finished with one error: MAU / MANTRA. MAU did not sound right, but TANTRA was just not coming to me.

I thought this theme was very creative and evoked a fun image of the line break upon hitting the ENTER key. My favorite entries were the ones I struggled with: CARP[ENTER] ANTS because each word stands on its own, and CHICK[EN TER]IYAKI because it breaks the word ENTER. The theme is especially impressive considering these constraints: each theme entry must (1) have the letters ENTER embedded in it, (2) have a sufficient number of letters on each side of the word ENTER, and (3) must be "stackable" in just the right way to work in Down answers - the two entries can't be staggered or the "tab" of the page won't look right, so there is no discretion as to how to stack them. I imagine this was very challenging to construct.

That challenge may be evident in the fill, some of which suffers under those stacked theme entries. With only 50 theme squares, one would normally expect a pretty clean grid and some nice colorful long non-theme entries. But 45 of those squares have to be stacked, and that leads to a little more crosswordese than we are used to seeing from Mr. Chen. The southwest one-third of the puzzle seemed to take the brunt of the damage - DCUP, CSIS, USSRSISISTR, CEES, SSNINGA, URSAANIL. The long answers don't fare much better, in that they're just not very exciting - if CREDENTIALS and ACCRUAL don't put you to sleep, wait until you meet ATTRACTANT.

I thought that the novelty of the theme justified the sacrifices made in the fill. Thursday is probably my favorite day to solve because I enjoy puzzles that get out of the box a little and offer something different. Sometimes, that comes at a cost, but today Mr. Chen's puzzle was challenging and novel enough to warrant the price. I will be curious to see in the comments if you agree.

Thanks for reading, and happy solving!

Signed, Don McBrien, Assistant to the Regional Manager of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Anonymous 3:37 AM  

I had all the squares filled in and looked at my answers and thought "WTF?". Never did figure it out until I came here. But now, WOW! Very clever (and I"m an idiot - but that's another matter entirely).

Mr. Math and Toast 4:00 AM  

I had sterna instead of ATTICS, plus I've never heard of Crissy TEIGEN (any relation to Cheryl Tiegs?). I forgot Garr's character's name was INGA - something about knockers, if memory serves. Needless to say, SW was a bit of a slog.

Mike in Mountain View 5:01 AM  

Great guest blog, Don. I agree; the puzzle idea was worth the cost of the issues you mentioned in the fill.

If I were in the mood to complain, I'd say that cluing TON as French for style was an odd, unwelcome choice. But I'm not in the mood to complain, after enjoying solving an inspired Thursday puzzle.

Thanks, Jeff.

Areawoman 6:04 AM  

I really enjoyed your guest blog, it was constructive without the liberal negativity. I use liberal to mean excessive in this case but it was nice to take a break from politics and just enjoy the constructor's and editor's effort to provide a good puzzle without trying to vein out their hidden agendas of oppression. It hit the good points and bad points of the puzzle objectively. I think this blog does not gives constructors (especially this one) enough leeway to make something magical with words knowing we may have to suffer through a few rough patches to get there. And I loved the Office reference in your moniker! Come back anytime!

Hartley70 6:08 AM  

No, @Mr Math, related to John Legend.

I enjoyed this one and it kept me guessing until the USS PRISE. There was no way that would escape me. I too played with the M and T for TANTRA and found the V in OVA to be strangely difficult. I loved the long words that the reviewer found sleep inducing just because they were boring and not obvious. This was a nice Thursday, Jeff.

Lewis 6:15 AM  

This was brutal for me -- 10 answers (as clued) out of my wheelhouse. The theme is brilliant, and I am grateful for puzzles that keep my head from swelling. More like this, please, but please do be kind enough to spread them out a bit.

oliver klozoff 6:31 AM  

Doesn't it bother anyone that hitting enter means the cursor goes to the extreme left of the 'page'? instead hitting enter on the right-side entries goes underneath? then TAB TAB to get to the spot where the answer continues?

RJ 6:52 AM  

I really should wait until my 2nd cup of coffee before trying solving style is to tab through these puzzles entering across answers and doing the same with the downs. Next, I ask my geography/history buff husband the place names I never know. I usually am able to figure out my mistakes this way but not enough today.

The NE corner was almost empty until the end - I had FAT instead of TSP and I didn't fix that until the end when I got PETRA from my husband. Like Don I had MANTRA/MAU and KEY instead of CAY. OPERABUFFS instead of OPERASTARS, so a lot to correct.

As a lover of most things STAR TREK, I got stuck on USS because in my mind it's always "THE Enterprise"- I bet if you were to count the times this was said in TOS and TNG, "The" would outnumber "USS" many times. Until I got to Victoria's Secret, that is. Then I had BCUP because that's more in my league than DCUP and BUSTERS (Dust Busters?).

I don't understand TON as Fr. for style so I would appreciate anyone who would man/womansplain it to me. Thanks Don. And many thanks to Jeff Chen.

kodak jenkins 7:03 AM  

Nice challenging puzzle with a theme that demanded attention!

My Spidey sense tingled when I saw the clue for USSENTERPRISE but only enough space for USS so I proceeded cautiously after that.

Finished a bit later than usual and had MANTRA instead of TANTRA (that is one tough cross!).

Loren Muse Smith 7:12 AM  

Hey, Don! Nice, considered, pleasant write-up. Thanks for subbing.

Oh wow. The aha moment with this one was hugely satisfying. I whooped when I finally saw USS ENTERPRISE.

I bet when Jeff first had this idea, he wanted each part of the themers to be real words on their own like CARP and ANTS. Then I bet he saw that this wasn’t possible but didn’t care ‘cause this is such a stellar idea. I had so much fun solving this.

“Cog” before RUT. Bet I’m not alone there.

@Mr. Math and Toast – I had “tunics” for my chest protectors, thinking, I guess, maybe back in the day they were made of chain? Your mistake was smarter than my mistake.

First thought for the fowl-tasting Japanese dish… nattō. Listen, I like strong-flavored cheeses (Limburger, Père Joseph, Munster d'Alsace), but nattoō - fermented soy bean - is rough. The taste is heroically putrid, and the texture is all slimy and “something has gone seriously wrong” here. Imagine eating boiled okra, but the okra has been forgotten on the kitchen counter for a week during the summer when your power had been out. So you spot it and think Oh. This should be some good eating. Yep. That’s the nattoō vibe.

PESCI – my daughter and I just watched My Cousin Vinny yesterday since she had never seen it. You all should watch it again.

FREE SPIRITS – Yes! Try not to do a cash bar if you’re planning a wedding. The younger guests will sneak in alcohol (or keep it in their car), and they actually get a lot drunker and uglier. If you can afford it, just offer beer and wine. They’ll still get drunk, but not throwing-up-in-the-AC-vent drunk, and yes that happened. Cash bar.

First thought for “big wind” with that OON in place was “bassoon.” So afterwards I looked at TYPHOON an wondered how its ETYM means "big wind" and decided not to investigate because for some reason historical linguistics and etymologies just don’t do it for me. Well, unless it’s Kory Stamper telling me that the ETYM of pumpernickel is “fart goblin.” Now there’s yer big wind.

Jeff Chen – you’re a grid Jedi Master.

John H 7:14 AM  

Loved this one. Totally blanked on 1A/13/, didn't realize they were connected until 32A/34a, USS ENTERPRISE, which was a bit of a gimme. The rest went down smoothly. Haven't enjoyed a puzzle this much in a long time.

Anonymous 7:16 AM  

@LMS - though you "didn't ask" -
tai = big as in Taiwan (big island), tycoon (big shot), etc. and
fun (phoon) = wind as in feng shui (ふうすい fuu sui).
From Japanese, of course. Land of natoō...

kitshef 7:21 AM  

A trio of complete unknowns: AIMEE, SHEEHY and TEIGEN – and two of them cross, so a little bit of ICK factor there.

But my gosh, what a great theme. One of my favorite things is when I’ve got no clue at all what’s going on until the penny drops. For me, that happened at THE TAINER. Jeff Chen has had a couple of sub-par puzzles lately, but here is a master at his best.

kitshef 7:36 AM  

@Anon 7:16 - typhoon and feng shui from China, not Japan. Tycoon is a hybrid - from China via Japan.

mbr 7:37 AM  

@RJ: Besides being a French possessive adjective, "ton" translates to the nouns "tone", "manner", "way", which to me is an unfortunate choice for something that could have been clued as "2240 lbs" or "it could be gross" :-)

Rainbow 7:40 AM  

NO, it doesn't.

Suzie Q 7:49 AM  

Fantastic puzzle that sets a happy tone for the rest of the day.
Great review from our guest as well.
I considered bassoon too. Thanks @Anon 7:16 for the etym.
4D made me realize how many "Great" birds there.
Carpenter ants was my favorite theme answer for some reason although chicken teriyaki was also clever and hard for me to parse.
When I see photos of Petra it makes me doubt that nomads built it. I think more information is needed.

Z 8:00 AM  


Got the “theme” at USS (ENTER)PRISE and wondered why the (ENTER) was missing. Still wondering. Is this some fat finger thing? I’m typing along spaceless, T-A-K-E-C and suddenly, randomly, hit ENTER? The ENTER is just off in space somewhere? Why? And then there’s the fact that ENTER is the start of a word twice, the end of the word twice, and then broken across two words once. Some days I might have found this amusing. Today it was just annoying. And then there’s the PPP. GawdAwful. Too much (37%) and then clued in some of the most annoying ways. RUE clued via The Hunger Games? Seriously? There’s not some less pop cultury way to clue RUE? And why go country flags for RED? Why go PPP at all for TRIO and SERAPE. A little Pop Culture is a feature, but tone it down. And then there’s the “reveal.” As has been pointed out, the ENTER key returns the cursor to the left of the page. The reveal doesn’t work for 40% of the themers. Fail. Well, I guess technically a D Minus.

Peanut gallery 8:02 AM  

Question for those who solve online. Why do some of my letters show up gray and most of the others black?

mmorgan 8:09 AM  

Nice puzzle, though I joined the MAU/MANTRA club.

Another excellent guest blogger but part of me misses the rants.

Would have liked to have seen NAT somewhere near ICK.

Odd Sock 8:25 AM  

Turkey's red flag was easy for me. I was in Copenhagen when Turkey won some important game and all night the streets were filled with very noisy Turkish fans honking horns and leaning out of cars waving big red flags. When I say all night I really mean it.
Ack yesterday, ick today. Can eek be next?
Some of the fill was iffy, such as attic as a chest protector, but the fun of the trick was worth it. "Invisible rebus" indeed.

Anonymous 8:27 AM  

@peanut - I think some platforms have a pen/pencil switch that would produce that effect.

Mohair Sam 8:30 AM  

Different! And fun. What's not to love? And appreciate Don, our guest Rex, enlightening us as to what a challenge this must have been to construct.

Like most of you, USS(enter)PRISE opened the door for us. Odd how that number is burned into the brain, I don't watch the spin-offs and the original series ended nearly 50 years ago.

I join the group that naticked on the T at 10A/D, I figured "M"ANTRA was something else and couldn't guess the "T". And what's with this TAU Lepton anyhow? - subatomic particles should either sound electronic or ring cool like "quark". I guess TAU is tough to clue otherwise, right Jeff? If we didn't solve on paper we would have alphabeted our way to a happy pencil, so there's that.

@Oliver klozoff (6:31) has a point about the revealer - If you use the ENTER key to get to the next line on your computer you'll probably be buying something you don't want (a TAU Lepton?) or inviting in a virus.

But what the heck - great Thursday Jeff Chen. Thanks.

Charles Flaster 8:32 AM  

Loved it albeit a DNF as I never sussed the theme.but still missed only one themer in NE.
Writeover : TYPHOON for monsOON.
Loved clue for SIRI.
Overall, a true masterpiece.
Very erudite review, too.
Thanks JC.

Anonymous 8:48 AM  

That happens to me sometimes. Don't know why.

Jeff Lewis 8:56 AM  

Q. What’s red and bad for your teeth? A. A brick.The theme sailed past crunchy to just plain hard for me. Still, it was an enjoyable DNF and the only theme answer I missed was PRIcE, because, dang, I was sure there was a cTR section in an orchestra.

Jeff Lewis 9:01 AM  

You probably pushed the “pencil” button up on the top navigation bar by mistake. It lets you fill answers you are not sure of in a different color. I presume it was in error, because who would use a pencil on this blog, intentionally? Or admit it?

Anonymous 9:04 AM  

Was delighted to see a Chen puzzle, and was not disappointed in the solve.
I don't know much French, but do remember the "Bon Ton Shop" from Michigan, and it clicked for me.
Best Thursday I remember in quite some time!!

QuasiMojo 9:04 AM  

I guess I'm just not a fan of Jeff Chen's puzzles. They usually seem clunky and awkward to me and today was no exception. I didn't even grok the theme until I came here. I managed to fill in all but one or two letters without knowing what the theme was. I thought perhaps it might be using shortcuts on a computer keyboard. For instance I had TAKE COMMAND up top which I shortened to TAKE C (command C) and then didn't see any other similar entries but assumed they were there. Wanted Chrissy TURLINGTON, aha.

My DNF was not getting MIA but put in MIL. Are only G.I.'s MIA? Odd clue. But I get it now. So overall, a disappointing Thursday. I prefer wit and elegance and grace over these type of contrived constructional contortions. Sincerely, a surly sourpuss sore loser.

Carola 9:06 AM  

Just-right challenging for me, and fun to solve. I caught on with the CARP ANTS after most of the non-theme entries were in. Then it was a matter of theme clean-up, with CHICK IYAKI getting the biggest smile. Before I caught on, I thought that NCC-1701 might have been HAL’S model number in 2001. Pleasures along the way: ATTRACTANT, SERAPE, SCYTHE.

Anonymous 9:25 AM  

Many thanks for a non-political summary of a very good Thursday puzzle. Please start your own blog!

CML 660 9:25 AM  

Great analysis. Thank you. Love your sign-off. “Assistant TO the Regional Manager”. Good one.

Anonymous 9:26 AM  

You may have unintentionally hit the pencil button which causes entered letters to be gray in order to indicate that they are “penciled in”

Isandxan 9:27 AM  

Hitting ENTER does not always bring you back to the far left of the page. You can adjust your margin for inset paragraphs, for example, which I often do for my work. So I think having the themers in different places is not a foul. I did catch, though, that the breaks weren't consistent. The one that made me realize it for sure was CHICKEN TERIYAKI, of course, and then I noticed the others. Still, that had to be hard to find the themers, and I enjoyed the solve.

Medium for me. Caught the missing word bit right away in the NW, but thought for a while it was going to be "over". Like everyone else, got the right word with the USS ENTERPRISE, which was even more of a gimme than normal because I just watched and thoroughly enjoyed "For the Love of Spock" this week.

Bill 9:31 AM  

Like Jeff above, I grew up in one of the hundreds of towns in America with a Bon-Ton department store. The only likely reference to them that a New York Times reader would have would be from a couple of months ago when they announced in the Business section that after over a hundred years, they're going out of business.

Anonymous 9:32 AM  

Could someone explain the "chest protectors" clue...attics??

Bob Mills 9:32 AM  


Outside The Box 9:43 AM  

10 Down clue says “Some Hindu meditative exercises.”

Answer should have been Mantras, with an “s.” Mantra seems grammatically incorrect re a clue that is looking for a plural answer.

Tita 9:46 AM  

Why ATTIC? Anyone? You keep your treasure chest in the attic?

@7:16Anon - I jut love learnign things like that. What does Pei mean - city? As in Taipei?
(Thx @kitshef too)

@lms-love My Cousin Vinny. In great part because of Marisa Tomei (friend of crosswords) and listening to her carsplaining about posi-traction and double-barreled carbs.

OPERAvoreS stayed in my brain for way too long, along with ait instead of CAY. Made that president hard to see. Hell, made that entire corner near impossible.
That meant trying to fit A_ _ _[ENTER]mite into 15/18A.
monsOON for a shortwhile helped obscure the SE.

Yes, NCC-1701 broke the theme open for me. Yes, I made a model of the [ENTER]PRISE as a teen. Yes, I had a Snoopy-dressed-as-an-Apollo-astronaut as a kid.
(Which made it embarrassing to take so long to find TAU.)

This is what a Thursday ought to be.
Thanks Jeff!!

Anonymous 9:52 AM  

Hey Jeff Chen,

If you're lurking, thanks for the superb puzzle. First class. Perfect Thursday.

Blondie 9:52 AM  

Serape was a gimme. Who can forget Clint Eastwood wearing one as he gnawed on that cheroot. Great movie.

SJ Austin 9:56 AM  

I had the same mAU/mANTRA error in the NE. The theme was really fun, especially CHICKEN TERIYAKI.

Chrissy TEIGEN is great on Twitter, btw.

Mohair Sam 9:58 AM  

Thanks to all of those who explained TON - we've shopped at the local Bon Ton for 20 years and had no idea what it meant. (got some absolutely filthy deals at the recent "going out of business" sale - another victim of the 'Net).

For those who haven't done this week's New Yorker puzzle - get with it. A Liz Gorski gem.

Nancy 9:59 AM  

This brilliant and enormously clever puzzle was way above my pay grade, and I cheated outrageously and ignominiously to "finish" it.

I used @Lewis's rationale: that the puzzle was so interesting and fiendish that only cheating would allow me to continue. And I wanted to continue. So I looked up model Chrissy and the the Scott Joplin song list. I had THE on one line and -AINER on the line under it, and I wanted to see if the song was THE GAINER or THE RAINER. Obviously I didn't have the trick at that point. When I saw THE ENTERTAINER, everything clicked, so to speak.

My problem was that I didn't know ENTER would actually be part of the fill. You see, I had TAKE C at 1A and HARGE right below it. As in TAKE CHARGE. I never thought of TAKE CENTER STAGE. And I was still wondering what on earth CHICK IYAKI was (65 & 68A).

Like I said, brilliant. More brilliant than moi. Kudos, Jeff.

Sir Hillary 10:03 AM  

Just what I like in a Thursday. This was pretty hard, but I enjoyed it a lot. I prefer to think of three of these answers being in table columns, so the hard return works fine for me. But if you prefer sour grapes, who am I to dissuade you?

To be fair though...although I am well aware of her (having three daughters helps) I am not surprised that many found Chrissy
RIBLE as a crossword answer.

Almost DNF with mANTRA, but mAU looked wrong enough for me to take another look.

Best clue was the one for ACCRUAL. Very nice.

Amusing that cluing RED via a pretty well-known country flag UPSETS some people here. I assume Like seven stripes on the US's flag would be similarly frowned upon?

LMS's good advice on beverage provisioning at weddings was borne of the same immediate reaction I had to FREESPIRITS -- no-charge booze. Does instant connotation of alcohol make one an alcoholic?

Does our guest blogger McBrien work in Accounting?

Teddi and Teddy 10:24 AM  

Stellar! Thank you JC and thanks Don. We have mucho natto in house. It's really good for you. Some members a little more fond of it than others admittedly.

pmdm 10:25 AM  

I suppose you eithr like or hate Mr. Chen's puzzles. They are unusual enough to cuase that type of reaction. (I remember a music critic saying the same about Leonard Bernstien's interpretations. I would say the same about Harnoncourt's.

Z: Enter is where its at because its in the same locaqtion on a computer keyboard. So says Jeff.

I encourage thinking differently, so I always like Mr. Chen's puzzle, even when he overuses proper names.

puzzlehoarder 10:43 AM  

I whittled this one down to where I was stuck in just three corners using only the fill. TEIGEN, THEENTERTAINER and SHEEHY we're unkowns. That held up those corners. In the NE corner I was stymied by a wicked ANTS/CARP write over supported by an equally insidious AIT/CAY one. Luckily that NE corner was free of unkowns. SCYTHE and UPSETS we're both very strong. This allowed me to correct my mistakes and suss out the theme. It was a true aha moment. Mopping up the bottom corners was then fun.

The two upper two left themers went in off the crosses. Until I'd figured out the theme I thought 1A stood for TAKECharge. As for the one below that the last cross to fill it was STR. PRISE as a stand alone entry made no sense but at that point a lot of things weren't making sense.

The cluing on some of the short fill was really ramped up today. TON and RUE were given very obscure clues but the one for RAVI is an all time debut. Luckily for me we just had that same clue for KAT. I can see where the TAU clue could get someone but for me it's the kind of obscurity that sticks.

It's funny that a number of people got the theme from the USS/PRISE section. By the time I figured out the theme I'd forgotten all about those two odd entries. The happy music played all the same.

Kimberly 10:46 AM  

I’m just so happy that Thursdays are back I can’t say a single negative thing about this puzzle. Happy happy happy.

Unknown 11:02 AM  

This puzzle was FUN. First time I've felt that about a puzzle in a while. I was stuck at the end with Mantra/Mau. I pressed "reveal letter" and got a little note that this would ruin my "streak." I didn't know I had a streak. What does that mean?

Anyway, even though I didn't know what it was (how many puzzles, how many days), I didn't want to ruin it, so hit "never mind."

Then I remembered we have a hipster coffee shop near me named Tantra. Yay! It worked.

I loved chick/iyaki.

Warren Howie Hughes 11:10 AM  

We gladly took another one on the Chen from Jeff including a RARE RAVI Revue from 'Don of a New Day'...I personally ATE it up!

John Hoffman 11:18 AM  

To repeat an earlier comment: “This brilliant and enormously clever puzzle was way above my pay grade, and I cheated outrageously and ignominiously to "finish" it.” Ha!

pabloinnh 11:27 AM  

Well I thought this was brilliant and is why I stand in awe of the superconstructors like Mr. Chen. How do people come up with this stuff, I ask myself, and then give thanks that they do.

I wonder if anyone else got the "enter" gimmick and resorted to the_____enter_____ approach, which I had to use for "carpenter ants" and "chicken teriyaki". Very helpful and a wonderful aha! moment when the missing letters became clear.

Agree with the "My Cousin Vinny" fans. Any time I'm channel surfing and run into it I always winding up staying until the end. Both Mr. Pesci and Ms. Tomei are great, as are those two fine yoots (yutes?).

Unknown 11:34 AM  

I loved this one, despite the horrible ETYM (I mean, really). I had to get USS PRISE completely for the crosses before I figured out the crosses, and then it was delightful to get the rest of them. Especially CHICK IYAKI.

I had a taste of natto once; never again. I think I may even have spit it out. Sorry, I can't type that line over the o -- but why is it there? We're transliterating from kanji, so why do we want to make up extraneous characters?

There was no Bon TON in Sturgeon Bay, where I grew up, but there was one in Milwaukee, which some people considered a destination shopping destination. Remembering it really helped in the solve--I saw how it could be OPERA STARS instead of goeRS.

Let's have more of these!

Trombone Tom 11:57 AM  

I was headed for a DNF when I completed my first attempt last night on this fiendishly clever Jeff Chen puzzle. I just couldn't bring myself to accept ATTIC. But I finally gave in and was rewarded with THE (ENTER)TAINER. As has already been noted, one has to accept some odd clues in a puzzle of this complexity.

I count it pure luck that there happened to be a dress shop with the name Bon Ton in Eureka (CA) when I lived there in the '40's and my mother explained the name derivation to me.

Will may find it difficult to top this in the next couple of days.

BK 12:21 PM  

Typhoon does not mean "big wind". It is a false etymology.

"Big" is "大" (dai') in Chinese, but the actual character used in the word is "颱" (tai'), which simply means "Typhoon". so the full word 颱風 (táifēng) simply means "typhoon wind". Some suggest that the first part is related to the "Tai" in Taiwan, suggesting that typhoons originate in Taiwan, but this is speculation.

mathgent 12:25 PM  

@Lewis (6:15): I also had ten entries I didn't know. Plus three clues that I considered unfair.

Logician's "E": The E in QED stands for ERAT, of course. But ...

Shortening in the kitchen? "Shortening" meaning an abbreviation of a word which is a kitchen measurement. Maybe ...

Chest protectors? ATTICs protect chests from the elements. But ...

Boo! I love Jeff Chen but he crossed the line on these three.

If I had known some of these 13 entries, I might have been able to get Jeff's great gimmick. So I admire what he created, but I'm a little resentful that I wasn't able to discover it.

JC66 12:29 PM  

My Russian/Jewish immigrant grandfather started a dry cleaning business in Mt. Vernon, NY sometime around 1915. It was expanded to include stores in Bronxville and Scarsdale, although the major part of the business entailed truck drivers picking up and delivering the cleaning. My father and uncle were drafted into running the business by their siblings when my grandfather passed away.


Unknown 12:40 PM  

Hands down, the worst puzzle ever published. Really disgusting.

Jeff 1:06 PM  

DNFed on the exact same error - MAU/MANTRA. Wasn’t even on my radar (though Mau seemed funky, but i think I just kept thinking of “mu”). Tried rebusing the word “Enter” in and everything and was climbing the walls when nothing worked! Argh. Thought the theme was fun, and didn’t mind the fill terribly. Nice writeup, Don!

Masked and Anonymous 1:34 PM  

First off, I tend to agree with primo sub-blogassistant Don, that my fave puzday is the ThursPuz. Themes can get real feisty and different. Today's ThursPuz was different, which was great to see.

Not entirely feisty, at my house, tho. Peeked immediately at the longball-worded clues, and quickly spotted 37-A's verbose revealer clue. Kept it in mind. Used its info pretty soon, at 15+18-A's CARP+?+ANT. Took note of the 18-A themer clue convention of {--}. Used it to easily spot the other themers. Too easily for a ThursPuz, maybe.

But … Hard to hide all the {--} clues with "regular" clues, tho. Sure possible to do it for: STAGE. ANTS. Maybe PRISE. Not so easy to find clue attract-ants for: TAINER & IYAKI, tho.

Fill was half solid, half desperate. Very nice mix. Never went over the top to Bull-SHEEHY-desperate, very often, fortunately.
staff weeject pick = PCS. Cuz it's kinda computer ENTER key related. Honrable mention to: STR, which needed one of them {--} clues pretty bad.

Thanx for the fun, Chenmeister. Went low, with only 73 gridwords, even with shorty themers, huh? har. U animal!

Masked & Anonymo6Us


Harryp 1:53 PM  

I DNFed this one badly, but enjoyed the concept. My GI Classification was Mos, meaning Military Occupational Specialty, and I had TAnNER/TEnGEN crossing, a real Natick for me. Good Thursday puzzle.

DrBB 2:22 PM  

This one avoids the many pitfalls of rebus puzzles, particularly the one where, as soon as you "get" it, the whole thing falls in no time as you go zipping around mechanically filling in whatever the formula is. Even after I got this one--THE[ENTER]TAINER, it wasn't all that easy to see what some of the answers were even knowing they had ENTER in the middle. C[ENTER]STAGE and CARP[ENTER]ANTS particularly. Just hard enough to provide a nice Aha!, and CHICK[ENTER]IYAKI--brilliant!

Teedmn 2:42 PM  

This was a great brain work-out for me. Just this morning, my co-worker and I were talking about PETRA except that I was remembering it as PETRis for some reason. This had me trying to jam dEsiSt into 5D. I had to get the revealer and come back to it to see it was the first part of "CEASE and dEsiSt" that fit there.

Since I was solving counterclockwise, I hit most of the theme ENTERs before the revealer. I was blank on the alpha-numeric designation of the ENTERPRISE and at 65A-68A, I was trying to figure out what the ENsuk of CHICK[en suk]IYAKI meant.

The revealer made all clear except the NE. Like @Tita A (you're back, yay!), I gave TERmites a mental shot. I had put in __Y (CAY or keY) at 15D, which gave me SCYTHE but I really wanted "ice" or "mud" at 27A. Luckily I put in mUd and that eventually gave me ARTHUR. TAU was then a gimme.

(And like @Tita asks, what's with the chests in the ATTICS clue? Seems stretchy to me.)

Anyone else put in Seer before SIRI? Certainly a Seer would be a know-it-all and it worked with "earn" as the answer to Pull (in) though EARN (in) doesn't work. The Chipmunks TRIO got me SIRI.

Jeff Chen, thanks for the Thursday trickiness.

Anonymous 2:46 PM  

Did anybody have GARDEN TERMITE instead of CARPENTER ANTS as their answer? I thought for sure that had to be correct but it messed everything else up.

sanfranman59 3:20 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 3:43 4:30 0.83 6.2% Easy
Tue 5:37 5:21 1.05 61.1% Medium-Challenging
Wed 6:44 6:39 1.01 57.4% Medium
Thu 16:24 9:33 1.65 94.4% Challenging

What a bizarre solving experience. I was all over the place with this one. I usually proceed pretty methodically through Monday through Thursday and Sunday puzzles, but not this time. I had very few gimmes and sat and stared at pretty much each section for what seemed like forever. Then, just when I was ready to move on to another section, the whole section would fall.

I really botched the themers in the east. I wasn't anticipating that ENTER would break between lines in the SE. In the NE, I entered 'ait' instead of CAY (35D) early on and somehow managed to leave it in there when I entered one of my few gimmes with SCYTHE (21A). Unfortunately, that left me with SCtTHE. So I just couldn't see CARPENTER ANTS (15A-18A), even though that was what first entered my mind when I read the clue. Doh! I really made a mess of things and spent about 5 minutes up there.

I think this was pretty challenging, but not as challenging as I made it. I liked it. I see that I'm not the only one to go with bassOON before TYPHOON for "Literally, 'big wind'".

Jeff 4:16 PM  

I really wanted that answer to be something -termite. Garden termite is great. I was really hung up on it (despite the lack of plural), enough that NE corner was my last to fall.

Cassieopia 5:09 PM  

Loved it, caught on right away with USS—PRISE. I would have preferred the theme clue to be a bit more obtuse: “Key on a PC keyboard - or a hint to...”. That would have made the AHA moment much sweeter, as this was one of my fastest Thursday’s ever (and I’m typically a dunce solver). But fun, fun, fun - loved this one.

foxaroni 5:16 PM  

Really thrown by 15D--small, low island. KEY? (Key Largo, y'know) QAY? CAY? QUAY? (Too long, obviously.) CAY would have been my last choice.

Never got the theme, even though I was puzzled about Scott Joplin's rag, "THE." And USS for NC-1701. The "enter, drop down to the next line (row) to complete the answer" was never clear.

Some of you, like Rex, are so literal! Wish you could just relax and go with the constructor's intent, rather than picking at "illogical" inconsistencies.

Didn't "enjoy" the puzzle, but admire the construction. Thanks, Jeff.

Anonymous 5:17 PM  

I'm not sure garden termite is a thing.

Georgia 5:32 PM  

You keep chests to store things up in the attic.

Anonymous 5:57 PM  

garden termite is creative but not plural

jae 6:07 PM  

Medium. @Tita A - “This is what a Thursday ought to be”. Amen! Liked it.

Phil 6:23 PM  


Unforgiveable bad clues/editing

Anonymous 6:33 PM  

I'm sure they're sorry anyway.

iheartpoco 9:09 PM  

Ha!! I had the EXACT SAME ERROR with MAU/MANTRA. Reading your blog makes me feel okay about that, thanks :)

Whatsername 9:36 PM  

Loved it loved it loved it! What a delightful Thursday for a refreshing change. Thank you Mr. Chen. Well done.

Anonymous 10:07 PM  

Oblique. You wish the theme had been more oblique.
Obtuse is the opposite of what yku mean.
Your pal, Euclid

Unknown 9:48 AM  

Your comment on nattō made me laugh. As far as “big wind” we thought it was “Chicago” but I changed it to “Dad Farts”

DavidL 3:41 PM  

Loved this puzzle. I got to TAKEC in 1A, and assumed that the answer was "take charge" so that the theme had something to do with a missing "harge." Anyone else have that? Then figured it out with USS EnterPRISE and had the all-too-rare "aha" moment. Like others, had mau instead of TAU....and didn't find out till I came here cause I solve with paper and pencil. Got TON from the crosses, had no idea what it meant. Took about of minute of head scratching to figure out the clue for ATTICS after I got it from crosses. Really satisfying experience (almost) finishing this one.

Burma Shave 10:05 AM  


a TRAINEE'S ACCRUAL of talent,


spacecraft: namely, 32/34a 10:53 AM  

Yet another cardplayer who SITSPAT!!! AAAAAAAUGH!!!! This entry, now and forward, automatically dooms the puzzle to no better than bogey.

I did manage to get this done; very tough for a Thursday but as F/S are traditionally gimmick-free, it had to appear today. And what a bear of a gimmick! Hopelessly confused in the NW, I cast about for a reveal clue, found it--and then tried to make sense of 10a-->13a. Not happening. But then I spotted the soaring highlight of the whole mess for this intrepid Trekkie: the USS ENTERPRISE! Now revisiting the NW, I saw what was afoot. That themer looked really awful; no one's going to get TAKEC without the cipher. This works best with CARP
ANTS, where each segment forms a real word. Elsewhere it's very awkward: we have USS crossing USSR (not actually a "country," BTW), and finish with -IYAKI, more nonsense. The other one, -TAINER, I let pass because its' the theme for a truly great film, my wife's all-time favorite and one of mine as well.

But despite those two highlights, I found this a slog. PPPs are rife, including a hip-hopper (ugh). I didn't know a lot of them, including today's DODCUP, Chrissy TIEGEN. She's a powerful ATTRACTANT. The forced abbr. ETYM is truly ugly. I grant that theme constraints are considerable, even for the Chenmeister, but thou shalt not SITPAT on MY watch. Bogey.

thefogman 11:16 AM  

Another gem by the enterprising Jeff Chen. The great aha! moment came when I solved USSENTERPRISE. Before that, I had SSE for 32A (Star Ship Enterprise). This was before I realized the link between 32A and 34A with the cryptic - clue. DCUP turned SSE into USE then USS after I solve 25D (SISI). After that, is was: Ahead! Warp factor nine Mr. Sulu.

thefogman 11:19 AM  

PS - DNF'd by the mANTRA/mAU trap...

centralscrewtinizer 1:18 PM  

Great aha moment actually came in the NW with TAKE CENTER STAGE since I had iSS as my first answer while wondering what sci-fi stories were involved. I was flopping around thinking ENTER meant a way in, hence had ANTe and opeNER for far too long. Great fun to correct those.
TAU did not mess me up, but I just could not see CHICKEN TERIYAKI as I had SledS instead of SEMIS so dnf bigtime in the SE.
Some day I will remember it is INGA, not olGA which would have sped things up a bit.

thefogman 2:39 PM  

EDIT: After that, it was: "Ahead! Warp factor nine Mr. Sulu."

Diana,LIW 5:52 PM  

Awoke today in a grand mood, singing and dancing "Kids" - the old Paul Lynde song from Bye Bye Birdie. Mr. W is back and well!

Then began the puz. Got some done, and then. crickets

Some PPP held me up, and finally looked them up.

Got almost all but the --. At the point of giving up, I got it. Finished it. And would have enjoyed it much more if the rest had been enjoyable instead of, my experience, meh.

In the middle, Mr. W and I went for a walk and I told him for the dozenth time that he was/is my favorite birthday present of all time.

But still, this puzzle just didn't do it for me. Not a rebus, but almost.


Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords (trivia? not so much)

Waxy in Montreal 6:12 PM  

Am I the only one old enough to remember the early computer keyboards on which the ENTER key was still called the Carriage Return (or CR) key taken from their typewriter antecedents.

Great Thursday puzzle. Seemed to be on tENTERhooks forever waiting for the penny (or perhaps the EURO) to drop but well worth it.

Once visited the Chester A. Arthur birthplace in Fairfield, VT. Very humble beginnings indeed.

rondo 10:33 PM  

Witty comment eaten by the captcha demon. Basically:
@spacey, EURO CAY
and reminiscing of Plymouth DUSTERS.

Diana,LIW 10:39 AM  

@Rondo - I had Capcha Demon problems too! Little circle just went round and round. I learned, during one of the moderation kerfuffles, to copy my posts before posting. Then, if I must come back later, I can re-captcha my fine and dandy words.


Lady Di (posting Friday am) (still not a robot)

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