Old cylindrical music collectible / WED 6-13-18 / So called father of string quartet / science friday broadcaster / Frodo's friend in lord of rings / Blues singer Ma

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Constructor: Michael Hawkins

Relative difficulty: Easy (3:21)

THEME: sewing, I guess — themers end with SEAMS, THREAD, NEEDLE, and STITCHES, respectively:

Theme answers:
  • BURST AT THE SEAMS (17A: Not be contained anymore)
  • LOSE THE THREAD (27A: Forget one's place in a conversation)
  • MOVE THE NEEDLE (39A: Have measurable impact)
  • LEAVE IN STITCHES (50A: Make laugh hysterically)
Word of the Day: Ma RAINEY (15D: Blues singer Ma) —
"Ma" Rainey (born Gertrude Pridgett, September 1882[ or April 26, 1886 – December 22, 1939) was one of the earliest African-American professional blues singers and one of the first generation of blues singers to record. She was billed as the "Mother of the Blues". (wikipedia)
• • •

Four themers loosely connected by their last words. Again, we get an adequate, common theme-type and a grid that feels phoned in from decades ago. There's not even a revealer or any kind of wordplay to make this theme snap together. Just a general word grouping. And sometimes those words are directly related to the sewing meaning (BURST AT THE SEAMS) and sometimes they're not (MOVE THE NEEDLE). It's all just so weak. Just so much filler. And the grid is so so choppy. Cascading short answers, the grid awash in 3s and 4s (again). Just did this week's American Values Club Crossword, which just makes a mockery of most NYT themed puzzles (as do most AVCXwords). Oh, and it was made by a woman, but let's stay on topic. Why is the "best puzzle in the world" this mediocre? More of you need to be asking this. Aloud. Or in writing.

Even to recount my journey through this puzzle is an exercise in dullness. Wanted SNEEZE at 1A: Cause for a blessing (ACHOO) and it wouldn't fit so ABBA / ADA / HORA etc. Done. I do not believe that BROWN RICE is a [Side dish at a Chinese restaurant]. I'm sure you can get it if you ask, but the association there is not strong. Chinese restaurants serve white rice. The only thing I remember about solving this is having trouble with GENTLE (of all things!) (24D: Soothing). Had the GEN-, wrote in GENIAL (?!), which is not a terrible guess, but GENTLE is certainly better, as well as being a hell of a lot more ordinary. I liked ON THE SLY, and LEDTVS was fun to parse, and honestly the grid is not tortured. It's just clogged with repeaters, yet again, and the theme is tepid, yet again, and I just want ... better. I don't expect it to happen any time soon. Huge pay raise and a much more conscientious editorship would help. But again, don't hold your breath. Good night.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


jae 12:09 AM  

Easy for me. No WOEs and MANse before MANOR was my only erasure.

Very smooth plus a little story about a clothing mishap and what is needed to fix it (at least that’s my take), liked it.

puzzlehoarder 12:27 AM  

Time wise this was more easy than medium. Oddly it felt slow.

RAINEY went right in. HAYDN needed crosses. Even if I was more familiar with that composer I'd still misspell the name.

Speaking of spelling, I really did s number on KHAKI. The middle three letters had to be rearranged by the crosses.

I was aware of the theme before I finished. That's probably due to the length of them. That much real estate is hard to miss even if you're not really looking.

Tom 12:32 AM  

PF Changs out here on the left coast always offers white or BROWN RICE, so that was a gimmer. Last entry was EARTAG/RAG. Thought I had finished and got the notice that I was finished but had at least one error.

Wouldn't it be nice if the iPhone version told you how many errors you had?

Also, even though I'm sitting, I always stand PAT. I never SIT PAT. Easy Wed.

Anonymous 12:37 AM  

Stop trying to make repeaters a thing.

Robin 1:53 AM  

Frankly, I was happy there no revealer. The theme was obvious enough, and a revealer would have been a waste of a longer entry. Also, seems like so many revealers these days are just bad puns.

Didn't hate it, didn't love it.

Big Jim 2:01 AM  

Yes Rex, a snooze-fest. Couldn’t agree more. Choppy, pedestrian, boring... Also, it’s mid-week, so it doesn’t have to be so easy. Let’s have something tricky or at least clever. Can the NYT not provide us with something more than 4 minutes of same-old same-old on a Wednesday?

Anonymous 2:25 AM  

Started on the downs.

chefwen 3:07 AM  

Peak before APEX and irk before VEX we’re my only write overs. So pretty easy here also, and I needed easy after the dramatics of the early evening. A friend is here helping us extend our deck (among other projects) and fell off the support beams and cracked his head open, thankfully no STICHES were required, then the puppy ate something he shouldn’t have and ended up, well, let’s just say “two exits, no waiting” cleaned that up and head wounded buddy cleaning up the kitchen after dinner jerked open the fridge door and out fell the butter dish with semi soft butter. Glass shards and soft butter everywhere. Said puppy had a field day licking up the butter and god only knows what else. Can’t wait to see what we are going to have clean up next.

So, yeah, the puzzle was great!

Larry Gilstrap 3:09 AM  

Four big themers about sewing, including two grid spanners, seem Wednesday enough for me. Last time I saw someone sewing, a NEEDLE was definitely involved. Based upon my recent experience, I thought the theme might involve surgery. My SEAMS are healing quite nicely, thank you.

As I remember, last time I went to a Chinese restaurant, or was it Thai?, they offered the BROWN RICE option. Why is a Pet Shop Boys tune swelling in my mind? I know one is healthier than the other, but that white gooey stuff smothered in soy sauce is hard to beat.

Hand up for spelling his name three different ways until I finally stumbled on HAYDN. I've had intense Classical Music phases in my life, but not recently.

One of the joys of hiking in the desert is encountering a big horn sheep. I've shared many moments with those majestic animals, often one-on-one. The rams are intimidating, but often the ewes are adorned with a transmitter collar or at least an EAR TAG. Impressive animals.

Indulge me for a moment. For a few decades, I have done the New York Times Crossword Puzzle everyday, and for a few years have read the Rex Parker Does the New York Times Puzzle blog everyday, and often comment. That's all I need. I don't dig into the archives or solve around. Feel free to do so, if you have the time and resources. On the average, it kills an hour of my day, which is sufficient.

sanfranman59 4:14 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 4:21 4:30 0.97 38.1% Easy-Medium
Tue 5:38 5:26 1.04 60.0% Medium
Wed 6:11 6:22 0.97 48.1% Medium

I enjoyed this puzzle much more than yesterday's. It might really be an Easy-Medium. I made it a good bit more difficult than it needed to be by "penciling" in scROLL at the end of 56A because I was coming at it from the east and only glanced at the clue. PIANO ROLL should have been a no-crosses entry. Then I stumbled my way through DEVEIN (that just doesn't look right) and EARTAG down in that same section.

I also kinda flubbed the start a little, drawing a blank at first on BROWN RICE, smirking at OWS (yuck), remembering Ma's surname as RAINEs and questioning SIT PAT (I believe Rexville has discussed the legitimacy of this answer before).

I'm a big fan of Papa HAYDN's and know his "Father of the Symphony" sobriquet (he composed 106 of them!). But I didn't know that he's also "Father of the String Quartet" (68 of those buggers!). I don't think of MEALY as granulated really but it fits the second and third definitions in Merriam-Websters, so that's plenty good for me. And welcome back, SAM.

Carola 4:43 AM  

Huh. I liked it - the theme brought a smile, though I see @Rex's point about MOVE THE NEEDLE not being sewing-related. The HIPS-SIT-BURST AT THE SEAMS-VEX nexus is nice.

'merican in Paris 4:51 AM  

BIEN: a nice clean puzzle, without a lot of CRUD, but ridiculously easy for a Wednesday. Completed it in a bit more than my usual multiple of Rex's time (8x).

Have to agree with OFL about BROWN RICE: I don't ever recall being served it at a Chinese Restaurant. Good to see a reference to the Hawaiian ISLEs, however. (Hey @chefwen!)

The theme answers were GENTLE, albeit pretty MEH; SADLY they didn't LEAVE me IN STITCHES, as they do occasionally.


-- SAM, two days in a row. Hmmm. Also ABE, ADA, GENA, and IAN.
-- An honest president (ABE). What a concept!
-- I had HemS before HIPS. A more theme-consistent answer, IMO.

Seeing ABBA in the puzzle reminds me of the story of how they ended up adopting such iconic THREADs. Under Sweden's tax system, you can claim a business expense your RAGs only if they are something that you would not wear out on the street. So they came up with their definitive costumes, which they could argue were unfit for everyday wear. There you learned something new today. (I hope.)

Here's looking at you, KID! BYE!

Anonymous 5:40 AM  

Boy, talk about repeaters . . . .

Lewis 5:58 AM  

The strongest part of the puzzle for me was the theme -- four interesting phrases that end with sewing words and start with verbs, with the first two telling the problem, and the last two giving a happy solution. A little wordplay-involving story, and different from the usual theme. Kudos there. I would have liked a touch more spark in the cluing and fill, something I've grown to expect on Wednesdays.

On another VEIN, that word shows up embedded in not one, but two answers, and I like PIANO ROLL resting on RAG, as you will find many of the former playing the latter. There's also a slew of words ending in A (10), or should I say, plethora.

Z 6:13 AM  

I did the AVCX puzzle before this one. Uh, yeah.

Ruptured biceps tendon? Yeow. My Tigers are over-achieving this year, but a rally goose isn’t going to solve this one.

Jim Lemire 6:21 AM  

I was disappointed by the answer to 35D - MYTHS. Seemed like a clever clue with both Pandora’s box and Trojan horse.

I had peaK and irK before APEX and VEX as well. Couldn’t for the life of me remember JOSEPH Conrad, despite being tortured through reading The Heart of Darkness in schoo,l and the cross JAPAN came slowly since I was expecting (wanting?) something more interesting. MANse before MANIOR as well.

Still don’t understand 4D: Reactions to buffets? OWS? Although as I type this, I think I sorted it out...buffets as in physical attacks?

Jon Alexander 6:39 AM  

I too had an amazing time with GENTLE...to me, the term soothing implies an act of making things better as opposed to gentle, which is more of a lack of harshness rather than an act of making it less harsh...

Blah puzzle over all, felt like it was just going through the motions.

Hungry Mother 7:03 AM  

I awways get BROWNRICE on the side when I’m in a Chinese restaurant. Fun theme and a pleasant puzzle with just the right amount of crunch. If I wrote, I would ask for more of the same.

Anonymous 7:04 AM  

Soothing is an adjective here, I believe. The ER MD has a soothing (gentle) bedside manner.

Anonymous 7:11 AM  

Brown rice is a Chinese restaurant staple. What a strange nitpick. We've recently been through the stand pat SITPAT "controversy".

kitshef 7:33 AM  

I'm with @jae 12:09 - I read this as a mini-story uniting the themers.

I also agree with @Anon 12:37 that Rex seems to be trying to make 'repeater' part of the puzzle lingo, and that I don't like it. Although, if I had to write a column every day I would probably prefer to type r-e-p-e-a-t-e-r than c-r-o-s-s-w-o-r-d-e-s-e, so maybe it's just a (stitch in ) time-saver for Rex.

Good day for GOALIE in the grid - FIFA World Cup 2026!!!!

Suzie Q 7:35 AM  

This felt more like a side dish than a main course. Not, however, a side dish of brown rice. P.F. Chang is too American to call itself Asian. For one thing I am not sure I can think of a single Asian name that starts with an F. Serving brown rice (esp. on the left coast) is just what I would expect from them.
Speaking of food, is there any other food that needs to be deveined besides shrimp?
Burst at the seams doesn't match the grammar of the clue to my ears.
Lastly, I might be flying my ignorance like a big flag but I thought the Trojan horse was real or at least based on a real event. I hope someone sets me straight.

Pantaloons 7:39 AM  


pmdm 7:43 AM  

"Adequate, common theme-type, ... a grid that feels phoned in from decades ago."

"It's all so weak. Just so much filler."

"The grid is so choppy."

And so on. I was going to comment on the write-up, but then decided not to, since I've apparently solved a different puzzle today.

End of unnecessary sarcasm.

Chefwen, I think you have unwittingly discovered the perfect solution to making the Times puzzles seem more enjoyable. Perfect for solving the problem, but certainly not perfect for what happens to the solver. Chin up.

Sanfranman59: In Haydn's day, many of his contemporary composers (like Mozart) did not publish a lot of their music, especially their earlier composition, which were written for their employers, not the public. Beethoven definitively ended that practice. Towards the end of the 19th century, music publishers dedicated publishing the entire words of these composers. The numbering of the works is now based not on the chronology of composition, but the order of publishing. (Similar to how first and second piano concertos of Beethoven and Chopin are numbered, but in those cases the works being published by the composers themselves). So the numbering of, say, Mozart Symphonies and Piano Sonatas or J. S. Bach Church Cantatas depends not on their chronological order but on the order they were published in the collected words editions. So, as an example, Mozart wrote many more than 41 symphonies, but many of his symphonies were "lost" printed only after the 41 known symphonies were published. It gets complicated. So probably it is best to say that Haydn wrote "at least" 106 symphonies. Indeed, the problem is more complex than my overly-long explanation makes it seem.

Oh, and the puzzle.

I felt the publication dates of yesterday's and today's puzzle should have been switched with each other. At least their difficulty levels would have seemed more typical for the days of the week they were published on. That might have eliminating some of the complaints aimed at the puzzles.

Teedmn 7:45 AM  

I enjoy sewing so it was fun to see these phrases based on it. I've been trying to find a word that describes sewing the same way culinary describes cooking, i.e., is there a "sewing arts" word? I tried Google but came up blank except for "textiles", which seems too broad.

Anyhoo (ACHOO), this was a nice Wednesday. I was blank on JOSEPH Conrad and had to let it fill in even though I read "Lord Jim" as part of my ongoing attempt to read the classics (I've been stuck on Proust for a long, long time, so long in fact that I am À la recherche du temps perdu). SADLY, I didn't care much for "Lord Jim" - I found Conrad's prose opaque, almost as difficult as James Fenimore Cooper's "Last of the Mohicans".

Nice job, Michael Hawkins.

Stanley Hudson 7:52 AM  

Yes, he’s definitely trying to get “repeater” into the xword ether.

See Key and Peele’s great “chain wax” skit.

Anonymous 7:56 AM  

@SusieQ 7:35AM


RooMonster 7:59 AM  

Hey All !
Agree with @jae and @Lewis that the theme is a mini-story, not just an end-word theme. Hmm, I seem to have BURST AT THE SEAMS, now if I don't LOSE THE THREAD I can MOVE THE NEEDLE through, and then LEAVE IN STITCHES all fixed.

23 threes, kinda high, but not every puz can only have a little bit. Variety, is what I'm saying. The spice of life, eh? Thought the fill was OK. Every puz has dreck. Said it before, but I just said it again. :-) Actually got a chuckle out of CRUD, when was the last time you heard or said that? Now, it's usually a different four letter word. ACHOO missing its first H. Do agree with others on the just-a-bit easy-ness for a WedsPuz. Gotta have a minor nit, or else the day wouldn't be complete!

Pied Piper for RCAs? LED TVS.
New contest for Tough Man Competition? PIANO ROLL.


JOHN X 8:06 AM  

So I went and did the AVCX puzzle and guess what? It was no better or worse than the NYT puzzle. Rex helpfully pointed out that it was "made by a woman" so I was hoping it would be loaded with lots of sexy chick answers but nope it was just a regular ol' crossword puzzle.

repeaters, amirite? 8:10 AM  

not sure why rex making "repeaters" a thing is bothersome to anyone. who cares, really?

brown rice is served at the several chinese restaurants i frequent in NYC...though you have to ask for it specifically and they don't usually offer it. but all rice (in a take out joint) is technically "on the side."

maybe i'm just getting used to it, but i don't even notice these run-of-the-mill puzzles anymore as "boring." they're just kinda like putting on that old tee shirt...comfortable but probably not going to wear it out in public except at maybe a home depot. i guess puzzles like this have their place, not all of them can be stellar works of art.

Z 8:14 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
PhillySolver 8:22 AM  

PF is the American half of the founders... Paul Fleming with his partner Mr Chang.

Anonymous 8:36 AM  

Old blouse burst at the seams and lost the thread. Had a little sewing kit in my purse, moved the needle, left in stitches. Rag!

I haven't seen one like this so I love it.

Z 8:36 AM  

If Rex starts using it our feelings won’t matter. It will become part of crossworld lingo. I much prefer “ese,” but no one will ask my permission. Or yours.

White or fried. I have never see BROWN RICE on a menu anywhere besides P.F. Changs. I think the difference is about the same as between white and whole wheat bread, i.e. so insignificant as to be wiped out by whatever else is added.

Wm. C. 8:37 AM  

Sorry @Rexy -- I always get brown rice at Chinese Restaurants.

mmorgan 8:41 AM  

Rexes gotta Rex, but I liked it fine. A typo gave me BURnT AT THE SEAMS for while which just seemed slightly strange to me.

LHS 888 8:44 AM  

I think this may have been my fastest Wednesday solve ever - less than 4 Rex’s!
Only write-over was LcDTVS to LEDTVS, but McEAL_ put that to rights and by doing so avoided a Natick with Ma RAINE_.
I thought the theme was cute. Fun puzzle. Thanks!

Lee Ho Fook 9:05 AM  

I’ve ordered takeout at dozens of Chinese restaurants in New York and London and nearly every one asks. “white or brown rice “? I’ve never been to P.F. Changs.

Greg Christopher 9:15 AM  

I am so tired of Rex’s petulance. OK, we get it. You think that Will does not pay enough, so you try to steer everyone to completing pay-for-play puzzles in an effort to undermine the Times and to line your own pockets. Shame!

Jon in Saint Paul, MN 9:16 AM  

God, you are so fetch.

Jon in Saint Paul, MN 9:20 AM  

Agree with Rex that this was lame. It was also way too easy for a Wednesday. But strongly disagree with the brown rice rant. I eat brown rice at lots of Chinese restaurants. I'm not sure, however, if "side dish" is quite right.

Sir Hillary 9:23 AM  

BROWNRICE is at most Chinese restaurants, but sometimes you need to ask for it. I never get anything but.

This puzzle was 8D.

Actually, it was sew-sew. C'mon, someone had to go there...

Anonymous 9:24 AM  

@Z: In New York, white or brown rice comes with the entree. Fried rice is a separate order. I’m surprised to hear it’s different wherever you live.

bookmark 9:24 AM  

@Stanley Hudson: Loved the Key and Peele skit.

Brown rice is always on the menu in our upscale Chinese restaurant owned by Chinese who have several restaurants in our city. The waiters always say, "brown or white?"

GILL I. 9:26 AM  

I rather enjoyed it. Knowing the theme let me guess at MOVE THE NEEDLE. What cave have I lived in? I guess that's a business type expression. I've been out of the business but I still BURST AT THE SEAMS.
Didn't know Ma RAINEY either. I'm just not into my blues.
I only know MEALY if it has bugs and a mouth in front of it.
I'm no expert on Chinese cuisine probably because I don't really eat it but I've NEVER EVER had brown rice as a side. I think more in terms of spring roll or egg drop soup and maybe FRIED RICE.... but brown?
Why did I want Musk to be the answer to 44A. Maybe because Elon is everywhere inventing stuff.
BIEN is also good in Sp.
@chefwen...I wanted to BURST out laughing at your fridge story but that would've been rude. I hate my fridge. I actually yell at it every time I open it because inevitably something falls out. Last week my husband had a hankering for some chocolate pudding so I made him some. Stuck it in the fridge to cool down, opened the door to get something else, the pudding came flying out, hit the floor and the VERY LAST bone china cup that I inherited from my grandmother shattered all over the floor, counters, and my hair. Chocolate pudding everywhere and of course the pups come to my rescue licking and licking and I'm thinking chocolate will kill them and I'm never going to make pudding again and my husband will have to put up with me buying a new expensive fridge and the pet bills. They are fine, thank you very much.
Gee, Michael Hawkins, see how much fun your puzzle generated.....

Nancy 9:30 AM  

Dullsville from beginning to end. I was trying to think: was there a single clue/answer that was of any interest to me? Yes, there was one. MEALY (30A).

Because "having fine granules" sounds like a truly lovely thing. Very desirable. But wouldn't you cringe if someone offered you some sort of edible and said: "Try some. It's MEALY"? I'm a fairly adventurous eater and I know I'd leave it right there on the plate. Also, you wouldn't want to be MEALY-mouthed, would you? I've never actually thought about what MEALY really means, but "having fine granules" would not have been my first guess.

Other than that, a truly boring puzzle.

Anonymous 9:35 AM  

I'm a native Philadelphian, have worked in Manhattan, and currently reside in the Garden State. I've eaten Chinese food many times in each of these places; every joint I've ever been to has had brown rice. As someone noted earlier, you typically have to ask for it, but they always have it. My wife gets it about a third of the time.

As for the ACVX, it was ok. Certainly not definitively better than today's offering from the Times. Your animus is clouding your judgment in my opinion (and least one other commenter's).

And repeater is not a thing. I don't believe Z is correct. Crosswords are bigger than this blog. That coinage won't catch on. It may be thing in your circle with BEQ and the sycophants, but the rest of the world uses ESE for language-isms.

Mohair Sam 9:35 AM  

A fine Monday puzzle today. The misplacement of the day has nothing to do with the constructor - nice job Mr. Hawkins. Besides, any puzzle with Ma RAINEY in there is a winner.

Apparently BROWN RICE is not served in Binghamton, NY and Detroit, MI (hi @Z). Brown rice is on the menu in Syracuse, New York City, Allentown, Philadelphia, and little Water Mill, NY - places where I've ordered it within the last year or two. I like it because it's less sticky than white and has a little flavor.

Speaking of @Z - I'm one of the tiny handful who know what you were talking about at 6:15. And yes, there is now little reason to even dream of Tiger victories for the rest of the year.

@kitshef - I love the idea of the entire continent sharing the Cup. And apparently the lack of kick-backs and bribery kept Morocco at bay. The 2022 Cup? Our youngest son served two deployments in Qatar, one in summertime - you don't want to be near that place in July - average high 107F, average low 88. It's the only place on earth in which he's served that he doesn't want to return to.

Harry 9:48 AM  

Around here, Chinese restaurants serve either white/steamed rice or fried rice - which is brown, but they never call it brown rice.

QuasiMojo 9:50 AM  

Ma Rainey, Gena Rowlands, Haydn, Hirohito, piano roll, rag? This one really skewed old. Right up my alley. So some of the stuff was cruddy, but maybe I’m getting used to it! I enjoyed the theme which also was old. I know very few people today who know how to sew. I felt like putting on a sweater with patches on the elbows while deveining this one. Sorry I can’t comment as much as in the past because I am on vacation on a remote island on the border of Canada with limited WiFi. I am enjoying the back and forth here however! Some funny comments from the peanut gallery. Keep it coming!

Amelia 10:01 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous 10:12 AM  

Rex is missing the progression here, i.e. First, you burst at the seams which results in losing the thread--then in order to fix the problem you move the needle (darn), then finally you finish the repair, "leave in stitches."

Anonymous 10:23 AM  

With Andrew Lloyd Webber having just won a special Tony award, there was a big opportunity to make a mini-theme in the NE corner, with EVITA, JOSEPH [and the amazingly long title]. and [phantom of the] OPERA. A missed opportunity.

jb129 10:30 AM  

Easy puzzle but not as boring as yesterdays for me.

Warren Howie Hughes 10:32 AM  

If it's all the SAME to SAM, In a MANOR of speaking, It's so very refreshing to find the "So-called Father of the String Quartet" HAYDN in plain sight!

ArtO 10:33 AM  

Belated thanks to @Nancy for the explanation yesterday of CONS for drawbacks as in pros and cons.

Today's kinda easy but meh theme. Skewing old suits me just fine.

GHarris 10:42 AM  

Only brief hang up. I took buffet as a food event and cleverly put in ODs as the answer to 4d, One tends to overeat at a buffet.Changing Amos to Acts enabled me to see brown rice and that got me to ows. Not a bad romp.

Airymom 10:43 AM  

i would appreciate it if someone could explain 4D--"OWS". I'm just not getting the meaning. Thank you.

Malsdemare 10:55 AM  

Chefwen, I feel your pain. Sure hope the puppy is okay. (Of course, I'll worry about puppy before I remember there,s a PERSON involved with a bashed head. Hope he's okay too!) @Gill, I'm sick to hear about the cup. I'm at that point in my life where keepsakes have massive meaning. I hope you have something else of your grandmother's.

Okay, the puzzle. It was fine. I thought the theme was fun, and the whole thing was about Wednesday tough for me. I don't mind the shorter fill, especially since often the longer stuff is just "in the culture" random phrases ala IAMSO, or DIDYOU.

The storm on Sunday took down an immense branch of an old oak; time to get out chain saws and turn it into firewood.

jberg 11:03 AM  

I liked the sewing theme, didn't mind the rest. And I agree that no revealer was needed.

On the rice thing: certainly BROWN RICE is not part of traditional Chinese cuisine, but there are so many health nuts -- e.r., people who care about the nutritional content of their food more than they care about tradition -- that virtually all Chinese restaurants have it. So the clue is technically right, even while seeming a little off.

Pandora's Box is certainly a myth, but how about the Trojan Horse? Itused to be thought that Troy was a myth itself, but that German guy dug it up -- so was the horse real? Is there an ancient historian in the house?

I was bothered by the "So-called" part of the clue in 38D, as I had thought Hayden had actually invented the string quartet, along with the symphony -- but apparently he did have some predecessors, so that's OK. What I learn from crosswords!

I knew Ma RAINEY only from the August Wilson play, but that was enough to let mesee that 17A wasn't BURSTing somewhere.

Unlike many of you, I always do the AVC after this one, so nothing to say on that front.

I' for standing pat. Louis Armstrong agrees with me.

Anonymous 11:12 AM  

@airymom. An old meaning of "buffet" is "a blow, typically with the hand or fist."

Mel Torme 11:12 AM  

Totally agree, but I also heard the phrase "it gentles them" in the movie Temple Grandin, referring to a squeeze machine they use on cattle, and I now try to use gentle as a verb whenever possible.

old timer 11:25 AM  

Easy and fast for a Wednesday.

OFL forgets that in most places white rice is the standard. Which makes brown rice a side dish.

Bob Mills 11:28 AM  

I found the puzzle easy, except for the NW where I had "FRIEDRICE" instead of "BROWNRICE." Reasonable clues this time.

Anonymous 11:38 AM  


Classicists believe Troy was the subject of a long siege. Probably in the eleventh century B.C. Few, if any, believe there was an actual Trojan horse. horse hides were employed in long sieges but of course that's a hell of a stretch...
The most remarkable thing about the Trojan horse is where it comes from. it's really from Virgil's Aeneid recalling aspects of the war, as opposed to the Iliad which purports to recall the war itself. (well year 10 anyway). Homer does of course write about it. Mostly in he Odyssey though.


Heinrich Schliemann

GHarris 11:42 AM  

Buffet, as striking blows, causing one to react by saying ow.

mathgent 11:49 AM  

The only thing more boring than today's puzzle is the recent Woody Allen movie we saw last night, Wonder Wheel. Woody managed to make Kate Winslet boring with his insipid dialogue. Juno Temple, whom I hadn't seen before, was the lone bright spot.

JOSEPH Michael 12:15 PM  

Rex, I wish you could PATCH things up with the NYT so you wouldn’t have to HEM and haw and could just tell us what you really think.

This puzzle was TAILOR made for a RAINEY Monday morning. GENTLE but solid theme which SEWS itself up neatly with wordplay that any lonely seamstress could enjoy.

At a Chinese restaurant in Australia, the side dish might be EMU but I’m pretty sure it is always served with white not BROWN rice.

As for those snowmen in the sun, they might want to PRAY for an eclipse.

Masked and Anonymous 12:17 PM  

My puzeatinspouse is a super-quilter, and thought highly of this puztheme and its little story. I can appreciate that viewpoint. It drew m&e into likin the theme a lot more.

Here's the thing about this whole crosswords/repeaterese/sparkle dealie. Some of it can be a bit subjective. If U ain't worked a passel of crosswords, you'd be surprised how new the gridfill and clues can seem. Newbies probably appreciate a few moo-cow eazy-E clues/answers, to keep their heads above water during the solvequest, no matter what day-o the week it is.

OTOH, if U have worked as many crosswords as m&e and @RP, a lotta today's puz is gonna ring mighty familiar to U. We crave fresh meat, and start to snarl, if U throw us a bunch of old PEWIT scraps.

The repeaterese part of the snarl is pretty measurable, if U assume U have worked all the NYTPuzs since back before electricity. xwordinfo.chen has a whole scientific-like calculation on that, called Freshness Factor (™). Today's WedPuz has a 26.1 Freshness Factor*. That's pretty darn low for a WedPuz, and would certainly justify the snarls of the likes of a repeater-solver such as @RP. [Hey! -- Repeater Parker!]

The sparkle part of the pie is pretty hard to measure. M&A's take on this here puz's sparkle factor:

* BROWNRICE, PIANOROLL, and MEDIATOR are fairly fresh longball answers, but not all that excitin. …Other than that the BROWNRICE *clue* got some folks excited, I reckon (??). ONTHESLY was by far the sparkliest of the non-runt litter.
* The Across clues were sorta clinically dull, except for 38-A: {Gives hands down?} = DEALS.
* The Down clues were somewhat sparklier. Especially liked the 4-D clue, givin OWS today's staff weeject pick award. {Reactions to buffets?} har. M&A has eaten at many buffets like that. "Mm-mm. … No cinnamon rolls, but they do have dirty rice …"

Thanx, Mr. Hawkins. Cool themers.

Masked & Anonymo3Us

* p.s.
It is with a certain amount of twisted pride, that some M&A runtpuzs have scored the coveted *negative* Freshness Factor score. True story!


JC66 12:21 PM  

FWIW, I went to menupages.com, clicked on Chinese Cuisine and arbitrally selected the first restaurant on the list. Here's the menu:

If you scroll through it, you'll notice that all of the entrees come with either white or BROWN rice, as do some of the fried rice choices and special dishes.

jack 12:27 PM  

When was the last time you had to produce 365 crosswords a year? Give us a break, please.

Anonymous 12:43 PM  

The idea that today's AVCX puzzle is better than the NYT is laughable.

Biases are wonderful, especially those driven by blind hatred.

Anonymous 1:28 PM  

@Anon 12:43 Over at Amy's, the AVCXX puzzle got an average rating of 3.85/5 compared to the NYTimes's rating of 3.48/5 . Maybe not a statistically significant difference, but 10% higher and not laughable. But you're obviously right about the blind hatred thing you've clearly got going there.

Kimberly 1:34 PM  

@anonymous 12:43

I don’t think it’s blind hatred. The difference between a good crossword and a lazily constructed one is subtle but significant. To someone who cares enough about the NYT crossword to run a daily blog about it, the corroding quality of what used to be the pinnacle of crosswords should be exasperating.

Rex’s negativity used to get to me, but the crossword has finally degraded to the point where even I am disgusted. For all their journalistic integrity, the fact that the NYT has chosen to treat one of their biggest moneymakers with such contempt is an insult to those of us who pay for it. Print journalism is an endangered species. The NYT is an elegant condor flying in polluted skies, and yet is not acting in its own best interest, seemingly willing to clip its own wings rather than do the one thing that could help keep the entire species alive.

I believe that as one of the leaders of the critical fourth estate, NYT would have the common sense to do the one thing that ensures full coffers and high readership. Instead they are chewing off their own arm to live another day.

It should be infuriating not only to crossword lovers but to anyone who values free press.

G. Weissman 1:36 PM  

MEH says it all.

G. Weissman 1:39 PM  

Yeah, stop complaining about this one guy who has to produce 365 crosswords a year. Not all of this one guy's efforts will be up to snuff. Too bad the NYT can’t print the best crosswords produced by any number of constructors; then there’d be no excuse for crappy crosswords.

Joe Bleaux 1:41 PM  

With you on OWS. (I thought maybe ODS, as in overdoses at the buffet table. Yeah, awful ... but at least it made sense, kinda.)

Trombone Tom 1:45 PM  

Nothing objectionable, but MEH! I crave some crunch on Wednesday.

Our favorite Thai restaurant serves white or brown rice WITH AN UPCHARGE FOR THE LATTER. Is this a California thing?

With both the Warriors and Capitals celebrating yesterday the cleverly clued GOALIE was a tip of the hat to the DC team.

DavidL 2:30 PM  

So I've been hanging around this blog for a while and I think I remember reading that NYT pays $300 for a daily crossword, is that correct? And how does NYT compare to other xword publishers in pay? That's the only way to know if the complaints about declining commitment of the paper are on target.

mathgent 2:33 PM  

I just reviewed all the posts above and couldn't find the one predicting that today's WSJ would be superior. You were right. I just finished it. By Samuel A. Donaldson. Clever theme with good crunch and sparkle.

Amelia 2:48 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous 3:18 PM  

In NYC every chinese restaurant is $1 extra for brown rice.

Kimberly 3:28 PM  


We’re you being sarcastic or do you actually believe that “one guy” creates all the crosswords for the NYT? It’s hard to tell in a forum setting.

I truly hope you were joking.

bob dylan 3:28 PM  

Where Ma Rainey and Beethoven once unwrapped their bedroll
Tuba players now rehearse around the flagpole
And the National Bank at a profit sells road maps for the soul
To the old folks home and the college

Banana Diaquiri 3:33 PM  

@Trombone Tom:
white or brown rice WITH AN UPCHARGE FOR THE LATTER. Is this a California thing?

I suspect not. standard Chinese rice is short-grain sticky rice done in a rice cooker. cooks in 15 minutes, and keeps forever. brown rice takes forever to cook and, I suspect, doesn't keep all that well.

Banana Diaquiri 3:38 PM  


it could be that the crossword (on-line; I get mine printed with the real paper) fees are paying for Peter Baker, et al. for those old enough, or read history enough, know what it was about the innterTubes that have killed off so much of newspapers: the back page classified ads. they cost next to nothing to print, but brought in gobs and gobs of money. they no longer exist. now you know.

Amelia 4:18 PM  

So Samuel Donaldson who constructed today's TERRIFIC WSJ puzzle also constructed yesterdays mediocre NY Times puzzle. What's the deal? Is it the editor muddying the waters. Does he know he can pass off one of his lesser efforts to the Times and not to the Journal?

Anyone know?

Anonymous 4:58 PM  

That's twice you wrote we're for were. It's bugging me. We're means We Are. You need to get rid of the apostrophe to mean were, which is what you mean.

sanfranman59 5:40 PM  

@Anon 4:58 ... Kimberly has likely been afflicted with Auto-correct Syndrome. 'We're' "corrected" to 'were' happens to me all the time when I'm using my phone and it drives this OCD grammarian nuts.

foxaroni 6:49 PM  

@Lee Ho Fook 9:05 a.m.: no doubt your take-out order is a big plate of beef chow mein?

I was able to finish the puzzle. That rates as "good" to me!

Unknown 7:12 PM  

I had just finished a meal of Chinese food with BROWNRICE when I started this. Very timely.

Anonymous 9:26 PM  

(And you know his hair is perfect)

I miss him. But I try to heed his advice: enjoy every sandwich.

Anonymous 11:34 PM  

You don't SIT pat--you stand pat. Will Shortz is the alternative facts master of crosswords.

Tracy Matt 7:12 AM  
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
thefogman 9:25 AM  

I had this one sewed up in no time. No write-overs either. Yes, it was a bit on the easy side for a Wednesday, but it was still a most enjoyable solve. Nice job Michael Hawkins!

Burma Shave 10:14 AM  


should GENA LOSETHETHREAD while decidin’
and won’t MOVETHENEEDLE she’s HAYDN.

another of the SAME unconscious MYTHS brought to you BYE a PIANOROLL RAG

centralscrewtinizer 11:07 AM  

Have to laugh at myself. Was wondering what kind of a name is Edward Teach Aka and then the actual usage hit me.

spacecraft 11:22 AM  

Warning: you are entering a rant AREA.

What is this with SITPAT...again?? Guys, I know you're usually seated for draw poker, but you don't SITPAT. NO ONE EVER!! says "SITPAT!" It's STAND PAT, you fools! Get it through your thick heads! S-T-A-N-D. That's the expression. That's the language IN ACTUAL USE. STOP IT WITH THE NOT-IN-USE CRUD!!

You are leaving the rant AREA. The rest of the puzzle is MEH. Theme is OK; fill mostly so with the exception of the above plus absurd letter-string acronym LEDTVS. GENA Rowlands makes her DOD debut. Bogey.

rondo 11:59 AM  

@spacey – thanks for the SITPAT rant, now I won’t have to. And ditto the rest. BYE BYE

Diana,LIW 2:14 PM  

Puz wuz ok - a Wed.

Rex, however, concerns me. Does he really want folks to complain about the NYTP the way he does? ie, thoughtlessly? Constantly? Predictably?

no thanks

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords

leftcoastTAM 3:02 PM  

Sewing theme strikes me as a good one, but have to agree with critiques of some of the fill.

rainforest 3:49 PM  

Today's puzzle was easy, competently constructed, and had a serviceable theme, no revealer required.

I saw no reason to get one's shirt, or knickers, in a knot. Yes, the poker term is STAND PAT, but if someone says he will SIT PAT, I'd know what he means, and I might smirk at him. But I lose at poker all the time.

Aside from the above, the rest of the puzzle was just fine. If a puzzle is filled with excitement, I might have an accident, God forfend.

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