Astaire with steps / SAT 7-27-18 / Virginia senator Jim / "My Two" 80s sitcom / Cheryl "Curb Your Enthusiasm" / "Punk Rock, Teenagers, and" / Giants GM Al / Korean statesman Syngman

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Constructor: Natan Last, Andy Kravis, and the J.A.S.A. Crossword Class

Relative difficulty: 8:03 (Saturday average: 18:26; Saturday best 6:03)

THEME: Themeless

Word of the Day: PHISHER (18D: "Nigerian prince," often) —
Phishing is the fraudulent attempt to obtain sensitive information such as usernames, passwords, and credit card details (and money), often for malicious reasons, by disguising as a trustworthy entity in an electronic communication. The word is a neologism created as a homophone of fishing due to the similarity of using a bait in an attempt to catch a victim. According to the 2013 Microsoft Computing Safety Index, released in February 2014, the annual worldwide impact of phishing could be as high as US$5 billion. Phishing is typically carried out by email spoofing or instant messaging, and it often directs users to enter personal information at a fake website, the look and feel of which are identical to the legitimate site, the only difference being the URL of the website in concern. Communications purporting to be from social web sites, auction sites, banks, online payment processors or IT administrators are often used to lure victims. Phishing emails may contain links to websites that distribute malware. (Wikipedia)
• • •

I always like the J.A.S.A. Crossword Class puzzles; even if the grid and execution aren't perfect, the effort, enthusiasm, and [17A: Camaraderie]: TEAM SPIRIT are evident. I wish there were more opportunities for people to learn crossword construction in groups and have some outlet for publication -- it's a fairly solitary pursuit, except for the occasional collaboration. Certainly the crossword blogs and social media have opened things up a bit. (Hey, if you like crossword blogs -- and you do, if you're here -- check out Life in the E-League, a new daily blog.) 

The center-triple stagger-stack felt reasonably fresh; as someone whose day job is in academia I can attest that the [37A: Modern college major]: GENDER STUDIES is likely a few decades old at most institutions, so it certainly qualifies as "modern." Some interesting choices for proper names: [1A: Astaire with steps]: ADELE is a nice punny clue for Fred's older sister (instead of, say, the British blue-eyed soul singer). We've also got WEBB the ex-senator, Cheryl HINES of "cringe comedy," ROSEN of baseball, arty ERTE, activist DIX, and international politician RHEE (instead of American educational reformer RHEE). I mean [48D: "Gimme a break!"]: YEESH, props to the team for that many propers.
[10A: "My Two ___" (1980s sitcom)]: DADS -- a modern family

Do we really need Bullets, since a themeless write-up is pretty much all Bullets? Ok, fine:
  • [36A: Some detox diets]: JUICE CLEANSES — Your liver and kidneys do a fine job of cleansing the "toxins" in your body. The whole cleanse thing is pure woo-woo goop and quackery.
  • [12D: Distributor of Penguin classics]: DC COMICS — Namely, classic comics featuring supervillain The Penguin, adversary of Batman. The Penguin was not bitten by a radioactive penguin; however, if you are not apprised of the origin story of a particular comic book superhero/villain, "bitten by a radioactive [animal]" is always a reasonable guess.
  • [36D: Show that once had an April Fools' Day episode hosted by Pat Sajak]: JEOPARDY — The CrossWorld/Jeopardy crossover is legion: many, many top competitors at the ACPT and other tournaments have appeared (and become champions) on Jeopardy.
  • [32D: One who sucks the joy out of the room]: FUN SPONGE — New one to me. I was all, DEBBIE DOWNER? I'm going to start using this all the time.
A plug: The American Values Club Crossword is offering free trial subscriptions. Just send an email to editor [at] (replace the [at] with the @ sign, as you know, we do that on the interwebz to prevent PHISHERS) with FREE PUZZLES in the subject line to get your samples. (Note: AV Club is not a PHISHER.) The AV Club also offers subsidized subscriptions for anyone who can't afford the yearly fee. If that's you, just let the editor know at that same email address, no explanation needed.

Another plug: Tomorrow (Sunday, July 29) is Boswords, the Boston Crossword Tournament, held at the Roxbury Latin School in West Roxbury, MA (only a few miles from Natick!). If you're in the region, there's still room for competitors (register online at the link or in person at the venue), or you can order the puzzles to solve at home. We have an awesome team of Boston and Boston-adjacent constructors: Brendan Emmett Quigley, Joon Pahk, Lena Webb, Finn Vigeland, John Lieb, Andrew Kingsley, David Quarfoot, and Laura Braunstein (that's me).

See you tomorrow, then Rex will be back to cover Monday's puzzle.

Signed, Laura, Sorceress of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Brian 12:03 AM  

Super easy. More like a Wednesday

jae 12:04 AM  

Wayyyyy to easy, Wed. took me longer. Sure, the middle stair stack has plenty of pizzaz, but it required zero effort to solve. Andy discusses some tougher clues that didn’t make the cut for that stack at the xwordinfo site...

[Ones who monitor patterns / Group that's strongly averse to clashing / Group that may cramp your style?] for FASHION POLICE

[They're drunk and flush? / Digestive fluids?] for JUICE CLEANSES

[Butler did it / Wave theory field?] for GENDER STUDIES....

Some of these might have amped up the difficulty?

A fine puzzle, just not a Sat. Liked it but...

If you’re looking for a tough and probably not that fair Sat. puzzle I would recommend the Oct. 21, 2000 Sat. by Bob Klahn, which I encountered not that long ago on my journey through the archived Sat. puzzles. This is the same Bob Klahn whose Dec. 29, 2007 puzzle was featured in the right hand column of Rex’s blog page under the title “The Wrath of Klahn”. I had to cheat on both of these.

Mike in Mountain View 12:34 AM  

Laura, thanks for a terrific job of guest-blogging.

Bourbon Street 12:46 AM  

Super proud of myself for knowing Dr. No’s first name—I guess that shows my age. Have no idea why I knew “My Two Dads” given that I never watched an episode of it and couldn’t name a single person who acted in it. My brain kept insisting that NY subways have “mosaic” tiles even though I was certain that the book is “I Tina”. I finally accepted that I had the correct book title and worked through it. Good puzzle.

TokyoRacer 1:09 AM  

Props for that many propers? No, the opposite. I thought that crosswords, especially NYTimes crosswords, are supposed to test your intellectual abilities, not your knowledge of pop trivia. That's the job of Trivial Pursuit, not of a crossword. Trivia, particularly of the American, television variety is an insult to one's intelligence, not a challenge to one's intelligence. I hate it when a crossword assumes that I A) live in America (I don't), B) watch a lot of television (I don't watch any) and C) would bother to know or remember old and obscure actors, shows, and even networks.
I also don't think you should have to speak foreign languages to do an English-language crossword. So when I saw the first four clues, I was greatly disheartened. And it just continued to get worse. Ana of Devious Maids??? Give me a break! A quick count shows about 21 proper nouns in this puzzle - that's 21 too many. A "trivial" crossword by lazy constructors.

Dolgo 1:36 AM  

I don't consider myself one of those people David Foster Wallace and William Saffire (an odd pair if there ever was one) reportedly called "snoots" i.e., word snobs, but I kind of object to "academia." Academe was the guy who owned the olive Grove where Plato had his academy, hence the name. The further we get away from the sources of some words, I think, the poorer the language becomes. It's why "mentor"spawns "mentee,"for example. Hey! Mentor was a guy (Telemachus's tutor)! Besides, isn't "academia" some sort of nut? I love language, and I like to preserve its richness by keeping close to the true origins of vocabulary.

Harryp 1:37 AM  

This was going very well until the Southwest corner reared its ugly head. I had broader for 37Down for the longest time which kept me from GENDER STUDIES, and I put in and took out DR NO three times, before I saw JEOPARDY and GRANDER. I still don't see APP with the time suck clue, but I am sure someone will enlighten me on that score. Nice one by Natan Last!

Birchbark 1:51 AM  

NAOH is a great word -- like a slow-motion cinematic "Nooooo," but where the actor experiences self-doubt while saying it. Above DRNO, no less. NOOB is BOON spelled backwards.

MACE is wonderfully clued. I'm traveling California-way and saw the new "Mission Impossible" movie tonight, just passing the time. The same story over and over, but it's such a good one in the summer blockbuster department. Spoiler alert -- skyscrapers, helicopters, cliffs, time bombs, hard-to-follow-but that's-okay-love-interest backstories. Having seen it, I feel as though we can skip August/early September and go straight to Autumn and its associated spices when I get back home.

Phil 2:55 AM  

I was near my best also.

I came to bury caesar not praise him. Too many props but i got it all and looking back can’t honestly complain.

e.g. Came to the Julius villian clue and said WTF but with the gomme 'O' in HOES. The crossword standard DRNO was just fine.

seINE to RHINE was easy fix

ORTIZ RHEE prop crossings was inferable too, after I realized ChECH was a duh spelling.

chefwen 3:33 AM  

Finishing a Friday and Saturday puzzle with little or no angst makes for stellar week of puzzling for me. This one was just downright fun.
Loved the middle stack and the clue for TESLA was clever. Laughed at FUN SPONGE and the image of the FASHION POLICE checking out some of the outfits I dare to wear out in public. Husband just rolls his eyes and pretends he doesn’t know me. Like anyone on this rock really cares.

Hungry Mother 4:50 AM  

I thought I was smart, then realized it was just an easy puzzle.

puzzlehoarder 4:56 AM  

I went through the NW corner in Monday time. After that things settled into an enjoyable and appropriately late week solve. The middle got held up by a FASHIONEDITOR write over. The SW was where I finished cleanly and got the happy music on the last square.

I'm back at home from surgery and feeling pretty miserable.

Lewis 5:56 AM  


Sparkling clues (DC COMICS, RELIC, SLOT, TESLA) and answers (DO OR DIE, FUN SPONGE, IRONIES, PHISHER, YEESH, OH SORRY, and the entire staggered stack in the middle) in a clean grid that was well designed (multiple connections to every area). And a couple of lovely crosses: DO OR DIE linking with WWII EPICS, and the musical DUE TO / ET TU.

Maybe it was easy, maybe it was just on my wavelength, but it was never boring. It was popping with life, a reflection of the bright people that were part of the group energy that went into this. So it was an exhilarating sprint for me, and felt mighty good.

'merican in Paris 7:11 AM  

I found this just as hard as many other Saturdays, for the reasons that TokyoRacer identifies: too many pop culture references, especially from television. Like him or her: I (A) don't live in America, (B) hardly ever watch U.S. television. Note: while Hollywood films have an international audience, the same does not apply to U.S. television series, or U.S. sports.

That said, I did manage to get a few PPP answers from crosses (ROSEN, DMC, DIX), and guessed at NOLTE, but I had to look up ORTIZ.

Was stuck in the south for a long time because all I could think of was argON. Finally remembered XENON, and then the rest fell quickly.

Otherwise, I appreciate the TEAM SPIRIT on display in the puzzle. The cluing for TESLA and RELIC was clever, and it was cute that DESCEND, well, DESCENDS.

Nice to see the appearance of LEMUR, a five-letter word that I'm surprised constructors don't use at least as often as, say, SEINE or TABBY. My family and I had the opportunity to experience LEMUR's in their natural habitat in Madagascar, 12 years ago. I had previously never given them any mind in zoos. But, outside of the confines of a cage, those that have gotten accustomed to humans are real imps (not chimps), with lots of personality! Kind of like cats but with the agility and cunning of primates.

I liked DO OR DIE, too. Now there's a word that, unfortunately, seems to be disappearing from the English language: "OR". For the life of me, I don't understand why so many people seem to be adverse to using it.

Finally, one of the answers that looked suspicious to me was NEURO LAB. I checked out the term on Google after the fact and it seems to be used mainly in reference to: either (A) shareware scientific computing software for Windows and Linux platforms developed by Scientific Software; or (B) the proper names of several laboratories such as RamirezNeoroLab and NordicNeuroLab (spelled without spaces). Is "neuro lab" by itself a common term?

Anonymous 7:16 AM  


Couldn’t agree more!!

Odd Sock 7:28 AM  

I'm not sure what the target demographic is today but I'm positive I'm not in it. Yeesh is right. Appropriate day to learn a new phrase - fun sponge. That's exactly what this puzzle was for me.
@ TokyoRacer 1:09 summed it up very well.
While I'm whining I might as well ask "What job does Gender Studies prepare you for?" That sounds like the sort of thing my dad would have called Underwater Basket Weaving.

ghthree 7:54 AM  

@Harryp: An APP (short for Application) is a downloadable piece of software. Many of them are deliberately designed to be addictive -- to waste (suck up) your time.

Small Town Blogger 7:54 AM  

Aren’t ALL tiles “inlaid”? Seems redundant.

lujoc 8:02 AM  

Agreed - this was way too easy and also a little too self-congratulatory about hello fellow kids items iike app and gender studies and noob.

FLAC 8:03 AM  

Relatively easy for a Saturday, but lots of fun. Loved the aptness of the “team spirit” answer.

Teedmn 8:15 AM  

The far SE was the only part of this puzzle that held me up today. Well, the SW had its moments, but I truly was convinced the SE would DESCEND me today. I had Run DMC and the OHS_____ but I wasn't sure about TILE so that was one big blank mass right there. Looking back, I can't imagine what ELSE I thought INLAID ____ could be but I hesitated anyway.

44A, "Comment after a bump" had me considering what I would say after hitting a big pothole in the road. Or after someone topped off my drink. Or after someone raised me in poker. OH SORRY was not one of my choices. I'm with the many people saying "What is 'Devious Maids'?" I don't think I've heard of Operation Plunder before and 48D's clue for YEESH is as vague as the one for OH SORRY. But I had a sudden aha at RELIC and clawed my way from there. I wonder what a NEURO LAB would have seen as I had my inspiration for 47D?

Anonymous 8:16 AM  

You could use the extra time to study TO, TOO, TWO. "Wayyyy to easy"? Seriously? If it was a typo, try proofreading.

Good ol' Joe 8:19 AM  

Fun sponge.

Anonymous 8:25 AM  

NAOH (NaOH) is not a word. It's Sodium Hydroxide.

Anonymous 8:35 AM  

Seriouly curious: Does a DOOK have to make sense or is it simply and answer that can be split or combined to make a new word or words?

Anonymous 8:41 AM  


Harryp 8:44 AM  

Thanks ghthree@7;54, I use APPs a lot but didn't get that time wasting context. Mine are mostly helpful.

Anonymous 8:47 AM  

Is DESCEND a transitive verb?

QuasiMojo 8:53 AM  

TokyoRacer said what I've been saying (no doubt better) for the past two years. And repeated yesterday. There is too much TV trivia in the NYT puzzle. But then I guess it's just a reflection of the times (pardon the pun.) Everywhere I go today (I just finished a six-week trip to various locales up north) people talked incessantly about stuff they watched on TV. I don't own a television and don't have cable (in fact I use public internet at the various cafes I frequent) so I have no idea who these people are who are so often cited in the crossword puzzle and in everyday conversation. People used to talk about books and plays and the latest short stories or poems they read, or perhaps, sotto voce, the latest movie they went to. Now they shout from the rooftops about some "brilliant" mini-series they've OD'ED ON on Hulu or Netflix or Prime. That's fine. That's my problem. But I can remember a time when the puzzle focused on a wide range of common knowledge not just mindless trivia.

ADELE Astaire is hardly an alternative to the one-named singer whose voice makes me think of fingers on a chalkboard. She's been appearing in the NYT puzzle for as long as I've been doing them back in the Will Weng days. She danced with her brother Fred then married a British lord. I once knew a lady who had seen the two of them dance at a nightclub in Manhattan back in the early 20s. She described her as light as a feather. Fred would pick her up and place her on a table, all the while dancing.

Today's puzzle was a mixed-bag. Some lively clueing (for TESLA) but now and then a clunker, a FUN SPONGE, such as camaraderie for TEAM SPIRIT. My best friend and I enjoy a certain camaraderie but we're hardly a team. Or as the French might say, "il n'y a pas un JE dans camaraderie."

michiganman 8:57 AM  

I enjoyed this puzzle (glad I'm not an intellectual). Googled a couple of things. Knew some of the PPP's.
The black square symmetry is nice.

Nancy 9:16 AM  

It's not your fault, class. This should have run on a Wednesday. And you guys/gals should always be encouraged in your creativity. But for me, this was a hugely disappointing Saturday. Very little thinking required.

How many points did George initially want on the stars on the flag (9D), btw, if not five? Six? George wasn't Jewish, was he?

Thanks, Laura, for pointing out the absolute ridiculousness of JUICE CLEANSES. I had a tennis friend who went in for them and many other similar sorts of nonsense. She died a few years ago at the very young (by today's stats) age of 72. It had something to do with her digestive system. One of life's more unpleasant IRONIES. I'm not implying that all those cleanses caused her death, but they didn't prevent it either.

Hoping for crunchier Saturdays ahead. Laura -- thanks. You've been great.

mmorgan 9:17 AM  

I really enjoyed this, either because of or despite the fact that I found it unusually easy for a Saturday.

kitshef 9:22 AM  

Much, much too easy for a Saturday:
- I have no idea who this HINES person is, nor this RHEE person, nor this ORTIZ person (crossing RHEE, no less).
- I have never heard the expression FUN SPONGE.
- I do not know what TESLA means in this context.

Yet still finished faster than, I would guess, an average Tuesday. Definitely faster than an average Wednesday, Thursday or Friday.


kitshef 9:29 AM  

Ah! I just got TESLA. I had been thinking it must be some kind of e-cash used by Uber or Lyft.

Anonymous 9:38 AM  

With all due respect @Tokyo and "mericans, and at the grave risk of sounding like a xenophobe, it's an American newspaper. It can barely squeeze through the tiny, tiny, narrow channel of the politics and cultures of identity here without trying to take into consideration about every other country in the world. The only thing solvers over there complain about is the consistent failed linking problem.

NE and SW corners were difficult for me. The rest was a stroll.

Nancy 9:42 AM  

A really trenchant critique, @TokoRacer (1:09). Like Quasi and others here, I'm in complete agreement.

Don't miss Quasi's (8:53) brilliantly witty last two sentences. But you'll have to know some French to appreciate them. I laughed out loud, @Quasi!

@Puzzlehoarder -- I know from the experiences of many friends what you're going through right now. They all have said that it's well worth it in the end. Meanwhile, don't be a hero even if a hero is what you've been your entire life. When they bring you your pain meds, take them! Make sure you take them before doing the rehab exercises. Take every pill you're entitled to -- every pill that isn't nailed down. It will aid your recovery because, as someone said on yesterday's blog, the rehab program is really, really critical to the success of the surgery.

Anonymous 9:52 AM  

My wife thinks fun sponge is a contraceptive.

SJ Austin 9:59 AM  

Everyone said this was easy, but it slowed me down well past my Saturday average, and that's with my sister here helping me.

"The whole cleanse thing is pure woo-woo goop and quackery." I see what ya did there. (There is a really excellent longform piece on GOOP in the NYT Magazine. You can read it online.

GILL I. 10:04 AM  

Too (hi Anony 8:16 and you're such a boor) many unknown names that sucked the joy out of my puzzle solving experience. FUN SPONGE being my favorite new word and one I feel I can use today because of the proper names. I got most of them, but then I get angry when I'm stymied. Here I am tooling along all happy and everything and then I get HINES right up there in crucial territory. JASA tends to OD on names.
OK, so I've gotten the negative out of my system and now I shall say that there was lots of good stuff. What a way to clue BETSY; she at least gave me the B in my unknown WEBB. Can you picture her sitting down with George and explaining to him that no way could she sew a pretty flag unless it has an additional point on the star? Sure,'re the FASHIONista, lets go with a five-pointer.
GENDER STUDIES? I'm an old fool, I guess. Never heard of such a thing. I'm a Fine Arts kind of gal. I looked it up and it does sound interesting. There is this feminist blog that's all confused that men don't sign up for the class. hen it goes on to tell other women that if they're looking for guys, this is not the class for them. Such a deal.
The cluing was pretty good in spots. Liked the TESLA/NOOB. Let' see...what ELSE. Liked DC COMICS. I had CLEANSEr but COMICS cleaned that up. I think it's Gwyneth Paltrow who uses these JUICE things and I believe it's delivered where the sun don't shine. Hey, if it works, go for it.
California is once again burning all over the place. Here in Sacramento the sky is an eerie yellow and smells of smoke. I cry when it's in Yosemite. I actually cry when it's anywhere. Cross fingers....

TubaDon 10:21 AM  

     Top was fairly easy, despite wanting ROBB at 6A. Ran into trouble in the middle stack so had to work from the bottom up. Remembered All Rosen from my younger days in the Cleveland area. Didn't realize he was a Giant's exec. First guess at 43D was ARGON but quickly had to select another inert gas. Liked the freshness of the puzzle but didn't realize it wasn't symmetrical until I read Laura's comment.

RooMonster 10:25 AM  

Hey All !
Started like a typical SatPuz for me, first pass through netted a few sparse answers here and there, said to myself, Great, another tough Saturday that I'm gonna have to cheat on. But, as I continued my solve, answers started magically pouring into the ole brain, and my only real hang-up was the SW. Usually do Saturdays online, today no exception, and set a record time for a solve! 20m56s! Wow! Which means that yes indeed, this was an easy puz. Most of the time I'm close to or over an hour.

Liked a bunch of answers today. Some fun clues, also. FUN SPONGE was a new one on me. Part of the reason SW held me up. Also NAOH, plus having sOdS for HOES, and bRoaDER for GRANDER. But, when I figured out EDGE, word recognition kicked in, and saw SPONGE. Ha-Ha, success!

Other writeovers, senS-ANTS (nice misdirect), an A for the second E in ACADEMIES, RHoNE-RHINE (always mix those up), and I think that's it.

OD ON had a weird clue. You don't literally OD when you binge watch something. Not even sure if it's technically metaphorical, either. You're just happy you've seen the whole season. WWIIEPICS is a pretty funky answer also!

Exclamation when you stub your toe on the entryway? DOOR DIE!
Baby in a certain country in Europe? NOOB CZECH

So, before I DESCEND further into my ramblings, I will BRIEFly tell you there are two F's today. FYI. :-)


Andrea 10:26 AM  

All due respect, @Anonymus 9:48, the NYT is read ALL over the world, by many people of various nationalities. It belongs to all of us who appreciate good journalism (most times), reviews and puzzles in English. Just like one would by reading Le Monde, Der Spiegel or The Guardian.
For many of us who are not born and bred Americans, a less “local” (not that fillled with references that completely elude us) is very much appreciated.
For those, I’ll do the puzzle from any fashion magazine.

RooMonster 10:33 AM  

@TubaDon 10:21
Not symmetrical? Yes, it is. Laura didn't say that. She just said "the grid and execution aren't perfect." All the black squares are properly symmeyricized. (Love making up words!)


Molson 10:34 AM  

"The whole cleanse thing is pure woo-woo goop and quackery."

I really hope this use of goop catches on. Nicely done.

Z 10:39 AM  

Not to rain on everyone’s perfectly trenchant anti-PPP rants, but this is not especially PPP-laden nor is it excessively American-centric or TV-centric. We got politicians domestic and foreign; we got James Bond but also a pretty easily inferable WWII EPICS with some pretty easy to identify locales; yes we get an American dancer, but she crosses ERATO; and we get the winking “Brno-born” clue with DR NO in the puzzle. I’ll include my list below, but this is right at the wheelhouse/outhouse line. Some opprobrium is deserved, but we have seen far far worse.

@Anon8:35 - DOOKs rarely actually make sense, which is why one sits there, staring off into space, wondering what one has missed. Occasionally one adds the appropriate space and the light shines and one feels all smart again. More often, though, one comes here, asks the question, has it explained, than does the “D’Oh Slap.”

PPP Analysis
Pop Culture, Product Names, and other Proper Nouns as a percentage of the puzzle’s answers. Anything over 33% will cause some subset of solvers to struggle while other sunsets will find the puzzle especially easy

23 of 68 or 34%. I note, though, that five PPP answers are crosswordese, so this is more fairly considered 18 of 68 (26%) for regular solvers. For example, one doesn’t really need to know DR NO’s first name, just that in Crossworld a four letter movie villain is often DR. NO.

ADELE Astaire
Cheryl HINES
Dorothea DIX
Syngman RHEE
DR. Julian NO*


Z 10:44 AM  

So busy making sure my tags were correct I missed “sunsets.” In case it’s not obvious, that should be “some other subset of solvers.”

old timer 10:51 AM  

Super Easy for a Saturday. GRANDER and FUN SPONGE were the last to fall.

Blue Stater 10:58 AM  

I've been saying the same thing as tokyracer -- less elegantly than he/she -- for upwards of 20 years. To no apparent avail.

OT: Is it just me, or has something happened to make searching clues online *much* more difficult all of a sudden? Until, I think, Thursday of this week if I put the clue plus "times crossword" in the search box, Bing would return several of the clue-answer sites out there. Now these searches seem to exclude specifically these sites, with or without adding "times" and/or "crossword." I can't believe the NYT would stoop to this.

mathgent 10:58 AM  

When Al ROSEN was GM for the San Francisco Giants, he would do the NYT crossword while giving his daily briefing with the press.

I didn't find it easy at all. I wonder how all of you who found it easy can stomach the MTW offerings.

I found it to be an excellent puzzle. @Lewis (5:56) said it beautifully. And only six Terrible Threes. The clue for TESLA by itself was worth the price of admission. Another plus: it engendered some great comments here. E.g.: @Nancy (9:16) speculating that George Washington may have been Jewish.

I agree with @'merican in Paris (7:11). NEUROLAB is not a thing.

We saw the new Mission Impossible yesterday. Manohla Dargis gave it the check mark of excellence, but it seemed to be no better than the other exciting movies in the series. It even had the cliche detonator ticking down to zero. There was a wild car and motorcycle chase whirling around the Arc de Triomphe which didn't seem much more dangerous than the terrifying cab ride we had there. The actress who played Princess Margaret in The Crown was in it. She was terrific.

Can't wait to work FUNSPONGE into the conversation.

Anonymous 11:04 AM  

Laura and all of you dissing detox cleanses. I just hope none of you are ever sick enough or have so many toxins in your liver and kidneys that they can no longer function as well as they should. I needed to detox a lot (not only with juice cleanses) after becoming very sick from exposure to mega amounts of toxins after 9/11 in NYC (living on same street as the towers). My kidneys and liver could not handle the toxins. Never mind the whole GOOP craze. That's for healthy people only and probably the only exposure you have had to info about cleanses. But there is a real place in the medical world for detox and cleanses to help rid the liver and kidneys of excess toxins. I might have spewed out ignorant comments like some of you before my life changed in a single day in 2001.

Banana Diaquiri 11:13 AM  

OK. DRNO was demanded by the crosses. but can anyone tell us when (time point) in the movie (or page in the standard text, if there is one) we are told it's his name?

Carola 11:27 AM  

My rating: very enjoyable. I especially loved encountering the FASHION POLICE, JUICE CLEANSES, and FUN SPONGE. Two do-overs: Dorothy Day before DIX and sass before EDGE (lip). Was hoping for "bells" as the mod bottoms.

Banana Diaquiri 11:30 AM  

@Small Town Blogger:
Aren’t ALL tiles “inlaid”? Seems redundant.

well, no. go to any big city with an old subway, and you'll see that while most of the walls are tiled a la one's bathroom, one flat surface (white in NYC); there are a smattering of mosaics, which are inlaid surrounded by the plane of wall tiles. in this connotation, inlaid refers to the fact that the mosaic is surrounded by wall tile, not that it is depressed.

Trombone Tom 11:33 AM  

@TokyoRacer is right on point. Lots of PPP but I waded through.

Liked that clue for Tesla. Not familiar with FUN SPONGE, but it is an improvement on wet blanket.

And I'll add my kudos to Laura for an exemplary week in the shoes and the spirit of OFL.

A tad too easy for Saturday, but much fun.

jberg 11:47 AM  

Hey folks, if you're going to enjoy reading this blog, you have to come to appreciate irony (as well as IRONIES), e.g. Laura's comment on proper nouns. And in the irony department, Laura is nothing compared to @Rex.

@Dolgo, ACADEMIA? My puzzle had ACADEMIES, one letter more and a different meaning. I don't buy your argument, in any case. Am I a stoic because I spend a lot of time sitting on my porch?

Fun puzzle, nice writeup. Looking forward to Laura's curtain call tomorrow.

Big Steve 46 11:57 AM  

I get a kick about people who love to brag that they "never watch/don't own a television," and then complain that they don't have a clue about a lot of the answers in the puzzle - not to mention a lot else of what's going on in the world around them Its your right not to own or watch television; (kind of like the character in a Flann O'Brien/Myles na gCopaleen book who would only buy and read read books with a green binding.) But television is part of our society and most people watch it in one form or another and the x-word puzzle is going to reflect that. At least now, you've got a choice of hundreds of channels, foreign language offerings, not to mention Net Flix-type options galore. Its a far cry from my youth where the choice was Channel 2, 4 or 7 - or endless reruns of the Million Dollar movie (replete with commercials - no less obnoxious then than they are today.) So as John Prine says in his son, "Dear Abby,:

Unhappy, unhappy
You have no complaint
You are what your are and you ain't what you ain't
So listen up buster, and listen up good
Stop wishing for bad luck and knocking on wood

Anonymous 12:03 PM  

Banana brain,

221b BakerSt 12:20 PM  

My precise reaction, so many times!

Lojman 12:39 PM  

DFW’s piece “Tense Present” in Harper’s 2001 is one my all-time favorite reads. He wonderfully lays out that language is both its origin and what everyday people make of it. Academia and Mentor/Mentee are what people have made of what’s been handed down. To the added richness of our language, I’d say.

Anonymous 12:52 PM  

to Nancy @ 9:16: Maybe she would have died much earlier if not for the cleanses...

Banana Diaquiri 1:58 PM  


well, yeah, but that wasn't the point. which was, did any of our fellow correspondents know when in the movie/book we hear his first name without benefit of looking it up??? everybody knows Goldfinger's first name, w/o looking. same for Blofeld. and so on.

Alysia 2:10 PM  

@Z - I’m curious: why is EMO considered PPP?

It’s my own folly for not closely reading your lists in the past. This just stuck out to me today and I was unsure of the reasoning.

'merican in Paris 2:10 PM  

@Big Steve 46: Methinks you miss the point, and are perhaps even engaging in reverse snobbery.

People living outside the United States don't watch much U.S. television because: (1) only a subset of it is usually broadcast; and (2) it is usually dubbed, which is much less enjoyable than in the original language. Is that bragging or just stating a fact?

By contrast, books, music (to some extent) and film travel widely.

Moreover, you actually strengthen the point by citing the extremely wide range of television fare on offer nowadays. That means that the number of people watching the same programs are reduced.

A clue asking the family name of one of the actors on a current U.S. TV show is something I am never, ever going to get, unless by crosses -- by definition.

I can actually answer crossword clues relating to the U.S. television of the 1960s and 1970s because I was a kid and had more time to watch it; there was less choice on TV; and I was living in the 'States at the time.

P.S., I keep up with news in the USA largely through podcasts, and the International New York Times.

Ernst Stavro Blofeld 2:22 PM  

@Banana Dakari 11:13. ~ “He has a daft name, Dr No, Dr Julius No.”

The character is well documented with full name.

Joe Bleaux 2:48 PM  

Say whut? "Or" fading from the vernacular? That had escaped me, but thanks for the flag. I'll keep an eye out. (Meanwhile, an example or two ... ?)

Joe Bleaux 2:55 PM  

If Evil Doug hadn't jumped ship, we'd have enjoyed Elaine's verbatim "sponge-worthy" rant today. I miss him.

David 3:25 PM  

I'm surprised none of the non-tv watching and international folks haven't mentioned the wonderful mis-direct of the key at 12D, "Distributor of Penguin classics". Abe Books would fit the spaces, for instance. The only thing that clued me in to the mis-direct was that I remembered that horrid across show's name even though I never watched it and ECCE gave me DC; then the dime dropped.

Heck, not even Big Steve 46, who obviously reads widely, mentioned it. My favorite clue for the day.

Anonymous 3:33 PM  

Nope. You implied that the character's first name was never revealed. Why else ask for where it was given?
Man up. Admit that you were barking up the wrong tree.
I for one knew his name. Ernst appears to have known his name. Im guessing lots of folks do, especiallg given its oddness.
I can tell you lots of things about Bond and Ian Flemming.
Ferinstance, James Bond was a real guy. A noted ornithologist who authored Birds of the West Indies. Flemming thought it was the most boring name ever and jsed it ironically for our favorite Commander.
The Spy Who Loved Me? Well, actually the spy is James, and it's a random girl who hooks up with him, not a fellow spy as the movie has it.
I could go on, but whay bother. You're a phillistine and know it all.

Banana Diaquiri 4:11 PM  

Im guessing lots of folks do

you make unsupported assumption. I did not imply (something I alone determine) or say, that he goes without a first name throughout, only that, for most folks, his first name is Doctor. which is why I asked the question: when, et seq, how often do we hear his first name?

so, show of hands: how many knew Julius without looking it up??? enquiring minds need to know.

OISK 4:43 PM  

I finished, after getting mashed by mashable yesterday. Two DNF in a row would ruin my weekend. But Minis with DMC was a guess. What is Run-DMC ? Another acronym, that is completely indiscernible to those who don't know it cold? That left me assuming that Mod Bottoms are "minis." I have heard of "minis," (mini-skirts???) but don't get that clue at all, so I was lucky this time. I Tina with Noob, ( I wanted "Boob") gave me problems as well. Congrats to those who found it easy, but it was filled with WTF entries for me... fun sponge, Noob, (OK, Newby...) DMC, Ortiz, Hines, I Tina (vaguely familiar) yeesh? is that a variant of Sheesh? Of course, I am much more familiar with Adele Astaire than with the one-named singer.

Still, only the DMC is objectionable, in my view.

Big Jim Slade 4:47 PM  

I go to the local college for GENDER STUDIES by watching the girl's volleyball team.

Anonymous 4:51 PM  

I'm pretty sure Banana wears Earth Shoes. He's got that vibe.

Anonymous 4:52 PM  


'merican in Paris 5:34 PM  

@Anonymous 8:41 AM: Thank you for the correction. I could pretend that it was the spell-checker, but I think I had forgotten the distinction. My bad.

@Joe Bleux 2:48 PM: An example? How about "a particular comic book superhero/villain" (instead of "... superhero or villain")? I'm surprised you're surprised. Just do a search on "/" on about any web site these days, and increasingly even in the pages of the Gray Lady. Then look at anything published prior to 1989.

@David 3:25 PM: You are right, 12D was a nice misdirect. My first thought, too, was of the British publishing house, but after slotting in 10A and 16A, I recalled those many misspent days of my youth, reading DC COMICS, including the Batman series.

Banana Diaquiri 5:48 PM  

You're a phillistine and know it all.

that would require a level of schizophrenia never before seen.

"a person who is lacking in or hostile or smugly indifferent to cultural values, intellectual pursuits, aesthetic refinement, etc., or is contentedly commonplace in ideas and tastes."

and yes, if you live long enough and pay attention, you end up knowing a lot more than young-uns who haven't and don't.

Anonymous 6:07 PM  

Apparently you didnt pay enough attention when you saw Dr. NO,

JC66 6:08 PM  

@ Banana

Don’t ever think of leaving this blog. You really make it amusing.

Z 6:12 PM  

@Alysia - Often EMO doesn’t fit, but today it is clued as part of a book title (which I was too lazy to type out). I also count it as PPP if the clue is a specific artist, but not if it is a generic genre clue.

@Banana Diaquiri - No anonymouse ever has admitted that they are being trollish noodges or that they misunderstood the original intent of a comment. Don’t bother. As to your question, I had no idea that NO had a first name. I had GRANDER already, so four-letter movie villain starting with D was tout easy. Likewise with EMO. I had never heard of the book, but I spent about 3 picoseconds figuring out what was wanted.

Z 6:32 PM  

@Alysia - I’m probably also inconsistent with all the key clues (Key of some random classical piece of music). On the one hand, experienced solvers ignore the work identified, write in M for the second letter and OR for the fifth and sixth letters, then proceed to the crosses to fill in A or I and J or N and A,B,C,D,E,F, or G. So to me it’s not PPP the same way actress Ana ORTIZ is. However, a new solver could easily get locked up on the useless information of (or whatever). So those I debate. The EMO clue didn’t bother me much today (the book title was a clue in itself) but there are days where the PPP is 40+% where I wonder why some answers are clued as PPP when they don’t need to be. For example, there plenty of non-PPP ways to clue DADS.

Anyway, when I do include my list it is often because I think there might be disagreement about what I included or omitted.

Anonymous 6:38 PM  
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Big Steve 46 6:50 PM  

RE: 'merican in Paris 2:10 PM.

I wasn't really thinking about ex-pats (I didn't get the sense that the non-TV viewer was outside the country, actually,- although looking back I now see a "Tokyo" in his tag). I have, in the somewhat distant past, lived abroad for the better part of 5 years (two in Saudi Arabia, and three in Austria) and being cut off from American television was mostly a blessing.

In any event, the newspaper is still called the NEW YORK Times and a small bias toward New York first, and the good old USA second - including local television programming - is okay, as far as I am concerned. I still get a print paper delivered to my stoop daily and solve the puzzle in pen and ink in its newspaper form, so I continue to console myself with the fiction that it is still my good old, local New York paper.

P.S.: If you want a brutal x-word puzzle, nothing was worse that the puzzle than ran in the ARAB NEWS around the time I was in Saudi (circa 1980). It was chock-a-block with Maleska-isms (Philippine tree, unit of measure in Ethiopia, etc.) And since it was published - or at least, put together outside of the country, if there was something in the next day's edition which upset the Saudi censors, there simply wouldn't be a paper and, hence, no solution to yesterday's puzzle!

Ah, well, I digress. All the best to you and your good fortune to dwell in Paris!

Alysia 7:39 PM  

Thank you, @Z, for the thorough explanation. It’s sincerely appreciated.

Unknown 8:51 PM  

Got here late, but since no one else seems to have said it, let’s get it on the record that Nigerian Prince emails — while scams — would not be classified as phishing scams.

The email you get from “Citibank” telling you to click this link to log in: that’s phishing.

Unknown 10:12 PM  

You seem fun.

Dolgo 8:41 AM  

I encourage people to enrich their knowledge rather than merely repeat tired formulas. If I hear " threw him under the bus" once more I think I'll puke.

spacecraft 11:28 AM  

The Penguin, aka Oswald Cobblepot, was born deformed. No radioactive bite here; just a cruel mutation. Two of my favorites ACTED the part: Burgess Meredith and Danny DeVito. One of several sideways clues peppering this class effort.

I did some assuming with this one; the result was a messy grid. First, I saw the WWII start for 6-down and just put in "films." Uh, no. Wasn't gonna work. Finally parsed DOORDIE, forcing the change to EPICS. Then, off just the -HI- I started to write in FASHIONcritic--yeah but wait, didn't that clue say "Ones?" Plural? Yes it did. Then doing the NE and its clever 12-down clue, the IC appeared and I thought, rebus? Really? But then it hit me. POLICE. OHSORRY. So, ink spots there.

Stuff too modern for me to know: FUNSPONGE--but JEOPARDY! came to the rescue down there. Is there really an entire college major called GENDERSTUDIES? YEESH.

I'd say overall, medium for the day. DOD is Cheryl HINES; honorable mention to Ana ORTIZ. I liked it; as the kids on Bandstand used to say, "I'll give it an 80--it's got a good beat and you can dance to it." Birdie.

Burma Shave 11:48 AM  


and the EMO FASHIONPOLICE ACTED like ninnies,
OHSORRY, but the IRONIES' that I,TINA, just care,
so if I REMIT a SEENOTE they'll CZECH out my MINIS.


rondo 12:14 PM  

No write-overs, so probably not too tough; about 3X Laura's time and a half of a Red Bull, about normal. Pretty sure you could have majored in GENDERSTUDIES at the U of MN in the '80s, maybe before. DRNO a gimme as a Run-DMC.

Had my first taste of kvass (from RYE) in Odessa, Ukraine in my birthday in August 2001 from a street vendor in a park near the train station. Little to no alcohol content, but a nice cool refresher on a hot day.

The various ACADEMIES are in a quandary as to whether TINA Turner, Ana ORTIZ, or Cheryl HINES. DUETO her infrequent appearance, I'll CZECH the box for yeah baby Ms. HINES today.

Liked the TESLA clue. Nice job JASA Xword Class.

thefogman 12:35 PM  

Everything was fine until I hit the dreaded NW corner. I was stumped by 1A and it soon became a DOORDIE situation. So I ventured a guess. Like many a crossword NOOB, I had AgiLE instead of ADELE. YEESH! That FUNSPONGE of a clue cooked my goose. Now it all seems obvious of course. Next time I'll make sure to CZECH my crosses before putting myself in JEOPARDY like this. Nice going to the clever constructors. The evil DRNO would be proud of you.

rainforest 2:32 PM  

An easier than usual Saturday is welcome here, especially one as entertaining as this one. I was quite proud of myself to get 32A off just the _ICE, and the back end of the other two long centre entries quickly. Getting that section in short order was key to a fast solve.

Some nice clues in there (The clue for DC COMICS was excellent), and solid fill made this a winner.

leftcoastTAM 3:44 PM  

Easier than yesterday's from the NW on down, but with some trip wires of its own, and a final surrender in the SW.

Had to parse DO OR DIE because DOOR got me nowhere. Wanted roBB instead of WEBB, failing to note "Jim" in the clue and too quickly assuming "Charles".

Tried SONS instead of DADS in the NE, making DCCOMICS hard to see, which itself was already cleverly misdirected with the "Penguin" clue.

PADTHAI, totally unknown, required all its acrosses.

SW was white flag territory. Looks quite gettable in retrospect, but YEESH, ORTIZ, and CZECH defeated me.

Nice work by the class and its mentors.

leftcoastTAM 3:56 PM  

SE, not SW. (Part of my pattern of slips today.)

Diana,LIW 8:15 PM  

Lots of fun with the word play, but a dnf in the end - as always, due to trivia names. Got 95% - liked it! It had me at "Astaire with steps..." :-)

diana, lady-in-waiting for crosswords

Anonymous 7:02 PM  

@ tokyoracer and @ Odd Sock nailed it.

Last, Kravis, and JASA - the Fun Sponges.

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