Children's author Asquith / MON 7-30-18 / spilling drink eating all guacamole say / Roulette playing piece / Nonstick cookware brand / Middle-aged women with eyes for younger men

Monday, July 30, 2018

Constructor: Gary Cee

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium (2:58)

THEME: CLOSE CALL (63A: Narrow escape ... or what the end of the answer to each starred clue is?) — second word (or word part) in each theme answer is a CALL that an ump might make in baseball. No idea how CLOSE is involved...

Theme answers:
  • STATE FAIR (17A: *Annual event displaying agricultural products)
  • SPACED OUT (3D: *In a daze)
  • PARTY FOUL (25A: *Spilling a drink or eating all the guacamole, say)
  • GUMBALL (39A: *Candy from a candy machine)
  • AIRSTRIKE (51A: *Attack from the sky)
  • HOTEL SAFE (35D: *Vacationer's container for valuables)
Word of the Day: TFAL (68A: Nonstick cookware brand) —
Tefal is a French cookware and small appliance manufacturer owned by Groupe SEB. Its name is a portmanteau of the words TEFlon and ALuminium. The company is known for creating the non-stick cookware category and for frying products such as French fries more healthily with far less fat than is standard.
In some countries like the United States, Tefal is also marketed as T-Fal. (wikipedia) (emph mine)
• • •

Hey everyone. I weirdly missed you, and all [gestures to screen and untidy home office] this! I spent the last week in Sun Valley, Idaho, catching up with my family and biking and eating and reading and what not. My mom grew up in Idaho and my grandma still lives there, so it feels like home even though I've only been there a handful of times. The whole NW feels that way. I got off the plane in freakin' Spokane once, stood on the tarmac, took one deep breath, and thought, "Yep, this is where I belong." And if I felt that about Spokane, I more than felt it about Idaho (despite most of the state, particularly in the south, being unfathomably, near-literally empty). Rivers and mountains and very temperate summers and hiking and biking and all of it. The state is obviously about 20x more conservative than I am, but it's also so beautiful that I'm willing to risk it. We're putting Boise on the short list of Places We Might Live Next Now That Our Daughter Is Going To College (which happens in four weeks ... which is some family drama I'll deal with when it gets here).

I didn't do any NYT puzzles while I was gone. Didn't look at the blog once, or reply to email, or nuthin'. I did do some crosswords—a stack I put on my clipboard a looooong time ago. Which is why clipboards are awesome. Just load 'em up, carry 'em around with you, and eventually, maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but some day, those puzzles get Done. But today's puzzle was the first NYT I'd done, on the clock, in about ten days, and I'm surprised how fast I was. I mean, my time was about normal, but I felt rusty and clumsy and still came in with a respectable time. I'm noticing now that I really need to trim my fingernails. This may have contributed to the clumsiness (I solve on a laptop). I mostly enjoyed this grid but the theme seems inherently flawed. How is CLOSE involved? If CLOSE is in your revealer, then CLOSE should have something to do with the expression of the theme, and while an ump might need to make a call when the correct determination is borderline, most calls are pretty clear. Not close. Ump calls a BALL if it's one inch off the plate or if it beans the mascot. Still a call. Calls are not inherently close. So this theme ... I call foul, or out, or strike, or balk, or some such negative determination. Also, "eating all the guacamole" is just normal behavior. There might not be more guacamole, so you eat what's there, you snooze you lose, everyone knows this, foul shmoul.

Slowish parts:
  • 56A: Roulette playing piece (CHIP) — I saw a wheel and a little ball and maybe James Bond and nothing else. "CHIPs are for poker," my brain insisted. Also, "I HOPE" was toughly clued (52D: "If there's any justice!")
  • 10D: Add some style to (SPIFF UP) — Parsing turbulence ahead! Fasten seat belts! SPICE UP was on the table. As was, however briefly, SPIFFEN. 
  • 29D: Middle-aged women with eyes for younger men (COUGARS) — I dunno, man. Not into this. The whole "cougar" thing is at least semi-derogatory. And there's no equivalent term for men, presumably because *that* desire is unremarkable. Boo. 
  • 21A: Children's author ___ Asquith (ROS) — never seen this name outside crosswords. There were perhaps a few too many crosswordesey things like this oh well C'EST la TFAL.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. I'm off again tomorrow (it's a regularly scheduled Clare Tuesday!), but then I'm back ... but then next Monday is Annabel Monday, but then I'm back ... and in mid-August there's Lollapuzzoola and then taking my daughter to college ... whatever, I'll mostly be here, with little bursts of not being here. You understand. Forget it, Jake. It's August-town.

P.P.S. Big thanks to Laura Braunstein for filling in all week. And congratulations to her on becoming the newest regular member of the crossword constructor team at American Values Club Crossword!

P.P.P.S. I had someone suggest to me that CLOSE (in the revealer for today's puzzle) refers (possibly) to the fact that the CALLs "CLOSE" out the answer (i.e. are the final word / word parts of the answer). That ... is grammatically awful. But if you wanna hang your hat on that, go right ahead. LAST CALL mighta worked. But CLOSE CALL? Yerp.

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Mike in Mountain View 12:44 AM  

Perhaps CLOSECALL because each themer closes (ends) with the call. i know, different pronunciation, but that's how I parsed this revealer.

PGregory Springer 1:01 AM  

I'd just like to take this opportunity to say I enjoy this blog, do the puzzle every day, and I'm glad it takes me twelve to thirty minutes or more on most days, and an hour on Sunday. Mondays are too easy. I would be disappointed to consider the puzzle a race. I'd rather extend the pleasure than devour it in a few gulps.

Harryp 1:07 AM  

ROS KEIRA crossing looks like a Natick for paper solvers. No problem with Seau for us local yokels. Funny he shows up in a baseball Themed puzzle. A tad too much PPP,but an easy solve in any case.

chefwen 1:16 AM  

Welcome home Rex, we missed you. There were more than a few puzzles where I would have loved your take and insight.

Enjoyed this one and its baseball theme with a little football and hockey thrown in for good measure. Ashamed to say that I had difficulty spelling Junior SEAU as he played for the Chargers when we lived in San Diego. I just remember that he would tell people it was pronounced SAY OW. So sad when he ended his life.

Robin 1:26 AM  

Heading for Idaho in about 11 hours. Will very briefly visit ye old homestead, where yes people are 20x more conservative than I, and 5 times more conservative the most conservatives. But I will spend the bulk of the trip deep in the mountains not far from Sun Valley. There will be no internet and the world can go to hell and i will not know it. But the only thing that matters is that my streak of finishing the NYT crossword without interruption will end at 345 days.

Anyway... The TFAL/OLLA crossing was pretty ugly for a Monday. Only got it on the first guess because OLLA was hiding somewhere in my crossword-solving memory.

Anonymous 3:06 AM  

I’m glad you survived putting your life at risk in old conservative Idaho. We all know how dangerous it can be when someone has a different political opinion than the rest of us!

'merican in Paris 3:10 AM  

Welcome back, @Rex! Yes, the kid leaving home. That can be pretty traumatic. In our case, our son and only child left for college across the pond (Washington, DC), so the distance added to the pangs of absence. I was two months away from what could have been a massive heart attack, due to a clot in a major coronary artery (diagnosed just in time, and averted by a simple stent), and I recall experiencing the beginning symptoms of atypical angina as I bid him ADIEU. All in all, the change affected me harder than it did my wife.

So, good luck. But be prepared for a lot of emotions. C'EST la vie.

As for the puzzle, it was the worst Monday for me in a long time: twice my usual time, and DNF owing to a Natick at the crossing of two proper names: KEI_A and _OS. I tried an "L" there and a "D", and then mentally ran through the alphabet, and nothing else made sense, so finally hit the reveal square.

I don't know if the PPP count is particularly high, but many of the Ps are at best inferable. Besides KEIRA and ROS, there's ASCAP (which I'll bet most have seen but never bothered to memorize), ASTA, KELSO, SEAU and the excoriable TFAL brand name, which is merely marketed as T-FAL in some markets: here in France, for instance, it's marketed as TeFAL.

In short, not NSFM (not suitable for a Monday), in my view.

ASTA la vista, amigos!

Anonymous 3:15 AM  

Greetings from Spokane, the Kane, Spokantucky

Unknown 4:31 AM  

Just letting you know, RE your comments on there being no male equivalent to "cougar", there is, and is known as a "Sugar Daddy" (e.g. Geoff Edelsten).

TonySaratoga 5:09 AM  


Lewis 5:56 AM  

@rex -- Jeff Chen was also perplexed about the "close" in the reveal and asked WS, who basically confirmed what @mike (12:44) posited.

The pattern of theme answers, with the three stair-steps and two crosses, is pleasing to look at and gives a satisfying feeling of completeness, IMO, and said without balking.

btgrover 6:45 AM  

Rex the male version of cougar is sugar daddy, as someone above already noted.

mathgent 6:47 AM  

Not a bad Monday. A little crunch. The best part was having two of my favorite actresses side by side at 6D and 7D.

Early-week themes are notoriously weak but at least they make sense. Not today. Will Shortz's explanation of how the calls are "close" is hilariously contrived.

Happy to have Rex back. I like the way he writes.

Hungry Mother 6:59 AM  

Nice and easy solve today. Very nice theme.

Loren Muse Smith 7:10 AM  

Rex – glad you’re back. You did what I just did – cut those web ties for a while. (And I had a clipboard full of puzzles, too. BEQ Monday themelesses and a bajillion Stumpers.) Idaho looks beautiful.

Straightforward Monday theme. Baseball just doesn’t float my boat, but I did notice that Gary slipped in ERRORS for us.

PARTY FOUL. Once after the welcome toast as we were digging at a dinner party we were hosting, my husband turned to the man seated next to him and asked, So. Do you believe in God? I swear. And he wasn’t joking. Another time he was joking, and said, So at this point Loren and I want to tell you all the real reason we invited you here tonight…. Has anyone ever heard of Amway? Now *that* was funny.

@Lewis, @Mike in Mountain View. - yeah, I squinted my eyes so that CLOSE was pronounced with a Z and not an S. [Shrugs] Works for me.

I always want to spell NIECES with EI instead of IE.

Highlight for me was the word STEALTH. (I almost wrote in “secrecy” first but held back.) Then I wrote down "stealth strength" in my margin. 12 consonants, 3 vowels. Just sayin’.

STATE FAIR, Y’ALL: Back when I had just finished all my firefighter training in Chatham County, North Carolina, I was awarded one of those navy blue official-looking bad-ass jackets. I got to choose the embroidered picture on the back, and I picked the biggest, most garish, in-your-face firetruck. (I took a picture of it for my avatar.) I was beyond proud to wear it and secretly imagined everyone admiring me from a distance. Jealous. So I had to have a car towed and while the guy was hooking everything up, he asked what I thought was Been to a fire yet? I was delighted that he had noticed, and said, Not yet. But I’ve been training like crazy, and I’m ready. Silence. Then again, Been to a fire yet? I said, Nope, but I’m cleared to go. I’ve passed all the classes and training. After more mystifying (for him) exchanges, I realized that he was asking me if I’d been to the FAIR yet. Oops. And I speak North Carolina. In my defense, I think he was working a chaw.

Anonymous 7:13 AM  

A "Sugar Daddy" is not a male equivalent of a "cougar." A sugar daddy pays for everything. A cougar can but doesn't usually pay for stuff. She just preys on young handsome dudes.

kitshef 7:21 AM  

Lots of bonus themers: ESPN, ERROR, TEAM, NAT, STEAL, PENA.

A fine, generally fair, normal Monday. ROS crossing KEIRA is rough, though why why would it be a Natick only for paper solvers @Harryp?

Unknown 7:53 AM  

Seems like a lot of Naticks for a Monday. Neither my wife nor I had ever heard of KEIRA, ROS, SEAU, KELSO, or Ashton Kutcher. We guessed KEItA and tOS. Lots of things look plausible there. Our first DNF on a Monday in a long time.

Teedmn 7:56 AM  

I'm going to Valley FAIR today, which is the local amusement park. Five women in our late 50s going on rides. I haven't been there since 1989. I think I need to bring Dramamine. But my friend's son's summer job is playing in the brass band that wanders the grounds playing so....

This puzzle was pretty SPIFFy. But I have to admit I didn't get the theme. The end words were not saying, "baseball" to me so I shrugged and came to the blog. With CLOSE in the revealer sounding like "clothes", it makes sense to me. Thanks for the Monday, Gary Cee.

And welcome back, Rex and @LMS.

clk 8:14 AM  

I thought OLLA/SEGA, as clued, was beyond Monday tough. I could see TFAL giving trouble too, but I’ve spemt enough time on the Target cookware aisle lately shopping for my son’s new apartment that it wa a gimme.

puzzlehoarder 8:15 AM  

I've got so much time on my hands I even read our hosts comments. It must have been the narcotics and that photo of what had to be the west.

This was a really unremarkable Monday. I paid no attention to the theme whatsoever. It was just distractingly confusing with this other entry repeatedly popping up and there seeming to be no reason for it. After my first encounter with it I deliberately ignored it.

SEAU was the only bit of ese that made it onto the radar. I had a ROZ/ROS write over but that was easy to fix.

I don't understand this COUGAR/sugar daddy equivalence. If you're old enough to have changed her diapers you're
a lech.

@sanfranman, ILEAC? Sorry to hear about your bad week. Something's got you off your game.

@jae, thanks for the 10/21/00 suggestion. There was one clue I never read correctly that reminds me of today's close/close confusion. If I had spotted that I could have whittled it down to one unknown square.

Clueless 8:16 AM  

Welcome back.

Q: what's a word for a younger man who prefers older women?

QuasiMojo 8:20 AM  

It's been a while since anyone has given me a bouquet but I don't remember it being presented in a VASE. Floral arrangements, yes, but a bouquet or nosegay is a small cluster of flowers usually handed to someone in paper or tied together. I pronounce it VAHSE btw. :)

Welcome back, Rex!

Anonymous 8:28 AM  

I have a question for the crossword scolds. Why are are y’all and c’est acceptable when the crossing word don’t contain an apostrophe but words with tildes are objectionable?

Anonymous 8:29 AM  

Rex, the (semi) analogous term for COUGAR is cradle-robber. Cheers.

chefbea 8:30 AM  

Welcome back Rex. My parents, my brother and I used to go to Sun Valley every summer...took the train from St. Louis. We stayed at the Inn. The Lodge was too expensive. I use to ice skate every day. I know it has changed a lot...there are more places to stay.

Robert A. Simon 8:34 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
mmorgan 8:53 AM  

@Clueless -- a cougee?

Ms. Grumpy 8:56 AM  

Ah, the French. Yesterday, it was TABLEDHOTE. Today, it’s...TFAL.

The French parent company that makes the T-Fal nonstick cookware sold here in the States is Tefal, which derives its name from TEFlon and ALuminum.

The French, you see, have a penchant for these portmanteau names, to wit: Velcro, which comes from VELour (the fuzzy side) and CROchet (the hooked side). Or Cuisinart.

I was in the UK recently in a vacation rental home and noticed that the nonstick pan provided in the kitchen was branded as TeFAL, with a small “e” inserted. The capitalization scheme of the UK label makes little sense, given the derivation of the company name, but I guess they’re trying to get as much brand alignment as possible across their Anglophone markets.

Now for the grumpy part: Enough with the complaining about the obscurity of TFAL. It’s a leading cookware brand in the US, of which there are a relatively limited number — far fewer than NFL franchise names, to pick a single sport. If you’ve ever shopped for cookware in a national brick-and-mortar store, or even just typed “frying pan” into an Amazon search, you’re going to see T-Fal cookware. Repeatedly.

Don’t cook? Well, in NYC there are plenty of people who don’t drive, but I don’t hear them griping that clues about car model names are located somewhere slightly west of Boston.

And don’t even get me started about the late, great Jonathan Demme...

RooMonster 9:01 AM  

Hey Y'all !
We used to have a few STATE FAIRs in the sticks of Pennsylvania. Anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour away from my bustling town of 2200 residents. :-) They were fun. I was in a Demolition Derby at one once. Lots of work to get the car ready, but the actual event was pretty fun. The car I used had had the seatbelts cut out at one time in its life, so I was getting bounced around pretty good. Took second place in my heat. Could've had first, but I "tapped out", as it were, seconds before the other guy. Oh well, car rear end was busted, so couldn't return to the final regardless.

Liked the theme density here. Lots of theme is always good in my book. Didn't CAW over the PPP, mainly because I'm a couch potato. Y'ALL need to start watching more TV! Got almost all the baseballness here, missing WALK. Also HOMER. A very nice MonPuz overall. No writeovers! 4 F's!

C'EST la V'EST. Har.

Kyle Broflowski 9:07 AM  

Re: cougar. It’s a common word, accurately clued, and therefore acceptable. Is it derogatory? I suppose so. Do you really want to banish all derogatory words ? How about egotist ? diva ? grouch ? bully ? The list is very long.

crackblind 9:24 AM  

Have to say I'm with Mike in Mountain View on the CLOSE thing. That's how I saw it as well.

As for the COUGAR/Sugar Daddy discussion, I think the idea is that both are derogatory terms about older people having a relationship with someone much younger, though interestingly, a Sugar Daddy is less gender specific when it comes to the younger party. The thing about the term COUGAR that bothers me, however, is that porn uses the term for women who are barely in their 30's (not that I have any actual personal knowledge of that, it's just something I've read on the internet).

Overall though, this felt more like a Tuesday to me, with OLLA & SEAU way out of my wheelhouse, SPADE clued as a shovel, ALPHAS where Type A's fits, and the oh so relevant ELO (a band, don't get me wrong, I really like which actually helps my point here).

GILL I. 9:25 AM  

@Rex. There is an equivalent to the female COUGAR. He's called a "manther" [man panther]....
I'm not sure what middle age is. 40? 50?. Am I a COUGAR because I'm older than my husband? I'll have to check that out...
OK Monday. I liked SPIFF UP. I say SPIFFY a lot. Didn't know or at least have not heard of a PARTY FOUL. @Rex is right...If you have a bowl of guac in front of you why not eat it all. Just don't double dip. Also, be sure you have enough toilet paper in the bathroom. If you don't, that is definitely FOUL.
I love Idaho. My very first trip was with my boyfriend (now husband) to go skiing in Sun Valley. A whole bunch of us went and we rented a condo. Husband was a novice skier so he went off to the bunny slope and take some lessons while I went storming up to ski Bald Mountain. I've never taken lessons because I'm a hard nose know-it-all. Just like in Spain skiing the "Bola" I slid half-way down Bald Mountain. The good part is that they have a nice lodge at the top that has some good spiced rum. Made it down but it took a loooong time. Could have used some help from a Manther.
The STATE FAIR is happening now in Sacramento. Fried pickles and garlic. All on a stick.
Welcome back @Rex....So daughter is now college-bound? I remember a picture you posted of a very young lady smiling next to Neil deGrasse Tyson. I can't believe I've been on this blog for over 7 years. Time does fly.....

Nancy 9:32 AM  

Better-than-average cluing for a Monday, I thought, so I liked this well enough. And, although I ignored it until after I'd finished solving, the theme was cute.*

Thanks, @Mike in Mountain View (12:44) for pointing out the CLOSE/CLOSE homophone. I hadn't thought of that and was prepared to say that, quite often, FAIR and FOUL balls aren't at all close.

Never heard COUGARS used in that context. When old men go after much younger women, that's considered Just The Way The World Is. So what I say is: What's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. Go, COUGARS!

*"Cute" is my highest praise for any theme that isn't necessary to figure out in order to solve the puzzle. If it's not needed at all, it can never be better than cute.

Anonymous 9:32 AM  

Damn Twitter!

Having seen last night that Rex finished in sub-3, I was hoping (expecting?) a romp, or at least a close call this morning. Yet, I encountered enough minor pitfalls while solving to push this puzzle to a very pedestrian (and very close to normal) 3:41.

Knowing how Rex does is still important; knowing how Rex does in advance should be avoided at all costs. :)

GHarris 9:37 AM  

As to the cougar controversy; the male equivalent is often referred to as a dirty old man, one of the few instances where society seems to be harder on the guy than the gal.

Wm. C. 9:38 AM  

Re: Junior Seau -- he was one of the first heavily-publicized cases of severe repetitive head injury from football collisions. The NFL has imposed heavy penalties and sanctions against intentional head contact, but cannot eliminate them.

Some positions are unlikely to incur head injury (wide-out, free safety, e. g.) while others like linemen and linebackers (Seau's position) are at risk. Also QBs, apparently: although he himself has never commented on it, Tom Brady's wife Giselle has said that he has had at least one concussion every year in his career.

I'm a football fan, bur it seems likely that it will fade in popularity as parents see the injury risk and lead their children into other sports. Of course most sports have risk of injury, some more than others, though.

Jordan B. 9:49 AM  

Welcome back, Rex! Missed you, but Laura filled in fabulously. Feel free to bring her back anytime.

On the theme: I believe the "close" in "close call" may come into play when you pair each themer with the themer following it (going down the acrosses, and then across the downs). Yes, "fair" is not necessarily a close call, but "fair/foul" (the end of the first two themers) can be a "close call." Same with ball/strike and out/safe. Maybe we're supposed to look at it not as six themers plus a revealer, but three themers (three themer pairs, that is) plus a revealer? I guess?

GHarris 9:51 AM  

The controversy about close calls could have been averted had the revealer clue simply added “what some are said to be”.

Nate 10:06 AM  

This is the perfect introductory crossword, IMO, which makes it perfect for a Monday.

There's a general theme, even if that theme is not necessary airtight. A new solver will get that "ah-hah!" moment that has hooked all of us at one point or another.

The pop culture references were decidedly fresh, which means that sub-35 year old people won't be turned off. Maybe there were too many, but pop culture references can be the easiest to just plunk in answers and move on. I think us daily solvers sometimes forget that most of the general public just assumes that crossword puzzles are too weird and esoteric to even start doing. Like they don't even know where to start. But you CAN start doing a puzzle if you are 100% sure of an answer. I'm sure a good chunk of people under the age of 30 know that Sega made the Dreamcast. And the chunk that didn't know can certainly guess Sega (I mean, it's either Sega or Sony).

This is really good stuff, honestly!

Steve Melnick 10:09 AM  

As one who had a daughter(my first child) go to college last year, I can share that the separation is a little hard. But a savior has been text and SnapChat. My daughter is a Snap pro, and I got on it just to get in her communication stream. But I found we can have little “conversations” at random times that make me feel like we are connected. And to see her is better than he words I get. My n=1 experience, but hope it helps.

Steve Melnick 10:13 AM  

I also should have mentioned that his blog has become my daily ritual. It inspires and educated me to think that one day, I will construct a puzzle.

Gulliver Foyle 10:13 AM  

@Jordan Brown. That's a great interpretation.

And TFAL + OLLA is in the Natick Hall of Fame, IMO.

Suzie Q 10:22 AM  

Party foul was new to me but I love it. Spiff up was nice too, ya'll.
We have today opera, alto, & basso. Where's the soprano?
I'm OK with close call as the revealer because I took it as "every theme answer closes with a call".
Cougar does have a negative feel to it but only from those who have never been on either side of a duo like that. The woman gets a man with some stamina and youthful good looks. The young man gets an attractive woman with some experience. Win win situation.

Anonymous 10:29 AM  

Rex hasn't been back two seconds but already starts stirring up trouble. Sorry your break didn't relax you more.
Being a liberal in the midst of a bunch of conservatives is not a risk. However if you are a conservative around some liberals you might be in some real danger.

jb129 10:31 AM  

Welcome back, Rex!

Missed your input & I always look at your Description of the day's puzzle, so I missed that especially.

Very fast puzzle today but it's Monday,

Anonymous 10:35 AM  

Anon 8:28,
For the same reason NPR has everyone rolling their R's when the word is Spanish. "Me-Hee-Co" city? please?! They don't feel the need to pronounce Paris as "Paree", or Vienna as "Veen": I've yet to hear the correct Mandarin tone for Chinese words. Or a Slavic pronunciations when saying Crimea. It's nonsense, pure nonsense. All those place names and sir names have Anglicized pronunciations--and they ought to be used when speaking English.

Tom 10:40 AM  

Eleven seconds faster than my avg. Easy Monday, never paid attention to the theme.

Re: Idaho. Love Coeur d'Alene, took a float plane tour a couple of times. Also tried to play tennis one night under the lights at a resort, but had to quit because the bugs were so thick I was inhaling them.

Welcome back to OFL.

Anonymous 10:41 AM  

Regarding Teflon cooked fries being healthier for you than frying in oil in a standard non-nonstick pan, ha, that was great marketing but I think we know better now, not only in that fat is not the dietary devil it was made out to be, but it turns out the teflon does wear off and get into our food and it's a lot less healthy to consume than dietary fat.

Re the puzzle: I know it's an easy Monday when my usual sub five turns to sub four.

Malsdemare 10:53 AM  

Fun puzzle this am. I, too, struggled with the close part of the calls, so I'm all on board with @Jordan Brown's interpretation. That works without any stretch at all. Yeah, lecher, dirty old man? They seem equivalent to COUGAR. I didn't know ROS or SEAU, but got them with the crosses. The rest fell without a peep.

Welcome home Rex and LMS.

Lewis 11:12 AM  

My favorite clues from last week:

1. Addition to soda, but not to beer (5)
2. Where to find an average joe? (3)
3. Yellow or gray (3)
4. What you might charge for a ride (5)
5. Intensifying word add-on (3)


Z 11:21 AM  

Good to see that the subtle repronunciation eludes OFL on occasion, too.

Society does tend to be just a tad pre-occupied with sex and tsk-tsking anyone having a better time than we are. If it has to do with sex, rest assured that there are a multiplicity of terms and usages available. I once owned a volume devoted to the various usages of “fuck.” Quite a handy word used in so many ways that the editor was able to put together 272 pages on the topic. Already we have Sugar Daddy, Manther, Lech, and Dirty Old Man. There’s also the less creepy and gender unspecific “May-December romance.” I’m guessing if we put our collective experience together we could come up with a 272 page volume on the topic, with various usages and varying degrees of societal approval.

@Odd Sock yesterday - Yes. Everything I write should be understood as literal.

mmorowitz 11:24 AM  

Regardless of whether or not there's a male equivalent, there had to be a better way to clue COUGAR than a derogatory term for an older woman that's very closely aligned with pornography.

jberg 11:30 AM  

Hey, it's a crossword, and those calls are close some of the time, so that's good enough for me.

My father always did the puzzles in the Milwaukee Journal Green Sheet on a clipboard. In the last few years of his life, as his memory faded, he would mostly just pick them up and stare at them for a while. So if you're doing puzzles to stave off Alzheimer's, don't count on it. (But maybe the NYT puzzle is more effective).

Wow, @Rex's first day back and already people are taking an offhand remark about the beauty of Idaho and trying to turn it into a political issue. Relax, folks!

If you take the last of the guac, aren't you supposed to say YOINK?

jberg 11:32 AM  

@Banana daiquiri, thanks for the feedback, and salud right back at you!

Doc John 11:41 AM  

I find it ironic that REF shows up in a puzzle all about Umps.

Beadola 11:44 AM  

Rex and Loren both back. It's a good day.

newspaperguy 11:50 AM  

Welcome back, Loren Muse Smith. I have missed your always delightful comments!

Joseph Michael 11:56 AM  

Welcome back, Rex.

I thought that an older male who goes after younger females was called a Man.

Pleasant Monday puzzle. Caught onto the baseball theme right away. Was surprised that, though there is a REF on hand, there is no UMP to utter the CLOSE CALLS.

Only clue that made me SORE was “If there’s any justice!” for I HOPE. Boo to that. Not crazy about the inclusion of TFAL either. But overall the grid and clues were well executed. Favorite entry is SPACED OUT. An appropriate Monday morning description.

Mark N 11:58 AM  

BASSO/TFAL/OLLA is a pretty rough corner for a Monday. Referencing the SEGA Dreamcast in a puzzle with a Genesis clue elsewhere was cute, though.

Carola 12:12 PM  

I second @Nate's 10:06 take on the puzzle. I still remember my way-back-when delight in discovering the puzzle had a theme.
@Jordan Brown, thanks for the nice parsing of the grid; I'd noticed the parallel OUT and SAFE but missed how the others were CLOSE to each other.

Advantage to living in the Midwest: being withing STRIKE-ing distance of the Iowa STATE FAIR, the pinnacle of STATE-FAIR-dom. No CLOSE CALL there.

Nile IBIS 12:44 PM  

Following on from @Z's remark, everything that I write should be understood as littoral.

-- The Nile IBIS

Aketi 12:47 PM  

@Rex, glad you’re back. I missed rthe grouchy rants even when it’s to explain that inhaling guacamole faster than other guests should be a competitive event like speed solving a puzzle. I’d never take you on in a puzzle solving contestant but definitely would try a speed guacamole eating contest. Do not ask me about the empty nest syndrome right now a year after the fledgling left. I thought I was doing okay by diving deep into the “purge the empty nest and renovate it” project . Now that I have one room left to do and our son found a summer job of campus, I’m having a relapse. He was my Marvel comics and sci fi movie buddy and my video game buddy. He was supposed to visit last weekend and teach me strategies for playing Fortnite but he realized he needed to study more for the class he’s taking. On the other hand I’m proud of him for nailing down a job in the physics department for the summer that also pays for the summer class.

I don’t know if California has a STATE FAIR, but Sonoma had a country FAIR when we were kids and the best part was the horse RACES. I was the family member that picked the horses to bet on and we always put a little ahead with my picks. My sister is better at winning on slot machines when we visited one of my Dad’s cousins who lived on TahoeLake.

He also had a cousin in Coeur d'Alene Idaho which we all thought was idyllic. We’d water ski and eat freshly made ice cream mad with cream from their own cow and berries that we picked. Our Aunt had a beautiful home that my mom envied. We begged our parents to move there. It wasn’t until I was in college that I visited again and realized it wasn’t the paradise it had seemed. The story of the Idaho cousins is just too sad a tale to tell.

Anonymous 12:49 PM  

@LMS you been missed sumpin sore. Welcome back.
When I lived in Chatham Co. NC and decided to make it official by getting a new driver's license - I did all the work and finally passed the tests and went to pick up my license in the little one-room affair in Siler City. I said, "Well - now it's official, I really live here." The man in uniform eyed me down and up and said, dead pan:
"Yep, but y'ain' _from_ here."

Nuff said.

Anonymous 1:38 PM  

Idaho is horrible.
Full of conservatives... well, except for Boise, Sun Valley, Coeur d'Alene...
Don't move here.

Anonymous 1:57 PM  

Of course you do!

Anonymous 2:04 PM  

The clue is narrow escape. That is a CLOSE CALL, not a clo(Z)e call. Y'ALL are trying too hard. It works as is.

Harryp 2:11 PM  

@kitshef 7:21, Online solvers had the benefit of the happy tune when the puzzle is done. If you don't get that, you recheck all of the iffy answers until you do, is my thinking.

Banana Diaquiri 2:30 PM  

the pinnacle of STATE-FAIR-dom

any Lone Star residents ready to disagree? :)

Unknown 2:34 PM  

What about CALL AFTER for the revealer? As in the call comes after the rest of the answer.

Mclobby 2:39 PM  

Welcome back Rex. This comment is to complain a bit about last weeks write-ups and their obsession with time to complete. Some of don't care about time to complete--its not a race or competition for us. It's enjoyment, challenge and interest. So happy to have again your more relevant descriptive assessment of degree of difficulty. And hope you will encourage your fill-ins to respect that notion as well.

Thank you.

Anonymous 2:55 PM  

@GHarris - I think you win the COUGAR equivalency game with your Dirty Old Man entry. And as you suggest, DOM is arguably more derogatory. I’ve seen COUGAR in contexts that suggest hipness or even empowerment.

jb129 3:00 PM  

Gotta say - which I did last week & Laura "somewhat" responded to - I totally agree with Mclobby @ 2:39 - but so much for what we think.

Glad you're back, Rex,

pabloinnh 3:06 PM  

Hey @Roo--your story about the demo derby reminded me of the one and only time our softball team sponsored an entry at a local fair. I can tell you that it was Aug. 9, 1974, because there were many beverages involved and many trips to the men's. During one of these the guy next to me looked over and said "Hey, did you hear? Nixon just resigned!". So of course I replied "Oh yeah? Well we're in the second heat!". I was much younger then, of course, and had different priorities.

Close calls, just as you read it. Cloze calls said nobody ever. Lots of baseball, and the only thing better is more baseball.

And welcome back to our most-read regulars, LMS and Rex the Wonder Solver.

GILL I. 3:52 PM  

@Aketi. I believe every State has a STATE FAIR. Sacramento is home to this annual event - being the Capitol and all. It's going on right now. The County Fair is in May with plenty of horse races.
As a youngster and newly arrived heathen to the USof A, I was fascinated with any thing "Fair" in it. I remember staring at pictures of the Chicago World Fair of 1893. I loved all the inventions introduced - especially the Ferris Wheel and the dishwasher. It also led me to read a fascinating book called "The Devil in the White City." Home to a serial killer. What's not to love?

Grammar Nut 4:11 PM  
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous 4:13 PM  

Eating all the guac isn't a party foul?!! I bet you're a double dipper too.

GILL I. 5:42 PM  

State CapitAl.

Anonymous 5:45 PM  

Gill I. - the six states of New England have joined together for over a century in a combined multi-state fair - The Big E (Eastern States Exposition). One interesting feature of the Big E, each state has a pavilion (modeled on the state house) which stands on land owned by that state, which is legally part of the territory of that state - this means a person can stand "in" all six states within minutes. There are state police posted in each, since crimes committed on the grounds would be crimes in that state!

Once a year, I go to the Big E to enjoy a Maine baked potato, Rhode Island clam chowder, Vermont ice cream, Connecticut beer and Massachusetts pizza, at least. The 4-H kids and the draft horse competition show that New England is indeed part of the US of A.

Nancy 6:37 PM  

@Aketi (12:47) -- I was so worried about your health...until I realized it was a typo. To wit: your sentence about eating "freshly made ice cream mad with cream from their own cow." You do know, @Aketi, that Mad Cow Disease is not something to be taken lightly.:)

Back to COUGARS: The famous ones who quickly come to mind are Cher and Barbra Streisand. There must be more. Can anyone think of any other famous COUGARS?

@GILL (9:25 a.m.) -- So it seems you have a younger husband. I wouldn't call you a COUGAR. I'd call you a FOX.

GILL I. 7:38 PM  

@Nancy: Demi Moore. bet your bippy I'm a FOX. :-)

GILL I. 7:40 PM  

@Anony: 5:45...Ooops, meant to include you. Thank you for the six states of New England FAIR info. But...will you eat a deep fried pickle?

Anonymous 7:49 PM  

Oh, Nancy, Nancy. Demi Moore. See Ashton Kutcher.

CDilly52 8:12 PM  

I relate, @LMS. My very first ever jury trial was in extremely rural Oklahoma (after moving from waaaaay east of the Mississippi after marrying a wonderful Okie). And against the “local lion of the bar” (and later a close friend) who shows up in his starched white shirt and bola tie, cowboy-lapelled jacket, gorgeous embossed boots with gold toe covers and starched blue jeans. . .FOR A JURY TRIAL!!!! The judge curls his finger in the universal symbol of “come here” and we headed to chambers. The judge says to me, “Darrrrrrlin’, how long ya’ need for VOHR’dahr!” “Excuse me?” I replied. “VOHRdahr, VOHRdahr! How long?!” Getting irritated now. One more time, “I’m sorry your honor?” Opposing counsel looked at me with a wink and said “You Yanks. He’s asking how long it will take you to seat the jury!” “Oh, I said with a better than average French accent, voir dire!” “Well,” said the jusge, VOHRdahr or VWAAAHDEEEER, we usually just say jury pickin’, so how long?” And that exchange gave me my rural self-deprecating introduction to rural Oklahoma juries that has worked wel for 35 years. “Good mornin’ Ladies and gentlemen, we are beginning this trial with what the French call ‘voir dire,’ but here in Oklahoma we simply call it “jury pickin’,” . . . Thank you retired Judge Scarce. I now speak fluent rural Oklahoman and am a lioness myself.

Brian 8:18 PM  

Make Monday a challenge by using Down clues only.

Moly Shu 8:27 PM  

@MrGrumpy said “Well, in NYC there are plenty of people who don’t drive, but I don’t hear them griping that clues about car model names are located somewhere slightly west of Boston.”
You clearly haven’t been reading @Nancy’s posts.

@Z, take your time brother.

OISK 9:13 PM  

I object to car models, rappers, and product names when they are acronyms, with no discernible letters. MKZ, DMC, TFAL,ELO, should be avoided, although the last is so frequent that it no longer bothers me.

JC66 9:17 PM  

How is OISK discernible? Just asking.

kodak jenkins 6:53 AM  

not happy about OLLA/TFAL. never heard of either so DNF.

A Monday DNF. That's still sinking in.

Knitwit 9:18 AM  

Welcome back Rex! Sounds like you had a perfect vacation. I’m catching up so this is a day late. Liked this one because I love baseball. I really liked your clipboard idea! I haven’t used one ages! As a RN way back in the 70’s this was a must at every bedside and the nurse’s station. Heading to Staples now and will have an organized place to keep all those puzzles I download and print!! See you at Lollapuzzoola!!!

thefogman 10:04 AM  

The vacation hasn't mellowed the Crankmaster very much. I thought it was a pretty decent Monday offering. In my opinion, CLOSECALL simply means the "call" is situated right next to the adjacent word. Not super clever but not terrible either.

spacecraft 10:41 AM  

Yeah, well, I guess it's enough that these CALLS are *sometimes* CLOSE. Didn't bother me. A mundane theme for a Monday; doesn't try to do too much. Still, in the NE...I mean, I'm not gonna know your Japanese beer brand. They make beer? And what's up with PARTYFOUL?? Is that a thing? Do people say that? Never heard those two words next to each other.

In the south, KELSO to me was a horse--probably the best racehorse EVER. I don't know from Ashton Kutcher roles. But everything else was fill-it-in, so yep, just about easy-medium. Sultry AVA Gardner takes the DOD sash. Par.

Burma Shave 11:49 AM  


COUGARS ENTICE and require


rondo 12:15 PM  

Yeah, these CALLs are sometimes CLOSE; probably most times not so CLOSE, except maybe STRIKEs and BALLs.

The term COUGAR doesn't bother me at all; I lived with one of those COUGARS for ten years. No regrets.

Last day of the MN STATEFAIR today. Record single-day attendance Saturday was 270,426. That is not a misprint; the STATEFAIR is a big deal here.

Not even a CLOSECALL for yeah baby KEIRA Knightly.

OK Mon-puz enhanced with baseball, yet they're already talking about our NHLTEAM

Diana,LIW 1:48 PM  

I made a real PARTY mess out of the NE corner. PARTYFOUL??? Never heard of it. Boo. Not a Monday.

Lady Di

leftcoastTAM 3:22 PM  

Looked like a typical Monday puzzle until tightening up moving from West to East.

Neat baseball theme except, perhaps, for the CLOSE in CLOSECALL. Umpire always has the last word, and I won't argue it.

PARTYFOUL? New one on me, but won't object to that one, either.

TFAL. I'm not a cook.

More interesting than expected.

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