Star Wars sporting event / SAT 8-4-18 / Makeshift technique for female modesty / European river that originates from glacier / Only French-produced film to win Oscar for Best Picture 2011 / Electrically insulating material around nerve fibers / Member of magnificent 1996 US women's gymnastics team / It's performed on hands knees in yoga / Exercise in student diplomacy for short

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Constructor: Sam Trabucco

Relative difficulty: Medium (8:07)

THEME: Down, literally — themers (ugh, why are there themers on a Saturday!?) play on the crossword cross-referencing clue phrase, "with X-Down," where "X" looks like it refers to the clue number, but actually refers to the written out number, which *literally* goes Down, at the end of the themer. Thus:

Theme answers:
  • 18A: With 10-Down, literally, now and then (EVERY SO OF(TEN)) (where TEN literally goes Down...)
  • 23A: With 7-Down, literally, neither wins nor loses (BREAK (SEVEN))
  • 50A: With 8-Down, literally, one just taking up space (DEAD W(EIGHT))
  • 56A: With 1-Down, literally, downright dastardly (BAD TO THE B(ONE))
Word of the Day: MYELIN (60A: Electrically insulating material around nerve fibers) —
  1. a mixture of proteins and phospholipids forming a whitish insulating sheath around many nerve fibers, increasing the speed at which impulses are conducted. (google)

• • •

VERMEER's "The Astronomer"
I will pre-apologize, slightly, to this puzzle because it's not the puzzle's fault that it was run on a Saturday, when puzzles *should* be themeless and themes are unwelcome and bad. That's an editorial choice. A bad and disappointing editorial choice, and one that predisposed me to dislike this puzzle, on principle. But again, I will try to correct for my personal distaste for themed puzzles that appear on Fri and Sat, which are holy themeless days, as far as I'm concerned. But eventually and reluctantly I figured out what was going on with the theme. What's doubly tough about this one is that it's not just the cross-reference gimmick that's deceptive here (with the actual number being involved instead of the clue number); the word "literally" is also deceptive, in that it appears to refer to the clue that follows it, *not* to the number that precedes it. So I'm out here essentially looking for foreign phrases, egged on by the fact that I seem to be looking at an answer, or answer part, that ends in -OOFT (18A). What is that, Dutch? I wondered. The theme is not unclever at all. I might've like this on a Thursday. But even if this had appeared on an appropriate day of the week (why not Sunday, use all the numbers ONE thru TEN ...?), I would've had some issues.

Primarily, I hate the leering straight-dude quality of a couple of the marquee answers here. First of all, and most importantly, FRIEND ZONE is bullshit. It's not a real place. It's a mythical place made up by sad dudes to explain why someone they like won't sleep with them. It's simple lack of desire. She's just not that into you. But you had to go and create some magical zone, one that, had things gone another way, you might not have entered, or one that, magically, you might escape somehow. It's tired straight-guy bullshit. No means no, stop inventing sophisticated theories about why women don't want to sleep with some guys. It's all so insulting. Like being friends with a woman you can't f*** is akin to being in the Phantom Zone, some place of entrapment and banishment. FOH with that. Further, HANDBRA adds to the leering quality of this puzzle. The very concept is rooted in the male gaze and the weird nipple-phobia this country (in particular) has. So somehow "modesty" is being preserved, but if you look up HANDBRA mostly what you will see are some pretty sexualized images, seemingly created for the titillation of dudes. There's just an off-putting POV here. Also OXES is perhaps the stupidest f***ing word I've seen in a long time. Fitting, maybe, for the dumbass FRIEND ZONE vibe of this puzzle, but still ... there's a reason it's been 12 years since that ridiculous "plural" has been in the grid.

There are some good answers in here, like COW POSE and MODEL U.N., and maybe POD RACE. And, again, I do think the theme concept is clever. I was just put off by a themed Saturday, and then Put Off by a particularly objectifying male POV. These things happen (to me, anyway).

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. hey here's a fun* chart (h/t Erik Agard)

*contains no actual fun

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


jae 12:05 AM  

Medium. Almost twice as long as yesterday’s, but a lot of that time was spent churning on what was going on, which I didn’t grok until after I finished. Pretty clever with a healthy amount of zip, liked it.

Anonymous 12:18 AM  

How is FRIEND ZONE gender-, or for that matter, hetero-specific? I have a hard time believing that the phrase was coined by dudes. Eye rolls. Fun cracking this one!

puzzlehoarder 12:30 AM  

I havent had to beat my head against a puzzle like this in a long time. Now I know that the only thing worse than a cross referenced clue is one that isn't. It's quite a stupid trick but I fell for it for a long time.

The NW and the SE we're particularly difficult for me. Then I find out I've got a double dnf with DODO in place of BOZO. I thought 29D was some kind of Facebook term. Nope, just some sort of unknown millennial speak.

I haven't even checked the xwordinfo lists yet. I literally just got done with this thing. Just checking my Webster's I see that we just had this BELA a couple of years ago. That's all I've got on him. Usually I wind up encountering an unknown at least three times before it sinks in.

TomAz 12:32 AM  

I don't get why the first letter of the 'number' part of the answer is repeated


Rex, usually erring on the pedantic side of things, doesn't mention it. Jeff Chen doesn't mention it. Am I the only one who finds this off-putting?

I mean, I got it, eventually, and solved the puzzle. It was hard, I was well above my average Saturday. It wasn't bad, no mediocre TV actors taking up space, so that was clean.

But this repeating-letters-with-no-logic-why thing is a pebble in my solving shoe.

Anonymous 12:41 AM  

Wait, so Rex is saying a woman has never complained about being placed in the friend zone? I’m no expert, but that view seems pretty sexist to me.

Cliff 12:50 AM  

First: what Rex and Rebecca said — 1D and 29D just reinforce and normalize a set of attitudes that devalue women as people.

The puzzle itself:
I could not figure out the trick even after I’d solved the whole thing (slightly over typical Sat time), getting the theme answers from crosses.

I think there is an unfair aspect: in the NYT XWord app on my phone, the misdirecting Down answers are highlighted when you click on the Across theme entries. I.e. when you click on 18A, 10D is highlighted. That’s not fair — it takes the misdirection too far IMO and forces you to think that Down *answer* is involved.
I would have liked the idea and execution better if I didn’t feel constructor/editor tried too hard to trick me.

king_yeti 1:16 AM  

the App made the misdirection even worse by highlighting the “cross-referenced” clues that were actually not cross-referenced. That’s a fail in my book.

Anoa Bob 1:31 AM  

I got MYELIN (60A) right away but wondered how many solvers who aren't conversant in neurobiology would. It is usually called the MYELIN sheath and it serves to both insulate and to speed up neural transmissions. The latter results from what is called saltatory conduction, where impulses literally jump between segments of MYELINE sheath where there are tiny open spaces called nodes of Ranvier. Okay, I'll stop now.

In some cultures both men and women regularly take baths together. Participants will often carry a wash cloth or small towel to cover their genitalia as they are getting in or out of the tub. Women will also use a HAND BRA as an additional gesture of modesty. I don't think anyone would be offended if the coverage was less than complete.

Larry Gilstrap 1:36 AM  

Wow! Cross referenced cluing and sort of a theme thing going on here makes me want to consult that old calendar on the wall. Yep, day after Friday in the Dog Days of summer. I finally crawled across the finish line and then began the CSI, well actually just consulted the BLOG leader. Four random numbers spelled out because of some other random down clues. Tough row to hoe, even for a sturdy brace of OXES.

Going out on a limb here, but why does an unrequited would be lover have to be a guy? It is more than conceivable that someone languishing in the FRIEND ZONE might be a woman. What am I missing here? He's just not that into you is a real thing; I have felt it more than once. It works both ways. And why does it even have to be set in a heterosexual context?

ROXANE spells her name that way? Four letter European rivers could make for a pretty boring Tuesday themed puzzle. Anything to do with ancient Rome containing four letters is certain to be NERO.

JOHN X 2:38 AM  

Well I finished this puzzle successfully but when I did I still had no idea what was going on. And reading the explanation of the theme here, I still don't. First of all, doesn't this mean that the answer is in the clue? And second, the parts that were missing were "en" and "even" and "ight" and "ne" and maybe I should have seen a pattern but I didn't because there isn't one. Not a good one.

Speaking as a leering straight dude, this puzzle was really in my wheelhouse for some of these marquee answers:

FRIEND ZONE is a very real thing, ask an anthropologist. HAND BRA I've never heard the term, but a gentleman would never let a young lady do this herself, he would graciously help her. OXES is so f***ing sexist I can't believe the so-called editor allowed it in the puzzle! I'm kidding of course who cares about this f***ing word it's fine.

On the other hand, COWPOSE was just flagrantly ridiculous as was MODEL UN, both of which promote communism as far as I can tell. Or maybe not I dunno I've never done either one. I did VFX on the POD RACE and that's a true story and it's loaded with mistakes but boy do those dorks love that crap anyway.

Mike in Mountain View 2:43 AM  

Terrific idea for a puzzle. I'm very impressed. What's really cool about it is that the sounds of the numbers are different than the sounds their letters make in three of the four theme phrases in which they're embedded. (TEN/OFTEN, ONE/BONE, SEVEN/S EVEN, although WEIGHT/EIGHT do have assonance)

The NYT app is a bit unfair on this puzzle, as it actually highlights the down entries to which the acrosses you're working on don't actually refer. It's one thing to have a tricky theme and another to have the app actively mislead you. I know that's not Sam's fault, though.

DEADWEIGHT and BADTOTHEBONE are more elegant than EVERYSOOFTENds and BREAKSEVENt; the first two have the good fortune of having the down, literally, entries come to an end where the down entries within which they are embedded actually end. I feel Rex-like just raising this point, though, and even he didn't cavil about this. It's not like I have suggestions for other themers that would have worked better.

chefwen 2:55 AM  

No no no, not on a Saturday. Totally messed me up! I kept saying to puzz partner, I know there is a trick, BUT IT’S SATURDAY, not allowed. Got it at 18A, but I still was unhappy.

Never heard of a HAND BRA, and hope I’m never in a situation where I would have to utilize it. Might have had to the other day when my husbands former business partner was visiting from Honolulu and was striding down the hallway to say goodbye, as he neared the bedroom he said “are you decent?” and without waiting for an answer he barged in. Fortunately, I was. 10 minutes earlier I wouldn’t have been.

FRIEND ZONE? What the hell is that?

JB in VT 3:24 AM  

Another oddity of themers is that the first letter of the numbered down is included in the answer. If you’re going to make a big deal about “literally” maybe you shouldn’t introduce a literally doubled letter.

JB in VT 3:27 AM  

Oops. I’ll withdraw that comment upon further inspection!

'mericans in Paris 5:09 AM  

AHEM. I'm going to steer clear of @REX's complaints, except to note that Cyrano was, reluctantly, in the FRIEND ZONE of ROXANE. We're talking unrequited love here. It happens. To both sexes. Cyrano accepted his fate yet found a clever way to express his fondness to his beloved, via an unwitting surrogate. Did that make him a cad?

My main complaint regarding FRIEND ZONE is that it contributed to a Natick. It is not the type of phrase that crosses the Atlantic quickly, so I had never heard of it. For a long time I had FRIENDless (as in "if he's FRIENDless, could he be some sort of OX murderer?") and dOlt. Not having a clue what the first name of Ms. Fleck was, BOZO was not on my list of possibilities for 53 A. Instead, later, I tried dOdO and yOyO.

The construction of this puzzle is clever, and the fill pretty good, but I don't consider it fair that, as part of the deception, the iPad version of the app highlighted the seven squares of 1D, the four squares of 7D, the three squares of 8D, and the eight squares of 10D. That really sent me off on a wild goose chase, trying to make the across halves of the phrases mesh with the downs.

I did notice "_ _ _ _ _EVEN_" in 5D, below BREAKS, but I assumed that was just a coincidence. (Yes, I should have noticed "_ _ _ _SEVEN_" instead. So I didn't finally get the trick until 50A.)

At least I learned something new today: that one can make a tasty BEER out of RYE. I'll have to LOOK AT the bottle labels more closely next time I'm in the 'States.

Harryp 5:12 AM  

I couldn't figure out the Theme, so DNF for me today. I haven't got the patience to do puzzles like this, but now see it could have been sussed out. Good one.

TrudyJ 5:40 AM  

I feel like there was a time when FRIENDZONE was a useful descriptor for a phenomenon that could apply to people of any gender, when you have what feels to you like perfect chemistry with someone who only sees you as a friend and may even use you as a sounding board to moan about the person they're in love with. In real life and in fiction it's an equal-opportunity experience -- as a girl I got friendzoned a lot in my youth. The phenomenon has rarely been better expressed than by Taylor Swift in the song "You Belong With Me", and of course Eponine in the book and musical Les Miserables is Queen of the Friendzone -- both examples of women in the zone.

But of late the term has been sorta co-opted by those sad entitled dudes so maybe its usefulness has ended. Too bad.

Ry 6:11 AM  

Agree on HANDBRA being gross. However, FRIENDZONE may be most often associated with men, but I’ve heard plenty of girls use it referring to themselves in my work with college students. In no way is it an exclusively male idea despite whatever the tweeter says.

Lewis 6:28 AM  

Whoo! This was A Puzzle. It required a deep and varied knowledge base as well as strong puzzle solving skills. You had to work the brain to crack devilish clues, yet turn the brain off and simply use the eyes to see the theme. For me, very tough but fair, and I love tough but fair. Masterfully done, with the inclusion of the unexpected -- a brilliant Saturday. Very well done, Sam!

Anonymous 6:31 AM  

O glorious feminism wherein everything reinforces and normalizes a set of attitudes that devalue women as people!

Dolgo 7:00 AM  

The only way I could get some of these answers was by Naticking. I certainly never heard of those that have become notorious above. I agree with with Rex's opinions as well. The only corner I really had trouble with was SW because I couldn't think of PODRACE. Was that in that horrible Star Wars with Jar Jar Binks? I think I repressed that one.

Trombone Tom 7:02 AM  

I second @Lewis. This was brilliant and made me grind my mental gears. Hand up for completing the puzzle without grokking the theme. I differ with @Rex on a couple of issues. I'm not bound to the theme/no theme rule for Saturday and I think his reaction to FRIENDZONE was the only sexist aspect.

My biggest hangup was eliding the reading of the STRUG clue to omit gymnastics and then trying to fit in Seles. Never heard the expression HAND BRA for that action.

Been a fan of banjo picking BELA Fleck since my daughter booked him into the UCSB concert series and sent me a CD many years ago.

Kudos to Sam and Will for a superb Saturday.

Loren Muse Smith 7:17 AM  

Oh. My. God. This was brilliant. It’s been a long time since I was so utterly flummoxed. I was too impatient to sit back and finally see the deal. Damn. That aha moment would have been the Best Ever.

I “finished” (had to google VERMEER to get out of a rut, so a dnf), but I didn’t see the numbers coming down. Damn again.

I enjoy themes every now and then on Friday or Saturday. So my nose wasn’t all out of joint mid-solve. But I knew others would be in a snit.

Didn’t help that I kept trying to rationalize “spright” as the noun form of “spry” for 44D. Dumb. And, of course, I was going for “cat” POSE, too.

I didn’t know HAND BRA, either, but I would guess it’d be an instinctive thing to do if you’re modest.

I’ve noted to add FRIENDZONE to the list of expressions I’m supposed to be upset about. I feel really dumb that I *still* don’t understand why if a guy (or a girl; I’ve been there) understands they’re in the FRIENDZONE, that’s “tired straight-guy bullshit.”

No one has caught the sly Easter egg today. BELA Károlyi is holding up Kerri STRUG in the grid as he did in 1996. Sam almost made the ’96 gymnastics team on the rings just kidding.

Sam – one of my all-time favorite puzzles. Period. Bravo!

Anonymous 7:52 AM  

Wow, didn’t take long for the anonymous sea lions to start showing up.

On the off chance the question was really posed in good faith, “friend zone” (especially when used as a verb) is almost exclusively used by men talking about women, in my experience. There is also a level of entitlement baked into the concept that would be less common for a non straight white dude to have in the first place.

From urban dictionary:
Friend Zone
A term many guys (and some girls) use when they have been rejected, whether it is straight out or inadvertently said. People tend to claim it is the other person's fault and/or that they are a "friendzoning bitch" despite the fact that the person may really only like them as a friend, which is a false move seeing as that person believes they should fake feelings and be in a relationship.

Anonymous 7:56 AM  

I have no problem with a themed puzzle on a Saturday and I liked this. Who is Michael Sharp or anyone else to tell Will Shortz what a Saturday puzzle should or shouldn’t be ? Does Shortz tell Sharp which comic books to teach ? You shouldn’t be teaching Thor in Comics 101 you should be teaching Batman or Superman.

John Crowe 8:02 AM  

The blogger has jumped the shark. This was a great puzzle!

Anonymous 8:03 AM  

Another anonymous sea lion

QuasiMojo 8:13 AM  

Well, I can't mirror the enthusiasm for this puzzle nor the disdain. It seemed like a noble failure to me.

I had a DNF at MYELIN and BELA. (I had DODO there for too long.) I guess I really am a BOZO. But if you don't know who the Fleckstones are then it's an impossible Natick. BTW, I once sat next to MAYA LIN at a dinner party. Does that count?

Never heard of a FRIEND ZONE and have to scratch my head at the endless ways in which millennials undermine their own happiness by creating all these odd gender-romance domains. Just ask the chick out, dude!

Just kidding. Sorta. Whenever I meet young people, which is often, I am surprised by how tormented they are. Isn't the point of progress to ameliorate the human condition? We seem to be back-sliding in the human rleations department. All this linguistic nonsense to "define" turf. But then what do I know. I haven't been on a date in about a hundred years. At least not since the internet bubble.

As an "abstainer" (who votes) I have no idea what a RYE BEER is. Sounds "imbuvable." And since I am more of a social climber than a rock climber, never heard of a CLIF BAR. Sounds like something you would hold onto rather than eat.

Wanted CHOCOLAT for the 2011 French film but it didn't fit and is probably past its due date anyway.

Wasn't the movie spelled ROXANNE? That threw me for a while. I prefer the song.

I love the English language and its crazy pronunciations. WEIGHT/SLEIGHT (some people say "slate" I suppose but most of us say "slight" no?

I used to marvel at AMC cars. Such crazy shapes and mutant concepts. I miss that sense of whimsy in car design. Remember the PACER?

Small Town Blogger 8:17 AM  

The letter doesn’t repeat, it turns “down” at that letter.

Laurel 8:20 AM  

Why? I still don't get the double letters. What am I missing? I'm so irritated by this puzzle 😠

marty 8:25 AM  

I really hate this blog when it goes full social justice warrior. Is Will rejecting female submissions at higher rate than those of their male counterparts? If so, you might have a leg to stand on. Otherwise, in your complaint that women are being treated unequally, your solution is treat them unequally at the other end of the spectrum. That's NRA type logic: guns will solve the gun problem :: unequal treatment will solve unequal treatment.

Space Is Deep 8:32 AM  

Hard, but a Saturday puzzle should be hard. I don't look for gimmicks on a Saturday so it made more challenging. As for the sexist issue. Rex is in academia, where political correctness is out of control. Pretty soon no one will be able to have a conversation without long pauses while you ponder if what you are about to say may offend someone.

Pete S 8:34 AM  

The NYT website version also had the cheating misdirection of highlighting totally unrelated clues, which was disappointing. Like Rex, I'm also pretty down on HAND BRA and FRIEND ZONE, to the extent that I had FIG LEAF briefly pencilled in for the former and yearned for the unwanted lover to be TRIANGULAR, however tortuous the grammar. Ugh.

RooMonster 8:51 AM  

Hey All !
Battery low, forgot charger, read y'all later.

Liked this one. What's wrong with a themed themeless? Very cool. Took a bit to figure out the clues weren't cross-referencing. Got it at 50A. Went through the rest and wrote in the numbers.

AMCS! Har. I have a Hornet! 1970, first year they came out. Was my daily driver for a bit, but now sits broken down in my backyard. One day, I'll fix it... Maybe. :-)


Jim Lemire 8:58 AM  

This puzzle was killer. I had no idea how to deal with the theme other than the phrase seemed arbitrarily cut off. Like others using the app the highlighted answers didn’t help. But now I see it and find it quite clever. My only issue though is that two of the themed answers are completed entirely by the turn down (DEAD WEIGHT and BAD TO THE BONE), but the other two have “extra” letters (BREAKS EVEN-T and EVERY SO OFTEN-DS). Seems like I’ve seen puzzles that do this sort of thing better.

FLAC 9:03 AM  

Once again, Rex lets his (arbitrary) perfect be the enemy of the good -- except that this puzzle was not just good; it was great.

pabloinnh 9:04 AM  

Finished this thing (correctly) and was with the group that didn't get it until I came here. Thanks for posting, y'all. I feel better. Friend zone? Hand bra? News to me, but again, it's a poor day when you can't learn something.

Vermeer is one of my very favorites and I wish we had more of his paintings. Also, don't know about rye beer, but a couple of local microbreweries make a rye IPA, and it's delicious.

Anonymous 9:10 AM  

I find these ideas too tiresome: this is the only way this phrase can be used. this is the only thing these words can mean. everyone must be of one mind about the use of this expression.

As a consumer of RYE whiskey, I can vouch that it tastes “spicier” than the cornier stuff.

HumanBean 9:12 AM  

Yes!!! That gimmick of highlighting the refered-to “clue” was totally misguiding. I realize now that this is what caused my total confusion. I was racking my brain trying to figure out how “bad to the bo” related to “handbra” (which was highlighted in the app). Aargh! Another DNF Saturday for me.

mmorgan 9:22 AM  

Fun and challenging puzzle -- I had a great moment when I figured out the trick (and was thinking briefly that it was a rebus). I like when I can get stuff I don't know fairly from crosses (e.g., MYELIN). But not knowing POD RA_CE, I thought AgE was a reasonable answer for 59A (Put something past?). Oh well.

I can understand the wincing at HANDBRA (a term I've never heard), but I honestly don't see why FRIENDZONE (another term I've never heard) is inherently gendered in the manner Rex asserts -- couldn't it just as easily apply to a female or a same-sex dyad?

Nancy 9:24 AM  

Had to cheat on two ugly bits of PPP: TWO FACE and BELA Fleck -- and I still couldn't finish the puzzle.

When I say "had to cheat" -- and y'all know that I just about never cheat -- it was so I could understand a theme that was completely baffling me. But my cheats didn't enable me to figure out the gimmick. I had to come here to find out what the bleep was going on.

I thought the various cross-references were going to have something to do with either the clues or the answers, and not with the bloody numbers! Well, OK, it is pretty clever. Got to admit it.

I was not only flummoxed by the PPP, but also by one modern phrase I'd never heard of. Started with FRIENDship. When I got -- or thought I got -- DODO at 53A, that gave me FRIEND date, a term I'd never heard of. It turned out to be FRIEND ZONE (BOZO at 53A), another term I've never heard of.

I might have figured out the gimmick if the fill had been anywhere near my wheelhouse. But I probably wouldn't have anyway. I admire this puzzle a lot more than I enjoyed it.

ghthree 9:24 AM  

For an excellent example of a HAND BRA, check out the Sunday, April 28, 2018 cartoon "For Better Or For Worse." The theme of the cartoon is irony, not nudity, but Lynn Johnston comments that it still was controversial.

My wife and I (we solve jointly, on paper) had a huge DNF. Too many things we're not familiar with. We both got ROXANE and OMEN. She got KETT; I got CNET. Everything else consisted of uncrossed guesses.

Rex's comments on the phrase FRIEND ZONE inspired me to Google the related term INCEL (INvoluntary CELibate, not in today's puzzle). According to Wikipedia, the term was coined by a woman named Alana in 1993. Eleven years later, after the murderous rampage of Eliot Rodger, Alana expressed regret at the resulting change in usage. Today, the term is used primarily to refer to misogynist males. BTW, Elliot Rodger was never in anyone's FRIEND ZONE. He hated everybody, male and female.

kitshef 9:44 AM  

Brilliant, fun puzzle.

Mostly pretty easy, but a couple of tough little nuts. The north central was hard, thanks to tough clue on ROVE and my inability to make anything from xxESS EVENT. guESS EVENT? drESS EVENT?

But toughest of all was that CLIF BAR/FROTHS cross.

When Rex starts sharing Twitter posts, it’s time to tune him out.

That POD RACE scene was what made me give up on the Star Wars prequels. As bad as Jar Jar Binks was, the POD RACE was worse.

Nancy 9:47 AM  

Like @mmorgan (9:22), I also had AgE instead of ACE as the answer to "Put something past?" I think it's a perfectly swell answer! This gave me PODRAgE (which I saw as one word) as the Star Wars sporting event. And why not? When I walked out of my first (and last) Star Wars movie, there were plenty of things going on that were at least as weird as a PODRAgE. You keep giving me Star Wars clues ad infinitum and I'll keep cursing them ad infinitum and we'll all live happily ever after.

Agree with @Mike in Mountain View and @Jim Lemire: The fact that you have BREAKS EVENt and EVERY SO OFTENds is a huge flaw in the execution. I also wonder whether I would have figured out the gimmick if all the theme answers had been clean.

Anonymous 9:51 AM  

Completed all the themers without understanding the theme, and now that I get it, I don't see how anyone would call this clever. Isn't it weird for the clues to literally contain part of the answer? And why is the app highlighting the downs for me on the themers when they're completely irrelevant? Seems like really going out of the way to confuse people with the theme.

It feels like the bar for what's considered PC in these crosswords is getting higher and higher, if FRIENDZONE is now triggering enough for a rant about sexism. I don't really care if you don't like the word, but it's innocuous enough in most contexts that it isn't worth freaking out about.

Teedmn 9:53 AM  

EVERY SO OFTEN I get the trick early and I use it to fill in other parts of the grid. Thus, SLEIGHT and FRIEND ZONE/BAD TO THE BONE filled in easily. I never saw SEVEN until after 5D was filled but it helped with BREAKS.

I was convinced that the "buzz source" of 1A was going to be neon to the point that I had neO pop in at 4D. VERMEER got that bee out of my bonnet, AHEM.

POD RACE, TWO FACE, HANDBRA all WOEs today. I had a hitch in my solve staring at B__H and wondering what kind of "wild country" I would get if my yoga pose was a COW POkE, har. I knew MYELIN sheaths due to being a hypochondriac, fearing I might get multiple sclerosis. I was sure OXES was going to deal me a DNF today, still looks weird.

Great puzzle, Sam Trabucco, and thanks for the extra twist on a Saturday.

Anonymous 10:04 AM  

Quick! Psychiatrist to 'Rex Parker does the NYT Crossword Puzzle'! STAT!

newspaperguy 10:04 AM  

I live about 3,000 miles from Rex but I think I could still feel the ground shake from the stamping feet of a child in the throes of yet another temper tantrum. I wonder if the day will come that Rex becomes the crossword editor and we regular get blank layouts because none of the submissions meet his ridiculously narrow standards. Good grief.

GILL I. 10:10 AM  

Whaaa. Why are you theming my Saturday? I don't want you to. No. Some things should never change - ever!
This was a VERY good Thursday. A very hard Thursday for sure, but Will, don't mess with my head.
So much I didn't know. I've never heard the HAND BRA FRIEND ZONE terms not did I know the COW POSE or the MODEL UN. I managed to get them piece by piece because I figured out the theme at EVERY SO OF [TEN]. Of course I went up to 10D and wondered what RESTLESS had to do with all the tea in China but then I did one of those OH, the clue says with 10 literally. Cute. DEAD WE EIGHT gave me the much needed SE answers that I didn't know. onward.
Without hesitating, I had FREE SPIRIT for 29D. So now I know FRIEND ZONE. Yeah, it works both ways. I have lots of male friends that I would never ever dream of having anything other than a friendship with. Why even try to ruin a good thing... As far as HAND BRA. I had the HAND in there and thought, oh no, It can't be J** can it? Could that be a technique a female uses and is all modest about? I don't think I've used the cover your boobs act. I spent may years in Europe where you just let em hang out.
Love VERMEER. Love ROXANE and sweet hearted big nosed CYRANO. Learned a few new phrases so that was good. Hate OXES but loved the clue for STYX.
@Quasi...I also thought of CHOCOLAT (my all time favorite flick) but I think the producers were British..?
Another indoor day for me since smoke still lingers in the air. The Delta breeze is pushing it east for a while. I thought of Clare yesterday in Tahoe; the area was covered in yellow haze. So sad....

Anonymous 10:10 AM  

Sam Trabucco,
This is what a Saturday puzzle should be. Terrific stuff. Thank you.

Why in the world do you believe Saturdays shouldn't be themed?
As for friend zone and hand bra, please, we all know your feminist bona fides. No need to get your panties in a twist, obsessively looking for slights to your pals in the Womens studies dept.
Hell, don't 2/3 of your pulp novels feature a dame doing the hand bra thing?

Unknown 10:15 AM  

Like others have written, the NYT puzzle app highlighting the "cross-referenced" clues that were not actually being cross-referenced was a real pain in the ass. Definitely kept me mixed up for an unreasonable amount of time. I ended up solving the puzzle by ignoring highlighted clues and just going with what I thought were good answers. I was able to follow my gut a little more nce I realized that the theme answers were incomplete on their ascribed line. Super frustrating, but a learning experience for future puzzles.

Unknown 10:16 AM  

Worst Saturday puzzle EVER!

Ethan 10:23 AM  

Take a look at the final letter of each themer, then read the next few letters down. You'll notice that it spells out the number referenced in the clue.

Anonymous 10:23 AM  

Not a fan of the theme or gimmick or whatever that was. Solved the entire thing without figuring it out and had to come here for an explanation. The best I could come up with was that the downturned answers mimicked the position of a woman’s hands in relation to her arms when she makes a hand bra. (Never heard that term before. I had “HAND FAN”, picturing a woman holding her hand to her mouth to conceal her expression.). Still, I had a few good “Aha!” moments in the course of solving it.

mmorgan 10:25 AM  

@ghthree: "Sunday, April 28, 2018"??? Either that's the wrong day/date or the wrong year...

Sioux Falls 10:26 AM  

@everyone who commented about the false highlighted answers on he app — DNF because of these. Was this a programming error? Did someone see “with 10-down” and wrote code to highlight 10-down? Might have been fun if not for these.

Aisha bint Abī Bakr 10:28 AM  

Where I come from, a modest woman would cover her face, not her breasts. Not all the world has the West's obsession with breasts.

Steve 10:31 AM  

Can somebody please explain 16 across to me

DrBB 10:34 AM  

Figured out the trick only when I was getting the last theme answer, so it wasn't much help, but I did think it was a cruel--but fair!--bit of misdirection (Dimsdale joke omitted here).

I mostly agree on resenting it when Fri/Sat puzzles have a theme, except I thought the rule was that it's ok if there's a clever them that's too hard for a Thursday. This one definitely fell into that ZONE for me. I liked it (even if it ticked me off a little).

Anonymous 10:48 AM  

Ugh. HANDBRA has no place in an NYT puzzle. Theme was horrible. Hated it,

Anonymous 10:54 AM  
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous 10:54 AM  

Are you obsessed with faces?

Anonymous 10:56 AM  

WET as in county.

Anonymous 10:57 AM  

I do the NYT xword for the mental challenge and the fun. This puzzle was a great challenge and a lot of fun. Regarding the fact it had a gimmick on a Saturday: BFD. It was challenging and fun!

CDilly52 10:58 AM  

Same problem, but it eventually helped me figure out the theme - alas after (OK, waaaay after) I had finished. I went looking for the themers by finding the highlights and recalled that one of them was 7D, but when I hit 7D only that clue was lit. Hmmmm, so I went looking for one of the goofy “unfinished” answers and hit on 23A which lit BOTH 23A and 7D. While trying to suss out the reason for the atypical highlighting of “paired answers,” that’s where I finally saw the word SEVEN that is part of 5D, PRESSEVENT. And then I got it.

Z 10:59 AM  

I loved the puzzle, loved the theme, LOVED the AHA moment of seeing that the words TEN and EIGHT were going down. I already had EVERY SO OFT(RESTLESS) and was wondering how RESTLESS transformed into EN. Can you really ask for anything more than a puzzle that puzzles then gives you that sudden I HEAR YA moment. I don't think so.

Hey People - Rex loves his themeless puzzles and is irked he didn't get one today. It's perfectly okay. He can feel that way and you do not have to feel that way.

I remember seeing this sort of critique of FRIENDZONE the first time and wondering WTF for much the same reasons described by @'mericans and @Trudy Morgan-Cole. I've only ever understood it as a perfectly fine modern update to the notion of "unrequited love." Now I see that some subset of immature males misunderstand the term and the source of the problem and do that all too human thing of transferring responsibility to the other. That a guy who deals with young 20-somethings would be aware of this misuse becoming the norm is hardly surprising. I recommend reading @anonymous7:52's excerpt from The Urban Dictionary before concluding that Rex is wrong on his take.

Anonymous 11:02 AM  

I see the iPad highlights as a part of the faux cross-reference “misdirect.” Didn’t feel like a mistake. Enjoyed it.

Z 11:05 AM  

@Steve Goldberg - One who abstains from drinking alcohol is a "dry." One who does not abstain is a WET.

Anonymous 11:09 AM  

I had AGE for 59A--and it seemed perfectly normal for the sporting event to be pod raGe instead of pod raCe--that would make a great video game.

Robso 11:14 AM  

I finally got the trick to this, and instead of thinking “Oh!” I thought “Oh . . .” which is not what I wanted. Also, crossing MYELIN with BELA Fleck and the Flecktones?

Anonymous 11:17 AM  

Yeah. Some subset, a small one by all accounts, goes on tilt and the phrase is bad? That's nuts. Your first take was corre t. Its a freshening up of the language to describe an an age-old phenomenon.
Hell,today's puzzle has an example. Its right under your nose. Cyrano is in the friendzone for much of the play that bears his name. Shessh. You and Rex are quitd the pair. You can see toxic masculinity even when its not there. That must come in handy.
Im gonna read the Odyssey and see what a smart woman named Penolope has to say to that guy who keeps making advances.Whats his name agaain?

Anonymous 11:20 AM  

@Z - I think Rex should allow that his take on the phrase FRIEND ZONE might not be the definitive one. Because some subset of immature males uses words in a particular way they’re off limits to the rest of society?

JC66 11:21 AM  


"That a guy who deals with young 20-somethings would be aware of this misuse becoming the norm is hardly surprising."

Rex's time might be better spent helping the young 20-somethings (a small subset) better understand that it's not always the guy who's rejected (so they stop misusing the term) rather than trying to convince mature adults on his blog that FRIENDZONE is sexist.

CDilly52 11:25 AM  

How about my personal favorite, the VW THING!!

Amelia 11:25 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous 11:28 AM  

I think Rex and Donald Trump have a lot in common---they spend way too much time on Twitter and then go into a rage because of it. Friend zone may be changing in meaning to be more negative. MTV ran a show called Friend Zone or something like that. The young people would go on a date because one wanted to move the relationship into a romantic phase (not necessarily sleep with the person). Often the other person was surprised and wanted to stay in the friend zone. I had never heard of hand bra as most people here. Highlighting of clues was extremely misleading. I did not understand what was happening until coming here to the blog.

I had 'Nero' at first for an answer in the NW but then decided that El Greco must have painted The Astronomer. So then I put in Iago for Nero. It wasn't straightened out until I googled some answers. Very good and challenging puzzle.

Just stay in your zone, friend! 11:28 AM  

There's nothing intrinsic about the term FRIEND ZONE that implies the man hates, or even resents, the woman who put him there. Some men are able to accept that a given woman "isn't all that into him" and some men aren't. This has been true since time immemorial. Unfortunately, too many men -- even if they have no hair, no teeth, bad breath, and a bulging belly -- think they're God's gift to women. These are the men who in earlier eras referred to the women who rejected them as "frigid" or as "lesbians". Anything to prove to the world that it's not because they themselves are unattractive or unappealing. So really, there's nothing new under the sun and this whole FRIEND ZONE flap today is much ado about nothing.

Anonymous 11:35 AM  

Wet as in wet bar, wet county. So not abstaining = consuming alcohol

Posting as sea cow today...

“Holy” themeless Fri/Sat says it all - it has ceased to become a pleasant diversion and become a religion with all the baggage.

Really enjoyed this one. Got the gimmick after getting most of answers, then it helped me get the last section in the south and complete the puzzle.

Pod race from original Star Wars, wasn’t it. Luke practiced at his uncle’s place.
Roxanne is how I remember the name spelled in the movie, but that wasn’t the clue here.
Googling hand bra or looking up friend zone in urban dictionary and finding unseemly results is hardly a good barometer. By that test, every single woman’s name you can think of doesn’t pass...
Cowpose oddly seems like the most sexual image in this puzzle...

The gender rhetoric has really gone off the rails. Gives credence to right wing types complaining about academia as bastion of liberal crap foisted on population.

What does that chart prove? Are women submitting equally, but being rejected out of proportion? You could use this chart to say a) Will Shorts discriminates against women b) women aren’t good at making puzzles (I, of course don’t believe either of these). Numbers without context very disappointing from someone in academia.

Anonymous 11:35 AM  

Hi all,
We can stop the discussion regarding 29 down. I checked Rex's twitter and it affirmed that the crosssord group he belongs to ajudicated the question. "The verdict, nay"
So there you have it, tne King and his court have spoken. Move along, noghing to see here.

Paul Rippey 11:38 AM  

Uh oh. 79% of the comments here are from men. Rex needs to remedy that NOW! Well, no he doesn’t, and I made up the statistic. Statistics can be indicators of SOMETHING but causality is complex. Engineering schools and prisons are both overwhelmingly full of males, and that bothers me but I don’t think the solution is to arbitrarily send bus loads of women to either type of institution.

TubaDon 11:38 AM  

A PROPERly puzzling puzzle. Had to start at the bottom and worked up. Discovered a glitch in the downloaded version check facility. My first guess at 1A was GNAT which of course led to confusion in the NW. After checking, the G was not marked wrong. When I finally finished, I experimented, and found that no matter what you entered in the top left cell, it was not marked wrong no matter whether you checked the letter, the word(across or down) or all letters!

Anonymous 11:38 AM  

Too bad the puzzle couldn't have also had as answer the architect/artist Mya Lin, maybe even crossing myelin.

Anonymous 11:44 AM  

There’s a “classic,” but not universally recommended, combination in hatha yoga where you alternate repeatedly between the cat and COW POSEs.

JLB 11:47 AM  

Why are themes not allowed on Saturdays? I do realize they are more common on Thursdays. But where is it written...?

Malsdemare 11:49 AM  

@rex. Can I just remention that Lollapuzzola, to which I presume constructors are invited, is 25% female? If you're going to take a stand, please be consistent.

I am never on Sam"s wavelength and that held true here. I had to cheat multiple times and I STILL ended up with ROADRAgE, and wondered why such a thing was in Star Wars. Yeah, HANDBRA was unfortunate. I've been out of this game for a long time so have to ask: don't women ever reside in the FRIENDZONE? Why is it just guys?

I rarely complain about the proper names in a puzzle, but these were tough. Yes, I should have known NERO, but didn't, and needed the V to get. VERMEER. ENYA was a hail Mary, and THE ARTIST and ROXANE? Not a chance though I'll admit I should know the latter.

Bring on Sunday.

puzzlehoarder 11:49 AM  

I emphasize with the online solvers who feel the highlighting of the misdirected entries was unfair. This was a paper solve for myself. However my thinking is so rigid I had the solutions for EVERYSOOFTEN and BADTOTHEBONE right there in front of me in my own handwriting without catching on. I was too busy trying to figure out the NW and the SE. The appearance of the missing letters in the adjacent down answers I literally took as some weird coincidence. I was still trying to make the connection with the misdirected answers. That was how hard I fell for the trick, even on paper.

I finally had the theme lightbulb go off when I realized that 50A could be DEADWEIGHT if 44D actually was SLEIGHT because then that number EIGHT would be going down in the adjacent entry just like those other two and... I've never felt so mentally blind in my life.

Then I still had to get the NE which was gimmick free. HANDBRA was a total unknown but makes sense once you've brain stormed it.

I don't know from gender issues but anyone who uses a phrase like FRIEND ZONE you don't want to get in an elevator with them much less a relationship. They're the same kind of idiot that uses the word ROAD in place of the phrase "road test." I dont care for half speak. That was my take on 27D. If I'm correct that's an all time debut clue for that entry.

I'm not a fan of our host but I couldn't help noticing both REX and BLOG both being in the bottom tier of the puzzle. Deliberate? Who cares?

jb129 11:52 AM  

I stuck with it, but I hated it.

Lojman 12:19 PM  

Neither anonymous nor non-human here. White hetero male, been out of the dating scene for 19 years, and don’t dwell in the web’s underbelly.

FRIEND ZONE has a certain light, bubblegum teenage rom-com sound to it. It’s insidious usage isn’t apparent on its face. Now we know, thanks to this blog.

Enjoyed the puzzle, didn’t mind the theme on a Saturday. Happy weekend!

Bob Mills 12:21 PM  

What do you say after you finished a puzzle without an error without understanding the clues? This was an ordeal.

What is a HANDBRA? And whatever it is, how can it be a technique?

BROTHS as a verb? Wouldn't a logical clue be something to do with soup? A plural noun, in any case.

How can OXES be a plural form of ox?

FRIENDZONE? Is that for real?

AMCS? I know Gremlins and Hornet were made by AMC, but AMCS stands for "AMERICAN MOTORS CORPORATIONS" No good.

Phil 12:21 PM  

Had a 10 minute hunt for an error which set me further from my all time low. Had AGE for (put something past?), and thought POD RAGE sounds like a good game, though eventually i recalled the races

But reeealy wanted PHILS EVENT for Groundhog Day celebrations.

Banana Diaquiri 12:26 PM  

there is some good news, which some may already know, but worth noting. CNN has enough footage for a short season of "Parts Unknown". only one has Bourdain's studio narration. I had wondered how the series was put together: is all the field work done, then all episodes finished in post, or is each done to completion before moving on. appears to be a bit of both, with 4 more trips completed, but no post.

Masked and Anonymous 12:36 PM  

The M&A dead pool for this puz was:
* HANDBRA. Certainly deducible, even tho I'd never heard of it.
* CLIFBAR. But then I am neither a biker or hiker. I do do bicker and hiccer sometimes, tho.
* MYELIN. Stuff that's in m&e that I've never heard of?!? … dark matter!
* BELA and the dark matters. Tough crossin.
* FRIENDZONE. Sounds vaguely unfamiliar. Easy to deduce, like HANDBRA was.
* MODELUN. For young 'uns?
* COWPOSE. Never herd of this, but ain't doin the yoga. Sounds kinda de-meanin & almost a shoe-in for the @RP [very inclusive] xword Bull sh*t category list.

All the above made the nanosecond meter spin quite a bit, during M&A's solvequest. But …

Wow did I ever luck out on the theme mcguffin. Already had ATTENDS filled in at 13-D, when I read the 18-A {With 10-Down, literally, now and then} clue. Already had ?VERY?OOFT at 18-A. Picked up on the TEN-Down maneuver almost instantly, since the TEN was already splatzed in there. Used this info immediately to fill in several Down Theme Numbers, elsewhere. Gained many many precious nanoseconds -- theoretically.

Superb theme idea. Too easy for a SatPuz, maybe. What made it potentially SatPuz difficult, tho, was …
1. Themers were not expected by many solvers.
2. Xtra-sneaky cluin. [Includin at least 7 ?-mark clues ... weeject pick TRA had a great clue, e.g.]
3. All them dead pool entries listed above.

Great puz, no matter what day it runs on. I kinda liked the choice to run it as a SatPuz. Keep people on their toes, plus give @RP lots of harlarious things to rant about. [Primo blog rant-up, btw. Was in so much pain for the constructor and Shortzmeister, that I involuntarily did a HAND-JOCK.]
Thanx, Mr. Trabucco. Brilliant stuff.

Masked & Anonymo3Us


Herb 12:37 PM  

Tough puzzle, and these misprints didn't help!

23A: With 7-Down, literally, (should be 8 Down, literally), neither wins nor loses (BREAK (SEVEN))
50A: With 8-Down, literally, (should be 7 Down, literally) just taking up space (DEAD W(EIGHT))

Anonymous 12:45 PM  

I was a lot more offended by "oxes" than by the theme or "friend zone." Terrible puzzle.

Carola 12:46 PM  

Dastardly, and how! It was hard enough for me to complete the grid, but then...those referenced Downs! I stared at them OX-like for a long time, before my eye happened to alight on the EIGHT of SLEIGHT. Aha! Then I went back and with my pencil heavily boxed in the rest of the corner-turners. Very satisfying.

Hardest corner for me was the NW. I really thought Holbein could have painted an astronomer. Only a guess at RYE gave me the double E I needed to get me to VERMEER.

@Anoa Bob - I knew MYELIN sheath from the long ago med-school days of my husband, where I would read the textbook about all of the fatal diseases that might befall me at any time, probably tomorrow.

@jae - I managed to finish that 2000 Klahn puzzle, in a two-day session where returning with new eyes did the trick. What a bear! I have the 2007 one in my travel folder for my next long plane flight. Thank you again for the recommendations.

Amelia 12:52 PM  

@Space is Deep nailed it.

I hadn't thought of it, but it's true. Michael Sharp is in academia. The place where my college professor friends tell me they must attend seminars on the use of pronouns for their students, who no longer have the ones you think would be applicable.

He's in a world of political correctness gone batshit.

It's no wonder the NYTimes crossword puzzle doesn't align with his/her/their views.

It was a wonderful puzzle, nevertheless.

Richard 12:59 PM  

Regarding friend zone, as a mature man, I have no respect for men who use this term as a put down of women and who view woman primarily as sex objects. However, as one who tends to give intelligent people the benefit of the doubt, and WS and the constructor are intelligent people, I think it is plausible that they saw this term as a) in the language and b) as being viewed by intelligent solvers as satire. I doubt that Michael (I do not refer to him as OFL because I can think of other adjectives that are more descriptive) would have this view of WS, I am curious whether any of you know Will well enough think that he might have kept this tern in the puzzle because it is satiric and that he is not a chauvinistic pig. I also doubt that the constructor is a chauvinistic pig.

Anonymous 1:06 PM  

@M&A - HAND jock! Winning the Comments...

Nancy 1:07 PM  

@Bob Mills (12:21) -- I don't know how to break this to you, but it's FROTHS, not bROTHS. Probably 85 other people will say the exact same thing before the next batch of comments to up.

Some nice, albeit anonymous "takes" on the whole FRIEND ZONE contretemps: two at 11:28 and one at 11:35. But I don't understand your take, @puzzlehoarder (11:49). Why is FRIEND ZONE "half speak"? Can you explain?

I love the hypochondria copped to by both @Teedmn (9:53) and @Carola (12:46) re MYELIN. I do hope you're both sort of kidding, though.

Suzie Q 1:09 PM  

This was bad to the bone great!
Bela Fleck is wonderful.
Took forever to remember the gymnast still over shadowed by Olga and Mary Lou.
Hand bra cracked me up.
Gene pool required some thought as did so much today
I don't see all of the sexual controversy.
All-in-all I say Thank you Sam.
The toughness reminded me of "the good old days" that a few of you have been talking about lately.

Anonymous 1:15 PM  

what a disappointment after yesterday.

Matthew G. 1:30 PM  

I agree with Rex on FRIEND ZONE. Those of you arguing that it can be gender-neutral, I HEAR YA, but there's no question that FRIEND ZONE *originated* as a term used by sullen straight dudes to whine about women who enjoy their platonic company but aren't sexually attracted to them. And that origin is quite recent. So it retains that connotation even if some women have used the term along the way, too. The best practice is to avoid the term, I'd say.

jberg 1:34 PM  

OXES in the puzzle, MILLENNIUMS on the front page ( in the story on the Euphrates, which doesn’t start from a glacier). The end of the world is at hand.

I’m with @Lewis and (I think) @Z— it’s better if you can’t tell what kind of a puzzle it is by the calendar.

I finally got the gimmick with EVERY SO OFTEN, which helped with a couple other answers.

As I’ve seen FRIEND ZONE used, it’s more specific— you gradually realize you’re in love with someone who’s already a friend, but either he or she doesn’t feel the same way or you are too scared to find out. More a sense of wistfulness than entitlement— but I get the point that it may be used differently by some.

I knew MYELIN once I figured out it wasn’t my Elon, but had “hair bra” for too long—as in many pictures of Lady Godiva, or of mermaids. Kept me from seein NERO.

I guessed EMO POP— then looked it up to confirm it’s a thing. But DNF because I put in Eure for the river, and left the U even after I got the first A. Lots of people say YU for you, was my rationalization (actually no, they say U.)

@Nancy— missing a tennis clue! Talk about outsmarting yourself.

Masked and Anonymous 2:07 PM  

@RP: Why shouldn't any crossword day have a theme? Is it just your well-known preference for themeless puzs, combined with a NYTPuz traditionalist bent?

Consider …
* Some regularly published [very good] crosswords have no themes and come out on a Monday. (BEQ puzs and New Yorker puzs, e.g.)
* NYTPuzs have a tradition of breakin with many crossword traditions. Part of their charm.
* Runt puzs are sometimes (34.86%) themeless, and are traditionally pitiful. Part of their charm.
* What better place to sneak in a puz with a bogus cross-ref theme, than on a day when people anticipate themelessness? Too sadistic, U say? HAND-PENCIL, M&A says.


Anonymous 2:09 PM  

Rex, the inumerate (see his risible chart) now claims on twitter he doesnt read the comments here. I can only marvel at his ESP that enabled him to insult me by twisting my comment into a jab at me. If he didnt read it someine read it to him. Thats a distinction witnout a difference. That makes Mr. Sharp a liar.

Anonymous 2:15 PM  

Matthew G,
Citatation needed. I beleive the exact opposite. A coinage developed as a shorthand by girls to desribe the romantic worthiness of any guy. A rating system existing independly of particular attachments or even events.

Anonymous 2:19 PM  

Wonder if Rex noticed that in his soduku infographic, Maleskas best year isnt any better than WS's. What is his grudge agianst The Hoosier?

RVA flier 2:25 PM  

Thoroughly enjoyed this puzzle. The review here, not so much. Why so angry and negative? Done coming here for a while.

Sea Lion outta here 2:31 PM  

AAHHHHH... I'm officially done with this blog. The PC nonsense is way out of control. FRIENDZONE offends you? Really?? You do realize that this PC crap helped get Trump elected and keeps playing right into his hand. Stop the insanity!

Aketi 2:36 PM  

I may have figured out the literal downs thanks to BAD TO THE BONE (I saw George Thorogood in Sacramento in the late 1970s before the album came out) but I got stuck for the longest time on MODEL UN. Inexcusable since my son was on his high school team and I chaperoned some of the trips.

@Bob Mills, seriously? I’m pretty sure you’re joking, but if not: Take your shirt off, look down, and place your hands over your pecs. You’ve made one.

Now please don’t ask M&A to explain HAND JOCK, which caused my iced cappuccino to go up my nose when I read it.

@Paul Rippey, you have not kept up with the inroads young women have made into engineering schools. Your statement would have been true when my Dad dissuaded me from choosing engineering as a career. Since It was tough enough to survive the boys in high school when I was the lone girl in architecture and drafting classes I didn’t really question his advice at the time. When I toured colleges with my son when he was in high school I was actually enthralled by the direction engineering had taken and with the increases in young women going into engineering I would have unhesitatingly applied myself if I were younger. The better programs are integrating engineering across other fields like business and design.

Chip Hilton 2:36 PM  

Loved it. A great Saturday challenge, which is all I ask, themed or not. And the eventual appreciation of the theme brought one of those very cool “aha!” moments. I never got BOZO. Went with dOdO and dELA (even though I pulled up BELA from the deep recesses at first, dammit). My first attempt at 29D. was FRIENDonly. I settled for FRIENDdONE. Alas . . .

FRIENDZONE rant? Sorry, don’t see it.

Unknown 2:57 PM  

Not only did I not enjoy the theme, but the clueing is off in across lite. E.g., 23A says: With 7-down.... It’s not 7D, but 5D. This messed me up with all themed answers. (19A says with 10D, 56A says with 1D, 50A says with 8D) Not Fair!!

Tom4 3:01 PM  

Poor execution imho to have two themers that end properly on the down clue and two that don’t.

Why are nipples immodest???

Gedankenexperiment 3:06 PM  

Do you think straight men in "friends with benefits" situations complain about being relegated to the FRIEND ZONE?

Yeah, me neither.

JC66 3:11 PM  

@Nancy Maloney

It appears you haven't grokked the theme completely.

Dropping SEVEN down from the S in BREAKS yields BREAKSEVEN...neither wins nor loses.

JC66 3:15 PM  
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Anonymous 3:23 PM  

Youre the one not keeping up. Check out Scananavia. By far, by oceans, the most gender blind societies the world has ever known. Women in math, sciencec and engineering fields are declining. Have been for a while. Its just possible tnere is a difference between men and women. Apostasy i know. But numbers dont lie. Rignt Rex?

ghthree 3:28 PM  

Mea Culpa. Sunday, April 22, 2018. Lynn Johnston's artistry is really worth a view. Sorry I screwed up the date.

Banana Diaquiri 3:36 PM  

@Sea Lion outta here:
You do realize that this PC crap helped get Trump elected

it wasn't PC crap, but white grievance and supremacy that did the trick and those who brag that Trump has a mandate for his kleptocracy need to remember that is was only 78,900 votes in three otherwise sane states that enabled him. that's not a lot of votes to overcome, esp. as he proves day after day that he's The Manchurian President. unless you like the idea of Putin, Jr. as your Dear Leader. scared that white folks will soon not be the majority, are we?

Matthew G. 3:38 PM  

@Anonymous of 2:15 p.m.,

Sure, here's your citation (from 2013, which is about the time I became aware of the term FRIEND ZONE, I would estimate):

The “friend zone” is inherently sexist. Although the term “friend zone” is ostensibly gender-neutral, it is used most often to describe male-female relationships, where the male is the friend-zonee and the female the object of unrequited desire (in fact, when I conducted an informal straw poll among my friends to see if we could find examples of the reverse, the only ones we could come up with were Taylor Swift’s “You Belong With Me” and an episode of the Disney Channel series "Even Stevens"). This is not because women are “friend-zoned” less frequently than men are, but because women are conditioned to be less vocal about their sexual desires. “As a girl, if you are friend-zoned, you don’t come out and say, ‘Oh, that guy is such an asshole, he’s putting me in the friend zone,’” says Star, the co-author of "How To Get Out of the Friend Zone." “You internalize it a little and say, 'Oh I must be doing something wrong.'”

Of course, men in the “friend zone” have no such compunctions. On Reddit, Yahoo! Ask forums and YouTube comment threads, they share their experiences with being “friend zoned,” all in the same clinical, vaguely corporate vernacular, complaining about having done all the “work” or “investing” time in the friendship without reaping any benefits.


Anonymous 3:39 PM  

@MatthewG - The term was popularized by a 1994 episode of the American sitcom Friends.

TJS 3:46 PM  

I am amazed at the number of people who have said that they solved the puzzle without having any idea what the gimmick was. Wouldn't that mean that you felt that "everysoof", "deadw" and "bad to the b" were correct answers ? Or is just getting the happy pencil or whatever good enough?
I knew I was going to hate this puzzle at "oxes", but when I finally broke the code, I did have to admire the construction.
Some of Rex' rants just crack me up, kind of like the Rosanne Rosannadanna character on SNL who went off on misguided rants and when corrected, just said "Nevermind". Except Rex never stands corrected.

Matthew G. 3:49 PM  

Sure, if you say so. I was a teenager in 1994 and never heard until I was well into adulthood.

Matthew G. 3:50 PM  

@Sea Lion outta here:

Anonymous 3:54 PM  

Wait. Salon is the source?! I've changed my mind. There's some serious scholarship going on there.
Mathew, could you forward me a link to Ms. subscriptions when you get a chance? Much appreciated.

Anonymous 4:01 PM  

So when you say origin, you mean when you first became aware of something.

Whatsername 4:03 PM  

I would have loved this on a Thursday but on Saturday morning found it mostly annoying. I don’t get 27D “take it for a ride”/ROAD. I’ve taken many a vehicle for a ride on a road test but to my knowledge “road”is not and never has been a verb.

Lewis 4:03 PM  

@suzieQ -- I'm going to see Bela for the first time in February, as he's coming to my hometown. Greatly looking forward to it...

Anonymous 4:10 PM  
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
GILL I. 4:26 PM  

@JLB 11:47: "Why are themes not allowed on Saturdays?"
Did you ever watch the movie "Shirely Valentine?" There is a scene where her husband throws his evening meal at her; it misses and splatters on the wall. He yells "CHIPS AND EGGS ON A TUESDAY...TODAY IS THURSDAY!!!!"
You see, he was a very hard working bloke who had the same meal every day of the week. He was used to his Chips and Eggs but only on Thursday. Shirley was absent minded and planning her trip to Mykonos, Greece and completely forgot it was Tuesday. On Tuesdays, he ate steak....
The moral of the story is that if you change someones routine, you will get egg thrown at you and your wife will leave you.
Themes on Saturday are like chips and eggs on Tuesday.

Hungry Mother 4:26 PM  

Long slog today. Started before my 5 mile race. Then, got back to it on the ferry home from Cape May. Then finished it after unloading and unpacking. I loved the theme.

Anonymous 4:57 PM  

Are you a Delawarian? Anyway, hope Cape May was good. It's my favorite beach. Probably beacuse it's my father's favororite. His 75th is fast approaching and im trying to coordinate a celebration there. It's going exactly as well you might expect given the variables of family and summer.Ugh.

Anonymous 5:20 PM  

What's all this about violins on TV!

Hartley70 5:23 PM  

Oh my gosh, what a kerfuffle about FRIENDZONE. It’s been around forever and it’s not the least bit controversial. If you don’t want to date him, he’s in the FRIENDZONE, unless he’s so creepy you unfriend him altogether. Big deal.

Great tough puzzle. I’ll take a theme or a gimmick any day of the week. Bring it on, Will. None of the entries felt off except for OXES. That NE corner held me up and made me late, even though I had OFTEN. I don’t know my comics and I really wanted “dance captain” for the TRA answer. Rats!

I keep an eye on my MYELIN sheaths too, @Teedman.

Anonymous 5:25 PM  

More than one animal ox-oxen. More than one metaphoric (Bufoon) ox-oxes. Seems OK.

Anonymous 5:30 PM  

If you go for a bike-car-motorcycle ride you take the ROAD.

Anonymous 5:33 PM  

A description of insanity

Anonymous 5:38 PM  

> I hate the leering straight-dude quality of a couple of the marquee answers here

Come on, Rex. Sam Trabucco was one of the constructors in Queer Crosswords, an LGBTQ-constructors-only puzzle pack raising money for LGBTQ charities (that you nominally supported). Maybe let's avoid asserting things about the identities of the constructors of puzzles just because you don't like some of their answers?

Suzie Q 6:35 PM  

@ GILL.I I love Shirley Valentine and that scene was so memorable. Glad to know someone else has seen it. (Tuesdays at my house is cheeseburgers.)
@ Lewis, Hope you have a great time. I'll bet you will.

Anonymous 6:37 PM  

@ Aketi, Women engineers made a certain pedestrian bridge in FL.

jae 7:15 PM  

@ Carola - Congrats on finishing the 2000 Klahn puz! I think I missed it by a couple of squares.

Anonymous 7:26 PM  
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Z 8:21 PM  

@JC66 - I don't think Rex is trying to convince anyone. He is describing what is. However you and I may remember or intend the phrase, that's not it's only meaning now, nor it's primary meaning in many (most?) settings. We can rant and rave all we want, but it doesn't change what the phrase means now. Fortunately, I doubt it is a phrase I would have much need to use anymore with any meaning nor hear used by the people I associate with most often.

Anonymous 8:32 PM  

Agree! And speaking of rings I initially pwanted "gymnast" for 12 down...

Anonymous 9:36 PM  

Question: If OFL doesn't ever read the comments here, then who (or what) has been saddled with the task of moderating comments?

They sure earned their keep today.

joebloggs 10:13 PM  

I could not agree more. Absolutely trash to do that on the app that way.

Oldflappyfrommississappy 2:05 AM  

I am goddamned furious about FRIENDZONE.

Steve 10:15 AM  

Z, thanks

clk 11:09 AM  

I was busy yesterday and didn’t spend much time trying to solve this puzzle but MYELIN and BELA were my gimmes. Funny how everyone has such different domains of knowledge.

clk 11:44 AM  

Seriously. Before you credulously fall for every absurd story you see on the internet, you should check it on Snopes. They knock down left wing rumors as well as right wing ones.

Anonymous 9:32 AM  

Wouldn’t have finished if I hadn’t had insomnia last night. Never got the theme but finished correctly. Learned as others did that iPad xword highlight magic is to be ignored from now on.. “Handbra” is stupid and/or gross, can’t decide, Other stupid clues/answers were: Road, Wet, Ryebeer (that’s a thing??), and above all, “Emo pop”, which SURELY is not a thing. Did not feel like a smart puzzle, just a grind.

MBI 12:58 PM  

Not a single one of you noticed or mentioned that Morticia Addams was listed as Fester's niece in the clues when everyone knows that she's his sister-in-law. How has this blunder not been mentioned

Astro 7:13 AM  

Yeah....with the app no no...sorry nope. Ain’t doing it. Call me a dumbass, but if the technology is going to screw you up, then either no more app...paper only or The Great App Makers apologize profusely and swear NEVER to do that again.
I’m not mad at it. I’m freaking FURIOUS at it. Uh uh, nope, breaker, just plain wrong.

Anonymous 12:21 PM  

AGree with Rex about leering quality AND posters complaining about app mis-direction:

"think there is an unfair aspect: in the NYT XWord app on my phone, the misdirecting Down answers are highlighted when you click on the Across theme entries. I.e. when you click on 18A, 10D is highlighted. That’s not fair — it takes the misdirection too far IMO and forces you to think that Down *answer* is involved"

Overall: Not fun.
Cluing of themers wasn't ingenuous either, as Rex points out.
Especially when "Handbra" is matched up with "Bad to the Bone" by the app
Other issues:
Friend zone (when groupled with the rest; it wears you down)
Cow Pose
...the benefit of doubt starts to fade...
One starts to suspect, overall, the sort of snickering background "joke" men make around water coolers, which leaves them cold silent when a woman approaches; it's as if this was constructed over a few Froth-y Rye Beers after a break-up.
And Tapa as a singular seems forced at best.

rondo 11:06 AM  

For all of you BOZOs claiming there are double letters: there aren't any. Read REX's explanation of the theme and then stop. Do not read the rest of his inane commentary or your head might explode. Yeesh!

The HANDBRA was the last word completed. Took some alphabet-running to get that one. The whole puz took quite a while to complete, about 6X OFL's time.

The Steve Martin movie ROXAN(n)E starred yeah baby Daryl Hannah as THEARTIST in the title role.

Genius puz, IMHO. And we were told what every themer was. If you didn't get it, well, worse than PAR for you.

Burma Shave 11:27 AM  


so I LOOKAT a BOZO so reckless, and ENDURE being BADTOTHEBONE.


Anonymous 11:27 AM  

@Space is deep: GMTA. If we scrub every trace of sex from the language, what will we be left with? Expressions such as 1-down recall mostly movie scenes for me. That one harks to "As Good As It Gets," when Carol gets caught in a rainstorm. There's nothing "bad" about that; it's just being human. Geez, guys, lighten up. Perfectly PROPER, IMHO.

So is a themed Saturday. So what? Is there some "tradition" we're trying to hang onto? Do things the way we've ALWAYS done them? Now you're sounding like the British.

FRIENDZONE is a new expression I haven't heard (at 78 I've been out of the dating game for generations), but I understand the context. OFL and others really put an adverse spin on it, again because of some weird uber-sensitivity to the whole "sexist" thing. I have a bulletin for you guys: humans are sexual creatures! And thank goodness: that's how we keep on keepin' on.

Now as to my experience solving this thing: I did! And the triumph factor is beyond the Oort cloud! One thing that does belong on a Saturday is tough clues; this baby has those in spades. Shoehorning my way in with STYX/EXMATE/HEM, I soon found that 56 across was going to be some version of George Thorogood's hit--but not enough spaces...then I saw it: the turndown. And the significance of "1-Down" hit HOME. Now I was helped in other areas with similar clues, but it still wasn't easy to finish. It was all pretty hard work. Challenging throughout. What's a CLIFBAR? DOD is ENYA. Eagle!

thefogman 2:30 PM  

I had HAirBRA (à la Lady Godiva) before HANDBRA. The NW corner was the toughest part for me. I looked up Octavio's husband so that's another DNF, which is a shame because I guessed NERO at first but the HAirBRA put me in the weeds. It took me a while to get the gimmick. I kept looking up the corresponding down answers for something to correspond with the acrosses. Then I noticed the corner-down pattern and that was that. Rex is an anti-theme snob and is being way too harsh. Good themers are fun any day of the week and this one is no exception. Nice work Sam Trabucco.

Diana,LIW 3:21 PM  

First, I looked up the myriad names I did not know. Boo.

Then, when I finished, I still didn't "get" it. Now I do. Knew it was clever. All those posts? Must read comments now...

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords that don't have a tone of unknown to me names

Anonymous 4:26 PM  

Kenneth Munson 12:58 PM:
Ummm...maybe because Morticia Addams does not appear in this puzzle anywhere?
Yer on the wrong puzzle, dude.

El Dingo 4:31 PM  

Hmm. Connotation always trumps denotation: Thus FRIEND ZONE has come to mean an abject state of rejection instead of a neutral description of the relationship. But then, we have a social history of men bartering for women’s favors, have we not?

The connotation-versus-denotation dilemma is especially important in an era of acrimonious debate, a time when a word like “progressive” can somehow acquire pejorative baggage.

As for OXES, come on: surely we ought to have SOME standards!

rainforest 4:44 PM  

Great puzzle. First entries were PAR,TRA, ATTENDS, CLIFBAR, FROTHS and MYELIN which gae me a pretty good base to start figuring this thing out.

The spelling of ROXANE befuddled me, and my too-long cross-referencing clues almost made me give up. Getting BAD TO THE B--- was my "aha", and opened the door for the other themers. It also gave me __ZONE and thus FRIEND ZONE. Non-sexist nor controversial in my opinion.

It was quite risible to see how people misunderstood some of the entries. E.g. several of the animal are OXEn, whilst more than one OX, the person is, of course, OXES. Also, you take a ROAD when you go for a ride. Also the numbers going down were used appropriately. Why am I explaining all this for we smart Syndies? I dunno.

strayling 7:57 PM  

Pedant alert, but: "It was quite risible to see ..."

I would never mock you for seeing something.

centralscrewtinizer 9:54 AM  

Started with fig leaf, the only other person besides Pete. I always thought women put their arm across their exposed breasts so they could put a hand elsewhere. Oh, well. Messed up messing around with purIST and theIST and never saw ARTIST. Wanted peRE because I don't know French and would never had gotten ETRE.
No complaints about this tough puzzle.

G.S. 4:53 AM  

It's Saturday, I just want a really difficult Brad Wilber themeless. This puzzle is trying to hard. Why are the letters that begin each number repeated? BAD TO THE BO_ONE? FRIEND ZONE, in my male experience is used by some jack hole to vent his resentment against women. As if men have a default sexual entrée WRT women.

ramroot 3:00 PM  

Agree with WHATSERNAME, ROAD is not a verb! Even if you "take the road", take is the verb, not road. You "ROAD test" , and test is the verb. Also, I never found a definition of odes as buffoons.

J Howard 8:10 PM  

Do yourself a favor and get to know Bela

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