Voldemort, to Harry Potter / WED 8-29-18 / Rough spots for teens? / Grp. co-founded by Helen Keller

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Constructor: Alex Bajcz

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: City work — Each theme answer is a city name preceded by a "profession" which is an anagram of the city name

Theme answers:
  • DIAGNOSES SAN DIEGO (18a: Work as a metropolitan health official?)
  • COUNTS TUSCON (29a: Works as a metropolitan census taker?)
  • HASTEN ATHENS (44a: Work as a metropolitan traffic engineer?)
  • SALVAGES LAS VEGAS (55a: Works as a metropolitan reclaimant?)
Word of the Day: KENKEN (27d: Numbers game)
KenKen is a trademarked name for a style of arithmetic and logic puzzle invented in 2004 by Japanese math teacher Tetsuya MiyamotoAs in Sudoku, the goal of each puzzle is to fill a grid with digits so that no digit appears more than once in any row or any column (a Latin square). KenKen grids are divided into heavily outlined groups of cells –– often called “cages” –– and the numbers in the cells of each cage must produce a certain “target” number when combined using a specified mathematical operation.

• • •

Hi y'all! It's Matthew, your friendly neighborhood radio producer/baseball fan/whale enthusiast in for Rex on this fine Wednesday. To all of you in the comments who thought I was ~too tough~ on last Monday's puzzle: Don't fret! With very few exceptions, today's puzzle was a joy! But as the winds of the anonymous Internet go, you probably hated it. Oh well.

Anywho: let's puzzle! Got off to a disgruntled start with UNSEAL (1a: Open, as an envelope) — you can reseal an envelope, and you can unseal other things ... but "unseal" an envelope? I'm skeptical. HOWEVER the rest of this puzzle was so darn exciting that before long it didn't matter one bit. I had my share of stumbles here and there along with several double-takes — TANK for REEF (24a: Home for a clown fish) (sorry @Nemo), BEGINS for ONSETS (34a: Starts), and JUMP for LEAP (41a: Jeté, e.g.) — but used my trusty crosses to right those wrongs without incurring any serious damage and came in comfortably under my average Wednesday time. Cracking the theme was really fun working from the bottom up. I cobbled together both SALVAGES LAS VEGAS and HASTEN ATHENS before picking up on the anagram component, at which point the other two themers fell nicely into place amidst a grid chock-full of delightful fill. 

I definitely want to give EAGERNESS, USED CAR LOT and ARCHENEMY their due (4d: Zeal / 31d: Place for junkers / 34d: Voldemort, to Harry Potter)  — but the real prize of this puzzle, in my eye, is the staircase of 6- to 8-letter money words cruising right through the middle, with only NOAA (38a: Operator of weather.gov) feeling more like a tourniquet than a snazzy belt.

Yes, I had a great time on this puzzle. Yes, I think it feels like the ~perfect~ Wednesday difficulty. But I've already proclaimed my baseball obsession on this blog and would be remiss if we didn't talk about that pesky clue for ON BASE (30d: In scoring position, in a way). This wouldn't be a big deal except that "scoring position" is a technical tern in baseball to refer only to runners on either second or third. Most runners who end up ON BASE start at first, which, while closer to scoring than the batter's box, is not in "scoring position." 

End mini rant. Hats off to a great hump day.

(The Chicago Cubs have not lost a baseball game since my CrossWorld debut.)
  • SCRAPE (26d: Pickle) — Synonymous, sure, but "in a pickle" is so much more fun to say.
  • BARISTA (42d: Fitting occupation for a "Joe") — My go-to barista in my hometown is named Magic, and he is cooler than I could ever hope to be.
  • ROYAL (49a: Word before flush or pain) — An exemplary Wednesday clue, in my opinion. Makes you think and perhaps second guess yourself (flush?) but doesn't bust your grid. 
  • OBOE (59a: Item with a bore and a bell) — Link your favorite oboist in the comments below. (Seems safe to assume that the worlds of oboe enthusiasts and crossworders aren't mutually exclusive. Let's find out!) 
Signed, Matthew Stock, CrossWorld utility infielder in for Rex

[Follow Matthew Stock on Twitter]
[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


newspaperguy 12:19 AM  

If you are on first base and get hit home, you were obviously in scoring position. Or is it a requirement for all substitute bloggers to be nitpicky?

puzzlehoarder 12:30 AM  

This was right on the money for a Wednesday. I did find it hard to move into the west side of the puzzle prior to figuring out the theme. This started right at the top. I had no idea of the second half of 18A and struck out on the downs in the north middle and the NE corner.

From the clues the first half of the themers were easy to get with the exception of 44A. Ironically that was the one that allowed me to see what the theme was. After that it was a mop up.

Today's fill felt much easier than yesterday's.

Harryp 12:42 AM  

I agree with Easy Medium for this one. I Caught on the Theme just before finishing the puzzle, so it did help me out. Liked it.

jae 12:53 AM  

Tough. I had gin before UNO (a game I’ve never played and only know from crosswords) for way too long. I also kept RAN amok in for an extended period. Put those two things together with not grokking the anagram theme until I was almost done and .... tough! This one seemed a tad off to me, not with standing Mathew’s comments.

Sue T. 1:17 AM  

I enjoyed it too but it took me about 2 minutes longer than my usual Wed. time!
My favorite rock oboe song is Roxy Music's Out of the Blue, featuring the great Andy Mackay.

Dolgo 1:44 AM  

OBOE is one of those all-too-predictable crossword puzzle words like SNL or OREO. Let's try to avoid them, eh, gang?

JOHN X 1:56 AM  

This was a pretty interesting Wednesday puzzle.

If I got slowed up it was trying to figure out what a "metropolitan reclaimant" was. That's not really a job I've ever heard of, except maybe it was a thing in Europe after World War II. Connecting "traffic engineer" with HASTEN was a bit of a stretch too, but once I figured out the anagram thing they were all kind of fun.

I liked SKIMASKS being clued with robbing banks, although if I become a robber I will use a woman's stocking because I think that's a better look. If you want to scare children on Halloween take about five heavy-duty rubber bands and wrap them around your head at angles so they distort your cheeks and eyebrows and lips and so forth, and then carefully pull a stocking over it all. Your face will look like a cubist painting and trick-or-treaters will scream. I scared the hell out of my dog that's how crazy this get-up is.

Here's a picture of me: https://s5.postimg.cc/yoh7obo5j/IMG_6568.jpg

chefwen 2:42 AM  

Took me a while to catch onto the theme, no surprise. Finally got it at SALVAGE LAS VEGAS way down at the bottom, then traveled upward to locate the other cities. Fun puzzle!

My strong Phooey was rats, guess I wasn’t strong enough and my Tush was a rear before it was a BUTT.

Matthew, thanks for filling in, but I had to fast track through your write up because the animated attachments made me car sick, kinda like riding with my husband in Italy who magically turns into an Italian race car driver when faced with hairpin turns in Tuscany.

Greg 3:43 AM  

Just because newspaperguy was so snarky, I’d like to point out that he is also completely wrong. “Scoring position” is a very clearly defined baseball term meaning 2nd or 3rd base. There are very often-cited statistics like runners left in scoring position, or batting average with runners in scoring position (RISP) that are based on this definition. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scoring_position.

That said, I personally didn’t mind the clue very much and agree that this was a great puzzle overall.

smoss11 4:34 AM  

Loved the puzzle. The thought occurred to me that Athens was an outlier as the only non-US city but remembered that there are a number of US cities with the name Athens (Georgia and Ohio come immediately ton mind). Very clever puzzle!! BRAVO!!!

'merican in Paris 5:30 AM  

Yiddish. That's what I thought this puzzle was about initially. Like DIAGNOSES A khalas (disease), or COUNTS TUChes (butt[s]). By the way, when non-Anglophones ask me what distinguishes American English from British, Australian or New Zealand English, I usually answer, "Well, besides spelling, and subtle differences in the meaning of words like 'quite', I'd say Yiddish." I'm not even Jewish, but I love how that language has enriched our vocabulary, or at least the vocabulary of people living in the mid-Atlantic area.

So when I started noticing the city names (first, like @chefwen, at LAS VEGAS), I was at first disappointed. Then, finally, I noticed the anagrams and was impressed.

All that toing and froing made the going medium-challenging for me, therefore. But all in all I considered it a good work-out, with some descent fill. I learned, too, that Hellen Keller was a co-founder of the ACLU. That lady was a real KHAN-do person, that's for sure!

Regarding UNSEAL, it was certainly something that was done with letters back when people used wax seals to close them. So I consider it a fair clue.

Thanks, Matthew, for the write-up. But I'm with @chefwen in not lingering. The gifs I find distracting, and I hate as a reader being forced to parse run-on sets of characters like radio producer/baseball fan/whale enthusiast, which requires me to go back and figure out how far on each of side of the slash I have to make an association.

joebloggs 5:51 AM  

In baseball lingo scoring position refers only to being on 2nd or 3rd. The reason is a single will bring most runners home from second where you need an extra base hit to bring in a runner from first. There are exceptions but you won’t ever hear a play by play man refer to a runner in scoring position unless on 2nd or 3rd.

Conrad 5:55 AM  

@newspaperguy: "Scoring position" definitely refers to a runner on second or third. Those runners are in "position" to "score" on a single. There's a baseball statistic, Batting Average With Runners In Scoring Position (abbreviated RISP) that's considered an indication of a batter's performance in the clutch.

Lewis 6:10 AM  

My solve ground to a halt, due to vague cluing mostly, with a fair amount of white left on the grid. Then with a flash I grokked the theme, and boom the puzzle fell fast. Those flashes are among the best solving moments, and thank you for this one, Alex.

Another such moment is learning something fascinating. Did NOT know that Helen Keller was one of the ACLU's founders. It looks like she was on a committee of 11, which also included Felix Frankfurter before he became a Supreme Court justice. God bless the ACLU.

Down & Dirty 7:26 AM  

In reading the downs, I ate up LIONESS LASAGNE, cringed at DAMN BUTT VAL, pondered AKITA ARCHENEMY and avoided CHEESECAKE AGES

Mike M 7:27 AM  

Hi Could some kind soul out there email me a PDF of today's puzzle? Paper didn't come and I'm at work itching to do it on break. My email is mikemcf33@yahoo.com thanks in advance! Mike

kitshef 7:27 AM  

Hard for a Wednesday – although I guess I should stop saying that as Wednesdays always seem to either be hard or easy, with no middle ground.

Man, does this get off to a rocky start with UNSEAL, NEBR, ACLU and SO CAN I as the first four acrosses.

But the theme was nice, so all was forgiven by the end.

Do NOT put berries on my cheesecake. Nor any kind of fruity sauce. It only ruins it.

I took ON BASE to be a reference to amorous heavy petting.

Down And Dirty 7:31 AM  

In reading the downs, I ate up LIONESS LASAGNA, cringed at DAMN BUTT VAL, pondered AKITA ARCHENEMY and avoided CHEESECAKE AGES

Sorry about the typo in my first try. First timer.

Gulliver Foyle 7:35 AM  

@Newspaperguy: Under your logic, the batter is in "scoring position" since he might hit a home run and thus score.

Anonymous 7:37 AM  

By your logic the batter is in scoring position because if he hits HR, he scores.

ghthree 7:54 AM  

Two points:
1: The word "anagram" is unnecessary. The letters are NOT re-arranged. Yes, TUCSON is really spelled correctly, as are all the others.
2: As for all the purists about "scoring position", you are technically correct, but note that the clue includes the qualifier "in a way". And I loved kitshef's witty alternative.

Mike M 7:57 AM  

Thanks so much to TD. I received the PDF of today's puzzle as requested. So please ignore my request. Have a good day. Mike M

tbd88 8:03 AM  

Favorite oboists: Nicholas Daniel, Albrecht Mayer, John Ferrillo.

Suzie Q 8:05 AM  

Did I do the same puzzle as everyone else? I really did not like it.
It took forever to get on the right wavelength but not liking this is not sour grapes.I just thought the clues were really weird.
Lots of dogs have double coats.
Els for yellow belly? So belly = middle? Yuck.
Nestle up? Nope, sorry. Snuggle up. Nestle in.
I guess a bucket is a pail but why clue it like that?
What is Rock of Love and why should I know it?
Finally, all the theme clues use the word Work or Works but then we have 48A (not a theme answer) with Works in the clue.
Looks like I'm going to be the odd duck today but I was not entertained esp. by the awkward clues for the theme answers.

I also feel ill from those jumping gifs. Enough already!

From yesterday: @Nancy, You're right, not much actual play to be had on YouTube for Riggs/King but mostly hype and talk. If you're going to pick an opponent why choose a guy that looks like Woody Allen? Ha!

Hungry Mother 8:07 AM  

No fan of anagrams. Surprisingly sloggy for midweek.

mmorgan 8:09 AM  

Interestingly, I liked and enjoyed the puzzle, even though I really didn't care for the theme, finding it strangely awkward and cludgy. But I thought the puzzle itself had some great clues and answers.

As several have pointed out, the complaint about ON BASE is not at all a nit -- listen to any game and the announcer will never say "scoring position" with a runner on first. RISP is a thing. A runner on first might "represent the tying run" or the go-ahead run, but is not considered to be "in scoring position." But adding the phrase "in a way" redeemed it for me, so I have no problem with it.

Cassieopia 8:19 AM  

Loved the puzzle. Loved discovering the theme. Exactly medium difficulty for me (2 sec off my average). NE corner was last and I didn’t know Helen Keller helped found ACLU? Wow. @kitshef LOLOLOL!

Arlene 8:23 AM  

Hand up here - I played the oboe in high school and do crosswords.

RooMonster 8:42 AM  

Hey All !
Very neat City Anagram puz. Who knew my humble town LAS VEGAS could be anagrammed into SALVAGES? Alex did, apparently. :-) Wonder how many @LMS might come up with. I have a not-really-one, WONKY-ER NEW YORK.

Had a couple of writeovers, but otherwise Medium-ish. KENoEs-KENKEN (happy I was wrong on that one), gin-UNO. No gripe with UNSEAL. How else do you open an envelope? It is SEALed, after all. RAN RIOT is off to my ears. RAN amok, sure. Lots of Beach clues today. Alex's brain on vacation? Give a NOD to mini word ladder ACNE-ARNE-ARTE. Thinking the clue for ELS is a prime candidate for @M&A's "??".

I find USEDCARLOT as a place for junkers discriminatory towards the owners of said LOTs. Most have very nice cars. No ifs, NUTS, or BUTTS about it. :-)


Annette 8:44 AM  

Helen Keller is also credited with introducing the Akita to the US, so double awesome 11-across and down.

Anonymous 8:46 AM  

Favorite oboist AND favorite player in the Philadelphia Orchestra: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Woodhams

RMK 8:46 AM  

My favorite oboist was Marc Lifschey.

RooMonster 8:49 AM  

Lasagna by Weird Al

You're welcome. :-)


QuasiMojo 8:50 AM  

It's nice to have Matt stop by again but I was really COUNTing on Rex to tear this puzzle a new TUSH. Yes, it's cute and has some AHA moments, or perhaps HAHA is more apt. But it doesn't really hang together. Having three of the themers use the S form of a verb and only one, HASTEN, being the outlier, weakens it. As does the use of ATHENS. I'm assuming it refers to Athens, Georgia which while technically a "city" is hardly a "metropolis." And the verb HASTEN really only would apply to traffic or an activity, but hardly suits a location.

Extra Large for OBESE is also pushing it. An egg can be "extra large" but no one would call it obese.

A BUCKET is a toy?

As for UNSEAL, I'll give it a pass. Documents are UNSEALED all the time. I imagine they are in envelopes.

I apologize for being grumpier than usual lately (yesterday I even fell back into anonymity to make my acid remarks) but this week has served up nothing but weak puzzles so far. Go try Patrick Berry's New Yorker puzzle from Monday and see how far the bar has fallen at the Times.

Anonymous 8:59 AM  

The ACLU will do just fine without god.

Anonymous 9:08 AM  

According to ghthree 7:54, they weren't anagrams. Go figure.

Anonymous 9:13 AM  

If something such as imagination or speculation runs riot, it expresses itself or spreads in an uncontrolled way. My imagination RAN RIOT.

TomAz 9:15 AM  

I would like to join the pile-on against the clue for ON BASE. As others have noted "in scoring position" is an actual baseball term with a specific meaning. To change the meaning in a clue and then try to cover your tracks with "in a way" is silly. Consider the following example: if the clue were "Number of fingers on a human hand, in a way" and the answer were THREE, would that be ok? Of course not. newspaperguy and other pedants might argue "well, if you have five fingers on your hand, then you also have THREE" ... the silliness abounds.

Puzzle was OK.

Anonymous 9:17 AM  

Afraid I'm another one of today's outliers who didn't much care for this puzzle. Surprising to see how many people really liked this one.

It would be fascinating to see if people had to write their comments before reading the blog how different their views would be - such a positive review I suspect (without evidence) influences lots of people into posting positive comments. Or I really am just an outlier on this one, which is of course possible.

GILL I. 9:17 AM  

CLEVER....Loved this puzzle. So glad Matthew subbed for @Rex because every single puzzle I like, he doesn't.
Cluing made this hard for me; didn't care. I had the left coast done and could not figure out the right. When I got to HASTEN ATHENS I let out a little squeak. AHA anagram.
Absolute favorite clue and the one that held me up was 32D-> They hid beneath the surface = U BOATS. I was looking for some type of UFO and then I'm thinking of some sort of disease. I didn't know BRET whatshisname nor NOAA. NESTLE UP wasn't computing. What always works for me when I'm In that kind of rut is to get up off my BUTT and go to another room. Why that works I have no idea. I really get smart when I go to the bathroom.
I had bandana before SKI MASK. That was a holdup as well. I was picturing the old westerns when the hombre in a sombrero would cover his face with a kerchief. I like @JOHN X's idea of pantyhose. I've tried putting them over my face but it's hard to breathe.
I'm with @kitshef. Don't put berries on CHEESE CAKE. I make chocolate CHEESE CAKE so I never have to worry about berries.
I wonder how Alex pronounces his last name. Too bad he couldn't fit in a JZ.

Nancy 9:28 AM  

A fun puzzle -- even though the theme answers tended to be a bit tortured. At least one answer presented a very funny image: I imagined the city of ATHENS (shape to be determined since I can never visualize a map) lumbering heavily down the street, with a man cracking a whip behind it. "Run, ATHENS, run!!!" the man shouts. "Faster!!! Faster!!! Move your DAMN BUTT, ATHENS!!!!"

Got the theme at SALVAGES LAS VEGAS, since I had to start at the bottom and move up. Found it quite challenging for a Wednesday. I was slow to get DIAGNOSE SAN DIEGO, since I had put an N where the final O of SAN DIEGO should have gone. I had GIN instead of UNO for the "cry with one card in your hand". When I'm about to plunk down that last card, "Gin!" is what I shout. I've never played UNO. Anyway a lively, challenging puzzle.

'merican in Paris 9:29 AM  

@QuasiMojo wrote "Athens, Georgia which while technically a 'city is hardly a "metropolis."'

I had assumed that the reference was to Athens, Greece, which certainly is a metropolis (the original one?) and has its fair share of traffic snarls. But then the complaint could be, I suppose that it is an outlier because the other three cities are 'merican.

beajen 9:31 AM  

She was also a proponent of eugenics (newborns born with defects are not worth saving)

Pete 9:38 AM  

My "f*&&*in Anagrams of Cities!?!? What kind of bullshit theme is that!?" tirade last night woke my wife up and caused her to run downstairs in terror, wondering what calamity had happened at midnight. If you're going to do city anagrams, why not city specific anagrams of the city - ROTTEN TRENTON, or DESMOINES IS DEMONS?

I also cringed at UNSEAL, though not because UNSEAL is a bad word. The envelope containing the winner of the Oscar is unsealed on stage. I cringed because I've started doing the spelling bee game on NYTimes. The trick scoring well is to see what prefixes or suffixes can be formed, then randomly apply them to words to see if you can get two or three or four for one. Yesterday we had HUMAN, then UNHUMAN, HUMANLY, UNHUMANLY all as valid words, even though Google auto-correct and I agree that only two of four have been used in HUMAN conversation or writing in the past century. The only get a high score is to try adding the suffixes or prefixes to see if they work. Having a large vocabulary doesn't help - the list of acceptable words are curated to omit obscure words to, in their exact words, "give everyone a chance". Yesterday neither LUAN or LAUAN were acceptable. Yesterday it was so hot I had to take my dogs to Lowes for their evening walk. They prefer to do their business in the lumber aisles where I saw LAUAN plywood for sale, available in 2x2, 2x4, 4x4 and 4x8 sizes, of various thicknesses. LAUAN is good enough for people who actually buy plywood, but not for the NYTimes wordsmiths.

Anonymous 9:39 AM  

@Anon 8:46 - Woodhams is a great guy; De Lancie the biggest jerk in the biz. Rosenblatt (Eng. Hn.) was the gem, though. I accompanied for lessons taught by all three. Louis Rosenblatt was the Mr. Rogers of the double reed world (right to the sweaters); John DeLancie was Voldemort. I always got a kick out of the fact that the actor playing the obnoxious demigod "Q" on Star Trek TNG was also named John De Lancie, though apparently in real life the actor is a nice guy.

Z 9:47 AM  

Anagrams being more about letter play than word play, they really aren’t my thing. Toss in that computers anagram better than people and it sort of takes the shine off. That we have cities and semi-plausible professions helps, but this does not make my top hundred theme type list.

That said, I agree that the fill really does make the rest of the solve pleasant. Just enough bite to be entertaining with a fair amount of word play and trivia. I would just as soon never be reminded of BRET Michaels again, but he has enough fans to keep getting work so I guess he is famous enough. Checking out Wikipedia, he’s actually in my Top Three Most Famous BRETs. Yikes. All you BRETs out there, getting cracking on getting NYTX famous, please.

As for the Great Scoring Position Controversy, I was hoping for “missionary,” but this isn’t a BEQ puzzle so that was never happening. I do want to emphasize a point that has already been made, in a way is a giant flashing neon sign that the answer will not be technically specific. While the nit is correct, those three wiggle words allows the cluer to get away with the clue. “Billy Hamilton is in scoring position when he gets ON BASE. Wilson Ramos isn’t even when he is standing on third.”

AW 9:51 AM  

Agree with you completely. The theme answers are stretched to the breaking point. How do you DIAGNOSE a city or HASTEN [I presume the traffic] in one?

RooMonster 9:57 AM  

Har. I got some alternatives for y'all.

Work as a metropolitan police officer? NERVED DENVER
Works as a metropolitan billboard sayings specialist? ALL ADS DALLAS
Works as a metropolitan love specialist? ROMANCES AT SACRAMENTO
Works as a metropolitan Tupperware tester? BURPS TIGHT PITTSBURGH


Nancy 10:03 AM  

I have no idea what a "gif" is, but let me join @chefwen and @SuzieQ in putting my hand way, way up for needing to avoid dancing images on computer screens. "Seasick" is exactly the right word, @chefwen, and I mean that literally, not figuratively. Maybe we can get all the Rex bloggers to cut it out? Then, oh, please, it's on to the folks at Google. There are entire days when I have to stay off my computer because the Google search box has dancing and leaping and cavorting figures on it that make me dizzy and sick to my stomach. I almost never know what these figures represent that particular day; I only know I want them to go away. Just wondering, @chefwen -- are you, like me, someone who can't read in a moving car, bus, or train? (I can read in a plane, but not when it's ascending or descending.) And I've been like this my whole life. It's one of the reasons I'm a lousy traveller.

Anonymous 10:10 AM  

If your analogy were a BUCKET it wouldn't hold water.

Rainbow 10:17 AM  

why are so many making up a rule for today that the cities have to be in the U.S.? Hope it's not jingoism.

Anonymous 10:44 AM  

Unless you're reading the blog on a boat you can't be literally seasick.

Amelia 11:24 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Banana Diaquiri 11:34 AM  

She was also a proponent of eugenics (newborns born with defects are not worth saving)

one might wonder if she saw the irony in that??? and, before the PC folks RUNRIOT, yes, the wiki (amply linked) confirms. not that I knew, or recalled, before.

Carola 11:37 AM  

Add me to those who 1) found it tough, 2) needed to get all the way to LAS VEGAS to understand the theme, and 3) enjoyed the mental wrestling match. I defended the plural KALES the other day, but I'll leave SLEETS to someone else.

Larry Gilstrap 11:43 AM  

Wow! Anagrams escape me. My greatest fear would be being the contestant on Sunday morning NPR and WS asks me to puzzle some anagrams. Back to you Lulu, because I am terrible.

I was looking for some theme element dealing with cool towns in the West, but the nearest ATHENS would be in GA. Hi @REM.

Good thing lions are not gender sensitive; but, of course they are.

Big old grid and big old grid spanners, caught my eye fresh from the printer.

ALYSSA Milano seems to have grown into an intelligent, enlightened, and vigilant voice in social media.

Thread from yesterday involves punchlines from dirty jokes: "You haven't lived until you've had LASAGNA." Something about Richard Burton and Rome.

Joseph Michael 11:49 AM  

Wow. This was unexpectedly hard. Stumbled through the grid with a trail of white space behind me until I got to the SW. Then SALVAGE LAS VEGAS appeared and things started to happen.

Trickiest clue: Sides of a block. Most intriguing clue: They hid beneath the surface.

Most uncommon common acronym: NOAA.

Favorite themer: HASTEN ATHENS.

Favorite non-themer: ARCH ENEMY. Least favorite: SLEETS. I looked out the window and saw two sleets?

Thanks, Alex. This puzzle was COOLER than cool.

AdamW 11:57 AM  

Not nitpicky. It's a clearly defined term and guest blogger is right. Though I gave it a pass because the clue said "in a way"

JC66 12:00 PM  


Missionary is to scoring position as tee ball is to baseball.

(or so I've heard).

Lewis 12:09 PM  

@quasi mentioned earlier Patrick Berry's puzzle in this week's New Yorker, and he is right. It is Berryesque wonderful. Here's a link to the free puzzle: https://www.newyorker.com/crossword/puzzles-dept/2018/07/23 .

jb129 12:12 PM  

I haven't disliked a puzzle this much in a long time - in fact, I hated it.

Masked and Anonymous 12:16 PM  

{Works as a loyal metropolitan consumer??} = FAN EATS SANTA FE? Yeah... Didn't think so.
Would make a nice, weirdball schlock flick, at least.

Primo, wide-open grid. Usually promises m&e lots of desperate spots, but not so much, today. Slick constructioneerin disappoints the M&A, once again. Thanx for the UNSEAL taste, tho.

Fought hard & stubbornly to figure out the theme mcguffin, off just the first DIAGNOSE+? one. Took a pile of precious nanoseconds, but eventually broke thru after gettin CHEESECAKE/KHAN to fall. Cute theme idea. HASTENATHENS might need a little work, IM&AO. How'bout NORTH FARGO? ...

@Stockmeister blogsub infielder dude: ONBASE is maybe ok as clued, due to the "in a way" escape clause. Just sayin. Real nice write-up & primo bullets.

staff weeject pick would be STS, except it just got the award recently, and we need to spread the wealth around a little. How'bout ELS? … Has that nice & raised-by-wolves "yellow belly" ?-clue.

Thanx for the fun, Mr. Bajcz. All the longball stuff made this puppy extra-crunchy. Good job.

Masked & Anonymo6Us


GHarris 12:22 PM  

I call foul on the unfair crossing of noaa with uboats. Oh, German submarines. Thought they were describing some cable connection. Never mind.

Arthur 12:24 PM  

How about oboe players solving the puzzle? I can never be mad at this particular bit of crosswordese

jberg 12:34 PM  

Anagrams, what's not to love? Of course they aren't real occupations, that's part of the wackiness of the thing. Let loose and enjoy, all you haters!

But NEBR? a) That's not an abbreviation -- Penna and Calif have occasionally been used, but Nebr? b) It's just me being hidebound, but I graduated from Wisconsin in 1964 when the one thing you knew for sure about the Big Ten was that there were 10 of them. (OTOH I just learned from Wikipedia that the Big 12, formerly the Big 8, has 10 members.) It's all too much for me.

It's been said already, but apparently not regarded as convincing, so let me expand: I think "in a way" means that it is not technically sconing position, but since you could score, it is 'in a way.' Good enough for me.

But my own minirant: LASAGNA is not a "Multilayered dish," it's a single noodle. To get the dish you need more than one of them, LASAGNe. Fortunately, I knew the dog, so I ws saved.

Whatsername 12:48 PM  

Loved loved it. Really fun and just right for Wednesday. But then I love me some anagrams. Im not above doing the Jumble on a slow day.

@Nancy at 10:03 - I agree with you 100% on everything you said. Don’t invite me along on your road trip if you need a navigator. Sometimes I get queasy just glancing in the rearview mirror.

Vic 12:55 PM  

Enjoyed it, notwithstanding that “Yellow Belly”/ ELS is simply pathetic.

Anonymous 12:58 PM  

Let's try not to be so senior citizen-like shall we? I really do not like and fail to see the point of GIFs but Millenials love them and I figure we want all ages to enjoy the blog as well as contribute.

Guest 1:05 PM  

Yes, PLEEEAAASE drop the GIFs. It is really great, and increasingly rare, to be able to read a web page of text without having moving images.

Your entire generation is going to be having seizures when you reach middle age because of this visual chaos.

Teedmn 1:06 PM  

Not easy for me today. I had trouble breaking into the east side of the puzzle due to the city names not being obvious. I finally got the anagram part of the theme with SALVAGES LAS VEGAS and then was able to use the theme to finish the rest of the theme answers. Unfortunately, I was going in a TUscoN direction instead of TUCSON (what is it with Arizona and oddly spelled cities?) So _s_APE in at 26D had me wanting to escAPE a SCRAPE. With __OA_S in at 32D, I was looking at submerged shOAlS. 10D RAN amok and my 12D CHErry CAKE had berries on it.

I liked the theme fine except for HASTEN ATHENS. I liked the clues "It gets depressed on the road" for BRAKE and "Things get crazy when all of them are off" for BETS.

Thanks for the workout, Alex Bajcz.

Whatsername 1:06 PM  

@jberg: I too hated NEBR.. My first reaction was WISC for Wisconsin as I am a huge Badger fan. I could name the original Big 10 without thinking about it but could not come up with the most recent two additions to the conference. Is the other one Penn State? I agree just crazy that Big 10 now has 12 teams and Big 12 has 10. Seems like there should be a better way. To add to my confusion, I also follow my home team MIZZOU which was formerly the Big 8, then the Big 12 but now of the SEC. It’s getting hard to keep up.

Anoa Bob 1:13 PM  

With a 16-wide grid and only 32 black squares, this had a themeless feel to it. Lots and lots of wide open space.

Yeah, some city names anagram into other words but that doesn't guarantee that the resulting pairs will have any sensible connection or relationship. Not sure how you would DIAGNOSE or HASTEN a city.

Speaking of anagrams, my favorite federal agency is NOAA. I have several of their sites bookmarked and check them out daily, especially during hurricane season. It also anagrams into a deer-sized buffalo, smallest of all the buffaloes, that is an endangered species native to Indonesia, and the avatar of a semi-regular commenter on these pages.

Apparently those gifs are distracting, annoying, irritating and motion sickness inducing to enough people that Google Chrome has a downloadable program that gives the user the option to turn them off. You choose between 1)allow all animated images, 2)allow animated images, but only once, or 3)disable all animated images. Today's blog definitely cried out for the third option.

About the only place where a gif would make a positive contribution, or so I've been told, would be in porn site promos.

QuasiMojo 1:25 PM  

@Larry, true dat. Legions up in arms yesterday over "seeress" but nary a peep over LIONESS today. SMH. Go figure.

To the fella who mentioned Athens, Greece. Yeah I dig it. But when the puzzle has three themers that are American cities, "it begs the question" HAHA (@LMS, just kidding...) why we don't have a fourth.

Thanks @Lewis for the link. I wish I knew how to do that! :)

Gleek4Life 1:25 PM  

Couldn’t figure out how els made sense. Thanks, Suzy!!

JC66 1:59 PM  


Email me & I'll send you the "formula."

Z 2:04 PM  

@Rainbow - Did you ever watch Sesame Street? Ever see the song One of these things is not like the Other? That's why people want a U.S. ATHENS. Even better would be an ATHENS that was in the SW (although I don't know if LAS VEGAS is truly considered a part of the SW).

@anon10:44 - "Seasickness" is a synonym for motion sickness and is frequently used to describe the condition regardless of the proximate cause. So, yes, a GIF (Graphics Interchange Format - properly pronounced with a hard G and I don't care who you are - no sane person says it like the peanut butter) can literally cause "seasickness."

@anon12:58 - It has nothing to do with age. My wife's propensity for motion sickness is actually less now than when she was younger. Everyone who had to quit the Heinz pickle factory was pretty young (Jars moving left on a conveyor while cucumbers moved right on a different conveyor sent more than one temporary worker home just about every day). Besides, GIFs were invented in 1987, long before "millennials" were a glimmer in their parents eyes.

The New Yorker link.

GILL I. 2:08 PM  

@Quasi...Gee, I love LIONESS. And....some of the gifs are puuuuurfect - especially when you send a birthday greeting. I just sent one to our son yesterday - it was a little dancing girl and her dog.
@Nancy and @whatsername: Never been car/sea/plane/nada sick in my life. I LOVE rollercoasters, sailboats, fast cars - you name it. On the other hand, our son would get sick as a dog with just mention of motion. He outgrew it in the Marines because he was on the water quite a lot and had to man up. ;-)

chefwen 2:31 PM  

@Nancy 10:03, Yup, my whole life. Not bad on planes, boats or trains, but get me in a car, especially the back seat and all bets are off. Dad used to steal the “innocent, little white bags” from the airplanes for our road trips. I even had to make my husband pull over on our last trip to Italy, pretty embarrassing when you are traveling with others.

michiganman 2:38 PM  

The Big "Ten" has 14 teams.

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Indiana University Bloomington
University of Iowa
University of Minnesota Twin Cities
University of Michigan
Michigan State University
University of Maryland, College Park,
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Northwestern University
The Ohio State University
Penn State University
Purdue University
Rutgers University
University of Wisconsin-Madison

Unknown 3:07 PM  

It’s spelled “decent,” not “descent.”

Whatsername 3:14 PM  

@michganman: thanks for the update. As I said, it’s getting hard to keep up.

Anonymous 3:42 PM  

@Z - nice quip on "scoring position", however the only way Wilson Ramos Will ever see third base is trotting by it after a home run.n

BARISTA - A server who makes you come to the counter for your coffee. If Flo ever did that Mel would have fired her - rightfully so.

Agree with all that the PB1 puzz in this week's New Yorker meets his usual standard. But it was far and away the easiest New Yorker puzzle yet.

Arthur Jackson 3:57 PM  

BARISTA - 21st century soda-jerk

Z 4:13 PM  

xkcd has been reading the comments. Hi @lms and @'mericans.

'merican in Paris 4:18 PM  

@Maggie Wicken 3:07 PM said...

"It’s spelled 'decent,' not 'descent'."

Right you are. Thank you for the reminder.

Anonymous 4:18 PM  

Why on Earth would anyone want to scare kids on Halloween? It’s their night. Give them the best candy bars you can afford and admire their costumes enthusiastically. Everyone already knows you’re more powerful than a little kid. You don’t have to prove it.

Girish 4:31 PM  

@newspaperguy 12:19 AM If you can score from first on a single, i’ve got a stopwatch.

Anonymous 5:05 PM  

Enos Slaughter, a racist prick, fampusly scored from first in the '46 World Series. Actually one of the most famous plays in baseball hostory.
So while it's true that scoring posistion is used exclusively for second and third base, it's also true that it has always been a bankrupt term. Baseball is full of them.

Anonymous 5:36 PM  


When "seasickness" is used to describe any motion sickness, that is a metaphor. If it isn't the motion of a boat making you sick, you cannot be literally seasick.

METAPHOR: a figure of speech in which a word or phrase is applied to an object or action to which it is not literally applicable

This misunderstanding is why literally is so grossly misused in our language.

Unknown 6:01 PM  

Enjoyably challenging for a Wednesday, excepting only the cross of YeLLow belly ELS, which is criminal, with NEBR, which is ugly.

Scoring position means something, dammit.

Literally means two things, dammit. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/literally

The Clerk 6:11 PM  

Loved this one. Super clever.

Odd Sock 6:42 PM  

Hey @Z, I read somewhere recently that the person who invented gifs said it was pronounced like the peanut butter. I don't really care one way or the other but if the inventor says "Jif" I guess it must be so.

Marc 7:03 PM  

Since ALL BETS ARE OFF and we are going to RUNRIOT (?) on newspaperguy ... yes, a runner on first can score, but he is not considered in scoring position. If you watch football, the red zone is considered scoring position. A team can be on their own one yard line and have a handoff go 99 yards for a touchdown, but they are not considered in scoring position.

As for kitshef taking In scoring position as reference to heavy petting, well, I can only say that I am embarrassed to have thought of baseball and baseball only when solving. My life sucks.

G. Weissman 7:16 PM  

@Lewis: Can we ban all uses of the verb “grok” forever?

GILL I. 7:38 PM  

@Anony 4:18...Really? Does not irony and laughter enter your life? Sad.
@Maggie Wicken...That must have bugged the hell out of you. So you come to the blog to point out a misspelling - no comment on the puzzle, just someones misuse of a word. Maybe @'mericans computer decided his fate.
NO ONE likes be told (on a blog that talks about puzzles) that his/her grammar/misspellings are incorrect. We're here to have some fun and talk about what we like/dislike/find incorrect and, well, generally write about our experience with the PUZZLE.
Please don't tell someone their fish fork shouldn't be used for the salad. Even the Queen of England wouldn't point it out.

Mom 8:46 PM  

Call me old-fashioned but my favorite scoring position is doggy style.

John Hoffman 9:39 PM  

Lots of good words here, some long ones. Almost no proper names (obscure baseball players).
Little crosswordese. UNSEAL is weak but not awful. Conclusion: Good puzzle!

Z 10:26 PM  

@Odd Sock - You are correct. Obviously he is insane and doesn't understand the most basic pronunciation conventions. If it were "giraffic interface format" than a soft G would be plausible. Only the insane and asocial would try to convince us that the hard G in "graphic" should be a soft G in "GIF." But what do you expect from a computer coder?

@Anon5:36 - Maybe it was a metaphor once, but now it is a synonym. Lots of words are devoid of the source meaning. "Seasickness" as used today is just another word for motion sickness. No actual sea is required. As for "literally," there is an argument out there that when it used to mean "figuratively" it is actually an intentional use of the opposite for emphasis. In my experience that argument is wishful thinking.

k dub 10:38 PM  

There's even a Wikipedia article:

kitshef 10:57 PM  

@Z - clearly you missed Wilson Ramos's first game with the Phillies this year - two doubles and a triple. Call him Billy Hamilton, jr.

Paul Rippey 10:53 AM  

Why on Earth would anyone want to give candy to kids in the middle of an epidemic of childhood obesity and advertising induced consumerism? It’s their night so give them something they will love and talk about for a long time: a good scare! (We agree on admiring their costumes!)

Paul Rippey 10:58 AM  

No. Can’t stand in the way of language change! I don’t want to be like the Roman parents, shaking their heads as their teenagers go out, “‘Jupiter!’ What kind of way is that to talk?! It’s ‘Yupiter’!”

Paul Rippey 11:03 AM  

Please explain ELS!

Charles 1:54 PM  

As Suzie said, belly = middle, and the middle of yellow is two L's. It's a terrible clue. They should've just gone with the traditional "overhead railways" or made a pun off of that if they were so inclined.

Paul Rippey 2:30 PM  

Oh, got it. Well, agree, that’s about as bad as clues get. Thank you.

Burma Shave 10:09 AM  




thefogman 11:01 AM  

DNF. I got burned by one letter. I had NaBR and aLS. I still don't get why ELS is the answer to 8D (Yellow Belly?)... Okay. I looked up at the comments and I get it now. There are two ELS in the word belly. And for that I say Boo! to Alex Bajcz!

spacecraft 11:26 AM  

For some reason this played more like a Friday than a Wednesday for me. Traveling like the weather from west to east, I wasn't picking up the key--the "McGuffin"--until well into it. Finally noticed it in my own home town at 55-across.

The clue set seems definitely post-hump, but that's fine. Does the old gray cells good. Fill is pretty good overall; it's a 16-wide, so that took a little more time. M'man knows how to make an exit: DOD ALYSSA Milano. Yeah baby. Birdie.

rainforest 1:56 PM  

Strange occupations in various cities, anagrammed, a theme which eluded me until I dipped down to the South and worked out SALVAGES LAS VEGAS. Only then did it hit that I was looking for specific cities which are anagrams of the "work(ers)". That enabled me to scoot back up to complete the DIAGNOSE themer. Cute.

There were other places where I was slowed down, notably ELS (also cute), NOAA (no idea), UNO. Also, NOIR, took some time as I confused Asphalt Jungle with Blackboard Jungle, which is inexcusable.

The cluing was varied, with some thought evident, and the fill was just dandy. I agree that ON BASE doesn't necessarily imply "in scoring position", but I also agree it suffices. Even commentators of baseball games will say "the tying run is ON BASE" after a walk or a single.

I am one of those for whom a morning NEED is coffee, of which I'll have my second cup right now as I am my own BARISTA.

Liked this puzzle.

leftcoastTAM 2:17 PM  

Saw early on we were dealing with anagrams at SALVAGES LAS VEGAS. Spent most time on COUNTS TUCSON. ("Metropolitan" city? Indeed it is.) After that one, SAN DIEGO and ATHENS fell pretty quickly into line.

Some pauses with fill: Forgot that Nebraska (NEBR) had moved from the Big 12 to the Big Ten some time ago. KENKEN an unknown numbers game to me.

STS and NUTS cross was peskier than it should have been.

Enjoyable enough tour BUTT with a few hitches along the way.

Diana,LIW 2:40 PM  

Second day in a row that I got the puzzle but not the theme/joke/meme. At least not completely. Yesterday I didn't "get" the circles (forgot them totally) and today the backwards spelling eluded me. Ironic as The Jumble was my entry into puzzdom.

And my last letter was the E for NEBR/ELS - like @Foggy, I didn't "get" it, and still don't believe it. And y'all know my sports acumen.

Quite a long time for me on a Wed. Not that I time myself, but I was stuck several times. So the victory was sweet. Not as sweet as CHEESECAKE, but nonetheless...

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords

rondo 3:02 PM  

I got it right away as I flew across the top filling in most every down answer there. Of the themed cities I’ve been to SANDIEGO and LASVEGAS; that COUNTSTUCSON and ATHENS out. I did have a minor inkfest in the middle, first having jumP crossing NuzzLEUP.

The Chicago Sun-Times runs the KENKEN game, so for a week or ten days each year I play that one. Kinda like math infused Sudoku. Fun.

I once sent the ACLU a donation. Now I can’t get off their mailing list. A ROYAL pain.

To anagram the city in which I work, Saint Paul, I get “a lust pain”, which must be for yeah baby ALYSSA Milano.

Good enough for the day, COOLER than yesterday’s.

Anonymous 6:30 AM  

Thank you for the ELS explanation. Agree that it was an awkward clue.

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