Six-time MLB all-star Rusty / THU 9-20-18 / Opening between vocal cords / One from Land of Cakes / Fantasy creature spawned from mud / Longtime parent of Parlophone

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Constructor: Sam Ezersky

Relative difficulty: Challenging (by the clock—though the grid is odd-sized, and I solved upon rolling out of bed, and my software kept moving my cursor around in weird ways because of those damned unchecked squares ... it actually felt pretty Medium) (8:28)

THEME: String Trio — three themers contain letter strings that form STRING and two words synonymous with STRING; those strings sort of weave their way through the grid by going up and down, through a series of unchecked squares (i.e. squares with no crosses):

Theme answers:
  • MESSAGE THREAD (17A: Series of exchanges in a chat window)
  • INTERLACED WITH (35A: Woven into)
  • STRING SECTION (53A: Group that bows on state)
Word of the Day: Rusty STAUB (13A: Six-time M.L.B. All-Star Rusty) —
Daniel Joseph "Rusty" Staub (April 1, 1944 – March 29, 2018) was an American professional baseball right fielderdesignated hitter, and first baseman. He played in Major League Baseballfor 23 years with five teams. He was an original member of the Montreal Expos and the team's first star; though the Expos traded him after only three years, his enduring popularity led them to retire his number in 1993. (wikipedia)
• • •

Well LOL on me, I only just now bothered to read the note in my Across Lite software, which tells me:

Yes, I was just about to say "What the hell is up with putting the clue at 53-Across when the answer actually starts in that unnumbered square way over on the left side of the grid?!" Very disconcerting to have the Across answer start materializing *behind* the clue number. I like Across Lite, I am used to Across Lite, I downloaded it because it was free and the NYT promoted it (many years ago?), but now I guess they want me using the dumb app. It's like they're punishing Across Lite users. Anyway, my difficulty level was Challenging and *now* you know why—I had to deal with **** most of you didn't. So just go with Medium.

This is a nice theme. My one grump is that center answer, which A. doesn't have LACE as a freestanding word (the way the other theme words are freestanding: THREAD and STRING), and B. I could not figure out which Across was the jumper, i.e. I thought 32A: Hosp. procedure with a readout (ECGwas the long, thready answer, ending in -DWITH (bandwith??). I was basically following the pattern of the first themer, and wanting to drop down for the first thread letter, not jumping up. So problems in that region of the puzzle, esp. in the western part of the center, really slowed me down Didn't help that I had ETH for 19D: Series finale?—made sense to me—and HNBC for whatever the stupid Jay Leno channel was ("Siri, show me the show, of all the shows in the universe, that I am least likely to watch!"). Maybe NBC has a home channel now, I reasoned. Further, "I GET IDEAS"? (46A: 1950s title lyric after "When we are dancing and you're dangerously near me ..."). What year is it? Oh, right, it's 1950. Yikes. Pardon me while I go get my SAL soda (which I assume is from the '50s, as I have never seen it outside crosswords). I had I GET and .... tumbleweeds. And the tumbleweeds part crossed COAGENT, which, again, what? What is that? 38D: Associate in finance, say. Between Jay Leno's stupid cars and this inscrutable "finance" answer, the puzzle was not exactly welcoming me. But I hacked through it in the end. Theme was pretty easy to pick up, and the fill was strange and surprising and only rarely yuck.

Five things:
  • 8D: Fantasy creature spawned from mud (ORC) — I had ENT. Because trees come from ... mud ... kinda.
  • 58A: In a frenzy (AMUCK) — not the spelling. I really demand a "quaintly" or (Var.) marking here. Here is the only time that spelling has ever been acceptable:
  • 55D: Tour division (GIG) / 56D: Barnyard male (TOM) — first word I had in that section was GYM SOCK, and off of that I write in LEG for [Tour division] and RAM for [Barnyard male]. Sigh.
  • 27D: Half a laugh (HEE) — laugh halves are always much, much less than half a laugh. I'll say it again, Worst Clue Genre Ever.
  • 1D: Venue near Penn Station, for short (MSG) — not hard unless you read it as [Avenue near Penn Station, for short], as I did. Tried ... a bunch of stuff, including LEX. Is that even near Penn Station? I've been coming into Grand Central pretty exclusively. Anyway, it doesn't matter, because I simply read the clue wrong. I also though 1A: African menace was EBOLA. So, yeah, that was a rough start. But good old Rusty STAUB got me through. Thank you, baseball, for leading me out of the darkness, yet again.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Lewis 6:33 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
ncmathsadist 6:35 AM  

This theme gave me nothing but a headache. I @#%!#$ hated it. Isolated letters are an unforgivable crossword gaffe.

Lewis 6:36 AM  

I felt like I needed to geT WINE after this challenging, beautifully clued, humbling, gorgeously put together, and ultimately satisfying offering. Bravo!

Dave 6:58 AM  

Where do you get "interlaces with"?

"with" doesn't start with "al"

Brookboy 6:59 AM  

I thought that this was one impressive puzzle. It took me a while to get going: like Rex, I started with Ebola for 1A, but, also like Rex, MSG (Madison Square Garden) and Rusty STAUB saved me.

That snazzy snaking letter construction was quite a feat. Kudos to Mr. Ezersky.

Nice write up from Rex.

Joe R. 7:21 AM  

I use the official NYT Crossword app, and it also had a note hidden away, which I didn't even see until I read today's blog post and went looking for it.

Agreed about AMUCK. I found myself wondering if the author only knew the word from the Daffy Duck cartoon, and that's why they spelled it wrong, but the editor really should have caught that. The dictionary seems to think it's an uncommon but acceptable variant. Hmph.

benjaminthomas 7:23 AM  

Re: 30A "Siri, show me the show, of all the shows in the universe, that I am least likely to watch!"

I don't know how OFL thought he was going to fit FOXNEWS in there.

I'm a bit worried that I'm starting to think like Rex, had the exam same experience in the SW with LEG and RAM.

Cassieopia 7:26 AM  

I was pleased to get almost all the puzzle done today, very nice clueing especially “blue-green?” Wanted stringquartet instead of stringsection, takeit instead of accept, pigroast instead of boarhunt. The misdirections were great and so satisfying to resolve, but I was DNF because of Leno’s cars, African vipers, Superman villains, and basketball players all crowded into the NW corner. Even so, I was pleased to get what I did, it was a very rewarding struggle.

But help, what is sal soda? The Google says “sal soda. A hydrated sodium carbonate used as a general cleanser“ but I ain’t never heared of it. I kept wanting to find “lo-cal” somewhere in that “interlaced” section. La-cal soda, anyone?

Bagelboy 7:29 AM  

NE tough corner. Before I got the theme, MESSAGES is a perfectly good answer. Did not know ORC or TUN.

And when I go to my local nursery every year for colorful flowers, I buy the BEGONIAs in the annual section. Google seems to back me up on this. I used to plant Impatiens, but a blight got them about a decade ago and they wont grow anymore, so I had to switch.

Anonymous 7:32 AM  

The “dumb app” also had the explanation is some other screen: “In this app version, the clue at 53-Across indicates an answer that begins in the first square of the 12th row.” So, no gain in leaving Across Lite in this case.

Norm 7:43 AM  

This was fun. Had no problems using AcrossLite, although those isolated squares did require a lot of work with the arrow keys.

Anonymous 7:53 AM  

Some of us are older than you, Rex. "I get ideas" was about tho only 'gimme' for me in the whole puzzle. And Leno's cars are "stupid"? Nope. Actually his collection is a fabulous representation of more than one aspect of American history - our creativity, our manufacturing abilities, and our wanderlust, to name three.

(Re: "the stupid Jay Leno Channel" and "Jay Leno's stupid cars" - I cannot imagine Leno referring to Rex Parker's "stupid crosswords and stupid blog".)

Twangster 8:01 AM  

This one was definitely NSBM – not solvable by me.

I also use AcrossLite and did not see any note.

I couldn't make heads or tails of the theme.

I think the biggest problem was that I assumed some of the stranger answers (SAL, COAGENT, IGETIDEAS) were part of the theme, so I kept trying to figure out how they fit in and ultimately gave up.

TSG 8:06 AM  


Anonymous 8:16 AM  

FWIW, the NYT Crosswords app's version of the puzzle had the same note, and the same issue with clue number placement, as the Across Lite version.

Dawn Urban 8:19 AM  

@Lewis geT WINE, so funny!!

To Mr. Ezersky: "What a tangled web we weave, when we practice to deceive."

Had to stay on the porch today, definitely couldn't run with the big dogs!

pabloinnh 8:25 AM  

Now this is what I call a proper Thursday. I've been doing big books of Sunday puzzles with lots of gimmicks and I've never seen this. Great to have that big aha! moment when you see what's going on.

My only problem was that I solve on paper and my printed version cut off the left hand side of the first column of across clues, so I had to read them on my laptop and then fill in on paper. Anyone else run into this (speed solvers excepted, of course)? I wonder if it had anything to do with some answers being unnumbered.

Ole ole, Sr. Ezersky.

Suzie Q 8:26 AM  

No joy for me today.
This might be one of those puzzles made for constructors, not solvers.
@ Lewis, Always Mr. Glass-half-full. How do you do it?
The scene from LOTR where the orcs rise out of the mud was very memorable in an unpleasant way.

I print out my puzzle and it didn't behave normally this morning.
I'm hoping it has something to do with the note Rex published.

Unknown 8:36 AM  

Honestly glad Rex enjoyed it. Relatively new to xwords (half a year) and I enjoy the fresh takes. When something unique and interesting comes up like this I always hope he doesn't tear into it lol. Makes good construction of interesting puzzles seem possible

Brian 8:36 AM  

Four fragments are things • INTERL and MESSAGET are references in Microsoft Visusl Studio • EDWITH is a woman's name • GSECTION is an R computer language function.

Unknown 8:41 AM  

Ah also, I liked blue-green? SEASICK a lot too. Dunno if that's been done before though, I had not seen it. Thought surely someone would comment on it!

Anonymous 8:51 AM  

I was trying to make this more complicated than it was. STRING was the first “weaver” I found, and I thought it was going to reappear up top at MESSAGE stRing. Also got married to quartet for the bowers down below for a while. Began to wonder if STRING theory might somehow explain the resulting problems!

Don’t the snaky answers check the allegedly “unchecked” squares? (Yes, yes they do.)

wgh 8:53 AM  

Loved it.

Unknown 8:58 AM  

Spamming at this point since I can't see my other comments yet and I can't edit them / reply to them, but I like when a 1950's lyric is at least infer-able -- I only had a few letters of it, and filled in "ideas", and then "I get ideas", since it's a natural progression of the lyrics. That feels better to me than the random possibilities that are frequently pursued.

Shafty 8:59 AM  

Great puzzle, great write-up.

I saw the Note (NYT app makes it easy to see) so no problems with 53-Across.

Orcs come from mud in the LOTR movies. (Books too? I don’t recall.)

Amie Devero 9:06 AM  

I still don't get it. First, what is msg for 1d? I got it through crosses but still clueless. Also, I print out crossword. No hint,no clues for 51, 52, 53 across AT ALL! I only know there even is a theme because of this blog. WTF???

GILL I. 9:07 AM  

Is this clever? I suppose.
Was it enjoyable? No.
Another puzzle created for the constructor's joy. Not mine. AT ALL.
Why is GLOTTIS missing his epi? Is BOAR HUNT supposed to be a funny answer for hog-wild participants? Why didn't the puzzle show 51, 52 and 55 across clues? Isn't the prickly plant part a BURR? Have I misspelled this little darling my whole life? And so it went.
I can honestly say that not a single smile came forth today. I can't even think of a story to tell. Well maybe about how much I hate RAT POISON and AMUCK.
I thought BEGONIAs were annuals. Mine comes back every single year.

BarbieBarbie 9:12 AM  

The NYT app has the same problem showing 53A properly. So, no conspiracy.

TWICE my normal Thursday time! Last hang up was not seeing that tEE should be HEE, rookie error.

I loved this puzzle. So fun to figure out the tricks.

QuasiMojo 9:12 AM  

Rusty was my first ENTRY. I used to go to his bar on the Upper East Side back in my UTE. Great guy.

I sorta figured out the trick with “Interlace” jumping around, but it took me a while to see the DWITH.

That SAL Soda was the big hang-up. Never heard of it. I tried TAB first. I can’t think of many three letter sodas. Is it a brand name for some baking soda?

Wanted LEG before GIG. And OLD or WET sock before GYM. Of course WET JOCK also crossed my mind, recalling the good old days when we had to wear them in the GROIN area. They added some snap to the locker room experience.

When I went to camp as a boy the director would bring a ruler to the dances so he could measure the distance between the boys and the girls when they danced together. I think it was six inches. This was before guys danced with guys and dolls with dolls. It was super embarrassing. Most of us skipped the slow dances for that reason. It was intrusive. I love the subtlety of “I Get Ideas.” Today the song would be a lot more in your face.

Intriguing and challenging but ultimately more pleasure for the constructor than this subscriber.

Anonymous 9:19 AM  

Doesn't it actually read INTERLACES WITH and STRING AGES? Why skip the last black square?

Hungry Mother 9:27 AM  

It took me way too long to get the trick, but I finally figured it out and got it done. I’m happy that I solved it, but disappointed in my sluggishness.

Anonymous 9:29 AM  

Giant cluster**** of a puzzle. AMUCK? COAGENT?? SAL soda???

Virtually impossible to navigate around the grid with all of the lone squares.

I'd rather find a MAMBA in my GYM SOCK than solve this one again.

Anonymous 9:29 AM  

Still wondering what EDWITH means, and why it is clued with a hyphen?

Sir Hillary 9:29 AM  

Yowza, that was hard! Unchecked squares, seemingly unclued entries, inscrutable cluing, some questionable fill -- it all added up to a Saturday-esque challenge, and a tough one at that. At a few points, I seriously doubted I would finish.

Not that I'm complaining -- my satisfaction at having solved is matched by my admiration for the theme and the construction. Very well done.

My own footfaults were partly to blame for my struggle. Most notably, having gotten the S-T-R-I-N-G down below, I had only the R up above, so assumed it was also S-T-R-I-N-G up there. You can guess how that went.

The theme placed great constraints on the grid -- things like MADEITBETTER, ANAHEIMCA, INONEACT, LINEA, TUN and COAGENT are pretty weak in my view. But it was worth it.

As spelled, I don't like AMUCK either, although "Duck AMUCK" is the second-greatest Warner Brothers cartoon ever, behind only "One Froggy Evening". In both of them, we see a sad sack GOTORUIN.

Unknown 9:32 AM  

Hated hated hated this.

Brian 9:47 AM  

Madison Square Garden

Gulliver Foyle 9:53 AM  

I do the puzzle directly on the NYT website, and saw no indication about the stringing of unclued blocks. Thus I was totally buffaloed, especially by the hyphen clues. While the concept in hindsight is clever, I don't think one's solving experience should be dependent on the platform used.

Anonymous 9:54 AM  

@Anon 9:29 - the hyphen is a clueing convention that signals there is no 34A. EDWITH represents the final six letters of 36A.

Hm, looks like SAL soda is a thing. An eminently Googlable thing.

@Gill - isn’t coming back what perennials do?

Will 9:59 AM  

The instant I saw all those unchecked squares I suspected something tricky was going on. I wasn’t sure if there were going to be hidden letters on black squares. Solving on the nyt website there was an across clue at 48 across and 53 was “-“. That gave me a feel for what was going on, then I found it at Iinterlacedwith.

Anonymous 10:03 AM  

@ 9:29 - *35A, INTERLACED WITH.

GHarris 10:04 AM  

Got it all with a little help from check puzzle which alerted me to errors but. did not supply answers. Wtf is edwith ?

Unknown 10:08 AM  

At least your Across Lite software warned you. I do these with a NYT Subscription through iTunes and there was no warning or explanation of any kind.

Amie Devero 10:10 AM  

Ty! Duh....

Amie Devero 10:13 AM  

Glottis is a different thing than epiglottis. And a wild boat hunt is a real thing (and oddly popular in some places), so pretty straightforward clue.

Anonymous 10:13 AM  

I know another anonymous poster covered this, but jeez!! Why call Leno's cars stupid? Rex is so parochial and predictable.
While his sneering dismissiveness about cars was all too believable I was shocked that the self proclaimed baseball expert missed talking more about Le Grand Orange. Staub was one of only handful-- 4 I believe- in the history of MLB to hit a home run as teenager and a40 year old. that's no mean feat. Neither was this puzzle. kudos to you Mr. Ezersky

Masked and Anonymous 10:14 AM  

Splatz old M&A in the "liked it" column. Real different theme mcguffin. Feisty and fun.

Knew somethin weird was gonna be up, immediately -- just becuz of the grid layout. M&A learned long ago to print out the PDF [= just like the newspaper version] choice, becuz Across-Lite just can't handle every kind of constructioneerin innovation hi-jinks. When I saw EDWITH had no number on its "E" square, I knew trouble might be brewin, for Across-Lite users.

I enjoyed tryin to solve the entries with their heads or butts in the little dead-end alleyways. This task was essential for m&e, in order to start to understand the theme mcguffin. Definitely a different, raised-by-dingos solvequest feel. Lost precious 41-D's [which probably ain't actually 41-D for everybody, come to think on it … anyhoo, my 41-D = NSEC.]

staff weeject pick = TUN. Wanted VAT for way too long. Which then led to the faux BOARRACE entry of total confusion. That, along with wantin MESSAGES [rather than MESSAGET], slowed M&A down to a real sloooow BOARCRAWL. Thanx to INCA & STE, for eventually bailin out my solvequest, after about a 2.3 cinnamon roll rest period.

Don't know the IGETIDEAS tune. That and COAGENT kinda sound desperate, but it may just be a personal knowledge base problem. Actually, this puz was a DASH too dry on desperation, for M&A's peculiar tastes. Luved the SEASICK clue, and there were lotsa primo longball entries [fave: RATPOISON].

Superb @RP Blog write-up today; great runs of bullet entries, all this week. HEE's on a roll.

Thanx for the t-wine vessels of fun, Sam EZ.

Masked & Anonymo5Us

Z 10:20 AM  

When I solve the NYTX electronically I use PuzzAzz. It is the best at faithfully representing the print version. I just checked it, no note and the clue for 47A is at 47A not 51A. I understand why AcrossLite might not get this right, but the proprietary app? Wow. Anyway, I strongly recommend that if you solve electronically that you pitch the other apps and use PuzzAzz. Most of the time it doesn’t matter, but when it does it is the only App that gets it right it seems.

This was odd. Some hard stuff, but of the trivial trivia sort. GLOTTIS? I pulled that from somewhere but I can count the number of times I’ve used the word on one hand and have five fingers left over. MAMBA? The clue is vagueness pretending at cleverness. GO TO ... fill in synonym for bad outcome. ATOM MAN? I never knew Lex Luthor had an alter ego, but with ATO in place what else is a vaguely sciencefictiony comic going to do? None of these were hard in an engaging way to me. I just kind of slogged through. On the other hand, I like the conceit. The use of the black squares to represent what LACEs, STRINGs, and THREADs do is cool. I also like the dark, murder mystery pairing of RAT POISON and I BET IDEAS. In the end I guess this was a worthwhile effort, but with a demerit or three.

puzzlehoarder 10:24 AM  

This took me an extra 8 minutes over my average Thursday time to get a clean grid. Parts of it we're Monday easy like that whole NW corner. Then I would run into the themes and hit a brick wall. Even some parts that had nothing to do with the theme slowed me down. With ATOM in place for 2D I figured the rest of it had to be MAN. Normally this would have given away EMI and ETC would have been a slam dunk. It didn't happen .TATA sat there by itself and I was thinking "NTH?" for 19D. It was like that little section had some voodoo curse on it.

One big advantage I had in the NE is my familiarity with GLOTTIS. Not just the word. As a paramedic I've had to look down my share of them.

THREAD was the first theme to go in
This was ironic as my internet/computer jargon knowledge is so weak. My first guess when I got down to the missing H was MESSAGE TO READ?. @Brian, I think you're on to something with the unclued entries. I don't doubt this constructor is familiar with all those terms as well.

I'll stop with the boring details. It's just that when I run into a puzzle that actually makes me puzzle I turn into chatty Kathy.

One little complaint. For some reason my print out version of the puzzle is an exact duplicate of the newspaper version. Very bad idea. Everything is smaller and harder to read. Otherwise a great Thursday. This is what every Thursday should be like.

Anonymous 10:30 AM  

Finished the puzzle without noticing all the theme answers, but really didn't care about them when I was done with it. Tedious, not enjoyable for me.

philalethes 10:37 AM  

Many have noticed INTERLACES WITH, but missed MESSAGETHREAD and STRINGSECTION. Along with the computer terms mentioned above, this is a pretty clever puzzle.

ghostoflectricity 10:43 AM  

Agree. It but the big one. And COAGENT?? GMAFB.

KcM 10:44 AM  

Orcs don't spawn from mud. That was the Uruk-Hai.

QuasiMojo 10:45 AM  

I forgot to mention that I once went on a wild boar hunt. In France. On horseback. It was fascinating but gruesome. It was a traditional “chasse à courre” in which the boar is killed with a knife at the end of a long and exhausting chase by hounds. The boar is then hung upside down in a shed, drained, and eaten later. I forget how long. Anyway I hesitate to say “a good time was had by all” but I’ll never forget the thrill of the horns and the excitement of the dogs as we set off on the hunt.

Carola 10:45 AM  

A fun one to figure out. I smelled a RAT when MESSAGEs wouldn't cross with LAST and soon spotted the THREAD. I liked how the offset squares reflected the back-and-forth of a chatting screen. The descending EMAIL ACCOUNT led to -TION and the STRINGSEC neeced to complete it. I decided the up-and-down letters depicted the bowing action. Last in was INTERLACED WITH - I picture the offset lnes as the two parallel pieces needing joining. Grid fun!

I well remember "I GET IDEAS" - When it was popular I was just old enough to understand that the "IDEAS" were something grown-up that I didn't understand.

Despite MADE IT BETTER, the puzzle seemed replete with various forms of the deadly: RAT POISON, MAMBA, an ORC running AMUCK,, GO TO RUIN, and, ALAS, the SLOB's GYM SOCK GONE BAD.

David 10:46 AM  

Yep, wine used to be taxed by the tun back when ships sailed the seas.
There's no such thing as "amuck".
I have an EKG every year, and that's how I hear it referred to by doctors and hospital staff, maybe they remember their Greek.
I've been misspelling "bur" all my life (as burr).
I'm too old to know any alias for Lex Luthor.
I dislike completely literal answers (e.g. Anaheim CA, Rat poison)

I liked this puzzle but I loved Tuesday's.

Rex, I appreciate you pointing out every little micro-aggression in Times puzzles yet wonder at your opposite habit of coming down hard on people who like things you don't and/or use words or abbreviations which you don't.

Anonymous 10:50 AM  

@Brian - I thought your comment was snark!

The mamba is evidently the most feared snake in Africa owing to its size, speed, and, when cornered, aggressiveness.

Anonymous 10:53 AM  

Not only did Sharp swing and miss ( Ok maybe a foul tip) on Staab, he embedded the wrong Loony Tune. Should've gone with Bugs v nature boy. That's where Bugs fakes his foe out with a bogus claim: You got me, right in the epi glottis".
Rex is off his game.

Laura 10:55 AM  

The official NYT app couldn't handle it either. And the note only contained the second half of the instruction (no mention of the print version). I could tell something was missing. Almost went to print out the PDF of the puzzle - I think that would've been a more pleasant solve.

Shafty 10:59 AM  

@KcM Uruk-Hai are orcs. “[T]he race of uruks, black orcs of great strength, first appeared out of Mordor.”

Adam Lipkin 11:01 AM  

Hated this puzzle. As a longtime comics geek, that Luthor clue was awful (I mean, he took that alias like one time ages ago for a one-off adventure), and a crappy way to start a puzzle for me. And there were too many odd spellings (AMUCK), cobbled-together phrases (anyone ever say "BOAR HUNT"?), and just bad clues (TUN could so easily have been URN or VAT, but a clue about naval history or barrels might have made it palatable). And the theme seemed almost incoherent at times -- LACE and THREAD both had the first letter as the sole non-crossed letter, while STRING had the last. With only three, be consistent, or don't bother. Wait, forget the "or" -- don't bother. Just a weird theme that never went places.

OTOH, the cluing for SEASICK was kind of a delight.

JC66 11:02 AM  

I was in Junior High in the '50's and the lyrics we used were "When we are dancing and you only have your shoes on, I GET IDEAS..."

Boy, were we funny!

nyc_lo 11:03 AM  

In agreement with all of Rex’s nit-picks, but felt that when all was said and done, the ends justified the means. I always expect to enjoy a Sam Ezersky puzzle and this one was no exception.

Suzie Q 11:10 AM  

@ puzzlehoarder, That was my experience with printing my grid as well. Besides that it also printed in full ink despite having my setting on 50%. I'm hoping this will not happen again. I can't afford to feed my printer that much ink.

I thought begonias were annuals not perennials as some have noted.

CDilly52 11:11 AM  

I intuitively understood what was going on because the black grid reminded me of cross-stitch embroidery. However, that did not make the solve easy as I, like so many had LEG before GIG, dislike dislike AMUCK and was sure the flower was PETUNIA. Got to -ONIA with the SLOB and for the life of me couldn’t get BOARHUNT for waaaay too long. And my front drive is lined with BEGONIAs. I liked it, just do t line being so dense!

Wm. C. 11:13 AM  

I finished it. Found it extremely difficult since I didn't get the theme until I came here.

Overall, HATED it!


As many of you who read my book know, JOHN X does not need a puzzle to welcome him. These puzzles fear JOHN X and tremble at his approach. This one was no exception. It presented no significant obstacle, and fell rather easily for a Thursday, or at least what JOHN X expects on a Thursday. I pity tomorrow's puzzle, as JOHN X is still a hotbed of unfulfilled puzzle-solving rage and anger.

RAD2626 11:18 AM  

Weird puzzle but fun. Did not get gimmick until the very end.

Rusty Staub was a great player who is the only person to get 500 hits for each of four teams. More importantly, he was a wonderful person who devoted his post baseball career entirely to charitable endeavors, feeding the hungry in NYC, helping the Police and Fire Widows and orphans, and raising money for Catholic charities. Le Grande Orange was truly bigger than life. He will be missed greatly.

Z 11:20 AM  

SAL soda
SAL Bando
SAL Mineo
SAL the South African airline.
the Muppet SAL Minella
SAL 9000, a relative of HAL in 2010 Odyssey Two
and it gets more obscure from there.
SAL being composed of useful letters I am sure we will continue to see SAL soda in puzzles.

@KcM - The Uruk-Hai are ORCs Also, don’t quote me on this, but the whole mud thing is from the movies not the LOTR books. I think there is a basis for it in The Silmarillion, where Tolkien and his son provide a lot of the background mythology/history of the Middle Earth universe. I think in the books the origin of the Uruk-Hai is left at Saruman bred ORCs who could operate in sunlight. Again, if you really want to know there is all kinds of stuff on the interwebs, I’m about 75% sure this is accurate but I’m far from positive.

Nancy 11:31 AM  

Was having my carpet cleaned this morning and didn't have much time to try to solve. Thought that might be one of the reasons why I didn't at all get what was going on in the puzzle. Nope. I briefly came back to it and still didn't get it. What's more, I then came here, looked at Rex's explanation, looked at his filled-in grid and still don't get it. Above my pay grade. I'm off to the park to try and clear my head. Read y'all later.

Ellen S 11:32 AM  

I second @Z’s motion: when people complain about how the Times app or AcrossLite mess up the formatting of the puzzle in some way, Puzzazz comes through. In this case, I notice that the numbering of the squares is different from @Rex’s screen shot. 45A is IGETIDEAS, 46A is SCOT and 47A is the “S” in STRINGSECTION. But I only made it halfway through, never figured out the “lacing” theme, hated AMUCK. And @Rex and the rest of youse, even with messed up numbering adding to the jollity, managed to figure it out.

I’ve heard of SAL soda, but have never seen any. Half a century ago I hired a guy to wash the walls of my apartment and he asked me to get Sal Soda to clean with and I had no idea what he was talking about. Dr. Bronner makes a cleaning solution called Sal Suds, which rinses cleaner than their soaps, good for washing floors (and I imagine, walls). Kind of caustic, unlike their soaps.

Tom R 11:52 AM  

This was insanely hard for me. Took me forever to suss out the theme and I also use across lite. Hated the whole thing. Don't do this again and don't punish across lite users.

Banana Diaquiri 11:56 AM  

other than lying to the solver, what's the point of having '34A' labelled in the grid?

jb129 11:58 AM  


Never got the theme - never cared to try.

Joseph Michael 12:02 PM  

I hated almost everything about this puzzle, starting with the fact that I couldn’t get it to print out properly (clues were partially cut off at the left and in newspaper format).

So I started in a bad mood which only got worse as I slogged through the weird layout of the grid and found myself writing in things like AMUCK, SAL (as clued), and COAGENT.

The weaving theme made me SEASICK and finally revealed itself in a way that produced a headache rather than an aha! moment.

“Without intermission” does not mean IN ONE ACT. Many two acts are performed these days without a break.

I did like some of the other clues, such as the ones for EMAIL ACCOUNT and LINE A. But overall this is one of those puzzles that is all about the constructor instead iof the solver.

Frog Prince Kisser 12:11 PM  

@GILL I 9:07 AM
The very fact that they come back every year makes BEGONIAs perennials, not annuals.

“Annual plants live for one growing season and then die, while perennials regrow every spring.”

jack 12:34 PM  

Does anyone here do the puzzle in the newspaper anymore. I ask because no one has pointed out a major typo in the paper's version.

the across that is labelled 34 on the digital version is missing, so the box is blank. 34 across is the next across below: "woven into."

that single box, the 10th one down on the left side is numbered: 47, having made me think the puzzle was some kind of rebus. What kind of "group that bows onstage" fits into one box? And the misnumbering goes on.

jberg 12:42 PM  

Well, either you like figuring out Thursday tricks or you don't. I enjoyed this one, once I got it. It came in stages -- I got MESSAGE THREAD, but I thought it involved imagining letters in the black squares -- to I thought the theme was going to be "The Phantom Thread." (See it, if you haven't -- then send me an email telling me what you think of the ending. No spoilers in the comments here!)

Finally I saw the zigzags, and it all made sense. For those reading the central clue as INTERLACEs WITH -- no, that involves zigging (or maybe zagging) around a white square -- once you get to the D you have to go straight on. The grid is 14X16, so that way the middle themer is right in the middle.

@Z, you're right about the orcs -- In his Appendix F, Tolkien says that they were "first bred by the dark power of the North in the Elder Days." Elsewhere he makes it clear that no one but Eru has the power to actually create life -- Morgoth can only distort it. So the mud is strictly a movie thing. That one slowed me down almost as much as thinking the lyric must be "I GET A KICK out of you." Or wondering if a G SECTION was anything like a c-section.

Anoa Bob 12:58 PM  

My go to SAL (39A) would be SAL Hepatica. It cures both stomach acidity and constipation. That just don't make them like that anymore!

Teedmn 1:12 PM  

The last SECTION I solved today was the middle - I was slowly filling in NAG (great clue there! "Badger or hound" misdirected me for a while), LID, etc. So 34A was _NTERL and this finally gave me the IDEAS for the theme as I saw the LACE-ing through the grid. It took me until after I finished to realize it ended with ED WITH, which helped the clue match the answer. And for a while, I had eNTERL. I could not think of a rainbow personified - with _RI_, I decided to link rainbows, pots of gold, leprechauns and eRIn, d'oh. After I got the theme, I went back down to see that nTRING SECTION meant nothing and that saved me from a dumb DNF. IRIS, not IRISh, hah.

And except for "old SOCK" before GYM SOCK, the rest went fairly smoothly, though slowly. I don't really have a Thursday average so 18 minutes...not fast, maybe not too slow for me.

I liked it, thanks Sam.

Mikey 1:13 PM  

SAL Tessio. He was always smarter.

JC66 1:23 PM  

I vote for Sal Maglie.

Banana Diaquiri 1:27 PM  

@Anoa Bob:
That just don't make them like that anymore!

I really miss Miles Nervine!!! kept Mom from beating us all to a pulp.

"A temporary calm that came with a price beyond the one listed on the price tag. Turns out, the level of bromide needed to sedate was pretty close to bromine's toxicity level. Plus, people were using products like Nervine a too regularly to "settle their nerves". When bromides were the most popular, bromine toxicity ("bromism") cases were at a high."

DrBB 1:37 PM  

Really surprised "SAL" soda was a poser for so many people. Guess no one owned a chemistry set as a kid. Anyway I see it regularly enough in NYT xwords that it's kind of a gimme, for me anyway. But I do strenuously object to "AMUCK" without the "var." or some other indicator that it's a (pardon me) bullsihit xword-only spelling. One of those answers I saw but couldn't bring myself to fill in for a long time because, well, ugh. Other than it was a "medium," which for me is 12 minutes, maybe a little harder than the usual Thursday.

Masked and Anonymous 1:41 PM  

Better SAL clue: {Kind of ad created by Cobb??}.

Desperation Watch:
1. My first msg failed to laud AMUCK, but it was indeed a solid Ow de Speration aroma source.
2. Am sorta on the fence, about LINEA. At least it has no PB1 Usage Immunity credentials, so that's something, when U are only 5 letters long. Does raise the issue of which lines should be acceptable: LINEB? LINEC? LINEN? If LINES, then why not LINEU? Kinda opens up the barn door.
3. INONEACT and GYMSOCK and GOTORUIN are all individually maybe passable, but are a bit more formidable, viewed as a Desperate Clustering.


Z 1:49 PM  

@Jack - The Printed version is the correct version. Starting in the 7th row, with [] representing a black square and xx/X representing a numbered square and it’s corres answer letter:

[] [] 32/EC33/G[]A[]EDWITH (the end of a theme answer)
34/I35/Nter36/L[]37/C[]38/SAL[] [] (34A being the woven INTERLACED WITH)

That E in “EDWITH” isn’t numbered, and shouldn’t be numbered, because there is no corresponding clue for it. This is a different case than the cell numedered 53 since it has a Down Answer that needs to be clued. The inability to leave that cell unnumbered seems to be the flaw in the software that only PuzzAzz has overcome.

@Joseph Michael - Have you ever been to a play done IN ONE ACT that had an intermission? For solving purposes it is important to remember that all squares are rhombi, but not every rhombus is a square.
Speaking of logical fallacies, @anon yesterday - I didn’t beg the question. Note my last sentence. Specifically, I asserted that a 2x4 is a board by definition so asked for a definition of board that would exclude a 2x4. I wasn’t actually making any argument, just asking for clarification. It is not possible to “beg the question” in a discussion of definitions. Or, perhaps, you think all discussions of definitions are examples of begging the question, which would actually be begging the question, right? “You’re disagreeing with my definition and since my definition is correct you are guilty of a logical fallacy.” Yep - you’re guilty of the very logical fallacy you wrongly accused me of.

jb129 2:01 PM  

Jack @ 12:34 - yes I do the puzzle from the paper - I love opening it & folding it over :)

FrankStein 2:05 PM  

How ‘bout SAL Naturile, the other guy in Dog Day Afternoon?

TJS 2:06 PM  

Just wondering how Rex would have reacted to "amuck" and "coagent" in a Jeff Chen puzzle. Amuck is for schmuck.

GILL I. 2:13 PM  

@Frog Kisser...Ooops, my bad. However.....I looked up BEGONIA and asked the wise one if they were annuals or perennials. They are more often than not called annuals. Gardeners like to group them in a cluster and after they've bloomed, toss them out.
Sam or Will could have clued that differently. BEGONIAS can be either annuals or perennials.
Little things like that make me nuts...just like this puzzle!

JJ 2:19 PM  

@Lewis the GLOTTIS is the opening The EPI is ABOVE the glottis--hence epiglottis. The epiglottis covers the airway so your food goes down the other opening-the esophagus.

Anonymous 2:30 PM  

Just awful. I actually knew "sal soda" but the theme and the execution were terrible. Hated it.

michiganman 2:30 PM  

This was full of dreck that has already been noted. I liked Gross Figure/SLOB. I think that INTERLACEDWITH is an outlier. It only weaves 3 times as opposed to 5 by the other 2. It's really just a mess that might have been satisfying for the constructor, as others suggest. No pleasure here as a solver.

David 2:44 PM  

For Dave @6:58, the last diagonal letter of that answer is E, not S, as that's the end of the stretch of checkerboard pattern. This also means that the letters in LACE itself are the only ones that behave this way, which keeps the theme tight. From E onward, you read the answer horizontally like onward. Using lowercase letters for the 8th row and uppercase for the 9th, the answer here is INTERLaCedwith.

Opening up the puzzle today gave a bit of a fright with all those unchecked/uncrossed letters, something funky was obviously going on. Very clever visual implementation of the theme, which was executed tightly and with a ton of longer fill. Nicely done from Sam.

Joe Bleaux 2:58 PM  

To paraphrase ol' Waylon ... Don't y'all think this Thursday thing has done got out of hand?

XQQQME 3:11 PM  

‘Cmon’ instead of ‘Im In’ was almost a fatal error. Loved it, even though it was my slowest Wednesday time ever…

Joe Dipinto 3:14 PM  

Sal Paradise ("On The Road")

"My Gal Sal"

@Jack 12:34, I don't understand your complaint. I have the paper copy and don't see a problem with the numbering.

RooMonster 3:25 PM  

Hey All !
What a W C T STIC puz. :-)

Haven't read anyone yet, but for me this was a very tough puz! Some obscure cluing made it a rough go. If your theme is kind of intricate, don't cross obscure clues, is all I'm sayin'.

SAL soda? IRIS, TONY as clued? Yikes (or is it YIPES?) Haven't heard of Lex Luther having a villain name. Must be the newer shows.

Har on the middle row, INTERLACES AL. Good stuff. Also, a mini story on each stacked long Acrosses:
Disney area back streets? ANAHEIM CA SIDE ROADS
Thought of a scorned lover? RAT POISON, I GET IDEAS

Overall, a different type puz. Odd middle themer, could've figured out how to keep it all across instead of rising a row. Maybe?

Gonna go stretch my GLOTTIS and yell in the street. :-) TATA

IOWANS GONE BAD (New Reality Show)

Anonymous 3:31 PM  


You wrote this yesterday: I’m really not understanding the BOARD nit. Sure, a 2x4 is a type of BOARD that you might use for a stud. That doesn’t make it not a BOARD. Is there something else about a 2x4 that makes it not a BOARD?

You're second sentence begs the question. You state that a 2x4 is a board.....
But the question is whether the 2x 4 is a board. Don't you see that you're assuming the validity of the very thing you're trying to prove?
That you asked question later in the post, is immaterial.

tkincher 3:32 PM  

M. Ward did a nice version of "I Get Ideas" a few years ago on "A Wasteland Companion". Without that, I never would have even heard of the song.

D Snell 3:55 PM  

This is still m o r e proof that it's long past the time when the NYT should have decided where the next CP editor was coming from.

Sally Tomato 3:57 PM  

Second tkincher's comments about M. Ward.

And this puzzle was annoying.

Whatsername 4:57 PM  

This is one of those puzzles that was probably a lot of fun to construct but no joy to solve. I got it and I finished it, but I didn't like it. I think I actually have new squint lines around my eyes from thinking WTF for so long. And I can't afford any more squint lines than I already have. *sigh* Yes the construction was brilliant and truly unique, but I'll take a nice little rebus any day over this jumbled trickery.

jau 5:56 PM  

I did it online at the NYT and the 34A square (EDWITH) DOES have the number in it. Plus there is no explanatory note that I see even when I'm looking for it. My conclusion is that this would have been a blast if it hadn't been messed up.

Fashionista 6:25 PM  

Only use the newspaper version. The rest of the NYTIMES is just gravy to the puzzle.

Jeff B. 6:52 PM  

Just getting the guts to take on Thursdays and maybe Fridays and found this one fun. That’s even with challenges like “I get ideas.” I know lots of music, but that one must not have been covered after the early 50s.

Agree with Rex in saying ‘thank you for basebal for leading me out of the darkness yet again’ with Rusty Staub. Le grand orange made it better. It was fun figuring out the interlaces and strings. Also thanks for the reminder of how strong Linda’s pipes were in the 70s with the video of ‘silver threads’.

Unknown 6:56 PM  

Poor clue. Got “amuck” only because the Downs were gimmes.

Barbara Bolsen 6:56 PM  

No note at all for us ink-on-paper people.

jazzmanchgo 7:06 PM  

Used the newspaper version. "Woven into" was clued at 34A (not 35A), and the [alleged?] clue for 53A ("Group that bows on state") was not there. For that matter, what the hell does "bows on state" mean in the first place? "Plays a stringed instrument on State Street"?

jae 7:08 PM  

Medium. Got most of this with out getting the theme. INTERLACED WITH finally let me put it together. Tricky, liked it.

I used the Standalone Crosswords app on my iPad which had a message about clue numbering that I didn’t bother to read. The 34a clue was - . I immediately put in ENDASH.

Unknown 7:35 PM  

DNF. This puzzle was not fun for me, though I admit it's quite clever. My daughter, who is cleverer than me at these tricky things, probably would have nailed it.

Joe 8:18 PM  

I didn’t get it, didn’t enjoy it, didn’t finish it.

OISK 10:14 PM  

Took me a while to understand the abbreviation STE. And found this very difficult, but I felt good about finishing it. Clever, and challenging.

corscorpionis 10:38 PM  

I had "ebola" too which slowed me down. Also had "seafoam" instead of seasick and it took me a while to give up on that one. SW corner was tough. Eventually got through it though. LOL to the Sal Tessio comment.

TomAz 12:50 AM  

(late to the party -- I solved last (Weds.) night but never got around to commenting)

I muscled through this. I got the theme and plowed on, but it was more work than fun.

And f@#$ AMUCK.

Music Man 8:48 AM  

The song “I Get Ideas” was popular in late 1951; the highest charted version was by Tony Martin (#3, Billboard, Oct 1951). Two other versions charted around the same time: Louis Armstrong (#10), and Peggy Lee (#14).

Runb 12:26 PM  

Anything offensive in this puzzle to a dog? Not reading comments yet because haven't completed. Fell asleep after just starting puzzle, newspaper fell to floor, dog did his business (#2) on paper. He never does this. Will now have to print from computer.

Monty Boy 3:49 PM  

I finished without a lookup, a real accomplishment for me for Thursday/Friday/Saturday. I liked it overall, but had a real slow start. Not much filled in until I GET IDEAS which I got without crosses. It's a wheel-house thing - easy for the older folks, harder for younger. We'll switch places tomorrow with recent music.

I've said before, solving cryptograms helps me with crosswords. A few crosses and I can see words that might fit. That really helps with the clever misdirection clues.

Overall? I liked it and enjoyed the ah-ha moment, although I had to finish the puzzle to get it.

Blue Stater 10:40 AM  

It's a good thing I'm three days late with the puzzles so so one will read my remarks. This was the worst puzzle I can remember (it's only the finitude of memory that makes me hedge in this way rather than say this was the worst crossword puzzle I've ever encountered). Full of gimmicks and metagimmicks (gimmicks spun off gimmicks), and FULL of errors too numerous to recount here. When an Xword editor elevates gimmicks over accuracy in the NYT it's time to go. Past time. Long past time.

Madelinx 8:58 PM  

Didn't have time to post a comment until now, but I loved this. Took me a while to get string section, and finally message thread, but that part of the fun. Love Sam's puzzles!

kitshef 11:56 PM  

I reversed Rex's SW method. I put in leG and raM, and got GYM SOCK off of those. I agree with the overall mood that this was not enjoyable to solve - the AHA! was not big enough to justify the struggle. Also, LINE A was just terrible.

tim 8:02 AM  

I know I'm very late to this comment thread but I've been out of the country and this answer's been bugging me the whole time: an "ion beam" is a thing in real science, but I've never heard it in science fiction. "Twin Ion Engines," yes; beams, no.

Anonymous 3:23 PM  

"Amuck" doesn't exist, the spelling is "amok". Orcs are only bred from mud in the movie, Peter Jackson's solution to be able to show them being born fully ready for battle. Expressly denied by Tolkien in numerous places, not just LOTR. Orcs reproduce like any other creature. So that's two false clues. The theme was just ridiculous. "Staub" always brings a smile to my face. Enormous, heavy man who hit for contact, not for power, contrary to the norm. Such a great contact hitter that he would've won the batting title every year if he could have run even a little little bit. But in a race with a tortoise, he would've lost!

Burma Shave 10:07 AM  


ACCEPT the fact: she’ll INTERLACE if you let her,


rondo 10:44 AM  

Took a while to see how those words were INTERLACEDWITH one another, in large part to a hog-wild inkfest having pigRoasT before BOARHUNT.

As a kid, I had Rusty STAUB’s baseball card when he was a member of the Houston Colt .45s. No, not the malt liquor, that’s what they were called before they were the Astros. Back when you could name teams for weapons and nobody cared.

@rainy – re: Schmidt beer, which got bought out many years ago – The old Schmidt brewery has been turned into artist’s lofts and one of the buildings on-site has become a food hall with many booths, two restaurants, and a brew pub upstairs.

IGETIDEAS about yeah baby KAY Lenz.

Interesting puz, but not a fan of unchecked squares.

Diana, LIW 12:14 PM  

Whatever this was, I wasn't.

Diana, Lady-in-waiting and waiting and waiting for a crossword, remember them?

spacecraft 12:34 PM  

I took one look at this grid and moaned "Oh, no: NASCAR!" What I saw was checkered flags. Well, it wasn't that, but it still gave me the fan-tods. {Twain}

Finally glommed onto the "macguffin" with STRINGSECTION. But along the way there were many HUH?'s. Like BOARHUNT? Does such an event exist? C'mon, guys, it's time for the BOARHUNT. No sows, now, don't forget! Gimme a break. And SAL soda???? Hey Sal, what kind of soda do you want? You know: MY kind! Yeesh.

But the worst is LINEA. Now THAT puppy just doesn't hunt--boar or anything else. Ridiculous. I forced it in on crosses, wincing all the way. Also, even an ABYSS has a bottom, however far down. The word even CONTAINS a bottom: A__SS. And while we're in said ABYSS, we shall award the DOD to Mary Louise Mastrantonio, who was searing hot in that movie.

Points for being different--and for NOT being about NASCAR--but too much of the fill was just badly clued, or just plain bad. Like the GLOTTIS. That's not an opening; it's actually the flap that COVERS the opening. Get your anatomy straight, Sam. Bogey.

leftcoastTAM 2:51 PM  

Couldn't bust the code on this one. Theme (whatever it was) eluded me. After checking it out, concluded I should have bailed out much earlier than I did.

Would like to give it credit for cleverness, but begrudgingly so.

Thursday googler 3:43 PM  

Might be like 20-mule-team borax, a powder added to laundry detergent to freshen. Still works great on yoga tops and pants.

thefogman 5:17 PM  

Tough nut to crack but I did it. Harder than most Thursdays in my opinion. Everything was stuck in Stucksville until the aha! moment broke up the log jam. Challenging but enjoyable.

ramroot 2:51 PM  


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