Whittaker player of first female Doctor on Doctor Who / WED 10-10-18 / Designer of attractions at Walt Disney theme parks / Onetime resident of Mauritius

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Constructor: Alex Eaton-Salners

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium (low Medium time on an oversized grid) (4:14) 

THEME: ALPHABET (67A: Series whose first seven members are sung to the starts of 18-, 26-, 41- and 54-Across) — the first seven notes of the alphabet song are represented in solfège at the beginning of the theme answers:

Theme answers:
  • DODO BIRD (18A: Onetime resident of Mauritius)
  • SO-SO REVIEWS (26A: They might have 2 1/2 or 3 stars)
  • "LA LA LAND" (41A: 2016 Best Picture "winner" (for about two minutes))
  • SO HELP ME GOD (54A: Swear words?)

Word of the Day: Daniel INOUYE (21A: Former Hawaiian senator Daniel) —
Daniel Ken "DanInouye (井上 建 Inoue Ken/ˈnˌ/ ee-NOH-ay;[1] September 7, 1924 – December 17, 2012) was a United States Senator from Hawaii from 1963 until his death in 2012. A member of the Democratic Party, he was President pro tempore of the United States Senate (third in the presidential line of succession) from 2010 until his death,[2] making him the highest-ranking Asian-American politician in U.S. history.[3] Inouye also chaired various Senate Committees, including those on Intelligence, Commerce and Appropriations.
Inouye fought in World War II as part of the 442nd Infantry Regiment. He lost his right arm to a grenade wound and received several military decorations, including the Medal of Honor (the nation's highest military award). Returning to Hawaii, Inouye earned a law degree, was elected to Hawaii's territorial House of Representatives in 1953, and was elected to the territorial Senate in 1957. (wikipedia)
(He's also been credibly accused of sexual assault and harassment by multiple women, so there's that) (also, someone is being very vigilant about keeping this off his wikipedia page)
• • •

This is a lot of fuss for not a lot of payoff. And it's oversized? And it's pretty crosswordesey IN SPOTS? (I haven't seen BRAE in what feels like forever). Also, I prefer SOL to SO (it's not SO-fège), but there's no such thing as SOLSOL, I guess, so ... Look, this is a complicated theme, but it was no help to me while solving and feels like an elaborate joke that the teller has to explain, where you're like "Oh ... yeah, that's clever." But you didn't laugh. The premise is too thinky and awkward in its punch, and you really have to know what solfège is to fully appreciate the theme. I'm guessing there are at least a few solvers, possibly younger solvers, who are unclear on just how the DODO stuff works. Further, SO-SO REVIEWS is super-weak as a stand-alone answer. And a DODO is just a DODO. There's no DODO turtle or DODO car. I also found the last theme answer really annoying, because it's the one that *doesn't* have the repeated sound at the beginning. Just the SO(L). And then because they've also gone and given this outlier answer an equally outlier "?" clue, well, the whole SW all of a sudden became much rougher than it should've been.

I've never heard the phrase "a PRIORI" outside of grad school, and even then only seldom, so I never particularly enjoy seeing it in crosswords (where it is wildly over-represented, even considering how seldom it appears). I can never spell RIHANNA correctly, because Rhiannon rings like a bell through the night and wouldn't you love to love her, so that slowed me down. Wanted the [Designer of attractions at Walt Disney theme parks] to be an actual human being, so IMAGINEER, a horrid branded term, didn't drop as fast as it might have. I'm just gonna pretend the designer *is* an actual human being—a human being named IMA GINEER. Nice work, Ima. No idea about KOOPA, but put it right in based on inference (49D: ___ Troopa (Mario foe)). If this week is any indication, we can look forward to decades of Mario-related answers. [Cough]. Wonderful.

Again, the toughest part of the grid for me was the SW, where my two ways into that corner were blocked, one by a "?" anomalous theme clue, the other by ASH PLUME, which, man alive, I could not figure out. I had the ASH, but ... yeah, ASH. Volcanoes discharge ASH. I remember Mt. St. Helens. We drove up there that summer to visit relatives and there was ASH everywhere. But the phrase ASH PLUME, while it describes a real phenomenon, doesn't leap to mind with volcanoes, for me. ASH and LAVA and I'm out of ideas. Had to start over, unconnected, in that SW corner. Not easy. S AND P will surely trip a few people, as it's an ampersandwich, normally written "S&P," and people aren't usually on the lookout for those (they're pretty rare) (54D: ___ 500). And the clue on DILEMMA is not what I'd call strong (69A: To eat a late lunch or wait until dinner, say). Just eat, man. Eat a little now, a little later, what is your problem?

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Loren Muse Smith 7:01 AM  

I was up to my neck in freshman 5-paragraph essays yesterday, so I didn’t have time to comment. Did I miss anything? Hah. Thanks to those who defended me. I always deserve being called out for running my mouth, though. It’s a force bigger than I am.

Rex – I couldn’t disagree more with your write-up. This one floored me. In the good way, not the face-plant way. It is an elaborate joke, but one that I got on my own, and my delight was enormous. It is “thinky” – I’ll give you that. So? I have to thank the cruciverbiage gods that DODO BIRD (the full term very much in my language) and ALPHABET are both 8’s. (And Baa Baa Black Sheep or Twinkle Twinkle Little Star are too long.)

And Rex, you said, “I also found the last theme answer really annoying, because it's the one that *doesn't* have the repeated sound at the beginning.” That’s how it has to be and part of the neatness of this puzzle; The first bar/line/whatever of the tune is seven notes.
Everybody now –DO DO SO SO LA LA SO
Men only - FA FA MI MI RE RE DO.
Now women - SO SO FA FA MI MI RE
OK, I’ll stop.

I did notice the 4 IN invasion, but I just shrugged.

DILEMMA – do I sit out in the living room with my husband and read The Economist while he reads a book on 19th century naval warfare, or do slink back to the bedroom pleading sleepiness and put on Below Deck, a different kind of naval warfare?

It took me forever to figure out what was going on, even knowing it involved musical notes, since I first had “Josie” for 1D. Hence my first notes were SO DO. As in Julie Andrews and TOTs singing SO DO LA FA MI DO RE in their curtain clothes. But when ALPHABET fell, I saw it. And I was delighted. I’m gobsmacked that Alex came up with this idea.

This was, like, Saturday hard. That southeast almost did me in until I sussed out IMAGINEER. What a terrific portmanteau. (Again, I have to disagree with Rex. I immediately pictured all these serious engineers with Mickey Mouse ears on.)

A Middle Eastern chef could be called a tagineer.

I was thinking the QB was “Grease” and stupidly put in an A after the R. This led to a mystifying “Do-Do Bard” for the guy who lived in Mauritius. I don’t know enough about poetry to offer up a candidate for this nickname. Actually, I guess I could be a do-do bard since I like accessible, pedestrian poems that rhyme.


Shouldn’t a DAYBED really be called a daycouch? As in, you’re supposed to use it as a couch during the day, but no one ever does ‘cause it Just. Doesn’t. Work. No matter where you put the pillows on it.

Alex – I liked that NOTE is in the grid. Sneaky, sneaky. I’ll remember this one for a long time.

Anonymous 7:02 AM  

Are we just going to pretend that the fifth solfège note is so, and not sol? Because that's just wrong. You can't just change something that is true to make it for your theme. Even if you used the "tonic sol-fa" version, it would be DOH and SO. It's never DO and SO. It's SOL. This theme is busted from the start and should have been rejected on that basis.

Hungry Mother 7:06 AM  

Had BASSo for way too long, but I’m more stubborn than reasonable. I’ve been off campus too long to remember names of organizations. Mario has been getting a lot of play lately, but never by me, so always hard for me.

Lewis 7:06 AM  

Clues like "Live", "Record holder", "Summer cover-up", and "Here and there" (and there are more), and answers like INSTIR, DAYBED, KOOPA, and ASHPLUME gave me some delicious resistance. I like the mini-theme of GREISE/HAILE/INOUYE and the clean grid. So the puzzle was motivating and entertaining.

Even with a good knowledge of music theory and solfege, it took me two beats to suss the theme (with a happy "Aha!"). Which left me thinking that without knowing a bit of music theory, a solver might get the puzzle done but might not get it.

kitshef 7:13 AM  

If you solve a puzzle, then spend more time thinking about the theme than you did solving the puzzle, then it’s a bad theme.

Also, if you include BAE in your puzzle, you have lost. Rip it up and start again. Or in this case, just change it to BEE, for all our sakes.

Shafty 7:14 AM  

@LMS: Glad you’re back. Pay no attention to the Anonymice.

Rex, you’re roughly of my vintage. How could you be so unfamiliar with Mario, KOOPA Troopas, etc.?

Anonymous 7:15 AM  

It's fun watching old people complain about new words. At least it isn't boring baseball.

Passing Shot 7:17 AM  

@!Lewis 7:06 — “a solver might get the puzzle done but might nit get it.” Welcome to my world. Even with Rex’s write-up I have no idea what went on with this puzzle. All I know is it took me 3 (3!) times as long as a typical Wednesday. Oy.

Fitting that the lead-off comment is from LMS. :-)

Anonymous 7:22 AM  

I enjoyed the theme. I got ALPHABET first, and then started singing DO RE MI (etc.) to figure out the note sequence. Very straightforward.

puzzlehoarder 7:28 AM  

This came in right on the money, only 7 seconds over what I consider average Wednesday time. There was just enough difficult material to make it interesting. For most of the names spelling was the only issue. INOUYE was the one that I got correctly on first try just off the Y. I had to switch the H and the I for RIHANNA. HAILE started off as HALIE. In retrospect the latter could be the love child of HAILE and HALLE. KOOPA was the only complete unknown. I was glad to see it was a debut and not just another thing I'd forgotten. 31D became recognizable when I got it down to HILLE_. I knew the last letter had to be an L and SOHELPMEGOD it was.

RooMonster 7:36 AM  

Hey All !
While I don't share @LMS's enthusiasm for this puz, it didn't totally tank, either. It was just kinda there. Let me be the first to say, The ALPHABET Song and Twinkle Twinkle Little Star have the same tune. Not musical, so the DOs, SOs, LAs, SOLs don't really mean anything to me.
A, B, C, D, E, F, G - H, I, J, K, LMNOP, - Q, R, S, - T, U, V, - W, X, - Y, and Z, Now I know my ABC's, won't you come and sing with me.

Strange Alex had to go 16 wide. I guess to get the even lettered LALA LAND in the middle. OH OK, so not so strange. :-)

This was quite a little toughie. Kept hitting stuff I didn't know, halting progress yon and HITHER. Finished with an O at BASSo/HoLLEL, which I refuse to consider a DNF because what the hell is BASSI? Ugh, I plurals. Funny clue on ONO. Could've added "and songs" to the clue after "name". INOUYE sounds like an insult. :-) Is SXSW the new ACNE? A couple of superfluous DOs, TO DO LIST, REDOS. VENDOR, too. 😋

That's my SO SO REVIEW of a SO SO puz. SARONG!


BarbieBarbie 7:38 AM  

Easy side of Medium for me, with a theme that jumped out after I’d read half the revealer clue. So, no big deal, but fun. Yes, @Rex, ASHPLUME is a thing and in fact is what came out of MSH and reached airplane-height. It’s like saying The Water Jet. Different from saying The Water, because you’re talking about the jet, which happens to be water. Or, the plume, modified by ash.The Flame, modified by Gas. Etcetera.
Strange that a commenter would need to thank other commenters for defending her against a comment on a puzzle blog, directed not at the puzzle, nor at the commentary about the puzzle, nor at the commentary about that commentary, but at a person making comments about the comments about the puzzle. So meta it’s making me dizzy!

RavTom 7:45 AM  

@LMS: Excellent write up. Welcome back.

@Rex: A Priori is used in various non grad school settings, including two I’ve been involved with: law and theology.

QuasiMojo 7:48 AM  

I nearly had a DNF because I did not know Josie (never saw Dr Who?) nor the QB. I was thinking of boxing with the “take down” clue. And my spelling of Inouye was as variable as Rex’s take on Rihanna. But, I really wanted to finish which is a good sign and so I persevered and figured it out sans google in what would normally be a Friday time.

Like LMS the theme worked well for me. We always said SO when I was singing in grade school and the lyrics to the Sound of Music song are also SO (as in making clothes... ahem). When I was in college and singing in the glee club we used solfege all the time. And we always said SO. Honestly it was only when I started to do the NYT puzzle that I ever encountered SOL.

Can some kind SOUL tell me how IN SPOTS relates to “here and there”?

It’s definitely called a “dodo bird” Rex. So sad that they all had to be killed off. (I tried to fit Napoleon there since I thought maybe he lived there after Elba and before St Helena. (Which reminds me of Mt St Helens and that appalling ASH PLUME.)

Thinking of those in the path of Hurricane Michael. Stay safe!!

michiganman 7:57 AM  

Enjoyed your comments, especially that you clarified the theme for Rex, that the single SO(l)in 54A is the seventh note in the ALPHABET song. I managed to see the theme early and it helped me some but a lot of the fill was not easy. Excellent puzzle. 50 minutes of fun.

Unknown 8:08 AM  

AGER and BRAE crossing GRIESE?! C’mon... If you’re under 35 you’ve probably never seen these words or watched him play. Also “Dear Abby??” Can’t believe OFL didn’t comment on that - I used to glance at those in the paper as a kid and they seemed old fashioned and sexist even then.

Suzie Q 8:19 AM  

My dilemma at this moment is whether to agree with @LMS or @ kitshef.
Some of the many proper names were a nuisance but it was fun in places. Even so, I still had to sing the song in my head to "get" it.
I'm no musician but I do know it's Sol.
Ash cloud or plume? Rex cracked me up about lava and ash. There is that pesky poisonous gas as well.
Is jail ever called stir anywhere besides old movies?
There were enough good points to this to just pretend it was themeless and call it a day.

'merican in Paris 8:23 AM  

Yeesh. I'm glad that several people liked this puzzle, but I didn't. Or, rather, I liked it until I didn't. As @Rex notes, the theme is highly complex (I never learned that song), and the puzzle's level of difficulty was extremely Spotty.

It felt good to suss out the crunchy northeast and southwest, but after 45 minutes I started googling. I had "IM ... N ... EER" for 38 D, all I could think of was I.M. Pei. So I googled that one. Also gave up on the QB name and Googled that, and BRAE. The amper-expanded S AND P also took me a long time to see.

ON the other HAND, there was some nice new fill. PLASTIC is such a common item, I'm surprised we don't see it more often in puzzledom. Other faves: HITHER, DILEMMA, TURNTABLE, and NAILGUN.

By the way, I've noticed that non-native speakers of English in Europe typically write "ON ONE HAND", while I learned "ON the ONE HAND". Does anybody know whether that's the British English formulation, or did I just miss the dropping of the word "the" from the phrase?

HumanBean 8:39 AM  

Loren Muse Smith I agree with you on all counts! I loved the revealer and immediately started humming in my head! But it was super challenging for me, particularly in the northwest and southwest. I was disappointed that OFL declared it an easy-medium. Great puzzle!

Junief 8:40 AM  

4 in invasion? Please explain. (Great write up, as always!)

Junief 8:43 AM  

Foreign invasion?

kitshef 8:43 AM  

@'merican in Paris - it's not British, or at least not north of Englandish -- all my relatives say "on the one hand". On the other hand, that "the" does seem superfluous, so maybe folks are just saving syllabs.

amyyanni 8:45 AM  

Loved 1 across....and Jodie W for preventing me from entering "dis." Liked this one, but having run the NYC marathon in '08 in Red Sox gear (& Wally), I am easily pleased this morning.

Music Man 8:47 AM  

Re: 17A. One-named singer RIHANNA, whose actual real name is ROBYN RIHANNA FENTY. One of the best-selling music artists of all-time; 14 #1 songs, 30 Top Ten hits, and 9 Grammy awards... all by the age of 30!

Let Just Make Stuff Up LO(L) 8:48 AM  

Okras? In stir? As in, "How many okras did you eat? I didn't none, I was in stir."

GILL I. 8:57 AM  

I'm in @kitshef's camp.
I really had to work hard and spend a ton of time trying to figure out where this was leading to.
I know about the use of the SOL -FA syllables in a melody. Solfege is great to teach pitch. Someone please convince me that SO instead of SOL is acceptable? Couldn't Alex come up with a SOL word?
Walking away, scratching my head.
A few nits to pick. I wasn't crazy about all the ON's, the IN TOW and especially IN STIR. Add the EAR,ERE, ERS to the mix and my cocktail tastes like someone slipped me an OKRA instead of an olive.
There is some nice stuff here and really, in hindsight, the theme is clever. But man, I can't get over the SOL.
The clues these days for OTIS are going the way of the OREO. How many ways can you clue his name?
Was LA LA LAND that movie that supposedly won the Oscar but turned out to be an oopsie?
Is BAE short for babe?
Will I ever remember KOOPA?
Off to make my latte......

Let'S Just Make Stuff Up 8:59 AM  

My real name. It's early in the West.

Anonymous 9:16 AM  

@Gill - if you can accept Rodgers and Hammerstein as authoritative then, yes, SO is definitely kosher. I’ll second @LMS on the full DODO BIRD being very much in the language.

Anonymous 9:20 AM  

Basso / Hollel
The first one still looks better to me.

Ando 9:21 AM  

"I also found the last theme answer really annoying, because it's the one that *doesn't* have the repeated sound at the beginning." Yes but -- that's the WHOLE POINT of the theme. The first "line" of the alphabet song, "ABCDEFG", has seven syllables and aligns perfectly with the themer answers.

Ando 9:22 AM  

The main thing that slowed me down was the "L" in "ASHPLUME" because I assumed that to be the start of "LAVA", and ended up with "ASHY LAVA" for a while which I hated and for good reason.

Anonymous 9:24 AM  

I'm guessing if all of your solfege knowledge comes from "Do A Deer", then yeah, you probably think it's "SO" (sew...a needle pulling thread). But you would be wrong, misinformed, and well...wrong. It would be one thing if it was a singular answer within the grid...but it's a major part of the theme that clearly, if used correctly, wouldn't work. So they just decided that "SO" was good enough somehow...after all, who will really care? If you're the editor of a major US Newspaper and believe somehow you're the keeper of a longstanding standard of the Crossword Puzzle™, **you** should care.

It's truly a minor point in the world. People who actually use solfege, know how to use it...and the rest of world only sings about it when they're remembering a song from The Sound of Music....there are very few people in the 8+ billion who live in this world who will, on this day, casually use the term "SO" for the actual word, SOL. So in the grand scheme, literally no one will care by tomorrow.

But dammit. It's wrong and it's sloppy.

Anonymous 9:25 AM  



Odd Sock 9:29 AM  

This theme really had me scratching my head for quite a while.
Do Do
So So
La La
I was expecting another repetitive syllable.
Took me way to long to understand.

I'm suspicious of yesterday's love fest for LMS.
If it was anyone else but her I would wonder if it was some very insecure blogger looking for applause. I don't believe that was the case but do we ever really know a person if all we see is what they choose to show us?

Anonymous 9:33 AM  

@Rav Tom,

Rex can barely spell Aquinas, let alone appreciate how important the concept of things a priori knowledge is in Western thought.
He'd rather read comics then the Summa Theologica. That's why he recently admitted he can never remember the true meaning of begging the question.

Rainbow 9:38 AM  

@Quasi. It's raining here and there. It's raining IN SPOTS.

mmorgan 9:39 AM  

This was an enjoyable and pleasant way to spend a bit of time. IN STIR sounded strange to me without a "the" between them. Nearly Naticked on _OOPA (I had no idea whatsoever) but luckily I came up with OKRAS. Whew.

Sir Hillary 9:42 AM  

Wow, I really disliked this one. Seems a very thin theme to me, with a lousy revealer, which I may have liked more if it were "Baa Baa Black Sheep", which would have fit in the 16-wide grid. (Although I disagree with her on today's puzzle, as usual LMS adds tremendous value to this place, even if it's sometimes inadvertent).

INSPOTS? AGER? KOOPA? No thanks. Worst of all...raise your hand if you've ever said the word ADEPTS. Yep, don't see any -- thanks for confirming. "I like the way that novice adapts -- she adopts the practices of the adepts she watches." Yeah, sure.

On the plus side, the long downs are excellent -- particularly IMAGINEER, which I find a very endearing term, marketing-driven or not.

I think of LEE Majors as a TV guy, not a film guy. To this day, when I see a man shirtless under a low-zipped sweatsuit jacket, I call it the LEE Majors look.

Are there any songs that start with multiple REDOS?

Nancy 9:42 AM  

I sort of think that if you have to mangle SOL into SO in order to accommodate your theme, then maybe you should come up with a different theme.

I know few, if any, of the current portmanteaus, but it's always fun to try to guess them. IMAGINEER is a little twee, and I had to guess at the middle AGI, but I got it, and I'm pleased with myself.

Re 69A. Oh, please. If you consider that a DILEMMA, you've led an unusually sheltered life. It's a choice, not a DILEMMA -- and here are two possible Big Decisions you can make: 1) Have a small snack now -- some nuts, a few cheese and crackers, a soupcon of hummus -- to tide you over until dinner. 2) Have a late lunch, eat as much you like, and have a small snack before you go to bed to tide you over until morning. Okay -- Have I solved your "DILEMMA"?

I give this puzzle a SO SO REVIEW. When I go back to read y'all, I'm sure more than a few of you will have already said that.

And @jberg -- Thanks for your nice comment yesterday.

Unknown 9:53 AM  

I’m having trouble understanding why So is not acceptable. Maybe it’s SOL for musicians but the song Do-Re-Mi uses So instead of Sol. And i got the theme right after I got DoDo and La La Land. It was either Twinkle Twinkle or the ABC, and I hadn’t filled up any other girds really.

Oscar Hammerstein II 10:06 AM  

@Nancy - "I sort of think that if you have to mangle SOL into SO in order to accommodate your theme, then maybe you should come up with a different theme." !? Good thing I never listened to you!

Warren Howie Hughes 10:09 AM  

Easy-Medium Rex? OH OK, I wonder if the day will ever dawn that the 10th Greatest Crossword Solver on the 3rd Rock from the Sun will fess to the fact that he had to down-load the answers from his printer...We should all live so long!?

Nancy 10:10 AM  

@Anon 9:16 -- So I pulled out my "Broadway Deluxe: Theater Songs for the Piano" to see what Hammerstein had wrought, re SO or SOL (pun intended). And you're right: He uses both "SO" and "SEW -- a needle pulling thread". But he never once uses SOL. Still, you might ask what Hammerstein knows, anyway? He's a lyricist; he's not a composer and he's not a musician. What does a mere lyricist* know about musical scales? The real surprise is that Rodgers let him get away with it.

*Joke, everyone. I'm a mere lyricist.

GHarris 10:12 AM  

No need for me to get wrapped up in the theme contretemps and it added nothing to my solving experience. Found it somewhat challenging but enjoyable. Had a dnf because I went with Eno instead of Ono and never heard of an S and P 500 so I had Ina for Ana.

OffTheGrid 10:13 AM  

You contradict yourself and conclude that maybe it was she. Ridiculous.

OffTheGrid 10:20 AM  

Did you make a choice to overthink 69A? While I'm there, I think many overthought SO/Sol. There's always a little latitude in xwords that's really OK.

GILL I. 10:21 AM  

@Anony 9:16. I'm familiar with the R and H"s DO RE MI song. I assumed SOL (the perfect fifth) was to rhyme with sew. They changed the solfege syllable to SO?
Homer: D'oh
Marge: A Deer
Lisa: A female deer.
I rest my case.

pmdm 10:23 AM  

I figured out what the theme was early on, and even intuited the reveler from the crosses, but still never realized it was quoting a piece of music. Mozart wrote a set of piano solo variations on a theme, a piece of music that is fairly easy to play, and I've played it many times, but I still didn't get the theme.

This type of puzzle requires specialized knowledge to decode it, so I would expect some to love it and some to hate it. I am not disappointed in the comments. I am fairly neutral to it (oddly) but am on the side of saying "Thumbs up!."

The composer wrote a set of variations on the theme for piano and orchestra that is a lot more interesting than the youthful Mozart piece. Here's a link to a definitive performance by the composer. (The Wild/Fiedler recording is also good.) There is a long orchestra introduction during which the whole orchestra plays the theme in the minor mode, and eventually the piano enters to play the theme simply. Those familiar with the Romantic Era of classical movement might notice a number of intentional quotes to music composed by other composers. Is the piece a satire or tribute? Decide for yourself.

I hope I can play the piano half as well as the composer when I am 79 years old.

Variations on a Nursery Rhyme

Anonymous 10:32 AM  

So is a legitimate version of Sol, as Doh is a legitimate version of Do, used in various musical contexts legitimately and well before "The Sound of Music" was ever dreamed of. You could look it up, or you could just join YFL in remaining - clueless.

Whatsername 10:39 AM  

I solved the answers but didn’t get it until I came here and started reading comments. Then had a head slapper moment when I realized - AB CD EF G - oh yeah.

@ GILL: BAE is urban shorthand for your significant other, said to be an acronym for “before anyone else” although that is debatable. However in the Danish language it means “poop” so I’m thinking in some relationships the terms could be interchangeable.

Peter P 10:53 AM  

Figured out the theme early, too, but was wondering about SO. Chalked it up to maybe there is some solfege that has it alternately as that instead of SOL. It's not in dictionary.com, but I do see it in Wiktionary and m-w.com ("less common variant of SOL") so I guess someone out there uses it. Come to think of it, why is that "l" on the end of that anyway? It's the only musical syllable in solfege that is more than just consonant + vowel (though I see the traditional pronunciation of it is as /soʊ/, which omits the "l.")

Got snagged in the SW, and had to Google to figure it out. Totally missed SANDP, even though QANDA was just in the puzzle a few days ago, so I should have been able to see the AND as a conjunction there. So a DNF for me. Maybe if I stayed patient I would have gotten SANDP which would have unlocked the other ones for me, but I'm not a patient person.

Anonymous 11:15 AM  

@Peter - short answer, it’s the first syllable of the Latin word solve. See Wikipedia etymology for solfege. The original DO was apparently “ut.” Huh.

thfenn 11:23 AM  

There is a DODO car, right in the puzzle itself (EDSELS). Thoroughly enjoyed this one, as I do any Wednesday I can complete without help. Do agree with the point that it's SOL, not SO.

Z 11:36 AM  

Nothing to do with the puzzle, but starting with JODIE Whittaker just irked me from the get-go. There’s all this self-congratulatory crap out there about a female Doctor. The Left Hand of Darkness was published 49 years ago. Delaney published Triton 42 years ago, when I found it in the local bookstore in sexually repressed Holland, Michigan. Congratulations Doctor Who! You caught up with science fiction from half a century ago. Heck, Ancillary Justice won a Hugo Award five years ago. Better late than never, but the “aren’t we progressive” hype just galls me.

So, anyway, I wasn’t exactly in a positive mood and the puzzle did nothing from there to improve it. JODIE/ONO/INOUYE/ABBY/GRIESE is a PPPCF in the NW. I’m not even counting the Mauritius clued DODO BIRD. Toss in that I find all things solfège passé and I basically grumbled through the entire solve. My only smile was having S-R—G for “Summer cover-up” and contemplating StRiNG for an answer.

Two write-overs, HAlLE before HAILE (that’s an ell to an eye since they look identical in this font) and RhiANNA to RIHANNA. Second smile of the day was Rex’s Fleeteood Mac riff.

¿ɹǝlʇqns ƃuᴉɥʇǝɯos ƃuᴉssᴉɯ I ɯɐ ɹo ɹǝlɐǝʌǝɹ ǝɥʇ uᴉ ǝʌᴉʇɔǝɾpɐ ǝɥʇ ʎq pǝqᴉɹɔsǝp sɐ ʇno ʇɹɐʇs sǝɹɐnbs pǝpɐɥs ǝɥʇ ʇɐɥʇ ʇsnɾ ʎllɐǝɹ ǝɯǝɥ┴ XƆΛ∀ ǝɥʇ sI

jb129 12:09 PM  

Who's Mario?

I can never get into this constructor's head try as I might,

Lindsay 12:18 PM  

I solved this downs-only, so of course my theme answers began DODO, SOSO, LALA and heHE. Then about the time I realized 54A was the nonsensical (in this context) SO HELP ME GOD, I noticed that 2d began with ONON. Which led me to think that 37d TURNTABLE needed a repetitive start. In the end I got everything but parts of IMAGINEER.

Left me underwhelmed.

Joe Bleaux 12:19 PM  

I don't like it either, but as a three-letter word ending in two vowels, BAE is in crossworld to stay. It's no BRAE to die on.

Peter P 12:31 PM  

@Anonymous 11:15 a.m. "Ut" I was aware of. There's also "Si" instead of "Ti" for the major seventh. Interesting about the "sol." I knew it came from a Latin hymn, but it's still curious to me they left the "l" on for "solve," but not the consonant in the other cases, but now that I look at it again, it's because that was the way the syllables split up. "Solve" comes with a split between "sol" and "ve", while "resonare" and "mira" split apart before the consonant.

Joseph Michael 12:48 PM  

I felt like a DODO solving this and ended up with a DNF thanks to the crossing of INOUYE and GRIESE. I guess I need to move to Oahu and watch more football.

A three-star review is only SO SO? Not in my book. And I’m sorry but deciding what time to eat is not a DILEMMA. Trying to figure out what to do with your fricking EDSELS is a DILEMMA.

BAE and SXSW are terms I know only from crosswords. SANDP was tricky as hell but produced a satisfying AHa moment when I finally figured it out. Also like the misdirection in the clue for TURNTABLE.

However, I think my favorite moment in all of this was listening to the Alohabet Song and realizing that I knew all the letters

JC66 12:50 PM  


re: ACVX, I think that's all there is.

Z 12:59 PM  

Hmmmm, My thought is that what is “annoying” about SO HELP ME GOD is that as one is solving you have DODO/SOSO/LALA, so it is natural to think you are looking for another duplicate. Sure, once you get over to 67A and the “seven” in the clue it’s obvious that all we need is SO. This is annoying the same way I found conflating Halle Berry and HAILE Selassie annoying. Rex doesn’t always make it easy to distinguish comments about his solve and the puzzle, but that’s my reading.

Speaking of my readings, adding TL;DR to one’s own comment followed by a synopsis: Self-awarenes of one’s gas-baggery. Commenting about someone else’s post with just TL;DR: Remedial course in internet manners needed. Maybe this was intended to be funny, but in plain text it just looks mean.

4 in invasion - IN TOW, IN OUYE*, IN STIR, and IN SPOTS means four “INs” have invaded the puzzle which also always for a nice pun on foreign invasion.

*LINKED IN is a truer INvader

jberg 1:02 PM  

I finished at SANDP, and then spent a couple minutes figuring out what racetrack that could be. Finally got it, and was embarrassed not to have thought about it right away.

The theme is really nice, once you figure it out. That took me way too long, because even though I knew it was supposed to be the alphabet song, my inner voice just took off from the DO to sing "Do, a deer..." Is that from The Sound of Music? Anyway, even without that song, I refuse to believe that the names of the notes of the scale are specialized knowledge.

I finally wrenched my mind away from that to do the actual song, and only then noticed that it was one word per note. I'll accept SO, as the best you can do for that one.

@Junief -- the puzzle is invaded by four uses of the word IN,


or maybe it's IN one EER and out the other -- at least, if there really is a 4th IN, I can't find it! Strictly speaking, constructors are not supposed to repeat a word, so it's a fault.

Speaking of @Loren, the reason so many of us love her is her avatars -- I have long wondered whether she finds them on the web or puts them together herself, but I think today's must be the latter.

@kitshef -- different opinions about the point of the theme -- over the years I've come around to the view that it's a second puzzle, so if it's hard to figure out that's a feature, not a bug.

I took maybe 8 classes in Italian a couple of years ago; now I'm absolutely insufferable about plurals. "What do you mean, you want a biscotti? Are you completely illiterate?" I'm trying to restrict myself to a knowing smirk, but it's hard.

Masked and Anonymous 1:03 PM  

This puz was worth it, just to see @muse's Brae Bae avatar selection. Also, the puz had somethin to please and displease almost everybody, so that's a nice plus.

Hi-Lo Lites:
* ONO/ONO+NEHAND. Cute. Part of a tough-ish starter corner, in the NW.
* NAILGUN. Fave entry; a gun used to build stuff.
* LINKED+IN/IN+STIR. Slightly desperate, with the crossin INs.
* BAE. staff weeject pick. Sorta logical. Slang-ize by losin a syllable, like with HON[ey] and BUD[dy] and [fa]TRUMP. Like … but could get over-used.
* DODOBIRD. Prefer BIRD DODO. Slang version: BIRD DO. Probably part of many BIRD TODOLISTS.
* HILLEL the Elder. Slang version: HILLELEL.
* IMAGINEER. Learned somethin new, heere. Thanx to the wily constructioneer.
* SO vs. SOL: SO is the slang version, right? Sooo … ohok.

Thanx for the many notes of fun, Mr. E-S.

Masked & Anonymo3Us


Teedmn 1:10 PM  

Alex Eaton-Salners' puzzles always befuddle me. Just a day ago, I was doing a non-NYT puzzle he made and I gave up. I never just quit in the middle of a puzzle - I guess I can't say that any more. But it had a lot of weird pop culture and a theme I never quite grokked.

This puzzle I did finish successfully but more in a Friday time than Wednesday. I found the theme, while clever, unsatisfying to figure out (and the damn ALPHABET Song EAR worm I now have doesn't help ease that feeling!)

At 54A, not having figured out the theme yet, I was trying to come up with a heHE phrase, HAILE Selassie and ERE having given me the HE. heh HEh, nice trick. It didn't SO HELP ME GOD that I wanted an ASH cloud for 42D before the PLUME rose into view.

KOOPA GRIESE RIHANNA (yes, Rhianna made it into my grid), OH my.

CaliMarie 1:33 PM  

The Ono clue alone made it all worth it! Haha!

QuasiMojo 1:41 PM  

@Nancy, Hammerstein II was indeed a brilliant lyricist but he was roundly criticized for his other Sound Of Music lyric, “like a lark that is learning to pray.” Sondheim had him for breakfast on that one. :)

Anoa Bob 1:50 PM  

I can usually count the number of POCs in a grid ON ONE HAND, but today, no, it takes both hands and a foot. Maybe it's the 16-wide grid.

Looks like I'm the only one who was thinking that the author of yesterday's "anonymous" comment asking for opinions on LMS posts was LMS herself. That's not meant to be a criticism. I just thought that a self-described "worry wart" might want some reassuring feedback on how others are reacting to her writings, and the outpouring of praise and support yesterday encouraged her to give us today's voluminous offering.

Without further information, though, my conjecture will remain an A PRIORI hypothesis.

Anonymous 2:00 PM  

On one hand is a way to do something. On the one hand refers to alternatives. My first comment. I could not get it attached to the correct prior comment.

pabloinnh 2:06 PM  

So today I learned "soflege", this after singing for maybe 60 years and counting. Our choral conductor in college used to give the different sections notes as "do-ti-fa-so(l)" or whatever but I never knew this method had a name. I am embarrassed, to say nothing of how I feel.

Oye @GILL I--if you're looking for another OTIS clue, I suggest a fine Cole Porter tune, "Miss Otis Regrets". Been around since the 30's and some very good singers have covered it. Could clue it as "Ruing Porter miss" which would get some form of that popular xword "rue" in there.

Also everyone here that thinks baseball is boring wasn't a Bosox fan watching the bottom of the ninth last night. Wish it had been a little more boring. Yikes, yipes, and yeesh.

rageismycaffeine 2:07 PM  

I really liked this one. Lots of fresh fill (BAE! KOOPA! the delightful JODIE Whitaker!), with a balance of old-school crosswordese. Fun clues (I admit I got a chuckle out of the clue for LALALAND). And the theme was also excellent. I usually agree with OFL's reviews; not so this time, I'm afraid.

Anonymous 2:09 PM  

@Z Who does lack of “self awareness of one’s own gas-baggery” describe ? Anyone you know ?

Monty Boy 2:14 PM  

I agree with @LMS comments entirely. Fun puzzle. There was a similar one a couple years ago that used the notes from Twinkle, Twinkle.

A confession: I'm not musical at all. In third grade the music teacher said I should just listen during this next song. Can't carry a tune.
That said, I was able to do this one and felt good about humming the alphabet tune (to myself). My middle school music teacher daughter liked it a lot too.

Illustrating my musical ignorance, I didn't know the note was SOL until adulthood. As a kid, when I ran the notes, SOL bled into LA so I never heard the L in SOL. For the puzzle, I consider using SO to be poetic (puzzle-etic?) license and am not offended by not using SOL.

Not that kind of manager 2:47 PM  

66D: Does Will Shortz understand the difference between the jobs of, say, Joe Maddon and Theo Epstein? I don't suppose any GM (even a well-known one like Billy Beane) would think of himself as a "Diamond VIP." Back-office VIP, sure. I've seen this misbegotten clue too many times (though, TBF, maybe not all in the NYTX).

XQQQME 2:49 PM  

It’s OK if you think baseball is boring, it’s kinda for smart people.

QuasiMojo 3:33 PM  

@Rainbow, 9:23am, thank you for the explanation. I thought it was “in spots” such as those places VIPs hang out. Doh!

Anonymous 3:40 PM  

not that kind,
your rant would be more convincing if you used the correct term: GMs run the front office, not back office. You might want to reconsider your use of misbegotten as well.

Mrs White 3:50 PM  

Why this discussion? The clue/answer is literal and has nothing to do with on one hand vs on the other hand. Dumb.

Odd Sock 4:54 PM  

@ Anoa Bob, I mentioned that same thought at 9:20 this morning. I guess we are the only ones.

GILL I. 5:55 PM  

@Whatsername...come to think of it, I'm pretty sure the first time I saw BAE here, I looked it up and made a loud comment on the poop from Denmark. Moving on to OTIS.....
@pablo: OYE right back atcha. Como va? Miss Otis Regrets. Without a doubt, Bette Midler singing it. Sass up the ... where I'm sure the BAE don't shine..... ;-)

Anonymous 7:26 PM  

@Z - appreciate the shout out to Triton, which is by my favorite science fiction writer, whose name you should have as Delany, not Delaney.
His works are so rarely to be found on the shelves of the few remaining bookstores.

Sherm Reinhardt 9:17 PM  

This was evil, and for the sole reason that 12D for me started out TBILL, went to TBOND, and ended up TNOTE.

Also for the reason that 51D started as ASHCLOUD and ended as ASHPLUME.

Also, I don't think of OKRA as a plant and I don't think of it ever as plural.

Anonymous 10:33 PM  

Maybe it's just me, but neither ALPHABET nor "the alphabet tune" had anything to do with the musical theme, because solfege does not equal the alphabet. Bad clue, to my mind; it was quite a shot-in-the-dark for me to get to "alphabet."

TAB2TAB 10:45 PM  

Am I the one shocked and somewhat shaken to learn that the word "dilemna" is actually spelled "dilemma" ??? That looks so wrong. And apparently I'm not the only one.

kitshef 8:43 AM  

@TAB2TAB - you are certainly not the only one. I was in that group for years, and it's come up on the blog before with fair numbers of dilemna confessions. It's weird, isn't it? How does a non-phonetic misspelling become a (somewhat) common thing?

Anonymous 8:42 PM  

Dilemma: Why does anyone think there's an "n" in that word? Other than an extension of the way we spell "solemn," "autumn," and so forth.

A "lemma" is, in mathematics, an "auxiliary proposition used in the demonstration of another proposition," therefore if you have 2 of them you have a "dilemma" - and then you're "caught on the horns of a dilemma."

Burma Shave 9:52 AM  


IMAGINE my DILEMMA, ONO, it just feels SARONG.


fakt chekker 11:23 AM  

The shocking truth turns out to be that *DILEMnA* has never, ever been spelled with an N . . .
It's not even been given a passing mention as a possible alternative spelling in any dictionary going back hundreds of years!
In fact the origin of the word is apparently derived from two ancient Greek words, DI meaning two, and LEMMA meaning propositions or alternatives.
So the correct spelling of the word is definitely 'DILEMMA' . . . and always has been!

spacecraft 11:25 AM  

Awful puzzle. Had I not finished in the SW and seen the ampersandwich with only two lines left to go, I wouldn't have even bothered. There was SO much to gag at even before. Just a few:

--> DODOBIRD = green paint.

--> This Whittaker chick belongs in a later-week grid. M-W, it should be DOD Jodie. For a few rabid Dr. Who fans a gimme; for the vast majority a huh???

--> I hap[pen to remember INOUYE, but he wasn't all that remarkable and I'm old. It's only Wednesday, people!

...and we haven't even left the NW. One more thing: with all the starving people in the world, do we have to clue DILEMMA that way? To have that "dilemma" is a dream that millions will never realize. I just thought it in very poor taste--you know, like deciding to publish this piece of garbage. "Other" (worse than double-bogey).

rondo 12:51 PM  

Learned a PRIORI in law school as logical or deductive reasoning; kinda fits the clue, I guess. As far as the musical notes thing, a long way to go for more or less a thud at ALPHABET. Coulda used a little more twinkle twinkle, Baba Looie, maybe three bags full. But I guess I don’t do the thinnin’ around here.

Didn’t the INSPOTS sing “Only You”? Long before Ringo?

I dated a Jody, then married a JoDee, then dated a JODIE. Two outta three ain’t bad. And the clued JODIE deserves a yeah baby.

This puz was OHOK INSPOTS and probably deserves SOSOREVIEWS.

thefogman 1:11 PM  

Sometimes Rex's SOSOREVIEWS are justified. This is one such occasion where I fully and completely agree with Rex's commentary. But easy-medium? Not for me. HARD!!! This one was designed to defeat the solvers and in my case it succeeded. I got most of it in spite of the dreaded SW corner. But I was Naticked by 21A/5D and 36A/39D. I had INOUYu/GRIuSE and INSTIt/tAS. I thought INOUYu sounded Hawaiian and went with the U and having no idea who the football guy was. And I went with INSTIt/tAS figuring INSTIt was slang for institutionalized and technical assistants (T.A.'s) monitored college dorms. SOHELPMEGOD, if we get another bad puzzle this week I'm going to need some REHAB.

leftcoastTAM 2:43 PM  

Confused and confusing theme. Generally agree with Rex's skewering of it.

Got into it at DODO BIRD and followed up with the other themers and revealer, but couldn't make sense of the thing. Just too clever, and a bit sloppy, maybe?

Wanted SOSO RatingS before REVIEWS. IMAGINEER is a cute, eponymous new one. And PLASTIC is the bane of the natural world.


Diana, LIW 3:25 PM  

Not my favorite puzzle ever either.

Actually, the kind I like least - the kind where I have 95% of it done - correct - and then one or two blank squares. Really? All that work for...crickets?


thefogman 4:52 PM  

Why is it that dilemma is often thought to have alternate spelling (incorrectly) of dilemna as Anonymous 8:42 PM pointed out. I too thought you could spell it both ways and it seems I am not the only one. Why is that?

Anonymous 3:46 PM  

Between Yoshi the other day and Koopa today, I feel like there is verrrry little overlap between video game players and crossword solvers. Super easy clues for me and my ilk though.

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