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Thursday, November 22, 2018

Constructor: Randolph Ross

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium (5:29 ... but felt like the kind of puzzle I should've solved in 3)

THEME: ___-LESS words — clues are words with letters missing; answers are synonyms for the word, plus a ___-LESS word referring to whichever letter of the word is missing, resulting in "___-LESS ___" phrases:

Theme answers:
  • HEADLESS CHICKEN (17A: OWARD) — i.e. "coward" = "chicken," "OWARD" = "chicken" without its head (first letter), thus: HEADLESS CHICKEN
  • BOTTOMLESS PIT (25A: QUARR) — "Y" -less "quarry"
  • ENDLESS SUMMER (42A: SEASO)— "N" -less "season"
  • TOPLESS SWIMSUIT (57A: IKINI)— "B"-less "bikini"
Word of the Day: Ravel's "Gaspard de la NUIT" (54A) —
Gaspard de la nuit (subtitled Trois poèmes pour piano d'après Aloysius Bertrand), M. 55 is a suiteof piano pieces by Maurice Ravel, written in 1908. It has three movements, each based on a poem or fantaisie from the collection Gaspard de la Nuit — Fantaisies à la manière de Rembrandt et de Callot completed in 1836 by Aloysius Bertrand. The work was premiered in Paris, on January 9, 1909, by Ricardo Viñes.
The piece is famous for its difficulty, partly because Ravel intended the Scarbo movement to be more difficult than Balakirev's Islamey. Because of its technical challenges and profound musical structure, Scarbo is considered one of the most difficult solo piano pieces in the standard repertoire. (wikipedia)
• • •

No thanks. The theme concept is OK (though once you get the -LESS phrases arranged symmetrically, the cluing is completely arbitrary and potentially infinite). But HEADLESS CHICKEN is not a thing. "A chicken with its head cut/chopped off" is very much a thing. But HEADLESS CHICKEN, while it googles tremendously well, primarily results in ... well, the first hit is the wikipedia page for "Mike the Headless Chicken" (or "Miracle Mike!"):
Mike the Headless Chicken (April 20, 1945 – March 17, 1947), also known as Miracle Mike, was a Wyandotte chicken that lived for 18 months after his head had been cut off. Although the story was thought by many to be a hoax, the bird's owner took him to the University of Utah in Salt Lake City to establish the facts. (wikipedia)
Then there's a bunch of stuff about the "headless chicken monster" (!?!). So what is this clue referring to. I assume it's not referring to Mike or the monster, because I have never ever heard of those. And if it's referring to the proverbial phrase, then the proverbial phrase does not not not not contain the phrase HEADLESS CHICKEN. It is, very specifically, "chicken with its head cut (or chopped) off." BONELESS CHICKEN is a thing. HEADLESS, not. The end. Themer discarded. Next. Please don't let "kinda in the ballpark" garbage themers into your grids. It's deflating and disappointing.

When I started this, I thought I was going to finish in something like Monday time. EMERALD, then all of the first four Downs, without even thinking. 10 seconds in, and the NW is done. But then the little section in the middle, just under the first themer, really really slowed me down. I still don't get (or, if I do get, really really don't like) the clue on ACHE (20A: Distress signal?). Your body has been "distressed" and so it ACHEs? I ...pfft. I guess. But that crossing SCALE, the clue for which I also hated (one of those [___ it] clues, like [Hit it!] for GONG or something) Today: 18D: Step on it). Could've been so many things (wanted STAIR). But it's just SCALE. Blah. Dumb old tired ambiguous-"worker" clue had me at HOE and ANT, but never BEE (32: Worker in a garden). Rough all through there.

Then super-easy again until the SE, where I totally forgot about "Alf," so couldn't use MELMAC to get into that corner, and even when I was in that corner, ESTH and NUIT and DIME were all somehow impossible for me to get, as was (oddly) ATATIME. Brain blanked out after it wasn't AT ONCE. So those two patches put me more at a normal Thursday time, despite the rest of the grid's being easy. Very, very uneven. The real problem, though, was the horrendous fill. Started with ELHI and ended with -STER. Bleepin' -STER. In between, junk city. Even the longer answers were somehow yuck: "IT'S A LIE" is terrible ("THAT'S A LIE!" is the phrase you want, and you should be ashamed of using the phrase "Fake news!" at all, anywhere). PRO RATA fully written out, ugh. ONE UNIT? Come on! Longer answers are supposed to be the *good* stuff.

I can't give much thanks for this puzzle. But I give thanks for you all, for your readership and letters and support and all of it. Even when I don't like the puzzle, I like writing this blog and engaging with all (or most :) of you. Enjoy your (probably headless) turkeys!

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. if you use Twitter, join the discussion of the puzzle using hashtag #NYTXW—great way to see what other solvers are thinking and feeling. People start posting their times and first impressions pretty quickly after the puzzle comes out (10pm the night before, 6pm the night before for the Sun and Mon puzzles). You can also follow me @rexparker ...

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Hungry Mother 7:09 AM  

Fun theme and easy overall. Nice way to start a holiday.

Anonymous 7:13 AM  

Rex, you missed the theme entirely.

Here it is: this puzzle's a big turkey.

Anon. i.e. Poggius

Lewis 7:28 AM  

Credit to Randolph for seeing a theme that I'm surprised hasn't been seen before -- a tight theme at that. And smiles to my two favorite clues, those for LAKEBED and SCALE (which I liked because "Step on it" is a misdirect, because it can mean "Hurry up"), plus a nod to the mini-theme of double S's (5). As an aside, I know crosswording has demented me, because looking at ENDLESS SUMMER trips off in my brain "perpetual adder".

Aside from SUGAR and SCALE, which will, I suspect, be involved for many today, I don't see any Thanksgiving references, but CC's turkey puzzle on Tuesday did set a lovely holiday mood.

And in that mood, may I express my gratitude for this enriching community, and wish for your Thanksgiving to be not only priceless, but also, to borrow from today's puzzle, may your joy be bottomless and your peace be endless.

Thomaso808 7:35 AM  

I liked the grid with the spanners at the top and bottom and the shorter themers boxed in at the middle. BOTTOMLESSPIT reminds me of Julie Newmar as Catwoman in the 60’s Batman show which was about the same time that ENDLESSSUMMER came out. Great movie. Old guy stuff.
HEADLESSCHICKEN seems like a thing despite what Rex says but I didn’t get it until Jeff Chen pointed out (C)OWARD. I was thinking Howard the Duck.
IKINI very good clue as TOPLESSSWIMSIUT.
I was a little disappointed to not have a Thanksgiving theme. CC’s turkey theme from Tuesday would have been just fine here. Happy Thanksgiving, everybody!

Anonymous 7:57 AM  

Lamest Thursday puzzle in awhile, although Thursdays have been far too easy of late.
Would have been a lame Weds puzzle as well, maybe ok on a Tuesday.
One star.

John H 8:04 AM  

Agreeing with Rex about the chicken, even though I got it very quickly and made the other themes quite easy. Also yucch on the fake news.

Surprised that “Endless Summer” still has currency, since the only significant reference I can find is the 1966 surfing movie. Odd that just yesterday I recalled a quote about surfer wearing a speedo, something to the effect of “in Australia they call this g-string a ‘costume.’“

By the. Way, even though I found this one pretty easy, my members are never anything like Rex’s, because I never learned to touch type. Sometime I am faster with a pen on paper. Anyone else?

Happy Thanksgiving,one and all.

OffTheGrid 8:08 AM  

The double S's (I counted 6) included 2 triples, as well.

mmorgan 8:09 AM  

Wow. It took me a while to get any traction, but once I did, most of this was a whirlwind and a whoosh. I liked the way that many of the clues were just a bit "off," with sufficient multiple possibilities to require some work, but still fair. Sorry that Rex got so upset about the HEADLESS CHICKEN -- that one really made me laugh, but he does have a point given what comes up when you Google the phrase. Still, I thought it was a nifty theme and I liked the puzzle, despite a Big Fat Natick for me at the SH_STA/D__RA cross. I went with DoRA because it felt better. Oh well, bad guess.

Despite the complex and contested origins of the holiday, I hope everyone has a Happy Thanksgiving and I'll be curious to see if TOPLESS SWIMSUIT generates much discussion.

TrudyJ 8:11 AM  

I'm shocked there are people who haven't heard of Mike the Headless Chicken.

vtspeedy 8:12 AM  

Rex, really? Running around like a headless chicken? Not part of your lexicon?

I’m grateful for this argumentative community - you’ve all become an important part of my daily life!

Rube 8:18 AM  

One tricky thing. When you first see OWARD, that could he a T for toward and turkey and Thanksgiving. And as you solve further when you hit 8D, that could be Potsie which gives you the T altho turkey doesn't fit but that could be part of the trick

chefbea 8:25 AM  

Too tough for me!!! Hope the turkey isn't tough!!! Happy thanksgiving to all!!! Don't eat too much

OxfordBleu 8:35 AM  

It’s Thanksgiving morning. My husband is running around like a headless chicken. It’s a pretty regular phrase in this house!

ghthree 8:41 AM  

I print out two copies at night, and my wife Jane and I solve on paper over breakfast, calling out Q & A back and forth until we're done (or give up). We don't time ourselves, but at a guess, I'd say we took about 45 minutes today.

I wanted HEADLESS HORSEMAN for 17A, and INDIAN SUMMER for 42A. Of course, neither fit, but each was off by just one letter. The four capitalized clues stood out so much that I noticed immediately that they all were off by one letter. So I figured (wrongly) that the answer in the grid could also be off by one letter. Solving on paper gives us a "Bird's-eye" view, which is denied to those who solve digitally. I'm not sure whether this helps or hurts overall. This time, it hurt.

Fortunately, Jane insisted that all answers should fit, and forced me to consider HEADLESS CHICKEN at 17A. She was right. After we resolved our dispute, (at 42A) everything fell into place. The grid is solid; all the missing stuff is in the clues.

From that point on, we knew we had it. We traded comments back and forth, but it was obvious that we had jointly sussed it out.

Three observations:

1: Two heads are better than one: If Jane hadn't insisted on perfect fit for the grid, I might still be stuck.

2: Rex complained a few days ago that NYT had published a turkey theme too early. He said that he expected something marvelous on Thanksgiving itself. It didn't happen, and he didn't complain. Rex, you're not fulfilling your role as curmudgeon! Are you mellowing?

3: A BIKINI is not topless. I remember Rudi Gernreich and the monokini. Of course, some women choose to leave off the top part. That's their prerogative, but a topless bikini is a contradiction in terms.

ktmtfl 8:50 AM  

I took off after discovering the theme in the SW. Thankful for an error free Thursday.

QuasiMojo 8:51 AM  

Happy Thanksgiving all! I couldn’t shake Howard rather than Coward and the chicken theme was the last to drop. I don’t think of scale as step on it. You are stepping UP it. I’m pretty ignorant about mountain climbing though. Am I misreading the clue? All in all, I enjoyed the trickiness. I only wish it was tighter. I’ve got to go pound some dough to get the pie crust started. Cherry Apple pie.

Jane Mc 8:54 AM  

It’s one of those puzzles that I finished and then wondered what the gimmick had been. Meh. Thankful nonetheless!

RavTom 8:57 AM  

The theme doesn’t work for me. The two vertical themers are symmetrical: BOTTOMLESS and TOPLESS. The first horizontal themer is HEADLESS, but ENDLESS loses the symmetry.

kitshef 9:01 AM  

Frifly easy.

Pretty sure ELKO (actual motto: The Heart of Northeast Nevada) is not crossworthy on any day of the week. Cities much, much larger than ELKO include Vacaville, Renton and El Cajon. Are they all now going to start appearing?

Or maybe I’m just feeling grouchy due to ELHI, which remains my least favorite crossword fill, and by the way does NOT include K. It’s just 1-12.

While double-checking that ELHI fact, I learned that ELHI was first used in 1948, and that other terms coined that year include stocking stuffer, Cornhusker, oddball and missionary position.

Wm. C. 9:12 AM  

There's an "Endless Summer" specialty license tag in Florida, each of which supports a cause or an entity. It supports surfing's Evolution and Preservation Foundation, as well as beach improvement projects. My impression is that it's one of the more popular specialty plates.

I enjoyed the puzzle, and thought it was a clever theme.

pabloinnh 9:13 AM  

This went very fast for a Thursday (never time myself) once the trick became apparent at headless chicken. Random thoughtless behavior in my house used to be "running around like a chicken with its head cut off", so that was easy. Also, the clues reminded of the old rebus puzzles like BOY written in all giant caps and you were supposed to guess "big boy". Here's my favorite: WORLAMEN(answer below).

Happy Thanksgiving to all in our little community, and thanks for all the fun, which is what I want for an epitaph.

World without end, amen.

Z 9:15 AM  

It’s pretty hard to recover from ELHI/ERAT/REDO at the start. First impressions tend to last and my first impression was, “Ugh! Seriously?”

I agree that “like a chicken with its head chopped off” is the original, but people being the lazy sots that they are, “like a headless chicken” is definitely something I’ve heard. Maybe just not acceptable in a formal context?

@Roo, yesterday - my favorite “dutchman” joke is, “Two dutchmen and you got a church. Three dutchmen and you got a schism.” I pick on my ancestors, but it’s a pretty universal phenomenon whether it be religion or politics. Or crossword puzzles.

Nancy 9:17 AM  

Unusually easy for a Thursday. So despite the wordplay, which I love, I was disappointed. Word puzzles can be extremely tricky, but I didn't think these were tricky at all. The non-theme answers were easy too. One great clue for LAKEBED, but everything else was pretty standard and straightforward.

Yes, you can run around like a chicken with your head cut off, but has anyone ever said: "Don't be such a HEADLESS CHICKEN!"? Whereas BOTTOMLESS PIT and ENDLESS SUMMER are real phrases. The constructor needed a HEADLESS answer, though, and HEADLESS HORSEMAN doesn't fit. So I can see the dilemma.

Thought for the Day: Would you rather be on MELMAC or would you rather be in BALI?

For those of you who are stuffing, trussing, basting, roasting, and carving a turkey (I hope I've put them in the right order because I don't do any of the above), this creampuff of a puzzle has left you with all the time you need to accomplish it. Happy Thanksgiving.

Nancy 9:39 AM  

Lovely sentiment and beautifully put, @Lewis (7:38) The same to you.

@John Hnedak (8:04) -- No, John, you certainly can't type -- and your hilarious post proves it. The typo you made when comparing yourself to Rex is an absolute howler. (Unless it's a malapropism, not a typo, in which case it's better than any we had yesterday.)

Be still my heart! @Quasi is baking a pie!!!!!

Junief 9:59 AM  

I see Edson as the 5th, but what is the 6th? Thanks.

Peter P 10:05 AM  

Hah, all those years as a kid watching Alf finally paid off for me in a crossword!

To all those complaining that "headless chicken" isn't a thing, yes it is. Perhaps it's not used in your dialect, but feel free to google "like a headless chicken" and a good number of dictionary entries come up. It's a usual enough idiom to make the Cambridge Dictionary (US page), for instance:


Or search Google Books, and you'll find something like 5K+ books with references to "like a headless chicken," with the earliest one going back to 1895, and a good number of idiomatic dictionaries that include the phrase in their pages.

I even searched a message board I post on for the phrase, and a dozen unique instances of "like a headless chicken" occur. (And many more if you count "Mike the headless chicken," but I'm not counting that for these purposes.)

Now, I do admit, I hear "like a chicken with its head cut off" at least as frequently, and it comes to me more immediately because of the wonderful Magnetic Fields song, but "headless chicken" is most definitely also idiomatic, at least in my dialect. Your dialect may vary.

DeeJay 10:06 AM  

The titular track from Endless Sumner is one of the finest pip pip sonfs ever.

This was an excellent, enjoyable puzzle. We have five different solvers working on it. Nice and quiet here...

Leon 10:23 AM  

William Finnegan's Pulitzer Prize winner Barbarian Days A Surfing Life chronicles the "Searching for a wave" mentality captured by The Endless Summer.

Q: On being inspired by the 1966 surfing documentary Endless Summer, in which surfers travel the world looking for the perfect wave

A: I was heavily influenced by that movie. I think I and a lot of my friends had our career goals seriously warped by that movie. I didn't really even think about it. It just sort of felt mandatory. I'd have to go looking for waves. I'd set off in 1978 with my friend Bryan Di Salvatore, also a writer and a surfer, first to the South Seas then Australia, South East Asia. Ended up spending nearly four years traveling, looking for waves. In the South Seas in Fiji, we actually found an uninhabited island — a wave that was the best wave that either of us had ever seen.

Phil 10:23 AM  

The welsh evan for John did me in

Steve M 10:28 AM  

Since when are bikinis topless?

jberg 10:31 AM  

I'm with @Rex on the HEADLESS CHICKEN, I've never heard anyone say it that way. (And if you do, please stop! Defend the language!) The theme was slow to get, for me, but easy once I did -- except for that ENDLESS cracker or whatever, which did finally fall into place.

I don't know Alf (only his cousin Alph, the sacred river), but would have preferred a reference to these dishes.

A very Happy Thanksgiving to all of you -- I have to go finish off my soup.

ArtO 10:32 AM  

Easy, yes but thought it was really clever and enjoyed the solve. The book read at Purim is ESTHER. Never heard of it referred to as ESTH and doesn't come up when Googled. Now, that's worthy of criticism, not the overdone one on HEADLESSCHICKEN.

Masked and Anonymous 10:35 AM  

Happy Thanksgiving to @RP and all U nice Comment Gallery folks. Bon appetite.

This ThursPuz was like a "word play" poster chicken. Liked it. Kinda easy-ish for its day assignment, tho.

Only 70 words -- a wide-open sucker … kinda old-style. Some nostalgic bits of fill, too … like ALAR and ELHI and ESTH and NUIT and STER [har - headless monster!]

Thankful-for stuff: Cool LAKEBED clue. UKRAINE and EMERALD and INHASTE and DISARMED were some fairly tasty side dishes.

staff weeject pick: ITA. Better clue: {Headless capita??}

Thanx for the fun -- today and over the years, Mr. Ross.

Masked & Anonymo6Us



pmdm 10:40 AM  

Has it been mentioned by anyone yet that the theme entries are arranged in common NSEW (or top bottom end beginning) order so their order is really not random? I didn't read that in the write-up, which I read very quickly because I have to finish cooking.

Happy Thanksgiving to all.

Katzzz 10:42 AM  

Why were two theme clues vertical and two horizontal?

ArtO 10:51 AM  

Well...I guess ESTH is common among those of the Christian faith as I just learned from my daughter-in-law. And, since the clue was abbreviated as O.T. I suppose the abbreviated book is considered OK.

pabloinnh 11:01 AM  

@Steve M (and others)--a bikini is "topless" when it's missing its first letter. "Top" may be a lousy synonym for "first", but that's the idea here.

jae 11:03 AM  

Easy. The double ?? clues that @M&A occasionally offers up as possible replacement clues helped me pick up on the theme very quickly. Clever and amusing, liked it.

Everything I know about PURIM I learned from the Guest/Levy film “For Your Consideration”...and if you’re into to that type of humor I highly recommend the TV series Schitt’s Creek (not Adam) currently available on Netflix.

I had the ENDLESS SUMMER biplane poster from the Beach Boys album on my office wall in a WWII barracks building over looking San Diego bay. Put it up in 1975 and took it down when I retired in 1998. Pretty sweet job.

Suzie Q 11:07 AM  

I do puzzles for clever word play and that's what I got today.
Thank you to R.R. This is clearly the work of a pro.
Headless chicken was my favorite. Somehow I have never heard of Mike.
The clue for lake bed was my favorite and the clue for scale was the worst. I really dislike that sort of clue too.
While I'm looking up Mike I think I'll check out that piano piece too.
Don't you love how the house smells today?

Banana Diaquiri 11:07 AM  

as to chicken: a long ago girl friend, alas she left me for her husband :(, whenever she did something less than brilliant would exclaim, "brain of a chicken!" I have ever since.

Carola 11:13 AM  

I surmised we'd been thrown a softball puzzle today, as a favor to any of us IN HASTE to get back to the kitchen and feast preparation. I was slowed down only by falling for the "Step on it" clue ("Speed") and having to wait for ACHE and BLARE. Liked RAPPELS, LORELEI, UKRAINE, LAKEBED, SHASTA.

@kitshef, thank you for the dictionary lore.

Happy Turkey Day, all!

DrBB 11:16 AM  

I came here looking for Rex's support and find none, even in the comments. YACHTER? Seriously? YECCHER is more like it.

Didn't find the center particularly hard, but I must type slower than Rex does, because I certainly count this as an Easy, which for me is more like 5-7 minutes even if I barely have to think about the answers.

old timer 11:20 AM  

Very disappointing. I was looking for something special on Thanksgiving, and all we got was a run-of-the-mill puzzle that was way too easy.

I agree with @pabloinnh. On paper the clue is

So the missing letter B is at the top, and therefore topless.

OffTheGrid 11:27 AM  


The 6th double S is 37D PASSAWAY.

GILL I. 11:28 AM  

Took in the fresh air of Auburn when we arrived Tuesday. Made my cherry cheesecake and chocolate pumpkin pie, watched it rain yesterday for the first time this season and have been told I'm no longer needed in the kitchen. So sad since this puzzle was over before Danielle could peel the potatoes.
I'm sitting in a sweet little "library" room with a computer and a ton of books I haven't read yet.
The puzzle was a bit of a let-down. No oomph, nothing heart wrenching and a HEADLESS CHICKEN. I would have preferred a Turkey Trot.
I'm going to start reading "As Bright As Heaven" and take in aromas.
Happy Birthday, @Rex and hoping all of my blog friends are enjoying this wonderful day.

Z 11:29 AM  

@Banana Diaquiri - Did you know she was married?

@Nancy - Thanks. I totally missed that the first time. Belly laugh funny typo.

Have a wonderful day, everyone.

Mike in Mountain View 11:33 AM  

@Quasimojo: SCALE, as clued, is not the verb "to climb" but the tool used to weigh oneself, by stepping on it.

I am thankful for this blog (thanks, Rex) and for the community of commenters and for the puzzles that bring us together (even if they sometimes divide us, too).

Happy Thanksgiving.

Crimson Devil 11:33 AM  

Lakebed excellent.

Fish 11:43 AM  

Well I missed the OT clue and wrote in RUTH but knew it should have been ESTHER which didn’t fit. So a Natick at the end...also didn’t know Alf’s planet as I never watched the show.

Overall, a fast and unenjoyable Thursday.

RooMonster 12:02 PM  

Hey All !
First, Happy Thanksgiving to all y'all. Or to youse, in NYC. Har. Take time today to reflect and enjoy family and friends.

Well, color me embarrassed, as I said Tuesday that the Weds and ThursPuzs would be Thanksgiving-y. Wrong! Although this is an OK puz, it was disappointing to get it on Thanksgiving day. Closest relevance to anything (besides CHICKEN) I could find, is the OAKEN barrels used to age your whisky!

To the person who asked why two of the themer clues were written vertically, it's because you need the visual to get BOTTOMLESS and TOPLESS. The horizontal clues get you HEADLESS and ENDLESS.

Puz itself was nice. Cool way to get in two 15's and two 13's. Mr. Ross decided to go with one set of black squares instead of two on the TOP and BOTTOM of puz, leaving very nice open corners. Found this a bit more difficult than some of you. Just the ole brain not wanting to work at 100℅ .

Don't Step on your SCALE for a couple days after today! Or go ALL OUT and stick to your diet (ITS A LIE!) Ha, fat chance.


QuasiMojo 12:10 PM  

Thank you Mike in Mountain View at 11:33am. Of course that’s it. I guess I was still asleep when I did the puzzle today. :) @ Nancy, I have to credit Julia Child for my skill at pounding dough with the heel of my hand.

Anonymous 12:14 PM  

"By the. Way, even though I found this one pretty easy, my members are never anything like Rex’s, because I never learned to touch type. Sometime I am faster with a pen on paper. Anyone else?"

This quote has been referenced as being hysterically funny. I don't get it. members instead of numbers, is that it? Is this a penis joke? Doesn't make sense to me.

Anonymous 12:14 PM  

Headless chicken? No, that’s not how I wanted to start my Thanksgiving morning.

Anonymous 12:28 PM  

Time for another "?" rant, along with "say" and "in a way". I hate these "hints". -Goes down a steep rock face, in a way- for example. What does that even mean? Seems straightforward. Why is "in a way" there? What am I missing? Same with -Without attention to detail, say-. What does "say" contribute?

Teedmn 12:37 PM  

I liked the SCALE of this puzzle (the imperative clue notwithstanding). I love being reminded of the ENDLESS SUMMERs of childhood, especially when stuck now in brown autumn. Although it's a pretty straightforward puzzle, the NE (with its renO error) gave me something to think about and the theme took some sussing because of my untOWARD guess at 17A.

Thanks, Randolph Ross. And Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. I recommend @M&A's amuse bouches of Thanksgiving Runts, give them a try.

Dr. Haber 12:53 PM  

Anyone else write wends at 52a? Not knowing the planet name, I was so sure I had it. ��

XQQQME 1:15 PM  

Endless Summer was largely responsible for the genesis of my now 50+ years of surfing devotion. The classic of it’s genre and more than worthy as xword fodder.

Odd Sock 1:20 PM  

I imagine it would be difficult to find a Thanksgiving theme that wasn't trite or too easy so this was just fine by me. No circles or pictures in the grid.
Right out of the gate I hesitated because emerald didn't come to mind immediately. I was expecting something like jade. I think rock sounds opaque while stone, as in gem stone, sounds transparent.
Hope today your lumps are sugar and not in your gravy!

Bourbon Street 1:31 PM  

I had a little trouble in the NW because I assumed HOMER was the poet, not Mr. Simpson. Doh! (Or whatever it is he says). The lightbulb finally went on when I became convinced that EMERALD was correct.

I wasn’t sure that I GAVE was correct because I had always heard that the phrase used to avoid a charitable donation was “I gave at the office”.

I use the NYT app on my iPad and all the themed clues are written horizontally, so some of us were not given the extra hints that those who solved on paper were given.

Unknown 2:15 PM  

But today is also Purim!

Banana Diaquiri 2:27 PM  

eventually, naturally.

Peter P 2:37 PM  

@Anonymous 12:28 PM - You're not the only one who was scratching their head at that confusing "in a way" in the "goes down a steep rock face, in a way" clue. Both RAPPELS and "abseils" immediately came to mind, but the "in a way" part convinced me that neither of those could be it, as that type of clue tag normally indicates some kind of playfulness in the answer. So I left that blank for a good bit until I got back to the downs and RICHIE and ATHENS fed me the starting letters, and RAPPELS it was.

And Happy Thanksgiving to you all!

chefwen 2:43 PM  

Ended up with one bad cell, didn’t know ALF’S home planet and had sENDS in 52A. Other than that error the rest was kinda fun. Maybe a little too easy for Thursday, but I’ll take it.

If Elizabeth Gorski had submitted today’s puzzle we probably ended up with a cute little turkey we could have drawn on our paper.

Happy Thanksgiving to all.

albatross shell 2:43 PM  

Truly enjoyed this one. There was a balance between the slightly off filler clues and the easy to get theme clues - after getting HEADLESSCHICKEN which is definitely a thing. A better thing is Werner Herzog's dancing chicken. I filled in YACHTER thinking it was so bad it could not be right, but forgave it for being part of the oddness. Do nor understand the incorrect snarkiness about bikini not being topless. I mean a quarry is not bottomless and nobody cared about that. I am having a fowless Thanksgiving. Ham instead but with regular stuffing. Which is better: stuffing after sauteing or after baking? I vote for the former, but bake most of it anyway. Just like cookie dough or baked cookies. Happy turkey day and thanks for my favorite blog.

Z 2:45 PM  

@anon12:14 - Not just a penis joke, but the image of the two gents comparing. Yeah, yeah, sophomoric, but still a surprise early on turkey day. I would add, not as funny if intentional, it’s the the whole innocent error/freudian slippiness of it that makes it funny.

Rainbow 2:50 PM  

It wasn't "extra hints". It was the way the constructor wrote the clues. It appeared correctly in the NYT e-subscription version.

Ray Yuen 3:19 PM  

Sickened me as soon as I saw "fake news."

PhilM 3:20 PM  

What PeterP (10:05 am) said about "headless chicken" - it's definitely a thing in British English. Another example of Rex's "If I haven't heard of it, it doesn't exist".

Unknown 3:43 PM  

HEADLESS CHICKEN sounds much more familiar to me that YACHTER.

One can run around like a HEADLESS CHICKEN. But no self-respecting yachtsman would ever stand to be called a YACHTER.

Anonymous 7:30 PM  

Since when is a Bikini a "topless swimsuit" ? A bikini is a two-piece swimsuit consisting of a top and a bottom.

bobtimus prime 8:40 PM  

I totally nailed your reaction to this one, and when I filled in yachter , I said if that's right itll be a YGBFK me moment....

albatross shell 9:58 PM  

To repeat in greater detail:
A coward is not HEADLESS, a quarry is not bottomless, a season is not endless. Why do so many expect that a bikini to be topless. It's the same logic in all 4 clues.

Unknown 8:22 AM  

Re: observation 3, it’s not saying bikini is topless, just that it’s a swimsuit. It’s “topless” because the “top” letter, B, has been removed.

Unknown 9:00 AM  

Surprised no one has complained about “at a time” being clued as “simultaneously.” If there’s a group of people doing things one “at a time” that is the opposite of simultaneously. Racking my brain to think of a way to use “at a time” where it doesn’t mean individually (as opposed to, say, “at the SAME time.”

On Thanksgiving we all sat down to at at a time? No.

Tarisa Wain 10:37 AM  

I have heard “He was running around like a headless chicken” as a phrase my entire life and likely used it myself a time or two. Maybe it’s a Utah thing?

Z 8:28 PM  

@Margaret Berger - The animals got on the ark two at a time.

Unknown 11:03 PM  

Got it. Tough clues

Burma Shave 10:32 AM  




Joe in Newfoundland 10:50 AM  

Syndicatiionland chiming in. Threw me off - none of the trick clues are things except Quarr, which is a famous abbey on the Isle of Wight.

thefogman 10:55 AM  

I almost went with sENDS at 52A but realized it probably wasn't that since the answer to 14D was SENT. So I went on an alphabet run. When I hit the L I realized it had to be LENDS/MELMAC and that was that. I liked this puzzle. I've heard the phrase HEADLESSCHICKEN before so that didn't bother me. It was easy for a Thursday, but an enjoyable solve nonetheless. Good work Randolph Ross!

spacecraft 11:12 AM  

Well, not entirely TOPLESS; come on now. There are beaches around the world where this would pass, but not here. (Nudist beaches, of course, are bottomless as well, and so the "ikini" is imaginary.) So this entry doesn't fly, any more than that 17-across, per OFL. The other two are fine.

So the theme is 50%; not good. Now the fill. Again, OFL said it all: not good. Do constructors generally finish up in the SE? It seems as though a lot of puzzles have problems there, as if the guy/gal just wanted to be done with it any which way because the deadline was approaching. Today's was like this.

DOD is the fetching DARA Torres, she of the one-piece SWIMSUIT. Bogey.

leftcoastTAM 2:11 PM  

On the easy side for Tricky Thursday, with early "aha" at HEADLESS CHICKEN and its "__OWARD" clue.

Needed TSARS to get the R in DARA, and guessed right for the L in MELMAC (option was wENDS/MEwMAC, but LENDS/MELMAC sounded better).

Liked LAKEBED for "Superior floor, e.g.".

Pleasant solve.

leftcoastTAM 2:57 PM  

Further, I like these strings of grid-spanning, adjacent, relatable words.


So there.

rainforest 3:47 PM  

Easy puzzle, especially when HEADLESS CHICKEN appeared (yes, it's common); nevertheless I DNF by entering sENDS (never watched ALF, didn't know the planet), even though I thought that with SENT as an answer, this was weak. LENDS didn't occur to me, DUH.

There were some nice clues - for LAKEBED, SUGAR, ACHE, SCALE (yes, you do step *on* it) and I really didn't mind the fill. Just me.

I will not lose sleep over my DNF. Dammit, though.

rondo 4:28 PM  

Had UKRAINE right away and held off of RICHIE in case it might be potsIE, but INHASTE filled in nagaNo from that N. Dumb move. Inkfest there. Filled in the rest non-STOP.

In case you’ve never had the product, MELMAC is that indestructible plastic dinnerware from ages ago. That’s the only reason I can remember ALF’s planet. I’ve still got some MELMAC to liberate from my mom’s former house into a bin. That $#!+ will last forever.

No matter which type of SWIMSUIT, DARA Torres medals as yeah baby.

RebusLESS Thursday is OK by me.

Diana, LIW 5:27 PM  

Fork, fork, fork. A retched night retching every hour. Not fair.

This puzzle was quite fair - esp. for a Thursday. Got the theme, more or less LESS, then got it completely. 'nJoyable.

@Rondo - everyone I know is doing that *&%$ job at their folk's house. Warning - it never goes away.

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for a break

Gordon Shumway, Michigan Life & Casualty 6:34 PM  

Here, Lucky!

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