Indie rocker with 2009 #3 album Middle Cyclone / SUN 11-11-18 / Charcuterie stock / Mythical queen of Carthage

Sunday, November 11, 2018

NOTE: Apparently this puzzle is a contest. I found this out after I solved, after I wrote about the puzzle, after I already posted. Having done the work, there's no way in hell I'm taking down this post, but I am telling you not to read on if you don't want the contest "spoiled" for you. If you are sincerely irate that someone might use my post to "cheat," enter this contest, and dishonorably win the huge pile of riches, I don't know what to tell you.


Constructor: Eric Berlin

Relative difficulty: Easy (8:59)

THEME: "Escape Room" — theme answers are instructions on how to "escape this crossword": you need the LETTERS ON THE KEYS (because four different squares have "KEY" going in one direction and a single *letter* (which you need to escape...) going in the other). You take those KEY-crossing letters (which are Y, A, T, and W) and literally PLACE THEM IN THE CORNERS, after which you can READ NEW DOWN WORDS, namely: "YOU / ARE / OUT / NOW" — here's the grid with the letters actually placed in the corners:

[Side note: Are you having trouble getting the app to take your solution? I solve in AcrossLite, and it took my grid when I entered the single letters in the "KEY" squares (i.e. I wrote in NASTINESS, IMARET, SWEET, and SNOW DAY, even though it left the crosses looking funny). Maybe the app works the same way?]

Word of the Day: Peter STRAUB (33A: Horror writer Peter) —
Peter Francis Straub (born March 2, 1943) is an American novelist and poet. His horror fiction has received numerous literary honors such as the Bram Stoker AwardWorld Fantasy Award, and International Horror Guild Award. (wikipedia)
• • •

Escape Rooms are entirely not my jam. Many, many of my friends are very, very into them. I feel about them the way I feel about most other things that combine group activities and being locked in a room I can't immediately get out of, i.e. nope. I like crosswords, and I like some crossword variants like Vowelless crosswords or ... what are they called, Something Different or something like that, where most of the answers are ridiculous / nonsensical entries that are still somehow gettable through inventive cluing; and I'll do an Acrostic if I'm bored, and I'll have a look at a Spelling Bee or even a Jumble if I'm waiting for the water to boil, buuuuuuut ... Escape Rooms, no. See also Puzzle Hunts and Learned League and etc. I'm very anti-social, or narrowly social, and my puzzle tastes are kind of narrow too. Where was I going with all this: oh yeah, Eric's puzzle. I was deep enough into my Manhattan to feel very open-minded about this. Enthusiastic, even. I mean, I gotta do it, so why not do it with a spirit of adventure? And what can I say? The thing where theme answers are instructions—not my favorite kind of solving experience. Tab A in Slot B, Fold Here, etc., just doesn't make for hot fill. That said, this particular gimmick is neat and tidy and clever and not a fussy nuisance—and the grid was crisp and clean—so a good time was had. By me.


I didn't really know what to do with the KEY squares in the grid, so I left them blank and went back to check them out once I'd filled in the rest of the grid. It took me a minute or two of fiddling around and writing out the KEY letters and then plugging them in to see the "escape." It's nice that when you plug in the KEY letters in the corners, not only do the Down answers spell out the escape phrase, but the Across answers also form perfectly acceptable words (YEAR CHINA TOAST SLEW). Is that how you spell GASSES? I think I would write GASES. Oh, man, that looks bad too. Nevermind. Coolest answers, to my ears / eyes, are oddly symmetrical: NEKO CASE and LAST GASP. I had never heard of NEKO CASE and then for some reason I can't recall "Fox Confessor Brings the Flood" (2006) fell into my lap about a decade ago and I was like "whaaaaat is this?" This song in particular.

Not much in the way of trouble here today. What didn't I know? STRAUB. That's a name I've seen in bookstores, I guess, but I know nothing about his work. Thank god that "B" was crystal clear, 'cause I was fully ready to go with STRAUS. The only other part of the grid that made me squirm a little was NICAD over MEDI- crossing DISS (and I once wrote a DISS, so dis whole situation is a little weird).  I see NICAD from time to time, but it still doesn't come easily to me. And what ever was MEDI- ...? 97A: Prefix on some first-aid products. I guess that's ... correct. Let's just say that that little patch is not one of the lovelier parts of the grid. But that patch is anomalous. Whoa, I just looked at LESSSO and it freaked me out a little, so I'm gonna stop now. Hope you escaped. See you tomorrow, or next Sunday, or whenever you read me next, I guess.
    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

    [Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


    mmorgan 12:07 AM  

    I know that puzzle contests are silly, and I nevertheless submitted my answer a few hours ago, with no hope of winning the "prize," but in the spirit of things I don't think it was the best move for you to post the meta answer. I know, I know, but still.

    Randy (Boulder) 12:33 AM  
    This comment has been removed by the author.
    Robin 12:41 AM  

    This was the worst. I got the happy puzzle sound despite only figuring out three of the four KEY squares, and having no idea what the four down words were supposed to be.

    Harryp 12:44 AM  

    I had no trouble finishing the puzzle but couldn't figure out the phrase. Guess I am too dense to follow directions.

    puzzlehoarder 1:04 AM  

    I can't believe I stuck with this thing to get the stupid answer. Filling the grid was normal Sunday work. Figuring out the piss poor instructions for the contest was the real pain in the ass. It turned out to not be a lot different from the word games in the local paper. What I would want with this calendar I don't know but I'll probably email the answers in anyway. With only 25 people being chosen the chances of winning are very remote.

    Chapps 1:31 AM  

    OK, I got the rebus squares, fine. And I figured out that they stood for letters, fine. But how in the hell does anyone understand that you’re supposed to plug them into the corner squares? I mean ... where does that come from?

    Anyway, it pretty much sucked any potential joy out of this puzzle.

    Anonymous 1:47 AM  

    @Chapps: 70-across literally tells you to put them in the corners. So that's where that comes from.

    I do agree with everyone who says that it's poor form for Rex to have posted the meta answer here while there's an active contest going on.

    chefwen 2:27 AM  

    I half ass read the instructions on the notepad, it wasn’t too hard figuring out where the KEYs went, but by the time I finished the puzzle I was over it and didn’t even try or want to figure out the rest of the game. I was glad that Rex explained the whole thing so I didn’t have to wait a week for results.

    Puzzle itself was fairly easy except for the unheard of NEKO CASE, thank you crosses.

    Greg Charles 2:28 AM  

    Rex's instinct is right about gases being the plural of gas. :)

    JOHN X 2:32 AM  

    I finished this pretty quick but even when I was done I had no idea what was going on, because I didn't know about the contest instructions. Then I found them, and that was that.

    Today is Veteran's Day, so feel free to kiss my ass. Just don't thank me unless it comes with a cash honorarium.

    Anonymous 2:34 AM  

    Figured out very late that it was a rebus puzzle, which I dislike immensely which killed whatever joy I had for this puzzle. I think I had maybe 90% of the squares filled before I was like "oh is this some gimimcky rebus crap?" and came here to see it was. Ugh.

    However the highlight was seeing NEKO CASE because she is one of my favourite artists. If you get the chance to see her live, do so. Her voice is heavenly.

    Brookboy 3:58 AM  

    I’m not in the competition so I don’t really care that OFL posted the solution. I do agree, however, that it is bad form. He could’ve waited until Wednesday, after the deadline of the puzzle had passed. Not good karma.

    I rather liked the puzzle on its own merits. I agree that it was relatively easy, and I found it to be an enjoyable solve. When you factor in the nifty twist with the rebus squares and changing the letters on the four corners of the puzzle, it was a pretty decent challenge. And it was yet another creative twist with the staid old crossword. I continue to be amazed at the myriad additional challenges constructors find to incorporate into their puzzles. I stand in awe.

    I’m happy to find that OFL also enjoys a Manhattan sometimes while doing the puzzle. There isn’t much that I can think of that isn’t improved by imbibing a nice bourbon Manhattan. (There also isn’t much that I can think of that isn’t likely to be harmed by imbibing one too many nice bourbon Manhattans.)

    chefwen 4:04 AM  

    @Anon 2:34 Googled NEKO CASE on your recommendation, lovely voice. I will listen to more tomorrow. Thank you.

    Unknown 4:39 AM  

    Horrible puzzle. And wtf is IMAREKEY???

    Anonymous 4:58 AM  

    @chefwen: welcome to the club. Her new album, Hell-On is entirely streamable on youtube and I personally recommend: Bad Luck, Halls of Sarah, Winnie, and Last Lion of Albion. Also Middle Cyclone is an amazing album so check that out too. I like: This Tornado Loves You, People Got a Lotta Nerve, and I'm An Animal.

    And she is currently touring through Europe but soon goes back to the US. I was lucky to see her on the current tour in a small venue since she isn't as big in Europe as she is in the USA. One of the best concerts I've ever been to. Her voice live sounds exactly like it does on the albums and it's so amazing. And if you can't get enough of her, she is also a member of The New Pornographers which has many amazing albums. My favourite song of theirs is still the one that got me into her voice: Letter from an Occupant.

    Loren Muse Smith 5:06 AM  

    The only escape room I’ve been a part of was a couple of years ago at the ACPT. Somehow I ended up with Karen and JESSE, who got us out of there at warp speed. I just remember sitting there watching them zip through all the stuff while I just sat there, gaping. Mouth-breathing.

    When IMARET goes in with little thought, you know you’re doing too many crosswords. I was so sure of that, that it was there that I caught on to the conceit.

    “Poached” before PINCHED. Dumb. It’s not slang.

    I loved the clue for BAD AT. Took me a while to get my mind around that one.

    I’ve been playing Fantasy Football, but I’m not doing well in it.
    I’ve been playing Fantasy Football, but I’m BAD AT it.

    Common one-syllable girl middle name – SUE. Common two-syllable girl middle name – some kind of iamb. (Michelle, Nicole, Diane, Renee, Marie, Elaine, Denise, Susanne…) My youngest sister’s middle name is LaVerne.

    Yeah – that GASSES plural looks funny, but it is listed here and there as an alternate plural. Cluing it as the third person verb would be less questionable, but what clue for that would be palatable? (Besides, it takes the ASS count in the grid to three.)

    Rex – I agree on LESS SO. Since they’re all rammed together in a grid, three letters in a row are cool-looking. Jim Acosta is a pressstud who is wellliked and in allliklihood will be hard to shoooff.

    Sorry. Enough NASTINESS. Let’s remember today all those who serve and have served. We had a Veterans Day assembly Friday, and the students behaved beautifully. I always like to show my classes that video clip of Gene Simmons doing a military tribute. I trotted over to tell the new English teacher about it. She basically said, Oh yeah? I’ll see your tribute and raise you one. This is seriously worth watching. I teared up all day. I can’t stop watching it.

    Thanks, Veterans. For everything.

    'merican in Paris 5:09 AM  

    AMEN to what @puzzlehoarder, @Chapps, and @Anonymous 2:34 wrote. At least I learned about an important historical figure: Queen DIDO. Oh, what a difference an omitted LETTER makes.

    I, too, hesitated for a long time before entering GASSES. Some web sites express what I thought: GASES is the plural of the noun, GASSES is the third-person present-tense form of the verb. But some other sites say that GASSES is an alternative spelling of GASES. No doubt one of the commentators here will celebrate that fact -- isn't ever-changing language wonderful! -- but I feel about alternative spellings the same way I do about alternative facts.

    I know OATER from crossword puzzles, but who actually uses that term? And I have never, ever, seen SPHere abbreviated as SPH.

    Finally, I propose that OJAI become the new Natick. OJAI has a population of just 7,500. Natick, Mass, has 32,800. Just sayin'.

    Apologies for the grumpiness. Perhaps it is the rain and the appalling behavior of OFL (no, not @Rex: the orange one) here in France that has put me in a BAD AT mood.

    Take care of yourself, @GILL I.!

    Thomaso808 5:28 AM  

    Fun puzzle and I enjoyed the extra trickery with the rebus and meta. Only problem is that even though I figured out the rebuses and even the "escape" trick, I initially had SIMOLEaNs and so never got the notice of completion because I had an error. When I found the error and put in SIMOLEONS, I still didn't get the notice because I had already moved the corner letters. I had to go back to the pre-escape answers to get the damn clock to stop. The app should have recognized either completed grid as OK.

    Still a really good puzzle and I will send in my grid and see what happens. Maybe Rex will take his solved grid off the site in the morning and give later solvers some suspense.

    Lewis 5:56 AM  

    Mystery puzzle postscript:

    Two of this puzzle's answers, when placed together, form the name of an American river that has shown up in the NYT crosswords 35 times. If you wish to find it and succeed, rather than blurt the answer in a comment, just write a fact about the river.

    frankbirthdaycake 6:42 AM  

    “You are out now” is about as exciting as “Be sure to drink your Ovaltine.” Even nine-year old Ralphie would have appreciated a spoiler for such a dud.

    Jeff M 6:50 AM  

    Horrible puzzle. Editor asleep.
    Only asses spell gases with two Esses
    So now we know what the esteemed nyt editor is

    Kiki 7:05 AM  

    Rex, shame on you for publishing the final answer.

    Anonymous 7:11 AM  

    Escape Rooms have been on the internet for YEARS and can be very fun. Many are very challenging.

    Anonymous 7:17 AM  

    @LMS' s example illustrates my quibble with 50A: clue needs a preposition.

    As did @Thomaso808, I lost time backing up in order to stop the clock.

    Anonymous 7:21 AM  

    Well, I managed to figure out the theme and escape the room, but I'm embarrassed to admit that I only found three of the four KEYS. I knew I needed a "T" to come up with a sensible phrase, but just couldn't find one in the puzzle that needed to be a KEY to make sense of a down answer. And that's because, for some strange reason, HAWTE at 15D looked like a perfectly sensible nickname for somebody from Iowa. Maybe I was thinking of Terra Haute, Indiana?

    Oh -- and to make matters worse, I read the key phrase clockwise and sent in my entry as YOU ARE NOW OUT instead of YOU ARE OUT NOW. Oops.

    chefbea 7:32 AM  

    Did the puzzle last night and entered the contest. Am surprised Rex had the finished puzzle!!! Now everyone can enter...he never mentioned that it was a contest!!!

    Rex Parker 7:44 AM  

    Let's get one thing clear. I never ever saw that this was a "contest." I solved in Across Lite, never read the "note" (I frequently don't), and solved the puzzle, wrote about the puzzle, the end. The idea that I would post the answers to a contest in order to somehow do harm to the editor is flat-out hilarious. He's fine.

    Also, cheaters gonna cheat. Why are you AT this site? To read the answers. If you're a cheater, that's on you. Have a nice day.


    Rob 7:55 AM  

    This was an ambitious theme but I don't think it works. The theme-related stuff is kind of a mess.

    I recognized all the "weird" locations but couldn't figure out what to do with them. I will not be submitting the answer to the contest, that seems pretty wrong.

    Hungry Mother 8:11 AM  

    DNF on a silly mistake having nothing to do with the theme.

    Mike S. 8:14 AM  

    Help a fella out. I solved the puzzle without much difficulty (by my standards), but I actually don't know what to put in the app to make it say I finished. Do I leave the keys or the letters. Do I leave the original corners or new ones. Ive got a streak I need to keep.

    Anonymous 8:47 AM  

    What Mike S. said. On a streak I need to keep. Solving on iPad, and no combo of rebus/new letters/etc. shows that I've solved. Halp!

    MontrĂ©al Crossxdiva 8:49 AM  

    Hi @ Mike S....I had the same problem. You leave in the rebus and the original corners.

    Mimi K. 8:53 AM  

    How does one enter this correctly for solving on an iPad? I've tried all combinations of rebus/non-rebus and old/new words, but can't get a conclusion. Any ideas? Bueller? Anyone?

    Anonymous 8:58 AM  

    @Mike S. I left in the keys and the original corners and it worked. I wondered the same thing myself when I thought I'd finished but didn't get the music. It turned out I had a typo elsewhere.

    Keyless Entry 8:58 AM  

    I like puzzles a lot. I do them every day. But I do them, then I'm done with them. I don't have time for any lingering anything about a puzzle. I didn't figure out the "meta" answer because I didn't care. I didn't care from the moment I read that this was a contest. Whatever prize the NYTx people could possible offer, i don't want. I don't care. Send something in? Nope.

    I'm glad Rex gave the meta because I can get on with my day and not care about it anymore.

    The whole thing is reminiscent of the Little Orphan Annie contest in A Christmas Story. "Remember to drink your Ovaltine" is anti-climactic...the payoff is in no way equal to the effort put in to solve it. YOU ARE OUT NOW. Well, thank god for that...I didn't know I was IN anything.

    I'm sure some of you ::coughlewiscough: will think it's an epic triumph of puzzle construction. I would only say, like Rex has mentioned many times, "just because you can doesn't mean you should."

    I guess at the very least a Sunday elicited an emotion from me. And the KEYS/IVORIES sub theme thing was something. So there's that.

    mmorgan 8:59 AM  

    I don't think that Rex revealed the meta answer to spite the editor or to ruin the contest or anything like that. I just think it's unfortunate.

    I don't come here to "cheat" -- on those occasions when I have to give up, Across Lite provides me with the answer at the push of a button, thank you, and there's always the internets. I come here to read Rex's review and the comments and sometimes to have a theme explained to me that I just couldn't figure out even though I finished the puzzle.

    Jofried 9:01 AM  

    I occasionally use this blog to find my mistake when the whole puzzle is filled in, but more to “hang out”, as it were, with other folks who love crosswords. I learn stuff all the time. I did finally figure out the four word phrase and I did send it in, all before coming here. I agree that the explanation should not have been posted here until after the deadline. And I wish someone could explain the word SIMOLEON as I don’t think I’ve ever seen it! Oh...and I had to leave the KEYs in to get the app to say I’d finished.

    QuasiMojo 9:13 AM  

    Escape Room or Waterboarding? I stopped filling out this puzzle because it was impossible to enter in the rebuses on the app and I didn’t care enough to print it out. I was feeling tortured by tedious Spankers. Simply not worth the effort. Or maybe I prefer not being prodded and forced into corners by some cruciverbalist Minotaur. Btw my official NyT app said absolutely nothing about it being a contest. So who’s to blame? Besides this whole trend lately of crying foul play over spoilers is typical of the whiny spoon fed blubbering populace we now call America. Don’t read the blog if you don’t want the answers!! It’s like people posting on IMDB that revealing that the end of The Wizard of Oz is a dream needs a spoiler alert!?? Take responsibility for yourself. And frankly it’s up to the NYT to make it clear there’s a contest, not to mention to provide a puzzle that warrants one.

    Bryan 9:37 AM  

    Can someone tell me what OFL stands for? I see that occasionally in the comments to refer to Rex, but don't know what it means. (Yes, I'm relatively new here.)

    Dave 9:40 AM  

    Hmm, submitted You Are Now Out, darn. Loved the Manhattan reference and the response by @Brookboy.

    kitshef 9:40 AM  

    Semi-Naticked at IMAREk/HAWke. I thought it was IMARET, and had that at first, but changed it as HAWKE sounded much better than HAWTE and at that point I had no idea about the theme.

    I love meta-puzzles, so a thumb up despite the DNF.

    Would have much preferred GASSES to be clued as "fills the tank, with up". Either that or the clue should have indicated an that it was an alternative spelling.

    I have been unable to come up with any way that "not doing well" can be made equivalent to "bad at". It works with "not doing well at" or "not doing well in", but not with just "not doing well". My belief is that it is a flawed clue, but am curious if anyone else can come up with something.

    Nancy 9:43 AM  

    The puzzle was easy and the Meta was a snap. I've seldom seen a less challenging "contest". I figured that 98% of the solvers on this blog would get it without breaking a sweat. So I really came here mostly to see if...

    1)Rex would refrain from giving away anything -- even just the puzzle itself.
    2)Rex would supply the puzzle solution but keep mum re the Meta.
    3)Rex would give away the whole shebang.

    It's Answer #3, and I am not a fan. Haven't read y'all yet, but I bet that there will be many, many grumblers. Meanwhile...

    I'm wondering if I should even bother to submit my solution to the Times. There will be tens of thousands of correct solutions and only 25 lucky winners drawn at random. And I have never been a "lucky winner" in anything. Still, I only have to type 12 letters, so maybe I should give it a shot. Maybe I'll read y'all first -- before I do.

    Beth A 9:43 AM  

    Another reason I like solving in Puzzazz on iPad. You can’t miss important notes about contests!

    TomAz 9:55 AM  

    So I'm doing the puzzle last night with a Spotify playlist I made of 150 different artists... and when I get to 47A, "Letter From an Occupant" comes on. That made me very very happy. NEKO CASE not only has a terrific voice, but she is a seriously outstanding songwriter too. I've been a fan since 'Furnace Room Lullaby' came out nearly two decades ago. She should be a household name.

    I do not particularly like that Rex revealed the answer in an active contest, but it seems to have been an honest mistake on his part. I don't really know how he could have written up the puzzle without revealing it, or mostly revealing it, anyway.

    Randy (Boulder) 9:57 AM  

    I used the webpage version.

    Keep the originals in the corners.

    I started with AKEY ... in the 4 rebus squares but got no joy. I think I changed them all to just KEY at that point and got the "congratulations," but now it looks like the software changed them to the single-letter crosses post-reveal. So I am guessing either (but not both) works.

    If you have tried each of these and the clock is still running, maybe you have another error?

    Unknown 10:00 AM  

    Why is hawte a native Iowan?

    Teedmn 10:02 AM  

    Super easy puzzle - I "finished" about 10 minutes faster than my Sunday random-solve average. This didn't stop me from having two errors, one caused by the contest and one because, um, I'm an idiot? MEDs instead of MEDI at 97A was the dumb mistake.

    There were some very nice answers: SNOW DAY, HESITATE, PINCHED, SEDATION, SIMOLEONS, CEREBRAL, but the cluing was quite straightforward.

    I think I got the contest phrase so we'll see if I'm luckier than the probable thousands (hundreds of thousands?) who also send in the solution.

    I do have to laugh at my inability to get 28D without crosses. I had _U_ and couldn't think of any such girls' name. Peggy and Bobby and Betty, sorry! Now, my Mom had 1D as her middle name when Martha Louise became Marty Lou (she hated the name Martha so much, I'm surprised she didn't legally change it. She signed all documents as Marty. I guess if you can make an X as a signature, why not a nickname?)

    COSin before COSEC, sUnray before AURORA, KRAemerS before KRAMDENS.

    COROT - My Dad and I went to the Mpls Institute of Art together and I fell in love with a painting purportedly by COROT, "Lady in Pink". COROT was wont to sign other artists' copies of his work because he was flattered, so there are thousands of fakes around. A couple of months after Dad and I were at the museum, Dad came home from an auction with a painting looking very COROT-esque. We took it out of its frame and found it had been cut down from a larger frame. The corners had been slit to fold over the new frame and in one lower corner was an OR as if part a signature had been cut out. We found this very exciting. We put it back in the frame. To my horror, Dad (he was an artist himself) then signed the painting, CaROT. Har, not only forging a signature but misspelling it. He fixed that signature and it hangs in my house. No matter who actually painted it, it's a lovely painting. And no, I don't plan on trying to sell it as a COROT.

    Isandxan 10:03 AM  

    Not sur if this has been said yet, but in Rex's defense, the NYT knows who the crossword bloggers are and knows how to reach them. Advance notice solves this problem. It's not that difficult, and it seems to me that basic social media strategies would have solved this issue.

    Nancy 10:07 AM  

    I went to both Wordplay and Jeff Chen to see what, if anything, they gave away today. They gave away nothing at all. Wordplay wasn't allowing any comments, either.

    In your place, Rex, I would have deleted my solution(s) the nanosecond I realized that this was a contest. It would have been early enough to prevent the majority of Rexites from seeing it: even now, there aren't that many blog posts. I would have substituted a comment sort of like this: "I inadvertently revealed the solution to this NYT contest puzzle earlier. I have taken my solution down for now. I will re-post it at 6:15 p.m. on Tuesday after the contest deadline has expired. Sorry for any inconvenience I may have caused."

    Dashed Hope in Des Moines 10:19 AM  

    Ever since I was a little boy, there is only one thing I have ever wanted in life: The New York Times Crossword Puzzle Day-to-Day Calendar. But every year I faced deep and agonizing disappointment - soul-crushing disappoint. Never among all the packages for me under the Christmas Tree, never among hundreds of gifts received on birthdays, promotions, marriages, retirement and other special occasions would I find this one hope fulfilled Finally in the twilight years of my life I woke up this morning with my first real chance to grab the prize. I thought surely I will solve this puzzle and discover the puzzle answer. Surely I will be among an elite of power solvers who will have cracked the code. And surely, against only that elite, this will be my first real chance to be among 25 super-elite to win the coveted New York Times Crossword Puzzle Day-to-Day Calendar. My excitement could not be contained.

    Then Rex ruined it all. Instead of competing against an elite of power solvers with a real chance for the coveted prize, I now find myself competing against millions - perhaps billions - of contest entrance for a mere 25 prizes because Rex revealed the secret. Not only did he show the entire world the way OUT of the puzzle, but he showed them the way INTO the contest.

    Thanks, Rex, for dashing my hopes to gain the one and only thing I've ever wanted in life. Likely the last chance I will ever have. I may learn to live what is left of my life without have achieved my life's dream, but I am not sure how you can live out the rest of your life knowing the damage and destruction you have achieved.

    Ruth F 10:25 AM  

    So here’s how it worked for me. The first of the escape clauses didn’t make sense to me. I had KAYS, not KEYS. And I’m not sure I would have known what KEYS referenced anyway. But the second and third made sense. So I went to the corner squares and substituted letters that made sense to get You Are Out Now. OK, problem solved. I then continued to fill in the grid knowing that four of my problem spots would eventually help me figure out what was going on. Got it at SMOKEY. Aha! It was fun for me and I don’t mind if Rex may have decreased my odds at winning the big prize!

    Tim Aurthur 10:26 AM  

    For what it's worth, the OED has gases as the plural of gas. Other fun fact: the word gas derives from the word chaos.

    Z 10:34 AM  

    @Bryan - Our Fearless Leader

    Your Daily Elvis, with only a little Elvis. I don’t know if it is available for free anywhere, but the Elton John produced Spectacle with Elvis Costello talking music with the likes of Elton, Bruce, Lou, and others is fantastic.

    Since we are sharing our NEKO CASE love, how about Deep Red Bells or something from The New Pornographers.

    Nancy 10:34 AM  

    @Teedmn (10:02)-- Is it possible to put a photo of the fake COROT on this blog? On your blog profile? I love COROT and I'm dying of curiosity. And if you can't, can you possibly send a photo to me on email? At your convenience, of course. Thanks so much.

    Nancy 10:39 AM  

    @Dashed Hopes (10:19) -- Surely one of the most hilarious posts I have ever read on this blog. I have a hunch you are not unknown to us. I suspect you're a blog regular. Sure wish I knew who you were. But I'll give you my highest praise by saying: I wish I'd written your comment.

    GILL I. 10:43 AM  

    Oooh...a crossword contest. I'm a sap for them.
    Let's see... Hmmm. I better follow the directions to a "T" or my arse is cooked. Guess what? My arse was cooked. Like @Anony 7:21 I couldn't find the fourth KEY. Rats.
    I got the "KEY" thing (FINALY) at OWDOKE. Now, go back upstairs and find the other stupid looking answers. HAWTE? Really? Aha, needed that dastard KEY. And so on and so on.
    @Harryp. I followed the instructions but I'm still dense because I finally didn't care to find the 4th which would have given me the YOU ARE OUT NOW.
    I would have persevered but unless you're giving me money, I won't enter a contest. I'm usually lucky at anything involving a drawing. I once won a little puppy mutt that I names Raffles.
    Love me some NEKO CASE. Don't love COROT but loved @Teedmn's story of her Dad. My kinda guy. Loved CEREBRAL crossing DWEEB and that's about it.
    I knew, coming here, that someone would give away the solution. It's the nature of the beast and the nature of a blog. I don't think OFL (Our Fearless Leader) had any intention of spoiling anyone's day.
    @'american. Thanks. Today is a tad better smoke-wise. Still need the mask. But Lord have mercy, the winds are picking up again. BTW...Do you really think Macron misses his bosom buddy? Oops, I snuck in politics again. Sorry.

    Tom R 10:59 AM  

    Had no clue it was a contest and would not have entered anyway. Finished the puzzle and got the happy pencil just leaving nonsense answers in. Consider HAWTE crossing IMARET. If you do the rebus (and I knew very well that HAWKEYE was the correct down answer and HAWTE was not some Iowa tribe I had never heard of, with a rebus you get IMAREKEY which is nonsense. Never figured it out. Did not like this.

    chefbea 11:02 AM  

    I still do not understand...letter on the keys???

    David 11:03 AM  

    Yeah, gasses is a verb. But now that we have the internet we can have all kinds of wrong English being right.

    I've always spelled it "okie doke".

    It's "hawte" when you finish the puzzle because the app replaces the "key" answers with single letters; kind of strange and about as annoying as the entire puzzle was.

    RooMonster 11:09 AM  

    Hey All !
    The ole brain wouldn't have figured out what in tarhooties was going on, so no disappointment here that Rex let the cat out of the bag. (Is it dead or alive? Har.)

    Not gonna enter contest even knowing the answers. Maybe if one of my puzs was in that calendar... :-)

    Got stuck in NAT/CANON/ECOLES/NECOCASE area, not knowing any of those, also I wrote in correct RYE, but when I looked at it later, forgetting the clue, thought it was AYE. So a DNF on that section, leaving letters blank, a DNF on IMAREs and NaCAD, and a DNF not figuring out the meta/contest. YEOW. What a DWEEB. At SEA, for sure.

    I know lots of y'all will enter contest, but are we sure it's the way Rex had it, or the clockwise way? There's your mystery.


    Suzie Q 11:14 AM  

    An escape room sounds like my own version of Hell.
    I only learned about them on this blog.
    By the time I got to the blog Rex had added his disclaimer but it doesn't matter to me. I wouldn't enter the contest anyway.
    Perhaps a bright spot will be exploring Neko Case.
    Thank you to all of our Veterans.

    Karl Grouch 11:18 AM  

    It's haw-key-e, like the raptor + the organ of sight

    Monty Boy 11:23 AM  

    I liked the puzzle a lot. Any time I can finish Sunday with two or three cheats (Googles) is a win for me. I got the "key" answers OK, but could not figure the escape. But that's OK. I got 10x the pleasure out of this as Rex (that means 10x his speed).

    On a different note. Call it serendipity. Yesterday I saw several gripes, including mine, about the obscure clue and answer: The Moldau by Smetana. In this month's Smithsonian magazine is an article about the tall grass prairie. I quote:

    Until you crest that final rise and there in front of you is the Kansas City Symphony Orchestra. And as the familiar moderato of Smetana's "Moldau" in E minor from Ma Vlast is carried away on the stiff wind, along with the mooing of a half a hundred cattle you'll be forgiven for thinking you've lost your goddamned mind.

    OK. It's not obscure.

    Unknown 11:25 AM  

    I have no idea how we(average puzzlers) would even know about any contest - still, we solved the pulzzle without getting and overall theme but not as enjoyable as it should have been

    Karl Grouch 11:25 AM  

    Thx Nancy!
    For a moment I thought that the guy was serious, life can be pretty depressing in DesMoines after all..

    JC66 11:54 AM  
    This comment has been removed by the author.
    TomAz 11:55 AM  


    I used to love Spectacle and was bummed when they canceled it. The Lou Reed episode, with Julian Schnabel showing up in his pajamas drinking cognac, was probably my favorite.

    Anonymous 11:58 AM  

    I agree with JC66. I come to this site only after solving the puzzle on my own, thank you very much.

    JC66 11:58 AM  


    I find the statement "Also, cheaters gonna cheat. Why are you AT this site? To read the answers. If you're a cheater, that's on you. Have a nice day." more offensive than the fact that you didn't pull down your post once you realized todays puzzle was a contest, which would have been the class thing to do.

    It seems to me most people come here to read your take on the puzzle and to hear what the commentariat has to say.

    thefogman 12:01 PM  

    Not cool Rex. Not cool!
    I half expected Rex to do this. He never disappoints me.
    Anyway, I solved the puzzle and sent in my entry fair and square. Then I saw the answer here. Not a big deal, but it would be a classy gesture if Rex would have redacted the answer after realizing it was a contest. Is this just more of the NASTINESS between him and Will?
    This is one of the best puzzles of the year.
    Bravo to Eric Berlin and boo to grinchy Rex.

    - Foggy, Waiting for my 2019 NYT Calendar

    Unknown 12:04 PM  

    In Rex’s defense, he has told us time and again that he doesn’t read the notes before solving. After I read the note and embarked on the puzzle, one of my first thoughts was wondering how it would go for him and what he would say about the experience.

    GILL I. 12:16 PM  

    @Dashed Hope. Still laughing.

    JC66 12:22 PM  


    I'll amend my 11:58 comment by pointing out that you did add a spoiler alert that your post would be a give away.

    @Dashed Hopes (10:19)

    Great post!!!

    Unknown 12:26 PM  

    Edit: Just noticed that it's IMARET. So this puzzle is even worse than I thought, because KEY is part of the ACROSS answers in 3/4 of the rebus squares. Terrible.

    Anonymous 12:41 PM  

    @Dashed Hopes, Please say hi to Bob In Accounting for me.

    Malsdemare 12:48 PM  

    I sort of got this, at least the fact that I had to put some KEYs in the grid. But I had several problems. I've never heard of an ECG, just an EkG or EeG, so I had that KEY in the wrong place, even though I knew it was LACKEY. Duh! I don't know COSEC or IMARET, so while I had the KEY in the correct spot, my inn was an IMARoT. And I had to look up NEKOCASE. It didn't help that I never looked at the full instructions, so when I got to the end, I just lurched to a halt, wondering why I didn't get the congratulations I thought I deserved, despite the whole IMARoT/COSoC debacle. Sigh!

    But I love escape rooms, not that I'm much good at them, so in some ways this was fun. We do them as a family, all three generations, and have a ball. I highly recommend them.

    I am kicking myself for not looking at the note and pursuing the task to the end. But nevertheless, it was a good way to wile away some time, waiting for it to warm up enough that pooches and I can get out for a walk. Headed out now.

    Bob Mills 12:52 PM  

    Finished the puzzle, but don't get the contest gimmick, even after having it explained here. I think this is a case of trying too hard.

    Don From Accounting 12:59 PM  

    @ Anon 12:41 PM

    @DashedHopes is pretty funny (or tragic, it's a toss-up) but I am in fact over here.


    Anonymous 1:06 PM  


    Unwiseowl 1:15 PM  

    Got the solve, eventually, but even with my keys I had no idea which corner to put each into. Got them eventually, but was there a system I missed, or was trial and error the correct method?

    GrayArea 1:17 PM  

    Ruined my Sunday-funday solve. Stoopid.

    OffTheGrid 1:18 PM  

    I totally support Rex's decision to leave the post posted. It was not done maliciously and he included a


    If the puzzle-contest was ruined for anyone it's their own fault.

    michiganman 1:36 PM  

    @QuasiMojo 9:13 AM. What you said.

    I liked doing this puzzle. I saw the nonsense words that ended up needing "key" to make sense. I also realized that "key" was only used one way. I was on the right track and put the letters in the corners, then derailed. I put the letter in the nearest corner and still had nonsense. I just put it to rest at that point. I kick myself a little for not trying a little harder.

    Gulliver Foyle 1:37 PM  

    I had the essential idea, but couldn't make LACKEY work since I thought there should be an A in the last block, for NASTINESS. Were we just to ignore that the down didn't work as appears from Rex's completion?

    Masked and Anonymous 2:08 PM  

    The meta contest for M&A was countin up the U's for certain, since I could not verify said count at xwordinfo.chen. I think there were seven of the lil darlins.

    Primo puztheme idea. Kinda tricky, becuz one of the KEY-words went in a contrary direction, which confused the M&A for a few nanoseconds. Really liked that the contest answer was made up of four weejects. Admire its purity of essence.

    Should @RP have posted the answer? Well, at first -- not knowin it was a big contest and all ---he didn't mean to. After all, he don't read no stinkin puznotes, and they don't have many NYTPuz contests. Then, after he found out about his havin already let the cat out of the escape bag, he threw up a big spoiler alert note, at the front end of the write-up, to try to partially make amends [assumin we read his blog notes]. That there note was a bit on the snarky side, I'll grant. But, he admits he's very anti-social, and all...

    M&A had never run into the whole "escape room" puzgenre before, or NEKOCASE or STRAUB, so learned a lot.

    staff weeject picks: the answer quartet. Honrable mention to SPH.

    This SunPuz was a nice escape.

    Thanx for the neat xword calendar, Mr. Berlin. I hope-a-hope-a-hope…
    [p.s. I got the contest answer without blog help, so I am legit.]

    Masked & Anonym007?Us

    Frog Prince Kisser 2:22 PM  

    Urban Dictionary:
    American slang word for a dollar.
    Associated with early 1900s gangsters.

    Next time, please just use Google!

    Frog Prince Kisser 2:28 PM  

    Agree! Agree! Agree!

    Masked and Anonymous 2:32 PM  

    Crossword Fiend blog also posts the filled-in puzgrid. They explain that the solution wasn't locked, so that part was fair game. Only thing they didn't put out was the contest's 4-word final answer.

    Sooo …
    Maybe @RP could just repost just that there red-lettered contest answer phrase. Tell blog readers that the contest answer is somethin else, to weed out the cheaters!
    Possible "red" herring answer: MOO NOW BRO COW. Kinda weak, I'd grant … Other possibilities, commenters … ??


    TubaDon 2:42 PM  

    Got the escape sentence (actually there are three equally grammatic sentences!) as soon as I saw the CORNERS answer and well before I finished the puzzle. Actually didn't get the KEY until I stared at HAWTE for 4 minutes straight!

    AmandaPup 2:54 PM  

    Is the app acting weird? I can't see any error but iPad does not give me credit for completion.

    JC66 2:55 PM  


    I have a feeling you'd love today's WSJ offering.

    Ando 3:00 PM  

    I agree. I figured there was a Hawte Indian tribe. Really good puzzle imho but too bad they couldn't figure out one more horizontal key/t cross.

    Unknown 3:14 PM  

    I read the intro, closed the Magazine, and put it in the recycling. Retire, Shortz. You're embarrassing yourself.

    Janet Camp 3:19 PM  

    I could care less that you posted the solution, especially since you explained the whole thing, but how can you not read the little yellow stickies! (I’m kidding, but maybe I’m OCD because I ALWAYS read them). If people don’t want a “spoiler”, why would they even be here on a contest day? The “prize”, people who carp, is a calendar and it is awarded at random among those who bother to send in their solution. Please.

    Ed C 3:49 PM  

    That’s a lot of work for a very forgettable prize.

    I hear second place gets a free pen and pencil set.

    Ex Cali guy in Idaho. 3:58 PM  

    Weird... whatever.
    I solve on an iPhone with the times app.
    No idea what the gimmick was supposed to be and I got the "solved" fanfare with no rebus anywhere and "lackey" spelled "laca"...

    Carola 4:00 PM  

    This is as close as I ever want to get to an escape room, and I'm glad it was so easy to get out. Not without some ERRing from the correct PATH, though: I had "est" before SPH, "else" before PLUS, Mom before MRS, NIELSoN, and most alarmingly, I misspelled SHRIEK as SHReaK (@loren will understand my happiness at needing IMARET to rescue me from my mistake).

    I learned SIMOLEONS at the knee of my dad, who was a master of retro slang. SIMOLEONs were also the currency in <a href="><I>Who Framed Roger Rabbit</></a> (caution: it repeats).

    @Lewis: Maybe we've been doing too many crosswords - I knew right away. The river rises in the Appalachians, flows into the Atlantic, and is named after an Indian tribe.

    puzzlehoarder 4:23 PM  

    I did have a single letter dnf. There's no Algerian port called ARAN. ORAN is crossword 101 but at that point I was pretty distracted by the theme and wasn't giving the fill that much thought.

    I really only figured out the theme with help from my wife. She doesn't do puzzles but she knows how to spell and has common sense. She clued me into LACKEY having a C and DOKEY just being DOKE. This got me to change O-KEY-DO-KEY-E and LA-KEY-A to their correct forms. Until then I had an unnecessary fith KEY and another in the wrong place.

    Also when I figured out which four letters went in the corners and "NEWDOWNWORDS" didn't automtically appear she suggested it was just 12 random letters that you had to unscramble to get a sentence.

    So much for my "meta" skills.

    Liz 4:27 PM  

    Our Fearless Leader?

    Z 5:00 PM  

    @Liz - Yep. With all the gravitas and sincerity such an epithet suggests. Rhymes with offal. It's a good thing most of us actually like the guy.

    Pardon me for not getting too worked up about the posting of a spoiler for a puzzle contest where the prize is a book that screws constructors out of their intellectual property rights. If you didn't suss out the answer on your own and still enter the contest shame on you. OTOH, if you were still hoping to solve the meta why are you going to a xword blog at all? Now, excuse me while I lay down and slurp my strawberry shake through a paper straw and smite the anti-pc'ers with my mighty singular they.

    PS - Shortz giving Sharpe a heads-up? ROFLMAO. Maybe once upon a time, but now I imagine they exchange Xmas cards as often as the Obamas and Trumps do.

    crackblind 5:42 PM  

    First off, I figured out the "KEY" rebus early on but was really messed up on the crosses. Then the whole what the app wanted to recognize I'd finished the puzzle screwed up my average Sunday time, especially as I'd actually completed it in 3/4 of my average.

    As for Neko Case, I'm surprised more of you don't know her. Besides her pretty great solo career, she's also in the New Pornographers, an incredible Canadian band. They've been one of my favorite bands since I first heard them. I can't recommend them high enough, especially if you're a fan of power pop.

    They also came close to causing me a lot of trouble back in the Napster days. A friend had recommended them to me and at the time, it was easiest for me to find a few of their songs via that early file sharing "service." Before I had the chance to buy the record (hadn't gotten to the record shop yet in those pre-Amazon days), another friend was over and I told him he had to hear this great band I'd just heard about. When I told him the band's name, my wife muttered, "Oh, that's what you were searching for on the computer." It took a few seconds for me to realize what she was referring to.

    All I'll say is I knew using the word "new" as part of the search parameters would find too many results.

    Unknown 5:54 PM  

    I liked it. Just another layer of puzzle for me, which I always like. Gimmicks are okeydoke for me now and again.

    I found it easier than usual Sunday’s. All-in-all, a great time.

    Unknown 5:58 PM  

    That’s a wee bit harsh, no?

    Maybe you’ve just exceeded our lowly skill set. Be bold - try something else to challenge your awesome intellect and high standards.

    Carola 6:04 PM  

    Sorry (4:00 p.m.) Who Framed Roger Rabbit

    Anonymous 6:06 PM  

    Surprised that Rex didn’t say anything about three KEYs going across, and one KEY going down. This really threw me off.

    Native Iowan = HAWKEYE, with Turkish inn = IMARET.

    @Bryan: OFL = Our fearless leader.

    QuasiMojo 6:13 PM  

    @Michigan Man, sounds like you gave it the old college try. More than I did, I’m sorry to say.

    The Cranky Avenger 6:25 PM  

    After finishing this puzzle, I felt like Ralphie Parker solving "be sure to drink your Ovaltine."

    Lynx 6:49 PM  

    Neko Case is brilliant. Search for her song, Dirty Knife.

    Anonymous 6:49 PM  

    Unrelated to today’s puzzle, but does anyone know what the NYTimes app settings mean (e.g., overlay, competitive features, milestones)?

    Anonymous 7:47 PM  

    Nemo Case is cool, if you like her I’m confident you’re familiar with The New Pornographers as well. Pretty good puzzle too!

    BarbieBarbie 9:03 PM  

    I guess I’m not surprised. But I am disappointed. Especially after 7:40am.
    Very Trumpian response, by the way, Rex. I did it, but it was totally legit! No collusion! You should consider switching parties.

    Unknown 9:18 PM  

    Bullshit puzzle. These get you so pissed off your going to make stupid mistakes. Bullshit!!!!!!!!

    Anonymous 9:35 PM  

    Do you know what it’s like trying to go through to see if you’re actually adding something? But I don’t see this here yet. Anni-Frid of ABBA was born in Norway to a Norwegian mother and German father. Not Swedish.

    thefogman 11:37 PM  

    Born in Norway, but is a Swedish citizen.

    Unknown 12:32 AM  

    This was a joyless disaster for me. I knew there was some kind of gimmick involved, but couldn't figure out where the heck the rebus squares were supposed to go. Add to that, three of the rebus answers were horizontals, and 1 was vertical! Why? And c'mon, using IMARET as one of the trick answers!? How the heck am I supposed to know that a T is going where the KEY of HAWKEYE is? That seems supremely unfair. I suppose if you figured out EVERYTHING else in the puzzle first, including "You Are Out Now", you could, by process of elimination, infer that you still needed a letter T, and that at the end of IMARA- was the only place it could have come from. This was without a doubt the least enjoyable Sunday puzzle of the year for me.

    D. Bruce Brown 12:57 AM  

    Help! Still trapped inside!

    Doc John 1:02 AM  

    Interesting that the only mention of Peter STRAUB was by someone who hadn't heard of him. Anyway, he's in Stephen King's band of buds and teamed up with Mr. King way back when to write a fantastic novel, The Talisman. The pair followed it up some years ago with Black House but it didn't match the first one.

    Am I the only one who asked, Are you out now?

    Joe Dipinto 1:36 AM  

    Thank God I am out now, before the early oceanic thaws occur.

    Jim D 2:37 PM  

    I gotta say that I’m fairly new to solving crosswords at this level and feel pretty good about getting this one done after reading all of the whining in the comments. I wonder why some of the folks actually solve these things if they hate them so much. Or maybe they’re just disgruntled all the time.

    And no, Rex, it’s NOT even close to okay to post the contest answers. If for no other reason that it flies in the face of the spirit of the game. You can rationalize all you want. And while I understand you didn’t realize until later, you still have the ability to edit your posts.

    Goat 4:28 PM  

    If you go clockwise instead of criss cross you get YOU ARE NOW OUT, which I think is the answer, Crabmuffin.

    Mark Taylor 10:42 AM  

    What I am wondering, Rex, is whether you would have done anything differently if you had read the "note" in advance?

    In response to Beth A: I also do the puzzles in Puzzazz, in part because it's the only way I know of to compare my time to others'. This puzzle was unique in that they disabled the "Clear Errors" and "Reveal" cheats, so when I look at the leaderboard at I can see that rather than the usual 100+ successful solvers, there are only 39, even after two days.

    OlyL 3:16 PM  

    As is my wont, strung out puzzles, including acrostic, so I have something a little more challenging than Monday and Tuesday to do with my morning coffee. Also would have to walk to the top of my driveway in my jammies to get the newspaper, so always at least a day behind. Always posting comments no one but the moderator (Hi, moderator) will read. So here I am on Wednesday morning finding out there was a contest! In defense of Rex, unless he shut down the blog for three days (think of the uproar!) someone else would have posted the answer, soooo.....

    Unknown 11:28 AM  

    After iglu and then nra it was time for me to say "adios"

    Anonymous 9:29 AM  

    No more Eric Berlins like this please!

    spacecraft 11:43 AM  

    Yikes: clever in the extreme! Very CEREBRAL. Not too hard a solve, the grid itself, but getting the rebi and putting the directions together--that was another ballgame. Huge triumph points, and my beloved SELA for DOD: what's not to love? Eagle.

    CanuckTom 11:53 AM  

    We get the puzzle a week late in our local paper here in western Canada, so this comment is (quite justifiably!) a week late. I loved this puzzle -- beautiful construction and very satisfying to finally figure out that smoKEY the bear, HawKEYe, oKEYdoke, and lacKEY yielded the corner letters that then, when read down -- just like the instructions asked -- spelled out You Are Out Now. Brilliant.

    Diana, LIW 2:13 PM  

    I guess I'm still stuck in there, 'cause the directions didn't make sense to me. I mean, I get it now. But just added the letters to what was there, making no sense and leaving me...stuck.

    Not that I cared all that much, 'cause the rebusness of this already had me grumpy on a Sunday.

    Diana, Waiting for a Way Out

    AnonymousPVX 3:24 PM  

    Got the solve while disliking the puzzle....this type of gimmick...and that’s all it is....leaves me cold.

    Burma Shave 3:45 PM  


    "It's EASY to tickle THE IVORIES."
    "HOWSO CEREBRAL ORSO perverted",


    rondo 4:10 PM  

    Yeah, I got it, but that's a long way to go for contest puz that hands you the solve. Better off with the 15 X 15 Friday WSJ contest puz that you figure out yourself, using the puz' title and a general hint.

    Again (still), the St. Paul paper has Lynn Lempel as constructor. I guess I need to complain.

    Nobody else noticed the ORSO HOWSO LESSSO combo? Shame.

    A fully spelled out NEKOCASE? Yeah baby. SELA and Ms. WIE are always contenders, but too frequent fliers. KIM can take a hike, unless it's Ms. Novak.

    Not my cuppa, and EASY at that.

    leftcoastTAM 9:25 PM  

    Don't take too well to instructions, even when IKEA-illustrated. Yet, conscientiously followed these until trapped near the very end of the maze. Enjoyed the challenge.

    Unknown 11:20 AM  

    What is "skyeet"?

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