Classic Declaration in Gotham City/THUR 12-13-18/Acceptances from fellow brainiacs, in slang/One-named 1950's TV Sex Symbol/Some West Point grads

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Constructor: John Westwig

Relative difficulty: Medium, tending towards Hard

THEME: X Marks the Spot — A giant X in black squares on the grid substitutes for different words in the beginnings and ends of the theme answers.

Theme answers:
  • NEW YORK TIMES (X) I see what you did there
Word of the Day: DAGMAR (45D: One-named 1950's TV Sex Symbol) —
Dagmar (born Virginia Ruth Egnor, November 29, 1921 – October 9, 2001) was an American actress, model, and television personality. In the 1950s, the statuesque, busty blonde became one of the first major female stars of television, receiving much press coverage.
Dagmar became one of the leading personalities of early 1950s live television, doing sketch comedy on Milton Berle's Texaco Star Theater, the Bob Hope Show, and other shows. On June 17, 1951, she appeared on the Colgate Comedy Hour with host Eddie Cantor and guests Milton Berle, Phil Foster,
and Jack Leonard. In 1951, she made a TV guest appearance with Frank Sinatra,[4] which prompted Columbia Records producer Mitch Miller to record a novelty duet with Frank and Dagmar, "Mama Will Bark". That same year, she was featured in a Life cover story with Alfred Eisenstaedt's photo of her on the July 16, 1951, issue. For the interior photo essay, Life photographers followed her to rehearsals and accompanied her on a vacation back to her home town in West Virginia.(Wikipedia)
• • •

HELLO, SYNDICATION SOLVERS! (i.e. the majority of my readership—those of you who are reading this on Thursday, January 17). It's early January and that means it's time for my annual pitch for financial contributions to the blog, during which I ask regular readers to consider what the blog is worth to them on an annual basis and give accordingly. As you know, I write this blog every. Single. Day. OK, two days a month I pay young people to write it, but every other day, all me. OK sometimes I take vacations and generous friends of mine sit in, but otherwise, I'm a non-stop blogging machine. Seriously, it's a lot of work. It's at least as much work as my day job, and unlike my day job, the hours *kinda* suck—I typically solve and write between 10pm and midnight, or in the early hours of the morning, so that the blog can be up and ready for solvers to read with their breakfast or on the train or in a forest or wherever it is you people enjoy the internet. I have no major expenses, just my time. As I've said before, I have no interest in "monetizing" the blog in any way beyond simply asking for money once a year. I hate ads in real life, so why would I subject you all to them. I actually considered redesigning the site earlier this year, making it slicker or fancier somehow. I even got the process partly underway, but then when I let slip that I was considering it, feedback was brisk and clear: don't change. Turns out people don't really want whistles and bells. Just the plain, internet-retro style of a blogger blog. So that's what you're getting. No amount of technical tinkering is gonna change the blog, which is essentially just my voice. My ridiculous opinionated voice yelling at you, cheerfully and angrily, about how much I love / hate crosswords. I hope that this site has made you laugh or taught you things or given you a feeling of shared joy, or anger, or failure, or even given you someone to yell at. I'm fine with that. I also hope I've introduced some of you to the Wider World of Crosswords, beyond the NYT. I am passionate about puzzles and I (mostly) adore the people who solve them—so many of my friends, and the thousands of you I've never met. I can't stop, and I won't stop, and I hope you find that effort worth supporting.

Some people refuse to pay for what they can get for free. Others just don't have money to spare. All are welcome to read the blog—the site will always be open and free. But if you are able to express your appreciation monetarily, here are two options. First, a Paypal button (which you can also find in the blog sidebar):

Second, a mailing address:

Rex Parker c/o Michael Sharp
54 Matthews St
Binghamton, NY 13905

All Paypal contributions will be gratefully acknowledged by email. All snail mail contributions (I. Love. Snail mail!) will be gratefully acknowledged with hand-written postcards. This year's cards are illustrations from "Alice in Wonderland"—all kinds of illustrations from throughout the book's publication history. Who will get the coveted, crosswordesey "EATME!" card!? Someone, I'm sure. You, I hope. Please note: I don't keep a "mailing list" and don't share my contributor info with anyone. And if you give by snail mail and (for some reason) don't want a thank-you card, just say NO CARD.  As ever, I'm so grateful for your readership and support.

Now on to the puzzle!
• • •

Hello everyone out there in Rexland, I'm Dan Felsenheld, longtime reader, first time blogger, filling in for Rex while he is on assignment. No really, I volunteered for this. Now to the puzzle! First off, the grid - it's a bit weird because it has "unchecked squares", so right away when I saw it I suspected that something funky was going on. First I thought it was a rebus, especially when I got 8D and I briefly thought it might be NEW YOR(KER) but I quickly abandoned that idea. Overall I had a hard time with this one, initially put OOLONG for MATCHA, had BEHINDS for BOTTOMS, had ETHER for EMBER, and for the longest time I had MANDELA instead of MALCOLM. In fact the last M in MALCOLM was the final letter in the grid. Once I finally got the grid correct (I "finished" but had some errors which I figured out fairly quickly), I had no idea what the them was! After staring for what seemed like an eternity, it finally struck me, the X in the middle stood for different words, duh! Malcolm was the giveaway. I could have used a revealer in there somewhere though 9D was sort of a clue. I thought the fill was pretty clean, not a lot of crosswordese - sure there is our old friend NACRE at 49A, and hi Brian ENO! I raised my eyebrows a bit at SAUTE PAN, it seems a little bit, as Rex would say, GREEN PAINT-ish. 20A: ARMY MEN, this one eluded me for quite a while. When I think of ARMY MEN, I think of these guys that I played with as a kid:
Overall, I liked the concept, it was well hidden (at least from me!) and well executed, since the X stands for four different words. Well done Mr. Westwig. I don't know if this is your debut or if you are even reading this, but if it is (and you are), congrats!

  • NERDCRED — Love this term, and hoping that blogging for Rex increases mine!
  • JJWATT — Truly one of the coolest NFL Players out there and from all accounts a genuinely nice guy
  • I'M BATMAN — I always hear this in a Michael Keaton voice. 
  • HOMEBREW - Once made a case of my own beer at a local brewery
Here's one of my favorite bands with the theme from "Malcolm in the Middle": 

Signed, Dan Felsenheld, Viceroy of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Mike 12:34 AM  

When I was done, I like it, but it was tough. I like that the X means four different things and that it is in the correct location for each meaning (I.e. the beginning or end of the answer). Appropriate Thursday effort.

TomAz 1:05 AM  

If you are going to fry in a saute pan, well, good luck, I hope you have health insurance. And/or homeowner's. I recommend, instead, that you fry your chicken thighs (dredged in flour, dipped in buttermilk and then coated again with seasoned flour) in something much deeper. Saute pans are for sauteing, not frying.

But why start there? Oh cuz it's 1A, right. Anyway. Loved the theme. Took me forever to suss it out. I had too many errors/guesses in places.. BIO instead of JOB, OMG instead of BRO, SAD SACK instead of SAD CASE (I like my answer better on that one).

But yeah, the theme worked for me. Played hard, but in a good way.

Marc 1:30 AM  

Knew X figured in the answers, but with NEWYORK could not decipher TIMES until I got MALCOLM and SECTION and saw they were used differently, but didn't know what GOODBYE was until I read the write up. SADSACK for SADCASE, DAGMAR from crosses, never heard of her, and ONELINER for ANECDOTE. But the hardest one for me, embarrassingly, was SI Sportsman winner. I have subscribed to SI for 30+ years and love the NFL (Go Chiefs!), but could not remember who it was. Usually it is someone on the Super Bowl winning team, or World Series, NBA Champs, etc, or someone who had a record setting year or lifetime of achievement. So it wasn't an Eagle, or Brady, or any other QB or RB I could think of. Not having FJORD til late hurt, and then got JJWATT and remembered he won as much, if not more, for the money he raised for Houston flood victims. In fact, he only played in a few games because he got hurt, but he will be a first ballot Hall of Famer. Now that I think of it, he actually shared the award with Jose Altuve, who was on a World Series Champ with the Astros, but honored for the "joy" or such he and the Astros brought to the town amidst the catastrophe. Don't know if my house was underwater I would find relief in the Royals winning the Series, but, whatever, puzzle's done.

Kell 1:49 AM  

Westwig's my classmate right now in college! This is his third publication in the New York Times, but I'll pass along your message for you. He interned for the NYTimes crossword group last summer and his Senior capstone project is a crossword construction tool.

Tom R 1:57 AM  

I object to Army men. "Some" West Point graduates? Unless the majority of a class are women, the majority (not some) are army men. I suspect its a large majority.

Anonymous 2:09 AM  

I didn't get the theme until I read this post. So thank you Viceroy Felsenheld. I was playing around with ER as the start and end of the unchecked squares for a while because of New YorkER as well. Now that I see it, I like this puzzle a lot. A very appropriately tough Thursday done artfully and simply, and not overwrought as they often are.

I liked MCGREGOR, HOMEBREW, HUMANITY, CRIMELAB, IM BATMAN, NERDCRED. Felt Friday fresh. Didn't care for NACRE or MATCHA, but thats just a me problem I'm sure. Well done Mr. Westwig. I wonder how long he tried to change MATCHA to CATCHA and MODEL to CODEX. To bad SPOOX or CODEK can't fly.

jae 2:12 AM  

Medium-tough seems right. Unlike yesterday’s I liked both the theme and the puzzle. Very clever!

Jeff Gluck 3:16 AM  

This was on the easier side for me, but it helped that I was able to get a few of the longer clues without needing crosses. The one thing that I got hung up on was SAUTE PAN. Put it as sauCe pan and never went back to check it, then wondered why it was saying I had an error at the end. Fun solve overall!

Loren Muse Smith 4:05 AM  

Yo Viceroy Dan – nifty write-up. Thanks.

Serendipity #1 – I sent an email two days ago to a fellow teacher about the Christmas potluck for our staff (the one no one really wants to go to ‘cause it’s on the last day before the break, and it’s just a half day and everyone wants to get the hell out of there but we all show up with our slapped-together dishes and perfunctory interest in others’ plans but I digress as usual). In this email, I used Xmas and then panicked after I sent it ‘cause I remembered that lots of really religious people get upset that it “takes Christ out of Christmas” and Craig is extremely religious. So I sent a follow-up email with a link explaining that the X actually does stand for Christ. Hope we’re still good; he’s a swell guy and amiable fellow.

Serendipity #2 – The new English teacher and I were talking about the first books we loved to read. I used to adore CLEARY and Ramona and Beezus but more than reading them, I adored throwing her last name around in second grade like I was some literary smarty pants priss pot. I’d go to the librarian and sniff I’m looking for a CLEARY I haven’t read yet and just thought I was the bee’s knees. I also thought I was the best singer, the best kickball player, and the best scissors-user. At what point does all this confidence evaporate and leave us basically feeling not good enough, ever? Ok – at least the confidence went poof for me. Maybe some of you still think you can wield a mean pair of scissors.

Loved this! Like Dan, I was going The New Yorker first, but when I saw Times, I smiled and enjoyed the trick.

@Marc – me, too, for “sad sack” first.


Non-PC? – pretty much anything written or said anytime, anywhere. Someone’s gonna get their nose out of joint. The thing that horrifies me is that I have lots of thoughts, expressions, whatever, that are considered sexist, ageist, racist and I don’t even realize it. So I’m the worst kind of offender. It’s gotten to the point that figuring out how to couch my thoughts here feels a bit like navigating a minefield. You should see the stuff that doesn’t make the cut ‘cause I’m afraid I’ll insult some group of people. Like, I’ve always wanted to say something that I think is a compliment to Robyn Weintraub but I never do ‘cause I think the feminists would scream at me. Robyn – I’ll email you, K?

Maybe people who have staff to unpack them, sort through the mail, and figure out where that vile smell is coming from, maybe they come back from vacation rested and tanned. I usually come back bewildered and discombobulated, dismayed that Real Life is about to hit me in the face again with a baseball bat.

'merican in Paris 5:27 AM  

Like several others, I thought there was a rebus at 8D, and entered "KER". Also had SAD sAck, at first, then erased sAck and put in : "nAt hale" at 34A, which gave me the "A" at 35D, which eventually got me to MALCOL_. Finally the lightbulb LIT and I realised it should be MALCOLM X. But I didn't rock the other meanings of the X symbol until I had finished the puzzle, which was my aha! moment. (Actually, I DNF, because I had to Google J.J. WATT. NFL games are not broadcast over here unless one pays for the privilege, and I'm just not that interested.)

Another rebus contender was 30D. Wanted "accORD" at first, which would have meant a two-letter rebus. J.J. WATT sorted that out, however.

All that to say that I enjoyed the work-out. Some really great words today. One of my favourites is ALL IN ONE. Here in France, and I suspect parts of Switzerland, a multipurpose device -- even in some contexts a person -- is called a couteau suisse after the French word for a Swiss Army Knife. In the same vein, when I was working on agricultural policy, the idea that farming itself produced more than just food (attractive landscape, habitat for some birds and small, furry animals, such as hedgehogs) came to be abbreviated as "multifunctionality", or MF for short. A colleague of mine soon changed that to motherfunctionality, and the term stuck. Earned him some NERD CRED.

Liked the proximity of TROMPE (he of the fake TANNED) and DID IT.

EdTech@mjbha 5:57 AM  

SOON in place of ANON killed the NE corner for me, but only the top two lines. Down crosses disabused me of my choice.

TokyoRacer 6:22 AM  

MATCHA is not a variety of green tea. It IS green tea, but powdered green tea.

Lewis 6:30 AM  

A true X-word puzzle!

First I was struck by the gorgeous grid. Then I was amazed, as I was right in the pocket on this one, cottoning to the theme quickly and smoothly and steadily slapping down answers section by section, all the way through, not an often Thursday occurrence. Then I remembered that there was a puzzle in the last year or two that also used X in its different iterations, but not as elegantly as this offering. I got a smile from the X of BARE and BOTTOMS.

(KISS) GOODBYE reminded me of "Kiss today goodbye", the first line of "What I Did For Love" from A Chorus Line, and now it will be going through my head all day. This is a good thing.

BarbieBarbie 6:54 AM  

Good idea, played like a themeless, some really nice fill. BUT can’t wait to hear the PPP score from @Z. Opinions please: in a puzzle layout like this one, do those proper names have a disproportionate effect?
I’d like to see a lot more from this constructor. NERDCRED, har!

Anonymous 7:02 AM  

Here it is already, in the 5th comment. Today's bickering will be about Misogyny. Thanks, Tom.

kitshef 7:17 AM  

Got theme exactly two words in (HOME BREW, then NEW YORK (X). Oddly, it didn’t help much in the solve, though. Despite which I was sailing along, everything smooth and east, except for that NE.

After staring at the NE a good long while I somehow pulled out JJ WATT with no crosses, and that opened it up. Before that I couldn’t get anything other than DO TIME and MAC up there, and the O from FOLIO/rectO/versO.

Looking up DAGMAR post-solve, it’s amazing to me I have never seen this person before nor heard the name.

kitshef 7:32 AM  

@LMS - Yeah, my theory on vacation is to do and see everything I can, and I can sleep when I get back. So ... definitely not RESTED.

@Tom Rowe - "Some" does not denote a minority. If there have been a million West Point grads, and 999,999 were men, then some grads were men.

amyyanni 7:40 AM  

Like LMS, loved Beverly Cleary books as a kid. Changed schools between 2nd and 3rd grades and the new one had a library. So exciting, and I still remember it. Loved the puzzle and the write up. And thanks for the memory.

JOHN X 7:40 AM  

This was pretty good! It was easy, but I couldn't figure out the the gag (until I changed SADsack) and got MALCOLM and suddenly that giant "X" was there and I saw how it had four uses. Nice!

Look up "1952 Cadillac" on the Google and observe the famous "DAGMAR" front bumpers. You'll figure it out.

Good ol' Joe 7:53 AM  

The definition of Sauté is “pan fry”

Joe R. 8:19 AM  

I would say that SAUTÉ PAN is less green paint-ish and more paper clip-ish. There are other clips, but a paper clip is a particular type; there are other pans, but a sauté pan is a particular type. And @Tomaz, not all frying is deep frying, you can definitely shallow fry in a sauté pan.

I too fell for the SADsAck trap before eventually figuring it out.

@Tom Rowe - some doesn't imply majority or minority, merely that's it's more than one and less than all. And I don't think the men of the army need you or anyone else attempting to defend their honor by boasting how many more men than women there are.

@LMS - everyone thinks things that are inappropriate or hurtful sometimes, often unintentionally or unawares, and we all say them sometimes. We cannot strive for perfection, we will fail. Instead, what's important is to recognize when you have hurt someone by something you've said, to not try to defend what you said and instead to acknowledge their hurt, and to try not to do it again. We all can get better, over time, if we recognize that we have improvement to make.

Anonymous 8:21 AM  

I was a little too excited to see my hometown of Brunswick, Maine in the Times crossword! Go Polar Bears!

mmorgan 8:35 AM  

Lots of nifty stuff here and I also liked the fact that the X meant four different things. But even with the grid completed, I couldn't figure out what X GOODBYE meant until I got here. Things I didn't know at all (looking at you, MATCHA and JJWATT) came easily from crosses. Good fun workout!

QuasiMojo 8:36 AM  

I knew it was The New-York Times but I also knew it was Cross-section so I scratched my head for a while since I am one of those people who never used X to mean Kiss (dangerously close to Bottoms by the way.) but like many of you Malcolm in the middle helped me out big time. My big problemo was throwing in TAB for the acid clue. Although I should have remembered that awesome sauce scene in The House on Haunted Hill when someone gets tossed into a giant VAT of acid. I’m old enough to remember Dagmar; she always reminded me of the “50 Foot Woman.” Fun Thursday offering!! Nice job to the constructor and our new visiting blogger.

Noah Webster 8:41 AM  

“Some” does not imply a minority.

Crimson Devil 8:49 AM  

Gained some nerdcred with myownself today. Enjoyed puz, especially mac, toe, do time, JJ Watt and Dagmar, whom I dredged up from adolescence.

CS 9:01 AM  

Thanks for the nice write-up Dan and fun puzzle, Mr. Westwig!

I got it pretty immediately with New York TIMES -- seeing the "X" in the middle of the grid gave it away. I also loved that the meaning of "X" was used in the four different ways, really fun.

Speaking of which, people might get a kick out of this imagery of every front page of the NYT since 1852 (it's not new but I only saw it recently):


Dr. Haber 9:10 AM  

Did anyone else have Mandala for Malcolm? When that didn’t work I wondered if the two ever met. Then I saw the X and it all came together.

michiganman 9:14 AM  

Very nice puzzle. Great, in fact. I liked the write up, too and especially enjoyed the MALCOLM video. "DAGMAR" was somewhere in my brain but not in a way that helped. It was sort of an afterwards thing. I did not know who she was. We got our first TV in 1956 when I was nine. If DAGMAR was still on the screen at that time, I'm sure my parents would have protected my innocent eyes from seeing her.

Sir Hillary 9:39 AM  

Nifty puzzle, quite Thursday-worthy. I started in the relatively easy (for me) NW, got NEWYORK[TIMES] and solved counterclockwise from there. The other quadrants were a lot harder, but the fun was wondering what the X was going to stand for. MALCOLM[X] and [CROSS]SECTION were pretty straightforward, but I couldn't think of another meaning for X, so the G in [KISS]GOODBYE was the last letter in. Really a fun and satisfying journey!

Solid fill as well -- I am scanning the grid as I write this and can't find anything eyeroll-worthy. OK, LEADOFFS is a bit of a stretch (they're LEADOFF hitters) but that's about it.

India trifecta: ASSAM, MATCHA, Gandhi quote. That clue for HUMANITY is a great example of how to liven up a fairly pedestrian entry.

Similar to the sentiments of some others, my personal answer for both 62A and 47D is pissED.

Are there actually FJORDs in Oslo itself?

She basically nails it every time, but @LMS's avatar is particularly good today.

CDilly52 9:45 AM  

I was a librarian’s nightmare as a pup! Campaigned against not allowing kids under 12 to have the pretty blue “adult” library cards until I wore down the librarian at my local branch in Columbus, OH and she gave me in on the condition that I bring a parent down to say it was OK. My Dad broke land speed records in the car to get me off HIS back, and of course I brandished that sucker around like I was the proverbial Queen of Sheba. None of my peers cared, but dear, dear Mrs. Kessler, Dave teacher ever, gave me a hug and said she would not be surprised at anything I would do in the future. . . And I’m pretty sure she was hinting that it could cut both ways! I cannot thank teachers enough. I was so fortunate to have so many good ones throughout my lengthy academic career and could not be more proud of my daughter who has finally found her calling teaching special ed. Thanks to you and all teachers EVERYWHERE!!!

GILL I. 9:45 AM  

Oof. Only because I didn't get the X four ways meaning. Dang....I hate that.
If you're not Dahl, Shel or E.B. White, I don't know you, CLEARY. If you're not Joe Montana, I don't know you, JJ WATT. If you're not Bruce Lee, I don't know you, MCGREGOR and if you're not Lucille Ball, I don't know you either, DAGMAR.
All those names and not getting the theme put a little damper on the puzzle.
Thank goodness for this blog. Had I not been able to read it and get the theme, I would have continued fuming. Instead, I now can appreciate how truly clever it is. X GOODBYE is my favorite. I sign off xoxoxox a lot - especially to my good friends and grandchildren. The minute I put in one single X on my iPhone, it automatically fills in the rest.
@TomAZ.... I think we all tend to think chicken when we see frying. And yes, you'd need something deep for that. SAUTE simply means to fry quickly.
I like the cluing in this puzzle and except for that MALCOM CLEARY MCGREGOR pile up, the rest was pretty easy.
Nice write-up today. Dan. It made me appreciate today's effort.

Odd Sock 9:51 AM  

Crossing Bowdoin and J J Watt did me in.
Nice theme though.
I vaguely remember Dagmar but I hope there are some photos out there that are more flattering. I guess since her most famous assets were below her neck we can forgive that mug.

Dawn Urban 10:00 AM  

Well, this puzzle is great! And visually appealing.

DAGMAR is a very weird name for a beautiful woman. Would like to know the background of that!

Remembered NACRE from puzzle a few months back.

pabloinnh 10:01 AM  

I thought this puzzle was just great. Spectacular aha! moment when I saw all those uses of X, and realized what was going on, and wished I could someday be half that clever. Brilliant.

Hand up for Sad Sack, and remembering Dagmar fondly. Was she one of the first one-name celebrities, like Cher and Madonna?

Agree with LMS that being PC can be tricky sometimes, even for those of us that want to. I grew up in a time and place where language (and attitudes) could be pretty rough, I'm past that, but have to admit I didn't see the kerfuffle over"Baby It's Cold Outside" coming. A retired professor from these parts was attending a convention and said "Third floor, ladies lingerie" while in a elevator, which offended some passengers, and for which he was censured by his professional association. Times change quickly, and it's hard to keep up. Still learning.

Thanks again to JW for a terrific Thursday.

RooMonster 10:05 AM  

Hey All !
Add me to the group who figured out the theme after getting MALCOLM, but who couldn't figure out the KISS one.

Wanted to say GOODBYE to that blasted NE section. Holy FOLIO, that was tough! Got the rest of the puz in about 13 minutes, then just died over there. BOWDOIN?? MATCHA?? Plus, started with ANECD___, and the ole brain was like AN ECD?? Had to Reveal a letter or two to finally finish, 10 minutes later. Yipes.

That said, I did like puz overall. I'M BATMAN was cool!

Surprised that a bunch of y'all haven't heard of DAGMAR. She was as famous as Dolly Parton before Dolly Parton. As @JOHNX 7:40 said, the front bumper extensions on 50's Cadillacs were nicknamed after her.

There are three WATT BROs in the NFL. JJ, TJ, Derek. TJ plays for my team, Steelers. Unfortunately, we're done this year. Two losses coming up, playing those cheating Patriots, then the Saints. Oof.


Nancy 10:14 AM  

Liked the puzzle a lot. MALCOLM made filling in the X very easy, and after I did, I figured out the "kiss" meaning of X in KISS GOODBYE. But I can't believe that I thought NEW YORK X was that quaint mid-Nineteenth Century publication called THE NEW YORK TEN. I'm a lifelong (well, since adulthood) NYT home subscriber and I never thought of them once. And that's because I had no idea that they went back that far. Why, you're older than dirt, NEW YORK TIMES! As for X SECTION -- I didn't cotton onto CROSS-SECTION, either. I'm a bit slow this morning. Too much wine at the Christmas party last night? Some other thoughts:

The constructor is obviously an optimist. He comes back from vacation both RESTED and TANNED. Not STRESSED from missing his connection and being stranded in Podunk, nor from having his luggage lost for the first four days, nor from being jammed in a seat between two Sumo wrestlers. Nor PALE, because it rained at the beach resort for 10 days in a row or because he was iced in at Grandma's house in Toronto over the holidays. Lucky John Westwig. Can I travel with you in the future, John?

Does Batman really fly around declaring I'M BATMAN? What a truly boring action hero. I'm just getting to know you, Batman, and already I want to X you GOODBYE.

But not a boring puzzle. This was a lot of fun.

pmdm 10:14 AM  

This is a truly great puzzle that surfaces rarely (at least these days in the NYT). So far, few pans aimed at this gem. This is a tough submission for Mr. Westwig to surpass. Would have been interesting to read what Mr. Sharp would have said about it.

Unknown 10:19 AM  

The traditional way to fry chicken is only halfway immersed in oil and flipped once. A saute pan is a perfect vessel for this.

Carola 10:21 AM  

Nice one! My wrong-headed rebus also had Ker along with sayG and crossS, until I circled around to MALCOM X and the veil parted. It did take me some time to come up with KISS. Besides the elegance of the X, there were so many fun-to-write-in entries. Thanks to those who pointed out the nice crosses and proximities.

Other do-overs: TeE before TOE, senCHA before MATCHA, and, yes, SADsAck.

I knew JJ WATT because he was a Badger and DAGMAR from overhearing the grown-ups talk about her in hushed don't-let-Carola-hear tones.

Anonymous 10:22 AM  

@Sir Hillary - Oslo is on the Oslo Fjord.

Big DNF based on the east, but pleased that I got the X from NewYork

Add me to the sadsack count

Hungry Mother 10:32 AM  

Two of the themers made sense to me and I liked NEWYORK in the third spot and guessed the ‘G’ in the last spot. I knew DAGMAR because I’m old. I did the puzzle on a flight from Naples to Atlanta and had my iPad on Airplane Mode so I had to use the onscreen keyboard instead of my external one. The keyboard was a hindrance in the mini, but not so much for the main event. Always happy to get a Thursday, no matter how high.

B Right There 10:39 AM  

One of our fastest Thursdays. Clues played pretty straight forward, though we, too, had sticking points at MATCHA, CLEARY, BOWDOIN, and it took hubby to come up with JJWATTS. Luckily crosses fell smoothly. Had no problem with 20A as I interpreted "some" to be a synonym of 'certain' (so no indication of more oor less than half), and hubby took it to be modifying the ARMY part of the answer since he has interviewed and hired many, many West Pointers in civilian service. Not all stay in the army. Very enjoyable but wish there had been more cute cluing. Thought the entire SW was Tuesday easy (except CLEARY). Definitely also smiled at the crosses of BARE/BOTTOMS, LIT/ONFIRE, HOMEBREW/ABODES; and IMBATMAN always brings to mind the Superbowl Snickers commercial.

Anonymous 10:43 AM  

FiORD hung me up for a while.

@LMS - Oh! Craig is a swell fellow and an amiable guy! I won’t argue with that.

Blue Stater 10:44 AM  

I, too, am old enough to remember Dagmar, and along with that the NON-PC observation by some TV comedian, I think maybe Milton Berle, that the 1949 Yankees were as far out in front as Dagmar....

I cruised along fine with this one until I had to confront the gimmick, and was of course utterly baffled by it: my mind just does not work that way, and it is rare that I'm able to solve Thursdays without teh Google. (X) GOODBYE was the hardest; I didn't get it until I read well down in the comments. Not my day, but Thursday, under the WS regime, usually isn't.

jberg 10:45 AM  

The New Yorker just published a 90th anniversary edition, which consisted entirely of work they'd published in earlier years (even the cartoons) except for one introductory piece which discussed Harold Ross's efforts to get the magazine going in the 1920s and 30s. So I knew they weren't old enough, leaving the Times as the only choice. That gave me the theme; it didn't help with any of the other themers, but it made it fun to figure them out. As with many here, KISS was the hardest to get, but therefore exciting when it dawned on me.

To say that MATCHA is not one kind of green tea because they all use the same leaves is like saying that espresso is not a kind of coffee because it uses the same beans. If by tea you mean the beverage, rather than the plant, they are certainly different.

Isn't Conor MCGREGOR the guy whose appeal is that he likes to shout racist insults at his opponents? I don't follow the "sport" but I think I've heard that (and a web search just confirmed it). @Rex would have a field day.

I hope we've settled the meaning of 'some.' As for 'saute,' I think it depends on how much you are into cooking.

@Loren, you've stumped me again!

Nancy 10:47 AM  

...And now I have the same ear worm, @Lewis (6:30). Thanks a lot. (Only kidding -- I think it's the best song Hamlisch ever wrote, and I don't at all mind having it in my head all day.)

@JOHN X (7:40) -- (and if you liked the theme, I can see why.) I never knew that front bumpers of the 1952 Cadillac were named for DAGMAR. Now that's what I call a really interesting piece of product development info!

@'merican in Paris (5:27) -- I have it straight from Nathaniel's mouth that if you're going to call him NAT HALE, he's going to call you 'MERRY.

Doc John 10:52 AM  

Interesting puzzle concept.
So I guess I'm the only one who got naticked by the JJWATT/BOWDOIN crossing... (my first guess at that letter was an R)

Anonymous 10:57 AM  

(This place is always a revelation.)
(How have so many dinosaurs survived into this century, long after the asteroids hit?)
(At least they keep each other company here in Rexland.
Better than Jurassic Park even.)

Anonymous 11:06 AM  

X = ten

Be(te n)oir.

Just too cool for school.

JOHN X 11:12 AM  

@Nancy 10:47 AM

Here's a nicely illustrated short history of the DAGMAR bumper:

Cadillac's Dagmars - An Intimate Look at Their Origins, Development, and Namesake

I believe 1955 was "Maximum Dagmar" yet they vanished in 1959, the year of "Maximum Tailfin."

Linda 11:15 AM  

For more on Dagmar and Dagmar bumpers, scroll through this trip down memory lane:

Masked and Anonymous 11:18 AM  

Liked the Big X theme mcguffin, big time. Didn't like that I had to plow thru some unchecked letters, while tryin to figure it out. OTOH, The answers with unchecked letters were all pretty long, so once you had the rest of the letters, the unchecked letters slowly became sorta obvious. Sooo … ok.
But, lost precious nanoseconds.

Sorta liked playin Spin-The-EXbottle, post-solvequest…
So sorry, semi-random Roman numeral ten X, that U weren't invited to the party.

staff weeject pick: MAC. Had a nice, full-of-beans {Non-PC?} clue.

Only 72 words, so surely some desperation ensues … (yo, LEADOFFS, NERDCRED, TROMP-with-an-E). Really, pretty solid fill, tho. Havin only 7 x-times 4 = 28 letters of theme probably helped the cause.

Toughie solvequest, due to sneaky uncheck-cached theme, several unknown names, and wantin SADSACK for SADCASE. fave fillins included: IMBATMAN. ANECDOTE. PURRS.

Thanx for the XXXX challenge, Mr. Westwig.

Masked & Anonymo3Us

Linda 11:19 AM  

I forgot to refresh the blog page before I posted my Dagmar/Dagmar bumpers link - now I see that John X had already posted the same link.

JOHN X 11:20 AM  

I agree with Linda.

Aketi 11:39 AM  

@jberg, you are correct about Conor MGregor, which made Diaz’s rear naked choke so satisfying. Speaking of chokes, there is one called X choke. There is also an X guard.

Nancy 12:27 PM  

An illustrated history with great historical...thrust. The photos refreshed my memory -- both of DAGMAR and of the Cadillac. I wonder how DAGMAR felt about being honored thusly? They say she wasn't dumb, that she only played dumb, but you could have fooled me. Anyway, thanks @JOHN X. It's an amusing link and an interesting piece of Americana.

Anoa Bob 12:36 PM  

MALCOLM X hit the mark for me, but not the others.

I've never seen X used as a stand-alone to mean "times", only in a sequence of other numbers or symbols. And even then it is a mathematical term while the "Times" in NEW YORK Times is a temporal one.

Likewise with a single X to mean "kiss". I've only seen it in a series, often along with some Os to mean "hugs and kisses". Anyone out there ever seen or used a single X to mean "kiss"?

Maybe it's being raised in a Christian cultured, but I don't associate X with "cross". That would be a crucifix, right?

I can hear someone in the back saying that I'm overthinking this. I don't buy that. It's the NEW YORK Times. We are supposed to IDEATE and then IDEATE some more, meIDEATEs.

On another note, when I told Mrs. Malaprop that I was training to become a herpetologist, she said that I would need a good snake bite ANECDOTE.

Anonymous 12:45 PM  

X-ceptionally fun puzzle today. (Heh, heh.) Nice job, Mr. Westwig. Thank you very much.

Anonymous 1:09 PM  

@Anoa Bob You need to take longer walks. Don't worry, cars will watch out for you.

Elihu 1:14 PM  

It’s NATHAN Hale, not Nathaniel.

Teedmn 1:21 PM  

Huh, well, I like this puzzle in spite of my failure to get the bottom themer correctly. This is due to my idiotic typo (if you handwrite the error, is it a "write-o"?) of VaT instead of VET at 42A. With _aCTION and the unchecked letter, I decided 39D was X faCTION. Eye roll.

And then there was my turtle-ish solving speed (though actually, I've seen plenty of turtles go much faster than this did). Natch was a "gotcha" both literally and figuratively at 49D. I was another one of the SAD sAcks. I belonged to the NERD Club, which totally wrecked all of my NERD CRED. And DAGMAR, JJWATT and BOWDOIN were CRIMEs against HUMANITY (har, nice meta answer there up in the NE). The beginning of some speeches, _NEC_O_E could have been oNE ChOkE - I didn't choke on that one but it did go through my mind.

I need to spend some time in front of the tea SECTION of the grocery store - ASSAM and MATCHA were WOEs.

A nice reworking of the "X stands for..." puzzle genre; thanks, John Westwig.

Anonymous 1:25 PM  

X signifies cross in road signs, as in "PED XING".

Unknown 2:04 PM  


Nancy 2:07 PM  

@Elihu -- Of course it is! Thank you, Elihu. I think I mentioned I might have had too much wine at the party last night... :)

Z 3:04 PM  

Too bad the unchecked SMKG couldn’t be turned into something. Otherwise nicely done (even if 8D has just a whiff of BOTTOMS kissing). [KISS] GOOD BYE took me the longest to figure out.

@BarbieBarbie - I count 22 of 72 for 31%. High but not excessive. I accept that the constructor knows JJ WATT and Conor MCGREGOR, but have a hard time believing that DAGMAR is from personal experience. I’d have doubts about Beverly CLEARY, too, except she is still popular.

I see the SAUTÉ PAN issue has been corrected. Let’s be honest, how many of us didn’t realize that SAUTÉ is just a fancy way of saying “fry quickly” at some point in our life? Anyone else imagine @TomAZ doing his fried eggs, though? Boy howdy, that’d be interesting.

@LMS - Hmm. I never worry about whether something I say or write might be offensive to someone. Either I have learned isomethung offends so work to not use it or I use the handy dandy, “so sorry, I never realized.”

What? 4:18 PM  

Getting Dagmar reminded me of how old I am.

Chip Hilton 5:02 PM  

@LMS - Ah, Beverly CLEARY. One of the other children’s lit giants, Eleanor Estes, hailed from the town in which I taught. Places in her books are recognizable around the burg. She visited our school once, late in her life, and I got to speak with her and thank her, especially for ‘The Hundred Dresses’, a wonderful lesson in tolerance and kindness to others. Not so lucky, yet, in getting to meet Natalie Babbitt, author of the extraordinary ‘Tuck Everlasting’, who I’ve learned lives about two miles away. I’m retired now and, more than anything, I miss sharing glorious books with my fifth graders.

Interesting puzzle. I didn’t think the New Yorker was that old but I fell for the KER rebus, anyway. JJWATT is apparently a heckuva guy, much more than a football player. His Sportsman award from SI honors his many contributions to his community as well as his on-the-field performance.

Anoa Bob 5:10 PM  

I'm usually one-and-out, but I feel my NERD CRED is on the line, so let me try this again.

MALCOLM leads right into that tremendous X in the center of the grid. That was his name, MALCOLM X. No "X stands for something else". It's just a straight-up X.

The same can't be said of the others themers, NEW YORK X, X GOODBYE and X SECTION. There we do have "X stands for something else".

So one of the four themers is very different from the other three, and I think that is a glaring inconsistency and a big demerit for the puzzle's quality.

Beyond that, I also gave the side eye to how the symbolic Xs were from larger settings or contexts and no longer worked for me as stand-alone X-cised Xs.

Maybe with some different clueing:

NEW YORK X "Former Brooklyn mate"

X GOODBYE "Gangster speak for knocking someone off"

X SECTION "Surgical procedure during gall bladder removal"

Anonymous 5:41 PM  

The only real reason to know Dagmar is that many American cars in the fifties had appurtenances on the front bumpers referred to as "Dagmars" go obvious reasons.

GILL I. 5:50 PM  

@Z...Someone give you a case of Jester King? Point #1 and 4. Loved it.... especially "so sorry, I never realized."
Reminds me of @pabloinnh wondering what the hell happened to "Baby It's Cold Outside."

OISK 6:51 PM  

I remember Dagmar. And Jerry Lester. I did a crossword binge today, Monday to Thursday. JJ Watt was the toughest for me, surprising since I am a football fan, but the "W" fit once I went through the alphabet. I should have gotten Bowdoin right away, but I always confuse it with Bozeman. (both states begin with an "M' as well...) Liked this puzzle very much.

Yesterday's was interesting for me....until just this month I'd have told you I don't know who or what "Queen" is, didn't know Freddie Mercury from Laura Mars, and had never heard of Bohemian Rhapsody! But last week, after an acquaintance referred to it as "one of the all-time greatest, epic songs...." I had to listen. Doesn't make my top 500....Nice harmony in the first part, though. I just read that it is the all-time most often streamed song, so most folks don't share my opinion!

Anonymous 9:23 PM  

I told my wife: 'Four letters with no crosses?? There is trickery afoot!'

Nancy 9:35 PM  

@jberg (10:45 -- As usual, I didn't notice Loren's avatar earlier, but figured that must have been what "stumped" you. So I went back to look just now. It took me a minute to get it, but the answer is BETE NOIR.

asdfasfd 9:35 PM  

I hated this puzzle from middle to finish. The south and southeast were friday+ for me. 5 mins for the first 3/4,25 for the rest

Anonymous 11:10 PM  

I wonder what percentage of statisticians wanted 37-across to be "Chi Squared"?

Anonymous 11:18 PM  

No "X-Mas Gifts"?

Joe Dipinto 11:22 PM  

You've never heard of a sauté pan? Seriously?

Burma Shave 9:53 AM  


KISS the VET GOODBYE, the ARMYMEN shot him;
an ANECDOTE why you shan’t BARE your BOTTOM.


Chicago Loop 10:37 AM  

What about Army as opposed to Marines. Not Men as opposed to Women

rondo 10:37 AM  

Two Xs in clues – GEN X and MODEL X. Then MALCOM X as an answer. Doesn’t that violate some rule? I don’t care that much, but I DID notice. Hand up for SADsAck at first. And kicking myself for TeE before TOE.

In highway construction plans CROSS SECTION sheets are quite important and we do abbreviate them as X-SECTIONs.

In the late 1950s or early 60s my cousins had a bulldog named DAGMAR. I always thought it was named for DAG Hammarskjöld, but now I wonder. DAGMAR was a little before my time of awareness, but I’m guessing she was a yeah baby in her TIMES.

X does mark the spot. GOODBYE.

Chicago Loop 10:48 AM  

New York(ers) may not care but us hinterlanders in the 30-days-later world are not even blessed with a theme or title! I deduce that the phrase “X marks the spot” was given at the top or start of the puzzle when it was first published on 12/13. By 1/17 not a trace. I figured the Times has been around since even before 1851 so the 1851 debut would be a new “Section” meaning the square represented [NEW YORK] Times Arts [SECTION]. Of course then ‘Times Arts’ GOODBYE doesn’t make any sense whatsoever, but without any guidance I figured it only had to make sense vertically. Besides our cultural bereft-ness, life in flyover country can also be “clue”-less!

spacecraft 10:50 AM  

I saw that big ol' X, read the clue for 39a, and knew right off what the deal was. Or thought I DIDIT. I too got to NEWYORK, but it didn't compute that the black center would stand for "-ER." Then the truth hit HOME, one of the better aha! moments of LATE.

I haven't seen this byline before, so am assuming this is Mr. Westwig's debut. If so, it is an auspicious one. Most of the puzzle seemed to flow a bit more easily than your average Thursday, but there was some stickiness in the NE. WOE is "MATCHA?" Fortunately, this was forced in on crosses, but wow! It it "MATCH A" as opposed to Match B, or is it MATCHA, rhymes with "right back ATCHA?" Either way, I never heard of it.

Luckily, I was solving across in the SE and so didn't see the "Smooth" clue until I had SAND already filled in. Legit, but very SLY. We reach way back to my adolescent years for DOD DAGMAR; surely then I thought she deserved such a title. A few stretches in the fill: how many LEADOFFS can there be? And my favorite real-word-that-is-never-used IDEATE, which I wish constructors would avoid like the plague. But all in all (as opposed to ALLINONE), this is a thumbs-up debut. Birdie.

Diana, LIW 12:09 PM  

I solved over a couple of sessions, and searched for the lurking theme.

Then - doh!!! X marked the spot, indeed. Right before my eyes, with some of its many, many meanings. How very clever for a fine Thursday. No title need, with that giant X all over the place. May I say "doh" again. OK - here goes - doh...

Diana, Lady Waiting for the giant overhead lightbulb

leftcoastTAM 3:10 PM  

Got the hidden NY Times and Malcom X early, but didn't see the hidden Kiss or the Cross until coming here. So much for the very clever theme and its huge letter X dominating the puzzle.

What stopped me was JJWATT, only vaguely familiar name even after a cheat to enter the JJ and the much more familiar FJORD.

Pretty good solve until the J crash. Liked the puzzle.

thefogman 5:16 PM  

Great puzzle by another brilliant young (21 year old) constructor. This one was tough, so I was pretty proud of myself after I finished - until I looked at the solution. For 30D I went with dOB (Date of Birth). Wrong! also wrong was my guess for 30A dJWatt. I can't beat myself up about it though since I know zero about NFL football. Bravo John Westwig! Another DNF because of one square means I almost DIDIT but it was an ABSOLUTE delight to solve anyways.

thefogman 5:46 PM  

PS - For those who are wondering, this is not John Westwig's NEWYORK X debut. This is his third. His first NYT puzzle was printed July 17, 2015 when he was just 17. He now has a Monday, a Tuesday and today's Thursday in his collection.


strayling 7:25 PM  


*muttering* "That's a made up word."

Apart from that I loved the puzzle for the playful theme.

GitFiddler 7:46 PM  

Aha... Kiss Goodbye. It took me awhile to figure the theme... but I got stuck at 3 of 4... C+

Anonymous 12:20 AM  

Actually sauté means “jump” or “to jump”. It’s a term used in ballet as well and refers to food jumping out of the pan when manipulated by a chef. You can pan fry in a sauté pan. Generally, deep frying, like for chicken, is done in a skillet or something with higher, straight sides.

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