Herbert of old Pink Panther movies / SUN 12-16-18 / Ancient capital of Laconia / Pope who supported house of Borgia / Notable schemer / Tennis commentator's cry / All-star Mets catcher of 1990s-2000s / Colorful treat that resembles rocket

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Constructor: Sam Ezersky

Relative difficulty: Challenging (14:02)

THEME: "Top Gear" — a hat ("gear" on "top" of your head???) drops down in the middle of long Across themers; once the name of the hat ends, the answer resumes on the original line; the revealer, of course, is AT THE DROP OF A HAT (108A: Immediately ... or where this puzzzle's five circled squares appear?)

Theme answers:
  • CALLINGINTOQUESTION (27A: Casting doubt on)
  • CYBERETHICS (40A: Topic concerned with hacking and software rights)
  • WHATAMI? (65A: Riddle-ending query)
  • SNAKEPIT (83A: Dangerous environment)
  • BOOKOFEZRA (89A: It comes after II Chronicles)
Word of the Day: "Miss SLOANE" (53D: "Miss ___" (2016 political thriller)) —
Miss Sloane is a 2016 political thriller film, directed by John Madden and written by Jonathan Perera. The film stars Jessica ChastainMark StrongGugu Mbatha-RawMichael StuhlbargAlison PillJake LacyJohn Lithgow, and Sam Waterston.
The film had its world premiere on November 11, 2016, at the AFI Fest, and began a limited theatrical release in the United States on November 25, 2016, by EuropaCorp, before expanding wide on December 9, 2016. It was released in France on March 8, 2017. It received generally positive reviews, and Chastain's performance was acclaimed by critics. [...] Miss Sloane is ranked number 75 by per-theater average on Box Office Mojo’s list of Worst Opening Weekend films released since 1982. (emph mine(wikipedia) 
• • •

TFW you know juuuuuuust enough about Willa Cather's writing to get yourself into terrible trouble.

I like the theme idea here, and the execution is OK, but ... there's just five elements, and the rest of the puzzle is mostly unremarkable, or remarkable only when the obviously beefy constructing software wordlist rears its head with junk like ICANGO INACOMA or INCAPS. Not sure why this one played hard, but it did (for me). Real trouble getting started, largely because of the Willa Cather fiasco. But I just found the fill and cluing to be forced and irksome all over. "IT'S IN!"? ... I mean, I guess. OK. Shrug. VEALER? I'm sure you're right. I'm sure it's valid. It's just ... there's just too much making me go "I guess..." and not enough making me go "ooh, cool." As for the thinness of the theme, there's not much to be done there. Not many hat types are going to work as letter strings inside of longer words or phrases. Maybe you could get TURBAN or MITRE to work out, but, like, FEDORA seems impossible (CHAFED ORANGE? FED ORANGUTANS?), as do most of the hats on the long list of hat types I just looked at. I'm just not sure there's enough action here for a Sunday. The whole thing just feels like a 15x15 idea that got inflated to 21x21, with ... mixed results. Seems kind of sad to have CAP in the grid but not let it go Down like all the other hats (84A: Easy-to-swallow pill => GELCAP)

ABAFT ATEMPO IRENIC AGLET LOM ENCE SABE UPCS KOI-EMS-NAH ... I mean, some of this kind of crud you just have to abide. But do I also have to abide PIUSIIIIIIIIIIII? (45A: Pope who supported the House of Borgia) And I suppose the "red-and-white striped box" is iconic where POPCORN is concerned, but not where I see movies. Not ever. Weird to not even have a "maybe" on that clue. LTGEN (44A: Three-star mil. rank) was blargh city, made blarghier by the fact that I forgot the Mets played at Citi Field and so wrote in NYM for 34D: MetLife Staudium team, on scoreboards (NYG). Were there any LTGENs in "M*A*S*H"? Because honestly if it's a mil. rank that wasn't in "M*A*S*H," I probably don't know it. I'm exaggerating, but only barely. Anyway, I'm really looking forward to the giganto-Holiday-crossword in the paper today. I think it's print-only, so run out and get one for yourself. I have no hopes that it will be a great puzzle, but I do have hopes that it will be a Big puzzle. Have a lovely day.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


jae 12:35 AM  

Medium-tough. Pretty good hat trick, liked it.

Unknown 12:54 AM  

Shouldn’t the clue have been “Kings speech?” instead of “King’s speech?”?
I assume it means a speech about the book of Kings, from the bible.

Mark 12:56 AM  

Oh my gosh. The first one I found was WHATAMI, and so, for a while, I thought all the themers would have the word "HAT" running across, before they dropped.

Joe Dipinto 1:21 AM  

You should have posted a clip of Eileen Brennan performing La Vie En Rose in "The Cheap Detective." (I don't think I've ever heard "la la" uttered by a scat singer.)

chefwen 1:54 AM  

Must not have been too successful on the top half right away so I moved to the lower half and got AT THE DROP OF A HAT right away. My AHA moment came early. Got my first HAT with TAM, got TOQUE with the Q out of I QUIT. BERET and FEZ came easily, but not the rest of the answer, so I struggled with those. Not up on my All-Star catchers, while SNAKE PIT was creepy but O,K, had to use all crosses to get MIKE’s last name.

Fun puzzle, enjoyed it.

I’m thinking CRAB LEGS for New Year’s Eve.

Harryp 2:01 AM  

CYBERETHICS was the hardest one to come up with, but it finally made sense.

Unknown 2:27 AM  

Good puzzle. Good theme. Easy.

puzzlehoarder 3:10 AM  

I'll never understand why constructors are so hellbent on making puzzles like this. To me it's an hour of my life I won't get back. Parts of this were not bad straight up little puzzles like the SE corner, in fact the whole east side. Recognizing the name AAMILNE was the highpoint for me.

It's a good thing I do these on paper as I could just leave the shaded squares blank. For a long time I was thinking this was a half baked rebus puzzle because the first letters of the hats weren't really dropped. Then I saw it was actually a fully baked "dropped" word puzzle.

I'm just glad I changed ROOMEE to ROOMER to avoid a dnf. I really thought it had to be a variant spelling of ROOMIE. It was the meaninglessness of HES at 66D that finally forced HRS and ROOMER on me.

While this was not my kind of puzzle at least it took me more time than the last two days put together.

Horace S. Patoot 3:17 AM  

I liked seeing LOCI and ABAFT, two words I did not learn from crosswords. A circle is the locus of points in a plane equidistant from a given point.

Meghan 3:45 AM  

I only got My Antonia because I figured one across had to end in am

Mark 3:55 AM  

@bobby MLK Jr preached sermons

Anonymous 4:21 AM  

Bobby Grizzard, wouldn’t King’s Speech be a sermon by Dr Martin Luther King?

cseft 5:59 AM  

I think the "King's speech" clue referred to the reverend Martin Luther King and therefore is correct (ie. It doesn't refer to the book of Kings).

Loren Muse Smith 5:59 AM  

I agree that this was really, really hard. And thanks, @puzzlehoarder for pointing out my dnf with “roomee.” Oops.

@jae – “hat trick” – good one!

Whoever thought to do this had a GOOD IDEA. I can’t stop watching it.

Coalmine memorial is spelled with postal abbreviations. So is inky calamari mind game. These took a while to find. You’re welcome.

Rex – you’re right about this being an exhaustive group of hats that can be embedded. But it made me start thinking about what makes a hat a hat. I’m purposely not looking in to this so I can chew on it today. Is a snood a hat? A rain bonnet? A turban? A TIARA? A crown – one of those velvety tall red ones?

I’ve never seen the word “rowdydow” before. Hah. At my cousin’s wedding, Aunt LaVerne got there early specifically to get an aisle seat, and she was in a pastel dress that was, well, grandmotheresque. So right before the ceremony started, Bethy Sherrill and her friend Edna got there, both in pretty much the same kind of dress, different pastel colors. (All three had those glasses on, too, the ones that made their eyes the size of silver dollars.) Bethy and Edna stood there waiting for LaVerne to slide over, as Bethy hissed. LaVerne didn’t budge, and Bethy hissed some more. Finally LaVerne reached and physically pulled Bethy in and in front of her and deposited her (Edna just followed; she always just followed) on the pew to her left, maintaining her supreme aisle vantage point. For a few seconds there I was holding my breath because both LaVerne and Bethy had been known to go off. Dowdy rowdydow avoided.

“Standard parts of combo meals” – not the large fries, buddy. I was stunned during last year’s teacher strike when we went to Wendy’s, and my fries came in a tiny little envelope ‘cause I didn’t know I was supposed to to upgrade, to specify that I wanted the Eat Like You Mean It size. I tried to make my sensible portion last as I watched everyone else mow through the fries in their jumbo cardboard boxes and was, I kid you not, devastated.

MOO MOO made me laugh. Friday I had the word vacuum on the board for some reason, and I told’em there was only one other fairly regular word that has the double u – muumuu. Blank stares. Then I got tickled ‘cause the pictures that came up on a search all looked like frumpy housecoats. So I called’em maw-maw muumuus. More staring. I couldn’t let it go; suggested that a frumpy muumuu with cows on it could be a maw maw moo moo muumuu. Crickets. Digging in, I acted out a grandmom opening such a gift on Christmas morning, A maw maw moo moo muumuu, my my! I couldn’t control myself. Someone finally said, Mrs. Smith, are you alright?

Sam – nifty conceit here. I liked the wink wink IN CAPS at 91D. Oh, and PONZI so close to GET TAKEN.

Lewis 6:10 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lewis 6:12 AM  

This was a very clever theme, and tight (as Rex mentioned), and involved arranging types of hats that work equally well in two phrases and arranging them so they fit just right in a symmetrical grid. That is impressive, but more importantly, as I stress often, how was the solve?

Special for me. At first, the puzzle fought me hard, mainly due to clues that could legitimately have several answers, so their answers couldn't be filled in right away. But I chipped away, first at the periphery, then working my way in. The reveal appeared and the first theme answer (the FEZ phrases), and that did it -- I was totally charmed and enchanted, eager to figure out the other theme answers with as little filled in as possible, and that was so much fun, the puzzle ended up to be like some books, tv shows, and movies I've seen: I was sad when it was over. Being won over by a puzzle always makes me forgiving of nitpicks and keeps my thumb pointing way up.

Sam, IMO, you whipped uP AN AMAzing puzzle and deserve epiC APplause!

Rob 7:26 AM  

Tough, took me almost double my usual Sunday time. Not bad, but I am a little mad that I had everything right and I had to go back and remove my rebuses before the app would accept it as right! I understand that we are "dropping" the hats, but if the first letter of each hat is there then we haven't really dropped it, have we? Oh well, I guessed the problem pretty quickly.

I'm a bit perturbed that the first (anonymous) commenter just HAD to rush to the comments section before even doing the puzzle just to let us all know who the REAL Nazis are.

ghthree 7:44 AM  

It seems to me that Rex actually missed the fact that every hat is a two-way branch. The same hat branches both across and down. This is real artistry IMO. Several other people noticed (and appreciated) this fact, but Rex seems to have quit in a huff without reading anybody else's comments. I would expect his phone should be alight with tweeted comments by now. Unless he's turned if off.

Z 8:00 AM  

I liked this way more than Rex. Hand up for knowing 1A had to end in AM, but I needed about half the crosses before MY ANTONIA clicked. Know Cather, know MY ANTONIA, forgot they went together. But all that Catherization was mid solve. I know lots of people start in the NW and if 1A doesn’t click they start on 1D, 2D, etc. NOT I. I keep going across until one clicks and then start on that section. Working from SEMI, I went down the east coast. As a result I got to the revealer before filling any themers. This meant I already had BERET in place and the trick was obvious.

I’d rather have fewer themers and less groan inducing fill. For a 21x21 the fill seemed good enough. I did laugh at Rex’s PIUS comment, though. RRNs are few and far between these days, so they irk me far less than they used to. Do not take this as an invitation to return to “Super Bowl in 3567” clues, please.

Let me add that we should not forget that it was Reverend Martin Luther King. I liked that clue when I figured it out.

@Rob, looks like a moderator agreed.

For those who asked, I posted yesterday’s PPP late. it was 34%, so over the line.

Anonymous 8:22 AM  

@Rex Mike Flynn was a LTGEN

Teedmn 8:23 AM  

AT THE DROP OF A HAT - cute theme, nice rebus phrases, I like this theme. But I don't necessarily think AT THE DROP OF A HAT means "Immediately". Randomly, spontaneously, frivolously, inexplicably, but not immediately.

My keyboard was acting up today. I was solving in random mode as PER my usual Sunday, but the randomness was amped up and sometimes I would be typing and the cursor would jump AT THE DROP OF A HAT before I could finish my entry and I didn't always notice. So one of my DNF spots was due to that problem. The other was just dumb - Not knowing MIKE PIAZZA, I left in MIKE P SAZZA because words of denial were NOTs. Did I call this into question? NOT I! Oh well.

Pom before HI-C, and Miss Saigon before Miss SLOANE were two of my rethinks. I got the theme, oddly enough, at the cap I'm least acquainted with - SNA[KEPI]T. Nice job as always, Sam Ezersky.

QuasiMojo 8:24 AM  

I agree with ghthree above. Outstanding constructing trick. Took me a half hour to do which is normal for me on a Sunday. I thought O Pioneers too but luckily held off. The theme didn’t FEZ me at all as I saw the gimmick at BERET. I thought stars might have AURA, not FAME, which seems kind of redundant. Speaking of La La Land, I’ll throw my Stetson into the ring. I’m sure any scat singer worth her salt would never utter “la la.” I may be wrong but I thought the whole point of scat was to be percussive not melodic. I once heard Ella Fitzgerald live in Charleston and her scatting raised the roof even though we were outdoors. It was a real rowdydow! My main screwup today was thinking those red and white containers were from Popeye’s. Lol. I rarely eat popcorn or fried chicken. And somehow I envisioned TORSI as the things “between shoulders.” At least mine is. Now slumped over from reading the tiny print on this blog everyday.

frankbirthdaycake 8:25 AM  

I really liked this puzzle. It was harder than some, but crosses/downs helped me change words like roomie to roomer. Once I got beret, toque came next and the rest fairly easily. I had the s and r in sermon, and it seems pretty clear from the apostrophe that the constructor was referring to the late Reverend Dr. King; however, since I’m no expert on the Bible, there might be an additional reference which escapes me. Bottom line: this was a fun way for me to spend some time on a Sunday morning.

ZenMonkey 8:26 AM  

The elegance of the theme answers more than made up for their paucity.

The answers IN CAPS, BOO, and ECHOES gave me a laugh, as does the word "rowdydow". Boy does that one need to be in wider circulation.

mmorgan 8:34 AM  

I didn't find this particularly easy or particularly difficult.... And while I rarely dislike a puzzle (and also while I acknowledge the praise some folks here are bestowing upon the puzzle's design), I just didn't find this to be a lot of fun.

Aketi 8:59 AM  

@LMS, I’m sure your vacuum inspired progression to “maw maw MOO MOO muumuu, my my!” will make M&As day.

I liked the FETISH that drops from FREUD.

Suzie Q 9:02 AM  

Again I am surprised at Rex for calling this one challenging.
I liked it fine. I smelled a rat early on and figured it out with beret. From there the theme helped with the solve. That's the way it's supposed to work so "well done" Sam E.
I read My Antonia and was not impressed.
The A.A. Milne quote was nice. I don't speak dog but I'm pretty good at understanding it.

nitram lepok 9:08 AM  

Irenic? I can hear Glenn Frey singing ‘cause I got a irenic easy feeling’. Jeez

Rube 9:14 AM  

Serves Rex and all the speed obsessed solvers right. How can you possibly put in opioneers without checking a single cross. It is a CROSSWORD puzzle not a lucky or educated guess puzzle . and today was actually very easy what with the great MIKE PIAZZA showing the way. I couldn't name a single work by Cather either

amyyanni 9:18 AM  

I've liked other puzzles more. Agree with chefwen that crab legs might be a good idea for a holiday meal; thanks for that.

astroman 9:29 AM  

Also tough if you threw down GARYCARTER.

'mericans in Paris 9:39 AM  

We didn't find this puzzle all that challenging, except in a couple of places. The drop-of-a-hat trick was easy enough to figure out and fun once we had grocked the theme. My favourite is CALLING INTO QUESTION.

I agree with @Rex, however, that a lot of the fill was pretty awful: IRENIC, LOM, ENCE, SABE, UPCS, and the whole KOI-EMS-NAH section. And as for VEALER, that seems to have ancient roots, but survives mainly in Australia and New Zealand. Any cattle farmers out there in the USA or Canada who use the term?

As for NAH, what ever happened to politeness? If a host were to ask me whether I wanted more Brussels sprouts, the last thing I would say is "NAH". But, to me, "I'm good" is also lazy and inconsiderate. When I get that kind of response, I always want to respond, "Well, I'm happy to hear that; there's not enough good in the world. But would you like more or not?!" What's wrong with simply, "No thank you"?

Curmudgeon 9:40 AM  

I'm up at 5 am daily and love Willa Cather so it was a suss fest with a northwest corner start, working my way across and down to the south.

Then hit 97A and bounced off to the east for a cake walk, until I ended up in the west corner where I eventually tanked, ironically with I'm Spent. The trail went cold, even with 107D in and ent at the end of 91A.

Rex, there (are) just five. Lead by example. Don't pander.

CDilly52 9:55 AM  

While I figured out the answer on CALL INTO QUESTION immediately from the down ADD TO QUEUE, the way the theme works is bothersome to me because of the “left overs” in the down answer. Just seemed sort of forced. This one was very solvable but didn’t give me any chuckles or real “aha” moments. Just OK.

kitshef 9:57 AM  

Not a fun solve, and I blame the cluing. Things like Tennis commenters cry, and Lex, e.g. in NYC are just irritating. More irritating are the clues in quotes like “Doesn’t matter to me” and “Today was just brutal”.

I did adore the theme (although I have no idea what @ghthree means by 'two-way branches'), and loved GHANA crossing MALAWI, so on balance … a bit below average, I suppose.

Anyone else want mephitic at first for 90D? One of my favorite words and until I did the letter count I got excited.

RooMonster 10:03 AM  

Hey All !
Another annoying post from me! Har. Got a good chuckle out of yesterdays response to my post. But, IM EASY with criticism. Get upset? NOT I. I PASS it over. I CAN GO on, but now I'm even annoying myself! :-)

Anyway, figured out theme with the combo of BOOK OF RA and WHATI. After getting WHATI, scratched my head as to WHAT that was supposed to be. Saw the TAM going Down, and lightbulb moment, then glanced at SAFEZONES and saw FEZ, and then Aha as to how the theme worked. Fun stuff. Helped with the SNA(KEPI)T, as SNAKT was also a Wha?

Cool concept, executed well. There is always dreck in a puz, Sundays more than dailys. This ones were pointed out already, but I can let 'em slide for a good puz.

Thinking I was golden, till I got the Almost There! message. BOO! Turns out I had ROOMEy/HyS. Ugh. One letter DNF. Lost count how many times that's happened.

NODOZ was in use in my younger days. Personally I think it was a placebo, never seemed to work. Remember Jolt Cola? That was also an all-day nighter aid. Tons of caffeine. Ah, youth.

F count = 5
ROO count = 1 (Also, a BOO and a GOO)
(I know, annoying!)


Carola 10:06 AM  

An engaging puzzle. I spotted the TOQUE early and enjoyed sussing out the rest of the headwear. BERET saved me from the incorrect LTcol; I had to wait for KEPI, as I didn't know MIKE and couldn't think of any "environment" beginning SNA. For. me, the reveal was a delightful bonus: I'd been wondering about the vertical orientation of the hats in the grid v. their actual orientation on one's head (TOQUE, vertical; TAM, horizontal) and about the "justification" for interrupting the Across words. AHA! A perfect repurposing of the phrase.

GILL I. 10:09 AM  

Well....this was interesting. I had to actually finish the puzzle before I could admire it. I didn't see the hat trick until it dropped, and that was a long way down.
I certainly like all the hats here but I had lots of trouble with the surrounding atmosphere. Kept asking myself why is AHA a moment and why can you only buy a FETISH in an African market. I only know that word as a sexual desire. Google beckoned and I see that it also means a charm. Still...strange way to clue that word.
The AM gave me MY ANTONIA. Strange that @Rex didn't see that. My grandmother gave me that book to read. I suspect it was because one of the Bohemians was trying to learn English.
VEALER does look kinda funny, doesn't it? I don't eat veal - not because of the horrible treatment the calf receives, but because it doesn't taste good. I had it in France and it was beyond delicious but here In the USofA, not so good.
Never heard of MIKE PIZZA. What a name. Is he Italian?
Clever puzzle, Sam. CRAB LEG and all. Just don't order only one.

Anonymous 10:12 AM  

I am away from my laptop from which I normally print the puzzle and do it old school. Today I decided to try it online as I couldn’t get my other printer to print hard copy from my ipad. The puzzle was ok, but early on (toque) I couldn’t fill it in properly except to allow the first letter which seems lame.

I hate to say it but I agreed with most of Rex’s comments this time.

How does one who normally solves online (it seems like most of you commenters) deal with the regular use of boxes with more than one letter? I must be missing something. I also find jumping around and using the nyt embedded keyboard maddening. I will just have to go back to paper to save my sanity.

I’ll have to sign myself anonymous RLVN today due to agitation

Anonymous 10:13 AM  

88D: "with [93D/"strand"] half of a double helix" -- *Half* of a double helix is RNA. Yes, RNA is part of a more general category of DNA, but if the clue is specifically referencing *half* of a double helix (i.e. a single strand of genetic material) it's bogus to have "DNA" be the answer rather than "RNA". No reason to be mentioning the "half". A fairer clue would,have been "A 93D of this is in a helix"

Nancy 10:23 AM  

What a pleasure! Today, a think-fest, as opposed to yesterday's trivia-fest. The fact that the Downs dropped down and the Acrosses were squished into a single square made the puzzle crunchier. Crunchier, in fact, than POPCORN -- and I really enjoyed it.

And such fun hats -- TOQUE and BERET and KEPI and FEZ and TAM. Sort of a world tour, but in hats. I got the theme at CALLING IN[TO QUE]STION, then hoped that all the hats would be different. And they were. Oh joy! Because that, too, made the puzzle crunchier and much more interesting.

I got all the rebuses initially from the squished Across answers, except one. Didn't see SNA[KE PI]T right off the bat, so needed the drop-down KEPI to figure it out.

Was there a MOO MOO in "Old MacDonald". I had to sing it to myself to make sure.

I only know FETISH in the sense of something like a foot fetish, but I guess it must be some sort of African market item. Haven't looked it up yet.

And what a fabulous revealer! It was so fair, that I was able to write it in AT THE DROP OF A HAT. Terrific puzzle, Sam! Loved it.

CDilly52 10:29 AM  

Hand up for mephitic! Great word and a favorite of mi e as well. I alwaysharken back to my hrandmother who introduced me to cruciverbalism (by that term) when I was eight. My greatest joy in solving is learning useful and apt new words.

Unknown 10:33 AM  

Your muumuu story made me laugh out loud!

Norm 10:42 AM  

I'm baffled because I find this one astoundingly easy and a lot of fun. Thought it was going to be a disappointing one-way rebus and then saw the dropping TOQUE. Cannot agree with any of Rex's gripes.

TubaDon 10:48 AM  

Rarely do I find a puzzle easier than Rez does, but after realizing there was a QUESTION involved, all the theme answers fell fairly rapidly. VEALERS. was winceable. Not familiar with Cather, SLOANE or Risk, but they were easily gotten from crosses. Was wondering why the theme circles were rebused across but not down until I got to the reveal at 108A which I got from two crosses and which explained all.

Luther Kinney 11:03 AM  

It is impossible to make a snowball wearing mittens.....

Nancy 11:04 AM  

@Suzie Q (9:02) -- I hated MY ANTONIA, too. One of those required so-called Great Books" that I was forced to read in school and that made me decide not to become an English major. Others include "The House of the Seven Gables," "Last of the Mohicans" and "Women in Love."

@Quasi (8:24)-- I also hate POPCORN. But you say you eat it rarely and I eat it never.

@'mericans (9:39) -- I agree with you that both NAH and "I'm good" are rude responses. NAH being worse, of course.

@Substitute PC Patron (10:19) -- You did great!

@Teedmn (8:23) -- To me, AT THE DROP OF A HAT has always meant "immediately". I tend to use it in the following context: "I'll sing AT THE DROP OF A HAT." Unfortunately, this phrase is useless to me unless I am wearing a hat at the time -- the object of the phrase being my determination to burst into song as quickly as possible. And therefore I always try to have a hat close at hand -- in my pocket, if not on my head. That way I can quickly plop it on my head, knock it to the floor, and then burst into song.

Master Melvin 11:17 AM  

What's with the hate for IRENIC. It's a lovely word, from the Greek for PEACE. We need more of it.

Mary McCarty 11:18 AM  

Wish I could paste in photos so I could show how much better the puzzle looked with the “hat words” as a rebus, which my app did not accept, costing me precious seconds as I retyped them. Also, no shaded squares appeared til I was finished, so no help from that clue; just had to keep randomly looking around for where those might appear. But that’s what I like about crossword puzzles: it’s not a race to the finish to plug in random vocabulary terms or synonyms. It’s a PUZZLE (forgive my shouting) and involves seeing the connections between crossing words, unlike the drag race some people (cough-OFL) seem to prefer. I’m with you, Rube, Z and ghthree: anyone who smugly throws down “O Pioneers” without noticing that 1A had to end in M is just lazy, or arrogant, or something... and to not notice that the “hat words” ran in both directions is just sad.

LMS: thanks for another hilarious comment; I would love to sit in your classroom, and would’ve been rolling in the aisle right along with you. “Vacuum” was always my favorite word in Latin 1, as I used it to illustrate that in Latin, all vowels are pronounced, and some consonants are pronounced differently than in English, thus “wa-cu-um”. Happy to say my students always found that at least a bit humorous.

Anonymous 11:24 AM  

...as in M.L. King

Hungry Mother 11:30 AM  

I solved it as a rebus puzzle, which I think misses the theme somewhat, but is legit anyhoo. I DNFed anyway by not knowing KOI. Enjoyed it anyhoo.

Teedmn 11:31 AM  

@Nancy, surely there is no need for a hat as an excuse. Sheer exuberance should suffice!

I read “My Antonia” for the first time about a month ago after seeing it on so many people's must-read lists. I liked it until everyone left home for the larger world or maybe it was the summer of dancing lessons, but it fizzled for me. I didn’t hate it though.

JC66 12:32 PM  

Like @Mark 12:56 AM, I saw the HAT in WHATI (65A) and thought all the themers would contain HAT. When that didn't pan out, I solved the puzzle as a themeless. It then took me a few minutes post solve to see the different HATS "dropping down." So, to me 65A is a FAIL!

Anonymous 12:39 PM  

Not for me, this one

Adam 12:40 PM  

Found it mediocre. Not a lot of fun to solve, once the theme fell into place. And I'd never heard of a KEPI other than something my mother called my head when I hurt it ("Oh, did you hurt your kepi ?"), but it wasn't that hard to suss out.

VEALER? I'm dubious. IRENIC? Never heard the word until today - I wanted it to be EDENIC but TIARA and SEMIS were clearly correct.

But the clue/answer I thought didn't work at all was ADD TO QUEUE for Play Next command - Add to queue does not play the song next. PLAY NEXT plays it next; ADD TO QUEUE adds it to the back of the list of songs in your queue. At least it works that way on every music app I've ever used.

Overall not terrible, but not great, either.

UES Bruce 12:43 PM  

Didn’t have much trouble with this one. Agree with Rex that the answers other than the rebuses (rebi?) were meh and I got the theme early on with toque. But GRRR, why won’t the Times app recognize the rebus answers?

Masked and Anonymous 12:55 PM  

This puz had m&e at MOOMOO (yo, @Aketi & @Muse darlins).

Primo theme mcguffin … kinda half-rebus-like. M&A can always dig different. Hardest part was MIKEPIAZZA, which is only a vaguely-familiar soundin b-ball name. Lost valuable nanoseconds, in that SW corner.

staff weeject pick: BRR. Goes splendidly with yesterday's pick, if U are a cold St. Bernard.

Thanx, Sam E-Z. Good bigjob.

Masked & Anonym8Us


sixtyni yogini 1:15 PM  


Joe Dipinto 1:20 PM  

I'm with @teedmn on AT THE DROP OF A HAT: to me it means "at any time or place, for no particular reason, with just the slightest amount of prompting." There's an immediacy suggested but mainly the "without having been asked" element drives it.

Still trying to locate Betty Carter or Dizzy Gillespie singing "la la". I did find Lee Dorsey:

Sittin' here la la
Waitin' for my ya ya

and the Delfonics:

Now I don't wear a diamond ring
I don't even have a song to sing
All I know is
La la la la la la la la la
Means 'I love you'

Canook 1:21 PM  

@UES Bruce: the app won't accept rebus answers, because it's not a rebus theme. That would make the downs nonsensical. Also, rebus is the dative plural of res. Not sure how that one made its way over into English though...

FWIW I liked the puzzle mildly. The fill on Sundays is generally so stale that I don't even do them anymore, but today was a nice surprise from my usual abstention.

CashPo’ 1:28 PM  

One can buy a fetish in America too. Rabbit’s foot is a common one.

Mohair Sam 1:29 PM  

@LMS(5:59) - I was the 1,029th person on earth to view your delightfully ridiculous "this" link. Where in hell do You find these things? And doesn't the tambourine just make that dance?

Anonymous 1:43 PM  

Nice puzzle. It took a lot of work, but turned out to be clever and satisfying. Good Sunday morning distraction. Thanks very much Mr. Ezersky.

Banana Diaquiri 1:50 PM  

should have gotten MALAWI in that O'Donnell has been pumping his KIND gig every night for a few weeks. you all do watch something other than Faux News, right? :)

can't abide rebus or these follow-the-back-streets-of-Boston puzzles. too clever by half.

old timer 1:56 PM  

I loved the comments of Substitute PC, above, and of course laffed out loud reading @LMS. Always do!

Rowdy-dow-dow means a military drum or tabor in the Irish song, "Arthur McBride". You could look it up, and sing along, and you will be much amused I think. You could make a list (and no doubt someone has) of what Irish folkies call "anti-recruiting songs".

Aketi 1:57 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
OffTheGrid 2:21 PM  

@whomever it may concern

There is no rebus in this puzzle. You can't solve it as a rebus.

Please see @Canook 1:21 for additional information.

Aketi 2:30 PM  

The puzzle has several responses to its own QUESTION, “WHAT AM I?”

Some make more sense than others.

I’M AM (4704th most popular girl’s name in 2018)
I’M POUND (maybe Ezra?

One could say the puzzle is an ego trip since there are so many I’s and AM’s. My father’s insult for narcissists was “He’s a Big I Am.” The only female that I think he might have label ped a Big I Am was Barbara Boxer when he fought her over illegally parking her campaign truck in his road construction zone. I have my own personal list of politicians that fit his label.

I = 31 (vastly outnumbering the 7 U’s)
I’M = 12 (6 are backward)
AM = 10 (4 are backward)

@M&A, do those M&A combos make up for the lower U than I count?

If you allow dropping and bending the words including the diagonally you get:

I AM = 5
AM I = 4

I AM I = 4

But there is only 1 measly “NOT I”retort

pabloinnh 2:55 PM  

Who liked LMS's comment? ME!ME!

Like an earlier anon. commenter, I couldn't print today's puzzle and did it online. I almost couldn't do that either as my laptop had become infested by gremlins and wasn't doing much of anything, and that slowly. Fortunately my large adult son, Mr. Supertech Guy was home and after some hours of causing various screens to appear and other magic tricks, without success, he took it back to my workshop and reappeared not long after and asked me to "try it now". Which I did, and it worked much better than it had in months and of course I wanted to know what he had done and he said casually, installed a new hard drive. And where ever did you find a new hard drive, I asked, reasonably enough, I think. Oh, I had one in my backpack, I was told.

Of course. Oh brave new world, and so on.

Any puzzle that gives you a pleasant aha! moment is fine with me, and this was one of those, so a fun Sunday.

I won't even need the drop of a hat to sing this week since between rehearsals and performances I'll be singing eight nights out of nine. Oh joy. Rapture.

michiganman 3:24 PM  

What a magnificent run of four A to A+ puzzles, Thursday through today. Hooray!

Anonymous 3:55 PM  

If anyone is having problems getting the puzzle completion to register I had to remove all the rebus squares in order to have the NYTimes app show it as completed.

Unknown 4:42 PM  

Yeah, I finished this puzzle in record time but it would not accept my rebuses. In the instructions it says you should put the across word first and the down letter second, separated by a slash. I tried this and it marked all my rebuses wrong. So just the letters to show complete, and you look at the finished grid and it makes no sense.

JC66 4:53 PM  


Crimson Devil 5:15 PM  

Didn’t notice hat drop theme ‘til came here after completion. Sorta sloggish. Speakin of slog, anyone see mega puz?
For all you e-solvers, it has clues numbering in the 600+ , across and down !!!

Nancy 5:21 PM  

You're a singer, @pabloinnh? (2:55). Please tell us more. Professional? Amateur? Or how the "Broadway at the 'Y' Chorus" that I used to belong to describes itself: Community? (Whatever that means.)

Anonymous 5:26 PM  

I think at this point it's appropriate to cite 97A. Har!

Anonymous 5:40 PM  

At sea has been used 287 times since 1978, look it up. How dare you expose rex to that on top of Pius III. Why are you still producing puzzles that don't give rex a high as your main objective? (Just picking on him. He's a cartoon caricature of himself at this point).

pabloinnh 6:05 PM  

Hi @Nancy-

Guess I'd say semipro, if that can apply to music. I've sung solos for weddings and funerals and been paid, so there's that. Also sing folk with a partner at various venues, do-wop in a quartet (28 yrs.) of that,some paying gigs, 10 years with a local group before a splinter select group split off to form an auditioned 20 voice group (Christmas concert coming up,our 27th), and then there's the church choir and when possible the Monday night hootenanny for us old folkies at a local pub, which is, well, a hoot. I wish I could play my guitar as well as it deserves, but it sure has given me lots of enjoyment. Getting to where I can't do lots of stuff I used to, but yeah, I can sing.

Thanks for asking, and hope you also can do some public singing. Dangerously close to too much fun.

Mary Jean Babic 6:36 PM  

I also put down OPIONEERS at first. Who'd'a thought two of her novels have the same number of letters?

Also, ahem, it's LEGOBRICK, not LEGOBLOCK. Go to a Lego store and they have a "pick-a-brick" section. Brick! Not block!

thefogman 7:24 PM  

I needed to put my thinking cap on to get the gimmick. Lots of satisfying AHA moments in this one. Hats off to Sam Ezersky for this most enjoyable puzzle.

Larry Gilstrap 7:30 PM  

Sat down to solve and my copy was without shaded squares, OH, BOY! Slowed me down considerably, but I soldiered through.

If HAT and CAP are synonymous, then the theme makes more sense, if that even matters?. It was a fun, tough solve.

Thanks, Roo 8:31 PM  

Hmm. The passive-aggressive person who dissed the other person for no good reason—she’s the annoying one. I’m not sure what got into me the other day, but I’m sorry.

Nancy 9:02 PM  

@pabloinnh (6:05) -- I expect we're in very, very different categories, singing-wise. It's not so much that, unlike you, I've never been paid to sing. It's that I worry that, as in the old joke, someone is going to come up to me and ask me how much money I require not to sing. Sort of like the fiddlers in the subway. That's why I carry the hat at all times. Because I will sing AT THE DROP OF A HAT according to @Teedmn's and @Joe Dipinto's definition: i.e. without much, if anything, in the way of prompting.

I was good enough to be in my high school chorus and I passed the audition to get into the Broadway at the Y Chorus at the 92Y. Which is not a professional group. I've certainly never soloed, other than on my own time, walking the Reservoir in Central Park. Worse, my [very musical] brother once asked me: "Nancy, in all the years you've been alive, has anyone, even once, turned to you and said: 'Nancy, please sing for me?" And my composer collaborator David burst into uncontrollable laughter when I sang, I think it may have been "Send in the Clowns" for him. "What is it?" I asked, horrified. "Am I flat? Am I sharp? Is it the quality of my, my...instrument?" "No," he said, barely able to get the words out because he was laughing so hard. "It's the way you go from your chest voice to your head voice." I have no idea what he was talking about. I just knew whatever it was, it wasn't good.

But I absolutely love to sing. And I do hit notes correctly. Even my brother told me that. Singing is one of the things in life that gives me the most joy. I pity people who don't have that outlet. Many people walk or run in the park listening to music on headphones. But I always provide my own soundtrack. Do wish I sang as well as you, however. If you lived in NY, I'd definitely want to get together with you for a hootenanny.

Z 9:35 PM  

When we see “name that means ‘peace’” later this week everyone is going to put in Irene with no problem, right?

pabloinnh 9:44 PM  

@Nancy-Good for you, and keep it up. Seems that singing has brought great happiness to both of us, and if that's not nice, I don't know what is (to paraphrase Vonnegut).

@Nancy-Good for you, and keep it up. Seems that singing has brought great happiness to both of us, and if that's not nice, I don't know what is (to paraphrase Vonnegut).

Ando 12:58 AM  

So frustrating that the Times app wouldn't consider it complete until I cleared out the rebus answers. CYBHICS is not a word. SNAKT is not a word. It should have accepted them either way. Streak broken. FML.

PatKS 4:15 AM  

I thought the theme was clever once I finished although the fill was mostly boring. Never heard of irenic or abaft or hic juice and la la is not scat.

Now if you want to talk dim, I do the puzzle on paper and bolded the shaded and missing letters and still never saw the words for hats. I even got 108A before I finished. Even worse, hubby and I went to Breakfast with Santa and had hats that lit up and everyone was commenting on our HATS. LOL

When I started the puzzle, I only got a few answers so I had dinner. When I came back to it, I breezed along to the end. The brain is fascinating- or maybe it was the sautéed broccoli and lo mein. IDK

spacecraft 11:42 AM  

To OFL: you have seen a POPCORN box that WASN'T red-and-white striped? Where? If you get one, keep it; it's gotta be a collector's item.

I dashed this one off, once I found the McGuffin, which was right away. There was no CALLINGINTOQUESTION about it. The title TOP GEAR sorta gave it away.

I liked it; there wasn't too much trash in the fill, the Random Pope aside. I didn't fall into the Cather trap because 1-across had to end in AM, so it had to be MYANTONIA. I think the theme and execution was a GOODIDEA. DOD is "the divine MISSM." She is the wind beneath my wings. Birdie.

Grammar Prof 12:00 PM  

I was surprised that no one mentioned the grammatical problem with 107 A "Gifts that one usually bows when receiving" - Wouldn't it correctly be: Gifts for which one bows when receiving"

Burma Shave 1:58 PM  




rondo 2:27 PM  

And the secondary revealer is INCAPS. Har.

No reference to TONTO in the SABE clue?

@Grammar Prof - Yes, something is off there.

ANNE Archer ALLIN or out of a MOOMOO, yeah baby.

Likethis puz? NOTI. LATER.

rainforest 2:40 PM  

I had a bit of trouble with this one. The title had me thinking car transmission so I was looking for fifth or some other gear. Agh. Anyway, I didn't glom onto the theme until I got the revealer and immediately "saw" BOOK OF RA with EZ coming down from the "F". Just a little slow on the up(down)take.

I can't say I scooted through this one, but made slow and steady progress. Gary Carter has the same number of letters as MIKE PIAZZA, but I don't think he played in the 2000s.

If I were to pick a DOD, it'd be Kate MOSS.

rondo 6:46 PM  

@spacey - good call

Diana, LIW 7:39 PM  

I got the trick, but not the hat part of the theme, so it was a lot less fun than it probably was for many, many solvers.

Dana, LIW

rondo 8:15 PM  

oops, I meant @rainy, though both good calls

Anonymous 12:20 PM  

I lenjoyed this puzzle, and despite his usual comments, I suppose Rex really did as well. It wasn’t easy, but bookofezra and cyberethics made it doable. Worked most of the east side before moving west. I found the fill to be less crosswordese than I expect from the NYT. Not as much clever clueing as i would like and a little bit too much conversational fills, but there were some clever ones, 122A, 91D were my favorites. 32 minutes paper and pencil without any help (otherwise why bother, really). Still anonymous due to the large contingent of other commenters I would not care to be associated with.

Anonymous 12:28 PM  

Anonymous again: the sermon might have been delivered by MLK, but most were probably referencing MLK, JR

Blade 12:18 PM  

Turns out "GaryCarter" (former Mets catcher) fits perfectly where MIKEPIAZZA (intended Mets catcher) belonged, and this fact led to a big, fat DNF for me.

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