Lily Potter's maiden name / THU 6-6-18 / Alternative to guillotine / Places where some house pets go / Father of Deimos Phobos / Bad role model for Oliver Twist / When doubled dance of 2010s / 1990s commerce pact / High point of To Kill a Mockingbird

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Constructor: Sophia Maymudes

Relative difficulty: Easy (4:58)

THEME: KITTY CORNER (44A: Diagonally ... or a hint to four of this puzzle's squares) — "CAT" rebus, where "CAT" appears in each of the four corner boxes; there's this other theme answer, too: 34A: Places where some house pets "go," in both this puzzle and real life (LITTER BOXES) ... the implications of *that* answer ... well, let's just discuss it below ...

Theme answers:
Word of the Day: Frank CAPRA (5A: Three-time Best Director of the 1930s) —
Frank Russell Capra (born Francesco Rosario Capra; May 18, 1897 – September 3, 1991) was an Italian American film director, producer and writer who became the creative force behind some of the major award-winning films of the 1930s and 1940s. Born in Italy and raised in Los Angeles from the age of five, his rags-to-riches story has led film historians such as Ian Freer to consider him the "American Dream personified."
Capra became one of America's most influential directors during the 1930s, winning three Academy Awards for Best Director from six nominations, along with three other Oscar wins from nine nominations in other categories. Among his leading films were It Happened One Night(1934), You Can't Take It with You (1938), and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939); Capra was nominated as Best Director and as producer for Academy Award for Best Picture on all three films, winning both awards on the first two. During World War II, Capra served in the U.S. Army Signal Corps and produced propaganda films, such as the Why We Fight series.
After World War II, Capra's career declined as his later films, such as It's a Wonderful Life(1946), performed poorly when they were first released. In ensuing decades, however, It's a Wonderful Life and other Capra films were revisited favorably by critics. Outside of directing, Capra was active in the film industry, engaging in various political and social issues. He served as President of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, worked alongside the Writers Guild of America, and was head of the Directors Guild of America. (wikipedia)
• • •

So... yeah, where to start? KITTY CORNER is a good revealer. LITTER BOXES ... is less ... good. It's ... what is it? A "litter" of cats? Those are called "kittens." If those are LITTER BOXES then either the cats all pooped in their corners, or the other meaning of "litter" must be what's being playfully suggested by the clue. But ... again, "litters" contain kittens, not cats. Also, the whole little cutesy play on "go" made me throw up in my mouth a little. If you could keep cat defecation gags (!) out of the revealer, that would be Great, thanks. As for the rebus itself: it was way way way too easy to get. Too basic. It's weird—the concept / KITTY CORNER revealer works, but it's so rudimentary that there's not a lot of challenge or fun. People are setting personal records left and right today because the whole concept here is about as close to a gimme as you're gonna get with a rebus puzzle. I finished quickly, but I'm kind of startled I didn't finish much more quickly. Once you realize that CATs are going to go in *every* corner, then you can just put them there and work your way back out of those corners—huge leg up, given that corners are often hard to get into. If you've got three letters deep in each corner ... well, that's just too much to hand the solver. I mean, people will be thrilled to shred a Thursday, probably, but there's not as much challenge here as the average Thursday solver is probably expecting, or looking forward to.

The trouble for me was that I filled the grid very ILLY right around ILLY. ILLY / LAID / DYE was a very, very rough patch. DYE was the real culprit, as I wanted about a thousand other three-letter things, including RYE, before I finally gave into DYE. Super strange to call DYE just an "Ingredient." Also, "many a breakfast cereal" is not nearly specific enough. None of the breakfast cereals that have ever been in my house have had DYEs (that I know of). [Ingredient in Trix], sure. But there you'd want DYES, plural. Maybe just avoid the breakfast cereal aisle entirely for this clue. Did you know other things are DYEd? It's true.

I also had trouble with the adjacent SW corner, as TAKEN OVER was somehow tough even with TAKE in there (36D: No longer independent), and then SHOVEL was bizarrely / awkwardly clued (57A: Eat quickly, with "in"), and EVANS, despite my having read all the HP books (some of theme twice), was just impossible for me (50D: Lily Potter's maiden name in the Harry Potter books). How prominent is her maiden name in the books? Do they make a big deal about it? When? No, don't tell me—I don't actually care. It's just a weird bit of minutiae to pull from a 7-novel universe. Nothing much else to talk about in this puzzle. Oh, I don't buy that a BEACH TOWEL is an "accessory" (30D: Sunbather's accessory). It's not a bracelet or a belt. It's not primarily about fashion. It's functional. Boo.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld (Twitter @rexparker / #NYTXW)


[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


jae 12:14 AM  

Easy except...I got briefly hung up in the ALAS LAID DYE (me too for rYE at first) area, partly because I had a hard time buying @Rex ILLY. Not bad, not great, kinda liked it. A promising debut?

Harryp 12:23 AM  

It didn't take long to see the CAT rebus and find that they were in the four corners of the puzzle. Fun Theme, no really bad fill. Thumbs up for an easy Thursday. I use things like AIOLI in Scrabble games. Good job Sophia.

Larry Gilstrap 1:15 AM  

Hard to speak of a cat without defecation issues. I'm headed off to the pet store looking for a pet that ingests with no egestion. Tropical fish? Google search wheel is spinning: new search.

DYE sneaks into breakfast cereal? Processed food product with no DYE added: Google search wheel still spinning. Breathe! Really Rex, can I be familiar? I lived on a beach with the sand at my front door, and on my day off would stride out with nary an accessory other than a BEACH TOWEL. Done for the day!

For eighteen years I shared my life with a neutered male black and silver tabby named Cubby. He met the devotion/aloofness equation of perfect companionship. I find dogs too emotionally demanding and people too self-absorbed. I've said too much.

I've heard KITTY CORNER and CATer CORNER and CATty CORNER and they all are glorious ways to describe the lot across the intersection. I like DAINTY and try to use it as much as possible.

DON'T PANIC gets a pass because of no tilde? We need a grumpy apostrophe contingent, not really.

SophiaMay 1:31 AM  

Hey all! I’ve been reading this blog since 7th grade, but it took getting my own puzzle published to comment…. Anyways, excited to be here.

I originally wrote this puzzle for my friends, the majority of whom had never solved a rebus puzzle before. So I wanted to make the main conceit accessible to people weren’t used to the theme type, which meant that yes, it’s pretty easy. Aside from the theme, it definitely seems to me like an early week puzzle (I actually wondered if there was a chance it would run on a Tuesday or Wednesday despite the theme).

It was interesting to read Rex’s write up because ILLY was the only word the NYT team changed from the puzzle I submitted. I had IDLE/ADAS/DEE in that area, which is also not amazing. But I prefer it to ILLY which sounds like a fake word to me. So I’m admittedly curious about the process behind that choice.

JOHN X 1:48 AM  

This was like a beginner's level rebus puzzle. If this were any easier it would have arrived already filled in.

chefwen 2:12 AM  

Cute puzzle for this cat loving person. Started off a little weird for me as this was the first night we had steak from one of our CATtle. We sold three and got the meat from the fourth, they didn’t tell us which one we got, thank you very much. It was tasty, but a little on the tough side being grass fed and not corn finished. Got three freezers full, if you’re in the area and need some free beef, c’mon over,

My pretty, little kitty has easy access to the great outdoors and doesn’t need a LITTER BOX, don’t miss cleaning one of those out. Living in California, coyote country, kitties weren’t allowed outside and litter box clean out was a major chore.

Nice debut Sophia, I enjoyed it.

Barry Frain 2:23 AM  

I hate cats and I hate cat-related puzzles.

Barry Frain
East Biggs, CA

ZenMonkey 2:26 AM  

I liked this puzzle because it had DON'T PANIC written across it in large friendly letters.

Also because the larger of my two CATs appeared to anticipate the rebus as he settled down on me about five minutes before I started.

I dunno, a fun easy Thursday cleared my palate, that's for sure. Even though I agree about LITTER BOXES. But I *wanted* it to work, so that was good enough.

I enjoyed the misdirection on ENDOW and the intersection of NAE, NEE, and KNEE.

Loren Muse Smith 3:03 AM  

Well hey, there, Sophia! So delicious when the constructor pulls up a chair. Congrats on your debut. You're gonna have a fun day. I hope the NYT is sold where you are.

I totally agree with Rex that this was really easy once you got that CAT went in each corner. But we needed this little warm-down lap after yesterday’s 10K. Anything more devious would have been mean. IMO. And you’re right – this is a good rebus for rebus virgins.

I also agree that LITTER BOXES as a reveal is a bit of a stretch, but I’m not going to over-think it. And unsurprisingly I always enjoy a cutesy little “go” joke anywhere anytime. To boldly go where no man has gone before. Boy, do I have a Cordova Alaska deck-hand story.

So, Sophia, even though it’s “catty-cornered” for me, I thought this was an enjoyable Thursday solve.

@Larry – “I'm headed off to the pet store looking for a pet that ingests with no egestion.” This deal of ingestion without egestion has spawned a multi-million dollar industry of products for humans who live this way. And since we’ve opened the LOO door, as it were, I have to quote David Sedaris on this. He said something to the effect that continuing to eat when egestion has stopped is akin to packing a musket.

OOPS/DON’T PANIC. These are words you never want to hear from the cockpit
while you’re waiting for the flight attendant to get you some water.

Misreading the clue for 23D as “Regrettable parts of a sea star” had me sit up momentarily. What. Like an orca’s krill belly?

Rex – I always appreciate how you can remember the exact progression of your solve. Wow. Not only do I forget my own instantly, but once I’m finished and sit down to write a comment, I find myself looking at mysterious little notes in the margin. Today, I have HOE “56,” and “meat tenderizer.” I swear. It’s like waking up after a bender and wondering what the hell happened the night before.

ILLY has appeared in the NYT 70 times, but its star is definitely fading; most of those happened before Shortz. As for the tweet – I don’t care if Alfred Ayers (sic) is a fancy Oxford-educated philosopher; anyone who proclaims XYZ is not a word is a ridiculous person who should be summarily dismissed. Sure – ILLY is weird and disappearing, but Merriam Webster has not yet marked it as obsolete. (There again, Merriam Webster has this word, too, so, well… There could be some other dictionary that has decided it’s obsolete, but Merriam Webster is my go-to ‘cause I have a crush on Kory Stamper.) I guess Ayer is thinking that ILL is a strong (aka “flat”) adverb and thus doesn’t require LY ending? So slowly is not a word, either? What he should have said is that ILLY is something he’s never encountered. I need to call him.

Speaking of iffy words… I heard this yesterday on The Real Housewives of Atlanta when someone was describing a woman spreading nasty gossip: Dat some major bitchassment. This, folks, is one of the bajillion reasons I love watching this show. The vernacular of these women is beyond spectacular. And to watch many of them switch effortlessly into and out of the black vernacular is enviable, truly. I sure hope I’m not offending anyone here. But I find this added little social tool, being able to speak two different dialects, captivating. You see this kind of bilingualism in other countries (Steiermark German/High German, Ise Japanese/ High Japanese), but rarely in this country. Anyway, I’m now obsessed with bitchassment and plan to work it into the rotation forthwith.

chris b 3:12 AM  

Nice n eazy. Second personal best of the week; Tuesday being the other.

'merican in Paris 3:51 AM  

Congratulations, Sophia! Today's puzzle did set a record for me, but no complaints. I reckoned that it was intended as a debut puzzle for solvers not accustomed yet to being on the alert for rebuses. We need such a puzzle from time to time. I like CATs, too (as well as dogs), so that made me purr.

There could have been a very simple solution to the ILLY conundrum: clue it as "One of Italy's leading coffee companies, based in Trieste". Trieste, by the way, is a fascinating city. Once the main port for the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Imperial Free City of Trieste is now part of Italy, but feels like nowhere else. Really worth taking a side trip to for a couple of days if you are planning a visit to the northeastern corner of the country.

DON'T PANIC about @Rex's critical review. Methinks that he sometimes over-analyzes puzzles, as if they are literature. But if you've been reading this blog since seventh grade (!) you already know that.

Gotta go now, to browse my Sears CATALOG while wearing my NEHRU jacket while listening to OLDIES on the turn-table.

'merican in Paris 4:07 AM  

Hey, what goes here? Starting today, I am now having to endure a marathon succession of reCAPTCHA "Please prove you're not a robot" photo-ID questions. I am not exaggerating, but I think I was presented with close to 10 different sets of photos because it finally agreed that I wasn't a robot. In one panel, I had to click on 12 of the 16 photos. And why is rCAPTCHA obsessed with bicycles, traffic lights, cross-walks, and cars? Is this info to help some company developing software for autonomous driving?

Anonymous 4:22 AM  

BEACHTOWEL crossing DONTPANIC felt like a little shoutout to Douglas Adams.

Pleasant if easy solve. Thanks Sophia.

Teddi and Teddy 5:10 AM  

Love us our rebuses (rebii?) and our cats so this was a fun jaunt. So take that, hater guy.
Thanks Sophia. Super fun and tied our record.
And LMS, yes! Even when we make notes we still have a hard time pulling them all together for coherent commenting. You all are a joy to read!

Anonymous 5:52 AM  

ILLY is fantastic Italian espresso.

The only problem with using ILLY was not realizing this.

ZenMonkey 6:09 AM  

Nice to meet you, Sophia. I enjoyed an easier Thursday, especially with a theme that was literally and figuratively close to my heart. It would be a good entry point for people who haven't yet tackled Thursdays.

Lewis 6:09 AM  

@rex -- How minds differ. Perhaps my favorite moment of this puzzle was the flash of getting SHOVEL from the clue you call bizarre and awkward.

I was confused by the clue for LITTER BOXES. The only way it makes sense to me is if litter boxes are generally placed in corners (and thus we see the cats there in the grid), so I'm putting the question out there, commenters, is this true? I can tell you that our litter box does go in a corner.

Susan, my wife has been doing NYT puzzles for a bit under two years, starting with Mondays, then adding Tuesdays, and she's now comfortable with Wednesdays, for the most part. Occasionally I'll suggest she try a certain later puzzle, usually an easier Friday, and she's found success there. She's a bit scared of trick puzzles, including rebi, but I'm going to give her today's. I think she's going to get it! Thank you for making this, Sophia, and thank you Will, for occasionally publishing easier trick puzzles just for people like Susan.

Preferred Customer 6:21 AM  

My cat's in her box as I write this.

Needless to say, I enjoyed the puzzle and have no problems with the clue. Now that I have a completely indoor cat I would probably have added a reference to hairballs.

Cats are so sweet and cute... Until they live in your space 24/7.


Hungry Mother 6:22 AM  

Very easy, but I stared at _YE way too long. Super quick mini too.

QuasiMojo 6:30 AM  

I’ve never understood the fascination with cats and kittens on social media. And never expected to find a rebus featuring them in the NYT. But hey the times they are a-changin’... Nice debut Sophia May. Someone beat me to the ILLY espresso link. Delicioso! We say “cater-cornered” near me so I was glad to see “cater” in the corner. Well done!

Rex, beach towels can be accessories for resort wear as much as a beach bag or matching flip flops or floppy straw hat. Sets are often sold as an ensemble. Save the illy-considered fashion comments and stash them into the bureau drawer where you keep your BVDs.

Suzie Q 6:40 AM  

Congrats to Sophia and thanks for the background info. The entire process of construction to publication is fun to learn.
Catty cornered is the phrase I know and I imagine we will hear about different regional preferences for this phrase.
If we are going to discuss scatological humor we must include the clue for aide. Didn't you all have poop as your first thought? If you say no then I think you are fibbing.
In the middle of this light Thursday diversion filled with kitten stories we have our own little ray of sunshine @ Barry Frain who never fails to remind us that Rex isn't the only crab in the house.

Music Man 6:56 AM  

Lily Potter NEE EVANS

BarbieBarbie 6:57 AM  

I’m very excited about ILLY because it produced my first Blog Meta. I *knew* OFL would hate it and I *knew* that @LMS would defend it. Wow! Time to hang it up. Interesting that the constructor isn’t crazy about it. I’m trying to use it in a sentence that feels natural. Maybe later in the day, when I think less-illy... no, that’s NG. Probably because ILL as a modifier, as in ILL-considered, keeps crowding it out. I guess you could describe a bad LITTERBOX session as an ILLY-dilly.
Puzzle was very easy for a Thursday, but I’m always happy to see a rebus puzzle, even briefly. Thanks Sophia!

Anonymous 7:06 AM  

Well, good for you!

amyyanni 7:17 AM  

Hi Sophia and congrats! It was fun and fast, so now no excuse to skip a run before work. And you inspired some most amusing comments as well. Lewis-good luck to Susan.

kitshef 7:21 AM  

Probably the fastest I’ve ever cottoned on to a rebus: ARES, EST, TRIAL and ding! Got it.

I agree with Rex on DYE, which led to a DNF with rYE.

ILLY, on the other hand, has been in use since to the 16th century.

I think we had this discussion before, but I know catty-corner and cater-corner, but have only heard kitty-corner in crossworld.

Clue for 5D was very irritating. Here are ten economies bigger than that of California:
The US, China, Japan, Germany, Asia, Europe, North America, South America, The EU, NATO.
See? If you don’t specify what kind of entity you are measuring, the statement is nonsense.

Cathy K 7:24 AM  

Congrats on your first puzzle published in the NYT!

Joe R. 7:30 AM  

@ZenMonkey - I really appreciated not only that we had DON'T PANIC, but that it crossed TOWEL. And yes, Rex, a BEACH TOWEL is absolutely an accessory.

@kitshef - have you seen the Dialect Survey? #76 addresses this, but kitty-corner is, in fact, the most widespread term for this in the US.

I completely agree with Rex that the LITTERBOXES revealer fell flat, not because I have any problem with references to cat scat in my puzzle, but because it doesn't actually seem to be revealing anything about the puzzle.

kitshef 7:34 AM  

@ZenMonkey - good one!

Unknown 7:35 AM  

This puzzle is my new fastest time for a Thursday. I didn’t like that there were two cereal clues for some reason, and I didn’t like thinking about cat poop while solving. Also, two clues about death? (NOOSE and PLOT) Kind of a downer.

GHarris 7:42 AM  

Nice and easy. Was hardly delayed by the kitty even though,in my neck of the woods, we used the expression catty corner.

kitshef 7:44 AM  

@Joe R - I think I have seen that map, some other time when kitty-corner appeared in the puzzle. The sound was originally the French 'quatre', so cater is closest to the original, for whatever that's worth.

Anonymous 7:47 AM  

Best use of the word “ill” as an adverb goes to John Updike: “For me, Williams is the classic ballplayer of the game on a hot August weekday, before a small crowd, when the only thing at stake is the tissue-thin difference between a thing done well and a thing done ill.“

michiganman 7:47 AM  

@Larry. I smiled at your concise evaluation of human, cat, and dog companionship. I am of much the same mind.
However, I recently adopted an 8 yo miniature poodle from the animal shelter where I volunteer. He requires more care than my cat but he is totally not demanding. He's a little bit cat like in that way. Yet he is very loving. He is also very quiet. Barking is the least lovable of dog traits. Loved the puzzle.

RavTom 8:09 AM  

What is Ise Japanese? While we’re at it, CATakana would work in this puzzle.

Mr. Grumpypants 8:20 AM  

The corner squares are boxes. Cats go [to the bathroom] in litter boxes. What's so awful about that as a concept or as a clue? If you want literalism, stop doing crossword puzzles.

mmorgan 8:35 AM  

Congrats on the puzzle, Sophia, and nice of you to stop by!

Sorry the editors treated you ILLY. ;-)

I hope you get a favorable response to your work. With some of the folks here, however, I'm waiting for someone to start screaming that the long A in CATERS doesn't fit with all the other CAT sounds, so the puzzle is an outrageous abomination or something.

Joe Welling 8:35 AM  

My only quibble: either DONT PANIC or TOWEL should've been at 42.

Tabby 8:43 AM  

Loved it! Disagree with any cattiness that maybe forthcoming today.

Anonymous 8:46 AM  

@SophiaMay, I enjoyed your puzzle! If you have read this blog since you were seven then I'm sure you know that Rex raves rarely and that his review does not really "pan" the overall quality of your puzzle so I count that as a success. He can always find nits to pick.

Z 8:49 AM  

Yesterday there were 34 PPP answers out of 74 possible. Today there are 17 out of 78. Nicely done.

Nice to see the constructor come by. The easiness is by design, and I agree, probably more a Tuesday puzzle. As a Tuesday this would be outstanding. On a Thursday I’d like a little more challenge.

ILLY just feels, well, illy in the mouth. But I agree with @LMS on this issue. “Catty-Corner” though? Sounds like something from Real Housewives. Must be a regional thing.

Cats defecate. Not sure I want a breakfast reminder about that fact. OTOH, beats a año/ano discussion any day of the week.

Kiki 8:54 AM  

I've only done puzzles a couple of months, so for me the rebus aspect was super fun. And I'm an extreme cat lady. I have only two cats, Benny and Joon, but they're my BFFs, along with Striker, my mixed black lab.

Benny and Joon were honored to have a puzzle celebrating their kind. Thank you, Sophia!!!

Dorothy Biggs 9:04 AM  

What a great chance to highlight the regional variances between "kitty corner" and "catty corner." But, given the post here by the constructor herself, I see that was not within the scope of the construction itself.

Interesting that the NYT editing staff went with ILLY over the original entry "idle." I guess it only serves to add to Rex's incessant claims that the editing of these puzzles is wanting.

Not sure whether you need to love cats to like this puzzle. Not sure you need to hate this puzzle if you don't like cats. Given Sophia's post, it was simply done to amuse her friends and give them a rebus puzzle.

One complaint though. I'm still not sure how the revealer clue describes the conceit. I get where cats "go in real life," i.e., LITTER BOXES, but how are the corner boxes of the puzzle "LITTER" boxes. Is it that the puzzle itself is a "box" and there are cats in the box, therefore it is a "litter box?" That sorta misses the mark because of what Rex said. "Kittens" make up a "litter."

I suppose if I made a puzzle for some friends, I could get by with a small lapse like that. We'd all laugh about it and move on. But with a NYT puzzle, you'd hope it would be tighter than that.

I also think it's funny that "go" has to be in quotes. I was walking home one night from the subway and I saw a couple of cats "doing it." Euphemisms. Ain't life grand.

And to whoever asked yesterday, yes...there is a poster who very occasionally posts here named Distancia Horticrux. Weird, huh?

Anonymous 9:10 AM  

A woman constructor makes her debut and a white man says it isn’t good enough. News at 11.

pmdm 9:28 AM  

For those who are troubled by the revealers in this or any other puzzle: don't think of them of revealers. Think of them as somehow related to the puzzle theme but not really a revealer. Then move on. Maybe then you can en joy some of these puzzles as much as I do.

By the way, litter boxes are not just for kittens. If you live in a place where, for whatever reason, you cannot let the cat outside, you need a litter box for the entire life of the cat. Such was not so when my parents owned grocery store cats, but it is the case for a good number of my friends or acquaintances. For me, the comments in the write-up about litter boxes seem bizarre.

Alexander 9:28 AM  

First thing I did was threw in CATA[LOG] in 1D - I thought it was going to be a Yule log theme!

Sir Hillary 9:32 AM  

Congrats to Sophia on her debut -- quite an accomplishment!

Yes, this played like a "rebus for newbies" but it worked pretty well. I circled only two things as questionable -- the clue for LITTERBOXES and the word ILLY. So I'm pretty much in the mainstream there. Other than those two, I can't find much to complain about.

Growing up in Southern CALIFORNIA, it was always KITTYCORNER for me. Only when I came east did I ever hear caTTYCORNER. And @LMS's post today contains the first reference to caTTYCORNERed I have ever seen or heard. Regionalisms are awesome.

Thought @Rex might give us a link to Coldplay's DONTPANIC, but I'll take Squeeze and Townshend any day.

jberg 9:53 AM  

I'm a bit rushed, so I've only read some of the comments. Nice, easy puzzle -- congratulations, Sophia -- keep 'em coming!

The theme answer are really constrained by having to be in the corners, so I won't complain that while six of the CATs are just the sound, two of them are actual metaphorical cats. I'll take it as it is.

The Smothers Brothers version of "Rock Island Line" would fit this puzzle perfectly, but I can't find it -- so here are the lyrics per Bobby Darin

Anonymous 9:53 AM  

Anon 9:10,

Not only did Rex dump all over this lovely debut, he gave 2 down a pass. I've been told by him, the media and every feminist in the world I am obliged to believe a woman when she claims to have been assaulted. But in To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus Finch predicates his entire defense on NOT believing such a claim. Isn't that contrary to the valuable lesson #METOO has wrought?

Thanks for the lovely puzzle Ms. Maymudes. I'm looking forward to your next.

Nancy 9:55 AM  

@JOHN X at (1:48) said it all -- and brilliantly. I can't say it any better. Great line.

But en route to coming here, I saw the constructor's comment about how she aimed this puzzle at her newbie-solver, rebus-hating friends. All to show them that rebuses could be easy and solver-friendly. Which makes this Will S.'s fault, not Sophia's. He should have gone by the level of difficulty of the puzzle and not by the rebus aspect, and scheduled it for a Monday or Tuesday. Then more of those people for whom it was constructed would have worked on it and, maybe, learned to love the rebus.

As for rebus-loving me -- someone who's often said I never met a rebus I didn't like -- this slam-dunk puzzle was a complete bore and a huge Thursday disappointment. For one of the best lines ever, read JOHN X.

Knitwit 10:00 AM  

Adding my congratulations to Sophia! Enjoyed it! Looking forward to seeing your name again soon!!!

KrazyKat 10:09 AM  

Kittens are cats.

Anonymous 10:21 AM  

Time for the NYT to embrace the Italian coffee brand as an avenue for cluing ILLY. I mean, it's everywhere these days, and the word itself seems quite useful so why fight it?

GILL I. 10:28 AM  

ILLY has been around; not my favorite word but neither is the Spanish "me cae gordo" = "he falls on me fat."
Slang, idioms, colloquialisms you name it, they exist and some, like @Loren's "bitchassment", can be pretty awesome.
Sweet puzzle, Sophia and I'd add a perfect rebus introduction to your friends. I bet they were wowed.
Our blogger friend George Barany constructed one just for my sons Birthday. He still has it - all framed and hanging on his wall.
So we have CATS today. I was never much of a cat lady; always had dogs until....#1 son begged for one being given away at the grocery store. Of course. He brought home an orange tabby he named Marmalade and a white one he named snow flake. Love at first sight. Never had to deal with LITTER BOXES since they did their business outside. We had a Lab at the time and she, too, fell in love with our feline friends.
Do you know how CALIFORNIA has become the world's fifth-largest economy? It taxes the caca out of every single thing. Money galore in the State coffers. Gazillionaires everywhere. Now if only our legislatures would tell us where this FAT CAT spends it...
Congratulations on your debut. Enjoy your day, Ms. Maymudes.

Anonymous 10:30 AM  

I came across this blog a month ago (or so). That most of you are relatively expert and can knock down the Saturday puzzle in under an hour (or at all) is quite commendable. But please understand (or remember) that there are many of us who can do Mon and Tue, struggle a bit with Wed and the rest of the week have very empty puzzles. Until recently, I hated Thursday because there was always a trick, and I thought that seemed unfair. But when I finally decided to enjoy the tricks, I began to enjoy Thursday. It still takes me a while to get through it, but I can mostly finish or get close.

Z 10:34 AM  

@LMS - Just taking a moment to disagree about dialects. We Americans tend to get all moral about “proper English.” so I think that hides that all sorts of people code switch all the time. Personally, how I write (“wrote” these days) in academic settings is very different from how I write “in real life” and how I write here. Three different dialects. How I communicated with students, teachers, parents, and to school boards were all different (if anyone wonders, I would have to limit my vocabulary most when speaking to school boards). In short, there is a “High American English” and a plethora of “Low American English” out there. We just tend to mislabel the one as “proper English.”

@‘mericans - In other settings I’ve run into the same captcha labyrinth. Fortunately, my blue name allows me to eschew the captcha entirely here. I recommend going blue.

David 10:38 AM  

Yes, I thought it was far too easy, getting the rebus on the very first clue, then I read Sophia's story, which is very nice. It's the Times' fault for running it on a Thursday. I quite liked it. The reveal was "kitty corner", not "litter boxes", so I don't know why that causes confusion above.

I would have preferred that answer be clued differently to become "letter boxes", then 35D could have been a fashion magazine and 46A Sandra or Ruby. I think ill of illy (so does this blog's auto correct).

I was also hoping for something about Cat's Cradle, Vonnegut, and/or Harry Chapin.

Rex, Harry's mom being a witch born of a muggle family named Evans is rather central to his entire story and life, not to mention Voldemort's obsession. I'm surprised you feel the information so disposable. It may also be the source of so many peoples' dismay that he wound up partnered with a Weasley rather than Hermione.

FrankStein 10:55 AM  

For those looking for a more challenging Thursday puzzle, may I recommend the WSJ today? Also a debut.

Z 10:56 AM  

@anon10:30 - We don’t often mention it, but we do remember. The more puzzles you do the easier they become. Reading this blog will help, too. I suggest ignoring anyone who complains about Rex and paying attention people like @LMS, @Lewis, @GILL I, @Nancy, @‘mericans and others. You’ll pick up a lot of insight into how puzzles work and that will help you advance in solving skills. Personally, I’ve gone from a cheat free sub-hour Saturday solve being a rarity to a Saturday DNF being a rarity.

Unknown 10:58 AM  

ILLY is valid in (North American) Scrabble, so it's certainly a word. I don't know what that screen shot is talking about.

Anonymous 11:01 AM  

Nice. Not too easy, not too difficult, like the three bears’ porridge. More importantly, it was a fun puzzle. Many thanks Ms. Maymudes!

Nancy 11:03 AM  

@Chefwen waxes rhapsodic over her cute cat, but it's her cute dog who's won her coveted Blog Avatar Prize. In fact, dogs score way above cats in the Rexblog Battle of the Avatar Pets. In sports, you'd call it a rout.

I like cats well enough, I suppose, but as someone who turns to mush over the mere sight of a dog, I'd say that that's truly the Way It's Meant to Be. So DOGgone it -- maybe it's time to place a dog in every corner. Sophia?

old timer 11:16 AM  

As I solved tne puzzle I thought it was WAY too easy. I thought better of it when the constructor dropped by to say she had deliberately created a rebus for newbies. I would have liked it better if it had run on a Tuesday.

I do think ILLY is not a word in actual use, and the constructor's explanation puts the blame on WS.

My Recaptcha problems went away when I made a habit of always using the same computer to post here, as it remembers who I am.

LMF 11:34 AM  

Easy for Thursday. Don’t understand comments about litter boxes. Common item for cat owners.

jb129 11:44 AM  

Welcome Sophia! A fun, easy puzzle. Thank you.

(I agree with Nancy - a dog puzzle would be even more fun for us dog-lovers out there)

DeeJay 11:58 AM  

Congrats, Sophia! Terrific puzzle, lots of fun. Not every Thursday should require an MS in solving.

Chip Hilton 12:03 PM  

Interesting that I put an exclamation point to show my distain after the clues for the crossing of ILLY and DYE and came here to see that the creator of the puzzle didn’t submit them. What you did submit, Sophia, was an enjoyable, albeit easy, puzzle. So, thanks for that. As you intended it as a rebus primer, I’ll excuse how obvious the two no. 1 clues were. Plopping down CAT in seconds made me feel like I was cheating!

Best of luck in your crosswording future!

Anonymous 12:04 PM  

I would have blown through this in record time, but I got caught up in something weird that derailed me for ten minutes. The answer should not have been litter box, but letter box, because the rebus goes in to a box that usually has a letter. But then I got stuck on elly, and illy didn't seem any better. So the problem with the revealer is that in this puzzle the cat goes in the letter box and in real life the litter box, and boy did that lead to the weeds. Where dogs go.

Anonymous 12:21 PM  

Anonymous (9:53):

If there are any people who believe that people have never falsely claimed sexual assault they are very few, but nice straw man.

In any case you misread (or miswatched) To Kill a Mockingbird in a very fundamental way. The defense was certainly not that no assault took place. Rather, it was that an assualt did take place but the wrong person was accused.

Crimson Devil 12:22 PM  

Congrats on debut/IPO. Nice puz.
Like seeing constructor chime in.

mmorgan 12:46 PM  

Not only is this Sophia's debut, but it seems that BEACH TOWEL is making its first appearance as well. That's nifty!

@Anon at 10:30: Everyone is a beginner once -- at everything. As I always say, "Practice makes better." But the important thing is to have fun.

Aketi 12:57 PM  

Our FAT CAT was very pleased with the extra 20 minutes of snuggle time in bed while solving this one. He has missed my puzzle solving time over the last few months.

DrBB 1:02 PM  

Yeah, pretty much a gimme from the get, but pleasant enough. Or would have been until ILLY. Because no. Someone should be taken out and shot, or at least forced to relearn some elementary usage rules. Much appreciate the Laurie Tweet pointing out that both the adverbial and adjectival form of ILL is, y'know, ILL. Whole thing made me feel kinda ILL. UGH.

Teedmn 1:10 PM  

I will go along with the "easy rebus" rating since I got it at [CAT]ALOG though only after taking "flyer" out. I got to thinking, you might get a flyer in the newspaper from William-Sonoma, but Land's End, I don't think so.

Seeing KITTY CORNER, written the way god meant "diagonally" to be in English, I thought the constructor must be from around Minnesota. Turns out she's going to college there - I wonder if she grew up with KITTY CORNER or has just adapted to the local vernacular.

I liked SHOVEL - you have to SHOVEL it in if you're going to snarf it down.

Congratulations, Sophia Maymudes, for a sweet little debut. I look forward to future offerings.

Charles 1:12 PM  

The cats in the puzzle go in Letter Boxes, real life cats "go" in Litter Boxes. But unsatisfyingly the answer is just Litter.

Dye is just bad. I'm all for misdirection but this is over the line.

jack 1:21 PM  

It was thrilling to shred a Thursday; except for that ILLY part.

Anonymous 1:22 PM  

Anonymous 12:12,

I did not misread the book, nor do I misremember the movie. Mayella Ewell's claim is false. That she was assaulted was not her claim. Her claim was that Tom Robinson assaulted her. That is patently false.

Teedmn 1:24 PM  

Also, NOVA Caesarea? I had to look that up to find where "old" Caesar was. So the island of Jersey is thought to have been named for Caesar which eventually evolved into Jersey? That is some crazy evolution.

Kate 1:37 PM  

I appreciate seeing a woman's byline for the NYT Xword. Doesn't happen all that often.

Anonymous 1:44 PM  

Who cares?

Joe Bleaux 2:03 PM  

Congrats on the debut, Sophia! Easy, yes, but OK ... did me good to sail through a Thursday.
And now, an anecdote just for @LMS, who echoes my own delight with dialects:
Years ago, I came home from work to find an obviously rabid (staggering, totally unwary) raccoon in my front yard. I shouted to warn a woman approaching with her leashed dog; they quickly turned and left.
Making sure no one else was nearby, I went in, sat down my briefcase, and fetched the 12-gauge shotgun my granddaddy had given me when I was a boy. Within seconds, I had put the diseased raccoon out of its misery.
My intrigued middle-schooler, Lily, came out to watch as I donned plastic gloves and bagged the carcass.
Upward of half an hour later, an Animal Control officer rolled up in the driveway of our home, north of Atlanta.
"Some lay-dee (surely the dog walker) cawed and sed they wuz a rabid coon summers aroun' cheer," he drawled.
A native Kentuckian, I was instantly on his wavelength.
Lily listened raptly to my homespun account, ending with my confession that, yeah, I had illegally fired off a weapon in a suburb, because the danged animal was dangerous and our neighborhood was plumb full of kids and pets. If he had to fine me or have me arrested, I said, then so be it. My daughter's eyes widened.
The "possum cop" (as we called game wardens back home), stood there a moment, deliberating. "Aw, heck, I wuz razed rat up here on the other side of Dacula," he said. "So it's awright, I reckon ... want me to haul off that coon fer ye?" And he did.
As he drove off, my little girl and I turned to go in the house. She paused, grasped my hand, looked up at me and grinned.
"Daddy," she said, "I'm so glad you're fluent in Rube."
She might as well have called me Atticus.

JC66 2:29 PM  

@Joe Bleaux

Even though you said the your anecdote was"just for @LMS" I read it anyway. I'm glad I did and I recommend that others do too.


Anonymous 2:42 PM  


Hmm. A twelve gauge at close range on a raccoon? That's a lot of infected viscera flying about. Tell me more about this encounter if you don't mind. What was the shotgun your old grandpappy bequeathed you? How about the shot size? Or was it a pumpkin ball? I know the possum cop--how kind of you to use the disparaging phrase after he kindly let you skate on the illegal discharge bit---took the carcass, but how did you dispose of the fluids and flesh that shotgun surely must have loosed on the lawn? How is that no cop arrived in a suburban setting within the 30 minutes of your firing the gun and the warden's arrival?

pabloinnh 3:00 PM  

Instant CATS in the upper corners, thought aha! KITTYCORNERS, which is the way I learned it , and was not disappointed when the other corners and the revealer showed up. I was going to say that this was a Thursday that knows how to Monday, but it being a debut and reading Sophia's explanation of its construction as an act of kindness changed my mind.Good on ya, Ms. Maymudes, and keep it up.

Our two cats are indoor models because around us lurk coyotes, owls, and the dreaded fisher cat, which is like a mean and nasty weasel on steroids. Word is they'll attack anything that isn't heavily armed.

Our favorite cat ever was a stray who showed up at our door one summer day. He was obviously someone's pet and we posted the usual notices about finding a big black and white guy with extra toes and sure enough, after a couple of weeks during which he became the family pet, his owner came and retrieved him. A few days later he was back at our place and we called to say "We've got your cat" and were told, "No, I think you've got YOUR cat" and so it came to pass. This would be unremarkable except that we are in NH, his owner is in VT, and between us is the rather broad Connecticut River. He was, as we way around here, a wicked pissah. Still miss him.

Joe Dipinto 3:35 PM  

Funny that this puzzle ran today: later I have to pick up keys to my brother's apartment, as I will be providing food and entertainment for his cats this weekend while he's out of town. I imagine there will be some scooping involved.

Joe Bleaux 4:14 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lewis 4:14 PM  

In case anyone was wondering, in reference to my earlier post, Susan proudly and successfully completed the puzzle, the first time she ever figured out a rebus puzzle by herself. She was beaming.

JC66 4:26 PM  


Kids are great, aren't they?

CDilly52 4:39 PM  

Anyone who lives with cats must understand that dealing with all feline “output” is part of the “staff responsibilities.” I appreciated the cat humor and offer my sincere congratulations on the debut puzzle! I wondered if it were a “virgin” offering and appreciate your desire to lure more folks onto this wonderful avocation with an easy rebus example. I loathe the non-word ILLY and guessed it must have been an edit just because of its oddness in an otherwise easy but IMO cohesive puzzle. Editors, can’t live with’em . . .

Joe Bleaux 4:48 PM  

You sly devil! It wasn't gradpap's old blunderbuss a'tall! I took my AR15 to that sumbitch, and it exploded like a raccoon-size water balloon (but full of blood) dropped from a tall building. Splattered guts and fur all over the mailbox! Three or four neighbors called the cops, but I was long gone by the time them dumbasses got there! Tell me, though: How'd you catch me? What give it away? Wait, I know ... you a possum cop yore own self, ain't you?

Joe Bleaux 4:51 PM  

Thanks. (I meant, of course, *especially* for Loren, not *exclusively." It's, um, a dialect thing😏.)

Lewis 5:07 PM  

@jc66 -- They most certainly are! Susan is a little past the kid stage, however, in her 60s.

Sydney 6:13 PM  

Inquiring mind...anonymous used fl, not fi. I think fl stands for fearless leader, i.e., Rex. As to the puzzle, I really liked it, and so did my cat Sugar who likes to lie on puzzles while I’m working them. I work all the puzzles, while my husband is a MTW man...I hope to persuade him to give this one a try...I know he would enjoy it.

JC66 6:30 PM  


My sons are 45 and 48, and they''ll always be my kids.

Anonymous 7:14 PM  

Please clear up which of your posts are to be read literally.

Anonymous 7:17 PM  

I forgot. What letter is being elided in your usage a'tall?

Possum cop

Anonymous 7:26 PM  


Susan is Lewis's wife. 😉

Anonymous 8:04 PM  

It seems clear from Googling that the world's 5th largest economy is the United Kingdom.

But of all plausible candidates, only South Korea had the right number of letters. That set me back for ages. I was sure it was an easy gimme. Arrgh!

Odd Sock 8:04 PM  

@ Joe Bleaux, Boy howdy, that's the way to git 'er done. City folks don't have a clue.

JC66 8:39 PM  

@Anon 7:26P

Aha, thanks.

Anonymous 9:03 PM  

Old sock,
What? Im as far from city folk as they come.
Either Joe B, is lying/kidding about the racoon episode or he isnt.
Which do you belive? That he killed a rabid animal with a shotgun on a suburban lawn, or that he was juat riffing on an episode in To Kill a Mockingbird?
If its the former, I say wow, really?
If its the latter, I say, huh? Wheres thw humor?

Sunnyvale Solver 11:34 PM  

ILLY should have had a coffee-related clue.

Loren Muse Smith 7:25 AM  

@Joe Bleaux – I enjoyed that immensely, and your written rendering of Twangese was spot-on!

@Z – Sure, lots of Americans can adjust their speech, namely their lexicon as you mentioned, to the situation. No question. But with the Atlanta housewives, it’s not just a matter of peppering their speech with colorful coinages. The phonology changes. The grammar changes. Some of these women slide effortlessly between things like

Sweetie, he’s already left.


Chile, he dun lef.

I adore this speech. If Standard English is a prim, sensible little starry night, Black English is a spectacular aurora borealis.

Yam Erez 7:56 AM  

Loren, love your post. Sophia, loved your puzzle.

Anonymous 8:01 AM  

Hey Rex...litter is the sand you put in the box, stupid... not the progeny

Burma Shave 9:19 AM  


NAE, no-one GLORIFIES this battle, so DON’TPANIC one bit,
LITTERBOXES aren’t for CATTLE, so go SHOVEL their (KIT).


thefogman 10:45 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
thefogman 11:15 AM  

I agree with Rex that this one had a few gritty spots. ILLY and DYE were like little stinkers you might find buried in LITTERBOXES. They should have been SHOVELed out by Mr. Shortz. That's his job isn't it? I got the gimmick right off the bat when I started in the NE corner and solved FATCAT-CATCHY. I lapped up the rest of the grid like a hungry CAT on a bowl of milk. There was only one OOPS! moment: I had out before Run and finally RBI. ALAS, it may not be purr-fect but it's still pretty, pretty, pretty good. Thank you Sophia Maymudes!

thefogman 12:14 PM  

PS - Bravo on your debut NYT puzzle Sophia. Interesting comments by the constructor appear way up above at @SophiaMay 1:31 AM

spacecraft 12:24 PM  

I'm amazed that the ILLY AREA was not this debutante's creation. Maybe Will should retire; we have a good replacement candidate! In fact, I wish to honor this newcomer with the DOD sash.

EASY it surely was, but there do OFL & I part. It was also fun--and as clean as a recently changed LITTERBOX! Tradition seems to indicate no rebi before Thursday; so be it. I liked it immensely. When I was a little KIT (theme lagniappe) my mom told me: "Never trust a person who doesn't like CATS." The advice has proven to be sound. They're crouching in their CORNERS waiting to pounce: how cool it would've been to have a MOUSE or RAT somewhere in the middle of the grid! That would have rated an albatross, or double-eagle. As it is, I am pleased to score this one an eagle--and Ms. Sophia, PLEASE don't be a stranger!

centralscrewtinizer 12:48 PM  

Fell hard and fast for cornERBOXES, so hard I could not recover and had a dnf. So there's that for this otherwise easy puzz. I blame WS. Who doesn't?

rondo 2:27 PM  

So the constructor is attending college right here in MN, at the “Harvard of the Midwest” (though many schools claim that title). Good for her and I’ll give her a yeah baby to boot.
No write-overs on a fairly easy puz . The only one I looked sideways at was ILLY and apparently Sophia isn’t responsible for that one. Again, good for her.
And there are RATS at 25d.
Nicely done, but that’s my limit of CATs for a long while.

Anonymous 3:51 PM  

Left coast syndicated solver here... could someone please explain how 68 across Host = army... I'm sure its something simple and later on I will go Duh! but for now I don't get it..

leftcoastTAM 4:07 PM  

Could write several dim things about this puzzle, but will inflict only this:

At least one CAT was let out of the bag early on up there in the NE corner, making the puzzle a lot easier, then wondered if an ARMY of RATS ("Host" of rats?) rounded up the four of them like CATTLE and put them back in their BOXES.

The puzzle is fine, but a bit weak for Tricky Thursday.

thefogman 4:51 PM  

To Anonymous 3:51 PM:

A host (an army) of Hollywood celebrities will be attending this year's Academy Awards ceremonies.

From the Oxford English Dictionary:
Host: noun, host/hosts of a large number of people or things.

Diana, LIW 5:38 PM  

My grandfather worked for Levitt and Sons building Levittowns, so I lived in and around New Jersey whilst growing up. Today, I learned its older name - never knew that. 'Course, now the CAT is out of that bag.

Thanks, @Foggy, for the army explanation. Didn't understand that one, either.

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords

thefogman 8:12 AM  

Cheers M'Lady!

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