Philosophical argument for belief in God / SUN 12-23-18 / Arabic name that sounds like polite affirmative / Lee singer with 2011 #1 album Mission Bell / Alcorn creator of Pong / Modern prefix with tag

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Constructor: David Alfred Bywaters

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium (9:23)

THEME: "Labor Contract(ion)s" — familiar phrases have the letter string "ion" either added or taken away, i.e. they are either ion-ized or UNIONIZED (70A: Like some factories ... or, in a different sense, like 90-, 109- and 119-Across (but not 24-, 32- and 53-Across)?)

Theme answers:
  • WITH ONE ACCORDION (24A: How polka bands get their start?)
  • PAPAL BULLION (32A: Pontiff's gold treasure?)
  • IS THAT A FACTION? (53A: Query about the Freedom Caucus or Berniecrats?)
  • MISS IMPOSSIBLE (90A: Nickname for a hard-to-please girl?)
  • FILLING STATS (109A: Data maintained by competitive dentists?)
  • RHETORICAL QUEST (119A: Speakers' searches for just the right words?)
Word of the Day: PASCAL'S WAGER (4D: Philosophical argument for belief in God) —
unpunctuated: Pascals wager
  1. the argument that it is in one's own best interest to behave as if God exists, since the possibility of eternal punishment in hell outweighs any advantage of believing otherwise. (google)
• • •

So weird. First, extremely weird to give away the theme in the title. You'd think "Labor Contractions" would be fine, but to go ahead and parenthesize the "ion," what the hell? This isn't preschool. Let the people figure stuff out on their own. Second, this theme doesn't know what it's doing. It's trying to do two things and it ends up doing nothing very interesting. IONIZED is really the operative word. Certain words are IONIZED, in that they have "ION" added to them—a gimmick that is not at all interesting, but is at least consistent. But this revealer adds a new bit of wordplay to the mix by giving us UNIONIZED, a real word that is also, now, the fake (is it fake?) word UN-IONIZED, or de-ionized (if that's a word, which, who knows?). So the UNIONIZED words are the ones that ... (does the double negative math) ... don't ... have the ION. And then the others are the others. And after all of that, you're left with wacky phrases that aren't very funny, and a mostly run-of-the-mill grid that is rather heavy on the old-skool crosswordese (Et tu, ATTU!?). Can you do something with multiple accords? That base phrase seemed off. It seems like such a basic theme should've yielded tons and tons of possible answers, some of which surely must be funnier, or have funnier cluing possibilities, than any of these. Really like CLICKBAIT, and (even though I've never heard of it) PASCAL'S WAGER, but even something interesting like STAGE MOTHERS seems fumbled ("stage moms" is the phrase I know). It's not that the answer is invalid, it just doesn't ... pop. It's OK. It DIDOK. Unlike DRACONIC, which didn't do anywhere near OK (the word is DRACONIAN— it's IANIZED) (38D: Unduly harsh)!

Jeez louise in what world am I supposed to know the first name of the guy who invented Pong!? This one, apparently, but what a hellaciously stupid clue for Edgar Poe's middle name. The puzzle was mostly very easy, but I got slowed right down there toward the end, in the SW, when I couldn't get COMELIER to save my life, despite knowing very well what "pulchritudinous" means. Starts with "C" ... no idea. None. Perhaps because, like many things in this grid, No One Says This. I also botched the AMIE answer because ... the grid was already so crosswordesey that my brain somehow thought this clue was to do with "ABIE's Irish Rose," which ... look, I'm not going to go in to it, for fear of waking that answer from the dead, but it was a thing that used to appear in crosswords. Maybe my brain thought "ABIE's Irish Beau"? Dunno. Also, the SAMANTHA clue is garbage (91D: Bee, e.g.), in that you would never clue KANYE [West, e.g.] or WILL [Smith, e.g.]. Write a damn clue, for bee's sake!

On a technical level, you can see how theme answer placement gets the constructor into trouble in the south, where themers end up requiring a four-letter word that both starts and ends with "I"—unlikely. Choices are exceedingly limited right off the bat. So we get crosswordese, INRI, and also crosswordese STENO and crosswordese ASTI, and then this weird answer DOSO.

Let's see, what else? I had MARROW before YARROW, probably because my brain thought I was writing MALLOW (that's a plant, right?) (105D: Flowering herb also known as devil's nettle). In case you didn't know, HERA lost a beauty contest in which there were two other contestants: Athena and Aphrodite. Paris was the judge and he chose Aphrodite, for which he was "rewarded" with Helen, and the rest is ancient history (namely, the Trojan War). OK, enough with the mythology lessons—Happy Christmas Eve Eve!

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld (Twitter @rexparker / #NYTXW)

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


David Alfred Bywaters 12:01 AM  

If you enjoy sneering at crosswords (and who doesn't?), go to my website,, where you'll find today "The Worst Crossword Puzzle Ever Made."

GHarris 12:15 AM  

Generally agree with Rex for a change, lots of garbage here. Still, the idiocies of some clues made solutions difficult and added to the challenge.

Harryp 12:41 AM  

I had Wynn for the ____ Dixie grocery chain and couldn't find the mistake. I suck at proof reading. DNF on an Easy Medium puzzle. Maybe next time.

Brian B 12:53 AM  

"inri iggins" reminds me of this from tumblr (author unknown):

My friend: what're you smiling about ;)

Me: nothing

My head: tutant meenage neetle teetles

Greg Charles 1:08 AM  

Personal best Sunday! Pascal's Wager is very familiar, and comelier also just, well, came to me. I'm surprised Rex didn't mention that AWE was in the puzzle and also in a clue. He's usually all over that kind of stuff.

r.alphbunker 3:12 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous 4:17 AM  

EAST for "That's right!" (114A)? Doesn't the presumption that I'm heading north to begin with make this one really obscure?

TSK for "Shame!" (60A)? That took me forever. Shame! is so much more drastic a disapproval than a mere TSK.

On the paper edition I needed a really bright light to see that the clue for 132 A included "divided by 2" and not "plus 2". Realized something was wrong when I figured out there was no integer solution to the equation if you use a plus sign.

Is SMARM (99A) an actual word? I guess so, since where else would "smarmy" come from, but I don't think I've ever seen it in print in my entire life.

AWNS (18D) was also a completely new word for me.

For 118A (THREW), couldn't there be a better clue than "Intentionally lost"? That is really a clue for THREW AWAY.

Anonymous 4:25 AM  

Hercule Poirot was very much into growing vegetable MARROWs, at least in the first Agatha Christie featuring him (The Mysterious Affair at Styles).

'mericans in Paris 4:36 AM  


A HEM. Mrs. 'mericans and I DIDOK on this one. We liked the theme answers well enough. RHETORICAL QUESTS should appeal to x-word enthusiasts. PAPAL BULLION has a ring of truth probably not intended. We wouldn't LIONize it. But, since the NTY let the catION out of the bag, I thought I'd try a few to come up with some other examples, but some require some LEEWAY:

"Get your actION together"

"It ain't over till the fatION lady sings"

I know: "Back to square onION"

What stood out for me, however, was the number of 3- and 4-letter words in this grid -- 20 and 45, respectively. Those are some FILLING STATS! That yielded some nice fresh fill, like AWNS (which we see plenty of on the barley that grows abundantly in fields an hour's drive from Paris), CHUG, COOT, LANK, and ZEAL; lots of old stand-by, like ASTI, AVEC, DENS, EATS, E-BAY, HOLA, ORAL, ROLE, and VEAL; and of course the not unexpected dreck. I'm looking at EWES, PCTS!

P.S., Thanks for the clever song by Jenny Toomey, @Rex! Equally apt for Saturday's puzzle as well.

Anonymous 6:38 AM  

It's Soccer moms but Stage mothers. I deal with both.

Un-ionized is totally 100% legit chemistry talk.

"Now let us all with one accord" is the opening line of the final verse of the hymn "The First Nowell", which a few might find themselves singing in the next day or so.

r.alphbunker 7:03 AM  

The puzzle is very current since it is moving IONs around. I thought the theme answers were on the plausible side of wacky which is good and I enjoyed getting them.

JOHN X 7:16 AM  

This was a pretty good Sunday puzzle, and I'm usually not a big fan of Sunday puzzles. The theme was interesting, and I like having a puzzle within the puzzle that I actually get to use to solve a few entries. The title telegraphed the theme a bit, but so what.

I did the "Worst Crossword Puzzle Ever Made" too. Ha ha I liked it. I even had a DNF in that one really awful spot.

mambridge 7:24 AM  

And a happy Christmas eve eve to you too!

Anonymous 7:24 AM  

What’s the past tense of DOOK?

— Jim C. in Maine

Richard 7:26 AM  

I had ARMS for 112D. Had no idea about buckwheat, obvs.

David 7:36 AM  

Another example of the Shortz rules on Latin and Greek plurals. Anglicized most of the time, but proper plurals allowed if needed. Whatever.

What leads many people to say, "Let's face it"? = Mecca????? I never knew that was the start of their prayer. Really, this has to rank as one of the worst clues ever, just incredibly stupid. Then we get "Like powwows" = Tribal. Ugh.

Pascal's wager and Clickbait were good at least.

Dave 7:40 AM  

Yeah, STAGE MOTHER is much more common than STAGE MOM

Anonymous 8:16 AM  

I thought of that, too.

Aketi 8:20 AM  

After yesterday’s reference to drinking I had a hard time accepting CHUG as slow. Vehicles CHUG slowly, but if you CHUG a beer you’re not sipping it slowly, you’re drinking the whole glass all at once.

If my son forgets his keys and buzzes our apartment and I ask “Who is it?” he responds with 73a and 80a. Kind of nice to have him back for the holidays even if he sleeps more than our cats do and when he manages to get up and out forgets his keys and needs to be buzzed back in.

RHETORICAL QUESTS was my favorite UNIONIZation.

'mericans in Paris 8:20 AM  

OK, here's another attempt:

TAX AUDITION -- First 1040 filing?

COMPACTION CAR -- Rental vehicle for a crowd?

IMMACULATE CONCEPT -- Pristine idea?

SHRINERS CONVENT -- Retirement home for Freemasons?

QuasiMojo 8:22 AM  

I didn’t see the puzzle title since I did it online and you have to click Info to see it. So I was a bit AT SEA (my first answer for the lost clue) especially since I assumed the Polka clue had something to do with Lawrence Welk “with a one and a two and a...” whatevs. Figured it all out with Papal Bullion which as a “collapsed Catholic” kinda made me chuckle. Still, I managed to finish in less than a half hour which is not bad, for me, on a Sunday. When I was in college, Pascal’s Wager was required reading. At least in the Humanities department. I’m not sure I totally bought his argument but I never forgot it.

Anonymous 8:25 AM  

@Anonymous 4:17 AM

If one is looking at a map, north is usually at the top making EAST to the right.

"Intentionally" lost refers to throwing a game or match, perhaps related to sports betting.

Aketi 8:31 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
michiganman 8:36 AM  

This was a fine Sunday puzzle. There were lots of interesting clues & answers. The theme was clever and better than most Sundays. Wacky is as wacky does. As a native of southern Michigan it was fun to see Lansing to Flint in the puzzle. The solve made for an enjoyable early morning.

kitshef 8:39 AM  

N Central was hard, but it was that SW corner that almost killed me. All perfectly fair, just tough, tough clueing.

LOVED the theme, although WITH ONE ACCORD is a little weak as a standalone phrase.

Never heard of DRACONIC, only DRACONIan. Again, perfectly fair, though.

Also never heard devil’s nettle for YARROW. It’s an odd name, as it doesn’t sting and doesn’t look particularly nettle-like.

Z 8:40 AM  

This is why I hate titles.

Okay. Here’s the question. Do I believe the Oxford English Dictionary, which cites “felt badly” in one of its usage examples, or a grammar scolding anonymouse? Hmmmm, so hard to decide. What should I do? Oh, I know. Fremdschämen. Why? Well, because I can be a little haughty at times.

michiganman 8:49 AM  

Good comment.

I think today's anonymouse was deleted. I was about to reply to it.

Jon Alexander 8:58 AM  

Still don't see the need for cluing "competitive" in 109A...competitive how? With each other? Competitive in terms of able to get customers in the market? There is nothing necessary to the answer that needs or suggest "competitive" in any way.

Some delightful long answers but the theme, I agree, was botched even with the mentioned giveaways.

JB 9:14 AM  

Islam is I believe the second largest religion. Adherents face Mecca five times a day to pray. How is this an unfair question?

Unknown 9:26 AM  

Re: 118A, it’s like if a team “threw” a game— they intentionally lost the game. THREW by itself makes sense in that context.

ION ick 9:33 AM  

I'm calling shenanigans on the insistence that it is STAGEMOTHERS, as though this is an objective, verifiable truth. It's not. STAGE moms is what we call them. You got your soccer moms, your dance moms, your stage moms...and your den mothers.

I thought the cluing in this puzzle was terrible. The Bee clue, the clue for EAST, the clue for MOTEL, "What can go before watt," etc. Too too.

EEO? DIdn't we just do that?

And is there some kind of logic in why some themers have ION and others don't?

I know the constructor is reading these comments because he commented above. I know it won't matter, but I just didn't like the puzzle. Along with the cluing and the weird on again/off again theme, it was another example of why I'm canceling my subscription to the NYT xwords. These things should be free if they're going to publish stuff like this. I don't think I'd complain nearly as often if I weren't paying for them.

Teedmn 9:35 AM  

WITH ONE ACCORD[ION], I would think we could all agree this is a very fun puzzle but I see Rex doesn't. I love DAB's puzzles and recommend everyone try his weekly puzzles. This was harder than his usual work, but his themes always please me and I'm more of a themeless solver.

At first, it seemed like there were a lot of IONs showing up in the puzzle but there are only three (four if you count UN-ION-IZED, which is a great revealer, in my opinion.) And great bonus fill in the downs. COMELIER is so typical of a David Alfred Bywaters word choice - with his Victorian novel recommendations, you can just tell he revels in those lost-to-history type RHETORICAL QUESTS.

A few write-overs with Iago and Othello being maLE, (thank YARROW, that obnoxious, spreading weed, for fixing that). SASE before ATTN, for some reason (lack of reading the clue). I got caught by the thing in the lock being a key, 120D. When I was down to O_R, with KASHi in place, I was flummoxed. Do I put Oil into a lock of hair? Is it RHETaRICAL and a cockney version of 'air? Good grief, it's an OAR lock, silly.

Prettier before COMELIER. And I thought it might be WyNN Dixie. Totally in my average time.

Thanks, DAB, for a great Sunday oeuvre and congrats on your second NYT publication!

Nancy 9:42 AM  

The headline sure made this easier than it otherwise would have been. Without the headline, maybe there would have been a EUREKA or two. OTOH, maybe not.

Easy as it mostly was, it still took what seemed like a long time to fill in. Wish I had my FILLING STATS. But I don't; I never do.

The most surprising answer was HERA at 56A. She was "a noted beauty-contest loser"???? Who knew she was ugly? Look, Zeus was the all-powerful king of the gods. Couldn't he have done better? Gotten himself someone much COMELIER? Like, maybe, a former model "trophy wife"? Donald Trump's had three, and he's a lot less powerful than Zeus. At least I hope he is.

You understand, of course, that the above are just RHETORICAL QUESTS. As for the puzzle --I was hardly GAGA over it, but still, it was a smooth effort that some will enjoy more than I did.

Nancy 9:51 AM  

@Jim C. (7:24) -- DOKE.

Uncle Alvarez 10:01 AM  

Of course he didn’t know Pascal’s Wager. Bet he’s memorized all the founding documents of the Justice League of America.

Z 10:10 AM  

@michiganman - Well, dang. Now my little hissy fit has no context. C’est la guerre.

jberg 10:14 AM  

I started in the far NW with CHEAP/CHAP, and fell in love with the puzzle, despite the ungainly sprawling of the theme. To spell out the problem: both the title and the revealer refer to labor unions, but nothing in the theme answers does. Change the clue for 70A to "With no charge," and everything is fine. Well, I new title would help too, I guess. Any suggestions?

This puzzle has one other great achievement to its credit -- finding an ERLE who does not write mysteries.

Thanks to the constructor for stopping by -- I'll go look at that other puzzle now.

Anonymous 10:41 AM  

How does a liberal arts college professor NOT know Pascal's Wager?

frankbirthdaycake 10:47 AM  

This puzzle was neither fun nor constructed well. For me, it was medium-challenging, which is not surprising since Rex’s degree of difficult and mine are usually opposite. Seasons Greetkngs to all.

Aketi 10:55 AM  

@Z and @Michiganman, I am capable of scrolling past a day of grammar wars, but I was tempted to complain about how ANNOYING it is to see grammar wars continue for two days in a row after the early anon post. I could use a little paix instead of guerre today, so thank you @blog admins.

Speaking of the ANNOYING trolls, @Gill I, I’m not sure how many languages your speak. Clearly, last night’s troll doesn’t know how to spell the description of your talents, confusing “il” with “bi” or possibly even “tri”. Perhaps the poor troll has fat fingers.

GILL I. 10:58 AM  

Talk about yin and yang. Jeez louise indeed.
This is my kind of Sunday puzzle. I will agree, though, that the title gave away too much. PAPAL BULL[ION]'s ION just staring at me and telling to go ahead and insert to hearts delight. I did.
PASCALS WAGER scared me senseless when first presented to me at Cathedral in Havana. You don't forget things like that. I was a good child....still am.
There are so many words in our language that sound as though they should mean one thing. Pulchritudinous is one of those words. I wanted to put SMELLIER in that slot. My sister famously misused "condone" all the time. It does, after all, sound like condemn. My other favorite is scurrilous.
SLIGO, GOLEM SUFI KASHA were the names I had to FIDDLE with. Other than those, and maybe finding out that HERA lost a beauty contest, the rest was easy and fun.
Tree is up, presents all wrapped, egg nog getting cold, a needed log in the fireplace, and we're all set.
I love this time of the year......

GILL I. 11:04 AM  

Oh...and @Anony 6:33 from yesterday:
English was not my first language. I've been known to mangle it to death. No excuse, I know. Don't care. Be's Christmas.

Pamela 11:10 AM  

Back in the day, when I worked with child models, they arrived with stage mothers. It may be different in the film industry.

I’m a relative newbie, been solving for years but not regularly until recently. I struggled some here but finally ended up OK. Past tense of DOOK= DIDOK?

CDilly52 11:36 AM  

🙋‍♀️ (Hand up) for bad proofed!!! It always adds at least 3 full minutes to mybSu day solve. Grrrrr!

Jamie C. 11:57 AM  


Carola 12:01 PM  

Clever and enjoyable. I had fun figuring out the phrases, going astray at first thinking that (the non-existent) PAPAL BULLetiN had somehow been contracted; only with the expanded ACCORDION did I remember it's just PAPAL BULL and get the idea. For me, the reveal was last in; I loved the wordplay. Among the theme answers, I especially liked the minimal polka band and MISS IMPOSSIBLE; lots to like in the Downs, too. This was a Sunday that left me with a smile.

TubaDon 12:07 PM  

Got all the theme answers right away except the first where I guessed THE instead of ONE. Somehow got SAMANTHA from crosses though I have no idea who she is. Needed a stimulating cup of Irish Breakfast Tea to intuit some others. Knew Pascal had a triangle, but not a WAGER. have to look that one up, as its G was the finishing letter.

Aketi 12:20 PM  

@Gill, love your avatar. Per your request I changed mine. I also looked up the proper spelling of the Ferengi ear lobe rmassage and it is Oo-mox. A word hated by my autocorrect and if it ever shows up in a crossword puzzle it is guaranteed to cause many solvers to be ANNOYed.

deerfencer 12:49 PM  

Bah humbug. No love for this one.

Masked and Anonymous 1:00 PM  

@RP: M&A was not overly shocked to find crosswordese in a NYT SunPuz. Don't recall any areas where things really went off-the-rails desperate, at least. Best long Ow de Speration outburst was DRACONIC, at our house.

Better puztitle: OFF-ONIONS. Theme mcguffin was fine; I sure noticed that addin IONs on to themers was much easier than subtractin em off, tho. Anyhoo -- Nuthin says Christmas like playin around with yer IONs, I reckon.

Had a tough nanosecond sinkhole around DIDOK/CLICKBAIT. Otherwise, the hard spots were sorta nicely spread out: yo, SUFI, SLIGO, KASHA, YARROW.

Thanx for the supercharge, Mr. Bywaters. UNIONIZED was a mighty cool feature.

Masked & Anonym8Us

GILL I. 1:04 PM  

@Aketi...I want to know who your dentist is. Love your new teeth. Also those ears are bodaciously adorbs.
Oh...I'm a bi with a bit of tri....
I think I'm going to dip into the egg nog. I want to continue laughing.....

Charles 1:13 PM  

Agree that the SAMANTHA clue is garbage. Never seen "e.g." used to connect a first name to a last name before.

RooMonster 1:16 PM  

Hey All !
To ION or not to ION, that is the quest(ion).

Pretty fun puz, if you read the Revealer Clue, it tells you that the top themers will be keeping their IONs, whereas the bottom themers will be eschewing them. Did that sound Unctuous-ish? :-)

Got whole puz, but was stopped in North Center. Didn't know and just couldn't figure out California's motto, no EUREKA moment here. Plus, GEO as a tag prefix?? What the? EKCO finally crept into the ole brain, even GRAVEL threw me, as wanted concrete (didn't fit, obviously) and couldn't think of another paving thing.

Writeovers, brAt-VEAL, tight-LACED, key-OAR, setin-INSET (that one was neat). So I DID OK after all.


Anonymous 1:26 PM  

A little bit on the easy side, but a lot of fun. Excellent Sunday puzzle. Thank you very much Mr. Bywaters!

Doc John 1:30 PM  

Weird puzzle, but I liked it well enough.

For the record, deionized water (or maybe it's de-ionized) is definitely a thing. A necessity for biology labs.

Masked and Anonymous 2:33 PM  

honorary staff weeject pick: ION. @RP-memorial weeject pick: EEO.


Still can't spew out runtpuzs, due to technical difficulties, but here are the titles of the Christmas runtz, waggin their tails in the wings:
* Christmas Stumper: Naughty & Nice.
* Secrete Santa.
* (S)elf Made Runts.
* Marx Brothers Christmas.
Sooo … use yer imaginations.

Adam 2:39 PM  

I got the revealer before any of the theme answers, leading me to fear that I would (a) have to remember high school chemistry, and (b) figure out how some answers had ions in them and others didn't (I thought it would have to do with atomic names (FE, AU, etc.). I finally got FILLING STATS and realized that ION was missing, and then got WITH ONE ACCORDION and figured out what was happening. Never heard of WITH ONE ACCORD as a phrase, though.

Puzzle was okay, but DRACONIC, as @Rex said, is just plain wrong. It's DRACONIAN for sure. Didn't love the cross-references (HEM and HAW! EATS a MEAL!), or the clue for MECCA, although I finally got it. Overall a big MEH from me.

Banana Diaquiri 3:12 PM  

Islam is I believe the second largest religion.

only if you combine all the various Christian sects. one might argue, not that I am, that Islam is more cohesive across its sects than Christianity across its; viz. Ireland and the American South. I'd wager, but would have to look it up, that Christians are splintered into more sects than Islam.

anyway, the count of Islam is larger than the RC church, which is the largest Christian sect.

Banana Diaquiri 3:14 PM  

BTW, let's have a survey:

Anonymous 3:51 PM  

Draconic is not "just plain wrong", it's just less commonly used. Does anyone here ever consult a dictionary before they post?

Aketi 3:57 PM  

@Roo monster, I thought EUREKA as a motto was related to its gold rush days.

@Gill I. True confessions, I’m not going to report my FILLING STATS, but I had so much work done on my teeth this year that I can relate to both Moogie’s ears and her teeth. Enjoy your eggnog and being somewfhere between bi and tri.

Suzie Q 4:00 PM  

Totally forgettable puzzle. Only strange thing was that this very morning I was thinking of Samantha Bee and how I used to think she was funny. Then later I see her in the puzzle. Weird when that happens.
Presents to wrap and turkey to brine. Later walnuts to crack in front of the wood stove and peel a few tangerines. Fresh snow outside is filling the house with that marvelous light. Today there is just a bit more daylight than yesterday.

Anonymous 4:14 PM  

Christian sects are by definition combined under the rubric “Christianity.”

Masked and Anonymous 4:15 PM  


@Banana Diaquiri: crUmblier.

Merry Christmas, dudes and darlins…

with security clearance.



Hungry Mother 4:34 PM  

My slogging through puzzles is getting to be a bad habit. The NW caused me a lot of grief.

Barry Frain 4:43 PM  

There are the trained and then there are the educated. Ignorance of Pascal’s Wager suggests training but little education.

Barry Frain
East Biggs, CA

JC66 5:02 PM  


Thanks for the Runtpuzes. Great Chanukah gifts.

mmorgan 5:03 PM  

Did this last night, no time to write today. I found parts of this really, really hard for a Sunday, but every time I got a long-in-coming answer, my response was, “Oh, of course!” But I also really, really liked it, and the theme answers were for me the kind of super-fun Sundays I greatly enjoy. Now I’ve gotta try “The worst crossword puzzle in the world!”

Nancy 5:28 PM  

@Aketi -- Can't understand why @GILL loves your new avatar. I think it's ugly as sin, whatever it is (and I have no idea what it is) -- easily more of a "noted beauty contest loser" than HERA, even.

I also can't figure out your typo in "...due to the lack overenthusiastic drilling by dentists..." (8:31). Is there simply a missing "of", and you're saying that dentists should have drilled more enthusiastically so that your generation would have had better teeth??? I'm a different (older) generation, so maybe my experience was completely different from yours. But I always felt my dentists were more than enthusiastic enough, thank you very much!

Andy 5:31 PM  

Just when you are sure, absolutely SURE, that the Sunday NYT puzzle cannot possibly get any worse, they surprise you again. *smh*

thefogman 6:36 PM  

Not great. Finished with a bit more time than normal for a Sunday. Low on joyful moments, especially for a pre-Xmas puzzle. Boo!

brainpercy 7:14 PM  

I think the question was, do Muslims ever say “Let’s face it” before facing Mecca to pray? I think that’s a fair criticism.

Aketi 8:42 PM  

@Nancy, I’m blaming autocorrect for the insertion of “lack” since it has become more aggressive lately wth replacing single words with entire phrases. Of course that’s probably like blaming our cat Charlie for the malodorous emanations that mostly come from him, but sometimes actually come from the humans who use him as a scapegoat.

I deleted the post and added a little and here is the corrected version:

“Just noticed that ENAMEL and CROWNS accompany the FILLINGSTATS. My dentist attributes the progression of FILLINGS to CROWNS to implants common to my generation to the overenthusiastic drIlling by dentists when we were children that left so little ENAMEL that it starts to crack with age. At least it’s better than the dentures that all my grandparents had.”

Moogie is a character on Startrek from a race called the Ferengi who are short, have giant lumpy ear lobes, and little pointy teeth. I decided I was starting to resemble her after getting cauliflower ear, getting a black eye, and scheduling way too much dental work this month. GILL I saw my post of her on Facebook suggesting I use her as an avatar. I can never resist a dare.

Crimson Devil 9:16 PM  

Not much to enjoy here; pas sans, another “Erle”, before B only.
Maybe Christmas Eve will sex-up Monday....

Nancy 10:05 PM  

Next time, @Aketi, I think you should resist the dare. :)

mmorgan 11:01 PM  

Sorry so many didn’t like this. I did, a lot. And Monday is a BEQ treat! I can’t wait to hear the carping.... not.

Anonymous 1:53 PM  

The author of the previous comment should have mentioned that he is also the author of today's NYT crossword puzzle.

Anonymous 4:02 PM  

Found this puzzle to be very difficult and tedious. No Fun.

stwidgie 11:23 AM  

Um, I actually really enjoyed this one. :^)
Clue for 14A was great. Enjoyed the theme answers and Pascal's Wager. And Samantha Bee!
Pleasurable stretches for Kasha, Yarrow, Ekco (never noticed the spelling)

I always enjoy reading the analysis and comments here. Thanks, Rex!

Lou 12:07 AM  

132A should be clued "A possible "x" in …" since zero is also a possibility.

MVeverka 2:02 PM  

the EAST, MECCA and YASIR clues are real groaners, any French I know I learned from crosswords, still AVEC was a challenge. Just messed up and had MEAt, because also my Irish GEOgraphy is poor. The theme was pretty meh, but still fun overall

novamaz 11:54 AM  

Great! Now put them into a 21 x 21 grid.

novamaz 11:59 AM  

Yes, I enjoyed it as well. In fa t, even when the pubs are groaned or there's words i don't know, i tend to like it as i like to be challenge ... well, at least in crosswords. I don't understand all the who ingested about "never heard that before" or winged about the fill words. I'm amazed at how consistently clever the constructors are putting together these puzzles.

novamaz 12:07 PM  

Perhaps you should Google Draconic. It is a valid word, even if you haven't heard of seen it before. Dictionaries are a great way to learn stuff... words even!

spacecraft 10:59 AM  

I gave up; too much I didn't know, like SLIGO and GEO tag??? What the hell is that? Never got into the NE, and so never even got to the bottom half. Happy new tear--and GO Eagles AND Bears!!!!

Burma Shave 2:24 PM  


there's a HOLE in the STAGEMOTHER'S DEN.
HOWSAD ALLAN's a peeker,
but with ZEAL cries, "EUREKA!",


rainforest 3:55 PM  

Good Sunday puzzle, but the title gave away the first three themers. However, the bottom three were opaque until I read the clue for 70 Across. Finding where to mantally add the "ion" was more difficult. Kind of a bifurcated theme.

Nevertheless, an enjoyable puzzle overall. Oh, I could quibble, but I won't. Hardest cross for me was the ARKS/KASHA cross. Otherwiese, pretty medium.

rondo 4:42 PM  

@spacey - how about last season's NFC championship game teams fighting FOR the last playoff spot? Playing a first-place schedule shows just how good a team really is. Or ISNT.

To the puz - My FILLINGSTATS were on the slow-ish but accurate sides. With that answer and WITHONEACCORDION showing I cried (in my mind, whispered), "EUREKA!!". The end was nigh.

It is rather unlikely to find a MOTEL near a cloverleaf. A cloverleaf is designed for you to change directions on another road. More likely to find a MOTEL at a diamond interchange, which is designed to get you off the main road. Don't believe me? Do your own research. You'll see.

I'll give SAMANTHA Bee a yeah baby. Or STELLA Stevens. Or Lady GAGA.

I've had all I can STANDS, and I can't STANDS no more.

strayling 7:51 PM  

A theme based on IONs was bound to have its pluses and minuses.

Diana, LIW 8:22 PM  

Another day that @Rex lost Syndieland. Sigh.

Just heard about CLICKBAIT yesterday, so that came in handy. Other than that, I almost have some NOVA.

Diana, LIW

Anonymous 10:08 PM  

I liked this one - flew through it top to bottom left to right until I got to the SW corner which was tough. I give the constructor a lot of credit for un-ionized in a labor contract themed. I’m anonymous again because of all the self-righteous comments preceding. Wah wah clickbait, yarrow etc.all legitimate and fun.Complaining in this blog about crosswordese seems somewhat odd. A fun puzzle well done

DXMachina 8:09 AM  

Unionized is a valid chemical term, meaning not having formed an ion, i.e., a charged species. I use this exact term in my class to talk about different pronunciations for the same spelling. I once sat in a graduate chemistry seminar watching a speaker show slide after slide with "unionized" on it, and I kept wondering what being in a union had to do with his chemical research. It wasn't until he finally pronounced it as "un-ionized" that I figured it out what he meant.

Unknown 6:19 PM  

Worst clues ever. Bee is not an example of Samantha. Etc

Blade 2:00 PM  

Got the theme--and its inverse--with MISSIMPOSSIBLE and seeing that *ACCORDION had to be the end of 24A. Don't know term "Papal Bull," but knew that BULLION had to work, and something about that base phrase sounded familiar.

A little clumsy phrasing around some of the answers, but if I had a DOLLAR for every clue that ANNOYS me, well, I'd have a few books. In all, more good than bad in this puzzle. My time didn't come INLOW, but I DIDOK--a few seconds shy of my Sunday average.

Anonymous 9:23 AM  

Old topic I realize, but thought that someone, someday might this interesting: when printed in the Sacramento Bee, this puzzle had the entire right-most column of blocks, both letters and black squares, completely missing. But it all *looked* correct, which is to say that the printed page wasn't "out of register", if I recall the term correctly.

As such, the answer boxes for 18-, 45- 76- and 110-Down were *completely* missing -- 24-Across solved as "WITHONEACCORDIO", for example -- and since this became apparent rather early on, I thought it was *another* level of trickery to deal with, aside from the actual theme.


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