Song sung by Elvis in "Blue Hawaii" / THU 12-27-18 / Brooklyn attraction / Rival of Cassio / Former Yankees manager Joe

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Constructor: Mary Lou Guizzo and Jeff Chen

Relative difficulty: Challenging (feels like it shouldn't have been this tough, but it took 5:30 over my fairly bloated Thursday average) (17:24)

THEME: THEMEContrails — Grid has the shape of a jet flying from the SW to the NE, with contrails behind it. The letters CON are rebused in five squares, leaving a trail behind the plane. The black squares may also be a part of the contrail?
Theme answers:
  • AERIAL RE(CON) - (30A: Drone's job)
  • (CON)ES - (35A: Rods' partners)
  • EMOTI(CON) - (38A: One might have a wink or a smile)
  • (CON)TAINER - (44A: Tin or glass)
  • TELE(CON) - (46A: Business meeting that participants dial into, informally)
  • STYLE I(CON) - (20D: One frequently pictured in GQ or Vogue)
  • DE(CON) - (28D: Radiation cleanup, briefly)
  • (CON)EY ISLAND - (32D: Brooklyn attraction)
  • (CON)TRAIL - (40D: Follower of a plane ... or a hint to this puzzle's theme)
  • (CON)TROL - (47D: Dominate)
These two are also theme-ish, so I'm counting them:
  • SKY WRITER - (17A: Flier with a message)
  • JET STREAM - (10D: It's indicated by arrows on a map)
Word of the Day: ALAIN (50D: Author Locke of the Harlem Renaissance, the first African-American Rhodes Scholar (1907))
• • •
Hey-o, puzzlers. It's Morgan here, filling in again for Rex (third time's a charm). This is a *fabulous* way for me to kill an evening while visiting my husband's family in East Texas, so thanks for the opportunity. (UPDATE: because it's Texas, of course there was crazy weather (in this case a tornado warning) shortly after this post went live.)

As a general rule, I love a rebus. And I usually think I have a good eye for spotting them. Not this time! This one was *brutal* for me - clocking in substantially over my average time. The theme took me forever to get, but more than that I just never got any momentum at any point in the entire solving process. I slogged my way from the NE down the east coast, then finally grokked the theme with CONTRAIL (which, honestly, was the first thing I thought when I saw the grid, so I'm not sure what my problem was).

I wouldn't say there was anything I especially liked about this puzzle, but neither did I hate it. I think the grid strained a bit under the heavy theme density (10-12 themers, depending how you count), so there was more crosswordese and/or junk than I would usually prefer (e.g., NOWI, ARA, BASSI, TOALL, ITALO, EYED). And there really wasn't anything exciting in the whole puzzle - maybe SKYWRITER crossing JET STREAM, but honestly aside from this there wasn't anything very new.

A couple of the themers strike me as questionable. As a professor, I'm on a LOT of teleconferences/conference call/Webexes/video conferences, and I can't recall having heard someone call it a TELECON. I also don't love DECON for decontaminate. I do at least appreciate that the CON is short for something different in each answer (UPDATE: a commenter points out EMOTICON and STYLE ICON are of the same root, but I think they're different enough (one refers to computer ICON and one to the more celebrity-style ICON)).

  • ETNA — (5A: Mount whose name means, literally, "I burn"). Nice to have a new clue for a VERY old crossword standby.
  • WATCH TV — (21A: View remotely?). This is what I have been doing, without break, for approaching 72 hours. Because Mount Pleasant, Texas, y'all. 
  • NAILS IT — (62A: Does something to a T). Have you watched Nailed It on Netflix yet? It's really a delightful and hilarious way to kill a half hour. Highly recommended.  
  • CATAWBA — (1D: Carolina tribe that allied with the colonists in the American Revolution). I imagine a LOT of people struggled up here - the NW took me forever to break into.
  • MONTY — (51D: Hall of fame). This is probably my favorite clue in the puzzle. Shrug.  
Signed, Morgan Polikoff, a Jew in Texas at Christmastime

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kitshef 12:17 AM  

Tough puzzle. Took a looong time to get the theme, and of course that ITALO/ALAIN cross was a doozy.

EMOTICON/STYLE ICON is definitely a duplication. Other than that, it’s a nice job of varying the roots and pronunciation of the CONs.

Liked it. Oh, and Morgan, in my past two jobs we have used the word TELECON all the time. One job in the mid-Atlantic and one in the Great Plains.

chris b 12:40 AM  

I got the theme without too much trouble but that NW corner is a pile of SLOP. WBA lining up next to AOE? just awful.

Also, a ROTATOR is not a muscle. The "rotator cuff" is a group of 4 different muscles none of which are called "rotator."

jae 12:48 AM  

Yep, tough. Same difficulty seeing the rebus as @Morgan...took a while. This was a lot of fun! liked it a bunch! Although I had to stare a bit to parse STYLE ICON.

puzzlehoarder 12:58 AM  

Isn't GEAROIL just OIL? That was the only irritating entry in an otherwise great puzzle.

For a while I felt blind sided by the Saturday level toughness of the puzzle. It was really four puzzles in one. The area north and west of the delta wing was early week easy. The NW and SE corners we're just straight up late week difficult. The rebus section gave me fits and was the last to fall

I got off on the wrong foot with the rebus because I was trying to make 28D into D-ECO-N. Of course you can do the same thing with 30A. It could be AERIALR-ECO-N. Doing it the right way and seeing how the CONs coordinated with the "delta jet" shape could have been a short cut to the solution but once I started solving I forgot all about the black squares.

Having ECO on the brain from my failed attempt to parse the rebus made ITALO at 55A impossible to come up with until I got crosses. I saw "Calvino" in the clue and all I could think of was UMBERTOECO. I hate when similar entries cancel each other out like that. ITALO is one of those entries that's been beaten into my head and today thanks to ECO it vanished .

Eventually all became clear so a great solve.

Anonymous 1:02 AM  

No comment about the symmetry along the diagonal? That was pretty neat, I thought.

Other than the shape of the puzzle, though, I found very little positive about this puzzle. Way too much garbage and way too many proper nouns.

Harryp 1:15 AM  

Slightly over average Thursday time, but Medium Challenging. Found the Rebus CON's but finished in the Northwest, where CATAWBA needed every cross. Great fun. I never saw Blue Hawaii, but figured out ALOHA 'OE. I knew CAROM as a pool shot, but not as a pool table.

Marc 1:29 AM  

Thought that finally picking up the CON rebus would help,but only slightly. SW was toughest, and NE killed me with ALOHAOE, which I had forever but could not commit to because I never heard of it, even though, besides Elvis, it appears to be somewhat famous. As famous as Elvis is/was, there are but a handful of songs of his I know. Should never had done the movie route. ITALO/ALAIN cross got me as well, had ARTISTE forever, but MONTY finally clicked. And SAW for JAW. Thought it was super tough.

Larry Gilstrap 2:06 AM  

Not a fan of grid art, but CONtrails are a common feature in the desert sky, so that was pretty cool. In reality, that aircraft is rather ponderous in relation to the trail.

For years, I've had problems with damage resulting from the activity of a MOLE, in the yard, and from a RAT in the house, but now I see they have combined forces to bedevil this weary homeowner. Frightening news to me.

Must confess to being a Moby-Dickhead, so love to see AHAB called out as a monomaniac. How I wish they were confined to fiction.

Rods and CONES from Junior High School science class cleverly clued.

A saw has teeth, as does a JAW, so 10D was a WTF for way too long.

I really like Othello and think Shakespeare handles the race card better than can be expected from his perspective four hundred years ago. Check the video of Bob Hoskins as IAGO to Anthony Hopkins in black face. Good stuff!

chefwen 2:07 AM  

Slapping down crest at 16A right at the start, royally messed me up in the NW, so I moved south and got EMOTI (con) pretty early on. Saw the CON pattern and filled all those little puppies in.

Thank you Elvis for giving me ALOHA OE which let me to correct crest to TOTEM and BAM I was done.

Fun rebus.

Z 5:27 AM  

Noticing the B-2 might have helped my time (well, and not solving tired and drunk), but I guess not noticing a stealth bomber is the whole point, right? Nearly 23 minutes, but I did wake up mid-solve, once.

Speaking of drunk, not much liking any of CATAWBA Brewing‘s popular beers made getting the tribe (also a river and county in NC) pretty easy. On the other hand, ITALO Calvino is one of those answers that always impresses new solvers (How do you know that stuff) that later becomes OnoEnoEse - more CrossWorld famous because of their useful letters than real world famous.

@puzzlehoarder - Isn’t Canola oil just oil? And just like in cooking, the various OILs in our cars are not interchangeable. Heck, in Michigan we had to have motor OILs with different weights depending on the season.* You wouldn’t want 10W-30 in your transmission case. No problem hear with GEAR OIL.

@chris b - Huh. I could find one citation for ROTATOR muscle, but everything else was ROTATOR cuff or ROTATORes muscle. I think we have an anatomist or two around who might know of a usage that makes the clue okay, but it sure looks wrong from I’ve found so far.

Z 5:36 AM  

*Forgot to append my footnote - It seems like different motor oil weights depending on the season is a thing of the past. Since the “W” in “10W-30” means winter it always seemed odd that a manufacturer would recommend something like 10W-30 in summer and 5W-20 in winter. Why not 5W-30? My buddy in the fuel industry probably knows.

Also, since I’m here, I should clarify that anyone CrossWorld Famous is also real world famous, it’s just that in CrossWorld Ono and Eno are way more famous than Lennon and Bowie and ITALO Calvino is more famous than Stephen King.

ZenMonkey 6:08 AM  

I like a workout so enjoyed this. Didn't get the trick until CONEY ISLAND, at which point the rest of the puzzle started to come together. I knew I'd seen the word CATAWBA before but had no idea of the context, so that was a lucky guess. (But a sad commentary on my education in American history.)

'mericans in Paris 6:26 AM  

This one was tough. Whereas (when Mrs. 'mericans is in Paris) normally we complete the Mon-Wed puzzles separately, this one we had to do as a team effort. I started, and was on the lookout for a rebus, but expected it at the 10A-10D crossing, figuring there was some tough rebus with an O/Y in the 10 square, and WAY being spelled backwards, in order to make one-WAy STREeT. It was Mrs. miP who saw JEY STREAM.

We then crawled our way through the east, with few squares filled in on the western flank. Finally got the CON job at 32D, and filled in the rest of the answers containing that rebus in short order. Still, there remained several tough spots. Wanted "lube OIL" at 63A, and just didn't see GEAR OIL, even when we had gotten as far as _EA_ OIL. Guessed at GIRARDI but just couldn't get the last letter for STAG_, so resorted to Mr. Google.

All in all, this puppy took us way, way longer than usual for a Thursday.

Glad that I wasn't the only person to see the airplane shape as that of a B-2 stealth bomber. (Hey, @Z!) Noticing that, I then wondered whether they actually produce (CON)TRAILs, which would not be very stealthy. Turns out that they can, and do, but such (CON)TRAILs are rarely seen, as generally the planes are flown at night, and otherwise try to steer clear of atmospheric conditions that would lead to the formation of CONdensation trails.

Rainbow 6:30 AM  

Please explain problem with WBA, AOE. Thanks

Anonymous 6:39 AM  

@chris b & Z - _every_ muscle that functions by rotating a joint is a rotator. The word "rotator" applies to a class of muscles, not the name of a specific muscle.
cf. flexor, tensor, abductor, pronator...rotator.

Z 6:45 AM  

@Rainbow - My interpretation of @chris b’s comment was that if CATAWBA and ALOHA OE are unfamiliar to you, WBA and AOE are hard letters to infer. Since lots of solving is pattern recognition when we don’t actually know, letter combos that are part of common English patterns are fairer/easier than atypical letter patterns. Toss in an odd clue for CAROM and a North Carolina tribe (be honest, movie westerns make us all think of native Americans as living west of the Mississippi) and I see his point about the NW corner.

Travel day here (or “hear” if auto-correct arbitrarily fixes your fat finger typos with the wrong word when you aren’t paying close enough attention) so I’m done for the day. No fascinating discussions on verbification while I’m away, okay?

OffTheGrid 7:10 AM  

Excellent puzzle with lots to like. Cleverly done and fun to solve.

Johnny Whirlwind 7:19 AM  

Was looking forward to seeing how Rex would demolish this boring, tedious rebus puzzle, with it's CATAWBA and TTOP and the rest of the SLOP they threw in there. Totally STALE.

Anonymous 7:29 AM  

@Z, please reconsider the “us” in “be honest, movie westerns make us all think of native Americans as living west of the Mississippi.” Do you really imagine there are no Native American solvers among us? There are many whose familiarity with Native Nations does not arise exclusively from movie westerns.

QuasiMojo 7:46 AM  

ICON is an ICON is an ICON unless it’s a bunch of ROSES. Cool to see ETNA today, especially if you WATCH TV and saw it in all its splendor erupting the other day. A Spew in Sicily at Christmastime. Actually I watched it on AOL. Fun puzzle (loved Rotator clue) that took me longer than our guest blogger. Thanks for filling in.

TomAz 8:08 AM  

Well, shoot. Here I was all excited.. read the header and thought 'wow, did i really beat Rex's time???'. That would have been a first. Alas, it was not to be. Very nice write-up nevertheless, Morgan.

Is TELECON a regional thing? I have never heard the term. And I get on conference calls/skype calls/webinars/webexes nearly every working day. I had one yesterday, and two more today, and it's the dead week between the holidays. No one I know has ever called it a TELECON in my presence.

Hard time getting going today. Didn't know CAROM as clued, didn't know CATAWBA, and had 'crest' for TOTEM at first, so the NW was very stubborn. I sort of circled around clockwise from there, so it was late in the solve that I came across the rebuses, which also threw me a bit -- rebuses usually make themselves known much earlier, so I thought maybe I had an error.

Amos Alonzo STAGG was an interesting dude. He lived to be 102, and the timing was such that he was born during the Civil War and still alive when I was born.

If I had more time this morning I'd attempt a Rex parody ranting about the evils of CONTRAILS. Perhaps better left to the imagination.

CDilly52 8:25 AM  

CONes was where I was certain of the rebus. Knew EMOTICON had to be the answer to 38A and therefore a rebus was present, but where? I loved our study of the eye in eighth grade-dissecting the cow eye was the greatest and for several years I was going to be an opthomogist. Alas, the high level chemistry and math. . .

CDilly52 8:36 AM  

I made sooooo many mistakes in the NW that I gave up my normal solving pattern and just went randomly. Did not see the B-2 until the community here pointed it out (good grief!) but I did get the rebus fairly quickly. Didn’t love or hate it. Now that I see the dang jet though I think the theme is much better than I did before I checked in here today! As always, I thoroughly enjoyed the thoughts from this community.

Odd Sock 8:37 AM  

Nice visual center to this grid but the rest of the puzzle suffered.
Note to guest reviewers: Please stop using those moving gifs. They give me motion sickness.

Impish thought today. Once big for Aretha. Her ass?

Kitty 8:43 AM  

No alcohol abuse clues
Hurray !

Anonymous 8:43 AM  

My hilarious mistake of the day was misreading the clue for 37A (Rival of Cassio). I of course immediately took it to be referring to the Casio watch brand. Even though I wear a Casio watch, I didn’t even think about how many s’s in the watch brand. To compound my error, I looked at what already had in the grid ( - - GO) and immediately said AHA seGo (thinking of course of Seiko watches). What I really can’t believe is how long it took me to abandon that absurd answer! No wonder I’ll never be a speed solver.

— Jim C. in Maine

Irene 9:04 AM  

Langston Hughes yesterday and Alain Locke today! We're on a roll with the Harlem Renaissance.

Anonymous 9:24 AM  

Etna does not mean 'I burn'. αἴθω (aitho) does, whence the name.

WCTU 9:25 AM  

I agree. Cheers!

Nancy 9:30 AM  

Partial rebuses are the trickiest. When you're not in rebus territory, you have a false sense of mastery and [CON]TROL. And also I never heard of CONTRAIL, so the revealer didn't help me at all.

I finally figured it out at TELE[CON]/[CON]TROL. What I said to myself was not "Aha" but "Thank heaven! This bear finally makes some sense!"

The biggest nemesis was 38A. All I could think of was EMOJI, which didn't fit. I must have had a mental block about EMOTICON. If I'd thought of it, I would have gotten the gimmick much sooner.

A wonderful puzzle. So crunchy. So tricky. So playful. So well-executed. A real treat.

Anonymous 9:35 AM  

Gear oil is a specific type of oil. It is not interchangeable with motor oil.

Teedmn 9:38 AM  

Well, I'm so glad I'm joined by my peers in thinking this puzzle was hard, harder than it seems it should have been. I had to wander the grid to get a start so ERMA and TTOP got me going but not for long - rather halting progress today.

10A was mAW, of course, since 12D had to be WAR. But the mET STREAM isn't often found on maps with arrows so...

"Clichéd" started off as inAnE but I soon smelled a RAT at 39D and saw it was STALE. But the STAGG GIRARDI WOEs crossing in the SW kept me from seeing the CON rebopodes. _T_OL = Dominate? And __Y__LAND wasn't bringing to mind any Brooklyn attractions.

I did laugh when ___OMA turned out to be YOYOMA. YES IT IS.

Thanks, MLG and JC. This was fun to figure out.

And @kitshef, thanks for the chuckle from yesterday's late evening comment, though I'm thinking most words would have sprung fully formed from the head of Jupiter (i.e. latinate).

Miss Manners 9:39 AM  

I really wonder how effective the review of comments is. How does Oddsock's vulgar insult of the Queen of Soul make the cut? That's just a crass thing to write.

Anonymous 9:45 AM  

Well, Morgan, hope your hubby’s family aren’t too put off by the snark thrown at them and their town.
Very clever puzzle.

Nancy 9:47 AM  

@GILL (from yesterday) -- @Stanley Hudson must be one disappointed dude!

Night Soil 9:52 AM  

Thanks for the write-up, Morgan, though I have to admit I was looking forward to Rex lambasting this puzzle for glorifying a war plane (I mean, he hates it when “NRA” is an an answer; I can’t imagine he’d like a $2-billion bomber in his grid), not to mention the fact that the B-22 doesn’t really leave contrails: “The original design had tanks for a contrail-inhibiting chemical, but this was replaced in production aircraft by a contrail sensor that alerts the crew when they should change altitude” (Wikipedia). They call it “stealth” for a reason, no? TELECON, AERIAL RECON, and DECON are all dubious at best, MONTY Hall went off the air 40 years ago, and ALAIN Locke isn’t even famous by Harlem Renaissance standards, let alone Alain standards. And GEAR OIL, while probably a thing, verges on Rex’s “green paint” principle. At least SESSIONS was clued without a reference to Jefferson Beauregard. Oh, and the comment about Aretha Franklin’s derrière seems in poor taste to me, if not a little racist.

GILL I. 10:04 AM  

This was hard and not fun hard.
I'm glad {CON}EY ISLAND saved my bacon. Going around the Ferris wheel after having my first taste of weed, highly recommended.
Had lots of oofs. Same as @chefwen with the CREST instead of the TOTEM. Drones job at 30A was AIR PATROL until I figured out the CON at the end. I PRAY ...nope I HOPE. Didn't know my STAGG from my GIRARDI. Had @Nancy's EMOJI instead of EMOTI{CON} Don't understand why a bunch of lovers are ROSES. 53A is missing an AND. BOO
This is one of those puzzle that look incredible when you finally finish. I just stared at it and said WOW. Didn't get the jet thingamajig until pointed out here. So....constructing this thing is quite an accomplishment. Kudos to Mary Lou and Jeff for that.
Love the symmetry of the CONS. I thank the goddesses of crosswordese for ERMA IAGO ETNA and ITALO.

Airchecker 10:15 AM  

I worked for the federal government for decades. TELECON was a common shortening of telephone conference, and not just a multi-parti conference call. As early as the 1970s, I used to write a "Memo of Telecon" when it was just a call between me and someone else. Like much government jargon, it may have originated in the military. A Google graph shows its usage began sometime before 1950 (poor labeling of axis), so maybe WWII?

jberg 10:17 AM  

I liked this one more the more I looked at it. Got the rebus with EMOTICON, once I had almost all the crosses, and realized that that would clear up many of my problem areas; saw that they lined up, and only then noticed that seemingly unsymmetrical block of black squares, and realized that it could be a jet. Wondered if people would be bothered by the lack of symmetry -- and only then noticed that it was symmetrical diagonally, allowing the very nice grid art to work.

I played a lot of billiards in my youth, but we never called it CAROM billiards -- straight billiards, three-cushion billiards, or just billiards (since we always called pocket billiards "pool") -- but apparently I just didn't know enough about the game's place in the larger order of things -- so that's what I learned today!

thanks for the write-up, Morgan. Hope the tornadoes weren't too bad.

RooMonster 10:17 AM  

Hey All !
Thanks to @Anon 1:02 for the Diagonal Symmetry point out. I was trying to figure it out, but the ole brain couldn't see it. I guess I overused it figuring out this puz. :-)

Of course I saw the big blob of black squares, and said, "Hey, that looks like a Stealth Bomber". Then got NE first with SKYWRITER and JET STREAM, and said, "Oh, theme must be plane related stuff". When I had _TROL in SW, I couldn't figure out what that was gonna be. Then managed to get TELE_, and wrote in an X. YELEX/XTROL. "Hmm, that doesn't look quite right. How is XTROL related to the theme?" Then an Aha moment when I said, "Heyyyy, wait a tic, if I rebus CON in there..." (Yeah, I talk to myself alot!)😋😀

Once I got that first CON, then things started to make sense. Had EMOjIs, but saw ___AIL, and from clue said, "CONTRAIL, of course!" Then saw CONEY ISLAND, and that whole section succumbed to my genius. 😎 Finished up in B, agree it was trickiest part.

And after all that, guess what? Still had my one-letter DNF! ARGH! Center cross of CONEt/tONE, because TONE is the answer, dagnabit! What in tarhooties is SONE??

So a different, interesting type puz. Almost a CON job. Almost NAILed IT. ALOHA Oy!


chris b 10:26 AM  

@anon 6:39 - I agree that you can classify a skeletal muscle based on type of movement that it produces but the clue asks for the name of a muscle. Yes, I'm being nitpicky but I'm still calling foul.

If the clue was "Car with palindromic name" I would expect CIVIC, not RACECAR.

Hungry Mother 10:27 AM  

BOO! I had hOO. Otherwise, a nice solve.

Stanley Hudson 10:32 AM  

@Nancy (and @Gill I, thanks for responding last evening), I am well aware that @Gill I’s current avatar isn’t her. Longtime denizens of this blog know about the film acting in her youth.

@Odd Sock, your fat-shaming Aretha comment is offensive on several levels.

@Z, “make us all think”—oh really? As one with Shawnee and Cherokee ancestry, I beg to differ.

pabloinnh 10:32 AM  

I'm with @Nancy and @GILL I concerning the emoji/emoticon confusion, which probably says something about how often we use or see them. I stuck in EMOJICON which led to the mysterious HEAR-J coming down. How does one hear a J, I wondered, until the dawn broke. Major doh! moment. Also had the JAW/SAW problem, leading me to wonder why a SETSTREAM might be indicated by arrows, and more importantly what the hell it was. Doh! redux.

Nice to see old friend ARA again. How have you been? Where you been keeping yourself? Have to say that after all this time, you're still my favorite sky altar.

Just about the right amount of challenge for a Thursday. Liked it a lot.

burtonkd 10:37 AM  

This puzzle made me frustrated with my brain for not seeing things sooner. Thought of Monty Hall immediately but ruled it out as too old a reference. Grew up in Catawba county, NC, but needed the c in carom and the w before it occurred to me. To be fair, if you grow up somewhere,you just think of a name as a name, not meaning anything. Aloha oe is a song that everyone knows without knowing they know it. Pull out a grass skirt or a plastic lei and someone will sing it and mimic a hula dance (or at least used to in less culturally sensitive/aware times).

Banana Diaquiri 11:00 AM  

it's Annie HALL, damn it.

E A 11:08 AM  

Yeah, too much obscure (to the whole, just because you say "I've heard of it before" doesn't mean the majority has) proper nouns and some non-proper. I also had crest but erased it early. My longest kept wrong answer was 9D, I kept Aretha Franklin with a big ALTO for the longest time. For the life of me, I have rarely seen a clue for AFRO that didn't make me slightly cringe. Also, the theme, there wasn't much there there. It was simultaneously too much and not enough. It definitely wasn't a Thursday level puzzle.

Banana Diaquiri 11:15 AM  

Amos Alonzo STAGG was an interesting dude. He lived to be 102

the oldest person, albeit indirectly, I've known was my karate teacher's teacher, who lived to at least 104. I moved shortly after so I don't know how old he got to be. George, of East Boston, saw him shortly after I started studying, said of him when he got back from his test: "from the neck up he looks old, but from the neck down it's like he's made of rubba". the trip last a couple of weeks, and took George to a temple in northern India. he was/is one serious dude.

GHarris 11:19 AM  

Got the theme and sloughed through most of the grid and was feeling pretty good about myself until I got to the NW which was a total disaster. Didn’t know the tribe or the billiards game so even though I sussed Ahab, totem and MGM, boo and watch tv I had to go to google and still messed up by leaving among for along

IrishCream 11:26 AM  

And definitely don’t try swapping it with olive oil.

Lee Coller 11:50 AM  

Can we please stop cluing AOL as an ISP option - yes - I know they technically still offer dialup service - but they really are an option of last resort. "Bygone supplier of free floppy disks" would be a better clue.

GILL I. 12:08 PM  

@Stanley H 10:32: You are kind and I'm flattered. My B film days are quite over. The B I now pursue is looking into Botox possibilities!
@pablo...Feliz ano nuevo. HAH. Sorry, I couldn't resist.
As for Aretha. I really wanted SOUL to fit in her 9D slot. Yes, she was the Queen....

Tom R 12:08 PM  

I started in the NE and worked my way down to the jet (whose shape I never saw, but I suppose its a B1 bomber - do those stealth jets leave contrails?), stuck Catawba in right away then the rest of the NW was gimmes. I did get stuck behind the "jet" for a while but when I put the first two cons in, the rest was a piece of cake. So for me, it was sort of average for a Thursday.

I did not like the set of rebuses grouped like that. Made it too easy once you got one. I like rebuses scattered around a puzzle especially when its not just the same old rebus for every rebus square.

MusicCrank 12:17 PM  

STAGG crossing GIRARDI? Seriously?

What? 12:19 PM  

Pretty easy once quickly got CONTRAIL and EMOTICON. The large block of blacks is a profile of a plane (stealth fighter) leaving a contrail.

Masked and Anonymous 12:27 PM  

thUmbswayUp. Primo theme idea. And primo raised-by-wolves grid symmetry.

staff weeject pick: JAW. Echoin the shape of that beautiful, ginormous hunk of black squares that's belchin out lil CON doodies in its wake.

fave fillins include: Consonant-rich WATCHTV. SKYWRITER/JETSTREAM theme cousins.

Nice Ow de Sperations: GEAROIL. SONE. Half the themers, too … but that's sure ow-k by m&e.

Took M&A forever to smell out the rebus. Was thrown way off, since no rebusers in upper puzgrid parts. This made the jet backfire area a real hornet's nest of nanosecond eaters, for quite a spell. M&A self-reproachful comments kept echoin thru his skull: "You sti-i-i-ink!"
…Speakin of which, the U-count in this ThursPuz **really** stank. It crashed & ETNA-burnt, in fact.

Thanx for gangin up on us and coolin our jets, Mary darlin & Jeff dude.
Thanx for a great subjob, Jew darlin in Texas. Check out PALO Duro Canyon (sorta near Amarillo) … it's even better than WATCHTV.

Masked & Anonymo s


Anoa Bob 12:50 PM  

The stealth bomber outline makes a grid appearance from time to time, just in a smaller version---6-block rather than today's 10-block---and always in symmetrical pairs, typically in the midwest and mideast. Interesting to see it get promoted from a grid construction device to the centerpiece of the theme, although, as Night Soil @9:52 points out, it really isn't a Stealth Bomber if it has a CONTRAIL. It's more of a SKY WRITER.

Charley 1:17 PM  

There is no such muscle as the rotator. There are a group of muscles known as the rotator cuff.

Karl Grouch 1:18 PM  

This is a Stealth bomber aircraft, kudos to the constructors for coming up with the idea and more kudos for the diagonal symmetry.
But really, there's no way I can accept ONE contrail, it defies physics. It should have been TWO contrails coming out of the extremities of the wings, which of course would have been impossible to cram in the puz.
But then again, all this may just be totally beside the point, right Rex?

pabloinnh 1:22 PM  

Oye @GILL I-igualmente! Actually your salutation couldn't be more timely, as I spent way too long in a pub last night and this morning could really use un ano nuevo. (TMI, I know, but I couldn't resist either.)

barbara 1:23 PM  

Like many, I found this tougher than the usual Thursday. But you have to admire the visuals. Morgan pointed out that SKYWRITER crossing JETSTREAM is one of the few exciting elements. But did anyone notice that SKYWRITER and JETSTREAM cross, appropriately, in what we are to presume is the sky with the stealth bomber flying up toward the northeast? Pretty cool!

Suzie Q 1:26 PM  

The shape of the grid made me suspicious from the start.
I caught the beginnings of the trick with Coney Island.
I liked that the rebus squares were part of a picture and placed in a pattern not in the usual symmetry.
The con trail thing reminded me of my half-wit neighbor who told his kids that con trails were the government spraying us with chemicals.
I worry about that guy.

OISK 1:39 PM  

Would have finished far more easily had I not immediately seen the Rebus for cones and Coney Island, but used "EYE" instead of "CON." (which works fine in that instance.) I then wasted lots of time looking for more "eyes." I eyed no others, until I was eventually "conned."

Once I made the "con"nection, it was pretty smooth sailing. I knew Catawba and Aloha Oe. Didn't know Elvis ever sang it, and never watched any of his films, but it is the only Hawaiian song I know. The Catawba? Took a course in "North American Indians," and the Catawba are part of the "C"s of the South east....Creek, Choctaw Chickasaw, Cherokee, Catawba.

This puzzle was also marvelously almost free of what annoys me, Hip hop slang, rap, product abbreviations, and acronyms! (just EPA and HRE, which are fine by me...)

Really fine Thursday puzzle! Yes it is!

puzzlehoarder 1:40 PM  

The easy part of this puzzle was of course north and east of the delta shape. I can be as dyslexic with east and west as I can with my spelling.

Interesting comments today. I never once considered SAW or MAW for 10A even though both are quite logical. CREST is logical for 16A but that's another one I never thought of. Coming up with TOTEM was the key to the NW. Before that I couldn't accept MGM as the answer for 5D even though CAROM was a suspect from the get go. The first letters of those two 5 letter entries caused CATAWBA to float to the surface. I just don't know from where. That was a great 1D entry. Not only is it a Shortz era debut but as clued it's an all time debut.

CATAWBA is a good example of what an important role recognition plays in solving. You can only recall so much but you can recognize most anything.

Besides from ITALO being a total blank today the I.S.P. in the 45D clue meant nothing to me. It's one of those acronyms I've pounded into my head but today disappeared. That just enhanced today's challenge which I really enjoyed.

PF Flyer 1:58 PM  

Just want say that the jetstream isn't really about airplanes.

Puzzled 2:21 PM  

So you had eyeEYISLAND for 32D and eyeES for 35A?

Brenden 2:26 PM  

SPIDER MAN ruined this one for me. Spiders weave webs, I get that, but what does SPIDER MAN weave? Seems to me his webs are self-weaving, or they just sort of shoot out pre-woven or something. I really wanted the Sigourney Weaver movie to be WICKER MAN, that would've made the whole puzzle.

Banana Diaquiri 2:48 PM  

@Karl Grouch
It should have been TWO contrails coming out of the extremities of the wings, which of course would have been impossible to cram in the puz.

sorry to make you grouchier, but the wingtip vortexes aren't CONTRAILS, and usually only visible in very humid air on takeoff. CONTRAILS are the effect of moist exhaust from engines condensing in the cold atmosphere of angels 30. a single plane, F-16, would have one trail. a 747 has 4. a B-52 has 8. and so on.

Jason Coffield 3:28 PM  

We had the same weather here in NW Louisiana, not far from your spot in Texas. Kept us up all night.

My time was slower than normal. Crest, saw, and took me forever to discover the rebus. I did, however, enjoy the puzzle over all.

Not noticing the Bard reference 3:40 PM  

Similarly dumb here, probably worse: I wanted Cassio to be a game company, and the rival to be Sega. And I was an English major with a concentration in the Elizabethans....

Greg 3:43 PM  

Dang. For whatever reason(s) (proper names, rebus, etc) this played like a Saturday for me. WAY over my Thursday average.

Banana Diaquiri 3:50 PM  

and, what's more, here's an article on the subject, and includes a photo of a B-2, with a single (though rather wide) CONTRAIL:

Anonymous 4:20 PM  


David 4:56 PM  

Wouldn’t be very stealthy if it left contrails. I knew it was a rebus but didn’t find it until contrails. Knew Catawba from reading Thomas Wolfe back when I was a teen. It’s also a grape variety, a river, a college, and more.

Z, since I was a child pumping gas in a friend’s station I’ve understood the W stood for “weight”. I was wrong all these decades?
And please, those of us given public grade school educations in the Northeast in the 60s are well aware of the 5 Nations, The Trail of Tears, Manifest Destiny and all that. The folks who populated my hometown, the Lenape, sold the same islands to the Dutch and English several times. People who don’t understand that that history happened a long time ago think the Lenape got played!

Doc John 5:06 PM  

Add me to the "ROTATOR is not a muscle" cohort.
This puzzle took me way over my usual Thursday time. That NW corner was brutal and the STAGG / GIRARDI cross was a total Natick. I only correctly guessed the G because my last name is Gerard and I thought, what the heck.
The jet looks like a Stealth bomber. Do they leave CON trails?
Here's a big CON that was overlooked- Comic CON (or, in my world, Coaster CON! Completely different from the other CONs, too.

Nancy 5:17 PM  

In a hurry to get outdoors into the beautiful sunshine this morning, I failed to see that I DNFed in two separate areas of this puzzle:



I forgive myself completely for the first, because of the crossing proper names.

The second is unforgivable, because SET STREAM is not a Thing. It bothered me at the time, but I was really in a hurry to get out of the house. We've had so little even remotely pleasant weather for months and months and months.

Now that I know how abjectly I failed to solve this marvelous puzzle, I find, miraculously, that I'm just as happy right now knowing it as I was earlier, not knowing it. That's what a good night's sleep and gorgeous winter weather can do for you. And so, I give you an EMOTICON-- :) Or is that an emoji?

RooMonster 5:50 PM  

Brenden 2:26
Um, check your calendar. Either you're on the wrong day, or you have the wrong puz. But, your point for YesterPuz is valid. 😀


Anonymous 6:17 PM  

A tough one, but a lot of fun. Thanks very much Ms. Guizzo and Mr. Chen!

Anthony 8:47 PM  

Did anyone else have a problem with the phone app? I solved the puzzle correctly but it said I didn't. The correct answer according to the app was Cey island, not Coney Island. Frustrating!

burtonkd 9:13 PM  

True, it is a thing entirely on its own. Planes do use it to help propulse them, which makes West to east flight times shorter.

burtonkd 9:16 PM  

My experience has been that the phone app accepts the first letter of the rebus as the answer

OISK 10:30 PM  

Puzzled said...
"So you had eyeEYISLAND for 32D and eyeES for 35A? "

If you were referring to my post, I had for 35 across, C - one - s
and for 32 down, C -one-Y island. That made 28 down "DEC," which I thought might be an abbreviation for "decontaminate."
I eventually fixed it, of course...

Fountains of Golden Fluids 11:37 PM  

Does anyone remember Contrails?

Unknown 12:10 AM  

Does anyone really see a plane in this grid?? I must be blind.

Barry Frain 12:28 AM  

Oh my god

Barry Frain
East Biggs, CA

crabsofsteel 5:32 AM  

Oh, a jet, is that what that is? I thought it was some kind of insect, a beetle perhaps. Looks more like an insect than it does a jet. HORRIBLE puzzle all around.

Whatsername 9:41 AM  

Had a busy day yesterday and did not get to the puzzle until evening. Even though it’s late, I just wanted to say I thought this was absolutely brilliant! Kudos to the constructors for an amazing accomplishment. It was tough but extremely satisfying. Well done!

+wordphan 1:20 PM  


+wordphan 1:22 PM  

Now that I’m up and running on here, I’d like to ask a question, please.
Why is this called a REBUS?
A rebus is a representation by pictures and symbols. This does not qualify as a rebus. We had them in grammar school.

kitshef 4:33 PM  

@+wordphan - Once upon a time puzzles might have a star or a cat in that type of square, which could be graphically rendered when solving on paper. With the move to online solving, there was no way to reproduce the image, so instead you would have to type s-t-a-r or c-a-t in those squares. Rather than have one term for those squares if you solve on paper and a different term if you solve online, folks just called them all rebuses.

Then came the day when someone used one of those squares for something that could not be represented graphically, (like C-O-N). Again, no one wanted to have to invent a new name for those squares, so they stuck with the increasingly inaccurate word 'rebus'. And now, many people in the crossworld don't even know the original use - a rebus has simply become any square with multiple letters.

spacecraft 10:15 AM  

I too was faked out, believing I finished in only two Rexes, but no. Anyway, the key SW is where I broke in, having finally found Coach STAGG. So it wasn't long before I realized that there was a CONTRAIL of CONs. (And I too am thankful that OFL didn't get to bitch about the WARplane.)

This is a Thursday with plenty of meat and potatoes to it. Inventive cluing ensured a good exercise for the ol' gray cells, as one might expect from either or both of these CONstructors. Certainly innovative, and with several theme adjuncts (WAR, SKYWRITER, JETSTREAM). Good stuff.*

One of the last entries I filled, TTOP was disappointing, but that's about it, YESITIS. Searching for a DOD, I found Ann Wilson, lead singer of HEART. Hey, you take 'em where you can. Solid birdie.

spacecraft 10:17 AM  

Oh yeah: *Please don't read into my post that I think WAR is good stuff.

Burma Shave 12:00 PM  


flying a JETSTREAM or an air WAR fighter,
to make an EMOTICON as a SKYWRITER.


rondo 1:40 PM  

Well, my family TOTEM was a 'crest' for far too long, so the NW was blank until well after the CONTRAIL was discovered . . . at CONTRAIL, appropriately. Only after that TRAIL of CONs did I realize that large black area was a plane.

If you WATCHTV using an AERIAL (as we used to call the antenna) I'm pretty sure that "Movies" in February will be featuring Norma RAE starring yeah baby Sally Field.

There are definitely more CONs than pros in this puz. Har. If you're into rebusinees you might as well make it all different. Interesting CONcept.

leftcoastTAM 3:59 PM  

Tough and tricky with some elusive cluing. To be expected where Jeff Chen is involved, not to minimize Mary Lou Guizzo's part in their very clever work here.

Finding the tail end of the CONTRAIL at TELECON opened it up, lead by a stealth bomber, no less. Then the NW and SW corners slowed things down for a while. CATAWBA and MONTY helped in those corners, while STAGG and theme-supporting JET STREAM helped clear up the other two.

Felt good to finish this one. Thanks, Mary Lou and Jeff.

Diana, LIW 4:42 PM  

Hand p for CREST vs. TOTEM. But eventually, I had it all, except the rebi. Knew it was a rebium, even knew a dron does RECON, but...

Then I cheated, and then I finished. That's my sad tale of Thursday.

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords - and yes, a rebus has a picture!

thefogman 11:04 PM  

I didn't like this one too much. Felt I got CONned. Next!

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