Boardom / THU 1-3-19 / Best selling erotic novelist Leigh / Followers of Baal Shem Tov / Crystallizing substance in Kurt Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Constructor: Timothy Polin

Relative difficulty: Medium to Medium-Challenging (5:59)


THEME: WALL — east and west halves of grid are completely separated by line of black squares. Three different answers jump the wall at the word WALL, so that the black square wall actually represents the word "WALL":

Theme answers:
  • DESKTOP (WALL) PAPER (19A: With 20-Across, pattern in back of a window) 
  • "WOLF OF (WALL) STREET" (35A: With 37-Across, hit Leonardo DiCaprio film, with "The")
  • STONE(WALL) JACKSON (50A: With 52-Across, commander at the First Battle of Bull Run)
Word of the Day: ICE-NINE (17A: Crystallizing substance in Kurt Vonnegut's "Cat's Cradle")
Ice-nine is a fictional material that appears in Kurt Vonnegut's novel Cat's Cradle. Ice-nine is described as a polymorph of water which instead of melting at 0 °C (32 °F), melts at 45.8 °C (114.4 °F). When ice-nine comes into contact with liquid water below 45.8 °C, it acts as a seed crystal and causes the solidification of the entire body of water, which quickly crystallizes as more ice-nine. As people are mostly water, ice-nine kills nearly instantly when ingested or brought into contact with soft tissues exposed to the bloodstream, such as the eyes or tongue. (wikipedia)
• • •

LOL building a wall (!) two days after putting a racial slur against Mexicans in the puzzle. You NYT guys are on Fire!


So ... yup, it's a wall. So what? I've seen walls in puzzles before—grids with apparently completely segmented parts that end up being connected somehow. I wanted this one to do something, to have some meaning, some coherence, I don't know ... anything. But it's just a WALL. A senseless wall. Well at least we didn't throw a ton of money at it or creating child internment camps along it. I guess that's a plus.


This played alternative easy and hard for me. Very hard to start (in the NW), as I haven't read Vonnegut since high school and LECARRÉ was very hidden by his "?" clue (15A: Author known for the intelligence of his writing?), and DEEP does not mean [Not easily understood] in my world ("profound" is not the same as "confusing" or "recondite" or "unclear") and DESKTOP (WALL)PAPER was by far the hardest of the three themers to get, and it starts in the NW. Also [Chasséd] meant nothing to me (GLIDED). So that corner was fun. Could not remember the DiCaprio movie at all for a bit, even after having W-L-O- in place. But after that answer fell, things sped up considerably (largely because I understood the theme). Eastern part of the grid was much easier, though again the top part proved thorny, as the clue on HASIDIM wasn't much help (and HASIDIM's an odd plural anyway), and I had YUM for 14D: "Scrumptious!" and AXMAN is a guitar player to me, not an actual guy with an actual ax(e). Oh and DEGREASE was not clear to me at all, either (12D: Prepare, as hides for tanning).  Finished with a couple of wrong squares because I somehow wrote in ENTENTE instead of DETENTE at 60A: Reduction of tension and just forgot to check the crosses.


When my puzzle wasn't accepted, I thought for sure my error was at the PUP / PEN crossing, which I did not understand at all. Note: kind of a dick move to cross two "?" clues. Anyway, PUP seemed unimpeachable (38D: Lightweight boxer?). A boxer PUP would indeed be comparatively lightweight. Got it. But the clue on PEN made no sense to me at all (45A: Boardom?). I kept going through the different meanings of PEN that I know, and none of them had anything to do with "board" that I could see. Eventually, I realized that it was the world of boars, not boards, that the clue was interested in. And somehow boar-dom are all ... in ... PENs? There are all kinds of boars all over the world, and why would I think that a clue referencing the entire boar world would lead me just to some stupid enclosure on some stupid farm? Constructors/editors should not fall in love with your own "?" cleverness. Those clues have to land perfectly or they are Not worth it.

See you tomorrow!

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

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]

100 comments:

Lewis 7:43 AM  

There was enough trickiness and unknowns to make the solve satisfying, a squeaky clean grid, and perhaps the first DOOK of the year in PERSE, but I kept wondering who this Stone Steel-Slats Jackson person was.

Loren Muse Smith 7:53 AM  

My, my. A wall. How timely. I caught on fairly quick but was almost expecting all the black squares to have a “wall” in them. In retrospect, I get that that’d be pretty much impossible.

Very cool grid and theme.

Don’t we all know someone who is Always too SOFT-SPOKEN? I worked at a hotel in Chapel Hill, and the woman who ran the gift shop was awful about this. I don’t understand how anyone could enjoy?/not notice?/ not care? that every one of her utterances elicits a Come again? My husband says it’s a power issue, but he says that about everything.

Is DESKTOP WALLPAPER the same as what I call the “background?” I change mine everyday so that my smartboard shows some kind of startling example of English. Foreign menus, cakes, misspelled signs… Most times we can kinda figure out the meaning, but this one’s a poser. Ok - one last head-scratcher.

I get a kick out of verbing nouns - duh. So I liked both “stomach” clues. We also elbow people, eye weirdos, knee perverts, knuckle down, finger the Hermes scarf until you’re asked to leave, shoulder the blame, thumb a ride, foot the bill. Neck, until you’re asked to leave Actually, I like any kind of anthimeria, (preposition>verb: up the ante, down the beer, adjective>noun: I’ll get you my pretty, and your little dog, too) but trying to get everyone to enjoy the playwithableness of language is a big ask.

Bagelboy 7:56 AM  

HASIDIM is not an odd plural. Adding the IM sound to a noun in Hebrew makes it a plural. Also no problem with the Boardom clue, except that I wrote in STY very early and had to fix later.

Z 7:58 AM  

I like the puzzle fine. I thought the wall was a funny little conceit.

Since I’m sure the conversation will devolve I’m outta here for the day. Let me leave you with a question. If it is an economic good for capital to move freely across borders why is it not an economic good for labor to move freely across borders?

Hungry Mother 8:03 AM  

Needed IDLE from my wife when I realized that wiLE wouldn’t work. Also took a while to give up yuM and put in MMM. I saw the “wall” right away, but still took longer than usual.

kitshef 8:28 AM  

I was really hoping there was some extra element to the theme that I was missing, because there is just no there there. The fill is very nice, though.

Wondering if @Lewis includes the implied double-Ls in the WALLs in his count.

Enjoyed the drug-heavy SW corner with LSD, TOKER, STONE, USERS.

ghthree 8:38 AM  

This story reminded me of an oldie, but appropriate to the times:

Every day a religious Jew was seen davening in front of the Western Wall in Jerusalem. One day, a non-observant Israeli walked up to him and said, "I see you here every day, seven days a week. Tell me, what are you praying to G-d for?" To this, the man replied, "I am telling G-d of my tsuris (troubles), of my financial problems, about my daughter who can't find a husband, and asking him to help me." "Well," the secular Jew asked, "does He send you help?" The man turned to him and said, "No, but what do you expect? It's like talking to a wall."

My wife and I solve on paper over breakfast. Neither of us saw the clue to 25 Down until we had it from crosses. It took a while before I realized the name of the British Prime Minister.

In my fantasies, she calls for a new election, loses her majority, and Labour calls a new referendum, resulting in a decision to Stay in. Might happen, who knows?

Happy New Year, everybody.

michiganman 8:42 AM  

Well, 1A starts the puzzle off with a bad connotation in GRABBED, bringing to mind Agent Orange's infamous quote and all the sexual assaults that have occurred, known and not known.


The rest of the puzzle: I liked it. The theme was pretty good but only 3 answers for putting the wall down the center of the grid. (I'll leave comments about Donny's wall to others) I enjoyed RASSLE, clue for PUP, SPELUNKING is a great word and fun to say out loud. Try it. Square 14 was my undoing. I had uMM, and Hasidiu seemed OK since I didn't actually know. 9D, AXMAN, brought to mind a Seinfeld episode. look here

Anonymous 8:43 AM  

Great puzzle-through-it experience, easy for a Thursday, sty for pen. Not sure why we're supposed to know Chassed though.

Suzie Q 8:45 AM  

Wonderful puzzle that really required some mental calisthenics.
So many possible answers but only a certain few would make this fit together...like a puzzle!
Now to click on @ Loren's links to see what she's up to today.

'merican in Paris 8:56 AM  

Wow, a wall! As @LMS said, "How timely." But I agree with the others that, in the end, I was slightly disappointed that there wasn't greater USE made of it. What are the other black squares supposed to represent, flying buttresses? In any case, Polin's wall is, like most, porous.

I must admit that I approached this puzzle with great trepidation. But then I guessed at LE CARRE, and knew ICE NINE, so that gave me some confidence to continue. Got the theme at STONE(WALL) JACKSON. In the end I had to look up the meeting of "C" and who was "", so DNF.

P.S. to @kitshef: Great observation! You could also add TATE (e.g., brownies), TAKE, and even INERT to that list, as well as the partials LALA and PIPE.

P.P.S. to @LMS: What fascinates me are verb-proposition combinations, which are particularly Anglo-Saxon, and are a challenge to folks for whom English is a second language. Just think of the diverse meanings one gets just by changing the preposition following "STAND".

STAND AGAINST
STAND BEFORE
STAND BY
STAND DOWN (a BRITishism)
STAND FAST
STAND FOR
STAND OFF
STAND ON
STAND UP
STAND WITH

etc., etc. These types of combinations create almost infinite possibilities.

Lewis 9:00 AM  

@kitshef -- It never crossed my mind, but good question! Even had they counted, the puzzle still doesn't have a significant number of alphadoppels.

mmorgan 9:07 AM  

This puzzle was impossible for a long time. Then I pieced together STONEWALL JACKSON, and the rest fell in about, um, 8 seconds. Except, that is, the NW, which was impossible again. Gradually things came in, but I ended up with a personal Natick at ICEN-NE/ER-O. I came here expecting to learn about some pattern I failed to discern in the structure of the WALL, but no, it’s just a random wall with grandiosity but little function. Hmmm...

Anonymous 9:08 AM  

Interestingly, I had to look up the the word "recondite" after seeing it mentioned in the write-up, only to see it defined as "dealing with very profound, difficult, or abstruse subject matter."

Anonymous 9:13 AM  

Capital moves freely across borders with regulations in place.

orangeblossomspecial 9:22 AM  

For shame! Rex used 'dick' in one of his explanations: "kind of a dick move". Has he no sense of decency to use a vulgar body part in the text? Next he'll want to use 'beaner' somewhere.

'merican in Paris 9:29 AM  

Forgot to finish the sentence: "In the end I had to look up the meeting of "Chassed" and who was "Baal Shem Tov", so DNF.

QuasiMojo 9:32 AM  

I expected Rex to launch into another blistering tirade about the offensiveness of Stonewall Jackson being in the puzzle. Heaven forfend! A Confederate, and one who fought against Mexicans prior to the Civil War! Statues of Confederates are now being destroyed or relocated. There’s even a movement against Stone Mountain which features Stonewall Jackson. No doubt with good reason but where does it end? Where do you draw the line with these harangues? Till all history is wiped off the face of the earth? And what of this Wolf of Wall Street? It’s insulting to hardworking investment strategists to liken them to wolves. Talk about stereotyping! Where’s Elizabeth Warren when you need her? Oh yeah, running for president. “Mr. Trumpachev, tear down this wall...” There is little consistency in the PC patrol. I guess it depends on what your PUP peeves are or what side you rolled out of your futon this morning rather than any DEEP rational thinking. I’d say more but I have a frog in my throat. Wait. Scratch that. Using the word frog is offensive these days. I’m a chauvinist pig. Talk about BOARDOM.

@Loren, I know what you mean about “soft spoken” people. There’s a lady I see often who talks so quietly I have to lean in so close we’re practically necking. I suspect it has something to do with how sound is delivered in her eardrums. Maybe she thinks she’s being loud. Maybe I’ll bring an ear horn with me next time we have coffee together.

The puzzle today made me guffaw from the sheer audacity of it. Well done.

Anonymous 9:41 AM  

Crossing ERNO/ICENINE is ridiculous. I had zero idea on either and guessed ERCO/ICENICE. Seem equally plausible as words, to me.

Anonymous 9:43 AM  

I usually spell Hasidim as Chassidim, so it went well with 1A Chasséd

William F. Hattar 9:45 AM  

@Rex I think "boardom" might be in the sense of boarding a PUP aka, putting it in a PEN, and using -om as in kingdOM. My best guess, but yeah, not well done.

Odd Sock 9:53 AM  

Very nice mix of good old fashioned toughness with a dash of rebus.
Besides @ michiganman 8:42 reminding us of a great Seinfeld episode, when I got to "soft spoken" I too thought of Seinfeld. The one with the "low talker" that led to the infamous puffy shirt.
Before reading Rex I hoped we finally had a puzzle with no controversy. I guess if you look hard enough for trouble you will find it.

IrishCream 9:55 AM  

I had PUN instead of PEN for a while. I mean, Boardom isn’t a terribly funny pun, but still less of a reach than PEN for me.

Anonymous 9:57 AM  

Nice use of Jeff Rosenstock song! People should check him out!

Uncle Alvarez 10:04 AM  

@QuasiMojo, don’t quit your day job Chief.

GILL I. 10:06 AM  

GLIDED? Really? Chasse in French means chase. What did I miss? What a strange clue for 1D.
Had to go down to get the invisible wall at STONE....JACKSON. Oh, ok, figure out the rest of the walls. Scratch head and say "Is that it?"
I didn't know you DEGREASE a hide for tanning. Had HASIDIc for a while. Couldn't figure out De profundis=PSALM and the list went on. Once the missing wall became apparent the rest was filling in the blanks.
@ghthree 8:38. Thank you for the morning laugh. I hadn't hear that joke...worth repeating. Also, you're not the only one with that fantasy. My BRITish in-laws have the same one. Talk about building a WALL!
Hamburguesas y hot dogs.

Distancia Horticrux 10:10 AM  

Methinks WS is just trying to be, what the internets now calls, "edgy." That is to say, he's trying way too hard to be provocative bordering on being a troll. His recent choices for questionable words having to do with racism, nationalism, and other "provocative" public figures, and of course his intentional and belligerent use of beaner despite being told what it meant in actuality and despite that it's not even a baseball term, are all ways someone who is trying to be "edgy" ends up just hamfistedly mucking things up. It's tone deaf for the sake of being tone deaf.

He can sit at his editorial desk and think to himself how much "buzz" his puzzles are creating, but it's the wrong kind of buzz. It's just WTF.

Funny and maybe somewhat ironically, many commenters here would like for this blog and these comments and the NYT xword puzzles to just "be about the puzzle." After all, it's "just a puzzle." But WS seems intent on walking some fine line that could be one way...or could be another. If you criticize that it is "edgy" in a bad way, he's likely to just shrug and point out they're just words. (Or if really pressed, he might offer a non-apology.) But he continues to include words and thoughts and symbols that continue to push the buttons that he can deny he pushed...all passive-aggressive like.

To many here, Rex's objections seem conspiratorial and claim it's just a puzzle. They are right in their way, but given WS's choices of themes, words, and symbols, Rex is right in his way too. That's the "edgy" part of WS's style here. There is reasonable enough doubt that he can hide behind the "it's just a puzzle" innocence BS, while still being all "edgy" and like the "youths" these days. I halfway surmise WS reads Reddit daily.

These days our country is deeply divided...pretty much as divided as 1862 America, indeed, it is just as deeply vehement and volatile as that time period was. Now with a democratic congress, it's going to get even more conflicted. Given that, there is zero need to push this button. Do I want all daisies and unicorns? No. But Jeebus Aitch, show some restraint...show some art...show some nuance already.

Bree140 10:16 AM  

If HASIDIM is an "odd plural", would cherubim" and "seraphim"
also be considered "odd plural[s]"? Such provincialism ...

pmdm 10:20 AM  

Double reaction to today's puzzle. Loved the concept even if I've seen it before but did not like the solve, even with getting the hidden rebus theme early on. Perhaps my reaction the the PPP.

QuasiMojo (did I spell that right?): Enjoyed your post. You ask a very tough question. As an example, when does ribbing morph into bullying? Some people have thick skins, others don't. I suppose intent has something to do with it, but these days there seems to be an assumption of bad intent.

burtonkd 10:24 AM  

Curious about how the soft talking thing happens. I am regularly at public events where people are given a mic in a small enough room that none is required. Some people still talk so quietly while holding the mic away from their face that you can’t hear them. I wonder why they feel compelled to speak in public if they can’t project at all. While on soft talkers, there is the famous Seinfeld episode about exactly that. I really enjoyed that show at the time, but it’s strangely does not hold up so well most of the time. My teenagers can’t stand it.

@quasi - agreed about infinite reach of PC patrol line of thought. Today I don’t see logically how mentioning a very-deliberately-hurtful-to-Mexicans wall (and joking about it: what privilege!) is less insensitive to this mythical injured-by-existence-of-a-word-Mexican than using beaner in a clearly different context.

Isn’t "backwoods" a euphemism for non standard English speaking rednecks while we are at it?

Was trying to remember my ballet steps from the year I was in the nutcracker as a young boy - insert snowflake joke here___


IrishCream 10:26 AM  

In ballet, a chassé is a glide across the floor.

Sir Hillary 10:27 AM  

Kind of meh for a Thursday -- decent enough but a little underbaked. I liked yesterday's better.

On the plus side, any mention of my all-time favorite author John LeCarré is always welcome.

As if BEANER itself weren't terrible enough, it appears to have triggered @Rex to such a degree that he delivers an over-the-top rant against a puzzle running two days later. I expect we'll have to deal with this for a while.

IrishCream 10:29 AM  

Ribbing morphs into bullying when the person who’s being ribbed isn’t laughing. Pretty simple.

Roo Monster 10:30 AM  

Hey All !
*Raises hand* to be added to the list who got stuck in NW ERNO and the crosses. Tried all sorts of things, EnzO, EttO, ERsO. Ugh-O. Also NE with that way odd IRA clue, and not knowing HASIDIM took a while to figure. Why not get a cutesy clue for IRA that doesn't involve the Army? Like 'Uses after work?'

Figured out the WALL at STONE WALL JACKSON. Only three WALLs which seemed a tad small for there being a WALL right down the middle. But, it does have nice open corners, which I'm sure were hard to fill.

Amazed at @LMS's post. She had to stop mid post to imbed 5 links. Wow! I lose my train of thought while posting! Never mind stoppin to imbed stuff, which takes some time. Impressive. Even though I still disagree on Stinger. 😀

DETENTE WALL SINGERS
RooMonster
DarrinV

Nikki Karam 10:34 AM  

This was a fun and fast one for me— except it took *ten extra minutes* to find my error at PUP/PEN. I had guessed at PUG and didn’t understand the “Boardom?” clue. Oof.

Nancy 10:48 AM  

So sometimes the wall is a wall. And sometimes the wall is not a wall. And only the constructor knows for sure.

Is this a spoof of what Trump is planning to build on the Southern border? (Assuming he gets his $5 billion, which I sure hope he doesn't.) If so, it's going to be one very peculiar wall.

At any rate, this is one weird puzzle. It will be interesting to see what everyone else thinks. I'll go back now to see. And while I do, I'll check on whether or not I Naticked on the ICENI?E/ER?O cross. I was so uninterested in the identity of that letter that I forgot to look.

GHarris 11:03 AM  

Okay, a wall with lots of gaps. So what else is new? @Z I suppose the argument would be that labor requires care and can vote.On the other hand capital is often able to buy the vote. Yea Citizens United! @ ghthree enjoyed the wall story. Can’t wait for Humpty Dumpty to fall off his friggin wall. All the King’s men are on the way.

JOHN X 11:07 AM  

Until I got the theme I kept trying to fit IRVIN MCDOWELL in the 50/52A slot.

I'm awesome.

P.S. I'm sitting in a bar at O'Hare Airport getting hammered at 10 AM. My flight to LAX is delayed because they can't find the pilot.

CDilly52 11:12 AM  

Got the “wall” conceit immediately with both THE WOLF OF and STONE, but expected much much more especially on a Thursday (yes, after yesterday, I was certain that today is Thursday). So as a theme, nothing special. As a puzzle, some cleverness, for example loved “Boardom.” Took me a while but I chuckled. And we had plenty of easy ones to help with the tricky places. SOFTSPOKEN made me think of the Seinfeld “low talker” episode. Overall enjoyable albeit a tad easy for Thursday - and I am not complaining!

Isandxan 11:13 AM  

Hands up for PUg instead of PUP, but I found the error in the end. ICENINE crossing ERNO Is a Natick waiting to happen or those of us who (a) don’t use cosmetics and (b) went to high school and college in regions of the country that limit the exposure to books by Vonnegut / Salinger / Golding or anyone else on the ever growing list of banned books that might make people think. But I guessed correctly.

First thought on getting the gimick was “seriously? This week? After beaner?” I don’t lose my mind over stuff like this, but it does seem tone deaf. And for the people who are snowflakes about “snowflakes”, I always wonder whatever happened to just basic politeness and consideration for others? Having grown up where conservatism ruled (see author discussion, above) and we learned about the “war of northern aggression”, we were always taught to be polite and consider others in our public discourse, oh bless ol’ heart. Somehow the conservative side of the world decided to change basic manners into being “PC”, and so now we have people fighting for the right to publicly offend (outside of comedy, real issue discourse, etc.). I still don’t get it, but I expect the NYT to do better.

Banana Diaquiri 11:14 AM  

@orangeblossomspecial:
For shame! Rex used 'dick' in one of his explanations: "kind of a dick move". Has he no sense of decency to use a vulgar body part in the text? Next he'll want to use 'beaner' somewhere.

well... then you hadn't better read the review of "Girl" in the rest of the Arts section. spoiler alert!!

Banana Diaquiri 11:20 AM  

@Nancy:
Is this a spoof of what Trump is planning to build on the Southern border?

one might hope so. if you ignore the rantings of Orange Julius Caesar, and do some digging into what's been done about border security over the last couple of decades (or six, going back to 'Operation Wetback'), you'll see that most of what is not barriered yet is in southern Texas, and those folks want no part of it. and $25 billion to keep out a few thousand folks a year who get by current measures? you could give each one in a McMansion!! and then they'd have enough to buy a precious iPhone X!! Tim Cook would be thankful.

RAD2626 11:28 AM  

I am totally shocked at the lukewarm reaction to this puzzle all around. I thought it was terrific. The grid is bizarre and very clever; the use of a "wall" - any wall not THE wall - as a quasi rebus is great. . The three connectors are real things and fun and the four long downs would shine in a Friday or Saturday themeless. This was one of my favorite puzzles of the last few months (I was going to say of the year but talk about damnation by faint praise!). Much better than many recent Thursday offerings.

Malsdemare 11:28 AM  

A boar is also a male domestic pig, the meaning I saw first. Since they are "intact," as we say in the dog world, penning them up is a good idea.

I struggled in the NW along with everyone else, finally got the trick at STONEWALL JACKSON. Per usual, I failed to take umbrage at what set Rex off and thought the puzzle was a nice challenge. And that's all I'm saying about that. I got WOLF OF WALLSTREET once I picked up on the wall and that really helped with the NW where I finally saw WALLPAPER, and with what I already had, finally put in DESKTOP. Ballet is deep in my past (60 years) so chasséd was only dimly remembered and its meaning completed in the wind. But I got 'er done. I thought this was a pretty terrific puzzle: fun gimmick, lots of great vocab (HASIDIM, PIPETTE, ASEPSIS, SPELUNKING, RASSLING. And our tartan-wearing folks were a CLAN, not Scots. So there's that.

@LMS how you can come up woth all those examples at 0-dark-30 is beyond me. Applause!

Thanks, Mr. Polin.

Anonymous 11:29 AM  

I just went back to see if there was any late commenting from yesterday. There was and it really cracked me up. Someone who didn't know the offense of beaner thought it might be a person who farted a lot!

ghostoflectricity 11:33 AM  

Not that hard once I figured out the completely tasteless and (ironically) clueless "theme." What were the NYT constructors and Shortz thinking? Is this supposed to be an ironic statement about Trump and his "base's" obsession with the completely useless, dog-whistle-echoing, right-wing-conspiracy-generate LIE about a wall with our increasingly alienated neighbor, Mexico? If so, it fell completely flat (so to speak) and if not, are you telling me Shortz & Co. endorse this? They're actually Trumpistas? Most distasteful and despicable themer I've ever seen, and I've been doing the NYT crossword in print for 40+ years. Shame, shame, shame on you.

Nancy 11:40 AM  

The low talker episode -- the one with the puffy shirt -- is my favorite Seinfeld of all time. Thanks to @michiganman and to @Odd Sock for mentioning it. My other favorite Seinfeld is one less known, I think: the Suzie/Elaine, Elaine/Suzie episode. While there are HEAPS of classic Seinfeld shows, all of them pretty nifty, these are the two that made me laugh uncontrollably until my ribs hurt.

And thanks, @ghthree (8:38) for that great Jewish joke. I'm amazed I never heard it before, but it's priceless.

@JOHN X (11:07) -- I agree. Getting hammered is the only sensible thing to do under the circumstances. Wishing you a pilot real soon.

@Quasi (9:32) -- Nice rant, and very timely.

Banana Diaquiri 11:45 AM  

and... since when is HASSIDIM spelled with one S?

Aketi 11:48 AM  

@lms, another great avatar.

Personally, I initially thought of the black line as a gap and couldn’t understand why you would have one down the middle of a cross word puzzle. Wasn’t there a mind the gap puzzle? Really the implied WALLs in the puzzle are just bridges across the chasm running down the middle. They are not really WALLs at all. They could be overpasses instead of bridges..

My father always tried to build fences (which are really only miniWALL) to keep critters out of our backyard. That taught me the futility of fences and walls. Critters always find a way over, under, through and around. Humans have even more capacity to do so. I grew up in earthquake territory so WALLs have always seemed potentially dangerous, not protective, to me.

It also looks like the crevice that is developing between the counter top around our sink and the kitchen WALL where the caulking has started to disintegrate. Makes me want to go to the hardware store to find something to fill it in.

@Quasi, I think an argument could be made in the other direction. Much of the history of minorities and women has been neglected and fewer monuments have been dedicated to their accomplishments. Furthermore, there are far more monuments erected to honor those who enslaved, discriminated against, and harmed minority populations than there are memorials to those harmed by them. The statue of James Marion Sims in Central Park is a case in point. They removed it and left the base for the statue and it’s ugly. The explanation on the base isn’t adequate to the full extent of the controversy, He did improve surgical techniques that improved gynecological care to women, but at a deep cost to minority women who he experimented on under coercive circumstances with no anesthesia. I think a memorial to those women should have been built around his statue so that we never forget them with references to many of the other instances of medical experimentation without consent. I also think there should be at least as many memorials for those who were enslaved as there are for confederate confederate generals as a reminder that the Civil War was not merely about states rights. FYI, the most disturbing and moving memorial I ever visited was the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum in Phnom Pehn. Genocide is horrific no matter what rationale humans use to justify it.

Aketi 11:57 AM  

I loved the ICE NINE reference.

JC66 12:00 PM  

@Aketi

Although I didn't find the theme objectionable, I'd like to point out (in a soft voice) that the three themers are separated by a WALL.

pabloinnh 12:02 PM  

Maybe I'm the only one who looked at this and thought boy oh boy, two puzzles on a Thursday. Occasionally it feels like four when the corners are more or less separate but these were actually separated so, now what? Knew WOLFOFWALLSTREET, of course, so ignored the blank space and wrote in WOLFOFWALLST which fits nicely but totally messes up the eastern region so after some fixes, the trick became apparent. Neat.

Boar=pig leading to pigpen. If your pig gets out of a pigpen it can destroy your clay tennis court. Take my word for it.

ICENINE a gimme. KV had a bleak view of much of humanity and would probably be disgusted and amused by our current situation.

Fun puzzle(s).

BarbieBarbie 12:22 PM  

@Mericans and @LMS, my favorite repurposing of parts of speech that messes up speakers of pretty much all non-English languages is e.g. “what it looks like” or semi-equivalently “how it looks.” SO many people come out with “How it looks like,” whether they come from Hamburg or Buenos Aires. It must be a super-weird Englishism. What’s the explanation?

old timer 12:31 PM  

Well to bear in mind that when a puzzle is submitted and accepted, neither constructor nor editor knows what the political question of the hour will be when the puzzle is printed.

Or as Freud might have said, "Sometimes a WALL is just ... a WALL."

QuasiMojo 12:49 PM  

To those who responded to my earlier post, thank you. I wasn’t taking sides. I was just reacting to the arbitrariness of so much of these debates. I am against cruelty and injustice in all aspects of life. But I think we need to confront them intelligently and with consistency rather than hatred and name-calling. @Aketi, I couldn’t agree more. I think we were saying the same thing only your comments were much clearer. To Uncle Alvarez, if I had a day job I wouldn’t feel the need to go on too long on here. I could vent my spleen in endless memoranda. But point taken. Thanks.

Joseph M 12:53 PM  

Even though there's a WALL from coast to coast, three themers managed to get through it. So much for the security of fifth-century solutions. Show me a twelve-foot wall and I’ll show you a thirteen-foot ladder.

Classic grid which gives us two puzzles in one. For me, Puzzle East was much less friendly than Puzzle West. I knew the answer was HASIDIM but didn’t know how to spell it and had no idea what you do with your hides before taking them to the tanning parlor. Then there’s that germ-free state to complicate matters.

@ John X, I’m also in a bar at O’Hare waiting for my plane. Maybe we’ll end up sitting together.Do you prefer window or aisle and how will I know it’s really you?

Teedmn 1:01 PM  

A nice, mild Thursday theme. I thought yesterday's puzzle was more Thursday-ish but this is good too. Kind of got it at 35A and confirmed at 50A.

So far I haven't seen that anyone else was flummoxed by thinking of engine chassis when looking at chassed in 1D. Luckily I guessed correctly at ICE NINE (thought perhaps that aCENINE might be a cute Vonnegut play on words but I decided ICE was better as a "crystalling substance".

Other than ASEPtIS for a moment, this went fairly smoothly. I did think HASIDry might be a thing when "Scrumptious" was maybe yuM but I recognized HASIDIM after it arrived.

"Boardom" = PEN, great clue and answer!

Thanks, Timothy Polin!

Masked and Anonymous 1:06 PM  

Grid fork!
Interestin puzstats. Only 68 words, despite everything gettin mighty cramped up by the wall. Grid design cuts down amazinly well on the 3-letter weejects (10) and 4-letter ERNOjects (18).

This woulda been the perfecto puz for a collusion … er … collaboration between two constructioneers. Theme idea is kinda different, which is always good to have. It's sorta like havin a "WALL" rebus usin 3 black squares in a rebus-themer context.

Like many folks, last gasp guess came at the ERNO/ICENINE crossin. Guessed the "N" correctly, since "U" was unfortunately outta the question. ASEPSIS/DEGREASE /EXODERM/HASIDIM was no picnic, either … lost precious nanoseconds. WISE/PUP/PEN also had some 'tude to it, but survived that one without undo alarm [sic].

fave long-ball fillin was SPELUNKING. Maybe theme-related, if it's a WALL to a cave.
BANKTELLER is a bit desperate as the symmetric themer, tho … BANK is sorta like a WALL … U can bank stuff offa WALL … etc. Like I was just sayin … a bit desperate; would never get it thru Congress.

staff weeject pick: PEN & PUP. As @RP pointed out, they sport crossin ?-clues. Almost as bad as one ??-clue.

Thanx for the wallowin-good fun, Mr. Polin.

Masked & Anonymo[1U in W sector, 1U in E sector]s


**gruntz**

'merican in Paris 1:10 PM  

"Show me a twelve-foot wall and I’ll show you a thirteen-foot ladder." -- @Josph M

Or longer: check out this telescopic ladder. It extends to 5.6 meters, which is 18 feet, 5 inches. Relatively compact to carry, and once on top of a wall you can pull it up and then re-extend it down the other side.

Masked and Anonymous 1:13 PM  

p.s.
Suggested award for best wall of shame entry:
The DETENTE WALL SINGERS.

M&Also

Aketi 1:15 PM  

@JC66 I didn’t think that I implied that I found the theme objectionable, it just didn’t visually strike me as a wall. In fact the old AMALGAM that dentists used to use and created cracks in teeth made me think it looks like a molar with a crack down the middle and the WALLS might be the first attempt at filling in the cracks with AMALGAM.

@M&A SPELUNKING down a WALL into a cave is a much better image than dental work.

@SJW, they aren’t minorities in their own country, The Smithsonian has an exhibit called “The Price of Freedom: Americans at War”. I am sure the Library of Congress has plenty of documentation on the complex controversies and some of the atrocities that occurred during the Vietnam War as well.

Cassieopia 1:18 PM  

Great puzzle, thank you Mr. Polin. I desperately wanted some shelves along with that wall - shelf liner? continental shelf? shelf-perpetuating? I wrote a much longer thank you, complete with a recap of solving experience, but Google ate it. But your puzzle was so enjoyable that I am attempting a re-post on the strength of the puzzle's excellence. Just had to say thank you for a memorable puzzle and solving experience.

Teedmn 1:21 PM  

Further reflection on chassed has me thinking of "sashay" mixed with "sass".

jae 1:28 PM  

Medium-tough sounds right. Clever and fun. Me too for NW was the toughest. DESKTOP did not come easily. Finally caught the theme with STONE // JACKSON. Liked it a bunch!

@Gill I - re: late yesterday: from a fellow scotch drinker, nicely said.

Masked and Anonymous 1:29 PM  

p.p.s.s.
@ Cassieopia 1:18PM: Well, hey -- they did have a primo WALL SAFE at 29-Down, at least.

M&A Help Desk

Anonymous 1:36 PM  

Fun puzzle. Thanks very much Mr. Polin.

Anoa Bob 1:54 PM  

When I saw the clue "Chasséd" for 1D, and filled in GLIDED, I went straightaway to my trusty hard-copy Random House Webster's College Dictionary to see if it might be related to a word I remember from my childhood, "Sashay". The first definition listed is the one I remember, "To walk, move, or proceed easily or nonchalantly", and, ta-da, the origin is given as 1830-40, Amer.: metathetic var. of CHASSÉ. Woo-hoo!

Spellcheck doesn't recognize "metathetic", so that's the next place I went. It's from "metathesis" meaning "the transposition of letters, syllables, or sounds in a word". So Chassé to Sashay. Cool, right? You savvy?

While I was there, I looked up "beaner". It's not listed. Bean-ball, yes. Beanery, yes. Beaner, no. Should I donate my Random House to the NYTXW staff?

For those keeping score at home, we have another S in the lower, right-hand corner.

Carola 2:10 PM  

Difficulty meter registered Challenging. DNF on a couple of fronts.
Delight meter registered High. I had fun trying to figure it all out.

I started with HASIDeM, confirmed by AXMAN and SOAP OPERAS, and proceeded down the right side, especially loving the descending SPELUNKING. However, the [WALL] idea remained opaque to me, as I accepted DESKTOP PAPER as a phrase on its own. Only when the WOLF appeared did I understand the theme.

Still, I had trouble. I need to get my wars straight: shamefully, I confused Bull Run with an Indian war (probably because of Sitting Bull) and the Good Friday Agreement with the Oslo Accords. No icea about chasséd or the Vonnegut substance, so went with GLaDED. Also had no idea of what Boardom? meant.

@Irish Cream, thanks for the explanation from the ballet world.
@M&A, thanks for the WALL SAFE.

TJS 2:14 PM  

@JohnX, he might be sitting next to you.The pilot I mean, not @Joe M.

Thought this was a very enjoyable puzzle with enough tough spots that required some extra thought. Haven't read Vonnegut in almost 50 years and Ice Nine popped into my head immediately. Weird what the memory retains.

@Z relating to your question regarding capital flow vs. labor, I would suggest that capital does not threaten consideration of national identity, while the unrestricted influx of labor (people) does, especially in less-populated countries than the U.S. Of course this brings up the question of whether national identity is a positive or negative. Of course, since you assume that the quality of commentary is "degrading" after the high point of your entry, you're probably not reading this anyway.

Banana Diaquiri 2:36 PM  

@TJS:
I would suggest that capital does not threaten consideration of national identity

well... chicken or egg??? if one reads history, it's clear that capital moves to the most autocratic 'national identity' available, and frequently lobbies to move it further right. those folks in the Invasion Caravans aren't Mexicans, but Hondurans and Guatemalans. and those governments created the epithet of Banana Republic (no kin of mine) due to the influence of American capital, e.g. United Fruit. it's also not a coincidence that capital fled New England for the Slave South. and thence to Mexico and Central America. and thence to Asia. capital hasn't met a dictator it didn't love. neither has Agent Orange.

so, yeah, capital movement does effect national identity. for the worse.

TJS 2:38 PM  

Whoops, "devolving" but whatever.

Robert Grady 2:41 PM  

I think, therefore I’m wrong. I had -ECAR-E for the intelligence author and confidently wrote Decarte. That messed up that corner for a while.

TJS 3:24 PM  

@BD, upon further review, what you say makes a lot of sense. I had a narrower approach to the question for reasons of conciseness, but no denying the validity of the points you raise. It will be interesting to see the changes to the African Continent from all the foreign cash flowing in currently. No doubt a mixed bag of positives and negatives.

Amelia 3:26 PM  

@bananadiaquiri

In my neck of the woods, Hasidim is spelled with one s. And a whole bunch of them live in my neck of the woods. Also, you could have googled that sucker and learned something.

Rex, you think it's "odd" to pluralize that way? The way it's done in Hebrew?

I'm VERY offended, and I have every right to be. I demand an apology.

Lastly, I loved the puzzle. Took me a long time to figure it out and that made me happy in the long run.

Anonymous 3:26 PM  

Banana,

Capital flows to the most autocratic national identity available?
Huh? That's drivel masquerading as...I don't knw what that's supposed yo mean, but its gibberish.
As for capital fleeing new England? What?! New England has always been richer and the home to more capital than the southern US.
Capital loves capital. It loves markets where it can flourish. Almost always that means democratic societies. There are of course exceptions where corruption allows a few cronies to capitalize, but by and large, in economic terms, autocrats are the enemies of plutocrats.

JOHN X 3:36 PM  

Well the pilot never showed up so they asked for volunteers and they picked me. I flew single engine fighters during the war, but a B-757 has two engines; it's a different kind of flying altogether. Fortunately it's all pushbutton and automatic these days, plus there's a real co-pilot sitting next to me so that helps a lot. I'm on my fifth vodka tonic now, and when you're the captain they make 'em big. I'm feelin' good and I'm totally gonna land this baby at LAX. I hope I get a free flight voucher or something for this.

TomAz 3:47 PM  

Not a fan. The wall gimmick was an OK idea but poorly executed.

I don't like the clue on PIPETTE, it is so misleading it is close to being wrong. HASIDIM is so obscurely clued as to be a guessing game. LORA Leigh is utterly unknown to me. ICENINE I forgot about shortly after I got through my Vonnegut phase in college.

Chausséd? EXODERM? ASEPSIS? It's as if the constructor is waving his hand and saying "look at me, look at me, look at how erudite I am!" (Which cover he then blows by including lowbrow DiCaprio).

I probably shouldn't be so cranky. I did enjoy the clue on LECARRE.

Anonymous 3:49 PM  

The 'wall' in this puzzle was only partially constructed (since the majority of the across clues didn't have to cross it); perhaps the puzzle constructor is waiting for funding from Mexico?

Longtime lurker 3:50 PM  

You could model that restraint you’re crying out for by editing your screeds before posting.

TJS 4:18 PM  

John X, see if any kids want to see the cockpit and ask them if they like gladiator movies. 'I PICKED THE WRONG DAY TO GIVE UP SNIFFIN' GLUE"

newspaperguy 4:20 PM  

"Those clues have to land perfectly or they are Not worth it." Apparently the same doesn't apply to Rex's objections.
(Don't mind me, I only come here for Loren Muse Smith's comments.)

Joe Dipinto 4:22 PM  

LOL complaining about a wall (!) two days after complaining about a perceived racial slur against Mexicans in the puzzle. You self-righteous white a-holes are so Tedious!

michiganman 4:31 PM  

Here's what I know about capital movement:

The first Michigan capital was Detroit and was relocated to Lansing in 1847, due to the need to develop the state's western portion and for better defense from British troops stationed in Windsor, Ontario.

michiganman 4:35 PM  

Don't eat the fish.

Gregory Schmidt 5:19 PM  

Probably just me, but it seemed like there were an awful lot of clues involving ?, perhaps, maybe, say.

Anonymous 5:25 PM  

You sound like fun. Can you stop in Boston on the way to LA?

L 5:43 PM  

Spot on!

Frank Birthdaycake 5:46 PM  

Hasidim is not an odd plural. “im” is the standard plural for masculine nouns. Obscure? Perhaps. For people who never studied Hebrew: sure. Odd? Only from an ethnocentrist’s perspective. Rex, if you take the time to denounce a slur and decry a wall-based puzzle theme, why not also take the time to embrace diversity and not describe it as “odd.” I’m sure you meant no offense to Jews; however, your flip, throw-away comment, regardless of your intention, is at least as insensitive as a wall-based theme.

Anonymous 6:01 PM  

Ashiiké is not an odd plural. “ké” is the standard non-distributive plural for masculine nouns. Obscure? Perhaps. For people who never studied Navajo:
sure. Odd? Only from an ethnocentrist’s perspective. Rex, if you take the time to denounce a slur and decry a wall-based puzzle theme, why not also take the time to embrace diversity and not describe it as “odd.” I’m sure you meant no offense to Native Americans; however, your flip, throw-away comment, regardless of your intention, is at least as insensitive as a wall-based theme.

Banana Diaquiri 6:16 PM  

@anon/3:26
Almost always that means democratic societies.

really???? prove my examples of where capital has gone over the course of the country's history are lies.

"New England has always been richer"

not because of physical capital, but what's been called human capital aka educated folks. southerners disdain education, at least the politicians they elect do, so they end up dumb and poor.

how's your Apple stock doing today?


@Amelia

my public high school was aka Palestine High since all the smart Jewish kids in town, and neighboring ones too, went there. my dictionary from then has two S.

Kieran Kramer 6:34 PM  

There are plenty of wild boars around the Lowcountry, definitely not in pens!!!

Monty Boy 7:40 PM  

Liked the puzzle a lot. Also got the trick at STONE****JACKSON and finished in about average time..

LMS links are hilarious; verbing nouns is one of my favorite pastimes (11D).

My favorite Seinfeld is the "Hamptons" with shrinkage, Kramer and the baby, topless, etc.

Retired 9:15 PM  

What the heck is Pip?

Roo Monster 10:52 PM  

@Retired 9:15
One in Gladys Knights' group.

Har.

RooMonster

Jonathan Alexander 10:58 PM  

dom
Word Origin
a suffix forming nouns which refer to domain ( kingdom ), collection of persons ( officialdom ), rank or station ( earldom ), or general condition ( freedom ).

While concur that I had the head scratching moment at the PEN answer, I firmly disagree with Rex as to the "validity" of the cluing. I, personally, thought it was fair given that -dom is a comman suffix.

Steve 10:05 PM  

Like many I knew ice nine right away, not from being a Vonnegut fan but from working for a chemist who (briefly) believed something like it was real and who had a scientific explanation for it. For a few years in the '60s the scientific world grappled with a mysterious substance called polywater that had been reported by Russian chemists, with speculation that it might indeed be something like ice nine. Technically, it was considered an "allotrope" of water. There were even hysterical warnings about a "polywater gap" between them and us. By 1970 it was pretty well established that the phenomenon was due entirely to impurities in water used by the Russian experimenters. In 1970 a theoretical chemistry professor at Princeton, Leland C. Allen, published a chemical explanation for polywater's existence using molecular orbital theory. [Science 1970; 167:1443] A year later he published a second paper using the same methods showing why it could not exist. The latter paper contained the amusing line: "... we have placed ourselves in the unusual and all too easy to discredit position of being authors both of the original model and of the new results against it." [Nature 1971;233:550-551]

Calman Snoffelevich 1:56 AM  

Can someone explain the clue about LeCarre?

Anonymous 1:30 PM  

THANK YOU!! I agree with everything you had to say about this puzzle. I went to your blog today specifically to get clarification on "pen," which I thought was "pun." Also, other than "wise-ass," I don't see a connection between "wise" and "sass."

Okauchee 3:18 AM  


Replies to the last two people:

LeCarre wrote spy (intelligence) novels.

"Don't get WISE with me" can mean "Stop the sass."

Unknown 8:57 PM  

A little late to the party. As a scientist, pipette, exoderm, and asepsis are each a bit not quite right, either grammatically or technically

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