Last ruler of United Kingdoms of Sweden Norway / WED 1-2-19 / Monk known as father of English history / 1980s-90s NFL great Lonnie / Vice president who became ambassador to Japan / Well in old Rome

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Constructor: Jacob Stulberg

Relative difficulty: Medium (4:15) (I have this feeling it might play slightly harder for folks, on average—lots of, let's say, unusual fill)

THEME: forks! — clues are [___ fork], where blank is something culinary; answer then proceeds Across until it literally forks, with one possible answer definition of the blank continuing on Across, and another going off at a 45-degree angle (on a path indicated by circled squares):

Theme answers:
  • SHARK / SHAD (16A: *Fish fork)
  • MARGARITA / MARTINI (17A: *Cocktail fork)
  • GREEK / GREEN (38A: *Salad fork)
  • CHERRY PIE / CHEESECAKE (59A: *Dessert fork)
  • PEACH / PEAR (62A: *Fruit fork)
Word of the Day: OSCAR II (23A: Last ruler of the United Kingdoms of Sweden and Norway) —
Oscar II (Oscar Fredrik; 21 January 1829 – 8 December 1907) was King of Sweden from 1872 until his death, and the last Bernadotte King of Norway from 1872 until his dethronement in 1905.
Oscar was king during a time when Sweden was undergoing a period of industrialization and rapid technological progress. His reign also saw the gradual decline of the Union of Sweden and Norway, which culminated in its dissolution in 1905. He was subsequently succeeded as King of Norway by his grandnephew Prince Carl of Denmark under the regnal name Haakon VII, and as King of Sweden by his eldest son, Gustaf V.
Harald V, the present king of Norway, is a great-grandson of Oscar II, through his third son Prince Carl, Duke of Västergötland. (wikipedia)
• • •

I've seen this forking theme before! Actually, I haven't—not executed this way, at any rate. I just wanted to sound like I was trying to swear in "The Good Place." At first it was hard to understand what the fork was going on, but the circled letters taking off at weird angles eventually made it easy to piece together, and once you get the theme, it actually helps a ton. I used it a lot to get those diagonal circled squares. I really like the way the theme keeps all the forking in the realm of forks, i.e. in the culinary realm. I've never heard of a "fruit fork," but it appears to be a thing, as are all the other forks. That is, they exist as tined implements in the real world, which gives the overall theme a very nice coherence. Silverware in the clues, divided paths in the answers. And the answers go off all kind of ways, from the brief diversions of SHA/D and PEA/R to the skyrocketing CHE/ESECAKE. Themewise, I thought this was great.

Fill-wise, it wasn't bad as much as it was odd. Lots of longer answers that had me going "whaaa?" I know LEAN-TOs, but LEAN-TO TENT? (3D: Makeshift shelter) They come in tent form??? BEEEATERS (27D: Relatives of kingfishers) looked so wrong because of those sequential Es. I've heard of the bird, but barely, and the E-string made me think I had an error. OSCARII was a huge "?" to me. Started with the initial "O" and thought it must be OLAF (or OLAV) somebody. TSARDOM is a real word but an uncommon one (I had TSARIST but knew it had to be wrong because it was an adj. not a noun, as the clue clearly required). And then there's DOGBERT. Ugh. That comic. Not sure how I remembered DOGBERT existed, but I did. Difficulty of fill offset whatever help I was getting from knowing the theme, and my time ended up being pretty solidly average for a Wednesday.

Do y'all know what PISMO Beach is? I know it well—it's on the central Californian coast, and I went there many times with my parents when I was a kid. But it doesn't strike me as a nationally known place. I think PISMO is like the west coast's version of TRURO (a place name that baffled me the first time I encountered it). I would not be surprised if many solvers hadn't heard of it, especially east-coasters. Hardest answers for me today, beyond the weird longer answers I mentioned above, were CREASED (24D: Like envelope flaps) and CCTV (53D: Security guard's viewing, for short). For the former ... how are the flaps CREASED??? That implies, to me, that the flap *has* a crease, not that a crease was formed to make it. Pants are CREASED. If your envelope flap were itself CREASED, it would be hard to seal properly. As for what a security guard is viewing, in four letters, after PORN didn't work, I was out of ideas. I know CCTV (closed-circuit television) now that I see it, but apparently not before I see it.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. Shortz eventually apologized for yesterday's BEANER debacle. It's hard to believe an apology could actually make things worse, but Here We Are. Note: if you have to apologize, Just Apologize—don't do ... this:

[Sorry If You Were Offended™]

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Patrick O'Connor 12:12 AM  

Some of us know Pismo Beach from its occasional reference in Bugs Bunny cartoons. This is the beginning of an Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves episode. I'm pretty sure it was also the first time I heard of Albakoiky.

jae 12:17 AM  

Medium-tough. I didn’t grok the theme until after I finished, so this one took a bit longer than the usual Wed. Emily Post would be proud that so many forks were included, liked it.

mmorgan 12:18 AM  

I figured out the theme when I was about 70 percent finished, and the NE was the last to fall and took a while to get. The theme was kinda cute but this wasn’t the most pleasant solving experience for me — the only thing I like less than a puzzle with circles is a puzzle with a lot of circles. At least in Across Lite, it seems to give the whole thing a frazzled, manic vibe.

But, blissfully, there was nothing (I think!!) objectionable about it, despite some bizarre but not unreasonable entries such as COHEIRS. Good solid and clever clues, and good answers and good fill. The xword universe should be much quieter today than yesterday. Probably, maybe.

But the heated criticisms and controversies yesterday — here, from Jeff Chen, on The NYT’s own blog, on Crossword Fiend and probably elsewhere — were fascinating and illuminated a lot of important things to think about. I’m just sorry that for many, the entire episode just seemed to lock in rigid ways of thinking, so virulently dismissive of the pain such terms can inflict, so cluelessly smug in their “it’s just a crossword” obliviousness.

There were lots of other nuanced discussions worth noting — I could write a paper on them — but I won’t mention them here.

My bottom line is that I had never ever ever heard yesterday’s 2D but I get how insulting and pejorative it is and I hope that those who blithely dismiss such concerns will somehow, someday, get it. If you can avoid demeaning another human, why wouldn’t you?

Take a sad song and make it better. Happy New Year!

Whirred Whacks 12:20 AM  

Nice fork puzzle, Jacob!

Will Shortz’s explanation and apology about BEANER is straight-forward enough. But it galls Rex. Of course, I’m not as woke as Rex so we have different opinions. But going through life being filled with grievances is not the path I’d recommend if your goal is a measure of happiness and equanimity.

BTW: I listened to the 5 minute clip of Louis CK’s recent club appearance. It was irreverent, playful, self-deprecating, and provocative — all the things you used to expect from a comedian.

Barry Frain 12:30 AM  

My god Shortz.

Barry Frain
East Biggs, CA

jdbreen 1:06 AM  

I’m familiar with PISMO Beach entirely because Bugs Bunny once took a wrong turn at Albuquerque and missed out on all-you-can-eat clams.

Carola 1:07 AM  

I liked how "fork" forked into two different meanings between clues and grid. I also liked how the SHAD has its famous ROE and the SHARK its distinctive FINN.

@Rex, I got PISMO off the I. I couldn't tell you how I know it, any more than I could TRURO. Maybe from avid reading of the Travel section about ocean locales from here in the oceanless Midwest.

CDilly52 1:08 AM  

I was stumped by the theme because I have had a terrible flare of iritis so have been literally almost in the dark for the last few days and I couldn’t see the shaded squares. So, I finished the puzzle without ever finding the forks. Thank you @Rex!! Now, what really slowed me down was CREASED. I was absolutely certain it was PREsomething. Then after the crazy holiday schedule, I thought “ah Thursday rebus and put in PREsealed with the rebus as “led.” Oops it’s Wednesday (only after finding no other rebus places and having no idea what to fit in the end of my mistaken rebus . The fill wasn’t too hard and I finished obviously missing all the “fun” of the forks in the road. Sheesh.

tbd88 1:17 AM  

While I agree (partially) in principle with Will Shortz's explanation, it renders it not only non-apologetic, but looks REALLY BAD spelled out like that. It's like "just in case you missed these possible slurs, let me hand them to you on a silver platter!"

How would I feel if the clue was "bundle of sticks" for a six letter word beginning with F? It's a legitimate word with a real other meaning, but I doubt that they would allow it in this day and age. If you don't have a towel after a shower, your back is wet, but I don't think they'd allow that sequence of words to appear either.

Larry Gilstrap 1:19 AM  

Rex mentioned it, so I agree with debacle as an assessment of yesterday's B-word inclusion.

But, that was yesterday and today features shaded squares which made it through my printer, and I saw a tined implement in the road, and I took it. This grid seemed choppy, but that implies a knife which is off topic. Three letter answers never add to a solve. I'm hearing a lot about fine dining today, since my roommate is reading a book about Escoffier and Ritz and grumbling about the burger joint she normally adores. OFL was concerned about the validity of a fruit fork. He is thorough.

Nits: I see CHEESE CAKEI and would appreciate some feed back. Waiter, some dessert seems to have fallen into my cocktail. Feel free to enlighten me, really! Ruefully inept at most cartoons, so DOGBERT was lost on me. On the other hand, I spend time birding and am very adept at using a spotting scope, but BEE EATERS don't appear on my life list. Just today, a beautiful pair of blue-gray gnat catchers were busily gleaning our chuparosa bushes. A delightful omen for the new year.

Anonymous 1:47 AM  

Pismo Beach is most famous for the “Pismo Beach Disaster” — a throwaway joke in Clueless.

Unknown 1:55 AM  

I stopped doing the crossword a while back. I unsubscribed from the NYTimes Crossword. This New Year's Day, I was at another person's house and an old Sunday crossword was lying around. I finished it. I felt like doing another. I re-subscribed to the NYTimes Crossword. I did the first puzzle of the New Year. I quickly came across the not-a-baseball-term BEANER (it's BEANBALL, as many people have pointed out). I learned that Will Shortz was warned about the not-a-baseball-term and ignored the warning.

Mr. Shortz says that he learned that a word was a slur. Mr. Shortz chose to publish this term anyway. Put two and two together and you don't get a person with "a pure heart"—though I suppose you might get the type of person who would describe himself as having one.

I regret re-subscribing.

AdamW 2:20 AM  

His apology seems sincere to me. Rex has a bug in his rear (is that a slur too?) for Mr. Shortz, for some reason I assume someone knows but not me. But it's obvious. I otherwise was pleased we got more-or-less nice Rex today, until seeing the anti-Shortz remark at the end.

Anonymous 2:28 AM  

I agree that Mr Shortz's apology is lacking. Perhaps some constructor could drive home the point by submitting a puzzle chock full of offensive answers clued with their benign meanings. "What's New _______ Cat?" For example. I could go on as I'm sure we all could.

Clark 2:43 AM  

My favoritest answer was DOGBERT.

chefwen 2:44 AM  

Had no clue as to what was going on with (as @Nancy would put it) those annoying, little circles, until I was done. Stared at it for a few minutes and someone flipped on the lights, AHA I get it, cuteness, kinda. I make a killer Mango Cheesecake, so that was my favorite.

Years ago, we were in Germany when only the young people spoke English. We attended a Oktoberfest party and we’re sitting at a table trying to communicate with broken German and hand signals. After a few steins of beer I asked around the table “where is the WC?” They all looked at me with confusion, this went on until I was practically jumping up and down on one foot. I finally said toilet and they all broke into big grins and sai AH, toiletten, you mean the VAY CEE. I didn’t know that they pronounced W’s as V’s. And I grew up with a Austrian father who could have easily taught me German. He thought it more important for me to learn proper English than to have a second language. I guess being Jewish he most likely wanted to forget about anything related to Germany.

jae 3:09 AM  

Indicative of nothing, both Jeff and Rex went to “ The Good Place” in their blogs.

Loren Muse Smith 4:42 AM  

Since I’m a fork snob, I loved this idea. Man oh man are there a bunch of kinds of forks out there. Once when my son was still in a high chair, he said, Dah? His only word that meant whatever it had to mean. He was asking for his little plastic baby fork to jab whatever. When his head was turned, I put a huge foot-long carving fork on his tray. So then I hear Dah? again – he’s holding it, confused. I shrugged and said, you wanted a fork, right? Poor kid. (And don’t get your panties in a wad – I whisked it away forkwith so no kids were injured in this experiment.)

Think about the work Jacob had to make this. Circle deals are tough since every single letter in a circle has to work not two but THREE ways. To wit: the R in MARGARITA is in


I liked MARGARITA and crossing BRAINLESS. Well, yeah. What is it about tequila and becoming the most gifted raconteur in the crowd and then, worse, the most agile, inventive dancer in the room?

I kept going back and looking at the clue for FIG TREE. What Buddha meditated under. Who knew? But how can you not take the next step and wonder what he was doing under his fig leaf? Just puttin’ that out there.

“Fashion accessory that may be six feet long” – I swear, the real housewives of Atlanta (of bitchassment coinage fame) all wear tons of various wigs, and the big type this season is a wig of corn rows, usually (mercifully) pony-tailed, but I swear some of them are almost six feet long. I love these proud, confident, unapologetic women, but the corn row look is not a good look on anyone. (And @Gill I – please don’t tell me you do corn rows with your gauchos.)

FWIW – I registered yesterday for the ACPT. Reserved the discounted room, too. Like around $129 a night. Be there or be square.

This meme made me laugh. And then belly laugh. I saw it at the end of the year last spring. What I like about it is that the teacher at the end of the year hasn’t given up yet. Still smiling and putting her best foot forward. Of course, this features a teacher who hadn’t given up on her students from the get-go. @Nancy:

1. If that’s the impression I’ve given, either I haven’t communicated well, or you have just skimmed (if that) what I’ve been writing lo these many years. Fair enough. I bloviate a ton and don’t blame you one iota. My posts are too long. But I will not dignify your indictment of my teaching philosophy with any kind of defense.

2. I would be right there with you moving heaven and earth to help you get your kid outta my classroom and into the classroom of a more appropriate instructor.

We’ll just have to agree to disagree.

Austin Smith 4:46 AM  

Agreed about the apology for yesterday's terrible racist answer.

I don't consider it offensive, but was I the only one who knows MUFF only as, uh, a crass slang noun?

But substantively, I enjoyed this puzzle too. My only quibbles were that MARTINI and CHEESECAKE ran into each other, so before I got the theme I thought they were somehow connected, and that the "times" on all the forks (with the exception of GREEN/GREEK) were different lengths, which makes for kinda funny-looking utensils. But I'm probably the only one who cares about those, and they really are just quibbles :)

'mericans in Paris 5:08 AM  

Good write-up by @Rex. I saw the fork finally at CHE ESECAKE (I). PISMO was tough; never heard of it. Do they engage in 5A diving there? In August, by the way, we drove through the town of MUFF (County of Donegal), Ireland, and passed by the headquarters of the MUFF Diving Club. It's a real thing.

Regarding 12A, I thought that inventions begin with necessity. Oh well. Hands up for requiring EEE shoes. Anything narrower gives me corns.

Funny to see AD HOC crossing the names of a couple of fish. There is a story that I heard once about how, long ago, during a high-level inter-governmental meeting at the organization for which I worked until recently, there was some document or decision that just wasn't going anywhere. The Chair called for a break and the major players met and haggled, and meanwhile the delegate from Iceland started to snooze at the table. After 15 minutes or so, the Chair reconvened the meeting and said, "Right. We seem to be at an impasse. What I propose is that we form an AD HOC group of the member countries concerned -- Canada, the EU, Japan, and the USA -- and return to this matter at the next meeting."

At this point the Icelandic delegate bolted upright and called for the floor.

"The delegate from Iceland?," the Chair asked quizzically.

"This is an outrage!", boomed the delegate. "As everyone here knows, fishing is Iceland's primary industry, and to think that it would be excluded from a group discussing one of our most important demersal fish is unconscionable!"

"Um," the Chair said, after a pause, "I said AD HOC, not HADDOCK."


@Pissant from 10:52 PM yesterday -- Interesting comment. But the word 'mericans in my nom de plume has nothing to do with how the French pronounce "Americans". Indeed, I cannot recall ever hearing a French person pronounce it in that way; those who do are more typically Australians or Americans. Rather, it comes from the way an American friend of 50 years referred to us once in a letter.

Lewis 6:35 AM  

The clever, very well executed theme helped my solve in a couple of places, helping me to fill in letters, or confirming letters I filled in. The puzzle taught me BEE EATER and that the famed bodhi tree is a fig tree. The two triple E's echoed Monday's triple O's. And I liked the rhyming crosses of FINN/INN and ETHNO/ESSO. The puzzle was simply a quiet piece of beauty and it felt awfully good to do -- thank you Jacob!

Unknown 6:51 AM  

This took me way longer than normal, but I enjoyed it. The only reason I know PISMO Beach is because it’s mentioned several times in the movie Clueless (wherein Cher donates her skis to the Pismo Beach disaster relief effort). I loved the theme. I’ve only heard of SHAD because of Philadelphia’s Shadfest. I had MANHATTAN instead of MARGARITA which was the biggest cause of delay for me. The entire AUKS/RUE/EKE/OSCARII/CREASED bundle really threw me as well. But overall very enjoyable and properly challenging for a Wednesday!

The guy in nampa 7:15 AM  

Friday time for me.
Interesting, fun...

kitshef 7:16 AM  

Was flying through this like it was a Monday ‘til I put in Cams for CCTV, which lead to a bit of futzing around. Also, I could not believe I was supposed to put in LEAN-TO TENT, so resisted that ‘til the bitter end.

If you are putting your GPA on your resume, stop it.

My avatar today is a BEEEATER (one of two EEEs in today’s puzzle).

Hungry Mother 7:17 AM  

Warming up back in Florida, so finished this one quickly. Looking forward to running at sea level again as opposed to the 3300 fplus feet of altitude that I had for almost three weeks. OTOH, the humidity here will be tougher than the dry air of the desert. I really liked the theme, clever and fun.

kitshef 7:27 AM  

Bears they don't care who they scare.
You've got to beware.

While swimming in your pool try not loose your cool,
And be drown-ded... by a Water-Bear.

In the mountains and the cities even out at Pismo Beach
You're never out of reach from a bear

- Bears, by the Royal Guardsmen (you may remember them from the song Snoopy vs. the Red Baron

Anonymous 7:30 AM  

Apropos not knowing Pismo Beach.... anyone who grew up watching bugs bunny has certainly heard of it

Hungry Mother 7:31 AM  

I learned about BEEEATERs on safari in southern Africa a couple of years ago.

JJ 7:32 AM  

What I wouldn't give to have someone like @ LMS teach my kids. I have several teachers in my family and I understand how important it is to connect with those students in a way that they look forward to coming into your class. My bet is that her students love her class, and that she is the "Fork in the road" in many of their lives. We may have fewer welders, and hairdressers, but I'll bet there's a few more teachers and lawyers in her neck of the woods.

pabloinnh 7:35 AM  

Got the gimmick at SHARK/SHAD and smooth from there. And helpful.

A FRUITFORK is definitely a real thing, at least in Europe. In Spain people carve up their fruit desserts with a fruit knife and eat them with a fruit fork. I've seen folks eat an orange this way, which is interesting. The seven year old girl in my host family used to practice on (peeled) bananas.

I really hate the "if I offended anyone" form of apology. Of course you offended someone, that's why you need to apologize. Sheesh.

Liked the puzzle a lot. And remember the sound advice of Yogi Berra--"When you come to a fork in the road, take it.".

GHarris 7:48 AM  

Lots here I didn’t know but all gettable from the crosses, which is a really satisfying way to finish a puzzle. Got no help from the theme since I only doped it out after finishing the grid.

amyyanni 7:51 AM  

Like chefwen, only got the theme after finishing (and also wasn't exposed to Italian b/c my family wanted to protect me from ridicule). Still liked this a lot, and thanks pabloinnh for the Yogi quote. Back to work with me now.

QuasiMojo 8:25 AM  

What country did Cheesecake I rule over?

I had a DNF today, on a Wednesday no less, YIKES! because I put in CCTS rather than CCTV. I’ve rarely been to a security guard’s office or booth but those few times I did he or she had multiple TV screens to observe. I was thinking T for television rather than TV. Dumb I know. But then having answers “fork” up and down in a grid is pretty dumb. Btw there is a piece of “art” near Red Hook NY upstate just off the Taconic that is a giant fork sculpture set in a median where a road forks. GET IT? Yes SIR, that’s how clever I thought this puzzle was. To TINE own self be true. I’m sorry if I offended anyone.

L 8:36 AM  

Exactly what came to my mind. When I discovered as adult Pismo Beach was an actual place, I had a good laugh.

Anonymous 8:39 AM  

Regarding the 'beaner' controversy - - also known as "the 2D controversy".....I had to Google 'beaner meaning' to learn that it refers to the prevalence of beans in the Mexican diet. OK, that doesn't strike me as particularly vicious. But I'm new to this wokefulness thing, so is it also a 'racist slur' to refer to English people as 'limeys'?

Anonagain 8:46 AM  

@L, grew up w/the Bug's Pismo Beach episode and then moved to California. Had the same experience you had! Bugs, the coolest of the cool.

chefbea 8:58 AM  

What a yummy puzzle from drinks to dessert!!! Got the theme at margarita/martinii. Had a hard time with cheesecake.

Forking Shortz 9:05 AM  

Mr. Shortz's apology is what's become known as a "non-apology."

"I apologize if what I bothered you." <--- non-apology, not taking responsibility for the action.

"I apologize for what I because it was wrong." <--- actual apology, taking responsibility for the action.

I used to listen to WS on Morning Edition on Sunday's on NPR with LeeAnn whatshername. He seemed like a nice guy. Now, I'm really not so sure.

@WhirredWhacks: My subscription runs out in June. What sucks is that the NYT won't let you unsubscribe and prorate your fee. They also don't allow you to cancel have to email them. Then they email you back days later asking why. Then you email them again re-telling them why you're cancelling. Then the email you back a few days later offering to give you a subscription at a special price. Then you email them again and basically tell them to f*ck off and cancel the damn thing. I've not heard back from them yet...after several months now.

I also like how your subscription to the NYT xword gets you no special deal with reading the articles.

At least the WaPo is connected through Amazon and you can manage subscriptions that way.

Cato Rosenbaum 9:09 AM  

The best apology is of course when you put the onus on the offense on the other people, relieving yourself of the guilt of doing anything wrong. Will Shortz isn’t apologizing. He doesn’t thing he did anything wrong. He’s not changing his bahvaior for the future. He didn’t express contrition at his act; he apologized FOR CAUSING A CONTROVERSY. That’s deflection of the real substantive issues of his allowing for racial slurs in his puzzle. This will probably be my last year using the NYT until editors change.

Suzie Q 9:15 AM  

Clever fun theme today that helped me solve esp. in the NE. Starting off with ad lib instead of ad hoc really gummed up the works there.
Agree about the odd clues. I've seen ethno- in tons of puzzles but never with musicology.

Never heard of the band but I guess you could be Better Than Ezra you'll always be Less Than Jake.

Z 9:16 AM  

What Rex said about the theme. Consistent on multiple levels. I would go from “odd” to “good” on the fill. It’s nice to not see all the old stand-bys.

Hand up for Bugs Bunny teaching me everything I know about Opera and about PISMO Beach.

I get Rex’s point about the misdirection on CREASED, but it is okay. Until the envelope is CREASED there is no flap. Tricksy. I liked it.

What @kitshef said about GPAs. Nobody cares. I did my stint as person in charge of student records. Military and Police background checks. Universities. That’s it. Nobody else ever asks about the grades. Lots of queries about the person, but never the grades.

I also did my stint as person in charge of teaching middle schoolers how to apologize when they screw up. If you think Shortz’ “apology” passes muster please make sure you hire a PR firm if you are ever in the middle of a PR firestorm, because that’s not good enough for middle school. That’s the kind of “apology” that costs people jobs. Compare what he wrote to this: People were offended. That was not my intent. I am sorry that people were offended.

olfuddud 9:19 AM  

Too much ado about nothing.

Unknown 9:19 AM  

He knows all the insult words
Like welch and dutch and nerds
If I weren’t so deplorable
I’d realize he’s adorable
He’s way better than me at crosswords

Anonymous 9:41 AM  

Will Shortz cannot really apologize to people who were NOT offended. I'm not sure I see the non-apology aspect that many are up in arms about. I really do not see this equivalent to a typical middle school apology that might be "I'm sorry that Amy felt bad because of my FB post that said she looks like a bulldog."
Oh, and to make this a legit post, I enjoyed the puzzle today. This was a time that the theme/circles helped me solve other portions of the puzzle.
And @LMS, I TOTALLY get your perspective as a teacher concerning grammar shaming. You strive to teach children "proper English" but shaming people adults and children does nothing to advance the cause.

Nancy 9:43 AM  

A brilliant puzzle! I had a slow, difficult solve because I didn't see what was happening until the very end. But then the theme finally helped me solve -- and that's the best kind of trick puzzle. Because I had LBGT instead of LGBT (don't ask!), I had gEN- for "Well in old Rome" and bRE-K for the salad fork. So I'm completely befuddled. It was only after seeing the SHARK/SHAD thing, the MARGARITA/MARTINI thing and the CHEESECAKE/CHERRY PIE thing that I saw the pattern, and knew it had to be GREEK/GREEN. At which point I changed LBGT to LGBT and all was BENE.

The play on the word "fork" is inspired. The construction is jaw-dropping. And the fill is clean as can be. This is the hardest Wednesday I've ever done and probably the best. I think it should definitely be considered for Puzzle of the Year. And if this is the standard for the year, it's going to be a wonderful year in puzzledom.

Sir Hillary 9:45 AM  

Great puzzle. Fresh theme, decent enough fill, fun to solve. Pretty sure I've seen AIRSTREAMS parked at PISMO Beach, and maybe a LEANTOTENT or two as well. My wife went to LaGuardia (Performing Arts) High School with ESAI Morales. Ronnie LOTT was an awesome player.

I imagine many of you are WEARYOF this topic, so apologies for weighing in late, but regarding yesterday, as a native of Southern California who has lived in the Northeast for over 30 years, I concur with those who believe yesterday's 2D is a racist term (albeit a regional one, as I've never heard it in the Northeast), is not at all a baseball term anyone uses, and is unworthy of the NYT, particularly in light of the easy fix (AMEN) and the fact that the editor was alerted to the slur meaning.

It is also incredibly sad that no one seems to know how to apologize anymore. Shortz is hardly alone in this regard. I could cite countless examples, but just last week 21 Savage and LeBron James issued the same half-assed "apology" for writing and quoting, respectively, an anti-Semitic lyric. "Sorry...if I offended wasn't my intention...blah blah blah." It feels like lawyers are the ones writing these things.

No more from me on this.

GILL I. 9:47 AM  

YUMMY. That's what I even wanted for 65D Don Draper. He just gets a little ole AD MAN.
Like @jae (again!), I didn't get the theme until I finished and looked at the CHEESE CAKE shimming up the middle. Ah....look at what Jacob has done. Clever and fun. And...I'll take a MARTINI over a MARGARITA any day.
@pablo...I think there would also be a sandwich FORK. I remember when I first arrived in Madrid and ate at a cafeteria on the Gran Via. Everyone seemed to be ordering a jamon y queso "sanweech" and eating it with a fork!!! I didn't dare use my fingers. So polite and dainty!
Rte 101 up from Santa Barbara, must stop at San Luis Obispo and eat at the "Cracked Crab" - take in PISMO Beach and head on up to Monterey and stay for the night. Must see the Aquarium. I've done this trip so many times and it never gets old. BENE BEDE.
@Loren. Wow, a belly laugh from me so early in the morning. Sometimes I do braid my hair. Is that OK? With my lime green gauchos? I want to impress you? Thank you.... ;-)
As for the Shortzmeisters apology. Boo. @Rex is right....He made it sound worse. Man, I've stuck my foot in my mouth plenty of times and when I do, I feel awful. If he sends me an email, I'll show him how to do it the right way.

TJS 9:58 AM  

Anyone else have a problem with Huck instead of Finn ? Something about the clue wording just made me drop that right in, which led to tau, which led to ...nothing for about five minutes.( Maybe longer, I dont time-solve.) When Dogbert came from some deep recess ofwhats left of my brain, knew odeon had to be there, made Finn obvious, and finally finished. A surprisingly challenging Wednesday for a change.
@LMS, Dont let anyone make you question your approach to your kids. Any out-of-the-box moment you create maybe the only thing your kids remember from a given day. And if they look forward to your class, your half way home.

Peter P 10:05 AM  

@Anonymous 8:39 AM, I’m not as “woke” as many if the commentators here, but of course “limey” is a slur (and ethnic one), just like “kraut” would be for Germans. They’re a bit outdated today as terms. but I remember at least a couple people in the old neighborhood using the words with the type of vitriol reserved for today’s ethnic and racial epiteths. In my neighborhood, it wasn’t so much “limey,” but “kraut,” and, yes, it ired German-Americans. “Limey” was in the same category, but there went really much ethnic animosity towards the English where I lived, so that wasn’t used. But it

'mericans in Paris 10:15 AM  

@TJS -- Yes, I entered "Huck" before FINN. Then I saw WEARY OF, and for a few moments there I had F*** at 67A.

Anonymous 10:22 AM  

Why didn't you post my comment? It's not salacious. Does it offend the ungrammatical Nazis? Here it is again:

Now that the year has turned, me am eagerer going to gratuitously split infinitives to interestinger make the language.

mmorowitz 10:27 AM  

Midwesterner here. Never heard of PISMO. The "P" was my last letter to fill in.

deerfencer 11:37 AM  

Geez, you’d think Shortz committed a heinous crime. If this is the kind of intolerant attitude that pervades academia these days, no wonder the kids are hiding in their cocoons. I agree with old fud—much ado about nada.

Bill 11:45 AM  

In the movie "The Bank Dick," W.C. Fields' character is named " A. Pismo Clam." I apologize if the "dick" reference offended anyone, said Will Shortz.

Malsdemare 11:47 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown 11:52 AM  

This played about 2 minutes longer than my Wednesday average. Mostly due to the SW. Never did see the theme, as I was trying to just power through without taking the time to look carefully. BEEEATERS and COHEIR stuck me.

ArtO 11:56 AM  

I guess some folks just have to have the last word! Wonder where that POV emanates from these days!!

A wonderful theme. Got it with MARGARITA/MARTINI. Kudos to JS. Knew PISMO but it didn't spring to mind. DOGBERT crossing BEDE a natick for me.

Masked and Anonymous 12:08 PM  

Know of dessert forks and salad forks, but not them other forks. Didn't slow my solvequest down much, tho. Got the neat theme idea right away, off {Fish fork}.

Knew PISMO Beach somehow ... not entirely sure how.

staff weeject pick: SHA. Well, sorta … it's whereafter the fork in the fish road splits up.

Some nice, raised-by-the-fruitforks fillins: OSCARII. TSARDOM. BEEEATERS. CCTV. LEANTOTENT.
Gets the M&A stomp of approval.

Thanx, Mr. Stulberg.

Masked & AnonymoUUs


Nancy 12:16 PM  

@chefwen (2:44) -- I was truly blessed today. My newspaper had perfectly acceptable gray squares rather than annoying tiny little circles. That's why there wasn't so much as a peep out of me. But thanks for the shoutout, anyway. And your killer Mango CHEESECAKE sounds wonderful!

RooMonster 12:21 PM  

Hey All !
FORKed again by the NYT! Har..

Neat puz, two answers for one clue, FORKing appropriately. Liked the clean-ish fill, which I'm sure was tough to do. All that Theme space AREA, it's tough to get actual words/things to fit. Does have 42 blocks, which is high, but if it makes the fill better, no problem.

@mericans, LOL at that Awesome Club. Wonder if anyone told them the slang terminology, and they thought it would make their club even better to keep that name.

Is a GREEN Fork GREEN paint? Asking for a friend. 😂

4 F's, a RUE and a ROE. Close enough.

No BRAINLESS ETHNO OH NO today. And what kind of bird ears BEEs. Sounds dangerous.

Rather go camping in AIRSTREAMS than LEAN-TO TENTs.


JOHN X 12:40 PM  

I eat my peas with honey
I've done it all my life.
It makes the peas taste funny
But it keeps them on the knife.

Anonymous 12:45 PM  

@Nancy - I too misordered LGBT on the first pass—and I is one!

If WS wants only to apologize for upsetting people, that’s still an apology.

Mark 12:52 PM  

Also mentioned in the movie Clueless where the teens are raising money for Pismo Beach disaster relief, or something like that.

Rob Rushing 1:08 PM  

There aren’t too many instances of terms that have both an innocuous and a racist meaning (a chink in the armor, call a spade a spade, and a few others), but in those cases, I agree with Shortz that treating every usage of a word as reducible to the one offensive usage is a disservice to the language. The two problems with the 2D controversy, however, are 1) evidently, the term in baseball is “beanball,” and 2) he should have either vigorously defended the position that the term has a non-offensive use without an apology, or offered a real apology. I grew up in Southern California and heard that slur weekly while I lived there, so it’s hard for me to hear it any other way, but if it were an innocuous baseball term for a ball that ‘beans’ someone in the head, fine—I would have learned something new about my language. But you had better be certain that it’s a baseball term tand not a racist slur before! Lastly, as to the term “limey” (or “yankee”), the reason such slurs don’t sound super offensive is that they’re used against the people who have all the power, but they are slurs nonetheless (and probably don’t belong in the crossword as a result....)

Teedmn 1:13 PM  

Bah, humbug. I like this theme, I really do, but my stupid DNF in the SE is leaving a PALL over my enjoyment.

Like @Suzie Q, ETHNO-musicology didn't do it for me. And I hadn't quite grokked the theme fully - my forks merely angled rather than branched in two directions so I considered the straight-ahead answers as basically unclued. When given PEAC_ at 62A, I dropped in PEACe, not realizing I needed another fruit. What a PEA-BRAINLESS mistake. I barely got the ROE of the "preschool group?" clue. So ETeNO-musicology is what I had.

Nice job, Jacob Stulberg. And a tough Wednesday.

Anonymous 1:29 PM  

I know the word as a slur, am married to someone of Mexican decent, and it didn’t even occur to me that the answer could be pejorative...just didn’t occur to me

Joe Bleaux 1:36 PM  

Extraordinarily fine midweek puzzle — clever, consistent, clean.

Anonymous 1:43 PM  

This is a comment from Monday's puzzle: the clue was "The Buckeyes of the Big Ten, for short" and the answer was OSU. This is incorrect: ask anyone who went there and they'll always tell you, with pride, they went to "The Ohio State University" so the correct answer should be TOSU.

Malsdemare 1:57 PM  

Wow! I completed this one without typos or flat-out errors. Good on me! Most of Rex's reaction was mine as well but I'm more impressed than he. I had WEARied before WEARYOF, so I failed at the FINN crossing for a while, especially since I also had ODium (headslap) before ODEON, which left me scratching my head over this river-rafting lad F—M. But I caught the theme at MARGARITA/MARTINI and that helped me tremendously. I knew all the forks (12 years of private girl's school lessons on decorum, manners, walk down stairs without looking down, balance a book on one's head and how to serve tea, swear to god) and giggled to see them there. I even have some of them, handed down from my mom.

MUFF diving shop is hysterical.

Anoa Bob 2:00 PM  

Is there really such a thing as a FISH FORK? Must be a "fine dining" thing.

Quasi @8:25, I believe that CHEESECAKE I came to power following the overthrow of OSCAR II, and established the empire's first TSARDOM.

Used to be a Boy Scout. We learned how to make a LEAN-TO out in the wild. But if we already had a TENT, we would just pitch that and not have to worry about a LEAN-TO. LEAN-TO TENT (3D) has an AD HOC feel to it.

Interesting theme, but it exacted a price on the grid structure---42 black squares---and on the fill---a ton of 3- and 4-letter entries.

I shish, you sheese, he, she or it shushes.

Joseph M 2:21 PM  

Nothing BRAINLESS about this forking clever, forking well-constructed puzzle.

With HATS before TIES, HUCK before FINN, SEAT before GATE, and OP ED before OBIT, I often found myself at the wrong table setting as I made my way around the grid.

Figuring out the theme helped me through some difficult spots and then realizing later that the clues were all actual forks was the CHERRY on top of a fun solve.

Bravo, Mr. Stulberg, you aced it and I don’t think you offended anyone in the process (except maybe for a few apiarists).

DJ Khaled 2:25 PM  

@Malsdemare - Maybe you think so, but not so much for me.

JC66 2:27 PM  

@Bob Mills

@WS was told before publishing BEANER that it was a racial slur. Ignorance isn't an excuse.

Banana Diaquiri 2:50 PM  

ah, ya want a really tough (hehe) clue for PISMO? chew on this

chefbea 3:19 PM  

@JohnX - good one!!!!!

Odd Sock 3:27 PM  

Is using fork as a sound-alike for a vulgar swear word any better than just saying fu@k? This question sorta relates to double meaning slurs.
Lots of B-list proper names that are too sports related for my taste but I really thought the theme was original and executed with some whimsy so well done Jacob!

Bob Mills 3:31 PM  

Suppose someone, somewhere called a person he disliked a "TWEEZER," for whatever reason. Then that person used it against someone else, and soon the neighborhood was filled with "TWEEZERS," all because one person had thought it was a way to hurt a person's feelings.

I've authored 12 published non-fiction books, and have edited five books for Reader's Digest. I read two newspapers a day, solve two cryptograms a day, and am regarded as a literate person. I have never heard "BEANER" in any context. Even though I'm ignorant of the source of the word, and have never heard it used anywhere, that's not an excuse for failing to recognize its meaning as a racial slur?

Karl Grouch 3:55 PM  

The whole "beaner" thing makes me laugh and then cry and then burst in outrage. All that talking about slurs and racism and apologies and political correctness: pathetic.

Here's to Dogbert, he, at least, knows how to stick a fork into the right places (pun intended).

As for the puz, simple but clever and coherent theme, but I agree with @AnoaBob 2:00pm, lots of black squares and 3-letter fill took some peps out of this fun puzzle.

Merry New Year to all!

(Yeah, I know, "in this country we say Happy New Year") -anyone here familiar with the quote?

Anonymous 4:05 PM  

@Bob Mills -You certainly have every right not to know the any of the meanings of BEANER. Will Shortz does not. Not when he positions himself as the final arbiter of what's right and wrong in a puzzle. Not after its racist meaning has been pointed out to him. Not when, after having it pointed out to him, that Google lists "racist slur" as its primary meaning in the first 100 citations. He knew it was a racist slur when the puzzle went out, he just didn't care because it had a single non-racist interpretation. He said that himself. He didn't care.

Anonymous 4:08 PM  

I know I'll get flamed, assuming this it even makes it past the mods, but I think Shortz's apology was incorrect only in the sense that it wasn't called for. The grievance class is always moaning about some slight or another, but the word was used to describe a baseball term. Surely motive counts in words with multiple meanings. Why should I let Cretans who use what was once entirely benign have their perverse usage ratified? That's nuts. Lots of fine words are twisted or coopted, Are we to bin them all? I think there's a chink in the armor of the argument which says yes . I think he language would be impoverished by that kind of banishment. And I think Will Shortz is terribly weak willed for caving to such nonsense.

HardyB 4:26 PM  

Interestingly, the response I received to my email complaint to NYT re 2D was more straightforward: “Tuesday’s Crossword puzzle included an entry that was offensive and hurtful. It is simply not acceptable in The New York Times Crossword and we deeply apologize for including it.”

Lou Adler 4:28 PM  

Are we still discussing 2D from yesterday? I believe Cheech Marin and Thomas Chong answered that question with "Mexican Americans" from Cheech and Chong's Next Movie.

Masked and Anonymous 4:46 PM  

Did a bit of research on yer various food forks. day-um. There's more kinds of forks than U can shake a stick at.

some faves:
* Ice cream fork.
* Berry fork (yo, @PB1).
* Pasta fork.
* Bread fork.
* Cheese fork.
* Sucket fork [don't ask].
* Pickle fork.
* Fruit salad fork [hybrid!].
* Appetizer fork.
* Chip fork [for french fries].

My one disappointment: Very little action on the "soup fork". Seems like a cool idea, to m&e.

M&A Help Desk

Anonymous 5:30 PM  

The horse is long dead but I can only hope the beating continues tomorrow. What fun!

Aketi 5:43 PM  

I actually bought dinner FORKS today since we always seem to lose FORKS when our son comes come from college. You can buy them one at a time @ Bed, Bath and Beyond instead of having to buy a whole set. They had teeny weeny adorable cocktail forks that I managed to not buy, even though they were tempting. So I had to laugh over the fork clues I discovered when I came home and finally did the crossword.

@M&A, apparently there are also BBQ forks.

@LMS loved your avatar today. @Gill I, loved the image I have of you in lime green gauchos with a hot pink braid. The two of you made my day.

Emil 6:01 PM  

See Donny eulogy in Big Lebowski.

Bob Mills 6:14 PM  

I suppose it's possible to over-debate this issue. But really, how many people recognize "BEANER" as a racial slur? If someone told Will Shortz it was a racial slur, I wouldn't blame him for asking, "Why?"

Because someone decided it was? Has it ever become a political issue? If 99% of the American people never heard of "beaner" as a racial slur, is Will Shortz responsible to the other 1%? Have we become so politically correct that we refuse to use a word, simply because someone, somewhere, thinks it's inappropriate?

Ariadne 6:40 PM  

@Anonymous 4:08pm. The word is “cretin” not Cretan unless you did mean people from Crete.

Anonymous 7:06 PM  

Thanks for the gratuitous vocabulary lesson. You missed my extraneous word It in the first sentence by the way,
I have PhD in classics from that school in West Philly. I think I know all about Crete, Cretans, cretins and creeps. Thats where you come in.
I have an extremely difficukt time typing. Some folks call me a doofus, cripple, retard and the like. Maybe you have too. Anyway,thanks again for pointing out a typo (autocorrect!!!!) While ignoring the larger, and actual, point.

JC66 7:39 PM  

@Bob Mills

Did you even read @WS's response/apology?

GILL I. 8:57 PM  

@JC66.....Don't you feel a huge big {SIGH} coming on? Good gravy, Bob Mills. "If someone told Will Shortz it was a racial slur, I wouldn't blame him for asking, "Why?"." Well, Mr. blindfolds, it is and surprise, surprise.....everyone has told you and Will, why.
Please, sir.....(I don't even know what to add here)..
@JC66. Care to share a little scotch?

JC66 9:02 PM  


Thanks, I'm on my third.

GILL I. 9:25 PM  

I don't know what I hate more...quotation marks, commas or periods. I do know what I like, though...sharing a fourth with @JC66.

Clarence Beeks 9:29 PM  

@KarlGrouch, Nenge Mboko perhaps? Beef Jerky time.

Aketi 5:31 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Proud Mamma 7:25 AM  

Spot on. Apologize briefly and retire the phrase.

Peter P 10:30 AM  

@Anonymous 1:43 p.m. I'm a little late, but, no that's not how it works. OSU is fine for "the Ohio State University." After all, it's "the United States of America," but we don't say TUSA, but rather USA. Articles are often dropped in initialisms, abbreviations, and acronyms. Even their website is and not tosu,edu.

Anonymous 10:54 AM  

Good point about MUFF also being a potentially offensive term. I think we have to realize that it's a matter of degree. Offensive terms vary is degrees of offensiveness based on alternative meanings and pejorativeness. I'd never heard of BEANER. I thought it was going to be offensive because it referred to a flatulent person. I fault Shirtz for not taking into account how offensive it (apparently) is. I'm fine with his response. I'd advise Rex to take a chill pill, but then his cantanerkousness is sort of why we read his blog in the first place.

Karl Grouch 2:23 PM  

Elementary dear Paul. Ah the African Education Conference, those were the times!

thefogman 11:02 AM  

I liked this one a LOTT. In fact, I thought it was forking great! Nicely done Jacob Stulberg. PS: EGAD! ISEE Rex used (almost) the same line from the Good Place as I did. OHNO, that's nothing to BRAG about - it's a BRAINLESS pun. But he didn't hate this one too much - which is something since he is usually so WEARYOF themers. OK, time for a PEACH MUFFin. TATA for now...

spacecraft 11:16 AM  

LOTT of problems with this one (but not with Niners' #42).

--> Construction: the first "I" of MARTINI extends the path of the dessert coming up the central diagonal. I was racking my BRAIN trying to come up with a dessert that ended in -KEI. Very late, I realized that the I wasn't part of it; it was merely the next square on the diagonal.

--> Definition: How does ADHOC mean "Makeshift??" How does EKE mean "Draw (out)??" LATENT is "Unrealized--" at least so far, but certainly an off-throwing clue. And a BERET is FAR from necessarily a "soldier's topper."


The whole thing left me scratching my head. Plus we have the old crutch ESAI; what would constructors do without that poor guy? As you can tell, I'm WEARYOF this. Bogey. TATA!

rondo 11:39 AM  

Whaddya mean “Ugh, that comic”? Perhaps the best one in all of the strips in the Mpls. and St. Paul papers combined. Funny because it’s true to life. Perhaps not to one living in an ivory tower, though. Word of the day OSCARII offers further proof that Norway was part of Sweden into the 20th century, so 99% of the folks of ‘Norwegian’ descent in MN are actually descended from Swedes (they never believe me).

One write-over in the west. Guess I’m not *woke* (god, how I despise that term) enough to remember which order all those letters – and sometimes the LATENT Q – fit together. Makes me want a bacon sandwich.

AIRSTREAMS coulda been clued as those top-shelf trailers. I lived in one for most of a summer.
And we didn’t get to Waller in FATS.

LISA Leslie, six and a half feet of supermodel as a hoops star. Yeah baby.

Thurs trickery on a Weds. EGAD, what tomorrow?

Burma Shave 12:11 PM  


EGAD, don’t BRAG about LGBT,
OHNO, just add that LATENT Q.


Diana, LIW 12:56 PM  

I se folks are still on the ball looking for offense. Oops - I said ball. There - I said it again.

Today's puzzle (remember puzzles?) puzzled me for a while. Just didn't get it. Then, hours later, it was all clear and easy as any kind of pie. Which I don't think is so easy. You ever makea crust? Badly? Now that's easy to do.

Diana, the FINN

Anonymous 1:50 PM  

Anyone else put in Peabody instead of Dogbert?

DMG 2:49 PM  

Am I the only one left who remembers PISMO Beach as a '"muscle beach" , the source of many jokes in the radio days of Bob Hope,
Edie Cantor and the like-miss those comics and their gentle humor!
Enjoyed @Gill's trip up the coast-done it many times myself, and would add the warrf at Monterey to her itinerary- at least back before they built that huge convention center thing that cuts it off from everything. Ah, progress!

rondo 2:57 PM  

@anon 1:50 - Peabody instead of DOGBERT is a good thought, but it's the semantics of cartoon v. comics (strip). You could ask Mr. Peabody's boy Sherman or Dilbert's pointy-haired boss for clarification if necessary.

Anonymous 4:02 PM  

From Syndication Land:

OFL dislikes Scott Adams the creator of Dilbert, because he is a defender of our President.

rondo 5:34 PM  

@anon 4:02 - I was not aware of that. I like the Dilbert strip simply because the office and engineering humor are spot on.

leftcoastTAM 5:44 PM  

Completed it right, after having some trouble finding the gray squares. Many of them were barely, if at all, visible. Was able to see a couple of them that forked, which led to looking for forked answers that made sense, whether gray or not, and found them.

May be getting old and gray, eyes not as sharp as they used to be, but today I have to point to the printer of my newspaper, who could be a low-on-ink robot.

Otherwise, a good medium-challenging Wednesday.

RonMediatore 9:00 AM  

What is CHEESECAKEI ? Is the extra I from MARTINI an error at the end of cheesecake?

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