Old Asian capital / FRI 1-18-19 / D4 dice in role-playing games / Nickname of subzero 1967 N.F.L. Championship Game / California title locale of 1950s-'60s TV series / Figure in Plato's Parmenides / Hack's modern-day rival

Friday, January 18, 2019

Constructor: Andrew Ries 

Relative difficulty: Challenging (7:03)

THEME: none

Word of the Day: PAPAWS (1A: Relatives of custard apples) —
plural noun: papaws
  1. 1. 
    another term for papaya.
  2. 2. 
    a North American tree of the custard apple family, with purple flowers and edible oblong yellow fruit with sweet pulp. (google)
  1. 1. 
    a large fleshy tropical fruit with a sweet yellow pulp.
  2. 2. 
    the tree which bears the custard apple, native to Central and South America. (google)

• • •

Always disappointed when my favorite day of the solving week doesn't really deliver the goods. There's nothing particularly wrong with this grid, but solving it was a chore rather than a joy. Very few "ooh" or "aha" moments (except, ironically, LEAD BALLOON). Mostly just shrugs and "oh"s. Many answers where I had all but one letter and still wasn't too sure. Needed -ILE to get PILE (1D: Laundry room accumulation). Needed -DS and still kinda guessed at MDS (50A: "Code Black" figures, for short). Had to get to -AGS before I got HAGS (47D: Storied pot stirrers). Had PAPER-OSS and thought "well, T, I guess, but ?" (41A: Time-killing office game involving a trash can). Still not really sure how briefs are "delivered in" the American Bar Association (4D). And PAPAWS ... ? ... I barely know what those are, and the clue was zero help. Other times I'd just get handed an answer, like LISA LOEB, but there was just no joy or interest in the cluing. Attempts at joy or interest, though, often fell flat. Took a while to get BLOOD VESSEL (17D: Needle point?) but even after getting it I had to kinda think about how the clue worked: "So ... it's the 'point' where the needle enters your body?" If you just step back and look at the grid, without even considering the cluing, it's pretty lifeless. The cluing just made it worse for me, as what the puzzle thought was interesting, I did not. No idea why you boringly techify answers like ADS (7D: Google ___) and HOSTING (45A: Web service), or why you turn a perfectly good word like VAT into a foreign abbr. (37A: Price add-on in Eur.) Bizarre. You know the puzzle is not really going to sizzle when the clue the puzzle decides to double up on is ... [1040 abbr.]??? I just don't share this puzzle's idea of a good time.

Five things:
  • 33D: Rental unit, often (MONTH) — First, this is a Saturday clue, and it's too clever by 3/4. There's a bunch of this in the grid (see the BOX clue at 56D: Work on hooks, say), but this "ooh, what do I mean by 'unit,' you'll never guess" just thuds when the meaning of "unit" is so badly stretched. This was probably the roughest answer in the grid for me, weirdly, as I had 39A: Norton Sound and such as ISLETS (that's my bad), and this answer crossed PAPER TOSS (?) and HOSTING, which I had trouble with as clued.
  • 27D: "D4" dice in role-playing games, e.g. (TETRAHEDRA) — had the TETRA- early and easily but the rest was weirdly eluding me. Wanted only TETRAHYDRA, which sounded like a plausible D&D monster, but ... this clue was about dice, so ...
  • 24: Time of one's life (TEENS) — it's hard to think of a more boring way to clue this
  • 23A: Post, e.g. (SEND OUT) — again, the difficulty here is just enormous ambiguity about the meaning of the clue word, and then when the actual answer comes, it's really mundane and anticlimactic. Also, I had to play the not-at-all-enjoyable "is it SENDOUT or SENDOFF" game.
  • 50D: ___ point (MOOT) — oh, sorry, [1040 abbr.] wasn't the only repeated clue. We've also got this one, repeated with a capital P at 32A: ___ Point (WEST). This pair is hair's breadth more exciting than the IRS one. At least the "P" changes case. You take your excitement where you can find it.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld (Twitter @rexparker / #NYTXW)

P.S. NYT constructor count for 2019: Men: 17 / Women: 1

P.P.S. The Inkubator is a brand-new crossword edited and constructed entirely by women. The first Inkubator crossword came out just last night and it is a very good Easy (Monday/Tuesday-level) puzzle (difficulty levels will vary). As you can see by my first P.S., and (if you look it up) by the Very Dismal record the NYT has of publishing women in the last decade+  of the Shortz era, the Inkubator is filling a giant hole in the puzzling world. They're recruiting and mentoring new constructors and creating a cool, inclusive crossword culture, while also trying to turn out innovative and entertaining puzzles. The puzzle I solved last night was definitely women-centric, and I learned a thing or two, but mainly it was just a good, solid, fun, breezy puzzle. One that had a grid and cluing where women's lives and perspectives and achievements were prominently represented. If you're not already a subscriber, check it out. And congrats to editors Laura Braunstein and Tracy Bennett on the successful launch!

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


mmorgan 12:04 AM  

Tough. Fair. Good. Lots of stuff I didn’t know — PAPAWS, MADSEN, TETRAHEDRA (is that one word or two?) and more — but I was able to get them from crosses. Good workout, nice misdirections, tough and fair. Whatever Rex says (haven’t read him yet), I found this to be a Very Enjoyable Puzzle!

One nit is that HERTZ did not “broadcast” radio waves. Following up on theoretical work by James Clerk Maxwell, Hertz proved that radio waves actually existed, and he showed how they could be set in motion and detected. Conventional history records that Marconi was the first to transmit those waves (and many insist that in fact Tesla did it before Marconi), but the first actual “broadcast” — that is, from one point to many, not just point-to-point wireless transmission — was accomplished by Reginald Fessenden on Christmas Eve 1906.

We now return you to your regular programming.

jae 12:08 AM  

Medium. Delightful, a little crunch, a little zip, a fine Fri. Liked it a lot more than @Rex did.

77 SUNSET STRIP was must see TV for me when I was in my TEENS...and I have fond memories of playing trash can B-Ball for $$$ in high school.

asdfasfd 12:12 AM  

Actually somewhat proud of my 21 minute solve and agreed on most points. ABA was one of many clues that I typed in early thinking "it might be right, but I really hope it isn't" because the cluing was so lame. SW/NE filled in quickly, the rest took me forever which pretty much seemed to to be the case this week--would get halfway through and hit a wall--or a looking glass.

Not finishing off TETRAHEDRA was my own fault because my mind never adapts to the singular/plural of DIE/DICE, even if I've gambled and gamed enough to know the difference.

24 down is garbage cluing, unless I'm missing something. What, specifically, makes TEENS the time of one's life? What if they die at 12? 10D is also bleh.

As a Wake Forest alum, 51D made me grumble a bit. Had "SWIFF" in 26D and, yeah.. Wasn't aware of 47A. Have never heard 29A.

One day away from my first four-week streak ever, but this has probably been the least enjoyable week for me since I switched from paper to the app in July.

travis 12:24 AM  

Apropos of the PS, apparently the WSJ has been giving puzzles constructed by men fake female bylines to make it appear they had more women constructors.

Harryp 12:26 AM  

Ditto for me on lots of good stuff here. I really liked the clue for 56Down, Work on hooks. The three center down long ones were the key to the breakout for me. UBER DRIVER, WOLFED, PALOOKA, TETRAHEDRA were also great fill. It was within reason, DOABLE.

Carola 12:40 AM  

Medium here, and enjoyable to piece together, with a very nice array of long Downs, along with BONE-TIRED + LIE ABOUT.
Unlike @Rex, I liked the non-specifice clues that required some crosses in order to reveal whether "Post" was newspaper, mail, or blog-related or the "pitches" were from baseball or advertising. I was surprised to learn that ESCAPE ROOMs are a vehicle for team-building; I'd file that idea under "Just shoot me now," but then I guess the rest of my team could bond around keeping me from decompensating.

@jae, I also have fond memories of 77 SUNSET STRIP - as well as of the quarterback sneak that ended the ICE BOWL.

okanaganer 1:01 AM  

Rex is always critical of the clues, and usually I don't really agree with him, but tonight is an exception as there seemed to be... maybe, too much thought put into many of them?

Interestingly, at xwordinfo the constructor compliments some of the cluing. I always like to check that site for the less grouchy analysis. Interesting that when Mr. Ries submitted the puzzle ESCAPE ROOM had never been used, but by now it has already been used 3 times!

For 34A I had IRS and when the correct answer was filled by the crosses I thought "1040 abbr." = "terrorist org."??? and then "oh, right". Here in Canada we have an "RRSP" which... AFAIK does not stand for a terrorist org.

TAIPEI = TYPE A (homonym)... flashback to Wednesday!

Anonymous 1:11 AM  

so important that we bring intersectionality to the world of crosswords. 🙄

Robin 1:48 AM  

Struggled a bit on this one, primarily in the NE, but also a bit in the NW. Started off on the wrong foot by entering 1D as LINT.

So, worked the lower half of this without too much difficulty, then eventually stared at 1A long enough to realize PAPAWS would work if I got rid of the starting L.

But color me a nerd/gamer... I stared at clue for 10D for ages, and the had the DRIVER at the end before realizing it had nothing to do with hacking a system or playing or the 1980s computer game HACK. Hey! I'm an old gamer dude, TETRAHEDRA was pretty much a gimme.

A few of the others were gimmes. ICEBOWL, yep, sure, knew what that was. SUNSETSTRIP, ye, sure, never seen an episode, but knew it. MADSEN, oh, be still my beating heart, I know who she is. Read enough Aubrey/Maturin lately that SPRIT filled in quickly.

Crud fill included OARED, and as Rex pointed out IRA and SSN.

Larry Gilstrap 2:30 AM  

More than once, I had to remind myself to trust the puzzle, particularly because I started in the NW, imagine that!, and got nothing. I knew the song "Stay," but the artist's name escaped me. I then gained traction in some corners utilizing stuff that I knew, worked backwards, and I was done.

I really don't follow college basketball any longer, or most collegiate sports. Seems like the tail wagging the dog. I grew up in LA, so 51D must be UCLA, should it not? ACTUALly, I heard some media commentator surmise that the demise of that program had something to do with the enforcement of academic standards. Popular school, but, those earthquakes every few decades.

Shout out to that Dirty Scottish Play for allowing the puzzle to elevate HAGS above misogynistic name-calling. Nice save!

I predict that @Lewis will include 30D in his clues of the week. You read "Broomsticks," admit it!

Thank you for the Friday I deserve.

chefwen 2:55 AM  

We really liked this and thought the clueing was rather clever. 9D TAIPEI being the favorite, 43D ON SALE was good too as was 38D ERA.

I’ll bet wasn’t the only one who had LINT in before PILE, at least I hope not.

ICE BOWL was my first fill, I remember it well, we were of the smart set who watched it on TV. I just gave my Packer loving husband a late Birthday gift, I ordered a personalized wooden plaque that says LAMBEAU FIELD
4252 MILES He has our outside Buddha holding it up with the arrow pointing east. Of course, the Buddha is also sporting a Green Bay Packer cap.

chefwen 3:02 AM  

@asdfasfd - Childhood, TEENS, twenties, thirties, middle age, old age, etc.

Chim cham 3:52 AM  

Liked this slightly better than OFL but was quite tough going. Though I never resent being reminded of the lovely Virginia MADSEN.

JOHN X 3:58 AM  

This was a great puzzle.

This was a real New York Times Friday crossword puzzle.

This thing kicked the shit out me, but just like Rocky I came back and defeated it, with both eyes swollen shut and oiled with sweat and art department blood dripping from the corner of my mouth ever just so.

This puzzle was "difficulty porn" at it's filthiest and nastiest best.

Jofried 5:32 AM  

Wow, that was rough! I was so sure 1D was lint and then couldn’t get anywhere in the NW. finally got PILE and then made it through. Phew!

Will 5:36 AM  

I have foraged and eaten many pawpaws, but I have never seen that alternate spelling.

frankbirthdaycake 6:59 AM  

This one was a slog – difficult, to be sure – but enjoyable nonetheless. It was not my favorite puzzle, but they can’t all be winners. At some point, the complaining and nit-picking begins to sound like a person complaining about suboptimal service at a fast-food restaurant. You get what you pay for. I would probably pay more to the Times for better quality puzzles, but they’re not asking. A nice holiday weekend to all, as we remember the late Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., on Monday. Peace.

Hungry Mother 7:19 AM  

Super fast Friday solve. I was under the gun timewise, trying to meet an 8am departure for a weekend in Key West to run the half marathon there. The pressure helped me plow through it.

kitshef 7:24 AM  

Is it Wednesday still? Absolutely none of the expected Friday crunch.

No write-overs. That’s rare on any day, incredibly so on a Friday.

The fill is top-notch. What this puzzle needs is a complete do-over on the clues.

amyyanni 7:53 AM  

Anyone else remember Charlie "Paw Paw" Maxwell, former Tiger (and Sox) baseball player? I think there's a town named Paw Paw, believe it or not. I had just started following the Tigers when he was traded, and my 7 or 8 year old self didn't approve. On the other hand, the puzzle is top notch. Taipei and GROANS from a punster tickled me.

Lewis 8:05 AM  

Man, the middle section fought me to the core. Sunset Strip finally broke it open (my first thought there was Death Valley Days -- remember that, some of you, with 20-mule-team Borax, and, for a while, Ronald Reagan?). I very much liked the clues for ALLITERATE, TAIPEI, MONTH, BLOOD VESSEL, and TNT, and noticed that mini-theme of double O's (6).

But that middle section! In English, "formidable" means difficult; in French, it means wonderful. That is the perfect word, then, for that part of the puzzle today, for me.

Anonymous 8:10 AM  

I don't think you know what "intersectionality" means.

TomAz 8:45 AM  

Tons of misdirection today. Popped in LINT at 1D, then ICEBOWL, then PESO and SWOON. I was off to the races! Not.

"Stay" is Maurice Williams in my world, not Lisa Loeb. Bolted down means secure tightly, not eat quickly. (Not saying these are wrong, mind you). PAPER TOSS went away shortly after the first IBM PCs started showing up in offices in the mid 80s. I had no idea what a "D4" could be.

I did like the clues on UBER DRIVER and BLOOD VESSEL.

Seemed harder-than-average Friday puzzle.

SJ Austin 8:48 AM  

Hardest NYT puzzle I've done in a long time. Just could not get any traction with the narrow passages between the sections. Ended up cheating on a couple long answers to get moving. Despite this, I found it to be pretty fresh and interesting.

An Open Book 8:49 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
GILL I. 8:50 AM  

Yep, @chefwen...LINT screwed me up sumpin fierce. Not knowing PAPAWS nor LISA LOEB didn't help.
On to anything I knew and hoping the clues weren't too cutesy. They were in some areas and clever in others.
I was all over the place - a word here, a word there. Not even sure of the answer. 33D was my bugaboo. I had CONDO instead of MONTH and it certainly didn't help that I didn't know Virginia MADSEN either. Arrg....I get mad when I don't know the names and not knowing them ensures a dreaded Google.
SUNSET STRIP/PALOOKA was all I had for a while. Kept whittling away. Am I enjoying this or am I working too hard? PAPER TOSS gave me a smile, TERA HEDRA a frown. UBER DRIVER smile, IRA, frown. ACTUALly there were more smiles than frowns. Loved the clue for TAIPEI and I wasn't fooled. Yep, @Larry G....I read it as broomstick.
MOOT point, WEST Point, hmmm, OK. DOABLE GROANS

Hartley70 9:02 AM  

This was a medium Friday for me, except for the ABA clue. I’m stuck on location for delivery, ie chambers, courthouse etc. It was fun to flirt with underwear “briefly”.

I had to dig deep for SUNSETSTRIP because I wanted a 77 before it.

TETRAHEDRA was from crosses since I know zip about D4 or role-playing games and plan to keep it that way. I take it Charades doesn’t qualify.

You’re not alone @chefwen. I had “lint” for what seems like forever. I’ve had lint on the brain because it’s probably time to clean out that duct that leads from the dryer to the outside. Oh joy.

Bob Milla 9:02 AM  


VAT do you mean? 9:17 AM  

VAT clarification, please?

Too clever by 8/4 9:26 AM  

5D was another one of those ridiculously vague clues. I guess at some point in my life I've heard of someone "bolting down" their food...but not often enough for me to nod in agreement with this cluing, which, when added to all of the other tortured clues that Rex mentioned, only highlights how gratuitously "clever" this puzzle was...and how joyless the solve was.

I'm sure some of you will delight in the process of sussing out some of those clues. Good for you. I'm happy for you. What a wonderful, happy life you live.

Someone posted this weeks ago, but it's true here too: Because you can doesn't mean you should. You twist the meaning of words 8 ways to Sunday, and then (probably) sit back and smile smugly as we try to figure out WTF you're on about. Fortunately for you, some solvers, with masochistic tendencies, enjoy that kind of thing. Not all of us do, however.

Just thought you'd like to know.

Crimson Devil 9:28 AM  

Value added tax, a tax on consumption rather than income.

Anonymous 9:29 AM  

Value Added Tax

Matthew G. 9:32 AM  

Speaking as a lawyer, the clue on ABA makes Zero Sense to me. Does the person who wrote that clue think that lawyers show up at ABA meetings and serve briefs on each other? Or that the business of law occurs “in” the ABA? Neither of those things happen. The ABA is just a voluntary bar association, with no particular legal authority of its own.

The first A in ABA was the last letter I put in the grid because I thought it just had to be wrong.

Michiganman 9:35 AM  

@Amy Yanni. Glad you mentioned Charlie "PawPaw" Maxwell. Indeed, Paw Paw Michigan is west of Kalamazoo. He grew up in that area and attended WMU in K'zoo. He was known for hitting home runs in Sunday games.

I had a DNF, put in Dook for 51D. Go Blue. Go Green & White.

puzzlehoarder 9:35 AM  

One of the tougher Fridays in a long while. I don't think it's just this miserable cold I have either. Initially very few clues clicked. MADSEN and TNT let me into the central crosses but I couldn't get the long downs in the center to drop.

Filling in the SE was the real (A TUAL) start. Once the long downs started dropping I finally got the leverage to finish.

The clue for VAT is a debut. I'll have to look it up.

pabloinnh 9:44 AM  

First thought LINT, with many others, but because of old x-word friend EDO (hey! where ya been?) knew it couldn't be, although PILE remained in hiding for way too long. CONDO for MONTH almost stymied me permanently, since I thought OOSTING might just be more computer jargon I'd never heard. Solve was interrupted many, many times by the toddler granddaughter wanting to sit in my lap with yet another different book. Not complaining, believe me.

What's the word for today? Crunchy? Prickly? Rugged? I think I'll go with "flinty", because why not?

RooMonster 9:47 AM  

Hey All !
In the tough crowd here. Still don't know how STAT fits the clue. Anyone?

Wasn't HERTZ the first person to start a Car Rental? Har. (Don't answer that one.) Had tEsla there. Also had lInt for PILE. But, did read Boomsticks and not Broomsticks.

A tad too young for the ICE BOWL (can't recall the last time I was too young for something!) as born in 1969. Seen the highlights, though.

A decent themeless, but do agree it didn't make me SWOON. PALOOKA was fun.


Dr. James Watson 9:53 AM  

Why focus only on women for your diversity campaign?
Where are all the black constructors?

Anonymous 10:00 AM  

Fully agree with Rex on this one. Found it dull and uninteresting, a lot of the clues were a stretch, and none of them worth that tension. Hoping for better tomorrow after this poor one.

QuasiMojo 10:03 AM  

Junk free for the most part with very little pop cultcha. Fun Friday. Fave clue: the one for Samson. Great job!

Hank Bauer 10:03 AM  

@Amy Yanni - As a Yankee fan, I well remember Charlie Maxwell. He made a habit of hitting HRs against the Yanks, usually on Sunday as I recall. Good times. Thanks.

Crimson Devil 10:04 AM  

Re STAT: only thing I could figure is sometimes attempts is used as a statistic, stat,e.g. completions in attempts.

Suzie Q 10:13 AM  

It's a double victory for me when I finish a tough puzzle and find out it got a "Challenging" rating.
Loved some of the tricky clues.
Thanks @ mmorgan for the radio info. It reinforces my feeling that Tesla is vastly underappreciated.
Palooka was gorilla for a moment as condo was for month.
That is a very cool game die Rex posted. I want one.
I don't remember a whole lot from 77 Sunset Strip except for the theme music. 77 Sunset Strip (snap snap).
Tough love today from Mr. Ries.

Sir Hillary 10:26 AM  

Very hard for me. I solved it while watching TV, which is a terrible process that I should not repeat. I'm not nearly the multitasker I'd like to believe I am.

But this was a very tough puzzle irrespective of my solving environment. The grid contained Andrew Ries's typical central stacks and is quite good (only 68 words), but it should have run on a Saturday. Clues were very obscure, but mostly fair. I really don't get ABA though, and IRA as a 1040 abbr. is terrible.

Katzzz 10:27 AM  

Attempts is a basketball stat. Free throw attempts and field goal attempts.

CDilly52 10:29 AM  

Also as a lawyer, I completely agree, although I tossed it in as the very last entry when I realized that PAWPAW was 1A. Still don’t get it though.

Z 10:32 AM  

Hand up for getting stuck in the lint trap. I liked this more than Rex but it really did have a Saturday feel to it. My solve went east coast, California, great plains, and finally the NW. I know we are all thinking legal briefs and American Bar Association, but I keep hoping someone will show up and say “no, A____ B______ A_____.” and we all get a collective D’Oh moment. Until someone does I’m in the “that clue is crap” camp.

@asdfasfd - To elaborate on what @chefwen said, you fell into the “the missing article is ‘the’” trap. Omitting the article is a difficulty enhancer, (A) Time of your life versus (The) Time of your life. A good thing to remember when you’re stuck late in the week is to change the implied article and see if that helps.

@Michiganman and @Amy Yanni - Lots of Tigers love around here. If Wikipedia is up to date, Maxwell is still with us at 97 years. I’m too young to remember seeing him play, but Ernie Harwell had a Charlie Maxwell story or three so I definitely know of him.

Anonymous 10:32 AM  

I suspect that one down was a generational problem. When I was in my 20s and we were doing laundry for a house full of kids, we had "piles" because it was the job of the kids to bring up the laundry.Into our 50s and empty nesters, we now get lint. Problem is that if you are a mid 50s empty nester with lint instead of piles, Lisa Loeb was ot a gimme, nor was papaws. I'm a lawyer, and I don't understand the ABA thing. so, all of that, paired with a 1967 football game, when I should have been bringing up the laundry for my parents, created a post baby boomer, pre millenial crash and burn in that northwest.

Nancy 10:35 AM  

Tough for me, but DOABLE without cheating. Though I was tempted at times. And the end result was to have myself a real workout and to feel very smart -- especially since I didn't know LISA LOEB, TETRAHEDRA as clued, or PAPER TOSS. (Don't have to play "time-killing office games" since I'm not in an office.)

My big problem was cONdo instead of MONTH for "Rental unit, often". Virginia cADSEN straightened me out. It's not that I knew MADSEN up front, but she looked a hell of a lot more familiar than cADSEN. And oOSTING is not anything I've ever heard of. Not that web HOSTING is either. Where do you go to be HOSTED on the web?

ICE BOWL was guessable. LEAD BALLOON and BLOOD VESSEL are terrific answers, clued in challenging but completely fair ways. Wanted MORSE before HERTZ (47A), but was smart enough not to write it in.

Would an ESCAPE ROOM really contribute to "team-building"? Might it not be just as likely produce "Get me the hell outta here!!!!!" every-man-and-woman-for-themselves-type panic?

Enjoyed this a lot. Though, like many of you, I don't think the ABA clue really works.

CDilly52 10:37 AM  

Tough and boring. Not anything to “cry foul” over as a whole. Like many, “lint” kept me from solving the NW until the very end. I have never heard BONE TIRED. BONE weary, yes “dog tired,” yes. And those sort of disconnects, vagueries and odd clueing are what slowed this down. Two clever misdirects (in the typical crossword sense) for me were MONTH not “condo,” and HAGS (I was looking for something from children’s literature.). While this was not very “wow, clever!” inducing, it was Friday tough so kudos. Except for ABA, which makes no sense at all.

three of clubs 10:39 AM  

I usually have a tough time determining the race, ethnicity, gender identification, or sexual preferences of a person without more clues (like a picture or a historically gendered name) because individual people are not necessarily representative of a group.

David 10:48 AM  

Slog for me, given I plopped LINT in 1D, had SSN at 37A (after finish I never saw the "answer" is IRA, something one does not put the number of in their 1040, one puts in INT earned), had TESLA in 47A (due to the mythology, not the reality) and could not countenance HERTZ. I believe this is the third puzzle this week with proper plurals (tetrahedra as opposed to tetrahedrons -- haha, this blog software spellcheck rejects the proper in favor of the improper!); I like that. I think my favorite mis-direct clue was on UBER DRIVER. So a slog, but not a joyless one.

Value Added Tax is something Europeans and Republican politicians never add into their calculations of how much tax businesses pay in various countries. I remember being in Slovakia in a meeting where the Slovaks were saying that, at only 20%, they had one of the lowest business tax rates on Earth. A Very Republican Businessman said, "But you have a 19% VAT, right?" "Well... yes" "Then the nominal rate is 39%, isn't it?" "" See, what they never tell us is that, if you're making widgets and you need to get parts from another business, the VAT applies to whatever you're purchasing to make your widget. It ain't just a consumer sales tax. And, then again, most Americans don't even know there is such a thing as VAT in Europe.

Unknown 10:58 AM  

Seriously though, I need someone to walk me through the logic
behind 4D: ABA.

I got this through cross-fill (luckily) but after getting it, I went
back to the clue to try to make sense of the answer. Even after
thinking up a somewhat plausible connection between clue and
answer, it's still bothering me so much that I just had to see if
someone could offer me a better, more rational, less twisted way
to get from point A to point B here.

Is the connection here between Clue (What briefs are delivered
in, in brief) and Answer (ABA) that "ABA" is the abbreviation
for the American Bar Association and that relates to delivering
briefs because the ABA is an org made up of lawyers and
lawyers are known to "deliver" briefs to/before the court???

I normally enjoy getting an answer right, especially when the
clue gives me pause or trips me up... but in this instance, I
SO dislike the so-called logic behind that answer (gulp) that
I'm actually hoping I'm wrong. Help!

Crimson Devil 11:00 AM  

Good to see that REAL powerhouse of NCAA bball is properly clued and identified (51d) today. Our spiritual leader/head Heel (LMS) seems to be quietly sulking....
Go Devils!

Charles Flaster 11:04 AM  

DNF at lInt for pIle.
I am sure the ICE BOWL participants remembered it well.
I watched in disbelief.
Thanks AJR

Anonymous 11:06 AM  

@David - you could have just said, and accurately, Republicans are assholes.
It amounts to the same thing.

Z 11:10 AM  

@David - Or that Canada has one or that conservatives have been know to float one as a “tax reform” here. Let’s be clear, though. Businesses don’t pay VATs, consumers do. Yeah Yeah, a business might cut the check but that cost, like almost all consumption taxes, don’t reduce profits, they only increase what the consumer pays. Simple rule, rich people benefit more from income and consumption taxes. Everyone else benefits from wealth taxes.

Anonymous 11:11 AM  

@Z - or as I said...

Nancy 11:12 AM  

@Carola (12:40) -- I see you had the exact same reaction to ESCAPE ROOM as a supposed
team-building" activity that I did. Only I got trapped in the ESCAPE ROOM many hours after you did. I've always thought that we often have highly similar reactions to puzzles.

But your memory is light-years better than mine, @Carola. How can you possibly remember that the 1967 ICE BOWL ended with a quarterback sneak when I can barely remember what I had for dinner last night?

I also would have put in LINT at 1D like Robin and GILL and Hartley, except that EDO (puzzledom's favorite old Asian capital) made LINT impossible. I was thinking the blog would thank me for this bit of enlightenment, but now I see that @pabloinnh (9:44) offered this same bit of enlightenment well ahead of me. If you want to know why I post my first comment before reading the blog, these last two examples are why. I'm a latish riser who gets my NYT in the morning, and if everyone beats me to the punch on everything I want to say and I know that before I write my first word, I would never be able to say anything at all.

You really found this puzzle Wednesday-easy, @kitshef? Wow!

Feel better, @puzzlehoarder! I SEND OUT my sympathy. LIE ABOUT until you're well, LEST you become BONE-TIRED and SWOON.

Anonymous 11:27 AM  

Americans get stuck with VAT as well. Oh man, this is going to sound like a 1 percenter gripe, so, deal with it. I get my suits made by a bespoke tailor in London. To avoid the VAT, my bespoke tailor leaves one seam unfinished, ships it here, where the final sewing and fitting is done. All of that is to avoid me paying an extra $225 in VAT for a suit if it was sent out of London as finished. As a trial lawyer, I deliver arguments in court. I have nothing to do with the ABA, which is a pressure group for establishment corporate lawyers who never write briefs. 4 down baffles me.

Masked and Anonymous 11:28 AM  

@RP: yep. Like U, M&A thought somethin was missin, here. Realized it was the theme mcguffin. U just don't hear folks say "What a clever idea for a puzzle!" very often, for a themeless puppy. M&A longs for one of them FriPuzs where they sneak in a wildass-hard theme.

As a themeless puz, tho, I'd say it was pretty good & solid. Liked ICEBOWL/WOLFED right outta the chute. Also thought SUNSETSTRIP was great, especially since I got er off its openin SU-. Don't see TETRAHEDRA everydarnday, either. Cute TNT clue. And admired the Jaws of Themelessness at 12 & 6 o'clock. Nuthin much in this grid to SPRIT at.

staff weeject pick: VAT. Value-Added-Tax. har. Well, there's yer rodeo, for a theme: Words that can also be unrelated abbrevs. (yo, @ERA. And @IRA. And @SAT.) Four themers, right there … M&A is startin to perk up & feel better, already.

Thanx, Mr. Ries. I really liked that MONTH clue, btw.

Masked & Anonymo3Us

@RP again: yep. Gettin real weird, on that 17 male vs. 1 female constructioneer spread. And the NYTPuz offers equal pay, regardless of gender or mask-fetishes. Where's Lynn Lempel darlin? And CC darlin? What have U done with them, NYT? Don't make us come down there, Shortzmeister.

Banana Diaquiri 11:36 AM  

One nit is that HERTZ did not “broadcast” radio waves.

which is why tEsla ruined it for me.

@Crimson Devil:
Value added tax, a tax on consumption rather than income.

well... no. VAT is a tax on production value added. how much gets rolled into consumer price, aka sales tax, is up to the producer; they are not compelled to do so. an example: https://www.cover.co.za/bestmed-announces-decision-not-pass-increased-vat-burden-members/

TubaDon 11:38 AM  

Fell into the LINT trap, like many others. WOLFED finally reminded me of PAWPAWS and dropping the first W seemed reasonable (even though my dictionary says pawpaw is the only acceptable spelling. And I have no idea why ABA makes sense as an answer to 4D. It's an association, not a venue for court arguments. Also was trapped by CONDO and needed a hint from my wife for Ms. MADSEN before I could suss out the long downs. Rex has a point about the cluing. P.S. Hertz's spark gap transmitter and resonator did indeed generate and receive radio waves even though he himself thought they were of "no use whatsoever"

Ethan Taliesin 11:44 AM  

This Friday really wants it to be Saturday already.

beam aims north 11:54 AM  

This was really difficult for me. Like, three times my normal time difficult. I was just not on its wavelength (NOT broadcast by Hertz) at all.

Matthew G. 11:58 AM  

Judging by the comments here and at the Fiend blog, you are not wrong. The consensus seems to be that the clue on ABA is that very rare NYT crossword clue that objectively fails. Considering how rare it is for Will to approve a clue that’s just wrong, it stands out a lot when it does.

TJS 12:05 PM  

Like John X, I had to get down and dirty with this one. Finished it out of sheer stubborness after a long staring contest. Has a few walks down memory lane with sunset strip w. Edd "Cooky" Burns and his ever present comb, Virginia Madsden in many smoking hot roles, and Charley "Paw Paw. My favorite baseball nickname back then was Harry "Suitcase" Simpson, so named because he got traded so often. Might be a great theme for a puzzle...Catfish, Blue Moon, etc. Only for us old timers, probably.

BarbieBarbie 12:07 PM  

What the heck, @Rex, we have PAPAWS (weird spelling) in Delaware and they are not papayas. Also, the ditty that ends “way down yonder in the PAPAW patch” wasn’t written in the tropics, where edible papayas grow. And, the leaves look nothing alike. So, not sure where you found that definition, but I’m thinking some English major took over a botany assignment and made stuff up for whatever web page that was.

This was difficult for me, for a lot of reasons, but I thought it was a great puzzle. Some really good clueing. More please!

Mr. Benson 12:12 PM  

I came to say exactly what Matthew G said. I'm an ABA member. To my knowledge, exactly zero briefs have been delivered or exchanged at ABA events.

The wrongness of that clue made the NW, crossing the obscurity that is PAPAWS, many times harder than it had to be -- because I refused to accept that ABA could possibly be the answer.

Friar Tucks 12:16 PM  

Piles has a very different meaning in the UK.

Odd Sock 12:22 PM  

I've eaten papaws before and they are one of those wild fruits that do not keep or transport well. They are called hillbilly bananas by some folks but besides being kinda yellowish, sorta sweet, and mushy when ripe they don't taste like a banana to me.
Taipei was great and was a suggestion from Bruce Haight maybe?
Good warm-up for a ripping good Saturday I hope.

What? 12:31 PM  

TETRAHEDRA easy for anyone who took organic chemistry (it’s the structure of a carbon atom) but I don’t know how anyone else could get it unless by the cross words.

Jeff 12:52 PM  

I'm an ER physician, and probably real with more codes than anyone, and I would have to look at the other side of my badge if I heard a Code Black called. When the specialty involved has to look it up, you might be reaching a bit.

JC66 12:58 PM  


Code Black is a TV show. They probably choose the name because it sounded "cool."

Anoa Bob 1:04 PM  

Thirty four black squares is a tad high for a themeless and loaded this one down with a bunch of 3s and 4s. The likes of EDO, ABA, EDT, SSN, ETC, etc., are apt to bring on some GROANS, and not the good kind.

The 16A clue for the singer of the #1 hit "Stay" had me thinking of Maurice Williams & The Zodiacs. Oops, wrong song, wrong generation.

If you are SOLVENT (36A), then you are not in the hole in the first place, right? So I was thrown a bit by its clue "Able to get out of the hole".

My go-to example of a "Complete failure" (14D) would be SCREEN DOOR ON A SUBMARINE.

Anonymous 1:15 PM  

@Banana Diaquiri - You sure showed we fools who thought that a VAT is a tax on consumption! You found ONE company in South Africa who chose to eat the increase in the VAT from 14% to 15%.

@JC66 - The TV show Code Black was named such because it was based on a documentary of the same name.

Seth 1:20 PM  

Loved this puzzle. It was really hard for me, but I kept coming back to it and each time I chipped a bit more away. Very satisfying to finish.

(PS loved the clue on BOX. That was the last thing I figured out, because I originally had SESTET, finished with that error, and had to track it down.)

Teedmn 1:23 PM  

"Lint", yup; cONdo, nope. And I never hesitated at the clue for 29A, knowing that it was about being TIRED, except I couldn't think past "dead-tired" for a while, keeping one of my Mom's favorite sayings, "That went over like a LEAD BALLOON" from appearing immediately.

I like this puzzle just fine but I did laugh out loud at Rex's rant about two 1040 clues being too boring. Put that way, I have to agree. I actually sort of enjoy doing my taxes every year. No Turbotax for me - just my accumulated papers and PDF versions of the tax rules and forms. I suppose it would surprise no one to find that I work in Accounting. I do feel a bit of dread for the upcoming new tax laws - my state didn't manage to coordinate the state taxes with the Fed's so chaos may ensue.

Had to like Jeff Chen's suggestion of adding 4 or 5 question marks to the BLOODVESSEL clue - that would make it an UBER runt clue!

Some friends we went camping with brought a bag full of dryer lint they had accumulated (so LINT as 1D's answer made a lot of sense to me). We tried to use it to start our fire when it was raining cats and dogs. To my surprise, it just smoldered - I thought it would go up like a cotton ball. If you've never burned a cotton ball, it's pretty cool (done outside on the cement patio). It's not close to "boomsticks" but I like how the flame flows through it. I'm scaring y'all now with my weird tastes in taxes and cotton balls, I can sense it!

Andrew Ries, this is a nice Friday puzzle with a bit of challenge to it for me, thanks.

JC66 1:26 PM  

@Anon 1:15

Sorry, maybe Ryan McGarrry, the documentarian, chose the name because it sounded "cool."

DavidL 1:33 PM  

As Rex and other comments have said, some of these clues were ridiculously obscure or just off. This took me forever to finish.

Unknown 1:35 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chris 1:49 PM  

Hand up for LINT. Good puzzle, felt a little hard for a Friday (although it says it was under my average, but not nearly Saturday level IMO.

Oh, and go to hell, Dook. Go 'Heels.

Anonymous 2:08 PM  

@Teedmn, my neighbor saves dryer lint for use in starting campfires, but combines it with wax from old candles and stuffs it in old toilet paper tubes.

Ray Yuen 2:10 PM  

Love the PPS and love the Inkubator puzzle! It's great to get away from the androcentric norm and especially good to know there will be no disgusting Trump-thumping.

I would not rate it a Monday/Tuesday effort; I think it was more like Wednesday with one toe in Thursday. Regardless, they call it "lightly challenging" with two levels of difficulty above it. I'm all on board and subscribing as we speak.

jberg 2:16 PM  

I thought I wouldn't make it; slaved away for half an hour before my wife and I had to drive the dog to her oncologist (she's fine, btw/ -- after two surgeries) just utterly stuck. Then came back and took it up again over lunch -- and everything cleared up. My big problem in the NE was Google 'Air' -- a mental combo of Adobe Air and the ios Air Drop, I think. Down below it was "Don't get any on you," a risque saying from my youth, crossing daydream instead of LIE ABOUT. And of course I had PAPER ball before PAPER TOSS, it just sounded so much more like what you'd call a game.

PILE was my first thought for 1D, rejected immediately as too vague, so I too went with line. Also with gorillA for the big ape, figuring it for a double reverse.

OTOH, PAPAWS was a gimme -- I can't believe only one other person has mentioned this great song, from a less risque part of my problem. I had a record with this on it, maybe by Burl Ives, which I played incessantly.

oar, oar, oar your boat
Gently down the stream --

Sure it's ridiculous, but I'm not gonna make a row about it.

@Nancy -- I'm always amazed what real fans can remember. I once got asked to be on a focus group that turned out to be about opera. I like opera, but most of the other group members were 3 or 4 levels past me, some of them professional critics. We were asked to say how we got interested in opera, and I mentioned having gone to see Opera Company of Boston put on "Hippolyte et Aricie" about 20 years earlier and having no idea what was going on -- whereupon another group member exclaimed, "But Placido Domingo was in that!" I was impressed.

Amelia 2:47 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Michael 2:53 PM  

As somebody who works in the tax field, I think IRA SSN and VAT are more than acceptable as fill, thanks very much!

MattyG 3:07 PM  

Fun, meaty; great reminder why I do the puzzle! A nice break from the machine gun staccato of "know it or not" xword fill - worked this one from all corners at once. Bravo!

Chip Hilton 4:00 PM  

Hard. Fun! That’s the SPRIT!

Apparently, hard for Rex means he doesn’t like it. By the way, I loved yesterday’s looking glass puzzle as well. Just saying.

Virginia MADSEN had her moment. I thought she was great.

Sandy McCroskey 4:30 PM  

Glad I'm not the only one who found this hard. Online, the clue for SWEEP was given as "Gathered dust"—wrong tense (surprised no one has mentioned that yet). At first I had TVA for VAT, because I'm always reading the French press.

Unknown 4:31 PM  

So ABA is not only a horrible clue even if it were to make sense in some contrived setting, but it's even worse considering that NOT A SINGLE PERSON can come up with anything at all that in any way justifies this horrendous clue.

bswein99 5:01 PM  

This was okay but I hated the "Hip, hip hooray" answer (11D). A million two-word phrases (hip is just repeated) start with the same letter. An alliterated phrase should have three or four words that start with the same letter. And a four-letter laundry room accumulation (1D) is lint, period. Even after I knew that was "wrong," I could barely bring myself to change it.

Anonymous 5:53 PM  

Dirty clothes accumulate in a PILE in the laundry room. Much better answer than lInt. Of course I had LINT first, too.

Harryp 8:24 PM  

More ambiguity in clue words and less PPP in LISA LOEB and whoever MADSEN would be what I would look for in a puzzle. Misdirection like lint instead of PILE should have been obvious for any longtime NYT puzzle solver because of the day of the week.

Christophe Verlinde 9:01 PM  

The clue for TAIPEI is not just awful, it is malicious.

Kate 11:51 PM  

Oof. I barely got that one. My 13year old got STEAD and PAPERTOSS because I was blind to them. Without her I probably would have remained stuck and given up.

Anonymous 9:07 AM  

So you post your own review in the comments section of a blog you haven’t read yet? Huh.

burtonkd 10:29 AM  

Lint trap! Best pun I’ve seen in a while

Maruchka 12:37 PM  

Thanks, @AnoaB, for the cha-cha memory! The Zodiacs ‘Stay’ also has an all-time fine falsetto vocal. Yes, another generation should check it out.

asdfasfd 7:24 AM  

What if you die at age twelve? Hated the clue.

Philip 12:37 PM  

I wonder if they really meant"by" instead of "in". Still not great, but better than what they have.

Burma Shave 10:45 AM  


how LISALOEB makes me SWOON,
but if she GROANS about the IDEAS I SENDOUT,
are they MOOT as a LEADBALLOON?


Diana, LIW 1:24 PM  

Lots and lots of ???? whilst attempting to complete. Then, after, (after cheating, as well) I looked it over and wondered why I had such trouble. Ever have that happen?

Speaking of happening - what happened to yesterday? Where is everybody? Where did my comments go? Yours too?

Diana, Lady in Waiting for Answers

PS - Adored some of the punny answers here. TAIPEI and BOX - brilliant

spacecraft 2:17 PM  

Well, it only took me about 14 Rexes, but I did it!! This has to be the most brutally clued puzzle ever. Thank goodness for gimme ICEBOWL, which for a change gave me a leg up in the NW.

Blanked on LEADBALLOON for way too long; when I finally got it I said "DUH!!" out loud. But even with that, it was almost impossible to arrive at BLOODVESSEL via "Needle point?" That is a clue DESIGNED to block solution. Is it even fair? Oh, I suppose...ish. It's certainly knocking at the door of unfair--loudly.

Thanks to previous bloggers for explaining VAT. I had no idea, but the UBERDRIVER fixed the V (I prefer Lyft myself). But there was another head-spinning clue.

No problem with the fill or anything; it was just hard as nails. It set an all-time triumph point record for me. And with voluptuous Virginia MADSEN for DOD, what's not to love? Eagle!

rondo 3:07 PM  

OAR, OAR, OAR, your boat . . . OARED is just wrong; the verb is *row*, you row with an OAR. That was my write-over for the day so I feel especially right in being wronged. I didn’t fall into the lint trap; that would be a *dryer* accumulation, not a laundry room accumulation, only ever thought of PILE. There’s nuance in them thar clues, folks.

I remember watching the ICEBOWL on TV and just how cold it was here in the upper Midwest, though the rest of the family was outdoors snowmobiling that day.

ALLITERATION must be too big of a word for Wheel-watchers to grasp; they call the category Same Letter. Most all of those answers are three words, but not all.

Alternate clue for BLOODVESSEL: Communion cup? Or is that too Christian?

Virginia MADSEN, yeah baby, I wouldn’t LIEABOUT that.

This puz is the TAIPEI person might like.

Unknown 3:53 PM  

Found this one challenging to do and hard to like.

Long downs were good and helpful, but some quirky and elusive cluing were problems. MDS for "Code Black" figures? Never heard of. STAT for "Attempts"?, okay but took lots of time to see. ABA for "what briefs are delivered in"? Okay, again, but odd way of saying it. ETC as abbreviation for a compiler"? Since when?

There's more, but enough.

thefogman 3:59 PM  

I won't LIEABOUT it. I'm BONETIRED and my brain HERTZ but I'm going to TAIPEI comment here anyways. Holy moly that was hard! ACTUALly it was barely DOABLE. So for NERDS like us who prefer solving tough crosswords inSTEAD of dropping ACID I say well done SIR To Andrew J. Ries!

Anonymous 4:15 PM  

ICEBOWL -- Been there; did that!

FG for tie or try for TD? Touchdoooooooown!!!
-17F and 17 years old -- what a memory! Time of my life!

And felt good to finish a Friday puzzle.

rainforest 4:15 PM  

Most of this puzzle was very accessible, but about a third of it was brutally hard. Got ICE BOWL right off, but left the NW for more fallow ground, moving steadily down the East side and across the South, which is where I got ---RIP. Aha! SUNSET STRIP!

That entry enabled me to noodle around in the middle, over-write cONdo with MONTH and get MADSEN (agreed, @rondo and @Spacey). Sideways was a great movie, btw.
BLOOD VESSEL and LEAD BALLOON were very hard to get, but the hardest answer for me was PAPAWS. What are they, and do people make custard with them? ABA, D'UH, was my last entry. Just couldn't see it until the end. Who is LISA LOEB?

Definitely a huge feeling of triumph upon finishing. Excellent, tough puzzle.

thefogman 5:13 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
leftcoastTAM 6:25 PM  

@Tom Morehouse AKA @leftcoastTAM.

strayling 8:01 PM  

Sometimes you want a gourmet meal, sometimes you want meat and potatoes. Thanks for a generous serving, Mr Ries.

ramroot 2:27 PM  

Way late, but could ABA 4D relate to the "BRIEF" magazine distributed by ABA to torte lawyers? Obviously, pretty obscure clue, as several lawyers commented and didn't know about it.

Blue Wizard Gaming 5:17 AM  

Value Added Tax?

  © Free Blogger Templates Columnus by Ourblogtemplates.com 2008

Back to TOP