Desert in southern Africa / WED 2-27-19 / Job in monastery / Prominent Gorbachev feature / Phishing scheme / Gay anthem of 1978 / With bow in music

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Constructor: Will Nediger

Relative difficulty: Challenging (5:25) (a just-woke-up solve)

THEME: Pre- — pffffffff OK so theme answers are really pairs of words that sit on the same Across line, with the first word clued as [Pre- [the next clue]], and so the clue for the first word is the prefix "Pre-" added to the second word. So the first word is literally pre-the second word (i.e it comes first, reading left to right, as one does...) and it means the same thing as PRE- + [second word]:

Theme answers:
  • FOREWORD = pre- AMBLE (22A: Go for a stroll)
  • AUGURY = pre- DICTION (29A: Subject in acting school)
  • DICTATE = pre- SCRIBE (44A: Job in a monastery)
  • EARLY = pre- MATURELY (50A: How emotionall developed people handle things)
Word of the Day: SERTS (40A: Some Spanish murals) —
Josep Maria Sert i Badia (Catalan pronunciation: [ʒuˈzɛb məˈɾi.ə ˈsɛɾt]; Barcelona, 21 December 1874 – 27 November 1945, buried in the Vic Cathedral) was a Catalan muralist, the son of an affluent textile industry family, and friend of Salvador Dalí. He was particularly known for his grisaille style, often in gold and black. (wikipedia)

• • •

Found this fussy and dull. I'm not that big a fan of "you have to go somewhere else to figure out what the clue to this answer is"-type puzzles, so this one didn't have much of a chance with me, but it really did feel workmanlike and joyless. Executed fine, but ... shrug. And then the fill is just ... there's just so much of it. An avalanche of 4- and 5-letter words. Just short stuff everywhere you look, as far as the eye can see. This never augurs (!) well for fill quality, and sure enough, much of the shorter fill is tired or outright cringey (see SERTS in the plural, SOU, and OCULI, above all). Go into any corner and it's just ABEL or AGAR EGAD HAHA or OUZO or ASAP or RAGU ALOT or ORCA ARCO or etc. The yuckiest part is probably the double (!) plural names in the middle of the grid (BACHS, SERTS), but it's pretty tedious all over.

Not much else to say, so here are ...

Five things:
  • 31D: Desert in southern Africa (NAMIB) — me: "desert ... that crosswordesey desert ... NEGEV ... no ... NEGEB ... still no ..."
  • 3D: Anise-flavored liqueur (OUZO) — swear to god, I wrote in ANIS.
  • 21D: Extremely, informally (WAY) — had the "A" ... wrote in MAD (which I still like better, much better)
  • 30D: Eyelike openings (OCULI) — I resent this answer. There's no need for this junky crosswordese. There's no need to go with SCRIBE, thus forcing yourself into an O---I situation *and* a N---B situation. Bizarre.
  • 12D: Ferrara who directed "King of New York" (ABEL) — I got this instantly. I have no idea who this is. Huh ... [looks him up] ... Oh, OK, I think I've seen a couple of these ... huh, looks like he directed a pornographic film in the '70s called "9 Lives of a Wet [REDACTED]" ... That, I have not seen.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


chris b 2:58 AM  

Brutal. DNF on a Wednesday.

What the heck is SOU? SERTS? ROUEN? AUGURY?

chefwen 3:06 AM  

This was one of the more challenging Wednesday puzzles for me. Really slow to grasp the theme. Might have had something to do with the two glasses of wine with lunch, but damn, it was a fine lunch.

Hand up for the Negev desert, but I’ve never run across an animal called a PUGA, so I was pretty sure I was in the wrong desert.

After I fixed my initial errors and caught onto the theme it was breeze to finish after an embarrassing slow start.

jae 3:08 AM  

On the tough side of medium. Took a while to grok what was going on, plus I misread the “Stat” clue as an across answer instead of down...d’oh...and the NW was tough.

Smooth and clever, liked it quite a bit more than @Rex did.

@CDilly52 - from yesterday - looks like we were in Chambana at exactly the same time. I was a Psych Dept. TA off and on during those years. Did you ever try Drewrys beer? It was supposedly Canadian and the only good thing about it was that it was extremely cheap.

Harryp 3:12 AM  

This wasn't that much trouble, I rate it Medium. Good and crunchy answers like the desert. I was going for Negev off the N, but it was in the wrong area. About the time AUGURY went in, I saw preDICTION, and got the theme. Nice

Brookboy 3:13 AM  

I’m kind of with Rex on this one. I feel,a little conflicted, in that I think this puzzle is very creative, both in concept and in execution. But in the end I didn’t enjoy it as much as I have other puzzles. Don’t know why, maybe just c’est la vie.

For some reason, I misread 33D as Prominent Putin Feature instead of Gorbachev, and that led me to thinking the first three letters were BIg instead of BIR (thinking BIGCHESTED, I guess). Took a while for me to sort that out, but I managed.

Of all the deserts in the world the Namib is always the last I think of, always causing a slap in the head and a promise to self that it won’t happen again. Next time I’ll think of it right away. As if. I could get the same clue tomorrow and the day after and all I’d get would be a sore head. It would be kind of like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day (one of my favorite movies of all time).

Mike in Mountain View 3:18 AM  

Liked it more than Rex did, but liked the pornographic movie title best. Such are the rewards of reading this blog.

Rueben 3:43 AM  

Not to be harsh (or not too harsh) about OFL's plaints about NAMIB or NEGEV or whatever. Namibia is an actual country, as opposed to a desert region claimed by some other country.

Then again, the bullet points in OFL leader's post seem to suggest, "i have a cold. I can't be bothered to actually think about this puzzle."

Loren Muse Smith 3:58 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous 4:02 AM  

I kind of liked the theme, but I wasn't a fan of the fill. Had to run the alphabet at ROUEN/OUZO. Another weekday puzzle that was harder than last week's Saturday.

TonySaratoga 5:14 AM  

WINESTAIN and BIRTHMARK being the same number of letters really screwed me. If Will N. foresaw that, kudos to him!

Loren Muse Smith 5:48 AM  

Cool idea for some mid-week craftiness. It took me minute to stop seeing the left word as just a definition of the right word, so I kept chiding myself that I didn’t know that AUGURY meant DICTION. Oops. Of course it doesn’t mean DICTION. It means PREDICTION. Anyone knows this. Ok - anyone well-versed in words that are slowly sinking down to the sludgy bottom of the wild, rushing, glorious river that is English. (Kory Stamper’s metaphor, not mine. I have a bit of a crush on her. There it is.)

I lightly penciled in “hot wings” for the bar food and then crossed it with “fangs” for the leopard deal.

Liked BIRTHMARK crossing PINK. (And the reference to Gorbachev crossing PINKO!) I have what Mom always called a birthmark on my left shin, but we all know it’s really just a mole. I was unspeakably ashamed of it growing up even though it’s pretty small and inoffensive. Were it above my lip over to the side, it’d be called a beauty mark. Oh, the wonders of euphemisms.

“One cabinet in a kitchen, typically” – that one that has 35 herb and spice bottles that date back to the Clinton administration (including a barely-touched thing of Xanthan gum), unlabeled glass cannisters of various unfortunate alternative “flour” purchases, a couple of loose bay leaves, a big thing of seaweed gomasio that was a *total* disappointment, 3 bottles of Worchester sauce, Knorr’s béarnaise sauce envelopes even older than the spices… Oh, and 4 things of cumin, my favorite spice. It’s allowed to smell that way when it’s being dumped into chili. But the smell is unacceptable wafting out from some guy who thinks those crystal deodorant stones really are effective. They. Are. Not.

CARTS crossing AMBLE reminds me of the various ways I try to walk behind the thwappity thwappity thwappity cart I always manage to choose at Walmart. Too lazy to go back and get another one, I just try walking really slow. Sometimes it helps, but I imagine the spectacle of literally inching my way down an aisle could be unsettling for some. Here’s the problem – you can’t test-drive the cart ‘cause where they’re amassed is on a bumpyish-floored pre-entrance area; they all thwappity thwap on that surface.

PROBE feels a little menacing coming out of your doctor’s mouth; it pretty much augurs a very unpleasant near-future.

Will – I'm with @jae on this one. Once I saw the trick, I enjoyed teasing out the “pre _ _” words and their synonyms. It’s hard not to try to think of others. . . PEDANTIC:ACHY. Hah.

OffTheGrid 6:39 AM  

@Jaymar (late yesterday)

The operation is the removal of people in an emergency-EVAC(uation), as in a fire.

JOHN X 6:44 AM  

I whizzed through this even though I had no idea what the theme was doing. After I was done I studied it for a bit and *ding* I got it. I thought it was pretty cool.

I love PINKO and I think this word should be used much much more. I'm not even sure what it means (some fellow traveller no doubt!) but who cares. It's a funny word. Call everybody a PINKO for any reason you choose.

PROBE is a funny word too, and should be paired with our good friend ANAL in all sorts of UFO clues, and more.

STEAK and EGGS sounds good right now. There's a manly breakfast for manly men who get in there and get the job done in a manly manly way. That's what they feed you before you launch to the moon or before your lethal injection because you shot your old lady down. Serve it with hash browns not those godawful breakfast potatoes, buttered toast, a cup of black coffee and a Camel unfiltered.

Hell yeah! (crushes beer can into forehead)

Alexander 6:52 AM  

I only know augury because of Magic the Gatering - thanks, MtG!

Unknown 7:06 AM  

Enjoyed it, and found it easy-ish, which is kinda weird as I am rather new to the crossword, and generally find the puzzles more challenging than the rest of you. Hmmm.

Hungry Mother 7:18 AM  

A long slog, but I finally understood the theme and got it done. After I was done, I sat back and admired the construction. Happy to be through.

Hungry Mother 7:25 AM  

JOHN X: thanks for a flashback to my youth. Good old days.

Z 7:30 AM  

I liked the theme, the way the “pre” transforms the word’s meaning so completely. Yeah, the fill was less than great, but it didn’t bug me while solving too much.

What did bug me was reading the Monet clue and seeing the damn paintings and not remembering the city. Fought against Amiens (forgetting the S) and having it blind me to the rest of the corner. OUZO finally opened my eyes. On the desert front, I had the IB in place, so no risk of trying Negev.

@chris b - a SOU is an old French coin of little value. “Not worth a SOU” is like saying “Not worth a penny.” Very common crosswordese. Learn it, it will be back.

kitshef 7:34 AM  

Somehow, some way, SERTS needed to come out of this grid. And it’s right below BACHS and just over from APTS, to boot. And then there is OKOK.

On the plus side, we have a pair of “I” plurals, OCULI and SCAMPI.

This is the third time I can remember Rex saying basically the exact same thing when NAMIB appears in the puzzle. There is a country named for it, for gosh sake! Also, Negev is the wrong continent, so I suspect Rex is failing to read the clues again.

Beaglelover 7:38 AM  

13 D wasn't late for. the answer is made. Not in the real world. The answer should be "made it". Constructor should have used a different clue for "made" answer.

Suzie Q 8:05 AM  

I get a little annoyed at cross referenced clues but these were worth it to me. It was a nice lesson in synonyms.
My favorite misdirection was the clue for roof. Good to know Margaret has learned a trade.
Does anyone use agar in home cooking? That seems like a factory ingredient, not something in my cabinet.
@ JOHN X, My kinda guy!

Outside The Box 8:05 AM  

Great comments John X!!

Joy 8:13 AM  

Loved it. Within 3 seconds of my average Wednesday so medium difficulty for me.

mmorgan 8:15 AM  

Sloggy, but kinda fun to suss out the theme (though I got AUGURY and DICTION independently from crosses and didn’t even notice they were theme answers). What did me in was having OKay (instead of OKOK) for 62A and I couldn’t dig my way around it.

QuasiMojo 8:16 AM  

Loved it!

chefbea 8:29 AM  

two puzzles in a row that were too difficult for me...never even got the theme for this one

Thanks all for your birthday wishes!!!

DeeJay 8:38 AM  

I thought the theme was awesome and clever and funny.

I thought I knew my muralists. I'd always assumed Sert was from Mexico. Diego Rivera painted the murals in the lobby of 30 Rockefeller Center. Rivera's murals depicted the epic struggle of labor vs capital and were deemed too PINKO for a building that celebrated capitalism.

Sert was hired to paint over the Rivera murals. What an awful task.

Nancy 8:48 AM  

My first "Aha" was the biggie. I work from left to right in most puzzles and I had FORE-ORD at 20A and had only glanced at the clue for 22A. I was wondering what on earth FOREWORD had to do with "go for a stroll". I had to wait a bit until AMBLE came in, and then I saw it. There were to be three more wordplay delights of equal cleverness.

Normally I don't like cross-referenced puzzles, but here was one with a pay-off that was worthwhile. It was like unwrapping surprise packages all down the East coast -- and it was fun.

But I DNF...and on a Wednesday! Never thought to question TOP at 34A, giving me OtULI (30D) and NoMIB (31D). Careless mistakes: though I didn't know NAMIB, I should have known OCULI. Well actually I do know it, sort of, but I never thought of it. Like I say careless. And the fact that there's an entire desert I never heard of!!! -- well it's not exactly like not knowing today's #1 rap song, is it? Bad, bad Nancy! Good, good puzzle! Very nice job, Will N.

Terrapin 8:58 AM  

I thought I learned something new from the puzzle-that a puma is also called a Nittany lion. Then I looked it up. There is no such animal called a Nittany lion. It is a mascot that was made up by some guy at Penn State in 1907. I guess I did learn something.

Sir Hillary 9:00 AM  

I'm not sure what "fussy" means when describing a puzzle, but otherwise today I am 100% with @Rex (quite rare). I can appreciate the theme from a technical standpoint -- must have been tough to put together -- but it gave me no joy at all. It's just...there. AUGURY -- LOL. And wow, the fill struck me as terrible -- heavily dependent on proper names and POCs. Usually this doesn't bother me, but today it really stuck out. So overall, the puzzle wasn't unusually hard, just unusually boring and "sloggish".

My sports dorkery got the best of me today, as I dropped in Bud Black (Rockies manager). SELIG is not my favorite baseball guy.

I used to love how political cartoonists would draw Gorby's BIRTHMARK as a hammer and sickle.

Nice to see COLSON Whitehead get a mention. Better him than Nixon's hatchet man.

CDilly52 9:10 AM  

HAHA. Drewry’s at BJ’s (Illini Brown Jug in case you have forgotten the sticky tables and floor) - indeed!!! Cheap is pretty much the only criteria. I was a music and musicology student. Loved every minute even the basement at the brand new Krannert Center that mysteriously had water running down the ramps two stories underground during hard rains. Hail to the Orange!

Dorothy Biggs 9:18 AM  

One of the rare times for me that the theme actually helped my solving. "Job in a monastery" stumped me totally...I've stayed in monasteries...the monks do all kinds of jobs: cook, clean, garden...I don't recall a scribe. Maybe I stayed at a monastery that was just too danged modern. I think there was a Xerox commercial about the growing obsolescence of scribes. You need a copy of the NT? Just take it over to the copier and print one out! Scribes everywhere were phased out as monasteries moved in "a different direction."

I grew up watching Schoolhouse Rock. It's too bad pop-up ads on games don't occasionally feature some educational tidbit like they did back in the 70s...when you'd be watching cartoons on Saturday morning, buffeted by commercials, and then a glimmer of sanity: Schoolhouse Rock. It was a smart thing to do...too bad there isn't an equivalent today.

Speaking of pop-up ads, 9D (Autoplaying annoyances, sometimes), that "sometimes" actually kept me from writing in the obvious "ADS." Those things are ALWAYS annoying. Every. Single. Time. I can't imagine a welcome pop-up ad. Even if you're shopping for Boots or yet another game where you blow up three adjacent colored squares by touching one of them, they're 1000x more annoying than the days when you couldn't stream a commercial free TV show for $11.99 per month.

BACHS plural is perfectly acceptable. Go to and look up, by composer, "Bach." There are a bunch of them. Much like the Alous in baseball, the Bachs were a dynasty of composition. I'm not sure there is any other family that comes close.

oldbizmark 9:29 AM  

DNF because of the AUGUR(?)/WA(?) cross which is embarrassing because I went through the whole alphabet and somehow didn't come up with WAY. Like Rex, had mAd for the longest time. Had no idea what was going on with the theme answers and the puzzle dragged on until the end. Not a fun one. But, at least more challenging than last Friday, Saturday, and Sunday combined.

Nancy 9:34 AM  

Let me join the praise for @JOHN X's very entertaining comment.

And @Suzie Q (8:05)-- Your Margaret Thatcher witticism is delightful. FWIW, I was initially looking for something Maggie-related at 2D too.

Pete 9:48 AM  

@BeagleLover - No issues here with the clue for MADE. The clue was missing the object, as was the answer. If the clue were "wasn't late for the meeting", then your complaint would have been valid.

I'm responding, as MADE was the single answer I enjoyed in the entire puzzle. I have six hikes I take with my dogs. It's a complicated calculus, depending on the time of year, time of day, recent weather, current weather, expected foot traffic, etc. The one I've been relegated to most recently is a local school yard - 25 open acres, little wildlife and between 5:30 & 8PM mostly devoid of car and foot traffic. The sole exception is people coming to pick up their children at the in-school day care, which closes at 6:00PM. Sharp. You wouldn't believe speed at which people drive through the school parking lot, screeching to a halt at the curb with their tires smoking, to pick up their little Johnny or Judy, risking the lives of some other little Jimmy or Jill, just so they have made it there before the door gets locked at 6:00:00PM and they don't have to knock to get in. It's the most important thing in their whole day.

CDilly52 9:52 AM  

I couldn’t get the theme. Finished the puzzle more easily than last Wednesday. Got much of the puzz with Downs and had real trouble after the fact grokkkng it until (like @LMS) AUGURY/DICTION. That was a nice “aha.” The solve experience did feel a bit choppy because of the short words but it wasn’t an unpleasant choppy sea.

@LMS, I have the very same cabinet in my kitchen. Pulled out a package of pizza crust mix the other day that was petrified. Laughed out loud at the crystal deodorant, too!

GILL I. 10:03 AM  

So I finished this delightful puzzle and I guess I was hoping for a good review. I like @Rex better in the evening when he's had a glass or two of some cocktail.
I LOVED this puzzle. I thought it was intelligent and current. Yes, there was some crosswordese, didn't care. Nothing cutesy - just some fun cross referenced words that have nothing to do with each other unless you add the pre. So has this been done before? I don't think so.
I'm convinced you have to be in a "mood" of sorts to have a morning wake-up puzzle that makes you smile. I was in that mood. The only thing that I had to change was initially having MALT for the scotch flavor. Gorbachev had BALD HEADS and everyone in Red Square was yelling out MANKO. Hah. When I make a mistake and it makes me laugh, that's a good omen.
PINKO. How could I miss? My grandmother's favorite word. She called everyone that - never in polite company because she did have a few left leaning acquaintances . Anybody anti Nixon was given that badge of honor.
YMCA, The village People and remembering wearing my GOGO boots dancing to Macho Macho man. God, I loved them. One year my husband and I went to a costume party and he dressed up as that hard-hat guy and I went as the cowboy. I would've gone Indian but I couldn't find a feathered headdress.
Being curious as I am and always will be, I looked up the pornographic film that @Rex posted but says he's never seen and I wish I could get Pauline LaMonde out of sight. I knew Ferrara from "The Funeral." Wonderful movie especially if you like Isabella Rossellini ad Benicio del Toro. @Rex should've posted a clip of that movie. Anything to get a rise?
Two of y favorites SCAMPI and it crosses CUBA. Cultivo una rosa blanca.

Karl Grouch 10:08 AM  

No idea what the theme was until I read Rex, had I got it first hand I think I would have enjoyed this more. My bad, I guess..

@chris b 2:58,
SOU: historically, a French word for a coin worth 5 centimes, and now slang for a coin of little value
SERT (JOSEP MARIA): Catalan muralist, (see Rockefeller Center murals)
ROUEN: major French city, capital of Normandy.
AUGURY: word of the English language

Hartley70 10:10 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
pabloinnh 10:34 AM  

Put me in the "liked it a lot" camp. FOREWORD + AMBLE = PREAMBLE and away we go. Fun seeing what the others would be. AUGURY reminded me of a request on our local list serve lately, a fisherman was looking for an "ice augur". I guess if I were going fishing, it would be nice to have an augur along, for predictive purposes.

Why does @LMS's description of her kitchen cabinets remind me so much of Salinger's description of the Glass family's medicine cabinet? Must be the details.

Swell Wednesday.

RooMonster 10:43 AM  

Hey All !
Had to stop solving for a bit to suss out what in tarhooties the theme was. Got it when I changed MoToRELY (?) to MATURELY, already having EARLY, and finally the lightbulb over the head moment. Had AMBLE in, but also had SpAM for SCAM, so 11D was not making any sense as P_RB, so took out AMBLE, but then got FOREWORD, and knowing the pre- ness, said "It's got to be AMBLE", and revisited SpAM.

Had a DNF in the center of puz. Had sIcKO for PINKO, thinking the Red Scare was a disease of some sort. Har. Which gave me soAT for PEAT, DAceE for DANTE. Dacee is someone, maybe? Oh well.

@brookboy 3:13
Groundhog Day is a fun movie. If you like that, you need to check out Happy Death Day. Same idea, but it's a campy horror type movie, not gory, but the theme is death/dying. But very well made. And even better is the sequel, which just came out a few weeks ago. Happy Death Day 2U. Highly recommend.

Now to be a bit un-PC, regarding PINKO, here is a funny song from Charlie Daniels Band called Uneasy Rider. It's a little over 5 minutes, but it's fun to hear.


jberg 10:49 AM  

I'm with @Nancy, the theme was a lot of fun, so much so that I didn't mind the fill--although I did breathe a sigh of relief when I had ALO_ for 48D, but it turned out not to be ALOU. No EELS, either, ever if there was an ORCA.

Partly it's a wheelhouse thing -- I knew NAMIB because my younger son once spent two years in the eponymous country, and while I may not have seen all 30 of Monet's paintings of the ROUEN Cathedral, I've seen quite a few of them. (For those in a different wheelhouse he painted it at many different times of day; he was interested in how the lighting conditions changed its appearance.)

@Dorothy -- Anglocentrism helped me with this one; Henry VIII dissolved all the monasteries in England, so my mind went right to their medieval task of copying scripture and other books. You are certainly right that they seldom do that any more!

@Loren, I like your theme example, but it would be an outlier in that it works from the spelling but not the pronunciation -- that could be another theme!

I liked the "Good X" stack in the north, and the OOZED/OUZO crossing.

If you leave out the 3 dozen cheap wineglasses stored in the attic in case we ever have another party, we don't have enough GLASSWARE to fill a cabinet -- they have to share it with coffee mugs. But we do have a special pull-out cabinet that holds a bin for garbage and one for recyclables, so that's what I tried first. Didn't fit, fortunately.

Ed Rorie 11:00 AM  

Red Letter Day for the New York Times crossword puzzle: no characters from Disney, The Simpsons, comic book movies, Pixar toons, Harry Potter novels, or GoT bloodbaths; no hip-hop “artists" or palindromic jazz singers; no hockey, soccer, or baseball stars; no TV actors whose only talent is walking in a straight line; and no Egyptian cobras, Greek letters, directions between cities, “summer” in Avignon, currencies of Balkan countries, Vietnamese holidays, or Spanish words for “uncle” or “aunt."

Hartley70 11:08 AM  

This was a smart theme and so it took me until I’d finished to understand what was going on. I had a quite satisfying aha moment. It’s all good fun and I liked this every bit as much as I did cruising around a grid plopping in joints with the right number of letters a day ago.

I didn’t find the fill particularly obscure. I had to guess at SERTS because it sounds like a breath mint, but I wasn’t tricked for a second by Thatcher. Crosswords are shrinking the black hole known as my sports vocab. I threw SELIG right in and felt chuffed. AUGURY was a delightful surprise.

This was just about a perfect Wednesday.

Banana Diaquiri 11:20 AM  

someone should tell OFL that editing the character string to link: [REDACTED], doesn't alter the link, which pops up when you mouse (he he) over that text.

Crimson Devil 11:36 AM  

Enjoyable quasi-challenging Wed puz.
I’s too dense to get theme, but finished anyway. WAY was last to fall, Duh.

puzzlehoarder 11:55 AM  

My average for a Wednesday is 16 minutes. This came in at 17:07 so it was a little harder than average. The main reason was that I didn't get the theme until after filling in the puzzle. This meant that all the west side theme entries were virtually unclued and I had to work around them.

After solving I read over the theme answers a few times until the theme came to me. It was nice having a little puzzle after the actual puzzle.

While solving I did waste a little time wondering what the connection was between the paired theme entries. Any time spent really trying to figure it out would simply have added to the solve time as the fill was pretty routinely Wednesday.

PEAR/PEAT was my only write over.

My favorite part of the puzzle was the NE corner. I thought "Radio Marti" must be some kind of misprint and I've never heard of "King of New York" or this Ferrara person. I had to fill in the perimeters of that little square and then just recognize CUBA and ABEL off their first and last letters. It wasn't that much more difficult than the rest of the puzzle I just like it when a section has a couple of unknowns and it forces me to solve it step by step.

@Suzie Q, I had the same reaction to the AGAR clue. After reading your comment I reread the clue and it just says "Soup thickener." There's no implication of who's doing the thickening but I interpreted it as a home cooking situation too.

Anonymous 12:06 PM  

Very challenging and enjoyable puzzle. Thanks very much for this, Mr Nediger.

albatross shell 12:24 PM  

Thanks for the history lesson. Was not aware. Makes me feel bad for liking Sert. Of course the murals were going anyway. The best murals of that style I have seen personally are at Dartmouth by Orozco.

When I read the clue I knew there was no right answer. Nittany Lion by itself could make a nice clue for MASCOT, but the L should be capitalized. Nittany Mountain is real and at one time mountain lions were around, in the 1800s. Bogus clue.

GOGO boots. Haven't thought of them in a while. Big smile.

Puzzle went faster than yesterday except a couple of spots that were hard to finish off. NE and NC. Had pretzels at my bar for way to long. Didn't get the theme until I got FOREWORD and by then the rest of the puzzle was done. Trouble with RANSCARED. Duh.

Teedmn 1:04 PM  

Easier than yesterday for me by several minutes. Hand up for Negev before NAMIB. OK OK, I'll change my answer for 62A from OKay (that no one has ever eaten STEAy for brunch helped that one.) And I consider a "lag" as more of an auto-playing annoyance than the ADS at 9D.

I liked the theme, got it at FOREWORD - preAMBLE. I think I will have to check out COLSON Whitehead's "The Underground Railroad". I was looking at the book on Amazon and the section, "Customers who bought this item also bought..." showed "The Orphan Master's Son" by ADAMs Johnson, which is set in North Korea. How timely to be reminded of it - I thought it was a great book.

Thanks, Mr. Nediger, I enjoyed your puzzle.

Masked and Anonymous 1:07 PM  

@RP: M&A was left scratchin his old head a bit, about yer "Just short stuff everywhere you look, as far as the eye can see" comment. This WedPuz had an average word length of 4.92; the average value for all WedPuz's word lengths is, coincidentally, also 4.92.

This particular puzpuppy also only had 8 weejects. On the other paw, it's longest answers were only 9 letters worth -- and none of them were themers. Maybe the lack of any fillins over 9-long was what @RP was honkin the horn over? Or the part about all the themers bein 8-long or less?

staff weeject pick: SOU. Better clue: {Going down South, and never quite getting there??}.

best desperation(s): BACHS. SERTS. APTS.
Fairly easy solve quest, at our house. No furniture were overturned. No OATHs were pre-SOAK-ed.

Thanx for the fun, Mr. Nediger. Cool theme idea. M&A is eyin that pre-CAP entry, tho. It seemed extra SCAMPI-SH [If U are willin to do a runt-roll thru a black square.]

Masked & Anonym8Us

short stuff everywhere, with a vengeance:

Unknown 1:11 PM  

Pinko is derived from Communists, or REDS. Derogatory of course.

Unknown 1:26 PM  

ha ha go go ok ok

JennaRMR 2:17 PM  

I am just not jiving with puzzles this week. I can’t tell if it’s me or the puzzle but yesterday and today were awkward and difficult for me. Hoping either the puzzle or I get the mojo back cuz these were just no fun.

Z 2:30 PM  

@Mighty Masked One - Hmmm, Pondering what causes that endless short fill feeling and I think it’s not so much the shortest of fill, but all the four and fivers. I think I counted 52 of 76. That seems unusually high.

Joe Dipinto 3:05 PM  

Top 10 Hits on WABC Radio NYC
February 27th (that's today!), 1979

1. Da Ya Think I'm Sexy? - Rod Stewart
2. I Will Survive - Gloria Gaynor
3. YMCA - The Village People
4. Tragedy - The Bee Gees
5. Heaven Knows - Donna Summer w/ Brooklyn Dreams
6. Fire - The Pointer Sisters
7. Haven't Stopped Dancing Yet - Gonzalez
8. Le Freak - Chic
9. A Little More Love - Olivia Newton-John
10. I Don't Know If It's Right - Evelyn "Champagne" King


I thought this puzzle was perfectly fine. Except the clue for 49d is utterly ridiculous. It's one of those "Household-item-that-becomes-a-girl's-name-if-you-look-at-the-odd-numbered-letters-upside-down-while-riding-a-bicycle" clues.

tea73 3:55 PM  

My favorite member of the BACH family is PDQ BACH. I don't like puzzles that send you other places for the rest of the answer, but except for STEAK and EGGS things were nicely side by side. I did the puzzle so fast (for me) that I never actually saw what the trick was. I just found out that Josep Maria SERT and Josep Luis SERT (architect of a bunch of buildings at Harvard) are not the same person. Huh.

Hungry Mother 4:10 PM  

My father and brother graduated from, and I got my Ph.D from, Penn State, so demeaning the Nittany Lion is not in my wheelhouse. Those that think that there are no Nittany Lions are likely Pitt Panthers.

Masked and Anonymous 4:25 PM  

yo, @Mighty Z Beast.
Maybe so. Reviewin the "shortball" stats for this week:

MonPuz: 67 of 78 are 5-long or less. That's = 86% shortballs.
TuesPuz: 56 of 78 = 72%.
WedPuz [today]: 60 of 76 = 79%. Today's kinda made up the deficit, by havin only the 8 weejects.

Sooo … well, today is better than some, worse than others, so far this week. But but … maybe that WedPuz % should be smaller than the MonPuz & TuesPuz ones, huh?

I've no earthly idea what the overall shortball percentage is, for the entire Shortzmeister Era. I'm sure the FriPuz & SatPuz %'s are gonna be much lower than other daily ones, tho.
Last week's WedPuz shortball stats: 53 of 75 = 71%. A noticeable bit lower than today's stat.
Patrick Berry's Last WedPuz (2015) shortball stats: 58 of 74 = 78%. Pretty close to today's stat.

M&A Help Desk.
"Numbers can be numbing"

Anonymous 5:23 PM  

A sou is also a Canadian penny (which doesn't exist any more) in Quebec.

There aren't that many French cathedral cities so I don't feel that Rouen is that obscure.

Unknown 5:44 PM  

Thanks for recommending Kory Stamper.

Cary 7:30 PM  

Former syndicated solver and new online one (at last), Cary in Boulder. Trying to do this while watching the Michael Cohen hearing made a challenging Wednesday even more difficult. I figured out the theme trick about halfway through, but the whole southwest had me tuning in and out. ARCO I've never heard of and OKOK was just OKAY for a long time. I finally had to Google the COLSON guy who wrote a book I'm unfamiliar with and after that I put on my GOGO boots and wearily danced my way through that final corner.

albatross shell 7:30 PM  

@hungry mother
No pitt panther here. My son got his PhD there. They do hate Penn State. I don't. Let's just say the Nittany Lion is legendary and I can go along with printing the legend.

About Ferrara
I just got around to seeing Bad Lieutenant this fall. A surprisingly good movie And if you haven't seen it in the last 3 years,
you might want to see it now. The last two minutes turn the whole movie into a commentary on the Trump presidency. No bull.

Anonymous 7:36 PM  

Rex said he found the puzzle fussy and dull. I find him tedious and effete. To each is his own.
I liked your puzzle Mr. Nedinger. Sorry you're not a woman, maybe Mike's review might've been more complimentary.

Hungry Mother 8:18 PM  

Albatross shell: yeah, I know it’s a legend. Kudos to your son.

Peter P 8:51 PM  

I personally found this very easy for a Wednesday. Only snag was in the east, where I put "TOP" in for "Ceiling" and had to unravel my error to figure out OCULI and NAMIB. Otherwise, this went as easy as a Tuesday, maybe even on the harder side of a Monday.

chris b 1:46 AM  

Thanks Z and Karl; at least I can blame 75% of this on my monolingualism!



Anonymous 3:33 PM  

I had TOP instead of CAP for ceiling, so whoops. OTULI didn't make a lot of sense, but the desert was gibberish either way, so just left it. Liked the theme overall.

Burma Shave 10:15 AM  


ASAP GOGO at ‘em, eat ALOT, but MATURELY.


spacecraft 11:34 AM  

Tough meat, for a Wednesday. How is DICTATE the same as (pre-)SCRIBE? The doctor dictates prescriptions into the Dictaphone?? Thin, brother, WAY thin. I did it, and an unusual amount of triumph points--for midweek--accrued, but it was a slog, and without much payoff. Vintage DOD Edie ADAMS was the last line in. Par.

Diana,LIW 12:27 PM  

Had it all but done, but couldn't see MATURELY for quite a while. Then, SOU appeared to my feeble brain, and voila, Fini!

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords

rainforest 1:42 PM  

Have to admire a puzzle that has a novel theme. I thought it was swell. Kind of got the "cross" back into "crossword" as you had to cross from the West to the East to figure it all out. Cute, and creative.

The fill seemed fine and there were a number of sneaky clues. What else do you want in a Wednesday?

leftcoastTAM 2:48 PM  

Tough and tricky for Wednesday, but EGAD, I got it before giving up on it PREMATURELY.

Generally agree with Rex's critique, but liked solving it WAY more than he did. In fact, got a nice "aha" moment on seeing the PRE scheme.

A mix of good and not-so-good fill, which added some perplexity, but clever theme made it all well-worth the effort.

rondo 3:31 PM  

Finished it without figuring out the pre- stuff. Duh. OKOK. Clever gimmick if you ask me. Hand up for toP before CAP, which slowed things a bit. Kinda wanted army before GOGO boots walked all over me.

The 49d RAGU clue had to be the Shortzmeister’s.

Another missed opportunity for HAHA Clinton-Dix. Maybe someday.

Catherine and Barbara are my kind of BACHS. Yeah babies.

OK Wednesday, honest to PEAT.

Mondegreen 1:34 AM  

Despite Ed Rorie @ 11:00 who was spot on in his observations, this was meh, if not downright ugly. Gimmees at oath, soak, gogo, haha, egad (sans 's'?). But then oculi, Namib, augury, Serts? No cohesion here for me at all. Late to the game so this probably won't be read, but a painful DNF for me on a Wednesday. More fun tomorrow I hope.

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