Shortest Old Testament Book / THU 2-28-19 / Tough-to-win horse racing bet / Unlikely source of a silk purse / Albert Einstein, notably

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Constructor: Randolph Ross

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: Similar two-word phrases?  — Okay, so each theme answer features a clue punning on a specific letter like "honey bees" with the answer then featuring two words that start with said letter, in this case 'B'. So, the crossword answer is Badgers and Wisconsin and Chicago, right? Oh, right, honey badgers and honey bears.

Theme answers:
  • JASMINE AND JEANS = (16A: Blue jays)
  • COMEDY AND CRIMES = (46A: High seas) 
  • PEACE AND PEPPERS = (59A: Green peas) 
  • ICE AND INK = (33A: Dry eyes) 
  • BADGERS AND BEARS = (26A: Honey bees)

Word of the Day: EXACTA (47D: Tough-to-win horse racing bet —
type of bet, especially on horse races, in which the bettor must select the first- and second-place finishers in exact order. -
• • •
Hello, it's Megan and Tristan, the dynamic duo filling in for Rex today (for the second time). We are both almost done with undergraduate life, but found the time to do this crossword puzzle, even though we are not in the same state right now. Said puzzle was not that fun! It was reasonably difficult, very old-school, and a little confusing.

MEGAN: Old school, indeed. Honestly, the only redeeming thing about the puzzle to me is Tegan and SARA (56D), which is the only answer that locates the puzzle in this century. Well, I guess Blue Jasmine is also in the 21st century (16A: Blue jays), but I have never heard of or seen it. Wikipedia says it’s a Woody Allen film (why?!) about a wealthy socialite (Cate Blanchett) whose marriage collapses and who moves in with her sister in San Francisco. Not knowing Blue Jasmine really tripped us both up in the NW corner, which was our last to solve - for a while, we only had OBADIAH (2D: Shortest Old Testament book). While I’m talking about that corner how does the clue for RESANDS? (2D: Smooths over) imply sanding again? Why re-sands? Why is the clue not, “Smooths over, again”?

TRISTAN: The usage of AHSO (30A: "I can see clearly now.") does not sit well with me. While the context in the puzzle makes vague sense, it’s also a derogatory version of a Japanese phrase for that often gets used to make fun of East Asian people. Not great! It’s not the most common derogatory term ever, but it’s the first result on Google searches. It’s also easily changeable. WBO could be World Boxing Organization, and OHSO could fit with any sentence you please. Otherwise, this puzzle felt clunky. I thought the idea behind the theme was clever from a wordplay standpoint, but it was poorly executed. Putting five themed answers, four using the whole grid, led to some crosswordese three-letter clues: ELY (a Nevada town pop. 4,255), PCT, ISS, DEI, PBA, NIP, DES, SOS, HAJ.

MEGAN: Yeah, once we got the theme, things really moved along. But it took wayyy too long to parse out what the theme wanted. I have had many an English teacher say that if you can’t think of a title for your paper, that probably means you don’t have much of an argument in your paper, and that’s kind of how I feel about the theme here. It’s vague and not very interesting. I can’t think of any concise or fun way to describe it or talk about it. It’s just there.


  • 48D: Certain intimate apparel sizes (DCUPS) — Whyyyy are there so many clues about bras?
  • 39D: Unlikely source of a silk purse (SOW’S EAR) — Yup, had no idea what this was. Never heard that idiom so got it entirely from the crosses.
  • 2D: Shortest Old Testament Book (OBADIAH) — As usual with biblical clues, we listed every single book of the Old Testament to find the one that made the most sense. Congrats to Obadiah's editing skills, as he wrote about the downfall of Edom in a succinct 440 words (in Hebrew). 
  • 5D: Albert Einstein, notably (EMIGRE) — Whenever I hear the words emigre, I only think of the French aristocrats who fled the French Revolution. Hearing it in the context of Albert Einstein threw me off slightly. 
Signed, Megan and Tristan, Court Chroniclers of CrossWorld

[Follow Tristan's Twitter and Megan's Twitter]

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Robin 1:13 AM  

Entered SOWSEAR with no crosses. I guess I am somewhat older than today's fill-in bloggers. I'll guess that they weren't up on who REDD Foxx might be.

Somewhat grokked the theme early, but it took until about halfway done that I was sure of it.

Anywho, for some reason I had to look at about 10-12 clues before seeing something that I could comfortably fill in. But in the end finished in what these day's I would call a medium Thursday time.

Tom 1:18 AM  

Same trouble area. Last part to finish was the NW. RESANDS was just stoopidly closed. Also had DAng, then DArN, and finally DAMN. Had to run the alphabet to get JASMINE. Talk about obscure...

In all, a mundane Thursday. Figured out the trick in the first few minutes, no scintillating fill. Two stars out of five.

jae 1:31 AM  

Medium. It would have been easy-medium if I hadn’t put rAJ in for 1d. Took a bit of staring and more than a couple of (@m&a) nanoseconds to figure out why that corner wasn’t working.

Liked it in spite of the iffy fill. Fun theme.

@Megan & Tristan - Nice write up! @Megan - Ah ha, that’s why SARA was a WOE.

Anonymous 1:32 AM  

Quote: "The usage of AHSO (30A: "I can see clearly now.") does not sit well with me. While the context in the puzzle makes vague sense, it’s also a derogatory version of a Japanese phrase"

NO NO NO! "Ah so" is a legitimate Japanese phrase. My Japanese teacher used it all the time in response to my efforts, usually thus: "Ah so, desu ka!". And it means pretty much: "Ah, I see". Nothing vague about it.

Seth Bourque 1:33 AM  

I got emigre immediately having only “em” out. I’m new, so I was pretty pleased with that.

chris b 1:41 AM  

This has been the hardest week since I started doing the puzzle last year. I have never heard of SOWSEAR or what at Kegler is, so I had SPACEANDPEPPERS for the longest time until I figured out that I needed them both to start with "p."

chefwen 2:21 AM  

Another embarrassingly long time before the lightbulb was illuminated. I was almost done with the puzzle when I suddenly got the AH SO moment. I think it was with ICE AND INK, after that it was pretty easy to go back and fill in all the blank squares.

Liked it more after I was done.

allan 2:27 AM  

Okay, so you really don’t see how doing something over is REdoing it? Ergo, sands over is to resand it.

Brookboy 3:20 AM  

I liked it. I thought the clues were pretty much on point for a Thursday.

Reviewers carp regularly about 3-letter fills. Aren’t they pretty much needed to complete the construction of a crossword? Yes, we see the same ones a lot, but isn’t that because they are so useful? It’s just part of the price you pay when doing crosswords. Sez I.

Regarding the “old school” aspect of a crossword, why is that automatically such a negative? If we old-timers have to put up with rap star names and the latest tech fads, why is it a problem to have clues/answers that are based on recent history? If ancient history is OK, why not stuff from WWII or Vietnam-Nam or the 60’s, etc.? Seems like age-ism to this old dude from way back when.

Unknown 3:27 AM  

I've never commented before, but this is so atrocious I had to. The high theme density and low word count made the fill unbearable. Especially when the theme answers are "kooky" (that's a generous term for these), the fill has to be clean or it feels more work than fun. Look at just the 3 letter fill, almost none of it is even half good: CTA DEI (no) DES ELY (no!) GOI HAJ ISS KAI (no!!!!) MSN PBA PCT PSI YDS. That looks like a bunch of nonsense letters not even trying to be decent fill. And then moving to the bigger words nothing gets better: OHSO (extra blegh) GEOS OPIE REDD RHEA ABEAM DCUPS PECOS UNVOTE RESANDS. All of those are so bad! Yes I'm young (21), but this feels like it was written exclusively for people over 60. I don't know why this didn't get sent back for revision. I love a Thursday that's hard because of a tricky theme, not one that's hard because the fill is gunk.

JOHN X 3:27 AM  

Wow! This was a pretty hard puzzle! I only got the theme for two of the last answers; up until then I was scratching my head going "hey what the heck?" but then I saw the light and was saved like a sinner on the road to Jericho.

This review was pretty incredible. It could easily be a parody it was so mealy-mouthed. Yikes.

Loren Muse Smith 5:34 AM  

What? I’m so surprised at the lukewarm reaction here. “…that’s kind of how I feel about the theme here. It’s vague and not very interesting.” WHAT? Find homophones for letters, find a two-word phrase that fits with that homophone, and then find words to go after the first word of the homophone phrase that are also in-the-language. This is terrific! Making this kind of play on a word whose pronunciation sounds like a letter of the alphabet just amuses the heck out of me.

Once I finally saw what was going on, I smiled and settled in to figure out all the themers. I think this idea is incredibly sly. Man, y’all are a hard crowd.

And unlike Megan and Tristan, I *loved* the clue for RESANDS since “smooth over” has as its first connotation to try make something bad seem not so bad. I appreciate the clever misdirect on a Thursday. That clue was my favorite clue of the entire grid, And… it completely redeemed the ickiness of the word RESANDS. Hah. The clue smooths over the reaction to the word.

Got a kick out of the AUDI auto auf der Autobahn.

I love that RSVP - with all its initials-pronounced glory - has become a full-on, inflected verb in English.

“Private info, for short” – well, “intimate apparel sizes.” Ammirite? Who wants that XL tag sticking out from the back of your lingerie?

UNVOTE. If only…

Don’t let the complaints get you down, Randolph. (If you even follow this blog. I know several constructors who don’t bother anymore.)

I thought this was way cool and damn clever.

Pam 6:29 AM  

The ageists have finally gotten to me this morning. Call me old school. I started doing the NYT at 21 also. Wayyyy back in the Margaret Farrar days. Look it up Megan, Tristan and Unknown, ancient history. If there wasn’t enough pop culture for you, try People magazine.

Perhaps I’m the only one, however, I liked the “high theme density and low word count” of this and other puzzles who have met similar criticism. Three word fill makes me think of the styrofoam peanuts that embrace and protect something precious, the theme and it’s answers. Like a picture frame short fill causes the theme to stand out. Randolph, your clever theme popped right off the page.

Thank you Loren for your always gracious responses. You never fail to see that extra layer of wit in the relationships between answers. I so appreciate the way you articulate the intellectual gymnastics that puzzle construction requires.

Anonymous 6:37 AM  

I liked this one - clever theme, and so satisfying to figure it out. A challenging but fair Thursday, IMO.

DeclanMcman 6:54 AM  

Loren, I don’t know why a constructor would ever read this blog. Rex is apparently training reviewers who adopt his philosophy of “If I don’t know an answer quickly, the puzzle is bad,”

Hungry Mother 7:12 AM  

Went fast except fot the NW corner, which I stared at for quite a while. Albert Einstein was a lot of things.

kitshef 7:13 AM  

DAMN hard, in part because I wanted mega or uber up there.

Great job keeping the grid free from proper names (other than SARA, which was a complete unknown to me).

Terrible job otherwise filling the grid – in particular, the rate of abbreviations is something to behold. Besides A.S.A.P. C.T.A. IN H.D. R.S.V.P.ED N.B.A. TEAM, we have not one but two columns for the ages: HAJTBAPCTPBA and YDSSSNISSSOS.

A Martin 7:21 AM  

Thanks to Bookboy and Pam (hope I have the names right) for defending solvers who remember the last century. I don't get the attitude that a national puzzle should be targeted to a specific demographic. It should be something to stretch the mind, not just assure yourself that our own world knowledge is perfect.

For Megan and Tristan: never heard of making a silkpurse out of a sow's ear? Well I had never heard of Tegan and Sara.

Had to laugh at find a word count to get Obadiah. How about a list of Bible books with the right letter count, and since I had ABEAM fairly early on, a B in the second spot.

Megan and Tristan: You are in college. I hope you focus is wider than it seems on your critique of this puzzle.

70 in Nampa 7:22 AM  

Yep, very easy for a Thursday. Wednesday, almost Tuesday easy.
Just okay.
I've come to expect Thursday's to be the cleverly difficult solve for the week.
This one wasn't.'s a crossword puzzle.
Something to do.

Seth 7:29 AM  

"Smooths" means "SANDS," and "over" clues the "RE." Like doing something over again.

Anonymous 7:29 AM  

Pam 6:29, I loved your Styrofoam peanut analogy. I agree with everything you said.

Steve in Raleigh

Z 7:30 AM  

@Pam - I think your packing peanuts analogy is good. And I’m sitting here swearing about having to clean them all up, and then they get all staticky and I can’t get them off my clothes easily, not even the vaguely racist ones. What a frigging mess and why can’t the shipper use something less annoying and more environmentally friendly?

It’s been explained a couple times, but it seems some aren’t fully appreciating the theme. The first word of the clue pairs with each word in the answer those words starting with the homophonic letter of the second word in the clue. Dry ICE and dry INK are both dry eyes (I).

Also, What @LMS said. If you smooth you “sand.” if you messed it up you would have to “smooth over,” you RESAND(S).

Also Blue JASMINE was a plant before it was a movie. This is hard to determine from a google search because the hits seem to be all about the movie. I had to add “plant” to the search and still got movie hits.

@Fellow Olds - No need to get defensive. REDD Fox and Indira Gandhi are definitely crossworthy no matter one’s age. MSN, and ELY NV, not so much. OPIE is too useful to ever go away, but it has been 50 years since OPIE went fishing with his pa. I think it is perfectly fair to say there ought to be generational balance. This is hardly the worst example, but a little more cultural references from this century are a good thing.

@Mighty Masked One - I hate it when facts contradict my opinions. My best guess now is that the absence of longer answers makes it seem like there were more short answer. Seems like someone else already said that.

Shawangunk Solver 7:35 AM  

Wow, tough crowd this morning. I liked the puzzle & the theme. It snuck up on me, in the way of the best themes. At first when I saw Blue Jays, I thought it would be a sports reference & I’d be sunk. Then I was just at sea, as it were. But when JASMINE fell, I went back and forth with the clue and light finally dawned...for the first part. It took awhile later to realize the second word in all the clues was also a letter. Then it was smooth sailing (and yes, I actually used the theme this time.) Well done

GILL I. 7:38 AM  

I liked the puzzle; it was fine. I smiled when I understood where Randolph was taking us. Clever, I thought.
It did feel a tad "Old School" only because I kept thinking REDD Foxx, Chiang KAI, AH SO, OPIE were supposed to be dead.
I think Leon Uris became popular in the 80's. Exodus was the first book I read of his. He's one of those authors that everybody who gathered at the office cooler would talk about. You know..."have you read the latest." I read The HAJ and it depressed me. Then I read Trinity and it depressed me as well. I'm now on a Maeve Binchy kick but she, too, is dead.
Is NIP really a quick drink? I thought it's a little bite.
A RAJA a RABBI and a SERB walk into a BAR NONE. They order ICE AND DRINK for the UMPTEENth time. DAMN EMIGRE's.

Good ol' Joe 7:56 AM  

Me too - I thought it was really clever and was surprised at the lukewarmness of all these comments.

Ken 7:57 AM  

I was offended by AHSO and NIP.

QuasiMojo 8:01 AM  

I agree with @Loren. This was a perfectly good, nay DAMN fine, puzzle. I don’t get the weary negativity of the reviewers. Why should a crossword be entirely of this century? We’re only in the year 19 of this one. It would be awfully dull and depressing to focus on stuff that only happened since 2000. Maybe I’m being too literal. But honestly it strikes me that you simply didn’t like the puzzle because it was out of your wheelhouse. This was clever and challenging without being too obscure or naticky. My one major huddle was putting in COMETS before Comedy. I wanted ELS for the county. I also threw in GENIUS before Emigre. Okay that was a bit of a stretch. And yes there were too many abbreviations. And I would nitpick that HAJ was an outlier since all the other answers along the edges were abbreviations. But overall this was a fun Thursday. A cut above the UMPTEEN rebuses we’ve been seeing lately.

Teedmn 8:05 AM  

Another Thursday, another missing Thursday trick. Will must be trying to shake things up and I don't approve! (And we all know that doesn't mean [CENSORS]. This is a great Wednesday puzzle. Yesterday was more Thursday-ish, sigh.

SSNs - it has taken far too long to recognize the DANGER that the internet poses to our private info. Back in the good old days(?), our SSNs were plastered on every form we filled out but the exposure was so much lower. Now, when I'm cleaning out old files at work, I have to think whether some former employee's SSN is on the crap I'm throwing out, for fear someone is going through the recycling and lifting that info.

OBADIAH is such a short book, I don't think I've ever run into it.

Randolph Ross, this was a fine puzzle, just not Thursday material in my opinion.

Jstarrracewalker 8:17 AM  

Well said!

Father John Misty 8:19 AM  

What the hell did I just watch?

BobL 8:23 AM  

I suspect Megan and Tristan are pseudonyms for Rex.

puzzlehoarder 8:23 AM  

What are the odds that a puzzle featuring the debut of Tegan and SARA gets reviewed by Megan and Tristan. Probably as high as my knowing who Tegan and SARA are so a double coincidence.

The lower half of this puzzle was early week easy but I found the upper half to be a challenging Saturday level. I don't do well with themes and those grid spanning entries really forced me to deal with it directly. It wasn't quite twice as long of a solve as yesterday's but it was close. This has a chance to be the most difficult puzzle of the week for me. That would all be thanks to that upper half.

@lms, the word play of 3D's clue does redeem an otherwise clunky looking entry. It was also one of the many reasons that the northern half was so good.

I delayed putting AHSO in until I had all the crosses. It sounded tried, stale, and cringe inducing. Such is the result of theme density.

Robert A. Simon 8:33 AM  

Fortunately, I read all the other comments before I fired off my witty, boy-can-he-write-or-what? defense of today's puzzle. Brookboy and--of course--LMS said it perfectly.

Young reviewers complain about clues only the old would know, and vice-versa. I think a longer view is in order, so it's time to bring up The Law of Large Numbers. Put yourself in Will Shortz's shoes just for a moment. He needs to satisfy solvers of all ages, so some puzzles--like today's--are easier for those of us who have sweaters older than today's reviewers, while others are difficult because the only rap we know is Saran. Taken day-by-day, criticism can abound. But over the course of, say, a month, it all evens out just as the LLN would predict. They get their clues and we get ours. And along the way, everybody just might learn something, which is a pretty good reason for showing up here every day.

mmorgan 8:38 AM  

This was really really really hard and I was getting absolutely nowhere until I got PEACE and the lightbulb lit up and then it was really really really easy. Not sure if I liked it but it was a good, tough, satisfying solve. Never heard of Tegan and Sara (I’m not really into this century) and was also slightly taken aback by AHSO. I used to see it used a lot, and not just by Charlie Chan; it felt innocent and cute back then, not so much now. But I did enjoy the workout the puzzle gave me.

CDilly52 8:40 AM  

I actually think our constructor succeeded in making the proverbial silk purse out of a SOW’S EAR (the ancient adage is that one can’t make a silk purse. . . ). This was just straight up word play, no rhymes, no obnoxious puns just someone who carefully and laboriously figured out what would work once the idea emerged. And it took me a while to see what was going on especially with the older-ish fill. Kudos to Mr. Ross. And it took me almost half an hour to get some momentum. Long solve but enjoyed the workout.

Cookie Monster 8:41 AM  

@MeganandTristan, So many clues about bras because it's a 3-letter word with valuable filler letters B R A. Like Ire, which also shows up a lot. A little bigger but just as used are Acne and Oreo. It's just crosswordese. And I sigh at some of the old stuff too, but then again, something for everybody, right? I learn new things from David Steinberg (none of which I'll use) and you learned some things here (same utility). The cost of a pastime for people of a wide age span. Ah, so maybe that just me, but I like inclusion.

Theme was very clever and well executed and I tanked.

Bruce R 8:58 AM  

Megan said "Whyyyy are there so many clues about bras?"

Maybe because a majority of the puzzles are composed by men?

Gulliver Foyle 9:05 AM  

I should know this but I don't: what does the italicizing of the theme clues represent? Is that supposed to indicate homophones?

CDR Smith 9:10 AM  

NASA and the United States Air Force recommend the "D-Cup" as the best way to keep your man in the air happy. The United States Navy is close to adopting this same program.

Mark Tebeau 9:10 AM  

I thought the theme was strong, agreeing many others. It was clever. @Lorenmuse once again explained why so very clearly. Wish I could get that clarity.

@cookiemonster had it right, too, I think. Perhaps the gap between the reception by Megan and Tristan and the mostly old folks here is generational. The only defense of old fashioned fill is that it follows a lineage of previous crosswords so is parsable. Nonetheless, I've thought for a long time that we need to modernize the fill canon.

Anonymous 9:24 AM  

Thank you for asking 'why so many clues about bras'! Bruce R probably correct, but these clues are tiresome!

Nancy 9:27 AM  

Wonderful! The clues are real phrases in and of themselves and then they work in a whole different way as answers. How do people come up with these gems? Incidentally, this is the third puzzle in a row that I've found imaginative and clever and that I've absolutely loved. How often does that happen?

Crunchy for me because very few of the answer phrases sprang immediately to mind and I was totally reliant on at least some crosses. Also I had my 2nd DNF in a row -- but for a different reason than yesterday's. Yesterday I was careless, but today I just had too many errors to finish the NE. New York has an "L" train too, so my 6D answer was mTA. not CTA. My alternative to AOL was LSN, not MSN (who can remember these stupid abbrevs?) and my bygone compact cars were GtOS, not GEOS (wasn't there also a GTO car, everyone? Y'all know I don't know zilch about car models.) Anyhow, you can't get CURRENCY from mURRE-C- and you can't get NBATEAM from -BATTAL. With such an abject failure it's amazing that I loved this puzzle -- but I did.

burtonkd 9:29 AM  

Basically liked puzzle, also had trouble getting started in NW.
about guest reviewers:
1. Bravo to you for your bravery putting yourself out there in front of a potentially tough crowd.
2. I want to hear YOUR voice and experience for a unique perspective on the experience of puzzling. Very disappointing to read a bunch of retread stuff that basically looks like a parody of OFL. You don’t have to love, or more likely, go into conniptions over the same things as Rex. They are not gospel truths, just one person’s opinion, however experienced and talented.

Arden 9:33 AM  

Clever! I liked it just fine.

Carola 9:49 AM  

Medium here, too. Unable to get anything to accrete up top, I was very glad when PSI x SOW'S EAR finally gave me something to work with. Even so, it took a while to see PEACE AND PEPPERS and get the idea - and then climb back up to JASMINE AND JEANS. Loved the Midwestern nod to the BADGERS AND BEARS...and never-ending ICE we seem to be afflicted with. I liked this variation on a Thursday, for the whimsical combinations in the theme phrases and for the mental grappling it required.

Besides the theme, I thought the whole grid was a sort of Ode to Letters. Call 'em out: D (cup), HD, CTA, MSN, PMs, EIEIO, SOS, PBA, TBA, PSI.

@Pam, "packing peanuts" is great.

TJS 9:49 AM  

Why the problem with "Ah so"? I bet that for the majority of us the word first entered U.S. lexicon through Charley Chaplin movies. I'm sure some people want to find them offensive, but I have never understood, since Charley was always the only one who knew what was going on. Everyone else were the idiots.

Am I the only one who solved all the themers without trying to see how the clue fit both words ? I just worked with two words that start with "J", and went to the next one. Pretty much just worked the crosses and had no trouble guessing the two word combos.Got more appreciation of the constructors' ingenuity after I read the comments.

Is there supposed to be something endearing about hearing from current collegians who have no clue about our culture prior to their birth? Okay, sign me up for the "Get off my lawn" crowd.

Crimson Devil 9:50 AM  

Terrific Thurs. Upper third tough but eventually doable. Liked all themers.

leett 9:52 AM  

I thought this puzzle was Fine. I find myself entirely unable to get worked up over it one way or another. And, as a 31-year-old, it really didn't seem particularly old-fashioned to me...

It took me a bit longer than my recent Thursday average, because I stared blankly at the NW corner for a good four minutes before finally moving on. Gotta remember that the initial toehold can happen in other regions...

burtonkd 9:58 AM  

@Nancy, fellow NYer here. I was wondering what was up with the train clue. Chicago’s train is usually referred to as "EL" since it is elevated. The "L" train (as clued) in nyc is the letter for the specific line. Either clued incorrectly or a strange misdirect. While on the ageist topic, I bet you would know if it was on the IRT, IND or BMT line ;) I moved here (quite a while ago) after they were all MTA.

jberg 9:58 AM  

Doin’ a @Nancy here, as I have to take the dog to be boarded soon. I liked the theme fine, but the attempts to be tricky were strained. Case in point, “smooths over” has to be read as smooths again; there are more famous ELYs in England and Minnesota. But at least PMS was cued tastefully.

No need to memorize OT book lengths or satellite sizes, just go with the fir, right Ezekiel?

burtonkd 9:59 AM  

I think it just indicates they are part of the theme.

Marco Polo 10:02 AM  

Worst. Puzzle. Ever.

Sir Hillary 10:03 AM  

Really tough for me to get a foothold, but once I did, it was pretty smooth sailing.

This is a jaw-dropper of a theme -- absolutely brilliant. The more I think about it, the more amazed I am that he (A) thought of it, (B) found so many high-quality themers, and (C) fit them into a grid this good. With due respect to our guest bloggers, "just there" is the last thing this theme is.

OK, maybe some of the super-short fill isn't the best, but @Pam nails it with her analogy. In my view, any fill that enables density of a theme this good is 100% worth it.

And how about those nifty 8-9-15 stacks in the NE and SW? Those are some Friday/Saturday corners right there.

As for the RESANDS clue, not only does it make sense literally, but it is fiendishly clever and as dry as no-vermouth martini (i.e., in the best possible way).

My hat is off to you, Randolph Ross. Whatever the opposite of a DEMERIT is, you get an endless supply from me.

TJS 10:04 AM  

@nancy, you are correct:Little GTO, your really looking fine,
Three deuces and a four speed
And a 389. Randy and the Juniors
Okay @Z, I'll bite. Why the word "racist" in your comment? I know I'm going to regret this.

Nancy 10:06 AM  

@Pam (6:29)-- I'm glad to see so many others congratulating you on your terrific styrofoam peanuts analogy. I had the same reaction that they did: it's the best argument I've ever seen for employing a bit of weak fill to make an exceptional puzzle possible. Kudos on defending this interesting and enjoyable puzzle and on defending it so eloquently.

Tom 10:06 AM  

Self correct changed "stoopidly clooed" [sic on purpose] to "closed." Doh!

The AH SO policeman 10:09 AM  

What are there more of: Puzzles constructed by women, or puzzles totally devoid of words that are politically incorrect or offensive?

Wm. C. 10:13 AM  

Thursday is normally my favorite non-Sunday puzzle ... Tough but do-able with little or no VISITS TO Mr. Google.

But this had far too many unknowns for me, complicated by the fact that I never understood the theme until I came here. A real disappointment.

Capt. Binghampton 10:18 AM  


Hey remember "Fuji" the Japanese P.O.W. from McHale's Navy?

"Fuji" was a funny character because he didn't want to fight. Neither did McHale and his PT-Boat boys.

Nancy 10:21 AM  

@burtonkd (9:58) -- Yes, sob, I'm old enough to remember the IRT, IND and BMT lines. The Lexington Avenue lines 4 and 6 (the trains I took most often) were IRT. The R and N (I don't think there was a Q back in the day) were the BMT. But DAMNed if I can remember which line the L was. I think I've been on it exactly once in my life. It goes east-west on 14th St, and if I want to go to west 14th, I don't need it. I'd take the 6 to East 59th St and the N or R to West 14th. (Apologies to everyone who cares about this arcana a lot less than @burtonkd does.)

Art Balini 10:26 AM  

Having stupidly misspelt HORDE as HOard had me staring at the NW corner for as long as it took me to do the rest of the puzzle. The puzzle itself was, I thought, ingenious. I have to wonder if the reviewers even took time to consider the complexity. (a) Coming up with a common two word phrase where (b) the second word is a homophone of a letter in the alphabet, then (c) coming up with two words that begin with said letter that (d) form common(ish) phrases with the first word of the clue. Reminds me of the phrase "those that can, do; those who can't, criticize" (and yes, the fact that I am criticizing the reviewers is not lost on me, hence my lack of a blog)

Anonymous 10:30 AM  

Thanks RR! This was a fine Thursday and thoroughly enjoyable. Took me until the P clues at 59A before I got the theme but once I did the rest went together nicely except for getting stuck on the Bs at 26A. I am a huge Wisconsin fan but had never heard of a honey badger. So combined with the crossing of the arguably vague down clue on RESANDS, that one kept me stumped for a while. Didn’t help that I had CANCELS for CENSORS at 12D which held me up on the other end as well.

Thanks Megan and Tristan for your contributions today. Yes this puzzle probably does trend toward “old school,” not that there’s anything wrong with that. Oops! That was joke from a TV sitcom that was once wildly popular… but not in this century, so it may not be familiar to you. My sympathies though, as I sometimes get frustrated with clues for musical groups, video games, vampire movies, etc. that are not familiar to me. Today is a good example; I learned that Teagan and SARA is the name of a Canadian pop band nominated for a Grammy in 2013. I didn’t know that when I woke up this morning. Makes me feel a little smarter for a little while. Could be it would work the same way for undergrads and history lessons.

Suzie Q 10:34 AM  

This certainly wasn't the most amusing puzzle by a long shot but satisfying enough. Blue Jasmine and Tegan and Sara were complete unknowns to me. I'm still not sure what dry ink is.
I figured we would hear the same tired objections to Ah, so but finally thanks to @ Anon 1:32 we have a first-hand account of it's use in real life. Assuming offense for someone else doesn't always ring true.
I liked seeing Umpteen. Funny to see it in print.
I wonder what Opie is short for. Oliver Peter Taylor?

Fuji 10:35 AM  

ā sō desu ka? Hmmm.

The Joker 10:39 AM  

Q: What cars start with P

A: Porsche, Peugeot, Plymouth, Pontiac

Nope, all cars start with gasoline.


Anonymous 10:40 AM  

When I first met my daughter's future husband, a Macedonian living in Salzburg, he often used the phrase "Ah, so". Turns out it is a common in the German language, and it essentially means "I see". Not offensive. Are we are trying too hard to be offended?

nyc_lo 10:46 AM  

Thought the NW was going to do me in but it finally gave way when I filled in DANGER, then EMIGRE, etc. Felt like a very tough one by my standards, almost Saturday tough. But I also have a cold coming on, and my head feels like it’s stuffed with SOS pads.

Z 10:47 AM  

@TJS - There is no good reason to keep AH SO in any constructor’s wordlist. Whatever the origins of the term, it evokes a racist stereotype. It is one of those styrofoam peanuts no one would miss if we never saw it again. cf Tristan’s paragraph.

Anonymous 10:54 AM  

Yuck. Took way too long to get the theme. County seat of White Pin, Nevada? Ridiculous.

mmorgan 11:11 AM  

I was "slightly taken aback," not injuriously offended, by AH SO, because to me it brought up the complex issues of the Charlie Chan movies. They're simply wonderful movies (I loved them!), but the fact that Chan is played by a Swede in yellowface should give one pause to reflect in 2019, given the complicated tension between identity and cultural representation.

SouthsideJohnny 11:21 AM  

I’m glad our dynamic duo of guest reviewers panned this awful, uninspired mess of an effort. Way, way to clever for its own good. How many abbreviations were crammed into one puzzle ? Many of the people who post here regularly enjoy this type of nonsense because it is more challenging for them, which is all well and good. I wish the NYT crossword app had like and dislike buttons, similar to YouTube - then they would realize that the majority of their audience hates these exercises in mediocrity. Instead, Shortz just reads LMS and the other advanced solvers who post here and breaks his arm patting himself on the back for a job well done.

Anonymous 11:26 AM  

Very clever puzzle. A little on the easy side, but a lot of fun for us solvers, too. Thanks very much for this one, Mr. Ross!

Masked and Anonymous 11:37 AM  

Personalized blog bullets -- primo write-up(s)! Thanx, Megan & Tristan.

Bein a big puztheme-uber-alles fan, M&A as usual peeked at the longball Across answers, first thing. Figured that the theme was up to what it turned out to be up to, before startin the regular solvequest. Good theme mcguffin, and well-done themers for it. Lotsa long themers and only 72 words today, tho … a few choice desperate fillins will no doubt ensue.

staff weeject pick: Tie between ISS and GOI. Luv both of these … they are so … desperately shapely. Big shout out to the ultra-rare total-weeject puz sidewalls today, in puzcolumns #1 and #15. Nice bonus feature.

Liked the RESANDS clue a lot, at our house. Short and sneaky and sweet.

fave themer: BLUE JASMINE AND JEANS. Sounds like a 70's song title that coulda fit right in.
fave Ow de Speration moment: UNVOTE. I'll ride with @Muse's comment, on UNVOTE.

Thanx for a fun puz, Mr. Ross. A WedPuz theme and a FriPuz grid (and ThursPuz clues, of course) -- odd lil ducky.

Masked & Anonymo3Us


Cassieopia 11:40 AM  

For one brief and delighted moment, I thought 46A would be COMEtsANDCupidS.

The trick fell for me at JEANS and, like all good themes, the knowing aided in the solving.

Liked it very much- gave me that AHSO! moment that I crave from crosswords.

pabloinnh 11:49 AM  

I like any puzzle, like this one, where you finally say "THAT'S what's going on!". My adjective choices have all been used up so I'll go with a reprise of ingenious. Old school is my wheelhouse, but when I see something totally unfamiliar I usually say to myself, nope, don't know that one. Yet.

I'd rather make my best guess and check the solution later than google, but doing what works best for you is OK by me.

Thanks for a terrific Thursday, RR.

Anonymous 11:50 AM  

@SouthsideJohnny: I’ve often wished this discussion board had like and dislike buttons so that people could indicate their opinions of individual comments that are posted. Yours is an excellent case in point.

Unknown 11:58 AM  

Seems to me that the lack of familiarity with SOW’S EAR, BLUE JAMINE, HONEY BADGER, TEGAN AND SARA, etc. are more a shortcoming of the solver than the constructor.

Mary McCarty 12:06 PM  

TIL that “dry INK” is a thing, not just INK that has dried. There I was, thinking it was “green paint”. Kinda surprised there were no other comments on this, what with all the generation gab. And my New Month Resolution is to try to think more like @lms: I also enjoyed the sound of RSVPED (regardless of its ugly visual) but missed the misdirection on RESANDS...gotta keep the mind open. And again, another great avatar!

Roo Monster 12:39 PM  

Hey All !
Yikes on the North. Didn't know HAJ (though in retrospect, it seems the most logical), plus the tricky Very, informally clue, and having pOssE for HORDE (the ole brain refused to think of anything else), I was dunk in the NW. Ended up pAJ, sESANDS, srMN, ABErM. Oof. Was just dropping in letters to do finish at that point. Also NE, with mTA, and tDS giving me mURRENCt for 6A. Got a chuckle out of the clue for 6A, Valuable paper, and the answer I wanted, Toilet.

Also, 51A, is it the Right or Left one? There's a distinction, ya know. :-)

Liked the theme, took me a bit to figure it out. Agree with the peeps who praised the cleverness of it. But Dry INK? New one on me.

Funny to have both Edison and Tesla in the same puz. UNVOTE is funny as a DOOK. AH SO as explained by someone before is perfectly acceptable. I think (as a previous commentor said) we are trying too hard to be offended. I'm offended by DAMN, and ISS being too close to ISIS. (Not really, but you see how it can spiral out of control.)

Nice grid spanning themers.


Anonymous 12:39 PM  

Don't be so rough on yourself. We all have our days.

Anonymous 12:44 PM  

@anonymous 11:50AM

"Like" buttons? You're one of the Russian teenagers who are killing this country.

Malsdemare 12:46 PM  

Put me in the "liked it" column. I caught the trick while looking at B-ARS, after filling in JEANS, and the penny dropped. That did not make it easier; as with others, the NW was a BEAR and was last to fall. I don't know BLUE JASMINE, but I figured it was a flower and shrugged on my way. I did hesitate at the clue for CTA; it’s the El in Chicago. But I moved on.

@anonymous 10:40, yes, to AH SO as German. My Deutsche cousin said it frequently and now that I know a bit of German, find myself saying it frequently as well, bit in English and Deutsche. (Please pardon my German spelling; I learned it as spoken so the written language is a mystery).

@Pam, fill as peanuts is brilliant and perfect.

Thanks, Randolph.

OffTheGrid 1:08 PM  

I liked the puzzle. The theme was simple yet very clever and helpful. Loved that the theme answers were grid spanners. Additional theme related answer was in the 4th row. "DANGER! DARTS!"

Honey Badgers live in Africa and Asia, not Wisconsin.

The GTO was never a compact car. The original Pontiac Tempest, introduced in 1960 for '61 model year, was a compact, and BTW had a front engine and rear transmission. The model was enlarged to mid-size in 1964 and the GTO, "Gran Turismo Omologato", came from that edition.

Googled HONEY BEARS and honey bear and found many references.

The review was snarky and arrogant.

QuasiMojo 1:34 PM  

@Nancy, for me it’s still the “Double L.” It was a BMT Line.

Banana Diaquiri 1:35 PM  

coulda been worse. Ack, no rebus!!!

albatross shell 1:41 PM  

Genius before EMIGRE
Reflect before IMITATE
Citymaps before AREAMAPS

NEAR SERBS URN EMERGE NBA TEAM CENSORS jumpstarted the NE. Banged the NW until 4 crosses gave me JASMINE and the theme. Then worked bottom up to center knowing 2 letters and an "and" in each theme. All theme answers were perky and plucky. Theme clever consistent well-clued and helpful.

Loved the symmetrical placement of EMIGRE and EMERGE. Lots of good long and short fill. A bit heavy with abbreviations but PCT YDS PSI SOS are common and normal.
Fine puzzle tilted to older people - like most NYT readers. Rappers and twittalk will be back soon. I vote AHSO OK, but would UNVOTE if I see signs that Asians disagree.

Anonymous 1:54 PM  

For 57 across, Follower of Debate in the General Assembly, I tried so hard, in the interest of accuracy, to fit in "Condemnation of Israel." Like, maybe with a rebus?

Anoa Bob 2:19 PM  

Wasn't Tegan and Sara the opening act for Peter and Gordon?

I see the black squares, aka blocks, as the 'packing peanuts" for the grid. The white or open squares are for words, you know, as in crossword puzzle. This puzz has a ton of theme entries, but that doesn't leave much room for crossing words that are, in fact, real words.

I think a good themed puzzle is one that strikes a balance between theme and fill, one that showcases the artistic arrangement of words crossing one another.

Another way to look at it, one suggested by constructioneer extraordinaire Andrea Carla Michaels, is that the iffy fill---words that aren't really words---acts as "glue" that holds together the good stuff. The objective from this prospective is to minimize the glue and maximize the good stuff. Today's offering seems to me to be too heavy on the glue.

Anonymous 2:19 PM  

The compact car in 24A was GEO, a line produced by GM in the 1990s. Perhaps you were responding to another comment but I couldn’t find it. If so my apologies.

Frog Prince Kisser 2:22 PM  

@Nancy (10:21) and @burtonkd (9:58)
According to Wikipedia, “Express trains formerly ran along the L's trackage in central Brooklyn, running along the BMT Fulton Street Line in eastern Brooklyn, but were discontinued in 1956.” Talk about old info!

Loved the puzzle! Fun solve!

Nancy 2:36 PM  

@Quasi (1:34) -- Out of the very foggy depths of my very fuzzy memory, a teensy tiny bell is very faintly ringing: Sonuvagun, it WAS called the LL back in the day!

DAMN it, man! You appear to know this city better than I do! When are you going to [briefly] abandon the sun, sand, surf and warmth of your current paradise and pay a visit to your old stomping grounds? You and I could reminisce about the LL, along with other far more interesting topics.

Banana Diaquiri 2:46 PM  

FWIW, Carolina Jasmine Rice comes in a BLUEish bag. sometimes clues go sideways.

Hungry Mother 3:23 PM

Crimson Devil 3:25 PM  

Amen re UNVOTE !!

jberg 3:30 PM  

The L train in New York was featured in the paper (i.e., the Times) this very week -- apparently is has just undergone a protracted shutdown for repairs. So that was what I thought of at first -- and I agree that the Chicago train is generally called the El.

Whitey 3:46 PM  


the fill on this puzzle was brutal. Really rough stuff. No fun to solve. Can't echo the other people posting about all the terrible, no good, very bad 3- and 4-letter words here. Just...oof.

Theme was fine (even fun!) once I figured it out but that took forever today because I just couldn't get a hold anywhere else. Had never heard of BLUE JASMINE though so filled that in based entirely on a 7 letter word beginning with J.

...sigh. Leaves an icky taste in your mouth after a puzzle like this

springset 4:06 PM  


Ah, if only. No, it was recently decided that the L would not undergo the long-planned protracted shutdown, and instead repairs will be done over a longer period of time, impacting weekend service and possibly giving L riders silicosis.

@albatross shell

I had CITYMAPS and then ROADMAPS and then TOWNMAPS before I landed on AREAMAPS. Not my best.

QuasiMojo 4:23 PM  

@Nancy, I spent a summer once in Stuyvesant Town so I used the LL often. Although it was always late. And often empty. It made me chuckle years later to see all the hipsters from Brooklyn using it. I hope to be up in the city come summer. Last year I was up north near Canada. Glorious. If I make it to Hotham, I’ll def look you up. Is Serendipity III still around? We could gorge on a banana split for two.

Adam Lipkin 4:38 PM  

Not a fan of this one at all. On top of everything else, you'd think the Paper of Record would know that a TWIX has a cookie, not a wafer, in the middle.

Kieran Kramer 4:55 PM  

@quasimojo Rex has trained his minions well--to be total sourpusses.

Lighten up, Francis! I mean...Megan and Tristan. But you wouldn't know that reference from the movie STRIPES, prolly...


Nancy 5:06 PM  

That's great, @Quasi! So much to look forward to! @GILL may be coming to NYC. And @puzzlehoarder. And now you in the summer. Hoping that absolutely all of it comes to pass.

Just as I told @puzzlehoarder a few days ago: @Hartley and @Lewis have my contact info -- if and when you need it. And they each have their respective emails posted on their blog profiles.

Anonymous 5:11 PM  


TomAz 5:41 PM  

Wir fahr'n fahr'n fahr'n auf der Autobahn...

Anyway I thought this puzzle was pretty cool. I thought the theme worked very well. At first I was like "uh.. uh" and then I was like "oh! oh!". It made me smile. The puzzle may not have been quite tricky enough for a Thursday, but, whatever, that's a small nit to pick.

I dropped in SOWS EAR without hesitation, and I did the same with (Tegan and) SARA. I don't see it as an old/young thing; it's just a cultural literacy thing.

Our guest reviewers did not make me smile, however. Does this pair like anything? They make Eeyore sound like Sponge Bob. The objection to RESANDS is particularly bizarre.

Anonymous 6:13 PM  

I’ll start off with this. The theme was not bad. I might go as far as to say that it was clever. This is where the enjoyment ends.

The fill is just... it’s bad. It’s so bad. Like, the most excitement I got out of it was UMPTEEN and BARNONE. On top of that, being a young un of 24, I’d say that at least a quarter of this grid went totally over my head. I’m embarrassed by how much I had to look up to finish this.

And let’s not talk about HAJ, PCT, PBA, ISS, CTA, DES and DEI (which, if it’s one letter off and is pronounced the same... it’s not fair game IMO), GOI, KAI, and ELY????? I’m hard pressed to think of a good enough theme to justify this much glue.

I’m just feeling salty right now I think.

Mary McCarty 8:10 PM  

Anonymous 6:13: DES is one syllable ; DEI is two syllables

foxaroni 8:58 PM  

No one will see this post, but a clarification is needed. The song "Little GTO" was done by Ronny (or Ronnie) and the Daytonas. There was no group called Randy and the Juniors. There was, though, a group called Danny and the Juniors. They did "At the Hop" and "Rock and Roll Is Here to Stay."

Now I feel better!

Unknown 9:26 PM  

That critique is spot on.

Anonymous 9:39 PM  

Megan. Yes. What is with the NYT crossword and bras?

Clark 3:07 AM  

@Nancy, et al.:

Holy cannoli! These comments jog my memory. The L was the Double L for my first three years living in New York (1982–85). I think I only took that train once in my 15 or so years living there. Where I might have been going to or coming from I do not recall.

Anonymous 8:15 AM  

Great puzzle and clever theme. These two young bloggers are painfully showing their lack of general knowledge is their inane comments and admissions. Nearly done with college, really? And you don’t have to hate a puzzle just to impress Prof. Parker.

Charles 2:34 PM  

Are people thinking it's UNVOTE? It's UN (U. N.) VOTE.

Anonymous 10:56 AM  

As soon as I see "old school" in a comment from these two bloggers, I want to quit reading. "Old school" is actually history, kids and using the term doesn't make you cool. No one cares that you never heard of the movie "Blue Jasmine" and most of us would care only mildly that you never heard that something is as difficult as making a silk purse from a sow's ear. I've never heard of Tegan and Sara, but I don't complain about it. So please get over your young selves.

lynnoo 3:08 PM  

Oh honey, you don't know sow's ear? You need to finish college before you take this job on.

Burma Shave 9:40 AM  


URNed DEMERITs at least UMPTEEN times,
they’re ALSO always NEAR DANGER, it seems,
of committing COMEDYANDCRIMES.


rondo 10:25 AM  

Agree with @TomAz and those commenting before and after him re: the guest bloggers and their cultural literacy, etc.: non-existent. They probably ALSO have not heard that you can’t teach an old dog to make a silk purse out of a pig in a poke. And I thought ‘Smooths over’ was perfect for RESANDS.

@anon 2:19 - Not all GEOS were ‘produced’ by GM, many, probably most, were built by Isuzu and Suzuki in Japan. AHSO.

Again, AHSO may be of Japanese origin, but I think most folks associate it with the (semi-) fictional Charlie Chan, who was Chinese-Hawaiian. And SO what?

Tegan and SARA a gimme, can’t tell those yeah baby twins apart.

There might be some DEMERITs, but better than a rebus (transport over).

spacecraft 11:30 AM  

Re the AHSO kerfuffle: Yes, you can be offended...but you have to CHOOSE to be offended. Okay, let's see: I'm having a reasonably good but boring day; I think I'll get offended just to, say, improve the old circulation. If you're looking to be offended--if you WANT to be offended, I'm happy to oblige. I hereby and for the record offend you. There, job done.

This is a tale of two puzzles: a very witty, multi-layered theme--brought to you at the cost of some of the worst fill ever. ISS? But GOI no further. UMPTEEN DEMERITS. That phrase almost makes up for the shorter garbage. One writeover: PEArs before PEACE. If the fill could've just been cleaned up a little, this one had birdie potential; as it is I strain to get it to par.

centralscrewtinizer 12:41 PM  

Agree with the ever-ebullient LMS and the eloquent Pam, and the the others who appreciated this puzzle. Would have liked to have Lewis' response, but I kind of know he would marvel at it also.
First entry was ALSO and then STATS and BATTERIES which gave me purchase down below. When I stared at JEANS and BEARS long enough the light bulb went off and the pace quickened as all the ANDs went in.
Like most I finished in the NW when DArN became DAMN and the ineluctable JASMINE went in.

Anonymous 1:36 PM  

Disappointing that OFL and the Crackpot Sisterhood couldn't work up a good outrage over "DCUPS". Always highly entertaining.

rainforest 2:34 PM  

Firstly, I gleaned from some of the comments that @Rex didn't write the blog, so I read it. Waste of time. Clones or acolytes of his wrote it. I tell you, anyone who says that AH SO is racist is out of their mind, or what @Spacey said.

Kind of a neat/quirky theme. I'm always impressed when new theme ideas come around without relying on a rebus.

I slapped down OBADIAH with no crosses, though I'm not sure why. I can recite the books of the bible without ever having read them. Anyway, the name OBADIAH brings to mind the great Yorkshire Men sketch by Monty Python. I'd link it if I knew how.

A decent Thursday effort with a few cringe-y entries, but, especially for the theme, fun to do.

leftcoastTAM 3:22 PM  

Neat, clever theme and gimmick. Took some time to break it open, and it was ICE AND INK to do so. Tracking the ANDs paying attention to the clues helped expose other themers.

Js and Bs took longer than the Cs and Ps. JASMINE and BADGERS were last of these to go. Honey BADGERS? Vaguely knew them. And Blue JASMINE? Aha, the movie! -- starring Cate Blanchett, a terrific actor (whom I have a crush on).

Albert Einstein was a lot more than "notably" an EMIGRE, of course.

Thoroughly enjoyed the trip through this one.

Aphid Larue 5:50 PM  

I saw a blue Jasmine in one of those fancy theaters that had reserved seats And food service to your seat.We were the only ones in the audience. Nevertheless, Cate Blanchett one the Oscar for best actress in that movie.

Diana, LIW 8:34 PM  

so much to say, so little time. Last century my eye. It's too easy to complain, IMHO. This was a fine Thursday, and I loved the double letter clues. P'raps i'll say more tomorrow.

Lady Di

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