Half of rap duo Black Star / TUE 3-19-19 / Diplomatic controversy of 1790s

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Constructor: Daniel Larsen

Relative difficulty: Medium ? (oversized 16x15) (3:45)

THEME: alphabet — theme answers contain consecutive letters of the alphabet from A to Z

Theme answers:
  • EASY AS ABC (18A: Simple, simple, simple [1,2,3])
  • MOS DEF (19A: Half of the rap duo Black Star [4,5,6])
  • WEIGH-IN (27A: Prefight ritual [7,8,9])
  • DJ KHALED (29A: Singer with the 2010 3x platinum single "All I Do Is Win" [10,11])
  • FILM NOIR (42A: Dark movie genre [12,12,14,15])
  • BACK-UP QB (53A: Substitute for Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers, informally [16,17])
  • PR STUNT (55A: Silly marketing ploy designed to get attention [18,19,20])
  • UV WAVE (66A: Tiny bit of sunlight, for short [21,22,23])
  • XYZ AFFAIR (68A: Diplomatic controversy of the 1790s [24,25,26])
Word of the Day: DJ KHALED —
Khaled Mohamed Khaled (born November 26, 1975), better known by his stage name DJ Khaled, is an American DJ, songwriter, record producer, media personality, and record executive. [...] In 2015 and early 2016, Khaled gained worldwide attention as a media personality, and subsequently attained a large following on social media. This foresaw the release of his ninth studio album Major Key in 2016. The album attained wholesale critical and commercial success; it debuted atop the Billboard 200, it was certified gold, and received a Grammy nomination for Best Rap Album. He released his tenth studio album, Grateful, in 2017, which contained the singles "I'm the One" and "Wild Thoughts", which charted at number one and number two on the Billboard Hot 100, respectively. The album debuted at number one on the Billboard 200, and was also certified platinum. His eleventh album, Father of Asahd, is due to be released in 2019.
Outside of music, Khaled has also gained success as a writer, with his book The Keys featuring on the New York Times Best Seller list. He has also featured as an actor, starring in Spies in Disguise (2019), and is due to appear in Bad Boys for Life (2020). (wikipedia)
• • •
So we can start with the good. Some of these themers, as stand-alone answers, regardless of theme, are just good. Whatever gets you to put DJ KHALED in a grid is good. Pretty sure that's the only "DJKH" letter string available right now. BACK-UP QB, also nice. And I'm all for FILM NOIR, whenever you wanna give it to me. But the theme itself, just ... walking through the alphabet? ... that didn't do much for me. WEIGH-IN? Not really showy enough. And what is with that extra damn "U"—the one shared by PR STUNT and UV WAVE? It's bizarre. Because UV WAVE is already not great (I know UV better as "rays," not "waves"), and you could've made that answer VW GOLF or VW BUGS and kept your damn alphabet streak perfectly intact, because there's *already* an alphabetical "U" in the answer PR STUNT. This is obvious, right? I don't know how people (any of them ... any of the people) don't see this and fix it. It's fixable. It just means a new SW corner. No big whoop. I mean, I still wouldn't have loved this theme, but at least it would've worked. With a dull routine, you *really* have to stick the landing.

The real problem with this puzzle is the fill. That's an evergreen sentence if there ever was one. Yet again, I don't know why polishing the grid is not (apparently) anyone's priority. We're falling back on ODA now? ODA? And SEISMO!? Hey kids, it's SEISMO, the Shaky Clown. No, he's supposed to be like that, kids! Oh, kids, don't cry! Why are you running away!? Come back, kids! SEISMO loves you! Seriously, though, prefixes should never ever be that long. SEISMO is the dumbest thing I've seen in a while. ASDOI? Please find your brother SODOI and then both of you go away forever. ALTI, yuck. ONAT, same. ATTWO? Now you're just throwing random phrases out there. This is not the worst puzzle I ever DIDST do, but it had me wincing a lot. More negative than positive today, I'm afraid, though, again, DJ KHALED is making the grid real hard to hate.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Patrick O'Connor 12:23 AM  

I'd like to put in a good word for the other long answers in the grid, OCTAHEDRA, ARISTOTLE, FISCHER, GOETHE (INSTATE, meh); despite the fact that the clues for them were I suppose designed to be Tuesday-easy and ended up a little blah, it was good to see those words along with the themers.

Anonymous 12:24 AM  


a.corn 12:28 AM  

Man, I thought that puzzle was just some good fun. I grokked the theme almost instantly, but I just giggle-groaned my way through it. Easy peasy Tuesday themey. Huh?

Mr. Alarm 12:45 AM  

I really appreciate the humor you bring to your always-fair critiques! “This is not the worst puzzle I ever DIDST do, but it had me wincing...”

TomAz 12:56 AM  

I haven't said this in a long time, but: I agree with Rex 100% today. UV WAVES? yeah whatever. I went to the ER to get my elbow x-waved, then I came home and warmed some leftovers in the microray. I went to the beach to catch some waves and surf some rays. Hey at least we didn't get hit with any SEISMOs today.

And yes the extraneous U bugged the wave out of me too.


puzzlehoarder 1:12 AM  

Once again I did not notice the extra column. That would explain the roughly half minute over my average time.

After solving I had to read over the theme clues and entries a few times to understand what was going on. It's nice to have an extra word problem after the solve.

While solving the only time I really made a note of the theme's extra clue numbers was with FILMNOIR at 42A. My impression was that this was the revealer and I thought it strange that there were no other movie references so far. Of course as soon as I got back into the fill I completely forgot about 42A and the whole movie misconception anyway.

It's a little ironic that I got the theme when I finally read the clue for 68A. It was one of the clues I never read while solving because I had enough letters to get the answer without it. The same was true for ARISTOTTLE.

I know a lot of the constructors these days are wunderkinds but this one is an actual kid. A very sophisticated puzzle for someone that age and a good one in any sense.

jae 2:23 AM  

Medium seems right. Hey, it’s a pangram.

Carola 2:39 AM  

A solid "liked it" from me. I admired the construction feat of getting all the letters in order in symmetically placed answers and appreciated the not-always-expected challenging moments (the NE) on a Tuesday. The theme definitely helped with the solve, especially with MOS DEF and the entirely unknown to me DJ KHALED. I did try to wish away the extra U in PR STUNT. Main trouble spot: "AS am I" before "me too" before AS DO I.

Loved the XYZ AFFAIR finishing things off with a bang, my favorite genre FILM NOIR getting center pride of place, and the matching up of ARISTOTLE with the Greek-derived OCTAHEDRA.

chefwen 3:49 AM  

Well, that was different and fun. My biggest problem was reading 27A as prefLight ritual as I don’t recall ever having to weigh myself before getting onto a plane. Are they referring to my luggage? I must have read that damn clue three times before I saw PRE FIGHT. Doh!

Had to hum the alphabet song a couple of time to see what I needed next. Puzzle partner kept giving me sidelong glances to see if I needed that padded room.

Nice Tuesday puzzle.

Abigail 4:54 AM  

"Alti" kind of made me angry. It took me MUCH longer to get "Film Noir" than it should have, because even though my brain was saying "It's the only logical answer," I kept looking at the space that "Alti" went thinking, "It has to be alto, it HAS to be." I sang in a choir for five years -- as an alto -- and NEVER heard the term "alti." Plural is "altos." Just like the plural of "soprano" is "sopranos." No one says "soprani." Mirriam-Webster says the plural is "altos" and doesn't even give an option for "alti." It seems that the only way it's the plural of alto is if it's the Latin "altus," or in some contexts in Italian. Nothing in the clue said, "choir voices, in Latin or Italian." I shouldn't let it get to me this way, but whoo boy.

JOHN X 5:54 AM  

Wow I really kicked the heck out this puzzle!

Then I found out it was constructed by a 15 year old, and then I felt bad for gloating.

Lewis 6:15 AM  

For those who don't know, the constructor is 15. No matter what his age, I thought the theme was elegant and clever, and because I solved in a scattershot manner, I didn't see that the entire alphabet was represented and represented in order, and in my post solve look, that gave me a very nice aha. Then got my second when I saw that the theme letters were symmetrically placed!

That word nerd place in my head saw the anagrams RATS and TARS, then found "star" in the clue for 19A, but no "tsar" cigar.

The theme has been done before, Jeff Chen points out in Xword Info. It was on a Sunday (8/29/10), with more room to accomplish the same thing. Then Jim Horne, on the same site, mentioned David Steinberg's take on this theme, and it was a monster (in the best sense), that I don't think will be improved upon (2/18/14).

Brookboy 6:33 AM  

Aha! Rex finally gave us an answer that he likes so much (20A - DJKHALED) that he only wrote 450 words of criticism instead of his usual 500. Gotta remember that.

I liked that answer also, as well as many others, and I am not at all offended by the fill that sets OFL off. I thought that this was yet another creative twist (stringing consecutive letters together) that makes these puzzles so interesting. I’m of the persuasion that looking for and finding the theme, if there is one, adds an enjoyable element to solving the puzzle.

Bad guesses really slowed me down on this one. Had lids at first for 59D (Toupees, in slang), followed by wigs, and then finally RUGS. No idea why I didn’t get it right away; just could not think of that word. Had ALTo at first for 25D (Some choir voices). Took me a while to finally get the AHA! moment. Had hoot at first for 59A (Real comedian), finally thought of RIOT. Despite all that, I enjoyed the solve.

For some reason, this puzzle got me thinking that a Brooklyn themed puzzle could be interesting to solve:

Clue: Killer phrase

Clue : Wants to know the name of the authority
Answer: “WHO SEZ?”

Clue: Tells his pal he’s going to start cooking”

Clue: Not interested

Clue: Quotes the cost of the ticket

And so on...

Karl Grouch 6:38 AM  

What a great Tuesday puzzle this was:

Fun and original theme hard to construct, not too easy, not dull as some early week fills often are, peppy long answers, no bull clueing, no xwordese, very few 3-letters, an elegant grid...

A long list of things to praise, making the odd nit (uv wave, alti) really not an issue at all.

Thx for getting the humming back Mr. Larsen!

The Bard 6:45 AM  

King Richard III, Act I, scene II

LADY ANNE: And, by despairing, shouldst thou stand excused;
For doing worthy vengeance on thyself,
Which didst unworthy slaughter upon others.

GLOUCESTER: Say that I slew them not?

LADY ANNE: Why, then they are not dead:
But dead they are, and devilish slave, by thee.

GLOUCESTER: I did not kill your husband.

LADY ANNE: Why, then he is alive.

GLOUCESTER: Nay, he is dead; and slain by Edward's hand.

LADY ANNE: In thy foul throat thou liest: Queen Margaret saw
Thy murderous falchion smoking in his blood;
The which thou once didst bend against her breast,
But that thy brothers beat aside the point.

GLOUCESTER: I was provoked by her slanderous tongue,
which laid their guilt upon my guiltless shoulders.

LADY ANNE: Thou wast provoked by thy bloody mind.
Which never dreamt on aught but butcheries:
Didst thou not kill this king?

GLOUCESTER: I grant ye.

LADY ANNE: Dost grant me, hedgehog? then, God grant me too
Thou mayst be damned for that wicked deed!
O, he was gentle, mild, and virtuous!

GLOUCESTER: The fitter for the King of heaven, that hath him.

crackblind 7:12 AM  

I actually got stuck fora bit on 29 Across. Not because I didn't know DJ KHALED sang "All I Do Is Win" mind you. It's because whenever I think of the song, I think of Emma Stone's awesomely incredible "version" of it.

Tell me that won't be what you think of from now on. You should wash the whole thing. Her "Hook" is equally great.

Hungry Mother 7:16 AM  

Ignored the theme, but sailed through anyway. Seemed more Mondayish than Tuesdayish.

kitshef 7:24 AM  

What DJKHALED was to Rex, OCTAHEDRA was to me. It didn't make the puzzle great, but it lifted it above the Mendoza line.

Oh, and I liked the Patriots' owner trolling with Robert KRAFT next to ASS, TATA and LUST FOR.

Irene 7:25 AM  

He's 15? And included Goethe and Mos Def, Aristotle and the XYZ Affair? Great job.

kitshef 7:25 AM  

@chefwen - a lot off the small island-hopper flights around the Caribbean will weigh you and and your bags in order to get the weight distribution for the plane correct.

Small Town Blogger 7:28 AM  

I completely agree - this one truly annoyed me. I’ve been an Alto in choirs for 40 years, and we are Altos. It should have said “in Italian”.

@merican in Paris 7:32 AM  

Was going to try to post something pithy today, but after reading Whirred Whacks's defence of a lunatic with the codes to the nuclear football, I feel as if I just walked into a bad FILM NOIR from which I can't escape. We even get Michael Cohen's iconic question, "SAYS WHO?!" as fill.

As for the puzzle, it gave me a good work-out. Like @chefwen, I misread 27A as prefLight. I was also not careful in counting the letters, so assumed 29A would be DJK-Li'L ED. I MEAN, GOETHE grief!

One question: Does KRAFT claim to make "cheese"? I know they sell Velveeta.

ACAI, I'm outa here.

Amy Yanni 7:38 AM  

@kitshef, LOL at your Kraft comment. And smiling happily at this puzzle.

Anonymous 8:15 AM  

Poor Daniel. Being 15 isn't enough for a good review from Rex. Unfortunately, he's not female and therefore couldn't get an automatic rave.

KRMunson 8:25 AM  

@kitshef-the Mendoza line?

pabloinnh 8:25 AM  

More of a doh! moment than an aha! moment when I realized what was going on, which kicked in somewhere around the XYZAFFAIR. A little slow this morning.

I like any puzzle that gives me the chance to say "Stunt puzzle!", so nice stunt puzzle. I wonder if M&A ever makes stuntruntz.

Nice job, Mr. Larsen. You may have a future in this.

Crimson Devil 8:28 AM  

Age 15: amazing, and humbling!!
Congrats young man!

Unknown 8:30 AM  

At 71 Across, I immediately wrote GOETHE. My wife immediately wrote GOUNOD. Different wheelhouses. I happened to be "right" by coincidence.

Dorothy Biggs 8:36 AM  

Aw...constructor is 15? I have kids who are older, but if one of them got a puzzle published in the NYT at 15 I'd be very proud. I was totally prepared to just accept this puzzle as a normal, run o' the mill Tuesday exercise with the usual ups and downs, but now, knowing it's constructed by a 15 year old, I am compelled to like it.

Nice puzzle, kid. Your parents must be proud.

Phaedrus 8:42 AM  

Seismo the Shaky Clown? The kids are running away because he’s shaking?

Making fun of epileptics now, Rex? Wow, I really thought you’d be more “woke” than that.

Words matter. They can hurt people.

Odd Sock 8:45 AM  

@ Whirred Whacks, Thanks you for providing some balance to the topic that spoils this crossword conversation way too often. Well spoken.

Nice puzzle but I was annoyed with myself for having to recite the alphabet so many times. Wunderkinds give me hope for the future.
Well done Daniel.

Tom Taylor 8:48 AM  

I’d like to defend UV waves. They are all light waves (sorry I’m a physics teacher) ... x-ray is the name of the wave itself.

Sir Hillary 8:54 AM  

FILMNOIR is a tremendous entry with its four-letter string. And any 15-year-old who's published in the NYT gets nothing but admiration from me. I'll hold off delivering any constructive criticism of the puzzle, as I'm sure Master Larsen is getting plenty.

@WW -- Nice try, but your generalizations are ultimately no more insightful than anyone else's. I'm guessing that your real purpose was to stir up yet more politically-related commentary, and I've no doubt you've succeeded. Thanks much for instigating what I'm sure will be lots more predictable tedium today.

GILL I. 9:09 AM  

If truth be told, I saw COED and PTSD and I hoped heads wouldn't explode. Phew. I can't stand the tippy- toeing around what offends the offended.
15 years old? Lordy. I immediately tried to remember what I was like at that age. Ah, now I remember. I was a gangly unsophisticate- fresh off a once glorious island, and didn't know squat. And here's this genius who comes up with a mighty fine Tuesday. I'm seriously impressed.
The only thing that bugged me was having to count up the alphabet on my fingers. I also do that with math and it looks strange to anyone else looking at you. Well, who cares?
Never heard of DJKHALED and had trouble with the adjoining down HATHA but everything else was EASY AS ABC.

70 in nampa 9:13 AM  

C'mon... "alti"?
Don't think I remember the director ever saying "okay. Let me hear the alti, only, this time."
Other than that... slightly lower than average time, enjoyable.
Spanish plural of "alto" is "altos", as in Los Altos, where I grew up.

Lori 9:26 AM  

@Whirred Wacks, Thank you for some insight into people who don't see Trump as a misguided nut case. Been wondering what the hay they're thinking.

Wow, 15 years old? That's good some stuff and he covered a lot of wheelhouses for me - goethe, hatha, Fischer, XYZ Afair, PR Stunt, no problem. Octahedra and backup QB, rats! But I learned that Nero let it burn then built it back up.

Really enjoyed this.

Z 9:31 AM  

A puzzle based on letter strings based on the (totally random) alphabet? Yeah, no. As Rex said, there’s some good stuff here but not nearly enough to make up for a letter based theme.

pmdm 9:31 AM  

Some time ago, Mr. Sharp had some very bad things to say about crossword puzzles whose entry letters include a pangram. Happy to see he's grown out of that phase, as this puzzle was nicely crafted. As Chen pointed out, not perfect, but still very enjoyable.

For me, there's nothing to fix unless you take a someone anal approach. I don't mean that as a put down and would like to phrase that more gently, but I don't have the time to figure out how.

I have the urge to comment about the top comment. Let us consider a person who continuously lies or denies the truth, who acts like a bully and throws coarse insult at anyone who dares oppose his views.. (I could go on, but don't have the time.) These are not political issues, but they are traits which invite derision. Any surprise that many express their distaste for such a person should be anticipated. Those who refuse to recognize the bad qualities of such a person are simply sticking their head in the sand. Just because someone shares or opposes one's political ideas doesn't make that person a good or bad person.

John Child 9:33 AM  

To hell with any criticism. This an excellent puzzle by a young constructor with great promise. Let’s have more Mr Larsen.

webwinger 9:36 AM  

On a late-evening 2-hour plane flight had opportunity to read the full day’s worth (Monday 3/18) of comments. Very interesting experience. (I tried to post this yesterday and it didn't show up, so trying again. Read today's comment by Whirred Whacks above with interest; not quite aligned with my own views but well reasoned and well stated.)

I agree it would have been better to avoid MARA as clued. It’s definitely not accurate to characterize it with the adjective presidential. Other good or better clues exist for Mara. Great suggestion from @r.alph for a one letter substitution.

I am no fan of 45. But still... Is this worth all the RAGE? Now and then amidst our current societal shouting match we hear, as in some of today’s comments, low volume pleas for “proportionality”. Why is that so hard to achieve? Can’t one (was about to write WE) object to something small (and boy was this small!) without totally villainizing those who disagree?

Then the slurs slugfest had to start up again. More and more it seems like people can’t wait to be provoked into angry response on this front, one way or the other. Does the uproar protect anyone from harm? Does anyone care how woke or un-woke the shouter or shoutee is?

BTW, snopes.com pretty much demolishes the oft told origin story of gringo/a repeated above. It’s hard to deny that this term, though it may be used affectionately in some contexts (as can the n-word), was not originally employed with kind intentions. Increasingly it seems to me that derogatory speech directed at those with “power”, and none other, is uncritically embraced by linguistic hypercritics. Why not (as corny as it sounds) just apply the “golden rule”? Maybe the powerful would react in a positive way, which, however slight, could matter, seeing as how they still have power. And people (especially @Rex, withholding a barb I really wanted to shoot), PLEASE channel your energy more productively!

Re the puzzle, I quite liked the theme. Needed the revealer to see it. Cool that the revealer had a 3-letter answer and was clued at the very last.

But in no way was the fill Monday level to my mind. My time was not much above Monday average, but many entries struck me as at least Wednesday-ish: ROLLE? GOBAG? DEETS? Among clues, could I be alone in having absolutely no idea re 1970 hit for the Kinks (and I’m smack in the age demographic for that)? Lots of clever wordplay in cluing (e.g. eating outing), but I think it would have been much more at home in a midweek puzzle. I would expect a real newbie to have given up in bafflement after a few minutes today.

‘Nite all!

Suzie Q 9:37 AM  

Ah, those pesky plurals. Alto/alti. Octopus/whatever that plural is.
These discussions are really boring. This puzzle, however, was not.
I thought it was playful and creative.
Rex making light of epilepsy really shocked me.

Robyn Stone 9:44 AM  

I enjoyed today's puzzle, and the theme was fun. Congrats to the constructor - only 15 years old - great job, and shows hope for the future.

As for yesterday, Rex might want to read up on the lovely DJ Khaled. His attitude towards women are pretty regressive and offensive.

nyc_lo 9:58 AM  

I actually loved SEISMO as the answer for “shaky beginning?” since the clueing is both accurate (seismograph) and toungue in cheek. And I’m also glad it ticked off Rex since now I have SEISMO the Clown to picture for the rest of the day. Everybody wins! (And it’s okay Susie Q, he’s not epileptic, just filled with gin and rage).

Nancy 9:59 AM  

Unusually crunchy for a Tuesday and once I decided not to count any letters, I fully enjoyed it. Counting letters of the alphabet is not exactly my idea of a fun experience (hi, @GILL), but happily it wasn't at all necessary. This an amazing feat of construction that also enriches the solver's experience. The theme certainly helped me with DKJ HALED of whom I've never heard and MOS DEF, whose name rings a very, very foggy bell. The fact that the constructor is only 15 -- all I can say 23, 15, 23!!!!! Really impressive job.

This is my last day of peace and quiet. They're "setting up" tomorrow in the apartment overhead. Tomorrow I should get the full picture of what's about to happen to me. I expect the news to be awful. The demolition will probably start on Thursday; if not, on Monday. TATA!

jberg 10:13 AM  

The puzzle was fine, and since I got EASY AS ABC, with the [1,2,3] in the clue, the theme was pretty obvious, and even helped a bit.

The thing about ALTI is that it's not just an Italian plural, it's an Italian masculine plural. So no one would ever use it for a group of female singers, as clued. A non-vocal clue might have worked.

USMAIL seemed overly specific, since the British post office offers Royal Mail, etc. Again, a different clue might work -- e.g., service offered by the Brooklyn Post Office.

I was also going to complain abour the clue for 8D, thinking that "colorful" was redundant as applied to parrots -- but then I remembered these birds.

@Whirred it would be more accurate to say that Obama' policies were unpopular ... until the Republicans tried to repeal them, leading to their disastrous losses in last year's elections.

AS 10:33 AM  

You know, it's rare that a theme actually makes the puzzle easier. I love a good Thursday where you have to suss out the trick, but this was very nice, well constructed. Not really wild about ODA, both as a word and name dropping a pretty gross and archaic tradition, but that is a minor quibble.

EV 11:04 AM  

Putting down COED DRIP RUGS is an XXXAFFAIR involving umm...never mind, don't go there (oops, too late)
This guy is 15? Precocious is hardly the word...

Masked and Anonymous 11:10 AM  

Extra U in the alphabet theme's run? … Sweeeet.

I can see needin a touch of desperation here and there, to make a theme like this work out. SEISMO. har

staff weeject pick: ODA. Has been used a lot in puzs, so no great shock to m&e. No PB1 Usage Immunity, I'd grant. Better (or at least fresher than snot) ODA clue: {3 quarts worth of a gallon of Coke??}.

Great themer answers, encouraged by the sometimes weird letter combos. Didn't know DJKHALED, but it looks cool. Also some other neat fillins, such as: ARISTOTLE. OCTAHEDRA. FISCHER. SAYSWHO.

I believe I might have tried somethin remotely like this theme one time in a runtpuz (yo, @pabloinnh). But at this point, I have mostly suppressed the experience. Suffice it to say I assume the constructioneer suffered a might, in makin this puppy.

Thanx, Mr. Larsen.

Masked & Anonym007Us


Roo Monster 11:23 AM  

Hey All !
Well, this is a tremendously made puz. Let's look at what is brought before us. It's not just that Daniel has all the letters of the alphabet, in order, in the puz, and not just placed in symmetrical answers, BUT the letters themselves are symmetrical! Look at ABC, XYZ. First themer, ABC last three letters, it's symmetric, last themer, XYZ first three letters. Same with DEF, UVW. DEF last three letters, it's symmetric UVW first three letters. Then GHI plus one letter, it's symmetric RST with one letter in front. Also _JK, symmetric PQ_. Then the LMNO (which was spectacular to find in FILM NOIR)exactly centered. AND they are all known words and/or phrases. Nothing made up. (UV WAVES is perfectly OK)Nothing like NOPortion, or other made up stuff. Holy cow!

To anyone finding fault in this puz, you need to just let life go while solving, and enjoy the diversion that playing games like Crossword Solving provides. A moment to leave all the bad stuff behind. Find joy in the fact that some of the youth of this country are on good ground.

As you may have figured out, I really liked this puz. For the constraints put on by the parameters of the theme and symmetry, the fill wasn't terrible. Daniel could've added an extra black square below the one after CAPS to make filling easier, but chose not to, and ended up with two double stacks of nines, having to deal with the ABC and XYZ themers. Not easy to fill cleanly. I'm really impressed by this puz.

Plus, he got 5 F's in! When was the last time we had such a good puz on a Tuesday? Breathe it all in , y'all. Add this to the list of memorable puzs.


jb129 11:47 AM  

This was fun - thank you Daniel!

Airymom 12:00 PM  

Bravo Daniel. I think you constructed a fun, interesting puzzle. I was thrilled that I knew DJ Khaled, and ashamed that I didn't know XYZ affair. True, I took AP-USH a very long time ago, but should have remembered this.

Rex rants about many things--some I agree with and with others I just roll my eyes. One thing I support: diverse constructors yield more interesting puzzles. Diversity is not only sex and race, but age.

I couldn't believe that you're 15, but then I read that you were 13 when your first NY Times puzzle was published.

I know your family won't have to photo-shop your face on the body of a rower, because all the finest universities and colleges will be recruiting you.

Z 12:16 PM  

@John Child - I prefer “a fine debut” rather than think being young is remarkable. In the kind of mental challenge constructing a puzzle entails the only real difference between 15, 35, and 55 is experience. Not knowing Ipana toothpaste or Yma Sumac might actually be an advantage.

David 12:20 PM  

I was pretty much done, but with the SW pretty bare and then hit on XYZ Affair. Aha! That's what those numbers are about. I'm always impressed when a 15 year old knows stuff. Well done!

I've been engraving and editing music for over 30 years now. Yes, alti is a thing.

The range of wavelengths sung by alti are far, far below the range of UV wavelength. Wouldn't it be cool if we could sing colors?

Also, I happen to know a number of Indigenous Andeans who speak Quechua, and, though they're mostly my age or just a bit younger, I wouldn't describe them as "ancient".

Z 12:31 PM  

Yesterday stuff
@Warren in NJ - If you’re using a smartphone, scroll to the bottom and click on “View web version.” The FAQ link is at the top.
@Anon - What, exactly, does where you lived or that you were in the military have to do with whether or not you’re conversant on the issue of race? I know you won’t believe me, but you keep telling on yourself.

Whatsername 12:40 PM  

This was not so much a wince for me as it was a squint. I finished it with no problem but without the theme and had to come here to see what was happening. After doing so, I am duly impressed - a clever, inspired pangram and by a 15 year old to boot. I don’t think I had ever even solved a crossword puzzle by age 15, much less constructed one worthy of publication. Very nicely done Mr. Larsen, and I hope to see more from you in the future.

@WhirredWhiskers - Ordinarily I would not respond to political commentary on a non-political forum. However since you started the discussion in a generally civilized and nonpartisan tone, I wanted to say that you hit the nail on the head for me on both counts – why I come to this site and my general impression of Donald Trump’s policies. While I think he often tends to overstate his accomplishments, I do admit some moves are a step - while maybe not always in the “right” direction - at least in a direction we need to consider. As for how it is going to play out in the coming months, the one thing he could do to gain my confidence is to strive for a level of dignity more befitting the Office.

mmorgan 12:51 PM  

I often find that a clever construction effort such as this (not a yawn-inducing pangram, but a pangram-in-order -- very nice!) does not translate into a very pleasant solve, but that was not the case with this one. Once I figured out what the numbers meant, it actually helped me check what I had and led me to change one or two letters. (I had first thought the numbers referred to clues or answers, which got me nowhere fast.)

I also thought at one point that this would have to be a rebus or change-direction of some sort, since I was sure that 5A (Weaver's devices) would have to be plural -- i.e., LOOMs. Not sure why it isn't but perhaps a single loom represents multiple "devices." (Anybody?)

The comment by @Whirred Whacks at 12:05am put me in a miserable mood. I have trouble understanding how someone could be so utterly and completely and objectively wrong about so much in just a few paragraphs. But rather than debate any specific points, which is not likely to change anyone's mind, I do want to say that I appreciate the fact that the comment is made in a civil, sincere, and respectful tone. That's hard to find these days.

Ethan Taliesin 1:05 PM  

XYZ AFFAIR was new to me.

Apparently is was an 1898 Franco-American kerfuffle starting when cash-strapped France ordered the seizure of US merchant ships.

The US sent envoys to meet with Foreign Minister Talleyrand, but instead were greeted by three French intermediaries (X,Y, and Z) who demanded a low-interest loan for France, pay all the merchant ships claims against the French, and pay Talleyrand a big fat bribe.

This did not go over well and Talleyrand himself finally met with the envoys and dropped some conditions, though not to end seizures of US ships.

President Adams then prepared for a possible war with France while the US was actively engaging them in the Caribbean. War skepticism and US political pressure demanded transparency and so Adams released internal documents, but had the three Frenchmen replaced with X, Y, and Z.

Things simmered on low for a while and the two countries eventually ironed out their stale, dirty laundry.

Also, this related copypasta:

"Congress also passed the Logan Act (1799) in response to the visit of a pacifist Quaker, George Logan, who conducted negotiations with Talleyrand as a private citizen and returned to the United States announcing Talleyrand’s peaceful intentions. The Logan Act criminalized unauthorized diplomatic negotiations."

The Logan Act is what some have talked about possibly using to prosecute Michael Flynn--though it has never been actually used for a prosecution.

Also, I liked DJ KHALED for purely letter-sequence reasons.

Also, I like turtles.

Teedmn 1:07 PM  

I mostly solved this west side to east side so my impression of the theme was "phrases with initials", thus ABC, DJ, PR. When I got to the center and found FILM NOIR, I had to rethink. I finally put the numbers together with the alphabet, aha, nice stunt.

A pangram by definition - thanks, Daniel Larsen, and congrats on NYT puzzle #2.

Travel Bum 1:07 PM  

It’s always interesting to me to see the things that set commenters in this blog off. Today I’m curious why a common crossword entry like ALTI (used 135 times previously, including 32 in the Shortz era) suddenly provokes such a backlash. Yes, I agree that it’s incorrect as clued, but why the uproar now instead of the many other times it has been similarly clued? Just sayin’.

burtonkd 1:15 PM  

@jberg, just to nitpick deeper. Clue doesn’t specify women. There are many male altos out there. Boy choir, countertenors can sing an alto choral part, or (god forbid) castrati. Granted, I couldn’t even type alti into my post:)

thfenn 1:29 PM  

LOL. As will flights from DC to Bangor. On the last one I just took, someone had to move from the front of the plane to the back to get the weight distribution right for takeoff...both unnerving and reassuring at the same time.

AK14 1:33 PM  

Three year lurker, first time commenter. Couldn't resist this one.

Look, DJKHALED is a fine answer. I'm all for it because he's wildly famous to anyone paying half a shred of attention to pop culture, and I think 2010-present is a grossly underrepresented era in the crossword. But calling him a singer is objectively false. If someone could point me to any material on which he sings (or raps, or DJs or produces, or does anything besides shout a catchphrase), please comment below. He's a musical hack who has outstanding social media savvy and has his finger on the pop culture pulse. That's it.

But MOSDEF was amazing, especially with the wonderful Black Star clue! One of the most essential albums in hip hop history. Good grief Mr. Sharp, you really chose the wrong rap clue to go gaga over.

PS: "An interview resurfaced from 2015 featuring DJ Khaled revealing he doesn't perform oral sex on his wife because there are 'different rules for men.'

'A woman should praise the man — the king,' says the 42-year-old rapper and Weight Watchers social media ambassador. "If you holding it down for your woman I feel like the woman should praise. And a man should praise the queen. But you know, my way of praising is called, ha-ha, "How was dinner?", "You like the house you living in? You like all them clothes you getting?"
-Independent, 5/6/2018

old timer 1:35 PM  

ALTI is just wrong, no matter how often it has been used. Soprani, the Italian plural of soprano, is found fairly often in English, and if for some reason you used "basso" rather than "bass" to describe a low male singing voice, "bassi" would be far better than "bassos."

But ALTI? No. Alto is not really an Italian word for a female singing voice. In opera, they have sopranos, mezzo-sopranos, and contraltos. ALTo is used to describe a part of a chorus, where you can be soprano, alto, tenor, and bass. These are very much English words, long in use, and an Italian plural for alto is not needed (indeed, "tenor" is not based on Italian at all, and started with phrases like "the even tenor of his ways" before being used for the male lead in choral music.

But yes, an amazing puzzle from so young a constructor. BRAVO!

thfenn 2:16 PM  

Thanks for this, was going to look up XYZ Affair myself. Talleyrand, I see, is quite quotable. Enjoyed this one I saw in a restaurant: "England has three sauces and 360 religions, whilst France has three religions and 360 sauces.” turns out, even if true, he might not have said that, as this is the quote usually attributed to him: (America is) "a country with thirty-two religions and only one sauce".

thfenn 2:19 PM  

Enjoyed this puzzle a great deal, and thanks, Z and others, for pointing out why it was even better than I thought. The theme helped me solve, which is always fun. Got hung up forever unable to see, for too long, what was wrong with DAwB/LUAw. DOH!

Lewis 2:36 PM  

I mentioned this in passing in my first comment, but I would like to stress once more, because I think it is so impressive, that the theme letters in this puzzle are all symmetrical!

Anonymous 2:55 PM  

@mmorgan: I did the puzzle on the phone app, and the clue for LOOM is Weaver's device. I can see why you were confused if it was clued as plural.

Ebenezer 4:10 PM  

I'm with Rex. This was a dreadful Tuesday.

Anonymous 5:14 PM  

Well, Rex wasn't THAT rough.

Travis 5:32 PM  

Do you mean castratos?

No ire intended, meant as a friendly jab, I know that common usage is the best rule and that by that rule you're right on both counts. I immediately concede the point.

Jeff B. 5:59 PM  

Well done, Daniel. Wondering whether someone in your family 'wears a RUG'. That's a term I haven't heard in a while, so a bit surprising to come from someone so young.

@KR Munson 8:25: The Mendoza line is a baseball term that refers to anyone whose batting average is below (or above) .200. It's named after Mario Mendoza, a weak hitting infielder from a few decades back and though it's an Inside Baseball term, it can apply as a measure of anything that's sub-par.

Whirred Whacks: hard to believe anyone who is truly independent can buy into any of the crap that this prez is selling. How can anyone with eyes open not see the damage of such a corrupt person and the dreck that came in with him? I'm with the commenters who pushed back, including @Ameila 4:13.

Bea 6:17 PM  

'Alti' & 'seismo' took me a loooong minute to get.

The clue re: rowing felt timely. ;)

Anonymoose 6:27 PM  

I hope young Mr Larsen didn't read this blog today. It's really quite atrocious.

Amelia 6:30 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
CDilly52 7:40 PM  


CDilly52 7:44 PM  

This was 100% fun. And knowing the constructor is 15 just adds to my admiration for such a completely clean and simultaneously accessible grid! I had no idea on D J KHALED but the crosses made it possible. Crushed this puzz but had no idea there was a theme until I read @Rex. That frequently happens when Indo not read any notes before I solve.

Feminist 7:51 PM  

“ DJ Khaled Doesn't Eat the Box but Expects Oral Sex From Wife Because He's the King”. Rex Parker : “Whatever gets you to put DJ KHALED in a grid is good. Pretty sure that's the only "DJKH" letter string ” Still up on his website even though he knows. Misogynist.

C. Davis 8:02 PM  

Chill y’all. This is supposed to be a crossword blog. There are plenty of other venues to vent your hate.

Unknown 8:44 PM  

Hey, we have ketchup AND cool ranch. That's two.

Anonymous 11:09 PM  

Anyone, including Michael Sharp, who encourages DJ Khaled should be shunned and not allowed to be a public figure without being called out.

Aketi 11:20 AM  

@Daniel Larsen, congratulations on your debut puzzle!

burtonkd 12:54 PM  

None taken, good eye.

rondo 9:23 AM  

OFL couldn’t be more wrong. Putting DJKHALED in any puz is enough to ruin it (see some comments above). DJKHALED himself has no talent and those ‘musicians’ he hires on to do the lifting though popular, are also of dubious talent. A real DJ friend of mine who at one time had the #1 afternoon drive time show in the Twin Cities always remarked, “Almost anything that becomes wildly popular is usually crap.” How true. Toss in MOSDEF and I wouldn’t be surprised if @spacey DNBTF. And I wouldn’t blame him, especially with this alphabet soup. DUMB. Only redeeming quality is proper use of TARS.

spacecraft 10:44 AM  

This was a DUMB PRSTUNT. I'm surprised OFC didn't lambaste Mr. Larsen for gratuitous pangrammar; I guess it being the actual theme lets it off the hook. But oh boy, what fill! Suffice to say, if 29 across is the sole saving grace for OFC, and I can't stand rap, you know what I think. I give a point for the appearance of JEDI, but that's not enough to prevent a triple bogey. TATA!

Burma Shave 11:14 AM  


A real U.S.MAIL at his KRAFT it’s said?


Anonymous 2:11 PM  

From Syndication Land

@Burma Shave made me ROFL today!

leftcoastTAM 2:32 PM  

Not sure whether this is a DOH! or an AHA! puzzle.

Just to balance things out, will give it a mild "aha", having picked up the alphabet theme when ABC and XYZ jumped out near the end of the solve. Meanwhile, the long acrosses were pretty good.

Overall, not bad.

leftcoastTAM 2:59 PM  

Just saw over at xwordinfo that Daniel Larsen is 15 -- yes 15!-- years old. Pretty impressive.

rainforest 3:11 PM  

Now let us learn our ABCs. It's as easy as 1,2,3. However, close examination of the symmetry, the pangram (en passent as it were), and the cute themers raises it to another level.

I understand those who denigrate the puzzle, but I can't agree. The "conceit" was fun to deal with, and actually aided in the solve, a job usually reserved for crosses. I think this type of theme can be done only once, but it's still worthy of praise for that one time.

@Burma Shave - the Energizer bunny of poetry/doggerel. He HATHA talent, too.

Diana,LIW 3:45 PM  

I had 3/4 of this finished and was thinking that it was easier than yesterday's (Monday!) puzzle. But then I got to the SW, and...decided to look at the theme hints. Helped immensely, and 'twas easy again. I'm in awe of all constructors, even when I might not like some of the fill or answers.

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords

rondo 4:03 PM  

I'll give the kid his props for constructioneering; at 15 he shows real promise and I expect we'll see his work mature ala DS.
My major bone of contention today, and many days, is OFL bending over backwards to be more woke or PC or in tune (than the rest of the population) or whatever the terms are for what he thinks is worthwhile (or not) in a puzzle. DJKHALED represents just about the lowest possible denominator common with any significant portion of the populace. Again: wildly popular stuff is most often crap.
Best wishes for Dan Larsen and his future puzzles.

Diana,LIW 6:27 PM  

@Rondo - that's what I referred to as "not liking some of the answers." I don't know this particular "rap artist," but there are many I don't like for reasons noted by many others. Too much lowest common denominator.

Then, there's rap like Hamilton.

Lady Di

rainforest 6:32 PM  

My brilliant comment was not published - probably something I did or didn't do.

Encapsulation: Different kind of theme which can't be repeated but was fine this once.
Themers were good. Fill was...fill.

@Burma Shave - Energizer bunny of poetry/doggerel. Good one today.

strayling 7:45 PM  

@ Daniel Larsen

Nice one. Finished, looked again and then I twigged that you'd snuck a pangram in there right under my nose.

Some of it was a bit clumsy (that double-U is an itch I can't scratch) but this was a fun solve.

Anonymous 2:37 PM  

A mostly pleasant solve for me -- I thought it was clever. I've not solved others with comparable themes, so for me this wasn't deficient, themewise.

I would, tho, like to see constructors delete the hateful ODA (no harems today, but sexual slavery is still a problem for women) and COED (and comparable limiting words) from their software. If you've used software -- and you can download free trial versions, to get a feel for them -- then you know that it offers many, many, many alternatives after one has laid in the themers.

@GILL I. "I saw COED and PTSD and I hoped heads wouldn't explode. Phew. I can't stand the tippy- toeing around what offends the offended."
1. Wow. First of all, COED and PTSD are entirely different. COED when used as a noun is derogatory and sexist, and as an adj it's dated and unnecessary, plus it echoes the problematic noun; by contrast, PTSD, the same of a medical condition, is factual and denigrates no one/nothing.
2. It's great that your life has rolled so smoothly that misogyny, racism, or other prejudices haven't held you back economically or in other ways, but that's not the case for lots of people. For you to double-whammy them by mocking them as "the offended" because they speak up about inequality -- really not OK.

@Anonymous 8:15 AM
"Poor Daniel. Being 15 isn't enough for a good review from Rex. Unfortunately, he's not female and therefore couldn't get an automatic rave."
Aw, poor you -- gotta let girls in the treehouse! FYI, RP doesn't give automatic raves to female constructors -- look for posts on work by Sophia Maymudes (new constructor), Zhouquin Burnikel, Laura Braunstein, Elizabeth Gorski ...

@Irene: "He's 15? And included Goethe and Mos Def, Aristotle and the XYZ Affair? Great job."
I'm not detracting from his accomplishment -- it's an impressive puzzle -- but you need to know that constructing software provides options for fill (can be literally 200 choices, depending on the letters that are present). There's a massive difference between constructing by hand (which required erudition) and electronically. Not a dig -- many of the software-lovers have devised phenomenal innovations that I respect and love. Just noting that software offers a massive assist in filling a grid.

[syndie solver, Tu 4-30-19]

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