ABC sitcom about Johnsons / SUN 4-14-19 / Flower traditionally used to relieve inflammation / Dahlia Agatha in Jeeves novels by PG Wodehouse / hook's helper / Ermines in summer

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Constructor: Will Nediger

Relative difficulty: Easy (9:16)

THEME: "Left/Right Symmetry" — puzzle has L/R symmetry generally, but also the L's in the grid have mirror (i.e. L/R) symmetry with the R's; also, the Down answers in which they appear are identical but for that one letter:

Theme answers:
Word of the Day: KATANAS (73A: Samurai swords) —
Historically, katana (刀 or かたな) were one of the traditionally made Japanese swords (日本刀 nihontō) that were used by the samurai of ancient and feudal Japan.The katana is characterized by its distinctive appearance: a curved, single-edged blade with a circular or squared guard and long grip to accommodate two hands. (wikipedia)
• • •

This played like a themeless because it was a themeless. The whole L/R trick never registered with me, and it's unlikely to register with anyone unless you're really struggling and stop to think about what those circled squares are doing. But since the puzzle is so (comparatively) easy, it's unlikely you're going to need to do that, so ... yeah. Who cares? There are no theme answers, really? I see how a lawyer might argue that the Downs with the L/R symmetry in them are theme answers, but they have nothing in common except that little letter tweak, and, again, who cares? It's an adequate themeless puzzle, but only adequate, and the choppy, highly segmented grid is kind of annoying and results in a lot of short fill (never great). And even in the longer answers (all of which are Downs), there's not much to write home about. CABOT COVE made me happy, as I am a huge "Murder, She Wrote" fan (16D: "Murder, She Wrote" setting), but that's hardly enough spark for a whole Sunday grid. So this was a fine way to pass some time, but not what a Sunday puzzle ought to be. Though, honestly, the Sunday puzzle is almost never what it ought to be. Just a fat lot of nothing, most weeks. Themed puzzles are hard to do well, and Sundays, being big, are Especially hard to do well. The NYT seems to have given up on "well" and adopted a "this'll do" or "at least it's unusual" policy.

I found this very easy, except for one section that stretched from SCUBA in the upper middle down to BENIGNI in the middle east. The clue on SCUBA is godawful (35D: Seaside rental). You'd rent SCUBA gear. "We rented SCUBA." Ugh, stop, no. Don't letter-of-the-law me here, it's a no. "Gear" or "equipment" or go home. So yeah, SCUBA was rough for me to get. Also PIN ON and PIN TO before PIN UP (47A: Affix with a thumbtack) (which, also, why would you give PIN-UP such a boring clue??). Really flummoxed by 52D: Part of a dark cloud (GNAT). No idea if ADIOS was gonna be right for 57D: "Ciao!" I though maybe ADIEU was possible. And then spelling BENIGNI proved very challenging. I had BENNINI or BENINNI. Blech. Also wrestled with KISSY-face and especially ARNICA, which I kind of know from, maybe, the alternative medicine aisle??? I feel like someone gave me someo ARNICA cream once for some kind of pain ... not sure. Anyway, ARNICA was hard. And the clue on "BLACK-ISH" was (like the PIN-UP clue) unnecessarily and unfortunately boring (86D: ABC sitcom about the Johnsons). Vague. "The Johnsons?? That doesn't really convey ... anything about that show. It's such a common name. Be More Interesting, You Stupid Puzzle!!! ME DAY is not a thing (5A: Time to treat yourself). It's ME TIME. That is the only ME-thing that is real. Unless Maine has ME DAY and I am unaware of it.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Gulliver Foyle 12:36 AM  

First time I've ever had the first comment. It's a ME DAY.

Got the "theme" on molasses/morasses, and it helped me complete the puzzle without much sweat.

TomAz 12:46 AM  

I had a hard time getting traction here, and eventually found myself doing a sort of NE-to-SW thing, with the other corners unfilled. I grokked the L/R circled letters pretty quick, which helped a bit.. filled them in and let them help as they could. There was enough resistance to make this play medium/hard for me.

It wasn't until very, very late in my solve that I saw the real symmetry in the puzzle. And I was like, holy #$%& that's brilliant. I loved it. It made me smile, it made me happy. If I'd figured it out sooner the puzzle would have been easier, sure, but I liked it exactly as it played.

So when I read Rex: "Who cares? There are no theme answers, really? I see how a lawyer might argue that the Downs with the L/R symmetry in them are theme answers, but they have nothing in common except that little letter tweak, and, again, who cares?" Well Rex: I care. I'm not a lawyer but when I saw the Downs I was delighted. I thought it was really really cool.

So I can't fathom such a negative reaction to a fine puzzle. Greatest ever? no. Worthwhile? Heck yes. So, Rex, get that stick out of your butt and enjoy.

Loren Muse Smith 12:46 AM  

Sure, the L’s and R’s in the grid have mirror symmetry, but you really have to emphasize that these circled L’s and R’s are the only L’s and R’s in the grid. There are no other L’s or R’s anywhere. Jeez Louise. That’s impressive.

I saw the theme fairly early on – as I filled in MORASSES, I I remembered MOLASSES and was doing a quick mental check to remember what constituted un-pc comments on stereotypical Japanese pronunciation issues. I was deciding not to mention it when it hit – they L/R symmetry.

At this point I was halfway there, I mean, who didn’t see part of it right off and go in to fill in all the circles?

My solver persona is that of the party-goer who cheerfully does whatever asked – wear only white, wear the stupid hat, tape the index card to my forehead, talk like a pirate. . . I look at circles and the much-maligned notes all as just part of the fun. So Rex you asked, “who cares?” I did, at least the part of me who would call the host to check if a really light egg-shell is acceptable or should it be white white.

Loved, loved, loved GO TOPLESS crossing TATA. I’m sorry. I’m American, uptight, and unwoke. So anytime I’ve been at a beach in Europe with topless women in my group, my mind is just frozen there. There. When I talk to one of them, the actual subject is tertiary. First is OH MY GOD YOUR BOOBS ARE RIGHT THERE. Second is DON’T YOU DARE LOOK DOWN

I dunno – if you’re allowed to have a lemon twist instead of an olive to garnish a martini, then why does an onion garnish effect a name change? A GIBSON is just an onioned martini.

POGO is an eponym. Betcha didn’t know that. These two guys Hans POhlig and Ernst GOttschall invented it. Wonder if Warren Shell and Dmitri Itskovich are creating a cool sandwich.

The clue for SITUATION pleased me. You can understand a situation (circumstance). But if you simply have a situation, then you got trouble, buddy. This semantic narrowing still peeves purists. Sorry, guys, but temperature can now mean fever. And if it looks like you have some weather rolling in then you have a situation.

Will – My aha moment was, quite literally, aha – I actually said it out loud. Cool trick. And I especially liked KISSY face and the clue for STU.

Anonymous 1:05 AM  

Very clever, if somewhat subliminal, grid. Speaking of subliminal, I wonder whether it was chosen to run on Palm Sunday because of the giant frond shape in the middle...

Joe Dipinto 1:09 AM  

I've decided to make this a Me Century. Retroactive to 2000 or 2001, whichever it is. I'll stop by occasionally, but I'll be much too self-absorbed to spend a lot of time here henceforth.

Will Shortz's notes are fast becoming my favorite part of the Sunday puzzles. This one basically ruins the whole shebang right from the get-go. Take the title "Left/Right Symmetry" -- well, I wonder what that could mean? And then it refers to "the unusual grid pattern with left-right symmetry" -- guys, you're giving the game away here, ya know? And my favorite: the cryptic "the reason...will soon be clear". What, are we playing Magic 8-Ball?

I was impressed with the number of words where L and R could be swapped out with all else staying the same. I wish there had been more of them, but I give the constructor credit for a good idea. The rest of the grid seemed a little lackluster though.

Maybe in a hundred years there will be a really snappy Sunday puzzle to look forward to.

(@Nancy, I replied to you late last night -- in case you didn't see it, you were right.)

Z 1:47 AM  

I saw the conceit early and wondered if I should bother to finish. I also wondered if those would be the only L’s and R’s and if I should bother to check. I did bother to finish, i didn’t bother to check. Let’s see... No word play, symmetrical letters... Hmm, I wonder what @Z’s opinion might be. Well, at least it’s not a RDP themed puzzle.

Joaquin 1:55 AM  

Loved this puzzle but even better was what I learned from LMS's post. I wondered if she made up the pogo stick info just to be able to post the joke but, alas, the pogo information is true. And the sandwich joke had me LOLing. Thanks to you, LMS, for making this blog such a pleasure every day!

chefwen 2:41 AM  

Yup, themeless for me. Noticed the circles, ignored them as they were few and far between. Finished said puzzle and thought I probably should go look for the theme, but my dear husband went to the mainland and brought back a lovely cold to share with me, so I’m a little zonked out on medication and am beyond the point of searching for the theme. So, Thank You Rex for sparing me the trouble.

Anonymous 5:59 AM  

Last square was a Natick for me, at Skosh and Katana. I didn't know either word, so over to Google and now I know: "The word skosh comes from the Japanese word sukoshi, which is pronounced "skoh shee" and means "a tiny bit" or "a small amount." The Japanese word was shortened by U.S. servicemen stationed in Japan after World War II. Later, in the Korean War, a small soldier was often nicknamed "Skosh."

Lewis 6:37 AM  
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Lewis 6:57 AM  

This one felt smooth. No big ups or downs or fluctuations, just smooth as buttah. Maybe that's why I saw that big ol' avocado dominating the grid design.

The theme made me smile, especially GOTOPLESS/GOTOPRESS, where you went from two words to three, and SPINDLY/SPINDRY, going from one to two.

Eight clues STOKEd my happy place; my three favorites being [Artless nickname?] for STU, [Father figure?] for DADBOD, and [Some breads, or a homophone for what bread loaves do] for RYES. Regarding the latter, if you look at the 227 clues for the word in all the NYT puzzles, this is heads and shoulders above the others, IMO, which are some version of [Deli loaves] and [Bartender's stock].

Writers, note that somewhere there's a novel in the transition from SAY I DO to DADBOD.

I enjoyed the solve, and icing on the cake was that it featured my initials. Thank you, Will!

Renee Arnold 6:58 AM  

I actually liked the L/R symmetry, but didn't get the mods in that one letter for the down answers until reading the blog. That made it even more enjoyable to me and I wish I had gotten it (maybe it could have been clued?) before the end of the puzzle. Sometimes relatively easy on a Sunday isn't such a bad thing, Rex? Life is hard!

OldCarFudd 7:02 AM  

LMS, great info about the pogo stick, and I enjoyed your speculation. Additional trivia: Did you know there was a commercially available modified pogo stick called the Hop Rod? Someone fitted a little piston into it, and a gas tank and spark plug. When the hopper came down, the piston compressed some air and gasoline, the spark plug sparked, and the contraption went PHOOOM and sent the hopper higher. The inventor also found a way to get more performance out of an 1899 steam car, which is how I learned this bit (both bits, actually!) of totally useless information.

John Hoffman 7:18 AM  

Fine puzzle. Didn’t notice the l/r symmetrical answers until I was done.

Anonymous 7:18 AM  

Best review I've ever read here Most are pure tripe Thanks

Ruth F 7:25 AM  

I also saw the theme early on and loved it. I especially loved the theme answers that had more than one word and where one letter change led to different number of words. And the circled letters the only L’s and R’s! Great!

Me Day is a term I’ve heard before. You know — when you’ve had a stressful stretch at work and you take a personal day, get your hair done, have wine at lunch with a friend, and splurge on a new pair of jeans.

Or maybe you sleep in, then go to a hot yoga class with your favorite teacher, follow it up with lunch at the new vegan restaurant, then spend the afternoon in a hammock with a new novel by your favorite author.

Or how about this. You go for a long run. Follow it up with a massage, Have lunch at a new Mediterranean restaurant. Stop at the frozen yogurt bar on your way to a matinee double feature of Sundance winners. All by yourself. You nap in the dark theater.

RooMonster 7:47 AM  

Hey All !
Wow, after reading @LMS, this puz not having any extraneous L's or R's is phenomenal! Really tough to fill when you cut yourself off from two letters on a SunPuz. But with just a few exceptions, (looking at you TANK UP) this was a very nicely filled puz. Bravo, Will N!

Grokked at BLACKISH/BRAKISH. Said, "Neat. They are the same lettered word just with an L and an R." Then I saw the L and R thing in SPINDRY, and having SPIN__Y for SPINDLY already in, then the lightbulb moment of realizing that each set of circles would be L's and R's, with the same other letters resulting in two different words. Then the "Aha!" came as realizing the L and R stood for Left/Right. Not often one has a lightbulb and Aha moment in one puz. So extra points for that.


Someone explain BEN to me? I had Bad. Is it a different Micheal Jackson?

Cool puz, an OPUS by Will, one might say.


Hungry Mother 8:08 AM  

Too much trivia today. I needed the red letters. Too bad, it was a good week otherwise.

Hungry Mother 8:14 AM  
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Nancy 8:28 AM  

A first for me. The first time I've ever been completely wowed by an after-the-fact Aha Moment. Because this Aha Moment was big! Usually, if I can solve a themed puzzle as a themeless, and even more, if I have no idea that the theme is there at all, I'm not especially interested in the theme, feeling it doesn't have anything to do with me or my solving experience.

So the first thing I noticed after I finished was that there were symmetrically placed L's in the circles on the left side and R's in the circles on the right side and I said: Yawn. AND THEN I SAW IT!!!!!! I saw the absolutely delicious GO TOPLESS paired with GO TO PRESS. And I said: Wow! And I went back to check on all the others. SPINDLY/SPIN DRY! INCLEMENT/INCREMENT! MOLASSES/MORASSES! BLACKISH/BRACKISH! Wow! Wow! Wow! Wow!

What a gorgeous puzzle and what a gorgeous puzzle idea. So clever. So original. Just delightful. The fact that I only saw it belatedly? Well that's completely on famously, woefully unobservant me.

Hungry Mother 8:29 AM  

I heard this story from my father about the original Gibson being water.

webwinger 8:32 AM  

I got the L/R circle business early. When it became clear there wouldn’t be mirror image words I assumed that this was the entire (very thin) basis for the “theme”. I got going first in the east, and almost filled in GOTOPLESS for 18 Down based on crosses before reading the clue. Much later was initially taken aback to find that very phrase was the right (left!) answer for 1 Down, and then, “aha!” (In the past I recall a regular blogger [ACMe?] referring to this general phenomenon—filling in a wrong answer that later showed up in its own right—as a “malapop”.) In the end I found the puzzle oddly satisfying, and am more impressed now, knowing, courtesy of @LMS, that all of the puzzle’s L’s and R’s were in the circles.

Fun fact: My new home town, Fort Collins, CO, has been the site of recent legal wrangling over official prohibition of exposing the female breast in public, after “Free the Nipple” activists in 2017 obtained a court order preventing the city from enforcing a law banning the practice. In February of this year the federal 10th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the earlier ruling. There has been talk of taking the case to the US Supreme Court. Thus far no widespread breakdown of social order, and in fact no one seems to be aware of any actual incidents in which this claimed form of free expression was exercised. Maybe when the weather gets warmer…

kitshef 8:33 AM  

A superlative theme, partially but not fully undone by an obsession with very recent pop culture (DANO, SONJA, ANTI, NIA, TIM, BLACKISH, THIS).

On balance, definitely a superior Sunday, but I would have liked it better with a fewer ppp clues – change those for ANTI and THIS, say.

pmdm 8:34 AM  

So Mike Sharp doesn't care. Therefore, he thinks nobody else cares. Would that be a possible definition of an egotist. That said, I didn't care myself. But I still kind of liked the puzzle. I didn't get the theme until late, and it did help me with three theme answers. And yes, if the theme helps you get answers, the answers ought to be considered "theme" answers.

There are interesting comments at XWordInfo. Jeff mentions that one of the puzzles in the weekday queue was his, and with the same theme. He said Shortz removed it from the queue (which should make some of you very happy) and that it will be published instead in the WSJ. Hopefully, not for some time. He also said there are only about a months worth of Sunday puzzles in the NYT queue. For me, that would be panic time if I were the editor. Perhaps there is a correlation between the number of puzzles in the queue and the quality of the puzzles.

Now on to the acrostic ...

John Child 8:36 AM  

Walt Kelly created POGO the ‘possum in 1941, in my (never) humble opinion the best strip ever - possibly excepting Calvin and Hobbes, I always assumed that the POGO stick was from that character. But @LMS is right about Pohlig and Gottschal, though their 1920s German patent never used the name, and it didn’t appear until the mid 1950s. A pleasant 15 minutes of digging about leads me to think that there are two independent POGOs in the world.

Other usages, e.g., (v) To hop up and down (1977), seem derivative, but I’d be happy to be proved wrong and learn something in the process.

DeeJay 8:41 AM  

I did not grok the theme til I read about it here. I worked down the eastern half and filled all the western circles with Ls. Thought that was it. Got hung up on skoch too. Never heard of NIA Peeples.

Aketi 8:48 AM  

Didn’t notice the title, but figured out the circles were Ls and Rs anyway and filled them all in. Then I missed the symmetry of the words being the same except for the L and the R.

When I was a child, we lived at the top of a steep hill with no sidewalks. Of course we had to try out every fad of dangerous devices that you could ride up and down that hill including unicycles, go karts, skateboards and POGO sticks. Our parents used a lot of iodine and bandaids.

Aketi 9:00 AM  

I had to look up the date, but it’s been legal for women to go TOPLESS in New York since 1992. Some blogger wrote about her experience roller blading TOPLESS and no one seemed to notice except two women who gave a thumbs up.

mmorgan 9:06 AM  

I found much of this difficult, and my experience was often the opposite of Rex's (e.g., ARNICA was easy but I've never seen Murder She Wrote so CABOT COVE took some work). Once I saw the theme (a nice aha moment), it got much easier. But I still had lots of trouble in the East, as I wouldn't give up SlayS for 72D (Knocks the socks off), and I couldn't get ROBROY or GIMLET or GIBBON or several others to work. I couldn't get 70D (____face) for, like, forever, and I couldn't convince myself that DADBOD was correct. And having ADIeu for 57D didn't help.

@LMS -- there were indeed several other Ls and Rs in the puzzle. So what if they were wrong.

Nancy 9:08 AM  

I missed your response to me last night, @Joe Dipinto, and went back to see it. Thanks. Glad to see I was right. And also, thanks for letting me know what year I saw the Merman revival. I don't even remember in what decade something happened, much less what year. But you're the guy who can name the #1 song from any year chosen at random, right? Whereas, I can barely remember what I had for dinner last night.

Still, you're unlikely to trip me up on any word in any lyric from any song that I learned before the ripe old age of, say, 45.

Amy 9:09 AM  

I loved it! Many thanks!

Teedmn 9:15 AM  

I took a ME DAY from work last Thursday. I called it a snow day (I traditionally take one snow day a year and up until last week, I hadn't had the chance. But we were supposed to get up to 17 inches - we got maybe 4 but I enjoyed sitting at home watching it rain/snow/sleet/thunder all at the same time.) I did not get a massage or meet friends for lunch - I sat in my kitchen and read the Rex comments, hah.

I'm going to blame my random-solving method for not noticing the symmetry of the down answers containing the L's and R's, nor the fact that those were the only L's and R's in the grid. I tried doing some grid art, connecting the circles, but air-drawing over my laptop screen gained me no insight into the theme. I'm with @Nancy - once I read about the theme, I was AMAZEd. Nice job, Will Nediger.

And @Roo Monster, sounds like if you want a puzzle in the NYT, you'd best construct a Sunday puzzle. There's room in the queue according to Jeff Chen over at!

I'm currently playing tag with squirrels, chasing them off my deck away from the bird seed. Every time I step outside to SHOO them off, I'm greeted by a Greek chorus of gobbling turkeys. All I need is Bambi to show up and I can STAND IN for Snow White in the woods with all the animals.

Teedmn 9:24 AM  

I failed to mention that the "artless nickname" went right over my head for STUart until after my solve. And I loved the clue for GNAT. I considered taking out WINS BIG at least three times due to my inability to associate G__T with a dark cloud, expecting it to relate to INCLEMENT weather.

Preferred Customer 9:28 AM  

Just say no to "dad bod".

I enjoyed the L/R since it introduced some more interesting words into the puzzle.

Also I learnt (maybe again, since Chemistry was a subject that fled my brain almost before the exam) that water is an oxide.

Loren, you are most definitely invited to my next party. How white is a white party? Go to the party ��.

Hope I got the syntax right...

Dorothy Biggs 9:28 AM  

A theme like this seems silly to me. Even though Rex didn't get it, I got it immediately (from reading the title) and just filled in the very early on I had all the circles filled in. I also saw that the downs of those circled letters were the same letters, so every time I filled in one row, or even just a single letter in the down row, I would just fill in the other side until I could figure out what the words were. That usually didn't take long and so a lot of the puzzle just filled itself in rather quickly.

I guess there's nothing wrong with this puzzle per se, but when your puzzle just fills itself in, that's hardly a puzzle. It's just an exercise in grid filling. It's basically a larger version of cluing the opposite of ENE. The grid might as well just fill it in for you. "Alexa, fill in the grid." "DING...Your grid has been filled in."

This is not to say there weren't puzzling moments. Phooey ≠ DANG in my book. "Posh," or "humbug," or "balderdash" = phooey. DANG is like, "Dang man, why'd you have to go and drink my last beer?" Or, "Dang, you look a lot better today than you did yesterday." If you still have questions about that, think back to that Jimmy Dean (?) song where he sings, "Dang me, dang me, they oughta take a rope and hang me..." Could you rightly substitute "phooey" there? Yeah, no. Cuz they don't mean the same thing.

See also enlightens ≠ EDIFIES. While you might be edified by your enlightenment on a topic, your edification is a result of the enlightenment, not the same thing as the enlightenment. You might say, "Oh really? Troy Aikman is the GOAT? For my own personal edification, please enlighten me..." You wouldn't say, "For my own personal enlightenment, please edify me..." They're not interchangeable.

Otherwise, this puzzle was something to do while my brain woke up and I waited for the SO to wake up so we could go eat breakfast on this beautiful Sunday fresco, probably.

Suzafish 9:40 AM  

Boom! And LOL.

Anonymous 9:41 AM  

"Just a fat lot of nothing" can be said about most of OFL's reviews. Well, not exactly "nothing." It's usually a fat lot of negativity directed at Will Shortz and the NYT puzzle. I will give him this, however, he's always interesting. :-)

QuasiMojo 9:45 AM  

Fun easy puzzle. Not too treacly for a Sunday. I grokked the theme at SpinDry. I’m surprised to learn that Rex is a “huge” fan of Murder She Wrote, especially since he is a connoisseur of Chandler, Cain et al. I used to watch those shows back in the day but they are unwatchable now. To my grizzled eyes and ears. Give me an old Perry Mason episode instead any day. Mendocino was a STAND IN for Cabot Cove. Hey @Nancy and JoeDiPinto, I knew the answer too but didn’t see the question until this morning! I played Bishop Henry T Dobson in a production of Anything Goes. Another ditty from our version was “Let Yourself Go” which sadly seems too apt a description of what’s happened to me since those youthful days. The Dad Bod is now a Grand Dad Bod.

Adam12 9:47 AM  

@RooMonster . . . “Ben”, see song/movie about a rat.

webwinger 9:50 AM  

Re “Murder, She Wrote”, the first 5 seasons recently became available for free streaming on Amazon Prime, after being relatively inaccessible for some time. It’s a delightful show for viewers of all ages. There is a running gag about how many murders occur in the little hamlet of CABOTCOVE, ME, where Angela Lansbury’s character Jessica Fletcher, a decorous widowed retired school teacher, mystery novelist, and amateur sleuth (modeled after Agatha Christie’s Miss Jane Marple, whom Lansbury portrayed in one of the many movies based on that character), lives, and where most of the episodes, each involving a murder mystery, are set. At one point the Cabot Cove police chief, who moved there because he was burned out from all the mayhem he was exposed to working for the NYPD, delivered a rant blaming Jessica for making their town “the murder capital of America” as she stood by, a “moi?” expression on her face.

Suzie Q 9:52 AM  

Sunday themes usually irritate me but today was great fun. I must admit that I only caught part of the theme before coming here. Thanks to @LMS for the full explanation. While pondering the trick I even went so far as to get out my Sharpie to connect the circles.

I don't know if it is still used but "in the club" is/was a Britishism for being pregnant.

I'm very surprised that @P.Pan (7:17) is the first to point out how no one is questioning Wacko Jacko being in the puzzle. There are plenty of ways to clue Ben without reminding me of pedophilia.

Other than that it was a nice change from our usual tedious Sunday.

Joe Dipinto 9:57 AM  

@Roo Monster -- I wondered about "Bad" for Michael Jackson too and thought they'd made a huge mistake since that was his *third* solo album (as an, um, adult). But he had some solo hits when he was small, one of which was "Ben", from a movie about a rat, so I guess there was a tie-in album of that title as well.

@Nancy -- I don't know *every* #1 song, just those from a certain range of years, mostly 60's and 70's. (As it happens, MJ's "Ben" hit #1 in the fall of 1972.)

Anonymous 10:00 AM  

To me the thing that was cool about this that Rex did not mention was except for the circled L's and R's there were no other L's or R's in the entire puzzle. Pretty neat from my perspective.

RooMonster 10:12 AM  

Aha, a single. I had Album on the brain.

I've submitted some SunPuzs, all Nos so far, but I have one in the mail, so, fingers crossed!


imsdave 10:14 AM  

Maine Day at The Big E this year will be September 14th.

Dorothy Biggs 10:14 AM  

Also, is it me or does the grid shape have a nod to Easter? You got your egg, your cross, ...and if you hold your head right you can see a Virgin Mary. (Wait, maybe not that last one...that was in my toast a few days ago)

Enya 10:23 AM  

Great clue on Nia. Need to know the three Nias if you’re going to do crosswords. They are Peeples, Long, and Vardalos. Don’t need to know who they are. Just need to know that they are.

Anonymous 10:38 AM  

Dang... didn't even finish a cup of coffee... very easy Sunday. Not a bad one, except for "dadbod". In all my seventy years I've never heard that... fortunately.

GILL I. 10:40 AM  

My puzzle: Fill in the blanks, treat it a a themeless, finish it, sit back and stare and wonder... what's it all about, ARTIE? Is it just for the moment we live?
The sitting back and staring got the ooh la la juice flowing. So I see the symmetry and I clap. I kept wishing I had caught on earlier.
I'd call this an artistic, classy puzzle. I had some struggles trying to get on Mr. Ph.D linguist constructioneer's wavelength. Right off the bat [GASP] wasn't computing. I wanted LIAR. I wanted so many other words that didn't fit. A little break will do ya. Thank you Somosa PEAS for getting the juices flowing.
So much to really like here. Let's see....First smile: GO God intended. ME DAY with a YUMMY DAD BOD drinking a GIBSON eating some EDAM. Wondering if I ever watched BLACKISH and decided, no. If it's not a BBC sitcom, I usually don't watch. Actually, the laugh-track for all sitcoms drives me to drink.
Today is my and my husband ME DAY with the tele. I have a few friends who are as manic as I am about Game of Thrones. I re-watched episode 7 just to get caught up....DANG it was good. Tonight friends of GoT and I will eat and drink to dragons and queens and kings. May the best dastard win.

PHV 11:07 AM  


jberg 11:19 AM  

I'm humiliated. I did the puzzle, then started looking foro "the reason for this puzzle's ... left-right symmetry." There was IT'S ODD opposite DA BOD, but that wasn't repeated anywhere. You might GASP from an E-CIG, but that didn't work anywhere else. Some rows started and ended with the same letters, but others didn't. At last I found all the circled squares (hard to see once you've written letters in them), and realized that the Ls on the left were symmetrical with the Rs on the right. Checked the rest of the puzzle to confirm that there were no other Ls or Rs. And then I quit, thinking that was enough. I had to read @Rex to notice the almost-matching downs, and then I just loved the puzzle. I've seen other Will Nediger puzzles (from his beWilderingly series), so I have no excuse for not expecting and looking for something ore, but I didn't. I'm so embarrassed.

Of course, the first things I noticed were all the crosses -- 3, in 3 different styles, if you count the upside-down Tau at the top. I thought they should have been next week instead of Palm Sunday, but it did send my mind in the wrong direction.

I'm still a bit puzzled by ON END clued as "seemingly forever." no END seemed to fit the clue so much better, so I wasted another five minutes looking for other instances where a down answer had to make a little zigzag. No joy, though.

Carola 11:25 AM  

I'd been ignoring the Downs until, about halfway through solving, one of those happy light-up-the-grid moments occurred and the parallel GO TOPLESS and GO TO PRESS snapped into view. Woah! That helped me mop up MOLASSES and MORASSES (I like how one could get enmired in both) and the delightful pairing of SPINDRY and SPINDLY. And it definitely helped in the thus-far empty lower part of the grid, in getting BRACKISH/BLACKISH and INCLEMENT/ INCREMENT. @Loren thank you for pointing out that those are the only occurrances of L and R!

I found something pleasing in the only two-entry row: IT'S ODD...DAD BOD, inserting "Yesterday a string bean, today a" in the ellipsis.

@Ruth, your ME DAYs sound very ambiitious to me! Mine = do not get out of jammies, sink into a page-turner, have popcorn for dinner.

Masked and Anonymous 11:32 AM  

MII day!

Luv the EW-symmetry, as always. Caught on to the theme mcguffin fairly early, off the MOLASSES-MORASSES pair, which were kinda hard to ignore. [M&A's first thought: Not varyin the fill much, there!]

Odd SunPuz. 145 words; usually 140 is yer upper limit. Nuthin in the fill longer than 9-letters; and the themers blend right in with the crowd, length-wise. Not a ton of humor in the theme, other than the ahar moment. Theme sure helps in the solve, if U can latch onto it early, tho.

This theme does one thing that's real hard, and one thing that's not so hard:

1. Hard: As several wise folks here have already mentioned, no other L's or R's in the puzgrid, other than the circled ones. Tough common letters to have to steer around, for so much ginormous grid territory. Five L's, five R's -- pretty spartan. … Lotsa S's and T's and vowels (other than U), however; pretty spurtin.

2. Not so hard: I'da thought we should also then have L/R symmetry in the *Across* answers that have an L or an R in em; not just in the Down ones. This woulda made for one epic constructioneerin effort, I'd hafta grant. We'da been talkin Crossword History, if it coulda somehow been pulled off. yep -- Mighta even got a golf clap outta @RP, at that point.

staff weeject pick: NRA. [har … Just kiddin, @RP. Did I make U look?] Gotta actually go with CAR & LET, as they was the only weejects with an L or an R.

Thanx for the SunFun with the extra bonus words, Mr. Nediger. Easy-peasy solve, at our house.

Masked & Anonym007Us


Hartley70 11:40 AM  

Sometimes on a Sunday if a grid has a ton of short answers at first glance, I like to up the challenge and pull up the list of clues and solve on my phone without seeing the grid. That’s what I did today until there were just a few empty spaces. I was left with the cross between NETIZEN and INCREMENT and wanting uNEND for ONEND. When I flipped to the grid I finally saw the circles, and understood the left and right theme because I never read the constructor’s name or the title until I’m finished. I was mightily surprised and impressed that there were no other Ls or Rs in the grid. The mirror symmetry was wonderful. I found this a very clever feat by the constructor!

Feel better, @chefwen

TOPLESS made me think of that bizarre Rudi Gernreich black one piece swimsuit in 1964 that was breast baring but still had straps. What a shocker that was and I’d like to meet the American woman who showed up at the country club pool in one back then.

@RuthF, ahhh retirement.

Newboy 11:48 AM  

Initially I was all in for Rex’s assessment: “It's an adequate themeless puzzle, but only adequate, and the choppy, highly segmented grid is kind of annoying,” but then I came here. As usual, @LMS , Gill, & JBerg et. al. set me straight and I can only GASP at my lack of grasp....even given the title clue for direction.

What? 11:50 AM  

NYE for New Years Eve? Sounds like made-up

JC66 11:50 AM  

I realized early on that the circles on the left would be L's and the circles on the right would be R's, but like @Rex, solved this as a themeless. After reviewing the completed grid, I didn't grok the down "themers" that were almost identical, so not impressed until coming here. However, in my defense, I did notice that there were no other L's or R's in the puzzle.

fiddleneck 12:09 PM  

“The smell of arnica is strong.” From Casey at the Bat. My dad declaimed the poem often when I was a child. Nice memory.

Z 12:12 PM  

It seems to me that people who sussed the theme early tend to be TeamRex while those who sussed it out late or not at all tend to be TeamMuse. I’ll say it again - Just Say No To Titles. Just Say No To Cutesy Hints In The Notes. Puzzles are always improved when the moment of discovery is left to the solver, not spoiled by an Editor. Trust solvers to figure it out.

For those interested, The WaPo Sunday is an actual 21x21 themeless and the New Yorker weekend puzzle is a nice one by Aimee Lucido.
The New Yorker
(I hope those links work, always a little iffy with various paywalls)

HandDrawnRobot 12:48 PM  

I had CIA in 43A which made 13 D interesting...

Anonymous 12:57 PM  

Worst Sunday theme I can remember. Once you quickly get the theme, you can solve the theme answer on the left and get the one on the right without even looking at the clue. Lame, too easy. As for BLACKISH, maybe a better clue would have been "ABC sitcom starring Diana Ross's daughter"? That's about all I know about that show.

OffTheGrid 1:06 PM  

Totally agree with @Z re: titles and notes. I don't read them.

Wanted briefs or boxers for 108A (Junk transporters) but too many letters.

Nit: Madcap is an adjective. ANTIC is a noun. (104D)


Unknown 1:14 PM  

Oh my dear, how I agree with you.

Ken Wurman 1:32 PM  

Best review - better than Rex's review.

Speedweeder 1:41 PM  

@OffTheGrid 1:06 - According to Merriam-Webster, antic is also an adjective:

antic adjective
Definition of antic (Entry 2 of 2)
1a : characterized by clownish extravagance or absurdity
an antic farce
b : whimsically lighthearted : FROLICSOME
Gelbart's intelligence is antic and playful.

Anonymous 2:20 PM  

Natickland for me.

ONEND (I still don't get that one) and NYE

Carola 2:30 PM  

@OfftheGrid and @Speedweeder - If I may barge in on @The Bard re: "ANTIC" - Hamlet talks of his plan to feign madness in terms of putting on "an antic disposition.".

OffTheGrid 3:28 PM  

Thanks for your and @Speedweeder's EDIFIcation.

sixtyni yogini 3:29 PM  

👍🏽👈🏼Liked it👉🏼👍🏽
Fun, clean puzzle and theme.

Suzy 3:40 PM  

Terrific puzzle— not much to add to the previous comments except, Thank You! And thank you, LMS, for providing
the witty commentary that Rex doesn’t. How sad it must be to be so bored so often😏

Sisca Agustine 4:11 PM  
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
CDilly52 4:35 PM  

What a 🦶🦶(Feat, like RYES!). All of y’all who so eloquently (especially @TomAZ and @LMS) reviewed the cleverness and extreme difficulty in putting this complicated puzzle together said it all. I found it amazing and fun.

robber 4:50 PM  

agree on was simply a themeless with some letters circled....a bad day for a NYT Sunday xword

Danielle 4:59 PM  

The real question is who in the history of time has said they are going to tank up?

GILL I. 5:38 PM  

@Danielle 4:59. Your post made me laugh. I thought the same and then my mind wandered. Is GAS UP asking for too much? I think something dies when it TANKs.

Anonymous 6:02 PM  

As a crossword puzzle fan and also a churchgoer, I am aware of a phenomenon where different personality types sit on different sides of the church-left or right. I believe there have even been studies about it. So I am not sure if this was intended (probably not) but the grid looked like a church to me, with equal numbers of parishioners seated on the left and the right.

Speedweeder 6:09 PM  

@OffTheGrid 3:28 I thought you might be right about ANTIC not being an adjective, which is what prompted me to look it up. I only knew it as a noun, so I learned something today. Thanks @Carola for the Shakespeare snippet.

Unknown 6:25 PM  

Squint at the grid and you can see the beauty in it. I long ago was taught that trick by an artist friend.

College Senior 6:41 PM  

This puzzle was levels above a themeless. I guess ignorance is still bliss. Thanks Mr. Nediger.

arcadianwoman 7:05 PM  

I still don't get NIA for Peeples person - can anyone explain?

sanfranman59 7:22 PM  

Just imagine the uproar if the puzzle had MOM BOD in it

JC66 7:36 PM  


She's an actor. Just Google NIA Peeples.


Just like Dad jokes, there are DAD BODS. However, there are neither MOM jokes nor MOM BODS.

GILL I. 7:52 PM  

@JC66: I beg to differ. Hah. MOM BODS rock. I wear mine like a BADGE of honor. When you have a moment, I'll tell you some MOM jokes as well. Alas, they might be rated PG.
Counting the minutes till 9pm arrives. Got the Guac all ready for GoT.

JC66 8:31 PM  


Live and learn. I'd love to hear some. Enjoy the show.

Nancy 9:15 PM  

Yes, @JC66, but there are MOM JEANS. @GILL -- Like @JC66, I've never heard anyone talk about MOM BODS, but I suppose they're what you'd find under MOM JEANS.

Anonymous 9:24 PM  

Naticked at skosh/katanas. Never heard of either.

Anonymous 9:39 PM  

This the Palm Sunday puzzle. I finished with seeing the L-R symmetry but learned from this blog, from OFL, about the molasses/morasses symmetry; then from Loren about the only Rs and Ls being in the revealer; and finally from anon. 1:05 a.m. about a frond shape. With the crosses in the middle-center and bottom-center, I kept looking for religious symbols. Since this is the beginning of Holy Week, I wondered if the shape at very top was an inverted chalice, inverted since it was emptied by the disciples on Holy Thursday. But I think it is more likely the arms coming down from the inverted T at the top looking very much like the arms of the colonnades coming down from St. Peter's at the Vatican, in the famous piazza designed by Bernini. Since these arms represent the church holding and protecting the faithful, this is telling us that there is no salvation apart from the Church. I would go one step further. In the center of the entire grid is a Greek cross (like a plus sign, with not only left-right symmetry but north-south symmetry), and then below that, at the center and bottom, the Latin cross. Since both are held by the arms of the Catholic Church, this is telling the Greek orthodox that they should come on board the Catholic Church. This, the earliest and greatest schism of Christianity, was supposed to have been resolved in 1439 with the proclamation of church unity, but the Greeks, now losing most of their state to the Turks, remained separate religiously. Thus the grid is telling us that all should come on board the Catholic Church.

Anon. i.e. Poggius

pabloinnh 9:54 PM  

Boy, is it late. Lots of fun comments today, and I thought this was an A-1 Sunday puzzle.

@Dorothy Biggs-That was good old Roger Miller with "Dang Me", but I wanted to say that I really appreciate your use of the ? for Jimmy Dean. It's refreshing to see someone a little bit unsure of their memories and willing to admit it. Too many of us are often wrong, but never in doubt.

Swell Sunday, WN. I liked it alot (I did that on purpose, just to yank my own chain.)

Joe in Canada 10:04 PM  

Sometimes I finish a puzzle and think "I got to work my brain today". Today I finished and thought "ok, the puzzle-creator got to work out his brain." So if that is what this puzzle was for, I guess Mr Nediger is intelligent. yay. And as I didn't have to work, I didn't notice the MOLASSES/MORASSES thing until I read it at this site. I guess I'm not as smart as Mr Nediger. yay. Is that what this puzzle was for? Is there more? Should I count the 'J's and 'T's? Or whatever?
ps yay reCAPTCHA! much better

Dan Steele 10:08 PM  

I’m very impressed by the L/R word pairs, but I can see where the constructor had quite a dilemma on his or her hands. If you don’t highlight those letters in some fashion, there’s a real good chance that most solvers will never notice those clever word pairs at all. If you DO highlight them, as they ultimately chose to do, then (for many people), the puzzle becomes WAY too easy. I noticed pretty quickly the L/R LETTER pairs, filled them in immediately, and considered that the lamest theme ever. Not long after I noticed that they were actually WORD pairs, started copying words and letters over — and thought it was very cool. But quite quite easy.

I did NOT notice the absence of any other R’s or L’s in the puzzle, though. Thanks for filling me in on that. Very cool!

Runs with Scissors 10:08 PM  

The puzzle was okay. Much of it just didn't click, but that's not the fault of the puzzle or constructor, just the puzzler.

I also need reading glasses henceforth.

As an aside, please - unless you've actually read "Stranger in a Strange Land" and understand what grok means, as described by Valentine Michael Smith (via Robert Heinlein), do not use it to mean "I get it." That's not what it means. Please, stop.

Hoboken Mike 10:37 PM  

Ben was the sequel to Willard,,. A second movie about rats.

MJ sang the theme song

Anne 10:42 PM  


Pick a vowel.

a.corn 11:43 PM  

I solved the whole damn puzzle, and only got the theme when I went back to find my typo (GNAN). What a snooze.

Wood 12:58 AM  

I didn't do the puzzle today but came here to read the writeup. After reading @Rex's description of the theme I thought, "How cool! Wish I'd taken the time today!" And then was flummoxed at his negative response. Why do we continue to be surprised by this? He's like Donald Trump. We think, "He couldn't possibly..." And then.

sumlak 12:12 PM  

NYE - New Year’s Eve

I, too can be a pedant 12:32 PM  


Please - unless you've actually read "The Voyage of Robert Dudley ... to the West Indies" and understand what puzzle means, as described by Wyatt et al, do not use it to mean "a crossword". That's not what it means. Please, stop.

Anonymous 8:55 PM  

Hmm. Must just be me, but I actually thought the figure in the grid looked particularly phallic.

Esme St. Clair 1:44 PM  

Not really. "Mom Bod" just isn't a thing. You'll have to go back to insisting that women commit domestic abuse too.

Beagle Girl 9:36 PM  

OK Five days late. Vrazy week catching up. Maybe it's been said above if so I missed it. Am I the only one who saw the cross and the palm hanging over it ala Palm Sunday? Or did those mushrooms I had for din do more than expected? After crazy week glad to have some Me Minutes.

Dice 2:56 PM  

Awesome review!

Burma Shave 1:32 PM  


YES, MAW ATEOF THIS fruit, BUTNO, she'd SPITAT the masses,


rondo 2:10 PM  

Small to large inkfests all around with a slow tOrtoise being replaced by MOLASSES; the major to-do as Fete/FeSt/FUSS; SeiVES spelled incorrectly; APery before APING; and noEND before ONEND, which I think is still a better answer - forever has noEND, but you stack boxes ONEND. I think I was down in the INC_EMENT area before paying any attention to the theme.

A kind of nod to SPACY, a real CADET.

Haven't seen a GIBSON drink since the MN School of Bartending c. 1975.

I guess I'd be a NIA Peeples person. Yeah baby.

Those being the only Rs and Ls is a construction feat. NEEDTO find ABIT more sparkle.

Diana,LIW 2:47 PM  

One letter DNF - my SKOSH was a ScOSH. Guess it's still not ME DAY.

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords

rainforest 3:37 PM  

I liked this puzzle more than a SKOSH. It was quite easy and certainly not a slog, for one, and for two, getting the L/R thing early made it a bit of a game to try to get the later L/R down words just reading one clue. Is that a theme? Discuss.

Theme or not, it was just enjoyable with good fill even though I didn't know ARNICA. The fact that there were no other Rs or Ls outside the "themers" is impressive.

My Dad who was in the navy used to say "SKOSHie bit" when trying to coax me to eat just a little broccoli. Didn't realize it has Japanese origins. And now, I love broccoli. Way to go, Dad.

I didn't know Samosas have PEAS in them, unless we're talking chick PEAS.

Just the other day we had ME TIME, and today, ME DAY. I'm looking forward to a ME night.

spacecraft 7:19 PM  

It wasn't so gosh-awful easy for me, more like medium. There were several places I had to think about. Soon onto the first layer of the theme, I thought, oh wow. L's on the left and R's on the right. I'm so excited...not.

Then as I continued working I saw the second layer: that the down words were the same but for that one letter. That's impressive.

Not till I saw @Muse's blog, however, did the third layer AMAZE me. THAT, my friends, is out of sight! No extraneous L/R in the whole grid? Cool to the fullest! I can forgive the dyslexic version of NO END, and a few other GNATs.

As to NIA Peeples, I concur: DOD. Birdie, at least.

And thanks, Mr. Nediger, for the shout-out! What the hell: eagle!

Eric Selje 12:02 PM  

I think Loren Muse Smith's comment nails it perfectly. For me, an average crossworder, the ability to put together a symmetric crossword and not use any other Ls or Rs anywhere is pretty impressive. I enjoyed it. Could some of the cluing be better? Yes, but since I got everything I'd say it's good enough.

Anonymous 6:58 AM  

Where's the outrage for using Wacko Jacko in the puzzle?

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