Rapid movement of eye from one point to another / SUN 6-30-19 / Wife in F Scott Fitzgerald's Tender is the Night / Last Oldsmobile ever produced / Tropical scurrier / Sturdily built friend on Friends

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Constructor: Emily Carroll

Relative difficulty: Easy (8:17, my second-fastest Sunday time)

THEME: "Flip 'phones" — theme answers are imaginary phrases made up of two two-syllable terms. Second term is just the first term with the syllables reversed (i.e. "flipped") (and respelled):

Theme answers:
  • KNEE-HIGH HEINIE (23A: Low end?)
  • TEA TREE TREATY (48A: Agreement for exporting essential oils?)
  • BOW-TIE TAE BO (63A: Exercise program done in formal attire?)
  • BEEFY PHOEBE (77A: Sturdily built friend on "Friends"?)
  • TOUCHY CHEETAH (93A: Spotted animal with a lot of sore spots?)
  • LOAFER FURLOUGH (118A: Cause of a work stoppage at a shoe factory?)
Word of the Day: SACCADE (76D: Rapid movement of the eye from one point to another) —
saccade (/səˈkɑːd/ sə-KAHDFrench for jerk) is a quick, simultaneous movement of both eyes between two or more phases of fixation in the same direction. In contrast, in smooth pursuit movements, the eyes move smoothly instead of in jumps. The phenomenon can be associated with a shift in frequency of an emitted signal or a movement of a body part or device. Controlled cortically by the frontal eye fields (FEF), or subcortically by the superior colliculus, saccades serve as a mechanism for fixationrapid eye movement, and the fast phase of optokinetic nystagmus. The word appears to have been coined in the 1880s by French ophthalmologist Émile Javal, who used a mirror on one side of a page to observe eye movement in silent reading, and found that it involves a succession of discontinuous individual movements. (wikipedia)
• • •

I rarely find myself thinking "this theme could've been denser," but, well, this theme could've been denser. Six answers feels awfully thin for a Sunday of this particular theme type (where surely there were more apt answers out there to be found). That said, I need to be careful what I wish for, because I actually found the grid delightfully smooth, and extra themers could very well have gummed that up, so ... I'll just take the meager portions here and be grateful, I guess. KNEE-HIGH HEINIE makes absolutely no sense on any level (even a joke level), so though I like the sing-songiness of the answer, that's an issue. I can imagine a TOUCHY CHEETAH, I cannot even imagine a KNEE-HIGH HEINIE. Is it someone else's heinie? That only comes up to your knees? So ... like a child's ... heinie. This is an odd way to think about ... children. Or short people? Dolls? I really don't know. But the other absurd answers are absurd in a pleasantly wacky way. I really like that all the reversals in these themers involve respellings, so you're not just switching syllables, but changing their form in every case.

The puzzle was astonishingly easy, though. I don't know if that's such a bad thing on Sundays, which tend to feel like chores to me. But one thing the overall easiness did was make SACCADE stand out. Hard. Perhaps that was a familiar term to you, but for me it may as well have been random letters. The only reason I didn't break my Sunday record was that answer (I mean, probably). I actually had it as SACCADO for a bit (playing off of "staccato"?), which then made NO HELP harder to get than it should've been (112A: Utterly useless). Rest of the grid felt completely free of obscurities. Even if you don't know who YVES Tanguy is (I did) (78D: Surrealist Tanguy) or who NICOLE Diver is (I didn't) (21A: Wife in F. Scott Fitzgerald's "Tender is the Night"), you at least know that YVES and NICOLE are names. I don't know what a SACCADE is. Well, I guess I do, now. But you see what I mean.

Let's see ... really annoyed at myself for thinking the Mariners still had an "M" on their caps (19D: Symbol on a Mariners cap). Weird to think of the simple letter "S" (ESS) as a "symbol" but yeah I guess it is. I was thinking of the letter "M" but mainly I was thinking trident (which is what the "M" used to be shaped like):

BAD AREA rubbed me slightly the wrong way, since it sounds like like something gentrifiers call a place before they gentrify it (33A: Part of town that may be dangerous). Baffled by ONEISH when all I had was ONEI-- (52A: Around an hour after noon). "GAG ME" really needs some kind of qualifier like "in the '80s" or "according to Moon Unit Zappa" or something because I don't think anyone's said it in earnest, in a non-ironic, non-deliberately retro kind of way since 1984. Still like the phrase, though. If you google ["GAG ME"] your first hits will all be for "GAG ME with a spoon," which is valspeak (or Valley Girl-speak), a sociolect that reached peak popularity / influence sometime between Frank Zappa & Moon Unit Zappa's "Valley Girl" (1982) and the movie "Valley Girl" (1983), both of which are iconic and excellent.

As for wrong turns, I somehow considered OPED for 82A: Statement often starting "I ..." (OATH), and I was convinced that a good chunk of a sci-film's budget might go to ETS. I guess I was close-ish. They do make ETS with CGI (116D: Part of a sci-fi film's budget). That's it. Happy Sunday.
    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

    [Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


    Joe Dipinto 12:25 AM  

    ...not Louisiana, Paris, France, New York, or Rome, but--

    Well, well. I am amused, thrilled, beguiled by, in awe of, this puzzle. A classic Sunday endeavour of the sort we don't see much anymore The idea of flipped homophones is inspired and impressive: the constructor had to find words/phrases with syllable sounds that could be repurposed in new words/phrases, a) with different spellings, and b) in reverse order.

    BOW TIE TAE BO and TOUCHY CHEETAH were my faves. I would have wished for one more themer; six always seems on the skimpy side for Sunday to me, even if they are of today's high quality. Especially if they are, actually.

    Favorite wtf? clue: "Statement often starting 'I'...". I mean, practically everything everyone says starts with "I". I lol'ed at that one. I also liked the clue for INHERITS.

    I predict raves from Rex, what with the femaleness of the constructress. (Of course there's GUN at 42a, but, well...)

    Today's playlist:

    • "Gary Indiana" from "The Music Man"
    • Theme from "The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly"
    • "Wild Thing" by the Troggs (for the ocarina solo)
    • "We Built This City" by the Starship (for the line "Marconi plays the mamba" (sic))
    • "Whenever A Teenager Cries by Reparata & The Delrons
    • "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" by Bette Midler

    -- Joe C. Pinto

    jae 12:42 AM  

    Easy playful Sunday, liked it.

    Ken Freeland 1:46 AM  

    I SPOSE I'm the only one who connected "fur" with shoes, as in fur-lined slippers, boots, etc., and so ventured LOW-FUR FURLOUGH as a first guess. YEAH MAN, I had to BAIL on that one! I'm glad Rex liked this puzzle, though, because I did too, just like last Sunday's. But given the deplorable ones that preceded these, I'd say two in a row puts Mr. Shortz on a roll...hope next week he makes his hat trick.I

    Elise 2:16 AM  

    Easy breezy...my fastest Sunday as well, and at 2am. Themers were easy once you got the trick, but just enough resistance to keep things engaging. As a millennial, Clueless was my point of reference for the valley girl speak. Abide evoked another 90s classic as well.

    Anonymous 2:35 AM  

    Some answers or clues struck me as dubious.

    ASHIEST? First using ashy rather than the more standard ashen, and then changing it the -est form? Ugh.

    I totally don't understand the clue for OATH. I Googled "I OATH" and get nothing other than "I. OATH," namely that Roman numeral one of some affadavit is the oath. If that was the point, the clue should have used "statement starting in I. ..." instead of "statement starting in I ..."

    PHOEBE in friends is most definitely not BEEFY.

    The setting for many Twins games is CDT? Central Daylight Time is a "setting?" Again, ugh.

    I liked Troy story as a clue and the misdirection for cobbler.

    OCARINA crossing SACCADE was more-or-less guessable, I suppose. What else could it be but an A?

    Why use a brand name clue for BUGLE when there are so many other possibilities?

    Harry Crane 3:30 AM  

    I have a serious problem with 79D, in that it’s wrong. An OCTET is a group of eight people or things. “Groups in the quarterfinals” are not necessarily, and hardly ever, groups of eight people or things. During the just-completed NCAA Baseball Tournament, Vanderbilt made the final group of eight teams, but was, itself, a group of thirty-five players. In college basketball, a team that makes the Elite Eight is not an octet, but a group of thirteen players.

    Poorly-worded clue, there.

    Otherwise, I enjoyed how easy the puzzle was.

    mbr 4:19 AM  

    @Anon 2:35: "I, Rex Parker, swear to tell the truth & nothing but the truth" is an oath.

    Loren Muse Smith 4:58 AM  
    This comment has been removed by the author.
    Loren Muse Smith 5:01 AM  

    I’m with @Joe Dipinto - what a fun idea. I mean, I gobbled this up and did something I rarely do: went and dispatched all the themers as soon as I could ‘cause I was so eager to see what they were. Usually I savor the experience and uncover them little by little. So it’s kinda like I ate my dessert first this morning.

    Maybe there are a lot more out there, but I sure couldn’t think of many. The ones Emily chose are terrific. I came up with a “verby beaver.” Yawn. "Lychee chili." Yawn. Wake Forest could sell “Deacon candy.” Yawn. See? Stop right now and appreciate the delightfulness of KNEE HIGH HEINIE and TOUCHY CHEETAH. Seriously. (KNEE HIGH HEINIE reminds me of the joke that you know you’re gaining weight when you’re walking along the beach, feel something brush up against your ankles, and you turn around to see it’s your butt.)

    The back-comb/TEASE went right over my head. I went with the “josh” sense and was so confused that TEASE (josh) had a synonym “back-comb.” Listen. MADISON’s and RONDA’s ASSES drag a little on the ground, but don’t back-comb them about it; it’s a TOUCHY subject. I feel really dumb, especially since I’ve been known to tease a hair or two. Sheesh.

    I’ma go out on a limb suggest that the *only* place left in the world that the word “send” can mean to ELATE is in crosswords. Otherwise, this particular meaning of “send” has completely died.

    Loved the clue for ILIAD. Take a famous movie, add one letter, and get a different story. Raging Bully = Stalin, A Biography.

    I imagined that today’s pc discussion would be either BEEFY or GUN. Never in a million years would I have gone from BAD AREA to a complaint about gentrification.

    TEENAGER – I’ve been to Rouen and seen the place where Joan of Arc was burned at the stake. Standing there in that place moved me more than any YVES Tanguy painting. She was quite the teenager, huh. The teenagers I encounter on a daily basis are more like crawling marine mollusks.

    Believe it or not, OCARINA was a gimme since I can play The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly (Hey, @Joe Dipinto) thing by whistling into my joined hands and I sound exactly like the ocarina I swear. Hey - The Good, The Bald, and The Ugly = We Were the Three Stooges.

    Emily – I really, really enjoyed back-combing out all the themers. Bravo and thank-you!

    Seth 5:23 AM  

    I know I'm just being a nerdy astrophysicist stickler here, but the ETHER (111D) isn't real. But people used to think it was, which I think would have made for a much more interesting and informative clue: "What scientists used to think radio signals traveled through."

    Hungry Mother 5:34 AM  

    Pretty quick here as I get ready for this morning’s 5K race. The theme made me laugh, not a bad way to start the day.

    Anonymous 6:36 AM  

    An oath generally starts with I, as in “I do solemnly swear to tell the truth”

    Lewis 6:40 AM  

    The most impressive part of the puzzle was how Emily came up with so many excellent theme answers (Hi, Loren!). I don't think this is an answer set you can write a computer program to come up with (though I could be wrong here). I'm wondering if there are other good answers on Emily's cutting room floor, and if so, what were they? Emily?

    The most fun part of the puzzle was trying to figure out the other theme answers with as little filled in as possible (Hi, Loren!). I love puzzles that feel like a game.

    So thank you, Emily, for keeping me guessing through the puzzle, and thank you for keeping my solving chops tuned (that last word made me go "Hah! TUNA/ATTUNE, until I realized that they just don't work together for this theme," then my ego slithered away, tail between legs).

    Carola 7:11 AM  

    I loved this "how does anyone ever learn English?" theme, where...
    ...a long "e" sound appears as EE, IE, EA,Y, OE, and E
    ...a long "i" as IGH, EI, IE, and AE
    ...a long "o" as OW O, OA, and OUGH
    and so on, not to mention the fun with consonants (KN=N, F=PH)...
    ...and not to mention the wit of the phrases.
    @Emily Carroll, thanks for the fun.

    Suzie Q 7:17 AM  

    What a fun puzzle! I got the idea early which really enhanced the rest of the solve as I tried to guess what was coming up next. Loved it.

    Strange coincidence that as I walked to my computer after solving at the kitchen table I got a minor ear worm of "Marconi plays the mamba".
    Then I read @ Joe Dipinto's comment. Weird and subliminal.

    Thanks Emily, well done.

    QuasiMojo 7:33 AM  

    Nonsense verbiage is always so THRILLING. I had hoped for a knock-out Pride theme and instead got a lot of silly groan-inducing gobbledygook. Sorry if that word offends anyone.

    @JoeDiPinto, don't forget the comma after Gary, unless you meant the author of "Horse Crazy." Saw the byline Joe DiPietro the other day in a puzzle. I got all excited thinking it was yours. You really should try doing a crossword. You seem like a natural for it, considering the AMUSEing things you post each day.

    Anonymous 7:41 AM  

    There are eight groups (teams) in the quarterfinals, an OCTET. A team is a thing and there are eight. The clue really only works for team sports and it doesn't matter how many are in each group/team. Eight individuals, say in tennis single quarterfinals, would not be groups so the clue doesn't work there.

    TrueDat 7:46 AM  

    Jeff Chen in XWord Info channels his inner Rex Parker regarding Sunday Crosswords.

    Anonymous 7:47 AM  

    The answer for sent was THRILLED. Where do you get "ELATE"?

    OffTheGrid 7:56 AM  

    The problem with the "I...." clue, 82Aa, is the quotation marks. It leads one to seek a word the speaker would use after I. It's not a clever misdirect, it's just a bad clue. I'd welcome another thought on it.

    I really enjoyed this solve, however. Good puzz!

    Nancy 8:12 AM  

    An inspired theme, beautifully wrought -- with theme answers that range from cute and imaginative to downright hilarious. Give this gal a Shortzie.* I predict a big future for her in the puzzle constructing biz.

    My favorite theme answers were the KNEEHIGH HEINIE and the TOUCHY CHEETAH. But they were all good.

    Also some lovely non-themer clues: OATH, which was so hard to see (82A); ANTLER (28A); PIE PAN (26A); INHERITS (8D). I learned SACCADE, which of course I won't remember by noon today. But still, it's great new vocabulary word. So kudos, Emily, -- hope to see you back here often.

    *Look, we have the Tony, the Emmy, the Obie -- why not the Shortzie as an award for puzzle constructors? It could be in the shape of a table tennis paddle.

    Speedweeder 8:32 AM  

    @LMS - I am a hand-ocarinist too! Never expected to run across another hand whistler (at least one that would admit it). I used to play my high school fight song, When the Saints Go Marching In, which seriously pushed the limits of the instrument. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly is the perfect fit for this under-appreciated talent.

    Klazzic 8:41 AM  

    Very enjoyable Sunday puzzle. Clever theme. KNEEHIGHHEINIE was deliciously hilarious. With all of the whining by the commentariat of such fill as NRA, CHE, etc., I take great exception to 16 Down. Now had the clue been "Fat lying asshole under Bush-1 and Orange Slime", my objection would be muted.

    Jamie C 8:47 AM  

    A nut that is able to urinate? PECANCANPEE!
    That's all I got.

    pmdm 9:01 AM  

    I very much enjoyed this puzzle, probably due to the (for me) lack of esoteric PPP. I think I completed the puzzle with only a couple of google searches and some were more verifications of guesses than what some would call "cheating."

    Jeff Chen complains todays about the quality of recent Sunday NYT puzzles, of which apparently ther are only 10 in the queue. In terms of comparing with other publications' Sunday puzzles, I wouldn't t know and have to trust the judgement of others. But in a sense, I could care less because I don't solve those puzzles. I'm happy enough to solve what I do solve, although I guess there will always be room for improvement. But if every single puzzle were tremendously great, then solving every puzzle would result in an average experience. In a perverse sort of way, I'm happy that periodically I experience the joy of a truly great puzzle (in comparison to most puzzles). Many here would disagree.

    This puzzle started off as a weekday puzzle but had to expand to a Sunday one, accounting for the relative sparseness of themed entires. Depending on the fill, that can actually be an improvement. I would hold up today's puzzle as an example.

    With due respect to Harry Crane (I don't want to appear to be attacking him), his complaint about the OCTET entry typifies for me a recurring problem with the commentary. Too often some get hung up on a specific use of a word, not see the larger picture and acknowledging the word can be used in any of many different ways. While one may not like the way a word is used, that doesn't mean it's wrong to use it applied in a different way. Add to that the fact that, in Will Shortz's world, accuracy is acceptable even at slightly less than 100% levels (for me, a bit of a problem especially with technical words), and debates can rage. I enjoy some of the comments as long as they don't descend into the tedious and the self-rightous.

    A little bit late, but happy summer solstice. Now we begin that (for me) depressing half of the year when the days get shorter (at least where I live).

    Ω 9:01 AM  

    Sam Cooke

    The Finals are between 2, the semi-finals are between 4, the quarterfinals are between 8. The clue is fine whether we’re discussing tennis, NCAA basketball, or any other competition that uses single elimination brackets.

    @anon2:35 and others - Hand up for not getting that right away. As others have explained, many OATHs start “I....” The ellipsis instead of a blank should have been a clue that we were not to complete the phrase.

    @Seth - I thought ETHER was just an old-timey synonym for empty space well into adulthood. Merriam-Webster has “the upper regions of space” at 1A while Cambridge has just “Sky” as one of the definitions. Your definition of ETHER has gone the way of “you SEND me.”

    kitshef 9:03 AM  

    Liked the theme, and this was a case where the theme really helped the solve – maybe too much so. Lots of real estate given away once you have a letter or two in the themers made for a very easy Sunday.

    New clue for TSE, and not a welcome one.

    Nice animal theme with SEA SLUG, IGUANA, A DEER, ANTLER, CHEETAH, PHOEBE, MAMBA. To go with that, TSE could have been clued as “Back half of a fly”.

    Nora Bensahel 9:04 AM  

    I enjoyed this puzzle very much, but have to complain about 103A. Since when is it okay to have two letters of a three-letter answer appear in the clue? (“First letter of ‘tsar’ in Russian”/TSE) Maybe it stuck out to me after four years of Russian in college, but still, there are far better ways to clue that answer.

    Overall, though, greatly enjoyed this one. Can’t decide whether TOUCHY CHEETAH or LOAFER FURLOUGH is my favorite!

    David 9:05 AM  

    Repeat after me, "I [your name], do solemnly swear or avow," etc.

    Fute is to ocarina as bison is to orca. Truly. Figure that out and you'll also have one of the 7 3 point answers I got in today's "Spelling Bee" puzzle.

    Fun, breezy Sunday puzzle. Thanks

    Ω 9:17 AM  

    @pmdm - I agree with almost everything you wrote. “(A)ccuracy is acceptable at less than 100%” is where I think you err. Take the bevy/covey kerfuffle. A quail lover was irked but there is lots of evidence for the clue being acceptable. Or ETHER today. Yes, there is an old theory about the ETHER that renders the clue “wrong,” but in today’s usage the clue is not just fine, but more common. Experts, especially, want words to mean just one thing. Clues play with the fact that words do not mean just one thing. That’s why it seems that Shortz plays loose with “technical” words. Remember, clues don’t have to be correct, cannot be correct, in every sense. They just need to be correct in one sense.

    @mericans in Paris 9:18 AM  

    Mrs. 'mericans and I liked today's puzzle, too. She started it first, and filled in most of the top. We then swapped it back and forth to complete the bottom.

    Speaking of bottom, KNEE-HIGH HEINIE does not necessarily imply children. My paternal grandmother (Austrian) was shorter than 5', and my paternal grandfather (Dutch) was taller than 6'. So her HEINE wasn't much HIGHer than his KNEE.

    @Ken Freeland's problem with LOAFER FUR reminded me of a phenomenon I learned about fairly recently: tariff engineering. As explained on this web site, Nike-owned Converse applies a layer of felt to cover more than 50% of the area of the soles of its imported shoes, many of which are produced in Viet Nam. Because the tariff classification of imported footwear is essentially based on the composition of the outer soles and uppers, this FURry addition allows the company to have those LOAFERs -- er, slippers -- attract a mere 6% duty rates, rather than the normal one of 48% reserved for canvass shoes with rubber soles. The felt wears off soon after wearing.

    Garment with an attitude? SHIRTY T-SHIRT. (For those of you who don't know Brit-speak, "shirty" means "bad-tempered or annoyed".)

    The heat wave has broken here, with the daily high today in the high 80s F, rather than yesterday's high of close to 100 F in the shade.

    mmorgan 9:20 AM  

    This was very nice, the theme answers were very easy but very clever. And cute! And the fill, to me, was just fine. But I kept thinking about the days (mostly 70s and 80s, I guess) when doing the Sunday puzzle took all week and involved multiple expensive long distance calls to family members (“I got 78 Down!” or whatever). Of course there was no Google or easy way to “cheat.”

    But I completed this entire Sunday puzzle in, I dunno, about 15 minutes or so. I don’t think that’s because I now have any brilliant or miraculous solving skills.

    Rather, I lean toward paraphrasing Norma Desmond. “It's the puzzles that got small.”

    But I did really like it.

    (@Z, thanks for the Sam Cooke — I was thinking the same thingy.)

    Joe Welling 9:22 AM  

    Fun puzzle, but I have a quibble: the singular of "biceps" is "biceps" not "bicep." It's short for "biceps brachii" which means two-headed arm muscle.

    Ed Newman 9:27 AM  

    No one else had a problem with calling a Bugle a corn "chip"? Corn snack would have been more acceptable IMO.

    Hartley70 9:50 AM  

    This was a delightful Sunday puzzle. The theme was clever and new to me and I didn’t think it was too sparse at all. I found more of the fill tougher than usual so I had to ponder more often than just at SACCADE. I didn’t have a fast solve but rather a jolly good time.

    @Nancy, the idea of your ”Shortzie” tickled me some more this morning. I agree that Emily should be the first recipient.

    Archambeau 10:19 AM  

    Dear New York Times Crossword Puzzle: A “Bugle” is not a “popular corn chip.” Firstly, as a little research would reveal, the industry does not consider them chips, and classes them with Cheez Doodles and something called Pop Corners as non-chip “corn snacks.” But even if we allow your errant categorization and treat the little cones as chips, they are by no means “popular.” Doritos does over $2 billion dollars in business. Then come Tostitos, then Fritos and Frito Scoops (even treated individually they dwarf Bugles in sales), then Tostitos Scoops, and any of the store brand tortilla chips, then Santitas, and Takis, and On the Border brand chips, which I’ve never even heard of. You have to go way down the list to find the Bugle, and sales of the crispy little bastards amount to a rounding error on sales of any of the Dorito flavors. HAVE YOU NO FACT CHECKERS, NEW YORK TIMES CROSSWORD PUZZLE? HAVE YOU NO SHAME?

    jberg 11:04 AM  

    Am I the first to notice how great the title, "FLIP 'PHONES" is -- the things that are flipped are not 'terms' but PHONEmes! Really nice.

    And I did like KNEE-HEINIE, especially because it's hard to imagine one in real life.

    The constructor does seem to spend a lot of time shouting and crying out, though. DEAR ME! I DID IT! I'M RICH!

    @Loren your avatar outdid itself today -- I don't see how you could have faked the picture, so I guess such a thing really exists somewhere. As always, you send me!

    71 in Nampa 11:20 AM  

    Easy but not an enjoyable Sunday crossword, for me.

    Crimson Devil 11:30 AM  

    Realizing that many whose opinions I respect like this puz, just not my cuppa.
    Did enjoy ON BASE, PIEPAN, and good to see NIVEA (surprised this is not used more by constructors) and learned OCARINA and SACCADE.
    On to Bee....

    Anonymous 12:16 PM  

    I’m with the “loved the puzzle” folks. I absolutely did NOT care about the accuracy but I’m pretty sure that Indianapolis (and not the whole state of INDIANA) is the “Crossroads of America” due to all the interstate highways going through it....

    Joe Dipinto 12:39 PM  
    This comment has been removed by the author.
    crazyloon 12:40 PM  

    The only reason rex liked this puzzle is that the constructress doesn't have a schlong

    pabloinnh 12:48 PM  

    Some minor quibbles noted,but not enough to disqualify this fine puzzle from the title of


    Enhorabuena, EC, y mil gracias.

    OffTheGrid 12:49 PM  

    @Z. Thanks for linking Sam Cooke. Nice! Also thanks for the ellipsis vs blank explanation-very helpful. I did not know about the ellipsis dots.

    @David. The Spelling Bee that I do does not have 3 point answers. 4 letter words earn 1 point. 5 letter and more earn a point per letter in the word. A 7 point bonus is awarded for a pangram.

    Joe Dipinto 12:51 PM  

    @Quasi -- Funny story: I actually met constructor Joe DiPietro once, in a Brooklyn sandwich shop. I was sitting at a table eating my sandwich and working on the Saturday puzzle and I became aware that someone had sat down at the next table. Then a voice said, "Excuse me, I think that's mine". I turned and saw the person craning his neck in my direction. "Huh?" I cleverly responded. "I think that's my puzzle you're doing," he said. "Yeah, it is."

    I looked at the byline and it was Joe DiPietro, whose name I'd noticed many times before since it's so similar to mine. I him told so, and even showed him my business card to prove it.

    We chatted a little and it came out that he was the owner of a bar called "No Idea" that was down the block from my then-job and that I would sometimes patronize with my co-workers. Weird, small world!

    @David 9:05 -- you have *seven* 3-point answers in the Spelling Bee? I'm up to 29 points and I only have three 3-pointers.

    Did anyone else notice that the "Going Halfway" puzzle has the solution printed instead of the starting grid? Oopsy.

    sixtyni yogini 12:54 PM  

    Liked it. 🤸‍♂️ Started so easy and them not so much ( lower left quadrant) - this combo gets me impatient.....which makes it harder for brain-flex which makesmeimpatient and so on. Liked it. 👍🏽😜👍🏽

    Miss Manners 1:03 PM  

    Now that's just crude.

    old timer 1:10 PM  

    Total DNF here, in the S. Had FURLOUGH but not LOAFER because I never guessed SPOSE and did not think of FEE (great clue there, Emily). Plus I had fall instead of NEAP and hence "futile" instead of NOHELP. Would have HELPed to know SACCADE. I certainly needed a puzzle partner today (welcome back, Mrs. 'mericans).

    I am mystified by the commenter who thought all OCTETS in competitions are teams. Where I grew up, paddle tennis was a big deal, and there were summer-long singles tournaments for men and women; towards the end there were quarterfinals containing either 8 men or 8 women. True in regular tennis too.

    Fred Romagnolo 1:30 PM  

    I think TSE is acceptable because most Americans don't know that in the Cyrillic alphabet such a letter exists. It's the reason why the monarch of Russia was a TSar and not a czar; a distinction many puzzle makers didn't know. Nobody mentioned the inclusion of both HEINIE, and REAR in the same puzzle. Then there's both LEHMAN and YEAHMAN.

    RooMonster 1:50 PM  

    Hey All !
    Cool puz/play-with-words dealio today. Of course, the HEINIE one elicited a good chuckle from me. :-)

    Completed puz 100% today! WooHoo! No cheats, no Checks, no ERRors. Did have some writeovers, MOISTup-MOISTEN, FENCESup-FENCESIN (really trying to get that "up" in there), pure-NEAT, REAlm-REACH, BUGel-BUGLE.

    Liked the puz, lots of neat fill. EAT RAW kinda SORTA seemed off, though. (Have to have a nit!)

    ASHIEST ASSES (could be @Lorens sand dragging HEINIE. Har.)

    RooMonster 1:53 PM  

    Har @Fred R
    You forgot ASSES. (And BAD AREA - TEHEE.)


    Anonymous 1:53 PM  

    I used to teach college chemistry (p-chem). Many of my students were pre-med majors. I would have made sure they understood that unlike sound waves, radio signals propagate themselves by their synchronized electric and magnetic fields without the need for a fake medium like the fictitious "ether".

    Masked and Anonymous 2:12 PM  

    Neat theme mcguffin -- perfecto for a SunPuz, plus infectious:
    {Pap on a bun?} = ? *

    Don't recall any especially BADAREAs in this puzgrid's fillins. The SW's SACCADE & MOANA & Russian T zone probably came closest. OCTET clue was neat and nasty, down thereabouts. But there was very little nano-second damage.

    Had a slight think-pause, tryin to figure out TRIBE/BUGLE, as clued. But, again -- no biggie. Sooo … overall, an eazy-E solvequest.

    staff weeject pick: TSE, mostly becuz of its feisty clue. And I took a semester of Russian, in my long-gone college days. T was a letter that kept the same "look", as I recall. Primo weeject stacks in the NE & SW, btw.

    Thanx for the fUnny SunPuz, Ms. Carroll darlin. Great job. thUmbsUp.

    Masked & Anonymo10Us

    * {Pap on a bun?} = GERBERBURGER.


    Runs with Scissors 2:42 PM  

    Pretty good puzzle!

    I wanted SEA Snail before SEA SLUG but of course it didn't fit.

    Chortled out loud at what I read as TOUCH mY CHEETAH.

    Gotta wonder if the MPAA is even relevant anymore.

    I had fun with this. Comments were icing on the cake.

    Mark, in Mickey's North 40

    crazyloon 2:43 PM  

    rex likes this puzzle as it was constructed by a wimmen

    Lynx 2:58 PM  

    I didn't watch Friends, so was it a running joke or something that the character of Pheobe was considered big? Because the actress, Lisa Kudrow, is 5'8" and under 130 pounds, not exactly what I'd call either "sturdy" or "BEEFY".

    puzzlehoarder 3:27 PM  

    A late post for me. The printer acted up last night and this morning we had our niece and her husband over with my mother-in-laws' first great grandchild. A very sweet baby.

    The puzzle was enjoyable and average in difficulty. SACCADE was the highlight for me. I always enjoy learning something new.

    Anonymous 3:39 PM  

    Eight individuals, say in tennis single quarterfinals, would not be groups so the clue doesn't work there.

    But it could be, in that 'quarterfinals' is commonly used as a singular, collective noun. But it could just as well be a true plural, e.g. every quarterfinals in every tennis tournament ever.

    Anonymous 3:42 PM  

    I also thought it was against the unwritten rules to have TSE as the answer when tsar was in the clue.

    I guess the author was trying to goad people into putting down TeE.

    I knew there was a letter ц but wasn't 100% sure whether to pronounce it TSE or TSa. And because of my belief about the "rules," I was really reluctant to put anything in until I had some crosses.

    Adam 3:48 PM  

    FUTILE before NO HELP really slowed me down in the SW, but other than that (and SACCADE, which I got from crosses), this was relatively straightforward. I also liked the theme, and generally agree with @Rex in his write-up. Fun.

    pmdm 3:49 PM  

    Z: to set the record straight, I do not say what bothers you. I am simply quoting about something Shortz wrote to me in an email. (He has responded so fat to every email I've sent him in polite fashion.) As I stated in my comment, I do have a problem with that way of thinking. But please don't "attack the messenger." I'm only repeating something that was said to me.

    If I recall correctly, the email I sent him was about a clue dealing with the fewest number of pitches that have to be thrown in a baseball half-inning. With the fairly recent rule change, a half inning can begin with too pitchless intentional walks. Then the batter can line into a triple play on the first and only pitch thrown in the half inning. Indeed, in theory a half-inning can begin with three pitchless walks followed by a pickoff that results in a triple play. Likely? NO. Possible in theory? Yes. So you can actually have a half-inning in which no pitches were thrown. Talk about something weird that I would bet never happens.

    Link 3:52 PM  

    When is OCARINA finally going to get a Legend of Zelda clue? It's been more than 20 years.

    QuasiMojo 4:16 PM  

    Cool story @Joe DiPinto. "Quelle coincidence!"

    Maddiegail 4:57 PM  

    (For me) Not easy and not particularly fun ... But it keeps this old brain goin'.

    Aketi 5:19 PM  

    As someone who is vertically challenged, the phrase KNEE HIGH to a grasshopper immediately came to mind. I think those who aren’t vertically challenged have never imagined comparing their height in relation to other people’s bodies, especially when crammed into a tightly packed subway car. Sadly I have actually been stuck nose HIGH to a HEINIE more than once on a packed subway train with those who are so vertically endowed have to duck under the door frame to enter the train car.

    I knew someone had to have made a clip of BOW TIE TAE BO.

    @M and A, My siblings and I were GERBER BURGERS when we were babies. I’m not sure if my brother’s children and grandchildren could be called GERBER BURGERS. They might have been Beech-Nut or possibly Earth’s Best BURGERS.

    Anoa Bob 6:07 PM  

    A SACCADE is a quick eye movement from one point of focus to another. SACCADEs happen pretty much all the time when we are awake and during REM sleep. Often they are in response to some change in the visual field, but some SACCADic movement occurs automatically, even if we are trying to focus on a single point. (Try it.) This is to prevent fatigue in retinal receptors. The receptors, the rods and cones, would literally run out of gas (neurochemicals) if stimulated constantly. The result of unchanging stimulation to the retina would be a gradual fade-out of our visual field to a blank screen. SACCADES prevent this by constantly shifting the pattern of retinal stimulation. So give thanks to your SACCADEs.

    Trans Man 6:51 PM  

    I hope that one day I’ll live in a land where my sexual orientation isn’t a source of pride...or shame.

    Joe Dipinto 7:39 PM  

    @Lynx 2:58 -- 77a isn't really about the Lisa Kudrow character at all (note the question mark at the clue's end).

    Ms. Carroll had two words, "beefy" and "Phoebe", that fit her "flipped homophones" theme. So she needed a way to clue them. The most memorable "Phoebe", for many people, would be the character from "Friends". Thus "beefy Phoebe" became a "description" of that character, because it works as a clue, not because it was a fact.

    Ya dig?

    Runs with Scissors 7:41 PM  

    @Trans Man 6:51 PM

    In my world your sexual orientation, or lack thereof, is completely irrelevant. I'm one of the very few who really doesn't care who or what you hook up with.

    David 7:59 PM  
    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
    Wanderlust 8:13 PM  

    I looked forward to the blog today specifically to see what LMS would come up with as other possibilities for the theme. The fact that you were stumped for good ones made me like the puzzle more. I thought today’s pc discussion would be BARR because anything connected to the Trump administrators n seems to be off-limits to Rex. I despise the orange-headed one as much as anyone but don’t see why anything connected to him should be off-limits. After his toadying to his boss on the Murller report, I especially loathe Barr but don’t object to him being in a puzzle (or the NRA or Ivanka or whatever Rex thinks should be forbidden). Anyway, thanks,LMS, you are one of the reasons I keep reading this blog.

    Wanderlust 8:36 PM  

    Wow, that’s what I call high dudgeon. Over corn chips.

    Joe Dipinto 9:09 PM  

    @David -- I didn't ask you to list them all! People who haven't attempted it yet may get touchy, like a cheetah. (But two of those words are missing a letter so they're not 3-pointers.)

    Anonymous 9:58 PM  

    OATH should have been a gimme, b/c it led to the uttering of many oaths in my household. And that's all I'm saying about it.

    Suzy 10:08 PM  

    @LMS— see Sam Cooke— “At first I thought it was infatuation...”.

    Monty Boy 10:34 PM  

    I liked getting the sound-alikes figured out in my head, then on paper and finally confirming vocally. They sound cool out loud.

    I must be the only one to put in OtTa in for OATH to start. See The Three Stooges: Why, I otta break your neck.

    I also thought there should be a word in for the ellipses and it took quite a while to accept that my answer was wrong.

    Hambone 12:30 AM  

    Agreed. The bag itself says "Crispy Corn Snacks"!

    Editor spent too much time "nerding out" and not enough time devouring delicious crispy corn snacks.

    Hambone 1:10 AM  

    They are popular in my house, for what it's worth.

    Anonymous 5:01 PM  

    Ridiculous, why should politics spoil the relaxation and enjoyment of the Sunday puzzle. The only reason I buy it is for the puzzle and not the biased fake news. You know half of the country feels positively about Trump

    Beagle Girl 5:18 PM  

    This is three days late, usual for me, but had to note that Lisa Kudrow went very public in May this year about her pain and heartache about always feeling too heavy on Friends compared to her two female co-stars. Been a lifelong "body image" trauma. Ouch.

    Katzzz 9:33 PM  

    Good one!

    Anonymous 3:14 AM  

    No complaints about "Alaska native" as a clue for INUIT? You won't find many Inuits in Alaska, the Inuits are native to Canada and Greenland. An Alaska native is likely to be Yupik or Aleut.

    Anonymous 6:28 PM  

    Sorry, just don't understand how NEAP is spring's opposite. really? (Even more mysterious: no one else had a problem with it)

    Anonymous 11:00 PM  

    Da, comrade

    Suzafish 9:14 AM  

    LMS, Thanks, as usual, for the LOL moments. Glad I’d finished my coffee. Doing the Sundays a couple weeks later here in Nova Scotia, but no less fun.

    Burma Shave 11:34 AM  


    that ADAM SIKHS to BEGUILE and TRYST her,
    she'd SCREAM, "OHDEARME!" when fulfilled,


    spacecraft 12:21 PM  

    I wouldn't call it easy, but it seemed to have just enough gimmes here and there to provide help when needed. I guess medium. But somebody tell me please: what on Earth is a SCATTER plot???

    Rita MORENO is a rare 4-trophy holder; she gets the DOD nod. I liked it. OFC made the key point: theme not overdone = smoother fill. Birdie.

    rondo 2:38 PM  

    IDIDIT with no write-overs, don't know what that means for difficulty.

    I've got BADAREA marked as green paint. It may not be that, but it's something.

    Lotsa computer keys - CTRL ESC DELETE. Not much for ifs or ands other than ASIF; plenty of butts - REAR ASSES HEINIE.

    RONDA Rousey was an Olympic medalist before multiple pro championships (and body paint), and as noted Rita MORENO has all the big singing/acting awards. YEAH babies both.

    YEAHMAN, what's a SCATTER plot. Decent puz.

    Diana,LIW 3:50 PM  

    @Anon 6:28 - NEAP and SPRING are opposite tides. Oft seen in crosswords.

    Did you read the note about the constructor? A med student, now a resident, and she constructs these in her spare time? That's my kinda YeahBaby woman, YEAHMAN.

    Lots of fun for this word player, esp once I got the theme. Maybe tht's 'cause I still have a flip phone.

    Diana, the Luddite, Waiting

    rainforest 4:22 PM  

    Fun fare - fair fun. Har.

    I found this Sunday puzzle to be impossible to not like. Clever theme, wacky themers, consistency rules. Solid cluing, even if a BUGLE is technically not a chip. Nice title too.

    From my Chemistry days, I think a SCATTER plot (or SCATTERgram) is a graphical representation of data obtained from two seemingly unrelated variables plotted in order to determine a possible relationship.

    I see a number of candidates for DOD, and so, without leering, I nominate several: Rita MORENO, Lisa Kudrow, NICOLE Kidman, RONDA Rousey. Good group.

    Unknown 5:17 PM  

    No, the idea of BEEFY PHOEBE is just something constructed for a theme answer here, not an actual aspect of the character portrayed by Lisa Kudrow.

    Unknown 5:19 PM  

    I recognize Gerber as a brand of baby food, but I don't know why a baby who eats that would be a BURGER.

    Unknown 5:20 PM  

    NEAP and spring are two kinds of tides.

    BS2 9:49 PM  


    that ADAM SIKHS her, not ETHER NICOLE nor ANA,
    she'd SCREAM, "OHDEARME!" and BEA fulfilled.


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