Sunday, July 28, 2019

Constructor: Christopher Adams

Relative difficulty: Easy (25:22, pretty normal for me for a Sunday)

THEME: MIXED METAPHORS (105A: Some laughable language mistakes - as found literally (in consecutive letters) in 24-, 37-, 55- 75-, and 92-Across)

Theme answers:
  • ATMOSPHERE (24A: Aura) 
  • BLAST FROM THE PAST (37A: Real Nostalgia Trip)
  • FOR THE MOST PART (55A: Generally Speaking)
  • CHRISTOPHER MARLOWE (75A: Sometime Collaborator with William Shakespeare, per the Oxford University Press)
  • PRIMROSE PATH (92A: Easy Way the Might lead to error)
Word of the Day: EPIPHYTE (113A: Organism that grows on another plant nonparasitcially) — An epiphyte is an organism that grows on the surface of a plant and derives its moisture and nutrients from the air, rain, water (in marine environments) or from debris accumulating around it. Epiphytes take part in nutrient cycles and add to both the diversity and biomass of the ecosystem in which they occur, like any other organism. They are an important source of food for many species. Typically, the older parts of a plant will have more epiphytes growing on them. Epiphytes differ from parasites in that they grow on other plants for physical support and do not necessarily affect the host negatively. An epiphytic organism that is not a plant is sometimes called an epibiont. Epiphytes are usually found in the temperate zone (e.g., many mosses, liverworts, lichens, and algae) or in the tropics (e.g., many ferns, cacti, orchids, and bromeliads). Epiphyte species make good houseplants due to their minimal water and soil requirements. Epiphytes provide a rich and diverse habitat for other organisms including animals, fungi, bacteria, and myxomycetes.
• • •
Hello out there in crossworld! Dan Felsenheld coming to you from Arlington, VA here filling in for Rex so he can take a much needed vacation. I was excited to see Christopher Adams' name when I opened up the NY Times website to download the puzzle this evening. I've done a number of his puzzles and always enjoyed them, they are often challenging and sometimes have math themes. Full disclosure, as a crossword nerd and attendee at various crossword tournaments I have met Mr. Adams a few times and enjoyed chatting with him. It's been a crazy week for me (I was traveling for work and have been unsuccessfully fighting off a cold all week) but it's always nice to sit down with a Sunday puzzle. The grid was extra wide this week I guess because of the theme clues.

My solving experience was actually a bit choppy, I had a few errors along the way that really slowed me down. I can never remember how to spell SEGO (25D: Beehive state bloomer), there is a SAGO palm that also shows up in crosswords but this refers to the cactus instead. I really wanted to put down MOZART for 66A: "A Little Night Music" composer and it took me forever to figure out it was SONDHEIMFor some reason I has put GESTE at 102A instead of GUSTO so that slowed me down a bit. In fact here is what my grid looked like about halfway through my solve:
So I had the top half, mostly (with errors), had a bit of trouble in the middle and was trying to work my way back up. At this point I had figured out that MARTINIS was wrong (I saw Gin and Vermouth and immediately filled in MARTINIS, ignoring the Campari reference) - but didn't yet know that it was supposed to be NEGRONIS instead. I've never had a NEGRONI, but I know Rex is a fan. I "finished" but had at least one error (I use Puzzazz on ipad for solving). Turned out I had several errors, as you can see I had ITALIA instead of IBERIA at 30A, I hadn't yet gotten there but I had PEP instead of PUP which was the last thing I filled in before I finally got the fully correct grid.

Now about the theme - Mixed Metaphors - I have to say I love a good mixed metaphor, they are usually hilarious, "We'll burn that bridge when we come to it", "Now the glove is on the other foot", Barack Obama once said that someone was "Green behind the ears".  George W. Bush was quoted saying "There's an old saying that says, fool me once, shame on - shame on you. Fool me - you can't get fooled again". So while I thought the theme concept was sound, when I think of mixed metaphors I think "they make me laugh when I hear them", and I was trying to figure out what it was about the puzzle that was off to me and it's that there is very little hilarity in this puzzle.  I mean it's cool that you were able to find different phrases that had the letters for METAPHORS consecutively - CHRISTOPHER MARLOWE is an especially great find, but it felt less than elegant when there are letters before and after the METAPHOR string. The themers are all perfectly good fill, in the language phrases that work well on their own, but having the word METAPHORS anagrammed in them,¯\_()_/¯ I'm not a constructor, I don't know what exactly could have been done to improve this puzzle, maybe somehow try to work some actual mixed metaphors into the clues for the themers? Somehow ramp up the humor in the clues? I do have to say, to his credit, I had no idea what these theme answers had in common until I got to the revealer at 105A, which is something that I do like in a puzzle. There were a few partials in the puzzle: ORA, THEA, ISAID, SETA, TAI, but these didn't really bother me much.

There were a number of things that I did like about the puzzle. 83A: Place where musical talent may be wasted (KARAOKE BAR) is fantastic. Nice touch having PAX ROMANA (76A: Stable period from Augustus to Marcus Aurelius) right next to HOMO (77A: Man, to Marcus Aurelius). Had never heard of the song RODEO before (not a big country music fan, but I like it)
Clever way to clue IAMB (68D: One of two in "The Grapes of Wrath")

  • 1D: One-named singer with the 2017 #1 Album "Melodrama" (LORDE) — My teenage daughters got me into listening to Lorde (to their embarrassment, bwahahaha), her music is quite good, go listen to it if you haven't
  • 110A: Cocktails with gin, vermouth and Campari (NEGRONIS) — Saw Gin and Vermouth in the clue and imediately put down MARTINIS, only to change this later based on the crosses. I know Rex is a fan of these, I've never had one.
  • 81D: Russian Rulers of Old (TSARINAS) — I got lucky on this one, whenever I see TSAR(INA), there is always the dilemma, is it going to be CZAR, CSAR, TSAR, or even TZAR. I don't remember seeing TSARINAS too often in the NYT puzzle, I would have to look at that other site that keeps track of these things to know the frequency. Also kudos for having more female representation in the puzzle!
  • 115A: Bening with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (ANNETTE) — I love her as an actress, I feel like I haven't seen her is much lately though her IMDB page seems to indicate that she has been steadily working. Forgot she was in "The Grifters" which is such a great film, go out and find it if you haven't seen it.
  • 104A: Girl's name that's also a state abbreviation (IDA): No. IDA is only a state abbreviation in crossword land not in real life. This couldn't have been clued this as "Muckraker Tarbell" or African-American investigative journalist and early civil rights leader Wells? 
  • 96D: Baby Shark (PUP): I mentioned to my wife (hi Donna!) that the clue was "Baby Shark" and she immediately started singing "do do do do do do" but I won't link to the recently resurgent earworm video, nope, I won't. (but now you all have that song running through your brain don't you?)

You can follow me on twitter @imfromjersey if you want, I rarely tweet but I occasionally respond to others.

Signed, Dan Felsenheld, King (for a day) of CrossWorld.

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Z 12:29 AM  

My guess is the themers were found by a little bit of coding magic, and then the grid built around them. We get mirror symmetry because there’s no way to do rotational symmetry with this theme set. And for what? “Hey students! Words are made up of letters and letters can be recycled to make different words” wasn’t interesting in the first grade. It sure ain’t interesting now.

Brian 12:45 AM  

Oversized 22x21 grid

Joe Dipinto 1:05 AM  

What do you mean, "a much needed vacation"? Rex just *had* a vacation. Humph.

Perpetual anticipation's a delicate art
Keeping control, while falling apart

Azera doctor in the house? Because I almost had a full-blown Natick attack at the OZARK/AZERA crossing. I have never heard of this car. Azera, Acura, Alero, Acela -- who can keep these names straight? (Okay, I know the Acela is a train. Still.) And I'm unfamiliar with the Netflix show. I figured, well it *has* to be "Ozark", doesn't it? DOESN'T IT? But what if it ISN'T "Ozark"? I can't take the suspense! Just put in the damn Z already!

Yeesh. I need to relax now. Maybe a trip out of town in one of those vehicles.

We're off on our way
What a beautiful day
For a weekend in the country

A very clever idea that was fun to solve. The themers are superb. I couldn't help thinking these five must be the only possible answers you could have. (Jeff Chen came up with a few more that are considerably less zippy.) The constructor says he originally put shading in the theme answers to show where the METAPHORS are. Not completely necessary, but it would have helped -- since the component letters often occur more than once in the answer, it was confusing to pinpoint the METAPHORS' beginnings and ends.

Lots of great non-theme answers: KARAOKE BAR (my favorite clue -- it must be one that serves CHAMPAGNE and NEGRONIS), YEAR ZERO, ROYAL WE, BLANK STARE, PAX ROMANA, MOWGLI, and more -- they all floored me. My favorite answer is SNARLER. It sounds totally made-up but I love it.

Thanks for filling in, Dan F. And bravo, Christopher Adams! The puzzle is so Fantastick, here is a paean to it:

You are sunlight! Moonlight!
Mountains! Valleys!
The microscopic inside of a leaf!
My joy! My grief! My star! My leaf!
Oh, Love! You are love!
Better far than a metaphor can ever, ever be
Love! You are love!
My mystery of love...!

Crazy Joe 1:35 AM  

Now just how in the heck is (68D: One of two in "The Grapes of Wrath") somehow IAMB??

Am I taking crazy pills???

jae 1:42 AM  

Mediumish. Got off to a slow start in the NW so I ended up doing this from the bottom up. The bottom half was on the easy side of medium, but the top was tougher.

Clever, liked it.

@Joe D. - OZARK is the show that Jason Bateman did after Arrested Development. The first season featured crossword favorite Esai Morales. It’s worth watching just see how Esai’s character “evolves”.

Loren Muse Smith 1:54 AM  

Hey, Dan! Thanks for stepping up to fill in! I enjoyed your write-up. Full disclosure, as a crossword nerd and attendee at the ACPT I have met Mr. Felsenheld a few times and enjoyed chatting with him.

Whenever the theme is anagrams, I always feel a little disappointed. Unless they’re truly brilliant like dormitory/dirty room, I just can’t find any appreciation for them. This mystifies me since usually anything involving language pleases me. Maybe it’s because the focus of linguistics (my degree) is mainly on spoken language? I remember once Dr. Howren at Carolina sneering and saying to a student, I’m sorry. Did you really just say “how the real word is spelled?!?!

But then I find the gimmicks of hiding a word between two words true works of art, so go figure.

Dan’s idea of upping the amusement by incorporating a mixed metaphor in the clue is most excellent.

Anhoo, even though I’m a Theme-is-King solver and positive to the point of exhausting even myself, I can find lots of pleasure in anagram puzzles simply because the experience still involves language: clues and entries.

5D’s “business with perpetually high sales” clue – hah. Loved that clue.

And I’m with @Dan - the clue “wasted talent” for KARAOKE BAR is a hoot. You could argue that there lots of wasted years in college. Lots of wasted effort making a plate of nachos at 2am. Lots of wasted words texting an old boyfriend while said nachos are being nuked.

@Crazy Joe – If you clapped your hands to the beat of The Grapes of Wrath, you’d clap twice. Two IAMBS: duh DUH/ duh DUH. I didn’t even get there ‘cause I haven’t read it. My musician was “Sondhelm” crossing the two “lambs” in the story that no one ever talks about. Sheesh.

The ROYAL WE (nosism) doesn’t bother me too much when I hear it. The one I notice is the “patronizing we,” like when the waiter uses it to ask What are we having today? or the nurse wants to know How are we feeling today? I also brace myself at school when a certain teacher sees me refers to me in the third person, So how is Loren today? The one that truly grates is the illeism – referring to yourself in the third person. Like if I myself said, Loren was not happy to notice on her phone that she had texted “Hry, Jihnnny!? Hqws brdr a goommd lartyu dwxrto?” as her nachos were heating last night. Lala Kent on Vanderpump Rules does this all the time, and it bugs the bejeezus out of me. (@Big Steve from yesterday: I don’t run marathons, I like Cheese Whiz, and I watch crap Bravo tv.)

PREAMBLE – as opposed to the first of my posts, the preramble.

@Dan - me, too, for wanting “Mozart” first. Bet we’re legion today.

Hard not to notice that X PRIZE and PRENUPTIAL share the grid. I had no idea that PRENUPTIAL was spelled that way since I always say /pre NUP shoo al/. Oops.

I couldn’t finish because of the death blow “ace wrap” that I never thought to question. So LEOPARD and X PRIZE just weren’t gonna fall. Oh well. We are not overly upset.

Crazier Joe 2:41 AM  

@Loren Muse Smith 1:54 AM

I read your explanation of IAMB, but I don't buy it. That's it, supposedly? Maybe, but it's a stretch for me.

Even Crazier Eddie 2:53 AM  

"The Grapes of Wrath" (as in the Steinbeck title) is not spoken sing-song, it's spoken very flat. There is no stress pattern nor melody of any appreciable measurement.

Lewis 6:08 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lewis 6:10 AM  

When I squint at the grid, focusing on the black squares, I see a squat character with wings.

TSARINAS sounds like a South American instrument that comes in pairs, one held in each hand.

I solved this as a themeless (I have a tough enough time unscrambling simple 5-letter anagrams, much less 8). Some areas flew by, others were gauntlets (and hallelujah for the gauntlets). It never felt like a slog. I loved the clues for KARAOKE BAR and IAMB, as well as the two X-starting answers, and the look and sound of BALROG, with GREEDO a close second.

Thank you, Christopher, for a most pleasurable diversion!

mmorgan 6:15 AM  

Not an unpleasant solve, but I basically experienced it as a themeless. When done, you see the constructor's conceit and say, okay, that's cool, I guess, but the theme and then revealer have nothing whatsoever to do with the solving experience. As usual, the pop culture stuff is fine (even wonderful -- Sondheim!! Right in the center, wow!) if you know it, not so nice if you don't (Star Wars, Harry Potter). But that's fine. I like puzzles, especially Sundays, when the theme actually has something to do with solving it; this is the kind where you have to figure out the theme when you're done, which is much less fun. The high point for me (besides Sondheim) was the fact that EPIPHYTE was actually a word, and even the correct answer! I was FLOORED.

Opposite of @jae — I found the top half really easy and slowed down in the bottom.

Didn’t Rex just take a vacation?

Coniuratos 6:25 AM  

Personal best for a Sunday, at 23:24.

Regarding the spelling of Tsar(ina), it seems as though it's moving more toward Tsar being the more accepted version, with Czar and the others turning into more antiquated variants. Which is good, since "tsar" is the more accurate transliteration of царь. Still usually gets pronounced wrong in English - it's not a silent t - but you'll have that.

Loren Muse Smith 7:28 AM  

@Crazy Joe – IAMB is usually used with poetry to talk about its rhythm. To this end, people talk about metrical “feet” and count them and stuff. An iamb is a metrical foot that has an unstressed beat followed by a stressed beat. So iambic pentameter describes a line with five iambs and if you read it, you’d clap five times:

Those pretty wrongs that lunatic commits

1. Those pre
2. tty wrongs
3. that lu
4. natic
5. commits

A trochee is a metrical foot with one stressed syllable followed by an unstressed syllable.

Double double toil and trouble

Has four trochees:

1. Dou ble
2. Dou ble
3. Toil and
4. Trou ble

Emily Dickinson liked to write poetry alternating one line in iambic tetrameter and then one line in iambic trimeter:

Because I could not stop for Death – (*** 4 iambs – clap four times)
He kindly stopped for me – ( ***3 iambs – clap three times)
The Carriage held but just Ourselves – (***4 iambs – clap four times)
And Immortality. (*** 3 iambs– clap three times)

Since such meter works nicely in music, we can go back and sing most of her work to the tune of Gilligan's Island. Or the Yellow Rose of Texas. Go back and try it.

This is totally cool imo and makes poetry less scary.

@Even Crazier Eddie – if you said The Grapes of Wrath that way, flat and with no stress, you’d sound like a creepy robot. I mean, even Will Robinson’s robot added a bit of stress and timing to his warnings.

pmdm 7:34 AM  

I wonder how many solvers had the same experience as myself. I did not realize the nature of the theme after reading the puzzle title and never understood the theme during (or even after) the solve. In retrospect, even if I had been told the nature of the theme before I started solving, it would not have helped. I figured out the theme entries from the crosses much easier than dealing with the anagrams.

I don't mind themeless puzzles. I don't even mind humorless puzzles. I don't much care for puzzles that have a lot of PPP unfamiliar to me, which normally results in more tedious research than I care to do.

I guess what I'm saying is that I did not find today's puzzle enjoyable. But then, few of the bikers in the Tour de France seem to find the experience "enjoyable" (peter Sagan probably being an exception). The ability to finish seems to bring its ownb reward. One can certainly wish for more. And today, I certainly wished for more.

The six main conspirators in Monty Python loved pointless discussions. (Is there a point to arguing about a dead parrot?) I suspect they would enjoy reading some of the discussion that infiltrate these comments. (Iambic meter anyone?)

Anonymous 7:41 AM  

I'd be happy with Tsar the version for the Russian ruler, and Czar as the informal word for leader as in "energy czar".

Anonymous 7:52 AM  

It's the poetic meter in which those words are spoken, and there are two of them.

JT 7:52 AM  

Regarding Christopher Adams’s comment that he hasn’t seen much of Annette Bening lately, she is receiving a lot of praise for her performance with Tracy Letts right now on Broadway in All My Sons. Has anyone seen it?

pabloinnh 7:57 AM  

I'm with the crowd that had to suss out the theme after I finished the puzzle, and the discovery was, uh, OK. Pretty cool, but not super cool.

On the other hand, I wrote in PAXROMANA and EPIPHYTE just like that, so now I feel smarter than I am, and I always enjoy that.

Thanks for a mostly fun Sunday, CA. Admirable feat of construction.

sf27shirley 8:21 AM  

Even with the red highlights I am not getting this one! Help!

Anonymous 8:41 AM  

After spluttering about YEAR ZERO (does any calendar have a year zero) I went to Wikipedia and learned something. Buddhist and Hindu calendars do in fact have a year zero.

JJ 8:48 AM  

@LMS. Great, now I have an earworm of Emily Dickinson sung to Gilligans Island.
Glad you’re back in action.

Z 8:49 AM  

@sf27shirley - PRIMROSE PATH -> MROSEPATH -> rearrange the connected letters and you get METAPHORS. Each answer has the word METAPHORS “MIXED” in the theme answer somewhere and the MIXED METAPHORS letters are always together.

Nancy 8:52 AM  

Such a clever bit of construction hiding in plain sight! And hiding. And hiding.

Question #1: Would any of you have noticed the METAPHORS anagrams if they hadn't been pointed out?

Question #2: Once they were pointed out, did any of you go back and check them to make sure they really worked? Or did your eye just lightly skim over the theme answers and did you say to yourselves: "Well, that does look as though some of it might anagram to METAPHORS if I were willing to check it out, which I'm not"?

And thus, this clever, difficult-to-construct theme turns out to be something of a dud for the solver. I also found all the crossing pop culture clues in the NW and the NE to be infuriating. I just took wild, careless, the hell-with-this-junk guesses in both corners, thinking if I'm wrong I Just Don't Care.

I'll leave with one other thought: I really do wish that moths were attracted to LAMPS instead of to WOOL. I lost too many items of clothing to those hungry little pismires. Oh, wait -- wrong insect and wrong puzzle.

Jstarrracewalker 8:54 AM  


sf27shirley 8:59 AM  

Thank you!

Teedmn 9:07 AM  

This took a few minutes under my Sunday average so relatively easy. This didn't stop me from two dumb errors in the NW but if I'd reread the clue for 19A, I might not have settled for clARK, thinking that maybe it was another young Superman spinoff. "Crime drama" in the clue would have probably led me to fix that but, oh well.

Some fun stuff here - 91A "It's all downhill from here" = ACME, the clue for 101A's RODEO, DREAM ON, KARAOKE BAR, EPIPHYTE, RUBAIYAT, LEOPARD, the themers.

Thanks, CHRISTOPHER, nice job!

Rube 9:16 AM  

Totally inaccessible theme. The revealer is at the end after everything has already been solved and is of zero help anyway. This is a tuesday level difficulty, and the theme answers , such as they are , are gimmes so you are actually afraid to write them in because you figure there is a trick somewhere. Thanks for nothing, Mr Adams. I hope you have a job other than constructor. Or a trust fund. I HOPE you are SMART enough to know that.Yeesh.

Dan Felsenheld 9:20 AM  

Sorry, I forgot to turn on my *Sarcasm* filter when I said *much* needed vacation, that was intentional. I know he was just on vacation but that like over a week ago. Michael Sharp is a university professor, so he has the summer off and judging from his twitter account he’s not teaching any summer classes. Sarcasm folks, know it, use it, love it.

PaulyD 9:30 AM  

Why all the hostility, @Z and @Rube? More importantly, why do you feel the need to spew your vitriol here? Because Rex is on vacation and you felt the need to fill the gap? Lighten up or shut up.

Count me among those who found the theme in retrospect, but enjoyed it nonetheless. GREEDO and BALROG in the same puzzle made me recognize a kindred spirit. Nicely done, Mr. Adams!

Wm. C. 9:34 AM  

@DanF9:20 --

My nit for the day: Dr. Sharp is a University Lecturer, I think, not a Professor. Or such was the case a few years back when I took the time to page through the faculty list at Binghamton. But maybe he's gotten a promotion in the meantime ...

QuasiMojo 9:36 AM  

Some super comments today. I'm afraid mine won't be among them. I took a muscle relaxant and can barely read the tiny screen to write on my phone. The old laptop keyboard is dead. Apparently they don't make external ones anymore for this obsolescent unit. That's why we say An Apple a Day, because they don't last more than a few years. I liked the concept today very much. I am a sucker for anagrams. I didn't care that they weren't witty or funny. They were chewy and ingenious. I didn't even mind the Star Wars drivel or Pottery barf. When I finally got HYDE and finished, I felt like Dr. Jekyll (pronounced Jee kull btw) discovering his magic elixir by ACCIDENT. Hey @LMS, I recently visited Emily Dickinson's home in Amherst (silent H). So amazing to think she penned all of those cursive letters of her spontaneous poems on a desk the size of a postage stamp. Is that a mixed metaphor? I hope so.

My big bugaboo however is this TSARINA thing. How many tsarinas actually RULED Russia? Apparently Catherine the Great who did rule was an Empress, not a TSARINA by that point. And in Russia it's Tsaritsa. The INA is a German translation or some such nonsense. Don't read Wikipedia when you are Glassy-Eyed. I learned that Ivan the Terrible had seven wives. No wonder he felt terrible. I would too. Anyway our guest host today RULES. Thanks for the fun write up.

Birchbark 9:42 AM  

I would have liked a more mainstream clue for ELROY, e.g. "Wisconsin town on a bicycle trail."

@Nancy (8:52) -- Didn't get the theme even after the revealer (actually still didn't get it until part way through the review). And I went back, glanced, and trust that it's true.

But I'm guessing CHRISTOPHER MARLOWE knew the anagram was in his name. He was that sort of mysterious character.

Anonymous 10:04 AM  

Lecturer per the English department web page. But he has a Ph.D. and he's been there long enough to have tenure. Usually that gets one to Associate Professor.

Wayne Rhodes 10:23 AM  

Can’t resist. What bothers me is: “what was your name?” sure, before we were married, my wife went by her maiden name and she changed it 45 years ago. Really?

Blue Stater 10:39 AM  

Excellent Sunday puzzle. No errors of fact (as far as I could tell); no linguistic errors. It can be done, WS, it can be done.

davidm 10:51 AM  

This was really strange, and I still don’t get it. I got the revealer, MIXED METAPHORS, almost right off the bat — I think it was the fifth clue I wrote in. Getting the revealer that fast was a new experience for me. Then I settled in, hoping for some clever themers — some, you know, actual mixed metaphors. There weren’t any. I got all the themers without any help from the revealer at all. I solved the puzzle but gave up on trying to suss out the theme. I had to wait till I came here for Dan to explain it in his writeup.

And I still don’t get it! The title of the puzzle is ANAGRAMMAR. But these are not anagrams, anymore than they are mixed metaphors! They are just the word “metaphors” mixed up into nonsense jumbles of letters! Anagrams are when you turn one actual word into a different actual word. Am I missing something here?

I did like the cluing for IAMB, a typically clever Times misdirection clue. I was racking my brain for “one of two” in The Grapes of Wrath — one of two characters, plot devices, settings, etc. — when it finally hit me. Ironically, I recent finished writing a poem in iambic pentameter, 120 lines, ten stanzas of twelve lines each, each stanza consisting of six rhyming or slant rhyming couplets. It is brutally difficult to do — not only to stick to the scheme, but also to actually make a decent poem out of it, with lines that flow naturally and rhymes that are not purely arbitrary for the sake of rhyming. I believe I succeeded, so, *pats self on back* :-)

Z 11:08 AM  

@PaulyD - Vitriol? Huh? Anyway, If I wanted to do anagrams I’d do the Jumble. It is hardly even news to anyone whose read these comments more than a month that letter-play puzzles are somewhere near quote puzzles on my “Please, No, Never Again” list. I think @Nancy also made some excellent points on why this theme is a yawner. If you like them, fine. not my cuppa.

@Birchbark - Nice opening line.

@WmC and @Anon10:04 - Let’s not get into the University finances discussion. I think Rex is in a non-tenure track position, so no matter how long he is at the institution he can never be any level of “professor.” The wisdom of hiring individuals with terminal degrees in their fields into non-tenure track positions is an argument for a different blog.

@davidm - I don’t think you’re missing anything, except maybe credulity. The title makes no sense at all. Why the -AR ending? Is there something grammar related involved? Not that I see. The MIXED METAPHORS works on the self-referential level much like the IAMB clue, but you are correct, not actual anagrams. There’s probably a name for this embedded faux anagram but I don’t know it. Nevertheless, the title just seems to be sorta related to what is happening in the themers. I think this is more a themeless puzzle with a repeating trope, and a not very interesting trope at that.

Biffissimo 11:16 AM  

I’ve never gotten a better time than you Rex. Today I finished in 18:07. Flex!

ANS (anti-nitpicking society) 11:16 AM  

While I thought this puzzle was easy for a Sunday I very much enjoyed it and it may be because it was in my wheelhouse. Yesterday’s puzzle kind of had me floundering because I didn’t seem to be on the same “wavelength” as the constructor for a themeless puzzle. But! If I (bold I) happen to flounder, it doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy working the puzzle (it just takes longer) nor do I get angry with the constructor. With that said, I have some questions that I am not trying to be snarky about...just curious.
@Z and @ Rube- why does this puzzle anger you? @Z mentions the use of a program. I understand that YOU believe the end result is no good, but is it only because the “revealer” probably doesn’t help the solver? Is it because you have to use crosses in a crossword puzzle to get the revealer? Is it not ok to have a puzzle play like a themeless only to find the theme post-solve? @Rube, I found your comment to be very rude and unnecessarily insulting to the constructor.
@Nancy, who defines the PPP in a puzzle? Is Milne’s Winnie the Pooh PPP and if not, when does Rowling’s Harry Potter lose that designation? The question is the same for the original Wizard of Oz versus Starwars. I found this puzzle to be very low on speciality “PPP” knowledge.
I look forward to responses.

Joaquin 11:25 AM  

Another Sunday slog. An impressive puzzle from a construction standpoint, but a solving slog nonetheless. Wish there would have been some actual mixed metaphors to add some humor.

jberg 11:45 AM  

THEA the Subway Train is a great inspirational book for young girls, about how you can grow up and realize your ambitions -- or at least, if it isn't, someone should write it, now that you've got the title.

@Birchbark, LMAO about your Elroy comment!

Fun fact: you can find all the letters of FOR THE MOST PART in BLAST FROM THE PAST. That cost me maybe 10 minutes in trying to understand the theme.

@Nancy, have to admit, I did check all the anagrams -- but it's easy, once you know you are looking for them they jump right out at you.

Anonymous 11:50 AM  

Can someone defend the notion that a random jumble of letters, different in place and order no less, in each 'theme answer', constitutes a theme? No guidance whatsoever to the solver. May be the constructor gets to puff out his chest at his cleverness, but that's it.

RooMonster 11:54 AM  

Hey All !
That South part was a bear for me. Had the whole North and pretty much the whole Middle in about 25 minutes, so figured I'd finish up quick with a good time. Nope. 53 minutes and change.

That last themer, PRIMROSEPATH, was waaay in the recesses of the ole brain, and refused to come out. Plus, had NEGRaNos for the drink, leaving me _aTT for Ms. Lucretia. As not knowing her first name regardless, I leaped to a technical cheat by putting Lucretia in the Google task bar, and MOTT popped out. Filled it in, and finally pattern recognition got me the Revealer. Some obscure/not-too-well-kniwn stuff down there (well, at least to me), PAXROMANA, ROXIE, EPIPHYTE, ERNIEPYLE, GREEDO. Had to alphabet run ERNIEs last name. HRE also took way too long, as I know it from other puzs. Haven't seen any of the "new" Star Wars movies, so GREEDO was a WOE. Succumbed to Check Puzzle to find the mistakes, ACCREdED, a few others in that SE corner, and MOWhLI, because for the life of me, I can never remember that dang G. Ugh. And what the heck is a BALROG?

But overall impressed by the anagrammed METAPHORs. Tres cool. Grid is 22wide, in case anyone missed that. Sorry if repeated, haven't read the comments yet.

LORDE close to The MAKER.


Unknown 12:03 PM  

In general, I didn't find the puzzle too difficult and I enjoyed it. But, ordinarily part of the fun is to at some point figure out the theme and then work back and forth with the theme sometimes helping to figure out the answers to the large clues. The truth is that in this puzzle I never figured out that the l
ong clues had the word metaphor mixed up and even if I had figured that out, it wouldn't have helped me at all for answering the clues. So that is my one bit of criticism.

Ethan Taliesin 12:07 PM  

Clever theme and well executed, but like a lot of you I wish I could have been in on it while filling in the boxes.

If I'd taken the time to figure out the gimmick as I was solving, I can only imagine how many minutes that would have added to my time.

Anagrams a tricky enough when they're not just parts of words.

The fill was okay and the long answers were impressively strong considering they had to contain the anagram. That in itself is clap-worthy

EdTech@mjbha 12:11 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Z 12:17 PM  

@ANS - Angry? Curious what about any of my posts make you think I’m angry? I find the “theme” uninteresting. It takes a lot more than that to make me angry. To answer your question, I feel like I already have. Anagrams aren’t a theme, they are a trope. MIXED METAPHORS can be fun and even subtly sly at times. Rearranging letters, not so much. Not every puzzle needs to amuse me, but if we never see another anagram based puzzle I will not mind.

As for PPP - That is an initialism for Pop Culture, Product Names, and other Proper Nouns. Whether the answer is Eroica or Pooh it is PPP. PPP never stops being PPP, just because the PPP comes from Leviticus or Hamlet doesn’t make it any less “Pop Culture” in how it impacts the solve differently for different solvers. PPP gets discussed here because it so greatly impacts everyone’s solving experience. If the PPP is in your wheelhouse the puzzle will be far easier than if the PPP is in your outhouse. If the PPP exceeds 33% of the puzzle we are nearly guaranteed to see bifurcated responses here, easiest ever to hardest ever. I came up with the term after a Saturday puzzle I found incredibly easy and I thought was PPP-free, only to see others complain about all the pop cultural references. It turns out the puzzle was well over 33% PPP, but happened to be in my wheelhouse. I don’t often bother to tote up the PPP anymore, but the 33% mark was discovered through daily counting and seeing at what point it impacted responses here.

@Biffissimo - Uh, that is not Rex’s time you beat.

I think this puts me over the limit, so if anyone asks me any more questions it will have to wait until tomorrow.

Anonymous 12:24 PM  

Jeez,doesn't the word "comment" imply in any sense "brevity" ?

puzzlehoarder 12:28 PM  

An interesting theme. @davidm correctly pointed out that it does not involve any actual anagrams. What it has are far more pedestrian jumbles. Being a Scrabble player I have a special fondness for jumbles. Making words of scrambled letters is what I do. To answer your first question @Nancy no I would never look for this while solving. Normally it would be a useless distraction. As usual I stuck to the fill and this puzzle solved well as a medium level themeless.

As to @Nancy's second question. I was curious as to what the theme was so I followed the revealers instructions. Comparing ATMOSPHERE and BLASTFROMTHEPAST, I looked for matching strings of letters, blocked them off and quickly saw that they spelled METAPHORS. It was one of those nice little puzzles after the actual puzzle.

The title makes no claims to any any "anagrams." It's just this made up term that's vaguely related so no harm done.

The fill made for an interesting solve. AZERA was a bit of a stretch. I was just happy that I know who LORDE is and that OZARK is so easy to recognize. I didn't know a"reefer" was a type of jacket. SITH and REN were easy pickings but GREEDO needed all the crosses. I'm not surprised to see it's a debut.

I appreciate all the work the constructor put into this, computer assisted or not.

Aphid Larue 12:39 PM  

Words I learned:

Trochee is a trochee

Is iamb an iamb? Or sometimes a trochee?

Clever theme though I didn’t figure it out.

Beadola 12:54 PM  

Sego lily is the state flower of Utah. Not a cactus.

Anonymous 1:20 PM  

I found the upper right to be really annoyingly heavy in PPP.

RUBAIYAT (nice but still PPP)

Anonymous 1:56 PM  

Would someone please explain 59 across?
I expected “too“ or maybe “and“
so do not get
“nay “ as the answer

Anonymous 1:57 PM  

Actually...... the Balrog was defeated high above the Mines of Moria when Gandalf threw him off the top of a high peak AFTER they left the Mines.

Masked and Anonymous 2:03 PM  

Theme presents a metaphor for mixin, if U will: Mixed-up METAPHOR letters, mixed into wellish-known phrases. OK by m&e, I reckon. M&A always hopes the SunPuzs will have some kinda extra kick, like humor, to keep him goin for a 21+ x 21 puzgrid solve-o-rama. Sometimes lotsa real jolly/cheery clues, like {Dead letters?} = RIP can help out a totally-sober theme, tho. snort.

The MOWGLI/BALROG did "kick" my butt, I'd grant. Ever-hopefully guessed "U", cuz I had no earthly idea [are they anagrams, M&A wondered]. Similar kick-ass threat arose at ACCRETED/EPIPHYTE, where I guessed the T correct … kinda thought "accrete" was a word, even tho I had no memory of what it meant.

Other items that elicited BLANKSTAREs, but had pretty fair crossin GOOBERS: SCHIST [beware of anagrams, on *this* pup]. NEGRONIS. XPRIZE. GREEDO.

And, last but not least, THEMASK.

Best clue: {Business with perpetually high sales?} = SKYMALL. One of only two ?-clues that I noticed.

staff weeject pick: PUP. Well, shoot -- M&A was desperate … this here SunPuz had exactly as many total U's in it as "SunPuz" does.

Thanx for all your efforts, Mr. Adams. U might think I'm givin a kinda mixed review, here. But I thought yer puz was solid as a rock, and that don't hardly grow on trees.

Masked & AnonymoUUs


Mo-T 2:26 PM  

@Anonymous 1:56

59A "Not only that but also..." Nay, it is this too...

@Nancy 8:52

Question #1: Would any of you have noticed the METAPHORS anagrams if they hadn't been pointed out?


Question #2: Once they were pointed out, did any of you go back and check them to make sure they really worked? Or did your eye just lightly skim over the theme answers and did you say to yourselves: "Well, that does look as though some of it might anagram to METAPHORS if I were willing to check it out, which I'm not"?

I did look a little, until I got bored.

Tsarina always makes me think of "The Birdcage" with Robin Williams and Nathan Lane (and the amazing Christine Baranski and Hank Azaria). Lane's stage name was "Starina."

I always do puzzles for fun, not speed. I learned 113A epiphyte and 120A Greedo. A good day!

Frog Prince Kisser 2:34 PM  

@Wm. C. 9:34 AM

According to, Michael Sharp is a Visiting Assistant Professor.

FtGreeneNY 2:44 PM  

Drexel is not in downtown Philadelphia - it's in University City/West Philadelphia.

"Downtown Philadelphia" is also most commonly referred to as "Center City."

Josie Owens 2:45 PM  

Steinbeck took title from “Battle Hymn of the Republic” in which 2 iambs.

Anonymous 2:52 PM  

@Frog Prince:

Depending on where you are, a VAP is just another word for UL.

Frog Prince Kisser 3:05 PM  

@Anonymous 10:04 AM

You are also correct, but the first result shown to me was:

Michael Sharp, Visiting Assistant Professor
English, General Literature and Rhetoric
Harpur College of Arts and Sciences
BA, Ponoma College; MA, PhD, University of Michigan
Specializes in: Medieval literature
Provost's Award for Excellence in Teaching, 2005-2006

Anonymous 3:08 PM  

While I did not beat "Rex's time" (since there was a stand-in for Rex today), I appreciate the fact that the time posted was an actual "regular person" time and not a time that is faster than I could read the clues and write in the answers, even if I got every one correct immediately. Although I guess that would mean I would just have to do the Across clues...but you get the point...the time was a realistic one, not some crossword-competition, super genius time.

Anoa Bob 3:27 PM  

Like several others, solved this as a themeless. The reveal was a tad anticlimactic for me.

An opportunity was missed for 10D SCHIST. The clue, "Easily split rock", makes it sound like SCHIST is some soft, weak, inferior rock. It's quite the opposite. The main reason there are so many skyscrapers in NYC, especially in Manhattan, is because if the unusually strong bedrock not far below the surface there, and SCHIST is the major contributor to this extraordinary foundation.

Here's a blurb from "SCHIST, which can be seen in J. Hood Wright Park, is an extremely strong and durable rock type. Deep below the buildings and busy streets of New York City, beneath the labyrinth of subway tunnels and stations, lies the geologic foundation that makes New York City unique in the world." And "It is Manhattan SCHIST, the most prevalent bedrock in Manhattan, that makes the city’s famed skyline possible."

The New York Times Building in Manhattan sits atop a SCHIST bedrock foundation. Certainly worthy of a mention in the clue for SCHIST, don't you think?

Anonymous 3:36 PM  

according to the wiki:
"Research Associate, Lecturer, Instructor, Visiting Professor, (usually non-tenure-track positions, sometimes with their own respective ranking hierarchies)"

"Visiting Assistant Professor" ... "Almost always indicates a temporary appointment, often to fill a vacancy that has arisen due to the sabbatical or temporary absence of a regular faculty member."

IOW, just a wage slave talker. Not to measure competence, of course, but such positions aren't generally sought after. (Full disclosure, I worked with a Drexel one while in DC; he spent a lot of time on Amtrak.) How long one stays employed in such positions is a mystery, although the folklore is such folks are itinerants. IIRC, only Post Doc lecturers are lower on the totem pole.

GILL I. 3:52 PM  

I think I'm going to mosey on over and sit on @Loren's lap. I'm not crazy about anagrams. I think about the only one I like is: Forty five>="over fifty."
I did this at 2:00 am - suffering from my bout of sleep deprivation/insomnia. Instead of harping on OFL's credentials, can someone explain why, as we get older, this malady occurs?
Back to the puzzle....Yes, @Nancy...I actually went back and looked for the MIXED METAPHORS. I'm like that.
I'm good at any dare. Growing up the word "dare" was my mantra. And to think I never ever broke my arm when I jumped off the horse stable into a pile of manure pretending I could be just as good as Superman.
I probably need a NEGRONE just about now....Nope....too early.

sixtyni yogini 4:08 PM  

Meh for the theme and “for the most part” 😜
But Pax Romana👍🏽

Anonymous 4:42 PM  

How could anyone forget Annette Bening ‘s doorway scene in The Grifters?

Fred Romagnolo 4:47 PM  

"The Story of G.I. Joe" is a movie about Ernie Pyle (1945, Wellman, D., with Robert Mitchum). "Roxie Hart" was a movie from which the musical is based (1942, also directed by Wellman, Ginger Rogers, Adolph Menjou). "Primrose Path" was another Ginger Rogers movie (1940). "Do not, as some ungracious pastors do, Show me the steep and thorny path to heaven, Whiles, like a puff'd and reckless libertine, Himself the PRIMROSE PATH of dalliance treads, And recks not his own rede." Hamlet, Act 1, Scene 3. IAMBic pentameter.

Runs with Scissors 5:14 PM  

Liked it!

Never noticed the title. Tried to make ATMOSPHERE on all the themers, but couldn't find the extra "e." Who knew only an "e" separated ATMOSPHERE from METAPHORS?

Challenging in a few spots. Enjoyed the solve. But then, I always enjoy the solve.

Mark, in Mickey's North 40

Anonymous 5:16 PM  

For those interested in the slasher movie version:

John 5:33 PM  

It wasn't Rex. ;) But great time!11

Hungry Mother 5:36 PM  

Back home (summer) in Delaware after a great two week cruise in Northern Europe. Yesterday and today were travel days, so I got to the puzzle late today. I got it done, unlike yesterday, when I couldn’t finish. I didn’t know the particular bounty hunter, but I figured that he wasn’t named GtEEDO.

Michael 5:37 PM  

More and more universities these days hire lecturers on renewable fixed-year contracts. It is a way to a avoid making long-term tenure commitments, allowing flexibility in firing people in times of financial problems. The proportion of faculty on tenure-track is much smaller in many places than it once was. These lecturer positions are also a way to keep on people who are good teachers or do important service but don't publish enough to be tenurable. Also people who have no desire to be tenure track. Of course, I have no idea what the situation is with Michael Sharp.

I know this because I taught at a university for many years (in the town where the constructor lives). However, my university has recently put some limits on the time people can be in these lecturer positions. I wouldn't be at all surprised if they reverse this decision some time.

Monty Boy 6:42 PM  

I like this one a lot. Odd solve for me, because I got a toe hold in NE and solved clockwise to the NW. Usually kinds scattershot aloo over the place on Sundays.

@LMS, regarding the royal We: Me driving and we're late. I say we're late because we missed a turn. Wife says: What, you got a mouse in your pocket? For other royal "we" uses, depending on the severity, that may be a turd in your pocket.

Anonymous 6:50 PM  

I stIll don’t understand 59A, NAY. Anyone? Thank you!

Unknown 7:03 PM  

I was able to complete this puzzle correctly in 45 minutes without ever figuring out why the title seemed to imply that there would be anagrams. So I never actually figured out the theme, but also made the decision to just not even bother to try to sort it out after the fact. I like it better when there is no way one could complete the puzzle without figuring out the underlying twist.

Joe in Newfoundland 7:06 PM  

Well. Again, a 'theme' that was irrelevant to solving. At the end I suppose I admired the creator's ability to get those answers in there, but I want to be able to admire my own genius too.
and too many answers only vaguely or unnecessarily connected to the clue: NAY, IAMBS, SPRINTS.
so while peevish about a basically good puzzle - do hotels still use keys? Or rather, if they do, and renovate, would they not change over to cards?

Don Van Vliet 7:29 PM  

Like others, the theme was of no help. The help was of no theme.

PaulLongname 8:17 PM  

Thank you, Christopher Adams.

I am guessing that it was not all that easy to find the five long answers with that same 9 letter anagram in each one. I could not, like others, discern the theme until I had solved the entire puzzle.

But it was still fun!!

JTB 8:29 PM  

. . . but in the song it's not capitalized. Lame clue.

JTB 8:31 PM  

. . . but in the hymn it's not capitalized. I agree. Lame clue.

RooMonster 8:33 PM  

Know it's late, but a nit to your post. BLAST FROM THE PAST is missing an extra R and another O from FOR THE MOST PART.

That's been bugging me all day! :-)


JTB 8:33 PM  

Yep. She centered the play, was brilliant.

Boutros Boutros Ghali 8:46 PM  

@Michael-Don’t sweat it. It’s tougher for white guys.

john towle 8:52 PM  

Open Range with Kevin Costner, Robert Duvall & Annette Bening…a fine movie. See it. Great cinematography, especially the scenes in the rain.



Loren Muse Smith 2:00 AM  

@Gill I – as regards your sleep question – check this out. This describes me to a T.

Meemer1313 10:35 AM  

@anoymous 6:50 PM and
@Mo-T 2:26 PM
still lost on 59 ACROSS NAY????
@Mo-T if you were attempting to explain
—> it was lost on me

kitshef 7:12 PM  

Hand up for loving LORDE's music.

Hand up for having no idea what earworm "baby shark" is supposed to bring upon our heads.

From the hardest Saturday I can remember to the easiest Sunday. I'm guessing I've never finished a Sunday faster, although I did it without using or knowing the theme, so you could add another minute post-solve while I figured out what it was.

albatross shell 7:13 PM  

Look nay up in the dictioary or consider the phrase it is difficult, nay impossible to ....

barryevans 10:45 PM  

Finished, finally. WTF? Metaphors? Huh. An hour later, atmosphere...and it all fell gloriously into place. Ecstasy! Genius! Made my day...

PatKS 11:05 AM  

Just did the puzzle today (busy week). I finished it completely but didn't really enjoy it. I didn't see any anagrams or metaphors. I actually did notice that every theme answer included letters that spelled ATMOSPHER, so I wondered where the 2nd E was. Whatever. Never heard of Balrog, Epiphyte, Accreted or Greedo. Didn't like the Iamb clue at all or assembly=Array or PreWrap. Never heard of an Azera.
Also God, the Maker? What?
(12 years Catholic school)

spacecraft 12:23 PM  

Vacation? I'm gonna need one after this. It seemed more of a slog than usual, possibly because of the 22 width. Also I wasn't sure exactly how the theme was going to play out, though in retrospect I should've guessed from the title ANAGRAMMAR. I note that Mr. Adams manages to insert his unabbreviated first name into the grid: EGOS at work?

Did Hyundai really make an AZERA? Never heard of it, but OZARK would not be denied. That was a near-Natick for me. Other new-to-me stuff: NEGRONIS, EPIPHYTE. Writeovers: agAIn to ISAID, lAMB to IAMB. DOD is ANNETTE Bening.

I didn't find that much objectionable in the fill; maybe that old, unsafe TTOPS; it just seemed like a lot of work. Par.

Burma Shave 1:12 PM  


so ISAID, "Rock me, ROXIE, with a KISS!"
"DREAMON you GOOBER, KISS my rear,


Diana, LIW 2:41 PM  

Half way done - another PPP day to cheat on! See ya later.

Diana, LIW

r 4:12 PM  

I found this easy and fun. I went to the revealer early and that helped with some of the themers; I've been in an AZERA, although I don't think it is a "long-time" Hyundai model; I knew EPIPHYTE and STARZ; in short, I scorched, NAY, owned this puzzle. Rarely is that true on a Sunday for me.

In my newspaper the puzzle had a different title and different constructors, and that confused me until I got the revealer.

All in all, a good Sunday.

Diana, LIW 5:26 PM  

I didn't find the themers funny at all - I don't get it, even after reading explanations. A big "big deal" from me.

My funniest answer was having AZERo for 2-down (the car) for a while.

Oh well. Maybe I have too much on my mind. See you some time after the 20th! Enjoy your week!

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords

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