Ship names for ancient Roman province in Iberia / WED 8-28-19 / Singers of high notes in olden times / 1995 cyberthriller about espionage / Entertainer who popularized phrase you ain't hear nothing yet / 2004 film about group of street dancers / 2003 Christmas-themed rom-com / Hell week hellion say

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Constructor: Daniel Grinberg

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium (3:39)


THEME: TENNIS (62A: What 8-, 20-, 36- and 52-Across sound like they could be about) — movies with tennis terminology in their titles:

Theme answers:
  • "THE NET" (8A: 1995 cyberthriller about espionage)
  • "YOU GOT SERVED" (20A: 2004 film about a group of street dancers)
  • "FAULT IN OUR STARS" (36A: 2014 romance about two teens with cancer, with "The")
  • "LOVE, ACTUALLY" (52A: 2003 Christmas-themed rom-com)
Word of the Day: SATORI (55A: Religious enlightenment) —
Satori (悟り) (ChinesepinyinKorean oVietnamesengộ) is a Japanese Buddhist term for awakening, "comprehension; understanding". It is derived from the Japanese verb satoru.
In the Zen Buddhist tradition, satori refers to the experience of kenshō, "seeing into one's true nature". Ken means "seeing," shō means "nature" or "essence".
Satori and kenshō are commonly translated as enlightenment, a word that is also used to translate bodhiprajna and buddhahood. (wikipedia)
• • •

GAËL Monfils ... a name to watch out for
I was liking the puzzle OK as I was solving it, mostly because I was flying, and none of the fill made me wince much (except maybe CASTRATI ... which seems to be forming some kind of subtheme with SPAYS ...). Well, actually (!), the word SACS always makes me wince a little (a variation on the common "moist"-aversion), and AL JOLSON makes me think only of blackface, and SYN isn't great as fill, so it wasn't all smiles, but I was cruising and things were mostly fine. I couldn't figure out why there were these fairly marginal movie titles that kept coming up. I also couldn't figure out what the 8- and 9- letter Across answers (theme-length answers) had to do with the theme. Well, it turns out they had nothing to do with the theme. The revealer, when I finally got there (and I got there at the very very end) landed with a massive clunk. Turns out I'd been solving an oddly contrived variation on a very basic and kind of sad theme type—set of answers contains words that have something in common. A variation on a first-words or last-words-type theme (here, both last and first words are involved). I imagine some version of a TENNIS theme has been done many times before. This one tried to get clever and make them *movies* about TENNIS, but they don't actually sound like they're about TENNIS. I have "no they don't" written next to the revealer clue. And the grid is very choppy a *and* gunked up with these answers that look like they should be themers, that are longer than the first themer, but somehow aren't themers. It's visually confusing / displeasing. Long non-theme Downs in a puzzle with Across themers, fine; long non-theme Acrosses in the same type of puzzle tend to create an unpleasant visual interference, IMHO. Fill seemed mostly fine. Did not hate this one, but was ultimately disappointed. I appreciate the attempt to make the theme *something* besides just "tennis words," and I appreciate the attempt to publish it in a timely fashion (the U.S. Open just started). But upon review, this shot just missed.


CASTRATI itself doesn't bother me (5D: Singers of high notes in olden times), but somehow having that Italian plural but then an English plural of RISOTTOS in the symmetrical position really does bother me (37D: Italian dishes that are simmered). Actually, I don't know that RISOTTI is an actual Italian plural. I just know that I was sure as hell anticipating it. Maybe that word in the plural is just weird, period. I mostly killed this puzzle, but had some trouble down below. Had SCAD for SLEW (64A: Boatload), and BYLAW took me forever (51D: Standing rule). That revealer corner in the SW was by far the hardest, though. Forgot that CORGI herded cattle (47D: Cattle-herding canine). Couldn't figure out SALOON from first couple letters (43D: Where one might take or dodge shots). And then I misread the clue for STOOGE as [Underlying] instead of 59A: Underling. Lastly, I needed every cross to get the revealer, ha ha. True story. That's all. Have a nice day.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]

86 comments:

GILL I. 6:56 AM  

How did I dislike thee...let me count the ways. Well...truth be told, I had a love/hate relationship for exactly one half hour - give or take.
First..my bad or my FAULT. I've never heard of any of these films. So you can imagine where my brain was travelling (Brit spelling - like SNOG). It got me nowhere. At least I got the crossings and all that. I' m living in a bubble.
Like @Rex, I get to the reveal TENNIS at the end and just did a big huh? Isn't HATE MAIL a movie? Or is it You Got Mail?
I guess the love came with CASTRATI. The only one I'm familiar with is Varys from GoT. I don't think he sings, though. On a more serious note, hearing a CASTRATI sing Ave Maria is pretty awesome. I sang it in choir but thank goodness I got to keep my pelotas.
Never seen RISOTTOS with its S. I'm hoping we don't have the plural war today. I'd much prefer to talk about CASTRATI. Oh, and I like STOOGE.

Dave 6:57 AM  

When you think about it and why it was done, castrati should bother you

Hungry Mother 7:17 AM  

Pretty fast for a Wednesday, I thought.

Suzie Q 7:19 AM  

There is not much to say about such a boring (for me) puzzle. I've never seen any of the movies and have only heard of one of them.
Is Breakout an Atari game?
Snog and Scout were the only answers with any interest.

kitshef 7:22 AM  

I found this quite delightful. There is a certain sense of neatness and sweetness when your last word in is the revealer (for me, TENNIS crossing TON).

RIT was new to me. RIT-NIT-NIL mini-word ladder.

SPAYS and CASTRATI. Eek.

RavTom 7:44 AM  

Can someone explain 22A? I assume it doesn’t refer to the United SYNagogue, the umbrella organization for Conservative Jewish congregations.

Lewis 8:03 AM  

Many will solve this puzzle, and that will be that. But I love the backstory (drawn from the constructor's notes). Here's this guy Daniel, who has been solving crosswords for a long time, and a year ago he feels the itch to try his hand at making them. He researches the art, including reading years of Jeff Chen's puzzle comments as well as constructor comments, and finally set down to constructing. Twelve times he submits to the NYT, and twelve times he gets turned down. But I'm guessing that the Times editors recognize potential, and their rejection emails are seeded with encouragement.

Then one day Daniel, who has recently completed a doctorate in Film and Media Studies, is enroute to the gym when the crossword muse gift-slams him with a theme that involves his film knowledge, a theme that logistically works in a grid, and he works, and he polishes, and he sends it off and either gets an immediate YES or gets it after some back and forth, and a big dream of his becomes fulfilled. Not only that, but the Times editors, who have been bringing him along, even through the rejections, now have the promise of more puzzles from a constructor with much potential. And solvers are treated to a lovely debut puzzle.

It's a beautiful story, IMO, and may it continue!

Z 8:04 AM  

@RavTom - Perhaps some quote marks will help, “united” is a SYNonym for “one.”

CASTRATI reminded me of a Kingsley Amis alternative history where Martin Luther became pope rather than starting the reformation, The Alteration. The main character is a CASTRATo. Must be nearly 40 years since I read that. 20 year old me thought it was great. 59 year old me makes no recommendation.

I’ve seen LOVE, ACTUALLY. I vaguely remember THE NET, although I’ve never seen it. I have heard of YOU GOT SERVED and FAULT IN OUR STARS. But, yeah, not exactly a set of widely popular films. The fill seems better than average, although OReO lost part of its creamy filling. But the theme was fairly meh here.

Anonymous 8:04 AM  

From Deb Amien, Wordplay Crossword column:

“....is actually comparing the words “united” and “one.” “United, for one” should be read as “What the word ‘united’ is, compared to the word ‘one’?” The answer is that it’s a synonym — think “We are united” and “We are one” — and the abbreviation is SYN.”

mmorgan 8:21 AM  

@Lewis: that was nice, thanks.

Didn’t know ALNICO (but I got it), didn’t know SNOG (but I got it), didn’t understand SYN till I got here, and I’ve never seen any of those movies but I may have heard of them. I’m not into TENNIS but I think using film titles in this way was a very nice idea.

Funny, I was just thinking about AL JOLSON a few hours before I did this. As much as we rightfully condemn minstrelsy and blackface, I also think it’s important to understand how wildly popular and “normal” it was among “mainstream” audiences, and not that long ago.

EdFromHackensack 8:28 AM  

anyone who has read Harry Potter or seen the movies would know SNOG. Always love a Bruce Springsteen reference 45A). Thought the theme was appropriate as it is US Open Tennis time. Enjoyed this puzzle.

OffTheGrid 8:32 AM  

@Rex. As Dave said, CASTRATI should bother you.
@Gill. Your enthusiasm for CASTRATI is disturbing.

If you (anyone) are horrified by modern (and historic) female genital mutilation, you should be horrified by CASTRATI, the practice, not that it's in the puzzle.

I liked the puzzle and found it to be easier than yesterday's offering. Gotta love more tennis stuff. I had heard of all the movies but have not seen them. I started to watch FAULT........... but there was a lot of texting between the characters that was very boring. I prefer talkies.

Nancy 8:38 AM  

TENNIS is always deserving of a crossword puzzle, say I, but why stop there?

THE COURT JESTER
FORTY WEEKS (with a nod to one of yesterday's more controversial clues)
WIMBLEDON / SPLENDOR IN THE GRASS
BETWEEN THE LINES
THE OPEN HOUSE
THE FIREMAN'S BALL
A SHOT IN THE DARK
THE RACKET / COOL HAND LUKE
THE bLOB

You might want to put your own spin on this, people. I doubt I've even scratched the surface. The ball's in your court.

Castro 8:41 AM  

GILL I. you probably didn't hear a CASTRATo sing Ave Maria, I don't think those exist anymore, (I can't imagine why anyone these days would voluntarily sacrifice their nads at a young age for such silly reasons as singing high), but you probably heard a countertenor instead. They are indeed quite beautiful and have a unique timbre, not unlike a viola...throaty and warm. I could be wrong, but many times a man who sings countertenor has a naturally low voice so that their falsetto break is relatively low. You'd never guess by hearing them speak that they'd sing in such a beautiful alto (even soprano!) range.

I am not sure if I've ever heard of any of these movies. Weird that LOVEACTUALLY hasn't become more of a Christmas staple given that so many people make that a thing these days. It, along with YOUGOTSERVED, is only vaguely familiar.

Sir Hillary 8:47 AM  

LOVE the backstory -- thanks @Lewis!

Unfortunately, the puzzle is a dud. Worst theme offender: [The] FAULTINOURSTARS, which under absolutely no circumstances sounds like it could be about tennis. Any more than [The] FORTY<YEAROLDVIRGIN does.

Nice clue for ACNE.

puzzlehoarder 9:05 AM  

This was easier than yesterday's puzzle. I didn't know the first two themers but the way the solve went that made little difference.

In the NW I had a SPAYE/SPAYS write over. How I initially put that E in there I have no idea. I checked out the 22A clue wondering what EYN could be. The word "United" at the clues start had me thinking airline, soccer team or just plain word. That's when I spotted my write over mistake and realized that 22A was one of those damn synonym clues.

SATORI is a word I should have gotten just off that final I and the O. Today I had to first put in TENNIS and then backfill the SW. I always want to make SATORI into SARTORI because sartorial is so much more familiar.

I enjoyed today's solve as the interesting material outweighed the glue.

Nancy 9:08 AM  

Must say I'm with @kitshef, @Off the Grid, and @Castro (very nice!) today. I took one look at CASTRATI and let out a very loud and extremely empathetic OUCH!!!!!!!

@Castro -- I doubt it was ever voluntary. Ever. Not once.

QuasiMojo 9:15 AM  

Back in my college days I was obsessed with CASTRATI. We read Barthes' brilliant book S/Z based on a story by Balzac about a duplicitous castrato or was he? There was even a record of an actual one, the only known recording in existence, I think, in the library. Eerie and haunting but sadly well past his prime. Countertenors are wonderful but most lack the heft of the originals or so I imagine.

Curiously I had almost the same experience word for word as Rex. Although I was annoyed by SOT again. Would the NYT allow jokey clues about opioid addicts? Oh wait they do. OD'ed is also mandatory jocular fill these days. So funny.

Recently I read or tried to read "The Maze at Windermere" which takes place in Newport at various periods of time. I put the book down when the author used the word "saloon" to describe a room in the mansion. Henry James used it often in his novels. But it seemed forced and pretentious in a modern day one, even if it was trying to sound authentic and of the period. I prefer my saloons in The Wild West.

I knew @Nancy would have a field day with the tennis theme. And boy she did not disappoint. Aces!

pmdm 9:15 AM  

Is Mr. Sharp trying to be moderate in his comments in order to encourage a new constructor? If so, that's a plus.

My response to GILL I. was preempted. I recall a re-release of a very old recording that allegedly included a song sung by a very old castrato. Critics wondered if the recording of someone so old accurately captured the sound of that type of singer. For those who think they never heard a countertenor, try finding an early PDQ Bach recording that features John Ferrante. You will hear the technique as well as get a laugh.

Not a movie goer, none of the theme entries were known to me. But the crosses and the theme helped me very much to finish the puzzle. Enjoyable enough.

SouthsideJohnny 9:27 AM  

I’m not at all familiar with any of the movies, so there’s no “there” there for me and this one just turned into a lengthy slog - which is fine, the theme is not going to be in everyone’s wheelhouse.

Risotto is simmered only in the very loosest sense of the word, so this clue is a real stretch. You will never see a risotto recipe that calls for you to “let simmer for X minutes” (in fact, it must be pretty stirred the entire time). Simmer is for soups, stocks, broths and sauces during the thickening stage, but not for risotto. A lawyer may be able to technically defend the clue - but any trained chef would scoff at the idea. (Wow, my rant has a certain Rex-like quality, sans the vindictiveness, lol).

nyc_lo 9:29 AM  

I found “Alnico” ALLOY crossed with the obscurely clued SYN to be a bit of a Natick. But aside from that, my fondness for movie titles outweighed the occasionally iffy fill.

Wm. C. 9:29 AM  


Kind of a cute trick, finding all these movies with a TENNIS relationship. Problem is, I'm not a movie person, I prefer novels, and/so I've never heard of these. Except for dredging up LOVEACTUALLY out of the depths of my memory off the LOVE________. Never seen it, but somehow recall seeing some reference to it.

Cute as the trick is, though, I think Shortz is using bad judgement in running it. Sure film aficionados as OFL apparently is, can rate this Easy-Medium, but for me this was a Wasted Wednesday, normally my favorite day of the week.

Anonymous 9:42 AM  

In my experience 90% of people don't want to remember and to understand. They prefer to label and then applaud or condemn. For example, such type of a reaction to this comment will be labeling it as elitism and racism. It's OK not to recognize this simple fact while talking to fellow hobbyists but look at how the whole slew of pundits and news media professionals stepped right into it with the latest presidential elections...

Anonymous 9:44 AM  

Actually, Love Actuall was a massive hit. Its worldwide box office is a tick under $300 million.

The Fault in our Stars was a biggie too. Over $300 Million.

The Net "only" did a 110 million. Nut that was the 90's when the benchmark for boffo at the BO was 100 million, so that was big too. Also, often cited as Sandra Bulllock's breakout role.

I have no idea what @Z is talking about. And apparently, neither does he.

Anonymous 9:48 AM  

hey @Castro. Gill's a hoot. Our Zelig. Or, our Al Gore "I invented the internet."

I thought the puzzle was a fine Wed example. The movies were familiar enough, the subject "tennis" is timely, and there was just enough "edge" to get Rex going.

But, as someone pointed out, the puzzle's creator's backstory was worth the price of admission.

And, simmering v stirring has been ably explained by @SouthsideJohnny.

Anonymous 9:51 AM  

Thank you for such a straightforward easily understandable reply.

Anonymous 9:56 AM  

How about Anne Rice’s non-vampiric “Cry to Heaven”?

The Clerk 10:03 AM  

Great cluing!

RooMonster 10:03 AM  

Hey All !
Yea, @Lewis, nice. Good for Daniel, and good for you for getting your puzzles published. Me? Nope. It's embarrassing to let you know how many puzs I've sent in, all rejected. I do agree on some of the reasons for rejection after the explanation, but I also believe some of my puzs should've made the cut. I guess I'm just not able to construct anything good. Regardless, I still send puzs in. I have three that haven't been seen yet, and I'm sure they're going to be rejected.

My crying aside, this was a good puz. Unlike Rex, I actually like the fact of having long Acrosses abutting the themers. It's tough to get clean fill when you have overlapping longies. And the fact that the N and S each have one, plus the middle one has two!, the fill doesn't suffer much. I believe that's my fault in my submitted puzs, some fill is iffy. YES, I'm crying again. ;-)

Took me a minute to understand SYN as clued, last letter in was the Y after an alphabet run, because Alnico?? Wha? Also, SEL was a WOE, but having _COUT, the only letter that seemed to fit was the S. Turned out it was right, and finished 100% correct! YEA ME!

Quick look at grid looks like only a Q from a pangram. Didn't actually see if any other letters are missing.

Nice puz, Daniel. Liked the Edge Themers, too. As in, basically two extra themers putting them in the tip and bottom row.

SOT SCOUT
RooMonster
DarrinV

JC66 10:11 AM  

It's a pretty bad puzzle if the only good thing @Lewis has to say about it is the backstory.

TJS 10:12 AM  

Knew this was going to suck as soon as I filled in prosy. Also knew Rex would give it a pass when it took me 13 minutes, thereby insuring a Rex performance under 5. Love how he says "Bylaw took me forever". Ha ha. So we got 21 three letter fill including cpa,syn,sst,feb,and ene. And rit,nit and sot descending diagonally, hey, @Lewis, how cool is that !!
I know he doesn't read this, but there is something wrong with someone who is bothered more by "moist" than "castrati".

Ryan 10:21 AM  

This one of those puzzles where us millenials get our revenge on the sometimes old-skewing NYT crossword.

As one in his early 30s, I can report that Love Actually is very popular among my generation. Just watched it with friends last Christmas.

Never watched You Got Served but it came to mind quickly once I had a few letters filled in. I'll never forget an amateur movie reviewer online who mistyped the title as "You Got Severed", which sounds like a very intriguing movie about knife fights.

The Fault in Our Stars skews even younger, a Gen Z hit.

Found this a very pleasant Wednesday, but my enjoyment of theme puzzles is usually directly related to how much or little time I spend staring at theme clues in confusion. The theme answers came easy, so I liked it. Not the most clever theme, but totally inoffensive.

David 10:27 AM  

Wow, this one was like a Tuesday for me, maybe even a Monday.

I recently had the great pleasure to work with a countertenor. OMG, what a range and what a wonderful voice. More and more men are training for this voice. Castrati became more rare through the 18thc CE, although they were allowed in the papal states until 1870.

Nice back story on Daniel and it explains why Al Jolson gets pride of place. (It seems the majority of puzzle solvers start in the NW.)

I was dimly aware of the movies and know nothing of tennis, but that was no impediment. For a cyberstory I preferred "Sneakers," and I know they have something to do with tennis as well.

@kitshef, of the three most often used abbreviations to slow musicians down, "rit." is #1, for "ritard," slow down. The other two to know are "riten." for "ritenuto," hold back; and "rall." for "rallentando," getting slower and slower. There are many others.

For me, the center of 22A was the last square and when I checked the clue again I smiled.

Nice debut, Daniel.

Newboy 10:38 AM  

Felt real smart when I put in an N to finish MENSA and this easy Wednesday puzzle. Just my cuppa TEA. Whenever I get to follow the across lite program without having to override its directions, I know the puzzle is in my wheelhouse and there is smooth sailing ahead. Saw the theme early but it only helped on YOU GOT SERVED which I had never heard of though I taught film classes until 2002, newer perhaps.

Carola 10:45 AM  

Redeemed by the theme. Until then, I was wandering in the wilderness, having no idea of where I was going, so it was a happy surprise to end up at TENNIS and then go back and understand the until-then-incomprehensible sign posts (the movies all being unknown to me).

Now to stir up some controversy, re: RISOTTOS. Two words: Instant Pot.

@Z, a nod from a fellow admirer of The Alteration, probably 30 years ago in my case.

Unknown 10:49 AM  

Can someone please explain how any puzzle can be completed in 3:39? It takes that long to read the clues! What am I missing?

emily 11:25 AM  

I was stuck on casarati (no wonder!) was enlightened as to its meaning by reading the blog. Was wondering if any one else put Durante for the Al Jolson clue... that’s who I remember saying ‘ya ain’t seen nothing yet ‘

Ciclista21 11:30 AM  

LOVE ACTUALLY seems to crop up annually on my cable or streaming choices. I watched it once. Sometimes touching, especially the character brilliantly played by Emma Thompson. The rest kind of sucks.

As does this puzzle. I didn't notice it had a theme because I never read the clue for 62A. TENNIS, like most of the movie titles, just fell into place with the down crosses. Now that I see the theme, it's a letdown. All these titles contain a rather common word that's sometimes associated with tennis. Really? That's it? Please try again.

Speaking of trying again, I'm not impressed with the backstory about the constructor. The moral seems to be that If you try, try, try, try, try, try, try and, oh please, try again, NYT will eventually accept your lousy puzzle. About as exciting as a sappy rom-com that ends with Hugh Grant getting the girl.

Hat tip to the commenter who pointed out that RISOTTO is not simmered. A pot of broth simmers next to the pot you cook your risotto in. Risotto is about stirring, near continuously, for 20 minutes or so as you add the broth to the rice, one ladle at a time. At least that's the way I make it. Maybe the constructor knows an easier American way whose plural ends in S?

Anonymous 11:32 AM  

Your Italian intuitions are correct, Rex. Words that end in -o change to ending in -i when they're pluralized.

Anonymous 11:37 AM  

I don't pay attention to possible pangrams but you made me look. I did not see a K.

Joe Dipinto 11:49 AM  

Blue, navy blue
I'm as blue as I can be
'Cause my steady boy said "Ship ahoy!"
And joined the nay-ee-ay-vee


Wait, this puzzle is about tennis? I thought it was about Italian sailors.

The revealer clue needs to simulate a vocal inflection to land properly. Because you already have "about espionage," "about street dancers," "about teens," and (sort-of) "about Christmas" in the main clues. As is, the revealer just thuds into its sad little corner. You need "...what they sound like they could be about," or some such, to bring it home.

The only one of these movies I've actually seen is "Love, Actually". 20a I don't know at all, the other two I'm at least aware they exist.

But here's something weird: the theme reminded me of the mimed tennis match sequence at the end of Antonioni's 1966 film "Blow-Up", a film I always liked but haven't seen in awhile. In googling it to check a detail, I discovered that my local theater is having a screening of it **this**very**evening**! So I know what I'll be doing later. (But I won't walk home through Prospect Park afterward -- don't wanna discover a dead body.)

Anonymous 11:52 AM  

Me Mum had a bunch of 10" LPs of The Vienna Boys' Choir, which she played. a lot. it was only much later that I realized I'd dodged a bullet.

Masked and Anonymous 11:52 AM  

Looks like The Blorg has been doin software updates to the comment section. At first, couldn't bring it up at all, becuz of some sorta security error. On the next try got er to come up, but no avatars displayed, and the Leave Your Comment box is the size & shape of a postage stamp. This may foreshadow the M&A's inability to play in this sandbox, I fear. [Has already happened elsewhere, as I can't afford a brand new uptosnuff computer.] Oh well ...

Cool debut puz. Thanx and congratz, Mr. Grinberg.

Masked & Anonymo6Us


Doug Garr 11:53 AM  

Liked it more than I disliked it. Took me awhile to solve; a perfect degree of difficulty for a Wednesday. I still don't know WTF 22A was....? I was anxious to see what Michael thought of it and wasn't surprised that he gave it a meh to negative. I didn't see any of the films, but I had a vague idea of their titles, so it was overall more enjoyable than not. Some fine answers, like ACOUSTICS, HATEMAIL, and SATORI. It took me awhile to get RISOTTO, even though I cook it regularly. But CASTRATI had me flummoxed, and still does.

kitshef 11:54 AM  

@Nancy - POINT BREAK gives you a double.
DEUCE Bigalow: Male Gigolo
LET it be

Moe 11:57 AM  

The clue for STOOGE seems demeaning to the millions of hard working and productive underlings. LBJ was an underling to JFK but he didn’t box his ears and poke him in the eye.

Joseph M 12:03 PM  

Congrats to Daniel on his debut. Nice job of adding a check mark to your bucket list.

Not much of a TENNIS player here and am not familiar with three of the four titles cited, so the theme didn’t do a lot for me. But I had a good time with the grid overall.

We seem to have had a lot of chasms and abysses in the puzzle lately and now a RAVINE. Perhaps there’s some kind of metaphor going on there.

CASTRATI doesn’t pass the breakfast test but it sure is a reminder that things today could be a lot worse. Were high notes really that important in olden times?

SYN and FEB may be junk fill but both were offset by great clues. Also liked HATE MAIL and its clue. But the highlight of the puzzle had to be SNOG.

Anonymous 12:05 PM  

@anon:
our Al Gore "I invented the internet."

will that Right Wing lie ever go away? he never said it. he did say "I took the initiative in creating the Internet." that was in reference to his work in Congress.

... Vint Cerf and Bob Kahn, who stated, "No one in public life has been more intellectually engaged in helping to create the climate for a thriving Internet than the Vice President."

[the wiki, if you care to look it up]

and he wrote and got passed much legislation which supported the beginnings of the internet.

Joe Dipinto 12:05 PM  

@SouthsideJohnny -- you are absolutely correct about risotto and I was tempted to comment on that myself. You keep the broth or liquid that you need to add continuously at a simmer so it stays warm, but no one would say that the rice in the pot is being simmered.

They just don't know.

What? 12:08 PM  

I too have had maybe a half dozen or more puzzles rejected, some with reasons I objected to. I was told (not by Shortz), you shouldn’t argue with the editor because after all he is the editor. Some fills were rejected even though they were used in Shortz-era puzzles (Shortz said he’s always trying to make the puzzles better).
I feel a little better, and so should you, recalling that Shortz receives about 150 submissions a week. He can afford to be particular.

Masked and Anonymous 12:10 PM  

p.s.
Yo! On third try, after re-loading everything, old comment section was back to normal. Phew! Scared the M&A. Now hopin all is A-OK.

Four themers and a TENNIS revealer. Appropriate, what with the US Open just gettin started, in NYC.
Generally, real nice fillins abounded. Did lose a few precious nanoseconds at first -- due to SNOG, which just won't stick in my brain's xword lobe. CASTRATI was also an oucher, up there. fave fillins included: HEREIAM. LUSITANIA. ALJOLSON. SALOON. CORGI.

staff weeject pick: RIT. A few hints of desperation in some other weejects (ENE, SST, SEL), but mostly ok. Always a good sign.

Didn't know/recall SATORI, but it does have the Patrick Berry Usage Immunity. (Really miss old PB1's NYTPuzs on Fridays. Is he too busy now, with that steady New Yorker puzgig?)

M&Also


kinda wild:
**gruntz**

JC66 12:12 PM  

@Emily 11:25

Durante sang "Inka Dinka DOO" and said "Good night Mrs. Calabash, wherever you are."

Varys 12:25 PM  

@GILL.I, CASTRATI must have the evil deed done before puberty. I, Varys, am a eunuch and since the evil deed was done after puberty...my singing voice is likely characterized as no higher than tenor.

brendal 12:26 PM  

That and Pong.

brendal 12:27 PM  

Me too.

xyz 12:30 PM  

meh with a lowercase m

jae 12:30 PM  

Medium. It would have been easy if I hadn’t needed to stare at the “United, for one” clue for precious nanoseconds (Hi m&a - this seems like your type of clue).

Pretty good Wed., liked it.

Z 12:51 PM  

@Anon9:44 - Interesting. So even if we accept that a movie that grossed $50 million domestically in 1995 was a widely popular then (dubious at best since it was 35th on the list of domestic grosses back then) that hardly makes THE NET widely popular, or even remembered much, in 2019. THE FAULT IN OUR STARS did somewhat better, but by this metric is less memorable than Lucy. As for YOU GOT SERVED, 73rd. LOVE ACTUALLY is a holiday regular now, but not so much in 2003. None of these movies were especially popular when they came out and time has not been kind to these movies. 'Tis true, one of us doesn't know what they are talking about.

tea73 12:54 PM  

I had a client tell me earlier this week she was superbusy because the Tennis Open was about to begin, so I caught on to the tennis theme early on.

I'm always surprised at what people don't know. LOVE ACTUALLY was a huge hit starring Hugh Grant at his cutest. I've seen it several times. THE FAULT IS IN OUR STARS was a bestselling YA novel before it was a movie. I haven't read or seen it, but it was, I would have thought impossible to avoid hearing about. Only vaguely remembered the other two movies, but the crosses were easy.

I had the hardest time seeing SYN, but thought the clue was great once I got it.

Flew through in record time - though still just under 3x Rex.

old timer 12:55 PM  

Now I figure if I put in the right answer and then Google it, my solve remains at least technically a virgin, and I do not award myself a DNF (unless of course I Google and am forced to make a change). Such was the case with ALLOY as I was totally at a loss to explain SYN. When I found the explanation here, I was tempted to slap myself and do a Homer Simpson (D'OH!).

CASTRATI were definitely created to create a career for boy soprani. The practice was at its peak in the early 1700's. A castrato would develop the lung power of a grown man, but retain the vocal range of a boy. Of course everyone, including the Popes, knew the practice was contrary to God's law. OK and routine then and now to castrate animals, but not human beings (except as part of an ornate and gruesome method of capital punishment, it seems). So the Popes, before the reunification of Italy in 1870, were rather deliberately obscure about the practice. The ever-curious Dr Burney, Johnson's good friend, traveled around Italy trying to find out were and how CASTRATI were produced, and no one would tell him. The attitude of the Popes of the day was, if CASTRATI presented themselves, they could be used in the Papal choirs, and best not to ask how they got that way -- maybe their parents did it themselves (and apparently that did happen).

Anonymous 1:16 PM  

According to Bon Appetit: re Risotto

"Keep stock at a simmer in a small pan so everything stays hot and cooks evenly. Stirring the rice constantly will add air into the risotto, cooling it down and making it gluey. But if you don't stir enough, the rice will stick to the bottom and burn. ... Risotto should have body, but not be overly mushy and starchy."

Teedmn 1:19 PM  

@Nancy, towards the end of your comment, those puns got quite groan-ish, nice! I like The bLOB the best. And @kitshef, also nice contributions.

I must have been reading 12D's clue as Austin-from-Boston direction because I splatzed in SSW and said, "What?" in a surly mental voice when nothing worked in the across direction. Sheesh.

I also had a homophone thing going on at 21D. Greek king/monkey name, tried to fit in "Creosus". Got to CreSUS" and rethought the monkey part. I don't remember hearing about King RHESUS but CreoSUS was close enough to get me there.

Daniel Ginberg, congratulations on your debut.

pabloinnh 1:23 PM  

Boy, the stuff you learn in the comments. Yesterday I found out I was "desirable and sexy", because of a resemblance to Howdy Doody(hi GILL I.), and today is "How to Cook Risotto Day". Can hardly wait for tomorrow.

I've always sung first tenor and have no desire to sing anything higher, thanks anyway. Over the course of thirty years of singing do-wop, our bass now has a higher falsetto than my own. I discover that this is not unusual, but is another "how did that happen" moment in the aging process. So be it.

Thought the puzzle was fine, of course any puzzle that includes SNOG is aces with me.

Thanks for the fun, DG, and I applaud your perseverance.

GILL I. 1:39 PM  

@pmdm and @Castro...I knew I'd heard about the last CASTRATo living and his Ave Maria rendition. I had to look it up; his name was Alessandro Moreschi. He died in 1922. The rendition isn't that good but I was amazed I even remembered it......!
My brother directed the Mannes Camerata and his specialty was Baroque and Renaissance operas. In order to keep them as authentic as possible he needed good countertenors or sopranists. He didn't want to dress a female in a mans clothing if he could avoid it. He was fortunate in that two of his best students were very good sopranists. A rarity. There are two that have appeared in singing duets that have the pitch...I'll let you listen here: ROBERT CROWE AND BRIAN ASAWA

A Moderator 2:27 PM  

@Deleted Anonymous - Try again without the name calling.

Anonymous 2:31 PM  

@Deleted Anon was just calling a spade a spade.

JC66 2:33 PM  

@Z

In case you missed it, the deleted post refuted your 122:51 argument.

Anonymous 2:37 PM  

@JC66
Pretty well I thought.

Anonymous 2:58 PM  

To the good Sir Z,

May I invite you to reconsider your argument. Please note that you graciously provide a link to the US box office receipts for Love Actually. But my good man, I cited the Worldwide receipts which are vastly larger. And for good reason, The film is by the English, about the English and set in, dare I say it, England. You can imagine how that would have a bearing on its worldwide popularity. The popularity I spoke of originally.

The Fault in our Stars is so popular a book its fans refer to it by initialism. So popular, Hollywood made a movie. And it was a huge success.
here are the dazzling numbers
Domestic:
$124,872,350
40.7%
+ Foreign:
$182,294,484
59.3%

= Worldwide:
$307,166,834

Domestic Summary
Opening Weekend:
$48,002,523
(#1 rank, 3,173 theaters, $15,128 average)

That's boffo by any standard my frisbee-flinging friend.

I beg you to reconsider your analysis of The NEt as well. It's true that it ranked only 35th in box office. Which is pretty great actually. and positively stupendous when you consider that 280 films have box office receipts as measured by the Academy of motion picture Arts and sciences.

I hope this post finds you in good health and of course, meets with the moderator's approval.

Sincerely,

a cinephile

pmdm 3:30 PM  

GILL I: Sounds like you are referring to the same recording as myself, although I forgot which music was recorded.

For the interested, it is the Bach/Gounod version. For the really curious, here is a link to it. (Sorry I don't have time to use HTML, so just copy and paste the link into your browser.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KLjvfqnD0ws

He did record other stuff. For the really interested, try this.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VoziXGJmckw

Will we ever see this as a crossword clue: "Last castrato." Never in the NYT, not even on Saturday, unless all the crosses are extremely getable.

Z 3:41 PM  

@Anonymous Cinephile - Touché. I must say I respect the deep sarcasm in your post. Nicely done. Not that you've changed my mind...

Please consider that $300,000,000 divided by 7 billion people is evidence of being less widely popular than $50,000,000 divided by 300 million people. Sure, you have doubled your numerator but your denominator increased by a factor of over 20. There are lots of reasons for this, but in the end neither number really supports that any of these films have ever been, or are currently, "widely" popular.

None of these themers make the list of truly widely popular movies (and Gone with the Wind is laughing at the very idea that these films are "widely popular"). I think the best finish for the year released was 25th highest grossing, so I'm guesstimating that, over 100+ years of cinema, the most popular themer would only make the top 3,000 grossing films ever (adjusted for inflation like in the link). Perhaps you've watched 3,000 films. I sure haven't.

Okay - I'm pretty sure we are at the point of boring everyone else. This is absolutely positively my last post today. You're welcome.

Laugher 4:17 PM  

Rex obviously does not play or never played tennis. Serve, fault, love all tennis terms. He always seems to hate what is not familiar to him. Very closed minded.

Anonymous 4:57 PM  

@Z:
Please consider that $300,000,000 divided by 7 billion people is evidence of being less widely popular than $50,000,000 divided by 300 million people.

c'mon Z, RoW doesn't actually mean all 7 or 8 billion. it means, Europe, a bit of Asia, and a bit of South America. just defending the army of anonymice.

JOHN X 5:00 PM  

LOVE ACTUALLY is the most terrible movie I've ever seen and I've seen a movie starring Joey Travolta. In fact, I was dared to watch it by a friend; it was so bad it was fascinating in the same way watching a fully loaded airliner crash is.

Ten minutes into this movie I ACTUALLY HATED every single character in it. Seriously! That's quite an achievement by the filmmakers, considering that most of the actors are quite good in other films.

This movie is like a chemistry set where a bunch of otherwise benign ingredients are mixed together to form a toxic poison that bubbles and hisses and melts the glass beaker and burns through the table and through the floor and the floor below that and into the basement and it burns through the concrete foundation and just keeps going and then the Chinese start complaining about it.

Anonymous 5:11 PM  

@JOHN X:
This movie is like a chemistry set where a bunch of otherwise benign ingredients are mixed together to form a toxic poison that bubbles and hisses and melts the glass beaker and burns through the table and through the floor and the floor below that and into the basement and it burns through the concrete foundation and just keeps going and then the Chinese start complaining about it.

you have to be a geezer! it's been decades since a chemistry set had any active chemicals. I had a Gilbert set that did. and, yes, that was decades ago. I didn't burn through to China, but pretty close.

JOHN X 5:36 PM  

Do any of you ever drink tea? English tea? Perhaps you like to add a small spoonful of granulated sugar to your nice cup of English tea.

Now, instead of filling your tea cup with tea, fill it to the brim with granulated sugar and then pour all that into your mouth and try to swallow it.

That's what watching LOVE ACTUALLY is like.

GILL I. 7:21 PM  

Thanks @JOHN X. I just looked at a trailer of LOVE ACTUALLY. Harry is a jerk. I'd be mad, too, if I were the Chinese.
Thanks for saving me the desire to watch it......

Mohair Sam 9:08 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Adam F 9:22 PM  

Well, I didn’t love SYN as an answer but I sure loved its clue - very clever misdirection, I thought. Otherwise I enjoyed it more than @Rex did, and didn’t have the same issues he did. I also think the revealer works better than he did; put them together and they could be about TENNIS (which I got after having only two of the themers - FAULT IN OUR STARS and the LOVE part of LOVE, ACTUALLY). I thought it was a perfectly serviceable Wednesday.

Joe 9:51 PM  

I feel that the true word of the day is PROROGUE.

spacecraft 10:36 AM  

For a debut, this looks pretty good. I too finished in the SW, but certainly didn't "need every cross" to come up with TENNIS. Did OFC not even read the clue? Up to then I hadn't seen any connection to the film titles, so there was a small aha moment there.

The fill also looked worked-on rather than slapped in. A rough spot here and there, but nothing to get in a twist about. Some nice stuff; some not-so-nice (looking at--and feeling--you, 5-down!) DOD has to be Iggy AZALEA, no? YEA.

Awaiting the next Grinberg with a grin; birdie.

Burma Shave 12:13 PM  

STOOGE OUTED

YOUGOTSERVED BYLAW, INLINE with this NIT:
YES, on THENET we saw THE HATEMAIL YOU RIT.

--- AZALEA CASTRATI

rondo 2:31 PM  

I’ve seen THENET and LOVE,ACTUALLY. The former OK, the latter as bad as ‘The Big Chill’ or ‘Terms of Endearment (which should be renamed ‘Tears of Interment”), both of which sucked IMHO. @JOHNX was on the right trail.

Both of my paternal grandparents came to this country on the LUSITANIA, on different voyages. My grandmother was reprimanded for emigrating to this country by her cousin, Greta Garbo (yeah baby).

Decent TENNIS puz.

leftcoast 2:56 PM  

Simple theme, tougher fill. Guess that makes for a medium, but with a couple of sharp edges.

Will put the one error up front: Had never heard of WRY as "twisted", and its crossing PROSe as PROSY just didn't compute. Which left the obviously odd-ball WRE. So beat me with the dried-out WET NOODLE from the other day.

Plenty of more challenging and interesting stuff nicely filled out the rest of the puzzle.

rainforest 3:25 PM  

It seems there is a group of people on here who only want to see words that imbue them with positive feelings, joy, SATORI even. To them, anything that makes them wince or otherwise have negative feelings shouldn't be in a puzzle. Given the variety of people and their likes/dislikes one can only imagine the horrible effect on word lists if the mere appearance of a word becomes anathema. Too many people just love to read nefarious intentions into a clue or answer I don't understand it.

Ah, we had a puzzle today, one I liked, and as a debut an excellent example of careful construction and consideration for the solver. The themers, as a group, actually do make one think they could be about TENNIS, as the revealer suggests. I knew 3 of the 4 movies, and if I knew, they must have been reasonably successful. Anyway, I didn't FLAIL while solving, and I really enjoyed it.
PS AL JOLSON did *not* make me think of "blackface".

rondo 4:11 PM  

If ALJOLSON would have married Myrna Loy would he have been ALLLOY JOLSON?

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