Bridge scorecard heading / THU 10-24-19 / Heiress of Hartfield in 1816 novel / Totally dope in dated slang

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Constructor: Matt Ginsberg

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: "Nothing" — the word is absent from the front end of ten answers ... so I guess it's represented literally in the grid:

Theme answers:
  • BUT THE BEST (18A: When prefixed with 72-Across, what a friend wishes for you)
  • TO SNEEZE AT (20A: ... A matter worth considering)
  • TO WEAR (24A: ... Plaint upon going through one's closet)
  • MUCH (38A: ... A small amount)
  • TO IT (42A: ... "Piece of cake!")
  • BURGER (52A: ... Dud)
  • UP MY SLEEVE (57A: ... Magician's claim)
  • LEFT BEHIND (63A: ... Surgeon's goal) ("left behind" as in "instruments or other foreign matter left behind inside the patient")
  • BUT NET (4D: ... "Swish")
  • IS EASY (51D: ... "Keep at it!")
Word of the Day: ALTA (8D: Ski area in the Wasatch Mountains)
Alta is a ski area in the western United States, located in the town of Alta in the Wasatch Mountains of Utah, in Salt Lake County. With a skiable area of 2,614 acres (10.58 km2), Alta's base elevation is 8,530 ft (2,600 m) and rises to 11,068 ft (3,374 m) for a vertical gain of 2,538 ft (774 m). One of the oldest ski resorts in the country, it opened its first lift in early 1939. Alta is known for receiving more snow than most Utah resorts, with an average annual snowfall of 545 inches (13.8 m). Alta is one of three remaining ski resorts in the U.S. that prohibits snowboarders, along with nearby competitor Deer Valleyand Vermont's Mad River Glen. (wikipedia)
• • •

This was very easy, and I can see how a solver might be thrilled to get the gimmick easily and then have that EDGE of knowing the first word heading into every theme clue. So there's the pleasure of "Ha, got it!" I don't see what other pleasure there is, though, and I'm once again stunned that anyone thought that the best thing to do with a bland, one-note theme was to make it Super Dense, thereby ruining the possibility that the non-theme stuff might be interesting. Constructors often get up in their own heads, setting challenges for themselves that have absolutely [...] to do with solver enjoyment. In fact, theme density often works directly against grid sparkle. Here, nothing goes terribly wrong, but we endure a ton of dry old short stuff so that all those "nothing" phrases can get in there. If the theme was inherently delightful, it might be worth it to have nothing terribly interesting going on outside the theme, and to have to slog through your typical slate of crosswordese: ELAL AGRA MINH VIOL STENO etc. Even the slang is musty (PHAT, ROFL). But whatever whimsical delight one might've felt at uncovering a few on-the-money "nothing" phrases is undone by the cramming in of less delightful, merely plausible ones. Good possibilities like ___ DOING and ___ IN COMMON and, I don't know, "___ COMPARES 2 U" are absent while "___ IS EASY" (!?!?) and "___ TO WEAR" somehow make the cut. The cluing concept is messed up, too. If I read the clues like a damn menu, then yeah, I guess I'd see the first Across clue first. But like most humans I start in the NW, where A. I saw the first Down themer first (___ BUT NET), and B. even if I had seen the Across themer in that section first, it wouldn't have been the first one, since the first Across themer—the initial clue that introduces all the other ellipsis-fronted theme clues—actually occupies the upper right part of the grid. Anyway, I got ___ BUT NET within a few seconds, then ___ TO SNEEZE AT, then just filled in most of the rest of them. Got every one of them with no additional help except ___ LEFT BEHIND and "___ IS EASY."

Five things:
  • 70A: Bridge scorecard heading (THEY) — honestly thought I had an error. Never played bridge. Not once. Never. Never seen a bridge scorecard. Thought maybe people played bridge at THE "Y" ??? So apparently the headings on the scorecard are "WE" and "THEY," which ... seems precious and strange. But it's your game, not my game, so enjoy it. THEY!
  • 2D: "Little ___ in Slumberland" (early comic) (NEMO) — easily my favorite part of the puzzle, just because I enjoy remembering how stunning this comic is. Winsor McCay's epic dreamscapes were just about the best thing that's ever appeared in the brightly-colored Sunday comics section. Kid falls asleep and has fantastical, often frightening dreams, and then (usually) ends up waking up in a heap on the floor in the final panel. For example... 
  • 52D: Comforts (BALMS) — had the "B" and wanted "BABY...S?" Maybe BOONS. Definitely not BALMS, which are for lips (though this clue is perfectly accurate, of course).
  • 60D: Heiress of Hartfield, in an 1816 novel (EMMA) — me, with "E" In place: "EYRE!" (Those who have read both novels will realize how incredibly bad a guess this is)
  • 61D: Popular Renaissance instrument (VIOL) — "Popular?" I mean ... you'd think [Renaissance instrument] would be enough. I mean, really, what do you mean by "popular"? How many people actually played VIOL? I demand statistics! Anyway, I wrote in LYRE at first, I think.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Lewis 5:48 AM  

Matt, I'm glad you forged ahead with this. After all, * ventured, * gained; * to fear but fear itself, * to lose, and all that. I know you strive for * but the best, and you hit it with some lovely cluing (TURNS, MAE, SALAD, NOTES) and a terrific new fact for me, regarding the HIPPO. The theme was * short of packed in there; indeed, ELSE and HELPS, IMO, could have been theme answers as well. I had a great time with this, and thank you.

There may be some who say that your creation is * to write home about, but I say to them "* doing! My opinion has * in common with yours!" This puzzle was enjoyable and smooth, * runs like a Deere, * but the best, and all that. Enjoy your accolades today, Matt, because as you well know, in Crossworld, a puzzle's fame usually endures no longer than a day. Alas, * lasts forever.

Flying Pediatrician 6:06 AM  

I was delighted by NOTHINGBURGER. In the medical field, we use it to describe a lab/imaging finding that’s not clinically significant or a case that’s trumped-up to be particularly challenging that turns out to be easily-resolved. I am *very* careful not to use it when talking to patients, but it has so many applications in daily life. Quick Thursday; * not to like.

FromLeaves 6:11 AM  


Z 6:16 AM  

Solved this online last night (early morning vet visit on today’s agenda) and finished in 12:10 without trying for speed. Definitely easy. I liked it more than Rex because I thought the missing {nothing} ploy was fun. I was surprised to realize that we had ten themers. As @Lewis points out, there’s probably enough material available for a Sunday puzzle. I wonder if the cluing was made easier because of the conceit. I’ve done puzzles before that have gone from impossible to easy once the conceit clicks. Like Rex I got it early which certainly made it easy going forward. But if needing “nothing” to make the theme answers work doesn’t click early I imagine this would be more of a challenge.

The clue for MILER seemed off to me. I don’t know quite where a distance becomes “long” but one mile ain’t it. In high school our cross country warm-ups were usually two miles. I might buy 5K as a “long run”
but tend to lean to a run having to be at least 8K (roughly five miles) to be considered “long.” If someone shows up and saying at least 10K or a half-marathon I wouldn’t gainsay them.

HIN TAT: replacement term for “tramp stamp?” Which reminds me that it took me a couple precious nanoseconds to reparse {nothing} BUTT HE BEST.

Anyone else wondering if a tuna burger is a {nothing}BURGER?

Sarah 6:18 AM  

I did not know the answer to 41D, and for an interval thought it was DObISDAm.

Hungry Mother 6:25 AM  

Loved this one and flew through it until a misspelled SLEaVE had me staring at the grid for too long. I shot an M-1 in Basic Training in the Army and later had a Carbine and M-14 in later posts. I’m lucky I can still hear, since we didn’t have any ear protection in those good old days.

Brian 6:34 AM  

Easy, light and fun puzzle for a Thursday. "Hippo" was great for Whale's relative.

Hungry Mother 6:37 AM  

Long runs start at 10M and go to 50K for me as yet. I’m doing an interesting double in Cape May the weekend with a 5K at 8pm Friday and a half marathon at 7:30am Saturday.

Music Man 7:04 AM  

I liked the clue for 9D: Wild West

amyyanni 7:14 AM  

Mile is not a long run, agreed. About to go run 6 miles before work. Today I very much enjoyed learning about Nemo in Slumberland. Going to Google it later to see more. Decent puzzle but slightly disappointing for Thursday.

Irene 7:14 AM  

What is ROFL? 35D?

kitshef 7:29 AM  

NOTHING LEFT BEHIND seems like an awfully modest goal for a surgeon. Like "don't poison the customers" for a restaurant or "don't kill the family dog" for an exterminator.

Jeff LYNNE – one of two surviving Traveling Wilburys. Who can name the other?

OffTheGrid 7:33 AM  

MILER was recently clued as "middle distance runner"

three of clubs 7:35 AM  

If you have * good to say come sit by me.

JB in VT 7:40 AM  

I had LEFT INSIDE for 63A and liked the cluing and answer so much that I was at sea when I saw that it had to be LEFT BEHIND. Huh? Uh, did the surgeon excise the entire left buttock? (Earlier on I had entertained some off-color explications of BUTNET and BUTTHEBEST—both of which I filled in via crosses before I spotted the gimmick—so I had butts on the brain.) Or maybe we were talking about some stuff this surgeon forgot to bring into the office that day? The prepositional precision of my imagined answer rendered the vagueness of the actual one disappointing... especially since “left inside” is clearly what was meant.

Z 7:45 AM  

@kitshef - The most-over-rated one. As for {nothing} LEFT BEHIND, I have no problem with reminding surgeons that this is a goal. Let’s not assume, let’s make sure.

@Irene - “Rolling On the Floor Laughing.” For when LOL doesn’t express how amusing you find something. I’ll let you figure out what LMFAO might mean when expressing that something was funny.

Anonymous 7:48 AM  

Kitshef: Bob Dylan

Nampa bob 7:58 AM  

Dang... what a great group that was.

Suzie Q 8:04 AM  

Top half very easy but I had a few stumbles in the bottom. Boiled, tier, and calms messed me up. All in all too easy for a Thursday but still fun. I can see that the comments today will be filled with everyone's own ideas and so far have been pretty good.
Rex did not mention the clue for 18A. I guess that is the revealer since there is no 72A. That was the best clue in the puzzle for me.

Kitty 8:07 AM  

Rolling on the floor laughing

davidm 8:17 AM  

This was a missed opportunity, imo. It’s a clever idea, but once I caught on, the answers wrote themselves. I think a better way to do this would be to make each prefix an implied synonym of NOTHING, with no synonym used more than once. So you could have had [NOTHING] BURGER, but also [ABSENT] WITHOUT LEAVE, [VOID] WHERE PROHIBITED, [MISSING] IN ACTION, [GONE] WITH THE WIND, [EMPTY] SET, etc. It certainly seems that would have been more challenging, and a more rewarding solve.

Karl Grouch 8:18 AM  

Tuesday-easy, imo.

Fun gimmick but once you get it, you're on auto mode.

Plus, given the zillions of possibilities that it offers, the theme answers should all be chosen (and clued) with a much more generous dose of spice.

Where have all the good thymes gone?

@Z: some re-reparsing for me too ( read answer to 10d as meaning spanish graceful adieu..)

Jstarrracewalker 8:19 AM  

To establish a baseline for my comments: I saw the movie Calamity Jane when it came out in 1953. At this age, I find myself wondering how I should feel about having had no idea what “totally dope” means, let alone “ROFL”. As for “phat”: since it’s already “dated “, maybe I didn’t miss anything while it came and went.

Nancy 8:42 AM  

When I got to "72-across" and didn't find the NOTHING I was looking for -- in fact, didn't find anything at all -- I laughed out loud. How many revealers have ever made me laugh out loud? What a funny, imaginative, playful hoot of a puzzle! I thank you for it, Matt.

I got the NOTHING theme at [NOTHING] TO WEAR (24A). And then I was truly able to begin solving, because many, many answers could not be figured out without knowing the theme. Still, the puzzle remained crunchy -- especially in the SW where I had TIER for "Level" and not TRUE. So what on earth was the "Dud", crossed by either cALMS or BALMS for "Comforts"? BURGEI? CURGEI? Finally, [NOTHING] UP MY SLEEVE gave me the U of TRUE, giving me [NOTHING]BURGER.

A delightful puzzle that was much fun to solve. I had a wonderful time.

GILL I. 8:59 AM  

Come to think of it, I don't ever remember rolling on the floor laughing. Do human beings actually do that?
Easy squeezy, lemony peasy. Hah. I made that up.
See, I always give myself a good hour for a head scratcher Thursday. I make a good cup of JAVA and take my time. I also get up and water the plants, walk the pups, do some ironing and wash dishes. Today went so fast that the coffee is still waiting for me to pour the hot water into my French press. Alas.
Still...enjoyable and cute.
OK, so my grandmother taught me how to play bridge. I haven't played in EONS. I was never that good but Nana was patient with me especially when I'd start my bid with four no trump. Blackwood would call it 4NT. It never worked. So I come here to tell you that THEY was my last entry. I was really looking for an east/west because north/south didn't fit. Get the tricks?
Anyway, today's trick came to light with TO SNEEZE AT. I had all the downs and then "nothing" but my best brains cells came alive. I smiled a bit.
Do people really ELBOW OUT? I wish STUD had been clued with a muffin but I'm glad the HIPPO is related to the whale. I'm sure I grew up with ASBESTOS and I'm still alive. I also grew up without seat belts and washing my hands. I just noticed TOW EAR. I think I may need that.

StevieO 9:22 AM  


David 9:27 AM  

Bob Dylan. Sigh ... I miss George, Tom, and Roy.

JOHN X 9:33 AM  

@ GILL I. 8:59 AM

I once rolled on the floor laughing. I was drunk, high, and hallucinating at the time. This was some years ago.

Banya 9:38 AM  

Easiest Thursday in a while. Loved the aha moment early on, and it definitely helped me breeze through the rest of the themers/grid.

CDilly52 9:45 AM  

I started in on this one as I frequently do, late at night snuggled under a blanket on the couch with my Avatar/“OC” (Orange Cat) purring up a storm parked on top of me somewhere. I say parked very deliberately. Some cats “perch” at the readiness for any eventuality. And at appropriate times throughout the day, OC perches in partial “meatloaf” pose or sitting perfectly straight like an Egyptian pharaoh’s familiar, straight up, tail wrapped with precision around her bum and in front of her perfectly posed front paws. But at “couch time”, nothing doing. She turns over the home security detail to her sister cat, Pip (and their “Changing of the Guard” at Chez Dillingham is another story entirely) and she waits to see that I am settled in “position to receive” as my husband used to say. She walks up and down my body testing for just the right spot, circles, half squats, circles again deciding which of her gloriously marked orange sides needs the rest most. Upon making that important decision, she begins to knead me. Even with clipped claws, when a cat starts to “knead the bread” one must have a blanket or perhaps a tarp as protection. OC kneads like her very life depends upon it. Who knows, it might! Once the spot is chosen and prepared, she doesn’t gently relax downward, oh no, she drops like a rock, stretches her front legs out straight for just a couple extra kneads and let’s out this squealy-groany-purrish exhaling sound that I interpret as “aaaaaaaaahhhhh!” She looms right at me using her flat-eyebrowed Starr to say,”OK, now no wiggling, go ahead and read,” and we do. After reading we do the puzzle. She has a schedule.

Last night we had been reading, OC and I (you can tell from her photo she is an avid reader) and she alerted me that it must be puzzle time. Right on the button, between midnight and 12:15 she hops down, stretches both directions-loooongways and the perfect Halloween Cat arched back stretch, goes to her bowl to make sure her midnight snack is there, crunches through a couple of her “toothbrush” cat treats always placed beside the food bowl and upon ascertaining that everything is as it should be, climbs back up to help me solve the NYTXW. All was well indeed.

The NW corner fell in and I just ignored the first theme spot at 20A simply “because” and moved smoothly on. Got to 18A, saw “ nothing there” at the mythical 72A, understood the theme and. . . promptly fell asleep.

Slept for about an hour as far as I can tell because the timer was running. I had fallen asleep with the app open. Woke up, did my own stretch, finished off the puzzle quickly and got the congratulatory “ta-da” music at 1:14. So we made fairly quick work of this one, OC and I, in spite of my nap. And a good time was had by all.

I don’t think that this means I was bored, just tired. Enjoyed the Thursday-ness of it. Was it too easy? Who am I to say? Finished it off and OC and I changed venue as we say in the legal biz and moved into the bedroom for the “main sleep,” a phrase my daughter invented to distinguish it from the dreaded and mandatory day school afternoon nap. I reflected upon my goofy, wordy family and how very much I love them and am loved in return. What more does one really need?

puzzlehoarder 9:50 AM  

Almost Wednesday easy. The them didn't reveal itself until muh of the upper two thirds of the puzzles' fill went in. I can't recall exactly which themer was the breakthrough but after that the puzzle was a pushover. I didn't have to read the clue for 57A as the phrase was recognizable from a few letters.

Dorothy Biggs 9:53 AM  

"Six months later, I heard that Karp had died. And I dug right down to the bottom of my soul...and cried. 'Cuz I felt...nothing." -- A Chorus Line (one of the best musicals ever) Supposedly there is a song sung from the perspective of Mr. Karp who describes his take/perspective on Diana Morales in his class. Evidently (at least according to THAT song), she was indeed a terrible student.

The artwork in McCay's comic is always makes me wonder how humanity has seemed to devolve through the years...From Shakespeare to Adam Sandler, from Windsor McCay to CalArts. From the eloquence of Abraham Lincoln to the stream of consciousness word salad guy we have as president today. Is it purely anti-intellectualism? Is it laziness? I'm not sure, but it's amazing how the artwork of a comic from 1905 can be so refined, deep, and so satisfying to look at and study...but comics from the 2010s are just one step better than stick figures. How did we come this far? (That's a rhetorical question...)

In The Neverending Story, RockBiter tries to describe the disappearance of the lake where he was there one day and then it was gone. The others ask if had dried up, he says it just wasn't there. There was no hole, that would be something. Great movie.

Given that moment from the Neverending Story, and upon further review, I would've liked a more creative use of "nothing" there would be a string of boxes that had nothing in them...or something. I dunno...philosophically there is a lot to the concept of "nothing." Surely there is a more interesting and inventive way to incorporate that into a puzzle.

David 10:11 AM  

Bob Dylan. Sigh ... I miss George, Tom, and Roy.

Unknown 10:12 AM  

When I was 5 years old, my 2-year-old brother stuck raisins up his nose and couldn't get them out. My best friend and I literally fell off the sofa and rolled on the floor laughing. Good times.

Michael Fleischmann 10:21 AM  

I liked this one, too. Took me a while to understand “nothing burger.”

Newboy 10:27 AM  

Once I got 72A I didn’t have MUCH to do. Sigh! But I did Guffaw😘

Ethan Taliesin 10:34 AM  

Little NEMO was a favorite of mine and had beautifully printed, oversized paperback collection of the slumberland series that I cherished when I was growing up. He had a cute little princess girlfriend and a "friend" named Flip. Flip was a cigar-smoking guy who was a terrible influence on Little Nemo. I refuse to even look at the newer versions of Little Nemo because the illustration/cartooning is an affront to my artistic sensibilities. McCay or go home.

Also, check out "Dreams of the Rarebit Fiend," also by Winsor McCay. It's similarly strange but this time the dreamer is a grown man. His dreams are weird distortions of often more adult situations, like dinner parties and business meetings. It's weird, wonderful stuff.

RAREBIT (a cheese-drenched toast dish) has appeared in the grid before.

Carola 10:37 AM  

I'm in the section of the commenting Venn diagram where "Easy, theme-wise" overlaps with "Slowdown in the lower tier." I got the NOTHING part early, but only by the luck of pattern recognition at B_TT_E_EST. From there, things proceeded smoothly line by line until I ran out of NOTHING ideas where BURGER would eventually go. So, square by square from there to YALE.
I enjoyed the parallel body-part entries at ELBOW OUT and HANGS TEN. Also cute, as @JB in VT mentioned, the parallel BUTT and BEHIND.

@davidm, 8:17 - I like your idea!
@CDilly - I loved your post.

Anonymous 10:41 AM  

You have to like some. You can't be a food critic and say all food is bad. What is there to aspire to, if all food is bad?

Nancy 10:51 AM  

@davidm (8:17) -- Nifty themer suggestions for what would have been a much more challenging puzzle. But it would have had to run on Saturday, methinks.

You strike me as someone who comes up with really well-thought-out puzzle ideas. Perhaps you should consider creating a puzzle. Can't construct a grid, you say? Neither can I and that hasn't stopped me. I've been fortunate enough to work with one of the most talented grid makers in the field -- someone who can run with pretty much any idea and make it work. Why not come up with an idea of your own and see if one of the puzzle pros likes it enough to want to collaborate with you. Just a thought. But I thought your themer suggestions were really good.

tompdavis 10:57 AM  

Surprised to see the lack of discussion around the revealer not being there... it's nothing. Not that this makes the theme shine, just an extra layer to the theme.

Anonymous 11:03 AM  

DOBISDAM. I had the same thing. and I play Bridge!

jberg 11:12 AM  

They had little or [...] in common, but I liked the crossing of Nellie MELBA with MAE West up in the NE corner, as well as the HIPPO LOVES SALAD sequence down the middle. And the theme was a lot of fun, but as others have remarked too easy for a Thursday.

Is there, is there BALM in Gilead? Tell me truly, I implore!
Quoth the raven, only for your lips.

albatross shell 11:12 AM  

PHAT is dated, but is cleverly clued as such with a non-dated dope, so I do not understand the complaint.

@Gill I 859am
Yes I believe people are being ELBOWed OUT of the way or line. And one can ELBOW others OUT of the way. And to ELBOW OUT is to displace by by force or at least to prevent from being in place by force. But it is difficult to precisely use ELBOW OUT as an exact substitute for displace by force in a normal sentence unless I am being dense. And you can always take a clue as a clue instead of a precise equivalence. We have had similar situations come up before. I hope some grammarian onboard woud explain what this situation is. Nice catch.

davidm 11:13 AM  

@Nancy, yeah, I'd love to do that! I've never constructed a puzzle, but let me think on some ideas and run them by you. Should I do it here? Would that be considered off-topic by the mods?

Nancy from Chicago 11:15 AM  

This felt super-easy for a Thursday. I got the theme right away and with that it was a breeze to get through the puzzle.

Malsdemare 11:51 AM  

I enjoyed this. I didn't see the trick as quickly as others so I floundered around for a bit. I don't like the term nothing burger; it’s a slang term I hear applied to burgers that really are something too often to appreciate its meaning. But . . .whatevs. I was depressingly slow to see DORISDAY, who I really liked and I've never heard of Little NEMO. But the rest came along in spurts and I finished in a pretty respectable time, for me.

MILER? Seriously? I can run/hobble a mile. People like my daughter are in it for the long haul. She ran Wild Duluth last weekend, 50k on Saturday and a half marathon on Sunday, earning the title of WildWoman (title came with a really cool, full-size axe!) That's a long haul. She then got in her car and drove six hours to get home. I doubt she was worth much at work the next day.

Now to read what y'all have to say.

Masked and Anonymous 11:55 AM  

Prettty smoooth filllins, considerin there's almost ___ but themers.

Can kinda see @RP's point about overdoin the themers, but also can see the constructioneer's point of view: There's more potential choices than snot, so why not pack in as many themers as inhumanly possible. This puz was mostly about its theme, which seems to have come out as an OK "different" experience today, IM&AO.

Theme knowledge did make the puz a bit easy for a ThursPuz, I'd grant. But … at least it took a few nanoseconds to catch onto the theme mcguffin, due to M&A not bumpin into the 18-Across clue until I'd done battle in the NW for quite awhile, a la @RP. Luved the virtual "72-Across" reference … is that a first, referencin a puzanswer that don't actually exist?
[M&A did once lately write a big puz where some of the answers didn't have proper clue numbers; will attach that today, instead of a regular lil runt.]

staff weeject pick: MAE West. If the Donald tried to shoot her on 5th Avenue, she'da fired back.
Only 6 weejects in the puz, so U get a whole snootload of 4-letter words, instead … 36 of em. Happens, when yer puztarget is in the 72-78 word range.

Thanx for the Nuthin Special, Mr. Ginsberg. Cool puz. And congratz on yer #50th NYTPuzburger.
Nuthin ELSE.
Masked & Anonym8Us


Malsdemare 12:01 PM  

No puzzle is bad when it inspires people like @CDilly and @Davidm. Thank you both, for delightful reads.

jb129 12:10 PM  

C'mon Rex - it was fun. Thank you, Matt!

Anonymous 12:30 PM  

Didn’t you ever hear of Tiger Balm?

Z 12:52 PM  

@Dorothy Biggs - Us humans have opposing tendencies about the now and the past. One is to presume that we humans are more advanced than people of yore. The opposing tendency is to romanticize a more cultured and superior past. Neither is really true. We forget that before and after Lincoln the country suffered through incompetents like Jackson, Buchanan, and Johnson. We look at the best of the comics of 1905 and forget that there are lots of other comics less remembered. Without diving into a study of 1905 comics I’m not even sure “best” applies, it may just be that NEMO touches a modern cord with the sort of person who digs into the history of comics, and so gains some modest fame 100 years after it appeared. We forget that what we consider high culture today was often critiqued as vulgar when it was new. Consider this quote from the wikipedia page on Shakespeare’s critical reception: Modern plays (as opposed to those in Latin and Greek) were considered ephemeral and even somewhat disreputable entertainments by some contemporaries; the new Bodleian Library explicitly refused to shelve plays. The line between vulgar and timeless is as fine and indiscernible as the line between bold and stupid.

Richardf8 12:52 PM  

“How many people actually played VIOL?”

So many that they could only be dispensed with through the VIOLence of the reformation.

Fred Romagnolo 1:11 PM  

@GILL I.:you grew up not washing your hands? Didn't you have a mother or grandmother? Mine wouldn't let me engage in ANY activity until I had done so. I expect it was because they were Russians. Winsor McCay was also one of the first (if not THE first) motion picture animators. "Gertie the Dinosaur" 1909, still worth looking at, said not to have been surpassed 'til Disney came along.

Anonymous 1:12 PM  

You might sound credible if you used the nominative We instead of the objective us, as the noun in your first sentence.

Teedmn 1:25 PM  

I'll go along with Rex's "easy" rating but I found it fun. I don't do basketball so I needed all the crosses for *BUT NET and got the theme at *TO SNEEZE AT.

I wondered if NILE green was a real thing - Google Images, post-solve, shows it is literally a "green paint" answer, har.

I used to like to read the bridge column in the newspaper in spite of the fact that I know nothing about bridge. That's a sign of a great writer, in my opinion, to make interesting what you thought you had no interest in. But given my meager grasp of the game, I thought the heading would be EAST or WEST, not THEY. I suppose, since the game has partners, that there are only two headings needed - why not "we" and THEY? But my original thought caused me to take out DORIS DAY, only to re-enter it when THEY arrived.

Interesting fact that over at xwordinfo, Matt Ginsberg disavows having written any of the fill-in-the-blank clues, as he doesn't write that type of clue. I started wondering what you could clue MINH as without using the blank. (My co-worker later pointed out "North Vietnamese leader" would work just fine, d'oh). So I went onto Google post-solve and found this definition. Does anyone else think that Urban Dictionary, as a crowd-sourced site, ends up with far too many definitions of things that perhaps one person on earth has said or thought?

Matt Ginsberg, thanks for the Thursday puzzle, though I wish you had made Dr. Fill work just a tad harder.

Sunnyvale Solver 1:38 PM  

The clue for HIPPO needs to indicate that the answer is “colloquial” or “for short”, since the animal is actually a hippopotamus.

GHarris 1:47 PM  

Cracked the code early on and had a ball completing the puzzle. Loved it. Under pressure from my friendly rival, Nancy, I had to get another letter in the NYTimes. It will appear online later today and in print tomorrow..

Petri 1:49 PM  

Definitely capital e Easy. I didn't even realize there wasn't actually a 72A until I had already finished, so really blitzed through that one, and I did get a little chuckle over that. Some trouble in the SW quadrant, but nothing too bad. While I wish every puzzle was packed full of interesting answers, sometimes you get DORISDAY and your fastest Thursday time instead, and I can live with that (sometimes) ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Richardf8 2:03 PM  

“I wish STUD had been clued with a muffin”
So did the Constructor. WS changed it.

RooMonster 2:05 PM  

Hey All !
Got a chuckle when I went looking for 72 Across, and said, "Hey, there is no 72A. What in the world?" Then I saw BUT THE BEST, and said, "Hey, that's missing a Nothing." Then the ole brain decided to kick in, and said, "Hey, there is Nothing at 72A, so the starts of the themers must be NOTHING without writing it in."

I say alot when solving.

Thought it a fun puz. I'm a fan of lots o' theme, so this one tickled my fancy.

So I'll go stand with those who enjoyed it. :-)

Gotta jump in on the MILER ado. I take MILER to mean "One who runs miles", not just "one who runs one mile". Your MILEage may vary.


GILL I. 2:37 PM  

@Fred 1:11. YEP...sure did. My parents owned a small finca outside of Havana in a little piece of EDEN called Mulgoba. We had dogs and horses, a mule named Francis who hauled the grass to feed the horses, a goat named chi chi who mowed our lawn and ate anything not bolted down. I was in charge of feeding them and cleaning up messes. I smelled of horse manure a lot of the time. I'd climb a tree and grab a mango or an avocado and never once did I think of washing my hands before sticking those yumminess in my mouth. I'm sure we had soap somewhere - probably in the bathroom - but do you think for one moment I'd run to the house and wash my hands first? Had to build up immunities, you know.
@Richard 2:03...Doesn't seem like Will Shortz has a sense of humor......

ghostoflectricity 3:03 PM  

Back before Ian Anderson completed the transition of Jethro Tull from an often witty jazz-inflected blues-rock band into a pretentious and humorless prog rock outfit, they had the following song on Side 2 of their second album, "Stand Up," 1969, titled "Nothing Is Easy."

jae 3:22 PM  

Easy. I went looking for 72a after I finished and finally completely grokked the theme. cALMS before BALMS ate some nanoseconds (hi m&a), but that was about it for missteps. A tad too easy, liked it.

Malsdemare 5:35 PM  

@GHarris, excellent letter. I do wish that the coverage of the 'invasion' had more prominently emphasized the number of Republicans (and staff) sitting on the committees and engaging in questioning. To say nothing of the fact that 1/3 of the interlopers were republicans who WERE ON THOSE COMMITTEES.

Speedweeder 5:58 PM  

@ghost 3:03 - "Stand Up" was a terrific album, as was "Benefit". As you said, pretentious and humorless after that.

White Rushin 6:27 PM  

Republicans say all Democrats lie and they suck.
Democrats say all Republicans lie and they suck.
I say All politicians lie and they suck.
Most people, too.
Everyone has their own opinions, and you know what they say, opinions are like assholes, everyone had them and they all stink.

Queen of Clubs 6:54 PM  

Love Shortz but he could’ve clued it harder. Happy Rex didn’t engage in race baiting today. TGIF tomorrow.

Nancy 7:02 PM  

There's an excitement to seeing a letter in the newspaper that I don't quite get reading it online. Therefore, @GHarris, I won't jump the gun the way @Malsdemare did and read it online today. I'll see it tomorrow, in the paper and at the breakfast table, and I look forward to reading it.

Montrealxworddiva 8:52 PM  

A day without @LMS is a day...well, just a day.....

We beg you Lauren...

Woke One 9:31 PM  

Do they still dead tree editions of newspapers? Seems anti-environmental. Do people read it while drinking OJ through plastic straws?

Anonymous 10:17 PM  

They’re coming for your newspapers Nancy. And your straws.

Straw Man 11:17 PM  

Good point. If you read a physical newspaper please don’t lecture me about my straws.

CDilly52 2:44 AM  

@Nancy and @davidm: I agree with you both. What clever ideas!

tim 8:56 AM  

I have rolled on the floor laughing in adulthood only while drunk or looking at Don Martin cartoons.

Newboy 11:29 AM  

“Contentment is a warm sty for eaters and sleepers,” Maleska quipped after reading today’s Rex. Almost totally agreeing with Rex’s experiences in the NW grid: bottom half today was WRIT LARGE, but ALEXA, AREOLA, OPTIC, and RUNE clueing more than compensated. I do suspect that the computer, it’s word lists and vast store of arcana has skewed today’s puzzle world toward a homogenized mediocrity as OFL suggests. Still I enjoy these Will(fully) edited efforts more than the step down quotes of Maleska’s era.Nice work Mr. G!

Stevied 8:29 PM  

Weeks off are byes to seeded players etc.

Newboy 9:30 AM  

Bien joue mon amis. Well, I liked today’s puzzle far more than Rex but that’s not unusual. I can see most of his comments & see how a Jedi level solver would bristle at the translation gimmick. Having just squeaked through Fren 101, I was perfectly happy to grok those deeply buried half century old responses — like knowing the AYEAYE I guess. Not even fooled by that SOFT G which usually stymies; so easy, OUI, but still a fun solve.

spacecraft 11:40 AM  

Have I been living under a rock? What the devil is a "BURGER Dud?" What, it was left on the grill too long?? I had to change cALMS to BALMS because "CURGER" made no sense at all, whereas at least BURGER is a recognizable word.

The "72 across" clue gave me pause...for a beat. Then it was all over, and this turned out to be a "nothing" of a puzzle. About as exciting as ASBESTOS or DORISDAY. But for the wild MAE West, though, she might have made DOD. Par.

Burma Shave 12:08 PM  


unless there's NOTHING MUCH TOIT,
BUTTHEBEST, THEY ain't queasy,
and it's TRUE THEY all USEIT.


rondo 12:41 PM  

I'll have to get a hold of the Pioneer Press. For some time now any ellipsis (. . .) has been showing up as an ampersand (&) in the xword clues. Usually NOTHING to worry about, but today NOTHING but a pain in the @$$. I have heard the term "NOTHING BURGER", but have never uttered it myself.

A coupla Viet Nam vets I know told me that sandals fashioned by Viet Namese civilians out of discarded U.S. Army tires were called 'Ho Chi MINH 10,000 MILERs'.

Milton Berle's quip about DORISDAY, "I knew DORISDAY before she was a virgin."

Happy Thanksgiving to all SyndiCats. You're . . . BUTTHEBEST.

rainforest 2:12 PM  

Except for the fact that maybe the theme was beaten to death, I liked the puzzle. Really liked (NOTHING)BURGER. Outside of the theme, the fill was fairly prosaic, but nothing bugged me.

I did ASBESTOS as I could, yet had a writeover at bOILED, but of course there's no one named DObIS.

It took me longer than it should have to suss out the 72-across thing, but once I did I whooshed through the puzzle. complain about.

Wooody2004 3:44 PM  

Happy Thanksgiving Syndicats! Hope you're having more than just SALAD, BURGER, and MELBA toast.

I like how Rex ignored 54D RIFLE. Move along. see here.

Calumnies clue crossing Calamity clue floated my gravy boat.

leftcoaster 3:45 PM  

Got the invisible NOTHING about half way through; rest of the theme was relatively easy, though LEFT BEHIND was a bit resistant.

Middle South was last to go after getting BEHIND, opening the way for PHAT and LYNNE crossed by THEY.

Maybe not ROLF, but lotta fun.

Diana, LIW 8:33 PM  

I'll tell you no calumnies. "Nothing" will get me angry on this T-Day, where we feasted on whatever we wanted. (Had the traditional stuff and stuffing - why not, one day a year?)

But this was a dnf, due to some unknown names and such. Got the Nuthin stuff, but it didn't help me non is the long run.

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting, hoping you don't get run over in the shopping frenzy tomorrow

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