Horizontal line on chessboard / WED 10-23-19 / Petite Grande / MacKenize beer mascot of 1980s / Cassady traveling companion of Jack Kerouac

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Constructor: Jennifer Nutt

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging (4:44 on oversized 16x15 grid)

THEME: something about PLINY THE ELDER approaching MOUNT VESUVIUS while saying "FORTUNE / FAVORS / THE BOLD" — all of this is news to me, so ... I guess this all happened ... allegedly ... a long time ago?

Word of the Day: ANIMATRONS (4D: The T. rex in "Jurassic Park" and others) —
a puppet or similar figure that is animated by means of electromechanical devices an animatronic figure (merriam-webster.com)
• • •

Couldn't have cared less. Even if I had ever heard of this ... event? ... I don't think I'd have cared. It's some kind of ADAGE (67A: Maxim), and then a Roman dude and a volcano. I do not care. There is no interest level here. There is no wordplay or trick or nothin'. Lots of 3-, 4-, and 5-letter answers, though, so woo hoo! I feel like people are out here making puzzle just to make them, just because they seem adequate, or like something they can imagine being in a paper, instead of making puzzles that might bring *them* joy, one's they can imagine *themselves* really loving. Just ... so much adequacy lately. So much mediocrity. Things haven't even been *interestingly* bad lately. Just meh. This puzzle has "ERASERHEAD," so that's cool, but that's all that's cool. TUNA BURGER!? I'm sure they exist, but not anywhere I've eaten lately. Tuna steak, sure. Tuna salad, of course. I dunno. Awkward adjectives like PUPAL and PAPUAN and then stupid archaisms like AFORE :/ and classic crosswordese like "IS IT I?" It was all a little exhausting. Big Shrug Energy, overall.

I drink coffee. Like, a lot. It is the most important ritual of my day. The happiest moment of my day. Literally nothing brings me greater joy that brewing that first pot of coffee just before dawn. I love everything about it. I've been drinking coffee for ~30 years. So ... what the hell is "Jitter juice" (JAVA)? Stop it. Stop with your dumb slang from some wannabe hipster, Daddy-O. JAVA is an actual coffee-producing island, you could go with that. There are lots of other slang terms of real merit. "Jitter juice"? This dumb clue has me borderline angry. I would love a cool coffee clue, but this really ain't it. I wrote in SLAV at 53A: Speaker of a language that has both Cyrillic and Latin alphabets because for the life of me I cannot keep SERB and SLAV straight ... and then bam, there's SLAV just waiting for me at 10D: Many a person once trapped behind the Iron Curtain. Always weird when your wrong answer one place becomes your right answer somewhere else. Only answer that was a total "???" to me was RENÉ Caovilla, but "high-end women's shoes," no surprise that's a little beyond me. "High-end" is such a bad euphemism. They're expensive. It's OK to say that. Cool to see ELENA clued as Ferrante this time. I feel like Kagan gets most of the ELENA glory. I had SCAM instead of SPAM at first, which seemed very plausible (10A: Many a phone call from one's own area code, nowadays). No real hang-ups or wrong turns in this one. Some wrestling with vague clues, and a tad slow overall, but nothing noteworthily difficult here. Time for bed.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Lee Coller 12:15 AM  

Given I had no clue what Cricket segments were and "Animations" for T-Rexes in Jurassic Park seemed perfectly reasonables, so I had Oveis. Semi-natick.

jae 12:24 AM  

Tough, but I got hung up in the SW and also needed to fix ANAMATiON. Guessed right on the eruption but did not know the PTE quote. I found it more interesting than Rex did, liked it.

solrlobot 12:35 AM  

“High-end”? Possibly because they are HIGH HEELS?!

Richardf8 12:43 AM  

"TUNA BURGER!? I'm sure they exist, but not anywhere I've eaten lately."

FORTUNE FAVORS you, then. They are truly awful things. The SPAM of the seafood world. Though, PLINY THE ELDER probably said “fortuna.”

At this point, I will happily take a puzzle that does not require me to guess how a constructor might have misspelled a word.

I might point out that GAZA is in the West Bank, there being no current state of Palestine. PLINY would have known the region as Judea. Between this and the way Iscariot was CITED at 44a, I came away with a bad taste.

I did think ARIANA was cleverly clued. But NIPS (barely defeats) seemed a bit INEPT.

Krummholz 1:16 AM  

May all Republican senators solve this puzzle...

Richardf8 1:20 AM  

Can’t edit so correctionGaza is in the Gaza Strip.

Anonymous 1:27 AM  

Gaza is in the Gaza Strip,not the West Bank

okanaganer 1:59 AM  

I'm with Rex tonight. What he said, I thought. SLAV and SERB, ditto.

Except I remembered from being there (Yugoslavia) in 1987 that Serbia used the Cyrillic, and Croatia used the Roman; but otherwise for a foreign visitor they were indistinguishable. Mortal enemies to soon fight a civil war; but indistinguishable.

(Anecdote: I was staying with an architecture student in Croatia, and hung out with his architecture school friends. His parents were both university professors. All educated people, right? When I said I would travel south through Serbia, he advised me: "Don't get off the train...those people are not human!" That's a direct quote: "not human".)

Also had ANIMATIONS, and before that, ANIMAL----. ANIMALBOTS?

chefwen 2:13 AM  

Hand up for ANIMATiONS at 4D, didn’t even notice OVEiS.

The history major in the family helped me with PLINY THE ELDER which was a major leg up. FORTUNE FAVORS THE BOLD was filled in mainly by crosses and guesses.

This one is not going to make my top ten list and I’ll take a big pass on that TUNA BURGER.

Anonymous 2:25 AM  

Cluing wasn't quite on my wavelength so it played a bit slow, but overall it seemed fine. Pretty much what Rex said, though. It's good enough, but nothing special.

Loren Muse Smith 2:25 AM  

I didn’t find this one hard at all, so I was surprised at the “medium challenging” rating. Even with my missteps - “dog tired” and “Blue Velvet,” I sorted it all out and dispatched the puzzle lickety split.

“There is no interest level here.” Uh, I beg to differ. I’m very happy to learn the origin of FORTUNE FAVORS THE BOLD. I love having these PLINY THE ELDER and MOUNT VESUVIUS tidbits now in my back pocket, ready to be casually tossed out so I can sound learned. Just yesterday I was whining about my vocation – as is my wont – and compared myself to Sisyphus, silently thanking Jeff Chen’s 10/13/13 Sunday puzzle that taught me that. (***spoiler alert**** - the link is the finished grid.) I’ll take the Cliff Notes version of any kind of anything if I can use it to seem smarter than I am.

“. . . instead of making puzzles that might bring *them* joy, one's (sic) they can imagine *themselves* really loving.” Big presumption there, Rex. If I were a constructor interested in ancient Roman history this would bring me a crapload of joy. No one gets to be the boss of what does or doesn’t, should or shouldn’t, bring someone joy. I know that @Z will tell me that’s not really what Rex is saying, but the implication is there, and it’s harsh.

“ERASERHEAD. . . but that's all that's cool.” Sigh. Again. I have to differ here. To wit: I had never heard the term “jitter juice,” either, but rather than get angry, I marveled that we have jitter juice, JAVA, and joe, all coffee terms, all beginning with J. This had me staring off, wondering if the original J-initial term begat little J-initial offspring.

Three more things I found cool:

1) SPAM is expanding to describe phone calls, too. I didn’t know that. So unasked-for sales pitches are spam. Amway salesmen who ambush you could be spamway ambushers. Or Amway spambushers.

2) I thought that FILET was for beef and fillet was for fish. Liberating to know I can stop worrying and move on to other ridiculous spelling rules.

3) “Erenow” - I looked that beaut up and vaguely wondered if I could somehow use it when I bring up Pliny the Elder. I checked out “heretofore” in the thesaurus looking for “erenow” just in case. Wondered if AS YET means exactly the same thing. This entire exercise was cool for me.

I was mystified by the indictment of “high-end.” I read it and reread it and still don’t get why it’s so objectionable. (@solrlobot - good one about the high heels angle.)

I read somewhere that WD-40 helps shrink PORES. Just kidding. Please - don’t even. Just stick to the Preparation H under your eyes.

So, Jennifer, I quite enjoyed this puzzle and every little mental side-trip it sent me on.

Anonymous 2:30 AM  

I have a technical question. The two black squares under PORT/above ERAS. Are those considered cheater squares? The reason I ask is that if you remove one or the other, it doesn't change the word count. But it does change the word count if you remove both of them. So each one is a cheater square only because the other one is there. Does that still count as a cheater square?

Brookboy 2:55 AM  

As is so often the case I agree far more with LMS’s review of the puzzle than with Rex’s. Even when I agree with Rex I wish he could be less abrasive. At least some of the time.

I also thought the four “J” words that were all about coffee were pretty good, as was the quote and the author of the quote.

I thought this puzzle was not so tough for a Wednesday. Maybe that’s because I finished it in one sitting, not always the case with me.

pabloinnh 3:41 AM  

For some reason I always thought it was "Fortune favors the brave". Almost. Learned something there, and also its source, so that was fun.

I'd put "jitter juice" in the same era and genre as "knows one's onions". Maybe we can start that brouhaha all over again. Put me with LMS and not OFL as being amused rather than annoyed by its inclusion.

Still can't print so I'm solving online and now have my very own streak going. Oh joy, rapture. (Not a thing I'm really interested in.)

Thought this was fine, maybe a skosh easy for a Wednesday. Also, I'm not a fan of solitary corners that don't really help you elsewhere.

Rev. Gary Johnson 3:45 AM  

Rex always bitches about how there aren't enough women constructors, but whenever there is one he hates the puzzle.

Jofried 3:55 AM  

Let’s see...agree with @Lee Coller on the cross between ANIMATRONS and OVERS. Agree with @Richardf8 that there is no country called Palestine so the clue on GAZA made no sense. But...A TUNABURGER made from fresh ground tuna is delicious! I don’t eat beef or chicken so I have them all the time!

BarbieBarbie 4:37 AM  

@LMS, I’m with you on being excited to learn the source of the quote, only I need someone to tell me how PLINY is pronounced so I can sound learned instead of un. Anybody?

Solverinserbia 5:19 AM  

As mentioned in a clue in this puzzle, Serbia is one of the only synchronously digraphic languages (if not the only at the moment.) it is as pointless as it seems, but it isn't as big of a deal for them or a language learner as it seems. They learn to read and write cyrillic in grade 1 and Latin in grade 2 and then are almost always free to use either from then on.

JB in VT 6:25 AM  

What I like about the quote is the apparent irony which makes me want to know more about the story. His maxim didn’t work out so well for old Pliny, did it? Fun to imagine him being an ancestor of one of these beach house owners on the coast of, say, Florida, who tells a TV reporter that he’ll stay put, thank you, and then tossing off a pompous line as a dig at his neighbors who are packing up whatever they can grab and heading for the hills, only to be flattened by a tsunami moments later. Comeuppances are always good fun.

Dave 6:40 AM  

I think the idea was IRONY - Old Pliny wasn't so fortunate

Lewis 6:42 AM  

A mini-quote puzzle! I don't recall seeing one before, so I found the theme refreshing. Also refreshing in a way was its references to beer, wine, and coffee. My happy button is automatically pushed when I encounter Pliny the Elder, as well as when I encounter and overcome resistance, as I did here, so I reacted to this puzzle with fondness. Thank you, Jennifer.

As your resident alphadoppeltotter, a role I have inexplicably habituated, I must report that this puzzle has only four double letters, and <5 is a fairly rare occurrence (three or four times a year, and the last time was almost five months ago).

While the puzzle's two longest answers fell with only a few letters filled in, there were several pockets that battled me with fervor; Jennifer has a penchant for bellicose cluing. I see she has publshed three Mondays, a Tuesday, and now two Wednesdays, I predict forays by her into later in the week. And I look forward to them!

Roberta 6:51 AM  

One reason I do puzzles is to learn, and remembering that my husband drinks an IPA called Pliny the Elder I was curious as to why this man inspired a beer. Looking it up, it appears he may have discovered hops. Discovered in the sense of being them first to write about them. There's also a beer named after his nephew, Pliny the Younger, who told the world about the bravado-ish quote Fortune favors the brave (sometimes quoted as bold).

On a separate note, the clue for Gaza felt oddly political. Oddly as in its politics seem hidden within an "error." As others pointed out, there is not currently a country called Palestine.

Otherwise, I liked the puzzle. Happy music on my iPad without having to search for errors is a nice way to start the day.

amyyanni 6:55 AM  

Love learning about PtheE and being bold.
@JB in VT, I live in FL, too funny. And Rex, the pre-dawn coffee ritual is my favorite part of the day, too. The Manhattan Transfer's "Java Jive" tickles me for that reason: a cuppa, cuppa, cuppa, cup! Hope everyone has good coffee/tea/hot beverage of choice.

three of clubs 7:09 AM  

Some clues seem to have an appointment in Samarra.

Brian 7:27 AM  

A very dated puzzle on every level ... tedious and with no joyful payoff

Suzie Q 7:36 AM  

I'm definitely on the side of the fence with @ LMS and @ Lewis. The places that had me struggling were very satisfying to solve.
I also thought it was cool and convenient for Pliny the Elder and Mount Vesuvius to have the same number of letters.
Thumbs up from this happy solver.

Rex noted an answer that was wrong and later was correct in another place in the grid. Years ago @ ACME called that a malapop.

Anonymous 7:39 AM  

Good theme. Never knew the origin of the phrase or that it (ironically) tied to the eruption of Mount Vesuvius.

Rex could suck the joy out of Christmas morning.

Hungry Mother 7:42 AM  

Quite easy, considering the “quip”. I used to read anything I could find about ZEN Buddhism, but the Z came slowly after a Y stood in its place. Almost a cup of coffee.

kitshef 7:42 AM  

Much, much easier than yesterday’s, and about on a par with Monday - maybe easier given this was extra-large.

ERAS and ERASerhead was a nice pairing.

According to Merriam-Webster, ANIMATRON dates to 1971 for its first use. Other words first used in print that year: minibar, crapshoot, dominatrix and that crossword favorite, agita.

Unknown 7:48 AM  

Despite my boring wardrobe I consider myself somewhat up on fashion and I’ve never heard of RENE Caovilla.

Foldyfish 7:52 AM  

I liked it. It was definitely in my wheelhouse. I feel like grumpy Rex is being churlish today.

RavTom 8:03 AM  

@LMS and @JB in VT: Yes.
@Rex: No.
I sometimes think Rex says outrageous things just to be outrageous because that seems to be the thing to do these days, but maybe I’ve just been reading the front pages too much.

Dorothy Biggs 8:09 AM  

Is this an anniversary puzzle...or just randomly a cheerful, "I-was-just-going-about-my-day-then-the-volcano-erupted-and-now-I'm-forever-known-as-that-woman-under-the-table-protecting-her-kid" tribute puzzle? I mean, I guess living in middle America, going about my life, making a living, etc., I hadn't thought about MOUNTVESUVIUS in a while, so there's that. People died terrible deaths, not sure how being bold could have changed any of that, but you be you Pliny.

I'll just weigh in on the Rex hate that seems to be a thing right now. I think we all know what we're in for when we open up our browsers and click on the link to Rex's blog. Pointing out that he's grumpy, or abrasive, or that he can suck the joy out of certain holidays (that coincidentally have high suicide rates) is just pointing out the obvious. Those posts are unoriginal. They're low hanging fruit. The reason so many people like LMS or even, (god love him), the eternal optimist Lewis, is because they're original. They're creative. Good on them. So here's to people trying a little harder to post meaningful and insightful posts from now on (and not just pointing out that the sky is blue). And BTW, who cares if Rex is grumpy? He's bold, and you know what Pliny says about that...

Also, I thought "arctic wolves" eating HARES was oddly specific. I'm guessing all kinds of wolves would like to eat hares no matter where they found them.

Rob Iorillo 8:18 AM  

The eruption of Mt. Vesuvius was one of the most spectacular events we know from antiquity! And we know about it in detail because his (adopted) nephew P. The Young wrote two letters to and at the request of the historian Tacitus describing the events of that day. Today the sites of Pompei and Herculaneum, both destroyed in that eruption, are invaluable for our knowledge of ancient daily life in a Roman city. Yes long ago, but invaluable.

mmorgan 8:21 AM  

Well, I found parts of this easy and parts of it challenging and overall a satisfying solve until I came here and learned why I should have hated it. Oh well. ERASERHEAD is without a doubt one of the strangest, and most difficult to watch, movies ever made, and it should be seen if only to be able to say you survived the experience.

Debra 8:22 AM  

I recommend a trip to Pompeii, so valuable on many levels. Enjoyed the puzzle.

Eliza 8:25 AM  

Recently heard "Fortune favors the bold" when "Miami" Beach was defending Bohemian Rhapsody. Record producer didn't want a six minute song on the single.
Now I know it's origin!

GILL I. 8:47 AM  

I thought this was kind of neat. It was different. No wincing involved.
I like FORTUNE FAVORS THE BOLD. It also favors those who have inherited money as well as those that have an "IN" with their banker. Haha. I laughed at @JB in VT and picturing the tsunami.....
My last entry was LOSE SPIRIT at 9D. How does flag fit in here? Is it a noun? A verb? I really don't get it. Also wasn't sure about 12D ATE UP for the few for clue. I must be overthinking.
TUNA BURGERS are quite good if you make them with Tonnino. It's not at all "fishy" tasting. The problem with everything good that is fish is that yellowfin is being fished out of extinction...sorta like the T. rex.
MOUNT VESUVIUS and Pompeii are worth a visit. My favorite was seeing the tombs. The residents had trash pits in their homes filled with a ton of household garbage. The Pompeiian's were somewhat messy.
Don't understand the brouhaha over GAZA. Gaza and the West Bank are claimed by the State of Palestine. The clue seems fine to me and I'm sure PLINY THE ELDER would agree.

Rhino 9:03 AM  

1. Honestly, 'Time for Bed' is kind of how I feel about this blog lately. At this point I'm here mostly out of inertia and LMS.

2. I enjoyed the puzzle's theme. I never knew the origin of 'Fortune Favors the Bold,' and I am cynical enough to be delighted by it.

3. I knew OVEiS was wrong, but had no idea how to fix it. I hate Wednesday DNFs, but there you go.

Merriam-Webster 9:06 AM  

@Gill I 8:47
flag verb (2)
flagged; flagging
Definition of flag (Entry 4 of 6)
intransitive verb

1: to hang loose without stiffness
2a: to become unsteady, feeble, or spiritless
b: to decline in interest, attraction, or value

Anonymous 9:17 AM  

But i don't like spam https://youtu.be/zLih-WQwBSc

JB 9:17 AM  

His nephew, Pliny the Younger, was with him at the time and declined to check out the erupting volcano. He basically said, "I'll keep an eye on the boat, uncle."

BobL 9:18 AM  

Quite a nifty puzzle, Jennifer!

Anonymous 9:20 AM  

Agreed. I embarrassingly know a lot of popular high end brands yet not this one! Did the constructor just google it to create his clue? Doubt he actually knows this brand ether.

JOHN X 9:46 AM  

Well I thought this puzzle was just fine. My favorite answer was SPY. They don't all have handlers.

David 9:50 AM  

A wonderful lesson on arrogance v humility is lost on Rex. That's too bad. What Krummholz at 1:16 said.

I loved this puzzle. I also love tuna burgers and salmon burgers. If you think they're "spam" you're eating in all the wrong places. If you've never seen them you live in the sticks, not that there's anything wrong with that.

filet - French fillet - English; just don't say it the way Gordon Ramsey does.

Slavs cover most of eastern and south-eastern Europe, Serbs live in Serbia. It's not that difficult. Well, maybe it is for a people schooled to refer to their own smallish country as encompassing two continents.

I saw Eraserhead back in the day at the Brattle Theater. Classmate of mine ran the projector so we got in free too.

Had a small bump because I always think "animatronic" rather than "animatron," but I didn't lose spirit (nor much time).
All in all nice long answers and a nice theme.

Z 9:50 AM  

@MetaBitchers - Want to know how to complain about Rex without seeming like an ignorant twit? Read @Loren Muse Smith and see how it’s done with intelligence and wit.

@LMS - Just to be contrary, I agree with you. Seems like a good day to remind everyone De gustibus non est disputandum.

Someone may have pointed this out already, but Mr. FORTUNE FAVORS THE BOLD ended up boldly dead. I’d post a link to an Alanis Morrisette song but the irony of making an ironic link to a song about irony that is infamously void of anything ironic would probably be lost on people.

To be fair, PLINY THE ELDER reportedly died trying to save a friend, so I shouldn’t be too harsh on him. Still, the line between BOLD and “stupid” is very fine.

Quote puzzles are definitely in the top three Puzzle Types I Hate, and putting a gloss of ancient history on it to make me feel all smart and superior didn’t help. The ARIANA clue was good. Not much else amused me. Felt a little too much like a pop quiz when I didn’t bother to read last night’s homework assignment.

David 9:51 AM  

Whether or not you have heard of or enjoy a tuna burger, it is decidedly NOT A SANDWICH

Nancy 9:56 AM  

It may have a lot of uses (36A), but I don't even know what WD-40 is. I could look it up, I suppose, but having lived my entire life without taking advantage of any of its uses, I sort of think I don't need to know.

ScAM before SPAM at 10A. I assume all those unwanted calls are scams and I hang up before listening to a single word. From the humans as well as the robots. Don't waste your time/dime on me, scammer-spammers.

If MOUNT VESUVIUS had been erupting anywhere near me, my words would have been: RUN, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, RUN!!! (Of course my words wouldn't have lived as long as those of PLINY THE ELDER.)

Some words that were clued with difficulty -- RANGE (45A); SPRIG (50D); RANK (71A) -- made this a somewhat crunchy Wednesday puzzle.

What? 10:01 AM  

Rex seems to miss how these puzzles are solved without actually “knowing” the answers. Jitter juice. No idea. 3D -vet. 4D - anim something. Coffee, java, of course. Pleasant aha moment.

Nancy 10:02 AM  

From yesterday -- a belated thank you to the later-in-the-day posters I didn't get a chance to thank yesterday: @Teedmn, @GHarris, @GILL, @Jeff B and @Whatsername.

Anonymous 10:03 AM  

You poor soul. The happiest part of your day is based on coffee. What a bankrupt existence.

Ms. Nutt,

Sorry Rex crapped all over your puzzle. I thought it was terrific. And a little queer that a lecturer on Virgil would be so unimpressed with your theme.
Take heart: Audentes fortuna iuvat, indeed!!

GSGT Okie, USMC 10:04 AM  

There's an awful lot of smart-asses out here this morning! Maybe a little PT will clear your minds! Ladies, get on your faces!

Knitwit 10:08 AM  

Loved this and not because we just got home from a ten day trip to the Amalfi coast (where we gazed at MOUNTVESUVIUS on a daily basis). Also reread My Beauty Friend while away so ELENA made me smile!Needed a few downs to get the quote but it all came together! Thanks Jennifer!!!

Unknown 10:14 AM  

What first comment / Lee Coller said...Amen to that. Natick.

Z 10:17 AM  

@Anon2:30a.m. - I think it’s fair to consider both as “cheater squares,” although replacing either would cost the other its cheater squares status.

@Dorothy Biggs - One way to toughen up a clue is to add too much information that doesn’t actually help the solver. “Arctic” gets looking for something specifically cold when “wolves” is sufficient information.

@LMS - Speaking of ridiculous spelling rules, my favorite sport has a name rooted in hyperbole, Ultimate (not actually Ultimate Frisbee™️ because we generally don’t play with Frisbees™️). Most of us participants use a capital U when talking about the sport. This capital U usage irks a small number of people because it doesn’t fit into the capitalization rules they learned in grammar school. Oh the howling when I suggested that the capitalization rules are actually just arbitrary constructs and the use of a capital U to differentiate the sport from the adjective made perfect typographic sense.

Newboy 10:17 AM  

ScAM AFORE SPAM, of course, and ApIANo in a baby grand moment until ARIANA arrived at the party. Hard to find gimmies today, so Herself & I enjoyed a tag team solve as we ROVED haltingly toward that foundational ADAGE. Now back to see how Rex trashed it & eavesdrop on previous posts.

OffTheGrid 10:18 AM  

@David 9:51. All right! Let's have a good old fashioned "What is a sandwich?" Broo ha ha. We haven't done that in a while. For me it's anything between 2 pieces of bread (to include buns). Who's next?

Nancy 10:31 AM  

Just read the blog. Uh-oh. Another hand up for ANIMATiONS/OVEiS. A DNF for me, too. You see, I was thinking of the insect cricket, not the game cricket and while OVEiS really, really bothered me, I figured it was a part of the insect's body I'd never heard of. (There are a lot of such things I've never heard of, Biology not having been my favorite or best school subject.)

Z 11:00 AM  

@OffTheGrid - Tacos, hot dogs, gyros - All sandwiches. Heck, a slice of bread on a plate with roast beef and gravy is an “open-face sandwich” so I don’t require two pieces of bread nor that anything be between anything else to be called a sandwich. OTOH - just because we made a patty doesn’t mean we have a “burger.” If it’s not mostly ground beef on a bun it’s not a “burger.” Any self-respecting vegetarian, pescatarian, or flexitarian doesn't need this whole “tastes just like meat” BS either. My mom used to make great salmon patties when I was a kid. “Salmonburger” was never uttered once and it didn’t taste anything like a burger. Heck, a “patty melt” is more of a burger than a TUNABURGER but it’s a pattymelt since it’s properly placed on rye toast, not a bun.

Tl;Dr: I’m ecumenical on the sandwich question, but if it’s not beef on a bun it’s not a burger.

SouthsideJohnny 11:05 AM  

Today’s puzzle seems to be in the love-it or hate-it category. The theme is indiscernible to me and the trivia was just not in my wheelhouse, so this one definitely turned into a messy slog for me.

@Nancy - if something doesn’t move and it is supposed to, use WD-40. If something moves and it is not supposed to, use duct tape. They are the only two tools that you really need (also, congrats on your NYT letter yesterday !).

Greater Fall River Committee for Peace & Justice 11:09 AM  

I wrote in Mount Vesuvius and Pliny the Elder with no crosses. Of course I am from the ERA where the studious had 3 years of Latin in High School.

Not know the difference between SLAVS and SERBS? Sheesh. When I was in Croatia, which I knew was pretty much the same language as Serbian with a different alphabet,I was finding that as a Polish-speaking person I was understanding a lot more of the language than I expected (from how badly I had coped in the Czech Republic, anyhow), and had that on my mind as I walked into a restaurant. The Maitre D looked me up and down and asked 'English or Deutsch', as they often do, and on a whim I answered 'Polskich'. Said Maitre D took the menu he had been handing me away, turned on his heel and walked away. As did I. Found someplace else to eat. I bet they sold TUNA BURGERS in that classless place.

Ethan Taliesin 11:15 AM  

I liked it, and like most of you here, had ANIMATIONS and didn't know OVERS.

Also didn't know NIPS was used like that.

FORTUNE FAVORS THE BOLD, an ironic phrase I'm surprised Rex was unfamiliar with. This is from wiki re Pliny's demise--

--His nephew, Pliny the Younger, provided an account of his death, obtained from the survivors. The nephew and his mother had decided not to go on the voyage across the bay.

--As the light vessel approached the shore near Herculaneum, cinders and pumice began to fall on it. Pliny's helmsman advised turning back, to which Pliny replied, "Fortune favours the brave; steer to where Pomponianus is." (Stabiae, near the modern town of Castellammare di Stabia.)

--They landed and found Pomponianus "in the greatest consternation." Pliny hugged and comforted him. They could not find Rectina. They loaded the cutter, but the same winds that brought it to Stabiae prevented it from leaving. Pliny reassured his party by feasting, bathing, and sleeping while waiting for the wind to abate, but finally they had to leave the buildings for fear of collapse and try their luck in the pumice fall. Pliny sat down and could not get up even with assistance, and was left behind.

--His companions theorized that he collapsed and died through inhaling poisonous gases emitted from the volcano. On their return two days later (26 August) after the plume had dispersed, his body was found under the pumice with no apparent external injuries. The problem with the toxicity theory is that his companions were unaffected by the same fumes, and they had no mobility problems, whereas Pliny had to sit and could not rise. As he is described as a corpulent man,[1] who also suffered from asthma, his friends are thought to have left him because he was already dead.

I like thinking about Vesuvius and definitely check out Pompeii if you ever get the opportunity. It made a huge impression on me.

RooMonster 11:20 AM  

Hey All !
Did PLINY THE ELDER say "Hold my beer and watch this" when he got out of the boat?

As @Z said, Thin line twixt boldness and stupidity.

I pronounce PLINY as ply-knee. It could be plin-e I suppose. Alot of help I am, eh?

@Anonymous 2:30
Either one is a cheater square, but not both. You can't remove both of them to keep the same word count, but if you remove either one by itself, then the count remains the same.

Speaking of black squares, there are 42 of them. High, although it is a 16 wide grid, of which I again didn't notice. It irks me not to see that, but I don't know why it irks me, which tends to irk me some more. Such a conundrum. And I was going to complain about the high block count!

Liked this puz. A tribute, sorta, to PLINY and the VESUVIUS eruption. I'm of the @Nancy ilk, if you see a volcano erupting, you Run in the opposite direction! We're people going towards Mt. St. Helens when it was blowing? If so, they were morons.

Had the ANIMATiONS/OVEiS DNF, as what do I know from Cricket periods?

INEPT ADAGE (which could be the Puz Title)

Nancy from Chicago 11:21 AM  

I actually quite liked this puzzle. And I learned about an interesting story - I had heard the phrase before but had no idea of its origin.

Anoa Bob 11:25 AM  

Whenever a grid starts off and finishes with virtual 3X4 mini puzzles in the NW and SE, my enthusiasm tends to flag.

Anon @2:30, I count four cheater/helper squares: There's one before 10A SPAM/above 16D SHUNT and another at its symmetrical counterpart below 47D ASYET/after 69A GADS. The second pair will vary depending on which black square of those centrally placed Zs is chosen. It could be the one below 7D PORT/before ESPN or the one after 28A FORTUNE/above 34D AVI. That would in turn determine which symmetrical counterpart would be its mate.

Those four bump the black square count to 42 (36-38 is typical for a themed puzzle) and give the grid a bit of a constricted feel for me. Add in a bunch of POCs (plural of convenience), including three two-POCs-for-one-S, and I start to LOSE SPIRIT.

NO CARB diet has shown up a couple of times lately. Here's a reason to eat a HIGH CARB diet (and a new way to clue a long-time xword staple). It's called the Auto-Brewery Syndrome (ABS), a condition where endogenous fungi in the gut cause fermentation of carbs which results in, ta-da, ethanol production. We can become our own brewery!

Pam Fletcher 11:26 AM  

Ditto loren muse smith. Loved it. Read some history and travel more rex. It might improve your attitude

Canon Chasuble 11:40 AM  

I absolutely loved and enjoyed this puzzle and can only thank Jennifer for her flashes of brilliance. I mean, come on, who couldn't love Pliny and Over? This is only the second cricket reference I can remember in an NYT puzzle, the first one was an incorrect clue in which the answer was "nil," a term never used in cricket. Cricket has lots of great terms, and rules, that would baffle any American. Slips, Gullies, Yorkers, Silly Mid-On and Silly Mid-Off are only a few. I am old enough (alas) but lucky enough to have watched Sir Garfield Sobers play in his prime: maybe the greatest cricket player since Dr. Grace. Cricket boring? Never!
There once was a Darlington Rover
Who made twenty runs in one OVER.
Which had never been done
By an Archbishop's son
In August, on Sunday, in Dover.

Carola 11:40 AM  

I liked the puzzle, for the fun of the solve and for the history lesson. I liked the contrast between Pliny's statement and LOSE SPIRIT.
For me, things started off with a smile at "Jitter juice" and the apt cross of JAVA and JOY. (Tangential volcano connection, too, with JAVA.)

Mary McCarty 11:42 AM  

If you read the constructor’s notes at Wordplay, you’ll discover that this puzzle “was inspired by an exhibit on Pompeii at the Arizona Science Center in Phoenix”. I’m pleased to see so many commentators familiar with one of the most famous natural disaster events in history—unlike Rex.(You know, Rex, with a pseudonym like that, you really ought to be more informed about the Roman world.)
Also enjoyed the comments on the quote: actually thought the answer for once might be in the original Latin “FORTUNa fortes iuvat” instead of a translation. Re whether fortune favors “the bold” or “the brave”, Pliny wrote ”fortes”.., as did Plautus in Phormio, Virgil uses “audentis Fortuna iuvat.'” in Aeneid 10.284 and I’ve only see “audaces” on beer bottles. As for pronunciation, the man is Pliny (rhymes with Ginny) or maybe with a slightly stretched “i” ( like “genie”). Doesn’t rhyme with “tiny”.

Lila 11:42 AM  

It's suprising how far people go out of their way to get offended. Perhaps the ones who dislike Rex's blog so much could stop reading it. This puzzle was joyless.

Dawn Urban 11:49 AM  

Loved this puzzle. It was tough, but I felt good when I finished it. Loved the ancient history.

FORTUNE FAVORS THEBOLD is a good adage to keep in mind while driving up a snowy mountain road or chasing after large spiders.

Mr. cheese 11:54 AM  

Count me among the many @LMS fans.
Pompeii is a stunning site.... go see it!

Anonymous 11:56 AM  


Blue Stater 11:59 AM  

Usually when OFL and I differ on a puzzle's difficulty, I think it's harder than he does. This time, the opposite. The Gaza mistake was typical of WS's work these days -- again (and I've said this I don't know how many times), running the puzzles through the Times copydesk would cut way down on these blunders (I say this as an ex-copyeditor). I wonder if it's office politics that is preventing this, or just (seeing that it's the NYT) an utter lack of interest in avoiding error.

Apart from that, I liked this one, possibly because it took me back to prep school Latin, a foundation stone of my education that I increasingly value as the years go on...and on....

Anonymous 12:06 PM  

Fine puzzle which was surprisingly difficult for a Wednesday. Twice during the solve I almost gave up but each time was able to claw my way to victory.

The puzzle triggered two memories: 1) wandering the ancient streets of Pompei on a rainy day in the off season when almost no other tourists were present, and 2) seeing a screening of Eraserhead in San Francisco when the film’s star John Nance, Eraserhead himself, was in the audience. Both were magical experiences in very different ways. Thanks, Jennifer Nutt, for the trip down Memory Lane.

Malsdemare 12:11 PM  

I'm right there with Loren. But my solving experience was a tad odd. I flew through the north, wobbled badly down south. My high-end shoes are $150 Brooks, not Mano Blahnik's or whatever the latest fad is. Thank you @Ethan Taliesin for the history lesson. My knowledge of Vesuvius is based on Robert Harris' "Pompeii," which I highly recommend. He's one of my favorite authors. Well, and also, Mr. Mal used to work for a company called Vesuvius which makes massive equipment for pouring molten steel. Hot steel pouring from a furnace into a bucket may not be going in the same direction as Vesuvius, but it’s impressive and dangerous as hell. The holes in Mr. Mal's underwear, despite fireproof clothing, were pretty awe-inspiring.

Thanks, Jennifer. I really enjoyed this.

Unknown 12:11 PM  

Trader Joe has great Tuna Burgers

Masked and Anonymous 12:12 PM  

Well, shoot -- this Pliny dude evidently died tryin to sail in and rescue a friend and his family from that volcano eruption. I'd sure grant him a puztheme, for that. Not sure what ERASERHEAD did for @RP, but I guess it impressed him more. It sure was a nice, weird schlock flick -- but, hey -- David Lynch.

Kindasorta liked the {Jitter juice} clue for JAVA. Had all them consistent J's goin, for it.


staff weeject pick: AVI. Tough clue of {Prefix with fauna}. Learned somethin new, there.
Solid weeject stacks in the NW & SE, even tho only 10 of the lil darlins, overall.

Thanx for the bonus nuttburger squares, Ms. Nutt. Enjoyed the history lesson, and the tasty Octo-U-burger.

Masked & Anonym8Us


Anonymous 12:12 PM  

Trader Joe’s has Tuna Burgers

jb129 12:30 PM  

No fun - at all.

Sgreennyc 12:49 PM  

This is one of his most inane reviews yet. I keep coming back because it is fascinating to read someone who is so obnoxiously negative and jealous (of Will Shortz). He almost never writes anything that is informative or helpful, The Yiddish word for him is farbissiner.

GILL I. 1:00 PM  

@Merriam. Thank you for the definition. I'm learning lots...AND, I get to picture @Mals husband in burning undies.

Teedmn 1:16 PM  

If not for a last second inspiration on ANIMATRONS, I would have gone down in flames like Pliny the Elder today. Whew.

I found this hard. The vague cluing sent me down to the bottom where I started with ERAS and LEGO. At first this Wednesday difficulty made me LOSE SPIRIT but I decided to try to enjoy the experience. Perhaps my irritation was inspired by the fact that I came in to work today to find my computer had finally been switched from Windows 7 to Windows 10 (I've been a holdout in the office). Hence, the whole morning has been filled with things like resetting my default printer, browser, file settings, trying to find just about anything. Argh.

I have no idea why I decided to spell SPUDz thusly but it held up the quote part of the puzzle until I changed that z to S.

Tunaburgers - as a pescatarian, I have eaten my share - I'd rather not. They're usually dry and too crumbly. Same goes for salmon patties or crab cakes in my opinion.

Thanks, Jennifer Nutt, for the history lesson and the challenging Wednesday solve.

Chip Hilton 1:22 PM  

Does Rex read these? I hope so, because he’ll see a lot of love for this puzzle and its theme. I, too, enjoyed it and found the fill to include enough interesting clues and answers to satisfy on a Wednesday. Fun seeing the cricket clue. I recently met an Australian fellow and my first words to him were, “Congratulations on retaining The Ashes.” He almost fainted at the thought that an American knew about cricket’s oldest trophy (England vs. Australia). Okay, that’s OVER.

Master Melvin 1:23 PM  

Once again Prof. Rex's puzzling contempt for history rears its ugly head.

I knew OVERS because my former secretary's husband, a naturalized citizen from Jamaica, was one the best cricket players in our country and a longtime member of the USA national cricket team. She tried unsuccessfully to explain the incomprehensible rules of cricket to me and I have a vague recollection of her using the term. Not positive, but I think an OVER might be something like an inning in baseball.

old timer 1:37 PM  

Prodigal daughters and sons, oh boy! Good to see you as always, @LMS, and long time no see, @canonchasuble. I love that name just as I love Wilde's play.

I thought this was a fine puzzle, not too hard, not too easy. Plus I have learned a lot today about Plinys the Elder and Younger. Macaulay called Pompeii the farthest extent of the Cockney tour, meaning the most remote spot typically visited by the English, in his day. In his day, there was no railway, so you had to walk, ride, or be carried. When I went last, I was able to take a fast train from Roma to Napoli, and a slow train up to Pompeii, see the sights, return the same day, and have an excellent supper not far from the Spanish Steps. Probably just as well MOUNTVESUVIUS was not erupting.

Pliny Week is a February madhouse in Santa Rosa. The week both Russian River Plinys are on tap at the original brewery, and now also at the new place in Windsor. Rhymes with tiny or spiny, in the beer world.

Gaza ia the largest *arab* city in Palestine. Jerusalem is of course much larger. By Palestine, I mean the territory covered by the British Mandate. Palestine was the Roman term for the area, and there were in the Byzantine Empire several provinces that covered the same area later run by the British, hence the name used for the Mandate.

Jyqm 2:10 PM  

Well, I can't disagree that the theme was somewhat dull, at least to my tastes. But is Rex seriously telling us that he has never in his life heard of the eruption of MOUNTVESUVIUS that destroyed the cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum? We all have our random blind spots, I suppose, but... seriously?! One of the most famous and deadly natural disasters in the history of the world? I can certainly understand not knowing the specific story of Pliny the Elder, but to have never heard of the eruption at all? How is that even possible? I'm honestly astonished by this.

Anonymous 2:14 PM  

Nope. Tacos are not a sandwich. Not in Massachusetts anyway. That's per a court decision.

Master Melvin,

Was your secretary married to one of the Johnsons? Howard Ray or Mark?
An over, if you care, is six balls delivered to the batsmen. After those six, another bowler from the opposite wicket ( but same teame) delivers another six balls. This alternating continues until 10 batsmen are out (the 11th is not out, but can't bat without a partner) or the batting team decides they've had enough and declares their innings over for tactiacl reasons.
(this assumes it's proper cricket and not a form of limited time or limited overs match)

jberg 2:27 PM  

I liked the puzzle fine -- possibly because, like several others here, I visited Pompeii earlier this year and it brought back memories. (We skipped the whorehouse, though, due to the long lines to get in.) I didn't know the Pliny story, but I knew there were an Elder and a Younger, so that was easy enough to get from a couple of crosses.

But since I didn't know the story, I checked Wikipedia afterward -- and I have to tell you all that this was not the origin of the phrase; it's in the Aeneas and in works by Ovid and Terence, all earlier than this particular eruption of Vesuvius. (As for BOLD vs. brave, that was translator's choice.) No big deal, I just don't want you all to lose a bar bet sometime in the future by maintaining that Pliny thought it up.

To be fair to Rex, he said he was not familiar with the "event," meaning the utterance of the quotation. He doesn't say he's never heard of VESUVIUS.

The carping about GAZA is misplaced. First of all, 136 UN members do recognize Palestine as a country; and second, you don't need to be a country to have a biggest city. Massachusetts has a biggest city; the Mississippi Valley has a biggest city; Kashmir has a biggest city. Closer to the case, Taiwan has a biggest city. Kosovo is recognized by fewer UN members than Palestine, but it still has a biggest city. So anyway,there's nothing wrong with the clue (which does not say anything about whether Palestine is a country).

ZEN, on the other hand, despite being a "state of Japan," does not have a biggest city.

In my student days the language was Serbo-Croatian; then after Yugoslavia fell apart and and Serbia and Croatia became separate countries, they started to insist that they were different languages. But (again according to Wikipedia) both scripts are used everywhere, and a literate person is expected to know both. My son used to work with a lot of Croats, who insisted that the languages were different, but whenever he asked one of them how they differed he always got the same answer -- the Serbs called a belt a belt, and the Croats called it the=thing=that=goes=around=your=waist=to=hold=your=pants=up.

I guess cheater squares are kind of like Schrodinger's cat.

Since we got FIOS, the little screen on our phone now puts (SPAM) before the caller ID if the system thinks it is. But it misses a lot of them.

Richardf8 3:02 PM  

I think we are to expect that the arctic wolves are eating arctic or snowshoe HARES.

RTWhite 3:24 PM  

Anniversary Puzzle?
Formerly: Nope!
Currently: Yep! (Revised date 10/24/79)

Elaine Showalter 3:28 PM  

I disagree about the adage;it is my favorite and an excellent motto for an academic, esp one who has a Latin pseudonym and writes ab0ut crossords! I like the translation "fortune favors the brave." When we had a flat in London, I got a wall decal of the Lain translatioin in gold italics and put it up over the door. Bracing and daily motivation to write about the styuf that interested me rather then the stuff prescribed for me.

bauskern 4:20 PM  

Rex never heard of a tuna burger? Geez, he needs to get out more. I thought this was on the easy side but for the W box.

chuck w 5:21 PM  

The Art Institute of Chicago, years ago, had an exhibit about Pompeii. Fascinating

chuck w 5:22 PM  

As a Jew, I had no problem with Gaza as the largest city of Palestine, official "country" or not.

Wanderlust 7:56 PM  

I know you’ve heard it before, Loren Muse Smith, but so many of us wish you were the one doing this blog. I also liked this puzzle.

albatross shell 9:22 PM  

If I can have my ham sandwich or my burger on a Kaiser roll, how can you call one a sandwich and one not based on a bun. I occasionally have my burger on toast. Does it magically become a sandwich? Maybe some definitions are based on usage and personal preferences instead of scientific precision. Maybe burgers are a subspecies of sandwiches. Maybe we should ask the Earl. Maybe we should argue about if chili is a soup.

Thank you for your NYT letter. Not quite as clever and original as your last one(IMO), but still well-said and worth saying. Do they have limits on how often they print one person?

Z 9:28 PM  

I just re-read Rex’s opening and I think @jberg is correct, Rex is referencing never hearing that PLINY said the quote.

I’m going to also point out that that the theme is pure PPP. Sure, the “popular culture” references are from 79 C.E., but that is no different in kind than using a Tupac quote (say Searching for fortune and fame/One thing we all adore/Something worth dying for) And while I agree with @LMS that matters of taste are matters of taste, I will also agree with Rex that word play is always better than trivia in crossword puzzles.

@Anon2:14 - I had heard that, but as Dred Scott and Citizens United have shown, courts can be egregiously wrong. Why would I trust that institution to know what a sandwich is when it thinks GM and Facebook are people?

Richardf8 10:03 PM  

The first time I laid eyes on that pseudonym, I wondered if it was a portmanteau of "Rex Morgan, MD” and “Judge Parker,” two soap opera comics that share a single creator (though they have very different creative teams now).

Lady Lawyer 10:16 PM  

@Z- Don’t forget Plessy v Ferguson, Roe v Wade, and Obergefell v Hodges

Zerex 11:40 PM  

@Z 9:28 PM

Or perhaps Rex could just explain himself.

Z 12:25 AM  

@Zerex - He did: “Even if I had ever heard of this ... event? ... I don't think I'd have cared. It's some kind of ADAGE (67A: Maxim), and then a Roman dude and a volcano.” The “it’s” clearly refers to “ADAGE” and not MOUNT VESUVIUS as many claimed. @jberg was clearly correct. I’ll let you ponder why so many thought Rex said something he didn’t actually say.

Okoume 9:08 AM  

I haven't been puzzling much lately but really liked this puzzle and am thrilled to see a nice big post by LMS back on the blog! Thanks Loren

Burma Shave 12:38 PM  


long AFORE ‘SPY versus SPY’,
ASK, ”Are you INEPT with arrows?”
and, ”ISIT you or ISITI?”


(1) Iliad CITED here

spacecraft 12:39 PM  

DNF: a giant cricket got me! Never changed the I of ANIMATiONS, even though OVEiS made no sense...but then neither did OVERS. Come on, cricket segments? How purposefully misdirecting can you get? This crossing was DESIGNED to make people fail. Phooey. And it ruined what otherwise (save for EKES) would have been a nice puzzle.

rondo 2:39 PM  

No write-overs for me today. Maybe because of the 5 A.M. fresh air from shoveling out of the latest Blizzard of the Century. Quite the ADAGE there by Ol’ PLINY.

I never thought of yeah baby ARIANA Grande as particularly petite, but when compared to fellow Grammy nominee Lizzo . . . petite is appropo.

Yeah, a nice puz, but even @spacey may not have given it an EAGLE.

Wooody2004 2:46 PM  

Learned from XWord: ANIMATRON - Is this what the Movie "Tron" was short for?

Learned from Blog: TUNABURGERS are not burgers or sandwiches.

Fun fact from Blog: PLINY is pronounced like "skinny" but PLINYTHEELDER was a rather PORTly guy.

I don't want to come across as the "Syndicated Z", but I had the same reaction as Rex to the theme and the quote while I was solving. It was only after I looked up the quote that I appreciated puzzle and the history lesson. I will now go research TUNABURGERS.

ARIANA Grande will probably be DOD. PLINY was DOA.

Unknown 5:12 PM  

Rex is losing it. There’s no call for this level of abrasive-ness. I enjoyed the little romp thru antiquity.

Diana, LIW 6:06 PM  

I had a grand time, too. Only one Natick due to my lacki of Cricket knowledge crossing with animationary stuff. Doesn't keep me from liking the puzzle.

Happy Turkey to all you SyndieCats!

Diana, LIW

leftcoaster 6:33 PM  

@Diana -- From yesterday: My mother spoke Finnish and English. In her conversations with her mother, only "yo" and "mita"(sp?) stuck with me. What does "susi" mean?

rondo 8:02 PM  

@lefty - pretty sure it's 'wolf'

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