Scottish hillside / THU 10-31-19 / One-named supermodel of 1970s-'80s / Colorful French cookies / English county that's setting for Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Constructor: Ezra Brauner and Jeff Chen

Relative difficulty: Medium?? (it was Easy but sort of confusing to start...)

THEME: DOUBLE BLIND (59A: Kind of experiment ... or a hint to 10 Down answers in this puzzle) — you have to be "blind" to the "double" letters in the themers if you want to make sense of those 10 Down clues whose answers run through them. Extra feature 1: those 10 Downs make actual (unclued) words when the double letters are in place. Extra feature 2: the double letters, taken singly and in order, spell CLONES, which I guess double ... letters ... are?

Theme answers:
    • The affected Downs: LI(C)E, OR(C)S; MI(L)NE, UN(L)IT; (O)PAL, MACAR(O)ONS; (N)OVA(E), U(N)DON(E); ARE(S), MAR(S)
Word of the Day: "Big Nate" (14A: Lincoln ___, cereator of the comic strip "Big Nate" —> PEIRCE) —
Big Nate is an American comic strip written and illustrated by Lincoln Peirce. Originally launched on January 6, 1991, the comic has since inspired book collections and theatrical performances. // Big Nate follows the adventures and misadventures of Nate Wright, a spirited and rebellious sixth-grader, along with his best friends, Francis and Teddy. Other characters include a variety of teachers at Public School 38 and other people and animals in the fictional town of Rackleff, Maine. Nate is portrayed as a boy with little interest in studies or conforming to standards. The lack of interest leads him into several conflicts with his social studies teacher Mrs. Godfrey, whom he considers his nemesis. Peirce also focuses on Nate's home life and friendships. (wikipedia)
• • •

The construction is impressive, in a way, and definitely thoughtful. That is, it seems carefully crafted (e.g. all Downs are actual answers whether double letters are in place or not, and there are *no* double letters in the grid besides the ones that are in the themers). But for me the theme doesn't snap. That is, it's trying to do so much that it gets a little confusing. Like, is the "double" referring to the double letters, or the fact that those double letters appear *twice* in each themer, or both? And the double letters spell CLONES ... why? Just for fun. I assume that's part of the theme, but I'm not sure. Also, many many people will miss that element. I've seen puzzles like this before, where constructors get real enamored of *all* their ideas for one puzzle, and put them all in rather than construct a puzzle where the concept is tight and the revealer really lands. So this was admirable but not terribly enjoyable for me, largely because it seems messy, and like solver enjoyment and conceptual tightness were ignored as constructors indulged themselves in extra layers of gimmicks.

Had a "how do you spell 'macarons'" moment at 3D: Colorful French cookies (MACAR_ONS). I knew they weren't MACAROONS, but then there seemed to be too many letters ... in the end, this would be the point, but at the beginning, where I was, it was just confusing. Also confusing—and the reason I was quite slow to start—TALE fits at 6D: Whopper (LI_E) and PSST fits at 25D: "Hey there!" ("HIYA!"). Admittedly, the exclamation point in the clue for HIYA shoulda signaled to me that it was being exclaimed, not whispered, but nonetheless, PSST went in and, like TALE before it, really gummed things up. I got my first sense that something was up with the circled letters when ERS or ORS seemed definitely right for 7D: Surgery sites, for short but there were just too many letters. Eventually got almost everything surrounding the circled letters at the front ends of the first two themers, and then ... I honestly don't know how I figured it out. TALE stayed in a long time, as PEARCE looked very right to me for the comic strip guy (never heard of that strip or that guy). Anyway, SOCCER BALLS, HOOTENANNIES, the rest was pretty easy.
    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

    [Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


    Giskarrrd 4:43 AM  

    I’ve been doing (NYT) crosswords in what is my second language for about a year now. I’ve gone from having the greatest difficulty with even a Monday to now “breezing through” most of the first three days of the week with relative ease. (They still take me 15-20 minutes, so nowhere near Rex-like solving times, which still baffle me, but I’m fine with this... it now makes for the perfect commute activity in the morning and I really enjoy doing most of them).

    I am even starting to enjoy (and being able to eventually solve) Fridays and Sundays. But Thursdays... wow. I just never seem to be able to pick up on the “gimmicks”.

    Had the same question marks on MACAR_ON, and OPAL, and was just completely stumped on pretty much all of the other downs that crossed themers.

    After seeing what the gimmick is, I’m actually quite in awe with the puzzle and its theme, it seems really ingenious and hard to do, and I am impressed with the fact that the double letters spell CLONES, not sure why Rex would say it’s too much... All the different layers to this theme seem impressive. But for me, the solving enjoyment is not quite there for Thursdays as I just never get to the point that it clicks. Just Not My Thing I guess... impressed nonetheless :)

    Justus 5:02 AM  

    Near my best Thursday time, so mixed feelings. I like harder puzzles, but fun when things flow. Felt more like a Tuesday or a Wednesday.
    I caught on to the theme early, but admire the work put in. A good puzzle that should have been a little harder on a Thursday

    Salty 5:35 AM  

    I was expecting the theme to be “Double or nothing”

    Also, ARES next to MARS!

    Flying Pediatrician 6:11 AM  

    @Giskarrrd, from my experience, your progression across the week is totally normal! I was consistently getting Friday, Saturday, Sunday sooner than Thursday. (That you can do the puzzle in your second language at all is impressive!) One day you’ll wake-up and it’ll just start clicking. As @lewis has stated here before, even for experienced solvers, that moment when a Thursday gimmick “clicks” is always special. Keep chipping away and you’ll get there!

    This was a great puzzle, wonderfully executed, with some fun new words. Was hoping RIDESAWAY was going to be RIDESWEST, but we can’t have it all!

    David Fabish 6:19 AM  

    I'm surprised you didn't comment on the fact that two of the theme answers (34D and 35D) are actually the same guy. So the theme is even denser than you thought!

    A Grimwade 6:27 AM  

    Initially baffled by the puzzle because the first answer I got was MACAROONS, which is the English English word for MACARONS. But overall a well constructed effort. I completely missed the double letters spelling out CLONES

    Tony 6:44 AM  

    Re CLONES. Because clones are exact doubles?

    Geezer 6:56 AM  

    Thank you, but no. WTF?

    Hungry Mother 7:15 AM  

    Loved this one and almost hit my best time. I saw the theme immediately, for a change. Nice alternative clue for IMAM. Not even a half cup of coffee.

    kitshef 7:17 AM  

    An interesting construction job, but not one that translates to an interesting solve. Monday-easy.

    I liked ARES next to MARS and the hidden ALICE and ANNIE.

    I did learn in post-solve Googling that MACAROONS and MACARONS are different.

    Norm 7:31 AM  

    If the "missing" letters had spelled out GHOSTS, I might have been amused. CLONES? Nope.

    Lewis 7:56 AM  

    Solid puzzle, and very impressive that the only double letters are theme related (which stood out strongly for me, your resident alphadoppeltotter). The theme helped with my solve, and it was clever to turn DOUBLE BLIND into a theme. It gave me an enjoyable solve.

    I did like a pair of pairs: This puzzle has an ARM and a LEG, and I liked it having YANK and USA. And the word CHALICE always happily throws me back to Danny Kaye in "The Court Jester". Now I have my ear worm for the day. (If you don't know what I'm talking about, Google "the pellet with the poison".

    Geneva Girl 8:01 AM  

    @Hungry Mother the model is Iman!

    Petsounds 8:02 AM  

    "Admirable but not terribly enjoyable" sums it up for me. At the start, I thought the MACARO[O]NS answer was just another Will Shortz edit fail. Getting DOUBLE BLIND made it all clear, though, and then it was more or less a breeze. Just not a lot of fun.

    I have to say that, as a child of the Sixties, the clue for HOOTENANNIES didn't get me there. Never thought of a folk singing event--and even a television show (You can see some episodes on YouTube)--as something "rural." Guess you had to NOT be there.

    Z 8:04 AM  

    Yep. I finely constructed mess. The DOUBLE BLIND part I like a lot. That’s a nifty idea. And I really like that all the unclued downs are actual words or names. I dislike corners that are all 3-letter words, but have to admit that the terrible threes aren’t all that terrible today. But why CLONES? They’re not BLIND are they? Or result from DOUBLE BLIND tests. And why are ARES and MARS next to each other but none of the other pairs so closely aligned? They’re not CLONES, they’re the same dude. Are these supposed to be EASTER eggs? Maybe, but EASTER eggs are usually a little better hidden. It seems like one really solid theme idea and then a couple partial theme ideas stuck on that don’t really add a lot.

    As I noticed MILNE during my solve I wondered just how much Pooh is actually read these days. I know we never read anything by MILNE to our kids, so they would only now Pooh et al. from the animated t.v. shows. It seems to me that books about Pooh are more popular than the originals (The Tao of Pooh comes to mind). Do people still read A.A. MILNE? Or is he just a trivial footnote to the World of Disney?

    RavTom 8:16 AM  

    If macaroons is the English English word for macarons, what’s the English English word for macaroons?

    mmorgan 8:19 AM  

    I’m worried that I’m agreeing with Rex too much lately. Stockholm Syndrome? “Admirable but not terribly enjoyable” sums it up perfectly for me. Much to admire here, but....

    David in Brevard 8:24 AM  

    Loved this easy Thursday and got a best time to boot (31 mins).

    My first thought was that we just had double letters and they would spell something that related to the BLIND part of the reveal. I was blind to the vertical ‘blindness’ as MACAROONS looked perfectly OK (especially after I deleted MACAdamia) and OPAL might have been buds but I didn’t know why.

    My mess up was the DeRISION eMAN cross which took me 10% of my solve time to spot. Dang!

    Loved this Jeff Chen JV.

    David in rainy Brevard

    GILL I. 8:24 AM  

    @Giskarrd...I'm a red-blooded Yankee, but English was not my first language. As a matter of fact, I couldn't stand speaking it. I had no choice when we returned to the States. has taken me years of doing the NYT puzzles to finally finish a Friday/Saturday without help. I've always dreaded Thursday - afraid I would never get the "trick." So, a big kudos to you. 15-20 minutes in just one year. I'm impressed.
    OK so on to this tricky Thursday. Other than not knowing this PEIRCE guy and wondering why he doesn't spell it PIERCE like God intended, I sorta breezed thru. Like OFL, I pretty much knew the whopper had to be LIE. SOCCER BALLS was in there thanks to MAO and BRAE. I sorta stared for a while but then the light bulb came on.
    I've read every single Agatha Christie and yet DEVON was not showing its beautiful head. I wanted the ever prevalent ESSEX but good ole OVA comes to the rescue. How can we not do a puzzle without OVA, BRA and an ARM and a LEG.
    I noticed the CLONE....those are the little things I look for. I like that LIE becomes LICE and ORS become ORCS. I also like TRANCE floating below BLIND.
    Nice puzzle and if you've never been or participated in some HOOTENNANNIES, you've missed out.

    albatross shell 8:33 AM  

    I did not know my MACAROONS from my MACARONS, so spent some time thinking only the first of the double letters was ghostly.
    I sussed it out when the other doubles clearly did no follow that pattern.

    Interesting original complex theme. Fun Halloween puzzle. ARES MARS double added bonus. Great clue on TRANCE. Coma came to mind first. Enjoyable solve and weirdly easy. Only look up was Big Nate.

    Second the Danny Kaye.

    QuasiMojo 8:35 AM  

    While I admit this was a feat of construction, I can't help but wonder why? What does any of this have to with a Double Blind test? And should the letters be blind going both ways? I just don't get the point and adding CLONES to the mix only confuses matters since what is being cloned? The blinds? How do you clone something that isn't there? Or if you did wouldn't it be in the same vertical line? Not next to each other in discrete responses? Too much thinking for very little reward.

    I was wondering if MACRON was a new type of cookie. Tasty but too rich for my blood.

    Chippah 8:36 AM

    xraydoc 8:45 AM  

    I just learned there is a difference between French Macaron and English Macaroon. I thought they were variants of same dessert treat. Thanks.

    Dorothy Biggs 8:48 AM  

    Weirdly coincidentally I've been listening to a podcast on homeopathy and they are talking about the [lack of] double blind trials in that pseudoscience. So I got DOUBLEBLIND with just a couple of letters.

    To Rex's point, there is a lot going on here. There are the double letters that are invisible one way, visible another, but also visible in another way that spells words that aren't clued. Then there is CCLLOONNEESS. Then there is DOUBLEBLIND. Each element is its own thing...the part where two letters are needed to be ignored, ("double" "blind"), I get.

    But then it gets messy...the part(s) I think Rex is meaning when he says the puzzle is trying too hard. The words that are created that aren't clued are just random. So while that makes the puzzle "look" good, it doesn't satisfy the question why those random words are there. Maybe there should have been "double" clues on those downs, so that the resulting "unclued" word could be clued also and ignored as needed.

    Then there is CLONES. Which, I guess if you are talking about duplicating letters, that kinda makes sense...but CLONES have little to do with "DOUBLE BLIND" as the literal meaning...which is a scientific term for experiments with medicines. CLONES are one kind of science, double blind trials are another unrelated kind.

    So you have a bunch of elements, unrelated to each other, spread out all over the place, connected to "double" and "blind" but not really "double blind," and words that are in the grid, but are not clued or related to anything else. It's just a LOT going on. A circus. An AMALGAM, if you will, of very loosely related and DISCRETE parts trying to be jammed (read: forced) together.

    Plus, it's do you not have disappearing letters on Halloween?

    All of that said, and don't get me wrong, the puzzle was fine to solve. But the payoff at the end was clouded by the confusing cacophony of the theme's elements.

    albatross shell 8:52 AM  

    @Gill I 824am
    Charles Sanders Peirce, philosopher, mathematician, and pragmatist also spelled his name in this godless way. He left God out of his philosophy.
    Maybe God returned the favor.

    Suzie Q 9:06 AM  

    All I ask is to have some fun. Instead I just got a headache.

    I am in awe of anyone doing a puzzle not written in your native tongue.

    Nancy 9:14 AM  

    Because it's Thursday and because Jeff Chen is one of the, er, perpetrators, I knew this puzzle wouldn't be as straightforward and easy as it seemed it would be at the outset. And it wasn't. In fact, because I had no idea why what should have been PAL was instead OPAL, I did something I very rarely do -- I jumped to the revealer section to find out what on earth was going on. And while I found the revealer enormously helpful, I also found it a bit strange.

    Because "blind" is not the same thing as "invisible". I know, I know, we're BLIND to whatever is DOUBLE, but still...It's a stretch.

    So while this puzzle gave me much pleasure in the solve, I ended up enjoying it more than I actually admired it. But since pleasure is more important to me than internal logic, I'll give it a thumbs-up anyway.

    Sarah Henderson, BCCDC 9:16 AM  

    My partner and I do the Sunday together most weeks, usually on his account. Then, once I know all the answers, I do it on my account to maintain my streak. Even then, my times are about the same as Rex on his first go. Oh well, I only wish I was faster so that I could have more time to solve crosswords.

    OffTheGrid 9:20 AM  

    @Dorothy. You did it again. Nice analysis.

    Speedweeder 9:22 AM  

    As usual, reactions are mixed between people who like straightforward crosswords and people who actually like "puzzles". If you found the puzzle confusing, well, that's the point. Figure it out.

    Well executed theme. Liked it.

    Anonymous 9:28 AM  

    I work for the Nats and I’m just logging on to say it’s a good day and from now on when NATS appears in the grid the clue can be “2019 World Series champs”. There are probably a lot of Yankees and Mets fans on this board, and you guys have plenty of title. It feels good to join your company!

    gregg 9:43 AM  

    We read Pooh to our kids and now to our grandchildren. I don't think we are alone

    Nancy 9:44 AM  

    My favorite quip of the blog so far: @GILL's "why doesn't he spell it PIERCE like God intended". I also blinked a few times at 14A's weird spelling. Or should I say wierd spelling?

    I didn't realize, @GILL, that you're a huge Agatha Christie fan too. But like you, I didn't remember DEVON -- even though I've probably read the novel three times and seen the movie four times. I needed crosses to get it but when it came in, I thought: Oh, now I remember!

    Do Google @Lewis's suggested "pestle with the poison" if you don't know the song. It's the funniest thing that Danny Kaye ever did. In fact, it's just about the funniest thing that anyone has ever done.

    Z 10:06 AM  

    “...clouded by the confusing cacophony...” has a nice ring to it.
    “...pleasure is more important than internal logic,...” is an interesting philosophical position.

    @Speedweeder - I think you are missing peoples’ point. If they had stopped at the theme and kept it tight that would have been fine. But they added all this extraneous stuff. It’s as if they made a perfectly fine coconut MACAROON and then decided to dip it chocolate, and oh, maybe some strawberry glaze, and oh, how about some MINT only I don’t have any MINT so I’ll use parsley instead.

    David 10:15 AM  

    I'm speechless. For me this was the best puzzle I've done in the Times in an era, if not an eon. I just really loved everything others are nitting about. DSFDF I guess. Actually a bit too easy as LIE and ORS made it obvious we were skipping over acrosses.

    For me "chalices" brings up Monty Python and the Holy Grail, so thanks for the Danny Kaye reminders above.

    I have just two books on the iPad I carry around. Leaves of Grass and Winnie the Pooh. Yes, people still read Milne.

    Thanks Ezra and Jeff.

    SouthsideJohnny 10:20 AM  

    Does anyone know what an “alphadoppeltotter” is ?

    Steve M 10:21 AM  

    Hate these silly gimmicks

    Newboy 10:28 AM  

    Congratulations to Ezra Brauner on today’s debut & a pat on the back for Jeff Chen’s continuing efforts to make Crossworlds a planet worth visiting. @mmorgan said it earlier, but there are worse spots to be captured than Stockholm. DNF today when IRONIC remained hidden behind typos engendered by the intersection of arthritis thumb and iPad autocorrect, ALAS indeed.

    U. N. Owen 10:35 AM  

    Surprising that Rex failed to mention the original title of Christie's "And Then There Were None."

    Unknown 10:41 AM  

    @Anonymous 9:28:

    Lifelong Astros fan here. Kinda sad this morning. But you guys outplayed us and are deserving champs. Congrats. Hope that clue pops up before too long.

    retdoc 10:44 AM  

    I rarely comment but always enjoy everyone's posts but today it seems all are missing one other connection. Looking at the puzzle, all those 'double blinds' are... Blind Spots!

    Anonymous 10:55 AM  

    FWIW, a HOOTENANNY is not, by definition, rural. it's a folk music gig, not a C&W gig and mostly happened in cities. the effete Eastern Intellectual kind, mostly (well... bicoastal, before it was au courant). Worcester was a hot-bed of same. not a farm in cite.

    Katzzz 10:58 AM  

    Jeez, Rex, you are overthinking the theme as you often do. What's confusing about "double blind"? You need to be "blind" to the "double" letters in the down answers. That is all. Seems pretty simple to me.

    Nancy 10:59 AM  

    Thank, you, thank you (I think), @Z (10:06). Tell me, do you think I have the makings of the next Plato? Locke? Schopenhauer? Hobbes? I'm quite excited, truly I am, and will try to be worthy.

    Speaking of Schopenhauer: This hilarious couplet is from from Larry Hart's lyrics for "Zip". It's a song sung by a stripper with pretensions of intellectual seriousness as she tells the audience what she thinks about as she strips:

    Zip! I was reading Schopenhauer last night.
    Zip! And I think that Schopenhauer was right.

    Anonymous 11:00 AM  

    @Unkown 10:41 it was a great series and my gosh, you guys are so good. You'll be back next year! Hope you can come to Spring Training and see a rematch :) Believe it or not, a lot of guys on the Nats do crosswords to loosen up before games.

    jberg 11:04 AM  

    I didn't see the CLONES thing, but now that I do I like the puzzle more -- that kind of thing is always fun. I got the theme right away, from OR-S and LI-E, and noticed that LICE and ORCS are both undesirable things; OPALs are desirable, though, so that wasn't it. Then there was "add letters before and after to turn one Latin plural into another Latin plural" at 28D, and the MARS ARES pairing. My feeling is always that you should go all the way or not go there at all. And while I realize symmetrical placement of the gray squares is probably not possible, it sill bothered me to have one and only one long down crossing a double letter.

    On the other hand, I have now improved my vocabulary, learning that MACARONS are not the same as MACAROONS, and that DISCRETE is not the same as DISCREet. Kind of embarrassing that I'd never noticed that before.

    Nobody reads anything anymore (present company excepted, of course), but young people are certainly familiar with Winnie and the gang. It saddens me, though, that their visual image of him is the Disney one, rather than Mr. Shepard's.

    @U.N. Owen -- I never knew about that. Now I wish I didn't. But it's consistent -- my ex-wife once pointed out that if Christie described a person as having good bones, you could remove him or her from your list of suspects.

    Ellen S 11:07 AM  

    @SouthSideJohnny - an alphadoppeltotter is a person who counts up (“tots” or “totals”) the number of double letters in a crossword puzzle. Or, more precisely, it’s @Lewis.

    jae 11:10 AM  

    Medium. Still not sure I’ve completely grokked this one, but my take is similar to Rex’s. Odd but interesting, liked it.

    Ellen S 11:25 AM  

    @U. N. Owen - what, you’re disappointed that Rex didn’t get outraged about a ____* that didn’t happen? The new title is inoffensive so he wasn’t offended.

    * I don’t know what’s the word for something between a microaggression and genocide. But I applaud Rex’s sensitivity to these things and their more common micro cousins.

    As for the puzzle ... I went to a “memory class” a couple of years ago. Haha, not kidding, I’ve forgotten most of what they said. But one thing I remember, they talked about exercises for improving or holding on to cognitive function. Like we always hear that doing crossword puzzles fends off dementia. This class said, yes, they do, but not the kind where it’s just a definition and you put in the word. What’s mentally healthy is the kind where there’s some kind of wordplay. So aside from the theme, this puzzle didn’t feel to me like there was much dementia-fending-offing. The clue for TRANCE was a good one, wish there had been more.

    RooMonster 11:30 AM  

    Hey All !
    Wow, what an impressive construction job. Not only do you have to find words with two sets of double letters, that are actual things, but you have to make them work (sometimes together) with crossing words, And have them be a part of another actual word when the "BLIND" letters are added, AND be in the puz in order, to spell out CLONE (twice!) when done. AND AND have light dreck with the incredible constraint put on the grid. Wow, again. Very tough to do. IM SPEECHLESS. (Even though I said a bunch!)

    Also impressive, as Rex noted, no other double letters anywhere else in grid. All the theme elements to me add up to one great puz.

    I wish @LMS was here today, she knows how to praise a puz construction better than me.

    Had my one-letter DNF, stupidly, at nET. Argh. First put in ouT, then saw it could be nET, and said, "Ha ouT, you're not going to fool me!" Dang, fooled anyway.

    Great one, Jeff and Ezra, if Jeff could give his own puz the POW, he could have done it with this one.


    Mark N 11:40 AM  

    Loved this one, my favorite in a while.

    Nancy 11:42 AM  

    Forgive me for being back for a 4th appearance, but...

    It's raining for the 3rd day in a row...and...

    I can chat happily about Agatha Christie till the cows come

    @jberg (11:04) -- I would love to have lunch with your ex-wife. How observant she must be! I've read every Christie book at least twice and I never, never, never, never picked up on that. Never! In fact, I don't remember anyone's bones being discussed at all. But something tells me she must be right. You can't come up with something completely off-the-wall like that and not be right. How interesting!!

    irongirl27 11:46 AM  

    Just seeing if I can now have a name instead of "Unknown." Don't think it's going to work.

    Just in case it does, @Anonymous 11:00, I'm going to tell Bregman and Co. to try crosswords. I think it was some Yankees they showed doing the crossword in the dugout in the film "Wordplay." Couldn't hurt!!

    Taffy-Kun 11:59 AM  

    And I thought I was the only one hung up on “The chalice from the palace...”

    Z 12:12 PM  

    @Nancy - What if, like Rex, you need internal logic to find pleasure? Schopenhauer would probably just point out that it is all just appearances or some such. And, staying in the Sch School, I’m now imagining Schrödinger’s Cat in some sort of quantum flux, hovering between internal logic and pleasure. Like I said, an interesting philosophical position.

    @Ellen S - I tend to find wordplay far more, uh, pleasurable than just trivia, and now you’re saying it is better at staving off dementia!? Woo Hoo.

    re: The World Series - Nice for two more of the 2012 Detroit Tiger starting rotation to finally win a World Series. My natural inclination was to root for the ‘Stros but that front office sure made it hard. Most amazing thing is that this is the first time in any sport (apparently) that the home team lost every game.

    What? 12:25 PM  

    One thing I’ve noticed about Shortz is that he seems to have a soft spot for constructors and likes puzzles that were obviously difficult to create. Fun to solve? Well, often,
    like todays, not much.

    Unknown 12:26 PM  

    For some reason, I can't get this system to let me have a name, other than "unknown." I formerly posted as Irongirl27 but then changed email accounts and since then am just Unknown. If I try to post with my "handle" it won't go through. Any suggestions welcomed!

    Again re: World Series . . . That was so bizarre with home teams losing every game. Bregman and Co. should start doing the puzzle. I remember in Wordplay seeing some team (Yankees?) working on the NYT xword in their dugout. Can't hurt!

    Joe Dipinto 12:35 PM  

    I see at least three people mentioned it, so here it is.

    I didn't like this puzzle. As Rex said, the theme has too many component elements that don't really click together. The acrosses makes no sense if you leave the gray squares blank to get the "blind" effect, but if you fill them in you don't see the "blinds" and it looks like CLONES is the extent of theme, for whatever reason. Uyy. Not fun. A trick, but not a treat. Happy Halloween.

    Masked and Anonymous 12:35 PM  

    CLONES is just another word for DOUBLEs, so that seems like an apt extra Easter egg thingy. Kinda helps justify why they picked the double letters that they did, too boot. Man, talk about tightenin up yer double-doubles themer choices, tho. Still … the themers don't seem all that desperate. Well-crafted stuff.
    Bummer that double-U's were almost out of the question, of course. Even double double-U's (WW's) had pretty slim chances.

    Primo NW lead-off weeject stack. Got them and then MACAROONS early and easy, as had no earthly idea how to spell the French version -- and ignorance was nanosecond bliss, for the M&A.

    staff weeject pick: ETS. Best desperation of the 28 candidates, due to its abbreviatedness and pluralityness.

    This here puz's Freshness Factor (a xwordinfo.chen stat) was a lowly 2.6. I guess that means we've seen a lotta these puzgrid entries many many times before. Still, I thought DERSION, RIDESAWAY, and DISCRETE (I misspelt it DISCREET) were nice non-theme-involved extra credits. ARE(S) & MAR(S) were some nice icin on the blind-doubles cake, btw.

    Thanx for gangin up on us, Chenmeister and Mr. Brauner. [I guess this puz really oughta have yer double-author billin, tho.] Also, congratz to Mr. Brauner, on his debut. Good jobb(s).
    Cute write-up, by the @RPmeister.

    Masked & Anonymo4Us


    Fred Romagnolo 12:39 PM  

    @Nancy: you failed to mention that "Zip" is from "Pal Joey." Speaking of the hilarious "Court Jester," the titles did a marvelous take on the movie historicity of the "villainous" Basil Rathbone. Speaking of which, in Bob Hope's 1939 "Ghost Breakers," after an ominous clash of thunder and lightning at night, Hope comments "Basil Rathbone must be giving a party."

    Mary McCarty 12:51 PM  

    Yes, @ROOMonster, I was hoping to sEE @LMS for a handy, wiTTy discuSSion when I fiLLed in 38D. Surprised no one else mentioned it, but I gueSS the DOUBLEBLIND thing was too aTTention-graBBing. (Who knew there are so many double-letter words! They sEEm to be aLL over the place!

    Richardf8 12:59 PM  

    The theme on this left me a little disappointed. I guess I was expecting the unclued answers to do something theme related. Had a hint of that possibility in the East with MARS and ARES adjacent, and maybe MACARO[O]NS was a kind of doubling. And MILNE has the two A’s for initials, but really I was at a loss to see a “why” to this theme.

    Teedmn 1:07 PM  

    I set no personal Thursday record today. I was stymied when I hit the MACAR and said to myself, "What? MACAROONS are not MACARONS!" in an indignant mental voice. Reading the 14A clue for 17A had me thinking, "Oh my, that's a long answer for unknown PPP" and, finally, putting in "tIles" for the Othello DISCS all led to a slowish start.

    This meant I meandered around quite a bit, trying to get that special Thursday aha moment, which came at HOOTENANNIES.

    I love the clue for TRANCE. And I thought the layered theme worked, though I'll add my vote for a more Halloween-y word than CLONES. But CLONES do double up so...

    Thanks, JC and EB, and congratulations, Ezra, on your NYT debut.

    Chip Hilton 1:14 PM  

    No objection to MAO, Rex?

    puzzlehoarder 1:17 PM  

    Just over Wednesday time so one of your easier Thursdays. The theme was very timely for me . My wife and I have just started watching "Living With Yourself" on Netflix a show which segues perfectly with this puzzle. Clon es are "the same dude" that's the point of a clone.

    Nancy 1:41 PM  

    Macaroons are a non French cookie made/ coconut and is on the spectrum of light to heavy cookies on the heavy side. Macarons ( French) on the other hand, are airy cookies,with 2 filled cookies that have a wonderfully light creamy flavored center between them. It’s a pet peeve that people call Macaroons the American version of the French Macarons. They are nothing alike except desserts. Sorry, but as I said it’s one of my few pet peeves.

    Nancy 1:44 PM  

    Gregg, you’re not alone. I’ve read Pooh to 3 generations of kids many were my students as I was a preK teacher.

    PaulyD 1:51 PM  

    Wow. The pedantry level is off the charts today in the comments. I was impressed by the intricate, multiple levels of the puzzle even before I learned one of the constructors is nineteen and new to the game. Get over yourselves and stop damning with faint praise. This is an excellent effort that is far preferable to some rebus or other gimmicky structure typically foisted upon us on Thursdays.

    Ethan Taliesin 2:27 PM  

    Now I know what a macaron is, even if my computer's spellcheck doesn't.

    I was puzzled

    William of Ockham 2:41 PM  

    Nice puzzle, but very easy, especially for a Thursday

    QuasiMojo 2:42 PM  

    @Nancy, and @jberg, speaking of Bones another puzzle today that I probably can't mention is all about them. Re: Christie, I too have seen the flick "And Then There Were None" countless times. But I've also seen many other versions. Three Hollywood ones, I think, -- one at a ski chalet resort (with Fabian), another in the desert (awful), and one in a jungle (with Brenda Vaccaro) and a Russian one that I think is the only one that actually stayed true to the novel, at least with regard to its ending. There might have been one on a train too, TV movie. Apparently some producer owned exclusive rights to it and remade it each time. Altho not the Russian one, which is worth watching. Pardon my running on.

    LOgan 2:48 PM  

    Would someone explain why Easter is "Something with a movable feast." Thanks

    chefwen 3:21 PM  

    According to the “Food Lover’s Companion” macaroon (mak-uh-ROON) A small cookie classically made with almond paste or ground almonds (or both) mixed with sugar and egg whites. Almond macaroons can be chewy, crunchy or a combined texture with the outside crisp and the inside chewy. There is also a coconut macaroon, which substitutes coconut for the almonds. Macaroons can be flavored with various ingredients such as chocolate, maraschino cherries or orange peel. So there you have it. If I were to guess I would say that the French just spell it differently.

    As for the puzzle, I really liked it after I figured what was going on which took an embarrassingly, long time.

    JC66 3:32 PM  


    Per Wikipedia:

    A macaron or French macaroon is a sweet meringue-based confection made with egg white, icing sugar, granulated sugar, almond powder, and food coloring.Wikipedia
    Alternative names:
    French macaroon
    The Italian chef of queen Catherine De Medici.
    Main ingredients:
    Cookie: egg white, icing sugar, granulated sugar, almond powder, food coloring, Filling: buttercream or clotted cream, ganache, or jam

    Here's what MACARONS and MACAROONS look like.

    JC66 3:34 PM  


    Anonymous 3:39 PM  

    Went to comment this morning but the forum was empty again. I guess
    I need to sleep in. Hootenannies made me think of the 2nd full-length LP from the über-great Replacements (3rd if you count the EP "Stink"). A reason to smile in itself, though here in the DC 'burbs we don't need any other reason today!

    Anonymous 3:43 PM  

    @LOgan, I wondered the same thing. Anyone care to explain?

    Joaquin 3:57 PM  

    @LOgan and Anon - My guess: Easter usually involves a feast and the holiday itself moves around (not the same date every year). But I don't observe that holiday so I could be wrong!

    Anonymous 3:58 PM  

    @LOgan Easter occurs on different dates, year to year.

    Anonymous 4:00 PM  

    Because Easter does not have a set date on the calendar. It varies from year to year.

    Logan 4:04 PM  

    Glad to know I am not alone.

    Logan 4:07 PM  

    Thank you. However, I don't think of Easter as a feast, but rather a holy day.

    Anonymous 4:16 PM  

    66A, moveable feast. It's feast as in festival or holiday, specifically a religious holiday, and moveable in it falls on different days each year, as opposed to feasts such as Christmas or the Annunciation. Read Hemingway's *Moveable Feast*, about his Paris years, and you'll see why that book has disappeared from the college curriculum--very ugly remarks about homosexuality, or he at least quotes ugly remarks of Gertrude Stein without criticism.

    Anon. i.e. Poggius

    TeaHag 4:33 PM  

    I actually really enjoyed this! I usually take forever to figure out themes /gimmicks/rebuses etc, but I got this one straight away and then looked for the revealer and filled in DOUBLE BLIND with no crosses. Enjoyed this one and found the rest of the fill appropriately tough for a Thursday.

    Hank 4:47 PM  

    Re Logan 2:48 PM -
    "Would someone explain why Easter is "Something with a movable feast." Thanks

    Moveable feast - any annual religious observance (Easter is a well-known example) whose calendar date varies from year to year

    Anoa Bob 4:54 PM  

    I'm sure that most crossword enthusiasts, especially those of us getting a bit long in the tooth, hope that our hobby will help stave off dementia. There are, however, no DOUBLE BLIND studies or any other kind of empirical evidence that I know of to support this, sad to say.

    A handy mnemonic for remembering the difference between "discreet" and DISCRETE (38D) is that the one that means separate or apart has a T that separates the two Es.

    I join those who were impressed with the constructioneering (©M&A) skills evident in the grid but who feel that there were too many thematic elements that didn't quite mesh smoothly together. After reading the blog and comments, I still don't see (heh) how those shaded squares are BLIND.

    Anonymous 4:55 PM  

    @Irongirl27 12:26 - at the risk of turning any indifferent baseball fans on the forum against my team, the Nats actually do the - gasp - USA Today puzzle. The horrors! I have to bite my tongue walking through the clubhouse :) Sometimes i throw them a bone, but they're competitive and like to finish on their own. Next year I'm going to start sneaking some NYTimes puzzles in there, I think American Values Club and Fireball are a little too "out of their league".

    chefwen 5:18 PM  

    @JC66 The French translation of macaroon is macaron.

    Bourbon Street 5:20 PM  

    For anyone who is interested, there is an excellent British production of “And Then There Were None” that originally aired in 2015 on BBC1 as a mini-series. I saw it earlier this year here in the States. Even though I read the book numerous times, this production gave me the creeps. It’s also very true to the book.

    JC66 5:43 PM  


    OK, but they look different to me.

    Richardf8 5:52 PM  

    Someone who counts geminates.

    Anonymous 6:33 PM  

    so why does Easter move? unlike Christmas, which is legendary, and was fixed to a secular calendar date, Easter was fixed to the Hebrew lunar calendar. why? check the wiki.

    bauskern 7:01 PM  

    So clever. I do agree with Rex that until you suss out the trick, it's slow going, but then once you have that Aha! moment, things start to move much faster. And FWIW, I was eating a mint chocolate macaron tonight, from our local bakery in a tiny rural town where one might come upon a hootenanny.

    Anonymous 7:30 PM  

    @Chip Hilton- He’s a nut. Mass murderers < Trump Cabinet members

    Anonymous 7:46 PM  

    "And then there were none" first had a very disreputable title, and then tried to clean up its act partially, before finally settling on the final title.

    Amazed that Rex forgot to rant about Mao being clued in a relatively favorable manner (i.e., as being on the side of the oppressed, not the oppressing).

    CDilly52 9:07 PM  

    @Nancy-I’m right there with you sister! As a matter of fact, my dear Grandmother (the guide of my life, and the one who led me to crosswords) was a self-taught phenomenal baker. She taught me her recipes for her wonderfully light “coconut macaroons” and her equally perfect, crisp on the outside and chewy on the inside with rich flavorful creamy filling between them, macarons (pronounced perfectly as if one were in a Parisian patisserie. We always had them in delightful spring colors at Easter. I adored being with Gran in the kitchen to watch and learn. Yet despite using the same recipe, same equipment including her ancient cloth pastry bags and tips for piping and doing the “cookie sheet smack” on the kitchen counter with a magazine on the counter to soften the blow “just enough,” my macarons never have the perfect feet, never the same light crispy outside and my fillings just don’t measure up to the memories. Friends of course call me crazy. They pass, they are even good but that special touch of magic is missing. Perhaps what I need to make the perfect cookie is to become the grandmother and pass the recipes on again. Our family storehouse of cookie recipes is legend among friends. Gran passed them on to my mother and to me. She and her 6 sisters came through Ellis Island from Germany and opened a bakery/cafe in Hebron, Ohio. My daughter and son-in-law are waiting for the call that tells them their child is ready to be adopted. I’m over the moon at the thought of sharing a kitchen with my daughter and grandchild! only macarons are macarons and in my family thee is no such thing as a macaroon, only “coconut macaroons” to distinguish the rather pedestrian (but delicious if you like coconut) American concoction from the French jewels. Aaahhhh, memories.

    CDilly52 9:09 PM  

    I ADORE THAT CRAZY MOVIE!!! And laugh every year at Danny Kaye’s “sprained ankle” scene in “White Christmas.”

    Z 9:22 PM  

    @Irongirl27 - Are you logged into Google before you try to post? Is the email connected to your google account updated to your new account? Making sure those are all current might solve your problem. Blogger is notoriously wonky, though. Alternatively, have you tried selecting the “Name/URL” option and entering your nom de blog? Finally, you could create a new google account with some alternate email created just for this purpose. Good Luck. I know others have been cast into unknownness by Blogger and had a hard time getting their blog identity back.

    albatross shell 10:35 PM  

    Or if she doesn't feel the need for total continuity, she could try signing in as Fegirl under her new email.

    57Stratocaster 1:02 PM  

    Iman, I believe.

    Anonymous 2:28 AM  

    Hungry Mother,
    You didn't have one of your best times: you DNF'ed. There was no alternate clue for IMAM. Sorry.

    Burma Shave 9:37 AM  


    YES, ARThur AVOWS to seek the CHALICE,
    yet in the MUD along the BRAE
    a peasant’s DERISION leaves him SPEECHLESS


    spacecraft 11:17 AM  

    DISCRETE and "discreet" are two totally separate (DISCRETE) words. The one with the double-EE means "on the down low." ALSO: I can live with "RIDES into the sunset" or "goes AWAY," but switch 'em? Awkward.

    Hand up for helpful ignorance on the cookies. That did result in a delay for getting the trick, though. I got it all except the CLONES part. Again, finished, but it doesn't feel complete. The CLONES thing is Jeff's, I'll bet my house. Once The "maguffin" landed, the puzzle was pretty Thursday-easy. Loved the ARES/MARS connection. IMAN rightly occupies center stage as DOD. Birdie.

    rondo 3:24 PM  

    I did not miss the CLONES, nor the fact that this puz cost both an ARM and a LEG. And it took 22 threes to make it all fit right. Did not know about the MACAR(O)ON thing. YES, Mrs. David Bowie right in the midst of things, kinda between BRA UNDONE. Didn’t have to REDO one square. Good enough puz.

    rainforest 3:38 PM  

    This was a nice, creative puzzle the theme of which totally eluded me until I got to the revealer. I had to look back at where the double letters were to finally "see" what the heck was going on. Otherwise I was bamboozled by thinking that "tale" was the whopper, wondering about OPAL meaning "bud", and that the damage was "MesS".

    I chuckled when I put in CHALICE because, like @Lewis and others, it brought to mind that scene with Danny Kaye - "the chalice from the palace (vessel with the pestle, flagon with the dragon)" etc. Strange, the things that stick with you, or at least, me.

    Neat to see that the reformed words were actual words on their own. This was better than a rebus because completing the grid was pretty easy, but grokking the theme took some effort.

    leftcoaster 6:01 PM  

    Trademark Jeff Chen cleverness in clues, answers, revealer, and theme(s?). Maybe a bit too clever?

    So, what we have is a DOUBLE BLIND experiment with CCLLOONNEESS, i.e., CLONES, and the double letters blanked out (blinded?) to get the ten down answers. Okay, got it but didn't get it.

    What am I missing?

    Diana, LIW 6:41 PM  

    Solved t with just a "scooch" of help. But didn't need help at all with the "theme" or the trick - whatever you wish to call it. And 'twas fun to do.

    Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords

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