Sexologist Shere / THU 10-10-19 / Old cars with wings in their logo / Bana 2004 Indonesian tsunami site / Parent company of Athleta Old Navy / Blue-bottled vodka brand / Certain leathercrafter

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Constructor: Tracy Gray

Relative difficulty: Easy (4:38)

THEME: WATCH YOUR STEP! (39A: "Tread carefully!" ... or a hint to four dangers in this puzzle) — parts of the long (Across) theme answers turn down for a bit, and the part that turns down forms a word that describes a hazard you might fall into or trip on (if you don't WATCH YOUR STEP):

Theme answers:
  • NOCHOLESTEROL (18A: What margarine has, unlike butter) (19D: Metaphor for indebtedness)
  • CREDITCHECK (29A: Part of a tenant screening report) (30D: Abandon)
  • TOGAPARTY (50A: Classic "Animal House" scene) (51D: Parent company of Athleta and Old Navy)
  • HOSPITALSTAY (62A: Requirement after a surgery, perhaps)
Word of the Day: SYOSSET (46D: Long Island community bordering Oyster Bay)
Syosset /sˈɒsɪt/ is a hamlet and census-designated place (Syosset) in Nassau CountyNew York, United States, in the northeastern section of the Town of Oyster Bay, on the North Shore of Long Island. Syosset is an affluent community, well known for its school district, and is served by the Syosset railroad station, the Syosset Post Office, the Syosset Central School District, the Syosset Public Library, the Syosset Fire Department, and the Jericho Water District. The population was 18,829 at the 2010 census. Syosset is located approximately 32 miles (50 km) east of Midtown Manhattan, 14 miles (20 km) east of eastern border with Queens, 23 miles (40 km) southeast of the Throgs Neck Bridge, and 168 miles (270 km) southeast of Albany, the state capital. It is also in close proximity to beaches, with Jones Beach only 19 miles (30 km) south of the town. It borders Oyster Bay and Laurel Hollow to the north, Woodbury to the east, Plainview and Hicksville to the south, and Jericho to the west, Service is accessible to New York City by the LIRR and the Long Island Expressway by car. (wikipedia)
• • •

Apparently if you solve in the app, the grid *tells you* where the theme material is, which ... I would find horribly insulting and intrusive. Get your dumb tech out of my way and let me solve my damned puzzle. I solved without any such visual help and it was solidly in the Easy category. No need to hold the solver's hand. Solvers should have to opt *in* to crap like that. I'm all for giving novice solvers some kind of purchase in the Thursday puzzle, but for regular solvers ... the puzzle should keep its training wheels to itself.

But to the puzzle—this theme type is old, and always looks kinda dumb in the grid (with Across answers that look like nonsense), *but* this particular iteration of the partial-drop theme is actually quite cute—the parts that fall are all things you might actually fall into if you don't WATCH YOUR STEP. Nice. I got a nice, genuine little aha out of that realization at the end. I guess you don't fall into the GAP so much (except in old ads for The GAP, where that is apparently what you were supposed to do)

GAP is a bit of an outlier, but I don't mind. The overall concept really works here. And the grid ... well, it's OK. Excited to see DEMO CREWS (2D: Opposite of builders) and MOMBASA (55A: Kenya's second-largest city) and (weirdly) "CSI: MIAMI" ("weirdly" because I don't like, in fact have never watched, the show—I just like how the title looks in the grid) (40D: Long-running series whose lead role was Lt. Horatio Caine). The fill gets dicey in places. ENTS over AGEE over LSAT is some pretty dense gunk at the bottom of the grid. NEBS ETAT ROOS SLO AOKI REOS ULTA, all less than pretty. Normally wouldn't like ASONE but the Lennon clue (on his birthday) (well, when I solved, last night, it was his birthday) is a nice touch so I'll allow it (12D: Last two words of John Lennon's "Imagine"ACEH, not great (26D: Banda ___ (2004 Indonesian tsunami site)). Like, really hard. The only way 99% of Americans are gonna know that is because of that horrible tsunami, and even then, spelling it, yikes. NON-PC, ugh, always very very terrible (see also UN-PC, and basically the entire concept of "PC"). So the grid could be a little cleaner, and little more polished, a little less stuffy and musty, but it's got a few highlights, and the theme actually works, so hurray.
    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

    [Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


    puzzlehoarder 12:57 AM  

    I figured this one out inspite of its PITfalls.

    Art 1:00 AM  

    I will not clutter my brain with arcane knowledge like Banda Aceh. I will thus proudly not know the fill next time it comes up either. Am I wrong to behave this way. Average time around 45 minutes unless an Aceh causes a DNF. No pro at this....but, I enjoy every minute of play everyday...and my brain remains uncluttered.

    Unknown 1:07 AM  

    SYOSSET x AGEE felt like a Natick to me. Is Syosset common knowledge on the East Coast?

    jae 1:09 AM  

    Easy-medium. @Rex - Cute works for me plus there are some fine long downs, liked it.

    I solved on the Standalone app, so no hints.

    Art 1:19 AM  

    Puzzle constructor says: “Oh, I really need an ACEH fill, I really hope that after I search ACEH on Google that something comes up.” Grrr.

    Art 1:57 AM  

    I’ve got a clever crossword that has a theme around modern day dictators with answers including Duterte, Xi, Ergodan, Putin and Maduro. I think it is factual. It seems to have a place consistent with global consciousness. Do you think the NYT would consider it?

    okanaganer 2:20 AM  

    At the first theme answer I was reminded of the "Mind The Gap puzzle" with a similar theme. (Jan. 17 2013... was it really that long ago?? Almost 7 years???) There was a GAP running vertically down the middle of the puzzle consisting of only black and rebuse squares; check it out.

    Then I was forcefully reminded again at TO[GA P]ARTY.

    I vividly remember the MIND THE GAP warnings printed on the curb of the many platforms in the London Underground. Also the LOOK RIGHT warnings similarly printed on the street curbs for us vulnerable visitors from drive-on-the-right countries.

    chefwen 2:56 AM  

    Really liked this one, caught on fairly early after I got WATCH YOUR STEP and figured HOS (PIT) AL STAY. Had the most trouble with the spelling of CHOLESTEROL, forgot that there was an H in there, so HOLE was my last get. Smiled with GAP thinking of the London Tube where at every stop they remind you to “Mind the Gap”.

    We had a KOI pond at our house in Southern CA, I made the mistake of naming all the fish and would be crushed when they started disappearing one by one. Finally caught on that a raccoon was fishing late at night and was enjoying a free meal. Sprinkled hot pepper around the pond thinking it would get on their little paws and would be a deterrent, apparently they liked spicy sushi, and my pretty fish kept disappearing as fast as I could replenish the pond, and those little guys don’t come a dime a dozen. Finally put up an electric wire that was supposed to give them a “memorable shock”, husband asked me to test it and it almost knocked me on my butt, memorable indeed. Problem solved.

    Fun puzzle, Tracy Gray.

    Phil 3:10 AM  

    My aha comes when the bonked words with the anomaly of a themed puzzle still spell out a real word.
    But I still enjoyed the solve and yes it would have been tougher for me if the highlights weren’t there.

    Hank 5:11 AM  

    I liked the highlights. I caught on to the general idea but still had to see just how it was implemented. So at first I thought it was a rebus as letters were "dropped" but then it was clear that the missing letters were close by.


    I too am not a fan of the term Politically Correct.

    It seems to me to be a label that is frequently used to criticize other thoughts or sentiments on the basis of being polite or popular (accepted). It's a kind of superficial or indirect dismissal.

    There is the implied notion that some distasteful truth exists but people are too timid to admit to that being the case. Simply applying the label "politically correct" supposedly demonstrates the veracity of some contrary notion.

    It would be better to address the issues or ideas directly - on their own merits. Then people can at least test ideas and not try to make a point by just calling something group think (which is one kind of definition of political correctness).

    Anyway, I could on. That's just part of my complaint. LOL


    Fun to see AROUSE and BESTIR in the opposite corner.

    Also ASONE and ALONE.

    New word for me = NEB

    mmorgan 5:23 AM  

    Fun! Cool! Good challenge, good workout, no drek that I could see, but Rex usually finds some. After getting LES for 28A, I briefly thought those three letters would be a rebus (as in CHO-LES-TEROL). But nope. Took awhile to figure out the theme, which is usually something I like, as I did here (no highlighting on AcrossLite, yay). I thought that 25A (Hounds) would be bASSetS (which makes sense!) but eventually ceding to HASSLES helped immeasurably. I wish somewhere there was a MIND THE GAP, but I have nothing but good things to say about this, so thank you Tracy Gray!

    JB in VT 5:39 AM  

    BEER BONG? Never heard of it and I grudgingly inserted BEER PONGS, assuming that must be what was called for, and quietly fumed over the plural. Now that I’ve googled BEER BONG and endured a YT demo I feel half hung over. Curious about just how common this is. I’ve played any number of dumb assed drinking games in my time but never encountered this one.

    Lewis 5:45 AM  
    This comment has been removed by the author.
    mathgent 5:49 AM  

    I don't like how the four themers are spelled out. For example, 18A. We start out NOC and fall down the HOLE. And then we have to climb out to get to STEROL. I would have preferred HOLE to fill a rebus square and 19D be an entry beginning HOLE.

    Anonymous 5:51 AM  

    Slowed down by jumping in with NOTRANSFAT after getting the NO in 18A.

    Lewis 5:53 AM  

    Hah! Terrific Thursday trick for gullible me! On the day we're so wary of possible rebi, you tempt us, Tracy, with a scenario in which rebi will work -- but they don't! Brilliant! Is it the first of April?

    Another outstanding offering by the Gray lady.

    Solverinserbia 6:11 AM  

    My golden streak ended at 12. I actually wasn't tripped up by all the crossword gunk and there was way more than usual, the worst offenders being ACEH and SAHIB which no one could ever know, but there was so much more. I was actually tripped up by having oNTIME for INTIME which is totally my fault. But seriously awful fill.

    Rique Beleza 6:14 AM  

    No shout-out to Les Paul?

    Anonymous 6:25 AM  

    Why did I hate this?

    Hungry Mother 6:27 AM  

    Fun trick, which had me solving those tricky parts first. SnO instead of SLO for awhile, otherwise very smooth. Too many names, but all gettable. Almost a full cup of coffee.

    Hungry Mother 6:44 AM  

    @JB in VT: I thought VT meant Virginia Tech, but BEER BONG would have been familiar in that case.

    Anonymous 6:46 AM  

    Stop, look, and listen
    Before you cross the street.
    Use your eyes, use your ears,
    Then use your feet.

    OffTheGrid 6:56 AM  

    After having HOLE as a rebus I figured out that it wasn't and needed to go down. So I had part of the idea at least. Then came the revealer but I was disappointed and peeved, like Rex, that the themes were shaded. That made the puzzle much easier. I feel the same way about "?" clues.

    Re: 8A, Is there such a thing as good RAP? Har!

    Anonymous 7:03 AM  

    @Anonymous late yesterday, The red square is Rex's last letter.

    kitshef 7:28 AM  

    That was everything I want in a Thursday. Sometimes, they are really tough until you get the theme, and then you fly through the rest. Here, getting the theme was nice, getting the second part of the theme was elation-inducing, but there was still work to be done. VERY glad I did not solve in “the app”, based on Rex’s notes.

    bASSetS for hounds held me up a long time (hi,. @mmorgan), as did BumRAP. And for some reason, my brain said “Animal Farm” rather than “Animal House”, and I was wondering … trip to the glue factory? Battle of the cowshed?

    Art 7:32 AM  

    You like BESTIR? I can’t come up with a sentence using it. If it is Shakespearian shouldn’t it be clued as such?

    amyyanni 7:34 AM  

    It was fun, buttoo easy for Thursday. Feeling the need for more of a workout. Huh. Guess I'll go read the op ed page.

    Suzie Q 7:39 AM  

    Boy am I glad I print out my puzzle. If the trick had been given away I would have been offended. This is Thursday, I don't want any help.
    I got Watch Your Step early in the game so this came easy to me.
    There certainly was some tricky geography though.
    Will the same people who complained about Texaco yesterday grouse about Les Paul today?

    Anonymous 7:41 AM  

    Do the Omni hotels have pens?

    Gretchen 8:12 AM  

    Loved it! So much fun with only half a cup of coffee!

    Marcie 8:19 AM  

    Agee took me way....back. Enjoyed the puzzle.

    GILL I. 8:23 AM  

    Did anyone else think a morsel for a toad was a FLY? Where do they find an ANT in a pond?
    I absolutely loved this.... Tracy is a pro. This could not have been easy to construct; it's awesome.
    Took me a while to figure out that I had to go down the rabbit hole and then climb back up again. I was into rebus mode. So I finally get HOLE and then I went wandering into the silly Animal House and remembered the BEER BONG idiots wearing TOGAS at a drunk fest PARTY. Hey, sez I....this is pretty nifty. I like it.
    I really wanted the reveal to be WALK A THIN LINE. Doesn't make sense, does it? WATCH YOUR STEP gave me a very nice AHA that I shall relish for the rest of the day.
    Liked ARTISANS sharing a seat with Grant Wood and his RURAL paintings as well as SLO SAP. SPOT OF TEA that my British husband would never utter so, BESTIR my heart.
    @chefwen...The animal lover shocking a raccoon to smithereens? Say it ain't so......There's a youtube somewhere showing a kitty gently stroking some KOI. You gotta think hmmmmm.

    kitshef 8:38 AM  

    @GILL I. - toads spend almost all of their lives on dry land (as opposed to frogs, who spend a lot of time in water). Once they metamorphose, baby toads will hop out into the forest where they will live and grow, coming back to water only to breed.

    Runs on Dunkin 8:42 AM  


    Nancy 9:03 AM  

    Since it never occurred to me that the Across answers would turn down, what I was reading was an Across rebus square [HOLE] atop a Down answer [HOLE]OLE. Next came the Down answer [PIT]IT. Next, the Down answer [GAP]AP. Which gave me -- because, not knowing either CHE or ACEH, I would never have gotten it on my own -- the Down answer [DITCH]ITCH. Which made the rebus seem really weird to me as I was solving it!

    But of course you do go down when you step into a HOLE, GAP or DITCH -- so the conceit works quite well. If I didn't see it, it's because, as I've told you so many times, I'm not at all visual. (Meaning that perhaps more than anyone else here, I need to WATCH MY STEP. Which I always try to do with every single step I take, indoors and out. But, of course, it will be the one time I forget that disaster will strike...)

    This would be a superb puzzle were it not for the obscure proper names cropping up in the worst possible places. I can see all the restraints that exist in creating the grid and how hard it would be to get rid of those names, but still. This could have been really great and it comes up a bit short.

    QuasiMojo 9:09 AM  

    I did this puzzle at 4:30 this morning so I felt as if I had fallen into a pit. I was sure the letters fell in and then crawled their way back out. It worked for some but not Cholesterol which had an extra i in it if one did that. But in the end it all worked as intended and I was done. I too had never heard of Beer Bongs. We had wine bongs when I was in college but we only drank beer from pitchers or out of cans. No headstands that I recall. We tried to have a Toga Party but sheets were usually multi-colored then and few of us had white ones. Or clean ones.

    Gap is an outlier? I guess Rex doesn't get to the city often. Every subway car and train to the burbs has a voice announcement warning to "Mind the Gap." People don't alas and hundreds a year are injured. Many die.

    I am fussy about language so when a phrase says "what something has" I wonder if "no something" is fair or accurate as an answer. Margarine does not have cholesterol but does it have "no cholesterol"?

    SouthsideJohnny 9:11 AM  

    I don’t get the clue for 33A (SEMI) - I must be missing a play on words - one, of two, for four . . . doesn’t get me anywhere. Any help ?

    Anonymous 9:17 AM  

    Toads can live without being near a body of water.

    oldbizmark 9:19 AM  

    Can someone explain what INN has to do with the Nativity story? Also, why TOOLER/HITE are in the puzzle and it is still an "Easy" puzzle (what the f- is a tooler or a hite?). Is ULTA common knowledge (not for this guy). I knew SYOSSET but how many people outside of Long Island would have any clue. I did like the theme and it got it early but a lot of fill is goobly-gunk.

    Anonymous 9:32 AM  

    I concur; please, someone, explain it simply and clearly.

    gregg 9:35 AM  

    There was no room at the inn so had to go to a stable. Luke 2

    Sir Hillary 9:37 AM  

    Loved this one! I solve in the newspaper, so fortunately didn't get the unnecessary help that online solvers did. Thus, this played quite hard for me, because it took me forever to figure out the theme; I had numerous sections half-filled, but couldn't get anything to connect. Finally, future-Senator Blutarsky and the "Animal House" boys made it clear, and things fell quickly from there.

    WATCHYOURSTEP especially over Column 3: two hazards on top of one another, plus SLIP above them both.

    If ever ONO deserved a Yoko clue, it would be today. Bizarre what they went with instead.

    ALE in BEERBONGS gets a BADRAP. WATCHYOURSTEP at a TOGAPARTY though, or you'll end up with a HOSPITALSTAY.

    David Caruso as Horatio Caine in CSIMIAMI is some of the greatest unintentional comedy of all time.

    Anyone else fleetingly wonder what the hell "Let's get REAp!" meant?

    Alex M 9:42 AM  

    "Mind the gap" is an extremely common Britishism, it's definitely something you need to WATCHYOURSTEP around. The margarine one bugged me though, since it only has NOCHOLESTEROL if it's an all plant-based formulation, with no dairy at all - most industrial ones are (cheaper), but marg you buy at the grocery store isn't unless it's labelled vegan.

    Z 9:53 AM  

    A fine little tussle. Liked the theme quite a bit. Like @Hank, I’ll save you the NON-PC rant. The SYOSSET wikipedia entry got a chuckle. Sure, fair game for the New YorkTimes Crossword, so I guess we have to forgive the parochialism of the answer, but “close proximity to beaches, with Jones Beach only 19 miles (30 km) south of the town,” made me laugh. In my world “close proximity” does not extend 19 miles.

    @unknown1:07 - AGEE Is more famous than even Shakespeare in Crossworld, so a natick for newer solvers but just tired automatic fill once you’ve been doing them for awhile.

    @JB in VT - BEER BONGS are a fine example of how a little bit of science can be a dangerous thing. They were around in the early 80’s, but I did manage to avoid them as well.

    @anon7:41 - Wondering if you just invented the first Crossworld Koan. I’m going to have to meditate on your question now.

    @oldbizmark - It’s probably been explained (and you probably thought of the answer 3 nanoseconds after hitting “publish”), but the lack of a room at the INN is what forced Mary and Joseph to be hanging out in the stable. Nothing in the bible about the stable having pens.

    clk 9:57 AM  

    ACEH seemed fair to me since it’s been in the news recently, but will probably not be very gettable 5 years from now.
    On the other hand, while I realize it’s the New York Time so it can be excused for being NY-centric, SYOSETT is just terrible fill.

    RooMonster 9:58 AM  

    Hey All !
    I didn't think this was a Rex review when I first started reading it. It was too cheery and nice. Har. Tracy must be a friend. Rex does nice good, though.

    Caught the theme Down thing at PIT. With having __P__STAY in the Across, I knew the answer was, but it wouldn't fit. Since it's Thursday, I thought Rebus, but PIT had to be PIT, so I got the AHA when I erad the Revealer clue,cand saw that the rest of HOSPITAL STAY would fit with PIT in the Down. Nice. Got GAP and HOLE quickly, DITCH took a second or two, ended up being my favorite.

    One-letter DNF, SnO for SLO. SnO POKE candy. Har.

    Three OO's, ROOS TOOLER, BOO. :-)

    Liked this puz. Only one writeover, INCAn-INCAS. Agree ACEH was a bit obscure. As was HITE.

    We get different clues today for ONO and CHE. Nice.
    One F, but there's a PH with an F sound, so an honorary two.
    ROOS. Plural abbr. meat (Yo @M&A!)

    For a moment, thought SKYY would be part of 25A, Hounds, as a name of a dog breed. HASKY something?


    Anonymous 10:04 AM  

    “Mind the gap” is a reminder announcement when detraining so one does fall into the gap.

    CDilly52 10:05 AM  

    @Art 1:00 am- you and I probably occupy similar wheelhouses. Banda ACEH? Really? We know that horrific devastating tsunami was in Indonesia and that is quite enough, thank you. Also, my average Thursday is in the 40-45 minute range. I am not overly fond of the machinations in which one frequently must participate on Thursday (other than a really good rebus) and this one was so obvious at TOGA PARTY...However, the conceit was interesting. Got it all but needed every dang cross!

    PIX 10:05 AM  

    The Long Island Rail Road (not Railroad) is the busiest commuter railroad in the nation. It has a major issue with GAPS between the cars and the platforms. There have been multiple injuries. One of the biggest gaps in the whole system is at SYOSSET. The station itself is on a curve and it's impossible to make a straight railroad car line up with the curve--hence big gaps. It's not a coincidence they were next to each other in the puzzle.

    pabloinnh 10:09 AM  

    I liked this one to the point of wanting to put it in Thursdazo territory, only a couple of obscure answers keep it out. Great concept and execution for the most part.
    Roland searched the continent
    For the man who'd done him in
    He found him in MOMBASA
    In a barroom drinking gin

    You just never know when Warren Zevon is going to come in handy.

    @SouthsideJohnny-The best I can do is "semi"=half and two is half of four so four has two halves. Fairly tortured clue, IMO.

    Thanks for a very fun Thursday, TG. Well done you.

    CDilly52 10:12 AM  

    @Art (Reply to @Hank), Re BESTIR:

    Winters at Downton Abbey could that not a soul upstairs would BESTIR until long after the staff had roaring fires ablaze throughout the house.

    Yeah, it’s old style but legit.

    PhiskPhan 10:17 AM  

    I got totally thrown off because the first theme answer I solved -- credit check -- had me following "cred" across, then down through "it," the to the right through "ch," up through "ec" and to the right for "k." But none of the others worked that way, so what the heck? I completed it correctly, without knowing why, until I read Rex's explanation.

    Anonymous 10:25 AM  

    given a choice, not that I get one, between these kind of architectural constructs and rebi, I'll take this nine times to Sunday.

    David 10:33 AM  

    @oldbizmark, take it from this old atheist: "And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn." Luke 2:7, KJV

    @Anon at 7:41, my question as well

    @unknown at 1:07, no, it's probably well known on Long Island though.

    I found this neither great nor horrible, just "why not?". At 18A I had "hole" as a rebus, it being Thursday and all, but then "Holeole" didn't work for 19D, so brain said, "Oh, I guess it's just an "H" and then goes down. OK." and I went on to solve it. Old timey theme with well constructed answers.

    Ah... David Caruso. Been playing himself in movies and on TV since the early 80s. Nice work if you can get it I guess.

    I use the app but, as usual, ignored the highlights; I find that very easy to do.

    Petsounds 10:33 AM  

    My favorite Thursday puzzle in a long time. Thoroughly enjoyable! Appreciated the clue for ENTS, which is usually something about "The Lord of the Rings," but this time was about doctors. A lot of fun!

    Anonymous 10:36 AM  

    “Mind the gap” is a reminder announcement when detraining so one does fall into the gap.

    Vincent D'Onofrio, much before L&O, nominated for an emmy (good thing I checked; I remember him as winning) for a character that did just that in a "Homicide" episode.

    Newboy 10:44 AM  

    Mind the GAP! Good advice for London visitors and today’s puzzle.NOtPC made the northwest really tough until FANNIE MAE sailed in to fill that SLIP. Great fun digging ourselves outta today’s mental traps, so thanks Tracy. Hope you posted constructor notes on XWordInfo which will be my next WATCHYOURSTEP moment.

    Preferred Customer 10:47 AM  

    And please explain the answer to Birds' bills. Thanks

    EAbbe 10:50 AM  

    Having grown up about three miles away from it, I had no problem coming up with SYOSSET. However, I question the veracity of the clue for it. According to Google Maps and other sources, there is no shared border SYOSSET and Oyster Bay, despite what Wikipedia says. I think that the good people of East Norwich, which sits squarely between them, will object to being geographically ignored.

    A more accurate, though probably even more obscure, clue might have been, “Hometown of Natalie Portman”.

    Note to puzzle constructors and editors (and a surprise to all of us, I am sure) - Not everything written in Wikipedia is true!!

    Newboy 11:02 AM  

    For those puzzled by 33A think of NCAA March Madness when four teams are left in the SEMI (s) playing in one of two games with winners advancing . True of any bracketed format I guess.

    eddy 11:04 AM  

    I googled NEB and the first hundred or so hits were nothing to do with birds. I thought it was NIB. Along with TETRA, which I thought was TITRA, I could not find the final solution. NATICKed, in other words. Unfair! Not only did this drag out my time to a ridiculous length but it caused me considerable dyspepsia and outrage, both of which I suffer from anyway because I am following news from Washington.

    Speedweeder 11:05 AM  

    @SouthsideJohnny 9:11 - I took this to mean semifinal, of which there are two for the final four teams in a tournament.

    Anonymous 11:10 AM  

    "Rex" you like to tell us about TV series you have never watched---a sure sign of an insecure pseudo-intellectual.

    OffTheGrid 11:14 AM  

    @pabloinnh & Southside Johnny, My take is this: For example consider a tennis tournament that is down to 4 players. You have 2 semifinal matches. One(SEMI) of two(semis) for four(players). Whadaya think?

    Anonymous 11:20 AM  

    aren't many of the 'towns' on Long Island just place names without legal borders?

    "Syosset is a hamlet and census-designated place in Nassau County, New York, United States" aka, not a municipality, and thus could stretch anywhere.

    jberg 11:21 AM  

    @southdide—The two SEMIfinal games in a tournament involve four teams.

    glenbee 11:23 AM  

    RE: GAP - If you ride the train or tube in the UK you will hear "Mind the gap" at every stop, lest you step off the train and into the gap between the rails and the platform.

    jberg 11:27 AM  

    HOLEOLE could either be some bird in Hawaii or a cheer in golf.

    TJS 11:47 AM  

    26 proper nouns/abbreviations/shortened words(profs,semis,roos,etc.).Glad ya'll liked it. And on a Thursday,too.

    Masked and Anonymous 11:49 AM  

    M&A sorta had a screwed-up ahar moment, for this here puztheme mcguffin. First themer I bumped into was 29-A's CREDITCHECK. OK, but I thought just the IT part of CRED(IT) went down, and the CH of 21-D's CHE was the (CH)ECK completer. Sooo … off M&A merrily went, expectin a runt-roll up and down chip-in, for each themer. Then I hit the 18-A NOCHOLESTEROL themer, and couldn't get squat to fit.
    Wrong again, M&A breath.

    staff weeject picks: CHE (faux-themer part). PIT & GAP (real themer parts).

    Does SLIP somehow get to be a themer? Confuses the M&A. (Kinda reads as SLIP on a DITCH PIT, if U read out the whole fourth column.)

    fave fillins included: BEERBONGS. FANNIEMAE. CSIMIAMI. Opposites of that included: HIT. ACEH. SYOSSET.

    Interestin take on an ONO clue. Tracy darlin must not be a real big Yoko fan.

    Thanx, Ms. Gray. Cool ThursPuz. Thought hospital stays and toga parties were especially good places to watch yer step, btw. YEP.

    Masked & AnonymoUUs


    What? 11:54 AM  

    I don’t know what the app is. I get paper puzzle.
    Didn’t the Times have a similar puzzle recently?
    Anyway, as soon as you absolutely know an answer that doesn’t fit, just look for a rebus or turns, so pretty easy.

    Anonymous 11:55 AM  

    Google "bird neb"

    SouthsideJohnny 11:56 AM  

    @offTheGrid and others, thanks for the sports analogy, which definitely seems plausible. Someone used the word “tortured” to describe the clueing for this one - I definitely agree with that assessment, lol. Thanks to all for the assistance.

    Art 12:01 PM  


    TJS 12:04 PM  

    Do they give "Razzies" for worst actor in a television series? If so they should name it a "Caruso". He is in that rare status of so bad he's good, like trying not to look at a traffic accident.

    RooMonster 12:13 PM  

    Agree with the SEMI explanation of Sports. Four teams, two games, one for each team. Ergo: One of two for four.

    Does anyone know what Mind the gap means? Har.

    Re: David Caruso
    Why was his head tilted in every single scene?

    Really wanted busy first for REAL.

    RooMonster Food For Thought Guy

    pabloinnh 12:40 PM  

    I think your and other explanations involving tournaments make a lot more sense than mine.


    Whatsername 12:55 PM  

    @GILL: Yes I also wanted FLY before ANT. I had this image of the toad putting sitting serenely snatching at flies passing by. Never even occurred to me that they would feed from ants on the ground.

    I agree with Rex as for the automated aids in puzzles as well as in computers or any other kind of device. I detest them and resent that spellchecker thinks it knows better than I do what I want to say. I liked the puzzle a lot, sort of a rebus but not, challenging but fun. The clues for 1A and 1D were brilliant. A memorable Thursday, my compliments to Ms. Gray.

    SYOSSET is an affluent community? I didn’t think there was any other kind on Long Island. There’s probably even a luxury brand OMNI hotel that provides each room with a PEN.

    Hank 12:58 PM  

    SEMI = half.

    Its not specific to sports. Semi annual = half a year (or twice a year). Semi circle is half a circle. Etc.

    In sports the semi-finals is a match up of two pairs teams, half as many as meet in the "quarter finals".

    Whatsername 1:01 PM  

    @Newboy: Thanks for the explanation. I had not thought of it in those terms, and now it makes perfect sense.

    Teedmn 1:04 PM  

    As always, Tracy Gray puts the "cute" into "well-executed". I figured out the theme, sort of, at 18A. I had HOLE in place already and thought rebus - NO CH[OLES]TEROL. Ah, we're going to have a theme about "cheers" in rebi form today, said I. But since OLES didn't work in the down slot of BASKET (shouldn't it be cart? Bad clue, in my opinion), I decided to move the rebus over to H[OLE]. H[OLE]OLE didn't work for me. When I saw the revealer, it made so much more sense.

    My favorite was finding TO[GAP]ARTY, nice!

    Thanks, Tracy, that was fun.

    Joseph M 1:18 PM  

    I thorHOLEly enjoyed this.

    Fred Romagnolo 1:22 PM  

    Sure, AGEE is standard crosswordese, but let us not forget that he was a very good writer: "A Death in the Family" and "Let Us Now Praise Famous Men" (with Walker Evans) are well-known, and really useful to movie buffs are his insightful reviews of classic movies. See "Agee on Film" (Mc Dowell Obolensky, copyright 1958)

    Larry 1:31 PM  

    @Anomous 11:10 Saying you like something is an affirmative statement - I know this thing, I've partaken of it, and I like it. I like chocolate ice cream. I don't like mango-banana-peppermint swirl ice cream. I've had chocolate ice cream and can attest that I've found it enjoyable, while I haven't had mango-banana-peppermint swirl ice cream. If I ever have mango-banana-peppermint swirl ice cream, I'm pretty sure I would dislike it, which is and entirely different feeling/thought process than my current state of ignorance. He was saying he liked seeing CSI MIAMI in the grid, but not because he liked the show. Because, you know, he'd never seen it.

    So, @Rex hasn't evinced any signs of being an insecure pseudo-intellectual today. You on the other-hand, ...

    old timer 2:00 PM  

    Very satifactory puzzle, crunchy and almost Friday hard for me. Tried the rebus, and it took a long time to realize a downshift was what I required.

    That clue for SPOTOFTEA was off, IMO. First, it probably has been almost a century since one British gent would ask another, "Care for a spot of tea?" But second, a SPOT OF TEA is every bit as much in demand in midmorning as in the afternoon. It suggests a cup or mug of tea, with maybe a tea biscuit, so necessary to keep a chap going until the next real meal. Always strong black tea with milk and sugar, BTW, and almost essential in typical London weather from October to May. Now TEA (no SPOTs) is a meal in itself, with many cups of tea accompanied by scones, pastries, and mini half sandwiches. If you drive through the West Country in mid-afternoon, you used to find little village houses with "Teas" or often "Tea's" on a sign outside. There you may find Devonshire clotted cream and handmade jams with which to anoint your scones. Heaven probably doesn't get any better.

    GHarris 2:08 PM  

    Got bogged down in the NW, principally because 2down was not clued fairly imo. The abbreviation for demolition should have been signaled by an abbrev. in the clue. I m with those who say semi, in the context of the clue, must be viewed in a sports tournament setting.

    Anonymous 2:14 PM  

    Syosset shows up now and again in pop culture. Judd Apatow is from there, and I think he's slipped his town into a script or two. You know, it kind of sounds funny. And though it's not PC to say so, And to people in the NY metropolitan area, just saying Syosset conjures up rich imagery and characterizations.

    Anonymous 2:28 PM  

    Isn't it highTEA???

    Paul Statt 3:07 PM  


    Hack mechanic 3:12 PM  

    Tried scusset, then sconset never heard of syosset which made it hard to see toga party even though I knew it had to be so. Otherwise enjoyable

    chefwen 3:12 PM  

    @GILL I, I didn’t kill the Sushi eating raccoon, I just taught him a little lesson. Stay the hell away from my fishies!

    Richardf8 3:17 PM  

    I grew up in Queens, Syosset was ever-present in radio ads.

    I solved in the app and agree about the training wheels.

    Golf player names are good for stumping me, but I got that on the cross.

    Joe Dipinto 3:30 PM  

    "Re: David Caruso – Why was his head tilted in every single scene?" ←←RooMonster

    Also, he would invariably turn his head in every close-up. E.g. if he started out in profile, at some point during the shot he would turn his head to face the camera. If he started out facing the camera he would meaningfully pivot away from it. It must have been annoying for the other actor in the scene.

    His attempted transition to film leading man roles was stopped cold after two films.

    GILL I. 3:43 PM  

    @chefwen. OF COURSE YOU DIDN"T...How could anyone that actually has wayward cows come up to your back kitchen door, ever think of harming any critter....I just thought I'd stir up the puddle... xo

    Z 3:47 PM  

    Didn’t a different SEMI clue trip people up not that long ago? Finals, SemiFinals, QuarterFinals, but no OctoFinals for whatever reason. Or, in March MadnessSpeak, Championship game. Final Four, Elite Eight, and Sweet Sixteen. What I find curious (and so typical of the English language) is that we have three nearly identical prefixes for “half,” SEMI, hemi, and demi. Demitasse, hemisphere, hemi engines, Demi Moore. But then why is it a SEMI truck?


    @Larry - Thank you. Agree 100%.

    Art 3:53 PM  

    Yon the bestired castle.

    Breaker, Breaker 4:10 PM  

    Found this:

    Semi is actually short for "semi-trailer" truck. A semi is a trailer box with a rear axle but without a front axle. The truck pulling it is called the tractor. ... The reason for this configuration is that a large portion of the load is carried by the tractor and not on the hitch of the trailer attachment.

    Horatio Caine 4:34 PM  

    Looks like this puzzle ...

    [puts on sunglasses]

    ... tripped a few people up.

    Anonymous 4:56 PM  

    well, the real reason for a SEMI-trailer truck has nothing to do with load balance (most trailers have moveable rear truck to aid this), but with the simple fact that a 65' straight job (50' of cargo hold and 15' of engine/cab) can't turn any corner on any street. might not even be able to 'stay in lane' on an interstate curve.

    Jayhale 5:09 PM  

    People who have kicked around the world some clearly remember the horrors of Banda Aceh

    Jayhale 5:09 PM  

    People who have kicked around the world some clearly remember the horrors of Banda Aceh

    Unknown 6:31 PM  

    Mind the "gap"?

    Unknown 7:06 PM  

    ACEH felt unfair. SYOSSET felt like a Natick, but I grew up on the Island. Thought the construction was so clever, but relatively easy for a Thursday.

    Lewis 7:10 PM  

    @anonymous 7:41 a.m. -- Hah!

    Anonymous 7:23 PM  

    ACEH was also referred to in articles related to MH 370 - the plane almost certainly flew in an arc to avoid Indonesian radar on the Aceh peninsula.

    All aspects of the NY MTA (subways, LIRR, Metro North) now refer to the GAP as a hazard on one occasion or another. Given that this is the NY Times, that makes it totally legit as an answer.

    Anonymous 7:35 PM  

    Hemi in engine nomenclature doesn't mean half per se, it means hemispherical (combustion chamber). It relates to the head shape which is cone shaped. There's absolutely zero relationship,etymologically speaking,
    to half. Are you sure you're from Detroit?

    Ps. We've been through this before, viz powerful engine clues.

    Anonymous 8:13 PM  

    Dunno about about Apatow name dropping home town. Do know Winona Rider's (Ryder's?)character in Mr.Deeds, the remake of Mr. Deeds goes
    to Town, claimed to have been from Syosset.

    Z 8:16 PM  

    I mean I thought that “Demi Moore” would have been a tip off but @anon7:35pm manages to miss the joke AND be wrong all at the same time. Hint: Why isn’t it a “spherical combustion chamber?”

    Z 8:45 PM  

    @TJS - I was just catching up on the 9/28 puzzle and nobody seemed to answer your question. I don’t know about searching the archive, but at the end of each Rex post, right below the time stamp, are usually two labels, the day of the week and the constructor. Click on the constructor name and all the Rex blogs about puzzles by that constructor appear. You’ll have to take care not to peak at the solutions, but that will give you the dates of McCoy’s puzzles.

    Escalator 8:51 PM  

    I so much wanted 2D to be “Democrats”.....

    Anonymous 10:10 PM  

    in the 50s and 60s, Chrysler made a true hemi-head 426. they ended up in fuel dragsters for decades later. today's 'hemi' Dodge et al are just penti-heads. more efficient than traditional wedge heads, but not true hemis.

    corscorpionis 11:03 PM  

    even though it didn't fit I really wanted "berth place" to be ship.

    berth: a fixed bed or bunk on a ship, train, or other means of transport.

    berth: moor (a ship) in its allotted place.

    berth: (of a passenger ship) provide a sleeping place for (someone).

    Barbara 5:43 PM  

    You would not think GAP is an outlier if you rode my daily commuter train. Where I get on, there is a gap large enough for an average adult to fall into. I always take a pause before stepping over it.

    @Anonymous (sorry, there are several of you) it is generally NOT “high tea” - contrary to what most Americans think, “High tea” is sort of a hearty ploughman’s lunch served to hungry workers at the end of their shifts (traditionally on high tables). The fancy tea with scones and finger sandwiches is “afternoon tea.”

    I did it in the app, no hints. But I “fell into” many of the same PITfalls as many others.

    rondo 10:19 AM  

    I bought a “Mind the GAP” baseball cap while in London, for the obvious reasons stated above. Apparently OFL hasn’t visited the UK. Also OFL has an issue with the ‘concept of PC’? I thought he was pretty much the poster boy for it.

    I finished the LSAT at the 65th percentile, which will just get you into the second tier law schools. That and a boatload of cash.

    Isao AOKI, where ya been?

    I wasn’t a huge fan of CSIMIAMI, but each episode invariably started with coroner Khandi Alexander kneeling over a corpse. Of course she was always wearing an extremely low-cut blouse to reveal ample cleavage. Then you might not see her for the remainder of the show.

    The HITE of sexologists deserves a yeah baby.

    Better than a rebus, BEERBONGS and all.

    Burma Shave 11:31 AM  


    if FANNIEMAE says, “YEP”, you’ve no REAL BADRAP.

    --- PROF. IKE AGEE

    spacecraft 11:41 AM  

    I second @rondo's confusion re OFC's attitude toward "all things PC." You have to be joking, Fearless One. You can't usurp MY attitude!

    The "Acrobat" misleader in clue 1-a forestalled a start there, so I went gimme-hunting, finding CSIMIAMI. Yeah, pretty bad. DC would invariably have some punny remark to make over a dead body. How the series lasted as long as it did is still a wonder. Anyway, there I was in the SW and got the PIT-fall right away--and thought that, specifically, was the theme: a series of PITFALLS. (Do you remember the old game, with the dude swinging on vines from one panel to the next? Frustrating but fun.) But the next one I came to was TOGARTY. That BEERBONGS should cross it is hilarious. Cool theme.

    The fill gets wonky in places, but nothing terribly serious. Shere HITE is ALONE on the DOD stage, so she wins. Birdie.

    AnnieM 1:39 PM  

    I got this puzzle a month late in the L.A. Times. If anyone still around on this puzzle, please explain the here on the Champs ...lysee"
    obviously got the Here in french, but the clue with the dots and missing e is inferring they want the e which of course didn't fit the 3 letter answer. If they wanted here in french they didn't need to miss the e.

    rondo 1:58 PM  

    @AnnieM - probably a software glitch at the newspaper, especially as the E in Elysee has a diacritical above it. Special characters can make funny things happen. In the St. Paul paper an ellipsis ( . . .) shows up as an ampersand (&) every time, so I'm guessing software interpretation.
    Please feel free to comment frequently.

    Diana, LIW 3:55 PM  

    One letter dnf - didn't know the SNL guy.

    did anyone else mention the difference in the "ditch" answer? Gotta have that "E" for the chEck.

    Di the Eye, LIW

    leftcoaster 4:04 PM  

    Found today's a little easier than yesterday's, but both of them clever, fun, and interesting to do.

    First "aha" moment at NOC[HOLE]STEROL and then found the DITCH, GAP, and PIT by WATCHing my STEPs down. (I'm old enough to be conscious of that potential peril.)

    Last in was the NW corner with the PDFS/PHONICS crossing, which provided a second "aha" moment. DEMOCREW helped, though hadn't heard that shortened term for "demolition" before.

    Another new one was SYOSSET, mislocated in the SE, required by its friendly crosses.

    Thank you, Tracy Gray.

    Mondegreen 11:04 PM  

    Kudos on the Zevon take; thought of it too!

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