Bachelor contingent at cotillion / THU 11-28-19 / Dessert drink made with frozen grapes / California city whose name sounds like surprised two-word greeting / Chocolatier of children's literature / First saint of Russian orthodox church

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Constructor: Timothy Polin

Relative difficulty: Well, if I'd looked at the revealer clue earlier, Easy, but since I'm stubborn, Medium+

THEME: "RING OF FIRE" (59A: 17-Across hit ... or a hint to four connected answers in this puzzles) — "Fire" must be mentally supplied to the front ends of four different answers, which form what the puzzle is calling a "ring" at the center of the grid. Further, there is bonus (?) JOHNNY CASH MATERIAL for some reason:

Theme answers:
  • The "Ring" of "Fire": 
    • BALLS (27A: Candies that make your mouth burn)
    • STONE (28D: Big name in tires)
    • DANCE (47A: Performance with twirling torches)
    • BRAND (27D: Agitator seeking radical change)
  • JOHNNY CASH (17A: The Man in Black)
  • JOQUIN / PHOENIX (11D: With 40-Down, Oscar-nominated player of 17-Across)
Word of the Day: AUGUSTO Pinochet (12D: Chilean dictator Pinochet) —
Augusto José Ramón Pinochet Ugarte (/ˈpnʃ/also US/-ʃɛt, ˌpnˈ(t)ʃɛt/UK/ˈpnəʃ,ˈpɪn-/, Spanish: [auˈɣusto pinoˈ(t)ʃe(t)]; 25 November 1915 – 10 December 2006) was a Chilean general, politician and dictator of Chile between 1973 and 1990 who remained the Commander-in-Chief of the Chilean Army until 1998 and was also President of the Government Junta of Chile between 1973 and 1981. // Pinochet assumed power in Chile following a United States-backed coup d'état on 11 September 1973 that overthrew the democratically elected socialist Unidad Popular government of President Salvador Allende and ended civilian rule. The support of the United States was crucial to the coup and the consolidation of power afterward. Pinochet had been promoted to Commander-in-Chief of the Army by Allende on 23 August 1973, having been its General Chief of Staff since early 1972. In December 1974, the ruling military junta appointed Pinochet Supreme Head of the nation by joint decree, although without the support of one of the coup's instigators, Air Force General Gustavo Leigh. Following his rise to power, Pinochet persecuted leftists, socialists, and political critics, resulting in the executions of from 1,200 to 3,200 people, the internment of as many as 80,000 people and the torture of tens of thousands. According to the Chilean government, the number of executions and forced disappearances was 3,095. (HAPPY THANKSGIVING!) [...] By the time of his death on 10 December 2006, about 300 criminal charges were still pending against him in Chile for numerous human rights violations during his 17-year rule and tax evasion and embezzlement during and after his rule. He was also accused of having corruptly amassed at least US$28 million. (wikipedia)
• • •

So, first of all, and most importantly, that's a square. A square of fire. We should be done right here. Just stamp "DOA" on this thing and move on. I fell into a burning square of fires. There's something so sad about this puzzle. Such a great song, and such a bizarre theme execution. First of all, as has been established, not a ring. Just not. Nope. Not. Second, there's hardly any *actual* theme material: four 5-letter answers taking up sixteen squares total. In a good theme, we'd get the revealer and then it would reveal something ... substantial. But here there's almost nothing, so instead what we get to fill the considerable amount of leftover space is a tacked-on JOHNNY CASH theme, and not really that at all, but just JOHNNY CASH ... and an actor who played him, who is only here because his first and last names can be made to fit so neatly into the NE / SW corners. So there's a sad little theme (which is flubbed) and then this JOHNNY CASH and the actor who played him theme. They are separate theme concepts, really, but this puzzle has united them in a bizarre and unsatisfying Frankenpuzzle. I would've thought it impossible to ruin a JOHNNY CASH puzzle, but the NYT does miracles every day.

When I got stuckish, around the middle of the puzzle (no surprise), I knew that if I just looked at the revealer (or probable revealer, in the SE corner of the puzzle) I would most likely have a much better idea of what was going on, but I perversely fought my way through the fog until I figured it out without reference to the revealer. I don't think of fireBALLS as candy and I don't really know what a fireDANCE is and none of the other were *obviously* "fire"-starting words, so I had a minor struggle there. There were two other trouble spots for me. The less troubling was the SW, where ... well I've only ever heard it called "sheep's milk," but EWE'S milk, sure, I guess. And SILT clue was hard (55D: It goes with the flow). And ANIL, ugh, crosswordese that I almost forgot existed (61A: Dark blue). Even with PHOENIX in there as a gimme, I got slowed down in there. The more troubling spot, though, was the far north. I just don't accept that FLORA is a [Nursery display]. On some broad literal level, ugh, I guess. But ugh, "excuse me, where do you keep the FLORA?" "Oh, what a lovely display of FLORA!" these are not things anyone would say. It's hard enough having to figure out which kind of "nursery" the clue is referring to without this not-in-the-language usage of FLORA. LA CASA is not good fill and the clue was annoying in that Felipe VI has nothing specifically to do with the answer. He's just ... Spanish. So that was tough. Also, because I had no idea re: FLORA, and had LANES as LINES (15A: Supermarket checkout choices), I had MI CASA in there at first.


Surprised anyone knows ONEONTA who doesn't live out here (i.e. in central New York—ONEONTA is just an hour or so away) (41D: College town WSW of Albany). Surprised anyone at all has a deep cotillion vocabulary—STAG LINE??? (36D: Bachelor contingent at a cotillion). I can't even see my wheelhouse from that clue. The only thing I enjoyed about the puzzle was remembering JOHNNY CASH. I guess that's something. So Happy Thanksgiving! Allow me to leave you with the immortal words of JOHNNY CASH's first wife, Vivian Liberto, who said, "The truth is, Johnny wrote that song, while pilled up and drunk, about a certain private female body part" (wikipedia). 

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Joaquin 12:02 AM  

Naticked by ONEONTA. Even after getting all the crosses I was certain it couldn’t be right.

Oneonta is one-fourth the size (in area) of Natick and has a population that’s only 40% of Natick’s. And I’m supposed to have heard of this place? Gimme a break!

Anonymous 12:25 AM  

If you’ve never heard Johnny Cash sing the song “Ring of Fire” you must have slept through the 1960s. Came out in 1963, instant classic, and still sounds great whenever I hear it. Complete theme, all about J.C. and I enjoyed it.

jae 12:26 AM  

Easy-medium. Heard the song, seen the movie, smooth solve with a clever theme, liked it a quite a bit more than Rex did.

...oh, and been to OJAI where there is a fine resort/spa/golf course that’s a tad pricey.

RAD2626 12:28 AM  

Well, it wasn’t OFFAL but it was a bit ODD. Good wordplay, good cluing, not much junk and JOHNNY CASH. So there are things to be thankful for. Tried to fill in the three FIRES as rebuses but the puzzle would not take them.

Happy Thanksgiving all.

puzzlehoarder 12:28 AM  

An average but enjoyable Thursday. This would have been a bit quicker if my spelling wasn't so dyslexic. I initially reversed the first two vowels of both JOAQUIN and PHOENIX. That probably caused more trouble in the NE as opposed to the SW.

In the SE AFRIN gave me something to work around. I was glad to see it was a debut.

STAGLINE is unfamiliar to me as well. The puzzle produced a late week feel in several spots. The NE was probably the trickiest. OJAI sat up there by itself until I managed to back fill the rest of that corner.

Happy Thanksgiving to all. I think my wife and I did more cooking today than we will tomorrow.

Mike 12:33 AM  

I think some of the fill suffered because of the scrabbly/pangrammy JOAQUIN PHOENIX. Had to get the Z and K in there and there aren’t many flexible squares.

Z 12:39 AM  

@Joaquin - There’s a new Bridge bidding convention, the ONEONTA One No trump, a favorite with all the under 30 bridge players. ONEONTA and Oneida make not infrequent crossword appearances.

chefwen 1:58 AM  

I had most of it done when I got to the revealer clue at 59A and after 17A hit I filled it in and never read the rest of the clue. Big mistake as I kept scratching my head around my square of fire. Never heard of a a candy named BALLS, Ick! There’s a tire company named STONE?
Finally read the 59A clue thoroughly and gave myself a big DOH? Ha Ha, I get it, cute. Boy, did I ever feel like a doofus.

Happy Thanksgiving to all.

John Hoffman 2:28 AM  

I could get ONEONTA from the crosses; otherwise would have been a Natick. These two towns are apparently a four hour drive apart.

Clark 3:34 AM  

Does anyone say "fly" anymore? More like ancient slang.

Lewis 5:50 AM  

"I can't even see my wheelhouse from that clue" -- Classic el perfecto witty Rex. Made my day.

Lewis 5:58 AM  

Not that it's germane to this puzzle, but boxing rings are square.

I just breathed a sigh of relief when I figured out the Thursday Trick. That relief sigh is a Thursday ritual for me. The rest filled in fairly smoothly and enjoyably, and I thought it was kinda cool to have a tribute puzzle with some trickery, which is out of the box. Looking at BALLS without thinking anatomy, I liked its cross with ON A ROLL.

Klazzic 5:59 AM  

Happy Thanksgiving, fellow solvers. I am very lenient in grading the cleverness of puzzles, but I do agree with the cranky one: this was a clunker.

Evan 6:00 AM  

I didn't really read the revealer clue and tried to put MAN IN BLACK in there, which fit and made sense for a Thursday theme (I figured there were some black squares where MAN would go), but was obviously a problem with the crosses.

(Hon.) H. Wilson 6:11 AM  

The Natick High School Redhawks (10-1) will host the Framingham High School Flyers (4-6) for their 114th annual Thanksgiving Day classic matchup on the gridiron today at 10:00 am (EST). Natick leads the series, begun in 1904, 75-33-5.

In addition to giving it all defeat the Flyers, the Redhawk boys will be out there, once again, fighting for their honor in the face of the ongoing vicious slander they face every day from crossword enthusiasts.

Go Redhawks!

Yebsom 6:30 AM  

Anybody notice it’s Thanksgiving? Why not a Thanksgiving themed puzzle?

JJ 6:55 AM  

@Z you’re too funny. Also, @Rex—- the actors name is significant. It’s PHOENIX, A bird who rose from the fire! Enjoyed it.

Roberto 7:22 AM  

I Don t see what this has to do with Thanksgiving.. Oh yeah the puzzle is a turkey.

Howard F 7:34 AM  

June Carter wrote Ring of Fire with Merle Kilgore.

vtspeedy 7:47 AM  

Even better than the alternate meaning of Ring of Fire is that one of the credited co-writers proposed licensing the song for a hemorrhoid cream commercial.

pabloinnh 7:51 AM  

I remember FIREBALLS, and FIREDANCE seems OK, the other two FIRE+ answers are absolutely in the language so I thought the theme was fine. No,, it's not literally a ring, but I wonder how many little fire rebuses (rebi?) would be needed to make an actual ring? Not sure, but I'd guess, more.

Having grown up in the wilds of Upstate NY, ONEONTA was a gimme. Graduates of my high school used to go there, and probably still do. Good soccer program, also true of Hartwick College, which is also in Oneonta.

Liked the misdirections on CEO and USS, but was a little disappointed to see no mention of Thanksgiving, which I think is today, and I hope y'all have a happy and safe one.

Z 7:52 AM  

That’s quite a Wikipedia entry. Either a song about falling in love or a “private woman’s part.” That gives “I went down down down and the flames got higher” a whole different meaning. You decide.

Anonymous 7:56 AM  

Very enjoyable for a Thanksgiving morning. Got Cash and his player quickly. Working around the middle — and didn’t mind or even notice that it was square, not circular (try that in a grid!) — had a great aha moment when the revealer song clicked. Love the astute observation about boxing “rings” being square. From NY so Oneonta was a gimmee. Thanks for the puzzle!

Suzie Q 8:01 AM  

Fun puzzle that had my radar on full alert. I finished the NW with no
tricks in sight...yet. Got the hidden fire in the center then filled in ring of fire with no crosses. Seeing the actor's name was a nice bonus. Great movie, by the way. Reese Witherspoon was excellent.

Rex could have let Pinochet rest with the factual clue. But no, he has to waste his review with gory details. Happy Thanksgiving to you too sunshine.

I did get a kick out of the info supplied by Cash's first wife. I can't wait to share that tidbit at the dinner table later.

Art 8:07 AM  

About the last comment you left us with. Johnny Cash did not write Ring of Fire. The song was written by June Carter Cash. She even recorded it before Johnny did. So, not sure where you got you're quote, but it's a bit bogus.

tim 8:10 AM  

Sorry, when i get down to a cross like G_O/ON_ONTA it stops being a fun puzzle and becomes a dull, pointless "guess what letter I'm thinkimg of" game. Not gonna waste the time sulleny plugging in all 26 possibilities.

mmorgan 8:13 AM  

Never a big JOHNNY CASH fan but that song is sort of an ear worm, and the Vivian Liberto quote does add a certain something to it. I somehow knew ONEONTA but got screwed up big time by having LiNES for 15A (I always enjoy making the same mistakes as Rex). I get Rex’s point about the square “ring” but that didn’t really bother me. Happy Thanksgiving!

Ebertsche 8:25 AM  

Did anyone get the “hack job” - I filled in because knew the surrounding areas but I don’t get the pun. Hate when that happens!

FPBear 8:27 AM  

I know an appellation's not a mountain. I know an adder isn't a machine.I don't call getting out of bed debunking. And just to show that I'm nobody's fool. I don't think offal's terrible, a turncoat's something wearable or flunky is a kid who failed in school.

Hartley70 8:27 AM  

One of the regulars here went to Hartwick, so ONEONTA must have been a gimme for him, and one for me too. There aren’t a lot of choices as you move in that direction from Albany. I spent some time trying to see a “RING” in those “fires”, but the odd shape didn’t ruin the theme for me. I enjoy any rebus, especially the invisible ones!

Pete M. 8:36 AM  

Anytime I am surprised to see someone, I greet them the same way: “O.J.?!”

tb 8:44 AM  

Couldn't Phoenix be considered a theme answer, or at least theme-adjacent?

Rube 9:04 AM  

Understandably s difficult name for some people, but this is the NEW YORK Times, not the L.A. Times or the London Times. New yorkers know about Oneonta becauseb among other things it is the home of a Yankee farm team and also the home of a lobg standing college on the SUNY system. So even though most people wouldn't want to be caigh5 dead there, it is a legitimate answer for a NEW YORK Times puzzle

albatross shell 9:05 AM  

The puzzle has no 'v' that I could find.
ON_NOTA and nat G_O took 3 guesses.

Always enjoyed topology where a ring and a square are identical. And repeat my comment from yesterday that its seems to me inappropriate to demand that representations of forms and figures in a crossword grid be precise. Use your imagination. But to each their own. Just like deciding that themes must work a certain way and the theme answers have to have letters counted in a certain way. Please. Maybe this puzzle had 4 short theme answers, two revealers and two tributes.

A good Thursday. Solid. But I had more fun yesterday. More challenge today. Needed FLORA to fall to get the north central.

Amelia 9:12 AM  

@(Hon) H Wilson
I have one great nephew and one great niece at Natick High School. I will be sure to cheer them on today!

I totally agree with EVERYTHING Rex said today. (Do I have a fever. Checking forehead. Nope.) While I usually pooh-pooh his concern about tyrant placement in the puzzles, I think they could have NOT had Pinochet in the puzzle today. Just a thought.

And what a disaster this puzzle was. Even after I had the square of fire, I could barely see it. But whatever. It is so rare that the NY Times Crossword is good and for those few days a year, I guess we should be thankful.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Hungry Mother 9:12 AM  

I saw the theme right away. Thought Fire Valley might be the answer to the Vegas clue. I’ve been there and ZION while visited my son in Sin City.

Nancy 9:14 AM  

A treat for Thanksgiving. I loved this puzzle! I think rebus answers that have to be mentally supplied by the solver are even harder than ones that have to written in. And in addition to that challenge much of the rest of the fill was far from obvious.

Because I don't know my brand names, "big name in tires" when I had -TON- looked like it could be STONE but also ITONA or ITONI or just about anything. The plural above it might have ended in "I" as well as "S". In any event I never thought of [FIRE]STONE, which everyone's heard of. It was [FIRE]BRAND that gave away the trick, as no radical agitator could be created out of -RAN-. The theme answers did exactly what theme answers should always do -- they puzzled me mightily.

A really enjoyable solve and a worthy Thursday challenge.

Kathy 9:18 AM  

Completed in less than an hour, so I’m happy about that on a Thursday. Just the right amount of struggle for me, but I’m guessing it was easy for the veterans. The theme was ok. It didn't take long for me to figure out that it was fire—STONE gave it away. Just needed to rule out a rebus and conclude it was simply implied. Kinda meh...

Is it because it is the New York Times XW that there are frequently location clues that only New Yorkers would know? It’s fine by me because I lived there for many years so I know those random Upstate and Long Island towns, but it seems a bit New York-centric.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

M. Ali 9:20 AM  

@Lewis: Boxing rings are called "the squared circle." Even people who follow boxing know it's not a circle.

chuck w 9:22 AM  

Got the theme right away, and I don't know why Rex thinks Johnny Cash was irrelevant to the "Ring of Fire" idea. And of course, there's no way to put a "ring" in a crossword; they did the best they could. I agree that the "la casa" clue was bad. But I thought the puzzle, overall, was cute.

MexGirl 9:22 AM  

Miss Vivian must’ve been thinking of a different source to be pissed at his hubbub since Ring of Fire is a June Carter song.
Also, I opened a google map of the area near Albany and Oneonta is so tiny it’s almost not there, how are we (non newyorkers) supposed to know the place? The NYTXW is so ethnocentric.

Petsounds 9:25 AM  

Another record time! Having a good crossword week, so no complaints from me! I did think STAGLINE was a kind of lost-in-the-mists-of-time entry, but it did pop into my head for some reason (maybe decades of doing crosswords?...). Thanks to grad school housemate who was from OJAI, which I'd never heard of before.

Not at all bothered by the inevitable fact that the "ring" of fire was a square, just because of the shape of a crossword. That criticism seems a bit codgery.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Nancy 9:28 AM  

There's a nifty visual for the puzzle that Jeff Chen provides on I mean really, REALLY nifty!!! Take a peek.

Dorothy Biggs 9:44 AM  

I don't suppose it would be too much to ask for this to have turkey/grateful them to it on this, a very late thanksgiving day. Not that the NYT crossword puzzle has to be seasonal, but it is weird to have a theme like today's on a day like today. Utterly random to Johnny Cash (he was born in February and died in September) and Ring Of Fire was released in April. So, yeah. No. Maybe there are just so many people around the world that don't care about our T-giving? I's just weird that there is no shout out on the actual day...unless you're going to deep fry your bird today, in which case a ring of fire is most assuredly a possibility.

AUGUSTO...surely there's a better way to clue that. Also, I think "sheep's milk" goes without saying that it comes from EWES. Again, EWES could have been clued better.

ICEWINE, IIRC, is made from grapes that are left on the vine so long that they make it into the cold months (usually harvested about at least that's kinda timely) so that they freeze on the vine. They are harvested and handpicked while having frozen on the vine. This means that the grapes are extra ripe, raisiny even, which makes the wine sweet...mostly because the yeast can't metabolize all of the sugar and so it's left behind as residual sugar. Vintners can stop the fermentation process early, but even if they just let it go (and the alcohol content would go up), it would never be enough. It's similar to a French Sauterne. Delicious. There are several in Canada and upstate NY that are quite good. Many people think of red dessert wines (ports) and forget entirely about the white kind. Underrated, if you ask me.

I had asta before TOTO...because it turns out that there are lots of 4-letter film pooches. See also: Nana.

Norm 9:48 AM  

I guess in Rex's world, you can never do circle themes in a crossword puzzle. Glad I don't live there. Glad I have a bit of an imagination. Glad I liked this puzzle. So much to be thankful for today.

Karl Grouch 9:50 AM  

A ring is not a square.

In Charles Wright's words:

" Give me the name of things,just give
me their real names,
not what we call them, but what they call themselves
when no one's

R Duke 9:52 AM  

Ebertsche - a taxi driver can be known as a "hack" so his job is giving a cab ride.

Len 9:54 AM  

I attended college there but was still amazed by the obscurity.

kitshef 9:54 AM  

One definition of “ring” from Merriam-Webster: a usually square enclosure in which a fighting contest (such as a boxing or wrestling match) takes place.

In the name of full disclosure, I should start by saying I detest country music, and everything about it.

But …

I adore Johnny Cash’s music. So I loved this puzzle and of course it was very easy for me.

Rhyming entries that are new to me: ICE WINE and STAG LINE. Do the STAGs ‘walk the LINE’?

Appropriately, the grid is full of SIN: let SIN on, rip SIN to, and of course its a SIN.

QuasiMojo 9:58 AM  


Happy Thanksgiving "you guys"! Was hoping for a McFLY video at least. Or a scene from The Fly. Or Fly Robin Fly... Anything but LOLA, please.

Tricky rather than treaty puzzle today. I got the rebus early on, like @Nancy, via FIREbrand but am I the only one wondering why the SE corner of the RING didn't have a rebus too? The Ring of Fire makes me think of Brunnhilde's immolation scene.

Not a fan of upside down crucifixes either. Makes me think of St Peter. (Great painting by Caravaggio btw).

@Amelia, you have grand nieces and nephews? I thought you were a millennial!

"What is MADNESS but nobility of soul at odds with circumstance." Theodore Roethke

Peter P 10:01 AM  

I had fun with this puzzle. Little faster than average Thursday for me. I have no issue with a ring not literally being round in a crossword puzzle (or even really in real life. As said, "boxing rings," "wrestling rings," etc.) Figuratively, it worked fine for me and it's not even something that made a mental blip until I read the write-up this morning.

But I'm somewhat confused. Has Rex really not heard the song "Ring of Fire"? On the Billboard Hot 100, it was the second best charting song by him (behind "A Boy Named Sue.") And that's the pop charts. On the country charts, it was the first of many number ones. It's one of the songs most closely associated with him. Or am I just misunderstanding completely the comment about "bonus" Johnny Cash material/there being two themes? I just can't read it any other way. I'm of the same generation as Rex (maybe slightly younger) and my musical tastes, based on the Youtube videos Rex posts, are similar, but "Ring of Fire" is certainly very well-known in my circle. We all have weird holes in popular knowledge (Lord knows I do), but then to criticize a puzzle partly based on that missing information is a bit indecorous.(If that is what is happening here. Like I said, I'm a bit confused, but I can't read those comments any other way, so forgive me if I misunderstood them.)

Z 10:01 AM  

Since @Art and @MexGirl can’t be bothered to click on a link: The first Mrs. Cash claims June Carter didn’t write it, Johnny did and gave her writing credit so she could get some money. Wikipedia even provides a helpful citation: Vivian Cash; Ann Sharpsteen (4 September 2007). I Walked the Line: My Life with Johnny. Simon and Schuster. p. 294. ISBN 978-1-4165-3292-7.

Regarding ONEONTA (and Oneida) being in the NYTX; It has nothing to do with them being in New York There’s a big difference between ONEONTA and say, Binghamton. One will appear far more often than the other because one has far more useful letters than the other.

@Ebertsche - “Hack” is a slang term for a taxicab driver.

sg911911 10:04 AM  

ASHY= visibly aghast! Cmon!

Teedmn 10:05 AM  

I tried very hard to fall into the RING OF FIRE after messing up 6D and 8D. I threw in LA CASA but crossed some of it out when I saw mOo milk because I had thrown in RESTorES at 8D. Made total sense. But getting the fire BALLS for the theme threw that all into disarray. LA CAmA? RESToLES? SOY milk, you CLOD!

So I saved myself from a DNF and got to make this puzzle a tad more challenging than it might have been.

Anyone else want Asta at 14A, just from crossword reflexes?

I know nothing about cotillions so I thought the bachelor contingent must be "escorts" but it luckily didn't fit.

I think Rex is being a bit of a CRAB on this puzzle - pedantic even on the insistence that the theme answers aren't a RING. Jeff Chen's pointing out that boxing RINGs have the same shape as this grid ring is good enough for me.

Thank you, Timothy Polin, and Happy Thanksgiving everybody.

Joe Dipinto 10:13 AM  

Didn't care for this. For the Plagiarism Police: there was a prior puzzle with RING rebuses which also had RING OF FIRE as an answer and which also had a 5x5 cube in the middle of the grid.

Much as rye bread is always part of a Reuben Sandwich, tomato sauce is always part of Baked Ziti. There's no "often" or "usually" about it. Somebody buy these guys a recipe book.

And speaking of food, Happy Thanksgiving to all.

Here's some pseudo-groovy movie music from the 60s – the Love Theme from "The Flight Of The Phoenix", performed by the Brass Ring (of fire?)

Anonymous 10:17 AM  

In the 60’s a slang term for “a certain private female part” was a box.

Z 10:23 AM  

@Peter P - I’m not saying I agree with this, but I think Rex’s point was that there’s a Johnny Cash theme and a separate RING OF FIRE theme. What he’s arguing is that the missing FIREs is one distinct theme concept and a JOHNNY CASH tribute is a separate distinct theme concept. I get his argument although I’m not sure I agree with it, but I don’t think it’s fair to surmise from the post that he’s unaware of the song.

Since I’ve already gone overtime- @kitshef - The mariachi horns don’t seem especially “country” to me. JOHNNY CASH doing an incredible cover of a Nine Inch Nails song doesn’t seem especially “country.” And anyone complaining about Rap Lyrics being violent and misogynistic should really take a moment to consider when people clap in this video. (love the top comment - “Johnny Cash was Gangsta Rap before Gangsta Rap was a thing”)

Newboy 10:26 AM  

SISI to use a previous enthusiastic Spanish response to today’s grid. No prob with a square ring having a long ago boxing club connection, but Rex’s ANIL quibble seemed valid. Almost Naticked by an obscure geographic spot....will be curious to see how others do with ONAPUKINGTA or whatever it finally became through crosses. Multiple milk and oaf clues made for some minor head scratchy, but mostly clever and getable clueing if my high school Spanish emerged from deeply buried brain cells. Hopefully the turkey will be as savory as was Mr. Polin’s puzzle and all residents of Crossworld have a day for which they can be truly thankful.

Slow Motion 10:31 AM  

Is Rex actually unaware that “Ring of Fire” is an iconic Johnny Cash song? It’s not “bonus Johnny Cash material,” Rex. IT’S THE THEME! I’m also not aghast that the “ring” is square. C’mon, Rex! You know, a baseball diamond is not really a diamond! It’s a square! Horrors! What a stupid game!

I liked the puzzle a lot. Well-executed theme, hardly any bad fill, many interesting 7-letter downs in the corners, and a revealer that actually revealed. Well done!

Now to (too much) food, football, and family. What can go wrong?

Anonymous 10:31 AM  

Ugh. Rex is being beyond churlish. And a bit dim, me thinks given his failure to acknowledge the Phoenix's relationship with fire.

Thanks for a really fine puzzl Mr. Polin.

Mike Herlihy 10:35 AM  

@Rex: "And ANIL, ugh, crosswordese that I almost forgot existed (61A: Dark blue)."

@Rex 9/16/2019: Word of the Day: ANIL (50A: Deep blue dye) —
a West Indian shrub, Indigofera suffruticosa, of the legume family, having elongated clusters of small, reddish-yellow flowers and yielding indigo.
indigo; deep blue.(

dadnoa 10:42 AM  

Out here in Oregon, Oneonta is a gorge. Fun hike, too. I had the O.......I had the A.......guessed the rest while thinking.....why is it always a city in New York?

ccredux 10:48 AM  

Enjoyable puzzle. Yes indeed, “ring” connotes something circular but there is “boxing ring” . Can’t a “ring” also mean a “surround “ which can be any shape—- an enclosure?

Nancy 10:49 AM  

From the "one picture is worth a thousand words" department:

The visuals at give powerful testimony to the fact that, square or not, this is indeed a RING OF FIRE...

And, @Quasi (9:58) -- I think that same visual will make you see that there's no "missing rebus" in the SE corner. But then, a fire needs to be lit from only one side, not from two.

@Joe Dipinto (10:13) -- I tried but couldn't find a previous RING OF FIRE puzzle. I take your word that there once was one. But if it didn't have a FIRE that wasn't there -- a FIRE that had to be mentally supplied by the solver -- then it would have lacked the devious trickiness of this puzzle and what similarity there was would have been fairly insignificant

Aintitgrand 11:20 AM  

I’m still trying to get my head around 58A: Understood correctly, FAIT is French for “ done.” If a movie is over (and done), it’s FIN. “Fini” is Italian. Someone please help me out here.

Joe Dipinto 11:20 AM  

@Nancy – XWord won't let me back in right now to check the date, but if you search RINGOFFIRE it will come up. It just has a bunch of boxes with the word FIRE crammed inside. I wouldn't consider today's puzzle to have "plagiarized" it in the slightest. But I thought it was an interesting coincidence that they have the same square in the middle of the grid.

Bill 11:28 AM  

Johnny Cash deserves better than this ring of mire

Anonymous 11:30 AM  

OK puzzle. Happy Thankgiving to all. Likely the uber left NYT purposely ignored the day they believe celebrates white privilege.

QuasiMojo 11:31 AM  

Okay @Nancy. I get it but it would have been very FLY if the answer on the bottom of the RING began and also could have ended in FIRE. I am ANIL about symmetry. FIRE FIGHT FIRE could have worked.

I wonder if you could use a Phoenix instead of a chicken in a turducken. Turduckoenix? Probably would taste like chicken anyway, and is liable to catch fire. :-)

Carola 11:38 AM  

Liked it a lot, once I figured out I didn't have to crowd the letters FIRE into a rebus square but rather envision the entire ring ablaze. Like @Rex, I had trouble in the FLORA - LiNES area. Liked the grid-sharing ONEIRON and ONEONTA. For way to long thought the "Nat" of Nat GEO was a person. Memory lane: as a kid at the movies, graduating from Sugar Babies and Milk Duds to Atomic FIREBALLS.

@JJ - Thank you for pointing out the PHOENIX connection.
@QuasiMojo - Same here on being flummoxed by that SE corner of the RING. Also agree about the Caravaggio.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Remember to squirrel away some pie for breakfast tomorrow.

Birchbark 11:47 AM  

Jeff Chen gets comment of the week for "'What is also a ring?' 'A duck!'" (c.f. my favorite scene in Monty Python & the Holy Grail). Thank you, @Nancy () for recommending his review at

@Teedmn () -- I too entered asTa at 14A, and even thought it confirmed with the ETHICAL cross. Having that error beside JOHNNY CASH and not far from MACAW not far from SELLER, I almost prefilled paJAMaS for 1D. But there are no pajamas in Monopoly, only people who play Monopoly in their pajamas.

Have a nice Thanksgiving.

Joseph M 11:51 AM  

So the RING isn’t a circle and there aren’t any flames coming out of it. It’s not hot. In fact, it’s not even slightly warm. But thanks to a thing called poetic license, it works just fine as a theme and makes for a fun Timothy Polin puzzle.

My only nit is the crossing of GEO and ONEONTA which doesn’t seem fair, though I was able to guess my way out of it.

JOAQUIN PHOENIX is a talented actor, but comes across as quite ODD in many of the talk show interviews he has done. Not sure if it’s real or just an act to sell tickets. I miss his long-deceased brother River who did a star turn in the film My Private Idaho.

jb129 11:51 AM  

I was stuck on Johnny "Depp" for so long, I couldn't clear my brain. Oh well.

Gotta watch (or tape) the Dog Show & cook. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Taffy-Kun 11:53 AM  

Fin is “end” Fait is “done”

Nancy 11:55 AM  

@Aintitgrand -- "I am done" = "J'ai fini". Google "I am finished" in French and "J'ai fini" will pop right up.

What? 11:56 AM  

Hack is an old old name for cab

What? 11:59 AM  

The NYT is distributed nationally. Here, in a suburb of Detroit, I get it every morning before 7. It’s printed in local presses as it is in many cities across the country.

Masked and Anonymous 12:00 PM  

M&A fave Johnny Cash non-hits:
* Five Foot High and Risin'. ["How high's the water, Mama? … etc. Flip-side: "I Got Stripes"]
* Cry, Cry, Cry. [Early one .. on Sun Records, as I recall]
* Boa Constrictor. [Singer is bein swallowed up by one. Song ends with this fierce belchin noise]

This puz was a hit with m&e. The RINGOFFIRE mcguffin was pretty obvious, since I had already unveiled the JOHNNYCASH semi-revealer, before I got to the sneaky middle madison-*square*-gardenish-ring (yo, @Lewis) area.

Bathtub rings come in a lotta different shapes, also. Some are probably darn-near square.

Thanx for the fun, Mr. Polin.

Masked & Anonymo3Us

Happy Thanx Givin' Day, all U smart puzsolvers. U 2, Rexmeister. U folks are the best.
OK … almost time to over-gobble ...


prandolph 12:08 PM  

Hated it.

Gene 12:23 PM  

Rex's display of negativity really cracked me up today!

Sgreennyc 12:28 PM  

A boxing ring is square.

Anonymous 12:46 PM  

Today I'm thankful that my hometown ONEONTA was on this and that it NATICKed a bunch of you

pmdm 12:48 PM  

I enjoy when two themes are stuck inside one puzzle. But somehow I did not enjoy this puzzle. Perhaps because 1) I'm not a Cash fan and didn't get those entries; 2) totally missed the fire theme even though I did get phoenix. Perhaps because I didn't get the words involved with the ring of fire. So, for me this puzzle was a failure. Too bad, because on seeing its solve, it's a very good puzzle.

The Lewis comment way up top is one of the better ones. Silly complaints seem to be the style these days. Good when people point out the silliness.

JeffE 1:29 PM  

Does Rex even like crossword puzzles? Happy Thanksgiving

Unknown 1:36 PM  

Hey Will Shortz why not a Thanksgiving theme? Are you saying nobody sent one in? You’re a turkey!

Anonymous 1:48 PM  

ONEONTA isn't really any more obscure than the often-repeated OJAI. It's also the biggest city for quite a ways in any direction (much more so than Ojai). ICEWINE and ONEIRON aren't exactly obvious either. It's not a Monday, after all.

My Natick was NONCOs and sADNESS.

leah712 1:50 PM  

@sgg911911 That was really my only gripe with this puzzle. ASHY is what your skin looks like when you don't follow your moisturizing regimen. Ashen is more like visibly aghast. Otherwise I liked everything.

Masked and Anonymous 2:04 PM  


Almost forgot …

staff weeject pick: GEO. Mostly becuz of its primo clue: {Cable TV's Nat ___}.
PuzEatinSpouse's afterpuz comment: "Who the [*#@gobblegobble*#@] is that Nat guy on cable TV?" har. M&A had to mask-splain it to her (once I finally figured it out myself, that is … we don't get to watch that there channel much).

Fie yer rebus … yep … has a real nice ring to it.
Anywho … good work & Happy TG, Mr. Polin.


holiday turkey bonus, but not all that great [gizzard quality]:

Geezer 2:04 PM  

Your attention please! This puzzle is NOT a rebus.

William of Ockham 2:17 PM  

Some Trick. I am in awe today and without using OREO!!!

Anyone who ever heard of Johnny Cash race through this tissue paper. If I were to have timed, this would have been my record Thursday.

Holy crap this was easy, Batman.

Happy Thanksgiving from the Left Coast, where they've immediately flipped from Burning Up Crisis to washing away on mud Catastrophe.

Frantic Sloth 2:27 PM  

I, too, fell down the rebus hole in the middle. Apparently holding a mental "fire" in my head while typing the remainder of those words was beyond my ken until it suddenly wasn't.

Regarding the Thanksgiving theme: If you do the puzzle(s) online, the Letterboxed game had a squirrelly version of "Thanksgiving" and "turkey"today, so maybe the NYT felt that was sufficient recognition.

Nope. Not really.

Crimson Devil 2:28 PM  

ONEONTA is also small town in Alabama, county seat of Blount County (pronounced without the “o”).🦃

Doc John 3:11 PM  

I just knew that Rex would get all pissy about the square ring. But hey, unless you're going to have circled letters (which he also hates), how are you going to get a ring. FWIW, I was just fine with the puzzle and love the fact that Mr. PHOENIX's name just also happens to conjure up fire.
Not a fan of the clue for ASHY nor CAB RIDE.
And, as per California law, every time OJAI appears in the puzzle I must point out that Steve Austin and Jaime Sommers were from there.

Anonymous 4:44 PM  

ASHY is what your skin looks like when you don't follow your moisturizing regimen.

sniff, sniff. hours earlier I offered up just that point, but the Moderators spiked without publishing. I feel so rejected.

Anonymous 6:59 PM  

Not just boxing/wrestling rings are square. Don't forget scating/hockey ones that are basically rectangular with somewhat rounded corners. Stubbornness may be a good thing, and for me it's an important part of job description (I'm a sysadmin), but letting it take all fun out of brilliant and entertaining theemed CW puzzle is allowing your stubborness get the better of you. I love Johnny Cash and I loved this puzzle.

Anonymous 7:41 PM  

Um, those are skating rinks, not rings.

But I agree, the puzzle was enjoyable.

Anoa Bob 8:22 PM  

One of my favorite Simpsons episodes is where Homer was in a chili eating contest and, after trying the hottest chili, the Guatemalan Insanity Pepper, he needed something to cool the burn. He gulps down some melted candle wax, thinking the glass held water. Then he realizes that with his mouth and throat covered with wax, he can eat as many of the chilis he wants.

After wowing the crowd by downing several of these FIRE BALLS with complete nonchalance, Homer wanders off and starts to hallucinate. He's in a desert when he finds an Aztec/Mayan style pyramid. When he gets to the top, a coyote appears and begins to speak to Homer in wise and profound ways.

The voice of the coyote? Johnny Cash.

Sign on my neighbor's storage unit door: God Bless John Wayne, Johnny Cash, and John Deere.

Joe Dipinto 10:25 PM  

[tiptoes in]

Looks like everybody is sleeping off the turkey.

[turns out the lights, tiptoes out]

sanfranman59 10:45 PM  

Very late to the board this evening, but had to say that I'm very thankful for the puzzle community here and for Rex's willingness to keep it going (if not for his often hypercritical commentary). Happy Birdday to all.

Mike F. 10:47 PM  

22:06. Easier than yesterday's. I got ONEONTA because it was one of the list of towns that broadcasts Northeast Public Radio, which I used to listen to in Western Mass.

jae 11:49 PM  

For those who thought Rex missed the PHOENIX fire connection, go back and check out the book cover picture in his blog.

Anonymous 12:17 AM  

Having Pinochet in the puzzle is extra distasteful given the current situation in Chile, where the people are being repressed, disappeared, injured, and killed by the police and the government of the current president (Sebastian Pinera) is just fanning the flames more and more. The constitution was created under the Pinochet dictatorship and the people are calling for a new constitution - which has been agreed to, but what happens between now and then? Constitutions don't get made overnight but over months, years.

It began in mid-October, so it's been 45 or 50 days now, and thousands of people have been detained, at least 23 murdered by the carabineros (police), who knows how many people sexually assaulted, thousands injured - and over 200 people have lost one or both eyes because the carabineros are aiming their rubber bullets and lacrimoginas (tear gas) for peoples' eyes. Like they're straight up shooting people in the face with the canister of tear gas.

It was an increase in subway fare that set it off - pero no son 30 pesos, son treinte an~os - it isn't 30 pesos, it's 30 years. 30 years of neoliberal politics, pensions that people can't survive on (to the point that people will die by suicide because they're out of options), ridiculous income inequality (something like 1% of people have 33% of the wealth), politicians who say things like "well, if the wait at the doctor's office is too long, just get there earlier and consider it an opportunity to socialize with others!"

tl;dr everything is a mess and no one knows what's going to happen. Chile is a beautiful country and I'd recommend visiting there to anyone, but people are angry, people are scared, and people are fed up.

el pueblo unido jamas sera vencido (the people united will never be defeated)

#noestamosenguerra (we are not at war)

Anonymous 12:54 AM  

Oops. I enjoyed Thanksgiving a bit too much obviously. My apologies.

Unknown 9:55 AM  

Partially fooled be the totally doable rebus between FIREBalls and FIREBrand. I plunked that down with mad confidence and went looking for a FIREA, FIREC, FIRED, etc to connect up, but it just didn't make sense in the it took out the rebus and solved most of it. I kind of like the theme I thought I I also see other Johnny Cash songs that could be a basis if a theme: I Walk the Line. Somehow I think that's likely been done before, though.

Tony M 11:54 PM  

Loved the Johnny Cash theme and am an Oneonta alum so that was a gimme. I didn't even get the 'fire' theme till after it was done. Bonus when I found out it was my fastest Thursday ever. Is Rex *ever* happy!!?

Anonymous 2:16 PM  

Here is my review your blog: I don't like it.

rondo 10:36 AM  

Did I ever mention that I played in a band that opened for JOHNNYCASH? At the MN State Fair, August 26, 1969, and yes, he sang ‘RINGOFFIRE’. 25,000 plus sell-out. Biggest concert crowd ever at the Fair. The next evening Jerry Lee Lewis performed and of course sang ‘Great BALLS of FIRE’.
And the missus’ name makes an appearance, so how can I *not* like this puz?

spacecraft 11:12 AM  

Well, now OFC can stand for Our Fearless CRAB--or CODGER! I mean really, the dude RIPSINTO poor Tim because he takes the geometric shape literally? Say, what do boxers box in? Oh yeah: a RING! C'mon, man. And you also could have left out that last comment from Mrs. C: that was WAY TMI.

I enjoyed this puzzle immensely. Just a bit on the easy side for a Thursday, but a SINGLE, UNIFIED (IMO) theme, great fill including seven stacks, and one of the LANES (Diane) for DOD. Again, what's not to love? For a rare second day in a row: eagle!

Burma Shave 12:35 PM  


IT’SASIN a FAN can’t admire
his BRAND ONAROLL so great


rainforest 2:18 PM  

First of all - Happy New Year, Syndies! Yesterday, no paper delivery, so this being MY first puzzle of 2020, and one I liked immensely, I thought I'd read @Rex. Big mistake. He's still the OFA.

I was able to finish this with no w/o's, my first entry being OJAI, which made JOAQUIN easier to get, and then PHOENIX. Momentarily forgot the JOHNNY CASH movie, and spent some time sorting out the revealer, but then it all came together, and I was impressed. The idea of RING was clear in my opinion, and the whole thing was a joy to finish, OFA be damned.
Great puzzle.

leftcoaster 4:31 PM  

Was just about to give up on this one until the RING OF FIRE finally made sense of BALLS, BRAND, STONE and DANCE.

"Candies that make your mouth hot" clue had me wondering, disbelievingly, about the BALLS


strayling 7:35 PM  

@leftcoaster: Atomic FireBALLS are a staple in the weigh-your-own candy bins at the supermarket. They have enough (artificial?) cinnamon to make you regret putting one in your mouth.

This puzzle, too, was a bit of a hot mess. So many jumbled up, half finished themes that I suspect the compiler flipped a coin to decide which one to go with. Fun enough for what it was.

Diana, LIW 8:03 PM  

JOHNNYCASH! When I saw him, I instantly thought of our own @Rondo. Who could ever forget such a performance!

I did this puzzle on and off all day, and finally resorted to some help out of sheer "need-to-finishness." Which I did.

What's your resolution for this fine year?

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords

leftcoater 9:13 PM  

@Diana -- More interesting to me would be is "What's yours?".

ramroot 1:28 PM  

In case no one answered-OJAI is pronounced "oh hi"!

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