Devil-may-care motto in brief / FRI 11-8-19 / Classic arcade game with announcer who shouts boomshakalaka / Hoedown musician's aid / Obsolescent living room fixture

Friday, November 8, 2019

Constructor: Peter Wentz

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium (I think — untimed)


THEME: none

Word of the Day: ASA GRAY (37D: Charles Darwin contemporary) —
Asa Gray (November 18, 1810 – January 30, 1888) is considered the most important American botanist of the 19th century. His Darwiniana was considered an important explanation of how religion and science were not necessarily mutually exclusive. [...] A prolific writer, he was instrumental in unifying the taxonomic knowledge of the plants of North America. Of Gray's many works on botany, the most popular was his Manual of the Botany of the Northern United States, from New England to Wisconsin and South to Ohio and Pennsylvania Inclusive, known today simply as Gray's Manual. Gray was the sole author of the first five editions of the book and co-author of the sixth, with botanical illustrations by Isaac Sprague. Further editions have been published, and it remains a standard in the field. (wikipedia)
• • •

Peter Wentz rarely disappoints. Wentz and Weintraub are the names I like to see on Friday (I like other names, too, but those names are locks). This one started out feeling extremely easy. I'd barely hit my comfy chair before MSG / MACROS went in the grid, the STAN AIL SILENT C. Couldn't see CLAWHAMMER (17A: Basic part of a tool kit) til I finally got that "W," and slightly doubted ON ITS END (my reaction: "really?"), but I was out of that NW section fast, and then rode REMNANT to the NE and polished that off quickly as well. JOKE gave me the "J" I needed to see BANJOPICK, and then, with "NB-" in place at 24D, I said to myself "Please be NBAJAM, please be NBAJAM," and then I looked at the clue and whaddyaknow: 24D: Classic arcade game with an announcer who shouts "Boomshakalaka!" I didn't even play that game, but I knew it existed and I *loved* seeing it here (also *loved* guessing it out off just the first two letters without even looking at the clue, and then having the clue confirm it!). CLAYMATION slowed me down slightly because the clue was vague (in a fine, totally Friday-appropriate way) (31A: Film models are used in it). But I didn't have any real abatement to my cruciverbial progress until the SE, where I balked at both of the long Downs that started with "F"—eventually tested FATHEAD (42D: Half-wit) and PDA OAK FLATTOP all confirmed it. Still, I stared at various letter arrangements at 48A: Obsolescent living room fixture until I got to PL--MAT- and still I stared. "Looks like PLAYMATE ... did people used to have PLAYMATEs just standing around their living rooms?" No, I'm just very very old and could not accept that something as modern-sounding as PLASMA TV could be "Obsolescent." But, ALAS.


Experience just one massive screw-up, and that's when I wrote in FANNIEMAE instead of SALLIEMAE (43A: Student loan provider). Big eraser marks there. Tinier eraser marks right above it, where I wrote in INA instead of AHA at 37A: ___ moment. But both flubs were easily fixed, and I ended at ASA GRAY / YOLO, which is a great and fitting crossing, as YOLO was one of ASA GRAY's favorite expressions! Darwin: "Asa, I don't know if that plant is safe to eat..." Gray: "But it smells so nice ... and, well, as I definitely like to say, YOLO!" When he awoke from his coma three weeks later, he named that plant the Yellow YOLO. True story.


Five things:
  • 9D: Take a pointer? (DOGNAP) — this answer made me sad. Don't steal dogs! Also, how many "naps" does one puzzle need!? (See 18D: After-dinner amenity)
  • 29D: Stainless steel element (NICKEL) — I swear I will go to my grave not being entirely sure if it's NICKEL or NICKLE
  • 39D: Soothing application (ALOE GEL) — something about this answer felt slightly "green paint"* to me. I had ALOE and was like "...? balm? stick? pen?")
  • 23A: How a sofa might be turned (ON ITS END) — still slightly mad at this one. You wouldn't accept ON HER FACE for [How a girl might fall] so ... harrumph.
  • 57D: Org. targeted by Moms Demand Action (NRA) — hey, I found a good NRA clue
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

*"green paint" = phrase that one might say but that does not make a very strong stand-alone answer. Often an "adj./noun" pairing.

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]

103 comments:

Lewis 6:14 AM  

Wow. A GLACIAL first pass with an AGES here and a TIPS and RAGE there. Then ASA GRAY said hello and boom went the SW, then, steadily, the SE, mid-region, NE, and with a bit of a stutter, the NW. Such a solve, from zero to hero, is kind of a cliche in the comments here, but it rarely happens to me, and when it does, it is memorable and a sign of a rare and talented construction. Peter, please, more like this, and thank you!

Music Man 6:17 AM  

Can someone please explain 36D? “With no exceptions” is TOAMAN ???

amyyanni 6:39 AM  

Satisfying Friday effort. Don't know what barn door I've been behind, but TIL "stan," and that it's been around for at least 3 years. Also had trouble with MSG as a savory ingredient since it has such a negative connotation. Remember when Pea Jackets were fashionable? Must have been around jr.high for me. TGIF and a long weekend!

Elise 6:42 AM  

Another quibble with ON ITS END that made me balk is that end already showed up in the clue for 22D as well. Otherwise, a fun solve despite 4am brain getting stuck in the NE--luckily 6:30am brain saw REMNANT after another hour of sleep.

Anonymous 6:57 AM  

I would have thought the deliberately Rex-oriented clue for NRA would have gotten a more energetic response. But at least Rex didn’t snap at it.

Z 7:07 AM  

@Music Man - The TOAMAN is in the same genus as the TOAT.

JOHN X 7:08 AM  

Easy??? I didn’t find this easy at all.

I did a first pass through this thing and I had almost nothing, and some of what I did have turned out to be wrong. I couldn’t figure out anything. I definitely had NICKEL (because JOHN X knows from high-grade steel) and I took a chance at put JOKE in at 30D and that finally began to open things up. But it was a slog the whole way; I fought for every inch. House by house, hand to hand, it was my personal Overland Campaign on an iPad app.

But that’s what made this puzzle great. It was a challenge and that’s what I like.

*. *. *

BTW, I was amazed to read this morning how many people hated yesterday’s puzzle (here and on the NYT blog) because it was hard and had words they didn’t know. What a bunch of crybabies. Accept your utter failure like a man and move on; improve yourself and be ready for the next challenge. This goes the same for you chicks too.

Anonymous 7:22 AM  

Well, wondering if others wrote "Kampf" for a word meaning struggle?

puzzlehoarder 7:22 AM  

A very routine Friday and a real piece of cake following yesterday's franken-puzzle. The Times ought to have a rule against publishing one puzzle with a SILENT(letter) entry right after another. It's the kind of thing that has to be used sparingly as it quickly loses its novelty.

It was a strange week. We had three easier than average early week puzzles followed by a Saturday level Thursday. I enjoy a difficult solve but I have to admit I felt relieved to be able to finish that monstrosity.

Now we have an exactly average Friday but it felt easy in comparison. I haven't been commenting as I've started a new project at home. I'm insulating the hatch to the attic and it's a real pain in the ass. Actually the back and shoulders.

Hungry Mother 7:23 AM  

A slog, but a great puzzle. My brain was worked harder than usual, a good thing.

DanGolder 7:58 AM  

I'm a quite new at these and can rarely complete a Friday on my own, but this one fell right into place for me. Was so nice to have every clue "click" instead of having one or two that don't look right even after the whole puzzle is filled out.

It still took me 20 minutes but it wasn't frustrating!

Suzie Q 8:10 AM  

Finally some good solid Friday fun!
Rex's YOLO story cracked me up. It sorta goes with 44D but more in a "hold my beer" way.
The clue for PDA had my mind going in all sorts of naughty directions but they all were more than three letters.
I too was surprised by plasma TV. Loved glacial.
Thanks Peter.

sf27shirley 8:13 AM  

Music Man, it is "to a man."

DeeJay 8:22 AM  

I thought, but didn't write it. Figured the German would have to be indicated in the clue somehow.

kitshef 8:25 AM  

cogNAc sure felt right and was hard to give up.

Quite a bit easier than yesterday, but still had some bite to it.

CLAYMATION made me think of this John Fogerty video.

Bruce R 8:27 AM  

I have one TV and it's a plasma TV. I guess I should get rid of it so I can't be accused of having an obsolete living room fixture. I was thinking of CUSPIDOR or something like that.

mmorgan 8:27 AM  

Very tough, very good. The kind of puzzle that makes me stare at a bunch of wide blank space forever, then I get one letter... then another... and then a flood of letters and words and one section is done. Rinse and repeat numerous times. Lovely stuff here, a fun and challenging and satisfying puzzle!

GILL I. 8:50 AM  

YES...! Some meat this Friday instead of smelly fish. Like @Rex, I see a Peter Wentz puzzle and I pitter pater. Had the same Fannie MAE and I, too, will die before getting the EL LE of NICKEL. My other problem is, for some reason, refusing to believe in a WET NAP. I see that word and all I can think of is one of those oopsie dreams.
Donja love FATHEAD staring at the PIG with a FLAT TOP taking a SWIG of SVEDKA while watching "All in the Family" on a PLASMA TV? Cool beans.
I have never ever heard TO A MAN before. I got it but didn't get it. Only do-over was turning the sofa sideways instead of ON ITS END. Easily fixed
I've never been a victim of a DOG NAP. I've found lots of strays, posted photos and such but no one has stolen our fur babies.
@amyyanni....I still have my PEA JACKET. I think it was the Beatles that popularized them. They sure do keep you warm.
Do you suppose Peter threw in the MOONED staring at the ASS on purpose?

pabloinnh 8:58 AM  

I'm with @JOHN X-didn't find this easy at all, liked the challenge, and felt all smart and smug when I got 'er done.

Learned that PEACOATS and PLASMATV's are both relegated to the dustbins of history. Tempus fidgit, as my mother used to say. OTOH, learned MACROS, which I'm sure my son the CS major knows inside out. Also -STAN, which may be useful.

I have always called my picks guitar picks, but I guess BANJOPICK is OK. Wondering what the difference is. Also, most banjo pickers I know use finger picks, which is a different animal (see "flat pick").

Solid and satisfying Friday.

SouthsideJohnny 9:04 AM  

Let’s see, without the burden of a theme we have: low (almost no) PPP, foreign words (or capitals or currency), Roman numerals, dead popes . . . Very interesting correlation (and a well-needed gem of a puzzle after yesterday’s unmitigated disaster). Would love to see the NYT make the early week puzzles theme-optional, at least occasionally.

Debra 9:05 AM  

Challenging but very satisfying.

Nancy 9:10 AM  

All words and wordplay. Almost no names and trivia. What a welcome treat after the absolutely ghastly last two days. Thank, you, thank you, Peter Wentz.

Much of my trouble came from assuming that 43A was one of the --nnIE MAES, Ginny or Fanny, so I couldn't get ASA GRAY, LIKE SO or ALOE GEL (Yes! Green-painty!) until I corrected to SALLIE. And for the teensiest amount of time, I wondered if there was such a thing as a pLATTer haircut (41D). I don't know SVEDKA vodka, though it certainly sounds vodka-y and I had no idea that a rabid fan was a STAN. Sort of wonder why? And WET NAP sounds like something you don't mention in polite society.

My solve was a bit GLACIAL, therefore, but it was also most enjoyable.

QuasiMojo 9:21 AM  

Finally a Friday puzzle that requires sinking one's teeth into. Yes, I raise my hand for putting in Kampf first. I struggled mightily with much else. Oui, oui, oui I wanted Nons. I have no idea what a Plasma TV is. Is that a precursor to those enormous screens people have on their walls? I used to see them while driving by Lefrak City at night on the LIE. After I gave up on my old Mitsubishi TV (as big as a sofa and one did have to carry it on its end up five flights of stairs) I use a phone to catch up on the news (or what resembles it.) YOLO but don't ask me to watch anything made with Claymation. Gives me the creeps. TskTsk perhaps too much bathroom humor today. Johns and Moons. And wetnaps.

TIPS made me think of Billy Joel.

"And they sit at the bar and put bread in my jar."

Sydney 9:28 AM  

I almost never give up, but I did today. I just wasn’t in the mood to hack my way through the thicket.

Anonymous 9:29 AM  

To a man

Nancy 9:35 AM  

We were all typing at the same time, but it seems that @Gill, @Quasi and I all had the same initial reaction to WET NAP. I love when that happens.

Sydney 9:36 AM  

On the other hand, I did yesterday’s puzzle with some looking up but no giving up.

Clover 9:42 AM  

Set a new Friday record! Really loved this puzzle, felt fun and appropriately challenging the whole way through. I was also surprised to see SILENTC after yesterday’s debacle. Maybe they thought so few people finished that puzzle that no one would notice. New word of the day: GROK. Had no clue what this was and was sure I had something wrong. Glad I didn’t!

@Nancy - The term STAN comes from an Eminem song of the same name that tells the story of an obsessive (fictional) Eminem fan named Stan who loses his mind. It was released in 2000. Pay no mind to the false prophets who will tell you that it’s a combination of “stalker” and “fan.”

Anonymous 9:48 AM  

Could someone please explain, GROK for 19 Across - Comprehend, I'm sure it is something like To a man but I am not familiar with it. Had trouble with Pea Jacket, since I was in the NAVY and and in the Merchant Marine and we called them Pea Coats not jackets (I know that doesn't seem like a big deal but no one ever said the Uniform of the Day included Pea Jacket)

three of clubs 9:51 AM  

@anonymous 7:22 KAMPF before JIHAD. Unfortunate associations with both of them, but I guess I am too old to be triggered.

CDilly52 9:59 AM  

@Lewis and @Nancy, I am with you guys 100%. My first pass through, I was afraid I would end up staring at a complete blank grid! It took me about 10 minutes to get on Mr. Wentz’s wavelength. And it occurred (sorry Rex) with DOGNAP which gave me a chuckle. The extreme NE suddenly (well, “suddenly” after about 10 minutes) fell lickety split (homage to a puzzle from earlier) the NW, though, worked itself out at the very end. CLAW HAMMER was all I had because the NE out the proverbial hammer down. Just so much to enjoy and nothing really cringe-worthy. Loved the lack of proper names and arcane geographical locations. Happy happy Friday everyone! And thank you all for being here. Even on cantankerous days, this blog gets me out of my daily rut and gives me enormous pleasure.

CDilly52 10:01 AM  

LOL. Hand up for humming Piano Man after filling in TIPS!

Newboy 10:03 AM  

YOLO indeed! And FTD will send the arrangement for only $65. Wonder if they have to include a card instruction “do not eat?” Great solve and a wonderful Hash House Harrier moment at 22D. Naticked at Rex’s final letter when neither ASA GRAY or YOLO could be prized from the ole grey cells with a CLAWHAMMER. Great puzzle and a fine write up, so off to see if others enjoyed as much as I.

kitshef 10:06 AM  

@Anon 9:48 - GROK is straightforward. As defined by Merriam-Webster - Grok: to understand profoundly and intuitively. Originally from a Robert A. Heinlein book.

Sir Hillary 10:07 AM  

YESIDO LIKESO much about this puzzle. As I noted yesterday, trivia suits me fine, but today's lack of it meant I actually learned some things.

Randomosity:
-- Really love that we're rolling in JK; 3 of the former, 6 of the latter.
-- I always think of a CLAWHAMMER as the murder weapon in "Presumed Innocent".
-- "STAN" is the most famous cut from "The Marshall Mathers LP", also produced by DRE.
-- Anyone else put ante before TIPS?
-- PLASMATVs are obsolete? I must have missed them entirely -- went straight from vacuum tube to LCD.
-- Great clue for ORATED. Needlessly dumb clue for DEER.
-- Not crazy about ALOEGEL and TSKTSKS (as a third-person verb) but those are my only nits.
-- I DOGNAPping really a thing? Does "---nap" imply ransom, or could shoplifting a convenience store be called beernapping?
-- I won't link to it here, but the video for Tool's "Sober" is the creepiest CLAYMATION ever.

mbr 10:09 AM  


@Anonymous 9:48: - From Merriam-Webster:
Grok may be the only English word that derives from Martian. Yes, we do mean the language of the planet Mars. No, we're not getting spacey; we've just ventured into the realm of science fiction. "Grok" was introduced in Robert A. Heinlein's 1961 science fiction novel Stranger in a Strange Land. The book's main character, Valentine Michael Smith, is a Martian-raised human who comes to earth as an adult, bringing with him words from his native tongue and a unique perspective on the strange, strange ways of earthlings. "Grok" was quickly adopted by the youth culture of America and has since peppered the vernacular of those who grok it, from the hippies of the '60s to the computerniks of the '90s.

CDilly52 10:12 AM  

Thanks @Clover 9:42. After I finished, (got STAN from the crosses) I did look it up and got the stalker+fan portmanteau and it just sounded so lame! I listened to the song and absolutely think Eminem is the origin. And learning odd little tidbits like this is one of the main reasons I love crosswords.

Newboy 10:17 AM  

GROK is from Stranger in a Strange Land a Heinlein classic si-fi novel. Literally “to understand in fullness “ and still worthy of reading.....& no zombies or undead that populate so much of today’s dreck.

TJS 10:18 AM  

Great puzzle, great solving experience. Hard to believe this one came from the same source as yesterdays' disaster. Got one corner done and came to a total stop. Took a break to get breakfast started, came back and suddenly things started to click. Love when that happens.
@John X, I'm not so sure bitching and whining are the same thing. I solved the damn thing but I still hated every minute of it. I always get a kick out of your comments though. (Showing my age).

Alex M 10:18 AM  

Disagree that ALOE GEL is green paint-esque, although I hesitated for a moment as well the actual soothing stuff that the plant secretes is a literal gel. ALOE GEL is *more* precise and correct than ALOE or ALOE VERA. So there.

Nampa Bob 10:19 AM  

Nope.
Two thumbs down for this one.

Dorothy Biggs 10:20 AM  

Yesterday's SILENTI is tomorrow's SILENTC. But really, how do we really know it isn't the S that's silent?

I have zero idea how I was so absolutely sure about STAN.

I've known PEAJACKETs as PEAcoats...

The mini had ASSED in its puzzle today (spoiler alert)...once again, the mini comes through with a hint to the main event.

I did like JOKE...as it can also be found in the wild as J/K, aka "just kidding" or, you know, "I'm joking." I liked it mostly because there seemed to be a whole lotta Js and Ks in this puzzle. From JIHAD to TSKTSKS (??) to BANJOPICK to PEAJACKET to GEEKOUT and to OAK...those are just the accrosses. I almost thought there was a theme there somewhere, but haha, J/K.

I wanted oceaNIA first, but knew that the French at 16a would be some form of yes/no. Then I couldn't remember EURASIA. Mulvania? Morovia? Lusitania? Transylvania?

Also, SPRout for SPRING.

One slight nit with SAGES...I see a "sage" as being mostly wise...which I guess is a kind of "learned" gift...but I associate sage with wisdom not learning. In other words, someone who is NOT learned, i.e., not much education, can be sage. And someone who is "learned" can be anything but sage.

Petsounds 10:23 AM  

@Anonymous at 7:22 AM: Yes. KAMPF was my first entry.
@Anonymous at 9:48 AM: Back in the 1960s, my Navy dad got me my jen-yoo-wine pea COAT at the Philadelphia Navy Yard, and yes, it's a pea coat, not pea jacket. So that threw me.
Rex: Yes. Could not GROK plasma TVs as "obsolete."
Had a hard time overall--MSG isn't something I think of as "savory," and then there was the stupid SILENTC, but finally GLACIAL. One of my worst Friday times, but aside from SILENTC and PEA JACKET and TSKTSKS (Just stop that!), I have no cause to complain. And I loved the clue for CLAYMATION.

One thing I've learned: There are constructors with whom you seem to be in total sync in terms of what words mean, and there are constructors who seem to be utter strangers in that way. IIWII.

Anonymous 10:25 AM  

It’s called a pick.
It’s not a banjo pick.
Banjo players use finger picks, sometimes.
It’s a pick...
Whether you’re playing a mandolin, guitar, or a banjo.

mathgent 10:28 AM  

Tough for me. Double-Naticked, like yesterday. SVEDKA/PDA and ASAGRAY/SALLIEMAE.

Is PDA "personal data assistant"? What does that have to do with a honeymoon?

Ellen S 10:29 AM  

Really enjoyable puzzle, Mr. Wentz, except it seems to me if you turn a sofa ON ITS END for moving, it will be too high for the doorway. But if you turn it ON ITS side, the answer will be too long for the puzzle. That’s why I hate moving sofas.

9 Across made me smile, and 57 Down was a gimme because a friend dragged me to a meeting. Of Moms Demand Action (“for gun sense in America”), not a meeting of the NRA. There’s another meeting this Sunday she wants me to go to. Why isn’t there a chapter in Sacramento at least? The nearest active one seems to be the one all the way out in Granite Bay. You never heard of Granite Bay, you say? My point exactly.

Ethan Taliesin 10:42 AM  

@Z --Same genus as TOAT. That was funny. - - Had never heard TO-A-MAN that I can recall though.

First had FARADAY as Darwin's contemporary, but ASA GRAY is mucho more better.

Didn't care for "Ha-ha" as the clue for JOKE. Is "ha-ha" filling in for a noun or a verb or what?

David 10:49 AM  

STAN. Yes, folk etymology is usually pretty far off the mark, but it has the same tenacity as urban legends.

With JohnX. Very tough for me but nice in the end. I also had "in a" and "fannie mae," couldn't get Pea Jacket because they're Pea Coats and always think of a claw hammer as something one carries in a tool belt. For tool box I want "socket wrench" or "pliers" or almost any other tool. Stared at 1A for a very long time saying to myself, "he couldn't possibly want MSG here."

I've turned couches on their ends to lift them up stairwells, I don't know why that's strange. Likewise "to a man" was commonplace where and when I grew up.

Tough for me and fun in the end. And here I learn about STAN and YOLO, neither of which I'll probably ever use but will now understand.

Rage ages sages indeed.

Solverinserbia 10:53 AM  

I had DOGsit for DOGNAP for a long time (which is an equally correct answer) so it slowed my finish but I did go golden and I did enjoy a nice gunk-free puzzle

Odd Sock 10:59 AM  

Dognap reminded me of an off-beat, engrossing, & wonderful movie called Seven Psychopaths with Christopher Walken and Woody Harrelson.
I wouldn't call a wet-nap an after-dinner amenity. That would be a moist towel served on a small plate. Wetnap is for your KFC.
Nice little sci-fi mini theme with grok and Eurasia.
Anyone think of plectrum before banjo pick?
Good workout for the little grey cells today.

Anonymous 11:15 AM  

NICKEL is a component of stainless steel, but CHROME is the element that makes it shiny and stainless. Bah.

A PLASMA TV isn't that olde, but there was only one manufacturer remaining (don't recall which) and stopped making them a couple of years ago. Best picture ever, but too much more expensive that LCDs, and cab/sat TeeVee isn't good enough to see the difference.

matty lite 11:17 AM  

Just wanted to drop in to point out a little banjo subtheme here-- CLAWHAMMER is the older, more traditional (and many would say less annoying) way of playing the banjo rhythmically with your fingers and thumb, before Earl Scruggs introduced the bluegrass style using BANJOPICKs in the mid 20th century.

the redanman 11:34 AM  

Pretty straightforward and TO.A.T Friday sans much difficulty.

jberg 11:41 AM  

Tpiugh but fair and fun for me, as I'd never heard of JBA JAM, though I managed to deduce it once I had NBAJ...

Actually, the top half was not too bad, but I couldn't find a down answer to bring me across the equator. I think I finally got around to MALE, and eventually overcame the hazard of my error at SALLy MAE (hint: the S stands for student; all those other maes and macs are about mortgages.)

Me too for WET NAP; actually, I had similar thoughts about "evidence of a couple's honeymoon phase," but none of them reduced to 3-letter acronyms.

@Sir Hillary, hate to disagree, but that was a great clue for ORATED the first time it was used; I think this was the second time this week, though.

@pabloinnh -- I don't play banjo, but I did a quick web search, and most of the equipment sellers seem to consider finger picks, thumb picks, flat picks, etc. to be different types of BANJO PICK. I'm really glad I did the search, though, because I discovered that there is something called the CLAWHAMMER BANJO PICK.

Joe Dipinto 11:41 AM  

Here come old flat top
He come groovin' up slowly


How long's it been since we had a puzzle this good? Equal parts easy cruising and stop-and-go traffic. I think SVEDKA is the only item I haven't seen/heard before.

I particularly like CLAWHAMMER, BANJO PICK, PINPOINTED, TSK-TSKS, and FATHEAD. And thank dog for a bare minimum of three-letter acronyms. ALOE GEL I agree is not ideal, and no more silent letter entries would be fine with me. But oui to Peter Ouentz for a splendid Friday offering.

Friday trivia question: two things that were mentioned in the blog comments recently – the "pellet with the poison" scene from "The Court Jester" and the song "Send In The Clowns" – are connected by an *answer in today's puzzle. What is it? Solution will be posted later.

*not necessarily the clue

Anonymous 11:57 AM  

@anon/10:25
Banjo players use finger picks, sometimes.

When I was a little lad, I listened to 'The Limeliters', and wanted to be a banjo player. Many decades later I found out that Hassilev hadn't played before the group formed, and was learning how to play from (I think) Pete Seeger's book. Anyway, I was a nail biter, and couldn't grok using finger picks, so tried with just finger tips. No success. Then, found Steve Martin's CDs, and found out (I think) that the olde fashioned way of 'picking' is to push down with the top of the nails!!! Anyone?

jb129 12:10 PM  

I didn't know "Grok" or "To a Man" was but now I do.

Gonna try to get into Mr Wendt's head better from now on.

Great "Friday" & learning experience puzzle.

jb129 12:10 PM  

Sorry! I meant WENTZ!

Anonymous 12:26 PM  

@JOHN X: Here’s a suggestion for you to improve YOUR self . . . stop referring to women as chicks. While some may consider it an acceptable term for young girls, most of the female readers of this blog are adults - as in women or ladies - some of whom may find it derogatory.

Banewood 12:27 PM  

Grok is a word coined by Robert Heinlein in his book "Stranger in a Strange Land.

jae 12:28 PM  

Easy-medium. Not much trouble with this one, other than spelling NICKEL wrong (@Rex & GILL I).

Solid with a smattering of zip, liked it.

RooMonster 12:28 PM  

Hey All !
Put me in the tough crowd. Am surprised how many haven't heard of GROK, as me and @Z (and probably others I'm forgetting) use that term quite a bit in our little screeds here.

Didn't have much time to do puz this morning. I took 5 days off from work, starting today. WooHoo! I need to get my DOT physical today, as it expires tomorrow. You need one each year to be a driver. (Department Of Transportation)

Anyway, so I wanted to get there early, so I rushed through the puz with Check Feature prominent throughout puz. I get to the DOT place at 8:15, turns out it doesn't open until 8:30. Fine.

The guy shows up at 8:30, unlocks the door, and I wait about two minutes and go in. He gives me the paperwork to fill out, and as I'm filling, I hear him on his phone ask someone, "Where are you?" I'm thinking it was the receptionist or something, as he's the only one there. (I take it he is the Doctor). Turns out, he comes out and says he has to leave, because his wife got a flat on the highway. *Wah wah*

So now I'm having breakfast, and gonna head back there shortly. My life in a nutshell, there.
(Now don't read into that that I have no sympathy for his wife getting a flat. That sucks. I know it's not all about me. 😀)

Is the S or C SILENT in SCENT?
RooMonster
DarrinV

Anonymous 12:30 PM  

I doubt the women on this blog are snowflakes.

JC66 12:31 PM  

@Dorothy B

FWIW, it might be better to put the "spoiler alert" before the spoiler.

@mathgent

Public Display of Affection


kitshef 12:31 PM  

Obsolescent (clue for PLASMATV) not quite the same as obsolete. Obsolescent means perceived to be headed out. Obsolete means out. 78 rpm records are obsolete. CDs are obsolescent - headed out but still in use.

Unwiseowl 12:37 PM  

Just dropping by to say that I had a ball with this one, which is not normally something I say about a themeless. Some good fill and just generous enough to keep my interest without giving very much away. Wentz stans represent.

Ed Rorie 1:01 PM  

1984 is not science fiction.

Teedmn 1:14 PM  

So happy to have literally had my AHA moment at AHA moment today. It saved my bacon in the SW where I was stuck. If I had been able to bring to mind RAGE, RAGE against the dying light, it could have been a different story, but uh-uh.

Not that the SE was much easier. I had an ante as money on the table along with the year of the doG (I know, we've had the PIG discussion here before but it just didn't go in. And I was oblivious to DOGNAP's already being in the grid (which I originally had as DOG EAR (hey, they're pointy, right?))). I considered Rex's PLAyMaTe answer and rejected it. My AHA moment in the SE was SWATHE from S_A_HE, whew.

I tried to give @Roo a couple of extra F's with SLuffED OFF for 40A. It's only now that I realize that would be SLoughED OFF, ha!

This was a great Friday. Hard themeless puzzles are my favorite. Thanks, Peter Wentz. I was certain Jeff Chen would give this the POW.

Joseph M 1:16 PM  

What a welcome change of pace after yesterday's nightmare. I feel like I just crawled out of the abyss and saw the sun again. Somebody hang up my PEA JACKET and pour me a shot of SVEDKA. I want to live.

Even though I found today's puzzle challenging, I enjoyed the solve and had many satisfying AHA moments along the way. The fill is super solid with noticeably minimal amount of proper nouns and crosswordese. Thanks, Peter, for restoring my faith in the NYT.




Unknown 1:33 PM  

I don't understand the clue for DEER.

Masked and Anonymous 1:42 PM  

Nice challenge for a FriPuz. Lotsa vagueish/playful clues, lotsa different fillins.
Didn't know [yo, SVEDKA] or only wispily knew [yo, SALLIEMAE, ASAGRAY] a few scattered things, so learned some new stuff.

@RP: yep. Peter Wentz does do a nice puz, dependably.

staff weeject pick: AHA moment. Would also accept AHAR.

Oddly, splatzed in a first entry with DEBT & DOGNAP. Not so oddly, finished up over in the mysterious SVEDKA region. Had fun spendin my nanoseconds, all the way thru.

Thanx, Mr. Wentz. Liked that U happened to give us the SILENT-treatment, just like yesterday's ThursPuz did. Fool us twice, shame on us, Shortzmeister.

Masked & AnonymoUUs


**gruntz**

Master Melvin 1:59 PM  

The FLATTOP that I and many of my 1950's contemporaries wore was long on the sides so they could be brushed back.

Anoa Bob 2:06 PM  

YES I DO think this is a very fine puzzle, although I ran into a poser right out of the gate at the "Miscellaneous part". The SILENT_ "part" filled in quickly but I was stumped as to which letter was actually SILENT. It sounds like miss sah lain ee us to me, nothing SILENT in the whole word.

If you DOG NAP a St. Bernard, it might turn out to be a WET NAP.

Old sailor here who still has his PEA coat that was issued in boot camp long ago in the previous century. That thing must weigh 10-15 lbs. and it sure ain't no JACKET, though I can imagine a lighter weight version that would be a JACKET. If you really want to go in style, wear your PEA JACKET with your DATA CAP.

Agree with anon @11:15 that chromium is the defining element that makes steel stainless. When exposed to oxygen, it forms a microscopically thin layer that prevents further corrosion and maintains its shine. I would go with monel in the clue, a NICKEL-copper alloy that also is resistant to corrosion.

Unknown 2:14 PM  

PDA in this context is public display of affection

mathgent 2:20 PM  

Thanks @JC66. I've seen it before in the puzzle. Should have remembered it.

Anonymous 2:29 PM  

@Ed Rorie:
1984 is not science fiction.

What was that movie about pre-crime? '1984' was pre-history. Now we'd say current events.

Fred Romagnolo 2:51 PM  

I've always thought that FAT HEAD was a display of egotism, not ignorance. Like others, I've never hard of SVEDKA. Also like others, I had no idea that PLASMA TVs weren't being made anymore. I'm afraid that I'm becoming obsolescent.

pabloinnh 3:03 PM  

@jberg-That's interesting about the picks. Did you google "banjo picks" or just "picks"? I sometimes buy picks online and they're listed as "guitar picks". I usually use a flat pick, sometimes a thumb pick, and sometimes a thumb pick and finger picks. Since I only play guitar, I hope I haven't been using banjo picks, although that would explain my lack of progress over the last forty or so years.

Side note--I own a banjo and learned how to play the hell out of "Foggy Mountain Breakdown" (Scruggs style picking), and nothing else, and haven't really played it since.

Jyqm 3:22 PM  

Am I the only one who didn't particularly enjoy this puzzle? It was certainly a vast improvement over yesterday's turkey, but for me it lacked a lot of the wicked fun I associate with the best Friday puzzles. CLAYMATION is a great answer, and BANJOPICK isn't bad, but much of the rest fell flat to me. CLAWHAMMER and PINPOINTED aren't terribly exciting as marquee answers.

Allow me to also register my disdain for the term STAN. "Ironic reappropriation" blah blah blah, it's a gross term that encourages unhealthy obsession, particularly in the way it's used among young people on social media. (Not saying it should be censored or is in any way un-crossworthy, but as someone who thought the Eminem song was a pretty powerful indictment of celebrity stalkers, it just leaves a bad taste in my mouth whenever I see it.)

sanfranman59 3:32 PM  

Yea!! Rex made me smile and actually lol a couple of times today. It's been a while. And thank goodness for this puzzle after the debacles of the previous two days. Thank you, PW, for restoring my faith in the entertainment value of cruciverbalism.

Crimson Devil 3:32 PM  

Fine Fri puz. Beat tha hell outta yesterday.
N/H/O SVEDKA and unaware of passing if PLASMA TVs; excel cluing for JOHNS, DOGNAP & MOONED.

Thwyla Tarp 3:46 PM  

you're so very valiant, john

Carola 3:46 PM  

Gratifyingly challenging for me. A choppy solve: DEBT + OUIS got me the NE, but there I ran aground. Then it was a matter of probing for entry hither and yon, making bits of progress. Last in: the MMs of HAM and ATM.

Re: "struggle" - I didn't think of Kampf but had one of those "you think you're so smart, pride goeth before a fall" moments, wanting "agony," having learned at some point that "agon" = contest. Nope.


QP 3:57 PM  

It is. If you read it, you would know

Hungry Mother 4:01 PM  

@John X - call me a chick whenever you want.

QP 4:03 PM  

Maybe if you’re talking about North Korea. I wish people would actually read the book before making comparisons

Anonymous 4:54 PM  

@John X - "chicks"? what century were you born in? Yikes. Please stop. Just stop.

Unknown 5:17 PM  

I reread 1984 about a year ago, and was amazed by how prescient Orwell was. About America.

tim 5:46 PM  

Just wanted to say I was a little disappointed the constructor missed the chance to clue the word FLATTOP with the (admittedly more obscure) deformed hit man from Dick Tracy, but pleased to see him in the illustrations to today's blog.

Also pleased to know GROK hasn't fallen out of usage.

GILL I. 6:16 PM  

Oh, I don't know. I think "chick" is sorta sweet. After all, a baby chick is kinda cute. I suppose if I were to be offended it would be calling me a "Dame." That sounds so old. Call me a chick anytime you want..or call me babe or call me sweetheart..... Or even: "dinner is ready, darling!"

albatross shell 6:17 PM  

@unknown 133pm
A rebus in its non-crossword standard definition is a series of pictures that is translated into words. For instance a picture of a deer followed by a picture of a toilet would be "Dear John".

@Jyqm 322pm
If you think BANJOPICK is not bad, I think you should upgrade it and CLAWHAMMER taken as a tandem. Also I think there was a lot of humor in the clues for shorter answers: DOGNAP ORATED JOHNS SILENTC MOONED UPS.

Haha is a fine clue for JOKE. If you write something and you want people to understand you are trying to be funny and do not mean it you add LOL JOKE OR HAHA.

The FLATTOP haircut I remember from my youth was not uniformly short on top but just slightly longer where the head arches down creating a flat top. It was short on the sides. The song I associate with is My Boy Flat Top by Boyd Bennett. One of a few 78s my brother had back then along with Haley's See ya later Alligator and Berry's Maybelline. 1955 1956.

Tough but worked thru the puzzle with just a couple of sips of google-aid. Fun and dandy. Not easy.

Call me hick; call me chick;
I try to be more than a tick.

Music Man 6:38 PM  

Sorry, still don’t get how “with no exceptions” means “to a man”.

albatross shell 6:41 PM  

Also on the sofa moving: started with sideways. Changed to endtoend which I did not like but might mean something possible. Ended at ONITSEND which I thought was the worst answer until it occurred to me if putting it on a truck you might move it in this position to save floor space Wedge in with appliances or other means.

Nancy 6:56 PM  

@Joe Dipinto (11:41) -- I've got it!!!! I've got it!!! Nice pickup!

The answer is JOHNS at 4D. Glynis JOHNS played Desiree in "A Little Night Music" and sang "Send in the Clowns". She also (I had to look this up to confirm it, Joe) played the ingenue in "The Court Jester" and was in "The Pestle with the Poison" scene.

For anyone interested, Sondheim wrote "Clowns" to make it possible for JOHNS to sing it. Evidently, she lacked the ability to sustain notes, among other vocal limitations. So he ended every line with a clipped word ending with a consonant rather than an open vowel that needed to be sustained. The lines were kept very short so that she wouldn't run out of breath. This is probably the reason that the Glynis JOHNS version and the Judi Dench version are the most moving and most perfect renditions of the song. These two ladies are actors more than singers and they act the hell out of the song. Judy Collins has the most beautifully sung version -- too well sung, actually, and while it is certainly a prettier treatment, it lacks that certain je ne sais quoi.

sasha 7:30 PM  

Think of e.g. "To a man, every player on the team was in top form tonight."

https://www.collinsdictionary.com/us/amp/english/to-a-man







Z 7:31 PM  

@Music Man - “Everyone, TO A MAN, hated yesterday’s puzzle.” I can’t remember the last I heard it used, but it doesn’t seem all that rare to me. I wonder if it’s a generational thing.

Tournament is done. @Seth C’s team won both it’s division and won the Team Spirit Award - a pretty rare double.

Joe Dipinto 8:03 PM  

We have a winner – brava, @Nancy! I was about to post the solution because no one was guessing anything.

When I got the answer JOHNS – which had a nifty clue, I should add – I thought of Glynis, possibly (probably) because we were just talking about the song the other day. Then I remembered that she's also in the "pellet" scene, which had come up the day of the puzzle with the CHALICES answer. So I thought, hmm, maybe there's a trivia question here...

Excellent sleuthing! I figured you were the most likely candidate to get it. ;-)

Gabe 8:49 PM  

Among the many other things I disliked about this puzzle, the cluing "half-wit" for FATHEAD seemed unnecessarily ableist when something like "boor" would have worked just as well.

Anonymous 10:20 PM  

Weird. I found yesterday easy. I found this tough (and enjoyed it).

Monty Boy 11:07 PM  

Tough for me, as Fridays often are. First pass I had several good (but wrong) answers. LOVESEAT for the old furniture; ONE moment; NON votes; CHROME in steel; the FANNIEMAE thing. ALAS, on to Saturday.

Best I can tell, no one has mentioned Rear Ended answer. Made me LOL.

Music Man 3:41 AM  

Thanks for the explanation- I have never heard that before!

Mark N 10:09 AM  

This was right in my wheelhouse. Loved it!

57Stratocaster 8:50 PM  

As I recall, yesterday's silent letter clue didn't even have a "?", which wasn't fair...

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