Grounder that squeezes between two infielders in baseball slang / TUE 11-19-19 / Finchlike birds that build intricate nests / Chronic drinker's ailment / Grassy plain

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Constructor: Ross Trudeau

Relative difficulty: Medium?? (4-ish)

THEME: TOP HAT (45D: Something worn by the answer to each starred clue, as represented graphically in this puzzle's grid) — just what it says:

Theme answers:
  • SCROOGE MCDUCK (34A: *Cartoon billionaire)
  • WILLY WONKA (5D: *1971 role for Gene Wilder)
  • ABE LINCOLN (9D: *U.S. leader who said "Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?")
  • FROSTY (43D: *"A jolly happy soul," in a holiday song)
Word of the Day: NATANT (44A: Swimming) —
swimming or floating in water natant decapods [Natant and the smattering of other words birthed in the waters of Latin natare, meaning "to swim," can sound overly formal in many contexts. Rather than use the word natatorium, for example, we're more likely to refer simply to an indoor swimming pool. Similarly, instead of complimenting a friend's skills in natation, you're probably more apt to tell her she's a good swimmer. The common German-derived word swimming suits most of us just fine. Science, though, often prefers Latin, which is why you're most likely to encounter natare words in scientific contexts.] ( 
• • •

Well yesterday's was a near-exact rehash of a Liz Gorski NYT crossword from 20 years ago, and today's is a weaker and smaller rehash of an Evan Birnholz crossword from 3 years ago, so the NYT's got itself quite a little streak going here. Themes get duplicated. It happens. But a couple of things. 1. You can keep it from happening so often by running your themers through a database to see if anyone has done your theme before (at least with your particular themers). And 2. if you do duplicate a theme, in whole or in part, you can't be surprised by comparisons. This one, sadly, compares very unfavorably to Evan's Sunday. Here's his WaPo grid from a few years back:

... with the top hat actually up ... top (you know,where you normally find hats, both top and other), and then a whole bunch more actual top hat-wearers, including MICHIGAN J. FROG, wow. Anyway, that's two days in a row where the NYT has run a sad echo. What will tomorrow bring!?

Fill today is genuinely bad, as you can see. If it had been great, the theme duplication theme becomes more of an afterthought. A well-filled grid can overcome a lot of theme infelicities. But instead we're smothered in old stuff like LLANO and NATANT (?!) and DTS (SAD FACE, indeed) and ERES and ONEA whatever OMN is and oof WAS ON and not one but two author monograms (the oldest of crossword crutches): RLS and EAP (which doubles as an exclamation!). I am told by a scuba instructor that AIRTUBE is all kinds of wrong, and it felt all kinds of wrong going in, so I'm glad to hear someone else balked at this (15A: Scuba diver's need). The scuba instructor would've accepted AIR HOSE, which is in fact what I wrote in. That section bedeviled me primarily for this reason. I ended up liking BLEEDER, but I could not see it at all to start with (18A: Grounder that squeezes between two infielders, in baseball slang). Kept thinking "do the mean BLOOPER?" Always read the clue completely, kids! Sigh. Couldn't figure "RUDE!" as an exclamation. Wanted SPECS for TERMS (10D: Contract details). Combo of bad answer and bad luck really set me back there. But the rest was easy enough. Just not fun.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. yesterday's puzzle involved duplication of another constructor's 20-year-old theme. This isn't the first time the constructor has been involved in something like this. I guess if you make enough puzzles, you're bound to run into other people's themes sooner or later. Still, when the themers are identical ...

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Loren Muse Smith 5:52 AM  

I followed the theme duplication flap yesterday. I can’t summon up any anger whenever someone points out that a theme has already been done. I do one puzzle a day – the NYT – and if I have no memory of a previous similar puzzle, no biggie.

Case in point: today. I know Evan’s puzzles are top-notch, but I don’t have the time to solve them. I do believe with all my heart that constructors do not deliberately mine archives looking for stuff to copy.

First glance at the grid this morning, I saw a person who’s just been told to “stick’em up” ‘cause they’re being robbed.

That WILLY WONKA and ABE LINCOLN are both 10s and And. . . that their 7th letters afford SCROOGE MCDUCK’s cross – man oh man I bet Ross was like no way this is unbelievable hold the presses I’ma do this right now.

I liked the SAD FACE sitting under the hat. With a CYST on his cheek.

The northwest is a kind of hair center with WEAVE, GEL, ELASTICs.

BRAVURA crosses RANGE. I have to embed this AGAIN ‘cause the soprano’s voice transcends its human-ness and becomes a magical flute (hah) when she goes all staccato on everyone. See 1A.

PARSING. Try grammatically dissecting these sentences:

The old man the boat.
The cotton clothing is made of grows in Mississippi.
The man who hunts ducks out on weekends.
The raft floated down the river sank.
I convinced her children are noisy.
Fat people eat accumulates.

Not too many iconic TOP HAT wearers. Uncle Sam and the Monopoly man. A magician. And 13D – sneaky sneaky, Ross.

OffTheGrid 6:11 AM  

I really enjoyed this. It wasn't difficult, had some nice longer answers and was low on PPP. It felt like an easy Fri or Sat. I counted 20 3's. I don't know if that's particularly high but seems so. The only stinker was AIRTUBE.

PKelly 6:21 AM  

Look! Both puzzles have llano as well!

Lewis 6:32 AM  

I love the word BRAVURA, and here's a top-hat-related word I just learned after a bit of casual research: GIBUS. It's a collapsible top hat, and the word did show up 34 years ago in a NYT puzzle, and once more, 28 years before that. Thank you for a fun solve, Ross!

Rob 6:32 AM  

I originally had AIR TANK. I was able to self-correct, but yeah, I'm a diver and I would never say AIR TUBE. It's not technically wrong, but AIR HOSE is the more likely term. But honestly, I almost never refer to individual hoses and just refer to the whole unit as an "octopus." Once I realized it was AIR TUBE, I was briefly afraid they meant a snorkel.

It was very hard for me to parse ABE LINCOLN for some reason, and I had never heard NATANT, so I was trying to puzzle out a nonsense name. "ABELI N. COLE? No, that doesn't make any sense..."

GILL I. 7:07 AM  

There's something about ABE LINCOLN sitting at the dinner table with FROSTY, WILLY WONKA and SCROOGE MCDUCK that seems a bit RUDE. Maybe ABE had a sense of humor and would've liked the company.
I rather enjoyed this one. My crude sense of funny includes the SWEAR AT BLEEDER SUMO. @Loren's heart burn inducing AWE inspiring RANGE of the soprano she linked and perhaps never, ever, using the word ADULATE in a sentence.
When I see the word PROXY I think of Munchausen. I know, insert SAD FACE. Dr.Phil had someone on his show that suffered from this. Well, she didn't suffer, but her child did.
Let's see. What did I like? SUN TAN OIL and thinking how stupid I was thinking that baby oil would ever give me a tan. I grew up in the sun, burning. If you like the color of cooked lobster, succulent as that might be, that was me. Memories of my mom slathering aloe over my body.
Wasn't crazy about all the threes but I tip my TOP HAT off to Ross for a swimming romp.
Do DAS ever get the DTS?

kitshef 7:12 AM  

Why isn’t SLASH clued as a themer? Is it purely for the sake of arbitrary symmetry in the themers?

Absurdly hard for a Tuesday. We’ve had Fridays easier than this lately. Partially due to odd clue/answer pairs like Curse/SWEARAT and Had a base/WAS ON and especially that bizarre clue for RUDE. Partially due to some deep crosswordese (OMN, RIA).

So … my hope is that Will has gotten complaints about the puzzle being too easy and is toughening things up.

Suzie Q 7:21 AM  

I found this harder than the usual Tuesday but in a good way.
Today we have the yak that so many wanted yesterday for yap.
Also, yesterday we had a merry old soul and today a jolly happy soul.
I agree that air tube is awkward and hose seems better.
A nit about IVs, EMTs don't insert them, paramedics do.
I love the word natant and was surprised to see it on a Tuesday. I like the reference to birth and the watery place where we all begin.
Bravura as clued was new to me. To me it implies a certain style or flair rather than technical skill.
I don't mind working a little harder early in the week.

Hungry Mother 7:23 AM  

Using bad PARSING, I didn’t see ABE at the beginning of LINCOLN’s name. Also I forgot LLANO for a moment, so I had to stare for a while before finishing barely under average time.

amyyanni 7:49 AM  

Much better than an average Tuesday. Hope the surgery goes well today for Ross.

Z 7:56 AM  

There’s a big difference between plagiarism, looking up old puzzles for theme ideas for example, and failure to exercise simple due diligence, checking a readily available database to make sure your neat idea hasn’t been used before. Failure to do due diligence leaves the impression of plagiarism which is reason enough to exercise due diligence. In the end, though, final responsibility lies with the editor. The editor approved both these puzzles despite the themer repetition. If I’m reading Rex correctly, the major part of his complaint is with the editor, with more of a “Tsk Tsk” head shaking for the constructors.

@LMS - I want to believe that, too. But I’ve seen enough successful people screw up their lives over stupid shit (that’s the legal term) that I always withhold judgement until the facts are in.
Liked your sentences.

AIRmask -> AIRTank -> AIRTUBE. I don’t know enough to complain, but more importantly I don’t know what the difference is between a TUBE and a “hose.” Good luck trying to make a case that the terms aren’t interchangeable.

For those who didn’t understand @kitshef’s SLASH observation, check out the picture.

@Roo - My only excuse is that it was late. Palin it was. My other excuse is that “Michael Palin Voice” is forever the stuttering Ken Pile in A Fish Called Wanda.

Seth 8:04 AM  

It's funny, I had a puzzle rejected specifically because I had unknowingly duplicated a theme from like 10 years earlier. And only one of the four themers was the same. At the time I thought it was a valid rejection reason, but...apparently not!

Anonymous 8:24 AM  

I’m not buying the “sadly” in the review. Nothing makes him happier than trashing Shortz.

kitshef 8:26 AM  

@Z - For the record, LMS posted about SLASH first. You may chalk this up to independent observation or blatant plagiarism as you see fit.

pabloinnh 8:27 AM  

Great, now I've got an "Eres Tu" earworm. At least it's a nice song.

Couldn't see the TOPHAT revealer coming, so that was fun. I almost never look at the grid to see if there's something represented, like, oh, a top hat. Maybe I should try that.

Natant is OK if you know some Romance language words for swimming.

Nice enough Tuesday, M. Trudeau, and thanks ever so much for somehow leaving OREO out of your puzzle.

Maddie 8:33 AM  

I had the same thought about the IV's- maybe it varies place to place but that's not something NYS EMT's are trained in.

Nancy 8:38 AM  

If a theme -- however unnoticeable I may find it -- produces a lively puzzle and an enjoyable solve, that's all I ask. And this puzzle was a most enjoyable Tuesday, replete with things I didn't know like NATANT and BLEEDER as clued here (18A). But I didn't notice the asterisks at all, and if I had, I wouldn't have had a clue as to what connected the theme answers. I should know that SCROOGE MCDUCK wears a TOPHAT? I guess if I'd thought about it I would know that FROSTY and WILLY WONKA wear TOPHATS, but I didn't think about it. ABE's was called a stovepipe, but I suppose it's really the same thing.

I only associate two characters with TOPHATs: Eustace Tilly on the New Yorker magazine cover (aren't you glad that one wasn't used?) and Fred Astaire.

But it doesn't matter. The puzzle was fun. And -- Aha!!!!!! -- unobservant me just this nanosecond noticed the TOPHAT in the grid art. Nice.

QuasiMojo 8:42 AM  

I used to wear a top hat a lot back in my school days. I had one of those snap-up ones Lewis mentioned. They actually hurt to wear because they were so stiff at the brim and had wires in them. I think I also mentioned going as Abe Lincoln once for Halloween and borrowing without asking my dad's silk top hat. Some clown egged me on the street (RUDE!) and messed up the hat bigtime. Being as honest as Abe, I fessed up to my father. He never complained. He was a cool cat. BUT I had no idea that these characters, aside from good old Abe, wore top hats. I known Young Frankenstein wore one so I tried to squeeze him into the Gene Wilder spot even though I knew it was Peter Boyle. Anyway, I struggled with this one today. Fell flat for me. Cue SAD FACE. If only Fred Astaire had tapdanced his way into it somehow. He always looked like he was born in a top hat. The epitome of swellegance.

Passing Shot 8:53 AM  

Am I the only one who sees an image of TopCat (Hanna Barbera 1960s, kids) in Birnholz’s grid? He wears a porkpie hat I believe, bur still... If this was intentional, kudos to Birnholz.

Nancy 8:53 AM  

@Loren (5:52) PARSING:

The old [people] man the boat.
The cotton [that] clothing is made of grows in Mississippi.
The man who hunts/ducks out/on weekends.
The raft [that] floated down the river/sank.
I convinced her [that] children are noisy.
Fat [that] people eat / accumulates.

Dr. Haber 8:53 AM  

Sorry, but wrong.

Z 8:58 AM  

@kitshef - I was wondering how I missed @LMS’s comment about SLASH and then remembered my own advice, always check out Muse’s avatar.

@Seth’s 8:04 post is most damning.

SouthsideJohnny 9:03 AM  

Omg, OMD - wtf? YAKS, yuk! RLS, EAP - smh AOL, RNA, DTS, IVS - ays ??? (bau f/ NYT) jmo, bfn !

Nancy 9:03 AM  

Just as I can imagine our @GILL standing straight up atop a galloping horse and just as I can imagine our @Birchbark perched in a tree thinking deep philosophical thoughts, so can I imagine our @Quasi (8:42) in a TOPHAT. Maybe it's the Yale background, @Quasi. Boola, boola. Maybe it's those 4 p.m. teas you seem to have enjoyed growing up. But I was actually hoping for a TOPHAT story from you today, and I wasn't disappointed. It's an amusing story and your father does indeed sound very cool.

Donovan 9:05 AM  

As a pharmacist I can tell you that OMN is never used on prescriptions. Literally never seen it. We use "q" to mean "every"

Klazzic 9:12 AM  

Puzzle? Meh. Basehits between infielders are generally described as TWEENERS. @Gill: ABE LINCOLN was a risible character; tremendous sense of humor, in contrast to the bloviating yam we have today.

Anonymous 9:14 AM  

My wife is an RN of 35+ years and never heard of OMN being used as a prescription abbreviation. I’ve looked in three large RX abbr. databases and found it listed in only one. Is it a correct? Yes. Is it obscure as heck? You betcha.

I’ve also been watching baseball all my life. Maybe it’s the announcers I’ve listened to, but I don’t ever remember hearing the term bleeder. Like OMN, it’s absolutely correct, but pretty darn obscure.

oldbizmark 9:18 AM  

I get the feeling that Will reads your blog and is just trolling you at this point... and we all have to suffer.

Anonymous 9:18 AM  

Well, aren’t you special!
Most people aren’t aware when plagiarism occurs, usually the offended parties only at first.
Does that mean it’s permissible?
A “seeing eye grounder” is more often heard.

Z 9:19 AM  

Rex’s brief Twitter post on the puzzle gets a response from the WaPo constructor.

pmdm 9:25 AM  

I clicked on the hot link on one of the persons leaving a comment, and when I returned to the comments window that particular comment no longer displayed. Until I refreshed the window. Weird.

What strikes me about the theme duplication comments is that most persons seem to have the opinion that once a theme is published, it can never be used for all eternity. While I'd not like to see two puzzle with the same theme published in close proximity, I don't think all the anger expressed about yesterday's puzzle and today's puzzle is justified. But I do think an acknowledgement note would be good to print, one that doesn't reveal the theme itself but perhaps the date(s) when the theme was previously used.

I too found this puzzle to be harder than usual for a Tuesday puzzle. I would be interested to know the reaction of new solvers to this puzzle.

Nancy: You seem to have unwittingly angered someone yesterday. My wife, who suffers from CTS, always types with all caps because it is painful for her to type normally. I'm reminded of the saying "when in Rome, do as the Romans." But if you innocently don't know Roman custom, you can inadvertently piss off others who expect to be treated sensitively but don't react in kind. I used to interact with people from other cultures in my job, and I remember sensitivity training so I would not anger them (which would have been counter-productive). It's a shame to have to walk on egg shells all the time.

Speaking of painful, Ross's constructor comments today are interesting (as included on site. I wish him well concerning his operation.

Newboy 9:29 AM  

That this puzzle runs on 11/19/2019 can’t be accidental can it? One hundred fifty and six years after ABE LINCOLN donned his TOP HAT to give the best two minutes of public speaking in our nation’s history? Had to get WOD through crosses, but otherwise a good Tuesday. Best wishes to Ross for his medical procedure (see xwordinfo) & thanks for sharing a grid that was LLANO fun.

Newboy 9:30 AM  

P.S. Thank heavens that Lincoln didn’t tweet!

Katzzz 9:30 AM  

Really a blown opportunity not to have Slash as a themer.

Crimson Devil 9:48 AM  

Pretty strong for a Tues; liked it.

RooMonster 10:08 AM  

Hey All !
Well, a funny thing happened when I checked my e-mails today. I had a rejection from a puz I submitted with the Revealer as DISAPPEARING ACT, and themers that were missing the ACT part, as in, ED THE FOOL, which when you add the ACT becomes ACTED THE FOOL. It was a nice rejection, it said "the idea felt a bit on the familiar side", with a link to a Joe DiPietro puz from Aug 16, 2001. How come my puz that's similar make it in? Inquiring minds. Weird how the timing on stuff like this happens. Joe's puz had 3 themers, mine had 4. I win! (Well...)

His puz had straightforward clues, whereas mine (#Humblebrag) for ED THE FOOL, e.g. had the clue
*Poof!* Silly Asner?
*Viola!* Goofed up?
making it spicier, IMHO. :-) (My Revealer was simply *Poof!*, not sure if Will would've changer it)

Anyway, that crying/bitching/whining aside, this puz was OK. Seemed to be a slew of threes, but there was only 18. While that seems high, it is acceptable. Another odd coincidence, here's the left/right symmetry I was talkin' 'bout yesterday. Is the weird timing thing part of Murphy's Law? Or is there some other name for it?

Who knew so many things/people (real or not) wore TOP HATs? Neat. I think maybe I'll start wearing one! Har. W
Lots o' ABBRs in this one. Only two non-ABBRs in @M&A's weeject stacks in the NW & NE. Were some nice entries, too. And seeing FROSTY the Snowman is always fun. I'll post (maybe) my other Themers/clues if y'all are so inclined to want them. Just trying to boost my ego! :-)


Anonymous 10:15 AM  

Indeed LMS is special in a way that's worth celebrating. You're just a garden variety village bully, blinded by self- regard and crippled by the wounds you force-feed the world rather than get the help you clearly need to heal.

Anonymous 10:16 AM  

Yes to Slash!

xyz 10:20 AM  

My opinion of this puzzle is not very high.

jberg 10:26 AM  

"Some things that happen for the first time
Seem to be happening AGAIN."

I love that song- here it is-so it put me in a good mood for the rest of the puzzle. The theme confused me at first -- I thought those little shapes of black squares running down the center, with SCROOGE MCDUCK under the first one -- might be the TOP HATs. Once I figured that out, I enjoyed the puzzle. Btw, the Birnholz puzzle has that same shape in the top center, better proportioned.

Other TOP HAT wearers -- Bertie Wooster, Groucho Marx -- there are plenty. But they don't always wear one, and I think these do.

I saw "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood" earlier this year, and really enjoyed it, even though it borrowed elements from "Once Upon a Time in China" and "Once Upon a Time in the West." It was done in a knowing way, and made the movie more fun to see. Similarly with all the "A Star is Born" movies.

And it's a little harsh to judge a daily puzzle for not being as rich in theme answers as a Sunday one.

b-t-trips 10:32 AM  

Really don't like male puzzle constructors using clues/answers like "sassy - pert" - makes me queasy - both words make me think of those terrible trucker wheel flap medallions of a naked woman sitting in a position that gets described as "pert" - kind of yuck.

Tom 10:34 AM  

Easy to dissect. A couple of subordinate clauses in the last two sans “that” and a participial phrase and subjunctive clause may throw some, but not this grammar sleuth. Next time try throwing in a nominative absolute.

Whatsername 10:47 AM  

@LMS: I appreciated your PARSING challenge and, as a student from the olden days of diagramming sentences, I aced it. Proper sentence construction has gone by the wayside with social media, and I doubt that the art of diagramming is even taught in schools any more.

@Nancy: This brought to mind your BLACKHAT from a while back, one of my favorites. I love your imagery of @GILL standing upright on a galloping horse. Having never met her myself, I’ve always pictured her wearing a mantilla with a rose between her teeth and holding an elegant cocktail. ;-)

I have been doing NYTX puzzles for nearly 20 years, but I did not recall a previous one with a TOPHAT theme. Since I don’t eat hummus, don’t know Spanish and don’t follow baseball, had a little Natick at 4D/6D/16A. Didn’t like the clue for AIRTUBE. That seems more likely something a snorkeler would use whereas a diver would use an air TANK. I liked it overall though and thought it was an appropriate level of difficulty, but it did seem odd that the hat was in the bottom of the grid.

@Roo: I do remember that 2001 puzzle and it was a good one. Keep trying though; I would love to see one along those lines again.

Kathy 10:48 AM  

I sailed through very quickly...until I got stuck in the upper Midwest section, then spent most of my time there.

I will remember to add sarcasm to my xword radar, RUDE was entirely unexpected. That entire section was a tussle because it had a baseball term and I was so sure AIRTank was correct. And with a couple other incorrect letters, it took me forever to see the word LINCOLN developing. Then I remembered the sartorial theme, so fixed that one quickly. I finally decided BLEEDER seems like an apt answer to the baseball clue and, voila, I sprinted across the finish line!

The ubiquitous ATE and HAD as synonyms grates on me ever time I see them, even though we do use them interchangeably, does that make any sense?

It felt like a perfect Tuesday to me—led me down the garden path at first, then tripped me up with a tussle to make me work for it. (Still in my first year of doing the NYT puzzle)

@LMS. Nice to see you back, and loved parsing challenges!

Masked and Anonymous 10:53 AM  

Cool hat idea. Had not seen the non-NYTPuz version, so I kinda feel lucky that Mr. Trudeau got this one published, here. Havin no particular visibility to every xword in the universe, if I'da thought of this theme, I'da sure considered submittin it, too. Especially with the big themers so neatly crossin each other, as @Muse darlin has pointed out.

E-W symmetry always a fun extra, for crankin out puzgrid art. Unusual puz design, what with only 71 words. Yet a whoppin 45 black squares -- 11 of em needed for the black hat, I'd grant. (4 more, maybe for the runty black hat, higher up in the grid?)

SCROOGEMCDUCK is an M&A all-time fave comic book character, originally created by masterful cartoonist/ duck tales spinner Mr. Carl Barks. Great fun to see Uncle Scrooge in a puz.

staff weeject picks: EAP & RLS. I see nuthin at all wrong with havin famous folks' monograms splatzed into the puz. A lot of people (yo, @RP) do, I reckon. Extra-primo symmetrical quad weeject stacks in the NW & NE … exquisite.

Thanx for bringin the TOPHAT theme experience to us NYTPuz solvers, Mr. Trudeau. Keep yer good ideas comin, and stay FROSTY.
And a tip of the hat to Mr. Birnholtz, for his equally good puzidea and for havin a bigger black hat.

Masked & Anonymo4Us


Anonymous 11:04 AM  

SUNTANOIL **isn't** a bronzer, which is a lotion of some composition that turns your skin orange-ish without sunlight. Our Manchurian President uses in by the gallon.

A BLEEDER isn't any old grounder between infielders, but a really slow grounder that juuuuuuuuust makes it through the infield between those fielders. You know, like a slow BLEED?

QuasiMojo 11:04 AM  

@Nancy, I am delighted you enjoyed my little anecdote. We share a certain sensibility, no doubt caused by our common experiences in NY and publishing. I am always struck by your constant enthusiasm for puzzles and wordplay and a fondness for a good story.

David 11:07 AM  

A hose is generally reinforced and used for particular applications which may or may not utilize high pressure. A tube is a tube. Snorkeler, not diver. I had air tank for the longest time.

Pretty cool that address happened 7 score and 16 years ago. Coincidence? I don't see the post which first mentioned this though.

I think I know one or two people who still use AOL. This one was a bit harder for me than a usual Tuesday and I learned something too. Llano? Knew the town names, didn't know what it meant. I don't know what Frosty's column added to the top hat.

@Dr Haber, Here in NYC EMS and EMT are different things and EMS definitely is trained for their use. I don't know about EMTs though.

Adulate crossing natant... nice

Proxy pares smelts. Back in the last century I was a cook in Cambridge (MA) and we had an English chef who delighted in telling us to go in back and prepare a case of smelts (you know, cut of their heads and gut them). Small slimy things they were and I swear she did it just to torture us. It would have been nice to have a proxy to do that.

DavidL 11:12 AM  

I was flying through this and hit a brick wall over in the west. Time ended up in the Thursday range.

Not familiar with Mr. MCDUCK character, so had to get that with crosses. And then LLANO (wtf?) and NATANT crossing ADULATE, which for some reason took forever to come up with. I wanted "idolize" and thought maybe I was misspelling ISAIAH (all those vowels....).

Nancy 11:15 AM  

@pmdm (9:25) -- I'm gobsmacked by this entire discussion, truly I am. Full caps in a blog comment can be employed to express many, many emotions: Incredulity. Outrage. "Hey, You're not going to believe this!!"* They're are a zillion things full caps can express other than shouting. Who makes these rules??? Is there an Internet Comment God who decrees what kind of typing is Not to be Permitted Among Sensitive and Decent People? As I said in yesterday's post, the world is going to hell in a handbasket -- something I absolutely, truly believe, btw -- and there are actually people upset or made angry by typography??? And who take typography personally??? To me, this is political correctness carried to absurdity. If I were to give into it, I would not be able to look myself in the mirror.

*To be sure, if you use it EVERYWHERE, a la President Trump, it completely loses its effectiveness.

Anonymous 11:20 AM  

One more baseball oddity. Since 99.44% of ground/line drive balls that end up being a hit are between two infielders, BLEEDER as clued is meaningless, since there's nothing distinctive. OTOH, third base is oft-times called 'the hot corner', since it's believed to be more susceptible to hard hit balls; more so than first base.

Why would this be? I suspect it's because almost all third basemen are right handed (, and thus have to backhand any ball hit between himself and the foul line. Much more difficult to pull off. How would you like to make the throw to first base as a left-hander on a ball just past third base? Not likely. First basemen, OTOH, are much more often left-handed; less so now than in the past (

Anonymous 11:26 AM  

Back in the last century I was a cook in Cambridge (MA)

Cambridge used to be a fun place to be, what with mostly all bespoke shops and restaurants and such. In the last few years, it's nothing but the same chain stores as the Framingham mall (if it still exists?). The fall of American Civilization.

TJS 11:30 AM  

So the guy who wrote two days ago " What is it with “family value” Republicans and their three wives and sleeping with married co-workers? Although, technically, he isn’t a Republican anymore and we don’t know if they were sleeping together while she was still married..." is the same guy who writes today"I always withhold judgement until the facts are in".

jae 11:31 AM  

Medium. Cute theme, too bad it’s another repeat.

OMN?? Nice to see that Rx people @Donovan, Anon 9:14 also found it obscure.

Anonymous 11:33 AM  

Top hat imagery at the bottom may indicate a feature some of the CW critics' heads are in their as***.

Joe Dipinto 11:44 AM  

My eyes dilate, my lips go green
My hands are greasy
She's a mean, mean machine

Well, that's what you get for crossing DILATE with OIL.

Ho hum, another day, another x-word plagiarism lawsuit. Why not treat these as "samples"? Yesterday Alan Arbesfeld "sampled" Liz Gorski's puzzle, today Ross Trudeau "sampled" Evan Birnholz's. Give the originals co-constructor credit and a portion of the remuneration, and everything is on the up and up.

Excellent find on Slash, LMS. I'd like to think it was intentional but I have a feeling no. Why isn't Fred Astaire in either puzzle? Technically Abe Lincoln is most famously seen wearing a stovepipe hat, but he did wear a regular top hat sometimes.

And technically *all* singers have a range, even if it's only five notes. Nice falsetto range happening here.

Maybe tomorrow the Times will reprint this exact puzzle with a completely different byline. That would be fun.

RooMonster 11:48 AM  

OK, since none of y'all asked... :-)
The other three themer clues I had were:
*Poof!* Blabbers incoherently?
*Viola!* Up after a killer?

*Poof!* "I only want the failures, miss."?
*Viola!* A line of Friday's?

*Poof!* Positively crammed?
*Viola!* Max thrills?

RooMonster Crying Over Spilled Rejects Guy

TJS 11:54 AM  

"Bravura" is a noun ! Never knew that. Cool.

gilly 12:27 PM  

Okay puzzle--I'm always happy to see WILLYWONKA (especially Wilder's interpretation of the roll) pop up) and unlike Rex, I believe if a puzzle uses a bit of weird crosswordese (here a literary monogram), it's to the grid's benefit to lean into it by doubling down.

As it turns out, it's actually an open question about whether EAP wore a top hat--and a particular extant one specifically.

On the TOPic of HATchet jobs regarding the last two puzzles: I have no doubt these grids were created and submitted in good faith, but I strongly believe

1) it is a constructor's responsibility to perform due diligence and not repeat a them (it leaves such a bad taste to see something rehashed like this that I have trouble tipping my hat to much here.

2) it is a complete abdication of duties and disgrace for the NYT to publish these puzzles. It would be poor enough form if similar puzzles had appeared in other top tier and widely circulated publications, but for them both to have been previous NYT puzzles leaves me deeply questioning the leadership of those whom till now I thought pretty highly.

In short: SADFACE.

CDilly52 12:31 PM  

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then repeating a theme by itself seems more flattery than plagiarism to me. And, if one simply had no idea that his/her “idea” wasn’t original, where’s the complaint? I often purchase the very same article of clothing or shoes in different colors just because I like the design so much. Why can’t a constructor have a good idea regardless of the idea’s genesis and put it forward “in a different color?”

Old Paramedic 12:36 PM  

@ Dr. Haber Where I lived and worked the EMTs were trained in basic skills and the paramedics had more advanced training in things like starting IVs, intubation, drug administration. EMTs were volunteers and the paramedics were paid.

Joe Dipinto 12:38 PM  

@jberg – I love that song too! I've sung it for chorus auditions. For the present circumstances I guess the lyric would have to be changed to

Some things that seem to be happening for the first time
Already happened once before

CDilly52 12:39 PM  

Love the Gibus! Named after Monsieur Gibus it’s inventor. So many sight gags in which the collapsible stovepipe figures prominently.

Anonymous 12:43 PM  

@gilly writes "but for them both to have been previous NYT puzzles leaves me deeply questioning the leadership of those whom till now I thought pretty highly". When did NYT buy Washington Post? ( )Did I miss a news item from TIC (twitter in chief) or these are complaints from "sour grapes"?

CDilly52 12:46 PM  

Good catch on the EMT-Paramedic issue. I review budget proposals for rural volunteer fire departments and am acutely aware of the differences that tragically make the goal of having a paramedic on every single “ambulance” (another word that is variously defined) a budget buster for so much of rural America. Thanks D@Dr. H and @Maddie.

bertoray 12:48 PM  

LMS, it's always a better day when you post.

CDilly52 12:48 PM  

Apologies @Z 7:56am. I rankled at the plagiarism remarks and had not read your excellent post yet.

Teedmn 1:04 PM  

The North-Central gave me tons of trouble. AIR hose, tank, line, TUBE, oh. Now ATE and RUDE work, as I had expected. But my BLoopER (with the mentally soornful aside of "a Blooper is NOT a grounder") kept the correct crosses from forming. So whichever American said the 9D phrase was, serially, AnELIN CO__, AsELIN CO__, etc. It wasn't until I got COLN that I could see ABE.

NATANT - I would have never gotten that as "swimming". I expected NATANT to relate to "birth".

SCROOGE MCDUCK filled in with crosses - when I went hunting for the starred clues, I was surprised to find a clue about a cartoon billionaire.

So, Ross Trudeau, you made me work on a Tuesday, so good job.

(I loved the original Willy Wonka movie. Something about the thrill of looking for the gold candy bar wrapper. I would have definitely been spending all my allowance on those candy bars!! Oompa-loompa).

CDilly52 1:07 PM  

This wasn’t terribly difficult for me except the AIRTUBE and BLEEPER. I could not convince myself that AIR Tank and BLooPER weren’t correct. Gave up and put in BLEEPER but Tank is legit and TUBE is just a stretch. I guess the hose technically is a TUBE but I think that little section took me as much time as the remainder.

I actually enjoyed the theme and in fact the entire solve because it had some more resistance than the typical Tuesday. Since I have rarely missed a solve for at least 40 years, I bet the farm that I solved the “original” first identified in the review. And I confess I have no memory of that puzzle.

Kudos for anybody who struggles to complete a puzzle and have it published in any newspaper anywhere. Whatever the quality, The effort reflects a challenge well met. I believe in acknowledging effort and so I guess I am an easy sell, so sue me already. Had a good time today and truly enjoyed the discussion thus far. @LMS, loved the sentences. My 7th grade language teacher would have heartily approved your challenge. It was exactly the sort of “bonus” homework she used to challenge the bored and “too cool for school” gang (I was a charter member back then).

Matt Gaffney 1:13 PM  

These two Arbesfeld repetitions may look suspicious or worse at first glance, but innocent replications like this happen all the time (especially if you're a prolific puzzle writer, as Alan is).

Two constructors hit independently hit upon the idea of "Take two-word phrases where the first word is X-back and the second word is Y. Theme entries then become X backwards + Y."

Why were all the theme entries the same? 95% of the time they wouldn't be, but things with a 5% chance of happening actually happening is not unusual. Both constructors were looking for exciting entries (like QUARTERBACK SNEAK), then symmetry and word length further influenced their choices.

If you gave 20 good constructors this theme idea and told them to come up with four theme entries for a daily puzzle, at least one would have this exact set, and probably more than one.

Speedweeder 1:20 PM  

To add to the list of iconic tophat-wearers, how about Mr. Peanut, the Planters spokesnut?

Unknown 1:21 PM  

I'm a diver of 25 years...never heard "air tube" before today

I'm a doctor of 36 years...never heard "omn" before today

That said, an enjoyable solve. Hopefully the NF surgery goes well for Ross. Sucky disease.

Anonymous 1:47 PM  

Can it be that that my brain is improving with age? I’m 82 and blew through this puzzle in I’m guessing about 5 minutes. I think over the years I’ve just accumulated tons of stuff that makes me better at crosswords but worse at anything else.

RooMonster 2:02 PM  

To those who wanted a symmetrical TOP HATter to go with SLASH, I got one. ALICE. As in Cooper. Could both be clued something like *Eccentric Rocker. Maybe *Eccentric Rocker Cooper and *Eccentric Rocker from GNR.
Here's my new corner:
Whaddya think?

And the answers to my themers


Geezer 2:17 PM  

Much ado about nothing.

1. @Nancy and her capital letters.

2. Duplicate themes.


GILL I. 2:58 PM  

@Whatsername....Truth be told, I've never worn a mantilla nor held a rose in my mouth. I have, though, in my wild youth, worn white thigh high go-go boots and danced in a cage. @Nancy's description of me riding on top of a galloping horse is another one of my peculiarities. I was a stunt "girl" in a movie called "The Valley of Gwangi." You had to have been there.
By the way, I think I have a dozen (at least) pictures of me holding a cocktail in my hand. Can't let them go to waste ya know :-)

pabloinnh 3:21 PM  

@jber, JoeD--My do-wop group does a very nice arrangement of "Where or When", which we sang at our second tenor's wedding. I get to belt out a swell high note at the end, so like it for selfish reasons.

Also, JoeD's observation that all singers have range, even if it's only five notes, reminds me of the old quote about Sonny Bono, who was said to have a five-note range masquerading as two.

Jyqm 3:59 PM  

@RooMonster -- Love your DISAPPEARING ACT idea and have been enjoying procrastinating from work by coming up with my own potential theme clues/answers:

Same old flame? (EX REPLICA)

Free transatlantic cruise? (MAYFLOWER COMP)

Goosebumps and gasps? (SCARE TICS)


Tenacious brat? (LASTING IMP)

Big-box store discount? (TARGET PRICE)

Anchorman Williams as a cigarette mascot? (BRIAN CAMEL)

thfenn 4:06 PM  

Any puzzle with birding, baseball, booze, and fishing related fill will keep me happy. Love all of them. The theme was, well, a theme, so that was ok, but thoroughly enjoyed the fill. Don't have it in me today to get worked up over anything else, but I just flew halfway around the world so probably to tired to care about much of anything anyway.

rjreimer 6:03 PM  

“time flies like an arrow, but fruit flies like a banana.”
Lots of dual functioning words at play.

kitshef 6:09 PM  

@Roo - took me several back-and-forths to make any sense at all of your clues. Now I see they were wonderfully clever - too clever for a NYT puz I think.

Joe Dipinto 6:10 PM  

@Roo – not sure about EAT HAY and HORSING (a partial?), but the rest of the corner works nicely. But you'd have to put COOPER in the grid somewhere. I'd replace FROSTY with COOPER and redo that corner too (don't ask me how). Then you have him in one column down the left side, clued at 1d as "with 43d", and the theme slots remain symmetrical. FROSTY should correctly be "Frosty The Snowman" anyway, so no problem losing it, imo.

@pablo – Hah, I never heard that Sonny Bono joke. I'll have to remember it.

Joe Dipinto 6:38 PM  

Also appreciate @Matt Gaffney 1:13 stopping by with his take on the brouhaha. Makes perfect sense to me.

CDilly52 9:59 PM  

I so enjoyed this post! As a daily solver for the last 58 years, I sincerely hope to continue to accumulate puzzle worthy tidbits and to improve my solve time until I am at least 82! Fifteen years to go. You inspire me!

Anonymous 10:28 PM  

Matt Gaffney-1 Rex Parker-0

John 10:51 PM  

@Donovan 9:05 AM - I asked my wife, a pharmacist of 20 years, about that one. She has never seen it either. Bad clueing there.

Anonymous 9:23 AM  

I don't like male constructors using "sassy" and "pert" together - feels sexist to me - makes me queasy

Burma Shave 11:35 AM  


AWE, you know I SEA three or FORE women,
my BRAVURA WAS at the BRINK of done,
the TERMS for each ONPAPER were written,


spacecraft 11:45 AM  

"Get along well (with)" for GEL??? I do not get along well with THAT clue. That baby threw me right out of the NW and made it the last to come in. No matter; we got there easily enough. With 16 threes you're bound to get some clunkers; one monogram passable; two, not so much. Also, getting a little tired of the (not so) random draft classification. Sprinkle in a few FOURF's, guys; not everybody is ONEA.

Theme and art is cool, and I never did bother about rehashing old stuff; my memory is good--but short. Hand up for the uncle we love to hate, SCROOGEMCDUCK, whose henchmen are all still wearing their prison suits--and all have inmate numbers using only the digits 1, 6 and 7. What a guy!

DOD has to be one of the WEAVERS: specifically Sigourney. Birdie.

Diana, LIW 3:00 PM  

And here we have a version of SCROOGE - just in time for Christmas Eve.

Have you Syndiecats been nice and not naughty so you'll get your best gifts ever? Hope all have a great holiday, and perfect solves every day in the New Year. Like this one.

Diana, LIW for Santa

leftcoaster 3:08 PM  

Minimal, easy theme but the LINCOLN quote was vintage ABE. Hadn't heard or read it before.

Didn't know the SABRA brand, but got it with crosses including BLEEDER, a baseball term I don't remember hearing even after watching lots of TV broadcast baseball.

Had a Natick moment and error at the MCDUCK/OMN cross. The M just wouldn't come.

Clever, with some unusually tough clues and answers for a Tuesday. Liked it.

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