Hip-hop artist with 2006 hit Ms New Booty / WED 11-6-19 / Marvel hero with multiple M.I.T. degrees / Bygone Fords / Gal eponymous gun designer / Award that encourages technological development to benefit humanity

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Constructor: Ross Trudeau

Relative difficulty: Medium (for me, easy for lots of others, apparently)

THEME: TRIPLEX (38A: Three-screen cinema ... or a hint to 17-, 26-, 46- and 61-Across) — all themers have "XXX" in them

Theme answers:
  • XXX RATING (17A: Raciest classification)
  • BUBBA SPARXXX (26A: Hip-hop artist with the 2006 hit "Ms. New Booty")
  • SUPER BOWL XXX (46A: Contest in which the Cowboys beat the Steelers 27-17)
  • XXXL SHIRT (61A: Article of clothing at the very end of the rack)
Word of the Day: THE X PRIZE (34D: Award that encourages technological development to benefit humanity) —
XPRIZE is a non-profit organization that designs and manages public competitions intended to encourage technological development that could benefit humanity. Their Board of Trustees include James CameronLarry PageArianna Huffington, and Ratan Tata among others.
The XPRIZE mission is to bring about "radical breakthroughs for the benefit of humanity" through incentivized competition. It fosters high-profile competitions to motivate individuals, companies and organizations across all disciplines to develop innovative ideas and technologies that help solve the grand challenges that restrict humanity's progress.
The  Ansari X Prize relating to spacecraft development was awarded in 2004, intended to inspire research and development into technology for space exploration. (wikipedia)
• • •

This puzzle thinks it's way EDGIER than it is. Like, it's trying really Really hard to make you believe it's hip and now and clued in but as a puzzle, I found it clunky and dreary. Where to start? First, I still, at the moment of my writing this sentence, have no idea what the clue on the revealer means. What is "Three-screen cinema"? I have heard TRIPLE X used only (or almost only) in one context—and it's exactly the same context as XXX RATING (i.e. the context is porn). So, for me, the revealer and the first themer are essentially the same thing, which means the puzzle's already a bust.

[UPDATE: some helpful Twitterers have informed me of some things regarding the TRIPLE X clue. the most important is probably that it's one word: TRIPLEX. Two syllables. TRI and PLEX. Wow. OK]

[So even people who have heard of this concept think the clue here is bad, OK, good to know. Anyways, end of UPDATE, back to original write-up]

Then there's the X's, generally. Most of these themers pick up the X's super cheaply. I mean, XXXL SHIRT?!? SUPER BOWL XXX. So a "add all the X's" size on an arbitrary piece of clothing and an arbitrary Super Bowl? The only actually interesting themer here is BUBBA SPARXXX, whose name I know, but whom I have apparently stored in the same part of my brain that contains UNCLE KRACKER. It's actually probably not surprising that I have stored an '00s rapper named Bubba and an '00s singer named Kracker in the same part of my brain. Anyway, here's Uncle Kracker's "Follow Me," which I'm playing mostly because I don't know and don't want to take a chance on a song called "Ms. New Booty" right now:

The grid feels like it was made by someone with a giant wordlist who wants to use as much of "new" stuff as possible, quality be damned. Actually, that's not entirely fair. My only real problems were with CS MAJOR—I've been on U. campuses most of my life and while I'm sure it's a real abbr. it's not one I hear at all ("CS" = "computer science," in case you hadn't figured that out). It's got that insidery thing where if it's your major it's transparent, but to the outside world ... I mean, with specific context, I can infer it, but "CS" is no "PoliSci" or "CompLit" as far as recognizable major abbrs. go. Also, just the confusion of "tech" stuff with cultural currency gets Tiresome to me, and this one has CS MAJOR *and* THE X PRIZE, another thing I'd never heard of. When I looked it up, I cared less. Worse, the puzzle doesn't seem to know or care what it is. It just lifts its clue Straight Out Of The Wikipedia Entry (that's how you for sure know that an answer is on shaky ground).

Didn't like that, in addition to the Roman numeral in the Super Bowl answer, we get yet Another (random) Roman numeral at 62D: Nero's 91 (XCI). Austin PEAY is oof, not great as stand-alone fill (45A: Austin ___ (Tennessee university)). Thank goodness PLATH is ultra famous, because that cross could've been dicey. The only way I know PEAY is that Austin PEAY is (I think) a perennial, or semi-perennial, or at least occasional 16-seed in the annual NCAA March Madness college basketball tourney. Outside the answers I didn't know, the puzzle was Very easy, and this will please many people. And at least it's *trying* and not just lying there. But again, I just wish that constructors would care more about polish and elegance and less about gimmickry and superficial "new"-ness. Also, there's gotta be a better way to make your puzzle current than just shoving tech stuff in. So depressing. I liked seeing VENMO, though (11D: Mobile payment service owned by PayPal). Good to have fresh-ish five-letter answers with real currency (sorry, I think that's a pun. I *am* sorry)
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. You can take the UZI back, and Cosby too, tbh, though man I do miss the time when thinking about the HUXTABLES made me happy.

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Music Man 6:30 AM  

I agree... this puzzle was somewhat tedious.

OffTheGrid 6:36 AM  

I enjoyed this. At first I thought it might be a triviafest. Crosses smoothed it out. I don't care for ? letter clues, ESS & ZEE today, plus 2 Greek letter clues. Weirdly it took me a while to get ZEE, and the answer was part of the clue. Go figure. I wondered if having RATE and RATING in the same grid is a fauxxx pas. Overall I'll RATE this AAA.

ncmathsadist 6:43 AM  

CS is a well-known acronym on my campus, NCSSM. I founded its CS program.

Lewis 6:47 AM  

Welcome back, @rex.

I like the STARE down, and the crossing semordnilap PSI/ISP. The theme helped with the solve, and I liked not knowing some of the answers, which gave me challenge. Had there been more wordplay in the cluing, I would have been XXX-tatic, but I'm still glad for and grateful for the solve. Thank you, Ross!

There were a couple of echoes of this still-young week in the grid. We had STAN on Monday and Tuesday, and the answer to the problem STAN plus STAN today: STANS. Also, triple-X is, of course, 30, which evokes 30 pieces of silver, and also evokes zinc, which is atomic number 30; Both are heavy metals, which goes right back to Monday's METAL MUSIC offering.

Brian 7:10 AM  

A real plodder ... and not as clever as it pretends to be.

kitshef 7:24 AM  

Credit for finding four different uses of XXX - movie ratings, roman numerals, abbreviation for 'extra', and hip-hop spelling (anyone else want XXXTentacion where BUBBASPARXXX went?). I originally put XXX for 30 down, which would have been a fifth use.

Some obscure stuff, including CSMAJOR, ARANTXA, HUXTABLE, VENMO, BUBBASPARXXX, and THEXPRIZE. Surprisingly, none particularly slowed me down even though I had not heard of three of them before, and this still rates as an easy Wednesday.

ESS, ZEE, ZED, PSI and TAU are about four too many “letters spelled out”, I think.

Unknown 7:27 AM  

Thought it was trying way too hard to be something cool or fresh (insert Steve Buscemi in high school GIF here). Set a Wednesday PR, though.

Anonymous 7:33 AM  

Interesting the use of the Uncle Kracker clip. First, I believe the word "Kracker" is a derogatory, slang term for a white person, but hey, I guess Rex has no problem with that.

I'll also point out that Uncle Kracker's Wikipedia entry states that (Kracker's real name is Matthew Shafer":

"In 2007, Shafer arrested for a second-degree sex offense charge and released on $75,000 bond. Shafer pleaded guilty to a lesser charge and was sentenced to a year of probation.

Again, interesting to use a clip from this artist when Rex goes out of his way to criticize the use of "Huxtable."

squawk 7700 7:51 AM  

If the puzzle aspires to 'hip and now', perhaps the reveal clue could have been built around the below excerpt from Wiki

XXX (pronounced as Triple X) is an American action film series created by Rich Wilkes. ... The film was released on August 9, 2002, which stars Vin Diesel as Xander Cage

oopsydeb 7:54 AM  

Like one of the tweets Rex shared, I too remember when a multiplex of any sort was a big dang deal. They converted our downtown cinema to one in I believe the mid 70s. There was some uproar about it, but everyone adapted. Until five years later when they all started going to the much newer and more multi multiplexes 20 minutes away.

I had a moment thinking this was somehow going to have answers that included GGG, PGPGPG, RRR in them. Just a moment, before my first sip of coffee. And then I realized that would be damn near impossible to do.

I much prefer CashApp to Venmo.

Overall a meh puzzle for me.

burtonkd 7:55 AM  

@ncmathsadist, would that be the high school? If so, hello fellow alum ‘84

I had a student tell me she had an APUSH test casually??? AP US history apparently takes too long to say for overworked and scheduled teens.

Gee, how did I miss the Bubba Sparxxx phenomenon? Thanks puzzle.

Jon 7:57 AM  

I got naticked by Austin P?AY crossing TH?XPRIZE, thinking Th?x was someone's name.

Suzie Q 8:03 AM  

This was so bad I can't believe it got published.
I made many margin notes but the worst was this Bubba person. First, are hip hop and rap the same? According to the clues they are. What I cannot believe is how a title like Ms. New Booty gets a pass. Where is the sexist outrage?

Besides rate and rating both being in the grid we also have boot and bootie.

This is one for the circular file.

oopsydeb 8:11 AM  

Burtonkd, gosh, students and teacher called it APUSH back in early 80s! I think it's an incredibly common student and teacher used abbreviation.

Unknown 8:14 AM  

My only problem really was "eau" clued as "toilet water". Kept thinking it was asking for EDT (short of eau de toilette) because honestly, that works a lot better!

Nancy 8:15 AM  

"Let's see now," I imagine Ross Trudeau saying, "what things can I put in this puzzle to make Nancy really, really unhappy? How 'bout a hip-hop artist with an absurd name, a Marvel hero, a Star Wars nickname, a PayPal something-or-other, a Toy Story dinosaur, and the most oddly named university in the good old U.S. of A."

Even the tennis player, whom I knew, had a name I couldn't spell. Oh, OK, by then I had the XXX theme and could spell her after all, but by then I also didn't care.

Geezer 8:17 AM  

@Anon 7:33. I truly hope you are not a believer in "The white man is oppressed" myth. Derogatory terms for Caucasians don't really have the clout that derogatory terms for truly oppressed groups have. I can pretty well weather being called Honky or Cracker.

Lewis 8:21 AM  

Regarding my opening comment, okay, the METAL echo is a stretch, but the person behind the counter at the tin foil hat store I frequent assured me that it is exactly why Will Shortz chose this puzzle for today.

Richardf8 8:22 AM  

The theme was apparent straight out of the gate, and was supported by truly awful fill. You can get away with maybe one Greek letter clued by its antecedent, but there were two. Maybe one phonetic spelling of a letter name but there were three (two for the same letter!) And of course a Roman numeral can always be counted on to give you a random set of X’s C’s and I’s as needed.

I enjoyed learning that Uzi’s last name is Gal. Turn that clue around on a Friday puzzle clue for Gal that doesn’t involve waiting for Gadot.

Anonymous 8:23 AM  

It was fine. The reviewer isn’t as hip as he thinks he is. Aren’t there petting zoos ?

jm 8:28 AM  

I'm a professor in a humanities field, and I hear 'CS Major' all of the time. I had some problems with this puzzle, but this clue/answer pairing seems utterly fine to me, and not at all obscure.

Anonymous 8:32 AM  

@Geezer - don't feel the white man is oppressed. Just feel that everyone should be treated equally--a part of which to me means avoiding the use of, or promoting those who use, derogatory terms to describe others.

SouthsideJohnny 8:41 AM  

I’m in the “it’s more tedious than enjoyable“ camp today. Rex is correct that while ambitious, it creaks and groans under the weight of its trivia-laden content, much of which @Nancy pointed out. My personal wish would be to pretty much eliminate the inclusion of rap musicians. However, it seems that, like Trump’s lies, vulgar n-word spewing misogynistic rappers are so common place these days that nobody cares anymore.

Anonymous 8:46 AM  

I've been a silent participant of this blog for quite awhile now. I love so many of the regulars, especial LMS, and their observations and asides. Not sure why today is the day I feel compelled to comment. I'm always amused at the things that p*ss off Rex. He rails and rants and shouts if a puzzle is too old school or Maleska-leaning. He howls and bays if it is too trendy. He is enraged if it's too easy and harangues the puzzle maker AND Will Shortz if it is too obscure. I can't wait to see how the blog changes when Shortz retires.

The funniest part, though, is the shamelessness in his anger at answers HE doesn't know. As if, if HE doesn't know it, it isn't worth knowing. He's never heard of the X Prize, and when he looked it up, he still doesn't care. Ask winners of the X Prize how THEY feel about it. And triplex is so common, I can't believe he wasn't totally embarrassed to find out it's not "triple x." Austin Peay has more than 10,000 students. What an ego the man has.

I remember when I first started doing the NYT puzzle and reading Rex's blog. I had had a lot of trouble one day getting a foothold in the puzzle. Somewhere in the middle of the grid was a clue for a US naval base in the Philippines. "Ah!" says I. "Subic Bay!" And I was off to the races. I was floored when I went to the blog later and saw a seething, drooling, eye-popping diatribe from Rex about the obscurity, uselessness, and idiocy of that clue and answer.

My skill is pretty middle of the road. I often don't finish a puzzle and I sometimes google an answer when I'm very stuck (and exceedingly proud when I finish and didn't use google!). Rex is a master at this. But, man-oh-man he is sometimes so ridiculous!

So I'm still "anonymous" here. Maybe soon I'll start using a nickname.

gregg 8:55 AM  

Our son is a computer professor at UB and uses the acronym every other sentence.

XXX Mark on the Spot 9:04 AM  

I just lost 3.5 minutes of my life listening to Uncle Kracker. So funny how the country music world, (see also: NASCAR) celebrates it's confederate/racist roots (I live in the south, fight me) and then some white guy comes out with a country song with bling around his next and a grill. While Mr. Kracker may not care much...nor may the dozens of his fans...whoever was involved with signing him at the label took a huge risk. Who knows, maybe he has co-opted urban culture ironically. I don't know. I kept expecting him to rap in the video...which is why I endured the full 3:49. I regret that now.

I live near Austin Peay, so that was a gimme. I think it's a sign of the times that it's so common for people to know schools primarily because of their sports programs. The other Nashville schools, Belmont and Lipscomb, are also known by their basketball teams and appearances in the NCAA tourney. I could go on a tirade here about how sports programs exploit athletes for the school's own gain at the expense of the athlete's body (if you get injured, you're done...no recompense for your hard work...and you probably didn't learn anything because you were too busy practicing so you could win games for the school's reputation). Yeah, I'm a proponent of paying those players. Again, fight me.

I do like the double entendre of TRI-PLEX and TRIPLEX...all cheaply gained Xs aside (along with RRN™), that alone made the theme work. They might show a triple X film at a triplex...in maybe just one of the theaters, though. Perhaps a Disney movie in one of the others...?

Mark N 9:05 AM  

Same, Jon, can never see THE ____ clues until it's too late.

Also, Ms. New Booty is a banger! Maybe I'm fond of it because it reminds me of when I was at university as a CSMAJOR...

gregg 9:07 AM  

Liked this much better than most other posters. We do it untimed at breakfast for enjoyment only. We are a retired English teacher and retired engineer so we cover most bases except current culture. Good theme and, ad always, learned some new things. Not that we need those facts, but they are fum.

RAD2626 9:12 AM  

Really good use of the X’s in all the theme crosses. That’s a lot of X words. Very scrabbly. Did not know BUBBA but got it through the crosses although I had mIR rather than SIR for the common base expression clue for a while. Terrific clue. My only real objection was two stupid Greek letters. One is plenty. EAU should be a Greek letter too.

BTW, nonsense word in the Mini Puzzle today that would get a lot of grief if in the real puzzle.

pmdm 9:19 AM  

There are some constructors who, when I see their names, I say to myself "This puzzle is going to have a lot of crap jammed into it for the sake of satisfying the urge of the constructor" or something like that. I was not disappointed today in terms of the puzzle entries. I guess some besides the constructor and editors enjoy this type of stuff. I do not.

Not that this type of puzzle shouldn't be published. I just wonder if the NYT is the place for a puzzle like this. Based upon the comments here, others seem to share y feelings while some others do not. To each his own.

I sometimes wonder why I bother with comments such as these. They seem to serve no purpose but to take up the time of those who read them. I guess letting off steam is a good thing at times.

jberg 9:22 AM  

Oh RATS! This puzzle has both RATE and RATING; And of course ZEE clues as half of ZZ and linked to ZED. And then there’s ESS right under that same ZED, referring to a famous deconstructionist text whose author I can’t remember. Oh well— I’ll be back in a few hours.

pabloinnh 9:31 AM  

Got the triple x thing right away and just wondered what other examples of three-xiness M. Trudeau might come up with. Mostly OK, although our central rapper was a complete WTF. I wonder if the NYT refers to him as "Mr. SparXXX", as they refer to Meat Loaf as "Mr. Loaf".

Knew Austin PEAY from the NCAA hoops tournaments. Made me smile to remember one of their cheers--"Let's go Peay! Let's go Peay", with the "eay" part pronounced as "ee". Oh those wacky kids.

Kind of a meh Wednesday, hoping for a clever Thursday that will shake me out of the final effects of jet lag. My head know it's temporary but my body has other ideas.

Chase 9:33 AM  

@Mark at 9:04 - you left out Vanderbilt University in Nashville, home of the Commodores.

Saw this on a bumper sticker the other day:

North: 1
South: 0 Halftime

Fly Williams 9:36 AM  

“Let’s go Peay!”

albatross shell 9:36 AM  

Seemed like a tough Wednesday to me. No problem with TRI- PLEX. The 3 in the clue made it pretty easy. And the fact that the multi-plex is common usage. Shows how easy it is for anyone, even Rex, to get DOOKed once in a while. I sure have.

Considering what gets called Triple-XXX these days, I think Beyond racy would be a better clue.

Because of the limiting nature of a triple-x theme, I'm willing to give a pass to all answers with an X in them.
Roman numerals, HUXTABLE, unspellable tennis players unknown to me, etc.

Heck, I did not even remember the PANDA joke.

Chippah 9:50 AM  

Northwest corner:



Jyqm 9:52 AM  

A rare occasion indeed when I think Rex is actually being too kind. This puzzle was just miserable. So much junk, and all in service of a dull-as-dirt theme with an even lamer revealer. When BUBBASPARXXX (who wants to be reminded of that crap on a Wednesday?) is your best marquee answer, you’ve got serious problems. XXXLSHIRT is laughably bad, although I guess I was happy for the laugh at that point. Here’s hoping for a proper Thursday...

Anonymous 9:56 AM  
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
mathgent 9:56 AM  

I usually find Trudeau puzzles pretty bland but not this one. Clever theme (try-plex becomes triple-x), a couple of crunchy corners, smart cluing, some sparkle (panda joke, Sondheim lyric). I liked seeing all the XXX entries.

The comments indicate that CS major is widely used, but here in the San Francisco Bay Area it's the EECS major, pronounced EEKS, rhymes with peeks. Electrical Engineering Computer Science.

How much did I like the puzzle? I forgive the 24 Terrible Threes.

Nancy is my favorite poster. I admire that she refuses to befoul her mind with certain elements of pop culture, even if she has seen them multiple times in the puzzle. My undisciplined mind won't do that. I've never read Harry Potter but I know several characters from the books and the name of the silly game they play.

Joaquin 9:57 AM  

In my world, a TRIPLEX is a building that consists of three single-family homes mashed together with common walls. A cinema with three screens is just that - a three-screen cinema. Four or more becomes a multi-plex.

Puzzling Saxman 9:58 AM  

An appropriate lost Marvin classic for this puzzle:

Anonymous 9:58 AM  

You didn't know the X prize? It's a pretty big deal. But no one can know everything. But why diminish it? it's a pretty great thing. A lot more important than comic books certainly.

Joe Dipinto 10:01 AM  

A yuck puzzle requires a yuck song. Here's one performed by the always intolerable 36d.

Anonymous 10:02 AM  

Fly Williams,

As I recall it, the chant was, "The Fly is open", let's go Peay!"
Either way, one of the all-time great cheers.

What? 10:07 AM  

Cf. Nancy. Like she said.

Nancy 10:27 AM  

@mathgent (9:56) -- Many thanks, and as you already know, I'm very fond of you, too!

And your comment just now reminds me of something else I didn't like about this puzzle. By putting "AREN'T we a pair" in quotes, where it absolutely doesn't belong, the constructor makes us think of the Sondheim lyric from "Send in the Clowns". Only that is emphatically not the lyric from "Send the Clowns". "Isn't it rich/Aren't we a pair" doesn't scan. Sondheim would be turning over in his grave, if he were in a grave, at such an insult -- whether intended or not. I can assure you he's turning over somewhere right now. The lyric is "Isn't it rich? ARE we a pair?" Which scans. Remember, Steve, I'm always watching out for you -- just as I would hope you'd watch out for me :)

Anonymous 10:36 AM  

The only problem with an UZI is that it fires with an open breech, reducing accuracy.

CDilly52 10:43 AM  

I’m having one of those weeks. As of midnight today, I had already worked 33 hours so when I hit the house, fed the cats, cleaned the cat box and went horizontal “for just a few minutes while I do the crossword.” Again, I start, fall asleep and an hour later am aroused by my beautiful orange tabby telling me it was time to hit the bedroom where there is plenty of room for everyone.

So, I have no idea what I really think of this other than I got the XXX thing with the revealer (we still advertise “TRI-PLEX” theaters) and because I didn’t know a bunch of the “newer“ things BUBBASPARXXX being a prime example!!

So, drooling at about 2am, I finished, checked the box and will move on to Thursday.

Sgt. Mac 11:23 AM  

In my world a triplex is an apartment with 3 levels/floors. I used to live in one, though not glamorous, just a vertical one bedroom.

Fred Romagnolo 11:25 AM  

It is wrong to use disparaging racial terms for ANYONE, even whites.

xyz 11:27 AM  

Oh boy, that was

no, it really wasn't

Anonymous 11:31 AM  

you young whippersnappers don't know the English language. a 'TRIPLEX' is just a specific kind of multiPLEX 'theater building'; i.e. each 'room' is a theater. the building is not, not, not a theater. so, what to make of a theater with 3 screens??? there existed such a 'theater'. some were permanent, most were temporary, to run road-show films in Cinerama, the original version with three synchronized projectors, and three curved screens to do what IMax sort of does today.

"Ah has spoken!!"
-- Mammy Yokum

Masked and Anonymous 11:34 AM  

Well, that puppy was sure kinda scrabbly. Cute TRI-PLEX revealer.
@RP did not seem much like a happy Michigan camper, for his return puzblog-engagement.

Hey -- I *was* a CSMAJOR long ago, but don't recall ever hearin that exact term used. "Comp-sci" major, maybe.

Of the 24 available weeject candidates, staff picks would normally be: XOX and XED. But XCI is just so … unshapely. Sooo … XCI is today's winner. Congratx.

fave corner fillins: ABUJA/UVULA/HAVARTI, in the SW. Coulda maybe changed TOSCA to KOSAR [@Nancy check: too obscure, NFL QB-wise?], CSMAJOR to ASMAJOR [ = {Equally big deal-like} ], if strivin for semi-perfection, down there.

Thanxxx for everything, Mr. Trudeau.

Maxxxed & Anonymo6Us

another letter fetish effort:

Tree 11:42 AM  

Not a fan at all. It was such a drag all the way through. Disagree with Rex on CSMAJOR, that's a very common term that you'll hear in pretty much any industry that involves computers (so... everywhere), however I agree that TRIPLEX is a crappy revealers. It's not even a revealer at all. The answers have triple-x, but the word is tri-plex. There are way better ways to clue that, whether like the movie, or booze in comics (which I have definitely seen before)

Sloggy and unpleasant, glad it's over

GHarris 11:51 AM  

Loved, loved, loved doing this puzzle. Set up so I could get answers I hadn’t the foggiest notion about. My only stubble was at the outset when I misread raciest as racist and was attempting to use the initial x to form some word that would be built on an expanded version of xenophobic.

Anonymous 11:59 AM  

CSMAJORs are just boys too dumb to grok EE. Was invented in the 60s to pander to such dunderheads. "I want to do computers!". Yer math SAT is 400, yer jerk, go away!!! So they invented Comp-Sci for the innumerate droolers.

Tina 12:15 PM  

I don’t understand the clue common base word answer sir. Anyone help me out?

jae 12:24 PM  

Easy-medium. The theme helped a lot in filling in the WOES. BUBBA who?

Liked it more than Rex did.

JC66 12:46 PM  


On a military base, officers are referred to as SIR. Nice misdirection.

Sally R 1:06 PM  

I didn't particularly enjoy the puzzle, but I didn't hate it as did @Rex. That is, until the answer to 51D proved to be other than HYMEN.

I have lots of HABITS - some good, some bad. Probably more good than bad. No need to break them all. I've only ever had one HYMEN, and it just got in the way.

Doc John 1:06 PM  

OffTheGrid beat me to it about the letter clues but I'm also not thrilled about ZEE and ZED being in the same puzzle.
TRIPLEX is definitely a thing, as is CS MAJOR.

RooMonster 1:10 PM  

Hey All !
Thanks for bringing up the painful memory of SUPER BOWL XXX. I was a young lad at the time, still drinking pitchers at the bar I hung out at (hadn't graduated to bottle beer yet), and was in the Squares Pool thing for the quarters. (Some might know what I mean. :-)) So if you had squares, the drinks were free. Well, I ended up drinking a pitcher a quarter (plus halftime)(ah, youth!) and was quite sca-mammered by the end of the game. However, I do remember (amazingly enough) that after the last interception that Pittsburgh threw, if Dallas went down and scored a touchdown, I would've won the Fourth Quarter, which was $1000! But, noooooooooo, they decided to knell down to end the game. Argh!

Claire would agree with me, although she might be too young to remember that game.

Puz was decent. Got the TRIPLE X-ness off the SUPER BOWL clue. Did think the dreck was light, considering all the X's that had to be navigated through. Kinda odd choices on the ZEE ZED pair. Turned out easy-ish, as I had one writeover, which also was my one-letter DNF, because the day just isn't complete if I don't have that, at ELIXeR. Saw that eCEIT didn't make sense, and in a not-seeing-clear moment, changed it to A to get aCE IT/ELIXaR. Oof. If ONLY.


Teedmn 1:21 PM  

RATS, the cross of THE X PRIZE and PEAY did me in. I was completely clueless on the across answer and only now does the down seem vaguely familiar. So I put in PnAY crossing THnX PRIZE because the prize is given to thank those inventors benefiting humanity, right?

ARANTXA only made it because of the theme. And I read "three screen" in the 38A clue and threw down TRIPtyX, thinking of TRIPtych. Har. I fixed that, of course, but not the PnAY.

TRIPLE X - TRIPLEX, I got, so the theme does hold together.

Carola 1:50 PM  

I enjoyed the triple play of XXX = TRIPLE X = TRIPLEX and have to give a nod of appreciation to BUBBA SPARXXX. Otherwise, I thought the theme answers measured Low on the excitement meter and some of the "x" crosses High on the cringe scale. But good job on ARANTXA and THE X PRIZE.
I know Austin PEAY not from basketball but as one of the "we will maul you" teams the Wisconsin Badgers regularly schedule in their preseason.
@GHarris - Me, too, on the "racist" misread.

PhilB 1:51 PM  

Weird editorial nitpick r.e. "Marvel hero with multiple M.I.T. degrees":
Iron Man doesn't have any MIT degrees, Tony Stark does. It's a small thing, but the clue as written really annoyed me. Implies MIT handed out degrees with Iron Man as the named recipient. For me, regardless of subject matter, that's just a badly written clue - which seems to be a problem a lot nowadays. "Marvel hero with genius I.Q." would do just fine.

You wouldn't write a clue as "Robert Louis Stevenson character with a bad temper" and have the answer be JEKYLL. Not exactly wrong, per se, but not right either.

Joe Dipinto 2:03 PM  

@Nancy – interesting comments about Sondheim. Actually I always thought the lyric *should* be "Aren't we a pair?", since that is the common expression (it does need quotemarks for the puzzle clue). "Aren't" scans fine if you sing it as one syllable.

Sondheim himself says, in this quote (pulled from the song's Wikipedia entry):

As I think of it now, the song could have been called "Send in the Fools". I knew I was writing a song in which Desirée is saying, "aren't we foolish" or "aren't we fools?"

Yes, so why "Are we a pair?", which sounds like she's asking a tentative question rather than being ruefully ironic. It doesn't make sense to me. All the other instances in the lyric use the "not" contraction: Isn't it rich? Isn't it bliss? Don't you approve? Don't you love farce? Isn't it queer?

Anyway, in Sondheim's book the line is printed "Are we a pair?" So you're right, but to me it's always sounded wrong. :-)

jberg 2:48 PM  

OK, back from a busy morning, and I see that someone beat me by several miles in the RATE/RATING complaint, as well as all the letters. The deconstructionist work I was referring to is S/Z by Roland Barthes.

The other thing is that, while the theme is clever, and brilliantly revealed (@Tree, it's a feature not a bug -- for many of us, at least, the best revealers are those where you have to take the expression in a different sense to apply it, such as changing Triplex to Triple X), but it also makes the puzzle far too easy, as you can pretty much fill in all the XXX squares once you get the tiniest hint of whether they come at the beginning or the end of the answer.

To answer whoever it was, rappers rap; break dancers break dance; MCs MC -- but they are all part of the phenomenon known as hip-hop.

@Nancy, where I grew up AREN'T had one syllable, a small stream was a crick, and February had lost its first r. (Fortunately, it had another one, so if there had been any oysters in Lake Michigan we could have eaten them). I had to stop and ponder for a moment to see what you were talking about. I guess I'm semi-easternized now, though I still get a lot of criticism for how I say that month.

Hungry Mother 4:09 PM  

Not easy for me when the rappers appear. SUCKS!

tea73 4:41 PM  

It's always interesting what Rex finds obscure. My kid was a CS Major. It was a pretty big deal when SpaceShipOne won the X prize. I'd vaguely heard of the tennis player, but never actually seen it spelled out. I thought the TRI-PLEX/TRIPLE-X revealer was cute. I am definitely familiar with the term for both movie houses and three-family houses. That was one catchy song by BUBBA SPARXXX - never heard of him before. I also never heard of PEAY.

I was really put out by XXX RATING and RATE in the same puzzle. Shocked in fact. Surely that was easily fixable. (Not that I have any suggestions!)

Libby 5:02 PM  

I liked the crossword. Found it fun but easy. Danced to Ms. New Booty at Homecoming (I'm young, ok?)

Nancy 5:48 PM  

@Joe Dipinto and @jberg -- It's pretty hard to say the word AREN'T in one syllable -- at least for this New Yorker. It's even harder to sing it in 1 syllable-- for anyone. But whether 1 syllable or 2, if Sondheim had written the lyric as "AREN'T we a pair," the song would have crashed and burned. It never would have become a standard and one of the most indelible songs in the American Songbook. Yes, Joe, the verb AREN'T would have made better logical sense and been more internally consistent with the other verbs, there's no doubt about that, but it wouldn't have sounded better. It would have sounded terrible, in fact. If Sondheim hadn't felt that "ARE we" would work and work well, he would have rewritten that entire section. But he didn't have to. His ear -- and his gut -- were absolutely right. As they just about always are.

Carola 6:44 PM  

@Nancy, I was astonished by your earlier revelation that Sondheim didn't write "AREN'T." And it took this Midwesterner all the rest of the day to understand that for some speakers that contraction has (I guess) two syllables. Around here, it has one (hi, @jberg). Like "burnt" toast - change the "u" to an "a" and drop the "b": "arnt." Plenty easy to say or sing. Too bad, he wasn't a Midwesterner - logic could have prevailed. :) More seriously, it seems to me the scansion would work fine: instead of "ar-ent-we," "arn-twee."

Jon 6:47 PM  

There is a beer in Australia called XXX.

ghostoflectricity 7:30 PM  

Can someone please explain how "SIR" is a "common base word"???

Richardf8 7:34 PM  

Umm. They’re not exactly sniper rifles, y’know.

JC66 8:06 PM  


See my 12:46PM comment.

Joe Dipinto 8:13 PM  

@Nancy – "Aren't" sung as one syllable. It sounds perfectly natural.

Nancy 9:06 PM  

Yes, but Ella sings "aren't" with two syllables. And in this song, there's room for two syllables -- in fact, if you listen to the scansion, it was meant to be sung with two syllables.

But what if Peggy Lee had sung ""Send in the Clowns and elided "ahn't" as she does in "Ahn't You Kind of Glad We Did? In the show, "Clowns" was sung by a highly sophisticated and educated woman. Elision, vernacular in general in a lyric generally indicates a lack of education and sophistication. It's the exact opposite of how Sondheim faults himself for giving giving Maria, "an uneducated Puerto Rican girl" triple rhymes in "I Feel Pretty. Triple rhymes imply sophistication and education. "Maria would not have been out of place in Noel Coward's drawing room", says Sondheim.

Peggy Lee could have recorded Send in the Clowns as a stand-alone song, just as Judy Collins did, and she probably could have sung "Ahn't" if she liked. But she couldn't have sung "Ahn't" in "A Little Night Music". Nor would she have ever been cast in that role.

Unknown 9:29 PM  

Thank you. That was spot on.

Unknown 10:07 PM  


Steve 8:44 AM  

Our favorite movie theater (the only one within 25 miles) is the Callicoon (NY) one-plex. Don't like the movie they are showing this week? Too bad.

spacecraft 10:37 AM  

No. Just...no. I have SOME standards. Bad enough I'd have to get a hip-hopper's name square by square on crosses, but I will NOT participate in a puzzle that highlights a victory by the Eagles' hated rival. That's it. Nexxxt.

Burma Shave 12:44 PM  


“AREN’T BUBBA and ARANTXA dating?”
“EAU, ONLY for CRUDE tricks, SIR;
it’s so HOT when ELIXIR.”


leftcoaster 2:17 PM  

The TRIPLEX theme/revealer showed up early. Liked XXXLSHIRT best. BUBBASPARXXX was a new one. EX-theme, needed a combination of crosses, inferences, and a good guess or two to finish cleanly.

Most perplexingwere ARANTXA, PEAY, and ABUJA. Didn't know them except for a vague and distant echo of PEAY. It's as if the three of these names were gratuitously thrown in to toughen up an otherwise soft Wednesday.

A mixed bag, but worth sorting out the good stuff.

rondo 5:14 PM  

Austin PEAY a gimme, and I could pronounce the tennis player but needed crossing help to spell ARANTXA. With a name like that I'll give her the one chance at a yeah baby. The four corners make up the oft used crutch SSNS. How else to get a baker's dozen Xs in a puz? If that's what your goal is.

Diana, LIW 5:52 PM  

X may mark the spot, but not the spot of my one-square DNF. Once again, my lack of hip-hop/rap knowledge was my downfall.

Is the crossword crowd really all that into hip-hop/rap? Am I missing something.

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords, Peace out

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