Scapegraces / FRI 11-29-19 / "My car's out of commission" / On-scene reporter, in journalist lingo / One making a pet's vet appointment

Friday, November 29, 2019

Constructor: Sam Buchbinder

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: Themeless

Word of the Day: TESSERAE (40A: Art tiles) —
tessera (plural: tesserae) is an individual tile, usually formed in the shape of a cube, used in creating a mosaic. It is also known as an abaciscus or abaculusThe oldest known tesserae dates to the 3rd millennium BCE, discovered in the ancient city of Shahdad in Kerman province, Iran.
• • •
Howdy from Thanksgiving break in Dallas, Crossworld! Matthew here filling in for Rex before my food coma sets in (I took an inexplicable 2.5-hour nap this afternoon, so we should be good for a bit longer.) To start by echoing a few nice comments on Crossword Twitter,™ I'm truly thankful this year for the folks that make up this beautifully eccentric internet puzzle community. Crosswording (both solving and constructing (and ranting to anyone who will listen)) has taken up a lot more of my time over the past year than I ever expected it to, but it's been a truly great time. Thanks to all y'all for embracing your very smart and slightly strange — and encouraging others to do so as well.

A quick personal note: My new good friend and puzzler extraordinaire, Sid Sivakumar, generously published a 9x9 puzzle of mine on his blog as a guest spot among his fantastic work. There are things I'd change about it now, but it's great to have something I made out in the world. Enjoy!

*Also a good time to mention — if you're interested (even a little bit!) in constructing your own puzzles and don't know where to start, hit up the Crossword Puzzle Collaboration Directory on Facebook and ask to be connected with a mentor (or DM me and I can help you get started as well).

Anyway, the puzzle! Kudos to Sam for his very solid themeless debut with enough lively bonuses in IM THE WORST / LOVE POTION / SMELL TEST / I NEED A LIFT to make for a satisfying solve. (At the end of the day, any puzzle that gives me an excuse to revisit "Madagascar" is a win, however small.) I ended up working my way through clockwise from the NE, down through the SW and SE and then back up to the very beginning. Even though I threw down WON BIG and MORT in the NW out of the gate, I had a tough time parsing the downs and ripped both crosses out (he's not an AYAY, is it?) before realizing that they were actually right.

Looking back on the completed product, I'd characterize my solving pleasure along the middle-diagonal divide — everything blocked off Northwesterly of ELVIN and GAT was for the most part delightful, while the rest was good for a couple grimaces and a couple "meh" moments. The constructor indicated in his blurb for the puzzle that the SW went through several revisions — if it were up to me, I'd press for one more iteration. The OPERACOATS / NOMINAL FEE stack didn't really do anything for me, and with COPSES and LATEN headlining a ho-hum suite of downs, I wonder if there were a better option here. Similar feelings in the SE, where the CANT DO / DOES TO A TEE formed a strange uncanny valley of grammatical correctness for me (for the record, the former is a Shortz-era debut and the latter is an all-time debut.) And TERRORISTS was just ... fine. Doesn't glisten to me, though the surrounding fill is pretty sound — a welcome sight after some more boggy recent puzzles.

Men/male references: MORT, Rabin (in MEIR clue), Jordan (in BULLS clue), ELVIN, BONO (–5)
Women/female references: MEIR (+1)
Bechdel-ish-test tally: –4

  • IMPS (1A: Scapegraces) — Highlighting this because SCAPEGRACES is actually the coolest word in this entire puzzle. It's fun to say and it's etymology (see below) is super cool. Great clue.
  • ELVIN (28A: N.B.A. Hall-of-Famer Hayes) — Personally love seeing N.B.A. legends recognized in puzzles. Can someone please debut OLAJUWON (8) in 2020?? 
  • BULLS (26D: Organization that Jordan was once part of) — Ibid, your honor.
  • STRAY CAT (35D: Alley scavenger) — Had SEWER RAT.  Happy Black Friday! ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Signed, Matthew Stock, Pardoned Turkey of Crossworld

[Follow me on Twitter for crossword musings and weird things my students say]
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jae 2:14 AM  

Medium with a food coma (happy Thanksgiving everyone).

Solid and smooth with a little bit of zip, liked it.

....and thanks to Mathew for filling in, I mostly agree with your take on this one.

chefwen 2:17 AM  

This one had to be rated easy as I pulled it off after cooking all day, feeding a small army, eating like a little piglet and consuming wine like it was going to be outlawed tomorrow (heaven forbid) and got it done with one little cheat, HEGEMONY unknown. Learning moment. TESSERAE I probably knew at one time, but had forgotten, got that with the downs. I could live happily if I never saw clues like 49A again, capital this, hard that, soft that, it’s beyond old.

Other than that small complaint, really liked this.

GILL I. 5:15 AM  

Fun write-up, Matthew...
It's a little after 2:00 am here in Sacramento and I'm on my second turkey sandwich on white bread slathered with mayo and the breast of a moist bird. And I don't even like turkey.
I thought this was most enjoyable. Maybe because I'm full and happy and I can't sleep. Is there a name for that?
I forgot all about scapegraces - I'm a scapegoat sorta gal. I also kept think spin doctors had something to do with radio. Then my mind wandered into ambulance chasers. I left that area and went on the the east coast.
I was hot to trot in that little area. LOVE POTION right off that bat - thanks to the O in CORONA. I was hoping like mad there would be a #9 somewhere. A few write-overs: BETE instead of CAFE Noir and I needed a RIDE instead of a LIFT. Easy to fix and a satisfied AHA.
Loved SMELL TEST. My little granddaughter is into smelling everything. She'l put a flower up her nose and say yummy.
BIG AMY....what crime did she commit?
So it's now Black Friday and all my husband and I are going to do is stay inside, eat leftover pie and watch Christmas movies.....
Good job, Sam Buchbinder.

Music Man 6:01 AM  

One nit: Shouldn’t the clue for 3D somehow indicate that part of the answer is abbreviated? Employers of spin doctors = P.R. AGENCIES. Or is PR now a word in its own right, that is, not an abbreviation?

Lewis 6:06 AM  

Puzzle was the great white way after the first pass, and then suddenly I GUNNED IT and WON BIG. There is great skill involved in the cluing to make this happen -- I can't believe it is just a happy accident -- and Sam, you've got it. BIGAMY to say? No, earned.

The puzzle has a mini-theme of double E's (6), a TOSS up and a SEND down, plus the lovely TESSERAE and HEGEMONY. But the star of this puzzle, IMO, is the cluing, not because of smashing wordplay, but rather using clues that are a level or two away from obvious, but that definitely confirm or deny answers one suspects, and thus the source of resistance as well as satisfaction. Ergo that skill I mentioned last paragraph. Very nice one, Sam!

kitshef 7:20 AM  

Hard for me, and opposite to Lewis's experience. Steady progress early, then bogged down as I got towards that NW.

Pros: Seeing the big E at 28D, some good smart words like HEGEMONY, COPSES, and TESSERAE.

Cons: Well, I hate any clue that uses the word “lingo” (see 38D). And I detest any clue that is in quotes (1D, 58A, 30D).

So on balance, OK, I suppose.

QuasiMojo 7:44 AM  

Terrific puzzle. Lots of cool stuff: hegemony, opera coats, stray cats (cue the MTV video), etc

I sailed through the first corner and then got stymied by R RATED. I remember when X Rated was for anyone 16 and older. They changed it to 17 soon after and then later to 18. But R Rated always had the "unless accompanied by a parent" thing which made me laugh since it was easy when necessary to find someone on line to act as a parent. I was a precocious cinephile. These days I am very much in the Martin Scorsese school of film criticism even if I can't stand his own movies.

I heard on the news that Paris is thinking of banning Black Friday. I didn't know they even had one. But it's not a bad idea for us either!

Time for some leftover turkey and biscuits.

OffTheGrid 7:51 AM  

You overjoy me, or THIS

mmorgan 7:58 AM  

“Domination” is a reasonable and not incorrect clue for HEGEMONY, but I always prefer to use the term in the subtler Gramscian sense, that of managing (rather than eliminating) contradictions and resistance in society (with a hat tip to Althusser as well). Okay, that’s my quasi-nit in a lovely and impressive puzzle, which had just the right amount of crunch. For a while, I had an L instead of an R in TESSARAE, but I eventually cleaned that up. And now I’m very happy to have learned the word Scapegraces.

Karl Grouch 8:06 AM  

Medium for me, with no real complaints.
That said, I wouldn't use "I'm the worst" to admit to an error, that threw me off.

@gill i 5:15
Yes, it's called FSI (Felicitas Satulli Insomnia) and the most efficient treatment is my favorite part of the day, the afternoon nap.

@musicman 6:01
Was bogged down there too looking for a word starting with prage-..

Enjoy your day everybody!

JJ 8:22 AM  

I’ll have another piece of BUNDT cake with my coffee. Thanks to ELVIN, 6 GEESE, BONO,IPOS, and HEGEMONY, for getting me some lay ups at the start. Unfortunately I kept thinking of Jordan in the Middle East—where he never played.
The last bit to fall was TESSoRAE. I thought, somehow, that LoGMAN was plausible, I intend to use “Scapegraces” today, a great new word.
Also, referring to yesterday’s puzzle, you’ll have a new appreciation for JOHNNY CASH if you watch the Ken Burns documentary on Country Music.

Suzie Q 8:23 AM  

I would not call this easy. It is just what I hope for on Friday.
Some great misdirection like the clue for tray.
Tesserae is something I learned from crosswords and somehow it stuck.
I have never seen Madagascar and I'm really tired of being expected to memorize every character of children's books and movies.
I don't think I have ever seen [Bzzt!] as a clue or spelled out anywhere. Does anyone compile debut clues? It this one?
Keeping score of the gender of people in the puzzle is so tedious and boring. It implies an intention that I doubt exists.
Worthy struggle Mr. Buchbinder.

pabloinnh 8:47 AM  

Found this just right for a Friday with several aha! moments to add to the fun but nearly crashed and burned int the SE corner."Split" had to be RIFT and "ring" had to be a noun, so, I don't know, TORI or something. Finally got that figured out, sigh of relief. "Also learned BONO's real name and was introduced to MORT, which is the only way I'll ever meet him unless one of the granddaughters demands to see Madagascar.

Thanks for the fun, SB. No turkey sandwiches here, as the leftovers are all at the in-laws. The downside of not hosting.

Nancy 8:50 AM  

For me, PRAGENCIES was the hardest, DOOKiest answer to see. For a while I was wondering why pragmatists need spin doctors -- until I saw they wouldn't fit. And then I had PRAGE------ and wondered who exactly they were?

To me, PR AGENCIES don't "employ" spin doctors, they are spin doctors.

I had SAW before OAR for "implement with a blade" and CINE noir before CAFE noir. And for "Not originals", I wanted REPROS or REPRODUCTIONS, but neither fit. I then wrote in REPRISES...which wasn't right either. REPRINTS only came in as my solve began to LATEN.

Put all these writeovers together and you have a puzzle that was no slam dunk for me. Thought the difficulty level -- not too easy, not too hard -- was just about right for a Friday.

Hungry Mother 8:58 AM  

Started in the middle when the NW looked bleak and then cruised through it in about half my average time. Some pleasant wordplay, but MORT wasn’t necessary. Even my teenage granddaughter didn’t know it when I gave her three letters.

Todd 9:09 AM  

Maybe my fastest ever. But I had no idea what a pragencies AKA PR Agencies was until I read the comments

Anonymous 9:32 AM  

Puzzle was fun and a bit challenging. Thought your write-up was weak and too vanilla-y.

SouthsideJohnny 9:36 AM  

This seemed a little easier than the usual Friday. The hardest part of Fri/Sat for me is getting a toehold, after which I can usually make some progress until I reach another roadblock or run out of steam. Today was enjoyable because there really weren’t any garbage or made-up words. COPSES and TESSERAE seem a little esoteric, but I won’t pull a Rex and freak out because the puzzle has a term or two with which I am not familiar.

One might argue that PR, OBIT and GAT could use an abbreviation in their clues, but that is a nit.

HEGEMONY means “domination” in the common vernacular, so I believe it is properly clued rather than as a reference to a niche neo-Marxist conceptualization.

Carola 9:50 AM  

Just tough enough, lots to enjoy. Like others, I loved how the puzzle got us off to a start with "Scapegraces," but my IMPS, darn their buttons, got me no further. It was the opposite TOSS corner that provided the entry, and from there a steady succession of crosses got me to the bottom of the eastern half. On the other side,BIGAMY and LEGMAN started me on the uphill climb; last in was the R in PRAGENCIES . Satisfaction and smiles at the end of this one.

Wm. C. 9:54 AM  

Comments on gender references in the NYT puzzles:

I googled "most famous people in the world" and went to According to this site, their most famous people included 75 males and 25 females. This would seem to be supporting evidence that most crossword People references would be male, and that there is not necessarily gender-bias in the NYT or Shortz. OK, now I'm ducking to avoid the incoming. ;-)

What does surprise me, though, is that about the same percentage, as I recall, of the NYT puzzles are authored by males. If I'm correct on this, why would that be? I can't think of a reason.

mathgent 9:59 AM  

I had the same thought as Nancy wrt PRAGENCIES. But of course they have to hire spin doctors to become spin doctors. It still doesn't seem right, though.

Nice puzzle. Good crunch, especially in the NW. But IMTHEWORST seems concocted.

Knowing HEGEMONY made me feel smart. Classy word.

After ruing my ignorance of Middle Eastern politics, I was delighted to find that it was Michael Jordan and not the country.

Zero Terrible Threes among the down entries. Bravo! And only six total.

puzzlehoarder 10:13 AM  

Mostly a routine Friday solve with the exception of the NW. The biggest single reason for this was that OBLONG somehow disappeared from my vocabulary while solving. It's a word that's common as dirt but even with OBL_ in place it was as if it didn't exist. MEIR and ENG became wishful thinking that I couldn't support. With my spelling I'd swear that HEGEMONY needs a D in it.

In the south the unhelpful guess of SNIFFTEST and my inability to recall those pesky tiles had me blocked as well.

This forced me to crack the long downs with only TRAY and ETE in place. That gave the NW a nice Saturday feel. Not surprisingly MORETOCOME fell first. That's a very common catch phrase. I always think of the old Tonight Show's " More to come Mordecai." After 2D went in the whole NW snapped into place.

@Nancy, my 9D write over was REPLICAS/REPRINTS.

Z 10:14 AM  

LATEN was my only Ugh Moment. I did up the difficulty for myself by starting with saNg ALONE and I NEED A rIde. I also wasted many precious nanoseconds pondering which Pan-Arab group was 5 letters long before realizing it was the over-rated Michael Jordan. Anyway, a fine tussle with only one truly desperate entry. Oh, I did arch an eye brow at COPSES. I assume it’s correct but if if you had told me the plural of COPSE was COPSE I would have nodded and said “makes sense.”

Anonymoose 10:16 AM  

@Quasi, I think black friday is insane and have no desire to participate. But how would you ban it? Aren't retailers free to set hours and prices?

TJS 10:29 AM  

Matt, could you please count all the names in the Dallas phone book that are obviously male or obviously female ? It's really interesting to know that stuff. Thank you.

Kathy 10:33 AM  

I enjoyed this puzzle, but I realized I was never going to finish so my husband had his fun looking at the solution and feeding me more clues. He likes learning new words and the word play so long as someone else is doing the solving! The wordplay and obtuse clues added sparkle. Even though it was too difficult for me to finish alone, I still thought it was a respectable puzzle and just right for a Friday.

Some nits:
Overjoy is a verb?
LATEN again, should I overjoy that, as a newbie, I actually knew this answer??
Ring—twice! Uh oh, we’ll just move on...
GAT, I thought it might be a loaded gun in the trunk but I would have never known this term. Hubby did.

Pete 10:35 AM  

I come to sing the praises of COPSES, or at least the singular COPSE. I know of only one. I have about 5 woods-oriented dog walks in my regular rotation, and in on I pass by what must be the archetype of a COPSE. Being a man of few original ideas, every time I pass by I think to myself "boy, that is a copse if ever there were one!". It's the densest population of a singular species of tree that I can imagine. More impenetrable than a bamboo forest, but made up of plain old deciduous trees.

Speaking of men of few original thoughts, @Wm C - You know the answer, right?

QuasiMojo 10:40 AM  

@Nancy, I had REPAINTS for a long time. I was thinking of art students. I own one. I think of reprints more as reissues, at least in publishing.

@anonymoose, I agree. It was the French who proposed "banning" Black Friday, and I didn't think it through. It would be very hard to do here. Although we could collectively eschew it. I was thinking something similar lately about plastics. I watched an interesting but ultimately depressing documentary about The Plastic Problem. The answer is not to ban them but to convince people to stop using them. It has to be a sea change in attitude. Banning I think rarely works. Look at pot.

Doktorkev 10:59 AM  

Jordan was part of a team. The Bulls. The Bulls were part of an organization. The NBA. Beyond that no real complaints about this one.

Kathy 11:05 AM  

@anonymoose. The only way to get retailers to cut back on Black Friday is for shoppers to vote with their feet and not participate. That’s just not going to happen. You can only change customer behavior by offering something better.

I find the historical evolution of retail a fascinating topic! When I was a teen in the Sixties, discount stores were the monster—they were open on Sundays (a radical concept back when very few stores were open and some regions even had Blue Laws). On Sundays our priests preached that we should not patronize the new discount store that had opened just outside of town because they were flouting the holiness of the Lord’s day. No one listened. As teens, were amazed at how far our money could stretch there. Cool leather sandals piled in bins, cheap! It was the beginning of inexpensive imported clothing and everything else. Globalization. At the same time, shopping malls began to be built on the outskirts of towns, reachable by car. So began the gradual demise of Main Street walkable retail. Then came mail order, then the final hammer, Amazon. You can only stop Amazon by not patronizing them, but, as with the discount stores of yore, no one is going to listen. The convenience and seeming endless assortment is too enticing. Guaranteed, there is something new down the road that will change the retail landscape again, it’s all part of the cycle of consumer behavior and retailers’ efforts to predict and influence it. What will it be?

Crimson Devil 11:08 AM  

Good to see both #23 and Tha Big E, recidivist felon BIG AMY, to see challenge/call above for Akeem Olajuwon, and to learn SCAPEGRACES.
Nice Fri.

RooMonster 11:11 AM  

Hey All !
Thought I was in Natick at the G cross of PRAGENCIES/HEGEMONY. Who, what? Both new to my ears. The V in ELVIN/VEER was a Framingham.

This was a toughie for me. Did online, so used Check feature, and actually Revealed 6 words! Ouch! Patience not with me today. The cheated words were IMPS (Scapegrace a new one), MEIR (yikes, non-news/political follower/carer), ROIL (upset at not seeing "third" Upset definition), BONO (cause only a die hard U2 fan would know that), CAFE (as I could only think of BETE), and OTIS (they named a College after the elevator guy?).

A decent themeless, but themeless don't really float my boat, especially ones that are difficult to me! (Har, the common plaint). Maybe I need that OAR.

Had SMELLiEST first, which to me is funny. Gun for GAT, but said, "Can that be it with GUNNED IT already there?" Cool clue for TRAY, weird clue for OWNER.


Teedmn 11:38 AM  

Medium Friday for me also. I was initially stymied by trying to cross STYE with that cute 17A misdirection for "waiting". Farther down, with ETE and WON BIG, I worked back up and realized my original IMPS-STYE impulse was correct.

Pragmatic PR AGENCIES, I'm with @Nancy on that thought, but after 32A filled in, it OCCURred to me to rethink my idea of a spin doctor.

Big write-over was sheeT>>BUNDT cake. Less of a mess was OPERA Capes>>COATS. And like yesterday, my inner crosswordese dictionary fouled me up as I had 12D as aLOE. Try to parse TOaS as "throw" and see what you come up with!

I liked this - I circled the clues for 17A, 45A's BIGAMY clue, and while not groundbreaking, I thought 54A's "Small price to pay" was cute for NOMINAL FEE.

Thanks, Sam Buchbinder.

Birchbark 11:41 AM  

Getting OBLONG was an oblique process that challenged my understanding of Belize and their abbreviated national language. OBLate briefly yielded 23A ptG (Portugese, of course), so tore OBLate apart and TOSSed in Israeli premier eban at 20D, suggesting the Belize people might speak Bulgarian or Beligian (Flemish, I suppose, but why?!).

@Gill I. (5:15) -- A turkey sandwich sounds pretty good right now. Ours was just fine. The bonfire kept us awake when tradition would have found us sleeping -- flames of last year's Christmas tree vaulting into the heavens.

@Quasimojo (7:44) re Paris Black Friday: a few years ago, we went to London over Thanksgiving. I decided to go to Bernard Quaritch and see their books first hand. I felt nervous and too casually dressed. Providence had placed a Barbour store en route, so I stopped in and smartened the casual to smart casual for pennies on the pound. Twas a Black Friday miracle. With newfound confidence, I blustered my way through an interview at the booksellers. The day ended with me in our Chelsea apartment reading an old volume by M. Biot on barometric pressure in French.

Newboy 11:42 AM  

Thanks Matthew for your well-rested and restrained review(& a link to your midi). And I’m really thankful for Sam’s fine Friday puzzle. Great long phrases to stumble into via crosses that themselves contain potential problems with what seems initially like gimme answers. For 34 across, for example, I had to wade through the murky middle of R??L , first trying Rile, then Rout before getting to ROIL; that’s a bunch of fun with only four letters! And then I have to plunk in triple 10 letter combinations to anchor the NW &SE ? Not unfair, but certainly not easy. Add in vocabulary choices like TESSERAE and HEGEMONY and you can see why Sam didn’t just pass my SMELL TEST but truly WON BIG.

Masked and Anonymous 11:42 AM  

Scapegraces? Good Gravy … that there what?word scared the M&A, but I did use its answer's implied -S endin to nail down STYE. Then had to move on to the more M&A-friendly NE, to really get in and root around.

Liked a lotta stuff along the way to solvedom, includin: HEGEMONY. SMELLTEST. LOVEPOTION. GUNNEDIT. BUNDT. STRAYCAT.

fave moo-cow eazy-E FriPuz clue: {It's found at the start of this clue} = CAPITALI. U can only fool the M&A so many million times, with that kinda shenanigan, Mr. Shortzmeister.

staff weeject pick: ENG, of the 8 choices. Better clue: {Start to land??}.

Really fascinated with all the Comment Gallery + blog writeup references to "food comas". M&A didn't happen to have one of them .. musta sagely paced myself, what with the one unusually small piece of pumpkin pie.
I even made it thru almost 2 post-pigout hours of "The Irishman", before stoppin it (due to the Puz&TurkeyEatinSpouse haven totally passed out).
Somehow, there's gotta be a cute puztheme idea in there tho … with revealer FOODCOMMA? [Examples?: PUMP, KIN PIE. SWEET POT, A TO PIE. HAM, BIRDER.}

Thanx for the themeless fun, Mr. Buchbinder.

Masked & AnonymoUUs


Whatsername 11:48 AM  

I liked this a lot. On the easy side which is probably a good thing since most of us are probably not at peak mental acuity today. Love the clues for LOVEPOTION, BIGAMY and especially BULLS. My nephew absolutely idolized Jordan back in his glory days. Learned a new word in SCAPEGRACE. Wanted SORRYMYBAD at 1D and DONTGOAWAY at 2D, then never figured out 3D until reading the comments here.

Hope everyone had a nice holiday. R&R for me today, couch, pets, books and Lonesome Dove marathon.

ghostoflectricity 11:49 AM  

Thought this puzzle was meh. But the reviewer chose to comment on male/masculine references and neither he nor any of the commenters that I've seen so far on the thread mentioned 38D. Perhaps over half of working journalists are now female, and The Times just ran an article a few days ago about Daphne Caruana Galizia, a Maltese journalist brutally murdered two years ago as she investigated corruption in that country. So, "LEGMAN" for an on-the-scene journalist? Really?

Anonymous 11:57 AM  


Alex M 11:59 AM  

I was fully expecting to see Rex rail about a minor Madagascar character clue. Imagine my surprise when the guest blogger loved it! Nice to see some positivity. :)

Newboy 12:06 PM  

@SuzieQ (8:23) asked “ . Does anyone compile debut clues?” And in fact that info is always at the bottom of Jeff Chen’s Xwordinfo post. I’m assuming that if you’re doing the NYT puz that you’re a subscriber to that site & can access the info easily. Since I’m blabbing today, I wanna second appreciation for symmetrical Jordon (great misdirect) & ELVIN references. So much goodness today I CANTDO one MISERly post🤥

Anonymous 12:11 PM  

HEGEMONY means “domination” in the common vernacular, so I believe it is properly clued rather than as a reference to a niche neo-Marxist conceptualization.

What with Russia's antics in Ukraine/Crimea/Donbas these past few years, how could there be any other connotation?

jberg 12:12 PM  

Great Friday puzzle! MORT was the toughest part, but fairly crossed.

Spin doctoring is one thing that PRAGENCIES do, they also publicize, run polls, organize speaking tours, etc. so not every employee is a spin doctor.

To my understanding the French government already regulates the dates when stores can have sales, so banning the so-called Black Friday could be done. Even in the US we could ban opening at midnight, for example. And as individuals we can decide to buy nothing that day.

What? 12:21 PM  

Fun Friday. Got hung up in NW corner cause PR abbreviation not in clue and had (have) no idea what MORT is but then PR clicked in mysteriously and everything just filled in.

MichGirl 12:43 PM  

Thank you!! It must be post Thanksgiving brain freeze because for the life of me I could not figure out what pragencies were ....

kitshef 12:55 PM  

@puzzlehoarder - you are not alone on the OBLONG problem. I went through ovate, obovate, ovoid, oblate and could not understand why nothing fit.

Music Man 12:57 PM  

I would settle for banning stores from opening late on Thanksgiving Day. Jeez - let these people enjoy a day off with their loved ones. They’re going to be busy as heck enough the next day as it is!!

CDilly52 1:40 PM  

I’m late tot the party today after turkey coma and too much wine (hand up @chef wen-right there with you, sweat and all!) and my solve mirrored our perspicacious guest reviewer (or at least I think him so because we think alike about this puzzle).

IMPS, ETE and WON BIG all fell but then nothing. So I moved on and did a clockwise tour in very short order. Stumped on the NW. like @Namcy, I desperately wanted PRAGmatists but alas, too many words. And want the heck is a PRAGENCE?

But a well crafted effort with some excellent clues. Enjoy your leftovers- I shall!!

Joseph M 1:42 PM  

Challenging but satisfying Friday with lots of write overs along the way. “Replicas” before REPRINTS. “Bete noir“ before CAFE NOIR. “Minimal fee“ before NOMINAL FEE. “Brake pedal“ before BRAKE CABLE. The last section to fall was the NE thanks to PR AGENCIES which took forever to see. Loved SMELL TEST and I’M THE WORST. Nice job, Sam.

Matthew, in your gender count, you forgot to include BIG AMY.

old timer 1:43 PM  

So I figured out a lot of things like CAPITALI and NOMINALFEE and WENTALONE, and BRAKECABLE, which for a while I wanted to be ShiftCABLE. But it is still too damned early to have to remember all of the 12 Days of Christmas. I confidently wrote in "Lords" and when I finally accepted that that must be wrong, took forever to remember the GEESE, busy scoring zeroes in their pop-up baseball game.

I was not surprised by OTIS though. Founded by Harrison Gray Otis, founder of the Los Angeles Times, which passed to the Chandler family, and while the Chandler family owned it, it was one of the best papers in the country,

Delighted to see a new word, pragency. Cousin of TOAT, appearing today as DOES' TOATEE. You may not have noticed it, but female deer have cute little TOATEEs on their chin, a female version of a goatee.

I'm a little surprised that an IMP is a scapegrace, but all in all, this Friday-hard puzzle passes my SMELLTEST.

Maddiegail 2:15 PM  

Me, too! And what a laugh when it came to light!

LorrieJJ 2:37 PM  

I'm pretty sure that BIGAMY is only committed twice IF there are two extra marriages. The first marriage is legal and only the extra(s) is/are a crime.

Anonymous 3:10 PM  

So, "LEGMAN" for an on-the-scene journalist? Really?

The only LEGMAN I've ever heard of is Archie Goodwin, and while he consorts with newspaper men (few if any wimin in the biz then), he was a detective.

QuasiMojo 3:15 PM  

I agree with Masked and Anonymous that today's commentary has a lot of fine stuff. @Birchbark, I liked your anecdote about shopping in England, but how rare it is to find someone these days who even considers what to wear when shopping for books. Touché!

Casimir 4:21 PM  

I agree completely with all of Suzy Q's points!

jae 5:42 PM  

@Music Man - somewhere a while ago I read that late week puzzles often forego signaling abbreviations in the clues. It supposedly makes for a more challenging solve.

Joe Dipinto 6:35 PM  

@LorrieJJ 2:37 – "twice-committed" in the BIGAMY clue means committed (i.e. married) to two different people – which is the crime of bigamy. It's a double entendre on the word "commit".

Richardf8 6:55 PM  

Yes, but, I can’t even begin to count the number of times I’ve heard sportsball guys say stuff like [player] is a real asset to the [team name] organization.

Now the question of whether sportsball guys should be allowed to define usage and diction is, I think, an area ripe for discussion.

Richardf8 7:01 PM  

Retail stores that are serviceable as such, but mostly function as showrooms for Internet sales. GAP brands has been going this direction order something online that didn’t fit? Take it to a retail outlet, return it, and order a replacement at their kiosk. Maybe you’ll do some inpulse buying while you’re there.

Anonymous 10:40 PM  


spacecraft 10:49 AM  

Very tough in the NW/SE. NW was last to go after correcting SMEarTEST to SMELL. So it was Jordan the Michael, not Jordan the country! BULLS: duh! Took forever. Thank goodness rEGMAN didn't make any sense, but then LEGMAN I only know in (ahem) another context.

Which brings me to the DOD. True, the only direct female reference is to MEIR, who qualifies via accomplishments. But then, Cher was once a BONO, right? LETS go there.

In the SE I needed a ride instead of a LIFT, which had me foundering for a while. I'm not sure about "DOESTOATEE," but okay, I guess.

More problematic in the fill are the letter add-ons RRATED and CAPITALI, and the twin groaners EKE and ETE. And LATEN...again! I'll take triumph points for finishing, but this guy gets only a par.

Burma Shave 12:08 PM  


is WRONG to DO what it DOESTOATEE,
it’s a SLOE SMELLTEST to some,


Diana, LIW 12:39 PM  

I'm always amazed when I finish a Friday - just as I'm about to give up and look up some unknown (hello MORT) creature.

So...resolutions. 1) complete at least one crossword a day.

Lady Di

Diana, LIW 1:04 PM  

So here's how my mind works. I had figured out that Jordan would be the guy and not the country. I had the frst "B" in place. "Bball?" I thought? Oh. Right. BULLS.


Diana, II

2) Brush my teeth every morning

Anonymous 1:22 PM  

Nothing on "operacoats"?? Had not clue one when doing the puzzle, and having the answer didn't help one bit. Can't believe this was widely known....

Rick Walker 2:01 PM  


rainforest 3:11 PM  

The star of this puzzle was the cluing. A wide variety of clue types, many of which led to pondering with a resultant *aha*. I also liked the fill, accepting that words like EKE and LATEN will ever be with us. I couldn't help but notice the many fresh and lively entries, like SMELL TEST, COPSES, NOMINAL FEE, and HEGEMONY.

For the Mexican beer, I considered Tecate and Modelo before the over-hyped and overrated CORONA, which was maybe silly of me. I did note the presence of BIO and OBIT, as well.

All in all a very enjoyable puzzle.

Anonymous 12:28 AM  

Great writeup.

Great puzzle except maybe for laten.

NW took forever to me to solve. Maybe because it's latening.

Anonymous 9:49 PM  

Legman? They’re called runners and/or stringers because, hey, it’s the twenty-first century and we let women have jobs now too! I wonder how the Times’s (very talented) women stringers felt when they saw this.

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