1966 Michael Caine title role / TUE 12-17-19 / One-named singer who once led the Sugarcubes / Fifth-century barbarians / 1813 battle site in war of 1812

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Constructor: David Levinson Wilk

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging (I think ... I solved it on clipboard while watching basketball, so I don't really know, but it felt like it would've taken me a little longer than a typical Tuesday at full speed)

THEME: word-LESS clues: — themers are phrases following the model ___-LESS ___; clues represent the answers literally, by removing from the clue all letters in the word that precedes -LESS in the answer. Thus:

Theme answers:
  • ODORLESS GASS (17A: _xygen _iflu__ide) (because "oxygen difluoride" is a gas, so without the letters o, d, o, r, it's an ODORLESS GAS)
  • TIRELESS WORKER (22A: _ax_ d_iv_r)
  • HEADLESS CHICKEN (36A: R_od_ Isl_n_ Red)
  • FEARLESS LEADER (46A: _ranklin D_l_no _ossevelt)
  • HAIRLESS DOG (54A: __rr_e_) 
Word of the Day: harrier (the seemingly ironically-named HAIRLESS DOG) —
The Harrier is a medium-sized  dog breed of the  hound class, used for hunting hares by trailing them. It resembles an English Foxhound but is smaller, though not as small as a Beagle. (wikipedia)
• • •
"But ... but ... I haz hair. My
coat is ruff!"
Ok so the first thing we should clear up is that the theme clues are actually frequently wrong if taken at the level of word meaning. That is, Oxygen difluoride not only has an odor, that odor is described on its wikipedia page as "peculiar, foul." A harrier is not, in fact, a hairless dog. Rhode Island Reds do, mostly, have heads, I'm sure. You can make your own call on the accuracy of the taxi drive and FDR answers. This isn't a fault of the theme. The theme works *solely* at the letter-level. Although ... now that I think about it, you can make a very good case that taxi drivers are, in fact, pretty tireless workers, and FDR was not just arguably fearless, he was the guy who delivered the Most Famous Quote Ever ever about the importance of being fearless: "We have nothing to fear but fear itself." I think this gets to why I found the theme concept, in theory, kind of cute, but in practice, kind of clunky. The theme set felt very loose and arbitrary. Two of the answers seem apt descriptions of their clues, while three are demonstrably false. I dunno. It's fine. I did not hate this, by any means. It just feels a bit (ironically?) shaggy. But as I say, the concept is cute enough to carry it, and the fill, while in no way exciting, is not egregious. So this gets a passing grade from me.

But about that fill. Here's the thing. Sigh. OK, so this would've worked far, far better, I think, and been cleaner and more enjoyable, with four themers instead of five. Why? Well, five puts a lot of structural demands on the grid, and the way *this* grid has handled that burden is by going to a high (max) word count, which is *fine*, except in this case what that means is that ~95% of the non-theme fill is 3, 4, or 5 letters long. There are just four answers that are 6 letters long, and There Are No Answer Longer Than That. It is very hard, if not impossible, to create a grid with any life or personality or zazz or spark or whatever, when you're stuck with all short stuff. At that point, you're mostly just trying to be Not Terrible (and I think this puzzle succeeds at that). But if your highlights (outside the theme) are RASSLE GRAPES HALVES and BADASS, then I submit to you that you have exactly one actual highlight (BADASS), and even that is rather tame. It's not like this grid needed five themers. Seems like the kind of theme that could've run to a dozen. How many -LESS things are there in the world? A bunch, I'm guessing. And by a bunch I mean a ton, a lot, a slew, etc. The point is, the theme set was never ever going to be tight, so opting for four (rather than 5) themers and making a somewhat cleaner, someone snappier grid seems like it might've been the better option. Just a thought.

No real trouble today. Just CHART for GRAPH (1A: Boardroom easel display), and then real problems (still) getting WASH from 26D: Load of laundry—"laundry" and "WASH" feel like the equivalents, so having "Load" as your clue feels awkward. I forgot MSN existed at all, let alone as a [Browser option]. People (still) use that? Anyway, these were just minor stumbling blocks. Mostly it felt like an ordinary Tuesday in terms of difficulty.
    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

    [Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


    Brian 6:03 AM  

    Felt more like a Wednesday, primarily because of HARRIER ... which was new to me. I liked the theme, though.

    Lewis 6:30 AM  

    I don't think I'd want my taxi worker to be tireless; it would make for a very clunky ride.

    The theme idea was fantastic, with FEARLESS LEADER epic, because of Roosevelt's famous quote. I had a _avid L__inson W__k of a good time with this one!

    GILL I. 6:49 AM  

    That whole "Didn't think I'd run into you here!" OH Hi answer made me sit back and think. It's like you were caught with your pants down. I might've said something like "what the hell are you doing here?"
    Got that out of the way....
    Well....this was certainly different. I agree with OFL...kinda cute in a strange way. The only one that really made sense to me was Frank's FEARLESS LEADER.
    I had no problems figuring out the first parts of the clue. 22A [taxi driver] was fairly easy. You could see the TIRE was missing. But then it took me forever to see the WORKER bit. To me, a TIRELESS WORKER is a stay at home mom or dad. Try it.....When your children finally leave home, you start to take naps.
    The only bunch I ever buy at a fruit stand are oranges or cherries. GRAPES come from the supermarket.
    I wonder where or how BAD ASS came from something like "awesomely tough." When you think about it, a BAD ASS is something gone wrong with butt implants. I'm overthinking, I know.
    Thank you MADE A for appearing again - otherwise, well, who knows what might've happened.

    BarbieBarbie 6:52 AM  

    @Rex, re-think your interpretation of the clues. Each one is correct. Oxygen difluoride is a gas. Take away ODOR and you have the thing in the clue, which is the same gas, but now ODOR-less. The restored clue doesn’t have to work as the answer to the clue that is the answer. That would be very meta, but it isn’t necessary. The answer is in the puzzle. The clue is outside the puzzle. Not the other way around.

    I loved this and I’m so impressed there were five count ‘em five themers and lots of clean fill. Great puzzle. More please.

    Anonymous 6:56 AM  

    Faster than average for me. No stumpers.

    Anonymous 7:02 AM  

    Fun, original and rather challenging for a Tuesday, Congrats to the constructor!

    Suzie Q 7:17 AM  

    First, how in the world can we have this Madea character again? It's appearance yesterday was rather obscure but here it is again?
    Secondly, Rhode Island seems to be the flavor-of-the-month.

    As for the puzzle, I liked it very much. The theme is tricky in an unusual way. I'll gladly take novelty on a Tuesday.
    I sure did not expect to see bad ass.

    The NE corner was a proper name mash up that took awhile to parse. I hate those things like JLo and Bennifer. All I know about Bjork is that she showed up to something dressed like a swan or some other white bird.

    kitshef 7:18 AM  

    25 threes, 18 fours, 26 fives.

    Only resistance in this silly-easy puzzle was not knowing that a harrier could be a dog. I think “raptor”. Saw several of them last week in Florida.

    mmorgan 7:20 AM  

    Not the best puzzle ever made but a cool idea and a fun and enjoyable solve for me. And once again, as a native Rhode Islander, I loved seeing that chicken that no one in the state barely knows exists. I’m sure I’d find out it’s a thing if I looked it up, but Rhode Islanders care much more about clam cakes. At least I do.

    Hungry Mother 7:24 AM  

    Almost fun, but a bit of a slog. Very surprised I finished in a tad less than average time. I was talking with a friend from Minnesota last night about the hockey heroes of yore and he brought up ORR. I mentioned the ORR/Ott situation in xwords. He just stared at me.

    Jake W 7:59 AM  

    MADEA twice in a row in nearly the same position? What is going on!?

    Phil 8:00 AM  

    enjoyed the clueing more than usual.

    Thanks David and Will for not blandizing them.

    I’m reading a novel where PLAYA is kind of a ultra cool young person. IDK maybe it’s a hiphop thing too, Rex knows more about that than I.

    Anonymous 8:03 AM  

    Almost...but I don't think you meant devilless.

    Anonymous 8:41 AM  

    Was on pace for record time until “tireless dog” thrown in assuming clue was “terrier”

    Anonymous 8:45 AM  

    Actually, there are an endlessamount of terms with less in them.

    jake w 9:01 AM  

    I forgot to mention: an ORR repeat in addition to the MADEA back-to-back! Great editing...

    G. Weissman 9:04 AM  

    @ BarbieBarbie6:52 AM, you miss the point. Yes, the gas is “odorless” because the name of the gas is spelled with the letters o-d-o-r missing. But the gas named is not an odorless gas, and this does detract from the theme’s success. Why use FDR as the example of fearless leader, when any leader would do? Because (as Rex pointed out) FDR is associated with fearlessness. So in that case the constructor chose a name that is illustrated by the answer, whereas the gas answer fails in this respect. This is an inconsistency that speaks to the constructor’s inability to find answers that work like the FDR answer works, and then pretending that it doesn’t matter.

    CDilly52 9:10 AM  

    @Gill: I had the same reaction to OHHI. Line when you say something g snarky about someone who, just as you finish, walks into the room and one, red-faced, winces and says, “Oh, hi?”

    Greater Fall River Committee for Peace & Justice 9:11 AM  

    I almost stopped solving at the confluence of 'Entertainer's Crew' and 'Used a dinghy thingie.' POSSE,OARED. Not a definition of POSSE I know, and probably I know the wrong song about the guy with the little dinghy that went in and out and in and out.It was not feeling like I was in New York Times territory with my breakfast.

    RooMonster 9:12 AM  

    Hey All !
    In the "How do these Coincidences happen?" category, decided to take a peek at the Puns and Anagrams puz on the main Puz page, and saw a few clues with the exact structure as these themer clues! On that puz, though, it was just the missing letters, ala ODOR as the answer. So that helped me in grokking this theme.

    Would like to have 43D clue, "Without which Earth is just "eh"?" as Clue of the Year. Now that was good.

    Enjoyed this nifty TuesPuz, even with the high block and threes counts. My OPINE.

    MADEA again, har. Three F's again, Nice!


    Nancy 9:17 AM  

    O frabjous day! To have a puzzle like this at all is a treat. To have a puzzle like this on a Tuesday, when interesting and challenging things seldom happen, is like getting a great big Christmas present a week early.

    Of course I loved this! I do Cryptics as often as I can find them and I adore the trickiness of them. But many of the non-themer clues are also great. Look at the cleverness of ART (43D) and the colorfulness of MADEA (14A), to take two examples. A great deal of thought and care went into the making of this puzzle.

    Haven't read the blog yet but I know that responses will vary. There are people who hate Cryptics, people who like their puzzles straight -- like whiskey. They'll probably carp and moan, but pay them no mind, David. They'll be wrong. This is a delightful puzzle, and I thank you heartily for it.

    ez 9:25 AM  

    Agreed, this is the correct way to think about the theme. (You take a gas and make it odorless. You take a worker and make her tireless. You take a leader and make him fearless. Etc.)

    Z 9:29 AM  

    I was once a harrier. Looked it up and what I was was the second definition of the second set of definitions after “one who harries,” a hawk, and the dog. This after having to skip past the jump jet that was at the top of the search results. @Hungry Mother still qualifies as a harrier, I think. Back in the day it seemed like the go to headline word on the sports page, but I don’t recall seeing it in years.

    @Gill I - My version would be, “OH HI, yes I have a vanilla BAD ASS.”

    The FEARLESS LEADER answer is kind of twisty. Yes, FDR’s famous quote but also Rocky and Bullwinkle not to mention our frequent use of the ironic “OFL” here. The term is a not uncommon reference to Trump on Twitter and it’s not meant as a compliment. The FDR clue caused a frisson of dissonance here.

    SouthsideJohnny 9:33 AM  

    It was refreshing to read a write-up from OFL where he analyzed the puzzle construction and opined on its contents rather than going off on a tangential rant about some perceived or invented slight. I agree that three or four themers would result in a cleaner, crisper overall solving experience, however that is personal preference and it is obvious that many people enjoy trying to decipher the theme entries and are willing to accept the resulting clunkier, crosswordese fill as a trade-off.

    It is also fun and interesting (borderline fascinating) to see and read about the degree of parsing and analysis regarding the specific theme entries, lol. I’m with @BarbieBarbie at 6:52 am - the theme works on that level, and that is plenty good enough (in fact, trying to drill-down to another level of cosmic enlightenment would limit the choice available and further stress a grid already overly burdened with the five theme entries).

    jberg 9:34 AM  

    Fun puzzle, especially for a Tuesday (OH HI, Nancy). And I learned that HARRIER is not just a hawk, but also a breed of dog. That one held me up—I finally made a face, wrote it in, and turned to my dictionary.

    Question for discussion: if you start with a theme answer that only works one way, like ODORLESS GAS, is it better not to use another one that works two ways? I’m not sure.

    EdFromHackensack 9:35 AM  

    this was a wonderful Tuesday puzzle - we normally do not get this degree of construction on a Tuesday. I like the FDR/Fear and odorless gas discussion. It works, then it doesn't work. But either way - great puzzle!

    Karl Grouch 9:37 AM  

    Kudos to DLW for this surprising and original puzzle, thank you for the rare Tuesday-fun!

    (Though I'll have to agree with people who have an issue with the FDR answer).

    Madea is the new Oreo.

    Z 9:52 AM  

    @Roo - Regarding the ART clue, it’s wonderfulness was diminished for me by having seen it already on t-shirts and bumper stickers. Living in a community with a higher than usual proportion of artists, artisans, and brewers may have something to do with that.

    @Greater Fall River - I thought of Chuck Berry. rather than The Who.

    Z 9:59 AM  

    @Karl Grouch - Uh... Let me suggest you not repeat that observation outside of Crossworld.

    Hartley70 10:02 AM  

    HARRIER slowed me down because I thought of it as a BritIsh whirlybird/airplane cross. I imagine everyone started with teRRIER. That was a nice misdirection.

    The theme was unusual and complex for a Tuesday. What a delightful surprise!

    No complaints about the Rhode Island Red, please. The state needs all the press it can get. @mmorgan, whaaa? We learned the state bird in elementary school there. Some things like HOPE, the violet, and Jerimoth Hill you never forget.

    Whatsername 10:05 AM  

    I’m a dog person, but I never heard of Harrier. Was prepared to argue the point but see that it is in fact a real breed. It was good to see a rational, objective, and EMOTIONLESS critique from Rex today. I agree with him that some of the fill felt a bit off, but I liked seeing Bert LAHR again and the lovely LAURA Bush. The concept was interesting and the theme answers did help with the solve so I would call it a great success. And to give credit where credit is due, a far better than average Tuesday.

    pabloinnh 10:11 AM  

    I'm with the "liked it fine as a word puzzle"crew here. Have to say I filled in the HARRIER answer without bothering to go back and see the word made by adding the missing letters. Good thing, because the dog breed is news to me. My knowledge of HARRIER is (was) a) a raptor b)an English fighter plane and c) a runner.

    I suppose you could clue TR___ as an "endless word".

    Liked seeing OJO, which is of course "eye" in Spanish, but also "Watch out!" (hola GILL I).
    It's something I write in my music for tricky sections, usually put a couple of dots in the o's to represent eyeballs, and the J makes a nice nose.

    Really fun Tuesday, DLW. Thanks for all the fun.

    Newboy 10:26 AM  

    Across clueing was fun; down clues were meh.

    Kathy 10:31 AM  

    I found this puzzle to be easy. Easy for me is solving at a steady pace, not having to linger too long on any word and encountering no Naticks. Even hitting those marks, I never solve at the blazing speeds mentioned in the blog. For me 10-15 minutes is an achievement.

    The puzzles in the latter part of last week were very difficult for me, yet many here thought they were easy. So it surprised me that anyone struggled with todays puzzle. It goes to show the many variables that enter into one’s personal solving experience. For whatever reason I knew the Rex word of the day HARRIER. That may be a first for me.

    My adopted state of Rhode Island has certainly been getting its day in the sun!
    @mmorgan. Waiting for quahog to make the puzzle! Or has it already? I’ve only been solving/reading the blog for a year.

    Ethan Taliesin 10:32 AM  

    I welcome more Tuesdays like this.

    Faster than average time for me, but satisfying. It was like a Tuesday-level Thursday.

    puzzlehoarder 10:34 AM  

    Today we had MSN as a browser option and harrier as a bowser option. No terrier/ harrier confusion for myself. After getting the theme at 17A I didn't read another theme clue for the rest of the solve. Between the fill being so easy and knowing LESS would always be in the center it was more convenient to recognize the themes off a few crosses than wasting time reading the clues.

    Karl Grouch 10:36 AM  

    Well when you gettin' got and somebody done got you and you go get them, when you get 'em, everybody's gon' get got.

    mathgent 10:38 AM  

    A cryptic I do in WSJ uses the same gimmick. Letters blanked out of a familiar phrase. But there the blanked-out letters are part of the wordplay of the clue. I like the gimmick there, I like it here.

    But the 25 Terrible Threes! Every single column has one. Spoiled it for me.

    We once spent a week at PLAYA Blanca, a Club Med resort on the west coast of Mexico. Is Club Med still going?

    Z 10:50 AM  

    Oreo, since the reason @Karl Grouch’s comment got the amused arched eyebrow may not be obvious to everyone.

    Since I’m OT anyway - @mmorgan - Your Rhode Island Red comments keep reminding me that wolverines are not native to Michigan.

    Masked and Anonymous 11:15 AM  

    This TuesPuz was a gas. Can argue about whether it needed to be an *odorless* gas or not, I reckon.

    fave non-themer longballs: BADASS. AUTOSIP. BJORKER. [Need to do runt-rolls, to get the last two.]

    Weeject stacks abound -- trip stacks in the SW & NE; extra-luvly quad stacks in the NW & SE.
    staff weeject pick = ART, with its superbadass {Without which earth is just "eh"?} clue. But, but … for completeness, the symmetrical ERR weeject really needs a theme-related clue also.
    How'bout: {Without which My Christmas ain't quite as joyous??} = ERR. har

    yep. HARRIER is a hound for huntin hares. Learned somethin, there. harrier

    M&A had written up a runtpuz just yesterday mornin, with a somewhat similar theme mcguffin to today's NYTPuppy. It was about famous folks bringin eats/drinks to a gala Christmas dinner. Kinda like MADEA bringin the ADE, or somesuch. Sooo … day-um, I'm startin to think like them …

    Thanx for the fun without U it would notta been, Mr. Wilk.

    Masked & Anonymo3Us


    jae 11:16 AM  

    Medium. Smooth and clever. My personal issue with this one is that for early week puzzles I’m more interested in my solving time as I one finger type answers on my ipad. So the theme clues were a tad annoying....but that’s my problem, the puzzle was fine, liked it.

    jb129 11:22 AM  

    This was more annoying than fun.

    Aaron Leclair 11:31 AM  

    For me, this was probably the easiest Tuesday in a while. I didn't hit a time record but 4:51 is substantially faster than Tuesday average and quite close to my best Tuesday time so far.

    The theme was well-executed and required more lateral thinking than your average Tuesday, but it ended up being really fast to figure out due to the absolutely speedy fill.

    baja 11:55 AM  

    Luv’d it. Glad to see some science lately in the puzzles

    Nancy 11:55 AM  

    From the Where-Have-They-All-Gone? Dept.:

    Today's Wordplay Blog makes an oblique and curiosity-provoking reference to David Levinson Wilk's previous NYT puzzle and I had no idea what it was. So I went to the Rexblog from 4/2/14. Or you can just type in SWORD HILT and it will come right up.

    I don't remember doing this puzzle, although I must have done it. I don't remember how I felt about it either. This must have been right before I discovered Rex and joined the blog. I know my first year was 2014, but I'm not in the comments section that day so I must have joined a few months later. What's striking to me, though, is how many of the posters' names are very, very familiar. And how many of them have disappeared. A lot more have disappeared than are still here.

    If you want to take a trip down Memory Lane, go to that puzzle and read the comments section. You'll may feel nostalgic for all those long-lost fellow Rexites.

    QuasiMojo 12:07 PM  

    @Nancy, I checked out the puzzle from 2014. I think I was still a lurker only back then. But what surprised me was how many of you guys were there then and are are still here. Props!

    As for today's offering, short and sweet but too many people. I always prefer words to names. Unless there's some wordplay involved. Someone at crossword fiend the other day asked why people complain about trivia in puzzles. She argued that is the main option and part of the fun. But I think trivia is a poor substitute for cleverness and wit.

    xyz 12:19 PM  

    Very easy, especially for a Tuesday

    MADEA (why can't this be related to a grade?), ERR, ORR, AXE, IPA but thankfully no OREO


    albatross shell 12:25 PM  

    Great Tuesday. Better and more fun than yesterday which most people seemed to like a bit more than me. Seeing all those 3 letter answers I had low expectations. Great metaclue (that's what I call them) for ART. Fine clue for ALEC.

    Almost put in oLIvE for SLICE. Never considered terrier, because there are too many words of the form _ _rr_e_, so I started with the downs His Or HER, AXE, and thus IPA and not ale. FEARLESSLEADER demands a recognizable leader with the letters f,e,a, and r in order.
    Taxi drivers have tires on their cab. The gas stinks. Chickens have heads, FDR had fear itself. Harriers have hair. Odors can be deodorizer, tires removed, heads lopped off, fear overcome, and hair shaved off. Don't get technical on that first one, it's a goddamned crossword.

    @ GillI
    Fruit stands around here often have grapes in the late summer.

    Can someone tell me how often MADEA has been in the puzzle the as clued in the last 2 years? I'd put the over /under at 6.

    I thought the SW was a bit tricky until porn turned into SMUT, letting ART AUTO and FSTOP in, which gave me EMOJI and the totally unknown OJO. And in the NE I was missing the unknown to me BJORK and JLO cross, but _LO was likely JLO and not pLO and BJORK seemed likely to be a Swedish name.

    Carola 1:04 PM  

    "Interesting!" was what came to my mind for this one - not a word I'd usually associate with a Tuesday puzzle. A welcome gentle brain twister. I agree that FEARLESS LEADER is the star of the show.
    A few false starts up top: chart before GRAPH, axe (malapop*) before CAN, rowed before OARED as well as one at the end, where I wanted a teRRIER.
    *malapop: "axe" in 11A is a malapop because 1) it's wrong and 2) AXE appears at 55D. Can't remember who coined it.

    Teedmn 1:10 PM  

    Before reading Rex or Xwordinfo.com, I thought about the theme post-solve for a while, did a bit of Google research (is Oxygen Difluoride odorless? No, depending on the molecule, it can be "peculiar, foul" as per Rex, or "Oxygen difluoride appears as a colorless poisonous gas with a strong peculiar odor. Highly toxic by inhalation. Corrosive to skin and eyes. Can explode on contact with water. Decomposes to toxic gaseous fluorine if heated to high temperature. Prolonged exposure of the containers to high heat may result in their violent rupturing and rocketing. Used as an oxidizer for propellants." Is there a Harrier breed of dog and are they HAIRLESS? Yes for the breed, no for the HAIRLESS. (The website I went to had the same photo of the dog as in Rex's write-up)).

    So I was glad that Rex pointed out the answers were only correct in a letter sense and not a literal sense. And also that he didn't find that literal lack as a reason to diss this cute puzzle. But I can't understand how you can agree that upping the word count is a *fine* "bean sprout" as a way to take pressure off the grid and yet complain about the shortness of the fill which seems inevitable in a high word count puzzle. So I didn't agree with him there.

    David Levinson Wilk, I liked your theme, enjoying how you used well-known yet interesting phrases. The dissimilarity of FDR as FEARLESS LEADER and Boris' and Natasha's boss made me laugh.

    Richardf8 1:12 PM  

    I would guess Shortz is preparing us to accept this as a new entry into the lexicon of crosswordese. Maybe he’s bored with Oreo?

    Seth 1:26 PM  

    Loved this one!

    GILL I. 1:33 PM  

    @Nancy...Thanks for that trip!
    Yeah, I miss lots of them as well - especially @Questinia. She was the erudite queen.
    I'm guessing a few left because of the trolls and spammers. Some heated discussions got ugly but that's never stopped me. @Rex is my morning cup of coffee or my evening Scotch. ;-). Can't do without either.

    GHarris 1:49 PM  

    Rex if you are going to nitpick you have to get your historical quotes right. What FDR actually said was “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself “

    IKE 2:08 PM  

    Really enjoyed this one, but was hoping to see:
    M _ _ t e r _ (archaic)

    Doug Garr 2:14 PM  

    This looked like a pretty hard puzzle to construct. But what do I know. I thought HARRIER was a jet with VTOL capability. Or a cross country runner. But the comment section was pretty lively, I'll say that.

    Anoa Bob 3:02 PM  

    @albatross shell, as requested, MADEA has appeared a total of nine times during the Shortz era, the first appearance being in 1999. The next three times were in '07, '15 and '17. And then, kapow, three times in '19, one in Nov. and two in Dec.

    The first time MADEA was clued as "Skoaled". Not sure how that works. Then it got "___ mistake (blew it)". The rest all got "Perry Tyler film character" type clues.

    XWBill 3:16 PM  

    I thought it was clever for a Tuesday. Pretty easy too. i think you’re being a little picky here.

    When is the last time you actually really liked a puzzle, Rex?

    Anonymoose 4:18 PM  

    @GHarris. Well. Aren't you something!

    Nancy 4:40 PM  

    @Anonymoose (4:18)--

    First of all, FDR came up with one of the greatest lines in history and deserves to be quoted correctly. And if you take the time to compare the two quotes, the one FDR that actually penned has a lot more sonority than the one that Rex attributed to him.

    Second, @GHarris has the courage to post under his own name, and you don't. He doesn't deserve the snarkiness of your comment.

    And, btw, he's a retired judge and a published poet. What, exactly, have you done, Moose? Other than writing snarky comments, of course.

    Frantic Sloth 5:11 PM  

    "I did not hate this, by any means."

    High praise indeed from OFL.

    I really enjoyed this puzzle a lot and the "without which earth is just 'eh'?" clue for ART was double fun because it was the double truth.

    Question, though: Has MADEA moved to RHODE ISLAND in order to UNSOBERly consume OREOs? UGSOME.

    Anonymous 5:21 PM  

    put me in the cabal who reads the 'theme' as:

    ____LESS thingee as just, subtract the 4 letters from the base word. that's it. the fact the 'real' oxygen disulfide has a 'foul odor' elides the point, which is that OS2 is just a 'gas' and thus by subtracting ODOR from the name gives an ODOR GAS. it's cute. the same is true for all of the other answers: they're just a 'base case' of a thingee, with the letters prefixed. sometimes, it's not all that complicated.

    JC66 5:33 PM  

    Yay @Nancy!

    You tell em.

    Cook Miller 6:31 PM  

    Right. Loved this puzzle too, and I don't often. Even the fill was kinda BADASS.

    Anoa Bob 7:51 PM  

    Oops! Something doesn't add up. Make that seven times that MADEA has appeared during the Shortz era.

    Anonymous 9:12 PM  

    Um, Nancy at al., you do know it was a speechwriter who came up with that line, right? Not FDR.

    Anonymous 9:27 PM  

    This was a wee bit tough for a Tuesday -- not complaining, just observing -- mostly due to the theme, but certainly doable. The ART clue was nice, too, although I didn't get it immediately. Full disclosure: I initially tried HIP for "totally cool" instead of RAD

    GHarris 10:30 PM  


    Maybe . . . 11:44 PM  

    you all are crazy! It's *#*! Tuesday - of a very, very busy week. This was impossible to finish, a veritable hairball; nothing hairless about it.

    zelda 9:48 AM  

    MAAM? Polite? Puleeze!

    spacecraft 11:23 AM  

    Well, they ain't but one FEARLESSLEADER around here: Our Fearless Curmudgeon. But clearly, FDR is the shining centerpiece of this grid. (Too bad he couldn't BE in the center.) The rest, not quite. Still, for what he was trying to do, pretty close. I agree, one less themer probably would've worked better.

    The fill, while not terrible all over, does include OARED, something we never say ("rowed!") and the horrid OHHI. LOLL/LULLS really give the tongue a workout, and we have a mini Spanish lesson with PLAYA/OJO. Who can forget the amazing Sally RAND for DOD? Gonna be nice and give this one a par.

    Diana, LIW 1:43 PM  

    Watching the boaters on Boathouse Row in Philly, I never did hear "oared," but I guess it can be said. Oar not.

    I nearly put aside this "Thursday on a Tuesday" for a while to finish later, but then the lights began coming on and I finished with triumph.

    OTOH, it mad me miss "Tom Swifties." My fav - "I just fed the crocodile said Tom, off-handedly." Oh the humanity.

    Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords
    You have nothing to fear but fearless rebii.

    leftcoaster 2:37 PM  

    Simple theme, neat execution. Once the LESSers all popped up about half way through, it all became pretty easy.

    Liked the LOLL and the LULLS to go with those LESSes, and liked BJORK just because...well, just because she's uniquely BJORK.

    Tyler Perry as MADEA made an appearance here very recently.

    Had some fun with this one.

    rainforest 3:05 PM  

    I dunno. To me, the themers are relatively common phrases which also serve as answers to the clues based on the missing letters of the clues and do not represent examples of the themers. Did that come out right? So ODORLESS GAS doesn't imply that oxygen difluoride itself is "odorless", but "odorless gas" is the answer to the clue. And so forth.

    On that basis, this is a fine puzzle - maybe even a great one. The fill, compromised somewhat by the number of themers as it might be, is pretty darn good except maybe for OARED, which no one says. Otherwise, the fill was varied and colourful. I liked this a lot.

    Burma Shave 10:18 AM  


    DUE you have OMENs ORR signs


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