Charles of "The Great Escape" / THU 12-12-19 / Storied El Capitan climbing route / Southwest acquisition of 2011 / Animals symbolizing the universe in Chinese culture

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Constructor: Alex Eaton-Salners

Relative difficulty: Medium?

THEME: ATOMIC NUMBERS (34-Across – What this puzzle's two-letter answers correspond with, given their locations in the grid):  Two-letter entries that are the abbreviations of various elements are located at the clue number that matches their atomic numbers

Theme answers:
  • LI (3D) - Lithium is ATOMIC NUMBER 3 (pattern repeats below)
  • NE (10D) - Neon
  • CA (20A) - Calcium
  • TI (22A) - Titanium
  • SN (50A) - Tin
  • XE (54A) - Xenon
  • ND (60D) - Neodymium
  • SM (62D) - Samarium
Word of the Day: HENIE (49-Across: Sonja on the ice) —
Sonja Henie (8 April 1912 – 12 October 1969) was a Norwegian figure skater and film star. She was a three-time Olympic Champion (192819321936) in Ladies' Singles, a ten-time World Champion (1927–1936) and a six-time European Champion (1931–1936). Henie won more Olympic and World titles than any other ladies' figure skater. At the height of her acting career, she was one of the highest-paid stars in Hollywood and starred in a series of box-office hits, including Thin Ice (1937), My Lucky Star (1938), Second Fiddle (1939) and Sun Valley Serenade (1941).[1]
• • •

Dutchess, 2002-2019
HELLO, READERS AND SOLVERS IN SYNDICATION (if it's the week of Jan. 12-19, 2020, that's you!). It's January and that means it's time for my annual pitch for financial contributions to the blog, during which I ask regular readers to consider what the blog is worth to them on an annual basis and give accordingly. It's kind of a melancholy January this year, what with the world in, let's say, turmoil. Also, on a personal note, 2019 was the year I lost Dutchess, who was officially The Best Dog, and who was with me well before I was "Rex Parker." Somehow the turning of the calendar to 2020 felt like ... I was leaving her behind. It's not a rational sentiment, but love's not rational, especially pet love. Speaking of love—I try hard to bring a passion and enthusiasm to our shared pastime every time I sit down to this here keyboard. I love what I do here, but it is a lot of work, put in at terrible hours—I'm either writing late at night, or very early in the morning, so that I can have the blog up and ready to go by the time your day starts (9am at the very latest, usually much earlier). I have no major expenses, just my time. Well, I do pay Annabel and Claire, respectively, to write for me once a month, but beyond that, it's just my time. This blog is a source of joy and genuine community to me (and I hope to you) but it is also work, and this is the time of year when I acknowledge that! All I want to do is write and make that writing available to everyone, for free, no restrictions. I have heard any number of suggestions over the years about how I might "monetize" (oof, that word) the blog, but honestly, the only one I want anything to do with is the one I already use—once a year, for one week, I just ask readers to contribute directly. And then I let 51 weeks go by before I bring up the subject again. No ads, no gimmicks. It's just me creating this thing and then people who enjoy the thing supporting the work that goes into creating the thing. It's simple. I like simple. Your support means a lot to me. Knowing that I have a loyal readership really is the gas in the tank, the thing that keeps me solving and writing and never missing a day for 13+ years. I will continue to post the solved grid every day, tell you my feelings about the puzzle every day, make you laugh or wince or furrow your brow or shout at your screen every day, bring you news from the Wider World of Crosswords (beyond the NYT) every day. The Word of the Day is: Quotidian. Occurring every day. Daily. Whether you choose to contribute or not, I'm all yours. Daily.

How much should you give? Whatever you think the blog is worth to you on a yearly basis. Whatever that amount is is fantastic. Some people refuse to pay for what they can get for free. Others just don't have money to spare. All are welcome to read the blog—the site will always be open and free. But if you are able to express your appreciation monetarily, here are two options. First, a Paypal button (which you can also find in the blog sidebar):

Second, a mailing address (checks should be made out to "Rex Parker"):

Rex Parker c/o Michael Sharp
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All Paypal contributions will be gratefully acknowledged by email. All snail mail contributions will be gratefully acknowledged with hand-written postcards. I. Love. Snail Mail. I love seeing your gorgeous handwriting and then sending you my awful handwriting. It's all so wonderful. This year's cards are illustrations from the covers of classic Puffin Books—Penguin's children's book imprint.  Watership Down, Charlotte's Web, The Phantom Tollbooth, A Wrinkle in Time, How to Play Cricket ... you know, the classics. There are a hundred different covers and they are truly gorgeous. Please note: I don't keep a "mailing list" and don't share my contributor info with anyone. And if you give by snail mail and (for some reason) don't want a thank-you card, just say NO CARD.  As ever, I'm so grateful for your readership and support.

Now on to the puzzle!
• • •

Oh my god, why. Why is this a thing. I was so excited when I saw near-perfect 90º symmetry and two-letter entries because I thought it was going to be something interesting and then.... this.

(Did I sound like Rex there? This is Rachel Fabi, doing my best Rex impression because it is the only way I can channel how I feel about this puzzle).
Ok actually samarium does look kind of cool

But seriously, I just can't fathom the NYT Powers-That-Be deciding that *this* was the theme worth breaking the rules for. Neodymium and samarium? Pretty much no one knows or cares about neodymium or samarium, let alone has any use for knowing what their ATOMIC NUMBERS are. And with just a few shifts in the locations of black squares, the entire puzzle could be made again with different two-letter abbreviations from other ATNOS (the very worst crosswordese). I get that it's a nifty trick for the constructor, but for a solver? A solver who doesn't care about the abbreviations of elements and their ordering in the periodic table? Even worse is that the abbrevs are all clued in reference to the revealer; surely CA and LI and ND etc. could all have been clued in their own right (e.g. California, Jet Li or Lykke Li, North Dakota, etc), which would have made them at least a little more interesting.

The junk that was necessary to make this grid work is *painful* and the payoff is just not worth it. RLESS??? -AIRE?? ETAIL and LTE? YIPES! And even the fill that wasn't bad qua fill just felt super STALE (or past the sell-by date, say), as if the word list this was built from hadn't been updated since the early 2000s when ETAIL was cool. I have no issue with the entry SOOTY but wanted to use this place in the review to post the video for "Step in Time" as a musical interlude in this rant, so here we are:

I appreciate the long downs (RAN SMACK DAB INTO and GOING ON OUT A LIMB), but they do not make up for the absolute nothing of this theme. I also find BEGGED FOR MORE deeply off-putting, although the clue is fine.

I dunno, man. I really disliked this, which is a rare thing. I usually have to stretch to find things to critique in puzzles because I'm an occasional constructor and absolutely dread having someone say things like this about my own puzzles, but tonight I just can't muster a rosy review. So to the people who hate-read Rex, or who only come here for curmudgeonliness, you're welcome!

  • 28D: Storied El Capitan climbing route (THE NOSE) — I saw Free Solo without knowing how it ended, and I was on the edge of my seat for basically the entire movie. It was beautifully shot and an interesting reflection on documentary filmmaking ethics, but also pretty hard to watch because of the relationship parts, so YMMV. Anyways, that's why I knew this one.
  • 1D: Acis's lover in "Metamorphoses" (GALATEA) — Um, ok. I believe you.
  • 61A: Stick-up artist? (MAESTRO) — Ok I actually liked this clue a lot! It's clever, I smiled when I got it, and it made me less angry about this puzzle overall
  • 9D: Like Harvard Yard, in a Boston accent (RLESS) —But then we come back to RLESS. This should not be on anyone's word list in the year of our lord 2019!!! It's been used 12 other times in the Shortz era, and 11 of those times to refer to "when you shouldn't eat oysters," and it's just lazy fill. Delete it!
Thanks for the opportunity to rant at you all. Catch you next time Rex needs a break (or on other parts of the crossword internet, if you're into that kind of thing and/or certain other crossword publications with the words New York in their publication titles!)

Signed, Rachel Fabi, Queen-for-a-Day of Crossworld

[Follow Rachel Fabi on Twitter]

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Joaquin 12:08 AM  

When I took chemistry in high school there were only five or six elements in existence. Yes, it was a few semesters back. Despite that, the atomic numbers were not an issue. My problem was that I confidently dropped in Mel’s (drive-in) when I should have gone to SALS (pizzeria).

Historical note: If you thought Starbucks was a trend-setting, grammatical scofflaw, think again. The original (1947) drive-in was called Mels (no apostrophe); eventually, Mels sold out (in more ways than one) and morphed into Mel’s.

Jay 12:37 AM  

The Free Solo movie actually begins with how it "ends," i.e. with him climbing over the top smiling.

jae 12:46 AM  

Medium-tough (I was never required to memorize the periodic table so most of what I know comes from doing Xwords and those memories can be fleeting.)

A interesting science nerd puzzle with two lively 15s. Liked it a bunch or pretty much the opposite of Rachel’s take. I do agree that Free Solo was a riveting movie.

Karl 12:49 AM  

ETAIL is a word found only in crossword puzzles. I have never heard it used in conversation or seen it in print. It's not even a sorta cool obscure word like TOR, ARETE, or ESNE. It is just stupid.

sam 12:59 AM  

Also TAUNT and DAUNT in the same puzzle let alone so close to each other?? Why.

albatross shell 1:00 AM  

A pretty good Thursday. Nice longs.
Chemistry and atomic numbers is where you are going to make your stand that this stuff is too silly or to trivial to be worth working through to complete a puzzle? Then what the heck is stuff like 1A? Two friends on Friends with the same last name. Stuff like that in every puzzle. But the only 116 elements known in the entire universe, too unimportant, too trivial, too dull. Like I say a lot to each their own.

OK, several of the elements were not well known. But ya work with the numbers that were there. And they mostly were not helpful to the solve. But kinda cute knowing they were their Hooray for science, hooray for chemistry, hooray for facts.



PANSIES LIT (introductory class?)

puzzlehoarder 1:07 AM  

Dnfed on GALATEA. It was 50/50 wether that second vowel was an A or an E. The E just looked more "natural" to me, which obviously doesn't matter. My thinking on the A was that 20A would then stand for carbon. This should give you some idea of my lack of familiarity with the periodic table.

Just getting GELLER was a stretch. As clued it's a debut and since I'm not a fan I had to pull that one out of the ether.

The rest of the puzzle was clear as a bell. I just ignored the clues for the theme. My opinion of the theme is that it's a good example of why there otherwise aren't two letter entries in puzzles. The fill wasn't so bad.

KevCo 1:14 AM  

In the immortal words of John Stuart Mill, "what the hell was that about?"

chefwen 1:37 AM  

Solved as a themeless as I wouldn’t know an ATOMIC NUMBER if it bit me. Puzzle filled in just fine without that knowledge. After getting NE and CA I also thought we were going for states, not so. Finally uncovered ATOMIC NUMBERS and just forged ahead letting those two letter answers fill themselves.

Had YIkES at 47D so my garden was filled with beautiful kANSIES, easy fix.

I would like to BEG FOR a MORE fun Thursday puzzle next week.

Solverinserbia 3:25 AM  

Impossibly difficult because the 2 letter words are basically uncrossed since they can be almost anything. I know maybe one element's symbol plus atomic number. Plus the fill was awful in numerous places. All that said I would have finished if I hadn't misspelled GELLaR. Oops!

ZenMonkey 3:59 AM  

I thought it was a neat feat.

I agree with Karl about ETAIL. Nuke it from orbit.

Mostly I was amused that I happened to watch "Mary Poppins" just yesterday. I can see why P.L. Travers objected to the movie (except for Julie Andrews because one does not simply object to Julie Andrews), given how different her creation was. But I enjoy her books and the movie ALA my enjoyment of "The Shining" as a book and movie -- very different, equally worthy in their unique way.

(Is there much literature out there comparing those two adaptations and their sources? Maybe I should go for my Ph.D.? Dissertertation to be entitled "Heeeere's Mary!: How Disney v. Travers Antedated and Anticipated Kubrick v. King.)

Brian 4:51 AM  

It's never fun when the theme answers have to be inferred from answers to surrounding clues and that was the case for me.

As Rachel pointed out, "A solver who doesn't care about the abbreviations of elements and their ordering in the periodic table?"

... fun for the constructor and a bore for the solver.

GILL I. 5:32 AM  

So I get an ATOMIC NUMBER that blew me up. @Rachel has my back.
Why was I starting to like this.....Then you toss out a LI NE CA TI at me and my head starts itching. Why? What the hell is a LINE CATI? I'm getting OILED UP here.
Here you have some really interesting entries like OILED UP and DRUNK and ELIXERS and then you have to screw it up with something no one cares about - ever. I even liked your silly clue on the TURTLES. But then I have to ask myself why the Chinese think the universe centers around these critters. They're not even cute.
I've never thought BEGGED FOR MORE was an encore. I just thought it meant "Gee...that was damn good, can we hear some more."
I'll have a drink with Rachel...We can agree on this one over a Brandy Alexander.

Wanderlust 6:27 AM  

Great Rex impression, Rachel. Usually my reaction to a Rex rant is “Oh c’mon, lighten up!” But this Rex ... er, Rachel rant I completely agree with. I wonder what minuscule percentage of solvers actually got any of the two-letter answers without using both crosses. And like Rachel, I thought the clue for MAESTRO almost salvaged the puzzle.

Hungry Mother 7:04 AM  

Cute trick, but putting a Natick in square number 1?

DAVY 7:31 AM  


ncmathsadist 7:34 AM  

This was a miserable slog.

Petsounds 7:39 AM  

I'm with you, guys--burn ETAIL with fire! I confess that, to finish, I had to look up an atomic number to kill a Natick. At first, I thought the two-letter clues would correspond to state abbreviations, since CA was the first one I got. Then came LI and TI and I was clueless, but managing with the Downs. I liked the two long answers and found the rest of the clues pretty easy, but no Thursday head-scratching joy, for sure.

SJ Austin 7:45 AM  

Seems like a good time for my, ahem, periodic plea to be kind to yourself if you finished with an error. That's not a DNF. It's a FWE. You finished the puzzle! You just got one wrong. Good job. (Yes, I also Naticked out on GALATEA/MARIANA.)

I really like Rachel's idea of cluing the two-letter answers separately from the theme. I think I would have felt far better about this puzzle in that case. As it was, I saw the first reference to 24A, immediately dropped in "PERIODICTABLE", and then was off to the races. Until a few crosses corrected my error, and then I was off to the races. Except I wasn't, because who the crap knows all these atomic numbers? They all had to fall in from crosses. Ugh. So yeah, good idea, Rachel.

David in Brevard 7:47 AM  

Well that was fun for 25 minutes or so then the theme started to hurt. I got NE in the North East but what the heck were the TIs and XEs? Then finally ATOMICNUMBERS fell into place and I was still no wiser as I mentally dumped all that stuff 50 years ago, or so.

Fun for the constructor, awful for the puzzler.

Then I finally worked my way up to the NW where I could not start and looked up atno 20 and 3. Still no progress. Finally I alphabetized the heck out of the Natick in the corner there and finished in twice my best time but better than average.

Blargh... as Charlie Brown might have said.

From a grumpy David in Chilly Brevard

Peter P 7:58 AM  

@Karl - "E-tail" may be a bit of an ugly word, but it doesn't only appear in crosswords. I've seen it recently in a New York Times article, and I hear it reasonably often during the business segment of news broadcasts as shorthand for "online retail." I'm not a big fan of the shortened form because it is easy to simply mishear as "retail."

That said, I had to cheat several times to solve this puzzle. Square one would have been a Natick for me sans Google. I knew it was Ross and Monica that were related, but I had no idea as to their last names, not being a fan of the show. And GALATEA, forget it. Not in my wheelhouse. Chemistry is in much more in my wheelhouse, but besides 3-down and 10-down, I had no idea what the atomic numbers of any of these elements were off the top of my head. My bare X- from ELIXIRS at least made XE(non) inferable. The rest were purely completed by the answers to the orthogonal clues.

Lewis 8:02 AM  

One big ol' gauntlet to climb for me, between what I didn't know and vague cluing. It did eventually fill in, albeit in dribs, so it was for me an SSF (Square by Square but Fair). I was looking for a big payoff, something to make astonishing sense of the two-letter answers, but alas, atomic numbers are not in my bailiwick, so instead of a glorious "Oho!", all that emerged was an "Oh".

But the solve, the fight to finish this thing, that was glorious, worth every moment of the struggle, and for that, Alex, I am infernally-yet-eternally grateful.

Birchbark 8:02 AM  

A time is coming (I fear all too soon) when we will need to know our atomic numbers. In their quiet way, the editors are helping us to prepare.

Mr. Cheese 8:11 AM  

When I took chemistry I thought it was “black magic”.
I don’t know any atomic numbers and I’m still healthy.... what’s wrong with me?

three of clubs 8:15 AM  

Oh, heavens! Next thing you know the puzzle will be in German, which is a fine language in its place, and someone may have some use for it, but I didn't learn it back then and don't know why I might be expected to know it now. Can we please go back to who won the 2017 Grammy's?

Suzie Q 8:21 AM  

I will always be in favor of a puzzle that values knowledge of science over pop culture and sports.
I never knew many atomic numbers but I'm proud to know many of the elements. Pairing these elements with their numbers really is quite a feat. Thumbs up!
The only Geller I know is Uri but at least I knew Galatea. That is a rough beginning but it is Thursday, after all.
I liked the clue for maestro and until I saw that it was only 3 letters I thought Dove bar might have perch or roost.
Well done Alex.

bucktail 8:27 AM  

Loved it...clever, different. Enjoy these gems, ye naysayers!

QuasiMojo 8:28 AM  

My NYT app tells me I did this one in 9 minutes. And this is a Thursday? I have nothing to say about it. But I must admit I used to listen to Mary Poppins on LP like forever when I was a mere kidling but have no recollection of the song "Step in Time". Looking at the video Rachel provided didn't help either. Senility rushing in?

There's an opera "Acis and Galatea" so that was easy for me. I think we had it clued recently. Lovely music.
It's also a poem by John Gay. Here's a snippet:

"O ruddier than the cherry!
O sweeter than the berry!
O Nymph more bright
Than moonshine night,
Like kidlings blithe and merry!"

N. Bohr 8:32 AM  

Near perfect Rex impression...

But you gave yourself away when you wrote "I usually have to stretch to find things to critique in puzzles."

mmorgan 8:36 AM  

This puzzle has some unusual and creative clues, and I was thinking the two-letter answers were going to be geographical... but once I realized it was about atomic numbers, I lost all interest. I imagine somebody somewhere might like them, but that somebody ain’t me.

Brit Solves NYT 8:36 AM  

I liked it much more than the reviewer, thought it was an interesting theme. I like science and always find it surprising how little science makes its way in to these crosswords, so today was welcome. Admittedly some tired fill, but I liked the idea overall. Give me this over the names of baseball players etc any day.

Todd 8:45 AM  

Begged for more is "deeply off putting"? What planet do you and Rex live on? Clearly not the same on as the rest of us. Treating crosswords as some form of commentary on social justice instead of just entertainment like the rest of us. I amazes me how hard some people work to find reason to be offended. It doesn't bode well for the future.

TJS 8:46 AM  

Had MaeWest for maestro, and spent time thinking of what would "stick up" on her! Not the worst Thursday and liked the long entries. Wasn't Uri Geller the spoon-bender ? Don't care enough to look it up.

SouthsideJohnny 8:47 AM  

Yuk, similar solving experience to Rachel’s - even after I discerned the theme it was like “Who cares ?”. With no interest in trying to “solve” the two-letter answers, it turned into a brutal slog fest.

Right out of the gate we have GELLER over MARIANA crossing GALATEA; add in ENOS, the requisite foreign entry (ALA) and the two theme entries and you could not have a more useless NW corner, and it didn’t get much better from there. Lucky that Rachel was pinch-hitting today, as Rex’s rant would make hers look very downright Mary Poppins-esque.

Give the constructor a C+ for ambition, and a C- or D+ for execution.

Nancy 9:00 AM  

Well, the numbers weren't going to be the corresponding Roman numerals, so what on earth were they going to be? Time to go to where the revealer was lurking. When ATOMIC NUMBERS filled in, I thought to myself: Oh, great! Thanks a bunch!

I took a combined chemistry/physics course for non-science majors in college because my father had said: "No person can call herself educated who doesn't know any science. Bad enough Dalton didn't teach you any. And, no, you're NOT filling the science requirement by taking Geology or Astronomy!" So I took Physical Science 193 under duress, where I understood nothing in the very badly taught physics section but I aced the Final Exam essay question in Chemistry which had been very well taught. I was able to describe how atomic weights and ATOMIC NUMBERS related to each other or something of that sort. And much more.

Almost 60 years later, all I remember from the course is that there's a reason why chocolate ice cream melts faster than vanilla ice cream. though I don't remember what that reason is. It made perfect sense at the time, though.

Needless to say, I didn't/couldn't finish this puzzle. But Chemistry majors are entitled to nice mornings too. Hope you had fun, people.

Jake W 9:02 AM  

Atrocious theme and horrific clues. All around awful experience.

Newboy 9:13 AM  

Thanks Rachel for such a loving review of a puzzle that didn’t deserve your appreciation. My only takeaway from today’s experience was that I should not have avoided taking Chemistry 101 by sitting quietly among the pre-med folk in A&P for my gened requirement? ASSES they were to the encroaching English major!

ArtO 9:31 AM  

I haven't commented for many months but couldn't resist when I read "I dunno, man. I really disliked this, which is a rare thing" from Mr. Rex Parker. Is that some kind of joke? I would say at least 75% of his write-ups contain more negativity than compliments.

Took a while to get moving on this but wound up enjoying...especially the long downs.

Big House 9:41 AM  

@ArtO - not Rex today, we have a guest reviewer (Rachel). Rex would likely have burst a vein if he had to review this awful excuse for an Xword.

Jeff 10:02 AM  

So much this.

John 10:04 AM  


Jett 10:05 AM  

I agree with Todd (8:46 AM) above. If you are triggered by "BEGGED FOR MORE" I feel sorry for you. I can't imagine what it must be like going through life being so faux-woke.

Otherwise, yes, nice Rex impression, you were pitch perfect. And I do only come here occasionally to hate-read

Free Willy 10:11 AM  

Plot twist of Free Solo: the guy gets to the top, drops his water bottle, reaches for it, and falls off the side of the cliff to his death. Can't win 'em all.

Jeff 10:14 AM  

Ugh for the science hate here. Yes, it's trivial, but so are crossword puzzles, and the makeup of the universe ought to be at least as fair game as Ross and Monica's last name.

Lithium is a gimme. If you didn't know it, you didn't pay enough attention in basic chemistry. Neon too, possibly, although I'll grant you may have needed a letter to finish it. One letter should have given you calcium, titanium , and possibly even tin, as it's one of those common elements with weird Latin roots that aren't like the English version (see also, lead and copper). The bottom two are legitimately trivial,and I suppose that's a fair complaint, but the numbers forced it and the crosses weren't hard. Discarding scientific proficiency as trivial is the last thing the world needs more of right now.

An econ major who somehow retained a shred of respect for the basic sciences

Z 10:15 AM  

Got GELLER/GALATEA fairly easily. Make your own inferences.

Two letter element abbreviations are essentially random (AU and PB anyone?) so either you wasted precious neurons memorizing something that is easily looked up or this was a puzzle with 16 unchecked squares. Abbreviations generally are less than optimal fill, so no surprise that an abbreviation based theme has a hard time being entertaining. What next, postal abbreviations? Ooh, excitement. I enjoyed the challenge, but mostly I’m team Channeled Rex.

Anyone else play the pinball game XEnon? Easily the most erotic pinball game I ever played. The game constantly moaned at you if you played well. Why did the world needed a sensual pinball machine? Although, of all the machines I wasted quarters in, it’s the only one I still remember.

Gerry Kelly 10:17 AM  

when I figured out the theme I was really looking forward to Rexs tirade but Rachel did a great job! I did think it was him.

QuasiMojo 10:20 AM  

@ZenMonkey, I never read the Travers books so I can't say whether the film version altered the story or character of Mary Poppins but I did read The Shining when it came out (loved it) then saw the Kubrick version which I loathed. It just wasn't scary and felt empty and endless. Jack Nicholson was de trop, comme d'habitude. I'm sure you know this but King didn't care for it either and there's a miniseries version that I think he produced which is much closer to the book. Recommended.

@Nancy, Funny story. But 60 years ago? You look much younger.

@GILL, lol. I remember Brandy Alexanders -- so delicious but lethal. :)

Atomic? NO! 10:25 AM  

I didn't have a ton of fun on this puzzle. I don't remember chemistry, or whether I even took it in HS. I remember physics and biology, and I"m pretty sure I had to take chemistry, but I can't remember it. I haven't missed it or had one reason to use a single atomic number. I occasionally bake, so I understand functional chemistry, but at the molecular level, I doubt it's possible to care any less than I do right now.

I agree with Rachel, that cluing the two-letter boxes in and of themselves would have been better overall. As it was, knowing zero atomic numerals or numbers, and not caring about them at all, I had to get 100% of them by the crosses. I don't think that's what the constructor had in mind. I'm guessing he was thinking that we'd know a couple of them. Or care. I didn't and I don't. Which means I'm probably not in the target market for this puzzle.

Which makes me wonder why I don't see many puzzles IN my target market. We get a full on chemistry puzzle today, where is the full on Enneagram puzzle? Or a puzzle entirely dedicated to the works of György Ligeti?

I did have a near Natick at MARIANA/LI crossing. I've never heard of the Northern Mariana Islands (and of course, what LI was). Could've been MarRana, MarEana, MarTana, MarGana...really anything. Fortunately, as I was running letters in the app on the website, I happened upon the I early on. Good thing it wasn't MarZana, is what I'm saying.

Clover 10:29 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
What? 10:31 AM  

What absolute garbage. In all my years of studying chemistry and teaching it, never had I had, or required my students, to memorize the periodic table. It’s the last refuge of middle school teachers who are directed to include “science” in the curriculum to students not ready to understand atomic structure.
I don’t know what Shortz was thinking but to ok a puzzle dependent on such specific knowledge that not even chemistry majors bother with, well, it’s beyond understanding.

Jen 10:34 AM  

I found that to be an odd editorial choice. Why drain the movie of all suspense (for those who didn’t already know he succeeded)? However, it appears that some people didn’t realize what they were watching - my sister also found the movie incredibly suspenseful.

Hartley70 10:40 AM  

I’ve never felt any desire or need to memorize atomic numbers so this may have been a wee bit more challenging for me than the average solver, but who cares? It was still on the easy side, especially since I remember old Sonja, who, bless her heart, couldn’t hold a candle to today’s skaters. I liked the colloquial long downs. They give a puzzle that cozy feeling on a frigid morning.

PhiskPhan 10:41 AM  

I don't understand the answer to "Dove bar." I understand that a dove ooos, but don't get the "bar" part.

Crimson Devil 10:46 AM  

Excellent cluing for MAESTRO. Enjoyed longs; NW not so much.

pmdm 10:46 AM  

Suzie Q hit the nail on the head.

Seems that atomic numbers irritate people the same way PPP entires that people don't know irritate people. I had to look up some of the numbers but like the puzzle anyway.

Clover 10:51 AM  

Wasn't going to take @Todd's bait but @Jett's response convinced me. Let me ask you two... where did the reviewer say she was triggered or offended? All she said was that she found a phrase off-putting. That's it. Not sure how you got to "offended social justice warrior" from there.

It looks to me like there are exactly two triggered people here this morning, and Rachel isn't one of them.

Nancy 10:59 AM  

Love you, @Quasi!!!

P.S. Are you EVER coming to NYC?

NY Composer 11:04 AM  

Despite some junky fill, totally disagree with Rachel. When you see 2 letter answers you know there is a catch. This one is clever, unique, slightly educational, and justifies the exception. You’re not supposed to know these - that’s what crosses are for. In any case, “ran smack dab into” and “going out on a limb” were more than worth the price of admission. Kudos to Alex Eaton-Salners,

toddh 11:06 AM  

I have a Bachelor in Sciences in Chemistry. That said this kind of thing turns people away from science and it’s so so so frustrating. Chemistry is using logic to solve problems, not memorization of the periodic table. This kind of trivia is completely worthless. I did not like the theme at all. A real slog.

Tone Deaf 11:08 AM  

@PhiskPhan, the connection may be musical. I believe a “bar” is used to separate small portions of a larger piece when composing. If there are any musicians lurking around today, maybe they can chime in as well.

JC66 11:17 AM  


If you check out the synonyms for off-putting you'll see that, in fact, @Rachel was offended.

Canook 11:19 AM  

Nearly topped my best Thursday time on this one for some reason, despite stumbling in several spots. The only wince-inducing moment was HENIE/AIRTRAN, where I just kept throwing in consonants until I got the victory music. I don't know skating or American airlines. Technically a DNF.

I don't personally understand the kvetching on the opening clue, but I guess we all enjoy raging at pop culture outside of our wheelhouse. Having grown up in the late 90s /early 00s without a television I still managed GELLER, because seriously. That made GALATEA a gimme, due to a hiking trail close to where I grew up, and then I was off to the races. That said, the experience overall felt a bit flat and lacking in sparkle. I disagree with Rachel that it was due to the fill itself, since personally I enjoy old-timey crud, so long as it's clued well, cf. her glee at MAESTRO, which is a crossword mainstay. Favourite part of the puzz: HIED. Reminded me of that line from Joyce "a gentle dame, whose time hied fast."

Anonymous 11:22 AM  

who to blame??? never figured out ATOMICNUMBERS, and the back-arrow should mean that the clue/answer refers to previous clue/answer???? at least, in my deadtrees version, it's a back-arrow. the odd double consonants might have led my to elements (being a long ago chem student) without the revealer, but that damn back-arrow kept me trying to figure out the back reference. such a cheat.

will photo go through? 11:27 AM  



Tom R 11:27 AM  

I saw 34A early on and popped in periodictable and felt so proud of myself. Didn't work, of course, and atomic numbers is basically the same concept, but I couldn't really less about obscure elements like sumarian. What am I, a chemist?

Sir Hillary 11:30 AM  

No interest in ATOMICNUMBERS or element abbreviations, so no interest in this theme. My knowledge runs out after H/1 and He/2.

The longest entries are fun, and the MAESTRO clue made me smile, but to this native Californian ARCO will always be a former oil company, and RLESS is peeRLESSly awful. No "personal Naticks" for me today, but I can see how people would be annoyed by the 1A/1D cross.

For me, this was a big disappointment on what is often my favorite puzzle day of the week.

Ethan Taliesin 11:33 AM  

Apparently, I can't spell ELIXIR properly. I spelled it with an e at the penultimate. Maybe because I was typing down.

Speaking of elixirs, I recently saw a provocative and entertaining movie called "The Love Witch." Enjoyed it.

PhilM 11:36 AM  

Chemistry PhD here, so feel free to have a go, but I was very impressed with the construction matching the Atomic Numbers with their corresponding Atomic Symbols. Note - not abbreviations: as others have pointed out, there are several atomic symbols (e.g. Au, Au, Pb, Sn) that are nothing like the element name, and aren't abbreviations.

And another thing! 2019 is the 150th anniversary of the discovery of the periodic system and the creation of the Periodic Table, and has been proclaimed the International Year of the Periodic Table (see 2019 is almost over, so how about some chemistry love??!

jberg 11:36 AM  

I love science, and I love the CONCEPT of the periodic table, filling up the electron shells one electron at a time, working your way out except for the transition elements, which are even more cool! But do I know the atomic numbers? Well, I knew LIthium, and I figured out SN without knowing the exact number. But the rest? I knew XEnon and NeoDynium were elements, but not what their numbers were, and I'd forgotten completely about SaMarium! So I had to do the best I could, commit myself to a solution, and come here to see if I had it right. Phew! I made it!

BEGGED FOR MORE does have a little air of masochism about it (nothing to do with social justice, though, as far as I can see). I had yEllED for more, which is more what an audience actually does. Somehow the chemical-element thing made be thing a name starting with yR might be legit.

It was really the grid-spanners that saved me on this one.

I'm not up on my Ovid -- never read him, even in translation -- but I did see the Handel opera, so GALATEA was a gimme. Wheelhouses, you know. I don't know the birthstones, though, so GARNET needed a lot of crosses.

@Sam, I considered the DAUNT/TAUNT thing to be a feature, not a bug. I do love the word DAUNT, as well as the nearby FURLS, so that was another plus.

@Nancy, with your chocolate ice cream example you have so aptly summed up how one remembers one's education decades after the fact.

So the puzzle was definitely annoying, but it did have a few virtues.

RooMonster 11:43 AM  

Hey All !
i thought the concept of the theme was pretty neat. Putting the elements in their corresponding NUMBERs in the two-letter spots. And designing a tres funky grid, with rotational symmetry. Wondering how many itineraries this grid went through. You had to start the construction with putting the Elements in their appropriate numbered spaces, and black square it from there. I'm sure Alex had multiple tries before hitting on this, so from the construction viewpoint, it's quite awesome.

Not terrible from a solving viewpoint, either, IMHO. Maybe that NW corner was PPP-laden. LI being the third Element seemed kind of weird to me. LITHIUM? The Big Three to me are Hydrogen, Oxygen, Carbon. Shows you how little I know of the Periodic Table.

Had my DNF today, with Co for CA and THE NOva for THE NOSE, which got me vALS for the Pizzeria (plausible), and jaNIE/jOSEA for the other spot (also plausible!) Had a bit of a struggle with this, making it Thursday appropriate in my mind.

Liked the 15 Downs, crossing the 13 Revealer and the symmetric 13, forgive the iffy fill with those constraints on puz. You've heard me say it before, every puz has dreck...

Overall a nice ThursPuz. Different. I looked up the Periodic Table after completing puz, and realize I don't know about 85% of it. Har.


pabloinnh 11:50 AM  

Well now I was thinking OFL (Rachel, today ) will just love this because it's new! Frsh! Never seen before! Maybe novelty has less value than I thought.

Looks like no one knows the atomic numbers by heart, and neither do I, and so what? The crosses were interesting enough for me, even if I always spell HENIE wrong.

Saw "Free Solo"a month or so before it came out at the Telluride Film Festival at the college down the road. I was pretty sure they wouldn't show a man falling to his death but there were certainly scenes that had me watching through my fingers. YIPES indeed.

MARIANA seemed like a word because of the Mariana Trench, and GALATEA I know as the inspiration for Pygmaleon and thence My Fair Lady, but that's probably not everyone's cup of trivia. GELLER is not mine.

Overall a good fair fight, which is what Thursday should be, so thanks AE-S.

VictorS 11:55 AM  

I’m guessing everyone encounters neodymium on a daily basis. It’s used in neodymium magnets which are found in microphones computer hard drives and on a larger scale in electric vehicles. And for those old enough to remember Tom Lehrer and the elements song -look for it on you tube

just a scientist :( 11:59 AM  

y'all - they are rare earth elements. there's nothing trivial about them. maybe you read the news? have interest in how things work? you know, trivial little activities like that.

yes, we enjoy crosswords because we like wordplay - but that doesn't mean that we have to exclude anything else of interest.

so. much. hate. very. lame.

Masked and Anonymous 12:02 PM  

Wow! Great theme ... for a runtpuz.

I don't know my atomic numbers very well, so the two-letter words were kinda tough sleddin. OTOH, I did get the revealer as my first answer in the puz [after cross-verifyin, thanx to the MUG and BUM weejects (lil darlins)]. Atomic number --> Atomic symbol is pretty dry ThursPuz theme material. OTOH, it's really different, and M&A luvs different. Sooo … kinda on the fence, overall, about this theme mcguffin.

What put it over the top fun for m&e was some of the marvelous longer fillins: RANSMACKDABINTO. GOINGOUTONALIMB. TURTLES (M&A's fave pet genre). IFORGOT. BONFIRE. They earn the puz a "pass" in my booklet. [BEGGEDFORMORE is good too, but gets canceled out by THENOSE.]

Dayum, that there NW corner area was harder than snot, at our house. Atomic scoreboard numbers + GELLER + ENOS + MARIANA + GALATEA + ESSENES + ALA with a French-fried-splatz-in-the blank. Not at all in M&A's comfort zone. Got em eventually, but lost many precious nanoseconds.

staff weeject picks: Gotta go with two of the superweejects today … ND & SM. Let's hear it for Noheardahim and Saywhatium. [Well, actually Neodymium and Samarium.]

Thanx, Mr. E-S. [Einsteinium] [99]

Masked & Anonymo6Us

illustrated runtpuz:

Generic Solver 12:03 PM  

Neodymium is not all that obscure. Many modern guitar and bass speaker cabinets use neodymium magnets in their speakers to significantly reduce the weight of the cabinet. As one web site said "pound for pound, this element produces the most powerful magnets on the planet", so they can be much smaller.

Joe Dipinto 12:11 PM  

Without realizing it, I completely ignored the two-letter answers while I was solving, since all the crosses filled them in for me. So the "revealer" didn't serve any purpose at all. But the whole idea seems misconceived without the actual names of the elements, particularly the more obscure Neodymium and Samarium – how is it interesting that atomic number 60 corresponds to atomic symbol ND if you don't know what the element is?

Anyway, I didn't mind the rest of it so much. MARIANA should have been a gimme, it seems to me, I'm surprised it gave people trouble. I've only heard "ran smack into" without the "dab", which goes smack in the middle normally.

I really wanted to play the Turtles singing "She'd Rather Be With Mendelevium", but the atomic symbol is wrong. There's an Asian restaurant in Fort Lauderdale, Flerovium, called "Beg For More". The menu doesn't look too off-putting.

JC66 12:15 PM  


Just saw this earlier today. Scroll all the way down (less than 5 minutes), it's well worth the time.

Malsdemare 12:31 PM  

I missed the part where the elements corresponded with the ATOMIC NUMBER so part of the trick was lost on me. I did finish, nod approvingly, and then looked around for some overarching point. Lordy, can I be dense at times. I didn't know MARIANA, SALS, GALATEA, LAGOS, ESSENES, until suddenly I did. I had to ask Mr. Google for GELLER even though I had an adorable malamute puppy who was part of the Friends litter; he was Chandler, before he was Gabriel.

@anonymous 11:22. That back arrow points to the clue number.

@clover, I agree with you, offputting is about as mild a descriptor as you can get. I would imagine most people have terms, phrases, etc., that produce a visceral — thus involuntary — reaction. While I imagine many see BEGGING FOR MORE in the entertainment context, there's another sort of frat boy usage that some women may wince at. I sure did. I'm not going to march, shout, or otherwise parade my mild response, but I don't see why Rachel or Rex or anyone shouldn't mention it.

Loved your story, @Nancy. My chemistry takeaway (or is it physics?) is the explanation of why water boils faster with a lid on. Yeah, probably physics, which I loved. The principle of the lever is my favorite.

Sick puppy is much better. We'll celebrate with a hike.

old timer 12:38 PM  

To quote the end of "The Elements" by the great Tom Lehrer, "These are the only ones of which the news has come to Ha'va'd. There may be many others but they haven't been disca'va'd." He did a fine job of mocking the RLESS New England accent there. Surprised no one before me was moved to cite the Master in this context.

I unfortunately wrote in "arabICNUMBERS" before ATOMIC. When I got the revealer right, it was easy to understand the two-letter answers. Left srrows have sometimes been used to refer to the clue number, not the previous clue, so that choice was perfectly fine.

Not that I knew any of the atomic numbers. To fulfill my high school science requirement, I took Physics, not the two-year Physics/Chemistry course most of my classmates did. Physics was fun! And to fulfill my Science requirement in college, all freshmen had a year of Biology, and then I took a summer course at UCLA in Astronomy. I also took intensive French with a language lab. The French I have benefited from all my life. The Astronomy, not so much.

In high school, one of my daughters took AP Calculus, and another AP Statistics. Statistics is something every student should take, even in non-AP form, simply to be an educated member of society.

Anonymous 12:39 PM  

Feels like this puzzle was more for the constructor than the solver. I mean, it's aesthetically neat I guess, but I dislike how the whole theme is blatantly useless to a vast majority of solvers. If no one's going to use the theme, then who was it for? I don't do crosswords to marvel at stuff like this.

Birchbark 12:41 PM  

@Z (10:15) -- I'm sure we played the same XEnon machine, basement-of-Hicks-Center-wise. What a great waste of time. I'd forgotten it until you brought it up -- spent way more time on its next-door neighbor, "Joust", where the knights battle each other on flying ostriches. If only nations could solve their problems in a similar way.

mathgent 12:53 PM  

Please explain "Dove bar?" for COO.

I liked it. Not that I know much chemistry, although I got a good grade in high school. Math majors took physics but not chemistry in college. I had to remind myself that the atomic number of an element is the number of protons in its nucleus. Hydrogen has just one. Tin has fifty?

Can anyone recommend a general chemistry book for a layman? I'm like @Joaquin (12:08).

My wife remembered that Ross's last name was GELLER. We had forgotten that Monica was his sister.

I Googled "Why does chocolate ice cream melt faster than vanilla" but I couldn't understand the answer.

I liked RLESS.

THENOSE may be "storied" but this lifetime Californian hadn't heard if it. I don't hike.

Anonymous 12:53 PM  

that back-arrow doesn't point at the clue number, which is in the top right-hand corner. a diagonal arrow points there, not a back-arrow. a back-arrow points back, natch. as to all being rare earths, only neodymium and samarium are in the list: neodymium is all that rare, and as others have said, widely used. so is samarium: also used in magnets.

the classification 'rare earth' is antiquated, and some have been found in quantity.
"Despite their name, rare-earth elements are – with the exception of the radioactive promethium – relatively plentiful in Earth's crust, with cerium being the 25th most abundant element at 68 parts per million, more abundant than copper."

Z 1:02 PM  

@What?, @toddh, @jberg - Yep.

@JC66 - I think you left a misimpression on how synonymity works. A synonym is "one of two or more words or expressions of the same language that have the same or nearly the same meaning in some or all senses" (Merriam-Webster - emphasis added). "Offensive" and "distasteful" may be synonyms but have very different connotations. I would never use "off-putting" when I met "offensive" but I might look up synonyms for "offensive" when "offensive" was too strong of a word for what I was trying to convey.

Banya 1:12 PM  

This was awful. It sent me back to a time when I first started doing NYT crosswords and had to give up half-way through on the tougher puzzles. And then reading the write-ups to see what it actually was? I'm glad I gave up.

Unknown 1:20 PM  

It's really tiring to see complaints about things you don't know or aren't familiar with -- do you want these puzzles to be a child's game? Everyone should have some familiarity with what the Periodic Table is, even if you don't know the abbreviations. At least that's the world I grew up in, but apparently some of the current younger generation get really pissed on being brought up short on their ignorance -- you've been miseducated because of political correctness and the fear of teachers to discombobulate you. Part of the fun of crosswords is being educated by them. For the record, I think Rex Parker is a peevish churl.

Teedmn 1:31 PM  

Triple DNF for me today because I'm so out of touch, PPP-wise. I managed to navigate the Natick-y spot at 1A-1D because GALATEA was familiar, though not as clued. But like @joaquin, I threw in meL'S at 44A. This led me to think the El Capitan route was THE dOmE. Try as I might, I could think of no "dig" that was TAUd_, crossing an unknown airline, AIR_ReN. AIR wReN? Dig, as in "like?" Dig as in archeology? Sigh.

I have to admit, I agree with Rachel's write-up regarding the theme today. What came to mind for me was the Flight of the Conchords' song, Business Time with the lyrics:

You turn to me and say something sexy like, "Is that it?"
I know what you're trying to say, girl
You're trying to say, "Aww yeah, that's it"

I did like the 37A "Under the table" clue for DRUNK, the 61A clue for MAESTRO and thinking "It's TURTLES all the way down" at 12D.

Thanks, AES, nice job.

And @M&A, thanks for all of the AtNo practice with Runts and your weeject remark, which elicited an out-loud laugh from me and my co-worker.

albatross shell 2:00 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
pabloinnh 2:54 PM  

@JC66-Wow. Not sure how you ran into this, but, wow.


Mark N 3:43 PM  

After many near misses, finally DNF at AIRTRAm/HEmIE. Interesting grid and idea, and some good cluing to be found, but oof at some of these crosses.

QuasiMojo 3:59 PM  

@Nancy, not for a while. Alas. Hopefully spring!

My guess is that "Dove bar" is referring to a bit of music as in a song? Hence "coo" being a Dove's song?

JC66 4:25 PM  


The story was part of today's NY Times Morning Briefing. 4:27 PM  

Similar to a few posters who took chemistry when dinosaurs roamed the earth, I was surprised to see "Atomic Symbol" masquerading as "Atomic Number". Alas! Also, Neodymium and Samarium are critical to many of us in everyday applications. There is controversy in their mining practices, production, and geo-politics. To that end, Samarium had a starring role in a recent Jack Ryan Amazon movie.

Kathy 4:44 PM  

Was tooling right along, more quickly than I expected for a Thursday, then was Naticked at MACES, GALATEA, GELLER, getting no help from a two letter chemical element cross. I didn’t know most of the other elements either, but they managed to get filled in by the crosses.

When I turned to the blog (a great read, I must say) I found myself wholeheartedly agreeing with the largely negative comments—that is, until I was brought up short by a minority who cogently argued on the relative triviality of the natural universe and the Geller characters. Point well taken! It’s a puzzle. You have convinced me. Lesser known chemical elements are fair game every once in a while.

@JC66. Blown away by the deep sea article! Thanks!

GILL I. 5:00 PM  

@Quasi...No one will give a rats arse because everyone is bemoaning the dastard ATOMIC NUMBER. But just in case....There are several of us (cough, cough) older sapiens that gather just about every night for cocktails before we shuffle off to prepare - or eat - dinner. We've decided that oldy moldy, long forgotten cocktails, are the way to go. Last night I whipped up a batch of Manhattan's....Luxardo maraschinos and all. Tonight we're doing (my very first adult cocktail), the Brandy Alexander. I made them last week just to see if they tasted as delicious as I remembered when my step-mom introduced them to me in a swank bar in Buenos Aires. They did. Maybe @Rex got me thinking of these tried but true cocktails of our parents generation.... Some things NEVER get old. Except ATOMIC NUMBERS.

Malsdemare 5:01 PM  

@JC66. Wow! Just Wow on the deep sea piece. An amazing piece f work.

Nancy 5:21 PM  

I didn't understand the online chocolate/vanilla melting explanation either, @mathgent (12:53 p.m.), but one thing I'm sure of: their explanation was not my Chemistry prof's explanation. Thinking back on it, I sort of remember the term "specific heat". Which may have had something to do with atomic weights or ATOMIC NUMBERS or both.

How I wish I had my Final Exam blue book from all those years ago! The essay question -- the best-conceived exam that I have ever taken in any subject, btw -- demanded that many disparate things be pulled together as our prof had done throughout the course. Sort of like a fine Swiss watch. Amazingly, I found myself able to do that in an essay that boiled down the essence of the course into maybe 8-10 pages, and if I had that essay in front of me now, I absolutely know that much of the subject would come back to me. But, alas, I don't, and nothing in that course is coming back to me.

Where is George Barany now that I need him?

sanfranman59 5:33 PM  

@JC66 ... Thank you so much for sharing that link. Amazing stuff.

QuasiMojo 5:45 PM  

@Gill, your comment about your stepmom in Buenos Aires Made me think of a wonderful dinner I had there once with a friend at the Palacio Espagnol, I think it was called. Sort of a clubhouse with a musty decor but first rate dishes.

BarbieBarbie 6:12 PM  

Hard to believe I the only one with this complaint, so maybe I missed it while reading through the comments? Anyway: the atomic number is definitely a location in the standard periodic table, but a clue number is only a general up-down location and, except for the very low numbers like 1, not left-right. So the “location” in the puzzle means exactly nothing to the answer. It’s the clue number that’s relevant. Total edit Fail.

As to the puzzle: i liked it and got the symbols either right away or from their first letter, after crosses. For anybody who doesn’t know a lot of the PT, and why should most people, Google should be fair once you figure out the theme. Despite that revealer. So, thanks for this one!

jae 6:13 PM  

@Connorsfinearts - Thanks for the Jack Ryan series info. I remember thinking when Samarium mining became the McGuffin plot point that it was a made up resource like unobtainium in Avatar, it’s nice to know it’s real. I clearly didn’t remember the name well enough to connect it to this puzzle.

@JC66 - Great link!

Wick 6:48 PM  

Overall frustrating. DNF cuz extraI DNC (did not care). Answers (RLESS) clued that have an actual term as something else are insulting.

Unknown 6:57 PM  

Totally agree, Rachel. You make a fine curmudgeon.

Anoa Bob 7:09 PM  

I'll toss in my take on why chocolate ice cream melts faster than vanilla ice cream. I think it's because dark colors absorb more radiant heat energy from surrounding light sources than do light colors. At the ends of that scale, Black would absorb the most heat and white the least heat, and the effect would be most pronounce in direst sunlight. Or, back to ice cream, the difference between the melting rate of chocolate vs vanilla would be greatest in direct sunlight and practically nonexistent in total darkness.

Maybe testing this "dark colors absorb more radiant heat energy than light colors" hypothesis would make a nice science class project.

When I read the "given their locations in the grid" part of the revealer, I thought it would be some kind of spatial connection, maybe like state abbreviations in geographically correct locations. Nope. It's "given their clue numbers". But that would duplicate the NUMBERS in the revealer. A bit awkward I'm thinking.

As has been pointed out, there are only a handful out of the 118 elements in the periodic that have one-letter abbreviations---what, 9 or 10?---and all the rest have two-letter abbreviations, so choosing which ones appear in the grid seems to be arbitrary other than for their grid-filling convenience.

RooMonster 7:54 PM  

If that wasn't your best write up of the year, I'm hard pressed to think of another one. "French-fried-splatz-in-the-blank" is the Greatest line ever uttered here!
Noheardahim and Saywhatium! ROFL!!

@Teedmn 1:31
"Dig" is one of those words that can be it's own opposite. Dig, like something. Dig, an insult. Where's @LMS when we need her?

RooMonster Periodic Schmeriodic Guy

Unknown 9:11 PM  

I can't believe all the science haters out there. This was about as cool a puzzle as I have ever solved; and I do 4 puzzles every morning before leaving the house. I had Inorganic chemistry 57 years ago and Organic 56 years ago.
I got every one of these right. Yes I do mentally update the periodic table about every 2 years or so because the science world around YOU is changing
all the time. I am sure y'all had plenty of opportunity to take more science classes, but you just didn't do it. Too bad, so sad, your dad.

Joe Dipinto 10:26 PM  

@Unknown 9:11 – Well, I do 4 push-ups every morning before going back to bed.

MattO 10:46 PM  

Wonderful puzzle. It had everything you should want - a creative theme, challenging fill (who knows atomic numbers?), terrific long entries, a DRUNKen TAUNT in the center, and the word "sooty" with a spot-on clue. Unlike Rachel, I get the "why" of the puzzle. Because the constructor had an awesome idea to match atomic numbers with a grid design, a worthy feat in my book. Sure, some real clues for the two-letter answers would have made it easier, but it seemed a proper Thursday to me. I have no shame in looking up atomic numbers to confirm my fill. Xenon! Kudos to you, Alex Eaton-Salners.

Anonymous 11:32 PM  


well.... the last natural element was discovered in either 1939 or 1940, depending on how you count.

and depending on how you count, the revealer is either right or wrong:
- the reveal is the column/atomic number, so correct
- the answer is the symbol, so incorrect


Burma Shave 10:23 AM  


IWILLSO admit, IFORGOT what for:


rondo 11:50 AM  

Anybody wincing at BEGGEDFORMORE really ought to seek therapy. Context folks. Context. Where did y’all go and why? How do you feel about that?

@D,LIW told us to memorize the periodic table. BLAME’S on you if you didn’t.

I guess the NOD’STO Sonja HENIE.

DAUNTing construction, but trending towards STALE.

Anonymous 12:27 PM  

Uri Geller was on tv bending a key with his thoughts. Had the home audience try it along with him - I did, and to my everlasting astonishment the key bent. True story.

Diana, LIW 12:52 PM  

Ha! I got "ATOMICNUMBERS" Ha! (Thanks for noticing, @Rondo.)

But then...

Mr. W and I went on one of those Hollywood tours a few yeas ago. We were seated in a filming studio and the guide came out on the stage and asked if everyone recognized the stage set. "The Friends' Coffee House" everyone shouted. Everyone but us. Neither of us has ever seen Friends. Not one episode. Maybe bits while channel surfing - that's all. We may be the only two people who have sat in the recording studio, looking at the stage set, and yet never saw the show. Oh the irony. And, of course, I'm a Friend, too.

Thus, my Natick at 1A, 13A (the commonwealth) and 1D (Acis who?). Must. Learn. Greek. Myths.

And...I did get yesterday's puzzle. But what a day. Mr. W's birthday. Spent most of the day waiting for a delivery that showed up 2 hours after the delivery time window. hour before dinner reservations, two bathrooms decided to throw up all the contents they had been storing underground for a couple of months. Two inches of brownish water in the bathtub. Use your creative imaginations. Needless to say, I didn't get to the computer.

Anyhoo - I'm calling my 95% correct as a wild Thursday success!!!

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords, must go clean tub

Bookish 12:52 PM  

I loved this puzzle! Had no problem with MARIANA or GALATEA or GELLER. I'm a novice constructor and feel this was a challenging puzzle to create.

leftcoaster 4:09 PM  

First thought was musical scale do, re, mi, fa, etc., but sol didn't fit. Symbols of ATNO.s ?? YIPES!

Framing this cruelty were GALATEA/GELLER in the NW corner and LET/LTE in the SE corner.

Waxy in Montreal 5:30 PM  

No arrows at all in my syndi-clues but readily inferable once 34A was revealed. Too many years since Chemistry so the elements were at best a guess leading to GALETEA and a DNF at 54A compounded by thinking Sonja spelled her surname as HENJE. Also had to google GARNET to get traction in the NE.

Contrary to many, thought it overall WAST an XE/LI/ND challenge.

spacecraft 6:50 PM  

Another mind-boggling theme pulled off with almost no detritus. Full marks on this one, tough enough to be Thursday-challenging. Sonja: you're DOD. Eagle.

fritz 4:00 PM  

I never watched Friends. It's like they said,"Let's make a Seinfeld Clone with pretty,pretty kids and not funny".I call Natick on 1 down and 1 across. Otherwise I though it was OK.

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