Bishop's gathering / FRI 12-6-19 / Power cord? / Low-carb sandwich / Regular at a fitness center

Friday, December 6, 2019

Constructor: Andrew J. Ries

Relative difficulty: Easy-to-Medium

THEME: Themeless

Word of the Day: SYNOD (24D: Bishop's gathering) —
An assembly of the clergy and sometimes also the laity in a diocese or other of a particular Church. Secondarily, a Presbyterian ecclesiastical court above the presbyteries and subject to the General Assembly

• • •
Hello, Crossworld - I am Whit, stepping in to blog for Rex because he's got the Andrew Wyeth blues. I'm a long-time reader of the blog and I started regularly doing the NYT crossword when I stole my wife's log-in information eight years ago. Now we do it together - by which I mean that whichever one of us gets to it first gets to do it. 10 PM Eastern is a battleground in our home, but I won out for Friday. Let's see what Shortz & Co. got up to today.

This is my dog. She's a mutt, and thus, she might very well have some 56A (clue) in her. She definitely has needed 56A (answer) before.
I think this is a welterweight crossword, difficulty-wise. It took me almost twice as long as my best time for Fridays, but far below the overall average. (I always solve on the mobile app.) I blasted through the SE and SW corners before I found myself briefly pickled in the NE. That cost me a lot of time, though I wasn't playing for speed today. (I was playing for you, reader. I put your erudition over my stats. I'm selfless.) I found pockets of cleverness around the grid, and what I found, I liked.

The puzzle is pleasantly light on classic crossword crutches. There's an OVA and an RDA and an ITA, of course, but for small fill, I liked the clues for NUN (31A: One with a habit), SPY (25D: One who bugs another person?), and LOT (19A: Something cast in cleromancy.) I'm not a cleromancer, but this is a far better choice than just rolling the dice on something standard like "Property Unit" or "Crying of ____ 49."

The grid opens up across the middle for some good longer answers. The cluing is very ho-hum, but the grid placement is fun. I'm not a crossword constructor, so I don't know how much this factors into creating a puzzle, but I enjoy patterns and pairings within the grid. I think that's a sign that the constructor, for all their necessary focus on words and letters and word-letter intersections, is attuned to the beauty of letters as objects. I thought the dietary duo of PAREVE and LESSSALT were happy neighbors, plus, look at that pile of Ss. So much fun to see. The answer looks like it's ready to wriggle off the screen. LETTUCEWRAP and LECTURE TOUR have good visual symmetry next to each other - a waterfall of L/E/T/U cascading over crosses like SPORTUTILITYTUCKS and SINEW. When the grid is full, you get a flush of typographical harmony. The same thing happens with SWIMUPSTREAM and MAKEUPARTIST. The clue for the latter, by the way, was charming: (46A: Dressing room attendant.) It could go a number of directions, but it lands right where it wants to be. I also enjoyed PROFIT and LIE IDLE as capitalist contrasts on the same line. It's said you can't have one while doing the other, but I bet whoever said that was in management.

As I said, none of the clues make me swoon, but I also didn't find myself grinding my teeth. Out of the gate, I thought ADWARS (1A: Samsung-versus-Apple and others) was clunky, but I just excused myself from the NW corner and played with the cool clues for answers like HIPPO and MINER. Way more fun to be had there. Who cares about Samsung and Apple's battle for phone supremacy when you can learn about new, exciting avenues for illegal ivory dealing. I didn't know you could get ivory from a hippo! (Don't deal in legal or illegal ivory. It's cruel to animals and you could never grow the kind of mustache necessary to pull it off in style.)

So, yeah: a pleasant little Friday jaunt. When it worked, it really worked, and when it didn't, it passed from my memory without a blip. Thanks to Rex for letting me pitch-in. I love this blog.

Four Things
  • 36A: Power cord? (SINEW) — This was a good clue. I had a few of the downs already so it was obvious when I came to answer it, but I still like it.
  • 15A: Containing neither meat nor dairy (PAREVE) This wasn't a word I knew, but it was a word that I immediately recognized as one I'd forgotten. It would have been my word of the day, but it was the word of the day nearly 10 years ago and I didn't want a repeat. PAREVE had its time in the sun.
  • 7A: Regular at a fitness center (GYMRAT) — This is a curiously pejorative answer for an anodyne clue, but I like it because I think more things should have the -rat appendage. Do you make your living working in technology? You're a KeyboardRat. Do you like to spend Saturday morning buying produce at the farmer's market? You're a TotebagRat. Do you like to do the crossword each day? You're a kinder, smarter, more attractive person with better posture than your slouching and deviant friends, who are all SudokuRats.
  • 56A: Clean, as a lab coat? (DEFLEA) — God-level clue to round out the puzzle. Who cares that it's not a word that anyone ever says. It's a dog thing and I really liked it!
Signed, Whit Vann, Pretender to the Baronage of the Southwest Corner of Crossworld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]

[Do what no one else does and follow Whit Vann on Twitter.]


Solverinserbia 2:59 AM  

NW killed me. DNF.

Pareve? The obscure references to Jewish law and calendar in crosswords goes well beyond the obscure references to most subjects.

hjd73 4:03 AM  

Worst for Drub. This seems to me to be a flagrant breach of tense. “Do your worst” works but not “worst”. Any thoughts?

jae 4:03 AM  

Easy- medium except for @Solverinserbia PAREVE. I finally figured out that 5d started with RIVER but it took a while. I liked the long downs in the middle, but this one was more irritating than fun.

kenji 5:41 AM  

TIL that worst as a verb (present tense) means to defeat.

kenji 5:44 AM  
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Klazzic 6:02 AM  
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Klazzic 6:04 AM  

Nice review, A delightful read with a sprinkle of whit and charm.

JJ 6:23 AM  

“Clean, as a lab coat” may be my favorite clue all year. I’m also reminded of the “Honeymoon sandwich”—Lettuce alone. Great way to start a Friday.

hz 6:26 AM  

Though rarely used in contemporary speech, “worst” is also a verb, a synonym for defeat or “drub”: “He worsted his enemy in a lengthy battle.”

Hungry Mother 6:31 AM  

A bit of a slog with some easier spots. Very nice challenge.

Adam 6:51 AM  

Welcome, Whit. Enjoyed your breezy write-up much more than the puzzle!

albatross shell 6:52 AM  

NW extra tough. Very good fill. I enjoyed the mis-direction clues so much, I was surprised how few of them there were.

"WORST" as a verb means defeat. Often used by headline writers on sports pages. It also makes worst and best synonyms.

webwinger 6:58 AM  

I found this solidly medium in difficulty, almost exactly at my average Friday time and about twice my best. Overall very enjoyable. For a mostly non-observant Jew, PAREVE was a gimme. It's found on many food packages, so I wouldn't consider it totally obscure for the goyishe population. Took me a while after getting the answers to grok the clues for 22D and 56A, but eventually both provided satisfying "aha!" moments. Overall quite agree with our guest host's assessment, and enjoyed their review. Thank you, Andrew Ries and Whit Vann!

smalltowndoc 6:59 AM  

I’m never too old to learn new words. I never heard of the verb form of WORST. Does that mean that "worst" is synonymous with "best"?

One often sees the word PAREVE in tiny print near the list of ingredients. I always thought it was more or less synonymous with "kosher". Look for it the next time you buy a box of Matzoh.

Dawn Urban 7:06 AM  

Worked the puzzle with "spine" instead of SINEW, for Power cord? Big mistake.

Merry Friday!

Lewis 7:09 AM  

Fun, Whit-filled review -- thank you, Mr. Vann.

This puzzle is the work of a talented constructor, what with five interesting NYT debut answers (ANSWER ME THIS, LECTURE TOUR, LETTUCE WRAP, SPORT UTILITY, SWIM UPSTREAM), three of these long answers crossing that vertical stack of 11's in the middle, not to mention some crackling cluing (DRANO, MINER, SINEW, DEFLEA). But the bottom line is the experience of the solve, and for me, it was Friday Divine, where I have to elicit stragglers in the recesses of my MEMORY, work to determine alternatives to the obvious, risk guesses that have a vague shot at being right, leave and return to opaque areas, all the while experiencing sparks of satisfaction that build like bread rising in the oven, with its glorious aroma, to the finish, rife with revelation and resolution. Friday isn't always Divine, Andrew, but today it was, and I'm exceedingly grateful!

Evan 7:15 AM  

I've been sick all week and doing some NYT archive puzzles including August 11, 2013 earlier in the day. That puzzle clued BSIDE almost the exact same way except "to" instead of "vis-à-vis." An amusing coincidence to add to my solve.

kitshef 7:21 AM  

Not a fan of writing off Lillian GISH as “of silent films”, as if all her work was done in the stone age of filmdom. The vast majority of her career – the last 50+ years – was after the silent era. She was on The Love Boat for gosh sakes.

Following yesterday’s very-easy-Thursday we get a very-difficult-Friday. Toughest section was the NW. Had riddle ME THIS before ANSWER ME THIS, I have never heard the word “PAREVE” in my life, had E-BATES before AD WARS, a lot of letters from STEthOscope fit STEREOscope, etc.

Unfortunately, some of the difficulty came from bad fill like ANSWER ME THIS and YES IT IS. But mostly it was the good kind of difficulty – tough and misdirecting clues.

LOT almost crosses FEW.
Would it be MINER or nINER?

amyyanni 7:27 AM  

A review as distinctive as its subject. Both are sparkly and fresh. And I was already was in a good mood because Friday.

Joaquin 7:30 AM  

I always begin at square 1, either across or down. Today I felt like I was living in Natick and couldn't get out of town. Never heard the term ADWARS, and APPAL is new to me (and butt-ugly, too). Had I not been able to work backwards from PAREVE (a gimme) I may have become a permanent resident, a Natackian.

Crimson Devil 8:00 AM  

What Lewis said !
Very nice Fri. Fun cluing for DEFLEA, PROFIT.

Joe R. 8:13 AM  

@kitshef - I w3nt with nINER instead of MINER, but it didn’t cost me much, by the time I got around to doing the cross, I had enough to know the ‘n’ was wrong.

WRAPs (LETTUCE or otherwise) are not sandwiches! But that didn’t stop me from getting the right answer.

Anonymous 8:21 AM  

@smalltowndc 6:59AM

WORST is indeed a synonym for BEST when used as verbs, and that relationship is sometimes used in crossword clues.

Suzie Q 8:25 AM  

Even though the NW gave me my first DNF in ages I still enjoyed it.
@ Lewis, Beautiful review.
I have seen pareve on food labels but never really knew what it meant.
Lots of clever clues like the one for etude.
The clue for deflea reminded me of how mileage constructors get out of using lab and boxer.
Worsted but still happy.

GILL I. 8:30 AM  

Well, I LOVED the cluing. Fiendish in some areas -especially 25A and its rugged class for SPORTS UTILITY. Then we have 23D and the exercise done on a bench. ETUDE took forever. When I finally got it, I let out a squeak of delight.
This took me about an hour to finish. It would've probably been faster had I not kept getting up and taking a mental break. My biggest delight was inking GISH at first glance. I'm sure she is the reason for my avant-guarde avatars. You should watch her in The Birth of a Nation. No one could do Elsie as well as she.
I go into delight mode when I get long answers off of a few letters. MAKE UP ARTIST flew in with just the P from the easy/fun LETTUCE WRAP. I had a MAKE UP ARTIST "do" me once when I was shopping for perfume at Macy's. He was a very handsome gay man (aren't all gays handsome?) and he wooed me over to his little stand. He kept calling me daaahling and told me I looked just like his mother. He talked non-stop for the hour I was sitting in the chair. I must've had 20 layers of pancake on me. My eyebrows looked like someone had pasted a mustache up in that region and I had so much eyeliner on that I could barely close my eyes. I won't even tell you what my mouth looked like but I will anyway. He outlined my lips with 3 different shades of color and I looked like one of those women who get botox on their lips and spend hours sucking lemons. I snuck into the bathroom. Thank goodness they had paper towels and not just one of those hot blowers.
I had to look up cleromancy in my dictionary since I had no idea what it meant. Although PAREVE was my correct answer, I had no idea of its existence. Otherwise, Googs free and most enjoyable.
Very peasant write-up Whit.

Unknown 8:34 AM  

Had 'riddle me this' instead of 'answer me this'. And I could not get away from it. This, my ÑW remained relatively blank and I didn't finish. Had fun regardless. The long answers were quite nice.

Anonymous 8:39 AM  

I'll admit... I don't get the MINER clue. :-(

Another way in which I may be dumb: Is "river Po" a real thing people ever say or write? I would never say the river Thames, or the river Nile. I'd just say the Thames or the Nile. Strikes me a surprisingly "green paint" phrase, considering the constructor.

QuasiMojo 8:40 AM  

Thanks for filling in! Careful with that "Baron"age! You might get a tweet from the White House. :)

I struggled with this longer than all of you, I imagine, since I blithely out in STETHO for the scope. At least I can still hear a beat.

GISH did talkies too. ("Night of the Hunter" and "Whales of August" for A FEW). I met her once. Boy did she like to talk! But it was utterly fascinating.

Good stuff today. Loved the long answers and DEFLEA. I had to spray my home when I moved in because the previous owner had cats and dogs and god knows what else. Even the freezer had cat hair in it.

Nice to find a new word to use to describe my life status: HOARY.

pabloinnh 8:43 AM  

Hand up for nearly getting shipwrecked in the NW passage. RIDDLEMETHIS wasn't working and ANSWERMETHIS had to be right, My problem was I used to smoke a pipe and after wracking my brain to remember the name of those pipe cleaners that came in a yellow package, I fimally got it. DILLS! When it eventually dawned on me what kind of a pipe we were talking about, completion followed quickly, along with the requisite face palm. Jeez.

Thought the rest was fun enough and a sold Friday tussle, even if a certain corner almost made me feel like smoking again. Har, never happen. Still have the occasional nightmare about that one.

puzzlehoarder 8:47 AM  

Mostly an easy solve with the exception of the NW corner. My lack of familiarity with PAREVE and cleromancy was the main reason. Oddly, ANSWER took more work to come up with than RIVER. 17A is solidly "in the language" so blanking on ANSWER for awhile was something of a brain fart. With that W in place AFEW popped up and that whole NW corner became clear.

Sir Hillary 9:10 AM  

Mr. Vann reviews a puzzle with SPORTUTILITY in it? You can't make this stuff up! Great write-up, by the way.

I subscribe to Andrew Ries's weekly freestyles, and I love them. They are often quite difficult, requiring multiple sittings, and the cluing is truly devious. This one is not quite up to those standards, but it's still quite good.

Highlights for me included:
-- Clues for SPORTUTILITY, ETUDE, NUN, PROFIT and VIP (had to run the alphabet twice for that one).
-- Seven entries of 11+ letters, all intersecting one another. Gorgeous.
-- STEREO and INTWO. Almost SYNO[D]nyms.
-- The fact that I only needed to write over two letters after entering LETTUCE in the wrong column (above TOUR).
-- Learning what PAREVE actually means (we have plenty of "kosher pareve" food items in our pantry).
-- Being reminded of "The West Wing". Can't remember what real-life president he played though.

I was less enamored with:
-- RIVERPO. Seems so forced. How come no one says "river Amazon" or "river Mississippi"?
-- NOBOTHER. Again, do people actually say that? Probably they do, but I never hear it.
-- The clue for SWIMUPSTREAM implies that to do so is a choice. I don't think of it that way at ALL.
-- VIREO? OK, if you say so.
-- Sadly, as I am experiencing with my elder relatives, a MEMORY does not last a lifetime.

That last point notwithstanding, this puzzle made very happy. Thanks, Andrew!

Anonymous 9:18 AM  

Will someone please explain in full, what 22 Down “Person in a rush” means? I don’t understand the answer “miner”.

RooMonster 9:19 AM  

Hey All !
In the NW tough camp. riddle here first before ANSWER also. Finally remembered PAREVE from my grocery store stocking shelves days. Lots of oddness up there, APPAL, WORST (as clued), ANSWER, PAREVE, LOT (as clued). Managed to put that corner in a headlock, and give it a noogie. Finished with no errors!

Did have writeovers, STEthO-STEREO, flY-SPY (har, liked mine better), sItIDLE-LIEIDLE, TBd-TBA, bURg-TURF, SUMAria-SUMATRA.

Nice themeless, liked the long Downs. Kind of a themed grid grid, what with 34 blocks. But, nice open spaces throughout.


Unknown 9:25 AM  

Its the NY Times crossword. Pareve is not obscure here. Love the column which let me enjoy the puzzle all over again, with joy and an eye for cleverness.

JC66 9:32 AM  

Hand up for struggling in the NW.

@Anon 9:18

Think gold rush.

Gulliver Foyle 9:34 AM  

@anonymous 8:39 a.m.

MINER took me a while to figure out also, then got that the clue was "person in a {gold} rush"

Anonymous 9:38 AM  

way too much religion in this one. and i cannot stand them constantly using ATSEA

Anonymous 9:41 AM  

Ah! Thank you!

SouthsideJohnny 9:45 AM  

Think of the “gold rush” for the “person in a rush clue” - miners panning or digging for gold. Brings back memories of The Treasure of the Sierra Madre with Bogart and an ensemble cast.

Is Krakatoa even still a place - didn’t it like blow up and kill all of the dinosaurs or something like that ?

Enjoyed the misdirection for ETUDE - I think the NYT has gotten me before with that one.

I for one would welcome a moratorium on the “this company has that symbol, color, yada yada yada in its logo” clues !

Petsounds 9:46 AM  

Re: DEFLEA and your question about the clue--"Who cares if it's not a word?" Well, I do, for one. More importantly, I've worked in bio labs and worked with workers in bio labs, and never once were fleas mentioned as things that had to be removed from lab coats. A terrible clue. The clue for OVERRAN is a real stretch. And what's with RIVERPO? The answer to the clue is PO. Period.

Also, could someone please explain to me how a MINER is "a person in a rush?" I don't get it.

There were some clever clues here (I liked the clues for SINEW and LECTURETOUR), but overall, this was one of those puzzles in which the constructor sought out the most obscure definition of a word, just to mess with the solver. I say it's spinach, and I say the hell with it.

Z 9:53 AM  

@Anon8:39 & @Anon9:18 - Think “Gold Rush.”

Hand up for considering that the person in a rush might be a San Francisco Forty-nINER.

Hand up for never knowing PAREVE, making the V in RIVER PO my last letter in. No problem with the RIVER PO construction. Here’s RIVER Meon. There are others often presented this way. No, I don’t know why. I presume the reason is English.

Got MARTIN SHEEN off the T in TUCKS. I know he played Bartlett as well as Andrew Shepherd’s Chief-of-Staff, but I don’t recall what actual president he played.

Coke v Pepsi. Apple v Microsoft. McDonalds v Burger King. To me those are the canonical AD WARS. If you’re going current, maybe Popeye’s v Chik-Fil-A. Has Apple even taken notice of Samsung? Maybe I just missed their AD WARS.

@Joe R - What about Hot Dogs and Tacos? Personally, I’m a Ecumenical Sandwichist.

I never think of GYM RAT as especially pejorative.

@David in Brevard - I keep seeing ads for BRO Revels in the paper and really feel that the Blue Ridge Orchestra should not be using their initials. Since you’re in Brevard, can you talk to them?

Nancy 9:58 AM  

HOIST on my own petard today. I clued a puzzle of mine a while back with WORST as the answer to "best", and boy did I hear about it! And hear about it! Y'all weren't too happy about that clue -- and now I know how the other half lives. Yes, it's a legit answer, but it's also very hard to see. It's also hard to see as an answer to "drub". Which proves that it is sometimes more blessed to invent clues than to solve them.

I should have known PAREVE from reading food packages, but I didn't. I wanted KOSHER -- not that I wrote it in or anything. PROFIT was deviously clued and after struggling through the rest of the grid, I found myself completely stuck in the NW and had to cheat.

I looked up "cleromancy (19A)." I tried my HOARY Webster's at first, but it wasn't there, It popped right up on Google, though. And once I wrote in LOT, everything else fell into place. DRANO had been right all along. Ditto AD WARS. I now saw RIVER PO and PROFIT and APPAL -- none of which had occurred to me earlier. And thus I finished this beautiful bear of a puzzle with only one cheat. It's one too many, of course, but still...

I do have one objection to the clue for MEMORY (39D): It's much too optimistic :)

tinbox 9:58 AM  

As in a "gold rush."

Newboy 9:59 AM  

Thanks Whit for sharing today’s solve; I promise not to share your email, ok? Some pretty obscure clues (I.e. 49D) and other strange birds had me scratching my bald spot this morning, but my birder bride gave me VIREO to unlock that central passage. Also suffered greatly while searching for the name of any Eastern Europe tributary ending in ERPO — finally the penny dropped and PO me was finished. Good workout for this puzzleRAT. Hope others enjoyed it🧐

Rube 10:01 AM  

NW WAS A real challenge. I'm in the riddlemethis camp. That was a huge wrench in the solve.

Thank God for a Jew, for me that was a gift.

BUT as a solver I don't like it. It is too esoteric and not commonly knowable by the general public.

DRANO unclogs pipes. It does not clean them.

That is all. Now have to pay my breakfast bill at a cash only diner. Seriously.

Z 10:03 AM  

@Petsounds - Lab Coats as in the fur of Labrador Retrievers.

Ciclista21 10:04 AM  

I'm trying to imagine WORST as a verb in the present tense. Does anyone say that?

Rainbow Warrior 10:07 AM  

Having enjoyed many a fine meal at Mario and Steven’s fine eatery prior to its closing, I confidently entered in Pó River for 5D, which pretty much destroyed the NW for me. Yes, I understand that people do say “the river Nile”, but still - “the river Mississippi “? “The river Pó“:? No, please no ! Perhaps one of our european-savvy friends could add a little clarity to the situation.

The fact that I’ve never heard of a STEREO-scope or PAREVE didn’t help either, lol. Loved the clues for DEFLEA, ETUDE and MINER.

I’ll give them back their BANYAN. If your clue begins “national tree of” anywhere, you know that by definition it is a stinker of a clue.

Petsounds 10:08 AM  

@Z: OMG. Thank you. Would never have gotten there on my own.

CDilly52 10:12 AM  

British spelling does frustrate on occasion. It nearly “worsted” me!

Anonymous 10:14 AM  

worst was, well, the worst.

OffTheGrid 10:14 AM  

@Petsounds, The Lab is a Labrador retriever.

From the WIKI:
Martin Sheen has played U.S. President John F. Kennedy in the miniseries Kennedy; Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy in the television special The Missiles of October; White House Chief of Staff A.J. McInnerney in The American President; White House Counsel John Dean in the television mini-series Blind Ambition; sinister would-be president Greg Stillson in The Dead Zone; the President in the Lori Loughlin-Chris Noth television mini-series, Medusa's Child; and fictional Democratic president Josiah "Jed" Bartlet in the acclaimed television drama, The West Wing.

In November 2010, Sheen was cast as Uncle Ben in Sony's 2012 reboot of the Spider-Man film series, The Amazing Spider-Man, directed by Marc Webb.[25]

albatross shell 10:15 AM  

@anonymous 819am
If someone using the name anonymous admits not getting something, is it a fallacy, a paradox or an oxymoron?

Vireo definitely a bird.

I considered fly. Needed to be gadfly. Clue implies personhood, purposely I think.

CDilly52 10:18 AM  

Delightful Friday. I usually find myself, if not actually sharing Mr. Ries’s wheelhouse, at least firmly on the front porch with the door open. Today was no exception. Felt like I was steering the ship throughout the entire E side, with just a few bumps on the way it couldn’t get a toehold on the NW, largely because I had STEtheSCOPE (as did others) and that slowed me.

Wonderful review as well. Just a perfect Friday for me.

Nancy 10:31 AM  

I just read @Sir Hillary's comment and I see I have a DNF. He mentions VIP and I'm thinking: What VIP? I don't remember a VIP. It took me quite a while to check my own grid and see TIP(33D). Aha -- It's not a TIP pass (basketball; volleyball); it's a V.I.P pass, as in lucky-ducky, very important you. Therefore making the bird VIREO, not tIREO. Never heard of either one.

Oh well. If I have to have a DNF, it's okay to have it on such a terrific, crunchy and well-clued puzzle.

@Quasi (8:40)-- Could it be that GISH talked and talked because, for so many years, no one let her talk at all?

@GILL (8:30) -- Your reminiscences are always colorful, but today's is especially delicious.

Dan 10:39 AM  


Anyone familiar with the British ska band Madness will know their song Night Boat to Cairo which repeats the phrase "...floats off down the river Nile" several times. I believe the British do also often refer to the Thames as the River Thames.

Masked and Anonymous 10:42 AM  

YESITIS a themelesstUmbsUp FriPuz. How'd he get all this cool stuff in there? [fave: ANSWERMETHIS.]

staff weeject pick: ITA. Cute, desperate cousin of HEA & SHEA.

Primo, how lotsa themeless puzgrids -- like todays's --have the Jaws of Themelessness black square blobs. They work great in themeless runtpuzs, too boot, I've noticed.

And great blog write-up, by that there SW pretender Whit with few nits. Sure appreciated the bullet points.

Thanx for the fun solvequest, Mr. Ries. Good work, as per usual from U.

Masked & Anonymo6Us


dadnoa 10:43 AM  

Great write-up, Whit. It was so good, I immediately went out and became your 35th Twitter follower! Ending Friday puzzles with dog clues should become a thing!

Anonymous 10:45 AM  

Gym rat is not a pejorative. Quite the opposite in fact. It's been used to death mostly by basketball announcers to describe a certain type of player--gritty, scrappy sometime a coach's son. The point is the lad--I've never heard applied to a girl-- is being praised for his love of the game that's so great he all but lives in the gym.

Chris Mullen

bagelboy 11:00 AM  

Jewish clues are fair in the NY Times. This isnt the Bismarck Tribune.

Photomatte 11:06 AM  

That NW corner was brutal. It took me 12x as long to solve that part than the entire rest of the puzzle. I had "Rivals" for 1A and "Riddle Me This" for 17A (never, ever, heard of "Answer Me This"). That made me sure 4D was "A Tad". And I had "Die" for 19A, which left 2D (pipe cleaner brand) as insanely hard, since I was left with "I _ _ I I."

Missy 11:18 AM  

Not lab as a place, lab as a dog! Labrador

BJD 11:21 AM  

Mostly easy except for the nw section. And LETTUCEWRAP is absolutely not a sandwich.

Carola 11:22 AM  

Nicely challenging for me. I especially enjoyed the misdirection in the cluing: I thought that by now I was an old pro at spotting imisdirections, but it turns out that only the "old" part holds. Andrew Ries got me time and again with this one, whether with a pipe, a class, or a lab coat (extra smile for that one).

Favorite cross: the PO x PO of HIPPO and RIVER PO, especially because a hippo is a "river horse."
Toughest section: me, too, for the NW. My eventual way in was from the vertical PO, which had to be preceded by RIVER, the V of which jogged my memory of PAREVE.
Do-over: Baobab before BANYAN

@Whit, I enjoyed your review.

Whatsername 11:25 AM  

What a nice fresh Friday! Even though a few of the clues seemed a little off to me, the new material and some great misdirects made it challenging and fun. I nearly gave up the NW because I couldn’t figure out WORST and had no clue on PAREVE or RIVERPO. But everything else more than made up for it. Loved the clue for MEMORY. I’m definitely going to remember that.

Thank you Andrew and thank you Whit for the entertaining blog writeup. Your dog is just beautiful. If I was guessing I’d say she’s a Brittany spaniel/English pointer mix. For the record, pet pictures and stories are always welcome here.

Malsdemare 11:28 AM  

Oh lordey, Whit, yeah easy until it wasn't. That NW corner killed me. I had riddleMETHIS at first, which I loved, which made that corner even more devilish. I was just about to look up brands of pipe cleaners — as in things with which to clean the burnt tobacco out of your Meersham (sp? Too lazy to check) — when DRANO presented itself. I have never heard PAREVE, so when I dropped the V into RIVERPO and got the happy music, I was pretty amazed. That was LOTs of fun.

@Gill late, nice comeback to Anonymous. Less rancor, more civility and tolerance please.

Joe Dipinto 11:32 AM  

Easy Friday, starting with BSIDE/TBA. Nice fakeout on DEFLEA, but the cluing was generally unchallenging, imo. There was a play in the early 1970s called "The River Niger" and I think I've seen that stylization used elsewhere, so RIVER PO was fine with me. PAREVE seems like pretty common-knowledge.

Memories: The VIREO (I forget which variety) was in the "Birds" Golden Nature Guide I had as a youth. Actress Jan MINER played Madge the Manicurist ("You're soaking in it!") in Palmolive commercials of yore. And this.

Anonymous 11:34 AM  

@Joe R:
WRAPs (LETTUCE or otherwise) are not sandwiches! But that didn’t stop me from getting the right answer.

actually, according to a Food Show the other night, they are in NY; apparently for tax reasons.

My problem was I used to smoke a pipe and after wracking my brain to remember the name of those pipe cleaners that came in a yellow package

phew. not the only one am I.

GYM RAT is actually high praise, at least in the NBA. Larry Bird, fur instance.

never got STEREOscope, but (and I'm not taking the effort to look it up) IIRC, it was a frame for holding 3D film. in modern times (well, the 60s) the equivalent was/is ViewMaster.

Anonymous 11:35 AM  

Confidently write in riddle me this (Batman). So yes, struggled in the northwest.

b-t-trips 11:40 AM  

I liked the review also! Enjoyed not having an onslaught of negativity.

What? 11:43 AM  

NW corner is a DNF because of PAREVE. This is ok because the Times is a New York newspaper? That’s funny, I get it delivered every morning here in Detroit. It’s ok because many Jews live in NY? Most New Yorkers are not Jewish. Why not have a clue in Urdu since many cab drivers are Pakistanis? Having a clue in a national newspaper known mostly to a small percentage of the population is OBSCURE.

Tim 11:48 AM  

It took me a long time to give up on riddle me this and niner because of the the 49 goldrush.

Ethan Taliesin 11:50 AM  

Pitchforks out for the NW section!

Anonymous 11:57 AM  

I among many, have seen PAREVE on food packages, and assumed it just meant kosher. food stores exist across the country. may be in flyover country ethnic food aisles don't exist, but they certainly do on the Coasts.

hjd73 12:08 PM  

We got mixed up as we thought forty niner. Took us a while to get past that error.

jberg 12:09 PM  

WORST made a fast start today in the vital most-often-explained race, but I think MINERS came from behind and is now well in the lead.

I loved the puzzle! I wrote in ANSWER ME THIS with great trepidation, and a feeling of joy when it turned out to be right.PAY RATE was weak, as was the singular RAM, but those were MINoR problems.

The first time I went to New York -- late summer of 1964 -- the subways were full of ads with pictures of American Indians, turbaned Sikhs, and many other ethnic groups all proclaiming that "You don't have to be Jewish to love Levy's real Jewish rye bread." I feel the same way about PAREVE. If you read the labels on your groceries, you have seen this word. I only knew that it was a kind of kosher, though -- now I know what kind. One learns so much from puzzles!

And to continue in my pedantic mold: you don't have to know what cleromancy is, either -- the clue tells you that something gets cast, so once you rule out fishing it's either going to be die or LOT. I thought it was die -- never wrote it in, but it blocked DRANO for me.

@anonymous 8:39 -- There's a pop song of past decades with the lyrics:

"You'd think that the Allegheny River
Was the River Nile."

Or something like that; I can't remember the title. @Nancy, can you help with that?

STEREOscopes didn't hold film, they held little cards with the same scene on them with different perspective; the scope blended the two images together, giving you 3-D.

Stay away from HIPPOs, or you may end up like Dr. Millmoss.

hjd73 12:13 PM  

As an atheist PAREVE really fouled me up. We had it in and out a couple of times. Never seen it before, and I do read food labels. Good clue though, and interesting to see how many people have heard of it. Good point about Drano.

Songbird 12:17 PM  

Vireos are more common than most think because they are pretty much “heard but not seen” since they are small and tend to hang out in tall treetops. Loved the puzzle, and learned PAREVE and the opposite effect verb WORST. I fear if I use WORST in a real life convo I’ll be misunderstood. Heck, if I hear it used in a convo I’m sure it will confuse ME!

hjd73 12:18 PM  

I find this an interesting comment. You make me think. I think Jewish clues would also be fair in the Bismarck Tribune. It’s just that they’d be a tougher clue. I don’t mean to sound negative. One of the reasons I like such clues is that it gives me a reason to call my buddy Evan.

Joe Dipinto 12:53 PM  

@jberg – Wow, that's a relative obscurity you came up with. I found these lyrics on another forum, it's apparently a song called 'Cleo And Me-o":

There's Cleo and Me-O
And a baby crocodile.
We live on the Allegheny River,
Pittsburgh's 'bout a mile.
When Cleo feels free-o
The dancing gets so wild;
You'd swear that the Allegheny River
Was the river Nile.

Here's some audio.

The Clerk 1:01 PM  

NW corner should have been rewritten. British variants, brand names, dubious AD WARS. Yuck.

Karen 1:10 PM  

I was delighted by the recent suggestion about collecting Loren Muse Smith's posts. Days later, it’s still tickling my mind. And just reading the (well deserved, IMO) reactions to Whit Vann’s review, I found myself wondering whether he was disappointed that she hadn’t posted. Laughing a bit at myself, and yet, I wouldn’t be surprised to find many of you fully understand!

Anonymous 1:27 PM  


Well.... some vireos like the tree tops. Red-eyed and Philadelphia for sure. But solitary (blue-headed) warbling and most definitely white-eyed are all commonly found low.

Richardf8 1:29 PM  

And then there is the transliteration problem. I put NE on hold when neither parve nor vegan would fit.

Anonymous 1:29 PM  


Atheism is almost certainly your biggest problem, I'll grant. But that aint why you didn't know pareve.

Frantic Sloth 1:31 PM  

Hand up for NW corner.
Hand up for MINER in a rush.
Hand up for face palm.

Teedmn 1:32 PM  

Ooh, ooh, a difficult Friday, first in a while. That NW nearly got me. PROFIT and ANSWER ME THIS going across and nothing going down west of A FEW was giving me fits. I finally thought of __WARS (what else was ___ARS going to be? cigARS? cedARS?) and then WORST because I had seen that as a verb before (thanks, @Nancy) although I still wrinkled my nose at it :-).

But I was so stuck on 2D referring to a smoking pipe rather than a drain pipe that I finished the entire puzzle and had to go back to the NW fearing I was going to be stumped. I think it is odd that APPAL with one L is the British spelling, when my impression is that the Brits tend to keep their double-Ls whereas we drop them (cancelled vs canceled, travelled vs traveled) so why the switch-up on APPAL[l]? I was looking for (and dreading not finding) British slang for 1D.

DRANO saved my bacon from a DNF but my time was closer to Saturday than Friday. So it was fun!

I second (third, twentieth) that 56A was the cute clue of the day, along with 22D's MINER for "Person in a rush" (not frat- or sorority-related), and while I've seen the piano bench misdirection in a clue before, 23D still got a "huh?" and smile from me.

Great job, Andrew Ries!

Anoa Bob 1:38 PM  

Yeah, I tried switching to a pipe in one of many attempts to break my addiction to nicotine. That one didn't succeed---I went back to those fabulous, seductive, efficient nicotine delivery devices, cigarettes---but I did learn that pipe cleaners can have lots of other handy uses.

Oh, it's DRANO. Okay, cute.

I did finally quit for good or else I would never have made it to my present HOARY (but happy) age. For several years after that I would have vivid dreams where I would go back to smoking. I would be totally disheartened, crushed really, and then would let out a big sigh of release when I awoke and realized it had been but a dream, and that I would not have to go through another quit-withdrawal-relapse nightmare.

KRAKATOA reminded me of Simon Winchester's KRAKATOA: The Day the World Exploded. That guy knows how to write. He could do 100 pages on Green Paint: From Wet to Dry and make it a fascinating read.

Ever see a HIPPO in the RIVER PO?

DigitalDan 1:49 PM  

I came a cropper on NINER for MINER, and couldn't get past it. If you're a Forty-Niner panning for gold, are you even mining? I guess so, but....

QuasiMojo 2:00 PM  

Darn it! @jberg, @joe beat me to it! Dick Valentine.

@Nancy, no doubt! But she also was very wise and intelligent with a lifetime of anecdotes to share.

Z 2:21 PM  

So what you’re saying, @jberg, is that the MINER explanations have WORSTed the WORST explanations. Both got the WORST of the Lab Coat explanations.

Ooh Ooh, a Birder fight. Thems the best, what with the feathers flying and all the chirping. Or is it warbling? Heck if I know, but I fully expect excerpts from that Warbling VIREO video in the next Samsung AD WARS sortie.

@Petsounds - We’ve all been there. My personal least favorite is having the “D’Oh” moment the nanosecond after hitting “publish.”

Irish Miss 2:24 PM  

Anoa Bob @ 1:38 ~ Your third paragraph could have been written by me, word for word. My 25th Smoke-Free Anniversary is on December 14.

old timer 2:24 PM  

A day without our Muse is a lot like a day without sunshine, isn't it?

Now I wouldn't know PAREVE except I am a voracious reader of mysteries, and fell in love with the Rabbi Small books by Harry Kemelman. You learn a lot about Jews, dietary laws, and the towns north of Boston, reading his vastly amusing stories. And about life, for the characters in his imaginary synagogue are much like the ones you find in any organization.

The RIVERPO is a very British way of putting it. They have their River Thames, River Cam, and the aptly named River Ouse, that runs through York. And the Rivers Seine, Rhone, and Rhine across the Channel. They do say, "the Thames" and so forth, also. But the French never prefix "Fleuve" to a river (and certainly not to a riviere, which is a river *bank*). They honor their rivers, just like their lords and kings, and doctors and lawyers with a particle: "La Seine". "Le Rhin", etc. I suspect the Italians do too, and call it "Il Po" or maybe "La Po".

O’Gie 2:29 PM  

I think this is the WORST -

Joe Dipinto 2:41 PM  

@Quasi – did you know that song? I never heard it before. @jberg – I forgot to say I love that Thurber cartoon.

Anonymous 3:01 PM  


Sorry. Anon 1:27 here. No fight here. Of course you're dead right about vireos being seen so much more frequently than than they're heard.
As for where they are in the woods, I should've kept my trap shut. I've seen plenty of both solitary and warbling Vs up high. I suppose I jumped straight to the white-eyed, which in South jersey is very often in thick stuff at shoulder height. In any event, my apologies.
If you're within 100 miles of Cape May, consider birding it this weekend. Lots of weird stuff has been there the last couple of weeks, including a mountain bluebird, golden crowned sparrow, wood storks, and a "western" flycatcher ( almost certainly pacific slope).


Anonymous 3:07 PM  

D'oh! Unbelievably there's a blue-headed (I'm old, I still say solitary) and white eyed vireo in Cape May State park right now. Jeez. See CMBO twitter for details. Very strange Dec. indeed.

Three and out.

Kathy 3:22 PM  

The Northwest remained letter-free for most of the solve.
My progress was clunky at best.
Leisure tour of colleges? Oh...lecture
But what the heck is that rugged spirituality class? Go back later.
Back to the pristine northwest territory, popped in AFEW just to go fishing, then with the RPO already in, decided that flowing body of water might be a transposed RIVERPO. Which gave me PAREVE and I finally had a toehold.
Cleromancy? What does one cast? Try LOT.
But how is WORST a drub? I don’t quite follow the BEST argument. BEST and WORST as verbs are synonyms??
Liked niner for person in a rush and missed the more obvious MINER for too long. I see others did likewise.
I also kept skipping over pipe cleaner brand because I don’t know who makes those fuzzy white wire things.
PAREVE is on many food labels, so one doesn’t have to be Jewish to come across it. However Catholics might have a leg up on the term MISSAL.

It took me an hour and a half to finish. But what a tussle it was and there were some super clues. I’m always happy to complete a Friday. And I, too, liked the write up!

Whatsername 3:45 PM  

@Anoa Bob and @Irish Miss: Congrats on kicking that icky nicotine habit. It’s not easy. My 20th anniversary coming up next June 10.

Amelia 3:56 PM  

Great puzzle. Lots of write-overs. My only quibble, and it's a broken record. The question mark for the idols clue does not make sense. Think about it. Not in the way the others do (Clean, as a lab coat?) Leave em out, I say.

@Gill I. I answered your question about Oreos yesterday. Just to keep it neat, I answered it on the right day.

Joe Dipinto 4:14 PM  

@Anoa Bob – I know the smoking dream too! It must be a common phenomenon for people who quit. I stopped smoking almost 13 years ago and I started having a recurring dream about a year later, where I'd look down at my hand and see that I was holding a lit cigarette, and think "oh, I guess I started smoking again." The second time it happened, and every time after that, I'd actually think to myself in the dream, "the last time this happened it was only a dream but this time I guess it's real." And then it's such a relief to wake up. I still get the dream every so often.

Richardf8 4:19 PM  

I tried Arthro before Stetho until a cross gave me stereo.

Anoa Bob 4:47 PM  

To follow up, it's interesting to note that many of us former nicotine addicts have a clear MEMORY of the day we finally gave it up. I quit the day after one of my nephews was born. It took many years (I just typed in "tears" instead of "years"!) but they finally went away.

It was with some sadness but no surprise when I read in the online NYT today in the "Health" section that over 1/3 of US teens presently use some form of tobacco, often multiple forms. Many, perhaps most, will become lifetime addicts and suffer ill health and early death because of it.

Nancy 5:41 PM  

@Anoa Bob, @Irish Miss, @Joe D, et al: Liquor was what finally enabled me to quit smoking. I didn't want a nicotine patch on my arm. I wanted the "hit" to be experienced in the same part of the body where you feel that smoking satisfaction. Hence, a small nip of [straight] Scotch, combined with a deep breath that makes you feel that warmth in the general vicinity of the lungs. It didn't matter what time of day it was; if the smoking craving was simply too great, if I was in any danger of taking even one puff of a cigarette which I knew I could never again allow myself to do (I'd already quit three times and gone back three times) I'd have the swig instead. Even if it was [gasp] with coffee at breakfast.

I had a mantra. It went: "Tomorrow I'll worry about becoming an alcoholic. Today I'm not smoking." Yes, I really did say that out loud to myself.

If I'd still been working in an office, I think my patented @Nancy's Duggan's Dew* System of Quitting Smoking (TM) would not have been possible. But by then I was a freelancer and there was no one around to catch me sometimes hitting the bottle at 9 a.m. I was also thinking that it was high time that my distinct liking for liquor ended up doing something actually useful.

It worked. After three months of not giving into a single craving, my body must have thought: "She's no fun. Why continue to send her cravings if she's not going to succumb to them?" The cravings went away completely. The Duggan's became unnecessary.

That was in the winter of 1992-3. I have not had a single puff of a cigarette since then. Nor have I wanted one. And, happily, I have never had a single cigarette dream.

*Duggan's Dew was my house Scotch. It was rich and full-bodied and tasted quite a bit like Dewars, although it wasn't as smooth. It cost considerably less.

GILL I. 6:08 PM problem was having a drink and then HAVING to have a cigarette. Coffee in the morning without my Winston Lights was a nightmare. Like most, it took many times to quit before the final. My Mom smoked her last cigarette 12 hours before she finally succumbed to her peaceful death at the age of 84.
I kept her last pack in my drawer for years. This will make all you quitters for life, probably gasp at my infidelities.,but every once in a while, I will take out one of her very stale cigs and light up. It tastes horrible but it brings an enormous smile to my face. I will never go back to my half pack a day habit but, by gum, when I feel like an emotional "remember how wonderful it was to smoke" feeling, I light up. I cough; I say how awful it tastes, and I laugh.
@Amelia...Thanks for the dipping the OREO in milk. My daughter was a Vegan for about a year. She finally caved into the aroma of bacon.... :-)

Monty Boy 6:24 PM  

Northwest DNF for me too. Double Natick at APPAL and WORST crossing PAREVE and PROFIT. I had the rest at one time or another. Another STEREOscope is used in surveying to view stereo pairs in aerial photos. You can see the topography clearly. I liked the DEFLEA clue after I got the answer from the crosses.

My Quitting Story. I started smoking in high school, back when it wasn't bad for you. All the ads told me so. I quit smoking in 1974, Memorial Day weekend before our first was born in September. I didn't want to smoke in the house with a baby around. Didn't occur to me that smoking for the six months before in the house with a pregnant woman was also not a good idea. I was helping a friend move and accidentally left my pack in the truck after is was locked up. When I asked him to unlock he reminded my of my vow to quit and told me that day was as good as any. Best denial ever. I can't stand to be near a smoker now for all the stink (nothing more obnoxious than a reformed sinner, right?).

jae 6:29 PM  

@Anoa - I quit just before I got out of the Navy in ‘67 (the civilian price was a lot more than 10 cents a pack). I was still having those dreams in grad school in the early ‘70s.

jb129 6:41 PM  

Whit - your dog is not a mutt - she's a MIXED BREED (& a cutie I might add)

Irish Miss 7:55 PM  

GILL I @ 6:08 ~ When I quit smoking, I also stopped drinking coffee. I guess this indicated that I drank coffee only because it went so well with a cigarette, rather than my actually liking coffee. OTOH, I never stopped drinking my Dewar's, (Hi, Nancy) cigarette or no cigarette!

Congrats to all who kicked the habit.

jake we 8:59 PM  

+3 that GYM RAT is not pejorative. DNF

Lewis 9:15 PM  

@Nancy -- That was an inspiring story, and I'll remember that method should someone who is wanting to but having trouble quitting come my way. You can credit the scotch, but extend that credit to yourself as well!

GILL I. 9:55 PM  

@Irish Miss. If you're still around, I hope you stop by more often. You actually had me counting all the times I've moved in my lifetime....I counted 23 - from Santa Barbara to Caracas to Havana to Florida To California to Madrid, to New York City, to Pennsylvania, to San Francisco, to San Rafael, To Concord, to Sacramento.....
The only things I took with me were my art books...easy to toss in the back of my VW bug. Buying a house changes the equation.... ;-)

Nater Pater 10:09 PM  

I thought etude for “exercise done on a bench” was a great clue

Fred Wollam 11:13 PM  

It's on the label of virtually every prepared food item on every grocery store shelf in Christendom.

Fred Wollam 11:20 PM  

WORST is (also) a verb... truly bizarrely,it's an exact synonym of BEST. Rare, but still there.

Fred Wollam 11:48 PM  

Jewish food is sold in virtually every Supermarket in Christendom, and almost all of it (that is factory-packed) has PAREVE in a text-box, near its ingredients statement.

Unknown 12:41 PM  


albatross shell 5:05 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
spacecraft 10:56 AM  

PAREVE is a variant; the original word is PARVE. Since I don't buy boxes of Jewish food, I didn't know the variant, and it held me up quite a bit in the NW. Also did WORST. Come on, now, have you EVER heard "We worsted them!" What did we do, outfit them with woolen suits?? I have to throw the penalty flag on that one.

Exactly where is the ivory on a HIPPO??? Its teeth? Then there's the MINER "in a rush." *Groan* Really?

Despite these cluing nightmares, I managed to finish this, earning a bushel of triumph points. They say Lillian GISH was a dish; she goes even farther back than I do, so I wouldn't know. But she's the only DOD candidate on stage, so give her the sash. I enjoyed this; learned a few things and didn't have to wade through a LOT of trash to do so. YESITIS finished--but I wouldn't say "NOBOTHER." Birdie.

Burma Shave 1:12 PM  


When I’m PARED BSIDE my miss, IS IT WORST she’ll LIEIDLE?


Diana, LIW 1:43 PM  

PARVE didn't fit, so I tried "kosher." That was no help at all for a while. I checked it (cheated, yes) and then rolled right along to a good finish. So I give myself one triumph point.

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords

Oh. And I had "no biggie" for a while, too

rondo 5:14 PM  

I thought hard about ‘kosher’ where PAREVE would reside, but AFEW of us may have heard the RIVERPO as an answer on G.O.A.T. Jeopardy last night. Once the STEREOscope came into view that helped finish off the NW and voila, puz complete. I did have a short term problem with sItIDLE before the REDO to LIEIDLE.

I can think of another clue for TUCKS, but not for a family puz.

I had a VIP pass to a concert for the first time last year. How cool to have my photo taken with pop star and yeah baby Lisa Stansfield. Makes for a great MEMORY.

Good puz? YESITIS.

leftcoaster 6:54 PM  

The keys to the solve of this very good themeless were PAREVE, [LETTUCE] WRAP, and VIREO. Thanks to my spouse, Dolores.

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