Cost-controlling W.W. II org / WED 12-11-19 / Grease song with aonomatopoeic lyrics / Australian wind instrument / Penner of line language is wine upon lips / Fiesta finger food

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Constructor: Jake Halperin

Relative difficulty: Medium (?) (solved on paper)

THEME: THEN AND NOW (62A: Phrase in an article on grown-up child stars, perhaps ... or a hint to this puzzle's circled squares) — themers contain (in circled squares) verbs in both their past and present tense:

Theme answers:
  • WASPISH (WAS and IS)
Word of the Day: LEDA (14A: Mother of Castor and Pollux) —
In Greek mythologyLeda (/ˈldə, ˈl-/Ancient Greek: Λήδα [lɛ͜ɛ́da͜a]) was an Aetolian princess who became a Spartan queen. Her myth gave rise to the popular motif in Renaissance and later art of Leda and the Swan. // Leda was the daughter of the Aetolian King Thestius hence she was also called Thestias. Her mother was either Leucippe, Deidameia, daughter of Perieres, Eurythemis, daughter of Cleoboea, or Laophonte, daughter of Pleuron. According to Alcman, Leda's parents were Glaucus and Laophonte while Eumelus attested that they are Sisyphus and Panteiduia or Paneidyia.
She married king Tyndareus of Sparta and by him became the mother of Helen of TroyClytemnestra, and Castor and Pollux (also spelled "Castor and Polydeuces"). Leda also had three other daughters by TyndareusTimandraPhoebe, and Philonoe. (wikipedia)
• • •

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
54 Matthews St
Binghamton, NY 13905

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!
• • •

I feel slightly bad for this puzzle. It doesn't have much to offer. I mean, it has something, but nothing substantial. It's trying, but there's just not ... enough here for a real puzzle. On its own, the fact that a verb appears in its past and present tense inside of a phrase really isn't that interesting. And when you spell it out so blatantly like this, well, it's like having a joke explained to you. Not much fun. The theme answers, taken on their own as stand-alone entries, are just fine. DIDGERIDOO and "WE GO TOGETHER" are colorful, actually. But this theme is a huge "who cares?" It needed some other level. And what it especially needed was to have THEN AND NOW as the *title* and not the (awfully awkward-to-clue) revealer. Consider this my quarterly plea for all puzzles to have titles—so many times, what we get as a revealer would function so much better as a title, either because it would create room for another themer in the puzzle, or because, as a revealer, the phrase just doesn't go pow. If I got a puzzle entitled THEN AND NOW, I wouldn't blink, but when you try to serve me THEN AND NOW as a revealer, well, it's awkward. "Phrase in an article on grown-up child stars"???  The fact that you have to imagine such a weirdly specific context means that the phrase is struggling to hold up on its own. NOW AND THEN ... damn, that's a phrase. That stands straight up. THEN AND NOW ... sigh, it's definitely listing, possibly teetering, and generally looks like it needs some help. As a revealer, it goes thud. As a title, no one's going to question it.

Which brings me to why I *really* feel bad for this puzzle—The Wall Street Journal Daily Crossword ran a Puzzle Contest *just last week* that had a sleek and souped-up version of this same theme concept. Its title: "THEN AND NOW." In many ways, it's very unfair to compare them. Matt Gaffney's puzzle in the WSJ was a contest puzzle, which means it was a metapuzzle, where solvers had to figure out the "answer" to the puzzle by finishing the puzzle and then making inferences based on the title / clues / answers in the grid (this week: "The answer to this week's contest crossword is a cartoon duo"). I'm not gonna give any major details away. You can solve the puzzle here (the contest deadline already passed, but who cares? The puzzle is still a delight, with an "answer" that delivers a genuine AHA). What Matt's puzzle shows is a. there are apparently a Lot of potential THEN AND NOW themers out there (Matt's set of themers is entirely different from this NYT set), and b. THEN AND NOW works better as a title then as a revealer, precisely because you aren't in the awkward position of cluing it. Even if the NYT stuck with this straightforward version of the theme, where you circle the verbs inside the themers, having THEN AND NOW as a title instead of a revealer would've given you room for another example of the theme form. And maybe that example would shine. I don't know. I just know that this felt like being spoonfed pablum, and I didn't like it. The fill was pretty weak too (SOR SSR SLO ENCLS OPA etc), but only slightly weaker than the NYT's normal weakness, honestly.

Five things:
  • 39A: Sound of a penny dropping? (AHA) — not a bad clue for AHA. Clever. Do you know this idiom? Well, if you don't: here.
  • 34D: Winter milestone (FIRST SNOW) — easily my favorite answer in the grid. Feels fresh, original, and timely (don't know if this last snow we got was our first real snow, but man it was memorable. And beautiful. Caused terrible travel delays and got university classes canceled for two days straight. But beautiful. 
  • 63D: Window boxes, for short (ACS) — did anyone else put in ADS? I had the "A" and all I could think of were pop-up ads appearing in little boxes on my computer screen. Probably not a common mistake, but I feel confident that there are at least six of you out there who did this, so hello to you.
  • 33D: Cost-controlling W.W. II org. (OPA) — this stands for "Office of Price Administration." It surely meant something to you if you were alive during WWII, or if you solved xwords in the pre-Shortzian era. In the 21st century, this answer should be OPI, the exceedingly common brand of nail polish. But I guess that's something women would know more about than men, and, well, we can't have that ... (seriously, we can't, it's just not a thing we can have with this regime)
  • 37D: Put pen to paper (WROTE) — I had WRITE. This was an interesting trap, given the theme.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

Here's that "Grease" song, in case you're not familiar:

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Loren Muse Smith 4:30 AM  

I agree that it’d be nice to have titles for all the days of the week. I did find it interesting to see the phrases with their past/present pairs. (EATEN is fun since it has present, past, and past participle right there, one-stop shopping.) Pretty easy to figure out the trick, so I filled in the DO and the EAT before I got DIDGERIDOO and WATER FEATURE. I did not know there was such a cool-named Australian wind instrument. I looked into it, and it’s pronounced kinda like did you redo. As in Did you redo the didgeridoo?

I’m a sucker to click on those THEN AND NOW stories on my google feed. Just glad I’m not a grown-up child star subjected to the (very often) humiliation.

Greeting cards appear in two clues. I’m not a real penny-pincher at all, but the thought of paying over 6 dollars for a card enrages me, especially since the recipient is usually just hoping a check flutters out of it. I get my cards at The Dollar Tree now – two for a dollar. Great place to buy these sponges, too, because they take so long to sour.

STROKED was tough. My honors 9th grade just finished Of Mice and Men, and we’re watching the movie version. I had never seen it. Oh. My. God. Yesterday we watched up until right before Lennie commits his final misdeed and I couldn’t breathe. The entire movie is an assault on your heart because from the get-go you know exactly what’s going to happen. I’ve been digging around looking for my waterproof mascara.

For inquiring minds, and since the focus is on tenses today, the past tense of wreak HAVOC is not necessarily (indeed, rarely) wrought HAVOC. It’s wreaked HAVOC. Wrought is an older past tense of work. I’m listening to a Great Courses, Food: A Cultural Culinary History, and Dr. Albala said, wrought havoc. I briefly felt a little embarrassed for him until I remembered I’m a like wow man anything goes hippy linguist.

Speaking of which… The singular they continues to claw its way back to respectability since it used to be totally fine as early as the 14th century but then in the 18th century show-off language meddlers decided it wasn’t ok and launched a campaign to relegate its use to plural only.

Rex – I’m childishly jealous that you caught the “put” tense WROTE deal. Stellar catch.

Joaquin 5:25 AM  

I have lived many years, read many books, written volumes, and consider myself a word maven. But in all my ganze Leben I have never heard that “penny dropping” is a euphemism for sudden understanding. So … if nothing else, at least I did learn something from today’s puzzle.

Hungry Mother 6:11 AM  

When I was in Australia, I only heard the word DIGERIDOO; first time I’ve seen it written was when I wrote it. Easy theme and puzzle.

Lewis 6:35 AM  

@rex -- Sometimes a reveal gives you a pow that would have been spoiled had it been the puzzle's title. I think the argument can go that way too.

This puzzle gave me time well spent -- with some bite and cleverness in the cluing, and thank you for that, Jake. I like that STYX is in the puzzle's lowest level, and the feeling that something was missing after getting SATCH was satisfied in the SW with a couple of MO's going down. I've never come across WASPISH in its common meaning; it sounded pejorative and I was about to get in a fighting mood (maybe a hangover from yesterday's boxing-themed puzzle?) and suggest that the constructor use WAShdIShes as an alternative, but a little research taught me this new word to use, so thank you for that as well, Jake!

Speaking of THEN AND NOW, the first constellation I learned was ORION, and I would find it every night I could in the sky, accompanied by that remarkable fully-encompassing sense of wonder children can feel. What a gift, because, because when I look up at the sky now and see that constellation, my mind shifts right back to that precious state -- what it felt like when I was so young.

Anonymous 6:47 AM  

@Lewis: STYX is indeed nice at the bottom, but would be even better on the bottom right, its place in Last Judgment imagery.

Gary Johnson 6:50 AM  

I agree with Rex that “Opi” would have been much better than OPA. Now I personally have never heard of “Opi,” but I know the ladies are really into nail polishes and makeup and stuff like that. The NYT should quit being so sexist and maybe give the gals a few chances in the puzzle once in a while instead of just including answers about major economic programs during important historical eras.

OffTheGrid 7:17 AM  

This was a very interesting and fun puzzle. It needed no theme. It's easy to just pretend the shaded squares aren't there. The theme was such an after the fact Ho-Hum. The "revealer" easily stands alone as a clue/answer (deleting the shaded squares reference). Best-DIDGERIDOO. 2nd best-only one "?" clue. Speaking of penny dropping. If I've seen that phrase once in the comments here I've seen it a hundred times.

amyyanni 7:19 AM  

Nice seeing Virginia Woolf. Appreciate the sponges tip, @LMS. Otherwise...

Rainbow 7:28 AM  

I'm generally sympathetic to @Rex's views but the nail polish rant is off the wall. I even think maybe OPI has been in the puzzle. And if that's the standard for gender equal treatment we are all doomed.

Twangster 7:31 AM  

Tragically missed opportunity for Rex to share the Radiators' "First Snow," about snowfall in New Orleans:

Also, I learned the “penny dropped” from the Kinks’ “Video Shop”:

“I was sitting by the telly with my brother, Kenny
When suddenly the penny dropped
While all of my brothers are sitting at home
I've got a bank loan and I've opened up my very own
Video shop”

kenji 7:43 AM  

Does anybody else remember the song "Tie Me Kangaroo Down Sport"? At four, that was how I learned that a didgeridoo is a thing. But my parents, a.k.a. dictionary, thesaurus, encyclopedia, and world almanac, i.e., knew everything, were no help in my understanding that part of the lyric any better.

GILL I. 7:44 AM  

Did Louis Armstrong's MO go POOF? I know plain ole SATCH as belonging to Joe Satriani.
Can you imagine schlepping your DIDGERIDOO around in a Thanksgiving Parade? Would it fit in your overhead bin?
Ah...the puzzle. I'm feeling a bit like @Rex. I'm not so sure about giving the puzzles titles, though. I like to guess. This revealer was sorta blah. I, too, have only heard of the "NOW AND THEN". I guess THEN AND NOW is perfectly fine but it feels like it needed a funner reveal.
So I learned that WASPISH has nothing to do with White Anglo Saxon Protestants. No, it refers to the dastard WASP and its territorial behavior. Don't sit on one....If you really want one of those butt enlargements, you could get a free one.
Is seafood really shipped IN ICE? I only picture it ON ICE.
Was I the only one who had TO SEA at 5A. I even sang the song. Wasn't crazy about HIDER nor STARER.
Love me some MAHLER...And WOOLF got it right.

kenji 7:46 AM  

Oh, that state!

Suzie Q 7:48 AM  

The shaded squares did not show up when I printed the puzzle so I was almost done before I saw the revealer. As a themeless puzzle it was really quite nice. I liked the references to literature, mythology, astronomy, etc. A bit of Star Wars and D&D did slip in however.
For me it was a fun solve and I'm glad I couldn't see the shaded boxes.
I tried PCs before ACs thinking of Windows as computer related.
@ LMS, I hope you saw the version with Burgess Meredith and Lon Chaney.
@ Gary Johnson, Nice one. Sometimes sarcasm goes well with my coffee.

RooMonster 7:54 AM  

Hey All !
@LMS, Har. Leave it to you to come up with Did You Redo your DIDGERIDOO. Good stuff.

I had an actual, true DNF today, as I left the exact center square blank. Didn't notice it for some odd reason, and when I checked my printed out filled version here, Bam, there was nothing in there! Dang, I would've at least ran the alphabet and possibly come up with that P. Other wrong was an A for the E in DIDGERIDOO.

Had writeovers, SCHaw-SCHWA (dyslexic much?), TAco-TAPA (Every time I write in one, it's the other one), WRiTE-WROTE, saseS-ENCLS (ouch on either one), oNICE-INICE (see TAco-TAPA), dyE-HUE.

Thought it a fun puz. Not the greatest theme that ever was, but it was good. CORN DOG fun to see.

HE GOAT, har.


ALDO Ray 7:59 AM  

Never heard of:

ALDO or LEDA...Natick for me
Penny dropping/Penny drops or any other way to say a penny dropped...I'm almost 60, never heard of it.
WASPISH as petulant. WASPish to me is middle class white America. I'm pretty sure it was originally clued like that or at least considered.

As you can see, this was a challenging one for me. Many of the above I got from crosses, but still when "lol wut." The L in the ALDO/LEDA crossing was definitely a Natick.

But I don't recall a puzzle with as many words/clues that I literally had no idea at all what they were talking about.

mmorgan 8:13 AM  

I know Grease but somehow I parsed that as WE GOT TO GET HER, which didn’t make a penny drop.

I found myself in an unusually high level of agreement with Rex today, whatever that means.

Karl Grouch 8:32 AM  

Nothing to write home about this one.
That said, the clueing was interesting and the fill felt fresh.
The revealer on the other hand..

[ @Rita from yesterday: It hadn't occur to me that someone might find this passage dismissive.
I chose it for what I think is its literary merit: A brilliant form of expression of a deeply humanist observation. But of course, de gustibus et de coloribus non disputantum.. ]

mathgent 8:55 AM  

@kenji (7:43) notes that DIDGERIDOO appears in the lyric to Tie Me Kangaroo Down. That's where I've heard that word. The song made the US charts in the mid-fifties.

That's how I got the theme. I remembered DIDGERIDOO but didn't know how to spell it. I guessed the spelling and saw the DID and the DO in the shaded squares. That helped me fill in the other shaded squares.

I liked the puzzle very much. I like themes that help in the solve. That help was welcome here.

I just looked up the lyric to We Go Together. I don't remember hearing that song in the movie. I would think that Travolta and Newton-John would be embarrassed to have to sing it.

WATERFEATURE is a clunker.

Bahama Mama is a chaser to the Dark and Stormy we had the other day.

pabloinnh 8:57 AM  

OFL's rant about this not being some other better puzzle reminded me that every time I eat a good hamburger I'm wishing it was a nice juicy steak.

Actually I liked this one fine, shaded squares showed up, got the them after two pairs, and had fun thinking what the other ones might be. Wrote write for wrote, not right. Liked the revealer, 'now and then" syntax notwithstanding.

Always like a reminder that the teams from nearby Woodstock VT, postcard-pretty and virtually lily white, are the WASPS.

Also, after several attempts, I learned how to spell DIDGERIDOO.

Thanks for the Wednesday fun, JH.

Anonymoose 8:58 AM  

Is a CORN DOG a sandwich?

QuasiMojo 8:59 AM  

"Phrase on grown-up stars perhaps"?? If you need the perhaps for a theme clue I wonder if it's worth using. Rex is right that a title would spare us all these troublesome theme staters. I don't know if Then and Now is used to describe child stars. Is it an internet thing? I just remember a series of books "What Ever Became Of?" And also "Where are they now?" So many tragic life stories in those books. One notable exception is our beloved OPIE.

So all that gobbledygook in that "Grease" song was supposed to be onomatopoeia? I performed Teen Angel in "Grease" back in high school. I don't recall even thinking about the meaning of that song. I think I doubled as a greaser and may have had to sing it too. For the record I think the film of "Grease" is one of the worst movies I've ever seen.

I tend to go out on a limb with my opinions here. Not sure why. Perhaps because it feels so ephemeral. Small talk. Here today; gone tomorrow. And yesterday I championed "The Long Goodbye" by Raymond Chandler. I see @Nancy is going to order it too. Wasn't it Chandler who wrote a scathing article about Agatha Christie? Someone please correct me if I'm wrong. Anyway, send your requests for refunds to me. I stick by my statement, which really was more of a question (a PERHAPS), but then that's what makes books so interesting. They affect each of us in a particular way and open the door to discussion. Not unlike what our @LMS described in reading "Of Mice and Men" with her class. I was in that play once too! I played George.

Unknown 9:13 AM  

What is "schwa"

Unknown 9:26 AM  

I enjoyed the puzzle. Yes it would have been even more fun with title instead of revealer and i do wish for more clever clues i no point in letting that spoil it for me.

pmd,m 9:30 AM  

Unknown: Schwa relates to a pronunciation. The first and last letters of AMERICA are pronouced similar to "uh" and that sound is the schwa sound. Look up pronunciation guides in a dictionary and you will see it has its own specific ark.

Nancy 9:35 AM  

One of those puzzles where I wish I'd gone straight to the revealer. It would have

1) Made me appreciate the cleverness of the theme entries while I was solving, and

2) Helped me with the solve -- which WASn't/ISn't all that easy, considering it's Wednesday.

If I'd remembered that great Aussie word...but I didn't. It was lurking somewhere in my subconscious like all those other long Aussie words that I sort of remember, but don't, not really. (Is it Billybong? Is it Koolabah? Google seems to say yes to both. I must remember to listen to "Waltzing Matilda" again. Though I don't think I'll find DIDGERIDOO there.)

So I liked the trick, found the rest of the fill pretty meh, with the wonderful exception of WASPISH, and found a lot of the puzzle (message app; "the Force"; "Grease" song, even though I saw the show) outside my wheelhouse. Would have had more fun if I'd seen the theme early.

Z 9:37 AM  

No No No. We don’t need no stinking titles. And, really, does this puzzle even need a revealer of any sort? Did anyone get to the bottom and finally figure out that it was past tense present tense in an unrelated phrase? I’m fine with revealers when the theme or trick is hard to suss out, but this is so straightforward that the revealer almost feels insulting. “Almost” because I am imagining that those stupid ads at the end of so many online articles was probably the inspiration.

Hand up for forgetting to go back and work out O-A/WAS-ISH. Oopsie DNF.

@QuasiMojo - Did Chandler write anything as cutting as, “She creates her characters with a few broad strokes and they all have their full two dimensions?” And that from a fan!

@mathgent - You obviously don’t watch HGTV. WATER FEATURE is a too common term in their “Garden” shows.

I’ve seen the “put” conundrum so often that I just wait to determine if we are talking THEN or NOW. A little surprised it tricked Rex.

Sir Hillary 9:41 AM  

Tough luck for the constructor -- Gaffney's WSJ puzzle was wonderful, and although this one is pretty good in a vacuum, it pales by comparison. Not to sound too much like @Rex, but isn't it the editor's job to avoid situations like this?

Despite the two puzzles not having any common theme entries, I'm not convinced "there are apparently a lot of potential THEN AND NOW themers out there". So top marks to Jake Halperin for finding them.

During the solve, the fill felt especially bad, but in hindsight STARER, ENCLS, SOR, HIDER, OPA and SATCH are the only ones I really don't like, so @Rex is right that this is no worse than usual.

I'm with @GILL I on SATCH being far iffy as a nickname for Louie. I think the MO just got cut off and ended up attaching itself backward to the C, forming COM.

@LMS either did the WSJ puzzle or is on Gaffney's wavelength.

DO the ELEVEs near MONT Blanc go to grades 9-12 at MONT HS?

SouthsideJohnny 9:43 AM  

After yesterday’s pretty clean offering, we come right out of the gate with ALDO crossing LEDA, so hooray, it’s Mean Reversion day in the Big Apple. Venture just a little further inland for today’s made up word or phrase (WATER FEATURE). Next to fall are the requisite foreign entries ETAT and ELEVE. Add in something completely esoteric and unnecessary (OPA) and we are well on our way. Throw in a MAHLER and an INGA so France doesn’t monopolize the foreign contingent and call it a day. B- or C+ at best today.

Anonymous 9:45 AM  

I concur: never “Satch” but only “Satchmo”.

Ilana 10:00 AM  

Re the Window Boxes clue (63D): I had the C first, and so put in PCS. Likely that's just me...

Anonymous 10:05 AM  

@SouthsideJohnny 9:43AM

OK, Millenial

Jeff 10:09 AM  

For umpteenth time, Taoism is not Confucianism, and in fact, is nearly its polar opposite. Funny that the mention of anything related to a gun puts Rex into a frenzy but slapping a big single label on a whole spectrum of varying ideas because they're all from the mysterious Orient? Meh.

Carola 10:23 AM  

DID...DO. My heart leapt up: a grammar theme! That first pair helped me get WATER FEATURE and WASPISH - great job, I thought, in hiding the verbs (so well, that, like @mmorgan, I read WE GOT TO GET HER). The THEN AND NOW reveal could have perhaps had some sort of "irresistible clickbait" clue.

ANNA x MAHLER: the composer's daughter.

xyz 10:33 AM  

Really disappointing following last Friday's WSJ, indeed.

Pete 10:43 AM  

As Louis Armstrong put out an album entitled "Satch Plays Fats", the argument that Satch isn't a good answer is ????

On of the few good things my father ever did was to make all the family watch Pops whenever he was on TV. He was just a shadow of himself at that time, but the shadow of a giant is still huge.

Newboy 10:47 AM  

Yep, Susie Q said it all THEN, AND NOW all I can offer is that WE GO TOGETHER on today’s puzzle response.

Nancy 10:51 AM  

Sometimes you actually have to read Rex, lest great blog comments sail right over your head. @Suzie Q today drew my attention to @Gary Johnson's comment which had initially meant nothing to me, so I went back and read Rex. The upshot? I heartily agree with Suzie's appraisal, Gary. Your OPA/OPI comment was very funny and very apt.

Also, thanks to @Z. I feel that to be quoted on this blog is the highest compliment that can be paid. I wish I could remember who originally said (about I-wish-I-could-remember-whom) that his or her characters "had their full two dimensions." It might have been said about Christie. Or not. I've always liked that observation as much as Dorothy Parker's classic line about Kate Hepburn: "Her emotions run the gamut from A to B."

At any rate, my "full two dimensions" comment about Christie was not meant to be "cutting" at all. When the main focus of a mystery is the *puzzle* of *whodunit*, what's most important is that the suspects be easily identifiable, memorable, and distinct from one another. So it's fine that the colonel is blunt, red-faced, prone to stammering and perhaps hiding a secret from his military past; that the young blonde wife has a weakness for gambling, may have forged checks once or twice; and used to work for a cruise line; and that the maid limps, wears clothes that hide her figure, and once was employed in a household where a young child died under mysterious circumstances. Got that? It will be all you need to know, trust me, in order to thoroughly enjoy the plot and the plot twist(s). I adore Agatha and I would never put her down.

jberg 10:55 AM  

I have to stick up for THEN AND NOW as a phrase; I feel I've seen it several times, generally as a label for two pictures of someone, more or less what the revealer says. "Now and then" just means "every once in a while," completely different.

That said -- we might need shaded squares, and we might need a revealer, but we certainly don't need both.

If you happen to get to London, go to the Courtauld Institute and look at their painting of Leda and the Swan. I can't remember who painted it, and can't find it online -- but Leda is definitely enjoying herself. And I think the Wikipedia article Rex quotes is confused. Tyndareus may have believed that all those children were his, but Helen of Troy and Pollux were really sired by the swan (who was really Zeus, of course). At least, that's the MYTH.

It's snowing here right now, but it's not the FIRST SNOW; there was a lot of the stuff last week, and a dusting before Thanksgiving. It's starting to look like quite the winter.

I liked the idea of going to a state fair/fiesta and strolling around with a CORN DOG in one hand and a TAPA or two in the other -- but seriously, has anyone ever seen a singular TAPA outside of the crossworld?

But now to the big question: is the last A in America really a SCHWA? Maybe, but in the eponymous song it's accented, and makes more of an aah sound. So I'm in doubt; fortunately, neither "short a" nor "broad a" fit.

I've always been told that TAO just means "path," so I suppose Confucianists can have their own -- but I don't think they are seeking enlightenment. But I'm getting over my head here.

@Loren, from what I know of you, you must be up to something with those sponges, but I can't figure it out.

Whatsername 11:00 AM  

@Loren: I love Dollar Tree! Best place anywhere to GET cards, gift bags and such. I have the same aversion to overpriced sappy cards that I know will be tossed in two seconds. Another thing that’s great there: reading glasses. When I was working, I liked to have different colors to coordinate with my outfit. Now I just need multiple pairs to keep one in every room so I don’t have to walk too far to get them. Thanks for the tip on the sponges. I’m planning to go to DT today and will add them to my list.

I found this to be a little on the tough side but fun and clever in the end. GADS reminded me of my sweet grandmother who even at the age of 90 was active and sociable. She often referred to herself as a “real gadabout.” Bless her heart. Happy to report I learned three new words today: SCHWA, DIDGERIDOO, ONOMATOPOEIC. I do crosswords to keep my brain from rusting so thank you for helping me out today Jake, and thanks for the nice Wednesday puzzle.

jberg 11:01 AM  

I didn't know that song either -- but having listened to it now, I don't think that onomatopoeia. To me, that means a word or phrase that sounds like what it's describing, such as "the plane SWOOSHED by." Not what that song does at all.

Anonymous 11:03 AM  

@Anonymous at 10:05 - “OK millennial.” I love it!

Masked and Anonymous 11:04 AM  

@RP: yep. Puz titles can serve a useful purpose … especially if yer puz is so runty in size, that there's no room for much of a revealer. In a bigger, NT-type-Puz, I'd kinda prefer no title and no revealer … except maybe for a revealer that adds a nice punchline to the festivities, or gives a crucial hint for an extra-sneaky theme mcguffin.

Sooo …. PUTTPUTTCOURSE would be a kinda cool extra themer, here, huh? … with the two PUTs put into the Circles?

This was a fun puz, and the theme helped m&e with the solvequest, pre-revealer and sans-title. fave fillins included: FIRSTSNOW. ONYOURMARK. CORNDOG. RUNATAB. HEGOAT. The SWAMP drainin into the STYX. Good stuff.

Had SOFTA before SCHWA. Cuz I know math better than I know phonetics. Lost precious nanoseconds. I would now like to give a dissertation on logarithms, but I don't wish to digress ...

staff weeject pick: SOR. Has that hint of Ow de Speration that M&A so richly admires.

Thanx, Mr. Halperin. Nice themer set finds, especially on DIDGERIDOO.

Masked & Anonymo4Us

hidden word puz mutant? ...

Unknown 11:06 AM  


Anonymous 11:08 AM  

The only instance of DIDGERIDOO that I can recall is Duke's introduction (faux, since it's a studio recording, not live) to the cut 'Didjeridoo' on "The Afro-Eurasian Eclipse". From 1971, which makes it late Duke.

Whatsername 11:15 AM  

Anonymoose@8:58 - a CORNDOG is a hot dog dipped in cornmeal batter and deep fried. At carnivals and fairs, it’s served on a stick, right next to the cotton candy fried Twinkies.

Briggs 11:40 AM  

I liked this one. Harder than a typical Wednesday for me. Before hitting on the theme, had LAWNORNAMENT in for WATERFEATURE. Was actually legitimately stuck for a bit. Stepping away for a meeting then coming back gave me fresh enough eyes to get what I'd missed locked in without too much trouble.

With an upcoming vacation to visit my sister in Australia, I anticipate many DIDGERIDOO's in my near future.

jb129 11:49 AM  

No fun at all.

Please don't submit clues with onomatopoeic again - it only takes me away from the puzzle (which I didn't enjoy anyway) to go to Google or the dictionary again cause I'll never remember it).

Off to make some Moussakkka.

Crimson Devil 11:50 AM  

Actually have, somewhere, didgeridoo that son toted home from Aussie-land: Cool instrument/sound.
Hand up for SATCHmo; never heard of album Pete cites, nor of SCHWA.

Z 11:58 AM  

@anonymoose - Congratulations. And corn batter is as much bread as lettuce, so “yes.”

@Nancy - Having not read either in a very long time I’m sure someone will say I’m wrong, but it seems Chandler was better at character and setting, especially setting most associated with noir, while Christie’s craft was the mystery, the plot, and the twist. It does seem that plot and character are oft on opposite ends of a spectrum, a writer has to excel at one or the other but rarely both. Why this should be so is a mystery to me. This seems to be true in other genres and other media. How often do we read that a movie director has sacrificed character development for plot (or the reverse)? Anyway, I love lots of authors despite recognizing their weaknesses. Indeed, is there a higher compliment than loving a writer despite their flaws?

Malsdemare 12:09 PM  

Oh, my, I have to commend @Gary for his hilarious riff on Rex and OPA versus OPi. And @Nancy for her perfect delineation of Christie's characters. I adore Christie as well, but that doesn't make her untouchable.

My youngest did her Junior semester abroad in Australia, brought me a lovely DIDGERIDOO. So that clue evoked a welcome memory. Mine is small enough it would fit in my carryon, but nothing else would.

No surprise, I thought the puzzle was just fine. It kept me busy through a cup of coffee and kept my mind off the lost file for Animal Assisted Crisis Response that my dog and I qualified for a few months ago. Said dog may need his own crisis response; 1/2 bunny has given him a very unhappy tummy for the past two days, requiring a 40 mile trip to the vet and $200 bill for xrays and meds. But he feels well today and will be able to return to his job of provided support and learning to our young pretty messed up client on Friday. Whew!

Ok, maybe Louis did make an album using SATCH, but I was very unhappy about the absent mo.

Fun morning. Now to look for that $@#*($ file.

Paul & Kathy 12:19 PM  

FWIW Rex, I had "ADS" as 65D and then had a hell of a time with 63A. So if there are six of us, I'm one of them.

Kathy 12:28 PM  

ALDO/LEDO Natick here too.

When’s the last time anyone had their oil checked at a gas station?
Grab a sushi, maybe.

Right on, @Gary Johnson and @Rainbow!
Alternative could have been “Grandpa in Frankfurt”

Anonymous 12:33 PM  

Doesn't "Gary Johnson" usually have some sort of different title each post, like "Rev." or "Dr." or even military ranks? I'm pretty sure "Rev/Dr/Sgt Gary Johnson" and "JOHN X" are the same person (there was a post a week or two ago that kind of gave it away). Is that you, JOHN X?

jae 12:48 PM  

Medium-tough. WASPISH for petulant was new to me. OK Wed., but the WJS puzzle was more than a tad better. (@lms Nice avatar! ).

LEDA reminds me of Orphan Black. If you haven’t seen it is definitely worth a look. The ENTIRE series is available on Netflix.

@Nancy - If you are going to listen to Waltzing Matilda I recommend the movie “On the Beach” a cold war classic.

Joe Dipinto 12:49 PM  

Won't you stay
We'll put on the day
And we'll talk in present tenses

This felt like kind of a feeble outing. Like, "I don't know, what do you think about a puzzle about verb tenses? We can put words like HIDER and STARER in it." "Yeah, I guess it'll work." I like the word WASPISH though.

Mayor Pete plays the didgeridoo. On the campaign bus, when he has some down-under time. Now and then.

Nancy 12:50 PM  

Thanks for the shoutout re Christie characters, @Maldemare (12:09.

Your dog ate half a bunny?????

Teedmn 12:59 PM  

I liked this puzzle. I got to enter in DIDGERIDOO and guess correctly on the spelling. I got to write over my first thought of WATER Fountai,oops. I gave a moment to wonder if WASPISH really meant "petulant" as I always thought of it as "exasperated". (Online dictionary bears me out, in my opinion).

But my favorite thing of the day was to reparse 51A after reading Rex. I read it as WE GO TO GET HER and pictured a mob going to rescue the heroine after she becomes a WASPISH HIDER. I've never seen "Grease" because the songs I DO know from it have never inspired me to waste time on it, thus 51A is a WOE.

I'm with @M&A in thinking SoftA before SCHWA. Too many "silent this or that letter" clues recently is my excuse.

Thanks, Jake Halperin.

GILL I. 1:02 PM  

@jberg. There were many artists who painted "Leda and the Swan." The two most notable were Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo. I believe it was Leonardo who did exotic Leda being (ahem) screwed by the swan.

Ani 1:24 PM  

So I did the WSJ contest puzzle and found it easier than today’s and no more scintillating. Could Shortz have something to do with Rex’s review?

Bill L. 1:28 PM  

I saw Xavier Rudd play the bejeezus out of his DIDGERIDOOs at the Folks Festival in Lyons Colorado several years ago. No video from that performance but this is a good example of how it’s done. Enjoy!

okanaganer 1:39 PM  

Re the Friday Wall Street Journal puzzle/contest Rex mentions... I solved that puzzle in about 8 minutes, it was insanely easy. Then I spent the rest of the day, on and off, trying and failing to solve the contest. It turns out I couldn't get it because:
A) There are several steps, one of which is to guess a bunch of other words, and I guessed two of them wrong, so no hope.
B) I had never heard of the cartoon duo in question.

For's writeup (spoiler alert!) look here.

If you haven't tried it, give it a go. I'm sure the contest part gets easier with experience.

ccredux 1:57 PM  

Where is that line “penned” by Virginia Woolf found? I don’t recall seeing it in her published diaries or letters. Is it from
“The Waves?” Some other novel or essay?

Nancy 2:21 PM  

Yes! We learned that song in elementary school!!! FYI I’m old. Doubt they sing it today !

pabloinnh 2:25 PM  

@Nancy (and any others interested in "Waltzing Matilda"), I highly recommend "And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda", by Eric Bogle. You can find it on Youtube, Liam Clancy has an especially moving version. Its one of the most powerful anti-war songs ever written. Breaks my heart every time.

mathgent 2:50 PM  

As Z pointed out, I was ignorant when I called WATERFEATURE a clunker. It is a widely-used term in garden architecture.

Pdxrains 3:28 PM  

Can someone explain what SCHWA is??

Dawn Urban 3:40 PM  

Hi, if it hasn't been mentioned yet, one of John Denver's songs mentions the DIDGERIDOO, which is how I knew that answer. In his later years, he seemed to write many songs featuring a country or continent. No doubt, this was the song about Australia where the lyrics mention being a "bush-pilot's wife".

Gone too soon...

pmdm 3:55 PM  

Pdxrains: I already did, although I misspelled my name as pmd,m

Malsdemare 3:58 PM  

@Nancy, top half, don't ask why. I love Saturday mornings when I have an argument with a 90 lb dog concerning the remaining half still in his mouth. We traded for salmon, and I'm sure the local predators are thrilled, but still . . . Saturday morning!?!

Anonymous 4:48 PM  

I don't get how OPA is any worse than, say, SITH or GCHAT. All three are fairly short-lived and specialized phenomena that many readers will never have heard of. Why is OPA worse for being from the 1930s?

Nanny 6:18 PM  

What is SCHWA?

Nancy 8:55 PM  

@pabloinnh (2:25) -- Thanks for the link. That's a really moving anti-war song which I've never heard. I'm assuming you saw the Aussie movie "Gallipoli" -- which is one of the great anti-war movies, right up there with "All Quiet...", "Paths of Glory" and "Bridge on the River Kwai".

As far as anti-war songs go, here's another one that's really powerful and has a very similar theme to "And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda". You probably know it already, but if you don't here it is.

(BTW, the Nancy who posted at 2:21 wasn't me.)

Richardf8 9:21 PM  

WATER FEATURE is a home center word. They don’t want you to think that that liner and pump will serve only for a fountain or only for a koi pond or only for a mosquito breedery, so they just say WATER FEATURE and have done with it.

Anonymous 9:25 PM  

SCHWA is an unstressed "uh" sound that occurs with any vowel, e.g., ago (the a), moment (the e), diligent (the second i), armor (the o), supply (the u), etc... I would argue that "America" does NOT begin and end with a SCHWA... It would be so much better if SCHWA were pronounced with a schwa... Alas.

Anonymous 9:33 PM  

Can someone please explain how ACS are window boxes? Is it a Microsoft thing? I do Apple.
Also, I agree with Taoism being 180 degrees different from Confucianism.

Another friend of LMS. 9:54 PM  

I listened to Liam Clancy’s version. I never thought of it as an anti-war song, but his version is definitely heart-breaking, and brought tears to my eyes. Thank you.

Z 10:03 PM  

@Anon9:33pm - ACS is short for Air ConditionerS.

SCHWA, including an audio sample.

albatross shell 10:03 PM  

SCHWA is the inverted "e" sound in many pronunciation guides that all the vowels sometimes have, that is the "uh" sound. It is reputed to be the most common vowel sound. I never counted. Comes from German via Hebrew. And surprisingly the names for that sound were worse before SCHWA was adopted. America starts with uh and ends with kuh.

Penny dropping is something I have often heard or read but never said. If you listen and look you will probably find. Obviously an older expression, because the price is unchanged by inflation.

You can make a decent didgeridoo from a 5 foot length of pcv pipe, 2-3 inches in diameter. Don't these whippersnappers know Tie me Kangaroo down?

Play your didgeridoo, Blue
Play your didgeridoo
Ah, like, keep playin' 'til I shoot through, Blue
Play your didgeridoo
Altogether now!

Tie me kangaroo down, sport
Tie me kangaroo down
Tie me kangaroo down, sport
Tie me kangaroo down

Tan me hide when I'm dead, Fred
Tan me hide when I'm dead
So we tanned his hide when he died, Clyde
And that's it hangin' on the shed!
Altogether now!

Next you'll be telling me you never read Heidegger's Beeman and Nothingness opining on the question does your chewing gum lose its favor on the bedpost overnight?

Hand up for softA.

albatross shell 10:05 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Frantic Sloth 11:15 PM  

@okanaganer Thank you so much for providing the link to crosswordfiend’s writeup of Gaffney's WSJ puzzle!! NEVER would have figured out that convoluted theme/answer/cartoon duo thingee, but would have died ugly trying.

albatross shell 12:22 AM  

Waltzing Matilda. Checkout Tom Waits.I could listen to it for days.

Bea 11:47 AM  

I initially had WRITE as well.
SATCH without MO didn't work for me.

kitshef 11:20 PM  

Yes to fond memories of Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport. One of many highly entertaining Rolf Harris songs. Alas, it turned out he was a multiple abuser of underage girls.

Thought the WSJ meta puzzle left a lot to be desired.

spacecraft 10:59 AM  

This WAS so dumb it was hard. The theme left me even flatter than it did OFC--and the fill! ENCLS?? Really? That has to win the Desperation Prize of the year. Never heard about any dropping penny. Crosses for that one. So often I was a STARER at a clue. The answer was a HIDER. These "one-that"s GOT to be tiresome. There's more, but...

INGA was played by longtime favorite and secret love of mine Teri Garr, so she will GET the DOD sash today.

Oh yeah, and just what is a "WATERFEATURE??" Is that a thing? I'm mystified. Jake, you were definitely not ONYOURMARK this time. Bogey. SHALOM.

Burma Shave 3:14 PM  


In REIN or FIRSTSNOW weather,
INICE, or WATER-soaked,


leftcoaster 3:17 PM  

Inclined to go with @spacecraft's first paragraph. GOT the gimmick at ATE and EAT almost simultaneously with revealer THEN AND NOW. Last to go: DIDGERIDOO. (Really? Oh, well.)

Liked it, sorta.

rondo 4:43 PM  

How could the NYT possibly publish a puz with SCHWA STYX AHA in it?

Years ago, before the Golf Channel, CNN, and other gigs, yeah baby INGA Hammond was a news anchor right here on channel 5 in the Twin Cities. She left town after reportedly getting caught in an act with a MN Twins pitcher in the men’s room of Bullwinkle’s Saloon.

So much for gridspanner week. That’s all she WROTE.

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