Illustrator Wilson famous for his macabre cartoons / MON 12-30-19 / 1940s-'60s singer Frankie / Standard Windows typeface

Monday, December 30, 2019

Constructor: Gary Larson

Relative difficulty: Easy (though my time was normal—I blame drink and (related?) constant typos) (3:04)

THEME: ON A ROLL (40A: Winning time after time ... or where you might find 17-, 23-, 51- or 62-Across) — things you might find on a roll:
Theme answers:
  • MARGARINE (a dinner roll)
  • HONOR STUDENT (honor roll)
  • ALUMINUM FOIL (uh ... usually it comes *in* a roll, but is that cardboard bit in the middle called 'a roll'? OK, then ...)
  • MONEY CLIP (on a money ... roll ... though normally if you have in fact made a 'roll' of your money, a clip would not in fact hold it; you'd need a rubber band, like *literally* all the pictures that come up when I search [money roll], here look:

Word of the Day: GAHAN Wilson (18D: Illustrator Wilson famous for his macabre cartoons) —
Gahan Allen Wilson (February 18, 1930 – November 21, 2019) was an American author, cartoonist and illustrator known for his cartoons depicting horror-fantasy situations. // Wilson was born in Evanston, Illinois, and was inspired by the work of the satiric Mad and Punchcartoonists, and 1950s science fiction films. His cartoons and prose fiction appeared regularly in PlayboyCollier's and The New Yorker for nearly 50 years. He published cartoons and film reviews for The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. From 1992 through end of publication, he prepared all the front covers for the annual book Passport to World Band Radio. Wilson was a movie review columnist for The Twilight Zone Magazine and a book critic for Realms of Fantasy magazine. [...] In 2005, Wilson was recognized with a lifetime achievement award from the World Fantasy Awards. He received the World Fantasy Convention Award (in the form of the bust of H. P. Lovecraft that he had designed as the award trophy in 1975) in 1981. He also received the National Cartoonists Society's Milton Caniff Lifetime Achievement Award in 2005.
Wilson is the subject of a feature-length documentary film, Gahan Wilson: Born Dead, Still Weird, directed by Steven-Charles Jaffe.
He was an influence on later alternative cartoonists, including Gary Larson [!!!!!!!?], John Callahan and Bill Plympton. (wikipedia)
• • •

This puzzle feels about as timely as MONEY CLIP, which is to say it feels like it came from ca. 1985 (the last time I actually owned a MONEY CLIP. It's so generic, so plain, so ... I mean Mel OTT Frankie LAINE Davy Crockett ... it's not even trying to be anything close to current. And it's not like Shortz works that hard to make the clues current. So it feels mothbally. Same with the theme concept. I'm stunned it hasn't been done before. Or maybe I'm not, since ALUMINUM FOIL and MONEY CLIP don't *really* work. Foil comes *in* a roll, or ... just come in rolls, I guess ... and a MONEY CLIP isn't made to hold a literal cash roll. I holds bills folded over once, I think. Close enough for horseshoes and hand grenades, I guess, but pretty weak sauce compared to most good, tight, sparkly Mondays. I guarantee you one of the other dailies (USA Today, LAT, Newsday, Universal, or WSJ) has a nicer theme than this one today. Too much competition out there right now. NYT should be B+ or better every single day. There are no excuses for this kind of just okay-ness.

Felt like I didn't have to struggle at all, but the timer came out with a very average time, which means I had more trouble (either interpreting clues or just plain typing) than I thought I did. I really did struggle to comprehend the clue on HERE (3D: On earth), which I really despise. The Taj Mahal is "on earth," but it is not [... looks around room ...] HERE, by any stretch of the imagination. Maybe the clue means simply "in existence," but still. Blecch. Every part of me resisted HERE, which meant I lost valuable seconds. I also saw the clue at 15A: 1940s-'60s singer Frankie (LAINE) and could think only of VALLI. I had the "A" from TAR and the "I" from WII, but wanting VALLI made me doubt WII, and so, yeah, I must've flailed for a few seconds there as well. Wrote in ALUMINUM WRAP at first, which, given that "wrap" is in the clue, was a bad idea; and then I wrote in MONEY BELT instead of CLIP, which ... is that more or less archaic than MONEY CLIP? I don't know. Anyway, those erasures certainly cost me time. And then I had a bit of an issue parsing DOORDIE (which always happens with that answer, whenever I encounter it) and INORDER. But in the end, it was a textbook Monday puzzle. Not an up-to-date textbook, but textbook, in its solidly 20th-century way, nonetheless. One big treat was seeing GAHAN Wilson—a great cartoonist who passed away just last month (11/21). I don't think GAHAN is exactly a Monday answer, but the crosses are fair, and since he's one of the greats, I have no problem seeing his name in any puzzle, no matter the day of the week.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Mr. Alarm 12:23 AM  

If you look at Gary Larson’s VERY early cartoons, you’ll see the very heavy Gahan influence.

Joaquin 12:23 AM  

Nope. MONEYCLIP is not even close; not horseshoe or hand grenade close.

Hand up if you are surprised by Rex's hand grenade reference. The expression is, "Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades." The reference is to horseshoe scoring and the killing power of the grenade, neither of which need to be thrown perfectly. The horseshoe closest to the target gets a point and the grenade that lands in the vicinity of the target usually inflicts damage.

Z 12:46 AM  

Mr. Alarm - I’d say the GAHAN Wilson influence is always there. Just to be clear, this puzzle was not constructed by the same Gary Larson.

chefwen 1:38 AM  

Agree on the money clip gripe, maybe a wad of bills, but certainly not a ROLL.

Fun puzzle that I had no problems with other than misspelling MARGARINE, had an E instead of a second A. Pretty sure Crockett didn’t at the ALEMO, so a pretty easy fix.

jae 2:35 AM  

Easy. Pretty smooth, liked it. I agree, MONEY CLIP is pretty iffy.

Pablo 2:43 AM  

An easy Monday, but not a fun Monday sadly. If I (a young, inexperienced, and science-obsessed solver with terrible trivia knowledge) can finish in under 10 minutes, it's probably a very dull and very easy puzzle. Still, I'll take the confidence boost, and an easy puzzle still plays smoothly, so kudos to the constructor.

I did learn some things though. A humidor is a humidity controlled box for storing cigars or other tobacco products, and they can be as big as an entire room! Had vAlli in for LAINE at first. Definitely slowed me down. Can't ever remember how TSE is spelled. OON was a weak clue. Didn't know ZAIRE but luckily knew ADZES. Definitely a potential Natick for some. Kept wanting to make ASTIN beane, but Sean Bean is just Bean. The rest was pretty tight.

Lewis 6:32 AM  

I, like @rex, am stunned that this theme has never been done before. There it was in the ether -- ripe, low-hanging fruit, waiting to be discovered, hanging lower and lower, but it took Gary to see it and present it all polished and shiny. The well has not run dry, constructors. Those themes are out there!

I thought this was a lovely intro puzzle for giving new solvers a feeling of success, yet with a couple of clues/answers to hint at what comes later in the week, one or two clues that even tripped up @rex. I found the theme charming and the execution of the Beginning Puzzle genre solid. Excellent work, Gary!

And ooh ooh! I liked the five double-O's.

bulgie 6:38 AM  

Are there lions in any real jungle HERE on earth? I don't know, but I think of them as more like savanna denizens.

GILL I. 7:09 AM  

@Rex is right...these need to be zinged up a bit. I'm happy that this has not been done before, but let's give the cluing some oomph?
I liked the mini zootopia of the ORCA APE LION and ANT. Did they meet up in a bar?
I think I tried MARGARINE once in my lifetime. It tasted like lard. It even looked like lard with yellow food coloring. I think it was touted as being better for you than, say, the lovely Kerrygold Pure Irish butter. Smear it on some homemade Kalamata olive bread.
My dad had a MONEY CLIP. I remember it was a beautiful gold thing. He never felt comfortable going out unless he had a wad of money neatly folded in half and held together all in a nice little bundle. It was never in a roll because that looked too gangster. I was totally in awe when he took it out to pay for a cab or leave a tip. He looked like Cary Grant.
Smile time seeing ICE and SIPS. I was in San Francisco yesterday with my old buddies from our Mexicana days. Took the ferry from Sausalito into the City and we drank all day (no driving involved). We were ON A ROLL...AND.... the Forty Niners won their game even if it was by ANOSE.

Dawn Urban 7:33 AM  

Very easy. Are Monday puzzles supposed to be for absolute beginners? . It seemed too easy.

I am tired of NAAN in my breakfast puzzle every day.

mmorgan 8:07 AM  

Very sorry to hear Gahan Wilson died. I hadn’t heard. Indeed, one of the greats!

J.J. 8:28 AM  

I agree that it feels lifeless and dated, almost like it was generated by a machine. Very few of the answers are words that don’t appear in the Times Xword on a regular basis. Will probably be well received by older age novices.

@Joaquin is close, however close only counts in horseshoes, atomic bombs, darts, farts, government work and hand grenades.

Three sports-related references today - Mel OTT, who’s been dead like a hundred years, an abbreviation in baseball (RBI), and Zaire where ALI probably fought either Frazier or Foreman. That in and of itself skews this puzzle to the older demographic.

Jay 8:31 AM  

9:56 for a Monday. Broke the 10 minute barrier for the first time.

amyyanni 8:31 AM  

Wasn't Laine Hardy a recent American Idol favorite? If one wanted to update this a bit. Another Gahan Wilson fan. Work today, then two off days.

Jon Hilgers 8:31 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Suzie Q 8:32 AM  

Except for oon this seemed squeaky clean and a good puzzle for new solvers.
I remembered Frankie Laine as the singer of the theme for Rawhide. I checked to be sure and am so impressed by this man's bio.
I'm a big fan of Gahan Wilson so I was happy to be reminded of him.

SouthsideJohnny 8:46 AM  

I agree with Rex that today’s offering is very, very dull and uninspiring. Obviously, some Mondays are going to be easier than others, which this one is - however, there is nothing to lift it above “average” in any way. In fact, there is little to separate it from something you would find in one of those DELL “Easy Crossword” books that you can buy for a few bucks in a grocery store checkout line or if you are looking for mental bubblegum at an airport convenience store. The bar should be higher for the NYT.

Lewis 8:56 AM  

My five favorite clues from last week
(in order of appearance):

1. "Star Wars" character who could this clue have written? (4)
2. Average name (3)
3. It's right there on the map! (4)
4. Uncommon notes (4)
5. French, say, to a Brit (4)


pabloinnh 9:10 AM  

I never solve for speed but still would put this in the day-before-Monday (not Sunday) category. Not for beginners, first timers maybe. OK, first timers of my generation. You whippersnappers will get here someday, with luck.

I like answers like OON. Shear desperation. OON is a suffix? How about suffix for SP___? Or BAB___? And so on.

Anyway, pleasant enough for a Monday. Mondecito, or Mondito, or Mondillo. I bet a cookie tomorrow will be harder.

Nancy 9:16 AM  

No Thinking Required. If I wanted a TV Guide-level puzzle, I'd buy TV Guide. Fortunately, I just received in the mail from @Teedmn as a Christmas present four non-NYT puzzles that she says are challenging -- so I'll pick one right now and get the "fix" I didn't get from today's exercise in complete mindlessness.

amyyanni 9:16 AM  

Wasn't Laine Hardy a recent American Idol favorite? If one wanted to update this a bit. Another Gahan Wilson fan. Work today, then two off days.

Hungry Mother 9:21 AM  

Very close to a PR this morning. Got the theme, but didn’t use it to help. I did a lot of downs as they were smoother sailing.

Teedmn 9:27 AM  

Must have been easy - I had a rare sub-6 minute solve today. I shook my head at MONEY CLIP as being on a roll, as many here did. But I don't agree with Rex's complaint of ALUMINUM FOIL - it's a roll of foil on a cardboard inner roll, it's on a roll. And HERE ON EARTH seems like a common enough phrase to me so....

It's been a long time since I took Quantum Chemistry in college, which is what I blame for my write-over of ORBITalS before ORBITERS.

@Gill I, I agree with you on MARGARINE. My mother grew up on a farm but they were renters, not owners, so the milk from the cows was for sale and my mother and her seven brothers drank powdered milk and probably had lard or margarine on their bread. So when I was growing up, Mom made sure we had whole milk and real butter. I didn't taste margarine until our neighbors fed it to me. I wasn't a fan.

Although I think the last themer should have been re-thought, this was a fine, workaday Monday puzzle, so good job, Gary Larson.

Michiganman 9:28 AM  

@Gill. The Lions lost by ANOSE (actually a foot). They led or were tied for all but 3 seconds of the game. Unfortunately, it was the final 3 seconds. Packers kicked a game winning FG.

Gerry Kelly 9:31 AM  

Gahan Wilson and Gary Larson!! probably the 2 best cartoonists ever!!!Sorry mort walker. that said, a little too easy today!

RooMonster 9:37 AM  

Hey All !
Easy with a capital E. Doubled Rex's time, 6:36, but for me who doesn't go for speed and actually tries to slow down the solve a bit, that is running through the open field like a streaker.

OON is ridiculous. It's not a "suffix" for ball, a balloon is a separate thing. Agree with @pabloinnh 9:10.

Nothing else cringe worthy or nit-picky worthy. Theme was OK. The MONEY CLIP is off a touch. But it'll work for a MonPuz ON A ROLL theme.

Welcome back DOOR DIE, we've missed you! ADZES is weird, but I guess it's correct if you happen to have more than one ADZ. 34D, ___ a gun! Har.


Mme Lafargue 9:52 AM  

Totally agree with J.J and Pablo. This felt like most of the clues lived and died before I was born. That's fine but can we shuffle things along a tad? Nice though it was French and Spanish free, hopefully that will stick in 2020. Bonne Année.

Anonymous 10:33 AM  

How about festoon or lampoon?

kitshef 10:38 AM  

Very easy. Hand up for joy at seeing GAHAN Wilson in the grid. Did actually DNF at LAyNE/WyI. I thought I had the singer's spelling right, and WyI is certainly plausible, and there are a ton of gaming platform's I've never heard of.

I put it down to being in the wrong age bracket. Too young to be certain about LAINE, too old to be certain about WII.

Anonymous 10:41 AM  

Ultra-fast solve...2:33, just :03 off of PR time.

Put in vAlli for LAINE (15A), geneS for ROOTS (19A), SPrig for SPEAR (43A), and needed several crosses for the themers (other than MARGARINE).

Makes me believe that I will eventually get sub-2:30, and maybe by a bunch. :)

Carola 10:48 AM  

I thought the theme got off to a strong start with MARGeRINE (hi, chefwen) and HONOR STUDENT, but then ceased to be ON A ROLL with ALUMINUM FOIL (for me, it is a roll, the foil being rolled around a tube) and faded badly with MONEY CLIP.

@Pablo 2:43 - I’m doddering at the other end of the age spectrum, enjoying your posts.

albatross shell 10:55 AM  

I knew OON would take a lot of flak. I found it to be the humor high point of the puzzle - well, except for Gahan. Looking for ers or ing. An aha moment relative to the rest of the puzzle. Ball ending would have been a better clue

Balloon ending ANSWER: POP

Or better:


xyz 10:56 AM  

Candidate for easiest puzzle of the year.

Fill-in-the-blank easy. I guess that's OK.

Anoa Bob 11:26 AM  

I'm thinking that ALUMINUM FOIL comes in a flat sheet that is wrapped or ROLLed around a cardboard tube, not a cardboard ROLL. I would say that ALUMINUM FOIL comes IN---not ON---A ROLL. Same thing for, say, toilet paper or masking tape. And I'm at a loss as to how anyone would ever say or think that a MONEY CLIP is ON A ROLL.

mathgent 11:33 AM  

Frankie LAINE! My favorite singer when I was in my teens. That’s My Desire, Mule Train, Jezebel, High Noon. “To meet where Gypsies play, down in that dim cafe, and dance til break of day, that’s my desire.”

Joe Dipinto 11:54 AM  

Trivia: MARGARINE is virtually the only common word in the English language where a soft "g" is followed by "a".

@pabloinnh said it, there should be a pre-Monday slot for puzzles like this.

Some Serpentine Fire for a rainy day.

Masked and Anonymous 12:13 PM  

ROLL could equal a cylinder or tube, so I'll buy that, for ALUMINUMFOIL.
MONEYCLIP is a bit harder to swallow. They musta been thinkin that one might carry around their bankROLL on a MONEYCLIP?

staff weeject pick is definitely OON. Could be a themer, in a puz with revealer ONTHEBALL.

Mosta any puz's clues just kinda skew neutral, time-wise, for m&e. That's how I'd think U would want it, so that solvers can still work yer puz, a decade or so down the road, when it's in one of them compilation books. Skewin old is yer next best bet, cuz U already know if the subject matter is famous enough to hold up, over time. Like Sean ASTIN or the Johnny B. GOODE tune or Frankie LAINE (singer of "Rawhide") or WII game consoles. Not sure yet on Lil Wayne and Lil Kim, but worth a shot, I think.

Overall, a decent MonPuz, with just a tasty, faint shmidge of desperation (INE, OON, etc.)

fave moo-cow eazy-E MonPuz clue: {6:1 or 7:1 e.g., at a racetrack} = ODDS.

Thanx for the easy fun, Mr. Larson.

Masked & Anonymo3Us


old timer 1:18 PM  

I thought is was a fine puzzle and don't get the hate for it. Super-Easy even for a Monday, but Mondays should be easy. My only problem was MONEY CLIP. Wanted MONEY Case somehow. In real life, if people carry large sums of cash it may be called a roll of bills, but more often they are folded into a clip.

BALLOON it turns out is a suffix. Obviously from the French ballon, which is often used to describe those big round glasses we all used to use for fine red wine. But M-W explains that it comes from the Italian dialect word balla (ball) and the ON (or ona" is indeed a suffix.

I loved @GILL I's trip to San Francisco to get together with her old crewmates from Mexicana. Now I would have taken the Cal Cable at the Ferry, changed to the Hyde St car, gotten off for 10 minutes to get a cone at Swensen's, and ended up of course at the Buena Vista, where you actually can have excellent cocktails that are not their famous Irish coffee. Would have moved on to one or two other excellent watering holes in the vicinity, and taken the Powell-Mason car back to Market St. Or maybe, it being a special occasion, would have stopped at the St Francis for something elegant.

Penna Resident 1:43 PM  

on monday i usually try to start by reading only the theme answers. that worked great today except that reynolds wrap has the same number of letters. and it is definitely ON a roll. still managed to finish without reading any down clues so must have been easy.
hesitated to write in money clip because its not right. would have preferred to see something like COOKED EEL, which fits and has easy letters.

Bourbon Street 2:05 PM  

We seem to be having an Ali family tribute starting. The formidable LAILA Ali made an appearance in Sunday’s puzzle and today her father’s famous Rumble in the Jungle was clued. ZAIRE easily fell for me as I was a teenager when that bout occurred and I remember the publicity. It was almost impossible to ignore.

Overall, super-easy. I broke my time record—not that I keep track of it, but the always-helpful NWTX app does it for me.

GILL I. 2:54 PM  

@old timer....The Buena Vista was a favorite watering hole - and you're right about their cocktails - altho the Irish coffee was almost a must for first timers.
My friend lives in Sausalito in one of those permanent house boats. A small trek from the ferry building. Taking the ferry is almost a must. We came back and fell into the best dive bar in Sausalito...Ever been to or heard of Smitty's?
By the way, my mom's absolute favorite - after a day in San Francisco, was having tea at the St. Francis. I think, though, they are renovating the tea room.

mathgent 3:24 PM  

I’m continuing to monitor the USA TODAY dailies under Eric Agard’s editorship. Today’s was by Stella Zawistowski, a constructor I’m not familiar with. Easy but more fun than today’s NYT offering. Smarter cluing. Two or three non-routine entries.

Joe Dipinto 5:04 PM  

@mathgent – Stella Zawistowski has regularly been one of the top finishers in the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament. She previously went by the name Stella Daily and, I think, created some NYTimes puzzles using that name.

Richardf8 5:35 PM  

Try some idly with sambar. Idly, a four letter Indian bread that is not naan, and not roti. It’s gluten free too, being made with basmati rice and urad dal and leavened with wild yeast.

thefogman 9:43 AM  

Note. This Gary Larson is NOT the cartoonist:

Diana, LIW 11:36 AM  

Thanks to @Strayling for your comma-ant on Saturday - that was a good one! And I posted to you yesterday, on an ever-moving Sunday, which was wrong any way you look at it in my paper. (they reprinted last Sunday's puzzle. Par for the course.)

Anyway, this Monday was fine. Now, back to the future/past whilst I work on Sunday.

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting - Hey - Wait Up!!!

spacecraft 12:11 PM  

Yep, typically easy Monday stuff--even Gahan, for me, which betrays my onetime stack of Playboys. Talk about your DODs!! I'm sure Ms. ALBA, today's winner, would have been right at home in those pages. I especially enjoyed Wilson's horny old ladies. Funny!

Yeah, the theme could've been tighter; MONEYCLIP doesn't really work. But all in all not bad, and with few gunky fillings. Say, par.

Congrats and hail to the Chiefs, with an extra nod to ex-Eagle coach Andy Reid.

rondo 2:11 PM  

On my word as a former HONORSTUDENT, I will once again assure you that there is no DAM TAR in your driveway surface.

The four corners are aligned and could spell ARTS, RATS, STAR, TARS, or TSAR.

Jessica ALBA, yeah baby with EASE.

GOODE puz, save for OON and INE.

rainforest 2:44 PM  

Very easy, even for a Monday, yet not without its dulcet appeal in several places.

The theme was a simple one with 5 disparate themers, all of which fit the revealer just fine. I have a friend who uses a money clip to hold his bills, and he frequently refers to it at his "roll of twenties".

No problems with the fill though the cluing was very straightforward, and the theme/revealer was coherent. So yeah, easy, but its Monday. Whattaya want?

Burma Shave 2:57 PM  


when he ADZES ORE he REEDS.


leftcoaster 5:29 PM  

Wouldn't think you'd necessarily need mostly A's to be an HONOR STUDENT, though grade inflation has likely changed that.

strayling 7:58 PM  

Smooth enough to take the edge off a back-to-work Monday and a cute theme as a bonus.

@Diana: I saw your comment while I too was playing the usual game of Find The Syndi. Cheers!

Anonymous 7:39 PM  

Solved this one just now as I'm going through old puzzles during self-isolation. I enjoyed it and agree ON A ROLL was tailor-made for a puzzle theme like this. As others have mentioned, OON isn't a suffix, just a random fragment of the word BALLOON, but cluing it as "Suffix with ball" was so absurd that I genuinely laughed, which is a good thing. It also reminded me of the time someone on a forum suggested cluing LUNK as "Kerp suffix?"

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