## Sunday, December 22, 2019

Constructor: Laura Taylor Kinnel

Relative difficulty: Medium (10:28)

THEME: "Down For The Count" — a multi-level "T"-themed puzzle, where the number of "T"s in each themer is the answer that crosses each themer, starting at the dead center and dropping down, thus making a "T" of sorts each time. So the numbers down the middle of the grid (which progress from TWO through FIVE) both indicate the number of "T"s in the themer they cross and form the downstroke of a "T" shape—the whole concept is brought together by the revealer, TEETOTALERS (39A: Abstainers ... or the central column's answers vis-à-vis 20-, 39-, 74- and 101-Across)

• MULTIPLICATIVE INVERSE / TWO
• TEETOTALERS / THREE
• BABIES 'R' US / JUST KIDDING
• THE THEORY OF RELATIVITY / FOUR
• "TUTTI FRUTTI" / FIVE
Word of the Day: ABSCISSA (11D: The 1 in (1,2), in math) —
In mathematics, the abscissa (/æbˈsɪs.ə/; plural abscissae or abscissæ or abscissas) and the ordinate are respectively the first and second coordinate of a point in a coordinate system. (wikipedia)
• • •

Very mixed feelings here. Like, all over the map. Started out feeling not very good at all, as the fill seemed decidedly subpar. Can't remember the last time I saw SPEE anywhere, yikes. I know it only because I used to do crosswords in the '90s, when megacrosswordese roamed the earth. Between that and ISS RES ISDONE etc. I did not have high hopes for how this thing was gonna go. And honestly, it didn't get too much better. Surprised to see old not-friends like SPEE and ATMAN and ILLE (!?!?).  GERALDS and SESAMES are both absurd plurals. MDL couldn't be a randomer Roman numeral if it tried. NONA x/w JAROMIR was harrowing. I just felt like I was wincing a lot. The theme was leaving me cold, too, so far as I could understand it. MULTIPLICATIVE INVERSE is far too technical a term for me to love. THE THEORY OF RELATIVITY has that gratuitous THE to pick up its fourth "T." I was able to write in TWO THREE FOUR and FIVE very early, without really realizing why they were right. I could just see that there was a sequence developing, and they all fit, and the crosses checked out. And then ... it seems a bit of stretch to ask me to see see the answers + number of "T"S as forming the shape of a "T" each time. Those are very very top-heavy "T"s, if that is indeed part of the theme. Only when I was done did I realize that the number crossing each themer corresponded to the number of "T"s in each themer (the "T" total, as it were). That is of course the primary point of the theme. The fact that the intersecting themer / number form a kind of "T" seems like a kind of secondary / bonus theme feature. Are all those "T"-shaped black-square formations supposed to be part of the theme. I'm seeing "T"s everywhere now. A conspiracy of "T"s. . .

So actually solving this brought more lows than highs, which is a problem. Figuring out the theme after-the-fact brought my appreciation back up some, and I want to point out one particularly ambitious aspect of the theme that you might not have noticed. I'm not sure it was strictly necessary, but: the constructor decided that, as part of this TEE-TOTALERS theme, the "T"s that are totaled (i.e. the "T"s in the themers) would be The Only "T"s In The Whole Grid. There are no "T"s in non-theme answers. None. Zero. That's actually very elegant touch, but it also adds a huge level of difficulty. After all, "T" is a very common letter. Hard enough to construct a smooth grid when you get to use all the letters of the alphabet; take away a common letter like "T" and you are in trouble (and that starts with "T" and that rhymes with "P" and that stands for, uh, POSY!). And when I saw the "T"-lessness of the grid (outside the themers), I suddenly had much more sympathy for the bumpy fill. At least there's a reason. At least she was trying to do something big, trying to add tightness and crispness and artistry to this theme that *already* had at least two layers to it. Weak fill is weak fill, and it's hard for me to get past, but this puzzle is trying to keep a Lot of balls in the air at once, and I have to admire the ambition. Ambitious imperfection is so so so much more appealing than mere adequacy, to say nothing of the kind of laziness we see much more often than we should. So even though I didn't exactly like solving this one, I think it's a very promising debut indeed.

As promised, here are some last-minute puzzle subscription gift ideas:
• American Values Club Crossword: the premier independent crossword puzzle. Imaginative, contemporary puzzles from an extremely talented and diverse group of constructors. You should already be a subscriber. Go ahead and make someone else a subscriber too.
• Matt Gaffney's Weekly Crossword Contest: Matt's contest is by now an institution with a sizeable solving fanbase. Every Friday he releases a metacrossword. You have the weekend to figure out the meta answer. Puzzles cycle through difficulty levels week to week, from pretty easy to Ouch OMG Help! When you get the answer, you enter it on his website, and you can see if you're right and see how many others got it. There are prizes for randomly selected successful solvers. Matt's a great constructor and his contest is justly famous. For the serious solver who wants to spice things up, this subscription is just the thing.
• Crossword Nation: Liz Gorski used to be a frequent and beloved contributor to the NYTXW, but she has taken her talents elsewhere, as they say, and one of those places is her own weekly easy themed crossword puzzle. This would make a great gift for someone who enjoys solving but still struggles with late-week puzzles—or for anyone who likes cute current delicious puzzles.
• Queer Qrosswords 2: 2 Queer 2 Qurious: Nate Cardin was so successful with his first go at a collection of crosswords to benefit LGBTQIA+ charities that he decided to do another one! It's easy: donate to one of a number of charities, show your receipts, get your puzzles (from some of the best constructors in the business). Do it! Give it as a gift! Go on!
• Women of Letters: Patti Varol put together this collection of crosswords by women constructors, to benefit "women-centric charities." As with Queer Qrosswords, you donate to a charity, show your receipts, get your puzzles. Great causes, great puzzles. Go for it.
• Outside the Box puzzles (by Joon Pahk): I don't normally go too far into the world of non-crosswords, but the Variety puzzles and Rows Garden puzzles (so fun! see the sample here if you're not familiar with this type of puzzle!) available here are crossword-adjacent enough for me. If you want to diversify your (or someone else's!) puzzling fare, subscribe to Year 5 of Outside Box. Now. Go on!
• Fireball Newsflash Crosswords 2020: man I love these things. Biweekly crosswords that Peter builds with answers straight out of recent headlines. If something's in the news, chances are you'll see it here first (crossword-wise). These puzzles are hypercurrent and force me to have to deal on a regular basis with names I don't know—a very important solving skill to have. The Kickstarter for next season (2020) ends at 10pm EST *tonight*, so get over there and subscribe, or buy someone a subscription, and add a newsy dimension to your (or someone else's) solving experience.
• Puzzlesnacks by Eric Berlin: Hey, look, puzzles for beginning and intermediate solvers, particularly *kids*. I'll let Eric describe: "With Puzzlesnacks, I specialize in taking variety crossword types generally seen as pretty darn challenging, and making them more accessible to beginning and intermediate solvers. I post a puzzle to the Web site (http://www.puzzlesnacks.com) every Friday -- I want kids to be able to access the puzzle for free. But adults are encouraged to subscribe, for \$3 / month. Subscribers get the puzzle sent directly to them by e-mail, and they get a couple dozen bonus puzzles each year as well."
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

Joaquin

The puzzle itself was (for me) a medium. But understanding the theme was only slightly more difficult than understanding the actual theory of relativity.

Z

Wow. That’s some seriously high praise.

TEE-TOTALERS? I think I need a Scotch now.

jae

Medium - top half easy - bottom half tougher. Clever and delightful. For me the theme trumps the fill problems, liked it a bunch. A fine debut!

Joe Dipinto

Excuse me, but Peter Noone never had all of the Top 10 Billboard hits simultaneously. These egregious errors are getting more rampant by the week.

I like the whole concept and execution of this thing. The lack of superfluous T's is impressive. Other points of interest: BOY, GIRL, and AGENDER all make an appearance. I particularly liked the SW – it's always a treat to see ROGER FEDERER. And I love a good PORK CHOP. And when am I not in the mood for an O. HENRY story?

Composer Pietro YON's biggest hit (just in time for the season).

albatross shell

Easier than an average Sunday.Handsomely weird grid. Like the perfectly placed t-totalers down the center with the the well- and symmetrically- placed black-space tees down each side. Never even checked the theme until I was well past done. But really appreciate it now.
The last two letters in were both ends of BRIO. BERRY and BOY. BOY I was expecting to be right, but BERRY? If any one can clearly parse out how "Preserves something" gets to BERRY in logical and precise baby steps I would buy you a drink next time. that is, the first time I see you. I can see a muddled connection. And if you had preserves _ _ _, I could see berries. And preserves by itself might be berries.

A hooray for science and math puzzle. Hooray!

GERALDS SLEDS SESAMES a fine bottom line trio of plurals. NO REASON to SNEER. I'm pro AGENDER NAVEL GLAMOUR too. EARMARKS and AIRWAVES are nicely balanced. The more ya look, the better ya find in this one.

Anonymous

The clue for 47 across is not just simply incorrect, it is seriously misleading.

2300 mi from DC to LA by air.

(2300 mi)/(23/60 hours) = 6000 mph.

Mach 1 is 761 mph at sea level and 678 mph at 30,000 feet. Give the editors the benefit of the doubt and use the former number.

(6000 mph) / (761 mph per Mach) = Mach 7.9, not MACH SIX.

I didn't know the air distance from DC to LA with any precision, nor did I know the exact speed of sound, but I knew them roughly well enough to know that the correct answer could not possibly be MACH SIX. Therefore I had MACH ten for the longest time, until I finally convinced myself that it had to be MACH SIX even though that couldn't possibly be right.

It would have been so easy for the editors to use Wikipedia and a calculator to determine that the clue should have been the speed to fly from DC to LA in 30 minutes, not 23 minutes.

puzzlehoarder

When I got done with this thing and wound up counting TEEs to understand the theme I thought, that's really it?
It turned out to be so inane it was actually good.

While solving I got the impression that it had to be based on something obscurely mathematic or having to do with physics. The fill was keeping me pretty preoccupied most of the time anyway. 1A was a gimme but I still had to work for that NW corner. There were a number of sections like that.

The SW corner was another tough spot. I stopped at NOD coming into the SW from the north and had to backfill it from the East.

Impressive construction for a beginner and a good solve.

Anonymous

As a math and science geek, I completely loved this theme. My favorite in a long time...

Anonymous

Couldn't there have been a better clue for 44 across? The US version of the rhyme is "Ring around the rosy, pocket full of posies," not POSY.

And ILLE does not mean "he." It's the masculine for "that" thingamjig. Again, the answer is fine but the clue is off.

Figuring out NONA requires remembering some high school geometry, namely that the sum of the exterior angles is 360 degrees, Each exterior angle is 180 - 140 degrees, or 40 degrees, so there are 9 exterior angles and therefore 9 vertices.

I wanted to say ScARFS for 91A, but something nagged at me - I was proud of myself for leaving the second letter blank for the time being. The constructor certainly gets a pass on a lot of awful fill for managing to avoid all Ts except in the themers.

@mericans in Paris

Hi all ! Mrs. 'mericans and I are spending a weekend in Geneva, so really appreciated the Swiss references -- namely, ROGER FEDERER and FONDUE. It is difficult to convey the degree of pride and admiration that the Swiss hold for ol' ROGER. Besides being able to remain among the top tennis players well into his 30s, imagine the pressure he must feel under as the leading representative of his country within the sports world.

As for FONDUE, we enjoyed a meal of it yesterday in a cosy restaurant set up to serve patrons of a seasonal ice-skating rink in the south of the city. And we found a chocolatoeria that sells confections that are true works of art. We're looking forward to trying a small chocolate cake from them A LA MODE. With BRIO.

I agree with @jae that the puzzle played much, much easier for me in the top than in the bottom, especially the bottom central triangle. I wanted "coals" for the longest time, before I got SLEDS. And NAVEL never occurred to me. I still don't like it. It does seem that some definitions of NAVEL-gazing make a link with narcissism, but mainly they agree with my understanding of its meaning, which is over-fixation on something to the detriment of more general awareness. OVINE was a FAIRE and clever answer to 107A, but I missed it for the longest time, able only to think of synonyms for "contrite".

MACH SeX!, by the way, sounds like the curt response of some Swiss-German NURSE to a couple seeking advice on how they could improve their chances of conceiving. (Next stop: DELIVERY ROOM.)

Finally, the feat of construction Is amaaaaaazing.

I'S DONE. 'AV A Merry Christmas!

MommaJ

When I can finish a Sunday puzzle without having the slightest idea of the theme, it's a total fail for me. This theme was too clever by half--heck, too clever by three quarters. I couldn't even understand the reference to the "center column", since sets of letters alternating with black squares do not comprise a column of anything to me.

sf27shirley

Because it was Pat Boone....

Matthew B

We need a name for puzzles that are not much fun to solve... this one...but are great fun to examine when you're done.. this one.

Jason

I already had "_ A C H _ _ X" filled in when I read the clue, so I didn't even bother to run the math.

But I'm guessing that whoever wrote the clue assumed (incorrectly, of course) that Mach numbers were simply multiples of 1000mph. In that case, they would believe Mach 6.0 to be 6000mph and then the math would be spot on.

But, come on, people..... Google is RIGHT THERE..... All the time.

There's no excuse for that.

Glenn Patton

@Joe Dipinto, I finally realized that one needs to parse 86a as "no one" or "no-one" rather than "Noone" .

Anonymous

Rex’s ability to analyze a puzzle is downright brilliant; he must be a college professor or something, But, this time around his deconstruction of this puzzle was more convoluted than the puzzle itself. Yes, it was cool that he noticed blocks of black T’s, but the rest of his write-up was
was byzantine: more complex than the puzzle itself,

Sometimes he tries too hard, especially around donation-time. Just saying,

tc

JJ

@GlennPatton— thank you for resolving the NOONE conundrum. I could think of 2 or 3 hits “Mrs Brown you’ve go a lovely daughter”, “ Henery VIII”, etc., but all top ten?

fkdiver

No. Just...no. Two obscure math terms crossing plus a theme that isn't really a theme. And the worst part is that now I've got "Tutti Frutti" playing in my head.

Maggy

I can see how this grid would be fun for the STEM folks, so that's nice. But Mach Six, which turns out to have been wrong in any case, was ridiculously difficult. And the cluing on things like Posies and No One was so tortured. Why turn something easy into something that that time consuming in a puzz teeming with crazy difficult stuff?

But I did like O. Henry and especially liked being reminded of that particular story at this time of the year, so almost all is forgiven.

Suzie Q

After having the dimensions of the theme fed to me I do have some appreciation for this but I love doing crosswords, even boring ones.
Actually I only stuck with this and finished because I didn't have anything better to do while waiting for the sun to come up.

@ Joe Dipinto, As our music expert I can't believe you fell for that joke. Maybe you were just kidding. I'll give you the benefit of the doubt.

Jofried

Love a puzzle full of math and science clues, yay! I’m writing from Walt Disney World where I am debating how early it’s worth getting my gang up tomorrow morning to get on the Star Wars ride. As a sci fi fan I desperately want to go on this ride, but...it’s so insanely popular that the only way to get on is to be at the park before it opens at 7 am to join some sort of virtual queue. That’s a tad bit early for me on vacation!

Z

Did you know that Peter NOONE’s cousin, Carl Dook, raised a goat? You can look it up.

That MACH SIX clue looks like something taken right from somewhere, and the constructor seems to have a thing for math and science, so I’m not going to be surprised if someone shows up explaining it.

pmdm

Was it in the cartoon "The Family Circus" and the Noone family made many appearances?

My time is often limited on the weekend, as it was yesterday. Consequently, I did not identify the theme as I was solving. Only reading the XWordInfo writeup (which posts before this site's write-up) altered me to the theme. So for me I solved the puzzle as a themeless.

As an ice hockey fan, Jagr's first name was a gimee. Especially since he played for the team I root for (Rangers). I can see how non-hockey fans would have problems. Esoteric knowledge sometimes helps.

kitshef

When two early entries were MULTIPLICATIVE INVERSE and ABSCISSA, I thought (and hoped!) we were in for a long-overdue math-centric puzzle. I guess we got one, in a way, but it was a pale counting puzzle, rather than what I was hoping for.

I solved this – and enjoyed it a lot - as a themeless, which is how it works best. The theme really wasn’t worth the time to figure out during the solve. Rather, it was something to admire after completion.

O HENRY always seems to get clued using The Gift of the Magi. Some options to consider next time you use O HENRY in a puzzle:
- American author who created the Cisco Kid.
- American author who coined the term “banana republic”
- America author who jumped bail and fled to Honduras after being arrested for embezzlement
- America author whose actual surname was Porter

Speaking of which, can a fictional character have an “actual surname” (95A)? I’d say not.

webwinger

All I can say is, wow! I know we’re not supposed to like feats of construction that don’t make the puzzle more fun or satisfying to solve, but this was really amazing IMO. And I didn’t come close to appreciating the accomplishment until I read the review from @Rex, with its typically grudging praise. Also agree with others who liked the STEM-heavy content. And from a female constructor, yet!

Speaking of which, I have to point out that 3 of the last 5, 4 of the last 8, 5 of the last 10, and 7 of the last 21 puzzles have been created by women (1 as a co-constructor), leading me to several more observations: This is good! WS and company deserve some praise, so way to go Will! As is typical, OFL, good culture warrior that he is, failed to comment, though I’m guessing he noticed. Finally, can we accept once and for all that the NYTXW is not biased against women, and probably not against other “marginalized” groups of constructors or potential constructors, even when (as will inevitably happen) there are future weeks or even months that are disproportionately white male?

Finally, I’m pretty sure that @Joe D was joking about Peter Noone. Gave me a good chuckle, anyway…

kitshef

While NO ONE has had the whole top 10, Drake has come pretty close. Some fun comparisons:

Most songs in the top ten at the same time:
Drake - seven
The Beatles - five

Most songs in the top 100 at the same time:
Drake - 27
The Beatles - 14

Most top 40 hits in a career:
Drake - 99
The Beatles - 50

You tell me who the historically great artist is.

John H

Overall a decent solve. I didn't bother to try to figure out the theme, knowing that Rex would do it for me, and I must agree, overall highly elegant.

About those plurals, Geralds makes sense ("Wow, all three of you are named Gerry?"), res (31A), and sesames (115) (at least in the sense of that clue) do not.

And 70D, "Preserves something" is a really awful clue for "berry."

Anonymous

Z:

If your speed is Mach 6, it means you are traveling at 6 times the speed of sound. Unfortunately the creator and editors forgot to look up the speed of sound (either that or they forgot to look up the air distance from DC to LA) and so the clue was incorrect.

SLG

How does WALLOP mean PASTE?

Mohair Sam

@Joe DePinto (2:01) - Awesome post, thank you for making our morning. The classic 'Enery The Eighth should have reigned for 237 weeks on the charts.

Terrific puzz, btw. And a Sunday debut to boot. Impressive. More of the same please.

kitshef

@pmdm - that was NOt mE, rather than NO ONE, in the Family Circus.

@several people - Joe DiPinto was clearly 100% no doubt jesting.

Unknown

Finished the puzzle but never understood the theme. Several clues were incorrect. Didn’t like this puzzle very much.

GILL I.

I read @Laura's bio, saw that she's a math teacher, read 20A and immediately thought " Oh caca, a math puzzle." If it weren't for my little set of measuring cups, I wouldn't know 1/3 from 1/4.....
OK, so I warmed up to this thing. I think it was DE LOUSED or is it DEL OUSED or maybe DELO USED. Anyway, that made me smile. My frown started at MULTIPLICATIVEINVERSE because I'm sure if I met him, I wouldn't know if he was a MERMAID, a GIRL, an ILLE or that ABSCISSA thing.
So...I solved this as a themeless. I didn't even see those T numbers falling down. A wasted talent on me.
I suppose I could look up TEE TOTALERS to find out why they are called such. I don't want to be one while sharing a scotch-aroo with @JC66 and @pablito. No fun in that scenario.
@Laura Kinnel...now that I've read @Rex, I appreciate what you've done here. Kudos to you for coming up with your T's. I wish I had been more on your AIRWAVES...and I wish that god-awful song TUTTI FRUTTI didn't have FIVE of them.

albatross shell

When he insulted my mom, I pasted him one right on the nose.

SouthsideJohnny

Wow, no clue what the theme was up to. Amazing that it took Rex like six paragraphs to explain it - I about fell asleep halfway through the enlightenment. For such a burdensome grid, there is not a ton of gunk today - two (two many) Latin words (AMO and the just awful ILLE), just one RRN (MDL), the prize for the “give us a break” entry goes to ATMAN (yea, that’s a word) followed closely by ONAJAG and the hellishly clued STAGS.

IF 47A is in fact another mistake, December has been an awful month for the NYT’s team of editors. It is moving beyond slipshod into downright incompetence. Anyway, it appears a lot of effort went into putting today’s puzzle together, however the theme is so convoluted and complicated that it can only be appreciated by fellow constructors and hardcore solvers, many of which maintain a presence here.

On the plus side, nary a REBA, OREO or ACNE today - missed you guys, I’m sure we shall see you again soon though.

Carola

Admirable for sure. I got the "count the TEEs" idea at TEETOTALERS x THREE and saw that the number words formed the stems of the theme Ts. But I didn't appreciate the array of black-square Ts and never would have noticed on my own the absence of non-theme Ts. Nice job! I thought that MULTIPLICATIVE INVERSE was a lot to swallow for only TWO Ts, but the delightful TUTTI FRUTTI closer more than made up for it. Favorite clue otherwise: "Top type" - I wanted something like "alpha male" so got a laugh out of BLOUSE.

Had a dopey DNF: GERoLD x NONo. NO NO and how.

Granny Smith

Wow, I just loved this puzzle. It's a Sunday, it should be harder than a daily, not just bigger. Nice to have STEM answers instead of the usual rap star names that seem to have random letters.
An amazing feat of puzzle construction.

Joe Welling

GOBROKE for the clue "fold" is not very accurate. Don't you fold (in poker or in business) to avoid going broke?

Birchbark

You had me at MULTIPLICATIVE INVERSE.

@Kitshef (8:24) re O HENRY clues -- excellent, especially the Cisco Kid. And not a candy bar among them.

@Kitshef (8:43) re your invitation to tell you who the "historically great artist" is: my vote goes to Scott Joplin.

@Anon (2:24) -- Your math is more interesting than mine on MACH SIX (7.9). Here's how I got there: It's quite a long ways from LAX to DC, the speed of sound is fast-but-not-that-fast, and we have three letters to work with. ER(ror)GO, MACH ten. 42D tells me I just made an ass of myself, ERGO, MACH SIX. Your MACH 7.9 basically splits the difference between ten and six, so we all go home with a prize.

albatross shell

@Southside 942am
I was thinking of reading a George Sand novel and looked up her book list. I found she has one titled L'Oreo. May I assume this has been used as a clue for our old friend?

M0-T

@Z 8:14 Did you know that Peter NOONE’s cousin, Carl Dook, raised a goat? You can look it up.

LMAO. Thanks.

A-wop-bop-a-loo-bop-a-wop-bam-boom

Dear GILL I.:

Please read the Wiki page on Tutti Frutti. It is a remarkable piece of work.

Original - Tutti Frutti, good booty.

Nancy

It wasn't just the themers. It was everything. Maybe the revealer should have been THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING. Everywhere I went I was being asked for tiny bits of useless information I didn't know and didn't want to know. Not all of it was about Math. Far from it.

I was ready to throw in the towel early. Masochistically I soldiered on. And ended up with five unfilled squares: one at the ALUN?ER/IS? cross, and four at the SW nightmarish place where Jagr, the interior angles, the Roman date, and the nonbinary identity make their unholy alliance. FWIW, I thought the nonbinary identity was AGE-something-or-other.

I hated every single moment I was working on this puzzle. Not a single clue provoked my curiosity or made me care. Not a single answer made me say "Aha." Why I slogged on, I can't begin to explain. Usually it's stubborn determination, but in this case I didn't care enough to even feel stubborn. Awful.

Preferred Customer

@kitshef: Regarding your Beatles vs Drake statistics. You raise an interesting point, however context is critical. Who else was in the top 100 during those weeks? How have listening patterns changed that may influence distribution of top 100 hits? Numbers can lie and mislead unless care is taken to understand.

Heh, heh, heh,
PC

Anonymous

I put EVA at 98A. I misread the clue as Hitler's partner. DOH!

Hungry Mother

Had to call in my ex-English teacher wife to get me OHENRY and finish the puzzle. Otherwise, not so bad. My favorite day of the year, when it just gets sunnier.

Suzie Q

@ kitshef, Your numbers might be correct but for my money I'll go with the Beatles. I truly do not know who Drake is but I can sing along with every Beatles song.

Anonymous

Well, I was totally overthinking the quiz.
1/X times X equals ONE, which makes the cross on 20A, cool!
TEE has THREE letters in total. Okaay.
FOUR is the number of dimensions in space-time, cool!
FIVE in TUTTI FRUTTI. Confident I'd missed some reference.
With ONE and SIX lying around, I was looking for 7,8,9.
Ooooh, that reminds me:
"Why was 6 afraide of 7?"
"Because 7 8 9" Heh heh.

Swagomatic

I finished it in 3 Rexes, which is faster than my usual 4 or 5 Rexes. I never got the theme until afterward. I give it two pencils up.

Anonymous

Hate to have DELOUSED with the editor, but isn't Orbicularis OCULI a plural word? It's clued as a singular.

But come to think of it has anyone ever had need of removal of just one (literal) louse?

Plantation

I considered both of those but to my knowledge nobody ever did it. Hence ‘no one’

Anonymous

Birchbank: I just got MACH SIX from the crosses. But once I saw that it just had to be SIX I thought, what, can that possibly be right, and went off to Google, Wikipedia, and my calculator, and checked thrice. I'm just really annoyed at how much of my time the creator and editors wasted by putting in a blatantly wrong clue.

Teedmn

This theme took a lot of parsing for me - I had to walk away from the grid post-solve, to finally see the numbers in the central column equaled the number of TEEs in the specified across answers. While I enjoyed solving the puzzle because it put up a pretty good fight, I can't say the theme wowed me. (I've just come across the rest of the "theme" - that the grid has no TEEs other than in the four theme answers. That does up the wow factor exponentially so...)

It's an interesting looking mirror-symmetry grid. And thanks to Xwordinfo's rendering of the grid in different colors, I now see the nine TEE shapes made by black squares. Nice touch.

My favorite clues didn't involve great wordplay, but considering the answers were mere three-letter words, they stumped me for longer than they should have: 89D's "Swollen, as a lip" for FAT, and 90D's "Drain, as blood" for LET.

Congratulations, Laura Taylor Kinnel, on both your NYT debut and constructing a Sunday puzzle!

Anonymous

Drake over the Beatles just shows how much popular music has devolved into primitivism.

Anonymous

OCULI in this case is the genitive case of oculus, not the plural. Orbicularis is a singular word (3rd declension). So it's the orbicularis of the oculus. The plural of obicularis (assuming it's a regular noun, which I am not bothering to look up) would be obiculares.

David

I think it was No One. As in no one has achieved that very lofty goal.

Anonymous

Well, I was agreeing with all that Mach Six is simply too slow to fly from DC to LA. Like others, I originally wrote down "Mach Ten." But then I looked this up, and it's 2300 air miles.. So Mach Six seems to work. Who knew? I also own a copy of "Winnie Ille Pooh", the Latin version of the classic Milne tale, and so had agreed with comments that "ille" has a meaning closer to "that". But turns out, "ille" can mean "he", when used stand-alone and for some emphasis.
We must all be careful to criticize...

Colin

Anonymous

BTW, re: "orbicularis oculi"...
Many folks believe a word like "oculi" is plural. No always so. It may be the genitive tense of a word, meaning "of XXX" - so in this case, "oculi" means "of the eye."
Turns out taking 3 years of Latin in high school can some in useful for the occasional crossword puzzle!

Colin

G. Weissman

This was a DNB for me — Do Not Bother. It began with NAW and got worse from there. So glad I said NAW to this puzzle (though I’ve never said nor heard naw before), but glad others found it enjoyable.

Shockdoc

I know the constructor was trying to keep in the T (tee) spirit but the revealer as clued is a TEATOTALER not a TEETOTALER.

Anoa Bob

I always thought that the speed of sound through air depends on the air pressure/density and therefore would vary with different altitudes and different temperatures, both of which would have an effect on air density.

So I stopped by this NASA.gov site that has a MACH and speed of sound calculator. Yep, altitude and temperature are two variables you need to plug in in order to calculate the MACH number.

So if the answer is going to be a MACH number, the clue, "Speed that would enable a 23-minute D.C-to-L.A. flight" is incomplete, i.e., no altitude or temperature is given. That's why the speed needed to go from A to B in X amount of time would be calculated in MPH or KPH, not MACH number.

Malsdemare

I didn't do well with this one; had to look up the Jagr fellow, could not dredge up NONA from wherever it was lurking, and never saw AGENDER. And with five folks descending in a few hours, and one of them severely allergic to gluten, I have to get going making gluten-free bread. But I wanted to stop in to comment on GERALDS. Long ago I dated a guy named Dick. Standing an an apartment with my date in the next room, I called out, "hey Dick" and three men answered. At which point I muttered, too loudly, "Too many Dicks in this room." And then blushed for the entire night. Good, private school, Catholic girls don't say things like that.

Anonymous

On a positive note:

Have definite man crush on ROGERFEDERER

so, great to see him in the grid, Now, if someone could
figure out a way to include Waynegretzky (and not Orr,
as always) I would be grateful.

Also:

Has anyone considered that maybe New York to LA can be
achieved at Mach 6 by going east and not west?

tc

kitshef

While I do wonder how much time the anti-Drake crowd has spent listening to his music (I suspect close to none), what the numbers really reflect is how Billboard has struggled to adapt its charts to the streaming era. For example, Drake once released an album with 25 songs, and thanks to streaming all 25 hit the top 100 in the same week. That could not happen in the "olden days".

Anonymoose

Me too. Ruined my day.

Elaine, Jerry, and George

I hate the Drake!

JC66

@shockdoc

FYI, If you google TEaTOTAL, you get TEETOTAL.

Birchbark

@Nancy (10:35) -- When words as beautiful as ABSCISSA (and several others) populate a puzzle, I'm fine learning them along the way.

@Anon (11:14) -- Understood re MACH clue error, and glad you took the time to figure it out and explain. Your analysis suggests (or so I tell myself) that at some altitude, MACH TEN could have been the correct three-letter answer. In which case, I merely made an ATS of myself.

Rather than do the math on that, I'm going outside on a "Spring" day to fill the bird feeders and just generally be virtuous before going down to the Brookside to watch a little football. Then back here to complete the Italian sausage project begun last evening, and all's well in the world no matter what else.

CDilly52

@anonymous 2:38 a.m. I ScARF, too or accuse others of so doing. In fact I had never heard SNARF until a while ago in a NYT xword. Wonder if this is regional or just out of my wheelhouse and I never noticed.

Anonymous

"Has anyone considered that maybe New York to LA can be
achieved at Mach 6 by going east and not west?"

Well, that works if you have a tail wind of 300+ mph.

CDilly52

@Joefried 8:02. If you are staying at a Disney property, ask your concierge what to do. He/she can give you options on how to get the rides you really don’t want to miss.

Tyler Tillman

The clue reads “One in a pocketful”, hence POSY, which is the singular of posies

RooMonster

Hey All !
@Joe D - Har, your humor hath seemed to go over some heads.

@Anon 2:38AM - ScARFS is not the preferred NYTXW answer, nine times out of ten, it's SNARFS. ScARF is a knitted thing.

@Anoa Bob 11:39 - Would that be a laden or an unladen swallow? :-)

Didn't grasp this theme as I solved. Did see the consecutive numbers in that central Down column, but thought as @Anon 10:52 observed, thought they had some inherent quality relating to the long Acrosses. TOTALly missed the T's connection, even after getting the Revealer. Tsk. Now that I read the Rexplanation, I have a much better grasp and respect for the construction. T's! With no other T's anywhere else! And black square T's! AND the Down numbers correspond to the T's in the themers! Tres cool.

Wrongness holding me up in the NE. Had MULTIPLICATIon INdEces, dvd for VCR, irs for SSA. Yow. Managed to focus the ole brain and suss out everything there. SW corner tough, too. ON A JAG is a new one, but 94% sure Jagr's first name started with a J. Ended up 100% correct, with no cheats! WooHoo! YAY ME! :-)

ATMAN was a Huh? As was NSC. The MACH SIX argument is fun. I think it's calculations are wrong simply because you wouldn't achieve MACH SIX immediately. You'd have to work up to it.

annA-ILSA, STROh-STROS (beer on the brain?), NAVEs-NAVEL. Couple of strange clues today, but an overall awesome puz. FOR REAL.

Feeling A LUNSER. Har.
RooMonster
DarrinV

Mary McCarty

If the constructor could avoid T’s in all non-themers, there should also not be any other numbers in the puzzle,IMHO. (in addition to the math error in MACH SIX and the dook NO ONE.) and 70D could have been improved simply by reversing the clue: “something preserved” or simply “thing preserved.” Ok puzzle, just several awkward clues.

Maggy

@Preferred Customer and @Kitshef, How much easier is it to download a song digitally than it is to have your mother drive you to the record store or five and dime, after you earned the money, just to buy a single?

Not to dis Drake, but distribution has changed the game. And oh, I looked up the top 10 thing just out of curiosity. "Tool" had all their albums placed on iTunes at once and swept the iTune's Top 10. Again these things are an apples and oranges comparison at this point.

Will Drake still be selling in 50 years? Maybe.

What?

Got the T’s from two to five. Still don’t know what it means. Still, finished with no errors so there’s that.

Rastaman Vibration

@Anoa 11:39 - Mach six for 23 minutes will take you about 1,765 miles, which is approx. 3/4’s of the distance between DC and LAX. Adjusting for altitude and temperature will not result in a 25% improvement. Assuming they were not carrying a lot of excess fuel (to avoid the extra weight), they crashed and burned somewhere over the midwest, which is a shame.

I haven’t checked any of the other NYT Xword boards. I wonder if the constructor or anyone that had a hand in editing has chimed in. The numbers that we are all running are so far off, it does seem like there may be more to the backstory - or maybe it is as simple as someone made a mistake and NO ONE checked it (Isn’t that what that Shortz dude is supposed to do?).

I don’t like Monopoly or Risk clues - someone gave me one of those (I think it is Monopoly). Still in its shrink wrap sitting in the closet - do people still spend their time on those things. It seems irresponsible when you could be in front of your gaming console keeping the world save from the Zombie Apocalypse.

Three cheers for the inclusion of AGENDER today.

Mark

Given the fact that an airplane begins at zero mph and must take some time to attain altitude and accelerate to a given speed and also must descend and slow down and land then the peak Mach speed would probably be even more than the 7.9 calculated earlier.

JC66

@What?

How may T's in MULTIPICATIVEINVERSE (2), TEETOTALERS (3), THETHEORYOFRELATIVITY (4), TUTTUFRUTTI (5)?

Mark

Starting at zero mph and then back to zero in 23 seconds in an airplane and covering 2300 miles is impossible.

CDilly52

Another easy/hard day for me. Like others, the N easier than the S, but really “splotchier” than that. The lower central chunk shaped loosely like a child’s concept of a house was a bear. As were several other spots.

Theme was admirable in that nowhere but theme answers did Ts appear. Must have taken hours and hours to make that work!

My favorite parts were the STEM answers where I got to channel my late husband’s vast math, science, engineering, jet piloting knowledge. While I freely admit that I cannot without help from “The Great Google” calculate Mach speed, I knew that clue was way, way wrong. Larry Adored sci-fi. Arthur C Clarke was a favorite. He would often put down a book in the evening with a groan and comment upon an author allegedly writing sci-fi and say that the “science” shouldn’t be all fiction and tell me all about what was wrong with the time travel or the speed or that the use of “light year” was incorrect. He would have cringed at today’s MACH SIX answer that was just pitifully wrong. I said aloud , “I hear you sweetheart!” Filled it in anyway.

Overall a very successful debut. I was thankful for the easier answers that seemed to reveal themselves at auspicious points in my solve to make a finish possible. A good theme, well executed and a Sunday workout!

Z

I think I found a source of the 23 minute thing here. Don’t believe everything you read, eh? I thought that “23 minutes” was too oddly specific.

Ouch-kateer

@ Mark 12:51 Agree with your comment as stated (for an airplane - NASA could do it with a rocket achieving exit velocity), but what is your point ? The clue alleged that Mach Six is the appropriate speed in minutes, not seconds. Typo, perhaps you mis-spoke, math error ? Are you applying for a position as a New York Times crossword puzzle editor ?

Blue Stater

The SW was just one big fat Natick. Otherwise, the usual farrago of factual and linguistic errors, as is increasingly (and regrettably) usual. The gimmick was overcomplicated and uninteresting. I'd expect the NYT leadership to pick up on this, but given the state of the rest of the paper, they obviously have more important things to do (and aren't doing those, either). Sad.

Lewis

It's a gift to us all when a new constructor so rife with promise comes along. Laura's debut puzzle comes on a Sunday, with a multilayered theme, using an atypical symmetry -- this from someone who began making puzzles only one year ago! I believe Will is very good at recognizing talent, and, once finding a constructor with promise, bringing that person along through tips, encouragement, and publishing. Some of our top tier constructors have come via this path. Laura has a voice; her puzzle has a personality which I'm guessing will grow stronger through the months and years through her efforts and the mentorships of Will and others (her notes show that she seeks these out). We will all benefit from this; it's cause to celebrate.

Crimson Devil

Math is something one should be loath to do in public.

RooMonster

Anyone notice the stacked LAMO LAMO in SE? Not DELOUSing (picking nits, Har), but neat to see.

RooMonster RUE Guy - Oui Oui

Congratz to Laura darlin, on her primo debutpuz. The theme mcguffin (tee)totally eluded m&e, until after the whole solvequest. I was tryin hard to find somethin that was an 'Abstainer" from the themers, but couldn't figure out how the numbers might get into the theme game. Wrong again, Wasted Nanoseconds Breath.

That NOONE clue kinda tickled the old mask. Knew right off the bat that nobody had ever had all 10 top hits goin at once. Especially nobody that started with an "N". That pup was ergo a near-gimme.

fave answer: Themer wannabe contender ONED. This is true: RAGWEED does indeed have one "D". As does QED.

Early on, M&A thought he had plugged into a themer at the 51-A {Fold} clue. Was sure the answer was GOYLLEB. Think about it. Think about how wrong M&A was, too boot.

staff weeject pick: ISS. Cousin of ISDONE.
most scenic fillins included: ABSCISSA. ELCAPITAN. MACHSIX. SNARFS.

Luved the E-W puzgrid symmetriness design, with all them runty T's built outta black squares. Nuthin says Merry ChrisTmas, like countin yer T's, M&A always sez. Well ... maybe countin that there vowel right after the T, at least …

Thanx, Ms. Kinnel darlin. U know what letter to count in yer next puz, now -- yes? And congratz, again!

**gruntz**

Geezer

I would not have expected there were so many supersonic air travel experts among the commenters.

sixtyni yogini

Really liked it especially after reading Rex’s review, but enjoyed it before anyway. 😜😎😜

Anonymous

Maybe it helped that I am NOT particularly mathematically inclined. Unlike many above, I had no problem with the bottom of the grid, it was the top that VEXed me. It was easy to put MACH SIX for the speed because it was the only possible fit -- I didn't realize the math was wrong until I read the commentary above.

I liked this puzzle, it was a fairly easy solve, but I didn't get the revealer. At all. Rex's explanation makes sense, I guess, but... wow. Too complicated for me.

Enjoyable Sunday, for me, anyway.

Birchbark

@Geezer (3:42) -- Lots of MACH experts, yes. But kudos to @RooMonster (12:22) for spotting the the "laden vs. unladen" chestnut and having the courage to speak up about it.

tb

I hate puzzles that assign me homework. Meta puzzles, and puzzles where the theme only becomes clear after solving, if then.

I'm not sure why I did this puzzle, since I've mostly given up on the Sunday slog, but something kept me at it. So I guess there's that, anyway.

pabloinnh

I liked this. It has my lovely granddaughter EMMA and her favorite character, the Little MERMAID.

On the other hand, noticing/counting T's in a puzzle is about as much fun as an airspeed discussion. Nice feat of construction, which mostly eluded me. Haven't seen ABSCISSA since high school math, but it's another one of those words that's unusual enough to stick.

Hey @JoeD-thought your Peter NOONE observation was hilarious, and was surprised and a little disappointed at how many people missed it. Have to be careful where you cast your pearls, I guess.

Congratulations and appreciation to LK. She may have a future in this.

Joe Welling

Colin said: "It may be the genitive tense of a word,"

Nouns don't have tense.

MetroGnome

The original version of "Tutti Frutti," which Little Richard sang in both gay bars and mainstream R&B venues in New Orleans like the Dew Drop Inn, where "Drag Shows" were a regular part of the entertainment, was actually a double-entendre gay anthem ("Tutti Frutti / Good booty! / It ain't the motion / It's the lotion!" / "Miss Lucy / Is juicy!") Producer Cosimo Matassa like the rocking rhythm of the song, so he recruited songwriter Dorothy LaBostrie to come in and clean up the lyrics. Richard was "queering" rock & roll before that concept ever existed.

Anonymous

I am a noun, and I'm frequently tense. Just in case.

Anonymous

Anonymous Geezer said...
I would not have expected there were so many supersonic air travel experts among the commenters.

Geezer:

The point is that this is not difficult math at all. In particular, it's NOT rocket science; it's stuff typically taught in 7th or 8th grade. All you need to do to find the error is:

- Look up what "Mach" means and discover how it relates to the speed of sound.
- Look up the speed of sound.
- Look up the air distance between DC and LA.
- Do a bit of multiplication and division on your calculator.

It would be a very reasonable 8th grade math test question to pose:

"Mach number" is your speed as a multiple of the speed of sound. The speed of sound is 761 miles per hour. A plane flies the 2300 miles from DC to LA in 23 minutes. What is its Mach number?

Anoa Bob

Went back and reread my comment and was unable to find the chestnut thingie mentioned by @Roo and @Birchbark. Not sure why courage was needed either. So you guys got me good there.

Let me say this again, MACH---of whatever number--- is not a constant speed. It's a variable speed. Because the speed of sound changes with changes in air density, MACH SIX will be one speed in a wind tunnel at sea level and another at 35,000 ft altitude. I don't know of anyone in any field that uses a MACH number to make time and distance calculations.

@CDilly52, would have loved to have heard your husband's thoughts on this issue.

Anonymous

It's 33 minutes, not 23. Simple typo, possibly replicated.

Anonymous

A GOOD theme is one where the solver has some idea what is - WHILE he or she is solving. . . . This puzzle, chock full of ridiculously obscure math terms is >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> CRAPOLA!!!!!

Cassieopia

This is a debut? Incredibly well done, intricately constructed with many theme layers, and appealed to my science-y side. Saw the countdown but missed all the T-tricks (not to be confused with hat tricks - hello PELE). One of my favorite Sundays in forever, and was delighted by the fresh cluing (Labor Day setting) and interesting fill: crullers, gas main, homage). NIT pick on BERRY clue which was the one “ugh” from my standpoint. DNF on ONArAG/rAROMIR because idioms and hockey.

Hell of a debut and can’t wait for more from this obviously gifted constructor. (And TY Rex - I never would have noticed the T-thing otherwise.)

Joe Dipinto

@Anon 6:06 – Good one!

The Mach stuff is outside my wheelhouse but it was cool to read everyone's commentary. I just put the answer in because it obviously fit with the crosses. (I *knew* there was an egregious error in the puzzle somewhere!)

@kitshef – re O. Henry, one more possible clue:
American author who wrote the line "Every door that he found in the house was painted green"
(from "The Green Door")

Happy Hanukkah to all who celebrate!

Unknown

How can anyone compare a rap musician to the greatest rock band of all-time? What’s this world coming to?

PatKS

Whatti da F?
Finally sort of "got" the "point" of this T puzzle. It took me longer than usual.

I've never said NAW in my life. I'm from Brooklyn and we say Nah for nope.

Never heard of JAROMIR Jagr, Diane REHM, NOE valley, Graf SPEE, MACH 6 or ATMAN, PARR.

I hated wallop as PASTE, preserves something as BERRY, FAIRE, egoistic NAVEL.

YOU go to customs UPON arrival not ON arrival.

Didn't get PSI because I kept thinking it was the astrology symbol for Neptune.

Never heard of AGENDER. Twitter is all about people wanting to be called they or them.

BTW, did anybody look at the acrostic and know right away what the answer was before solving it? Was that a Xmas present unlike the usual migraine fill?

Happy Hannukah, Xmas, Kwaanza, and whatever to everyone who is celebrating something. I'm still celebrating Impeachment LOL.

Have a great week Rex!

Ray - O - Sunshine

Our paper didn't publish this puzzle till today January 5th around Epiphany time so the THREE KINGS and "Gift of the MAGI" was apt at least for us.

The 12th day of Christmas. Wish the Lords a leaping would leave. And take the birds with them. I'll keep the five golden rings
A few mistakes

The NW corner was the last to go but it did take an hour to finish.

spacecraft

Wow, I never noticed that those were the ONLY T's! That's just jaw-dropping. Obviously we have a math major on our hands here--but if we're counting, how come there are only nine black-square T's when the TOTAL is 14?? Inquiring minds want to know! Just joshing.

Overall I'd set this one at easy-medium, though there was some effort to clue murkily. Take the one for 86 across. I don't know if I want this to become a habit, picking some random feat that NOONE has achieved. A slippery slope there.

DOD will be (or I guess was: it was a while ago) Nancy Kovack, who was NONA, the witch-woman in "A Private Little War" from STTOS. GLAMOUR personified.

My only hiccup was jumping the gun on 74 across; working down the east coast, I had -VITY in place, and naturally wrote in the rest of graVITY.

Yes, there were some fill groans, but really, to PULL off what she did, I can take it. Besides, there were also several very nice entries. Before I swore off wheat, I used to luuuuuv me some CRULLERS. Even now those are my number one miss. Not ALAMODE, though. Birdie.

Burma Shave

NOE FAIRE

ONARRIVAL that GIRL IVANA heralds
her GLAMOUR under her ROBE ORE BLOUSE,
but any SAMUELS ORE MORTONS ORE GERALDS
must 'twixt THE NAVEL and KNEE be DELOUSED.

--- JAROMIR LOMBARDI

rainforest

I had a lot of fun with this puzzle, both solving and trying to "grok" the theme. Obviously, the sequence TWO THREE FOUR FIVE was evident, but I couldn't see the relationship to the letter "T". TEETOTALERS should have given it up, but I was perhaps obtuse there. Anyway, good to learn that, as well as the fact that there were no non-theme "T"s.

I also liked working out NONA and MACH SIX (not sure that is correct, btw). A little math, physics along with some good word play is always welcome.

rondo

Darn good for a Sun-puz, IMO. It didn't occur to me that there wasn't another stray T to be found. Brava! Also didn't recall that G.W. Carver went to college in AMES, Iowa. Good starting help with gimme LOMBARDI.

Well there's AVA, ILSA, EMMA and IVANA in the yeah BABIESRUS group, but I'll go with GLAMOURous Halle BERRY.

NOREASON not to like this one.

strayling

MACH SIX isn't a speed, it's a number that lets you calculate a speed, so that clue is wrong right out of the gate.

On the other hand, if the temperature and pressure are right, MACH SIX could equate to a speed which gets you from DC to LA in 23 minutes.

Nit-picking aside, I loved this one.

5wksltr

The Mach Six comments were hilarious. The one about flying from LA to DC with a 300+ mph tailwind made me spit my coffee out and thus wins the internet today. Take a bow, whoever you are.

Diana, LIW

late to finish, late to post. Hope this doesn't presage the new year.

Nah, Just got busy with Mr. W going lookie-looing at million-dollar open houses, and tsk tsking about how much more we like ours. te hee

Diana, Wait for it...

MN Puzzler

I got it with “no one.”

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