Neighbor on TV's Bewitched / THU 12-5-19 / TV show with three stars / Host Tyler of Whose Line Is It Anyway / Media protector introduced in '80s

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Constructor: Neville Fogarty

Relative difficulty: Medium (6:03)

THEME: OVER! — circled squares each contain a letter which, when followed by "OVER," form the front ends of the theme answers (that they are, literally, over, i.e. on top of):

Theme answers:
  • (M) over S AND SHAKERS (20A: Power players)
  • (S) over EIGN STATE (30A: Any member of the United Nations)
  • (C) over ED BRIDGES (49A: Wooden crossings that provide protection from the weather)
  • (G) over NMENT AGENCY (58A: The National Aeronautics and Space Administration, for one)
Word of the Day: BALTO (64A: Celebrated husky) —
Balto (1919 – March 14, 1933) was a Siberian Husky and sled dog who led his team on the final leg of the 1925 serum run to Nome, in which diphtheria antitoxin was transported from Anchorage, Alaska, to Nenana, Alaska, by train and then to Nome by dog sled to combat an outbreak of the disease. Balto was named after the Sami explorer Samuel Balto. Balto rested at the Cleveland Zoo until his death on March 14, 1933, at the age of 14. After he died, his body was stuffed and kept in the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, where it remains today. (wikipedia)
• • •

If there had been any way for to grasp what was going on before I was finished, maybe I would've enjoyed this. The gimmick is certainly clever. But from a solving standpoint, I was just filling in long Across answers with nonsense I didn't get, so that even though I completed it in a regular old Thursday time, the feeling was ... a bad one. I really wish the clues had been even a little more helpful. Usually in a puzzle like this, or in a rebus, I eventually hit an answer that makes me realize "Aha, *this* is what is going on!" That moment just never came today. Clues were all so vague as to be useless, or so bizarrely worded (see that ED BRIDGES clue) that, well, also useless. I started out wondering what SAND SHAKERS were and then things really went to hell. Ending up with EIGN STATE was just demoralizing. I saw the circled squares, but they just seemed randomly strewn about to me. I have no idea how I ended up solving it successfully in a respectable time. I guess that's the sign of a puzzle that, in all other respects, is well made. Fill is not showy, but it'll do. The theme just missed me. I can respect the construction, but I can't rewrite history and say that solving this was fun. ALAS.

Aside from, you know, never grasping the theme concept, there were two major slow-downs for me. First (and this is theme-related), I had E-GN-T--- for [Any member of the United Nations and I genuinely thought it was something (EGG?) NATION, which, now that I look at the clue again, I see was never going to fly. I guess when you get desperate, you forget that clue words can't actually be answer words. ALAS. Honestly, EIGN STATE was sooo rough for me. The other slow-down was HORN for HONK (54A: Traffic signal?). Weird how a little (plausible) thing like that can throw a wrench in things. I honestly broke down halfway through this thing and had to resort to roaming the vast empty areas of the south looking for any kind of toehold (which I finally got thanks to my good old friend John OATES (55D: Hall's singing partner)). Oh, and I just blanked on "ANNABEL LEE," even with ANNA in the grid; in fact, *because* ANNA was in the grid—since it's a complete name in and of itself, my brain didn't consider it might be part of a larger name. If I'd taken a few moments to hum the basic rhythm of the poem to myself, I probably would've hit on the title sooner, but when I'm solving I don't like to stop to do ... anything if I don't have to. No idea who ABNER was on "Bewitched." Can't even picture him. . . oh, looks like ABNER Kravitz was married to Gladys, who would always see the magic happening next door and then tell her husband ABNER to come look, but by then there would be no magic. Wah Waaaah. Even looking at ABNER I don't remember him. Gladys, though, is hard to forget:

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


puzzlehoarder 12:10 AM  

Easiest Thursday in awhile. Flat Wednesday time. I didn't get the theme until I got down to the GOVERNMENT one but I got down there quick. OVER and out theme. As plain as the nose on your face. They should have run this yesterday. Yesterday's puzzle wasn't worth commenting on.

Joaquin 12:42 AM  

There's the old saying among Jews that if three rabbis are discussing a Talmudic issue, there will be five opinions. So it must be for the world SHTICK/schtick/schtik/shtik.

jae 12:46 AM  

Medium. Mostly what Rex said, except I wasted a more than a couple of nanoseconds (hi M&A) trying to put an “over” rebus into the circles on my iPad Standalone app.

Kinda liked it.

okanaganer 12:59 AM  

This was blazingly fast for me; probably fastest Thurs ever. I got the theme immediately at 20 across and never looked back. Not that it was a great theme; I think we've seen this before.

SHTICK, Yiddish from the German stuck (= "thing", or "piece", as per the clue). German "frustuck" = "early piece", aka "breakfast".

Nice to remember Hall and Oates, those goofballs.

Richardf8 1:10 AM  

SOVEREIGN STATE was the moment I got the theme, but the actual mechanics of it took me a little longer to grasp.

This is the second puzzle in recent memory that seemed to be mocking its own use of OREO in the fill.

For some reason, 43A made me think “was that a wan OBI on BEN Kenobi’s robe?”

I found it a nice, toothy solve. It kept me off the streets and out of trouble, like a Thursday puzzle should.

Solverinserbia 1:17 AM  

Got the theme midway through, had almost solved the puzzle in just under 10 minutes but I couldn't solve the west for a long time. Couldn't remember Bruce. Didn't know annabellee and the clues for URN and RUNNER were strange to me. Total time 21:39 but I did go golden and I like a tricky theme that takes a while to realize, like this one.

Ron 1:23 AM  

I sat and started at EIGNSTATE and the circles until it finally made sense. It was weird, but at least I got it before the bottom half of the puzzle

JMS 1:29 AM  

I saw the gimmick pretty quickly, at SoverIEGNNATION, but only insofar as I was looking for where the missing letters needed to be between the circle and the word.
CoverEDBRIDGES and GoverNMENTAGENCY were all there but the “over”. Still I finished the puzzle perplexed, until Rex pointed it out.

Unknown 1:34 AM  

When the "Congratulations!" window popped up, I thought, "What? I solved it?" Couldn't grok the theme until after. Good puzzle on the fill and clues, but not that much fun.

chefwen 1:38 AM  

Loved it! Not ABC easy like yesterday, but easy enough once you get the trick. I was fortunate to get it early on with C (over) ED BRIDGE.
M (over) S AND SHAKERS came soon after. I did the WSJ puzzle earlier in the day which had a pop up letter so I think my brain was already in the “move the letters around” mode. Might have helped me to catch on.

Interesting new clue for OREO. We have decided to keep our OREO, one of our cattle as a pet, we’ve had him too long to hand him over. He follows puzzle partner around noodging at him for extra avocados and papayas. Cute little guy, if you can call a thousand pound cattle little.

Cliff 1:39 AM  

Yep, same. I solved the entire puzzle correctly, knew there was some gimmick, but was left without a clue as to what it was. Not sure how I could have sussed it out. I only saw it after reading Rex's blog.

JJK 2:33 AM  

Liked this a lot, and as some have commented, very easy for a Thursday. I got the gimmick on EIGNSTATE, although I’d already considered both CoverEDBRIDGES and GoverNMENTAGENCY but didn’t see how they would fit in until the penny dropped. Sort of odd that there was no revealer clue? Or am I missing something?

Who knew Mr. Kravitz’s name was ABNER - but since Samantha and Darrin seemed to have only the Kravitzes as neighbors, and Gladys didn’t fit, I figured ABNER must be her husband.

Two days in a row of easy but fun puzzles.

Loren Muse Smith 3:04 AM  

I have to agree that some sort of reveal would’ve made this easier to grasp. My biggest goof was misreading the clue for OREO as “theme” instead of “scheme.” So I was thinking black and white stuff. Then I was trying to spell a word with M, S, C, G and appreciating the key role a vowel plays in word formation. Sheesh. It all finally clicked, though, and I got it. Nifty idea.

What would’ve been cool would be to have COVERT OPERATIONS instead of GOVERNMENT AGENCY ‘cause then each of the four iterations of OVER would have a different pronunciation: movers, sovereign, covered, and covert.

Comedians aren’t the sole possessors of SHTICK. We all have one, especially here. Mine is to see something that reminds me of something else so I can run my mouth about it. . .

. . .“leaving nothing to the imagination” - leggings didn’t fit. And I tell ya, if your leggings don’t fit – in the sausage casing sense – you’re leaving nothing to the imagination. Unless, of course, your top comes down to your knees.

I liked TABLOID crossing I’LL BE. Oh yeah? Susan Lucci’s daughter has grown a third eye down on her shin? Well I’ll be. Personally, I prefer the tabloids that are a little more believable. Megan and Harry are fighting with Kate and William. Brad and Jennifer had a secret dinner. . . the stuff I used to read in People magazine back when I had to buy it. Now thanks to Google spying on me, every time I click on my Google app, I get my own little tabloid news feed: articles about Vanderpump Rules, linguistics, iambic pentameter, cauliflower rice, WV teachers, the singular they… it’s delightful. Spy away, Google.

CHEER might be the holiday season feeling in Hallmark Christmas movies and Folgers commercials, but I don’t live in a stately home tastefully decorated by an army of minions. I don’t live in a small town with snow everywhere and a successful cozy coffee shop. I don’t have a clean, kempt golden retriever who never rolls in dead skunk. I don’t have a ton of money to buy all my family members special presents. I can’t make pretty gingerbread cookies. My usual holiday season feeling is more of resigned despair born of not measuring up.

Wow. That got dark. Sorry. Merry Thursday, everyone.

PS – I expect sometime today, an article explaining when to use born and when to use borne will appear on my Google feed. I try to understand the difference periodically and then just go take a nap.

WeesaSuzi 5:23 AM  

Jusr a few seconds shy of my personal best today and I mostly really enjoyed this one. Solid, clean fill without too much junk and a clever theme once I grokked it.

@LMS - I’m CHEERed to know I’m not the only one that feels that way!

Now I want to go read some Poe.

TinPT 5:53 AM  

Loved it, mostly because I picked up G over NMENTAGENCY and unlocked the theme about halfway through - with enough blank squares left to enjoy it for a bit. This week is trending oddly on the easy side, though... even for me—a relative n00b to daily solving.

Hungry Mother 5:58 AM  

Naticked and also faulted for putting in rebuses, so DNF.

Lewis 6:05 AM  

Whew, part sauna, part Santa, the latter being the magnificent aha that was figuring out the theme, the former being the beads of sweat produced by the cluing, which was reticent to give anything away. This puzzle took me through what felt like the apple to zebra of emotions, in other words, my prescription for one terrific puzzle. Many many thanks, Neville, and I'm greatly looking forward to your next one!

Lewis 6:06 AM  

p.s. -- ANNABELLEE made your resident alphadoppeltotter stand up and take notice.

Anonymous 6:27 AM  
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Moxer 6:56 AM  

Unfulfilling for me -- even though I completed it without much strain. For me -- if I understand the "Natick" concept -- the cross of Balto and Ted was a Natick. Did others have trouble with those two?

GILL I. 7:06 AM  

I will state, with absolute authority, that I've never ever had the pleasure of meeting a Gladys Kravitz in my entire life. Nor have I ever eaten an EGGO.
So I'm obtuse....I don't know why 14A OREO has anything to do with the identical color scheme as this puzzle. MSCG? I'm thinking the cookie but I must be missing something. I got the OVER; it took me getting to the G[OVER) NMENT AGENCY to see the surprise, but why is OREO part of the scheme?
I was going pretty fast in the Thursday lane and scratching my head, expecting the theme to eventually show its pretty head. It did - eventually. Did any one else think 58A might have something to do with New Mexico?
For years I always thought it was UN KEPT. Who decided adding an M was decent? I learned the hard way. There is always a grammarian Nazi to point to my evil ways.
I like that CHEER, DO IT NICE bottom section. We're getting into the Christmas CHEER here in our house. I'm getting the tree up and we have a zillion white lights up and my 90 year old neighbor is still alive - so all's well in the MEAT department.

kitshef 7:18 AM  

A great theme that deserved a more challenging puzzle to showcase it. Felt like a slow Tuesday-fast Wednesday. Only overwrites were rhyME before BLAME and vErmIR before RENOIR. The latter is of course stupid, but I was a little tipsy during the solve.

Briefly thought 30A would somehow be a forEIGN STATE rebus, which would have given @Roo an F, but it was not to be. Banner day for @M&A, though.

I went to junior high (as we called it back in the day) with a guy named ED BRIDGES (49A). Seeing him in the puzzle gave me a little nonsensical thrill.

Anon 7:19 AM  

I remember two Actresses played Gladys Kravitz over the seasons, as well as two Darrens. Does this make me old ?

Anonymous 7:23 AM  

I just want to know if the NICE Easter egg was approved by the editors or whether it slipped by them. Either way, it gave me quite a chuckle this morning!

amyyanni 7:26 AM  

Only complaint is that it was over too fast (see what I did there?). Lowbrow that I am, appreciated all the TV clues. Ciao!

Mac 7:35 AM  

You totally understand “Natick.” The crossing of Ted and Balto is classic “ two obscure proper names crossing” Natick.

E. Macron 7:47 AM  

Let's be serious...

I am thinking that appreciating and savoring a theme like this - because it doesn't leap out at you or become easily obvious in the solving - may be antithetical to speed solving. That is, speed solving, which focuses on filling in squares as quickly as possible may not lend itself to enjoyment of themes that require a bit of a pause and steeping back to suss out what's going on. Perhaps that is why one can appreciate the construction upon conclusion while finding no joy in solving. Just a thought.

Petsounds 7:51 AM  

Even with all the double-checking and head-scratching that happened when I was sure my answer was right but it made no sense, I tied my all-time Thursday best on this one. Was there a hint to the puzzle theme in the print version? None online. "Over" would have helped a lot.

But like almost everyone else, I enjoyed this one. Some cleverly worded clues made it more fun than it otherwise might have been--the OREO clue, for example.

Suzie Q 7:51 AM  

The clue for Oreo was so long and tortured that I thought it going to be the revealer. I got the theme at covered bridges but even with my grid completed I kept searching. That's all there is? I hoped there was something to tie it all together.
OK puzzle. Seemed like a lot of names and TV trivia.

@ GILL I, New Mexico crossed my mind for second too.

RavTom 7:54 AM  

The significance of ABNER Kravitz in the show wasn’t seeing him. It was the memorable way Gladys (seeing witchcraft) would yell,”Abbb-nerrrrr!” That’s got to be on YouTube somewhere.

@LMS: Always pleased to hear what you have to say. Today reminded me that one reason I’m glad I’m Jewish is that I don’t have to manage all those seasonal concerns. That, and that SHTICK is in my wheelhouse.

@GILL I.: OREO is the same color combo as the “scheme” because it’s black and white, as the puzzle is. But it’s not part of the theme.

Anonymous 8:11 AM  

Balto has a statue in his honor in Central Park so he is not obscure to New Yorkers. This is the New York Times after all.

teevoz 8:15 AM  

I agree. Speed solving destroys the enjoyment and savoring of the experience. Why do people want to be done with it?

Anonymous 8:37 AM  

The Balto and Ted crossing was a Natick for me, too. I knew it had to be a T or an N, but that was as far as I got.

Anonymous 8:38 AM  

I watch tv a lot and I still had never heard of Aisha, Ted or Abner. Still pretty easy as crosses were fair.

Rube 8:49 AM  

I also agree. What's the rush? Savor. Relish.. BUT in all fairness if these speed freaks get off on their times who are we to judge.

I do however find incompatible Rex's comments about "roaming...for a toehold" to be inconsistent with a 6 minute solve. I think we need a video of Rex solving a puzzle to go with his solving experience explains to understand better.

JonB3 8:51 AM  

Agree as well. Puzzle finish timing isn't my shtick, primarily because it's all over the map on a daily basis in my solving experience. However, my brother has timed NYT crossword finishes for over 10 years as a gauge of potential onset of senility/Alzheimers (which apparantly hasn't occurred - so that's great).

QuasiMojo 8:52 AM  

Too "clever" by half. So what if these letters are OVER the nonsense below them? This is another example of a constructor showing off his ability to conceive of gimmicks but also showing off his or her inability to entertain the solver. We are here for wordplay, not griddy tricks. Well, I am not. Maybe I should just skip Thursdays from now on. But then what would I have to bitch about?

@anon You beat me to it! I was gonna post about the two Gladyses. I have a neighbor just like her.

Nancy 9:02 AM  

I am going to write this comment as though I hadn't first peeked to find out what on earth is going on?????. Puzzles like this are why I first started coming to the Rexblog about six years ago. It's not that I couldn't finish this puzzle, because I did, but once I had, I couldn't explain what had just happened or why.

I knew there were letters that were missing at the beginnings of three answers. I had no idea what they were in the case of SANDSHAKERS. I knew that COVER was missing in EDBRIDGES, that GOVER was missing in NMENT AGENCY and I thought that FOR was missing in EIGN STATE. Seeing FOREIGN STATE instead of SOVEREIGN STATE left me with "GOVER FOR COVER". I had no idea what that meant, much less what it had to do with OREO. I still don't get the whole OREO part of the equation.

I'm gobsmacked that so many found this easy. In my case, the trick went way OVER my head. I was pretty frustrated during the solve. Still, very clever and very challenging -- a bit too challenging for me, I fear.

David 9:02 AM  

I got it at sovereign state, being the political geek that I am. Then back to the northwest to finish that fill. From there it went very fast and easy except for the TV shows. Mash I've never thought of as clued, but at 4 letters was pretty obvious, and Bewitched is the only other show in the grid I watched. Annabell Lee was a gimme, I read a lot of Poe in High School.

No problem with the clue for covered bridge either. Then again, I once was seriously considering buying a house on the banks of the Contoocook river just a few hundred feet from one. That would be a good name to use in a puzzle. Hey constructors, the Contoocook can be clued as "one of the few rivers in New England which flows north" if you want to trigger a Rex tirade about how nobody's ever heard of it. Except now that I've said that, he has. Oh well...

Norm 9:14 AM  

Lovely puzzle.

mathgent 9:42 AM  

I loved it. A big part of my joy was seeing the gimmick. I had guessed that two of the answers were GOVERNMENTAGENCY and SOVEREIGN STATE and worked hard to see how to to rebus OVER into one of the squares. To no avail. It's not a classic rebus. Sort of a ghost rebus.

Jeff Chen writes today that he submitted a puzzle with the exact same gimmick to Shortz a few years ago and had it rejected. LAT ran it. It also had SOVEREIGNSTATE in it.

Still another way to clue OREO. Good one.

I'm going to find ANNABELLELEE and bellow it out to my wife. We memorized it in high school. I remember that it was fun to recite.

Anonymous 9:47 AM  

Thanks for the nice puzzle Mr. Fogarty. wonderful construction, nifty trick and fine fill. Kudos.

You're a pill. is it because you're stuck in that podunk town filled with neighbors you dislike? Or is it the third-rate Uni. you work for hat makes you so unhappy? Either way, I hope you feel better soon. It's advent, the most joyful time of the year.

RooMonster 9:56 AM  

Hey All !
Ended up with EIGN STATE and said Huh? But then the ole brain sprang to life and I thought of SOVEREIGN. I wrote SOVEREIGN in the margin, and said, "Where is the SOVER?" Then saw the Circled S in ALAS, but no over. Lightbulb moment happened, I said, "Ohh, the S is OVER EIGN!" And then did the Happy Happy Joy Joy Dance. Led to getting M OVER S and the G OVER NMENT. Nice.

Had major trouble, though, with COVERED BRIDGES. Had the E__RIDGES, and just couldn't get off (something)RIDGES. Dang. Which I had, too, in 4D, HOT DAng, messing up the West Center. Misspelling CIAO as CAIO (every goll darn time) not helping. I couldn't see LURID forever, finally got it and ended up with BLAnE and RUNgER. Oof.

Fun puz when I figured out the premise. Kinda closed off corners. Tres odd clue on OREO. But still liked it and was a good solve.


Carola 10:06 AM  

Medium: it took me until C[OVER]ED BRIDGES to see the theme; then I went back to mop up the M[OVER]S and S[OVER]EIGN and forward to write in G[OVER]MENT. I especially liked the SAND SHAKERS (utensils? toys? participants in a religious ritual?) and ED BRIDGES (Jeff and Beau's brother?) and wished the other two could have had similar two-word phrases that make a sort of zany sense.

Anonymous 10:09 AM  

If anyone is wondering about the aforementioned Easter egg, google the clue number and answer for "Good job!"... no way it's an accident!

Aketi 10:11 AM  

@Gill I, I finally did a crossword puzzle again after months and months thanks to you nudging next and was pleasantly CHEERed by this puzzle. The black and white OREO immediately popped out because I rebelled against making the usual pumpkin and apple pies for Thanksgiving dinner at my cousins. The problem is that her husband and I are the only ones who eat the pumpkin pie and so I end up eating the leftover pumpkin pie. The apple pie that everyone else gobbles up required slicing way too many apples. Then there is the crust. So I made cocoa and pumpkin cheese cake minis with an OREO crust. There were no leftovers and nothing needed to be sliced. It is also very satisfying to using a rolling pin to smash the OREOs into crumbles with a rolling pin.

I’m pleased that I managed to get the OVER thanks to NASA. It cleared up the mystery of who ED BRIDGES was.

Amelia 10:14 AM  

I have two comments.

One. I knew there was something to do with OVER. I got that pretty quickly. And like everyone else, I came here to find out what the theme was. And like @Nancy, I'm not sure I get it now. I don't get the Oreo connection. The color theme. Any of it. And I'm pretty good at this stuff. This is the kind of puzzle that once made me stop doing NY Times puzzles. Don't test me, Will Shortz. I pay you $3 a month for the privilege. It can stop anytime.

The second comment? You may not know this. But I learned it from a young cousin:

Oreos are vegan.


Dawn Urban 10:20 AM  

ABNER was just plain wrong, like asking the name of Snoopy's long-lost littermate. Pierre? I don't know. He had a moustache?

UNKEMPT saddened me. I doubt any of our children or grandchildren will ever learn how to spell it.

KarenRackle 10:24 AM  

Wait. I caught onto the theme and Rex didn’t? I’ve never felt so smart. Have a wonderful day!

OffTheGrid 10:29 AM  

IMO this isn't anything. The first letters of 20, 30, 49, &58 across are perched above the first letters that actually appear in the entry. Then the letters O-V-E-R, which allow the answers to make sense, are simply missing. So what? @Rex says they're "on top of" the theme answers. How? Where?

Kathy 10:30 AM  

I cracked the code once AGENCY and BRIDGE emerged because I was mentally looking for GOVERNMENT and COVERED and they didn't fit. I am thrilled to have finished a Thursday puzzle in under an hour because my bar is still set pretty low. Since it was fairly easy for me, I would deem it easy for a Thursday.

Yeah, OREO was a gotcha—how sheepish I felt! I was reading “treat” as a verb and trying to find an obscure term for “treating in black and white.” It would be delightful to see more of the usual suspects sneak in like this.

For decades I could never get into NYT crossword puzzles because I didn’t care for all the tricky devices they employed—rebuses, wordplay, multiple word answers, etc. Yet I thought other crosswords were too easy. So, for years, my word puzzles of choice were cryptograms and I would purchase books of crossword puzzles solely for the few pages of cryptograms. Then, one Sunday back in January, I decided to give the NYTX another whirl. It was full of gimmicks but I persevered and finished, and, zap, I became hooked! Now I can’t get enough wordplay and rebuses. So, HOT DAMN, I had fun this morning!

Anonymous 10:40 AM  

I stumbled on Annabel Lee because I thought it was Annabelle Lee, which would be a more common spelling of that name. I've heard the poem, but I haven't read it in a long time, and I forgot Poe's variant spelling.

Geezer 10:51 AM  

You are a TROLL! STOP IT!

Aketi 10:51 AM  

@Amelia, thx for giving me additional validation for abandoning regular pie crusts for OREO crusts. Not that the rest of the cheesecake is vegan. The puzzle has black and white squares. OREOs consist of black and white circles.

I have to give a very very belated thank you to those of you who congratulated me on winning double golds at the Master World International Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Championship at the end of August in Las Vegas. It really was a WIN BY A NOSE experience since I earned all my points in the last 12 seconds of a 5 minute match and by referee decision in the two other matches. I am now slightly infamous in the BJJ world as the woman who fought the revered Instagram hit: Jiu Jitsu Grandma. No one knows my name, they just recognize that I fought her. Haha. The things you can get away with when you’re too old to care.

Just have to share another source of good CHEER that almost tops the great pumpkin perched in the clock tower episode in the 1990s. Like many students whose parents live in NYCity my son had to scramble to find transportation back to Ithaca after the buses were cancelled due to a snowstorm, but Monday morning classes were not. Along the route, long past the point of no return, and in the thick of the snowstorm, Monday classes were finally cancelled. When they made it back to Ithaca they returned to this:

Plus lots of snow for sledding.

Newboy 10:51 AM  

Wow! Yesterday I asked for a Thursday rebus & today delivered. I started by filling in the circle across words and decided “too easy” since I’d noted the Poe clue when the download opened. Thought I’d try solving with just the downs as others have suggested as a way to enjoy early week puzzles. Worked pretty well with 80% of squares filled but some “strange gaps below those damn circles?? Ms Newboy rescued me with OVER as the missing link so I become her domestic slave for the day. Clever and frustrating fun which I find a good definition of Thursday solves in general. Favorite moment of relief came with filling 37A (32D had too many options for the down only solving).

Sir Hillary 10:54 AM  

You mean it's not BALno and nED? Yikes, that's a RANDOM/brutal cross.

Aside from that, however, this is a terrific puzzle. Regarding theme recognition, what @Rex finds frustrating I find exhilarating. Not sussing the theme until very late is one of my favorite puzzling experiences. Today, EIGNSTATE obviously signaled that something was afoot, but HOTDAMN if I knew what it was. SANDSHAKERS seemed legit enough -- maybe they have something to do with BALnO? Eventually, I got there and had lots of fun along the way.

Other theme possibilities in the grid:
-- Term for fake CHEER in Delaware's capital: D[over]NICE
-- Likely unnecessary command to the family pooch: R[over]EAT
-- NASA's way of exploring Mars: R[over]OPS
-- Little-known film about Cupid's quest to run a marathon: L[over]UNNER

Ellen S 10:59 AM  

Huh. I’ve been watching brain cells die, losing words, finding it almost physically painful to figure out my finances (I think making old people choose among insurance plans is elder abuse) — but I figured out the theme. Like everyone I had parts of the theme answers filled in, and couldn’t figure out where to go next with them, some kind of rebus? Then I crossed IGNORE and EGGO, so not a rebus. And that circled G was right — aha!!!! (Over) the NASA answer - G(over)NMENTAGENCY. So I went back and completed the other themers and wondered if @Jeff Chen over at Xwordinfo, and OFL would diss this puzzle as having too easy a clue. Imagine my surprise when they thought it was too hard!

@Chefwen, nice that you’re keeping OREO as a pet. Better than him winding up as dog food. Speaking of dogs, BALTO lived out his life in a zoo????? Granted, most sled dogs (like most cattle) don’t get to live out their lives at all, once they’re too old to, so to speak, pull their weight. But still — a zoo? That’s a reward? I don’t think an arthritic former working sled dog would enjoy having kids crawling all over him, so I’m thinking not a petting zoo type of area. And in the early part of the 20th century zoos didn’t have “natural habitats”, so — a cage, amirite?

Oh, well, Marry Thursday to you, too, @LMS.

Joe Dipinto 11:00 AM  

I'm never ever gonna quit 'cause
Quittin' just ain't my shtick

– Barry White, "Never Never Gonna Give Ya Up"

This was another interesting idea that I think could have been executed better. As it is there's nothing to indicate a connection between the circled letter and the answer below it. When you figure out the deal, it's like, so what?

With no revealer, I was thinking the clue for each theme answer should have been numbered at the circled letter, which is the actual beginning of the answer, instead of at the box below it. So, for example, you'd have two 17a clues, the first being "Deli Stock" and the second being "Power Players". And no clue at 20a. At least you'd know something was up right away. And the MOVER is included in the clue for the answer it's part of.

Thus, the circled S in ALAS would get clue 25a, the 26,27,28,29, and 30a clues would be shifted over one, and so on for the other theme answers. Might've worked. Or else just put in a hotdamn revealer.

29d and 50d reminded me of twin film stalkers: In "Play Misty For Me", psycho Evelyn quotes from ANNABEL LEE, and in "Fatal Attraction", bonkers Alex insists she's "not gonna be IGNOREd".

We had a mini festival of Laura Nyro songs by other artists for Rex's birthday, so today let's hear one from Laura herself. With an English horn (Sunday puzzle) in the arrangement!

PGregory Springer 11:06 AM  

Great puzzle. I had the aha with sovereign early on. I prefer ahas to speed solving. Even so, fast for me on a Thursday. Balto/Ted last letter, correctly guessed as a t.

Z 11:17 AM  

Hand up for figuring out the theme post solve because the OREO clue somehow was not the revealer and (for)EIGN STATE seeming plausible (it's not if you think about it). nakeD to baRed to LURID didn’t help my solve time.

From the FAQ page:
NATICK PRINCIPLE — "If you include a proper noun in your grid that you cannot reasonably expect more than 1/4 of the solving public to have heard of, you must cross that noun with reasonably common words and phrases or very common names." Go here for the answers that occasioned my coining this phrase.

I’d argue that TED from “How I Met You’re Mother” was so ubiquitous that more than 1/4th of the solving public would pop that answer right in. That BALTO/TED crossing may have been a personal natick, but not a full blown NC WYETH/NATICK natick.

Masked and Anonymous 11:20 AM  

Welcome back, @Aketi!

MSCG! [Must Solve Crossword Gimmick] Eerily, exactly what the M&A was thinkin, as he bumped up against that there mysterious EIGNSTATE entry [@RP: It's just like ESP!]. As for several others, that's where my ahar moment occurred. Great theme idea -- great fillins -- great ThursPuz.

When I first saw the puzgrid, with its circled letters, I immediately searched every swingin clue for a revealer hint. Lost many precious nanoseconds (yo, @jae) on that which hunt. Overall, I'd rate this puppy at around average hardness, for a ThursPuz at our house, thanx to the marvelously different theme mcguffin.

NE was kinda M&A-hard, due to all the unknown names: ERICA. ABNER. STU. (Knew BEN, at least.) SW somewhat similar-hard, with: BALTO/TED/A. LEE (yo, Poe). Did sorta know BALTO, but always have trouble dredgin him up on dog-command.

staff weeject pick: The epic LOO/GOO cross. Mighty graphical/colorful. Even better than yer RANDOM RENOIR.

Thanx for the fun
Mr. Fogarty. Good job.

Masked & Anonymo6Us

p.s. Hooo-wheeskies. What can us M&A-like minions do to bring U a little more Christmas cheer to WVa, @Muse darlin? I *could* maybe do a special runtpuz with whatever title U think up … just sayin. I know that's kinda a runty offer, tho. So, make the title as dark as U like; challenge the M&A.


Malsdemare 11:20 AM  

Pollyanna here; haven't yet met a puzzle I didn't like. Well, maybe one or two, but that's it. 10-20 tops (nod to George C. Scott in "Dr. Strangelove"). I caught on about halfway through so knowing the trick helped the solve. Of course, anyone who knows me and my love of Northern breeds won't be surprised at my joy in seeing BALTO here. @LMS, I second your vote for Covert rather than COVERED, for the fourth pronunciation, so Covert operations! That would be a challenge.

I too thought OREO must be related to the gimmick but I think it was just a novel way to clue the black and white cookie. Good catch on the Easter egg, she says with a blush.

Sadly, I failed at ACTS; how is it I can know some truly arcane stuff and then blank on something totally inane? And while I dutifully filled in ANNABELLEE, I completely failed to parse it correctly and wondered about this obscure poem from, mayhap, Nova Scotia? Sigh.

And Lauren, I hope your students are really good to you today; sounds like you need a hug.

And now to put up some decorations. I have this charming musher thing I put up every year; old guy, reclining on a sofa, dog sled under a christmas tree, huskies lounging about, fire in the fireplace. A couple handmade about ten of these twenty years ago or so, and when I won a nice monetary prize for a short story I wrote, I spent my loot on one of them.

Mr. Cheese 11:24 AM  

I thought OVER was needed to complete the puzzle but didn’t know how to represent it....I still don’t.
Do I just imagine it’s there? Never seen one like this before.

GILL I. 11:32 AM  

Yay...@Aketi is back and with an OREO recipe no less.....
@Amelia...I always thought OREOs had a bit of milk in them.....?
@RavTom...Thanks for the explanation. I suppose if you're going to have that ubiguitous cookie in your grid, you have to come up with clever ways to clue it. I still don't understand the rationale of the MSCG. It's not in any order and it doesn't spell something.
Reading others, I'm not the only one that was confused and, frankly, a bit disappointed.

Anonymous 11:47 AM  


your taste-from dogs to movies is impeccable. And while Scott is fantastic in Strangelove and delivered the 10 to 20 million with fantastic relish, the genius of the line belongs to Terry Southern. I know Kubrick and
Peter George are credited as co-screenwriters but the biting sarcasm and magnificent satire are the signature of Southern.

Hartley70 11:48 AM  

Not too tough. MoverSANDSHAKERS gave me the gimmick and I like it. I knew BALTO but not ABNER because I like dogs much better than sitcoms. I moved from cONe to HOrn to HONK, but it was a pleasant ride all the way through the puzzle today.

jberg 11:52 AM  

Oh, Rex, Rex, Rex ... Isn't part of the fun trying to figure out the theme, especially if it's Thursday and there's a gimmick involved? The only problem with this one was the circles -- once you got one theme answer, the circles showed you exactly where all the others were. I think I got the theme with MOVERS AND SHAKERS, but almost simultaneously with SOVEREIGN STATE (forEIGN doesn't fit the clue, unless you happen to be a citizen of a non-member state -- otherwise, at least one member state is not foreign).

Anyway, the full solving experience consists of: 1) filling the grid in correctly (done, thanks to a lucky guess that BALTO was more likely than BALrO or BALnO); 2) figuring out the theme, including any little tricks (done)' and 3) making sense of Loren's avatar (nope, not today. Head over D?)

My school didn't make you memorize poems, but we certainly had to read ANNABEL LEE out loud. And that first line is unforgettable. I was only sorry it wasn't Monday, when we had a different blogger here.

@Loren, I was pretty sure you'd have something to say about KEMPT -- but I have to admire your subtlety! I'd say I was gruntled by it, but I'm not sure that comes out the same way; maybe it's more like raveled.

@David, the Allagash and the St. John also flow North (more or less); so does the St. John's in Florida -- I wonder if there's a theological reason for that?

Mike F. 11:59 AM  

23:28. I also initially thought OREO was part of the theme, but kinda had it figured out with the EIGNSTATE clue.

Marc Kwiatkowski 12:07 PM  

Between 30A (Any member of the United Nations) and 49A (Wooden crossings that provide protection from the weather) it was pretty clear that the theme was _OVERsomething. One of the rare times when I spotted the Thursday theme before completing and checking in with OFL.

Had no idea what the three stars were for MASH and got that from the downs. I'm guessing it's the three asterisks in the title typography - M*A*S*H. OK Boomer.

Anonymous 12:09 PM  

@ Anon 10:09, Thank you for explaining the Easter egg.

Anonymous 12:14 PM  

well, podunk town!!! just recall that Our Manchurian President could only get into that fourth-rate commuter college called Fordham. far more instructors at such than at Harvard or Liberty.

RooMonster 12:23 PM  

How could someone not see ANNABEL spelled like that, when we have our very own (often tired) ANNABEL!

@Mr. Cheese
Yes, the OVER is implied by the fact that the circled letter is physically over the rest of the theme answer. So no writing it in.

RooMonster OVER Eager Guy

Whatsername 12:30 PM  

I feel about this puzzle the same way as I did yesterday‘s, an interesting theme but a tad disappointing. Feels like we’ve been a day behind every day this week. I like the theme and I figured it out, but some sort of a revealer would have been nice. It would not necessarily have made it any easier but it would’ve made it a lot more fun. As it was I didn’t see the theme until I was finished, then had to look for it and thought “oh, okay” instead of having that yummy aha moment when you see the clever trick that has been slipped in there.

I loved seeing the great Edgar Allan Poe quoted two days in a row and ANNABELLEE is one of my favorites. It always makes me feel wistful and at the same time reminds me of crazy Jessica Walter in the old movie Play Misty For Me. @Joe Dipinto: I hadn’t connected 50D to another of Eastwood’s psycho characters until I saw your post. Nice catch. Brilliant performances by both those actresses. Here’s another EAP teaser: “At midnight, in the month of June, I stand beneath the mystic moon.” Anyone?

kitshef 12:37 PM  

@Z - I think you are looking at it backwards. Fewer than 1/4 will know BALTO, so TED has to be the gimme. Which it sure wasn't for me.

Richardf8 1:08 PM  

Now I want to see LOG clued with “It’s better than bad, it’s good!”

Teedmn 1:11 PM  

I kept eyeing and re-eyeing CD CASE when I couldn't make EIGN STATE make sense. I hadn't filled in the far NW yet and that EIGN made me very uneasy.

Fast-forward to ED BRIDGES. Who? I re-read the clue and got the COVER ED, noticed the circled C OVER ED, went back to EIGN, got SOVER and became a MOVER[S] AND SHAKER[S] in this puzzle, Hoo-whee!

My black ink was confined to SaTire before SHTICK and BALbO (was I thinking of BiLbO or BALbOa?) before I realized bED (65D) was not a narrator.

Over all, I did this in pretty good time, even considering how often I peeked back at EIGN to see if it had changed yet :-).

Neville Fogarty, NICE!

Doc John 1:32 PM  

I had the concept figured out fairly quickly but still have no idea how that makes it an OREO.
As for ABNER, as mentioned above, it's not so much seeing him as it was to hear Gladys yell out "A-a-abner!"
Yes, there were 2 Gladyses and 2 Darrins. Sadly, the first Gladys died, having taken the role already knowing that she had cancer. The first Darrin also left the show due to illness. He had hurt his back in a stage accident prior to the series and the pain prevented him from continuing.

Anonymous 1:54 PM  

"Doing" (42D) and "Do it" (66A) in the same puzzle? I don't think so.

Anonymous 2:16 PM  

Poking around much like @RP, as I seemed to be doing at first. Since the back halves of the themers were what I had to work with, plus being fairly certain some Thursday trickery of some sort was afoot, I wrote my guesses of what the leading portion of the first 3 themers might be in the white space above my dead-tree puzzle. SOVERIEGN, GOVERNMENT & COVERED pretty clearly gave me the OVER common element, and then it was just a matter of noticing that the circled letters just above matched the beginning letter of the answer in each case, and that OVER itself was implied by the circle positioning.

As many have pointed out, the confusion over OREO being a themer because of the clue length is understandable, but I had the O from MOMS and the color scheme of any crossword is black squares/white squares, so I concur on the felicity of that novel way of disguising one of the top 10 over-used answers.



thfenn 2:26 PM  

So, I have kind of an embarrassing question. I use the NYTimes app, and I can't figure out how people know the theme is OVER!. It's not on the grid I see, it's not in the info tab or the link to the Wordplay blog, and today it would have helped me to know that. Is that something that's only in the printed version?

Humbert Humbert 2:32 PM  

Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta. She was Lo, plain Lo, in the morning, standing four feet ten in one sock. She was Lola in slacks. She was Dolly at school. She was Dolores on the dotted line. But in my arms she was always Lolita. Did she have a precursor? She did, indeed she did. In point of fact, there might have been no Lolita at all had I not loved, one summer, an initial girl-child. In a princedom by the sea. Oh when? About as many years before Lolita was born as my age was that summer. You can always count on a murderer for a fancy prose style. Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, exhibit number one is what the seraphs, the misinformed, simple, noble-winged seraphs, envied. Look at this tangle of thorns.

Now you can talk about Annabel Lee.

Z 3:04 PM  

@kitshef - Yep, I phrased that wrong. TED from How I Met You’re Mother qualifies as a “Common Name.” It’s a little dated now, but the finale was controversial enough and watched enough to merit articles in Time, the Washington Post, USA Today, The Telegraph, The Guardian, The New Republic, and, of course, The New York Times, to name a few. It’s just not in the same depth of obscurity as Andrew Wyeth’s less famous father and a city clued by its mile distance in the Boston Marathon. As with any PPP, if you don’t know BALTO or TED you may have to guess. Betwee TED and jED or nED - all of which give a plausible dog’s name - you have a 33% chance of getting lucky. But still, more personal natick than full natick in my opinion.

@thfenn - I solved in the paper, so not sure how the app did things today, but the app I use often has a little “show explanation” button that helps show what’s going on. Most of us, though, just figured it out. MOVERS AND SHAKERS doesn’t fit in the grid, but that circled M is OVER S AND SHAKERS, so I put it altogether to get an appropriate answer to the clue.

Anonymous 3:07 PM  

You phrased it wrong?! No. You got it wrong. Kitshef pointed it out. End of story.

Anonymous 3:16 PM  

And by the bye, UNIX is anything but an *early* operating system. Unless your under 30, of course.

MR. Cheese 3:54 PM  

@thfenn I also use the NYT app. Does the printed version have an “over” clue in the title?

Nancy 4:02 PM  

Easter egg????????? What easter egg???????????? All I see is EGGO. Can @Anon 7:23 and @Malsdemare 11:20 kindly tell me what on earth they're talking about? And why is @Mals blushing?

Bad enough I didn't get the trick of today's puzzle. But this makes me feel even more out of the loop* than I felt a few hours ago.

*Sometimes, Gordon Sonderland, not everyone's in the loop.

Joe Dipinto 4:26 PM  

@MR. Cheese & thfenn – there's no title or note in the printed edition. I think Rex took it upon himself to give it a title.

Anonymoose 4:38 PM  

Does the print version always have a title?

Anonymous 5:44 PM  

In the Spokane WA paper only the Sunday puzzle has a title; daily puzzles do not and they run six weeks late. A good reason for buying into at least the online subscription.

RooMonster 6:33 PM  

To all:
The NYT doesn't print the title to the Daily Puzs, only on the SunPuz. The constructor gives each of his/her puzs a title, but they are never shown on the Mon-Sat puzs. Rex gives each puz a title based on the theme. He just makes it up to whatever sounds plausible.

Also, puzzlers tend to, well, puzzle out the theme mcguffin (@M&A) without any type of note or title. We're just that smart. 😋


D. Ogma 6:55 PM  

Why is the purpose of this blog? Z corrects all comments and imposes his own "truth," which then becomes dogma. Whether what Z asserts is true or false is immaterial. Whether facts support Z's assertions is immaterial. In this blog, what Z says goes. The bully rules.

Anonymous 7:42 PM  

In some ways, BALTO/TED is more of a Natick than Natick itself.

I would guess more people have driven the Mass Pike and seen Exit 12 - Framingham - Natick, than know about BALTO.

tea73 8:35 PM  

Don't do Twitter so I had to Google 69 and NICE.

BALTO was a gimme for me - kids book and the Central Park Statue. I watched 4 seasons of "How I Met Your Mother" and got tired of it. I told myself I'd go back and watch the show where TED finally did meet the mother, but never did.

Saw the theme with C(OVER)EDBRIDGE confirmed it with G(OVER)NMENT AGENCY and then went back for the other two. Very surprised Rex didn't see it.

Malsdemare 10:00 PM  

Just Google, @Nancy. Sex education is outside my purview.

@anonymous 11:47. Thanks for the back story.

Whitey 10:22 PM  

How is a "sphere of power" an ORB? How is an orb any different from a regular old sphere, power or otherwise?

Z 10:35 PM  

@D. Ogma - Just be sure you genuflect like everyone else when you read my comments.

@Whitey - Scepters, as in the picture here, often have an ORB. Why are the little balls on the ends of scepters called ORBs and not just balls? My best guess is English. See also definition 5.

GILL I. 10:50 PM  

@D. Ogma. If it weren't for @Z, nobody would have anything to playfully talk about. He's just as much a part of this blog as all of you who carp - ad nauseam - about @Rex and his bloviating. It makes for interesting fodder...Just my two centavos.

Monty Boy 12:44 AM  

LMS did it again with the avatar. LMAO.

a.corn 1:39 AM  


William of Ockham 11:01 AM  

Pretty meh, especially relying on OREO in the second row ... ugh

Amelia 3:53 PM  


The chances of you seeing this are nil, Gill. But I'll answer. You're thinking of Oreos, when dipped in milk.
Other than that, they are vegan, through and through, as is every edible thing made with just chemicals and sugar.

Which means you can feel as virtuous as you want, but you probably aren't eating well, if you are a vegan and you don't like vegetables.

Anonymous 8:49 PM  

Of course, thanks!

spacecraft 11:51 AM  

14 across threw me, but only momentarily: I saw it as a "revealer." Nah. It's black-and-white simple: the color of newsprint {"The ink is black, the page is white: together we learn to read and write." From three Dog Night, maybe my favorite lyric of all time). The color of "this puzzle"--OR ANY OTHER PUZZLE. Geez. Talk about your gigantic misdirect. It's a nothing clue.

However, unlike OFC and a few others, I clamped onto the McGuffin after having -GNSTATE. Gotta be foreign, no? A rebus! No. Saw the circled S and the light came on. After that wonderful aha! moment, the rest of it was comparatively easy. Didn't know who BALTO was, but hats off to him. He done good.

I liked this one. Invenvtive, no-revealer theme well executed, and a minimum of fill slop. CDCASE created only a moment's hesitation. DOD is AISHA Tyler; most honorable mention to our guest blogger, the perennially "tired" ANNABEL. I was surprised @M&A didn't pay homage to the clue for 63-down. Solid birdie.

Burma Shave 2:03 PM  


she’ll IGNORE the MERE RANDOM fakers,
but then with LURID ACTS, HOTDAMN!


Diana, LIW 2:30 PM  

Knew neither TED nor BALTO, but guessed he T correctly for a completely clean and correct finish.

OFL's review is a PRIME example of why solving for one's fastest time is, in my opinion, a losing way to solve a crossword. Takes the joy out of Mudville, if you ask me. You did ask me, right?

And while you're asking, I always dread Thursday puzzles. I'm still happy when I get the "trick" and the answers, but methinks that if you're clever enough by half, you can rely on wordplay to make your puzzle joyous. Ed o personal, Thursday rant.

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords with wordplay

rondo 3:06 PM  

Well, my only write-over turned out to be critical when ‘tata’ became CIAO and that C showed me COVEREDBRIDGES and helped with the other themers. NOIR/RENOIR EARN/URN DOING/DOIT hmmm.

David BOWIE’s birthday yesterday, deathday tomorrow.

Today’s four corners make a MESS. Yesterday it was JAWS and the day before was the SEAN Penn name.

Can’t IGNORE yeah baby AISHA Tyler, she WINs BY more than ANOSE. Enough of my SHTICK, how about YEWS guys.

rainforest 3:54 PM  

Every once in a while we are given a puzzle that is just, how to say it?, soul-satisfying to finish. Thus we have today's great puzzle. I know some people just zipped through it, but I had to ponder --ED BRIDGES and --NMENTAG-- for several nanoseconds before the big AHA hit: the circled letters over OVER! Somehow way preferable to an actual rebus, at least to me. So the other two themers fell easily, and I needed them to finish the rest of the puzzle.

Nifty diversion on OREO, tricky SUEDE in the SW where the BALTO/TED cross dwelt, and a semi-tough NE section all made for a swell puzzle. 69 NICE!

leftcoaster 5:14 PM  

Theme was cumbersome. ALAS, the circled M,S,C, and G "over" the truncated words flummoxed me. Did think of CoverEDBRIDGES, e.g., but IGNOREd the C and OVER flew over my head. Most of the rest of the puzzle was easy.

leftcoaster 5:27 PM  

@Burma Shave -- DAMN close to Calvin Trillin, if not spot-on!

BS2 8:11 PM  

And here I was shooting for Roy Blount Jr. or maybe Garrison Keillor . . . Shel Silverstein wannabes

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