Comedian Andre with self-named Adult Swim show / SUN 1-5-20 / Second of 10 biblical plagues / Ancient neighbor of Lydia / Put on production of classic Sondheim musical / Country ruled only by kings named Tupou since 1845 / Fateful day in 44 BC / Former Haitian leader Jean-Bertrand

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Constructor: Will Nediger

Relative difficulty: Easy (8:58)

THEME: "Stressed Out" — themers are familiar two-word phrases, clued as if first word had the "stress" on the second syllable rather than the first—thus, wacky "?" clues:

Theme answers:
  • "PROJECT, GUTENBERG!" (23A: "We can't hear you in the back, Johannes!"?)
  • PRESENT COMPANY (38A: Put on a production of a classic Sondheim musical?)
  • PERFECT SCORES (47A: What composers do when they add the finishing touches?)
  • PRODUCE LABELS (66A: What workers at the sticker factory do?)
  • CONTRACT TERMS (86A: Shorten words like "forecastle" and "boatswain"?)
  • DISCOUNT STORES (94A: Ignore what you have in reserve while taking inventory?)
  • "CONVERSE, ALL-STARS!" (111A: Encouragement at an N.B.A. mixer?)
Word of the Day: PROJECT GUTENBERG (23A) —
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• • •

Dutchess, 2002-2019
HELLO, READERS AND FELLOW SOLVERS from SYNDICATIONLAND (If you're solving this puzzle on January 12, 2020, this means you!). It's early January and that means it's time for my annual pitch for financial contributions to the blog, during which I ask regular readers to consider what the blog is worth to them on an annual basis and give accordingly. It's kind of a melancholy January this year, what with the world in, let's say, turmoil. Also, on a personal note, 2019 was the year I lost Dutchess, who was officially The Best Dog, and who was with me well before I was "Rex Parker." Somehow the turning of the calendar to 2020 felt like ... I was leaving her behind. It's not a rational sentiment, but love's not rational, especially pet love. Speaking of love—I try hard to bring a passion and enthusiasm to our shared pastime every time I sit down to this here keyboard. I love what I do here, but it is a lot of work, put in at terrible hours—I'm either writing late at night, or very early in the morning, so that I can have the blog up and ready to go by the time your day starts (9am at the very latest, usually much earlier). I have no major expenses, just my time. Well, I do pay Annabel and Claire, respectively, to write for me once a month, but beyond that, it's just my time. This blog is a source of joy and genuine community to me (and I hope to you) but it is also work, and this is the time of year when I acknowledge that! All I want to do is write and make that writing available to everyone, for free, no restrictions. I have heard any number of suggestions over the years about how I might "monetize" (oof, that word) the blog, but honestly, the only one I want anything to do with is the one I already use—once a year, for one week, I just ask readers to contribute directly. And then I let 51 weeks go by before I bring up the subject again. No ads, no gimmicks. It's just me creating this thing and then people who enjoy the thing supporting the work that goes into creating the thing. It's simple. I like simple. Your support means a lot to me. Knowing that I have a loyal readership really is the gas in the tank, the thing that keeps me solving and writing and never missing a day for 13+ years. I will continue to post the solved grid every day, tell you my feelings about the puzzle every day, make you laugh or wince or furrow your brow or shout at your screen every day, bring you news from the Wider World of Crosswords (beyond the NYT) every day. The Word of the Day is: Quotidian. Occurring every day. Daily. Whether you choose to contribute or not, I'm all yours. Daily.

How much should you give? Whatever you think the blog is worth to you on a yearly basis. Whatever that amount is is fantastic. Some people refuse to pay for what they can get for free. Others just don't have money to spare. All are welcome to read the blog—the site will always be open and free. But if you are able to express your appreciation monetarily, here are two options. First, a Paypal button (which you can also find in the blog sidebar):

Second, a mailing address (checks should be made out to "Rex Parker"):

Rex Parker c/o Michael Sharp
54 Matthews St
Binghamton, NY 13905

All Paypal contributions will be gratefully acknowledged by email. All snail mail contributions will be gratefully acknowledged with hand-written postcards. I. Love. Snail Mail. I love seeing your gorgeous handwriting and then sending you my awful handwriting. It's all so wonderful. This year's cards are illustrations from the covers of classic Puffin Books—Penguin's children's book imprint.  Watership Down, Charlotte's Web, The Phantom Tollbooth, A Wrinkle in Time, How to Play Cricket ... you know, the classics. There are a hundred different covers and they are truly gorgeous. Please note: I don't keep a "mailing list" and don't share my contributor info with anyone. And if you give by snail mail and (for some reason) don't want a thank-you card, just say NO CARD.  As ever, I'm so grateful for your readership and support.

Now on to the puzzle!
• • •

This is very much a Sunday puzzle. Feels like every (competent) Sunday puzzle I've ever done, ever. Take some familiar phrases and then wackify them in some way via the clues!? Presto change-o Theme-O! It all works fine, it's totally inoffensive, but there's remarkably little joy in the solving endeavor. What I liked most was seeing PROJECT GUTENBERG get some grid-time! It's such a great resource. Free ebooks galore! Especially if your tastes turn toward Things In The Public Domain! The new year brings new items (specifically, stuff from 1924! Here's Hemingway's In Our Time, for instance). PROJECT GUTENBERG is fantastic for finding the oddest long-out-of-print stuff, as well as classic stuff you've always been meaning to read but haven't. Not sure why I'm doing PR for them right now, but free books is free books. The other themers were (YO HO) ho hum to me. The fill was for the most part very smooth and solid, if nothing at all to write home about (I love the idea that you all are up all hours of the night handwriting letters to ma by candlelight: "Dearest Mother, the crossword etc."). I will say, though, that this puzzle *has* drawn my attention to the funny (STRANGE funny, not "haha" funny) phenomenon of nouns/adjectives being accented on first syllable and verbs being accented on the second. Every one of these themers doesn't just have shift in stress; it also goes from noun or adj. phrase to verb phrase, every time. Or an imperative (i.e. command) phrase. Are those also considered "verb phrases"? Well, the restress turns the first word into a verb in every case, is my point.

I had little moments of struggle, but just little. No big. Not even a medium. LARDS was a weird way to begin (1A: Stuffs with bacon, say)—not a word I use very often. But once I got that sorted, whoosh I was gone. Some issues turning the corner at URGES, which I just couldn't see (41A: Subjects of "birds and bees" talks). I had SEXES, though that seemed wrong. URGES also seems kind of wrong, since "birds and bees" talks tend to be about facts of reproduction rather than general horniness, right? I don't remember my "birds and bees" talk. I was taught about basic clinical facts of sex very early. The more embarrassing URGES part ... I don't remember that. Actually ... scratch that. I do remember one particularly embarrassing impromptu lecture about [CENSORED] that I inadvertently taped because I was taping music off the radio using an old-fashioned cassette recorder (this is ~1979?). My god I wish I'd kept that tape. Where was I? Oh, URGES, right. Sure, I guess it's fine. But I struggled to get it, as I say.

I also struggled to get POOLTOY (so many noodles in the world!), and, above all, ANATOLE (81A: French France); I kept looking for some French word for "state" or "country," but it's just ANATOLE France, a writer whom no one really knows any more. I know him only because I collect old paperbacks and so I've seen his name here and there.
I had FOAL for COLT (92A: Certain yearling) and (thus) ENROL for ENACT (68D: Put on the books). I confused the HESSIANS with the ESSENES (!) and wrote in HESSENES at first, so that was weird—but easily fixable (85D: Defenders in the Battle of Trenton). That's all I really have to say about this one. Cannot fault it, did not love it. Hope you had stronger feelings, one way or the other, than I did. 

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


jae 12:11 AM  

Medium. Clever but a tad bland, although the NE corner has some sparkle. Liked it, or sort of what Rex said.

On a trip to New Mexico a few years back we rented a car from the company that advertises that you can pick any car want you from the ones they have on hand. When we got to their parking area there were plenty of cars available and they were all PT CRUISERS. Chrysler must have made them an offer they couldn’t, we dorked around New Mexico for the next 10 days.

Joe Dipinto 12:29 AM  

Oh I see how it works now. When it's in the answer, it's SNARFS; when it's in the clue, it's SCARFS. Got it.

Well, the constructor – is Will Nediger the guy who collaborates with our @Nancy? – admits at XWord Info that the theme phrases aren't too exciting. And I'd have to agree. Plus there's some iffy fill like STEREO SET and GET THE NOD, which should have the indefinite article in order to match the clue: you get *an* Oscar nod if you are nominated; whereas you get *the* nod if you receive approval to do something.

But. I actually did enjoy solving it. It seemed like a regular old comfy Sunday puzzle. Hardly any new stuff in it, but I like the Trois Mousquetaires ALTÒN, ANATOLE and ARISTIDE. And CATSAT in the present tense is something I'm always up for doing. So, a nice, pleasant, undemanding first-Sunday-of-the-year soirée.

Is it time for lunch yet?

rochdale 1:51 AM  

can someone explain 97 across to me: mom's counterpart: "een"

Jyqm 3:14 AM  

The most entertaining thing about this puzzle might be Rex’s apparent discovery of two-syllable heteronyms, which are indeed a fun aspect of the English language if that’s your idea of fun. Some trochaic noun/iambic verb pairs that apparently didn’t make the cut: conflict, record, increase/decrease, import/export, suspect, rebel, invite — really, there are a ton of these things, which makes the boringness of most of the theme answer (all except the first and last) unforgivable. Better or at least wackier themers off the top of my head, though without yet coming up with clever clues:


Some even better ones going the other way:


Anonymous 4:11 AM  

I agree with Rex that this was inoffensive. No really stupid answers (well, DEFAT is borderline), no incorrect clues when just a bit of editing could have made a nice clue.

I enjoyed the misdirection of the clue for ERIE.

Anonymous 5:30 AM  

Thanks for your daily contribution to the crossworld. In today’s world, I think your yield would increase with a Venmo option. Much faster/easier than PayPal.

Z 6:19 AM  

The key with this sort of theme is the clues. Shortz is in terminal dad joke mode, and mild dad joke at that. If you’re going to do whacky do truly whacky. Put on Sondheim? Yawn.

Otherwise, what Rex said. Nothing terrible in the fill, so just a competent, inoffensive but not especially thrilling puzzle.

LARDS and DEFAT? Make up your mind. My mom always used LARDS. I was 6’3” and 143 lbs when I was a HS senior. So when I read that DEFAT propaganda was funded by sugar interests I found it credible.

Stumbled when SHEATHEd didn’t work. When was the last time “put” was present tense in a clue? I also briefly had William tell shooting arrows. Also flexOR before TENSOR. The TONGA clue is meaningless trivial trivia that doesn’t help with the solve but that gets filed away for future Trivia Nights at the bar. Otherwise, solved this like a knife cutting LARDS.

Lewis 6:30 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lewis 6:33 AM  

Smooth solve, but I never was bored, due to interesting answers (such as HOAR, YOHOHO, SATYR, FANNED OUT, COHORT) teamed up with clues requiring mental involvement. Yet the journey was unfrenzied; it was like a tranquil glide in a comfortable sled, a WN CRUISER, if you will. And sometimes these days, tranquil is a gift, no?

Yes, I'm quite content with the content of this one, and thank you Will N.

Anonymous 7:10 AM  

rochdale: Bleary-eyed misread. The clue is “morn” (morning), not mom.

GILL I. 7:28 AM  

Jeez @Z...You must've been the bean pole de rigueur. I'm 5'7" and a few and weigh 136 and my husband thinks I'm too skinny. But 6'3" at 143? Yeah, I think you needed DE FAT.
I loves me a Will Nediger...Never offensive, always sensible, pretty easy to fill in the blanks. I wasn't bored. Lots of ON's today and that's fine with me. I like being ON board on a rainy gloomy Sunday.
I learned all about the "birds and bees" reading "Lady Chatterley's Lover." (Just kidding). But I did read it because my grandmother told me that D.H. Lawrence was trash. That's a sure-fire way to get you to do what you're not supposed to. Actually, I learned everything I needed to know from all of my promiscuous friends. It seems that everyone knew more than I. I still can't figure out how bees copulate.
@Rex...I will gladly contribute to the gas in your tank. You have been more than my morning coffee for the past 8 years or so. I look forward to you EVERY SINGLE morning and if you disappeared , I think I'd sit down and pour me a stiff one and then cry. I know I'm not the only one who appreciates what you do. It's truly amazing. I also want to thank sweet Annabel and Claire and your mods.....By the way, thanks for deleting the political caca that belongs elsewhere......I'm a snail mail kinda person, so it's on its way.
Oh....just my two cents. Yeah, you can be (as we say in Spanish) pendejito at times but that's what I love about you and this blog. I've made some truly amazing cyber friends thanks to @Rex Parker.

sf27shirley 7:44 AM  

Wow, ANATOLE France in the crossword! When my very literate son was a student at Concord High (Concord, CA) the class was assigned a Dickens novel. He asked the teacher if he could read ANATOLE France's Penguin Island instead. The teacher curtly refused and we always suspected it was because he didn't know who Anatole France was.

pmdm 8:20 AM  

Choose an artform: movies, symphonies, crossword puzzles. The more familiar you are with the form, the more something good but average strikes you as, well, dull. There may only be a dozen comments and the write-up posted so far, but it seems that how I and other seasoned solvers have responded to this puzzle. It will be interesting to return here later and read how newer solvers respond to this puzzle.

Now back to yesterday's puzzle which I haven't plowed through yet.

Anonymous 8:25 AM  

Had trouble with NE...but al and all was fun..

puzzlehoarder 8:37 AM  

Usually I ignore themes as much as possible. Being too tired to finish last night I decided to stop and smell the roses, so to speak, before I plunged back in this morning. A mild scent is what came off. My favorite was 23A as I had no idea where that was going and had to tweak a couple of short downs to suss out GUTENBERG.

I regret not being able to comment yesterday. It's not like me to miss a Saturday. Especially a good one. Events conspired.

Anonymous 8:52 AM  
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Rube 9:02 AM  

Never heatd of Project Gutenberg. What's worse hear is that discount is always accented on the first syllable and "converse" as a verb requires a preposition, specifically "with" in this case. That throws the puzzle a bit off kilter. Also what is a produce label? "This is a cucumber?" "Kumquats 99c each?"

Hungry Mother 9:09 AM  

Seemed difficult, but my time said otherwise. Very nice challenge, right down to the final M. Lord Byron’s daughter is getting some good publicity lately.

Anonymous 9:15 AM  

To Moderator. Please remove 8:52 AM post. I wrote that as a snark response to 7:44 AM post and I regret it. Thanks.

Anonymous 9:15 AM  

When I use DISCOUNT as a verb to say that I don't assign much importance or credence to something, I accent the second syllable.

Donkos 9:17 AM  

The clue is M-O-R-N not M-O-M. I solved on an app where the clue was hard to read. Took until I finished to figure it out.

kitshef 9:19 AM  

Not easy for me. That area with DIF/DUMA/EYEFUL gave the most trouble, but in general I kept running into roadblocks and having to restart elsewhere.

Put a shine on breakfast meats? POLISH SAUSAGES.

Anonymous 9:21 AM  


Z 9:31 AM  

@Gill I - Yes, then. “Lanky” would have been an understatement. I grew another inch vertically and, *ahem,* more than that radially.

@Rube - CONVERSE is clued as an imperative, dispensing with the need for a preposition. And a produce label is one of those little stickers you find on all your fruits and vegetables at your grocer.

@Anon8:52 - Funny. However, it’s not at all unusual for bright kids to ask for different reading assignments nor for them to suspect their instructors breadth in their field. As a former admin, I valued knowledge of how to teach more than what to teach. Without the former the latter doesn’t matter. However, learning to teach takes time and practice that would otherwise be spent deepening one’s knowledge in the field. If I had to guess @sf27shirley and her son had other reasons for suspicion. And that doesn’t necessarily mean the teacher was bad at their craft.

Teedmn 9:36 AM  

Wow, what a workout! In a good way, mostly. The theme works well, with all of them being recognizable phrases and all of the first words changing their stress when changed to a verb. Too bad I forgot totally about PROJECT GUTENBERG. I wouldn't know Gutenberg's first name if he walked up to me with a name tag on, so "Johannes" in the clue was of no help.

So many mental LAPSEs. Take GIRL SCOUT, for example. Samoa was a Pacific Island in my brain until I had ___LSCOUT. Then I tried to think of a car make or model someone was selling. Good grief! I've eaten many a Samoa Girl Scout cookie, what's my problem? Well, not knowing my biblical plagues, especially in order, not knowing where Lydia is/was, and not knowing which Johannes 23A was talking about.

But Will had my number everywhere I turned. 62D, with THE__Y in place, is the "big idea" THE waY? Something you didn't want to be under, was it "the gun"? (64D). Words before Remember or Forget in song titles (71A) must be "do you", right? I spread OUT before I FANNED. Something that was utterly useless was "futile".

Anyway, I could go on forever, or at least for the nearly 46 minutes this took me to solve, which is about 10 more than my Sunday random-solve average.

I'm not thrilled with PRODUCE LABELS as a theme answer. Does anyone really discuss the sticky things found on tomatoes or peppers, except to curse at them when they leave residue on your veggie? (Though recently the labels seem to come off better, at least on my tomatoes). CONVERSE ALL STARS was my favorite.

Thanks, Will Nediger, this was really nice! Loved the clue for DUGOUTS.

And I will definitely be sending my annual contribution to Rex. After 5 years here, I have become dependent on reading his and everyone's take on the puzzle on a daily basis. I love his story about taping music off the radio with a cassette player. That's exactly what I used to do, hisses, static, unexpected interruptions (though never about URGES that I can remember) and all. Sometimes, the neighbors would have a patrol car in their driveway near my room (the neighbor was Chief of Police) and their car radio would somehow come through my radio's tinny speaker. Weird.

Anonymous 9:38 AM  

@Rube: Around here, I hear dis-COUNT when used as a verb. Merriam-Webster online indicates both are used for the verb, with the emphasis on the second syllable listed second.

Converse is an implied imperative command, as Rex indicated in his write-up: "Converse, All-Stars".

Finally, many supermarkets have small labels (stickers) on produce with a numeric or a bar code that you (or the cashier/checker, if you can find one these days) either scan in or type in at the register. The register/computer looks it up to get the price per unit.

Ed Rosenthal 9:44 AM  

It’s “morn” not “mom.” As I recall, in poetry (or Shakespeare?), “een” is the contraction for “evening”

Anonymous 9:48 AM  

Was just reading The chapter in Trust Exeercisds last night that includes a discussion of heteronyms. Love coincidences like that.

Nancy 9:51 AM  

Because I had BOA instead of WIG for "drag wear", I was imagining PROJECT ANNENBERG, which was 1-letter too short, but I hadn't yet noticed. (Who has ever heard of PROJECT GUTENBERG? Surely not me. Nor did I know that GUTENBERG'S first name is Johannes. I was looking for one of the "B" composers.)

I was also a bit slow seeing GET THE NOD, because I expected "convention handouts" at 6A to end in "S". SWAG is a nice surprise, Will.

I was wondering why "noodle" was a POOL TOp. A POOL TOp is felt, right? ESSAY made me see my mistake. Duh.

My two favorite clues were "Underground places with bats" for DUGOUTS and "Samoa salesperson" for GIRL SCOUT. Will is such a playful cluer. And yes, @Joe Dipinto, Will Nediger is my very wonderful puzzle collaborator. Two more puzzles of ours have been accepted by the NYT, we were notified of them about two months ago, but when they will actually appear, who can say?

Like me, Will likes to build puzzles around wordplay -- which is why we're a good team. This has plenty of enjoyable wordplay, although I did find it easier than his last Sunday puzzle, CONSTANT CONSONANTS. He may have been taking it easy on us this time around. I can, however, promise you a couple of puzzles in the future where he/we may not be quite as nice :)

Joe in Newfoundland 10:13 AM  

re produce labels:,c_limit/191111_a21426.jpg

Cliff 10:13 AM  

I knew Anatole France for his line "If a million people say a foolish thing, it is still a foolish thing". I remember using that quote in High School debate competitions to counter the "bandwagon" logical fallacy

TML 10:24 AM  

Dear Rex, Thanks for being there for us when we can’t figure it out. WIshing you joy in 2020.

SouthsideJohnny 10:32 AM  

Rex was remarkably civilized today. I hope he is feeling alright. The comments here are overwhelmingly positive so far as well. A lot of the answers certainly seemed “way out in left field” to me. Does anyone take their martial arts lessons at the local DOJO ? Similarly, has anyone here ever, ever used HOAR in a sentence ? ENOS qualifies as esoteric, yet is forgivable since the crosses are reasonable I suppose.

SABE and TONGA just do not belong, period. They simply bring nothing to the table, especially if you don’t speak Spanish. Excellent examples of Dark Matter entries - just placeholders until the crosses save the day.

The cutesy clue for ANATOLE misses the mark - chalk it up to Shortz’s “dad joke” affliction that someone has already mentioned.

Shouldn’t there be an abbreviation in the clue for 28A (TVS) ?

Ann 10:34 AM  

Thanks for a year of great blogs. A small contribution is in the mail. I started doing the crosswords a couple of years ago to distract me from the news. The news gets worse every day but my crossword skills are immeasurably better, thanks (in the latter case) to your blog. Unfortunately, as I got better, my times improved and I have more time to be distressed by the news. Now I’ve started the Acrostics and they are lots of fun, too, and challenging.
Best wishes for the New Year. May it bring us all we hope for and none of the things we fear.

Knitwit 10:35 AM  

I liked this one! Mainly want to say thanks Rex! Another great year of crosswords! Gladly made my small contribution for all you efforts. This blog has helped me become a better solver. I don’t post much, but I read it everyday. Hoping for a Happy and Healthy 2020!

Birchbark 10:36 AM  

I like the Billy Bragg CD @Rex linked to -- good for a STEREO SET in the reverb of a wood-floored apartment back in the day. Really nice, sparse guitar and unvarnished vocals. My favorite: "I love you / I am the milkman of human kindness / I will leave and extra pint -- ."

That said, a little MAHALIA Jackson of a Sunday morning would be okay too.

I was 5'8", 145 lbs. in grad school, subsisting on peanut butter sandwiches on good bakery bread, fresh milk by day and brown ale thereafter, trusting to a metabolism that at the time was responsive. I had a room in an old English mansion and walked three miles to and from the university campus where I studied all manner of lofty paragraphs. The years since can be reviewed on a scale with sufficient capacity, though the point of measuring escapes me.

Anonymous 11:01 AM  

My favorite quote from Anatole France is, "In its majestic equality, the law forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges, beg in the streets and steal loaves of bread."

Klazzic 11:14 AM  

Happy New Year, ya old curmudgeon! Do love you, though, Rexie. Thanks for making my mornings stimulating.

RAD2626 11:15 AM  

Clue for Lent was not only fun, its misdirection also like the themers relied on a change in stress from Time to Give. Too lazy to see if there were other stress changing clues.

Fun puzzle. Had a DNF with oRS/oNOS but probably should have figured out the E would have more apt so I cannot claim a Natick.

Mo-T 11:35 AM  

@kichef, 9:19 As one of my favorite posters would say, "HAR."

One time some friends and I were in Atlantic City on the boardwalk. We walked past a salon that had a sign in the window that read: "Polish Change." My friend asked, What's a Poe-lish change?" Double HAR.

Another time, my English 12 class was reading Of Mice and Men. (I don't know how to italicize book titles.) I started the class off by asking, "Any questions on last night's reading?" to which a young man said, "Yes. I found a word that is totally unfamiliar. It's on page so-and-so." We all turned to the page to find "sonofabitch." "Oh, I said. Read it out loud." And we all fell down laughing.

Those were fun and instructive times when students put the accent on the wrong sill-abble.

So I liked this puzzle very much. Made me think of good times, something I needed on this cold, gray morn. I should be feeling happier by een.

Nancy 11:37 AM  

@Birchbark (10:36) -- So where was this English mansion you lived in in grad school? Oxford? Cambridge?

I wonder about this, even as I wonder about that tree that you climb in your blog non-profile. Is it in California? Washington State? Vermont? Idaho?

I went to your profile, but there's nothing at all there. Absolutely nothing. From time to time you give out little snippets to make us curious* but you don't really reveal anything. C'mon, man, give us at least some information. At least about grad school?

*Although, to be fair, it's possible that I'm the only one who's curious :)

Anonymous 11:39 AM  

Elaborating one more time on the stressed syllable of DISCOUNT, I would disCOUNT rumors but I would DIScount future cash flows in order to determine their present value. I don't know why I do that, or if most people do it that way.

Cyclist227 11:42 AM  

Felt a bit like a fill in the blank kind of puzzle. Not really much fun. I struggled a bit with some of the same things Rex said and got some easily that he had a harder time with (which always makes me happy!). For some reason, "stereoset" annoyed me. Who ever have used that term to describe a stereo system? I am really tiring of Will Shortz's sense of the pun.

Tim Aurthur 11:44 AM  

Go ahead and do PR for Project Gutenberg. I encourage anyone who doesn't know that place to visit and browse through 18th c. cookbooks and travel accounts along with the classics in many languages. If you've been dying to read a Finnish translation of "Salammbo," that's where you'll find it. And every item has a Kindle and Nook version.

Frantic Sloth 11:45 AM  

Puzzle Schmuzzle. All I can think about is Dutchess. Sweet face, "best dog", R.I.P.

Newboy 11:50 AM  

ASSAD as a closer was a downer for this puppy; wish he would be eliminated here (& in Syria). Before that I enjoyed the puzzle and clueing ambiguities as previous posters note. A real cluster**** around ROEG but crosses limited the damage and since I don’t track time, no problemo. Rex Parker really shines in my book because he gives an unvarnished appeal and then shuts up. Other great sites I support (The Conversation, for example) bombard me with appeals long after I’ve sent in my pittance. The check will be in the mail. And while I’m endorsing, let me second the PROJECT GUTENBERG recommendations for any who want a reread of Bram Stoker’s 🧛‍♂️. SO SORRY that I rambled on to this PRESENT COMPANY, so to others: CONVERSE ALLSTARS!

Crimson Devil 12:48 PM  

SOSORRY re Miss Dutchess, from fellow dog-lover. Always had ‘em, usually more than one. 17 is a good long life. A tragedy of life is that dogs’ life spans are less than ours. I can recall names of every one I’ve had (7 decades), personalities too. George Carlin, greatest stand-up comedian ever, I/M/O, recited that acquisition of pet is just a heartbreak waitin to happen, but we love ‘em.
Good Sunday puz today, NE tough for me.
Enjoyed cluing for DOG, DUGOUTS, ROOST, GIRLSCOUT —tho I’ve never liked their cookies, or any others for that matter, LENT and STRANGE.
Best of all was reference to venerable Chuck Taylor CONVERSE ALLSTAR high top basketball shoes. Wore out many a pair. Chuck coached one of best known teams.
Check in snail mail, tho am now pensioner as of 5 days ago. Enjoy this site every AM.

Malsdemare 12:51 PM  

Thank you, Will. This was fun. I smiled at Project Gutenberg. As a genealogist, access to these really old books, written in the 1800s about the founders of Paris, Illinois or Zanesville, Ohio is absolutely the best fun you can have. Those 19th century folks knew how to POLISH the image of the men (always the men) so they gleam like mica in the sun, even though in many cases they were mediocre guys who managed to make a lot of money screwing their townspeople. Trust me, some of those guys were my ancestors; they didn't deserve those paeans to their existence.

What@Gill said to Rex. I get up, feed the dogs, let them out, and settle down with the coffee Mr. Mal, and the NYT crossword. Coming here afterwards is like strolling into the local coffee shop to shoot the breeze with friends. So, yeah, I kicked in. I don't know Venmo, but it took 30 seconds to send some dough with Paypal.

My goal in college was to get my weight into triple digits. While I'm pretty trim, those skinny days are long gone. Mr. Mal, on the other hand, can stand alongside @Z; same height, 163 in college; I'll remain silent about today's stats.

This was a puzzle that made me feel smart; HESSIANS, ARISTIDE, ANATOLE, ASSAD, MAHALIA, aforementioned GUTENBERG, slipped in with only a few assists. The theme was fine; it provided a really nice scaffold on which to build a lovely puzzle. Thanks, Will. I'm looking forward to more of the same, and to the imminent contributions of your collaboration with @Nancy. And, Rex, my sympathies, however late, for the loss of your dog. Damn dogs; they come into your world, turn it upside down, drive you nuts, turn into great friends and then they LEAVE!!

GP 12:51 PM  

Cohort refers to a number of colleagues, not just one... nit pick!

JC66 1:02 PM  

Thanks @Rex for this blog. As others have said much better than I could, I really appreciate all your efforts.

And, yes, PayPal only takes 30 seconds.

As to today's puzzle, I found it slightly harder than average. I solved it as a themeless. The stress thing didn't click in until post solve review,

Birchbark 1:04 PM  

@Nancy (11:37) -- I attended University of Essex to study philosophy with Onora O'Neill, an influential scholar on Kantian ethics and political philosophy, and later a member of the House of Lords. I lived in a Victorian neighborhood in Colchester.

Nowadays, the tree in the photograph is down the hill from my house, just outside of a little village on the Minnesota side of the St. Croix River. I did a little snow-shoeing some those woods this morning, in what snow there is. And so now to head down to the Brookside Tavern to see about the Vikings' post-season prospects.

That is all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know, and I thank you for asking.

Anonymous 1:15 PM  

My friend asked, What's a Poe-lish change?

If I remember my ethnic movies rightly ("Fiddler..." and such), it's a Zloty. (It's not really an 'l', but I've no idea how to make the real glyph)

old timer 1:21 PM  

Sent in my contribution, too. If only as a reward to OFL for not having a hissy fit about ASSAD. I actually like ASSAD, for the same reason I suspect Trump does. As he made clear from the start, Trump thinks it is the duty of every leader to take the actions he or she thinks will best benefit his country. Even if they interfere with the policies of our State Department. ASSAD clearly works to benefit his country. Prime example: When those Iran-backed militias were massacring the Kurds, he welcomed the Kurdish forces with open arms, provided they stopped trying to destroy his government. Then, with Russian help, was able to march his army to the border with Turkey. Erdowan had to accept the fait accompli, and the massacre was stopped. Trump likes Putin for the same reason -- the man clearly puts Russia first. And I bet he despises the leaders of Iraq, for allowing that general to fly in an out of Bagdad whenever he wanted to supervise the Iranian-allied militias.

So much for politics. The puzzle was indeed workmanlike, and I liked it better when I discovered (here) that CONVERSE, ALL STARS was a direction to those NBA players to talk to one another at some fictional party.

The story about ANATOLE FRANCE brought back a fond memory of when my eldest daughter was told to read some novel of her choosing, and report on it. She chose a very long book indeed, The Three Musketeers by Dumas. She read it in translation, and I went to the library and was able to check out the original French version, in multiple volumes. Like most 19th Century books in French, it is far easier for we etrangers to read than some of the slang-filled books of the 20th Century. With the help of a French dictionary, I was able, after a month of hard work, to get through it, and found myself almost totally at home in the language. It does help that Les Trois Musquetaires is a heck of a good yarn.

I third (or fourth) the recommendation for Project Gutenberg.

Anonymous 1:28 PM  

What about this last post by oldtimer. Pretty political. What gives mods?

Adam 1:36 PM  

I liked PROJECT, GUTTENBERG! and loved "CONVERSE, ALL-STARS", but otherwise I found the puzzle to be a slog - very little joy in solving, very pedestrian cluing and answers. Didn't hate it, but didn't love it, and the themes were cute but I figured the gimmick from the title, so there was no real "a-ha" moment. Ah, well. Sorry, @Rex, but I felt about as meh about the puzzle as you did.

Z 1:44 PM  

@Anon11:39 - Looks about right to me, although the way I say it and hear it is so subtle that it barely counts as a changed stress.

@GP - I thought the same and was going to make the same plaint but the first dictionary I checked listed the clue first. I cannot recall ever hearing it used that way, only ever as a group.

@old timer - I think you are mistaking putting themselves first for putting the country first. L’etat c’est moi never really works out. Even Machiavelli pointed that out.

@anon8:52 now deleted - I understand. The line between funny and pissy can be pretty thin. One advantage of going blue is the ability to delete one’s own posts.

Nancy 1:59 PM  

Thank you, thank you, @Birchbark. And I am SO proud of myself! I called you "the blog's resident philosopher" on more than one occasion, without knowing a thing about your biography. And it turns out I was right: you DID major in philosophy!!! Am I perspicacious or what?

And your Minnesota location gives me another Rexblog reason to root for the Vikings against the Saints. I have no dog in the fight, with my own Giants and Jets having been truly hopeless this year, but I can't enjoy a football game if I don't really root for one team or the other. It's sort of like flipping a coin and then pretending I really care. I was going to root for MN because of @Teedmn and @George Barany and now I can add you to the mix.

Anonymous 2:05 PM  

Totally did not get Project Gutenberg, but was happy to be introduced to it. (Did not know Freddy ADU, so had Freddy ADO with Gotenberg...) I was focused on J.S. Bach and BRANDENBURG for a long time, but of course this does not fit... anything.
Rex, I love snail mail too. Will try to send you something by that route.
Happy 2020, everyone!


sixtyni yogini 2:06 PM  

What Rex said. Theme - meh. Clues/answers kinda fun.

Richardf8 2:16 PM  

This puzzle had the misfortune to receive my attention right after the first of the Tough As Nails offerings. Let’s just say I solved in a quarter of the time without a single visit to ‘Grampa Google’ (not my coinage; blame Tom Batiuk)

I enjoyed the theme, but was confused when the first four examples began wit P’s and the others didn’t.

Stereo Set seemed like a serious archaism to me. Audiophiles were always more inclined to select individual components. And isn’t Stereo a basic assumption of home audio these days?

Anonymous 2:25 PM  

Back in the 80s, when I toiled for Jack Anderson in DC, it was widely known that ASSAD, pere was the main bad actor in the middle east. ASSAD, fils still is. Autocrats do nothing to aid 'their country', only to enrich themselves and their cronies. It has ever been so, and no amount of propaganda will change that.

Mo-T 3:43 PM  

@Anonymous, 1:15 Triple HAR!!!

john towle 5:04 PM  

Cohort really means one tenth of a Roman Legion.

Felix sit annus novus,


pabloinnh 5:07 PM  

@Rochdale-"mom" for "morn", eh? Welcome to my world. This stuff happens to me all the time, especially on Sunday when I print out the puzzle and need my big old lighted magnifying glass to read the numbers. The things we do for love.

Couldn't wait until my feet would be big enough to get CONVERSEALLSTAR high tops, which I wore throughout my high school basketball career. And since we're telling tales, I was 6' even and weighted about 140 and played the middle of a 2-1-1 zoned defense. We were at the time a Class D school in NY which meant fewer than 100 boys in the entire high school, so not a huge pool of players.

I'm with the good old fashioned kind of a Sunday crowd. Pretty wheelhouse-y with no big ahas! Thanks for the fun WN. Solid effort from a third starter, and that's OK.

Masked and Anonymous 5:25 PM  

"STRESSED OUT" kinda sums up my game-watchin experience, as my Vikes ended up winnin by the skin of their alpine horns, in OT.

Liked this puz ok, but, as many have already addressed, it didn't have that little extra bit of humorous punch that M&A likes to see in an extended SunPuz theme. fave themer of the litter: CONTRACTTERMS -- shoulda/coulda had a Trump-related clue, tho.

My solvequest encountered a minor little precious nanosecond sinkhole at STEREOSET. Knew it had to be STEREO+somethin, and figured it was a real obvious thing that the M&A LARDSbrain just wasn't managin to dredge up. Wasn't plannin on the all-afizzle, outta-leftfield SET.

staff weeject pick: DOG. Becuz M&A really likes the doggies. Sweet Dutchess doggie, @RP. They're with us for way too short a spell.
In all fairness to the opposition, fave fillins included: CATSAT.
UNREELS seems unreal, but does have the Patrick Berry Usage Immunity. M&A ain't got no cat-sat-fever over it, tho.

Thanx, Mr. Nediger. Admirable U-count.

Masked & Anonymo11US

p.s. Go Vikes. Next up: San Fran 49-ers. gulp


SJ Austin 5:26 PM  

Happy new year to Rex and all.

Check out Standard Ebooks for really nicely formatted Project Gutenberg books. Their description: "Standard Ebooks takes ebooks from sources like Project Gutenberg, formats and typesets them using a carefully designed and professional-grade style manual, fully proofreads and corrects them, and then builds them to create a new edition that takes advantage of state-of-the-art ereader and browser technology."

RooMonster 5:59 PM  

Hey All !
At 50, I still wear CONVERSE Chuck Taylor ALL STARS. I don't care about the "fashion police" saying men over 40 shouldn't wear them. So, Nyah. I actually have around 30 pair, although i only wear a few of them. I blame it on the mid-life crisis. They're cheaper than a sports car.

Anyway, liked the puz, finished it (well, DNF in a few spots) earlier this morning, but had to go to work and now I'm home after waking up from a nap! So decided to post my inane ramblings.

I have to be a nudge (pronounced NOO-J) at Rex saying he's here every day. His Blog is here every day, but occasionally he goes on vacation, and others blog for him. Har, talk about a stretch to pick a nit. I do enjoy this comments community. Lots of people here with eclectic tastes and vast areas of knowledge. Not me, mind you. :-)


Anonymous 6:29 PM  

At 50, I still wear CONVERSE Chuck Taylor ALL STARS.

there advantage is that, if you get caught in a rain storm, and they stink, just toss them in the washer with some OxyClean. smell yummy. they are canvas and rubber, after all.

Nancy 7:00 PM  

You "have to be a nudge", @Roo (5:59)? Oh, my poor Roo. I think you may perhaps not be Jewish, yes?

Here, perhaps is THE WORD YOU WERE LOOKING FOR. Lol.

RooMonster 7:36 PM  

Har @Nancy!
I couldn't think of the correct spelling!

Thanks for that. And for the record, no, I'm not Jewish. :-)

RooMonster The Ole Brain Needs An Oil Change Guy

VictorS 9:04 PM  

From the Food Lovers Companion: To lard is to insert long thin strips of fat into a dry cut of make the meat more succulent. These strips are commonly referred to as lardons and are inserted with a special tool called a larding needle. So...not really “stuffed”

sf27shirley 10:21 PM  

It's weird how often people say "I've never heard of xxx" in a tone of defiance, or annoyance, or even pride. Intellectual curiosity would not go amiss.
Produce labels were used on wooden crates. Some were quite creative and beautiful and have been reproduced as prints.

a.corn 1:28 AM  

Hell yeah.

Jkol 1:48 AM  

Sometimes, the type font is hard to read!

bucktail 7:12 AM  

The guy is Canadian. No misdirection there!

Fernando 1:19 AM  
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
spacecraft 1:02 PM  

I never heard of PROJECTGUTENBERG, but in it went. As is my perverse wont, I started at the bottom and worked my way up. Once I got what he was after, things moved along more speedily. I would say, medium for a Sunday; it was "all right." If I have to see one more TTOP, though, it will be one too many. Maybe there's a PTCRUISER model with one.

Speaking of models, who but CHER for DOD? A true Renaissance woman, she could have been one if she so chose. SOSORRY to say I don't have any strong, STRANGE, or funny feelings about this one. Par.

rainforest 3:02 PM  

I didn't get a paper this week (snow) until Saturday, and that was a DNF, so today's was a bit of a delight. I didn't understand what was going on until the third themer, and I liked it. PROJECT GUTENBERG, as a project, was unknown, but with the added twist of pronunciation stress, it became clear.

Kind of easy/medium, I guess, with a clean-fill presentation and some nice cluing.

Good Sunday.

Burma Shave 6:22 PM  




Diana, LIW 7:42 PM  

Posted a not so interesting comment about how on Sundays the answers are in an upside-down grid just below the puzzle. Peeking ensues via answer checking.

Diana, Lady-in-
Waiting for Crosswords

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