Fictional sport whose rules are invented during play / WED 1-1-20 / Delicacy in tiny spoon / Employer of nurse sharks / Animal relative of hinny

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Constructor: Christina Iverson and Jeff Chen

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium? (4:00)

THEME: Y2K (38A: Big scare of a couple of decades ago ... or a phonetic hint to this puzzle's theme) — familiar phrases have "Y"s turned into (phonetic "2") "K"s, creating wacky phrases, clued "?"-style:

Theme answers:
  • MAKO CLINIC (17A: Employer of nurse sharks?)
  • KELP REVIEWS (25A: "It's green and slimy" and "It tastes like the ocean"?)
  • FINDING DORK (46A: Nerd's goal on a dating app?)
  • END OF STORK (57A: Pointy bill or tail feathers?)
Word of the Day: WES Welker (36D: Five-time Pro Bowl receiver Welker) —
Wesley Carter Welker (born May 1, 1981) is a former American football wide receiverwho is currently an assistant coach for the San Francisco 49ers of the National Football League (NFL). He played college football for the Texas Tech Red Raiders and was signed by the San Diego Chargers as an undrafted free agent in 2004. Welker went on to also play for the Miami DolphinsNew England PatriotsDenver Broncos, and St. Louis Rams.
Despite being undrafted, Welker had a successful career. Only one player in NFL history, Gale Sayers, had more all-purpose yards in his first three NFL seasons than Welker did with the Dolphins; Welker holds the Dolphins' all-time records for total kickoff returns, kickoff return yardage, and total punt returns. Welker also holds the record for most receptions by any undrafted player in NFL history, passing Rod Smithin 2014. He retired with 16,797 all-purpose yards.
As a Patriot, Welker led the league in receptions in 20072009, and 2011. Welker holds the four highest single-season reception totals in Patriots' history, as well as four of the top 10 receiving yardage totals, including the franchise record. He also holds the franchise records for most receptions in a single game, most receiving yards in a single game, longest reception, and career receptions.[2] Welker, who had three consecutive 110-reception seasons (and has five total), is the first receiver in NFL history with at least three 110-reception seasons, and the first with five 100-reception seasons. Welker was selected to the Pro Bowl, the All-Pro Team, or both, in every season of his Patriots career. (wikipedia)
• • •

I'm going to write about this puzzle, but honestly, after this tweet, I'm not sure it's necessary:

This had precisely nothing to do with 2020, but it was fine. A very old-fashioned theme type (change a letter, wackiness ensues!), and one that's executed pretty well. I kinda want to swap the location of the Y2K and H2O, erase everything else in the grid, and start over with a completely new change-a-letter theme, but that would be a Lot harder. Can you come up with good H -> O theme answers? OAT TRICK? FIRESIDE COAT? The real problem with an H -> O theme would be refraining from using "H"s or "O"s anywhere else in the grid, as the constructors have done today with "Y" and "K." No stray, unturned "Y"s, no "K"s that aren't former "Y"s. It's a minor feat to leave out "Y"s and "K"s—it would be a major feat to do a grid without "H"s and (esp.) "O"s. But back to the actual puzzle: it's fine. All the answers are at least chuckle-worthy, I think, though I could've done without the dadjoke in the clue for MAKO CLINIC (there's enough wackiness in having to imagine a clinic for a very specific species of shark without the added "nurse shark" joke, which kind of overjokes it all) ("nurse sharks" are a real thing, in case that wasn't clear—they're called "nurse sharks" because of their penchant for crisp white outfits).

[just bought this album yesterday when returning my Wham! "Make It Big" album, which contained (it turned out) not "Make It Big" but the soundtrack to "Breakin'" (1984), which honestly I would've kept if the vinyl hadn't been wrecked]

FINDING DORK feels a bit mean-spirited. "Nerd" has been rehabilitated in a way that "dork" very much has not. This is the second time this week I've been asked to remember that "Finding Dory" was a movie that existed. Both times I've instinctively wanted "Finding Nemo," which has no "Y"s to turn into "K"s. I flew through this puzzle pretty quickly except for in the NE, where I made a mess of things by writing in CANAPE at 22A: Delicacy in a tiny spoon (CAVIAR), which I deleted after realizing that the fruit from an orchard must a. be singular and b. be APPLE (wrong, wrong). Also, as I wrote in LOOIE, I ... well, I liked no part of it (10D: Sarge's superior). It's one of those "words" that seems very very wrong as you're writing it out. Name a "word" with four consecutive vowels! They probably exist, but they're exceedingly rare. LOOIE looks gooey, like ... there's no consonants in there to hold things up. I just guessed at CALVINBALL (the "ball" part, anyway), and luckily it was right. That seems a pretty niche answer! I know it's a beloved strip ("Calvin & Hobbes"), and fans of the strip will Love it. So it's fine. But it will lock some people out, for sure (9D: Fictional sport whose rules are invented during play). Finished up, eventually, with the "R" in SRO, which stands for "Sold Right Out!" (or so I will always insist) (59D: Sellout show inits.). There are less violent clues for STAB! (55D: Knife). Try one of those next time, NYTXW! And on that note—Happy New Year, everyone!

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Nora 12:48 AM  

CALVINBALL is so good it has given me hope for 2020. I'm sure that will last at least a few hours....

Solverinserbia 12:56 AM  

The non-crossworder over my shoulder provided the 2, so i solved in a solid 10 minutes. I hadn't heard of a mako before today.

puzzlehoarder 1:17 AM  

Almost two minutes over my average Wednesday time. I don't know how the last two puzzles were as I haven't done them yet but this was a good Wednesday.

I actually enjoyed working out that little center section. Even with the reveal I was kept busy overcoming a brain fart like wondering why KELPREVUES didn't fit at 25A. Then there were a couple of write overs DIMMER/DENSER, PAPAS/DADAS.

I'm surprised to see that CALVINB ALL isn't a debut. Obviously it didn't make much of an impression on me. A promising start to 2020 and a Happy New year to all.

jae 1:31 AM  

Medium. Amusing, clever, and fun, liked it. Some fine long downs.

Happy New Year all!

Anonymous 1:46 AM  

Not knowing CALVINBALL doesn’t lock you out of the north east. It did mean that I went through CroP, then snIP (after getting the rightmost downs), before finally getting CLIP. But it was definitely inferrable if you’ve ever encountered Calvin, at least once you get the C and the V.

Z 1:58 AM  

Calvin and Hobbes stopped 24 years ago yesterday. Yes. Really. My kids were exposed to Calvin and Hobbes and The Far Side and Monty Python because, you know, good parenting. But for less fortunate children of the ‘90’s and Naughts what Rex said.

I liked this fine, but it does seem just a wee bit last century. No, wait. The PARIS clue is decidedly this decade, FINDING DORy is from the same year, and KELP REVIEW/yELP REVIEW is about as 2019 as you can get. Still, CALVIN BALL is trying to drag this puzzle back to 1993. This puzzle is working hard to be current, but when you have a reputation for datedness your dated entries get highlighted during the solve. I liked this puzzle fine.

chefwen 2:06 AM  

OH FUN, in a non sarcastic way. Really enjoyed this one. 3D reminded me of a high school prank. Call a bowling alley and ask to page a John Mehoff, when no one answers the page the caller would say “he often goes by the name of Jack, try that.” Lots of laughter and hang up. Of course, I only heard about it.


Happy New Year.

Loren Muse Smith 2:22 AM  

Didn’t bother me one whit that Y2K happened a while back. But I do like Rex’s idea of H2O. Van Gogo is painting your portrait, and you admonish him not to give you double coins.

I love any kind of change-a-letter trick because it’s fun to think of others. OZONE LAKER, I LOVE LUCK, BUREAUCRACK…

Cool to have that END, REAR, ASS pile up “down there.” And HELL crossing EVIL.

I get what HEAD SPACE means, but someone tosses that out at a gathering, and I’m looking for another conversation partner. I mean like I guess I didn’t text him back ‘cause like I’m literally in this like super weird headspace right now.

When I filled in CAVIAR, I mentally double-checked to remember I do own a caviar spoon and honestly like the stuff and don’t just act like it to be worldly and classy. I like the tiny little palatal pops.

Ok. So I was catching up on Below Deck, and when Ashton called his deck hands together for a knot TYING lesson ‘cause they couldn’t tie a bowline, I was shouting at them that I can tie one. I think this moment was the highlight of my vacation so far. I can tie a bowline and the Below Deck yachties can’t.

“Fictional sport whose rules are invented during play” – girls’ lacrosse. And Candy Land when you’re playing for the bajillionth time with your 4-yr-old son but need to brown the ground beef for the Hamburger Helper. Oh Gardiner! You just drew a double green right after I drew that single yellow! That means you get to advance 25 squares! Darn you!

Here’s to a great 2020. Pivotal year. Who knows what it holds in store for us.

And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards [DC] to be born?

Wasn’t that Keats?

Tom R 2:23 AM  

Acrosslite would not accept a rebus two or the numeral 2 in my puzzle. Reveal came up with just "t"

I find it disturbing that BMI is used in the puzzle since it is a meaningless figure. Its just a height/weight ratio, and the categories are equally meaningless. Its like the actual definition of idiot was an IQ between 0 and 20. Arnold Schwarzenegger when he was Mr. World had a BMI of 38. Here is something to ponder: ALL longitudinal health studies find the best health outcomes in the 25-30 BMI range. If overweight is so bad, how do you explain this? Could it be there is something wrong with those categories? Overweight and obesity are labels that are the products of cultural, not medical, definitional standards. Sorry for the rant - it just bugs me.

Lewis 6:27 AM  

Clean grid, cute theme, just the right bite for Wednesday, impressive that the only K's and Y's are in the theme answers. A lovelk start to the kear.

pabloinnh 7:12 AM  

Figured out the trick at KELPREVIEWS, puzzle went from OY! to OK! I thought the Y2K trick was elegant.

We had a "Y2K Compliant" sticker on our rotary phone in the kitchen back when the end of the world was nigh.

Worth the price of admission to be reminded of CALVINBALL.

Nice start to 2020. Happk New Kear doesn't really work, does it?

Suzie Q 7:17 AM  

Delicacy with a tiny spoon? Cocaine?

I feel like I did a different puzzle than everyone else. I thought the theme "jokes" were awful and not funny at all.
There also were things that made no sense to me like head space and rando or is it R and O? Either way, no idea.
I never heard of the football player or the journalist. Even though I loved Calvin and Hobbes I don't remember Calvin Ball.
This felt like I was playing Pin the Tail on the Donkey. Or hinny.

Hungry Mother 7:23 AM  

I forgot about CALVINBALL; loved that cartoon. Pretty easy, with an obvious theme, but seemed a bit sloggy; maybe because I’m a bit foggy. I made a lot of money with Y2K, and it was a real thing that needed a lot of fixes.

Unknown 8:02 AM  

Not a word about "'Late' Saudi journalist Khashoggi".....?

JHC 8:12 AM  

I thought Rex would call out the clue on JAMAL Khashoggi. He isn't "late," he was tortured and murdered.

Eliza 8:24 AM  

Standing Room Only

John H 8:29 AM  

Pretty decent solve, with 2 exceptions: There are less gruesome ways to clue Jamal (30A), and I believe that the crossing of 47D and 56A has two reasonable options, with an O at the crossing. I would never have found that error without help. Didn't know what a whinny was, clearly not the relative of a mole.

Wayne 8:32 AM  

I came here specifically to read Rex's rant about 30A. For once, I thought, Rex's outrage would be fully justified. And nothing. "Late" is a pretty freaking euphemistic way to refer to the assassination of a legal US resident by a supposed US ally with the acquiescence--if not the explicit approval--of the current US administration. How about "Murdered"?

GILL I. 8:54 AM  

@Loren to the whit rescue and @chefwen paging Jack Mehoff. What better way to start the New Year....
Speaking of prank calls...what bored teenager never made them? One of the favorites was calling someone and asking them where to deliver their Hawaiin pizza with guava rolls and salami.
This was an OH FUN Wed. Doesn't FNDING DORK at least make you smile? Then you have all these pairings: EVIL OBESE REAR ASS. All I can visualize are those Brazilian butt implants gone wrong. A Kardashian moment.
The Lord's Prayer and "give us this day our jelly bread."
a Healthy New Year to ye all and may the grammarians rest in peace.

RooMonster 9:04 AM  

Hey All !
Happy 2020! (OK Years, you can start to slow down...)

Pretty fun WedsPuz. A bit on the easy side, but I guess that's for everyone with a hangover! No deep thinking today.

Even though it was easy, still had some writeovers, grApe-PEARS (off just the A), tO dIE-NO LIE (was gonna bitch about that if it was tO dIE), tiEd-EVEN.

@John H 8:29
Have to disagree on that crossing. I LOV U seems a stretch to me. (Although, seeing it written out has me doubting myself).

@Suzie Q 7:17
It's short for Random. But I liked your R AND O.

Add me to the joy response at seeing CALVINBALL. Great comic, sorely missed.

END OF STORK my favorite. Liked the literalness of the Y2K Revealer. Y to K. Nice.

Rare (lately) @LMS sighting. Her Avatar today cracked me up.

I LIVE ALONE, but I'm not a hermit, so blah. 😋

ALOHAS to our resident Hawaiians.


Lewis 9:04 AM  

My 15 favorite clues of 2019
(in order of appearance):

1. Whipper snapper? (10)
2. Ones supposedly eligible for, but never yet seen in the Miss Universe pageant (6)
3. Sparks can be seen at its edge (4)
4. They always proceed in a biased way (7)
5. Abstract unit of exchange (3)
6. Flat screen? (5)
7. Nationality seen in most of Romania (5)
8. Place where musical talent may be wasted (7)(3)
9. Start of an anti-coal petition (4)(5)
10. Cat’s opposite (6)
11. Half-assed sort? (4)
12. Number of people in an office? (7)
13. Septennial symptom? (4)
14. Stick up artist? (7)
15. 1/2 vis-à-vis 1/3, say (3)

DOMINATRIX (John Lieb and Andrew Kingsley, 2/16)
ALIENS (David Steinberg, 3/23)
RENO (Debbie Ellerin, 4/13)
BISHOPS (Andrew J. Reis, 5/10)
TAT (Robyn Weintraub, 5/11)
TELLY (Michael Hawkins, 6/7)
OMANI (Jeff Chen and Jason Mueller, 7/21)
KARAOKE BAR (Christopher Adams, 7/28)
DEAR SANTA (Erik Agard and Anna Gundlach, 8/10)
SQUARE (Grant Thackray, 9/12)
MULE (Joe DePietro, 11/7)
DENTIST (Randolph Ross, 11/17)
ITCH (Patrick Merell, 12/1)
MAESTRO (Alex Eaton-Salners, 12/12)
EVE (Zhouquin Burniquel, 12/20)

And my favorite clue of 2019, what I dub the COTY Prize (Clue Of The Year), is #9, [Start of an anti-coal petition] for DEAR SANTA, by Erik Agard and Anna Gundlach.

amyyanni 9:06 AM  

@LMS, you found the best Y to K! Yeats to Keats is masterful. And makes me like the puzzle even more. Happy New Year!

blinker474 9:39 AM  

For those who have sorely missed Calvin and Hobbes, know that it is still available at No new stuff, but all the good old stuff every day in your Inbox. Follow the link.

dadnoa 9:44 AM  

+1.....thought for sure RP would comment.....

Anonymous 9:44 AM  

Seemed easier than the usual Wednesday except for the NE, where the interworking of CALVIN, LOOIE, AONE, and LOLA was more like Friday material.

Two very specialized proper nouns and two non-words.

SouthsideJohnny 9:52 AM  

@Tom R - Join the club, lol. I would suggest that the entire category of RRN (Random Roman Numerals) are meaningless, yet also deemed acceptable. They are particularly egregious when actually clued randomly, such as “mid fifteenth century year”.

“Late Saudi journalist Khashoggi“ was a total buzz-kill and the new year’s first occurrence of what is sure to be many examples of slipshod and/or tone deaf editing - I have a hard time believing that clue was provided by the constructor.

CALVINBALL Is one of those “hit or miss” type of entries - there will be a percentage of people who love it an a large group with a WOE reaction. Fortunately the comic strip is (was?) reasonably popular, and the crosses are not overly eccentric.

mmorgan 10:08 AM  

Loved CALVINBALL. JAMAL deserves a comment. Couldn’t put the 2 in using AcrossLite on my iPad. I snorkeled with nurse sharks in Belize. Getting the theme really helped — I always like that. Plenty wacky for me. Happy New Year!

Teedmn 10:30 AM  

Puzzle app didn't take "2" as an answer to the center square so a technical DNF. I thought for once the app would allow a number but, not so.

The NW was really tough - 1D a total WOE, 2D and 3D, total wha?s. 37A's "Seal the deal" = ICE IT? I had InkIT which really got up into my HEAD SPACE and blocked the "wha?s" in the NW. Knowing the theme by then would have helped but instead I chopped my way through it.

I didn't read all of the clue for 9D, specifically the part that read "whose rules are invented during play" so I assumed 9D would be Quidditch. Hilarity did not ensue. I did figure that one out before I got out of 9A so the NE was easier than the NW.

Maybe my pun-o-meter is turned off today, but I'm not getting a chuckle from the theme answers except maybe, FINDING DORK and Rex has a point on its meanness. The fill here is pretty good except for my 1D, 2D, 3D nemeses.

Thanks, Christina and Jeff, your theme idea was interesting and this Wednesday had some crunch.

Todd 10:32 AM  

I look forward to a year of non PC clues which make Rex's head explode like in the movie Scanners. Knife for stab is triggering for Rex and exactly no one else in the world. I really wonder if he is as annoying in person with this stuff?

Teedmn 10:43 AM  

@Loren, rimshot drumroll on both your avatar and final line. You got me on that one!

GHarris 10:44 AM  

Only stumble was writing Ahmal and never having heard state of mind described as headspace. Didn't take long to recover and then Jif popped right out.

BobL 10:45 AM  

Besr puzzle of the year!

relicofthe60s 10:47 AM  

“Nurse shark” strikes me as a lot more “niche” than CALVINBALL. Calvin and Hobbes, by the way, is readily available online. I get it every day in my Facebook feed. See

Birchbark 10:52 AM  

There is undersea resonance in MAKO CLINIC and KELP REVIEWS. And rhymed abruptness to the FINDING DORK/END OF STORK couplet.

I'm going to use END OF STORK! as an expletive at the office, probably pound the desk too, when it's time to wrap up a conversation.

@LMS (2:22) -- Well considered Keats reference. But ODES aside, I believe the sloucher was Koko Ma, a polymath gorilla who took up the cello after mastering sign language.

Put that in your dad humor and smoke it this fine new year.

What? 10:55 AM  

Another letter substitution puzzle. Hohum. Have we finally run out of themes?

Nancy 11:09 AM  

Breezy, delightful puzzle that I had a barrel of FUN with. The entire puzzle is great, but the clue for KELP REVIEWS (25A) is alone worth the price of admission. One of the funniest clues I've ever seen anywhere. Please include it in your list of faves this week, will you, @Lewis?

Plus there was plenty of challenge for me. I don't know the term HEAD SPACE for "state of mind" and as for CALVIN BALL -- Well, I'm very strong on real sports (try me!), but I'm not so hot on "fictional sports". I don't know how one plays a sport whose rules are invented as you go along, but it sounds like something I really, really enjoy. Or not.

A New Year's treat and a great way to start the NYT puzzle-year.

Ann Howell 11:12 AM  

My thought exactly!

Newboy 11:12 AM  

Ditto @Teedmn! Both worth that second look that may be necessark on an early New Keats Dak.

Ann Howell 11:12 AM  

My thought exactly!

Malsdemare 11:14 AM  

I struggled for quite a bit until I kickstarted my brain. Then a few answers succumbed, I got Y2K, looked at KELPR—— and voila! Enlightenment! The rest was fun and fast. I adored Calvin and Hobbes; I have most of the books and my grands have spent hours with them, giggling like idiots. Good times. Occasionally Berkeley Breathed, who is still randomly resurrecting Bloom County, will team up with Watterson for absolutely hilarious collaborative efforts. It’s worth being on Facebook just to read Breathed uncensored.

I am finishing Daniel Silva's "The New Girl," which is a fictionalized tale woven around the Khashoggi/MBS relationship. World leaders abound, and though they have fictionalized names, there is no mistaking their identity. It’s an intricate take on relations, tensions, competing goals, the jockeying for power, and the clash of religions in today's Middle East.

@LMS. Your avatar is wonderful. Thank you for the evil chuckle.

A good start to what I hope is a turnaround year for my family, all of us, and the country.

Malsdemare 11:16 AM  

@Birchbark, Koko Ma! Thank you!!

Janice Rossi 11:21 AM  

So many hostile, negative clues/answers in this puzzle.

Jamal Khashoggi is late because he was dismembered alive by his government. This one is apalling.

Nerd and Dork dating? Are you in high school or still calling people names as an adult?

Speaking of which, Obese?

Evil, Duel, Rando, Ass, Rear, Mule, Ice It, Blow

Negative tone was set with 1 across: "sounds exciting," sarcastically = Oh Fun

Greater Fall River Committee for Peace & Justice 11:39 AM  

William Butler Yeats
The Second Coming

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand;
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds.

The darkness drops again but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

burtonkd 11:39 AM  

@lewis, love the trip down memory lane with your COTYs. I also recall some Rex rants against these very ones;) Could someone explain #12 DENTIST?

Z 11:45 AM  

Morning Chuckles: @LMS x 4. (Rex really needs to raise her pay and reduce her vacation days) @Suzie Q’s opening line. @Bob L with his (I’m guessing unintentional) perfect post for those of us who had three too many last night/this morning. @Birchbark’s cello playing gorilla. And @Lewis’ list. Anyone surprised that not a single trivial trivia or piece of PPP made the list? The commentariat is in fine form.

@Tom R - Nice rant. I wonder what @Aketi’s take is.

@Gill I - Thanks.

Other than maybe Theo Huxtable I don’t see another Wednesday appropriate JAMAL. I did notice how Wikipedia described Khashoggi. At least we spared a cross-reference with 55D.

HEAD SPACE doesn’t bother me as much as it bothers others it seems. But then I hear it mostly in the context of “i need to stop thinking, get off my END/REAR/ASS and start doing.” It’s akin to paralysis through analysis.

JC66 11:46 AM  

@Janice Rossi

If I understand your perspective correctly. I think you forgot:

Clip, Rama, Lola, Caviar, Paris, Thee, Waive, Fess, Elves, Paler, Alp,, Sloe, Fake Name, UFOs, Ran Up, TMI, In Law, Pears, Lees, Reeks, Raised Hell, Tying, Live Alone, Over Lords, Weak, Denser, Odors, Stab.

JC66 11:50 AM  


A dentist sometimes numbs her patients.

Z 11:52 AM  

@burtonkd - One who numbs is a number.

We do all get that @LMS did the poet thing intentionally, don’t we? Anyway, thanks for the poem @Greater Fall River.

Carola 11:53 AM  

Very cute. A good start to the new puzzle year.

Anonymous 12:02 PM  

Not a word about "'Late' Saudi journalist Khashoggi".....?

if your older enough, one gets conflated with Adnan, of unknown relation.

Being old enough to have loved C&H, but as mentioned gone these 24 years, assumed that it was something to do with Harry Potter, none of which I know.

Blog Goliard 12:12 PM  

Was much amused by FINDING DORK, and some of the fill felt fresh and fun (such as RANDO and...CALVINBALL!).

But gosh, is it too much to expect that we could get fewer than forty-seven SROs and AONEs and ASSes and SSNs and ODEs and ALPs and ARIALs and TMIs and LEEs within a single fortnight? It's really been wearing on me lately. I mean, I've built these things myself, I know it's not easy; I also know that there are well more than twelve three- and four-letter words (not to mention abbreviations) in English that contain the letter S and/or convenient vowels.

mathgent 12:21 PM  

Wonderful in many ways. Jeff Chen is so good.

I like puzzles where figuring out the theme helps in the solving. That was the case today. MAKOCLINIC told me that y’s were being changed to k’s. I was working on 46A and had FINDING????. So there had to be a K in there. Ah, yes, FINDINGDORK!

Chen is sensitive to putting in words that will offend. So I’m surprised to see JAMAL as clued. He may have been overruled by his co-constructor or Shortz. (BTW, it didn’t offend me.)

As usual with a Chen puzzle, no junk. Even the near-junky entry SSN has a clever clue.

I looked up the definitions of “nerd” and “dork.” They both mean socially inept. That’s not how it’s used out here. A nerd is someone whose preoccupation is study. If a nerd’s study time squeezes out social interaction, he or she may be a dork. (Again, I’m a little surprised at Chen. He has often called himself a nerd.)

Adam 12:33 PM  

I first raised CAIN, which messed up the SW for me, but not for long since ALOHA was a gimme. Otherwise I loved this puzzle - CALVINBALL FTW! I thought the wackiness was just right, and there was little or no junk in the rest of the fill. An enjoyable way to begin 2020 - Happy New Year, everyone!

TinPT 12:47 PM  

@LMS and the PRICY avatar for the win! Got a good chuckle out of that one.

Anonymoose 12:59 PM  

I don't understand why it's "offensive" to have Jamal Khashoggi in the puzzle. He was a victim of Saudi barbarism and we need to never forget that. The Saudis did 9/11, you know. But it's all tolerated because oil.

Anonymous 1:14 PM  

The Saudis did 9/11, you know.

Certain folks, eager to be Oligarchs, want the rest of us to forget that.

Nancy from Chicago 1:29 PM  

I liked the theme and it didn't bother me that Y2K was 20 years ago, nor that Calvin & Hobbes ended 24 years ago (but then again I am old enough to remember both well and loved C&H). I was taken aback by the clue for JAMAL and thought it spoiled the mood somewhat. I was really surprised that Rex didn't mention that one.

Anyway, Happy New Year all! And Loren Muse Smith, can I just say I really enjoy your observations?

foxaroni 1:38 PM  

The puzzle was a tad difficult for me. Like @Adam, I raised CAIN at first. Also dimmer for DENSER and headshake for HEADSPACE. Thanks for the "number" explanation.It's about 52 degrees here in the heartland. Wish I didn't have a cold. I'd enjoy the weather a lot more. May 2020 be your best year ever. Thanks to all posters and Happy New Year.

webwinger 1:40 PM  

Liked this one a lot. Glad to be reminded of Y2K 20 years later. As always, happy to see a single exceptional character, especially at the center of the grid. And the wackiness of the themers tickled my funny bone more than most of this ilk. Nice long downs, especially CALVINBALL (Loved that strip, and happy that clue turned out not to be about Harry Potter). About the right level of difficulty for a midweek puzzle. Overall a good start to the year.

Streak hit 367 today, surpassing a New Year’s resolution from last year. This year I resolve to dismiss Google from my solving, and let the run come to a natural end with the inevitable DNF. (Still reserve the right to emend completed grid in search of happy music.) Last few weeks I’ve been looking up fewer and fewer things, so it will be interesting to see how far I can get unaided.

I’m actually kind of looking forward to the day when I can stop worrying about the next solve, or skip a day if I feel like it. Increases my appreciation for OFL’s efforts. More than anything else he does with this blog, I stand in awe of his self-discipline in putting it out day after day after day, without much help. Also seems like a good time to thank other regular contributors here, especially @LMS, @Lewis (really enjoy the compilations of stellar clueing), and @Nancy, all of whom seem to be in especially good form today.

BTW, are others finding pushback from their browsers when trying to access this site? I've recently been getting a warning message every time I try to enter, even on my phone, and on my computer am now having to sneak in via a sort of back door route.

Rastaman Vibration 2:02 PM  

@Anon 12:59. I don’t think the beef is with his presence in the puzzle so much as the cavalier cluing (referring to someone who was so brutally and gruesomely murdered simply as “late”). One of the co-constructors (Chen) has a well-deserved reputation for being extremely careful about the nature of his cluing, so it appears that he was done in by some incompetent editing (it would be interesting to hear his take on the matter).

There was some discussion here recently around the proposition that the NYT generally skews toward older-age solvers. The warm reception of the 20 something year ago comic strip characters would seem to support such an assertion - perhaps the Times just recognizes, and plays to, its core audience - at least while they are around long enough to appreciate it.

On the other hand, Annabelle generally has positive things to say when she guest hosts, so maybe they are at least coming close to striking an appropriate balance of codger material along with some fresher fodder as well.

Masked and Anonymous 2:34 PM  

@RP: If they had went with yer H-to-O revealer, O-H FUN would be an extra-cool 1-A entry.

As is, my fave entry was I LUV U, and staff weeject pick was Y2K.

Learned new stuff, on CALVINBALL and RANDO. Everything else was pretty day-um smoooth, so a reasonably easy first 2020 solvequest. There were some AONE fillins, in this here puzgrid.
Especially enjoyed the funky TMI-REEKS-ODORS column.

41-A had a pesky splatz-in-the-Spanish clue, with {"___ mio!" (Spanish cry)} = DIOS. Nice change-up from all them nasty recent French-filled ones -- note that M&A is givin 21-A's EAU a pass, in this case.

@muse: Happy new yo, darlin! And, re: PRICY avatar … har. Nice, DICY spellin, btw.

Thanx for gangin up on us, Ms. Iverson darlin & Chenmeister. U are absolutely M&A's fave constructioneerin team of 2020.

Masked & Anonymo4Us


Christina Iverson 2:35 PM  

The JAMAL clue was edited. We had it as an Ahmad Jamal clue initially.

I think Jeff and I would both consider ourselves nerds, so the finding dork clue is not meant to be mean spirited in any way!

OffTheGrid 2:57 PM  

Do any of you see the comic strip Non Sequitur? Two Doomsdayists are holding signs. One says, "Time's up! The world ends with this decade." The other sign says, "You still have a year until the world ends with this decade."

CDilly52 3:23 PM  

AMEN, @Z Re: good parenting. Me too!

Z 4:05 PM  

@Christina Iverson - Thanks for the info. As for DORK, for whatever reason “nerd” has lost some of its pejorative edge while DORK hasn’t. So just slightly surprising, I think.

@Rastaman - I think your first paragraph is spot on.

@OffTheGrid - Yep. I think I mentioned yesterday that I’m team #TheDecadeEndsNextYear so had a nice serendipity chuckle.

@CDilly52 - ;)

Anonymous 4:43 PM  

Ahmad JAMAL is well known only within the old jazz community, such as me. Less likely to be known than a recently assassinated journalist. But less triggering. Notably, the name is adopted when he turned to Islam, so the connection even then wouldn't disappear.

Joaquin 6:04 PM  

@LMS - Well, it took me most of the day but then it hit me. Best avatar ever!

Pablo 6:52 PM  

Medium-challenging for me, but really I just got tripped up in a few tough spots. Namely the NE corner. Fruit vs fruits got me there, but I had PEAch so it didn't ruin me.

My "unsolvables" (clues I would never get without all the crosses) were LOLA, EAU, JAMAL, SLOE, OLMOS, CALVINBALL, LOOIE, NEA, and PEKOE. That's about average for me on a Wednesday, and none were super obscure or generational except LOLA, OLMOS, and CALVINBALL.

I honestly had a lot of fun with this one. I personally loved MAKO CLINIC, FINDING DORK, and KELP REVIEWS. I could nit pick some annoying clues, but I won't. Nice puzzle.

Pablo 6:56 PM  

On my app you have to click the "..." on the bottom left and enter the "2" as a rebus. I'm on an android phone so idk if this works on your device.

Pablo 7:05 PM  

I don't think being a terrible tragedy is reason to not mention an event, though to be in a puzzle (which is lighthearted by nature) it probably requires a note of some kind to assure the solvers that Mr. Khashoggi and his incredible sacrifice is not being reduced to XW fodder.

If you're doing the NYTXW you're probably a nerd/dork, and I think both terms are used more endearingly these days. I've referred to myself as both.

Simply mentioning the word OBESE is not insulting. It's a thing. And sadly it's a thing that has taken over the health of our country and the western world.

Maybe the puzzle had a bit of a negative tone, but other than JAMAL I thought it was really quite a lot of fun.

Anonymous 7:49 PM  

SRO stands for Standing Room Only! Never heard of Sold Right

Anonymous 442 7:54 PM  


"If you're doing the NYTXW you're probably a nerd/dork" - I disagree, most of you don't know enough Science to be a NerdDork.

There are other characterizations that definitely stick, but they would not be well-received, so Anonymous 442 today

Misty 8:45 PM  


JC66 8:48 PM  


@Rex was just pulling your leg with "Sold Right Out!."

Nancy 9:16 PM  

Catching up now to the blog at the end of a day that included a New Year Day's Party that began at noon. And I'm realizing that I completely missed @Loren's brilliant KEATS instead of YEATS "mistake" -- failing to see it as another Y2K themer. I had originally thought that Loren was oddly wrong about the quote. Stupid me.

But, Loren, I don't understand the avatar that everyone's raving about. I never, ever notice avatars -- yours or anyone else's -- unless they're specifically mentioned in the commentary. But I went back to look at yours and, well, it's Trump standing in some sort of edifice I don't recognize. Would I understand "Pricey" if I knew what the edifice is? Or is the joke something else entirely? Please enlighten me, people. Any of you are invited to do so; it doesn't even have to be Loren.

Z 9:24 PM  

@Nancy - It is "PRICY" and remember Y2K...

@JC66 8:48pm - I've resorted to putting an * by some of my "jokes" for this very reason.

kitshef 9:45 PM  

Really good idea, and the overall execution is absolutely solid.

Alas, the 'wacky' answers were insufficiently wacky for me.

Nancy 10:01 PM  

I'VE GOT IT !!!!!!!!!!!!! Thanks, @Z!

Bruce Fieggen 10:56 PM  

Thank you!

Pablo 1:57 AM  

Well as an MD/PhD student I'd like to think I've earned both the title of NerdDork and the right to dole it out to whoever I please. Some of the biggest NerdDorks I know couldn't even tell you the central dogma of biology or the first law of thermodynamics. They are still nerds and dorks.

The puzzle gears strongly towards older people who are into movies, poetry, greek mythology, baseball, and anything French. I'd imagine that creates its own self-selected crowd of people who enjoy it. So probably most don't know a lot of science, but I'm sticking with my original stance on this.

Myuen88 6:28 PM  

I don't understand the reference to the Kinks's Destroyer album.

spacecraft 11:23 AM  

This must have been OHFUN to construct (NOT sarcastic). If it was half as much fun as it was to solve, they had a good time.

Despite being unfamiliar with HEADSPACE and RANDO (thankfully NOT an ampersandwich!), I did this one fairly easily. For my money, Watterson retired way too soon, but at least he did a Marciano: he finished on top. Tom Brady, are you listening? Oops--too late!

I absolutely love @Loren's paraphrase of Yeats. What beast indeed, to usurp the one that's there? "If you strike at the king, you must kill him." Well, not literally...

Theme and execution was barrel-of-monkeys fun. Fill lively; what's not to like? Eagle, or at least STORK.

Diana, LIW 1:19 PM  

Writing about this one on my new computer - in my office with a desk and chair. Woo hoo.

And I didn't even get a presidential medal - buy Mr. W deserves one for setting my system up.

Oh do I remember Y2K - all that hype over nothin'

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords but not another computer glitch (speaking of politics...)

rainforest 2:02 PM  

Great puzzle! I'm curious as to why HEAD SPACE is at all controversial, though. Very common phrase, at least around here.

Excellent theme, funny, dorky, etc. and I didn't care that Y2K was 20 years ago.

This puzzle *almost* cheered me up after last night's disgusting state of the union address. I truly weep for America.

Anonymous 2:02 PM  

How can I see LMS's Avatar??

Burma Shave 3:46 PM  


saying ILUVU to ELVES
after TYING up every ONE.


JimmyBgood 3:53 PM  

In the word number, the b is silent. A shot of novocaine.

leftcoaster 3:59 PM  

Tricky and somewhat confusing puzzle.

Y2 ORKs in the SE? 4 misdirection? Or Y only 2K(s)? There are 5 in all and just 1 per themer. OK, OK, it's not really Y "two" K, It's Ys replacing Ks, Y "to" K. Or is it Ks to Ys?

OH, never mind.

rondo 4:23 PM  

DIOS mio indeed. First thing I though at the revealer is, "Huh, been in the queue for 20 years?".
PARIS Hilton.

Rick J 6:41 AM  

C'm on Rex. Is crossword clue violence really a thing?

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