Hit 2018 film involving gay teenage romance / FRI 1-24-20 / Virtual animal on once-popular website / Term of address for drag queen / John who explored northern Canada / Musical set on Greek island / Finger-pointing activity colloquially / Does some backup dancing / One-named singer whose name sounds like goodbye

Friday, January 24, 2020

Constructor: Scott Earl

Relative difficulty: Easy (more Easy-Medium for me, but people I know seem to be killing it)

THEME: none

Word of the Day: "LOVE, SIMON" (15A: Hit 2018 film involving a gay teenage romance) —
Love, Simon is a 2018 American romantic teen comedy-drama film directed by Greg Berlanti, written by Isaac Aptaker and Elizabeth Berger, and based on the novel Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli. The film stars Nick RobinsonJosh Duhamel, and Jennifer Garner. It centers on Simon Spier, a closeted gay high school boy who is forced to balance his friends, his family, and the blackmailer threatening to out him to the entire school, while simultaneously attempting to discover the identity of the anonymous classmate with whom he has fallen in love online.
Love, Simon premiered at the Mardi Gras Film Festival on February 27, 2018, and was released in the United States on March 16, 2018, by 20th Century Fox. Critics praised the film for its "big heart, diverse and talented cast, and revolutionary normalcy", describing it as "tender, sweet, and affecting" and a "hugely charming crowd-pleaser" that is "funny, warm-hearted and life-affirming", with reviews comparing it to the romantic comedy-drama films of John Hughes. Notable as the first film by a major Hollywood studio to focus on a gay teenage romance, it grossed $66 million worldwide. A television series of the same name set in the same universe as the film is currently in development and will be released on Disney+. [...] Love, Simon grossed $40.8 million in the United States and Canada, and $25.4 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $66.3 million, against a production budget of $10–17 million. It is the 15th highest-grossing teen romance film since 1980, and the third-highest by 20th Century Fox after The Fault in Our Stars and Romeo + Juliet.
• • •

Sorry for the short write-up today. I'm a little pressed for time. Or, rather, I don't *want* to be pressed for time, so I'm going to make this shorter than usual. I really hate rushing. Like, a lot. Annnnyhoo, this puzzle was pretty fun. I felt slightly too old for it, in that, since my daughter left for college in 2018, my osmotic absorption of teen stuff has fallen off considerably, and so "LOVE, SIMON" ... missed me. Which is to say, once I got some crosses, I could piece it together—it rang a bell, I'd heard the title, seen the ads, whatever. But it was not a stone-cold gimme in a way that would've knocked about a minute off my time. Couple that with the fact that I mysteriously wrote in CRIKEY at 1D: "My word!," in Britain (BLIMEY!), and you've got the recipe for a slow start. Slowish. But once I got out of there (the NW, that is), only two areas gave me any trouble at all: I dropped in NO PETS instead of NO DOGS at 30D: Restriction that some service animals are exempt from (are there places that allow NO DOGS but are cool with pigs and cats and rats and ferrets etc.?); and then I struggled a bit with both OVEN RACKS (64A: Things that get hot-wired?) and NASTINESS (66A: Armed conflict, euphemistically), which sit one atop the other in the SE. Cute clue on OVEN RACKS. Despise the clue on NASTINESS. Actually, despise anyone who would talk about "armed conflict" that way. Actually, actually, despise the euphemism, probably not the human who said it. It's a huge yuck and an unfortunate way to 'end' an otherwise enjoyable puzzle.

While I didn't get "LOVE, SIMON" quickly, I did get NEOPET, which is definitely something I knew about because of my daughter (23D: Virtual animal on a once-popular website), though I can't remember if she had one / them (she was more into Webkinz, for real, please feel free to put *that* in your grid).

Loved the clue on TWERKS (49D: Does some backup dancing?). The cluing this week, at its best, has been on point. The CHER / "MAMMA MIA!" cross-reference really added to the easiness of this thing. I got "MAMMA MIA!" off of CHER, and I got CHER off of the mere fact that the puzzle wanted a four-letter singer ending in "R"—that's a lot to pick up with no effort. But I guess it made up for my CRIKEY disaster. Aside from NASTINESS, the only thing I didn't really like was a. ENNEAD (I got it easily but prefer to think of the justices as a NONET) (9D: Supreme Court justices, e.g.) and YAH... all alt-spellings of "yes" and "no" are just horrid little three-square plots of muddy ground. Who the hell knows what's going to show up? YES YAS YEP YUP YAH YAW YEH NAH NAW NOT! See also my feelings about [Laugh syllable]. But it's just three squares. It's fine. I thought the grid overall was nice and smooth. Do you ever wake up in the middle of the night and play the BLANKET HOG BLAME GAME with your partner!? CRIKEY, it's fun. See you tomorrow. (Hey, this write-up wasn't *that* short after all...)

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


mathgent 6:47 AM  

Nine red plus signs in the margins, low for a Friday. I expect a little more sparkle to elicit a TGIF. But learning NEOPET is nice. Hasn’t TWERKING disappeared?

I’ll come back later to get an explanation of SIS.

I looked up COLOMBO. It’s a city in Sri Lanka.

Lewis 6:49 AM  

Not easy for me.

I'm calling this a brinkmanship puzzle, as, again and again, it took me to the brink of throwing in the towel and turning to foreign aid, i.e., research. And each time my personal Jiminy Cricket implored me, "Hold off! Just a little longer!" Then, just at breaking point, a penny fell. And on and on to that glorious place where only a few squares remain and you know you're going to fill them in -- crossword nirvana.

Thus, this was not only an extraordinary solving experience, it was a character builder, due to intelligent answer choices by the constructor, and superb tough cluing -- by a first-timer!

I loved this, Scott, and thank you. You have the knack, you know. Please continue to use it!

Hungry Mother 7:15 AM  

A wag-fest that led to a very fast time for me. Fingers crossed all of the way. It would have been much faster if I remembered MAMMA.

kitshef 7:17 AM  

A week’s worth of What on Earths crammed into today’s puzzle. Top of the list is AMA. I have no idea what that means, and Ecosiaing “AMA Interview” does not lead to anything that clears up this mystery.

There are the usual “famous” people I’ve never heard of – ARMIE and RAE. There is LOVES IM ON, a movie hitherto unknown to me. There is whatever a NEOPET is, with its “once popular” website.

And then there is SIS, with its bizzarro clue. FWIW, the online glossary at RuPaul’s Drag Race does not include this term. When I Ecosiad “drag queen form of address”, the only sites that mention SIS refer specifically to today’s NYT puzzle.

Despite all that I did manage a successful, though slow, solve. Sign of a well-constructed puzzle. Although, I would have enjoyed less cross-referencing in the clues.

amyyanni 7:21 AM  

Blithely popped in Drop a dime for BLAMEGAME so the NW slowed me down. Really fine Friday, once I regained my bearings. The lizards have stopped falling from the trees here so all is well. (Cold snap makes their limbs go numb and they lose their grip,)

GILL I. 7:36 AM  

Ooooh, I LOVEd this. I needed a serious picker upper today and Scott gave it to me.
I CAN'T GOON is my favorite answer. My second favorite is MIME TIC. Let's see...where did I pause? YAH was my yep and I wanted a BLAME FEST at first. GAME to the rescue. The clue for OVEN RACK was supremo. I honestly loved this whole puzzle. Was I on Scott's wavelength or what. Although we've never met, I feel as if I've known him my whole life.
Thanks for the pleasant half hour romp.

SJ Austin 7:45 AM  

As someone who also initially had NO PETS instead of NO DOGS, I ended up appreciating the precision. NO PETS seemed wrong to me, because typically service animals are not regarded as pets. And while yes, there are lots of other animals that could be pets, the overwhelming majority of service animals are dogs. At least I think that's what the cluing was going for here.

As for ENNEAD, it seems like my colleagues and peers have been obsessed with the enneagram for several years now, so I was familiar with that prefix for groups of 9. But it still took a few minutes to shake it loose.

I liked this puzzle quite well. Finished within 10 seconds of my Friday average, FWIW.

QuasiMojo 7:58 AM  

Coddle then Cosset before Solace. My only hurdle.

I found this puzzle straining to be au courant and a bit out there.

SIS?? I have never heard a "drag queen" called this. I've also never heard anyone anywhere ever say YAH.

Apparently "Mademoiselle" is no longer used on official French documents, having been banned since 2012. Is the same thing true here for Miss? I haven't filled out too many official forms since then. I wonder if Miss Porter's school is still around. Or Mademoiselle magazine. I guess I'll hit the old Google and see.

I'm glad "Love Simon" made 66 million bucks but I had to turn it off halfway through. Too unrealistic. Not MOODY enough.

@Z sorry to hear about your sister.

Todd 8:04 AM  

Gill it isn't Mime tic. Mimetic is a word. characterized by, exhibiting, or of the nature of imitation or mimicry:

I liked this puzzle.

Klazzic 8:08 AM  

Nice write up, Rexxie, old boy. And @Lewis expresses my sentiment to a tee. Well said, sir. I was convinced initially that CANTGOON was CANTDOIT so I hit an iceberg there. Didn't realize that it's MAMMA -- the cranial matter insisted on MAMA, so another impediment to a clean sail (can't get out of my 'C' mode. Sorry). Never heard of a COCKETEL but it floated nicely into its nest. Fun Friday. Are Fridays getting easier or is my wisdom finally catching up with my old age? No complaint here. I'm pressed for thyme, rosemary and sage so must run. Enjoy your weekend, fellow solvers. Best to @Z.

Z 8:31 AM  

Hand up for major Kudos. Fun all around. I had a brief moment of panic with ELLE- in place and I feared I’d become a shrieking EELEr. I’ve never been happier to see ELLEN. I also had the V in place, so was saved the F or V debate at OLAV and many precious nanoseconds were preserved for my meSsINESS/NASTINESS debate. This was a fine Friday.

Speaking of euphemistically speaking - it’s not a RIDE SHARE, it’s a taxi. I’ll save you my UberRant.

As for SIS, thank you for all your kind words. We were separated by 16 years. Mom was 20 and WWII was still raging when she had my sister, 36 and Vietnam hadn’t started in earnest for the US when she had me. In many very real ways my sister and I grew up in different worlds even though we were raised in the same town. Still, I was always “little brother.” Losing a sibling is not easy, there is sadness. But she lived a good life, raised my nephews and nieces to be good people, always did what she thought was right. Linda was a good sister.

OffTheGrid 8:33 AM  

SIS appears to be totally made up as clued.

NASTINESS is a term I've never seen as a war euphemism. Much better clues AVAILable.

SOLACE as verb is real but seems wonky. And I guess UNICYCLE is a verb in 12D.

ELS-CHUCK that one

Overall the puzzle was fine. New words learned today: MIMETIC, COCKEREL, CITRON, ENNEAD (spell check gives it the red underline)


Anonymous 8:34 AM  

AMA = ask me anything

Suzie Q 8:35 AM  

Despite several complete unknowns I still had fun.
I associate Crikey as an Aussie word. Blanket hog cracked me up.
The only downer for me was twerks. Disgusting.
I had some Havarti in Amsterdam that was heavenly. I think they keep the good stuff for themselves.

Paul Emil 8:39 AM  

It's cockerel not cocketel.

kenji 8:40 AM  

Oh, goon. You missed the play there.

pabloinnh 8:40 AM  

I liked this one a lot. Had to dig out some stuff from the crossword toolbox, ENNEAD, SHIVA, the OLAV/F conundrum. Wanted to spell "mama" without the double m because Spanish, and kept trying to make "GOON" into a verb, (I can't goon!), which is a wonderful DOOK.

Missed LOVESIMON entirely somehow, and wrote in BYJOVE off the B, which was way less than helpful. Otherwise found it just crunchy enough to make a fun Friday. Keep 'em coming, Mr. Earl.

Also, in news from Natick, the "serial defecator" has been apprehended, and that's all I'll say about that, because breakfast test and decorum and so forth. I'm sure Dr. Google can provide details to those who are interested.

rageismycaffeine 8:50 AM  

This was extremely fun and fresh, especially for the NYT. Felt almost like an AVClub puzzle. Loved it and looking forward to more from Simon.

TJS 8:50 AM  

Dont get "ama" or "sis". But yeah, "yah" is common in certain areas. Watch the movie "Fargo" and they say it about every 15 seconds.
@hungry mother, I got your "I remember mama" if no one else did.
@Gill, my reaction pretty much mirrored yours, which happens fairly often. Including the "goon" and "mime tic".

JP 8:54 AM  

Do ALES come in KEGS? I guess as delivered to a pub in Crosswordland. Certainly not in the setting KEGS conjures for me (keg party, keg stand, kegger).

I guess we need to keep coming up for clues to ALE and ALES.

Sir Hillary 9:14 AM  

Great puzzle. As PB1 has seemingly left the New York Times behind, I daresay this one felt as Berry-esque a Friday as we've seen in quite a while -- perhaps a shade too easy, but smooth as a cue ball and wonderfully open in places (21 of 70 entries are 7+ letters).

Plus, it felt simultaneously 21st-century (RIDESHARE, LOVESIMON [good film], AMA [as clued], TWERK) and old-school comfy (SIDETRACKS, HANOI, YESDEAR, etc.).

I learned a few things, in ways that weren't painful. I had no clue about AMA or RAE given how they were clued, but never even noticed them until I was done. Didn't know what a COCKEREL was either, but again, crosses did all the work.

Nice Scandinavian vibe, with Norway's King OLAV eating his Danish HAVARTI while watching MAMMAMIA and its Swedish-penned pop tunes.

@Z -- Beautiful summary of your sister. Condolences to you and your family.

WinthorpeIII 9:22 AM  

Good question. The first page of my Google search shows this:

"Keg beer (Lager) is different from Cask beer (Ale), and not to be confused."

Other than that, I enjoyed the play -- I mean, the puzzle.

Nancy 9:39 AM  

Very enjoyable and not that easy for me. Lots of stuff to puzzle out, as opposed to stuff you have to know -- always a good thing in my book.

Did you know that TSK TSKING (finger pointing activity) has the same number of letters as BLAME GAME? Since I always check crosses, it's a trap I didn't fall into. Instead, I fell into the shAME GAME trap. But only briefly. I didn't think that sLIMEY sounded like something a Brit would say instead of "My word."

I also had TRAIL RUN instead of TRIAL RUN for "this is a test". Which really futzed me up in the SW. Don't ask me why. I don't even run trails, so I hardly need to test them.

I found this lively, breezy and a great deal of fun.

Abalini 9:47 AM  

JP @8:54am while the kegs during my college days may haven been filled with Bud, Miller or Pabst, today's backyard BBQ kegs are more likely to have Sam Adams Boston Ale or Sierra Nevada. Come to think of it, even in college we had Genesee Cream Ale, chosen only because it was the cheapest option available.

SouthsideJohnny 9:55 AM  

I’ve been solving for some time now, and am able to make progress on Fridays and Saturdays (though an unassisted solve has to date alluded me). The Friday puzzles seem to be consistently “cleaner” - perhaps there are two forces at play? First, the constructor doesn’t have to “shove” things into the grid which are constrained by filling in around the theme entries, and second, there is no need to go wacko-esoteric to pump up the difficulty to Saturday-level. I’m speculating, but it seems like there might be some validity there.

Like many of us, I would have preferred that they clean up the crappy clueing on NASTINESS, SIS and AMA. They really should circulate the puzzles around the Times’ newsroom for a TRIAL RUN before publishing, maybe they would get some useful feedback.

Similar to yesterday, the (feminine) french word for “mine” is “mienne”. I’ll take it on faith that AMOI means something similar.

I liked TWERK right next to ASSES - don’t know if that was intentional though.

Nancy 10:02 AM  

One more thing that struck me. Talk about your "euphemisms" -- who on earth uses NASTINESS to describe an armed conflict? "Remember the NASTINESS that went on in Europe between 1914 and 1918? Such a terrible NASTINESS, it was!"

Anyone who would use such a euphemism deserves to have the ghosts of all the tens of millions of soldiers senselessly slaughtered in the above-mentioned NASTINESS arise from their graves and drag the offender right down into the trenches with them. Just saying.

puzzlehoarder 10:05 AM  

An easy Friday. Plenty of fresh looking material and just enough resistance to keep it from being too easy.

BLAMEGAME was obvious but only four downs dropped in. A little guessing and recognition filled in the rest.

I had a THEREEAU/THOREAU and an ASSAYS/ASSESS write over on the way to finishing. We recently had COLOMBO as an entry so SRI was a gimme.

While most of the long entries were lively and entertaining this grid produced a lot of crossword junk in the corners and the choke points. Most of that ese was beaten into my head years ago so it just made the puzzle easier.

@Z, sorry to hear about your sister.

virgsurf 10:27 AM  

Yes SOLACE made me mad....

Nausee 11:10 AM  

AMA appears to be a Reddit thing, meaning Ask Me Anything

Swagomatic 11:10 AM  

I liked it. I was thinking it was easy, but I was above my average Friday time. Maybe it's because I was watching "The Boys" as I was doing the puzzle?

Newboy 11:18 AM  

Loved the cluing as OFL points out. Having SIA cross CIAO is just a delight. And ATM balanced TWERKS for appropriate giggles. Like many Friday grids, this appeared impossible on a first pass. Then THOREAU, OLAV & ELLEN smiled and it was off to the races! AUGUSTA sent me to Google & I still have no idea how 20,000 can be an accurate body count in that clue? Unless someone clarifies that above, it will remain a mystery —like virgin birth or military intelligence, a concept taken on faith alone.

Whatsername 11:20 AM  

As someone else said, this was a nice “clean” puzzle with answers I could figure out as opposed to just knowing a proper name or bit of trivia. SOLACE used as a verb seems awkward. I love the word BLIMEY. It’s just so expressive. “I went to the kitchen three times and still can’t remember what for. Blimey!”

Yes YAH is a thing, a Norwegian thing. As @TJS said, in the movie Fargo, someone says it about every 15 seconds. Some of the characters say another word about that often but still a great film. Frances McDormand and William H. Macy were both nominated for Academy Awards; she won, he did not but his performance was certainly worthy of it. I can’t say the same for anyone or any part of MAMMAMIA. It’s been playing on some of the movie channels recently. If I happen to land on it accidentally while surfing, I can’t hit the channel changer fast enough to get out of it. Even so, it’s probably still better than watching a drag queen or Miley Cyrus or just about anyone, TWERK.

GILL I. 11:22 AM  

Just finished reading yesterday's blog.....@Z...So sorry about the loss of your sister. There are/were 5 of us. The eldest, my brother, left us way too soon. The best thing I have of his are the wonderful memories he left. My condolences.

Masked and Anonymous 11:42 AM  

Man, they really ratcheted up the weeject clues a notch or two, today …

* {"You betcha!"} = YAH.
* {Interview conducted online,for short} = AMA.
* {Term of address for a drag queen} = SIS.
* {Title in Colombo} = SRI.
* {Where to see a display of balance?} = ATM
* {Volleyball quartet?} = ELS.
* {Population abbr.} = EST. (Easiest of the bunch, at our house)
… plus a coupla name ones.

staff weeject pick: EST. Second puzgrid entry I wrote in, right after AMOI.

Pretty good themeless, but sure am missin the Jaws and the non-biter weejects.

Thanx and congratz on yer debut, Mr. Earl. Keep up the good twerk.

Masked & Anonymo4Us

NODOGS!?! Ow con trayer, ami …

Capitalist 11:48 AM  

The population of AUGUSTA, Maine was 18,594 in 2017.

Joaquin 12:08 PM  

@Z - Again, my condolences. Today's tribute to your sister is perfect for we strangers who know neither of you. Well done!

Re: this puzzle. I had EOPET and never having heard of it, assumed it had to be a "G". Took way longer than it should have to undo that easy mess.

pmdm 12:18 PM  

Sir Hillary: PB has not left the NYT. He has a puzzle published each and every Sunday. That might account for his absence from the crossword puzzles.

Happy to see another premiere. But at the risk of sounding homophobic (which I am not), I sometimes get the impression that newbie constructors want to cram more entries related to topics they are specially interested in than I prefer. Of course, as we've seen recently, that is not always the case. I suppose I would blame Shortz for failing to force some to tone it down. If I were to ever get time to construct a crossword, I would not try to fill it up with more obscure composers most would be unfamiliar with (even if the crosses were fair). I am more interested in humor, which is a personal choice. It's been a while since I really liked a themeless puzzle. Maybe I'm just getting too narrow.

RooMonster 12:32 PM  

Hey All !
BLIMEY! Only had one for-sure answer at the first pass-through, and two lightly penciled (penned) in answers. Thought, 'Hoo Boy, another tough FriPuz." But then it seemed as though the flood gates opened, and I started writing in answers as fast as I read the clues! I guess the ole brain AVAILed itself.

Also got BLANKET HOG off just the O, and later on, BLAME GAME off just the first A! Wow! Nice to be able to CHUCK those in like that.

Only had two writeovers also, MOMMA MIA (because MOMMA and MAMA), Rum-RYE (which on that clue I do Every. Single. Time.)

So it ended up as easy. Not much of SIDETRACKS for me.

DONt CRY is a Guns N' Roses song. There's a five letter repeat string, SIDE T(RACKS) - OVEN(RACKS). A bit of NASTINESS, that.

When you deny your henchman a day off? I CANT, GOON.
Bunny hopping? RIDES HARE

I'm 50, so I don't qualify as a COCKEREL. 😋


Mary McCarty 12:45 PM  

Did no one else balk at the 1D clue? “MY WORD” is one of the most British expressions I know. Can’t get out of my mind Arthur Treacher saying it in Heidi, upon seeing the monkey swinging from the chandelier. (Sorry I don’t know how to embed the clip.)

jae 12:46 PM  

Easy-medium. I too had NOpetS before DOGS, Yep before YAH, and did not know NEOPET, but I’ve seen LOVE SIMON and BLAMEGAME went in with no crosses. Fun Fri., liked it.

@lewis - Your Jiminy Cricket mention reminded me of last Sunday’s Doonesbury strip. Unfortunately I can’t seem to create a link on my iPad.

jberg 12:58 PM  

I loved this, for more or less the same reasons as @Lewis, even though I didn't understand AMA until I read today's comments.

I got BLIMEY off the B -- but really, I don't think the set of people who would say "my word" and that of those who would say "Blimey" overlaps much, if at all. But I guess that's OK in a crossword.

@Rex, when they consider serious business they're an ENNEAD; they're only a nonet when they break into song.

What I really liked about this puzzle was all the CK and CT endings.

The most embarassing thing (for me, a long-time New England resident) was that I looked at that first U in 46A and all I could think of was dUbUque, which isn't even a capital and is probably bigger than 20,000.

Teedmn 1:03 PM  

I certainly LOVE those "12 Days of Christmas" clues. MAID went right in, followed by MENDED and the NW filled in nicely. I saw the sequel to MAMMA MIA not long ago on TV so CHER and 37D were gimmes (I didn't really like CHER in that film although I like her acting in other roles).

The MIMETIC NEOPET was my last entry. I know NEO from "The Matrix" and NEO cons (who love them some NASTINESS) and I know the Pitney Bowes postage machine rival, NEO Post, but NEOPET has never crossed my threshold. So I had to back into PLEASED (though not by TWERKING) to finish that last sector.

Scott Earl, congratulations on your debut!

Carola 2:05 PM  

A debut? Nice job! @Scott Earl, I enjoyed your note on xwordinfo and look forward to your next one.

I got off to an easy start in the NE with HANOI confirming CHER and a quick descent via UNICYCLE et.al. to the SE, where this morning’s very apt BLANKET HOG (don’t look at me got me the SW. Then, the NW Wall, which I eventually breached with GIGS and A MOI. Last in: BLAME GAME x BLIMEY. Terrific!

Special treat: COCKEREL. Help from ye-olde puzzles: ENNEAD. Never saw: AMA, NEOPET.

@Southside Johnny 9:55, I hadn’t noticed that corner. Hilarious. Or, some might say, “NASTINESS!”

Lewis 2:06 PM  

@jae: https://www.gocomics.com/doonesbury/2020/01/19

old timer 2:41 PM  

Tough puzzle. Took me a long time to find answers that really should have been obvious, like BLAMEGAME and YESDEAR (clever!). For some reason, AUGUSTA did not leap to mind,though I was a whiz at state capitals in elementary school.

A few comments: NASTINESS strikes me as very British term for conflicts in far away places. No one used it to refer to huge wars, but "that NASTINESS down in the Balkans" was probably used in 1912, and "that NASTINESS in Kenya" 40 or 50 years later. Speaking of Brits, surely the clew for 1D should have been, "My word" in the East End. Few other than the fictional Maisy Dobbs are bilingual, but thanks to her, I am.

I have also seen what amounts to a KEG at a charming pub near Bath. Beer and ALES normally comes in casks or barrels in England as it does here, but this place was run by a charming old couple who wanted to serve BASS ale on gravity, so they had to order small KEGS of it, which I am surprised either was strong enough to lift. It was delicious, as was the food, and the subsequent breakfast.

rextorturer 2:43 PM  

Happy hour is still an agonizing 4 hours away.

sanfranman59 4:56 PM  

This is a nice debut puzzle though awfully easy for a Friday. It's a bit like comparing apples and oranges (themed vs themeless), but I was almost four minutes faster on this one than yesterday's.

There were a few real head-scratchers for me here: SIA {39D: One-named singer whose name sounds like a goodbye} (thanks for teaching me how to pronounce this singer's name), LOVE SIMON {15A: Hit 2018 film involving a gay teenage romance}, AMA {51A: Interview conducted online, for short} (???), ARMIE {60A: Actor Hammer of "The Social Network"}, NEOPET {23D: Virtual animal on a once-popular website} and SIS {52A: Term of address for a drag queen}. That's an awful lot of swings-and-misses for a Friday puzzle that I got through so quickly. Apparently, I've seen NEOPET in three previous puzzles, one NYT and two LATs. Clearly, it didn't sink in. Hey, I was proud of myself for throwing down TWERKS {49D: Does some backup dancing?} off of just the T. Way to go, Boomer. The clue for NASTINESS {66A: Armed conflict, euphemistically} is an odd one.

This puzzle has me wondering if Will tried to reach his 2020 woke-ness quota in one fell swoop.

Dr.D 5:29 PM  

I’m clearly in the minority, not found this to be very challenging and I finally just gave you. :(

Tom R 5:33 PM  

Two things: On 17A I had the last 4 letters "goon" before the others and it threw me for a loop - I just could not see parsing it into "go on" and you can imagine my struggles with that.

The other is a serious comment. Alternative to gouda: Havarti??? No matter what you may find on Wikipedia, this is a terrible clue/answer and suggests to me the constructor has little experience with these cheeses. A good answer to alternative to gouda might be Edam, or even colby. Hvarti is a soft ripened cheese with a creamy textured middle - I would buy Brie or Camembert as alternatives to Havarti, but gouda is a totally different cheese in both taste and texture. Sort of like saying BBQ sauce is a good alternative to dijon mustard since both are condiments.

Anonymous 5:38 PM  

VAC meaning sucker, for short? Huh?

JC66 6:18 PM  

@Anon 5:38

VACuum. Yeah, I know it's bad.

jae 6:24 PM  

@Lewis - thanks

Elise 6:59 PM  

I got blame game pretty quick but that led to By Jove and a pretty slow time. Luckily maid was there to sort it out.

Elise 7:00 PM  

The sliced stuff you get at the deli counter is more gouda-like.

pabloinnh 7:26 PM  


Bad? It sucks.

Joe Dipinto 7:43 PM  

Sort of like saying BBQ sauce is a good alternative to dijon mustard since both are condiments. ←Tom R

@Tom R – But that's exactly how the Times puzzle typically categorizes things in clues. Any condiment is an "alternative" to any other condiment. Any cheese is an "alternative" to any other cheese. Don't expect nuance.

Unknown 8:10 PM  

TWERKS right next to ASSESS. Cute.

JC66 8:25 PM  


Too funny!

Carole Shmurak 10:42 AM  

@ QuasiMojo
Yes, there’s still a Miss Porter’s School in CT, and a Miss Hall’s in Pittsfield MA. And there’s still a Miss America pageant.

imnotbobby 11:38 PM  

Not quite a personal best for a Friday but close and probably should’ve been. I rarely paused.

Anonymous 8:56 AM  

UTAHAN is garbage. The correct word is UTAHN.

spacecraft 11:27 AM  

Have to laugh: I see YAH all the time. It's the printed abbr. for Young At Heart, the Boyd Gaming promo for seniors. But as an affirmative? A little off the wall. Except maybe in certain parts of New England.

Hand up for NOpets, which nearly derailed me. Also, figuring out that "sucker" was literal, and so VAC rather than ViC. [-tim]. YAH, it took me forever to see the simple PLEASED.

I am PLEASED to see that some are smashing their Friday times; not so here. I make it at least medium, tending toward the challenging side. Not knowing NEOPET or MIMETIC was a factor. Nothing too awful in the fill, save perhaps the SE. The crutchy ASSESS meets another double-S at the corner; that's a bit of NASTINESS. And the hot wire business with OVENRACKS: is this to be taken just literally, as, the racks are made of wire and they get hot?? That's IT?? Pretty thick to be called "wire," if you ask me. And OFC: if war isn't NASTINESS, what is it? Surely not cordiality.

With ALLRISE in the grid, DOD has to be Simone Missick, but a bow to CHER is always in order. Loved TWERKS next to ASSES(S). Birdie.

Anonymous 12:15 PM  

No rye in a Old Fashioned. Brandy or bourbon.

Anonymous 1:30 PM  

Whatshername: watched the beginning to Mammamia once. Never again. It seemed to be set in a woman's mental institution, with the inmates literally jumping up and down and rolling on the ground while singing bad music. Singing badly. One to miss.

Diana, LIW 1:43 PM  

Gimme an A. I get an A! An A for YAH! Yeah!! (or boo-yeah, p'raps)

I see from @Spacey's remark (haven't read the future-landers yet) that YAH caused some controversy. Sure did for me, too. and ENNEAD was yet another WOE for me. So a great guess finished a time-taking but satisfying puzzle.

Oh yes - "nopets" was a short-term distraction for MOI. At least it didn't translate into "nosnakes."

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords

Burma Shave 2:03 PM  




rainforest 3:31 PM  

This has been a good week, and the quality of this puzzle kept up the trend. My first thought for 1A was BLAME GAME, and that was confirmed by EST, GIGS, A MOI. I was lucky to guess BLIMEY, and the NW came down relatively quickly. MAID and MENDED were gimmes.

The NE was trickier especially since Edam wasn't going to work for 11D, but HANOI and SIDETRACKS helped get that section. MIMETIC (?) and NEOPET were unknowns, but ALL RISE helped a bunch.

In the SE, I could easily imagine a Brit saying "there's a bit of NASTINESS with the Irish troubles". I confidently put in AUGUSTA off the "U", thinking "I didn't know AUGUSTA, Georgia had such a small population", only to find out that it is the capital of Maine. Hey, I'm a Canadian, but later I realized that Atlanta is the capital of Georgia, so I felt shame. But I did learn something. Good times with this puzzle.

JimmyBgood 4:53 PM  

Said state, is Maine. The clue is correct.

rondo 5:38 PM  

1a and 1d gimmes and off to the races, except for the popular NOpetS. Thus endeth the string of puzzles with no write-overs. The other AUGUSTA will be happening before you know it. The late Gregg Allman and Sonny would have known about RIDESHARE or RIDECHER. With this puz I was quite PLEASED.

JimmyBgood 5:46 PM  

There is never brandy in a true old fashion Old Fashioned. It's always a whiskey. Either rye or bourbon.

fakt chekker 5:54 PM  

The old fashioned is a cocktail made by muddling sugar with bitters, adding whiskey or, less commonly, brandy, and garnishing with a twist of citrus rind. It is traditionally served in an old fashioned glass, which predated the cocktail. Wikipedia

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