SAG Hollywood union / MON 1-6-20 / Shell-less marine invertebrate / Upstate New York city south of FInger Lakes / Post WW II alliance / Alcoholic drink that's often flavored with fruit

Monday, January 6, 2020

Constructor: Tess Davison and Kathy Lowden

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging (more Tuesday than Monday in both concept and difficulty level) (3:17)

THEME: GEM (11A: One of 17-, 18-, 37-, 60- or 62-Across) — yeah those are indeed GEMs. Clues are (all-caps) months for which the GEMs are "birthstones" (a word spelled out by the circled squares when read in order)

Theme answers:
  • RUBIES (17A: JULY)
  • PEARLS (62A: JUNE)
Word of the Day: SAG-AFTRA (31D: SAG-___ (Hollywood union)) —
Screen Actors Guild‐American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) is an American labor union representing approximately 160,000 film and television actors, journalists, radio personalities, recording artists, singers, voice actors, and other media professionals worldwide. The organization was formed on March 30, 2012, following the merger of the Screen Actors Guild (created in 1933) and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (created in 1937 as American Federation of Radio Artists, becoming AFTRA in 1952 after merger with Television Authority). SAG-AFTRA is a member of the AFL–CIO, the largest federation of unions in the United States. (wikipedia)
• • •

Dutchess, 2002-2019
HELLO, READERS AND FELLOW SOLVERS. 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):

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Rex Parker c/o Michael Sharp
54 Matthews St
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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!
• • •

Wow, a debut by not one but two women. Cool. Diversify the constructor pool! I did not like this one much, for a bunch of reasons (which I'll get to), but it's promising. It's conceptually ambitious (which is good, but also part of the problem). And the fill, while shaky in parts, is at worst NYT-average. This is better than my own first NYTXW (oh so many years ago ...), so I'm optimistic. But to get to the problems—let's start with the revealer, which is both a dud (just GEM?) and bizarrely placed in the NE, and even more bizarrely cross-referenced with UNCUT, which is doubly unfortunate, as a. it adds weird difficulty to the puzzle (you gotta look around the grid to have any idea what the answer might be, and if you were to look there before you actually had 11-A, well you're really out of luck), and b. evokes a current movie ("UNCUT GEMs," starring Adam Sandler) that is just begging to be the revealer of a GEM-related puzzle. It's like having UNCUT in this grid reminds you of what a cool, timely GEM-related theme *might* have been. Instead, you have this clunker of one-word revealer, all tucked away in the NW, and then these circles, which ... were so confusing. It's hard enough to infer the theme (the clues are just months, so you gotta piece it together—fine on W or Th, weird for M); but now you've got these circles that appear meaningful (and are, ultimately, meaningful), but they are in no way meaningful *to their own answers*; that is, "BI" has nothing to do with RUBIES. Zero. It's not a sign or symbol or, well, anything that relates directly to RUBIES. Usually, when circles appear in answers, they are related in some way to what is going on in that specific answer, with that specific clue. But here, no. Confusing. Lastly, where awkwardness and inelegance are concerned, there's the fact that GEM is in the singular, when everything else, theme answers and circled theme word ("birthstones"), is ostentatiously in the plural. In short, this feels like a first draft of what might've been a much tighter, cleaner puzzle.

Had trouble with a bunch of the non-theme answers. Biggest hold-up by far was AFTRA (31D: SAG-___ (Hollywood union)). I'm sure I've seen that acronym before, but recalling it was ... not in the cards. SAG is superfamous. I would say that part of the union name is almost Monday-famous, but of course on a Monday you'd clue SAG like the ordinary word that it is. AFTRA, on the other hand ... well that can only be clued *this* way, and *this* way is tough. I also found SEA SLUG (45D: Shell-less marine invertebrate) and PAN OUT (67A: Be successful in the end) difficult to see, and SCHNAPPS took me several beats, even after I had SCHN- in place; "Alcoholic drink" just did nothing for me. I know ELMIRA very well because it's practically down the street from me (if you think of US86 as a "street"), but it still seems kind of hard for a Monday (8D: Upstate New York city south of the Finger Lakes). My time ended up in a reasonable Monday range, so perhaps difficulty level wasn't Too far off, but it felt off. If you were (or felt) slowish today, I'm just letting you know you aren't alone. Enjoy the rest of this JANUARY (GARNET!) day.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. if you missed Hallmark Movies & Mysteries Channel's latest installment of "Crossword Mysteries" ("Abracadaver!"), well, you missed a GEM. The plot is way too convoluted to explain, but the important part is... the cameo! Delightful.
"Everyone has to dance! Those are the rules!" (actual line)
[to be very clear, I genuinely enjoy Hallmark movies and am not mocking
anyone here, except maybe myself] 
[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


jae 12:32 AM  

I agree, more of a Tues. Liked it, but it took a few nanoseconds (hi M&A) for the penny to drop on what was going on with the circles.

puzzlehoarder 12:34 AM  

A very average Monday. No surprise there isn't a single debut. While solving it struck me that there was nothing in this puzzle I haven't seen multiple times. To be expected when the theme is straight up common birthstones. There's no made up gibberish that you can't enter immediately until you get the theme. The capitalized clues were the only speed bumps and it didn't last long.

AFTRA is the closest this puzzle got to interesting. It's an acronym I haven't completely familiarized myself with. It represents tv and radio actors even the WASHED UP ones.

Zelda 12:42 AM  

I agree with Rex: this puzzle would have been much better if a man had constructed it.

chefwen 12:54 AM  

Super easy for moi. As soon as I uncovered RUBIES and EMERALDS, saw the BIR circled I just filled in the rest of the circles. No problem.

One measly write over ARUGULA over ARUGaLA, I like my spelling better.

Jay 1:31 AM  

As a relative beginner, it's annoying that months' gemstones and horoscopes are so common, but I guess if you can't beat 'em, join 'em.

albatross shell 2:02 AM  

No way. Would they?
OH! It's an 'F". Whew.

albatross shell 2:07 AM  

Forgot to add:
Read as a bar graph, I am glad that what you OWE is only half of what you EARNED.

Solverinserbia 2:09 AM  

Definitely a Tuesday. My time was about my average for Tuesdays and 25% higher than Mondays. A lot of the cluing and a lot of the answers weren't just gimmes. No complaint from me.

albatross shell 2:11 AM  

Any puzzle with COCAINE is a fun puzzle.

AaronFeit 2:38 AM  

I don't believe we've met before, AILERON. Weird to see you here on a Monday.

JOHN X 2:50 AM  

Sorry I haven’t posted in a while, but I’ve been in a Mexican jail. It’s a long story, but I got a twenty year sentence. It turns out that if you pay off the jailer, the prosecutor, and the judge they just let you go free. Cost me four hundred bucks total but I think that was a pretty good deal.

I’m a member of SAG-AFTRA so of course that was easy for me. I’m also a member of both the Motion Picture and Television academies. That gives me the privilege of paying them all substantial annual dues, and in return I get to tell people that I’m a member, as I did just now.

AILERON reminded me of when I was a test pilot. This was after I was a porn star but before I founded my tech company. It’s a funny story because I didn’t even know how to fly. As you all know I made about ten adult films (I was touted as the next Peter North, for obvious reasons) except that my schtick was that right after the “money shot” I would turn and face the camera and read Bible passages to the viewer. We were really starting to pick up some steam when I got a call from Northrop saying that I was hired as a test pilot. I had put in an application to them, but I didn’t want to write down “porn star” in my work history, so I put down “astronaut” instead. I went to a local airport and took a few lessons in a Cessna and then I reported to Palmdale and next thing I know I’m test-piloting the new B-2 stealth bomber. It wasn’t really that hard either, not like they make it sound. AILERONS are on the wings, if I remember right.

Also, my cell mate in Mexico was this major-league drug cartel boss, convicted of murdering over a hundred rivals. He was actually a pretty nice guy. If you want some COCAINE he can probably hook you up, but you’ll have to buy like twenty pounds of it, minimum. You could stay awake for year with that much.

I know a good dirty joke that involves a priest, a lesbian, two midgets, and an AMETHYST, but I can’t tell it here.

Hey I gotta’ take this call. Ciao.

Z 5:47 AM  

140% of my typical Monday so definitely a Tuesday.

Sadly, my GAT prediction came true even earlier than I expected.

Anyone try ScARE instead of SNARE or SnAMP instead of SCAMP? I didn’t think so.

Considering how tough this is, surprisingly little PPP. I counted just 14 of 76, for less than 19%. Yeah, AFTRA is tough, and ALLEN Ginsberg on top of RAISA Gorbachev is sure to be a bit of SCANDAL, but this is well below typical NYTX pop culture.

Evan 6:45 AM  

The puzzle was an easy solve for me, but I made the connection between the theme clues/answers right away with maybe half the letters in RUBIES and I routinely ignore circled letters while I'm solving so they didn't distract me. Time was on the fast end of my typical Monday solve of late, perhaps even a bit faster than that and would've tied my Tuesday personal record. The crosses jut seemed to work for me every time I came to an answer that I didn't know or was unsure of.

GILL I. 6:58 AM  

Completely disagree with @Rex. I thought this was quite "brilliant." Just to find the BIRTH STONES in all of those GEMs was nifty as hell.
@Rex wanted "UNCUT GEMs" as his Adam Sandler reveal, I thought of the movie "SCANDAL" about Christine Keeler and John Profumo. Remember that one? Then along comes Harvey Weinstein and John looks like a saint. I'm already picturing @JOHN X playing the pick which part.
ARUGULA is so WASHED UP. Over rated about now. Have you noticed that restaurants now sneak in kale? I think I like the old fashion Caesar salad made table side with real anchovies and raw eggs.
SCHNAPPS is a MYSTERY to me - tastes a bit like TAR.
Fun, adult Monday, Tess and Kathy.... and thanks for including my AMETHYSTS BIRTH STONE.

OffTheGrid 7:00 AM  

Mondays are usually about 15 minutes and today was 13. When I see circled squares I look for the revealer. It didn't take long to realize it was GEM. @Rex, Revealer says "One of...." That explains why revealer is singular and theme answers are plural. I thought it was clever. I was thinking about birthstone because of the month clues. About 3/4 through the puzzle I looked at the circles and saw that they spelled, TA DA, BIRTHSTONES! This was a great Monday puzzle. I would even say it SPARKLED.

Lewis 7:03 AM  

The two constructors are mother and daughter, by the way...

Pretty amazing that the word BIRTHSTONES could be sussed out of the names of actual birthstones -- very clever of any constructor to even look for that -- props to Tess and Kathy. Regarding the cross of ACID and COCAINE, I was gladdened that the EEG was nearby. And because of ARABIA / ELIA / ASA / RAISA / ARUGULA / GEENA / AFTRA, I give this puzzle, in the end, an A.

Seriously, I RAISA glass to T&K on their debut and the lovely solving experience they provided!

amyyanni 7:15 AM  

Congrats, Ladies! This is a solid start to what is going to be a l o n g week. We've had 2 weeks of having 2 days off. And there's a dentist appointment before I get to the weekend. Also sore from falling 2x on a trail run yesterday. Looking to the puzzles to keep me oriented.

Chris from LI 7:20 AM  

Kindly forgive my roadgeekery, but it's I-86, not US 86.

kitshef 7:21 AM  

A perfectly serviceable Monday puzzle, to which absolutely nothing was added by having the letters spelling out BIRTHSTONE. Also the asymmetrical bonus themers GEM and UNCUT did not add much – but nor did they detract.

ANTs don’t look that much like termites, other than in the “they’re all insects” generalization. Ants have three clearly defined body segments – head, thorax, abdomen, with constrictions in between each section. In this they are similar to wasps – the term wasp-waisted could have as easily been ant-waisted. Termites have no similar constriction at the waist.

Hungry Mother 7:45 AM  

A tad quicker than the usual Monday, but I don’t know my birthstones very well. July is my month, so at least I knew that one. I had to do a lot of downs and bounce all over the grid to keep the flow going.

Yoko Eno 8:13 AM  

No opal ?

Lisa 8:24 AM  

I have issues with COCAINE's clue. I was travelling last year in Colombia and let me tell you when I was in caño cristales, where you have no choice but to go with a tour, at once point the MC at a local dance evening literally said in Spanish that he wants to show the visiting tourists how nice and welcoming Colombians can be because most westerners only know about the drugs and coccaine and the farc and he wanted to show them how kind people can be. That made me so sad.

Before my trip so many people were worried it would be dangerous. I was in Colombia for two months and it was both safe and people were amazing. The sterotypes we have affect real people and it's not cool. If all you know about Colombia is COCAINE I hope you will go visit there and fix your impressions.

mmorgan 8:24 AM  

I never had time to write yesterday so let me say that I thought Sunday’s puzzle was a lot like a big fat Monday, and not a lot of fun. For once I wish I had timed myself because I’m sure it would have been absurdly brief. No crunch whatsoever and the only thing that slowed me down was having to type in the letters.

Today, on the other hand, was a really fun Monday! Birthstones and circles are not my things and Rex’s criticisms are not unjustified, but for me it was a fun solve that gave me far more of a stretch than I would expect for a Monday. It had some thought and energy behind it and it was a very pleasant surprise. Thanks and I’ll be looking for more from these two!

@JOHN X, good to have you back!

Anonymous 8:27 AM  


Yeah, the clue says one of. Doesn't mean the choice to make it singular was a good one.

I had all the stones in before I could see what the circles did. When you need to have the answers to see the clue of "birthstones" I feel like that defeats the purpose of the circles.

Puzzle just felt awkward throughout imo. Good for a first one though.

SouthsideJohnny 8:40 AM  

It’s interesting to observe the degree of precision to which we all dissect these puzzles on a daily basis - like many of us, I also decreed that AFTRA had been assigned an inappropriate day for its appearance (and I forgot how to spell AMETHYSTS, which made it worse).

AILERON next to SEASLUG was a bit f a stumbling point as well. I wanted Hi-DEF instead of RES which led me to the plausible SEAFROG, so I had to backtrack and sort that all out when I realized that PEARLS was the final theme entry.

Good puzzle with a couple of speed bumps (for me at least) to keep it interesting.

Laura 8:41 AM  

A bit harder than Monday was nice since Mondays are so easy. No really fun clues though. Hope they will get cleverer in that regard on their future contributions.

Nancy 8:56 AM  

What a pleasure. A Monday with nothing slam-dunk about it. Interesting clues for WASHED UP, PH.D., TUNIC and SCANDAL. (For the latter, I was looking for a particular "-gate" like Water ot Travel.) And the fill was un-Mondayish too: VACATE, SCHNAPPS, AILERON, SEA SLUG. Wish all Mondays could be like this this one -- with at least some thinking required and no proper names or crosswordese.

Anonymoose 9:02 AM  

SSJohnny got me curious. Google "sea frog fish" and select "images". Amazing pics!

Rastaman Vibration 9:23 AM  

I’m with @Nancy on this one. It is so much more fun to actually work your way through the clues and try to figure things out rather than moving from one PPP (ok, this one is in my wheelhouse) to another (never heard of he, she or it - hopefully I won’t get Naticked by one of the crosses).

I don’t understand why an effort like today’s is not the rule rather than the exception. We have a debut puzzle from two constructors with limited experience, and they didn’t seem to have much trouble producing a clear, clean and relatively straightforward grid. Do people really enjoy crosswords that are also Trivia Contests?

It doesn’t seem to be a “difficulty” thing - this puzzle is plenty crunchy enough for a Monday, and we have certainly had some clean and challenging Saturday efforts as well. I’m still relatively inexperienced compared to some of the people who post here on a regular basis - I would be interested in hearing other opinions from some of you super-solvers !

xyz 9:31 AM  


Great that it's two women.

But why only 5 birthstones?
Random Circles?
Bizarre fill?
Very uneven.

Oh, 'easy' for me, and disappointing.

Kathy 9:41 AM  

I am a newer solver and I was surprised to find that my experience was the very opposite of Rex’s. Perhaps Monday puzzles are gauged differently by veterans? Or was I just in my wheelhouse and didn't realize it?

I completed the puzzle last night in about ten minutes (fast for me) and considered it very easy. I grokked the theme early because the possibility of birthstones came to me when I saw the italicized names of months, and when they all started fitting in I knew I was off to the races. I didn’t even need the GEM answer or the circled letters. (I usually ignore circles anyway.) I thought the theme was perfectly fine, although I do agree that GEM’s placement in the corner may have lacked elegance. The puzzle wasn’t overrun with proper names, junk or Naticks and I really appreciated that!

To me, this puzzle was a perfect entry level to the NYTX! And now that I know it is a debut, all I can say is congratulations and keep ‘em coming!

webwinger 9:43 AM  

This felt like a Wednesday to me, but I finished in just a few seconds more than average Monday time. Agree with most of @RP’s comments. Plural/singular allocation felt awkward. The circled BIRTHSTONES didn’t do much for me, though I suppose if I’d paid more attention during the solve it might have helped with the last couple of themers. BTW, I question the accuracy of calling PEARL a GEM, the latter being generally used in reference to inorganic crystalline forms. Google seems to support this notion.

Nice to see the debut of a mother-daughter constructor team. ON THAT NOTE (what a useful phrase!) I want to mention the appearance of Michelle Williams in last night’s Golden Globe broadcast. First, she much deserved her best actress award for Fosse/Verdon, a fascinating look into the world of entertainment in the mid-20th century. (Younger participants here would do well to watch that mini-series in conjunction with Bob Fosse’s semi-autobiographical film “All That Jazz”.) Also, she gave a moving speech advocating for women’s reproductive freedom that was profoundly positive rather than hostile and scolding, exactly the kind of advocacy we need more of today.

JW 9:43 AM  

I actually really enjoyed this one. It fell together well as I progressed through it, and there was enough meat on the clues to make it interesting. I think it was a "gem" for a first puzzle.

BobL 9:45 AM  

Super debut!

And John X is out of jail!

Joaquin 10:17 AM  

I had a DNS (Did Not Start) today. When I saw the puzzle was constructed by two women I got a bad case of stagflation and wound up watching the box set of John X's movies instead of solving the xword.

RooMonster 10:17 AM  

Hey All !
Managed to get puz to PAN OUT for me, but had to wait til I finished to see the circles spelling out BIRTHSTONES. Was all like, "What in tarhooties is BIR? THST?" Good stuff. Saw ONE in the last set of themers, which got the ole brain on a tangent thinking about Anniversary years and what each one signifies. Are DIAMONDS or PEARLS for year ONE?

EEG twice in a row. Strange how words end up repeating. Not bad on the dreck today, with a kinda funky grid design. That PHD is actually in the central Down column, but looks like it's on the left of grid. (To me, anyway. Never claimed to be able to see straight.)

Primo @JOHNX post today. UNCUT, for sure. A MYSTERY how his brain works.

Congrats on your debut(s). I came *this* close one time on a puz getting in, but couldn't get the grid just right enough for Will's approval. Oh well, I have two not reviewed yet, actually, I think they got lost in the mail, as it's been quite a while, and have had others rejections for puzs I mailed in after them. So Will, if you're reading, find my puzs! Har.


J.K. Growling 10:32 AM  

@Jay (1:31 am) You'd best study up on your Harry Potter, too.

David 10:32 AM  

Nice debut. How long was it sitting on Will's desk? I mean, "uncut gem" is super current and for you to address Rex's complaint you'd either have had to constructed this in the past few weeks or known months in advance about this film. Personally, I never know a thing about most movies, but especially not Adam Sandler movies.

I was doing my usual crosses, had only 14, 15, and 16 then came to 17, which in the app was an italicized month followed by another one and I said to myself, "Oh, it must be birthstones, and that gave me Gem at 11A. I don't know from birthstones but 1D gave me rubies immediately and 7D gave me emeralds, and off I went. Pretty fast and fun, I liked it. I didn't bother with the circled letters, as usual.

What the heck is a "stereo set"? Is this 1963 or something? Oh wait. That's yesterday's puzzle. Never mind.

Probably more Tuesdayish, I guess, but a good Monday for me.

Lewis 10:35 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Naiv ET 10:35 AM  

I think John X made it all up. The tip off. The judge would have to have been paid in pesos.

Lobbyist 10:35 AM  

Easiest in a long time. Everything just fell into place nonstop. Have no idea of time because that’s not my measure or standard. Much more important to me is knowledge, learning and figuring it out (Old folks term for grokking I think).

Lewis 10:39 AM  

My five favorite clues from last week
(in order of appearance):

1. Bring up, or something that might be brought up (4)
2. Guy in a suit (4)(3)
3. "One" is its final number (1)(6)(4)
4. Cave man? (5)
5. You may see stars because of one (5)(4)


pabloinnh 10:42 AM  

Hey, John X, welcome back! Say hi to your brother Dos for me.

Waiting for JoeD to scare up the Oak Ridge Boys-

Elmira, Elmira, my heart's on fire... Elmira. (Probably not.)

Thought this was a little uneven ("Source of solar energy", "Nephews' counterparts"). I mean, really. Liked seeing SCHNAPPS and SCAMP. Good words. And like many, got the idea from JULY=RUBIES. What else could we be talking about?

Forgot to mention my thanks yesterday for all the pro football fans here who refrained from delighting in the demise of the Patriots. Nice long run, but Father Time is still undefeated, as the saying goes. Congrats to all of you who still have a dog in the fight.

Congrats also to our debut ladies. Looking for more.

Malsdemare 11:00 AM  

My solve was a complete reverse of Rex's. I filled in the whole NW corner first then slid over until I got GEM. I caught RUBIES glimmering out of the corner of my eye, saw I already had the R in EMERALDS and TH, which gave me EMERALDS and AMETHYSTS. So there was BIRTH jumping up and down yelling at me to look for the other months to test my knowledge of BIRTHSTONES (pretty good, it turns out). Got 'em and raced through the rest of the puzzle for a new record. Yay me!

Turns out I can't spell ARUGuLA either. @Z, thanks for the chuckle. @Zelda, perfect!!! And welcome back, John X; you were missed.

So the week is starting with real promise. Thanks, Tess and Kathy.

Anonymous 11:11 AM  

Have to disagree with OFL w/regard the circle game. While I haven't kept any count, such circles by my memory are separate from words they embed in and have meaning to the themer. Check and check.

I know a good dirty joke that involves a priest, a lesbian, two midgets, and an AMETHYST, but I can’t tell it here.

The one I know involves an ATHEIST.

What? 11:18 AM  

Good puzzle for newbies, as a Monday should be but boring for the rest of us “experts”.

Chris 11:19 AM  

Agree with the comment about the difficulty, my first thought after solving was how much more like a Tuesday it felt. ACTRA was my big hangup, although for me it was my insistence that it should be AFTRA instead. The misplaced F added at least a minute to my time as I tried to figure out why the SE looked so off.

Malsdemare 11:22 AM  

@joaquin, there's lots of competition for the Lenny Bruce comic award today, but I think you may have it sewn up. STAGFLATION rears its head again, so to speak.

Anonymous 11:37 AM  

Pearls aren’t gems, if you want to get picky. And don’t we all?

xyz 11:44 AM  


I'm assuming you read that frequent flier twitterf&ck trolling AA?

Evan 11:44 AM  

EDYS was a bit tough, as that's one of those brands that has a different name based on where you are. In the western US, we have Dreyer's ice cream (yes, almost exactly like Breyer's) and never see Edy's in stores.

Pablo 12:16 PM  

Easy Monday for me, but then it was light on trivia and heavy on things that have been in the puzzle before, so to be expected. Still 2.5 Rexes though.

Didn't really love the theme, but didn't get hung up anywhere either, and it only taught me a few new words/things (AILERON, SAG-AFTRA, RANI). I just thought the theme was a bit too simple, even for Monday. It didn't come back around and zing you with anything clever. It just was.

Mr.Cheese 12:26 PM  

If @john x and @LMS posted every day I’d be happy.

Masked and Anonymous 12:30 PM  

GEM of a MonPuz. Had ABIT of fight to it. Plus, lotsa cool longball non-themers, due to the short-ish themer crop. fave fillins included: SCHNAPPS. MYSTERY. WASHEDUP. SCANDAL. PANOUT. FUSSY.

staff weeject pick: VAR. Already a crosswordy abbreve term, and it rhymes with har, too boot.

fave moo-cow eazy-E MonPuz clue: {Source of solar energy} = SUN. Coulda also been SOL, I reckon … but when in doubt, I tend to go with the U-word. Maybe an even generally eazy-E-er clue: {"Pick a card, ___ card"} = ANY.

Liked that the Circles spelled out BIRTHSTONES, as an unreferenced extra-credit. In a TuesPuz or higher, I think you'd maybe have the GEM clue reference the Circles instead, somehow. Not quite sure how best to work that, tho...

Thanx for gangin up on us, and congratz on yer primo debut, TD & KL family darlins.

Masked & Anonym007Us

Hungry Mother 12:31 PM  

@John X: when I was stationed at Fort Bliss in 1962 and partied in Juarez every possible chance, a few of my Army buddies got tossed in the Mexican slammer. Just before their homecoming, we used to dust their areas with BBT powder to fend off the crabs. These events often ended in Courts Martials, where I had to guard the perps with a 45 strapped on my waist. Fun times! Thanks for the memories.

Dan Miller 12:47 PM  

I was annoyed at the Natick in the SE. If you didn't know that RANI, not RAYI, was a Hindu queen, you would never guess that the cross is PAN out and not PAY out.

tea73 1:59 PM  

Apparently I finished in under average time, but I think my Monday average got screwed up by falling asleep while doing a puzzle. It seemed not difficult, but a little longer than recent Monday times. AFTRA slowed me a bit as I wrote AsTRA then erased it all when I saw FUSSY.

When the first few circles didn't seem to add up to anything I just ignored them. In retrospect it is cute that they are all in the birthstones in order.

While a reference to the movie would have been cute, I assume this puzzle was submitted long before the movie came out.

Thinking shandy (which doesn't fit at all) made it hard to see SCHNAPPS.

Maddiegail 4:23 PM  

R u the guy I just saw onTMZ?

retired guy 5:58 PM  

To me, PPP means Purchasing Power Parity.... what is it doing in a discussion about a crossword puzzle?

Richardf8 6:22 PM  

The months clues and RU(BI)ES was enough for me to fill in the circles which made everything much easier. Gad to wait patiently to get AFTRA from the crosses. I guess it just goes to prove that if you take any random string of letters and pop it into google, you can come away with a clue for it. Other than that, it was a nice Monday; more interesting than an IRS form 1040EZ, which is often how a monday can feel.

Anonymous 6:32 PM  

Retired guy,
That's what pop means to everyone who held a real job in industry, as opposed to say, education.

Z 8:58 PM  

@retired guy - Pop culture, Product names, and other Proper nouns. 25-30% is pretty NYTX typical. More than 33% almost always causes some subset of solvers trouble.

Tita 11:15 PM  

@lisa...I was fortunate enough to spend 2 weeks in Bogotá and Medellín this June. I was there on business, with a long weekend in between.
I was also incredibly lucky to have a local business associate, who has become a friend, to guide me around and give me a native's perspective.

Warm people, amazing food, rich history.
I was glad to have learned first-hand some of the "rest of the story" behind Colômbia.

Museo del Oro is one out the finest museums I have experienced anywhere.
And the Museo Botero Will have you smiling from beginning till end.

Happy Twelfth Day of Christmas to the gang here.

And congrats to the constructors. I enjoyed the puzzle lots.

Burma Shave 11:32 AM  


you’ll be WASHEDUP with ANY girls.
There’s no SCANDAL, MYSTERY, nor doubt


spacecraft 11:43 AM long enough and you'll see everything: I whipped through this like water through a sieve. Clue for 11a was visually inescapable; right away I thought GALLOPS-->GEM, then looking at the theme clues--all months--okay, BIRTHSTONES. The circles drew my attention: 11 of them. Just like the letters in BIRTHSTONES. Filled those in, and the named stones became obvious without even having to know the lineup (I don't). With all that, the fill filled itself. And OFC calls it challenging! Go figure. For me, one of the easiest ever.

OFC neglected to mention that ELMIRA was also the retirement home of Mark Twain. He knew that, I'm sure. The man never won ANY Edgars, but then he wasn't a MYSTERY writer.

Although I do like ABIT more resistance, I enjoyed this solve. I don't agree with any of OFC's criticisms, and with my love GEENA for DOD, I'm gonna give this debut an eagle!

Diana, LIW 12:55 PM  

I thought it quite fine for Monday faire - and yes, a tad Tuesdayish in difficulty until the revealer gave the stones away. But where oh where is August? I suppose peridot isn't on the tip of everyone's tongue, and yet.

Hope tomorrow is such a jewel as this. Cheers all!

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords, not a cross word to say

leftcoaster 2:24 PM  

A study in contrasts: Easy theme and revealer as expected, but also unusually challenging for a Monday.

GEMs, as simple as they come, except maybe for AMETHYSTS (sp.). But then there's ARUGULA (sp.), and in the SE, SCHNAPPS, AILERON (sp.), and SEASLUG. Might even include RAISA Gorbachev there.

Thanks, ladies (and Shortz, too, for going with this one).

leftcoaster 2:28 PM  

Oh, not just GEMs, but GEMSTONES, of course.

leftcoaster 2:34 PM  

Oops again -- obviously BIRTHSTONES!

rainforest 2:51 PM  

Hey @Lady Di, peridot is mine too, although I don't know what it looks like.

Got the NW quickly, then RUBIES, GALLOPS, GEM and the game was up, but I did enjoy the game, and on a Monday. Nice debut. Maybe Mom and daughter will team up again. Looking forward to it.

I think some effort went into sizing up the BIRTHSTONES and deciding how to incorporate the letters in their names into a revealer along with GEM. Probably why peridot didn't make the cut, or UNCUT.

Some nice longer downs, an acronym I needed every cross to get, and a write-over where I had slapped SEA Star down, even though I think it fits the definition. The general fill and the clues were up to snuff too.

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