Texas city on the Mexican border / THU 1-9-20 / Spicy Indian fritters / Down goes Frazier caller / Spanish boy's name related to sixth month of year / Capital of US for 54 days in 1784 / French port on Mediterranean

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Constructor: Alex Eaton-Salners

Relative difficulty: Challenging? (not sure, solved it on clipboard)

THEME: Black tea ("T") — black squares that form "T"s in the grid must be treated like letters that are part of adjacent answers ... so answers will seem like they're missing the letter "T" but that "T" (or those "T"s) are supplied by the black-square "T" formations in the grid. Thus, 3D = HOO(T), 4D = EDI(T), 24A = (T)RIPLE(T), etc.

Word of the Day: SOCORRO (38D: Texas city on the Mexican border) —
Socorro is a city in El Paso CountyTexas, United States. It is located on the north bank of the Rio Grande southeast of El Paso, and on the border of Mexico. El Paso adjoins it on the west and the smaller city of San Elizario on the southeast; small unincorporated areas of El Paso County separate it from the nearby municipalities of Horizon City to the north and Clintto the east. As of the 2000 census, the city population was 27,152. By the 2010 census, the number had grown to 32,013. As of July 1, 2018, the population estimate for the city from the U.S. Census was 34,533. It is part of the El Paso Metropolitan Statistical Area. The city is El Paso County's second-largest municipality, after El Paso. It has a council-manager type of government with five city council members. Socorro is the 93rd largest community in the state of Texas. (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):

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

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!
• • •

What a dismal version of the black-squares-are-letters-type theme. Why "T"s, why four of them, why? Further, why soooo much absurd trivia. TOULON? SOCORRO!?!?! RUPIAHS? BHAJIS? (actually, I'm not mad at BHAJIS, I want to try one; it's just that I've eaten at Indian restaurants many times in my life and this is the first I'm hearing of these) (13D: Spicy Indian fritters). Yes, *yes*, "isn't it great to learn new things?" of course it is, but it is decidedly not great for a puzzle to rely so heavily on minor cities and foreign currency in order to make the grid come out. It's a Drag (not a TOKE drag, a bummer drag). This is just such self-indulgent stuntery—purposeless show-offiness. "Watch me do this w/ some "T"s!" "But why?" "Who cares!?" "But ... once they get the gimmick, won't it just be a slog? There won't be anything left to discover" "(T)RUE DA(T)!" (ugh, that phrase already feels gentrified and dated). Here, this (t)wee(t) puts it better than I ever could:

So many names. So Many. Christopher MARLOWE and Jimmy DURANTE and ALROKER and SOCORRO and TOULON and RUSHDIE and TIRANE and that's just in the lower third of the grid. Rivial! Oh, I don't think RUPIAHS is pluralized with an "S." And ... the convention of spelling Tirana with an "E" at the end is ... so tired. So sad. So variantish. I've been solving long enough to leave that last letter blank until I checked the cross, but yeesh. It is (or should be) Tirana or nothing at all. SOCORRO has like nine people in it and if you google it, it's actually a New Mexican city that comes up first. Bad on its own, superbad next to (T)OULON (also not major). You want to throw some trivia in your grid, a small place name here, a currency there, OK, but when you turn the grid into a trivia dump, blargh.

If the "T"s had had any purpose, any logic to them ... if the fill had been less laden with SOCORRO-like proper nouns ... then maybe a theme like this could've been enjoyable. I certainly enjoyed that brief "aha" moment when I first figured out the gimmick (which weirdly happened at (T)ROU(T), after I got RUSHDIE, which was a gimme). But once I got the "T" thing, yes, the puzzle got a bit easier, but so what? It continued to wallow in dreck and had no remaining joy. Also, there are so many damn "T"s in this grid because of the black-square gimmick that I don't think there should be any others in the grid. That would've been impressive. Of course, it probably would've made the fill that much more torturous, too, so ... just forget I said anything. Go ahead, TRENTON, strut your superfluous "T"s!
    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

    [Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


    WeesaSuzi 5:23 AM  

    Seeing ROU twice in the grid made me certain I had an error somewhere. I realize TROUT and TROU are different words, but it still took me a little extra time to feel sure of the answer. Not my favorite puzzle this week.

    puzzlehoarder 6:29 AM  

    I saw the Ts when I printed out the puzzle and of course immediately forgot them when I started solving.

    The NE was where I got the theme. The clarity of entries like COSELL and COPILOT and the obscurity of the short one made think I was dealing with a rebus. TANGO convinced me of it so I found other T rebuses then I looked back at Tango and the lightbulb went off.

    The bonus with this puzzle was the resistance it offered even after the theme was solved. It was kind of a Thursday/Saturday hybrid. If they hadn't clued JUNOT with that obvious "sixth month" clue I could easily ended up with a single letter dnf.

    This was one of your better Thursday's.

    Lewis 6:37 AM  

    What I really liked about this tee-time puzzle was just what @rex didn't -- the relatively high number of answers we rarely see in puzzles. It heightened the puzzle's interest by taking me out of the familiar and giving me the fresh feeling I get exploring new territory or visiting a foreign country for the first time.

    I think the theme's best asset, better than its Thursday novelty, was that the unusual grid design made Alex climb out of the ordinary word-set and into the atypical. Fair crosses made the solve do-able, and left me feeling like a conquerer of the unknown -- a great feeling. Thank you, Alex!

    Anonymous 6:39 AM  

    If they're going to use (t)rou(t) and (t)rou in the same line, start with rou(t)!

    But seriously, didn't we just have a puzzle with black T's as part of the theme?

    David Sinclair 6:55 AM  

    Is 51 down really a thing?

    JJ 7:02 AM  

    I went way over the average solve time on this one.
    Once I got the gimmick, I was thinking COPILOT must be wrong because it has a T in it. I wasted a lot of time trying to avoid “T’s” in the rest of the fill. I still enjoyed the aha moment when I figured out the conceit.

    Suzie Q 7:04 AM  

    It is unusual for me to agree with Rex but not with @ Lewis.

    It was fun for the short time it took to figure out the trick.
    I am expecting the comments to be amusing though.

    I hope @ Nancy got her new computer figured out. I had a similar bout of anxiety when I changed machines too.

    Chaspark 7:06 AM  

    Is it kosher to have ROU twice?

    Samodelka 7:08 AM  

    Isn’t the capital of Albania TIRANA? Is TIRANE an alternate spelling? Google doesn’t think so.

    OffTheGrid 7:12 AM  

    @Rex was too kind in his review of this mess.

    kitshef 7:20 AM  

    NW was a beast, with JUNOT being the WoE of the day.

    Agree TIRANE should be banned from crosswords. In English, it is TIRANa everywhere except in the Times puzzle.

    Constraints of the theme led to some ugsome fill, but somehow I enjoyed it anyway. MIASMA is an excellent word.

    mathgent 7:24 AM  

    I enjoyed it. It was fun finding the gimmick as I finally noticed all the Ts in the grid. Fun clue for COSELL. Also liked ONEREEL, PICANTE, TRENTON, TOPTHAT, MIASMA, SOCORRO, TROWEL, DRAPERY, COPILOT, ARMENIA.

    I scan Rex, looking for information, skipping his hates. I never watch his videos. But I send a little money to encourage him to continue providing the forum. This year, $50.

    I don’t like the format for the Jeopardy GOAT tournament. I would prefer using half-hour games. But it does make the betting on the first Final Jeopardy “answer” intriguing. I’m rooting for James. He and Jennings have equal knowledge and buzzer skill so it comes down to who gets the most daily doubles.

    Robert A. Simon 7:24 AM  

    I think I liked this puzzle only because I got the gimmick pretty early on. Otherwise, I agree with Rex. Too many spicy Armenian capital fritters.

    Anonymous 7:31 AM  

    I am surprised there is no comment about the ROU repeat - sequentially, no less.

    Anonymous 7:38 AM  

    What the heck is “I’d est” as a “clarifying phrase”? That along with Tirana misspelled and the Socorro nonsense threw me off.

    Hungry Mother 7:38 AM  

    Lots of fun working with all of the Ts, but a bit slower than normal. Jimmy DURANTE was even a little before my time. As I said, I really enjoyed the challenge.

    Nolaist 7:40 AM  

    Just curious but I know the capital of Albania to be TIRANA not TIRANE? Am I wrong?
    I got the E from ENDEAR but even when I google Tirane Albania it asks if I meant Tirana.

    amyyanni 7:45 AM  

    Spotted the theme early on, old enough to get RUSHDIE & DURANTE easily, just not my cuppa.

    Anonymous 7:48 AM  

    TIRANE has certainly got to be a typo.

    SolverMan 7:52 AM  

    This puzzle sucked. Would love to say something more sophisticated than that, but it wouldn't quite get to the essence of it as much as the preceding statement.

    C Morgan 7:57 AM  

    Anon: “I’d est” is “Id est,” Latin for “that is.”

    Anonymous 7:58 AM  

    Does anyone actually say “pre rigs”?

    Also, Lent being a twice a year thing? Some people fast but I didn’t know it was actually considered Lent.

    Unknown 8:00 AM  

    I hit "REVEAL WORD" repeatedly because this puzzle just pi$$ed me off from the get-go. And every time I hit it, I said, "you have got to be kidding."

    Alex M 8:00 AM  

    I got BHAJIS right away, though had to wait to pen it in, for spelling variants (seriously Rex, you should try them! Often the term is used interchangeably with pakoras, but they are different - bhajia are basically Indian onion rings in patty form, yum). Really enjoyed the theme, satisfying aha moment for me. Not surprised Rex wanted no other Ts in the grid. Would've been nice to see TOULON clued in reference to Les Miserables for me personally haha. Agree that there were a lot of tricky proper nouns, but I still liked this one a lot.

    Chris 8:16 AM  

    Id est, usually abbreviated i.e. (Latin "that is")

    Twangster 8:17 AM  

    This still stands as the greatest tribute to the letter T:


    Chris 8:18 AM  

    It's not, it straddles the two seasons.

    mmorgan 8:21 AM  

    I got the T thing early but I found this enjoyable and just challenging enough. Any puzzle with Jimmy DURANTE and LOONEY TUNES in it is fine in my book, and I learned something new about ARMENIA. I really wanted that plus sign in the middle to also be part of it, e.g., as the letters AND, but it was not to be.

    Nolaist 8:23 AM  


    Jason 8:24 AM  

    I was already mad at this travesty of a puzzle, and then SUDSES rears its ugly head......Just now, my laptop put a red underline under SUDSES, because even it doesn't recognize it as a word.

    Mel Allen 8:33 AM  

    Article in today’s NY Post rates “Down goes Frazier” as third greatest sports call ever. Behind Al Michaels’ “Do you believe in miracles?” and Russ Hodges’ “The Giants win the pennant!”

    Anonymous 8:36 AM  

    @David S 6:55 - I see the TEA URN sitting next to the coffee urn at the buffet, or next to the fountain drink dispensers at the fast food restaurant.

    GILL I. 8:42 AM  

    Please, God...don't let it be SUDSES. It was.
    Please, God....who names their child JUNOT?

    Whatsername 8:46 AM  

    I looked at the grid, then scanned the clues for a revealer and finding none, knew something was up. Still, it was torturously slow going and took me way too long to figure out what was going on, during which time I did a lot of frowning and muttering a phrase known in the NATO alphabet as whiskey TANGO foxtrot. Once I finally saw what was so clearly laid out before me, had an exhilarating aha moment and then the T answers fell into place pretty quickly. While I had a tough time with the rest, it was a good workout. As someone else said, a Thursday theme with Saturday fill.

    Rex obviously hated it, but so did I until I didn’t. Why T’s? Why four of them? Why not? Yes there were quite a few proper names and a bit of obscurity, but “self-indulgent stuntery and purposeless show-offiness?” I didn’t think so at all. Just a good solid Thursday with a nice twist that made me work for the new and unfamiliar, like BHAJIS. Luckily for me, my rusting old brain is a little sharper now for the effort. Nice job Alex. It was a fun challenge.

    SouthsideJohnny 9:06 AM  

    Rex is spot on with his critique today. This thing is an absolute failure on oh so many different levels. Begin with the made up words - today we have two of them (IRANE and SUDSES) in the same section no less. That in and of itself should be grounds for disciplinary action against the editors. One thing that should be forbidden in a crossword puzzle is bastardizing the language (it’s a WORD puzzle for heaven’s sake).

    Another thing that should be banned is conjugating Latin verbs - today we have ERAT which should have been clued as “today’s token foreign word that nobody knows or cares about”.

    Today’s Dark Matter entry is SOCORRO - adds nothing to the puzzle, not identifiable from the clue, and only solvable when the crosses come to the rescue.

    It’s sad really. With hundreds of submissions, this is the best they can do ? Not a theme today, just a gimmick run amok which overwhelmed the grid and led to the inclusion of items such as TOULON, RUPIAHS and BHAJIS.

    Bad judgement by Shortz to even publish the puzzle yesterday, and the rebound effort today is a miserable failure as well. Time for a change of the guard at the NYT Xword editor’s desk.

    Suzy 9:11 AM  

    @mathagent— Have you noticed that when Ken J pushes his signaling button he always raises his forearm, thus
    adding a half second to his response time? He usually knows the answer, but loses to James with that little time wasting move.

    Took me a long time to see the T gimmick— must have been tough to plot, was certainly tough to solve!

    TJS 9:15 AM  

    Okay,it was hard, which I like. And it took me a long time to get atarted after cosell. All the way down to "inot" before I got a clue. Finished it, but felt the constructor was definitely feeling the pressure by the time he got to the "teaurn...hoisters...sudses" corner. If I had quit this thing 5 minutes in and then found out what was going on, it would not have bothered me.

    TJS 9:18 AM  

    Oh. And I live in the D.R. 6 months of every year and have never met or heard of a "Junot".

    QuasiMojo 9:20 AM  

    I never thought I'd say Thank God for Howard COSELL but today he was a godsend, my co-pilot. Without him I'd never have gotten a foothold into this teasing brain Twister. Thinking SOFIA was the capital of Albania didn't help my solve time either. Knowing Trenton once was the US capital helped a lot though although I tried YORK, PA first. Oh and I was dead sure OCTUPLET would be correct so I started rebussing the hell out of the puzzle expecting a bunch of State abbreviations. If only I'd looked at the grid and seen the giant T's.

    Took me 48 minutes to finish sans cheating, pat on shoulder, which felt like 48 Hours. But I'm no worse for wear. I enjoyed the experience. I'm a glutton for punishment.

    Oh and thanks for the ear worm, Alex, of Rosemary Clooney singing "When you buy CORONET."

    Anonymous 9:29 AM  

    I think it's pretty arrogant for an English-speaker to tell a foreign country how to spell it's capital city. In my atlas it's "Tiranë".

    Blue Stater 9:30 AM  

    In the good (i.e., pre-WS) days, the Sunday NYT had a "Puns and Anagrams" puzzle for aficionados of this sort of thing, enabling those of us who are *not* aficionados of this sort of thing to avoid it/them. This was just a hot mess, full of mistakes (as is too often the case), uninteresting, blarg. There's gotta be a better way, and I hope the NYT finds it soon. OTOH they haven't, for the last quarter-century.

    Blue Stater 9:33 AM  

    Let's make that "good old days." Comment section wouldn't let me correct it.

    Pablo 9:34 AM  

    This was one of the hardest puzzles I've seen in the NYT (for me anyway as a relative beginner). I've been doing the puzzle off and on since August. I've never seen a "black squares are letters" theme, and frankly I'd never thought of it. It was entirely out of my perception of what the "rules" could be. Then, it felt almost hopeless as the only solid entries were trivia. Not just trivia, but dated trivia and obscurity.

    I'll admit I came into this with the wrong mindset. This constructor and I seem to live our lives by two entirely different dictionaries, and when I see his name I immediately think, "this will be an exercise in trying to understand dated vaguery." I never get his trivia. I struggle to get a hold on his wordplay, his gimme answers, or his themes, even if he makes a Tuesday. Usually everything that isn't theme material is obscure trivia that makes his theme work, and the tweet Rex posted summarizes my thoughts on his puzzles perfectly. I'd go as far as to say he's the number one inspiration for why I started coming on here to moan about the dated nature of the puzzle. That mindset hampered me greatly in attempting this.

    Today I'm not going to criticize him. I'm just going to admit that he absolutely stumped me. My one jab at him will be that his instructor's notes this week confirm what I always thought of him, which is that he's a wordplay fiend who enjoys thinking of strange ways to mess with the puzzle without necessarily thinking of the solving experience. However, I can also admit that maybe I'd find his puzzles more fun if I were better at his trivia and more patient. For the record, today was solvable. I just didn't have the confidence to believe it was solvable by me given the constructor and my preformed bias.

    Getting into it, here's why it was such a rough outing for me.

    PCHELP wasn't going in without a solid cross or two. The only chance I had without the T gimmick is PRELUDE and CORONET. Not an opera fan, so PRELUDE without at least one cross wasn't going in. I was almost there with CORONA, but I abandoned that whole route eventually. Had never heard of a CORONET until today. PRERIGS really is jargon. I eat plenty of indian food but never heard of BAHJIS (maybe I need to broaden my horizons). On that side all I could muster was HEROINE.

    On the other side COSELL is too old for me. I got PICANTE, LENIENT, and LETMEGO. LESSON is an example of where the constructor and I just don't mesh. Every textbook I've come across is organized into sections and chapters. LESSONs are part of the class. Gettable, but annoyingly off.

    This could go on for a while, but my list of "would never, ever get this" clues was so long today. Aside from the maybe 4 clues I've talked about so far that were entirely ungettable for me, there was also


    Then within the themes there was


    Then clues that, given the clue, still make little sense to me or seem like a stretch


    This was the first puzzle I was simply destroyed by since I first accidentally sat down in front of a Thursday as my first ever puzzle about 5 months ago. Not a pleasant way to start your day, but I won't forget this type of theme. That's for sure.

    Ted 9:36 AM  

    A little SATURDAY on my Thursday.


    Anonymous 9:44 AM  

    your youtube today should have been the TOPTHAT rap from Teen Witch

    Ellen S 9:47 AM  

    @JeffChen didn’t make this his POW because “One of the NYT's production people, one of the best solvers in the world, didn't get what was going on. If she couldn't grok the concept, how many others would be left sending angry emails (not to me, no not to me, please!)”. I found that interesting because I am definitely not one of the best solver’s in the world, maybe one of the worst, and it took me about half the puzzle to figure out the gimmick, but I did it. It took me hours of not being able to fill in anything to realize that some words were missing the initial and/or last T but for some reason I was able to drop in TRENTON without having to look it up or anything. I was really surprised when Knapp turned out to be correct. How did I know that? But even more than wondering how it was I actually knew something, I wondered why some words were missing the initial T and other words got to keep them.

    I really wanted 1A to be NOHELP.

    Gerry Kelly 9:48 AM  

    For the first time in many years I quit mid puzzle!!! Really hated it!

    Randy (Boulder) 9:51 AM  

    Wow, ha was quite a irade, Rex.

    I hough his puzzle was awesome, hough.

    Agree ha SOCORRO could have been clued as he NM one. Hat's where he VLA is, so a leas astronomers would know i.

    Anonymous 9:53 AM  

    @Lewis 6:37 - Soccorro AND (T)oulon crossing Marlowe AND AlRoker are considered "fair crossings"? I guess that makes me an ignoramus

    Pacific Overtures 9:55 AM  

    While many of you point out the problem with TIRANE, there is another blatant MISREAD today. An opera's themes ARE (not "may be") established in the OVERTURE. It's not called a PRELUDE. There is no such thing as a "prelude" in opera. There may be times when there is a small "prelude" to an aria or recit...but it's not official, you could easily call it a transition, but it is in no way some kind of theme establishing construct. Operas are often known by their overtures. I'm not even sure ballets have preludes. Ugh.

    Having AND next to the very large black plus sign made me think that there were two things going on with this puzzle. I was kinda disappointed there wasn't.

    This puzzle wasn't impossible, but it did take a longer time to finish than normal Thursdays. I blame the plethora of foreigny cities, names, and capital. Toulon, I've heard of...but it was nowhere near top of mind. Knowing it only helped confirm it was right. Socorro, Tirane (I didn't even know it was spelled funny), Rupiahs, Junot (?...it looks French to me), etc., all conspired to make this puzzle last a long time.

    ROU ROU (See also: STOU) is not good either. TRUEDAT is what old white people say to try to sound cool, everyone else uses it ironically now. (See also also: people who use the @ sign in these comments sections to identify other commenters. That's a FB thing, and it actually tags the other person. Here it's just a random @ sign)

    MIASMA sums up the puzzle nicely.

    Aaron Riccio 10:00 AM  

    @Gill - Let's not criticize the puzzle because /you/ don't know any Junots.

    I recommend looking up Pulitzer Prize-winning Junot Díaz.

    As for the puzzle, hard meh for me, and I'm entirely over intentionally vague clues like "Letter in the last thrid of the NATO alphabet" that can only be solved once you have at least one crosser.

    chuck w 10:03 AM  

    In my unabridged Random House Dictionary, the capital of Albania is listed as Tiranë, spelled with an e with an umlaut over it. It does not give the spelling Tirana at all.

    JC66 10:06 AM  

    I solved this puppy last night, after a two martini dinner. It took me twice my normal Thursday time, which I chalked up to the alcohol until reading @Rex and the comments of others (a Saturday with a Thursday twist). I had fun figuring out the trick and the stuff I didn't know.

    Is @SouthsideJohnny auditioning to be @Rex's replacement? Just asking.

    Anonymous 10:14 AM  

    I just looked up "Junot" on Behind the Name to see how popular it was. They don't have that name listed at all (and they do have many foreign names).

    Arden 10:17 AM  

    I liked it. Got the gimmick on Junot and after that, mostly smooth sailing. Although the sail/sailor/rupiah thing stumped me for a while.

    Anonymous 10:18 AM  

    Mr. Eaton-Salners,

    Congrats. This was a superb puzzle. Quite a feat. Be proud.

    pmdm 10:28 AM  

    Mr. Sharp frequently enough complains when {in my opinion} unneeded and unnecessary logic is missing. Why do you climb Mt. Everest? Because it's there challenging you. Why do you construct puzzles like these? Because it's a challenge.

    On the other hand, the fill was a bit problematic. But (it seemed to me) not more than usual. Maybe even less than usual.

    For whatever reason, I understood the gimmick immediately . I think 20D and 28A spilled the beans. No AHA moment, just a solve knowing many of the first and/or last letters or the entries. If you missed the gimmick, boy it must have been a hard puzzle. I wonder if ost of those who complain about the puzzle had problems with the gimmick. Don't know. Fpr me. I though it was an excellent Thursday puzzle. To those who think it shouldn't have been published, I would wonder if expanding horizons would help. In a puzzle-solving sort of way. I don't mean to insult. Puzzle solving can be very frustrating and enraging when you miss the gimmick.

    Hope those in the NE enjoy the warmer weather for a few days, even if it does rain.

    David 10:30 AM  

    Indeed, operas have "overtures" and not "preludes." Have you never watched Looney Tunes Alex?

    I opened the app and saw the giant Ts. Cosell went right in, then on it, sect, and erat.
    QED, SSJohnny

    Said to self, "Please let it just be the downs directly above the crossbars." But no. Lenient and let me go were simple, and then my joy was not sparked by seeing there would be Ts all around the Ts.

    Interesting conceit, but I found little to like outside of miasma.

    Bit of history, I do believe Howard Cosell was the first sportscaster to respect Muhammad Ali's new name and conversion to Islam.

    Icarusfob 10:36 AM  

    This was in a puzzle several months ago, too, and I say it's a foul. TIRANE is the Albanian spelling of their capital city, TIRANA is the English spelling. OK, then, it'd be fair game in a puzzle if the clue tipped you off that it was in Albanian; for example, the capital of Italia, or the capitale of Italy for that matter, would be Roma, not Rome, because of the clue. But since "Albania" is the English word for the country of Shqipëri and "capital" is the English word for kryeqytet, we got nothing and it's just a sloppy clue/answer.

    Knitwit 10:45 AM  

    Totally missed the T’s so I was sunk early on. I solve with my “xword fountain pen” leaving quite a mess on the page. Came here for enlightenment!!
    Did not enjoy, but learned to be more observant!

    Frantic Sloth 10:54 AM  

    ROU ROU sis boom OW! I actually enjoyed this puzzle until that. Just so wrong.

    Newboy 10:56 AM  

    Amazed today at how many words start & end with that mischievous letter of the day. Luckily COSELL was the second clue I looked at & that coupled with the TIMS got the perfect start racing to completion. Then I spent time (oo much o coun) drafting a T-less response to post; then saw that @Randy had done so better and sooner. Love them or hate them, Xwords are a delightful way to spend/waste time as commentary above so clearly affirms. Thanks Alex for a true Thursday-worthy effort; I bet you giggled A LOT putting it together.

    oldbizmark 10:59 AM  

    DNF because of TINAR(e). That is not the capital. Couldn't figure out what was wrong and how END(a)AR could be the answer and also not make any sense. Otherwise, a lot of fun. Well done.

    jberg 11:00 AM  

    Back home after 10 days in England -- took in a panto, some great concerts, and a revival of "A Taste of Honey." No one was talking about Brexit, though there's a lot of worry -- I think they're tired of waiting.

    Anyway - I largely shared Rex's feelings about this thing -- it's a marvelous feat of constructions, and fun to figure out the first time -- but then you've got the other 35 times, and it gets to be way too easy.

    Someone already mentioned JUNOT Diaz; without him, I'd still be wondering why anyone would name a boy Juno. There was a big controversy after several Latina writers accused him of sexual harassment, which he denied, but he seems to have survived it -- he's still at MIT, still an editor at Boston Review. But more to our purposes here, that got his name into the press quite a bit, which was a big help in solving.

    OTOH, PC HELP is way too generic as an answer.

    I liked having AND at 34A just before the + sign -- but then it was followed by OMS, which spoiled the effect. Even better would have been to use both the + and the two flanking - signs. you'd get answers from which you had to subtract the first letter and then add something at the end. On second thought, maybe not.

    "Darling, what to you call the shorter of the two dashes?"

    "EN, DEAR."

    Anonymous 11:04 AM  

    SOCORRO is far better known as a city in New Mexico---this had me reject it as a Texas border city for a long while. "Site of large radio telescope array" would have pleased me (http://www.vla.nrao.edu/).

    Sir Hillary 11:10 AM  

    Nice idea. I figured out the theme early, and had a lot of fun figuring the theme answers, all of which I liked except JUNO[T]. I grant that [T]RUEDA[T] is the Dad-Bod of phrases, but I have a Dad-Bod, so I use the term sometimes. Sue me. ROU twice bothered me not at all.

    The fill however? Ugh. I like obscure trivia (especially geography) more than most, but SOCORRO, TOULON, TIRANE and ARMENIA (as clued) were too much. Other fill was just plain lousy -- hello HOISTER, ONEREEL, BHAJIS, PRERIGS and SUDSES.

    I did enjoy AND clued as "Plus" right next to the plus sign. And COSELL was the best boxing announcer ever, period.

    JC66 11:12 AM  

    Oh, and I hope @Nancy gets all the 1A she needs.

    TJS 11:14 AM  

    @David, you are correct re. Cosell. And that was a big reason he was able to survive his "Look at that little monkey run !" comment later on Monday Night Football. Not a racist bone in his body, just a gigantic ego.

    Anonymous 11:16 AM  

    Why, oh why did he ignore the two "I"s just sitting there in the puzzle? It's ok to treat the black Ts as real Ts, but not the "I"s? Had as he had treated the two vertical black bars as "I"s as he did the Ts, then I would have been impressed. Not because it would make for a good puzzle, but because he would have snuck in to big TITs into the puzzle. As it is, not so much.

    As it is, I saw the Ts immediately upon opening the puzzle, then forgot them. Was totally flummoxed until I entered 8D, 9D, 10D as a rebus, saw the 3 Ts in a row, and got it. The rest of the puzzle was then Monday easy, with lots and lots of dreck.

    Totally Flummoxed -> AHA -> Easy w/ Lotsa Dreck isn't how I like my puzzles.

    Amelia 11:20 AM  

    Like a couple of you, I saw the giant T's. The first gimme was COSELL. Then SECt, then off to the very, very, slow races. Took one clue to get the trick, then an annoying amount of time to fill it in. Also, I kept trying to do it for ALL the black spaces, T or not.

    I wasn't offended by Tirane, but it did slow me down further I figured it was an alternate spelling. To the Times' credit, they usually don't make those mistakes.

    Wow, this is one boring post.

    jae 11:26 AM  

    Tough, even after I grokked what was going on.

    Good thing I spent a little time in TOULON in the summer of ‘67 even though I never left the ship (I was saving money to go back to school in the fall).

    Did not know JUNOT was a boys name.

    No idea on RUPIAHS.

    Good Thurs. workout, liked it more than Rex did.

    Alex’s comments at Xwordinfo are a HOOT.

    John Hoffman 11:33 AM  

    I was getting nowhere with this puzzle. So I went to Rex’s review to see the gimmick. Then had a good solve. I never would have seen the missing T’s.

    kfja 11:40 AM  

    Dominican-American author won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize.

    What? 11:41 AM  

    Gimmick not too bad - when you know the answer but it won’t fit, look for a rebus. But the fill. SUDSES? Enough said.

    GILL I. 11:44 AM  

    @Aaron R 10:00:
    I have lived a huge part of my life in Spanish speaking countries. My first language is Spanish. Venezuela, Cuba, Spain, Argentina - I've travelled to just about every singe Latin American country and spend over 30 years of my life working for a Mexican company and I've NEVER, EVER, ONCE heard anybody called JUNO.
    I'm happy Mr. Diaz's parent named him something no one else on the planet thought to do.
    So...I'll eat my ignorance along with some BHAJIS. I eat Indian all the time, and that was also a ig fat HUH. AND....DURANTE is not even funny.

    tim 11:48 AM  

    I wonder whether the constructor is a secret Napoleon geek: JUNOT was one of l'Empereur's marshalls, and TOULON the site of his first military victory.

    Philippe Junot 11:49 AM  

    I agree about overture vs prelude but perhaps the NYT staff googled prelude, as I just did, and read this on its Wikipedia page: "The prelude also may refer to an overture, particularly to those seen in an opera or an oratorio."

    GILL I. 11:57 AM  

    Make that JUNOT. My computer ate the dastard T.

    Anonymous 12:04 PM  

    Tirana and Tiranë are both correct spellings, in both Albanian and in English.

    All nouns have two spellings in Albanian, the direct and indirect forms. Albanian grammar specifies which one is used in any context. English doesn't have this concept for nouns. English nouns don't have genders either, but we don't argue whether "blond" or "blonde" is the "correct" spelling.

    Both are accepted English spellings. For instance:
    Here's one citation.

    Lest you claim that's an anomaly, search for yourself.

    Why do we see "Tirana" more often in English. Simply because it doesn't use a character not on the keyboard of most people. But it's not "the" correct spelling.

    Malsdemare 12:05 PM  

    Fiendishly hard but done, with an error. I thought ALRO... was ALROKEn and forgot to change the N to an R once I got DRAPERY. Damn! 'Cause this was the kind of puzzle that challenges me; imagining the missing letter taxes my brain in a very good way. So, because I knew it was DRAPERY and ROKER, just failed to see my mistype, I'm calling it a success. So there! Now to see how everyone else did.

    Ken 12:07 PM  

    What a mess!

    Anonymous 12:12 PM  

    Operas have overtures, not preludes.

    Walk Away Renee 12:16 PM  

    Junot Diaz, MacArthur genius grant recipient and author of the Pulitzer-winning influential novel, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, and long-time faculty member at MIT, was/is a controversial figure in the #MeToo movement. The given name is not common, it’s true.

    Carola 12:17 PM  

    What a feat of constructing! And fun to solve. Like some others here, even seeing what was afoot quite early (SECT), I still a found it an enjoyable challenge to figure the rest out. Apart from the theme, I found plenty of other grid treats, including the PICANTE BHAJIS, the cluster of Christopher MARLOWE, Jimmy DURANTE, and AL ROKER + IRONIES.

    Help from previous puzzles: TRUE DAT.
    Help from belonging to a book club: JUNOT (Diaz).
    No help from being an opera fan: PRELUDE. Man, I wanted to squeeze “overture” in there, especially when I just had the U and final E.

    Marc Kwiatkowski 12:21 PM  

    My initial thoughts for 58A (Comedian Jimmy) were Fallon, Kimmel, and the English guy whose name I can't remember - Carr. My mother, now 80, was a big Jimmy DURANTE, which was a) a little weird since he was well before her time and b) the only reason I know him - as a pianist and singer who interspersed his music with comedy. That is to say, awful, awful clueing. It'd be like clueing Jack Sheldon, Dave Frishberg or Frank Zappa as comedians.

    Joe Bleaux 12:24 PM  

    Any other pen-and-paper solvers catch themselves writing a “t” in/on a big black T to complete an answer? Made me feel a little goofy.

    pabloinnh 12:31 PM  

    Best part of reading the comments today is the number of people complaining about SOCORRO, which is the Spanish word for HELP!

    I looked at the grid and saw lots of T's and promptly forgot all about them when I was solving. Eventually caught on and had lots of fun after that.

    Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel. Poor Jimmy DURANTE. How soon we forget. How'd you get here Jimmy? I just followed my nose, and that took me halfway.

    And spelling TIRANE with an E? Oh, the humanity.

    Lots of trivia I forgot I knew but remembered so this one was jake with me. Thanks,A-ES. Thought it was a Thursdazo with a capital T.

    Danny Y and Rachel 12:32 PM  

    Our wors(t) (T)hursday (t)ime in over a year. Decisively no(t) a (T)hursday puzzle. We were so no(t) on i(t)s waveleng(t)h. Even after I spo(t)(t)ed the T (t)hing (my wife: "I NEVER would have go(t)(t)en (t)ha(t)), i(t) didn'(t) become a fun puzzle. Pre(t)(t)y much ha(t)ed every minu(t)e of i(t). And I missed (t)oday's Chris(t)mas (t)ree pickup service so...Happy (T)hursday!

    Z 12:34 PM  

    Rex already said what I would say about so much trivia. To be fair, this logs in at a perfectly okay 20 of 72 (28%) PPP, which is not usually problematic. But, lordy, these are pretty long and esoteric so it feels more like 40% here. RUSHDIE would have been a gimme with a Satanic Verses clue, Midnight’s Children not so much. COSELL was easy here, but Ali-Frazier was 40+ years ago. Jimmy DURANTE is definitely someone my late mother knew. And SOCORRO is just a giant middle finger at all of us. I really liked the Aha moment, but that’s 2 seconds of joy amidst 40 minutes of “what the hell‽”

    jb129 12:47 PM  

    Got the theme but hated the puzzle - but I always dislike this constructor's puzzles :(

    Darryl 12:48 PM  

    @Anon 12:04 - I don't know that no one argues about blond vs blonde, as a sizeable portion seems to not know that blond is the color, blonde is the person. There is one correct way to use each, and I argue about it. Right here, right now.

    Masked and Anonymous 12:58 PM  

    INO ROU ROU! staff weeject row pick.

    fave fillins: UGBOA. EAROU. EAURN.

    The theme mcguffin cost m&e only a few precious nanoseconds, thanx to COSELL, my first entry. Then 9-Down's {Religious group} about had to be SEC(T), usin one of them big-ass T's. On a ThursPuz-level solvequest, that seemed like the near-obvious thing to try. Only issue left theme-wise of concern was whether that central big-ass plus sign was gonna get into the theme action someways … but it didn't.

    Actually, that big T deal kinda made the solvequest a bit easier, knowin some of the answer letters before even havin to consult their clues. Did take some gettin used to, I'd grant. In any case, JUNOT/BHAJIS was plumb impossible, at our house. This looks like a tough puz to construct … so we can be comforted, knowin that the constructioneer also suffered a tad.

    Thanx, Mr. Ea(T)on-Salners.

    Masked & Anonym007Us


    Pete s 1:02 PM  

    I’m making rigatoni for a party on Sunday, so on Saturday I’m making prerigs

    xyz 1:06 PM  

    Jeopardy's Bad NYT Puzzle Week continues!

    This was just over over over over done. If it were a T-Bone, it's be ash.

    Anonymous 1:12 PM  

    I did not like this. I have discovered that I'm not a fan of themes that leave the grid filled with random nonsense like UGBOA and ROU and so on.

    Mo Pariser 1:15 PM  

    Quite possible the single worst NYT puzzle I've ever attempted to solve (with the exception of one puzzle dating 10/16/19), for all the reasons previously mentioned. AND the first sub-par puzzle in an otherwise bright beginning to 2020 by an otherwise excellent puzzlemaker AES.

    Teedmn 1:21 PM  

    When solving a trick puzzle, PPP can be your friend. It's what you know is a firm fact as opposed to vague clues which don't point to any one word. Howard COSELL was a gimme today, as was MARLOWE. Unfortunately, the PPP that would have actually helped uncover the trick was all non-wheelhouse for me.

    Like @puzzlehoarder, I noticed the T's in the grid as I was printing it out. Unfortunately, by the time I was ready to solve the puzzle 5 hours later, I had forgotten that observation and went into the solve clueless.

    That all said, (sounds like I'm whining, doesn't it?!), I enjoyed getting the aha moment (at [T]ROWEL, of all things, since MARLOWE was in place) and then enjoyed filling in the rest. I think this was fun and I found AES' remarks over at Xwordinfo tedious yet terrific!

    Thanks, Alex, nice work!

    Nancy 1:38 PM  

    Much too much of one thing and not the sort of puzzle you want to do when you're feeling as bloody awful as I felt this morning when I first looked at it. All I was able to get down for breakfast this morning was a cup of tea. Then I looked at the puzzle and almost burst into tears. I knew that practically every answer had extra letters and it all seemed like too much work.

    I want back to sleep. I picked it up when I woke up at 12:30 EST and looked at it again and I saw the Ts in the grid. Aha, I thought listlessly, Ts. Maybe I can do it after all. All the answers that I had initially wanted that didn't fit now made sense. I did it, quite joylessly. Too much of a good thing. Or maybe not such a good thing.

    Going to take my temperature now. But I think that it's just that I ate really stupidly last night.

    Anonymous 1:41 PM  

    @SouthsideJohnny: Re the "made up" words: (T)IRANE is the name of the Albanian city with the T implied, and Scrabble says that SUDSES is a legitimate word worth 7 points. BTW, are you ghost writing for Rex Parker now?

    fifirouge 1:52 PM  

    This puzzle was a complete mess for me. I didn't know most of the trivia, so had maybe 8 random answers scattered around the grid with little confidence in any of them except "tim" for 21a, which was of course wrong because Cook *and* Curry means the answer has to be plural. I was also pretty confident in Jimmy Kimmel(l) for 58a.

    So this ended up being a learn-through-google puzzle. Even then it was incomprehensible until I had ARMENIA and TIRAN(a), and corrected 58a to DURANTE when I finally figured out the gimmick. Then it all dropped quickly.

    My brain can't parse PCHELP for anything. It looks like a creative alternate spelling of schlep.

    Whatsername 1:59 PM  

    @Pacific Overtures at 9:55 - I just wanted to say that for me the @ symbol does serve a purpose. It’s not unusual for people to refer to a comment from another blogger and that little symbol makes it easier to refer back to it. Or if I have engaged another poster in conversation, seeing the @ next to my name alerts me to the response more quickly. It’s just a way to differentiate a conversational comment from a generalized one. As for being a Facebook thing, I’ve noticed that is not the case anymore. Just typing the first few letters of the person’s name brings it up without the symbol.

    Nancy 2:01 PM  

    Dear God, I've got a fever of almost 102! Guess I should call my doctor?

    Don't think I'll be asking my handyman to set up my new laptop this weekend.

    Anonymous 2:43 PM  

    How does @ help you refer back to a particular comment?
    I missed Pacific Overture's post, but found it quickly and he didn't have an @symbol prefacing his name.
    How does @ speed things up?
    Is my post conversational, I am addressing you? Or is general because I lack @ before my name?


    tb 3:01 PM  

    I guess no one who is complaining about operas not having preludes are not Wagner fans.

    Prelude to Tristan and Isolde, anyone? Prelude to Lohengrin?

    MexGirl 3:32 PM  

    It’s an OVERTURE not a Prelude.
    Except for JUNOT Diaz, no one ever in the Spanish speaking world is named Junot.
    SOCORRO means HELP! in Spanish. It’s also a common woman’s name.

    GILL I. 3:36 PM  

    @Nancy...I got the Asian flu once. This was before you could get the flu shots. My highest temperature was 101 and I thought I'd die. I took to bed and my husband prepared my dad's go to remedy of a cup of hot tea, some honey and a big dollop of scotch. I also took some Advil. I stayed in bed for three days and came back raring to go.
    Crossing my fingers for a speedy recovery - and don't forget the scotch.....

    Whatsername 3:38 PM  

    @Nancy. A fever of 102? Yes by all means seek medical attention!

    Anonymous at 2:43 - I didn’t mean an @ next to your screen name where it appears at the heading of your blog entry. I mean that using the symbol within the comment verbiage of any post flags it as another blogger’s name, as opposed to just a word. For example, I might make a general reference to an “anonymous” post. But if I was addressing you specifically I would preface the word anonymous with the @symbol to indicate such, thereby flagging it so you will notice it when you peruse the comments. In the case of your comment at 2:43 PM, the symbol would go before MY name, not yours.

    Ruben 3:40 PM  

    I found this so incredibly obtuse and difficult. I had to come here first and only realized the T thing when I read it here. So often I just see the black squares as pointless negative space.

    Had this actually been titled Black Tea I would have been so much happier and enjoyed this, instead of thinking it was a slog.

    Thanks for the help, Rex. Wouldn’t have solved this without you!

    QuasiMojo 3:45 PM  

    Take care @Nancy, a couple of aspirin (with food) should take care of the fever. I find Tylenol useless. I was sick all of last week but good as new today. I hope you feel better soon!

    JC66 3:53 PM  


    My high school Latin teacher suggested this cure.

    1. Light a candle and place it at the foot of your bed.

    2. Get into bed with a bottle of liquor; scotch preferable...hi @GILL I.

    3. Drink until you see three candles.

    You should fall asleep quickly and wake up feeling fine.

    Seriously, I hope you get well soon.

    Tita 4:21 PM  

    SUDSES is the only word that truly irked me. But not for long, because it reminds me of the SUDS & Duds Laundromat on the south side of town here, and of Sac-O-SUDS from My Cousin Vinny.

    I'm with @Lewis on my love of this puzzle. What a great aha moment.
    (Which took me forever to get to - really beat me up...)
    But I loved it. And liked learning about Armenia, though I'm avoiding thinking about state religions and organized religions in general.

    @jberg - love your ENDEAR clue!

    I wanted it to be TOULON. I've been there. Got wonderful spices at the market there.
    Actually, it was down there that I started trying to force rebi into lots of the squares before that aha hit.

    Thanks Alex!

    gilly 4:45 PM  

    Hree hings can make a puzzle ricky: vague clues, a difficul gimmick, and obscure answers.

    I enjoy a challenge, so when I figured ou wha h was aiming a hrough employing he ees, I hough i was a nice ouch.

    Bu by he end, employing he riad of all hree challenges in one puzzle was jus a bi oo much: wo of he hree would've been more han sufficien for a ough hursday es.

    RooMonster 4:55 PM  

    Hey All !
    IMS HOO RIPLE and UGBOA OPTHA on this puz.

    ROU ROU.


    Danielle 5:24 PM  

    Agreed! I have friends from Albania so answered this one confidently and ultimate realized upon staring at endaar at the across over and over that the puzzle gods were just bent on me spelling things wrong so their puzzle makes sense.

    Nancy 5:34 PM  

    Thanks for your good wishes, everyone.

    On the one hand I feel like hell warmed over. On the other hand, I'm really glad its a stomach flu and not a respiratory one.

    Scotch is not calling to me -- not with stomach pains and nausea and a feverish-y feeling. So far I've had one cup of tea at around 8 a.m. and I have no appetite at all. Maybe I'll lose some weight. There's an upside to everything, right?

    My new laptop arrived and it will sit in a closet for at least a week. I'm not up to dealing with it.

    Unknown 5:42 PM  

    If we must follow local spelling for TIRANE, the next time BRUSSELS should be banned and spelled BRUSSEL (in Flemish) or BRUXELLES (in French) and pleas nor BRUGES but BRUGGE, not OSTEND but OOSTENDE, not THE HAGUE but DEN HAAG, etc.

    Linda R 6:15 PM  

    @Nancy - Might be good to try to keep drinking tea or water or maybe ginger ale, so you don't get dehydrated. Hope you feel better quickly.

    burtonkd 6:20 PM  

    While some operas open with a PRELUDE (those in Wagner's Ring, for example(yes, I know they are technically music dramas)), the type of piece that introduces all the musical material is an OVERTURE. With blank space abounding, I figured there was some kind of rebus, and spent forever trying to make it fit.

    I'll summon my best @Lewis impersonation and find something positive to say about the PPP today: If completely stuck, you can at least look up the monetary unit in Indonesia or a spicy Indian fritter to get you going again.

    Has anyone heard TROU without "drop" in front of it?

    All this said, I didn't hate it, even if it was the most resistant puzzle for me in a long time. Reminds me of Fridays and Saturdays when I started in terms of how challenging.

    Anonymous 6:30 PM  

    This crossword puzzle s__ked. Not fun at all.

    Martin 6:36 PM  

    The Prelude to Lohengrin. You should never 1) call it the Overture to Lohengrin or 2) applaud when it's over.

    An overture ends on a definite cadence, followed by applause and curtain up. A prelude leads directly to the action of Act I, and is probably played with curtain up. Preludes are named preludes in the program so only the morons who insist operas cannot have preludes will embarrass themselves applauding.

    Martin 6:38 PM  

    @Unknown 5:42

    It's not English vs. Albanian. Both spellings are equally valid in both languages.

    Pacific Overtures 6:44 PM  

    tb: those preludes you mentioned don’t necessarily introduce “new” themes. That’s the job of the overture.

    Fred Wollam 6:55 PM  

    Not a problem, if it's clued correctly. ROMA is *not* the capital of Italy... in here.

    Martin 6:58 PM  


    A Prelude is in lieu of an Overture. It serves the same purposes, including introducing themes (and, in Wagner's case, leitmotifs). The only difference is the segue into Act I. If there's a Prelude, there is no Overture.

    Doxma33 7:07 PM  

    Agree! A fun puzzle with an aha moment that kept on being fun, even after the aha discovery. Thank you, Alex!

    kitshef 7:21 PM  

    @Nancy - hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Even if it doesn't stay long, you'll benefit.

    Re: TIRANE, I'll just mention that the official website of said city is tirana.al

    Anonymous 7:30 PM  

    You did address me directly and you didn't use @.
    I remain at a loss as to what advantage @ provides.

    pabloinnh 7:51 PM  

    @burtonkd- yep, U-TROUl

    @Nancy-If I could, I would send my large adult son down to set up your new computer, as he just did this for me in about twenty minutes,not counting the time it took to download stuff from my old one, and it was free, and if I do say so myself, he's a really nice guy.

    Hope you feel better. My solution is always Coca Cola and twelve hours of sleep, but I realize this does not always apply to to others.

    Richardf8 8:15 PM  

    I had the gimmick quickly. Compared with yesterday’s organ fugue, this felt like an etude from a piano method book being plinked out on a Casio keyboard from the ‘80s

    Teedmn 9:03 PM  

    @Nancy, I wouldn’t rule out influenza altogether just on the basis of nausea. I had the flu in 2017 and felt nauseated at the onset. Definitely keep up your fluid intake (and not the spiritual kind!)

    Best wishes that it's a temporary thing.

    Tita 9:04 PM  

    @Nancy... Get well soon!

    Anonymous 9:45 PM  

    As one of the nine (former) residents of (the other) Socorro, I like it showing up but also think the VLA-hosting town* is more notable.

    *technically the VLA's not in the town of Socorro, but it's in Socorro county

    Whatsername 9:59 PM  

    @Anonymous at 7:30 - Okay, we both agree you don’t get it. Let’s just leave it at that.

    sanfranman59 10:26 PM  

    @Whatsername and (not @) anonymous ... Seems like a to-may-to/to-mah-to deal. Me? I'm in full agreement with @Whatsername.

    Whatsername 10:46 PM  

    Thanks @sanfranman59. Potayto/potahto. Exactly right.

    Joe Dipinto 10:52 PM  

    @Anonymous 7:30 – the whole commentariat as well as the entire population of Tiranë agree that you don't get it.

    @Nancy – hope you feel better. If it's a stomach virus, chamomile tea might help a bit, but my experience with stomach viruses is they just have to run their course. Try to relax and sleep.

    I know I'm long past being fashionably late today, but I liked the puzzle.

    A little ditty by Schubert.

    Kathy 11:41 PM  

    I can’t believe I actually solved this beast.

    It took me a total of three hours on and off today and I was almost late for choir practice tonight because of it. The puzzle seemed rife with three letter words (or so I thought) and I was never able to get much of a toehold. My first go-round netted me only four correct words. I made a second circuit, keeping an eye out for three letter words that maybe were actually rebuses. It took me forever to figure out the T gimmick and even then, it was still a struggle. But I was bound and determined to see this one through. I can’t decide whether I liked it or hated it but some weird force kept me at it. So I’m now back from practice and posting way too late, but oh, what the heck.

    Plenty of nits, here’s another. ID EST is technically a clause.

    kps 7:17 AM  

    Made me feel like doing a Monday or Tuesday to get my mojo back....

    Music Man 7:36 AM  


    pdplot 9:12 AM  

    This came perilously close to using my made-up word "deerlot" - a place where deer congregate. I tried to use it in Scrabble but my kids wouldn't let me. Even though I got the theme early, I still had trouble finishing as it was too much of a slog.

    Jack 1:56 AM  

    I thought it was a word puzzle, didn't it?

    Roy Bullard 6:21 AM  

    When are you going to up date the syndicated puzzle? It's a month behind on The site.

    spacecraft 10:13 AM  

    I have never been so thoroughly, abjectly lost in all my years of puzzle solving. That this should appear on ANY day but Saturday is a travesty. DNF. DN even get S, except for good old Howard. That one I nailed! Didn't help.

    Burma Shave 10:37 AM  


    Please LETMEGO fart after a TOKE AND a STOUT,


    Anonymous 1:22 PM  

    Loved it! Probably because I eventually got it all, especially after getting virtually nothing at first pass. When I'm unable to finish a puzzle, I don't heap criticism on the constructor though. I always think that if I knew more or was a bit sharper, I'd have been able to figure it out.
    I seldom refer to Rex anymore, mainly because he takes the fun out of what - to me - is a daily exercise I much look forward to and enjoy. He's forever complaining about something and blames the puzzle when he can't come up with an answer.
    He gets "triggered" by the strangest, most inoffensive things, as if he's in a contest to win the most "Woke Human Being on the Planet Award".
    Yes Junot could have been clued differently. ( Pulitzer winner Diaz, for example.) But so what? And yes rou appears twice in the same line, but once again, so what?
    So many "puzzlers" strike me as hypercritical, niggling, nit-pickers, who, like Rex, are best avoided all together.

    Anonymous 2:00 PM  

    Can someone explain IDES(T) to me?

    The clue was "Clarifying phrase."

    Thanks in advance.

    Anonymous 2:28 PM  

    Latin for “that is” i.e.

    rondo 3:34 PM  

    Yeah, I saw the huge black Tees before I started, and didn’t think much about them until it became necessary, which wasn’t long into it. A real tease, those Tees. COSELL a real gimme; I can still hear the call. Quite the constructioneering, sorta became tedious. Gotta admit that the theme takes up A LOT of the grid.

    leftcoaster 4:03 PM  

    Via Rex: "But ... once they get the gimmick, won't it just be a slog?" TRUE DAT (ugh).

    AND, with or without the T words, was discouraged by trivia like BHAJIS, SOCORRO, TIRANE, TOULON, et.al.

    Did not finish, but impressed by the gimmick.

    rondo 4:13 PM  

    That should be Tee-dious.

    Diana, LIW 5:16 PM  

    Not even close. Got the gimmick aftr checking some answers, but still - the PPP outdid me. (not hard to do!) (outdoing me, that is)

    Diana, Lady-in-Wai....

    sdcheezhd 11:14 PM  

    Agree on Tirana and surprised you didn't go after TROU and TROUT next to each other.

    Anonymous 9:04 AM  

    I really liked this puzzle because of the aha moment. Like Rex, I'd seen the black-squares-as-letter gimmick before; I think it was as one central H. However, this puzzle was better because the theme spanned all corners of the puzzle, and several across and down answers had to begin and end with T. As a diagramless solver, I enjoyed the puzzlement of the corners not quite working, noticing I had a surplus of Ts, then realizing the trick.

    I thought the fill was fine but, like others, am surprised SOCORRO was clued with a small Texas city instead of the far more famous New Mexico city. The cross of BHAJIS (never heard of 'em) and BROODER was almost a Natick for me, but no other _ROODER was plausible for the across clue, so that was fair.

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